February 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

Here are select February 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on civil law:

Agency; Accounting. Article 1891 of the Civil Code contains a few of the obligations owed by an agent to his principal – Every agent is bound to render an account of his transactions and to deliver to the principal whatever he may have received by virtue of the agency, even though it may not be owing to the principal. Every stipulation exempting the agent from the obligation to render an account shall be void.

It is evident that the reason behind the failure of petitioner to render an accounting to respondent is immaterial. What is important is that the former fulfill her duty to render an account of the relevant transactions she entered into as respondent’s agent. Caridad Segarra Sazon vs. Letecia Vasquez-Menancio, G.R. No. 192085. February 22, 2012.

Agency; Fruits. Every agent is bound to deliver to the principal whatever the former may have received by virtue of the agency, even though that amount may not be owed to the principal. Caridad Segarra Sazon vs. Letecia Vasquez-Menancio, G.R. No. 192085. February 22, 2012.

Attorney’s fees; When payable. With respect to attorney’s fees, it is proper on the ground that petitioner’s act of denying respondent and its employees access to the leased premises has compelled respondent to litigate and incur expenses to protect its interest. Also, under the circumstances prevailing in the present case, attorney’s fees may be granted on grounds of justice and equity. Manila International Airport vs. Avia Filipinas International, Inc., G.R. No. 180168. February 27, 2012

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February 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Tax Laws

Tariff and Customs Code; Revised Administrative Code Customs Memorandum Order No. 27-2003.  Customs Memorandum Order No. 27-2003 (CMO 23-2007) is invalid. The Commissioner of Customs (1) violated the right to due process in the issuance of CMO 27-2003 when he failed to observe the requirements under the Revised Administrative Code, (2) violated the right to equal protection of laws when he provided for an unreasonable classification in the application of the regulation, and (3) went beyond his powers of delegated authority when the regulation limited the powers of the customs officer to examine and assess imported articles. CMO 27-2003 was issued without following the mandate of the Revised Administrative Code on public participation, prior notice, and publication or registration with the University of the Philippines Law Center. For tariff purposes, CMO 27-2003 classified wheat according to the following: (1) importer or consignee; (2) country of origin; and (3) port of discharge. This is a violation of the equal protection clause under the Constitution. The Court does not see how the quality of wheat is affected by who imports it, where it is discharged, or which country it came from. Thus, on the one hand, even if other millers excluded from CMO 27-2003 have imported food grade wheat, the product would still be declared as feed grade wheat, a classification subjecting them to 7% tariff. On the other hand, even if the importers listed under CMO 27-2003 have imported feed grade wheat, they would only be made to pay 3% tariff, thus depriving the state of the taxes due. The regulation, therefore, does not become disadvantageous to respondent only, but even to the state. Section 1403 of the Tariff and Customs Law, as amended mandates that the customs officer must first assess and determine the classification of the imported article before tariff may be imposed. Unfortunately, CMO 23-2007 has already classified the article even before the customs officer had the chance to examine it. Finally, Commissioner of Customs diminished the powers granted by the Tariff and Customs Code with regard to wheat importation when it no longer required the customs officer’s prior examination and assessment of the proper classification of the wheat. Commissioner of Customs vs. Hypermix Feeds Corporation, G.R. No. 179579, February 1, 2012.

(Caren thanks Lui Manalaysay for assisting in the preparation of this post.)

February 2012 Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

Here are selected February 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on political law.

Constitutional Law

Autonomous Region; plebiscite requirement. Section 18, Article X of the Constitution provides that “the creation of the autonomous region shall be effective when approved by majority of the votes cast by the constituent units in a plebiscite called for the purpose.”  The Supreme Court interpreted this to mean that only amendments to, or revisions of, the Organic Act constitutionally-essential to the creation of autonomous regions – i.e., those aspects specifically mentioned in the Constitution which Congress must provide for in the Organic Act– require ratification through a plebiscite.   While it agrees with the petitioners’ underlying premise that sovereignty ultimately resides with the people, it disagrees that this legal reality necessitates compliance with the plebiscite requirement for all amendments to RA No. 9054. For if we were to go by the petitioners’ interpretation of Section 18, Article X of the Constitution that all amendments to the Organic Act have to undergo the plebiscite requirement before becoming effective, this would lead to impractical and illogical results – hampering the ARMM’s progress by impeding Congress from enacting laws that timely address problems as they arise in the region, as well as weighing down the ARMM government with the costs that unavoidably follow the holding of a plebiscite. Also, Sec. 3 of R.A. No. 10153 cannot be seen as changing the basic structure of the ARMM regional government. On the contrary, this provision clearly preserves the basic structure of the ARMM regional government when it recognizes the offices of the ARMM regional government and directs the OICs who shall temporarily assume these offices to “perform the functions pertaining to the said offices.” Datu Michael Abas Kida, etc., et al. vs. Senate of the Phil., etc., et al./Basari D. Mapupuno vs. Sixto Brillantes, etc., et al./Rep. Edcel C. Lagman vs. Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr., etc., et al./Almarin Centi Tillah, et al. vs. The Commission on Elections, etc., et al./Atty. Romulo B. Macalintal vs. Commission on Elections, et al./Luis “Barok” Biraogo, G.R. No. 196271, February 28, 2012.

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February 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Legal and Judicial Ethics

Here are select February 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on legal and judicial ethics:

Administrative cases against lawyers; prescriptive period.  The two-year prescriptive period for initiating a complaint against a lawyer for disbarment or suspension provided under Section 1, Rule VIII of the Rules of Procedure of the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline should be construed to mean two years from the date of discovery of the professional misconduct.  Nesa Isenhardt vs. Atty. Leonardo M. Real, A.C. No. 8254, February 15, 2012.

Attorney; disqualification as notary public. A notary public should not notarize a document unless the person who signs it is the same person who executed it, personally appearing before him to attest to the contents and the truth of what are stated therein. This is to enable the notary public to verify the genuineness of the signature of the acknowledging party and to ascertain that the document is the party’s free act. The duties of a notary public is dictated by public policy and impressed with public interest. It is not a meaningless ministerial act of acknowledging documents executed by parties who are willing to pay the fees for notarization.  It is of no moment that the subject SPA was not utilized by the grantee for the purpose it was intended because the property was allegedly transferred from complainant to her brother by virtue of a deed of sale consummated between them. What is being penalized is respondent’s act of notarizing a document despite the absence of one of the parties. A notarized document is by law entitled to full credit upon its face and it is for this reason that notaries public must observe the basic requirements in notarizing documents.  Otherwise, the confidence of the public in notarized documents will be undermined.  Nesa Isenhardt vs. Atty. Leonardo M. Real, A.C. No. 8254, February 15, 2012.

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February 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

Here are select February 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and procedure:

1.         REVISED PENAL CODE

Conspiracy. The inconsistencies pointed out are inconsequential given the presence of conspiracy between the appellant and Olaso in killing the victim. Conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a felony and decide to commit it. The presence of conspiracy may be inferred from the circumstances where all the accused acted in concert at the time of the commission of the offense. Conspiracy is sufficiently established when the concerted acts show the same purpose or common design and are united in its execution.  Moreover, when there is conspiracy, it is not important who delivered the fatal blow since the act of one is considered the act of all. The overt acts of the appellant and Olaso showing their conspiracy to kill the victim are: (1) the appellant and Olaso flagged down the tricycle being driven by the victim; (2) the appellant seated himself at the back of the driver’s seat while Olaso went inside the tricycle; (3) the appellant and Olaso simultaneously assaulted the victim – the appellant embracing the victim while Olaso stabbed him; and (4) both men immediately fled the scene after the stabbing.  The above circumstances plainly show the common design and the unity of purpose between the appellant and Olaso in executing their plan to kill the victim.  People of the Philippines v. Rolly Angelio, G.R. No. 197540, February 27, 2012.

Estafa; elements. The offense of estafa, in general, is committed either by (a) abuse of confidence or (b) means of deceit. The acts constituting estafa committed with abuse of confidence are enumerated in item (1) of Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended; item (2) of Article 315 enumerates estafa committed by means of deceit. Deceit is not an essential requisite of estafa by abuse of confidence; the breach of confidence takes the place of fraud or deceit, which is a usual element in the other estafa. In this case, the charge against the petitioner and her subsequent conviction was for estafa committed by abuse of confidence. Thus, it was not necessary for the prosecution to prove deceit as this was not an element of the estafa that the petitioner was charged with. Carmina G. Brokmann v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 199150, February 6, 2012.

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February 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

Here are select February 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court on labor law and procedure:

Appeal; factual finding of NLRC. Findings of fact of administrative agencies and quasi-judicial bodies, which have acquired expertise because their jurisdiction is confined to specific matters, are generally accorded not only respect but finality when affirmed by the Court of Appeals. Factual findings of quasi-judicial bodies like the NLRC, if supported by substantial evidence, are accorded respect and even finality by the Supreme Court, more so when they coincide with those of the Labor Arbiter. Such factual findings are given more weight when the same are affirmed by the Court of Appeals. In the present case, the Supreme Court found no reason to depart from these principles since the Labor Arbiter found that there was substantial evidence to conclude that Oasay had breached the trust and confidence of Palacio Del Gobernador Condominium Corporation, which finding the NLRC had likewise upheld. Sebastian F. Oasay, Jr. vs. Palacio del Gobernador Condominium Corporation and Omar T. Cruz, G.R. No. 194306, February 6, 2012.

Civil Service; Clark Development Corporation. Clark Development Corporation (CDC) owes its existence to Executive Order No. 80 issued by then President Fidel V. Ramos. It was meant to be the implementing and operating arm of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority tasked to manage the Clark Special Economic Zone. Expressly, CDC was formed in accordance with Philippine corporation laws and existing rules and regulations promulgated by the Securities and Exchange Commission pursuant to Section 16 of Republic Act 7227. CDC, a government owned or controlled corporation without an original charter, was incorporated under the Corporation Code. Pursuant to Article IX-B, Sec. 2(1) of the Constitution, the civil service embraces only those government owned or controlled corporations with original charter. As such, CDC and its employees are covered by the Labor Code and not by the Civil Service Law. Antonio B. Salenga, et al. vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 174941, February 1, 2012.

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February 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Commercial Law

Here are select February 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on commercial law:

Carriage of Goods by Sea Act (COGSA);  applicability of prescription period to arrastre operator.  Under the COGSA, the carrier and the ship may put up the defense of prescription if the action for damages is not brought within one year after the delivery of the goods or the date when the goods should have been delivered.  It has been held that not only the shipper, but also the consignee or legal holder of the bill may invoke the prescriptive period. However, the COGSA does not mention that an arrastre operator may invoke the prescriptive period of one year; hence, it does not cover the arrastre operator. Insurance Company of North America vs. Asian Terminals, Inc., G.R. No. 180784, February 15, 2012.

COGSA; bad order survey.  As early as November 29, 2002, the date of the last withdrawal of the goods from the arrastre operator, respondent ATI was able to verify that five (5) packages of the shipment were in bad order while in its custody. The certificate of non-delivery referred to in the Contract is similar to or identical with the examination report on the request for bad order survey.  Like in the case of New Zealand Insurance Company Ltd. v. Navarro, the verification and ascertainment of liability by respondent ATI had been accomplished within thirty (30) days from the date of delivery of the package to the consignee and within fifteen (15) days from the date of issuance by the Contractor (respondent ATI) of the examination report on the request for bad order survey.  Although the formal claim was filed beyond the 15-day period from the issuance of the examination report on the request for bad order survey, the purpose of the time limitations for the filing of claims had already been fully satisfied by the request of the consignee’s broker for a bad order survey and by the examination report of the arrastre operator on the result thereof, as the arrastre operator had become aware of and had verified the facts giving rise to its liability. Hence, the arrastre operator suffered no prejudice by the lack of strict compliance with the 15-day limitation to file the formal complaint. Insurance Company of North America vs. Asian Terminals, Inc., G.R. No. 180784, February 15, 2012.

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