By Jerome Aning
MANILA, Philippines — The 11 Chinese fishermen caught allegedly poaching off Hasa-hasa (Half Moon) shoal in the Spratly Islands are set to undergo inquest proceedings on Monday (May 12) before the Puerto Princesa city prosecutor, according to a Department of Justice official.
Prosecutor-General Claro Arellano, head of the DOJ-National Prosecution Service, said the inquest was supposed to take place last Friday when the complaint against the suspects was filed by arresting officers from the Philippine National Police-Maritime Group and docketed at the prosecutor’s office.
“The PNP brought the Chinese poachers last Friday for inquest. But they had no lawyer and interpreter. So the prosecutor asked them to come back on Monday. But the case was already docketed for inquest,” Arellano told reporters.
The DOJ official said the Chinese fishermen also refused to be be represented by public attorneys being provided to them at the hearing.
Arellano confirmed that the complaints filed by the PNP — all bailable — were violations of Republic Act No. 8550 or the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, particularly Sections 87 (poaching in Philippine waters) and 97 (fishing or taking of rare, threatened or endangered species); and RA 9147 or the RA 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001.
The investigating prosecutor, Allen Ross Rodriguez, required the PNP to present the pieces of evidence seized from the fishermen, including their boat as well as the sea turtles, numbering about 350, that were seized from them.
The Chinese fishermen’s vessel will be subjected to inventory by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, composed of representatives from the local government units, the agriculture and environment departments, and the National Economic Development Authority.
The DOJ said the Bureau of Immigration might also charge the Chinese fisherman for illegal entry and hold off their departure.
Malacañang earlier said it would push through with the case against the fishermen despite a demand from the Chinese government for their release.