FACTS: This involves the celebrated case of Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude (Jennifer) killed at the Celzone Lodge on Ramon Magsaysay Drive in Olongapo City allegedly by 19-year-old US Marine L/CPL Joseph Scott Pemberton (Pemberton). A Complaint for murder was filed by Jennifer’s sibling, Marilou S. Laude, against Pemberton before the Office of the City Prosecutor which Information was later filed with the RTC in Olongapo City.
On 19 December 2014, Pemberton surrendered personally to the RTC Judge and was later arraigned. On the same day of Arraignment petitioner Laude filed an Urgent Motion to Compel the Armed Forces of the Philippines to Surrender the Custody of Accused to the Olongapo City Jail and a Motion to Allow Media Coverage. The motion was scheduled on 22 December 2014, 2PM. According to petitioners, they were only able to serve the Motion on Pemberton’s counsel through registered mail. In any case, they claim to have also “furnished a copy of the [M]otion personally … at the hearing of the [M]otion. On 23 December 2014, the Urgent Motion was denied, as well as its motion for reconsideration.
ISSUE: Are the averments of the petitioner, that the 3-day notice rule should be should be liberally applied due to the timing of the arrest and arraignment, tenable?
HELD: NO. Rule 15, Section 4 of the Rules of Court clearly makes it a mandatory rule that the adverse party be given notice of hearing on the motion at least three days prior. Failure to comply with this notice requirement renders the motion defective consistent with protecting the adverse party’s right to procedural due process.
While the general rule is that a motion that fails to comply with the requirements of Rule 15 is a mere scrap of paper, an exception may be made and the motion may still be acted upon by the court, provided doing so will neither cause prejudice to the other party nor violate his or her due process rights. The adverse party must be given time to study the motion in order to enable him or her to prepare properly and engage the arguments of the movant. In this case, the general rule must apply because Pemberton was not given sufficient time to study petitioners’ Motion, thereby depriving him of his right to procedural due process.
Petitioners admit that they personally furnished Pemberton a copy of the Urgent Motion to Compel the Armed Forces of the Philippines to Surrender Custody of Accused to the Olongapo City Jail only during the hearing. They attempt to elude the consequences of this belated notice by arguing that they also served a copy of the Motion by registered mail on Pemberton’s counsel. They also attempt to underscore the urgency of the Motion by making a reference to the Christmas season and the “series of legal holidays” where courts would be closed. To compound their obfuscation, petitioners claim that the hearing held on December 22, 2014, attended by Pemberton’s counsel sufficiently satisfied the rationale of the three-day notice rule. These circumstances taken together do not cure the Motion’s deficiencies. Even granting that Pemberton’s counsel was able to comment on the motion orally during the hearing, which incidentally was set for another incident, it cannot be said that Pemberton was able to study and prepare for his counterarguments to the issues raised in the Motion. Judge Ginez-J abalde was correct to deny the Urgent Motion to Compel the Armed Forces of the Philippines to Surrender Custody of Accused to the Olongapo City Jail based on noncompliance of procedural rules. To rule otherwise would be to prejudice Pemberton’s rights as an accused.