Labor Law

Carmelito Valenzona vs Fair Shipping Corporation

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G.R. No. 176884 – 675 Phil. 713 – 659 SCRA 642 – Labor Law – Social Legislation – Permanent Total Disability; When present

In May 2001, Carmelito Valenzona was recruited and hired by the Fair Shipping Corporation to work as an engineer for Sejin Lines Company Limited. He was assigned to work aboard the M/V Morelos ship. Before he embarked, he was declared fit to work by the company doctor.

But in September 2001, Valenzona got sick while aboard the ship. In October 2001, he was confined at a hospital in Mexico. In the same month, he was repatriated by Sejin to the Philippines. Upon reaching the Philippines, Valenzona was treated by the company doctor (Dr. Nicomedes Cruz). He was treated continuously for six months until April 2002.

But in April 2002, Valenzona sought a second opinion from a certain Dr. Magpapala and the latter diagnosed Valenzona with a cardiovascular disease. Later that same month, Valenzona demanded from Fair Shipping and Sejin that he be paid his sickness allowance and permanent disability benefits. Instead of paying him, the company did not as in fact, the company made a declaration that after the 6 months testing, Valenzona was found to be fit to work.

To prove his claim, Valenzona sought another independent doctor (Dr. Rodrgigo Guanlao). Guanlao concurred with the findings of Dr. Magpapala as he determined that Valenzona is unfit to work in any capacity.

ISSUE: Whether or not Valenzona should be declared to be inflicted with permanent total disability.

HELD: Yes. Under their Employment Contract, as well as under the POEA contract which is deemed integrated in said Employment Contract between Valenzona and Fair Shipping/Sinjen:

Upon sign-off from the vessel for medical treatment, the seafarer is entitled to sickness allowance equivalent to his basic wage until he is declared fit to work or the degree of permanent disability has been assessed by the company-designated physician but in no case shall this period exceed one hundred twenty (120) days.

Also, the Labor Code provides:

Art. 192. Permanent total disability. – x x xx x x x

(c) The following disabilities shall be deemed total and permanent:

(1) Temporary total disability lasting continuously for more than one hundred twenty days, except as otherwise provided for in the Rules; xxxx

Thus, permanent disability refers to the inability of a worker to perform his job for more than 120 days, regardless of whether he loses the use of any part of his body. What determines a claimant’s entitlement to permanent disability benefits is his inability to work for more than 120 days.

In this case, it is undisputed that after repatriation, Valenzona was not able to work for more than 120 days (in fact for 199 days – counted from day of repatriation to date when he was declared fit to work by the company doctor). This is also notwithstanding the fact that Valenzona was ultimately declared fit to work by the company doctor – the fact still remains that he was not able to work for 120 days due to illness and under the law, he was already permanently and totally disabled hence entitled to permanent disability benefits of $60,000.00.

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