Invoking "substantial justice" doesn't auto-suspend procedures

In the case of Baldomera Foculan-Fudalan v. Spouses Ocial, [1] the counsel for Baldomera received a copy of the March 18, 2009 CA Resolution on April 7, 2009, thus, giving him until May 22, 2009 to file the appellant's brief; he did not file any motion for extension of the period to file the brief; he did not file either a comment or opposition to the Urgent Motion to Dismiss Appeal, filed by Spouses Ocial on September 24, 2009, a copy of which he was furnished by mail; and he filed the brief for his client only at the time he filed the omnibus motion for reconsideration on December 14, 2009, or 206 days late.

In this regard, Section 1 (e), Rule 50 of the Rules of Court succinctly provides that:
Section l. Grounds for dismissal of appeal. - An appeal may be dismissed by the Court of Appeals, on its own motion or on that of the appellee, on the following grounds:

x x x x

(e) Failure of the appellant to serve and file the required number of copies of his brief or memorandum within the time provided by these Rules; x x x
Baldomera posits that it was erroneous for the CA to dismiss her appeal on the ground that she failed to file her appellant's brief on time. She cited the case of Sebastian v. Morales[2] where it was written that liberal construction of the rules is the controlling principle to effect substantial justice.

Nevertheless, the Supreme Court in the same case made qualifications with respect to the application of the said principle. It was held therein,
Litigation is not a game of technicalities, but every case must be prosecuted in accordance with the prescribed procedure so that issues may be properly presented and justly resolved. Hence, rules of procedure must be faithfully followed except only when for persuasive reasons, they may be relaxed to relieve a litigant of an injustice not commensurate with his failure to comply with the prescribed procedure. Concomitant to a liberal application of the rules of procedure should be an effort on the part of the party invoking liberality to explain his failure to abide by the rules.[3]

[Emphases and Underscoring Supplied]

In other words, procedural rules are not to be belittled or dismissed simply because their non-observance may have resulted in prejudice to a party's substantive rights. Like all rules, they are required to be followed except only for the most persuasive of reasons when they may be relaxed to relieve a litigant of an injustice not commensurate with the degree of his thoughtlessness in not complying with the procedure prescribed.[4] Besides, as the oft quoted quip would put it, the bare invocation of "in the interest of substantial justice" is not a magic wand that will automatically compel the Supreme Court to suspend procedural rules.[5]

Although the authority of the CA to dismiss an appeal for failure to file the appellant's brief is a matter of judicial discretion, a dismissal based on this ground is neither mandatory nor ministerial; the fundamentals of justice and fairness must be observed, bearing in mind the background and web of circumstances surrounding the case.[6]

[1] G.R. No. 194516, June 17, 2015.
[2] 445 Phil. 595 (2003).
[3] Id. at 605.
[4] Sps. Bergonia v. CA, G.R. No. 189151, January 25, 2012.
[5] Id.
[6] Bachrach Corp. v. PPA, 600 Phil. 1, 6 (2009).