Republic of the Philippines
G.R. No. 143264 April 23, 2012
LISAM ENTERPRISES, INC. represented by LOLITA A. SORIANO, and LOLITA A. SORIANO, Petitioners,
BANCO DE ORO UNIBANK, INC. (formerly PHILIPPINE COMMERCIAL INTERNATIONAL BANK),* LILIAN S. SORIANO, ESTATE OF LEANDRO A. SORIANO, JR., REGISTER OF DEEDS OF LEGASPI CITY, and JESUS L. SARTE, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
This resolves the Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, praying that the Resolution1 of the Regional Trial Court of Legaspi City (RTC), dated November 11, 1999, dismissing petitioners’ complaint, and its Order2 dated May 15, 2000, denying herein petitioners’ Motion for Reconsideration and Motion to Admit Amended Complaint, be reversed and set aside.
The records reveal the following antecedent facts.
On August 13, 1999, petitioners filed a Complaint against respondents for Annulment of Mortgage with Prayer for Temporary Restraining Order & Preliminary Injunction with Damages with the RTC of Legaspi City. Petitioner Lolita A. Soriano alleged that she is a stockholder of petitioner Lisam Enterprises, Inc. (LEI) and a member of its Board of Directors, designated as its Corporate Secretary. The Complaint also alleged the following:
4. Sometime in 1993, plaintiff LEI, in the course of its business operation, acquired by purchase a parcel of residential land with improvement situated at Legaspi City, covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 37866, copy attached as Annex "A," which property is more particularly described as follows:
x x x x
5. On or about 28 March 1996, defendant Lilian S. Soriano and the late Leandro A. Soriano, Jr., as husband and wife (hereafter "Spouses Soriano"), in their personal capacity and for their own use and benefit, obtained a loan from defendant PCIB (Legaspi Branch) (now known as Banco de Oro Unibank, Inc.) in the total amount of ₱20 Million;
6. That as security for the payment of the aforesaid credit accommodation, the late Leandro A. Soriano, Jr. and defendant Lilian S. Soriano, as president and treasurer, respectively of plaintiff LEI, but without authority and consent of the board of said plaintiff and with the use of a falsified board resolution, executed a real estate mortgage on 28 March 1996, over the above-described property of plaintiff LEI in favor of defendant PCIB, and had the same registered with the Office of the Registry of Deeds, Legaspi City, copy of the Real Estate Mortgage is hereto attached and marked as Annex "B," and made part hereof, to the prejudice of plaintiffs;
7. That specifically, the Spouses Soriano, with intent to defraud and prejudice plaintiff LEI and its stockholders, falsified the signatures of plaintiff Lolita A. Soriano as corporate secretary and director of plaintiff LEI, in a document denominated as board resolution purportedly issued by the board of plaintiff LEI on 6 November 1995, making it appear that plaintiff LEI's Board met and passed a board resolution on said date authorizing the Spouses Soriano to mortgage or encumber all or substantially all of the properties of plaintiff LEI, when in fact and in truth, no resolution of that nature was ever issued by the board of plaintiff LEI, nor a meeting was called to that effect, copy of the resolution in question is hereto attached and marked as Annex "C," and made part hereof;
8. That plaintiff Lolita A. Soriano as Corporate Secretary of plaintiff LEI, had never signed a board resolution nor issued a Secretary's Certificate to the effect that on 6 November 1995 a resolution was passed and approved by plaintiff LEI authorizing the Spouses Soriano as president and treasurer, respectively, to mortgage the above-described property of plaintiff LEI, neither did she appear personally before a notary public on 28 March 1996 to acknowledge or attest to the issuance of a supposed board resolution issued by plaintiff LEI on 6 November 1995;
9. That defendant PCIB, knowing fully well that the property being mortgaged by the Spouses Soriano belongs to plaintiff LEI, a corporation, negligently and miserably failed to exercise due care and prudence required of a banking institution. Specifically, defendant PCIB failed to investigate and to delve into the propriety of the issuance of or due execution of subject board resolution, which is the very foundation of the validity of subject real estate mortgage. Further, it failed to verify the genuineness of the signatures appearing in said board resolution nor to confirm the fact of its issuance with plaintiff Lolita A. Soriano, as the corporate secretary of plaintiff LEI. Furthermore, the height of its negligence was displayed when it disregarded or failed to notice that the questioned board resolution with a Secretary's Certificate was notarized only on 28 March 1996 or after the lapse of more than four (4) months from its purported date of issue on 6 November 1995. That these circumstances should have put defendant PCIB on notice of the flaws and infirmities of the questioned board resolution. Unfortunately, it negligently failed to exercise due care and prudence expected of a banking institution;
10. That having been executed without authority of the board of plaintiff LEI said real estate mortgage dated 28 March 1996 executed by the Spouses Soriano, as officers of plaintiff LEI in favor of defendant PCIB, is the null and void and has no legal effect upon said plaintiff. Consequently, said mortgage deed cannot be used nor resorted to by defendant PCIB against subject property of plaintiff LEI as no right or rights whatsoever were created nor granted thereunder by reason of its nullity;
11. Worst, sometime in August 1998, in order to remedy the defects in the mortgage transaction entered by the Spouses Soriano and defendant PCIB, the former, with the unlawful instigation of the latter, signed a document denominated as "Deed of Assumption of Loans and Mortgage Obligations and Amendment of Mortgage"; wherein in said document, plaintiff LEI was made to assume the ₱20 Million personal indebtedness of the Spouses Soriano with defendant PCIB, when in fact and in truth it never so assumed the same as no board resolution duly certified to by plaintiff Lolita A. Soriano as corporate secretary was ever issued to that effect, copy of said Deed is hereto attached and marked as Annex "D," and made part hereof;
12. Moreover, to make it appear that plaintiff LEI had consented to the execution of said deed of assumption of mortgage, the Spouses Soriano again, through the unlawful instigation and connivance of defendant PCIB, falsified the signature of plaintiff Lolita A. Soriano as corporate secretary of plaintiff LEI in a document denominated as "Corporate Resolution to Borrow," to make it appear that plaintiff LEI so authorized the Spouses Soriano to perform said acts for the corporation, when in fact and in truth no such authority or resolution was ever issued nor granted by plaintiff LEI, nor a meeting called and held for said purpose in accordance with its By-laws; copy of which is hereto attached and marked as Annex "E" and made part hereof;
13. That said irregular transactions of defendant Lilian S. Soriano and her husband Leandro A. Soriano, Jr., on one hand, and defendant PCIB, on the other, were discovered by plaintiff Lolita A. Soriano sometime in April 1999. That immediately upon discovery, said plaintiff, for herself and on behalf and for the benefit of plaintiff LEI, made demands upon defendants Lilian S. Soriano and the Estate of Leandro A. Soriano, Jr., to free subject property of plaintiff LEI from such mortgage lien, by paying in full their personal indebtedness to defendant PCIB in the principal sum of ₱20 Million. However, said defendants, for reason only known to them, continued and still continue to ignore said demands, to the damage and prejudice of plaintiffs;
14. Hence, on 25 June 1999, plaintiffs commenced a derivative suit against defendants Lilian S. Soriano and the Estate of Leandro A. Soriano, Jr., before the Securities and Exchange Commission, docketed as SEC Case No. 06-99-6339 for "Fraudulent Scheme and Unlawful Machination with Damages" in order to protect and preserve the rights of plaintiffs, copy of said complaint is hereto attached as Annex"F";
15. That plaintiffs, in order to seek complete relief from the unauthorized mortgage transaction between the Spouses Soriano and defendant PCIB, were further compelled to institute this instant case to seek the nullification of the real estate mortgage dated 28 March 1999. Consequently, plaintiffs were forced to retain the services of a lawyer with whom they contracted to pay ₱100,000.00 as and for attorney's fee;
16. That unfortunately, the plaintiffs learned that on 30 July 1999, defendant Sarte, in his capacity as Notary Public of Daraga, Albay and upon application of defendant PCIB, issued a notice of Auction/Foreclosure Sale of the property subject of the mortgage in question and has set the auction sale on 7 September 1999 x x x;
17. That by reason of the fraudulent and surreptitious schemes perpetrated by defendant Lilian S. Soriano and her husband, the late Leandro A. Soriano, Jr., in unlawful connivance and through the gross negligence of defendant PCIB, plaintiff Lolita A. Soriano, as stockholder, suffered sleepless nights, moral shock, wounded feeling, hurt pride and similar injuries, hence, should be awarded moral damages in the amount of ₱200,000.00.
After service of summons on all defendants, the RTC issued a temporary restraining order on August 25, 1990 and, after hearing, went on to issue a writ of preliminary injunction enjoining respondent PCIB (now known as Banco de Oro Unibank, Inc.) from proceeding with the auction sale of the subject property.
Respondents Lilian S. Soriano and the Estate of Leandro A. Soriano, Jr. filed an Answer dated September 25, 1999, stating that the Spouses Lilian and Leandro Soriano, Jr. were duly authorized by LEI to mortgage the subject property; that proceeds of the loan from respondent PCIB were for the use and benefit of LEI; that all notarized documents submitted to PCIB by the Spouses Soriano bore the genuine signature of Lolita Soriano; and that although the Spouses Soriano indeed received demands from petitioner Lolita Soriano for them to pay the loan, they gave satisfactory explanations to the latter why her demands could not be honored. It was, likewise, alleged in said Answer that it was respondent Lilian Soriano who should be entitled to moral damages and attorney's fees.
On September 28, 1999, respondent PCIB filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint on grounds of lack of legal capacity to sue, failure to state cause of action, and litis pendencia. Petitioners filed an Opposition thereto, while PCIB's co-defendants filed a Motion to Suspend Action.
On November 11, 1999, the RTC issued the first assailed Resolution dismissing petitioners' Complaint. Petitioners then filed a Motion for Reconsideration of said Resolution. While awaiting resolution of the motion for reconsideration, petitioners also filed, on January 4, 2000, a Motion to Admit Amended Complaint, amending paragraph 13 of the original complaint to read as follows:
13. That said irregular transactions of defendant Lilian S. Soriano and her husband Leandro A. Soriano, Jr., on one hand, and defendant PCIB, on the other, were discovered by plaintiff Lolita A. Soriano sometime in April 1999. That immediately upon discovery, said plaintiff, for herself and on behalf and for the benefit of plaintiff LEI, made demands upon defendant Lilian S. Soriano and the Estate of Leandro A. Soriano, Jr., to free subject property of plaintiff LEI from such mortgage lien, by paying in full their personal indebtedness to defendant PCIB in the principal sum of ₱20 Million. However, said defendants, for reason only known to them, continued and still continue to ignore said demands, to the damage and prejudice of plaintiffs; that plaintiff Lolita A. Soriano likewise made demands upon the Board of Directors of Lisam Enterprises, Inc., to make legal steps to protect the interest of the corporation from said fraudulent transaction, but unfortunately, until now, no such legal step was ever taken by the Board, hence, this action for the benefit and in behalf of the corporation;
On May 15, 2000, the trial court issued the questioned Order denying both the Motion for Reconsideration and the Motion to Admit Amended Complaint. The trial court held that no new argument had been raised by petitioners in their motion for reconsideration to address the fact of plaintiffs' failure to allege in the complaint that petitioner Lolita A. Soriano made demands upon the Board of Directors of Lisam Enterprises, Inc. to take steps to protect the interest of the corporation against the fraudulent acts of the Spouses Soriano and PCIB. The trial court further ruled that the Amended Complaint can no longer be admitted, because the same absolutely changed petitioners' cause of action.
Petitioners filed the present petition with this Court, alleging that what are involved are pure questions of law, to wit:
FIRST, WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT COMMITTED A REVERSIBLE ERROR WHEN IT DISMISSED THE ACTION ON THE GROUND THAT PETITIONER LOLITA A. SORIANO HAS NO LEGAL CAPACITY TO SUE AS SHE IS NOT A REAL PARTY-IN-INTEREST;
SECOND, WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT COMMITTED A REVERSIBLE ERROR WHEN IT DISMISSED THE ACTION ON THE GROUND THAT THERE IS ANOTHER ACTION PENDING BETWEEN THE SAME PARTIES FOR THE SAME CAUSE;
THIRD, WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT COMMITTED A REVERSIBLE ERROR WHEN IT DISMISSED THE ACTION ON THE GROUND THAT THE COMPLAINT STATES NO CAUSE OF ACTION;
FOURTH, WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT COMMITTED A REVERSIBLE ERROR WHEN IT DENIED THE ADMISSION OF PETITIONERS' AMENDED COMPLAINT FILED AS A MATTER OF RIGHT, AFTER THE ORDER OF DISMISSAL WAS ISSUED BUT BEFORE ITS FINALITY.
FIFTH, WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT ERRED IN DISMISSING THE ACTION, INSTEAD OF MERELY SUSPENDING THE SAME FOLLOWING THE DOCTRINE LAID DOWN IN UNION GLASS. 3
The petition is impressed with merit.
The Court shall first delve into the matter of the propriety of the denial of the motion to admit amended complaint. Pertinent provisions of Rule 10 of the Rules of Court provide as follows:
Sec. 2. Amendments as a matter of right. − A party may amend his pleadings once as a matter of right at any time before a responsive pleading is served x x x.
Sec. 3. Amendments by leave of court. − Except as provided in the next preceding section, substantial amendments may be made only upon leave of court. But such leave may be refused if it appears to the court that the motion was made with intent to delay. x x x
It should be noted that respondents Lilian S. Soriano and the Estate of Leandro A. Soriano, Jr. already filed their Answer, to petitioners' complaint, and the claims being asserted were made against said parties. A responsive pleading having been filed, amendments to the complaint may, therefore, be made only by leave of court and no longer as a matter of right. However, in Tiu v. Philippine Bank of Communications,4 the Court discussed this rule at length, to wit:
x x x [A]fter petitioners have filed their answer, Section 3, Rule 10 of the Rules of Court specifically allows amendment by leave of court. The said Section states:
SECTION 3. Amendments by leave of court. - Except as provided in the next preceding section, substantial amendments may be made only upon leave of court. But such leave may be refused if it appears to the court that the motion was made with intent to delay. Orders of the court upon the matters provided in this section shall be made upon motion filed in court, and after notice to the adverse party, and an opportunity to be heard.
This Court has emphasized the import of Section 3, Rule 10 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure in Valenzuela v. Court of Appeals, thus:
Interestingly, Section 3, Rule 10 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure amended the former rule in such manner that the phrase "or that the cause of action or defense is substantially altered" was stricken-off and not retained in the new rules. The clear import of such amendment in Section 3, Rule 10 is that under the new rules, "the amendment may (now) substantially alter the cause of action or defense." This should only be true, however, when despite a substantial change or alteration in the cause of action or defense, the amendments sought to be made shall serve the higher interests of substantial justice, and prevent delay and equally promote the laudable objective of the rules which is to secure a "just, speedy and inexpensive disposition of every action and proceeding."
The granting of leave to file amended pleading is a matter particularly addressed to the sound discretion of the trial court; and that discretion is broad, subject only to the limitations that the amendments should not substantially change the cause of action or alter the theory of the case, or that it was not made to delay the action. Nevertheless, as enunciated in Valenzuela, even if the amendment substantially alters the cause of action or defense, such amendment could still be allowed when it is sought to serve the higher interest of substantial justice, prevent delay, and secure a just, speedy and inexpensive disposition of actions and proceedings.
The courts should be liberal in allowing amendments to pleadings to avoid a multiplicity of suits and in order that the real controversies between the parties are presented, their rights determined, and the case decided on the merits without unnecessary delay. This liberality is greatest in the early stages of a lawsuit, especially in this case where the amendment was made before the trial of the case, thereby giving the petitioners all the time allowed by law to answer and to prepare for trial.1âwphi1
Furthermore, amendments to pleadings are generally favored and should be liberally allowed in furtherance of justice in order that every case, may so far as possible, be determined on its real facts and in order to speed up the trial of the case or prevent the circuitry of action and unnecessary expense. That is, unless there are circumstances such as inexcusable delay or the taking of the adverse party by surprise or the like, which might justify a refusal of permission to amend.5
Since, as explained above, amendments are generally favored, it would have been more fitting for the trial court to extend such liberality towards petitioners by admitting the amended complaint which was filed before the order dismissing the original complaint became final and executory. It is quite apparent that since trial proper had not yet even begun, allowing the amendment would not have caused any delay. Moreover, doing
so would have served the higher interest of justice as this would provide the best opportunity for the issues among all parties to be thoroughly threshed out and the rights of all parties finally determined. Hence, the Court overrules the trial court's denial of the motion to admit the amended complaint, and orders the admission of the same.
With the amendment stating "that plaintiff Lolita A. Soriano likewise made demands upon the Board of Directors of Lisam Enterprises, Inc., to make legal steps to protect the interest of the corporation from said fraudulent transaction, but unfortunately, until now, no such legal step was ever taken by the Board, hence, this action for the benefit and in behalf of the corporation," does the amended complaint now sufficiently state a cause of action? In Hi-Yield Realty, Incorporated v. Court of Appeals,6 the Court enumerated the requisites for filing a derivative suit, as follows:
a) the party bringing the suit should be a shareholder as of the time of the act or transaction complained of, the number of his shares not being material;
b) he has tried to exhaust intra-corporate remedies, i.e., has made a demand on the board of directors for the appropriate relief but the latter has failed or refused to heed his plea; and
c) the cause of action actually devolves on the corporation, the wrongdoing or harm having been, or being caused to the corporation and not to the particular stockholder bringing the suit.7
A reading of the amended complaint will reveal that all the foregoing requisites had been alleged therein. Hence, the amended complaint remedied the defect in the original complaint and now sufficiently states a cause of action.
Respondent PCIB should not complain that admitting the amended complaint after they pointed out a defect in the original complaint would be unfair to them. They should have been well aware that due to the changes made by the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, amendments may now substantially alter the cause of action or defense. It should not have been a surprise to them that petitioners would redress the defect in the original complaint by substantially amending the same, which course of action is now allowed under the new rules.
The next question then is, upon admission of the amended complaint, would it still be proper for the trial court to dismiss the complaint? The Court answers in the negative.
Saura v. Saura, Jr.8 is closely analogous to the present case. In Saura,9 the petitioners therein, stockholders of a corporation, sold a disputed real property owned by the corporation, despite the existence of a case in the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) between stockholders for annulment of subscription, recovery of corporate assets and funds, etc. The sale was done without the knowledge of the other stockholders, thus, said stockholders filed a separate case for annulment of sale, declaration of nullity of deed of exchange, recovery of possession, etc., against the stockholders who took part in the sale, and the buyer of the property, filing said case with the regular court (RTC). Petitioners therein also filed a motion to dismiss the complaint for annulment of sale filed with the RTC, on the ground of forum shopping, lack of jurisdiction, lack of cause of action, and litis pendentia among others. The Court held that the complaint for annulment of sale was properly filed with the regular court, because the buyer of the property had no intra-corporate relationship with the stockholders, hence, the buyer could not be joined as party-defendant in the SEC case. To include said buyer as a party-defendant in the case pending with the SEC would violate the then existing rule on jurisdiction over intra-corporate disputes. The Court also struck down the argument that there was forum shopping, ruling that the issue of recovery of corporate assets and funds pending with the SEC is a totally different issue from the issue of the validity of the sale, so a decision in the SEC case would not amount to res judicata in the case before the regular court. Thus, the Court merely ordered the suspension of the proceedings before the RTC until the final outcome of the SEC case.
The foregoing pronouncements of the Court are exactly in point with the issues in the present case.1âwphi1 Here, the complaint is for annulment of mortgage with the mortgagee bank as one of the defendants, thus, as held in Saura,10 jurisdiction over said complaint is lodged with the regular courts because the mortgagee bank has no intra-corporate relationship with the stockholders. There can also be no forum shopping, because there is no identity of issues. The issue being threshed out in the SEC case is the due execution, authenticity or validity of board resolutions and other documents used to facilitate the execution of the mortgage, while the issue in the case filed by petitioners with the RTC is the validity of the mortgage itself executed between the bank and the corporation, purportedly represented by the spouses Leandro and Lilian Soriano, the President and Treasurer of petitioner LEI, respectively. Thus, there is no reason to dismiss the complaint in this case.
IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the Resolution of the Regional Trial Court of Legaspi City, Branch 4, dated November 11, 1999, dismissing petitioners’ complaint in Civil Case No. 9729, and its Order dated May 15, 2000, denying herein petitioners’ Motion for Reconsideration and Motion to Admit Amended Complaint, are hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Regional Trial Court of Legaspi City, Branch 4, is hereby DIRECTED to ADMIT the Amended Complaint.
Considering further, that this case has been pending for some time and, under R.A. No. 8799, it is now the regular courts which have jurisdiction over intra-corporate disputes, the Regional Trial Court of Legaspi City, Branch 4 is hereby DIRECTED to PROCEED with dispatch in trying Civil Case No. 9729.
DIOSDADO M. PERALTA
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
|ROBERTO A. ABAD
|JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA
ESTELA M. PERLAS-BERNABE
A T T E S T A T I O N
I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court’s Division.
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
Third Division, Chairperson
C E R T I F I C A T I O N
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the Division Chairperson’s Attestation, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court’s Division.
RENATO C. CORONA
* Per Manifestation dated January 26, 2012, filed by said respondent.
1 Penned by Judge Gregorio A. Consulta.
3 Rollo, p. 5.
4 G.R. No. 151932, August 19, 2009, 596 SCRA 432.
5 Id. at 444-445.
6 G.R. No. 168863, June 23, 2009, 590 SCRA 548.
7 Id. at 556.
8 G.R. No. 136159, September 1, 1999, 313 SCRA 465.
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