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ARIEL A. EBUENGA v. SOUTHFIELD AGENCIES, INC.

, WILHEMSEN SHIP MANAGEMENT HOLDING


LTD, AND CAPT. SONNY VALENCIA
GR No. 208396, March 14, 2018
LEONEN J.:

FACTS:
Ebuenga was hired by Southfield as a chief cook aboard respondent Wilhemsen Ship.
About 2 months of his engagement, he wrote a letter to respondents asking that he be
repatriated as soon as possible to attend to a family problem, which was granted.
Without consulting Southfield’s designated physician, Ebuenga had himself checked at St.
Luke’s Medical Center where he underwent Magnetic Resonance Imaging which test revealed
that he was afflicted with Multilevel Disk Dessication. He was advised to undergo physical
therapy. Dr. Tieman, who issued a Disability Report, finding him to be permanently disabled and
no longer fit to work as a seafarer. Consequently, Ebuenga filed a complaint for permanent
disability benefits.
In his position paper, he claimed instead that upon embarkation, a crew member died
from overfatigue. He reported his death to the International Transport Worker’s Federation,
which took no action. Instead, Capt Lecias coerced him to sign a letter seeking immediate
repatriation. He added that he sought medical assistance from the company-designated
physician but was refused. Thus, he was forced to seek treatment on his own. Labor Arbiter
dismissed the complaint and NLRC denied petitioner’s appeal. The CA found no grave abused of
discretion on NLRC’s decisions and denied Ebuenga’s Motion for Reconsideration. Hence, this
petition.

ISSUE: Whether or not petitioner Ebuenga is entitled to permanent disability benefits.

RULING: NO. Section 20 (B) of POEA-SEX established the procedures for assessing claims for
disability benefits. It mandates seafarers to see a company-designated physician for a post-
employment medical examination, which must be done within 3 working days from their arrival.
Failure to comply shall result in the forfeiture of the right to claim disability benefits.
LA, NLRC and the CA are consistent in finding that petitioner’s claim of presenting himself
for examination is direly unsupported by evidence. Petitioner could not even state when he
actually wanted to have himself examined. He could neither identify the person he approached
for his request nor disclose the exact manner and circumstances of his being rebuffed. Ultimately,
petitioner has nothing more than a scant, one-sentence story: he went to Southfield’s office, was
refused, and had to go to another doctor.
Even if this Court were to overlook petitioner’s utter failure to substantitate his version
of events, no award of disability benefits is availing as petitioners has failed to demonstrate
that his affliction was work-related. In Tagud v. BSM Crew Service Cntre Phils., Inc., it explained
the twin reqirements for compensation of disability:
1.) That the illness or injury must be work-related, and

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2.) that the work-related illness or injury must have existed during the term of the seafarer’s
employment contract.
To be “work-related” is to say that there is a reasonable linkage between the disease suffred by
the employee and his work.

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