THIS is a rather belated reaction to my friend Jessica's question why Sulpicio Lines hasn't been shut down yet, despite the many tragedies it has been involved in.
It just so happens I had a very interesting conversation recently with an official of the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), an agency under the Department of Transportation and Communications, and tasked to aid and promote the development of the country's maritime industry. For the simple reason that I never introduced myself as a journalist, as the occasion of our meeting was of a personal nature, I shall not reveal his name.
(What the victims of Sulpicio Lines and their relatives need is a lawyer like the menacing manipulative bitch Patricia Hewes, played by Glenn Close in the super series 'Damages'. Afraid!)
But as we discussed the sinking of the MV Princess of the Stars, he said he was pretty sure that "act of negligence", as he put it, will be dismissed like its other cases before. It just so happens, the shipping company has good lawyers, and the victims do not. That's it. (I would also like to venture a guess that the Go family, which owns Sulpicio, is a major contributor to many a presidential campaign, as most business families in the Philippines are.)
As we are already seeing it unfold, many of the victims' relatives are already accepting the P200,000 in compensatory damages offered to them. You can't blame them because these people need money to bury their dead. But the MARINA guy added, this is no skin off the nose of Sulpicio because it's their insurance company which is paying for this and not the shipping company itself, although it did pay the insurance premiums.
He also added that while it is easy to blame the ship's crew for this accident, he said more often than not, it is not a question of competence. "Sometimes the crew do not have a choice. The shipping company, their bosses tell them, 'leave the pier and don't come back.' What will they do? They have no choice but to follow." The MARINA guy also said, for sure the shipping company's management received the notifications from PAGASA, the weather bureau, but probably chose to ignore it. "It's plain greed," he stressed, as he blamed Sulpicio's managers for not heeding the warning and alerts on the typhoon, just so company could make a day's revenue.
The MARINA official said if only the relatives of this year's victims band together, hire a good lawyer, and file a class suit, "they will win!" Mapapasara ang Sulpicio Lines, he averred. And it's about time it was closed, he said, because all the tragedies that the shipping line has been involved in, he said, can be traced to the company's negligence, despite protestations of Sulpicio's lawyers.
So if any great lawyer out there is reading this, perhaps it's time to step forward and help the victims of Sulpicio Lines' and their relatives get the justice they deserve. They need a bitch of a lawyer like Damages' Patricia Hewes to sue Sulpicio's pants off. This isn't exactly a losing proposition for legal eagles out there you know. At the worst, even if they lose the case, any lawyer who takes up the cudgels for these victims will have made a name for himself/herself already.
UPDATE: Sulpicio loses 10-yr-old case
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AND speaking of belated reactions, the Court of Appeals has just issued a freeze order on the bank accounts of Joc-joc "Fertilizer scam" Bolante, and a few others. Too late the hero. Betcha by golly waw! empty na 'yang mga accounts na 'yan!