Almirante: Seafarer’s non-entitlement to disability compensation

RESPONDENT William C. Alivio had been under successive contracts with petitioner Blue Ocean Ship Management Ltd. since 1991, starting as general purpose (GP) I, then able seaman (AB), until he was made bosun in 1999. The petitioners rehired him as bosun for nine months starting Jan. 7, 2009 for the vessel Phyllis N.

Alivio signed off from the Phyllis N on Oct. 3, 2009 for “finished contract.” But before he disembarked, he allegedly experienced undue fatigue and weakness, with nape pains. On Oct. 5, 2009, he consulted Dr. Raymund Jay Sugay who diagnosed him with hypertension and advised him to “rest at home for one or two days to prevent further morbidity.” On Jan. 9, 2010, Blue Ocean asked Alivio to undergo a pre-employment medical examination. He was diagnosed with hypertensive cardiovascular disease and declared “unfit for sea duty.” The petitioners refused to engage his services again. Alivio then demanded permanent total disability compensation, which they refused. Hence his present complaint. Does his complaint prosper?

Ruling: No.

First, Alivio was repatriated for “finished contract,” not for medical reasons.

He chose to complete his employment contract with the petitioners instead of being medically repatriated, even as he claimed he experienced fatigue, weakness and nape pains shortly before his disembarkation on Oct. 3, 2009. Yet, he did not report his “discomforts,” as the CA put it, to the ship authorities for onboard examination and treatment, if necessary, or to the agency for post-employment medical examination, as required by the POEA-SEC.

Alivio’s omission to report his health problem at the time could only mean that it was not serious or grave enough to require medical attention. In fact, his physician of choice, Dr. Sugay, whom he consulted two days after he disembarked, diagnosed him to have hypertension and required him only to rest for one to two days. In Villanueva, Sr. v. Baliwag Navigacion, Inc., G.R. No. 206505, July 24, 2013, 702 SCRA 311, the Court noted with approval the CA conclusion that the fact that the seafarer was repatriated for finished contract and not for medical reasons weakened, if not belied, his claim of illness on board the vessel.

Second, Alivio’s claimed cardio-vascular disease was not work-related and therefore not compensable. Although considered as an occupational disease, his heart ailment did not satisfy the conditions under the POEA-SEC to be considered occupational, as quoted above.

These conditions provide for two possibilities: (1) the heart disease is present during employment and there is proof that an acute exacerbation was precipitated by the unusual strain of the seafarer’s work and was followed within 24 hours by the clinical signs of a cardiac arrest or, (2) the seafarer, who is asymptomatic before being subjected to the strain of work, shows signs and symptoms of cardiac injury during the performance of his work, and such symptoms persist.

Nowhere in the case record does it appear that any of the above conditions were present during the whole term of Alivio’s previous engagements up to the last employment with the petitioners. The evidence showed that his cardiomegaly was discovered three months after he finished his last contract with Phyllis N. (Brion, J.; SC 2nd Division, C.F. Sharp Crew Management, Inc., Blue Ocean Ship Management, Ltd., and/or William S. Malaluan vs. William C. Alivio, G.R. No. 213279, July 11, 2016).

(Atty. Almirante is a former labor arbiter.)
style="display:block; text-align:center;"
data-ad-layout="in-article"
data-ad-format="fluid"
data-ad-client="ca-pub-2836569479021745"
data-ad-slot="1977900730">


VIEW COMMENTS
DISCLAIMER:

SunStar website welcomes friendly debate, but comments posted on this site do not necessarily reflect the views of the SunStar management and its affiliates. SunStar reserves the right to delete, reproduce or modify comments posted here without notice. Posts that are inappropriate will automatically be deleted.


Forum rules:

Do not use obscenity. Some words have been banned. Stick to the topic. Do not veer away from the discussion. Be coherent. Do not shout or use CAPITAL LETTERS!

sunstar.com.ph