Arrest of PCG leader in Balintang shooting sought
MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday, November 24, sought the arrest of a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) officer who allegedly led the shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman along the Balintang Channel in Batanes in 2013.
The DOJ asked the Batanes Regional Trial Court (RTC) hearing the homicide case over the Balintang incident to issue an arrest warrant against Commanding Officer Arnold Enriquez dela Cruz after he failed to show up at the Monday court proceeding.
Lawyer Ernesto Cabrera, legal counsel for Dela Cruz, also failed to appear.
The 8 accused in the alleged homicide of Taiwanese national Hong Shih-Cheng are currently out on bail.
The 2013 shooting caused a rift between the Philippines and Taiwan. Over 16,000 Filipinos working in Taiwan temporarily lost their jobs after Hong's death. (READ: Standing firm against Taiwan's strong-arm tactics)
During the Monday hearing, Hong's son Yu-chih was set to testify as prosecution witness. He is the skipper of the Taiwanese fishing vessel that was the alleged target of the shooting.
Batanes RTC Judge Ramon Barona decided to defer the testimony to Tuesday, November 25, given the absence of the defense counsel.
The defense earlier filed an urgent motion to have the Monday hearing cancelled due to absence of flights to Batanes on the day of and the day before the hearing.
Defense lawyer Paul Jomar Alcudia is set to arrive in Batanes Tuesday morning instead.
The court earlier "provisionally reset" the two-day hearing to February 9 and 10 of 2015, but the prosecution pushed for its continuation this week.
"While the prosecution claims that they are rushing the hearings for the benefit of the accused, it is clear that such haste is motivated purely by political considerations," said defense lawyer Rodrigo Moreno, who is representing 7 of the 8 accused pro bono.
He said the defense team is shelling out for their airfare to Batanes, which is an island group in the northern most part of the country.
Motion to exclude interpreter
With a Taiwanese national on the witness stand, the defense had asked the Batanes court to prohibit the use by the prosecution of an interpreter either from the Taiwan or Philippine government.
Both are "aggressively pushing for the conviction of the accused," said Moreno.
"The interpreter will obviously be hesitant to translate questions and answers that would be damaging to the testimony of the witness," he said.
The sole Supreme Court-accredited interpreter in Mandarin or Fookien Chinese from the Manila City Regional Trial Court Branch 17 will be unable to attend the hearing, the prosecution earlier said.
The prosecution will instead seek an interpreter from the Taiwanese Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Manila.
This prompted the defense to seek for the exclusion of interpreters from either TECO, which is the Taiwanese embassy in Manila, or the Philippine government.
Last of the accused arraigned
Also on Monday, accused Seaman First Class1 Edrando Quiapo Aguila did not enter any plea during his arraignment. The court then entered a guilty plea on his behalf.
Aguila failed to show up during the arraignment of his co-accused last September 2 because of an untimely loss of a relative. – Rappler.com