590 Phil. 333
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is rendered as follows:On appeal, docketed as CA-G.R. No. 49559-R, the CA affirmed in its Decision dated October 16, 1979, the above Decision, but modified paragraph 3 thereof as follows:
(1) Declaring the document entitled "Kasulatan ng Bilihang Mabibiling Muli" dated August 21, 1931 an Equitable Mortgage;
(2) Declaring the plaintiffs, excluding Maura Penamora, co-owners and rightful possessors of the land in proportion of one-twenty fourth (1/24) for each of the plaintiffs Virginia, Carmen, Alicia, Purificacion, Esmenia, Elizabeth, Jorge and Jabes, all surnamed Penamora; one-twenty fourth (1/24) for each of the plaintiffs Gilda, Eulogio, Eugenia, Lorenzo, Felimon, Victor, Cipriano and Venancio, all surnamed Veluz; and one-twelfth (1/12) for each of the plaintiffs Modesto, Rolando, Isabelita and Griselda, all surnamed Lopez;
(3) Ordering the plaintiffs, in the proportion in which they succeed, to pay the defendants the mortgage loan of P930.00 within thirty (30) days from the finality of this decision; and
(4) Dismissing the counterclaim of the defendants.
We modify the above-quoted portion of the decision in the following manner:The Decision in Civil Case No. 428, as modified by the CA, became final and executory on August 24, 1980 as shown by the Entry of Judgment in CA-G.R. No. 49559-R.
3. Ordering the plaintiffs in the proportion in which they succeed, to pay the defendants the mortgage loan of P930.00 within ninety (90) days from the finality of this decision. If the plaintiff will fail to pay the said sum of P930.00 within the said period, the properties subject of the equitable mortgage shall be ordered sold at public auction, the proceeds of such sale to realize the sum of money aforesaid.
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered:Petitioners seasonably filed their respective Notices of Appeal. The Spouses Lourdes V. Rutaquio and Leonardo Liwanag filed their Appellants' Brief on April 22, 1999. However, Julian Villaflor, as represented by his children, was only able to file his appellant's brief 82 days after the expiration of the reglementary period to file the same.
- Dismissing the counterclaims in the above-entitled cases;
- Ordering the Register of Deeds of Quezon, Infanta Branch, to cancel OCT No. 6133 in the name of Lourdes V. Rutaquio and OCT No. P-12522 in the name of Julian Villaflor;
- Declaring the plaintiffs [private respondents] owners and rightful possessors of the portions of land covered by OCT Nos. P-6133 and P-12522, in the proportion adjudged in Civil Case No. 428, Court of First Instance of Quezon, Ninth Judicial District, Lucena City, as modified by the decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. No. 49559-R;
- Ordering the plaintiffs and the defendant Julian Villaflor or his substitutes to exercise their options pursuant to Arts. 448, 546 and 547, New Civil Code, as enumerated above, within thirty (30) days from finality of the judgment;
At the outset, we would like to emphasize that while petitioner Julian Villaflor, as represented by his children herein, raised all the above issues in this petition, the Resolution dated June 23, 2000 sought to be reviewed and set aside in this appeal pertains only to the dismissal of his appellant's brief for having been filed 82 days late. We also note that upon the filing of this petition before us, the CA deferred acting upon the appeal of the Spouses Lourdes V. Rutaquio and Leonardo Liwanag for being premature. Thus, we deem it proper to resolve this petition solely on the issue as to whether or not Julian Villaflor's appeal should be given due course by the appellate court despite being filed 82 days late. Deciding this petition on its merits would certainly pre-empt the CA in deciding the appeal of the appellant spouses.
THE PUBLIC RESPONDENT GRAVELY ERRED WHEN IT DISMISSED THE CASE PURELY ON TECHNICAL GROUNDS. THIS IS UNFAIR AND UNJUST SINCE THE PETITIONERS WILL LOSE THEIR TITLED PROPERTY PURELY ON A TECHNICALITY.
WHETHER OR NOT THE PUBLIC RESPONDENT EXERCISED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION WHEN IT AFFIRMED THE RULING OF THE TRIAL COURT THAT A PARTY IS BOUND BY A FINAL JUDGMENT (RENDERED IN CIVIL CASE NO. 428) ALTHOUGH HE IS NOT A PARTY THERETO.
WHETHER OR NOT THE RESPONDENT COURT COMMITTED GRAVE ERROR WHEN IT DISMISSED THE CASE THEREBY SUSTAINING AN ERRONEOUS RULING OF THE TRIAL COURT THAT PURSUANT TO THE DECISION RENDERED IN CIVIL CASE NO. 428, THE LAND IN QUESTION IS PRIVATE LAND. HENCE, THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS HAS NO JURISDICTION TO DISPOSE OF IT OR A PORTION THEREOF BY WAY OF FREE PATENT.
WHETHER OR NOT THE ISSUANCE OF THE ORIGINAL CERTIFICATE OF TITLE IN FAVOR OF JULIAN VILLAFLOR (PETITIONER'S PREDECESSOR-IN-INTEREST) MAKES HIM THE ABSOLUTE OWNER THEREOF TO THE EXCLUSION OF ALL OTHERS ESPECIALLY BECAUSE A TITLE WAS ISSUED TO HIM AHEAD OF ANY OTHER CLAIMAINT ESPECIALLY BECAUSE:
a) THERE WAS NO ANNOTATION OF ANY LIS PENDENS OR ADVERSE CLAIM BY THE PRIVATE RESPONDENTS IN THE ORIGINAL CERTIFICATE OF TITLE ISSUED IN FAVOR OF PETITIONER'S PREDECESSOR-IN-INTEREST, JULIAN VILLAFLOR OVER THE SUBJECT PROPERTY.
b) THE PRIVATE RESPONDENTS ARE BOUND BY THE FINAL JUDGMENT RENDERED IN CIVIL CASE NO. 428.
c) THE LAND IN DISPUTE IS A PRIVATE LAND AT THE TIME IT WAS AWARDED TO PETITIONER'S PREDECESSOR-IN INTEREST, JULIAN VILLAFLOR, BY VIRTUE OF A FREE PATENT ISSUED BY THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS.
Plaintiffs-appellees said it very well, indeed when they asserted that what the Valdez-Sales and Associates Law Offices might have been guilty of, if at all, was ordinary negligence, when it failed to monitor Atty. [Willie B.] Sarmiento's [who resigned from the law office four (4) days prior to the expiration of the reglementary period to file Julian Villaflor's appeal brief without properly turning over his case load to the firm] work, resulting in a violation of a basic rule of procedure relative to the seasonable filing of pleadings. To be sure, this is not one of those "transcendental matters" which outweigh "technicalities." More so where, as here, the Brief for the defendants-appellants J. Villaflor, et al. was filed some 82 days beyond/after the expiration of the extended reglementary period to do so.We disagree. What the Valdez-Sales & Associates law office committed was not only ordinary negligence. The counsel's failure to file the appellant's brief within the reglementary period constitutes gross negligence in violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility.
WHEREFORE, the motion for reconsideration filed by the new counsel for defendants-appellants Julian Villaflor, et al. must be, as it hereby, is DENIED. Our Resolution of September 21, 1999 STANDS.
An attorney is bound to protect his client's interest to the best of his ability and with utmost diligence. A failure to file brief for his client certainly constitutes inexcusable negligence on his part. The respondent has indeed committed a serious lapse in the duty owed by him to his client as well as to the Court not to delay litigation and to aid in the speedy administration of justice.Thus, we take exception to the general rule that the mistakes and negligence of counsel binds the client. In view of the circumstances surrounding this case, we opt for liberality in the application of the rules considering that - First, the rule that negligence of counsel binds the client may be relaxed where adherence thereto would result in outright deprivation of the client's liberty or property, or where the interests of justice so require, and Second, this Court is not a slave to technical rules, shorn of judicial discretion. In rendering justice, it is guided by the norm that on the balance, technicalities take a backseat against substantive rights. Accordingly, if the application of the rules tends to frustrate rather than promote justice, it is always within this Court's power to suspend the rules or except a particular case from its application.