By Roy Mabasa
The government of Taiwan on Wednesday welcomed the verdict of a Manila court convicting eight Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) members of homicide for the May 2013 killing of a Taiwanese fisherman in Balintang Channel off northern Batanes.
“Today, the long-awaited justice in this shooting incident was served, but it was a hard and a bitter experience for both countries. We now have to move on from this tragic incident, and determine how to further enhance the bilateral relationship between our two countries,” the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) said in a statement.
It also welcomed the verdict and expressed its “gratitude and respect to the Philippine judicial system.”
TECO said it was clear in the evidence presented by Philippine prosecutors that the accused members of the PCG “blatantly disregarded applicable international law, which is universally accepted by the global community, including the Philippines.”
On Monday ,the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 15 meted the eight accused to imprisonment of eight years, one day to 14 years, eight months and 1 day, on top of the P50,000 in civil indemnity and P50,000 in moral damages for the death of Taiwanese fisherman Hong Shi Cheng in the Balintang Channel.
Those convicted were Coast Guard Commander Arnold dela Cruz, Seaman Second Class 2 Nicky Aurelio, and Seamen First Class Edrando Aguila, Mhelvyn Bendo II, Andy Gibb Golfo, Sonny Masangkay, Henry Solomon and PO2 Richard Corpuz.
The shooting incident occurred on May 9, 2013, in the overlapping exclusive economic zones (EEZs) between Taiwan and the Philippines where a Taiwan fishing vessel was chased and shot upon by the PCG vessel.
The 65-year-old ship captain Hong Shi Cheng was shot and killed in the process while the PCG vessel sailed away after the shooting.
In the aftermath of a diplomatic row caused by the shooting incident, both countries have signed in 2015 the Fisheries Law Enforcement Agreement aimed to help boost bilateral cooperation in fisheries law enforcement matters.
“May the verdict, in this case, serve, not only as a symbol of justice but also a testament to the solid relationship and deep mutual trust between Taiwan and the Philippines,” the TECO said.