Court junks PCG officers' plea vs charges for 2013 Taiwanese fisherman's shooting

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 21 2018 09:07 PM | Updated as of Nov 21 2018 11:55 PM

Philippine investigators, assisted by Taiwanese counterparts, inspect fishing boat Guang Ta Hsin 28 at the Tungkang harbor in southern Taiwan in May 2013. Agence France-Press/File

MANILA - A Manila court has junked the plea that Philippine Coast Guard officers tagged in the 2013 shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman in the Balintang Channel filed in a bid to dismiss homicide charges against them. 

Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 15 has denied the demurrer to evidence the officers filed to halt the proceedings. The court set the presentation of defense evidence on December 7.

The homicide charges stemmed from the PCG officers' alleged shooting of Hung Shih-Cheng, 65, one of 4 crew members of Taiwanese fishing vessel "Guang Ta Hsin 28" on May 9, 2013. 

The incident frayed ties between the Philippines and Taiwan, with the latter threatening economic sanctions against Manila over the incident at one point. 

Hung died after the PCG men allegedly shot at the vessel when it supposedly tried to ram their patrol boat near Batanes, which is close to Taiwan's southernmost coast. 

Officials said the BFAR MCS 3001 vessel carrying the PCG officers first spotted 4 Taiwanese vessels 164 nautical miles off the southernmost tip of Balintang Channel.

One of the trawlers allegedly tried evasive maneuvers and was about to ram the BFAR boat, prompting the officers to fire at the foreign vessel. 

In March 2014, the Department of Justice (DOJ) recommended the filing of homicide charges against 8 PCG officers in connection with the shooting.

Among those accused were Commanding Officer Arnold Dela Cruz, Seaman 1st Class (SN1) Edrando Aguila, SN1 Mhelvin Bendo II, SN1 Andy Gibb Golfo, SN1 Sonny Masangcay, SN1 Henry Solomon, SN1 Richard Corpuz, and Seaman 2nd Class Nicky Renold Aurelio.

Dela Cruz and Bendo were also recommended charged with obstruction of justice for the preparation and submission of a falsified gunner report two days after the incident. 

Dela Cruz, in 2014, pleaded not guilty to homicide charges.