Verifications and certifications of non-forum shopping signed only by the duly authorized counsel and not by the parties can be considered substantially compliant, as required by the Rules of Court.
The requirement of attaching a validly signed verification and certification against non-forum shopping in intitatory pleadings is provided for by the Rules. Failure to comply may result in the dismissal of the case.
In a 14-page Decision penned by Justice Henri Jean Paul B. Inting, the Supreme Court reiterated its previous ruling in Altres v. Empleo that verifications may be signed by anyone with ample knowledge to swear to the truth of the allegations in the pleading, while certifications of non-forum shopping may be signed by the parties’ counsel in justifiable circumstances, provided a Special Power of Attorney is executed on the parties’ behalf.
In 2018, a Petition for Review on Certiorari was filed with the Supreme Court by Ma. Luisa Annabelle A. Torres, Rodolfo A. Torres, Jr. and Richard A. Torres challenging a Court of Appeals’ ruling in a cancellation of land title case. The Republic of the Philippines sought its outright dismissal because the verification and certification of non- forum shopping was signed not by the petitioners, but by their counsel.
Under Rule 7, Section 5 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, a verification serves to attest (1) to the truthfulness of the allegations in the pleading, (2) that the pleading was filed in good faith, and (3) that the allegations are supported by evidence. Without proper verification, the pleading shall be considered unsigned.
Section 6 under the same Rule, on the other hand, provides that a certification against forum shopping must be included in all initiatory pleadings, stating that there are no other pending cases involving basically the same parties, issues, and causes of action. Failure to include the proper certification of non-forum shopping shall be cause for the dismissal of the case.
However, in Altres v. Empleo, the Court held that a verification is deemed substantially complied with “when one 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.”
The Court also noted in Altres v. Empleo that when the parties are unable to sign the certification of non-forum shopping for reasonable or justifiable reasons, the certification may be signed by the counsel designated by the parties through a Special Power of Attorney.
In the present case, the Court found that the counsel who signed the verification and certification was designated as the attorney-in-fact by the petitioners in an executed Special Power of Attorney. The Court also noted that the circumstances justify the authorization considering that the petitioners were all living and working abroad.
The Court cautioned against interpreting the rules on verification and forum shopping with “absolute literalness,” stressing that “[v]erification is simply intended to secure an assurance that the allegations in the pleading are true and correct and not the product of the imagination or a matter of speculation and that the pleading is in good faith xxx [while] the rules on forum shopping are designed to promote and facilitate the orderly administration of justice.” While strict compliance is required, such that verification and certification cannot altogether be dispensed with or completely disregarded, the interpretation of the rules should not “subvert its own ultimate and legitimate objectives,” concluded the Court.
FULL TEXT of G.R. NO. 247490 dated July 5, 2022 at:https://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/28414