Remedial Law

MARCOS-ARANETA v. CA G.R. NO. 154096 August 22, 2008 Substantial Compliance with the rule on Verification and Certification of Non-forum Shopping, Verification not Jurisdictional; May be Corrected, Commonality of Interest

FACTS:

Irene Marcos-Araneta instituted two complaints for conveyance of shares against the Benedicto Group with prayer for the issuance of a TRO for the latter’s refusal to reconvey 65% stockholdings of FEMII and UEC pursuant to their alleged obligation to hold those shares and their fruits in trust and for the benefit of Irene to the extent of 65% of such shares. The cases were later consolidated.

Respondent Francisca, Benedicto’s daughter, and Benedicto moved to dismiss the cases.
The RTC dismissed both complaints.
Irene filed an Amended Complaint.
Benedicto died and was substituted by his wife, Julita Benedicto, and Francisca.
The RTC entertained the Amended Complaint.
Julita and Francisca moved to dismiss the amended complaint, but the RTC denied their motion.
Following the denial of their MR, Benedicto’s wife Julita and Francisca filed their Answer to the amended complaint. But on the same day, they went to the CA via a petition for certiorari, seeking to nullify the RTC Orders.
The verification portion of the joint petition and the certification on non-forum shopping bore only Francisca’s signature.
An Affidavit was executed by Julita in favor of Francisca.
The CA rendered a Decision, setting aside the assailed RTC orders and dismissing the amended complaints.
Irene filed an MR, but the same was denied.
Hence, this Petition for Review.

ISSUE:

Whether or not the submission of an affidavit by Julita as sufficient compliance with the requirement on verification and certification of non-forum shopping.

RULING:

Verification is, under the Rules, not a jurisdictional but merely a formal requirement which the court may motu proprio direct a party to comply with or correct, as the case may be. As the Court articulated in Kimberly Independent Labor Union for Solidarity, Activism and Nationalism (KILUSAN)-Organized Labor Associations in Line Industries and Agriculture (OLALIA) v. Court of Appeals:

Verification is a formal, not a jurisdictional requisite, as it is mainly intended to secure an assurance that the allegations therein made are done in good faith or are true and correct and not mere speculation. The Court may order the correction of the pleading, if not verified, or act on the unverified pleading if the attending circumstances are such that a strict compliance with the rule may be dispensed with in order that the ends of justice may be served.

Given this consideration, the CA acted within its sound discretion in ordering the submission of proof of Francisca’s authority to sign on Julita’s behalf and represent her in the proceedings before the appellate court.

Regarding the certificate of non-forum shopping, the general rule is that all the petitioners or plaintiffs in a case should sign it. However, the Court has time and again stressed that the rules on forum shopping, which were designed to promote the orderly administration of justice, do not interdict substantial compliance with its provisions under justifiable circumstances. As has been ruled by the Court, the signature of any of the principal petitioners or principal parties, as Francisca is in this case, would constitute a substantial compliance with the rule on verification and certification of non-forum shopping. It cannot be overemphasized that Francisca herself was a principal party in the civil case before the RTC and in the certiorari proceedings before the CA.

And should there exist a commonality of interest among the parties, or where the parties filed the case as a “collective,” raising only one common cause of action or presenting a common defense, then the signature of one of the petitioners or complainants, acting as representative, is sufficient compliance.

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