LEXBER, INC, petitioner,
CAESAR M. and CONCHITA B. DALMAN, respondents.
G.R. No. 183587, April 20, 2015
TOPIC: Approval of rehabilitation plan
Lexber is a domestic corporation engaged in the business of housing, construction, and real estate development. Among those who availed of Lexber’s housing projects are respondent Spouses Dalman, who bought a house and lot under a contract to sell in Lexber’s Regal Lexber Homes at Tuba, Benguet.
Because of the 1997 Asian financial crisis and other external factors, Lexber’s financial condition deteriorated. It was forced to discontinue some of its housing projects, including the one where the Spouses Dalman’s purchased property is located.
As Lexber could no longer pay its creditors, it filed a petition for rehabilitation with prayer for the suspension of payments on its loan obligations. Among its creditors are the Spouses Dalman who are yet to receive their purchased house and lot, or, in the alternative, a refund of their payments which amounted to P900,000.00.
In an order dated June 12, 2007, the trial court gave due course to Lexber’s rehabilitation petition and appointed Atty. Rafael Chris F. Teston (Atty. Teston) as rehabilitation receiver. It further ordered Atty. Teston to evaluate Lexber’s rehabilitation plan and recommend the necessary actions to be taken.
The Spouses Dalman filed a motion for reconsideration from this order and argued that consistent with Rule 4, Section 1114 of the Interim Rules of Procedure on Corporate Rehabilitation (Interim Rules), the trial court should have dismissed outright the rehabilitation petition because it failed to approve the rehabilitation plan within 180 days from the date of the initial hearing.
Whether or not the petition shall be automatically dismissed after the lapse of 180 days from the date of the initial hearing.
No. The Court held that the lapse of the 180-day period for the approval of the rehabilitation plan should not automatically result to the dismissal of the rehabilitation petition.
Section 11. Period of the Stay Order – The stay order shall be effective from the date of its issuance until the dismissal of the petition or the termination of the rehabilitation proceedings.
The petition shall be dismissed if no rehabilitation plan is approved by the court upon the lapse of one hundred eighty (180) days from the date of the initial hearing. The court may grant an extension beyond this period only if it appears by convincing and compelling evidence that the debtor may successfully be rehabilitated. In no instance, however, shall the period for approving or disapproving a rehabilitation plan exceed eighteen (18) months from the date of filing of the petition.
The records of the present case show that on May 4, 2007, Lexber filed a motion for the extension of the period for the approval of the rehabilitation plan. However, the trial court never issued a resolution on this motion. Instead, on June 12, 2007, it issued an order giving due course to the petition. The records also reveal that after the initial hearing, the trial court had to conduct additional hearings even after the lapse of the 180-day period.
Under these circumstances, the Court concludes that Lexber could not be faulted for the non-approval of the rehabilitation plan within the 180-day period. A petitioner-corporation should not be penalized if the trial court needed more time to evaluate the rehabilitation plan. Notably, in the present case, Lexber filed a motion for the extension of the 180-day period. However, the trial court did not issue a resolution on this motion. Instead, it issued an order giving due course to the petition, which also fell within the 18-month limit prescribed under the law.