This handout photo from the Official Gazette shows the MCS-3001, the government vessel involved in the Balintang incident.
Official Gazette
8 Coast Guard personnel convicted over 2013 killing of Taiwanese fisherman
Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - September 18, 2019 - 9:30am

MANILA, Philippines (Update 2, 10:46 a.m.) — A Manila court on Wednesday convicted seven Philippine Coast Guard personnel and a policeman for killing a Taiwanese fisherman in 2013.

Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 15 found the following PCG personnel guilty of homicide over the fatal shooting of Hong Shih-Cheng, a Taiwanese fisherman, in Balintang channel in May 2013:

  • Commander Arnold de la Cruz
  • Petty Officer 2 Richard Corpuz
  • Seaman 2nd Class Nicky Aurelio
  • Seaman 1st Class Edrando Aguila
  • Seaman 1st Class Mhelvyn Bendo II
  • Seaman 1st Class Andy Gibb Golfo
  • Seaman 1st Class Sonny Masangkay
  • Seaman 1st Class Henry Solomon

The eight are sentenced to serve eight years and 1 day up to 14 years 8 months and 1 day in prison.

The court also ordered each of the convicted PCG personnel to pay the heirs of the killed fisherman P50,000 in civil indemnity and P50,000 in moral damages.

"After sifting through the evidence presented, the Court is convinced that the prosecution has been able to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of homicide," the court said.

It added that the elements of homicide, which include the accused having intention to kill and killing the victim without any justifying circumstance, are present in the case.

“[T]he prosecution has clearly established the intent to kill on the part of the accused as shown by their act of shooting the Guang Da Xing No. 28 vessel with the use of high-velocity firearms while they were chasing it,” the ruling read.

"Intent to kill is also manifest considering the 53 points of impact found in Guang Da Xing No. 28 vessel," the court added.

The incident

On May 9, 2013, Philippine Coast Guard personnel aboard BFAR MCS-3001 shot Hong dead some 180 nautical miles southeast of Erluanbi, the southernmost tip of Taiwan. After the shooting incident, the Filipino ship continued to chase and fire in bursts at the Taiwanese vessel.

According to the executive summary of a government incident report posted on the Official Gazette "the incident happened approximately 40 nautical miles from the country’s baselines and within its 200 nautical miles [exclusive economic zone]." 

"The incident thus transpired within waters over which the Philippines exercises jurisdiction and sovereign rights."

The prosecution presented witness Hong Yu Tzu, the captain of the boat and son of the slain fisherman.

Hong said that on the day of the incident, they were en route back to Taiwa, when he saw a vessel, they later identified as from PCG, getting closer to their vessel, Guang Da Xing.

“The PCG vessel went around the Guang Da Xing from the front right to the left rear until it was on parallel course to it at a very close distance that Mr. Hong, who was at the pilot house then, could see that the personnel aboard the coast guard vessel were holding long guns which are at least one meter long,” the court ruling read.

When the two vessels were about to collide, the captain reversed the vessel, “and at the sound of gunshots, he accelerated to the North East.”

The crew then went to the engine room where they can hear “gunshots and bullets... hitting the vessel.” Hong also heard his father, Hong Shi Cheng, “cry out when he was hit while at the entrance of the engine room.”

The investigation found that a bullet entered the left neck of the victim and came out of his right shoulder. A total of 53 points of impact was found on Guang Da Xing, and there were at least 45 shots.

The incident strained the relations between Philippines and Taiwan in 2013 as the killing outraged Taiwan, which called it “cold-blooded murder.” The Philippine government apologized to Taiwan for the incident.

BALINTANG CHANNEL DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE PHILIPPINE COAST GUARD
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