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'Princess of the Stars' tragedy commemorated

'Princess of the Stars' tragedy commemorated, more remains found
The Public Attorneys Office (PAO) through the efforts of Philippine Coast Guard and the private salvor, has retrieved more than 140 bodies from the sunken M/V Princess of the Stars which capsized and sank off Sibuyan Island in Romblon at the height of typhoon Frank four years ago.
The PAO forensic laboratory has already identified 11 of the skeletal remains. Of these, seven had been turned over to the families.

This developed as kin of victims gathered over the weekend at the central office of the PAO in Quezon City to commemorate the 4th death anniversary of some 850 victims who perished during the tragedy. Fr. Robert Reyes, just like in the past anniversaries, officiated the mass offered to the victims and later blessed the newly retrieved remains.

PAO Chief Atty. Persida Acosta has been noted as remaining faithful in providing the relatives her full support, notably in giving legal assistance in pursuing their various cases with the courts. She led the victim’s kin who were still hoping that they can recover the remains of their loved ones from the darkness of the seas and underneath the wreckage.

Presently, according Acosta, efforts of the laboratory are focused on the biological profiling of the skeletal remains recovered from the sunken passenger ship.

She also disclosed that the Cebu Regional Trial Court had issued a warrant of arrest against Dr. Renato Bautista, the head of the Disaster Victim Identification team of the NBI. Unfortunately until now, despite the warrant of arrest, he had refused to turn over to the court vital evidence and the ante mortem data for the identification of the victims.

According to Atty. Erwin Erfe, MD, head of the PAO Forensic Team, there were still about 300 victims out of the estimated 850 passengers, including the ship’s crew, who were still unaccounted for and whose remains have not been retrieved.

Nearly 200 civil cases been filed against Sulpicio Lines Inc., owner of M/V Princess of the Stars,  before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 51, Manila and before RTC Branch 10, Cebu City

The criminal case for reckless imprudence was also filed at RTC Branch 5, also in Manila.

Acosta said that the filing of criminal cases against Sulpicio can be considered significant since it appeared that they were the first ones to be pursued to the hilt.

Department Order 439 , Series of 2008, issued by the Department of Justice, tapped the PAO to provide free legal aid to the relatives of the victims of the sea tragedy.

The Princess of Stars capsized off the coast of San Fernando, Romblon, at the height of Typhoon Frank on June 21, 2008. 

Sulpicio Lines Inc. has since been renamed Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corp. 
and has continued its operation.
It was potentially the worst sea disaster to hit the country since the ferry MV Doña Paz collided with an oil tanker in 1987 and left more than 4,000 people dead.


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