Almirante: Proof of service of pleadings

Dominador A. Almirante
·4 min read

Petitioner Wilfredo T. Mariano (Mariano) and Francisco C. Arellano filed a complaint for illegal dismissal and money claims against respondents G.V. Florida Transport and its owner Virgilio Florida Jr. Only Mariano filed a petition before the Supreme Court. The Labor Arbiter (LA) ruled that Mariano’s allegations were deemed admitted because respondents failed to file their position paper relative to him.

In their appeal to the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), respondents averred that they filed their position paper with respect to the claim of Mariano. They prepared separate position papers for Mariano and Arellano, placed them on one sealed envelope and mailed it to the Office of the LA under Registry Receipt No. 3253. The NLRC admitted respondents’ position paper ruling that respondents adequately explained the reason for the belated presentation of evidence and that the pieces of documentary evidence attached to the position paper were material to establish respondents’ cause.

The Court of Appeals (CA) affirmed the NLRC decision ruling that respondents amply explained the circumstances leading to the submission of the position paper and evidence on their appeal to the NLRC.

Did the CA err?

Ruling: Yes.

First off, labor tribunals, such as the NLRC, are not precluded from receiving evidence submitted on appeal as technical rules are not binding in cases submitted before them. There is, however, a caveat to this policy. The delay in the submission of evidence should be adequately explained, the evidence adduced must be undeniably material to the cause of a party and the subject evidence should sufficiently prove the allegations sought to be established.

In the present case, we do not agree with the NLRC and the CA that respondents sufficiently justified the belated submission of their position paper as regards Mariano. Under Section 12, Rule 12 of the Rules of Court, when the existence of a pleading filed by registered mail is at issue, proof of such filing consists of: (1) the registry receipt issued by the mailing office; and (2) an affidavit of the person mailing the pleading containing a full statement of the date, place, and manner of service. Here, respondents submitted Registry Receipt No. 3252 issued on Sept. 14, 2015 but not the affidavit of the person who mailed the pleading. The affidavit could have explained that two position papers were filed by registered mail by depositing them in one sealed envelope and mailing the same to the Office of the LA. As the party to whom the burden of proof to show that the position paper pertaining to Mariano was mailed and received by the addressee lay, respondents could have presented the affidavit of its messenger to satisfy the requirements of the Rules of Court. Respondents did not offer any explanation.

Additionally, respondents failed to comply with the requirements of proper proof of service under Section 13, Rule 13 of the Rules of Court. Respondents only attached Registry Receipt No. 3252 without the affidavit of the person mailing. We note that Mariano consistently raised in his Motion for Reconsideration to the NLRC and in his appeal to the CA the non-service of position paper to him thus violating his right to file a reply. Unfortunately, the NLRC and the CA did not rule on the matter. We stress that if the service is done by registered mail, proof of service shall consist of the affidavit of the person effecting the mailing and the registry receipt, both of which must be appended to the paper being served. Absent one or the other, or worse both, there is no proof of service. In Valley Golf and Country Club Inc. v. Dr. Reyes, we emphasized that registry receipt, per se, does not constitute proof of receipt. Undoubtedly, Registry Receipt No. 3252 is not conclusive proof that respondents served a copy of their position paper to Mariano, nor is it conclusive proof that Mariano received its copy of the position paper. Respondents should have submitted an affidavit proving that they mailed the position paper together with the registry receipt issued by the post office. Thereafter, they should have immediately filed the registry return card. They did not. (Wilfredo T. Mariano vs. Florida Transport, et al., G.R. 240882, Sept. 16, 2020).