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Fortich vs Corona 398 SCRA 685

Posted on December 6, 2012

100 SCAD 781 298 SCRA 685 1998 The Office of the President modified its decision which had already become final and executory. FACTS: On November 7, 1997, the Office of the President (OP) issued a win-win Resolution which reopened case O.P. Case No. 96-C-6424. The said Resolution substantially modified its March 29, 1996 Decision. The OP had long declared the said Decision final & exec utory after the DARs Motion for Reconsideration was denied for having been filed beyond the 15-day reglementary period. The SC then struck down as void the OPs act, it being in gross disregard of the rules & basic legal precept that accord finality to administrative determinations. The respondents contended in their instant motion that the win-win Resolution of November 7, 1997 is not void since it seeks to correct an erroneous ruling, hence, the March 29, 1996 decisioncould not as yet become final and executory as to be beyond modification. They further explained that the DARs failure to file their Motion for Reconsideration on time was excusable. ISSUE: Was the OPs modification of the Decision void or a valid exercise of its powers and preroga tives? 1. Whether the DARs late filing of the Motion for Reconsideration is excusable. 2. Whether the respondents have shown a justifiable reason for the relaxation of rules. 3. Whether the issue is a question of technicality. HELD: 1. No. Sec.7 of Administrative Order No. 18, dated February 12, 1987, mandates that decisions/resolutions/orders of the Office of the President shall become final after the lapse of 15 days from receipt of a copy therof xxx unless a Motion for Reconsideration thereof is filed within such period. The respondents explanation that the DARs office procedure made it impossibleto file its Motion for Reconsideration on time since the said decision had to be referred to its different departments cannot be considered a valid justification. While there is nothing wrong with such referral, the DAR must not disregard the reglementary period fixed by law, rule or regulation . The rules relating to reglementary period should not be made subservient to the internal office procedure of an administrative body. 2. No. The final & executory character of the OP Decision can no longer be disturbed or substantially modified. Res judicata has set in and the adjudicated affair should forever be put to rest. Procedural rules should be treated with utmost respect and due regard since they are designed to facilitate the adjudication of cases to remedy the worsening problem of delay in the resolution of rival claims and in the administration of justice. The Constitution guarantees that all persons

shall have a right to the speedy disposition of their cases before all judicial, quasi-judicial and administrative bodies. While a litigation is not a game of technicalities, every case must be prosecuted in accordance with the prescribed procedure to ensure an orderly & speedy administration of justice. The flexibility in the relaxation of rules was never intended to forge a bastion for erring litigants to violate the rules with impunity. A liberal interpretation & application of the rules of procedure can only be resorted to in proper cases and under justifiable causes and circumstances. 3. No. It is a question of substance & merit. A decision/resolution/order of an administrative body, court or tribunal which is declared void on the ground that the same was rendered Without or in Excess of Jurisdiction, or with Grave Abuse of Discretion, is a mere technicality of law or procedure. Jurisdiction is an essential and mandatory requirement before a case or controversy can be acted on. Moreover, an act is still invalid if done in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion. In the instant case, several fatal violations of law were committed. These grave breaches of law, rules & settled jurisprudence are clearly substantial, not of technical nature. When the March 29, 1996 OP Decision was declared final and executory, vested rights were acquired by the petitioners, and all others who should be benefited by the said Decision. In the words of the learned Justice Artemio V. Panganiban in Videogram Regulatory Board vs CA, et al., just as a losing party has the right to file an appeal within the prescribed period , the winning party also has the correlative right to enjoy the finality of the resolution of his/her case .
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