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439 Phil. 910

SECOND DIVISION

[ G.R. No. 146658, October 28, 2002 ]

MANUEL D. MELOTINDOS, PETITIONER, VS. MELECIO TOBIAS, REPRESENTED BY JOSEFINA PINEDA, RESPONDENT.

D E C I S I O N

BELLOSILLO, J.:

EIGHTY-SEVEN - year old petitioner, Atty. Manuel D. Melotindos, was the lessee of the ground floor of a house at No. 577 Julio Nakpil Street in Malate, Manila. He had been renting the place since 1953 on a month-to-month basis from its owner, respondent Melecio Tobias, who was then residing in Canada.

Sometime in the last quarter of 1995, owing to his sickly mother who needed constant medical attention and filial care, respondent demanded from petitioner either to pay an increased rate of monthly rentals or else to vacate the place so he and his mother could use the house during her regular medical check-up in Manila. For two (2) years nothing came out of the demand to vacate, hence, in 1997 respondent insisted upon raising the rental fee once again.

On 1 June 1998 respondent asked petitioner to restore the premises to him for some essential repairs of its dilapidated structure. This time he did not offer petitioner anymore the option to pay higher rentals. The renovation of the house was commenced but had to stop midway because petitioner refused to vacate the portion he was occupying and worse he neglected to pay for the lease for four (4) months from May to August 1998. Hence for the second time, or on 19 October 1998, respondent demanded the payment of the rental arrears as well as the restoration of the house to him. On 3 February 1999, since petitioner was insisting on keeping possession of the house but did not pay the rental for January 1999, although he had settled the arrears of four (4) months, respondent was compelled to file a complaint for ejectment docketed as Civil Case No. 162325-CV.

The MeTC-Br. 28 of Manila decided the ejectment complaint in favor of respondent and ordered petitioner to vacate the leased premises and to pay rental arrears in the amount of P60,000.00 as of December 1998 and P6,000.00 for every month thereafter until he finally restored possession thereof to respondent plus attorney's fees of P15,000.00 and the costs of suit.[1] In Civil Case No. 99-94798 the RTC-Br. 30 of Manila upheld in toto the MeTC Decision and denied the subsequent motion for reconsideration for failure to set the date of hearing thereof not later than ten (10) days from its filing.[2] Petitioner's recourse to the Court of Appeals by petition for review docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 58420 was also unsuccessful since the assailed Decision was affirmed in its entirety as the ensuing motion for reconsideration thereof was denied for late filing, i.e., the motion was filed only on 30 October 2000 beyond the fifteen (15) - day period from his receipt of the CA Decision on 9 October 2000 as shown by the registry return receipt.[3]

Petitioner filed the instant petition for review asseverating that the order to eject him from the leased premises was illegal because he was always up to date in paying the rental fee; that it was the obligation of the trial court to extend his lease by five (5) more years citing Art. 1687 of The Civil Code; and that the filing of his motion for reconsideration was not late because his actual receipt of the assailed CA Decision was 16 October 2000 and not the date "9 October 2000" which appears on the registry return receipt.

On 22 August 2001, after respondent filed his Comment, we required petitioner to file his Reply thereto, but instead of filing the required pleading he moved for the issuance of a temporary restraining order to enjoin the enforcement of the MeTC Decision evicting him from the rented house. On 28 November 2001 we denied the motion for lack of merit and reiterated our resolution requiring him to file the Reply. On 1 April 2002, when it was evident that petitioner had no intention of filing the Reply, we required him to show cause why no disciplinary measure should be taken against him for failure to comply with the 22 August 2001 Resolution of this Court. On 27 May 2002 petitioner filed a Manifestation seeking compassion from this Court for his lapses and prayed that the instant petition be "dismissed" without further arguments since it was already moot and academic as a result of his alleged ejectment from the house subject of this case.

To begin with, this Court cannot consider the instant petition for review a done proceeding simply because petitioner has asked for its denial allegedly for having become moot and academic. His present recourse is actually a withdrawal of the appeal which we stress does not happen as a matter of right after a responsive pleading has been filed. Whether an appeal should proceed or not is always a matter of discretion for this Court, and it is not until we have resolved to approve the withdrawal that an appellant is freed from our jurisdiction and excused from filing pleadings otherwise required by the Rules of Court or our resolutions.[4] Hence, in this case, petitioner is in no position to determine for himself that the instant petition has become pointless and for this reason disregard on his own volition the previous resolutions of this Court requiring his Reply to respondent’s Comment. If not for the old age and alleged state of ill health of petitioner, the defiant action exhibited by him would have meted a penalty for being outright contempt of court.

On the merits, we find the assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals already final and executory when it was sought to be reconsidered in the appellate court and when it was brought to our attention by means of the instant petition. The CA record clearly proves that petitioner received the CA Decision on 9 October 2000 as shown by the registry return receipt and that he filed his motion for reconsideration thereof only on 30 October 2000. The motion was obviously filed beyond the fifteen (15) - day reglementary period and did not toll the judgment from becoming final and executory.[5] As such the assailed Decision is past appellate review and constitutes res judicata as to every matter offered and received in the proceedings below as well as to any other matter admissible therein and which might have been offered for that purpose.[6]

Contrary to petitioner's argument, it was not necessary for the Court of Appeals to secure a certification from the postmaster stating with certainty the identity and authority of the person who claimed and received the CA Decision to determine the timeliness of the motion for reconsideration. Our rules of procedure clearly accept the efficacy of the return receipt as proof of service for practical purposes since it explicitly shows the date of receipt as well as the printed name and signature of the receiving agent.[7]

Furthermore, the rollo contradicts petitioner's disclaimer of the authority of the recipient of the CA Decision as appearing on the return receipt since according to petitioner he had not authorized anyone to receive legal mail matters in his behalf. As shown by the several return receipts in our possession, petitioner has been receiving our resolutions through persons other than himself and there has been no instance where he failed to receive our processes except for one occasion where the mail matter itself was returned unserved to this Court.[8] Verily, as between petitioner's unsubstantiated denial and the positive assertion of a postal official whose duty is to send mail matters, the choice is not difficult for us since his uncorroborated denial cannot prevail over the contrary statement of a postal official who further has the presumption in his favor that official duty was regularly performed.[9]

While it is true that service of a copy of the decision upon a person who is neither a clerk nor one in charge of the attorney's office is invalid,[10] petitioner has not shown by any means that the recipient of the CA Decision was disqualified to do so. The futility of petitioner's disclaimer holds true all the more when it is noted that he admitted taking delivery of the same copy of the CA Decision served on 9 October 2000 although he claims that he actually obtained it only on 16 October 2000. Moreover, other than his bare denial, petitioner has made no attempt to explain in any way the facts appearing on the return receipt that on 9 October 2000 someone effortlessly claimed and received in his behalf the CA Decision and boldly signed the return receipt, an official document, to indicate acceptance thereof. Neither did petitioner present the person who signed the return receipt to disown any authority to receive the Decision in petitioner's behalf although he could have easily accomplished this offer of evidence.

In any event there is nothing in the instant petition which would have compelled this Court to reverse the assailed Decision. It is not only the evidence on record but petitioner's pleadings themselves that confirm his default in paying the rental fees for more than three (3) months in 1999 and 1998 prior to the filing of the ejectment complaint. There is also sufficient basis for the courts a quo to conclude that respondent desperately needed the property in good faith for his own family and for the repair and renovation of the house standing thereon. These facts represent legal grounds to eject a tenant.

We also find no merit in the argument that Art. 1687 of The Civil Code[11] applies to grant petitioner an extension of his lease term. It bears stressing that Art. 1687 does not grant a lessee an absolute right to an extension of the lease term but merely gives the courts the discretion to allow additional time for the lessee to prepare for his eventual ejection.[12] In the instant case we agree with the courts a quo that petitioner's old age and length of his occupancy of the house alone are not just grounds for granting the extension of lease because these circumstances by themselves do not give him the equitable right to insist upon staying on the premises as long as he could pay the rentals. The record plainly illustrates, for example, that he made no substantial or additional improvements on the house which could have hampered his transfer to another residence. We also concur with the observation of the Court of Appeals that petitioner had been effectively granted an extension of five (5) years when respondent did not assiduously pursue the several demands made in 1995 and 1996 for him to return possession of the leased premises until the ejectment complaint was filed in 1999, and significantly we add that he was evicted from the premises in accordance with the MeTC Decision only in 2002. That period of delay is more than enough.[13]

It has been said that pity makes our weakness weaker. As a lawyer, petitioner should have known better that seniority in age does not authorize us to ride roughshod over the reputable proprietary right of respondent. Notwithstanding his repeated references to his courageous defiance of mother time in his private practice of law, a fact perhaps remarkable, this simple ejectment case as any other case turns upon sensible not blind compassion where the party has to his favor the tilt of equity and law. Our chief resource in resolving cases is legal reasoning and no amount of plea for charitable dole-outs will replace the reckoning of the rule of law. This Court has said long ago: "The law furnishes no protection to the inferior simply because he is inferior, any more than it protects the strong because he is strong. The law furnishes protection to both alike - to one no more or less than to the other. It makes no distinction between the wise and the foolish, the great and the small, the strong and the weak x x x x There must be, in addition, a violation of law, the commission of what the law knows as an actionable wrong, before the courts are authorized to lay hold of the situation and remedy it."[14]

WHEREFORE, the Petition for Review is DENIED for lack of merit. The assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 58420, "Manuel D. Melotindos v. Melecio Tobias, represented by Josefina B. Pineda, his authorized representative," is AFFIRMED in toto. In accordance with the Decision dated 28 June 1999 of MeTC-Br. 28 of Manila in Civil Case No. 162325-CV, as affirmed in toto by RTC-Br. 30 of Manila in Civil Case No. 99-94798 and by the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 58420, petitioner Atty. Manuel D. Melotindos and all persons claiming right under him are ORDERED to vacate the leased premises if they have not done so yet and petitioner Atty. Manuel D. Melotindos is also ORDERED to pay rental arrears in the amount of P60,000.00 as of December 1998 and P6,000.00 for every month thereafter until he finally restores possession thereof to respondent Melecio Tobias represented by Josefina B. Pineda, unless the judgment debt has already been paid, plus attorney’s fees of P15,000.00 and the costs of suit. The Manifestation  of petitioner Melotindos in response to our "show cause" Resolution dated 1 April 2002 is NOTED.

SO ORDERED.

Mendoza and Quisumbing, JJ., concur.
Austria-Martinez, J
., on leave.
Callejo, Sr., J.
, no part. Ponente in CA-G.R. SP No. 58420.



[1] Decision dated 28 June 1999 penned by Judge Marlene Gonzales-Sison.

[2] Decision dated 24 January 2000 penned by Judge Senecio O. Ortile; Order dated 31 March 2000.

[3] Decision promulgated on 29 September 2000 penned by then Associate Justice Romeo J. Callejo, Sr., now Associate Justice of this Court, and concurred in by Associate Justices Martin S. Villarama, Jr. and Juan Q. Enriquez, Jr. of the Seventeenth Division.

[4] See Sec. 3, Rule 50, 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.

[5] Id., Sec. 1, Rule 52.

[6] Id., Sec. 47, Rule 39.

[7] Secs. 9 and 13, Rule 13, 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.

[8] Rollo, p. 181.

[9] Cortes v. Valdellon, No. L-40891, April 30, 1976, 70 SCRA 556.

[10] Adamson v. Adamson, G.R. No. 86819, November 9, 1989, 179 SCRA 279.

[11] The provision reads: “If the period for the lease has not been fixed, it is understood to be from year to year, if the rent agreed upon is annual; from month to month, if it is monthly; from week to week, if the rent is weekly; and from day to day, if the rent is to be paid daily. However, even though a monthly rent is paid, and no period for the lease has been set, the courts may fix a longer term for the lease after the lessee has occupied the premises for over one year. If the rent is weekly, the Court may likewise determine a longer period after the lessee has been in possession for over six months. In case of daily rent, the court may also fix a longer period after the lessee has stayed in the place for over one month.”

[12] Acasio v. Corp. de los PP Dominicos de Filipinas, 100 Phil. 523 (1956).

[13] Chua v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 140886, 19 April 2001.

[14] Vales vs. Villa, 35 Phil. 769 (1916).

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