Fishing boat crew members called to testify in Philippines


MANILA — Three crew members of a Taiwanese fishing boat that was strafed by a Philippine patrol vessel in May have been summoned by prosecutors to give eyewitness testimony in the case, according to the Philippines’ National Bureau of Investigation.

Under Philippine law, the three crew members — Taiwanese Hung Yu-chih and Hung Chieh-shang and Indonesian Imam Buchaeri — are required to go to Manila to testify, assistant state prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera told CNA Wednesday.

They have to convince Filipino prosecutors that the statements they gave in Taiwan were accurate and were given of their own free will, Navera said.

Hung Yu-chih was the skipper of the Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28, which was fired on by Filipino coast guard personnel May 9 in an exclusive overlapping economic zone of Taiwan and the Philippines.

A 65-year-old fisherman, Hung Shih-cheng, was killed during the shooting, which resulted in strained relations between Taiwan and the Philippines.

On Aug. 7, Philippine investigators recommended homicide charges against eight coast guard personnel involved in the shooting. In their report, the investigators also said obstruction of justice charges would be filed against four of them, including the commanding officer of the coast guard vessel, for alleged tampering with evidence.

After it received the report Aug. 13, the Philippines Department of Justice assembled a special team of prosecutors to handle the case and summoned three crew members of the fishing boat in late August to testify to prosecutors.

After collecting all the evidence and testimony related to the case, the team of prosecutors will decide within 60 days whether to bring charges against the coast guard personnel, according to Navera.

A legal expert familiar with the case told CNA that witnesses who live more than 50 kilometers away from the prosecutors’ office can choose whether or not to respond to a summons for questioning.

However, failure to show up could lead to a delay in the proceedings since prosecutors would have to reschedule the questioning sessions, the expert said.