CASE DIGEST: GSIS v. Bernadas (G.R. No. 164731)

CASE DIGEST: GOVERNMENT SERVICE INSURANCE SYSTEM, Petitioner, v. ROSALINDA A. BERNADAS, Respondent. G.R. No. 164731; February 11, 2010.

FACTS: Rosalinda A. Bernadas was a public school teacher at Jibao-an Elementary School, Jibao-an, Pavia, Iloilo City for almost 35 years. On 3 March 2000, she was supervising her students in a gardening activity within the school premises when she accidentally slipped and incurred a wound on the sole of her left foot. Elizabeth Jullado, the school nurse, rendered first aid.

Months later, a black mole appeared on respondents affected sole, making it difficult for her to walk. It was later diagnosed as malignant melanoma.

In 2002, respondent filed a claim with the Iloilo Branch of the GSIS for compensation benefit but petitioner denied the claim on the ground that malignant melanoma was not among those listed by the Employees Compensation Commission (ECC) as an occupational disease. Respondent moved for reconsideration of the denial of her claim.

Respondent filed an appeal before the ECC. As per Board Resolution No. 03-07-594, the ECC denied the appeal. The ECC ruled that malignant melanoma could not be considered work-related. The ECC ruled that respondent failed to prove that her ailment originated from the wound she incurred when she slipped during the gardening activity in school. The ECC found that there was no evidence that respondent acquired her illness as a result of the performance of her duties, or that the illness persisted that would establish a causal relationship between the disease and her work.

The Court of Appeals reversed the ECCs Decision. It ruled that respondents ailment was work-connected since respondent sustained it while doing a school-related activity. Petitioner came to this Court for relief via a petition for review.

ISSUE: Can respondent can claim compensation benefit?

HELD: The decision of the Court of Appeals is overruled. Under Section 1(b), Rule III of the Amended Rules on Employees Compensation, "(f)or the sickness and the resulting disability or death to be compensable, the sickness must be the result of an occupational disease listed under Annex A of these Rules with the conditions set therein satisfied; otherwise, proof must be shown that the risk of contracting the disease is increased by the working conditions."

Sunlight, or ultraviolet light in particular, has been implicated as a probable major factor in the development of melanoma. Some families who have a high incidence of melanoma are distinguished by the occurrence of multiple and usually large moles that are atypical on clinical and histologic examinations.

In this case, melanoma is not listed as an occupational disease under Annex "A" of the Rules on Employees Compensation. Hence, respondent has the burden of proving, by substantial evidence, the causal relationship between her illness and her working conditions. Substantial evidence means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept to support a conclusion.

We agree with the petitioner and the ECC that respondent was not able to positively prove that her ailment was caused by her employment and that the risk of contracting the disease was increased by her working conditions. While the law requires only a reasonable work-connection and not a direct causal relation, respondent still failed to show that her illness was really brought about by the wound she sustained during the supervised gardening activity in school.

Finally, we note that while respondent was initially diagnosed for malignant melanoma, the final pathological diagnosis revealed that there was no tumor seen on her and that the melanoma was benign. On this basis alone, respondents claim for compensation should be denied. GRANTED.