Career v. Serna (G.R. No. 172086. December 3, 2012)


CASE DIGEST: CAREER PHILIPPINES SHIPMANAGEMENT, INC. and/or SAMPAGUITA MARAVE, and SOCIETE ANONYME MONEGASQUE ADMINISTRA TIO MARITIME FT. AERIENNEMONACO, Petitioners, v. SALVADOR T. SERNA, Respondent. Career v. Serna (G.R. No. 172086; December 3, 2012).

FACTS: Respondent Salvador Serna (Serna) entered into a nine-month contract of employment with petitioners Career Philippines Shipmanagement, Inc. (Career Phils.) and Societe Anonyme Monegasque Administratio Maritime Ft. Aeriennemonaco (Aeriennemonaco). He was employed as a bosun for M/V Hyde Park, a chemical tanker. Serna was pronounced fit to work after the required pre- employment medical examination, and subsequently boarded the vessel. While on board M/V Hyde Park during his third contract, Serna experienced weakness and shortness of breath. He lost much weight. On several occasions, he requested for medical attention, but his immediate superior denied his requests since the tanker had a busy schedule.

Serna had no choice but to wait for his contract to finish. Upon his repatriation, he reported to the office of Career Phils. to communicate his physical complaints and to seek medical assistance. He was told that he would be referred to company-designated physicians.

While waiting for the referral and with his condition worsening, Serna visited the University of Perpetual Health Medical Center (UPHMC). One of the doctors diagnosed him to be suffering from toxic goiter. Then, Serna received instructions from Career Phils. for him to report to the Seamans Hospital for a pre-employment medical examination. The hospitals company-designated physicians diagnosed him and declared him unfit to work. Serna underwent a medical examination at Supra Care Medical Specialists. A doctor gave him a disability rating of Grade 3 which under the parties collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is classified as permanent medical unfitness that entitles the covered seafarer to a 100% compensation.

ISSUE: Is the award of disability benefits to Serna proper?

HELD: The petition specifically questions two factual findings made below: First, that Sernas illness was acquired during the term of his employment contract; and second, that he duly presented himself to Career Phils. for a post-employment medical examination.In Remigio v. National Labor Relations Commission, we expressly declared that illnesses need not be shown to be work-related to be compensable under the 1996 POEA-SEC, which covers all injuries or illnesses occurring in the lifetime of the employment contract. Under the 1996 POEA-SEC, it is enough that the seafarer proves that his or her injury or illness was acquired during the term of employment to support a claim for disability benefits.

The labor arbiter, the NLRC, and the CA are one in finding that two days after his repatriation, Serna reported to the office of Career Phils. specifically to report his medical complaints, only to be told to wait for his referral to company-designated physicians. The referral came not on the following day, but nearly three (3) weeks after. We note on this point that the obligation imposed by the mandatory reporting requirement under Section 20(B)(3) of the 1996 POEA-SEC is not solely on the seafarer. While the mandatory reporting requirement obliges the seafarer to be present for the post- employment medical examination, which must be conducted within three (3) working days upon the seafarers return, it also poses the employer the implied obligation to conduct a meaningful and timely examination of the seafarer.

Thus, the disability benefits claimed by Serna is proper under the parties CBA as well as under the 1996 POEA-SEC.

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