Philippines Shipping Update: Supreme Court bars seafarer's claim due to concealment
The seafarer was engaged on-board the ship after passing his pre-employment medical examination (PEME). While on-board, he suffered a stroke which caused his repatriation. He was referred to the company-designated physician (CDP) and after due treatment was declared fit to work.
The seafarer then filed a claim before the Labor Arbiter (LA) for disability benefits having been armed with a second medical opinion stating he is suffering from a grade 7 disability and is permanently unfit to work. In the same medical report, it was also stated that the seafarer had a history of hypertension since 2013 without maintenance medication. The company resisted the claim considering that the seafarer was declared fit to work and that he concealed his hypertension during the PEME.
The Labor Arbiter dismissed the claim upholding the arguments of the company. Upon appeal, the NLRC affirmed the decision of the LA. However, the Court of Appeal granted the claim for benefits of the seafarer and considered that the illness was work-related and gave credence to the findings of the seafarer’s doctor’s opinion. When the case reached the Supreme Court, the claim was again denied.
The Court agreed with the argument of the company that the seafarer had committed concealment. It is undisputed that during the seafarer’s PEME, he ticked “NO” when asked if he had suffered from, being diagnosed, sought advice or treatment from a medical doctor for High Blood Pressure or hypertension. However, in the medical report prepared by his own doctor, it was indicated that he has a history of hypertension since 2013 without maintenance medication. The seafarer did not deny this but merely argued that even if an illness is pre-existing, the same is compensable if the condition was aggravated by his working conditions. However, this was debunked by the Court as the mere presence of a pre-existing illness was not the issue of the case but rather the fact of his concealment which bars his claim based on the provision of the POEA Contract.
Pacific Ocean Manning, Inc., V Group Manpower Services, Ltd., et. v. M.D., G.R. No. 239169, August 30, 2023; First Division extended resolution (Attys. Aldrich Del Rosario and Florencio Aquino of DelRosarioLaw handled for vessel interests).
The UK P&I Club is grateful to our legal correspondent, Del Rosario & Del Rosario, http://www.delrosariolaw.com/ for preparing the above case summary.