Technicality shall not prevail over substantial justice. Defects in a pleading could not be a justifiable cause so as to deny application of justice and fair play. The Court recognizes that discretion must be a sound one, to be exercised in accordance with the tenets of justice and fair play, having in mind the circumstances obtaining in each case,” and that the law abhors technicalities that impede the cause of justice.

Thus, the SC held in the June 20, 2018 case, as follows:

Magsaysay Maritime Corp./Air-Sea Holiday GMBH Stable Organization Italia/Marlon R. Roño vs. Elmer V. Enanor
G.R. No. 224115, June 20, 2018

Error in respondent name in pleadings not substantial to dismiss petition; Explanation on the mode of service; Failure to append explanation on the mode of service in lieu of personal service is not sufficient to dismiss petition where the difference in the decisions of the LA and the CA is too substantial; Technicality;


Respondent Elmer V. Enanor (Enanor) was employed by Magsaysay Maritime, et al. Magsaysay Maritime Corp., Air-Sea Holiday GMBH Stable Organization Italia as a utility galley onboard the vessel “AIDADIVA” from his embarkation on August 30, 2013 until his repatriation back to the Philippines sometime in January 2014.

Enanor figured in an incident that occurred in the vessel’s kitchen the same month of his repatriation, and which resulted to a fracture of his right ring finger. Thus, Enanor filed against petitioners Magsaysay Maritime Corp., Air-Sea Holiday GMBH Stable Organization Italia, and Marlon R. Roño (Magsaysay Maritime, et al.) for the recovery of disability benefits, medical expenses, and attorney’s fees.

LA Ruling:

After due hearing, the Labor Arbiter (LA) rendered a Decision in favor of herein petitioners.

The LA found that Enanor, after continuous therapy, has already improved and, by June 23, 2014, he was “fit to work as per orthopedic standpoint as he can close his] fist without difficulty and his fingers are within functional range.” The LA dismissed the case but awarded financial assistance to complainant in the amount of P50,000.00.

NLRC Ruling:

When the case was elevated to the NLRC, the LA Decision was reversed and set aside in favor of Enanor.

The NLRC ruled that the injury suffered by Enanor incapacitated him for more than one hundred twenty (120) days from the time he was medically repatriated and there were no report or traces that he was gainfully employed as a seafarer” as of the time of the filing of the complaint before the LA.

Dissatisfied, Magsaysay Maritime, et al. filed a petition for certiorari before the CA.

CA Ruling:

Unfortunately for Magsaysay Maritime, et al., the Court of Appeals dismissed the petition outright due to substantial defects in the pleading.

The appellate court pointed out that: (1) the name of Enanor in the caption of the pleading is different from the name of Enanor in the body thereof; and (2) Magsaysay Maritime, et al. failed to attach an explanation as to why the service of the petition was not made personally, which was a violation of Section 11, Rule 13 of the Rules of Court.

Thus, the CA dismissed and expunged from the records the petition for certiorari. The CA denied the MR prompting Magsaysay Maritime, et al. to file the petition before the SC.


Whether or not the error in the name of respondent in the pleading is a substantial defect as to cause the dismissal of the petition

Whether or not the failure to include explanation in the mode of service in lieu of personal service is a substantial defect as to cause the dismissal of the petition

SC Ruling:

The SC partly granted the petition, reversed and set aside the CA Decision and directed said court to reinstate the petition for certiorari.

Citing the case of Solar Team Entertainment, Inc. vs. Ricafort, the Court held that Section 11 is mandatory and that the strictest compliance therewith is exacted from both the Bench and the Bar. In justifying this stern standard, the Court averred that preference for personal service and filing expedites action or resolution on a pleading, motion or other paper; and conversely, minimizes, if not eliminates, delays likely to be incurred if service or filing is done by mail.

The Labor Code of the Philippines 2018 Edition (re-numbered and updated)

The SC further ruled that Section 11, Rule 13 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, personal service and filing is the general rule, and resort to other modes of service and filing, the exception. Henceforth, whenever personal service or filing is practicable, in light of the circumstances of time, place and person, personal service or filing is mandatory.

Nonetheless, this same rule is not so rigid as to exclude any exception from its application. In fact, Section 11 itself provided that whenever it is not practicable to serve and file personally, resort to service through other modes is acceptable. The only condition to the application of this exception is that the pleading served or filed should be accompanied by a written explanation as to why personal service was not practicable.

Should a party, however, fail to so attach this written explanation, the same section authorizes the courts to exercise its discretion to consider a pleading or paper as not filed. Section 11 of Rule 13 gives the court the discretion to consider a pleading or paper as not filed if the other modes of service or filing were resorted to and no written explanation was made as to why personal service was not done in the first place. The exercise of discretion must, necessarily, consider the practicability of personal service, for Section 11 itself begins with the clause whenever practicable.

The SC further held that to exercise this discretion, the courts are guided by the pronouncement in Penasa vs. Dona, which reiterated the ruling in Spouses Ello vs. Court of Appeals. The Court, in these cases, ruled that an exception to the strict compliance to the rule-in this case, an exception to the non-submission of the written explanation-should take into account the following factors:

(1) the practicability of personal service;

(2) the importance of the subject matter of the case or the issues involved therein; and

(3) the primafacie merit of the pleading sought to be expunged for violation of Section 11.

It is thus only upon the consideration of these factors-as determined by the courts-that they are authorized to liberally bend the mandatory character of the attachment of the written explanation required by Section 11.

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The SC held that an outright dismissal of the petition for certiorari warrants a second consideration, for this case’s dismissal based on technicality would work to subvert the proper imposition of justice.

In their motion for reconsideration, Magsaysay Maritime, et al. explained that the mistaken use of the name Joselito Entrampas instead of Enanor’s name, Elmer V. Enanor, resulted from a mere typographical error. Magsaysay Maritime, et al. elaborated that they “inadvertently failed to change the name” because of the “proximity in the drafting of this petition and another Petition for Certiorari involving Joselito Entrampas as private respondent.” In addition, Magsaysay Maritime, et al. explained that the name Joselito Entrampas “was only mentioned once in the quoted portion of the petition. ” The SC found the explanation sufficient to remove the same as basis for an outright dismissal of the case.

Anent Magsaysay Maritime, et al.’s failure to append a written explanation to its petition for certiorari, they laid blame to one of its office secretaries who, they said, was in charge of inserting the other formal elements in the pleadings” and only worked for the law firm of record for a short time. The SC held however, that the inadvertence of an office secretary to append the required papers in a pleading should have been corrected by the lawyers concerned. It is within their responsibility to review the actions of their subordinates, especially in cases where the rules are concerned. It is the lawyers and not the office secretaries who are well-versed in the Rules of Court, and the lawyers should not entrust unto others what the rules has entrusted unto them to perform. Necessarily, this includes the careful perusal of the pleadings and papers submitted to the courts, including the proper attachment of a written explanation for non-personal filing or service of pleadings and papers.

The SC ruled that while the inadvertence mentioned above could not be a justifiable cause so as to suspend the mandatory application of Section 11, the Court recognizes that discretion must be a sound one, to be exercised in accordance with the tenets of justice and fair play, having in mind the circumstances obtaining in each case,” and that the law abhors technicalities that impede the cause of justice.

Citing Aguam vs. Court of Appeals, the Court said that dismissal of appeals purely on technical grounds is frowned upon where the policy of the court is to encourage hearings of appeals on their merits and the rules of procedure ought not to be applied in a very rigid, technical sense. Rules of procedure are used only to help secure, not override substantial justice. It is a far better and more prudent course of action for the court to excuse a technical lapse and afford the parties a review of the case on appeal to attain the ends of justice rather than dispose of the case on technicality and cause a grave injustice to the parties, giving a false impression of speedy disposal of cases while actually resulting in more delay, if not a miscarriage of justice.

In this case, the substantial issues raised by Magsaysay Maritime, et al. should have been considered by the appellate court. Magsaysay Maritime, et al. raised questions of facts, which, if left unresolved, would deny them a true administration of justice. The difference between the decisions of the LA and the NLRC are too substantial to be merely disregarded on the ground of technicality. On one hand, the LA found that Enanor is already “fit to work” and is thus not entitled to the payment of disability benefits and medical expenses. As a result of this finding, Enanor was only awarded a mere P50,000.00 based on humanitarian consideration. On the other hand, the NLRC determined that Enanor suffered an injury which would entitle him to full disability benefits in the sum of USD60,000.00.

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