Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence


Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence > Year 1984 > February 1984 Decisions > G.R. No. L-60346 February 20, 1984 - JOSE P. MERCADO, JR. v. EMPLOYEES’ COMPENSATION COMMISSION, ET AL.:




PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. L-60346. February 20, 1984.]

JOSE P. MERCADO, JR., Petitioner, v. EMPLOYEES’ COMPENSATION COMMISSION and GOVERNMENT SERVICE INSURANCE SYSTEM, Respondents.

Conrado E. Medina for Petitioner.

The Solicitor General for respondent ECC.

Lazaro, Navarette & Gatbonton Law Office for respondent GSIS.


SYLLABUS


1. LABOR AND SOCIAL LEGISLATION; LABOR LAWS; EMPLOYEES’ COMPENSATION ACT; COMPENSABILITY OF ILLNESS, THEORY OF INCREASED RISK, APPLICABLE. — Admittedly, vertebro-basilar insufficiency is not included in the list of occupational diseases under Annex "A" of the implementing rules of Presidential Decree 626, as amended. Such non-inclusion however, does not preclude compensability for one’s illness if sufficient proof be presented that the risk of contraction of the ailment was increased by his working conditions.

2. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; ACTUAL PROOF OF CAUSATION NOT NECESSARY; RATIONALE. — Actual proof of causation is not necessary to justify compensability. This Court has consistently declared that to show actual causes or factors which lead to an ailment claimed compensable, would not be consistent with the liberal interpretation of the Labor Code and the social justice guarantee embodied in the Constitution in favor of the workers (Cabañero v. ECC, Et Al., L-50255, Jan. 30, 1982; Cristobal v. ECC, Et Al., L-49280, April 30, 1980). This is more so, We believe, in the case of brain tumor, where concededly, its etiology is as obscure as neoplasms elsewhere in the body. In addition, We reiterate Our ruling in Laron v. WCC (73 SCRA 84), that in testing evidence or relation between the injury or disease and the employment, probability and not certainty is the touchstone (p. 47, rec., Comment of the Office of the Solicitor General, reiterated in its Memorandum, p. 136, rec.). WE find the nature of the work of the petitioner as the probable cause of the contraction and/or aggravation of the disabling ailment.

3. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; SULIT CASE DIFFERENT FROM THE CASE AT BAR. — There is no congruence between the case at bar and the Sulit case. In the latter, this Court made a definite finding that the ailment for which compensation was being claimed." . . was not caused by her husband’s work as mechanic. The contracting of such a disease was not increased by the working conditions of his job. Hence, that disease is not compensable in this case. The same observations apply to broncho-pneumonia." It is readily admitted in the present case, however, that the etiology of intracranial new growth or brain tumor is as obscure as that of neoplasm elsewhere in the body (ECC Case No. 1642, p. 24, rec.). Moreover, this Court has, in the case of Uy v. WCC (64 SCRA 42) declared that "apparently, tumor is a disease of such nature that the developments of medical science up to now cannot fully explain its causes and the factors that may aggravate or alleviate the progress of the disease." To require proof of causal connection in this case as a condition for compensability therefore is to require, as admitted by respondent GSIS counsel, the impossible (p. 122, rec.). To enforce and demand this impossibility is to render nugatory the constitutional principles of social justice and protection to labor. Rightly and with more reason, it is in this case where the cause of the ailment is not determined or determinable that We must hold firm to the constitutional commitment that those who have less in life should have more in law.

4. ID.; ID.; ID.; THE LAW APPLICABLE WHERE CAUSE OF ACTION AROSE AT TIME OF ITS EFFECTIVITY; CASE AT BAR. — On the matter of the applicable law, i.e., the Workmen’s Compensation Act or the Employees’ Compensation Law under the New Labor Code, We agree with respondent GSIS that the latter applies in the case. In the case at bar, the initial manifestation of the ailment (petitioner’s brain tumor) occurred only on January 31, 1975, at which time the Employees’ Compensation Act was the law in full force and effect. Therefore, and noting that the causes of brain tumor are unknown (Uy v. WCC, 64 SCRA 37, 42) the provisions of the Employees’ Compensation Act must be applied in the case at bar.


D E C I S I O N


MAKASIAR, J.:


This is a petition to review the decision of respondent Employees’ Compensation Commission (ECC) affirming the decision of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) denying the claim filed by Jose P. Mercado, Jr. for total disability benefits.chanrobles virtual lawlibrary

Petitioner Jose P. Mercado, Jr. had been employed by the City of Manila from October 26, 1945 to March 16, 1979. His service record (p. 9, rec.) covering 34 years, discloses that he was employed by the city government of Manila:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

a) as Laborer of its Manila Health Department from October 26, 1945 up to June 30, 1946;

b) as Special Laborer thereof from July 1, 1946 to June 30, 1948;

c) as Watchman from July 1, 1948 to October 18, 1951 of said Department;

d) as Watchman of its Department of Public Services from October 19, 1951 to December 31, 1952;

e) as Filer-Helper from January 1, 1955 to November 9, 1964;

f) as Clerk II from November 10, 1964 up to June 30, 1976; and

g) as Clerk II from July 1, 1976, Refuse and Environmental Sanitation Center up to March 16, 1979.

Starting January 31, 1975, however, he began to incur paid leaves of absence totalling 110 days of vacation leave and 109 1/2 days of sick leave until March 2, 1975 (Annex "A", pp. 12-13, rec.). On March 16, 1979, before he could take his terminal leave, he was forced to retire at the age of 60 years, three (3) months and thirteen (13) days due to an illness diagnosed as Vertebro-Basilar Insufficiency (R/O Intracranial Tumor) or in layman’s terms, brain tumor. He received as retirement pay the amount of P22,829.40.

Subsequently, petitioner filed with the GSIS his claim for disability benefits. The GSIS denied his claim in a letter dated September 12, 1979, and his subsequent request for reconsideration, in a letter dated January 17, 1980. Petitioner appealed to the ECC which rendered judgment for the GSIS on October 22, 1981, thus:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"In disapproving claimant’s claim, the GSIS, through the Medical Evaluation and Underwriting Group stated that vertebro basilar insufficiency (intracranial tumor) is a tumor of the brain and/or spinal cord. Statistics show the peak age incidence to be the fifth decade of life with a lessening incidence at the extreme ages, infancy and the senescent period. Trauma, viruses, chemical irritation and heredity have been suggested as causative agents.

"In appellant’s request for reconsideration of his claim, he submitted a report of his brain scan, his X-ray of the cervical spine and ECG readings. All of these findings pointed to the presence of suspicious space occupying lesion. However, the respondent System ruled that the disability of the appellant cannot be considered compensable under Presidential Decree 626, as amended, because vertebrobasilar insufficiency is not an occupational disease as listed under Annex ‘A’ of the implementing rules of Presidential Decree 626, as amended, and appellant failed to provide sufficient proofs that his risk of contraction of his ailment was increased by his working conditions. Hence, appellant now interposes this appeal to this Commission for appropriate review of his claim.

"Intracranial new growth is, in layman’s term, tumor of the brain. Its etiology is as obscure as that of neoplasm elsewhere in the body. Statistics show the peak age incidence to be the 5th decade of life with a lessening incidence at the extreme age, infancy, and the senescent period. The symptoms and signs in patients with cerebral neoplasm are chiefly related to the size and location of the tumor. The signs and symptoms may be separated into two groups: First, those which are due to the presence of an expanding mass within the skull, and second, those which are due to a local destruction of cerebral tissue (Reference: Harrison, T.R., Principles of Internal Medicine, McGraw Hill, Asian edition, 1954, pp. 1618-1659).

"The mandatory proof of causation, once an ailment upon which a claim is based is not considered an occupational disease as defined and understood under Presidential Decree 626, as amended, is enforced to establish compensability.

"The evidence submitted by the appellant in support of his claim fail to indicate that the cause of his disability is service- connected. The work of appellant did not expose him to carcinogenic chemicals, there was no history of trauma and he was not exposed to viruses in his employment.

"Records from the GSIS further disclose that appellant was paid benefits under Retirement No. PB 9576 in the amount of P22,829.40. If still living, appellant would be receiving a monthly pension at the rate of P380.49 for life, beginning March 16, 1984.

"FOR ALL THE ABOVE, this Commission has no recourse but to AFFIRM the decision of the respondent System and the instant claim is hereby dismissed" (Annex "G", pp. 23-25, rec.).

Hence, this petition.

WE find for the petitioner.

Admittedly, vertebro-basilar insufficiency is not included in the list of occupational diseases under Annex "A" of the implementing rules of Presidential Decree 626, as amended. Such non-inclusion however, does not preclude compensability for one’s illness if sufficient proof be presented that the risk of contraction of the ailment was increased by his working conditions. Section 1(b) Rule III of the Revised Rules on Employees’ Compensation thus states:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"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 these 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."cralaw virtua1aw library

In denying compensability, the ECC stated that:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"The evidence submitted by the appellant in support of his claim fail to indicate that the cause of his disability is service-connected. The work of appellant did not expose him to carcinogenic chemicals, there was no history of trauma and he was not exposed to viruses in his employment" (p. 26, rec.)

Petitioner answers the above, thus:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

". . . as Laborer in the Department of Health of the City of Manila, and then Watchman, Filer-Helper and finally Clerk II of the City’s Department of Public Service, and the Refuse and Environmental Sanitation Center, petitioner undoubtedly, was exposed to viruses in his employment, and consequently petitioner’s ailment if not directly caused, was aggravated by the nature of employment and/or greatly increased by the nature of his duties" (p. 10, rec.).

". . . the risk of contracting the ailment is remarkable from the nature of the employment or working conditions, especially those early days of Liberation, as petitioner was initially employed as Laborer, Special Laborer and Watchman, since October 26, 1945, when Manila was in ruins, dusty, unsanitary, with destroyed water system, and without system of garbage collection, thus, confidently, viruses and chemical irritation (suggested causative agents of petitioner’s ailment, per respondent ECC’s findings) assuming to be true, were abundant to which petitioner was exposed" (p, 93, rec.).

WE agree with the petitioner.

Actual proof of causation is not necessary to justify compensability. This Court has consistently declared that to show actual causes or factors which lead to an ailment claimed compensable, would not be consistent with the liberal interpretation of the Labor Code and the social justice guarantee embodied in the Constitution in favor of the workers (Cabañero v. ECC, Et Al., L-50255, Jan. 30, 1982; Cristobal v. ECC, Et Al., L-49280, April 30, 1980). This is more so, We believe, in the case of brain tumor, where concededly, its etiology is as obscure as neoplasms elsewhere in the body. In addition, We reiterate Our ruling in Laron v. WCC (73 SCRA 84), that in testing evidence or relation between the injury or disease and the employment, probability and not certainty is the touchstone (p. 47, rec., Comment of the Office of the Solicitor General, reiterated in its Memorandum, p. 136, rec.). WE find the nature of the work of the petitioner as the probable cause of the contraction and/or aggravation of the disabling ailment.chanrobles.com : virtual law library

On the matter of the applicable law, i.e., the Workmen’s Compensation Act or the Employees’ Compensation Law under the New Labor Code, We agree with respondent GSIS that the latter applies in the case. In the case at bar, the initial manifestation of the ailment (petitioner’s brain tumor) occurred only on January 31, 1975, at which time the Employees’ Compensation Act was the law in full force and effect. Therefore, and noting that the causes of brain tumor are unknown (Uy v. WCC, 64 SCRA 37, 42) the provisions of the Employees’ Compensation Act must be applied in the case at bar.

Nonetheless, the application of the Employees’ Compensation Act does not negate compensability in this case.

In attempting to steer clear liability under the Employees’ Compensation Act, respondent GSIS noted that under said Act the presumption of compensability and the rule on aggravation of illness caused by the nature of the employment has been abolished as confirmed in the case of Sulit v. ECC (L-48602, June 30, 1960), thus:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Those radical innovations, the presumption of compensability and the rule on aggravation of illness, which favor the employee, paved the way for the latitudinarian or expansive application of the Workmen’s Compensation Law in favor of the employee or worker.

"It now appears that after the government had experimented for more than twenty years with such employee-oriented application of the law, the lawmaker found the result to be unsatisfactory because it destroyed the parity or balance between the competing interests of employer and employee with respect to workmen’s compensation. The balance was titled unduly in favor of the workmen.

"Hence, to restore a sensible equilibrium between the employer’s obligation to pay workmen’s compensation and the employee’s right to receive reparation for work-connected death or disability, the old law was jettisoned and in its place we have the employees’ compensation and state insurance fund in the Labor Code, as amended.

"As correctly observed by the learned Government Corporate Counsel, Manuel M. Lazaro, the Labor Code abolished the presumption of compensability and the rule on aggravation of illness caused by the nature of the employment. This Court is powerless to apply those rules under the Labor Code [Resolution of March 8, 1978 in L-47008, Ibañez v. Workmen’s Compensation Commission]" (pp. 56-57, rec.).

To bolster its position, respondent GSIS also stated that the social justice policy of our Constitution is not violated by the rejection of a claim that is clearly not compensable under the law. Citing Mitra v. ECC (L-45846, 96 SCRA 284, Feb. 21, 1980), it proposed that:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

". . . if the injury or the disease is not labor-connected, but is suffered by an employee as a constituent of the general citizenry, he deserves no special treatment granted to labor.

"Further, it is noteworthy that the amended Labor Code, even as a social legislation, spells out with more specificity the requirements for injuries and diseases which are to be compensable, and has abrogated the Workmen’s Compensation Act under the aegis of which this Court has practically established that most diseases are work-connected or work-aggravated and should be compensable.

"It also bears reiterating that rulings and opinions of administrative agencies in areas within their competence are entitled to great respect unless they have committed grave abuse of discretion, which is not so in this particular case."cralaw virtua1aw library

Mindful of the above legal and jurisprudential developments, We nonetheless find for Petitioner.

There is no congruence between the case at bar and the Sulit case. In the latter, this Court made a definite finding that the ailment for which compensation was being claimed." . . was not caused by her husband’s work as mechanic. The contracting of such a disease was not increased by the working conditions of his job. Hence, that disease is not compensable in this case. The same observations apply to broncho-pneumonia." chanrobles.com : virtual law library

It is readily admitted in the present case, however, that the etiology of intracranial new growth or brain tumor is as obscure as that of neoplasm elsewhere in the body (ECC Case No. 1642, p. 24, rec.). Moreover, this Court has, in the case of Uy v. WCC (64 SCRA 42) declared that "apparently, tumor is a disease of such nature that the developments of medical science up to now cannot fully explain its causes and the factors that may aggravate or alleviate the progress of the disease." To require proof of causal connection in this case as a condition for compensability therefore is to require, as admitted by respondent GSIS counsel, the impossible (p. 122, rec.). To enforce and demand this impossibility is to render nugatory the constitutional principles of social justice and protection to labor. Rightly and with more reason, it is in this case where the cause of the ailment is not determined or determinable that We must hold firm to the constitutional commitment that those who have less in life should have more in law.

WHEREFORE, THE DECISION DATED OCTOBER 22, 1981 OF RESPONDENT EMPLOYEES’ COMPENSATION COMMISSION IS HEREBY SET ASIDE AND THE GOVERNMENT SERVICE INSURANCE SYSTEM (GSIS) IS HEREBY ORDERED.

1. TO PAY PETITIONER THE SUM OF TWELVE THOUSAND (P12,000.00) PESOS AS DISABILITY COMPENSATION;

2. TO REIMBURSE PETITIONER HIS MEDICAL AND HOSPITAL EXPENSES DULY SUPPORTED BY RECEIPTS; AND

3. TO PAY PETITIONER THE SUM OF ONE THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED (P1,200.00) PESOS AS ATTORNEY’S FEES.

SO ORDERED.

Concepcion, Jr., Guerrero, Abad Santos, De Castro and Escolin, JJ., concur.

Aquino, J., took no part.




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