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Republic of the Philippines

SUPREME COURT
Manila
THIRD DIVISION
G.R. No. 192531

November 12, 2014

BERNARDINA P. BARTOLOME, Petitioner,


vs.
SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM and SCANMAR MARITIME SERVICES, INC., Respondents.
DECISION
VELASCO, JR., J.:
Nature of the Case
This Appeal, filed under Rule 43 of the Rules of Court, seeks to annul the March 17, 2010
Decision of the Employees Compensation Commission (ECC) in ECC Case No. SL-18483-0218-10,
entitled Bernardina P. Bartolome v. Social Security System (SSS) [Scanmar Maritime Services, Inc.},
declaring that petitioner is not a beneficiary of the deceased employee under Presidential Decree
No. (PD) 442, otherwise known as the Labor Code of the Philippines, as amended by PD 626.
1

The Facts
John Colcol (John), born on June 9, 1983, was employed as electrician by Scanmar Maritime
Services, Inc., on board the vessel Maersk Danville, since February 2008. As such, he was enrolled
under the government's Employees' Compensation Program (ECP). Unfortunately, on June 2, 2008,
an accident occurred on board the vessel whereby steel plates fell on John, which led to his untimely
death the following day.
3

John was, at the time of his death, childless and unmarried. Thus, petitioner Bernardina P.
Bartolome, Johns biological mother and, allegedly, sole remaining beneficiary, filed a claim for death
benefits under PD 626 with the Social Security System (SSS) at San Fernando City, La Union.
However, the SSS La Union office, in a letter dated June 10, 2009 addressed to petitioner, denied
the claim, stating:
5

We regret to inform you that wecannot give due course to your claim because you are no longer
considered as the parent of JOHN COLCOL as he was legally adopted by CORNELIO COLCOL
based on documents you submitted to us.
The denial was appealed tothe Employees Compensation Commission (ECC), which affirmed the
ruling of the SSS La Union Branch through the assailed Decision, the dispositive portion of which
reads:

WHEREFORE, the appealed decision is AFFIRMED and the claim is hereby dismissed for lack of
merit.
SO ORDERED.

In denying the claim, both the SSS La Union branch and the ECC ruled against petitioners
entitlement to the death benefits sought after under PD 626 on the ground she can no longer be
considered Johns primary beneficiary. As culled from the records, John and his sister Elizabeth were
adopted by their great grandfather, petitioners grandfather, Cornelio Colcol (Cornelio), by virtue of
the Decision in Spec. Proc. No. 8220-XII of the Regional Trial Court in Laoag City dated February 4,
1985, which decree of adoption attained finality. Consequently, as argued by the agencies, it is
Cornelio who qualifies as Johns primary beneficiary, not petitioner. Neither, the ECC reasoned,
would petitioner qualify as Johns secondary beneficiary even if it wereproven that Cornelio has
already passed away. As the ECC ratiocinated:
7

Under Article 167 (j) of P.D. 626, as amended, provides (sic) that beneficiaries are the "dependent
spouse until he remarries and dependent children, who are the primary beneficiaries. In their
absence, the dependent parentsand subject to the restrictions imposed on dependent children, the
illegitimate children and legitimate descendants who are the secondary beneficiaries; Provided; that
the dependent acknowledged natural child shall be considered as a primary beneficiary when there
are no other dependent children who are qualified and eligible for monthly income benefit."
The dependent parent referred to by the above provision relates to the legitimate parent of the
covered member, as provided for by Rule XV, Section 1 (c) (1) of the Amended Rules on Employees
Compensation. This Commission believes that the appellant is not considered a legitimate parent of
the deceased, having given up the latter for adoption to Mr. Cornelio C. Colcol. Thus, in effect, the
adoption divested her of the statusas the legitimate parent of the deceased.
xxxx
In effect, the rights which previously belong [sic] to the biological parent of the adopted child shall
now be upon the adopting parent. Hence, in this case, the legal parent referred to by P.D. 626, as
amended, as the beneficiary, who has the right to file the claim, is the adoptive father of the
deceased and not herein appellant. (Emphasis supplied)
9

Aggrieved, petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration, which was likewise denied by the
ECC. Hence, the instant petition.
10

The Issues
Petitioner raises the following issues in the petition:
ASSIGNMENT OF ERRORS
I. The Honorable ECCs Decision is contrary to evidence on record.

II. The Honorable ECC committed grave abuse in denying the just, due and lawful claims of
the petitioner as a lawful beneficiary of her deceased biological son.
III. The Honorable ECC committed grave abuse of discretion in not giving due
course/denying petitioners otherwise meritorious motion for reconsideration.
11

In resolving the case, the pivotal issue is this: Are the biological parents of the covered, but legally
adopted, employee considered secondary beneficiaries and, thus, entitled, in appropriate cases, to
receive the benefits under the ECP?
The Court's Ruling
The petition is meritorious.
The ECCs factual findings are not consistent with the evidence on record
To recall, one of the primary reasons why the ECC denied petitioners claim for death benefits is that
eventhough she is Johns biological mother, it was allegedly not proven that his adoptive parent,
Cornelio, was no longer alive. As intimated by the ECC:
Moreover, there had been no allegation in the records as to whether the legally adoptive parent, Mr.
Colcol, is dead, which would immediately qualify the appellant [petitioner] for Social Security
benefits. Hence, absent such proof of death of the adoptive father, this Commission will presume
him to be alive and well, and as such, is the one entitled to claim the benefit being the primary
beneficiary of the deaceased. Thus, assuming that appellant is indeed a qualified beneficiary under
the Social Security law, in view of her status as other beneficiary, she cannot claim the benefit legally
provided by law to the primary beneficiary, in this case the adoptive father since he is still alive.
We disagree with the factual finding of the ECC on this point.
Generally, findings of fact by administrative agencies are generally accorded great respect, if not
finality, by the courts by reason of the special knowledge and expertise of said administrative
agenciesover matters falling under their jurisdiction. However, in the extant case, the ECC had
overlooked a crucial piece of evidence offered by the petitioner Cornelios death certificate.
12

13

Based on Cornelios death certificate, it appears that Johns adoptive father died on October 26,
1987, or only less than three (3) years since the decree of adoption on February 4, 1985, which
attained finality. As such, it was error for the ECC to have ruled that it was not duly proven that the
adoptive parent, Cornelio, has already passed away.
14

15

The rule limiting death benefits claims to the legitimate parents is contrary to law
This brings us to the question of whether or not petitioner is entitled to the death benefits claim in
view of Johns work-related demise. The pertinent provision, in this regard, is Article 167 (j) of the
Labor Code, as amended, which reads:

ART. 167. Definition of terms. - Asused in this Title unless the context indicates otherwise:
xxxx
(j) 'Beneficiaries' means the dependent spouse until he remarries and dependent children, who are
the primary beneficiaries. In their absence, the dependent parents and subject to the restrictions
imposed on dependent children, the illegitimate children and legitimate descendants who are the
secondary beneficiaries; Provided, that the dependent acknowledged natural child shall be
considered as a primary beneficiary when there are no other dependent children who are qualified
and eligible for monthly income benefit. (Emphasis supplied)
Concurrently, pursuant to the succeeding Article 177(c) supervising the ECC "[T]o approve rules and
regulations governing the processing of claims and the settlement of disputes arising therefrom as
prescribed by the System," the ECC has issued the Amended Rules on Employees Compensation,
interpreting the above-cited provision as follows:
RULE XV BENEFICIARIES
SECTION 1. Definition. (a) Beneficiaries shall be either primary or secondary, and determined atthe
time of employees death.
(b) The following beneficiaries shall be considered primary:
(1) The legitimate spouse living with the employee at the time of the employees
death until he remarries; and
(2) Legitimate, legitimated, legally adopted or acknowledged natural children, who
are unmarried not gainfully employed, not over 21 years of age, or over 21 years of
age provided that he is incapacitated and incapable of self - support due to
physicalor mental defect which is congenital or acquired during minority; Provided,
further, that a dependent acknowledged natural child shall be considered as a
primary beneficiary only when there are no other dependent children who are
qualified and eligible for monthly income benefit; provided finally, that if there are two
or more acknowledged natural children, they shall be counted from the youngest and
without substitution, but not exceeding five.
(c) The following beneficiaries shall be considered secondary:
(1) The legitimate parentswholly dependent upon the employee for regular support;
(2) The legitimate descendants and illegitimate children who are unmarried, not
gainfully employed, and not over 21 years of age, or over 21 years of age
providedthat he is incapacitated and incapable of self - support dueto physical or
mental defect which is congenital or acquired during minority. (Emphasis supplied)

Guilty of reiteration, the ECC denied petitioners claim on the ground that she is no longer the
deceaseds legitimate parent, as required by the implementing rules. As held by the ECC, the
adoption decree severed the relation between John and petitioner, effectively divesting her of the
status of a legitimate parent, and, consequently, that of being a secondary beneficiary.
We disagree.
a. Rule XV, Sec. 1(c)(1) of the Amended Rules on Employees Compensation deviates from the clear
language of Art. 167 (j) of the Labor Code, as amended
Examining the Amended Rules on Employees Compensation in light of the Labor Code, as
amended, it is at once apparent that the ECC indulged in an unauthorized administrative legislation.
In net effect, the ECC read into Art. 167 of the Code an interpretation not contemplated by the
provision. Pertinent in elucidating on this point isArticle 7 of the Civil Code of the Philippines, which
reads:
Article 7. Laws are repealed only by subsequent ones, and their violation or non-observance shall
not beexcused by disuse, or custom or practice to the contrary.
When the courts declared a law to be inconsistent with the Constitution, the former shall be void and
the latter shall govern.
Administrative or executive acts, orders and regulations shall be valid only when they are not
contrary to the laws or the Constitution.(Emphasis supplied)
As applied, this Court held in Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Fortune Tobacco
Corporation that:
16

As we have previously declared, rule-making power must be confined to details for regulating the
mode or proceedings in order to carry into effect the law as it has been enacted, and it cannot be
extended to amend or expand the statutory requirements or to embrace matters not covered by the
statute. Administrative regulations must always be in harmony with the provisions of the law because
any resulting discrepancy between the two will always be resolved in favor of the basic law.
(Emphasis supplied)
Guided by this doctrine, We find that Rule XV of the Amended Rules on Employees Compensation
is patently a wayward restriction of and a substantial deviation from Article 167 (j) of the Labor Code
when it interpreted the phrase "dependent parents" to refer to "legitimate parents."
It bears stressing that a similar issue in statutory construction was resolved by this Court in Diaz v.
Intermediate Appellate Court in this wise:
17

It is Our shared view that the word "relatives" should be construed in its general acceptation. Amicus
curiae Prof. Ruben Balane has this to say:

The term relatives, although used many times in the Code, is not defined by it. In
accordancetherefore with the canons of statutory interpretation, it should beunderstood to have a
general and inclusive scope, inasmuch as the term is a general one. Generalia verba sunt
generaliter intelligenda. That the law does not make a distinction prevents us from making one: Ubi
lex non distinguit, nec nos distinguera debemus. xxx
According to Prof. Balane, to interpret the term relatives in Article 992 in a more restrictive sense
thanit is used and intended is not warranted by any rule ofinterpretation. Besides, he further states
that when the law intends to use the termin a more restrictive sense, it qualifies the term with the
word collateral, as in Articles 1003 and 1009 of the New Civil Code.
Thus, the word "relatives" is a general term and when used in a statute it embraces not only
collateral relatives but also all the kindred of the person spoken of, unless the context indicates that
it was used in a more restrictive or limited sense which as already discussed earlier, is not so in
the case at bar. (Emphasis supplied)
In the same vein, the term "parents" in the phrase "dependent parents" in the afore-quoted Article
167 (j) of the Labor Code is usedand ought to be taken in its general sense and cannot be unduly
limited to "legitimate parents" as what the ECC did. The phrase "dependent parents" should,
therefore, include all parents, whether legitimate or illegitimate and whether by nature or by
adoption. When the law does not distinguish, one should not distinguish. Plainly, "dependent
parents" are parents, whether legitimate or illegitimate, biological or by adoption,who are in need of
support or assistance.
Moreover, the same Article 167 (j),as couched, clearly shows that Congress did not intend to limit the
phrase "dependent parents" to solely legitimate parents. At the risk of being repetitive, Article 167
provides that "in their absence, the dependent parents and subject to the restrictions imposed on
dependent children, the illegitimate children and legitimate descendants who are secondary
beneficiaries." Had the lawmakers contemplated "dependent parents" to mean legitimate parents,
then it would have simply said descendants and not "legitimate descendants." The manner by which
the provision in question was crafted undeniably show that the phrase "dependent parents" was
intended to cover all parents legitimate, illegitimate or parents by nature or adoption.
b. Rule XV, Section 1(c)(1) of the Amended Rules on Employees Compensation is in contravention
of the equal protection clause
To insist that the ECC validly interpreted the Labor Code provision is an affront to the Constitutional
guarantee of equal protection under the laws for the rule, as worded, prevents the parents of an
illegitimate child from claiming benefits under Art. 167 (j) of the Labor Code, as amended by PD 626.
To Our mind, such postulation cannot be countenanced.
As jurisprudence elucidates, equal protection simply requires that all persons or things similarly
situated should be treated alike, both as to rights conferred and responsibilities imposed. It requires
public bodies and institutions to treat similarly situated individuals in a similar manner. In other
words, the concept of equal justice under the law requires the state to govern impartially, and it may
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not drawdistinctions between individuals solely on differences that are irrelevant to a legitimate
governmental objective.
19

The concept of equal protection, however, does not require the universal application of the laws to all
persons or things without distinction. What it simply requires isequality among equals as determined
according to a valid classification. Indeed, the equal protection clause permits classification. Such
classification, however, to be valid must pass the test of reasonableness. The test has four
requisites: (1) The classification rests on substantial distinctions; (2) It is germane tothe purpose of
the law; (3) It is not limited to existing conditions only; and (4) It applies equally to all members of the
same class. "Superficial differences do not make for a valid classification."
20

In the instant case, there is no compelling reasonable basis to discriminate against illegitimate
parents. Simply put, the above-cited rule promulgated by the ECC that limits the claim of benefits to
the legitimate parents miserably failed the test of reasonableness since the classification is not
germane to the law being implemented. We see no pressing government concern or interest that
requires protection so as to warrant balancing the rights of unmarried parents on one hand and the
rationale behind the law on the other. On the contrary, the SSS can better fulfill its mandate, and the
policy of PD 626 that employees and their dependents may promptly secure adequate benefits in
the event of work-connected disability or death - will be better served if Article 167 (j) of the Labor
Code is not so narrowly interpreted.
There being no justification for limiting secondary parent beneficiaries to the legitimate ones, there
can be no other course of action to take other than to strikedown as unconstitutional the phrase
"illegitimate" as appearing in Rule XV, Section 1(c)(1) of the Amended Rules on Employees
Compensation.
Petitioner qualifies as Johns dependent parent
In attempting to cure the glaring constitutional violation of the adverted rule, the ECC extended
illegitimate parents an opportunity to file claims for and receive death benefitsby equating
dependency and legitimacy to the exercise of parental authority. Thus, as insinuated by the ECC in
its assailed Decision, had petitioner not given up John for adoption, she could have still claimed
death benefits under the law.
To begin with, nowhere in the law nor in the rules does it say that "legitimate parents" pertain to
those who exercise parental authority over the employee enrolled under the ECP. Itwas only in the
assailed Decision wherein such qualification was made. In addition, assuming arguendothat the
ECC did not overstep its boundaries in limiting the adverted Labor Code provision to the deceaseds
legitimate parents, and that the commission properly equated legitimacy to parental authority,
petitioner can still qualify as Johns secondary beneficiary.
True, when Cornelio, in 1985, adoptedJohn, then about two (2) years old, petitioners parental
authority over John was severed. However, lest it be overlooked, one key detail the ECC missed,
aside from Cornelios death, was that when the adoptive parent died less than three (3) years after
the adoption decree, John was still a minor, at about four (4) years of age.

Johns minority at the time of his adopters death is a significant factor in the case at bar. Under such
circumstance, parental authority should be deemed to have reverted in favor of the biological
parents. Otherwise, taking into account Our consistent ruling that adoption is a personal relationship
and that there are no collateral relatives by virtue of adoption, who was then left to care for the
minor adopted child if the adopter passed away?
21

To be sure, reversion of parental authority and legal custody in favor of the biological parents is not a
novel concept. Section 20 of Republic Act No. 8552 (RA 8552), otherwise known as the Domestic
Adoption Act, provides:
22

Section 20. Effects of Rescission. If the petition [for rescission of adoption] is granted, the parental
authority of the adoptee's biological parent(s), if known, or the legal custody of the Department shall
be restored if the adoptee is still a minoror incapacitated. The reciprocal rights and obligations of the
adopter(s) and the adoptee to each other shall be extinguished. (emphasis added)
The provision adverted to is applicable herein by analogy insofar as the restoration of custody is
concerned. The manner herein of terminating the adopters parental authority, unlike the grounds for
rescission, justifies the retention of vested rights and obligations between the adopter and the
adoptee, while the consequent restoration of parental authority in favor of the biological parents,
simultaneously, ensures that the adoptee, who is still a minor, is not left to fend for himself at such a
tender age.
1wphi1

23

To emphasize, We can only apply the rule by analogy, especially since RA 8552 was enacted after
Cornelios death. Truth be told, there is a lacuna in the law as to which provision shall govern
contingencies in all fours with the factual milieu of the instant petition. Nevertheless, We are guided
by the catena of cases and the state policies behind RA 8552 wherein the paramount consideration
is the best interest of the child, which We invoke to justify this disposition. It is, after all, for the best
interest of the child that someone will remain charged for his welfare and upbringing should his or
her adopter fail or is rendered incapacitated to perform his duties as a parent at a time the adoptee
isstill in his formative years, and, to Our mind, in the absence or, as in this case, death of the
adopter, no one else could reasonably be expected to perform the role of a parent other than the
adoptees biological one.
24

Moreover, this ruling finds support on the fact that even though parental authority is severed by
virtue of adoption, the ties between the adoptee and the biological parents are not entirely
eliminated. To demonstrate, the biological parents, insome instances, are able to inherit from the
adopted, as can be gleaned from Art. 190 of the Family Code:
Art. 190. Legal or intestate succession to the estate of the adopted shall be governed by the
following rules:
xxx
(2) When the parents, legitimate or illegitimate, or the legitimate ascendants of the adopted concur
withthe adopter, they shall divide the entire estate, one-half tobe inherited by the parents or
ascendants and the other half, by the adopters;

xxx
(6) When only collateral blood relatives of the adopted survive, then the ordinary rules of legal or
intestate succession shall apply.
Similarly, at the time of Cornelio Colcols death, which was prior to the effectivity of the Family Code,
the governing provision is Art. 984 of the New Civil Code, which provides:
Art. 984. In case of the death of an adopted child, leaving no children or descendants, his parents
and relatives by consanguinity and not by adoption, shall be his legal heirs.
From the foregoing, it is apparent that the biological parents retain their rights of succession tothe
estate of their child who was the subject of adoption. While the benefits arising from the death of an
SSS covered employee do not form part of the estateof the adopted child, the pertinent provision on
legal or intestate succession at least reveals the policy on the rights of the biological parents and
those by adoption vis--vis the right to receive benefits from the adopted. In the same way that
certain rights still attach by virtue of the blood relation, so too should certain obligations, which, We
rule, include the exercise of parental authority, in the event of the untimely passing of their minor
offsprings adoptive parent. We cannot leave undetermined the fate of a minor child whose second
chance ata better life under the care of the adoptive parents was snatched from him by deaths cruel
grasp. Otherwise, the adopted childs quality of life might have been better off not being adopted at
all if he would only find himself orphaned in the end. Thus, We hold that Cornelios death at the time
of Johnsminority resulted in the restoration of petitioners parental authority over the adopted child.
On top of this restoration of parental authority, the fact of petitioners dependence on John can be
established from the documentary evidence submitted to the ECC. As it appears in the records,
petitioner, prior to Johns adoption, was a housekeeper. Her late husband died in 1984, leaving her
to care for their seven (7) children. But since she was unable to "give a bright future to her growing
children" as a housekeeper, she consented to Cornelios adoption of Johnand Elizabeth in 1985.
Following Cornelios death in 1987, so records reveal, both petitioner and John repeatedly reported
"Brgy. Capurictan, Solsona, Ilocos Norte" as their residence. In fact, this veryaddress was used in
Johns Death Certificate executed in Brazil, and in the Report of Personal Injury or Loss of Life
accomplished by the master of the vessel boarded by John. Likewise, this is Johns known address
as per the ECCs assailed Decision. Similarly, this same address was used by petitioner in filing her
claim before the SSS La Union branch and, thereafter, in her appeal with the ECC. Hence, it can be
assumed that aside from having been restored parental authority over John, petitioner indeed
actually execised the same, and that they lived together under one roof.
25

26

27

Moreover, John, in his SSS application, named petitioner as one of his beneficiaries for his benefits
under RA 8282, otherwise known as the "Social Security Law." While RA 8282 does not cover
compensation for work-related deaths or injury and expressly allows the designation of beneficiaries
who are not related by blood to the member unlike in PD 626, Johns deliberate act of indicating
petitioner as his beneficiary at least evinces that he, in a way, considered petitioner as his
dependent. Consequently, the confluence of circumstances from Cornelios death during Johns
minority, the restoration ofpetitioners parental authority, the documents showing singularity of
28

address, and Johns clear intention to designate petitioner as a beneficiary - effectively made
petitioner, to Our mind, entitled to death benefit claims as a secondary beneficiary under PD 626 as
a dependent parent.
All told, the Decision of the ECC dated March 17, 2010 is bereft of legal basis. Cornelios adoption of
John, without more, does not deprive petitioner of the right to receive the benefits stemming from
Johns death as a dependent parent given Cornelios untimely demise during Johns minority. Since
the parent by adoption already died, then the death benefits under the Employees' Compensation
Program shall accrue solely to herein petitioner, John's sole remaining beneficiary.
WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby GRANTED. The March 17, 2010 Decision of the Employees'
Compensation Commission, in ECC Case No. SL-18483-0218-10, is REVERSED and SET ASIDE.
The ECC is hereby directed to release the benefits due to a secondary beneficiary of the deceased
covered employee John Colcol to petitioner Bernardina P. Bartolome.
No costs.
SO ORDERED.
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
Associate Justice

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
SECOND DIVISION
G.R. No. 209741

April 15, 2015

SOCIAL SECURITY COMMISSION, Petitioner,


vs.
EDNA A. AZOTE, Respondent.
DISSENTING OPINION
LEONEN, J.:
We are asked in this case to sustain the action of the Social Security Commission as it makes
conjectures and then proceeds to adjudicate on the marital status of a claimant. There is no
conflicting claim made against respondent Edna Azote's claim. We are asked to sustain an action by
the Social Security Commission against an individual much in need of financial succor who is asking
the State to honor the declaration of a beneficiary of one who has since deceased. I, thus, disagree
with the ponencia in disallowing the claim of Edna Azote (Edna) for death benefits on the ground that
she failed to sufficiently establish the legality of her marriage to deceased Social Security System
member Edgardo Azote in consideration of his first marriage to Rosemarie (the designated wife in
the 1982 Form E-4).
The latest Form E-4 (1994) submitted by the deceased to the Social Security System prior to his
death designated Edna as his wife-beneficiary. In my view, the 1994 Form E-4 should supersede the
earlier one. As correctly ruled by the Court of Appeals, the 1994 Form E-4 designating Edna as his
wife manifested the deceased' s intention to revoke his formal declaration in the 1982 Form E-4.
This conclusion is consistent with Section 24 (c) of Republic Act No. 8282, which states that
"records and reports duly accomplished and submitted to the Social Security System by the
employer or the member .. . [are] presumed correct as to the data and other matters stated
therein .. . [and will be] made the basis for the adjudication of the claim" unless corrected before the
right to the benefit being claimed accrued. There is nothing in Republic Act No. 8282 expressly
prohibiting the change of beneficiary. On the contrary, Section 24 (c), by implication, acknowledges a
member's right to change beneficiaries.
1

Social security benefits are paid to members (or their beneficiaries) by reason of their membership in
the System for which they contribute their money to a general common fund. These benefits ripen
as vested rights of members and their declared so that they are assured minimum financial
assistance whenever the hazards of disability, sickness, old age, and death provided for in the law
occur. As a property interest of the member under compulsory coverage of Republic Act No.
8282, a member's designation of a beneficiary in his Form E-4 should not easily be set aside,
absent any adverse claim, in the distribution of the death benefits under the law.
4

In Tecson v. SSS, this court allowed Tecson - a friend and coworker of the deceased - to claim the
death benefits giving regard to the deceased's express desire to extend the benefits of his
contributions to his friend and co-worker, to the exclusion of his wife:
7

It should be remembered that the benefits or compensation allowed an employee or his beneficiary
under the provisions of the Social Security Act are paid out of funds which are contributed in part by
the employees and in part by the employers' (commercial or industrial companies members of the
System) .... As these funds are obtained from the employees and the employers, without the
Government having contributed any portion thereof: it would be unjust for the System to refuse to
pay the benefits to those whom the employee has designated as his beneficiaries. The contribution
of the employee is his money; the contribution of the employer is for the benefit of the employee.
Hence the beneficiary should primarily be the one to profit by such contributions. This is what is
expressly provided in above-quoted Section 13 of the law.
It should also be noted that the Social Security System is not a law of succession. Its purpose is to
provide social security, which means funds for the beneficiary, if the employee dies, or for the
employee himself and his dependents if he is unable to perform his task because of illness or
disability, or is laid off by reason of the termination of the employment, or because of temporary layoff due to strike, etc. It should also be remembered that the. beneficiaries of the System are those
who are dependent upon the employee for support. . . .
....
. . .It was subsequently known that Lim Hoc had a wife and children in Communist China; the
omission by him of their existence and names in the records of the employer must have been due to
the fact that they were not at the time, at least, dependent upon him. If they were actually
dependents, their names would have appeared in the record of the employer. The absence in the
record of his employee of their existence and names must have been due to the lack of
communication, of which We can take judicial notice, between Communist China and the
Philippines, or to the express desire of Lim Hoc to extend the benefits of his contributions to the
System to his "friend and co-worker", to the exclusion of his wife[.]
Edna established her right to the benefits through substantial evidence. She presented her marriage
certificate and the baptismal certificates of her children. Being public documents, these constitute
prima facie proof of their contents, and, therefore, her claim to death benefits as legal wife and
dependent of Edgardo should have been approved.
8

SSS v. Vda. De Bailon cites Arturo M .. Tolentino, a recognized authority in civil law, as having
commented:
9

Where a person has entered into two successive marriages, a presumption arises in favor of the
validity of the second marriage, and the burden is on the party attacking the validity of the second
marriage to prove that. the first marriage had not been dissolved; it is not enough to prove the first
marriage, for it must also be shown that it had not ended when the second marriage was contracted.
The presumption in favor of the innocence of the defendant from crime or wrong and of the legality
of his second marriage, will prevail over the presumption of the continuance of life of the first spouse
or of the continuance of the marital relation with such first spouse. (Emphasis supplied)
10

There was yet no attack on the validity of the deceased' s marriage to Edna. No adjudicatory
process was pending. Certainly the Social Security Commission was not invoked as the forum to test
the validity of her marriage. The validity of that marriage passed unchallenged. No right was
asserted by the proper real party in interest under the superceded forms submitted by the claimant.
The Social Security. System motu proprio conducted its investigation based solely on the conflicting
information in the 1982 and 1994 forms submitted by the deceased. It made pronouncements
without any complaint and without affording all the parties the usual due process rights accorded to

them. It made a judgment as to the marital status of the claimant when it did not have jurisdiction to
do so. This action is null and void many times over.
In these circumstances, the presumption in favor of the validity of the second marriage must prevail,
and sound reason requires that it be not lightly impugned and discredited by the alleged prior
marriage stated in the 1982 Form E-4.
The Social Security Commission cited SSS v. De Los Santos and Signey V. SSS to justify its
position that it can .pass upon the validity of marriages to determine who are entitled to social
security benefits. However, in those cases, there were two conflicting claimants both claiming to be
wives of the deceased, although in Signey, the first wife subsequently executed a waiver of the
benefits being claimed. The Commission necessarily had to rule on the validity of marriages in order
to determine who had a better right to the death benefits.
11

12

There is only one claimant in this case. No one contests her claim.
The question on the validity of Edna's designation as wife-beneficiary or the legality of her marriage
to the deceased is not yet upon us. The alleged first wife has neither challenged the same nor
claimed death benefits, and thus, there appears to be no controversy yet. We are asked to disturb
their domestic peace. Certainly, this amounts to unreasonable state intrusion on the autonomy that
we should respect in intimate relationships. Their inherent rights to privacy must impose on us the
deserved judicial restraint from making a determination on this matter. Ruling on the validity of
Edna's marriage to the deceased would be premature and anticipatory. These cases are problematic
because of the absence of a divorce law.
Divorce is not alien in our jurisdiction. Our new Civil Code has repealed the earlier provisions on
divorce, which we used to have under Act No. 2710 on grounds of conjugal infidelity of one
spouse. Divorce between Filipinos has remained unrecognized even under the Family Code of the
Philippines.
13

14

Instead of divorce, the present Family Code only provides for legal separation (Title II), and even
this expressly prescribes that "the marriage bonds shall not be severed." Under our present laws,
the extinguishment of a valid marriage must be grounded only upon the death of either spouse or
that which is expressly provided by law (for defective marital unions). In the alternative, estranged
couples undergo the expensive labyrinth of claiming "psychological incapacity" under article 36 of
the Family Code to be awarded an order to declare their marriage a nullity ab initio.
15

16

17

There are many second marriages like that of Edgardo and Edna, which was celebrated in Legazpi
City and accepted by all parties concerned. They have lived together as husband and wife without
issue for 13 long years until the husband's death in 2005. By all indications, they have established a
strong family foundation. This case shows that without divorce, our laws remain insensitive to a
multitude of intimate relations. As people with autonomous and private choices that do no harm to
society, they are wholly and immoderately disregarded. This case, like many others, should be basis
for Congress to seriously consider the respect due to voluntary adult. choices of our people. A
divorce law is no longer a luxury; it has become a just and inevitable necessity.
1wphi1

ACCORDINGLY, I vote to DENY the Petition. The Decision dated August 13, 2013 and Resolution
dated October 29, 2013 of the Court of Appeals should be AFFIRMED.
MARVIC M.V.F. LEONEN
Associate Justice

Footnotes
Rep. Act No. 8282 ( 1997), An Act Further Strengthening the Social Security System
thereby amending for this purpose Republic Act No. 1161, as amended, otherwise known as
the Social Security Law.
1

Rep. Act No, 8282 (1997), sec. 24 (c).

Rep. Act No. 8282 (l 997), sec. 24 (c).

Valencia v. Manila Yacht Club, i38 Phil. 761 (1969) [Per J. Reyes, J.B.L., En Banc], citing
Rural Transit Employees Association, et al. v. Bachrach Transportation Co., Inc., et al., 129
Phil. 503 [Per J. Reyes, J.B.L., En Banc].
4

Benguet Consolidated Inc. v. SSS, 119 Phil. 890 (1964) [Per J. Barrera, En Banc].

Dycaico v. Social Security System, 513 Phil. 23 (2005) [Per J. Callejo, Sr., En Banc]. See
also GSIS v. Montesclaros, 478 Phil. 573 (2004) [Per J. Carpio, En Banc].
6

113 Phil. 703 (1961) [Per J. Labrador. En Banc].

In Suarnaba v. Workmen's Compensation Commission, 175 Phil. 8 ( 1978) [Per J. Santos,


Second Division], this court held that the parish certificate attesting to the marriage of
petitioner and the deceased, other parol evidence, and the presumption that "a man and a
woman deporting themselves as husband and wife have entered into a lawful contract of
marriage" clearly show that the petitioner is the legal wife of the deceased employee and,
therefore, her claim to coh1pensation benefits as legal wife and dependent of the deceased
should have been approved, especially where no other person claimed to be the wife of the
deceased employee.
8

529 Phil. 249 (2006) [Per J. Carpio Morales, Third Division].

Id. at 262-263, citing 1 A. TOLENTINO, COMMENTARIES AND JURISPRUDENCE ON


THE CIVIL CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES 282 (1999 ed.).
10

11

585 Phil. 684 (2008) (Per J. Reyes, R. T., Third Division].

12

566 Phil. 617 (2008) [Per J. Tinga, Second Division].

13

Act No. 271 O ( 1917), An Act to Establish Divorce.


Sec. 1. A petition for divorce can only be filed for adultery on the part of the wife or
concubinage on the part of the husband, committed in any of the forms described in
article four hundred and thirty-seven of the Penal Code.
....

Sec. 11. The dissolution of the bonds of matrimony shall have the following effects:
First. The spouses shall be free to marry again.
Second. The minor children shall remain in the custody of the innocent spouse
unless otherwise directed by the cou11 in the interest of said minors, for whom said
court may appoint a guardian.
Third. The children shall, with regard to their parents, retain all rights granted to them
by law as legitimate children; but upon the partition of the estate of said parents they
shall bring to collation everything received by them under the provisions of the
second paragraph of section nine.
14

Exec. Order No. 209 (1987), The Family Code of the Philippines.

15

Exec. Order No. 209 (1987), Title II.

16

Exec. Order No. 209 (l 987), Title II, art. 63 (I).

17

Exec. Order No. 209 (1987), Title I, chapter 3. Void and Voidable Marriages.

Gomera v. Social Security System

-This treats of the petition for review on certiorari of the Decision 1 of the Court of
Appeals (CA), dated October 30, 2007, in CA-G.R. SP No. 99156. The pertinent
factual and procedural antecedents of the case, as summarized by the CA, are as
follows: xx xx The petitioner Edilberto D. Gomera ("Gomera" for brevity) xx x was
employed and rose from his job as an industrial mechanic to become a senior
mechanic at the Central Azucarera de Tarlac in San Miguel, Tarlac, from 1963 up to 1
November 2004 or for a period of roughly forty years. xxx xx xx xx x. As early as
the year 1997, Gomera was diagnosed to have "essential hypertension" (HPN). His
Blood Pressure went as high as systole 160 mmHg over diastole 119 mmHg (B.P. =
160/110), and even 180/120 for which reason St. Martin [De Porres Hospital, the
Medical Service Department of the sugar central] prescribed Metoprolol/Neoblock.
During his examination on 4 September 2002 at the same hospital facility, he was
advised to have a disciplined diet regimen and quite vaguely, initiate a "lifestyle
modification." As the years went by, the condition progressed, until before his
retirement on 1 November 2004 at age 61 years, when the HPN varied between
moderate and severe. [Meanwhile, o]n 14 March 1993, Gomera and his group were
adjusti,ng the discharger assembly of "WSFA Basket No. 4" during the second shift;
and he was in a rather awkward position, because of which, he suddenly felt severe
pain in his back after re-tightening the adjustment bolt. He suffered what is
commonly known as "slipped-disc." Despite Penned by Associate Justice Apolinario
D. Bruselas, Jr .. , with Associate Justices Bienvenido L. Reyes (now a member of this
Court) and Aurora SantiagQ-Lagman, concurring; rollo pp. 19-28. 183264 ' -over... ,i Resolution -2-G.R. No. 183264 January 26, 2015 physical therapy, and dural
steroid injections during his first confinement in the hospital from 31 March to 5
April 1993, the low back pain persisted . . . . " -. . and. he at times developed
numbing of his extremities or "peripheral , :. :. ..-.. ;: :,. " . '. neuropathy." He was
thus re-confined several days later and underwent a ' ' , magnetic resonance
imaging (MRI) examination of the lumbosacral spine xxx. xx xx Believing that his
illnesses were work-related, the petitioner applied for compensation with the Social
Security System (SSS or system). In a letter dated 19 January 2006, the system
granted [petitioner] a total of thirty-eight (38) months of permanent partial
disability (PPD) pension benefits for herniated disc x x x. xx xx However, [SSS]
altogether denied his claim as to the compensability of HPN saying "EC disability
benefits for hypertension was denied since there is no proof of resulting disability
due to said illness prior to or after the time of retirement." Dissatisfied with the SSS
decision, petitioner Gomera elevated his claim to the Employees Compensation
Commission (ECC or commission), which affirmed the system's decision. x x x xxxx2
Petitioner then filed with the CA a petition for review under Rule 43 of the Rules of
Court assailing the decision of the ECC and the SSS. On October 30, 2007, the CA
promulgated its assailed Decision dismissing petitioner's petition for review and

affirming the decision of the ECC and the SSS. Hence, the present petition for review
on certiorari with the following Assignment of Errors: 2 183264 I. The COMMISSION
and COURT ignored the 38 months partial disability benefits granted to the
petitioner before his retirement (optional) II. The court ignored Hypertension, Heart
Disease and CVA, Cerebro-Vascular Accident as occupational and compensable
diseases pursuant to existing jurisprudence. 3 Rollo, pp. 19-22. Id. at 5. -over-I (128)
1Y '
i -l Resolution - 3 -G.R. No. 183264 January 26, 2015 Petitioner's basic contention is
that his hypertension was a result of his prolonged exposure to air pollutants in the
course of his employment as a mechanic. ' At the outset, it bears to point out that
the issues raised by petitioner are essentially questions of fact. It is settled that only
questions of law, not questions of fact, may be raised before the Supreme Court in a
petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.4 This Court cannot be tasked
to go over the proofs presented by the petitioners in the lower courts and analyze,
assess and weigh them to ascertain if the court a quo and the appellate court were
correct in their appreciation of the evidence. 5 Indeed, the arguments raised by
petitioner put into question .the factual findings of both the SSS and the ECC.
However, it is likewise settled that findings of fact of administrative agencies and
quasi-judicial bodies, which have acquired expertise because their jurisdiction is
confined to specific matters, are generally accorded not only respect but finality
when affirmed by the Court of Appeals. 6 In the present case, the SSS, the ECC and
the CA were unanimous in finding that petitioner failed to prove any disability
resulting from his hypertension prior to or at the time of his retirement. ' As
correctly cited by the ECC and the CA, ECC Resolution No. 92-07-00317 stales that:
4 6 7 Hypertension classified as primary or essential is considered compensable if it
causes impairment of function of body organs like kidneys, heart, eyes and brain,
resulting in any kind of disability; subject to the submission of any of the following:
(a) chest X-ray report, (b) ECG report, ( c) blood chemistry report, ( d) funduscopy
report, (e) C-T scan,8 Thus, this Court finds no error in the ECC Decision that: La
Union Cement Workers Union, et al. v. NLRC, et al., 597 Phil. 452, 457 (2009). Id.
Gatus v. Social Security System, G.R. No. 174725, January 26, 2011, 640 SCRA 553,
564. Dated July 8, 1992. Board Resolution No. 11-05-13, Series of 2011, approved
on May 26, 20 II, amended ECC Resolution No. 92-07-0031 by adding
Ophthalmological evaluation, M[agnetic] R[esonance] I[maging], M[agnetic]
R[esonance] A[ngiogram], 2-D echo, kidney ultrasound, and B[lood] P[ressure]
monitoring report as among pieces of evidence which may be submitted by a
claimant to prove hypertension as the cause of the impairment of the functions of
any of his/her body organs which results in his/her disability. 183264 -over-'I'. (128)
hf'
Resolution -4-G.R. No. 183264 January 26, 2015 xx xx Whether or not the
appellant's [herein petitioner's] Hypertension caused the manifestation of endorgan damage must be substantiated by diagnostic tests, failing this, the instant

claim must fail. Unfortunately, the available medical records are not enough to
validate his claim. There is nothing in the records that will sufficiently establish that
he suffered end-organ impairment during the course of his employment with Central
Azucarera de Tarlac. Hence, there is much sense in refusing the grant of EC
dislilbility benefits where no such end-organ damage due to Hypertension has been
proven. X'X X x9 tl1 In the same vein, the Court finds no cogent reason to depart
from the ruling of the CA holding that: xx xx x x x [I]t was incumbent upon Gomera
to prove, at the first instance, that the environment and nature of his work
worsened or at least contributed to his hypertensive condition. The burden of proof
is on the petitioner who must establish that his disease intervened or was
contracted in the course of his employment. x x x xx xx Nowhere in his complaint
before the SSS did the petitioner ever trace the genesis or etiology of HPN to his
work-stress, and the like. He did so belatedly only in his petition, and reproduced as
a response to the respondents' Comment thereon, x x x. xx xx E;ven then, his
research did not indubitably link the alleged exposure to toxic chemicals to the
hypertensive state. Neither did he categorically deny his smoking or drinking habits.
On the whole, Gomera failed to comply with the criteria or conditions set forth by
the [R]ules of the [C]ommission, thus warranting a denial of compensation.xx x XX
X XIO I Indeed, petitioner failed to present competent evidence such as medical
records or physician's reports to objectively substantiate his claim that there is a
reasonable link between his work and his ailment. His bare allegations do not, by
themselves, make his illness compensable. 9 10 183264 See ECC Decision, Annex
"13" to Petition, ro/lo, p. 50. See CA Decision, Annex "1" to Petition, id. at 24-25.
-over-(128) ir '
t1 " ! Resolution - 5 -G.R. No. 183264 January 26, 2015 On basis of the foregoing,
the Court finds no error on the part of the SSS, the ECC and the CA in denying
petitioner's claim for disability benefits. WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DENIED.
The Decision of the Court of Appeals, dated October 30, 2007, in CA-G.R. SP No.
99156, is AFFIAMED. (Reyes, J., no part; Del Castillo, J., designated Acting Member
per Raffle dated January 26, 2015). SO ORDERED." Mr.