As a consequence of filing this special civil action for certiorari in place of an ordinary appeal under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court, petitioner Salvacion went against the fundamental precepts of procedural law.
The Revised Rules of Court specifically provides that an appeal by certiorari from a judgment or final order or resolution of the Sandiganbayan is by verified petition for review on certiorari and shall raise only questions of law. Specifically, Section 1, Rule 45 of the Rules of Court dictates that:
SECTION 1. Filing of petition with Supreme Court. – A party desiring to appeal by certiorari from a judgment or final order or resolution of the Court of Appeals, the Sandiganbayan, the Regional Trial Court or other courts whenever authorized by law, may file with the Supreme Court a verified petition for review on certiorari. The petition shall raise only questions of law which must be distinctly set forth.
Note that what is being assailed in this original action are the Resolutions of the Sandiganbayan dated 23 February 2006 and 4 August 2006 reversing the Ombudsman’s finding of probable cause to hold respondent Manlapas liable to stand trial for violation of Section 3, paragraph (f) of Republic Act No. 3019, as amended, and ordering the dismissal of Criminal Case No. 28111. There is no question that these Resolutions already constitute a final disposition of Criminal Case No. 28111, for after ordering the dismissal of said case, there is nothing more for the graft court to do therein. These Resolutions, therefore, are fit to be subjects of an appeal to this Court via a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45.
However, the present Petition is one for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Revised Rules of Court. Under Rule 65, a party may only avail himself of the special remedy of certiorari under the following circumstances:
SECTION 1. Petition for Certiorari. – When any tribunal, board or officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions has acted without or in excess of its or his jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, and there is no appeal, nor any plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law, a person aggrieved thereby may file a verified petition in the proper court, alleging the facts with certainty and praying that judgment be rendered annulling or modifying the proceedings of such tribunal, board or officer, and granting such incidental reliefs as law and justice may require.
The writ of certiorari issues for the correction of errors of jurisdiction only or grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. It cannot be legally used for any other purpose. Its function is only to keep the inferior court within the bounds of its jurisdiction or to prevent it from committing such a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. It may issue only when the following requirements are alleged in the petition and established: (1) the writ is directed against a tribunal, a board or any officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions; (2) such tribunal, board or officer has acted without or in excess of jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction; and (3) there is no appeal or any plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. Excess of jurisdiction as distinguished from absence of jurisdiction, means that an act, though within the general power of a tribunal, a board or an officer is not authorized, and is invalid with respect to the particular proceeding, because the conditions which alone authorize the exercise of the general power in respect of it are wanting. “Without jurisdiction” means lack or want of legal power, right or authority to hear and determine a cause or causes, considered either in general or with reference to a particular matter. It means lack of power to exercise authority. [Land Bank of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals, 456 Phil. 755, 784-785 (2003)]
Contrasting the two remedies, a petition for review is a mode of appeal, while a special civil action for certiorari is an extraordinary process for the correction of errors of jurisdiction. It is basic remedial law that the two remedies are distinct, mutually exclusive, and antithetical. The extraordinary remedy of certiorari is proper if the tribunal, board, or officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions acted without or in grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction and there is no appeal or any plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in law. A petition for review, on the other hand, seeks to correct errors of judgment committed by the court, tribunal, or officer. When a court, tribunal, or officer has jurisdiction over the person and the subject matter of the dispute, the decision on all other questions arising from the case is an exercise of that jurisdiction. Consequently, all errors committed in the exercise of said jurisdiction are merely errors of judgment. Under prevailing procedural rules and jurisprudence, errors of judgment are not proper subjects of a special civil action for certiorari. For if every error committed by the trial court or quasi-judicial agency were to be the proper subject of review by certiorari, then trial would never end and the dockets of appellate courts would be clogged beyond measure. [Sebastian v. Hon. Morales, 445 Phil. 595, 608 (2003)]
Although petitioner Salvacion made general allegations in her Petition for Certiorari that the Sandiganbayan, Fifth Division, committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, a closer scrutiny of her arguments would reveal that she is actually challenging the Resolutions dated 23 February 2006 and 4 August 2006 based on purported errors of judgment, and not jurisdiction. It is irrefragable that the Sandiganbayan, Fifth Division, had jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties in Criminal Case No. 28111. Petitioner Salvacion utterly failed to convince this Court that the graft court abused its discretion in issuing the assailed Resolutions – grave enough to have ousted it of jurisdiction over Criminal Case No. 28111 for which she may avail herself of the special remedy of certiorari.
It is equally elementary in remedial law that the use of an erroneous mode of appeal is cause for dismissal of the petition for certiorari. A writ of certiorari will not issue where the remedy of appeal is available to an aggrieved party. By its nature, a petition for certiorari lies only where there is “no appeal,” and “no plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.” [Nippon Paint Employees Union-Olalia v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 159010, 19 November 2004, 443 SCRA 286, 291] A remedy is considered “plain, speedy and adequate” if it will promptly relieve the petitioners from the injurious effects of the judgment and the acts of the lower court or agency. [Chua v. Santos, G.R. No. 132467, 18 October 2004, 440 SCRA 365, 374] In this case, appeal was not only available but also a speedy and adequate remedy. [National Irrigation Administration v. Court of Appeals, 376 Phil. 362, 372 (1999)] The availability to petitioner Salvacion of the remedy of a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 from the resolutions of the Sandiganbayan effectively foreclosed her right to resort to a petition for certiorari.
And while it is true that in accordance with the liberal spirit pervading the Rules of Court and in the interest of substantial justice [Oaminal v. Castillo, 459 Phil. 542, 556 (2003)], we have, before [Id.], treated a petition for certiorari as a petition for review on certiorari, but only when the former was filed within the reglementary period for filing the latter. Regrettably, this exception is not applicable to the present factual milieu. The present Petition for Certiorari was filed well beyond the reglementary period for filing a petition for review, and without any reason being offered therefor.
Pursuant to Sec. 2, Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court:
SEC. 2. Time for filing; extension. – The petition shall be filed within fifteen (15) days from notice of the judgment or final order or resolution appealed from, or of the denial of the petitioner’s motion for new trial or reconsideration filed in due time after notice of the judgment. x x x.
A party litigant wishing to file a petition for review on certiorari must do so within 15 days from receipt of the judgment, final order or resolution sought to be appealed. In this case, the resolution of the Sandiganbayan dated 23 February 2006, denying the motions for reconsideration of both petitioner Salvacion and the People, was received by petitioner Salvacion on 22 August 2006. The instant Petition was filed only on 17 October 2006; thus, at the time of the filing of this Petition, 56 days had already elapsed, way beyond the 15-day period within which to file a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Procedure; and even beyond an extended period of 30 days, the maximum period to be granted by this Court had one been actually sought by petitioner Salvacion. As the facts stand, petitioner Salvacion has already lost the right to appeal via Rule 45.
Concomitant to a liberal application of the rules of procedure should be an effort on the part of the party invoking liberality to at least explain its failure to comply with the rules. [Banco Filipino Savings and Mortgage Bank v. Court of Appeals, 389 Phil. 644, 656 (2000)] Herein, petitioner Salvacion’s recourse to this Court is bereft of any explanation, meritorious or otherwise, as to why she failed to properly observe the rules of procedure.
Allowing appeals, although filed late in some rare cases, may not be applied to petitioner Salvacion for this rule is, again, qualified by the requirement that there must be exceptional circumstances to justify the relaxation of the rules. [Bank of America, NT & SA v. Gerochi, Jr., G.R. No. 73210, 10 February 1994, 230 SCRA 9, 15 citing Alto Sales Corp. v. Hon. Intermediate Appellate Court, 274 Phil. 914, 925-926 (1991)] We cannot find any such exceptional circumstances in this case and neither has petitioner Salvacion endeavored to allude to the existence of any. This being so, another fundamental rule of procedure applies, and that is the doctrine that perfection of an appeal within the reglementary period is not only mandatory but also jurisdictional, so that failure to do so renders the questioned decision final and executory and deprives the appellate court of jurisdiction to alter the final judgment, more so, to entertain the appeal. [Philippine Commercial International Bank v. Court of Appeals, 452 Phil. 542, 551 (2003)]