MANILA - A local court has stood by its earlier ruling denying the bid of several Philippine Coast Guard personnel to dismiss a homicide charge against them on account of insufficiency of evidence.
Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 15 Judge Eduardo Ramon Reyes denied the motion for reconsideration filed by 6 of the 8 accused of killing a Taiwanese fisherman in the Balintang Channel in May 2013.
Coast Guard Cdr Arnold dela Cruz, SN2 Nicky Aurelio, SN1 Edrando Aguila, SN1 Mhelvyn Bendo II, SN1 Andy Gibb Golfo, SN1 Sonny Masangkay, SN1 Henry Solomon and SN1 Richard Corpuz allegedly shot Taiwanese Hong Shi Cheng after a sea chase off the coast of Batanes and Babuyan Islands.
The Coast Guard personnel initially sought the dismissal of the case for insufficiency of evidence but the court denied their demurrer in October 2018.
Six of them asked the court to reconsider its ruling arguing there was no "personal and positive identification" of them as the persons who committed the crime.
But Judge Reyes rejected their argument, finding that the prosecution was able to establish conspiracy among the 8 accused.
"If conspiracy is established, all the conspirators are liable as co-principals regardless of the manner and extent of their participation since in contemplation of law, the act of one would be the act of all," he said.
Reyes cited the testimonies of a Taiwanese forensic official and a ballistician from the National Bureau of Investigation showing that the Taiwanese vessel was riddled with bullets and that the slugs found in the boat matched the firearms recovered from the accused's vessel.
"Based on the foregoing, there are pieces of evidence which prove that the accused fired upon the Taiwanese vessel GDX No. 28. That in furtherance of the prosecution's theory of conspiracy, all of the accused may be held liable for the crimes as charged, unless, they sufficiently prove the contrary," the order said.
The court added the assertions of the accused are matters of defense which should be discussed in a full-blown trial.
The Balintang incident caused a diplomatic spat between Taiwan and the Philippines. Taipei imposed sanctions on Manila which were lifted only after a Philippine government official traveled to Taiwan to apologize and after the NBI recommended filing of charges against the 8 accused.