Filipino coast guard men convicted in Taiwan fisherman death

MANILA, Philippines (AP) – A Philippine court found eight Filipino coast guard personnel guilty yesterday of conspiring to shoot and kill a Taiwan fisherman in a 2013 incident at sea.

Manila Regional Trial Court Judge Eduardo Ramon Reyes said in a decision that the coast guard men failed to prove that their action of opening fire on the Taiwan boat that killed Hong Shi Cheng on May 9, 2013, off the northern Philippines was

legally justified. The coast guard men, who remain free on bail, will appeal. Reyes said in his 32-page decision that the accused conspired “with intent to kill, killed victim Hoh Shi Cheng with no legal justification duly proven.”

The coast guard men were sentenced to jail terms of up to 14 years and ordered to pay for damages. Taiwan’s government welcomed the ruling, saying in a statement that the shooting happened in the two sides’ overlapping exclusive economic zones and that the Philippine government vessel “chased and attacked” the unarmed Taiwan fishing boat, causing its 65-year-old skipper’s death.

Philippine coast guard spokes-man Armand Balilo said the agency’s personnel were saddened by the ruling but would continue patrolling the country’s waters. “We believe that they just did their duty defending our territorial integrity. But the court has spoken and we will respect that and we will continue to support them,” Balilo told reporters.

Taiwan investigators ride a rubber boat as they inspect a ship involved in the alleged shooting of a Taiwan fisherman in Manila, the Philippines. PHOTO: AP