Supreme Court reinstates case vs Sulpicio exec over sea tragedy

April 08, 2019
Sulpicio Lines

THE Supreme Court has ordered the Manila regional trial court to reinstate the reckless imprudence case lodged against an official of the Sulpicio Lines, Inc. (SLI) that stemmed from the 2008 M/V Princess of the Stars tragedy that killed 227 passengers.

In a  decision, the SC reversed and set aside two rulings of the Court of Appeals that ruled in favor of respondent Edgar S. Go, SLI First Vice-President for Administration.

“In this case, the criminal action instituted against respondent involved exclusively the criminal and civil liability of the latter arising from his criminal negligence as responsible officer of SLI. It must be emphasized that there is a separate civil action instituted against SLI based on culpa contractual incurred by it due to its failure to carry safely the passengers of Stars to their place of destination. The civil action against a shipowner for breach of contract of carriage does not preclude criminal prosecution against its employees whose negligence resulted in the death of or injuries to passengers,” the Court stated.

Records showed that the Department of Justice  indicted Go in 2009, along with several others, for reckless imprudence with the Manila RTC.

The DoJ had found  Go to be involved in making decisions on whether a vessel should be allowed to sail such that he should have cancelled or discouraged the voyage considering the severe weather at that time.

Go filed with the DoJ a petition for review, but was denied prompting him to elevate the case to the CA.

The CA ruled in Go’s favor holding that “respondent’s act of allowing the officers of the vessel to decide whether to set sail or not did not make him criminally liable as such decision was within the authority of the captain of the vessel.

The SC, however, ruled that it will not interfere with the executive determination of probable cause for the purpose of filing an information in the absence of grave abuse of discretion.