SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 128066. June 19, 2000]

JARDINE DAVIES INC., petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS and FAR EAST MILLS SUPPLY CORPORATION, respondents.

[G.R. No. 128069 June 19, 2000]

PURE FOODS CORPORATION, petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS and FAR EAST MILLS SUPPLY CORPORATION, respondents.

D E C I S I O N

BELLOSILLO, J.:

This is rather a simple case for specific performance with damages which could have been resolved through mediation and conciliation during its infancy stage had the parties been earnest in expediting the disposal of this case. They opted however to resort to full court proceedings and denied themselves the benefits of alternative dispute resolution, thus making the process more arduous and long-drawn.

The controversy started in 1992 at the height of the power crisis which the country was then experiencing. To remedy and curtail further losses due to the series of power failures, petitioner PURE FOODS CORPORATION (hereafter PUREFOODS) decided to install two (2) 1500 KW generators in its food processing plant in San Roque, Marikina City.

Sometime in November 1992 a bidding for the supply and installation of the generators was held. Several suppliers and dealers were invited to attend a pre-bidding conference to discuss the conditions, propose scheme and specifications that would best suit the needs of PUREFOODS. Out of the eight (8) prospective bidders who attended the pre-bidding conference, only three (3) bidders, namely, respondent FAR EAST MILLS SUPPLY CORPORATION (hereafter FEMSCO), MONARK and ADVANCE POWER submitted bid proposals and gave bid bonds equivalent to 5% of their respective bids, as required.

Thereafter, in a letter dated 12 December 1992 addressed to FEMSCO President Alfonso Po, PUREFOODS confirmed the award of the contract to FEMSCO -

Gentlemen:

This will confirm that Pure Foods Corporation has awarded to your firm the project: Supply and Installation of two (2) units of 1500 KW/unit Generator Sets at the Processed Meats Plant, Bo. San Roque, Marikina, based on your proposal number PC 28-92 dated November 20, 1992, subject to the following basic terms and conditions:

1. Lump sum contract of P6,137,293.00 (VAT included), for the supply of materials and labor for the local portion and the labor for the imported materials, payable by progress billing twice a month, with ten percent (10%) retention. The retained amount shall be released thirty (30) days after acceptance of the completed project and upon posting of Guarantee Bond in an amount equivalent to twenty percent (20%) of the contract price. The Guarantee Bond shall be valid for one (1) year from completion and acceptance of project. The contract price includes future increase/s in costs of materials and labor;

2. The project shall be undertaken pursuant to the attached specifications. It is understood that any item required to complete the project, and those not included in the list of items shall be deemed included and covered and shall be performed;

3. All materials shall be brand new;

4. The project shall commence immediately and must be completed within twenty (20) working days after the delivery of Generator Set to Marikina Plant, penalty equivalent to 1/10 of 1% of the purchase price for every day of delay;

5. The Contractor shall put up Performance Bond equivalent to thirty (30%) of the contract price, and shall procure All Risk Insurance equivalent to the contract price upon commencement of the project. The All Risk Insurance Policy shall be endorsed in favor of and shall be delivered to Pure Foods Corporation;

6. Warranty of one (1) year against defective material and/or workmanship.

Once finalized, we shall ask you to sign the formal contract embodying the foregoing terms and conditions.

Immediately, FEMSCO submitted the required performance bond in the amount of P1,841,187.90 and contractors all-risk insurance policy in the amount of P6,137,293.00 which PUREFOODS through its Vice President Benedicto G. Tope acknowledged in a letter dated 18 December 1992. FEMSCO also made arrangements with its principal and started the PUREFOODS project by purchasing the necessary materials. PUREFOODS on the other hand returned FEMSCOs Bidders Bond in the amount of P1,000,000.00, as requested.

Later, however, in a letter dated 22 December 1992, PUREFOODS through its Senior Vice President Teodoro L. Dimayuga unilaterally canceled the award as "significant factors were uncovered and brought to (their) attention which dictate (the) cancellation and warrant a total review and re-bid of (the) project." Consequently, FEMSCO protested the cancellation of the award and sought a meeting with PUREFOODS. However, on 26 March 1993, before the matter could be resolved, PUREFOODS already awarded the project and entered into a contract with JARDINE NELL, a division of Jardine Davies, Inc. (hereafter JARDINE), which incidentally was not one of the bidders.

FEMSCO thus wrote PUREFOODS to honor its contract with the former, and to JARDINE to cease and desist from delivering and installing the two (2) generators at PUREFOODS. Its demand letters unheeded, FEMSCO sued both PUREFOODS and JARDINE: PUREFOODS for reneging on its contract, and JARDINE for its unwarranted interference and inducement. Trial ensued. After FEMSCO presented its evidence, JARDINE filed a Demurrer to Evidence.

On 27 June 1994 the Regional Trial Court of Pasig, Br. 68,[1] granted JARDINEs Demurrer to Evidence. The trial court concluded that "[w]hile it may seem to the plaintiff that by the actions of the two defendants there is something underhanded going on, this is all a matter of perception, and unsupported by hard evidence, mere suspicions and suppositions would not stand up very well in a court of law."[2] Meanwhile trial proceeded as regards the case against PUREFOODS.

On 28 July 1994 the trial court rendered a decision ordering PUREFOODS: (a) to indemnify FEMSCO the sum of P2,300,000.00 representing the value of engineering services it rendered; (b) to pay FEMSCO the sum of US$14,000.00 or its peso equivalent, and P900,000.00 representing contractor's mark-up on installation work, considering that it would be impossible to compel PUREFOODS to honor, perform and fulfill its contractual obligations in view of PUREFOOD's contract with JARDINE and noting that construction had already started thereon; (c) to pay attorneys fees in an amount equivalent to 20% of the total amount due; and, (d) to pay the costs. The trial court dismissed the counterclaim filed by PUREFOODS for lack of factual and legal basis.

Both FEMSCO and PUREFOODS appealed to the Court of Appeals. FEMSCO appealed the 27 June 1994 Resolution of the trial court which granted the Demurrer to Evidence filed by JARDINE resulting in the dismissal of the complaint against it, while PUREFOODS appealed the 28 July 1994 Decision of the same court which ordered it to pay FEMSCO.

On 14 August 1996 the Court of Appeals affirmed in toto the 28 July 1994 Decision of the trial court.[3] It also reversed the 27 June 1994 Resolution of the lower court and ordered JARDINE to pay FEMSCO damages for inducing PUREFOODS to violate the latters contract with FEMSCO. As such, JARDINE was ordered to pay FEMSCO P2,000,000.00 for moral damages. In addition, PUREFOODS was also directed to pay FEMSCO P2,000,000.00 as moral damages and P1,000,000.00 as exemplary damages as well as 20% of the total amount due as attorney's fees.

On 31 January 1997 the Court of Appeals denied for lack of merit the separate motions for reconsideration filed by PUREFOODS and JARDINE. Hence, these two (2) petitions for review filed by PUREFOODS and JARDINE which were subsequently consolidated.

PUREFOODS maintains that the conclusions of both the trial court and the appellate court are premised on a misapprehension of facts. It argues that its 12 December 1992 letter to FEMSCO was not an acceptance of the latter's bid proposal and award of the project but more of a qualified acceptance constituting a counter-offer which required FEMSCO's express conforme. Since PUREFOODS never received FEMSCOs conforme, PUREFOODS was very well within reason to revoke its qualified acceptance or counter-offer. Hence, no contract was perfected between PUREFOODS and FEMSCO. PUREFOODS also contends that it was never in bad faith when it dealt with FEMSCO. Hence moral and exemplary damages should not have been awarded.

Corollarily, JARDINE asserts that the records are bereft of any showing that it had prior knowledge of the supposed contract between PUREFOODS and FEMSCO, and that it induced PUREFOODS to violate the latters alleged contract with FEMSCO. Moreover, JARDINE reasons that FEMSCO, an artificial person, is not entitled to moral damages. But granting arguendo that the award of moral damages is proper, P2,000,000.00 is extremely excessive.

In the main, these consolidated cases present two (2) issues: first, whether there existed a perfected contract between PUREFOODS and FEMSCO; and second, granting there existed a perfected contract, whether there is any showing that JARDINE induced or connived with PUREFOODS to violate the latter's contract with FEMSCO.

A contract is defined as "a juridical convention manifested in legal form, by virtue of which one or more persons bind themselves in favor of another or others, or reciprocally, to the fulfillment of a prestation to give, to do, or not to do."[4] There can be no contract unless the following requisites concur: (a) consent of the contracting parties; (b) object certain which is the subject matter of the contract; and, (c) cause of the obligation which is established.[5] A contract binds both contracting parties and has the force of law between them.

Contracts are perfected by mere consent, upon the acceptance by the offeree of the offer made by the offeror. From that moment, the parties are bound not only to the fulfillment of what has been expressly stipulated but also to all the consequences which, according to their nature, may be in keeping with good faith, usage and law.[6] To produce a contract, the acceptance must not qualify the terms of the offer. However, the acceptance may be express or implied.[7] For a contract to arise, the acceptance must be made known to the offeror. Accordingly, the acceptance can be withdrawn or revoked before it is made known to the offeror.

In the instant case, there is no issue as regards the subject matter of the contract and the cause of the obligation. The controversy lies in the consent - whether there was an acceptance of the offer, and if so, if it was communicated, thereby perfecting the contract.

To resolve the dispute, there is a need to determine what constituted the offer and the acceptance. Since petitioner PUREFOODS started the process of entering into the contract by conducting a bidding, Art. 1326 of the Civil Code, which provides that "[a]dvertisements for bidders are simply invitations to make proposals," applies. Accordingly, the Terms and Conditions of the Bidding disseminated by petitioner PUREFOODS constitutes the "advertisement" to bid on the project. The bid proposals or quotations submitted by the prospective suppliers including respondent FEMSCO, are the offers. And, the reply of petitioner PUREFOODS, the acceptance or rejection of the respective offers.

Quite obviously, the 12 December 1992 letter of petitioner PUREFOODS to FEMSCO constituted acceptance of respondent FEMSCOs offer as contemplated by law. The tenor of the letter, i.e., "This will confirm that Pure Foods has awarded to your firm (FEMSCO) the project," could not be more categorical. While the same letter enumerated certain "basic terms and conditions," these conditions were imposed on the performance of the obligation rather than on the perfection of the contract. Thus, the first "condition" was merely a reiteration of the contract price and billing scheme based on the Terms and Conditions of Bidding and the bid or previous offer of respondent FEMSCO. The second and third "conditions" were nothing more than general statements that all items and materials including those excluded in the list but necessary to complete the project shall be deemed included and should be brand new. The fourth "condition" concerned the completion of the work to be done, i.e., within twenty (20) days from the delivery of the generator set, the purchase of which was part of the contract. The fifth "condition" had to do with the putting up of a performance bond and an all-risk insurance, both of which should be given upon commencement of the project. The sixth "condition" related to the standard warranty of one (1) year. In fine, the enumerated "basic terms and conditions" were prescriptions on how the obligation was to be performed and implemented. They were far from being conditions imposed on the perfection of the contract.

In Babasa v. Court of Appeals[8] we distinguished between a condition imposed on the perfection of a contract and a condition imposed merely on the performance of an obligation. While failure to comply with the first condition results in the failure of a contract, failure to comply with the second merely gives the other party options and/or remedies to protect his interests.

We thus agree with the conclusion of respondent appellate court which affirmed the trial court -

As can be inferred from the actual phrase used in the first portion of the letter, the decision to award the contract has already been made. The letter only serves as a confirmation of such decision. Hence, to the Courts mind, there is already an acceptance made of the offer received by Purefoods. Notwithstanding the terms and conditions enumerated therein, the offer has been accepted and/or amplified the details of the terms and conditions contained in the Terms and Conditions of Bidding given out by Purefoods to prospective bidders.[9]

But even granting arguendo that the 12 December 1992 letter of petitioner PUREFOODS constituted a "conditional counter-offer," respondent FEMCO's submission of the performance bond and contractor's all-risk insurance was an implied acceptance, if not a clear indication of its acquiescence to, the "conditional counter-offer," which expressly stated that the performance bond and the contractor's all-risk insurance should be given upon the commencement of the contract. Corollarily, the acknowledgment thereof by petitioner PUREFOODS, not to mention its return of FEMSCO's bidder's bond, was a concrete manifestation of its knowledge that respondent FEMSCO indeed consented to the "conditional counter-offer." After all, as earlier adverted to, an acceptance may either be express or implied,[10] and this can be inferred from the contemporaneous and subsequent acts of the contracting parties.

Accordingly, for all intents and purposes, the contract at that point has been perfected, and respondent FEMSCO's conforme would only be a mere surplusage. The discussion of the price of the project two (2) months after the 12 December 1992 letter can be deemed as nothing more than a pressure being exerted by petitioner PUREFOODS on respondent FEMSCO to lower the price even after the contract had been perfected. Indeed from the facts, it can easily be surmised that petitioner PUREFOODS was haggling for a lower price even after agreeing to the earlier quotation, and was threatening to unilaterally cancel the contract, which it eventually did. Petitioner PUREFOODS also makes an issue out of the absence of a purchase order (PO). Suffice it to say that purchase orders or POs do not make or break a contract. Thus, even the tenor of the subsequent letter of petitioner PUREFOODS, i.e., "Pure Foods Corporation is hereby canceling the award to your company of the project," presupposes that the contract has been perfected. For, there can be no cancellation if the contract was not perfected in the first place.

Petitioner PUREFOODS also argues that it was never in bad faith. On the contrary, it believed in good faith that no such contract was perfected. We are not convinced. We subscribe to the factual findings and conclusions of the trial court which were affirmed by the appellate court -

Hence, by the unilateral cancellation of the contract, the defendant (petitioner PURE FOODS) has acted with bad faith and this was further aggravated by the subsequent inking of a contract between defendant Purefoods and erstwhile co-defendant Jardine. It is very evident that Purefoods thought that by the expedient means of merely writing a letter would automatically cancel or nullify the existing contract entered into by both parties after a process of bidding. This, to the Courts mind, is a flagrant violation of the express provisions of the law and is contrary to fair and just dealings to which every man is due.[11]

This Court has awarded in the past moral damages to a corporation whose reputation has been besmirched.[12] In the instant case, respondent FEMSCO has sufficiently shown that its reputation was tarnished after it immediately ordered equipment from its suppliers on account of the urgency of the project, only to be canceled later. We thus sustain respondent appellate court's award of moral damages. We however reduce the award from P2,000,000.00 to P1,000,000.00, as moral damages are never intended to enrich the recipient. Likewise, the award of exemplary damages by way of example for the public good is excessive and should be reduced to P100,000.00.

Petitioner JARDINE maintains on the other hand that respondent appellate court erred in ordering it to pay moral damages to respondent FEMSCO as it supposedly induced PUREFOODS to violate the contract with FEMSCO. We agree. While it may seem that petitioners PUREFOODS and JARDINE connived to deceive respondent FEMSCO, we find no specific evidence on record to support such perception. Likewise, there is no showing whatsoever that petitioner JARDINE induced petitioner PUREFOODS. The similarity in the design submitted to petitioner PUREFOODS by both petitioner JARDINE and respondent FEMSCO, and the tender of a lower quotation by petitioner JARDINE are insufficient to show that petitioner JARDINE indeed induced petitioner PUREFOODS to violate its contract with respondent FEMSCO.

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered as follows:

(a) The petition in G.R. No. 128066 is GRANTED. The assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals reversing the 27 June 1994 resolution of the trial court and ordering petitioner JARDINE DAVIES, INC., to pay private respondent FAR EAST MILLS SUPPLY CORPORATION P2,000,000.00 as moral damages is REVERSED and SET ASIDE for insufficiency of evidence; and

(b) The petition in G.R. No. 128069 is DENIED. The assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals ordering petitioner PURE FOODS CORPORATION to pay private respondent FAR EAST MILLS SUPPLY CORPORATION the sum of P2,300,000.00 representing the value of engineering services it rendered, US$14,000.00 or its peso equivalent, and P900,000.00 representing the contractor's mark-up on installation work, as well as attorney's fees equivalent to twenty percent (20%) of the total amount due, is AFFIRMED. In addtion, petitioner PURE FOODS CORPORATION is ordered to pay private respondent FAR EAST MILLS SUPPLY CORPORATION moral damages in the amount of P1,000,000.00 and exemplary damages in the amount of P1,000,000.00. Costs against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

Mendoza, Quisumbing, Buena, and De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur.



[1] Judge Santiago G. Estrella, presiding.

[2] Resolution of the trial court dated 27 June 1994; Rollo of G.R. No. 128066, p. 66.

[3] Special Fifteenth Division; Decision penned by Associate Justice Maximiano C. Asuncion, concurred in by Associate Justices Godardo A. Jacinto, Chairman, and Celia Lipana-Reyes.

[4] Sanchez Roman 148-149.

[5] Art. 1318, Civil Code.

[6] See Art. 1315, id.

[7] Art. 1320, id.

[8] G.R. No. 124045, 21 May 1998, 290 SCRA 532, citing Romero v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 107207, 23 November 1995, 250 SCRA 223, and Lim v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 118347, 24 October 1996, 263 SCRA 569.

[9] Decision of the appellate court, pp. 7-8; Decision of the trial court, p. 5.

[10] Art. 1320, Civil Code.

[11] Decision of the appellate court, pp. 9-10; Decision of the trial court, pp. 5-6.

[12] Asset Privatization Trust v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 121171, 29 December 1998, 300 SCRA 579; See also Mambulao Lumber Co. v. Philippine National Bank, No. L-22973, 30 January 1968, 22 SCRA 359.