CASE 2014-0024: SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY, INC., DEAN ELIZABETH FE- DACANAY, ATTY. ARNULFO SORIANO, DR. ROBERTO LEGASPI, DR. ANASTACIO AQUINO, LOURDES JACINTO, DR. JOHN ANTHONY DOMANTA Y, and NORA PO NOC, Petitioners, – versus – BABY NELLIE lVI. OLAIREZ, SHIERYL A. REBUCAL, JENNY RIZA A. BANTA, BRANDO B. BADECAO, and COURT OF APPEALS, Respondents. (G.R. NO. 162299); BABY NELLIE M. OLAIREZ, SHI ERYL A. REBUCAL, JENNY RIZA A. BANTA, and BRANDO B. BADECAO, Petitioners, – versus – SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY, INC., DEAN ELIZABETH FE- DACANA Y, ATTY. ARNULFO SORIANO, DR. ROBERTO LEGASPI, DR. ANASTACIO AQUINO, LOURDES JACINTO, DR. JOHN ANTHONY (G.R. NO. 174758) (21 MARCH 2014, MENDOZA, J) SUBJECT/S: INDIRECT CONTEMPT – GROUNDS, PURPOSE, NEED FOR HEARING; MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION AS REQUIREMENT IN FILING CERTIORARI PROCEEDINGS; THREE-DAY NOTICE RULE. (BRIEF TITLE: SLU ET AL VS. OLAIREZ ET AL.)
“WHEREFORE, in G.R. No. 162299, the petition is DENIED. Accordingly, the Resolutions, dated November 18, 2003 and February I 0, 2004, of the Court of Appeals, in CA-G.R. No. SP 78127, are AFFIRMED.
In G.R. No. 174758, the petition is DENIED. Accordingly, the April 7, 2006 Decision and the September 11, 2006 Resolution of the Court of Appeals (CA), in CA-G.R. CR No. 27861, are AFFIRMED.
CA DISMISSED THE PETITION FOR CERTIORARI OF SLU FOR HAVING BEEN FILED WITHOUT A PRIOR MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION. WAS CA CORRECT?
YES. THE GENERAL RULE IS THAT A MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION IS A CONDITION SINE QUA NON FOR THE FILING OF A PETITION FOR CERTIORARI.
WHAT IS THE REASON FOR SUCH RULE?
TO GRANT AN OPPORTUNITY FOR THE COURT TO CORRECT ANY ACTUAL OR PERCEIVED ERROR ATTRIBUTED TO IT BY THE RE-EXAMINATION OF THE LEGAL AND FACTUAL CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE.
ARE THERE EXCEPTIONS TO SUCH RULE?
YES. THE EXCEPTIONS ARE:
(a) where the order is a patent nullity, as where the court a quo had no jurisdiction;
(b) where the questions raised in the certiorari proceeding have been duly raised and passed upon by the lower court, or are the same as those raised and passed upon in the lower court;
(c) where there is an urgent necessity for the resolution of the question and any further delay would prejudice the interests of the Government or of the petitioner or the subject matter of the action is perishable;
(d) where, under the circumstances, a motion for reconsideration would be useless;
(e) where petitioner was deprived of due process and there is extreme urgency for relief;
(f) where, in a criminal case, relief from an order of arrest is urgent and the granting of such relief by the trial court is improbable;
(g) where the proceedings in the lower court are a nullity for lack of due process;
(h) where the proceedings were ex parte, or in which the petitioner had no opportunity to object; and
(i)where the issue raised is one purely of law or where public interest is involved.
IS SLU’S EXPLANATION SUFFICIENT FOR THE APPLICATION OF THE EXCEPTION TO THE RULE?
NO. PETITIONERS MAY NOT ARROGATE TO THEMSELVES THE DETERMINATION OF WHETHER A MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION IS NECESSARY OR NOT.
Under the circumstances, the Court is not convinced that SLU’s explanation constitutes sufficient ground for the application of the exception to the rule. In the same vein, petitioners may not arrogate to themselves the determination of whether a motion for reconsideration is necessary or not.
CAN SLU CORRECTLY INVOKE THE DOCTRINE OF LIBERAL INTERPRETATION OF TECHNICAL RULES?
NO. SUCH DOCTRINE WAS NEVER INTENDED TO FORGE A BASTION FOR ERRING LITIGANTS TO VIOLATE THE RULES WITH IMPUNITY. APPLYING SUCH DOCTRINE WILL JUST RESULT TO WANTON DISREGARD OF THE RULES OR CAUSE NEEDLESS DELAY IN THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE.
It should be emphasized that procedural rules are tools designed to facilitate the adjudication of cases. Courts and litigants alike are, thus, enjoined to abide strictly by the rules. Although the Court, in some cases, permits a relaxation in the application of the rules, this was never intended to forge a bastion for erring litigants to violate the rules with impunity. It is true that litigation is not a game of technicalities, but it is equally true that every case must be prosecuted in accordance with the prescribed procedure to insure an orderly and speedy administration of justice.
In this case, a liberality in the application of the rules of procedure may not be invoked if it will result in the wanton disregard of the rules or cause needless delay in the administration of justice. For it is equally settled that, except for the most persuasive of reasons, strict compliance is enjoined to facilitate the orderly administration of justice.
THE CA RULED THAT SLU OFFICIALS WERE DENIED DUE PROCESS IN THE CONTEMPT PROCEEDINGS AGAINST THEM BECAUSE THEY WERE NOT GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO BE HEARD. WAS CA CORRECT?
YES. IN INDIRECT CONTEMPT, THE COURT SHALL DETERMINE THE GOOD FAITH OR LACK OF IT OF THE CONTEMNOR. HE MUST THEREFORE BE GIVEN THE CHANCE TO EXPLAIN HIS SIDE.
In contempt, the intent goes to the gravamen of the offense.51 Thus, the good faith or lack of it, of the alleged contemnor is considered.52 Where the act complained of is ambiguous or does not clearly show on its face that it is contempt, and is one which, if the party is acting in good faith, is within his rights, the presence or absence of a contumacious intent is, in some instances, held to be determinative of its character.53 A person should not be condemned for contempt where he contends for what he believes to be right and in good faith institutes proceedings for the purpose, however erroneous may be his conclusion as to his rights.54 To constitute contempt, the act must be done wilfully and for an illegitimate or improper purpose.55
WHAT IS THE LEGAL PROVISION ON INDIRECT CONTEMPT?
INDIRECT CONTEMPT IS DEFINED BY AND PUNISHED UNDER SECTION 3, RULE 71 OF THE RULES OF COURT, WHICH PROVIDES:
Section 3. Indirect contempt to be punished after charge and hearing. — After a charge in writing has been filed, and an opportunity given to the respondent to comment thereon within such period as may be fixed by the court and to be heard by himself or counsel, a person guilty of any of the following acts may be punished for indirect contempt:
(a) Misbehavior of an officer of a court in the performance of his official duties or in his official transactions;
(b) Disobedience of or resistance to a lawful writ, process, order, or judgment of a court, including the act of a person who, after being dispossessed or ejected from any real property by the judgment or process of any court of competent jurisdiction, enters or attempts or induces another to enter into or upon such real property, or in any manner disturbs the possession given to the person adjudged to be entitled thereto;
(c) Any abuse of or any unlawful interference with the processes or proceedings of a court not constituting direct contempt under section 1 of this Rule;
(d) Any improper conduct tending, directly or indirectly, to impede, obstruct, or degrade the administration of justice;
(e) Assuming to be an attorney or an officer of a court, and acting as such without authority;
(f) Failure to obey a subpoena duly served;
(g) The rescue, or attempted rescue, of a person or property in the custody of an officer by virtue of an order or process of a court held by him.
But nothing in this section shall be so construed as to prevent the court from issuing process to bring the respondent into court, or from holding him in custody pending such proceedings.
THE OLAIREZ GROUP VISITED THE SCHOOL ON JULY 17, 2003 TO DEMAND COMPLIANCE OF COURT DECISION. SLU DID NOT COMPLY. WAS SLU’S CONDUCT CONTUMACIOUS, TENDING TO HINDER THE IMPLEMENTATION OF JUDGMENT?
NO. SLU WAS WELL WITHIN ITS RIGHTS TO APPEAL THE DECISION AND NOT IMMEDIATELY HEED THE DEMAND OF THE OLAIREZ GROUP.
The supposed inaction of the SLU and its officials when the Olairez group visited the school on July 17, 2003 to demand their compliance with the decision was not borne out of a contumacious conduct tending, directly or indirectly, to hinder the implementation of a judgment. A conduct, to be contumacious, implies willfulness, bad faith or with deliberate intent to cause injustice, which is clearly not the case here. On the contrary, SLU was well within its rights to appeal the decision and not immediately heed the demand of the Olairez group.
WAS THERE PROPER HEARING ON THE CONTEMPT MOTION OF THE OLAIREZ GROUP?
NONE. THE OLAIREZ GROUP VIOLATED THE THREE DAY NOTICE RULE. THEY SCHEDULED THE HEARING ON THEIR “VERY URGENT MOTION TO CITE DEFENDANTS IN CONTEMPT” ON JULY 18, 2003 OR JUST ONE DAY AFTER THEY FILED THE SAID PLEADING ON JULY 17, 2003. HEARING WAS RESET TO JULY 22, 2003. BUT OPPOSING COUNSELS RECEIVED COPIES OF THE MOTION ONLY ON JULY 21, 2003.
Records reveal that the Olairez group violated the three-day notice rule on hearing of motions as provided in Section 4,56 Rule 15 of the Rules of Court when they scheduled the hearing on their “Very Urgent Motion to Cite Defendants In Contempt” on July 18, 2003 or just one day after they filed the said pleading on July 17, 2003.
Under the attendant circumstances, there was no substantial compliance with procedural due process because although the hearing on the said motion was reset to July 22, 2003, the disputed writ of execution was actually issued on July 18, 2003 and served on SLU and its officials on July 19, 2003 before the rescheduled hearing date. while their counsels on record received their copies on July 21, 2003. In due process, the parameter required is the presence of an opportunity to be heard, as well as the time to study the motion and meaningfully oppose or controvert the grounds upon which it is based.61 This was not properly afforded to SLU.
WHAT IS THE THREE DAY NOTICE RULE?
IT IS PROVIDED UNDER SECTION 4, RULE 15 OF THE RULES OF COURT. AS A RULE, ANY MOTION THAT DOES NOT COMPLY WITH THE REQUIREMENTS OF RULE 15 SHOULD NOT BE RECEIVED FOR FILING AND, IF FILED, IS NOT ENTITLED TO JUDICIAL COGNIZANCE.
IS THERE AN EXCEPTION?
YES. SUCH AS WHERE A RIGID APPLICATION OF THE RULE WILL RESULT IN A MANIFEST FAILURE OR MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE59 OR IF THERE WAS SUBSTANTIAL COMPLIANCE.
As a rule, any motion that does not comply with the requirements of Rule 15 should not be received for filing57 and, if filed, is not entitled to judicial cognizance,58 subject only to some exceptions, such as where a rigid application of the rule will result in a manifest failure or miscarriage of justice59 or if there was substantial compliance.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE POWER TO DECLARE A PERSON IN CONTEMPT OF COURT?
TO PROTECT AND PRESERVE THE DIGNITY OF THE COURT, THE SOLEMNITY OF THE PROCEEDINGS THEREIN AND THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE FROM CALLOUS MISBEHAVIOR, OFFENSIVE PERSONALITIES AND CONTUMACIOUS REFUSAL TO COMPLY WITH COURT ORDERS. NOT FOR RETRIBUTION OR VINDICATION.
The power to declare a person in contempt of court and in dealing with him accordingly is an inherent power lodged in courts of justice, to be used as a means to protect and preserve the dignity of the court, the solemnity of the proceedings therein and the administration of justice from callous misbehavior, offensive personalities and contumacious refusal to comply with court orders. This contempt power, plenary it may seem, however, must be exercised judiciously and sparingly with highest self- restraint with the end in view of utilizing the same for correction and preservation of the dignity of the court, not for retribution or vindication.63 It should not be availed of unless necessary in the interest of justice.
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