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G.R. No. 134113 - Air France Philippines v. The Honorable Judge Emilio L. Leachon, et al.

G.R. No. 134113 - Air France Philippines v. The Honorable Judge Emilio L. Leachon, et al.

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

THIRD DIVISION

[G.R. NO. 134113. October 12, 2005]

AIR FRANCE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner,, v. THE HONORABLE JUDGE EMILIO L. LEACHON (Regional Trial Court, Quezon City, Branch 224) and LUMEN POLICARPIO, Respondents.

D E C I S I O N

GARCIA, J.:

In this Petition for Review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, petitioner Air France Philippines seeks the annulment and setting aside of the Resolutions dated February 20, 19981 and June 9, 1998 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 45251. The first assailed resolution dismissed the main petition, while the second denied petitioner's motion for reconsideration.

The facts:

Sometime in 1980, in the then Court of First Instance (CFI) of Caloocan City, herein respondent, Atty. Lumen Policarpio, filed a complaint for damages against petitioner Air France Philippines.

On December 2, 1980, petitioner and respondent entered into an amicable settlement via a document entitled "Release and Quitclaim". Pursuant thereto, the parties filed a joint motion for the dismissal of Civil Case No. C-6952, with prejudice. Acting thereon, the court ordered petitioner to submit the parties' amicable agreement, and thereafter dismissed the case, with prejudice.

On March 25, 1995, or after a lapse of more than (14) fourteen years, respondent filed another complaint for damages against petitioner, this time with the Regional Trial Court at Quezon City whereat the complaint was docketed as Civil Case No. Q-95-23539. In her complaint, respondent alleged that petitioner reneged in its obligation under their 1980 "Release and Quitclaim" agreement. To the complaint, petitioner interposed a motion to dismiss on grounds of res judicataand prescription.

Opposing the motion, respondent countered that on account of petitioner's failure to submit the notarized "Release and Quitclaim" agreement as ordered by the Caloocan CFI in Civil Case No. C-6952, said court did not issue a Compromise Judgment. Hence, so respondent argued, there was no final judgment or order on the merits and therefore res judicata has not set in to bar her complaint in Civil Case No. Q-95-23539.

In an order dated October 28, 1996, the trial court denied petitioner's motion to dismiss. With its motion for reconsideration having been rejected by the same court in its subsequent order of May 6, 1997, petitioner went to the Court of Appeals (CA) on a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 in CA-G.R. SP No. 45015. In a Resolution dated August 29, 1997, the appellate court dismissed the petition due to petitioner's failure to attach an affidavit of service and a written explanation why personal service of the petition was not effected, and to state in the caption of its petition the docket number of the case before the lower court whose orders are assailed in the petition.

On September 12, 1997, instead of filing a motion for reconsideration in CA-G.R. SP No. 45015, petitioner filed with the appellate court another Petition for Certiorariassailing the very same orders of the trial court in its Civil Case No. Q-95-23539. This second petition was docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 45251.

In the herein challenged Resolution dated February 20, 1988, the appellate court dismissed CA-G.R. SP No. 45251 for having been filed late. Because the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure was then in its stage of infancy, the appellate court explained in its dismissal resolution, as follows:

Prior to the effectivity of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure on July 1, 1997, the yardstick, so to speak, to determine the timeliness of a petition for certiorari was the reasonableness of the time that had elapsed from the commission of the acts complained of up to the institution of the proceedings to annul the same (Fernandez v. National Labor Relations Commission, 230 SCRA 460 [1994]). Such standard was flexible and was initially pegged at three months (People v. Magallanes, 249 SCRA 212 [1995]; Paderanga v. Court of Appeals, 247 SCRA 741 [1995]). And in the cases cited by the petitioner (People v. Castañeda, 165 SCRA 327, Santos v. National Labor Relations Commission, 169 SCRA 759 and Philgreen Trading Construction Corporation v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 120408, April 18, 1997), the Supreme Court even allowed greater leeway to the interest of substantial justice.

Under the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, however the element of flexibility was eliminated and Section 4, Rule 65 of the said Rules now specifically provides that:

SEC. 4. Where petition filed. - The petition may be filed not later than sixty (60) days from notice of the judgment, order or resolution sought to be assailed in the Supreme Court or, if it relates to the acts or omissions of a lower court or of a corporation, board, or person, in the Regional Trial Court exercising jurisdiction in the territorial area as defined by the Supreme Court. It may also be filed in the Court of Appeals whether or not the same is in aid of its appellate jurisdiction. If it involves the acts or omissions of a quasi-judicial agency, and unless otherwise provided by law or these Rules, the petition shall be filed in and cognizable only by the Court of Appeals.

The use of the words "not later than sixty (60) days from notice" emphasizes the inflexibility of the period fixed for the filing of a petition for certiorari . This Court has not even been given authority to grant extensions such as in Rules 42 and 43. Unlike the Supreme Court, which alone can suspend the applicability of its rules of procedure, this Court cannot overlook or set aside the period for filing a petition for certiorari , no matter how meritorious.

Consequently, we have no other choice but to deny due course to the petition at bench.

In its equally challenged Resolution dated June 9, 1998, the appellate court denied petitioner's motion for reconsideration.

Hence, petitioner's present recourse contending, in the main, that rules of procedure ought not be applied in a very rigid and technical manner as they are supposed to be used to help secure, not override, substantial justice.

We are not persuaded.

Procedural rules setting the period for perfecting an appeal or filing an appellate petition are generally inviolable. It is doctrinally entrenched that appeal is not a constitutional right but a mere statutory privilege. Hence, parties who seek to avail of the privilege must comply with the statutes or rules allowing it. The requirements for perfecting an appeal within the reglementary period specified in the law must, as a rule, be strictly followed. Such requirements are considered indispensable interdictions against needless delays, and are necessary for the orderly discharge of the judicial business. For sure, the perfection of an appeal in the manner and within the period set by law is not only mandatory, but jurisdictional as well. Failure to perfect an appeal renders the judgment appealed from final and executory.2

The Court may deign to veer away from the general rule only if, in its assessment, the appeal on its face appears absolutely meritorious. Indeed, the Court has, in a number of instances, relaxed procedural rules in order to serve and achieve substantial justice.3 In the circumstances obtaining in this case, however, the occasion does not warrant the desired relaxation.

Petitioner would have this Court turn a blind eye on its own failure to comply with the reglementary period as regards CA-G.R. SP No. 45251. In the process, petitioner itself opened the floodgates for its other blunders. It must be recalled that prior to the filing of its Petition for Certiorariin CA-G.R. SP No. 45251, petitioner had earlier filed with the same court a similar petition in CA-G.R. SP No. 45015, questioning the very same assailed orders of the trial court in its Civil Case No. Q-95-23539. Yet, instead of simply filing a timely motion for reconsideration and attaching thereto the lacking requirements and cure its procedural lapses, petitioner opted to abandon said petition and instead filed a new one, CA-G.R. SP No. 45251, seemingly unmindful of the fact that with its failure to move for a reconsideration of the dismissal of its first petition in CA-G.R. SP No. 45015, the very same orders of the trial court assailed in its second petition thereby became final and executory.

The sad reality is that even ignoring the existence of its first petition, or that it was never filed at all, still petitioner's second must nonetheless be dismissed for having been filed out of time. Whether viewed under the old rules or the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, petitioner's second in CA-G.R. SP No. 45251 merits dismissal. This must be so because under the old rules, a 90-day period was allowed for filing petitions for certiorari ,4 while under the 1997 Rules that period was even shortened to only 60 days. As it is, petitioner filed its second petition in CA-G.R. SP No. 45251 only on September 12, 1997. Going by the old rules, petitioner had only three months or 90 days from May 21, 1997 or until August 21, 1997 within which to file its first petition, whereas under the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, even if we liberally pegged the 60-day period from July 1, 1997, the date the new rules took effect, petitioner had only up to September 1 to file its petition in CA-G.R. SP No. 45251. To stress, that petition was filed only on September 12, 1997.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED.

Costs against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

Panganiban, J., (Chairman), Sandoval-Gutierrez, Corona, and Carpio Morales, JJ., concur.

Endnotes:


1 Penned by Associate Justice Hector L. Hofileña with Associate Justices Jesus M. Elbinias and Omar Amin concurring; Rollo, pp. 27-29.

2 Manila Memorial Park Cemetery, Inc. v. CA, 344 SCRA 769 [2000].

3 Policarpio T. Cuevas v. Bais Steel Corporation and Steven Chan, 391 SCRA 192 [2002].

4 People v. Magallanes, 249 SCRA 212 [1995].

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