Salalima v. ECC : 146360 : May 20, 2004 : J. Ynares-Santiago : First
Division : Decision
[G.R. NO. 146360 : May
AZUCENA O. SALALIMA, Petitioner, v. EMPLOYEES COMPENSATION
COMMISSION and SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
Before us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari of the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals dated April 12, 2000 as well as its Resolution dated
December 6, 2000, which affirmed the Employees Compensation Commissions
denial of petitioners claim for compensation benefits resulting from the death
of her husband, Juancho Salalima, under Presidential Decree No. 626, as
Petitioners husband, Juancho S. Salalima, was employed for
twenty-nine years as a route helper and subsequently as route salesman for the
Meycauayan Plant of Coca-Cola Bottlers Phils., Incorporated.
In 1989, during an annual company medical
examination, Juancho was diagnosed with minimal pulmonary tuberculosis.2 His illness remained stationary until October 1994 when Juancho was confined at
the Manila Doctors Hospital to undergo section biopsy.
His biopsy revealed that he had
Adenocarcinoma, poorly differentiated, metastatic.3 Consequently, he underwent chemotherapy at the Makati
1, 1995, he was found to be suffering from pneumonia.4 On February 14, 1995, he was
confined at the Makati Medical
Center.He died two days later on February 16, 1995 due to
Adenocarcinoma of the Lungs with widespread metastasis to Neck, Brain,
Peritoneal Cavity, Paracaval Lymph Nodes, Abscen; Acute Renal Failure;
Septicemia; Upper Gastrointestinal Bleeding.5 cralawred
A claim for compensation benefits under P.D. 626 as amended was
filed by his surviving wife, Azucena, petitioner herein, with the Social
Security System (SSS). In a report
dated November 12, 1998,
SSS Branch Manager Elnora Montenegro and Senior Physicians Corazon Bondoc and
Annabelle Bonifacio recommended the denial of petitioners claim on the ground
that Adenocarcinoma of the Lungs (Cancer of the Lungs) had no causal
relationship with Juanchos job as a route salesman.6 Petitioners motion for reconsideration was denied.Hence, petitioner brought the case to the Employees Compensation
which affirmed the decision of the SSS.
In its Decision7 dated October 7, 1999, the
ECC relied upon the Quality Assurance Medical Report prepared by Dr. Ma.
Victoria M. Abesamis for the SSS stating that Juanchos exposure to smog and
dust is not associated with the development of lung cancer.8 cralawred
Petitioner elevated the case to the Court of Appeals arguing that
Juanchos route as a salesman exposed him to all kinds of pollutants, not to
mention the daily hazards and fatigue that came with his tasks.
She pointed out that the SSS and the ECC
disregarded Juanchos medical history and the fact that the risk of contracting
Juanchos ailment was increased by the nature of his work.9 In its Comment, ECC averred that the presumption of compensability and the
theory of aggravation prevalent under the Workmens Compensation Act have been
Under the implementing rules
of P.D. 626, as amended, for the sickness and the resulting disability or death
to be compensable, the sickness must be the result of an occupational disease
listed under Annex A of the Rules with the conditions set therein satisfied,
otherwise, proof must be shown that the risk of contracting the disease is
increased by the working conditions.
The ECC argued that neither condition is present in Juanchos case since
lung cancer is not an occupational disease nor is the risk of contracting lung
cancer increased by Juanchos working conditions.10 The SSS joined the arguments of the ECC and added that petitioner was not able
to present substantial evidence to overcome the conclusion reached by the SSS
that Juanchos cause of death was not work-connected.11 cralawred
In her Reply, petitioner cited the raison dtre for the passage of Republic Act No. 8749, otherwise
known as the Clean Air Act.
stated that the Act provides for a comprehensive pollution control policy that
mainly concentrates on the prohibition of leaded gasoline due to its
scientifically proven deleterious effect on the health of individuals.12 Petitioner likewise attached a clipping from the newspaper Manila Standard13 containing a report stating that if the present level of diesel exhaust
continues, the pollution could be expected to cause more than 125,000 cases of
lung cancer in 70 years.
On April 12, 2000,
the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the ECC, stating that the factual
findings of quasi-judicial agencies, such as the ECC, if supported by substantial
evidence, are entitled to great respect in view of their expertise in their
respective fields.14 Petitioners Motion for Reconsideration15 was denied for lack of merit.16 cralawred
Hence, this Petition for Review on Certiorari , raising the lone
WHETHER OR NOT THE DECISION OF THE
HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS DENYING PETITIONERS CLAIM UNDER P.D. 626, AS
AMENDED, IS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE RULES ON EMPLOYEES COMPENSATION AND
Petitioner claims that the judgment of the Court of Appeals was
premised upon a misapprehension of the relevant facts of the case at bar.
She anchors her petition on the fact that
while the cause of her husband Juanchos death was Adenocarcinoma of the lungs,
he nonetheless suffered from two listed occupational diseases, namely pulmonary
tuberculosis and pneumonia, prior to his untimely demise, which she insists
justifies her claim for death benefits.
We find merit in the petition.
P.D. No. 62617 amended Title II of Book IV on the ECC and State Insurance Fund of the Labor
Under the provisions of the law
as amended, for the sickness and resulting disability or death to be
compensable, the claimant must prove that: (a) the sickness must be the result
of an occupational disease listed under Annex A of the Rules on Employees
Compensation, or (b) the risk of contracting the disease was increased by the
claimants working conditions.18 This means that if the illness or disease that caused the death of the member
is not included in the said Annex A, then his heirs are entitled to
compensation only if it can be proven that the risk of contracting the illness
or disease was increased by the members working conditions.
Under the present law, Adenocarcinoma of the lungs (cancer of the
lungs) which was the immediate cause of Juanchos death as stated in his death
certificate, while listed as an occupational disease, is compensable only among
vinyl chloride workers and plastic workers.19 This, however, would not automatically bar petitioners claim for as long as
she could prove that Juanchos risk of contracting the disease was increased by
the latters working conditions.20 cralawred
In the case at bar, there are two conflicting medical reports on
the correlation between Juanchos work as a route salesman and the illness he
suffered which was the immediate cause of his demise.Dr. Pablo S. Santos, Coca-Colas Head of Medical Services, stated
in his report that while Juanchos job does not expose him to any chemical
material used within the plant, consideration must be given to smog and dust as
factors in the development of his lung cancer.21 On the other hand, Dr. Ma. Victoria M. Abesamis of the Social Security System
declared in her report that Juanchos exposure to smog and dust is not
associated with the development of lung cancer.22 cralawred
According to medical experts, Adenocarcinoma of the lungs is one
of the four major histologic varieties of bronchogenic carcinoma, the
characterization being based upon the cell types that compose the
Bronchogenic carcinoma, more
commonly known as lung cancer, is the term used to designate nearly all types
of malignant lung tumors.
list the etiology of lung cancers as follows: cigarette smoking, occupational
exposure, air pollution, and other
factors such as preexisting lung damage
and genetic influences.23 cralawred
We agree with petitioner that the respondent government agencies
failed to take into consideration Juanchos medical history in their assessment
of the claim for benefits filed by petitioner.
For a considerable stretch of Juanchos stay at Coca-Cola, he was found
to be suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis.
Several months before his demise, he was diagnosed with Adenocarcinoma
of the lungs.
A little over two weeks before
his death, Juancho was afflicted with pneumonia.The obvious deduction is that Juancho, from the time he acquired
pulmonary tuberculosis until his passing away, was predisposed to varied lung
It is worth noting that tuberculosis is most commonly confused
with carcinoma of the lung because the highest incidence of both diseases is in
the upper lobe of the lungs and in older men.
The symptoms of both diseases include loss of weight, chronic cough, blood-streaked
sputum and mild fever.24 Likewise, numerous studies indicate that scars within the lungs and diffuse
pulmonary fibrosis are associated with a slightly increased incidence of lung
cancer.25 Tuberculosis is a disease characterized by lesions in the lungs as well as
tuberculous scars.26 Thus, in light of Juanchos continued exposure to detrimental work environment
and constant fatigue, the possibility that Juanchos Adenocarcinoma of the
lungs developed from the worsening of his pulmonary tuberculosis is not remote.
The degree of proof required under P.D. No. 626 is merely
substantial evidence, which means, such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind
might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. What the law requires is a
reasonable work-connection and not a direct causal relation.
It is enough that the hypothesis on which
the workmen's claim is based is probable. Medical opinion to the contrary can
be disregarded especially where there is some basis in the facts for inferring
certainty, is the touchstone.27 In Juanchos case, we believe that this probability exists.
Juanchos job required long hours on the
streets as well as his carrying of cases of soft drinks during sales
The combination of fatigue and
the pollutants that abound in his work environment verily contributed to the
worsening of his already weak respiratory system.His continuous exposure to these factors may have led to the
development of his cancer of the lungs.
It escapes reason as well as ones sense of equity that Juanchos
heirs should now be denied compensation (death) benefits for the sole reason
that his illness immediately before he died was not compensable in his line of
The picture becomes more absurd
when we consider that had Juancho died a few years earlier, when the diagnosis
on him revealed only pulmonary tuberculosis, his heirs would not perhaps be
going through this arduous path to claim their benefits.
Denying petitioners claim is tantamount to
punishing them for Juanchos death of a graver illness.
P.D. 626, as amended, is said to have abandoned the presumption
of compensability and the theory of aggravation prevalent under the Workmens
abandonment, however, the present law has not ceased to be an employees
compensation law or a social legislation; hence, the liberality of the law in
favor of the working man and woman still prevails, and the official agency
charged by law to implement the constitutional guarantee of social justice
should adopt a liberal attitude in favor of the employee in deciding claims for
compensability, especially in light of the compassionate policy towards labor
which the 1987 Constitution vivifies and enhances.28 cralawred
WHEREFORE, in view of
the foregoing, the Petition for Review on Certiorari is GRANTED.
The Decision of the Court of Appeals in
CA-G.R. SP No. 56174 dated April 12,
2000 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE.
The Social Security System is ordered to pay petitioner Azucena
Salalimas claim for death benefits under the Employees Compensation Act.
Panganiban, (Acting Chairman),
Carpio, and Azcuna, JJ., concur.
Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman),
on official leave.
1 Penned by Associate Justice Romeo J. Callejo, Sr. as concurred in by Associate
Justices Cancio C. Garcia and Martin S. Villarama, Jr.
2 Roentgenological Report dated 16
December 1989, Court of Appeals Rollo, p. 12.
3 SSS Physicians Medical Report dated 12
November 1998, Rollo, p. 58.
4 Roentgenological Report dated 1
February 1995, Rollo p. 47.
8 Court of Appeals Rollo, p. 40.
9 Petition for Review filed with the Court of Appeals, Rollo, pp. 24-32.
10 Comment of the ECC, Rollo, pp. 66-71.
11 Comment of the SSS, Rollo, pp. 72-79.
12 Reply, Rollo, pp. 80-84.
14 Court of Appeals Decision, Rollo, pp. 87-93.
17 Promulgated on 27 December 1974.
18 Amended Rules on Employees Compensation, Rule III, Section 1(b).
19 Amended Rules on Employees Compensation Annex A (17).
21 Court of Appeals Rollo, p. 39.
23 Allen R. Myers, Medicine, 1986, pp.
24 Harrisons Principles of Internal Medicine, 1970, 6th
ed., p. 872.
26 Supra, note 24, pp. 870-871.
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