MANILA, Philippines - Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel indicted for the fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman off Balintang Island in May last year are asking the Supreme Court (SC) to transfer the trial of their case from Batanes to any court in Metro Manila.
In an 11-page petition filed on June 6, seven of the eight PCG officers argued that the transfer of the case would be favorable for both parties, including the prosecutors and complainants.
“Petitioners as well as respondents (prosecutors) will be unable to properly present their cases if the trial will be held in Batanes,” the PCG men said through their counsel Rodrigo Moreno.
They said it would be hard for them to look for and present witnesses and evidence for their defense should the hearing be held in Batanes.
“The ends of justice will be met if the accused is tried in a place where all facilities, resources, evidence and witnesses needed for his defense are available within his reach,” read the petition.
They said a trial in Batanes would require time, resources and manpower, not to mention finances.
The petitioners also cited security reasons, noting that among the parties involved is Taiwan, which they said has a military force located nearby.
“Petitioners as well as their witnesses will be under threat of physical harm or even death, or at the very least harassment, every time they attend the hearing.”
In March this year, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a homicide case against the PCG men before a Batanes court, which has jurisdiction over Balintang Island.
The petitioners said the rule on jurisdiction should not be applied in their case, as the incident did not actually occur on Batanes ground, but in the seas.
“The purpose of the rule on venue, which is to afford party litigants due process, greater convenience and ready access to the court, will not actually be served if the trial will be in Batanes, since the parties have no connection whatsoever with the province,” they said.
The petition was filed by PCG Seamen 1st Class (SN1) Edrando Aguila, Mhelvin Bendo II, Andy Gibb Golfo, Sunny Masangcay, Henry Solomon; SN2 Nicky Renold Aurello and Petty Officer Richard Fernandez Corpuz.
They were charged along with their commanding officer Arnold Enriquez de la Cruz for the death of Hung Shih-cheng on May 9 last year.
The DOJ also filed charges of obstruction of justice against De la Cruz and SN1 Bendo, Marvin Ramirez and Martin Bernabe before a Cagayan court for allegedly submitting tampered evidence, including allegedly spliced video footage.
The four allegedly gave false information on the number of bullets discharged during the shooting.