Transfer of cases vs Coast Guard men sought

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Friday, June 13, 2014


MEMBERS of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) who were charged for the death of a Taiwanese fisherman recently asked the Supreme Court (SC) to transfer the hearing of cases from Batanes to Manila for financial and practical reasons.

In an 11-page petition, the Coast Guard personnel said requiring parties to the case to attend the hearing and bring evidence for the homicide case would be a "tremendous" waste of time, resources, money and manpower.

They described themselves as "low-ranking civil servants," who have little capacity to survive litigation.

"The expenses involved in these logistical requirements are beyond petitioners' reach. Hence, should petitioners for example decide to call as their witnesses some or all of the crew of the offending vessel, petitioners will be obligated to answer for their board, lodging, transportation, and meals, insofar as travel to Batanes is concerned," the petition read.

Moreover, the Philippine government would be forced to pay for the expenses of their witnesses such as the three colleagues of the late fisherman Hung shih-cheng, who was accidentally killed by the PCG men who were chasing the Taiwanese boat for alleged poaching in the Balintang Channel on May 9, 2013.

The coast guards also feared that they cannot "effectively and properly present" their witnesses and evidence due to the proximity of Batanes, the country's northernmost province, to Taiwan, which is "a sovereign nation with a considerable military force located nearby."

"Indeed, having the trial of the criminal case heard in any court within Metro Manila would result in a just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of the same as opposed to trial conducted in Batanes," the petition stated.

Charged with homicide were Coast Guard Commander Arnold dela Cruz, Seaman Second Class Nicky Aurello, Seamen First Class Edrando Aguila, Mhelvyn Bendo III, Andy Gibb Glofo, Sunny Masangkay and Henry Solomon and Petty Officer 2 Richard Corpuz.

They posted P40,000 bail each last month as dela Cruz and Bendo gave an additional P12,000 each for obstruction of justice charges pending at the Sta. Ana Municipal Trial Court branch 11 in Cagayan.

The Coast Guard men said Hung was accidentally shot when the fisherman and his group, suspected of poaching in Philippine waters, refused to stop and tried to ram the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) ship MCS 3001 that may pose danger to the lives of those onboard.

But the DOJ, which is pursuing the cases, found no evidence to prove that the Taiwanese vessel was a threat.

Relations between Manila and Taipei briefly soured because of the shooting incident as contracts of more than 6,000 Filipinos working in manufacturing and service companies were not renewed while educational and economic exchanges were suspended.

The sanctions were only lifted after the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed complaints at the DOJ in August last year. (Sunnex)

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