Cases: Sea-based workers, seafarers, mariners, ocean-going OFWs

green and gray evergreen cargo ship

What is a Labor Law Case or Labor Jurisprudence? A Labor Law Case or Labor Jurisprudence is a decision/resolution on a labor dispute by the Supreme Court of the Philippines. Per Article 8 of the Civil Code, judicial decisions applying or interpreting the laws or the Constitution shall form part of the legal system of the Philippines. 

Table of Contents

1. POEA – Standard Employment Contract

a. Mandatory 3-day medical examination with company-designated physician

Malicdem v. Asia Bulk Transport Phils., Inc.
G.R. No. 224753, 19 June 2019
[BACKGROUND]
On June 1, 2011, [the employee] was hired by [the local agency] Asia Bulk Transport Phils, Inc. (ABTPI), in behalf of its foreign principal, SKM Korea Co., Ltd., to board the vessel MV Yushio Princess II for a period of three (3) months. Prior to embarkation, [the employee] underwent a Pre-Employment Medical Examination (PEME) where it was noted that he had a medical history of high blood pressure and hypertension.8 Nevertheless, he was declared “fit to work.”
On the second week of his duty on board MV Yushio Princess II, [the employee] suffered from blurring vision and headache. He reported his condition to the Ship Captain and was eventually seen by a doctor in Japan. Upon the doctor’s recommendation, [the employee] was repatriated to Manila on October 16, 2011. The following day, he was referred to a company-designated hospital, Sachly International Health Partners, particularly to a company-designated physician, Dr. Susannah Ong-Salvador (Dr. Salvador) who eventually issued a medical report10 dated October 17, 2011 that [the employee] was suffering from glaucoma. On October 22, 2011, another medical report was issued by Dr. Salvador stating that [the employee] was under medical treatment and recommending surgical procedure. However, the report clarified that [the employee’s] glaucoma was not work-related.
In December 2011, [the employee] underwent a PEME and was eventually issued a medical certification with recommendation that he was fit to work. He was given maintenance medicines for his hypertension.
On December 21, 2011, [the employee] and [the local agency] signed an employment contract with a duration of nine (9) months. On December 31, 2011, [the employee] embarked on MV Nord Liberty as Chief Engineer. On October 12, 2012, he was repatriated to the Philippines.
According to [the employee], while on board MV Nord Liberty, he was exposed to psychological stress for being away from his family for months; to consumption of fatty, cholesterol and sodium rich food which were part of the provisions in the vessel; to heat in the engine room emitted by ship equipment; and to frequent inhalation of diesel and hydrocarbons used as fuel for the vessel. In October, 2012, he suffered episodes of dizziness and blurring vision. He reported these ailments to the Ship Captain but was not referred to a doctor because the vessel was then at sea. Allegedly, on October 12, 2012, [the employee] saw a doctor in Japan. On the same day, [the employee] was repatriated to the Philippines.
[The employee] likewise alleges that on October 15, 2012, he reported to [the local agency’s] office and asked for referral to a company-designated physician for post-employment medical examination. However, he was not given any referral. His medical expenses were shouldered by him without any help from [the employers].  After several days of rest and medication, he re-applied for deployment with ABTPI but was no longer rehired. He remained unemployed for months.
On March 12, 2014, [the employee] consulted a private doctor, [Dr. Casison], who assessed him as “[disabled] for any work” due to his conditions.22 On March 25, 2014, [the employee] filed a complaint for disability benefits, claiming that he is entitled to permanent and total disability benefits because his illnesses, which consist of hypertension and glaucoma, are work-related, as he was exposed to risk factors that aggravated these conditions while on-board [the local agency’s] vessel.
On May 29, 2014, the company-designated physician, Dr. Salvador, issued a “Reply to Medical Query” listing down the risk factors of glaucoma and reiterating her findings in 2011, during [the employee’s] first repatriation, that the latter’s glaucoma was not work-related.
On the other hand, [the local agency] essentially aver that the conditions suffered by [the employee] are not work-related. His glaucoma, specifically, had been found by the company-designated physician as being not work­ related and the physician is in the best position to determine [the employee’s] condition because of their expertise and the amount of time and attention devoted to his examination. Moreover, [the employee] failed to comply with the mandatory reporting to a company-designated physician within three (3) days from disembarkation, thus, resulting to forfeiture of his claims.
[DECISION/RESOLUTION – BY THE SUPREME COURT]
The fundamental issue that the Court must resolve is whether [the employee] is entitled to total and permanent disability benefits.
He is not.
For disability to be compensable under Section 20(A) of the Amended Standard Terms and Conditions Governing the Overseas Employment of Filipino Seafarers on-Board Ocean-Going Ships issued on October 26, 2010 (2010 POEA-SEC),49 two (2) elements must concur: (1) the injury or illness must be work-related; and (2) the work-related injury or illness must have existed during the term of the seafarer’s employment contract. Relevantly, the 2010 POEA-SEC defines “[w]ork-[r]elated illness” as “any sickness as a result of an occupational disease listed under Section 32-A of [the] Contract with the conditions set therein satisfied.” As for those diseases not listed as occupational diseases, jurisprudence mandates that the same may be compensated if it is shown that they are work-related and the conditions for compensability are satisfied.
Moreover, Section 20(A)(3)53 of the POEA-SEC commands that the employee seeking disability benefits submit himself to post-employment medical examination by a company-designated physician within three (3) working days from his repatriation.
Thus, in situations where the seafarer seeks to claim the compensation and benefits that Section 20(A) of the POEA-SEC grants to him, the law requires the seafarer to prove that: (1) he suffered an illness; (2) he suffered this illness during the term of his employment contract; (3) he complied with the procedures prescribed under Section 20(A)(3); (4) his illness is one of the enumerated occupational disease or that his illness or injury is otherwise work-related; and (5) he complied with the four conditions enumerated under Section 32(A) for an occupational disease or a disputably-presumed work-related disease to be compensable.
The degree of proof required in compensation cases is substantial evidence or that amount of relevant evidence which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to justify the conclusion. Substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla. The evidence must be real and substantial, and not merely apparent. The rule is that whoever claims entitlement to the benefits provided by law should establish his or her right thereto by substantial evidence.
Applying the foregoing guidelines, the Court cannot grant [the employee’s] Petition. He failed to discharge his burden to prove, by substantial evidence, satisfaction of items (3), (4) and (5) of the above mandatory requirements for compensability.
[The employee] reneged on his duty to submit to a post-employment medical examination within three (3) working days from his repatriation. As a consequence, he effectively forfeited his right to claim disability benefits under the POEA-SEC.
The LA found that [the employee] failed to report to ABPTI within three (3) working days from his repatriation for post-employment medical examination by ABPTI’s designated physician. This does not appear to be contested by [the employee], despite his contrary narration of facts in the present Petition; instead, he brings to the court the legal question of whether such failure to comply with the POEA-SEC’s reporting requirement results in the forfeiture of his claim for disability benefits.
Section 20(A)(3) of the POEA-SEC requires a claiming seafarer to submit himself for medical examination within a three-day period post­ repatriation, to wit:
A. COMPENSATION AND BENEFITS FOR INJURY OR ILLNESS
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
In addition to the above obligation of the employer to provide medical attention, the seafarer shall also receive sickness allowance from his employer in an amount equivalent to his basic wage computed from the time he signed off until he is declared fit to work or the degree of disability has been assessed by the company-designated physician. The period within which the seafarer shall be entitled to his sickness allowance shall not exceed 120 days…
x x x x
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. In the course of the treatment, the seafarer shall also report regularly to the company-designated physician specifically on the dates as prescribed by the company-designated physician and agreed to by the seafarer. 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…
[The employee] posits in his Petition that, assuming he failed to report to ABPTI for the mandatory post-employment medical examination within three (3) working days from repatriation, such does not prejudice his claim for disability benefits. This is because the mandatory post-employment medical examination pertains only to the entitlement of the seafarer to sickness allowances and nothing more.
This argument is untenable. Jurisprudence abounds holding that failure to comply with the mandatory reporting requirement under the POEA-SEC results in the forfeiture of the right to claim compensation and disability benefits of a seafarer. This is the categorical ruling of the Court in Coastal Safeway Marine Services, Inc. v Esguerra, thus:
x x x Anent a seafarer’s entitlement to compensation and benefits for injury and illness, Section 20-B (3) thereof provides as follows:
x x x
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…
In fact, a belated submission of the seafarer to the company for post­ employment medical examination has been held to be insufficient compliance with the reporting requirement and, hence, fatal to the seafarer’s case. In Musnit v. Sea Star Shipping Corporation, the seafarer reported to the company for medical examination only after seven (7) months from repatriation. Similarly, in Cootauco v. MMS Phil. Maritime Services, Inc., the seafarer-claimant submitted himself to the company for post­ employment examination only after fifteen (15) months after arrival in the Philippines. In both cases, the Court denied the claim for disability benefits for failure to comply with the mandatory three (3) working days period.
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…
Likewise, reporting to the company within three (3) days from repatriation is required so that the company-designated physician can promptly arrive at a medical diagnosis, considering that he has either 120 or 240 days,67 depending on the circumstances, within which to complete the assessment of the seafarer; otherwise, the disability claim should be granted.
Hence, it is clear that the reporting requirement is indispensable, not only in claiming sickness allowance, as [the employee] suggests, but likewise in claiming compensation and disability benefits under the POEA-SEC. Stated otherwise, non-submission to the company by the seafarer for post­ employment medical examination within three (3) working days from repatriation results in the forfeiture of his compensation and disability claims.
Notably, the mandatory requirement does admit of exceptions, namely: (1) when the seafarer is incapacitated to report to the employer upon his repatriation; and (2) when the employer inadvertently or deliberately refused to submit the seafarer to a post-employment medical examination by a company-designated physician. None of these, however, is proven or even alleged to obtain in the present case.
Hence, for failing to comply with the three-day reporting requirement, [the employee] had forfeited his right to claim disability benefits as expressly provided under Section (20)(A)(3) of the POEA-SEC.
[The employee] failed to present substantial evidence that his glaucoma and hypertension are compensable.
At any rate, even if the Court excuses [the employee’s] failure to comply with the reporting requirement as discussed above, the petition must still fail because he failed to substantially prove that his illnesses are compensable.
x x x
On this note, the Court confirms that the findings of the herein labor tribunals, as affirmed by the CA, that [the employee’s] illnesses — hypertension and glaucoma — are not compensable under the POEA-SEC are correct and properly supported by substantial evidence on record. However, a number of clarifications must be made.
First of all, both the NLRC and the CA treated [the employee’s] hypertension as a listed occupational disease, citing Section 32(A)(20) of the 2000 POEA-SEC which provides:
20. Essential Hypertension.
Hypertension classified as primary or essential is considered compensable if it causes impairment of function of body organs like kidneys, heart, eyes and brain, resulting in permanent disability; Provided, that the following documents substantiate it: (a) chest x-ray report, (b) ECG report, (c) blood chemistry report, (d) funduscopy report, and (e) C-T scan.
However, the foregoing provision no longer appears in the 2010 POEA-SEC which applies in the present case. In other words, under the 2010 POEA-SEC, [the employee’s] hypertension is no longer a listed occupational disease.
In this light, both of [the employee’s] claimed illnesses — hypertension and glaucoma — are non-listed occupational diseases under the applicable contract, i.e., the 2010 POEA-SEC. Nevertheless, they may be compensable subject to the parameters laid down by jurisprudence and the POEA-SEC.
Section 20(A)(4) of the 2010 POEA-SEC creates a disputable presumption that illnesses not listed as an occupational disease in Section 32 are work-related. This disputable presumption is made in the law to signify that the non-inclusion in the list of compensable diseases/illnesses does not translate to an absolute exclusion from disability benefits. At the same time, however, this disputable presumption does not signify an automatic grant of compensation and/or benefits claim.
Hence, despite the presumption, the Court has held that, on due process grounds, the claimant-seafarer must still prove by substantial evidence that his work conditions caused or, at least, increased the risk of contracting the disease, as awards of compensation cannot rest entirely on bare assertions and presumptions. In this light, the claimant must prove, not that his illness is work-related, but that the same is ultimately compensable by satisfying the conditions for compensability under Section 32(A) of the 2000 POEA-SEC, to wit:
For an occupational disease and the resulting disability or death to be compensable, all of the following conditions must be satisfied:
1) The seafarers work must involve the risks described herein;
2) The disease was contracted as a result of the seafarer’s exposure to the described 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…
Applying the foregoing, the Court finds that the CA, NLRC, and LA were correct in finding that [the employee] is not entitled to disability benefits for his hypertension and glaucoma.
On his hypertension, [the employee] failed to substantially prove that the same was contracted due to, or aggravated by, the conditions of his work on board the vessel. As found by the LA, NLRC and CA, the bare allegations of [the employee] that the sodium-rich food, physical and psychological stress and other emergencies on board the ship caused the exacerbation of his hypertension, is insufficient. The Court likewise notes that the opinion of Dr. Casison, [the employee’s] private doctor, did not even explain the cause of [the employee’s] hypertension or attempt to connect the same to his work conditions. Moreover, there is no showing that he suffered hypertension while on board the vessel. These are factual findings of the labor tribunals and the CA which appear to be supported by substantial evidence; hence must be accorded not only respect but finality.
As for [the employee’s] glaucoma, he claims that his duties and responsibilities as Chief Engineer, his exposure to the sea breeze and other elements of nature while the vessel is in open seas, the stress from his strenuous job and his emotional strain from homesickness aggravated his glaucoma. These propositions were rejected by the labor tribunals and the CA. As factually found by the NLRC, [the employee] presented no competent medical history, records or physician’s report to objectively substantiate the claim that there is a reasonable connection between his work and his glaucoma. What he has are bare allegations which fall far short of the substantial evidence required of him by law. The Court finds no cause to overturn such findings. Factual findings of labor officials, who are deemed to have acquired expertise in matters within their respective jurisdiction, are accorded not only respect but even finality, and bind the Court when supported by substantial evidence.
Likewise weighing against [the employee’s] case is the medical report of the company-designated physician, Dr. Salvador, issued soon after [the employee]’s first repatriation in 2011, that his glaucoma was not work related. Dr. Salvador subsequently issued another report,85 in reply to a query arising from [the employee’s] latest repatriation (which is the subject of the present case), listing down the major risk factors for glaucoma. These factors do not include exposure to sea breeze and the other matters alleged by [the employee] to have aggravated his condition. In the latter report, Dr. Salvador reiterated her 2011 opinion that [the employee’s] glaucoma is not work-related.
Notably, while Dr. Salvador’s findings in 2011 pertain to [the employee]’s glaucoma during his previous employment with ABPTI, and, hence, not binding in the present case, the same must nevertheless be given reasonable weight and credence in light of the settled jurisprudence that it is the company-designated physician who is entrusted with the task of assessing a seafarer’s illness for purposes of claiming disability benefits. Jurisprudence is likewise replete with cases where the Court upheld the findings of the company-designated physicians as against those of the private physician hired by the seafarer-claimant, because the former devoted more attention and time in observing and treating the claimant’s condition.
In this case, [the employee] was assessed by the company-designated physician on his glaucoma immediately after his first repatriation. He was not, however, assessed by ABPTI’s doctors after his latest repatriation because, as found by the labor tribunals and the CA, he failed to report to ABPTL Instead, [the employee] sought the advice of a private physician, but only after more than a year from his latest arrival in the country. He likewise failed to show that his private doctor’s findings were reached based on an extensive or comprehensive examination of his condition.
Finally, as found by the LA, when [the employee] was repatriated, his contract with ABPTI was already finished. This already weighs strongly against his claims. The Court had, in the past, ruled that repatriation for an expired contract belies a seafarer’s submission that his ailment was aggravated by his working conditions and that it was existing during his term of employment.
In sum, [the employee] cannot be awarded the total and permanent disability benefits that he seeks. He breached his contractual obligation to submit to a company-designated physician within the required period and failed to prove, by substantial evidence, the compensability of his illnesses. In this light, the Court finds no further need to discuss the other issues raised in the Petition.
As a final word, it is true that the beneficent provisions of the POEA­ SEC are liberally construed in favor of seafarers. This exhortation cannot, however, be taken to sanction the award of compensation and disability benefits in the face of evident failure to substantially establish compensability and unjustified non-compliance with the mandatory reporting requirement under the POEA-SEC. Hence, while the Court commiserates with [the employee], it cannot grant his claims, lest a clear injustice be caused to ABPTI.

1) Exceptions

b. 120-day period for company-designated doctor

Pastrana v. Bahia Shipping Services
G.R. No. 227419, 10 June 2020
[BACKGROUND]
[The employee] entered into a Contract of Employment dated September 6, 2012 with [the local agency] Bahia Shipping Services (BSS) as an Environmental Team Leader on board the vessel Carnival Fascination. He received a basic monthly salary of $1,000.00 exclusive of overtime pay and other benefits.
Prior to his engagement, [the employee] underwent the required pre-employment medical examination and was declared fit to work.
Sometime in November 2012, while on board the vessel, [the employee] lifted a red bin full of food waste to free up space for other bins. However, he miscalculated the weight of the bin and dropped it midway. After said incident, [the employee] experienced lower back pain which radiated to his right buttock. He visited the infirmary where he was injected with steroid and advised to take pain relievers. However, he became alarmed of his condition when the pain extended from his right buttock down to his right leg, and it became difficult for him to get up from a sitting position.
On November 7, 2012, [the employee] went back to the infirmary to consult his worsening condition. He was examined by [Dr. Dees] who diagnosed him with sciatiform pain/plantar fasciitis and prescribed him medicines. Despite the medication and physiotherapy, the pain persisted and even worsened. Thus, on December 10, 2012, [the employee] was repatriated to the Philippines for medical treatment.
Two days after his repatriation, on December 12, 2012, [the employee] reported to the company-designated physician, [Dr. Lim], and underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of his lumbo sacral spine.
On December 18, 2012, [the employee] had his second consultation with Dr. Lim. He was given medication and advised to undergo rehabilitation. He underwent physical therapy sessions for almost four months, but this only resulted to minimal improvement.
On April 2, 2013, Dr. Lim advised [the employee] that he is already fit to work. Trusting the assessment of the company-designated physician and eager to resume sea duty, [the employee] signed the fit to work declaration. However, the Medical Director of [the local agency] Carnival Cruise Lines declared him unfit to return to his usual work on board the vessel after observing that he still has stiff trunk and painful gait.
On April 11, 2013, the company-designated physician issued a final assessment which states as follows:
“This is regarding the case of Environmental Team Leader Henry E. [the employee] who was initially seen here at Metropolitan Medical Center on December 12, 2012 and was diagnosed to have Herniated Disc, L4-L5, L5-S1.
If patient is entitled to a disability, his suggested disability grading is Grade 11 – 1/3 loss of lifting power.”
In view of the foregoing medical assessment, [the local agency] offered to pay [the employee] $7,000.00 as disability benefit corresponding to a Grade 11 disability rating. [The employee] refused the offer and instead sought the opinion of his personal doctor, [Dr. Magtira], who declared him “permanently unfit in any capacity to resume his duties as a Seaman.”
On the basis of the medical assessment of Dr. Magtira, [the employee] demanded total and permanent disability benefits from [the local agency], but his demand went unheeded. Thus, [the employee] filed a Complaint dated May 7, 2013 for payment of total and permanent disability benefits, moral and exemplary damages, and attorney’s fees, with the Labor Arbiter (LA).
[DECISION/RESOLUTION – BY THE SUPREME COURT]
The seafarer’s entitlement to disability benefits for work-related illness or injury is governed by the Labor Code, its implementing rules and regulation (IRR), the POEA-SEC, and prevailing jurisprudence.
In Vergara v. Hammonia Maritime Services, Inc. and Atlantic Marine Ltd. (Vergara), the Court explained how the pertinent provisions in the Labor Code, its IRR, and the POEA-SEC operate, viz.:
In this respect and in the context of the present case, Article 192 (c)(1) of the Labor Code provides that:
x x x 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; …
The rule referred to — Rule X, Section 2 of the Rules and Regulations implementing Book IV of the Labor Code — states:
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.
These provisions are to be read hand in hand with the POEA Standard Employment Contract whose Section 20 (3) states:
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.
As these provisions operate, the seafarer, upon sign-off from his vessel, must report to the company-designated physician within three (3) days from arrival for diagnosis and treatment. For the duration of the treatment but in no case to exceed 120 days, the seaman is on temporary total disability as he is totally unable to work. He receives his basic wage during this period until he is declared fit to work or his temporary disability is acknowledged by the company to be permanent, either partially or totally, as his condition is defined under the POEA Standard Employment Contract and by applicable Philippine laws. If the 120 days initial period is exceeded and no such declaration is made because the seafarer requires further medical attention, then the temporary total disability period may be extended up to a maximum of 240 days, subject to the right of the employer to declare within this period that a permanent partial or total disability already exists. The seaman may of course also be declared fit to work at any time such declaration is justified by his medical condition.
In Elburg Shipmanagement, Inc. v. Quiogue, Jr. (Elburg), the Court supplanted Vergara and outlined the rules with respect to the period within which the company-designated physician must issue a final and definitive disability assessment, viz.:
In summary, if there is a claim for total and permanent disability benefits by a seafarer, the following rules (rules) shall govern:
1. The company-designated physician must issue a final medical assessment on the seafarer’s disability grading within a period of 120 days from the time the seafarer reported to him;
2. If the company-designated physician fails to give his assessment within the period of 120 days, without any justifiable reason, then the seafarer’s disability becomes permanent and total;
3. If the company-designated physician fails to give his assessment within the period of 120 days with a sufficient justification (e.g. seafarer required further medical treatment or seafarer was uncooperative), then the period of diagnosis and treatment shall be extended to 240 days. The employer has the burden to prove that the company-designated physician has sufficient justification to extend the period; and
4. If the company-designated physician still fails to give his assessment within the extended period of 240 days, then the seafarer’s disability becomes permanent and total, regardless of any justification.
While Elburg states that the 120 or 240-day periods shall be reckoned “from the time the seafarer reported to [the company-designated physician],” subsequent cases consistently counted said periods from the date of the seafarer’s repatriation for medical treatment. This is true even in cases where the date of repatriation of the seafarer does not coincide with the date of his first consultation with the company-designated physician. This will be observed, for instance, in Jebsens Maritime, Inc. v. Pasamba and Teekay Shipping Philippines, Inc. v. Ramoga, Jr. This is consistent with Section 20(A)(3) which provides for the repatriation of the seafarer in case of work-related illness or injury, and the obligation of the employer to give the seafarer sickness allowance from the time he signed off until he is declared fit to work or the degree of his or her disability has been assessed, but not exceeding 120 days, viz.:
SECTION 20. COMPENSATION AND BENEFITS
A. COMPENSATION AND BENEFITS FOR INJURY OR ILLNESS
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
2. If the injury or illness requires medical and/or dental treatment in a foreign port, the employer shall be liable for the full cost of such medical, serious dental, surgical and hospital treatment as well as board and lodging until the seafarer is declared fit to work or to be repatriated. However, if after repatriation, the seafarer still requires medical attention arising from said injury or illness, he shall be so provided at cost to the employer until such time he is declared fit or the degree of his disability has been established by the company-designated physician.
3. In addition to the above obligation of the employer to provide medical attention, the seafarer shall also receive sickness allowance from his employer in an amount equivalent to his basic wage computed from the time he signed off until he is declared fit to work or the degree of disability has been assessed by the company-designated physician. The period within which the seafarer shall be entitled to his sickness allowance shall not exceed 120 days. Payment of the sickness allowance shall be made on a regular basis, but not less than once a month.
Thus, Elburg should be read as requiring the company-designated physician to issue a final and definitive disability assessment within 120 or 240 days from the date of the seafarer’s repatriation.
As held by the Court in Vergara and Elburg, the initial 120 days within which the company-designated physician must issue a final and definitive disability assessment may be extended for another 120 days. The extended period, however, may only be availed of by the company-designated physician under justifiable circumstances.
In Marlow Navigation Philippines, Inc. v. Osias, the Court held that the seafarer’s uncooperativeness with his medical treatment justified the extension of the period of the medical treatment and assessment to 240 days.
In Magsaysay Mitsui Osk Marine, Inc. v. Buenaventura, the Court found that the extension of the initial 120-day period was justified by the seafarer’s need for further treatment, as in fact, the seafarer underwent therapy and rehabilitation beyond the 120-day period. The need for further medical treatment also justified the application of the 240-day period in Rickmers Marine Agency Phils., Inc. v. San Jose and Magsaysay Maritime Corp. v. Simbajon.
The Court stressed, however, that to avail of the extended 240-day period, the company-designated physician must perform some complete and definite medical assessment to show that the illness still requires medical attendance beyond 120 days, but not to exceed 240 days. The employer bears the burden of proving that the company-designated physician had a reasonable justification to invoke the 240-day period. Thus, in Hanseatic Shipping Philippines, Inc. v. Ballon, the Court did not give credence to the employer’s belated and unsubstantiated invocation of the 240-day period.
The duty of the company-designated physician to issue a final and definitive assessment of the seafarer’s disability within the prescribed periods is imperative. His failure to do so will render his findings nugatory and transform the disability suffered by the seafarer to one that is permanent and total. As explained by the Court in Pelagio v. Philippine Transmarine Carriers, Inc.:
Otherwise stated, the company-designated physician is required to issue a final and definite assessment of the seafarer’s disability rating within the aforesaid 120/240-day period; otherwise, the opinions of the company-designated and the independent physicians are rendered irrelevant because the seafarer is already conclusively presumed to be suffering from a permanent and total disability, and thus, is entitled to the benefits corresponding thereto.
Similarly, in Olidana v. Jebsens Maritime, Inc., the Court declared as follows:
x x x The Court in Kestrel Shipping Co., Inc. v. Munar, held that the declaration by the company-designated physician is an obligation, the abdication of which transforms the temporary total disability to permanent total disability, regardless of the disability grade, viz.:
Indeed, under Section 32 of the POEA-SEC, only those injuries or disabilities that are classified as Grade 1 may be considered as total and permanent. However, if those injuries or disabilities with a disability grading from 2 to 14, hence, partial and permanent, would incapacitate a seafarer from performing his usual sea duties for a period of more than 120 or 240 days, depending on the need for further medical treatment, then he is, under legal contemplation, totally and permanently disabled. In other words, an impediment should be characterized as partial and permanent not only under the Schedule of Disabilities found in Section 32 of the POEA-SEC but should be so under the relevant provisions of the Labor Code and the Amended Rules on Employee Compensation (AREC) implementing Title II, Book IV of the Labor Code. That while the seafarer is partially injured or disabled, he is not precluded from earning doing the same work he had before his injury or disability or that he is accustomed or trained to do. Otherwise, if his illness or injury prevents him from engaging in gainful employment for more than 120 or 240 days, as the case may be, he shall be deemed totally and permanently disabled.
Moreover, the company-designated physician is expected to arrive at a definite assessment of the seafarer’s fitness to work or permanent disability within the period of 120 or 240 days. That should he fail to do so and the seafarer’s medical condition remains unresolved, the seafarer shall be deemed totally and permanently disabled.
Applying the foregoing rules in the present case, the Court finds that Dr. Lim was unable to timely issue a final assessment of [the employee’s] disability.
[The employee] was repatriated on December 10, 2012. He reported to Dr. Lim two days thereafter, or on December 12, 2012. After a series of treatment and consultations, Dr. Lim issued his final assessment of [the employee’s] disability on April 11, 2013. At the time of its issuance, 122 days had already lapsed since [the employee’s] repatriation. Clearly, the assessment dated April 11, 2013 was issued beyond the mandated 120-day period.
While this initial 120-day period may be extended to 240 days, the Court finds no sufficient justification to apply the extended period in this case. The records of the case are bereft of any indication that such extension was needed, or even intended, to provide [the employee] further medical treatment. On the contrary, it was found below that his treatment was discontinued and he was given a partial disability grading.
Dr. Lim was bound to issue a final disability assessment within 120 days from [the employee’s] repatriation — but, he failed to do so. Such failure rendered his opinion on [the employee’s] disability irrelevant. The law had already stepped in, and considered [the employee] permanently and totally disabled. He is, therefore, entitled to disability benefits corresponding to Grade 1 disability rating.
[The employee] is also entitled to attorney’s fees equivalent to 10% of the total monetary awards following Article 2208 of the New Civil Code, which allows its recovery in actions for recovery of wages of laborers and actions for indemnity under the employer’s liability laws.

1) Exceptions

Malicdem v. Asia Bulk Transport Phils., Inc.
G.R. No. 224753, 19 June 2019
Notably, the mandatory requirement does admit of exceptions, namely: (1) when the seafarer is incapacitated to report to the employer upon his repatriation; and (2) when the employer inadvertently or deliberately refused to submit the seafarer to a post-employment medical examination by a company-designated physician. None of these, however, is proven or even alleged to obtain in the present case.

c. Employee’s preferred doctor

d. 3rd doctor

2. Disability benefits

a. Requisites for disability benefits

1) Work-related

2) Existed during the term of the contract

Ampo-on v. Reinier Pacific International Shipping, Inc.
G.R. No. 240614, 10 June 2019
[BACKGROUND]
On February 11, 2014, [the employee] was employed as an Able Seaman by [the local agency] Reinier Pacific International Shipping, Inc. for and on behalf of its principal Neptune Shipmanagement Services Pte./NOL Liner (Pte.), Ltd., on board M/V APL Barcelona, under an eight (8)-month contract, with a basic monthly salary of US$671.00, exclusive of overtime pay and other benefits. After undergoing the required pre-employment medical examination (PEME), [the employee] was declared fit for sea duty, and thus, boarded the vessel.
On October 18, 2014, while doing sanding works, [the employee] heard a snap and crunching sound in his back followed by tremendous pain. Upon reaching the port of Taiwan on October 20, 2014, [the employee] was sent to the hospital, where he was initially diagnosed to be suffering from L3-L4 Spondylolisthesis and L3 Pars Fracture. Consequently, he was repatriated on October 23, 2014 and referred to the company-designated physician, who performed several tests on him, advised him to undergo physical therapy, and even suggested back surgery.
Eventually, on February 6, 2015, the company-designated physician issued a medical report, stating, inter alia, that “[f]itness to work is unlikely to be given within his 120 days of treatment” and that “[i]f patient is entitled to disability, his suggested disability grading is Grade 8 – loss of 2/3 lifting power of the trunk,” viz.:
Based on the patient’s present status, his prognosis is guarded.
The specialist recommends surgery with Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion. However, the patient has refused the surgery. Without the surgery, he has already reached maximum medical improvement.
Fitness to work is unlikely to be given within his 120 days of treatment.
If patient is entitled to disability, his suggested disability grading is Grade 8 – loss of 2/3 lifting power of the trunk.
On March 25, 2015, [the employee] consulted his independent physician, [Dr. Magtira] who observed that the former was permanently disabled and unfit to work.
Thus, claiming that his condition rendered him incapacitated to work as a seafarer for more than 120 days, [the employee] filed a complaint against [the employers] before the NCMB for the payment of total and permanent disability benefits in the amount of US$120,000.00 as per the CBA, moral, exemplary, and compensatory damages, and attorney’s fees.
For their part, [the employers] denied [the employee’s] monetary claims, contending that [the employee’s] condition was not work-related and was not an accidental injury, but merely a manifestation of an illness, which was not compensable under the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration – Standard Employment Contract (POEA-SEC) or the CBA. Moreover, [the employers] pointed out that [the employee] committed notorious negligence, since the latter refused surgery as suggested by the company-designated physician, despite the fact that the expenses thereof would be shouldered by the former.
On March 14, 2013, Dr. Go informed [the employers] that the specialists gave the following report on [the employee’s] condition:
This is a follow-up report on 3rd Mate Leonides P. Rillera who was initially seen and admitted here at Metropolitan Medical Center on September 12, 2012 and was diagnosed to have Pulmonary Tuberculosis with Left Pleural Effusion; Diabetes Mellitus.
xxx    xxx    xxx
Repeat laboratory tests done showed normal fasting blood sugar, HBA1C and creatinine. His repeat urinalysis showed no more urine sugar.
xxx    xxx    xxx
The specialists opine that patient is now cleared for work with re­gards (sic) to his Pulmonary Tuberculosis and Diabetes Mellitus as of March 14, 2013.
He was advised to continue his oral hypoglycemic medication (Janumet).
Enclosed are the comments of the specialists.
Final Diagnosis – Pulmonary Tuberculosis – Treatedq
Left Pleural Effusion – Resolved
Diabetes Mellitus, Controlled
Thus, the specialists opined that [the employee] was already cleared for work. [The employee], however, did not accept this finding and informed [the employers] that he would be seeking the opinion of other doctors.
[The employee] went to cardiologist [Dr. Vicaldo] from the Philippine Heart Center who diagnosed him with hypertensive cardiovascular disease; kocks pleural effusion, left; S/P thoracentesis; and arthritis, knees, bilateral. As such, Dr. Vicaldo declared [the employee] to be permanently unfit to resume sea duties.
[The employee] also went to Internal Medicine-Adult Cardiology Specialist [Dr. Lucas] who diagnosed him with hypertensive cardiovascular disease – uncontrolled; type 2 diabetes mellltus; osteoarthritis; urolithiasis; and upper respiratory tract infection and prescribed him several medicines.
Based on these findings, [the employee] sought total and permanent disability benefits from [the employers]. [the employers] refused to pay on ground that the company-designated doctor had earlier declared [the employee] fit to work. Hence, [the employee] filed a complaint before the NCMB for permanent and total disability benefits.
[The employers] argued that the NCMB had no jurisdiction over the case considering there was no applicable Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the parties. In any case, [the employee] was precluded from collecting total and permanent disability benefits because he fraudulently concealed the fact that he was previously diagnosed with hypertension and diabetes. During his PEME, when asked whether he suffered from hypertension and diabetes, [the employee] answered in the negative despite knowing full well that he was diagnosed with such illnesses in his previous PEMEs. He disclosed this fact only upon his repatriation. [the employee] also failed to comply with the procedure for claiming disability benefits when he did not ask to be referred to a third doctor.
Even disregarding the foregoing, [the employee] was still not entitled to disability benefits because his illnesses were hereditary and not work- related. More, the company-designated doctors had certified [the employee] as fit to work. His hypertension was already under control as early as October 2012; his tuberculosis, treated; left pleural effusion, resolved; and diabetes, controlled.
[The employee], however, denied that he was guilty of concealment. He averred that hypertension and diabetes could easily be detected during his PEME. If, indeed, these illnesses were pre-existing, then [the employers]’ PEME should have revealed he had such illnesses, but it did not. [the employers] certified him as fit to work prior to deployment instead.
[DECISION/RESOLUTION – BY THE SUPREME COURT]
It is settled that the entitlement of a seafarer on overseas employment to disability benefits is governed by law, the parties’ contracts, and the medical findings. The relevant statutory provisions are Articles 197 to 199 (formerly Articles 191 to 193) of the Labor Code, in relation to Section 2 (a), Rule X of the Amended Rules on Employees’ Compensation, whereas the material contracts are the POEA-SEC and the parties’ CBA, if any.
x x x
Pursuant to the 2010 POEA-SEC, which applies to this case, the employer is liable for disability benefits only when the seafarer suffers from a work-related injury or illness during the term of his contract. In this regard, work-related injury is defined as an injury arising out of and in the course of employment.
Upon finding that the seafarer suffers a work-related injury or illness, the employer is obligated to refer the former to a company-designated physician, who has the responsibility to arrive at a definite assessment of the former’s fitness or degree of disability within a period of 120 days from repatriation. This period may be extended up to a maximum of 240 days, if the seafarer requires further medical treatment, subject to the right of the employer to declare within this extended period that a permanent partial or total disability already exists.
The responsibility of the company-designated physician to arrive at a definite assessment within the prescribed periods necessitates that the perceived disability rating has been properly established and inscribed in a valid and timely medical report. To be conclusive and to give proper disability benefits to the seafarer, this assessment must be complete and definite; otherwise, the medical report shall be set aside and the disability grading contained therein shall be ignored. As case law holds, a final and definite disability assessment is necessary in order to truly reflect the true extent of the sickness or injuries of the seafarer and his or her capacity to resume work as such.
Failure of the company-designated physician to arrive at a definite assessment of the seafarer’s fitness to work or permanent disability within the prescribed periods and if the seafarer’s medical condition remains unresolved, the law steps in to consider the latter’s disability as total and permanent.
In this case, records reveal that [the employee] sustained a back injury while doing sanding works as an Able Seaman during his employment on board [the employers’] vessel. For [the employers’] part, there appears to be no categorical assessment from the company-designated physician that [the employee’s] injury was not work-related, as the former even suggested a partial disability grading. Clearly, these facts negate [the employers’] claim that the injury did not arise out of and in the course of employment, and hence, must be deemed work-related.
Moreover, while the company-designated physician’s assessment was issued within the 120-day period, which was on February 6, 2015 or 106 days after [the employee’s] repatriation, it could not have been a final and definite assessment as mandated by law, considering the language of the assessment showing that the disability grading was merely interim, as it was declared that “prognosis is guarded” and “[i]f patient is entitled to a disability, his suggested disability grading is Grade 8 – loss of 2/3 lifting power of the trunk.” Notably, the company-designated physician even informed [the employee] that “[f]itness to work is unlikely to be given within his 120 days of treatment.” The medical report reads:
Based on the patient’s present status, his prognosis is guarded.
The specialist recommends surgery with Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion. However, the patient has refused the surgery. Without the surgery, he has already reached maximum medical improvement.
Fitness to work is unlikely to be given within his 120 days of treatment.
If patient is entitled to disability, his suggested disability grading is Grade 8 – loss of 2/3 lifting power of the trunk.
Consequently, the company-designated physician’s assessment should not prevail and must be completely disregarded, since it was merely an “interim” assessment. Being an interim disability grading, the declaration was merely an initial prognosis of [the employee’s] condition for the time being, which does not fully assess his condition and cannot provide sufficient basis for an award of disability benefits in his favor. Moreover, notwithstanding such interim assessment and declaration of unfitness to work, the company-designated physician failed to indicate the need for further treatment/rehabilitation or medication, and provide an estimated period of treatment to justify the extension of the 120-day period. Evidently, without the required final and definite assessment declaring [the employee] fit to resume work or the degree of his disability, the characterization of the latter’s condition after the lapse of the 120-day period as total and permanent ensued by operation of law.
Besides, [the employee’s] injury persisted despite the company designated-physician’s declaration of partial disability Grade 8. Thus, applying Article 198 (c) (1) of the Labor Code, [the employee’s] disability should be deemed total and permanent. In this regard, it must be emphasized that in the determination of whether a disability, is total or partial, what is crucial is whether the employee who suffered from disability could still perform his work notwithstanding the injuries he sustained. A permanent partial disability presupposes a seafarer’s fitness to resume sea duties before the end of the 120/240-day medical treatment period despite the injuries sustained, and works on the premise that such partial injuries did not disable a seafarer to earn wages in the same kind of work or similar nature for which he was trained. Total disability does not require that the employee be completely disabled or totally paralyzed. In disability compensation, it is not the injury which is compensated, but it is the incapacity to work resulting in the impairment of one’s earning capacity.
Corollarily, the compliance with the third-doctor referral provision of the 2010 POEA-SEC is rendered inapplicable, considering that absent a final assessment from the company-designated physician, the seafarer has nothing to contest and the law steps in to conclusively characterize his disability as total and permanent.
Neither can the Court subscribe to [the employers’] claim that [the employee’s] refusal to undergo surgery can be considered as notorious negligence that would bar the latter from claiming compensation. Notorious negligence has been defined as something more than mere or simple negligence or contributory negligence; it signifies a deliberate act of the employee to disregard his own personal safety. Here, there is no showing that the latter was informed that surgery was the sole remedy to address his back injury nor warned of the effect of his choice of physical therapy.
Given the foregoing circumstances, the Court finds that the NCMB did not gravely abuse its discretion in holding that [the employee] is deemed permanently and totally disabled and should be entitled to the corresponding disability benefits.
x x x
As to the amount of [the employee’s] entitlement, Article 25 (1) of the CBA provides that the company shall pay compensation to a seaman for any injury or death arising from an accident while in the employment of the company and for this purpose, shall effect a 24-hour insurance coverage in accordance with Appendix III to the agreement. An accident has been defined as an unintended and unforeseen injurious occurrence; something that does not occur in the usual course of events or that could not be reasonably anticipated; an unforeseen and injurious occurrence not attributable to mistake, negligence, neglect or misconduct; that which happens by chance or fortuitously, without intention and design, and which is unexpected, unusual, and unforeseen.
Here, [the employee] was performing his duty, i.e., sanding works, as an Able Seaman when he heard a snap and crunching sound in his back immediately followed by tremendous pain. He could not have anticipated such unusual and unexpected snap in his back, since he merely exerted normal force with his upper extremities and such exertion does not at all times cause back injury. Thus, for being an unintended and unforeseen injurious occurrence, the sudden snap on [the employee’s] back could qualify as an accident. Moreover, as aptly observed by the NCMB, [the employers] did not include in its evidence page three (3) of the Medical Report Form, which reveals that the certifying doctor encircled the text “Yes” in response to the question “Is the illness due to an accident.” Thus, it appears that they have suppressed such evidence, which would have been an admission contained in a pleading that is conclusive against the pleader, confirming that [the employee] indeed suffered an accident.
Accordingly, [the employee] is entitled to the total and permanent disability compensation under the CBA in the amount of US$120,000.00, as well as attorney’s fees equivalent to ten percent (10%) of the award for being forced to litigate. However, the claims for moral and exemplary damages are not warranted for lack of substantial evidence showing that [the employers] acted with malice or bad faith in refusing [the employee’s] claims.

b. Concealment

Rillera v. United Philippine Lines, Inc.
G.R. No. 235336, 23 June 2020
On January 6, 2012, respondent United Philippine Lines, Inc., for and on behalf of its principal respondent Belships Management (Singapore) Pte., Ltd., hired [the employee] as 3rd Mate on board the vessel Carribean Frontier for nine (9) months with a monthly salary of USD1,316.00.
As 3rd Mate, [the employee’s] responsibilities included directing the operation of the ship during his tour of watch, performing navigational duties, plotting ship positions on chart and checking the pre-plotted course, maintaining records of important events during his watch, taking charge of life-saving equipment, lifeboats, and visual signaling equipment, and leading a team in case of emergencies.
Prior to his deployment, [the employee] underwent routinary Pre-Employment Medical Examination (PEME). In the process, he was asked whether he was aware of, diagnosed with, or treated for hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes, among others. He answered in the negative. Based on the results of his examination, he was declared fit for sea duty and got deployed on January 22, 2012.
On September 3, 2012, [the employee] complained of chest pain, shortness of breath, and difficulty in breathing whenever he climbed stairs. When the ship docked at Kushiro, Japan, he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, possible infectious endocarditis, and hypertension. At the Wakayama Harbour Clinic in Japan, he was further diagnosed with pleuritis. He was declared unfit to work and was medically repatriated on September 11, 2012.
Upon repatriation, [the employee] was referred to the company-designated doctor at the Marine Medical Services of the Metropolitan Medical Center (MMC). He was confined there from September 11, 2012 due to difficulty in breathing. He underwent several laboratory tests such as chest X-ray, 2D echo, and chest CT scan. He was given anti-tuberculosis and anti-­hypertensive medications and was discharged on September 21, 2012. Fie was, however, re-admitted and confined from October 8 to 15, 2012 during which, he was also given medicines for diabetes.
On November 29, 2012, MMC Assistant Medical Coordinator Dr. Esther Go opined that [the employee]’s hypertension and diabetes were hereditary, not work-related. [The employee] had a series of check-ups with the company-designated doctors, [Dr. Tanquieng] (Pulmonologist), [Dr. Gan] (Internal Medicine/Endocrinologist), and [Dr. Sia] (Adult Clinical and Interventional Cardiologist) who referred him to an orthopedic surgeon.
[The employee] also complained of knee pain, blurring vision and dizziness but according to him, the company designated doctors only addressed and treated his pleural effusion. Despite treatments, he was not restored to good health. Hence, he consulted [Dr. Dalisay], a chest and lung specialist. Dr. Dalisay opined that he had to complete nine (9) months of anti-tuberculosis regimen and advised him not to return to his previous work as a seaman.
On March 14, 2013, Dr. Go informed [the employers] that the specialists gave the following report on [the employee]’s condition:
This is a follow-up report on 3rd Mate Leonides P. Rillera who was initially seen and admitted here at Metropolitan Medical Center on September 12, 2012 and was diagnosed to have Pulmonary Tuberculosis with Left Pleural Effusion; Diabetes Mellitus.
xxx    xxx    xxx
Repeat laboratory tests done showed normal fasting blood sugar, HBA1C and creatinine. His repeat urinalysis showed no more urine sugar.
xxx    xxx    xxx
The specialists opine that patient is now cleared for work with re­gards (sic) to his Pulmonary Tuberculosis and Diabetes Mellitus as of March 14, 2013.
He was advised to continue his oral hypoglycemic medication (Janumet).
Enclosed are the comments of the specialists.
Final Diagnosis – Pulmonary Tuberculosis – Treated
Left Pleural Effusion – Resolved
Diabetes Mellitus, Controlled
Thus, the specialists opined that [the employee] was already cleared for work. [The employee], however, did not accept this finding and informed [the employers] that he would be seeking the opinion of other doctors.
[The employee] went to cardiologist Dr. Efren R. Vicaldo from the Philippine Heart Center who diagnosed him with hypertensive cardiovascular disease; kocks pleural effusion, left; S/P thoracentesis; and arthritis, knees, bilateral. As such, Dr. Vicaldo declared [the employee] to be permanently unfit to resume sea duties.
[The employee] also went to Internal Medicine-Adult Cardiology Specialist Dr. Paul C. Lucas who diagnosed him with hypertensive cardiovascular disease – uncontrolled; type 2 diabetes mellltus; osteoarthritis; urolithiasis; and upper respiratory tract infection and prescribed him several medicines.
Based on these findings, [the employee] sought total and permanent disability benefits from [the employers]. [the employers] refused to pay on ground that the company-designated doctor had earlier declared [the employee] fit to work. Hence, [the employee] filed a complaint before the NCMB for permanent and total disability benefits.
[The employers] argued that the NCMB had no jurisdiction over the case considering there was no applicable Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the parties. In any case, [the employee] was precluded from collecting total and permanent disability benefits because he fraudulently concealed the fact that he was previously diagnosed with hypertension and diabetes. During his PEME, when asked whether he suffered from hypertension and diabetes, [the employee] answered in the negative despite knowing full well that he was diagnosed with such illnesses in his previous PEMEs. He disclosed this fact only upon his repatriation. [the employee] also failed to comply with the procedure for claiming disability benefits when he did not ask to be referred to a third doctor.
Even disregarding the foregoing, [the employee] was still not entitled to disability benefits because his illnesses were hereditary and not work- related. More, the company-designated doctors had certified [the employee] as fit to work. His hypertension was already under control as early as October 2012; his tuberculosis, treated; left pleural effusion, resolved; and diabetes, controlled.
[The employee], however, denied that he was guilty of concealment. He averred that hypertension and diabetes could easily be detected during his PEME. If, indeed, these illnesses were pre-existing, then [the employers]’ PEME should have revealed he had such illnesses, but it did not. [the employers] certified him as fit to work prior to deployment instead.
[DECISION/RESOLUTION – BY THE SUPREME COURT]
The employment of seafarers is governed by the contracts they sign at the time of their engagement. So long as the stipulations in these contracts are not contrary to law, morals, public order, or public policy, they have the force of law as between the parties. While the seafarer and his employer are governed by their mutual agreement, the POEA Rules and Regulations require that the POEA-SEC be integrated in every seafarer’s contract.
Here, [the employee’s] employment is governed by the contract he executed with [the employers] in January 2012, the POEA-SEC, and the parties’ Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
First Issue
Material concealment
[The employers] deny [the employee’s] claim for disability benefits on ground of the latter’s alleged material concealment of pre-existing or previous diagnosis with hypertension and diabetes.
Section 20(E) of the POEA-SEC, as amended by POE A Memorandum Circular No. 10, series of 2010, the governing law at the time [the employee] was employed in 2012, provides:
A seafarer who knowingly conceals a pre-existing illness or condition in the Pre-Employment Medical Examination (PEME) shall be liable for misrepresentation and shall be disqualified for any compensation and benefits. This is likewise a just cause for termination of employment and imposition of appropriate administrative sanctions.
Thus, an illness shall be considered as pre-existing if prior to the processing of the POEA contract, any of the following conditions is present: (a) the advice of a medical doctor on treatment given for such continuing illness or condition; or (b) the seafarer had been diagnosed and has knowledge of such illness or condition but failed to disclose the same during the PEME, and such cannot be diagnosed during the PEME.55 More, to speak of fraudulent misrepresentation does not only mean that a person failed to disclose the truth but that he or she deliberately concealed it for a malicious purpose. To equate with fraudulent misrepresentation, the falsity must be coupled with intent to deceive and to profit from that deception.
Here, the Court agrees with the Court of Appeals that [the employee] fraudulently concealed his hypertension and diabetes.
As the Court of Appeals correctly found, records show that [the employee] had already been diagnosed with hypertension during his previous 2009 PEME with another employer. He had been maintained on metoprolol to treat his hypertension. He also got diagnosed with diabetes in 2010 and was treated at Seaman’s Hospital and prescribed with metformin as maintenance medicine. But despite personal knowledge of his medical history, [the employee] lied about it during his January 2012 PEME. There, he was asked whether he had suffered from or had been diagnosed with hypertension, heart trouble, rheumatic fever, and/or diabetes mellitus. To this question, he indicated “no” in the form he was made to answer. This is clear from the form that he filled out.
In the recent case of Lerona v. Sea Power Shipping Enterprises, Inc., et al., the Court denied a seafarer’s claim for disability on ground of concealment, viz.:
As correctly observed by the CA, [the employee] did not indicate in the appropriate box in his PEME form that he has hypertension, although he had been taking Norvasc as maintenance medicine for two years. He only disclosed his pre-existing medical condition after he was repatriated to the Philippines. [The employee] claims that he did not reveal his hypertension during his PEME out of an honest belief that it had been “resolved.” However, this is not persuasive. That [the employee] continues to take maintenance medicine indicates that his condition is not yet resolved. Additionally, within the two years that [the employee] had been taking maintenance medication for his hypertension, he had boarded [the employer’s] ships four times. Since PEME is mandatory before a seafarer is able to board a ship, it goes to show that [the employee] concealed his hypertension no less than four times as well. This circumstance negates any suggestion of good faith that [the employee] makes in defense of his misdeed.
The Court had on many occasions disqualified seafarers from claiming disability benefits on account of fraudulent misrepresentation arising from their concealment of a pre-existing medical condition. This case is not an exception. For knowingly concealing his hypertension during the PEME, [the employee] committed fraudulent misrepresentation which unconditionally bars his right to receive any disability compensation from [the employers] …
As in Lerona, [the employee’s] act of concealment, if not downright act of lying in his PEME, could be construed as nothing than his intention to deceive [the employers] as regards his true medical condition.
Notably, too, that [the employee] never denied that he was previously diagnosed with and treated for hypertension and diabetes. He simply reiterates that he did not conceal such fact or that [the employers] could have easily discovered such illness during his PEME.
[The employee’s] argument fails.
Lerona enunciated that passing a PEME is not and cannot excuse willful concealment. Neither can it preclude rejection of disability claims. PEME is not exploratory and does not allow the employer to discover any and all pre-existing medical condition with which the seafarer is suffering and for which he may be presently taking medication. The PEME is nothing more than a summary examination of the seafarer’s physiological condition; it merely determines whether one is “fit to work” at sea or “fit for sea service” and it does not state the real state of health of an applicant. The “fit to work” declaration in the PEME cannot be a conclusive proof to show that he was free from any ailment prior to his deployment.
For not disclosing his previous diagnoses and treatment for hypertension and diabetes, [the employee] is guilty of material concealment and is disqualified for any compensation and benefits.
Second Issue
Not entitled to disability benefits
Even assuming that the elements of concealment and non-referral to a third doctor did not exist here, the petition must still fail.
The 2010 POEA-SEC states:
x x x    x x x    x x x
SECTION 32 – A. OCCUPATIONAL DISEASES
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 described 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.
It further provides for the conditions before a cardiovascular disease may be deemed compensable, viz.:
11. Cardio-vascular events – to include heart attack, chest pain (angina), heart failure or sudden death. Any of the following conditions must be met:
a. If the heart disease was known to have been present during employment, there must be proof that an acute exacerbation was clearly pre­cipitated by an unusual strain by reasons of the nature of his work
b. the strain of work that brings about an acute attack must be sufficient severity and must be followed within 24 hours by the clinical signs of a cardiac insult to constitute causal relationship
c. If a person who was apparently asymptomatic before being subjected to strain at work showed signs and symptoms of cardiac injury during the performance of his work and such symptoms and signs persisted, it is reasonable to claim a causal relationship
d. if a person is a known hypertensive or diabetic, he should show compliance with prescribed maintenance medications and doctor-recommended lifestyle changes. The employer shall provide a workplace conducive for such compliance in accordance with Section 1(A) paragraph 5.
e. in a patient not known to have hypertension or diabetes, as indicated on his last PEME…
As stated, [the employee] knew he was previously diagnosed with and treated for hypertension and diabetes. His case therefore falls under paragraph (d) above. [The employee], however, failed to show his compliance with the prescribed maintenance medications and doctor-recommended lifestyle changes.
As for diabetes, GSIS v. Valenciano explains that diabetes mellitus is acquired through the mechanism of inheritance. It is an endocrine and familial disease characterized by metabolic abnormalities remotely caused by environmental and occupational conditions. In sum, diabetes is not work- related, hence, not compensable.
Similarly, [the employee’s] osteoarthritis is not compensable. For [the employee] did not even show any symptoms of osteoarthritis during his employment on board [the employer’s] vessel. He only complained of the same after he got repatriated. Hence, there is no causal connection between [the employee’s] work and his supposed osteoarthritis.
Anent [the employee’s] pulmonary tuberculosis and left pleural effusion, the same is not one of the occupational diseases under the 2010 POEA-SEC. Pleural effusion is listed under Abestosis as an occupational disease. There is, however, no showing that [the employee] was exposed to asbestos during his employment aboard the Caribbean Frontier.
Going now to the contrasting findings of the company-designated doctor on one hand, and those of Dr. Vicaldo on the other, we reckon with the fact that it was the company-designated doctor who examined, treated, and monitored [the employee] from the time he got repatriated until he was cleared for work. In contrast, Dr. Vicaldo only saw [the employee] once on April 14, 2013. He did not elaborate on how he came up with the conclusion that [the employee] was unfit for sea duties. He did not even mention the tests which [the employee] supposedly went through, if any, how the latter responded thereto, and what [the employee’s] exact condition was before and after these examinations and supposed treatment. Per Dr. Vicaldo’s report, he based his conclusion on the results of the same tests that the company-designated doctor did on [the employee]. With respect to Dr. Lucas, he did not declare [the employee] as unfit for sea duties nor give any disability grading for [the employee].
On this score, Montierro v. Rickmers Marine Agency Phils., Inc. ordained:
Further, a juxtaposition of the two conflicting assessments reveals that the certification of Montierro’s doctor of choice pales in comparison with that of the company-designated physician. Fitting is the following discussion of the CA:
x x x        x x x        x x x
Having extensive personal knowledge of the seafarer’s actual medical condition, and having closely, meticulously and regularly monitored and treated his injury for an extended period, the company-designated physician is certainly in a better position to give a more accurate evaluation of Montierro’s health condition. The disability grading given by him should therefore be given more weight than the assessment of Montierro’s physician of choice…
Hernandez v. Magsaysay Maritime Corporation further decreed:
Reliance on the assessment of the company-designated physician was justified not only by the law governing the parties under the contract, but by the time and resources spent as well as the effort exerted by the company-designated doctor in the examination and treatment of [the employee] while still on board and as soon as he was repatriated in the Philippines.
Based on the Medical Report dated July 13, 2013, it appears that Dr. Catapang conducted his physical examination of [the employee] only once and that he merely made his own interpretation of the MRI results of the Lumbar Spine taken on January 21, 2013. While he acknowledged that [the employers]’ company-designated physician examined [the employee] and later underwent physiotherapy, he failed to state that reports were regularly issued to update on [the employee]’s medical condition as well as the particular treatment administered and medicines prescribed to him, which eventually became the basis of Dr. Agbayani’s Grade 11 disability assessment on March 8, 2013. Dr. Catapang did not conduct any diagnostic tests or procedures to support his assessment of a permanent total disability. Moreover, [the employee] failed to show any bad faith that attended the company-designated doctor’s medical reports, or that the same were self-serving and were issued just to allow [the employers] to avoid liability. Certainly, the assessment of Dr. Agbayani is entitled to great weight and respect, considering that it is more reliable. With his consistent treatment and monitoring of [the employee] for several months, he had acquired detailed knowledge and familiarity as to the latter’s health condition. We stress that the reason behind our favorable rulings on the findings of company-designated physicians is not due to their infallibility; rather, it is assumed that they have “closely monitored and actually treated the seafarer” and, therefore, are in a better position to form an accurate diagnosis and evaluation of the seafarers’ degree of disability…
In fine, as between the company-designated doctors, Eduardo O. Tanquieng (Pulmonologist), Robert Michael G. Gan (Internal Medicine/Endocrinologist), and Melissa Co Sia (Adult Clinical and Interventional Cardiologist) who have the complete medical records of [the employee] for the entire duration of his treatment and who all opined that [the employee’s] illnesses had been resolved, on one hand, and [the employee’s] physicians of choice who merely examined him for a day as an outpatient, on the other, the findings of the company-designated physicians must prevail.
All told, the Court of Appeals did not err when it dismissed [the employee’s] claim for total and permanent disability benefits.

3. Death benefits

a. Requisites for death benefits

1) Work-related

2) Occurred during the term of his contract

Magsaysay Maritime Corporation v. Heirs of F.D. Buenaflor
G.R. No. 227447, 23 June 2020
[BACKGROUND]
[The employee] was employed as Second Mate by [the local agency] Magsaysay Maritime Corporation (Magsaysay), a manning agency organized under Philippine laws, for and on behalf of its foreign principal, [the local agency] Masterbulk Pte. Ltd. (Masterbulk), under a Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA)-approved employment contract dated February 6, 2012, for a duration of nine months. [The employee’s] employment commenced upon his embarkation aboard the vessel INVENTANA on May 9, 2012.
In March 2013, [the employee] experienced persistent pain on the right side of his abdomen. On March 13, 2013, [the employee] was referred to Meyer Hospital in the Port of Santos, Sao Paolo, Brazil for diagnostic procedures. After the initial test and examination, [the employee] was diagnosed with “intra liver nodules and Retroperitoneal lymphadenopathy.” On March 18, 2013, [The employee] was admitted at the said hospital where he underwent a liver biopsy. The result of the biopsy showed that [the employee] was suffering from “infiltrated adenocarcinoma in the liver parenchyma.” Thus, the attending physician recommended that [the employee] be considered unfit for duty and repatriated for further medical treatment.
On March 25, 2013, [the employee] was repatriated to the Philippines. Upon his arrival in the country, Magsaysay referred him to Manila Doctors Hospital (MDH) for medical examination under the care of [Dr. Agbayani], the company-designated physician. After undergoing CT scan procedure and guided biopsy, and being evaluated by an oncologist, [the employee] was diagnosed with “primary liver cancer vs. metastatic liver disease.” Hence, [the employee] underwent chemoemobilization of the liver mass, and subsequently, chemotherapy. [the employee], however, did not respond well to these procedures.
Dr. Agbayani reported that [the employee] was suffering from “Adenocarcinoma of the Liver with Peripancreatic Metastases, Retroperitoneal Metastases, Lung Metastases, Malignant Ascites, S/P Chemoemobilization, Stage IV.” He further opined that [the employee’s] ailment is work-related only if he was exposed to chemicals.
Due to difficulty in getting blood donors in Manila, Dr. Agabayani recommended that [the employee’s] radiotherapy and chemotherapy procedures be transferred to his home province, Iloilo. Thus, on July 26, 2013, [the employee] was discharge from MDH and transferred to Iloilo Doctors Hospital. Unfortunately, [the employee] passed away on August 2, 2013 due to “Cardiopulmonary Arrest Secondary to Hepatocellular CA Stage IV.”
On November 12, 2013, the heirs of [the employee], represented by his wife, Honorata G. [the employee] (respondents), initiated a complaint for death benefits, attorney’s fees and damages against [the local agency], Masterbulk and Marlon P. Trinidad (Trinidad), the Fleet Director of Magsaysay, before the Labor Arbiter.
x x x
[DECISION/RESOLUTION – BY THE SUPREME COURT]
Compensability of [the employee’s] Death
“The terms and conditions of a seafarer’s employment, including claims for death and disability benefits, is a matter governed, not only by medical findings, but by the contract he entered into with his employer and the law which is deemed integrated therein.” The POEA Memorandum Circular No. 10, Series of 2010, entitled ‘Amended Standard Terms and Conditions Governing the Overseas Employment of Filipino Seafarers on Board Ocean-Going Ships,’ which provides the minimum requirements acceptable to the POEA for the employment of Filipino seafarers on board ocean-going vessels, is deemed integrated into the employment contract that [the employee] entered into with [the local agency]. In addition, [the employee’s] employment contract is covered by the Masterbulk Vessels Maritime Officers’ Agreement 2011, which was valid from January 1, 2011 until December 31, 2012, and by the Masterbulk Vessels Maritime Officers’ Agreement 2013, which was valid from January 1, 2013 until December 31, 2014 (“Masterbulk Agreement”).
The CA, in deciding in favor of respondents, applied the Masterbulk Agreement, as according to it, they are most favorable to the seafarers and are not contrary to law, morals, public order or public policy. According to the CA, the NLRC correctly held that the coverage of the compensation for injury or death benefits under Section 28 of the Masterbulk Agreement is too encompassing in that it does not require that the cause of injury or death be work-related. Section 28 of the Masterbulk Agreement pertinently states:
28. COMPENSATION FOR INJURY OR DEATH
-1 x x x x
-2 Compensation shall be paid as stipulated in sub-clause (1) of this clause for all injuries howsoever caused, regardless of whether or not an officer comes within the scope of the Work Injury Compensation Act and includes accidents arising or not arising out of the course of his employment and accidents arising outside the working hours of the injured or dead officer.
x x x x
-6 If an officer dies during service onboard through any case including death from natural causes or death occurring whilst travelling to and from the vessel, or as a result of marine or other similar peril, the Company shall pay the maximum amount of compensation for the affected officer as shown in Appendix IV to this Agreement…
We, however, find that the CA proceeded from an incorrect framework in deciding the case. It is incorrect to state that the Masterbulk Agreement is most favorable to [the employee] without first determining whether his illness and resulting death are covered by the terms and conditions thereof. The determination of which is more favorable between the Masterbulk Agreement and POEA-SEC is proper only when it has been established that [the employee’s] death is compensable under both.
A review of the Masterbulk Agreement shows that [the employee’s] death is not within its coverage. The terms and conditions under Section 28 of the Masterbulk Agreement which the NLRC applied in assessing the compensability of [the employee’s] death is limited to 1) injuries, and 2) death during service on board, occurring while travelling to and from the vessel, or death caused by marine or other similar peril. The term “injury” has a technical meaning under the Labor Code. It pertains to any harmful change in the human organism from any accident arising out of and in the course of the employment. This technical definition brings [the employee’s] liver cancer out of the coverage of Section 28 of the Masterbulk Agreement.
While the CA and the NLRC are correct in saying that death under the Masterbulk Agreement is compensable regardless of its cause, the Masterbulk Agreement, however, limited this compensability to deaths during service on board, occurring while travelling to and from the vessel, or to deaths caused by marine or other similar peril. Thus, [the employee’s] death which occurred in the Philippines few months after his repatriation also does not fall under the coverage of Section 28 of the Masterbulk Agreement.
Employment contracts or CBAs may enlarge the minimum requirements of the POEA-SEC to make them more favorable and beneficial to the employees. However, in case of insufficiency in the terms and conditions of the employment contract or CBA, which renders the seafarer unqualified or unable to claim benefits therein, the POEA-SEC operates to fill the gaps in order to raise the seafarers’ benefits to the minimum.
Sec. 20 (B)(1)(4) of the POEA-SEC provides for compensation for work-related illnesses and deaths which may not occur under the circumstances specified, but existed during the term of the seafarer’s contract. This Section pertinently reads:
SECTION 20. COMPENSATION AND BENEFITS. —
B. COMPENSATION AND BENEFITS FOR DEATH
1. In case of work-related death of the seafarer during the term of his contract, the employer shall pay his beneficiaries the Philippine Currency equivalent to the amount of Fifty Thousand US dollars (US$50,000) and an additional amount of Seven Thousand US dollars (US$7,000) to each child under the age of twenty-one (21) but not exceeding four (4) children, at the exchange rate prevailing during the time of payment.
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:
a. The employer shall pay the deceased’s beneficiary all outstanding obligations due the seafarer under this Contract.
b. The employer shall transport the remains and personal effects of the seafarer to the Philippines at employer’s expense except if the death occurred in a port where local government laws or regulations do not permit the transport of such remains. In case death occurs at sea, the disposition of the remains shall be handled or dealt with in accordance with the master’s best judgment. In all cases, the employer/master shall communicate with the manning agency to advise for disposition of seafarer’s remains.
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…
Applying the above rule, the Court established that in order for the beneficiaries of a seafarer to be entitled to death compensation from the employer, it must be proven that the death of the seafarer (1) is work-related; and (2) occurred during the term of his contract.
A. [The employee’s] Illness and Resulting Death are Work-Related
Work-related death refers to death which results from a work-related injury or illness. A work-related illness, on the other hand, pertains to any sickness resulting to disability or death as a result of an occupational disease listed under Section 32-A of the POEA-SEC, which are compensable if the conditions stated therein are satisfied.
This, however, does not mean that only those listed in Section 32-A are compensable. Under Section 20(A)(4) of the POEA-SEC, those illnesses not listed in Section 32-A are disputably presumed as work-related.
A disputable presumption has been defined as a specie of evidence that may be accepted and acted on when there is no other evidence to uphold the contention for which it stands, or one which may be overcome by other evidence. Moreover, Section 3, Rule 131, of the Rules of Court states that a disputable presumption is satisfactory if uncontradicted and not overcome by other evidence. In the case of Spouses Surtida v. Rural Bank of Malinao (Albay), Inc., we explained the effects of disputable presumption as follows:
A presumption may operate against an adversary who has not introduced proof to rebut it. The effect of a legal presumption upon a burden of proof is to create the necessity of presenting of evidence unless rebutted.
To state it simply, unless overcome by contrary evidence, the disputable presumption stands.
In the case of Racelis v. United Philippines Lines Inc., this Court held that:
While it is true that Brainstem (pontine) Cavernous Malformation is not listed as an occupational disease under Section 32-A of the 2000 POEA-SEC, Section 20 (B) (4) of the same explicitly provides that “[t]he liabilities of the employer when the seafarer suffers work-related injury or illness during the term of his contract are as follows: (t)hose illnesses not listed in Section 32 of this Contract are disputably presumed as work related.” In other words, the 2000 POEA-SEC “has created a disputable presumption in favor of compensability[,] saying that those illnesses not listed in Section 32 are disputably presumed as work-related. This means that even if the illness is not listed under Section 32-A of the POEA-SEC as an occupational disease or illness, it will still be presumed as work-related, and it becomes incumbent on the employer to overcome the presumption.” This presumption should be overturned only when the employer’s refutation is found to be supported by substantial evidence, which, as traditionally defined is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as sufficient to support a conclusion.” …
Similarly, in Phil-Man Marine Agency, Inc. v. Dedace, Jr., this Court ruled that the disputable presumption under Section 20(A)(4) operates in favor of the employee and the burden rests upon his or her employer to overcome the statutory presumption. As this Court found that [the local agency’s] in the said case failed to present sufficient controverting evidence to overthrow the disputable presumption that the seafarer’s illness is work-related, the benefits prayed for by the claimant was awarded.
[The employee], in this case, died of liver cancer, a disease which is not listed under Section 32-A of the POEA-SEC. Under Section 20(A)(4), [the employee’s] illness and his resulting death are work-related. Magsaysay and Masterbulk have the burden to present contrary evidence to overcome this presumption, but failed to do so. The company-designated physician reported that [the employee] was suffering from liver cancer and opined that this illness is work-related only if he was exposed to chemicals. It bears pointing out that with this opinion, the company-designated physician did not totally cancel out the possibility that [the employee]’s illness is work-related. However, by simply stating his opinion in such manner, and by failing to justify why he made such assessment, this opinion is a bare claim which we must reject. The opinion of the company-designated physician is insufficient to overthrow the presumption that [the employee’s] illness and resulting death are work-related.
We are not unmindful of previous pronouncements made by this Court to effect that claimants must still prove by substantial evidence that his work condition caused, or increased the risk of contracting his/her illness. However, in Phil-Man Marine Agency, Inc,24 this Court clarified that when the company-designated physician was not able to give a full, complete, and categorical medical assessment on the illness of the seafarer, the disputable presumption under Section 20(A)(4) stands. In the said case, this Court emphasized that to rule otherwise would render the statutory presumption under this Section nugatory.
Thus, [the employee’s] illness and his resulting death are work-related.
B. [The employee]’s Death Occurred During the Term of his Contract
The present case falls under the exception to the general rule that death in order to be compensable must occur during the term of his contract, as pronounced in the case of Canuel v. Magsaysay Maritime Corporation: In Canuel, this Court ruled that:
With respect to the second requirement for death compensability, the Court takes this opportunity to clarify that while the general rule is that the seafarer’s death should occur during the term of his employment, the seafarer’s death occurring after the termination of his employment due to his medical repatriation on account of a work-related injury or illness constitutes an exception thereto. This is based on a liberal construction of the 2000 POEA-SEC as impelled by the plight of the bereaved heirs who stand to be deprived of a just and reasonable compensation for the seafarer’s death, notwithstanding its evident work-connection.
x x x x
Thus, considering the constitutional mandate on labor as well as relative jurisprudential context, the rule, restated for a final time, should be as follows: if the seafarer’s work-related injury or illness (that eventually causes his medical repatriation and, thereafter, his death, as in this case) occurs during the term of his employment, then the employer becomes liable for death compensation benefits under Section 20 (A) of the 2000 POEA-SEC. The provision cannot be construed otherwise for to do so would not only transgress prevailing constitutional policy and deride the bearings of relevant case law but also result in a travesty of fairness and an indifference to social justice…
[The employee] experienced the symptoms of his illness in March 2013, while he was still on board the vessel. In the certification issued by Magsaysay, [the employee] signed off on March 25, 2013, the day of his repatriation. While Magsaysay claims that [the employee’s] contract expired in February 2013, it did not explain why [the employee] was still on board its vessel in March 2013. Thus, we agree with the CA’s conclusion that [the employee’s] employment contract transcended beyond the nine-month period and his employment was extended.
This conclusion conforms with Section 18(A) of the POEA-SEC, which states that the employment of the seafarer shall cease when the seafarer completes his period of contractual service aboard the ship, signs off from the ship and arrives at the point of hire. Under this Section, [the employee’s] employment ceased only upon his sign off and arrival at the point of hire on March 25, 2013. When he experienced the symptom of his illness, and when he was subsequently medically repatriated, he was still under the employ of Magsaysay. [The employee]’s case, thus, falls under the exception established in Canuel.
All told, this Court denies the Petition and affirms the Decision and Resolution of the CA with modification in that [the employers] are ordered to pay the heirs of [the employee] the following: 1) the Philippine currency equivalent to the amount of US$50,000; 2) an additional amount of US$14,000 to the two minor children of [the employee], at the exchange rate prevailing during the time of payment; and 3) the Philippine currency equivalent to the amount of US$1,000 for burial expenses at the exchange rate prevailing during the time of payment.
The award of attorney’s fees at 10% of the total monetary awards is also proper following Article 2208 of the New Civil Code, “which allows its recovery in actions for recovery of wages of laborers and actions for indemnity under the employer’s liability laws.”
Finally, [the employers] are likewise liable for legal interest at the rate of 6% per annum from the finality of this Decision until full satisfaction.
WHEREFORE, the Petition is DENIED. The Decision dated December 18, 2015 and the Resolution dated September 29, 2016 of the Court of Appeals in CA G.R. SP. No. 137820 are AFFIRMED WITH MODIFICATIONS in that Magsaysay Maritime Corporation and Masterbulk Pte. Ltd. are ORDERED to PAY the heirs of [the employee], jointly and severally, at the rate of exchange at the time of payment, the Philippine currency equivalent of the following amount:
1. Fifty Thousand US dollars (US$50,000);
2. Fourteen Thousand US dollars (US$14,000) to the two minor children of [the employee];
3. One Thousand US dollars (US$1,000) for burial expenses; and
4. Attorney’s fees at 10% of the total monetary awards.
[They] are likewise liable for the legal interest of 6% per annum of the foregoing monetary awards computed from the finality of this Decision until full satisfaction.
SO ORDERED.

4. Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA)

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