[G.R. NO. 154717 : June 19, 2009]
BONIFACIO M. MEJILLANO, Petitioner, v. ENRIQUE LUCILLO, HON. GREGORIA B. CONSULTA, Presiding Judge of RTC, Legaspi City, Branch 4, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
Assailed in the present Petition for Review on Certiorari are the Decision1 dated March 14, 2002 and the Resolution2 dated August 12, 2002 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 62322. The Court of Appeals had affirmed the Orders dated September 13, 20003 and October 23, 20004 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Legaspi City, Branch 4, in Civil Case No. 9879, which dismissed petitioner's appeal from the Decision5 dated July 5, 2000 of the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Daraga, Albay in Civil Case No. 945 and denied his motion for reconsideration.
The factual antecedents of this petition are as follows:
Faustino LoteriÃ±a died sometime in 1931 leaving two parcels of land, Lot No. 9007 which contains an area of 6,628 square meters, and Lot No. 9014 which contains an area of 4,904 square meters. During his lifetime, Faustino LoteriÃ±a begot six children. He sired three children by his first marriage to Ciriaca LuciÃ±ada, namely, Tranquilino, Antonia and Cipriano; and another three during his subsequent marriage to Francisca Monreal, namely, Julita, Felix and Hospicio.
On May 25, 1959, the surviving children of Faustino LoteriÃ±a with Ciriaca LuciÃ±ada, namely Tranquilino and Antonia, executed an Extrajudicial Settlement and Cession.6 In said agreement, Tranquilino and Antonia divided Lot No. 9007 equally between them and Antonia ceded her one-half (1/2) share in the property to Tranquilino. On March 1, 1978, Tranquilino executed a Deed of Absolute Sale7 of Lot No. 9007 in favor of Jesus Lorente. Soon after, he modified the agreement to include Lot No. 9014 in an Amended Deed of Absolute Sale8 dated September 11, 1978.
The conflict arose when the children of Faustino with Francisca Monreal, namely Felix and Hospicio, claimed that Lot No. 9014 is their inheritance from their late father. Hence, Jesus Lorente could not have validly bought it from Tranquilino. The conflicting claims to occupy and use the disputed property led Jesus Lorente to file an action for recovery of possession with the RTC of Legaspi City. The RTC, in a Decision9 dated September 20, 1985 in Civil Case No. 6005, dismissed the complaint and declared that Felix and Hospicio LoteriÃ±a are co-heirs or co-owners of Lot No. 9014. As such, they are entitled to the possession of the property, subject to the final determination of their rights as heirs of their late father.
Thereafter, the heirs of Hospicio sold to respondent Enrique Lucillo their one-half (' ) share in Lot No. 9014 by way of an Extrajudicial Settlement and Sale10 on April 28, 1995. The remaining one-half (1/2) portion was also sold to respondent Lucillo by Felix on August 7, 1995 by way of Deed of Absolute Sale.11
When respondent Lucillo was about to enter said property, however, he discovered that petitioner was occupying Lot No. 9014. Respondent Lucillo wrote petitioner a letter12 requesting him to vacate said property, but petitioner refused to surrender possession thereof claiming that he is the owner of Lot No. 9007 and Lot No. 9014 by virtue of an Extrajudicial Partition and Sale executed in their favor by the heirs of Jesus Lorente. Hence, on September 18, 1995, respondent Lucillo filed an action for recovery of possession of real property against petitioner with the MTC of Daraga, Albay.13
In its Decision dated July 5, 2000 in Civil Case No. 945, the MTC decreed:
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered orde[r]ing defendant Bonifacio Mejillano to relinquish possession of Lot No. 9014, situated at Pandan, Daraga, Albay, and to turn-over the peaceful possession thereof to plaintiff Enrique Lucillo. Costs against the defendant.
Aggrieved, petitioner seasonably appealed the foregoing decision to the RTC, but failed to file an appeal memorandum. Consequently, respondent judge dismissed petitioner's appeal on September 13, 2000:
For failure of appellant to file a memorandum pursuant to the mandatory requirement - of Rule 40, Sec. 7(b) of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, despite the lapse of the period therein given, the appeal is hereby ordered DISMISSED.
On October 9, 2000, petitioner, through new counsel, filed a motion for reconsideration attaching thereto the appeal memorandum. Petitioner alleged that his failure to file the required memorandum on time was due to ignorance, the untimely demise of his former counsel and the mistaken notion that what was needed in the appeal was merely a notice of appeal and nothing more.16 In its Order17 dated October 23, 2000, the RTC of Legaspi City, ruled:
x x x
The Court cannot accept - [petitioner's] claim of ignorance for the records will show that he personally made the Answer to the Complaint (Exp. pp. 9, 10, 11 & 12) and the Notice of Appeal (Exp. pp. 1-7).
Neither can the Court accept his claim of poverty because he chose to be represented by the late Atty. Delfin De Vera, a lawyer of no ordinary caliber and there is no indication on record that his services were for free. But even assuming that the entry of Atty. Delfin de Vera into the picture was financially excessive on him, why did he not seek the services of the PAO before which he subscribed and swore the Verification and Certification of his Answer on November 23, 1995?cralawred
In view of the foregoing, the Opposition to the Motion for Reconsideration stands to be meritorious.
Petitioner went to the Court of Appeals on a petition for certiorari . In a Decision dated March 14, 2002, the Court of Appeals dismissed the petition, ruling that respondent judge did not act with grave abuse of discretion in dismissing the appeal. The fallo of said decision reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is DISMISSED and the assailed orders are AFFIRMED.
On August 12, 2002, the appellate court also denied his motion for reconsideration. Hence, the instant appeal. Petitioner now raises the following issues for our resolution:
THE COURT OF APPEALS GRIEVOUSLY ERRED IN NOT CONSIDERING PETITIONER'S SUBSTANTIAL COMPLIANCE IN FILING HIS APPEAL MEMORANDUM WITH THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF LEGASPI CITY IN THE INTEREST OF SUBSTANTIAL JUSTICE DESPITE THE FACT THAT THE RATHER BELATED FILING THEREOF BY PETITIONER WAS UNINTENTIONAL AS SHOWN IN HIS AFFIDA[V]IT OF MERIT.
THE COURT OF APPEALS GRIEVOUSLY ERRED IN NOT CONSIDERING THE FACT THAT THE SALE OF SUBJECT LAND TO PRIVATE RESPONDENT IS NULL AND VOID.
THE COURT OF APPEALS GRIEVOUSLY ERRED IN NOT CONSIDERING THE MERITORIOUS CAUSE OF ACTION OF PETITIONER AGAINST PRIVATE RESPONDENT.19
Stated simply, the issue for our resolution is whether the appellate court committed reversible error in affirming the order of the RTC dismissing petitioner's appeal for failure to file on time his memorandum on appeal.
Petitioner avers that his failure to file his memorandum on time was due to his lawyer's untimely death. He avers that he received the notice to file his memorandum, but because he is not a lawyer, he did not fully understand the tenor of such notice. It was only later after he talked with a Public Attorney's Office district lawyer that he came to file, albeit belatedly, his appeal memorandum. He insists on a liberal application of the rules, arguing that in a long line of cases, this Court ruled that dismissals of appeals on purely technical grounds are frowned upon and that rules of procedure are used only to help secure not override substantial justice.
All circumstances in this case having been considered carefully, we now find the petition bereft of merit.
Section 7 (b), Rule 40 of the Revised Rules of Court expressly states:
(b) Within fifteen (15) days from such notice, it shall be the duty of the appellant to submit a memorandum which shall briefly discuss the errors imputed to the lower court, a copy of which shall be furnished by him to the adverse party. Within fifteen (15) days from receipt of the appellant's memorandum, the appellee may file his memorandum. Failure of the appellant to file a memorandum shall be a ground for dismissal of the appeal. [Emphasis supplied.]
The rule is clear. It is obligatory on the part of petitioner to file his memorandum on appeal within fifteen days from receipt of the notice to file the same; otherwise, his appeal will be dismissed. In Enriquez v. Court of Appeals,20 we ruled:
x x x The use of the word "shall" in a statute or rule expresses what is mandatory and compulsory. Further, the Rule imposes upon an appellant the "duty" to submit his memorandum. A duty is a "legal or moral obligation, mandatory act, responsibility, charge, requirement, trust, chore, function, commission, debt, liability, assignment, role, pledge, dictate, office, (and) engagement." Thus, under the express mandate of said Rule, the appellant is duty-bound to submit his memorandum on appeal. Such submission is not a matter of discretion on his part. His failure to comply with this mandate or to perform said duty will compel the RTC to dismiss his appeal.
In rules of procedure, an act which is jurisdictional, or of the essence of the proceedings, or is prescribed for the protection or benefit of the party affected is mandatory.21 [Emphasis supplied.]
The raison d'Ãªtre for such necessity was equally clarified in the same case: in appeals from inferior courts to the RTC, the appellant's brief is mandatory22 since only errors specifically assigned and properly argued in the appeal memorandum will be considered in the decision on the merits.23
In this case, the fundamental cause of the dismissal of petitioner's appeal was his failure to file the obligatory appeal memorandum on time. Petitioner only filed his memorandum on appeal when the dismissal of his appeal had already been ordered. Resultantly, the trial court acted accordingly when it dismissed petitioner's appeal pursuant to the clear mandate of the Rules of Court.
Further, we cannot subscribe to petitioner's tenacious insistence to relax the application of the Rules of Court so as not to defeat his rights.
Time and again, we have ruled that procedural rules do not exist for the convenience of the litigants.24 Rules of Procedure exist for a purpose, and to disregard such rules in the guise of liberal construction would be to defeat such purpose.25 Procedural rules were established primarily to provide order to and enhance the efficiency of our judicial system.26 It has been jurisprudentially held that, while the rules of procedure are liberally construed, the provisions on reglementary periods are strictly applied, indispensable as they are to the prevention of needless delays, and are necessary to the orderly and speedy discharge of judicial business.27
Also, the right to appeal is neither a natural right nor a part of due process; it is merely a statutory privilege, and may be exercised only in the manner and in accordance with the provisions of law.28 An appeal being a purely statutory right, an appealing party must strictly comply with the requisites laid down in the Rules of Court. In other words, he who seeks to avail of the right to appeal must play by the rules.29 This, the petitioner failed to do when he did not submit his memorandum on appeal.Ï‚Î·Î±Ã±rÎ¿blÎµÅ¡ Î½Î¹râ€ Ï…Î±l lÎ±Ï‰ lÎ¹brÎ±rÃ¿
All told, we find that the Court of Appeals committed no reversible error in upholding the order of dismissal of the RTC in Civil Case No. 9879 dated September 13, 2000 and its Order dated October 23, 2000 denying the motion for reconsideration.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DENIED. The assailed Decision dated March 14, 2002 and Resolution dated August 12, 2002 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 62322 are AFFIRMED.
* Designated member of the Second Division per Special Order No. 645 in place of Associate Justice Conchita Carpio Morales who is on official leave.
** Designated member of the Second Division per Special Order No. 658.
*** Designated member of the Second Division per Special Order No. 635 in view of the retirement of Associate Dante O. Tinga.
1 Rollo, pp. 103-110. Penned by Associate Justice Wenceslao I. Agnir, Jr. with Associate Justices B. A. Adefuin-De La Cruz and Josefina Guevara-Salonga concurring.
2 Id. at 115-116.
3 CA rollo, p. 59.
4 Id. at 70.
5 Id. at 52-57. Penned by Judge William B. Volante.
6 Id. at 25-26.
7 Id. at 27.
8 Id. at 28-29.
9 Id. at 33-36. Penned by Judge Domingo Coronel Reyes.
10 Id. at 37-38.
11 Id. at 39.
12 Id. at 71.
13 Id. at 46-47.
14 Id. at 57.
15 Id. at 59. Penned by Judge Gregorio A. Consulta.
16 Id. at 60.
17 Id. at 70.
18 Rollo, p. 109.
19 Id. at 171.
20 G.R. No. 140473, January 28, 2003, 396 SCRA 377.
21 Id. at 384.
23 Banting v. Maglapuz, G.R. No. 158867, August 22, 2006, 499 SCRA 505, 518.
24 Ko v. Philippine National Bank, G.R. NOS. 169131-32, January 20, 2006, 479 SCRA 298, 303.
25 Favila v. National Labor Relations Commission, G.R. No. 126768, June 16, 1999, 308 SCRA 303, 313.
26 Ko v. Philippine National Bank, supra at 303-304.
27 Moneytrend Lending Corporation v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No 165580, February 20, 2006, 482 SCRA 705, 714.
28 Producers Bank of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 126620, April 17, 2002, 381 SCRA 185, 197.
29 Enriquez v. Court of Appeals, supra note 20, at 385.