SC awards seafarer US$ 65,748 disability pay

August 6, 2009 9:21 am 

By Perfecto T. Raymundo

MANILA, Aug. 6 — The Supreme Court (SC) has awarded seafarer Carlos Nisda with US$ 65,748 worth of disability pay and sickness allowance.

Nisda was a tugboat master tasked to operate a tug boat, a powerful marine vessel, which required a high level of skill.

The unanimous 36-page decision penned by Associate Justice Minita Chico-Nazario reversed and set aside the decision of both the Court of Appeals (CA) and the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) disallowing Nisda's claims for disability benefits.

The SC said that "it was erroneous for the NLRC and the Court of Appeals to deny petitioner Nisda's claims for disability benefits…" under the 2000 Amended Standard Terms and Conditions of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

The SC pointed out that it cannot subscribe to the assertion of respondents Sea Serve and ADAMS that petitioner Nisda was not entitled to disability pay as he was already toiling under the provisions of the second ship employment contract he signed with respondent ADAMS.

The SC ruled, "The subsequent agreement cannot supersede the terms of the standard employment contract afforded by the POEA. Republic Act No. 8042, commonly known as the Migrant Workers Act of 1995, expressly prohibits the substitution or alteration, to the prejudice of the worker, of employment contracts already approved and verified by the Department of Labor and Employment from the time of the actual signing thereof…thus the second employment contract petitioner Nisda signed with respondent ADAMS was void for not having been sanctioned by the POEA," making Nisda entitled to the disability benefits under his POEA-SEC contract as "more than a reasonable connection between the nature of petitioner Nisda's job and his Coronary Artery Disease was work related."

Nisda was a seafarer hired by respondent Khalifa A. Algosaibi Diving & Marine Services Company (ADAMS) through its manning agent, respondent Nobel Ship Services, Inc (Nobel).

After disembarking from M/V Algosaibi-42, Nisda submitted himself to the office of Nobel for a post-employment medical examination.

He was later diagnosed to be suffering from Coronary Artery Disease requiring Triple Bypass Operation.

After undergoing heart surgery on Sept. 5, 2002, ADAMS failed to respond to the "hospital package" the Makati Heart Foundation provided it with.

Nisda claimed that he was under a POEA-SEC contract which provides for disability benefits.

When no response was made, he sent a formal demand through his counsel.

Despite the formal demand, ADAMS and Nobel still failed to pay Nisda's claims.

Nisda filed a complaint with the NLRC, alleging that while under contract on board and on vacation pay he was medically ill.

The Labor Arbiter found the complaint meritorious as "there was no doubt that Nisda's heart condition was contracted during his 15 long years of employment with respondent ADAMS."

The respondents appealed to the NLRC, claiming that "Nisda's heart ailment was diagnosed long after his 7 August 2001 POEA-SEC expired, so he was no longer entitled to the disability benefits under the said contract."

Both the NLRC and the CA ruled in respondents' favor, prompting Nisda to file the petition with the SC. (PNA)

scs/PTR

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