PETITIONERS Isidro Quebral and eight others filed a complaint for illegal dismissal with prayer for reinstatement, money claims, damages and attorney’s fees against respondents Angbus Construction, Inc. and Angelo Bustamante.
Not contented with the decision dated March 27, 2013 of the Labor Arbiter (LA), petitioners filed an appeal to the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC). Their appeal memorandum was mailed on May 20, 2013, the last day of the reglementary period to appeal as appearing on the mailing envelope and on the registry receipt. It was accompanied by a certification of postmaster Larry S. Laureta, the custodian of records at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) post office at the time the mail matter was posted, that confirmed the said mailing date.
The Court of Appeals (CA) ruled that the appeal was filed out of time. It ascribed no evidentiary value to the registry receipt due to the lack of an authenticating affidavit by the person who mailed it. It refused to give weight to Laureta’s certification olding that it was issued only on Feb. 17, 2014 when Laureta was no longer assigned at the POEA office. Did the CA commit a reversible error?
After reviewing the evidence on record, the Court disagrees with the CA that the appeal was not timely filed.
Section 3, Rule 13 of the Rules of Court provides that where pleadings are filed by registered mail, the date of mailing as shown by the post office stamp on the envelope or the registry receipt shall be considered as the date of filing. Based on this provision, the date of filing is determinable from two sources: (1) from the post office stamp on the envelope or (2) from the registry receipt, either of which may suffice to prove the timeliness of the filing of the pleadings.
The Court previously ruled that if the date stamped on one is earlier than the other, the former may be accepted as the date of filing. This presupposes, however, that the envelope or registry receipt and the dates appearing thereon are duly authenticated before the tribunal where they are presented. When the photocopy of a registry receipt bears an earlier date but is not authenticated, the Court held that the later date stamped on the envelope shall be considered as the date of filing.
In the present case, the petitioners submitted these pieces of evidence to show the timeliness of their appeal: (a) the registry receipt; (b) a copy of the envelope that contained the memorandum of appeal and appeal fee; and (c) Laureta’s certification. As the CA noted, all three documents indicate May 20, 2013 as the date of mailing at the POEA Post Office in Mandaluyong City. Considering that there is no variance in the dates stated on these documents, there is no reason for the Court to mark another date as the date of mailing.
Laureta’s certification corroborates the date of filing specified in the registry receipt and on the envelope. The Court recognizes that, ideally, the incumbent postmaster in the POEA Post Office should be the one to certify the date of mailing based on the post office records, considering that he or she is the person duly authorized to do so. Nevertheless, the Court finds that Laureta’s certification as the postmaster at the time of mailing, together with the pieces of evidence earlier mentioned, constitutes substantial compliance with the authentication requirement (Perlas-Bernabe, J., SC 1st Division, Isidro Quebral et.al. vs. Angbus Construction, Inc. and Angelo Bustamante, G.R. No. 221897, November 07, 2016).
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on September 16, 2017.
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