ALFREDO JACA MONTAJES, PETITIONER, VS. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, RESPONDENT. G.R. No. 183449, March 12, 2012. - -The Lawyer's Post.
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Section 1, Rule 22 of the Rules of Court relied upon by petitioner provides:
Section 1. How to compute time. – In computing any period of time prescribed or allowed by these Rules, or by order of the court, or by any applicable statute, the day of the act or event from which the designated period of time begins to run is to be excluded and the date of performance included. If the last day of the period, as thus computed, falls on a Saturday, a Sunday, or a legal holiday in the place where the court sits, the time shall not run until the next working day.
We then clarified the above-quoted provision when we issued A.M. No. 00-2-14-SC dated February 29, 2000 (Re: Computation of Time When the Last Day Falls on a Saturday, Sunday or a Legal Holiday and a Motion for Extension on Next Working Day is Granted) which reads:
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Whereas, the aforecited provision [Section 1, Rule 22 of the Rules of Court] applies in the matter of filing of pleadings in courts when the due date falls on a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday, in which case, the filing of the said pleading on the next working day is deemed on time;
Whereas, the question has been raised if the period is extended ipso jure to the next working day immediately following where the last day of the period is a Saturday, Sunday or a legal holiday, so that when a motion for extension of time is filed, the period of extension is to be reckoned from the next working day and not from the original expiration of the period.
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In De la Cruz v. Maersk Filipinas Crewing, Inc.,1 we said:
Section 1, Rule 22, as clarified by the circular, is clear. Should a party desire to file any pleading, even a motion for extension of time to file a pleading, and the last day falls on a Saturday, Sunday or a legal holiday, he may do so on the next working day. This is what petitioner did in the case at bar.
However, according to the same circular, the petition for review on certiorari was indeed filed out of time. The provision states that in case a motion for extension is granted, the due date for the extended period shall be counted from the original due date, not from the next working day on which the motion for extension was filed. In Luz v. National Amnesty Commission, we had occasion to expound on the matter. In that case, we held that the extension granted by the court should be tacked to the original period and commences immediately after the expiration of such period.
In the case at bar, although petitioner’s filing of the motion for extension was within the period provided by law, the filing of the petition itself was not on time. Petitioner was granted an additional period of 30 days within which to file the petition. Reckoned from the original period, he should have filed it on May 8, 2006. Instead, he did so only on May 11, 2006, that is, 3 days late.2
Based on Section 1, Rule 22 of the Rules of Court, where the last day of the period for doing any act required by law falls on a Saturday, a Sunday, or a legal holiday in the place where the court sits, the time shall not run until the next working day. In this case, the original period for filing the petition for review with the CA was on May 19, 2007, a Saturday. Petitioner’s filing of his motion for extension of time to file a petition for review on May 21, 2007, the next working day which followed the last day for filing which fell on a Saturday, was therefore on time. However, petitioner prayed in his motion for extension that he be granted 15 days from May 21, 2007 or up to June 5, 2007 within which to file his petition. He then filed his petition for review on June 5, 2007. The CA did not act on the motion for extension, but instead issued a Resolution dated September 21, 2007 dismissing the petition for review for being filed out of time.
We find that the CA correctly ruled that the petition for review was filed out of time based on our clarification in A.M. No. 00-2-14-SC that the 15-day extension period prayed for should be tacked to the original period and commences immediately after the expiration of such period.3 Thus, counting 15 days from the expiration of the period which was on May 19, 2007, the petition filed on June 5, 2007 was already two days late. However, we find the circumstances obtaining in this case to merit the liberal application of the rule in the interest of justice and fair play.
Notably, the petition for review was already filed on June 5, 2007, which was long before the CA issued its Resolution dated September 21, 2007 dismissing the petition for review for being filed out of time. There was no showing that respondent suffered any material injury or his cause was prejudiced by reason of such delay. Moreover, the RTC decision which was sought to be reversed in the petition for review filed in the CA had affirmed the MTC judgment convicting petitioner of direct assault, hence, the petition involved no less than petitioner’s liberty.4 We do not find anything on record that shows petitioner’s deliberate intent to delay the final disposition of the case as he had filed the petition for review within the extended period sought, although erroneously computed. These circumstances should have been taken into consideration for the CA not to dismiss the petition outright.
We have ruled that being a few days late in the filing of the petition for review does not automatically warrant the dismissal thereof.5 And even assuming that a petition for review is filed a few days late, where strong considerations of substantial justice are manifest in the petition, we may relax the stringent application of technical rules in the exercise of our equity jurisdiction.6
Courts should not be so strict about procedural lapses that do not really impair the proper administration of justice.7 After all, the higher objective of procedural rule is to insure that the substantive rights of the parties are protected. Litigations should, as much as possible, be decided on the merits and not on technicalities. Every party-litigant must be afforded ample opportunity for the proper and just determination of his case, free from the unacceptable plea of technicalities.8
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