MANILA - Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Monday said he has ordered local prosecutors to determine the cost of damages inflicted on Filipino fishermen whose vessel was rammed by a Chinese boat last year at the Recto Bank.
"Through Usec. Adrian Sugay, I have already given instructions to the provincial prosecutor's office nearest the place of residence of the fishermen concerned to gather the necessary information," Guevarra said in a message to reporters.
Guevarra was reacting to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr.'s comments in an interview on ANC's Headstart earlier in the day, where he said the Department of Justice will determine the compensation the Filipino fishermen deserve for damages caused by the June 9, 2019 incident in the West Philippine Sea.
Locsin said both Chinese and Philippine authorities have separately determined that the Chinese vessel is to blame for the boat's sinking.
The suspected Chinese militia vessel rammed the GEM-VER boat, causing it to sink and leaving the 22 Filipino fishermen adrift at sea for hours. They were rescued by a Vietnamese vessel.
Guevarra said he doesn't remember that the DOJ was tasked to determine the amount of compensatory or other civil damages, but will be "happy to help."
"As you know, damages comprise the civil aspect of any criminal case. Be that as it may, the DOJ will be happy to help our fishermen and the boat owner in recovering civil damages," he said.
"I remember that the Chinese side has expressed willingness to pay for any reasonable amount of compensatory damages. We'll determine that amount and submit it to the DFA ASAP," he added.
Former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario urged the government to hold China accountable for the incident, saying "Beijing has absolutely no respect for the rule of law."
"Until now, there has been no recompense for our poor fishermen who were ultimately rescued by a Vietnamese fishing vessel. What is obvious is that our modern day Goliath will continue to rear its ugly head to intimidate us," he said in a statement.
"It therefore behooves us to find ways to hold China's leadership accountable."