The Court of Appeals has denied the appeal of eight personnel of the Philippine Coast Guard to set aside its December 14, 2021 decision over the death of a Taiwanese fisherman whose fishing vessel was at the Balintang Channel in Batanes in 2013.
The CA affirmed the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Manila City sentencing the PCG men to 14 years in prison after they had been found guilty of homicide of Taiwan’s Hong Shi Cheng.
In a three-page resolution, the CA’s Former Tenth Division through Associate Justice Ramon A. Cruz held that the Coast Guard officers failed to raise new arguments that would warrant the reversal of its December 2021 decision.
The accused pleaded, in their motion for reconsideration, that the prosecution failed to establish they were the ones who shot the victim and that their action was in fulfillment of a duty and lawful exercise of a right or office.
The PCG men argued that the prosecution also failed to establish that there was conspiracy among them to commit the crime.
Court records showed that in September 2019, Manila RTC Judge Eduardo Ramon Reyes found PCG Commander Arnold Enriquez de la Cruz, Seaman Second Class (SN2) Nicky Reynold Aurello, Seaman First Class (SN1) Edrando Quiapo Aguila, SN1 Mhelvin Aguilar Bendo II, SN1 Andy Gibb Golfo, SN1 Sunny Galang Masangkay, SN1 Henry Baco Solomon, and Petty Officer 2 Richard Fernandez Corpuz guilty of homicide for killing Hong in 2013.
The accused were also ordered to pay, jointly or severally, the heirs of Hong the amount of P50,000 as civil indemnity and P50,000 as moral damages. The CA modified this in its December 2021 decision by imposing a six-percent interest per annum from the finality of the decision until fully paid.
In sustaining the trial court’s decision, the appellate court gave weight to the extra-judicial confession of Bendo, Golfo and Solomon, which narrated the events that transpired during the incident that caused the death of the victim.
The CA stressed that their sworn affidavits named the persons on board the monitoring control surveillance 30001 (MCS-3001) and the persons who shot at the Taiwanese vessel Guang Da Xing as ordered by Dela Cruz that resulted to Hong’s death.
“As previously discussed, for an extrajudicial confession to be admissible in evidence against the accused, it must be: (a) voluntary; (b) made with the assistance of a competent and independent counsel; (c) express; and (d) in writing. All these requisites were met in this case.
“The circumstances mentioned in our assailed decision clearly shows that the accused-appellants are the culprits in the death of the victim,” the CA said, adding that it did not give credence to the eight PCG men’s defense of fulfillment of a duty and lawful exercise of a right or office since they failed to substantiate this claim.
“Aside from their bare allegation that the Taiwanese vessel tried to ram their vessel, no evidence was adduced by the accused-appellants to support this claim. As it happened, shooting the Taiwanese vessel is not reasonably necessary because accused-appellants were not under attack or subject of resistance,” the CA said.
“The resulting injury or offense was, therefore, not a necessary consequence of the due performance of duty or the lawful exercise of a right or office,” it added.
The appellate court pointed out the accused would have been able to prove their claim during the trial, but they chose to waive their right to present witnesses.
“Inarguably, by actively firing at the Taiwanese vessel Guang Da Xing, accused-appellants shall be held guilty of homicide as a result of the death of the victim Hong Shi Cheng. There being no new matters raised that would warrant a reversal or modification of our decision, this motion is hereby denied,” the CA declared.