Permanent disability refers to the seafarer’s incapacity to perform his customary sea duties for more than 120 days. If the maritime complaint was filed prior to October 6, 2008, the 120-day rule applies. But if the complaint was filed from October 6, 2008 onwards, the 240-day rule applies.\

Scanmar Maritime Services, Inc. and Crown Shipmanagement, Inc., Vs. Celestino M. Hernandez, Jr.,
G.R. No. 211187, April 16, 2018


Petitioner Scanmar Maritime Services, Inc., for and in behalf of its foreign principal, Crown Shipmanagement, Inc. entered into a contract of employment with respondent Celestino Hernandez, Jr. (Hernandez) for a period of nine months as Able Seaman for the vessel Timberland.

Hernandez underwent pre-employment medical examination (PEME), where he was declared fit to work. He was deployed and boarded the vessel.

During the course of his employment, Hernandez experienced pain in his inguinal area and pelvic bone. The pain continued for weeks radiating to his right scrotum and right medial thigh. He was brought to a hospital in Sweden where he was found unfit to resume normal duties. Consequently, he was medically repatriated on February 6, 2010.

On February 8, 2010, he was referred to the company-designated physician at Metropolitan Medical Center for medical evaluation. He was diagnosed to have Epididymitis, right, Varicocoele, left and was recommended to under Varicocoelectomy, a surgical procedure for the management of his left Varicocoele.

On March 26, 2010, the company-designated physician, Dr. Gatchalian performed Varicocoelectomy on Hernandez. The procedure was a success and he was discharged the following day. Thereafter, he continuously reported to Dr. Gatchalian for medical treatment and evaluation. He was subjected to numerous laboratory examinations, medication, and was advised to refrain from engaging in strenuous activities, such as lifting while recovering.

Despite continuing medical treatment and evaluation with the company-designated physician, Hernandez filed on July 20, 2010 a complaint with the NLRC for permanent disability benefits, damages, and attorney’s fees against Scanmar, et al. On August 12, 2010 he consulted his own physician, Dr. Antonio Pascual (Dr. Pascual), who diagnosed him with essential Hypertension, Stage 2, Epididymitis, right, Varicocoele, left, S/P varicocoelectomy and certified him medically unfit to work as a seaman.

Meanwhile, on August 24, 2010, Dr. Gatchalian pronounced Hernandez fit to resume sea duties.

LA Ruling:

The Labor Arbiter (LA) awarded Hernandez total and permanent disability compensation in the amount of $60,000.00 and attorney’s fees.

The LA found that Hernandez’s illness had a reasonable connection with his work condition as Able Seaman, thus, was work-related and compensable.

Scanmar, et al. appealed before the NLRC.

NLRC Ruling:

The NLRC dismissed the appeal and affirmed the Decision of the LA.

The NLRC held that Hernandez was permanently and totally disabled. There was causal connection between his work and his illness. Further, the certification issued by Dr. Pascual that was issued after 120 days deserved more weight which, by operation of law, transformed his disability to total and permanent.

Scanmar et al.’s Motion for Reconsideration was denied. Thus, they filed a Petition for Certiorari before the CA.

CA Ruling:

The Court of Appeals (CA) dismissed the petition and held that the NLRC did not commit grave abuse of discretion in rendering the assailed rulings.

The CA found that there was no error in the NLRC’s appreciation of the causal connection between Hernandez’s work as a seaman and his illness. The NLRC correctly upheld the assessment of Dr. Pascual based on its inherent merit. The NLRC properly considered his disability as total and permanent based on the ruling in the case of Quitoriano vs. Jebsens Maritime, Inc.

Scanmar et al.’s Motion for Reconsideration was denied.


Whether or not the filing of the case 162 days since repatriated and while the seafarer was undergoing treatment was premature

SC Ruling:

The Supreme Court (SC) found merit in the Petition.

Article 192 (c) (1) of the Labor Code provides that temporary total disability continuously lasting for more than one hundred twenty days, except as otherwise provided in the rules, shall be deemed total and permanent.

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The Rule referred to in the Labor Code provision is Section 2 Rule X of the Amended Rules on Employee Compensation (AREC) which provides that the income benefit shall be paid beginning on 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 any time 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.

Citing the Vergara case, the SC held that the 120 days provided under Section 20B (3) of the POEA-SEC is the period give to the employer to determine fitness to work and when the seafarer is deemed to be in a state of total and temporary disability. The 120-day period may be extended up to 240 days should the seafarer require further medical treatment.

A total and permanent disability becomes permanent when so declared by the company-designated physician within 120 or 240 days, as the case may be, or upon the expiration of the said periods without declaration of either fitness to work or disability assessment and the seafarer is still unable to resume his regular seafaring duties.

Upon Hernandez’s repatriation on February 6, 2010, he received extensive medical attention from company-designated physicians. He was endorsed to Dr. Gatchalian who recommended to perform surgery on him. After surgery, his condition was continually monitored as he still complained of scrotal and groin pains.

After the lapse of 120 days, Hernandez’s treatment still continued. Thus, the SC held that the 240-day extension period was justified. At the time he filed his complaint on July 20, 2010, or 162 days since repatriation and without definite assessment from the company-designated physician, Hernandez’s condition could not be considered permanent and total.

Temporary total disability only becomes permanent when the company-designated physician, within the 240-day period, declares it to be so, or when after the lapse of the said period, he fails to make such declaration.

The Quitoriano case applied the ruling in Crystal Shipping that total and permanent disability refers to the seafarer’s incapacity to perform his customary sea duties for more than 120 days. In Quitoriano, the seafarer filed a claim for total and permanent disability benefits on February 26, 2002 or before October 6, 2008, the date of the promulgation of the Vergara, and the prevailing ruling then was that enunciated by the SC in Crystal Shipping case. If the maritime complaint was filed prior to October 6, 2008, the 120-day rule applies. But if the complaint was filed from October 6, 2008 onwards, the 240-day rule applies. In this case, Hernandez filed his complaint on July 20, 2010, hence, it is the 240-day rule that applies.

In this case, Hernandez filed his complaint for total and permanent disability benefits while he was still considered to be temporarily and totally disabled. While the company-designated physician was still in the process of assessing his condition and determining whether he was still capable of performing his usual sea duties and when the 240-day period had not yet lapsed.

The complaint was prematurely filed. The cause of action for total and permanent disability benefits had not yet accrued. Hernandez failed to comply with the procedure when he filed his complaint on July 20, 2010 without a definite assessment yet being rendered by the company-designated physician. Worse, he sought an opinion from Dr. Pascual, an independent physician, on August 12, 2010 despite the absence of an assessment by the company-designated physician.

The medical certificate of Dr. Pascual was of no use and will not give Hernandez that cause of action that he lacked at the time he filed his complaint. Indeed, a seafarer has the right to seek the opinion of other doctors under Section 20-B (3) of the POEA-SEC but this is on the presumption that the company-designated physician had already issued a certification as to his fitness or disability and he finds this agreeable.

The SC refused to put weight on the findings of Dr. Pascual given that Hernandez has breached his duty to comply with the procedure prescribed by the POEA-SEC.

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