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Del Rosario Pandiphil Inc.

Shipping and the Law

Labor Code provision of total disability after 120 days of illness held not applicable to seafarers  

By:  Ruben Del Rosario, Managing Director, Del Rosario Pandiphil Inc., February 8, 2005


Seafarer was declared "fit to work" more than 120 days from the discovery of his illness.  He claimed that he should be paid total disabilty benefits as under Article 192 of the Labor Code of the Philippines, temporary disability lasting more than one hundred twenty days is considered total and permanent disability.  The Court of Appeals in upholding the ruling of the NLRC Commission dismissed seafarer's claim.  The Court ruled that the POEA contract and not the Labor Code governs the relationship between the seafarer and the vessel owners.  The POEA contract states that the seafarer is to undergo post-employment medical examination and treatment and thereafter, the company-designated physician determines the disability grading.  In this instance, the seafarer underwent post-employment medical examination and treatment.  Thereafter, the seafarer was declared by the company physician to be "fit to work".  There is no provision in the POEA contract that limits any treatment or disability assessment to 120 days.  The Court of Appeals dismissed seafarer's claim.  


Seafarer worked on the MV Shima as Chief Cook.  On September 15, 1999, he was signed off due to "brain tumor".  In Manila, he was treated by Dr. Cruz and on October 23, 1999, his tumor was removed.  Seafarer's condition improved and on January 14, 1999, after a repeat MRI which showed no signs of residual tumor recurrence, Dr. Cruz declared him "fit to work". 

Seafarer filed a claim for total and permanent disability benefits alleging that his illness lasted for more than 120 days and under Article 192 of the Labor Code he should be considered totally and permanently disabled.  Article 192 states:

Total and Permanent Disability

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

(1) Temporary disability lasting continuously for more than one hundred twenty days, exept as otherwise provided for in the Rules.

The Labor Arbiter ruled that seafarer was entitled to US$80,000 as disabilty  benefits as seafarer was not declared "fit to work" until January 14, 1999 or more than 120 days from his illness and seafarer was unable to perform his customary job as Chief Cook on board an ocean-going vessel.

On appeal to the NLRC Commission, the decision was reversed.  Seafarer appealed to the Court of Appeals which upheld the decision of the NLRC.

The Court of Appeals ruled that reliance by the seafarer on Article 192 of the Labor Code is misplaced.  Seafarer's claim is founded on the POEA Standard Employment Contract that applies to Filipino seafarers, and not the law as embodied in Article 192 of the Labor Code.  The said contract governs the relationship between the parties in this case.  The NLRC cannot ignore the clear terms of the POEA contract which required the submission by the seafarer to a post-employment medical examination before a company-designated physican to determine seafarer's disability.  The company-designated physician declared the seafarer "fit to work" on January 14, 2000.  Therefore, the seafarer being "fit to work" is not entitled to disabilty benefits.


Piloton vs. NLRC, et. al., CA-GR SP. No. 71391, December 14, 2004