Case Digest: Marc II v. Joson

G.R. No. 171993: December 12, 2011

MARC II MARKETING, INC. and LUCILA V. JOSON, Petitioners, v. ALFREDO M. JOSON, Respondent.

PEREZ, J.:

FACTS:


Before petitioner corporation was officially incorporated, respondent has already been engaged by petitioner Lucila, in her capacity as President of Marc Marketing, Inc., to work as the General Manager of petitioner corporation. Petitioner corporation was officially incorporated and registered with the SEC. Accordingly, Marc Marketing, Inc. was made non-operational. Respondent continued to discharge his duties as General Manager but this time under petitioner corporation.

Petitioner corporations Board of Directors conducted a meeting where respondent was appointed as one of its corporate officers with the designation or title of General Manager to function as a managing director with other duties and responsibilities that the Board of Directors may provide and authorized.

Nevertheless, on 30 June 1997, petitioner corporation decided to stop and cease its operations due to poor sales collection aggravated by the inefficient management of its affairs. On the same date, it formally informed respondent of the cessation of its business operation. Concomitantly, respondent was apprised of the termination of his services as General Manager since his services as such would no longer be necessary for the winding up of its affairs.

Feeling aggrieved, respondent filed a Complaint for Reinstatement and Money Claim against petitioners before the Labor Arbiter. Labor Arbiter rendered his Decision in favor of respondent. Aggrieved, petitioners appealed the aforesaid Labor Arbiters Decision to the NLRC.

NLRC ruled in favor of petitioners by giving credence to the Secretarys Certificate, which evidenced petitioner corporations Board of Directors meeting in which a resolution was approved appointing respondent as its corporate officer with designation as General Manager. Therefrom, the NLRC reversed and set aside the Labor Arbiters Decision and dismissed respondents Complaint for want of jurisdiction.

When respondents Motion for Reconsideration was denied, he filed a Petition for Certiorari with the Court of Appeals ascribing grave abuse of discretion on the part of the NLRC. Court of Appeals rendered its now assailed Decision declaring that the Labor Arbiter has jurisdiction over the present controversy. It upheld the finding of the Labor Arbiter that respondent was a mere employee of petitioner corporation, who has been illegally dismissed from employment without valid cause and without due process.

ISSUE:

Whether or not respondent was a mere employee of petitioner corporation, who has been illegally dismissed from employment without valid cause and without due process.

Consequently, whether or not NLRC has jurisdiction over the instant case?

HELD:Court of Appeals decision is sustained.

LABOR LAW


While Article 217(a)2 of the Labor Code, as amended, provides that it is the Labor Arbiter who has the original and exclusive jurisdiction over cases involving termination or dismissal of workers when the person dismissed or terminated is a corporate officer, the case automatically falls within the province of the RTC. The dismissal of a corporate officer is always regarded as a corporate act and/or an intra-corporate controversy.

Under Section 5 of Presidential Decree No. 902-A, intra-corporate controversies are those controversies arising out of intra-corporate or partnership relations, between and among stockholders, members or associates; between any or all of them and the corporation, partnership or association of which they are stockholders, members or associates, respectively; and between such corporation, partnership or association and the State insofar as it concerns their individual franchise or right to exist as such entity.It also includes controversies in the election or appointments of directors, trustees,officers or managers of such corporations, partnerships or associations.

The aforesaid Section 25 of the Corporation Code, particularly the phrase "such other officers as may be provided for in the by-laws," has been clarified and elaborated in this Courts recent pronouncement in Matling Industrial and Commercial Corporation v. Coros, where it held, thus:

Conformably with Section 25, a position must be expressly mentioned in the [b]y-[l]aws in order to be considered as a corporate office. Thus, the creation of an office pursuant to or under a [b]y-[l]aw enabling provision is not enough to make a position a corporate office. [In] Guerrea v. Lezama [citation omitted] the first ruling on the matter, held that the only officers of a corporation were those given that character either by the Corporation Code or by the [b]y-[l]aws; the rest of the corporate officers could be considered only as employees or subordinate officials. Thus, it was held in Easycall Communications Phils., Inc. v. King [citation omitted]:

An "office" is created by the charter of the corporation and the officer is elected by the directors or stockholders. On the other hand, an employee occupies no office and generally is employed not by the action of the directors or stockholders but by the managing officer of the corporation who also determines the compensation to be paid to such employee.

x x x x

This interpretation is the correct application of Section 25 of the Corporation Code, which plainly states that the corporate officers are the President, Secretary, Treasurer and such other officers as may be provided for in the [b]y-[l]aws. Accordingly, the corporate officers in the context of PD No. 902-A are exclusively those who are given that character either by the Corporation Code or by the corporations [b]y[l]aws.

A careful perusal of petitioner corporations by-laws, particularly paragraph 1, Section 1, Article IV, would explicitly reveal that its corporate officers are composed only of:

(1) Chairman;
(2) President;
(3) one or more Vice-President;
(4) Treasurer; and
(5) Secretary.

The position of General Manager was not among those enumerated.

With the given circumstances and in conformity with Matling Industrial and Commercial Corporation v. Coros, this Court rules that respondent was not a corporate officer of petitioner corporation because his position as General Manager was not specifically mentioned in the roster of corporate officers in its corporate by-laws. The enabling clause in petitioner corporations by-laws empowering its Board of Directors to create additional officers, i.e., General Manager, and the alleged subsequent passage of a board resolution to that effect cannot make such position a corporate office. Matling clearly enunciated that the board of directors has no power to create other corporate offices without first amending the corporate by-laws so as to include therein the newly created corporate office. Though the board of directors may create appointive positions other than the positions of corporate officers, the persons occupying such positions cannot be viewed as corporate officers under Section 25 of the Corporation Code. In view thereof, this Court holds that unless and until petitioner corporations by-laws is amended for the inclusion of General Manager in the list of its corporate officers, such position cannot be considered as a corporate office within the realm of Section 25 of the Corporation Code.

It is also of no moment that respondent, being petitioner corporations General Manager, was given the functions of a managing director by its Board of Directors. As held in Matling, the only officers of a corporation are those given that character either by the Corporation Code or by the corporate by-laws. It follows then that the corporate officers enumerated in the by-laws are the exclusive officers of the corporation while the rest could only be regarded as mere employees or subordinate officials.Respondent, in this case, though occupying a high ranking and vital position in petitioner corporation but which position was not specifically enumerated or mentioned in the latters by-laws, can only be regarded as its employee or subordinate official.

That respondent was also a director and a stockholder of petitioner corporation will not automatically make the case fall within the ambit of intra-corporate controversy and be subjected to RTCs jurisdiction. To reiterate, not all conflicts between the stockholders and the corporation are classified as intra-corporate. Other factors such as the status or relationship of the parties and the nature of the question that is the subject of the controversy must be considered in determining whether the dispute involves corporate matters so as to regard them as intra-corporate controversies. As previously discussed, respondent was not a corporate officer of petitioner corporation but a mere employee thereof so there was no intra-corporate relationship between them. With regard to the subject of the controversy or issue involved herein, i.e., respondents dismissal as petitioner corporations General Manager, the same did not present or relate to an intra-corporate dispute.

With all the foregoing, this Court is fully convinced that, indeed, respondent, though occupying the General Manager position, was not a corporate officer of petitioner corporation rather he was merely its employee occupying a high-ranking position.

Accordingly, respondents dismissal as petitioner corporations General Manager did not amount to an intra-corporate controversy. Jurisdiction therefor properly belongs with the Labor Arbiter and not with the RTC.

In termination cases, the burden of proving just and valid cause for dismissing an employee from his employment rests upon the employer. The latter's failure to discharge that burden would necessarily result in a finding that the dismissal is unjustified.

DENIED.

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