Gov’t prosecutors appeal dismissed charges vs Sulpicio Lines executive in 2009 tragedy

Published December 6, 2021, 11:01 AM

by Jeffrey Damicog

Department of Justice

Government prosecutors have asked the Manila regional trial court (RTC) to reinstate the criminal charges filed against former Sulpicio Lines, Inc. (SLI) Vice President Edgar S. Go in the 2009 sinking of the firm’s passenger ship M/V Princess of the Stars.

In a motion for reconsideration, the RTC was told that “there is sufficient evidence to sustain the conviction of accused Edgar S. Go for Reckless Imprudence Resulting in Multiple Homicide, Physical Injuries and Damage to Property.”

The motion was filed by a panel of Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors composed of Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Hazel C. Decena-Valdez, Assistant State Prosecutor Jovyanne M. Escano-Santamaria, and Deputy State Prosecutor Alexander Q. Suarez.

Last Nov. 18, RTC Judge Maria Paz R. Reyes-Yson issued an order that granted Go’s demurrer to evidence. Go sought the dismissal of the charges on the ground that the evidence presented by the prosecution failed to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

The M/V Princess of the Stars sank in June 2009 in the vicinity of Sibuyan Islands in Romblon after having sailed without heeding the warnings of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) due to typhoon Frank.

A total of 227 passengers perished during the tragedy.

The criminal charges stated that Go, as a responsible officer of SLI, failed to give instructions to Capt. Amado V. Ramillo “to take shelter and drop anchor or return to the port of Manila.”

“The testimony of Captain Romillo, when taken as a whole, will show that the prosecution established sufficient basis as to why he has come to know that accused Edgar S. Go has the authority on whether or not a vessel should be allowed to sail. Said authority by the accused Edgar S. Go had been elicited when the Bureau of Marine Inquiry (BMI) conducted its independent investigation of the tragedy involving the M/V Princess of the Stars.,” the panel told the RTC in its motion.

It also said that “the prosecution was not given the chance to file its Comment or Opposition to the Demurrer to Evidence filed by accused Edgar S. Go.”

“The prosecution received the hard copy of the same (demurrer to evidence) only on Nov. 16, 2021, i.e., two (2) days before the Order of this Honorable Court granting the Demurrer to Evidence filed by the accused. Strangely, no electronic copy of this Demurrer to Evidence was received by the prosecution despite the fact that accused and his counsel are aware of the email addresses of the prosecution panel,” it said.

It reminded the RTC that “Rule 119, Section 23 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure gives the prosecution ten (10) days from Nov. 16, 2021 to file their Comment or Opposition to the Demurrer to Evidence filed by the accused.”

In granting Go’s demurrer to evidence, Judge Yson said in her order:

“Clearly, there is insufficient evidence to support the claim that accused Go committed any act or omission to prove inexcusable lack of precaution on the part of the offender, taking into consideration his employment or occupation, degree of intelligence, physical condition, and other circumstances regarding persons, time and place that would make him criminally liable for reckless imprudence.

“The prosecution’s evidence is even bereft of proof of the authority of Go in Sulpicio Lines.”

She pointed out that the claims that Go is the owner of SLI “consist merely of allegations” and “mere allegations are not evidence.”