G.R. No. 227489. December 05, 2016


Petitioner's motion for an extension of fifteen (15) days within which to file a petition for review on certiorari is GRANTED, counted from the expiration of the reglementary period. .

This is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45, assailing the Decision[1] dated July 15, 2016 and Resolution dated September 30, 2016 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 139868.

The facts are as follows:

Respondent Isagani M. Llanos is a seafarer. On April 29, 2013, he was hired by petitioner North Sea Marine Services, Inc. (NSMSI) for and in behalf of its foreign principal, petitioner Regent Cruise Line (RCL), as ordinaiy seaman on board the vessel Seven Seas Navigator for a period of eight (8) months. Respondent joined the vessel on May 10, 2013.

On May 25, 2013, while working the lines on board the Seven Seas Navigator, respondent got his right leg stuck on a loop of a rope that was being pulled by a mooring roller. The incident left respondent with a badly injured ankle. Respondent was thereafter brought to the on-board physician who treated him with a splint and an anti-inflammatory cream.

On June 24, 2013, while the Seven Seas Navigator was docked at Alaska, respondent was referred to a local Alaskan hospital[2] for evaluation. He was thereat diagnosed to be suffering from "right medial malleolar fibial fracture" and "muscle strain right thigh." Respondent was recommended for medical repatriation.

Respondent arrived in Manila on June 27, 2013. The next day, or on June 28, he was referred by NSMSI to its designated doctor at the Chinese General Hospital. Respondent was treated by such doctor until November 27,2013.

On January 17, 2014, the company-designated doctor issued a medical report wherein he assessed respondent with a "grade 10 disability" per the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency-vStandard Employment Contract (POEA-SEC), which is not a total and permanent disability.On February 6, 2014, respondent filed before the Labor Arbiter (LA) a complaint for payment of total and permanent disability benefits, damages and attorney's fees against petitioners NSMSI and RCL, claiming that he is entitled to total and permanent disability benefits because the injury he sustained while on board the Seven Seas Navigator has rendered him permanently unable of performing his usual duties as a seaman.

To help him substantiate his claim, respondent submitted himself to a medical examination by one Dr. Misael Jonathan A. Ticman (Dr. Ticman) on March 3, 2014. After such examination, Dr. Ticman issued a medical report dated March 10, 2014 stating that respondent was found to be unfit to work as a seaman in any capacity.

On August 28, 2014, the LA rendered a decision in favor of respondent, ordering the petitioners to pay him the following:
  1. US $ 93,154.00 by way of full disability benefits pursuant to the "FIT/CISL-Sirius ship Management Sri-Genoa 2012-2014 IBF Model Collective Bargaining Agreement" (CBA);
  2. US $ 1,920.00 by way of sickness wages; and
  3. 10% of the total monetary award by way of attorney's fees.
On appeal, the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) affirmed the decision of the LA on all points except only as to the amount of the full disability benefit payable to the respondent. On that matter, the NLRC decreased the amount of the award of full disability benefit to US$60,000.00 applymg the POEA-SEC. According to the NLRC, the CBA used by the LA to fix the amount of the original award for full disability benefit cannot be applied to the instant case as it was never established that such agreement covers the Seven Seas Navigator and RCL.

Aggrieved, petitioners filed a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 with the CA.

The appellate court, however, affirmed in toto the NLRC's decision. Petitioners moved for reconsideration, but the CA remained steadfast.

Hence, this petition.

Our Ruling

We deny the petition.

The issues raised by petitioners are only a rehash of those already settled by the LA, NLRC and the CA. Petitioners' perpetual arguments are that: (1) respondent is not entitled to full disability benefits in view of the January 17, 2014 medical report of the company-designated doctor certifying that respondent only has a "grade 10 disability"; and (2) at any rate, the respondent should not be awarded attorney's fees in view of the absence of showing of bad faith on their part. None of the arguments has any merit.

First. Notwithstanding the company-designated doctor's medical report classifying the respondent's injury as merely a "grade 10 disability" the fact remains that the same doctor still failed to make any final declaration or certification as to the fitness or unfitness of the respondent to engage in sea duty even after the lapse of 240 days from the time the latter arrived in the country for diagnosis and treatment.

Article 192 (c) (1) of the Labor Code,[3] in relation to Section 20 (3) of the POEA-SEC[4] as well as Section 2, Rule X of the Rules and Regulations implementing Book IV of the Labor Code,[5] considers as total and permanent any temporary disability that lasts for more than: (a) 120 days from the time the seafarer arrives in the country for diagnosis and treatment; or (b) 240 days from such arrival, if there is indication that the seafarer requires further medical attention beyond the first 120 days.[6] Hence, in order to forestall an otherwise temporary disability from being deemed a total and permanent disability under the law, it is incumbent upon the company-designated physician to issue the appropriate declaration or certification—within the above 120-day or 240-day period as the case may be—that the concerned seafarer is already fit to resume sea duties.[7] Sans such declaration or certification, the disabled seafarer may claim total and permanent disability benefits.[8] This is exactly what happened in this case.

Second. The existence of bad faith on the part of petitioners is not required to justify the award of attorney's fees in favor of respondent. Even without petitioners' bad faith, respondent may still recover attorney's fees since he was—as uniformly found by the LA, NLRC and the CA—"forced to litigate to protect his valid, claim"[9] That is enough reason in labor cases to award attorney's fees in favor of a successful party-employee.[10]

Denial of the petition is, therefore, in order.

IN VIEW WHEREOF, the petition is hereby DENIED. The Decision dated 15 July 2016 and Resolution dated 30 September 2016 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 139868 are AFFIRMED.


[1] Rollo, pp. 45-54. Penned by Associate Justice Stephen C. Cruz with Associate Justices Jose C. Reyes, Jr. and Ramon Paul L. Hcmando, concurring.

[2] Ketchikan General Hospital.

[3] Article 192(c)(l) of the Labor Code reads:

(c) The following disabilities shall be deemed total and permanent:

(1) Temporary total disability lasting continuously for more than one hundred twenty days, except as otherwise provided in the Rules;

[4] Section 20(3) of the POEA Standard Employment Contract states:

Upon sign-oOffrom 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.

[5] Section 2, Rule X of the Rules and Regulations implementing Book IV of the Labor Code reads: Period of entitlement, (a) The income benefit shall be paid beginning on the first day of such

disability. If caused by an injury or sickness it shall not be paid longer than 120 consecutive days except where such injury or sickness still requires medical attendance beyond 120 days but not to exceed 240 days from onset of disability in which case benefit, for temporary total disability shall be paid. However, the System may declare the total and permanent status at anytime after 120 days of continuous temporary total disability as may be warranted by the degree of actual loss or impairment of physical or mental functions as determined by the System.

[6] Vergara v. Hammonia Maritime Services, Inc., G.R. No. 172933, October 6 2008

[7] Id.

[8] See C.F. Sharp Crew Management, Inc. v. Taok, G.R. No. 193679, July 18 2012

[9] Rollo, p. 53.

[10] See Exodus International Construction Corporation v. Biscocho, G.R. No. 166109, February 23, 2011

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