[LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.]
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas approved the Articles of Merger executed by and between BPI, herein petitioner, and Far East Bank and Trust Company (FEBTC) and was approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Articles of Merger and Plan of Merger did not contain any specific stipulation with respect to the employment contracts of existing personnel of the non-surviving entity which is FEBTC. Pursuant to the said Article and Plan of Merger, all the assets and liabilities of FEBTC were transferred to and absorbed by BPI as the surviving corporation. FEBTC employees, including those in its different branches across the country, were hired by petitioner as its own employees, with their status and tenure recognized and salaries and benefits maintained.
Whether or not employees are ipso jure absorbed in a merger of the two corporations.
NO. [H]uman beings are never embraced in the term “assets and liabilities.”Moreover, BPI’s absorption of former FEBTC employees was neither by operation of law nor by legal consequence of contract. There was no government regulation or law that compelled the merger of the two banks or the absorption of the employees of the dissolved corporation by the surviving corporation. Had there been such law or regulation, the absorption of employees of the non-surviving entities of the merger would have been mandatory on the surviving corporation. In the present case, the merger was voluntarily entered into by both banks presumably for some mutually acceptable consideration. In fact, the Corporation Code does not also mandate the absorption of the employees of the non-surviving corporation by the surviving corporation in the case of a merger.
[The] Court cannot uphold the reasoning that the general stipulation regarding transfer of FEBTC assets and liabilities to BPI as set forth in the Articles of Merger necessarily includes the transfer of all FEBTC employees into the employ of BPI and neither BPI nor the FEBTC employees allegedly could do anything about it. Even if it is so, it does not follow that the absorbed employees should not be subject to the terms and conditions of employment obtaining in the surviving corporation.
Furthermore, [the] Court believes that it is contrary to public policy to declare the former FEBTC employees as forming part of the assets or liabilities of FEBTC that were transferred and absorbed by BPI in the Articles of Merger. Assets and liabilities, in this instance, should be deemed to refer only to property rights and obligations of FEBTC and do not include the employment contracts of its personnel. A corporation cannot unilaterally transfer its employees to another employer like chattel. Certainly, if BPI as an employer had the right to choose who to retain among FEBTC’s employees, FEBTC employees had the concomitant right to choose not to be absorbed by BPI. Even though FEBTC employees had no choice or control over the merger of their employer with BPI, they had a choice whether or not they would allow themselves to be absorbed by BPI. Certainly nothing prevented the FEBTC’s employees from resigning or retiring and seeking employment elsewhere instead of going along with the proposed absorption.
Employment is a personal consensual contract and absorption by BPI of a former FEBTC employee without the consent of the employee is in violation of an individual’s freedom to contract. It would have been a different matter if there was an express provision in the articles of merger that as a condition for the merger, BPI was being required to assume all the employment contracts of all existing FEBTC employees with the conformity of the employees. In the absence of such a provision in the articles of merger, then BPI clearly had the business management decision as to whether or not employ FEBTC’s employees. FEBTC employees likewise retained the prerogative to allow themselves to be absorbed or not; otherwise, that would be tantamount to involuntary servitude.
[Note: The decision as to absorption of employees upon merger is reversed in the Resolution of MR dated October 19, 2011]