The right to appeal is neither a natural right nor a part of due process. It is merely a statutory privilege and may be exercised only in the manner and in accordance with the provisions of law. Thus, one who seeks to avail of the right to appeal must comply with the requirements of the Rules. Failure to do so inevitably leads to the loss of the right to appeal. Nonetheless, the emerging trend in our jurisprudence is to afford every party-litigant the amplest opportunity for the proper and just determination of his cause free from the constraints of technicalities. While it is desirable that the Rules of Court be faithfully and even meticulously observed, courts should not be so strict about procedural lapses that do not really impair the administration of justice. This is based, no less, on the Rules of Court which itself calls for a liberal construction of its provisions, with the objective of securing for the parties a just, speedy, and inexpensive disposition of every action and proceeding.
The dismissal of petitioner’s appeal was based on the absence of the proof of payment of docket fees from the records transmitted by the RTC clerk of court. This procedural lapse is too inconsequential to prejudice the administration of justice, considering that the required fees were actually paid, as shown in the July 10, 2007 RTC Order granting the notice of appeal which explicitly declares that the “appeal docket fee therefor was paid within the reglementary period allowed by law.” That petitioner’s counsel mistakenly thought that no payment was made, and thus prayed, in her motion for reconsideration, for the chance to pay the fees belatedly, is of no moment. The fact is, there was actual payment.
The courts’ discretionary power in dismissing an appeal for failure to comply with the Rules should be used in the exercise of sound judgment in accordance with the tenets of justice and fair play with a great deal of circumspection, considering all attendant circumstances, and must be exercised wisely and ever prudently, never capriciously, with a view to substantial justice.
Here, the CA gravely abused its discretion in disregarding the RTC Order and in giving premium to a technical requirement which is too trifling to prevail over petitioner’s right to an opportunity to be heard. The RTC Order convincingly established that petitioner paid the appellate court
docket fees; the proof of payment missing from the transmitted records merely detailed the breakdown of the payment and, hence, would be too trivial as to justify the CA’s refusal to exercise jurisdiction over the appeal.
We have, in numerous instances, relaxed the Rules when an appellant altogether fails to pay the docket fees; with greater reason should a liberal stance be taken in this case considering that the appellate docket fees were actually paid and the only detail lacking is a specific breakdown of the fees settled.
Moreover, the duty of transmitting the proof of payment, together with the original records, is lodged with the RTC clerk of court. Certainly, it would be unjust to chastise an appellant for an error not of his doing by dismissing his appeal.
This notwithstanding, it is still imperative for petitioner to submit proof of payment of docket fees – through a copy of the official receipt issued by the clerk of the RTC or a certification to that effect – to enable the CA to assess whether the docket fees paid were the full and correct amounts required.