Kin of Princess of the Stars victims want raps dismissal vs exec reversed
MANILA, Philippines — Relatives of the people who died during the M/V Princess of the Stars tragedy will file a motion for reconsideration to overturn the dismissal of criminal charges against a Sulpicio Lines executive, the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) said on Friday.
According to a statement from PAO, the prosecution has “overwhelming evidence” against Sulpicio Lines official Edgar Go, saying that he has authority and duty to control the ill-fated ship that capsized in June 2008 due to Typhoon Frank, claiming the lives of 851 passengers.
Earlier, the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 54 granted the demurrer to evidence filed by Go, a document that challenges the evidence presented by the prosecution. With the court granting the demurrer, the case against Go was effectively dismissed.
“Families of the passenger-victims of the M/V Princess of the Stars will file a Motion for Reconsideration on the Order of RTC Manila, Branch 54 granting Edgar S. Go’s Demurrer to Evidence. The Prosecution has overwhelming evidence that Edgar S. Go possesses the power, authority and the duty to control and decide matters pertaining to the vessel’s navigation at sea,” PAO said in a statement.
“He admitted publicly during the clarificatory hearing that he was in command of the M/V Princess of the Stars and to him are the Port Captains report. Such admission is of public knowledge,” it added.
PAO said that the dismissal of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide, damage to property, and serious physical injury charges against Go constitutes a denial of due process as the prosecution and the private complainants were supposedly not given the chance to comment on the demurrer filed by Go.
“There is also a denial of due process considering that the Prosecution and the Private Complainants were not given the right to file their comment/ opposition to the Demurrer to Evidence before the Court issued its assailed Order,” PAO explained.
“Due to the capsizing of the M/V Princess of the Stars on June 21, 2008, several cases for Damages were filed by the families of the victims of the M/V Princess of the Stars both in Manila and in Cebu. Seventy-one (71) cases were filed in Manila and sixty-three (63) in Cebu,” it added.
In the Manila court’s decision, it was stated that the evidence presented does not show that Go was not the responsible official despite his status as vice president of Sulpicio.
“Evidence on record is replete of any evidence showing that the accused Edgar Go is a responsible officer of Sulpicio Lines. Neither was there any evidence of any act or omission committed by accused Go prior to or during the voyage,” the court said.
Even claims that Go owned Sulpicio Lines were mere allegations that were not proven due to non-submission of documentary evidence.
Princess of the Stars, a maritime vessel, made its last voyage on June 21, 2008, sailing from Manila towards Cebu City despite Signal No. 1 being raised in the capital city. While sea travel was not disallowed during Signal No. 1, the vessel sailed right into the eye of the storm, before capsizing near Sibuyan Island off the province of Romblon.
Sulpicio officials claimed that the incident was an act of God and was not caused by engine failure, while noting that the state weather bureau provided false predictions about the typhoon which led to them sailing straight into the storm’s vicinity.
While the demurrer was granted by the court, another Manila court in RTC Branch 49 ordered the payment of P241-million as damages, based on the 71 cases filed by survivors and relatives of the victims.
Recently, a Cebu court also ordered the payment of P200-million in damages for 55 out of 59 cases filed. However, PAO chief Persida Acosta said none of the survivors or heirs have received the compensation with the case remaining pending in higher courts.
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