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Justice for M/V Princess of the Stars victims, is like Shooting for the Stars?

Congress seems to have shown some redeeming factor in the probe they are conducting on the officials of Sulpicio Lines demanding a signed waiver on the relatives of the victims before any “assistance” is to be released. It was obvious that the passengers are insured with Oriental Insurance Company and the “assistance” was not coming from the pockets of Sulpicio Lines. What is so pathetic is how Sulpicio Lines executives dangles the P200K when the victims could have gotten more had they been insured by International Maritime Insurers, but because they are a high risk they cannot be covered. The victims families would have been better off had the shipping lines been insured but they are not covered by the International Group of P&I Clubs and is not a signatory of the Athens Convention since their ships are considered high risk by international maritime insurers. No, it was not about what they will get but with better coverage Sulpicio Lines would have acted more diligently in protecting their passengers and maintained their ships in accordance with international safety standards and not the floating mass grave that it was.
BLOGSWARM to Stop Sulpicio Lines Floating Mass Graveyards
The question is why did it took a congressional probe to question the legality of the waiver escapes me which should have been taken up by the Department of Justice instead of asking the assistance of IBP. Of course IBP will be a welcome addition to help the victims relatives seek justice but then again once this dies down and the slow grind of justice in the Philippines sets in are we really going to see justice served?

Sulpicio Lines officials are resorting to sleight of hand magic tricks with what they call “Quick Claim Waiver,” note that they use quick instead of quit. The waiver's intention was to release them of any liability when what they are actually doing was actually just advance the insurance claim of the victims’ relatives. In a GMANews article dated 7/17/08 Edgar Go, 1st vice president of Sulpicio Lines, during Thursday’s hearing of the MV Princess of the Stars tragedy at the House of Representatives has the audacity to openly admit the obvious, and I quote:

I think there’s no reason to pay, your honor,” Go said when asked by Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga if the families of the fatalities and missing in the accident will still receive P200,000 if they refuse to sign the quick claim.
Elpidio Barzaga to his credit stated categorically that what the Sulpicio Lines official are doing regarding the waivers are illegal. Further stating that the supposed “industry practice” of having claimants sign quit claims as a condition for 'financial assistance" was “contrary to law, morals, public order and public policy.” Barzaga even went further saying Sulpicio Lines are fooling the victims and I couldn’t agree more. That alone would have been very encouraging until he threatens to file a case of disbarment for the Sulpicio Lines lawyer responsible for notarizing the illegal waiver but took a 180 degree turn and softened it with just a promise of asking the high court for reprimand instead. There goes the tough guy stance, hopefully this is not another one of those typical sound bytes and it is prudent to wait and see how this will unfold.

Another thing that is bothersome is why wait for a congressional investigation to figure what was so obvious? Is it because the DoJ (Department of Justice) is so incompetent just like Merceditas Gutierrez Ombudsman with Zero convictions month during bad hair days? Is that all they do, wait for Congress to do the investigation for them and even then they have not really taken the initiative to run after those who may be legally culpable.

Philippine legal systems sucks and with the kind of injustice that prevails people see little reason to attempt to attain justice when their rights are violated or a crime is committed. Apathy toward seeking justice thus becomes a byproduct of such a system and ingrained among the populace. No wonder criminals takes to abuse with impunity abusing their position with little or no regard and respect for human life.

The hoodlums in robes and their accomplices think that their decisions are determined by their pathetic judicial system. In the end it is not them that ultimately determine the state of the judicial system but the people. Loss of trust and confidence in the judicial system meant that it is not working so the outcome of the cases filed by the relatives of the M/V Princess of the Stars tragedy should be monitored closely to ensure that justice is served.

What are the chances that the victims will get what is due to them? I hope I am wrong but it appears that their chances are very slim what with the recent scandal now brewing in the court of appeals involving Justice Jose Sabio on the row between Meralco and GSIS. If the allegations are true then it just validated what has been a common knowledge that justice in the Philippines goes to the highest bidder. Although chances are slim it is not a bad idea to sue Sulpicio Lines, Inc for everything they got but so far there are only 9 cases filed against Sulpicio Lines. Perhaps a class action suit is a better route than what PAO (Public Attorneys Office) is doing trying to seek relatives willing to file a complaint and just intensify the information campaign to have their name included in the suit.

For inquiries on the status of passengers Sulpicio Lines has uploaded the passenger manifest, updated list of survivors and crew list, send inquiries via email at sulpicio@sulpiciolines.com or call their Manila Hot line at (02) 242-4258, (02) 474-5205 (02) Cebu (032) 5162728 Mobile 09174228344, 09174228339

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