When is the belated filing of MR allowed?

The general rule is that the failure of the petitioner to timely file a motion for reconsideration (MR) within the 15-day reglementary period fixed by law renders the decision or resolution final and executory.[1] The same rule applies in appeals. The filing and the perfection of an appeal in the manner and within the period prescribed by law are not only mandatory but also jurisdictional, and the failure to perfect an appeal has the effect of rendering the judgment final and executory.[2]

Consistent with this principle is the rule that no motion for extension of time to file an MR shall be allowed. The filing of a motion for extension of time does not, by itself, interrupt the period fixed by law for the perfection of an appeal. A movant, upon filing of a motion, has no right to assume that it would be granted and should verify its status with the court; otherwise, he runs the risk of losing his right to appeal in the event the court subsequently denies his motion and the period of appeal had expired.

This rule however, is not absolute. In exceptional and meritorious cases, the Supreme Court has applied a liberal approach and relaxed the rigid rules of technical procedure.

In Republic v. Court of Appeals,[3] the Court allowed the perfection of the appeal of the Republic, despite the delay of six days, in order to prevent a gross miscarriage of justice. In that case, the Court considered the fact that the Republic stands to lose hundreds of hectares of land already titled in its name.

In Ramos v. Bagasao,[4] the Court permitted the delay of four days in the filing of a notice of appeal because the appellant’s counsel of record was already dead at the time the trial court’s decision was served.

In Olacao v. National Labor Relations Commission,[5] the Court also allowed the belated appeal of the appellant because of the injustice that would result if the appeal would be dismissed. The Supreme Court found that the subject matter in issue in that case had already been settled with finality in another case and the eventual dismissal of the appeal would have had the effect of ordering the appellant to make reparation to the appellee twice.

In Siguenza v. Court of Appeals,[6] the Court gave due course to the appeal and decided the case on the merits inasmuch as, on its face, it appeared to be impressed with merit.>Also in Barnes v. Padilla,[7] the Court allowed the liberal construction of the Rules of Court and suspended the rule that the filing of a motion for extension of time to file an MR does not toll the period of appeal, to serve substantial justice. The High Court ruled that the suspension of the rules was not entirely attributable to the petitioner and the allowance of the petition would not in any way prejudice the respondents.

The reasons that the High Court may consider in applying a liberal construction of the procedural rules were reiterated in Sanchez v. Court of Appeals,[8] to wit:
Aside from matters of life, liberty, honor or property which would warrant the suspension of the Rules of the most mandatory character and an examination and review by the appellate court of the lower court’s findings of fact, the other elements that should be considered are the following: (a) the existence of special or compelling circumstances, (b) the merits of the case, (c) a cause not entirely attributable to the fault or negligence of the party favored by the suspension of the rules, (d) a lack of any showing that the review sought is merely frivolous and dilatory, and (e) the other party will not be unjustly prejudiced thereby.
Moreover, the Court has the discretion to suspend its rules when the circumstances of the case warrant. In Aguam v. Court of Appeals, [9] the Supreme Court held:
The court has discretion to dismiss or not to dismiss an appellant's appeal. It is a power conferred on the court, not a duty. The "discretion must be a sound one, to be exercised in accordance with the tenets of justice and fair play, having in mind the circumstances obtaining in each case. xxx Litigations must be decided on their merits and not on technicality. xxx It is a far better and more prudent course of action for the court to excuse a technical lapse and afford the parties a review of the case on appeal to attain the ends of justice rather than dispose of the case on technicality and cause a grave injustice to the parties, giving a false impression of speedy disposal of cases while actually resulting in more delay, if not a miscarriage of justice.
In the case of Philippine Bank of Commerce v. Yeung, the Supreme Court found the delay of 7 days, due to the withdrawal of the petitioner’s counsel during the reglementary period of filing an MR, excusable in light of the merits of the case. Records show that the petitioner immediately engaged the services of a new lawyer to replace its former counsel and petitioned the CA to extend the period of filing an MR due to lack of material time to review the case. There is no showing that the withdrawal of its counsel was a contrived reason or an orchestrated act to delay the proceedings; the failure to file an MR within the reglementary period of 15 days was also not entirely the petitioner’s fault, as it was not in control of its former counsel’s acts.[10]

Moreover, after a review of the contentions and the submissions of the parties, the Court agreed that suspension of the technical rules of procedure is warranted in this case in view of the CA’s erroneous application of legal principles and the substantial merits of the case. If the petition would be dismissed on technical grounds and without due consideration of its merits, the registered owner of the property shall, in effect, be barred from taking possession, thus allowing the absurd and unfair situation where the owner cannot exercise its right of ownership. This, the Court should not and did not allow.

In order to prevent the resulting inequity that might arise from the outright denial of this recourse – that is, the virtual affirmance of the writ’s denial to the detriment of the petitioner’s right of ownership – the Court gave due course to this petition despite the late filing of the petitioner’s MR before the CA.[11]

[1] Hilario v. People, 574 Phil. 348, 361 (2008).

[2] Almeda v. CA, 354 Phil. 600, 607 (1998).

[3] 379 Phil. 92, 94-102 (2000).

[4] No. L-51552, February 28, 1980, 96 SCRA 395, 396-397.

[5] G.R. No. 81390, August 29, 1989, 177 SCRA 38, 49.

[6] G.R. No. L-44050 July 16, 1985, 137 SCRA 570, 576-579.

[7] G.R. No. 160753, September 30, 2004, 439 SCRA 675.

[8] 452 Phil. 665, 674 (2003).

[9] 388 Phil. 587, 593-594.

[10] Philippine Bank of Commerce v. Yeung. G.R. NO. 179691, DECEMBER 04, 2013.

[11] G.R. NO. 179691, DECEMBER 04, 2013