PCG: Initial findings mere speculations
Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star) - May 26, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Preliminary findings in the investigation into the May 9 fatal shooting of a suspected Taiwanese poacher off Batanes are “speculations” and not enough at the moment to make coast guard personnel involved in the shooting liable for criminal negligence.

This was according to the Philippine Coast Guard through spokesman Commander Armand Balilo in reaction to “initial findings” by investigators that the unnamed PCG personnel may have violated rules of engagement when they fired at the fishing boat carrying 65-year-old Taiwanese Hung Shih-cheng.

The report was attributed to a source privy to the case, which is being investigated by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

“These are still just speculations. We would wait for the official findings of the NBI. We would wait for the NBI report because we have to see first what were the circumstances they alluded to in the report and what were the bases used by the NBI,” Balilo said.

“If they say that there was negligence on our part, then the NBI has to explain in what way was the negligence committed,” he added.

He said it was premature to make conclusions regarding the issue, considering that an NBI team of investigators and forensic experts has yet to go to Taiwan to interview more witnesses and examine the fishing boat involved.

“We would respect the NBI’s finding and we would answer at the proper time and in the proper forum,” the PCG official added.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima earlier said final arrangements were being made for the NBI team to fly to Taiwan to interview Hung’s fishing companions as well as inspect their boat Guang Ta Hsin-28.

Investigators would try to determine if the 50 bullet holes found on the fishing boat all came from the firearms of the PCG personnel.

The unnamed PCG men were on board a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Monitoring Control and Surveillance (MCS) 3001 vessel when they faced off with Guang Ta Hsin-28 near Batanes.

The PCG personnel said they first fired warning shots at the Taiwanese after they reportedly made a hostile maneuver, and later shot directly at the fleeing foreign vessel with an intention to immobilize it.

At Malacañang, President Aquino appealed anew for sobriety as a group of 13 Taiwanese “peace ladies” was allowed inside the Palace to deliver a call for public apology from the president for Hung’s fatal shooting.

The group, led by former Taiwanese councilwoman Chu Mei Fong, left the Palace after delivering its message.

“We have repeatedly asked everyone to avoid taking provocative actions that could further inflame emotions. The investigation is ongoing,” Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Secretary Ricky Carandang said on behalf of Aquino.

Meanwhile, lawmakers urged Malacañang to speed up resolving the diplomatic row with Taipei over the May 9 incident.

Marikina City Rep. Marcelino Teodoro said resolving the issue swiftly and diplomatically would preserve bilateral relations as well as ensure the safety of Filipinos working in Taiwan.

“We should participate in an unbiased investigation of the incident for it to be resolved at the soonest possible time because our fellowmen in Taiwan are suffering the adverse effects of the shooting incident,” Teodoro said as he urged officials to refrain from issuing statements that might exacerbate the situation.

Gabriela party-list Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan said Malacañang should be more upfront and stop denying its culpability.

“If the Taiwanese government is already extending a conciliatory move by proposing a joint investigation, what do we lose if we agree? Unless we are hiding something,” Ilagan said.

She said the Aquino administration has to display some amount of cooperation without looking subservient because a lot is at stake, especially the jobs and safety of Filipinos.

“P-Noy should desist from issuing statements that only incense the Taiwanese. Why not wait for the results of the inquiry so that he would not be forced to take back his words should an honest to goodness, unbiased investigation prove him wrong,” Ilagan said.  With Paolo Romero, Aurea Calica



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