The Philippine Coast Guard’s excessive use of force against an unarmed Taiwanese fishing boat, which resulted in the death of a Taiwanese fisherman, should be classified as an “extra-judicial and inhumane killing,” the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the US said yesterday in an international press release.
“Extra-judicial killings, such as in this case, have been an ongoing human rights issue in the Philippines. International focus on the issue reached such a high level of concern that the US House of Representatives sent a staff delegation to Manila in 2007 to fully vet the issue with Philippine government officials,” the press release said.
The press release was the first issued by the representative office in English since a joint patrol of the Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources sprayed bullets at the unarmed Taiwanese fishing boat, the Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28, while it operated in the two countries’ overlapping economic zones on May 9.
The shooting resulted in the death of 65-year-old Hung Shih-cheng (洪石成) and left the boat riddled with 45 bullet holes.
Amid growing indignation among Taiwanese over the deadly shooting, the representative office has made known to international media the details regarding the incident, as well as the Taiwanese government’s stance on the shooting and its dismissal of the Philippines’ description of the incident as “an unintended loss of life.”
The press release attached an illustration showing that the Philippine government vessel was about six times that of the Taiwanese fishing boat, rebutting the Philippines’ claims that the shots were fired in self-defense after the Taiwanese boat had tried to ram it.
A joint investigation mechanism should be established in accordance with the Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement signed between Taipei and Manila earlier this year, the press release said, quoting President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) as saying that he believed “the incident requires both sides to cooperate with each other on the investigation pragmatically, and only by doing so can the truth be revealed.”
Citing a high-profile case involving the disappearance of US high-school student Natalee Holloway on the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba in 2005, the press release said that the Dutch and Aruban authorities quickly agreed to bring the FBI and other US officials into the investigation in an effort to avoid potential adverse effects on bilateral relations after the case became a media sensation in the US.
“Taiwan is asking for no more than this — a joint investigation. It’s a serious human rights issue and there is no legal problem for Taiwan and the Philippines to jointly conduct the investigation,” the press release said.
The press release also urged Manila to start fishery talks with Taipei to avoid recurrence of such incidents, as has been demanded by the Ma administration, and to refrain from using its “one China” policy as an excuse for not issuing an apology.
The Ma administration has laid out four demands in response to the shooting — that Manila issue a formal apology, compensate Hung’s family, investigate the incident to identify and punish the perpetrators and initiate negotiations on a bilateral fisheries agreement.
However, because the Philippines has failed to satisfactorily fulfill the demands, the Taiwanese government has frozen Philippine worker applications, recalled the Republic of China representative to Manila and suspended economic exchanges, among other sanctions.