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Manila agrees to give Taiwanese investigators access to key video

Manila agrees to give Taiwanese investigators access to key video

Manila, May 24 (CNA) Taiwan's investigators will be allowed to see the Philippines' video recording of an attack by a Philippine patrol vessel on a Taiwanese fishing vessel earlier this month, a Philippine official said Friday. Philippine Secretary of Justice Leila De Lima has agreed to allow Taiwanese investigators to see the video on the last day of their upcoming visit to the Philippines to look into the tragic incident, the official from the Philippine Department of Justice told CNA. The move represented a breakthrough in discussions on arranging "parallel" investigations into the incident and paved the way for investigators from the two sides to gather information in each other's country. Bilateral negotiations for resolving the dispute had been deadlocked over access to the video, which was taken by the patrol boat as it tried to detain and then sprayed bullets at the Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28 on May 9, leaving a Taiwanese fisherman dead. De Lima has seen the recording and described its contents as "revealing," the Philippine official said. Taiwan and the Philippines have developed different accounts of the incident, and investigators hope the video will offer evidence of what really happened. Manila contends that the shooting was a matter of self-defense after the Taiwanese boat tried to ram it, an argument the Taiwanese side has adamantly rejected. Taiwan has even pressed the Philippines to release the video to back its claims since soon after the incident, but Manila has refused, saying it was part of an ongoing investigation. The Philippines has also agreed to allow Taiwanese forensic experts to board the Philippine patrol ship to check whether bullets they gathered from the Taiwanese fishing boat and the body of deceased fishermen Hung Shih-cheng were fired from its guns, the official said. Taiwanese investigators can also question Philippine Coast Guard personnel involved in the shooting, but if they decline to respond, the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation will provide testimony collected by the bureau's staff. Philippine judicial sources said the Philippine justice department has responded positively to Taiwan's requests in written form and is waiting for a response from Taiwan. Once the procedures are formally agreed upon in writing, the sources said, parallel investigations into the incident by the two sides will begin. A Taiwanese delegation of prosecutors and judicial officials arrived in Manila on May 16 but was forced to return to Taipei two days later after Philippine authorities backed off a previous promise for a joint investigation into the case. The Philippine justice department later agreed to a "parallel investigation" model, with each side conducting the inquiry on its own while agreeing to help each other in the process in line with a bilateral agreement on judicial assistance signed in April. Under the accord, Taiwan has made 10 requests and Manila 11 requests with regard to the inquiry into the shooting incident. Judicial sources in Manila said a Philippine delegation of forensic experts and judicial officials will visit Taiwan soon to study the bullet-ridden Taiwanese fishing boat, interview witnesses and conduct an autopsy. If the family of the dead fisherman rejects a re-autopsy, the sources said the Philippines hopes Taiwan would provide a video recording of the autopsy conducted in Taiwan along with related photos and the final autopsy report and allow Philippine investigators to meet with Taiwanese coroners. The Philippine delegation will stay in Taiwan for four to five days, the sources said. (By Emerson Lim and Sofia Wu)


Updated : 2021-04-17 14:41 GMT+08:00