December 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Commercial Law

Here are selected December 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on commercial law:

Board members; criminal liability for illegal trading of petroleum products.  Sec. 4 of BP 33, as amended, provides for the penalties and persons who are criminally liable, thus:

Sec. 4.    Penalties. — Any person who commits any act herein prohibited shall, upon conviction, be punished with a fine of not less than twenty thousand pesos (P20,000) but not more than fifty thousand pesos  (P50,000), or imprisonment of at least two (2) years but not more than five (5) years, or both, in the discretion of the court.  In cases of second and subsequent conviction under this Act, the penalty shall be both fine and imprisonment as provided herein.  Furthermore, the petroleum and/or petroleum products, subject matter of the illegal trading, adulteration, shortselling, hoarding, overpricing or misuse, shall be forfeited in favor of the Government: Provided, That if the petroleum and/or petroleum products have already been delivered and paid for, the offended party shall be indemnified twice the amount paid, and if the seller who has not yet delivered has been fully paid, the price received shall be returned to the buyer with an additional amount equivalent to such price; and in addition, if the offender is an oil company, marketer, distributor, refiller, dealer, sub-dealer and other retail outlets, or hauler, the cancellation of his license.

Trials of cases arising from this Act shall be terminated within thirty (30) days after arraignment.

When the offender is a corporation, partnership, or other juridical person, the president, the general manager, managing partner, or such other officer charged with the management of the business affairs thereof, or employee responsible for the violation shall be criminally liable; in case the offender is an alien, he shall be subject to deportation after serving the sentence.

If the offender is a government official or employee, he shall be perpetually disqualified from office.  (Emphasis supplied.)

Relying on the third paragraph of the above statutory proviso, petitioners argue that they cannot be held liable for any perceived violations of BP 33, as amended, since they are mere directors of Omni who are not in charge of the management of its business affairs.  Reasoning that criminal liability is personal, liability attaches to a person from his personal act or omission but not from the criminal act or negligence of another.  Since Sec. 4 of BP 33, as amended, clearly provides and enumerates who are criminally liable, which do not include members of the board of directors of a corporation, petitioners, as mere members of the board of directors who are not in charge of Omni’s business affairs, maintain that they cannot be held liable for any perceived violations of BP 33, as amended.  To bolster their position, they attest to being full-time employees of various firms as shown by the Certificates of Employment[71] they submitted tending to show that they are neither involved in the day-to-day business of Omni nor managing it.  Consequently, they posit that even if BP 33, as amended, had been violated by Omni they cannot be held criminally liable thereof not being in any way connected with the commission of the alleged violations, and, consequently, the criminal complaints filed against them based solely on their being members of the board of directors as per the GIS submitted by Omni to SEC are grossly discriminatory.

On this point, we agree with petitioners except as to petitioner Arnel U. Ty who is indisputably the President of Omni.

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