Visayan Stevedore vs Workmen’s Compensation (GR No. L-26657 September 12, 1974)

Visayan Stevedore and Transportation Company vs Workmen’s Compensation Commission
GR No. L-26657 September 12, 1974

Facts: The deceased, employed as engineer by Visayan Stevedore and Transportation Company with a monthly salary of P235 was part of a 3-man over of the tugboat M/TDILIS. His main duty consisted in his starting the engine and seeing to it that it functioned properly during the voyage, with the actual navigation of the tugboat being the responsibility of his 2 other companions the “patron” who controlled the wheel and a helper who operated the rudder. According to Federico Sespene “Patron” of the tugboat when the deceased died, from February 10-17, 1964, they were given to tow barges to the ship and load it with cargoes. They also had to shift or bring barges to dry dock at the company’s compound in Iloilo. Aside from that, their work was to bring the barges from Jordan to Iloilo City, from terminal to the middle of Guimaras and back. As a consequence of this work, they were compelled to stay in the tugboat. On that fatal day of February 17, 1964, they had received various orders and at about 4am of the same day, they were towing barges from the shell wharf to Tabangao, and while they were navigating, Eduardo Libiyo, visibly tired and in active duty asked for permission to take a rest. When the tugboat reach Tabangao, witness Sespene was ordered by Orleans to start towing the barge but when Sespene called Libiyo to start the engine, there was no answer from Libiyo. The quartermaster was the one who responded instead and was the one who ordered to wake up Libiyo, who at the time was already dead. It was about 6:30am of February 17, 1964. A subsequent autopsy report of the deceased’s remains conducted by Dr. Raymund L. Torres, the assistant medico-legal officer of the Iloilo City police department, traced the cause of death of Eduardo as “bangungot.”

Issue: Whether or not the death of Eduardo Libiyo is compensable and is supported by the autopsy report.

Held: Yes. We do not think that the main point pressed by petitioner, namely that death caused by bangungot is not compensable, is at all decisive in the case at bar, what is not denied, and this is crucial in so far as the compensability of Eduardo Libiyo’s death is concerned, is that when death came to the deceased he was in active duty, of as an engineer-employee of the petitioner. This being the case, the need to pinpoint the cause of his death as work-connected in order to render it compensable assumes very little importance. It is to be presumed, under section 44 of the Workmen’s Compensation Act, as amended that the employee’s death, supervening at the time of his employment, either arose out of, or was at least aggravated by said employment. With this legal presumption, the burden of proof shifts to the employer, and the employee is relieved of the burden to show causation. The mere opinion of doctors presented by petitioner as evidence cannot prevail over the presumption established by law.

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