SC transfers Balintang shooting case to Manila court
MANILA, Philippines – The Manila regional trial court (RTC) will now take over the homicide case of 8 Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) officers charged for the 2013 shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman in the Balintang Channel in Batanes.
The Supreme Court (SC) ordered the case transferred from a Batanes court to the Manila RTC on February 4, but the order was released to the media only on Wednesday, March 11.
The SC directed the Batanes RTC Branch 13 clerk of court to forward the records of the criminal case to the Manila RTC. The latter court's executive judge will raffle it among its branches.
The High Court ordered the judge "to whom the case would be raffled to hear, try, and decide" on the case "with dispatch."
In issuing the order, the High Court granted the request of 7 of the accused represented by lawyer Rodrigo Moreno.
"We are glad for this as now there are no more logistical impediments to our fully and thoroughly presenting the merits of our case," Moreno told Rappler, insisting on the innocence of his clients.
The homicide case stems from the alleged shooting of a Taiwanese fishing vessel that led to the death of Taiwanese national Hong Shih-Cheng.
The officers had said they fired shots in self-defense, as the vessel allegedly hit their patrol ship, illegally entered Philippine territorial waters, and was attempting to flee.
The 2013 shooting caused a rift between the Philippines and Taiwan, with over 16,000 Filipino workers in Taiwan temporarily losing their jobs after Hong's death. (READ: Standing firm against Taiwan's strong-arm tactics)
Request for transfer
In requesting for the transfer, Moreno's clients argued that it will take tremendous resources both for the defense and prosecution to bring each witness to Batanes.
Batanes Judge Ramon Barona also endorsed the case transfer.
A round-trip plane ticket from Manila to Basco, Batanes booked at least a week in advance costs around P6,000 to P9,000.
They are Commanding Officer Arnold Enriquez dela Cruz, Seaman 2nd Class Nicky Reynold Aurello, 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, and Petty Officer 2 Richard Fernandez Corpuz.
Moreno represents all but Dela Cruz pro bono.
Moreno had alleged that the prosecution's proof of the Taiwanese national's death is at best hearsay, as it was Taiwanese state investigators who conducted the autopsy. – Rappler.com