FIRST DIVISION

 

NATIONAL MINES AND ALLIED             G.R. No. 157232         

WORKERS UNION (NAMAWU),                                

                                       Petitioner,                       Present:

 

                                                                             PUNO, C.J., Chairperson,

                             YNARES-SANTIAGO,*

          - versus -                                                     SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,

                                                                             CORONA, and                                                    

                                                                             AZCUNA, JJ.                                    

HON. ADELINA CALDERON-

BARGAS, in her capacity as Presiding         Promulgated:

Judge of Branch 78, Regional Trial Court

of Morong, Rizal, and NORMA G.                        December 10, 2007

MITRA,

                             Respondents.                                    

X--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- X

 

 

DECISION

 

AZCUNA, J.:

 

 

          This is a petition for certiorari[1] and prohibition seeking the annulment of the Order dated January 30, 2003, of Presiding Judge Adelina Calderon-Bargas of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 78, Morong, Rizal, for want of jurisdiction in granting private respondent’s Motion to Admit Amended Complaint in Civil Case No. 01-1322-M entitled “Norma Mitra v. National Mines and Allied Workers, et al.”

 

          The facts are as follows:

          In August of 1992, petitioner, representing the workers of private respondent, filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) for unfair labor practice, illegal dismissal, underpayment of wages, nonpayment of holiday pay and 13th month pay against private respondent, Norma G. Mitra.[2]

 

          A decision was rendered by Labor Arbiter Antonio Macam on April 22, 1999 in favor of the workers, ordering private respondent to pay the amount of P1,669,897. Accordingly, a writ of execution was issued on August 31, 1999.

 

          NLRC  Sheriff Juanito Atienza levied upon a parcel of land belonging to private respondent. As the highest bidder in the execution sale conducted by the Sheriff, petitioner acquired title to the property on December 6, 1999.

 

          On July 16, 2001, private respondent filed a complaint for “Annulment of Final Deed of Sale, Certificate of Sale, Notice of Levy on Execution and Cancellation of Transfer Certificate of Title No. M-105453”[3] against petitioner, Sheriff Juanito Atienza and the Register of Deeds of Morong, Rizal, Dinna P. Mantuano. The case was assigned to public respondent Judge Adelina Calderon-Bargas of Branch 78, RTC, Morong, Rizal.

 

          In its Answer with Counterclaim and Opposition to the Issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order, petitioner averred that the RTC had no jurisdiction over the subject matter of the case because it is an offshoot of a labor dispute that had been decided by the NLRC.

 

          On January 21, 2002, public respondent issued an Order dismissing the complaint for lack of jurisdiction and ruling that any decision in the civil case may render ineffective the decision rendered in the labor case.

 

          Private respondent’s subsequent Motion for Reconsideration was denied in an Order dated June 19, 2002, the pertinent portions of which read:

 

          Plaintiff stated that she does not question the legality or validity of the decision of the Labor Arbiter in Case No. RAB-IV-8-4482-92, but the procedure followed by Ms. Dinna Mantuano-Lao, [Register of Deeds], and Sheriff Juanito J. Atienza, when the former cancelled the name of the plaintiff on TCT No. M-46298, and issued TCT No. M-105453 in the name of defendant NAMAWU.

 

            However, a reading of the allegations in the complaint shows that plaintiff questions not only the process of notification in the Notice of Levy, but the alleged lack of notice of the proceedings in NLRC Case No. RAB-IV-8-4482-92 had before the Labor Arbiter.

 

            She alleges in the complaint… that “plaintiff never received any summons or copy of the complaint in the aforesaid case; she never hired a lawyer to represent her in said case; she never received any NOTICES of any decision, execution, levy, auction or sale.”

           

Considering that plaintiff is questioning her lack of notice from the issuance of summons, until the levy or attachment of the property in question, it is clear, therefore, that plaintiff does not only question the procedure followed by Sheriff Juanito J. Atienza, but also the procedure of the Labor Arbiter, since she was allegedly not given notice on all the proceedings before the Labor Arbiter.

           

Meanwhile, if the plaintiff would continue her cause of action against the [Register] of Deeds, there is a need to amend the complaint, naming NAMAWU as a nominal party; and the Register of Deeds as the indispensable party.[4]

           

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the motion for reconsideration is DENIED for lack of merit.

           

SO ORDERED.[5]

 

A copy of the above Order was received by private respondent on July 3, 2002. Upon private respondent’s failure to file an appeal, the Orders of the RTC dismissing the complaint and denying the motion for reconsideration became final and executory on July 19, 2002.

 

On August 28, 2002, private respondent filed a Motion to Admit Amended Complaint Pursuant to Order Dated 19 June 2002[6] stating that:

 

1.         On 19 June 2002, this Honorable Court issued an Order, stating that there is a need to amend the complaint, naming NAMAWU as a nominal party and the Register of Deeds as the indispensable party;

 

2.         In compliance with this Honorable Court’s order, plaintiff has amended [her] complaint;

 

3.                  Undersigned lawyer suffered a heart attack last June 2002 and was advised by his cardiologist to refrain from legal work for at least 60 days for his rehabilitation and recuperation. Thus, his wife gave him copies of the Court’s order only last August 20, 2002 after his doctor [advised him] that he can resume limited court duties and responsibilities.

 

 

Attached to the motion was private respondent’s Amended Complaint (Cancellation of TCT No. M-105453 & Reinstatement of TCT No. M-56298; Damages with Prayer for a Writ of Preliminary Injunction and/or Restraining Order),[7]  alleging the following:

 

1.         Plaintiff [private respondent] is the owner of two (2) parcels of land covered under Transfer Certificate of Title No. M-46298 registered in the name of NORMA MITRA issued by the Registry of Deeds for Morong Branch, Province of Rizal;

 

2.         On October 16, 1996, herein plaintiff mortgaged TCT No. M-46298 in favor of ASIAN-CATHAY FINANCE & LEASING CORPORATION for the sum of ONE MILLION PESOS; aforesaid mortgage was entered in the Memorandum of Encumbrances of TCT No. M-46298 on October 16, 1996 and the OWNER’S DUPLICATE COPY of said title was surrendered in the possession of mortgagee up to the present time;

 

3.                  On June 13, 2001, plaintiff requested for a certified copy of TCT No. M-46298 and found out for the first time that her title, TCT M-46298, had two inscriptions entered in the Memorandum of Encumbrance, namely, [the mortgage in favor of Asian-Cathay Finance & Leasing Corporation, and the] Notice of Levy on Execution dated December 6, 1999.  On July 9, 2001, plaintiff requested a certified copy of her title TCT No. M-46298 and was horrified and surprised to find out that the Register of Deeds for Morong Branch cancelled plaintiff’s title… and issued… TCT No. M-105453  in the name of defendant NAMAWU on 27th June 2001;

 

. . .

 

9.         There was fraud and collusion.... in the issuance of TCT No. M-105453 in the name of defendant NAMAWU. The notice of levy on execution and certificate of sale and/or final deed of sale, used as basis for the cancellation of plaintiff’s title, never came to the knowledge of plaintiff, as she never received copies of the notice of levy, certificate of sale and the final deed of sale in connection with her real property, subject matter of this case;

 

. . .

 

11.       Since no valid notice of levy was served personally or given to judgment debtor, there was no valid levy on plaintiff’s title, and therefore, its subsequent registration in the Registry of Deeds and annotations in the title were also invalid and ineffective (Phil. Surety & Insurance Co., Inc. v. Zabal, 21 SCRA 682).[8]

 

 

Petitioner opposed the aforesaid motion on the following grounds that: 1) it was filed out of time; 2) the amendment substantially changed the cause of action, defense or theory of the case; 3) the amendment will result in the alteration of a final judgment on a substantial matter; 4) the amendment sought to confer jurisdiction upon the court when none had existed before; and 5) the amendment was intended to delay the proceedings.

 

On January 30, 2003, public respondent issued an Order granting private respondent’s motion, thus:

 

In the Reply to defendant’s Opposition to the Motion to Admit Amended Complaint, the plaintiff maintained that no appeal was made on the said order as they opted to file an amended complaint; that no substantial amendments were made to the original complaint, but merely compliance to the condition set by the Court in order to continue plaintiff’s cause of action in this case; and that defendant NAMAWU is now merely a nominal party and all references to the labor case were deleted and the Sheriff of the National Labor Relations Commission omitted as party defendant. The plaintiff now focuses this case on the illegal acts committed by the Register of Deeds in the transfer of plaintiff’s certificate of title to the nominal party, NAMAWU. In support of the late filing of the Amended Complaint, the counsel submitted documentary evidence showing that he was indeed under medical care for a heart attack and was advised to rest for at least 60 days.

 

After careful consideration of the arguments raised by the parties, the Court finds the Motion to Admit Amended Complaint impressed with merit; resolves to grant said motion and to ADMIT the Amended Complaint.[9]

 

 

          Hence, petitioner argues as follows:

 

          1.       The Motion to Admit Amended Complaint was filed after the finality of the Orders dated January 21, 2002 and June 19, 2002, respectively dismissing private respondent’s complaint for lack of jurisdiction and denying her motion for reconsideration;

 

          2.       After the finality of the Orders, public respondent had lost jurisdiction over the case, except to execute the same;

 

          3.       The amendment was intended to delay the proceedings. The labor case from which this case stemmed had been pending for more than ten years or since 1992. Private respondent had ample opportunity (since the filing of this case in July 2001) to amend her complaint and raise the issue involving the enforcement of the writ of execution issued by the NLRC; and

 

4.                 Private respondent failed to perfect her appeal within the 15-day reglementary period from the receipt of the final order of the court.

 

          The issue is whether public respondent acted without jurisdiction and with grave abuse of discretion in issuing the Order dated January 30, 2003, allowing private respondent’s amended complaint.

 

          The Court agrees that public respondent acted without jurisdiction in issuing the assailed Order allowing private respondent to file an amended complaint.

 

          Under the Rules of Court, a party may amend his pleading once as a matter of right at any time before a responsive pleading is served, or in the case of a reply, at any time within ten (10) days after it is served.[10] At this stage, a party has the absolute right to amend his pleading and may introduce a new cause of action or change in theory.[11] On the other hand, substantial amendments after the answer had been filed may be made only upon leave of court; but such leave may be refused if it appears to the court that the motion was made with intent to delay.[12]

 

          In the present case, however, the motion to file an amended complaint was filed one month after the Order of the trial court dismissing private respondent’s complaint became final due to the latter’s failure to perfect an appeal. As a rule, the aggrieved party must perfect his appeal within the period as provided for by law.[13] The rule is mandatory in character. A party’s failure to comply with the law will result in the decision becoming final and executory and, as such, can no longer be modified or reversed.[14] Thus, it is beyond the power or jurisdiction of the court which rendered the decision or order to amend or revoke the same after the lapse of the fifteen-day reglementary period to file an appeal.[15]

 

          WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Order dated January 30, 2003, of Presiding Judge Adelina Calderon-Bargas of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 78, Morong, Rizal, in Civil Case No. 01-1322-M is SET ASIDE, and the Orders issued on January 21, 2002 and June 19, 2002, respectively dismissing private respondent’s complaint and denying her motion for reconsideration are REINSTATED.

 

          No costs.

 

          SO ORDERED.

 

 

ADOLFO S. AZCUNA

                                                                         Associate Justice

 

 

 

WE CONCUR:

 

 

 

REYNATO S. PUNO

Chief Justice

Chairperson

 

 

                                      

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO           ANGELINA SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ

                Associate Justice                                             Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

RENATO C. CORONA

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

 

CERTIFICATION

 

 

          Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court’s Division.

 

 

 

 

 

REYNATO S. PUNO

Chief Justice



*               Designated to sit as additional Member of the First Division under Special Order No. 474 dated October 19, 2007 issued pursuant to Administrative Circular No. 84-2007.

[1]               Under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court.

[2]               Docketed as Case No. RAB-IV-8-4482-92-RI.

[3]               Docketed as Civil Case No. 01-1322-M.

[4]               Emphasis supplied.

[5]               Rollo, pp. 28-29.

[6]               Id. at  78.

[7]               Id. at  80.

[8]               Id. at  81-82.

[9]               Id. at  26.

[10]             Section 2, Rule 10 of the Rules of Court.

[11]             Radio Communications of the Philippines, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 121397, April 17, 1997, 271 SCRA 286.

[12]             Section 3, supra note 10.

[13]             An appeal must be taken within fifteen (15) days from promulgation of the judgment or order appealed from. This period for perfecting an appeal shall be interrupted from the time a motion for new trial or reconsideration is filed until notice of the order overruling the motion shall have been served upon the accused or his counsel (Section 6, Rule 122, id.).

[14]             Pondevida v. Sandiganbayan,  G.R. Nos. 160929-31, August 16, 2005,  467 SCRA 219.

[15]             Heirs of the Late Flor Tungpalan v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 136207, June 21, 2005, 460 SCRA 392. The failure to perfect an appeal within the prescribed period is not only mandatory but also jurisdictional, and failure to do so renders the questioned decision final and executory, and deprives the appellate court of jurisdiction to alter the judgment, much less to entertain the appeal (Meatmasters International Corporation v. Lelis Integrated Development Corporation, G.R. No. 163022, February 28, 2005, 452 SCRA 626).