CA junks dead seafarer kin's compensation claim

By Benjamin Pulta

January 3 2020, 4:37 pm Updated on November 30, 2023, 9:09 am

MANILA -- The Court of Appeals (CA) dismissed the belated claim to death benefits of a family of a Filipino seafarer who died at sea while employed in a foreign ship.

In a 12-page decision dated December 27, the CA's 8th Division, through Associate Justice Ramon R. Garcia, turned down the claim filed by the legal wife of seafarer Jowe Alap-ap Banagua, saying she had failed to substantiate her claim that she is entitled to claim for compensation.

"While we commiserate with (the) petitioners, we cannot grant their claim for death compensation benefits in the absence of substantial evidence to prove their entitlement thereto since to do so will cause an injustice to the employer," the court said.

Associate Justices Zenaida T. Galapate-Laguilles and Walter S. Ong concurred.

Jowe Alap-ap Banagua was hired sometime in 2014 by BB Shipping Management Corp. to work as a fisherman for its foreign principal, Chin Cheng Ming Fishery Co., Ltd. with a basic monthly salary of USD250 (about PHP12,000).

On Oct. 5, 2015 while on board the fishing vessel F/V Jin Tsai Fu, Jowe informed the captain that he was feeling sick and uncomfortable and had an open wound on his right leg.

On Oct. 17, 2015, he had a seizure and eventually died at the Honiara International Medical Center in the Solomon Islands.

His body was subsequently returned to the Philippines. The doctors determined that the cause of death was "uremic syndrome as a consequence of renal failure."

On Jan. 27, 2016, Arlita Denial and Andronica Banagua, the declared surviving spouse and mother of the deceased received from BB Shipping a total of PHP626,000 representing claims from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), insurance claim benefits, and burial assistance benefits.

On Oct. 26, 2017, however, a complaint for payment of death benefits was filed by Felisa T. Banagua and her two minor children, claiming that she was the deceased's legal wife having been married in 2001 before they separated in 2006.

The legal wife theorized that she was entitled to compensation since the death was caused by her estranged spouse's employment.

The labor arbiter and the National Labor Relations Commission ruled against her claim, prompting her to bring the case to the CA.

Ruling against her, the CA said "awards of compensation cannot rest entirely on bare assertions and presumptions."

"As correctly found by the labor tribunals, acute or chronic renal failure is not listed as an occupational disease under Sec. 32 of the 2010 POEA-SEC (Standard Employment Contract for Seafarers)," the court said, adding that there is a disputable presumption that those illnesses not listed under Sec. 32 may be presumed work-related it must still be proven by substantial evidence.

"What (the) petitioners presented was a mere medical opinion from a certain Dr. Romina Jasmin Navarro who was not even presented to verify or authenticate the medical opinion she issued," the court noted. (PNA)