A seafarer was terminated on August 29 2004 and transferred to another vessel. However, he alleged that was not paid his promised standby fee while awaiting his next assignment. After being paid a one-month standby fee, he boarded another vessel on a trial basis, but was ordered to disembark after one month to be deployed on another vessel on November 30 2004. However, he refused in view of his previous terminations. His manning agent later discovered that he boarded another vessel through another manning agent on November 29 2004.

The seafarer's manning agent applied to have the seafarer suspended from overseas deployment. The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) suspended the seafarer for one year. On appeal, the secretary of labour reduced the suspension to six months.

The seafarer filed an appeal with the Office of the President, which dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. Thus, the case reached the Supreme Court.(1)

The court held that based on settled jurisprudence, secretary of labour decisions can be challenged only through a petition for certiorari under Rule 65, and not through an appeal to the Office of the President. Parties can no longer appeal to the Office of the President in labour cases, except in cases involving national interest, over which the president may assume jurisdiction.

The court ruled that the seafarer's refusal to board the vessel on November 30 2004 constituted unjustified breach of his contract of employment. Disciplinary action was warranted for his "unjust refusal to join the ship after all employment and travel documents had been duly approved by the appropriate government agencies". Besides, the real reason that the seafarer refused to board the vessel was that he intended to leave the Philippines on November 29 2004 to join another vessel through another manning agency.

For further information on this topic please contact Ruben T Del Rosario at Del Rosario & Del Rosario law Offices by telephone (+63 2 810 1791), fax (+63 2 817 1740) or email ([email protected]).


(1) Miguel Dela Pena Barairo v Office of the President; GR 189314, Third Division, June 15 2011, Associate Justice Conchita Carpio Morales, Ponente.