[ G.R. No. 206331. June 04, 2018 ]




A liberal construction of the rules of procedure, including the period within which a petition for review must be filed, requires justifiable reasons or at least a reasonable attempt at compliance with them.

This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari2 under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, assailing the May 11, 2012 Decision3 and September 12, 2012 Resolution4 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 118549. The Court of Appeals reversed and set aside the April 30, 2009 Decision of the National Labor Relations Commission in NLRC NCR Case No. 00-12-1407- 2003/NLRC LAC No. 043647-05.5 It found that Carmencita Diaz (Diaz), Emma Cabigting (Cabigting), and Nina T. Samaniego (Samaniego) were illegally dismissed by the Department of Agrarian Reform Multi-Purpose Cooperative (the Cooperative).6

Diaz, Cabigting, and Samaniego worked for the Cooperative as Accounting Clerk, Loan Officer and Verifier, and Lending Supervisor, respectively.7

On October 24, 2003, the Cooperative's accountant discovered that duplicate original receipts showing the members' cash payments of share capital contributions were missing and unrecovered. Cabigting explained that she found that the entries in the members' index cards were written by Cashier Lorelie C. Matel (Matel) and Loan Officer Roslyn G. Sengson (Sengson). Matel admitted that she manipulated the index card entries to misappropriate funds. Matel and Sengson later confessed that there was nothing left from the misappropriated funds and that they had already destroyed the missing receipts.8

On October 26, 2003, Diaz, Cabigting, and Samaniego learned that Matel and Sengson allegedly claimed that they were all in a conspiracy in the anomalous transactions. The next day, Diaz, Cabigting, and Samaniego were forced to admit their participation despite their denial and claims that the official receipts showed that payments were received only by Matel or Sengson.9

Diaz, Cabigting, and Samaniego were placed under a 30-day preventive suspension on October 29, 2003. After the period lapsed, they tried to return to work but were told that the Cooperative had already terminated their employment.10

On December 9, 2003, Diaz, Cabigting, and Samaniego filed a complaint for illegal dismissal against the Cooperative before the Regional Arbitration Branch of the National Labor Relations Commission.11

The Labor Arbiter dismissed their complaint on January 31, 2005 and found that Diaz, Cabigting, and Samaniego were mere members, and not employees of the Cooperative. Moreover, assuming that they were employees, their dismissal from service was justified due to their failure to fully account for the missing funds and explain the anomalous transactions.12

On appeal, the National Labor Relations Commission reversed the Labor Arbiter's findings and found that Diaz, Cabigting, and Samaniego were employees of the Cooperative. Nonetheless, the Cooperative ruled to dismiss them based on just cause under Article 282, paragraphs (a) and (c) of the Labor Code. But since the Cooperative failed to observe the requirements of due process in terminating their employment, they were given P10,000.00 each in nominal damages.13 Both parties' motions for reconsideration were denied.14

Diaz, Cabigting, and Samaniego then filed a Petition for Certiorari before the Court of Appeals, assailing the April 30, 2009 Decision and October 28,2010 Resolution of the National Labor Relations Commission.15

On May 11, 2012, the Court of Appeals granted the Petition for Certiorari, finding that Diaz, Cabigting, and Samaniego were illegally dismissed. The dispositive portion of this Decision read:

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED and the assailed Decision dated April 30, 2009 of the public respondent NLRC in NLRC NCR Case No. 00-12-1407-2003/NLRC LAC No. 043647-05 is REVERSED AND SET ASIDE. Private respondent cooperative is hereby ordered to:

1. pay petitioners their backwages, including 13th month pay, unpaid vacation and sick leaves and the monetary equivalent of other benefits, computed from the time their compensation was withheld from them on December 1, 2003 up to the finality of this decision;

2. pay petitioners their separation pay equivalent to at least one month salary for every year of service, computed from the time of engagement up to the finality of this decision; and

3. pay petitioners' attorney's fees at 10% of the total monetary award to be recovered.

All other claims are denied for lack of merit.(awÞhi(

Let the records of this case be remanded to the Arbiter Branch of origin for the proper computation of the backwages, 13th month pay, unpaid vacation and sick leaves and the monetary equivalent of other benefits, and separation pay, in lieu of reinstatement.


First, it upheld the National Labor Relations Commission's finding that Diaz, Cabigting, and Samaniego were employees of the Cooperative.17

Second, it found that the Cooperative failed to prove that it had lawful cause to dismiss Diaz, Cabigting, and Samaniego. It found that the Cooperative based their dismissal on their admission that they were privy to Matel and Sengson's acts, and that they were given a "small token for merienda and that this was the amount they said was divided among [themselves]."18 According to the Cooperative, this had the effect of an admission of their participation in the anomalous transactions.19

However, the Court of Appeals found that Diaz, Cabigting, and Samaniego only divided among themselves "money for merienda" given by the Cooperative members whose loans had been released earlier than their scheduled date of release. Diaz, Cabigting, and Samaniego received the small token from the members through Matel and Sengson, who were the ones who received cash payments from the members. The Court of Appeals found that Diaz, Cabigting, and Samaniego's act of receiving this token could not prove that they conspired with Matel and Sengson to malverse the Cooperative's funds.20 It held that "[m]ere knowledge, acquiescence to or approval of the act without cooperation or agreement to cooperate [was] not enough to constitute one a party to the conspiracy absent the intentional participation in the act with a view to the furtherance of the common design and purpose."21 It further noted that Matel and Sengson retracted under oath their claims that Diaz, Cabigting, and Samaniego were involved in the anomalous transactions. Thus, when the Cooperative dismissed them, it did so based on unsubstantiated claims and suspicions, and did not discharge its burden of proving the validity of their dismissal.22

Third, the Cooperative failed to comply with the requirements of due process when it dismissed Diaz, Cabigting, and Samaniego. The Court of Appeals held that the Cooperative failed to comply with the twin-notice and hearing requirement prescribed by law for termination of employment. It found that after the lapse of the 30-day preventive suspension, Diaz, Cabigting, and Samaniego were merely advised that they were already terminated from work by virtue of Board Resolution No. 62 dated December 1, 2003, which they received under protest.23

Since they were illegally dismissed by the Cooperative, Diaz, Cabigting, and Samaniego were entitled to the protections granted under Article 279 of the Labor Code, such as reinstatement and full backwages. However, due to the circumstances showing the Cooperative's loss of trust and confidence in them, the Court of Appeals granted separation pay in lieu of reinstatement.24

Finally, the Court of Appeals denied Diaz, Cabigting, and Samaniego's claims for unpaid salaries during their preventive suspension and moral damages, but awarded 10% attorney's fees as it was just and equitable, pursuant to Article 2208 of the Civil Code.25

The Cooperative's motion for reconsideration26 was denied in the Court of Appeals September 12, 2012 Resolution.27

On April 5, 2013, the Cooperative filed before this Court an Urgent Motion to Admit Attached Petition,28 with an attached Petition for Review on Certiorari with Prayer for Issuance of Temporary Restraining Order/Writ of Preliminary Injunction against Diaz, Cabigting, and Samaniego.29

In the motion, Atty. Ferdinand O. Tamaca (Atty. Tamaca), counsel for the Cooperative, alleges that a copy of the Court of Appeals September 12, 2012 Resolution was "misplaced at his office during the holiday season last December when it was served at his office."30 Further, he claims that he was staying in his province during that period and was busy preparing for elections in Carigara, Leyte.31 He likewise admits that due to his secretary's resignation, he failed to know that the Court of Appeals May 11, 2012 Decision had become final and that the period to appeal had already lapsed.32

In its Petition for Review, the Cooperative argues that the Court of Appeals erred in finding that there was no just cause for respondents' dismissal. It points out that the Labor Arbiter and the National Labor Relations Commission both found that respondents committed serious misconduct and fraud or willful breach of trust due to their participation in Matel and Sengson's scheme. It argues that the factual findings of the Labor Arbiter, when affirmed by the National Labor Relations Commission, are accorded respect, if not finality.33

Moreover, the Cooperative claims that it did not violate respondents' right to due process since they failed to request a formal hearing and representation by counsel during the investigations that the Cooperative conducted. Further, even if there had been non-compliance with the due process requirements, this does not invalidate the finding of just cause for termination.34

Finally, the Cooperative prays for the issuance of a temporary restraining order or writ of preliminary injunction as the May 11, 2012 Decision has already become final and executory. It claims that there is a need to restrain the execution of that Decision because the judgment would cause the bankruptcy of the Cooperative.35

On April 17, 2013, this Court issued a Resolution36 requiring respondents to comment on the Petition for Review.

On July 10, 2013, respondents filed their Comment to the Petition.37 There, they claim that they were not served a copy of the Petition,38 that the Petition failed to state the material dates as required under Rule 45, Section 4(b) of the Rules of Court,39 and that it was filed beyond the reglementary period.40 They argue that the negligence of the counsel binds the Cooperative, especially as the Cooperative was accorded full opportunity to present its evidence before the National Labor Relations Commission and the Court of Appeals.41

Further, respondents argue that the Petition raises factual issues not cognizable in a Rule 45 petition. They claim that the issue of illegal dismissal seeks a review of the factual bases relied upon by the Court of Appeals in rendering its decision.42

On July 18, 2013, respondents filed a Manifestation in Support to the Comment to the Petition with Motion for the Outright Dismissal of the Petition.43 In their Manifestation, respondents allege, in support of their claim in their Comment, that the actual receipt by the Cooperative of a copy of the Court of Appeals September 12, 2012 Resolution was on September 20, 2012,44 as shown by the Registry Return Receipt45 in the records of the Court of Appeals. Thus, when the Cooperative filed its Petition for Review before this Court, more than six (6) months from the end of the 15-day reglementary period had already elapsed.46

The Cooperative filed its Counter Manifestation on July 30, 2013,47 where Atty. Tamaca states that he inadvertently lost track of the date of actual receipt of the Resolution, especially as he was working on the elections in Carigara, Leyte.48 Moreover, in the Petition, Atty. Tamaca claims that he received the Resolution during the "Christmas holidays" and this includes the months from September to December.49 Finally, the Petition raises a question of law, namely, which between the National Labor Relations Commission and the Court of Appeals is correct.50

This Court noted the Comment and ordered the Cooperative to file its reply to it in its September 11, 2013 Resolution. It likewise noted without action respondents' manifestation and the Cooperative's counter manifestation.51

On November 11, 2013, the Cooperative filed its Reply52 to the Comment, which this Court noted in its January 29, 2014 Resolution.53 In its Reply, the Cooperative prayed that its Counter Manifestation be adopted as its reply to respondents' comment.54

The sole issue to be resolved by this Court is whether or not this Petition for Review should be denied for being filed out of time.

Rule 45, Section 2 of the Rules of Court clearly provides for the period within which a petition for review must be filed:

Section 2. Time for filing; extension. - The petition shall be filed within fifteen (15) days from notice of the judgment or final order or resolution appealed from, or of the denial of the petitioner's motion for new trial or reconsideration filed in due time after notice of the judgment. On motion duly filed and served, with full payment of the docket and other lawful fees and the deposit for costs before the expiration of the reglementary period, the Supreme Court may for justifiable reasons grant an extension of thirty (30) days only within which to file the petition. (Emphasis supplied)

Failure to file a petition for review on certiorari, or a motion for extension to file it, within the period prescribed under Rule 45, Section 2 results in a party's loss of right to appeal. It is settled that appeal, being a mere statutory right, must "be exercised in the manner and according to procedures laid down by law."55 Failure to file one's appeal within the reglementary period is fatal to a party's cause, "precluding the appellate court from acquiring jurisdiction over the case."56

Here, petitioner filed its Petition before this Court on April 5, 2013.57 It has attempted to obfuscate the true date of notice of the denial of its Motion for Reconsideration by merely alleging that the September 12, 2012 Resolution "was received by [Atty. Tamaca] during the Christmas Holidays last December 2012."58 Not only is this contrary to the requirement in Rule 45, Section 4 of the Rules of Court concerning the statement of material dates in a petition for review,59 this allegation is also false. As pointed out by respondents in their Manifestation and as borne out by the records of the Court of Appeals, the actual date of receipt by petitioner of the September 12, 2012 Resolution was September 20, 2012.60 Atty. Tamaca cannot disclaim responsibility for the false allegation in the Petition by arguing that both September and December are months covered by the "Christian holidays" averred in it.61 Clearly, the lapse of more than six (6) months from petitioner's receipt of the September 12, 2012 Resolution until the filing of the Petition on April 5, 2013 is beyond the contemplation of Rule 45, Section 2 of the Rules of Court.

Moreover, even if petitioner received a copy of the September 12, 2012 Resolution in December 2012 as it alleges, the Petition would have still been filed out of time, four (4) months having already elapsed from notice until filing.

Petitioner's plea that this Court be liberal in its application of procedural rules is unavailing. A liberal construction of rules of procedure must be based on "justifiable reasons or ... at least a reasonable attempt at compliance with them," as stated in Magsino v. De Ocampo:62

The petitioner is further reminded that any "resort to a liberal application or suspension of the application of procedural rules, must remain as the exception to the well-settled principle that rules must be complied with for the orderly administration of justice." It cannot be otherwise for him, for, as the Court aptly put it in Republic v. Kenrick Development Corporation:

Procedural requirements which have often been disparagingly labeled as mere technicalities have their own valid d' etre in the orderly administration of justice. To summarily brush them aside may result in arbitrariness and injustice.

The Court's pronouncement in Garbo v. Court of Appeals is relevant:

Procedural rules are tools designed to facilitate the adjudication of casts. Courts and litigants alike are thus enjoined to abide strictly by the rules. And while the Court, in some instances, allows a relaxation in the application of the rules, this, we stress, was never intended to forge a bastion for erring litigants to violate the rules with impunity. The liberality in the interpretation and application of the rules applies only in proper cases and under justifiable causes and circumstances. While it is true that litigation is not a game of technicalities, it is equally true that every case must be prosecuted in accordance with the prescribed procedure to insure an orderly and speedy administration of justice.

Like all rules, procedural rules should be followed except only when, for the most persuasive of reasons, they may be relaxed to relieve a litigant of an injustice not commensurate with the degree of his thoughtlessness in not complying with the prescribed procedure.

The rules were instituted to be faithfully complied with, and allowing them to be ignored or lightly dismissed to suit the convenience of a party like the petitioner was impermissible. Such rules, often derided as merely technical, are to be relaxed only in the furtherance of justice and to benefit the deserving. Their liberal construction in exceptional situations should then rest on a showing of justifiable reasons and of at least a reasonable attempt at compliance with them.63 (Citations omitted)

Evidently, no reasonable attempt has been made by petitioner to comply with the mandatory requirement of filing within the reglementary period. Atty. Tamaca's excuses of failing to monitor the date of the receipt of the Court of Appeals September 12, 2012 Resolution and his electoral activities do not deserve any consideration from this Court.

Moreover, contrary to petitioner's claim, its counsel's negligence is binding upon it.64 "[E]quity aids the vigilant, not those who slumber on their rights."65 Despite petitioner's claim that the execution of the Court of Appeals' ruling would put its very existence at stake, it still made no effort to assiduously monitor the status of its appeal or to ensure that the judgment would not be executed against it.

When petitioner failed to timely file its appeal by certiorari, the Court of Appeals May 11, 2012 Decision and September 12, 2012 Resolution became final and executory, pursuant to Rule 39, Section 1 of the Rules of Court:

Section 1. Execution upon judgments or final orders. - Execution shall issue as a matter of right, on motion, upon a judgment or order that disposes of the action or proceeding upon the expiration of the period to appeal therefrom if no appeal has been duly perfected. (Emphasis supplied)

In Asuncion v. National Labor Relations Commission:66

Well-settled is the principle that perfection of an appeal within the statutory or reglementary period is not only mandatory but also jurisdictional and failure to do so renders the questioned decision final and executory that deprives the appellate court of jurisdiction to alter the final judgment much less to entertain the appeal.

In the case at bar, it is admitted that the decision of the Labor Arbiter was received by private respondent's counsel on April 26, 1991, making the last day for perfecting the appeal May 6, 1991. The decision became final and executory upon failure of petitioner to appeal within the ten-day period. Private respondent, therefore, as the prevailing party, is entitled as a matter of right to the execution of the final and executory judgment in his favor.

This Court has held that once a decision attains finality, it becomes the law of the case whether or not said decision is erroneous. Having been rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction acting within its authority, the judgment may no longer be altered even at the risk of legal infirmities and errors it may contain, which cannot be corrected by certiorari.67 (Citations omitted)

No court, not even this Court, may thereafter modify, alter, or let alone reverse a final and immutable judgment.68 The only exceptions are the correction of clerical errors, nunc pro tunc entries that cause no prejudice to the parties, and void judgments.69 Even when there are facts or circumstances that would render the execution of a final judgment unjust and inequitable, it must be shown that they arose after the finality as to warrant a court's modification or alteration.70 As respondents point out,71 "all litigation must come to an end, however unjust the result of error may appear."72

Here, petitioner concedes that the Court of Appeals May 11, 2012 Decision has become final. It even prays for the issuance of a temporary restraining order or writ of preliminary injunction to enjoin the Labor Arbiter from executing the Court of Appeals ruling.73 However, it has not pointed to, much less alleged, the presence of any exceptions to the doctrine of immutability of judgments. Further, petitioner's basis to reverse and set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeals is the same evidence that it has presented during the proceedings before the Labor Arbiter, the National Labor Relations Commission, and the Court of Appeals. There is no showing that any circumstance arose after the finality of judgment as to warrant the judgment's alteration. Thus, the ruling of the Court of Appeals can no longer be disturbed.

WHEREFORE, the Petition for Review on Certiorari is DENIED.


Velasco, Jr. (Chairperson), Bersamin, Martires, and Gesmundo, JJ., concur.


1 Spelled "Samanego" in the Petition for Review.

2 Rollo, pp. 7-18.

3 Id. at 20-33. The Decision was penned by Associate Justice Franchito N. Diamante and concurred in by Associate Justices Michael P. Elbinias and Rodil V. Zalameda of the Special Seventeenth Division, Court of Appeals, Manila.

4 Id. at 46-48. The Resolution was penned by Associate Justice Franchito N. Diamante and concurred in by Associate Justices Michael P. Elbinias and Rodil V. Zalameda of the Former Special Seventeenth Division, Court of Appeals, Manila.

5 Id. at 32.

6 Id. at 29-30.

7 Id. at 21.

8 Id. at 21-22.

9 Id. at 22.

10 Id.

11 Id.

12 Id.

13 Id. at 22-23.

14 Id. at 24.

15 Id. at 21.

16 Id. at 32-33.

17 Id. at 25.

18 Id. at 26.

19 Id. at 26-27.

20 Id. at 28.

21 Id. at 28-29.

22 Id. at 29-30.

23 Id. at 30.

24 Id. at 30-31.

25 Id. at 31-32.

26 Id. at 34-44.

27 Id. at 46-47.

28 Id. at 3-6.

29 Id. at 7-18.

30 Id. at 3.

31 Id.

32 Id. at 4.

33 Id. at 12-14.

34 Id. at 13-14.

35 Id. at 15.

36 Id. at 50.

37 Id. at 57-73.

38 Id. at 57-58.

39 Id. at 58.

40 Id. at 58-59.

41 Id. at 59-65.

42 Id. at 67-70.

43 Id. at 75-81.

44 Id. at 76.

45 Id. at 80-A.

46 Id. at 76.

47 Id. at 82-86.

48 Id. at 82.

49 Id. at 82-83.

50 Id. at 83-84.

51 Id. at 88-88-A.

52 Id. at 89-91.

53 Id. at 92.

54 Id. at 89.

55 Rigor v. Tenth Division of the Court of Appeals, 526 Phil. 852, 858 (2006) [Per J. Garcia, Second Division].

56 Villanueva v. Court of Appeals, 282 Phil. 555, 561 (1992) [Per J. Regalado, Second Division]; Nueva Ecija II Electric Cooperative Inc. v. Mapagu, G.R. No. 196084, February 15, 2017 [Per J. Jardeleza, Third Division].

57 Rollo, p. 7.

58 Id. at 8.

59 RULES OF COURT, Rule 45, sec. 4 states:

Section 4. Contents of petition. - The petition shall be filed in eighteen (18) copies, with the original copy intended for the court being indicated as such by the petitioner, and shall (a) state the full name of the appealing party as the petitioner and the adverse party as respondent, without impleading the lower courts or judges thereof either as petitioners or respondents; (b) indicate the material dates showing when notice of the judgment or final order or resolution subject thereof was received, when a motion for new trial or reconsideration, if any, was filed and when notice of the denial thereof was received; . . . (Emphasis supplied)

60 Rollo, pp. 75-81.

61 Id. at 82-83.

62 741 Phil. 394 (2014) [Per J. Bersamin, First Division].

63 Id. at 408-410.

64 Filipinas (Pre-Fabricated Bldg.) Systems "Filsystems" Inc. v. National Labor Relations Commission, 463 Phil. 813, 821 (2003) [Per J. Puno, Second Division].

65 Ampo v. Court of Appeals, 517 Phil. 750, 755 (2006) [Per J. Ynares-Santiago, First Division].

66 340 Phil. 36 (1997) [Per J. Romero, Second Division].

67 Id. at 38.

68 Dy Chiao v. Bolivar, G.R. No. 192491, August 17, 2016 7 [Per J. Bersamin, First Division].

69 Briones-Vasquez v. Court of Appeals, 491 Phil. 81, 91-92 (2005) [Per J. Azcuna, First Division].

70 Aboitiz Shipping Employees Association v. Hon. Undersecretary of Labor and Employment, 343 Phil. 910, 914 (1997) [Per J. Francisco, Third Division].

71 Rollo, pp. 65-67.

72 Industrial and Transport Equipment, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Commission, 348 Phil. 158, 165 (1998) [Per J. Romero, Third Division].

73 Rollo, p. 15.

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