Worker's duty to get post-employment medical exam

Esposo reneged on his duty to submit to a post-employment medical examination within three (3) working days from his repatriation.

In the 2018 case of Esposo v. Epsilon (G.R. No. 218167) As mentioned, the company was not at all able to assess Esposo's illness because he failed to submit himself for medical examination within the required three-day post-repatriation period under Section 20-B(3) of the POEA-SEC, which reads:

The liabilities of the employer when the seafarer suffers work-related injury or illness during the term of his contract are as follows:

x x x x
  1. 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.

    If a doctor appointed by the seafarer disagrees with the assessment, a third doctor may be agreed jointly between the Employer and the seafarer. The third doctor's decision shall be final and binding on both parties.
In Jebsens Maritime, Inc., and/or Alliance Marine Services, Ltd. v. Undag, the Court explained the rationale for the three-day mandatory requirement, thus:
x x x The rationale behind the rule can easily be divined. Within three days from repatriation, it would be fairly easier for a physician to determine if the illness was work-related or not. After that period, there would be difficulty in ascertaining the real cause of the illness.

To ignore the rule would set a precedent with negative repercussions because it would open the floodgates to a limitless number of seafarers claiming disability benefits. It would certainly be unfair to the employer who would have difficulty determining the cause of a claimant's illness considering the passage of time. In such a case, the employers would have no protection against unrelated disability claims.
Hence, considering the allegations of Esposo that he had been suffering the symptoms of his illness while he was onboard the vessel, he should have then submitted himself to Epsilon for referral to a company-designated physician who could have conducted the necessary post-employment medical examination within three (3) days from his repatriation on June 20, 2013 or until June 22, 2013.Esposo's claim that, upon his repatriation, he immediately reported to Epsilon for medical examination but that the latter failed to provide him with any medical attention, does not inspire belief. The records are bereft of any proof that he reported to Epsilon. Being a veteran seafarer knowledgeable in the employers' obligations under compensation laws, as Esposo himself claims in his Petition, Esposo must have known that bare allegations are hardly the required substantial evidence to warrant award of disability benefits. The Court fails to see why he did not obtain any tangible proof or evidence to corroborate his claims. Indeed, his self-serving and unsubstantiated declarations are insufficient to establish his case considering the required quantum of evidence in labor cases.

In labor cases, as in other administrative proceedings, substantial evidence, or such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as sufficient to support a conclusion, is required. The oft-repeated rule is that whoever claims entitlement to benefits provided by law should establish his right thereto by substantial evidence. Substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla. The evidence must be real and substantial, and not merely apparent.

Notably, as to this factual issue, the CA and the LA both arrived at the conclusion that Esposo did not submit himself to Epsilon for post-employment medical test. The NLRC, who gave credence to Esposo's claim of compliance, did not make any discussion as to how it arrived at its conclusion that respondents had indeed denied Esposo the medical care which the latter had asked for. Hence, under the circumstances, it is reasonable for the Court to lean favorably towards the CA's and LA's findings on this factual matter.

Having failed to comply with the mandatory reporting requirements, Esposo's claim for disability benefits must fail. This holds true notwithstanding that he was examined by a private physician within the three-day period. Under the POEA-SEC, it is the company-designated physician who is required to assess a seaman's disability, as expounded by the Court in the following wise:
The foregoing provision has been interpreted to mean that it is the company-designated physician who is entrusted with the task of assessing the seaman's disability, whether total or partial, due to either injury or illness, during the term of the latter's employment. Concededly, this does not mean that the assessment of said physician is final, binding or conclusive on the claimant, the labor tribunal or the courts. Should he be so minded, the seafarer has the prerogative to request a second opinion and to consult a physician of his choice regarding his ailment or injury, in which case the medical report issued by the latter shall be evaluated by the labor tribunal and the court, based on its inherent merit. For the seaman's claim to prosper, however, it is mandatory that he should be examined by a company-designated physician within three days from his repatriation. Failure to comply with this mandatory reporting requirement without justifiable cause shall result in forfeiture of the right to claim the compensation and disability benefits provided under the POEA-SEC. (Coastal Safeway Marine Services, Inc. v. Esguerra, 671 Phil. 56, 65-66. 2011)
Hence, for failing to comply with the three-day reporting requirement, Esposo effectively had forfeited his right to claim disability benefits as expressly provided under Section 20-B(3) of the POEA-SEC.


[1] Career v. Serna (G.R. No. 172086. December 3, 2012).
[2] 678 Phil. 938 (2011).
[3] Jebsens Maritime, Inc., and/or Alliance Marine Services, Ltd. v Undag.
[4] Panganiban v. Tara Trading Shipmanagement Inc., 647 Phil. 675, 688 (2010).
[5] Coastal Safeway Marine Services Inc. v Esguerra.

Popular Posts