What Went Before: MV Princess of the Stars
In a July 2 ruling, the Supreme Court absolved the owner of Sulpicio Lines of criminal liability in connection with the 2008 sinking of MV Princess of the Stars off Romblon province, which resulted in the death of about 800 passengers and crew.
The ruling affirmed the Court of Appeals’ decision last year and resolution in January this year stating that there was no probable cause to indict Edgar S. Go for reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide.
“The ship owner’s liability for the death of or injuries to passengers resulting from the negligence of the ship captain, with or without concurring negligence on the part of the ship owner, arises from the contract of carries, hence, civil in nature,” the high court said.
Around noon on June 21, 2008, the Princess of the Stars sank off Sibuyan Island, Romblon, in rough seas whipped by Typhoon “Frank” while en route from Manila to 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.
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 (RTC) Branch 26 junked the P4.4-million damage claim of Go against Pagasa and its officials, saying that it found no basis in the claim that “wrong forecasting” caused the tragedy.
In June 2009, the Department of Justice (DOJ) found probable cause to charge Go with reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide, damage to property and serious physical injury. The case against Go was filed in the Manila RTC.
In March last year, the Court of Appeals cleared Go of the charges, saying it did not agree with the DOJ that Go should be held criminally liable for the incident. The court annulled two resolutions by the DOJ issued in March and June 2010 recommending Go’s prosecution and upheld Go’s claim that the DOJ committed grave abuse of discretion.
The appellate court also ordered the Manila RTC to dismiss the criminal charges against Go.
The Cebu-based Sulpicio Lines, later renamed Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corp., has figured in several maritime disasters, including the sinking of the MV Doña Paz in December 1987, dubbed the world’s worst peacetime sea tragedy, which left more than 4,000 people dead.–Inquirer Research
Source: Inquirer Archives