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Nine (9) Vietnamese found guilty of Republic Act (R.A.) 10654 or poaching in Philippine waters were released Friday afternoon upon satisfying “served sentence” and for “humanitarian reason.”
Rene Sabio, who acts as interpreter for the Naval Forces West (NFW), said that Judge Paul Jagmis of Branch 95 of the Palawan Regional Trial Court (RTC) decided to release them after serving their sentence and “in the spirit of international friendship, goodwill, and comity” between the Philippines and Vietnam.”
“Sabi ni Judge Jagmis i-release na sila for humanitarian reason dahil nai-serve na ‘yong sentence dapat na i-serve nila. Ang pagkasabi niya, nagpa-check din sila, maganda naman daw ang mga record nila — wala silang offense while in the provincial jail,” Sabio said.
Palawan Provincial Jail chief Jose Sany “Bong” Rabago said that the Vietnamese showed good conduct during their stay at the provincial jail.
He said they have also been “very helpful” acting as interpreter between them and some Malaysians who are also detained at the provincial jail.
“Generally, mabait sila. Sinunod naman nila ‘yong mga patakaran natin sa jail. Cooperative din sila kasi nagamit din namin sila as interpreter sa mga inmates nating Malay,” Rabago said.
The detainees, after learning of their possible release, expressed joy on the court’s decision.
Cao Ba Tan, one of the inmates, said, “I am happy that I can go home now.” (translated from Vietnamese)
The inmates will be released to Tran Minh Dieung, the representative of Vietnamese embassy in Palawan and will most likely stay temporarily at the Philippine-Vietnamese Village in Barangay Sta. Lourdes, Sabio said.
But in the order released by the court, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) was directed to institute their proper deportation proceedings with “prejudice to re-entry into the country.”
The accused, (People vs Phan Tac et. al; Criminal Case 38481) Phan Tac; Lin Cao Van; Lac Truong Vang; An Dunh Cong, and (People vs Nguyen Minh Tuan et. al; Criminal Case 38480) Nguyen Minh Tuan; Huyn Them; Cao Ba Tan; and Huynh Cu, were apprehended on September 19, 2018, for fishing within Cagayancillo town’s water without necessary permits.
On February 7, 2019, the accused filed a proposal for a plea bargain but it was struck down on June 21 based on the opposition of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
During the initial hearing on August 16, the accused pleaded guilty in which the court granted.
Jagmis, on a court decision dated August 23, 2019, set a fine of $1.2M (or its equivalent in Philippine currency) and an additional penalty of six (6) months imprisonment in which the period of detention shall be credited to the service of the sentence.
To date, the accused have accumulated 10 months and 15 days of served time triggering their immediate release.