Surviving spouse who is no longer living with the deceased husband at the time of his death has the priority claim to death benefits under the Employees’ Compensation Program over the illegitimate children of the deceased. This was the ruling of the Employees’ Compensation Commission in the case of Merle O. Lao vs. SSS.

ECC further explained that primary beneficiary excludes secondary beneficiary. Although the couple had already been separated prior to the death of the covered member, the legitimate spouse is still entitled to the EC death benefits until re-marriage.

Presidential Decree (PD) No. 626, as amended, provides that the primary beneficiaries are dependent legitimate spouse until he remarries and dependent legitimate children. In the absence of the primary beneficiaries, the dependent parents, illegitimate children and legitimate ascendants are the secondary beneficiaries.

The ruling in the abovementioned case emphasizes the provision in the Amended Rules on Employees Compensation that “primary beneficiaries shall have priority claim to death benefits over secondary beneficiaries. Whenever there are primary beneficiaries, no death benefit shall be paid to his secondary beneficiaries,” ECC Executive Director Stella Zipagan-Banawis explained.