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774 Phil. 80


[ G.R. No. 195547, December 02, 2015 ]




Before the Court is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court seeking to set aside the Resolutions[1] of the Court of Appeals (CA), dated September 9, 2010,[2] December 14, 2010,[3] and February 14, 2011[4] in CA-GR. CR No. 32066.

The instant petition traces its origin to an Information filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Las Piñas City, dated October 23, 2006, charging herein petitioner and a certain Manuel Hurtada (Hurtada) and Aida Ricarse (Ricarse) with the crime of estafa as defined and punished under Article 315, paragraph 2 of the Revised Penal Code. The Information reads as follows:
That on or about the 27th day of September 2006, and prior thereto, in the City of Las Piñas, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the abovenamed accused, conspiring and confederating together and all of them mutually helping and aiding one another by means of deceit, false pretenses and fraudulent acts executed prior to or simultaneously with the commission of fraud, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously defraud ELIZABETH T. LAUZON in the following manner to wit: that accused by means of false pretenses and fraudulent representations which they made to the complainant that they are authorized to sell, dispose or encumber a parcel of land located at Las Piñas City covered by TCTNo. T-19987 issued by the [Register] of Deeds of Las Piñas City and that they promised to transfer the Certificate of Title in the name of the complainant, said accused fully knew that their manifestation and representations were false and untrue, complainant was induced to part with her money in the amount of P420,000.00, as she in fact gave the amount of P420,000.00 representing part of the purchase price of the said parcel of land and for which accused received and acknowledge[d] the same, and after complainant conducted the necessary verification with the Register of Deeds of Las Piñas City it turned out that the registered owner of the said parcel of land is Marita F. Sanlay and mortgaged to Household Development Bank then assigned to National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation (NHMFC), and that accused are not authorized to sell, dispose or encumber the parcel of land covered by TCT No. T-19987, to the damage and prejudice of the complainant in the amount of P420,000.00.[5]
After trial, the RTC found petitioner and her co-accused guilty of other forms of swindling under Article 316 of the Revised Penal Code. The dispositive portion of the RTC Decision reads, thus:
WHEREFORE, as the crime was committed with abuse of confidence reposed on Manuel Hurtada by Elizabeth Lauzon without any mitigating circumstance to offset, all three accused, namely: 1) Manuel Hurtada, Jr. y Buhat; 2) Aida Ricarse y Villadelgado and 3) Ma. Corazon Ola, are hereby found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of Estafa under Article 316 of the Revised Penal Code and each sentenced to undergo imprisonment of Six (6) months straight penalty and to indemnify, jointly and severally, the complainant Elizabeth T. Lauzon in the amount of P320,000.00 and to pay a fine of P1,000,000.00 and to pay the cost of the suit.

Petitioner and the other accused appealed the RTC Decision to the CA. Petitioner and Ricarse jointly filed their Brief for Accused-Appellants[7] dated June 10, 2009, while Hurtada filed his Brief for the Accused-Appellant[8] dated September 9, 2009.

A Brief for the Appellee,[9] dated March 1, 2010, was subsequently filed.

On May 28, 2010, petitioner filed a Manifestation with Leave of Court praying that she be granted a period of twenty (20) days within which to file an appropriate pleading.

On June 29, 2010, petitioner filed a Motion for Leave of Court to File Amended Appellant's Brief.[10]

In its first assailed Resolution promulgated on September 9, 2010, the CA denied petitioner's motion for having been filed out of time.

Petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration,[11] but the CA denied it in its second assailed Resolution dated December 14, 2010.

Undeterred, petitioner, on January 4, 2011, filed a Very Urgent Ex-Parte Motion for [Extension of Time] to File for Vacation of Resolution or Appropriate Pleading.[12]

On February 14, 2011, the CA issued its third assailed Resolution denying petitioner's motion, treating the same as a second motion for reconsideration, which is a prohibited pleading.

Hence, the instant petition for review on certiorari based on the following grounds: 
(a) whether or not the Honorable Court of Appeals (CA) by wholly adopting the stance of the Honorable Office of the Solicitor General has overlooked the evidence on record, from the pleadings and four affidavits of merits filed with the CA, and in the process violated the due process of law of the petitioner as enunciated in Ang Tibay v. CIR, and subsequent SC decisions thereto.

(b) whether or not the petitioner has made a second motion for reconsideration.

(c) whether or not the governing law or rule is Rule 10 on amendments of pleading, and not Section 6, both of Rule 6 and 11, in relation to Section 9 of Rule 44 and Section 4 of Rule 124 on matter of reply, all of the Rules of Court; and

(d) whether or not the liberality rule for amendment of pleadings instead of the general rule on liberality must be applied in favor of the petitioner.[13]
At the outset, the Court notes that the instant case suffers from a procedural infirmity which this Court cannot ignore as it is fatal to petitioner's cause.

What petitioner essentially assails in the present petition is the CA's denial of her motion to file an amended appellant's brief. It is settled that the remedy of a party against an adverse disposition of the CA would depend on whether the same is a final order or merely an interlocutory order.[14] If the Order or Resolution issued by the CA is in the nature of a final order, the remedy of the aggrieved party would be to file a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.[15] Otherwise, the appropriate remedy would be to file a petition for certiorari under Rule 65.[16]

In Republic of the Phils., v. Sandigahbayan (Fourth Division), et al.,[17] this Court laid down the rules to determine whether a court's disposition is already a final order or merely an interlocutory order and the respective remedies that may be availed in each case, thus:
Case law has conveniently demarcated the line between a final judgment or order and an interlocutory one on the basis of the disposition made. A judgment or order is considered final if the order disposes of the action or proceeding completely, or terminates a particular stage of the same action; in such case, the remedy available to an aggrieved party is appeal. If the order or resolution, however, merely resolves incidental matters and leaves something more to be done to resolve the merits of the case, the order is interlocutory and the aggrieved party's remedy is a petition for certiorari under Rule 65. Jurisprudence pointedly holds that:
As distinguished from a final order which disposes of the subject matter in its entirety or terminates a particular proceeding or action, leaving nothing else to be done but to enforce by execution what has been determined by the court, an interlocutory order does not dispose of a case completely, but leaves something more to be adjudicated upon. The term final judgment or order signifies a judgment or an order which disposes of the case as to all the parties, reserving no further questions or directions for future determination.

On the other hand, a court order is merely
interlocutory in character if it leaves substantial proceedings yet to be had in connection with the controversy. It does not end the task of the court in adjudicating the parties' contentions and determining their rights and liabilities as against each other. In this sense, it is basically provisional in its application.[18]
In the present case, the Court agrees with the contention of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) that the assailed Resolutions of the CA are interlocutory orders, as they do not dispose of the case completely but leave something to be decided upon.[19] What has been denied by the CA was a mere motion to amend petitioner's appeal brief and the appellate court has yet to finally dispose of petitioner's appeal by determining the main issue of whether or not she is indeed guilty of estafa. As such, petitioner's resort to the present petition for review on certiorari is erroneous.

Thus, on this ground alone, the instant petition is dismissible as the Court finds no cogent reason not to apply the rule on dismissal of appeals under Section 5,[20] Rule 56 of the Rules of Court.

The Court is neither persuaded by petitioner's argument that the CA Resolution which denied her motion to amend her brief is appealable. Petitioner's reliance on the case of Constantino, et al. v. Hon. Reyes, et al.,[21] is misplaced. In the said case, petitioner Constantino wanted to amend his complaint after the same was dismissed by the then Court of First Instance (CFI) on the ground that the complaint stated no cause of action. However, the trial court dismissed petitioner's motion to admit the amended complaint. Petitioner sought to appeal the case but the trial court disapproved the record on appeal on the ground that the appeal had been filed out of time. In granting the petition for mandamus filed before this Court to compel the CFI judge to approve the record on appeal, this Court held that "[e]ven after an order dismissing his complaint is issued, an amendment may still be allowed. The motion to amend should be filed before the order of dismissal becomes final and unappealable, because thereafter there would be nothing to amend. If the amendment is denied, the order of denial is appealable and the time within which to appeal is counted from the order of denial — not from the order dismissing the original complaint."[22]

From the above factual and procedural antecedents, it is clear that petitioner has taken the Court's ruling in Constantino out of context. In the said case, the complaint which the petitioner therein sought to amend was already dismissed. The order which denied petitioner's motion to amend the complaint is, therefore, final, and not interlocutory, as there is nothing else to be done by the trial court after such denial other than to execute the order of dismissal. Thus, the order denying the motion to amend the complaint is appealable. On the other hand, what is sought to be amended in the present case is not a complaint but an appeal brief which was not dismissed by the CA. More importantly, the denial of petitioner's motion to amend her appeal brief does not end the task of the CA in adjudicating the parties' contentions and determining their rights and liabilities as against each other. Substantial proceedings are yet to be conducted in connection with the controversy, thus barring resort to an appeal.

In any case, even if the Court will consider petitioner's contentions in the present petition, the Court still finds that the CA did not commit any error in issuing the assailed Resolutions.

The Court does not agree with petitioner's insistence that the questioned Resolutions deprived her of her right to due process because the CA supposedly failed to inform her of the issues involved in and of the reasons for rendering the said Resolutions.

It is true that under Section 14, Article VIII of the Constitution, no decision shall be rendered by any court without expressing therein clearly and distinctly the facts and the law on which it is based. However, petitioner must be reminded that what she assails are interlocutory orders and it has already been ruled by this Court that the above constitutional provision does not apply to interlocutory orders because it refers only to decisions on the merits and not to orders of the court resolving incidental matters.[23]

In any case, even a cursory reading of the September 9, 2010 Resolution of the CA readily shows that the appellate court has laid down the factual and procedural premises and discussed the reasons and the bases for denying petitioner's motion.

Petitioner, nonetheless, reiterates her argument that the principle on the liberal interpretation of the Rules should be applied in the present case. She further contends that instead of Section 4, paragraph 2, Rule 124 of the Rules of Court, it should be Rule 10 of the same Rules, referring to amendments of pleadings, which should govern the instant case.

The Court is not persuaded.

The CA has correctly ruled that under Section 4, paragraph 2, Rule 2, of the Rules of Court, petitioner had twenty (20) days from receipt of herein respondent's brief to file a reply brief to discuss matters raised in respondent's brief which were not covered in her brief. However, as found by the CA, petitioner's manifestation requesting an additional period to file an appropriate pleading as well as her motion for leave of court to file an amended appellant's brief was filed seventy-nine (79) days late and, as such, was deemed "not acceptable or too long to ignore."[24]

Even if the court were to apply the rule on amendment of pleadings, it is clear under Section 3, Rule 10 of the Rules of Court that after a responsive pleading has been filed, as in the present case, substantial amendments may be made only by leave of court. Moreover, such leave may be refused if it appears to the court that the motion was made with intent to delay. In the instant case, the Court finds that the CA did not commit any error in refusing to grant petitioner's motion to amend her -brief on the ground that the delay in filing such motion is unjustified.

Finally, it bears to point out that the premise that underlies all appeals is that they are merely rights which arise from statute; therefore, they must be exercised in the manner prescribed by law.[25] It is to this end that rules governing pleadings and practice before appellate courts were imposed.[26] These rules were designed to assist the appellate court in the accomplishment of its tasks, and overall, to enhance the orderly administration of justice.[27] Failing in this respect, the instant petition should be denied.

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DENIED. The assailed Resolutions of the Court of Appeals, dated September 9, 2010, December 14, 2010 and February 14, 2011, in CA-GR. CR No. 32066, are AFFIRMED.

The Court of Appeals is DIRECTED to proceed with the resolution of the case on the merits WITH DISPATCH.


Sereno,* C. J., Velasco, Jr., (Chairperson), Bersamin,** and Villarama, Jr., JJ., concur.

December 18, 2015


Sirs / Mesdames:

Please take notice that on December 2, 2015 a Decision, copy attached hereto, was rendered by the Supreme Court in the above-entitled cases, the original of which was received by this Office on December 18, 2015 at 10:20 a.m.

Very truly yours,
Division Clerk of Court

* Designated Additional Member in lieu of Associate Justice Bienvenido L. Reyes, per Raffle dated January 10, 2012.

** Designated Acting Member in lieu of Associate Justice Francis H. Jardeleza, per Special Order No. 2289 dated November 16, 2015.

[1] Penned by Associate Justice Elihu A. Ybañez, with Associate Justices Bienvenido L. Reyes and Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe (now members of this Court), concurring.

[2] Rollo, pp. 86-88.

[3] Id. at 90-91.

[4] Id. at 92-93.

[5] Id. at 167-168.

[6] Id. at 168-169.

[7] Id. at 180-196.

[8] Id. at 198-218.

[9] Id. at 219-242.

[10] Id. at 243-248.

[11] Id. at 13-22.

[12] Id. at 27-35.

[13] Id. at 118.

[14] Spouses Bergonia v. Court of Appeals, et al., 680 Phil. 334, 339 (2012).

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] 678 Phil. 358 (2011).

[18] Id. at 387-388. (Citations omitted)

[19] Australian Professional Realty, Inc., et al. v. Municipality of Padre Garcia, Batangas, 684 Phil. 283, 291 (2012).

[20] Sec. 5. Grounds for dismissal of appeal. -The appeal may be dismissed motu propio or on motion of the respondent on the following grounds:
Failure to take the appeal within the reglementary period;
Lack of merit in the petition;
Failure to pay the requisite docket fee and other lawful fees or to make a deposit for costs;
Failure to comply wilh the requirements regarding proof of service and contents of and the documents which should accompany the petition;
Failure to comply with any circular, directive or order of the Supreme Court without justifiable cause;
Error in the choice or mode of appeal; and
The fact that the case is not appealable to the Supreme Court.
[21] 118 Phil. 385 (1963).

[22] Constantino, et al. v. Hon. Reyes, et al., supra at 388-389.

[23] Nicos Industrial Corporation v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 88709, February 11, 1992, 206 SCRA 127, 132-133; Mendoza v. Court of First Instance of Quezon, etc., et al., 151-A Phil. 815, 827 (1973).

[24] See CA Resolution dated September 9, 2010, rollo, p. 11.

[25] De Liano v. Court of Appeals, 421 Phil. 1033, 1040 (2001).

[26] Id.

[27] Id.

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