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Taiwanese group here, DoJ rejects joint probe

A Taiwanese delegation of prosecutors and officials from various government agencies arrived in Manila on Thursday to conduct a probe into the fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman by a Philippine government vessel on May 9. Philippine immigration officers helped the delegation pass through Customs, but no other Filipino officials showed up to receive the delegation at Manila’s international airport. The delegation arrived even as the Justice Department rejected outright the idea of a joint investigation into the death of the fisherman, who was caught poaching in Philippine territory, by Philippine officials and their Taiwanese counterparts. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said there was no agreement between Manila and Taipei to conduct a joint probe as reported by Antonio Basilio, the head of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office in Taiwan. “That’s not possible. I don’t think we can agree to a joint investigation because we are a sovereign country and have our own processes,” De Lima said. “We have our own justice system and we conduct our own investigation. We would not want anyone to interfere in the investigation of the NBI.” Staff of Taiwan’s representative office in Manila greeted the Taiwanese delegation at the airport, and the delegation members were scheduled to hold a meeting at the office on the division of labor and work guidelines for the investigation. The group is being led by Perry Shen, director-general of the Department of Treaty and Legal Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and comprises officials from the Ministry of Justice, the Coast Guard Administration, the Criminal Investigation Bureau and other relevant agencies, as well as prosecutors from the Pingtung Prosecutors Office. The Ministry of Justice said prior to the delegation’s departure that the group had two missions in the Philippines. First, it wanted to clarify the facts and see the people responsible for the strafing of the Taiwanese fishing boat Kuang Ta Hing 28 in waters where the exclusive economic zones of the two countries overlapped. Second, the delegation will demand that the Philippines promise to punish those involved and deliver the criminal suspects to Taiwan for trial because the crime took place on a Taiwanese boat, the ministry said. If the Philippines does not hand the suspects over to Taiwan, the ministry said, it will demand that the Philippines bring them to justice and compensate the victim’s family. De Lima on Thursday said they had not confirmed reports that investigators from Taiwan had arrived in the country. “As far as we are concerned, there’s no prior coordination nor formal request on such Taiwanese investigators, if there’s any. That’s not allowed. They can’t just go here and investigate without prior coordination,” De Lima said. She said the Taiwanese authorities would have to coordinate with the MECO if they wanted to conduct a probe here. She said the NBI was already pursuing its probe to determine what really happened during the incident on May 9, when the fisherman was killed.
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