The core issue boils down to whether the “fresh period rule” enunciated in Neypes applies to appeals in criminal cases.
The Court’s Ruling
We find merit in the petition.
The right to appeal is not a constitutional, natural or inherent right — it is a statutory privilege and of statutory origin and, therefore, available only if granted or as provided by statutes. It may be exercised only in the manner prescribed by the provisions of the law. The period to appeal is specifically governed by Section 39 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129 (BP 129), as amended, Section 3 of Rule 41 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, and Section 6 of Rule 122 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure.
Section 39 of BP 129, as amended, provides:
SEC. 39. Appeals. – The period for appeal from final orders, resolutions, awards, judgments, or decisions of any court in all cases shall be fifteen (15) days counted from the notice of the final order, resolution, award, judgment, or decision appealed from: Provided, however, That in habeas corpus cases, the period for appeal shall be forty-eight (48) hours from the notice of the judgment appealed from.
Section 3, Rule 41 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure states:
SEC. 3. Period of ordinary appeal. ― The appeal shall be taken within fifteen (15) days from notice of the judgment or final order appealed from. Where a record on appeal is required, the appellant shall file a notice of appeal and a record on appeal within thirty (30) days from notice of the judgment or final order.
The period of appeal shall be interrupted by a timely motion for new trial or reconsideration. No motion for extension of time to file a motion for new trial or reconsideration shall be allowed.
Section 6, Rule 122 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure reads:
SEC. 6. When appeal to be taken. — An appeal must be taken within fifteen (15) days from promulgation of the judgment or from notice of the final order appealed from. This period for perfecting an appeal shall be suspended from the time a motion for new trial or reconsideration is filed until notice of the order overruling the motion has been served upon the accused or his counsel at which time the balance of the period begins to run.
In Neypes, the Court modified the rule in civil cases on the counting of the 15-day period within which to appeal. The Court categorically set a fresh period of 15 days from a denial of a motion for reconsideration within which to appeal, thus:
The Supreme Court may promulgate procedural rules in all courts. It has the sole prerogative to amend, repeal or even establish new rules for a more simplified and inexpensive process, and the speedy disposition of cases. In the rules governing appeals to it and to the Court of Appeals, particularly Rules 42, 43 and 45, the Court allows extensions of time, based on justifiable and compelling reasons, for parties to file their appeals. These extensions may consist of 15 days or more.
To standardize the appeal periods provided in the Rules and to afford litigants fair opportunity to appeal their cases, the Court deems it practical to allow a fresh period of 15 days within which to file the notice of appeal in the Regional Trial Court, counted from receipt of the order dismissing a motion for a new trial or motion for reconsideration.
Henceforth, this “fresh period rule” shall also apply to Rule 40 governing appeals from the Municipal Trial Courts to the Regional Trial Courts; Rule 42 on petitions for review from the Regional Trial Courts to the Court of Appeals; Rule 43 on appeals from quasi-judicial agencies to the Court of Appeals and Rule 45 governing appeals by certiorari to the Supreme Court. The new rule aims to regiment or make the appeal period uniform, to be counted from receipt of the order denying the motion for new trial, motion for reconsideration (whether full or partial) or any final order or resolution.
The Court also reiterated its ruling that it is the denial of the motion for reconsideration that constituted the final order which finally disposed of the issues involved in the case.
The raison d’être for the “fresh period rule” is to standardize the appeal period provided in the Rules and do away with the confusion as to when the 15-day appeal period should be counted. Thus, the 15-day period to appeal is no longer interrupted by the filing of a motion for new trial or motion for reconsideration; litigants today need not concern themselves with counting the balance of the 15-day period to appeal since the 15-day period is now counted from receipt of the order dismissing a motion for new trial or motion for reconsideration or any final order or resolution.
While Neypes involved the period to appeal in civil cases, the Court’s pronouncement of a “fresh period” to appeal should equally apply to the period for appeal in criminal cases under Section 6 of Rule 122 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, for the following reasons:
First, BP 129, as amended, the substantive law on which the Rules of Court is based, makes no distinction between the periods to appeal in a civil case and in a criminal case. Section 39 of BP 129 categorically states that “[t]he period for appeal from final orders, resolutions, awards, judgments, or decisions of any court in all cases shall be fifteen (15) days counted from the notice of the final order, resolution, award, judgment, or decision appealed from.” Ubi lex non distinguit nec nos distinguere debemos. When the law makes no distinction, we (this Court) also ought not to recognize any distinction.
Second, the provisions of Section 3 of Rule 41 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure and Section 6 of Rule 122 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, though differently worded, mean exactly the same. There is no substantial difference between the two provisions insofar as legal results are concerned – the appeal period stops running upon the filing of a motion for new trial or reconsideration and starts to run again upon receipt of the order denying said motion for new trial or reconsideration. It was this situation that Neypes addressed in civil cases. No reason exists why this situation in criminal cases cannot be similarly addressed.
Third, while the Court did not consider in Neypes the ordinary appeal period in criminal cases under Section 6, Rule 122 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure since it involved a purely civil case, it did include Rule 42 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure on petitions for review from the RTCs to the Court of Appeals (CA), and Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure governing appeals by certiorari to this Court, both of which also apply to appeals in criminal cases, as provided by Section 3 of Rule 122 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, thus:
SEC. 3. How appeal taken. — x x x x
(b) The appeal to the Court of Appeals in cases decided by the Regional Trial Court in the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction shall be by petition for review under Rule 42.
x x x x
Except as provided in the last paragraph of section 13, Rule 124, all other appeals to the Supreme Court shall be by petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45.
Clearly, if the modes of appeal to the CA (in cases where the RTC exercised its appellate jurisdiction) and to this Court in civil and criminal cases are the same, no cogent reason exists why the periods to appeal from the RTC (in the exercise of its original jurisdiction) to the CA in civil and criminal cases under Section 3 of Rule 41 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure and Section 6 of Rule 122 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure should be treated differently.
Were we to strictly interpret the “fresh period rule” in Neypes and make it applicable only to the period to appeal in civil cases, we shall effectively foster and encourage an absurd situation where a litigant in a civil case will have a better right to appeal than an accused in a criminal case – a situation that gives undue favor to civil litigants and unjustly discriminates against the accused-appellants. It suggests a double standard of treatment when we favor a situation where property interests are at stake, as against a situation where liberty stands to be prejudiced. We must emphatically reject this double and unequal standard for being contrary to reason. Over time, courts have recognized with almost pedantic adherence that what is contrary to reason is not allowed in law – Quod est inconveniens, aut contra rationem non permissum est in lege.
Thus, we agree with the OSG’s view that if a delay in the filing of an appeal may be excused on grounds of substantial justice in civil actions, with more reason should the same treatment be accorded to the accused in seeking the review on appeal of a criminal case where no less than the liberty of the accused is at stake. The concern and the protection we must extend to matters of liberty cannot be overstated.
In light of these legal realities, we hold that the petitioner seasonably filed her notice of appeal onNovember 16, 2005, within the fresh period of 15 days, counted fromNovember 3, 2005, the date of receipt of notice denying her motion for new trial.