[G.R. NO. 159653 - January 25, 2006]
LDP MARKETING, INC. and MA. LOURDES DE LA PEÑA, Petitioners, v. ERLINDA DYOLDE MONTER, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
CARPIO MORALES, J.:
Respondent, Erlinda Dyolde Monter, a cashier at the Red Tag Convenience Store, filed a complaint for illegal dismissal and related causes of action against petitioner LDP Marketing, Inc., owner-operator of the store, and LDP's Vice-President-co-petitioner Ma. Lourdes Dela Peña.
By Decision1 of January 2, 2001, the Labor Arbiter ruled in favor of respondent.
On appeal, the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), by Resolution2 of May 24, 2002, affirmed the Labor Arbiter's decision, modifying, however, the amount of attorney's fees awarded.
Petitioners' Motion for Reconsideration having been denied by the NLRC, they filed on May 19, 2002 before the Court of Appeals a petition for certiorari wherein the Verification/Certification of non-forum shopping was accomplished by petitioner Ma. Lourdes Dela Peña-Vice-President of its co-petitioner corporation.
By Resolution of December 23, 2002, the appellate court, citing Digital Microwave Corp. v. Court of Appeals,3 dismissed petitioners' Petition for Certiorari for "failing to attach to the petition a copy of the company board resolution authorizing said Ma. Lourdes Dela Peña to sign the said Verification/Certification of [non -]forum shopping for and in behalf of petitioner corporation."
To the appellate court's Resolution, petitioners filed a Motion for Reconsideration4 to which they attached a January 24, 2003 Secretary's Certificate5 quoting a Resolution adopted by the Board of Directors of petitioner corporation during a special meeting on May 19, 1999 reading:
x x x x
RESOLVED, as it is hereby resolved that Ms. Ma. Lourdes dela Peña and/or Ms. Nonita R. Dela Peña are hereby appointed, designated and authorized to be the attorney-in-fact and representative of the Corporation, with absolute and complete authority to sign, enter into any stipulation, agreement, settlement or compromise and act on any and all matters that may be taken up in behalf of the Corporation in all the proceedings in connection with the case entitled "Erlinda D. Monter v. LDP Marketing, Inc. and/or Ma. Lourdes dela Peña" with NLRC-NCR Case No. 00-03-02699-99, pending with the National Labor Relations Commission, National Capital Region, wherein the Corporation is a respondent.
3. The above-resolution has not been revoked and is in full force and effect as of the date of this certification.6 (Underscoring supplied)cralawlibrary
The Court of Appeals, "find[ing] no cogent reason to reverse" its Resolution of December 23, 2002, denied petitioners' Motion for Reconsideration by Resolution7 of August 20, 2003.
Hence, the present Petition for Review on Certiorari, petitioners advancing the following arguments:
The petition is impressed with merit.
Under Rule 46, Section 3, paragraph 3 of the Rules of Court, petitions for certiorari must be verified and accompanied by a sworn certification of non-forum shopping.9
A pleading is verified by an affidavit that the affiant has read the pleading and that the allegations therein are true and correct of his personal knowledge or based on authentic records.10
The party need not sign the verification. A party's representative, lawyer or any person who personally knows the truth of the facts alleged in the pleading may sign the verification.11
On the other hand, a certification of non-forum shopping is a certification under oath by the plaintiff or principal party in the complaint or other initiatory pleading asserting a claim for relief or in a sworn certification annexed thereto and simultaneously filed therewith, (a) that he has not theretofore commenced any action or filed any claim involving the same issues in any court, tribunal or quasi-judicial agency and, to the best of his knowledge, no such other action or claim is pending therein; (b) if there is such other pending action or claim, a complete statement of the present status thereof, and (c) if he should thereafter learn that the same or similar action or claim has been filed or is pending, he shall report that fact within five (5) days therefrom to the court wherein his aforesaid complaint or initiatory pleading has been filed.12
The requirement that a petitioner or principal party should sign the certificate of non-forum shopping applies even to corporations, considering that the mandatory directives of the Rules of Court make no distinction between natural and juridical persons.13
A corporation, however, exercises its powers through its board of directors and/or its duly authorized officers and agents. Physical acts, like the signing of documents, can be performed only by natural persons duly authorized for the purpose by corporate by-laws or by a specific act of the board of directors.14
In Digital Microwave Corporation15 relied upon by the appellate court in dismissing petitioners' Petition for Certiorari, the certification of non-forum shopping was signed by the therein petitioner corporation's counsel, hence, the appellate court dismissed the petition for failure to comply with Revised Supreme Court Circular No. 28-91, as amended. On the therein petitioner corporation's Motion for Reconsideration, the appellate court denied the same "absent any compelling reason for petitioner's failure to comply at the first instance with [the circular] . . ." On the petitioner's petition, this Court denied the same in this wise:
In this case, petitioner has not adequately explained its failure to have the certification against forum shopping signed by one of its officers. Neither has it shown any compelling reason for us to disregard strict compliance with the rules.
As we further stated in Spouses Ortiz,
Utter disregard of the rules cannot justly be rationalized by harking on the policy of liberal construction.16 (Emphasis supplied)cralawlibrary
In the more recent case of Shipside Incorporated v. Court of Appeals17 cited by herein petitioners, the therein petitioner Shipside Incorporated filed a Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition with the Court of Appeals which, however, dismissed it, citing absence of proof that the one who signed the Verification and Certification of non-forum shopping, its Manager Lorenzo Balbin, Jr., was authorized to institute the petition for and in behalf of the petitioner. Shipside Incorporated filed a Motion for Reconsideration to which it attached a certificate issued by its board secretary stating that ten days before the filing of the petition, its board of directors authorized Balbin to file it. The Court of Appeals just the same denied the Motion for Reconsideration. In granting petitioner Shipside Incorporated's Petition for Certiorari, this Court held:
It is undisputed that on October 21, 1999, the time petitioner's Resident Manager Balbin filed the petition, there was no proof attached thereto that Balbin was authorized to sign the verification and non-forum shopping certification therein, as a consequence of which the petition was dismissed by the Court of Appeals. However, subsequent to such dismissal, petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration, attaching to said motion a certificate issued by its board secretary stating that on October 11, 1999, or ten days prior to the filing of the petition, Balbin had been authorized by petitioner's board of directors to file said petition.
The Court has consistently held that the requirement regarding verification of a pleading is formal, not jurisdictional (Uy v. LandBank, G.R. No. 136100, July 24, 2000, 336 SCRA 419). Such requirement is simply a condition affecting the form of the pleading, non-compliance with which does not necessarily render the pleading fatally defective. Verification 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 filed in good faith. The court may order the correction of the pleading if verification is lacking or act on the pleading although it is not verified, if the attending circumstances are such that strict compliance with the rules may be dispensed with in order that the ends of justice may thereby be served.
On the other hand, the lack of certification against forum shopping is generally not curable by the submission thereof after the filing of the petition. Section 5, Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure provides that the failure of the petitioner to submit the required documents that should accompany the petition, including the certification against forum shopping, shall be sufficient ground for the dismissal thereof. The same rule applies to certifications against forum shopping signed by a person on behalf of a corporation which are unaccompanied by proof that said signatory is authorized to file a petition on behalf of the corporation.
In certain exceptional circumstances, however, the Court has allowed the belated filing of the certification. In Loyola v. Court of Appeals, et al. (245 SCRA 477 ), the Court considered the filing of the certification one day after the filing of an election protest as substantial compliance with the requirement. In Roadway Express, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, et al. (264 SCRA 696 ), the Court allowed the filing of the certification 14 days before the dismissal of the petition. In Uy v. LandBank, supra, the Court had dismissed Uy's petition for lack of verification and certification against non-forum shopping. However, it subsequently reinstated the petition after Uy submitted a motion to admit certification and non-forum shopping certification. In all these cases, there were special circumstances or compelling reasons that justified the relaxation of the rule requiring verification and certification on non-forum shopping.
In the instant case, the merits of petitioner's case should be considered special circumstances or compelling reasons that justify tempering the requirement in regard to the certificate of non-forum shopping. Moreover, in Loyola, Roadway, and Uy, the Court excused non-compliance with the requirement as to the certificate of non-forum shopping. With more reason should we allow the instant petition since petitioner herein did submit a certification on non-forum shopping, failing only to show proof that the signatory was authorized to do so. That petitioner subsequently submitted a secretary's certificate attesting that Balbin was authorized to file an action on behalf of petitioner likewise mitigates this oversight.
It must also be kept in mind that while the requirement of the certificate of non-forum shopping is mandatory, nonetheless the requirements must not be interpreted too literally and thus defeat the objective of preventing the undesirable practice of forum-shopping (Bernardo v. NLRC, 255 SCRA 108 ). Lastly, technical rules of procedure should be used to promote, not frustrate justice. While the swift unclogging of court dockets is a laudable objective, the granting of substantial justice is an even more urgent ideal.18 (Italics in the original; emphasis and underscoring supplied)
In the case at bar, petitioner corporation rectified its failure to submit proof of its petitioner-Vice-President Ma. Lourdes dela Peña's authority to sign the Verification/Certification on non-forum shopping also on its behalf when it attached the necessary document to its Motion for Reconsideration before the appellate court. And petitioners stressed in said motion their "basic and principal argument x x x that the public respondent National Labor Relations Commission committed grave abuse of discretion when it ruled that private respondent x x x was illegally dismissed, when the facts and circumstances show otherwise."
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Resolutions of the Court of Appeals dated December 23, 2002 and August 20, 2003 are SET ASIDE.
Let the records of the case be REMANDED to the Court of Appeals which is hereby DIRECTED to take appropriate action thereon in light of the foregoing discussion.
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