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Non-disclosure of medical procedure is not misrepresentation when medical condition is known to the employer

Philippine Shipping Update – Manning Industry

By:  Ruben Del Rosario, President, Del Rosario Pandiphil Inc., 9 February 2018 (Issue 2018/03)
 
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Non-disclosure of medical procedure is not misrepresentation when medical condition is known to the employer
 
Seafarer was engaged by the company for several contracts starting in 1996 and which spanned eighteen years.  In 2001, the seafarer was medically repatriated due to Coronary Artery Disease/Hypertensive Cardio-Vascular Disease (CAD/HCVD).  He was referred to the company-designated physician and was eventually declared fit to work.  Seafarer was again rehired for several contacts without event.
 
On his last re-engagement in 2014, the seafarer was declared fit to work during his pre-employment medical examination (PEME) and eventually boarded the vessel.  During employment, the seafarer complained of heavy chest pains, shortness of breath, numbness of the left portion of his face and hypertensive reaction.  He was seen at a shore hospital where he was diagnosed with “unstable angina" and subsequently, underwent Percutaneous Coronary Intervention to severe distal Right Coronary Artery.  In due course, the seafarer was repatriated and referred to the company-designated doctor for further examination and treatment of his CAD/HCVD.  During the course of treatment, it was determined that the seafarer had previously undergone stenting procedure sometime in 2009 and there are stents found on the arteries in the heart or in the coronary arteries.  Acting on this information, the company ceased to provide medical benefits to the seafarer as he did not divulge during his PEME that he previously underwent a stenting procedure.
 
The seafarer obtained medical certificates from his chosen doctor which declared him to be permanently unfit to work as a seafarer because of his illness.  Armed with said medical certificates, the seafarer filed a claim before the Labor Arbiter claiming payment of disability benefits.  The claim was denied by the company on the ground that the seafarer committed fraudulent misrepresentation during his PEME when he did not divulge the fact that he had undergone stenting procedure in 2009.
      
The Labor Arbiter granted the claim for full disability benefits as no misrepresentation was present on the part of the seafarer considering that his medical condition was known to the company since 2001.  On the other hand, the NLRC and the Court of Appeals were one in holding that the seafarer committed fraudulent misrepresentation when he did not reveal his stenting procedure during the PEME and would disqualify him from claiming disability benefits.
 
Upon reaching the Supreme Court, the claim for disability benefits was again granted.
 
The provision of the POEA Contract that was in issue was Section 20 E which reads:
 
 A seafarer who knowingly conceals a pre-existing illness or condition in the Pre-Employment Medical Examination (PEME) shall be liable for misrepresentation and shall be disqualified from any compensation and benefits. This is likewise a just cause for termination of employment and imposition of appropriate administrative sanctions.
 
The Court reminded that where the law speaks in clear and categorical language, there is no room for interpretation and room only for application.  In this case, the Court held that nothing can be plainer than the meaning of the word "illness" as referring to a disease or injury afflicting a, person's body. In the same manner, "condition" likewise refers to the state of one's health. Neither of these words refers to a medical procedure undergone by a seafarer in connection with an "illness or condition" already known to the employer as far back as 2001. As such, the employer cannot validly argue seafarer’s supposed concealment and fraudulent misrepresentation of his illness on account of the non-disclosure of the stenting procedure.
 
The Court further reasoned that the so-called misrepresentation ascribed to the seafarer is more imaginary than real.  As it is, the stenting procedure undergone by the seafarer is nothing more than an attempt to discontinue the steady progression of his illness or condition, i.e. CAD/HCVD, which was already known by his employers.  The non-disclosure of the stenting procedure does not diminish the company’s knowledge of the illness or condition that the seafarer had already been diagnosed with since 2001. Undeniably then, seafarer's failure to reveal the said procedure does not amount to a concealment of a pre-existing illness or condition that can bar his claim for disability benefit and compensation.
 
Moreover, the Court held that even if the seafarer’s employment with the company is contractual, the same cannot be validly raised to support misrepresentation.  For surely, the knowledge acquired by the company regarding the medical condition of a seafarer is not automatically wiped out and obliterated upon the expiration of a contract and the execution of another.
 
Almario Leoncio vs. MST Marine Services (Phils.), Inc., et al. and/or Thome Ship Management PTE., Ltd., G.R. No. 230357, December 6, 2017, Third Division, Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco, Jr., ponente
 
Firm News
 
With the advent of the Philippines’ Data Privacy Act and its recently issued Implementing Rules & Regulations, DelRosarioLaw proudly announces the opening of a new practice area in data privacy to cater to the needs of its clientele.  The practice aims to assist in the client’s compliance with the data privacy rules as well as provide general advice on data security, risk management and regulation.
 
For more information on the firms’ data privacy practice, please contact Charles Jay Dela Cruz (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), Florencio Aquino (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or Saben Loyola (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).
 
 DelRosarioLaw Managing Associate Gina Guinto was a speaker at the 1st Officers and Crew Dialogue of Rosy Star Ocean Vessels Management, Co., Inc. last 24th January 2018 which was held at the Tropicana Suites Hotel, Malate, Manila.  Gina’s discussion centered on Current Legal Issues on Filipino Seafarers Claims and the Seafarers Protection Act.
 
Many thanks to Rosy Star OVM for your invitation and hope to see you in your future seminars.

2017 AsiaLaw Profiles:  Outstanding in Shipping, Maritime & Aviation; Recommended in Dispute Resolution  & Litigation, Insurance, Intellectual Property, Labour & Employment
 
“Del Rosario & Del Rosario is more or less unrivalled when it comes to maritime work in the Philippines” from Asia-Pacific, The Legal 500, 2014, p. 497
 
“Del Rosario & Del Rosario is often first port of call for employment law within the maritime industry, where it represents shipowners, agents, insurers and port owners.” Asia-Pacific, The Legal 500, 2014, p. 494
 
“Offers comprehensive shipping expertise. Maintains an excellent reputation for representing P&I firms and handling collision and crew casualties.  A strong team that is well known in the market.” Chambers Asia Pacific, 2014 p. 949
 
This publication aims to provide commentary on issues affecting the manning industry, analysis of recent cases and updates on legislation.  It is meant to be brief and is not intended to be legal advice.  To subscribe or for further information, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Holiday Notice:  

In view of national holidays in the Philippines, our offices will be closed on following days -
Thursday 1 November and Friday 2 November, to re-open on Monday 5 November;
Friday 30 November, to re-open on Monday 3 December
 
Emails will be closely monitored but for urgent matters, please call our 24/7 mobile                     63 917 830 8384

 

The Asia Business Law Journal has named Managing Partners Arturo Del Rosario, Jr. and Ruben Del Rosario and Senior Partner Joseph Rebano as one of the Philippines Top 100 Lawyers in their recently published list.

The Top 100 list of lawyers can be accessed as follows:
https://www.vantageasia.com/asia-business-law-journal/Philippines-lawyers/#INTRODUCTION

 

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Downloads

  • IRR Seafarer's Protection Act
  • Seafarers Protection Act
  • ORDINANCE No. 28 Series of 2015 Zambales, Philippines
  • NLRC MEMO on 3rd Doctor
  • NLRC Rules of Procedure 2011
  • Standard Terms and Conditions of Del Rosario Law
  • POEA SEC - 2010 Amendments
  • POEA Memorandum Circular No. 10 Series of 2010
  • Governing Board Resolution No. 09 Series of 2010

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