ROLANDO C. RIVERA, G.R. No. 163269
PANGANIBAN, C.J., Chairperson,
- versus - AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
CALLEJO, SR., and
Respondent. April 19, 2006
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D E C I S I O N
CALLEJO, SR., J.:
Assailed in this Petition for Review on Certiorari is the Decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 52235 as well as its Resolution denying the Motion for Partial Reconsideration of petitioner Rolando C. Rivera.
had been working for Solidbank Corporation since
In December 1994, Solidbank offered
two retirement programs to its employees: (a) the Ordinary Retirement Program
(ORP), under which an employee would receive 85% of his monthly basic salary
multiplied by the number of years in service; and (b) the Special Retirement
Program (SRP), under which a retiring employee would receive 250% of the gross
monthly salary multiplied by the number of years in service. Since Rivera was only 45 years old, he was
not qualified for retirement under the ORP.
Under the SRP, he was entitled to receive
P1,045,258.95 by way of
When Rivera refused to return the amount demanded within the given period, Solidbank filed a complaint for Sum of Money with Prayer for Writ of Preliminary Attachment before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila on June 26, 1995. Solidbank, as plaintiff, alleged therein that in accepting employment with a competitor bank for the same position he held in Solidbank before his retirement, Rivera violated his Undertaking under the SRP. Considering that Rivera accepted employment with Equitable barely three months after executing the Undertaking, it was clear that he had no intention of honoring his commitment under said deed.
Solidbank prayed that Rivera be
ordered to return the net amount of
P963,619.28 plus interests therein,
and attorneys fees, thus:
WHEREFORE, it is respectfully prayed that:
1. At the commencement of this action and upon the filing of a bond in such amount as this Honorable Court may fix, a writ of preliminary attachment be forthwith issued against the properties of the defendant as satisfaction of any judgment that plaintiff may secure;
trial, judgment be rendered ordering defendant to pay plaintiff the following
sums: NINE HUNDRED SIXTY-THREE THOUSAND SIX HUNDRED NINETEEN AND 28/100 ONLY (
PESOS, Philippine Currency, as of 23 May 1995, plus legal interest of 12% per
annum until fully paid;
sum equivalent to 10% of plaintiffs claims plus
P2,000.00 for every
appearance by way of attorneys fees; and
4. Costs of suit.
PLAINTIFF prays for other reliefs just and equitable under the premises.
Solidbank appended the Affidavit of HRD First Vice-President Celia Villarosa and a copy of the Release, Waiver and Quitclaim and Undertaking which Rivera executed.
In an Order dated July 6, 1995, the trial court issued a Writ of Preliminary Attachment ordering Deputy Sheriff Eduardo Centeno to attach all of Riveras properties not exempt from execution. Thus, the Sheriff levied on a parcel of land owned by Rivera.
his Answer with Affirmative Defenses and Counterclaim, Rivera admitted that he
received the net amount of
P963,619.28 as separation pay. However, the employment ban provision in the
Undertaking was never conveyed to him until he was made to sign it on February
28, 1995. He emphasized that, prior to
said date, Solidbank never disclosed any condition to the retirement scheme,
nor did it impose such employment ban on the bank officers and employees who
had previously availed of the SRP. He
alleged that the undertaking not to seek employment with any competitor bank
or financial institution within one (1) year from February 28, 1995 was void
for being contrary to the Constitution, the law and public policy, that it was
unreasonable, arbitrary, oppressive, discriminatory, cruel, unjust, inhuman,
and violative of his human rights. He
further claimed that the Undertaking was a contract of adhesion because it was
prepared solely by Solidbank without his participation; considering his moral
and economic disadvantage, it must be liberally construed in his favor and
strictly against the bank.
August 15, 1995, Solidbank filed a Verified Motion for Summary Judgment,
alleging therein that Rivera raised no genuine issue as to any material fact in
his Answer except as to the amount of damages.
It prayed that the RTC render summary judgment against Rivera. Solidbank alleged that whether or not the
employment ban provision contained in the Undertaking is unreasonable,
arbitrary, or oppressive is a question of law.
It insisted that Rivera signed the Undertaking voluntarily and for
consideration; and under the Release, Waiver and Quitclaim, he was obliged to return the
P963,619.28 upon accepting employment from a competitor bank
within the one-year proscribed period.
Solidbank appended to its motion the Affidavit of Villarosa, where she
declared that Rivera was employed by Equitable on May 1, 1995 for the same
position he held before his retirement from Solidbank.
Rivera opposed the motion contending that, as gleaned from the pleadings of the parties as well as Villarosas Affidavit, there are genuine issues as to material facts which call for the presentation of evidence. He averred that there was a need for the parties to adduce evidence to prove that he did not sign the Undertaking voluntarily. He claimed that he would not have been allowed to avail of the SRP if he had not signed it, and consequently, his retirement benefits would not have been paid. This was what Ed Nallas, Solidbank Assistant Vice-President for HRD and Personnel, told him when he received his check on February 28, 1995. Senior Vice-President Henry Valdez, his superior in the Consumers Banking Group, also did not mention that he would have to sign such Undertaking which contained the assailed provision. Thus, he had no choice but to sign it. He insisted that the question of whether he violated the Undertaking is a genuine issue of fact which called for the presentation of evidence during the hearing on the merits of the case. He also asserted that he could not cause injury or prejudice to Solidbanks interest since he never acquired any sensitive or delicate information which could prejudice the banks interest if disclosed.
Rivera averred that he had the right to adduce evidence to prove that he had been faithful to the provisions of the Release, Waiver and Quitclaim, and the Undertaking, and had not committed any act or done or said anything to cause injury to Solidbank.
Rivera appended to his Opposition his
Counter-Affidavit in which he reiterated that he had to sign the Undertaking
containing the employment ban provision, otherwise his availment of the SRP
would not push through. There was no
truth to the banks allegation that, in exchange for receiving the larger
P1,045,258.95 under the SRP, instead of the very much smaller
amount of P224,875.81 under the ORP, he agreed that he will not seek
employment in a competitor bank or financial institution within one year from
February 28, 1995. It was the bank
which conceived the SRP to streamline its organization and all he did was
accept it. He stressed that the decision
whether to allow him to avail of the SRP belonged solely to Solidbank. He also pointed out that the employment ban
provision in the Undertaking was not a consideration for his availment of the
SRP, and that if he did not avail of the retirement program, he would have
continued working for Solidbank for at least 15 more years, earning more than
what he received under the SRP. He
alleged that he intended to go full time into the poultry business, but after
about two months, found out that, contrary to his expectations, the business
did not provide income sufficient to support his family. Being the breadwinner, he was then forced to
look for a job, and considering his training and experience as a former bank
employee, the job with Equitable was all he could find. He insisted that he had remained faithful to
Solidbank and would continue to do so despite the case against him, the
attachment of his family home, and the resulting mental anguish, torture and
expense it has caused them.
his Supplemental Opposition, Rivera stressed that, being a former bank
employee, it was the only kind of work he knew.
The ban was, in fact, practically absolute since it applied to all
financial institutions for one year from February 28, 1995. He pointed out that he could not work in any
other company because he did not have the qualifications, especially
considering his age. Moreover, after one
year from February 28, 1995, he would no longer have any marketable skill,
because by then, it would have been rendered obsolete by non-use and rapid technological
advances. He insisted
that the ban was not necessary to protect the interest of Solidbank, as, in the first place, he had no access to any secret information which, if revealed would be prejudicial to Solidbanks interest. In any case, he was not one to reveal whatever knowledge or information he may have acquired during his employment with said bank.
In its Reply, Solidbank averred that the wisdom of requiring the Undertaking from the 1995 SRP is purely a management prerogative. It was not for Rivera to question and decry the banks policy to protect itself from unfair competition and disclosure of its trade secrets. The substantial monetary windfall given the retiring officers was meant to tide them over the one-year period of hiatus, and did not prevent them from engaging in any kind of business or bar them from being employed except with competitor banks/financial institutions.
On December 18, 1995, the trial court issued an Order of Summary Judgment. The fallo of the decision reads:
Courts should carefully scrutinize all contracts limiting a mans natural right to follow any trade or profession anywhere he pleases and in any lawful manner. But it is just as important to protect the enjoyment of an establishment in trade or profession, which its employer has built up by his own honest application to every day duty and the faithful performance of the tasks which every day imposes upon the ordinary man. What one creates by his own labor is his. Public policy does not intend that another than the producer shall reap the fruits of labor; rather, it gives to him who labors the right by every legitimate means to protect the fruits of his labor and secure the enjoyment of them to himself. Freedom to contract must not be unreasonably abridged. Neither must the right to protect by reasonable restrictions that which a man by industry, skill and good judgment has built up, be denied.
ROMEO J. CALLEJO, SR.
ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN
CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ
Associate Justice Associate Justice
MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above Decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.
ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN
 Penned by Associate Justice Oswaldo D. Agcaoili, with Associate Justices Eriberto U. Rosario, Jr. and Danilo B. Pine, concurring; rollo, pp. 35-44.
 Penned by Associate Justice Danilo B. Pine, with Associate Justices Portia A. Hormachuelos and Rodrigo V. Cosico, concurring; id. at 46.
 Id. at 64.
 Records, p. 2.
 Rollo, p. 55.
 Records, p. 7.
 Rollo, pp. 57-58.
 Id. at 57.
 Id. at 57-58.
 Id. at 56.
 Records, p. 13.
 Rollo, p. 59.
 Id. at 48-54.
 Id. at 53.
 Records, pp. 7-15.
 Id. at 16.
 Id. at 107-109.
 Id. at 116, 119-120.
 Id. at 163-165.
 Id. at 170-171.
 Penned by Presiding Judge Juan C. Nabong, Jr.
 Rollo, p. 143.
 Id. at 44.
 Id. at 16-17.
 G.R. No. 97412, July 12, 1994, 234 SCRA 78.
 Solidbank Corporation v. Court of Appeals, 439 Phil. 23, 25, 34 (2002).
 Planmatics, Inc. v. Showers, 137 F.Supp.2d 616 (2001).
 Paz v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 85332, January 11, 1990, 181 SCRA 26, 31.
 Warner and Company v. Solberg, 639 N.W.2d 65, 69 (2001).
 Supra note 27, at 25 and 35.
 Jones v. Barnett, 619 N.W.2d 490, 492 (2000).
 Demst v. CSF Transportation Company, 153 F.3d 326 (1998).
 Supra note 28, at 628.
 United Rentals (North America), Inc. v. Keizer, 202 F.Supp.2d 727 (2004).
 Allen, Gibbs & Houlik v. Ristow, 32 Kan.App.2d 1051, 1053, 94 P.3d 724, 726.
 Supra note 35, at 410.
 Id. at 406.
 Rollo, p. 57.
 Id. at 56.
 Id. at 58.
 Id. at 56.
 Government Service Insurance System v. Province of Tarlac, G.R. No. 157860, December 1, 2003, 417 SCRA 60, 64 (2003).
 Sanchez v. Court of Appeals, 345 Phil. 155, 190-191 (1997).
 Brion v. South Philippine Union Mission of the 7th Day Adventist Church, 366 Phil. 967, 976 (1999).
 Sta. Catalina College v. National Labor Relations Commission, G.R. No. 144483, November 19, 2003, 416 SCRA 233, 243.
 34 Phil. 697 (1916).
 Id. at 711-712.
 Id. at 714.
 Ouano v. Court of Appeals, 446 Phil. 690, 708 (2003).
 Supra note 48.
 Id. at 712-713.
 Foti v. Cook, Jr., 263 S.E.2d 430 (1980).
 Motion Control Systems, Inc. v. East, 546 S.E.2d 424, 425 (2001).
 Faust v. Rohr, 81 S.E. 1096.
 Scott v. Gillis, 148 S.E. 315 (1929).
 Weber v. Tillman, Jr., 259 Kan. 457, 464, 913 P.2d 84, 90 (1996).
 418 F.3d 841, 846 (2005).
 Smithereen Co. v. Renfroe, 59 N.E.2d 545, 549 (1945).
 W.R. Grace Co. v. Mouyal, 422 S.E.2d 529, 531 (1992).
 Supra note 58, at 464.
 Philippine Commercial International Bank v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 121413, January 29, 2001, 350 SCRA 446, 472.
 450 F.2d 118 (1971).
 Id at 123.
 Van Pelt v. Berefco, Inc., 208 N.E.2d 858, 865 (1965).
 Flores v. Uy, 420 Phil. 408, 420 (2001).
 Ticzon v. Video Post Manila, Inc., 389 Phil. 20, 33 (2000).
 Tsai v. Court of Appeals, 418 Phil. 606, 622 (2001).
 Producers Bank of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals, 417 Phil. 646, 660 (2001).