CONCHITA J. RACELIS vs. UNITED PHILIPPINE LINES, INC. and/or HOLLAND AMERICA LINES, INC.,*and FERNANDO T. LISING, G.R. No. 198408, November 12, 2014
“x x x.
Even assuming that the ailment of the worker was contracted prior to his employment, this still would not deprive him of compensation benefits. For what matters is that his work had contributed, even in a small degree, to the development of the disease and in bringing about his eventual death. Neither is it necessary, in order to recover compensation, that the employee must have been in perfect health at the time he contracted the disease. A worker brings with him possible infirmities in the course of his employment, and while the employer is not the insurer of the health of the employees, he takes them as he finds them and assumes the risk of liability. If the disease is the proximate cause of the employee’s death for which compensation is sought, the previous physical condition of the employee is unimportant, and recovery may be had for said death, independently of any pre-existing disease.76 (Emphases and underscoring supplied; citations omitted)
Employing the same spirit of liberality as fleshed out in Canuel, the Court finds that it would be highly inequitable and even repugnant to the State’s policy on labor to deny petitioner’s claim for death benefits for the mere technicality triggered by Rodolfo’s prior medical repatriation. As it has been clearly established that Rodolfo had been suffering from a work-related illness during the term of his employment that caused his medical repatriation and, ultimately, his death on March 2, 2008, it is but proper to consider the same as a compensable work-related death despite it having occurred after his repatriation. To echo Canuel, "it is enough that the seafarer’s work-related injury or illness which eventually causes his death should have occurred during the term of his employment. Taking all things into account, the Court reckons that it is by this method of construction that undue prejudice to the laborer and his heirs may be obviated and the State policy on labor protection be championed. For if the laborer’s death was brought about (whether fully or partially) by the work he had harbored for his master’s profit, then it is but proper that his demise be compensated."77
Lest it be misunderstood, the conclusion above-reached does not run counter to the Court’s ruling in Klaveness Maritime Agency, Inc. v. Beneficiaries of the Late Second Officer Anthony s. Allas (Klaveness),78 which the CA inaccurately relied on. As similarly pointed out in Canuel, the Klaveness case involved a seafarer who was not medically repatriated but was actually signed off from the vessel after the completion of his contract, his illness not proven to be work-related,and died almost two (2) years after the termination of his contract. Since the employment contract was terminated without any connection to a work-related cause, but rather because of its mere lapse, death benefits were denied to the seafarer’s heirs.79 This is definitely not the case here since Rodolfo’s employment contract was terminated only because ofhis medical repatriation. Were it not for his illness, Rodolfo would not havebeen medically repatriated and his employment contract, in turn, terminated. Evidently, the termination of employment was forced upon by a work-related cause and it would be in contrast to the State’s policy on labor todeprive the seafarer’s heirs of death compensation despite its ascertained work-connection.80
This variance also exists as to the cases of Gau Sheng,81 Spouses Ayaay, Sr.,82Prudential,83 and Ortega,84 which respondents invoke in their Comment dated February 16, 2012.85 As a common denominator, the element of work-relatedness was not established in those cases. Thus, being the primary factor considered in granting compensation, the Court denied the beneficiaries’ respective claims. Again, the Court has pored over the records and remains satisfied that Rodolfo’s death is work-related. Accordingly, this precludes the application of the above-stated rulings.
X x x.”
47 See Jebsens Maritime, Inc. v. Undag, G.R. No. 191491, December 14, 2011, 662 SCRA 670, 676-677.
48 G.R. No. 190161, October 13, 2014.
49 Iloilo Dock & Eng’g. Co. v. WCC, 135 Phil. 95, 98 (1968).
51 See Section 32-A Occupational Diseases of the 2000 POEA-SEC.
52 Magsaysay Maritime Services v. Laurel,G.R. No. 195518, March 20, 2013, 694 SCRA 225, 245.
53 See Ortega v. CA, 576 Phil. 601, 606-607 (2008).
54 Cootauco v. MMS Phil. Maritime Services, Inc., G.R. No. 184722, March 15, 2010, 615 SCRA 529, 544.
55 Supra note 52, at 244-245.
56 Id. at 244-245.
57 G.R. No. 204076, December 4, 2013; emphases supplied.
58 G.R. No. 192686, November 23, 2011, 661 SCRA 247.
59 Id. at 255; emphasis supplied.
60 CA rollo, p. 104.
61 Id. at 175.
62 See Medical Certificate issued by Dr. Legaspi; rollo, p. 105.
63 5. Upon sign-off of the seafarer from the vessel for medical treatment, the employer shall bear the full cost of repatriation in the event the seafarer is declared (1) fit for repatriation; or (2) fit to work but the employer is unable to find employment for the seafarer on board his former vessel or another vessel of the employer despite earnest efforts.
64 See Section 3, Article XIII of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
65 Seagull Maritime Corporation v. Dee, 548 Phil. 660, 671-672 (2007).
66 Canuel v. Magsaysay Maritime Corporation, supra note 48.
67 G.R. No. 201251, June 26, 2013, 700 SCRA 174.
68 G.R. No. 181112, June 29, 2010, 622 SCRA 237.
69 376 Phil. 738 (1999).
70 481 Phil. 222 (2004).
71 516 Phil. 628 (2006).
72 504 Phil. 564 (2005).
73 544 Phil. 94 (2007).
74 576 Phil. 601 (2008).
75 388 Phil. 906 (2000).
76 Id. at 914-915.
77 Canuel v. Magsaysay Maritime Corporation, supra note 48.
78 566 Phil. 579 (2008).
79 See Canuel v. Magsaysay Maritime Corporation, supra note 48.
81 In Gau Sheng, seafarer therein was repatriated upon mutual consent, and thus effectively terminated his contract with his employer. He died eight (8) months after his repatriation of chronic renal failure which illness is not listed as a compensable illness. See supra note 70.
82 In Spouses Aya-ay, Sr., while the seafarer therein was repatriated on account of an eye injury, he subsequently died of a stroke, which was not established to be in connection with/ or a result of his eye injury. See supra note 71.
83 In Prudential, while the seafarer was repatriated due to umbilical hernia, he was declared fit to work after undergoing several treatments. His death, about a year later was due to cardio pulmonary arrest which was not shown to have been work-related. See supra note 73.
84 In Ortega, the seafarer therein was repatriated due to lung cancer, which illness was not establish to have been brought about by his short stint (almost two weeks only) on board the employer’s vessel.
See supra note 74.
85 Rollo, pp. 156-162 and 164-166.
86 CA rollo, pp. 131-132.
87 See Section 20 (A) (1) of 2000 POEA-SEC.
88 CA rollo, p. 135.
89 SECTION 20. COMPENSATION AND BENEFITS
A. COMPENSATION AND BENEFITS FOR DEATH
x x x x
4. The other liabilities of the employer when the seafarer dies as a result of work-related injury or illness during the term of employment are as follows:
x x x x
c. The employer shall pay the beneficiaries of the seafarer the Philippines currency equivalent to the amount of One Thousand US dollars (US$1,000) for burial expenses at the exchange rate prevailing during the time of payment.
90 United Philippine Lines Inc. v. Sibug, G.R. No. 201072, April 2, 2014.
91 See LA Decision dated November 28, 2008 (CA rollo, p. 221) as affirmed in toto by the NLRC. (rollo, p. 39)
92 Rollo, p. 187.
93 613 Phil. 696 (2009).
94 Id. at 706-707; citations omitted.