CHINA: WE WON'T ALLOW PHILIPPINES TO OCCUPY AYUNGIN SHOAL

After expelling Philippine vessels from the disputed Ayungin Shoal, China said the island nation must bear all the consequences arising from "further possible provocation." In a press conference on Monday, China Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei said it will not permit the Philippines' occupation of the Ayungin shoal, which is geographically closer to the Southeast Asian nation but is known as Ren'ai Reef to China. "The Chinese government has firm determination and will in safeguarding national sovereignty, and we will never allow any form of occupation of the Ren'ai Reef nor violation of the DOC by the Philippine side," Hong said. "China watches closely and is highly vigilant on further possible provocations in the South China Sea by the Philippines and it must bear all the consequences arising therefrom," he added. The Chinese official said this in reaction to the statement of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) that the BRP Sierra Madre, a commissioned Philippine Naval Vessel, was placed in Ayungin Shoal in 1999 to serve as a permanent installation in response to China’s illegal occupation of the Mischief Reef. The DFA clarified that this was prior to the signing of the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in 2002. But China is also again claiming that the Philippines has committed to remove the grounded ship from the Ayungin Shoal.

ALSO: Govt girds for attacks as Joma Sison hints at war

AFP, NSA dread backlash; Sison sees ‘people’s war’ THE government is bracing for retaliatory attacks from communist rebels following the arrest of the chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines Benito Tiamzon and his wife Wilma Austria in Cebu Saturday. National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia said the party’s armed wing, the New People’s Army, is also expected to launch more offensives to mark its anniversary on March 29. Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista said the military remained on red alert and expected a communist backlash. Photo: In custody. Captured communist leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon show defiance as they and five other members of the CPP/NPA arrive in Camp Crame for processing. Manny Palmero
“We are expecting that in the coming days,” he said. Government chief negotiator Alexander Padilla acknowledged that the security situation would become more serious as the communist group closes ranks after the arrest of its top two leaders. CPP founder Jose Ma. Sison said “the CPP and NPA rank and file are more likely to intensify the people’s war.”

ALSO: Let China interpret US-Phl talks – Palace

It will be up to China to interpret the ongoing talks on enhancing military cooperation between the Philippines and the United States, Malacañang said yesterday. “Let China interpret that... We don’t need to send a message. The medium is the message,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said when asked if the government was trying to send a message to China with the negotiations on enhanced military partnership with the US. The negotiations are being held amid China’s growing aggressiveness in staking its claims in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea. Recently, Chinese vessels drove away a Filipino ship carrying supplies to a small detachment of Marines stationed on a grounded World War II landing ship on Ayungin Shoal. Lacierda said the arrangement being worked out with the US would help the country improve its defense capabilities. He stressed any new agreement would be in accordance with the Constitution and Philippine laws. “The reason why it helps is because there is some technology transfer, there’s knowledge sharing between the American forces and Philippine forces when they conduct military exercises,” he said. “It improves the quality of the Philippines in terms of preparedness,” he added. As the negotiations approach the final stages, the government has agreed to give the US access to Philippine military bases. Officials earlier stressed “access” is different from basing rights. The US has repeatedly declared it has no intention of re-establishing bases in the Philippines. A final deal is expected to be signed in April, to coincide with the planned visit of US President Barack Obama. Lacierda stressed that the Philippines’ “multi-faceted” relations with China remain despite the maritime dispute. “The Philippines has a multi-faceted or a multi-level exchange with China, so too with any country... You’ve got several relations, for instance, trade, cultural,” he said, noting that even the US also has different levels of exchange with China. “So to connect one particular issue to a particular concern may not be necessarily accurate. You have to look at the entire exchange between the two countries,” he said when asked whether the US would dare confront a giant creditor, China. “There are foreign policies, there are different levels of exchanges between the United States and China. So it cannot be tied to any one particular point,” Lacierda said.

ALSO: Philippines: U.S. access to Philippine bases raises constitutional issues

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, chair of the Senate foreign relations committee, warned on Friday that a new security agreement with the United States, which would expand US forces’ access to Philippine bases, would run into a head-on clash with constitutional restrictions on American military presence in the country following the closure of US bases in 1992. Santiago issued the warning after the Aquino administration announced that Filipino negotiators had offered the United States wider access to Philippine military facilities to counter China’s increasing aggressive actions in enforcing its maritime claims on disputed territories in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea). In a communiqué issued during the sixth round of talks in Washington, Philippine officials announced that the two sides hoped to finalize terms for an “Agreement on Enhanced Defense Cooperation” before US President Barack Obama embarks on a visit to Asia, including the Philippines, next month. This will be Obama’s first visit to Manila since his reelection, indicating the heightened strategic role of the Philippine bases in rebalancing US forces in the Asia-Pacific region. The Philippines has been hardening its position and flexing its muscles in the face of Chinese blandishments over the past few days. On Friday, it rejected China’s demand to pull out a grounded Philippine Navy ship from the disputed Ayungin Shoal in the South China Sea. The DFA issued a sharp statement reiterating Philippine ownership of the shoal, in the disputed Spratlys, saying it is part of the Philippine continental shelf. On March 12, the United States expressed concern over China’s “provocative” act of blocking Philippine vessels on a resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal, as it called for respect for international laws and freedom of navigation in disputed waters.

ALSO: TAIWAN BOAT SHOOTING- Homicide charges set vs 8 Coast Guard men

Eight officers and personnel of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) involved in the fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman off Batanes in May last year have been indicted for homicide. Taipei welcomed the development, but the PCG said it was demoralizing. The Department of Justice (DOJ), in a resolution released yesterday, said an investigating panel led by Assistant State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera found probable cause to file charges of homicide against Commanding Officer Arnold Enriquez de la Cruz and his seven men for the death of fisherman Hung Shih-cheng. Also recommended charged were Seamen 1st Class (SN1) Edrando Aguila, Mhelvin Bendo II, Andy Golfo, Sunny Masangcay and Henry Solomon; SN2 Nicky Aurello; and Petty Officer 2 Richard Fernandez Corpuz. The DOJ dismissed the claim of the respondents that they were forced to fire at the Taiwanese fishing boat after it tried to ram their vessel MCS-3001 in the Balintang Channel. The panel also did not give credence to the claim of the respondents that they should not be held criminally liable for the incident as they were merely performing their lawful duties. Instead the panel held that the respondents “all acted in unison with the common purpose of firing” at the Taiwanese fishing boat Guang Da Xing No. 28 to force it to submit to inspection by the coast guard.


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China: We won't allow Philippines to occupy Ayungin Shoal


Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei. Photo from http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/

MANILA, MARCH 24, 2014 (PHILSTAR) After expelling Philippine vessels from the disputed Ayungin Shoal, China said the island nation must bear all the consequences arising from "further possible provocation."

In a press conference on Monday, China Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei said it will not permit the Philippines' occupation of the Ayungin shoal, which is geographically closer to the Southeast Asian nation but is known as Ren'ai Reef to China.

"The Chinese government has firm determination and will in safeguarding national sovereignty, and we will never allow any form of occupation of the Ren'ai Reef nor violation of the DOC by the Philippine side," Hong said.

"China watches closely and is highly vigilant on further possible provocations in the South China Sea by the Philippines and it must bear all the consequences arising therefrom," he added.

The Chinese official said this in reaction to the statement of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) that the BRP Sierra Madre, a commissioned Philippine Naval Vessel, was placed in Ayungin Shoal in 1999 to serve as a permanent installation in response to China’s illegal occupation of the Mischief Reef.

The DFA clarified that this was prior to the signing of the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in 2002.

But China is also again claiming that the Philippines has committed to remove the grounded ship from the Ayungin Shoal.

"But what we see now is that the Philippine side rejects to tow away the ship, further more, it tries to transport concrete and rebar and other construction materials with a purpose of building facilities on the reef. This behavior goes against its own commitment and also violates the DOC," Hong said.

He said the Philippines, as a country, should honor its "commitment" despite changes of administration or risk losing credibility to the international community.

On Friday, the DFA said the Philippines will not remove the BRP Sierra Madre from the Ayungin Shoal.

"The Philippines reiterates that Ayungin Shoal is part of its continental shelf over which the Philippines has sovereign rights and jurisdiction," DFA said.

The Philippines and China are locked in long-running territorial dispute over the South China Sea, with the Asian giant virtually claiming the entire contested waters.

Last week, China blocked two Philippine civilian vessels that were carrying food and supplies for the troops on board the BRP Sierra Madre.

In January, the Chinese coast guard also reportedly fired water cannons at Filipino fishermen to drive them away from the Panatag Shoal, another disputed area.

FROM MANILA STANDARD

Govt girds for attacks as Joma hints at warMar. 24, 2014 at 12:01am By Joyce Pangco Pañares and Florante S. Solmerin

AFP, NSA dread backlash; Sison sees ‘people’s war’

THE government is bracing for retaliatory attacks from communist rebels following the arrest of the chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines Benito Tiamzon and his wife Wilma Austria in Cebu Saturday.

National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia said the party’s armed wing, the New People’s Army, is also expected to launch more offensives to mark its anniversary on March 29.

Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista said the military remained on red alert and expected a communist backlash.


In custody. Captured communist leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon show defiance as they and five other members of the CPP/NPA arrive in Camp Crame for processing. Manny Palmero

“We are expecting that in the coming days,” he said.

Government chief negotiator Alexander Padilla acknowledged that the security situation would become more serious as the communist group closes ranks after the arrest of its top two leaders.

CPP founder Jose Ma. Sison said “the CPP and NPA rank and file are more likely to intensify the people’s war.”

Sison said “my arrest in 1977 did not stop the people’s war because the root causes of the armed conflict continued. Oppression and exploitation of the people continue,” he told the MST in an online interview.

He said the Aquino regime has been violating an agreement by arresting and imprisoning NDFP consultants who are protected by a joint agreement. “The arrest of Tiamzon and Austria might be the last straw. The Aquino regime is killing the peace negotiations,” Sison said.

But Garcia thought otherwise. “The arrest of the Tiamzon couple is a very big blow to the leadership of the CPP. There will be a leadership vacuum, but only for a while.”

Garcia said in a phone interview “they will likely re-consolidate and resolve factionalism within in favor of one faction.”

Padilla said Tiamzon’s successor, being younger and needing to prove his or her leadership, would likely respond with more attacks.

“The next echelon of leaders are a generation apart -- in their 40s to 50s. So it might be a little worse before it gets better,” Padilla said.

“There might be more violence to show nothing has changed within their ranks,” he added.

But a well-placed source in the intelligence community said the next CPP chairman could very well be one of the communist leaders who was previously arrested and eventually released for various reasons.

`Among the CPP-NPA leaders who were recently released were Maria Luisa Pucray, Jaime Soledad, Jovencio Balweg, Angelina Ipong, Glicerio Pernia, and Ericson Acosta.

`Pucray and Pernia have since returned underground.

`National Democratic Front Mindanao spokesman Jorge Madlos, also known as Ka Oris, is also a possible successor. He has a P5.6 million bounty on his head.

`Among the high-ranking communist leaders who are still detained are Tirso Alcantara, Alan Jazmines, Emeterio Antalan, Leopoldo Caloza, Pedro Codaste, Alfredo Mapano, Eduardo Sarmiento, Paterno Opo, Dario Tomada, and Marilyn Badayos-Condes.

Pesidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the Armed Forces will be vigilant against possible retaliatory moves from the CPP-NPA.

“We are always fully aware of the possibility of retaliation, and our Armed Forces are always to defend the population,” Lacierda said.

Bautista said the arrest of the Tiamzons was a victory for the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police.

“We will continue to strengthen our resolve to bring other criminals to justice in honor of the victims of the violence perpetrated by the CPP-NPA, and in honor of our people who deserve to live in a peaceful and developed society. We call on the rest of the CPP-NPA members to lay down their arms, abandon the armed struggle and return to the comfort of their families and join us in bringing peace and development to our nation,” he said in a statement.

By the military’s estimate, the Maoist-inspired 45-year-old communist rebellion, the longest in Asia, has claimed 30,000 lives.

“The New People’s Army is down to about 4,000 guerrillas from more than 26,000 in the late 1980s,” Bautista said.

But in its 45th anniversary statement, the CCP claimed the number of full-time NPA fighters had risen to more than 10,000.

In a statement, the CPP said the Tiamzons and their companions were in Cebu monitoring the rehabilitation work of the CPP-NPA in the Visayas when they were arrested.

A separate statement from NDFP chief Luis Jalandoni condemned the arrest as illegal because he said the Tiamzons and the five others were all peace consultants of the NDFP.

But the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process dismissed Jalandoni’s claim and said the rebels were not covered by the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees.

Bautista declined to comment on the issue.

“Any legal questions on the arrest and processing of the apprehended individuals will be answered by the Department of Justice including applicability of JASIG to their arrest,” he said.

He added, however, that the presidential adviser on the peace process said the guarantees were not applicable to Tiamzon’s wife because she jumped bail in 1989. He also said that the multiple murder charges against the couple were in relation to the killing of 15 civilians in Inopacan, Leyte, who were discovered in a mass grave in 2006.

“Tiamzon was then the Secretary of the Eastern Visayas Regional Committee when they murdered the civilians,” Bautista said.

Let China interpret US-Phl talks – Palace By Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 18, 2014 - 12:00am 4 242 googleplus0 1


Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda

MANILA, Philippines - It will be up to China to interpret the ongoing talks on enhancing military cooperation between the Philippines and the United States, Malacañang said yesterday.

“Let China interpret that... We don’t need to send a message. The medium is the message,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said when asked if the government was trying to send a message to China with the negotiations on enhanced military partnership with the US.

The negotiations are being held amid China’s growing aggressiveness in staking its claims in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea. Recently, Chinese vessels drove away a Filipino ship carrying supplies to a small detachment of Marines stationed on a grounded World War II landing ship on Ayungin Shoal.

Lacierda said the arrangement being worked out with the US would help the country improve its defense capabilities.

He stressed any new agreement would be in accordance with the Constitution and Philippine laws.

“The reason why it helps is because there is some technology transfer, there’s knowledge sharing between the American forces and Philippine forces when they conduct military exercises,” he said.

“It improves the quality of the Philippines in terms of preparedness,” he added.

As the negotiations approach the final stages, the government has agreed to give the US access to Philippine military bases.

Officials earlier stressed “access” is different from basing rights. The US has repeatedly declared it has no intention of re-establishing bases in the Philippines.

A final deal is expected to be signed in April, to coincide with the planned visit of US President Barack Obama.

Under the Visiting Forces Agreement, US troops have greater rotational presence in the Philippines.

Citing their heavy involvement in the relief operations in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda, US troops would likewise boost the country’s disaster preparedness capabilities, according to Lacierda.

“Let me also emphasize that a part of this rotational presence is now focusing on disaster preparedness and disaster risk reduction. That’s one of the big improvements, especially when it comes to increased rotational presence, where we saw the involvement of the American military when Typhoon Yolanda hit Central Visayas,” he said.

‘Multi-faceted’ relations

Lacierda stressed that the Philippines’ “multi-faceted” relations with China remain despite the maritime dispute.

“The Philippines has a multi-faceted or a multi-level exchange with China, so too with any country... You’ve got several relations, for instance, trade, cultural,” he said, noting that even the US also has different levels of exchange with China.

“So to connect one particular issue to a particular concern may not be necessarily accurate. You have to look at the entire exchange between the two countries,” he said when asked whether the US would dare confront a giant creditor, China.

“There are foreign policies, there are different levels of exchanges between the United States and China. So it cannot be tied to any one particular point,” Lacierda said.

He said the details of an enhanced military cooperation are still being finalized and that they definitely do not include setting up US bases in the Philippines.

“This is, again, only providing them access. We are very cognizant of the limitations imposed by the Constitution and other applicable laws. So the Philippine panel works around those parameters, and so there should be no issue as to permanent basing,” Lacierda said.

On concerns that any agreement would have to be ratified by the Senate, Lacierda said it would be best to wait for a final deal since there seemed to be differences in interpretation between the executive and the legislature.

He said Congress would definitely be informed by the executive about the agreement as was the case in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“As to whether it would require confirmation, well, at least both sides have already stated their position, so let’s wait for the agreement, and see whether there should be a need for ratification,” Lacierda said.

He said “fear of a head-on clash” with the Senate is premature because “we have not reached that point yet, precisely because the details have not been completed.”

FROM THE INQUIRER

Philippines: U.S. access to Philippine bases raises constitutional issues March 17, 2014 . By Amando Doronila Philippine Daily Inquirer


Subic Bay, once a key U.S. Navy port in the Philippines. Cubi Point airfield is at center left.

MANILA -Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, chair of the Senate foreign relations committee, warned on Friday that a new security agreement with the United States, which would expand US forces’ access to Philippine bases, would run into a head-on clash with constitutional restrictions on American military presence in the country following the closure of US bases in 1992.

Santiago issued the warning after the Aquino administration announced that Filipino negotiators had offered the United States wider access to Philippine military facilities to counter China’s increasing aggressive actions in enforcing its maritime claims on disputed territories in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).

In a communiqué issued during the sixth round of talks in Washington, Philippine officials announced that the two sides hoped to finalize terms for an “Agreement on Enhanced Defense Cooperation” before US President Barack Obama embarks on a visit to Asia, including the Philippines, next month.

This will be Obama’s first visit to Manila since his reelection, indicating the heightened strategic role of the Philippine bases in rebalancing US forces in the Asia-Pacific region.

The rebalancing is part of the US “Pivot Asia” doctrine in the midst of the rising economic and military power of China in East and Southeast Asia, and the intensification of maritime disputes between China and its neighbors in the region.

Stronger cooperation

The new military pact seeks to forge a stronger defense cooperation with the United States and represents an attempt to expand its military ties with the Philippines.

The military ties have been largely moribund since 1991 when the Philippine Senate voted not to renew the lease on US military bases in the country, leading to the closure in 1992 of the naval base in Subic Bay and the Clark Air Base—two of the largest US overseas bases during the Cold War.

The announcement prompted Santiago to issue the warning, apparently in an effort to preempt the conclusion of a new agreement during Obama’s visit.

She pointed out that before an agreement could be finalized, the issues of constitutionality, such as the concurrence of the Senate, which is the treaty ratifying chamber of Congress, should be resolved.

Santiago is raising these issues prematurely even before the text of the agreement has been released. She has contended that US access to Philippine bases under a new agreement should be covered by a treaty that would be scrutinized and concurred in by the Senate.

Real issue

The senator argues that the deployment of US forces and hardware is not a minor matter that may be covered by an executive agreement, as claimed by the Department of National Defense. Until the text of the agreement is published, it is pointless to start a great debate over constitutional issues raised by Santiago.

The only useful function it serves is that Santiago has served notice that the Senate and the government are heading toward collision on an issue involving Philippine sovereignty vis-à-vis the United States.

The collision course diverts attention away from the real issue of de facto Chinese infringement of Philippine sovereignty as a result of incursions into areas claimed by the Philippines as part of its national territory.

Real enemies

This shift of focus on US derogation of Philippine sovereignty under the new status of forces agreement away from Chinese encroachments raises the fundamental issue to Filipinos. Who are our real enemies in light of Chinese depredations—the Chinese or the Americans?

Why are we less concerned with China’s de facto annexation of Philippine territory than we are over the Senate intervention in the assertion of its constitutional power to review and ratify treaties?

In trying to conclude a new basing agreement with the United States, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is using it as a tool of hard-nosed diplomacy to back Philippine diplomatic initiatives with US military power deployment in Asia-Pacific under the 1951 Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty.

Pending publication of the text of the new agreement, this much has been disclosed by negotiators: The agreement seeks to allow larger numbers of US troops to have temporary access to Philippine military camps and bring aircraft, ships and humanitarian equipment.

Existing agreements have allowed the deployment of US troops in Mindanao to provide counterterrorism training to Filipino soldiers since 2002.

Inadequate

US military access in the Philippines is restricted to annual joint exercises—a participation which Philippine and US defense officials consider inadequate to respond to the growing threat of the expansive Chinese military power to the security of the region, especially smaller countries with rival claims on territories.

Under the draft accord, the Philippines is reported to have allowed US forces joint use of bases like those in Manila, Clark, Palawan, Cebu, Nueva Ecija and La Union.

“We are only offering US military forces to fewer military bases,” said Ambassador Eduardo Malaya, a member of the Philippine panel.

No base within a base

Philippine negotiators were unclear whether there will be any limit to the number of US troops or their length of stay. Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, head of the Philippine panel, said the US negotiators had agreed that Philippine authorities could have access to US facilities set up inside local military bases. Any US military facility will not be a “base within a base,” Batino said.

The Philippines has been hardening its position and flexing its muscles in the face of Chinese blandishments over the past few days. On Friday, it rejected China’s demand to pull out a grounded Philippine Navy ship from the disputed Ayungin Shoal in the South China Sea. The DFA issued a sharp statement reiterating Philippine ownership of the shoal, in the disputed Spratlys, saying it is part of the Philippine continental shelf.

Blocked

China earlier blocked two Philippine ships bringing supplies from reaching a small contingent of Filipino soldiers stationed in a rusty ship at the shoal.

The DFA called the action provocative. It said the BRP Sierra Madre, a naval vessel, was placed on Ayungin Shoal in 1999 to serve as a permanent Philippine government installation in response to China’s illegal occupation of Mischief Reef in 1995, also claimed by the Philippines.

The DFA issued the statement in response to Beijing’s assertions that that it was right in driving away Filipino ships from the shoal, known as Ren’ai Reef in China. It accused the Philippines of carrying materials to “China’s island.”

Chinese Coast Guard ships in the vicinity of BRP Sierra Madre

Provocative act

On March 12, the United States expressed concern over China’s “provocative” act of blocking Philippine vessels on a resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal, as it called for respect for international laws and freedom of navigation in disputed waters.

The US Embassy’s Chargé d’Affaires Brian Goldbeck said the Chinese action “is a provocative move that raises tensions.”

These acts of harassment appeared to have been fueled by belligerent statements of Chinese President Xi Jinping on March 12, calling on China’s armed forces to staunchly defend national interests. Speaking to military delegates to China’s National People’s Congress, Xi said the military shouldn’t shy away from defending China’s interests.

His remarks “came amid concerns in Asia over the rise of Beijing’s military and strategic assertiveness,” The Wall Street Journal reported, referring to the territorial dispute between China and Japan over islands in the East China Sea that “has set parts of the region on edge and severely strained relations” between Asia’s two largest economies.

FROM PHILSTAR

Homicide charges set vs 8 Coast Guard men By Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 19, 2014 - 12:00am 0 1 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - Eight officers and personnel of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) involved in the fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman off Batanes in May last year have been indicted for homicide.

Taipei welcomed the development, but the PCG said it was demoralizing.

The Department of Justice (DOJ), in a resolution released yesterday, said an investigating panel led by Assistant State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera found probable cause to file charges of homicide against Commanding Officer Arnold Enriquez de la Cruz and his seven men for the death of fisherman Hung Shih-cheng.

Also recommended charged were Seamen 1st Class (SN1) Edrando Aguila, Mhelvin Bendo II, Andy Golfo, Sunny Masangcay and Henry Solomon; SN2 Nicky Aurello; and Petty Officer 2 Richard Fernandez Corpuz.

The DOJ dismissed the claim of the respondents that they were forced to fire at the Taiwanese fishing boat after it tried to ram their vessel MCS-3001 in the Balintang Channel.

The panel also did not give credence to the claim of the respondents that they should not be held criminally liable for the incident as they were merely performing their lawful duties.

Instead the panel held that the respondents “all acted in unison with the common purpose of firing” at the Taiwanese fishing boat Guang Da Xing No. 28 to force it to submit to inspection by the coast guard.

“In this case, the NPS found no evidence to indicate or prove that the Taiwanese boat posed an imminent or grave danger to the respondents before and during the pursuit,” read the 79-page resolution.

“Absent clear evidence of such, the argument of self-defense cannot prosper in this preliminary investigation where probable cause is all that is needed for the filing of an information in court,” it added. Prosecutor General Claro Arellano approved the resolution.

The DOJ added that the claim of self-defense should be better threshed out in the trial court, in a full-blown hearing.

On the claim by the eight PCG men that they were fulfilling their lawful duty during their deadly encounter with the Taiwanese, the DOJ held that they were not authorized to use deadly force on a potentially hostile vessel under the PCG’s rules of engagement.

The DOJ noted that the respondents “exceeded the performance of lawful duty” when they fired at the Taiwanese fishing vessel.

Falsified information

The DOJ also recommended the indictment of De la Cruz and Bendo for obstruction of justice for signing two falsified monthly gunnery reports submitted by the PCG to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

The DOJ noted the conflicting information in the two reports bearing the same date on the number of ammunition discharged by MCS-3001, a patrol boat belonging to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), on May 9, 2013.

The first report stated that only 36 rounds of ammunition were fired at the Taiwanese fishing boat, while the second report placed the figure at 108.

The NBI, however, pointed out that the actual number of bullets fired was 108.

“The number of bullets expended can spell the difference between necessary or reasonable fire and excessive or indiscriminate. Thus respondents CDR de la Cruz and Bendo II cannot just lamely deny their liability by claiming the differing monthly gunnery report was not intentional and merely brought about by the physically tiring circumstances surrounding their preparation,” the DOJ pointed out.

“The number of ammunition spent in an incident where there is a resulting death or killing will always be material and could in fact change the outcome of any criminal investigation or proceedings that will be undertaken,” it added.

Welcomed, decried

Taiwan, through Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) Political Section Director Andrew Lin, lauded the DOJ’s indictment of the eight PCG men for homicide.

“Our government definitely recognize the adequate action taken by the Philippine government regarding the fatal shooting,” Lin told The STAR.

“We firmly believe through filing of criminal charges and those responsible will be brought to fair trial and justice will be served,” he added.

TECO said Taipei was “reasonable” and was not asking “excessively” from the Philippines in demanding a formal apology and a joint investigation into the shooting.

Taiwan said its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) overlaps with that of the Philippines and insisted that the shooting of the fisherman happened in disputed waters.

A Taiwan investigating team had said that a voyage data recording (VDR) of the incident by the Taiwanese fishermen showed the incident took place within Taiwan’s EEZ.

But TECO would later say Taiwan and the Philippines share EEZ since they overlap.

The PCG, headed by Vice Admiral Rodolfo Isorena, for its part said it is standing by its men but promised to “follow the legal procedure, whatever is mandated for us to do.”

PCG spokesman Commander Armand Balilo said the DOJ’s decision was disheartening, considering that the eight coast guard officers and personnel slapped with homicide charges were just doing their duty during the fatal encounter with the Taiwanese fishermen. The eight are being held at PCG headquarters.

“It is normal on the part of the PCG to feel demoralized because we believe that they were only doing their job. But the PCG is a professional organization and we would always do our job,” Balilo said. The PCG has yet to receive its copy of the DOJ resolution. – Pia Lee-Brago, Evelyn Macairan


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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