SC sets new jurisprudence on payment of docket fees


Rules on payment of docket fees pertaining to intra-corporate squabbles have been revised by the Supreme Court (SC). The revision stemmed from the case of Alliance International Inc. (Alliance), a tuna canning firm, embroiled in a management conflict after the acquisition by Strong Oak Inc. of the firm’s 430.286 million shares worth P563.675 million. The High Tribunal’s First Division decided on a consolidated petition filed by Alliance led by its president Jonathan Dee and its minority shareholders led by Harvest All Investment Limited (Harvest All) promulgated on March 15, 2017 by Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe, denying the petition of Alliance and partly granted the plea of Harvest All ruling that an intra-corporate controversy may involve a subject matter that is either capable or incapable of monetary estimation. Harvest All, in opposing the postponement of the annual stockholders’ meeting pending complete subscription to its Stock Rights Offering (SRO), filed a complaint before the Pasig Regional Trial Court (RTC) involving intra-corporate controversy against Alliance. The Pasig RTC Clerk of Court assessed Harvest All with filing fees of P8,860.00, which the firm paid. But Pasig RTC Branch 159 dismissed the complaint of Harvest All, ruling in favor of Alliance’s argument that Harvest All failed to pay correct filing fees. Alliance believed that the court has no jurisdiction over the case because Harvest All should have paid P20 million as docket fee based on the worth of SRO, which is valued at P1 billion. Harvest All brought the case before the Court of Appeals (CA), which ordered the reinstatement of the case. The CA directed the Pasig RTC to conduct proceedings but only after the proper legal fees of P1 billion. Both the Pasig RTC and the CA, in deciding the case, relied on a pronouncement made by the highest court in the case of Lu vs Lu Ym: “An intra-corporate controversy always involves a property in litigation, the value of which is always the basis for computing the applicable filing fees.” The SC in its latest ruling, however, clarified that such pronouncement is a mere opinion and does not bind the courts in deciding similar cases.


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