It’s the only way to end this downright criminal enterprise and save lives.
I’ve previously written about the legal bases to hold Sulpicio Lines accountable for the hundreds of deaths caused by the sinking of the M/V Princess of the Stars.
But legal arguments side, there are even more compelling moral and practical reasons to put a stop to the murderous reign of what is believed to be the most accident-prone and negligent commercial shipping company of modern times. And I mean worldwide.
It’s hard to outdo Sulpicio Lines’ record, even in this age of massive global terrorism. One Sulpicio ship sinking alone, that of the M/V Dona Paz, claimed significantly more lives than the September 11, 2001 bombing that pulverized the New York World Trade Center.
And the 9/11 terrorists intended to kill as many as they could. Sulpicio Lines beat them without even trying.
Consider therefore the following reasons for sinking the whole company for good:
1. Riding Sulpicio Lines kills people — More than 5,000 people died taking Sulpicio Lines’ floating coffins over the past two decades, including the Dona Paz sinking, the worst peacetime maritime disaster in history. This was followed by three more catastrophic sinkings. At what point do we say, enough is enough ? When the death count reaches 10,000 ? 20,000 ?
2. Closing down Sulpicio Lines will be good for the whole industry — Putting an end to Sulpicio Lines’ killing spree will serve notice on the whole industry that no longer will their unsafe and greedy practices be tolerated. This will force all shipping firms with sub-standard ships, equipment and facilities to shape up or ship out (meaning disappear, not float again).
3. Sulpicio Lines is evil in its business practices – A high-minded argument against Sulpicio, using St. Thomas Aquinas’ classification of evil in human work (malum artificale). By evil in human work we mean a task carried out or work done in a defective way, with knowledge and deliberate intent. The continued service of an obsolete fleet, poor maintenance, non-observance of safety standards, hiring of incompetent personnel, overloading and a host other of other questionable practices intended to make as much money as possible at the expense of the riding public, are evil in a human undertaking.
4. Sulpicio Lines’ owners are guilty of a moral evil in their actions – An action is morally evil (malum morale) whenever man knowingly and freely deviates from what he is obliged to do as a human being. St. Thomas Aquinas believed that man has a basic inclination, arising from his rational nature, to do what is good and proper. Moral evil, or what we call sin, is a deliberate choice and adoption of a stand which goes against a fundamental code of human goodness. The ill-manner by which the company has dealt with the survivors and victims’ relatives, the lawsuits hurriedly filed to muddle the legal waters, the refusal to refloat the ship in order to collect more insurance, the finger-pointing (which did not spare God) and the general refusal of the owners to own up to their acts is morally evil.
As Malaya pointedly expressed in its editorial early on in the debate on how to deal with Sulpicio Lines, simply put them out of business:
Close down their shipping line. Send them to jail for criminal negligence. See to it they lose everything they own by holding them liable for billions in civil damages. That’s the only to make ship officers and owners learn they should not play with the lives of their passengers.
Accidents do happen. But Sulpicio Lines has had more passenger vessel sinkings than can be blamed on chance or misfortune. Either its vessels are not fit to ply the seas or the crews it hires are incompetent.
The shipping line should be stripped of its franchise. More, as we earlier said, people should go to jail and be punished where it hurts most — the pocket book, for those who care not a whit for the lives entrusted to their keeping as long as the money keeps coming.
We know where the faults lie. On greedy ship owners and regulators who are in their pockets. What has Gloria done during the last seven years to improve the shipping industry? Marina is packed with know-nothing political appointees. The Coast Guard is starved of funds to train its men, to install communication and monitoring systems, to buy more rescue vessels and to put up operating bases close to major sea lanes.
Throwing tantrums will not bring back those who died in the MV Princess tragedy. Neither would they prevent the loss of more lives in accidents to come. Only close regulation and upgrading of the shipping industry would.