Joelson Iloreta vs Philippine Transmarine Carriers, Inc.

February 13, 2014
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607 SCRA 796 – Labor Law – Labor Relations – Seafarers – Permanent Total Disability – Physician’s Findings

In 2002, Joelson Iloreta was hired as a seaman aboard a foreign ship (MS Nautilus) operated by Norbulk Shipping U.K., Ltd. He was hired through Philippine Transmarine Carriers, Inc (PTCI).

In July 2002, while working, he experienced some chest pains. On August 2, 2002 in Brazil, he was diagnosed to be suffering from a serious heart disease.  He was repatriated on August 16, 2002 and was advised to see the company doctor (a certain Dr. Natalio Alegre). Alegre then performed some surgery on Iloreta. On December 17, 2002, Alegre cleared Iloreta and declared him “fit to work”.

However, Iloreta continued to experience chest pains and so he sought the opinion of an independent doctor (Dr. Efren Vicaldo).  On April 22, 2003, Vicaldo declared Iloreta as “unfit to work as seaman in any capacity” and that his heart ailment was “work-aggravated”.

On July 14, 2003, Iloreta asked for workmen’s compensation from PTCI and Norbulk. The latter denied his request. They agreed however to consult another doctor (Dr. Reynaldo Fajardo). Fajardo confirmed the findings of Vicaldo. Fajardo certified that Iloreta’s ailment is an “Impediment Grade IV (68.66%)”.

The Labor Arbiter as well as the NLRC on appeal awarded Iloreta compensation for permanent total disability which under POEA rate $60,000.00.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals ruled that the disability is only partial permanent because it is only 68% hence the computation should be: $50,000.00 x 68.66% or $34,330.00.

ISSUE: Whether or not the Court of Appeals is correct.

HELD: No. In the first place, Iloreta’s disability is already considered as permanent total because he was unable to work for more than 120 days counted from August 16, 2002 (when he was repatriated) to July 14, 2003 when he filed his claim.

Secondly, under paragraph 20.1.5 of the parties’ CBA, it is stipulated that “[a] seafarer whose disability is assessed at 50% or more under the POEA Employment Contract shall x x x be regarded as permanently unfit for further sea service in any capacity and entitled to 100% compensation, i.e., x x x US$60,000.00 for ratings.” Iloreta’s disability rating being 68.66%, he is entitled to a 100% disability compensation of US$60,000, as correctly found by the Labor Arbiter.

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