Jebsens v. Undag (G.R. No. 191491; December 14, 2011)

CASE DIGEST: JEBSENS MARITIME INC., represented by MS. ARLENE ASUNCION and/or ALLIANCE MARINE SERVICES, LTD., Petitioners,v. ENRIQUE UNDAG, Respondent. (G.R. No. 191491; December 14, 2011).

Records bear out that respondent was hired as Lead Operator on board the vessel FPSO Jamestown owned by Alliance Marine Services, Ltd. and managed by its local agent, Jebsens Maritime, Inc.(petitioners).He was eventually repatriated to the Philippines after his contract with the petitioners had expired.

About two months after repatriation, he went to see a physician for a physical check-up and was diagnosed to have "Hypertensive cardiovascular disease, Atrial Fibrillation, Diabetes Mellitus II, Impediment Grade X (20.15%)." According to Dr. Vicaldo, respondents ailment was aggravated by his work as a seaman and that he was no longer fit for work. For said reason, respondent requested for financial assistance from petitioners but the latter denied his request.

Constrained, he filed a complaint for sickness benefits against petitioners before the NLRC, alleging that he had been suffering from chest pains and difficulty of breathing since when he was on board petitioners vessel. Despite knowing his bad physical condition upon repatriation, the petitioners did not give him any financial assistance.

Labor Arbiter(LA)rendered a decision in favor of respondent. On appeal, NLRCreversedthe LA decision and denied respondents claim for disability benefits. The NLRC reasoned out that respondent failed to present substantial evidence proving that he had suffered any illness while on board or after disembarking from petitioners vessel. Respondents motion for reconsideration was later denied.

Respondent appealed before the CA. CA rendered a decisionsetting asidethe ruling of the NLRC. The appellate court stated that respondent was able to prove by substantial evidence that his work as a seafarer caused his hypertensive cardiovascular disease or, at least, was a relevant factor in contracting his illness.

ISSUE: Is respondent entitled to full disability benefits from petitioner?

HELD: Entitlement of seamen on overseas work to disability benefits is a matter governed, not only by medical findings, but by law and by contract. The material statutory provisions are Articles 191 to 193 under Chapter VI (Disability Benefits) of the Labor Code, in relation with Rule X of the Rules and Regulations Implementing Book IV of the Labor Code. By contract, the POEA-SEC, as provided under Department Order No. 4, series of 2000 of the Department of Labor and Employment, and the parties Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) bind the seaman and his employer to each other.Pursuant to the aforequoted provision, two elements must concur for an injury or illness to be compensable. First, that the injury or illness must be work-related; and second, that the work-related injury or illness must have existed during the term of the seafarers employment contract.

The 2000 POEA Amended Standard Terms and Conditions defines "work-related injury" as "injury(ies) resulting in disability or death arising out of and in the course of employment" and "work-related illness" as "any sickness resulting in disability or death as a result of an occupational disease listed under Section 32-A of this contract with the conditions set therein satisfied."

Section 20(B), paragraph (3) thereof states: xxx

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 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.

In labor cases as in other administrative proceedings, substantial evidence or such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as sufficient to support a conclusion is required. The oft-repeated rule is that whoever claims entitlement to the benefits provided by law should establish his or her right thereto by substantial evidence.Substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla. The evidence must be real and substantial, and not merely apparent; for the duty to prove work-causation or work-aggravation imposed by law is real and not merely apparent. GRANTED.