Maersk Filipinas Crewing Inc., and Maersk Co. IOM Ltd. vs. Joselito R. Ramos
G.R. No. 184256, January 18, 2017


Petitioner Maersk Ltd., through its local manning petitioner Maersk Inc., employed Joselito Ramos as able-seaman for a period of four (4) months. Within the contract and while on the vessel, on November 14, 2001 Ramos’ s left eye was hit by a screw.

He was repatriated to Manila November 21, 2001 and was referred to Dr. Salvador Salceda, the company-designated physician, for check-up. Ramos was examined by Dr. Anthony Martin S. Dolor at the Medical Center Manila and was diagnosed with “corneal scar and cystic macula, left, post-traumatic.”

He underwent a “repair of corneal perforation and removal of foreign body to anterior chamber, left eye.” He was discharged with prescribed home medications and had regular check-ups. He was referred to another ophthalmologist who opined that “no more improvement can be attained on the left eye but patient can return back to duty with the left eye disabled by 30%.”

He was examined by Dr. Angel C. Aliwalas, Jr. at the Ospital ng Muntinlupa (ONM), Alabang, Muntinlupa City, and was diagnosed with “corneal scar with post-traumatic cataract formation, left eye.” He underwent [an] eye examination and glaucoma test at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), Manila.

Since Ramos’s demand for disability benefit[s] was rejected by Maersk Filipinas Crewing Inc., et al., he then filed with the NLRC a complaint for total permanent disability, illness allowance, moral and exemplary damages and attorney’s fees.

Meanwhile, in his medical report, Dr. Dolor stated that although Ramos’s left eye cannot be improved by medical treatment, he can return to duty and is still fit to work. His normal right eye can compensate for the discrepancy with the use of correctional glasses. Maersk Filipinas Crewing Inc., et al. paid Ramos’s illness allowance equivalent to one hundred twenty (120) days salary.

LA Ruling:

The LA held that the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA)-approved contract and Collective Bargaining Agreement expressly provided for a situation in which the seafarer’s appointed doctor disagrees with the company-designated physician. In this case, both parties may agree to the appointment of a third doctor, whose assessment would then be final on both parties.

According to the LA, both failed to avail themselves of this remedy. On 28 July 2003, Ramos filed a Manifestation stating that on 21 July 2003, his counsel’s messenger tried to file with the NLRC a Notice of Appeal with Memorandum of Appeal. However, upon arriving at around four o’ clock in the afternoon, the messenger found that the NLRC office was already closed due to a jeepney strike. He then decided to file and serve copies of the notice with memorandum by registered mail. It was only on the next day, 22 July 2003, that the filing of the rest of the copies and the payment of fees were completed.

In reply to Ramos’s Manifestation, Maersk Filipinas Crewing Inc., et al. filed a Motion for Outright Dismissal on the ground that the appeal had been filed out of time. In the meantime, on 30 July and 12 September 2003, Ramos underwent cataract extraction on both eyes. On 7 January 2004, he was fitted with correctional glasses and evaluated. Dr. Dolor found that the former’s “right eye is 20/20, the left eye is 20/70, and when both eyes are being used, his best corrected vision is 20/20.” On the basis of that report, Ramos was pronounced fit to work.

NLRC Ruling:

The NLRC issued a Resolution granting Ramos’s appeal and setting aside the LA’s decision.

The NLRC found that it was not “[Ramos’s] fault that he was not able to perfect his appeal on July 21, 2003, the latter part of said day having been declared non-working by NLRC NCR, itself. It is only just and fair, therefore, that Complainant should be given until the next working day to perfect his appeal.”

As regards the need to appoint a third doctor, the NLRC found it unnecessary considering that “there is really no disagreement between Ramoss’ company-designated physician and Complainant’s physicians as to the percentage [30%] of visual impairment of his left eye.” Thus, Ramos was awarded disability compensation benefit in the amount of USD6,270 for Grade 12 impediment, moral and exemplary damages, and attorney’s fees.

Maersk Filipinas Crewing Inc., et al. filed a Motion for Reconsideration, which the NLRC denied.

CA Ruling:

Upon intermediate appellate review, the CA rendered a Decision affirming all the findings of the NLRC on both procedural and substantive issues, but deleted the award of moral and exemplary damages, because there was no “sufficient factual legal basis for the awards.

Maersk Filipinas Crewing Inc., et al. filed a Motion for Partial Reconsideration, arguing for the first time that Ramos’s appeal filed with the NLRC was not perfected within the reglementary period. They alleged that they received a copy of the Manifestation of Ramos denying that he had authorized the Sapalo Velez Bundang & Bulilan Law Offices (SVBB) to continue representing him after the issuance of the LA’s Decision on 15 May 2003. Hence, they argued Ramos was not bound by the notice of appeal or by the decisions rendered by the NLRC.

The CA issued a Resolution 32 denying the aforementioned motion.


Whether or not the appeal was perfected

Whether or not counsel was authorized to represent Ramos

Whether or not Ramos is entitled to disability compensation

SC Ruling:

Maersk Filipinas Crewing Inc., et al. argue that the presumption of the SVBB ‘s authority to continue representing Ramos was “destroyed upon his filing of the Manifestation” precisely denying that authority. It then follows that the appeal filed by the law firm was unauthorized. As such, the appeal did not prevent the LA Decision dated 15 May 2003 from attaining finality.

An attorney is presumed to be properly authorized to represent any cause in which he appears, and no written power of attorney is required to authorize him to appear in court for his client.

Aside from the presumption of authority to represent a client in all stages of litigation, an attorney’s appearance is also presumed to be with the previous knowledge and consent of the litigant until the contrary is shown. This presumption is strong, as the “mere denial by a party that he has authorized an attorney to appear for him, in the absence of a compelling reason, is insufficient to overcome the presumption, especially when denial comes after the rendition of an adverse judgment.

In his Manifestation, Ramos averred that he ceased communications with the SVBB after 15 May 2003; that he did not cause the re-filing of his case; and that he did not sign any document for the continuation of his case. However, he gave no cogent reason for this disavowal. He presented no evidence other than the denial in his Manifestation. Moreover, Ramos only sent his Manifestation disclaiming the SVBB’s authority on 1 February 2007. It was submitted almost four years after the LA had dismissed his complaint for having been prematurely filed. By that time, through the SVBB’s efforts, the NLRC had already rendered a Decision favorable to Ramos. It puzzles us why Ramos would renounce the authority of his supposed counsel at this late stage. The attempt of Maersk Filipinas Crewing Inc., et al. to use this circumstance to their advantage -in order to avoid payment of liability -should not be given any weight by the Supreme Court.

There is no question that July 21, 2003 was supposed to be the last day for the filing by Complainant of his appeal form the Labor Arbiter’s Decision. Incidentally, a working “day” at the NLRC NCR consists of eight (8) hours of work from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Complainant, therefore, had until 5:00 p.m. of July 21, 2003 to perfect his appeal. Notably, his counsel’s messenger reached the NLRC NCR at 4:00 p.m. of that day for the sole purpose of perfecting Complainant’s appeal. Unfortunately, however, the NLRC NCR closed its Office at 3:30 p.m., earlier than the normal closing time of 5:00 p.m., because of a jeepney strike.

Clearly, it was not Complainant’s fault that he was not able to perfect his appeal on July 21, 2003, the latter part of said day having been declared non-working by NLRC NCR, itself. It is only just and fair, therefore, that complainant should be given until the next working day to perfect his appeal.

Disability does not refer to the injury or the pain that it has occasioned, but to the loss or impairment of earning capacity. There is disability when there is a diminution of earning power because of actual absence from work. This absence must be due to the injury or illness arising from, and in the course of, employment. Thus, the basis of compensation is reduction of earning power.

Permanent partial disability occurs when an employee loses the use of any particular anatomical part of his body which disables him to continue with his former work. In this case, while Maersk Filipinas Crewing Inc., et al.’ own company-designated physician, Dr. Dolor, certified that Ramos was still fit to work, the former admitted in the same breath that Ramos’s left eye could no longer be improved by medical treatment. As early as 13 April 2002, Dr. Dolor had in fact diagnosed Ramos’s left eye as permanently disabled.

Maersk Filipinas Crewing Inc., et al.’ argument that the injury was curable because Ramos underwent cataract extraction in on both eyes in 2003, and Dr. Dolor issued a medical evaluation finding that Ramos’s best corrected vision for both eyes was 20/20 (with correctional glasses), are thus inconsequential. The curability of the injury “does not preclude an award for disability because, in labor laws, disability need not render the seafarer absolutely helpless or feeble to be compensable; it is enough that it incapacitates him to perform his customary work.”

The POEA Standard Employment Contract was designed primarily for the protection and benefit of Filipino seamen in the pursuit of their employment on board ocean-going vessels. In resolving disputes regarding disability benefits, its provisions must be “construed and applied fairly, reasonably, and liberally in the seamen’s favor, because only then can the provisions be given full effect.”

Besides, the schedule of disabilities under Section 32 is in no way exclusive. Section 20.B.4 of the same POEA Standard Employment Contract clearly provides that “[t]hose illnesses not listed in Section 32 of this Contract are disputably presumed as work related.” This provision only means that the disability schedule also contemplates injuries not explicitly listed under it.

For a seafarer to be entitled under said CBA to 100% compensation for less than 50% disability, it must be the company doctor who should certify that the seafarer is permanently unfit for further sea service in any capacity. Ramos had corneal scar, a cystic macula and 30%, loss of vision on his left eye. Thus, applying Section 30 of the standard contract, the Court held that his impediment grade is Grade 12.

Under Section 30-A 57 of the standard contract, a seafarer who suffered an impediment grade of Grade 12 is entitled to 10.45% of the maximum rate. Significantly, the company physician did not certify him as permanently unfit for further sea service in any capacity. The company physician certified that ”xxx patient can return back to duty with the left eye disabled by 30%.”

Ramos, therefore, is not entitled to 100% disability compensation benefit, but merely 10.45% of US$60,000.00, which is computed as follows: US$60,000.00 x 10.45% = US$6,270.00. Maersk Filipinas Crewing Inc., et al., therefore, are liable to him for US$6,270.00 as compensation benefit for his permanent partial disability.

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