Eight Philippine coast guard personnel have been sentenced to 14 years and eight months in jail over the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman in the Balintang Channel in May 2013.

Convicted were Coast Guard Cmdr. Arnold dela Cruz, Seaman Second Class 2 Nicky Aurelio, and Seamen First Class Edrando Aguila, Mhelvyn Bendo II, Andy Gibb Golfo, Sonny Masangkay, Henry Solomon and PO2 Richard Corpuz.

They were found to have shot dead Hong Shi Cheng, a Taiwanese fisherman after a sea chase off the coast of Batanes and Babuyan Islands.

Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 15 Judge Eduardo Ramon Reyes says he saw sufficient circumstantial evidence to find the defendants guilty though there is no direct evidence to show who fired the fatal shot. He also based his ruling on the testimony of Taiwanese forensic officials and a ballistician and forensic chemist from the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation who matched slugs recovered from the Taiwanese fishing vessel to the firearms recovered from the coast guard.

“The foregoing circumstances prove not only the identity of the accused but also their participation and collective responsibility in the death of victim Hong Shi Cheng. They reveal a unity of purpose and concerted action evidencing their conspiracy to kill him,” the ruling said.

“With the accused conspiring, with intent to kill, killed victim Hong Shi Cheng with no legal justification duly proven, the moral certainty that produces conviction of the accused for homicide in an unprejudiced mind has been satisfied,” he added.

The court also ordered the accused to pay 50 thousand pesos in civil indemnity and another 50 thousand in moral damages to the fisherman’s family.

The Manila Economic and Cultural Office, which serves as the unofficial link between the Philippines and Taiwan, meanwhile hopes that both parties would eventually overcome the emotional strain that the shooting incident brought for more than six years ago.

Taiwan imposed sanctions on Manila after the Balintang Incident that were only lifted after former President Noynoy Aquino offered a formal apology and the National Bureau of Investigation recommended the filing of charges against the accused. (Jasper Camilo)