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Becmen Service Exporter and Promotion, Inc. Vs.

Cuaresma

GR. 182978-79, April 7, 2009

FACTS:

Jasmin Cuaresma was deployed by Becmen Service Exporter and Promotion, Inc. to serve as assistant nurse
in Al Birk Hospital in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), for a contract duration of 3 years, with a corresponding
salary of US$247.00 per month. A year later, she was found dead in her dormitory room. The examining physician
of the Al Birk Hospital concluded that the cause of her death was poisoning.

Her body was repatriated to Manila and the following day, the City Health Officer of Cabanatuan City
conducted an autopsy and found that Jasmin died of violent circumstances due to lacerations and abrasions on
various parts of her body and not poisoning as found by the physician from KSA. The NBI also conducted another
autopsy and the toxicology report tested negative for non-volatile, metallic poison and insecticides.

Jasmin’s parents (The Cuaresmas) received from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA)
amounts for death, funeral and medical reimbursement benefits. The Cuaresmas filed a complaint against
Becmen and its principal in the KSA, Rajab & Silsilah Company, claiming death and insurance benefits, as well as
moral and exemplary damages for Jasmin’s death, claiming that Jasmin’s death was work-related, having
occurred at the employer’s premises. Becmen and Rajab insist that Jasmin committed suicide, citing a prior
unsuccessful suicide attempt and relying on the Medical report of the KSA physician. While the case was pending,
Becmen filed a manifestation and motion for substitution alleging that Rajab terminated their agency relationship
and had appointed White Falcon Services, Inc. (White Falcon) as its new recruitment agent in the Philippines.
Thus, White Falcon was impleaded as respondent and it adopted and reiterated Becmen’s arguments.

The Labor Arbiter (LA) dismissed the complaint for lack of merit, finding that Jasmin died of suicide through
poisoning and held that her death was not service connected, nor did it occur while she was on duty. The LA also
noted that her parents have received all corresponding benefits they were entitled to under the law.

The NLRC reversed the same and held that Jasmin’s death was the result of an “accident” occurring within
the employer’s premises that is attributable to her employment, or to the conditions under which she lived, and
thus arose out of and in the course of her employment as nurse. The CA affirmed the decision of the NLRC but
amended the same with respect to the monetary award.

ISSUE:
Whether or not Rajab & Silsilah Company, White Falcon Services,Inc., Becmen Service Exporter and Promotion,Inc.
are liable for the death of Jasmin Cuaresma.

RULING:

Yes, they are jointly and solidarily liable. Jasmin’s death is not work-related. For lack of evidence, it cannot
be said that Jasmin was performing work-related duties in her dormitory room at the time of her death. What an
employee does on her free time is beyond the employer’s inquiry. The NBI found abrasions in different parts of
Jasmin’s body. All these show that Jasmin was manhandled and possibly raped prior to her death. She did not
commit suicide. It is beyond comprehension that a Filipina, in the prime of her life and working abroad, with a
chance to earn a high income, would simply commit suicide for no compelling reason.

It is impossible for Becmen/White Falcon and Rajab (as recruiter and employer) to be completely unaware
that cruelties and inhumanities are inflicted on OFWs. Abandoning their legal, moral and social obligation, they
gave upon Jasmin’s case for fear of pecuniary liability.

However, while the employment contract and KSA law do not require Rajab to provide Jasmin to social
security and other benefits upon her death, the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 provides that
the State shall ensure that the rights of distressed OFW’s, documented or undocumented, are adequately
protected and safeguarded.

Recruitment agencies should be the first to come to the rescue of our distressed OFWs since they knew the
employers and the addresses where they are deployed or stationed. For failure to render immediate aid,
Becmen/White Falcon and Rajab were in violation of Art 19, 21 and 24 of the Civil Code. They are liable to pay
moral (P2.5M), exemplary (P2.5M) damages to the family of Jasmin without prejudice to the right of each for
reimbursement.