Death of the seafarer should occur during the effectivity of the employment contract to avail of death benefits.

Labor Code 2017 (as re-numbered pursuant to R.A. 10151 and DOLE Department Advisory No. 01, Series of 2015) 

One Shipping Corp., and/or One Shipping Kabushiki Kaisha/Japan vs. Imelda C. Peñafiel
G.R. No. 192406, January 21, 2015


One Shipping Corp., for and in behalf of its principal, One Shipping Kabushiki Kaisha/Japan, hired the late Ildefonso S. Pefiafiel as Second Engineer on board the vessel MV I ACX Magnolia and for a duration of twelve (12) months. Peñafiel boarded the vessel on August 29, 2004 and died on July 2, 2005. His wife then filed for monetary claims arising from his death.

Peñafiel alleged that while her husband Ildefonso was performing his task on board the vessel, the latter felt a throbbing pain in his chest and shortening of breath, as if he was about to fall. Thinking that the same was due to his heavy workload, Ildefonso took a rest. However, after recovering, Ildefonso allegedly informed his superior about the pain but the latter ignored him.

On May 21, 2005, Ildefonso disembarked from the vessel and returned to the Philippines on the same day. Peñafiel claims that upon arrival, Ildefonso reported to the One Shipping Corp manning agency to ask for medical attention for his condition, but instead of being sent for post medical examination, Ildefonso was allegedly informed by the One Shipping Corps that he was already scheduled for his next deployment.

Thus, Ildefonso was required to undergo the pre-employment medical examination at the PMP Diagnostic Center, Inc.. However, after allegedly completing the medical and laboratory examinations, Ildefonso collapsed and was immediately brought to the Philippine General Hospital where he died at 2:05 p.m. of the same day due to myocardial infarction. As a result, Peñafiel asserts that she called up One Shipping Corp manning agency and told them about the incident hoping that she would be given the necessary benefits.

One Shipping Corps, on the other hand, admitted that they contracted the services of the late Ildefonso on August 23, 2004, to work on board MV/ ACX Magnolia for a period of twelve (12) months. However, they denied any liability for the claims of Peñafiel and maintained that at the time Ildefonso died on July 2, 2005, the latter was no longer an employee of the One Shipping Corps as he voluntarily terminated his employment contract with the One Shipping Corps when, on April 9, 2005, Ildefonso requested for a leave and pre-terminated his contract.

Thus, he disembarked from the vessel on May 21, 2005. They also alleged that in the early part of June 2005, Ildefonso reported at One Shipping Corp’s office applying for a new employment and requested that he be lined up for another vessel. Accordingly, he was advised to undergo the usual pre-employment medical examination before considering his request. One Shipping Corps were then surprised when they learned about Ildefonso’s passing.

LA Ruling:

The LA dismissed the complaint for lack of merit. Thus, Peñafiel filed her appeal with the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC).

NLRC Ruling:

The NLRC affirmed the decision of the Labor Arbiter. Undaunted, Peñafiel filed a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Revised Rules of Court with the CA.

CA Ruling:

The CA granted her petition. The motion for reconsideration having been denied, One Shipping Corps went to the SC.


Whether the CA had jurisdiction over the case as the decision of the NLRC had become final and executory

Whether or not a seafarer who died after the end of his contract renders the employer liable for his death benefits

SC Ruling:

In Aliviado vs. Procter and Gamble Phils., Inc. the SC has extensively discussed the finality of a judgment.

Section A of Rule VII of the NLRC Rules of Procedure provides that “except as provided in Section 9 of Rule X, the decisions, resolutions or orders of the Commission shall become final and executory after ten (10) calendar days from receipt thereof by the parties. Section B of the same Rules provides that “upon the expiration of the ten (10) calendar days period provided in paragraph (a) of this Section, the decision, resolution, or order shall be entered in a book of entries of judgment.

Therefore, absent any TRO, the NLRC had the ministerial duty to issue an entry of judgment. The SC found confusing that the entry of judgment of the NLRC declaring that its Resolution dated March 31, 2008 has become final and executory on June 16, 2008 is belatedly dated June 10, 2009. Based on the records, the Resolution dated January 24, 2008 of the NLRC, dismissing Peñafiel’s appeal was received by Peñafiel on February 8, 2008. She then filed a Motion for Reconsideration on February 15, 2008. Said Motion for Reconsideration was denied by the NLRC in a Resolution dated March 31, 2008 and received by Peñafiel on April 29, 2008. According to the NLRC, its Resolution of March 31, 2008 became final and executory on June 16, 2008 per Entry of Judgment dated June 10, 2009. On June 25, 2008, Peñafiel filed her petition for certiorari under Rule 65 with the CA. Clearly, applying the above-provisions of the NLRC Rules of Procedure, the case should have become final and executory on May 10, 2008 and not on June 16, 2008, as later on certified by the NLRC. In that regard, the NLRC committed a mistake.

Since the petition of herein Peñafiel was filed before the expiration of the period within which to file a petition for certiorari under Rule 65, the CA, therefore, committed no error in not dismissing and eventually deciding the case. Necessarily, if the mode of appeal is that of a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 65, its reglementary period must be the one followed. One Shipping Corp is, however, correct in its argument that the filing of the petition for certiorari does not interrupt the course of the principal case.

The SC considered the findings of fact of the Labor Arbiter, as affirmed by the NLRC, more plausible.

it is clear that at the time of Ildefonso’s repatriation, the employer-employee relationship between Ildefonso and the One Shipping Corps had already been terminated. Thus, the Labor Arbiter was correct in concluding that the terms and conditions contained in the contract of employment ceased to have force and effect, including the payment of death compensation benefits to the heirs of a seafarer who dies during the term of his contract as provided for in Section 20 (A) of the POEA Standard Employment Contract.

Southeastern Shipping vs. Navarra, Jr., the SC declared that in order to avail of death benefits, the death of the employee should occur during the effectivity of the employment contract. The death of a seaman during the term of employment makes the employer liable to his heirs for death compensation benefits.

Once it is established that the seaman died during the effectivity of his employment contract, the employer is liable. In the present case, Ildefonso died after he pre-terminated the contract of employment. That alone would have sufficed for his heirs not to be entitled for death compensation benefits.

Furthermore, there is no evidence to show that Ildefonso’s illness was acquired during the term of his employment with One Shipping Corps. The death of a seaman several months after his repatriation for illness does not necessarily mean that: (a) the seaman died of the same illness; (b) his working conditions increased the risk of contracting the illness which caused his death; and (c) the death is compensable, unless there is some reasonable basis to support otherwise.

While the Court adheres to the principle of liberality in favor of the seafarer in construing the Standard Employment Contract, it cannot allow claims for compensation based on surmise.

The law, in protecting the rights of the employees, authorizes neither oppression nor self-destruction of the employer -there may be cases where the circumstances warrant favoring labor over the interests of management but never should the scale be so tilted as to result in an injustice to the employer.


error: Content is protected !!