Justice ministry rejects Manila’s investigators

By Rich Chang and Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporters

Thu, May 23, 2013 - Page 1

The Ministry of Justice yesterday said it has rejected a request by the Philippines to send investigators to Taiwan to interview the crew of the Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28 and conduct another autopsy on the body of the fisherman shot dead by Philippine Coast Guard personnel.

Deputy Minister of Justice Chen Ming-tang (陳明堂) told a press conference that the ministry had received a letter from the Philippines requesting legal assistance from Taiwan for its investigation into the May 9 shooting death of Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-cheng (洪石成) in waters where the two countries’ exclusive economic zones overlap.

Chen said in the letter the Philippine agreed to allow Taiwanese investigators to board the Philippines vessel where the shots fired at the Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28 came from and also agreed to allow Taiwanese investigators to inspect the firearms used in the incident and compare ballistics results with those obtained by Philippine investigators.

Chen said the ministry saw these offers as a positive development.

However, Manila also expressed the hope that its investigators could meet with the crew of the Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28, take their statements and conduct another autopsy, he said.

The ministry could not agree to those requests because Manila’s letter did not respond to Taiwan’s earlier requests for Taiwanese investigators to see a video of the incident shot by the Philippine boat and for Taiwanese investigators to interview Philippine Coast Guard officers, Chen said.

The ministry felt that the two sides have not reached consensus and that mutual legal assistance has not been conducted under the principles of equality and reciprocity, he said, so it felt the proposal to send an investigation team to Taiwan should be delayed.

Negotiations are continuing, Chen said.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) Chairman Amadeo Perez has clarified media reports that he mentioned the Philippines’ “one China” policy in his public remarks about Hung’s death.

The foreign ministry said in a press release that it received a letter from MECO on Tuesday night saying there had not been any mention of a “one China” policy in Perez’s public statements or interviews with regard to the fatal incident.

However, the foreign ministry declined to disclose the contents of the letter. Spokesperson Anna Kao (高安) said that it was not proper to reveal the contents because the missive was an official letter between MECO and its counterpart, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Manila.

MECO’s Taipei office confirmed it had received the letter, but also refused to reveal its contents.

The letter was a reply to inquiries made by Taiwan seeking clarification of Perez’s comments on a “one China” policy, the Taipei office said.

Hung’s death led the government to impose 11 sanctions on Manila after it felt dissatisfied with the Philippines’ responses to its four demands.

The first of those demands was “a formal apology from the Philippine government.”

Perez traveled to Taipei last week as Philippine President Benigno Aquino III’s personal representative to convey his deep regrets and apology to the family of Hung and the people of Taiwan over the incident and the “unintended” loss of life.

Taiwan did not accept the apology because Perez described the incident as “unintended.”

An official familiar with the matter said last week that the government had planned to accept the apology made by Aquino through Perez as a formal apology from the Philippine government, but it could not accept his use of the term “unintended.”

After returning to Manila from Taipei, Perez told DZMM radio that Taiwan’s government wanted Aquino to write a personal letter of apology, but this could be considered a violation of the Philippines’ “one China policy, according to an Agence France-Presse report on Sunday.