Thursday, July 12, 2012

Valenzuela v CA G.R. No. 83122 October 19, 1990

J. Gutierrez Jr.

Petitioner Valenzuela, a General Agent respondent Philamgen, was authorized to solicit and sell all kinds of non-life insurance. He had a 32.5% commission rate. From 1973 to 1975, Valenzuela solicited marine insurance from Delta Motors, Inc. in the amount of P4.4 Million from which he was entitled to a commission of 32%. However, Valenzuela did not receive his full commission which amounted to P1.6 Million from the P4.4 Million. Premium payments amounting to P1,946,886.00 were paid directly to Philamgen. Valenzuela’s commission amounted to P632,737.00.
Philamgen wanted to cut Valenzuela’s commission to 50% of the amount. He declined.
When Philamgen offered again, Valenzuela firmly reiterated his objection.
Philamgen took drastic action against Valenzuela. They: reversed the commission due him, threatened the cancellation of policies issued by his agency, and  started to leak out news that Valenzuela has a substantial debt with Philamgen. His agency contract was terminated.
The petitioners sought relief by filing the complaint against the private respondents. The trial court found that the principal cause of the termination as agent was his refusal to share his Delta commission.
The court considered these acts as harassment and ordered the company to pay for the resulting damage in the value of the commission. They also ordered the company to pay 350,000 in moral damages.
The company appealed. The CA ordered Valenzuela to pay the entire amount of the commission. Hence, this appeal by Valenzuela.

1. WON the agency contract is coupled with interest on the part of agent Valenzuela.
2. Whether or not Philamgen can be held liable for damages due to the termination of the General Agency Agreement it entered into with the petitioners.
3. WON Valenzuela should pay the premiums he collected.

Held: Yes. Yes. Petition granted

1. In any event the principal's power to revoke an agency at will is so pervasive, that the Supreme Court has consistently held that termination may be effected even if the principal acts in bad faith, subject only to the principal's liability for damages.
The Supreme Court accorded great weight on the trial court’s factual findings and found the cause of the conflict to be Valenzuela’s refusal to share the commission. Philamgen told the petitioners of its desire to share the Delta Commission with them. It stated that should Delta back out from the agreement, the petitioners would be charged interests through a reduced commission after full payment by Delta.
Philamgen proposed reducing the petitioners' commissions by 50% thus giving them an agent's commission of 16.25%. The company insisted on the reduction scheme. The company pressured the agents to share the income with the threat to terminate the agency. The petitioners were also told that the Delta commissions would not be credited to their account. This continued until the agency was terminated.
Records also show that the agency is one "coupled with an interest," and, therefore, should not be freely revocable at the unilateral will of the company.
The records sustain the finding that the private respondent started to covet a share of the insurance business that Valenzuela had built up, developed and nurtured. The company appropriated the entire insurance business of Valenzuela. Worse, despite the termination of the agency, Philamgen continued to hold Valenzuela jointly and severally liable with the insured for unpaid premiums.
Under these circumstances, it is clear that Valenzuela had an interest in the continuation of the agency when it was unceremoniously terminated not only because of the commissions he procured, but also Philamgen’s stipulation liability against him for unpaid premiums. The respondents cannot state that the agency relationship between Valenzuela and Philamgen is not coupled with interest.
There is an exception to the principle that an agency is revocable at will and that is when the agency has been given not only for the interest of the principal but also for the mutual interest of the principal and the agent. The principal may not defeat the agent's right to indemnification by a termination of the contract of agency. Also, if a principal violates a contractual or quasi-contractual duty which he owes his agent, the agent may as a rule bring an appropriate action for the breach of that duty.
2. Hence, if a principal acts in bad faith and with abuse of right in terminating the agency, then he is liable in damages. The Civil Code says that "every person must in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties act with justice, give every one his due, and observe honesty and good faith: (Art. 19, Civil Code), and every person who, contrary to law, wilfully or negligently causes damages to another, shall indemnify the latter for the same (Art. 20, Civil Code).
3. As to the issue of whether or not the petitioners are liable to Philamgen for the unpaid and uncollected premiums which the appellate court ordered Valenzuela to pay, the respondent court erred in holding Valenzuela liable.
Under Section 77 of the Insurance Code, the remedy for the non-payment of premiums is to put an end to and render the insurance policy not binding.
Philippine Phoenix- non-payment of premium does not merely suspend but puts an end to an insurance contract since the time of the payment is peculiarly of the essence of the contract.
Section 776 of the insurance Code says that no contract of insurance by an insurance company is valid and binding unless and until the premium has been paid, notwithstanding any agreement to the contrary
Since the premiums have not been paid, the policies issued have lapsed. The insurance coverage did not go into effect or did not continue and the obligation of Philamgen as insurer ceased. Philam can’t demand from or sue Valenzuela for the unpaid premiums.
The court held that the CA’s giving credence to an audit that showed Valenzuela owing Philamgen P1,528,698.40 was unwarranted. Valenzuela had no unpaid account with Philamgen. But, facts show that the beginning balance of Valenzuela's account with Philamgen amounted to P744,159.80. 4 statements of account were sent to the agent.
It was only after the filing of the complaint that a radically different statement of accounts surfaced in court. Certainly, Philamgen's own statements made by its own accountants over a long period of time and covering examinations made on four different occasions must prevail over unconfirmed and unaudited statements made to support a position made in the course of defending against a lawsuit.
The records of Philamgen itself are the best refutation against figures made as an afterthought in the course of litigation. Moreover, Valenzuela asked for a meeting where the figures would be reconciled. Philamgen refused to meet with him and, instead, terminated the agency agreement.
After off-setting the amount, Valenzuela had overpaid Philamgen the amount of P530,040.37 as of November 30, 1978. Philamgen cannot later be heard to complain that it committed a mistake in its computation. The alleged error may be given credence if committed only once. But as earlier stated, the reconciliation of accounts was arrived at four (4) times on different occasions where Philamgen was duly represented by its account executives. On the basis of these admissions and representations, Philamgen cannot later on assume a different posture and claim that it was mistaken in its representation with respect to the correct beginning balance as of July 1977 amounting to P744,159.80. The audit report commissioned by Philamgen is unreliable since its results are admittedly based on an unconfirmed and unaudited beginning balance of P1,758,185.43.
Philamgen has been appropriating for itself all these years the gross billings and income that it took away from the petitioners. A principal can be held liable for damages in cases of unjust termination of agency. This Court ruled that where no time for the continuance of the contract is fixed by its terms, either party is at liberty to terminate it at will, subject only to the ordinary requirements of good faith. The right of the principal to terminate his authority is absolute and unrestricted, except only that he may not do so in bad faith.
The circumstances of the case, however, require that the contractual relationship between the parties shall be terminated upon the satisfaction of the judgment. No more claims arising from or as a result of the agency shall be entertained by the courts after that date.

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