Cristina Barsolo vs. Social Security System
G.R. No. 187950, January 11, 2017


Cristina’s deceased husband, Manuel M. Barsolo (Manuel), “was employed as a seaman by various companies from 1988 to 2002.”

From July 2, 2002 to December 6, 2002, Manuel served as a Riding Gang/ Able Seaman onboard MT Polaris Star with Vela International Marine Ltd., (Vela). Vela was his last employer before he died in 2006.

After his separation from employment with Vela, Manuel was diagnosed with hypertensive cardiovascular disease, coronary artery disease, and osteoarthritis. He was examined and treated at the Philippine Heart Center as an outpatient from April 2, 2003 to October 22, 2004. When he died on September 24, 2006, the autopsy report listed myocardial infarction as his cause of death.

Believing that the cause of Manuel’s death was work-related, Cristina filed a claim for death benefits under Presidential Decree No. 626, as amended, with the Social Security System.

SSS Ruling:

The Social Security System denied her claim on the ground that there was no longer an employer-employee relationship at the time of Manuel’s death and that “[h]is being a smoker increased his risk of contracting the illness.”

Cristina appealed her case to the Employees’ Compensation Commission (Commission).

ECC Ruling:

In a Decision, the ECC denied the appeal for lack of merit.

The Commission held that Cristina was unable to establish that her husband’s case fell under any of the above circumstances. Moreover, since Manuel was a smoker, the Commission believed that Manuel’s “smoking habits precipitated the manifestation of his Myocardial Infarction.”

The Commission added that “the System correctly ruled that the development of the Myocardial Infarction could not be categorically attributed to the occupation of [Manuel] as Seaman because of the presence of major causative factor which is not work-related.”

Aggrieved, Cristina filed a Petition for Review before the Court of Appeals.

CA Ruling:

The CA denied her petition for lack of merit.

The Court of Appeals ruled that while there was no doubt that myocardial infarction was a compensable disease, Cristina failed to prove a causal relationship between Manuel’s work and the illness that brought about his death.

The Court of Appeals agreed with the Commission that Manuel’s habit of smoking, which dates as far back as 1973, may have contributed to the development of his heart ailment. Cristina moved for reconsideration of the said Decision but her Motion was denied by the Court of Appeals.

Hence, the Petition with the SC.


Whether or not there is substantial evidence that death due to myocardial infarction is work related.

SC Ruling:

The SC did not find merit in the petition.

The SC held citing Rañises vs. Employees Compensation Commission, that for myocardial infarction to be considered a compensable occupational disease, any of the three conditions must be proven by substantial evidence.

Cristina failed in this regard. On Cristina’s insistence that Manuel’s case falls under the third condition, the SC disagrees.

For a claim under this condition to prosper, there must be proof that: first, the person was asymptomatic before beginning employment and second, he had displayed symptoms during the performance of his duties. Such symptoms should have persisted long enough to establish that his work caused his heart problem.

However, Cristina offered no proof that her husband suffered any of the symptoms during his employment. All she managed to prove was that her husband went to the Philippine Heart Center and was treated for Hypertensive Cardiovascular Disease from April 2, 2003 to January 9, 2004, four months after his contract with Vela ended on December 6, 2002.

The Medical Certificate did not help Cristina’s cause, as this only shows that Manuel was already suffering from hypertension even before his pre-employment examination, and that he did not contract it during his employment with Vela. Having had a pre-existing cardio vascular disease classifies him under the first condition.

However, for a claim under the first category to prosper, Cristina must show that there was an acute exacerbation of the heart disease caused by the unusual strain of work. Cristina failed to adduce any proof that her husband experienced any symptom of a heart ailment while employed with Vela, much less any sign that his heart condition was aggravated by his job.

Since there was no showing that her husband showed any sign or symptom of cardiac injury during the   performance of his functions, Cristina clearly failed to show that her husband’s employment caused the disease or that his working conditions aggravated his existing heart ailment.

Moreover, as the Court of Appeals correctly pointed out, Manuel died on September 24, 2006, four years after he disembarked from MV Polaris Star. Other factors have already played a role in aggravating his illness. Due to the considerable lapse of time, more convincing evidence must be presented in order to attribute the cause of death to Manuel’s work. In the absence of such evidence and under the circumstances of this case, this Court cannot assume that the illness that caused Manuel’s death was acquired during his employment with Vela.

The SC emphasized that it is not refuted that myocardial infarction is a compensable occupational illness. However, it becomes compensable only when it falls under any of the three conditions, which should be proven by substantial evidence.

Furthermore, Manuel was a smoker. The presence of a different major causative factor, which could explain his illness and eventual death, defeats Cristina’s claim.

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