CASE IN POINT | Effect of failure to file pre-trial brief and to furnish adverse party

In Pimentel v. Adiao, et al., G.R. No. 222678, October 17, 2018, Caguioa, J, the notice of Pre-trial and submission of pre-trial brief was received on February 12, 2014. Counsel failed to submit the pre-trial brief on February 14, 2014. It pleaded that the rule should be relaxed. The court dismissed the case for failure to comply on the rule. In revising the ruling, the SC

Held: Section 6, Rule 18 on Pre-Trial of the Rules provide that the parties shall file with the court and serve on the adverse party, in such manner as shall ensure their receipt thereof at least three (3) days before the date of the pre-trial, their respective pre-trial briefs which shall contain, among others.
The Court in Bank of the Philippine Islands v. Dando ( BPI), G.R. No. 177456, September 4, 2009, where the issue concerned the application of Section 6 in relation to Section 5 of Rule 18 regarding the effect of the failure to file the PT brief and serving on the adverse party in such manner as to ensure the latter's receipt thereof at least three days before the date of the PT, laid down the following:

It is a basic legal construction that where words of command such as "shall," "must," [and] "ought" are employed, they are generally and ordinarily regarded as mandatory. Thus, where, as in Rule 18, Sections 5 and 6 of the Rules of Court, the word "shall" is used, a mandatory duty is imposed, which the courts ought to enforce. (SB. Mirasol v. CA, 403 Phil. 760 (2001)

Procedural rules are not to be belittled or simply disregarded for these prescribed procedures insure an orderly and speedy administration of justice. However, it is equally true that litigation is not merely a game of technicalities. Law and jurisprudence grant to courts the prerogative to relax compliance with procedural rules of even the most mandatory character, mindful of the duty to reconcile both the need to put an end to litigation speedily and the parties' right to an opportunity to be heard. (Barrauco v. Com on Settlement of Land Problems, 524 Phil. 533 (2006); Reyes v. SB. Torres, 429 Phil. 95 (2002)

This is not to say that adherence to the Rules could be dispensed with. However, exigencies and situations might occasionally demand flexibility in their application. (Polanco v. Cruz, 598 Phil. 952 (2009) In not a few instances, the Court relaxed the rigid application of the rules of procedure to afford the parties the opportunity to fully ventilate their cases on the merit. This is in line with the time-honored principle that cases should be decided only after giving all parties the chance to argue their causes and defenses. Technicality and procedural imperfection should, thus, not serve as basis of decisions. In that way, the ends of justice would be better served. For, indeed, the general objective of procedure is to facilitate the application of justice to the rival claims of contending parties, bearing always in mind that procedure is not to hinder but to promote the administration of justice. (Asian Spirit Airlines v. Bautista 491 Phil. 476, 484 (2005)

In Sanchez v. Court of Appeals, (452 Phil. 665 (2003) the Court restated the reasons that may provide justification for a court to suspend a strict adherence to procedural rules, such as: (a) matters of life, liberty, honor or property; (b) the existence of special or compelling circumstances; (c) the merits of the case; (d) a cause not entirely attributable to the fault or negligence of the party favored by the suspension of the rules; (e) a lack of any showing that the review sought is merely frivolous and dilatory; and (f) the fact that the other party will not be unjustly prejudiced thereby. (BPI v. Dando, 614 Phil. 533 (2009); See: Sps. Diaz v. Diaz,(387 Phil. 314 (2000))

The Court noted in BPI that the failure of the plaintiff bank to file its PT brief with the trial court therein and provide Domingo Dando (Dando) with a copy thereof within the prescribed period was the first and only procedural lapse committed by the bank and it did not manifest an evident pattern or scheme to delay the disposition of the case or a wanton failure to observe a mandatory requirement of the Rules. Furthermore, the bank, for the most part, exhibited diligence and reasonable dispatch in prosecuting its claim against Dando.

Section 6, Rule 1 of the Rules mandates that "[t]hese Rules shall be liberally construed in order to promote their objective of securing a just, speedy and inexpensive disposition of every action and proceeding.