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G.R. No.

154018

April 3, 2007

MARTIN PEOSO and ELIZABETH PEOSO, Petitioners, vs. MACROSMAN DONA, Respondent. DECISION AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.: Before the Court is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court assailing the Resolution1 dated March 22, 2002 promulgated by the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 69472, which dismissed the appeal before it because Martin Peoso and his mother Elizabeth Peoso (petitioners) failed to submit a written explanation why service of pleading was not done personally as required under Section 11 of Rule 13 of the Rules of Court and to pay the requisite docket fees; and, the CA Resolution2 dated June 3, 2002 which denied petitioners Motion for Reconsideration. This case originated from a Complaint for Abatement of Nuisance filed with the Municipal Trial Court (MTC), Branch No. 001, San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, by Macrosman Dona (respondent) against the petitioners, which was tried and decided under the Rule on Summary Procedure. Respondent alleged that he is the owner of a house and lot located at San Jose, Occidental Mindoro; that in front of the house and lot is a barangay road where the petitioners constructed their house against the objections of the respondent; and that the house of the petitioners constituted a public nuisance. The petitioners, in their defense, contended that their house was constructed by the late Praxido Peoso, Martins father and Elizabeths husband, way ahead before the respondent arrived; that their house constitutes no public nuisance; that the respondent cannot demand a right of way; that the continued existence of their house brings no harm to the respondent; and that the respondent is not authorized to file the instant Complaint. On October 1, 1997, the MTC rendered its Decision, in favor of the petitioners and against the respondent on the ground that respondent has no cause of action against the petitioners. It ordered the dismissal of the complaint on the ground that the house in question was constructed on a public property which "may be abated only by the Municipal Mayor, unless it is specially injurious to a private person;" and the respondent to pay petitionersP10,000.00 by way of attorneys fee.3 Respondent appealed the Decision of the MTC to the RTC, docketed as Civil Case No. R-1061. On January 2, 2002, the RTC rendered its Decision reversing the MTC. The RTC declared the house erected by the petitioners on a portion of the road fronting the house of the respondent as a nuisance; ordered the petitioners to immediately remove the said house at their own expense; ordered the petitioners to jointly and severally pay plaintiff-appellant the amount of P20,000.00, as and for reasonable attorneys fees; and, ordered the petitioners to pay respondent P5,000.00 as litigation expenses and to pay the costs of this suit.4 On January 21, 2002, the RTC denied the petitioners Motion for Reconsideration. Petitioners filed a Petition for Review with the CA. On March 22, 2002, the CA issued a Resolution dismissing the Petition, to wit:

For failure of the petitioners to include in their petition the required explanation on why personal service upon the respondent was not resorted to pursuant to Sec. 11, Rule 13 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, the herein petition is hereby DISMISSED OUTRIGHT. Strict compliance with this rule is mandated. (Solar Team Entertainment, Inc. v. Hon. Helen BautistaRicafort, et al., 293 SCRA 661). Moreover, payment of the required docketing and other legal fees is short by P530.00. SO ORDERED.5 (emphasis in the original) On May 16, 2002, a Motion for Reconsideration was filed by the petitioners attaching a Certification dated April 15, 2002 from the Postmaster that the pleading in question had been actually received by the respondent as well as a Letter dated February 12, 2002 to the CA Clerk of Court stating that if the docket fee is insufficient, counsel for the petitioners shall remit the balance immediately, if any. But on June 3, 2002, the CA issued another Resolution which states: Petitioners motion for reconsideration is hereby DENIED, for lack of merit. Petitioners subsequent compliance with the RULES does not cleanse the petition of its infirmity. Atty. Ma. Conchita Lucero-De Mesa is hereby ordered to RETURN the two (2) Postal Money Orders for P530.00 to the petitioners. SO ORDERED.6 (emphasis in the original) Hence, the instant Petition averring that the CA erred in dismissing the petition on the following grounds: A. Failure of the petitioners to include in their petition the required explanation on why personal service upon the respondent was not resorted to pursuant to Section 11, rule 13, of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure; B. Payment of the required docketing and other legal fees is short by P520.00.7 The petition has merit. Section 11, Rule 13 of the Rules of Court provides: Sec. 11. Priorities in modes of service and filing. Whenever practicable, the service and filing of pleadings and other papers shall be done personally. Except with respect to papers emanating from the court, a resort to other modes must be accompanied by a written explanation why the service or filing was not done personally. A violation of this Rule may be cause to consider the paper as not filed. Jurisprudence holds that the rule that a pleading must be accompanied by a written explanation why the service or filing was not done personally is mandatory.8

However, in Ello v. Court of Appeals,9 the Court defined the circumstances when the court may exercise its discretionary power under Section 11 of Rule 13, viz: However, such discretionary power of the court must be exercised properly and reasonably, taking into account the following factors: (1) "the practicability of personal service;" (2) "the importance of the subject matter of the case or the issues involved therein;" and (3) "the prima facie merit of the pleading sought to be expunged for violation of Section 11. x x x"10 Considering the prima facie merit of the pleading involving the issues whether the petitioners house is a public nuisance; whether the subject house is constructed on an abandoned road; and whether the alleged nuisance is specially injurious to respondent; and, considering further the fact that the MTC and the RTC decisions are conflicting, the CA had valid grounds to refrain from dismissing the appeal solely on technical grounds.11 As the Court has expounded in Aguam vs. Court of Appeals:12 The court has the 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." Technicalities, however, must be avoided. The law abhors technicalities that impede the cause of justice. The court's primary duty is to render or dispense justice. "A litigation is not a game of technicalities." "Lawsuits unlike duels are not to be won by a rapier's thrust. Technicality, when it deserts its proper office as an aid to justice and becomes its great hindrance and chief enemy, deserves scant consideration from courts." Litigations must be decided on their merits and not on technicality. Every party litigant must be afforded the amplest opportunity for the proper and just determination of his cause, free from the unacceptable plea of technicalities. Thus, dismissal of appeals purely on technical grounds is frowned upon where the policy of the court is to encourage hearings of appeals on their merits and the rules of procedure ought not to be applied in a very rigid, technical sense; rules of procedure are used only to help secure, not override substantial justice. It is a far better and more prudent course of action for the court to excuse a technical lapse and afford the parties a review of the case on appeal to attain the ends of justice rather than dispose of the case on technicality and cause a grave injustice to the parties, giving a false impression of speedy disposal of cases while actually resulting in more delay, if not a miscarriage of justice.13 (Emphasis supplied)
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In Ginete v. Court of Appeals,14 the Court further held: Let it be emphasized that the rules of procedure should be viewed as mere tools designed to facilitate the attainment of justice. Their strict and rigid application, which would result in technicalities that tend to frustrate rather than promote substantial justice, must always be eschewed. Even the Rules of Court reflect this principle. The power to suspend or even disregard rules can be so pervasive and compelling as to alter even that which this Court itself has already declared to be final, as we are now constrained to do in the instant case. xxxx The emerging trend in the rulings of this Court is to afford every party litigant the amplest opportunity for the proper and just determination of his cause, free from the constraints of technicalities. Time and again, this Court has consistently held that rules must not be applied rigidly so as not to override substantial justice.15 (Emphasis supplied)

Rules of procedure being designed to facilitate the attainment of justice, their rigid application resulting in technicalities that tend to delay or frustrate rather than promote substantial justice, must always be avoided.16 In Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation v. Angara,17 this Court held: While it is true that rules of procedure are intended to promote rather than frustrate the ends of justice, and the swift unclogging of court dockets is a laudable objective, it nevertheless must not be met at the expense of substantial justice. Time and again, this Court has reiterated the doctrine that the rules of procedure are mere tools intended to facilitate the attainment of justice, rather than frustrate it. A strict and rigid application of the rules must always be eschewed when it would subvert the primary objective of the rules, that is, to enhance fair trials and expedite justice. Technicalities should never be used to defeat the substantive rights of the other party. Every party-litigant must be afforded the amplest opportunity for the proper and just determination of his cause, free from the constraints of technicalities. Thus, the CA should have refrained from hastily dismissing the petition on procedural flaws. In similar cases, the Court ordinarily remands the case to the CA for proper disposition on the merits. However, in the present case, considering the issues raised and the fact that the records of the case are before us, the Court deems it more appropriate and practical to resolve the present controversy in order to avoid further delay.18 Thus, in view of the foregoing jurisprudential trend to afford every party litigant the amplest opportunity for a just determination of his case, free from the severities of technicalities; the prima facie merit of the pleading; and,especially considering the conflicting rulings of the MTC and the RTC, the CA erred in dismissing the appeal on mere technical grounds.
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Furthermore, considering the peculiar circumstances of the case, the shortage of the payment of the docketing fee cannot be used as a ground for dismissing petitioners appeal before the CA. It is undisputed that they and their counsel are living in a remote town and are not aware of the exact amount of the lawful fees for petitions for review. Hence, it is understandable why they place sheer reliance on the Rules of Court, notably, Section 1 of Rule 42, which only specifies the amount of P500.00 for the appeal cost in question. Petitioners sent P500.00 with a request from the Clerk of Court for notification of any insufficiency which will be sent immediately if there is any. The deficiency in payment was not at all intentional. There was a willingness to comply should any deficiency occur, as stated in their Letter to the CA Clerk of Court: "Please acknowledge receipt of the amount and if the amount is insufficient pursuant to Sec. 1, Rule 42 of the Revised Rules of Court, kindly notify the undersigned and the balance if any will be immediately sent. Thank you very much." This clearly shows that the petitioners acted in good faith and substantially complied with the Rules. In Heirs of Bertuldo Hinog v. Melicor,19 the Court held: Time and again, the Court has held that the Manchester rule has been modified in Sun Insurance Office, Ltd. (SIOL) vs. Asuncion which defined the following guidelines involving the payment of docket fees: xxxx Plainly, while the payment of the prescribed docket fee is a jurisdictional requirement, even its nonpayment at the time of filing does not automatically cause the dismissal of the case, as long as the fee is paid within the applicable prescriptive or reglementary period, more so when the party involved

demonstrates a willingness to abide by the rules prescribing such payment. Thus, when insufficient filing fees were initially paid by the plaintiffs and there was no intention to defraud the government, the Manchester rule does not apply.20 In fine, the CA erred in dismissing the petition for review outright. In light of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation v. Angara,21 since the records of the case are not before this Court, a remand of the case to the CA for proper disposition on the merits is necessary, bearing in mind the judicial policy to resolve the present controversy with all dispatch in order to avoid further delay. WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED and the assailed Resolutions of the Court of Appeals areREVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Court of Appeals is directed to REINSTATE the petition for review, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 69472, for further proceedings. No costs. SO ORDERED. MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ Associate Justice WE CONCUR: CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO Associate Justice Chairperson ROMEO J. CALLEJO, SR. Associate Justice MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO Asscociate Justice

ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA Associate Justice ATTESTATION 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 Courts Division. CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO Associate Justice Chairperson, Third Division CERTIFICATION Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, and the Division Chairpersons Attestation, it is hereby certified 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 Courts Division.

REYNATO S. PUNO Chief Justice

Footnotes
1

Penned by Associate Justice Martin S. Villarama, Jr., with Associate Justices Conchita Carpio-Morales (now a Member of this Court) and Sergio L. Pestao, concurring; rollo, p. 66.
2

Penned by Associate Justice Martin S. Villarama, Jr., with Associate Justices Conchita Carpio-Morales (now a Member of this Court) and Mario L. Guaria III, concurring; id. at 73.
3

Id. at 43. Id. at 46-47. Id. at 66. Id. at 73. Id. at 23. Solar Team Entertainment, Inc. v. Judge Ricafort, 355 Phil. 404, 413-414 (1998). G.R. No. 141255, June 21, 2005, 460 SCRA 406. Id. at 415.

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Cf. Coca Cola Bottlers Phils., Inc. v. Cabalo, G.R. No. 144180, January 30, 2006, 480 SCRA 548.
12

388 Phil. 587 (2000). Id. at 593-594. 357 Phil. 36 (1998). Id. at 51-53. Public Estates Authority v. Caoibes, Jr., 371 Phil. 688, 692 (1999). G.R. No. 142937, November 15, 2005, 475 SCRA 41. Id. at 53-54. G.R. No. 140954, April 12, 2005, 455 SCRA 460. Id. at 474-475.

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Supra note 17, at 54. October 6, 2010

G.R. No. 153998

JORGE L. TIANGCO, THE HEIRS OF ENRIQUE L. TIANGCO, GLORIA T. BATUNGBACAL, NARCISO L. TIANGCO and SILVINO L. TIANGCO, Petitioners, vs. LAND BANK OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent. DECISION PERALTA, J.: Before the Court is a special civil action for certiorari seeking to set aside the Resolutions dated October 5, 20011and June 4, 20022 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 61676. The October 5, 2001 Resolution denied petitioners' Motion to Dismiss respondent's appeal, while the June 4, 2002 Resolution denied petitioners' Motion for Reconsideration. The facts of the case are as follows: On August 11, 1994, herein petitioners filed a Complaint3 for "Fixing and Payment of Land Compensation and Annulment of Titles & Emancipation Patents" with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Bataan against the Secretary of Agrarian Reform, the Register of Deeds of Bataan and some private individuals, identified as their tenants. The Complaint was later amended to implead as additional defendant herein respondent, Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP).4 Pertinent portions of petitioners' Amended Complaint alleged as follows: 3. Plaintiffs [herein petitioners] are the registered owners of a parcel of land situated at Cupang, Balanga Bataan, with an area of 141,716 square meters, more or less, covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-111310 and declared for tax purposes under Tax Declaration No. 323371. x x x xxxx 5. Private defendants LAURIANO BAUTISTA, FORTUNATO TOLENTINO, DIONISIO ALONZO, DOMINGO REYES, ALFREDO Q. ESTACAMENTO, BIENVENIDO A. VASQUEZ, JOSE BAUTISTA, MOISES G. QUIROZ and ROGELIO S. BAUTISTA were agricultural tenants on the above-described parcel of land, tilling distinct and separate portions thereof with different areas. 6. x x x, unknown to plaintiffs, Emancipation Patents (EPs) were issued to private defendants by the Secretaries of Agrarian Reform, predecessor in office of defendant SECRETARY OF AGRARIAN REFORM, after which Transfer Certificate of Title were issued to private defendants by defendant Register of Deeds of Bataan, x x x. 7. The issuance of the Emancipation Patents and the Transfer Certificates of Title to private defendants was unlawful because plaintiffs, who are the owners of the land distributed to the tenants by defendant SECRETARY OF AGRARIAN REFORM through his predecessors in

office and subsequently titled in their names by defendant REGISTER OF DEEDS OF BATAAN, and who did not consent to the transfer of possession and ownership, have not been compensated for the value of said land. x x x xxxx 8. As a matter of fact, the reasonable value of plaintiffs' land at which they should be compensated has not even been determined, and until the same is determined and fixed, plaintiffs cannot hope to be compensated, but in the meantime, oppressively against plaintiffs-landowners, private defendants are in possession and do not pay lease rentals to plaintiffs. x x x5 In his Answer,6 the Secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) denied the material allegations in the Amended Complaint and contended that the case should be dismissed for failure of the plaintiffs to exhaust administrative remedy. The DAR Secretary contended that petitioners failed to bring the case before the DAR Adjudication Board (DARAB) which has primary, original and appellate jurisdiction to determine and adjudicate all agrarian disputes involving the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. On the other hand, the private individuals, who were impleaded in their capacity as tenants, contended in their Answer that the Emancipation Patents were regularly issued to them by the DAR after the land has been valued in accordance with laws, rules and regulations then prevailing, and that petitioners, as landowners, have been paid the value thereof through the LBP financing scheme. The tenants further averred that petitioners are already estopped from questioning the value of the land after they failed to challenge it when the property was being valued in accordance with laws and other guidelines.7 The LBP also denied the material allegations in the Amended Complaint contending that in cases of land transfer claims covered by Presidential Decree No. 27 and Executive Order No. 228, the government agency which has direct responsibility in valuing lands is the DAR and not the LBP; the reason why petitioners have not yet been paid their claims is because of their refusal to comply with the administrative requirements needed for such payment; and, contrary to petitioners' allegations, they received lease rentals from the farmer-beneficiaries named in the Emancipation Patents.8 After due proceedings, the RTC issued its Decision9 dated June 9, 1998, the dispositive portion of which reads as follows: WHEREFORE, let the land of the plaintiffs be appraised at Thirty Pesos (P30.00), Philippine Currency, per square meter to be paid to the plaintiffs, without any pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED.10 After their Motions for Reconsideration were denied, the LBP, the DAR and the group of tenants filed their respective appeals with the CA by filing Notices of Appeal11 in accordance with Rule 41 of the Rules of Court. In a Resolution12 dated July 13, 1999, the CA dismissed the appeal of the tenants for their failure to pay the docket and other lawful fees. On the other hand, the CA required the LBP and the DAR to file their respective Appeal Briefs.13 The LBP and the DAR moved for extension of time to file their Briefs.14 Their motion was granted.15

In its Motion16 dated May 21, 2001, the LBP again moved for extension of time to file its Brief. On June 25, 2001, the CA issued a Resolution17 granting LBP's motion and giving it another extension of twenty days to file its Brief. The CA, in the same Resolution, also noted the Brief which was filed prior to the grant of the said motion. Thereafter, herein petitioners filed a Motion for Reconsideration18 of the June 25, 2001 Resolution of the CA contending that the appellate court committed error in granting the said motion, because at the time the LBP filed its motion for extension dated May 21, 2001, the period originally granted by the CA had already expired. Subsequently, on July 12, 2001, herein petitioners filed a Motion to Dismiss Appeals and to Suspend Period for Filing Appellees' Brief,19 contending that the LBP's proper mode of appeal should have been a petition for review and not an ordinary appeal, that the LBP failed to serve on petitioners two copies of its Appellant's Brief, and that the LBP failed to seasonably file the said Brief. On August 14, 2001, the CA issued a Resolution20 considering the appeal of DAR as abandoned and dismissed the same for the latter's failure to file its Appeal Brief within the extended period granted by the court. In the same Resolution, the LBP was required to file its Comment on petitioners' Motion to Dismiss Appeals. The LBP complied and filed its Comment.21 Petitioners also filed their Reply.22 On October 5, 2001, the CA rendered the presently assailed Resolution23 denying herein petitioners' Motion to Dismiss the appeal of the LBP. Petitioners filed their Motion for Reconsideration, but the CA denied it in its Resolution24 dated June 4, 2002. Hence, the present petition for certiorari based on the following grounds: I. THE APPEALED JUDGMENT HAS LONG BECOME FINAL AND EXECUTORY DUE TO RESPONDENT LBP'S FAILURE TO FILE A PETITION FOR REVIEW. xxxx II. RESPONDENT LBP FAILED TO SERVE ON PETITIONERS TWO (2) COPIES OF ITS APPELLANT'S BRIEF. xxxx III. RESPONDENT LBP MUST BE DEEMED NOT TO HAVE FILED A BRIEF BY ITS FAILURE TO FILE ONE WITHIN THE REGLEMENTARY PERIOD.25 Petitioners contend that the proper mode or remedy that should have been taken by the LBP in assailing the Decision of the RTC, acting as a Special Agrarian Court, is a petition for review and not an ordinary appeal. The Court does not completely agree. This same issue was squarely addressed and settled by the Court in Land Bank of the Philippines v. De Leon,26wherein it was ruled that a petition for review is indeed the correct mode of appeal from

decisions of Special Agrarian Courts. Therein, the Court held that "Section 60 of Republic Act No. 6657 clearly and categorically states that the said mode of appeal should be adopted." However, in a Resolution27 issued by the Court en banc, dated March 20, 2003, which ruled on the motion for reconsideration filed by the LBP, the Court clarified that its decision in De Leon shall apply only to cases appealed from the finality of the said Resolution. The Court held: x x x LBP pleads that the subject Decision should at least be given prospective application considering that more than 60 similar agrarian cases filed by LBP via ordinary appeal before the Court of Appeals are in danger of being dismissed outright on technical grounds on account of our ruling herein. This, according to LBP, will wreak financial havoc not only on 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. Thus, in the interest of fair play, equity and justice, LBP stresses the need for the rules to be relaxed so as to give substantial consideration to the appealed cases. xxxx On account of the absence of jurisprudence interpreting Sections 60 and 61 of RA 6657 regarding the proper way to appeal decisions of Special Agrarian Courts, as well as the conflicting decisions of the Court of Appeals thereon, LBP cannot be blamed for availing of the wrong mode. Based on its own interpretation and reliance on [a ruling issued by the CA holding that an ordinary appeal is the proper mode], LBP acted on the mistaken belief that an ordinary appeal is the appropriate manner to question decisions of Special Agrarian Courts. Hence, in the light of the aforementioned circumstances, we find it proper to emphasize the prospective application of our Decision dated September 10, 2002. A prospective application of our Decision is not only grounded on equity and fair play, but also based on the constitutional tenet that rules of procedure shall not impair substantive rights. xxxx We hold that our Decision, declaring a petition for review as the proper mode of appeal from judgments of Special Agrarian Courts, is a rule of procedure which affects substantive rights. If our ruling is given retroactive application, it will prejudice LBP's right to appeal because pending appeals in the Court of Appeals will be dismissed outright on mere technicality thereby sacrificing the substantial merits thereof. It would be unjust to apply a new doctrine to a pending case involving a party who already invoked a contrary view and who acted in good faith thereon prior to the issuance of said doctrine. xxxx WHEREFORE, the motion for reconsideration dated October 16, 2002 and the supplement to the motion for reconsideration dated November 11, 2002 are PARTIALLY GRANTED. While we clarify that the Decision of this Court dated September 10, 2002 stands, our ruling therein that a petition for review is the correct mode of appeal from decisions of Special Agrarian Courts shall apply only to cases appealed after the finality of this Resolution. SO ORDERED.28

In the present case, the LBP filed its Notice of Appeal on September 1, 1998. Thus, pursuant to the ruling that De Leon shall be applied prospectively from the finality of this Courts Resolution dated March 20, 2003, the appeal of the LBP, which was filed prior to that date, could, thus, be positively acted upon. 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 Appellants 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 7,29 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.30 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.31 The CA has, under the said provision of the Rules of Court, discretion to dismiss or not to dismiss respondents 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.32 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.33 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. 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,34 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 appellants 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 courts leniency it is imperative that: (a) the circumstances obtaining warrant the courts 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 courts 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 clients liberty or property; or (c) where the interests of justice so require.35 In this regard, the Court's pronouncement in Natonton v. Magaway36 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." (Emphasis supplied.)37 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,38 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.39 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.
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In the same manner, in Heirs of Victoriana Villagracia v. Equitable Banking Corporation,40 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.41 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. WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DISMISSED for lack of merit. The Resolutions of the Court of Appeals, dated October 5, 2001 and June 4, 2002 in CA-G.R. CV No. 61676, are AFFIRMED. The case is REMANDED to the Court of Appeals, which is DIRECTED to continue with the proceedings therein and to terminate the same with reasonable dispatch.

SO ORDERED. DIOSDADO M. PERALTA Associate Justice WE CONCUR: PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.* Associate Justice ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA** Associate Justice Acting Chairperson JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA Associate Justice

MARIA LOURDES P.A. SERENO*** Associate Justice ATTESTATION 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 Courts Division. ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA Associate Justice Second Division, Acting Chairperson CERTIFICATION Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the Division Acting Chairpersons Attestation, I certify 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 Courts Division. RENATO C. CORONA Chief Justice

Footnotes
*

Designated as an additional member in lieu of Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio, per Special Order No. 897, dated September 28, 2010.
**

Per Special Order No. 898, dated September 28, 2010.

***

Designated as an additional member in lieu of Associate Justice Roberto A. Abad, per Special Order No. 903, dated September 28, 2010.
1

Penned by Associate Justice Hilarion L. Aquino, with Associate Justices Cancio C. Garcia (a retired member of this Court) and Edgardo P. Cruz, concurring; rollo, pp. 114-118.

Id. at 124-125. Records, pp. 1-5. Id. at 102-107. Id. at 103-105. Id. at 135-137. Id. at 99-101. Id. at 138-140. Id. at 310-315. Id. at 315. Id. at 345, 347 and 350, respectively. CA rollo, p. 33. Id. at 49. Id. at 50-51 and 53-54, respectively. Id. at 58. Id. at 77-80. Id. at 82. Id. at 83-84. Id. at 95-100. Id. at 101. Id. at 112-122. Id. at 107. Id. at 154-158. Id. at 201-202. Rollo, pp. 10-14. 437 Phil. 347, 356 (2002).

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

Land Bank of the Philippines v. De Leon, 447 Phil. 495 (2003). Id. at 500-505. (Emphasis supplied)

28

29

Sec. 7. Appellant's brief. - It shall be the duty of the appellant to file with the court, within forty-five (45) days from receipt of the notice of the clerk that all the evidence, oral and documentary, are attached to the record, seven (7) copies of his legibly typewritten, mimeographed or printed brief, with proof of service of two (2) copies thereof upon the appellee.
30

136 Phil. 212 (1969). Id. at 215. (Emphasis supplied.)

31

32

Yuchengco v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 165793, October 27, 2006, 505 SCRA 716, 721, citing Philippine National Bank v. Philippine Milling Co., Inc., supra note 29.
33

Trinidad Go, etc. v. Vicente Velez Chaves, etc., G.R. No. 182341, April 23, 2010. G.R. No. 164150, April 14, 2008, 551 SCRA 223. Id. at 241-242. G.R. No. 147011, March 31, 2006, 486 SCRA 199. Id. at 204-205. 388 Phil. 587 (2000). Id. at 595. G.R. No. 136972, March 28, 2008, 550 SCRA 60. Id. at 67-69.

34

35

36

37

38

39

40

41

A.M. No. RTJ-92-876 September 19, 1994 STATE PROSECUTORS, complainants, vs. JUDGE MANUEL T. MURO, Regional Trial Court, Branch 54, Manila, respondent.

PER CURIAM: In assaying the requisite norms for qualifications and eminence of a magistrate, legal authorities place a premium on how he has complied with his continuing duty to know the law. A quality thus considered essential to the judicial character is that of "a man of learning who spends tirelessly the weary hours after midnight acquainting himself with the great body of traditions and the learning of the law; is profoundly learned in all the learning of the law; and knows how to use that learning." 1

Obviously, it is the primary duty of a judge, which he owes to the public and to the legal profession, to know the very law he is supposed to apply to a given controversy. He is called upon to exhibit more than just a cursory acquaintance with the statutes and procedural rules. Party litigants will have great faith in the administration of justice if judges cannot justly be accused of apparent deficiency in their grasp of the legal principles. For, service in the judiciary means a continuous study and research on the law from beginning to end. 2 In a letter-complaint 3 dated August 19, 1992, respondent Judge Manuel T. Muro of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch 54, was charged by State Prosecutors Nilo C. Mariano, George C. Dee and Paterno V. Tac-an with ignorance of the law, grave misconduct and violations of Rules 2.01, 3.01 and 3.02 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, committed as follows: 1. That on August 13, 1992, respondent judge issued an Order dismissing eleven (11) cases (docketed as Crim. Cases Nos. 92-101959 to 92- 101969, inclusive) filed by the undersigned complainant prosecutors (members of the DOJ Panel of Prosecutors) against the accused Mrs. Imelda Romualdez Marcos, for Violation of Central Bank Foreign Exchange Restrictions, as consolidated in CB Circular No. 960, in relation to the penal provisions of Sec. 34 of R.A. 265, as amended, . . .; 2. That respondent Judge issued his Order solely on the basis of newspaper reports (August 11, 1992 issues of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and the Daily Globe) concerning the announcement on August 10, 1992 by the President of the Philippines of the lifting by the government of all foreign exchange restrictions and the arrival at such decision by the Monetary Board as per statement of Central Bank Governor Jose Cuisia; 3. That claiming that the reported announcement of the Executive Department on the lifting of foreign exchange restrictions by two newspapers which are reputable and of national circulation had the effect of repealing Central Bank Circular No. 960, as allegedly supported by Supreme Court decisions . . ., the Court contended that it was deprived of jurisdiction, and, therefore, motu, prop(r)io had to dismiss all the eleven cases aforementioned "for not to do so opens this Court to charges of trying cases over which it has no more jurisdiction;" 4. That in dismissing aforecited cases on August 13, 1992 on the basis of a Central Bank Circular or Monetary Board Resolution which as of date hereof, has not even been officially issued, and basing his Order/decision on a mere newspaper account of the advance announcement made by the President of the said fact of lifting or liberalizing foreign exchange controls, respondent judge acted prematurely and in indecent haste, as he had no way of determining the full intent of the new CB Circular or Monetary Board resolution, and whether the same provided for exception, as in the case of persons who had pending criminal cases before the courts for violations of Central Bank Circulars and/or regulations previously issued on the matter; 5. That respondent Judge's arrogant and cavalier posture in taking judicial notice purportedly as a matter of public knowledge a mere newspaper account that the President had announced the lifting of foreign exchange restrictions as basis for his assailed order of dismissal is highly irregular, erroneous and misplaced. For the respondent judge to take judicial notice thereof even before it is officially released by the Central Bank and its full text published as required by law to be effective shows his precipitate action in utter disregard of the fundamental precept of due process

which the People is also entitled to and exposes his gross ignorance of the law, thereby tarnishing public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary. How can the Honorable Judge take judicial notice of something which has not yet come into force and the contents, shape and tenor of which have not yet been published and ascertained to be the basis of judicial action? The Honorable Judge had miserably failed to "endeavor diligently to ascertain the facts" in the case at bar contrary to Rule 3.02 of the Code of Judicial Conduct constituting Grave Misconduct; 6. That respondent Judge did not even ha(ve) the prudence of requiring first the comment of the prosecution on the effect of aforesaid Central Bank Circular/Monetary Board resolution on the pending cases before dismissing the same, thereby denying the Government of its right to due process; 7. That the lightning speed with which respondent Judge acted to dismiss the cases may be gleaned from the fact that such precipitate action was undertaken despite already scheduled continuation of trial dates set in the order of the court (the prosecution having started presenting its evidence . . .) dated August 11, 1992 to wit: August 31, September 3, 10, 21, & 23 and October 1, 1992, all at 9:30 o'clock in the morning, in brazen disregard of all notions of fair play, thereby depriving the Government of its right to be heard, and clearly exposing his bias and partiality; and 8. That, in fact, the motive of respondent Judge in dismissing the case without even waiting for a motion to quash filed by the counsel for accused has even placed his dismissal Order suspect. Pursuant to a resolution of this Court dated September 8, 1992, respondent judge filed his comment, 4contending, inter alia, that there was no need to await publication of the Central Bank (CB) circular repealing the existing law on foreign exchange controls for the simple reason that the public announcement made by the President in several newspapers of general circulation lifting foreign exchange controls was total, absolute, without qualification, and was immediately effective; that having acted only on the basis of such announcement, he cannot be blamed for relying on the erroneous statement of the President that the new foreign exchange rules rendered moot and academic the cases filed against Mrs. Marcos, and which was corrected only on August 17, 1992 but published in the newspapers on August 18, 1992, and only after respondent judge had issued his order of dismissal dated August 13, 1992; that the President was ill-advised by his advisers and, instead of rescuing the Chief Executive from embarrassment by assuming responsibility for errors in the latter's announcement, they chose to toss the blame for the consequence of their failures to respondent judge who merely acted on the basis of the announcements of the President which had become of public knowledge; that the "saving clause" under CB Circular No. 1353 specifically refers only to pending actions or investigations involving violations of CB Circular No. 1318, whereas the eleven cases dismissed involved charges for violations of CB Circular No. 960, hence the accused cannot be tried and convicted under a law different from that under which she was charged; that assuming that respondent judge erred in issuing the order of dismissal, the proper remedy should have been an appeal therefrom but definitely not an administrative complaint for his dismissal; that a mistake committed by a judge should not necessarily be imputed as ignorance of the law; and that a "court can reverse or modify a doctrine but it does not show ignorance of the justices or judges whose decisions were reversed or modified" because "even doctrines initiated by the Supreme Court are later reversed, so how much more for the lower courts?" He further argued that no hearing was necessary since the prosecution had nothing to explain because, as he theorized, "What explanation could have been given? That the President was talking 'through his hat' (to use a colloquialism) and should not be believed? That I should wait for the

publication (as now alleged by complainants), of a still then non-existent CB circular? . . . As it turned out, CB Circular No. 3153 (sic) does not affect my dismissal order because the said circular's socalled saving clause does not refer to CB Circular 960 under which the charges in the dismissed cases were based;" that it was discretionary on him to take judicial notice of the facts which are of public knowledge, pursuant to Section 2 of Rule 129; that the contention of complainants that he acted prematurely and in indecent haste for basing his order of dismissal on a mere newspaper account is contrary to the wordings of the newspaper report wherein the President announced the lifting of controls as an accomplished fact, not as an intention to be effected in the future, because of the use of the present perfect tense or past tense "has lifted," not that he "intends to lift," foreign exchange controls. Finally, respondent judge asseverates that complainants who are officers of the Department of Justice, violated Section 6, Rule 140 of the Rules of Court which provides that "proceedings against judges of first instance shall be private and confidential" when they caused to be published in the newspapers the filing of the present administrative case against him; and he emphasizes the fact that he had to immediately resolve a simple and pure legal matter in consonance with the admonition of the Supreme Court for speedy disposition of cases. In their reply 5 and supplemental reply, 6 complainants aver that although the saving clause under Section 16 of CB Circular No. 1353 made specific reference to CB Circular No. 1318, it will be noted that Section 111 of Circular No. 1318, which contains a saving clause substantially similar to that of the new circular, in turn refers to and includes Circular No. 960. Hence, whether under Circular No. 1318 or Circular No. 1353, pending cases involving violations of Circular No. 960 are excepted from the coverage thereof. Further, it is alleged that the precipitate dismissal of the eleven cases, without according the prosecution the opportunity to file a motion to quash or a comment, or even to show cause why the cases against accused Imelda R. Marcos should not be dismissed, is clearly reflective of respondent's partiality and bad faith. In effect, respondent judge acted as if he were the advocate of the accused. On December 9, 1993, this Court issued a resolution referring the complaint to the Office of the Court Administrator for evaluation, report and recommendation, pursuant to Section 7, Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, as revised, there being no factual issues involved. The corresponding report and recommendation, 7 dated February 14, 1994, was submitted by Deputy Court Administrator Juanito A. Bernad, with the approval of Court Administrator Ernani Cruz-Pao. The questioned order 8 of respondent judge reads as follows: These eleven (11) cases are for Violation of Central Bank Foreign Exchange Restrictions as consolidated in CB Circular No. 960 in relation to the penal provision of Sec. 34 of R.A. 265, as amended. The accused Mrs. Imelda R. Marcos pleaded not guilty to all these cases; apparently the other accused in some of these cases, Roberto S. Benedicto, was not arrested and therefore the Court did not acquire jurisdiction over his person; trial was commenced as against Mrs. Marcos. His Excellency, the President of the Philippines, announced on August 10, 1992 that the government has lifted all foreign exchange restrictions and it is also reported that Central Bank Governor Jose Cuisia said that the Monetary Board arrived at such decision (issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, August 11, 1992 and issue of the Daily Globe of the same date). The Court has to give full confidence and credit to the reported announcement of the Executive Department, specially from the highest

official of that department; the Courts are charged with judicial notice of matters which are of public knowledge, without introduction of proof, the announcement published in at least the two newspapers cited above which are reputable and of national circulation. Per several cases decided by the Supreme Court (People vs. Alcaras, 56 Phil. 520, People vs. Francisco, 56 Phil. 572, People vs. Pastor, 77 Phil. 1000, People vs. Crisanto Tamayo, 61 Phil. 225), among others, it was held that the repeal of a penal law without re-enactment extinguishes the right to prosecute or punish the offense committed under the old law and if the law repealing the prior penal law fails to penalize the acts which constituted the offense defined and penalized in the repealed law, the repealed law carries with it the deprivation of the courts of jurisdiction to try, convict and sentence persons charged with violations of the old law prior to its repeal. Under the aforecited decisions this doctrine applies to special laws and not only to the crimes punishable in the Revised Penal Code, such as the Import Control Law. The Central Bank Circular No. 960 under which the accused Mrs. Marcos is charged is considered as a penal law because violation thereof is penalized with specific reference to the provision of Section 34 of Republic Act 265, which penalizes violations of Central Bank Circular No. 960, produces the effect cited in the Supreme Court decisions and since according to the decisions that repeal deprives the Court of jurisdiction, this Court motu proprio dismisses all the eleven (11) cases as a forestated in the caption, for not to do so opens this Court to charges of trying cases over which it has no more jurisdiction. This order was subsequently assailed in a petition for certiorari filed with the Court of Appeals, entitled "People of the Philippines vs. Hon. Manuel T. Muro, Judge, RTC of Manila, Br. 54 and Imelda R. Marcos," docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 29349. When required to file her comment, private respondent Marcos failed to file any. Likewise, after the appellate court gave due course to the petition, private respondent was ordered, but again failed despite notice, to file an answer to the petition and to show cause why no writ of preliminary injunction should issue. Eventually, on April 29, 1993, the Court of Appeals rendered a decision 9 setting aside the order of August 13, 1992, and reinstating Criminal Cases Nos. 92-101959 to 92-101969. In finding that respondent judge acted in excess of jurisdiction and with grave abuse of discretion in issuing the order of dismissal, the appellate court held that: The order was issued motu proprio, i.e., without any motion to dismiss filed by counsel for the accused, without giving an opportunity for the prosecution to be heard, and solely on the basis of newspaper reports announcing that the President has lifted all foreign exchange restrictions. The newspaper report is not the publication required by law in order that the enactment can become effective and binding. Laws take effect after fifteen days following the completion of their publication in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation unless it is otherwise provided (Section 1, Executive Order No. 200). The full text of CB Circular 1353, series of 1992, entitled "Further Liberalizing Foreign Exchange Regulation" was published in the August 27, 1992 issue of the Manila Chronicle, the Philippine Star and the Manila Bulletin. Per certification of the CB Corporate Affairs Office, CB Circular No. 1353 took effect on September 2 . . . . Considering that respondent judge admittedly had not seen the official text of CB Circular No. 1353, he was in no position to rule judiciously on whether CB Circular

No. 960, under which the accused Mrs. Marcos is charged, was already repealed by CB Circular No. 1353. . . . xxx xxx xxx A cursory reading of the . . . provision would have readily shown that the repeal of the regulations on non-trade foreign exchange transactions is not absolute, as there is a provision that with respect to violations of former regulations that are the subject of pending actions or investigations, they shall be governed by the regulations existing at the time the cause of action (arose). Thus his conclusion that he has lost jurisdiction over the criminal cases is precipitate and hasty. Had he awaited the filing of a motion to dismiss by the accused, and given opportunity for the prosecution to comment/oppose the same, his resolution would have been the result of deliberation, not speculation. I. The doctrine of judicial notice rests on the wisdom and discretion of the courts. The power to take judicial notice is to be exercised by courts with caution; care must be taken that the requisite notoriety exists; and every reasonable doubt on the subject should be promptly resolved in the negative. 10 Generally speaking, matters of judicial notice have three material requisites: (1) the matter must be one of common and general knowledge; (2) it must be well and authoritatively settled and not doubtful or uncertain; and (3) it must be known to be within the limits of the jurisdiction of the court. 11 The provincial guide in determining what facts may be assumed to be judicially known is that of notoriety. 12 Hence, it can be said that judicial notice is limited to facts evidenced by public records and facts of general notoriety. 13 To say that a court will take judicial notice of a fact is merely another way of saying that the usual form of evidence will be dispensed with if knowledge of the fact can be otherwise acquired. 14 This is because the court assumes that the matter is so notorious that it will not be disputed. 15 But judicial notice is not judicial knowledge. The mere personal knowledge of the judge is not the judicial knowledge of the court, and he is not authorized to make his individual knowledge of a fact, not generally or professionally known, the basis of his action. Judicial cognizance is taken only of those matters which are "commonly" known. 16 Things of "common knowledge," of which courts take judicial notice, may be matters coming to the knowledge of men generally in the course of the ordinary experiences of life, or they may be matters which are generally accepted by mankind as true and are capable of ready and unquestioned demonstration. 17 Thus, facts which are universally known, and which may be found in encyclopedias, dictionaries or other publications, are judicially noticed, provided they are of such universal notoriety and so generally understood that they may be regarded as forming part of the common knowledge of every person. 18 Respondent judge, in the guise of exercising discretion and on the basis of a mere newspaper account which is sometimes even referred to as hearsay evidence twice removed, took judicial notice of the supposed lifting of foreign exchange controls, a matter which was not and cannot be considered of common knowledge or of general notoriety. Worse, he took cognizance of an administrative regulation which was not yet in force when the order of dismissal was issued. Jurisprudence dictates that judicial notice cannot be taken of a statute before it becomes effective. 19 The reason is simple. A law which is not yet in force and hence, still inexistent, cannot be of common knowledge capable of ready and unquestionable demonstration, which is one of the requirements before a court can take judicial notice of a fact.

Evidently, it was impossible for respondent judge, and it was definitely not proper for him, to have taken cognizance of CB Circular No. 1353, when the same was not yet in force at the time the improvident order of dismissal was issued. II. Central Bank Circular No. 1353, which took effect on September 1, 1992, further liberalized the foreign exchange regulations on receipts and disbursements of residents arising from non-trade and trade transactions. Section 16 thereof provides for a saving clause, thus: Sec. 16. Final Provisions of CB Circular No. 1318. - All the provisions in Chapter X of CB Circular No. 1318 insofar as they are not inconsistent with, or contrary to the provisions of this Circular, shall remain in full force and effect: Provided, however, that any regulation on non-trade foreign exchange transactions which has been repealed, amended or modified by this Circular, violations of which are the subject of pending actions or investigations, shall not be considered repealed insofar as such pending actions or investigations are concerned, it being understood that as to such pending actions or investigations, the regulations existing at the time the cause of action accrued shall govern. Respondent judge contends that the saving clause refers only to the provisions of Circular No. 1318, whereas the eleven criminal cases he dismissed involve a violation of CB Circular No. 960. Hence, he insists, Circular No. 960 is deemed repealed by the new circular and since the former is not covered by the saving clause in the latter, there is no more basis for the charges involved in the criminal cases which therefore warrant a dismissal of the same. The contention is patently unmeritorious. Firstly, the second part of the saving clause in Circular No. 1353 explicitly provides that "any regulation on non-trade foreign transactions which has been repealed, amended or modified by this Circular, violations of which are the subject of pending actions or investigations, shall not be considered repealed insofar as such pending actions or investigations are concerned, it being understood that as to such pending actions or investigations, theregulations existing at the time the cause of action accrued shall govern." The terms of the circular are clear and unambiguous and leave no room for interpretation. In the case at bar, the accused in the eleven cases had already been arraigned, had pleaded not guilty to the charges of violations of Circular No. 960, and said cases had already been set for trial when Circular No. 1353 took effect. Consequently, the trial court was and is supposed to proceed with the hearing of the cases in spite of the existence of Circular No. 1353. Secondly, had respondent judge only bothered to read a little more carefully the texts of the circulars involved, he would have readily perceived and known that Circular No. 1318 also contains a substantially similar saving clause as that found in Circular No. 1353, since Section 111 of the former provides: Sec. 111. Repealing clause. - All existing provisions of Circulars 365, 960 and 1028, including amendments thereto, with the exception of the second paragraph of Section 68 of Circular 1028, as well as all other existing Central Bank rules and regulations or parts thereof, which are inconsistent with or contrary to the provisions of this Circular, are hereby repealed or modified accordingly: Provided, however, that regulations, violations of which are the subject of pending actions or investigations, shall be considered repealed insofar as such pending actions or investigations are concerned, it being understood that as to such pending actions or investigations, the regulations existing at the time the cause of action accrued shall govern.

It unequivocally appears from the section above quoted that although Circular No. 1318 repealed Circular No. 960, the former specifically excepted from its purview all cases covered by the old regulations which were then pending at the time of the passage of the new regulations. Thus, any reference made to Circular No. 1318 necessarily involves and affects Circular No. 960. III. It has been said that next in importance to the duty of rendering a righteous judgment is that of doing it in such a manner as will beget no suspicion of the fairness and integrity of the judge. 20 This means that a judge should not only render a just, correct and impartial decision but should do so in such a manner as to be free from any suspicion as to its fairness and impartiality and as to his integrity. While a judge should possess proficiency in law in order that he can competently construe and enforce the law, it is more important that he should act and behave in such a manner that the parties before him should have confidence in his impartiality. Thus, it is not enough that he decides cases without bias and favoritism. Nor is it sufficient that he in fact rids himself of prepossessions. His actuations should moreover inspire that belief. Like Caesar's wife, a judge must not only be pure but beyond suspicion. 21 Moreover, it has always heretofore been the rule that in disposing of controverted cases, judges should show their full understanding of the case, avoid the suspicion of arbitrary conclusion, promote confidence in their intellectual integrity and contribute useful precedents to the growth of the law. 22 A judge should be mindful that his duty is the application of general law to particular instances, that ours is a government of laws and not of men, and that he violates his duty as a minister of justice under such a system if he seeks to do what he may personally consider substantial justice in a particular case and disregards the general law as he knows it to be binding on him. Such action may have detrimental consequences beyond the immediate controversy. He should administer his office with due regard to the integrity of the system of the law itself, remembering that he is not a depository of arbitrary power, but a judge under the sanction of the law. 23 These are immutable principles that go into the very essence of the task of dispensing justice and we see no reason why they should not be duly considered in the present case. The assertion of respondent judge that there was no need to await publication of Circular No. 1353 for the reason that the public announcement made by the President in several newspapers of general circulation lifting foreign exchange controls is total, absolute, without qualification, and immediately effective, is beyond comprehension. As a judge of the Regional Trial Court of Manila, respondent is supposed to be well-versed in the elementary legal mandates on the publication of laws before they take effect. It is inconceivable that respondent should insist on an altogether different and illogical interpretation of an established and well-entrenched rule if only to suit his own personal opinion and, as it were, to defend his indefensible action. It was not for him to indulge or even to give the appearance of catering to the at-times human failing of yielding to first impressions. 24 He having done so, in the face of the foregoing premises, this Court is hard put to believe that he indeed acted in good faith. IV. This is not a simple case of a misapplication or erroneous interpretation of the law. The very act of respondent judge in altogether dismissing sua sponte the eleven criminal cases without even a motion to quash having been filed by the accused, and without at least giving the prosecution the basic opportunity to be heard on the matter by way of a written comment or on oral argument, is not only a blatant denial of elementary due process to the Government but is palpably indicative of bad faith and partiality. The avowed desire of respondent judge to speedily dispose of the cases as early as possible is no license for abuse of judicial power and discretion, 25 nor does such professed objective, even if true, justify a deprivation of the prosecution's right to be heard and a violation of its right to due process of law. 26

The lightning speed, to borrow the words of complainants, with which respondent judge resolved to dismiss the cases without the benefit of a hearing and without reasonable notice to the prosecution inevitably opened him to suspicion of having acted out of partiality for the accused. Regardless of how carefully he may have evaluated changes in the factual situation and legal standing of the cases, as a result of the newspaper report, the fact remains that he gave the prosecution no chance whatsoever to show or prove that it had strong evidence of the guilt of the accused. To repeat, he thereby effectively deprived the prosecution of its right to due process. 27 More importantly, notwithstanding the fact that respondent was not sure of the effects and implications of the President's announcement, as by his own admission he was in doubt whether or not he should dismiss the cases, 28 he nonetheless deliberately refrained from requiring the prosecution to comment thereon. In a puerile defense of his action, respondent judge can but rhetorically ask: "What explanation could have been given? That the President was talking 'through his hat' and should not be believed? That I should wait for the publication of a still then non- existent CB Circular?" The pretended cogency of this ratiocination cannot stand even the minutest legal scrutiny. In order that bias may not be imputed to a judge, he should have the patience and circumspection to give the opposing party a chance to present his evidence even if he thinks that the oppositor's proofs might not be adequate to overthrow the case for the other party. A display of petulance and impatience in the conduct of the trial is a norm of conduct which is inconsistent with the "cold neutrality of an impartial judge." 29 At the very least, respondent judge acted injudiciously and with unjustified haste in the outright dismissal of the eleven cases, and thereby rendered his actuation highly dubious. V. It bears stressing that the questioned order of respondent judge could have seriously and substantially affected the rights of the prosecution had the accused invoked the defense of double jeopardy, considering that the dismissal was ordered after arraignment and without the consent of said accused. This could have spawned legal complications and inevitable delay in the criminal proceedings, were it not for the holding of the Court of Appeals that respondent judge acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction. This saved the day for the People since in the absence of jurisdiction, double jeopardy will not set in. To stress this point, and as acaveat to trial courts against falling into the same judicial error, we reiterate what we have heretofore declared: It is settled doctrine that double jeopardy cannot be invoked against this Court's setting aside of the trial court's judgment of dismissal or acquittal where the prosecution which represents the sovereign people in criminal cases is denied due process. . . . . Where the prosecution is deprived of a fair opportunity to prosecute and prove its case, its right to due process is thereby violated.
The cardinal precept is that where there is a violation of basic constitutional rights, courts are ousted of their jurisdiction. Thus, the violation of the State's right to due process raises a serious jurisdictional issue . . . which cannot be glossed over or disregarded at will. Where the denial of the fundamental right of due process is apparent, a decision rendered in disregard of that right is void for lack of jurisdiction . . . . 30

It is also significant that accused Marcos, despite due notice, never submitted either her comment on or an answer to the petition for certiorari as required by the Court of Appeals, nor was double jeopardy invoked in her defense. This serves to further underscore the fact that the order of dismissal was clearly unjustified and erroneous. Furthermore, considering that the accused is a prominent public figure with a record of influence and power, it is not easy to allay public skepticism

and suspicions on how said dismissal order came to be, to the consequent although undeserved discredit of the entire judiciary. VI. To hold a judge liable for rendering a manifestly unjust order through inexcusable negligence or ignorance, it must be clearly shown that although he has acted without malice, he failed to observe in the performance of his duty that diligence, prudence and care which the law is entitled to exact in the rendering of any public service. Negligence and ignorance are inexcusable if they imply a manifest injustice which cannot be explained by a reasonable interpretation, and even though there is a misunderstanding or error of the law applied, it nevertheless results logically and reasonably, and in a very clear and indisputable manner, in the notorious violation of the legal precept. 31 In the present case, a cursory perusal of the comment filed by respondent judge reveals that no substantial argument has been advanced in plausible justification of his act. He utterly failed to show any legal, factual, or even equitable justification for the dismissal of the eleven criminal cases. The explanation given is no explanation at all. The strained and fallacious submissions therein do not speak well of respondent and cannot but further depreciate his probity as a judge. On this point, it is best that pertinent unedited excerpts from his comment 32 be quoted by way of graphic illustration and emphasis: On the alleged ignorance of the law imputed to me, it is said that I issued the Order dismissing the eleven (11) cases against Mrs. Imelda R. Marcos on the basis of newspaper reports referred to in paragraph 2 of the letter complaint without awaiting the official publication of the Central Bank Circular. Ordinarily a Central Bank Circular/Resolution must be published in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation, but the lifting of "all foreign exchange controls" was announced by the President of the Philippines WITHOUT QUALIFICATIONS; as published in the Daily Globe, August 11, 1992" the government has lifted ALL foreign exchange controls," and in the words of the Philippine Daily Inquirer report of the same date "The government yesterday LIFTED the LAST remaining restrictions on foreign exchange transactions, . . ." (emphasis in both quotations supplied) not only the President made the announcement but also the Central Bank Governor Jose Cuisia joined in the announcement by saying that "the Monetary Board arrived at the decision after noting how the "partial liberalization" initiated early this year worked." Therefore, because of the ABSOLUTE lifting of ALL restrictions on foreign exchange transactions, there was no need to await the publication of the repealing circular of the Central Bank. The purpose of requiring publication of laws and administrative rules affecting the public is to inform the latter as to how they will conduct their affairs and how they will conform to the laws or the rules. In this particular case, with the total lifting of the controls, there is no need to await publication. It would have been different if the circular that in effect repealed Central Bank Circular No. 960, under which the accused was charged in the cases dismissed by me, had provided for penalties and/or modified the provisions of said Circular No. 960. The Complainants state that the lifting of controls was not yet in force when I dismissed the cases but it should be noted that in the report of the two (2) newspapers aforequoted, the President's announcement of the lifting of controls was stated in the present perfect tense (Globe) or past tense (Inquirer). In other words, it has already been lifted; the announcement did not say that the government INTENDS to lift all foreign exchange restrictions but instead says that the government "has LIFTED all foreign exchange controls," and in the other newspaper cited above, that "The government yesterday lifted the last remaining restrictions on

foreign exchange transactions". The lifting of the last remaining exchange regulations effectively cancelled or repealed Circular No. 960. The President, who is the Chief Executive, publicly announced the lifting of all foreign exchange regulations. The President has within his control directly or indirectly the Central Bank of the Philippines, the Secretary of Finance being the Chairman of the Monetary Board which decides the policies of the Central Bank. No official bothered to correct or qualify the President's announcement of August 10, published the following day, nor made an announcement that the lifting of the controls do not apply to cases already pending, not until August 17 (the fourth day after my Order, and the third day after report of said order was published) and after the President said on August 17, reported in the INQUIRER's issue of August 18, 1992, that the "new foreign exchange rules have nullified government cases against Imelda R. Marcos, telling reporters that the charges against the widow of former President Marcos "have become moot and academic" because of new ruling(s) which allow free flow of currency in and out of the country" (Note, parenthetically, the reference to "new rules" not to "rules still to be drafted"). The INQUIRER report continues: "A few hours later, presidential spokeswoman Annabelle Abaya said, RAMOS (sic) had "corrected himself'." "He had been belatedly advised by the Central Bank Governor Jose Cuisia and Justice Secretary Franklin Drilon that the Monetary Board Regulation excluded from its coverage all criminal cases pending in court and such a position shall stand legal scrutiny', Mrs. Abaya, said." I will elaborate on two points: 1. If the President was wrong in making the August 10 announcement (published in August 11, 1992, newspapers) and in the August 17 announcement, SUPRA, and thus I should have relied on the Presidential announcements, and there is basis to conclude that the President was at the very least ILL-SERVED by his financial and legal advisers, because no one bothered to advise the President to correct his announcements, not until August 17, 1992, a few hours after the President had made another announcement as to the charges against Imelda Marcos having been rendered moot and academic. The President has a lot of work to do, and is not, to my knowledge, a financier, economist, banker or lawyer. It therefore behooved his subalterns to give him timely (not "belated") advice, and brief him on matters of immediate and far-reaching concerns (such as the lifting of foreign exchange controls, designed, among others to encourage the entry of foreign investments). Instead of rescuing the Chief Executive from embarrassment by assuming responsibility for errors in the latter's announcement, these advisers have chosen to toss the blame for the consequence of their failing to me, who only acted on the basis of announcements of their Chief, which had become of public knowledge. xxx xxx xxx The Court strongly feels that it has every right to assume and expect that respondent judge is possessed with more than ordinary credentials and qualifications to merit his appointment as a presiding judge in the Regional Trial Court of the National Capital Judicial Region, stationed in the City of Manila itself. It is, accordingly, disheartening and regrettable to note the nature of the arguments and the kind of logic that respondent judge would want to impose on this Court notwithstanding the manifest lack of cogency thereof. This calls to mind similar scenarios and how this Court reacted thereto.

In one case, an RTC Judge was administratively charged for acquitting the accused of a violation of CB Circular No. 960 despite the fact that the accused was apprehended with US$355,349.00 while boarding a plane for Hongkong, erroneously ruling that the State must first prove criminal intent to violate the law and benefit from the illegal act, and further ordering the return of US$3,000.00 out of the total amount seized, on the mistaken interpretation that the CB circular exempts such amount from seizure. Respondent judge therein was ordered dismissed from the government service for gross incompetence and ignorance of the law. 33 Subsequently, the Court dismissed another RTC judge, with forfeiture of retirement benefits, for gross ignorance of the law and for knowingly rendering an unjust order or judgment when he granted bail to an accused charged with raping an 11-year old girl, despite the contrary recommendation of the investigating judge, and thereafter granted the motion to dismiss the case allegedly executed by the complainant. 34 Similarly, an RTC judge who was described by this Court as one "who is ignorant of fairly elementary and quite familiar legal principles and administrative regulations, has a marked penchant for applying unorthodox, even strange theories and concepts in the adjudication of controversies, exhibits indifference to and even disdain for due process and the rule of law, applies the law whimsically, capriciously and oppressively, and displays bias and impartiality," was dismissed from the service with forfeiture of all retirement benefits and with prejudice to reinstatement in any branch of the government or any of its agencies or instrumentalities. 35 Still in another administrative case, an RTJ judge was also dismissed by this Court for gross ignorance of the law after she ordered, in a probate proceeding, the cancellation of the certificates of title issued in the name of the complainant, without affording due process to the latter and other interested parties. 36 Only recently, an RTC judge who had been reinstated in the service was dismissed after he acquitted all the accused in four criminal cases for illegal possession of firearms, on the ground that there was no proof of malice or deliberate intent on the part of the accused to violate the law. The Court found him guilty of gross ignorance of the law, his error of judgment being almost deliberate and tantamount to knowingly rendering an incorrect and unjust judgment. 37 ACCORDINGLY, on the foregoing premises and considerations, the Court finds respondent Judge Manuel T. Muro guilty of gross ignorance of the law. He is hereby DISMISSED from the service, such dismissal to carry with it cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of leave credits and retirement benefits, and disqualification from reemployment in the government service. 38 Respondent is hereby ordered to CEASE and DESIST immediately from rendering any judgment or order, or continuing any judicial action or proceeding whatsoever, effective upon receipt of this decision. SO ORDERED. Narvasa, Cruz, Feliciano, Padilla, Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Quiason, Puno, Vitug and Kapunan, JJ., concur. Bidin, is on official leave. G.R. Nos. L-30111-12 February 27, 1973

THE SHELL COMPANY OF THE PHILIPPINES, LIMITED, petitioner, vs. HON. MANUEL LOPEZ ENAGE, as Presiding Judge of the Court of First Instance of Agusan, Branch II, FRANCISCA TIMOSA, CHIVENIANO GO, THE CITY SHERIFF OF BUTUAN CITY and THE PROVINCIAL SHERIFF OF AGUSAN, respondents. G.R. Nos. L-30365-66 February 27, 1973 NUMERIANO JACOLO, ERNESTO DEDEL and JACINTO MONOY, petitioners, vs. HON. MANUEL LOPEZ ENAGE as Presiding Judge of the Court of First Instance of Agusan, Branch II, FRANCISCA TIMOSA, CHIVENIANO GO, THE SHERIFF OF THE PROVINCE OF AGUSAN and THE SHERIFF OF THE CITY OF BUTUAN, respondents. Picazo, Agcaoili, Santayana, Reyes and Tayao for petitioner Shell Company of the Philippines Limited. Cataluna and Bunol for petitioners Numeriano Jacolo, et al. Eduardo M. Peralta and Ismael B. Sanchez for respondents.

FERNANDO, J.: The lack of fealty to the requirements of procedural due process is the basis of these certiorari proceedings to set aside two decisions of respondent Judge Manuel Lopez Enage. Petitioner Shell Company of the Philippines, 1 and petitioners Numeriano Jacolo, Ernesto Dedel and Jacinto Monoy 2 were defendants in an action for damages filed in the Court of First Instance of Agusan in the branch presided by respondent Judge with the other respondents Francisca Timosa and Chiveniano Go as plaintiffs. The two decisions in favor of private respondents, respectively issued on August 26, 1968 and September 30, 1968, are now assailed as having been rendered without hearing petitioners in defiance of and contrary to the due process clause of the Constitution. 3 The case for petitioner Shell Company of the Philippines appears to be invulnerable, for at no time was their counsel of record, after the filing of its answer, subsequently notified of the proceedings had. The stand of petitioners Numeriano Jacolo, Ernesto Dedel and Jacinto Monoy, while, on its face, not impressed with the same degree of conclusiveness, gains strength from what appears to be the arbitrary actuation of respondent Judge in refusing a postponement thus resulting in a decision against parties who should be, but were not heard, again in disregard of the due process mandate. Moreover, as a remand of the case insofar as petitioner Shell Company is concerned, would, at any rate, lead to a new hearing, the cause of justice would be better served if on that occasion the other three petitioners are likewise granted the opportunity of presenting their defense, especially so as the damages awarded by respondent Judge in the decisions complained of appear to be the product of excessive and indiscriminate generosity. So we rule. After the filing of the civil cases for damages by respondents Francisca Timosa and Chiveniano Go, summons was served on petitioner Shell Company of the Philippines, Ltd. at Cebu City. Within the reglementary period, it filed its answer with counterclaim through its counsel, Attorney Alfred P. Deen of the Deen Law Offices at the Deen Building, Cebu City. The other petitioners, as defendants, were represented by the law firm of Deen, Mercado and Cataluna of Butuan City. The counsel surnamed Deen of such law firm is not Attorney Alfred P. Deen, who appears for Shell, but Attorney Nicolas Deen. That must have been the cause of the mistake, for thereafter, only such law firm in

Butuan City was served with court notices. It does not admit of doubt, then, that all subsequent proceedings in the two above cases, insofar as petitioner Shell Company is concerned, took place without such counsel of record at Cebu City being notified. As far as petitioners Jacolo, Dedel and Monoy are concerned, their contention as to the denial of due process is premised on an order of respondent Judge of July 8, 1968 which considered the two cases against them as submitted for decision, notwithstanding the fact that they had not as yet presented their evidence. The reason they could not do so, according to their petition, was that no notification was made that the hearing would be held on such a date. 4 This allegation is denied in the answer of respondents. 5 What is not denied, however, is the succeeding paragraph of their petition. It reads thus: "On the said fateful day, July 8, 1968, Atty. Lydio J. Cataluna of the Mercado & Cataluna Law Office, counsel for defendants-petitioners, appeared and manifested in court that he had just separated from the law firm handling the cases for defendants-petitioners and that the records of the cases were with Atty. Eduardo Deza Mercado who was left in the law office bearing his name; and that the defendants-petitioners were not notified of the hearing for that day; hence, their absence. Atty. Cataluna accordingly moved to have the hearing postponed to another date, as he intended to withdraw from the case." 6What is equally indisputable is that then and there, respondent Judge considered the matter submitted, resulting, as in the case of petitioner Shell Company of the Philippines, Ltd. in two decisions against petitioners Jacolo, Dedel and Monoy, now assailed. The impress of a denial of the fundamental right of due process is thus apparent. The jurisdictional defect is quite marked. The decisions of respondent Judge now sought to be nullified thus suffer from congenital infirmity. It is much too late in the day for this Court, or any court for that matter, to dignify a proceedings as having been conducted in a judicial manner if there be, as in these cases, so flagrant a disregard of the right to be heard. The writs of certiorari prayed for must be granted. 1. It does not admit of doubt that as counsel of petitioner Shell Company was not notified of the proceedings had, a failure attributed to the mistaken assumption that the Deen, Mercado and Cataluna law office in Butuan City, and not Alfred Deen of Cebu City, was retained by it, the denial of procedural due process was quite obvious. Such a constitutional guarantee, to quote from a relatively recent decision, Florendo v. Florendo, 7 "is satisfied if there be a competent court, not susceptible to the reproach that its actuation is tainted by bias and partiality, possessed of jurisdiction to hear the matter before it, with the parties therein being accorded the right to be heard at every stage of the proceeding ... ." 8 That was to restate what was set forth in the leading case of Banco Espaol-Filipino v. Palanca: 9 "(1) There must be a court or tribunal clothed with judicial power to hear and determine the matter before it; (2) jurisdiction must be lawfully acquired over the person of the defendant or over the property which is the subject of the proceeding; (3) the defendant must be given an opportunity to be heard; and (4) judgment must be rendered after lawful hearing." 10 It is merely to emphasize what had been so tersely and comprehensively put by Daniel Webster that by the law of the land, which is an equivalent phrase of due process, is meant "a law which hears before it condemns, which proceeds upon inquiry and renders judgment only after trial." 11 Respondent Judge failed to have counsel for petitioner Shell Company notified. What is indispensable in law was rendered nugatory in fact. 12 For it would render such a right conspicuously futile if counsel were not given notice of the proceedings to be had. If sanction could therefore be given to what was done by respondent Judge, or, more appropriately, what he failed to do, then this guarantee, insofar as its procedural aspect is concerned, is reduced to a barren form of words. What use is an attorney of record, whose services are precisely sought so that one's interests may receive the protection to which they are entitled under the law, if he is kept ignorant as to when the hearings will be held. Whatever sound advice may be offered will go for naught. Whatever appropriate legal steps he may have in mind cannot be undertaken if he were not present at the trial, not because he

did not care to be there but because he did not know as to when it was to be conducted. The most prejudicial testimony against the client, even if contrary to truth, may be accorded acceptance, as its veracity could not be tested in the crucible of cross-examination. One might as well say, if the respondent Judge were to be upheld, that the right to a hearing, far from being of the every essence of procedural due process, is just a useless formality. What ought to have been in the mind of the lower court is this succinct summary, from the pen of Justice J.B.L. Reyes, of the importance of the right to counsel: "A party engages an attorney of record precisely because it does not feel competent to deal with the intricacies of law and procedure." 13 In law, as in life, a little common sense does help. Had its promptings been heeded, then there would have been no need for these pleas for certiorari so rightfully invoked by petitioner Shell Company. 2. As for petitioners Jacolo, Dedel and Monoy, who likewise feel aggrieved at this arbitrary actuation of respondent Judge, it is equally an undeniable fact that they were not given the right to be heard. As noted at the outset, however, their position may not be considered as impregnable because such an opportunity would vouch-safed them, but they did not avail themselves of it as, previously, their counsel sought for postponement, which was not granted. It is well-settled that continuance or adjournment is discretionary with a court of justice. 14 As early as 1916, however, in Lino Luna v. Arcenas, 15 Justice Carson, for this Court, warned that "a sound discretion in this regard should be exercised by the trial judge, and the highly commendable desire for the dispatch of business should not be permitted to turn the scales of justice rather than accede to a reasonable request for a continuance." 16 Then, subsequently, in a 1929 decision, Cing Hong So v. Tan Boon Kong, 17 Justice Romualdez, as ponente, stated: "In cases like the present, where a party litigant, without malice, fault, or inexcusable neglect, is not prepared for the trial of a case, the court exceeds the discretion conferred upon it by law in denying to said litigant a reasonable opportunity to prepare for the trial and to obtain due process of law and proper protection under the law." 18 It has been noted that the reason for postponement sought by petitioners on July 8, 1968 was that Attorney Cataluna had just separated from the law firm and the records of the case were with the other counsel, Attorney Mercado. Moreover, in the memorandum for petitioners Jacolo, Dedel and Monoy which remained unanswered by respondents, there is this relevant recital of the circumstances that ought to have moved respondent Judge to grant the postponement sought: "To show conclusively the manifest abuse of discretion by respondent Judge, we beg to recount the scheduled hearings of the subject cases. After the plaintiffs-respondents presented their evidence, the defendantspetitioners immediately commenced presenting theirs on July 21, 1967. This was, however, cut short by respondent Judge due to lack of material time and next hearing was set on August 16, 17 and 18, 1967. On these dates, all the petitioners were in court (defendants Jacolo and Dedel came from Iloilo City where they were working) ready to present their evidence, but they were not able to do so because there were no court sessions on those three (3) days for reasons known only to the court. The next hearing was then set for November 2 and 3, 1967, but this was cancelled and again re-set to November 27, 28 and 29, 1967. On two other subsequent occasions the hearings were cancelled and again set on March 19, 1968. On March 19, 1968, all the petitioners were present and ready to present their evidence but they were again prevented from so doing because again on that date there was no court session. Finally, the hearings were set on July 8, 1968. On such date the defendants-petitioners failed to appear due to lack of notice to them. In such case, the respondent Judge should not have been too harsh in holding the lapse of literal observance of the rule of procedure as to deny defendants substantial justice." 19 This is another occasion, then, as was apparent in the Lino Luna and Cing Hong So decisions, where the language of Justice Alex Reyes inCapitol Subdivisions, Inc. v. Province of Negros Occidental, 20 is apposite: "Liberality should be exercised in granting postponements of trial to obtain presence of material evidence and to prevent miscarriage of justice." 21As was categorically set forth by him in the same decision: "While the granting or refusal of motions for continuance is discretionary, that discretion must be exercised wisely with a view to substantial justice." 22 It would be to accord deference to the above doctrines then, if the remedy sought by petitioners Jacolo, Dedel and Monoy were granted.

3. There is need, it would seem again, for respondent Judge and other judges as well, to bear in mind that so essential a right as that of being heard cannot be disregarded without its actuation suffering from a fatal infirmity. As so emphatically expressed by Chief Justice Concepcion in Vda. de Cuaycong v. Vda. de Sengbengco: 23"Indeed, acts of Congress, as well as those of the Executive, can deny due process only under pain of nullity, and judicial proceedings suffering from the same flaw are subject to the same sanction, any statutory provision to the contrary notwithstanding." 24 It follows that the due process requirement, as set forth in a recent decision, Luzon Surety Co., Inc. v. Beson, 25 "is not a mere formality that may be dispensed with at will. Its disregard is a matter of serious concern. It is a constitutional safeguard of the highest order. It is a response to man's innate sense of justice. It demands that governmental acts, more specially so in the case of the judiciary be not infected with arbitrariness. It cannot be satisfied unless the elementary requirements of fairness are met." 26 It is thus clear why the outcome of these petitions for certiorari was so predictable, not to say inevitable. 4. Nor is this all. There is an element in these proceedings noted in the petition of Shell Company as well as its memorandum, to which no reply was made by respondent that reinforces the conclusion reached. The cases for damages against petitioners arose from a levy on execution filed by petitioner Shell Company to satisfy a final judgment for P82,785.97 against the couple Go See Gawa and Eustaquia Sastre. It was returned unsatisfied as their personal and real property had "been transferred to third persons." 27 Nevertheless, the rights of Eustaquia Sastre as licensee of certain lumber yard in Butuan City was levied upon. That started the subsequent trouble of the petitioner. For thereafter, one Francisca Timosa, a relative, and one Chivenian Go, son of Go See Gawa, filed the above suits for damages alleging losses suffered for such levy, in the case of the former with reference to the lumber business and the latter of a weapon carrier. On the evidence offered by them, the petitioners as seen not having been heard, the former was awarded damages in the sum of P420,400.00 as of January 29, 1969 and the latter P123,640.00 as of July 21, 1969 on a vehicle valued at P5,000.00. It would thus appear that respondent Judge was called upon to exercise the utmost caution and circumspection before rendering what in effect was an ex parte judgment. 28 Certainly, these were actions that demanded full hearing. Without it, there could have resulted, as petitioners now contend, a travesty on justice. This is not to accept such a view. It is merely to emphasize that respondent Judge was remiss in the fulfillment of his obligation. Any occupant of the judicial chair is vested with a responsibility of the most exacting character. A public office is a public trust runs a truism of the law. Nowhere is such a characterization more accurate than when the position held is that of a judge. He must as conscientiously and as ably as he can ascertain the facts and apply the law. There is to be nothing of the arbitrary or capricious in his actuations. The respect to which he is entitled becomes diminished, at times may even disappear, if the suspicion is legitimately entertained that whether by ignorance, sloth or plain stubbornness, he acts contrary to what the law dictates. That is to deny a party that to which he is entitled. Centuries of both the civil law and common law tradition, to which this country is heir, warn impressively against such a manifestation of judicial conduct at its least commendable. Respondent Judge unfortunately paid no heed. It should not have been the case at all. WHEREFORE, the writs of certiorari prayed for are granted, and the decision of August 26, 1968 in Civil Case No. 1071, Francisca Timosa v. Shell Company of the Philippines, et al., and the decision of September 30, 1968 in Civil Case No. 1073, Chiveniano Go v. Shell Company of the Philippines, et al., are nullified, set aside and declared without force and effect, and the aforesaid Civil Cases Nos. 1071 and 1073 in the Court of First Instance of Agustin, 15th Judicial District, Branch II, are remanded for appropriate hearing in accordance with law, with full respect accorded to all the procedural rights of petitioner Shell Company the Philippines and petitioners Jacolo, Dedel and Monoy. Costs against private respondents.

Concepcion, C.J., Makalintal, Zaldivar, Castro, Teehankee, Barredo, Makasiar, Antonio and Esguerra, JJ., concur.

Footnotes 1 In cases L-30111-12. 2 In cases L-30365-66. 3 According to Art. III, Sec. 1, par. 1 of the Constitution: "No person shall be deprived of life, liberty and property without due process of law, ..." 4 Petition in L-30365-66, par. 15. 5 Answer in L-30365-66, par. 8. 6 Petition in L-30365-66, par. 16. 7 L-24982, March 28, 1969, 27 SCRA 432. 8 Ibid, 435-436. 9 37 Phil. 921 (1918). 10 Ibid, 934. This decision has been cited with approval in the following cases: In re Estate of Johnson, 39 Phil. 156 (1918); Riera v. Palmaroli, 40 Phil. 105 (1919); Phil. Manufacturing Co. v. Imperial, 47 Phil. 810 (1925); Rivero v. Rivero, 59 Phil. 15 (1933); Perkins v. Dizon, 69 Phil. 186 (1939); Co Tiamco v. Diaz, 75 Phil. 672 (1946); People v. Lopez, 78 Phil. 286 (1947); Mabanag v. Gallemore, 81 Phil. 254 (1948); Sandejas v. Robles, 81 Phil. 421 (1948); Joson v. Nable, 87 Phil. 337 (1950); Dizon v. Leal, 105 Phil. 729 (1959); Pantaleon v. Asuncion, 105 Phil. 761 (1959); Koppel Phil. v. Magallanes, 107 Phil. 926 (1960) ; Rojas v. Papa, 107 Phil. 983 (1960); Florendo v. Florendo, L-24982, March 28, 1969, 27 SCRA 432. 11 Cf. Lopez v. Director of Lands, 47 Phil. 23 (1924); Garcia v. The Executive Secretary, L-19748, Sept. 13, 1962, 6 SCRA 1. 12 Cf. Gov't. of P.I. v. La Asociacion Cooperativa de Credito Agricola, 69 Phil. 130 (1939) ; Sandejas v. Robles, 81 Phil. 421 (1948); Siojo v. Tecson, 88 Phil. 531 (1951); Halili v. Public Service Commission, 92 Phil. 1036 (1953); Villar v. Javier de Paderanga, 97 Phil. 604 (1955); Siochi v. Tirona, 99 Phil. 460 (1956) ; Capitol Subdivision, Inc. v. Prov. of Negros Occidental, 99 Phil. 633 (1956); Correa v. Pascual, 99 Phil. 696 (1956); Valencia, Jr. v. Mabilangan, 105 Phil. 162 (1959): Wack Wack Golf & Country Club, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, 106 Phil. 501 (1959); Rojas v. Papa, 107 Phil. 983 (1960) ; Lacdoro v. Arcenas, 110 Phil. 222 (1960) ; Elli v. Ditan, L-17444, June 30, 1962, 5 SCRA 503; Garcia v. The Executive Secretary, L-19748, Sept. 13, 1962, 6 SCRA 1; Mata v. Rita Legarda, Inc. L-18941, Jan. 31, 1963, 7 SCRA 227; Tolentino v. Ongsiako, L-17938, April 30, 1963, 7 SCRA 1001; Ledesma v. Villasenor, L-18725, March 31, 1965, 13 SCRA 494; Manila Railroad Co.

v. Moya, L-17913, June 22, 1965, 14 SCRA 358; Ongcoco v. Judge, Court of First Instance, L-20941, Sept. 17, 1965, 15 SCRA 30; Macabingkil v. Yatco, L-23174, Sept. 18, 1967, 21 SCRA 150; Pabiling v. Parinacio, L-22682, July 23, 1968, 24 SCRA 100; J.M. Javier Logging Corp. v. Mardo, L-28188, Aug. 27, 1968, 24 SCRA 776; Tiglao v. Comelec, L-31566 Aug. 31, 1970, 34 SCRA 456. 13 J.M. Javier Logging Corporation v. Mardo, L-28188, Aug. 27, 1968, 24 SCRA 776, 779. 14 Cf. Pellicena Camacho v. Gonzalez Liquete, 6 Phil. 50 (1906); Lichauco Y. Lim, 6 Phil. 271 (1906); Go Changjo v. Roldan Sy-Changjo, 18 Phil. 405 (1911); Perez v. Melliza, 18 Phil. 411 (1911); Lino Luna v. Arcenas, 34 Phil. 80 (1916); Olsen and Beaumont v. Fressel & Co., 37 Phil. 121 (1917); Samson v. Naval, 41 Phil. 838 (1918); Fabillo v. Tionko, 43 Phil. 317 (1922) ; Phil. Guaranty Co. v. Belando, 53 Phil. 410 (1929); Cing Hong So v. Tan Boon Kong, 53 Phil. 437 (1929); Linis v. Rovira 61 Phil. 137 (1935); Siojo v. Tecson, 88 Phil. 531 (1951); Villar v. Javier de Paderanga, 97 Phil. 604 (1955); Capitol Subdivision, Inc. v. Province of Negros Occidental, 99 Phil. 633 (1956) ; Siochi v. Tirona, 99 Phil. 460 (1956). 15 34 Phil. 80. 16 Ibid, 99. 17 53 Phil. 437. 18 Ibid, 441-442. 19 Memorandum for Petitioners, 12-13. 20 99 Phil. 633 (1956). 21 Ibid, 636-637. 22 Ibid, 637. Cf. Olsen and Beaumont v. Fressel & Co., 37 Phil. 121 (1917). 23 110 Phil. 113. 24 Ibid, 118. 25 L-26865-66 Jan. 30, 1970, 31 SCRA 313. 26 Ibid, 318. 27 Petition of Shell Company, 2-3 and Memorandum, 2-3. 28 Memorandum for Petitioners, 11.

G.R. No. 118118 August 14, 1995

ALFREDO GUIEB, petitioner, vs. HON. LUIS M. FONTANILLA, in his capacity as the Presiding Judge of the RTC, Branch 42, Dagupan City, and MANUEL ASUNCION, respondents.

DAVIDE, JR., J.: Revealed in this case is the parties' and the lower court judges' unfamiliarity with or ignorance of the constitutional provision on the appellate jurisdiction of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) in election contests involving elective barangay officials and of the decision of this Court declaring unconstitutional a provision of law vesting upon Regional Trial Courts appellate jurisdiction over the said cases. We find it unnecessary to resolve the issue raised by the petitioner, viz., whether or not a vote for a candidate for an office to which he did not seek to be elected is valid. We shall, instead, deal with the validity of the challenged decision. The antecedents are uncomplicated and uncontroverted. The petitioner and the private respondent were candidates for the position of Punong Barangay of Barangay Nilombot, Sta. Barbara, Pangasinan, in the barangay election of 9 May 1994. After the canvass of votes in the said barangay, the former was proclaimed as the winning candidate. The latter then seasonably filed an election protest with the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Sta. Barbara, Pangasinan. On 27 May 1994, the MTC, per Judge Lilia C. Espaol, rendered a decision confirming the proclamation of the petitioner and dismissing the protest of the private respondent. 1 The private respondent appealed the decision to the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Dagupan City. The case was assigned to Branch 42 thereof. In its decision 2 of 31 August 1994, the RTC, per respondent Judge Luis M. Fontanilla, reversed the decision of the MTC, annulled the proclamation of the petitioner, and declared the private respondent as the winning candidate with a plurality of four votes over the petitioner. After the petitioner's motion for reconsideration 3 of the decision was denied 4 on 25 November 1994, the private respondent immediately filed a motion for the issuance of a writ of execution. In its order of 8 December 1994, 5 the RTC declared that the motion should be properly filed with the court of origin and that the decision of 31 August 1994 had already become final; it then ordered the remand of the records of the case to the MTC of Sta. Barbara, Pangasinan, for proper disposition. On 12 December 1994, the petitioner filed with this Court a motion for extension of time to file a petition for review on certiorari. On 29 December 1994, he sent by registered mail his petition, which this Court received only on 25 January 1995. It turned out, however, that his motion for extension of time to file a petition had already been denied on 4 January 1995 for his failure to submit an affidavit of service of that motion. On 8 February 1995, he filed a motion for the reconsideration of the denial.

Meanwhile, on 20 December 1994, the private respondent filed with the MTC a motion for the issuance of a writ of execution. 6 In its order of 19 January 1995, the MTC deferred action on the said motion and required the petitioner's counsel to inform the court of the status of his petition with this Court. 7 For failure of the petitioner's counsel to comply with the said order, the court issued an order on 7 February 1995 8 granting the issuance of a writ of execution. On 13 February 1995, however, the court received the said counsel's Compliance dated 9 February 1995 9 wherein he informed the court of the petitioner's motion to reconsider this Court's resolution denying the motion for extension of time to file his petition. In the resolution of 8 February 1995, this Court required the respondent to comment on the petition. On 16 February 1995, the petitioner filed with the MTC an Urgent Motion to Stay and/or Suspend Execution. 10This motion was, however, denied 11 on the ground that the writ, having been hand-carried by the private respondent to the office of the sheriff, must have already been implemented and, therefore, the motion to stay or suspend the same has become moot and academic. On 20 March 1995, the sheriff returned the writ of execution with the information that in the presence of a barangay kagawad and barangay residents, he enforced the writ and proclaimed the private respondent asPunong Barangay of Barangay Nilombot, Sta. Barbara, Pangasinan. 12 In view of the issue involved, we resolved to give due course to the petition. The RTC had absolutely no jurisdiction over the appeal interposed by the private respondent from the decision of the MTC. Under paragraph (2), Section 2, subdivision C, Article IX of the Constitution, 13 it is the COMELEC, and not the Regional Trial Courts, that has exclusive jurisdiction over all contests involving elective barangay officials decided by courts of limited jurisdiction, which are the Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts. 14 In Flores vs. Commission on Elections, 15 this Court struck out as unconstitutional that portion of Section 9 of R.A. No. 6679 vesting upon the Regional Trial Courts appellate jurisdiction over such cases. The private respondent should have appealed the decision of the MTC to the COMELEC; the MTC should not have given due course to the appeal; and the RTC should have dismissed outright the appeal for want of jurisdiction. In accepting the appeal and deciding the case on its merits, the respondent judge manifested either ignorance or palpable disregard of the aforesaid constitutional provision and decision. It must be noted that a judge is presumed to know the constitutional limits of the authority or jurisdiction of his court. He is called upon to exhibit more than just a cursory acquaintance with the laws; it is imperative that he be conversant with basic legal principles. 16 Canon 4 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics requires that a judge should be "studious of the principles of the law." Thus, if the respondent judge were only aware of the aforementioned constitutional provision and decision, he would have cut short the journey of a very simple case and put an end to the litigation. What this Court stated in Aducayen vs. Flores 17 deserves reiteration: Nor is this all that has to be said. There is need, it does seem, to caution anew judges of inferior courts, which according to the Constitution refer to all those outside this Tribunal, to exercise greater care in the discharge of their judicial functions. They are called upon to

exhibit more than just a cursory acquaintance with statutes and procedural rules. Moreover, while it becomes hourly difficult to keep abreast of our ever-increasing decisions, a modicum of effort should be exerted by them not to lag too far behind. Nor is it too much to expect that they betray awareness of well-settled and authoritative doctrines. If such were the case, then resort to us would be less frequent. That way our time could be devoted to questions of greater significance. Not only that, there would be on the part of party litigants less expense and greater faith in the administration of justice, if there be a belief on their part that the occupants of the bench cannot justly be accused of an apparent deficiency in their grasp of legal principles. Such an indictment unfortunately cannot just be dismissed as a manifestation of chronic fault-finding. The situation thus calls for a more conscientious and diligent approach to the discharge of judicial functions to avoid the imputation that there is on the part of a number of judges less than full and adequate comprehension of the law. WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED. The challenged decision of 31 August 1994 of Branch 42 of the Regional Trial Court of Dagupan City and its order of 25 November 1994 denying the petitioner's motion for reconsideration are hereby SET ASIDE and ANNULLED for lack of jurisdiction on the part of the said court to entertain and decide the appeal. The decision of 27 May 1994 of the Municipal Trial Court of Sta. Barbara, Pangasinan, is hereby declared final for failure of the private respondent to appeal the same before the proper forum, and the writ of execution to enforce the decision of the Regional Trial Court is hereby SET ASIDE and ANNULLED. Costs against the private respondent. SO ORDERED. Padilla, Bellosillo, Kapunan and Hermosisima, Jr., JJ., concur.

Footnotes 1 Annex "1" of Comment; Rollo, 91. 2 Annex "2," Id.; Id., 95. 3 Annex "3," Id.; Id., 102. 4 Annex "5," Id.; Id., 113. 5 Annex "6" of Comment; Rollo, 117. 6 Annex "9," Id.; Id., 122. 7 Annex "10," Id.; Id., 123. 8 Annex "11," Id.; Id., 124. 9 Annex "14" of Comment; Rollo, 127. 10 Annex "16," Id.; Id., 133.

11 Annex "17, " Id.; Id., 135. 12 Annex "13," Id.; Id., 126. 13 It provides: Sec. 2 The Commission on Elections shall exercise the following powers and functions: xxx xxx xxx (2) Exercise exclusive . . . appellate jurisdiction over all contests involving elective municipal officials decided by trial courts of general jurisdiction, or involving elective barangay officials decided by trial courts of limited jurisdiction. 14 Record of the Constitutional Commission, vol. 1, 644. 15 184 SCRA 484 [1990]. 16 Estoya vs. Abraham-Singson, 237 SCRA 1 [1994], citing several cases. 17 51 SCRA 78, 83 [1973].