REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES VS. RESINS INC. (G.R. NO. 175891, 12 JANUARY 2010, CARPIO, J.) (SUBJECTS: SERVICE OF JUDGMENT; BURDEN OF PROVING SERVICE; CERTIFICATE OF MAILING NOT SUFFICIENT).

 

x  – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – x

D E C I S I O N

CARPIO, J.:

The Case

G.R. No. 175891 is a petition for review1 assailing the Decision2 promulgated on 25 May 2006 by the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 78516. The appellate court denied the petition filed by the Republic of the Philippines (Republic) through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG). The appellate court found no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Regional Trial Court of Misamis Oriental, Branch 20, Cagayan de Oro City (RTC) in rendering its 17 March 19933 Judgment and 17 January 19944 Amended Judgment, as well as in issuing its 7 July 19995 and 28 May 20036 Orders in Land Registration Case No. N-91-012, LRA Record No. N-62407. The RTC allowed the Land Registration Authority (LRA) to issue a Decree of Registration in favor of Resins, Incorporated (Resins, Inc.) over eight lots in Jasaan, Misamis Oriental after the RTC’s Judgment7 dated 17 March 1993 became final and executory.

The Facts

The appellate court narrated the facts as follows:

On 17 October 1991, [Resins, Inc.] filed x x x Land Registration Case [No. N-91-012] before the [RTC] for judicial confirmation of title over eight (8) parcels of land situated in the Municipality of Jasaan, Misamis Oriental. The initial hearing for said case was originally set on 4 February 1992. Prior to said date of hearing, the [LRA] filed with the [RTC] a report recommending that an Order be issued to [Resins, Inc.] directing it to submit the names and complete postal addresses of the adjoining lot owners, and that after complying with the said Order, the initial hearing be reset “on a date consistent with LRC Circular No. 353.”

Pursuant to the LRA recommendation, the application for original registration of titles was amended. Thereupon, the [RTC] issued an Order dated 17 January 1992 setting the initial hearing on 30 April 1992.

On 10 February 1992, the OSG entered its appearance as counsel of the Republic x x x. In its notice of appearance, the [OSG] manifested thus:

The City Prosecutor of Cagayan de Oro City has been authorized to appear in this case and, therefore, should also be furnished notices of hearings, orders, resolutions, decisions, processes. However, as the Solicitor General retains supervision and control of the representation in this case and has to approve withdrawal of the case, non-appeal or other actions which appear to compromise the interests of the Government, only notices of orders, resolutions, and decisions served on him will bind the party represented.

On 27 February 1992, the OSG received the notice of initial hearing of the application. The notice of the initial hearing was also served on the Regional Executive Director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Secretary of the Department of Public Works and Highways, the Director of the Bureau of Mines, the Director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, the Secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform, the Director of the Forest Management Bureau, the Provincial Governor, the Provincial Fiscal, the Provincial Treasurer, the Provincial Engineer, the Public Works and Highways District Engineer, the Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer, Land Management Sector, the Municipal Mayor, the Municipal Council of Jasaan, Misamis Oriental, the adjoining lot owners, and to all whom it may concern.

The notice of initial hearing was published in the 16 March 1992 issue of the Official Gazette and the 11 March 1992 issue of the Golden Chronicle pursuant to Section 23 of Presidential Decree No. 1529. On 19 March 1992, the City Sheriff posted the notice on the parcels of land sought to be registered, at the municipality building, and in conspicuous places in the Municipality of Jasaan, Misamis Oriental.

During the initial hearing on 30 April 1992, the [RTC] issued an Order of general default against the whole world except against [the Republic] who had filed its opposition to the application and one RENATO BAUTISTA who intimated to the [RTC] that he would file his opposition.

Subsequent hearings were conducted on the following dates: 16 July 1992, 23 July 1992, 15 September 1992, and 16 December 1992.

On 08 January 1993, [Resins, Inc.] filed Applicant’s Formal Offer of Documentary Evidence.

On 04 February 1993, the [RTC] issued an Order which states:

Considering the fact that all the exhibits of the applicant Resins, Incorporated were duly identified and attested to by the witnesses for the applicant and considering the fact that no opposition was filed by the government to the said exhibits, all the exhibits of the applicant from Exhibits “A” to “N,” inclusive, are hereby admitted as part of the testimonies of the witnesses for the applicant.

SO ORDERED.8

The Regional Trial Court’s Ruling

On 17 March 1993, the RTC rendered its Judgment9 in favor of Resins, Inc. The dispositive portion reads:

In [v]iew of the [f]oregoing, judgment is hereby rendered finding applicant Resins Incorporated, as owner in fee simple of all the lots sought to be registered – Lot 980, Cad-367, Lot 1371, Cad-367, Lot 1372, Cad-367, Lot 1373, Cad-367, Lot 1417, Cad-367, Lot 3462, Cad-267, Lot 3463, Cad-367, and Lot 3465, Cad-367, all of Jasaan Cadastre and having registerable [sic] titles thereto, hereby decreeing that Lot Nos. 980, 1371, 1372, 1373, 1417, 3462, 3463, and 3465 be registered in the name of Resins Incorporated, a corporation organized pursuant to the laws of the Philippines with its main office located at Jasaan, Misamis Oriental, in accordance with the technical descriptions correspondingly marked as Exhibits A-2, B-2, C-2, D-2, E-2, F-2, G-2, and H-2.

SO ORDERED.10

Despite the favorable judgment, Resins, Inc., was unable to have the lots registered in its name because of typographical errors in the RTC’s 17 March 1993 Judgment. On 6 January 1994, Resins, Inc. moved to correct the typographical errors and alleged:

1. That on March 17, 1993, the [RTC] rendered judgment approving the above-captioned application;

2. That up to the present no decree of registration has been issued and upon inquiry from the [LRA] [Resins, Inc.] learned that the reason is because [sic] there are two (2) typographical errors in the judgment, to wit:

a. Lot No. 3464 appearing on page 2, subpar[.] (g), line 1 should be Lot 3463 because par. 1 on the application shows that the 7th lot applied for is Lot 3463;

b. That material omissions were made on page 4, line 31 as follow[s]:

ORIGINAL WORDINGS:

“poses per Tax Dec. Nos. 858391 and 09352 marked Cad-367, Jasaan”

which should read as follows after supplying the omissions:

“poses per Tax Dec. Nos. 858391 and 09352 marked Exhs. E-3 and E-6, that Lot 3463, Cad-367, Jasaan”11

The RTC issued an Amended Judgment12 on 17 January 1994. However, only the error on page 2 was corrected and the error on page 4 remained. Upon yet another motion of Resins, Inc., the RTC issued another Amended Judgment on 16 March 1994 which corrected both errors. The OSG received a copy of the Amended Judgment on 2 May 1994, and filed a notice of appeal on 12 May 1994. Resins, Inc. filed a second motion to order the LRA to issue a decree of registration in its favor.

On 7 July 1999, the RTC issued an Order13 granting Resins, Inc.’s motion. The Order reads, thus:

Submitted before this court is the “Second Motion to Order the LRA to Issue a Decree of Registration, etc.” dated May 10, 1999 and filed on June 14, 1999 praying that

“1. The appeal filed by the [OSG] on May 12, 1994 or more than one (1) year from receipt of the original judgment, be ordered dismissed;

“2. Another order be issued directing the LRA to issue a decree of registration for the eight (8) lots enumerated in par. 1 hereof, based on the Amended Judgment dated March 16, 1994 and for other reliefs due under the premises.”

Despite notice to the Solicitor General[,] he or his representative did not appear in the hearing of June 18, 1999, nor did he file an opposition to the motion.

The Court finds the motion meritorious. The motion is granted. Hence, the [OSG]’s appeal of May 12, 1999 is dismissed. The Land Registration Authority (LRA) is hereby directed to issue a decree of registration in favor of [Resins, Inc.] for Lots 986, 1371, 1372, 1373, 1417, 3462, 3463, and 3465, CAD-367 of the Jasaan Cadastre after the judgment dated March 17, 1993 became final and executory.

SO ORDERED.

The Republic filed a Motion for Reconsideration14 of the 7 July 1999 Order. The Republic alleged that the OSG was never furnished a copy of the alleged original decision. The Republic cited Resins, Inc.’s Motion to Dismiss Appeal,15 which stated “[t]hat the original judgment of this case was issued on March 19, 1993, copy of which was furnished to the Office of the Solicitor General c/o the City Prosecutor who was delegated to represent the former during the proceedings.” Therefore, the 17 March 1993 Judgment never acquired finality with respect to the Republic.

Resins, Inc. filed an Opposition to the Motion for Reconsideration16 on 19 August 1999. Resins, Inc. stated that the OSG was furnished a copy of the 17 March 1993 decision. The OSG received the decision on 6 April 1993, as certified by the RTC Clerk of Court,17 and as evidenced by post office return slips.18

On 28 May 2003, the RTC issued yet another Order.19 Said Order reads, thus:

For resolution is the motion for reconsideration filed by the oppositor Republic of the Philippines represented by the Office of the Solicitor General of the order dismissing the notice of appeal filed by the said oppositor alleging that the Republic was never furnished copy of the judgment dated March 17, 1993 and that an amended order of the decision is entirely new which supersedes the original decision.

The motion was vehemently opposed by the applicant alleging that the Cagayan de Oro City Prosecutor received copy of the said judgment on March 29, 1993 while the Office of the Solicitor General, the Land Registration Authority, and the Bureau of Lands received copy of the judgment on April 6, 1993.

The records of the case shows [sic] that indeed these offices received the copy of the judgment as mentioned in the opposition per return slips attached to the records. Since there is no appeal filed within 30 days from receipt of the judgment, the judgment of this Court therefore has already become final and executory.

Anent the issue that the amended judgment supersedes the original judgment and as correctly pointed out by the applicant, the amendment pertains to harmless clerical errors in pages 2 and 4 of the original judgment but the dispositive portion confirming applicant’s ownership over the lots was not changed.

The Republic then filed a Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition20 with prayer for temporary restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction. The Republic sought to nullify, set aside, and prevent the implementation of the RTC’s Orders dated 7 July 1999 and 28 May 2003; as well as to nullify and set aside the Judgment dated 17 March 1993 and the Amended Judgment dated 17 January 1994. The Republic claimed that the entries in the logbook of the OSG’s Docket Division do not indicate that the 17 March 1993 Judgment was ever received by the OSG and actually transmitted to the lawyers assigned to represent the Republic in the present case.

The Ruling of the Court of Appeals

On 25 May 2006, the CA rendered its Decision21 and denied the Republic’s petition. The CA saw no grave abuse of discretion in the RTC’s dismissal of the Republic’s appeal, which appeal was based on the OSG’s alleged non-receipt of its copy of the original Judgment.

The CA found that the records of the case show that the OSG indeed received its copy of the original Judgment on 6 April 1993 as the return slip clearly indicated the date of service on the OSG. The OSG did not file an appeal within the reglementary period; hence, the RTC ruled that the Judgment is already final and executory. The CA also rejected the OSG’s desire for examination of entries in the OSG’s logbook as well as the affidavit of its bookbinder. The CA ruled that evaluation of evidentiary matters is beyond the province of a writ of certiorari. Moreover, even if the evidence were considered, the same should still be rejected because the OSG failed to show that the bookbinder had authority to record and keep legal custody of the logbook. Finally, the CA ruled that the only issue in a petition for certiorari is lack or excess or grave abuse of discretion. Thus, the OSG’s contention that the State cannot be put in estoppel by the mistakes of its agents is misplaced.

The Issues

The Republic enumerated the following grounds to support its Petition:

I. The Court of Appeals gravely erred in not holding that the RTC of Misamis Oriental, Branch 20 acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when it dismissed [the Republic’s] notice of appeal (in its Order dated July 7, 1999) and subsequently denied [the Republic’s] motion for reconsideration of such dismissal (in its Order dated May 28, 2003) because of the clear showing that the OSG, as [the Republic’s] statutory counsel, was not actually notified of and/or had not received a copy of the original Judgment dated March 17, 2003 in Land Registration Case No. N-91-912.

II. The Court of Appeals has gravely erred in not holding that the RTC of Misamis Oriental, Branch 20 acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in issuing the July 7, 1999 and May 28, 2003 Orders which unduly deprived petitioner of its opportunity to interpose an appeal from the original Judgment dated March 17, 1993 and/or Amended Judgment dated January 17, 1994 in the subject land registration case which found respondent-applicant Resins Incorporated to have registrable title to all the eight (8) lots applied for despite lack of clear factual and legal basis to support the conclusion that “applicant and his predecessor-in-interest had openly, continuosly [sic], adversely and uninterruptedly been in possession of the lots as owned for about 40 years prior to filing of the application.22

The Court’s Ruling

The petition is meritorious. We rule that Resins, Inc. failed to prove that the Republic, via the OSG, indeed received the 17 March 1993 Judgment.

At the time of the promulgation of the trial court’s judgment, the applicable rules were those of the Revised Rules of Court. Pertinent portions of these sections are quoted below:

Sec. 5. Service by registered or ordinary mail. If service is not made personally, service by registered mail shall be required if registry service exists in the locality; otherwise service may be made by depositing the copy in the post office, in a sealed envelope, plainly addressed to the party or his attorney at his office, if known, otherwise at his residence, if known, with postage fully prepaid, and with instructions to the postmaster to return the mail to the sender after ten (10) days if undelivered.23

Sec. 7. Service of judgments, final orders or resolutions. ‒ Judgments, final orders or resolutions shall be served either personally or registered mail. x x x24

Sec. 8. Completeness of service. ‒ x x x Service by registered mail is complete upon actual receipt by the addressee, but if he fails to claim his mail from the post office within five (5) days from the date of first notice of the postmaster, service shall take effect at the expiration of such time.25

Sec. 10. Proof of service. ‒ x x x If the service is by ordinary mail, proof thereof shall consist of an affidavit of the person mailing of facts showing compliance with section 5 of this rule. If service is made by registered mail, proof shall be made by such affidavit and the registry receipt issued by the mailing office. The registry return card shall be filed immediately upon its receipt by the sender, or in lieu thereof the letter unclaimed together with the certified or sworn copy of the notice given by the postmaster to the addressee.26

When service of notice is an issue, the rule is that the person alleging that the notice was served must prove the fact of service. The burden of proving notice rests upon the party asserting its existence.27 In civil cases, service made through registered mail is proved by the registry receipt issued by the mailing office and an affidavit of the person mailing of facts showing compliance with Section 13, Rule 13 of the 1997 Rules on Civil Procedure.28

The OSG insists that it did not actually receive a copy of the 17 March 1993 Judgment. The OSG received a certified copy of the 17 March 1993 Judgment only after its 24 June 2003 written request to the Assistant City Prosecutor of Cagayan de Oro. The OSG presented a certified photocopy of the page of the OSG’s Docket Division Log Book listing the orders, pleadings, and other papers received by the OSG pertaining to the present case. The last document on the case received by the OSG before the receipt of the Amended Judgment on 2 May 1994 was an Order dated 26 December 1992 and received on 13 January 1993. There was no record of the Judgment dated 17 March 1993. Because of this non-receipt, the Republic was deprived of the opportunity to appeal or to ask for reconsideration of the judgment. The OSG filed a notice of appeal on 12 May 1994, only after its receipt of the Amended Judgment.

Resins, Inc., on the other hand, asserts that the certification of the RTC Clerk of Court and photocopies of the return slips from the post office are sufficient to prove that the OSG indeed received the 17 March 1993 Judgment.

Resins, Inc.’s argument must fail.

OSG’s denial of receipt of the 17 March 1993 Judgment required Resins, Inc. to show proof that the Judgment was sent through registered mail and that it was received by the Republic. While the certification from the RTC Clerk of Court and photocopies of the return slips prove that the Republic was served the judgment, it does not follow that the Republic, via the OSG, actually received the judgment. Receipts for registered letters and return receipts do not prove themselves, they must be properly authenticated in order to serve as proof of receipt of the letters.29 Resins, Inc. also did not show a certification from the postmaster that notice was duly issued and delivered to the OSG such that service by registered mail may be deemed completed. It cannot be stressed enough that “it is the registry receipt issued by the mailing office and the affidavit of the person mailing, which proves service made through registered mail.”30 Absent one or the other, or worse both, there is no proof of service.31

Mere certification of the RTC Clerk of Court is insufficient because the Clerk of Court may not be the person who did the mailing. The certification in this case is also not under oath. There must be an affidavit of the person who actually did the mailing. In the present case, the certification of the Clerk of Court states:

C E R T I F I C A T I O N

This certifies that the original carbon copy of the Judgment of the above-entitled case appearing on pages 484-488 dated March 17, 1993 was received by the Office of the Solicitor-General on April 6, 1993 as per return slip. A copy of which is attached herewith.

Posted on this 13th day of August, 1999 in the city of Cagayan de Oro.

TAUMATURGO U. MACABINLAR

Clerk of Court V32

It is clear that the certification does not state that the Clerk of Court did the mailing. Mere photocopies of the return slips are also insufficient. The original copies of the registry receipt or, in lieu thereof, the unclaimed notice and a certification from the postmaster of the issuance of notice, should be presented. Indeed, we declared in Delgado v. Hon. P.C. Ceniza, et al. that:

We find that the service of the judgment rendered in the case suffers from two defects, namely, there is no affidavit of the clerk of court, the person mailing, and there is no registry return card, or a certified or sworn copy of the notice given by the postmaster to the addressee.33 (Emphasis supplied)

While we concede that there may be a presumption of regularity, in the ordinary course of events, that the RTC Clerk of Court sent the 17 March 1993 Judgment to the OSG, such presumption should fail when the OSG itself denies receipt. When the service of the judgment is questioned, such as in the present case, there is a need to present both the registry receipt issued by the mailing office and the affidavit of the person mailing. Since the OSG presented proof of non-receipt, it became incumbent upon Resins, Inc. to prove receipt, which Resins, Inc. failed to do.

WHEREFORE, we GRANT the petition. The Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 78516 promulgated on 25 May 2006 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Regional Trial Court of Misamis Oriental, Branch 20, Cagayan de Oro City is directed to hear the appeal of the Republic of the Philippines in Land Registration Case No. N-91-012, LRA Record No. N-62407.

SO ORDERED.

ANTONIO T. CARPIO

Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA

Associate Justice

ROBERTO A. ABAD JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ

Associate Justice Associate Justice

JOSE C. 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

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

* Designated additional member per Raffle dated 21 June 2010.

1 Under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.

2 Rollo, pp. 82-99. Penned by Associate Justice Myrna Dimaranan Vidal, with Associate Justices Romulo V. Borja and Ramon R. Garcia, concurring.

3 Id. at 124-128. Penned by Judge Alejandro M. Velez.

4 Id. at 129-133. Penned by Judge Alejandro M. Velez.

5 Id. at 143. Penned by Judge Anthony E. Santos.

6 Id. at 157-158. Penned by Judge Gregorio D. Pantanosas, Jr.

7 Id. at 124-128.

8 Id. at 83-86.

9 Id. at 124-128.

10 Id. at 128.

11 Id. at 87.

12 Id. at 129-133.

13 Id. at 143.

14 Id. at 144-149.

15 Id. at 137-138.

16 Id. at 150.

17 Id. at 151.

18 Id. at 152.

19 Id. at 157-158.

20 Under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.

21 Rollo, pp. 82-99.

22 Id. at 36-37.

23 Now Section 7, Rule 13 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.

24 Now Section 9, Rule 13 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.

25 Now Section 10, Rule 13 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.

26 Now Section 13, Rule 13 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.

27 Government of the Philippines v. Aballe, G.R. No. 147212, 24 March 2006, 485 SCRA 308, 317.

28 Petition for Habeas Corpus of Benjamin Vergara v. Judge Gedorio, Jr., 450 Phil. 623, 634 (2003). See also note 26.

29 Ting v. Court of Appeals, 398 Phil. 481, 493 (2000) citing Central Trust Co. v. City of Des Moines, 218 NW 580 (1928).

30 Supra note 27, at 318. Emphasis in the original.

31 Cruz v. Court of Appeals, 436 Phil. 641, 652 (2002).

32 Rollo, p. 151.

33 101 Phil. 740, 743 (1957).