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SC absolves Caltex in MV Doña Paz tragedy

July 24, 2008 5:38pm

MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court on Thursday absolved Caltex Philippines (now Chevron) from any liability in connection with tragic collision between MV Doña Paz and oil tanker MT Vector off Tablas Strait in December 1987.

The decision was an affirmation of an earlier ruling by the Court of Apepals on the petition of Vector Shipping Corporation and owner Francisco Soriano blaming Caltex for the accident that killed more than 4,000 people.

Caltex was a third-party defendant in the damage suit filed by victims of the tragic ship-to-tanker collision.

In a 12-page decision penned by Associate Justice Antonio Eduardo Nachura, the SC Third Division said the court decided to clear Caltex after the petitioners failed to show the error in the CA decision dated September 24, 2003.

“We have meticulously reviewed the records of the case and found no reason to depart from the (CA) rule. We cannot turn a blind eye to this gruesome maritime tragedy which is now a dark page in our nation's history,” the SC ruled.

MV Doña Paz was owned by Sulpicio Lines Inc., which hit the headlines again recently after another of its ships, MV Princess of the Stars, sank off Romblon province during the height of Typhoon “Frank” last June.

Subsequent investigations into the accident found that Doña Paz exceeded its passenger and cargo limits while Vector's boat license had already expired at the time of the accident.

The SC further cited its previous ruling in Caltex v Sulpicio, which is also about the same case. In that case, the tribunal absolved Caltex from any third-party liability, while Vector was ordered to reimburse and indemnify Sulpicio Lines for whatever damages that it is adjudged to pay the victims.

The case stemmed from the complaint filed by the family of spouses Cornelio and Anacleta Macasa, who perished in the tragedy along with their eight-year-old grandson Ritchie.

The Macasas filed a complaint for damages before the Manila regional trial court after it denied Sulpicio Lines' initial offer of P200,000 for the death of the three victims.

Sulpicio Lines refused the Macasas' claim that they are entitled to at least P1.7 million indemnities, saying Doña Paz was seaworthy when it sailed and that the collision was Vector's fault.

The shipping firm further claimed that the Board of Marine Inquiry (BMI), which probed the incident, has cleared it from liability.

Thus, Sulpicio Lines filed a third-party complaint against Vector and Caltex, which chartered the oil tanker.

An unfavorable ruling in the trial court and CA prompted Vector to elevate the case before the high court. - GMANews.TV
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