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383 Phil. 500


[ G.R. No. 139288, February 28, 2000 ]




Petitioner, Leonida S. Romero, is a Budget Officer II at the Department of Agriculture, Regional Office No. 1, San Fernando City.

On 07 December 1980, petitioner, claiming to be the daughter of a veteran during the last war, applied for and availed herself of Veterans Preference Rating ("VPR") of 10% to secure a permanent status for her appointment in the government. Upon compliance with the basic requirements therefor and the submission of the necessary documents in support of the application, petitioner was granted a Career Service Professional Eligibility and later appointed on permanent status at the Department of Agriculture regional office.

Following numerous reports reaching public respondent Civil Service Commission that a number of parents claimed by VPR availees might not actually be veterans, the Commission temporarily suspended the program. When the suspension was lifted, a re-evaluation was conducted on the grant of the 10% VPR. On 16 September 1993, Philippine Veterans Affairs Office ("PVAO") submitted a report on the results of a revalidation of its records. The name of Pedro H. Soliven, the father of petitioner, was in the list of unconfirmed names.

The Civil Service Commission, in its resolution No. 95-5057 of 17 August 1995, found a prima facie case against petitioner. The latter was formally charged with Dishonesty and Falsification of Official Documents in the same resolution. In her answer to the charge, petitioner denied all allegations of dishonesty and averred that the certification issued by the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office in Manila (PVAO-4 Form No. 21132 A), dated 10 February 1987, was not a misrepresentation but an official document duly issued by PVAO. Petitioner likewise presented before the Commission documents to prove her filiation. During the clarificatory hearing that followed, Emma M. Cierva, PVAO Records Officer III, submitted a certification, dated 27 February 1997, to the following effect; viz:
"THIS IS TO CERTIFY that after a re-verification of available records in this Office, the name SOLIVEN, PEDRO T. appears in the Approved Revised Reconstructed Guerilla Roster (ARRGR) of 1948 as Pvt. of G Co., USAFIP-NL and Philippine Veterans Bank Listing."[1]
The Commission, on further examination of the records, observed that the complete name of petitioner’s father was Pedro Hadloc Soliven. In view of what appeared to be a discrepancy, the Commission again sought clarification from PVAO whether the name of Pedro H. Soliven was in its list of veterans. In response to the query, Records Officer Cierva wrote a letter, bearing date of 30 October 1997, stating -
"For your information and guidance, the name SOLIVEN, PEDRO H. is not carried in the Approved Revised Reconstructed Guerilla Roster of 1948 nor a record of any approved claim (sic). Only SOLIVEN, PEDRO T. appears in the same Roster under G Co., USAFIP-NL. (Italics ours)."[2]
The CSC thereupon coordinated with the Records Management and Archives Office (RMAO) in Manila and requested for available documents about Pedro H. Soliven and Pedro T. Soliven. In a letter, dated 04 May 1998, Teresita R. Ignacio, Chief, Archives Division, RMAO, wrote
"In connection with your letter of April 6, 1998 re: birth record of PEDRO H. SOLIVEN we regret to inform you that the document requested is not available in our files.

"x x x  x x x  x x x

"NOTE: Register of Births for Sta. Lucia, Ilocos Sur on file with this Office are inclusive only of 1922-1932. What we can issue in this regard is a certificate of non-availability. About PEDRO T. SOLIVEN, we can not furnish you a copy of the said document if you cannot provide us the informations needed."[3]
The Civil Service Commission in its Resolution No. 982860, dated 04 November 1998, ultimately held petitioner Leonida S. Romero guilty of Dishonesty and Falsification of Official Documents. Thus:
"In as much as the documents on record show that the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) has only the record of Pedro T. Soliven and none of Pedro H. Soliven, respondent’s father, Romero failed to controvert the fact that the VPR Certificate she used was spurious and that she is not entitled to such veteran preference rating since her father is not a veteran. In the absence of satisfactory explanation, any person who is found in possession of or who used a forged document is the forger or one who caused the forgery (People vs. Cabagnot, 300 SCRA 993 and Alarcon vs. CA, 19 SCRA 681).

"WHEREFORE, Leonida S. Romero is hereby found guilty of Dishonesty and Falsification of Official Documents. Accordingly, she is meted out the penalty of dismissal with all the accessory penalties."[4]
Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration but the same was denied by the Commission in its Resolution No. 990601 of 09 March 1999.

Aggrieved, petitioner filed her petition for review before the Court of Appeals. The petition, however, was outrightly dismissed by the Court of Appeals in its resolution of 18 May 1999 on the following grounds:
"Upon examination of the petitioner’s urgent Motion for Extension of Time to file Petition for Review, and the Petition for Review itself, and it appearing that --

It does not contain a statement of the specific material date, showing when the petitioner actually received a copy of Civil Service Commission Resolution No. 982860 (Annex C of the Petition), dated November 4, 1998, which will thus enable this Court to determine whether the petitioner seasonably filed her motion for reconsideration thereof;
The Petition does not spell out the grounds relied upon for the review; and
The copy of Resolution No. 955057 (Annex G of the Petition), dated August 17, 1995, is not a properly certified true copy thereof, in violation of Supreme Court Administrative Circular No. 3-96, dated April 17, 1996 to wit:

"x x x  x x x  x x x

"All these in violation of Sections 6 and 7, Rule 43 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, to wit:
"‘Sec. 6. Contents of the petition. -- The petition for review shall (a) state the full names of the parties to the case, without impleading the court or agencies either as petitioners or respondents; (b) contain a concise statement of the facts and issues involved and the grounds relied upon for the review; (c) be accompanied by a clearly legible duplicate original or a certified true copy of the award, judgment, final order or resolution appealed from, together with certified true copies of such material portions of the record referred to therein and other supporting papers; and (d) contain a sworn certification against forum-shopping as provided in the last paragraph of Section 2, Rule 42. The petition shall state the specific material dates showing that it was filed within the period fixed herein.’

S"‘Sec. 7. Effect of failure to comply with requirements. -- The failure of the petitioner to comply with any of the foregoing requirements regarding the payment of the docket and other lawful fees, the deposit for costs, proof of service of the petition, and the contents of and the documents which should accompany the petition shall be sufficient ground for the dismissal thereof.’"[5]
Petitioner’s motion for reconsideration was denied by the appellate court in its Resolution of 17 June 1999.

Hence, this petition, asseverating -
That the Honorable Court of Appeals abused its judicial discretion in denying petitioner/appellant’s Motion for Reconsideration;
That the respondent/appellee made a reversible error in finding the petitioner/appellant guilty of the offenses charged and which were not supported by any material evidence on record."[6]
It would appear that petitioner has spelled out, basically adequate, the grounds relied upon for the review of her petition before the Court of Appeals. This Court will thus limit itself to the first and third reasons for the outright dismissal by the appellate court of the appeal of petitioner.

Petitioner was faulted for her failure to state in her petition before the Court of Appeals the date when she actually received a copy of Civil Service Commission Resolution No. 982860, dated 04 November 1998, which had declared her guilty of dishonesty and falsification of official documents, that could enable the appellate court to determine whether or not petitioner was able to seasonably file her motion for reconsideration with the Civil Service Commission.

Evidently, the motion seeking the reconsideration of Civil Service Commission Resolution No. 982860 was given due course. Indeed, it was resolved on the merits by the Civil Service Commission. It could be fairly assumed that petitioner timely filed her motion for reconsideration with the Commission on time for, otherwise, the motion would have been dismissed on that ground. It might be stressed, furthermore, that the rule to the effect that "the petition shall state the specific material dates showing that it was filed within the period fixed herein," should be taken to refer more particularly to the date of receipt of the award, judgment, final order or resolution appealed from for the purpose of determining whether or not the appeal or petition was seasonably brought up to the appellate body or tribunal.

Relative to the third ground, i.e., that the copy of Resolution No. 955057, dated 17 August 1995, is not a properly certified true copy, it should be pointed out that Resolution No. 955057 constitutes, by its nature, more as the formal charge against petitioner Leonida Romero rather than the "decision" of the Commission appealed from. There is no dispute about the existence of this particular piece of document, the contents of which have, in fact, been quoted in the decision (Resolution No. 990601) of the Civil Service Commission sought by petitioner to be reviewed before the appellate court. apdc

At all events, justifications could exist to warrant a liberal application of the rules. In one case,[7] petitioner therein, a public school teacher, was meted the penalty of six (6) months suspension by the Civil Service Commission for allegedly participating in the mass action/illegal strike of teachers. Unsatisfied, said petitioner filed a petition for review under Rule 45 with the Court of Appeals which petition, however, was outrightly dismissed for being an inappropriate remedy or wrong mode of appeal pursuant to then Circular No. 2-90; viz:
"(4) Erroneous Appeals - An appeal taken to either the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeals by the wrong or inappropriate mode shall be dismissed."
On appeal to this Court, the appellate court was directed to reinstate the petition. The Court stressed that the Circular should be so interpreted and applied as to attain, not defeat, the ultimate purpose of the rules of procedure to achieve substantial justice.[8] It explained:
"More importantly, the appeal on its face appears to be impressed with merit. Hence, the Court of Appeals should have overlooked the insubstantial defects of the petition. x x x There is indeed nothing sacrosanct about procedural rules, which should be liberally construed in order to promote their object and assist the parties in obtaining just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action or proceeding. As it has been said, where the rigid application of the rules would frustrate substantial justice, or bar the vindication of a legitimate grievance, the courts are justified in exempting a particular case from the operation of the rules."[9]
In this instance, petitioner has been in the government service for more than twenty (20) years without any previous adverse record against her. Along with the severity of the penalty imposed on her, i.e., dismissal from the service with all the accessory penalties, it is the considered view of this Court that there exist sound reasons to here justify the liberal spirit of the rules to pervade. Once again, the Court reiterates its observation in Nerves vs. Civil Service Commission (citing A-One Feeds, Inc. vs. Court of Appeals, 100 SCRA 590):
"Litigations should, as much as possible, be decided on the merits and not on technicality. Dismissal of appeals purely on technical grounds is frowned upon, and the rules of procedure ought not to be applied in a very rigid, technical sense, for they are adopted to help secure, not override, substantial justice and thereby defeat their very aims. As has been the constant ruling of this Court, every party litigant should be afforded the amplest opportunity for the proper and just determination of his cause, free from the constraints of technicalities."
WHEREFORE, the Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 52742, dated 18 May 1999, which outrightly dismissed the petition, and its Resolution of 17 June 1999, which denied the motion for reconsideration, are SET ASIDE. The petition is reinstated and the case is remanded to the appellate court for further proceedings. No costs.


Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Purisima, Pardo, Gonzaga-Reyes, Ynares-Santiago, and De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur.
Buena, J., on leave.

[1] Rollo, p. 47.

[2] Rollo, p. 47

[3] Rollo, p. 48.

[4] Rollo, pp. 48-49.

[5] Rollo, pp. 53-55.

[6] Rollo, p. 14.

[7] Nerves vs. Civil Service Commission, 276 SCRA 610.

[8] Nerves vs. Civil Service Commission, 276 SCRA 610 citing Gabionza vs. Court of Appeals, 234 SCRA 192.

[9] Ibid., p. 617.

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