PH seaman wins disability suit against shipping firm


MANILA, Philippines—Settling a 12-year-old labor case, the Supreme Court has upheld the awarding of $60,000 (about P2.5 million) in disability benefits to a seaman who suffered various ailments while working in a chemical tanker.

The Supreme Court Second Division ruled that Salvador Serna was entitled to compensation even if the he got ill only after he stopped working at the MV Hyde Park, owned by a shipping firm in Monaco.

Court records showed Serna worked for about a year as a bosun at the Hyde Park, which transports toxic chemicals such as methanol, phenol, ethanol, benzene and caustic soda.

Serna’s manning agency, Career Philippines Ship Management Inc., has been deploying him to chemical tankers for 10 years.

While on the Hyde Park, Serna experienced shortness of breath, weakness and weight loss. He was unable to get medical leave and had to wait for the expiration of his contract in 1999.

Unfit to work

After consulting with doctors in the Philippines over the next years, Serna was diagnosed with toxic goiter, thyrotoxic heart disease, chronic atrial fibrillation and hypertensive cardiovascular disease. He was thus declared medically unfit for further work as seaman.

In 2001, Serna filed before the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) a claim for disability benefits as provided under the mariners’ union of which he was a member, with the manning agency and the shipping firm named as respondents.

The respondents, however, denied any liability, saying Serna’s contract was already finished and that he did not officially file a medical complaint while on board the ship. They said the seaman also signed a quit-claim after his discharge from the ship.

100% pay

The labor arbiter, however, sided with Serna and said he was entitled to 100-percent compensation in the amount of $60,000 under the permanent medical unfitness provisions pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement of the mariners’ union and the regulations set by the Philippine Overseas Employment Union.

The NLRC affirmed the labor arbiter’s decision in 2005. The respondents appealed to the Court of Appeals, which also appealed the NLRC ruling the following year. The respondents elevated the case to the Supreme Court.

In their petition, the manning agency and the shipping firm said no substantial evidence existed that Serna acquired the illness during the employment contract and that his sickness was work-related.

However, in a 17-page decision penned by Justice Arturo Brion, the high court said it respected the findings of the NLRC, which is an administrative body that has expertise in the labor regulations. Such findings, when affirmed by the Court of Appeals, are generally conclusive on the Supreme Court.


The division chair, Justice Antonio Carpio, and members Justices Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Mariano del Castillo and Jose Perez concurred.

“We are satisfied, from the discussions of the labor arbiter, the NLRC and the Court of Appeals, that substantial evidence on record exists to support their factual findings on this point. It is inconsequential that Serna’s repatriation was due to a finished contract as an employee’s claim cannot be defeated by the mere fact of his separation from the service,” the justices said.

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  • RS1007

    Yun lang? Ang kaibigan ko nga eh, tinamaan ng bakal sa tuhod, ang tagal hindi nakalakad dahil muntik ng madurog ang buto more than $600,000 ang natanggap. Ang laking balita non sa seaman’s news.

    • Edward

      swerte na un na nabigyan pa siya ng $600,000.00 (kung totoo ang sinabi nyo)..kasi karamihan naku maaawa ka sa kanila…

      Recently, the group of Filipino teachers was awarded $4.5 millions in LA recruitment case…na aabot lng sa $13,428.57 each for the 350 pinoy teachers…

      Sana tulad ito ng  kaso sa US court kay Sheena Monnin, Former Miss Pennsylvania USA 2012, who was ordered to pay $5 Million to Miss Universe Organization after Donald Trump filed a case against her for oral defamation. kya sa mga pinoy lalong lalo na sa mga local celebraties natin mag isip isip na kau sa mga akusasyon nyo laban sa pagkapanalo ni Miss USA sa recently held Miss Universe…

    • ADD

      More than US$600K for a busted knee? Multiply that with 40 and you get 24M.

      I doubt it.

      Madaming seaman ang magpapabasag ng tuhod makuha lng ung 24M n yan. Sabihin n natin na 2.5M ang bayad for knee replacement surgery, that leaves you with more than 20M. Sarap buhay k n nun, at masaya k n hindi k n aakyat ng barko.

  • itsumo

    Yeah, $60,000 is pretty small, just wonder why they came up on that amount? It looks like they just give him a retirement fee.

    • Edward

      ok na rin un kesa sa wla..khit nakakalungkot ang sinapit ng ating kababayan…

      If you have the chance to read some, if not, most of the SC decisions pertaining to compensations baka ma shock ka pa..kc ung iba nga umabot ng lagpas dekada ang litigation dhil sa wlang sawang appeals ng respondents or the dependants na ang original compensation ay 1.2 milyon pesos pero sa final ruling ng SC nasa 100 thousand nlng…paano na ung lawyer’s fee at iba pa…

      Kya nung nagsimula akong magbasa ng mga SC ruling especially on compensation mawawalan ka na ng gana…Ang buong akala kc natin sa una kasi pabor sa atin ang RTC pati NLRC recommended compensation pagdating sa SC halos mawala na… o wla ng compensation…

      Kaya naisip ko na habang nagkakaroon pa ng outside settlement at mas ok nmn ung compensations payag ka na kung sa tingin nyo reasonable nmn ung amount ng compensation..pero kung hindi hala go on with ur case..anyway, sumugal ka n nung una pa lng hala ituloy nyo na…pero ito ang nakikita ko sa mga nabasa kong ruling na kung medyo mataas ang hingi ng biktima hindi titigil ang kabilang party na i appeal ng appeal ung kaso hangggang umabot sa punto na mawalan ng gana ang nagreklamo na ipagpatuloy pa ang kaso (o bka umabot pa sa punto na pumanaw nlng ang biktima)..kung itutuloy man magugulat nlng sa desisyon (kung habol nyo lng ay compensation)….

    • kanoy

       LOL .back it up 25 years, revisit the The MV Doña Paz (Dom Sulpicio) rammed the Vector….capacity limit of TDZ 3,000-4,000 (huge variant) 4,400 aboard very few, if any, survivors…Sulpicio carried bare bones insurance policy ON THE SHIP NOTHING ON THE PASSENGERS of
      25 million PESO, not $, and was WILLING to give each of the over 4;000 families 20,000
      PESO (less than $400 not enough to bury them)
      12 years later (SOUND FAMILIAR?) the Philippine Supreme Court ruled that it was the owners of the Vector who were liable to indemnify the victims of the collision
      Caltex Philippines, which had chartered the Vector, was likewise cleared of financial liability
      Sulpicio Lines Inc. ceased to exist after it changed its name.the owner and operator of the  MV Dona Paz and Princess of the Sea (among others)
      is now known as Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corp.

      Now they argue in court these death suits where filed against Sulpicio not PSACC

      • kalikasanipagtanggol

         Pinaglalaruan lang ng mga malalaking pangalan sa business sector, mga kasabwat na pulitiko at kasama na ang mga korte kahit supreme court hindi malayo mabili din….

      • kanoy

         Well yea political dynasties set up with the nod of COMELEC who blame the voters…but when all that COMELEC gives you are political dynasties to vote for what choice have you got? as for the SC they are a joke no SC in the world has overturned so many of their ”final decisions” and what they did to those 6,000 families who lost their lives on the Howard Go & family Sulpicio death trap ships

  • jamesyapfanatic

    grabe…inabot ng 12 years bago na resolve ang case. but still.ok na ren kesa wala,kawawang seaman imagine kelangan nyan antayin ang 12 taon para lang makuha ang pera nya:(

  • noonyan

    buti nalang  may tatanggapin si kabayan , more seaman suffered more than Mr. Serna but they just fade away without complaining, the reason is they dont know where to go for help…..Seamans life on board is no easy

  • AirForce1985

    I wouldn’t be surprised that there was no internationally recognized safety equipment for use by the crewmembers. No enforced safe loading and unloading of this hazardous and toxic cargo. As is done nowadays is formal hazardous materials training. And I wonder if the ship sailed when the International Trade Federation operated. Which is a European based labor organization, that have assisted crewmembers of any vessel, docking in their jurisdiction.

  • kalikasanipagtanggol

    Good judgement at sana mai award na ang compensation sa lalong madaling panahon! No ifs and buts!

    • kanoy

       >>No ifs and buts!??>>how many months/years does toxic goiter, thyrotoxic heart disease, chronic atrial fibrillation and hypertensive cardiovascular disease develop before it is detectable? these 2 have nothing to do with chemicals…chronic atrial fibrillation and hypertensive cardiovascular disease…irregular heartbeat and high BP…TOXIC GOITER? Toxic nodular goiter grows from an existing simple goiter….UNTREATED PRECONDITION..thyrotoxic heart disease:?? BIG WORDS MEANING NOTHING…. Common Causes: Thyrotoxicosis

      Some of the possible common medical causes of Thyrotoxicosis may include:

          Grave’s disease
          Toxic nodule
          Toxic multinodular goiter

  • Sherwin Abad

    next problem is how to enforce that decision on a company from another country.

    • kanoy

       very odd….his case was solely filed against HYDE who he contracted out to for but 1 year yet every single ailment they claim he has >>toxic goiter, thyrotoxic heart disease, chronic atrial fibrillation and hypertensive cardiovascular disease>>all have a gestation (growing) period of much longer than 1 year, bringing into focus…Serna’s manning agency, Career Philippines Ship Management Inc., has been deploying him to CHEMICAL tankers for 10 years…MEANING yea he got sick at work….BUT on whose ship? if I was Hyde i would appeal to the Monegasque supreme court… with doctors in tow

  • johndcross1

    The award is too small.  It should be increased.  The life of Mr. Serna is not only worth $60,000 only. The big question is, why it took our courts to resolve this case 12 long years?                                    

  • ADD

    12 years at US$60,000 lng, if sa Caucasian ngyari ito, it would only take, the maximum, 2 years and definitely more than that amount. Npaka mura talaga ng buhay ng Pinoy.     

    • Boyet Cabanlit

      asa k pa brod..POEA ang salarin dyan.

  • Raul

    Ang Labor arbiter natin mga Ogag. Akala kasi nila 60,000 malaki na ang value sa Pinoy. Dagdagan pa ang mga ogag na mahistrado 12 years wow. whewwwww! Bansa ng kagagohan. Mula sa Barangay Kapitan Hangang sa Presidente mga walanghiya. Balasubas!

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