MANILA Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra is suggesting a probe jointly participated in by representatives from the Philippine and Chinese governments to look into the unfortunate mishap involving the Filipino registered fishing vessel F/B Gem-Ver 1 which capsized when it was hit by a Chinese vessel off Recto Bank on June 9.
The justice chief underscored to newsmen that "legal action is, and should always be the last resort".
"The DOJ (Department of Justice) will be awaiting the findings of the marine inquiry. One is being conducted already I am hoping that this could be done jointly with the Chinese side so whatever facts would be established would be mutually acceptable. But until we have the results or the findings of this joint marine inquiry, the DOJ will not do anything for now," Guevarra told newsmen Thursday.
Guevarra said the proposal for a joint probe was made during a cluster meeting in Malacanang which took up the issue and explained that a joint probe might be considered by diplomatic channels to prevent misaligned findings.
In case a joint investigation with the Chinese side results in disputes, then a mutually accepted third party may be allowed, Guevarra said.
"That's my proposal. That is something for the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) to bring up to the attention of the Chinese side if they would prefer to conduct a joint inquiry with the Philippine side. I would prefer that para isahan na lang (so that there is only one investigation). Baka iba findings nila, iba ang findings natin, magulo pa (It would be messed up if our findings and their findings are different). So why don't they just conduct it jointly?" the DOJ chief said.
"In the beginning, if there is a disagreement that is probably the time for a mutual third party may be allowed (to enter the probe)," he added.
Guevarra conceded that Manila, however, cannot compel Beijing to take part in the inquiry.
"We cannot insist kung ayaw nila ng (if they don't like a) joint inquiry. Then we would do our own and let's pick it up from there. Kung tipong may solid basis din naman (If it appears that there is a solid basis), then the DOJ will act accordingly," he added.
The investigation, Guevarra said, would be separate and distinct from the diplomatic steps being undertaken.
He said the Cabinet agreed to the proposal to be able to "establish the true facts, allocate responsibility for restitution, and adopt measures to prevent or avoid similar incidents in the future.
A Vietnamese vessel rescued the 22 Filipino seamen after they were abandoned by the Chinese vessel. (PNA)
Source: Philippines News Agency