December 7, 2021 @ 7:18 PM 10 months ago

OBVIOUSLY-incensed Public Attorney’s Office chief Persida Rueda-Acosta has expressed total dismay over the recent ruling of a Manila court practically absolving from any criminal liability one of the owners of the Sulpicio Lines Inc. over the deaths of 814 passengers during the 2008 sinking of the M/V Princess of the Stars.

Atty. Rueda-Acosta couldn’t hide her frustration as she met the families and survivors of the ill-fated vessel as they all expressed shocked about the November 18, 2021 decision of Judge Maria Paz Reyes-Yson of the Manila Regional Trial Court’s Branch 54.

Reyes-Yson granted the demurrer to evidence filed by Edgar S. Go, first vice president for administration of SLI renamed Philippine Span Asia Carrier Inc. dismissing the criminal case against him as a result. “It’s only the first time in my entire life to learn a case filed against an accused that was suddenly dismissed without the concerned parties receiving even simple notices, there must be magic here, there must be behind here,” the apparently-incensed chief public attorney said.

She insisted that the prosecution has ‘overwhelming evidence’ that Go possessed the ‘power, authority, duty to control and decide matters pertaining the vessel’s navigation at sea. “He (Go) even admitted publicly during the clarificatory hearing that he was in command of the M/V Princess of the Stars and that port captains were reporting to him. Such admission is of public knowledge.”

“There is also a denial of due process considering that the prosecution and the private complainants were not given the right to file their comment/opposition to the demurrer to evidence before the court issued its assailed order.”

She said even the Supreme Court, itself, sustained the findings of the Department of Justice that Go was involved in making decisions on the sail of the ship.

More than 13 years after the sea tragedy, a Cebu judge ordered the indemnification to 55 heirs of the victims amounting to P226.9 million, including lawyers’ fees.

The passenger ferry sank on June 21, 2008 off the coast of San Fernando, Romblon, in rough seas at the height of Typhoon ‘Frank’ that passed directly over the province.

Atty. Rueda-Acosta said of the 59 cases, 55 were granted damages while four were dismissed for failure to present evidence.

Some 71 cases were filed before the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 51 and 63 others were filed before Branch 16 in Cebu.In Manila, the cases were decided in favor of the plaintiffs by Manila Judge Daniel Villanueva (Branch 51) and ordered the award of damages to the plaintiffs but under appeal before the Court of Appeals.