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Manila court clears exec in M/V Princess of the Stars tragedy

Manila court clears exec in M/V Princess of the Stars tragedy
Tetch Torres-Tupas - December 03, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—The Manila City Regional Trial Court has dismissed the criminal case against one of the officials of Sulpicio Lines in connection with the 2008 sinking of M/V Princess of the Stars.

In a 14-page ruling, the Manila RTC Branch 54 granted the demurrer of evidence of Edgar Go for insufficiency of evidence.

A demurrer to evidence is, in effect, a motion to dismiss anchored on the ground that the evidence presented is insufficient.
The case

MV Princess of the Stars capsized in June 2008 due to Typhoon Frank. Of the 851 passengers, only 32 survived. Over 200 bodies were found, while the rest were officially listed as missing.

In June 2009, a panel of prosecutors from the Department of Justice (DOJ) has indicted Go, Capt. Florencio Marimon Sr. or reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide, damage to property, and serious physical injury. Go filed a petition for review, which was dismissed, prompting Go to take his case to the Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals rulings on March 22, 2013, and January 8, 2014, reversed the DOJ’s findings and cleared Go of criminal liability. The case eventually went to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court, in a 2018 ruling, ordered the Manila Court to reinstate the criminal case against Go.

The high court said the Court of Appeals should not interfere with the findings of the DOJ in the absence of grave abuse of discretion.

The Manila Court, in its recent ruling, said “evidence on record is replete of any evidence showing that the accused Edgar Go is a responsible officer of Sulpicio Lines. Neither was there any evidence of any act or omission committed by accused Go prior to or during the voyage.”

The court said his ownership of Sulpicio Lines were merely allegations as ”no documentary evidence was submitted to prove such fact.” Assuming that he was one of the owners, the court said there was also no evidence submitted to prove his specific duties.

While the prosecution has presented 10 witnesses, the court said their knowledge “is limited to the sinking of the ship.”
Civil Suits

In 2015, the Manila RTC Branch 49 has ordered payment of P241-million to 71 cases for damages filed by survivors and relatives of the victims.

Recently, a Cebu Court has also ordered the payment of a total of P200-million in damages for 55 out of 59 cases for damages filed by families or heirs.

But Public Attorney’s Office Chief Persida Acosta said none of the survivors or heirs have received any compensation as the cases are still pending appeal in higher courts.