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Supreme Court Denies Claim of Seafarer Who Confirmed His Declaration of Fitness & Firm News


Philippine Shipping Update – Manning Industry




Before his deployment, seafarer underwent a pre-employment medical examination (PEME) where he disclosed that he was talking medications for his heart condition. He passed his PEME with instructions to continue his medications.  Seafarer was then engaged as Chief Cook.  During his employment, seafarer experienced on and off chest pain and tightness on his chest on board and was diagnosed with gastritis and acid reflux. He was then repatriated and referred to the company-designated physician (CDP) who diagnosed him with ischemic heart disease, hypertension, and acute gastritis.  Eventually, the CDP declared him fit to work with advice to continue his medication.  Thereafter, the seafarer signed a Certificate of Fitness for Work wherein he released the company of all actions and claims in connection with his being released as fit for duty.
Seafarer then underwent another PEME.  However, despite passing said PEME, the company was not able to deploy him which prompted him to consult his own doctor who assessed him to be unfit to resume work as a seaman in any capacity. On this basis, the seafarer filed a claim against the company for disability benefits with the NCMB.
The arbitrator found in favor of the seafarer and found the illness to be work-related.  The arbitrator also held that since the seafarer’s return to work is conditioned that he had to maintain his medications would mean that he is not totally cured and disabled.  Upon petition, the Court of Appeals dismissed the claim and gave credence to the findings of the CDP that seafarer was already fit to work.  
When the case reached the Supreme Court, the claim was denied.
The Court held that the primordial consideration is whether the medical assessment or report of the CDP is complete and appropriately issued within the 120 or 240-day period, as the case may be, otherwise, the medical report must be set aside.  A final and definitive disability assessment is important to truly reflect the extent of the illness and his or her capacity to resume work as such. To be conclusive, the medical assessments or reports should be complete and definite to afford the appropriate disability benefits to seafarers. There must be sufficient bases to support the assessment.
In this case, the medical reports reveal that seafarer was regularly seen and managed by the CDP for 18 times spanning 161 days. In the last medical report, it was stated that seafarer’s ischemic heart disease and acid peptic ulcer disease were treated while his hypertension was controlled. It was thus recommended that he was already fit to resume sea duties.  In fact, seafarer signed a Certificate of Fitness for Work on the same day stating, among others, that he was releasing the company “of all claims, demands, etc. in connection with my being released on this date as fit for duty and holding respondent free from any and all liabilities as a consequence thereof
In other words, from seafarer’s repatriation, it took 161 days until he was found fit to resume his sea duty. Still, the Court finds the medical assessment that he was fit to work to be conclusive, complete, and definite. While it went beyond the 120-day period, its extension was justified under the circumstances, and it was still within the extended 240-day period.
The Court noted that seafarer's own physician declared him unfit to resume work as a seaman in any capacity.  However, records do not show that seafarer requested to refer the conflicting findings of the CDP and his doctor to a third doctor; he only sent a grievance letter requesting for a meeting in order to settle the payment of his full disability benefits. Thus, as it stands, the failure to refer the conflicting findings between the CDP and the seafarer's physician of choice grants the former's medical opinion more weight and probative value over the latter.
Lastly, the Court cannot give weight to seafarer's claim that he was only compelled to sign the Certificate of Fitness for Work because of promise of deployment. Said allegation, as it appears, is a mere afterthought. Absent any other proof to support it, his claim is not sufficient to overturn an otherwise valid and binding document signed by him in both English and Tagalog versions.
A.N. vs. Ventis Maritime Corporation, G.R. No. 246871, April 19, 2022, First Division, Justice Henri Jean Paul Inting, ponente (Attys. Charles Jay Dela Cruz and Aldrich Del Rosario of DelRosarioLaw handled for vessel interests).


DelRosarioLaw proudly announces the appointment of Jerome Pampolina to a government position. 
Jerome Pampolina was formerly Managing Associate of the firm and was appointed as Assistant Secretary for Sea Based Services of the newly formed Department of Migrant Workers.
Our warmest congratulations and we are confident that with the extensive experience you’ve had with the firm, you will be able to greatly contribute to the government, the industry and your constituents.   We wish you all the best on your new endeavors.





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 “‘Outstanding’ shipping boutique Del Rosario & Del Rosario is regularly sought out by the international group of P&I clubs as well as insurance companies and cruise lines. The firm has expertise in all aspects of shipping matters including labour, personal injury, vessel arrest, collisions, salvage, oil pollution, damage of cargoes, bunker claims, protection and indemnity, and ship finance. Its notable IP group has also been engaged by global giants such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Sony”. 2021 AsiaLaw Profile
“Specialising in maritime law, Del Rosario & Del Rosario is best known for acting for multinational clients in disputes relating to oil pollution, damaged cargo, salvage and vessel arrest. The group also has an extensive labour practice which is active in a full range of disputes involving Filipino seafarers. Del Rosario advise a variety of noteworthy clients, including shipping companies, insurers and P&I clubs.” 2021 Legal 500 Asia Pacific.





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