CASE DIGEST: Cootauco v. MMS Phil. Maritime

G.R. No. 184722 : March 15, 2010




On 14 March 2003, MMSPhils., hired him as Able Seaman forM/VPaxPhoenixafter he passed the Pre-Employment Medical Examination (PEME) conducted by MMSPhils.sdesignated physician and after obtaining the necessary Overseas Employment Certificate from the POEA and departed from thePhilippineson4 August 2003on board the vesselM/VPaxPhoenix.He had various duties and responsibilities at sea, port, anchor and drills.

One day, he was surprised to see a speck of blood in his urine. nHe disembarked on19 May 2004, and on the following day, he had fever and experienced irregular urination. He consulted a doctor who advised him to take a rest and prescribed him with medicines for his flu and Urinary Track Infection.The day following his consultation, he reported at respondents office for mandatory reportorial requirement and at the same time he informed respondents company officer about his medical condition and asked for medical assistance which went unheeded.

On24 October 2004, his wife brought him again to the Seamans Hospital.The ultrasound and x-rays results showed that he had a 12mm stone in his urinary bladder and dark portion on hisureter and underwent a pre-operative cardiac and pulmonary evaluation, and the final diagnosis was Urinary Bladder Stone.

Thus, petitioner filed a Complaintbefore the LA against respondents for medical reimbursement, permanent disability benefits, moral damages, compensatory damages, exemplary damages and attorneys fees and claimed, among other matters, that he is entitled to medical reimbursement and sickness allowance as his sickness was incurred during the validity of his contract of employment and while performing his duty as Able Seaman of the vesselM/VPaxPhoenix and that he is entitled to permanent Disability Benefits under his existing contract because his condition could have been brought about by the poor working conditions on board the vessel, and by exposure to different chemicals and other harmful substances in the vessel.

Respondents argued that there is no basis for petitioners claims under the POEA-SEC, as he did not suffer any work-related illness or injury during the term of his employment.His repatriation was due to the expiration of his contract and not due to any medical reasons and, at no time did he report any illness allegedly suffered during his employment on boardM/VPaxPhoenixand even after repatriation.Section 20(B), paragraph 3 of the 2000 Amended Standard Terms and Conditions governing the employment of Filipino Seafarers provides that the seafarer must submit himself to a post-employment medical examination by a company-designated physician within three working days upon his return, and failure to comply with the mandatory reporting requirement shall result in his forfeiture of the right to claim the compensation and benefits for injury or illness.

The LA found justification to grant the claim for disability benefits of the petitioner and held among other matters that, the proximity from the time complainant was repatriated on May 19, 2004 and the illness/urinary bladder stone which started its symptoms on May 20, 2004 or one day after complainants repatriation until all his illnesses were uncovered and he was declared unfit to work definitely shows that complainant incurred his illness while on board and during theeffectivityof his contract as the urinary bladder stone could not develop overnight.

On appeal, the NLRC granting the same and reversed the decision of the LA.

Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration with the NLRC which was denied. On petition for certiorari, CA denied the petition and affirmed the Resolutions of the NLRC.

Hence, this petition.


Whether or not petitionercan legally demand and claim disability benefits from respondentsfor an illness suffered?


The petition is denied.


Verily, when petitionerwas hired on14 March 2003, it was the2000 Amended Standard Terms and Conditions Governing the Employment of Filipino Seafarers on Board Ocean-Going Vesselsthat applied, and was deemed written in or appended to his POEA-SEC.This section specifically provides for the liabilities of the employer for an injury or illness suffered by a seaman during the term of his contract.Primarily, for an injury or illness to be duly compensated under the POEA-SEC, there must be a showing that such injury or illness occurred or was suffered during theeffectivityof the employment contract.The same is true with respect to any disability caused by either injury or illness.

As Section 20(B), paragraph (3) operates, the seafarer, upon sign-off from his vessel, must report to the company-designated physician within three working days from arrival for diagnosis and treatment. Applying these provisions,petitioneris required to undergo post-employment medical examination by a company-designated physician within three working days from arrival, except when he is physically incapacitated to do so, in which case, a written notice to the agency within the same period would suffice.

InMaunladTransport, Inc. v.Manigo, Jr. (G.R. No.161416,13 June 2008), the Court explicitly declared that it ismandatoryfor a claimant to be examined by a company-designated physician within three days from his repatriation.The unexplained omission of this requirement will bar the filing of a claim for disability benefits.

The NLRC and the CA determined that petitioner did not observe the established procedure as there is no proof at all that he reported to the office of the respondents.The Court sees no reason to depart from their findings.While petitioner remains firm that he reported to the office of the respondents for mandatory reporting, the records are bereft of any proof to fortify his claim.Theonusprobandifalls on petitioner to establish or substantiate such claim by the requisite quantum of evidence.There is absolutely no evidence on record to prove petitioners claim that he reported to respondents office for mandatory reportorial requirement.Petitioner therefore failed to adduce substantial evidence as basis for the grant of relief.

The general principle is that one who makes an allegation has the burden of proving it.A party alleging a critical fact must support his allegation with substantial evidence.Any decision based on unsubstantiated allegation cannot stand as it will offend due process.

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.

InWallemMaritime Services v. National Labor Relations Commission (376 Phil. 738, 749)the Court made an exception regarding the compulsory reporting requirement and emphasized that this rule is not absolute.The Court explained that the seaman therein was physically incapacitated from complying with the requirement observing that the seaman was already terminally ill and for a man in that condition and in need of urgent medical attention, one could not reasonably expect that he would immediately resort to and avail of the required medical attention assuming that he was still capable of submitting himself to such examination at that time.

Regretfully, Wallem case cannot be applied to petitioners case as the circumstances in that case are not the same herein.Petitioner is not similarly situated in that there is no showing that he is likewise physically incapacitated to comply with the mandatory reporting requirement as to justify exemption of the application of the rule.In this case, petitioner was incontrovertibly repatriated due to the completion of his contract and not due to any ailment.There is no showing that he contracted illness during theeffectivityof his contract though he maintained that while on board the vessel he noticed a speck of blood in his urine and informed a 2ndmate about it. This remains to be a bare claim unsupported by proof. There is no evidence of any entry in the Masters report or the vessels log of any medical complaints involving petitioner.More, he could not, at the very least, point out the date of the occurrence of the incident or provide the identity of the crew member to whom he allegedly related the matter.

The Court is constrained to deny petitioners claim for compensation benefits absent proof of compliance with the requirements set forth in Section 20(B), paragraph (3) of the 2000 Amended Standard Terms and Conditions Governing the Employment of Filipino Seafarers on Board Ocean-Going Vessels.Awards of compensation cannot rest on speculations and presumptions as the claimant must prove a positive proposition.

Admittedly, strict rules of evidence are not applicable in claims for compensation and disability benefits, but the Court cannot altogether disregard the mandatory provisions of the law.