Dismissal of certiorari petition due to lack of signature

One procedural issue that usually confronts the courts is whether or not a petition for review on certiorari should be dismissed as the verification and certification against forum shopping was signed by only one of the four petitioners, without any showing that she (the one who signed) was authorized to represent her co-petitioners. The Supreme Court, in Tolentino v. Spouses Latagan (G.R. No. 179874, June 22, 2015), resolved this question in the negative.

In Oldarico S. Traveno v. Bobongon Banana Growers Multi-Purpose Cooperative (G.R. No. 164205, September 3, 2009), the High Court restated the jurisprudential pronouncements respecting non-compliance with the requirements on, or submission of defective, verification and certification against forum shopping:
1) A distinction must be made between non-compliance with the requirement on or submission of defective verification, and non-compliance with the requirement on or submission of defective certification against forum shopping.

2) As to verification, non-compliance therewith or a defect therein does not necessarily render the pleading fatally defective. The Court may order its submission or correction or act on the pleading if the attending circumstances are such that strict compliance with the Rule may be dispensed with in order that the ends of justice may be served thereby.

3) Verification is deemed substantially complied with when one who has ample knowledge to swear to the truth of the allegations in the complaint or petition signs the verification, and when matters alleged in the petition have been made in good faith or are true and correct.

4) As to certification against forum shopping, non-compliance therewith or a defect therein, unlike in verification, is generally not curable by its subsequent submission or correction thereof, unless there is a need to relax the Rule on the ground of “substantial compliance” or presence of “special circumstances or compelling reasons.”

5) The certification against forum shopping must be signed by all the plaintiffs or petitioners in a case; otherwise, those who did not sign will be dropped as parties to the case. Under reasonable or justifiable circumstances, however, as when all the plaintiffs or petitioners share a common interest and invoke a common cause of action or defense, the signature of only one of them in the certification against forum shopping substantially complies with the Rule.

6) Finally, the certification against forum shopping must be executed by the party-pleader, not by his counsel. If, however, for reasonable or justifiable reasons, the party-pleader is unable to sign, he must execute a Special Power of Attorney designating his counsel of record to sign on his behalf.

In Ateneo de Naga University v. Manalo (G.R. No. 160455, May 9, 2005), it was held that the verification requirement is deemed substantially complied with when only one of the heirs-plaintiffs, who has sufficient knowledge and belief to swear to the truth of the allegations in the petition, signed the verification attached to it. Such verification was deemed sufficient assurance that matters alleged in the petition have been made in good faith or are true and correct, not merely speculative. Likewise, liberality and leniency were accorded in some cases where those who did not sign were relatives of the lone signatory (Vda. De Formoso v. Philippine National Bank, G.R. No. 154704, June 1, 2011) of the certification against forum shopping when they all share a common interest in a disputed property and invoke a common cause of action or defense. As held in Iglesia Ni Cristo v. Hon. Thelma A. Ponferrada (G.R. No. 168943, October 27, 2006):

The substantial compliance rule has been applied by this Court in a number of cases: Cavile v. Heirs of Cavile, where the Court sustained the validity of the certification signed by only one of petitioners because he is a relative of the other petitioners and co-owner of the properties in dispute; Heirs of Agapito T. Olarte v. Office of the President of the Philippines, where the Court allowed a certification signed by only two petitioners because the case involved a family home in which all the petitioners shared a common interest; Gudoy v. Guadalquiver, where the Court considered as valid the certification signed by only four of the nine petitioners because all petitioners filed as co-owners pro indiviso a complaint against respondents for quieting of title and damages, as such, they all have joint interest in the undivided whole; and Dar v. Alonzo-Legasto,where the Court sustained the certification signed by only one of the spouses as they were sued jointly involving a property in which they had a common interest.

Guided by the foregoing jurisprudence, the Court finds substantial compliance with the Rules when one of the petitioners signed the said verification and certification in behalf of her co-petitioners. As heirs and successors-in-interest over the subject property, she (the one who signed) and her co-petitioners share a common interest and cause of action in their complaint for the quieting of title and recovery of possession thereof, as well as in the instant petition for review on certiorari.

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