Felix Cruz, Jr. v. CA (G.R. No. 148544)

Facts:

Petitioner Felix Cruz, Jr., an employee of private respondent Citytrust Banking Corporation, held the confidential position of Micro Technical Support Officer responsible for evaluating requests for Micro Computers and accepting bids submitted thereof. Following feedbacks that certain irregularities were being committed in the bidding process, a special investigation was conducted and found petitioner was receiving unauthorized and unreported commissions and rebates from suppliers. An administrative hearing ensued and petitioner being found guilty, Citytrust terminated his employment. Aggrieved, petitioner filed an illegal dismissal complaint before the Labor Arbiter. The LA deciding in petitioner’s favor, Citytrust appealed to NLRC which ruled to set aside the LA decision and dismiss the case. Thus, petitioner filed a petition for certiorari with the SC, which referred the same to CA pursuant to the St. Martin ruling. CA dismissed the petition, sustaining the NLRC ruling. Instead of MR, petitioner filed again the present petition for certiorari.

Respondent mainly contends that the present petition for certiorari is not the proper remedy to assail the subject decision of the CA. Respondent argues that petitioner’s failure to file a petition for review cannot be remedied by the filing of a special civil action for certiorari.

Issue:

Whether petitioner availed the proper remedy to assail the decision of the Court of Appeals.

Ruling: NO.

First, it is well settled that the remedy to obtain reversal or modification of judgment on the merits is appeal. This is true even if the error, or one of the errors, ascribed to the court rendering the judgment is its lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter, or the exercise of power in excess thereof, or grave abuse of discretion in the findings of facts or of law set out in the decision.

Petitioner claims that he received the CA Decision on May 17, 2001. Consequently, he had 15 days from said date of receipt of assailed judgment, or until June 1, 2001, within which to file a petition for review on certiorari, the reglementary period prescribed by Rule 45 to avail of said action. On July 9, 2001 close to two months after said receipt, petitioner filed the present petition. Evidently, petitioner has lost his remedy of appeal. The filing of the instant petition for certiorari cannot be used as a means of recovering his appeal as it is settled that certiorari is not a substitute for lost appeal. The remedies of appeal and certiorari are mutually exclusive and not alternative or successive.

Second, assuming for the sake of argument that the present petition for certiorari is the appropriate remedy, the records of the instant case show that petitioner failed to file a motion for reconsideration of the decision of the appellate court, thus, depriving the CA of the opportunity to correct on reconsideration such errors as it may have committed. The general rule is that a motion for reconsideration is indispensable before resort to the special civil action for certiorari to afford the court or tribunal the opportunity to correct its error, if any. This rule is subject to certain recognized exceptions. None of these exceptions are present in the instant case. Hence, petitioner’s unjustified failure to file a motion for reconsideration of the decision of the CA before recourse to this special civil action was made calls for the outright dismissal of this case.

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United Field Sea Watchman and Checkers Agency v. Requillo, et al. (G.R. No. 143527)

Facts:

Willie Requillo and other respondents herein, were employees of petitioner-company working as security guards assigned at the Port of Surigao City operated by the PPA. In the course of their employment, respondents applied for loans with SSS but found out that petitioner had not been remitting the contributions being deducted regularly from their salaries. Hence, respondents filed with DOLE complaints against petitioner. Sometime after, petitioner reassigned respondents to various PPA offices. Considering it as a form of retaliation, respondents refused to heed the order and continued to report for work at the PPA Office in Surigao City. Hence, petitioner refused to pay their salaries and considered them AWOL. Consequently, respondents filed a complaint for illegal dismissal which the Labor Arbiter decided in their favor on April 13, 1998. On appeal by petitioner, NLRC deleted the award for backwages, damages and attorney’s fees.  Dissatisfied, respondents filed with CA a petition for certiorari alleging NLRC erred in giving due course to petitioner’s appeal despite being filed beyond the reglementary period. CA set aside the NLRC decision, MR was denied.

Issue:

Whether the Court of Appeals erred in holding that petitioners’ appeal to the NLRC was filed beyond the reglementary period.

Ruling: NO.

We find no cogent reason to deviate from the findings of the Court of Appeals:

Although there was an allegation in the appeal that the Labor Arbiter’s Decision was received on April 27, 1998, there is substantial evidence to show that it could not have been so as asseverated by petitioners. The registry return slips addressed to petitioner do not bear the rubber stamped print that the mailed decision was registered and that it was posted on April 22, 1998 at Butuan City. Likewise, they do not have the required stamp affixed to a return slip.  Considering such patent irregularity, we find that the registry return slips addressed to petitioner are not the original return slips of the Decision of the Labor Arbiter. The non-submission of the original return slips is an indication that if the originals were submitted they would reveal that petitioner received the Decision of the Labor Arbiter not on April 27, 1998 but on a much earlier date.

Article 223 of the Labor Code provides in part:

ART. 223. Appeals. – Decisions, awards, or orders of the Labor Arbiter are final and executory unless appealed to the Commission by any or both parties within ten (10) calendar days from receipt of such decisions, awards, or orders, x x x.

In Tomas Claudio Memorial College, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, we held that the right to appeal is not part of due process but a mere statutory privilege that has to be exercised only in the manner and in accordance with the provisions of law. Since the perfection of an appeal within the statutory reglementary period is not only mandatory but also jurisdictional, petitioners’ failure to perfect their appeal to the NLRC seasonably rendered the Labor Arbiter’s Decision final and executory. Accordingly, the NLRC has no jurisdiction to give due course to petitioners’ appeal, much less render a Resolution modifying the Labor Arbiter’s Decision. Indeed, such Resolution is a patent nullity for want of jurisdiction.

VMC Rural Electric Cooperative v. CA (G.R. No. 153144)

Facts:

Herein private respondent Joel Gustilo was a driver-lineman for petitioner-electric company and was himself an electric consumer serviced by petitioner. Due to non-payment of electric bills, respondent’s electric line in their house was disconnected. Sometime after, an inspection team from petitioner found that there was electricity in the house of respondent despite the supposed disconnection. An investigation ensued and respondent was terminated in connection with the discovery of the alleged illegal connection. Aggrieved, respondent filed a complaint for illegal dismissal. Both the Labor Arbiter and NLRC decided in favor of petitioner. Respondent by way of Rule 65 elevated the case to CA, which set aside the LA’s decision and ordered petitioner’s reinstatement. MR being denied, petitioner filed a petition for certiorari before this Court. Respondent argues that whether petitioner is raising a question of fact or law, or mixed questions of fact and law, the mode of appeal from the CA decision would still be Rule 45, and not Rule 65. Also that the present petition is dismissible outright for being filed beyond the 15-day period to file an appeal.

Issue:

Whether petitioner availed of the proper remedy to assail the findings of the Court of Appeals.

Ruling: NO.

We perceive a patent error in the mode of appeal elected by petitioner for the purpose of assailing the Decision of the Court of Appeals. One of the requisites of certiorari is that there be no available appeal or any plain, speedy and adequate remedy. Where an appeal is available, certiorari will not prosper, even if the ground therefore is grave abuse of discretion. In the case at bar, the proper remedy of petitioner VRESCO to dispute the Decision of the appellate court is to file a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, which should be instituted within 15 days from receipt of the assailed decision or resolution. In a long line of cases, the Court has consistently emphasized that after the lapse of the 15-day period to file a petition for Review on Certiorari, the special civil action of certiorari under Rule 65 is not, and cannot be, a substitute for a lost remedy of appeal. In the case at bar, the petition was filed 45 days after receipt of the Resolution of the Court of Appeals denying its Motion for Reconsideration, evidently beyond the 15-day period for filing a petition for review on certiorari, hence the period to appeal was lost. Therefore, the instant petition cannot prevail since a petition for certiorari cannot substitute for a lost appeal, especially if one’s error in one’s choice of remedy occasioned such loss or lapse.

Bongalon v. People (G.R. No. 169533)

Facts:

Petitioner was charged with child abuse, an act in violation of Section 10(a) of RA 7610, for allegedly committing acts of physical abuse and/or maltreatment by striking Jayson Dela Cruz (12 year old) with his palm hitting the latter at his back and by slapping said minor hitting his left cheek and uttering derogatory remarks to the latter’s family, which acts of the accused are prejudicial to the child’s development and which demean the intrinsic worth and dignity of the said child as a human being.

Petitioner denied having physically abused or maltreated Jayson. He explained that he only talked with Jayson and Roldan after his minor daughters, Mary Ann Rose and Cherrylyn, had told him about Jayson and Roldan’s throwing stones at them and about Jayson’s burning Cherrylyn’s hair. He denied shouting invectives at and challenging Rolando to a fight, insisting that he only told Rolando to restrain his sons from harming his daughters. RTC and CA found and declared petitioner guilty of child abuse.

Issue:

Whether petitioner was guilty of the crime charged.

Ruling: NO.

The law under which the petitioner was charged, tried and found guilty of violating is Section 10 (a), Article VI of Republic Act No. 7610, which relevantly states:

Section 10. Other Acts of Neglect, Abuse, Cruelty or Exploitation and other Conditions Prejudicial to the Child’s Development. –

(a) Any person who shall commit any other acts of child abuse, cruelty or exploitation or be responsible for other conditions prejudicial to the child’s development including those covered by Article 59 of Presidential Decree No. 603, as amended, but not covered by the Revised Penal Code, as amended, shall suffer the penalty of prision mayor in its minimum period.

x x x x

Child abuse, the crime charged, is defined by Section 3 (b) of Republic Act No. 7610, as follows:

Section 3. Definition of terms. –

x x x x

(b) “Child Abuse” refers to the maltreatment, whether habitual or not, of the child which includes any of the following:

(1) Psychological and physical abuse, neglect, cruelty, sexual abuse and emotional maltreatment;

(2) Any act by deeds or words which debases, degrades or demeans the intrinsic worth and dignity of a child as a human being;

(3) Unreasonable deprivation of his basic needs for survival, such as food and shelter; or

(4) Failure to immediately give medical treatment to an injured child resulting in serious impairment of his growth and development or in his permanent incapacity or death.

x x x x

Although we affirm the factual findings of fact by the RTC and the CA to the effect that the petitioner struck Jayson at the back with his hand and slapped Jayson on the face, we disagree with their holding that his acts constituted child abuse within the purview of the above-quoted provisions. The records did not establish beyond reasonable doubt that his laying of hands on Jayson had been intended to debase the “intrinsic worth and dignity” of Jayson as a human being, or that he had thereby intended to humiliate or embarrass Jayson. The records showed the laying of hands on Jayson to have been done at the spur of the moment and in anger, indicative of his being then overwhelmed by his fatherly concern for the personal safety of his own minor daughters who had just suffered harm at the hands of Jayson and Roldan. With the loss of his self-control, he lacked that specific intent to debase, degrade or demean the intrinsic worth and dignity of a child as a human being that was so essential in the crime of child abuse.

What crime, then, did the petitioner commit? Considering that Jayson’s physical injury required 5-7 days of medical attention, the petitioner was liable for slight physical injuries under Article 266 (1) of the Revised Penal Code.

WHEREFORE, we SET ASIDE the decision of the CA; and ENTER a new judgment finding P GUlLTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of SLIGHT PHYSICAL INJURIES under paragraph 1, Article 266, of the Revised Penal Code.

Bearneza v. NLRC (G.R. No. 146930)

Facts:

Petitioner Rommel Bearneza filed a complaint for permanent total disability benefits against respondent NFD International Manning Agents but was dismissed by the POEA for lack of merit. On appeal, NLRC reversed the POEA decision. Then, NFD filed a petition for certiorari before the SC. A TRO enjoining the execution of the judgment award was issued upon posting by NFD of a P1 million bond. The petition was dismissed and NFD sought reconsideration while petitioner moved for the imposition of a 12% interest per annum on the judgment award until its full satisfaction. The SC denied both motions and remanded the case back to NLRC for execution of judgment. The LA issued an alias writ of execution ordering the satisfaction of petitioner’s claims and the attorney’s fees. The sheriff then submitted a return informing the LA that the alias writ had been satisfied. Petitioner then moved for the issuance of a second alias writ of execution praying that the manning agency be held liable also for 12% p.a. interest on the judgment award. LA denied the motion. NLRC and CA affirmed.

Issue:

Whether there is grave abuse of discretion in disallowing petitioner’s claim for the imposition of interest on the judgment award.

Ruling: NO.

No abuse of discretion may be imputed to the labor arbiter and the NLRC. The NLRC’s decision had already become final and executory. The sheriff’s return showed that the judgment had in fact been executed. Moreover, no discretion could have possibly been exercised on petitioner’s claim as the matter had long been resolved and laid to rest by this Court in its resolution in G.R. No. 107131.

The Court further Resolved to:

(1) DENY for lack of merit the motion for damages on the injunction bond filed by [Rommel Bearneza];

Once a judgment attains finality it becomes immutable and unalterable. It may no longer be modified in any respect, even if the modification is meant to correct what is perceived to be an erroneous conclusion of fact or law, and regardless of whether the modification is attempted to be made by the court rendering it or by the highest court of the land.