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504 Phil. 672

SECOND DIVISION

[ G.R. NO. 137881, August 19, 2005 ]

ISAAC DELGADO AND FERNANDO DELGADO, PETITIONERS, VS. COURT OF APPEALS, ZACARIAS LIMPANGOG, REMEGIO LAGUNA, SANTIAGO BALORO, CAMILO EVANGELISTA, NEMESIO AMORES AND RUSTICO RUIZO, RESPONDENTS.

R E S O L U T I O N

AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.:

For resolution is petitioners' motion for reconsideration of the Court's Decision[1] dated December 21, 2004, which dismissed petitioners' petition assailing the Resolutions of the Court of Appeals (CA) dated November 18, 1998, which outrightly dismissed CA-G.R. SP No. 49074 on the ground of insufficiency of form and substance; and, March 4, 1999, denying petitioners' motion for reconsideration.

Let us revisit the antecedents that brought the instant case to the fore.

On July 27, 1998, private respondents filed a complaint for Reinstatement with Damages against petitioners before the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (PARAB), Tacloban City, docketed as Reg. Case No. 08-023-88.

They alleged that: in 1962, they became tenants of petitioners on a parcel of riceland situated at Barangay Tabunok, Palompon, Leyte; after the effectivity of Presidential Decree No. 27 on October 21, 1972, Certificates of Land Transfer (CLTs), were issued to them as qualified beneficiaries on their respective portion of the riceland; in 1987, the DAR issued to the private respondents their Emancipation Patents (EPs) covering their respective portion; the issuance of EPs, in their respective names, is a recognition of the fact that they are the de jure tenants on the subject land but they cannot exercise their rights of possession and cultivation thereon because petitioners are preventing them from doing so.

In their Answer dated December 27, 1998, petitioners denied private respondents right over the parcel of riceland, claiming that private respondents Remegio Laguna, Camilo Evangelista and Rustico Ruizo abandoned their cultivation in 1971 and returned only in 1987 while private respondents Zacarias Limpangog, Santiago Baloro and Nemesio Amores left their respective tillage in 1984 after they received P3,000.00 plus 6 months palay harvest. They further argued that private respondents acquired their respective CLTs and EPs fraudulently and in bad faith. Finally, they alleged that the action should be dismissed on the ground of res judicata since private respondents filed on June 18, 1987 the same case for Reinstatement with Damages before the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 17, Palompon, Leyte, but it was dismissed on June 28, 1988.

On July 27, 1993, the PARAB rendered a decision adverse to the petitioners, finding private respondents as lawful tenant-beneficiaries and owners of the subject riceland.

Upon petitioners' motion for reconsideration, the PARAB, on February 9, 1994, modified its previous decision and declared that private respondents have abandoned their rights and obligations relative to the subject riceland by virtue of the prior dismissal of the action in the RTC.

On appeal, the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB), in its decision dated January 9, 1998, held that private respondents did not abandon the possession and cultivation of the subject riceland; set aside the challenged order dated February 9, 1994; and reinstated and affirmed the decision dated July 27, 1993 issued by the PARAB.

Dissatisfied, petitioners filed a petition for review with the CA, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 49074, which was dismissed outright in a Resolution dated November 18, 1998 for being insufficient in form and substance as (a) the Verification and Certification of non-forum shopping is signed by counsel, not by the parties; (b) there are no affidavit of service and explanation on mode of service; and, (c) the copy of the assailed decision attached as Annex "A" is a mere xerox copy.

Petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration but it was denied in the Resolution dated March 4, 1999. The CA held that there was no attempt on the part of the petitioners to rectify the above-mentioned insufficiencies; that although in their Supplement to Motion for Reconsideration, petitioners attempted to comply with the verification and certification on non-forum shopping requirements, only Fernando signed the same; and that the petition for review was not accompanied by pleadings and other material portions of the records as would support the allegations of the petitions.

On petition for review on certiorari, the Court, in its assailed Decision dated December 21, 2004, held that the petition is not meritorious since petitioners failed to attach the pertinent pleadings and other material portions of the records that would support the allegations of the petition and their motion for reconsideration. The CA would have been able to determine whether the petition deserved to be given due course if the required attachments were appended to the petition or in the motion for reconsideration.

The Court further held that, in any case, even if petitioners' procedural faux pas is disregarded, the assailed Decision dated January 9, 1998 of the DARAB is correct because the dismissal by the RTC, Branch 17, Palompon, Leyte was without prejudice and did not amount to res judicata; and that private respondents are not guilty of abandonment as they filed the proper case with the PARAB.

Dissatisfied, petitioners filed the present motion for reconsideration on the following grounds:
I

THE LAPSES SPECIFIED BY THE COURT OF APPEALS WHICH BECAME THE GROUND FOR THE DISMISSAL OF THE PETITION FOR CERTIORARI MAY BE JUSTIFIED.

II

SUPERVENING EVENTS THAT MAY AFFECT THE MERITS OF THE CASE ENSUED DURING THE PENDENCY OF THE CASE AT BAR BEFORE THE HONORABLE TRIBUNAL.[2]
Anent the first ground, petitioners contend that the verification in their petition was signed by counsel because the petitioners reside in Palompon, Leyte and not financially well off to commute to Manila, while the verification in their motion for reconsideration was signed only by Fernando because Isaac died after the case was filed. As to the matter of explanation on mode of service, they aver that the requirement was newly implemented by the Court in 1988 when the petition was filed in the CA. As to the xerox copy of the DARAB Decision dated January 9, 1998 attached to the petition, they aver that it was the original copy received by counsel from the DARAB. Petitioners thus invoke liberal construction of the rules.

As to the second ground, petitioners contend that supervening events overtook the instant case when: on January 31, 2002, the Application for Retention of petitioners under P.D. No. 27 and Republic Act No. 6657 was granted by the Regional Director, DAR, Tacloban City; on March 14, 2003, a Certificate of Retention was issued by the DAR, Region VIII, Tacloban City; a Decision dated December 12, 2003 was rendered by DARAB, Tanghas, Tolosa, Leyte granting the cancellation of the EPs that were previously awarded to the private respondents; for failure of the private respondents to interpose an appeal therein, the decision became final and executory; on July 2, 2004, a Writ of Execution was issued by the DARAB.

In their Opposition/Comment,[3] private respondents insist that the arguments raised in the motion for reconsideration are but a rehash of those raised in the petition and memorandum which have been exhaustively and fully adjudicated by the Court. Moreover, they point out that the decision of the Court delved not only on the procedural aspects of the petition but also on the merits of the case. As to the alleged supervening events, private respondents submit that the supervening events do not affect in any manner the instant case and are simply meant to harass the private respondents.

On the first ground, it is noted that in its assailed decision, the Court did not pass upon petitioners' arguments with regard to the defects in verification, explanation on mode of service and the xerox copy of the DARAB decision. This was so because the Court considered that petitioners have substantially complied with the requirements of the Rules in these aspects.

However, the Court could not simply excuse and disregard petitioners' failure to attach the necessary pleadings, such as the Motion for Reconsideration dated January 31, 1998 of the DARAB Decision dated January 9, 1998, the PARAB Order dated February 9, 1994, the PARAB Decision dated July 27, 1993, the DARAB Resolution dated June 29, 1998, the Complaint for Reinstatement with Damages dated May 27, 1987, the Reply on the Complaint, and the Motion for Reconsideration of the PARAB Decision dated July 27, 1993.

It must be remembered that liberal construction of the Rules may be invoked in situations wherein there may be some excusable formal deficiency or error in a pleading, provided that the same does not subvert the essence of the proceeding and connotes at least a reasonable attempt at compliance with the Rules. Utter disregard of the Rules cannot justly be rationalized by harking on the policy of liberal construction.[4]

In this case, petitioners' failure to attach the aforementioned documents was fatal to the determination of the merits of their case. As the Court stressed in the assailed decision, and worth repeating here, that if the required attachments were appended to the petition or in the motion for reconsideration, the CA would have been able to determine whether the petition deserved to be given due course.

And more importantly, even if the Court disregarded petitioners' procedural faux pas, the petition is not meritorious as the dismissal by RTC, Branch 17, Palompon, Leyte was without prejudice and did not amount to res judicata, and private respondents are not guilty of abandonment as they filed the proper case with the PARAB. Significantly, in their motion for reconsideration, petitioners did not assail the Court's ruling on the merits of their petition.

As to the second ground, the grant to petitioners of a Certificate of Retention on March 14, 2003 and the finality of the DARAB Decision dated December 12, 2003 in DARAB Case No. R-0801-082-01 are not in the nature of a "supervening event" insofar as the decision of the Court is concerned. A supervening event would arise if an event occurs AFTER the decision which would nullify, or render impossible or inequitable, enforcement thereof. In this case, these events occurred during the pendency of the case before this Court. All the while, petitioners and the private respondents did not manifest or inform the Court of these incidents which brought about a complete change to the scenario. For failure to report to the Court the DARAB decision which became final and executory and from which the DARAB issued a writ of execution on July 2, 2004, or five months before the Decision of the Court in this case was promulgated, parties should be admonished for wasting the time, energy and resources of the Court.

At any rate, the Court finds that there is no longer any actual case or controversy between the parties insofar as their respective rights are concerned. Their rights were settled by the Decision on December 12, 2003 of the DARAB in DARAB Case No. R-0801-082-01,[5] the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered and based on substantial evidence, decision is hereby rendered finding and declaring the Retention Order issued by the DAR Regional Director on January 31, 2002 consisting of 50,000 square meters of Riceland designated as Psu-08-00579 (OLT) later delineated as Lot 2, Psu-081-006927 (AR) valid; declaring said Retention Order dated January 31, 2002 final and executory; declaring that the DAR Regional Director has the authority and jurisdiction to hear and resolve application for retention pursuant to E.O. No. 229, E.O. No. 129-A and R.A. 6657; declaring EP No. A-045451, OCT No. OE-1183 in the name of Nemesio T. Amores; EP No. A-045453, OCT No. OE-1184 in the name of Rustico Ruizo; EP No. A-045799, OCT No. OE-1186 in the name of Zacarias Limpangog; EP No. A-045800, OCT No. OE-1189 in the name of Remegio Laguna; EP No. A-045798, OCT No. OE-1192 in the name of Camilo Evangelista; EP No. A-045796, OCT No. OE-1193 in the name of Santiago Baloro; EP No. A-068768, OCT No. 6776 in the name of Pascual Calves; EP No. A-045452, OCT No. OE-1185 in the name of Francisco Majadas; EP No. A-045454, OCT No. OE-1188 in the name of Macario Evangelista; EP No. A-045797 without OCT in the name of Arsenio Demelletes; EP No. A-067594, OCT No. OE-6272 in the name of Regalado Evangelista; and EP Nos. A-125985, A-125984 and A-125983 without OCT all in the name of Bonifacio Bentoy; represented by his wife Sevilla Bentoy, null and void; ordering all said private respondents or their heirs or representative to surrender their respective EPs enumerated above to the Register of Deeds (ROD) Province of Leyte with office address at MacArthur Park, Palo, Leyte and for said ROD to cancel the said EPs and spread in its record books said cancellation; Ordering the Operations Division DAR Provincial Office, Tanghas, Tolosa, Leyte to spread in its records the cancellation of the above-mentioned effect; Ordering the Provincial Assessors of Leyte and the Municipal Assessors of Palompon, Leyte to cancel the tax declaration of the lots awarded to all private respondents and reinstate the tax declarations of the estate of Isaac Delgado; ordering the petitioners heirs and successors of deceased Isaac Delgado to maintain private respondents in the second petition namely: Pascual Galves, Francisco Majadas, Macario Evangelista, Arsenio Demelletes, Regalado Evangelista and Bonifacio Bentoy (deceased) represented by wife Sevilla Bentoy in peaceful possession and cultivation of their respective lots pursuant to paragraph (2), dispositive portion of the Order dated January 31, 2002 in DAR Case No. A-0800-0243-99; as to private respondents Zacarias Limpangog, Remegio Laguna, Santiago Baloro, Camilo Evangelista, Nemesio Amores and Rustico Ruizo, they should likewise be maintained in peaceful possession pursuant to said Order dated January 31, 2002 in DAR Case No. R-0800-0243-99 without prejudice to the outcome of the case between them and petitioners before the Supreme Court docketed as G.R. No. 137881 (C.A. - G.R. No. 49070[6]) and ordering private respondents Pascual Galvez, Francisco Majadas, Macario Evangelista, Arsenio Demelletes, Regalado Evangelista and Bonifacio Bentoy (deceased) represented by his wife Sevilla Bentoy to pay rentals of their respective cultivation to the petitioners; as to private respondents Zacarias Limpangog, Remegio Laguna, Santiago Baloro, Camilo Evangelista, Nemesio Amores and Rustico Ruizo who are parties in a case against petitioners before the Supreme Court, docketed as G.R. No. 137881 (C.A. G.R. No. 49070) they are also ordered to pay rentals to petitioners of their respective cultivation but without prejudice to the outcome of said case before the Supreme Court.

Without pronouncement as to damages and costs.

SO ORDERED.[7] (Emphasis supplied)
As already stated, the DARAB decision became final and executory for failure of the private respondents to interpose an appeal such that a Writ of Execution was issued by the DARAB on July 2, 2004.[8]

Said final decision rendered moot and academic not only petitioners' petition before this Court but also the decision it rendered on December 21, 2004. Needless to stress, courts exist to decide actual controversies, not to give opinions upon abstract propositions. That a court will not sit for the purpose of trying moot cases and spend its time in deciding questions the resolution of which can not in any way affect the rights of the person or persons presenting them is well settled. Where the issues have become moot and academic, there is no justiciable controversy, thereby rendering the resolution of the same of no practical use or value.[9] As succinctly stated in Gancho-on vs. Secretary of Labor and Employment:[10]
It is a rule of universal application, almost, that courts of justice constituted to pass upon substantial rights will not consider questions in which no actual interests are involved; they decline jurisdiction of moot cases. And where the issue has become moot and academic, there is no justiciable controversy, so that a declaration thereon would be of no practical use or value. There is no actual substantial relief to which petitioners would be entitled and which would be negated by the dismissal of the petition.[11]
WHEREFORE, the instant motion for reconsideration is GRANTED. The Decision dated December 21, 2004 is SET ASIDE. In its stead, a new judgment is rendered DISMISSING the petition for being moot and academic. Moreover, petitioners and private respondents are ADMONISHED for failure to notify this Court of the final DARAB decision dated December 12, 2003.

SO ORDERED.

Puno, Callejo, Tinga, and Chico-Nazario, JJ., concur.



[1] Rollo, p. 118.

[2] Id., p. 134.

[3] Id., p. 176.

[4] Chua vs. Santos, G.R. No. 132467, October 18, 2004, 440 SCRA 365, 376; Santos vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 141947, July 5, 2001, 360 SCRA 521, 528.

[5] Entitled "Hrs. of Isaac Delgado, namely, Vicente, Valentin, Salvador, Fernando, all surnamed Delgado and Julita D. Aro, as represented herein by Fernando Delgado, Petitioners, vs. Zacarias Limpangog, Remegio Laguna, Santiago Baloro, Camilo Evangelista, Nemesio Amores and Rustico Ruizo, and Secretary of Department of Agrarian Reform, and Register of Deeds, Province of Leyte, Public Respondents," for Cancellation of Emancipation Patents.

[6] Should be CA-G.R. No. 49074.

[7] Rollo, pp. 164-166.

[8] Id., p. 167.

[9] AlbaƱa vs. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 163302, July 23, 2004, 435 SCRA 98, 105; Enrile vs. Senate Electoral Tribunal, G.R. No. 132986, May 19, 2004, 428 SCRA 472, 477; Paloma vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 145431, November 11, 2003, 415 SCRA 590, 595.

[10] G.R. No. 108033, April 14, 1997, 271 SCRA 204.

[11] Id., pp. 207-208, cited in Ocampo vs. House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, G.R. No. 158466, June 15, 2004, 432 SCRA 144, 150.

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