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Civil Procedure: Rule 38 - Relief from Judgments, Orders, or Other Proceedings

RULE 38
Relief from Judgments, Orders, or Other Proceedings

Section 1. Petition for relief from judgment, order, or other proceedings. — When a judgment or final order is entered, or any other proceeding is thereafter taken against a party in any court through fraud, accident, mistake, or excusable negligence, he may file a petition in such court and in the same case praying that the judgment, order or proceeding be set aside. (2a)

Section 2. Petition for relief from denial of appeal. — When a judgment or final order is rendered by any court in a case, and a party thereto, by fraud, accident, mistake, or excusable negligence, has been prevented from taking an appeal, he may file a petition in such court and in the same case praying that the appeal be given due course. (1a)

Section 3. Time for filing petition; contents and verification. — A petition provided for in either of the preceding sections of this Rule must be verified, filed within sixty (60) days after the petitioner learns of the judgment, final order, or other proceeding to be set aside, and not more than six (6) months after such judgment or final order was entered, or such proceeding was taken, and must be accompanied with affidavits showing the fraud, accident, mistake, or excusable negligence relied upon, and the facts constituting the petitioner's good and substantial cause of action or defense, as the case may be. (3)

Section 4. Order to file an answer. — If the petition is sufficient in form and substance to justify relief, the court in which it is filed, shall issue an order requiring the adverse parties to answer the same within fifteen (15) days from the receipt thereof. The order shall be served in such manner as the court may direct, together with copies of the petition and the accompanying affidavits. (4a)

Section 5. Preliminary injunction pending proceedings. — The court in which the petition is filed may grant such preliminary injunction as may be necessary for the preservation of the rights of the parties, upon the filing by the petitioner of a bond in favor of the adverse party, conditioned that if the petition is dismissed or the petitioner fails on the trial of the case upon its merits, he will pay the adverse party all damages and costs that may be awarded to him by reason of the issuance of such injunction or the other proceedings following the petition, but such injunction shall not operate to discharge or extinguish any lien which the adverse party may have acquired upon, the property, of the petitioner. (5a)

Section 6. Proceedings after answer is filed. — After the filing of the answer or the expiration of the period therefor, the court shall hear the petition and if after such hearing, it finds that the allegations thereof are not true, the petition shall be dismissed; but if it finds said allegations to be true, it shall set aside the judgment or final order or other proceeding complained of upon such terms as may be just. Thereafter the case shall stand as if such judgment, final order or other proceeding had never been rendered, issued or taken. The court shall then proceed to hear and determine the case as if a timely motion for a new trial or reconsideration had been granted by it. (6a)

Section 7. Procedure where the denial of an appeal is set aside. — Where the denial of an appeal is set aside, the lower court shall be required to give due course to the appeal and to elevate the record of the appealed case as if a timely and proper appeal had been made. (7a)

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What is a petition for relief?

● Petition for relief is a legal remedy whereby a party seeks to set aside a judgment rendered against him by a court whenever he was unjustly deprived of a hearing or was prevented from taking an appeal, in either case, because of fraud, accident, mistake or excusable neglect.(Quelnan vs VHF Philippines, G.R. No. 138500, September 16, 2005)

● Petition for relief from judgment is a unique remedy in the sense that it is based on the principle of equity and constitutes the petitioners final chance to prosecute or defend his cause. Being an act of grace, a petition for relief from judgment is usually not regarded with favor and thus, is allowed only in exceptional cases where there are no other adequate and available remedies. (Basco vs. CA, G.R. No. 125290. August 9, 2000)

● A party who has filed a timely motion for new trial cannot file a petition for relief after his motion has been denied. These two remedies are exclusive of each other. It is only in appropriate cases where a party aggrieved by a judgment has not been able to file a motion for new trial that a petition for relief can be filed. (Francisco vs. Puno, G.R. No. L-55694, October 23, 1981)


What are the grounds for petition for relief?

A petition for relief may be filed on the following grounds:
  1. When a judgment or final order is entered into, or any other proceeding is taken against the petitioner in any court through fraud, accident, mistake, or excusable negligence (Sec. 1, Sec. 38, Rules of Court); or

  2. When the petitioner has been prevented from taking an appeal by fraud, mistake, or excusable negligence (Sec. 2, Rule 38, Rules of Court).

In what court should a petition for relief be filed?
  1. If the ground is #1 (judgment rendered by reason of FAME or a proceeding attended by FAME), the petition shall be filed in the same court (not in another or higher court) which rendered the judgment and in the very same case. The petition shall pray that the judgment, order or proceeding be set aside (Sec. 1, Rule 38, Rules of Court).

  2. If the ground is #2 (deprivation of a party of the right to appeal by reason of FAME), the petition shall likewise be filed in the same court (not in another or higher court) and in the same case but the prayer this time is that the appeal be given due course (Sec. 2, Rule 38, Rules of Court).
Hence, a petition for relief under Rule 38 cannot be availed of in the appellate court. Under the present Rules, petitions for relief from a judgment, final order or other proceeding rendered or taken should be filed in and resolved by the court in the same case from which the petition arose. So if the case was filed in the MTC, then this petition for relief must be filed in the MTC in the same case.


When to file the petition

The petition shall be filed
  1. within sixty (60) days after the petitioner learns of the judgment, final order or proceeding and 
  2. not more than six (6) months after such judgment or final order was entered, or such proceeding was taken (Sec. 3, Rule 38, Rules of Court).
These two periods must concur.


Is this period extendible?

● Both periods are not extendible and never interrupted. Strict compliance with these periods stems from the equitable character and nature of the petition for relief. Indeed, relief is allowed only in exceptional cases as when there is no other available or adequate remedy. As it were, a petition for relief is actually the last chance given by law to litigants to question a final judgment or order. And failure to avail of such last chance within the grace period fixed by the Rules is fatal. (Quelnan vs VHF Philippines)

● While strict interpretation is the norm in applying the periods mentioned, such rule is always subject to the power of the Supreme Court to effect a liberal interpretation when dictated by the circumstances.


What is the form of the petition?

The petition must be verified and must be accompanied with affidavits showing fraud, accident, mistake or excusable negligence relied upon, and the facts constituting the petitioner's good and substantial cause of action or defense, as the case may be (Sec. 3, Rule 38, Rules of Court).


Order to file an answer. 

If the petition is sufficient in form and substance to justify relief, the court in which it is filed, shall issue an order requiring the adverse parties to answer the same within fifteen (15) days from the receipt thereof.


Hearing of the petition

After the filing of the answer or the expiration of the period to file the answer, the court shall hear the petition (Sec. 6, Rule 38, Rules of Court).


Action of the court

1. After the hearing and the court finds that the allegations therein are not true, it shall dismiss the petition.

2. If the court finds the allegations to be true, it shall set aside the judgment, final order or other proceeding complained of. The case then shall stand as if such judgment, final order or proceeding had never been rendered, issued or taken. The court shall then proceed to hear and determine the case as if a motion for a new trial or reconsideration had been granted by it (Sec. 6, Rule 38, Rules of Court). This action of the court applies to a petition for relief praying that the judgment, final order or proceeding be set aside having been entered or taken against petitioner by fraud, accident, mistake or excusable negligence (Sec. 1, Rule 38, Rules of Court).

3. Where the prayer of petitioner is to give due course to his appeal because he was prevented from taking an appeal through fraud, accident, mistake or excusable negligence, and the court finds the allegations of the petition to be true, the court shall set aside the previous denial of the appeal and shall give due course to the said appeal. It shall then elevate the records of the appealed case as if a timely and proper appeal had been made (Sec. 7, Rule 38, Rules of Court).


Can petitioners avail of a petition for relief under Rule 38 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure from a judgment of the Court of Appeals?

While the law uses the phrase "any court," it 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 supplemented by additional rules promulgated by this Court through resolutions or circulars. As it stands, neither the Rules of Court nor the Revised Internal Rules of the Court of Appeals allows the remedy of petition for relief in the Court of Appeals. (Dela Cruz vs. Andres, G.R. No. 161864, April 27, 2007)

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