Case Digest: Sy v. Philippine Transmarine

G.R. No. 191740 : February 11, 2013




On June 23, 2005, Alfonso Sy was hired by respondent Philippine Transmarine Carriers Inc. for and in behalf of its co-principal, co-respondent SSC Ship Management Pte. Ltd. In their contract of employment, Sy was assigned to work as Able Seaman (AB) on board the vessel M/V Checkiang for the duration of ten months with a basic monthly salary of US$512.00. Considered incorporated in AB Sy's Philippine Overseas Employment Administration-Standard Employment Contract (POEA-SEC) is a set of standard provisions established and implemented by the POEA, called the Amended Standard Terms and Conditions Governing the Employment of Filipino Seafarers on Board Ocean-Going Vessels.

On October 1, 2005, while the vessel was at the Port of Jakarta, Indonesia, AB Sy went on shore leave and left the vessel at about 1300 hours. At 1925 hours, the vessel's agent from Jardine received an advice from the local police that one of the vessel's crew members died ashore and later confirmed that it was AB Sy.

Based on the initial investigation conducted by the local police, AB Sy was riding on a motorcycle when he stopped the driver to urinate at the riverside of the road. Since AB Sy had not returned after a while, the motorcycle driver went to look for him at the riverside, but the former was nowhere to be found.At 1830 hrs., AB Sy's corpse was found. And it was certified that AB Sy's death was an accident due to drowning, and that there was alcohol 20mg% in his urine.

AB Sy's body was repatriated to the Philippines. On October 8, 2005, the Medico-Legal Officer of NBI conducted a post-mortem examination on AB Sy's body and certified that the cause of death was Asphyxia by drowning.

The petitioner, widow of AB Sy, demanded from respondents payment of her husband's death benefits and compensation. Respondents denied such claim, since AB Sy's death occurred while he was on a shore leave, hence, his death was not work-related and, therefore, not compensable. She therefore filed with the NLRC to claim such benefits.

The LA rendered a decision in favor of the petitioner and ruled, among that since AB Sy was doing work-related functions during the term of his contract.

Respondents filed their appeal with the NLRC reiterating that AB Sy's death was not work-related. Petitioner also filed her appeal claiming that she was entitled to attorney's fees as well as moral and exemplary damages.

The NLRC affirmed the LA's finding that AB Sy's death was compensable, but found no basis for the grant of moral and exemplary damages. Respondents filed a motion for reconsideration which the NLRC denied.

The CA reversed the NLRC on the ground that the death of AB Sy was not work-related.

Hence, this petition.


Whether or not the petitioner is entitled for death compensation benefits from the respondent?


The petition is devoid of merit.


The terms and conditions of a seafarer's employment is governed by the provisions of the contract he signs with the employer at the time of his hiring, and deemed integrated in his contract is a set of standard provisions set and implemented by the POEA, called the Standard Terms and Conditions Governing the Employment of Filipino Seafarers on Board Ocean-Going Vessels, which can best determine whether petitioner is entitled to death benefits.

Section 20 (A) of the employment contract of the respondent and the petitioner provides:

1. In the case of work-related death of the seafarer during the term of his contract, the employer shall pay his beneficiaries the Philippine Currency equivalent to the amount of Fifty Thousand US dollars (US$50,000) and an additional amount of Seven Thousand US dollars (US$7,000) to each child under the age of twenty-one (21) but not exceeding four (4) children, at the exchange rate prevailing during the time of payment.

Clearly, to be entitled for death compensation benefits from the employer, the death of the seafarer (1) must be work-related; and (2) must happen during the term of the employment contract. Under the Amended POEA Contract, work-relatedness is now an important requirement. The qualification that death must be work-related has made it necessary to show a causal connection between a seafarers work and his death to be compensable.


Under the 2000 POEA Amended Employment Contract, work-related injury is defined as an injury(ies) resulting in disability or death arising out of and in the course of employment. Thus, there is a need to show that the injury resulting to disability or death must arise (1) out of employment, and (2) in the course of employment.

Notably, at the time of the accident, AB Sy was on shore leave and there was no showing that he was doing an act in relation to his duty as a seaman or engaged in the performance of any act incidental thereto. On the contrary, it was established that he was on shore leave when he drowned and because of the 20% alcohol found in his urine upon autopsy of his body, it can be safely presumed that he just came from a personal social function which was not related at all to his job as a seaman.

Consequently, his death could not be considered work related to be compensable. While AB Sy's employment relationship with respondents did not stop but continues to be in force even when he was on shore leave, their contract clearly provides that it is not enough that death occurred during the term of the employment contract, but must be work-related to be compensable. There is a need to show the connection of AB Sy's death with the performance of his duty as a seaman.

In the case at bar, AB was not in the performance of his duty as a seaman, but was doing an act for his own personal benefit at the time of the accident. The cause ABs death was not at the time he was on shore on leave, which was drowning, was not brought about by a risk which is peculiar to his employment as a seaman.