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CA affirms mediator approval of seafarer’s disability claim

THE Court of Appeals (CA) has upheld a ruling by the National Conciliation and Mediation Board’s (NCMB), which had ordered Magsaysay Maritime Corp. to pay a seafarer $60,000, following a permanent injury to his leg sustained while on duty.

In a 16-page decision dated March 31, the CA Eighth Division concurred with the NCMB, which found that Joselito Q. Baculto could no longer perform his duties as a seafarer after a trolley hit his left leg.

“Like other overseas workers, Filipino seafarers are our true diplomats, they who show the world the resilience, patience, and creativity of our people,” Associate Justice Edwin D. Sorongon said in the ruling.

“It is the duty of this Court, given the facts and the applicable laws, to approximate justice due them.”

It said the seafarer was not entitled to moral damages as he failed to prove that Magsaysay Maritime Corp. acted in bad faith in denying his initial disability claim. The court added that he was entitled to lawyer’s fees provided under the New Civil Code.

Mr. Baculto was hired as a chef de partie baker and was tasked to operate and maintain the ship’s baking machinery. He had a monthly salary of $476 for a period of eight months.

In 2019, the seafarer was diagnosed with an “umbilical hernia” by a company-approved doctor after a fellow crew member lost control of a trolley that hit his leg.

A year later, he told the doctor that he still experienced pain despite undergoing surgery for the injury.

Mr. Baculto consulted three doctors whose conflicting assessments failed to arrive at a determination of his fitness to continue working as a seafarer.

Citing the Labor Code, the tribunal said a disability is total and permanent if the employee is unable to perform any “gainful” occupation for a continuous period exceeding 120 days.

It said none of the company-approved doctors made a definite disability assessment, which made Mr. Baculto’s injury permanent under the law.

“Considering Baculto’s persistent and unresolved pain, it is highly improbable for him to perform his usual tasks in any vessel which effectively disabled him from earning wages in the same kind of work or similar nature for which he was trained,” the court ruled. — John Victor D. Ordoñez

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