10 Navy men liable for death of Vietnamese fishermen

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan — An investigating body of the Provincial Committee on Illegal Entrants (PCIE) in Pangasinan recommended the filing of appropriate charges against Philippine Navy (PN) officers and enlisted personnel for the death of two fishermen during a chase on a Vietnamese fishing boat some 34 nautical miles off Cape Bolinao in Pangasinan in the early morning of September 23.

This was among the recommendations made by the Sub-Task Group on Investigation (STGI) composed of various government agencies that investigated the incident.

The report of the STGI was made public on Tuesday by the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) in Pangasinan, one of the agencies involved in the investigation of the case.

The members of the STGI are the Philippine National Police (PNP), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Department of Foreign Affairs, Bureau of Immigration, Bureau of Customs, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, among others.

The two navy officers and eight enlisted personnel are those from the patrol ship BRP Miguel Malvar. Their names were not mentioned though in the report.

BRP Malvar was manned by 49 officers and men, all of whom were placed under custodial relief while an investigation was going on. They turned over 10 M-16 rifles and two M-50 machine guns to the PNP for ballistic investigation.

In the same incident, five other Vietnamese fishermen were arrested.

Capt. Joseph Coyme of the Philippine Coast Guard, chairman of the STGI said they are set to provide the Vietnamese Embassy, DFA, Philippine Navy and BFAR their respective copies of the investigation report for their reference.

The STGI established that a shooting incident indeed happened in that fateful morning of September 23.

The shooting was described in the report as an act of unnecessary inadvertence on the part of Navy operatives when the gunner miscalculated in firing the warning shots across the bow of the fleeing Vietnamese fishing boat, thereby hitting two Vietnamese fishermen hiding in the forward cargo compartment of the vessel.

The investigation report added that the PN will file a case against the five arrested Vietnamese fishermen for poaching in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

The PIA said PCIE spokesperson and Pangasinan Police Office head Senior Superintendent Ronald Lee thanked the members of the STGI for a “transparent, impartial and honest-to-goodness” investigation on the case.

Lee considered this as a delicate case but it was handled the way it should be. All pieces of evidence and persons of interest were accessible in the processing of evidence.

Lee said the PCIE will endorse the investigation report and recommendations to the Regional Committee on Illegal Entrants (RCIE).

The cadavers of the two Vietnamese nationals named Le Van Reo and Phan Van Liem had already been repatriated to Vietnam.

The five arrested Vietnamese fishermen were returned to their boat moored at the wharf of Sual town and under the care of both the Coast Guard and BFAR. PNA-northboundasia.com