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Notes and Discussions on Recent Cases for Labor Relations Law

BOOK 2: LABOR RELATIONS

 PERMANENT TOTAL DISABILITY

1. 120 day period, lapse thereof not conclusive

- Finally, in Marlow Navigation Philippines, Inc. v. Osias, the Court


reaffirmed: (1) that mere inability to work for a period of 120 days
does not entitle a seafarer to permanent and total disability
benefits; (2) that the determination of the fitness of a seafarer for
sea duty is within the province of the company-designated
physician, subject to the periods prescribed by law; (3) that the
company-designated physician has an initial 120 days to determine
the fitness or disability of the seafarer; and ( 4) that the period of
treatment may only be extended to 240 days if a sufficient
justification exists such as when further medical treatment is
required or when the seafarer is uncooperative.

2. Doctor’s findings > 120-day lapse

- It is the doctor's findings that should prevail as he or she is


equipped with the proper discernment, knowledge, experience and
expertise on what constitutes total or partial disability. The
physician's declaration serves as the basis for the degree of
disability that can range anywhere from Grade 1 to Grade 14.
Notably, this is a serious consideration that cannot be determined
by simply counting the number of treatment lapsed days. 19
Accordingly, the timely medical assessment of a company-
designated physician is given great significance by the Court to
determine whether a seafarer is entitled to disability benefits.
Indeed, the mere inability of a seafarer to work for a period of 120
days is not the sole basis to determine a seafarer's disability.

3. Obligation of Employer; Lapse of 120 days; Justify extension to


240 days, otherwise PERMANENT TOTAL DISABILITY DUE TO
NON-COMPLIANCE
- But before the company-designated physician may avail of the
allowable 240-day extended treatment period, he must perform
some significant act to justify the extension of the original 120-day
period. Otherwise, the law grants the seafarer the relief of
permanent total disability benefits due to such non-compliance.

4. Total and permanent disability BY OPERATION OF LAW

- Case law states that without a valid final and definitive assessment
from the company-designated physician within the 120/240-day
period, the law already steps in to consider petitioner's disability as
total and permanent. Thus, a temporary total disability becomes
total and permanent by operation of law.

5. Third doctor necessary in case of conflicting medical findings

- More importantly, respondent never signified his intention to


resolve the disagreement with petitioners' company-designated
physicians by referring the matter to a third doctor. It is only
through the procedure provided by the POEA-SEC, in which he was
a party, can he question the timely medical assessment of the
company-designated physician and compel the petitioners to
jointly seek an appropriate third doctor. Absent proper compliance,
the final medical report of the company-designated physician must
be upheld. Ergo, he is not entitled to permanent and total disability
benefits.

- PROVIDED that the company physician made an assessment: It


bears stressing that a seafarer's compliance with the conflict-
resolution procedure under the said provision presupposes that the
company-designated physician came up with an assessment as to
his fitness or unfitness to work before the expiration of the 120-day
or 240-day periods.

6. EMPLOYER: Diabetes as a non-work-related disease

- Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic and a familial disease to which one


is pre-disposed by reason of heredity, obesity or old age. It does
not indicate work-relatedness and by its nature, is more the result
of poor lifestyle choices and health habits for which disability
benefits are improper.

7. EMPLOYEE: Rectal Mass non-work related but compensable,


CONTRIBUTION, CONTRIBUTORY sufficient

- We, thus, stress that in determining the compensability of an illness,


we do not require that the employment be the sole factor in the
growth, development, or acceleration of a claimants' illness to
entitle him to the benefits provided for. It is enough that his
employment contributed, even if only in a small degree, to the
development of the disease.

- Even assuming that the ailment of the worker was contracted prior
to his employment, this still would not deprive him of
compensation benefits. For what matters is that his work had
contributed, even in a small degree, to the development of the
disease. Neither is it necessary, in order to recover compensation,
that the employee must have been in perfect health at the time he
contracted the disease. A worker brings with him possible infirmities
in the course of his employment, and while the employer is not the
insurer of the health of the employees, he takes them as he finds
them and assumes the risk of liability.

8. Seafarer? See POEA Standard Contract for Seafarers

9. PAO lawyer entitled to Attorney’s Fees!

- The costs of the suit, attorney's fees and contingent fees imposed
upon the adversary of the PAO clients after a successful litigation
shall be deposited in the National Treasury as trust fund and shall
be disbursed for special allowances of authorized officials and
lawyers of the P A0." Indeed, petitioner is entitled to the award of
attorney's fees equivalent to ten percent (10%) of the total
monetary award. R.A. No. 9406 sanctions the receipt by the PAO of
attorney's fees, and provides that such fees shall constitute a trust
fund to be used for the special allowances of their officials and
lawyers. The matter of entitlement to attorney's fees by a claimant
who was represented by the PAO has already been settled in Our
Haus Realty Development Corporation v. Parian. The Court ruled
therein that the employees are entitled to attorney's fees,
notwithstanding their availment of free legal services offered by the
PAO and the amount of attorney's fees shall be awarded to the PAO
as a token recompense to them for their provision of· free legal
services to litigants who have no means of hiring a private lawyer.
gr_225803_2018

 Dismissal

1. Loss of trust and confidence

- proof beyond reasonable doubt is not required. It would already be


sufficient that there is some basis for such loss of confidence, such
as when the employer has reasonable ground to believe that the
concerned employee is responsible for the purported misconduct
and the nature of his participation therein. This distinguishes a
managerial employee from a fiduciary rank-and-file where loss of
trust and confidence, as ground for valid dismissal, requires proof
of involvement in the alleged events in question, and that mere
uncorroborated assertion and accusation by the employer will not
be sufficient.

- Actual Loss or Damage is NOT Necessary: It should be noted,


however, that the damage to the respondents or whether or not the
respondents were defrauded is not a necessary element and
consideration in determining whether sufficient basis exists to
justify the employee's dismissal on grounds of serious misconduct
or loss of trust. To reiterate, the employer need only to entertain
the moral conviction or such reasonable grounds to believe, that
the employee is responsible for the misconduct and the nature of
the latter's participation renders him unworthy of the trust and
confidence demanded by the position; that the act resulting in the
loss of trust or the misconduct is established by facts; and that the
act or misconduct is willfully made, i.e., the employee voluntarily
and willfully committed the act, although he may not have intended
the wrongful consequence. gr_219324_2018
- Employer good faith: Thus, for as long as the company's exercise
of judgment is in good faith to advance its interest and not for the
purpose of defeating or circumventing the rights of employees
under the laws or valid agreements, such exercise will be upheld.

 Procedure

1. Technical Rules of Evidence NOT Binding

- contention that the accounting report . and email correspondence


are inadmissible as they were never authenticated, verified or sworn
to. First of all, technical rules of evidence are. not binding in labor
cases. Second of all, Gaite never questioned the
authentiCity/admissibility thereof before the labor tribunals. Thus,
any objection thereto must be deemed waived.
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