Philippine President Benigno Aquino III has received a copy of a report by the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation on the fatal shooting of Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-cheng (洪石成) by Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel, Philippine Department of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima reportedly said yesterday.
Philippine newspaper the Sun Star yesterday quoted De Lima as saying that the report would not be released until Aquino gave his approval.
De Lima declined to disclose the contents of the report, which, according to Philippine media reports, recommends charging the coast guard personnel involved in the incident.
Taiwanese and Philippine investigators last week compared notes in their separate, but cooperative investigations into the incident that occurred on May 9 about 164 nautical miles (304km) off Taiwan’s southernmost tip.
Their reports have not yet been released.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported yesterday that it had learned from a source that the bureau has recommended filing criminal charges against the coast guard personnel.
However, there was a debate within the bureau over whether to bring murder charges against the personnel because although “superior strength” was used “against an unarmed civilian,” the death of Hung was not premeditated, the source was quoted as saying by the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
The report includes the identities of the PCG personnel who fired at the Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28 and the identity of the officer who fired the bullet that killed Hung, the daily reported.
The daily said that the bureau’s report disproved an earlier claim by the PCG that the Taiwanese fishing boat tried to ram the Philippine patrol vessel, but the bureau insisted that the shooting happened in Philippine waters.
The PCG has said its personnel fired on the fishing boat because it was moving toward them aggressively and that they had aimed for the engine to incapacitate the boat. However, the bureau’s report said that the results of ballistic tests and trajectory examination of the fishing boat showed that the shooters did not know where the engine was, the source said.
In response to the disclosure of the report, Philippine Senator Gringo Honasan reportedly said yesterday that Aquino should be very careful in dealing with the alleged recommendations.
According to an ABS-CBN news report, Honasan told reporters that filing charges against the personnel who killed Hung could demoralize the PCG.
Honasan reportedly urged the Aquino administration to clarify its policy toward China and Taiwan, particularly on the issue of territorial rights, as he said that the Taiwanese fishing boat was poaching in Philippine territory.
Taiwan’s Fisheries Agency has flatly rejected Manila’s claim that the Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28 was intruding into the territorial waters of the Philippines.
The agency says information recorded by the fishing boat’s voyage data recorder system proves that it was operating within Taiwan’s exclusive economic zone, which overlaps that of the Philippines.