Court orders arrest of coastguard men over Balintang incident
MANILA, Philippines – A Batanes court has issued warrants of arrest against 8 Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel charged with homicide over a Taiwanese fisherman's death, dubbed as the Balintang incident.
In an order dated April 7 but released Tuesday, April 22, Batanes Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Ramon Baroña set the bail at P40,000 (around $900) for the temporary liberty of the 8 suspects in the May 2013 death of Huang Shih-Cheng.
Homicide charges against the 8 PCG personnel were filed on March 27 at the Batanes RTC. Obstruction of justice charges were also filed against two of them before the Cagayan Municipal Trial Court.
The PCG said it would ask the court to give it custody of its 8 personnel as soon as they receive the warrants of arrest.
The following were ordered arrested by Judge Baroña:
- Commanding Officer Arnold Enriquez dela Cruz
- Seaman 1st Class Edrando Quiapo Aguila
- Seaman 1st Class Mhelvin Aguilar Bendo II
- Seaman 1st Class Andy Gibb Ronario Golfo
- Seaman 1st Class Sunny Galang Masangcay
- Seaman 1st Class Henry Baco Solomon
- Seaman 2nd Class Nicky Renold Aurello
- Petty Officer 2 Richard Fernandez Corpuz
The Balintang incident created a rift between the Philippines and Taiwan. Over 16,000 Filipinos working in Taiwan were temporarily jobless after Shih-Cheng's death. (READ: Standing firm against Taiwan's strong-arm tactics)
Motion for partial reconsideration
The 8 accused earlier appealed before the Department of Justice to have their homicide charges dropped for lack of probable cause.
In asking for the reversal of the indictment, the 8 PCG personnel charged of homicide argued that their actions were done in self-defense and were "consistent with the regular performance of their legal duty."
They also argued that the death of Huang Shih-Cheng is yet to be established, as the executive report of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) "failed to produce a death certificate."
"Dr. Ruperto J. Sombillon Jr., the NBI Medico Legal Officer, admitted in his 09 September 2013 Affidavit that he never saw Cheng's remains, and did not conduct an autopsy on the latter, such that Dr. Sombillon has no personal knowledge that Cheng is actually dead," their motion read.
Dela Cruz and Bendo, who are indicted for obstruction of justice charges, said "there was no intent to mislead" on their part when they made the monthly gunnery report that become the basis for their case in Cagayan.
PCG acting spokesperson Commander Genito Basilio said their personnel's lawyer had requested for the transfer of the trials from Batanes and Cagayan to Manila.
The agency said it would ask the court to grant it recognizance on its 8 personnel.
“If our motion for recognizance is approved, we would gain custody of them. But if it is disapproved by the court, we would direct them to post bail,” Basilio said. – Rappler.com