Matling Industrial vs Coros (G.R. No. 157802 October 13, 2010)

Matling Industrial and Commercial Corporation vs Coros
G.R. No. 157802 October 13, 2010

Facts: After his dismissal by Matling as its Vice President for Finance and Administration, the respondent filed on August 10, 2000 a complaint for illegal suspension and illegal dismissal against Matling and some of its corporate officers (petitioners) in the NLRC, Sub-Regional Arbitration Branch XII, Iligan City. The petitioners moved to dismiss the complaint, raising the ground, among others, that the complaint pertained to the jurisdiction of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) due to the controversy being intracorporate inasmuch as the respondent was a member of Matlings Board of Directors aside from being its Vice-President for Finance and Administration prior to his termination.  The respondent opposed the petitioners motion to dismiss, insisting that his status as a member of Matlings Board of Directors was doubtful, considering that he had not been formally elected as such; that he did not own a single share of stock in Matling, considering that he had been made to sign in blank an undated indorsement of the certificate of stock he had been given in 1992; that Matling had taken back and retained the certificate of stock in its custody; and that even assuming that he had been a Director of Matling, he had been removed as the Vice President for Finance and Administration, not as a Director, a fact that the notice of his termination dated April 10, 2000 showed. On October 16, 2000, the LA granted the petitioners motion to dismiss, ruling that the respondent was a corporate officer because he was occupying the position of Vice President for Finance and Administration and at the same time was a Member of the Board of Directors of Matling; and that, consequently, his removal was a corporate act of Matling and the controversy resulting from such removal was under the jurisdiction of the SEC, pursuant to Section 5, paragraph (c) of Presidential Decree No. 902.

Issue: Whether or not the respondent is a corporate officer within the jurisdiction of the regular courts.

Held: No. As a rule, the illegal dismissal of an officer or other employee of a private employer is properly cognizable by the LA. This is pursuant to Article 217 (a) 2 of the Labor Code, as amended, which provides as follows:

Article 217. Jurisdiction of the Labor Arbiters and the Commission. – (a) Except as otherwise provided under this Code, the Labor Arbiters shall have original and exclusive jurisdiction to hear and decide, within thirty (30) calendar days after the submission of the case by the parties for decision without extension, even in the absence of stenographic notes, the following cases involving all workers, whether agricultural or non-agricultural:  

1. Unfair labor practice cases;  
2. Termination disputes;  
3. If accompanied with a claim for reinstatement, those cases that workers may file involving wages, rates of pay, hours of work and other terms and conditions of employment;  
4. Claims for actual, moral, exemplary and other forms of damages arising from the employer-employee relations;  
5. Cases arising from any violation of Article 264 of this Code, including questions involving the legality of strikes and lockouts; and  
6. Except claims for Employees Compensation, Social Security, Medicare and maternity benefits, all other claims arising from employer-employee relations, including those of persons in domestic or household service, involving an amount exceeding five thousand pesos (P 5,000.00) regardless of whether accompanied with a claim for reinstatement.

(b) The Commission shall have exclusive appellate jurisdiction over all cases decided by Labor Arbiters.  (c) Cases arising from the interpretation or implementation of collective bargaining agreements and those arising from the interpretation or enforcement of company personnel policies shall be disposed of by the Labor Arbiter by referring the same to the grievance machinery and voluntary arbitration as may be provided in said agreements.

Where the complaint for illegal dismissal concerns a corporate officer, however, the controversy falls under the jurisdiction of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), because the controversy arises out of intra-corporate or partnership relations between and among stockholders, members, or associates, or 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 the controversy concerns their individual franchise or right to exist as such entity; or because the controversy involves the election or appointment of a director, trustee, officer, or manager of such corporation, partnership, or association. Such controversy, among others, is known as an intra-corporate dispute.

Effective on August 8, 2000, upon the passage of Republic Act No. 8799, otherwise known as The Securities Regulation Code, the SECs jurisdiction over all intra-corporate disputes was transferred to the RTC, pursuant to Section 5.2 of RA No. 8799.

Thus, pursuant to the above provision (Section 25 of the Corporation Code), whoever are the corporate officers enumerated in the by-laws are the exclusive Officers of the corporation and the Board has no power to create other Offices without amending first the corporate By-laws. However, the Board may create appointive positions other than the positions of corporate Officers, but the persons occupying such positions are not considered as corporate officers within the meaning of Section 25 of the Corporation Code and are not empowered to exercise the functions of the corporate Officers, except those functions lawfully delegated to them. Their functions and duties are to be determined by the Board of Directors/Trustees.  

Moreover, the Board of Directors of Matling could not validly delegate the power to create a corporate office to the President, in light of Section 25 of the Corporation Code requiring the Board of Directors itself to elect the corporate officers. Verily, the power to elect the corporate officers was a discretionary power that the law exclusively vested in the Board of Directors, and could not be delegated to subordinate officers or agents. The office of Vice President for Finance and Administration created by Matlings President pursuant to By Law No. V was an ordinary, not a corporate, office.  

The criteria for distinguishing between corporate officers who may be ousted from office at will, on one hand, and ordinary corporate employees who may only be terminated for just cause, on the other hand, do not depend on the nature of the services performed, but on the manner of creation of the office. In the respondents case, he was supposedly at once an employee, a stockholder, and a Director of Matling. The circumstances surrounding his appointment to office must be fully considered to determine whether the dismissal constituted an intra-corporate controversy or a labor termination dispute. We must also consider whether his status as Director and stockholder had any relation at all to his appointment and subsequent dismissal as Vice President for Finance and Administration.

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