Saint Louis University vs Cobarrubias G.R. No. 187104, August 3, 2010

Facts:

For failing to comply with the Collective Bargaining Agreement of the Respondent with the Petitioner, The Petitioner suspends the respondent for one semester,

To reverse the imposed forced leave, Cobarrubias sought recourse from the CBA’s grievance machinery. Despite the conferences held, the parties still failed to settle their dispute, prompting Cobarrubias to file a case for illegal forced leave or illegal suspension with the National Conciliation and Mediation Board of the Department of Labor and Employment, When circulation and mediation again failed, the parties submitted the issues between them for voluntary arbitration before Voluntary Arbitrator (VA).

VA dismissed the case. He noted that the CBA clearly authorized SLU to place its teaching employees on forced leave when they fail in the evaluation for three (3) years within a five-year period, without a distinction on whether the three years fall within one or two CBA periods.

Cobarrubias filed with the CA a petition for review under Rule 43 of the Rules of Court, but failed to pay the required filing fees and to attach to the petition copies of the material portions of the record. The CA dismissed the petition outright for Cobarrubias’ procedural lapses. Cobarrubias received the CA resolution, dismissing her petition filed her motion for reconsideration, arguing that the ground cited is technical. She, nonetheless, attached to her motion copies of the material portions of the record and the postal money orders for ₱4,230.00. She maintained that the ends of justice and fair play are better served if the case is decided on its merits.

The CA reinstated the petition. It found that Cobarrubias substantially complied with the rules by paying the appeal fee in full and attaching the proper documents in her motion for reconsideration. SLU insisted that the VA decision had already attained finality for Cobarrubias’ failure to pay the docket fees on time. When the CA denied the motion for reconsideration that followed, SLU filed the present petition for review on certiorari.

Hence this case.

Issue:

Whether the CA erred in reinstating Cobarrubias’ petition despite her failure to pay the appeal fee within the reglementary period, and in reversing the VA decision.

Held:

Yes, Appeal is not a natural right but a mere statutory privilege, thus, appeal must be made strictly in accordance with the provision set by law. Rule 43 of the Rules of Court provides that appeals from the judgment of the VA shall be taken to the CA, by filing a petition for review within fifteen (15) days from the receipt of the notice of judgment. Furthermore, upon the filing of the petition, the petitioner shall pay to the CA clerk of court the docketing and other lawful fees; non-compliance with the procedural requirements shall be a sufficient ground for the petition’s dismissal. Thus, payment in full of docket fees within the prescribed period is not only mandatory, but also jurisdictional. It is an essential requirement, without which, the decision appealed from would become final and executory as if no appeal has been filed.

Exceptions to the Rule on Payment of Appellate Court Docket Fees

Procedural rules do not exist for the convenience of the litigants; the rules were established primarily to provide order to and enhance the efficiency of our judicial system. While procedural rules are liberally construed, the provisions on reglementary periods are strictly applied, indispensable as they are to the prevention of needless delays, and are necessary to the orderly and speedy discharge of judicial business.

Viewed in this light, procedural rules are not to be belittled or dismissed simply because their non-observance may have prejudiced a party’s substantive rights; like all rules, they are required to be followed. However, there are recognized exceptions to their strict observance, such as:

  • (1) most persuasive and weighty reasons;
  • (2) to relieve a litigant from an injustice not commensurate with his failure to comply with the prescribed procedure;
  • (3) good faith of the defaulting party by immediately paying within a reasonable time from the time of the default;
  • (4) the existence of special or compelling circumstances;
  • (5) the merits of the case;
  • (6) a cause not entirely attributable to the fault or negligence of the party favored by the suspension of the rules;
  • (7) a lack of any showing that the review sought is merely frivolous and dilatory;
  • (8) the other party will not be unjustly prejudiced thereby;
  • (9) fraud, accident, mistake or excusable negligence without the appellant’s fault; (10) peculiar, legal and equitable circumstances attendant to each case;
  • (11) in the name of substantial justice and fair play;
  • (12) importance of the issues involved; and
  • (13) exercise of sound discretion by the judge, guided by all the attendant circumstances.

Thus, there should be an effort, on the part of the party invoking liberality, to advance a reasonable or meritorious explanation for his/her failure to comply with the rules.

2 thoughts on “Saint Louis University vs Cobarrubias G.R. No. 187104, August 3, 2010

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