THE Supreme Court (SC) has revived the case against shipping executive Edgar Go over the sinking of M/V Princess of the Stars owned by Sulpicio Lines six years ago.
A resolution of the SC’s Second Division, signed and promulgated by lawyer Teresita Aquino Tuazon, Division Deputy Clerk of Court, granted a motion for reconsideration of families of the victims of the tragedy at sea.
Go was earlier exonerated by the Second Division of any criminal liability for the death of hundreds of passengers, finding him only liable civilly.
The motion for reconsideration was filed by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), which represents the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), which represents the victims’ families.
The five-man Second Division headed by Associate Justice Antonio Carpio ordered that the petition be reinstated and that Go lodge his comment within 10 days from notice.
Meanwhile, it allowed withdrawal of appearance of Go’s lawyer, Arthur Lim, in view of his appointment as a commissioner of the Commission on Elections.
The SC’s 2nd Division did not allow that the case be elevated to the court en banc to make a review of the case.
The motion for reconsideration of the government lawyers argued that “there is probable cause to indict respondent Go for the crime of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide, physical injuries and damage to properties.”
The families of victims of the tragedy also earlier filed their motion for reconsideration thru the PAO by Persida Acosta.
Petitioners Purita Hibe, Nissan Laurel, Estella Geli, Arlene Olang, Josephine Padua, Vicenta Chua, Illuminada Timajo, Lilybeth Cunanan, Elorde Ilustrisimo, Bob Illut, Ernesto Clarin, Evelyn Bajet, Larina Matriz, Celerna Calayag and Sonia Manzanilla sought for elevation of the case to the Supreme Court en banc where it shall be decided by the 15-man tribunal, not just five magistrates.
Go, Sulpicio Lines’ first vice president for administration, was cleared recently by the High Court, affirming a ruling by the Court of Appeals (CA).
With Go’s failure to implead an indispensable party, i.e. the people, as a party-respondent in his petition for certiorari, the OSG said, “any actuation and subsequent action of the Court of Appeals therein is rendered null and void for want of authority to act, not only as to the absent party but even as to those present and impleaded.”
Thus, it added, “considering the glaring fact that the people, an indispensable parry was not impleaded in the petition for certiorari filed before the [CA], the latter should not have taken cognizance of the case nor granted the same.”
According to the OSG, there was no showing of arbitrariness or evasion or refusal to perform their duties, on the part of the prosecutors and the DOJ secretary, in finding probable cause to indict Go, as their findings were based on records and evidence submitted by the parties, as well as those elicited during clarificatory hearings.
“Verily, the DOJ panel of prosecutors and the secretary of Justice did not commit any grave abuse of discretion in holding that there exists a probable cause to indict respondent [Go for the crimes,]” it pointed out.
The Solicitor General said that the appellate court erred when it interfered with the discretion of the prosecutors in the determination of probable cause, and in substituting its own judgment for that of the panel of prosecutors and, ultimately, of the DOJ chief.
He argued that the CA committed a reversible error in ruling that there is no probable cause to indict respondent Go
The M/V Princess of the Stars 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.
It capsized in the Sibuyan Sea at about 9:30 p.m. the next day and only 32 people survived, 227 died and 592 were reported missing.