G.R. No. 176579, 28 June 2011 and 9 October 2012 (MR)
This is a petition to nullify the sale of shares of stock of Philippine Telecommunications Investment Corporation (PTIC) by the government of the Republic of the Philippines, acting through the Inter-Agency Privatization Council (IPC), to Metro Pacific Assets Holdings, Inc. (MPAH), an affiliate of First Pacific Company Limited (First Pacific), a Hong Kong-based investment management and holding company and a shareholder of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT).
The petitioner questioned the sale on the ground that it also involved an indirect sale of 12 million shares (or about 6.3 percent of the outstanding common shares) of PLDT owned by PTIC to First Pacific. With the this sale, First Pacific’s common shareholdings in PLDT increased from 30.7 percent to 37 percent, thereby increasing the total common shareholdings of foreigners in PLDT to about 81.47%. This, according to the petitioner, 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%, thus:
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.
Does the term “capital” in Section 11, Article XII of the Constitution refer to the total common shares only, or to the total outstanding capital stock (combined total of common and non-voting preferred shares) of PLDT, a public utility?
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 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.
To construe broadly the term “capital” as the total outstanding capital stock, including both common and non-voting preferred shares, grossly contravenes the intent and letter of the Constitution that the “State shall develop a self-reliant and independent national economy effectively controlled by Filipinos.” A broad definition unjustifiably disregards who owns the all-important voting stock, which necessarily equates to control of the public utility.
Holders of PLDT preferred shares are explicitly denied of the right to vote in the election of directors. PLDT’s Articles of Incorporation expressly state that “the holders of Serial Preferred Stock shall not be entitled to vote at any meeting of the stockholders for the election of directors or for any other purpose or otherwise participate in any action taken by the corporation or its stockholders, or to receive notice of any meeting of stockholders.”
ZOn the other hand, holders of common shares are granted the exclusive right to vote in the election of directors. PLDT’s Articles of Incorporation state that “each holder of Common Capital Stock shall have one vote in respect of each share of such stock held by him on all matters voted upon by the stockholders, and the holders of Common Capital Stock shall have the exclusive right to vote for the election of directors and for all other purposes.”
It must be stressed, and respondents do not dispute, that foreigners hold a majority of the common shares of PLDT. In fact, based on PLDT’s 2010 General Information Sheet (GIS), which is a document required to be submitted annually to the Securities and Exchange Commission, foreigners hold 120,046,690 common shares of PLDT whereas Filipinos hold only 66,750,622 common shares. In other words, foreigners hold 64.27% of the total number of PLDT’s common shares, while Filipinos hold only 35.73%. Since holding a majority of the common shares equates to control, it is clear that foreigners exercise control over PLDT. Such amount of control unmistakably exceeds the allowable 40 percent limit on foreign ownership of public utilities expressly mandated in Section 11, Article XII of the Constitution.
*Case Digest by JAY MARK P. BALBOSA JD – IV, Andres Bonifacio College, SY 2019 – 2020