By Tetch Torres-Tupas
MANILA, Philippines—The scheduled pre-trial on Tuesday of the nine Chinese fishermen arrested for poaching off Half Moon Shoal or Hasa-Hasa Shoal some 60 nautical miles from Palawan will not push through again, the prosecution camp said Monday.
State Prosecutor Allen Ross Rodriguez confirmed that the pre-trial conference set on July 1 of the fishermen was deferred anew to an unspecified date by Branch 51 of the Puerto Princesa City Regional Trial Court.
The judge handling the case—Ambrosio de Luna—reportedly is set to attend a seminar lecture of the Philippine Judicial Academy. This is the fourth time the pre-trial of the Chinese fishers had been postponed.
Earlier, it was postponed either due to the lack of a lawyer to represent the accused or a lack of interpreter in the Chinese language.
A pre-trial is held before the start of the trial to clarify points of law and facts.
The Chinese fishermen pleaded not guilty to the charges of violating Republic Act (RA) 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation Act as well as RA 8550, specifically Section 97 for fishing or taking of rare, threatened or endangered species and Section 87 for poaching in our territorial waters in an arraignment held last month.
Authorities have confiscated more than 350 turtles, some of which are protected under the country’s environmental laws, from their fishing vessel when they were apprehended early last May.
Prior to their arraignment, the Chinese fishermen refused to take part in the inquest proceedings, saying they have not violated Philippine laws as they were fishing in Chinese territorial waters when apprehended by operatives of the Philippine National Police-Maritime Group Special Boat Unit.