Respondent spouses Morris and Socorro Carpo brought an action against Ayala Land, Inc. (ALI) for quieting of title.
Respondents claimed to be the true and lawful owners of a 171,309-sqm parcel of land in Las Piñas registered under Transfer Certificate of Title No. 296463 in their names.
They sought the annulment of the following titles in the defendants’ name: TCT Nos. T-125945, T-4366, T-4367, T-4368, and all other titles derived therefrom.
ALI moved for summary judgment ,which was denied. ALI filed a petition for certiorari with the CA which rendered a decision ordering the trial court to render summary judgment. ALI took asked that summary judgment be rendered by it but the appellate court denied ALI’s motion.
Both parties filed petitions for review with this Court. ALI assailed the CA’s refusal to render summary judgment while respondents assailed the CA’s ruling that summary judgment was proper.
Both petitions were dismissed by this Court.
The trial court rendered summary judgment finding respondents’ title superior to that of ALI because the latter was based merely on a survey plan which was not approved by the Director of the Bureau of Lands.
ALI filed with the trial court a notice of appeal. On the same date, it paid P415.00 for docket and other lawful fees as assessed by the cash clerk of the trial court.
On May 14, 1999, the CA issued the first of its assailed resolutions dismissing ALI’s appeal on the ground that it failed to pay the full amount of the required docket fee. It appears that per its computation, the amount paid by ALI was P5.00 short of the correct amount.
After paying P5.00 ALI moved for reconsideration. But the CA denied ALI’s motion.
ALI, therefore, filed the instant petition for review.
Whether or not the Court of Appeals erred in dismissing ALI’s appeal for failure to pay the correct amount of docket and other lawful fees.
The petition is meritorious.
To be sure, the remedy of appeal is a purely statutory right and one who seeks to avail thereof must comply with the statute or rule. For this reason, payment of the full amount of the appellate court docket and other lawful fees within the reglementary period is mandatory and jurisdictional.
However, as we have ruled in Aranas v. Endona, the strict application of the jurisdictional nature of the above rule on payment of appellate docket fees may be mitigated under exceptional circumstances to better serve the interest of justice.
As early as 1946, in the case of Segovia v. Barrios, we ruled that where an appellant in good faith paid less than the correct amount for the docket fee because that was the amount he was required to pay by the clerk of court, and he promptly paid the balance, it is error to dismiss his appeal because —
every citizen has the right to assume and trust that a public officer charged by law with certain duties knows his duties and performs them in accordance with law. To penalize such citizen for relying upon said officer in all good faith is repugnant to justice.
Despite the jurisdictional nature of the rule on payment of docket fee, therefore, the appellate court still has the discretion to relax the rule in meritorious cases.
The ruling in Segovia is still good law which the appellate court, in the exercise of its discretion, must apply in circumstances such as that in the present case where an appellant was, from the start, ready and willing to pay the correct amount of docket fee, but was unable to do so due to the error of an officer of the court in computing the correct amount. To hold otherwise would be unjust and unwarranted.