G.R. No. 183952, September 09, 2013
CZARINA T. MALVAR, Petitioner, v. KRAFT FOOD PHILS., INC. AND/OR BIENVENIDO BAUTISTA, KRAFT FOODS INTERNATIONAL, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
WHEREFORE, premises considered, in so far as the computation of complainant’s other benefits and allowances are concerned, the same are in order. However, insofar as the computation of her backwages and other monetary benefits (separation pay, unpaid salary for January 1 to 26, 2005, holiday pay, sick leave pay, vacation leave pay, 13th month pay), the same are hereby recomputed as follows:Both parties appealed the computation to the NLRC, which, on April 19, 2007, rendered its decision setting aside Labor Arbiter Reyno’s November 9, 2006 order, and adopting the computation by the RCU.8cralaw virtualaw library
1. Separation Pay 8/1/88-1/26/05 = 16 yrs P344,575.83 x 16 = 5,513,213.28 2. Unpaid Salary 1/1-26/05 = 87 mos. P344,575.83 x 87 = 299,780.97 3. Holiday Pay 4/1/00-1/26/05 = 55 holidays P4,134,910/12 mos/20.83 days x 55 days 909,825.77 4. Unpaid 13th month pay for Dec 2000 344,575.83 5. Sick Leave Pay Year 1999 to 2004 = 6 yrs P344,575.88/20.83 x 15 days x 6 = 1,488,805.79 Year 2005 P344,575.83/20.83 x 15/12 x 1 20,677.86 1,509,483.65 6. Vacation Leave Pay Year 1999 to 2004 = 6 years P344,575.88/20.83 x 22 days x 6 = 2,183,581.83 Year 2005 P344,575.83/20.83 x 22/12 x 1 30,327.55 2,213,909.36 10,790,788.86 Backwages (from 3/7/00-4/30/01, award in LA Sytian’s Decision 4,651,773.75 Allowances & Other Benefits: Management Incentive Plan 7,355,166.58 Cash Dividend on Philip Morris Shares 2,711,646.00 Car Maintenance 381,702.92 Gas Allowance 198,000.00 Entitlement to a Company Driver 438,650.00 Rice Subsidy 58,650.00 Moral Damages 500,000.00 Exemplary Damages 200,000.00 Attorney’s Fees 500,000.00 Entitlement to Philip Sch G Subject to “Share Option Grant” Market Price 27,786,378.11
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the herein Petition is GRANTED and the 19 April 2007 Decision of the NLRC and the 31 May 2007 Resolution in NLRC NCR 30-07-02316-00 are hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE.Malvar sought reconsideration, but the CA denied her motion on July 30, 2008.14cralaw virtualaw library
The matter of computation of monetary awards for private respondent is hereby REMANDED to the Labor Arbiter and he is DIRECTED to recompute the monetary award due to private respondent based on her salary at the time of her termination, without including projected salary increases. In computing the said benefits, the Labor Arbiter is further directed to DISREGARD monetary awards arising from: (a) the management incentive plan and (b) the share option grant, including cash dividends arising therefrom without prejudice to the filing of the appropriate remedy by the private respondent in the proper forum. Private respondent’s allowances for car maintenance and gasoline are likewise DELETED unless private respondent proves, by appropriate receipts, her entitlement thereto.
With respect to the Motion to Exclude the Undisputed Amount of P14,252,192.12 from the coverage of the Writ of Preliminary Injunction and to order its immediate release, the same is hereby GRANTED for reasons stated therefor, which amount shall be deducted from the amount to be given to private respondent after proper computation.
As regards the Motions for Reconsideration of the Resolution denying the Motion for Voluntary Inhibition and the Omnibus Motion dated 30 October 2007, both motions are hereby DENIED for lack of merit.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
NOW, THEREFORE, for and in consideration of the covenants and understanding between the parties herein, the parties hereto have entered into this Agreement on the following terms and conditions:Thereafter, Malvar filed an undated Motion to Dismiss/Withdraw Case,16 praying that the appeal be immediately dismissed/withdrawn in view of the compromise agreement, and that the case be considered closed and terminated.
1. Simultaneously upon execution of this Agreement in the presence of Ms. Malvar’s attorney, KFPI shall pay Ms. Malvar the amount of Philippine Pesos Forty Million (Php 40,000,000.00), which is in addition to the Philippine Pesos Fourteen Million Two Hundred Fifty-Two Thousand One Hundred Ninety-Two and Twelve Centavos (Php14,252, 192.12) already paid to and received by Ms. Malvar from KFPI in August 2008 (both amounts constituting the “Compromise Payment”). The Compromise Payment includes full and complete payment and settlement of Ms. Malvar’s salaries and wages up to the last day of her employment, allowances, 13th and 14th month pay, cash conversion of her accrued vacation, sick and emergency leaves, separation pay, retirement pay and such other benefits, entitlements, claims for stock, stock options or other forms of equity compensation whether vested or otherwise and claims of any and all kinds against KFPI and KFI and Altria Group, Inc., their predecessors-in-interest, their stockholders, officers, directors, agents or successors-in-interest, affiliates and subsidiaries, up to the last day of the aforesaid cessation of her employment.
2. In consideration of the Compromise Payment, Ms. Malvar hereby freely and voluntarily releases and forever discharges KFPI and KFI and Altria Group, Inc., their predecessors or successors-in-interest, stockholders, officers, including Mr. Bautista who was impleaded in the Labor Case as a party respondent, directors, agents or successors-in-interest, affiliates and subsidiaries from any and all manner of action, cause of action, sum of money, damages, claims and demands whatsoever in law or in equity which Ms. Malvar or her heirs, successors and assigns had, or now have against KFPI and/or KFI and/or Altria Group, Inc., including but not limited to, unpaid wages, salaries, separation pay, retirement pay, holiday pay, allowances, 13th and 14th month pay, claims for stock, stock options or other forms of equity compensation whether vested or otherwise whether arising from her employment contract, company grant, present and future contractual commitments, company policies or practices, or otherwise, in connection with Ms. Malvar’s employment with KFPI.15cralaw virtualaw library
x x x x
x x x xIt appears that in July 2009, to the Intervenor’s surprise, Malvar unceremoniously and without any justifiable reason terminated its legal service and required it to withdraw from the case.20 Hence, on October 5, 2009, the Intervenor reluctantly filed a Manifestation (With Motion to Withdraw as Counsel for Petitioner),21 in which it spelled out: (a) the terms of and conditions of the Intervenor’s engagement as counsel; (b) the type of legal services already rendered by the Intervenor for Malvar; (c) the absence of any legitimate reason for the termination of their attorney-client relationship; (d) the reluctance of the Intervenor to withdraw as Malvar’s counsel; and (e) the desire of the Intervenor to assert and claim its contingent fee notwithstanding its withdrawal as counsel. The Intervenor prayed that the Court furnish it with copies of resolutions, decisions and other legal papers issued or to be issued after its withdrawal as counsel of Malvar in the interest of protecting its interest as her attorney.
Lawyers, oftentimes, are caricatured as alligators or some other specie of voracious carnivore; perceived also as leeches sucking dry the blood of their adversaries, and even their own clients they are sworn to serve and protect! As we lay down the facts in this case, this popular, rather unpopular, perception will be shown wrong. This case is a reversal of this perception.
x x x x
Here, it is the lawyer who is eaten up alive by the warring but conspiring litigants who finally settled their differences without the knowledge, much less, participation, of Petitioner’s counsel that labored hard and did everything to champion her cause.
x x x x
This Motion for Intervention will illustrate an aberration from the norm where the lawyer ends up seeking protection from his client’s and Respondents’ indecent and cunning maneuverings. x x x.
x x x x
On 18 March 2008 Petitioner engaged the professional services of Intervenor x x x on a contingency basis whereby the former agreed in writing to pay the latter contingency fees amounting to almost P19,600,000.00 (10% of her total claim of almost P196,000,000.00 in connection with her labor case against Respondents. x x x.
x x x x
According to their agreement (Annex “A”), Petitioner bound herself to pay Intervenor contingency fees as follows (a) 10% of P14, 252, 192.12 upon its collection; (b) 10% of the remaining balance of P41,627,593.75; and (c)10% of the value of the stock options Petitioner claims to be entitled to, or roughly P154,000,000.00 as of April 2008.
x x x x
Intervenor’s efforts resulted in the award and partial release of Petitioner’s claim amounting to P14,252,192.12 out of which Petitioner paid Intervenor 10% or P1,425,219.21 as contingency fees pursuant to their engagement agreement (Annex “A”). Copy of the check payment of Petitioner payable to Intervenor’s Of Counsel is attached as Annex “C”.
x x x x
On 12 September 2008 Intervenor filed an exhaustive Petition for Review with the Supreme Court containing 70 pages, including its Annexes “A” to “R”, or a total of 419 pages against Respondents to collect on the balance of Petitioner’s claims amounting to at least P27,000,000.00 and P154,000,000.00 the latter representing the estimated value of Petitioner’s stock options as of April 2008.
x x x x
On 15 January 2009 Respondents filed their Comment to the Petition for Review.
x x x x
On 13 April 2009 Intervenor, in behalf of Petitioner, filed its Reply to the Comment.
x x x x
All the pleadings in this Petition have already been submitted on time with nothing more to be done except to await the Resolution of this Honorable Court which, should the petition be decided in her favor, Petitioner would stand to gain P182,000,000.00, more or less, which victory would be largely through the efforts of Intervenor.19 (Bold emphasis supplied).
x x x x
According to the Intervenor, it was certain that the compromise agreement was authored by the respondents to evade a possible loss of P182,000,000.00 or more as a result of the labor litigation, but considering the Intervenor’s interest in the case as well as its resolve in pursuing Malvar’s interest, they saw the Intervenor as a major stumbling block to the compromise agreement that it was then brewing with her. Obviously, the only way to remove the Intervenor was to have her terminate its services as her legal counsel. This prompted the Intervenor to bring the matter to the attention of the Court to enable it to recover in full its compensation based on its written agreement with her, averring thus:chanrobles virtua1aw 1ibraryJuly 16, 2008
Justice Josue Belocillo (sic)
It is almost morning of July 17 as I write this letter to you. Let me first thank you for your continued and unrelenting lead, help and support in the case. You have been our “rock” as far as this case is concerned. Jun and I are forever grateful to you for all your help. I just thought I’d express to you what is in the innermost of my heart as we proceed in the case. It has been around four months now since we met mid-March early this year.
The most important and immediate aspect of the case at this time for me is the collection of the undisputed amount of Pesos 14million which the Court has clearly directed and ordered the NLRC to execute. The only impending constraint for NLRC to execute and collect this amount from the already garnished amount of Pesos 41 million at Citibank is the MR of Kraft on the Order of the Court (CA) to execute collection. We need to get a denial of this motion for NLRC to execute immediately. We already obtained commitment from NLRC that all it needed to execute collection is the denial of the MR.
Jun and I applaud your initiative and efforts to mediate with Romulo on potential settlement. However, as I expressed to you in several instances, I have serious reservations on the willingness of Romulo to settle within reasonable amounts specifically as it relates to the stock options. Let us continue to pursue this route vigorously while not setting aside our efforts to influence the CA to DENY their Motion on the Undisputed amount of Pesos 14million.
At this point, I cannot overemphasize to you our need for funds. We have made financial commitments that require us to raise some amount. But we can barely meet our day to day business and personal requirements given our current situation right now.
Thank you po for your understanding and support.22
x x x xIn support of the Motion for Intervention, the Intervenor cites the rulings in Aro v. Nañawa24 and Law Firm of Raymundo A. Armovit v. Court of Appeals,25 particularly the following passage:chanrobles virtua1aw 1ibrary
28. Upon execution of the Compromise Agreement and pursuant thereto, Petitioner immediately received (supposedly) from Respondents P40,000,000.00. But despite the settlement between the parties, Petitioner did not pay Intervenor its just compensation as set forth in their engagement agreement; instead, she immediately moved to Dismiss/Withdraw the Present Petition.
29. To parties’ minds, with the dismissal by Petitioner of Intervenor as her counsel, both Petitioner and Respondents probably thought they would be able to settle the case without any cost to them, with Petitioner saving on Intervenor’s contingent fees while Respondents able to take advantage of the absence of Intervenor in determining the settlement price.
30. The parties cannot be any more mistaken. Pursuant to the Second Paragraph of Section 26, Rule 138, of the Revised Rules of Court quoted in paragraph 3 hereof, Intervenor is still entitled to recover from Petitioner the full compensation it deserves as stipulated in its contract.
31. All the elements for the full recovery of Intervenor’s compensation are present. First, the contract between the Intervenor and Petitioner is reduced into writing. Second, Intervenor is dismissed without justifiable cause and at the stage of proceedings where there is nothing more to be done but to await the Decision or Resolution of the Present Petition.23cralaw virtualaw library
x x x x
x x x. While We here reaffirm the rule that “the client has an undoubted right to compromise a suit without the intervention of his lawyer,” We hold that when such compromise is entered into in fraud of the lawyer, with intent to deprive him of the fees justly due him, the compromise must be subject to the said fees and that when it is evident that the said fraud is committed in confabulation with the adverse party who had knowledge of the lawyer’s contingent interest or such interest appears of record and who would benefit under such compromise, the better practice is to settle the matter of the attorney’s fees in the same proceeding, after hearing all the affected parties and without prejudice to the finality of the compromise agreement in so far as it does not adversely affect the right of the lawyer.26 x x x.The Intervenor prays for the following reliefs:chanrobles virtua1aw 1ibrary
Opposing the Motion for Intervention,28 Malvar stresses that there was no truth to the Intervenor’s claim to defraud it of its professional fees; that the Intervenor lacked the legal capacity to intervene because it had ceased to exist after Atty. Marwil N. Llasos resigned from the Intervenor and Atty. Richard B. Dasal became barred from private practice upon his appointment as head of the Legal Department of the Small Business Guarantee and Finance Corporation, a government subsidiary; and that Atty. Llasos and Atty. Dasal had personally handled her case.
a) Granting the Motion for Intervention to Protect Attorney’s Rights in favor of the Intervenor; b) Directing both Petitioner and Respondents jointly and severally to pay Intervenor its contingent fees; c) Granting a lien upon all judgments for the payment of money and executions issued in pursuance of such judgments; and d) Holding in Abeyance in the meantime the Resolution of the Motion to Dismiss/Withdraw Case filed by Petitioner and granting the Motion only after Intervenor has been fully paid its just compensation; and e) Other reliefs just and equitable.27
Section 26. Change of attorneys. - An attorney may retire at any time from any action or special proceeding, by the written consent of his client filed in court. He may also retire at any time from an action or special proceeding, without the consent of his client, should the court, on notice to the client and attorney, and on hearing, determine that he ought to be allowed to retire. In case of substitution, the name of the attorney newly employed shall be entered on the docket of the court in place of the former one, and written notice of the change shall be given to the adverse party.In fine, it is basic that an attorney is entitled to have and to receive a just and reasonable compensation for services performed at the special instance and request of his client. The attorney who has acted in good faith and honesty in representing and serving the interests of the client should be reasonably compensated for his service.38
A client may at any time dismiss his attorney or substitute another in his place, but if the contract between client and attorney has been reduced to writing and the dismissal of the attorney was without justifiable cause, he shall be entitled to recover from the client the full compensation stipulated in the contract. However, the attorney may, in the discretion of the court, intervene in the case to protect his rights. For the payment of his compensation the attorney shall have a lien upon all judgments for the payment of money, and executions issued in pursuance of such judgment, rendered in the case wherein his services had been retained by the client. (Bold emphasis supplied)
a) Upon the assumption of its professional duties as Malvar’s counsel, a Motion for Reconsideration of the Decision of the Court of Appeals dated April 17, 2008 consisting of thirty-eight pages was filed before the Court of Appeals on May 6, 2008.The decision promulgated on April 17, 200845 and the resolution promulgated on July 30, 200846 by the CA prompted Malvar to appeal on August 15, 2008 to this Court with the assistance of the Intervenor. All the subsequent pleadings, including the reply of April 13, 2009,47 were prepared and filed in Malvar’s behalf by the Intervenor.
b) On June 2, 2009, Intervenors filed a Comment to Respondents’ Motion for Partial Reconsideration, said Comment consisted 8 pages.
c) In the execution proceedings before Labor Arbiter Jaime Reyno, Intervenor prepared and filed on Malvar’s behalf an “Ex-Parte Motion to Release to Complainant the Undisputed amount of P14,252,192.12” in NLRC NCR Case No. 30-07-02716-00.
d) On July 29, 2000, Intervenor prepared and filed before the Labor Arbiter a Comment to Respondents’ Opposition to the “Ex-Parte Motion to Release” and a “Motion Reiterating Immediate Implementation of the Writ of Execution”
e) On August 6, 2008, Intervenor prepared and filed before the Labor Arbiter Malvar’s Motion Reiterating Motion to Release the Amount of P14,252,192.12.44
WHEREFORE, premises considered, undersigned counsel respectfully pray that instant Motion to Withdraw as Counsel for Petitioner be granted and their attorney’s lien pursuant to the written agreement be reflected in the judgment or decision that may be rendered hereafter conformably with par. 2, Sec. 26, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court.Were the respondents also liable?
Undersigned counsel further requests that they be furnished copy of the decision, resolutions and other legal processes of this Honorable Court to enable them to protect their interests.51
x x x. Where several causes producing an injury are concurrent and each is an efficient cause without which the injury would not have happened, the injury may be attributed to all or any of the causes and recovery may be had against any or all of the responsible persons although under the circumstances of the case, it may appear that one of them was more culpable, and that the duty owed by them to the injured person was not same. No actor’s negligence ceases to be a proximate cause merely because it does not exceed the negligence of other acts. Each wrongdoer is responsible for the entire result and is liable as though his acts were the sole cause of the injury.Joint tort-feasors are each liable as principals, to the same extent and in the same manner as if they had performed the wrongful act themselves. It is likewise not an excuse for any of the joint tort-feasors that individual participation in the tort was insignificant as compared to that of the other.57 To stress, joint tort-feasors are not liable pro rata. The damages cannot be apportioned among them, except by themselves. They cannot insist upon an apportionment, for the purpose of each paying an aliquot part. They are jointly and severally liable for the whole amount.58 Thus, as joint tort-feasors, Malvar and the respondents should be held solidarily liable to the Intervenor. There is no way of appreciating these circumstances except in this light.
There is no contribution between joint tort-feasors whose liability is solidary since both of them are liable for the total damage. Where the concurrent or successive negligent acts or omissions of two or more persons, although acting independently, are in combination the direct and proximate cause of a single injury to a third person, it is impossible to determine in what proportion each contributed to the injury and either of them is responsible for the whole injury. x x x
1Rollo, pp. 132-141.cralawnad
2 Id. at 143-173.cralawnad
3 Id. at 83.cralawnad
4 Id. at 175-187; penned by Associate Justice Edgardo P. Cruz (retired), with Associate Justice Godardo A. Jacinto (retired) and Associate Justice Jose C. Mendoza (now a Member of this Court) concurring.cralawnad
5 Id. at 292-300.cralawnad
6 Id. at 188-189.cralawnad
7 Id. at 216-221.cralawnad
8 Id. at 273-288.cralawnad
9 Id. at 290-291.cralawnad
10 Id. at 91.cralawnad
11 Id. at 96-97.cralawnad
12 Id. at 450-485.cralawnad
13 Id. at 483-485.cralawnad
14 Id. at 487-500.cralawnad
15 Id. at 733-734.cralawnad
16 Id. at 744.cralawnad
17 Id. at 755-765.cralawnad
18 Id. at 756.cralawnad
19 Id. at 755-757.cralawnad
20 Id. at 725.cralawnad
21 Id. at 718-722.cralawnad
22 Id. at 770.cralawnad
23 Id. at 761.cralawnad
24 No. L-24163, April 28, 1969, 27 SCRA 1090.cralawnad
25 G.R. No. 90983, September 27, 1991, 202 SCRA 16.cralawnad
26 Supra note 24, at 1105.cralawnad
27Rollo, p. 763.cralawnad
28 Id. at 792-798.cralawnad
29 Id. at 802-807.cralawnad
30 Id. at 809-811.cralawnad
31 Article 2028, Civil Code.cralawnad
32 Supra note 24, at 1098, citing Jackson v. Stearns, 48 Ore. 25, 84 Pac. 798.cralawnad
33Republic v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 143108-09, September 26, 2001, 366 SCRA 87, 90.cralawnad
34 Article 2037 and Article 2038, Civil Code; see San Antonio v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 121810, December 7, 2001, 371 SCRA 536, 543.cralawnad
35Gubat v. National Power Corporation, G.R. No. 167415, February 26, 2010, 613 SCRA 742, 758-759.cralawnad
36University of the East v. Secretary of Labor and Employment, G.R. Nos. 93310- 12, November 21, 1991, 204 SCRA 254, 262.cralawnad
37Francisco v. Portugal, A.C. No. 6155, March 14, 2006, 484 SCRA 571, 580.cralawnad
38Traders Royal Bank Employees Union–Independent v. NLRC, G.R. No. 120592, March 14, 1997, 269 SCRA 733, 743.cralawnad
39 Supra note 24, at 1105.cralawnad
40 Supra note 35, at 759-760.cralawnad
41Rollo, pp. 768-769.cralawnad
42Sesbreño v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 117438, June 8, 1995, 245 SCRA 30, 36-37.cralawnad
43National Power Corporation v. Heirs of Macabangkit Sangkay, G.R. No. 165828, August 24, 2011, 656 SCRA 60, 96-97.cralawnad
44Rollo, pp. 719-720.cralawnad
45 Id. at 80-116.cralawnad
46 Id. at 118-130.cralawnad
47 Id. at 720.cralawnad
48Cayetano v. Monsod, G.R. No. 100113, September 3, 1991, 201 SCRA 210, 213.cralawnad
49 Section 26 (2), Rule 138, Rules of Court.cralawnad
50 G.R. No. 104600, July 2, 1999, 309 SCRA 566, 574.cralawnad
51Rollo, p. 721.cralawnad
52 Id. at 171-172.cralawnad
53 Id. at 186-187.cralawnad
54Chan, Jr. v. Iglesia ni Cristo, Inc., G.R. No. 160283, October 14, 2005, 473 SCRA 177, 186.cralawnad
55 Black’s Law Dictionary, Fifth Edition, 1979, pp. 752-753, citing Bowen v. Iowa Nat. Mut. Ins. Co., 270 N.C. 486, 155 S.E. 2d 238, 242.cralawnad
56 G.R. No. 130068, October 1, 1998, 297 SCRA 30, 84.cralawnad
57Lafarge Cement Philippines, Inc. v. Continental Cement Corporation, G.R. No. 155173, November 23, 2004, 443 SCRA 522, 545.cralawnad
59Pryce Corporation v. Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, G.R. No. 157480, May 6, 2005, 458 SCRA 164, 166.cralawnad
60Matute v. Matute, No. L-27832, May 28, 1970, 33 SCRA 35, 37.cralawnad
61National Power Corporation Drivers and Mechanics Association v. National Power Corporation, G.R. No. 156208, September 17, 2008, 565 SCRA 417, 437.