Presumption of work-relatedness


FIRST DIVISION: [G.R. No. 233906, December 14, 2017] NYK FIL SHIPMANAGEMENT, INC., TAI HEIYO KAISHA LTD. AND MS. JOSEPHINE FRANCISCO V. CRESENCIO LAUS, JR.

The Court hereby resolved to GRANT the Motion for Extension of Time filed by petitioners seeking an additional period of 30 days from the expiration of the reglementary period within which to file their Petition for Review on Certiorari.

Considering the allegations, issues, and arguments adduced in the instant Petition for Review on Certiorari of the February 9, 2017 Decision and August 24, 2017 Resolution of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 142595, the Court resolved to DENY the Petition for failure to show that the CA committed any reversible error in issuing the said assailed Decision and Resolution as to warrant the exercise of this Court's discretionary appellate jurisdiction.

A careful consideration of the Petition further indicates petitioners' failure to show any cogent reason why the actions of the Labor Arbiter, the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) and the CA which have passed upon the same issues should be reversed. Petitioners failed to show that their factual findings are not based on substantial evidence or that their decisions are contrary to applicable law and jurisprudence.

The Court finds no compelling reason to doubt the common findings of the Labor Arbiter, the NLRC and the CA that respondent's illness was work-related and that respondent is entitled to total permanent disability benefits. Petitioners insist that respondent's claim for full disability compensation should be denied because his illness was assessed as not work-related by the company-designated physician in both medical reports dated April 21, 2014 and July 4, 2014; that he prematurely filed his complaint pending medical treatment; and that he was assessed with a Grade 6 disability rating and declared not permanently unfit to work by the company-appointed physician.

HELD: We find no merit in petitioners' contentions.

The Court has held that while the company-designated physician's finding forms the basis of any disability claim of the seafarer, the former's declaration is not conclusive and final since its inherent merit must be weighed and duly considered.[1]

Here, the Court agrees with the CA that the findings of the company-designated physician do not deserve credence to serve as basis to deny respondent's disability claims. The April 21, 2014 medical report did not make a categorical declaration that respondent's illness is not work-related. The full medical opinion was as follows:
"1. Psychosis is a serious mental disorder characterized by thinking and emotions that are so impaired, that they indicate that the person experiencing them has lost contact with reality. Psychosis can be brought by different types of illness like stroke, Parkinson's disease, brain tumors, epilepsy, HIV, dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Environmental factors like drug use, and prolonged] period of lack of sleep can also manifest psychosis. The risk factor for developing psychosis is believed to have genetic predisposition. Most probably it is not work-related but could be work-aggravated. The systems of psychosis are not pre-existing.

2. There is a possibility that he will incur a residual disability. The interim disability based on the POEA Schedule of Disability Grading is Grade 6 - Moderate mental disorder or moderate brain functional disturbance which limits worker to the activities of daily living with some directed care or attendance."
In the case of Jebsens Maritime, Inc. v. Babol,[2] the Court did not give probative weight on the company doctor's opinion that the seafarer's condition is not work-related as the wordings used in the doctor's report did not make a categorical statement confirming the total absence of work relation but only a mere probability.

Neither can the Court rely on the July 11, 2014 Medical Report[3] where the company-designated physician declared that:
"The condition of Mr. Laus is considered not work related. Our attending specialist opined that there is no identifiable work related condition that could trigger or serve as stressor for his illness."
This assessment cannot be simply taken at face value. In the absence of reasonable findings to support such assessment, the same cannot be given credence or serve as basis to deny respondent's disability claims.

Moreover, the question of whether or not a particular illness/injury is work-related is a factual question, which is not a proper subject of this Court's review.[4] In any event, the Court does not re-examine conflicting evidence, re-evaluate the credibility of witnesses, or substitute the findings of fact of the NLRC, an administrative body that has expertise in its specialized field. Nor do we substitute our "own judgment for that of the tribunal in determining where the weight of evidence lies or what evidence is credible." The factual findings of the NLRC, when affirmed by the CA, are generally conclusive on this Court.[5]

Since petitioners failed to overcome the presumption of work-relatedness under Section 20(A), paragraph (4) of the 2010 POEA-SEC which states that "those illnesses not listed in Section 32 of this Contract are disputably presumed as work-related," compensability of respondent's illness was established. And as aptly ruled by the three tribunals below, respondent's entitlement to full disability compensation should be upheld as he can no longer return to his work because of his medical condition.

ACCORDINGLY, the Court resolved to AFFIRM the assailed February 9, 2017 Decision and August 24, 2017 Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 142595.

SO ORDERED.

[1] Dohle-Philmcm Manning Agency, Inc. v. Heirs of Andres G. Gazzingan, 760 Phil. 861, 880 (2015).

[2] 722 Phil 828, 838-840(2013).

[3] Rollo, p. 100.

[4] Libang, Jr. v. Indochina Ship Management, Inc., 743 Phil. 286, 298 (2014).

[5] Career Philippines Shipinanagemenl, Inc., et al. v. Serna, 700 Phil. 1,9-10 (2012).

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