Court won’t stop Marine inquiry

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — SULPICIO Lines, Inc. will have to face the music as a Manila court yesterday refused to stop the investigation into the sinking of the MV Princess of the Stars.

Judge Antonio M. Eugenio, Jr. denied for lack of merit Sulpicio’s petition for a temporary restraining order that would halt the investigation being conducted by the Board of Marine Inquiry.

Eugenio said there is no necessity to issue a TRO, noting that the court is not fully convinced of SLI’s arguments to stop the hearing.

“Even as we deny the prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order, one confusing fact stands out: BMI and Maritime Industry Authority belong to one and the same executive department – the Department of Transportation and Communications and both are undertaking separate investigations on the same maritime incident. These two agencies under the same department cannot duplicate each other in the same task of maritime investigation of sea disasters considering the danger of arriving at conflicting findings which can only embarrass the department. The two agencies must therefore put their acts together,” the judge said.

“In the matter of alleged bias and prejudgments on the part of some of the respondents, injunction need not be resorted to and plaintiff can very well seek the inhibition of those who appear to have shed off the cold neutrality of an arbiter,” he added.

The shipping firm wanted the BMI probe halted for alleged lack of authority and bias.

The complaint prompted two members of the panel ?” Rear Admiral Benjamin Mata and Commander Amado Romillo ?” to resign.

In its complaint, the SLI said the BMI is not conducting an investigation but an inquisition because Sulpicio personnel who were summoned as witnesses by the panel were “badgered and oftentimes publicly humiliated with uncalled for remarks from the Board members.”

Squid tactics

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez and Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. yesterday chided Sulpicio Lines for its delaying tactics, citing the cases it filed against the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services and Del Monte Philippines.

Gonzalez said these cases were “squid tactics” aimed at confusing the people on who is really to blame for the deaths of hundreds of passengers of the MV Princess of the Stars.

“You will notice that SLI now is preparing for their legal defense that is why they are suing Del Monte and Pagasa. They are preparing for their defense. These are all squid tactics in order to muddle the case,” the DoJ chief said.

Pimentel said the cases filed by the shipping firm were part of its legal tactics to delay the investigation.

“I think that Sulpicio Lines cannot pass the buck and just sayto the relatives of the victims who perished na maghintay na lang kayo sa insurance. Ang direct liability ay nasa kanila,” the senator said.

Gonzalez said the DoJ may create its own panel of investigators but only after the BMI wrap up their probe.