SC reinstates raps vs. Sulpicio exec in Princess of the Stars tragedy

MANILA The criminal cases against the responsible official of Sulpicio Lines Inc. (SLI) over the sinking of the M/V Princess of the Stars nearly ten years ago will proceed.

In a 20-page decision dated Dec. 10, 2018 and made available to newsmen Monday, the Supreme Court's Third Division ruled in favor of consolidated petitions questioning the March 22, 2013 decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) dismissing reckless imprudence raps against then SLI first vice president for administration Edgar Go over the tragedy.

Associate Justices Diosdado M. Peralta, Marvic Leonen, Alexander Gesmundo, and Ramon Paul Hernando concurred in the decision written by Associate Justice Jose Reyes.

Go led the crisis management team of the company which handled the incident when the ship under Captain Florencio Marimon capsized and sank in waters off Romblon at the height of Typhoon Frank.

A total of 227 people died, 592 went missing while 32 survived in the tragedy.

"(T)he consolidated petitions for review are granted. The decision of the Court of Appeals are reversed and set aside. The Regional Trial Court of Manila Branch 5 is ordered to forthwith reinstate the criminal case as against respondent Go," the SC ruled in its decision.

The tribunal explained that while the shipping firm's officials faced civil liabilities for failing to safely deliver its passengers, they also face criminal liabilities for possible negligence which resulted in deaths and injuries.

"The civil action against a ship owner for breach of contract of carriage does not preclude criminal prosecution against its employees whose negligence resulted in the death of or injuries to passengers," the High Court explained.

In its investigation report dated Aug. 18, 2008, the Board of Marine Inquiry stated that Sulpicio Lines Inc. and its senior officers failed to ensure the safety of the vessel and its cargo because it did not assess the potential danger of Typhoon Frank.

It added that SLI failed to monitor the condition of the vessel during the critical moment on the morning of June 21 when the vessel was about 40 nautical miles from the typhoon.

The BMI also observed that the shipping firm did not inform the Philippine Coast Guard immediately when the vessel lost contact with the company that morning.

Public Attorney's Office chief Persida Rueda-Acosta, whose office represents most of the victim's families in the suit, lauded the SC decision.

"The relatives of the victims and survivors of the MV Princess of the Stars are happy to know that the criminal case filed by them through the free assistance of PAO, would be eventually prosecuted after waiting for almost 10 years pending on petition for review filed by accused Edgar Go," Acosta said in a message to reporters.

"At least nine witnesses had been presented in RTC Branch 5 Manila by the DOJ Panel of Prosecutors until the CA halted the trial by ruling that there is no probable cause. At least, the SC has spoken for the victims seeking for justice," she added. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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