G.R. No. 88052, 14 December 1989, 180 SCRA 83


The M/T “Tacloban City,” a barge-type oil tanker of Philippine registry, owned by the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) and operated by the PNOC Shipping and Transport Corporation (PNOC Shipping), left Amlan, Negros Occidental, and headed towards Bataan.

At about 1:00 o’clock in the afternoon of that same day, the M/V “Don Juan,” an interisland vessel, also of Philippine registry, owned and operated by the Negros Navigation Co., Inc. (Negros Navigation)left Manila bound for Bacolod with seven hundred fifty (750) passengers listed in its manifest, and a complete set of officers and crew members.

On the evening of that same day, 22 April 1980, at about 10:30 o’clock, the “Tacloban City” and the “Don Juan” collided at the Talbas Strait near Maestra de Ocampo Island in the vicinity of the island of Mindoro. When the collision occurred, the sea was calm, the weather fair and visibility good. As a result of this collision, the M/V “Don Juan” sank and hundreds of its passengers perished. Among the ill-fated passengers were the parents of petitioners, the spouses Perfecto Mecenas and Sofia Mecenas, whose bodies were never found despite intensive search by petitioners.

Petitioners filed a complaint in the then Court- of First Instance of Quezon City, against private respondents Negros Navigation and Capt. Roger Santisteban, the captain of the “Don Juan”. Petitioners ,the seven (7) surviving legitimate children of Perfecto Mecenas and Sofia Mecenas prayed for actual damages of not less than P100,000.00 as well as moral and exemplary damages in such amount as the Court may deem reasonable to award to them.

The Trial Court renders judgment ordering the defendant Negros Navigation Co., Inc. and Capt. Roger Santisteban jointly and severally liable to pay plaintiffs the sum of P400,000.00 for the death of plaintiffs’ parents, and to pay said plaintiff’s the sum of P15.000,00 as and for attorney’s fee plus costs of the suit.

The Court of Appeals reduced the amount of the damages awarded to the plaintiff to P100,000. 00 as actual and compensatory damages and P15,000.00 as attorney’s fees and the cost of the suit.


Whether or not the Court of Appeals had erred in reducing the amount of the damages awarded by the trial court to the petitioners from P400,000.00 to P100,000.00.


The Supreme Court believed that the Court of Appeals erred in reducing the amount of damages to P 100,000.00.

It states that the trial court and court of appeals should have included a breakdown of the lump sum award into its component parts: compensatory damages, moral damages and exemplary damages.
To determine whether such reduction of the damages awarded was proper, it is a must to determine whether petitioners were entitled to an award of damages other than actual or compensatory damages, that is, whether they were entitled to award of moral and exemplary damages.

In an action based upon a breach of the contract of carriage, the carrier under our civil law is liable for the death of passengers arising from the negligence or willful act of the carrier’s employees, which liability may include liability for moral damages. It follows that petitioners would be entitled to moral damages so long as the collision with the “Tacloban City” and the sinking of the “Don Juan” were caused or attended by negligence on the part of private respondents.

M/S Don Juan’s Master, Capt. Rogelio Santisteban, was playing mahjong before and up to the time of collision. Moreover, after the collision, he failed to institute appropriate measures to delay the sinking MS Don Juan and to supervise properly the execution of his order of abandonship. There is also evidence that the “Don Juan” was carrying more passengers than she had been certified as allowed to carry.

Moreover the “Don Juan” was more than twice as fast as the “Tacloban City, carried the full complement of officers and crew members specified for a passenger vessel of her class. It was equipped with radar which was functioning that night and”Don Juan’s” officer on-watch had sighted the “Tacloban City” on his radar screen while the latter was still four (4) nautical miles away. In the total set of circumstances ,the “Don Juan,” had it taken seriously its duty of extraordinary diligence, could have easily avoided the collision.

The Supreme Court concluded that Capt. Santisteban and Negros Navigation are properly held liable for gross negligence in connection with the collision.

In the case at bar, the demands of substantial justice and the imperious requirements of public policy compel the Supreme Court to the conclusion that the trial court’s implicit award of moral and exemplary damages was erroneously deleted and must be restored and augmented and brought more nearly to the level required by public policy and substantial justice.

The Petition for Review on certiorari is hereby GRANTED and the Decision of the Court of Appeals insofar as it reduce the amount of damages awarded to petitioners to P100,000.00 is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The award granted by the trial court is hereby RESTORED and AUGMENTED as follows:
(a) P 126,000.00 for actual damages;
(b) P 60,000.00 as compensatory damages for wrongful death;
(c) P 307,000.00 as moral damages;
(d) P 307,000.00 as exemplary damages making a total of P 800,000.00; and
(e) P 15,000.00 as attorney’s fees.

*Case digest by Karen S. Tindugan, LLB-4, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2018-2019