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September 3, 2014

PUP vs. GOLDEN

Facts:
  • National Development Company (NDC) had in its disposal a 10 hectare property, commonly called as NDC Compound, located along Pureza St., Sta. Mesa, Manila. 
  • September 7, 1977: NDC entered into a Contract of Lease with Golden Horizon Realty Corporation (GHRC) over a portion of the NDC Compound for a period of ten years, renewable for another ten  years with mutual consent of the parties.
  • May 4, 1978: a second Contract of Lease was executed between NDC and GHRC. In addition, GHRC as lessee was granted the “option to purchase the area leased, the price to be negotiated and determined at the time the option to purchase is exercised.”
  • Sometime after September 1988, GHRC discovered that NDC had decided to secretly dispose the property to a third party. 
  • In the meantime, then President Corazon C. Aquino issued Memorandum Order No. 214 dated January 6, 1989, ordering the transfer of the whole NDC Compound to the National Government, which in turn would convey the said property in favor of PUP at acquisition cost. 
  • The order of conveyance of the 10.31-hectare property would automatically result in the cancellation of NDC’s total obligation in favor of the National Government in the amount of P57,193,201.64.
  • PUP demanded that GHRC vacate the premises, insisting that the latter’s lease contract had already expired. Its demand letter unheeded by GHRC, PUP filed an ejectment case. GHRC argued that Memorandum Order No. 214 is a nullity.
  • RTC rendered its decision upholding the right of first refusal granted to GHRC under its lease contract with NDC and ordering PUP to reconvey the said portion of the property in favor of GHRC. CA affirmed the RTC ruling.




Issue: WON the option to purchase the portion leased to GHRC was violated by the sale of the NDC Compound in favor of PUP pursuant to Memorandum Order No. 214. YES

Held:

The contract between NDC and GHRC contained an option to purchase in favor to the lessee
The second lease contract contained the following provision: 
III. It is mutually agreed by the parties that this Contract of Lease shall be in full force and effect for a period of ten (10) years counted from the effectivity of the payment of rental as provided under sub-paragraph (b) of Article I, with option to renew for another ten (10) years with the mutual consent of both parties. In no case should the rentals be increased by more than 100% of the original amount fixed. 
Lessee shall also have the option to purchase the area leased, the price to be negotiated and determined at the time the option to purchase is exercised.

Option Contract vs. Right of First Refusal
An option is a contract by which the owner of the property agrees with another person that the latter shall have the right to buy the former’s property at a fixed price within a certain time. It is a condition offered or contract by which the owner stipulates with another that the latter shall have the right to buy the property at a fixed price within a certain time, or under, or in compliance with certain terms and conditions; or which gives to the owner of the property the right to sell or demand a sale. It binds the party, who has given the option, not to enter into the principal contract with any other person during the period designated, and, within that period, to enter into such contract with the one to whom the option was granted, if the latter should decide to use the option.

Upon the other hand, a right of first refusal is a contractual grant, not of the sale of a property, but of the first priority to buy the property in the event the owner sells the same. As distinguished from an option contract, in a right of first refusal, while the object might be made determinate, the exercise of the right of first refusal would be dependent not only on the owner’s eventual intention to enter into a binding juridical relation with another but also on terms, including the price, that are yet to be firmed up.

The contract between the parties involve a right of first refusal
As the option to purchase clause in the second lease contract has no definite period within which the leased premises will be offered for sale to respondent lessee and the price is made subject to negotiation and determined only at the time the option to buy is exercised, it is obviously a mere right of refusal, usually inserted in lease contracts to give the lessee the first crack to buy the property in case the lessor decides to sell the same. 

When a lease contract contains a right of first refusal, the lessor has the legal duty to the lessee not to sell the leased property to anyone at any price until after the lessor has made an offer to sell the property to the lessee and the lessee has failed to accept it. Only after the lessee has failed to exercise his right of first priority could the lessor sell the property to other buyers under the same terms and conditions offered to the lessee, or under terms and conditions more favorable to the lessor.

Respondent GHRC thus timely exercised its option to purchase on August 12, 1988 and NDC violated the right of first refusal
However, considering that NDC had been negotiating through the National Government for the sale of the property in favor of PUP as early as July 15, 1988 without first offering to sell it to respondent and even when respondent communicated its desire to exercise the option to purchase granted to it under the lease contract, it is clear that NDC violated respondent’s right of first refusal. Under the premises, the matter of the right of refusal not having been carried over to the impliedly renewed month-to-month lease after the expiration of the second lease contract on October 21, 1988 becomes irrelevant since at the time of the negotiations of the sale to a third party, petitioner PUP, respondent’s right of first refusal was still subsisting.

Indeed, basic is the rule that a party to a contract cannot unilaterally withdraw a right of first refusal that stands upon valuable consideration
We have categorically ruled that it is not correct to say that there is no consideration for the grant of the right of first refusal if such grant is embodied in the same contract of lease. Since the stipulation forms part of the entire lease contract, the consideration for the lease includes the consideration for the grant of the right of first refusal. In entering into the contract, the lessee is in effect stating that it consents to lease the premises and to pay the price agreed upon provided the lessor also consents that, should it sell the leased property, then, the lessee shall be given the right to match the offered purchase price and to buy the property at that price.

The true value of the land at the time of the sale to PUP was P1,500
GHRC, which did not offer any amount to petitioner NDC, and neither disputed the P1,500.00 per square meter actual value of NDC’s property at that time it was sold to PUP at P554.74 per square meter, as duly considered by this Court in the Firestone case, should be bound by such determination. Accordingly, the price at which the leased premises should be sold to respondent in the exercise of its right of first refusal under the lease contract with petitioner NDC, which was pegged by the RTC at P554.74 per square meter, should be adjusted to P1,500.00 per square meter, which more accurately reflects its true value at that time of the sale in favor of petitioner PUP.

RULING: RTC and CA ruling affirmed with modification: the price to be paid by respondent Golden Horizon Realty Corporation for the leased portion of the NDC Compound under Lease Contract Nos. C-33-77 and C-12-78 is hereby increased to P1,500.00 per square meter.

Read the full text here:
POLYTECHNIC UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner, - versus - GOLDEN HORIZON REALTY CORPORATION, Respondent. G.R. No. 183612 x------------------------------------------x NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT COMPANY, Petitioner, - versus - GOLDEN HORIZON REALTY CORPORATION, Respondent. G.R. No. 184260 Present: PUNO, C.J., Chairperson, CARPIO MORALES, LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, BERSAMIN, and VILLARAMA, JR., JJ. Promulgated: March 15, 2010

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