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[107] WALLEN MARITIME SERVICES, INC. v.

TANAWAN assessed by the company-designated physician, but in no case shall


GR No. 160444 | 29 August 2012 | Bersamin, J. this period exceed one hundred twenty (120) days.
 For this purpose, the seafarer shall submit himself to a postemployment
Petitioner: Wallen Maritime Services, Inc. medical examination by a company- designated physician within three
Respondent: Ernesto C. Tanawan working days upon his return except when he is physically incapacitated to
do so, in which case, a written notice to the agency within the same period is
TOPIC: b.1) Private Sector—Agencies and Entities > (4) Government Techniques deemed as compliance. Failure of the seafarer to comply with the mandatory
and Regulation—Private Recruitment: Local, Landbased/Overseas > (vii) POEA reporting requirement shall result in his forfeiture of the right to claim the
Standard Employment Contract > (a) to be integrated in every seafarer’s contract above benefits.
FACTS
SUMMARY  May 12, 1997 – Petitioner, then acting as local agent of Scandic Ship
Respondent Tanawan suffered a foot injury at work, for which he underwent several Management, Ltd., engaged Ernesto Tanawan as dozer driver assigned to
months of treatment and therapy. During this time, he was paid sickness allowances the vessel, M/V Eastern Falcon, for a period of 12 months.
equivalent to his monthly salary. Later, he reported that he sustained an eye injury,  Nov. 22, 1997 – Respondent Tanawan sustained a foot injury when a steel
which he alleged to have also received at work. He filed a complaint for disability plate crushed his foot.
benefits with the NLRC against petitioners. o Nov. 28, 1997 – Respondent was repatriated to the Philippines
where his designated physician Dr. Robert Lim evaluated his
LA ruled in his favor, which NLRC reversed. CA then reaffirmed LA decision. SC ruled condition.
that the POEA’s rules regarding compensation for injury or illness regard permanent o From Nov. 30, 1997 to April 1998, he underwent treatment and
disability as existing when the worker is unable to work for more than 120 days. As therapy for his injury, during which he was paid sickness
such, though petitioner was deemed to be fit to return to work, he was still entitled to allowances equivalent to his monthly salary.
permanent disability benefits.  March 31, 1998 – Respondent sought the services of of Dr. Rimando Saguin
to assess the extent of his disability due to the same injury. Dr. Saguin
DOCTRINES categorized the foot injury as Grade 12 based on the Philippine Overseas
 The employment of seafarers, and its incidents, including claims for death Employment Administration (POEA) Schedule of Disability.
benefits, are governed by the contracts they sign every time they are hired or  May 21, 1998 – Conformably with the orthopedic surgeon’s findings, Dr. Lim
rehired. Such contracts have the force of law between the parties as their reported that respondent was already asymptomatic and pronounced him fit
stipulations are not contrary to law, morals, public order or public policy. to work.
 While the seafarers and their employers are governed by their mutual  Aug. 25, 1998 – Respondent sought the services of another physician, Dr.
agreements, the POEA rules and regulations require that POEA SEC, which Hernando D. Bunuan, for the evaluation of his right eye.
contains the standard terms and conditions of the seafarers’ employment in o Respondent claims that he sustained the injury onboard the vessel
foreign ocean-going vessels, be integrated in every seafarer’s contact. when paint thinner splashed on his eye and was told by the doctor
that there was nothing to worry about and that he could continue
PROVISION working.
Sec. 20. Compensation and Benefits o Respondent was diagnosed to be suffering from a retinal
B. Compensation and Benefits for Injury or Illness: detachment with vitreous hemorrhage on the right eye for which
 The liabilities of the employer when the seafarer suffers injury or illness surgical repair was needed. Dr. Bunuan categorized his injury as
during the term of his contract are as follows: Grade 7.
1. The employer shall continue to pay the seafarer his wages during the  Nov. 26, 1998 – Respondent filed in the Arbitration Branch of the NLRC a
time he is on board the vessel; complaint for disability benefits for the foot and eye injuries, sickness
2. If the injury or illness requires medical and/or dental treatment in a allowance, damages and attorney’s fees against the petitioner and its foreign
foreign port, the employer shall be liable for the full cost of such medical, principal.
serious dental, surgical and hospital treatment as well as board and o Petitioner denied respondent’s claim, reasoning that he we was
lodging until the seafarer is declared fit to work or to be repatriated. already fit to work as per Dr. Lim, that he did not sustain that eye
However, if after repatriation, the seafarer still requires medical attention injury during work, and that he already received his sickness
arising from said injury or illness, he shall be so provided at cost to the allowance.
employer until such time he is declared fit or the degree of his disability  LA: Granted respondent’s claim and dismissed Dr. Lim’s findings stating that
has been established by the company- designated physician. they were made by the orthopedic surgeon, and therefore Dr. Lim was not
3. Upon sign-off from the vessel for medical treatment, the seafarer is qualified to assess the respondent’s fitness to return to work.
entitled to sickness allowance equivalent to his basic wage until he is  NLRC: Reversed LA decision. It stated that Dr. Saguin’s categorization or
declared fit to work or the degree of permanent disability has been respondent’s disability happened before Dr. Lim declared respondent fit to
work, and that only Dr. Lim is qualified to assess respondent’s disability as  As for the eye injury, respondent’s claim for disability benefits was already
he is the company-designated physician. Also, respondent failed to prove barred by his failure to report the injury and to have his eye examined by a
that he sustained his eye injury at work, and did not mention it during his company-designated physician. The rationale for the rule is that reporting the
treatment for his foot injury. illness or injury within three days from repatriation fairly makes it easier for a
 CA: Reinstated LA decision, stating that what was being compensated in physician to determine the cause of the illness or injury. Respondent’s claim
disability compensation was not the injury but the incapacity to work, and for disability benefit for his eye is denied as he did not allege such injury
that Dr. Lim’s evaluation was self-serving in favor of the petitioner. during the treatment of his foot, nor was he able to prove such injury
 Petitioner insists that under the POEA Standard Employment Contract that happened during the course of his work.
respondent has no basis for claiming disability benefits as the company-
designated physician already assessed him fit for work. RULING
WHEREFORE, the Court PARTIALLY GRANTS the petition for review; and
ISSUES/HELD DELETES the award of US$20,900.00 as disability benefits for the eye injury. No
1. WoN the Standard Employment Contract of the POEA is law between the pronouncement on costs of suit. SO ORDERED.
seafarer and manning agent – YES.
2. WoN respondent can claim disability benefits for his foot and eye injuries despite
being declared fit for work by the company-designated physician – PARTIALLY.

RATIO
1. YES.
 The employment of seafarers, and its incidents, including claims for death
benefits, are governed by the contracts they sign every time they are hired or
rehired. Such contracts have the force of law between the parties as long as
their stipulations are not contrary to law, morals, public order or public policy.
 While the seafarers and their employers are governed by their mutual
agreements, the POEA rules and regulations require that the POEA
SEC, which contains the standard terms and conditions of the
seafarers’ employment in foreign ocean-going vessels, be integrated in
every seafarer’s contract.

2. PARTIALLY.
 It is clear from the 1996 POEA SEC, which was enforced during
respondent’s employment, that the company-designated physician
determines whether the seafarer suffers from any disability or is fit to work.
As such, the seafarer must submit himself to the company- designated
physician for a post-employment medical examination within three days from
his repatriation.
 Respondent submitted himself to Dr. Lim, the company- designated
physician, for a medical examination on December 1, 1997, which was within
the 3-day reglementary period from his repatriation. No mention of an eye
injury were made at this time. Respondent was treated for his foot injury from
December 1, 1997 to May 21, 1998, a period of 172 days during which
respondent was unable to perform his job, an indication of a permanent
disability.
 Under the law, there is permanent disability if a worker is unable to perform
his job for more than 120 days, regardless of whether or not he loses the use
of any part of his body. Disability should be understood more on the loss of
earning capacity rather than on the medical significance of the disability.
Even in the absence of an official finding by the company-designated
physician, the seafarer may still be declared to be suffering from a
permanent disability if he is unable to work for more than 120 days.