By Ina Reformina
MANILA - The trial of 9 of the 11 arrested Chinese poachers off the Hasa-hasa Shoal (Half Moon Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea will proceed, despite the refusal of the accused to participate in the proceedings.
Justice Secretary Leila De Lima said even the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) recognizes member-states' legal processes.
"Tuloy ang kaso. Nandyan naman sila in custody, they are in detention, they are in custody, and therefore, the appropriate legal proceedings need to continue. Nasa mga batas natin yan, that's also sanctioned in UNCLOS na nirerespeto naman ang judicial proceedings ng member-states pagdating within the EEC (exclusive economic zone)," De Lima said.
The Chinese fishermen were indicted before a Palawan court for violation of section 87 (Poaching in Philippine Waters) and section 97 (Fishing or Taking of Rare, Threatened or Endangered Specis) of the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998.
Two of the fishermen are minors. The cases against them have been dismissed and the Department of Justice (DOJ) recommended their repatriation.
The 9 who stand trial have refused the services of a public lawyer designated by the DOJ to represent them during the court of the inquest proceedings.
They refuse to participate in the proceedings, insisting they were fishing in Chinese waters.
The Philippines has raised its territorial dispute with China over the disputed waters before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).