Princess of the Stars owner to be tried for deadly 2008 sinking

Image: US Navy (file)
Image: US Navy (file)

The Philippine Supreme Court (SC) has ordered that the owner of the Ro-Pax Princess of the Stars be tried for criminal negligence over the vessel’s highly publicised sinking that claimed 814 lives on June 21, 2008.

The SC Third Division has instructed the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) to reverse two Court of Appeals (CA) decisions dated March 22, 2013 and January 8, 2014 acquitting Edgar Go, owner and first vice-president for administration of the former Sulpicio Lines (SLI).

The SC Third Division’s 20-page decision was dated December 10, 2018, but was not released until Monday, April 8.

Go faces a charge of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide, damage to property, and serious physical injury after evidence suggests he allowed Princess of the Stars to sail out of Manila at the height of Typhoon Fengshen, which both local and foreign weather agencies forecasted as having 10-minute sustained wind speeds of up to 89 knots.

Go and several other respondents were originally indicted for a similar charge by the Philippine Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2009. The case was elevated to the CA, which ruled that his delegating to the vessel’s officers the decision to sail did not make him criminally liable for the sinking.

The SC recently overturned the CA’s rulings and stated that Go, who was responsible officer for SLI at the time of the incident, had failed to closely monitor the movement of the vessel and to advise the master to seek shelter despite the typhoon warnings.

The SC further clarified that the civil action against the ship owner was separate from criminal prosecution proceedings against the operator’s employees who have been charged with negligence resulting in death of or injuries to passengers.

Go had demonstrated “inexcusable lack of precaution” by allowing the vessel to sail in the face of imminent severe weather conditions, the SC decision added.

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