Post employment medical examination is mandatory as required in POEA-SEC provisions. The rationale for the rule on mandatory post-employment medical examination within three days from repatriation by a company-designated physician is that reporting the illness or injury within three days from repatriation fairly makes it easier for a physician to determine the cause of the illness or injury.

Hence, in the following case, the Supreme Court ruled that:

Nicanor Ceriola (deceased), substituted by his heirs, represented by Rowena Ceriola Francisco vs. Naess Shipping Philippines, Inc., et al.
G.R. No. 193101, April 20, 2015


Nicanor Ceriola had been employed as a seafarer on board various vessels of Naess Shipping NAESS Shipping Philippines, Inc. (NAESS Shipping) covered by different overseas employment contracts.

The controversy between the parties involving the claimed illness of Ceriola, and his possible entitlement to disability benefit, is reckoned from the start of the employment contract of, where Ceriola was deployed on board the vessel “GAS AL AHMADI.”

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After completing that contract, and for re-deployment purposes, Ceriola reported to Naess Shipping for extensive medical examination, where he was then diagnosed to be suffering from early stage of “Lumbar Spondylosis.” Despite the diagnosis, Ceriola was declared “fit to work” and was deployed for two successive overseas employment contracts on board the vessel “GAS AL BURGAN” the last of which was 12 April 2002.

In between these employment contracts, as per standard procedure, Ceriola underwent medical examination because he was experiencing severe back pains. The results of the medical examination indicated that the dislocation of Ceriola’s lumbar vertebrae had aggravated. However, considering that his prior medical clearance in the year 2000 of “fit to work” was effective for two (2) years, Ceriola was re-deployed on board “GAS AL BURGAN” as mentioned.

It appears from the record that Ceriola never underwent post- employment medical examination as required under Section 20 (B) of the POEA SEC.

LA Ruling:

The Labor Arbiter dismissed the complaint of Ceriola.

The LA held that there is no showing that prior thereto, the Ceriola has sustained an injury or suffered an illness during the term of his contract which can be the basis for a claim for disability benefits under the contract. On the contrary, the Debriefing Questionnaire duly accomplished by Ceriola contains his handwritten acknowledgment that was “all ok during his contract incl. his health.” Moreover, Ceriola underwent a series of examinations preparatory to deployment wherein he was declared fit to work.

A disability assessment was not undertaken as the complainant was declared fit to work by the Naess Shipping’s designated physician to whom Ceriola was referred, and that the declaration of fitness was issued after Ceriola has undergone a physical therapy program.

NLRC Ruling:

However, on appeal, the NLRC reversed the Labor Arbiter and granted Ceriola’s claim for disability benefits.

The NLRC held that his injury or ailment was due to his work of lifting heavy objects at the vessel; It was work-related; His employment history shows that he spent his entire seafaring career since 1981 with herein Naess Shipping, et al; After every conclusion of his contract, he would merely take a vacation of approximately two (2) months only; Beginning with his contract with the duration of 8 July 2000 to April 2001, he was already diagnosed to have a work-related injury or illness of “lumbar spondylosis” or dislocation of lumbar vertebrae; Since his injury then was not yet severe, he was still allowed to be deployed. However, during the period he was on board, he sustained or aggravated his present illness; and At present, he could no longer perform heavy works.

The NLRC held further that the foregoing allegations and argument substantiate the requirements provided under the POEA Standard Employment Contract for an injury or illness to be compensable.

CA Ruling:

On petition for certiorari by Naess Shipping, et al., alleging grave abuse of discretion by the NLRC in granting Ceriola’s claim for disability benefits, the appellate court reinstated the ruling of the Labor Arbiter denying Ceriola’s claim.

On motion for reconsideration, the appellate court stood pat on its ruling and denied Ceriola’s claim for disability benefit.

Hence, the appeal by certiorari of Ceriola with the SC positing reversible error in the appellate court’s ruling.


Whether or not a seafarer who failed to undergo post-employment medical examination is entitled to his claim of disability benefits.

SC Ruling:

The SC denied the petition.

The SC held that claiming entitlement to benefits under the law, Ceriola must establish his right thereto by substantial evidence.

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While Ceriola has asserted that his disability is work-related and occurred during the term of his contract, what jumps out of the different factual findings of all three labor tribunals, the Labor Arbiter, the NLRC and the Court of Appeals, is that Ceriola did not undergo a post employment medical examination as required in Section 20 of both the 1996 and 2000 POEA-SEC.

In fact, Ceriola refers to the medical examination he underwent as a “Pre-Post Employment Medical Examination” from 11 June 2002 to 1 April 2003, which yielded a medical certification that Ceriola is “UNFIT” to work due to a work-related injury or illness.

A mere asseveration that the medical examination is both “pre and post employment” does not comply with the mandatory language of the POEA-SEC. That the three-day post employment medical examination is mandatory brooks no argument.

The rationale for the rule on mandatory post-employment medical examination within three days from repatriation by a company-designated physician is that reporting the illness or injury within three days from repatriation fairly makes it easier for a physician to determine the cause of the illness or injury. Ascertaining the real cause of the illness or injury beyond the period may prove difficult. To ignore the rule might set a precedent with negative repercussions, like opening floodgates to a limitless number of seafarers claiming disability benefits, or causing unfairness to the employer who would have difficulty determining the cause of a claimant’s illness because of the passage of time. The employer would then have no protection against unrelated disability claims.

Notably, the post-employment medical examination has two (2) requisites: (1) it is done by a company-designated physician, (2) within three (3) working days upon the seafarer’s return.

The only exception thereto is physical incapacity of the seafarer to undergo said post-employment medical examination, in which case, a written notice to the agency within the same period is deemed as compliance.

In Wallem Maritime Services, Inc. vs. NLRC and Inductivo, the SC upheld the exception to the mandatory requirement of the post-employment medical examination due to the fact that the seafarer was physically incapacitated for being terminally ill. In Interorient Maritime Enterprises, Inc. vs. Remo, the SC carved another exception, not found in the law, i.e. when the employer refuses to refer the seafarer to a company-designated physician.

The law specifically declares that failure to comply with the mandatory reporting requirement shall result in the seafarer’s forfeiture of his right to claim benefits thereunder.

Clearly, the three-day period from return of the seafarer or sign-off from the vessel, whether to undergo a post-employment medical examination or report the seafarer’s physical incapacity, should always be complied with to determine whether the injury or illness is work-related.

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