3 Material Dates (Rule 65)

There are three (3) essential dates that must be stated in a petition for certiorari under Rule 65. They are:

[1] The date when notice of the judgment, final order or resolution was received,
[2] When a motion for new trial or reconsideration was filed, and
[3] When notice of the denial thereof was received.

Seastar Marine Services, Inc. vs. Bul-an, Jr.
G.R. No. 142609, November 25, 2004. 444 SCRA 140

Seastar Marine Services, Inc.'s petition was denied by the court.

The Supreme Court emphasized that there are three (3) essential dates that must be stated in a petition for certiorari brought under Rule 65, which the Court enumerated and discussed in Santos v. Court of Appeals:

First, the date when notice of the judgment or final order or Resolution was received;
Second, when a motion for new trial or reconsideration was filed; and
Third, when notice of the denial thereof was received.

Since timeliness is essential to a petition for certiorari under Rule 65, setting forth the three (3) dates in the petition under the Rules are required. Such a petition is required to be filed not later than sixty (60) days from notice of the judgment, order or Resolution sought to be assailed.

[1] There must be an actual case or controversy calling for the exercise of judicial power;
[2] The person challenging the act must have the standing to question the validity of the subject act or issuance; otherwise stated, he must have a personal and substantial interest in the case such that he has sustained, or will sustain, direct injury as a result of its enforcement; 
[3] The question of constitutionality must be raised at the earliest opportunity; and 
[4] The issue of constitutionality must be the very lis mota of the case.
Therefore, that the petition for certiorari was filed forty-one (41) days from receipt of the denial of the motion for reconsideration is hardly relevant. The Court of Appeals was not in any position to determine when this period commenced to run and whether the motion for reconsideration itself was filed on time since the material dates were not stated. It should not be assumed that in no event would the motion be filed later than fifteen (15) days. Technical rules of procedure are not designed to frustrate the ends of justice. These are provided to effect the prompt, proper and orderly disposition of cases and thus effectively prevent the clogging of court dockets. Utter disregard of the Rules cannot justly be rationalized by harking on the policy of liberal construction.

It must be stressed that certiorari, being an extraordinary remedy, the party who seeks to avail of the same must strictly observe the rules laid down by law.

A careful perusal of the records further shows that in their petition before the Court, the petitioners aver that they received the resolution of the NLRC dated January 12, 1999 denying their motion for reconsideration only on April 28, 1999, "the date the NLRC officially furnished petitioners a copy of said resolution as evidenced by a certified true copy issued by the NLRC." However, in their petition before the appellate court, the petitioners made the following admission:

To date, undersigned counsel for petitioners have not been furnished a copy of the second questioned Resolution (Annex "B") despite the fact that undersigned counsel had previously entered his appearance for the petitioners as early as 26 March 1998. Accordingly, undersigned counsel had to procure a copy of said Resolution (Annex "B") from the NLRC, on 15 February 1999, the date petitioners, through undersigned counsel, officially received the same. Hence, the instant petition.

It is settled that a judicial admission is binding on the person who makes it, and absent any showing that it was made through palpable mistake, no amount of rationalization can offset such admission. Thus, the Court cannot countenance nor consider the petitioners’ claim of actual receipt of the copy of the NLRC resolution on an altogether different date without even an explanation therefor.

The Court notes with approval the following ratiocination of the appellate court when it denied the petitioners’ motion for reconsideration:

Movants contend that the timeliness of their petition can be determined from its Annex "B" (which forms part of the petition) stating, among others, that they filed their motion for reconsideration of the NLRC decision on December 10, 1998.

Assuming that movants’ contention is in order, still their petition is dismissible as it was filed five days late.

We cannot give credence to movants’ claim that they received a copy of the assailed NLRC resolution dated January 12, 1999 only on April 28, 1999 since the instant petition for certiorari was filed earlier or on April 14, 1999. Indeed, here is an absurd situation where the petition assailing the NLRC resolution was filed even before they received a copy thereof.

Even if the Court were to disregard the merits of the instant case, the petition is still destined to fail.

The petitioners would want this Court to ascertain whether or not the findings of the NLRC, as affirmed by the CA, are substantiated by the evidence on record; hence, requiring a review of factual matters. However, the issues that can be delved into in a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Civil Procedure are limited to questions of law. The calibration of the evidence of the parties statutorily belongs to the NLRC. Judicial review of labor cases does not go beyond the evaluation of the sufficiency upon which its labor officials’ findings rest. Furthermore, this Court is not a trier of facts, and this doctrine applies with greater force in labor cases. Factual questions are for labor tribunals to resolve. Indeed, the findings of fact of quasi-judicial bodies, like the NLRC, are accorded with respect, even finality, if supported by substantial evidence.

Anent the petitioners’ allegation that the NLRC should have remanded the case to the labor arbiter for further proceedings, the following pronouncement of the Court in CaƱete v. National Labor Relations Commission is instructive:

It is clear that the labor arbiter enjoys wide discretion in determining whether there is a need for a formal hearing in a given case…. [H]e or she may use all reasonable means to ascertain the facts of each case without regard to technicalities. The case may be decided on the basis of the pleadings and other documentary evidence presented by the parties. In the absence of any palpable error, arbitrariness or partiality, the method adopted by the labor arbiter to decide a case must be respected by the NLRC.

Thus, a formal trial-type hearing is not at all times and in all instances essential to due process. It is enough that the parties are given a fair and reasonable opportunity to explain their respective sides of the controversy and to present supporting evidence on which a fair decision can be based. In fact, Rule V of the Rules of Procedure of the NLRC, as amended, outlines the procedure to be followed in cases before the labor arbiter, as follows:

Section 3. Submission of Position Papers/Memorandum. –

Should the parties fail to agree upon an amicable settlement, either in whole or in part, during the conferences, the Labor Arbiter shall issue an order stating therein the matters taken up and agreed upon during the conferences and directing the parties to simultaneously file their respective verified position papers.

Those verified position papers shall cover only those claims and causes of action raised in the complaint excluding those that may have been amicably settled, and shall be accompanied by all the supporting documents including the affidavits of their respective witnesses which shall take the place of the latter’s direct testimony. The parties shall, thereafter, not be allowed to allege facts, or present evidence to prove facts, not referred to and any cause or causes of action not included in the complaint or position papers, affidavits, and other documents. Unless otherwise requested in writing by both parties, the Labor Arbiter shall direct both parties to submit simultaneously their position papers/memorandum with the supporting documents and affidavits within fifteen (15) calendar days from the date of the last conference, with proof of having furnished each other with copies thereof.

Section 4. Determination of Necessity of Hearing. – Immediately after the submission by the parties of their position papers/memorandum, the Labor Arbiter shall motu proprio determine whether there is a need for a formal trial or hearing. At this stage, he may, at his discretion and for the purpose of making such determination, ask clarificatory questions to further elicit facts or information, including but not limited to the subpoena of relevant documentary evidence, if any from any party or witness.

Section 5. Period to Decide Case. – (a) Should the Labor Arbiter find it necessary to conduct a hearing, he shall issue an order to that effect setting the date or dates for the same which shall be determined within ninety (90) days from initial hearing.

He shall render his decision within thirty (30) calendar days, without extension, after the submission of the case by the parties for decision, even in the absence of stenographic notes: Provided, however, that OFW cases shall be decided within ninety (90) calendar days after the filing of the complaint and the acquisition by the labor arbiter of jurisdiction over the parties.

(b) If the Labor Arbiter finds no necessity of further hearing after the parties have submitted their position papers and supporting documents, he shall issue an Order to that effect and shall inform the parties, stating the reasons therefore. In any event, he shall render his decision in the case within the same period provided in paragraph (a) hereof.

Project Jurisprudence is connected with the following:

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/projectjuris/
Twitter page: https://twitter.com/projectjuris
YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQnK7a9MCpNGbBsBDel3alA
Another YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-Bd7nvmurwtJYmeBdP9QiA