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Over a year since Macahilas's medical repatriation, or on March 12, 2015, he was
declared fit to work.[8]
Macahilas complained of pricking pains in his lower abdomen area where he was
operated. He went to see his personal physician, who assessed that he was unfit to
resume work as seafarer, and that his illness was work-aggravated/related. With his
assessment, Macahilas claimed permanent and total disability benefits from BSM. The
parties failed to agree on the compensability of Macahilas's illness, which constrained
him to file a labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC).[9]
In a Decision[10] dated November 27, 2017, the Labor Arbiter (LA) awarded permanent
and total disability benefits to Macahilas. The LA held that although Macahilas was
immediately subjected to medical examination upon his repatriation, no final report had
been issued on Macahilas's appendicitis. The assessment stating that his condition was
"not work-related" was merely a private communication from the company-designated
physician to BSM. There was no indication that Macahilas had been informed of this
medical opinion. Since his medical repatriation, Macahilas had been under treatment for
419 days and no final assessment had been issued within the mandated 240-day
period. In the course of further management of his conditions due to his
appendectomy, Macahilas was also found to have incisional hernia. Macahilas's
diagnosis of hernia is a listed occupational illness under the Philippine Overseas
Employment Agency — Standard Employment Contract (POEA-SEC). Hence, said
condition is a compensable illness. Contrary to the opinion of the company-designated
physician, the LA held that Macahilas's appendicitis was work-aggravated/related. The
appendicitis may have been caused or aggravated by food provided onboard the vessel
or the nature of his work. Finally, since Macahilas's final medical assessment was issued
beyond the 240-day period, he was deemed entitled to permanent and total disability
benefits amounting to US$60,000.00 in accordance with the POEA-SEC and not the CBA
because his conditions did not arise from an accident as required under the CBA. He
was, likewise, awarded attorney's fees amounting to US$6,000.00.[11]
BSM appealed the findings of the LA with the NLRC. In the Decision[12] dated February
29, 2016, the NLRC affirmed the ruling of the LA holding that Macahilas was entitled to
payment of permanent and total disability benefits under the POEA-SEC and attorney's
BSM then filed a Petition for Certiorari[14] with the CA. In the Decision[15] dated August
31, 2017, the CA reversed and set aside the Decision of the NLRC. The CA held that
appendicitis is not one of the occupational diseases listed under Section 32-A of the
POEA-SEC. While there is a disputable presumption that an illness acquired on board is
work-related, the seafarer must still show a reasonable connection between the nature
of work on board the vessel and the illness contracted or aggravated. The CA held that
Macahilas failed to prove this connection. The assessment of his physician, issued after
a one-time consultation, did not provide an explanation how Macahilas's work caused or
aggravated his appendicitis. Other than the allegations of stressful work conditions and
unhealthy diet on board the vesssel, there was no credible medical evidence to support
that his appendicitis was work-related.[16]


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