337 Phil. 31
HERMOSISIMA, JR., J.:
"On February 22, 1991, x x x [private respondent] filed an application with the Office of the Mayor of Candon, Ilocos Sur, for the issuance of a permit for the opening and operation of a branch of the Acebedo Optical in that municipality.The singular issue, admittedly extensively debated and intensely contested not only by the members of the optometry profession and the players in the business of selling optical ware, supplies, substances and instruments but also by the members of the Senate during the deliberations respecting R A. 8050, otherwise known as Revised New Optometry Law, is this: May corporations, engaged in the business of selling optical wares, supplies, substances and instruments which, as an incident to and in the ordinary course of the business hire optometrists, be said to be practicing the profession of optometry which, by legal mandate, may only be engaged in by natural persons possessed of specific legal qualifications?
The application was opposed by the x x x [petitioner] Samahan ng Optometrists sa Pilipinas (SOP) which contended that x x x [private respondent] is a juridical entity not qualified to practice optometry.
On March 6, 1991, x x x [private respondent] filed its answer, arguing it is not the corporation, but the optometrists employed by it, who would be practicing optometry.
On April 17, 1991, the Mayor of Candon created a committee, composed of "public respondents Eduardo Ma. Guirnalda, Dante G. Pacquing and Octavio de Peralta, to pass on [private respondent's] application.
On September 26, 1991 the committee rendered a decision denying [private respondent's] application for a mayor's permit to operate a branch in Candon and ordering x x x [private respondent] to close its establishment within fifteen (15) days from receipt of the decision. Acebedo moved for a reconsideration but its motion was denied on November 14, 1991. x x x [Private respondent] was ordered to close its establishment within ten (10) days from receipt of the order.
On December 9, 1991, x x x [private respondent] filed with the Court of Appeals a petition for certiorari (CA G.R SP No. 26782), questioning the decision of respondent committee. Its petition, however, was referred to the court a quo, which on December 16, 1992, dismissed Acebedo's petition. Hence, x x x [the] appeal [to the respondent Court of Appeals]."
"The denial of the application of Acebedo rested on the grounds that it is operating an optical shop and it is practicing optometry where its charter does not grant to it authority to practice the former. Acebedo submits that the findings of the Commission have no basis both in law and in fact. It argues that the hiring of optometrists by the petitioner is merely incidental to its main business which is the sale of optical products. Acebedo contends further that its employees have a personality separate and distinct from that of Acebedo which is a juridical entity, and it cannot therefore be considered as engaged in optometry.'The visit revealed the following:
The Court disagrees.
Quoted for the enlightenment of both parties is a portion of the contested Decision, to wit:
The Court is very much aware of the existence of several shops owned by Acebedo. They are operating up to the present. But the Court has to rely in this case on the findings of the Commission created by the Mayor of Candon in the absence of proof that the same was arrived at hastily and without regard for the rights of the parties. In fact, the contested Decision was issued only after an ocular inspection was conducted and the parties have submitted their respective memorandum.Disagreeing with the foregoing decision of the trial court, private respondent appealed therefrom and asked the respondent Court of Appeals to reverse the same on the ground that the court a quo erred in concluding that private respondent was engaged in the practice of optometry by operating an optical shop.
The findings of the Commission reveal that the operation of Acebedo's local shop involves the practice of optometry. If indeed Acebedo is engaged in the sale of optical products, the absence of sales clerks more than demonstrate its real business. In the contested Decision, the floor plan of the shop was even commented on as that of an optical shop. As noted by the members of the Commission, there was also a banner in front of the shop prominently display advertising free consultations (libreng consulta sa mata). These facts, taken together, denote that Acebedo was operating in Candon an optical shop contrary to law.
While it is also true that a corporation has a personality separate and distinct from that of its personnel, the veil of corporate fiction cannot be used for the purpose of some illegal activity. The veil of corporate fiction can be pierced, as in this case, and the acts of the personnel of the corporation will be considered as those of the corporation. Acebedo then is engaged in the practice of optometry."
"First. x x x [Private respondent] maintains that it is not practicing optometry nor is it operating an optical clinic. The contention has merit. The amended Articles of Incorporation of x x x [private respondent] in part states:
Clearly, the corporation is not an optical clinic. Nor is it — but rather the optometrists employed by it who are — engaged in the practice of optometry. Petitioner-appellant simply dispenses optical and ophthalmic instruments and supplies.No person shall practice or attempt to practice optometry as defined in this Act, without holding a valid certificate of registration as optometrist issued to him by the Board of Examiners in Optometry herein created and in accordance with the provisions hereof: Provided, that valid certificates of registration as optometrists shall be issued to optometrists of good moral character now registered in accordance with the provisions of chapter thirty-three of the Revised Administrative Code, who shall, by application within a period of one year from the effectivity of this Act, be exempt from the provisions of sections eleven, twelve and twenty-three of this Act. . . .
Indeed, the Optometry Law (Rep. Act No. 1998), which x x x [petitioners] cite, does not prohibit corporations, like x x x [private respondent; from employing licensed optometrists.
What it prohibits is the practice of the profession without license by those engaged in it. This is clear from Sec. 2 of the law which provides:
The prohibition is thus addressed to natural persons who are required to have a valid certificate of registration as optometrist' and who must be of 'good moral character'. The prohibition can have no application to x x x [private respondent] which is not itself engaged in the practice of optometry. As the Professional Regulation Commission said, "Acebedo Optical, Acebedo Optical Clinic, Acebedo Optical Co., Inc. and Acebedo International, Inc. are not natural persons who can take the Optometrist licensure examinations. They are not, and cannot be registered as Optometrist under RA 1998 [The Optometry Law].'"Petitioners filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the aforegoing decision. It was, however, denied by respondent appellate court. Hence, this petition anchored on the following sole ground:
WHETHER OR NOT THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN DECLARING THAT PRIVATE RESPONDENT ACEBEDO INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION DOES NOT VIOLATE THE OPTOMETRY LAW (R. A. NO. 1998) WHEN IT EMPLOYS OPTOMETRISTS TO ENGAGE IN THE PRACTICE OF OPTOMETRY UNDER ITS NAME AND FOR ITS BEHALFWe hold that the petition lacks merit.
The herein petitioner most respectfully submits that the private respondent Acebedo International Corporation flagrantly violates R. A. No. 1998 and the Corporation Code of the Philippines when it employs optometrists to engage in the practice of optometry under its name and for its behalf."
SEC. 5. Prohibition Against the Unauthorized Practice of Optometry. - No person shall practice optometry as defined in Section 3 of this Act nor perform any of the acts, constituting the practice of optometry as setforth in Section 4 hereof, without having been first admitted to the practice of this profession under the provisions of this Act and its implementing rules and regulations: Provided, That this prohibition shall not apply to regularly licensed and duly registered physicians who have received post-graduate training in the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases: Provided, however, That the examination of the human eye by duly registered physicians in connection with the physical examination of patients shall not be considered as practice of optometry: Provided, further, That public health workers trained and involved in the government's blindness prevention program may conduct only visual acuity test and visual screening.All told, there is no law that prohibits the hiring by corporations of optometrists or considers the hiring by corporations of optometrists as a practice by the corporation itself of the profession of optometry.
SEC. 6 Disclosure of Authority to Practice. — An optometrist shall be required to indicate his professional license number and the date of its expiration in the documents he issues or signs in connection with the practice of his profession. He shall also display his certificate of registration in a conspicuous area of his clinic or office."