‘Princess of the Stars’ victims seek High Court refuge

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THE families of the victims who died or were injured by the sinking of the MV Princess of the Stars has elevated their case to the Supreme Court (SC).

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In a 59-page petition for review on certiorari filed through Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) chief lawyer Persida Acosta, the families questioned the ruling of the Court of Appeals (CA) and asked for a reversal of its earlier decision exonerating ship owner Edgar Go, vice president for administration of Sulpicio Lines.

“Wherefore, premises considered, it is most respectfully prayed for this Honorable Court that the Decision dated March 22, 2013 and the Resolution dated January 21, 2014 be reversed and set aside and that a new one be rendered upholding the resolution of the DOJ [Department of Justice] Panel of Prosecutors and the Secretary of Justice in I.S. No. 2008-972 indicting respondent Edgar Go, for reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide, serious physical injuries and damage to properties,” the document reads.

According to the petitioners, Go had been arraigned even before the CA rendered its decision dismissing the case against him, hence, the lower court has the jurisdiction over it.

The petition avers that nine prosecution witnesses were already presented at Branch 5 of the Regional Trial Court of Manila even before the Court of Appeals favored the respondent by dismissing the case against him.

“The admissions of respondent Edgar S. Go, as well as that of his Port Captain and Safety Officer, that the latter officers report to the former and the former is the Head of the Crisis Management Committee, bolsters the guilt of respondent Go under Article 365 of the Revised Penal Code for Reckless imprudence,” it was pointed out.

In addition, the petitioners argued that “respondent Edgar S. Go deliberately failed to exercise due diligence when, in early morning of June 21, 2008 at the latest, he did not direct the ship captain and his crew to drop anchor and/or seek shelter in the vicinity of Batangas despite the fact that PSWS [Public Storm Warning Signal] No. 3 was already hoisted over the area of Romblon.”

In the CA ruling last January 2014 penned by Associate Justice Melchor Sadang, the former 15th division junked the motion for reconsideration filed by the victims, the Department of Justice and the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and cleared Go.

The said ship sailed for Cebu from the Port of Manila on June 20, 2008 ferrying 849 individuals, 709 of whom were passengers, 29 contractors and 111 crew members. It capsized in the Sibuyan Sea at 21:30 p.m. the next day and only 32 people survived; 227 died, and 592 were reported missing.

In the original decision of the CA, Go was cleared since the DOJ erred in finding probable cause and it was committed grave abuse of discretion.

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