Republic of thePhilippines

Supreme Court








                  – versus –





 G.R. No. 150898



   CARPIO MORALES, Chairperson,



   VILLARAMA, JR., and





April 13, 2011

x – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –  x






          Bladimir Cubacub (Bladimir) was employed as maintenance man by petitioner company Ocean Builders Construction Corp. at its office inCaloocanCity. 

On April 9, 1995, Bladimir was afflicted with chicken pox.  He was thus advised by petitioner Dennis Hao (Hao), the company’s general manager, to rest for three days which he did at the company’s “barracks” where he lives free of charge.  

Three days later or on April 12, 1995, Bladimir went about his usual chores of manning the gate of the company premises and even cleaned the company vehicles.  Later in the afternoon, however, he asked a co-worker, Ignacio Silangga (Silangga), to accompany him to his house in Capas, Tarlac so he could rest.  Informed by Silangga of Bladimir’s intention, Hao gave Bladimir P1,000.00 and ordered Silangga to instead bring Bladimir to the nearest hospital. 

Along with co-workers Narding and Tito Vergado, Silangga thus brought Bladimir to theCaybigaCommunityHospital(CaybigaHospital), a primary-care hospital around one kilometer away from the office of the company. 

The hospital did not allow Bladimir to leave the hospital.  He was then confined, with Narding keeping watch over him.  The next day, April 13, 1995, a doctor of the hospital informed Narding that they needed to talk to Bladimir’s parents, hence, on Silangga’s request, their co-workers June Matias and Joel Edrene fetched Bladimir’s parents from Tarlac. 

At about 8 o’clock in the evening of the same day, April 13, 1995, Bladimir’s parents-respondent spouses Cubacub, with their friend Dr. Hermes Frias (Dr. Frias), arrived at the Caybiga Hospital and transferred Bladimir to the Quezon City General Hospital (QCGH) where he was placed in the intensive care unit and died the following day, April 14, 1995

The death certificate issued by the QCGH recorded Bladimir’s immediate cause of death as cardio-respiratory arrest and the antecedent cause as pneumonia.  On the other hand, the death certificate issued by Dr. Frias recorded the causes of death as cardiac arrest, multiple organ system failure, septicemia and chicken pox.

          Bladimir’s parents-herein respondents later filed on August 17, 1995 before the Tarlac Regional Trial Court (RTC) at Capas a complaint for damages against petitioners, alleging that Hao was guilty of negligence which resulted in the deterioration of Bladimir’s condition leading to his death.

          By Decision of April 14, 1997,[1][1] Branch 66 of the Tarlac RTC at Capas dismissed the complaint, holding that Hao was not negligent.  It ruled that Hao was not under any obligation to bring Bladimir to better tertiary hospitals, and assuming that Bladimir died of chicken pox aggravated by pneumonia or some other complications due to lack of adequate facilities at the hospital, the same cannot be attributed to Hao.

          On respondents’ appeal, the Court of Appeals, by Decision of June 22, 2001, reversed the trial court’s decision, holding that by Hao’s failure to bring Bladimir to a better-equipped hospital, he violated Article 161 of the Labor Code.  It went on to state that Hao should have foreseen that Bladimir, an adult, could suffer complications from chicken pox and, had he been brought to hospitals like St. Luke’s, Capitol Medical Center, Philippine General Hospital and the like, Bladimir could have been saved. 

Thus the appellate court disposed:

          WHEREFORE, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Capas, Tarlac, Branch 66 in Civil Case No. 349 dated April 14, 1997 is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE and a new one rendered holding the defendants solidarily liable to plaintiffs-appellants for the following:

1.      P50,000.00 for the life of Bladimir Cubacub;

2.      P584,630.00 for loss of Bladimir’s earning capacity;

3.      P4,834.60 as reimbursement of expenses incurred atQuezon City GeneralHospitalas evidenced by Exhibits “E” to “E-14” inclusive;

4.      P18,107.75 as reimbursement of expenses for the 5-day wake covered by Exhibits “F” to “F-17”;

5.      P30,000.00 as funeral expenses at Prudential Funeral Homes covered by Exhibit “I”;

6.      P6,700.00 for acquisition of memorial lot at Sto.RosarioMemorial Parkcovered by Exhibit “J”;

7.      P50,000.00 as moral damages;

8.      P20,000.00 as exemplary damages;

9.      P15,000.00 as attorney’s fees and

10.  Cost of suit.


          The motion for reconsideration was denied by Resolution[3][3] of November 26, 2001, hence this petition.

          Petitioners maintain that Hao exercised the diligence more than what the law requires, hence, they are not liable for damages.

          The petition is meritorious.

          At the onset, the Court notes that the present case is one for damages based on torts, the employer-employee relationship being merely incidental.  To successfully prosecute an action anchored on torts, three elements must be present, viz:  (1) duty (2) breach (3) injury and proximate causation.   The assailed decision of the appellate court held that it was the duty of petitioners to provide adequate medical assistance to the employees under Art. 161 of the Labor Code, failing which a breach is committed.

          Art. 161 of the Labor Code provides:

                      ART. 161.  Assistance of employer. – It shall be the duty of any employer to provide all the necessary assistance to ensure the adequate and immediate medical and dental attendance and treatment to an injured or sick employee in case of emergency.  (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

The Implementing Rules of the Code do not enlighten what the phrase “adequate and immediate” medical attendance means in relation to an “emergency.”  It would thus appear that the determination of what it means is left to the employer, except when a full-time registered nurse or physician are available on-site as required, also under the Labor Code, specifically Art. 157 which provides:

                      Article 157.  Emergency Medical and Dental Services. ─ It shall be the duty of every employer to furnish his employees in any locality with free medical and dental attendance and facilities consisting of:

(a)          The services of a full-time registered nurse when the number of employees exceeds fifty (50) but not more than two hundred (200) except when the employer does not maintain hazardous workplaces, in which case, the services of a graduate first-aider shall be provided for the protection of workers, where no registered nurse is available.  The Secretary of Labor and Employment shall provide by appropriate regulations, the services that shall be required where the number of employees does not exceed fifty (50) and shall determine by appropriate order, hazardous workplaces for purposes of this Article;

(b)         The services of a full-time registered nurse, a part-time physician and dentist, and an emergency clinic, when the number of employees exceeds two hundred (200) but not more than three hundred (300); and


(c)          The services of a full-time physician, dentist and a full-time registered nurse as well as a dental clinic and an infirmary or emergency hospital with one bed capacity for every one hundred (100) employees when the number of employees exceeds three hundred (300).  (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

In the present case, there is no allegation that the company premises are hazardous.  Neither is there any allegation on the number of employees the company has.  If Hao’s testimony[4][4] would be believed, the company had only seven regular employees and 20 contractual    employees ─ still short of the minimum 50 workers that an establishment must have for it to be required to have a full-time registered nurse. 

The Court can thus only determine whether the actions taken by petitioners when Bladimir became ill amounted to the “necessary assistance” to ensure “adequate and immediate medical . . . attendance” to Bladimir as required under Art. 161 of the Labor Code.  

As found by the trial court and borne by the records, petitioner Hao’s advice for  Bladimir to, as he did, take a 3-day rest and to later have him brought to the nearest hospital constituted “adequate and immediate medical” attendance that he is mandated, under Art. 161, to provide to a sick employee in an emergency.

Chicken pox is self-limiting.  Hao does not appear to have a medical background.  He may not be thus expected to have known that Bladimir needed to be brought to a hospital with better facilities than the CaybigaHospital, contrary to appellate court’s ruling.

AT ALL EVENTS, the alleged negligence of Hao cannot be considered as the proximate cause of the death of Bladimir.  Proximate cause is that which, in natural and continuous sequence, unbroken by an efficient intervening cause, produces injury, and without which, the result would not have occurred.[5][5]  An injury or damage is proximately caused by an act or failure to act, whenever it appears from the evidence in the case that the act or omission played a substantial part in bringing about or actually causing the injury or damage, and that the injury or damage was either a direct result or a reasonably probable consequence of the act or omission.[6][6] 

          Verily, the issue in this case is essentially factual in nature.  The dissent, apart from adopting the appellate court’s findings, finds that Bladimir contracted chicken pox from a co-worker and Hao was negligent in not bringing that co-worker to the nearest physician, or isolating him as well.  This finding is not, however, borne by the records.  Nowhere in the appellate court’s or even the trial court’s decision is there any such definite finding that Bladimir contracted chicken pox from a co-worker.  At best, the only allusion to another employee being afflicted with chicken pox was when Hao testified that he knew it to heal within three days as was the case of another worker, without reference, however, as to when it happened.[7][7]

On the issue of which of the two death certificates is more credible, the dissent, noting that Dr. Frias attended to Bladimir during his “last illness,” holds that the certificate which he issued ─ citing chicken pox as antecedent cause ─ deserves more credence. 

There appears, however, to be no conflict in the two death certificates on the immediate cause of Bladimir’s death since both cite cardio-respiratory arrest due to complications ─ from pneumonia per QCGH, septicemia and chicken pox per Dr. Frias’.  In fact, Dr. Frias admitted that the causes of death in both certificates were the same.[8][8] 

Be that as it may, Dr. Frias could not be considered as Bladimir’s attending physician, he having merely ordered Bladimir’s transfer to the QCGH after seeing him at the CaybigaHospital.  He thereafter left Bladimir to the care of doctors at QCGH, returning to Capas, Tarlac at 4 o’clock the following morning or eight hours after seeing Bladimir.  As he himself testified upon cross-examination, he did not personally attend to Bladimir anymore once the latter was brought to the ICU at QCGH.[9][9] 

It bears emphasis that a duly-registered death certificate is considered a public document and the entries therein are presumed correct, unless the party who contests its accuracy can produce positive evidence establishing otherwise.[10][10]  The QCGH death certificate was received by the City Civil Registrar on April 17, 1995.   Not only was the certificate shown by positive evidence to be inaccurate.  Its credibility, more than that issued by Dr. Frias, becomes more pronounced as note is taken of the fact that he was not around at the time of death.   

IN FINE, petitioner company and its co-petitioner manager Dennis Hao are not guilty of negligence.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED.  The challenged Decision of the Court of Appeals is REVERSED, and the complaint is hereby DISMISSED.

                                      CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES

                                                          Associate Justice








Associate Justice



Associate Justice






Associate Justice






Associate Justice









          I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court’s Division.



                                      CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES                   

                       Associate Justice








          Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, and the Division Chairperson’s Attestation, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court’s Division.

                                                     RENATO C. CORONA

                                                                Chief Justice


[1][1]   Rollo, pp. 55-67.

[2][2]   Court of Appeals Decision, rollo, pp. 81-82.  Penned by Associate Justice (now SC Justice) Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr. and concurred in by Associate Justices Bienvenido L. Reyes and Juan Q. Enriquez, Jr.

[3][3]   Rollo, pp. 105-106.  Penned by Associate Justice Bienvenido L. Reyes and concurred in by Associate Justice Rodrigo V. Cosico and Juan Q. Enriquez, Jr.

[4][4]   Vide TSN, Hearing on January 7, 1997, p. 8.

[5][5]   Lasam v. Sps. Ramolete, G.R. No. 159132, Dec. 18, 2008, 574 SCRA 439.

[6][6]   Ibid.

[7][7]   Vide TSN, Hearing on January 7, 1997, p. 25.

[8][8]   Vide TSN, Hearing on June 25, 1996, Direct Examination of Dr. Frias, records, p. 30.

[9][9]   Vide, TSN, Hearing on June 25, 1996, id. at 35.

[10][10]         Philamlife v. CA, 398 Phil. 599 (2000).