My father disembarked from the vessel of his employment before November 1 last year. He was not medically repatriated for any ailment or reasons. After Christmas, however, he felt excruciating pain in his left leg and was no longer able to walk since then. Considering that it was merely a very short period after his disembarkation that my father experienced the unusual pain in his leg causing his disability, will my father be able to claim for disability benefits due him as a seafarer under the circumstances?
The case of Scanmar Maritime Services, et al. vs Wilfredo de Leon (GR 199977, Jan. 18, 2017, ponente: Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno), discussed the obligation of the seafarer after disembarkation and the burden of proving that the disability was inevitably caused by his employment, viz.:
“In lnterOrient Maritime Enterprises Inc. v[s] Creer, the seafarer’s repatriation was not due to any medical reasons but because his employment contract had already expired. On that occasion, the Court applied the doctrine in Wallem Maritime Services Inc. v[s] Tanawan, and held that:
“The rationale for the rule [on mandatory post-employment medical examination within three days from repatriation by a company-designated physician] is that reporting the illness or injury within three days from repatriation fairly makes it easier for a physician to determine the cause of the illness or injury. Ascertaining the real cause of the illness or injury beyond the period may prove difficult. To ignore the rule might set a precedent with negative repercussions, like opening to a limitless number of seafarers claiming disability benefits, or causing unfairness to the employer who would have difficulty determining the cause of a claimant’s illness because of the passage of time. The employer would then have no protection against unrelated disability claims. xxx
“Claimants for disability benefits must first discharge the burden of proving, with substantial evidence, that their ailment was acquired during the term of their contract.
They must show that they experienced health problems while at sea, the circumstances under which they developed the illness, as we as the symptoms associate with it.
“In this case, respondent adduced insufficient proof that he experienced his injury or its symptoms during the term of his contract.” (Emphasis supplied)
In your case, if your father was unable to submit for post-employment examination after three days from disembarkation, and that he was unable to prove that the disability he now has is directly connected with his employment, he may not be able to claim the disability benefits due him, under the circumstances.
Moreover, as stated in the same case“[t]he proximity of the development of the injury to the time of disembarkation does not automatically prove work causation.” The basis of the award of benefits due an employee cannot just rest on mere speculation; there must be an apparent proof, that your father has the burden to present, that the injury he sustained is a direct and probable consequence of his employment.
We hope that we were able to answer your queries. This advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to email@example.com