The Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) has expressed disappointment over the snail-paced dispensation of justice for the kin of those who perished when the m/v Princess of the Stars capsized and sank off the coast of San Fernando, Romblon at the height of typhoon “Frank” on June 21, 2008.
At a Zoom commemoration of the 14th year of the sea tragedy, PAO chief Persida Rueda-Acosta said “that is really how slow our justice is. Maybe tomorrow, there will be light.”
She said the criminal and civil culpability of Sulpicio Lines Inc., the vessel owner, has remained very elusive.
In 2018, the Court of Appeals affirmed the Maritime Industry Authority’s administrative decision to cancel 11 of Sulpicio Lines’ ships to ferry passengers.
“They (vessels) are now cargo ships,” Acosta said.
The shipping company was renamed as the Philippine Span Asia Carrier Inc.
The sea mishap claimed over 200 lives, while about 500 others were missing.
In 2015, in an 87-page decision, Branch 49 of the Manila City Regional Trial Court ordered SLI to pay P241.7 million in damages to the families of the victims.
“But up to now, SLI has not yet indemnified (the heirs of those who died and the survivors) because of a petition filed with the appellate court,” the PAO chief said.
“PAO is still fighting for justice fir the victims. The company offered so many times (for a settlement) for the civil aspect, but many of the relatives rejected the compromise,” she added.
She slammed anew a lower court in Manila for granting the demurrer of evidence filed by one of the plaintiffs, Edward Go, absolving him of any criminal liability for multiple counts of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide, physical injuries and damage to properties.
The families filed a motion for reconsideration but the court rejected it, prompting them, not the state prosecutors, to file a petition for certiorari with the CA.
The Department of Justice’s state prosecutors, not PAO, was the one that filed the criminal raps against SLI, Rueda-Acosta lamented.