Coast Guard in Taiwanese fisherman shooting post bail

MANILA, Philippines – Eight Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel charged with homicide over a Taiwanese fisherman's death in 2013 posted bail on Wednesday, May 7, for their temporary liberty.

In a phone interview, lawyer Rodrigo Moreno said it took over 3 weeks for the 8 accused to raise the funds needed for their temporary liberty which totaled P320,000 (US$7,229.86*). Moreno is representing the indicted PCG personnel pro bono.

"They had to borrow funds from friends and family and sell jewelries," Moreno said. 

Dubbed as the Balintang incident, the May 2013 death of Huang Shih-Cheng 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)

Moreno said the PCG men accused of homicide posted bail at the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC), despite the arrest warrants being issued by the Batanes RTC on April 7. Moreno said the accused are allowed to post bail from the area where they were arrested, according to rules of court.

Released on April 22, the arrest order against the PCG men by Batanes RTC Judge Ramon Baroña set the bail at P40,000 (around $904.16) for each of the 8 suspects. 

The homicide charges were filed on March 27 against the following: 

Obstruction of justice charges were also filed against Dela Cruz and Bendo, two of the 8 accused of homicide. The obstruction of justice charges were, however, filed before the Cagayan Municipal Trial Court. 

Dela Cruz and Bendo also each posted bail amounting to P12,000 (US$271.10*) on Wednesday at the Manila Metropolitan Trial Court.

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 with 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 became the basis of 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 of 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

*US$1 = P44.2609