Court tells Sulpicio: Pay Orient survivors
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.