Tan vs Sycip (G.R. No. 153468 August 17, 2006)

Tan vs Sycip
G.R. No. 153468 August 17, 2006

Facts: Petitioner Grace Christian High School (GCHS) is a non-stock, non-profit educational corporation with fifteen (15) regular members, who also constitute the board of trustees.During the annual members meeting held on April 6, 1998, there were only eleven (11) living member-trustees, as four (4) had already died. Out of the eleven, seven (7) attended the meeting through their respective proxies. The meeting was convened and chaired by Atty. Sabino Padilla Jr. over the objection of Atty. Antonio C. Pacis, who argued that there was no quorum. In the meeting, Petitioners Ernesto Tanchi, Edwin Ngo, Virginia Khoo, and Judith Tan were voted to replace the four deceased member-trustees. When the controversy reached the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), petitioners maintained that the deceased member-trustees should not be counted in the computation of the quorum because, upon their death, members automatically lost all their rights (including the right to vote) and interests in the corporation. SEC Hearing Officer Malthie G. Militar declared the April 6, 1998 meeting null and void for lack of quorum. She held that the basis for determining the quorum in a meeting of members should be their number as specified in the articles of incorporation, not simply the number of living members. She explained that the qualifying phrase entitled to vote in Section 24 of the Corporation Code, which provided the basis for determining a quorum for the election of directors or trustees, should be read together with Section 89. The hearing officer also opined that Article III (2) of the By-Laws of GCHS, insofar as it prescribed the mode of filling vacancies in the board of trustees, must be interpreted in conjunction with Section 29 of the Corporation Code. The SEC en banc denied the appeal of petitioners and affirmed the Decision of the hearing officer in toto. It found to be untenable their contention that the word members, as used in Section 52 of the Corporation Code, referred only to the living members of a non-stock corporation.

Issue: Whether or not the only the living members for non-stock corporations should be considered in determining the quorum.

Held: Yes. Section 52 of the corporation code provides for Quorum in Meetings, unless otherwise provided for in this Code or in the by-laws, a quorum shall consist of the stockholders representing a majority of the outstanding capital stock or a majority of the members in the case of non-stock corporations.

In stock corporations, the presence of a quorum is ascertained and counted on the basis of the outstanding capital stock, as defined by the Code.

In non-stock corporations, the voting rights attach to membership. Members vote as persons, in accordance with the law and the bylaws of the corporation. Each member shall be entitled to one vote unless so limited, broadened, or denied in the articles of incorporation or bylaws. We hold that when the principle for determining the quorum for stock corporations is applied by analogy to nonstock corporations, only those who are actual members with voting rights should be counted

Section 25 of the Code specifically provides that a majority of the directors or trustees, as fixed in the articles of incorporation, shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of corporate business (unless the articles of incorporation or the bylaws provide for a greater majority). If the intention of the lawmakers was to base the quorum in the meetings of stockholders or members on their absolute number as fixed in the articles of incorporation, it would have expressly specified so. Otherwise, the only logical conclusion is that the legislature did not have that intention.

Under the By-Laws of GCHS, membership in the corporation shall, among others, be terminated by the death of the member. Section 91 of the Corporation Code further provides that termination extinguishes all the rights of a member of the corporation, unless otherwise provided in the articles of incorporation or the bylaws.

Applying Section 91 to the present case, we hold that dead members who are dropped from the membership roster in the manner and for the cause provided for in the By-Laws of GCHS are not to be counted in determining the requisite vote in corporate matters or the requisite quorum for the annual members meeting. With 11 remaining members, the quorum in the present case should be 6. Therefore, there being a quorum, the annual members meeting, conducted with six members present, was valid.

The By-Laws of GCHS prescribed the specific mode of filling up existing vacancies in its board of directors; that is, by a majority vote of the remaining members of the board.

While a majority of the remaining corporate members were present, however, the election of the four trustees cannot be legally upheld for the obvious reason that it was held in an annual meeting of the members, not of the board of trustees. We are not unmindful of the fact that the members of GCHS themselves also constitute the trustees, but we cannot ignore the GCHS bylaw provision, which specifically prescribes that vacancies in the board must be filled up by the remaining trustees. In other words, these remaining member-trustees must sit as a board in order to validly elect the new ones.

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