Status Maritime Corporation and Admibros Shipmanagement Co., Ltd. vs. Rodrigo C. Doctolero
G.R. No. 198968, January 18, 2017


Status Maritime, acting for and in behalf of Admibros as its principal, hired Doctolero as Chief Officer on board the vessel M/V Dimitris Manios II for a period of nine months.

Doctolero underwent the required Pre-Employment Medical Examination (PEME) prior to his embarkation, and was declared “fit to work.” He boarded the vessel in August 2008· On October 28, 2006, while M/V Dimitris Manios II was in Mexico, Doctolero experienced chest and abdominal pains. He was brought to a medical clinic in Vera Cruz, Mexico. When no clear diagnosis could be made, he resumed work on board the vessel.

In the evening of the same day, however, he was brought to Clinic San Luis, also in Mexico, because he again complained of abdominal pains. He was then diagnosed to be suffering from “Esophago-Gastritis-Duodenitis.” The attending physician, Dr. Jorge Hernandez Bustos, recommended his repatriation.

On October 29, 2006, Doctolero again experienced difficulty of breathing while waiting for his return flight schedule. He informed the ship’s agent of his condition and requested assistance, but the latter extended no assistance to him. Thus, he, by himself, went to the Hospitales Nacionales, where he was admitted. He paid the hospital bills on his own.

On November 16, 2006, the company-designated physician evaluated Doctolero’s condition and found normal upper gastro-intestinal endoscopy and negative H. pylori test. Doctolero was recommended for several other tests that were, however, not administered.

On January 22, 2007, on account of the illness suffered while working on board the M/V Dimitris Manios II, Doctolero filed in the NLRC his complaint demanding payment of total and permanent disability benefits, reimbursement of medical and hospital expenses, sickwage allowance, moral and exemplary damages, and legal interest on his claims.

LA Ruling:

The LA rendered his decision dismissing the complaint for lack of merit. He opined that the initial diagnosis of gastritis-duodenitis was not one of those listed as an occupational illness in the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration Standard Employment Contract (POEA-SEC); and that no evidence was adduced to establish that such illness had been caused or aggravated by the working conditions on board the vessel.

He appealed to the NLRC.

NLRC Ruling:

The NLRC affirmed the Labor Arbiter’s finding no basis for the award of sickness allowance and disability pay but held the petitioners liable to reimburse to Doctolero the cost of his medical treatment.

Doctolero moved for reconsideration, but the NLRC denied his motion for reconsideration. He filed a certiorari with the CA.

CA Ruling:

The CA granted the petition for certiorari, and declared Doctolero’s illness as work-related because it had been contracted by him while on board the vessel; that he had undergone rigid pre-employment medical examinations by virtue of which the company physicians had declared him fit to work; that he was entitled to disability benefits because he had been unable to perform his customary job for more than 120 days; and that he was further entitled to moral and exemplary damages because the petitioners had failed to shoulder the expenses he had incurred while he was awaiting his repatriation.

Upon the petitioners’ motion for reconsideration, the CA amended the dispositive portion of its decision.


Whether or not Doctolero is entitled to Permanent Total Disability

SC Ruling:

The SC found merit in the petition.

Permanent and total disability is defined in Article 198 (c)(1) of the Labor Code, to wit: xx xx ( c) 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 for in the Rules. xx xx

Note: Article 198 was formerly Article 192 prior to re-numbering. Get a copy of the re-numbered Labor Code per Department Advisory O1, Series of 2015 of the DOLE.

Atty. Elvin’s new work, The Labor Code of the Philippines

The relevant rule is Section 2, Rule X, of the Rules and Regulations implementing Book IV of the labor Code, which states: Period entitlement. -(a) The income benefit shall be paid beginning 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 have to be read together with the POEA-SEC, 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.

The Supreme Court concludes that the CA’ s findings in favor of entitling Doctolero to permanent and total disability benefits were erroneous.

While the fact that Doctolero suffered the disability during the term of his contract was undisputed, it was evident that he had filed his complaint for disability benefits before the company-designated physician could determine the nature and extent of his disability, or before even the lapse of the initial 120-day period.

With Doctolero still undergoing further tests, the company-designated physician had no occasion to determine the nature and extent of his disability upon which to base Doctolero’s “fit to work” certification or disability grading.

Consequently, the petitioners correctly argued that Doctolero had no cause of action for disability pay and sickness allowance at the time of the filing of his complaint.


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