CEBU CITY—Families of victims of the 2008 sinking of the MV Princess of the Stars expressed dismay over the dismissal of criminal charges against an official of the Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corp., formerly known as Sulpicio Lines Inc. (SLI).
The Court of Appeals 15th division in Manila dismissed charges of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide, physical injuries and damage to property against Edgar Go, vice president for administration of SLI.
In dismissing the charges, the court said the Department of Justice erred when it blamed Go for the sinking since the vessel was cleared to sail by the Coast Guard and the alternate route presented by the ship captain, Florencio Marimon, was also approved.
The DOJ will contest the ruling. There are 29 complainants in the criminal case. All of them are based in Luzon.
Although only 29 individuals pursued the criminal case, the complainants in the civil cases against SLI said they felt uneasy since the trial of the several civil cases they filed against SLI has yet to start.
“We’re all dismayed. It’s been five years but justice remains to be served. The cases are moving but the pace is slow,” said Rowena Barret.
Barret said she wouldn’t lose hope in her quest for justice for her 28-year-old brother, Arman, who was among close to 800 people who died when the Princess of the Stars capsized off the coast of Romblon on June 21, 2008. Arman was bound for Manila to process documents that he needed to work overseas.
“We’re not tired of waiting. We need justice. We have not lost hope,” she said.
Barret, a resident of Talisay City, Cebu, said SLI should pay for allowing the vessel to sail even if the company knew that it was headed for an area being battered by Typhoon “Frank.”
Barret, who is demanding P5 million in compensation, said she had met with the counsel of SLI in court for the Judicial Dispute Reform (JDR), a procedure wherein judges try to settle issues between the parties before conducting trial.
Manila-based Levy Samuele also underwent mediation proceedings with SLI. But they were unsuccessful.
Samuele said SLI was willing to bankroll the education of the victims’ children and offered cash to the families in exchange for the withdrawal of the cases.
But the complainants turned down SLI’s offer and proceeded with the case, Samuele said. “The case has been pending for almost five years. We won’t back off. The legal battle continues,” he added.
Samuele’s brother, Roy, and his three-year-old niece, Jaqueline Rhoz, are among those who died in the sea tragedy.