G.R. No. 198765. August 30, 2017


This petition for review on certiorari[1] under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court challenges two Resolutions of the Court of Appeals (CA) dated January 24, 2011[2] and September 7, 2011,[3] respectively, in CA-G.R. CEB-CV No. 01544. These Resolutions ordered the dismissal of the appeal filed by the Spouses Elvy T. Go and Jose C. Go (Spouses Go).

This case arose out of a complaint for quieting of title and declaration of nullity of deed of absolute sale, affidavit of adjudication, and transfer certificates of title, recovery of possession and damages filed by respondent Anastacio Gabunada (Gabunada) against the Spouses Go before the Regional Trial Court of Cebu City (RTC). After trial, on April 21, 2004, the RTC rendered a decision in Gabunada's favor. Italso denied the Spouses Go's motion for reconsideration.[4]

Thus, the Spouses Go filed their appeal of the RTC decision on January 20, 2005 before the CA.[5] Four (4) years later, on January 24, 2011, the CA promulgated a Resolution ordering the dismissal of the appeal (First Resolution). This Resolution stated that the CA ordered the Spouses Go to cause the appearance of their new counsel within ten (10) days from notice in an earlier resolution dated February 13, 2007. Since four (4) years had already passed since the order without compliance by the Spouses Go, the CA dismissed their appeal in accordance with Section l(h) of Rule 50 of the Rules of Court.[6]

The Spouses Go filed a motion for reconsideration claiming that they never received the First Resolution. Thus, they argued that they cannot be deemed to have abandoned their appeal.[7]

The CA denied this motion in a Resolution dated September 7, 2011 (Second Resolution). In the Second Resolution, the CA found that the Spouses Go were duly notified of the February 13, 2007 Resolution as evidenced by the registry return receipt dated February 21,2007.[8]

The Spouses Go filed this petition for review on certiorari challenging the two Resolutions. They insist that they never received the First Resolution. They claim that there was no proof of its service. They invoke Section 13 of Rule 13 of the Rules of Court which states that when service is done by registered mail, the proof of service shall consist of the affidavit of the person who mailed the document sought to be served and the registry receipt issued by the mailing office. Thus, the Spouses Go assert that the registry return receipt, which also does not state the person who allegedly received the First Resolution, cannot suffice as proof of service.[9]

Further, they invoke this Court's power to suspend the application of procedural rules in the interest of substantial justice.[10]

We deny the petition.

There is no dispute that the CA has the power to order the dismissal of an appeal under Section l(h) of Rule 50 of the Rules of Court. This provision states that the CA can dismiss an appeal on its own motion upon the failure of the appellant "to comply with orders, circulars, or directives of the court without justifiable cause."

In this case, the CA ordered the Spouses Go to cause the appearance of their new counsel as early as February 13, 2007. Four (4) years later, the Spouses Go showed no indication of their intention to comply with the order. This reveals, in the words of the CA, a "manifest indifference"[11] of the order and, more importantly, an apparent lack of interest in pursuing the appeal. The resources of the courts can be better spent on litigants who actively participate in proceedings for the speedy disposition of their cases.

The Spouses Go, after learning of the dismissal, participated for the first time in four years in the proceedings before the CA by seeking a reconsideration. They insisted before the CA, as they also insist before this Court, that they never received any notice of the First Resolution.

Whether the Spouses Go were indeed notified of the First Resolution is a question of fact. The CA resolved this question of fact in the Second Resolution when it categorically held that there is sufficient proof of the Spouses Go's receipt of the resolution.

This matter cannot be brought before this Court under a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45. This mode of appeal pertains only to questions of law.[12] A question presented before this court is one of law if we can determine the issue without reviewing or evaluating the evidence.[13] On the other hand, a question is one of fact if we must examine and weigh the evidence in order to resolve the case. The former is proper for an appeal by certiorari. The latter is not.

In this case, to ascertain if the Spouses Go were indeed notified of the Resolution, we must look into the presence or absence of documents proving receipt. This entails an examination of evidence which is beyond the ambit of a Rule 45 petition. This Court is not a trier of fact. Further, the CA has already made a categorical finding that the Spouses were notified of the First Resolution. This finding of fact is binding upon this Court.

Neither can the Spouses Go seek the liberal application of the rules. While it is true that this Court has waived technical defects in order to hear a case, this has specific parameters. In Munoz v. People,,[14] we held that:
But what impels the Court to do so is neither a party's empty invocations of liberality nor its mechanical correction of imperfections. Rather, only a clear showing of prima facie merit of the petition will persuade the Court to take the extraordinary effort of setting aside its rules to give way to the imperfect petition. After all, the rationale of liberality is to bring to light the merits of the petition, unobstructed by mere deficiencies in its form, such that if the petition has not an iota of merit in it, then there is nothing for the Court to bring to light at all.[15] (Citations omitted.)
In this case, the Spouses Go did not present any convincing argument that compels us to allow the appeal of the case on meritorious grounds. They did not attach any of their pleadings before the RTC or the RTC decision itself so that we may glean from these documents any iota of merit that would warrant a liberal application of the rules. While it is true that litigation is not a game of technicalities, rules of procedure are not mere tools that can be disregarded at the behest of a party. Rules of procedure are essential to due process. This Court does not encourage the haphazard setting aside of these rules, especially when there are no justifiable reasons to do so.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Resolutions of the Court of Appeals dated January 24, 2011 and September 7, 2011, respectively, in CA-G.R. CEB-CV No. 01544 are AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED." (CJ. Sereno and J. Leonardo-De Castro, on official leave; J. Del Castillo designated as Acting Chairperson per Special Order No. 2476 dated August 29, 2017.)

[1] Rollo, pp. 18-29.

[2] Penned by Associate Justice Edgardo L. Delos Santos and concurred in by Associate Justices Agnes Reyes-Carpio and Eduardo B. Peralta, Jr; id. at 30-31.

[3] Penned by Associate Justice Edgardo L. Delos Santos and concurred in by Associate Justices Ramon Paul L. Hernando and Victoria Isabel A. Paredes; id. at 34-35.

[4] Id. at 20-21.

[5] Id. at 22.

[6] Id. at 30.

[7] Id. at 33.

[8] Id. at 35.

[9] Id. at 23-26.

[10] Id. at 26-27.

[11] Id. at 35.

[12] RULES OF COURT, Rule 41, Sec. 2,par. (c).

[13] Goyena v. Ledesma-Gustilo, 443 Phil. 150, 158 (2003).

[14] 572 Phil. 258 (2008).

[15] Id. at 267-268.