Witness not sure Taiwanese fisherman shot in Balintang

MANILA, Philippines – Taking the witness stand, the son of a Taiwanese fisherman allegedly shot dead by Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) officers said he was uncertain if their boat was indeed at the Balintang Channel in Batanes during the incident.

By raising questions on the actual location of the boat, the prosecution would be casting doubts on the claim of the PCG officers that the fishermen were poaching in Philippine waters so their boat had to be fired at.

Rodrigo Moreno, counsel for 7 of the 8 defendants, said documents would counter the witness' claim on their vessel's location but reserved comments for the witness' cross-examination slated some time early 2015.

Hong Yu-chih, the victim's son, testified before the Batanes Regional Trial Court (RTC) on Tuesday, November 25, that he was uncertain of the exact location of their boat at the time of the shooting.

Assistant State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera said this is "because the GPS locator of their vessel and the hydraulic pump were hit by bullets,” as Hong testified on Tuesday.

Eight PCG officers are facing homicide charges for allegedly shooting at a fishing vessel that led to the death of Taiwanese national Hong Shih-Cheng.

The officers had said they fired shots in self-defense. The Taiwanese vessel allegedly hit their patrol ship, illegally entered Philippine territorial waters, and was attempting to flee.

The fisherman's son testified on Tuesday that his father sustained a bullet shot in the neck.

“They (the Taiwanese nationals) were hiding in the engine room,” Navera added.

Judging by the 45 bullet holes in the Taiwanese vessel, Taiwanese authorities saw murderous intent from the PCG men led by Commanding Officer Arnold Enriquez dela Cruz in a shooting incident that strained Philippines-Taiwan ties.

Warrant issued, interpreter ordered accredited

The Batanes RTC granted on Tuesday the Philippine justice department's request for an issuance of an arrest warrant against Dela Cruz.

Dela Cruz and 7 others charged in Hong's homicide are out on bail. With Dela Cruz ordered arrested, his P40,000 bail bond is effectively cancelled.

The court also instructed the prosecution to have its interpreter from the Manila Economic and Cultural Office accredited by the Supreme Court (SC).

Without the accreditation, the interpretation of the Taiwanese witness' testimony will be stricken off court records.

"This is a welcome development for us as accreditation by the SC will minimize the possibility of bias by the interpreter," said Moreno, who is representing all of the accused except Dela Cruz.

Moreno's team earlier requested the Batanes court to prohibit the use by the prosecution of an interpreter either from the Taiwan or Philippine government to avoid a biased interpretation.

The only SC-accredited Mandarin interpreter was unavailable. – Buena Bernal/Rappler.com