Republic of the Philippines
G.R. No. 187104 August 3, 2010
SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY, INC., Petitioner,
EVANGELINE C. COBARRUBIAS, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
We resolve the present petition for review on certiorari1 filed by petitioner Saint Louis University, Inc. (SLU), to challenge the decision2 and the resolution3 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 101708.4
The Factual Background
The facts of the case, gathered from the records, are briefly summarized below.
Respondent Evangeline C. Cobarrubias is an associate professor of the petitioner’s College of Human Sciences. She is an active member of the Union of Faculty and Employees of Saint Louis University (UFESLU).
The 2001-20065 and 2006-20116 Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) between SLU and UFESLU contain the following common provision on forced leave:
Section 7.7. For teaching employees in college who fail the yearly evaluation, the following provisions shall apply:
(a) Teaching employees who are retained for three (3) cumulative years in five (5) years shall be on forced leave for one (1) regular semester during which period all benefits due them shall be suspended.7
SLU placed Cobarrubias on forced leave for the first semester of School Year (SY) 2007-2008 when she failed the evaluation for SY 2002-2003, SY 2005-2006, and SY 2006-2007, with the rating of 85, 77, and 72.9 points, respectively, below the required rating of 87 points.
To reverse the imposed forced leave, Cobarrubias sought recourse from the CBA’s grievance machinery. Despite the conferences held, the parties still failed to settle their dispute, prompting Cobarrubias to file a case for illegal forced leave or illegal suspension with the National Conciliation and Mediation Board of the Department of Labor and Employment, Cordillera Administrative Region, Baguio City. When circulation and mediation again failed, the parties submitted the issues between them for voluntary arbitration before Voluntary Arbitrator (VA) Daniel T. Fariñas.
Cobarrubias argued that the CA already resolved the forced leave issue in a prior case between the parties, CA-G.R. SP No. 90596,8 ruling that the forced leave for teachers who fail their evaluation for three (3) times within a five-year period should be coterminous with the CBA in force during the same five-year period.9
SLU, for its part, countered that the CA decision in CA-G.R. SP No. 90596 cannot be considered in deciding the present case since it is presently on appeal with this Court (G.R. No. 176717)10 and, thus, is not yet final. It argued that the forced leave provision applies irrespective of which CBA is applicable, provided the employee fails her evaluation three (3) times in five (5) years.11
The Voluntary Arbitrator Decision
On October 26, 2007, VA Daniel T. Fariñas dismissed the case.12 He found that the CA decision in CA-G.R. SP No. 90596 is not yet final because of the pending appeal with this Court. He noted that the CBA clearly authorized SLU to place its teaching employees on forced leave when they fail in the evaluation for three (3) years within a five-year period, without a distinction on whether the three years fall within one or two CBA periods. Cobarrubias received the VA’s decision on November 20, 2007.13
On December 5, 2007, Cobarrubias filed with the CA a petition for review under Rule 43 of the Rules of Court, but failed to pay the required filing fees and to attach to the petition copies of the material portions of the record.14
Thus, on January 14, 2008, the CA dismissed the petition outright for Cobarrubias’ procedural lapses.15 Cobarrubias received the CA resolution, dismissing her petition, on January 31, 2008.16
On February 15, 2008, Cobarrubias filed her motion for reconsideration, arguing that the ground cited is technical. She, nonetheless, attached to her motion copies of the material portions of the record and the postal money orders for ₱4,230.00. She maintained that the ends of justice and fair play are better served if the case is decided on its merits.17
On July 30, 2008, the CA reinstated the petition. It found that Cobarrubias substantially complied with the rules by paying the appeal fee in full and attaching the proper documents in her motion for reconsideration.18
SLU insisted that the VA decision had already attained finality for Cobarrubias’ failure to pay the docket fees on time.
The CA Decision
The CA brushed aside SLU’s insistence on the finality of the VA decision and annulled it, declaring that the "three (3) cumulative years in five (5) years" phrase in Section 7.7(a) of the 2006-2011 CBA means within the five-year effectivity of the CBA. Thus, the CA ordered SLU to pay all the benefits due Cobarrubias for the first semester of SY 2007-2008, when she was placed on forced leave.19
When the CA denied20 the motion for reconsideration that followed,21 SLU filed the present petition for review on certiorari.22
SLU argues that the CA should not have reinstated the appeal since Cobarrubias failed to pay the docket fees within the prescribed period, and rendered the VA decision final and executory. Even if Cobarrubias’ procedural lapse is disregarded, SLU submits that Section 7.7(a) of the 2006-2011 CBA should apply irrespective of the five-year effectivity of each CBA.23
The Case for Cobarrubias
Cobarrubias insists that the CA settled the appeal fee issue, in its July 30, 2008 resolution, when it found that she had substantially complied with the rules by subsequently paying the docket fees in full. She submits that the CA’s interpretation of Section 7.7(a) of the 2006-2011 CBA is more in accord with law and jurisprudence.24
The core issues boil down to whether the CA erred in reinstating Cobarrubias’ petition despite her failure to pay the appeal fee within the reglementary period, and in reversing the VA decision. To state the obvious, the appeal fee is a threshold issue that renders all other issues unnecessary if SLU’s position on this issue is correct.
The Court’s Ruling
We find the petition meritorious.
Payment of Appellate Court Docket Fees
Appeal is not a natural right but a mere statutory privilege, thus, appeal must be made strictly in accordance with the provision set by law.25 Rule 43 of the Rules of Court provides that appeals from the judgment of the VA shall be taken to the CA, by filing a petition for review within fifteen (15) days from the receipt of the notice of judgment.26 Furthermore, upon the filing of the petition, the petitioner shall pay to the CA clerk of court the docketing and other lawful fees;27 non-compliance with the procedural requirements shall be a sufficient ground for the petition’s dismissal.28 Thus, payment in full of docket fees within the prescribed period is not only mandatory, but also jurisdictional.29 It is an essential requirement, without which, the decision appealed from would become final and executory as if no appeal has been filed.30
As early as the 1932 case of Lazaro v. Endencia and Andres,31 we stressed that the payment of the full amount of the docket fee is an indispensable step for the perfection of an appeal. In Lee v. Republic,32 we decided that even though half of the appellate court docket fee was deposited, no appeal was deemed perfected where the other half was tendered after the period within which payment should have been made. In Aranas v. Endona,33 we reiterated that the appeal is not perfected if only a part of the docket fee is deposited within the reglementary period and the remainder is tendered after the expiration of the period.
The rulings in these cases have been consistently reiterated in subsequent cases: Guevarra v. Court of Appeals,34 Pedrosa v. Spouses Hill,35 Gegare v. Court of Appeals,36 Lazaro v. Court of Appeals,37 Sps. Manalili v. Sps. de Leon,38 La Salette College v. Pilotin,39 Saint Louis University v. Spouses Cordero,40 M.A. Santander Construction, Inc. v. Villanueva,41 Far Corporation v. Magdaluyo,42 Meatmasters Int’l. Corp. v. Lelis Integrated Dev’t. Corp.,43 Tamayo v. Tamayo, Jr.,44 Enriquez v. Enriquez,45 KLT Fruits, Inc. v. WSR Fruits, Inc.,46 Tan v. Link,47 Ilusorio v. Ilusorio-Yap,48 and most recently in Tabigue v. International Copra Export Corporation (INTERCO),49 and continues to be the controlling doctrine.
In the present case, Cobarrubias filed her petition for review on December 5, 2007, fifteen (15) days from receipt of the VA decision on November 20, 2007, but paid her docket fees in full only after seventy-two (72) days, when she filed her motion for reconsideration on February 15, 2008 and attached the postal money orders for ₱4,230.00. Undeniably, the docket fees were paid late, and without payment of the full docket fees, Cobarrubias’ appeal was not perfected within the reglementary period.
Exceptions to the Rule on Payment of Appellate Court Docket Fees not applicable
Procedural rules do not exist for the convenience of the litigants; the rules were established primarily to provide order to and enhance the efficiency of our judicial system.50 While procedural rules are liberally construed, the provisions on reglementary periods are strictly applied, indispensable as they are to the prevention of needless delays, and are necessary to the orderly and speedy discharge of judicial business.51
Viewed in this light, procedural rules are not to be belittled or dismissed simply because their non-observance may have prejudiced a party's substantive rights; like all rules, they are required to be followed. However, there are recognized exceptions to their strict observance, such as: (1) most persuasive and weighty reasons; (2) to relieve a litigant from an injustice not commensurate with his failure to comply with the prescribed procedure; (3) good faith of the defaulting party by immediately paying within a reasonable time from the time of the default; (4) the existence of special or compelling circumstances; (5) the merits of the case; (6) a cause not entirely attributable to the fault or negligence of the party favored by the suspension of the rules; (7) a lack of any showing that the review sought is merely frivolous and dilatory; (8) the other party will not be unjustly prejudiced thereby; (9) fraud, accident, mistake or excusable negligence without the appellant's fault; (10) peculiar, legal and equitable circumstances attendant to each case; (11) in the name of substantial justice and fair play; (12) importance of the issues involved; and (13) exercise of sound discretion by the judge, guided by all the attendant circumstances.52 Thus, there should be an effort, on the part of the party invoking liberality, to advance a reasonable or meritorious explanation for his/her failure to comply with the rules.1avvphi1
In Cobarrubias' case, no such explanation has been advanced. Other than insisting that the ends of justice and fair play are better served if the case is decided on its merits, Cobarrubias offered no excuse for her failure to pay the docket fees in full when she filed her petition for review. To us, Cobarrubias’ omission is fatal to her cause.
We, thus, find that the CA erred in reinstating Cobarrubias’ petition for review despite the nonpayment of the requisite docket fees within the reglementary period. The VA decision had lapsed to finality when the docket fees were paid; hence, the CA had no jurisdiction to entertain the appeal except to order its dismissal.
WHEREFORE, the present petition is GRANTED. The assailed decision and resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 101708 are hereby DECLARED VOID and are consequently SET ASIDE. The decision of the voluntary arbitrator, that the voided Court of Appeals decision and resolution nullified, stands. No pronouncement as to costs.
ARTURO D. BRION
CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES
|LUCAS P. BERSAMIN
|ROBERTO A. ABAD*
MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.
A T T E S T A T I O N
I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court’s Division.
CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES
C E R T I F I C A T I O N
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, and the Division Chairperson’s Attestation, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above Decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court’s Division.
RENATO C. CORONA
* Designated additional Member of the Third Division, in view of the retirement of Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, per Special Order No. 843 dated May 17, 2010.
1 Filed under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court; rollo, pp. 13-42.
2 Dated November 5, 2008, penned by Associate Justice Celia C. Librea-Leagogo, and concurred in by Associate Justices Mario L. Guariña III and Arturo G. Tayag; id. at 144-158.
3 Dated February 24, 2009; id. at 167-168.
4 Entitled "Evangeline C. Cobarrubias v. Saint Louis University, represented by Fr. Jessie M. Hechanova."
5 Rollo, pp. 62-64.
6 Id. at 65-67.
7 Id. at 63 and 66.
8 Decision of May 23, 2006, entitled "Saint Louis University, Inc. v. Evangeline C. Cobarrubias."
9 Entitled "Evangeline C. Cobarrubias v. Saint Louis University, Inc."
10 Id. at 68-77.
11 Id. at 45-61.
12 Id. at 78-85.
13 Id. at 86.
14 Id. at 86-95.
15 Id. at 97-98.
16 Id. at 99.
17 Id. at 99-105.
18 Id. at 112-115.
19 Decision of November 5, 2008; supra note 2.
20 Resolution of February 24, 2009; supra note 3.
21 Id. at 160-165.
22 Id. at 13-44.
24 Id. at 219-228.
25 Espejo v. Ito, G.R. No. 176511, August 4, 2009, 595 SCRA 192, 204.
26 SEC. 4. Period of appeal. — The appeal shall be taken within fifteen (15) days from notice of the award, judgment, final order or resolution, or from the date of its last publication, if publication is required by law for its effectivity, or of the denial of petitioner's motion for new trial or reconsideration duly filed in accordance with the governing law of the court or agency a quo. Only one (1) motion for reconsideration shall be allowed. Upon proper motion and the payment of the full amount of the docket fee before the expiration of the reglementary period, the Court of Appeals may grant an additional period of fifteen (15) days only within which to file the petition for review. No further extension shall be granted except for the most compelling reason and in no case to exceed fifteen (15) days. (Rule 43, Revised Rules of Court.)
27 SEC. 5. How appeal taken. — Appeal shall be taken by filing a verified petition for review in seven (7) legible copies with the Court of Appeals, with proof of service of a copy thereof on the adverse party and on the court or agency a quo. The original copy of the petition intended for the Court of Appeals shall be indicated as such by the petitioner.
Upon the filing of the petition, the petitioner shall pay to the clerk of court of the Court of Appelas the docketing and other lawful fees and deposit the sum of ₱500.00 for costs. Exemption from payment of docketing and other lawful fees and the deposit for costs may be granted by the Court of Appeals upon a verified motion setting forth valid grounds therefor. If the Court of Appeals denies the motion, the petitioner shall pay the docketing and other lawful fees and deposit for costs within fifteen (15) days from notice of the denial. (Rule 43, Revised Rules of Court.)
28 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 the 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. (Rule 43, Revised Rules of Court.)
29 Ruby Shelter Builders and Realty Development Corporation v. Formaran III, G.R. No. 175914, February 10, 2009, 578 SCRA 283, 297.
30 Ruiz v. Delos Santos, G.R. No. 166386, January 27, 2009, 577 SCRA 29, 43.
31 57 Phil. 552, 553 (1932).
32 No. L-15027, January 31, 1964, 10 SCRA 65, 67.
33 203 Phil. 120, 127 (1982).
34 241 Phil. 40, 44-45 (1988); docket fees paid forty-one (41) days late.
35 327 Phil. 153, 158 (1996); docket fees paid four (4) months late.
36 358 Phil. 228, 232 (1998); nonpayment of docket fees despite CA notice to pay.
37 386 Phil. 412, 417 (2000); docket fees paid six (6) months late.
38 422 Phil. 214, 221 (2001); docket fees paid almost ten (10) months late.
39 463 Phil. 785, 793 (2003); docket fees paid one (1) year and eleven (11) months late.
40 478 Phil. 739, 750 (2004); docket fees paid almost a month late.
41 484 Phil. 500, 504 (2004); docket fees paid seven (7) months and twenty-five (25) days late.
42 485 Phil. 599, 610 (2004); docket fees paid 132 days late.
43 492 Phil. 698, 701 (2005); docket fees paid one (1) month late.
44 G.R. No. 148482, August 12, 2005, 466 SCRA 618, 622-623; docket fees paid only upon the filing of the motion for reconsideration.
45 G.R. No. 139303, August 25, 2005, 468 SCRA 77, 86; docket fees paid four (4) months late.
46 G.R. No. 174219, November 23, 2007, 538 SCRA 713, 730; docket fees paid more than thirty (30) days late.
47 G.R. No. 172849, December 10, 2008, 573 SCRA 479, 492; docket fees paid two (2) days late.
48 G.R. No. 171659, March 17, 2009, 581 SCRA 643, 646; docket fees paid more than three (3) months late.
49 G.R. No. 183335, December 23, 2009; deficiency in docket fees paid only upon the filing of the motion for reconsideration.
50 Mejillano v. Lucillo, G.R. No. 154717, June 19, 2009, 590 SCRA 1, 9; Ko v. Philippine National Bank, G.R. Nos. 169131-32, January 20, 2006, 479 SCRA 298, 303.
51 Villa v. Heirs of Enrique Altavas, G.R. No. 162028, July 14, 2008, 558 SCRA 157, 166; Moneytrend Lending Corporation v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No 165580, February 20, 2006, 482 SCRA 705, 714.
52 Lim v. Delos Santos, G.R. No. 172574, July 31, 2009, 594 SCRA 607, 616-617; Villena v. Rupisan, G.R. No. 167620, April 3, 2007, 520 SCRA 346, 358-359.
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