37 Cebu Pacific passengers seek P1M each in damages for Davao mishap

By Louis Bacani

Thirty-seven passengers of the Cebu Pacific aircraft that skidded off the runway of the Davao International Airport are seeking P1 million each in damages for the mishap earlier this month.

Lawyer Robert De Leon, legal counsel of the 37 members of the Flight 5J 971 Crash Victims Association,Inc., said they have sent a formal demand letter to the airline seeking the P1 million compensation for each of the 37 passengers.

“The concern of the Association is their claim for compensation for the emotional distress and the trauma that they have experienced,” De Leon said in a television interview on Wednesday.

He said they expect a response within three weeks and they would go to court if the reply is unfavorable.

De Leon said as far as he knows, the 37 of the 165 passengers of the ill-fated plane are those who are interested to pursue the case against the airline.

“Some passengers may have their own course of action against Cebu Pacific,” the lawyer said.

On the evening of June 2, the ill-fated Airbus A-320 plane, which was from Manila, had just touched down at the Davao International Airport when it veered off the centerline of the runway and nose-dived into a ditch.

The plane was stalled in the airport’s runway for two days, disrupting flight schedules and causing an estimated loss of about P250 million in the local economy.

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) on Tuesday suspended the two pilots of the Cebu Pacific flight after pilot error was blamed for the airport mishap.

Capt. John Andrews, CAAP deputy director general, said Capt. Ruel Oropesa was suspended for six months while his first officer Edwin Perello was suspended for three months.

The two pilots failed to declare emergency in accordance with civil air regulations relating to evacuation of passengers during the ensuing emergency, according to CAAP.

The agency, however, did not sanction Cebu Pacific over the incident.

Asked for his clients’ reaction on CAAP’s decision, De Leon said: “Actually, the victims would have wanted Cebu Pacific’s operations to be suspended just like what the government did with the other shipping companies who had the same incident.”

In a statement, Cebu Pacific said they will comply with all CAAP’s recommendations, including a reassessment of the airline’s executives and station managers.

“Safety has always been the highest priority for Cebu Pacific. We aim to provide the safest airline service possible for the millions of passengers who travel with us every year,” said the Gokongwei-led company.