Sunday, October 16, 2011

Agustin P. Dela Torre v. The Hon. Court of Appeals, et al./Philippine Trigon Shipyard Corporation, et al. v. Crisostomo G. Concepcion, et al., G.R. No. 160088/G.R. No. 160565, July 13, 2011

Charterer and sub-charterer; liability.  (J. Abad)

In the present case, the charterer and the sub-charterer through their respective contracts of agreement/charter parties, obtained the use and service of the entire LCT-Josephine. The vessel was likewise manned by the charterer and later by the sub-charterer’s people. With the complete and exclusive relinquishment of possession, command and navigation of the vessel, the charterer and later the sub-charterer became the vessel’s owner pro hac vice. Now, and in the absence of any showing that the vessel or any part thereof was commercially offered for use to the public, the above agreements/charter parties are that of a private carriage where the rights of the contracting parties are primarily defined and governed by the stipulations in their contract. 

Although certain statutory rights and obligations of charter parties are found in the Code of Commerce, these provisions as correctly pointed out by the RTC, are not applicable in the present case. Indeed, none of the provisions found in the Code of Commerce deals with the specific rights and obligations between the real shipowner and the charterer obtaining in this case. Necessarily, the Court looks to the New Civil Code to supply the deficiency. 

Thus, Roland, who, in his personal capacity, entered into the Preliminary Agreement with Concepcion for the dry-docking and repair of LCT-Josephine, is liable under Article 1189 of the New Civil Code. There is no denying that the vessel was not returned to Concepcion after the repairs because of the provision in the Preliminary Agreement that the same “should” be used by Roland for the first two years. Before the vessel could be returned, it was lost due to the negligence of Agustin to whom Roland chose to sub-charter or sublet the vessel. 

PTSC is liable to Concepcion under Articles 1665 and 1667 of the New Civil Code. As the charterer or lessee under the Contract of Agreement dated June 20, 1984, PTSC was contract-bound to return the thing leased and it was liable for the deterioration or loss of the same. 

Agustin, on the other hand, who was the sub-charterer or sub-lessee of LCT-Josephine, is liable under Article 1651 of the New Civil Code. Although he was never privy to the contract between PTSC and Concepcion, he remained bound to preserve the chartered vessel for the latter. Despite his non-inclusion in the complaint of Concepcion, it was deemed amended so as to include him because, despite or in the absence of that formality of amending the complaint to include him, he still had his day in court as he was in fact impleaded as a third-party defendant by his own son, Roland – the very same person who represented him in the Contract of Agreement with Larrazabal. 

In any case, all three petitioners are liable under Article 1170 of the New Civil Code.

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