Utmost liberality

Published by reposted only Date posted on August 26, 2008

The injury or death of an employee is compensable if it is sustained (1) while performing his official functions (2) at the place where his work requires him to be or if sustained elsewhere (3) he must have been executing an order of his employer. These requirements are illustrated in this case of Bert.

Bert was a member of the Silang police force assigned as Intel Operative. In a letter order dated July 10, 2000, the town’s Chief of Police directed Bert to proceed to Carmona, Cavite and Binan, Laguna between July 10 and July 20 for the purpose of conducting monitoring, surveillance and if possible, arrest certain persons named therein.

On July 14, 2000 Bert went to Carmona in the company of his brothers-in-law Tony and Cesar whose assistance he sought in meeting a potential “asset” who could give information on a drug syndicate operating in the area. They were in a two-car convoy with Bert riding in Cesar’s car. From Carmona, they decided to pass through a subdivision in Binan on their way to their intended destination in San Pedro, Laguna. At the gate II of the subdivision, they were allowed entry by the two security guards upon a favor given to Bert. But at the exit gate 1, they were stopped by the two security guards with shot guns pointed at them. This prompted Bert to alight from the car. A heated altercation followed between the guards and Bert for insisting on entering the subdivision. At that juncture, one of the guards shot Bert with his shot gun hitting the latter on the left part of the body thereby causing his instantaneous death.

Hence on October 23, 2000, Bert’s widow, Lyn filed a claim for compensation before the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) under P.D. 626 relative to the death of her husband.

The GSIS however denied her claim allegedly because the death of Bert did not arise out nor was it in the course of his employment. This ruling was affirmed by the Employees Compensation Commission (ECC). On further appeal to the Court of Appeals (CA), Lyn’s petition was also dismissed. The CA said that while Bert was on a mission and was conducting intelligence surveillance when he was killed, nonetheless he was not performing his official functions nor was he executing an order from his employer at the time of his death. Were the GSIS, ECC and CA correct?

No. Being specifically assigned to conduct intelligence work in Carmona and Binan, Bert is presumed to have been performing his official duty when he was shot to death by a security guard while trying to pass through a subdivision in Binan. The Rules of Court provides the presumption that official duty has been regularly performed unless contradicted and overcome by other evidence (Section 3m, Rule 131).

At the time of his death he came from Carmona which is a place specified in the letter order. Moreover he was killed in Binan which is also a place specified in the said letter order. Furthermore he was killed on July 14, 2000 which is within the period authorized by the subject letter order for him to conduct surveillance, monitoring and arrest. The fact the he had intended to go to San Pedro, Laguna a place which is not covered by the letter-order is not enough basis to conclude that his business in going there was private in nature and was not related to his job as an intelligence officer of the PNP. The nature of work of an intelligence operative does not confine him to specific places and work hours. His actions may not be compartmentalized, as they depend to a large extent on the exigencies of the assignment given him. He is not prevented from immediately going to other locations if he had gathered information that the criminal elements are in said places.

In case of doubt, the sympathy of the law on social security is toward its beneficiaries, and the law, by its own terms, requires a construction of utmost liberality in their favor. Courts should lend a sympathetic ear to the cries of poor widows and orphans of police officers. If strict accountability is demanded from our policemen in safeguarding peace and order day and night, their loved ones who, by their untimely death are left without any means of supporting themselves must be readily compensated to the same extent (Rodrin vs. GSIS etc. G.R. 162837, July 28, 2008).–Jose C. Sison, Philippine  Star

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E-mail at: jcson@pldtdsl.net

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