SSS v. Favilla (G.R. No. 170195; March 28, 2011)


FACTS: Respondent Teresita Favila filed a claim with the SSS for pension benefits, and averred therein that after she was married to Florante Favila (Florante) on January 17, 1970, the latter designated her as the sole beneficiary in the E-1 Form he submitted before petitioner Social Security System (SSS), Quezon City Branch on June 30, 1970.When they begot their children Jofel, Floresa and Florante II, her husband likewise designated each one of them as beneficiaries.Teresa further averred that when Florante died on February 1, 1997, his pension benefits under the SSS were given to their only minor child at that time, Florante II, but only until his emancipation at age 21.Believing that as the surviving legal wife she is likewise entitled to receive Florantes pension benefits, Teresa subsequently filed her claim for said benefits before the SSS.The SSS, however, denied the claim.

Resolving Teresitas claim, the SSC stated that the surviving spouses entitlement to an SSS members death benefits is dependent on two factors which must concur at the time of the latters death, to wit:(1) legality of the marital relationship; and (2) dependency for support.As to dependency for support, the SSC opined that same is affected by factors such as separationde factoof the spouses, marital infidelity and such other grounds sufficient to disinherit a spouse under the law.Thus, although Teresa is the legal spouse and one of Florantes designated beneficiaries, the SSC ruled that she is disqualified from claiming the death benefits because she was deemed not dependent for support from Florante due to marital infidelity.

The CA, however, reversed the SSCs decision.

ISSUE: Is Teresita a primary beneficiary in contemplation of the Social Security Law as to be entitled to death benefits accruing from the death of Florante?

HELD: Under Sec. 8(e) and (k) of RA 1161, for a spouse to qualify as a primary beneficiary under paragraph (k) thereof, he/she must not only be a legitimate spouse but also a dependent as defined under paragraph (e), that is, one who is dependent upon the member for support. There is no question that Teresa was Florantes legal wife. What is at point, however, is whether Teresa is dependent upon Florante for support in order for her to fall under the term "dependent spouse" under Section 8(k) of RA 1161.In Re: Application for Survivors Benefits of Manlavi, this Court defined "dependent" as "one who derives his or her main support from another [or] relying on, or subject to, someone else for support; not able to exist or sustain oneself, or to perform anything without the will, power or aid of someone else. In SSS v. Aguas, "the obvious conclusion is that a wife who is already separated de facto from her husband cannot be said to be dependent for support upon the husband, absent any showing to the contrary. Conversely, if it is proved that the husband and wife were still living together at the time of his death, it would be safe to presume that she was dependent on the husband for support, unless it is shown that she is capable of providing for herself."

In this case, aside from Teresas bare allegation that she was dependent upon her husband for support and her misplaced reliance on the presumption of dependency by reason of her valid and then subsisting marriage with Florante, Teresa has not presented sufficient evidence to discharge her burden of proving that she was dependent upon her husband for support at the time of his death.She could have done this by submitting affidavits of reputable and disinterested persons who have knowledge that during her separation with Florante, she does not have a known trade, business, profession or lawful occupation from which she derives income sufficient for her support and such other evidence tending to prove her claim of dependency.

On the contrary, what is clear is that she and Florante had already been separated for about 17 years prior to the latters death as Florante was in fact, living with his common law wife when he died.Whoever claims entitlement to the benefits provided by law should establish his or her right thereto by substantial evidence. Hence, for Teresas failure to show that despite their separation she was dependent upon Florante for support at the time of his death, Teresa cannot qualify as a primary beneficiary.Hence, she is not entitled to the death benefits accruing on account of Florantes death. GRANTED.