October 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law (Part 1)

Here are selected October 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on remedial law:

Civil Procedure

Accion Publiciana; nature and purpose.  An accion publiciana is an ordinary civil proceeding to determine the better right of possession of realty independently of title.  Accion publiciana is also used to refer to an ejectment suit where the cause of dispossession is not among the grounds for forcible entry and unlawful detainer, or when possession has been lost for more than one year and can no longer be maintained under Rule 70 of the Rules of Court. The objective of a plaintiff in accion publiciana is to recover possession only, not ownership.  Pio Modesto and Cirila Rivera-Modesto vs. Carlos Urbina, substituted by the heirs of Olympia Miguel Vda. de Urbina, et al., G.R. No. 189859, October 18, 2010.

Appeals; dismissal of appeal on purely technical ground not favored.   Appeal is an essential part of our judicial system.  Its purpose is to bring up for review a final judgment of the lower court.  The courts should, thus, proceed with caution so as not to deprive a party of his right to appeal.  In the recent case of Almelor v. RTC of Las Pinas City, Br. 254, the Court reiterated: While the right to appeal is a statutory, not a natural right, nonetheless it is an essential part of our judicial system and courts should proceed with caution so as not to deprive a party of the right to appeal, but rather, ensure that every party-litigant has the amplest opportunity for the proper and just disposition of his cause, free from the constraints of technicalities.  In the case at bench, the respondent should be given the fullest opportunity to establish the merits of his appeal considering that what is at stake is the sacrosanct institution of marriage. Cynthia S. Bolos vs. Danilo T. Bolos, G.R. No. 186400, October 20, 2010.

Appeal; dismissal of appeal on purely technical ground not favored.  As a final note, it is worthy to emphasize that the dismissal of an appeal on a purely technical ground is frowned upon especially if it will result in unfairness.  The rules of procedure ought not to be applied in a very rigid, technical sense for they have been adopted to help secure, not override, substantial justice.  For this reason, courts must proceed with caution so as not to deprive a party of statutory appeal; rather they must ensure that all litigants are granted the amplest opportunity for the proper and just ventilation of their causes, free from the constraint of technicalities.  Cebu Metro Pharmacy, Inc. vs. Euro-Med Laboratories, Inc., G.R. No. 164757, October 18, 2010.

Appeal; effect of failure to attach material and relevant documents to petition.  The foregoing preliminary matters thus clarified, we find that the CA cannot be faulted for dismissing the petition for review ZFMC filed pursuant to Rule 43 of the Rules by way of appeal from the 30 June 2003 decision in O.P. Case No. 5613.   A perusal of said petition shows that, instead of formulating its own “concise statement of the facts and the issues involved” as required under Rule 43 of the Rules, ZFMC merely quoted the first ten (10) pages of the 25 June 1985 decision in MNR Case No. 4023.  Altogether oblivious of the missing third page of its copy of said decision and the relevant facts it resultantly omitted, ZFMC also appended copies of only the following documents to its petition, viz.: (a) the decision in O.P. Case No. 5613; (b) its motion for reconsideration thereof; and, (c) the 30 September 2003 order denying said motion for lack of merit.  Despite being alerted to the deficiencies of its petition in the CA’s 30 January 2004 resolution directing the submission of the pleadings filed before the MNR and the Office of the President, ZFMC stubbornly maintained, that said documents were no longer necessary since the undisputed facts of the case were already narrated in the 25 June 1984 decision rendered in MNR Case No. 4023.

While it is admittedly the petitioner who decides at the outset which relevant documents will be appended to his petition, it has been held that the CA has the duty to ensure that “the submission of supporting documents is not merely perfunctory.  The practical aspect of this duty is to enable the CA to determine at the earliest possible time the existence of prima facie merit in the petition.”  With the third page missing from ZFMC’s copy of the 25 June 1985 decision in MNR Case No. 4023 and the particulars it omitted as a consequence, we find that the CA’s directive for the submission of the pleadings the parties filed in said case and in O.P. Case No. 5613 was clearly necessary for the proper appreciation of the facts and the issues relevant to the petition before it.  Considering that a petitioner’s failure to attach material and relevant documents to his petition is a sufficient ground to dismiss it, the CA correctly dealt with ZFMC’s failure to comply with its directive by dismissing the petition pursuant to Section 7, Rule 43 of Rules which provides as follows:

Sec. 7. Effect of failure to comply with requirements. – The failure of the petitioner to comply with any of the foregoing requirements regarding the payment of docket and other lawful fees, the deposit for costs, proof of service of the petition, and the contents of and the documents which should accompany the petition shall be sufficient ground for the dismissal thereof.

Still insisting on the superfluity of the submission of said pleadings in its 28 July 2004 motion for reconsideration of the dismissal of its petition, ZFMC had, of course, requested for reasonable time within which to comply with the CA’s earlier directive.  In the twenty-two months which elapsed from the filing of said motion up to the denial thereof in CA’s resolution dated 21 June 2006, however, the record shows that ZFMC miserably failed to submit the pleadings filed by the parties before the MNR and the Office of the President.  To our mind, ZFMC’s omission was fatal when viewed in the light of the above-discussed deficiencies of its petition and its added failure to submit copies of the very orders it sought to be affirmed by the CA, i.e., the BFD Director’s orders dated 8 May 1974 and 11 November 1974.  By and of itself, a party’s failure to comply with the CA’s directive without justifiable cause is also a ground for the dismissal of an appeal under Section 1 (h), Rule 50 of the Rules.

Granted by the CA an extension of fifteen (15) days from 25 October, 2003 or until 9 November, 2003 within which to file its petition for review, it does not likewise help ZFMC’s cause any that it was only able to do so on 24 November 2003.  Although appeal is an essential part of our judicial process, it has been held, time and again, that the right thereto is not a natural right or a part of due process but is merely a statutory privilege.  Thus, the perfection of an appeal in the manner and within the period prescribed by law is not only mandatory but also jurisdictional and failure of a party to conform to the rules regarding appeal will render the judgment final and executory.  Zamboanga Forest Managers Corporation vs. New Pacific Timber and Supply Company, et al., G.R. No. 173342. October 13, 2010.

Appeal; effect of failure to file appellant’s brief on time; court’s discretion.  Lastly, the Court does not agree with petitioners’ contention that the CA committed grave abuse of discretion in not dismissing the LBP’s appeal on the ground that the latter failed to file its Appellant’s Brief on time.

In The Government of the Kingdom of Belgium v. Court of Appeals, the Court laid down the basic rules with respect to the issue of non-filing of appellant’s brief with the CA and its consequences, to wit:

(1) The general rule is for the Court of Appeals to dismiss an appeal when no appellant’s brief is filed within the reglementary period prescribed by the rules;

(2) The power conferred upon the Court of Appeals to dismiss an appeal is discretionary and directory and not ministerial or mandatory;

(3) The failure of an appellant to file his brief within the reglementary period does not have the effect of causing the automatic dismissal of the appeal;

(4) In case of late filing, the appellate court has the power to still allow the appeal; however, for the proper exercise of the court’s leniency it is imperative that:

(a) the circumstances obtaining warrant the court’s liberality;

(b) that strong considerations of equity justify an exception to the procedural rule in the interest of substantial justice;

(c) no material injury has been suffered by the appellee by the delay;

(d) there is no contention that the appellees’ cause was prejudiced;

(e) at least there is no motion to dismiss filed.

(5)   In case of delay, the lapse must be for a reasonable period; and

(6)  Inadvertence of counsel cannot be considered as an adequate excuse as to call for the appellate court’s indulgence except:

(a) where the reckless or gross negligence of counsel deprives the client of due process of law;

(b) when application of the rule will result in outright deprivation of the client’s liberty or property; or

(c) where the interests of justice so require.

In this regard, the Court’s pronouncement in Natonton v. Magaway is apropros:

As held by the Court in Gregorio v. Court of Appeals (70 SCRA 546 [1976]), “(T)he expiration of the time to file brief, unlike lateness in filing the notice of appeal, appeal bond or record on appeal is not a jurisdictional matter and may be waived by the parties. Even after the expiration of the time fixed for the filing of the brief, the reviewing court may grant an extension of time, at least where no motion to dismiss has been made. Late filing or service of briefs may be excused where no material injury has been suffered by the appellee by reason of the delay or where there is no contention that the appellee’s cause was prejudiced.”

Technically, the Court of Appeals may dismiss an appeal for failure to file appellant’s brief on time. However, the dismissal is directory, not mandatory. It is not the ministerial duty of the court to dismiss the appeal. The failure of an appellant to file his brief within the time prescribed does not have the effect of dismissing the appeal automatically. 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.

We observe that petitioners’ arguments are based on technical grounds. While indeed respondents did not file their brief seasonably, it was not mandatory on the part of the Court of Appeals to dismiss their appeal. As held by this Court in the above-cited cases, late filing of brief may be excused. In other words, the dismissal of respondents’ appeal on that ground is discretionary on the part of the Appellate Court.

Significantly, there is no showing that petitioners suffered a material injury or that their cause was prejudiced when respondents failed to submit their brief promptly. What is clear is that the latter incurred delay in the filing of their brief because when the deadline fell due, they were not yet represented by a new counsel.

The Rules of Court was conceived and promulgated to set forth guidelines in the dispensation of justice, but not to bind and chain the hand that dispenses it, for otherwise, courts will be mere slaves to or robots of technical rules, shorn of judicial discretion. That is precisely why courts, in rendering justice, have always been, as they in fact ought to be, conscientiously guided by the norm that on the balance, technicalities take a backseat to substantive rights, and not the other way around. As applied to the instant case, in the language of then Chief Justice Querube Makalintal, technicalities “should give way to the realities of the situation.”

It is true that in the instant case, petitioners filed a motion to dismiss. However, the same was submitted only after the CA had already granted the LBP’s motion for extension of time to file its brief and such brief was already filed with the appellate court.  In Aguam v. Court of Appeals, this Court excused a delay of nine (9) days in the filing of a motion for extension of the appellant’s brief holding that:

In the higher interest of justice, considering that the delay in filing a motion for extension to file appellant’s brief was only for nine (9) days, and normally, the Court of Appeals would routinely grant such extension, and the appellant’s brief was actually filed within the period sought, the better course of action for the Court of Appeals was to admit appellant’s brief.

Lapses in the literal observance of a rule of procedure will be overlooked when they arose from an honest mistake, when they have not prejudiced the adverse party. The Court can overlook the late filing of the motion for extension, if strict compliance with the rules would mean sacrificing justice to technicality.

Based on the abovequoted ruling, with more reason should the LBP’s delay in filing its second motion for extension be excused, because such delay was only for five days.  Moreover, the LBP was able to file its Appellant’s Brief within the second period of extension granted by the CA.

In the same manner, in Heirs of Victoriana Villagracia v. Equitable Banking Corporation, the petitioners therein failed to file their Appellant’s Brief with the CA within the reglementary period. They also failed to file their motion for extension before the expiration of the time sought to be extended. In relaxing the application of the procedural rules and, thus, allowing the appeal to be reinstated, the Court held as follows:

However, in the instant case, we are of the view that the ends of justice will be better served if it is determined on the merits, after full opportunity is given to all parties for ventilation of their causes and defenses, rather than on technicality or some procedural imperfections. It is far better to dispose of the case on the merits, which is a primordial end, rather than on a technicality that may result in injustice. While it is desirable that the Rules of Court be faithfully observed, courts should not be too strict with procedural lapses that do not really impair the proper administration of justice. The rules are intended to ensure the proper and orderly conduct of litigation because of the higher objective they seek, which is the attainment of justice and the protection of substantive rights of the parties. In Republic v. Imperial [362 Phil. 466], the Court, through Mr. Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr., stressed that the filing of the appellant’s brief in appeals is not a jurisdictional requirement. But an appeal may be dismissed by the CA on grounds enumerated under Rule 50 of the Rules of Court. The Court has the power to relax or suspend the rules or to except a case from their operation when compelling reasons so warrant, or when the purpose of justice requires it. What constitutes good and sufficient cause that will merit suspension of the rules is discretionary upon the court.

In the case at bench, without touching on the merits of the case, there appears a good and efficient cause to warrant the suspension of the rules. Petitioners’ failure to file the appeal brief within the extended period may have been rendered excusable by force of circumstances. Petitioners had to change their counsel because he was appointed judge of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court. Their new counsel had to go over the six (6) volumes of the records of the case to be able to file an intelligent brief. Thus, a few days of delay in the filing of the motion for extension may be justified. In addition, no material injury was suffered by the appellees by reason of the delay in the filing of the brief.

Dismissal of appeals on purely technical grounds is not encouraged. The rules of procedure ought not to be applied in a very rigid and technical sense, for they have been adopted to help secure, not override, substantial justice. Judicial action must be guided by the principle that a party-litigant should be given the fullest opportunity to establish the merits of his complaint or defense rather than for him to lose life, liberty, honor or property on technicalities. When a rigid application of the rules tends to frustrate rather than promote substantial justice, this Court is empowered to suspend their operation.

In the instant case, the LBP’s delay in filing its Appellant’s Brief is justified by the fact that the Legal Services Department of the LBP underwent re-organization resulting in the retirement and transfer of the remaining lawyers, cases and personnel from one department to another as well as in the merger and dissolution of other departments within the LBP.  In its Manifestation, which petitioners did not dispute, the LBP claimed that by reason of the abovementioned re-organization, the lawyer handling the present case actually received a copy of the Resolution of the CA setting the deadline for the filing of its Appellant’s Brief only on May 21, 2001, four days after the expiration of the period granted by the CA. Besides, there is no indication that the LBP intended to delay the proceedings, considering that it only filed two motions for extension to file its brief.  As adverted to by this Court in De Leon, the dismissal of the LBP’s appeal, together with the other appeals it had filed, will have a great impact not only on the LBP as the financial intermediary of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, but also on the national treasury and the already depressed economic condition of our country.  In other words, the instant case is impressed with public interest. As such, and in the interest of substantial justice, the Court finds that the same must be decided on the merits.  Based on the foregoing discussions, the Court finds that the CA did not commit grave abuse of discretion in denying petitioners’ motion to dismiss respondent LBP’s appeal.  Jorge L. Tiangco, et al. vs. Land Bank of the Philippines, G.R. No. 153998, October 6, 2010

Appeal; effect of failure to serve required number of copies of appellant’s brief; court’s discretion. Petitioners also assert that the LBP’s appeal filed with the CA should have been dismissed on the ground that the LBP failed to serve two copies of its Appellant’s Brief to petitioners. Petitioners argue that under Section 7, Rule 44 of the Rules of Court, the appellant is required to serve two copies of his Brief on the appellee and that, in relation with the said Rule, one of the grounds for dismissing an appeal under Section 1(e), Rule 50 of the same Rules is the failure of the appellant to serve and file the required number of copies of his Brief or Memorandum within the time provided by the Rules.  The Court is not persuaded.  Indeed, Section 7, Rule 44 of the Rules of Court requires the appellant to serve two copies of the appellant’s brief to the appellee. However, the failure to serve the required number of copies does not automatically result in the dismissal of the appeal. Thus, this Court held in Philippine National Bank v. Philippine Milling Co., Inc. that:

[P]ursuant to Section 1 of Rule 50 of the Rules of Court, “(a)n appeal may be dismissed by the Court of Appeals, on its own motion or on that of the appellee” upon the ground, among others, of “(f)ailure of the appellant x x x to serve and file the required number of copies of his brief,” within the reglementary period. Manifestly, this provision confers a power and does not impose a duty. What is more, it is directory, not mandatory.

The CA has, under the said provision of the Rules of Court, discretion to dismiss or not to dismiss respondent’s appeal. Although said 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, the presumption is that it has been so exercised.  It is incumbent upon herein petitioners, as actors in the case at bar, to offset this presumption. Yet, the records before the Court do not satisfactorily show that the CA has committed grave abuse of discretion in not dismissing the LBP’s appeal.  There is no question that the LBP was only able to serve on petitioners one copy of its appellant’s brief. However, settled is the rule that a litigant’s failure to furnish his opponent with a copy of his appeal brief does not suffice to warrant dismissal of that appeal.  In such an instance, all that is needed is for the court to order the litigant to furnish his opponent with a copy of his brief.  In the instant case, with much less reason should the LBP’s appeal be dismissed, because petitioners were served with the LBP’s brief, albeit only one copy was given to them.  The Court would be dwelling too much on technicality if the appeal is dismissed simply on the ground that LBP failed to furnish petitioners with two copies, instead of only one, of its appeal brief. Indeed, there is no showing, and the Court finds none in the instant petition, that such procedural lapse on the part of the LBP resulted in material injury to the latter.  Jorge L. Tiangco, et al. vs. Land Bank of the Philippines, G.R. No. 153998, October 6, 2010

Appeal; factual findings of Court of Appeals generally binding on Supreme Court.  In asking us to determine which of the parties has a better right to possess the property, we are asked to resolve a factual issue, involving as it does the weighing and evaluation of the evidence presented by the parties in the courts below. Generally, such an exercise is not appropriate in a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, which seeks to resolve only questions of law. Moreover, the factual findings of the CA, when supported by substantial evidence, are conclusive and binding on the parties and are not reviewable by this Court, unless the case falls under any of the following recognized exceptions:

(1) When the conclusion is a finding grounded entirely on speculation, surmises and conjectures;

(2) When the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible;

(3) Where there is a grave abuse of discretion;

(4) When the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts;

(5) When the findings of fact are conflicting;

(6) When the Court of Appeals, in making its findings, went beyond the issues of the case and the same is contrary to the admissions of both appellant and appellee;

(7) When the findings are contrary to those of the trial court;

(8) When the findings of fact are conclusions without citation of specific evidence on which they are based;

(9) When the facts set forth in the petition as well as in the petitioners’ main and reply briefs are not disputed by the respondents; and

(10) When the findings of fact of the Court of Appeals are premised on the supposed absence of evidence and contradicted by the evidence on record.

Since the CA affirmed the factual findings of the RTC, we would normally be precluded from re-examining the factual circumstances of this case. However, it appears that the RTC and the CA, in concluding that Urbina has the right to lawfully eject the Modestos from the lot in question, have greatly misapprehended the facts of this case. Pio Modesto and Cirila Rivera-Modesto vs. Carlos Urbina, substituted by the heirs of Olympia Miguel Vda. de Urbina, et al., G.R. No. 189859, October 18, 2010.

Appeal; factual findings of Court of Appeals and Intellectual Property Office (IPO).  Petitioners raise the factual issue of who the true owner of the mark is. As a general rule, this Court is not a trier of facts. However, such rule is subject to exceptions.

In New City Builders, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Commission, the Court ruled that:

We are very much aware that the rule to the effect that this Court is not a trier of facts admits of exceptions.  As we have stated in Insular Life Assurance Company, Ltd. vs. CA:

[i]t is a settled rule that in the exercise of the Supreme Court’s power of review, the Court is not a trier of facts and does not normally undertake the re-examination of the evidence presented by the contending parties during the trial of the case considering that the findings of facts of the CA are conclusive and binding on the Court.  However, the Court had recognized several exceptions to this rule, to wit: (1) when the findings are grounded entirely on speculation, surmises or conjectures; (2) when the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible; (3) when there is grave abuse of discretion; (4) when the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts; (5) when the findings of facts are conflicting; (6) when in making its findings the Court of Appeals went beyond the issues of the case, or its findings are contrary to the admissions of both the appellant and the appellee; (7) when the findings are contrary to the trial court; (8) when the findings are conclusions without citation of specific evidence on which they are based; (9) when the facts set forth in the petition as well as in the petitioner’s main and reply briefs are not disputed by the respondent; (10) when the findings of fact are premised on the supposed absence of evidence and contradicted by the evidence on record; and (11) when the Court of Appeals manifestly overlooked certain relevant facts not disputed by the parties, which, if properly considered, would justify a different conclusion. (Emphasis supplied.)

In the instant case, the records will show that the IPO and the CA made differing conclusions on the issue of ownership based on the evidence presented by the parties.  Hence, this issue may be the subject of this Court’s review.  E.Y. Industrial Sales, Inc. and Engracio Yap vs. Shen Dar Electricity Machinery Co., Ltd., G.R. No. 184850, October 20, 2010.

Appeal; factual findings of Court of Appeals and trial court entitled to great respect.  Both the trial and the appellate courts ruled that respondent has proven her claims of ownership and possession with a preponderance of evidence.  Petitioners now argue that the two courts erred in their appreciation of the evidence.  They ask the Court to review the evidence of both parties, despite the CA’s finding that the trial court committed no error in appreciating the evidence presented during trial.  Hence, petitioners seek a review of questions of fact, which is beyond the province of a Rule 45 petition.  A question of fact exists if the uncertainty centers on the truth or falsity of the alleged facts.  “Such questions as whether certain items of evidence should be accorded probative value or weight, or rejected as feeble or spurious, or whether the proofs on one side or the other are clear and convincing and adequate to establish a proposition in issue, are without doubt questions of fact.”

Since it raises essentially questions of fact, this assignment of error must be dismissed for it is settled that only questions of law may be reviewed in an appeal by certiorari.  There is a question of law when there is doubt as to what the law is on a certain state of facts.  Questions of law can be resolved without having to re-examine the probative value of evidence presented, the truth or falsehood of facts being admitted.  The instant case does not present a compelling reason to deviate from the foregoing rule, especially since both trial and appellate courts agree that respondent had proven her claim of ownership as against petitioners’ claims.  Their factual findings, supported as they are by the evidence, should be accorded great respect.

In any case, even if petitioners’ arguments attacking the authenticity and admissibility of the Deed of Quitclaim executed in favor of respondent’s father are well-taken, it will not suffice to defeat respondent’s claim over the subject property.  Even without the Deed of Quitclaim, respondent’s claims of prior possession and ownership were adequately supported and corroborated by her other documentary and testimonial evidence.  We agree with the trial court’s observation that, in the ordinary course of things, people will not go to great lengths to execute legal documents and pay realty taxes over a real property, unless they have reason to believe that they have an interest over the same.  The fact that respondent’s documents traverse several decades, from the 1960s to the 1990s, is an indication that she and her family never abandoned their right to the property and have continuously exercised rights of ownership over the same.  Moreover, respondent’s version of how the petitioners came to occupy the property coincides with the same timeline given by the petitioners themselves.  The only difference is that petitioners maintain they came into possession by tolerance of the Smith family, while respondent maintains that it was her parents who gave permission to petitioners.  Given the context under which the parties’ respective statements were made, the Court is inclined to believe the respondent’s version, as both the trial and appellate courts have concluded, since her version is corroborated by the documentary evidence.  Delfin Lamsis, et al. vs. Margarita Semon Dong-e, G.R. No. 173021, October 20, 2010.

Appeal; factual findings of lower courts generally binding on Supreme Court.  Clearly, the petition disputes the factual findings of the CA, which, in turn, merely affirmed the factual findings of the RTC.  It is settled that factual findings of the trial court, when adopted and confirmed by the CA, are binding and conclusive on this Court and will generally not be reviewed on appeal. Inquiry into the veracity of the CA’s factual findings and conclusions is not the function of the Supreme Court, because this Court is not a trier of facts. Neither is it our function to reexamine and weigh anew the respective evidence of the parties.  While it is true that there are well-established exceptions to this principle, petitioner in this case has failed to show that this case falls under one of such exceptions.  The RTC and the CA both found that respondent was not in default on the monthly payments of his loan obligation.  These findings are supported by the evidence on record.

At the time of foreclosure – April 1999 – respondent’s savings account deposits showed a balance of P852,913.26.  This was more than enough to cover whatever amortizations were due from him at that time. Moreover, the Amortization Schedule shows that, as of April 27, 1999, respondent’s loan account with the bank totaled only P269,023.38.  The same schedule shows that, by March 27, 2000, he had “0.00” balance left to pay, meaning he had paid his loan in full. Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation vs. Pedro P. Buenaventura G.R. No. 176479, October 6, 2010

Appeal; factual findings of quasi-judicial bodies.  Next, petitioners challenge the CA’s reversal of the factual findings of the BLA that Shen Dar and not EYIS is the prior user and, therefore, true owner of the mark.  In arguing its position, petitioners cite numerous rulings of this Court where it was enunciated that the factual findings of administrative bodies are given great weight if not conclusive upon the courts when supported by substantial evidence.  We agree with petitioners that the general rule in this jurisdiction is that the factual findings of administrative bodies deserve utmost respect when supported by evidence.  However, such general rule is subject to exceptions.

In Fuentes v. Court of Appeals, the Court established the rule of conclusiveness of factual findings of the CA as follows:

Jurisprudence teaches us that “(a)s a rule, the jurisdiction of this Court in cases brought to it from the Court of Appeals x x x is limited to the review and revision of errors of law allegedly committed by the appellate court, as its findings of fact are deemed conclusive.  As such this Court is not duty-bound to analyze and weigh all over again the evidence already considered in the proceedings below.  This rule, however, is not without exceptions.” The findings of fact of the Court of Appeals, which are as a general rule deemed conclusive, may admit of review by this Court:

(1)  when the factual findings of the Court of Appeals and the trial court are contradictory;

(2)  when the findings are grounded entirely on speculation, surmises, or conjectures;

(3)  when the inference made by the Court of Appeals from its findings of fact is manifestly mistaken, absurd, or impossible;

(4) when there is grave abuse of discretion in the appreciation of facts;

(5) when the appellate court, in making its findings, goes beyond the issues of the case, and such findings are contrary to the admissions of both appellant and appellee;

(6)  when the judgment of the Court of Appeals is premised on a misapprehension of facts;

(7)  when the Court of Appeals fails to notice certain relevant facts which, if properly considered, will justify a different conclusion;

(8)  when the findings of fact are themselves conflicting;

(9) when the findings of fact are conclusions without citation of the specific evidence on which they are based; and

(10) when the findings of fact of the Court of Appeals are premised on the absence of evidence but such findings are contradicted by the evidence on record.

Thereafter, in Villaflor v. Court of Appeals, this Court applied the above principle to factual findings of quasi-judicial bodies, to wit:

Proceeding by analogy, the exceptions to the rule on conclusiveness of factual findings of the Court of Appeals, enumerated in Fuentes vs. Court of Appeals, can also be applied to those of quasi-judicial bodies x x x.

Here, the CA identified certain material facts that were allegedly overlooked by the BLA and the IPO Director General which it opined, when correctly appreciated, would alter the result of the case.  An examination of the IPO Decisions, however, would show that no such evidence was overlooked.  E.Y. Industrial Sales, Inc. and Engracio Yap vs. Shen Dar Electricity Machinery Co., Ltd., G.R. No. 184850, October 20, 2010.

Appeal; factual findings of quasi-judicial bodies (in this case, the Construction Industry Arbitration Commission [CIAC]) accorded respect.  Despite petitioner’s attempts to make it appear that it is advancing questions of law, it is quite clear that what petitioner seeks is for this Court to recalibrate the evidence it has presented before the CIAC.  It insists that its evidence sufficiently proves that it is entitled to payment for respondent’s use of its manlift equipment, and even absent proof of the supposed agreement on the charges petitioner may impose on respondent for the use of said equipment, respondent should be made to pay based on the principle of unjust enrichment.  Petitioner also questions the amounts awarded by the CIAC for inventoried materials, and costs incurred by petitioner for completing the work left unfinished by respondent.  As reiterated by the Court in IBEX International, Inc. v. Government Service Insurance System, to wit:

It is settled that findings of fact of quasi-judicial bodies, which have acquired expertise because their jurisdiction is confined to specific matters, are generally accorded not only respect, but also finality, especially when affirmed by the Court of Appeals.  In particular, factual findings of construction arbitrators are final and conclusive and not reviewable by this Court on appeal.

This rule, however, admits of certain exceptions. In Uniwide Sales Realty and Resources Corporation v. Titan-Ikeda Construction and Development Corporation, we said:

In David v. Construction Industry and Arbitration Commission, we ruled that, as exceptions, factual findings of construction arbitrators may be reviewed by this Court when the petitioner proves affirmatively that: (1) the award was procured by corruption, fraud or other undue means; (2) there was evident partiality or corruption of the arbitrators or any of them; (3) the arbitrators were guilty of misconduct in refusing to hear evidence pertinent and material to the controversy; (4) one or more of the arbitrators were disqualified to act as such under Section nine of Republic Act No. 876 and willfully refrained from disclosing such disqualifications or of any other misbehavior by which the rights of any party have been materially prejudiced; or (5) the arbitrators exceeded their powers, or so imperfectly executed them, that a mutual, final and definite award upon the subject matter submitted to them was not made.

Other recognized exceptions are as follows: (1) when there is a very clear showing of grave abuse of discretion resulting in lack or loss of jurisdiction as when a party was deprived of a fair opportunity to present its position before the Arbitral Tribunal or when an award is obtained through fraud or the corruption of arbitrators, (2) when the findings of the Court of Appeals are contrary to those of the CIAC, and (3) when a party is deprived of administrative due process.

A perusal of the records would reveal that none of the aforementioned circumstances, which would justify exemption of this case from the general rule, are present here.  Such being the case, the Court, not being a trier of facts, is not duty-bound to examine, appraise and analyze anew the evidence presented before the arbitration body.

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Again, these issues are purely factual and cannot be properly addressed in this petition for review on certiorari.  In Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Co., Ltd. v. Dynamic Planners and Construction Corp., it was emphasized that mathematical computations, the propriety of arbitral awards, claims for “other costs” and “abandonment” are factual questions.  Since the discussions of the CIAC and the CA in their respective Decisions show that its factual findings are supported by substantial evidence, there is no reason why this Court should not accord finality to said findings.  Verily, to accede to petitioner’s request for a recalibration of its evidence, which had been thoroughly studied by both the CIAC and the CA would result in negating the objective of Executive Order No. 1008, which created an arbitration body to ensure the prompt and efficient settlement of disputes in the construction industry.   Thus, the Court held in Uniwide Sales Realty and Resources Corporation v. Titan-Ikeda Construction and Development Corporation, that:

x x x The Court will not review the factual findings of an arbitral tribunal upon the artful allegation that such body had “misapprehended facts” and will not pass upon issues which are, at bottom, issues of fact, no matter how cleverly disguised they might be as “legal questions.” The parties here had recourse to arbitration and chose the arbitrators themselves; they must have had confidence in such arbitrators. The Court will not, therefore, permit the parties to relitigate before it the issues of facts previously presented and argued before the Arbitral Tribunal, save only where a clear showing is made that, in reaching its factual conclusions, the Arbitral Tribunal committed an error so egregious and hurtful to one party as to constitute a grave abuse of discretion resulting in lack or loss of jurisdiction.

As discussed above, there is nothing in the records that point to any grave abuse of discretion committed by the CIAC. Shinryo (Philippines) Company, Inc. vs. RRN Incorporated, G.R. No. 172525, October 20, 2010.

Appeal; modes of appeal from decisions of regional trial court.  In Murillo v. Consul, we had the opportunity to clarify the three (3) modes of appeal from decisions of the RTC, to wit: (1) by ordinary appeal or appeal by writ of error under Rule 41, where judgment was rendered in a civil or criminal action by the RTC in the exercise of original jurisdiction; (2) by petition for review under Rule 42, where judgment was rendered by the RTC in the exercise of appellate jurisdiction; and (3) by petition for review on certiorari to the Supreme Court under Rule 45.  The first mode of appeal is taken to the CA on questions of fact or mixed questions of fact and law. The second mode of appeal is brought to the CA on questions of fact, of law, or mixed questions of fact and law. The third mode of appeal is elevated to the Supreme Court only on questions of law.

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Here, petitioner’s appeal does not only involve a question of law. Aside from the trial court’s ruling that it has no jurisdiction over the complaint, petitioner likewise questioned the other basis for the trial court’s ruling, which refers to previously decided cases allegedly upholding with finality the ownership of the Malabanans over the disputed property. As correctly argued by petitioner, the question of whether the ownership of the Malabanans has in fact been sustained with finality is factual in nature as it requires the presentation of evidence.  Since the appeal raised mixed questions of fact and law, no error can be imputed on petitioner for invoking the appellate jurisdiction of the CA through an ordinary appeal under Rule 41.  Republic of the Philippines vs. Angelo B. Malabanan, et al., G.R. No. 169067, October 6, 2010

Appeal; period to appeal; “fresh period rule.” Jurisprudence has settled the “fresh period rule,” according to which, an ordinary appeal from the RTC to the Court of Appeals, under Section 3 of Rule 41 of the Rules of Court, shall be taken within fifteen (15) days either from receipt of the original judgment of the trial court or from receipt of the final order of the trial court dismissing or denying the motion for new trial or motion for reconsideration.  In Sumiran v. Damaso, we presented a survey of the cases applying the fresh period rule:

As early as 2005, the Court categorically declared in Neypes v. Court of Appeals that by virtue of the power of the Supreme Court to amend, repeal and create new procedural rules in all courts, the Court is allowing a fresh period of 15 days within which to file a notice of appeal in the RTC, counted from receipt of the order dismissing or denying a motion for new trial or motion for reconsideration. This would standardize the appeal periods provided in the Rules and do away with the confusion as to when the 15-day appeal period should be counted. Thus, the Court stated:

To recapitulate, a party-litigant may either file his notice of appeal within 15 days from receipt of the Regional Trial Court’s decision or file it within 15 days from receipt of the order (the “final order”) denying his motion for new trial or motion for reconsideration. Obviously, the new 15-day period may be availed of only if either motion is filed; otherwise, the decision becomes final and executory after the lapse of the original appeal period provided in Rule 41, Section 3.

The foregoing ruling of the Court was reiterated in Makati Insurance Co., Inc. v. Reyes, to wit:

Propitious to petitioner is Neypes v. Court of Appeals, promulgated on 14 September 2005 while the present Petition was already pending before us. x x x.

x x x x

With the advent of the “fresh period rule” parties who availed themselves of the remedy of motion for reconsideration are now allowed to file a notice of appeal within fifteen days from the denial of that motion.

The “fresh period rule” is not inconsistent with Rule 41, Section 3 of the Revised Rules of Court which states that the appeal shall be taken “within fifteen (15) days from notice of judgment or final order appealed from.” The use of the disjunctive word “or” signifies disassociation and independence of one thing from another. It should, as a rule, be construed in the sense which it ordinarily implies. Hence, the use of “or” in the above provision supposes that the notice of appeal may be filed within 15 days from the notice of judgment or within 15 days from notice of the “final order,”      x x x.

x x x x

The “fresh period rule” finally eradicates the confusion as to when the 15-day appeal period should be counted — from receipt of notice of judgment or from receipt of notice of “final order” appealed from.

Taking our bearings from Neypes, in Sumaway v. Urban Bank, Inc., we set aside the denial of a notice of appeal which was purportedly filed five days late. With the fresh period rule, the 15-day period within which to file the notice of appeal was counted from notice of the denial of the therein petitioner’s motion for reconsideration.

We followed suit in Elbiña v. Ceniza, wherein we applied the principle granting a fresh period of 15 days within which to file the notice of appeal, counted from receipt of the order dismissing a motion for new trial or motion for reconsideration or any final order or resolution.

Thereafter, in First Aqua Sugar Traders, Inc. v. Bank of the Philippine Islands, we held that a party-litigant may now file his notice of appeal either within fifteen days from receipt of the original decision or within fifteen days from the receipt of the order denying the motion for reconsideration.

In De los Santos v. Vda. de Mangubat, we applied the same principle of “fresh period rule,” expostulating that procedural law refers to the adjective law which prescribes rules and forms of procedure in order that courts may be able to administer justice. Procedural laws do not come within the legal conception of a retroactive law, or the general rule against the retroactive operation of statutes. The “fresh period rule” is irrefragably procedural, prescribing the manner in which the appropriate period for appeal is to be computed or determined and, therefore, can be made applicable to actions pending upon its effectivity, such as the present case, without danger of violating anyone else’s rights.

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In the case before us, respondent received a copy of the Resolution dated September 2, 2003 of the RTC-Branch 227 dismissing his complaint in Civil Case No. Q-02-48341 on September 26, 2003.  Fourteen days thereafter, on October 10, 2003, respondent filed a Motion for Reconsideration of said resolution.  The RTC-Branch 227 denied respondent’s Motion for Reconsideration in an Order dated December 30, 2003, which the respondent received on February 20, 2004.  On March 1, 2004, just after nine days from receipt of the order denying his Motion for Reconsideration, respondent already filed his Notice of Appeal.  Clearly, under the fresh period rule, respondent was able to file his appeal well-within the prescriptive period of 15 days, and the Court of Appeals did not err in giving due course to said appeal in CA-G.R. CV No. 82610.  Ermelinda Manaloto, et al. vs. Ismael Veloso III, G.R. No. 171365, October 6, 2010.

Appeal; period to appeal; “fresh period rule;” retroactivity.  Also in Sumiran, we recognized the retroactive application of the fresh period rule to cases pending and undetermined upon its effectivity:

The retroactivity of the Neypes rule in cases where the period for appeal had lapsed prior to the date of promulgation of Neypes on September 14, 2005, was clearly explained by the Court in Fil-Estate Properties, Inc. v. Homena-Valencia, stating thus:

The determinative issue is whether the “fresh period” rule announced in Neypes could retroactively apply in cases where the period for appeal had lapsed prior to 14 September 2005 when Neypes was promulgated. That question may be answered with the guidance of the general rule that procedural laws may be given retroactive effect to actions pending and undetermined at the time of their passage, there being no vested rights in the rules of procedure. Amendments to procedural rules are procedural or remedial in character as they do not create new or remove vested rights, but only operate in furtherance of the remedy or confirmation of rights already existing. (Emphases supplied.)

Ermelinda Manaloto, et al. vs. Ismael Veloso III, G.R. No. 171365, October 6, 2010.


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