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G.R. No. 189863

September 17, 2014

On June 27, 2002, Petitioner Pedro Libang entered into a 9- month employment
contract with herein respondent ISMI and in behalf of its foreign shipping company,
Majestic. Libang was engaged as a Cook 1 for the vessel M/V Baltimar Orion.
While Libang was on board the vessel, he experienced numbness on the left side of
his face, difficulty in hearing from his left ear, blurred vision of his left eye and
speech problem.
Thus, on March 31, 2003, Libang obtained medical attention and was later
admitted for three days in a hospital in Dominican Republic, where he was found to
be suffering from high blood.
Libang was eventually repatriated to the Philippines wherein he underwent
treatment and was under the care of a cardiologist, neurologist and an
internist/endocrinologist. The company-designated physician, Dr. Roberto Lim issued
a medical certificate stating that Libang underwent medical/ surgical evaluation and
treatment due to hypertension, diabetes mellitus type 2 and stroke.
Dr Lim subsequently issued under a medical certificate alleging that Libang denied
having high blood pressure during the pre-employment medical examination but
revealed that he was already high blood and was taking medication upon his
examination after his repatriation.
This prompted Libang to seek the medical assessment of one Dr. Vicaldo from the
Philippine Heart Center. Dr. Vicaldo noted in his assessment that Libangs conditions
require him to a lifetime maintenance medication for his high blood and diabetes.
He also avers that Libang is not expected to land any gainful employment by reason
of his medical condition.
Issue: Is petitioner Libang entitled to receive disability benefits despite the failure
of the company-designated physician to classify his medical condition?
Case History
Labor Arbiter
Yes. Libang is entitled. Without doubt, Libang had gone through a thorough and rigid
screening process of ISMI and Santos (medical examinations included) before an
agreement or the contract of employment between the parties was reached and

actualized. This is precisely the reason why ISMI and Santos, should not be allowed
to make use of the argument that Libang is not entitled to any disability benefits as
he was already suffering from a pre-existing illness when he entered into a contract
of employment with ISMI and Santos.
Yes. He is entitled Libang was entitled to disability benefit since he NLRC considered
the reasonable connection between the nature of Libangs work as a cook and the
development of his illness. The nature of his work as a cook, exposed him to certain
What the law requires is a reasonable work-connection and not a direct [causal
connection]. It is sufficient that the hypothesis on which the seamans claim is
based is probable.
The NLRC rejected the claim that Libangs illness was pre-existing, citing the fact
that the claimant was required to undergo a pre-employment medical examination
and was then certified by company-designated physicians to be physically fit to
Court of Appeals
No. He is not entitled. The lone assessment made by Dr. Vicaldo could not have
justified the LAs and NLRCs finding of a Grade VI disability. The Philippine Overseas
Employment Administration-Standard Employment Contract (POEA-SEC) requires
the company-designated physician to be the one to make a disability assessment of
a seafarer. Furthermore, for hypertension to be compensable, it must be shown to
cause impairment of function of body organs, as substantiated by documents such
as chest x-ray report, ECG report, blood chemistry report, funduscopy report and CT
scan, pursuant to Section 32-A (20) of the POEA-SEC.
Ruling of the Supreme Court
Yes. Libang is entitled to receive disability benefits . Sec 20 (b) of the POEA SEC
The liabilities of the employer when the seafarer suffers work-related injury or
illness during the term of his contract are as follows:
Upon sign-off from the vessel for medical treatment, the seafarer
is entitled to sickness allowance equivalent to his basic wage until
he is declared fit to work or the degree of permanent disability has
been assessed by the company-designated physician but in no
case shall this period exceed one hundred twenty (120) days.

For this purpose, the seafarer shall submit himself to a postemployment medical examination by a company-designated
physician within three working days upon his return except when
he is physically incapacitated to do so, in which case, a written
notice to the agency within the same period is deemed as
compliance. Failure of the seafarer to comply with the mandatory
reporting requirement shall result in his forfeiture of the right to
claim the above benefits.
If a doctor appointed by the seafarer disagrees with the
assessment, a third doctor may be agreed jointly between the
Employer and the seafarer. The third doctors decision shall be
final and binding on both parties.
Clearly, there was a breach by Dr. Lim of his obligation as the company-designated
physician. Although Libang repeatedly argued that Dr. Lim failed to give an
assessment of his illness, herein respondents and Dr. Lim failed to explain and
justify such failure.
As against an incomplete evaluation by Dr. Lim, the medical certificate issued by Dr.
Vicaldo included a determination of the disability grade that applied to Libangs
condition. Libang was diagnosed to have both Hypertensive Cardiovascular Disease
and Diabetes Mellitus with an Impediment Grade VI. He was declared to be unfit to
resume to work as a seafarer in any capacity. The alleged severity of Libangs
illnesses could be linked with Dr. Lims statement that Libangs hypertension was
severeand that he ha[d] been under the care of a cardiologist, neurologist and
endocrinologist. Dr. Lim had not declared Libang to be fit to work or covered by any
disability grade. It is then clear that the finding of Dr. Vicaldo did not contradict any
opposing view from Dr. Lim on disability grade or fitness.