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SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED VOLUME 490

A.C. No. 5377. June 15, 2006.

VICTOR LINGAN, complainant, vs. ATTYS. ROMEO


CALUBAQUIB and JIMMY P. BALIGA, respondents.
Forgery; Evidence; Burden of Proof; Forgery cannot be
presumedit must be proved by clear, positive and convincing
evidence, and one who alleges it has the burden of proving the
same.The respondents having admitted responsibility for the
notarial entries, the question now is whether these were the product
of a mere mistake or evidence of larger scheme to defraud
complainant whose allegations, if true, are serious enough to merit
the disbarment of both respondents. The missing link, as it were,
between the admitted infractions of respondents and the nefarious
machinations alleged by complainant is whether or not the latter
was able to prove that Villegas signature on the documents
notarized by respondents was in fact forged. Forgery cannot be
presumed. It must be proved by clear, positive and convincing
evidence. Mere allegation thereof is not evidence. One who alleges
forgery has the burden of proving the same. We find that
complainant failed to discharge this burden.
Same; Same; The fact of forgery cannot be presumed simply
because there are dissimilarities between the standard and the
questioned signatures.It is true that there were dissimilarities
between the signatures purportedly belonging to Villegas and his
genuine signature on the conforme of the general power of attorney
executed by his wife in favor of his mother-in-law. However, the
fact of forgery cannot be presumed simply because there are
dissimilarities between the standard and the questioned signatures.
If complainant was so sure the signatures were fake, he should
have submitted them for expert analysis to the National Bureau of
Investigation, the Philippine National Police or some other
handwriting expert. The records are bereft of any such analysis or
even any attempt to have the signatures examined.
Same; Same; Notarial Law; Notarial documents carry the
presumption of regularityto contradict them, the evidence
presented must be clear, convincing and more than merely
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preponderant.All
_______________
*

SECOND DIV ISION.

527

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527

Lingan vs. Calubaquib

the documents on which the contested signature appeared were


notarized. Notarial documents carry the presumption of regularity.
To contradict them, the evidence presented must be clear,
convincing and more than merely preponderant. Complainants
uncorroborated theory of an entire conspiracy of lawyers and
government officials beholden to respondent Calubaquib did not
constitute such evidence.
Notarial Law; The notary public is personally accountable for
all entries in his notarial register.The notary public is personally
accountable for all entries in his notarial register. Respondents
cannot be relieved of responsibility for the violation of the aforesaid
sections by passing the buck to their secretaries, a reprehensible
practice which to this day persists despite our open condemnation.
Respondents, especially Calubaquib, a self-proclaimed prominent
legal practitioner, should have known better than to give us such a
simple-minded excuse.
Same; Notarization is not an empty, meaningless or routinary
act but one invested with substantive public interest, such that only
those who are qualified or authorized to do so may act as notaries
public; Notarization by a notary public converts a private document
into a public one and makes it admissible in evidence without
further proof of its authenticity.We likewise remind respondents
that notarization is not an empty, meaningless or routinary act but
one invested with substantive public interest, such that only those
who are qualified or authorized to do so may act as notaries public.
The protection of that interest necessarily requires that those not
qualified or authorized to act must be prevented from inflicting
themselves upon the public, the courts and the administrative
offices in general. Notarization by a notary public converts a private
document into a public one and makes it admissible in evidence
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SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED VOLUME 490

without further proof of its authenticity. Notaries public must


therefore observe utmost care with respect to the basic requirements
of their duties.
Same; Attorneys; Legal Ethics; Where lawyers acting as notaries
public failed to perform their sworn duty, they are squarely in
violation of Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility and Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court.
Being not only lawyers but also public officers, respondents should
have been acutely aware of their responsibilities. Respondents acts
did not amount to mere simple and excusable negligence. Having
failed to perform their sworn duty, respondents were squarely in
violation of
528

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SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


Lingan vs. Calubaquib

Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and


Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court which provides: SEC. 27.
Disbarment or suspension of attorneys by Supreme Court;
grounds therefore.A member of the bar may be disbarred or
suspended from his office as attorney by the Supreme Court for any
deceit, malpractice or other gross misconduct in such office, grossly
immoral conduct or by reason of his conviction of a crime involving
moral turpitude, or for any violation of the oath which is required to
take before admission to practice, or for a willful disobedience of any
lawful order of a superior court, or for corruptly and willfully
appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without authority to
do so. The practice of soliciting cases at law for the purpose of gain,
either personally or through paid agents or brokers, constitutes
malpractice.

ADMINISTRATIVE CASE in the Supreme Court.


Disbarment.
The facts are stated in the resolution of the Court.
RESOLUTION
CORONA, J.:
1

This is a complaint for disbarment filed by Victor Lingan

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SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED VOLUME 490


1

This is a complaint for disbarment filed by Victor Lingan


against Attys. Romeo Calubaquib and Jimmy Baliga on
November 16, 2000. Complainant alleged that respondents,
both notaries public, falsified certain public documents.
The case has its roots
in a complaint for annulment of
2
title with damages filed by Isaac Villegas against
complainant with the Regional Trial Court of Tuguegarao,
Cagayan, docketed as Civil Case No. 5036. Respondent
Calubaquib signed
the verification and certification of non3
forum shopping of the complaint as notary public and
entered the same as Doc. No. 182; Page No. 38; Book No.
CLXXII; Series of 1996. Complainant alleges that this
document was falsified because
_______________
1

Rollo, pp. 1-4.

Id., pp. 48-54.

Id., p. 6.
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Lingan vs. Calubaquib

according to the records of the National Archives, the


document entered as Doc. No. 182; Page 38; Book No.
CLXXII; Series of 1996 in respondent Calubaquibs
notarial
4
register was an affidavit of one Daniel Malayao.
The trial 5court decided Civil Case No. 5036 in favor of
complainant and, as a result, the plaintiff there, through
respondent Calubaquib, appealed it to the Court of Appeals,
where it was docketed as CA-G.R. CV No. 55837.
On file
with the records of this case is a special power of
6
attorney dated September 10, 1996 executed by Isaac
Villegas appointing respondent Calubaquib as his attorneyin-fact to enter into a compromise agreement under such
terms and conditions acceptable to him which was
notarized by respondent Baliga and entered as
Doc. No. 548,
7
Page No. 110; Book No. VIII; Series of 1996. Complainant
alleged that this special power of attorney was also falsified
because, according to respondent Baligas notarial register,
Doc. No. 548; Page No. 110; Book No. VIII; Series of
1996
8
pertains to an affidavit of loss of one Pedro Telan, dated
August 26, 1996.
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SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED VOLUME 490

In addition, on January 2, 1995, respondent Baliga filed


a petition for reappointment as notary public for and in
Tuguegarao, Cagayan, which was notarized by respondent
Calubaquib and entered in his notarial register as Doc. No.
31, Page No. 08, Book No. CXXX, Series of 1995. However,
Notarial Register Book No. CXXX was for the year 1996 and
entered there as Doc. No. 31, Page No. 08 was a cancellation
of real estate mortgage
dated January 11, 1996.
9
In his answer, respondent Baliga admitted the
incorrectness of the entries and simply attributed them to
the inadver_______________
4

Id., p. 7.

Id., pp. 60-64.

Id., p. 9.

Id., p. 9.

Id., p. 10.

Id., pp. 29-30.


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SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


Lingan vs. Calubaquib

tence in good faith of his secretary to whom he had left the


task of entering all his notarial documents.
10
Respondent Calubaquibs comment, however, contained
a much lengthier account of the alleged events leading up to
this case, the bulk of which was meant to cast complainant
and his motives in a sinister light. In a nutshell, he made it
appear that the reason for the complaint was that he
(respondent) thwarted a fraudulent attempt by complainant
to grab a parcel of land. He also stated that complainant had
filed a case for falsification of documents against him with
the Ombudsman but it was dismissed.
In the end, however, he (like his co-respondent Baliga)
admitted to the mistaken entries and also ascribed the same
to his legal assistants. Similarly, by way of defense, he
pointed out that the Notarial Law provides that only
contracts need to have their copies included in the notarial
records. It does not require affidavits, verifications or
subscriptions of petitions which are mere allegations of facts
to be entered in the Notarial Register, despite widespread
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SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED VOLUME 490

practice to the contrary.


Upon receipt of respondents comments, we referred the
case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for
investigation, report and recommendation.
In the course of the proceedings before the IBP,
complainant alleged that respondent Calubaquib, with the
help of respondent Baliga and several other persons, was
trying to deprive him (complainant) of a parcel of land he
had bought from Isaac Villegas mother-in-law. According to
complainant, respondent impersonated Villegas, who was in
hiding due to several civil and criminal cases pending
against him, by forging his signature in all documents and
pleadings related to the civil case filed against him
(complainant). He pointed to the incorrect notarial entries
as proof of this falsification.
_______________
10

Id., pp. 33-41.


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Lingan vs. Calubaquib


11

He presented in evidence a motion for withdrawal filed in


the Court of Appeals, apparently by Villegas, disavowing
any involvement in the case filed by respondent
Calubaquib.
To further buttress his allegations of falsification,
complainant pointed out that respondent Calubaquib
seemed unable to physically produce Villegas. For example,
when the Ombudsman ordered him to produce Villegas,
12
respondent Calubaquib merely presented an affidavit
supposedly executed by Villegas and sworn to before a
highly regarded [Department of Justice] official. 13
In the IBPs report and recommendation, dated
December 7, 2001, Commissioner Rebecca VillanuevaMaala found respondents liable for inexcusable negligence
and recommended the revocation of the commission of
respondents Calubaquib and Baliga as notaries public for
two years from receipt of the final decision. Commissioner
Maalas report did not touch on complainants allegations of
forgery.
14
When the IBP resolved to adopt Commissioner Maalas
report and recommendation, both

15

complainant

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SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED VOLUME 490


15

report and recommendation,


both complainant 17 and
16
respondent Baliga filed motions for reconsideration
with
18
this Court. Respondent Calubaquib opposed complainants
motion for reconsideration.
In his motion for reconsideration, complainant assailed
the penalty recommended by the IBP as grossly inadequate.
Reit_______________
11

Id., pp. 153-156.

12

Id., p. 137.

13

Id., pp. 76-78.

14

Id., pp. 74-75.

15

Id., pp. 84-114.

16

Id., pp. 202-209.

17

The records do not indicate that the motions for reconsideration were

filed in the IBP; they were filed directly with the Supreme Court. The
Court, consistent with the rules governing disbarment proceedings,
treated the motions for reconsideration as petitions for review of the IBP
resolution.
18

Id., pp. 195-200.


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SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


Lingan vs. Calubaquib

erating his allegation of forgery, he attached documents


bearing Villegas allegedly forged signature as well
as
19
documents with his supposed real signature
for
comparison.
In his opposition/comment, respondent Calubaquib
refuted complainants scathing accusations of fraud and
abuse of his public position, and prayed for the dismissal of
the complaint. In his motion for reconsideration, respondent
Baliga decried the penalty imposed as disproportionate to
the infraction he had committed.
The respondents having admitted responsibility for the
notarial entries, the question now is whether these were the
product of a mere mistake or evidence of larger scheme to
defraud complainant whose allegations, if true, are serious
enough to merit the disbarment of both respondents.
The missing link, as it were, between the admitted
infractions of respondents and the nefarious machinations
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SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED VOLUME 490

alleged by complainant is whether or not the latter was able


to prove that Villegas signature on the documents
notarized by respondents was in fact forged.
Forgery cannot be presumed. It must be proved by clear,
positive and convincing
evidence. Mere allegation thereof is
20
not evidence. One21who alleges forgery has the burden of
proving the same. We find that complainant failed to
discharge this burden.
Complainant alleged mainly that Villegas could not
possibly have signed the documents in question because he
was a fugitive from justice, with several civil and criminal
cases pending against him. Assuming this allegation to be
true, it proved nothing. The mere fact that Villegas was a
fugitive from justice did not preclude the possibility that he
might
_______________
19
20

Id., pp. 134-136.


Tenio-Obsequio v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 107967, 1 March

1994, 230 SCRA 550.


21

People v. Reyes, G.R. No. 153119, 13 April 2004, 427 SCRA 28;

Fernandez v. Fernandez, 416 Phil. 322; 363 SCRA 811 (2001).


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VOL. 490, JUNE 15, 2006

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Lingan vs. Calubaquib

have secretly met with his lawyer for purposes of filing a


suit. It would have been different had complainant
presented evidence that Villegas was, at the time the
questioned documents were executed, definitely somewhere
else. But the bare argument that Villegas being a fugitive
rendered it impossible for him to sign some documents was
simply too nebulous to inspire belief.
As additional evidence, complainant presented, as
attachments to his motion for reconsideration, a number of
documents purportedly bearing Villegas real signature, the
latest of which was the motion to withdraw allegedly filed by
Villegas himself. However, the veracity of the last of those
documents was vigorously contested by an affidavit also
purportedly filed by Villegas. The two documents, both
notarized, effectively cancelled each other out, absent some
other credible proof.
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It is true that there were dissimilarities between the


signatures purportedly belonging to Villegas and his
genuine 22signature on the conforme of the general power of
attorney executed by his wife in favor of his mother-in-law.
However, the fact of forgery cannot be presumed simply
because there are dissimilarities
between the standard and
23
the questioned signatures. If complainant was so sure the
signatures were fake, he should have submitted them for
expert analysis to the National Bureau of Investigation, the
Philippine National Police or some other handwriting
expert. The records are bereft of any such analysis or even
any attempt to have the signatures examined.
Furthermore, all the documents on which the contested
signature appeared were notarized. Notarial documents
carry the presumption of regularity. To contradict them, the
evidence presented must be clear, convincing and more than
_______________
22

Rollo, p. 57.

23

People v. Reyes, supra.


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SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


Lingan vs. Calubaquib
24

merely preponderant.
Complainants uncorroborated
theory of an entire conspiracy of lawyers and government
officials beholden to respondent Calubaquib did not
constitute such evidence.
The forgery of Villegas signature having remained
unproven, we can only hold respondents liable for their
omissions that have actually been proved.
In this respect, we find that the recommendations of IBP
Commissioner Maala adopted by the IBP were supported by
the evidence on record, particularly the documents
themselves as well as the respondents own admission.
In response, on the other hand, to respondents feeble
attempts to deflect the blame from themselves and onto
their staff, we call their attention
to Sections 245, 246 and
25
249(b) of the Notarial Law.
Sections 245 and 246 of the Notarial Law provided:
SEC. 245. Notarial Register.Every notary public shall keep a
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register to be known as the notarial register, wherein record shall be


made of all his official acts as notary; and he shall supply a certified
copy of such record, or any part thereof, to any person applying for
it and paying the legal fees therefore. (emphasis supplied)
x x xx x xx x x
SEC. 246. Matters to be entered therein.The notary public shall
enter in such register, in chronological order, the nature of each
instrument executed, sworn to, or acknowledged before him, the
person executing, swearing to, or acknowledging the instrument,
the witnesses, if any, to the signature, the date of execution, oath,
or acknowledgment of the instrument, the fees collected by him for
his
_______________
24

Jimenez v. Commission on Ecumenical Mission, United Presbyterian Church,

USA, 432 Phil. 895; 383 SCRA 326 (2002).


25

The Notarial Law (Chapter 11 of Act 2711) was in effect at the time of the

commission of the acts subject of the complaint. It has been superseded


effective August 1, 2004 by the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice (A.M. No. 02-813-SC) promulgated on July 6, 2004.

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VOL. 490, JUNE 15, 2006

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Lingan vs. Calubaquib

services as notary in connection therewith, and, when the


instrument is a contract, he shall keep a correct copy thereof as part
of his records, and shall likewise enter in said records a brief
description of the substance thereof and shall give to each entry a
consecutive number, beginning with number one in each calendar
year. The notary shall give to each instrument executed, sworn to,
or acknowledged before him a number corresponding to the one in
his register, and shall also state on the instrument the page or
pages of his register on which the same is recorded. No blank line
shall be left between entries.
x x xx x xx x x

In this connection, Section 249(b) stated:


SEC. 249. Grounds for revocation of commission.The following
derelictions of duty on the part of a notary public shall, in the
discretion of the proper judge of first instance, be sufficient ground
for the revocation of his commission:
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SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED VOLUME 490

x x xx x xx x x
(b) The failure of the notary to make the proper entry or entries in his
notarial register touching his notarial acts in the manner required by
law.
x x xx x xx x x

From the language of the subsection, it is abundantly clear


that the notary public is personally accountable for all
entries in his notarial register. Respondents cannot be
relieved of responsibility for the violation of the aforesaid
sections by passing the buck to their secretaries, a
reprehensible practice
which to this day persists despite our
26
open condemnation. Respondents, especially Calubaquib, a
self-proclaimed prominent legal practitioner, should have
known better than to give us such a simple-minded excuse.
We likewise remind respondents that notarization is not
an empty, meaningless or routinary act but one invested
with substantive public interest, such that only those who
are
_______________
26

Adaza v. Barinaga, 192 Phil. 198; 104 SCRA 684 (1981).


536

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SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


Lingan vs. Calubaquib

qualified or authorized to do so may act as notaries public.


The protection of that interest necessarily requires that
those not qualified or authorized to act must be prevented
from inflicting themselves upon the27public, the courts and
the administrative offices in general.
Notarization by a notary public converts a private
document into a public one and makes it admissible
in
28
evidence without further proof of its authenticity. Notaries
public must therefore observe utmost29 care with respect to
the basic requirements of their duties.
Being not only lawyers but also public officers,
respondents should have been acutely aware of their
responsibilities. Respondents acts did not amount to mere
simple and excusable negligence. Having failed to perform
their sworn duty, respondents were squarely in violation of
Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility

30

and Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of

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SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED VOLUME 490


30

Responsibility and Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of


Court which provides:
SEC. 27. Disbarment or suspension of attorneys by Supreme Court;
grounds therefore.A member of the bar may be disbarred or
suspended from his office as attorney by the Supreme Court for any
deceit, malpractice or other gross misconduct in such office, grossly
immoral conduct or by reason of his conviction of a crime involving
moral turpitude, or for any violation of the oath which is required to
take before admission to practice, or for a willful disobedience of any
lawful order of a superior court, or for corruptly and willfully
appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without authority to
do so. The practice of soliciting cases at law for the purpose of gain,
either personally or through paid agents or brokers, constitutes
malpractice.
_______________
27

Lucente v. Atty. Evangelista, Jr., 444 Phil. 721 ; 396 SCRA 627

(2003).
28

Sections 19(b) and 23, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court.

29

Lucente v. Atty. Evangelista, Jr., supra.

30

Rule 1.01.A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest,

immoral or deceitful conduct.


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VOL. 490, JUNE 15, 2006

537

Lingan vs. Calubaquib

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, respondents Atty.


Romeo I. Calubaquib and Atty. Jimmy P. Baliga are hereby
found guilty of violation of Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility and of their lawyers oath. They
are both ordered SUSPENDED from the practice of law for
ONE YEAR effective immediately, with a warning that
another infraction shall be dealt with more severely.
Their present commissions as notaries public, if any, are
hereby REVOKED, with DISQUALIFICATION from
reappointment as notaries public for a period of two years.
Let a copy of this Resolution be attached to the personal
records of Atty. Romeo I. Calubaquib and Atty. Jimmy P.
Baliga, and copies furnished the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines, the Office of the Court Administrator and Office
of the Bar Confidant for dissemination to all courts
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nationwide.
This Resolution is immediately executory.
SO ORDERED.
Puno (Chairperson), Sandoval-Gutierrez, Azcuna
and Garcia, JJ., concur.
Atty. Romeo I. Calubaquib and Atty. Jimmy P. Baliga
suspended from practice of law for one (1) year for violation
of Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of Code of Professional Responsibility
and lawyers oath, with warning against repetition of similar
infraction. Their notarial commissions revoked, with
disqualification from appointment as notaries public for two
(2) years.
Notes.The fact that the deed was notarized in Manila
when it could have been notarized in Bulacan casts doubt
on the procedural regularity in the preparation, execution
and signing of the deedconsequently, the claim of the
signatories that they did not sign the document before a
notary public is more plausible than another partys feeble
claim to the contrary. (Constantino vs. Court of Appeals, 264
SCRA 59 [1996])
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SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED


Nacionales vs. Madlangbayan

The person in possession of a forged deed of sale is presumed


to be the author thereof, despite the absence of any direct
evidence of his authorship of the forgery. (Recebido vs.
People, 346 SCRA 881 [2000])
o0o

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