Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

FIRST DIVISION

 

G.R. No. 116693 July 5, 1996

PURITA DE LA PEÑA, JUDGE VIVENCIO S. BACLIG, RTC-Br. 2, Balanga, Bataan, petitioners,
vs.
PEDRO R. DE LA PEÑA, BENJAMIN P. BRIONES, SPOUSES JULIA DE LA PEÑA and JOSE ALBERTO, GODOFREDO, VIRGINIA and MARIA, all surnamed DE LA PEÑA, and the COURT OF APPEALS-Fourth Division, respondents.

 

BELLOSILLO, J.:p

A Complaint was filed against petitioner Purita de la Peña by Pedro R. de la Peña, Benjamin P. Briones, spouses Julia de la Peña and Jose Alberto, Godofredo de la Peña, Virginia de la Peña and Maria de la Peña in the Regional Trial Court of Balanga, Bataan, seeking (a) the annulment of the deed of sale and deed of extrajudicial partition executed between Fortunata de la Peña and Purita de la Peña, (b) the partition of the estates of Fortunata de la Peña and Gavina de la Peña, and (c) the award in their favor of actual, moral and exemplary damages, attorney's fees, litigation expenses and costs of the suit. 1

On 8 July 1983, petitioner filed a Motion for Bill of Particulars praying that all the heirs of Gavina and Fortunata and the entire estate of each be properly included and defined. The motion was granted and the bill of particulars was filed.

On 23 November 1983, petitioner Purita de la Peña filed her Answer with Counterclaim.

On 27 July 1988 and 21 September 1988 the parties entered into partial compromise agreements where they agreed to settle their respective claims regarding Lot No. 524 and to dispense with the intervention earlier filed by Danilo Cruz.

On 28 June 1993 Judge Vivencio S. Baclig dismissed the complaints for annulment of the deeds of sale and extrajudicial partition, partition of the estates of Gavina and Fortunata de la Peña, and the counterclaim of Purita de la Peña for the annulment of the extrajudicial settlement. 2

Respondents herein as plaintiffs before the trial court received copy of the aforesaid decision on 2 July 1993.

On 15 July 1993, plaintiffs filed their Motion for Reconsideration which is now being assailed as pro forma since it did not contain a notice of hearing. 3

In his Order of 11 August 1993, 4 Judge Baclig denied the motion for reconsideration as he found no cogent and compelling reason to warrant the reversal or modification of the decision sought to be reconsidered. Consequently, on 20 August 1993, plaintiffs in Civil Case No. 4952 filed a Notice of Appeal and/or Extension of Time to File Appeal. On the other hand, petitioner herein as defendant in the court below filed a Motion for Execution contending that the motion for reconsideration filed by plaintiffs did not toll the running of the prescriptive period as it failed to contain a notice of hearing hence pro forma.

On 29 September 1993 Judge Baclig issued another Order 5 denying the motion for extension to file an appeal and ruled that plaintiffs' period to appeal had already lapsed as it was not tolled by the motion for reconsideration earlier filed, the latter being pro forma for lack of a notice of hearing. As regards defendant's motion for execution, the court a quo found no necessity to issue a writ considering its earlier ruling dismissing plaintiffs' complaint and defendant's counterclaim.

On 25 May 1994 the Court of Appeals held null and void the order of the trial court of 29 September 1993 declaring private respondents' motion for reconsideration pro forma. 6

On 7 June 1994 petitioner moved to reconsider 7 the ruling of the Court of Appeals and reiterating her claim that a motion for reconsideration without a notice of hearing was a mere scrap of paper hence it did not warrant the attention of the court. Without a notice of hearing the motion did not stop the running of the period to appeal. When required to comment 8 plaintiffs sought refuge in the liberal construction of the Rules of Court.

On 29 July 1994, the Court of Appeals denied petitioner's motion for reconsideration and reiterated its ruling that the motion for reconsideration was not a mere scrap of paper so that the notice of appeal was timely filed; hence, this petition for review on certiorari.

In Pojas v. Gozo-Dadole 9 we had occasion to rule on the issue of whether a motion for reconsideration without any notice of hearing tolls the running of the prescriptive period. In Pojas, petitioner received copy of the decision in Civil Case No. 3430 of the Regional Trial Court of Tagbilaran on 15 April 1986. The decision being adverse to him petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration. For failing to mention the date when the motion was to be resolved as required in Sec. 5, Rule 15, of the Rules of Court, the motion for reconsideration was denied. A second motion for reconsideration met the same fate. On 2 July 1986 petitioner filed a notice of appeal but the same was denied for being filed out of time as "the motion for reconsideration which the Court ruled as pro forma did not stop the running of the 15-day period to appeal." 10

In resolving the issue of whether there was grave abuse of discretion in denying petitioner's notice of appeal, this Court ruled —

Section 4 of Rule 15 of the Rules of Court requires that notice of motion be served by the movant on all parties concerned at least three (3) days before its hearing. Section 5 of the same Rule provides that the notice shall be directed to the parties concerned, and shall state the time and place for the hearing of the motion. A motion which does not meet the requirements of Sections 4 and 5 of Rule 15 of the Rules of Court is considered a worthless piece of paper which the clerk has no right to receive and the court has no authority to act upon. Service of copy of a motion containing notice of the time and place of hearing of said motion is a mandatory requirement and the failure of the movant to comply with said requirements renders his motion fatally defective. 11

In New Japan Motors, Inc. v. Perucho 12 defendant filed a motion for reconsideration which did not contain any notice of hearing. In a petition for certiorari, we affirmed the lower court in ruling that a motion for reconsideration that did not contain a notice of hearing was a useless scrap of paper. We held further —

Under Sections 4 and 5 of Rule 15 of the Rules of Court, . . . a motion is required to be accompanied by a notice of hearing which must be served by the applicant on all parties concerned at least three (3) days before the hearing thereof. Section 6 of the same rule commands that "(n)o motion shall be acted upon by the Court, without proof of service of the notice thereof . . . ." It is therefore patent that the motion for reconsideration in question in fatally defective for it did not contain any notice of hearing. We have already consistently held in a number of cases that the requirements of Sections 4, 5 and 6 of Rule 15 of the Rules of Court are mandatory and that failure to comply with the same is fatal to movant's cause. 13

In Sembrano v. Ramirez 14 we declared that —

(A) motion without notice of hearing is a mere scrap of paper. It does not toll the running of the period of appeal. This requirement of notice of hearing equally applies to a motion for reconsideration. Without such notice, the motion is pro forma. And a pro forma motion for reconsideration does not suspend the running of the period to appeal.

In In re Almacen 15 defendant lost his case in the lower court. His counsel then filed a motion for reconsideration but did not notify the adverse counsel of the time and place of hearing of said motion. The Court of Appeals dismissed the motion for the reason that "the motion for reconsideration dated July 5, 1966 does not contain a notice of time and place of hearing thereof and is, therefore a useless piece of paper which did not interrupt the running of the period to appeal, and, consequently, the appeal was perfected out of time." When the case was brought to us, we reminded counsel for the defendant that —

As a law practitioner who was admitted to the bar as far back as 1941, Atty. Almacen knew — or ought to have known — that a motion for reconsideration to stay the running of the period of (sic) appeal, the movant must not only serve a copy of the motion upon the adverse party . . . but also notify the adverse party of the time and place of hearing . . .

Also, in Manila Surety and Fidelity Co., Inc. v. Bath Construction and Company 16 we ruled —

The written notice referred to evidently is that prescribed for motions in general by Rule 15, Sections 4 and 5 (formerly Rule 26), which provide that such notice shall state the time and place of hearing and shall be served upon all the parties concerned at least three days in advance. And according to Section 6 of the same Rule no motion shall be acted upon by the court without proof of such notice. Indeed it has been held that in such a case the motion is nothing but a useless piece of paper. The reason is obvious; unless the movant sets the time and place of hearing the court would have no way to determine whether that party agrees to or objets to the motion, and if he objects, to hear him on his objection, since the Rules themselves do not fix any period within which he may file his reply or opposition. 17

In fine, the abovecited cases confirm that the requirements laid down in Sec. 5 of Rule 15 of the Rules of Court that the notice shall be directed to the parties concerned, and shall state the time and place for the hearing of the motion, are mandatory. If not religiously complied with, they render the motion pro forma. As such the motion is a useless piece of paper that will not toll the running of the prescriptive period.

In the instant case, there is no dispute that the motion for reconsideration filed by the plaintiffs did not contain any notice of hearing. It was therefore pro forma, hence it did not suspend the running of the prescriptive period. The copy of the decision was received on 2 July 1993. Consequently, respondents had until 17 July 1993 within which to file their notice of appeal. Since they filed their Notice of Appeal and/or Motion for Extension of Time to File Appeal on 20 August 1993 or 49 days after receipt of the decision, the appeal was clearly filed out of time. On that date the decision of the court a quo already attained finality 34 days earlier, hence, could no longer be reviewed much less modified on appeal. The filing of the Notice of Appeal and/or Extension of Time to File Appeal was a futile exercise. There was no longer any period to appeal nor a decision that could still be appealed.

WHEREFORE, the instant petition for review on certiorari is GRANTED. The questioned Resolutions of the Court of Appeals dated 25 May 1994 and 29 July 1994 are SET ASIDE and the assailed Order of the Regional Trial Court declaring the motion for reconsideration filed by private respondent as pro forma is REINSTATED. Consequently, the judgment dismissing the complaint as well as the counterclaim has acquired FINALITY.

SO ORDERED.

Padilla, Vitug, Kapunan and Hermosisima, Jr., JJ., concur.

Footnotes

1 Docketed as Civil Case No. 4952 assigned to Branch 2 presided over by Judge Vivencio S. Baclig.

2 Annex "A," Decision, Rollo, pp. 14-28.

3 Annex "B," Rollo, pp. 29-35.

4 Annex "B," Records, p. 26.

5 Annex "C," id., pp. 27-28.

6 Annex "D," Rollo, pp. 40-44.

7 Motion for Reconsideration, Records, pp. 51-56.

8 Comment to Motion for Reconsideration, id., pp. 60-64.

9 G.R. No. 76519, 21 December 1990, 192 SCRA 575.

10 Id., p. 577.

11 Id., pp. 577-578, citing Fecundo v. Bermajen, G.R. No. 88015, 18 December 1989, 180 SCRA 235; New Japan Motors, Inc. v. Perucho, No. L-44387, 5 November 1976, 74 SCRA 14; Filipinas Fabricators & Sales Inc., v. Magsino, No. L-47574, 29 January 1988, 157 SCRA 469.

12 See Note 11.

13 Id., p. 19 citing Omico Mining Industrial Corp. v. Vallejos, No. L-38974, 25 March 1975, 63 SCRA 285; Andrada v. Court of Appeals, No. L-31791, 30 October 1974, 60 SCRA 379; Sacdalan v. Bautista, No. L-38014, 27 March 1974, 56 SCRA 175; Cledera v. Sarmiento, No. L-32450-51, 10 June 1971, 39 SCRA 552-576.

14 No. L-45447, 28 September 1988, 166 SCRA 30.

15 No. L-27654, 18 February 1970, 31 SCRA 562.

16 No. L-16636, 24 June 1965, 14 SCRA 435.

17 Id., pp. 437-438, citing Philippine National Bank v. Donasco, No. L-18638, 28 February 1983.


The Lawphil Project - Arellano Law Foundation