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VOL.

522,APRIL27,2007 585
DelaCruzvs.Andres
*
G.R.No.161864.April27,2007.

SPS. ROLANDO DELA CRUZ and TERESITA DELA CRUZ,


petitioners, vs. SPS. FELICIANO ANDRES and ERLINDA
AUSTRIA,andtheDIRECTOROFLANDS,respondents.

Judgments Petition for Relief A petition for relief from judgment


under Rule 38 is allowed only in exceptional cases.A petition for relief
from judgment under Rule 38 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure is an
equitable remedy that is allowed only in exceptional cases when there is no
other available or adequate remedy. It may be availed of only after a
judgment,finalorderorotherproceedingwastakenagainstthepetitionerin
anycourtthroughfraud,accident,mistake,orexcusablenegligence.

SameSamePetitions for relief from judgments must be accompanied


by the ground relied upon.It should be pointed out that in petitions for
relief from judgment, meritorious defenses must be accompanied by the
ground relied upon, whether it is fraud, accident, mistake, excusable
negligence, extrinsic fraud or lack of jurisdiction. In the instant case, there
being neither excusable nor gross negligence amounting to a denial of due
process,meritoriousdefensescannotalonebeconsidered.

SameSameStrictCompliancewithRulesisIndispensable.Whileit
is true that rules of procedure are not cast in stone, it is equally true that
strict compliance with the Rules is indispensable for the prevention of
needless delays and for the orderly and expeditious dispatch of judicial
business.Utterdisregardoftherulescan

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*SECONDDIVISION.

586

586 SUPREMECOURTREPORTSANNOTATED
DelaCruzvs.Andres

notjustlyberationalizedbyharkingonthepolicyofliberalconstruction.

PETITIONforreviewoncertiorarioftheresolutionsoftheCourtof
Appeals.
ThefactsarestatedintheresolutionoftheCourt.
Samonte,Felicen,Tria,SamonteandHernandezLawOffice
forpetitioners.
RomeoA.Sadornasforrespondents.

RESOLUTION

QUISUMBING,J.:

This petition for1review on certiorari assails


2
the Resolutions dated
October21,2003 andJanuary21,2004 oftheCourtofAppealsin
CAG.R.SPNo.67966,whichdismissedthepetitionforrelieffrom
judgment instituted by petitioners and denied their motion for
reconsideration,respectively.
Thepetitionstemmedfromthefollowingfactualantecedents:
Spouses Rolando Dela Cruz and Teresita Dela Cruz filed a
complaintforannulmentoftitleand/orreconveyancewithdamages
against spouses Feliciano Andres and Erlinda Austria and the
DirectorofLandsonJuly28,1993.ThecasewasdocketedasCivil
Case No. 523 and assigned to the Municipal Circuit Trial Court
(MCTC)ofLaurandGabaldoninLaur,NuevaEcija.
The MCTC ordered the Director of Lands to cancel Original
Certificate of Title No. 11859 insofar as the 410 square meters
ownedandoccupiedbypetitionerswereconcerned.Onappeal,the
Regional Trial Court of Palayan City, Branch 40, reversed and set
asidethedecisionoftheMCTC.

_______________

1Rollo,pp.812.

2Id.,atpp.1415.

587

VOL.522,APRIL27,2007 587
DelaCruzvs.Andres

On December 4, 2001, petitioners, assisted by Atty. Rafael E.


Villarosa, filed with the Court of Appeals
3
a petition for review
docketedasCAG.R.SPNo.67966. Theappellatecourtdismissed
the petition since the Certification of NonForum Shopping was
signed by Atty. Villarosa instead of petitioners in violation
4
of
Section5,Rule7ofthe1997RulesofCivilProcedure. Petitioners
movedforreconsiderationbutitwasdenied.
Thereafter, Atty. Villarosa withdrew his appearance. On March
20,2002,petitioners,assistedbyAtty.GuillermoM.Hernandez,Jr.,
requested for an extension of time to file their petition before this
Court.Later,theyabandonedthemotionandthecasewasdeclared
closedandterminated.
On May 6, 2002, petitioners filed with the Court of Appeals a
petitionforrelieffromjudgmentprayingthatthedismissaloftheir
petition for review be set aside since
5
the gross negligence of their
previouscounseldid not bind them. Theappellatecourt,however,
denied their petition. It ruled that petitioners were bound by the
action of their counsel as well as by his mistake or negligence. It
added that petitioners could not belatedly complain on petition or
appeal about their counsels incompetence since they could have
easily dismissed him at the initial or trial stage if they were not
satisfiedwithhisperformance.Sincepetitionerssleptontheirrights,
theyhadnoonetoblamebutthemselves.
With the denial of their motion for reconsideration, petitioners
cametothisCourtraisingthefollowingissues:

I.

WHETHER OR NOT THE FILING OF A PETITION [FOR] RELIEF


FROMJUDGMENTPURSUANTTORULE38OFTHE1997RULESOF
CIVILPROCEDUREISAVAILABLEWHENTHE

_______________

3CARollo,pp.210.

4Id.,atp.50.

5Id.,atpp.8397.

588

588 SUPREMECOURTREPORTSANNOTATED
DelaCruzvs.Andres

CASE IS ALREADY PENDING WITH THE COURT OF APPEALS


AND/ORWITHTHISHONORABLECOURT

II.

WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY


ABUSED ITS DISCRETION IN NOT FINDING THAT THE
PETITIONERS PREVIOUS COUNSELS ACTS ARE TO BE
CONSIDEREDASGROSSNEGLIGENCE
III.

WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY


ABUSED ITS DISCRETION IN FINDING THAT THE PETITIONERS
HAVE ALLEGEDLY SLEPT ON THEIR RIGHT TO COMPLAIN
ABOUT THE INCOMPETENCE OF THEIR PREVIOUS COUNSEL
ANDTODISMISSSUCHCOUNSELAND

IV.

WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY


ABUSED ITS 6DISCRETION IN NOT CONSIDERING THE CASE ON
THEMERITS.

Thethresholdissuebeforeusis:Canpetitionersavailofapetition
forreliefunderRule38ofthe1997RulesofCivilProcedurefroma
judgmentoftheCourtofAppealsduetotheircounselsnegligence
whenhesignedtheCertificationofNonForumShopping?
Petitioners plead that they be spared the consequences of their
procedural lapse since it was caused by their counsels gross
negligence in ignoring a wellestablished rule that it is the party
himselfwhoshouldverifyandcertifythepleading.
Respondents, on the other hand, maintain that petitioners
counselwasnotnegligentandinfactdidhisbestsincehefiledthe
petitionforreviewontime.
After considering the submission of the parties, we deny the
petitionforlackofmerit.

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6Rollo,p.201.

589

VOL.522,APRIL27,2007 589
DelaCruzvs.Andres

ApetitionforrelieffromjudgmentunderRule38ofthe1997Rules
of Civil Procedure is an equitable remedy that is allowed only in
exceptional
7
cases when there is no other available or adequate
remedy. It may be availed of only after a judgment, final order or
other proceeding was taken against the petitioner in 8any court
throughfraud,accident,mistake,orexcusablenegligence.
While the law uses the phrase any court, it 9
refers only to
Municipal/Metropolitan and Regional Trial Courts. The procedure
in the Court of Appeals and this Court are governed by separate
provisions of the Rules of Court and may, from time to time, be
supplementedbyadditionalrulespromulgatedbythisCourtthrough
resolutionsorcirculars.Asitstands,neithertheRulesofCourtnor
the Revised Internal Rules of the Court of Appeals
10
allows the
remedyofpetitionforreliefintheCourtofAppeals.
Moreover,underSection1(b),Rule41ofthe1997RulesofCivil
Procedure,thedenialofapetitionforrelieffromjudgmentissubject
onlytoaspecialcivilactionforcertiorariunderRule65.Inseeking
to reverse the appellate courts decision denying their petition for
relief from judgment by a petition for review on certiorari
11
under
Rule45,petitionershaveavailedofthewrongremedytwice.
Nevertheless,evenifthisCourtweretodelveintothemeritsof
thispetition,thesamemuststillbedenied.Whatpetitionerscounsel
didinthiscasewastoattachanimproper

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7InsularLifeSavingsandTrustCompanyv.Runes,Jr.,G.R.No.152530,August12,

2004,436SCRA317,325SeeMercuryDrugCorporationv.CourtofAppeals,G.R.
No.138571,July13,2000,335SCRA567,576.
8Rule38,Section1.

9Mesinav.Meer,G.R.No.146845,July2,2002,383SCRA625,634.

10Id.

11Azucenav.ForeignManpowerServices,G.R.No.147955,October25,2004,441

SCRA346,353354.

590

590 SUPREMECOURTREPORTSANNOTATED
DelaCruzvs.Andres

Certification of NonForum Shopping to their petition for review


with the appellate court. While this omission can plausibly qualify
as simple negligence, it does not amount to gross negligence to
justifytheannulmentoftheproceedingsbelow.
For a claim of counsels gross negligence to prosper, nothing 12
short of clear abandonment of the clients cause must be shown.
The negligence of counsel must be so gross that the client is
deprivedofhisdayincourt,theresultofwhichisthatheisdeprived
ofhispropertywithoutdueprocessoflaw.Thus,whereapartywas
giventheopportunitytodefendhisinterestsinduecourse,hecannot
besaidtohavebeendenieddueprocessoflaw,forthisopportunity
13
to be heard is the very essence of due process. Here, the case
underwentafullblowntrial.Bothpartieswereadequatelyheard,and
allissueswereventilatedbeforethedecisionwaspromulgated.
Itshouldbepointedoutthatinpetitionsforrelieffromjudgment,
meritorious defenses must be accompanied by the ground relied
upon, whether it is fraud, accident, mistake,
14
excusable negligence,
extrinsic fraud or lack of jurisdiction. In the instant case, there
beingneitherexcusablenorgrossnegligenceamountingtoadenial
ofdueprocess,meritoriousdefensescannotalonebeconsidered.
Whileitistruethatrulesofprocedurearenotcastinstone,itis
equally true that strict compliance with the Rules is indispensable
for the prevention of needless delays15 and for the orderly and
expeditiousdispatchofjudicialbusiness.

_______________

12Quev.CourtofAppeals,G.R.No.150739,August18,2005,467SCRA358,369.

13Saint Louis University v. Cordero,G.R. No. 144118, July 21, 2004, 434 SCRA

575,584.
14Id.,atp.586.

15HeirsoftheLateCruzBarredov.Asis,G.R.No.153306,August27,2004,437

SCRA196,201SeeSaintLouisUniversityv.Cordero,supra.

591

VOL.522,APRIL27,2007 591
DelaCruzvs.Andres

Utterdisregardoftherulescannotjustlyberationalizedbyharking
16
onthepolicyofliberalconstruction.
WHEREFORE,theinstantpetitionisDENIEDforlackofmerit.
The assailed Resolutions dated October 21, 2003 and January 21,
2004 of the Court of Appeals in CAG.R. SP No. 67966, are
AFFIRMED.
Costsagainstpetitioners.
SOORDERED.

Carpio,CarpioMorales,TingaandVelasco,Jr.,JJ.,concur.

Petitiondenied,assailedresolutionsaffirmed.

Note.Thedoctrinalruleisthatthenegligenceofcounselbinds
the client, and to fall within the exceptional circumstances, it must
be shown that the negligence of counsel must be so gross that the
clientisdeprivedofhisdayincourt,theresultofwhichisthatheis
deprived of his property without due process of law. (Saint Louis
Universityvs.Cordero,434SCRA575[2004])

o0o

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16MarivelesShipyardCorp.v.CourtofAppeals,G.R.No.144134, November 11,

2003,415SCRA573,584.

592
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