SSS, GSIS, ECC should ‘adopt liberal attitude’ in favor of employees’ compensation claims

Published by rudy Date posted on November 9, 2021

by Rey Panaligan, 9 Nov 2021, Manila Bulletin

The Social Security System (SSS), the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and the Employees Compensation Commission (ECC) must adopt a liberal attitude in favor of employees in deciding claims for compensation, the Supreme Court (SC) said.

“This is what the Constitution dictates,” the SC stressed as it dismissed the petition which challenged the ruling of the Court of Appeals (CA) in favor of a wife whose claim for death benefits of her husband was denied both by the SSS and the ECC.

Dismissed by the SC, in a decision written by Associate Justice Henri Jean Paul B. Inting, was the petition filed by SSS against the CA’s Dec. 17, 2015 ruling in favor of Belinda C. Cuento.

Belinda’s husband, Maximo M. Cuento, was employed as a motorized messenger by Gold Rush Services Corp. and assigned to a bank. His last assignment was in Feb. 2011 until he died on Oct. 4, 2011 due to myocardial infarction, heart attack.

While on duty on Oct. 4, 2011, Maximo appeared to have suffered from a stroke and was brought to a hospital where he was declared “dead on arrival.”

Belinda filed for death benefits with the SSS which denied her plea. On appeal, the ECC affirmed the denial with a ruling that there was no showing that Maximo had been subjected to unusual strain at work when he suffered a stroke while on duty.

She elevated the case to the CA which ruled in her favor.

In its Dec. 17, 2015 decision, the CA took note of Maximo’s duties as a messenger which required him to drive around Metro Manila, pick up checks and documents for delivery to the head office of the bank, and deliver documents to its branches.

The CA said his everyday exposure under the sweltering heat of the sun during the summer season and his exposure to rain during the rainy season, aggravated by his susceptibility to smoke-belching vehicles, were enough proof of the strenuous nature of his work.

The appellate court also pointed out that Maximo was already at risk of myocardial infarction after he suffered a transient ischemic attack on June 15, 2011, and, thus, the myocardial infarction which caused his death was work connected and compensable.

SSS appealed the CA’s ruling with the SC which denied the petition.

In resolving the issue, the SC cited ECC Board Resolution No. 11-05-13 which provides the conditions for the compensability of cardiovascular disease. Among these were “of the heart disease was known to have been present during employment…” and “the strain of work that brings about an acute attack must be of sufficient severity and must be followed within 24 hours by the clinical signs of a cardiac insult to constitute causal relationship.”

Also the SC said that for an occupation or work-related disease and the resulting disability or death to be compensable, all these conditions must be satisfied: “ The employee’s work and/ or the working conditions must involve risk/s that caused the development of the illness; the disease was contracted as a result of the employee’s exposure to the described risks; the disease was contracted within a period of exposure and under such factors necessary to contract it; and there was no deliberate act on the part of the employee to disregard the safety measures or ignore established warning or precaution.”

The SC said:

“After a review of the records, the Court holds that there is substantial evidence to rule that the death of respondent’s (Belinda) husband is compensable.

‘The instant case undoubtedly falls under the above-stated condition which states that ‘the strain of work that brings about an acute attack must be of sufficient severity and must be followed within 24 hours by the clinical signs of a cardiac insult to constitute causal relationship.’

“Respondent’s husband was on duty as a motorized messenger when he suffered loss of consciousness and within 24 hours, he died due to myocardial infarction.

“The records show that respondent’s husband had been with the bank as a motorized messenger for several months and his duties included delivery of documents to or from the main office to any branch in Metro Manila. He was deemed fit to work.

“Daily exposure to the heat of the sun, rain, and pollution are principal factors that cannot simply be ignored in declaring the compensability of the death of respondent’s husband.

“The only plausible conclusion in the instant case is that respondent’s husband worked under risks of stress and strain that greatly contributed to his myocardial infarction.

“A reasonable mind analyzing these facts cannot but conclude that the risks present in respondent’s husband working environment for the entire duration of his employment precipitated the myocardial infarction that led to his death.

“WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Decision dated December 17, 2015 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 140167 is hereby AFFIRMED. SO ORDERED.”

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