Case Digest: JOSE EMMANUEL P. GUILLERMO, Petitioner, v. CRISANTO P. USON, Respondent.

G.R. No. 198967

March 07, 2016

PERALTA, J.:

Facts:

Respondent Uson was an accounting supervisor in Royal Class Venture Phils., Inc. (RCVPI) until Dec. 20, 2000 when he was allegedly dismissed by petitioner Guillermo, the company’s president/general manager, for having exposed the latter’s practice of dictating and undervaluing the shares of stocks of the corporation. Thereafter he filed a complaint for illegal dismissal against the corporation, RCVPI.


The Labor Arbiter rendered a decision in favor of Uson, ordering respondent to reinstate him to his former position and pay his backwages, 13th month pay as well as moral damages, exemplary damages and attorney’s fees. RCVPI did not file an appeal but repeated issuances of Writs of Execution against the same remained unsatisfied.


Uson filed another Motion for Alias Writ of Execution and to Hold Directors and Officers of Respondent Liable for the Decision and quoted from the sheriff’s return: a) that at RCVPI’s address (to which the writs are being served) there is a new establishment named “ Joel and Sons Corporation” which was a family corporation owned by the Guillermos, in which Jose Emmanuel Guillermo, the President and General Manager of RCVPI, is one of the stockholders; b) that Jose received the writ using the nickname “Joey” concealing his real identity and pretended to be the brother of Jose; c) that RCVPI has already been dissolved.


Labor Arbiter granted the motion filed by respondent and held herein petitioner Jose Emmanuel Guillermo, in his personal capacity jointly and severally liable with the corporation stating that the officers of the corporation are jointly and severally liable for the obligations of the corporation (“piercing the veil of corporate fiction”) to the employees even if the said officers were not parties to the case.


Guillermo filed a Motion for Reconsideration/To Set Aside the Order of the labor arbiter. His contentions were a) officers cannot be included as judgement obligor in a labor case for the first time only after the decision of the Labor Arbiter had become final and executory b) in piercing the veil of RCVPI, he was allegedly discriminated against when he alone was belatedly impleaded despite the existence of other officers of RCVPI; c)that the labor arbiter has no jurisdiction because the case is one of an intra-corporate controversy, with the complainant Uson also claiming to be a stockholder and director of the corporation.


Issues:

  1. Whether an officer of a corporation may be included as judgement obligor in a labor case for the first time only after the decision of the Labor Arbiter had become final and executory.

  2. Whether the twin doctrines of “piercing the veil of corporate fiction” and personal liability of company officers in labor cases apply.


Ruling:

The Petition is denied.


In earlier labor cases, the Court held that persons who were not originally impleaded in the case were, even during execution, held to be solidarity liable with the employer corporation for the latter's unpaid obligations to complainant-employees. Personal liability attaches only when, as enumerated by the said Section 31 of the Corporation Code, there is a wilfull and knowing assent to patently unlawful acts of the corporation, there is gross negligence or bad faith in directing the affairs of the corporation, or there is a conflict of interest resulting in damages to the corporation. The conferment of liability on officers for a corporation's obligations to labor is held to be an exception to the general doctrine of separate personality of a corporation.


It also bears emphasis that in cases where personal liability attaches, not even all officers are made accountable. Rather, only the "responsible officer," i.e., the person directly responsible for and who "acted in bad faith" in committing the illegal dismissal or any act violative of the Labor Code, is held solidarily liable, in cases wherein the corporate veil is pierced


The veil of corporate fiction can be pierced, and responsible corporate directors and officers or even a separate but related corporation, may be impleaded and held answerable solidarily in a labor case, even after final judgment and on execution, so long as it is established that such persons have deliberately used the corporate vehicle to unjustly evade the judgment obligation, or have resorted to fraud, bad faith or malice in doing so.


In the case at hand, respondent Uson’s sworn allegations stating that Guillermo was the responsible officer in charge of running the company as well as the one who maliciously and illegally dismissed Uson from employment was uncontroverted. Furthermore, it was Guillermo himself, as President and General Manager of the company, who received the summons to the case, and who also subsequently and without justifiable cause refused to receive all notices and orders of the Labor Arbiter that followed. He, likewise, was shown to have a role in dissolving the original obligor company in an obvious "scheme to avoid liability".


Essentially, then, the facts form part of the records and stand as further proof of Guillermo's bad faith and malicious intent to evade the judgment obligation.


It is settled in jurisprudence that not all conflicts between a stockholder and the corporation are intra-corporate; an examination of the complaint must be made on whether the complainant is involved in his capacity as a stockholder or director, or as an employee.


In the case at bar, Uson's allegation was that he was maliciously and illegally dismissed as an Accounting Supervisor by Guillermo, the Company President and General Manager. It raised no intra-corporate relationship issues between him and the corporation or Guillermo; neither did it raise any issue regarding the regulation of the corporation.


As correctly found by the appellate court, Uson's complaint and redress sought were centered alone on his dismissal as an employee, and not upon any other relationship he had with the company or with Guillermo. Thus, the matter is clearly a labor dispute cognizable by the labor tribunals.

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