DOJ ends probe on sea shooting incident-A A +A
Monday, September 30, 2013
PHILIPPINE Coast Guard (PCG) members tagged in the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman in disputed waters last May 9 insisted before the Department of Justice on Monday that they should not be held liable for the incident.
The DOJ submitted the homicide and obstruction of justice raps for resolution after the complainant National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) begged off from answering the coast guards' defense.
In a joint counter-affidavit, Commander Arnold Dela Cruz and Seamen 1st class Edrando Aguila, Sonny Masangcay and Henry Solomon said they only did their job of hunting down suspected poachers on board the Taiwanese vessel.
The Taiwanese vessel had been peppered with bullets, supposedly to stop the crew from escaping. The boat, however, was still able to elude the PCG off Batanes.
"Had we intended to kill (Hung-shih) Cheng or anyone else, we would have concentrated all 800 rounds (ammunition available) at the bridge area where the crew presumably was. Or, alternatively, we could have sunk the offending boat, considering the ammunition we had available as well as the .30 caliber machine gun at our disposal," the affidavit stated.
They said only "necessary amount of force" was used to stop the Taiwanese from ramming their ship.
"Our intent is evidenced by the fact that the complainant (NBI) itself admits that 16 of the 45 bullet holes found on the offending boat (Taiwanese vessel) were located in the rear area where the engine was. This was the single biggest concentration of bullet holes on the offending boat," the affidavit read.
Also, the coast guard men said the NBI was not allowed to examine the Taiwanese fisherman Hung's body and the ballistics test and cross matching on the M-14 rifle used to kill him was inconclusive.
"Stated otherwise, if the chain of custody is not observed, the alleged match between the firearm and the slug cannot be considered evidence," they said.
Other PCG men facing homicide cases were Seaman First Class (SN1) Mhelvin Bendo, SN2 Nicky Aurelio, SN1 Andy Gibb Golfo and Petty Officer Richard Corpuz.
Obstruction of justice charges, meanwhile, were filed against Dela Cruz, Bendo, SN1 Marvin Ramirez and Lieutenant Junior Grade Martin Bernabe.
They allegedly tampered with evidence when they spliced eight video footage of the shooting incident and falsified monthly gunnery reports in order to reflect a smaller amount of ammunition (36 rounds of ammunition instead of 108) used.
"There is absolutely no truth to this claim. I never ordered anybody to delete portions of the video footage and falsify the monthly gunnery report showing the number of rounds fired during the incident," said dela Cruz.
Both countries conducted parallel probe into the incident in late May, culling evidence and statements from the crew of Taiwanese vessel and the ship manned by the Filipino coast guards.
The incident strained relations between the Philippines and Taiwan, which implemented sanctions such as the non-renewal of contracts of thousands of Filipinos working in the island-nation's factories.
Sanctions were only lifted after the NBI announced in early August the filing of cases against the Coast Guard men. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)