Remedial Law

FERNANDEZ v. VILLEGAS G.R. No. 200191, August 20, 2014 J. Perlas-Bernabe Defective Verification & Certification Against Forum-Shopping

FACTS:


Petitioner Lourdes and her sister Cecilia averred that they are the registered owners of the subject property on which both Lourdes and respondents previously lived under one roof. While Norma, Cecilia’s daughter-in-law, and her family were, in the meantime, allowed to use a portion thereof. Respondents erected  a house thereon over plaintiffs’ objections and, despite demands, refused to vacate and surrender possession of the subject property.

The MTCC found that respondents failed to impugn the validity of plaintiffs’ ownership over the subject property, and ordered respondents to vacate the subject property

The RTC granted respondents’ appeal and ordered the dismissal of plaintiffs’ complaint.

On appeal by petitioners, the CA granted respondents’ Motion to Dismiss Appeal, holding that the verification and certification against forum shopping attached to the CA petition was defective since it was signed only by Lourdes, one of the plaintiffs in the case, in violation of Section 5, Rule 7 of the Rules of Court which requires all the plaintiffs to sign the same.

Lourdes alone filed the instant petition.

ISSUE:

Whether or not the CA erred in dismissing outright the CA petition due to a defective verification and certification against forum shopping attached to the CA petition.

RULING:

The present petition has merit.
The Court laid down the following guidelines with respect to noncompliance with the requirements on or submission of a defective verification and certification against forum shopping, viz.:
1) A distinction must be made between non-compliance with the requirement on or submission of defective verification, and noncompliance 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 tothe 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.

Applying these guidelines to the case at bar, the Court finds that the CA committed reversible error in dismissing the CA petition due to a defective verification and certification against forum shopping.


It is undisputed that Lourdes is not only a resident of the subject property but is a co-owner thereof together with her co-plaintiff/sister, Cecilia. As such, she is “one who has ample knowledge to swear to the truth of the allegations in the x x x [CA] petition” and is therefore qualified to “sign x x x the verification” attached thereto in view of paragraph 3 of the above-said guidelines.

In fact, Article 487 of the Civil Code explicitly provides that any of the co-owners may bring an action for ejectment, without the necessity of joining all the other co-owners as co-plaintiffs because the suit is deemed to be instituted for the benefit of all.

To reiterate, both Lourdes and Cecilia are co-plaintiffs in the ejectment suit. Thus, they share a commonality of interest and cause of action as against respondents. Notably, even the petition for review filed before the CA indicated that they are the petitioners therein and that the same was filed on their behalf. Hence, the lone signature of Lourdes on the verification attached to the CA petition constituted substantial compliance with the rules.

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