Sulpicio Lines owner, captain charged for 2008 ship tragedy

By DateLine Philippines

The court arraignment of two persons believed responsible for the ill-fated sinking of the M/V Princess of the Stars will now push through after two years that the case stayed pending at the Justice department.

The M/V Princess of the Stars capsized off Sibuyan Island in Romblon province on June 22, 2008, at the height of Typhoon Frank. Some 700 people died or were declared missing as a result of the sinking.

Relatives of the ship’s unfortunate passengers charged one of the ship’s owners, Edgar Go, vice president for administration of SLI Lines, and its captain, Florencio Morimon Sr., with reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide, serious physical injuries and damage to property.

In a resolution issued by newly-appointed Justice secretary Alberto Agra, the Department of Justice (DOJ) denied a petition for review filed by Go and Morimon and affirmed the findings of its prosecutors that stated there was sufficient proof to hold the Sulpicio Lines and its captain liable for negligence.

Both Go and Morimon had earlier sought the withdrawal of the criminal complaint filed against them before the Regional Trial Court of Manila.

Agra held that the special panel of prosecutors did not err in finding probable cause to indict Go and Morimon for the Romblon sea tragedy.

He said he expedited the resolution of the petition for review based on the request of the relatives of the victims.

Agra noted that the denial of the petition for review of Go and Morimon should pave the way for their arraignment which have been delayed due to their pending petition for review.

“Now there will be no more obstacle for these people to be arraigned before the court…We decided to expedite the resolution of the petition for review and we are confirming the findings of the prosecutors,” Agra said.

The panel of prosecutors held that Marimon, as a master of the vessel, demonstrated his negligence by his lack of foresight and precaution in observing the rules of good seamanship when he departed from the Port of Manila despite the storm.

His decision to proceed with the voyage despite of the bad weather, the panel said, showed his “extreme lack of precaution” that ended in the ship moving directly into the eye of the typhoon.

Agra said Go and Morimon could have prevented the tragedy if they immediately maneuvered the ship back to Manila or docked it in the nearest port. The two also failed to check the weather situation prevailing at that time.

There is also evidence that the ship was overloaded considering it was still accepting passengers when they were about to travel.

The DOJ earlier gave credence to the testimonies of survivors Francisco Batula and Gerardo Pelimer who claimed that there was no departure video shown on board.

They added that they were neither apprised of the vessel’s safety features, tools and equipment, nor of safety procedures to be observed in case of emergency. The crew also did not help or assist the passengers to safety, they said.

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