Delos Angeles v. People (G.R. No. 233756. January 22, 2018)


The Court of Appeals dismissed petitioner Cecilio Delos Angeles, Jr.'s appeal of the September 5, 2013 Decision of the RTC, convicting him of estafa through falsification of a public document.

On appeal in the Supreme Court, petitioner's motion for extension of 30 days to file his petition for review was granted with a warning that it should be the last and no further extension would be given. However, instead of filing his petition on the due date, he filed a Motion for Additional Time to File Petition for Certiorari, praying for an additional 15 days. When he finally filed his Petition for Review, the extended reglementary period granted to him had already elapsed.

Moreover, petitioner's signature on the Verification and Certification on Non-Forum Shopping is not an original signature, but appears to be a mechanical or electronic facsimile.

Most importantly, during the time of appeal, petitioner's lawyer was suspended from the practice of law for several months, pursuant to this Court's March 11, 2015 Resolution in Arcilla v. Atty. Carlos C. Abesamis.

ISSUES: [1] Should the appeal be given due course despite belated filing?

[2] Is the verification and non-forum-shopping certificate fatally defective?

[3] Does the lawyer's negligence bind petitioner, considering that the former's failure to comply with the order of the court was due to a disciplinary measure by the Supreme Court?

HELD: The Supreme Court DENIED petitioner's second motion for an extension of fifteen (15) days from November 14, 2017 within which to file the petition.

[1] An appeal is a statutory right and there must be strict compliance with the requirements to perfect it. Procedural lapses cannot be tolerated especially when they are due to the negligence of a counsel. The petition should have been filed within the time allowed.

[2] The Verification and Certification on Non-Forum Shopping attached to the Petition for Review is fatally defective. A petition for review is verified in accordance with Rule 7, Section 4 of the Rules of Court. If a pleading lacks proper verification, it shall be treated as an unsigned pleading, which produces no legal effect.A mechanical or electronic facsimile signature cannot be considered as the signature required by the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice. The affiant's original signature forms part of the proof that the individual who made the affirmation, oath, or jurat appeared in person before the notary public. The personal appearance of the party before the notary is an essential requirement for a notarial act. The lack of the affiant's original signature raises doubts as to whether or not the party under oath personally appeared before the notary.

Even if this purports to be an electronically rendered facsimile, such a signature cannot be considered a "digital signature" or "electronic signature" contemplated by the Rules on Electronic Evidence, as this facsimile is not embodied in an electronic document or electronic data message.

[3] As Atty. Abesamis admitted, he could have had another lawyer file the compliance when he could not practice law. On April 23, 2015, he received a copy of this Court's March 11, 2015 Resolution, which suspended him, and yet he was able to file the appellant's brief with the Court of Appeals on July 29, 2015, undermining his excuse that he could not have acted at all on behalf of petitioner after being notified of his suspension. Atty. Abesamis was negligent in his duties to his client, and his very belated compliance with the Court of Appeals September 22, 2015 Order, which he did only after the Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal, did not cure his negligence.

Atty. Abesamis' negligence binds his client, who should also have been vigilant in monitoring the status of his case.

Petitioner's argument that he was not aware of the circumstances of his counsel is NOT PERSUASIVE. Time and again, the Supreme Court has stated that equity aids the vigilant, not those who slumber on their rights. Petitioner should have taken it upon himself to periodically keep in touch with his counsel, check with the court, and inquire about the status of the case. Had petitioner been more prudent, he would have found out sooner about the circumstances of his counsel and would have taken the necessary steps to prevent his present predicament.

Litigants who are represented by counsel should not expect that all they need to do is sit back, relax and await the outcome of their cases. Relief will not be granted to a party who seeks avoidance from the effects of the judgment when the loss of the remedy at law was due to his own negligence.

Here, there is no indication that petitioner kept in touch with his counsel, made any effort to seek new counsel while Atty. Abesamis was suspended from legal practice, or even inquired regarding the status of his appeal. If he had been more prudent, he might have learned of the issue with his appellant's brief and could have taken steps to ensure timely compliance.