The Office of the Solicitor General filed an action for cancellation of miscellaneous sales patents on the ground of fraud and misrepresentation against the respondents. The RTC, however, ruled in favour of the respondents, hence the OSG filed its notice of appeal to the CA. For failure to file brief, the CA initially dismissed the case, but the OSG, upon being informed of its dismissal promptly sought reconsideration, hence the CA reinstated the appeal. By a resolution dated September 14, 2011, the CA ordered the OSG to file its brief within 45 days. Again, for failure of the OSG to file its brief, the CA dismissed the appeal on July 5, 2012, and the same became final and executory on August 21, 2012. By another resolution issued a year later, or on August 20, 2013, the CA declared its Resolution dated July 5, 2012 as having attained finality on August 21, 2012. The OSG learned of the CA Resolutions September 14, 2011, July 5, 2012 and August 20, 2013, and the Entry of Judgment dated August 21, 2012. It was only when the Regional Executive Director of the DENR Region VII sent its 1st Indorsement dated September 27, 2013. Thru a petition for review, the OSG assailed the dismissal of its appeal, arguing that being the Republic’s statutory counsel, it should have been furnished with the CA’s resolution reinstating its appeal, not the DENR Region VIT-Legal Division. Consequently, there was a violation of the Republic’s right to due process and the CA committed grave abuse of discretion in declaring the reglementary period within which to file its appellant’s brief had lapsed.
Whether or not the OSG was deprived of due process when it was not furnished copies of the CA Resolutions.
The petition must be granted.
It is undisputed that it was the OSG who initiated Civil Case No. CEB-6785 for cancellation of miscellaneous sales patents and the corresponding certificates of title issued to the respondents.1 As such, it is the counsel of record and remains to be so until the culmination of the case. More importantly, Section 35(1), Chapter 12, Title III, Book IV of the Administrative Code of 1987, specifically empowers the OSG to “[r]present the Government in the Supreme Court and the [CA] in all criminal proceedings x x x and all other courts or tribunals in all civil actions and special proceedings in which the Government or any officer thereof in his official capacity is a party.” Section 35(5), meanwhile, provides that the OSG shall “[r]epresent the Government in all land registration and related proceedings.” The CA was, in fact, well aware of this. In its Resolution dated September 14, 2011 reinstating the Republic’s appeal, the CA recognized the role of the OSG as the principal counsel in the appellate proceedings, viz:
A closer scrutiny of the records of the case reveals that the Notice to File Brief was sent to and received by [Atty. Alberca], Special Counsel of the OSG, Legal Division, DENR, Region VII, Banilad, Mandaue City on December 01, 2009 as evidenced by the Registry Return Receipt.
Mindful of the provision in Section 35 (1), Chapter 12, Title III of the Administrative Code of 1987 which provides for the powers and functions of the [OSG] which is the official counsel for government agencies in cases before this Court, to wit:
x x x x2
It is therefore rather peculiar that the CA failed to furnish the OSG with a copy of its Resolution dated September 14, 2011, and even continued to neglect to furnish the OSG with copies of all its subsequent resolutions. Instead, it kept sending them to Atty. Alberca of the DENR Region VII- Legal Division. While the OSG may have deputized the DENR Region VIl-Legal Division to assist it in the performance of its functions, it has not totally relinquished its position as counsel for the Republic. The deputized counsel is no more than the “surrogate” of the Solicitor General in any particular proceeding and the latter remains the principal counsel entitled to be furnished copies of all court orders, notices, and decisions. Hence, any court order and decision sent to the deputy, acting as an agent of the Solicitor General, is not binding until it is actually received by the Solicitor General.3
It must be stressed that “[t]he essence of due process is the opportunity to be heard, logically preconditioned on prior notice, before judgment is rendered.”4 “Notice and hearing are preliminary steps essential to the passing of an enforceable judgment, and together with the tribunal having jurisdiction of the case, constitute basic elements of the constitutional requirement of due process of law.”5 “Even the Republic as a litigant is entitled to this constitutional right, in the same manner and to the same extent that this right is guaranteed to private litigants.”6
Consequently, it is clear that the issuance of CA Resolutions dated July 5, 2012 and August 20, 2013, and the Entry of Judgment dated August 21, 2012 was tainted with grave abuse of discretion. In Republic of the Philippines v. Heirs of Evaristo Tiotioen,7 the Court even emphatically ruled that “the belated filing of an appeal by the State, or even its failure to file an opposition, in a land registration case because of the mistake or error on the part of its officials or agents does not deprive the government of its right to appeal from a judgment of the court.”8
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Resolutions dated July 5, 2012 and August 20, 2013 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 02458 are hereby ANNULLED and SET ASIDE, and the Republic of the Philippines’ appeal is REINSTATED. Moreover, the Entry of Judgment dated August 21, 2012 is ORDERED stricken off from its Book of Entries of Judgment.
Let this case be remanded to the Court of Appeals for continuation of the appellate proceedings.
Velasco, Jr., (Chairperson), Leonardo-De Castro, Peralta, and Perez, JJ., concur.
THIRD DIVISION, G.R. No. 210233, February 15, 2016, REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, PETITIONER, VS. THE COURT OF APPEALS, SPOUSES RODOLFO SY AND BELEN SY, LOLITA SY, AND SPOUSES TEODORICO AND LEAH ADARNA, RESPONDENTS.
1 Id. at 5-6, 19.
2 Id. at 27-28.
3 The Director of Lands v. Judge Medina, 311 Phil. 357, 369 (1995).
4 Republic v. Caguioa, G.R. No. 174385, February 20, 2013, 691 SCRA 306, 319
5 San Andres v. CA, G.R. No. 78341, August 3, 1992, 212 SCRA 1, 6.
6 Republic v. Caguioa, supra note 23.
7 589 Phil. 145(2008).
8 Id. at 153.