Sulpicio owner pleads not guilty to 'Princess' tragedy

Posted at 08/10/2010 6:15 PM | Updated as of 08/10/2010 6:15 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The owner of Sulpicio Lines on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to charges of negligence in connection with the sinking of the MV Princess of the Stars 2 years ago.

Edgar Go is facing charges for reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide and damage to property before the Manila Regional Trial Court.

The criminal case filed by families of the victims is set for pre-trial hearing on September 27.

Speaking to ANC, Public Attorney's Office (PAO) chief Persida Rueda-Acosta said relatives of the victims are happy because the criminal case against the Sulpicio Lines owner has prospered.

She said Go’s “not guilty” plea was expected. “He is entitled to a fair hearing,” she stressed.

“Witnesses for the prosecution are ready to testify. The victims’ relatives hope that justice will be served,” she said.

Acosta added that the victims’ families will move for a speedy and continuous trial, adding that the trial can be finished by yearend if hearings are held every week.

“The prosecutor said the case can proceed even if the captain is missing,” she said. The ill-fated ship’s skipper, Florencio Marimon, is among those who went missing.

Acosta believes that he is still alive and could shed light on the sinking.

Experts, survivors, and Coast Guard officials will testify for the prosecution during the trial, she said, adding that the PAO expects Go’s lawyers to use delaying tactics in the case.

The MV Princess of the Stars had 548 passengers and crew when it sank off Romblon at the height of Typhoon Frank on June 21, 2008.

Only 32 are believed to have survived the tragedy, which is considered one of the worst maritime disasters in the country.