The Supreme Court has exonerated from criminal liability Edgar S. Go, the owner of the MV Princess of the Stars, an interisland ferry that sank in 2008, killing more than 800 people.
In a Minute Resolution penned by Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe, the Court affirmed the findings of the Court of Appeals that there was no probable cause to charge Go for the crime of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide and physical injuries.
The Court said the CA was correct in ruling that Go’s act of allowing the officers of the vessel “to decide whether to set sail or not and, thereafter, failing to instruct them to seek shelter or drop anchor in the face of the storm, did not render him criminally liable.”
Thus, the High Court said Go’s liability can only be civil and not criminal in nature.
The families of the victims had brought criminal charges against Go.
“The shipowner’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 shipowner, arises from the contract of carriage, hence, civil in nature.
While the provisions of Article 2206 of the Civil Code have been made applicable to such instances, the same did not change the nature of the ship owner’s obligation from civil to criminal,” the Supreme Court said.
The Princess of the Stars sailed for Cebu from Manila on June 20, 2008 with 849 people, 709 of them passengers. The ship capsized in the Sibuyan Sea the next day after being battered by Typhoon Frank. Only 32 people survived.