Court tells Sulpi­cio: Pay Ori­ent sur­vivors

The Freeman - - NEWS - P. Manto/MBG — Mylen

The Supreme Court has or­dered Sulpi­cio Lines, Inc., now known as the Philip­pine Span Asia Car­rier Cor­po­ra­tion (PSACC), to pay the sur­viv­ing pas­sen­gers of one of its ves­sels, Princess of the Ori­ent, which sank some­where be­tween Cavite and Batan­gas, near For­tune Is­land, in 1998.

As­so­ciate Jus­tice Noel Gimenez Ti­jam de­nied the pe­ti­tion filed by PSACC as­sail­ing the Court of Ap­peals (CA) de­ci­sion of award­ing the tem­per­ate dam­ages in lieu of ac­tual dam­ages and the ex­em­plary dam­ages.

“In this case, we find that no egre­gious er­ror on the part of the CA in im­pos­ing tem­per­ate dam­ages. The records of the case, which re­main un­con­tro­verted, un­doubt­edly es­tab­lish that re­spon­dents suf­fered loss dur­ing the un­for­tu­nate sink­ing of M/V Princess of the Ori­ent. How­ever, no in­de­pen­dent proof other than re­spon­dents’ bare claims was pre­sented to pro­vide a nu­mer­i­cal value to their loss,” the de­ci­sion stated.

The PSACC is or­dered to pay Ma­jor Vic­to­rio Karaan P200,000 moral dam­ages, P200,000 tem­per­ate dam­ages, and P100,000 ex­em­plary dam­ages; P500,000 for re­tired soldier Napoleon Labrague and P500,000 for Napoleon’s wife, Her­minia.

The PSACC is or­dered to pay P250,000 for the death of Labrague’s daugh­ter, Karen Hope.

The PSACC is also or­dered to pay Labrague’s helper, Ely Liva, P100,000 for moral dam­ages; P50,000 for tem­per­ate dam­ages; and P100,000 for ex­em­plary dam­ages.

Karaan tes­ti­fied that while he boarded M/V Princess of the Ori­ent bound for Cebu City from Manila on Sep­tem­ber 18, 1998, the ves­sel sank near the For­tune Is­land.

Although there was a typhoon at that time, their travel com­menced smoothly.

Later, while ly­ing in­side his cabin, Karaan heard a loud sound that lasted for about 30 min­utes and there­after the ves­sel started to tilt, the lights went out and the en­gine shut down.

Karaan was res­cued after be­ing in the wa­ter for about 15 hours. He claimed he lost his per­sonal be­long­ings.

On the other hand, Napoleon tes­ti­fied that after hear­ing the loud sound com­ing from be­low the deck, he woke up his wife, their then eight-year-old daugh­ter, and their helper. They jumped into the sea when the ship was about to sink.

He said they sur­vived but their daugh­ter did not.

Nel­son Sato, then as­signed as the sec­ond mate of M/V Princess of the Ori­ent, tes­ti­fied that on the said date, the Philip­pine Coast Guard cleared them for de­par­ture after their ves­sel was in­spected.

He said that the cap­tain did his best to re­cover the ves­sel.

More­over, the Supreme Court ruled that the CA was cor­rect in award­ing ex­em­plary dam­ages.

“… the CA is cor­rect when it stated that since pe­ti­tioner failed to prove that it had ex­er­cised the de­gree of ex­tra­or­di­nary dili­gence re­quired of com­mon car­ri­ers, it should be pre­sumed to have acted in a reck­less man­ner,” read the de­ci­sion.

The Supreme Court also or­dered the PSACC to pay at­tor­ney’s fees of five per­cent of the to­tal amount awarded.

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