BUT DE LIMA URGES: WAIT FOR PROBE COMPLETION
Taiwanese investigators left the Philippines on Saturday, expressing dissatisfaction with Manila’s cooperation in probing the shooting death of a Taiwanese fisherman by the Philippine coast guard.
In a statement, investigating team leader Chen Wen-chi, director of Taiwan’s Department of International and Cross-strait Legal Affairs, said that the evidence showed that the May 9 shooting was intentional.
It also said Philippine law enforcers ignored international protocol, including warning the Taiwanese vessel.
The investigators said they decided to leave because of a lack of sincerity and cooperation by the Philippines.
The 14-man team that arrived Thursday reiterated a call for a joint investigation.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, however, has rejected the call, and instead urged Taiwan to wait for the Philippines to finish its “fair, thorough and expeditious probe.”
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte reiterated De Lima’s statement, saying that a joint investigation with Taiwan was “not possible.”
“We have our own investigation, which is ongoing, and because of that we will not comment on the details (released by the Taiwanese probe team),” she said.
“We will defer to the progress updates that are being given by the NBI.”
But Chen said that evidence points to the shooting, which killed 65-year old fisherman Hung Shih-chen, was “intentional.”
“By combining the evidences, it clearly shows that the Philippine law enforcers were intentionally shooting the Guang Ta Hsin 28 crew members, which indicates their intent of murder,” Chen said.
“This kind of behavior should not be conducted by a civilized country. We believe that the Philippine government would never allow for this kind of act to be done to its people,” she added.
Chen claimed that based on the video recorded by the Taiwanese fishing vessel, the incident “occurred within the exclusive economic zone of the Republic of China and not in the Philippine territorial waters.”
This was in contrast to the statement of Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, who reported that the incident happened 48 nautical miles east of Balintang Channel, which is within Philippine territory.
Chen added that based on the forensic report, Hung died from a single gunshot wound on the neck from a high speed or powerful gun.
Based on the bullets collected from the fishing vessel, the ammunitions used were 7.62 mm caliber shots, most likely coming from an M14 rifle, M240, or M60 machine guns. The vessel was also shot by a total of 45 bullets.
“Most of those 45 bullets were shot at cockpit, in which the four crew members were hiding,” Chen said, belying an earlier Coast Guard statement that they only fired at the vessel’s engine portion.
Chen said slugs were not found on the surface of the fishing vessel, “thus omitting the possibility that Guang Ta Hsin 28 was trying to ram the Philippine law enforcement vessel which resulted in the defensive measure taken by the latter.”
She also urged the Aquino administration to present evidence to back its claim that the victim was at fault during the May 9 incident.
Failing to do so, she added, would mean that Manila was “purposely concealing the offense of their officials.”
Chen said the Taiwanese government will welcome any move from the Philippines to send a team to Taiwan to join the investigation “provided that they also follow appropriate procedure.”
“The Philippine government has tried to prolong and delay our requests for a joint investigation. We feel discontent on the lack on sincerity and credibility displayed by the Philippine side in cooperating with us team. For this very reason, all the members of the Taiwan investigation has decided to go back to Taiwan immediately.”
Chen also disputed Manila’s claim that the request for joint investigation did not follow protocol, saying that the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Makati formally issued two letters to request legal assistance for the probe.
“In the said letters, Taiwan government requests the Philippine government to provide assistance in the collection and inspection of evidence; in interrogating the perpetrators; and in providing the investigation reports,” Chen said.
She added that Manila Economic and Cultural Office resident representative Antonio Basilio has “stated publicly and clearly that the Philippine side will conduct joint investigation with its Taiwan counterpart.”
“We will invite Taiwan authorities to participate in the investigation process,” Basilio wrote in his May 10 letter to Benjamin Ho, director general of Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Meanwhile, Valte said the Palace was saddened by the reported mauling of an overseas Filipino worker in Taiwan amid widespread anger over the killing of the Taiwanese fisherman.
“Ito po ‘yung ayaw nating mangyari na merong mga madamay na ating mga kababayan (This is what we do not want to happen that innocent Filipinos will be implicated), which is why we’ve repeatedly made the call for calm and that our Filipino overseas workers in Taiwan have nothing to do with -- they are there to work, they are not there to make trouble.”
Valte said the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) has already formed a team to monitor instances such as the reported mauling of an OFW and once verified, the report will be sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Taiwan for them to conduct investigation on the matter.
In a related development, rights advocacy groups urged the public to refrain from verbally or physically attacking Filipinos living in Taiwan.
“It’s not just Filipinos; all immigrants from Southeast Asia in the country would feel threatened when walking on the streets,” TransAsia Sisterhood Taiwan executive secretary Ly Vuoch-heang, an immigrant from Cambodia, told a news conference in Taipei.
“I’ve not been attacked, because I’m from Cambodia, but I don’t feel comfortable when people keep asking me whether I’m from the Philippines when I’m just going to buy lunch,” she said.
While the two countries have not been successful in reaching an agreement in dealing with the aftermath, a seemingly anti-Philippine sentiment has been developing among the public in Taiwan. Some communities have held rallies saying that they do not welcome Filipinos, vendors in a market in Changhua County posted signs saying that they would not conduct business with Filipinos.
“It’s not right to vent anger you may feel toward the Philippine government on Filipino migrant workers — when you even think about attacking these hard workers, please think of their contribution to Taiwan’s economy,” Taiwan International Workers’ Association policy researcher Chen Hsiu-lien said.
Chen accused President Ma Ying-jeou (???) of attempting to encourage people to vent their anger on Filipino workers as he has become a target of criticism for mishandling of the incident, “otherwise he would not have waited until now to ask people not to do so.” With AP, PNA