Gamboa vs Teves
G.R. No. 176579 June 28, 2011
Facts: On 28 November 1928, the Philippine Legislature enacted Act No. 3436 which granted PLDT a franchise and the right to engage in telecommunications business. In 1969, General Telephone and Electronics Corporation (GTE), an American company and a major PLDT stockholder, sold 26 percent of the outstanding common shares of PLDT to PTIC. In 1977, Prime Holdings, Inc. (PHI) was incorporated by several persons, including Roland Gapud and Jose Campos, Jr. Subsequently, PHI became the owner of 111,415 shares of stock of PTIC by virtue of three Deeds of Assignment executed by PTIC stockholders Ramon Cojuangco and Luis Tirso Rivilla. In 1986, the 111,415 shares of stock of PTIC held by PHI were sequestered by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG). The 111,415 PTIC shares, which represent about 46.125 percent of the outstanding capital stock of PTIC, were later declared by this Court to be owned by the Republic of the Philippines. Since PTIC is a stockholder of PLDT, the sale by the Philippine Government of 46.125 percent of PTIC shares is actually an indirect sale of 12 million shares or about 6.3 percent of the outstanding common shares of PLDT. With the sale, First Pacifics common shareholdings in PLDT increased from 30.7 percent to 37 percent, thereby increasing the common shareholdings of foreigners in PLDT to about 81.47 percent. This violates Section 11, Article XII of the 1987 Philippine Constitution which limits foreign ownership of the capital of a public utility to not more than 40 percent.
Issue: Whether or not the term capital in Section 11, Article XII of the Constitution refers to the common shares of PLDT, a public utility.
Held: Yes. Section 11, Article XII (National Economy and Patrimony) of the 1987 Constitution mandates the Filipinization of public utilities, to wit:
Section 11. No franchise, certificate, or any other form of authorization for the operation of a public utility shall be granted except to citizens of the Philippines or to corporations or associations organized under the laws of the Philippines, at least sixty per centum of whose capital is owned by such citizens; nor shall such franchise, certificate, or authorization be exclusive in character or for a longer period than fifty years. Neither shall any such franchise or right be granted except under the condition that it shall be subject to amendment, alteration, or repeal by the Congress when the common good so requires. The State shall encourage equity participation in public utilities by the general public. The participation of foreign investors in the governing body of any public utility enterprise shall be limited to their proportionate share in its capital, and all the executive and managing officers of such corporation or association must be citizens of the Philippines. (Emphasis supplied)
Any citizen or juridical entity desiring to operate a public utility must therefore meet the minimum nationality requirement prescribed in Section 11, Article XII of the Constitution. Hence, for a corporation to be granted authority to operate a public utility, at least 60 percent of its capital must be owned by Filipino citizens.
Thus, the 40% foreign ownership limitation should be interpreted to apply to both the beneficial ownership and the controlling interest.
Clearly, therefore, the forty percent (40%) foreign equity limitation in public utilities prescribed by the Constitution refers to ownership of shares of stock entitled to vote, i.e., common shares. Furthermore, ownership of record of shares will not suffice but it must be shown that the legal and beneficial ownership rests in the hands of Filipino citizens. Consequently, in the case of petitioner PLDT, since it is already admitted that the voting interests of foreigners which would gain entry to petitioner PLDT by the acquisition of SMART shares through the Questioned Transactions is equivalent to 82.99%, and the nominee arrangements between the foreign principals and the Filipino owners is likewise admitted, there is, therefore, a violation of Section 11, Article XII of the Constitution.
Indisputably, one of the rights of a stockholder is the right to participate in the control or management of the corporation. This is exercised through his vote in the election of directors because it is the board of directors that controls or manages the corporation. In the absence of provisions in the articles of incorporation denying voting rights to preferred shares, preferred shares have the same voting rights as common shares. However, preferred shareholders are often excluded from any control, that is, deprived of the right to vote in the election of directors and on other matters, on the theory that the preferred shareholders are merely investors in the corporation for income in the same manner as bondholders. In fact, under the Corporation Code only preferred or redeemable shares can be deprived of the right to vote. Common shares cannot be deprived of the right to vote in any corporate meeting, and any provision in the articles of incorporation restricting the right of common shareholders to vote is invalid.
Considering that common shares have voting rights which translate to control, as opposed to preferred shares which usually have no voting rights, the term capital in Section 11, Article XII of the Constitution refers only to common shares. However, if the preferred shares also have the right to vote in the election of directors, then the term capital shall include such preferred shares because the right to participate in the control or management of the corporation is exercised through the right to vote in the election of directors. In short, the term capital in Section 11, Article XII of the Constitution refers only to shares of stock that can vote in the election of directors.
This interpretation is consistent with the intent of the framers of the Constitution to place in the hands of Filipino citizens the control and management of public utilities.
As shown in PLDTs 2010 GIS, as submitted to the SEC, the par value of PLDT common shares is P5.00 per share, whereas the par value of preferred shares is P10.00 per share. In other words, preferred shares have twice the par value of common shares but cannot elect directors and have only 1/70 of the dividends of common shares. Moreover, 99.44% of the preferred shares are owned by Filipinos while foreigners own only a minuscule 0.56% of the preferred shares. Worse, preferred shares constitute 77.85% of the authorized capital stock of PLDT while common shares constitute only 22.15%.62 This undeniably shows that beneficial interest in PLDT is not with the non-voting preferred shares but with the common shares, blatantly violating the constitutional requirement of 60 percent Filipino control and Filipino beneficial ownership in a public utility.