Even the Republic as a litigant is entitled to due process, in the same manner and to the same extent that this right is guaranteed to private litigants.

Facts:

The OSG filed an action for cancellation of miscellaneous sales patents on the ground of fraud and misrepresentation against the respondents.  The OSG deputized Atty. Alberca , Head of the Legal Division, DENR. The RTC, ruled in favor of the respondents, hence the OSG filed its notice of appeal to the CA.  For failure to file brief, the CA initially dismissed the case, but the OSG, upon being informed of its dismissal promptly sought reconsideration, hence the CA reinstated the appeal.  By a resolution dated September 14, 2011, which was sent to Atty. Albersa, the CA ordered the OSG to file its brief within 45 days.  Again, for failure of the OSG to file its brief, the CA dismissed the appeal on July 5, 2012, and the same became final and executory on August 21, 2012.  By another resolution issued a year later, or on August 20, 2013, the CA declared its Resolution dated July 5, 2012 as having attained finality on August 21, 2012. These notices were sent to Atty. Albersa.  The OSG learned of the CA Resolutions  September 14, 2011, July 5, 2012 and August 20, 2013, and the Entry of Judgment dated August 21, 2012 only when the Regional Executive Director of the DENR Region VII sent its 1st Indorsement dated September 27, 2013 apprising it of such.  Thru a petition for review, the OSG assailed the dismissal of its appeal, arguing that being the Republic’s statutory counsel, it should have been furnished with the CA’s resolution reinstating its appeal, not the DENR Region VIT-Legal Division. Consequently, there was a violation of the Republic’s right to due process.

The Issue:

Whether or not the OSG was deprived of due process when it was not furnished copies of the CA Resolutions.

The Ruling:

The petition must be granted.

It is undisputed that it was the OSG who initiated the action for cancellation of miscellaneous sales patents and the corresponding certificates of title issued to the respondents.⁠ As such, it is the counsel of record and remains to be so until the culmination of the case. More importantly, Section 35(1), Chapter 12, Title III, Book IV of the Administrative Code of 1987, specifically empowers the OSG to “represent the Government in the Supreme Court and the [CA] in all criminal proceedings x x x and all other courts or tribunals in all civil actions and special proceedings in which the Government or any officer thereof in his official capacity is a party.” Section 35(5), meanwhile, provides that the OSG shall “represent the Government in all land registration and related proceedings.”

It is therefore rather peculiar that the CA failed to furnish the OSG with a copy of its Resolution dated September 14, 2011, and even continued to neglect to furnish the OSG with copies of all its subsequent resolutions. Instead, it kept sending them to Atty. Alberca of the DENR Region VII- Legal Division. While the OSG may have deputized the DENR Region VIl-Legal Division to assist it in the performance of its functions, it has not totally relinquished its position as counsel for the Republic. The deputized counsel is no more than the “surrogate” of the Solicitor General in any particular proceeding and the latter remains the principal counsel entitled to be furnished copies of all court orders, notices, and decisions. Hence, any court order and decision sent to the deputy, acting as an agent of the Solicitor General, is not binding until it is actually received by the Solicitor General.

It must be stressed that “[t]he essence of due process is the opportunity to be heard, logically preconditioned on prior notice, before judgment is rendered.”⁠ “Even the Republic as a litigant is entitled to this constitutional right, in the same manner and to the same extent that this right is guaranteed to private litigants.”⁠

It is clear that the issuance of CA Resolutions dated July 5, 2012 and August 20, 2013, and the Entry of Judgment dated August 21, 2012 was tainted with grave abuse of discretion. In Republic of the Philippines v. Heirs of Evaristo Tiotioen,⁠7  the Court even emphatically ruled that “the belated filing of an appeal by the State, or even its failure to file an opposition, in a land registration case because of the mistake or error on the part of its officials or agents does not deprive the government of its right to appeal from a judgment of the court.”⁠