Case Reopened for Princess of the Stars Sinking
The Philippines Supreme Court has reinstated the case against an official of Sulpicio Lines over the 2008 sinking of its ferry Princess of the Stars.
She capsized on June 21, 2008, off the coast of San Fernando, Romblon, at the height of Typhoon Frank, which passed directly over Romblon as a Category 2 storm. Of the 849 persons on board, only 32 survived, 227 died and 592 were reported missing.
The Supreme Court reversed a Court of Appeals dismissal of the reckless imprudence case against Edgar Go, Sulpicio Lines' first vice president and team leader of its crisis management committee. It has been asserted that should have canceled or discouraged the voyage considering the severe weather, but Go countered that such a decision was within the authority of the captain of the vessel, in coordination with the Coast Guard.
However, the Supreme Court ruled that there was support for reckless imprudence as Go failed to monitor the movement of the vessel and instruct the captain to take shelter. It noted that Go's acts were not malicious but showed an inexcusable lack of precaution.
According to an account given by four survivors, who managed to swim to nearby Sibuyan Island, passengers had been told to put on life jackets at 11:30am, and 15 minutes later, the captain gave the order to abandon ship. The ship began to list at around midday. The survivors witnessed many people jumping into the water, many not wearing life jackets. The ferry capsized at 1:00pm.
The official inquiry undertaken by the Philippines Board of Marine Inquiry found Sulpicio Lines and its captain liable for the tragedy. Its final report blamed human error, and ruled that the ship's missing and presumed dead captain, Florencio Marimon, "miscalculated" the risk of continuing the trip to Cebu despite the stormy weather. According to the report: "The immediate cause of the capsizing of MV Princess of the Stars was the failure of the Master to exercise extraordinary diligence and good seamanship thereby committing an error of judgment that brought MV Princess of the Stars in harm's way into the eye of Typhoon Frank ... The shipping firm is found negligent for its failure to exercise its duty in ensuring that they transport passengers and cargo safely to (their) destination."