Private complainants join plea to reconsider dismissal of charges in Princess of Stars case

Published December 7, 2021, 1:24 PM

by Jeffrey Damicog


Private complainants have joined government prosecutors in the plea to reconsider the Manila regional trial court’s (RTC) ruling that dismissed the charges filed against former Sulpicio Lines, Inc. (SLI) first vice president Edgar S. Go in the 2008 sinking of the firm’s passenger ship M/V Princess of the Stars.

In their manifestation, they told the court:

“Private complainants stand firm that the evidence of the prosecution is enough to sustain the conviction of accused Edgar S. Go for Reckless Imprudence Resulting in Multiple Homicide, Physical Injuries and Damage to Property.”

Those who signed the manifestation were Purita Hibe, Nissan Laurel, Arlene Olang, Illuminado Timajo, Evelyn Bajet, Celerna Calayag, Estela Geli, Vicenta Chua, Ernesto Clarin, Larina Matriz, Sonia Manzanilla. They were assisted by the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO).

Last Dec. 1, government prosecutors filed their motion to reconsider the ruling issued by RTC Judge Maria Paz R. Reyes Yson.

Judge Yson granted Go’s demurrer to evidence. Go pleaded for the dismissal of the cases on the ground of alleged insufficiency in the evidence presented by the prosecution to sustain a conviction.

The M/V Princess of the Stars sank in June 2008 in the vicinity of Sibuyan Islands in Romblon after having sailed reportedly without heeding the warnings of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) due to typhoon Frank.

Reports stated that there were 814 dead and missing with only 56 known survivors.

The criminal charges stated that Go, as a responsible officer of SLI, failed to give instructions to Capt. Amado V. Romillo “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.,” government prosecutors 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 complainants reminded the judge that the DOJ panel conducted a preliminary investigation of the case before charges were filed in court against Go and his co-accused including Capt. Florencio Marimon Sr.

They pointed out that during a clarificatory hearing conducted by the DOJ panel on Mar. 13, 2009, Go admitted to prosecutors that he and another SLI executive were “directly in charge of the vessel operations and next to him would be the Port Captain.”

“Such admission/declaration then may be given in evidence against him. Explicit are the provisions of Section 27, Rule 30 of the Rules of Court, viz. the act, declaration or omission of a party as to a relevant fact may be given in evidence against him or her. Further, an admission, oral or written, made by a party in the course of the proceedings in the same case, does not require proof,” they explained.

They also cited that Go’s indictment was also “SUSTAINED by the Supreme Court (SC) in the case of People of the Philippines versus Edgar S. Go, G.R. No. 210816, Dec. l0, 2018.”

They said the portion of the SC ruling stated: “Thus, he (Go) is unarguably involved in making decisions on whether a vessel would be allowed to sail out of the Port of Manila, in fact Capt. Eugenio reported to him on the pre-departure conference with respondent Marimon.” Capt. Benjamin Eugenio was then in charge of vessel operations in Manila, they also said.