Almirante: Service of notice to counsel

Dominador A. Almirante

RESPONDENTS John Leanlon P. Raymundo and five others filed a complaint against HZSC Realty Corp. (HZSC) and its president, petitioner Michael Adriano Calleon, for illegal dismissal and money claims. The Labor Arbiter (LA) declared HZSC and petitioner guilty of illegal constructive dismissal. The National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) dismissed the appeal of HZSC and petitioner. Petitioner filed a petition for certiorari before the Court of Appeals (CA) praying to be absolved from liability in the absence of any finding of malice and fraud on his part.

In a Resolution dated Sept. 23, 2016, the CA dismissed the petition for failure to comply with the required contents thereof and the documents which should accompany it. Petitioner received his personal notice of the Resolution on Oct. 5, 2016. On Oct. 26, 2016, he filed a motion for reconsideration claiming that he received (referring to his counsel’s receipt) notice of the resolution on Oct. 11, 2016 and he had already remedied the procedural defects of the petition, attaching therewith an Amended Petition for Certiorari.

In a Resolution dated Nov. 28, 2016, the CA denied the motion for reconsideration for having been belatedly filed.

Did the CA err?

Ruling: Yes.

Section 2, Rule 13 of the Rules of Court (Rules) provides that “if any party has appeared by counsel, service upon him shall be made upon his counsel or one of them, unless service upon the party himself is ordered by the court.” hus, even if a party represented by counsel has been actually notified, said notice is not considered notice in law. “The reason is simple -- the parties, generally, have no formal education or knowledge of the rules of procedure, specifically, the mechanics of an appeal or availment of legal remedies; thus, they may also be unaware of the rights and duties of a litigant relative to the receipt of a decision. More importantly, it is best for the courts to deal only with one person in the interest of orderly procedure—either the lawyer retained by the party or the party him/herself if he/she does not intend to hire a lawyer.” As to service of court resolutions, Section 9, Rule 13 of the Rules pertinently provides: Section 9. Service of judgments, final orders or resolutions. – Judgments, final orders or resolutions shall be served either personally or by registered mail. When a party summoned by publication has failed to appear in the action, judgments, final orders or resolutions against him shall be served upon him also by publication at the expense of the prevailing party.

In the case at bar, a copy of the Sept. 23, 2016 Resolution was sent to Atty. Santos at his registered address in Meycauayan, Bulacan through registered Letter BDN-2291. On Nov. 8, 2016, the CA sent a tracer to the Postmaster of Meycauayan, Bulacan directing him to inform the court of the exact date when the said letter was delivered to and received by the addressee. However, prior to the receipt of the Postmaster’s reply, the CA already issued its assailed Nov. 28, 2016 Resolution denying petitioner’s motion for reconsideration for having been belatedly filed, apparently reckoning the same from petitioner’s receipt of his personal notice of the Sept. 23, 2016 Resolution on Oct. 5, 2016.

On Dec. 2, 2016, the CA received the Postmaster’s reply to tracer informing the court that Atty. Santos received registered Letter BDN-2291 on Oct. 11, 2016. Consequently, petitioner had 15 days from such receipt, or until Oct. 26, 2016, within which to file his motion for reconsideration. Thus, petitioner’s motion for reconsideration was timely filed, contrary to the ruling of the CA. (Michael Adriano Calleon vs. HZSC Realty Corp., John Leanlon P. Raymundo, et al., G.R. 228572, Jan. 27, 2020).