Thursday, June 26, 2008

Culpability

From the looks of it, the owners of Sulpicio Lines prefer to rely on tried and true tactics to extricate themselves from the Princess of the Stars disaster. They've already played the "act of God" or "force majeure" card, blaming typhoon "Frank" for the sinking of their ship, which caused the death of more than 700 people. They've begun casting blame on the ship's captain, saying that it was his decision to set sail on that fateful day.

This probably would have played well once, except for the small detail that Sulpicio Lines has been involved in three other maritime disasters, one being the tragedy of the Dona Paz, where more than 4000 lost their lives on the overloaded ship. You'd think that one or two tragedies would be enough to end the franchise of a company with a questionable safety record. And yet, the fact that Sulpicio has managed to get four of its ships sunk in the span of two decades, and still remain operating is something that officials will need to think long and hard about. Why has such a company managed to keep afloat despite the deaths it has caused?

It doesn't help that, according to an article in the Philippine Star, Philippine laws covering the maritime industry appear to be in need of being updated and revised, and that the authority of the various government agencies over the industry overlap. It is this confusion that Sulpicio owners take advantage of, using every technicality and legal loophole to get itself off the hook; up to now, for example, they haven't been nailed down for the Dona Paz disaster, 21 years after the tragic event.

It doesn't help that our President, along with about one-fourth of the House of Representatives, thinks that it is more important to curry favor from the United States, and maybe catch Manny Pacquiao going for his fourth crown against David Diaz this coming weekend, instead of cutting her trip short, and going to the affected areas in person, in order to project the image of a concerned leader. With one-fourth of our congressmen in the U.S., ostensibly to lobby for the passage of the Veterans' bill, it won't be possible to call for an emergency session of the House, perhaps to deliberate on the necessary laws to revamp and improve the maritime industry.

It also doesn't help that it is we taxpayers who are shouldering this U.S. trip. So, funds that could've been used to help typhoon victims are wasted on this current Presidential junket.

All of these, however, will probably help the Sulpicio Lines owners, if luck is on their side, escape culpability from their latest crime.

I'm being optimistic, and hoping that this latest disaster will be enough to finally sink what is obviously a company that has gotten away with murder.

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