Labor Law

Philippine Transmarine Corp. v. NLRC G.R. No. 123891      February 28, 2001 Permanent Total Disability


On January 23, 1993, private respondent Carlos Nietes filed a complaint against Philippine Transmarine Carriers Inc. (PTC) for payment of disability benefit, sickness wages, refund of medical expenses and attorney’s fees. Pioneer Insurance and Surety Corp. was impleaded as surety of respondent PTC.

Nietes alleged that he was a licensed Captain and/or Master Mariner, employed by PTC for the period March 1985 to May 17, 1990. 

He last boarded M/V MA. ROSARIO where he served as Master from April 11, 1990 to May 17, 1990. 

From May 10, 1990 up to May 17, 1990, the date he was repatriated, he was hospitalized at the Moji Hospital in Moji, Japan, at the instance of the vessel’s owners. 

Upon his arrival in the Philippines, he was instructed to report to the Seamen’s Hospital where he was issued a medical certification that he was unfit for work and was instructed to continue treatment/medication.

When he was refused admission at the Seamen’s Hospital, he was forced to secure medical treatment at the Sto. Niño Medical Specialist and Emergency Clinic as an out-patient, and he was certified unfit to work as Master of the vessel.

Nietes then went to PTC to claim for benefits and refund. 

Petitioner claimed he was entitled to “permanent total disability” benefit in the amount equivalent to 86% of the US$18,000.00, sickness wage benefit in the sum of US$6,000.00 as per Section C, subsection (c) of the POEA Standard Format, plus ten percent (10%) of the total judgment award and attorney’s fee.

Private respondent further asked for refund of medical expenses incurred in the total of P34,411.00. Receipts covering these payments were submitted.

The POEA Adjudication Office issued its decision in favor of the private respondent, ordering respondents Philippine Transmarine Carriers Inc. and Pioneer Insurance and Surety Corp. to pay complainant jointly and severally the sum of US$21,000.00 or its peso equivalent at the time of actual payment and P34,114.00 representing reimbursement of medical expenses plus ten percent (10%) thereof of the total award by way of and/as attorney’s fees.

Petitioner appealed said decision to the NLRC, which affirmed it except for the award of attorney’s fees. 

NLRC later denied petitioner’s motion for reconsideration.

Hence, this petition.

Petitioner admits that private respondent suffered illness which rendered him unfit for work. However, it points out that private respondent did not submit proof of the extent of his disability as required by Section C (4) [b] and [c] of the POEA Standard Contract for Seamen. 

Without this proof, petitioner argues that the NLRC gravely abused its discretion when it affirmed the findings of the POEA.


Whether the NLRC gravely abused its discretion in affirming with modification, the judgment of the POEA Adjudication Office.


Consistently the Court has ruled that “disability should not be understood more on its medical significance but on the loss of earning capacity. Permanent total disability means disablement of an employment to earn wages in the same kind of work, or work of similar nature that [he] was trained for and accustomed to perform, or any kind of work which a person of [his] mentality and attainment could do. It does not mean absolute helplessness.” 

In disability compensation, we likewise held, it is not the injury which is compensated, but rather it is the incapacity to work resulting in the impairment of one’s earning capacity.

Finally, petitioner faults public respondent for allowing the reimbursements of private respondent’s medical expenses despite the fact that the latter’s treatment was done by a physician not designated or accredited by the petitioner in violation of the POEA Standard Contract for Seamen. 

However, records of the case show that private respondent had initially sought treatment at Seamen’s Hospital under the care of Dr. George Matti, a company accredited physician. Only after he was refused admission thereat was he compelled to seek medical assistance elsewhere. His life and health being at stake, private respondent did not have the luxury to scout for a company-accredited physician for was it fair at this late stage for his employer to deny him such refund for medical services that previously he was admittedly entitled to.

The POEA Standard Employment Contract for Seamen is designed primarily for the protection and benefit of Filipino seamen in the pursuit of their employment on board ocean-going vessels. Its provisions must, therefore, be construed and applied fairly, reasonably and liberally in their favor. Only then can its beneficent provisions be fully carried into effect.

The petition was DISMISSED. The assailed decision of public respondent National Labor Relations Commission was AFFIRMED.

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