Whether the motion for reconsideration raises any new matter or cogent reason to warrant a reconsideration of this Court’s Resolution of September 24, 2003.

Motion for Reconsideration

Three principal arguments were raised in the petitioner’s Motion for Reconsideration. First, that a fair resolution of the case should be based on contract law, not on policy considerations; the contracts do not authorize the right to top to be derived from the right of first refusal. Second, that neither the right of first refusal nor the right to top can be legally exercised by the consortium which is not the proper party granted such right under either the JVA or the Asset Specific Bidding Rules (ASBR). Third, that the maintenance of the 60%-40% relationship between the National Investment and Development Corporation (NIDC) and KAWASAKI arises from contract and from the Constitution because PHILSECO is a landholding corporation and need not be a public utility to be bound by the 60%-40% constitutional limitation.

On the other hand, private respondent PHILYARDS asserts that J.G. Summit has not been able to show compelling reasons to warrant a reconsideration of the Decision of the Court. PHILYARDS denies that the Decision is based mainly on policy considerations and points out that it is premised on principles governing obligations and contracts and corporate law such as the rule requiring respect for contractual stipulations, upholding rights of first refusal, and recognizing the assignable nature of contracts rights. Also, the ruling that shipyards are not public utilities relies on established case law and fundamental rules of statutory construction. PHILYARDS stresses that KAWASAKI’s right of first refusal or even the right to top is not limited to the 40% equity of the latter. On the landholding issue raised by J.G. Summit, PHILYARDS emphasizes that this is a non-issue and even involves a question of fact. Even assuming that this Court can take cognizance of such question of fact even without the benefit of a trial, PHILYARDS opines that landholding by PHILSECO at the time of the bidding is irrelevant because what is essential is that ultimately a qualified entity would eventually hold PHILSECO’s real estate properties. Further, given the assignable nature of the right of first refusal, any applicable nationality restrictions, including landholding limitations, would not affect the right of first refusal itself, but only the manner of its exercise. Also, PHILYARDS argues that if this Court takes cognizance of J.G. Summit’s allegations of fact regarding PHILSECO’s landholding, it must also recognize PHILYARDS’ assertions that PHILSECO’s landholdings were sold to another corporation. As regards the right of first refusal, private respondent explains that KAWASAKI’s reduced shareholdings (from 40% to 2.59%) did not translate to a deprivation or loss of its contractually granted right of first refusal. Also, the bidding was valid because PHILYARDS exercised the right to top and it was of no moment that losing bidders later joined PHILYARDS in raising the purchase price.

In cadence with the private respondent PHILYARDS, public respondents COP and APT contend:

1. The conversion of the right of first refusal into a right to top by 5% does not violate any provision in the JVA between NIDC and KAWASAKI.

2. PHILSECO is not a public utility and therefore not governed by the constitutional restriction on foreign ownership.

3. The petitioner is legally estopped from assailing the validity of the proceedings of the public bidding as it voluntarily submitted itself to the terms of the ASBR which included the provision on the right to top.

4. The right to top was exercised by PHILYARDS as the nominee of KAWASAKI and the fact that PHILYARDS formed a consortium to raise the required amount to exercise the right to top the highest bid by 5% does not violate the JVA or the ASBR.

5. The 60%-40% Filipino-foreign constitutional requirement for the acquisition of lands does not apply to PHILSECO because as admitted by petitioner itself, PHILSECO no longer owns real property.

6. Petitioner’s motion to elevate the case to the Court en banc is baseless and would only delay the termination of this case.

In a Consolidated Comment dated March 8, 2004, J.G. Summit countered the arguments of the public and private respondents in this wise:

  1. The award by the APT of 87.67% shares of PHILSECO to PHILYARDS with losing bidders through the exercise of a right to top, which is contrary to law and the constitution is null and void for being violative of substantive due process and the abuse of right provision in the Civil Code.
  1. The bidders[’] right to top was actually exercised by losing bidders.
    1. The right to top or the right of first refusal cannot co-exist with a genuine competitive bidding.
    1. The benefits derived from the right to top were unwarranted.
  • The landholding issue has been a legitimate issue since the start of this case but is shamelessly ignored by the respondents.
  1. The landholding issue is not a non-issue.
    1. The landholding issue does not pose questions of fact.
    1. That PHILSECO owned land at the time that the right of first refusal was agreed upon and at the time of the bidding are most relevant.
    1. Whether a shipyard is a public utility is not the core issue in this case.
  • Fraud and bad faith attend the alleged conversion of an inexistent right of first refusal to the right to top.
  1. The history behind the birth of the right to top shows fraud and bad faith.
    1. The right of first refusal was, indeed, “effectively useless.”
  • Petitioner is not legally estopped to challenge the right to top in this case.
  1. Estoppel is unavailing as it would stamp validity to an act that is prohibited by law or against public policy.
    1. Deception was patent; the right to top was an attractive nuisance.
    1. The 10% bid deposit was placed in escrow.

J.G. Summit’s insistence that the right to top cannot be sourced from the right of first refusal is not new and we have already ruled on the issue in our Resolution of September 24, 2003. We upheld the mutual right of first refusal in the JVA. We also ruled that nothing in the JVA prevents KAWASAKI from acquiring more than 40% of PHILSECO’s total capitalization. Likewise, nothing in the JVA or ASBR bars the conversion of the right of first refusal to the right to top. In sum, nothing new and of significance in the petitioner’s pleading warrants a reconsideration of our ruling.

Likewise, we already disposed of the argument that neither the right of first refusal nor the right to top can legally be exercised by the consortium which is not the proper party granted such right under either the JVA or the ASBR. Thus, we held:

The fact that the losing bidder, Keppel Consortium (composed of Keppel, SM Group, Insular Life Assurance, Mitsui and ICTSI), has joined PHILYARDS in the latter’s effort to raise P2.131 billion necessary in exercising the right to top is not contrary to law, public policy or public morals. There is nothing in the ASBR that bars the losing bidders from joining either the winning bidder (should the right to top is not exercised) or KAWASAKI/PHI (should it exercise its right to top as it did), to raise the purchase price. The petitioner did not allege, nor was it shown by competent evidence, that the participation of the losing bidders in the public bidding was done with fraudulent intent. Absent any proof of fraud, the formation by [PHILYARDS] of a consortium is legitimate in a free enterprise system. The appellate court is thus correct in holding the petitioner estopped from questioning the validity of the transfer of the National Government’s shares in PHILSECO to respondent.

Further, we see no inherent illegality on PHILYARDS’ act in seeking funding from parties who were losing bidders. This is a purely commercial decision over which the State should not interfere absent any legal infirmity. It is emphasized that the case at bar involves the disposition of shares in a corporation which the government sought to privatize. As such, the persons with whom PHILYARDS desired to enter into business with in order to raise funds to purchase the shares are basically its business. This is in contrast to a case involving a contract for the operation of or construction of a government infrastructure where the identity of the buyer/bidder or financier constitutes an important consideration. In such cases, the government would have to take utmost precaution to protect public interest by ensuring that the parties with which it is contracting have the ability to satisfactorily construct or operate the infrastructure.

On the landholding issue, J.G. Summit submits that since PHILSECO is a landholding company, KAWASAKI could exercise its right of first refusal only up to 40% of the shares of PHILSECO due to the constitutional prohibition on landholding by corporations with more than 40% foreign-owned equity. It further argues that since KAWASAKI already held at least 40% equity in PHILSECO, the right of first refusal was inutile and as such, could not subsequently be converted into the right to top.  Petitioner also asserts that, at present, PHILSECO continues to violate the constitutional provision on landholdings as its shares are more than 40% foreign-owned. PHILYARDS admits that it may have previously held land but had already divested such landholdings. It contends, however, that even if PHILSECO owned land, this would not affect the right of first refusal but only the exercise thereof. If the land is retained, the right of first refusal, being a property right, could be assigned to a qualified party. In the alternative, the land could be divested before the exercise of the right of first refusal. In the case at bar, respondents assert that since the right of first refusal was validly converted into a right to top, which was exercised not by KAWASAKI, but by PHILYARDS which is a Filipino corporation (i.e., 60% of its shares are owned by Filipinos), then there is no violation of the Constitution. At first, it would seem that questions of fact beyond cognizance by this Court were involved in the issue. However, the records show that PHILYARDS admits it had owned land up until the time of the bidding. Hence, the only issue is whether KAWASAKI had a valid right of first refusal over PHILSECO shares under the JVA considering that PHILSECO owned land until the time of the bidding and KAWASAKI already held 40% of PHILSECO’s equity.

We uphold the validity of the mutual rights of first refusal under the JVA between KAWASAKI and NIDC. First of all, the right of first refusal is a property right of PHILSECO shareholders, KAWASAKI and NIDC, under the terms of their JVA. This right allows them to purchase the shares of their co-shareholder before they are offered to a third party. The agreement of co-shareholders to mutually grant this right to each other, by itself, does not constitute a violation of the provisions of the Constitution limiting land ownership to Filipinos and Filipino corporations. As PHILYARDS correctly puts it, if PHILSECO still owns land, the right of first refusal can be validly assigned to a qualified Filipino entity in order to maintain the 60%-40% ratio. This transfer, by itself, does not amount to a violation of the Anti-Dummy Laws, absent proof of any fraudulent intent. The transfer could be made either to a nominee or such other party which the holder of the right of first refusal feels it can comfortably do business with. Alternatively, PHILSECO may divest of its landholdings, in which case KAWASAKI, in exercising its right of first refusal, can exceed 40% of PHILSECO’s equity. In fact, it can even be said that if the foreign shareholdings of a landholding corporation exceeds 40%, it is not the foreign stockholders’ ownership of the shares which is adversely affected but the capacity of the corporation to own land – that is, the corporation becomes disqualified to own land. This finds support under the basic corporate law principle that the corporation and its stockholders are separate juridical entities. In this vein, the right of first refusal over shares pertains to the shareholders whereas the capacity to own land pertains to the corporation. Hence, the fact that PHILSECO owns land cannot deprive stockholders of their right of first refusal.  No law disqualifies a person from purchasing shares in a landholding corporation even if the latter will exceed the allowed foreign equity, what the law disqualifies is the corporation from owning land. This is the clear import of the following provisions in the Constitution:

Section 2. All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State. With the exception of agricultural lands, all other natural resources shall not be alienated. The exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the State. The State may directly undertake such activities, or it may enter into co-production, joint venture, or production-sharing agreements with Filipino citizens, or corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of whose capital is owned by such citizens. Such agreements may be for a period not exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for not more than twenty-five years, and under such terms and conditions as may be provided by law. In cases of water rights for irrigation, water supply, fisheries, or industrial uses other than the development of water power, beneficial use may be the measure and limit of the grant.

xxx               xxx               xxx


Section 7. Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private lands shall be transferred or conveyed except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain. (emphases supplied)

The petitioner further argues that “an option to buy land is void in itself (Philippine Banking Corporation v. Lui She, 21 SCRA 52 [1967]). The right of first refusal granted to KAWASAKI, a Japanese corporation, is similarly void. Hence, the right to top, sourced from the right of first refusal, is also void.” Contrary to the contention of petitioner, the case of Lui She did not that say “an option to buy land is void in itself,” for we ruled as follows:

x x x To be sure, a lease to an alien for a reasonable period is valid. So is an option giving an alien the right to buy real property on condition that he is granted Philippine citizenship. As this Court said in Krivenko vs. Register of Deeds:

[A]liens are not completely excluded by the Constitution from the use of lands for residential purposes. Since their residence in the Philippines is temporary, they may be granted temporary rights such as a lease contract which is not forbidden by the Constitution. Should they desire to remain here forever and share our fortunes and misfortunes, Filipino citizenship is not impossible to acquire.

But if an alien is given not only a lease of, but also an option to buy, a piece of land, by virtue of which the Filipino owner cannot sell or otherwise dispose of his property, this to last for 50 years, then it becomes clear that the arrangement is a virtual transfer of ownership whereby the owner divests himself in stages not only of the right to enjoy the land (jus possidendi, jus utendi, jus fruendi and jus abutendi) but also of the right to dispose of it (jus disponendi) — rights the sum total of which make up ownership. It is just as if today the possession is transferred, tomorrow, the use, the next day, the disposition, and so on, until ultimately all the rights of which ownership is made up are consolidated in an alien. And yet this is just exactly what the parties in this case did within this pace of one year, with the result that Justina Santos'[s] ownership of her property was reduced to a hollow concept. If this can be done, then the Constitutional ban against alien landholding in the Philippines, as announced in Krivenko vs. Register of Deeds, is indeed in grave peril. (emphases supplied; Citations omitted)

In Lui She, the option to buy was invalidated because it amounted to a virtual transfer of ownership as the owner could not sell or dispose of his properties. The contract in Lui She prohibited the owner of the land from selling, donating, mortgaging, or encumbering the property during the 50-year period of the option to buy. This is not so in the case at bar where the mutual right of first refusal in favor of NIDC and KAWASAKI does not amount to a virtual transfer of land to a non-Filipino. In fact, the case at bar involves a right of first refusal over shares of stock while the Lui She case involves an option to buy the land itself. As discussed earlier, there is a distinction between the shareholder’s ownership of shares and the corporation’s ownership of land arising from the separate juridical personalities of the corporation and its shareholders.

We note that in its Motion for Reconsideration, J.G. Summit alleges that PHILSECO continues to violate the Constitution as its foreign equity is above 40% and yet owns long-term leasehold rights which are real rights. It cites Article 415 of the Civil Code which includes in the definition of immovable property, “contracts for public works, and servitudes and other real rights over immovable property.” Any existing landholding, however, is denied by PHILYARDS citing its recent financial statements. First, these are questions of fact, the veracity of which would require introduction of evidence. The Court needs to validate these factual allegations based on competent and reliable evidence. As such, the Court cannot resolve the questions they pose. Second, J.G. Summit misreads the provisions of the Constitution cited in its own pleadings, to wit:

29.2 Petitioner has consistently pointed out in the past that private respondent is not a 60%-40% corporation, and this violates the Constitution x x x The violation continues to this day because under the law, it continues to own real property…

xxx   xxx   xxx

32. To review the constitutional provisions involved, Section 14, Article XIV of the 1973 Constitution (the JVA was signed in 1977), provided:

“Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private lands shall be transferred or conveyed except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain.”

32.1 This provision is the same as Section 7, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution.

32.2 Under the Public Land Act, corporations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain are corporations at least 60% of which is owned by Filipino citizens (Sec. 22, Commonwealth Act 141, as amended). (emphases supplied)

As correctly observed by the public respondents, the prohibition in the Constitution applies only to ownership of land. It does not extend to immovable or real property as defined under Article 415 of the Civil Code. Otherwise, we would have a strange situation where the ownership of immovable property such as trees, plants and growing fruit attached to the land would be limited to Filipinos and Filipino corporations only.

III.


WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the petitioner’s Motion for Reconsideration is DENIED WITH FINALITY and the decision appealed from is AFFIRMED. The Motion to Elevate This Case to the Court En Banc is likewise DENIED for lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.

SOURCE: [ G.R. NO. 124293, January 31, 2005 ] J.G. SUMMIT HOLDINGS, INC., PETITIONER, VS. COURT OF APPEALS; COMMITTEE ON PRIVATIZATION, ITS CHAIRMAN AND MEMBERS; ASSET PRIVATIZATION TRUST; AND PHILYARDS HOLDINGS, INC., RESPONDENTS. Tags: Alcantara Alcoy moral damages Alegria actual damages Aloguinsan Argao Asturias Badian Balamban Bantayan Barili Boljoon Borbon Carmen Catmon Compostela Consolacion Cordova Daanbantayan Dumaguete Bais Sibulan Tampi Bacong Negros Bacolod Separation pay Resign Resignation Back wages Backwages Length of service pay benefit employee employer relationship Silay Kabankalan Daan Bantayan Dalaguete Dumanjug Ginatilan Liloan compensatory damages Madridejos Malabuyoc Medellin Minglanilla Moalboal Oslob Pilar Pinamungajan Poro Ronda Samboan San Fernando San Francisco San Remigio Sante Fe Santander Sibonga Sogod Tabogon Tabuelan Tuburan attorney’s fees Tudela exemplary damages Camotes General Luna Siargao Cagayan Davao Kidapawan Attorney Abogado Lawyer Architect Real Estate Broker nominal damages Sales Agent Properties for Sale Looking for Buyers Design Build House and Lot for Sale for Rent Talisay City Mandaue City Lapu Lapu Lapu-Lapu City Yncierto Sesante Villanueva Ruz Jan Edmond Marc Tim Timothy temperate damages Luz liquidated damages Kristin tct transfer certificate of title tax declaration birth certificate relocation survey surveying judicial titling administrative titling patent title denr cenro foreshore lease ecc environmental compliance certificate design build architect cebu engineer interior design designer residential commercial cebu property warehouse for rent for lease marc Christian yncierto ruz jan Edmond yncierto ruz Kristin Villanueva ruz Edmond mabalot ruz marriage certificate timber land forest land watershed agricultural lot land use conversion hearing trial illegal drugs trial lawyer business corporate lawyer labor lawyer immigration law bureau of immigration cebu 9g visa search warrant warrant of arrest motion to quash information complaint police officers buy bust physical suffering shocked horrified mental anguish fright serious anxiety besmirched reputation sleepless nights wounded feelings moral shock social humiliation similar injuries

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