Charges filed in Princess of the Stars case

From AFP, Sept. 2, 2008

Criminal charges have been filed against officers of a Philippine shipping company after one of its ferries capsized, killing almost 800 people.

The Public Attorney’s Office, on behalf of the families of 13 of the deceased, filed charges of negligence and reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide against officials of Sulpicio Lines for the capsizing of their ferry in June.

The 23,000-tonne Princess of the Stars, carrying 850 passengers and crew, capsized after hitting a reef off the central island of Sibuyan on June 21 at the height of Typhoon Fengshen. Only 57 passengers and crew survived.

The sinking was the country’s worst maritime disaster for 20 years.

The charges, filed with the Justice Department, named the missing captain of the ship, Florencio Marimon, and the president, chief executive officer and other senior officials of Sulpicio Lines as respondents.

In the complaint, the office said the respondents should be held criminally liable for allowing the ship to set sail despite a warning by the Government weather station that a storm alert had been raised over the area it was heading.

It also cited the absence of any other ferries in the area of the storm as evidence of the company’s “absence of care and foresight.”

Last month, the Board of Marine Inquiry, which investigated the incident, blamed the captain and called for the company to be stripped of its franchise.

Marimon is missing and presumed dead.

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One response to “Charges filed in Princess of the Stars case

  1. 443 bodies of missing ‘Princess’ passengers found – (source – Sun-Star, Cebu, Philippines, June 20, 2009)

    AFTER one year since the sinking of the mv Princess of the Stars, 443 families were finally reunited with their missing loved ones.

    But for more than 300 families, the search for their missing family members continues.

    “Matod Pa Sa Lola ni Noy Kulas.” Join the story-writing contest on Cebuano folklore and win prizes.

    When the mv Princess of the Stars sank on June 21, 2008 off Romblon, it took the lives of nearly all its 820 passengers. An
    additional 143 people aboard other marine vessels were also reported missing.

    Only 32 survived, said Ryan Go, assistant vice president of Sulpicio Lines Inc. (SLI).

    In hopes of reuniting family members with their missing loved ones, the National Bureau of Investigation-Disaster Victim Identification (NBI-DVI) team retrieved 504 bodies from the seas.

    They processed these for DNA matching with the help of the International Police (Interpol) and the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP).

    However, as 504 bodies were retrieved from the seas, more 300 bodies still remain unaccounted for.

    “Until the vessel is re-floated, we will not be sure where the bodies are. If it is re-floated, we would know if there are bodies inside,” said Cebu City Vice Mayor Michael Rama.

    In a press conference at City Hall yesterday, Dr. Renato Bautista, NBI-DVI commander, said it was likely that they would find bodies inside the vessel.

    “The retrieval team was able to penetrate all the decks from deck A, B, C, D. However, they were not able to enter the engine room and the cargo area. The deepest portion of the vessel is where the captain is, at 120 feet,” said Bautista.

    For now, out of the 504 bodies retrieved, 443 positive DNA matches were made.

    However, 59 bodies remain unclaimed. Nine of them have already been identified through DNA matching.

    “We have informed their families by phone and by letter. Initially, there were 22, but through the help of Sulpicio, we sent letters to each of the family members of these 22,” said Bautista.

    Should family members decide not to claim the bodies, the nine bodies will join the 50 unidentified bodies during tomorrow’s burial rites, on the anniversary of the sinking of vessel.

    Bautista said that family members of the still missing victims may ask for death certificates from the Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes, and these will be signed by the NBI.

    Loss

    Though a year may have passed, the ordeal still remains fresh for officials of Sulpicio Lines Inc.

    “It was a terrible incident. It shows that life is so unpredictable. It was such a tragedy,” said Go.

    He said they too felt the pain of grieving family members, noting that the crew members of the mv Princess of the Stars were close friends.

    “These were people who worked there for 20 to 30 years. We grew up with them. Mga amigo na namo. Sakit gyud kayo (They were our friends. Their death pains us),” said Go.

    Bautista said the experience enriched him when he learned DVI methods from Interpol and the ICMP, but the thanks they received from the families was the best reward.

    “We received so many thank you messages from relatives. The father of a stewardess of the Stars came up to us and thanked us, and he bought us three bottles of Generoso as a thank you,” said Bautista.

    Seeing family members finally being reunited with their missing loved ones was the best part of his job.

    “Hindi mo yan mababayaran (That was priceless),” said Bautista. (EPB)

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