February 2013 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Commercial Law

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

Corporation; liability of officers and directors. Basic is the rule in corporation law that a corporation is a juridical entity which is vested with a legal personality separate and distinct from those acting for and in its behalf and, in general, from the people comprising it. Following this principle, obligations incurred by the corporation, acting through its directors, officers and employees, are its sole liabilities. A director, officer or employee of a corporation is generally not held personally liable for obligations incurred by the corporation. Nevertheless, this legal fiction may be disregarded if it is used as a means to perpetrate fraud or an illegal act, or as a vehicle for the evasion of an existing obligation, the circumvention of statutes, or to confuse legitimate issues.

This is consistent with the provisions of the Corporation Code of the Philippines, which states:

Sec. 31. Liability of directors, trustees or officers. – Directors or trustees who wilfully and knowingly vote for or assent to patently unlawful acts of the corporation or who are guilty of gross negligence or bad faith in directing the affairs of the corporation or acquire any personal or pecuniary interest in conflict with their duty as such directors or trustees shall be liable jointly and severally for all damages resulting therefrom suffered by the corporation, its stockholders or members and other persons.

Continue reading

Updated BSP Rules Implementing the Truth in Lending Act

The Monetary Board issued Circular No. 730, Series of 2011 on July 20, 2011 entitled “Updated Rules Implementing the Truth in Lending Act to Enhance Loan Transaction Transparency.” These Updated Rules shall take effect on July 1, 2012.

The Truth in Lending Act was a law passed in 1963 to promote awareness by the public of the true cost of credit.  It requires a creditor to furnish the debtor prior to the consummation of the transaction a clear statement showing, among others, the total amount to be financed, the finance charges, and the percentage that the finance charges bear to the total amount to be financed expressed as a simple annual rate.  A person who willfully violates the provisions of the Act may be fined or imprisoned, or both.  Violation of the Act, however, will not affect the validity of the credit transaction.

The Act gave the Monetary Board the power to promulgate rules and regulations to carry out its provisions.  Pursuant to that rulemaking power, the Monetary Board mandated under the Updated Rules that banks may only charge interest based on the outstanding balance of a loan at the beginning of an interest period. For a loan where the principal is payable in installments, interest per installment period shall be calculated based on the outstanding balance of the loan at the beginning of each installment period. All loan-related documents and marketing materials shall show repayment schedules in a manner consistent with these guidelines.

The Updated Rules also clarified the definition of finance charge as including interest, fees, service charges, discounts and such other charges incident to the extension of credit. On the other hand, simple annual rate has been defined as the uniform percentage which represents the ratio between the finance charge and the amount to be financed under the assumption that the loan is payable in one year with single payment upon maturity and there are no upfront deductions to principal. If the loan has terms different from these assumptions, the effective annual interest shall be calculated and disclosed to the borrower as the true cost of the loan. The total amount to be financed, the finance charges, expressed in terms of pesos and centavos, the net proceeds of the loan, and the percentage that the finance charge bears to the total amount to be financed expressed as a simple annual rate or an effective annual interest rate shall be disclosed to the borrower in a disclosure statement prior to the consummation of the transaction.

Banks are required to post in conspicuous places in their premises the information as contained in the revised format of disclosure statement and the posters shall include an explicit notice that the disclosure statement is a required attachment to the loan contract and that the customer has a right to demand a copy of such disclosure.

The revised format of disclosure statement is specifically targeted towards small business, retail and consumer loans, the borrowers of which, historically, are almost always the victims of lack of information or misinformation regarding the true cost of credit.

June 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

Here are selected June 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on civil law:

Civil Code

Agency; agency by estoppel. The doctrine of estoppel is based upon the grounds of public policy, fair dealing, good faith and justice, and its purpose is to forbid one to speak against his own act, representations, or commitments to the injury of one to whom they were directed and who reasonably relied thereon. The doctrine of estoppel springs from equitable principles and the equities in the case. It is designed to aid the law in the administration of justice where without its aid injustice might result. It has been applied by this Court wherever and whenever special circumstances of a case so demand.

Based on the events and circumstances surrounding the issuance of the assailed orders, this Court rules that MEGAN is estopped from assailing both the authority of Atty. Sabig and the jurisdiction of the RTC. While it is true, as claimed by MEGAN, that Atty. Sabig said in court that he was only appearing for the hearing of Passi Sugar’s motion for intervention and not for the case itself, his subsequent acts, coupled with MEGAN’s inaction and negligence to repudiate his authority, effectively bars MEGAN from assailing the validity of the RTC proceedings under the principle of estoppel. Megan Sugar Corporation v. Regional Trial Court of Iloilo, Br. 68, Dumangas, Iloilo; New Frontier Sugar Corp., et al.,  G.R. No. 170352. June 1, 2011

Agency; doctrine of apparent authority. The Court finds that the signature of Abcede is sufficient to bind PRHC. As its construction manager, his very act of signing a letter embodying the P 36 million escalation agreement produced legal effect, even if there was a blank space for a higher officer of PHRC to indicate approval thereof. At the very least, he indicated authority to make such representation on behalf of PRHC. On direct examination, Abcede admitted that, as the construction manager, he represented PRHC in running its affairs with regard to the execution of the aforesaid projects. Abcede had signed, on behalf of PRHC, other documents that were almost identical to the questioned letter-agreement. PRHC does not question the validity of these agreements; it thereby effectively admits that this individual had actual authority to sign on its behalf with respect to these construction projects. Philippine Realty and Holding Corp. vs. Ley Const. and Dev. Corp./Ley Cons. and Dev. Corp. vs. Philippine Realty and Holding Corp., G.R. No. 165548/G.R. No. 167879. June 13, 2011

Continue reading

November 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

Here are selected November 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on civil law:

Civil Code

Damages; attorney’s fees.  On the award of attorney’s fees, attorney’s fees and expenses of litigation were awarded because Alfredo was compelled to litigate due to the unjust refusal of Land Bank to refund the amount he paid. There are instances when it is just and equitable to award attorney’s fees and expenses of litigation.  Art. 2208 of the Civil Code pertinently states:

In the absence of stipulation, attorney’s fees and expenses of litigation, other than judicial costs, cannot be recovered, except:

x x x x

(2) When the defendant’s act or omission has compelled the plaintiff to litigate with third persons or to incur expenses to protect his interest.

Given that Alfredo was indeed compelled to litigate against Land Bank and incur expenses to protect his interest, we find that the award falls under the exception above and is, thus, proper given the circumstances. Land Bank of the Philippines vs. Alfredo Ong, G.R. No. 190755, November 24, 2010.

Damages; attorney’s fees.  Regarding the grant of attorney’s fees, the Court agrees with the RTC that said award is justified. Losin refused to pay Vitarich despite the latter’s repeated demands.  It was left with no recourse but to litigate and protect its interest. We, however, opt to reduce the same to P10,000.00 from P20,000.00. Vitarich Corporation vs. Chona Locsin, G.R. No. 181560, November 15, 2010.

Damages; for loss of earning capacity.  The award of damages for loss of earning capacity is concerned with the determination of losses or damages sustained by respondents, as dependents and intestate heirs of the deceased. This consists not of the full amount of his earnings, but of the support which they received or would have received from him had he not died as a consequence of the negligent act. Thus, the amount recoverable is not the loss of the victim’s entire earnings, but rather the loss of that portion of the earnings which the beneficiary would have received.

Indemnity for loss of earning capacity is determined by computing the net earning capacity of the victim as follows:

Net Earning Capacity = life expectancy x (gross annual income -reasonable and necessary living expenses).

Life expectancy shall be computed by applying the formula (2/3 x [80 – age at death]) adopted from the American Expectancy Table of Mortality or the Actuarial of Combined Experience Table of Mortality. On the other hand, gross annual income requires the presentation of documentary evidence for the purpose of proving the victim’s annual income. The victim’s heirs presented in evidence Señora’s pay slip from the PNP, showing him to have had a gross monthly salary of P12,754.00. Meanwhile, the victim’s net income was correctly pegged at 50% of his gross income in the absence of proof as regards the victim’s living expenses. Constancia G. Tamayo, et al. vs. Rosalia Abad Señora, et al., G.R. No. 176946, November 15, 2010.

Continue reading

July 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

Here are selected July 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on civil law:

Civil Code

Agency; doctrine of apparent authority. The doctrine of apparent authority in respect of government contracts, has been restated to mean that the government is NOT bound by unauthorized acts of its agents, even though within the apparent scope of their authority. Under the law on agency, however, “apparent authority” is defined as the power to affect the legal relations of another person by transactions with third persons arising from the other’s manifestations to such third person such that the liability of the principal for the acts and contracts of his agent extends to those which are within the apparent scope of the authority conferred on him, although no actual authority to do such acts or to make such contracts has been conferred.

Apparent authority, or what is sometimes referred to as the “holding out” theory, or doctrine of ostensible agency, imposes liability, not as the result of the reality of a contractual relationship, but rather because of the actions of a principal or an employer in somehow misleading the public into believing that the relationship or the authority exists. The existence of apparent authority may be ascertained through (1) the general manner in which the corporation holds out an officer or agent as having the power to act or, in other words, the apparent authority to act in general, with which it clothes him; or (2) the acquiescence in his acts of a particular nature, with actual or constructive knowledge thereof, whether within or beyond the scope of his ordinary powers. It requires presentation of evidence of similar act(s) executed either in its favor or in favor of other parties.

Easily discernible from the foregoing is that apparent authority is determined only by the acts of the principal and not by the acts of the agent. The principal is, therefore, not responsible where the agent’s own conduct and statements have created the apparent authority.

In this case, not a single act of respondent, acting through its Board of Directors, was cited as having clothed its general manager with apparent authority to execute the contract with it. Sargasso Construction & Development Corporation / Pick & Shovel, Inc./Atlantic Erectors, Inc./ Joint Venture vs. Philippine Ports Authority, G.R. No. 170530, July 5, 2010.

Continue reading

January 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Commercial Law

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

SEC;  power to fix compensation of liquidators. To countenance petitioner’s posturing would be to unduly delimit the broad powers granted to the SEC under Presidential Decree No. 902-A, specifically the all-encompassing provision in Section 3 that the SEC has “absolute jurisdiction, supervision and control” over all corporations who are the grantees of primary franchises and/or license or permit issued by the government to operate in the Philippines. There is no gainsaying, therefore, that the SEC is authorized to determine the fees of receivers and liquidators not only when there is “failure of agreement” between the parties but also in the absence thereof. A contrary ruling would give license to corporations under liquidation or receivership to refuse to participate in negotiations for the fixing of the compensation of their liquidators or receivers so as to evade their obligation to pay the same.

Petitioner may not have been given the chance to meet face to face with respondent for the purpose of determining the latter’s fee. But this fact alone should not invalidate the amount fixed by the SEC. What matters is the reasonableness of the fee in light of the services rendered by the liquidator. It is the policy of the SEC to provide uniform/fair and reasonable compensation or fees for the comparable services rendered by the duly designated members of the Management Committee (MANCOM), rehabilitation receivers and liquidators in corporations or partnerships placed under MANCOM/receivership or liquidation, pursuant to Section 6(d) of Presidential Decree No. 902-A, the SEC Rules on Corporate Recovery, the Corporation Code of the Philippines, the Securities Regulation Code, and other related laws enforced by the SEC.  Catmon Sales International Corporation vs. Atty. Manuel D. Yngson, Jr. as Liquidator of Catmon Sales International Corporation, G.R. No. 179761, January 15, 2010.

Continue reading

November 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

Here are selected November 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on civil law and related laws:

Civil Code

Contract;  contract of adhesion.     A contract of adhesion is defined as one in which one of the parties imposes a ready-made form of contract, which the other party may accept or reject, but which the latter cannot modify. One party prepares the stipulation in the contract, while the other party merely affixes his signature or his “adhesion” thereto, giving no room for negotiation and depriving the latter of the opportunity to bargain on equal footing. Contracts of adhesion are not invalid per se.  Contracts of adhesion, where one party imposes a ready-made form of contract on the other, are not entirely prohibited. The one who adheres to the contract is, in reality, free to reject it entirely; if he adheres, he gives his consent.  Norton Resources and Development Corporation vs. All Asia Bank Corporation, G.R. No. 162523. November 25, 2009

Contract;  freedom of contract. Petitioners allege that the Kasulatan was entered into by the parties freely and voluntarily. They maintain that there was already a meeting of the minds between the parties as regards the principal amount of the loan, the interest thereon and the property given as security for the payment of the loan, which must be complied with in good faith. Hence, they assert that the Court of Appeals should have given due respect to the provisions of the Kasulatan. They also stress that it is a settled principle that the law will not relieve a party from the effects of an unwise, foolish or disastrous contract, entered into with all the required formalities and with full awareness of what he was doing.

Petitioners’ contentions deserve scant consideration. In Abe v. Foster Wheeler Corporation, we held that the freedom of contract is not absolute. The same is understood to be subject to reasonable legislative regulation aimed at the promotion of public health, morals, safety and welfare. One such legislative regulation is found in Article 1306 of the Civil Code which allows the contracting parties to “establish such stipulations, clauses, terms and conditions as they may deem convenient, provided they are not contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order or public policy.”

To reiterate, we fully agree with the Court of Appeals in holding that the compounded interest rate of 5% per month, is iniquitous and unconscionable. Being a void stipulation, it is deemed inexistent from the beginning. The debt is to be considered without the stipulation of the iniquitous and unconscionable interest rate. Accordingly, the legal interest of 12% per annum must be imposed in lieu of the excessive interest stipulated in the agreement, in line with our ruling in Ruiz v. Court of Appeals.  Sps. Isagani & Diosdada Castro vs. Angelina de Leon Tan, G.R. No. 168940, November 24, 2009.

Contract; laches. The essence of laches is the failure or neglect, for an unreasonable and unexplained length of time, to do that which, through due diligence, could have been done earlier, thus giving rise to a presumption that the party entitled to assert it had either abandoned or declined to assert it.

Respondent discovered in 1991 that a new owner’s copy of OCT No. 535 was issued to the Eniceo heirs. Respondent filed a criminal case against the Eniceo heirs for false testimony. When respondent learned that the Eniceo heirs were planning to sell the Antipolo property, respondent caused the annotation of an adverse claim. On 16 January 1996, when respondent learned that OCT No. 535 was cancelled and new TCTs were issued, respondent filed a civil complaint with the trial court against the Eniceo heirs and petitioner. Respondent’s actions negate petitioner’s argument that respondent is guilty of laches.  Kings Properties Corporation, Inc. vs. Canuto A. Galido, G.R. No. 170023. November 27, 2009

Continue reading