Survivors, kin of sinking victims to file charges

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews / 18 Sept) – Some survivors and relatives of passengers of the ferry that sank off Southern Leyte vowed to file charges against the boat captain and the operator of the sea vessel.

Jaime and Norma Bahi, parents of an overseas Filipino worker from Barobo in Surigao del Sur, said they are determined to file charges in court.

Betty Montecello Bahi, who worked in Saudi Arabia for six years, was among those who died in last Saturday’s sinking of MV Maharlika II off Pintuyan, Southern Leyte. Bahi is supposed to leave the country Wednesday.

“We will file charges,” Betty’s younger sister Jessamie said as tears rolled down her cheeks. “We’ll just bury her in our hometown then after that we’ll lodge the case in court,” she added.

Betty, the eldest among eight siblings is considered as the breadwinner of the family. Jessamie said her sister sent part of her monthly income to her family to support their needs.

“Now she is gone, we don’t know what to do, she is the best sister ever. She supported me during my college days until I graduated last year. She is the only provider in our family,” Jessamie said.

Survivors Ruth Quibol from Marihatag, Surigao del Sur and Sarah Andil, said they also want to file charges.

“I’m pissed off with the boat captain, he even mocked us,” Quibol said.

“Nikatawa pa bisan nagtakilid na ang barko, naggara-gara pa sa mga pasehero” (He was even laughing while the boat was already leaning on one side, then mocked the passengers), she said.

What makes them angry, Quibol said, was that they were told by the boat captain, Juan Cuyago, that rescue was coming when in fact there was none. “He fooled us. That sickens me. H was irresponsible,” she added.

Jessie Saberon, 57, said she will file charges, too. Her husband Felizardo is still missing and her two-year-old granddaughter Tiffany died in the mishap.

Saberon said they were not included in the passenger manifest when the vessel sailed.

John Paul Mulliet, a survivor from Liangga, Surigao del Sur, said he is joining the others in the suit.

“The life raft did not have enough air and it was impossible for us to survive against the huge waves high as two-story buildings. But thank God He answered our ceaseless prayers,” he said.

The vessel MV Maharlika 2, managed and operated by Philharbor Ferries and Port Services, Inc., left the Lipata port here for Liloan, Southern Leyte despite at 11:30 a.m. last Saturday despite the strong winds and rough seas.

The vessel suffered a steering problem after over an hour of sailing.

At 2 p.m., survivors said the boat leaned on its starboard side and began to sink. At 5:30 p.m. the ship’s skipper declared “abandon ship.” By 6 p.m., the boat plummeted, together with its 13 rolling cargoes.

The Special Board of Marine Inquiry led by Commodore Gilbert S. Rueras, commander of the Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety Services based in Manila, has been investigating the incident since Tuesday afternoon.