Jun 14, 2013

    Manila investigators want charges filed

    PHILIPPINE investigators said yesterday they had recommended that criminal charges be filed against coast guards involved in the fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman in disputed waters.

    The announcement follows weeks of high tension between Taiwan and the Philippines.

    "The NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) has recommended the filing of criminal and administrative charges against the Philippine coast-guard personnel," Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said in a text message.

    Ms De Lima said she could not disclose the specific charges, pending clearance from President Benigno Aquino, whose office is reviewing the recommendation and will decide what action to take.

    The May 9 incident occurred in waters near a Philippine island that Taiwan also claims as part of its economic zone.

    A 65-year-old Taiwanese fisherman was killed when Philippine coast guards opened fire on the small fishing vessel he was crewing with his son and two others.

    The coast guard said initially the fishing boat intruded into Philippine waters, and its men were forced to open fire when it tried to ram their vessel.

    The coast guard also said immediately after the incident that it had nothing to apologise for.

    The killing caused outrage in Taiwan, with President Ma Ying-jeou describing it as "cold-blooded murder".

    His government ordered a freeze on the hiring of Filipinos to work in Taiwan, issued a "red-alert" warning tourists against travelling to the Philippines and staged naval drills near Philippine waters.

    Mr Aquino repeatedly apologised and sent an envoy to Taiwan, but these actions were rejected as insincere.

    Following pressure from Taiwan, the Philippines agreed to joint investigations into the incident.

    The Taiwanese authorities were allowed to visit the Philippines, inspect the ship and interview the coast-guard personnel involved.

    The Taiwan investigators concluded that two guns were used in the attack, the Central News Agency reported on June 1.

    Adding to the anger in Taiwan, the authorities said the fishing boat had 50 bullet holes in it and there were no marks consistent with it ramming the coastguard vessel.