When is a petition for certiorari treated as appeal?

In the case of Visitacion v. People (G.R. No. 194214. January 10, 2018), Visitacion assails that her petition for certiorari should have been treated as an appeal. On the other hand, both public and private respondents counter that the Court of Appeals (CA) correctly dismissed Visitacion's petition for certiorari because it cannot be a substitute for a lost appeal and that a wrong mode of appeal is dismissible.

In Madrigal Transport, Inc. v. Lapanday Holdings Corporation,[1] the Supreme Court extensively differentiated an appeal from certiorari. Thus, it is settled that appeal and certiorari are two different remedies, which are generally not interchangeable, available to litigants. In Butuan Development Corporation v. CA,[2] the Court held that the special civil action of certiorari is not a substitute for an appeal:
A party cannot substitute the special civil action of certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court for the remedy of appeal. The existence and availability of the right of appeal are antithetical to the availability of the special civil action of certiorari. Remedies of appeal (including petitions for review) and certiorari are mutually exclusive, not alternative or successive. Hence, certiorari is not and cannot be a substitute for an appeal, especially if one's own negligence or error in one's choice of remedy occasioned such loss or lapse. One of the requisites of certiorari is that there be no available appeal or any plain, speedy and adequate remedy. Where an appeal is available, certiorari will not prosper, even if the ground therefor is grave abuse of discretion.
Nevertheless, the general rule that an appeal and a certiorari are not interchangeable admits exceptions. In Department of Education v. Cuanan,[3] the Court exercised liberality and considered the petition for certiorari filed therein as an appeal:
The remedy of an aggrieved party from a resolution issued by the CSC is to file a petition for review thereof under Rule 43 of the Rules of Court within fifteen days from notice of the resolution. Recourse to a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 renders the petition dismissible for being the wrong remedy. Nonetheless, there are exceptions to this rule, to wit: (a) when public welfare and the advancement of public policy dictates; (b) when the broader interest of justice so requires; (c) when the writs issued are null and void; or (d) when the questioned order amounts to an oppressive exercise of judicial authority. As will be shown forthwith, exception (c) applies to the present case.Furthermore, while a motion for reconsideration is a condition precedent to the filing of a petition for certiorari, immediate recourse to the extraordinary remedy of certiorari is warranted where the order is a patent nullity, as where the court a quo has no jurisdiction; where petitioner was deprived of due process and there is extreme urgency for relief; where the proceedings in the lower court are a nullity for lack of due process; where the proceeding was ex parte or one in which the petitioner had no opportunity to object. These exceptions find application to Cuanan's petition for certiorari in the CA.

At any rate, Cuanan's petition for certiorari before the CA could be treated as a petition for review, the petition having been filed on November 22, 2004, or thirteen (13) days from receipt on November 9, 2004 of CSC Resolution No. 041147, clearly within the 15-day reglementary period for the filing of a petition for review. Such move would be in accordance with the liberal spirit pervading the Rules of Court and in the interest of substantial justice.
In Visitacion v. People (G.R. No. 194214. January 10, 2018), the Court found that the interest of substantial justice warrants the relaxation of the rules and treated Visitacion's petition for certiorari as an appeal. This is especially true considering that the same was filed within the reglementary period to file an appeal. It is noteworthy that in the litany of cases[4] where the Court did not consider certiorari as an appeal, the former remedy was filed beyond the 15-day period to interpose an appeal.

[1] 479 Phil. 768, 779-782 (2004).
[2] G.R. No. 197358, 5 April 2017.
[3] 594 Phil. 451 (2008).
[4] Abadilla v. Spouses Obrero, 775 Phil. 419 (2015); Malayang Manggagawa ng Stayfast Phils., Inc., v. National Labor Relations Commission, 716 Phil. 500 (2013); and Spouses Dycoco v. CA, 715 Phil. 550 (2013).

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