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G.R. NO. 182836 October 13, 2019 Continental Steel Manufacturing Corporation, Petitioner vs Hortillano
Hortillano, an employee of petitioner Continental Steel Manufacturing Corporation (Continental Steel) and a member of respondent Nagkakaisang Manggagawa ng Centro Steel Corporation-Solidarity of Trade Unions in the Philippines for Empowerment and Reforms (Union) filed a claim for Paternity Leave, Bereavement Leave and Death and Accident Insurance for dependent, pursuant to the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) concluded between Continental and the Union. This, after his wife, Marife, had a pre-mature delivery which resulted to the death of their unborn child.
Continental Steel immediately granted Hortillano’s claim for paternity leave but denied his claims for bereavement leave and other death benefits, consisting of the death and accident insurance. It posited that the express provision of the CBA did not contemplate the death of an unborn child, a fetus, without legal personality.
Whether or not Hortillano is entitled to bereavement benefits on the death of his unborn child.
Yes, Hortillano is entitled to bereavement benefits.
The Court emphasize that bereavement leave and other death benefits are granted to an employee to give aid to, and if possible, lessen the grief of, the said employee and his family who suffered the loss of a loved one. It cannot be said that the parents’ grief and sense of loss arising from the death of their unborn child, who, in this case, had a gestational life of 38-39 weeks but died during delivery, is any less than that of parents whose child was born alive but died subsequently.
The court also emphasized that life is not synonymous with civil personality. One need not acquire civil personality first before he/she could die. Even a child inside the womb already has life. No less than the Constitution recognizes the life of the unborn from conception, that the State must protect equally with the life of the mother. If the unborn already has life, then the cessation thereof even prior to the child being delivered, qualifies as death.