Joseph G. Lariosa




CHICAGO (jGLi) – Now that President Noynoy Aquino has finally decided to file charges against those responsible for the botched hostage incident at Luneta (Rizal Park) last Aug. 23, the Philippine government should brace itself for the damage suits that the survivors of the victims will be bringing against it.

Senate Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada was one of at least two senators who had suggested that the Philippine government should extend “kaunting tulong” (little help) to the survivors of the eight Chinese tourists, who died during the hostage incident.

If Mr. Estrada meant an actual amount, he could be referring to 60,000 pesos (US$1,333) the Unitrans Bus Company gave to each survivor of the 42 passengers who died in an accident on August 18 in Benguet Highway. Or the 100,000 pesos (US$2,222) given away by the Philippine government to each of the 58 Maguindanao Massacre victims, including 32 journalists, last Nov. 23.

But if Mr. Estrada were making an understatement, he could be referring to the 110 of the 131 people passengers of the Air Philippine plane that crashed off a 577-foot hill in Samal Island near Davao City in the Philippines on his father’s birthday (former President Joseph Estrada) in April 2000 ten years ago and who each received an average of $600,000, perhaps the biggest award in “wrongful death claim” in Philippine history.

If Congress offers 60,000 pesos (US$1,333) to each of the survivor of the Chinese tourists who were killed after a Manila police officer held them hostage, how will Congress feel if this loose change is offered to a Filipino tourist killed in Hongkong during a hostage incident?


Or will Congress follow the standard taken by the owners of Air Philippines plane that crashed in Davao ten years ago, where the 110 passengers were compensated an average of $600,000? In fact, one of the survivors of that ill-fated plane received $1.2-Million based on the criteria laid down under the 1867 Wrongful Death Act of Illinois, which has recently been amended to allow jurors to award damages for "grief, sorrow, and mental suffering."

If Manila or any city in the Philippines want to be treated a world-class city, it should be ready to compensate people with world-class compensation, especially tourists, who die in their cities due to negligence of its government officials or the police.

For Philippine cities to be ready to come up with this kind of compensation, they should explore the possibility of obtaining disaster insurance policies from big insurance companies, like Lloyd’s of London.

The survivors of Filipino passengers of Air Philippines were lucky to get a huge tax-free insurance benefit as the plane’s U.S.-based owner, which leased it to Air Philippines, had insured the ill-fated plane with the Lloyd’s of London.

Without the disaster insurance from Lloyd’s of London, most of the passengers’ survivors would have grabbed the Air Philippines’ much smaller benefit nibbled by few survivors, who were in a hurry to settle the damage suits and collect the compensation.


But most of the passengers’ survivors waited a little while and played it by ear. When they learned that a lawsuit was filed in the Cook County of Illinois, they grabbed the opportunity and joined in a class action suit of a Filipina, residing in Cook County, whose mother was among those, who died in the plane crash.

Although the plane crash happened in the Philippines, the wrongful death class action suit was filed and heard in Illinois because one of the survivors is a resident of Illinois and the owner/lessor of the Air Philippine plane is based in Illinois.

Illinois also happens to be one of the states in the nation that has no cap in wrongful death suits caused by medical malpractice, automobile or airplane accident, occupational exposure to hazardous conditions or substances or death during a supervised activity, like the hostage incident.

In order to bring a successful wrongful death cause of action, the following elements must be present: death of a human being, caused by another’s negligence, loss as a result of the death and the survival of family members or others named by a particular state’s statute as being entitled.

Pecuniary or financial injury is the main measure of damages in wrongful death action. “Pecuniary injuries” are loss of support, services, lost prospect of inheritance, and medical and funeral expenses.

When determining pecuniary loss, it is relevant to consider age, character and condition of the deceased, his or her earning capacity, life expectancy, health and intelligence, as well as circumstances of the persons bringing the action.

If you look closely at the criteria that determine the amount of compensation for survivors of victims under the Wrongful Death Act of Illinois, the compensation scale is a bit tricky.

Under this law, a survivor or survivors of the victim will get benefits on a case-by-case basis.

For instance, a survivor of a victim, who is a big income earner and leaves behind a spouse with two children, will get top dollar over another survivor of a victim, who has no job, no spouse and no children. The major parts of the recovery are loss of income and loss of parental guidance.

Even if a victim were a top income earner if he merely gambled away his income and did not spread around his wealth to his spouse, children, siblings or parents, his survivor will get lower benefit.

Punitive damages are awarded in cases of serious or malicious wrongdoing to punish the wrongdoer, or deter others from behaving similar. For instances, if it is proven that the deputy Ombudsman’s extortion from the hostage taker Rolando Mendoza and Mayor Lim’s order to disarm and to “take (Mendoza’s brother) to Tondo” and journalists Erwin Tulfo and Michael Rogas' interference in the police operation had all come together to cause the murderous spree of Mendoza to kill those hostages, then the deputy Ombudsman, the Ombudsman, Mayor Lim and the City of Manila and the journalists Tulfo and Rogas and their Radio Mindanao Network could be held liable to pay punitive damages to the survivors. (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)