BENITO MACAM doing business under the name and style BEN-MAC ENTERPRISES, Petitioner, v. COURT OF APPEALS, CHINA OCEAN SHIPPING CO., and/or WALLEM PHILIPPINES SHIPPING, INC., Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
On 4 April 1989 petitioner Benito Macam, doing business under the name and style Ben-Mac Enterprises, shipped on board the vessel Nen Jiang, owned and operated by respondent China Ocean Shipping Co., through local agent respondent Wallem Philippines Shipping, Inc. (hereinafter WALLEM), 3,500 boxes of watermelons valued at US$5,950.00 covered by Bill of Lading No. HKG 99012 and exported through Letter of Credit No. HK 1031/30 issued by National Bank of Pakistan, Hongkong (hereinafter PAKISTAN BANK) and 1,611 boxes of fresh mangoes with a value of US$14,273.46 covered by Bill of Lading No. HKG 99013 and exported through Letter of Credit No. HK 1032/30 also issued by PAKISTAN BANK. The Bills of Lading contained the following pertinent provision: "One of the Bills of Lading must be surrendered duly endorsed in exchange for the goods or delivery order."1 The shipment was bound for Hongkong with PAKISTAN BANK as consignee and Great Prospect Company of Kowloon, Hongkong (hereinafter GPC) as notify party.
On 6 April 1989, per letter of credit requirement, copies of the bills of lading and commercial invoices were submitted to petitioner's depository bank, Consolidated Banking Corporation (hereinafter SOLIDBANK), which paid petitioner in advance the total value of the shipment of US$20,223.46.
Upon arrival in Hongkong, the shipment was delivered by respondent WALLEM directly to GPC, not to PAKISTAN BANK, and without the required bill of lading having been surrendered. Subsequently, GPC failed to pay PAKISTAN BANK such that the latter, still in possession of the original bills of lading, refused to pay petitioner through SOLIDBANK. Since SOLIDBANK already pre-paid petitioner the value of the shipment, it demanded payment from respondent WALLEM through five (5) letters but was refused. Petitioner was thus allegedly constrained to return the amount involved to SOLIDBANK, then demanded payment from respondent WALLEM in writing but to no avail.
On 25 September 1991 petitioner
sought collection of the value of the shipment of US$20,223.46 or its
P546,033.42 from respondents before the Regional Trial
Court of Manila, based on delivery of the shipment to GPC without presentation
of the bills of lading and bank guarantee.
Respondents contended that the shipment was delivered to GPC without presentation of the bills of lading and bank guarantee per request of petitioner himself because the shipment consisted of perishable goods. The telex dated 5 April 1989 conveying such request read -
Respondents explained that it is a standard maritime practice, when immediate delivery is of the essence, for the shipper to request or instruct the carrier to deliver the goods to the buyer upon arrival at the port of destination without requiring presentation of the bill of lading as that usually takes time. As proof thereof, respondents apprised the trial court that for the duration of their two-year business relationship with petitioner concerning similar shipments to GPC deliveries were effected without presentation of the bills of lading.4 Respondents advanced next that the refusal of PAKISTAN BANK to pay the letters of credit to SOLIDBANK was due to the latter's failure to submit a Certificate of Quantity and Quality. Respondents counterclaimed for attorneys fees and costs of suit.
On 14 May 1993 the trial court
ordered respondents to pay, jointly and severally, the following amounts:
P546,033.42 plus legal interest
from 6 April 1989 until full payment; (2) P10,000.00 as attorney's fees;
and, (3) the costs.
were dismissed for lack of merit.5 The trial court opined that respondents breached the
provision in the bill of lading requiring that "one of the Bills of Lading
must be surrendered duly endorsed in exchange for the goods or delivery
order," when they released the shipment to GPC without presentation of the
bills of lading and the bank guarantee that should have been issued by PAKISTAN
BANK in lieu of the bills of lading.
The trial court added that the shipment should not have been released to
GPC at all since the instruction contained in the telex was to arrange delivery
to the respective consignees and not to any party. The trial court observed that the only role of GPC in the
transaction as notify party was precisely to be notified of the arrival of the
cargoes in Hongkong so it could in turn duly advise the consignee.
Respondent Court of Appeals appreciated the evidence in a different manner. According to it, as established by previous similar transactions between the parties, shipped cargoes were sometimes actually delivered not to the consignee but to notify party GPC without need of the bills of lading or bank guarantee.6 Moreover, the bills of lading were viewed by respondent court to have been properly superseded by the telex instruction and to implement the instruction, the delivery of the shipment must be to GPC, the real importer/buyer of the goods as shown by the export invoices,7 and not to PAKISTAN BANK since the latter could very well present the bills of lading in its possession; likewise, if it were the PAKISTAN BANK to which the cargoes were to be strictly delivered it would no longer be proper to require a bank guarantee. Respondent court noted that besides, GPC was listed as a consignee in the telex. It observed further that the demand letter of petitioner to respondents never complained of misdelivery of goods. Lastly, respondent court found that petitioners claim of having reimbursed the amount involved to SOLIDBANK was unsubstantiated. Thus, on 13 March 1996 respondent court set aside the decision of the trial court and dismissed the complaint together with the counterclaims.8 On 5 July 1996 reconsideration was denied.9cräläwvirtualibräry
Petitioner submits that the fact that the shipment was not delivered to the consignee as stated in the bill of lading or to a party designated or named by the consignee constitutes a misdelivery thereof. Moreover, petitioner argues that from the text of the telex, assuming there was such an instruction, the delivery of the shipment without the required bill of lading or bank guarantee should be made only to the designated consignee, referring to PAKISTAN BANK.
We are not persuaded. The submission of petitioner that the fact that the shipment was not delivered to the consignee as stated in the Bill of Lading or to a party designated or named by the consignee constitutes a misdelivery thereof is a deviation from his cause of action before the trial court. It is clear from the allegation in his complaint that it does not deal with misdelivery of the cargoes but of delivery to GPC without the required bills of lading and bank guarantee -
6. The goods arrived in Hongkong and were released by the defendant Wallem directly to the buyer/notify party, Great Prospect Company and not to the consignee, the National Bank of Pakistan, Hongkong, without the required bills of lading and bank guarantee for the release of the shipment issued by the consignee of the goods x x x x10
Even going back to an event that transpired prior to the filing of the present case or when petitioner wrote respondent WALLEM demanding payment of the value of the cargoes, misdelivery of the cargoes did not come into the picture -
We are writing you on behalf of our client, Ben-Mac Enterprises who informed us that Bills of Lading No. 99012 and 99013 with a total value of US$20,223.46 were released to Great Prospect, Hongkong without the necessary bank guarantee. We were further informed that the consignee of the goods, National Bank of Pakistan, Hongkong, did not release or endorse the original bills of lading. As a result thereof, neither the consignee, National Bank of Pakistan, Hongkong, nor the importer, Great Prospect Company, Hongkong, paid our client for the goods x x x x11
At any rate, we shall dwell on petitioners submission only as a prelude to our discussion on the imputed liability of respondents concerning the shipped goods. Article 1736 of the Civil Code provides -
Art. 1736. The extraordinary responsibility of the common carriers lasts from the time the goods are unconditionally placed in the possession of, and received by the carrier for transportation until the same are delivered, actually or constructively, by the carrier to the consignee, or to the person who has a right to receive them, without prejudice to the provisions of article 1738.12
We emphasize that the extraordinary responsibility of the common carriers lasts until actual or constructive delivery of the cargoes to the consignee or to the person who has a right to receive them. PAKISTAN BANK was indicated in the bills of lading as consignee whereas GPC was the notify party. However, in the export invoices GPC was clearly named as buyer/importer. Petitioner also referred to GPC as such in his demand letter to respondent WALLEM and in his complaint before the trial court. This premise draws us to conclude that the delivery of the cargoes to GPC as buyer/importer which, conformably with Art. 1736 had, other than the consignee, the right to receive them13 was proper.
The real issue is whether respondents are liable to petitioner for releasing the goods to GPC without the bills of lading or bank guarantee.
Respondents submitted in evidence a telex dated 5 April 1989 as basis for delivering the cargoes to GPC without the bills of lading and bank guarantee. The telex instructed delivery of various shipments to the respective consignees without need of presenting the bill of lading and bank guarantee per the respective shippers request since for prepaid shipt ofrt charges already fully paid. Petitioner was named therein as shipper and GPC as consignee with respect to Bill of Lading Nos. HKG 99012 and HKG 99013. Petitioner disputes the existence of such instruction and claims that this evidence is self-serving.
From the testimony of petitioner, we gather that he has been transacting with GPC as buyer/importer for around two (2) or three (3) years already. When mangoes and watermelons are in season, his shipment to GPC using the facilities of respondents is twice or thrice a week. The goods are released to GPC. It has been the practice of petitioner to request the shipping lines to immediately release perishable cargoes such as watermelons and fresh mangoes through telephone calls by himself or his people. In transactions covered by a letter of credit, bank guarantee is normally required by the shipping lines prior to releasing the goods. But for buyers using telegraphic transfers, petitioner dispenses with the bank guarantee because the goods are already fully paid. In his several years of business relationship with GPC and respondents, there was not a single instance when the bill of lading was first presented before the release of the cargoes. He admitted the existence of the telex of 3 July 1989 containing his request to deliver the shipment to the consignee without presentation of the bill of lading14 but not the telex of 5 April 1989 because he could not remember having made such request.
Consider pertinent portions of petitioners testimony -
Q: Are you aware of any document which would indicate or show that your request to the defendant Wallem for the immediate release of your fresh fruits, perishable goods, to Great Prospect without the presentation of the original Bill of Lading?
A: Yes, by telegraphic transfer, which means that it is fully paid. And I requested the immediate release of the cargo because there was immediate payment.
Q And you are referring, therefore, to this copy Telex release that you mentioned where your Companys name appears Ben-Mac?
Atty. Hernandez: Just for the record, Your Honor, the witness is showing a Bill of Lading referring to SKG (sic) 93023 and 93026 with Great Prospect Company.
Q: Is that the telegraphic transfer?
A: Yes, actually, all the shippers partially request for the immediate release of the goods when they are perishable. I thought Wallem Shipping Lines is not neophyte in the business. As far as LC is concerned, Bank guarantee is needed for the immediate release of the goods x x x x15
Q: Mr. Witness, you testified that it is the practice of the shipper of the perishable goods to ask the shipping lines to release immediately the shipment. Is that correct?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: Now, it is also the practice of the shipper to allow the shipping lines to release the perishable goods to the importer of goods without a Bill of Lading or Bank guarantee?
A: No, it cannot be without the Bank Guarantee.
Q: Can you tell us an instance when you will allow the release of the perishable goods by the shipping lines to the importer without the Bank guarantee and without the Bill of Lading?
A: As far as telegraphic transfer is concerned.
Q: Can you explain (to) this Honorable Court what telegraphic transfer is?
A: Telegraphic transfer, it means advance payment that I am already fully paid x x x x
Q: Mr. Macam, with regard to Wallem and to Great Prospect, would you know and can you recall that any of your shipment was released to Great Prospect by Wallem through telegraphic transfer?
A: I could not recall but there were so many instances sir.
Q: Mr. Witness, do you confirm before this Court that in previous shipments of your goods through Wallem, you requested Wallem to release immediately your perishable goods to the buyer?
A: Yes, that is the request of the shippers of the perishable goods x x x x16
Q: Now, Mr. Macam, if you request the Shipping Lines for the release of your goods immediately even without the presentation of OBL, how do you course it?
A: Usually, I call up the Shipping Lines, sir x x x x17
Q: You also testified you made this request through phone calls. Who of you talked whenever you made such phone call?
A: Mostly I let my people to call, sir. (sic)
Q: So everytime you made a shipment on perishable goods you let your people to call? (sic)
A: Not everytime, sir.
Q: You did not make this request in writing?
A: No, sir. I think I have no written request with Wallem x x x x18
Against petitioners claim of not remembering having made a request for delivery of subject cargoes to GPC without presentation of the bills of lading and bank guarantee as reflected in the telex of 5 April 1989 are damaging disclosures in his testimony. He declared that it was his practice to ask the shipping lines to immediately release shipment of perishable goods through telephone calls by himself or his people. He no longer required presentation of a bill of lading nor of a bank guarantee as a condition to releasing the goods in case he was already fully paid. Thus, taking into account that subject shipment consisted of perishable goods and SOLIDBANK pre-paid the full amount of the value thereof, it is not hard to believe the claim of respondent WALLEM that petitioner indeed requested the release of the goods to GPC without presentation of the bills of lading and bank guarantee.
The instruction in the telex of 5 April 1989 was to deliver the shipment to respective consignees. And so petitioner argues that, assuming there was such an instruction, the consignee referred to was PAKISTAN BANK. We find the argument too simplistic. Respondent court analyzed the telex in its entirety and correctly arrived at the conclusion that the consignee referred to was not PAKISTAN BANK but GPC -
There is no mistake that the originals of the two (2) subject Bills of Lading are still in the possession of the Pakistani Bank. The appealed decision affirms this fact. Conformably, to implement the said telex instruction, the delivery of the shipment must be to GPC, the notify party or real importer/buyer of the goods and not the Pakistani Bank since the latter can very well present the original Bills of Lading in its possession. Likewise, if it were the Pakistani Bank to whom the cargoes were to be strictly delivered, it will no longer be proper to require a bank guarantee as a substitute for the Bill of Lading. To construe otherwise will render meaningless the telex instruction. After all, the cargoes consist of perishable fresh fruits and immediate delivery thereof to the buyer/importer is essentially a factor to reckon with. Besides, GPC is listed as one among the several consignees in the telex (Exhibit 5-B) and the instruction in the telex was to arrange delivery of A/M shipment (not any party) to respective consignees without presentation of OB/L and bank guarantee x x x x19
Apart from the foregoing obstacles to the success of petitioners cause, petitioner failed to substantiate his claim that he returned to SOLIDBANK the full amount of the value of the cargoes. It is not far-fetched to entertain the notion, as did respondent court, that he merely accommodated SOLIDBANK in order to recover the cost of the shipped cargoes from respondents. We note that it was SOLIDBANK which initially demanded payment from respondents through five (5) letters. SOLIDBANK must have realized the absence of privity of contract between itself and respondents. That is why petitioner conveniently took the cudgels for the bank.
In view of petitioners utter failure to establish the liability of respondents over the cargoes, no reversible error was committed by respondent court in ruling against him.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The decision of respondent Court of Appeals of 13 March 1996 dismissing the complaint of petitioner Benito Macam and the counterclaims of respondents China Ocean Shipping Co. and/or Wallem Philippines Shipping, Inc., as well as its resolution of 5 July 1996 denying reconsideration, is AFFIRMED.
Mendoza, Quisumbing, and Buena, JJ., concur.
1 Exhs. A and B; Records, pp. 84-85.
2 Original Bill of Lading.
33 Exh. 5-A; Records, p. 146.
4 Exh. 6; id., p. 147.
5 Decision penned by Judge Napoleon R. Flojo, RTC-Br. 2, Manila; Rollo, p. 61.
6 See Note 3.
7 Exhs. N-2 and O-2; Records, pp. 108 and 111.
8 Decision penned by Justice Conrado M. Vasquez Jr. with the concurrence of Justices Gloria C. Paras and Angelina Sandoval Gutierrez; Rollo, p. 45.
9 Rollo, p. 48.
10 Records, p. 3.
11 Exh. K; Records, p. 100.
12 Art. 1738. The extraordinary liability of the common carrier continues to be operative even during the time the goods are stored in a warehouse of the carrier at the place of destination, until the consignee has been advised of the arrival of the goods and has had reasonable opportunity thereafter to remove them or otherwise dispose of them.
13 Eastern Shipping Lines, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, G. R. No. 80936, 17 October 1990, 190 SCRA 512; Samar Mining Company, Inc. v. Nordeutscher Lloyd, No. L-28673, 23 October 1984, 132 SCRA 529.
14 See Note 3.
15 TSN, 6 November 1992, pp. 24-25.
16 Id., pp. 27-28.
17 Id., p. 31.
18 TSN, 18 November 1992, pp. 8-9.
19 Rollo, pp. 42-43.