Taiwan mulls sending probers anew to Phl
Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) - June 6, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Taiwan plans to send its investigators to the Philippines to discuss their findings on the investigation of the May 9 shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) said yesterday.

David Chen, assistant to the TECO representative, said the return of the Taiwanese investigators is now under discussion.

“The Department of Justice and TECO will disclose to the general public once reaching consensus,” Chen said.

The Taiwan investigation team said the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) intentionally shot 65-year-old suspected Taiwanese poacher Hung Shih-Cheng and the crew of fishing boat Guang Ta Hsin 28, indicating an intent to murder.

President Aquino said Monday that he expects the report of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on the incident to be submitted to him this week.

The NBI team that went to Taiwan has completed its investigations there and has returned to Manila.

The team went to Taiwan to inspect the bullet-riddled fishing boat and to interview some of the witnesses as well as to cross-match some of the slugs retrieved from the fishing vessel.

Their Taiwanese counterparts returned home after conducting their own investigation in Manila.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the NBI team and their Taiwanese counterparts are set to meet again this week to discuss their respective findings.

De Lima said the two teams would have a closed-door meeting by Friday at the latest to share their findings “as a matter of courtesy” and “as what has been agreed upon in the parallel probe.”

She said the Taiwanese investigators had requested the meeting.

“It will be a discussion of their findings. I don’t think they contemplated to cross-check their respective findings,” she clarified.

De Lima said the investigating teams could share findings that would help them both have complete and thorough report of the incident.

“For instance, if there is a unclear finding, one side may consult with the other before finalizing the report, then why not?” she explained.

She revealed the NBI team, for its part, was completing its report after conducting a series of case conferences, brainstorming sessions and deliberations.

She reiterated the findings would not be made public until after President Aquino reads the NBI report.

Asked if the issue of criminal jurisdiction would be raised in the meeting, De Lima said this could be possible, but such issue may no longer be crucial.

“Both (the Philippines and Taiwan) have jurisdiction. They are government by their laws and we are government by our own laws. That is why we have this cooperative probes,” she said.

De Lima earlier explained the government of Taipei could have acquired jurisdiction over the case since the victim is a Taiwanese national and the incident involved a Taiwanese vessel.

But as to where the incident actually happened, De Lima said the NBI would maintain it occurred within Philippine waters.

Hung was shot dead by the PCG that said his vessel intruded into Philippine waters.

The PCG acknowledged that its personnel had opened fire on the Taiwanese boat, but said they acted in self-defense because the fishing vessel attempted to ram them.

The shooting, which Manila insists occurred inside Philippine territorial waters but which Taipei counters happened within its exclusive economic zone, has led to Taiwanese sanctions against its southern neighbor.

The incident triggered widespread public outrage in Taipei where even some Taiwanese lawmakers urged their government to freeze the hiring of Filipino workers in protest.

Some Taiwanese businessmen, however, are choosing to keep their Filipino workers despite the tension triggered by the incident. – With Edu Punay, Mayen Jaymalin

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