Almirante: Change of address of counsel

Dominador A. Almirante

PETITIONERS Noli D. Aparicio and Renan Clarito filed complaints for illegal dismissal, reinstatement, backwages, damages and attorney’s fees against respondent Manila Broadcasting Company (MBC). The labor arbiter awarded them backwages, separation pay and attorney’s fees.

MBC failed to appeal timely from the decision of the labor arbiter. It reasoned out that it only became aware of the labor arbiter’s decision when it received a copy of petitioners’ memorandum of appeal. Upon its request, it was furnished by mail by the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) with a copy of the labor arbiter’s decision only on Jan. 25, 2008. It received the decision on Feb. 7, 2007. It filed its memorandum of appeal with the NLRC on Feb. 18, 2008.

Petitioners alleged that the office address of MBC’s counsel, as indicated on record is FJE Bldg., Esteban Street, Legaspi Village, Makati City. Atty. Bugay moved his office to the 2nd floor of MBC Building, V. Sotto, CCP Complex, Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City, without notice to the labor arbiter. On Nov. 5, 2007, the notice of the decision was served on Atty. Bugay’s address on record (FJE Bldg.) but was returned unserved because he “moved out.” They argued that five days thereafter, on Nov. 10, 2007, the service of notice of the decision on MBC was deemed complete. Thus, MBC had only until Nov. 20, 2007 to file its appeal.

Is there merit to this argument?

Ruling: No.

The rule on service by registered mail contemplates two situations: (1) actual service the completeness of which is determined upon receipt by the addressee of the registered mail; and (2) constructive service the completeness of which is determined upon expiration of five days from the date the addressee received the first notice of the postmaster.

Insofar as constructive service is concerned, there must be conclusive proof that a first notice was duly sent by the postmaster to the addressee. Not only is it required that notice of the registered mail be issued but that it should also be delivered to and received by the addressee. Notably, the presumption that official duty has been regularly performed is not applicable in this situation. It is incumbent upon a party who relies on constructive service to prove that the notice was sent to, and received by, the addressee.

The best evidence to prove that notice was sent would be a certification from the postmaster, who should certify not only that the notice was issued or sent but also as to how, when and to whom the delivery and receipt was made. The mailman may also testify that the notice was actually delivered. (Bernarte v. PBA, 673 Phil. 384, 392 (2011).

As proof that MBC, through counsel, was supposedly served with notice of the labor arbiter’s decision at counsel’s former address, petitioners presented in evidence the mail carrier’s notation “Moved out 11/05/07.” Bernarte, nonetheless, ruled that “the best evidence to prove that notice was sent would be a certification from the postmaster, who should certify not only that the notice was issued or sent but also as to how, when and to whom the delivery and receipt was made.” As it was, petitioners here did not present a certification from the postmaster or the testimony of the mailman pertaining to how, when, and to whom the delivery and receipt was made. All they had was the purported mail carrier’s notation “Moved out 11/05/07,” which does not suffice for purposes of proving that MBC moved to a new address without notice to the labor arbiter. More, as aptly found by the Court of Appeals, petitioner could have submitted in evidence the so-called joint declaration indicating counsel’s old address and not his new address, but petitioners failed to do so.

Verily, the NLRC, as affirmed by the Court of Appeals correctly concluded that MBC’s receipt of the labor arbiter’s decision should be reckoned on Feb. 7, 2008, the date when MBC received a copy of the labor arbiter’s decision not from the labor arbiter himself but from the NLRC after MBC manifested that it had not yet received said decision of the labor arbiter. Hence, when MBC eventually filed its memorandum of appeal with the NLRC 10 days later on Feb. 18, 2008 (Feb. 17, 2008, being a Saturday), the same was well within the reglementary period. (Noli D. Aparicio and Renan Clarito vs. Manila Broadcasting Company, G.R. 220647, Dec. 10, 2019).