SC affirms CA ruling ordering manning agencies to pay ailing seaman US$ 60,000

October 24, 2009 11:27 pm 

MANILA, Oct. 25 — The Supreme Court (SC) has affirmed an earlier ruling of the Court of Appeals (CA) ordering manning firms, Wallem Maritime Services, Inc. and Scandic Shipmanagement Limited, to pay an ailing seaman USD60,000 in disability benefits.

The SC Second Division, in a ruling penned by Associate Justice Conchita Carpio Morales, stressed that “the perfection of appeals in the manner and within the period permitted by law is not only mandatory but jurisdictional and must, therefore, be strictly observed.”

It also said that both agencies lost its right to assail the CA decision for its filing a late appeal.

Associate Justices Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, Diosdado M. Peralta, Mariano C. Del Castillo and Roberto A. Abad concurred in the decision.

Court records showed that Eriberto S. Bultron was hired by Wallem and Scandic in February 1999 to work as crane operator for its cement-carrying vessel M/V Eastern Falcon.

In the course of his employment, Bultron suffered chronic coughs due to cement dust. Despite the company doctor’s advice of “further management” after finding infiltrations in his lungs and an enlarged heart, Wallem and Scandic allowed Bultron to continue his work until his contract expired.

Wallem referred Bultron to a company hospital in Manila after the latter complained of persistent coughs and was declared fit to work three months after.

The seaman refused to sign the certificate of fitness issued by the company doctor and sought a second opinion instead from a private physician.

He was diagnosed to be suffering from spinal stenosis and prevented from doing strenuous activity, avoid prolonged sitting and was advised to have bed rest.

Claiming that his illness was work-related, Bultron sought for compensation because his employer failed to provide safety measures and protective gears during his employment.

The manning firm said Bultron cannot claim for compensation since his contract had already expired.

But the labor arbiter ruled in favor of Bultron and ordered Wallem and Scandic to pay him disability benefits in the amount of 60,000 U.S. dollars or its peso equivalent at the time of payment of the award. It also ordered the manning firm to pay 10 percent of the total monetary award as attorney’s fees.

While the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) ruled in favor of Wallem and Scandic by reversing the ruling of the arbiter, the CA nullified the NLRC decision because it never acquired jurisdiction over the labor case after Wallem failed to perfect an appeal.

Under the rules, decisions, awards or orders of the labor arbiter are deemed final and executory unless appealed to the NLRC by any of the parties within 10 days from receipt of the decision with proof of payment of the required appeal fee.

And where the judgement involves monetary award, an appeal by the employer may be perfected “only upon the posting of a cash or a surety bond.”

Wallem and Scandic failed in this aspect.

It filed a notice of appeal on the last day of the 10-day appeal period via registered mail without the requisite bond as required by law. (PNA)

DCT/PFN

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