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Supreme Court orders manning industry to observe procedure in processing disability claims

SC orders manning industry to observe procedure in processing disability claims
August 2, 2022

The manning industry should strictly observe the required period in giving final medical assessment over disability claims, the Supreme Court (SC) declared.

“The Court reminds both the employees and the employers of every crew or manning industry to strictly observe the mandatory procedure on the referral to a third doctor in cases of conflict between the medical opinions of the company-designated physician and the seafarer’s chosen physician,” reads the SC decision dated March 29 and penned by Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo.

“It is only through this compulsory procedure that assessment of the disability of the seafarer can be resolved with finality,” the tribunal added.

The SC said “the procedure laid down by the POEA-SEC (Philippine Overseas Employment Administration-Standard Employment Contract) requires mandatory fulfilment by both the employer and the seafarer.”

“If either of the parties disregards the good faith compliance of the other, the legal consequences shall be borne by the erring party,” it stressed.

The SC issued the ruling over the petition of Benhur Shipping Corporation/Sun Marine Shipping S.A. and Edgar Bruselas which sought to overturn the Court of Appeals (CA) rulings that ordered them pay Alex Penaredonda Riego US$7,465 disability benefits.

The tribunal denied the petition since the petitioners violated the POEA-SEC which states that a company-designated physician “must issue a final medical assessment on the seafarer’s disability grading within a period of 120 days from the time the seafarer reported to him”, otherwise, “the seafarer’s disability becomes permanents and total.”

If the physician has sufficient justification, “then the period of diagnosis and treatment shall be extended to 240 days.”

Riega, who worked as chief cook of the vessel MV Hakari I, got repatriated on Dec. 15, 2013 after suffering from abdominal and lower back pain. He was later found to have hiatial hernia and disc bulge.

The SC pointed out that records show that the physician issued a medial report on May 26, 2014 but “even if the 120-day period is extended to 240 days, there was still no proper final medical assessment issued.”