May 2004 - Philippine Supreme Court Decisions/Resolutions
Navarro v. Metropolitan Bank & Trust Comapny : 138031 : May 27, 2004 : J. Callejo Sr : Second Division : Decision
[G.R. NO. 138031 : May 27, 2004]
ANTONIO NAVARRO and GRAHMMS, INC., Petitioners, v. METROPOLITAN BANK & TRUST COMPANY, THE HON. COURT OF APPEALS, and THE HON. ZEUS C. ABROGAR (Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Branch 150), Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
CALLEJO, SR., J.:
This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, as amended, assailing the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the denial by the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Branch 150, in Civil Case No. 94-2913, of the petitioners appeal for non-payment of docket fees, as well as the appellate courts March 29, 1999 Resolution which denied the petitioners motion for reconsideration.
The facts are undisputed:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
On November 3, 1994, the private respondent Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company (respondent MBTC) filed with the RTC of Makati City a petition for the judicial foreclosure of the real estate mortgage executed by the petitioners in its favor.2 The case was docketed as Civil Case No. 94-2913 and was raffled to Branch 150 of the same court.
After due proceedings, the RTC rendered judgment on January 16, 1998,3 the dispositive portion of which reads:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
WHEREFORE, the court hereby grants the right of the plaintiff bank to foreclose the properties belonging to defendant Antonio Navarro covered by TCT Nos. 155256, 155257, 155258 particularly described as follows:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
to be sold at public auction the proceeds
of which to be applied in payment of the
P3,500,000.00 loan, plus
interest and penalty charges until fully paid.In case of deficiency on the proceeds of the aforesaid sale, execution
on the defendants property shall be implemented.Likewise, 10% of the total amount due shall
be awarded as attorneys fees.4 cralawred
The petitioners received a copy of the Decision on February 10, 1998 and on February 18, 1998 filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the decision.5 On March 25, 1998, the trial court issued an Order denying the said motion.6 The petitioners received their copy of the order on April 7, 1998.
On April 14, 1998, the last day of the reglementary period, the petitioners filed with the RTC a Notice of Appeal7 from its January 16, 1998 Decision and March 25, 1998 Order.However, the petitioners failed to pay the requisite docket and other lawful fees.
On April 21, 1998, the respondent MBTC filed a Motion to Deny Due Course to Notice of Appeal with Motion for Execution8 on the ground that the notice of appeal was not timely filed.Acting on the motion, the RTC, while ruling in favor of the timeliness of the petitioners notice of appeal, nevertheless denied the appeal for not being accompanied by the required docket fees.Hence, in its Order dated May 27, 1998,9 the RTC granted the motion of the respondents for the issuance of a writ of execution for the enforcement of the decision.The RTC held that:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
From the sequence of dates and events, it is clear that defendants filed their Notice of Appeal within the reglementary period from the date of their receipt of the denial of their motion for reconsideration since they had still seven days left to file an appeal.However, since Section 4, Rule 41 of the New Rules of Civil Procedure, states that:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
Within the period for taking an appeal, the appellant shall pay to the clerk of court which rendered the judgment or final order appealed from, the full amount of the appellate court docket and other lawful fees.Proof of payment of said fees shall be transmitted to the appellate court together with the original record or the record on appeal.
It is also incumbent upon the appellants to pay the required appeal fee within the reglementary period.Up to the present, the court has not yet received any evidence of payment of the appellate docket fee to be attached to the record of this case, in accordance with the New Rules, to the prejudice of the other party.
Wherefore, from the foregoing, the notice of appeal is hereby DENIED for not being accompanied by the required docket fees, and let a writ of execution be issued for the enforcement of the decision.
On June 2, 1998, the RTC correspondingly issued the Writ of Execution10 prayed for by the respondent MBTC.
On June 11, 1998, the counsel for the petitioners informed the court by letter that on June 9, 1998, he sent his messenger to the court to pay the docket fees on the notice of appeal but was refused by the receiving clerk.11 In a Letter-Response dated June 19, 1998, the trial court instructed the counsel for the Petitioners, to wit:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
In response to your letter dated June 11, 1998, please be informed that as a matter of policy, courts do not receive payments of docket fees.This should be made to the Office of the Clerk of Court, with only the official receipts and/or proofs of payment filed in court to be attached to the record of the case to be forwarded to the Court of Appeals.Moreover, the court has already resolved all pending incidents before it, the last one in its Order dated May 27, 1998 so that, if the receiving clerk refused receipt of the docket fee on the nature (sic) of appeal, it is only in consonance with the above-mentioned order.12 cralawred
On June 29, 1998, the petitioner filed with the CA a Petition for Certiorari assailing the May 27, 1998 Order of the RTC for having been issued with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.13 In their reply to the comment, the Petitioners, for the first time, proffered to the appellate court an explanation for their admitted failure to pay the appellate docket fees within the prescribed reglementary period.The Petitioners, thus, averred:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
6.Petitioners failure to pay the appellate docket fee is not without a valid explanation.At the time of the filing of Notice of Appeal, petitioners counsels lone secretary, without informing in advance the undersigned, decided to migrate to another country for greener pasture, leaving the undersigned the responsibility to tend to all the cases in his office.The undersigneds operation was literally disabled and in shambles;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
7.Thus, when the undersigned discovered this inadvertence, he immediately tried to remedy the situation and can only hope that this Honorable Court can understand the undersigneds predicament.14 cralawred
On September 30, 1998, the CA promulgated its Decision dismissing the petitioners appeal.15 The petitioners motion for reconsideration16 and its supplement17 thereto was, likewise, denied by the appellate court in its Resolution dated March 29, 1999.18 cralawred
Hence, the petition at bar.
The petitioners assail the decision of the CA grounded on the following:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
A.THE APPEAL OF PETITIONER WAS DULY AND SEASONABLY PERFECTED; HENCE, THE HON. CA ACTED WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OF JURISDICTION IN RENDERING THE ASSAILED DECISION (ANNEX M) THAT SUSTAINED THE ORDER OF THE RTC DENYING, DISALLOWING AND DISMISSING THE APPEAL;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
B.THE ORDER [OF THE RTC] DIRECTING THE EXECUTION OF ITS JUDGMENT [BEFORE THE EXPIRY OF THE 90-DAY PERIOD FROM RECEIPT THEREOF BY THE PETITIONERS] IS PREMATURE, BECAUSE (1) THE COURT HAD LOST JURISDICTION OVER THE CASE UPON THE FILING OF THE NOTICE OF APPEAL AND (2) RULE 68 PROVIDES FOR THE PROCEDURE HOW TO ENFORCE A JUDGMENT IN A PETITION FOR FORECLOSURE;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
C.THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN SUSTAINING THE ORDER OF THE RTC THAT DISMISSED THE THIRD-PARTY COMPLAINT OF PETITIONER NAVARRO AGAINST THE ERRANT AND FRAUDULENT BRANCH MANAGER DANILO MENESES OF RESPONDENT METROBANK;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
D.THE JUDGMENT BINDING THE CONJUGAL PROPERTY OF SPOUSES CLARITA PARAGAS AND ANTONIO NAVARRO ON THE ALLEGED DEBT OF THE HUSBAND IS AGAINST THE LAW;19 cralawred
The petition is denied due course.
The petitioners contend that the appellate court erred in sustaining the RTCs denial of their notice of appeal on the ground of their failure to pay the docket and other legal fees.The petitioners aver that the payment of the said fees is not a prerequisite for the perfection of an appeal.They contend that having seasonably filed their notice of appeal from the RTCs January 16, 1998 Decision and March 25, 1998 Order, the appeal therefrom was deemed perfected; thus, divesting the RTC of jurisdiction over the case.Hence, when the RTC issued its March 25, 1998 Order, it had no jurisdiction to do so.The petitioners cited the rulings of this Court in Santos v. Court of Appeals 20 and in Manila Mandarin Employees Union v. NLRC 21 to bolster its stance.
We are not convinced.Time and time again, this Court has consistently held that the payment of docket fees within the prescribed period is mandatory for the perfection of an appeal.Without such payment, the appeal is not perfected.The appellate court does not acquire jurisdiction over the subject matter of the action and the decision sought to be appealed from becomes final and executory.22 cralawred
It bears stressing that appeal is not a right, but a mere statutory privilege.23 Corollary to this principle is that the appeal must be exercised strictly in accordance with the provisions set by law.Rule 41 of the Rules of Court provides that an appeal to the CA from a case decided by the RTC in the exercise of the latters original jurisdiction shall be taken within fifteen (15) days from the notice of judgment or final order appealed from.Such appeal is perfected by filing a notice of appeal thereof with the court that rendered the judgment or final order and, by serving a copy of that notice upon the adverse party,24 and by paying within this same period the full amount of the appellate court docket and other lawful fees to the clerk of court.25 cralawred
The payment of the docket fees within this period is a condition sine qua non to the perfection of the appeal.Contrary to the petitioners predication, the payment of the appellate docket and other lawful fees is not a mere technicality of law or procedure.It is an essential requirement, without which the decision or final order appealed from would become final and executory as if no appeal was filed at all.
We have consistently ruled that litigation is not a game of technicalities and that every case must be prosecuted in accordance with the prescribed procedure so that issues may be properly presented and justly resolved.26 However, we have also ruled that rules of procedure must be faithfully followed except only when, for persuasive and weighting reasons, they may be relaxed to relieve a litigant of an injustice commensurate with his failure to comply with the prescribed procedure.Concomitant to a liberal interpretation of the rules of procedure should be an effort on the part of the party invoking liberality to adequately explain his failure to abide by the rules.27 cralawred
Notwithstanding the mandatory nature of the requirement of payment of appellate docket fees, we also recognize that its strict application is qualified by the following: first, failure to pay those fees within the reglementary period allows only discretionary, not automatic, dismissal; second, such power should be used by the court in conjunction with its exercise of sound discretion in accordance with the tenets of justice and fair play, as well as with a great deal of circumspection in consideration of all attendant circumstances.
In Mactan Cebu International Airport Authority v. Mangubat, the payment of the docket fees was delayed by six (6) days, but the late payment was accepted, because the party showed willingness to abide by the Rules by immediately paying those fees.Yambao v. Court of Appeals, saw us again relaxing the Rules when we declared therein that the appellate court may extend the time for the payment of the docket fees if appellant is able to show that there is a justifiable reason for the failure to pay the correct amount of docket fees within the prescribed period, like fraud, accident, mistake, excusable negligence, or a similar supervening casualty, without fault on the part of the appellant.
In the present case, the petitioners failed to establish any sufficient and satisfactory reason to warrant a relaxation of the mandatory rule on the payment of appellate docket and other lawful fees.The explanation given by the petitioners counsel for the non-payment was that his secretary, who migrated to another country, inadvertently failed to pay the docket and other fees when she filed the petitioners notice of appeal with the court.The said counsel came to know of the inadvertence only when he received a copy of the RTCs May 27, 1998 Order which denied due course to the appeal for failure to pay the required docket fees.The explication deserves scant consideration.We have reviewed the records and find that the petitioners failed to show how and when their counsels secretary left the country.Neither did the petitioners submit any explanation why their counsel failed to ascertain immediately after April 14, 1998 if the requisite appellate docket and other lawful fees had been paid by the said secretary before her departure.
Thus, putting the blame on the counsels secretary for her failure to perfect the petitioners appeal to the CA is unjustified.As aptly declared by the appellate court:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
The reason given for movants failure to pay the docket fees, i.e., that their counsels employee had left his office has been debunked by the Supreme Court as a hackneyed and habitual subterfuge employed by litigants who fail to observe the procedural requirements prescribed by the Rules of Court.(Lanting v. Guevarra, 27 SCRA 974) The Supreme Court has also often repeated that the negligence of clerks which adversely affect the case handled by lawyers, is binding upon the latter. (Negros Stevedoring Co., Inc. v. Court of Appeals, 162 SCRA 371.)29 cralawred
Indeed, this Court has admonished law offices to adopt a system of distributing and receiving pleadings and notices, so that the lawyers will be promptly informed of the status of their cases.30 Hence, the negligence of clerks which adversely affect the cases handled by lawyers is binding upon the latter.
IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the petition is hereby DENIED.The assailed decision of the Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED.Costs against the petitioners.
Quisumbing, (Acting Chairman), Austria-Martinez, and TINGA, JJ., concur.
Puno, (Chairman), J., on official leave.
1 CA-G.R. SP No. 48131.Penned by Associate Justice Portia Alio-Hormachuelos with Associate Justices Buenaventura J. Guerrero and Martin S. Villarama, Jr. concurring.
2 Records, pp. 1-8.
3 Penned by Judge Zeus C. Abrogar of the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Branch 150; Records, pp. 789-797.
4 Records, pp. 795-797.
5 Id. at 798-822.
6 Id. at 859.
7 Id. at 860-861.
8 Id. at 862-865.
9 Id. at 876-877.
10 Id. at 878-879.
11 Id. at 880.
12 Id. at 882.
13 The petition was docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 48131; CA Rollo, pp. 2-31.
14 CA Rollo, p. 164.
15 Id. at 177-180.
16 Id. at 181-193.
17 Id. at 206-212.
18 Id. at 226-227.
19 Rollo, p. 34
20 253 SCRA 632 (1996).
21 264 SCRA 320 (1996).
24 The pertinent provisions of Rule 41 of the Revised Rules of Court provides:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
SEC. 2. Modes of appeal.
(a) Ordinary appeal. The appeal to the Court of Appeals in cases decided by the Regional Trial Court in the exercise of its original jurisdiction shall be taken by filing a notice of appeal with the court which rendered the judgment or final order appealed from and serving a copy thereof upon the adverse party.
SEC. 3. Period of ordinary appeal. The appeal shall be taken within fifteen (15) days from notice of the judgment or final order appealed from.
25 Section 4 of Rule 41 of the Revised Rules of Court states:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
SEC. 4. Appellate court docket and other lawful fees. Within the period for taking an appeal, the appellant shall pay to the clerk of court which rendered the judgment or final order appealed from, the full amount of the appellate court docket and other lawful fees.Proof of payment of said fees shall be transmitted to the appellate court together with the original record or the record on appeal.
28 G.R. No. 149227, December 11, 2003.
29 Rollo, p. 205.
30 Sarraga, Sr. v. Banco Filipino Savings and Mortgage Bank, 393 SCRA 566 (2002).