Republic of the
ALEN H. SANTIAGO,
- versus -
PACBASIN SHIPMANAGEMENT, INC. and/or MAJESTIC CARRIERS, INC.,
G.R. No. 194677
VELASCO, JR., J., Chairperson,
April 18, 2012
X ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- X
D E C I S I O N
This is a petition for review under
Rule 45 of the Rules of Court assailing the February 11, 2010 Decision of
the Court of Appeals (CA), in CA-G.R. SP. No. 108035, which affirmed
the April 25, 2008 Decision of
the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC). The NLRC affirmed with
The Factual and Procedural Antecedents
Petitioner Alen H. Santiago (
medical treatment, his condition showed minimal improvement. He continued to
experience a lingering pain in his nape, headaches and mixed type deafness. On
its defense, Pacbasin averred that during the time that
its decision dated
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered ordering the respondents PacBasin ShipManagement, Inc./Esteban Salonga/Majestic Carriers, Inc. to pay complainant Alen H. Santiago the amount of SIXTY SIX THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED TWELVE US DOLLARS & 80/100 (US$66,712.80) or its equivalent in Philippine Peso at the prevailing rate of exchange at the time of actual payment representing his disability benefits, sickness wages and attorneys fees.
All other claims are DISMISSED for lack of merit.
Dissatisfied with the ruling of the LA,
Pacbasin appealed the decision to the NLRC. On
WHEREFORE, premises considered, respondents appeal is partially GRANTED. The Decision of the Labor Arbiter is AFFIRMED subject to MODIFICATIONS in that complainant is entitled only to partial permanent disability equivalent to grade 12 or the amount of US$5,225.00 plus 10% thereof as attorneys fees. The award of total permanent disability benefit (US$60,000.00) and sickness allowance (of US$648.00) are vacated and set aside for lack of merit.
A motion for reconsideration was
Pacbasin countered that the case of Crystal Shipping v. Natividad was already abandoned and superseded by the case of Jesus Vergara v. Hammonia Maritime Services. In said case, the Court ruled that a temporary total disability only becomes permanent when so declared by the company-designated physician within the period he is allowed to do so, or upon the expiration of the maximum 240-day medical treatment period without the declaration of either fitness to work or the existence of a permanent disability.
CA, in its
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the
instant petition is hereby DISMISSED. Accordingly, the decision dated
The CA applied the case of Vergara where it was held that if the 120-day initial period was exceeded and no declaration was made with respect to disability or fitness because the seaman required further medical treatment, then treatment should continue up to a maximum of 240 days. At any time within the 240-day period, the seaman may be declared fit or disabled. If, however, the 240-day period lapsed without any declaration that the seaman was fit or disabled to work, the temporary total disability becomes a permanent total disability, which would entitle the seaman for maximum disability benefits.
CA also wrote that since
A motion for reconsideration was
filed but the CA denied it in its resolution dated
Hence, this petition.
THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED AN ERROR OF LAW IN NOT APPLYING THE RULE OF PERMANENT TOTAL DISABILITY UNDER ARTICLE 291 OF THE LABOR CODE AND SEVERAL JURISPRUDENCE SUPPORTING THE SAME.
THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED AN ERROR OF LAW IN MISAPPLYING THE PROVISIONS OF THE POEA STANDARD EMPLOYMENT REGARDING THE OPTION OF THE PARTIES TO SECURE THE OPINION OF A THIRD DOCTOR.
THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED AN ERROR OF LAW IN NOT SUSTAINING THE AWARD OF ATTORNEYS FEES IN FAVOR OF PETITIONER.
core issue in this case is the question of whether or not
The respondents, in their Comment, state
that both the NLRC and the CA were correct in ruling that
The Court finds no merit in the petition.
The contention of Santiago, that he was entitled to a permanent total disability benefit as he was unable to perform his job for more than 120 days, is not totally correct. This issue has been clarified in Vergara where it was ruled that the standard terms of the POEA Standard Employment Contract agreed upon are intended to be read and understood in accordance with Philippine laws, particularly, Articles 191 to 193 of the Labor Code, as amended, and the applicable implementing rules and regulations in case of any dispute, claim or grievance.
In the recent case of Magsaysay Maritime Corp. v. Lobusta, this Court also referred to, and applied, the ruling in Vergara in this manner:
Article 192(c)(1) under Title II, Book IV of the Labor Code, as amended, reads:
ART. 192. Permanent total disability. x x x
x x x
(c) The following disabilities shall be deemed total and permanent:
(1) Temporary total disability lasting continuously for more than one hundred twenty days, except as otherwise provided in the Rules;
x x x x
Section 2(b), Rule VII of the Implementing Rules of Title II, Book IV of the Labor Code, as amended, or the Amended Rules on Employees Compensation Commission (ECC Rules), reads:
Sec. 2. Disability. x x x
(b) A disability is total and permanent if as a result of the injury or sickness the employee is unable to perform any gainful occupation for a continuous period exceeding 120 days, except as otherwise provided for in Rule X of these Rules.
x x x x
Section 2, Rule X of the ECC Rules reads:
SEC. 2. Period of entitlement. (a) The income benefit shall be paid beginning on the first day of such disability. If caused by an injury or sickness it shall not be paid longer than 120 consecutive days except where such injury or sickness still requires medical attendance beyond 120 days but not to exceed 240 days from onset of disability in which case benefit for temporary total disability shall be paid. However, the System may declare the total and permanent status at any time after 120 days of continuous temporary total disability as may be warranted by the degree of actual loss or impairment of physical or mental functions as determined by the System.
x x x x
According to Vergara, these provisions of the Labor Code, as amended, and implementing rules are to be read hand in hand with the first paragraph of Section 20(B)(3) of the 2000 POEA Standard Employment Contract which reads:
Upon sign-off from the vessel for medical treatment, the seafarer is entitled to sickness allowance equivalent to his basic wage until he is declared fit to work or the degree of permanent disability has been assessed by the company-designated physician[,] but in no case shall this period exceed one hundred twenty (120) days.
As these provisions operate, the seafarer, upon sign-off from his vessel, must report to the company-designated physician within three (3) days from arrival for diagnosis and treatment. For the duration of the treatment but in no case to exceed 120 days, the seaman is on temporary total disability as he is totally unable to work. He receives his basic wage during this period until he is declared fit to work or his temporary disability is acknowledged by the company to be permanent, either partially or totally, as his condition is defined under the POEA Standard Employment Contract and by applicable Philippine laws. If the 120 days initial period is exceeded and no such declaration is made because the seafarer requires further medical attention, then the temporary total disability period may be extended up to a maximum of 240 days, subject to the right of the employer to declare within this period that a permanent partial or total disability already exists. The seaman may of course also be declared fit to work at any time such declaration is justified by his medical condition.
x x x
As we outlined above, a temporary total disability only becomes permanent when so declared by the company physician within the periods he is allowed to do so, or upon the expiration of the maximum 240-day medical treatment period without a declaration of either fitness to work or the existence of a permanent disability.
To be sure, there is one Labor Code concept of permanent total disability, as stated in Article 192(c)(1) of the Labor Code, as amended, and the ECC Rules. We also note that the first paragraph of Section 20(B)(3) of the 2000 POEA Standard Employment Contract was lifted verbatim from the first paragraph of Section 20(B)(3) of the 1996 POEA Standard Employment Contract, to wit:
Upon sign-off from the vessel for medical treatment, the seafarer is entitled to sickness allowance equivalent to his basic wage until he is declared fit to work or the degree of permanent disability has been assessed by the company-designated physician, but in no case shall this period exceed one hundred twenty (120) days.
In said Magsaysay
Maritime Corp. case, the employee (Oberto Lobusta) was eventually
awarded the maximum disability benefit of $60,000.00. Applying the Vergara case, the Court ruled
that he was suffering from permanent total disability because the maximum
240-day (8 months) medical treatment period expired with no declaration from
the attending physician that he was already fit to work. Neither was there a
declaration that Lobusta was afflicted with a permanent disability. From
contrast, in the case at bench, two days after repatriation on
x x x This declaration of permanent total disability after the initial 120 days of temporary total disability cannot, however, be simply lifted and applied as a general rule for all cases in all contexts. The specific context of the application should be considered, as we must do in the application of all rulings and even of the law and of the implementing regulations.
Crystal Shipping was a case where the seafarer was completely unable to work for three years and was indisputably unfit for sea duty due to respondents need for regular medical check-up and treatment which would not be available if he were at sea. While the case was not clear on how the initial 120-day and the subsequent temporary total disability period operated, what appears clear is that the disability went beyond 240 days without any declaration that the seafarer was fit to resume work. Under the circumstances, a ruling of permanent and total disability was called for, fully in accordance with the operation of the period for entitlement that we described above. (Emphases supplied)
Furthermore, the Court takes
note that even after
At any rate, said finding ought not to be
given more weight than the disability grading given by the company-designated
doctor. The POEA Standard Employment Contract clearly provides that when a
seafarer sustains a work-related illness or injury while on board the vessel,
his fitness or unfitness for work shall be determined by the company-designated
physician. However, if the doctor appointed by the seafarer makes a finding
contrary to that of the assessment of the company-designated physician, the
opinion of a third doctor may be agreed jointly between the employer and the
seafarer as the decision final and binding on both of them. In
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. Accordingly, the February 11, 2010 Decision of the Court of Appeals, in CA-G.R. SP. No. 108035, is AFFIRMED.
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
DIOSDADO M. PERALTA ROBERTO A. ABAD
Associate Justice Associate Justice
ESTELA M. PERLAS-BERNABE
A T T E S T A T I O N
I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
Chairperson, Third Division
C E R T I F I C A T I O N
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the Division Chairpersons Attestation, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.
RENATO C. CORONA
Rollo, pp. 233-244. Penned by Associate Justice Bienvenido L. Reyes (now member of this Court) with Associate Justice Celia C. Librea-Leagogo and Associate Justice Francisco P. Acosta, concurring.
 510 Phil. 332 (2005).
 G.R. No. 172933,
 Rollo, p. 243.
 363 Phil. 585 (1999).
 G.R. No. 177578,
 Vergara v. Hammonia Maritime Service, Inc. ,G.R. No. 172933, October 6, 2008, 567 SCRA 610, 631-632.
 Section 20 . Compensation and Benefits for Injury or Illness
X X X
3. Upon sign-off from the vessel for medical treatment, the seafarer is entitled to sickness allowance equivalent to his basic wage until he is declared fit to work or the degree of his permanent disability has been assessed by the company-designated physician, but in no case shall this period exceed one hundred twenty (120) days.
For this purpose, the seafarer shall submit himself to a post-employment medical examination by a company-designated physician within three working days upon his return except when he is physically incapacitated to do so, in which case, a written notice to the agency within the same period is deemed as compliance. Failure of the seafarer to comply with the mandatory reporting requirement shall result in his forfeiture of the right to claim the above benefits.
If a doctor appointed by the seafarer disagrees with the assessment, a third doctor may be agreed jointly between the Employer and the seafarer. The third doctors decision shall be binding on both parties. (Emphasis supplied)