Respondent Victorio de Jesus was hired by petitioner OSG Shipmanagement Manila Inc., for and in behalf of Michaelmar Shipping Services Inc., as a second cook on Jan. 15, 2008. His contract period was for eight months on board the vessel M/T Overseas Andromar.
He alleged that several days after boarding, he noticed that the drinking water was salty and dirty. During the voyage, he experienced sudden pain all over his body and experienced nausea. Thus, when the ship anchored in Rotterdam, Netherlands, he consulted a doctor who diagnosed him with Costen Syndrome. Despite taking medication, his condition did not improve. Hence, he was sent to a doctor in Singapore and then in China who diagnosed him of urethritis and kidney stones. For failure of petitioners to attend to his case, he was constrained to file a complaint for full disability compensation against the former.
Petitioners upon the other hand, insist that respondent is not entitled to his claim considering that his illness is not work-related and they did not occur during the term of his employment. He was not repatriated due to a medical condition but because of a finished contract. He failed to report for a post-employment medical examination to a company-designated doctor immediately after repatriation.
Does the complaint of respondent prosper?
While drinking salty and dirty water and dehydration may indeed cause kidney stones, respondent failed to prove that he and the other crew members were made to drink saline and rusty water. Respondent merely made bare allegations without proof to support his claims. On the other hand, records show that petitioners sufficiently proved that there was adequate water supply, mineral water, onboard the vessel for the consumption of the whole crew, not only of the officers. Further, if indeed they were made to drink merely desalinated seawater, not mineral water, why was it that of all the crew members of the ship, only him developed kidney stones and urethritis? Likewise, no other crew member complained of the purported unhygienic drinking water. Finally, as a cook, it is part of his tasks to stay for a longer period of time in the kitchen. It is, thus, his duty to himself to see to it that he regularly hydrates with water.
The foregoing leads this Court to conclude that respondent failed to discharge the burden of proof that there is causal connection between the nature of his employment and his illnesses, or that the risk of contracting the illnesses was increased by his working conditions.
As things are, records reveal that respondent was repatriated for “finished contract,” not for medical reasons. He chose to complete his employment contract with the petitioners instead of being medically repatriated, even as he experienced nausea and body pains on board. In Villanueva Sr. v. Baliwag Navigacion Jnc., 715 Phil. 299 (2013), the Court noted with approval the Court of Appeals conclusion that the fact that the seafarer was repatriated for finished contract and not for medical reasons weakened, if not belied, his claim of illness on board the vessel. Verily, repatriation due to a finished contract is “an indication that the injury or illness is not work-related.”
Even if this Court were to consider that respondent was repatriated for health reasons, his failure to submit himself to a post-employment medical examination by a company-designated physician within three working days upon his return militates against his claim for disability benefits. (OSG Shipmanagement Manila Inc., Michaelmar Shipping Services Inc., And/Or Ma. Cristina Paras vs. Victorio B. de Jesus, G.R. 207344, Nov. 18, 2020).