Fatal error re signatures on pleadings

In G.R. No. 162836, the petition supposedly filed by petitioners Jocson and Tuising was not signed by Jocson’s counsel. It was Tuising’s counsel who signed in behalf of Jocson’s counsel. Tuising’s counsel had no authority to sign the petition in behalf of Jocson. The records are bereft of any proof that Jocson ever authorized Tuising’s counsel to be her counsel or to act in her behalf.

Under Section 3, Rule 7 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, every pleading must be signed by the party or counsel representing him, otherwise the pleading produces no legal effect.

Furthermore, only Tuising signed the Verification and Certification for Non-Forum Shopping. Jocson did not sign the Verification and Certification.

Section 1, Rule 45 of the Rules of Civil Procedure requires the petition for review on certiorari to be verified. A pleading required to be verified which lacks proper verification shall be treated as an unsigned pleading.

Although Tuising belatedly filed on 24 September 2004 a "Special Power of Attorney" allegedly signed by Jocson and authorizing Tuising to file the petition for review and to verify and to certify the petition, no explanation was given by Tuising why the Special Power of Attorney was belatedly filed four months after the petition for review was filed on 12 May 2004. The lack of a certification against forum shopping or a defective certification is generally not curable by its subsequent submission or correction, unless there is a need to relax the rule under special circumstances or for compelling reasons. The Supreme Court found no compelling reason for a liberal application of the rules especially in this case where the petitioner who did not sign the verification and certification for non-forum shopping already filed with the trial court a Motion for Issuance of Alias Writ of Execution. By filing the Motion for Issuance of Alias Writ of Execution, Jocson was in effect abiding by the Court of Appeals’ Decision dated 16 January 2004. NOTE: In short, there was estoppel because the litigant should have corrected the error in the earliest possible opportune time.In Athena Computers, Inc. v. Reyes, the  Supreme Court held that the appellate court was correct in dismissing the petition where the verification and certification for non-forum shopping were signed by only one of the two petitioners. It was held:
The verification of the petition and certification on non-forum shopping before the Court of Appeals were signed only by Jimenez. There is no showing that he was authorized to sign the same by Athena, his co-petitioner. 
Section 4, Rule 7 of the Rules states that a pleading is verified by an affidavit that the affiant has read the pleading and that the allegations therein are true and correct to his knowledge and belief. Consequently, the verification should have been signed not only by Jimenez but also by Athena’s duly authorized representative.
In Docena v. Lapesura, the High Court ruled that the certificate of non-forum shopping should be signed by all the petitioners or plaintiffs in a case, and that the signing by only one of them is insufficient. The attestation on non-forum shopping requires personal knowledge by the party executing the same, and the lone signing petitioner cannot be presumed to have personal knowledge of the filing or non-filing by his co-petitioners of any action or claim the same as similar to the current petition.

In this case, the flaw is fatal considering that Jocson, the co-petitioner who did not sign the verification and certification of non-forum shopping and whose counsel did not sign the petition, was the principal party in the original case. Jocson was the plaintiff in the trial court who sought reconveyance of her properties while her co-petitioner Tuising was not a party in the original case but was merely the highest bidder in the execution sale which was declared void by the trial court.

The certification of non-forum shopping is rooted in the principle that a party-litigant should not be allowed to pursue simultaneous remedies in different fora, such act being detrimental to an orderly judicial procedure.

THE CASE: CEFERINA ARGALLON-JOCSON and RODOLFO TUISING, Petitioners, vs. COURT OF APPEALS, HON. BONIFACIO T. ONG, in his capacity as the acting Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Roxas, Isabela, Branch 23, MARIA CRISTINA FERTILIZER CORP., and MARCELO STEEL CORP., Respondents. G.R. No. 162836. July 30, 2009.