Princess of the Stars victims’ kin want their voices heard before dismissing case
MANILA, Philippines — Lawyers for the relatives of those who died during the M/V Princess of the Stars tragedy maintained that the prosecution’s side should have been heard first before the court dismissed the criminal charges against a Sulpicio Lines executive.
According to the motion for reconsideration filed by lawyers from the Department of Justice (DOJ) National Prosecution Service, the prosecution was not given a chance to file its comment to oppose the demurrer to evidence filed by the respondent, Sulpicio Lines vice president Edgar Go.
Last Friday, copies of the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 54’s order granting the demurrer to evidence filed by Go were released. As the demurrer to evidence is a document that challenges the evidence presented by the prosecution, the court’s granting meant that the case against Go was effectively dismissed.
“Here, the prosecution was not given the chance to file its Comment or Opposition to the Demurrer to Evidence filed by accused Edgar S. Go. The prosecution received the hard copy of the same only on November 16, 2021, i.e. two (2) days before the Order of this Honorable Court granting the Demurrer to Evidence filed by the accused,” the prosecution said.
“Strangely, no electronic copy of this Demurrer to Evidence was received by the prosecution despite the fact that accused and his counsel are aware of the email addresses of the prosecution panel,” it added.
The prosecution also noted that according to rules on criminal procedure, the prosecution should be given ten days from the filing of Go’s demurrer — November 16 — to file the comment against the document.
However, the order of the court granting Go’s demurrer was supposedly dated November 18, and was sent on November 23.
“Hence, the prosecution was not given time to file its Comment/Opposition within the allowed period provided by the rules,” the prosecution said.
“Fair play dictates that these rules must not be set aside and reduced to a mere ceremony to the prejudice of people, who, in this case, is still yearning for justice for the loss of their loved ones for more than thirteen (13) long years now,” it added.
The lawyers also reiterated that contrary to the court’s decision, there is enough evidence against Go that he has authority and duty to control the ill-fated ship.
Princess of the Stars, a maritime vessel owned by Sulpicio Lines, claimed the lives of 851 passengers on June 21, 2008 after it sailed right into the vicinity of Typhoon Frank.
The vessel left Manila for 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 of Romblon province.
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.
“The prosecution maintains that it has sufficiently established the identity and culpability of accused Edgar S. Go, considering that accused Edgar S. Go has control over the operations of the vessels of SLI,” the prosecution said.
“It was clearly established that accused Edgar S. Go, as the First Vice President for Administration and Head of the Crisis Management Committee of SLI, possesses the power, authority and the duty to control and decide matters pertaining to its vessels’ navigation at sea. This is the reason why, among the officers and owners of SLI, it was only accused Edgar S. Go who was indicted,” he added.
Go and other officers of Sulpicio Lines were slapped with charges for reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide, damage to property, and serious physical injury due to the accident.
However, lawyers from the Public Attorney’s Office claimed that the dismissal of raps against Go constitutes a denial of due process.
While the court granted the demurrer, 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 had received compensation, pending the case in higher courts.
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