The Philippines on Thursday apologized and promised compensation for two Vietnamese fishermen killed by its naval personnel during an anti-poaching operation at sea.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana made the apology in a meeting with Vietnam's Defense Minister Ngo Xuan Lich as the two Southeast Asian neighbors discussed ways to improve cooperation, especially in naval matters.
"Secretary Lorenzana also relayed President Rodrigo Duterte’s assurance that the families of the Vietnamese fishermen who died in the incident will be properly compensated," a defense department statement said.
In response, Vietnamese Defense Minister Ngo Xuan Lich expressed his gratitude to the Philippine government’s gesture to the families of the slain Vietnamese.
Lich also suggested the establishment of a concrete mechanism between the navies of both countries to prevent similar incident from occurring in the future to which Lorenzana agreed.
Aside from apologizing over the unfortunate incident, the defense chief also assured the Vietnamese official of the expeditious resolution of the case.
“Our defense cooperation with Vietnam has been very positive and we intend to build on those successes,” Lorenzana said noting how Vietnam was able to develop its own military industry.
Lorenzana also plans to tap the expertise of Vietnam in developing the country’s defense industry.
Also discussed in the meeting were the possibility of increasing the existing opportunities for exchange of senior and junior officers, information and intelligence exchange, joint training, and addressing non-traditional security challenges such as humanitarian assistance and disaster response, piracy, illegal drugs, and terrorism.
“We have meeting of minds to move forward and this will be beneficial to both countries,” Lorenzana said.
Meawhile, defense spokesman Arsenio Andolong said the decision to compensate the slain Vietnamese fishermen was a commitment by President Duterte, and an acknowledgement of the unfortunate incident.
“The amount of the compensation was not made available but the President has committed that he will compensate (the families) of those killed,” Andolong said in a statement.
He did not say how much the compensation would be.
The two Vietnamese fishermen were found dead with gunshot wounds and five others were arrested after the Philippine navy chased and caught up with suspected poachers in the South China Sea last month.
Foreign fishermen have often been caught trespassing in Philippine waters. Last year President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the release of 17 Vietnamese fishermen caught in his nation's waters.
In 2013 the Philippines apologized to Taiwan over the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman by Filipino coastguards who said his vessel had illegally sailed into local waters.
The incident occurred when patrolling Navy ship, BRP Miguel Malvar attempted to interdict alleged Vietnamese poachers ventured off the coast of Bolinao, Pangasinan.
The Vietnamese fishermen, however, tried to maneuver their vessel to escape, prompting the navy to fire warning shots towards the bow of one of the fishing vessels. The bullets however killed the two Vietnamese sailors.
Meanwhile, Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog of Iloilo City was ordered dismissed by the Office of the Ombudsman for “serious dishonesty relative to his unlawful acquisition of wealth.”
The order stemmed from the complaint filed by former Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada in 2015.
Mejorada questioned the sudden increase by P8.9 million in Mabilog’s net worth from 2012 to 2013.
“Simply, his (Mabilog) failure to properly account or explain his sources of income establishes the presence of malicious intent to conceal the truth, causing grave prejudice to the government in the amount of P8,981,082.52,” read part of the Ombudsman decision.
“Hence, respondent is found guilty of serious dishonesty and meted the supreme penalty of dismissal from the service, pursuant to Rule 10, Section 46 (A) of the Revised Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service,” the Ombudsman said.
Mabilog was also slapped with the following accessory penalties: cancellation of civil service eligibility; forfeiture of retirement benefits; perpetual disqualification from holding public office and taking civil service examinations
The Ombudsman also ordered the Department of the Interior and Local Government secretary to implement the decision on Mabilog “immediately upon receipt thereof.”
Mabilog is currently on extended sick leave abroad to seek treatment for diabetes.
If the dismissal may no longer be enforced against Mabilog, “the penalty shall be converted into a fine in the amount equivalent to his salary for one year” and the accessory penalties “shall continue to be imposed.”
Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer III Rachel Cariaga-Favila penned the order on Aug. 29 and Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang approved it on Oct. 6.
Meanwhile, the Ombudsman dismissed the charge of grave misconduct relative to the appointment of Patrick Allan Sy and the Iloilo One Esplanade Reality for lack of sufficient evidence.
The charge of dishonesty relative to the Mabilog’s loan in a bank in Canada was also dismissed for lack of merit. With PNA