December 2009 - Philippine Supreme Court Decisions/Resolutions
G.R. No. 182623 - Dionisio M. Musnit v. Sea Star Shipping Corporation and Sea Star Shipping Corporation, Ltd.
[G.R. NO. 182623 : December 4, 2009]
DIONISIO M. MUSNIT, Petitioner, v. SEA STAR SHIPPING CORPORATION and SEA STAR SHIPPING CORPORATION, LTD., Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
CARPIO MORALES, J.:
Dionisio M. Musnit (petitioner) entered into a 3-month contract of employment with respondent Sea Star Shipping Corporation (Sea Star), a local manning agency acting for and in behalf of its co-respondent Sea Star Shipping Corporation, Ltd., as chief cook on board the vessel M/V Navajo Princess with a basic monthly salary of US$ 486.00.1
After undergoing a Pre-Employment Medical Examination conducted by a company-designated physician, petitioner was declared "fit for sea service"2 and commenced working on October 30, 2001.
His contract, which was for three months, was extended by seven months.3
Before his contract expired, petitioner, sometime in August 2002, while on board the vessel, felt a throbbing pain in his chest and shortening of breath which made him feel as if he were about to fall. By his claim, he reported his condition to his officer who ignored it, however.4 As the pain persisted, he resorted to pain relievers.5
Upon completion of his contract, petitioner was repatriated to the Philippines on October 31, 2002 following which he, again by his claim, immediately reported to Sea Star's office and informed it of his condition, but that he was never referred to a doctor for consultation.6
Seven months after his repatriation, petitioner sought re-employment with Sea Star. During his pre-employment medical examination on May 26, 2003 at the American Outpatient Clinic, petitioner was diagnosed with "error of refraction, hyperglycemia, cardiac dysrhythmia, and atrial fibrillation with rapid value response"7 on account of which he was declared unfit for sea duties and was denied further deployment.
Petitioner underwent further medical examination at the Jose R. Reyes Medical Center in the course of which he was also diagnosed as having "osteoarthritis, hypertensive cardiovascular disease and acute upper respiratory infection."8
On June 9, 2004, petitioner sought a third opinion from Dr. Efren R. Vicaldo who declared him unfit to board ship and work as a seaman in any capacity.9 Moreover, Dr. Vicaldo assessed his disability with an Impediment Grade IX and considered his illness to be work-aggravated.10
Petitioner thereupon lodged a claim for disability benefits from Sea Star which denied the same, however, drawing him to file a complaint against it, docketed as NLRC-OFW Case No. (L) 04-06-01688-00, for Medical Reimbursement, Sickness Allowance, Permanent Disability Benefits, Compensatory Damages, Moral Damages, Exemplary Damages, and Attorney's fees.11
By Decision12 of March 20, 2006, the Labor Arbiter dismissed the complaint for lack of merit,13 finding that petitioner was "able to finish the term of his employment contract and accordingly repatriated due to 'completion of contract.' "14 Furthermore, the Arbiter found "no records or evidence or any report of any incident which would show that complainant suffered an illness or injury while on board the vessel"15 to entitle him to disability benefits in accordance with Section 20(B) of the POEA Standard Terms and Conditions Governing the Employment of Filipino Seafarers On-Board Ocean-Going Vessels.16 ???ñr?bl?š ??r