516 Phil. 755
CARPIO MORALES, J.:
[I]n the present case, the agreement of the spouses to live separately four (4) months after their marriage and which agreement was finally made in writing before the Barangay will unquestionably show that Sonia or Sonialita Maceda was not dependent upon the late member for support and therefore cannot be considered as his primary beneficiary under the aforesaid law. Said agreement, though proscribed by law by reasons of public policy, was a mutual agreement short of a court decree for legal separation and will not in any way change the fact that the two lived separately. This under any circumstances will dispute the presumption of the dependency for support arising from the legitimacy of the marital union as reasoned out by the SSS in their Petition for Intervention. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)Petitioners, on the other hand, hinged their claim on Section 8(e) and (k) of The Social Security Act of 1997. Thus they argued:
Section 8 (e) and (k) of Republic Act 8282 is crystal clear on who should be Bonifacio De Guzman Macatangay's beneficiary, thus:As for the SSS, it argued that:
(e) Dependents – The dependents shall be the following:
(1) The legal spouse entitled by law to receive support from the member;
(2) The legitimate, legitimated or legally adopted, and illegitimate child who is unmarried, not gainfully employed and has not reached twenty-one years (21) of age, or if over twenty-one (21) years of age, he is congenitally or while still a minor has been permanently incapacitated and incapable of self-support, physically or mentally, and
(3) The parent who is receiving regular support from the member.
(k) Beneficiaries – The dependent spouse until he or she remarries, the dependent legitimate, legitimated or legally adopted, and illegitimate children, who shall be the primary beneficiaries of the member; Provided, That the dependent illegitimate children shall be entitled to fifty percent (50%) of the share of the legitimate, legitimated or legally adopted children: Provided, further, That in the absence of the dependent legitimate, legitimated or legally adopted children of the member, his/her dependent illegitimate children shall be entitled to one hundred percent (100%) of the benefits. In their absence, the dependent parents who shall be the second beneficiaries of the member. In the absence of all the foregoing, any other person designated by the member as his/her secondary beneficiary. (Underscoring and emphasis in the original)
[T]o be considered dependent for support, a surviving spouse of a member must only show that she is entitle[d] for support from the member by virtue of a valid marriage. The surviving spouse is not required to show that he/she actually received support from the member during his/her lifetime. Her dependency for support is actually presumed from the legitimacy of the marital union. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the Commission hereby orders respondent Sonia (Sonialita) Macatangay to refund the monthly pensions paid to her by mistake and for the SSS to collect the same immediately upon receipt hereof.Petitioners' motion for reconsideration of the SSC Resolution was denied by Order of August 14, 2002.
Meanwhile, the System is ordered to grant the SS lump sum death benefits of member Bonifacio Macatangay to designated beneficiaries Encarnacion Macatangay, Elena, Joel, and Jay Macatangay, subject to existing rules and regulations.
SO ORDERED. (Underscoring supplied)
A perusal of the petition however shows that there was no written explanation as to why respondents were not personally served copies of the petition as required under Section 11, Rule 13 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.Via an Omnibus Motion, petitioners prayed the Court of Appeals to (a) RECONSIDER its Resolution dated October 21, 2002 dismissing the Petition for Review; and (b) ADMIT the thereto attached certified true copies of the parties' Position Papers and the petitioners' Motion to Dismiss filed with the SSC, the Certificate of Life Membership of their counsel Atty. Ronaldo Antonio Calayan, and the Official Receipt showing said counsel's payment of lifetime membership fee to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.
Also, the petition is not accompanied by copies of the pleadings and documents relevant and pertinent thereto (i.e., position papers filed by the parties before the SSC, motion to dismiss filed by petitioner before the SSC) as required under Section 6, Rule 43 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.
Finally, petitioner's counsel failed to comply with the requirements under Bar Matter No. 287 which requires that "all lawyers shall indicate in all pleadings, motions and papers signed and filed by them the number and date of their official receipt indicating payment of their annual membership dues to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for the current year x x x." In the instant petition, Atty. Calayan failed to indicate the number and date of the official receipt evidencing payment of IBP dues. (Italics in the original; underscoring supplied)
Section 11. Priorities in Modes of Service and Filing – Whenever practicable, the service and filing of pleadings and other papers shall be done personally. Except with respect to papers emanating from the court, a resort to other modes must be accompanied by a written explanation why the service or filing was not done personally. A violation of this rule may cause to consider the paper as not filed.,denied the Omnibus Motion by Resolution of August 4, 2004.
I. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN STRICTLY ADHERING TO TECHNICALITIES, RATHER THAN IN SUBSTANTIAL COMPLIANCE, IN THE APPLICATION OF THE PROVISIONS OF THE 1997 RULES ON CIVIL PROCEDURE.Petitioners posit that they complied substantially with Section 11, Rule 13 of the Rules of Court, as follows:
II. THE CIRCUMSTANCES PREVAILING IN THIS PETITION FIND SUPPORT IN DECISIONS OF THIS HONORABLE COURT IN FAVOR OF THE REVERSAL OF THE COURT OF APPEALS' DECISION UNDER REVIEW. (Underscoring supplied)
Sonia's affidavit of service clearly shows the impracticability of personal service of copies of the petition to the adverse parties. Manifest in the same affidavit is the intervenor Social Security System's address in Quezon City; that of the private respondent's lawyer in Lopez, Quezon, and that of Social Security Commission in Makati City. Sonia's counsel's address is Lucena City. The distance between these addresses, it is most respectfully submitted as a matter of judicial notice, may be construed as more than competent indicia as to why Sonia resorted to service by mail. (Underscoring supplied)And they cite jurisprudence calling for a liberal interpretation of the Rules in the interest of substantial justice, specifically Barnes v. Reyes which classifies Section 11, Rule 13 of the Rules as a directory, rather than a mandatory, rule.
Personal service and filing are preferred for obvious reasons. Plainly, such should expedite action or resolution on a pleading, motion or other paper; and conversely, minimize, if not eliminate, delays likely to be incurred if service or filing is done by mail, considering the inefficiency of the postal service. Likewise, personal service will do away with the practice of some lawyers who, wanting to appear clever, resort to the following less than ethical practices: (1) serving or filing pleadings by mail to catch opposing counsel off-guard, thus leaving the latter with little or no time to prepare, for instance, responsive pleadings or an opposition; or (2) upon receiving notice from the post office that the registered containing the pleading of or other paper from the adverse party may be claimed, unduly procrastinating before claiming the parcel, or, worse, not claiming it at all, thereby causing undue delay in the disposition of such pleading or other papers.In Musa v. Amor, this Court, on noting the impracticality of personal service, exercised its discretion and liberally applied Section 11 of Rule 13:
If only to underscore the mandatory nature of this innovation to our set of adjective rules requiring personal service whenever practicable, Section 11 of Rule 13 then gives the court the discretion to consider a pleading or paper as not filed if the other modes of service or filing were not resorted to and no written explanation was made as to why personal service was not done in the first place. The exercise of discretion must, necessarily consider the practicability of personal service, for Section 11 itself begins with the clause "whenever practicable".
We thus take this opportunity to clarify that under Section 11, Rule 13 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, personal service and filing is the general rule, and resort to other modes of service and filing, the exception. Henceforth, whenever personal service or filing is practicable, in the light of the circumstances of time, place and person, personal service or filing is mandatory. Only when personal service or filing is not practicable may resort to other modes be had, which must then be accompanied by a written explanation as to why personal service or filing was not practicable to begin with. In adjudging the plausibility of an explanation, a court shall likewise consider the importance of the subject matter of the case or the issues involved therein, and the prima facie merit of the pleading sought to be expunged for violation of Section 11. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
As [Section 11, Rule 13 of the Rules of Court] requires, service and filing of pleadings must be done personally whenever practicable. The court notes that in the present case, personal service would not be practicable. Considering the distance between the Court of Appeals and Donsol, Sorsogon where the petition was posted, clearly, service by registered mail [sic] would have entailed considerable time, effort and expense. A written explanation why service was not done personally might have been superfluous. In any case, as the rule is so worded with the use of "may", signifying permissiveness, a violation thereof gives the court discretion whether or not to consider the paper as not filed. While it is true that procedural rules are necessary to secure an orderly and speedy administration of justice, rigid application of Section 11, Rule 13 may be relaxed in this case in the interest of substantial justice. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)In the case at bar, the address of respondent's counsel is Lopez, Quezon, while petitioner Sonia's counsel's is Lucena City. Lopez, Quezon is 83 kilometers away from Lucena City. Such distance makes personal service impracticable. As in Musa v. Amor, a written explanation why service was not done personally "might have been superfluous."
There is no question that the covenants contained in the said separation agreement are contrary to law, morals, and good customs. Those stipulations undermine the institutions of marriage and the family. "Marriage is not a mere contract but an inviolable social institution". "The family is a basic social institution which public policy cherishes and protects." "Marriage and the family are the bases of human society throughout the civilized world."Vide also Article 68 of the Family Code: "The husband and wife are obliged to live together, observe mutual love, respect and fidelity, and render mutual help and support." (Emphasis added)
To preserve the institutions of marriage and the family, the law considers as void "any contract for personal separation between husband and wife" and "every extrajudicial agreement, during the marriage, for the dissolution of the conjugal partnership." (Id. at 888, citations omitted; underscoring supplied)