CASE DIGEST: Fil-Star Maritime Corp v. Rosete

G.R. No. 192686: November 23, 2011




In 2005, petitioner Fil-Star Maritime Corporation (Fil-Star), the local manning agency of co-petitioner Grandslam Enterprise Corporation (Grandslam), hired respondent as third officer on board the ocean-going vessel "M/V Ansac Asia." After his first contract expired, he was re-hired to work as second officer on their vessel for a period of nine (9) months. On board the vessel, he was tasked to make an inventory of the vessels property for annual inspection. According to respondent, he worked diligently and oftentimes worked odd hours just to familiarize himself with his new job. He averred that overtime work and the violent motions of the vessel due to weather inclemency caused undue strain to his eyes and his physical well-being.

A little over a month from his embarkation, respondent experienced an abrupt blurring of his left eye. After several delays, He reported it to his captain and was advised to do an eye wash to relieve his pain respondent was able to receive medical attention in Kawasaki, Japan and was diagnosed with Central Retinal Vein Occlusion (CRVO) and immediately underwent three rounds of laser surgery.

On March 9, 2006, respondent was declared fit for travel and was subsequently repatriated to the Philippines. On March 19, 2006, he experienced severe pain in his left eye so he insisted that he be admitted to the hospital. Respondent underwent another series of laser surgery. His left eye was later declared to be legally blind with poor possibility of recovery.

The petitioners denied his claim for permanent total disability and only rated his incapacity as Grade 7. Respondent stressed that, under their Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), he should be considered legally blind meriting entitlement to permanent total disability benefits in the sum of US$105,000.00 for being unable to perform his job for more than 120 days from his repatriation. Thus respondent filed a complaint against Fil-Star, Capt. Victorio S. Migallos and Grandslam for disability benefits, damages and attorneys fees.


I. Whether respondent is entitled to claim disability benefits from the petitioners

II. Whether respondent is entitled to be awarded permanent total or permanent partial disability benefits

III. Whether respondents entitlement to permanent total disability benefits should be based on the CBA or his POEA-SEC which integrated the 2000 Amended Standard Terms and Conditions Governing the Employment of Filipino Seafarers on Board Ocean-Going Vessels.


(1) There is no quibble that respondent is entitled to disability benefits. In this case, respondent was diagnosed with CRVO of his left eye which causes painless vision loss which is usually sudden, but it can also occur gradually over a period of days to weeks. This condition, despite numerous medical procedures undertaken, eventually led to a total loss of sight of respondents left eye. Loss of one bodily function falls within the definition of disability which is essentially "loss or impairment of a physical or mental function resulting from injury or sickness."

Although CRVO is not listed as one of the occupational diseases under Section 32-A of the 2000 Amended Terms of POEA-SEC, the resulting disability which is loss of sight of one eye, is specifically mentioned in Section 32 thereof. More importantly, Section 20 (B), paragraph (4) states that "those illnesses not listed in Section 32 of this Contract are disputably presumed as work-related."

(2) The Court is more inclined to rule that respondent is suffering from a permanent total disability as he was unable to return to his job that he was trained to do for more than one hundred twenty days already. To recall, a disability is total and permanent if as a result of the injury or sickness the employee is unable to perform any gainful occupation for a continuous period exceeding 120 days, except as otherwise provided for in Rule X of these Rules. A total disability does not require that the employee be absolutely disabled or totally paralyzed. What is necessary is that the injury must be such that the employee cannot pursue his usual work and earn therefrom.

Therefore, it is fitting that respondent be entitled to permanent total disability benefits considering that he would not able to resume his position as a maritime officer and the probability that he would be hired by other maritime employers would be close to impossible. Indeed, a sight-impaired maritime applicant cannot stand in the same footing as his healthy co-applicant.

(3) The Court holds that respondent is entitled to claim permanent total disability benefits based on his POEA-SEC and not based on their CBA as earlier ruled by the L.A. and later affirmed by the CA.

The CBA provisions on disability are not applicable to respondents case because Article 28 thereon specifically refers to disability sustained after an accident. Respondent failed to show that the blurring of his left eye was caused by an accident on board the ship. Thus, Article 28 of the CBA cannot be used to compute his disability benefits.