622 Phil. 804

THIRD DIVISION

[ G.R. No. 182645, December 04, 2009 ]

IN THE MATTER OF THE HEIRSHIP (INTESTATE ESTATES) OF THE LATE HERMOGENES RODRIGUEZ, ANTONIO RODRIGUEZ, MACARIO J. RODRIGUEZ, DELFIN RODRIGUEZ AND CONSUELO M. RODRIGUEZ AND SETTLEMENT OF THEIR ESTATES, RENE B. PASCUAL, PETITIONER. VS. JAIME M. ROBLES, RESPONDENT.

D E C I S I O N

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

This Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court seeks to declare null and void ab initio the 16 April 2002 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 57417 and the 21 February 2007 Order of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Iriga City, Branch 34 in SP No. IR-1110. The Court of Appeals' decision nullified the entire special proceedings in SP No. IR-1110, while the 21 February 2007 Order of the RTC expunged from the records the proceedings in SP No. IR-1110.

On 14 September 1989 a petition for Declaration of Heirship And Appointment of Administrator and Settlement Of The Estates of the Late Hermogenes Rodriguez (Hermogenes) and Antonio Rodriguez (Antonio) was filed before the RTC.[1] The petition, docketed as Special Proceeding No. IR-1110, was filed by Henry F. Rodriguez (Henry), Certeza F. Rodriguez (Certeza), and Rosalina R. Pellosis (Rosalina). Henry, Certeza and Rosalina sought that they be declared the sole and surviving heirs of the late Antonio Rodriguez and Hermogenes Rodriguez. They alleged they are the great grandchildren of Antonio based on the following genealogy: that Henry and Certeza are the surviving children of Delfin M. Rodriguez (Delfin) who died on 8 February 1981, while Rosalina is the surviving heir of Consuelo M. Rodriguez (Consuelo); that Delfin and Consuelo were the heirs of Macario J. Rodriguez (Macario) who died in 1976; that Macario and Flora Rodriguez were the heirs of Antonio; that Flora died without an issue in 1960 leaving Macario as her sole heir.

Henry, Certeza and Rosalina's claim to the intestate estate of the late Hermogenes Rodriguez, a former gobernadorcillo, is based on the following lineage: that Antonio and Hermogenes were brothers and the latter died in 1910 without issue, leaving Antonio as his sole heir.

At the initial hearing of the petition on 14 November 1989, nobody opposed the petition.[2] Having no oppositors to the petition, the RTC entered a general default against the whole world except the Republic of the Philippines. After presentation of proof of compliance with jurisdictional requirements, the RTC allowed Henry, Certeza and Rosalina to submit evidence before a commissioner in support of the petition. After evaluating the evidence presented, the commissioner found that Henry, Certeza and Rosalina are the grandchildren in the direct line of Antonio and required them to present additional evidence to establish the alleged fraternal relationship between Antonio and Hermogenes.

Taking its cue from the report of the commissioner, the RTC rendered a Partial Judgment dated 31 May 1990 declaring Henry, Certeza and Rosalina as heirs in the direct descending line of the late Antonio, Macario and Delfin and appointing Henry as regular administrator of the estate of the decedents Delfin, Macario and Antonio, and as special administrator to the estate of Hermogenes.

Henry filed the bond and took his oath of office as administrator of the subject estates.

Subsequently, six group of oppositors entered their appearances either as a group or individually, namely:

(1) The group of Judith Rodriguez;
(2) The group of Carola Favila-Santos
(3) Jaime Robles;
(4) Florencia Rodriguez;
(5)Victoria Rodriguez; and
(6) Bienvenido Rodriguez.

Only the group of Judith Rodriguez had an opposing claim to the estate of Antonio, while the rest filed opposing claims to the estate of Hermogenes.[3]

In his opposition, Jaime Robles likewise prayed that he be appointed regular administrator to the estates of Antonio and Hermogenes and be allowed to sell a certain portion of land included in the estate of Hermogenes covered by OCT No. 12022 located at Barrio Mangahan, Pasig, Rizal.

After hearing on Jaime Roble's application for appointment as regular administrator, the RTC issued an Order dated 15 December 1994 declaring him to be an heir and next of kin of decedent Hermogenes and thus qualified to be the administrator. Accordingly the said order appointed Jaime Robles as regular administrator of the entire estate of Hermogenes and allowed him to sell the property covered by OCT No. 12022 located at Barrio Manggahan, Pasig, Rizal.

On 27 April 1999, the RTC rendered a decision declaring Carola Favila-Santos and her co-heirs as heirs in the direct descending line of Hermogenes and reiterated its ruling in the partial judgment declaring Henry, Certeza and Rosalina as heirs of Antonio. The decision dismissed the oppositions of Jaime Robles, Victoria Rodriguez, Bienvenido Rodriguez, and Florencia Rodriguez for their failure to substantiate their respective claims of heirship to the late Hermogenes.

On 13 August 1999, the RTC issued an Amended Decision reversing its earlier finding as to Carola Favila-Santos. This time, the RTC found Carola Favila-Santos and company not related to the decedent Hermogenes. The RTC further decreed that Henry, Certeza and Rosalina are the heirs of Hermogenes. The RTC also re-affirmed its earlier verdict dismissing the oppositions of Jaime Robles, Victoria Rodriguez, Bienvenido Rodriguez, and Florencia Rodriguez.

Several of the aggrieved parties questioned the Amended Decision. Florencia Rodriguez appealed to the Court of Appeals to no avail and eventually via petition for review before this Court in G.R. No. 142477, which this Court denied with finality on 5 September 2000.[4] The group of Carola Favila-Santos challenged the Amended Decision in this Court which was docketed as G.R. No. 140271, which was denied with finality on 22 February 2000.[5]

For his part, Jaime Robles assailed the Amended Decision by merely filing a mere notice of appeal on 12 October 1999. The RTC, in an order dated 22 November 1999, denied this for his failure to file a record on appeal as required by the Rules of Court.[6]

Since Jaime Robles' appeal was not perfected, the Amended Decision became final and executory and a Certificate of Finality was issued on 17 January 2000.[7] Apparently, petitioner Rene B. Pascual came into the picture since he is a buyer of a real property belonging to the Rodriguez estate located at San Jose, San Fernardo, Pampanga covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 12022. The Absolute Sale of Real Property executed on 19 January 2005, approved by the RTC, was entered into between petitioner Rene B. Pascual and the administrator of the estates, Henry. It is by virtue of this sale that petitioner Rene B. Pascual intervened in this case.

From the denial of his appeal, Jaime Robles erroneously filed directly with this Court a petition for review under Rule 45. This Court did not take cognizance of the petition and instead referred the same to the Court of Appeals, the latter having concurrent jurisdiction over the case and there having no special and important reason cited by Jaime Robles for the Court to exercise jurisdiction over said case.[8]

Although aware that the appeal of Jaime Robles was not perfected, the Court of Appeals nonetheless assumed jurisdiction over the case and on 16 April 2002, it rendered a decision annulling the Amended Decision of the RTC reasoning that the proceeding therein was void.

Having been informed of the Court of Appeals' decision, the RTC in an order dated 21 February 2007, ruled that the case "be considered expunged from the records."[9]

Hence, the instant petition.

The petition is meritorious.

Quite conspicuous from the proceedings below is the issue whether or not the Court of Appeals has jurisdiction over the case.

In special proceedings, such as the instant proceeding for settlement of estate, the period of appeal from any decision or final order rendered therein is 30 days, a notice of appeal and a record on appeal being required. Section 2, Rule 41 of the Rules of Civil Procedure provides:

Modes of appeal

(a) Ordinary appeal. The appeal to the Court of Appeals in cases decided by the Regional Trial Court in the exercise of its original jurisdiction shall be taken by filing a notice of appeal with the court which rendered the judgment or final order appealed from and serving a copy thereof upon the adverse party. No record on appeal shall be required except in special proceedings and other cases of multiple or separate appeals where the law or these Rules so require. In such cases, the record on appeal shall be filed and served in like manner.

The appeal period may only be interrupted by the filing of a motion for new trial or reconsideration. Once the appeal period expires without an appeal being perfected, the decision or order becomes final, thus:

In special proceedings, such as the instant proceeding for settlement of estate, the period of appeal from any decision or final order rendered therein is thirty (30) days, a notice of appeal and a record on appeal being required. The appeal period may only be interrupted by the filing of a motion for new trial or reconsideration. Once the appeal period expires without an appeal or a motion for reconsideration or new trial being perfected, the decision or order becomes final.[10]

In the case under consideration, it was on 13 August 1999 that the RTC issued an Amended Decision. On 12 October 1999, Jaime Robles erroneously filed a notice of appeal instead of filing a record on appeal. The RTC, in an order dated 22 November 1999, denied this for his failure to file a record on appeal as required by the Rules of Court. Petitioner failed to comply with the requirements of the rule; hence, the 13 August 1999 Amended Decision of the RTC lapsed into finality. It was therefore an error for the Court of Appeals to entertain the case knowing that Jaime Robles' appeal was not perfected and had lapsed into finality.

This Court has invariably ruled that perfection of an appeal in the manner and within the period laid down by law is not only mandatory but also jurisdictional.[11] The failure to perfect an appeal as required by the rules has the effect of defeating the right to appeal of a party and precluding the appellate court from acquiring jurisdiction over the case. The right to appeal is not a natural right nor a part of due process; it is merely a statutory privilege, and may be exercised only in the manner and in accordance with the provisions of the law. The party who seeks to avail of the same must comply with the requirement of the rules. Failing to do so, the right to appeal is lost. The reason for rules of this nature is because the dispatch of business by courts would be impossible, and intolerable delays would result, without rules governing practice. Public policy and sound practice demand that judgments of courts should become final and irrevocable at some definite date fixed by law. Such rules are a necessary incident to the proper, efficient and orderly discharge of judicial functions. Thus, we have held that the failure to perfect an appeal within the prescribed reglementary period is not a mere technicality, but jurisdictional. Just as a losing party has the privilege to file an appeal within the prescribed period, so does the winner also have the correlative right to enjoy the finality of the decision. Failure to meet the requirements of an appeal deprives the appellate court of jurisdiction to entertain any appeal. There are exceptions to this rule, unfortunately respondents did not present any circumstances that would justify the relaxation of said rule.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is GRANTED. The 16 April 2002 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 57417 and the 27 February 2007 Order of the Regional Trial Court of Iriga City, Branch 34 are hereby NULLIFIED. The 13 August 1999 Amended Decision of that the Regional Trial Court Iriga City in SP No. IR-1110 is hereby REINSTATED.

SO ORDERED.

Corona, (Chairperson), Velasco, Jr., Nachura, and Peralta, JJ., concur.



[1] Later an Amended Petition was filed to include the estates of Macario J. Rodriguez, Delfin M. Rodriguez and Consuelo M. Rodriguez. (Records, p. 21.)

[2] CA rollo, p. 145.

[3] Id. at 145.

[4] Rollo, p. 136.

[5] Id. at 127.

[6] Id. at 59.

[7] Id. at 10.

[8] CA rollo, p. 67.

[9] Rollo, p. 43.

[10] Testate Estate of Maria Manuel Vda. de Biascan v. Biascan, 401 Phil. 49, 58 (2000).

[11] Rigor v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 167400, 30 June 2006, 494 SCRA 375, 382.



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