Almirante: Seafarer’s total permanent disability-A A +A
Friday, March 8, 2013
RESPONDENT Andres G. Tomacruz was a seafarer whose services were engaged by petitioner PHILASIA Shipping Agency Corp. on behalf of Intermodal Shipping, Inc. as Oiler #1 on board the vessel MV Saligna. Sometime in September 2002 during the term of his last contract, he noticed blood in his urine.
On Nov. 18, 2002, he was repatriated to the Philippines. He went through tests, medications and treatment by the company-designated physician who on July 25, 2003 declared him fit to work despite a showing that there were stones about 0.4cm in size in both his kidneys and there was the possibility of hematoma. When he reported for work, he was told by PHILASIA that because of the huge amount that was spent for his treatment, their insurance company did not like his services anymore.
On Nov. 3, 2003, Tomacruz filed a complaint for disability benefits, sickness wages, damages and attorney’s fees against the petitioners who opposed his claim for total permanent disability. Does the opposition find merit?
Upon Tomacruz’s return to the country, he underwent medical treatment in accordance with the terms of the POEA SEC. From the time Tomacruz was repatriated on Nov. 18, 2002, until he was declared fit to work on July 25, 2003, he was given extensive medical attention supervised by a company-designated physician. The only time conflict arose was when despite the fit-to-work declaration, petitioners refused to hire Tomacruz. This was what prompted Tomacruz to seek a second medical opinion, on which he based his demand for disability and sickness benefits.
As we said in Vergara v. Hammonia Maritime Services, Inc., G.R. No. 172933, Oct. 6, 2008, 567 SCRA 610, 623, “as we outlined above, a temporary total disability only becomes permanent when so declared by the company-designated 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.”
Applying the foregoing considerations in the case at bar, we affirm the Court of Appeals’ ruling. While the Court of Appeals held that Tomacruz’s disability was permanent since he was unable to perform his job for more than 120 days, this Court has clarified in Vergara and likewise in Magsaysay Maritime Corporation v. Lobusta G.R. No. 177578, Jan. 25, 2012, that this “temporary total disability period may be extended up to a maximum of 240 days.” This clarification, however, does not change the judgment.
The sequence of events is undisputed. From the time Tomacruz was repatriated on Nov. 18, 2002, he submitted himself to the care of the company-designated physician. When the physician said on July 25, 2003 that Tomacruz was already fit to work, 249 days had lapsed from when he was repatriated. His temporary total disability should be deemed total and permanent, pursuant to Article 192 (c)(1) of the Labor Code and its implementing rule (Philasia Shipping Agency Corp. and/or Intermodal Shipping, Inc. vs. Andres G. Tomacruz, G.R. No. 181180, Aug. 15, 2012).
(Almirante is a former labor arbiter)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 09, 2013.