2022 Bar Exam Question on Seamen’s Disability Benefits | Rare Techy


Is a seafarer entitled to compensation for disability benefits on completion of his contract of employment?

This is one of the questions included in the 2022 Bar Exams for Labor Law and Social Legislation.

Marino, a sailor, was an oiler aboard an oil tanker belonging to the Serena Corporation. After 10 consecutive contracts, each lasting eight months and the last ending in December 2021, Marino decided it was time to enjoy his hard-earned money and stepped down after his employment contract expired.

In April 2022, he experienced excruciating pain in his lower back. He saw a doctor and was diagnosed with an acute hernia. The doctor also found that the hernia was caused by repetitive heavy lifting due to oil extraction work.

Marino then filed a case before the Labor Arbiter against Serena Corporation, claiming total and permanent disability under the POEA contract.

In its position paper, Serena Corporation argued that since Marino had not raised any complaints during his employment, he was barred from filing the lawsuit within three days of his arrival in the country after his last job.

A seafarer’s right to disability benefits is governed by statute and contract, not just medical findings.

The claim for disability benefits is linked to the existence of the contract seamen and ceases on expiry of the contract each time they are re-employed.

The contract commences from the time a seafarer leaves the Philippines for work at an airport or port. The contractual service period on board the vessel shall terminate upon signing off from the vessel and arriving at the place of hire.

As a general rule, the seafarer’s condition or symptoms must be recorded when he embarks, since one of the requirements for compensating for an illness is that the seafarer’s illness is stated in the effectivity of the POEA contract.

Otherwise, his claim for benefits may be rejected for failure to prove that the said illness occurred while the contract was in force.

However, in Ventis Maritime Corp. v. In Salenga (GR. No. 238578, June 8, 2020), the Supreme Court ruled that a seafarer may claim disability benefits even after his illness manifests or after the contract period.

In cases where the disease appears or is discovered after the term of the seafarer’s contract, the disease may be either (I) an occupational disease listed under Section 32-A of the POEA Agreement, in which case it meets the conditions set forth in Section 32-A, or (2) an occupational disease under Section 32-A. An illness not listed as an illness but reasonably related to the seafarer’s work is classified as an occupational illness.

A seafarer whose contract is terminated and repatriated, despite not having a medical condition during employment, but suffering an illness that only becomes apparent after employment has ended, is entitled to disability benefits, provided the illness suffered can be proven to be reasonable. Connected with the work done on board.

On the other hand, failure to comply with the mandatory three workday reporting requirements can result in denial of claims with certain exceptions, such as when the seaman is physically incapable of complying with the requirements (Wallam, Inc. vs Inductivo, 376 Phil. 738) or due to the employer’s negligent/intentional refusal to refer the seaman to a company-appointed physician. (Interorient Maritime Enterprises, Inc. vs. Leonora S. Remo, 622 SCRA 237).

This requirement must be strictly followed whether to undergo a post-employment medical examination or to report the seafarer’s physical disability so that the company-designated doctor can identify whether the seafarer suffered an illness or injury during the period of employment or work. The conditions increased the risk of contracting the disease. (Dela Cruz vs PTC, 758 Phil. 382,394-395)

Like the 2020-2021 bar exams, which did not rely on pen, this year’s exams were done digitally, where 9,183 out of a total of 10,006 candidates managed to clear the exams held on two Wednesdays (November 9 and 16) and two Sundays. (November 13 and 20).

Led by Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, simultaneous digital and regionalized bar exams were conducted in fourteen (14) regional testing centers nationwide, 8 in Luzon and 3 in the Visayas. 3 in Mindanao.

A total of 8,241 passed the 2020/2021 bar exam out of 11,402 candidates, a pass rate of 72.28 percent, chaired by my UP law professor, SC Associate Justice Marvic Leonan.

(Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho Sapalo Velez is the Chief of the Seafarers Section of the Bundang Bulilan Law Offices. For comments, e-mail [email protected](or call 0917-5025808 or 0908-8665786.)


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