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Supreme Court reverses ruling granting disability benefits to seafarer 

SC reverses ruling granting disability benefits to seafarer 
John Victor D. Ordoñez December 27, 2022

THE SUPREME Court (SC) has overturned an appellate court ruling that granted permanent disability benefits to a seafarer who sustained a lung injury on the job.  

In a 14-page decision dated Nov. 29 and made public on Dec. 21, the tribunal ruled that the seafarer was not entitled to disability benefits and lawyer’s fees since a company physician said he was fit to work after the injury. 

“The law is explicit and clear that the company-designated physician is the person entrusted with the task of determining the seafarer’s degree of disability,” according to the ruling penned by Associate Justice Ramon Paul L. Hernando.  

Under the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration’s rules (POEA), the company-designated physician has authority to determine if a worker sustained a permanent disability during employment.  

Seafarers may consult with their own physician for a second opinion, and a third in case of conflicting assessments between the two doctors. 

In 2011, seaman Ardel S. Garcia suffered from a collapsed lung and a lung contusion after he went overboard during stormy weather.   

He worked with an international company that provides ship management and maritime services.  

Mr. Garcia’s personal physician barred him from continuing his work as a seafarer due to the injury. 

The Court of Appeals (CA) reversed the National Labor Relations Commission’s dismissal of Mr. Garcia’s appeal as the court accepted the opinion of Mr. Garcia’s personal physician. 

The appellate court ruled the seafarer was still suffering from the effects of the lung injury despite being declared fit for work by the company doctor.  

The Supreme Court, on the other hand, noted that the company doctor’s assessment was more credible since Mr. Garcia did not seek a third doctor’s opinion. 

“Clearly, the assessment issued by the company-designated physician is more credible as against the medical certificate issued by Mr. Garcia’s personal physician who had no hand in the respondent’s case from the very beginning,” the tribunal said.