Sunday, February 13, 2011

Elements of valid appeal brief

G.R. No. 165575


ADELIA C. MENDOZA and as Attorney-in-Fact of ALICE MALLETA
vs. UNITED COCONUT PLANTERS BANK, INC.,

G.R. No. 165575
February 2, 2011


DECISION
PERALTA, J.:





This is a petition for review on certiorari[1] of the Court of Appeals’ Resolution dated July 2, 2004, in CA-G.R. CV No. 79796, and its Resolution dated September 9, 2004, denying petitioners’ motion for reconsideration. The Court of Appeals dismissed the Appellants’ Brief filed by petitioners for failure to comply with the requirements under Section 13, Rule 44 of the 1997 Revised Rules of Civil Procedure.



x x x.



The main issue is whether or not the Court of Appeals erred in dismissing petitioners’ appeal on the ground that their Appellants’ Brief failed to comply with Section 13, Rule 44 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure as the said brief did not have a subject index, an assignment of errors, and page references to the record in the Statement of Facts.



Petitioners argue that the absence of a subject index in their Appellants’ Brief is not a material deviation from the requirements of Section 13, Rule 44 of the 1997 Revised Rules of Civil Procedure, and that each portion of the 12-page brief was boldly designated to separate each portion.



Moreover, petitioners contend that while the “assignment of errors” was not designated as such in their Appellants’ Brief, the assignment of errors were clearly embodied in the “Issues” thereof, which substantially complies with the rules.



The petition is without merit.



The right to appeal is neither 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 law.[28] An appeal being a purely statutory right, an appealing party must strictly comply with the requisites laid down in the Rules of Court.[29]



In regard to ordinary appealed cases to the Court of Appeals, such as this case, Section 13, Rule 44 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure provides for the contents of an Appellant’s Brief, thus:



Sec. 13. Contents of appellant’s brief.—The appellant’s brief shall contain, in the order herein indicated, the following:

(a) A subject index of the matter in the brief with a digest of the arguments and page references, and a table of cases alphabetically arranged, textbooks and statutes cited with references to the pages where they are cited;

(b) An assignment of errors intended to be urged, which errors shall be separately, distinctly and concisely stated without repetition and numbered consecutively;

(c) Under the heading “Statement of the Case,” a clear and concise statement of the nature of the action, a summary of the proceedings, the appealed rulings and orders of the court, the nature of the judgment and any other matters necessary to an understanding of the nature of the controversy, with page references to the record;

(d) Under the heading “Statement of Facts,” a clear and concise statement in a narrative form of the facts admitted by both parties and of those in controversy, together with the substance of the proof relating thereto in sufficient detail to make it clearly intelligible, with page references to the record;

(e) A clear and concise statement of the issues of fact or law to be submitted to the court for its judgment;

(f) Under the heading “Argument,” the appellant’s arguments on each assignment of error with page references to the record. The authorities relied upon shall be cited by the page of the report at which the case begins and the page of the report on which the citation is found;

(g) Under the heading “Relief,” a specification of the order or judgment which the appellant seeks; and

(h) In cases not brought up by record on appeal, the appellant’s brief shall contain, as an appendix, a copy of the judgment or final order appealed from.



In this case, the Appellants’ Brief of petitioners did not have a subject index. The importance of a subject index should not be underestimated. De Liano v. Court of Appeals[30] declared that the subject index functions like a table of contents, facilitating the review of appeals by providing ready reference. It held that:



[t]he first requirement of an appellant’s brief is a subject index. The index is intended to facilitate the review of appeals by providing ready reference, functioning much like a table of contents. Unlike in other jurisdictions, there is no limit on the length of appeal briefs or appeal memoranda filed before appellate courts. The danger of this is the very real possibility that the reviewing tribunal will be swamped with voluminous documents. This occurs even though the rules consistently urge the parties to be “brief” or “concise” in the drafting of pleadings, briefs, and other papers to be filed in court. The subject index makes readily available at one’s fingertips the subject of the contents of the brief so that the need to thumb through the brief page after page to locate a party’s arguments, or a particular citation, or whatever else needs to be found and considered, is obviated.[31]



Moreover, the Appellants’ Brief had no assignment of errors, but petitioners insist that it is embodied in the “Issues” of the brief. The requirement under Section 13, Rule 44 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure for an “assignment of errors” in paragraph (b) thereof is different from a “statement of the issues of fact or law” in paragraph (e) thereof. The statement of issues is not to be confused with the assignment of errors, since they are not one and the same; otherwise, the rules would not require a separate statement for each.[32] An assignment of errors is an enumeration by the appellant of the errors alleged to have been committed by the trial court for which he/she seeks to obtain a reversal of the judgment, while the statement of issues puts forth the questions of fact or law to be resolved by the appellate court.[33]



Further, the Court of Appeals found that the Statement of Facts was not supported by page references to the record. De Liano v. Court of Appeals held:



x x x The facts constitute the backbone of a legal argument; they are determinative of the law and jurisprudence applicable to the case, and consequently, will govern the appropriate relief. Appellants should remember that the Court of Appeals is empowered to review both questions of law and of facts. Otherwise, where only a pure question of law is involved, appeal would pertain to this Court. An appellant, therefore, should take care to state the facts accurately though it is permissible to present them in a manner favorable to one party. x x x Facts which are admitted require no further proof, whereas facts in dispute must be backed by evidence. Relative thereto, the rule specifically requires that one’s statement of facts should be supported by page references to the record. Indeed, disobedience therewith has been punished by dismissal of the appeal. Page references to the record are not an empty requirement. If a statement of fact is unaccompanied by a page reference to the record, it may be presumed to be without support in the record and may be stricken or disregarded altogether.[34]



The assignment of errors and page references to the record in the statement of facts are important in an Appellant’s Brief as the absence thereof is a basis for the dismissal of an appeal under Section 1 (f), Rule 50, of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, thus:



SECTION 1. Grounds for dismissal of appeal. -- An appeal may be dismissed by the Court of Appeals, on its own motion or on that of the appellee, on the following grounds:



x x x x



(f ) Absence of specific assignment of errors in the appellant’s brief, or of page references to the record as required in section 13, paragraphs (a), (c), (d) and (f) of Rule 44.



Rules 44 and 50 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure are designed for the proper and prompt disposition of cases before the Court of Appeals.[35] Rules of procedure exist for a noble purpose, and to disregard such rules in the guise of liberal construction would be to defeat such purpose.[36] The Court of Appeals noted in its Resolution denying petitioners’ motion for reconsideration that despite ample opportunity, petitioners never attempted to file an amended appellants’ brief correcting the deficiencies of their brief, but obstinately clung to their argument that their Appellants’ Brief substantially complied with the rules. Such obstinacy is incongruous with their plea for liberality in construing the rules on appeal.[37]



De Liano v. Court of Appeals held:



Some may argue that adherence to these formal requirements serves but a meaningless purpose, that these may be ignored with little risk in the smug certainty that liberality in the application of procedural rules can always be relied upon to remedy the infirmities. This misses the point. We are not martinets; in appropriate instances, we are prepared to listen to reason, and to give relief as the circumstances may warrant. However, when the error relates to something so elementary as to be inexcusable, our discretion becomes nothing more than an exercise in frustration. It comes as an unpleasant shock to us that the contents of an appellant’s brief should still be raised as an issue now. There is nothing arcane or novel about the provisions of Section 13, Rule 44. The rule governing the contents of appellants’ briefs has existed since the old Rules of Court, which took effect on July 1, 1940, as well as the Revised Rules of Court, which took effect on January 1, 1964, until they were superseded by the present 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. The provisions were substantially preserved, with few revisions.[38]





In fine, the Court upholds the Resolutions of the Court of Appeals dismissing the appeal of petitioners on the ground that their Appellants’ Brief does not comply with the requirements provided in Section 13, Rule 44 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as the dismissal is supported by Section 1 (f), Rule 50 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure and jurisprudence.[39] With the dismissal of the appeal, the other issues raised by petitioners need not be discussed by the Court.



WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Court of Appeals’ Resolutions dated July 2, 2004 and September 9, 2004, in CA-G.R. CV No. 79796, are hereby AFFIRMED.



Costs against petitioners.



SO ORDERED.




Notes:




[1] Under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.

[2] Rollo, pp. 41-91.

[3] Annex “A,” id. at 47.

[4] Annexes “A-1” to “A-63,” records, pp. 14-76.

[5] Records, p. 96.

[6] Annex “1,” id. at 107.

[7] Annex “2,” id. at 113.

[8] Annexes, “3,” “4,” “5,” id. at 119, 120, 121.

[9] Annex “8,” id. at 133.

[10] Annex “9,” id. at 143.

[11] Annex “10,” id. at 145.

[12] Annex “11,” id. at 148.

[13] Annexes “10” and “11,” id. at 145, 148.

[14] Records, p. 149.

[15] Id. at 150.

[16] Annex “15,” id. at 169.

[17] Annex “17,” id. at 238.

[18] Records, p. 239.

[19] 148-B Phil. 43, 50 (1971).

[20] Records, p. 245.

[21] Id. at 248.

[22] Id. at 257.

[23] Rule 50, Section 1. Grounds for dismissal of appeal. -- An appeal may be dismissed by the Court of Appeals, on its own motion or on that of the appellee, on the following grounds:

x x x x

(f ) Absence of specific assignment of errors in the appellant’s brief, or of page references to the record as required in section 13, paragraphs (a), (c), (d) and (f) of Rule 44.

[24] CA rollo, p. 135.

[25] Id. at 147.

[26] Id. at 162-163.

[27] Rollo, pp. 7-8.

[28] Mejillano v. Lucillo, G.R. No. 154717, June 19, 2009, 590 SCRA 1, 9-10.

[29] Id. at 10.

[30] 421 Phil. 1033 (2001).

[31] Id. at 1042.

[32] Id. at 1044. (Emphasis supplied.)

[33] Id. at 1042, 1044.

[34] Id. at 1044.

[35] Lumbre v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 160717, July 23, 2008, 559 SCRA 419, 431.

[36] Id. at 434.

[37] Del Rosario v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 113890, February 22, 1995, 241 SCRA 553.

[38] De Liano v. Court of Appeals, supra note 30, at 1046-1047.

[39] Id.; Estate of Tarcila Vda. de Villegas v. Gaboya, G.R. No. 143006, July 14, 2006, 495 SCRA 30, 41, citing Del Rosario v. Court of Appeals, supra note 37 and Bucad v. Court of Appeals, 216 SCRA 423 (1993).



G.R. No. 165575

Present:



CARPIO, j., Chairperson,

nachura,

PERALTA,

ABAD, and

MENDOZA, JJ.



Promulgated:



February 2, 2011



x---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x





DECISION





PERALTA, J.:





This is a petition for review on certiorari[1] of the Court of Appeals’ Resolution dated July 2, 2004, in CA-G.R. CV No. 79796, and its Resolution dated September 9, 2004, denying petitioners’ motion for reconsideration. The Court of Appeals dismissed the Appellants’ Brief filed by petitioners for failure to comply with the requirements under Section 13, Rule 44 of the 1997 Revised Rules of Civil Procedure.



The facts are as follows:

On November 5, 2001, petitioner Adelia Mendoza, attorney-in-fact of petitioner Alice Malleta, filed a Complaint[2] for annulment of titles, foreclosure proceedings and certificate of sale with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Lipa City, Fourth Judicial Region.



In their Complaint, herein petitioners stated that on October 6, 1995, they entered into a Real Estate Mortgage Contract with respondent United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) in the amount of P4,925,000.00.[3] On August 27, 1998, the properties were sold at public auction in the total amount of P31,300,00.00 to UCPB. On September 17, 2001, an Affidavit of Consolidation was executed by UCPB.



Petitioners contended that the foreclosure proceedings violated due process and the legal requirements under Act No. 3135, as amended, on the following grounds:



a) There was no valid and legal notice to petitioner Adelia Mendoza of the foreclosure proceedings;

b) There was no valid and legal notice of the auction sale;

c) There was no valid and legal notice of the consolidation of ownership;

d) There was no valid publication and notice as required by law;

e) There was a violation of Republic Act No. 3765, “An Act to Require the Disclosure of Finance Charges in Connection with Extensions of Credit,” specifically Section 6 of the law;

f) There was no clear and accurate financial statement showing the application of payments of the plaintiffs (petitioners herein); and

g) There was no valid letter of demand showing the clear finance charges.



Petitioners prayed that the foreclosure proceedings and Certificate of Sale be annulled, and that if ever any new title is issued in lieu of their Transfer Certificates of Titles,[4] the same should be cancelled and annulled; that respondent be ordered to pay petitioners attorney’s fees of P50,000.00 and litigation expenses of P20,000.00.



In its Answer with Compulsory Counterclaim,[5] respondent UCPB denied that petitioners entered into a Real Estate Mortgage Contract with it in the amount of P4,925,000.00, the truth being that petitioner Adelia Mendoza executed several promissory notes in the total principal amount of P27,500,000.00, and to secure these obligations she executed, together with petitioner Alice Malleta, several real estate mortgages over several parcels of land in favor of UCPB.



Respondent denied that the foreclosure proceedings were legally defective, as the said proceedings were done in accordance with the provisions of Act No. 3135, as amended. It countered that the law does not require personal notice to the mortgagor of the foreclosure proceedings and the auction sale, as the publication of the notice of sale in a newspaper of general circulation constitutes constructive notice to the whole world. Moreover, there is no legal requirement of personal notice to the mortgagor of the consolidation of ownership, as the registration of the certificate of sale with the Register of Deeds constitutes notice to the whole world that the mortgagor or any interested party has one year from the date of such registration to redeem the foreclosed properties. Respondent claimed that it complied with the posting requirements, and that it had also complied with the provisions of Republic Act No. 3765 and had regularly furnished petitioners with statements of account pursuant to standard banking practice.



Respondent contended that petitioners knew that the foreclosure was forthcoming due to their default in the payment of their obligations. Petitioners had been sent several verbal and written demands to pay their obligations and had been warned that failure to settle their obligations would result in the foreclosure of their properties. Further, petitioners had one year from the date of registration of the certificate of sale to redeem their property, but they failed to do so.



Respondent denied that there was “non-disclosure of finance charges without lawful and legal demand,” since it had regularly sent petitioners statements of account and had regularly given verbal and written notices to pay their obligations. It also denied the allegations of lack of reconciliation and verification of accounts. In this regard, respondent stated that petitioners could have easily verified their account with the account officers of UCPB, but they failed to do so.



As special and affirmative defenses, respondent stated that on August 9, 1994, petitioner Mendoza applied for and was granted a credit line in the amount of P25 million, which is supported by a Loan Agreement.[6] On October 9, 1995, the credit line was increased by P2.5 million, as evidenced by a Loan Agreement.[7] Petitioner Mendoza availed of the said credit line in the aggregate principal amount of Twenty-Seven Million Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (P27.5 million) and executed promissory notes[8] therefor. Among other conditions, the promissory notes carried acceleration clauses, making these notes immediately due and payable even before maturity in case an event of default occurred, including, but not limited to, payment of principal and interest amortizations.



Moreover, respondent stated that on August 10, 1995, as partial security for the promissory notes, petitioner Malleta, through her attorney-in-fact, petitioner Adelia Mendoza, executed a real estate mortgage in favor of UCPB over several parcels of land registered under the name of Alice B. Malleta with the Register of Deeds of Lipa City. Later, pursuant to petitioner Mendoza’s commitment with UCPB, the titles of the mortgaged properties were transferred under the name of Adelia B. Mendoza upon release of the loan proceeds and the mortgage annotation was carried over to the new titles.



According to respondent, on October 6, 1995, petitioner Mendoza executed a real estate mortgage over 12 parcels of land,[9] all registered in her name, as additional security for the said promissory notes.



Respondent stated that petitioner Mendoza failed to discharge her obligations under the promissory notes, despite written and verbal demands made by UCPB upon her, the latest of which was the demand letter dated January 29, 1998.[10] Hence, it had no other recourse but to initiate foreclosure proceedings on the aforementioned securities.



Respondent averred that on May 6, 1998, it filed a Petition[11] for Extrajudicial Foreclosure of the mortgaged properties before the Ex Officio Sheriff of Lipa City.



On July 21, 1998, the Sheriff prepared a Notice of Sale[12] and set the date of the public sale on August 27, 1998.[13] On July 28, 1998, the Sheriff posted the Notice of Sale in three public places and the Notice was, likewise, published in Tambuling Batangas, a newspaper of general circulation, on July 22 and 29, 1998, and on August 5, 1998. The certificate of posting and publisher’s affidavit of publication were attached as Annexes “12,”[14] and “13,”[15] respectively.



The public sale was conducted on August 28, 1998. The mortgaged properties were sold in the amount of P31,300,000.00 to UCPB as the highest and winning bidder. A Certificate of Sale[16] was issued in favor of UCPB, which was duly registered in July 2000 at the back of the certificates of title of the mortgaged properties with the Register of Deeds of Lipa City.



Petitioners failed to redeem the foreclosed properties within the one-year redemption period that expired on July 21, 2001. Consequently, UCPB consolidated its ownership over the said properties and new certificates of title were issued under its name.



Respondent stated that on August 27, 1998, the date of the auction sale, petitioners’ outstanding obligation was P58,692,538.63, as evidenced by a Statement of Account.[17]



According to respondent, the proceeds of the foreclosure sale amounted to P31,300,000.00, leaving a deficiency of P27,392,538.63, an amount which it is entitled to payment from petitioner Mendoza, together with penalties and interest due thereon.



Respondent prayed that, after hearing, judgment be rendered (1) dismissing the Complaint for lack of merit; (2) on the counterclaim, ordering petitioners to pay the deficiency claim of P27,392,538.63, including the penalties and interests due thereon from August 27, 1998, and P1 million as attorney’s fees and P200,000.00 as litigation expenses.



On March 25, 2003, respondent filed a Motion to Dismiss[18] for failure to prosecute. Respondent contended that petitioners, through counsel, received a copy of its Answer on August 26, 2002, as shown by the photocopy of the registry return receipt. It stated that under Section 1, Rule 18 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, petitioners have the positive duty to promptly set the case for pre-trial after the last pleading had been filed. It stated that the Answer was the last pleading, since petitioners failed to file a Reply thereon within the reglementary period.



Respondent stated that since August 26, 2002, or almost a period of six months, petitioners had not taken steps to set the case for pre-trial as mandated by the rules. Respondent submitted that the case should be dismissed for failure to prosecute for an unreasonable period of time as provided by Section 3, Rule 17 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. It asserted that failure to set the case for pre-trial for almost six (6) months is an unreasonable period of time, as a period of three (3) months had been found to constitute an unreasonable period of time in Montejo v. Urotia.[19]



Petitioners, through counsel Atty. Jose P. Malabanan, filed an Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss and Motion to Set the Case for Pre-trial,[20] and stated therein that their counsel on record is Atty. Monchito C. Rosales, who died on December 22, 2002; that Atty. Jose P. Malabanan forgot the case because of the death of Atty. Rosales (who is his law partner), and that he was setting the case for pre-trial. Petitioners prayed that the Opposition and motion to set the case for pre-trial be granted.



On April 15, 2003, the RTC of Lipa City, Branch 12 issued an Order[21] dismissing the case. The court found the Motion to Dismiss (for failure to prosecute) to be in accordance with the rules. It stated that the records of the case showed that since August 20, 2002, the issues in this case had already been joined, and that Atty. Monchito C. Rosales was still alive then, yet he did not take any step to have the case set for pre-trial. It found the claim of Atty. Jose P. Malabanan, that he forgot about the case because of the death of Atty. Rosales, as unpardonable, flimsy and an invalid excuse.



The Motion for Reconsideration of the Order dated April 15, 2003 was denied for lack of merit by the trial court in an Order dated May 26, 2003.[22]



Thereafter, petitioners appealed the trial court’s Orders to the Court of Appeals, and filed an Appellant’s Brief on April 5, 2004.



On May 20, 2004, respondent filed a Motion to Dismiss Appeal on the ground that the Appellant’s Brief failed to comply with the requirements under Section 13, Rule 44 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. Respondent contended that the Appellant’s Brief contained only the following topics: (1) Prefaratory Statement; (2) Statement of Facts and Antecedent Proceedings; (3) Parties; (4) Statement of the Case; (5) Issues; (6) Arguments/Discussion; and (7) Prayer. The Appellants’ Brief did not have the following items: (1) A subject index of the matter in the brief with a digest of the arguments and page references, and a table of cases alphabetically arranged, textbooks and statutes cited with references to the pages where they are cited; (2) an assignment of errors; (3) on the authorities cited, references to the page of the report at which the case begins and page of the report on which the citation is found; (4) page references to the record in the Statement of Facts and Statement of the Case.



Respondent contended that the absence of a specific assignment of errors or of page references to the record in the Appellants’ Brief is a ground for dismissal of the appeal under Section 1 (f), Rule 50 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.[23]



On June 4, 2004, petitioners filed an Opposition to Motion to Dismiss Appeal.[24] They contended that the assignment of errors were only designated as “Issues” in their Appellants’ Brief; and although the designation of the “Assignment of Error” may vary, the substance thereof remains. Moreover, petitioners stated that the textbooks and statutes were cited immediately after the portion where they are quoted, which is more convenient and facilitates ready reference of the legal and jurisprudential basis of the arguments. They claimed that the absence of a subject index does not substantially deviate from the requirements of the Rules of Court, because one can easily go over the Appellants’ Brief and can designate the parts with nominal prudence. They pointed out that Section 6 of the Rules of Court provides for a liberal construction of the Rules in order to promote their objective of securing a just, speedy and inexpensive disposition of every action and proceeding.



On July 2, 2004, the Court of Appeals issued a Resolution dismissing the appeal. The dispositive portion of the Resolution reads:



WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the defendant-appellee UCPB’s Motion to Dismiss Appeal is hereby GRANTED. This appeal is ordered DISMISSED for failure to comply with Section 13, Rule 44 of the 1997 Revised Rules of Civil Procedure.[25]





The Court of Appeals held that the right to appeal is a statutory right and a party who seeks to avail of the right must faithfully comply with the rules. It found that the Appellants’ Brief failed to comply with Section 13, Rule 44 of the 1997 Revised Rules of Civil Procedure, thus:



In this case, the plaintiff-appellant’s brief failed to provide an index, like a table of contents, to facilitate the review of appeals by providing ready references to the records and documents referred to therein. This Court has to thumb through the brief page after page to locate the party’s arguments, or a particular citation, or whatever else needs to be found and considered. In so doing, the plaintiff-appellant unreasonably abdicated her duty to assist this Court in the appreciation and evaluation of the issues on appeal.



Further, the statement of facts is not supported by page references to the record. Instead of reasonably complying with the requirements of the rules, plaintiff-appellant annexed the plain photocopy of the documents being referred to in the statements of facts. Thus, if only to verify the veracity of the allegations in the brief and the existence of the attached documents, this Court has to pore over the entire records of this case.



There is no merit in the plaintiff-appellant’s argument that the “Assignment of Error” was merely designated as “Issues” but the substance thereof remains and should not cause the dismissal of the appeal. The Supreme Court categorically stated in De Liano vs. Court of Appeals that the statement of issues is not to be confused with the assignment of errors because they are not one and the same, for otherwise, the rules would not have required a separate statement of each.[26]





Petitioners’ motion for reconsideration was denied for lack of merit by the Court of Appeals in its Resolution dated September 9, 2004. The appellate court held that petitioners merely reiterated the arguments raised in their Opposition to Motion to Dismiss Appeal, which arguments were already passed upon by the court. Moreover, the Court of Appeals noted that despite ample opportunity, petitioners never attempted to remedy the deficiency in their Appellants’ Brief by filing another brief in conformity with the rules, but obstinately maintained that their Appellants’ Brief substantially complied with the rules.



Hence, petitioners filed this petition raising the following issues:



I

THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN DISMISSING THE APPEAL NOTWITHSTANDING THE PETITIONERS’ SUBSTANTIAL COMPLIANCE [WITH] SECTION 13, RULE 44 [OF] THE 1997 RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE.



II

THE HONORABLE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF LIPA CITY, BRANCH 12 ERRED IN ORDERING THE DISMISSAL OF PETITIONERS’ COMPLAINT ON THE GROUND OF FAILURE TO PROSECUTE THEIR CAUSE OF ACTION FOR AN UNREASONABLE PERIOD OF TIME.



III

THE HONORABLE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF LIPA CITY, BRANCH 12 ERRED IN NOT HOLDING THAT RESPONDENT’S NON-COMPLIANCE WITH THE POSTING REQUIREMENT UNDER SECTION 3, ACT NO. 3135 IS FATAL TO THE VALIDITY OF THE FORECLOSURE PROCEEDINGS.



IV

THE EXTRAJUDICIAL FORECLOSURE PROCEEDINGS AND AUCTION SALE OF THE SUBJECT REALTIES VIOLATE THE PROVISIONS OF ARTICLE XVII OF THE CONTRACT OF MORTGAGE ENTERED INTO BY AND BETWEEN THE PETITIONERS AND RESPONDENT ON 06 OCTOBER 1995.



V

RESPONDENT UNITED COCONUT PLANTERS BANK VIOLATED SECTION 4 OF REPUBLIC ACT NO. 3765 ON THE REQUIREMENT OF FULL DISCLOSURE OF FINANCE CHARGES IN CONNECTION WITH THE EXTENSIONS OF CREDIT.



VI

PETITIONERS ARE ENTITLED TO REASONABLE ATTORNEY’S FEES.[27]





The main issue is whether or not the Court of Appeals erred in dismissing petitioners’ appeal on the ground that their Appellants’ Brief failed to comply with Section 13, Rule 44 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure as the said brief did not have a subject index, an assignment of errors, and page references to the record in the Statement of Facts.



Petitioners argue that the absence of a subject index in their Appellants’ Brief is not a material deviation from the requirements of Section 13, Rule 44 of the 1997 Revised Rules of Civil Procedure, and that each portion of the 12-page brief was boldly designated to separate each portion.



Moreover, petitioners contend that while the “assignment of errors” was not designated as such in their Appellants’ Brief, the assignment of errors were clearly embodied in the “Issues” thereof, which substantially complies with the rules.



The petition is without merit.



The right to appeal is neither 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 law.[28] An appeal being a purely statutory right, an appealing party must strictly comply with the requisites laid down in the Rules of Court.[29]



In regard to ordinary appealed cases to the Court of Appeals, such as this case, Section 13, Rule 44 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure provides for the contents of an Appellant’s Brief, thus:



Sec. 13. Contents of appellant’s brief.—The appellant’s brief shall contain, in the order herein indicated, the following:

(a) A subject index of the matter in the brief with a digest of the arguments and page references, and a table of cases alphabetically arranged, textbooks and statutes cited with references to the pages where they are cited;

(b) An assignment of errors intended to be urged, which errors shall be separately, distinctly and concisely stated without repetition and numbered consecutively;

(c) Under the heading “Statement of the Case,” a clear and concise statement of the nature of the action, a summary of the proceedings, the appealed rulings and orders of the court, the nature of the judgment and any other matters necessary to an understanding of the nature of the controversy, with page references to the record;

(d) Under the heading “Statement of Facts,” a clear and concise statement in a narrative form of the facts admitted by both parties and of those in controversy, together with the substance of the proof relating thereto in sufficient detail to make it clearly intelligible, with page references to the record;

(e) A clear and concise statement of the issues of fact or law to be submitted to the court for its judgment;

(f) Under the heading “Argument,” the appellant’s arguments on each assignment of error with page references to the record. The authorities relied upon shall be cited by the page of the report at which the case begins and the page of the report on which the citation is found;

(g) Under the heading “Relief,” a specification of the order or judgment which the appellant seeks; and

(h) In cases not brought up by record on appeal, the appellant’s brief shall contain, as an appendix, a copy of the judgment or final order appealed from.



In this case, the Appellants’ Brief of petitioners did not have a subject index. The importance of a subject index should not be underestimated. De Liano v. Court of Appeals[30] declared that the subject index functions like a table of contents, facilitating the review of appeals by providing ready reference. It held that:



[t]he first requirement of an appellant’s brief is a subject index. The index is intended to facilitate the review of appeals by providing ready reference, functioning much like a table of contents. Unlike in other jurisdictions, there is no limit on the length of appeal briefs or appeal memoranda filed before appellate courts. The danger of this is the very real possibility that the reviewing tribunal will be swamped with voluminous documents. This occurs even though the rules consistently urge the parties to be “brief” or “concise” in the drafting of pleadings, briefs, and other papers to be filed in court. The subject index makes readily available at one’s fingertips the subject of the contents of the brief so that the need to thumb through the brief page after page to locate a party’s arguments, or a particular citation, or whatever else needs to be found and considered, is obviated.[31]



Moreover, the Appellants’ Brief had no assignment of errors, but petitioners insist that it is embodied in the “Issues” of the brief. The requirement under Section 13, Rule 44 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure for an “assignment of errors” in paragraph (b) thereof is different from a “statement of the issues of fact or law” in paragraph (e) thereof. The statement of issues is not to be confused with the assignment of errors, since they are not one and the same; otherwise, the rules would not require a separate statement for each.[32] An assignment of errors is an enumeration by the appellant of the errors alleged to have been committed by the trial court for which he/she seeks to obtain a reversal of the judgment, while the statement of issues puts forth the questions of fact or law to be resolved by the appellate court.[33]



Further, the Court of Appeals found that the Statement of Facts was not supported by page references to the record. De Liano v. Court of Appeals held:



x x x The facts constitute the backbone of a legal argument; they are determinative of the law and jurisprudence applicable to the case, and consequently, will govern the appropriate relief. Appellants should remember that the Court of Appeals is empowered to review both questions of law and of facts. Otherwise, where only a pure question of law is involved, appeal would pertain to this Court. An appellant, therefore, should take care to state the facts accurately though it is permissible to present them in a manner favorable to one party. x x x Facts which are admitted require no further proof, whereas facts in dispute must be backed by evidence. Relative thereto, the rule specifically requires that one’s statement of facts should be supported by page references to the record. Indeed, disobedience therewith has been punished by dismissal of the appeal. Page references to the record are not an empty requirement. If a statement of fact is unaccompanied by a page reference to the record, it may be presumed to be without support in the record and may be stricken or disregarded altogether.[34]



The assignment of errors and page references to the record in the statement of facts are important in an Appellant’s Brief as the absence thereof is a basis for the dismissal of an appeal under Section 1 (f), Rule 50, of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, thus:



SECTION 1. Grounds for dismissal of appeal. -- An appeal may be dismissed by the Court of Appeals, on its own motion or on that of the appellee, on the following grounds:



x x x x



(f ) Absence of specific assignment of errors in the appellant’s brief, or of page references to the record as required in section 13, paragraphs (a), (c), (d) and (f) of Rule 44.



Rules 44 and 50 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure are designed for the proper and prompt disposition of cases before the Court of Appeals.[35] Rules of procedure exist for a noble purpose, and to disregard such rules in the guise of liberal construction would be to defeat such purpose.[36] The Court of Appeals noted in its Resolution denying petitioners’ motion for reconsideration that despite ample opportunity, petitioners never attempted to file an amended appellants’ brief correcting the deficiencies of their brief, but obstinately clung to their argument that their Appellants’ Brief substantially complied with the rules. Such obstinacy is incongruous with their plea for liberality in construing the rules on appeal.[37]



De Liano v. Court of Appeals held:



Some may argue that adherence to these formal requirements serves but a meaningless purpose, that these may be ignored with little risk in the smug certainty that liberality in the application of procedural rules can always be relied upon to remedy the infirmities. This misses the point. We are not martinets; in appropriate instances, we are prepared to listen to reason, and to give relief as the circumstances may warrant. However, when the error relates to something so elementary as to be inexcusable, our discretion becomes nothing more than an exercise in frustration. It comes as an unpleasant shock to us that the contents of an appellant’s brief should still be raised as an issue now. There is nothing arcane or novel about the provisions of Section 13, Rule 44. The rule governing the contents of appellants’ briefs has existed since the old Rules of Court, which took effect on July 1, 1940, as well as the Revised Rules of Court, which took effect on January 1, 1964, until they were superseded by the present 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. The provisions were substantially preserved, with few revisions.[38]





In fine, the Court upholds the Resolutions of the Court of Appeals dismissing the appeal of petitioners on the ground that their Appellants’ Brief does not comply with the requirements provided in Section 13, Rule 44 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as the dismissal is supported by Section 1 (f), Rule 50 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure and jurisprudence.[39] With the dismissal of the appeal, the other issues raised by petitioners need not be discussed by the Court.



WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Court of Appeals’ Resolutions dated July 2, 2004 and September 9, 2004, in CA-G.R. CV No. 79796, are hereby AFFIRMED.



Costs against petitioners.



SO ORDERED.





DIOSDADO M. PERALTA

Associate Justice



WE CONCUR:





ANTONIO T. CARPIO

Associate Justice

Chairperson











ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA ROBERTO A. ABAD

Associate Justice Associate Justice







JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA

Associate Justice







ATTESTATION





I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court’s Division.









ANTONIO T. CARPIO

Associate Justice

Second Division, Chairperson





CERTIFICATION



Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the Division Chairperson’s Attestation, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court’s Division.









RENATO C. CORONA

Chief Justice







[1] Under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.

[2] Rollo, pp. 41-91.

[3] Annex “A,” id. at 47.

[4] Annexes “A-1” to “A-63,” records, pp. 14-76.

[5] Records, p. 96.

[6] Annex “1,” id. at 107.

[7] Annex “2,” id. at 113.

[8] Annexes, “3,” “4,” “5,” id. at 119, 120, 121.

[9] Annex “8,” id. at 133.

[10] Annex “9,” id. at 143.

[11] Annex “10,” id. at 145.

[12] Annex “11,” id. at 148.

[13] Annexes “10” and “11,” id. at 145, 148.

[14] Records, p. 149.

[15] Id. at 150.

[16] Annex “15,” id. at 169.

[17] Annex “17,” id. at 238.

[18] Records, p. 239.

[19] 148-B Phil. 43, 50 (1971).

[20] Records, p. 245.

[21] Id. at 248.

[22] Id. at 257.

[23] Rule 50, Section 1. Grounds for dismissal of appeal. -- An appeal may be dismissed by the Court of Appeals, on its own motion or on that of the appellee, on the following grounds:

x x x x

(f ) Absence of specific assignment of errors in the appellant’s brief, or of page references to the record as required in section 13, paragraphs (a), (c), (d) and (f) of Rule 44.

[24] CA rollo, p. 135.

[25] Id. at 147.

[26] Id. at 162-163.

[27] Rollo, pp. 7-8.

[28] Mejillano v. Lucillo, G.R. No. 154717, June 19, 2009, 590 SCRA 1, 9-10.

[29] Id. at 10.

[30] 421 Phil. 1033 (2001).

[31] Id. at 1042.

[32] Id. at 1044. (Emphasis supplied.)

[33] Id. at 1042, 1044.

[34] Id. at 1044.

[35] Lumbre v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 160717, July 23, 2008, 559 SCRA 419, 431.

[36] Id. at 434.

[37] Del Rosario v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 113890, February 22, 1995, 241 SCRA 553.

[38] De Liano v. Court of Appeals, supra note 30, at 1046-1047.

[39] Id.; Estate of Tarcila Vda. de Villegas v. Gaboya, G.R. No. 143006, July 14, 2006, 495 SCRA 30, 41, citing Del Rosario v. Court of Appeals, supra note 37 and Bucad v. Court of Appeals, 216 SCRA 423 (1993).

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