Case Digest: Transmarine, et al. v. Nazam

G.R. No. 190804: October 11, 2010




Seafarer Silvino Nazam (respondent) was hired by petitioner Philippine Transmarine Carriers, Inc. (Transmarine) on behalf of its principal-co-petitioner Global Navigation, Ltd. for the position of Bosun under a 9-month contract.

Respondent was deployed on August 26, 2004 at Ulsan, South Korea on board the vessel M/V Maersk Durban, but was repatriated to the Philippines twenty three days later or on September 18, 2004, pursuant to his handwritten letter requesting that he be relieved.

Respondent filed with the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) a complaint for payment of disability benefits, sickness allowance, damages, and attorneys fees, alleging that the hostile working conditions at the vessel exposed him to humiliation and verbal and mental abuse from the Chief Officer and Master, causing him to suffer hypertension and depression.

Three weeks after filing his complaint or on October 27, 2004, respondent consulted with an independent physician, Dr. Jesus Alberto Q. Poblete (Dr. Poblete), who diagnosed him to be suffering from "Major Depression with Psychotic Features R/O Traumatic Disorder."

Labor Arbiter Ramon Valentin C. Reyes found for respondent and directed petitioners to pay him permanent total disability benefits. On appeal, the NLRC set aside the Labor Arbiters Decision and dismissed respondents complaint, noting that respondent indeed made a request to be relieved; that respondent failed to undergo the mandatory post-employment medical examination; that respondent failed to show that his repatriation was due to a work-related illness; and that depression is not an occupational disease, hence, not compensable.

On further appeal, the CA reversed the decision of the NLRC and reinstated that of the Labor Arbiter, holding that respondents depression which rendered him unfit to work was a direct result of the demands of his shipboard employment and the harsh and inhumane treatment of the vessels officers towards him. Upon denial of the motion for reconsideration, the present petition is filed.

Whether or not the CA erred in reversing the NLRC decision


For an injury or illness to be duly compensated under the terms of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration-Standard Employment Contract (POEA-SEC), there must be a showing that the injury or illness and the ensuing disability occurred during the effectivity of the employment contract.

Section 20(B) of the POEA-SEC, paragraph (3) requires: upon sign off from the vessel for medical treatment, the seafarer is entitled to sickness allowance equivalent to his basic wage until he is declared fit to work or the degree of permanent disability has been assessed by the company-designated physician but in no case shall this period exceed one-hundred twenty (120) days.

For this purpose, the seafarer shall submit himself to a post-employment medical examination by a company-designated physician within three working days upon his return except when he is physically incapacitated to do so, in which case a written notice to the agency within the same period is deemed as compliance. Failure of the seafarer to comply with the mandatory reporting requirement shall result in his forfeiture of the right to claim the above benefits.

Respondents claim of having reported to petitioner Transmarines office within three days from his arrival in the Philippines remains just that. As duly observed by the NLRC, respondent merely consulted a private practitioner more than one month after his arrival three weeks after he had already filed his complaint for disability benefits; and he secured a medical certification that he was unfit for sea duty from another private physician only on March, 2005 or six months after his arrival.


For an occupational disease and the resulting disability or death to be compensable, all of the following conditions must be satisfied:
[1] The seafarer's work must involve the risks described herein;
[2] The disease was contracted as a result of the seafarer's exposure to the describe risks;
[3] The disease was contracted within a period of exposure and under such other factors necessary to contract it; and
[4] There was no notorious negligence on the part of the seafarer.
Specifically with respect to mental diseases, for the same to be compensable, the POEA-SEC requires that it must be due to traumatic injury to the head which did not occur in this case. While disability should be understood less on its medical significance but more on the loss of earning capacity, the appellate courts sweeping observations that "the hostile working environment and the emotional turmoil suffered by herein respondent from his employers caused him mental and emotional stress that led to severe mental disorder and rendered him permanently unable to perform any work," and that "his working condition increased the risk of sustaining" the illness complained of do not lie.

By respondents claim, he became depressed due to the frequent verbal abuse he received from his German superiors within less than one month that he was on board the vessel. Aside from a "To whom it may concern" handwritten letter of respondent attached to his Position Paper filed before the arbiter detailing the alleged instances of verbal abuse, which letter bears the alleged signatures of some of respondents colleagues, respondent failed to proffer concrete proof that, if indeed he was subjected to abuse, it directly resulted in his depression.