A Manila Court has ordered Sulpicio Lines to pay P242 million in damages to the kin of those who drowned when the M/V Princess of the Stars sank in June 2008.
Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) Chief Persida Rueda-Acosta, lawyer of the victims, said the Regional Trial Court of Manila Branch 49 issued the decision on September 18, 2015.
The Princess sailed for Cebu from the Port of Manila on June 20, 2008 ferrying 849 individuals, 709 of whom were passengers, 29 contractors and 111 crew. It capsized in the Sibuyan Sea the next day, leaving 227 people dead and 592 missing.
The court said the victims were able to prove by preponderance of evidence the negligence of Sulpicio Lines (now Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corp.) owned by the Go family.
“In these cases, the plaintiffs presented evidence to prove that their loved ones had the earning capacity. There has already been a computation submitted by the parties as contained in their individual complaint. However, this court, guided by prevailing jurisprudence, rules that in the computation of the loss of earning capacity of the deceased relatives of the plaintiffs, the amount of 50 percent must be deducted from the same, to arrive at the net earning capacity,” the court said.
PO2 Felix Rizaldy Sardan, the Philippine Coast Guard Clearing Officer, Capt. Amado Romillo, an expert in maritime industry, and Rear Admiral Luis M. Tuason also testified and opined that the tragedy was brought about by the gross negligence of the ship owner and ship management. They said the ship captain knew that were was a typhoon but no specific instruction was given for the M/V Princess of the Stars to take shelter.
There was also deception because there were two cargo manifests – one with no declaration of the toxic substance “endosulfan”, and another declaring the same.
The negligence was also bolstered by the fact that there was no emergency crisis management employed before, during and after the capsizing, as testified to by survivors Francisco Batula, Gerardo Pelimer, Sosan Lisbo and Rodel Laborte. They said no crew assisted them when the ship started taking water.
As to the waivers and quitclaims signed by the survivors and surviving heirs, the court said these were contrary to law. It noted that at the time of the signing of these documents, the recipients were at an economic disadvantage and all of them were grieving. Also, the P200,000 monetary offer and burial assistance of P20,000 given to the families of the victims is equivalent to the aggregate limit of liability for accidental death and burial expenses as contained in the Group Personal Accident Insurance Cover issued to Sulpicio Lines, Inc. by Oriental Assurance Corporation, the court said.