DoJ affirms decision to sue Sulpicio exec
MANILA, Philippines—On the second anniversary of one of the country’s worst sea tragedies, the Department of Justice affirmed its decision to prosecute an executive of Sulpicio Lines Co. for the death of more than 700 passengers and crew members of the MV Princess of the Stars.
Acting Justice Secretary Alberto Agra denied the motion for reconsideration filed by Sulpicio vice president for administration Edgar Go to reconsider his March 22 decision dismissing for lack of merit Go’s petition for review of the findings of state prosecutors.
“We have carefully reviewed anew the evidence on record in the light of the arguments advanced in the MR (motion for reconsideration) and found no cogent reason to reconsider our assailed resolution,” Agra said in a two-page resolution dated June 8.
He insisted that the “complainants were able to categorically and positively assert the facts … which we find to be credible and sufficient to support a finding of probable cause for the charge of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide, physical injuries and damage to properties against respondent Edgar Go.”
Reporters were furnished a copy of the resolution on Monday—two years after the Princess of the Stars sank off Sibuyan Island in Romblon province at the height of Typhoon “Frank” (international code name: Fengshen) on June 21, 2008.
Missing captain charged
The justice department has also included missing ship captain Florencio Marimon Sr. in the criminal case filed in the Manila Regional Trial Court.
Out of the about 800 people believed to be on board the Cebu-bound vessel, only 32 survived.
While more than half of the bodies have been recovered after several salvage attempts, these are still being painstakingly identified by forensic experts.
The ship captain has already been declared dead by the Philippine Coast Guard but his body has not been recovered.
The tragedy also damaged the marine habitat off Sibuyan Island since the ship was belatedly found to be transporting a large amount of the toxic pesticide endosulfan.
In earlier affirming the filing of charges against Go and Marimon, Agra also upheld the recommendation of a panel of state prosecutors to absolve Sulpicio president Enrique Go, executive vice president and chief executive officer Carlos Go, senior vice president and secretary Victoriano Go and first vice president Dominador Go.
Ship ignored warnings
The justice department said Go, head of Sulpicio’s crisis management committee, had failed to direct Marimon to cancel the trip to Cebu even after the weather bureau had raised Storm Signal No. 3 over Marinduque, Romblon and Oriental Mindoro where his ship would pass.
“The fact that he admittedly allowed Marimon, Capt. (Benjamin) Eugenio and Engr. (Ernelson) Morales to decide among themselves whether (the Princess of the) Stars should depart likewise bespeak of his failure to exercise extraordinary care and precaution considering the brewing storm along the vessel’s route and in reckless disregard to the 849 persons on board,” Agra said in his March 22 resolution.
Marimon was criminally held responsible because he insisted on departing from the Port of Manila despite the bad weather notice and did not take refuge or other precautionary moves like dropping anchor when the weather turned worse.
Agra had also asked the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate officials and employees of the Philippine Ports Authority, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Bureau of Customs for their participation in allowing the Princess of the Stars to depart at the height of the typhoon and to transport a cargo of the deadly pesticide endosulfan.
End to retrieval
Also Monday, the Coast Guard recommended the termination of its “human remains retrieval operations” that over the past five months had recovered 70 human remains from the wreck 350 meters from the shore of Sitio Cabitangan in Barangay Taclobo.
In a statement, Adm. Wilfredo Tamayo, PCG commandant, said Coast Guard divers, as well as those from salvage operators Royal Jessan Petromin Resources (RJPR), “were able to complete 100 percent the underwater scouring of all interior spaces of the wreck.”
Tamayo reported that “the salvors have successfully refloated and towed the shipwreck approximately 1.5 kilometers from its original position.”
“The ship’s hull and superstructure have already been cut up and separated, making it more manageable for Coast Guard and RJPR divers to scour the interior compartments for possible human remains that may still be trapped inside the vessel,” Tamayo also said.
The Coast Guard and RJPR, however, were “forced to stop the refloating of the ship (to its upright position) due to the onset of the southwest monsoon which has already affected the sea condition in the area,” Tamayo noted. With a report from Jerry E. Esplanada
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