The diplomatic row between Taiwan and the Philippines might be resolved soon after Taipei said it found Manila’s report on the fatal shooting of Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-cheng (洪石成) by Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel, released yesterday, “a constructive response” to the incident.
After Manila “offers concrete commitments to the four demands” made by Taipei, the ministry would suggest that the 11 sanctions imposed on the Philippines be lifted so the two countries can return to an amicable relationship, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Shih (石定) told a press conference.
The press conference, where Taiwan gave its version of events, was held an hour after the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) released its report on the incident in Manila.
Hung was killed on May 9 when his fishing boat, the Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28, was attacked by PCG personnel on board the Philippine patrol vessel MCS-3001, which belongs to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.
Taiwan imposed 11 sanctions on May 15, including freezing the hiring of Philippine workers, after Manila failed to meet Taipei’s deadline for it to offer a formal apology for the incident; compensate Hung’s family; uncover the truth behind the incident and punish the culprits; and begin bilateral talks over a fisheries agreement to avoid similar incidents in the future.
In their separate investigations, prosecutors at the Pingtung District Prosecutors’ Office and NBI officials both recommended homicide charges against Arnold Dela Cruz y Enriquez, commander of the PCG crew on MCS-3001, and seven other PCG personnel.
Taiwanese prosecutors said the commander gave the order for PCG personnel to open fire on the Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28 after the MCS-3001 commanded the fishing boat to allow PCG personnel to board for an inspection, but the fishing boat attempted to flee, Deputy Minister of Justice Chen Ming-tang (陳明堂) said.
The PCG personnel had been “unhappy” that the order to conduct an onboard inspection had been rejected and they chased the fishing boat for 75 minutes, Chen said.
“We thought that the act would have constituted murder under Paragraph 1 of Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines, but we respect the Philippines’ jurisdiction to recommend homicide charges,” Chen said.
However, Chen called on the Philippine judiciary to “throw the book at” the eight PCG personnel who stand accused of the killing of Hung so justice could be brought for his family.
Under the revised penal code, a conviction for homicide could lead to a jail sentence of between 12 and 20 years, while murder leads to between 20 and 40 years.
According to a GMA News report, the NBI said it recommended homicide charges because there was no “qualifying circumstance for murder” in the incident.
Under Taiwan’s Criminal Code, a homicide charge carries a much heavier penalty than in the Philippines either the death sentence, life imprisonment or imprisonment for not less than 10 years.
Taiwanese prosecutors hoped for a murder charge because they found that the PCG personnel had the “intent to kill,” Chen said.
Never during the 75-minute chase did the unarmed Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28 or its crew put the MCS-3001’s crew under imminent threat of death or serious injury, nor did the fishing boat try to ram the Philippine vessel, Chen said.