Around noon on June 21, 2008, the motor vessel Princess of the Stars sank off Sibuyan Island, Romblon, in rough seas whipped by Typhoon “Frank.”
The passenger ship owned by Sulpicio Lines sailed from Manila and was bound for Cebu City. Of the more than 800 passengers, only 32 survived. More than 300 bodies were recovered in the search and retrieval operations that followed.
Sulpicio officials claimed that “an act of God”—not engine failure—sank the ferry. At the same time, the shipping company accused the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) of gross negligence, saying that inaccuracies in its forecast caused the ship to find itself in the eye of the storm, leading to its sinking.
In August 2008, the Board of Marine Inquiry said in a 62-page report on its investigation into the incident that Sulpicio Lines was responsible and called for the suspension of its license to operate.
On Oct. 14, 2008, Judge Silvino Pampilo Jr. of the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 26 junked a P4.4-million damage claim of Sulpicio Lines and Sulpicio Lines executive Edgar Go against Pagasa and its officials, saying that it found no basis in the claim that “wrong forecasting” caused the tragedy.
On June 25, 2009, upon the order of the Department of Justice (DOJ), charges of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide were filed in the Manila RTC against Go and Princess of the Stars skipper Capt. Florencio Marimon, whose death in the sinking had yet to be validated.
In March 2010, the DOJ denied a petition for review filed by Go and refused to withdraw the criminal charges it filed against Go and Marimon. Go then filed a motion for reconsideration but it was denied on June 8, 2010.
Then acting Justice Secretary Alberto Agra upheld the recommendation of the panel to absolve Suplicio president Enrique Go, executive vice president and chief executive officer Carlos Go, senior vice president and secretary Victoriano Go and first vice president Dominador Go.
According to the Public Attorney’s Office, as of June 2010, there were 135 cases (71 in Metro Manila and 64 in Cebu City) in courts lodged by families of the victims suing the company for millions of pesos in damages.
Sulpicio Lines has figured in several maritime disasters, including the sinking of the MV Doña Paz in December 1987, dubbed as the world’s worst peacetime sea tragedy, which left more than 4,000 people dead.
In February 2010, Sulpicio changed its corporate name to Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corp.—Inquirer Research
Source: Inquirer Archives