Verification attached to the pleading requires the signature of complainant/s, as a general rule. However, it is not fatal to the case if not all complainants have signed the verification.
The SC held that:
Re-numbered Labor Code 2017 now available
Complainants Romeo Basan, Danilo Dizon, Jaime L. Tumabiao, Jr., Roberto Dela Rama, Jr., Ricky S. Nicolas, Crispulo D. Donor, Galo Falguera (complainants) filed a complaint for illegal dismissal with money claims against Coca-Cola Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines, alleging that Coca-Cola dismissed them without just cause and prior written notice required by law.
Coca-Cola, however, countered that it hired Complainants as temporary route helpers to act as substitutes for its absent regular route helpers merely for a fixed period in anticipation of the high volume of work in its plants or sales offices. As such, Complainants’ claims have no basis for they knew that their assignment as route helpers was temporary in duration.
The Labor Arbiter ruled in favor of Complainants and found that since they were performing activities necessary and desirable to the usual business of Complainant for more than the period for regularization, Complainants are considered as regular employees, and thus, their dismissal was done contrary to law in the absence of just cause and prior written notice.
Thus, it ordered Coca-Cola to reinstate Complainants with full backwages from the time their salaries were withheld until their actual reinstatement and to pay their lump sum increase extended to them in their collective bargaining agreement, their accrued vacation and sick leave benefits, as well as monetary awards and attorney’s fees
The NLRC affirmed the Labor Arbiter’s decision and rejected Coca-Cola’s contention that Complainants were merely employed for a specific project or undertaking the completion or termination of which has been determined at the time of their engagement. It stressed that nowhere in the records of the case was it shown that Complainants were hired as project or seasonal employees, Coca-Cola having failed to submit any contract of project or other similar proof thereof.
It also noted that neither can Complainants be considered as probationary employees for the fact that they had performed their services for more than six (6) months. In addition, the NLRC upheld the Labor Arbiter’s ruling that Complainants, as route helpers, performed work directly connected or necessary and desirable in Coca-Cola’s ordinary business of manufacturing and distributing its softdrink products.
Thus, Coca-Cola failed to overcome Complainants’ assertion that they were regular employees. As such, their employment could only be terminated with just cause and after the observance of the required due process. Thereafter, the subsequent motion for reconsideration filed by Coca-Cola was further denied by the NLRC.
Coca-Cola filed a petition for certiorari with the CA alleging grave abuse of discretion on the part of the NLRC in finding that Complainants were regular employees. In the meantime, Complainants filed before the Labor Arbiter a Motion for Issuance of a Writ of Execution, to which Coca-Cola filed a Manifestation and Motion with attached Opposition.
On March 25, 2004, the Labor Arbiter ordered that the Writ of Execution be issued, which was affirmed by the NLRC. Consequently, Coca-Cola filed another petition for certiorari claiming that the NLRC committed grave abuse of discretion in directing the execution of a judgment, the propriety and validity of which was still under determination of the appellate court.
The CA consolidated Coca-Cola’s two (2) petitions for certiorari and reversed the rulings of the NLRC and the Labor Arbiter.
The CA held that the fact that Complainants “performed duties which are necessary or desirable in the usual trade or business of Coca-Cola,” is of no moment. This is not the only standard for determining the status of one’s employment. Such fact does not prevent them from being considered as fixed term employees of Coca-Cola whose engagement was “fixed” for a specific period. The Coca-Cola’s repeated hiring for various periods (ranging from more than six months for private Coca-Cola Basan to eight years in the case of private Coca-Cola Dizon) would not automatically categorize them as REGULAR EMPLOYEES.
The CA further held that It being supported by facts on record and there being no showing that the employment terms were foisted on the employees through circumstances vitiating or diminishing their consent, following Brent School, Inc. vs. Zamora (G.R. No. 48494, Feb. 5, 1990), the Coca-Colas must be considered as fixed term employees whose “seasonal employment” or employment for a “period” have been “set down.” After all, as conceded by Brent, fixed term employment continues to be allowed and enforceable in this jurisdiction. Not being permanent regular employees, it must be held that the Coca-Colas are not entitled to reinstatement and payment of full backwages.
Complainants sought a reconsideration of the CA’s Decision on procedural and substantive grounds. The CA denied Complainants’ motion for reconsideration.
Hence, the instant petition
Whether or not the lack of complete signature on the verification of all complainants is fatal to their case.
The SC held on the procedural issue that while the general rule is that the verification and certification of non-forum shopping must be signed by all the Complainants in a case, the signature of only one of them, Complainant Basan in this case, appearing thereon may be deemed substantial compliance with the procedural requirement.
Jurisprudence is replete with rulings that the rule on 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.
Similarly, the SC has consistently held that when under reasonable or justifiable circumstances, as when all the Complainants share a common interest and invoke a common cause of action or defense, as in this case, the signature of only one of them in the certification against forum shopping substantially complies with the certification requirement. Thus, the fact that the petition was signed only by Complainant Basan does not necessarily result in its outright dismissal for it is more in accord with substantial justice to overlook Complainants’ procedural lapses. Indeed, the application of technical rules of procedure may be relaxed in labor cases to serve the demand of justice.