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[G.R. No. 149398. October 24, 2001]

GSIS vs. FERMA LUZ LORILLA

SECOND DIVISION

Gentlemen:

Quoted hereunder, for your information, is a resolution of this Court dated OCT 24 2001.

G.R. No. 149398(Government Service Insurance System vs. Fema Luz Lorilla.)

Richard Lorilla started government service on July 1, 1995 as a machine shop foreman in the National Capital Regional Office of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). On March 31, 1998, at around 1:30 in the afternoon, he collapsed while on the barge of the DPWH dredging the Pasig River. He hit his head on the barge's metal deck and was taken to a medical clinic for emergency treatment. From April 3-9, 1998, Lorilla was confined for cerebrovascular disease at the Perpetual Help Medical Center of Biņan, Laguna. On April 10, 1998, he was transferred to the Amang Rodriguez Medical Center in Marikina City, where he died five days later. The cause of his death was "Sepsis secondary to Aspiration Pneumonia, Chronic Subdural Hematoma, and Chronic Liver Disease."

On October 12, 1998, his widow, herein respondent Fema Luz Lorilla, filed a claim for death benefits under P.D. No. 626. The same was, however, denied by the Government Service Insurance system (GSIS) on the ground that Lorilla's death was due to non-occupational diseases and that it had not been shown that his work had increased the risk of contracting the same. As her motion for reconsideration was denied, respondent appealed to the Employees' Compensation Commission (ECC), which likewise denied her appeal.

On review by the Court of Appeals, the decision of the ECC was reversed and the GSIS was ordered to pay respondent's claim. Petitioner received the decision of the Court of Appeals on August 15, 2001. On August 30, 2001, it moved for an extension of 30 days, until September 29, 2001, within which to file its petition.

On September 10, 2001, this Court denied petitioner's motion for extension on the ground that the affidavit of service was notarized on August 28, 2001 which was prior to the actual service of the motion on August 30, 2001 as shown by the postal registry receipts. It appears, however, that what was notarized on August 28, 2001 was petitioner's certificate of non forum shopping and not its affidavit of service which was notarized on August 30, 2001. Petitioner's motion for reconsideration of the resolution of September 10, 2001, therefore, is well taken, and petitioner's motion for extension should have been granted, which would make the instant petition filed on October 1, 2001 (September 29, 2001 being a Saturday) timely.

Nonetheless, the petition should be denied for lack of merit. Petitioner contends that the ailments which caused the death of respondent's husband "were brought about by his long lingering sickness and his persistent abuse of self, thus not work related." Petitioner argues that respondent's husband was actually an alcoholic, as shown by medical records that prior to being hired by the DPWH, he had been admitted to the hospital in 1991 for liver cirrhosis and that 15 days prior to his collapse on March 30, 1998, he had a fall after a drinking session.

Petitioner's contention lacks merit. The "medical records" petitioner cites are only bare statements under the heading "past history" in a certification executed by the physician who treated Lorilla only during his last five days. Absent any supporting documents or any other reliable corroborative evidence, the same cannot be considered as conclusive as they apparently were not made of said physician's personal knowledge. If indeed Lorilla was already suffering from liver cirrhosis as early as 1991, or four years prior to his employment in government, it is doubtful whether he would not have been disqualified from employment, as his condition would have been discovered during his qualifying medical examination. As for his supposed alcoholism, it is noteworthy that Lorilla's supervisor indorsed his widow's claim for death benefits on the ground that his death was work-related.

Indeed, as the Court of Appeals found:

[His] function[s] required him to be exposed to chemicals, grime, grease, oil, and other toxic lubricants daily. In fact, he had to work most of the time [with] his hands practically soaked in chemicals toxic in nature, and had to partake [of] his lunch and merienda in that state. He was considered as a walking "Mister Grime," so to speak, as he was always dirty and smelly because sometimes he was assigned to field works, declogging and dredging esteros which waste is highly disease-laden and borne [sic].

In Santos v. Employees' Compensation Commission, 221 SCRA 182 (1993) and Liberia v. Employees' Compensation Commission, 203 SCRA 545 (1991), this Court held the death of a welder of the Philippine Navy and a division physical education supervisor respectively due to liver cirrhosis as compensable, notwithstanding that the same was not listed as an occupational disease, considering evidence that the risk of contracting the same was aggravated by the working conditions. In this case, it is not disputed that Lorilla's work entailed continuous exposure to toxic chemicals which could cause poisoning and malfunctioning of the liver and, ultimately, circulatory collapse.

The policy is to extend the applicability of P.D. No. 626 to a greater number of employees who can avail of the benefits under the law. The EGG, as the agency tasked with implementing the social justice mandate of the Constitution, should be liberal in resolving compensation claims of employees where there is some basis in the facts for inferring a work connection to the cause of death (Santos v. Employees' Compensation Commission, supra).

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED for failure to show that the Court of Appeals committed any reversible error.

Very truly yours,

(Sgd.) TOMASITA M. DRIS

Clerk of Court


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