ST. LOUIS UNIVERSITY, INC., petitioner,
EVANGELINE C. COBARRUBIAS, respondent.
[G.R. No. 187104. August 03, 2010]
Respondent is an associate professor of the petitioner and an active member of the union of faculty and employees. The Collective Bargaining Agreements contained the following provision that for teaching employees in college who fail the yearly evaluation, who are retained for three (3) cumulative years in five (5) years, shall be on forced leave for one (1) regular semester during which period all benefits due them shall be suspended. Petitioner placed respondent on forced leave for failing to achieve the required rating points. Respondent sought recourse from the CBA’s grievance machinery, but to no avail. Respondent filed a case with DOLE but circulation and mediation again failed. The parties submitted the issues between them for voluntary arbitration before Voluntary Arbitrator (VA). Respondent argued that the CA already resolved the forced leave issue in a prior case between the parties, ruling that the forced leave for teachers who fail their evaluation for three (3) times within a five-year period should be coterminous with the CBA in force during the same five-year period. Petitioner argued that said CA decision is not yet final. The VA dismissed the complaint. Respondent filed with the CA a petition for review under Rule 43 of the Rules of Court but failed to pay the filing fees and to attach the material portion of the records. Motion for reconsideration was filed, complying with the procedural lapses, and CA reinstated the petition.
(1) Whether or not the Court of Appeals erred in reinstating respondent’s petition despite her failure to appeal (docket) fee within the reglementary period.
(1) Yes. The CA erred in its ruling. Appeal is not a natural right but a mere statutory privilege, thus, appeal must be made strictly in accordance with the provision set by law. Rule 43 of the Rules of Court provides that appeals from the judgment of the VA shall be taken to the CA, by filing a petition for review within fifteen (15) days from the receipt of the notice of judgment. Furthermore, upon the filing of the petition, the petitioner shall pay to the CA clerk of court the docketing and other lawful fees; non-compliance with the procedural requirements shall be a sufficient ground for the petition’s dismissal. Thus, payment in full of docket fees within the prescribed period is not only mandatory, but also jurisdictional. It is an essential requirement, without which, the decision appealed from would become final and executory as if no appeal has been filed. Here, the docket fees were paid late, and without payment of the full docket fees, Cobarrubias’ appeal was not perfected within the reglementary period.
There are, however, there are recognized exceptions to their strict observance, such as: (1) most persuasive and weighty reasons; (2) to relieve a litigant from an injustice not commensurate with his failure to comply with the prescribed procedure; (3) good faith of the defaulting party by immediately paying within a reasonable time from the time of the default; (4) the existence of special or compelling circumstances; (5) the merits of the case; (6) a cause not entirely attributable to the fault or negligence of the party favored by the suspension of the rules; (7) a lack of any showing that the review sought is merely frivolous and dilatory; (8) the other party will not be unjustly prejudiced thereby; (9) fraud, accident, mistake or excusable negligence without the appellant’s fault; (10) peculiar, legal and equitable circumstances attendant to each case; (11) in the name of substantial justice and fair play; (12) importance of the issues involved; and (13) exercise of sound discretion by the judge, guided by all the attendant circumstances. Thus, there should be an effort, on the part of the party invoking liberality, to advance a reasonable or meritorious explanation for his/her failure to comply with the rules.
NOTE: There is no justiciable issue here in Labor Law.