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1. G.R. No. L-50734-37 February 20, 1981 WALLEM PHILIPPINES SHIPPING, INC., petitioner, vs. THE HON.

MINISTER OF LABOR, in his capacity as Chairman of the National Seamen Board Proper, JAIME CAUNCA, ANTONIO CABRERA, EFREN GARCIA, JOSE OJEDA and RODOLFO PAGWAGAN, respondents.

DE CASTRO, J.: Petition for certiorari with preliminary injunction with prayer that the Orders dated December 19, 1977 and April 3, 1979 of the National Seamen Board (NSB) be declared null and void. Private respondents were hired by petitioner sometime in May 1975 to work as seamen for a period of ten months on board the M/V Woermann Sanaga, a Dutch vessel owned and operated by petitioner's European principals. While their employment contracts were still in force, private respondents were dismissed by their employer, petitioner herein, and were discharged from the ship on charges that they instigated the International Transport Federation (ITF) to demand the application of worldwide ITF seamen's rates to their crew. Private respondents were repatriated to the Philippines on October 27, 1975 and upon their arrival in Manila, they instituted a complaint against petitioner for illegal dismissal and recovery of wages and other benefits corresponding to the five months' unexpired period of their shipboard employment contract. In support of their complaint, private respondents submitted a Joint Affidavit 1 stating the circumstances surrounding their employment and subsequent repatriation to the Philippines, material averments of which are herein below reproduced: JOINTAFFIDAVIT xxx xxx xxx 5. That aside from our basic monthly salary we are entitled to two (2) months vacation leave, daily subsistence allowance of US$8.14 each, daily food allowance of US$2.50. as well as overtime pay which we failed to receive because our Shipboard Employment Contract was illegally terminated; 6. That while we were in Rotterdam, on or about July 9, 1975, representative of the ITF boarded our vessel and talked with the Ship's Captain; 7. That the following day, the representatives of the ITF returned and was followed by Mr. M.S.K. Ogle who is the Company's Administrative Manager, again went to see the Captain; 8. That at around 7:00 in the evening all the crew members were called in the Mess Hall where the ITF representatives informed us that they have just entered into a "Special Agreement" with the Wallem Shipping Management, Ltd., represented by Mr. M.S.K. Ogle, Administrative Manager, wherein new salary rates was agreed upon and that we were going to be paid our salary differentials in view of the new rates; 9. That in the same meeting, Mr. M.S.K. Ogle also spoke where he told that a Special Agreement has been signed and that we will be receiving new pay rate and enjoined us to work hard and be good boys; 10. That the same evening we received our salary differentials based on the new rates negotiated for us by the ITF. 11. That while we were in the Port Dubai, Saudi Arabia, we were not receiving our pay, since the Ship's Captain refused to implement the world-wide rates and insisted on paying us the Far East Rate; 12. That the Port Dubai is one that is within the Worldwide rates sphere. 13. That on October 22, 1975, Mr. Greg Nacional Operation Manager of respondent corporation, arrived in Dubai Saudi Arabia and boarded our ship; 14. That on October 23, 1975, Mr. Nacional called all the crew members, including us to a meeting at the Mess Hall and there he explained that the Company cannot accept the worldwide rate. The Special Agreement signed by Mr. Ogle in behalf of the Company is nothing but a scrap of paper. Mr. Jaime Caunca then asked Mr. Nacional, in view of what he was saying, whether the Company will honor the Special Agreement and Mr. Nacional answered "Yes". That we must accept the Far East Rates which was put to a vote. Only two voted for accepting the Far East Rates; 15. That immediately thereafter Mr. Nacional left us; 16. That same evening, Mr. Nacional returned and threatened that he has received a cable from the Home Office that if we do not accept the Far East Rate, our services will be terminated and there will be a change in crew; 17. That when Mr. Nacional left, we talked amongst ourselves and decided to accept the Far East Rates; 18. That in the meeting that evening because of the threat we informed Mr. Nacional we were accepting the Far East Rate and he made us sign a document to that effect; 19. That we the complainants with the exception of Leopoldo Mamaril and Efren Garcia, were not able to sign as we were at the time on work schedules, and Mr. Nacional did not bother anymore if we signed or not; 20. That after the meeting Mr. Nacional cabled the Home Office, informing them that we the complainants with the exception of Messrs. Mamaril and Garcia were not accepting the Far East Rates; 21. That in the meeting of October 25, 1975, Mr. Nacional signed a document whereby he promised to give no priority of first preference in "boarding a vessel and that we are not blacklisted";

22. That in spite of our having accepted the Far East Rate, our services were terminated and advised us that there was a change in crew; 23. That on October 27, 1975, which was our scheduled flight home, nobody attended us, not even our clearance for our group travel and consequently we were not able to board the plane, forcing us to sleep on the floor at the airport in the evening of October 27, 1975; 24. That the following day we went back to the hotel in Dubai which was a two hours ride from the airport, where we were to await another flight for home via Air France; 25. That we were finally able to leave for home on November 2, 1975 arriving here on the 3rd of November; 26. That we paid for all excess baggages; 27. That Mr. Nacional left us stranded, since he went ahead on October 27, 1975; 28. That immediately upon arriving in Manila, we went to respondent Company and saw Mr. Nacional, who informed us that we were not blacklisted, however, Mr. Mckenzie, Administrative Manager did inform us that we were all blacklisted; 29. That we were asking from the respondent Company our leave pay, which they refused to give, if we did not agree to a US$100.00 deduction; 30. That with the exception of Messrs. Jaime Caunca Amado Manansala and Antonio Cabrera, we received our leave pay with the US$100.00 deduction; 31. That in view of the written promise of Mr. Nacional in Dubai last October 23, 1975 to give us priority and preference in boarding a vessel and that we were not blacklisted we have on several occasions approached him regarding his promise, which up to the present he has refused to honor. xxx xxx xxx Answering the complaint, petitioner countered that when the vessel was in London, private respondents together with the other crew insisted on worldwide ITF rate as per special agreement; that said employees threatened the ship authorities that unless they agreed to the increased wages the vessel would not be able to leave port or would have been picketed and/or boycotted and declared a hot ship by the ITF; that the Master of the ship was left with no alternative but to agree; that upon the vessel's arrival at the Asian port of Dubai on October 22, 1975, a representative of petitioner went on board the ship and requested the crew together with private respondents to desist from insisting worldwide ITF rate and instead accept the Far East rate; that said respondents refused to accept Far East ITF rates while the rest of the Filipino crew members accepted the Far East rates; that private respondents were replaced at the expense of petitioner and it was prayed that respondents be required to comply with their obligations under the contract by requiring them to pay their repatriation expenses and all other incidental expenses incurred by the master and crew of the vessel. After the hearing on the merits, the hearing Officer of the Secretariat rendered a decision 2 on March 14, 1977 finding private respondents to have violated their contract of employment when they accepted salary rates different from their contract verified and approved by the National Seamen Board. As to the issue raised by private respondents that the original contract has been novated, it was held that: xxx xxx xxx For novation to be a valid defense, it is a legal requirement that all parties to the contract should give their consent. In the instant case only the complainants and respondents gave their consent. The National Seamen Board had no participation in the alleged novation of the previously approved employment contract. It would have been different if the consent of the National Seamen Board was first secured before the alleged novation of the approved contract was undertaken, hence, the defense of novation is not in order. xxx xxx xxx The Hearing Officer likewise rules that petitioner violated the contract when its representative signed the Special Agreement and he signed the same at his own risk and must bear the consequence of such act, and since both parties are in paridelicto, complaint and counterclaim were dismissed for lack of merit but petitioner was ordered to pay respondents Caunca and Cabrera their respective leave pay for the period that they have served M/V Woermann Sanaga plus attorney's fees. Private respondents filed a motion for reconsideration with the Board which modified the decision of the Secretariat in an Order 3 of December 19, 1977 and ruled that petitioner is liable for breach of contract when it ordered the dismissal of private respondents and their subsequent repatriation before the expiration of their respective employment contracts. The Chairman of the Board stressed that "where the contract is for a definite period, the captain and the crew members may not be discharged until after the contract shall have been performed" citing the case of Madrigal Shipping Co., Inc. vs. Ogilvie, et al. (104 Phil. 748). He directed petitioner to pay private respondents the unexpired portion of their contracts and their leave pay, less the amount they received as differentials by virtue of the special agreements entered in Rotterdam, and ten percent of the total amounts recovered as attorney's fees. Petitioner sought clarification and reconsideration of the said order and asked for a confrontation with private respondents to determine the specific adjudications to be made. A series of conferences were conducted by the Board. It was claimed by petitioner that it did not have in its possession the records necessary to determine the exact amount of the judgment since the records were in the sole custody of the captain of the ship and demanded that private respondents produce the needed records. On this score, counsel for respondents manifested that to require the master of the ship to produce the records would result to undue delay in the disposition of the case to the detriment of his clients, some of whom are still unemployed. Under the circumstances, the Board was left with no alternative but to issue an Order dated April 3, 1979 4 fixing the amount due private respondents at their three (3) months' salary equivalent without qualifications or deduction. Hence,the instant petition before Us alleging grave abuse of discretion on the part of the respondent official as Chairman of the Board, in issuing said order which allegedly nullified the findings of the Secretariat and premised adjudication on imaginary conditions which were never taken up with full evidence in the course of hearing on the merits. The whole controversy is centered around the liability of petitioner when it ordered the dismissal of herein private respondents before the expiration of their respective employment contracts. In its Order of December 19, 1977 5 the Board, thru its Chairman, Minister Blas F. Ople, held that there is no showing that the seamen conspired with the ITF in coercing the ship authorities to grant salary increases, and the Special Agreement was signed only by petitioner and the ITF without any participation from the respondents who, accordingly, may not be charged as they were, by the Secretariat, with violation of their employment contract. The Board likewise stressed that the crew members may not be discharged until after the expiration of the contract which is for a definite period, and where the crew members

are discharged without just cause before the contract shall have been performed, they shall be entitled to collect from the owner or agent of the vessel their unpaid salaries for the period they were engaged to render the services, applying the case of Madrigal Shipping Co., Inc. vs. Jesus Ogilivie et al. 6 The findings and conclusion of the Board should be sustained. As already intimated above, there is no logic in the statement made by the Secretariat's Hearing Officer that the private respondents are liable for breach of their employment contracts for accepting salaries higher than their contracted rates. Said respondents are not signatories to the Special Agreement, nor was there any showing that they instigated the execution thereof. Respondents should not be blamed for accepting higher salaries since it is but human for them to grab every opportunity which would improve their working conditions and earning capacity. It is a basic right of all workingmen to seek greater benefits not only for themselves but for their families as well, and this can be achieved through collective bargaining or with the assistance of trade unions. The Constitution itself guarantees the promotion of social welfare and protection to labor. It is therefore the Hearing Officer that gravely erred in disallowing the payment of the unexpired portion of the seamen's respective contracts of employment. Petitioner claims that the dismissal of private respondents was justified because the latter threatened the ship authorities in acceeding to their demands, and this constitutes serious misconduct as contemplated by the Labor Code. This contention is not well-taken. The records fail to establish clearly the commission of any threat. But even if there had been such a threat, respondents' behavior should not be censured because it is but natural for them to employ some means of pressing their demands for petitioner, who refused to abide with the terms of the Special Agreement, to honor and respect the same. They were only acting in the exercise of their rights, and to deprive them of their freedom of expression is contrary to law and public policy. There is no serious misconduct to speak of in the case at bar which would justify respondents' dismissal just because of their firmness in their demand for the fulfillment by petitioner of its obligation it entered into without any coercion, specially on the part of private respondents. On the other hand, it is petitioner who is guilty of breach of contract when they dismissed the respondents without just cause and prior to the expiration of the employment contracts. As the records clearly show, petitioner voluntarily entered into the Special Agreement with ITF and by virtue thereof the crew men were actually given their salary differentials in view of the new rates. It cannot be said that it was because of respondents' fault that petitioner made a sudden turn-about and refused to honor the special agreement. In brief, We declare petitioner guilty of breach of contract and should therefore be made to comply with the directives contained in the disputed Orders of December 19, 1977 and April 3, 1979. WHEREFORE, premises considered, the decision dated March 14, 1977 of the Hearing Officer is SET ASIDE and the Orders dated December 19, 1977 and April 3, 1979 of the National Seamen Board are AFFIRMED in toto. This decision is immediately executory. Without costs. SO ORDERED.

2. G.R. No. L-58011 & L-58012 November 18, 1983 VIR-JEN SHIPPING AND MARINE SERVICES, INC., petitioner, vs. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION, ROGELIO BISULA RUBEN ARROZA JUAN GACUTNO LEONILO ATOK, NILO CRUZ, ALVARO ANDRADA, NEMESIO ADUG SIMPLICIO BAUTISTA, ROMEO ACOSTA, and JOSE ENCABO respondents. Antonio R. Atienza for petitioner. The Solicitor General for respondent NLRC, Quasha, Asperilia, Ancheta &- Valmonte Pena Marcos Law Offices for private respondents. RESOLUTION

GUTIERREZ, JR., J.:+.wph!1 Before the Court en banc is a motion to reconsider the decision promulgated on July 20, 1982 which set aside the decision of respondent National Labor Relations Commission and reinstated the decision of the National Seamen Board. To better understand the issues raised in the motion for reconsideration, we reiterate the background facts of the case, Taken from the decision of the National Labor Relations Commission: t.hqw It appears that on different dates in December, 1978 and January, 1979, the Seamen entered into separate contracts of employment with the Company, engaging them to work on board M/T' Jannu for a period of twelve (12) months. After verification and approval of their contracts by the NSB, the Seamen boarded their vessel in Japan. On 10 January 1919, the master of the vessel complainant Rogelio H. Bisula, received a cable from the Company advising him of the possibility that the vessel might be directed to call at ITF-controlled ports said at the same time informing him of the procedure to be followed in the computation of the special or additional compensation of crew members while in said ports. ITF is the acronym for the International Transport Workers Federation, a militant international labor organization with affiliates in different ports of the world, which reputedly can tie down a vessel in a port by preventing its loading or unloading, This is a sanction resorted to by ITF to enforce the payment of its wages rates for seafarers the so-called ITF rates, if the wages of the crew members of a vessel who have affiliated with it are below its prescribed rates.) In the same cable of the Company, the expressed its regrets for hot clarifying earlier the procedure in computing the special compensation as it thought that the vessel would 'trade in Caribbean ports only. On 22 March 1979, the Company sent another cable to complainant Bisula, this time informing him of the respective amounts each of the officers and crew members would receive as special compensation when the vessel called at the port of Kwinana Australia, an ITFcontrolled port. This was followed by another cable on 23 March 1979, informing him that the officers and crew members had been enrolled as members of the ITF in Sidney, Australia, and that the membership fee for the 28 personnel complement of the vessel had already been paid.

In answer to the Company's cable last mentioned, complainant Bisula, in representation of the other officers and crew members, sent on 24 March 1979 a cable informing the Company that the officers and crew members were not agreeable to its 'suggestion'; that they were not contented with their present salaries 'based on the volume of works, type of ship with hazardous cargo and registered in a world wide trade': that the 'officers and crew (were) not interested in ITF membership if not actually paid with ITF rate that their 'demand is only 50% increase based on present basic salary and that the proposed wage increase is the 'best and only solution to solve ITF problem' since the Company's salary rates 'especially in tankers (are) very far in comparison with other shipping agencies in Manila ... In reply, the Company proposed a 25% increase in the basic pay of the complainant crew members, although it claimed, that it would "suffer and absorb considerable amount of losses." The proposal was accepted by the Seamen with certain conditions which were accepted by the Company. Conformably with the agreement of the parties which was effected through the cables abovementioned, the Seamen were paid their new salary rates. Subsequently, the Company sought authority from the NSB to cancel the contracts of employment of the Seamen, claiming that its principals had terminated their manning agreement because of the actuations of the Seamen. The request was granted by the NSB Executive Director in a letter dated 10 April 1979. Soon thereafter, the Company cabled the Seamen informing them that their contracts would be terminated upon the vessel's arrival in Japan. On 19 April 1979 they Arere asked to disembark from the vessel, their contracts were terminated, and they were repatriated to Manila. There is no showing that the Seamen were given the opportunity to at least comment on the Company's request for the cancellation of their contracts, although they had served only three (3) out of the twelve (12) months' duration of their contracts. The private respondents filed a complaint for illegal dismissal and non-payment of earned wages with the National Seamen Board. The Vir-jen Shipping and Marine Services Inc. in turn filed a complaint for breach of contract and recovery of excess salaries and overtime pay against the private respondents. On July 2, 1980, the NSB rendered a decision declaring that the seamen breached their employment contracts when they demanded and received from Vir-jen Shipping wages over and above their contracted rates. The dismissal of the seamen was declared legal and the seamen were ordered suspended. The seamen appealed the decision to the NLRC which reversed the decision of the NSB and required the petitioner to pay the wages and other monetary benefits corresponding to the unexpired portion of the manning contract on the ground that the termination of the contract by the petitioner was without valid cause. Vir-jen Shipping filed the present petition. The private respondents submit the following issues in their motion for reconsideration: t.hqw A. THIS HONORABLE COURT DID VIOLENCE TO LAW AND JURISPRUDENCE WHEN IT HELD THAT THE FINDING OF FACT OF THE NATIONAL SEAMEN BOARD THAT THE SEAMEN VIOLATED THEIR CONTRACTS IS MORE CREDIBLE THAN THE FINDING OF FACT OF THE NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION THAT THE SEAMEN DID NOT VIOLATE THEIR CONTRACT. B. THIS HONORABLE COURT ERRED IN FINDING THAT VIR-JEN'S HAVING AGREED TO A 25% INCREASE OF THE SEAMEN'S BASIC WAGE WAS NOT VOLUNTARY BUT WAS DUE TO THREATS. C. THIS HONORABLE COURT ERRED WHEN IT TOOK COGNIZANCE OF THE ADDENDUM AGREEMENT; ASSUMING THAT THE ADDENDUM AGREEMENT COULD BE TAKEN COGNIZANCE OF, THIS HONORABLE COURT ERRED WHEN' IT FOUND THAT PRIVATE RESPONDENTS HAD VIOLATED THE SAME. D, THIS HONORABLE COURT ERRED WHEN IT DID NOT FIND PETITIONER VIRJEN LIABLE FOR HAVING TERMINATED BEFORE EXPIRY DATE THE EMPLOYMENT CONTRACTS OF PRIVATE RESPONDENTS, THERE BEING NO LEGAL AND JUSTIFIABLE GROUND FOR SUCH TERMINATION. E. THIS HONORABLE COURT ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE PREPARATION BY PETITIONER OF THE TWO PAYROLLS AND THE EXECUTION OF THE SIDE CONTRACT WERE NOT MADE IN BAD FAITH. F. THIS HONORABLE COURT INADVERTENTLY DISCRIMINATED AGAINST PRIVATE RESPONDENTS. At the outset, we are faced with the question whether or not the Court en banc should give due course to the motion for reconsideration inspite of its having been denied twice by the Court's Second Division. The case was referred to and accepted by the Court en banc because of the movants' contention that the decision in this case by the Second Division deviated from Wallem Phil. Shipping Inc. v. Minister of Labor (L-50734-37, February 20, 1981), a First Division case with the same facts and issues. We are constrained to answer the initial question in the affirmative. A fundamental postulate of Philippine Constitutional Law is the fact, that there is only one Supreme Court from whose decisions all other courts are required to take their bearings. (Albert v. Court of First Instance, 23 SCRA 948; Barrera v. Barrera, 34 SCRA 98; Tugade v. Court of Appeals, 85 SCRA 226). The majority of the Court's work is now performed by its two Divisions, but the Court remains one court, single, unitary, complete, and supreme. Flowing from this nature of the Supreme Court is the fact that, while ' individual Justices may dissent or partially concur with one another, when the Court states what the law is, it speaks with only one voice. And that voice being authoritative should be a clear as possible. Any doctrine or principle of law laid down by the Court, whether en banc or in Division, may be modified or reversed only by the Court en banc. (Section 2(3), Article X, Constitution.) In the rare instances when one Division disagrees in its views with the other Division, or the necessary votes on an issue cannot be had in a Division, the case is brought to the Court en banc to reconcile any seeming conflict, to reverse or modify an earlier decision, and to declare the Court's doctrine. This is what has happened in this case. The decision sought to be reconsidered appears to be a deviation from the Court's decision, speaking through the First Division, in Wallem Shipping, Inc. v. Hon. Minister of Labor (102 SCRA 835). Faced with two seemingly conflicting resolutions of basically the same issue by its two Divisions, the Court. therefore, resolved to transfer the case to the Court en banc. Parenthetically, the petitioner's comment on the third motion for reconsideration states that the resolution of the motion might be the needed vehicle to make the ruling in the Wallem case clearer and more in time with the underlying principles of the Labor Code. We agree with the petitioner. After an exhaustive, painstaking, and perspicacious consideration of the motions for reconsideration and the comments, replies, and other pleadings related thereto, the Court en banc is constrained to grant the motions. To grant the motion is to keep faith with the constitutional mandate to afford protection to labor and to assure the rights of workers to self-organization and to just and humane conditions of work. We sustain the decision of the respondent National labor Relations Commission. There are various arguments raised by the petitioners but the common thread running through all of them is the contention, if not the dismal prophecy, that if the respondent seamen are sustained by this Court, we would in effect "kill the en that lays the golden egg." In other words, Filipino seamen, admittedly among the best in the world, should remain satisfied with relatively lower if not the lowest, international rates of compensation, should not agitate for higher wages while their contracts of employment are subsisting, should accept as sacred, iron clad, and immutable the side contracts which require them to falsely pretend to be members of international labor federations, pretend to receive higher salaries at certain foreign ports only to return the increased pay once the

ship leaves that port, should stifle not only their right to ask for improved terms of employment but their freedom of speech and expression, and should suffer instant termination of employment at the slightest sign of dissatisfaction with no protection from their Government and their courts. Otherwise, the petitioners contend that Filipinos would no longer be accepted as seamen, those employed would lose their jobs, and the still unemployed would be left hopeless. This is not the first time and it will not be the last where the threat of unemployment and loss of jobs would be used to argue against the interests of labor; where efforts by workingmen to better their terms of employment would be characterized as prejudicing the interests of labor as a whole. In 1867 or one hundred sixteen years ago. Chief Justice Beasley of the Supreme Court of New Jersey was ponente of the court's opinion declaring as a conspiracy the threat of workingmen to strike in connection with their efforts to promote unionism, t.hqw It is difficult to believe that a right exists in law which we can scarcely conceive can produce, in any posture of affairs, other than injuriois results. It is simply the right of workmen, by concert of action, and by taking advantage of their position, to control the business of another, I am unwilling to hold that a right which cannot, in any, event, be advantageous to the employee, and which must always be hurtful to the employer, exists in law. In my opinion this indictment sufficiently shows that the force of the confederates was brought to bear upon their employer for the purpose of oppression and mischief and that this amounts to a conspiracy, (State v. Donaldson, 32 NJL 151, 1867. Cited in Chamberlain, Sourcebook on Labor, p. 13. Emphasis supplied) The same arguments have greeted every major advance in the rights of the workingman. And they have invariably been proved unfounded and false. Unionism, employers' liability acts, minimum wages, workmen's compensation, social security and collective bargaining to name a few were all initially opposed by employers and even well meaning leaders of government and society as "killing the hen or goose which lays the golden eggs." The claims of workingmen were described as outrageously injurious not only to the employer but more so to the employees themselves before these claims or demands were established by law and jurisprudence as "rights" and before these were proved beneficial to management, labor, and the nation as a whole beyond reasonable doubt. The case before us does not represent any major advance in the rights of labor and the workingmen. The private respondents merely sought rights already established. No matter how much the petitioner-employer tries to present itself as speaking for the entire industry, there is no evidence that it is typical of employers hiring Filipino seamen or that it can speak for them. The contention that manning industries in the Philippines would not survive if the instant case is not decided in favor of the petitioner is not supported by evidence. The Wallem case was decided on February 20, 1981. There have been no severe repercussions, no drying up of employment opportunities for seamen, and none of the dire consequences repeatedly emphasized by the petitioner. Why should Vir-jen be all exception? The wages of seamen engaged in international shipping are shouldered by the foreign principal. The local manning office is an agent whose primary function is recruitment and who .usually gets a lump sum from the shipowner to defray the salaries of the crew. The hiring of seamen and the determination of their compensation is subject to the interplay of various market factors and one key factor is how much in terms of profits the local manning office and the foreign shipowner may realize after the costs of the voyage are met. And costs include salaries of officers and crew members. Filipino seamen are admittedly as competent and reliable as seamen from any other country in the world. Otherwise, there would not be so many of them in the vessels sailing in every ocean and sea on this globe. It is competence and reliability, not cheap labor that makes our seamen so greatly in demand. Filipino seamen have never demanded the same high salaries as seamen from the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan and other developed nations. But certainly they are entitled to government protection when they ask for fair and decent treatment by their employer.-, and when they exercise the right to petition for improved terms of employment, especially when they feel that these are sub-standard or are capable of improvement according to internationally accepted rules. In the domestic scene, there are marginal employers who prepare two sets of payrolls for their employees one in keeping with minimum wages and the other recording the sub-standard wages that the employees really receive, The reliable employers, however, not only meet the minimums required by fair labor standards legislation but even go way above the minimums while earning reasonable profits and prospering. The same is true of international employment. There is no reason why this Court and the Ministry of Labor and. Employment or its agencies and commissions should come out with pronouncements based on the standards and practices of unscrupulous or inefficient shipowners, who claim they cannot survive without resorting to tricky and deceptive schemes, instead of Government maintaining labor law and jurisprudence according to the practices of honorable, competent, and law-abiding employers, domestic or foreign. If any minor advantages given to Filipino seamen may somehow cut into the profits of local manning agencies and foreign shipowners, that is not sufficient reason why the NSB or the ILRC should not stand by the former instead of listening to unsubstantiated fears that they would be killing the hen which lays the golden eggs. Prescinding from the above, we now hold that neither the National Seamen Board nor the National Labor Relations Commission should, as a matter of official policy, legitimize and enforce cubious arrangements where shipowners and seamen enter into fictitious contracts similar to the addendum agreements or side contracts in this case whose purpose is to deceive. The Republic of the Philippines and its ministries and agencies should present a more honorable and proper posture in official acts to the whole world, notwithstanding our desire to have as many job openings both here and abroad for our workers. At the very least, such as sensitive matter involving no less than our dignity as a people and the welfare of our workingmen must proceed from the Batasang Pambansa in the form of policy legislation, not from administrative rule making or adjudication Another issue raised by the movants is whether or not the seamen violated their contracts of employment. The form contracts approved by the National Seamen Board are designed to protect Filipino seamen not foreign shipowners who can take care of themselves. The standard forms embody' the basic minimums which must be incorporated as parts of the employment contract. (Section 15, Rule V, Rules and Regulations Implementing the Labor Code.) They are not collective bargaining agreements or immutable contracts which the parties cannot improve upon or modify in the course of the agreed period of time. To state, therefore, that the affected seamen cannot petition their employer for higher salaries during the 12 months duration of the contract runs counter to established principles of labor legislation. The National Labor Relations Commission, as the appellate tribunal from decisions of the National Seamen Board, correctly ruled that the seamen did not violate their contracts to warrant their dismissal. The respondent Commission ruled: t.hqw In the light of all the foregoing facts, we find that the cable of the seamen proposing an increase in their wage rates was not and could not have been intended as a threat to comp el the Company to accede to their proposals. But even assuming, if only for the sake of argument, that the demand or proposal for a wage increase was accompanied by a threat that they would report to ITF if the Company did not accede to the contract revision - although there really was no such threat as pointed out earlier the Seamen should not be held at fault for asking such a demand. In the same case cited above, the Supreme Court held: t.hqw Petitioner claims that the dismissal of private respondents was justified because the latter threatened the ship authorities in acceding to their demands, and this constitutes serious misconduct as contemplated by the Labor Code. This contention is not well-taken. But even if there had been such a threat, respondents' behavior should not be censured because it is but natural for them to employ some means of pressing their demands for petitioner, the refusal

to abide with the terms of the Special Agreement, to honor and respect the same, They were only acting in the exercise of their rights, and to deprive them of their freedom of expression is contrary to law and public policy. There is no serious misconduct to speak of in the case at bar which would justify respondents' dismissal just because of their firmness in their demand for the fulfillment by petitioner of its obligation it entered into without any coercion, specially on the part of private respondents. (Emphasis supplied). The above citation is from Wallem. The facts show that when the respondents boarded the M/T Jannu there was no intention to send their ship to Australia. On January 10, 1979, the petitioner sent a cable to respondent shipmaster Bisula informing him of the procedure to be followed in the computation of special compensation of crewmembers while in ITF controlled ports and expressed regrets for not having earlier clarified the procedure as it thought that the vessel would trade in Carribean ports only. On March 22, 1979, the petitioner sent another cable informing Bisula of the special compensation when the ship would call at Kwinana Australia. The following day, shipmaster Bisula cabled Vir-jen stating that the officers and crews were not interested in ITF membership if not paid ITF rates and that their only demand was a 50 percent increase based on their then salaries. Bisula also pointed out that Vir-jen rates were "very far in comparison with other shipping agencies in Manila." In reply, Vir-jen counter proposed a 25 percent increase. Only after Kyoei Tanker Co., Ltd., declined to increase the lumps sum amount given monthly to Virjen was the decision to terminate the respondents' employment formulated. The facts show that Virjen Initiated the discussions which led to the demand for increased . The seamen made a proposal and the petitioner organized with a counter-proposal. The ship had not vet gone to Australia or any ITF controlled port. There was absolutely no mention of any strike. much less a threat to strike. The seamen had done in act which under Philippine law or any other civilized law would be termed illegal, oppressive, or malicious. Whatever pressure existed, it was mild compared to accepted valid modes of labor activity. We reiterate our ruling in Wallem. t.hqw Petitioner claims that the dismissal of private respondents was justified because the latter threatened the ship authorities in acceding to their demands, and this constitutes serious misconduct as contemplated by the Labor Code. This contention is not well-taken. The records fail to establish clearly the commission of any threat, But even if there had been such a threat, respondents' behavior should not be censured because it is but natural for them to employ some means of pressing their demands for petitioner, who refused to abide with the terms of the Special Agreement, to honor and respect the same, They were only acting in the exercise of their rights, and to deprive them of their form of expression is contrary to law and public policy. ... Our dismissing the petition is premised on the assumption that the Ministry of Labor and Employment and all its agencies exist primarily for the workinginan's interests and, of course, the nation as a whole. The points raised by the Solicitor-General in his comments refer to the issue of allowing what the petitioner importunes under the argument of "killing the hen which lays the golden eggs." This is one of policy which should perhaps be directed to the Batasang Pambansa and to our country's other policy makers for more specific legislation on the matter, subject to the constitutional provisions protecting labor, promoting social justice, and guaranteeing non-abridgement of the freedom of speech, press, peaceable assembly and petition. We agree with the movants that there is no showing of any cause, which under the Labor Code or any current applicable law, would warrant the termination of the respondents' services before the expiration of their contracts. The Constitution guarantees State assurance of the rights of workers to security of tenure. (Sec. 9, Article II, Constitution). Presumptions and provisions of law, the evidence on record, and fundamental State policy all dictate that the motions for reconsideration should be granted. WHEREFORE, the motions for reconsideration are hereby GRANTED. The petition is DISMISSED for lack of merit. The decision of the National Labor Relations Commission is AFFIRMED. No costs. SO ORDERED.1wph1.t

3. G.R. No. 116629 January 16, 1998 NFD INTERNATIONAL MANNING AGENTS and BARBER INTERNATIONAL A/S, petitioners, vs. THE NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION and NELIA MISADA, for herself and in behalf of her minor children CAESAR and ALPHA JOY, all surnamed MISADA and HIMAYA ENVIDIADO, for herself and in behalf of her minor children HENREA, HAZEL, and HENDRICK, all surnamed ENVIDIADO, respondents.

PUNO, J.: This special civil action for certiorari seeks to annul and set aside the decision dated April 25, 1994 of the National Labor Relations Commission which ordered petitioners to pay a total of U.S. $26,641.42 as death benefits to private respondents. Petitioner NFD International Manning Agents, Inc., a domestic manning corporation, engaged the services of Eduardo P. Misada and Enrico A. Envidiado to work for petitioner Barber International A/S (Barber), a Norwegian shipping company. Misada and Envidiado were hired as second and third officers, respectively, on board the vessel M/V Pan Victoria. They were to travel from Sweden to South Korea for a period of ten months from January 1991 to November 1991. On July 5, 1991, private respondent Nelia Misada received notice that her husband, Eduardo Misada, died on June 28, 1991 while on board the M/V Pan Victoria. On July 12 1991, private respondent Himaya Envidiado likewise received notice that her husband, Enrico Envidiado, died on board the vessel. As heirs of the deceased seamen, private respondents, in their behalf and in behalf of their minor children, filed for death compensation benefits under the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) Standard Contract of Employment and the Norwegian National Insurance Scheme (NIS) for Filipino Officers. Their claims were denied by petitioners.

Private respondents filed separate complaints before the POEA Adjudication Office. They prayed for U.S. $13,000.00 each as death compensation under the POEA Standard Contract of Employment and U.S. $30,000.00 for each wife and U.S. $8,000.00 for each child under eighteen years under the Norwegian NIS. 1 In their Answer, petitioners claimed that private respondents are not entitled to death benefits on the ground that the seamen's deaths were due to their own willful act. They alleged that the deceased were among three (3) Filipino seamen who implanted fragments of reindeer horn in their respective sexual organs on or about June 18, 1991; that due to the lack of sanitary conditions at the time and place of implantation, all three seamen suffered "severe tetanus" and "massive viral infections;" that Misada and Envidiado died within days of the other; that the third seaman, Arturo Fajardo, narrowly missed death only because the vessel was at port in Penang, Malaysia at the time the tetanus became critical. 2 The complaints were consolidated and the parties filed their respective position papers and documentary evidence. On October 20, 1993, the POEA Administrator dismissed the case for lack of merit. Private respondents appealed to respondent Commission. During the pendency of the appeal, private respondents submitted additional documentary evidence in support of their Memorandum on Appeal. On April 25, 1994, respondent Commission reversed the POEA Administrator and ordered petitioners to pay private respondents the following: (a) To complainant Nelia F. Misada and her two minor children, Julius Caesar and Alpha Joy, all surnamed Misada: (1) Death compensation of U.S. $13,000.00 under the POEA Standard Format; (b) To complainant Himaya G. Envidiado and her three (3) minor children, Henrea, Hazel and Hendrick, all surnamed Envidiado; (1) Death compensation of U.S. $13,000.00 under the provisions of the POEA Rules and Regulations; and (2) Backwages as of July 1991 amounting to U.S. $641.42 or its peso equivalent. SO ORDERED. 3 Hence this petition. Petitioners claim that: I FIRSTLY, THE NLRC COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION IN CONSIDERING DOCUMENTS WHICH DO NOT FORM PART OF THE EVIDENCE IN THE INSTANT CASE, THEREBY DEPRIVING PETITIONERS OF DUE PROCESS; II SECONDLY, THE NLRC COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION WHEN IT OVERTURNED WHAT HAS BEEN ESTABLISHED BY CIRCUMSTANTIAL AND DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE ON THE BASIS OF DOCUMENTS WHICH AT BEST ARE HEARSAY; and III THIRDLY, THE NLRC COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION IN REVERSING THE POEA DECISION ON THE BASIS OF DOCUMENTS WHICH AT BEST ARE NOT CONCLUSIVE AS TO THE CAUSE OF DEATH OF SUBJECT SEAMEN. 4 Petitioners claim respondent Commission gravely abused its discretion in admitting private respondent's additional evidence on appeal. Petitioners allege that the additional evidence were "surreptitiously" submitted in violation of petitioner's right to due process. The submission of additional evidence before the respondent Commission is not prohibited by the New Rules of Procedure of the NLRC. After all, rules of evidence prevailing in courts of law or equity are not controlling in labor cases. 5 The NLRC and labor arbiters are directed to use every and all reasonable means to ascertain the facts in each case speedily and objectively, without regard to technicalities of law and procedure all in the interest of substantial justice. 6 In keeping with this directive, it has been held that the NLRC may consider evidence, such as documents and affidavits, submitted by the parties for the first time on appeal. 7 The submission of additional evidence on appeal does not prejudice the other party for the latter could submit counter-evidence. 8 In the case at bar, the additional evidence was submitted by private respondents before the respondent Commission in their Memorandum on Appeal dated November 8, 1993. The decision of respondent Commission was rendered on April 25, 1994, i.e., six (6) months after the additional documents were submitted. Petitioners had ample opportunity to object and refute the documents. They had the chance to submit counterevidence during this period but they did not do so. It was only when they moved for reconsideration of the decision of respondent Commission that they questioned the admission of these evidence. The essence of due process is simply an opportunity to be heard, or as applied to administrative proceedings, a fair and reasonable opportunity to explain one's side. 9 It is also an opportunity to seek a reconsideration of the action or ruling complained of. 10 It is not the denial of the right to be heard but denial of the opportunity to be heard that constitutes violation of due process of law. 11 Procedural matters having been disposed of, the substantive issue in this case is whether respondent Commission gravely erred in finding that the deaths of the two seamen, Eduardo Misada and Enrico Envidiado, did not come as a result of their willful and deliberate act. Part II, Section C, No. 1, Paragraph 1 of the POEA "Standard Employment Contract Governing the Employment of All Filipino Seamen on Board Ocean-Going Vessels" 12 provides that: 1. In case of death of the seaman during the term of this contract, the employer shall pay his beneficiaries the Philippine Currency equivalent to the amount of U.S. $50,000.00 and an additional amount of U.S. $7,000.00 to each child under the age of twenty-one (21) but not exceeding four children at the exchange rate prevailing during the time of payment. xxx xxx xxx 13

Part II, Section C, No. 6 of the same Standards Employment Contract also provides: 6. No compensation shall be payable in respect of any injury, incapacity, disability or death resulting from a willful act on his own life by the seaman, provided, however, that the employer can prove that such injury, incapacity, disability or death is directly attributable to him. 14 The death of a seaman during the term of his employment makes the employer liable to the former's heirs for death compensation benefits. The POEA Standard Employment Contract fixes the amount at U.S. $50,000.00 and an additional amount of U.S. $7,000.00 for each child, not exceeding four, under twenty-one years of age. The employer becomes liable once it is established that the seaman died during the effectivity of his employment contract. This rule, however, is not absolute. The employer may be exempt from liability if he can successfully prove that the seaman's death was caused by an injury directly attributable to his deliberate or willful act. 15 In the instant case, petitioners claim that the deaths of the two seamen came as a result of their self-inflicted injuries. As proof, petitioners presented written from the master of the M/V Pan Victoria, the medical reports of Misada, Envidiado and Arturo Fajardo, the seaman who survived the infection, and the written statements of three (3) officers of the vessel taken during a special inquiry conducted after their deaths. Petitioners contend that Misada and Envidiado and Arturo Fajardo implanted fragments of the horn of a reindeer or antelope in their respective sexual organs while on a voyage on board the M/V Pan Victoria. The horn was left by a Greek officer from a previous voyage. Misada found the horn and asked for it from the Chief Officer. Misada gave the horn to the Second Engineer to carve and shape for implantation. Thereafter, shaped fragments of the horn were inserted by Misada and Envidiado subcutaneously into their respective sex organs on June 19, 1991 while that of Fajardo was implanted two or three days later. The implantations were made surgically in the absence of sanitary and sterile facilities. Several days later, Misada complained of difficulty in swallowing and breathing. He had severe tonsillitis and was suffering from spasms and convulsions. 16 The ship captain was compelled to alter course and drop anchor at Colombo, Sri Lanka for medical treatment. 17 Misada, however, died on board the vessel on June 28, 1991. His dead body was examined at the Colombo General Hospital, Colombo, Sri Lanka, where the cause of his death was placed as "acute laryngo-trachea bronchitis with pneumonia due to viral infection." 18 It was after the vessel left Colombo on June 30, 1991 that Envidiado started exhibiting the same symptoms as Misada. The ship captain had to drop anchor at the nearest port which was Galle, Sri Lanka. 19 Envidiado was brought ashore and admitted to hospital. He died a few days later. On July 3, 1991, Arturo Fajardo started exhibiting the same symptoms as the two other seamen. On inquiry, the master of the vessel learned that Misada, Envidiado and Fajardo implanted pieces of reindeer horn in their sex organs. Fajardo's condition worsened and the master was compelled to drop anchor at Penang, Malaysia where Fajardo was admitted to hospital on July 5, 1991. He was diagnosed to be suffering from tetanus and given medication for said illness. Fajardo recovered two weeks later. 20 As a result of this chain of events, the master of the vessel conducted a formal inquiry to verify the cause of the seamen's deaths and illness. Written testimonies as to the events leading to their deaths were taken from the master, the Chief Officer, Second Engineer and Second Cook. The testimonies of the officers are insufficient to prove the fact that Misada's and Envidiado's deaths were caused by self-inflicted injuries. The testimonies were given by people who merely observed and narrated the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the two seamen and the illness of Fajardo. Fajardo himself did not submit any testimony regarding the implantation. The testimonies of the officers are, at best, hearsay. Moreover, the officers did not have the competence to make a medical finding as to the actual cause of the deaths. No autopsy report was presented to corroborate their testimonies. On the contrary, Eduardo Misada was medically diagnosed to have died of "acute laryngo-trachea bronchitis with pneumonia probably due to viral cause." 21 This was declared in his "Cause of Death Form" after his dead body was examined on June 29, 1991 by Dr. Sydney Prematirat, a Judicial Medical Officer at Colombo, Sri Lanka. Enrico Envidiado was not issued a "Cause of Death Form." While still alive, he was examined in Galle, Sri Lanka by Consultant Physician Chandima de Mel who found a wound in his penis and diagnosed his illness as "severe tetanus." 22 His "Certificate for Removal of A Dead Body" dated July 8, 1991 issued by Dr. T.L. Seneviratne, Chief Medical Officer of Health, Municipal Council, Colombo, Sri Lanka, 23 and "Certificate of Embalming" dated July 8, 1991 issued by Keith Anthony Raymond 24 stated that Envidiado died of "viral myocarditis natural causes." The "Certificate for Removal of a Dead Body" and "Certificate of Embalming" are not proofs of the real cause of death. Their probative value is confined only to the fact of death. 25 These documentary evidence, however, did not at all indicate that Envidiado died of tetanus as previously diagnosed by Dr. de Mel. And despite Dr. de Mel's allegedly correct diagnosis, Envidiado died a few days later. As correctly found by respondent Commission, petitioners' evidence insufficiently proves the fact that the deaths of the two seamen were caused by their own willful and deliberate act. And even if the seamen implanted fragments of reindeer horn in their sex organs, the evidence does not substantially prove that they contracted tetanus as a result of the unsanitary surgical procedures they performed on their bodies. Neither does the evidence show that the tetanus was the direct cause of their deaths. IN VIEW WHEREOF, the petition is dismissed and the decision of respondent National Labor Relations Commission in NLRC CA No. 006490-94 is affirmed. SO ORDERED.

4. G.R. Nos. L-57999, 58143-53 August 15, 1989 RESURRECCION SUZARA, CESAR DIMAANDAL, ANGELITO MENDOZA, ANTONIO TANEDO, AMORSOLO CABRERA, DOMINADOR SANTOS, ISIDRO BRACIA, RAMON DE BELEN, ERNESTO SABADO, MARTIN MALABANAN, ROMEO HUERTO and VITALIANO PANGUE, petitioners, vs. THE HON. JUDGE ALFREDO L. BENIPAYO and MAGSAYSAY LINES, INC., respondents. G.R. Nos. L-64781-99 August 15, 1989 RESURRECCION SUZARA, CESAR DIMAANDAL, ANGELITO MENDOZA, ANTONIO TANEDO, RAYMUNDO PEREZ, AMORSOLO CABRERA, DOMINADOR SANTOS, ISIDRO BRACIA, CATALINO CASICA, VITALIANO PANGUE, RAMON DE BELEN, EDUARDO PAGTALUNAN, ANTONIO MIRANDA, RAMON UNIANA, ERNESTO SABADO, MARTIN MALABANAN, ROMEO HUERTO and WILFREDO CRISTOBAL, petitioners, vs. THE HONORABLE NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION, THE NATIONAL SEAMEN BOARD (now the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration), and MAGSAYSAY LINES, INC., respondents.

Quasha, Asperilla, Ancheta, Pe;a and Nolasco for petitioners. Samson S. Alcantara for private respondent.

GUTIERREZ, JR., J.: These petitions ask for a re-examination of this Court's precedent setting decision in Vir-Jen Shipping and Marine Services Inc. v. National Labor Relations Commission, et al. (125 SCRA 577 [1983]). On constitutional, statutory, and factual grounds, we find no reason to disturb the doctrine in Vir-Jen Shipping and to turn back the clock of progress for sea-based overseas workers. The experience gained in the past few years shows that, following said doctrine, we should neither deny nor diminish the enjoyment by Filipino seamen of the same rights and freedoms taken for granted by other working-men here and abroad. The cases at bar involve a group of Filipino seamen who were declared by the defunct National Seamen Board (NSB) guilty of breaching their employment contracts with the private respondent because they demanded, upon the intervention and assistance of a third party, the International Transport Worker's Federation (ITF), the payment of wages over and above their contracted rates without the approval of the NSB. The petitioners were ordered to reimburse the total amount of US$91,348.44 or its equivalent in Philippine Currency representing the said over-payments and to be suspended from the NSB registry for a period of three years. The National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) affirmed the decision of the NSB. In a corollary development, the private respondent, for failure of the petitioners to return the overpayments made to them upon demand by the former, filed estafa charges against some of the petitioners. The criminal cases were eventually consolidated in the sala of then respondent Judge Alfredo Benipayo. Hence, these consolidated petitions, G.R. No. 64781-99 and G.R. Nos. 57999 and 58143-53, which respectively pray for the nullification of the decisions of the NLRC and the NSB, and the dismissal of the criminal cases against the petitioners. The facts are found in the questioned decision of the NSB in G.R. No. 64781-99. From the records of this case it appears that the facts established and/or admitted by the parties are the following: that on different dates in 1977 and 1978 respondents entered into separate contracts of employment (Exhs. "B" to "B-17", inclusive) with complainant (private respondent) to work aboard vessels owned/operated/manned by the latter for a period of 12 calendar months and with different rating/position, salary, overtime pay and allowance, hereinbelow specified: ...; that aforesaid employment contracts were verified and approved by this Board; that on different dates in April 1978 respondents (petitioners) joined the M/V "GRACE RIVER"; that on or about October 30, 1978 aforesaid vessel, with the respondents on board, arrived at the port of Vancouver, Canada; that at this port respondent received additional wages under rates prescribed by the Intemational Transport Worker's Federation (ITF) in the total amount of US$98,261.70; that the respondents received the amounts appearing opposite their names, to wit: ...; that aforesaid amounts were over and above the rates of pay of respondents as appearing in their employment contracts approved by this Board; that on November 10, 1978, aforesaid vessel, with respondent on board, left Vancouver, Canada for Yokohama, Japan; that on December 14, 1978, while aforesaid vessel, was at Yura, Japan, they were made to disembark. (pp. 64-66, Rollo) Furthermore, according to the petitioners, while the vessel was docked at Nagoya, Japan, a certain Atty. Oscar Torres of the NSB Legal Department boarded the vessel and called a meeting of the seamen including the petitioners, telling them that for their own good and safety they should sign an agreement prepared by him on board the vessel and that if they do, the cases filed against them with NSB on November 17, 1978 would be dismissed. Thus, the petitioners signed the. "Agreement" dated December 5, 1978. (Annex C of Petition) However, when they were later furnished xerox copies of what they had signed, they noticed that the line "which amount(s) was/were received and held by CREWMEMBERS in trust for SHIPOWNERS" was inserted therein, thereby making it appear that the amounts given to the petitioners representing the increase in their wages based on ITF rates were only received by them in trust for the private respondent. When the vessel reached Manila, the private respondent demanded from the petitioners the "overpayments" made to them in Canada. As the petitioners refused to give back the said amounts, charges were filed against some of them with the NSB and the Professional Regulations Commission. Estafa charges were also filed before different branches of the then Court of First Instance of Manila which, as earlier stated, were subsequently consolidated in the sala of the respondent Judge Alfredo Benipayo and which eventually led to G.R. Nos. 57999 and 58143-53. In G.R. Nos. 64781-99, the petitioners claimed before the NSB that contrary to the private respondent's allegations, they did not commit any illegal act nor stage a strike while they were on board the vessel; that the "Special Agreement" entered into in Vancouver to pay their salary differentials is valid, having been executed after peaceful negotiations. Petitioners further argued that the amounts they received were in accordance with the provision of law, citing among others, Section 18, Rule VI, Book I of the Rules and Regulations Implementing the Labor Code which provides that "the basic minimum salary of seamen shall not be less than the prevailing minimum rates established by the International Labor Organization (ILO) or those prevailing in the country whose flag the employing vessel carries, whichever is higher ..."; and that the "Agreement" executed in Nagoya, Japan had been forced upon them and that intercalations were made to make it appear that they were merely trustees of the amounts they received in Vancouver. On the other hand, the private respondent alleged that the petitioners breached their employment contracts when they, acting in concert and with the active participations of the ITF while the vessel was in Vancouver, staged an illegal strike and by means of threats, coercion and intimidation compelled the owners of the vessel to pay to them various sums totalling US$104,244.35; that the respondent entered into the "Special Agreement" to pay the petitioners' wage differentials because it was under duress as the vessel would not be allowed to leave Vancouver unless the said agreement was signed, and to prevent the shipowner from incurring further delay in the shipment of goods; and that in view of petitioners' breach of contract, the latter's names must be removed from the NSB's Registry and that they should be ordered to return the amounts they received over and above their contracted rates. The respondent NSB ruled that the petitioners were guilty of breach of contract because despite subsisting and valid NSB-approved employment contracts, the petitioners sought the assistance of a third party (ITF) to demand from the private respondent wages in accordance with the ITF rates, which rates are over and above their rates of pay as appearing in their NSB-approved contracts. As bases for this conclusion, the NSB stated: 1) The fact that respondents sought the aid of a third party (ITF) and demanded for wages and overtime pay based on ITF rates is shown in the entries of their respective Pay-Off Clearance Slips which were marked as their Exhs. "1" to "18", and we quote "DEMANDED ITF WAGES, OVERTIME, DIFFERENTIALS APRIL TO OCTOBER 1978". Respondent Suzara admitted that the entries in his Pay-Off Clearance Slip (Exh. "1") are correct (TSN., p. 16, Dec. 6, 1979).lwph1.t Moreover, it is the policy (reiterated very often) by the ITF that it does not interfere in the affairs of the crewmembers and masters and/or owners of a vessel unless its assistance is sought by the crewmembers themselves. Under this pronounced policy of the ITF, it is reasonable to assume that the representatives of the ITF in Vancouver, Canada assisted and intervened by reason of the assistance sought by the latter. 2) The fact that the ITF assisted and intervened for and in behalf of the respondents in the latter's demand for higher wages could be gleaned from the answer of the respondents when they admitted that the ITF acted in their behalf in the negotiations for increase of wages. Moreover, respondent Cesar Dimaandal admitted that the ITF differential pay was computed by the ITF representative (TSN, p. 7, Dec. 12, 1979)

3) The fact that complainant and the owner/operator of the vessel were compelled to sign the Special Agreement (Exh. "20") and to pay ITF differentials to respondents in order not to delay the departure of the vessel and to prevent further losses is shown in the "Agreement" (Exhs. "R-21") ... (pp. 69-70, Rollo) The NSB further said: While the Board recognizes the rights of the respondents to demand for higher wages, provided the means are peaceful and legal, it could not, however, sanction the same if the means employed are violent and illegal. In the case at bar, the means employed are violent and illegal for in demanding higher wages the respondents sought the aid of a third party and in turn the latter intervened in their behalf and prohibited the vessel from sailing unless the owner and/or operator of the vessel acceded to respondents' demand for higher wages. To avoid suffering further incalculable losses, the owner and/or operator of the vessel had no altemative but to pay respondents' wages in accordance with the ITF scale. The Board condemns the act of a party who enters into a contract and with the use of force/or intimidation causes the other party to modify said contract. If the respondents believe that they have a valid ground to demand from the complainant a revision of the terms of their contracts, the same should have been done in accordance with law and not thru illegal means. (at p. 72, Rollo). Although the respondent NSB found that the petitioners were entitled to the payment of earned wages and overtime pay/allowance from November 1, 1978 to December 14, 1978, it nevertheless ruled that the computation should be based on the rates of pay as appearing in the petitioners' NSB-approved contracts. It ordered that the amounts to which the petitioners are entitled under the said computation should be deducted from the amounts that the petitioners must return to the private respondent. On appeal, the NLRC affirmed the NSB's findings. Hence, the petition in G.R. Nos. 64781-99. Meanwhile, the petitioners in G.R. Nos. 57999 and 58143-53 moved to quash the criminal cases of estafa filed against them on the ground that the alleged crimes were committed, if at all, in Vancouver, Canada and, therefore, Philippine courts have no jurisdiction. The respondent judge denied the motion. Hence, the second petition. The principal issue in these consolidated petitions is whether or not the petitioners are entitled to the amounts they received from the private respondent representing additional wages as determined in the special agreement. If they are, then the decision of the NLRC and NSB must be reversed. Similarly, the criminal cases of estafa must be dismissed because it follows as a consequence that the amounts received by the petitioners belong to them and not to the private respondent. In arriving at the questioned decision, the NSB ruled that the petitioners are not entitled to the wage differentials as determined by the ITF because the means employed by them in obtaining the same were violent and illegal and because in demanding higher wages the petitioners sought the aid of a third party, which, in turn, intervened in their behalf and prohibited the vessel from sailing unless the owner and/or operator of the vessel acceded to respondents' demand for higher wages. And as proof of this conclusion, the NSB cited the following: (a) the entries in the petitioners Pay-Off Clearance Slip which contained the phrase "DEMANDED ITF WAGES ..."; (b) the alleged policy of the ITF in not interfering with crewmembers of a vessel unless its intervention is sought by the crewmembers themselves; (c), the petitioners' admission that ITF acted in their behalf; and (d) the fact that the private respondent was compelled to sign the special agreement at Vancouver, Canada. There is nothing in the public and private respondents' pleadings, to support the allegations that the petitioners used force and violence to secure the special agreement signed in Vancouver. British Columbia. There was no need for any form of intimidation coming from the Filipino seamen because the Canadian Brotherhood of Railways and Transport Workers (CBRT), a strong Canadian labor union, backed by an international labor federation was actually doing all the influencing not only on the ship-owners and employers but also against third world seamen themselves who, by receiving lower wages and cheaper accommodations, were threatening the employment and livelihood of seamen from developed nations. The bases used by the respondent NSB to support its decision do not prove that the petitioners initiated a conspiracy with the ITF or deliberately sought its assistance in order to receive higher wages. They only prove that when ITF acted in petitioners' behalf for an increase in wages, the latter manifested their support. This would be a logical and natural reaction for any worker in whose benefit the ITF or any other labor group had intervened. The petitioners admit that while they expressed their conformity to and their sentiments for higher wages by means of placards, they, nevertheless, continued working and going about their usual chores. In other words, all they did was to exercise their freedom of speech in a most peaceful way. The ITF people, in turn, did not employ any violent means to force the private respondent to accede to their demands. Instead, they simply applied effective pressure when they intimated the possibility of interdiction should the shipowner fail to heed the call for an upward adjustment of the rates of the Filipino seamen. Interdiction is nothing more than a refusal of ITF members to render service for the ship, such as to load or unload its cargo, to provision it or to perform such other chores ordinarily incident to the docking of the ship at a certain port. It was the fear of ITF interdiction, not any action taken by the seamen on board the vessel which led the shipowners to yield. The NSB's contusion that it is ITF's policy not to intervene with the plight of crewmembers of a vessel unless its intervention was sought is without basis. This Court is cognizant of the fact that during the period covered by the labor controversies in Wallem Philippines Shipping, Inc. v. Minister of Labor (102 SCRA 835 [1981]; Vir-Jen Shipping and Marine Services, Inc. v. NLRC (supra) and these consolidated petitions, the ITF was militant worldwide especially in Canada, Australia, Scandinavia, and various European countries, interdicting foreign vessels and demanding wage increases for third world seamen. There was no need for Filipino or other seamen to seek ITF intervention. The ITF was waiting on its own volition in all Canadian ports, not particularly for the petitioners' vessel but for all ships similarly situated. As earlier stated, the ITF was not really acting for the petitioners out of pure altruism. The ITF was merely protecting the interests of its own members. The petitioners happened to be pawns in a higher and broader struggle between the ITF on one hand and shipowners and third world seamen, on the other. To subject our seamen to criminal prosecution and punishment for having been caught in such a struggle is out of the question. As stated in Vir-Jen Shipping (supra): The seamen had done no act which under Philippine law or any other civilized law would be termed illegal, oppressive, or malicious. Whatever pressure existed, it was mild compared to accepted and valid modes of labor activity. (at page 591) Given these factual situations, therefore, we cannot affirm the NSB and NLRC's finding that there was violence, physical or otherwise employed by the petitioners in demanding for additional wages. The fact that the petitioners placed placards on the gangway of their ship to show support for ITF's demands for wage differentials for their own benefit and the resulting ITF's threatened interdiction do not constitute violence. The petitioners were exercising their freedom of speech and expressing sentiments in their hearts when they placed the placard We Want ITF Rates." Under the facts and circumstances of these petitions, we see no reason to deprive the seamen of their right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the Philippine Constitution and the fundamental law of Canada where they happened to exercise it. As we have ruled in Wallem Phil. Shipping Inc. v. Minister of Labor, et al. supra: Petitioner claims that the dismissal of private respondents was justified because the latter threatened the ship authorities in acceding to their demands, and this constitutes serious misconduct as contemplated by the Labor Code. This contention is now well-taken. The records fail to establish clearly the commission of any threat. But even if there had been such a threat, respondents' behavior should not

be censured because it is but natural for them to employ some means of pressing their demands for petitioner, who refused to abide with the terms of the Special Agreement, to honor and respect the same. They were only acting in the exercise of their rights, and to deprive them of their freedom of expression is contrary to law and public policy. ... (at page 843) We likewise, find the public respondents' conclusions that the acts of the petitioners in demanding and receiving wages over and above the rates appearing in their NSB-approved contracts is in effect an alteration of their valid and subsisting contracts because the same were not obtained through. mutual consent and without the prior approval of the NSB to be without basis, not only because the private respondent's consent to pay additional wages was not vitiated by any violence or intimidation on the part of the petitioners but because the said NSB-approved form contracts are not unalterable contracts that can have no room for improvement during their effectivity or which ban any amendments during their term. For one thing, the employer can always improve the working conditions without violating any law or stipulation. We stated in the Vir-Jen case (supra) that: The form contracts approved by the National Seamen Board are designed to protect Filipino seamen not foreign shipowners who can take care of themselves. The standard forms embody the basic minimums which must be incorporated as parts of the employment contract. (Section 15, Rule V, Rules and Regulations Implementing the Labor Code).lwph1.t They are not collective bargaining agreements or immutable contracts which the parties cannot improve upon or modify in the course of the agreed period of time. To state, therefore, that the affected seamen cannot petition their employer for higher salaries during the 12 months duration of the contract runs counter to estabhshed principles of labor legislation. The National Labor Relations Commission, as the appellate tribunal from the decisions of the National Seamen Board, correctly ruled that the seamen did not violate their contracts to warrant their dismissal. (at page 589) It is impractical for the NSB to require the petitioners, caught in the middle of a labor struggle between the ITF and owners of ocean going vessels halfway around the world in Vancouver, British Columbia to first secure the approval of the NSB in Manila before signing an agreement which the employer was willing to sign. It is also totally unrealistic to expect the petitioners while in Canada to exhibit the will and strength to oppose the ITF's demand for an increase in their wages, assuming they were so minded. An examination of Annex C of the petition, the agreement signed in Japan by the crewmembers of the M/V Grace River and a certain M. Tabei, representative of the Japanese shipowner lends credence to the petitioners' claim that the clause "which amount(s) was received and held by CREWMEMBERS in trust for SHIPOWNER" was an intercalation added after the execution of the agreement. The clause appears too closely typed below the names of the 19 crewmen and their wages with no similar intervening space as that which appears between all the paragraphs and the triple space which appears between the list of crewmembers and their wages on one hand and the paragraph above which introduces the list, on the other. The verb "were" was also inserted above the verb "was" to make the clause grammatically correct but the insertion of "were" is already on the same line as "Antonio Miranda and 5,221.06" where it clearly does not belong. There is no other space where the word "were" could be intercalated. (See Rollo, page 80). At any rate, the proposition that the petitioners should have pretended to accept the increased wages while in Vancouver but returned them to the shipowner when they reached its country, Japan, has already been answered earlier by the Court: Filipino seamen are admittedly as competent and reliable as seamen from any other country in the world. Otherwise, there would not be so many of them in the vessels sailing in every ocean and sea on this globe. It is competence and reliability, not cheap labor that makes our seamen so greatly in demand. Filipino seamen have never demanded the same high salaries as seamen from the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan and other developed nations. But certainly they are entitled to government protection when they ask for fair and decent treatment by their employer and when they exercise the right to petition for improved terms of employment, especially when they feel that these are sub-standard or are capable of improvement according to internationally accepted rules. In the domestic scene, there are marginal employers who prepare two sets of payrolls for their employees one in keeping with minimum wages and the other recording the sub-standard wages that the employees really receive. The reliable employers, however, not only meet the minimums required by fair labor standards legislation but even go away above the minimums while earning reasonable profits and prospering. The same is true of international employment. There is no reason why this court and the Ministry of Labor and Employment or its agencies and commissions should come out with pronouncements based on the standards and practices of unscrupulous or inefficient shipowners, who claim they cannot survive without resorting to tricky and deceptive schemes, instead of Government maintaining labor law and jurisprudence according to the practices of honorable, competent, and law-abiding employers, domestic or foreign. (Vir-Jen Shipping, supra, pp. 587-588) It is noteworthy to emphasize that while the Intemational Labor Organization (ILO) set the minimum basic wage of able seamen at US$187.00 as early as October 1976, it was only in 1979 that the respondent NSB issued Memo Circular No. 45, enjoining all shipping companies to adopt the said minimum basic wage. It was correct for the respondent NSB to state in its decision that when the petitioners entered into separate contracts between 1977-1978, the monthly minimum basic wage for able seamen ordered by NSB was still fixed at US$130.00. However, it is not the fault of the petitioners that the NSB not only violated the Labor Code which created it and the Rules and Regulations Implementing the Labor Code but also seeks to punish the seamen for a shortcoming of NSB itself. Article 21(c) of the Labor Code, when it created the NSB, mandated the Board to "(O)btain the best possible terms and conditions of employment for seamen." Section 15, Rule V of Book I of the Rules and Regulations Implementing the Labor Code provides: Sec. 15. Model contract of employment. The NSB shall devise a model contract of employment which shall embody all the requirements of pertinent labor and social legislations and the prevailing standards set by applicable International Labor Organization Conventions. The model contract shall set the minimum standards of the terms and conditions to govern the employment of Filipinos on board vessels engaged in overseas trade. All employers of Filipinos shall adopt the model contract in connection with the hiring and engagement of the services of Filipino seafarers, and in no case shall a shipboard employment contract be allowed where the same provides for benefits less than those enumerated in the model employment contract, or in any way conflicts with any other provisions embodied in the model contract. Section 18 of Rule VI of the same Rules and Regulations provides: Sec. 18. Basic minimum salary of able-seamen. The basic minimum salary of seamen shall be not less than the prevailing minimxun rates established by the International Labor Organization or those prevailing in the country whose flag the employing vessel carries, whichever is higher. However, this provision shall not apply if any shipping company pays its crew members salaries above the minimum herein provided. Section 8, Rule X, Book I of the Omnibus Rules provides: Section 8. Use of standard format of service agreement. The Board shall adopt a standard format of service agreement in accordance with pertinent labor and social legislation and prevailing standards set by applicable International Labor Organization Conventions. The

standard format shall set the minimum standard of the terms and conditions to govern the employment of Filipino seafarers but in no case shall a shipboard employment contract (sic), or in any way conflict with any other provision embodied in the standard format. It took three years for the NSB to implement requirements which, under the law, they were obliged to follow and execute immediately. During those three years, the incident in Vancouver happened. The terms and conditions agreed upon in Vancouver were well within ILO rates even if they were above NSB standards at the time. The sanctions applied by NSB and affirmed by NLRC are moreover not in keeping with the basic premise that this Court stressed in the Vir-Jen Shipping case (supra) that the Ministry now the Department of Labor and Employment and all its agencies exist primarily for the workingman's interest and the nation's as a whole. Implicit in these petitions and the only reason for the NSB to take the side of foreign shipowners against Filipino seamen is the "killing the goose which lays the golden eggs" argument. We reiterate the ruling of the Court in Vir-Jen Shipping (supra) There are various arguments raised by the petitioners but the common thread running through all of them is the contention, if not the dismal prophecy, that if the respondent seamen are sustained by this Court, we would in effect "kill the hen that lays the golden egg." In other words, Filipino seamen, admittedly among the best in the world, should remain satisfied with relatively lower if not the lowest, international rates of compensation, should not agitate for higher wages while their contracts of employment are subsisting, should accept as sacred, iron clad, and immutable the side contracts which require: them to falsely pretend to be members of international labor federations, pretend to receive higher salaries at certain foreign ports only to return the increased pay once the ship leaves that port, should stifle not only their right to ask for improved terms of employment but their freedom of speech and expression, and should suffer instant termination of employment at the slightest sign of dissatisfaction with no protection from their Government and their courts. Otherwise, the petitioners contend that Filipinos would no longer be accepted as seamen, those employed would lose their jobs, and the still unemployed would be left hopeless. This is not the first time and it will not be the last where the threat of unemployment and loss of jobs would be used to argue against the interests of labor; where efforts by workingmen to better their terms of employment would be characterized as prejudicing the interests of labor as a whole. xxx xxx xxx Unionism, employers' liability acts, minimum wages, workmen's compensation, social security and collective bargaining to name a few were all initially opposed by employers and even well meaning leaders of government and society as "killing the hen or goose which lays the golden eggs." The claims of workingmen were described as outrageously injurious not only to the employer but more so to the employees themselves before these claims or demands were established by law and jurisprudence as "rights" and before these were proved beneficial to management, labor, and the national as a whole beyond reasonable doubt. The case before us does not represent any major advance in the rights of labor and the workingmen. The private respondents merely sought rights already established. No matter how much the petitioner-employer tries to present itself as speaking for the entire industry, there is no evidence that it is typical of employers hiring Filipino seamen or that it can speak for them. The contention that manning industries in the Philippines would not survive if the instant case is not decided in favor of the petitioner is not supported by evidence. The Wallem case was decided on February 20, 1981. There have been no severe repercussions, no drying up of employment opportunities for seamen, and none of the dire consequences repeatedly emphasized by the petitioner. Why should VirJen be an exception? The wages of seamen engaged in international shipping are shouldered by the foreign principal. The local manning office is an agent whose primary function is recruitment and who usually gets a lump sum from the shipowner to defray the salaries of the crew. The hiring of seamen and the determination of their compensation is subject to the interplay of various market factors and one key factor is how much in terms of profits the local manning office and the foreign shipowner may realize after the costs of the voyage are met. And costs include salaries of officers and crew members. (at pp. 585-586) The Wallem Shipping case, was decided in 1981. Vir-Jen Shipping was decided in 1983. It is now 1989. There has'been no drying up of employment opportunities for Filipino seamen. Not only have their wages improved thus leading ITF to be placid and quiet all these years insofar as Filipinos are concerned but the hiring of Philippine seamen is at its highest level ever. Reporting its activities for the year 1988, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) stated that there will be an increase in demand for seamen based overseas in 1989 boosting the number to as high as 105,000. This will represent a 9.5 percent increase from the 1988 aggregate. (Business World, News Briefs, January 11, 1989 at page 2) According to the POEA, seabased workers numbering 95,913 in 1988 exceeded by a wide margin of 28.15 percent the year end total in 1987. The report shows that sea-based workers posted bigger monthly increments compared to those of landbased workers. (The Business Star, Indicators, January 11, 1988 at page 2) Augmenting this optimistic report of POEA Administrator Tomas Achacoso is the statement of Secretary of Labor Franklin M. Drilon that the Philippines has a big jump over other crewing nations because of the Filipinos' abilities compared with any European or westem crewing country. Drilon added that cruise shipping is also a growing market for Filipino seafarers because of their flexibility in handling odd jobs and their expertise in handling almost all types of ships, including luxury liners. (Manila Bulletin, More Filipino Seamen Expected Development, December 27, 1988 at page 29).lwph1.t Parenthetically, the minimum monthly salary of able bodied seamen set by the ILO and adhered to by the Philippines is now $276.00 (id.) more than double the $130.00 sought to be enforced by the public respondents in these petitions. The experience from 1981 to the present vindicates the finding in Vir-Jen Shipping that a decision in favor of the seamen would not necessarily mean severe repercussions, drying up of employment opportunities for seamen, and other dire consequences predicted by manning agencies and recruiters in the Philippines. From the foregoing, we find that the NSB and NLRC committed grave abuse of discretion in finding the petitioners guilty of using intimidation and illegal means in breaching their contracts of employment and punishing them for these alleged offenses. Consequently, the criminal prosecutions for estafa in G.R. Nos. 57999 and 58143-53 should be dismissed. WHEREFORE, the petitions are hereby GRANTED. The decisions of the National Seamen Board and National Labor Relations Commission in G. R. Nos. 6478199 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE and a new one is entered holding the petitioners not guilty of the offenses for which they were charged. The petitioners' suspension from the National Seamen Board's Registry for three (3) years is LIFTED. The private respondent is ordered to pay the petitioners their earned but unpaid wages and overtime pay/allowance from November 1, 1978 to December 14, 1978 according to the rates in the Special Agreement that the parties entered into in Vancouver, Canada. The criminal cases for estafa, subject matter of G. R. Nos. 57999 and 58143-53, are ordered DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.

5. G.R. No. 117518 April 29, 1999 RICARDO B. LAPID in behalf of ARIEL LAPID, petitioner, vs. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION,* PHIL HANSE SHIP AGENCY, INC., and MALAYAN INSURANCE COMPANY, respondents.

BELLOSILLO, J ARIEL LAPID, son of petitioner Ricardo B. Lapid, was a seaman on board the vessel M/V Cast Muskox. On 13 August 1991, at around 4:30 in the afternoon, his lifeless body was found hanging by the neck from the ceiling of an abandoned warehouse in Quebec, Canada. Dr. Claude Paquin of the Coroner's Office was called to conduct an autopsy on the cadaver as he did. The examination yielded the following information: that Ariel Lapid, born on 11 December 1967, died on 13 August 1991 at 1:00 o'clock p.m.; place of death was Montreal, P.Q., Canada; probable cause of death was asphyxiation by hanging; and, circumstance of death was following self-destruction. Dr. Paquin certified that the information he gave was "final and shall appear in my (his) investigation report which shall be completed upon receipt of all necessary or useful documents and facts." 1 On the basis of the Coroner's Report, petitioner Ricardo B. Lapid was informed by respondent Phil Hanse Ship Agency, Inc., (PHIL HANSE) that his son Ariel took his own life. On 29 August 1991 Ariel's remains arrived in Manila. Petitioner immediately noted that Ariel's body bore several bruises. Consequently, together with his relatives, they sought the assistance of the National Bureau Investigation (NBI) and submitted the cadaver for post mortem examination. The NBI came up with the following post mortem findings 2 Abrasions, elbow, left, postero-medical aspect, 2.5 x 1.5 cm., postero-lateral aspect, 2.5 x 0.4 cm; contusions, forehead, right side, 5.5 x 5.0 cm., scalp, parietal region, left side, 3.0 x 1.5 cm; ligature marks, 34.5 cm. long, widest at 2.0 cm. and narrowest at 0.5 cm., running all around the neck, crossing anterially just above the thyroid cartilage, with the left extremity terminating at the left postero-lateral aspect along the hairline at a point 2.3 cm. behind the 0.5 cm. below the left external auditory (illegible) and with the right extremity going beyond the posterior median line to the left and terminating along the hairline at a point 9.0 cm. behind and 1.0 cm. below the left external auditory (illegible); hematoma, interstitial neck, just below the ligature marks and on the hypopharynx; trachea showed extensive hematoma at the hypopharynx and at the level of the thyroid cartilage first and second tracheal rings; heart, markedly congested, with multiple epicardial petechial hemorrhages on the anterior ventricular wall; lungs, markedly congested, multiple subleural petechial hemorrhages scattered on both anterior lung surfaces; brain and other veceral organs, markedly congested; stomach, about one-fourth full of bright red fluid. CAUSE OF DEATH: "ASPHYXIA BY HANGING." Considering that the NBI report disclosed the presence of abrasions on the elbow, contusions on the forehead, hematoma and ligature marks on the neck of Ariel and that these findings were all inconsistent with suicide, petitioner filed a claim with the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) asserting that his son was a victim of foul play abroad in the course of his overseas employment. 3 Prior to his death, Ariel was employed for one year as steward on board the vessel M/V Cast Muskox by PHIL HANSE which represented Atlantic Marine Ltd. His intention to work overseas was noble as it was both wistful and wishful. Being the eldest of seven children, he wanted to help his siblings go to school, build a home for the family and start a business of his own. He left for Canada on 13 September 1990 and was scheduled to return to Manila after the expiration of his contract in August 1991. On 8 August 1991 or before his scheduled homecoming, Ariel together with his co-employees went to the Seafarer's Centre, an establishment open to seamen, for recreational purposes. He contacted someone in the Philippines by phone and thereafter announced to everyone that he was going shopping. He did not return to the Centre at the appointed hour and so his co-workers and friends returned to the vessel without him. The vessel eventually sailed on without Ariel. Five (5) days later or on 13 August 1996 his corpse was found hanging in an abandoned warehouse in Quebec. Asserting that his son could not have committed suicide petitioner raised the following arguments: (1) Per NBI report Ariel had abrasions on the elbow, contusions on his forehead and hematoma on the neck, evidently showing physical abuse or assault hence contradictory to suicide; (2) There was constant exchange of letters between Ariel and his family and he seemed excited to go home and did not appear that he had any serious personal or professional problem; (3) The declaration that suicide was committed by Ariel was merely based on a partial and incomplete report of the coroner; and, (4) Ariel's employer while having the resources and means to cause a more thorough investigation in Canada did not do so. Respondent PHIL HANSE, in support of its position that Ariel took his own life, advanced these arguments: (1) Ariel was experiencing financial pressures from his family as recounted by his co-workers and friends thus resulting in his loss of appetite; (2) The coroner's report expressly stated that the probable cause of death was asphyxiation by hanging, the circumstance of death followed self-destruction, and that all information included in such report was final; (3) The result of the investigation conducted by Justin Saldanha, Manager of the Claims and Investigation Division, Shipowners Assurance Management Limited, in Montreal, Canada, after the filing of the case with the POEA was that Ariel committed suicide based on declarations of people who last saw him alive; 4 (4) Had Ariel been the victim of foul play the $2,000.00 which was found in his pocket would have been taken by the perpetrators; (5) The non-related marks on his body might have been sustained because his body flailed about as he hanged himself to take his own life, or these could have been caused by self-flagellation due to a self-loathing behavior of a severely depressed or suicidal person, or also by the ordinary everyday physical rigors of his life as a steward on board a vessel; and, (6) The NBI finding of hematoma in the neck just below the ligature marks and on the hypopharynx was in fact consistent with suicide. The POEA Administrator ruled that the pieces of evidence adduced substantially proved that suicide was committed. In its 5 August 1993 decision, 5 POEA stated that "[a]s between complainant's mere allegations and presumptions and the respondent's presentation of concrete evidence such as the Coroner's report, we are inclined to give more weight to the latter. "POEA further held that "[w]hile our sympathy goes to the complainant, we cannot do otherwise but dismiss the claim in the face of the solid evidence presented by the respondents." On appeal, NLRC on 29 June 1994 affirmed the assailed ruling of the POEA Administrator. 6 Apparently, both labor bodies anchored their conclusion that suicide was committed on the fact that Ariel's $2,000.00 remained intact in his pocket when his body was found and that based on the report of Coroner Paquin, death was caused by asphyxia by hanging. In so sustaining the POEA Administrator, NLRC ruled that "[b]y and large, complainant has not adduced evidence, either at the proceeding before the POEA or here on appeal, persuasive enough for Us to veer away from the findings made by the POEA Administrator. Hence, We affirm. However, while the NLRC sustained the ruling of the POEA Administrator, Presiding Commissioner Edna Bonto-Perez manifested a strong dissent 7 . . . . it is clear that said report (coroner's) is partial and a final investigative report shall yet have to be made, as soon as the investigation gathers all the necessary documents containing the facts and particulars of Ariel's death. Absence of vital details and information relative thereto casts suspicion in the accuracy of said report, especially in the light of the findings of the NBI that the deceased seaman, at the

time of his death suffered abrasions, contusions and hematoma on several parts of his body . . . . It would be unjust and unfair to rely mainly on an incomplete investigation submitted by respondents in the light of the contradicting findings of the NBI. Petitioner now comes to us disputing the ruling that Ariel committed suicide. This petition for certiorari is centered on the incompleteness and inadmissibility of the unauthenticated coroner's report and the variance between the coroner's report and the NBI findings. In its comment, PHIL HANSE maintains its position that the evidence it presented proved that Ariel had killed himself. The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), in lieu of comment, filed a manifestation asserting that Dr. Paquin's autopsy report was evidence only of the cause of death of Ariel, not of the circumstances of his death, and that neither was the indicative that there was no foul play because the motive for the killing might not have been robbery. The OSG recommended that petitioner be awarded death benefits in view of the failure of respondent employer to satisfactorily prove that Ariel committed suicide as it relied only on the incomplete report of the coroner. 8 The crux of this controversy is whether Ariel's death was caused by self-destruction or foul play. Under Sec. 6, par. 6, Part II of the POEA Standard Employment Contract for Filipino Seaman, it is unequivocally provided No compensation shall be payable in respect of any injury, incapacity, disability or death resulting from a willful act on his own life by the seaman, provided however that the employer can prove that such injury, incapacity, disability or death is directly attributable to the seaman. Clearly, petitioner's entitlement to any death benefit depends on whether the evidence of PHIL HANSE suffices to prove that Ariel committed suicide, and the burden of proof rests on his employer. Although the disputed coroner's report was admitted by both the POEA Administrator and the NLRC, this piece of evidence is nevertheless discredited. First, it is not disputed that the report contained a finding that death was caused by asphyxia by hanging and that it could not be conclusive as to circumstances regarding Ariel's death. Second, the phrase "report shall be completed upon receipt of all necessary or useful documents and facts" stated in Dr. Paquin's report emphasizes the wanting attribute of the indeterminate report. Plainly, PHIL HANSE failed to ascertain the circumstances surrounding Ariel's death which it was its duty to undertake as Ariel's employer. Such willful neglect cannot but indicate to us that under the circumstances a thorough investigation would have yielded a result adverse to respondent employer. The peculiar setting of this case brings to mind NAESS Shipping Philippines, Inc. v. NLRC 9 wherein the vessel's chief steward Pablo Dublin fatally stabbed the second cook during a quarrel while M/V DYVI Pacific was plying its sea route. The culprit ran to the deck from where he jumped or fell overboard. His body was never seen again and he was declared dead. This Court ruled that Dublin's death was compensable notwithstanding the claim that he committed suicide. Thus, in falling overboard, we held 10 . . . . it makes no difference whether Dublin intentionally took his own life, or he killed himself in a moment of temporary aberration triggered by remorse over the killing of a second cook, or he accidentally fell overboard while trying to flee from imagined pursuit, which last possibility cannot be ruled out considering the state of evidence. It may be noted parenthetically that these conjectures sound equally plausible because the events surrounding the death of Dublin have not been established with certitude. In the instant case, the evidence presented by PHIL HANSE to prove that suicide was committed is lean, frail and far from convincing. The coroner's incomplete report cannot be the basis of a categorical pronouncement that Ariel committed suicide. Respondent tried in vain to explain the other bruises of Ariel; however, its justifications that these bruises were caused by his flailing about after he hanged himself, or by acting in a self-loathing behavior, or by working as a steward were mere conjectures and could not gainsay that Ariel was a victim of foul play. Moreover, while hematoma just below the ligature mark on the neck may have been consistent with suicide, it is more accurately accordant with marks on a person who died by strangulation, whether he took his own life or not. Rather than prove that Ariel killed himself, it illuminated the chasm between the proof presented and the commission of suicide. Respondent further attempted to show that Ariel committed suicide by presenting his co-employees to assert that the deceased was having a family problem which, on close scrutiny however, they could not identify. Apparently, the problem, if any, must have been so serious as to cause Ariel to take his own life. But this supposition was contradicted by his letters to his family showing his excitement to go home, and by the sworn declaration of one of his co-employees that Ariel went out specifically to buy luggage tapes, 11 again, proving his eagerness to go home. On these equivocal avowals, this Court is not prepared to rule that Ariel took his own life. The records are bereft of any substantial evidence showing that respondent employer successfully discharged its burden of proving that Ariel committed suicide, so as to evade its liability for death benefits under POEA's Standard Employment Contract for Filipino Seaman. WHEREFORE, the 5 August 1993 decision of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and the 29 June 1994 decision of the National Labor Relations Commission denying petitioner's claim for death benefits are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The records of this case are remanded to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration for the computation of the death benefits to be awarded to petitioner Ricardo B. Lapid in behalf of his deceased son Ariel Lapid. Costs against respondents.1wphi1.nt SO ORDERED.