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Re: Request of the heirs of the passengers of Dona Paz

A complaint for damages amounting to 1.5 billion pesos was files in the name and behalf of the
relatives or heirs of the sinking of Dona Paz, caused by its collision with another vessel. The action is
class suit, prosecuted by the 27 named plaintiffs in their behalf and in representation of about 4,000
persons who are close relatives and legal heirs of the passengers against the defendants, the Management
of Dona Paz.
Plaintiff’s prayer that judgment be rendered in their favor by ordering defendants to pay jointly and
(a) P200, 000 to P400, 000 per victim by way of actual or compensatory, or the to total amount from
P800 million to P1, 200 Million;
(b) An amount which the honorable court may deem just and reasonable and by way of attorney’s
fees and, under the circumstance of this case, P10 million would be reasonable.

Now together with the complaint, plaintiffs file a “MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE CASE AS
PAUPER LITIGANTS”. This motion was granted by Judge Chingcuangco in his capacity as Executive
Judge only in so far as the 7 plaintiffs were concerned. It was this order of Judge Chingcuangco dated
January 4, 1988 that the plaintiffs requested the Supreme Court to set side.
The High Tribunal allowed parties to files their parties to make comments, including the Executive
Judge. The defendant maintained that:
(i) there were only 1, 493 passengers on board at the time of the tragedy;
(ii) each claimant is a class unto himself in terms of the legal basis for the claim and the amount
of damages recoverable.
(iii) It is doubtful whether 27 plaintiffs are numerous and representative to fully protect the
interest of all.
(iv) there are in truth only 7 plaintiffs qualified to sue as pauper litigants.

(1) Whether or not a class suit is a proper?
(2) Whether or not the numerous claimants joined as parties plaintiff maybe allowed as pauper

(1) No. For the class suit to prosper, the circumstance should be that there is only one right or cause
of action pertaining or belonging in common to many persons, not separately or severally distinct
individuals. It is needful that the parties be so numerous that it would be impracticable to bring
them all before the court. The case at bar is not being proper for a class suit, because the action
may not be maintained by a representative few in behalf of all the others.
(2) No. The Dona Paz tragedy that claimed so many unsuspecting victims in what has been described
as the worst single disaster in maritime history which became the aspect of national importance.
Yet, it does not under any existing law or rule justify excusing such parties from paying the
required judicial fees or costs. There must be a proper showing that every would-be litigant, who
seeks exemption from the payment of the fees, must establish, not simply allege, his lack of
means by affidavits, certificate from the corresponding provincial, city or municipal treasurer, or