Charges should be filed against the captain and crew members of M/V Siargao Princess which sank while travelling from Loon, Bohol to Sibonga, Cebu, said Governor Arthur Yap on Thursday after receiving reports on negligence and lack of protocol on the part of the ill-fated vessel’s crew.
“Kinahanglan they have to face prosecution very clearly, daghan ang mga witness na ang crew mismo nag-panic. Wa sila kahibaw kung unsa ang mga protocol on how to abandon ship, who to prioritize, how to prepare the life raft, how to prepare the life jackets,” said Yap.
“The owner of the ship has a liability. And that company has to face all that liability,” he added.
So far, none of the passengers of the M/V Siargao Princess have expressed intent to file charges against the Virgin Island Princess Shipping, the owner of the sunken seacraft, while the shipping line has been cooperating with authorities in their investigation and has vowed to pay for the passengers’ lost belongings.
However, Yap lamented the lack of composure and protocol from the vessel’s skipper and other crew members, noting that they were instead fighting each other as the troubled craft was battered by strong waves.
“When they should have been saving lives, they were fighting with each other. They didn’t know what to do,” Yap said.
The governor also called for the identification of three crew members who abandoned the vessel without assisting the passengers as they swam towards the coast of Sibonga, while the passengers had to wait at sea for a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessel to rescue them.
“There were reportedly three members of the crew that abandoned ship. When they abandoned ship, they left the ship, they did not look back. There were three, so who were these three, we have to find out and they must be prosecuted,” Yap said.
The crew’s apparent inaction and lack of supervision on implementing measures to keep the passengers safe were confirmed by Seaman First Class Ralph Barajan of the PCG who has been hailed as hero for his initiative in directing passengers to abandon the sinking vessel calmly and accordingly, while the captain initially refused to give the order even as the seacraft was already partly submerged.
Barajan, a native of Cortes, Bohol, who was then off duty was also a passenger of the vessel.
“Pag-akyat ko para kausapin si kapitan, nagaaway-away na sila. Sabi nung isa ‘tara na, alis na tayo.’ Yung iba naman sinasabi ‘idikit mo na doon sa mangrove area para walang mamatay.’ Si kapitan sabi ‘hindi, parating na yung rescue kaya to.’ Pero yung tunog ng makina hirap na hirap na,” said Barajan.
According to Barajan, the crew of the vessel did not assist the passengers even as the fastcraft started to take in water.
He also had to go to the vessel’s captain himself to ask for life jackets for children which he distributed and helped put on.
Barajan was the last passenger to jump off from the sinking vessel after assisting others as they abandoned ship.
The provincial government on Thursday honored Barajan through a commendation for displaying “acts of concern and kindness” which “demonstrate the best traits of a Boholano and that brought inspiration and great pride to the province of Bohol and the Boholanos,” as stated in the framed plaque.
Yap who himself accorded the commendation to Barajan said that the passengers of MV Siargao Princess were “lucky” that Barajan was on board the vessel.
“God put you [Barajan] there for a reason,” Yap said.