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Heirs of Delos Santos vs. CA Case Digest


Service of decisions must be made to the counsel on record if a party appears by counsel. Service of decisions by registered mail should be made by depositing the copy of the decision in the office, in a sealed envelope, addressed to the party's counsel at his office. 

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Facts: 

Del Rosario filed a complaint for replevin and damages against Delos Santos with the RTC of Legazpi City. The RTC rendered a decision in favor of Del Rosario.

On April 2, 1998, the postman attempted to deliver a copy of an adverse decision to the office of Atty. Olaybal, counsel for petitioner Del Rosario. At that time, the office of Atty. Olaybal was closed since he was then suffering from influenza. The postman instead delivered the copy of the decision to Bernadeth Faye Alamares, who was a clerk in an office adjacent to Atty. Olaybal. Alamares received the Decision and signed the corresponding registry return card.

On 17 April 1998, a Friday, Atty. Olaybal reported for work. Alamares subsequently turned over the mails she received, including the decision, to Atty. Olaybal. Atty. Olaybal asked from Alamares the exact date when she received the Decision. Alamares replied that to her recollection it was before the holidays, referring to 9 April 1998 (Bataan Day). Atty. Olaybal concluded from Alamares' recollection that she received the decision on 8 April 1998 and mistakenly thought that the end of the reglementary period to perfect an appeal fell on 23 April 1998.

On 20 April 1998, the next business day, Atty. Olaybal filed with the trial court a Notice of Appeal of the decision.

The trial court, however, dismissed the appeal for being filed out of time.

Atty. Olaybal filed a Petition for Relief pleading mistake and excusable negligence for failure to perfect an appeal within the reglementary period and praying that the appeal be given due course.

The trial court dismissed the Petition for Relief and issued a writ of execution. The CA affirmed the Orders of the RTC.


Issue:

Was the service of the trial court's decision valid and binding on petitioners?


Held:

No. Section 2 of Rule 13 provides:

SEC. 2. Filing and service, defined. xxx Service is the act of providing a party with a copy of the pleading or paper concerned. 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. xxx 

Section 7 of Rule 13 provides:

SEC. 7. Service by mail. Service by registered mail shall be made by depositing the copy in the office, in a sealed envelope, plainly addressed to the party or his counsel at his office, if known, otherwise at his residence, if known, with postage fully prepaid, and with instructions to the postmaster to return the mail to the sender after ten (10) days if undelivered. If no registry service is available in the locality of either the sender or the addressee, service may be done by ordinary mail. 

Section 9 of Rule 13 provides:

SEC. 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. 

Therefore, service of decisions must be made to the counsel on record if a party appears by counsel. Service of decisions by registered mail should be made by depositing the copy of the decision in the office, in a sealed envelope, addressed to the party's counsel at his office.

In this case, the postman served a copy of the trial court’s decision on Alamares who was neither an associate nor employee of Atty. Olaybal. The records show that Alamares was then an employee of Asaphil Corporation whose office is adjacent to Atty. Olaybal. There is nothing in the records showing Atty. Olaybal authorized either Alamares or Ashapil Corporation to receive mails addressed to him or his law office.

Since there was no valid service of the trial court's decision on Alamares on 2 April 1998, we shall reckon the fifteen-day period within which to perfect the appeal from 17 April 1998, when Atty. Olaybal actually received a copy of the trial court's decision. Consequently, Atty. Olaybal filed the notice of appeal within the reglementary period when he filed it on 20 April 1998.

Order of the RTC was annuled and Notice of Appeal was reinstated. (Heirs of Delos Santos vs. CA, G.R. No. 139167. June 29, 2005)

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