We agree with the petitioner that her claim for death benefits under the SSS law should be considered as the Employees’ Compensation claim itself. This is but logical and reasonable because the claim for death benefits which petitioner filed with the SSS is of the same nature as her claim before the ECC. Furthermore, the SSS is the same agency with which Employees’ Compensation claims are filed. As correctly contended by the petitioner, when she filed her claim for death benefits with the SSS under the SSS law, she had already notified the SSS of her employees’ compensation claim, because the SSS is the very same agency where claims for payment of sickness/disability/death benefits under P.D. No. 626 are filed.
Section 4(b)(2), Rule 3 of the ECC Rules of Procedure for the Filing and Disposition of the Employees’ Compensation Claims, quoted above, also provides for the conditions when EC claims filed beyond the three-year prescriptive period may still be given due course. Section 4(b)(2) states the condition for private sector employees, requiring that a claim for Medicare, sickness, burial, disability or death should be filed within three (3) years from the occurrence of the contingency. In the instant case, the petitioner was able to file her claim for death benefits under the SSS law within the three-year prescriptive period. In fact, she has been receiving her pension under the SSS law since November 1988.
It is true that under the proviso, the employees’ compensation claim shall be filed with the GSIS/SSS within a reasonable time as provided by law. It should be noted that neither statute nor jurisprudence has defined the limits of “reasonable time.” Thus, what is reasonable time depends upon the peculiar facts and circumstances of each case. In the case at bar, we also find petitioner’s claim to have been filed within a reasonable time considering the situation and condition of the petitioner. We have ruled that when the petitioner filed her claim for death benefits under the SSS law, her claim for the same benefits under the Employees’ Compensation Law should be considered as filed. The evidence shows that the System failed to process her compensation claim. Under the circumstances, the petitioner cannot be made to suffer for the lapse committed by the System. It is the avowed policy of the State to construe social legislations liberally in favor of the beneficiaries. This court has time and again upheld the policy of liberality of the law in favor of labor. Presidential Decree No. 626 itself, in its Art. 166 reads:
“ART. 166. Policy. – The State shall promote and develop a tax-exempt employees’ compensation program whereby employees and their dependents, in the event of work-connected disability or death, may promptly secure adequate income benefit, and medical or related benefits.” (emphasis supplied)
Furthermore, Art. 4 of P.D. No. 442, as amended, otherwise known as the Labor Code of the Philippines, which P.D. No. 626 forms a part of, reads as follows:
“ART. 4. Construction in favor of labor. – All doubts in the implementation and interpretation of the provisions of this Code, including its implementing rules and regulations, shall be resolved in favor of labor.”
Particularly, the policy of liberality in deciding claims for compensability was given emphasis by this court in the case of Employees’ Compensation Commission vs. Court of Appeals, where it held that:
“. . . the liberality of law in favor of the working man and woman still prevails and the official agency charged by law to implement the constitutional guarantee of social justice should adopt a liberal attitude in favor of the employee in deciding claims for compensability, especially in light of compassionate policy towards labor which the 1987 Constitution vivifies and enhances. Elsewise stated, a humanitarian impulse, dictated by no less than the Constitution itself under the social justice policy, calls for a liberal and sympathetic approach to legitimate appeals of disabled public servants; or that all doubts to the right to compensation must be resolved in favor of the employee or laborer. Verily the policy is to extend the applicability of the law on employees’ compensation to as many employees who can avail of the benefits thereunder.”
Claims falling under the Employees’ Compensation Act should be liberally resolved to fulfill its essence as a social legislation designed to afford relief to the working man and woman in our society.