Appeal dismissed for nonpayment of appeal fees w/in appeal period - G.R. No. 170728

G.R. No. 170728
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"x x x.

In this case, petitioner received a copy of the trial court's Order on May 14, 2004. Thus, pursuant to Section 3, Rule 41, in relation to Section 1,[15] Rule 22, it had until May 31, 2004 within which to perfect its appeal by filing within that period the notice of appeal and paying the appellate docket and other legal fees. On May 17, 2004, petitioner filed its notice of appeal within the reglementary period. We note, however, that it paid the required docket fees only on October 20, 2004, or late by almost five months.
It bears stressing that payment of docket and other fees within this period is mandatory for the perfection of the appeal. Otherwise, the right to appeal is lost. This is so because a court acquires jurisdiction over the subject matter of the action only upon the payment of the correct amount of docket fees regardless of the actual date of filing of the case in court. The payment of appellate docket fees is not a mere technicality of law or procedure. It is an essential requirement, without which the decision or final order appealed from becomes final and executory as if no appeal was filed.[16]
We held in one case that the CA correctly dismissed the appeal where the docket fees were not paid in full within the prescribed period of fifteen (15) days but were paid forty-one (41) days late due to inadvertence, oversight, and pressure of work.[17] In another case, we ruled that no appeal was perfected where half of the appellate docket fee was paid within the prescribed period, while the other half was tendered after the period within which payment should have been made.[18]
Evidently, where the appellate docket fee is not paid in full within the reglementary period, the decision of the trial court becomes final and no longer susceptible to an appeal. For once a decision becomes final, the appellate court is without jurisdiction to entertain the appeal.[19]
Moreover, pursuant to Section 1, Rule 50 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, the CA, on its own motion or that of the appellee, may dismiss the appeal on the ground that appellant failed to pay the docket and other lawful fees.[20] Section 1(c), Rule 50 of the Rules provides that:
Section 1. Grounds for dismissal of appeal.–An appeal may be dismissed by the Court of Appeals, on its own motion or on that of the appellee, on the following grounds:
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(c) Failure of the appellant to pay the docket and other lawful fees as provided in Section 4 of Rule 41;
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Pertinently, this Court’s ruling in Cu-Unjieng v. Court of Appeals[21] is instructive:
With the reality obtaining in this case that payment of the appellate docket fees was belatedly made four (4) months after the lapse of the period for appeal, it appears clear to us that the CA did not acquire jurisdiction over petitioner’s appeal except to order its dismissal, as it rightfully did. Thus, the September 1, 1998 decision of the RTC has passed to the realm of finality and became executory by operation of law. (Underscoring ours.)
The right to appeal is not a natural right. It is also not part of due process. It is merely a statutory privilege and may be exercised only in the manner and in accordance with the provisions of law. Thus, one who seeks to avail of the right to appeal must comply with the requirements of the Rules. Failure to do so often leads to the loss of the right to appeal.
With regard to petitioner’s plea for a liberal treatment of the rules in order to promote substantial justice, the Court finds the same to be without merit. It is true that the rules may be relaxed for persuasive and weighty reasons to relieve a litigant from an injustice commensurate with his failure to comply with the prescribed procedures.[22] However, it must be stressed that procedural rules are not to be belittled or dismissed simply because their non-observance may have prejudiced a party’s substantive rights. Like all rules, they are required to be followed except only for the most persuasive of reasons when they may be relaxed.[23]
In this case, petitioner has not shown any reason such as fraud, accident, mistake, excusable negligence, or a similar supervening casualty which should justify the relaxation of the rules.[24] The explanation advanced by petitioner’s counsel that the failure to pay the appellate docket and other legal fees within the prescribed period was due to his extremely heavy workload and by excusable inadvertence does not convince us.

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