April 2014 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Commercial Law

Here are select April 2014 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on commercial law:

Corporate officers; liability. On  the  issue  of  the  solidary  obligation  of  the  corporate officers impleaded vis-à-vis the corporation for Mapua’s illegal dismissal, “[i]t is hornbook principle that personal liability of corporate directors, trustees or officers attaches only when: (a) they assent to a patently unlawful act of the corporation,  or  when  they  are  guilty  of  bad  faith  or  gross  negligence  in directing  its  affairs,  or  when  there  is  a  conflict  of  interest resulting  in damages  to  the  corporation,  its  stockholders  or  other  persons; (b)  they consent to the issuance of watered down stocks or when, having knowledge of  such  issuance,  do  not  forthwith  file  with  the  corporate  secretary  their written objection; (c) they agree to hold themselves personally and solidarily liable with the corporation; or (d) they are made by specific provision of law personally answerable fortheir corporate action.SPI Technologies, Inc., et al. v. Victoria K. Mapua,G.R. No. 199022, April 7, 2014.

Corporate officers; liability. A corporation has a personality separate and distinct from its officers and board of directors who may only be held personally liable for damages if it is proven that they acted with malice or bad faith in the dismissal of an employee. Absent any evidence on record that petitioner Bautista acted maliciously or in bad faith in effecting the termination of respondent, plus the apparent lack of allegation in the pleadings of respondent that petitioner Bautistaacted in such manner, the doctrine of corporate fiction dictates that only petitioner corporation should be held liable for the illegal dismissal of respondent. Mirant (Philippines) Corporation, et al. v. Joselito A. Caro,G.R. No. 181490, April 23, 2014.

Corporations; merger; concept. Merger is a re-organization of two or more corporations that results in their consolidating into a single corpor ation, which is one of the constituent corporations, one disappearing or dissolving and the other surviving.  To put it another way, merger is the absorption of one or more corporations by another existing corporation, which retains its identity and takes over the rights, privileges, franchises, properties, claims, liabilities and obligations of the absorbed corporation(s).  The absorbing corporation continues its existence while the life or lives of the other corporation(s) is or are terminated. Bank of Commerce v. Radio Philippines Network, Inc., et al.,G.R. No. 195615, April 21, 2014.

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March 2014 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Commercial Law

Here are select March 2104 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on commercial law:

Corporations; piercing the corporate veil. It has  long  been  settled  that  the  law  vests  a  corporation  with a personality distinct and separate from its stockholders or members.  In the same vein, a corporation, by legal fiction and convenience, is an entity shielded by a protective mantle and imbued by law with a character alien to the  persons  comprising  it.  Nonetheless,  the  shield  is  not  at  all  times impenetrable and cannot be extended to a point beyond its reason and policy.  Circumstances  might  deny  a  claim  for  corporate  personality,  under  the “doctrine of piercing the veil of corporate fiction.”

Piercing the  veil  of  corporate  fiction  is  an  equitable  doctrine developed to address situations where the separate corporate personality of a corporation is abused or used for wrongful purposes. Under the doctrine, the corporate existence may be disregarded where the entity is formed or used for non-legitimate purposes, such as to evade a just and due obligation, or to justify a wrong, to shield or perpetrate fraud or to carry out similar or inequitable considerations, other unjustifiable aims or intentions, in which case, the fiction will be disregarded and the individuals composing it and the two corporations will be treated as identical.

In the present case, we see an indubitable link between CBB’s closure and Binswanger’s incorporation. CBB ceased to exist only in name; it re-emerged in the person of Binswanger for an urgent purpose — to avoid payment by CBB of the last two installments of its monetary obligation to Livesey, as well as its other financial liabilities.  Freed of CBB’s  liabilities,  especially  that  owing  to  Livesey,  Binswanger can continue, as it did continue, CBB’s real estate brokerage business. Eric Godfrey Stanley Livesey v. Binswanger Philippines, Inc. and Keith Elliot, G.R. No. 177493, March 19, 2014.

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February 2014 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Commercial Law

Here are select February 2014 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on commercial law:

Corporate officer; intra-corporate dispute. There are two circumstances which must concur in order for an individual to be considered a corporate officer, as against an ordinary employee or officer, namely: (1) the creation of the position is under the corporation’s charter or by-laws; and (2) the election of the officer is by the directors or stockholders. It is only when the officer claiming to have been illegally dismissed is classified as such corporate officer that the issue is deemed an intra-corporate dispute which falls within the jurisdiction of the trial courts. Raul C. Cosare v. Broadcom Asia, Inc., et al., G.R. No. 201298, February 5, 2014.

Intra-corporate dispute; illegal dismissal case. As regards the issue of jurisdiction, the Court has determined that contrary to the ruling of the Court of Appeals (CA), it is the labor arbiter (LA), and not the regular courts, which has the original jurisdiction over the subject controversy. An intra-corporate controversy, which falls within the jurisdiction of regular courts, has been regarded in its broad sense to pertain to disputes that involve any of the following relationships: (1) between the corporation, partnership or association and the public; (2) between the corporation, partnership or association and the state in so far as its franchise, permit or license to operate is concerned; (3) between the corporation, partnership or association and its stockholders, partners, members or officers; and (4) among the stockholders, partners or associates, themselves.

Settled jurisprudence, however, qualifies that when the dispute involves a charge of illegal dismissal, the action may fall under the jurisdiction of the LAs upon whose jurisdiction, as a rule, falls termination disputes and claims for damages arising from employer-employee relations as provided in Article 217 of the Labor Code.  Consistent with this jurisprudence, the mere fact that Cosare was a stockholder and an officer of Broadcomat the time the subject controversy developed failed to necessarily make the case an intra-corporate dispute.

In Matling Industrial and Commercial Corporation v. Coros, the Court distinguished between a “regular employee” and a “corporate officer” for purposes of establishing the true nature of a dispute or complaint for illegal dismissal and determining which body has jurisdiction over it.  Succinctly, it was explained that “[t]he determination of whether the dismissed officer was a regular employee or corporate officer unravels the conundrum” of whether a complaint for illegal dismissal is cognizable by the LA or by the RTC.  “In case of the regular employee, the LA has jurisdiction; otherwise, the RTC exercises the legal authority to adjudicate.

Applying the foregoing to the present case, the LA had the original jurisdiction over the complaint for illegal dismissal because Cosare, although an officer of Broadcom for being its AVP for Sales, was not a “corporate officer” as the term is defined by law. Raul C. Cosare v. Broadcom Asia, Inc., et al., G.R. No. 201298, February 5, 2014.

January 2014 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Commercial Law

Here are select January 2014 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on commercial law:

Corporations; liability of corporate officers. As a general rule, the officer cannot be held personally liable with the corporation, whether civilly or otherwise, for the consequences his acts, if acted for and in behalf of the corporation, within the scope of his authority and in good faith. Rodolfo Laborte, et al. v. Pagsanjan Tourism Consumers’ Cooperative, et al., G.R. No. 183860, January 15, 2014.

Banks; degree of diligence. Being a banking institution, DBP owed it to Guariña Corporation toexercise the highest degree of diligence, as well as to observe the high standards of integrity and performance in all its transactionsbecause its business was imbued with public interest. The high standards were also necessary to ensure public confidence in the banking system. Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) v. Guariña Agricultural and Realty Development Corporation, G.R. No. 160758. January 15, 2014.

(Hector thanks Camille Maria L. Castolo for her assistance to Lexoterica.)

December 2013 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Commercial Law

Here are select December 2013 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on commercial law:

Corporations; doctrine of apparent authority. The doctrine of apparent authority provides that a corporation will be estopped from denying the agent’s authority if it knowingly permits one of its officers or any other agent to act within the scope of an apparent authority, and it holds him out to the public as possessing the power to do those acts.  The doctrine of apparent authority does not apply if the  principal did not commit any acts or conduct which a third party knew and relied upon in good faith as a result of the exercise of reasonable prudence. Moreover, the agent’s acts or conduct must have produced a change of  position to the third party’s detriment. Advance Paper Corporation and George Haw, in his capacity as President of Advance Paper Corporation v. Arma Traders Corporation, Manuel Ting, et al., G.R. No. 176897, December 11, 2013.

Corporations; doctrine of apparent authority . In People’s Aircargo and Warehousing Co., Inc. v. Court of  Appeals,  we ruled that the doctrine of apparent authority is applied when the petitioner, through its president Antonio Punsalan Jr., entered into the First Contract without first securing board approval. Despite such lack of  board approval, petitioner did not object to or repudiate said contract, thus “clothing” its president with the power to bind the corporation. “Inasmuch as a corporate president is often given general supervision and control over corporate operations, the strict rule that said officer has no inherent power to act for the corporation is slowly giving way to the realization that such officer has certain limited powers in the transaction of the usual and ordinary business of the corporation.”

In the absence of a charter or bylaw provision to the contrary, the president is presumed to have the authority to act within the domain of the general objectives of its business and within the scope of his or her usual duties. Advance Paper Corporation and George Haw, in his capacity as President of Advance Paper Corporation v. Arma Traders Corporation, Manuel Ting, et al., G.R. No. 176897, December 11, 2013.

(Hector thanks Miracle Rodriguez and Camille Maria M. Castolo for their assistance to Lexoterica.)

September 2013 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Commercial Law

Here are select September 2013 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on commercial law:

Checks; negotiable instruments. The check delivered to was made payable to cash. Under the Negotiable Instruments Law, this type of check was payable to the bearer and could be negotiated by mere delivery without the need of an indorsement. People of the Philippines v. Gilbert Reyes Wagas, G.R. No. 157943, September 4, 2013.

Insurance contracts; contract of adhesion. A contract of insurance is a contract of adhesion. When the terms of the insurance contract contain limitations on liability, courts should construe them in such a way as to preclude the insurer from non-compliance with his obligation. Alpha Insurance and Surety Co. v. Arsenia Sonia Castor, G.R. No. 198174, September 2, 2013.

Sale; subdivision lots. Presidential Decree No. 957 is a law that regulates the sale of subdivision lots and condominiums in view of the increasing number of incidents wherein “real estate subdivision owners, developers, operators, and/or sellers have reneged on their representations and obligations to provide and maintain properly” the basic requirements and amenities, as well as of reports of alarming magnitude of swindling and fraudulent manipulations perpetrated by unscrupulous subdivision and condominium sellers and operators, such as failure to deliver titles to the buyers or titles free from liens and encumbrances.

Presidential Decree No. 957 authorizes the suspension and revocation of the registration and license of the real estate subdivision owners, developers, operators, and/or sellers in certain instances, as well as provides the procedure to be observed in such instances; it prescribes administrative fines and other penalties in case of violation of, or non-compliance with its provisions. San Miguel Properties, Inc. v. Secretary of Justice, et al., G.R. No. 166836, September 4, 2013.

(Hector thanks Carlos Manuel D. Prado for his assistance to Lexoterica.)

August 2013 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Commercial Law

Here are select August 2103 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on commercial law:

Insurance; prohibition against removal of property. Here, by the clear and express condition in the renewal policy, the removal of the insured property to any building or place required the consent of Malayan. Any transfer effected by the insured, without the insurer’s consent, would free the latter from any liability.

Insurance; rescission. Considering that the original policy was renewed on an “as is basis,” it follows that the renewal policy carried with it the same stipulations and limitations. The terms and conditions in the renewal policy provided, among others, that the location of the risk insured against is at the Sanyo factory in PEZA. The subject insured properties, however, were totally burned at the Pace Factory. Although it was also located in PEZA, Pace Factory was not the location stipulated in the renewal policy. There being an unconsented removal, the transfer was at PAP’s own risk. Consequently, it must suffer the consequences of the fire. Thus, the Court agrees with the report of Cunningham Toplis Philippines, Inc., an international loss adjuster which investigated the fire incident at the Pace Factory, which opined that “[g]iven that the location of risk covered under the policy is not the location affected, the policy will, therefore, not respond to this loss/claim.” It can also be said that with the transfer of the location of the subject properties, without notice and without Malayan’s consent, after the renewal of the policy, PAP clearly committed concealment, misrepresentation and a breach of a material warranty.

Accordingly, an insurer can exercise its right to rescind an insurance contract when the following conditions are present, to wit:

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