CASE DIGEST: Ayungo v. Beamko

G.R. No. 203161, February 26, 2014




Ayungo entered into a twelve (12) month Contract of Employment with respondent Beamko whereby he was engaged as Chief Engineer. When he was asked during his medical examination if he suffered Hypertension, he answered in the negative. As a result, he was cleared to work and declared Fit by the company Physician.

One morning while on duty in the engine room, Ayungo suddenly lost his sense of hearing and only heard a constant ringing noise. He continued to work as the vessel was about to reach the port of Yokohama, Japan. There, he was confined at Yokohama Red Cross Hospital. He was repatriated to the Philippines for further medical treatment. The company physician reported that Ayungos hypertension and diabetes are both pre-existing and not work related.

Unconvinced, Ayungo consulted another physician, Dr. Tan and the latter declared him to be suffering from hypertension, diabetes and coronary heart desease which render him unfit for work, the status thereof being that of a permanent total disability. In this regard, Ayungo filed before the NLRC a complaint for the payment of permanent total disability benefits, sickness allowance, reimbursement of medical expenses, damages and attorneys fees against Beamko, respondent Juanito G. Salvatierra, Jr. (Salvatierra, Jr.), in his capacity as President of Beamko, and Eagle Maritime (respondents). He alleged that his hypertension was aggravated by the conditions of his employment and his employer assumed the risk of liability arising from his weakened condition when it employed him despite his declaration during his medical exam that he has diabetes.

The Labor Arbiter ordered respondents to pay Ayungo total disability benefits. The LA held that Beamko, Eagle Maritime, and Salvatierra, Jr. cannot evade liability by claiming that Ayungos illnesses were preexisting considering that during his PEME, he divulged that he had Diabetes Mellitus, and despite such, was still declared fit for sea duty. On appeal, the NLRC affirmed the decision in toto. Respondents filed a motion for reconsideration but was denied by the NLRC, prompting them to file a petition for certiorari to the CA. The CA granted the petition. Ayungo filed a motion for reconsideration hence, this petition.

ISSUE: Whether or not the CA committed grave abuse of discretion when it granted the respondents petition for certiorari, thereby setting aside the decision of NLRC holding that Ayungo is entitled to disability benefits

HELD: No. Petition denied. Decision of CA affirmed.

Remedial Law: To justify the grant of certiorari, the petitioner must satisfy that the court or quasi- judicial body gravely abused its discretion conferred unto them.

In labor disputes, grave abuse of discretion may be ascribed to the NLRC when,inter alia, its findings and the conclusions reached thereby are not supported by substantial evidence.

Guided by the foregoing considerations, the Court finds that the CA correctly granted respondents certiorari petition since the NLRC gravely abused its discretion when it held that Ayungo was entitled to disability benefits notwithstanding the latters failure to establish his claim through substantial evidence. Specifically, Ayungo was not able to demonstrate, under the parameters of the abovementioned evidentiary threshold, that his Diabetes Mellitus was related to his work as Chief Engineer during the course of his employment.

Labor Law: For a disability to be compensable, the seafarer must establish that there exists a reasonable linkage between the disease suffered by the employee and his work

It is well settled that for a disability to be compensable, the seafarer must establish that there exists a reasonable linkage between the disease suffered by the employee and his work to lead a rational mind to conclude that his work may have contributed to the establishment or, at the very least, aggravation of any preexisting condition he might have had. In other words, not only must the seafarer establish that his injury or illness rendered him permanently or partially disabled, it is equally pertinent that he shows a causal connection between such injury or illness and the work for which he had been contracted. Indeed, despite the preexisting nature of his Diabetes Mellitus and the concomitant disputable presumption that it is workrelated,Ayungo still had the burden to prove the causal link between his Diabetes Mellitus and his duties as Chief Engineer. As pronounced inQuizora v. Denholm Crew Management (Philippines), Inc.

At any rate, granting that the provisions of the 2000 POEASEC apply, the disputable presumption provision in Section 20 (B) does not allow him to just sit down and wait for respondent company to present evidence to overcome the disputable presumption of work relatedness of the illness.Contrary to his position, he still has to substantiate his claim in order to be entitled to disability compensation. He has to prove that the illness he suffered was workrelated and that it must have existed during the term of his employment contract.

Finally, the Court deems it worthy to note that Ayungo failed to comply with the procedure laid down under Section 20(B)(3) of the 2000 POEASEC which provides that If a doctor appointed by the seafarer disagrees with the assessment of the company doctor, a third doctor may be agreed jointly between the Employer and the seafarer, and that the third doctors decision shall be final and binding on both parties.

In this case, the findings of Beamko and Eagle Maritimes physicians that Ayungos illnesses were not workrelated were, in turn, controverted by Ayungos personal doctor stating otherwise. In light of these contrasting diagnoses, Ayungo prematurely filed his complaint before the NLRC without any regard to the conflict resolution procedure under Section 20(B)(3) of the 2000 POEASEC. Thus, consistent withPhilippineHammonia, the Court is inclined to uphold the opinion of Beamko and Eagle Maritimes physicians thatAyungos illnesses were preexisting and not workrelated, hence, noncompensable.