The Philippines and Taiwan have agreed to cooperate in their separate investigations of the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman by the Philippine Coast Guard last May 9.
Justice Leila de Lima disclosed that officials of the National Bureau of Investigation met with the delegation of Taiwanese investigators in Manila Monday morning and agreed to a “parallel investigation.”
The Taiwanese team was assisted by Manila Economic and Cultural Office chairman Amado Perez during the closed-door meeting.
De Lima declined to call it a “joint investigation,” however, as the Taiwanese government had wanted.
“There will be coordinated efforts or collaborations between the two teams from NBI and Taiwanese counterparts in the spirit of cooperation,” De Lima said.
Under the agreement, the Taiwanese panel of investigators that arrived in Manila last May 16 would be given access to evidence gathered by the NBI, including statements of the Coast Guard personnel who shot dead 65-year-old Hung Shih-chen, and ballistic reports on firearms used.
It was also agreed that Taiwan would allow a forensic team from NBI to fly to Taipei to examine the fishing vessel and interview companions of the victim.
She said the NBI would also seek an autopsy of the slain fisherman’s body.
“It was a cordial discussion between the NBI and the Taiwanese investigators,” De Lima added.
At the Palace Monday, a spokeswoman for President Benigno Aquino III said Manila would not send a new emissary to Taipei, amid threats of fresh sanctions by Taiwan.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said as far as Mr. Aquino is concerned, the trip of Manila Economic and Cultural Office chairman Amadeo Perez to Taipei was the last move of the Philippine government until the NBI concludes its probe.
“The President said that it would not be prudent for us at this particular time (to send another emissary), considering that the investigation on the incident is still ongoing,” Valte said in a briefing after the closed door meeting called by Mr. Aquino on the Taiwan issue.
“To send an emissary at this point—an additional one apart from the ones that we already have sent—would effectively be forcing that person to engage in speculation, knowing that the investigation is still ongoing.,” Valte said.
Perez left Taiwan last week after failing to meet with Foreign Minister David Lin.
Valte said the President also questioned Antonio Basilio, MECO president, over his letter to a Taiwanese official offering a joint investigation of the shooting, a suggestion De Lima had already rejected.
Valte added that the only letter for Taiwan authorized by Mr. Aquino was the letter of apology personally carried by Perez.
Vice President Jejomar C. Binay said he hopes the Taiwanese government will take concrete measures to ensure the safety of Filipino workers in Taiwan in the wake of reports of isolated assaults on them.
He also urged authorities to take the appropriate legal action against Taiwanese nationals proven to have participated in any attacks.
In a letter to the head of the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in the Philippines, Binay expressed his gratitude for President Ma Ying-jeou’s assurance that the Filipino workers would be protected from any form of harassment or discrimination.
“They are there only to earn an honest living for their families and work harmoniously with the Taiwanese people. They should be spared from political conflicts,” Binay, the presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers concerns, wrote Raymond Wang, representative of TECO.
Tensions between the Philippines in Taiwan have put a strain on Filipinos working in Taiwan, some of whom complained of being attacked by locals or being refused service at some business establishments.
On Monday, Premier Jiang Yi-huah urged the people of Taiwan not to direct their anger at the Filipinos working in their country because they are not at fault, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines said.
TECO said the Taiwanese government had been taking all the necessary measures to protect the Filipinos and other foreigners working in Taiwan.
Some Taiwanese employers said the diplomatic row has not affected their relationships with their Filipino workers, Taiwan’s Central News Agency said.
“They come to work and leave work as normal, and we pay them as we should. I tell them there is nothing to worry about,” said K. R. Lin, owner of a marble factory in Hualien and chairman of the Taiwan Marble Association.
“We are not going to do anything to them. Taiwanese people are moderate in temperament,” added Lin, whose workforce includes Filipinos as well as Indonesians and Thais.
Lin said the government’s decision to freeze the hiring of Filipino workers in response to the dispute has disrupted plans to hire more workers from the Philippines, but the overall impact is limited as workers can be recruited from other countries.
Several Filipino workers who were scheduled to arrive at the marble factory next month will not be coming because of the hiring freeze, Lin said, and he is now trying to replace them with workers from Thailand and elsewhere.
Amy Chen, 60, who employs a domestic worker from the Philippines, said her employee is very hardworking. Chen believes the blame for the incident should fall on the Philippine government, not its people.
“I told her, I am angry with your government, but not you,” Chen said.
She said her employee had been fearful that Taiwanese might vent their anger at her, but she assured her this would not happen.
A group of young people on Monday stood outside Taipei’s St. Christopher’s Church to demonstrate their support for Filipino workers, the Taiwan media reported.
Holding up Chinese and English signs that read “I’m Taiwanese supporting Filipino workers” and “The government’s wrongdoing should not be shouldered by innocent people,” the young people stood outside the church before the first Mass in Tagalog started at 7:30 a.m.
“There’s no organization behind us, I invited my friends to join me in the action on Facebook and they forwarded the invitation to their friends,” said Lee Chun-ta, a graduate student who initiated the event.
He said that despite the difference in language and culture, Filipino workers are no different from Hung Shih-cheng, the Taiwanese fisherman shot dead by the PCG personnel.
“They are all hardworking people trying to make a living,” he said.
Another female demonstrator, also surnamed Lee, said that Filipino workers and domestic caregivers make a big contribution to Taiwan.
“Filipino workers fill up the gap in our social welfare network. They take care of our elderly and children so that people can work without worrying. They also work on assembly lines or in construction site jobs that many Taiwanese workers don’t want to do,” she said.
“Filipino workers should not shoulder responsibility for their government’s wrongdoing. It’s just like we Taiwanese wouldn’t want to be held responsible for what President Ma Ying-jeou does,” Lee said. With Joyce P. Pañares and Macon R. Araneta