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THE LAWYER AS THE NOTARY PUBLIC

CASE NO. 1
A.C. No. 10132, March 24, 2015
HEIRS OF PEDRO ALILANO REPRESENTED BY DAVID ALILANO, Complainants, v.
ATTY. ROBERTO E. EXAMEN, Respondent.
DECISION
VILLARAMA, JR., J.:
Before us is a complaint for disbarment filed before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
(IBP) by the heirs of Pedro Alilano against Atty. Roberto E. Examen for misconduct and
malpractice for falsifying documents and presenting these as evidence in court thus
violating the Lawyers Oath, Canons 1, 10 and 19, and Rules 1.01, 1.02, 10.01, and 19.01
of the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR).

Pedro Alilano and his wife, Florentina, were the holders of Original Certificate of Title
(OCT) No. P-23261 covering a 98,460 sq. m. parcel of land identified as Lot No. 1085 Pls-
544-D located in Paitan, Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat. Pedro and Florentina died on March
6, 1985 and October 11, 1989, respectively.

It appears that on March 31, 1984 and September 12, 1984 Absolute Deeds of Sale were
executed by the Spouses Alilano in favor of Ramon Examen and his wife, Edna. Both
documents were notarized by respondent Atty. Roberto Examen, brother of the vendee.
Sometime in September 1984, Spouses Examen obtained possession of the property.

On January 12, 2002, the heirs of Alilano filed a suit for recovery of possession before the
Regional Trial Court of Sultan Kudarat against Edna Examen and Atty. Roberto Examen. It
was during this proceeding that Atty. Examen introduced into evidence the March 31,
1984 and September 12, 1984 Absolute Deeds of Sale.

On November 15, 2003, the heirs of Alilano filed this complaint alleging that Atty.
Examen, based on Barretto v. Cabreza, violated the notarial law when he notarized the
absolute deeds of sale since a notary public is prohibited from notarizing a document
when one of the parties is a relative by consanguinity within the fourth civil degree or
affinity within the second civil degree. It is also alleged that Atty. Examen notarized the
documents knowing that the cedula or residence certificate number used by Ramon
Examen was not actually his but the residence certificate number of Florentina. Atty.
Examen also falsely acknowledged that the two witnesses personally appeared before
him when they did not. Lastly, it is alleged that despite knowing the infirmities of these
documents, Atty. Examen introduced these documents into evidence violating his oath as
a lawyer and the CPR.

In his defense, Atty. Examen pointed out that there was no longer any prohibition under
the Revised Administrative Code for a notary public to notarize a document where one of
the parties is related to him by consanguinity and affinity. With regard to the use of
Florentinas residence certificate as Ramons, Atty. Examen said that he was in good faith
and that it was office practice that the secretary type details without him personally
examining the output. In any event, he reasoned that the use of anothers residence
certificate is not a ground for disbarment and is barred by prescription based on IBP
Resolution No. XVI-2004-13 dated January 26, 2004 where it was proposed that the Rules
of Procedure of the Commission on Bar Discipline Integrated Bar of the Philippines,
Section 1, Rule VIII, be revised to include a prescription period for professional
misconduct: within two years from the date of the act.
In its Report and Recommendation, the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD) found
Atty. Examen liable for breach of the Notarial Law and introducing false Absolute Deeds
of Sale before court proceedings. It stated that there was ample evidence to support the
complainants contention that the Spouses Alilano did not voluntarily and knowingly
convey their property, i.e. denials under oath by attesting witnesses and NBI Report by
Handwriting Expert Jennifer Dominguez stating that Pedro Alilanos signature in the
September 1984 Absolute Deed of Sale was significantly different from the specimen
signatures. It also noted that Ramon Examens residence certificate number, date and
place of issue were also falsified since the residence certificate actually belonged to
Florentina Pueblo. It thus recommended that the penalty of disbarment be imposed.

The IBP Board of Governors (BOG) in its June 26, 2007 Resolution adopted the IBP CBDs
report but modified the penalty to suspension from the practice of law for a period of two
years and a suspension of Atty. Examens Notarial Commission for a period of two years.

Atty. Examen moved for reconsideration. In its Notice of Resolution, the IBP BOG denied
the motion for reconsideration. It also modified the penalty imposed to suspension from
the practice of law for a period of one year and disqualification from re-appointment as
Notary Public for a period of two years.

We agree with the IBP that Atty. Examen is administratively liable and hereby impose a
modified penalty.

In disbarment cases the only issue that is to be decided by the Court is whether the
member of the bar is fit to be allowed the privileges as such or not. It is not therefore
the proper venue for the determination of whether there had been a proper conveyance
of real property nor is it the proper proceeding to take up whether witnesses signatures
were in fact forged.

NO PRESCRIPTION OF ACTIONS FOR ACTS OF ERRING MEMBERS OF THE BAR

In Frias v. Atty. Bautista-Lozada, the Court En Banc opined that there can be no
prescription in bar discipline cases. It pointed out this has been the policy since 1967
with the Courts ruling in Calo, Jr. v. Degamo and reiterated in Heck v. Santos where we
had the chance to state:

If the rule were otherwise, members of the bar would be emboldened to disregard the
very oath they took as lawyers, prescinding from the fact that as long as no private
complainant would immediately come forward, they stand a chance of being completely
exonerated from whatever administrative liability they ought to answer for. It is the duty
of this Court to protect the integrity of the practice of law as well as the administration of
justice. No matter how much time has elapsed from the time of the commission of the
act complained of and the time of the institution of the complaint, erring members of the
bench and bar cannot escape the disciplining arm of the Court. This categorical
pronouncement is aimed at unscrupulous members of the bench and bar, to deter them
from committing acts which violate the Code of Professional Responsibility, the Code of
Judicial Conduct, or the Lawyers Oath. x x x

Thus, even the lapse of considerable time from the commission of the offending act to
the institution of the administrative complaint will not erase the administrative
culpability of a lawyer. (Italics supplied)

We therefore ruled in Frias, that Rule VIII, Section 1 of the Rules of Procedure of the IBP
CBD was void and had no legal effect for being ultra vires and thus null and void.

This ruling was reiterated in the more recent case of Bengco v. Bernardo, where the
Court stated that putting a prescriptive period on administrative cases involving
members of the bar would only serve to embolden them to disregard the very oath they
took as lawyers, prescinding from the fact that as long as no private complainant would
immediately come forward, they stand a chance of being completely exonerated from
whatever administrative liability they ought to answer for.

Atty. Examens defense of prescription therefore is of no moment and deserves scant


consideration.

THE SPANISH NOTARIAL LAW OF 1889 WAS REPEALED BY THE REVISED


ADMINISTRATIVE CODE OF 1917

Prior to 1917, governing law for notaries public in the Philippines was the Spanish
Notarial Law of 1889. However, the law governing Notarial Practice is changed with the
passage of the January 3, 1916 Revised Administrative Code, which took effect in 1917.
In 2004, the Revised Rules on Notarial Practice was passed by the Supreme Court.

In Kapunan, et al. v. Casilan and Court of Appeals, the Court had the opportunity to state
that enactment of the Revised Administrative Code repealed the Spanish Notarial Law of
1889. Thus:

It is petitioners contention that Notary Public Mateo Canonoy, who was related to the
parties in the donation within the fourth civil degree of affinity, was, under Articles 22
and 28 of the Spanish Notarial Law, incompetent and disqualified to authenticate the
deed of donation executed by the Kapunan spouses in favor of their daughter
Concepcion Kapunan Salcedo. Said deed of donation, according to petitioners, became a
mere private instrument under Article 1223 of the old Civil Code, so that under the ruling
laid down in the case of Barretto vs. Cabreza (33 Phil., 413), the donation was
inefficacious. The appellate court, however, in the decision complained of held that the
Spanish Notarial Law has been repealed with the enactment of Act No. 496. We find this
ruling to be correct. In the case of Philippine Sugar Estate vs. Poizart (48 Phil., 536),
cited in Vda. de Estuart vs. Garcia (Adm. Case No. 212, prom. February 15, 1957), this
Court held that The old Spanish notarial law and system of conveyance was
repealed in the Philippines and another and different notarial law and system
became the law of the land with the enactment of Act No. 496. (Emphasis
supplied)c

In this case, the heirs of Alilano stated that Atty. Examen was prohibited to notarize the
absolute deeds of sale since he was related by consanguinity within the fourth civil
degree with the vendee, Ramon. The prohibition might have still applied had the
applicable rule been the Spanish Notarial Law. However, following the Courts ruling in
Kapunan, the law in force at the time of signing was the Revised Administrative Code,
thus, the prohibition was removed. Atty. Examen was not incompetent to notarize the
document even if one of the parties to the deed was a relative, his brother. As correctly
observed by the IBP CBD:
At the time of notarization, the prevailing law governing notarization was Sections 231-
259, Chapter 11 of the Revised Administrative Code and there was no prohibition on a
notary public from notarizing a document when one of the interested parties is related to
the notary public within the fourth civil degree of consanguinity or second degree of
affinity.

Note must be taken that under 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice, Rule IV, Section 3(c), a
notary public is disqualified among others to perform the notarial act if he is related by
affinity or consanguinity to a principal within the fourth civil degree, to wit:

SEC. 3. Disqualifications. A notary public is disqualified from performing a notarial act if


he:

xxxx

(c) is a spouse, common-law partner, ancestor, descendant, or relative by affinity or


consanguinity of the principal within the fourth civil degree.

That Atty. Examen was not incompetent to act as a notary public in the present case
does not mean that he can evade administrative liability under the CPR in conjunction
with the provisions of the Notarial Law.

NOTARIES PUBLIC MUST PERFORM THEIR DUTIES DILIGENTLY AND WITH


UTMOST CARE

In Nunga v. Atty. Viray, this Court stated:

[N]otarization is not an empty, meaningless, routinary act. It is invested with


substantive public interest, such that only those who are qualified or authorized may
act as notaries public. The protection of that interest necessarily requires that those not
qualified or authorized to act must be prevented from imposing upon the public, the
courts, and the administrative offices in general. It must be underscored that the
notarization by a notary public converts a private document into a public document
making that document admissible in evidence without further proof of the authenticity
thereof. A notarial document is by law entitled to full faith and credit upon its face. For
this reason, notaries public must observe with utmost care the basic
requirements in the performance of their duties. (Emphasis supplied; citations
omitted)

Thus under the prevailing law at the time of notarization it was the duty of the notary
public to comply with the requirements of the Notarial Law. This includes the duty under
Chapter 11, Section 251 of the Revised Administrative Code:

SEC. 251. Requirement as to notation of payment of cedula [residence] tax. Every


contract, deed, or other document acknowledged before a notary public shall have
certified thereon that the parties thereto have presented their proper cedula [residence]
certificates or are exempt from the cedula [residence] tax, and there shall be entered by
the notary public as a part of such certification the number, place of issue, and date of
each cedula [residence] certificate as aforesaid.
Under Chapter 11, Section 249 of the Revised Administrative Code provided a list of the
grounds for disqualification:c

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:

xxxx

(f) The failure of the notary to make the proper notation regarding cedula certificates.

xxxx

In Soriano v. Atty. Basco, the Court stated that notaries public are required to follow
formalities as these are mandatory and cannot be simply neglected. Thus, the Notarial
Law requires them to certify that a party to the instrument acknowledged before him has
presented the proper residence certificate (or exemption from the residence certificate)
and to enter its number, place of issue and date as part of the certification. Failure to
perform his duties results in the revocation of a notarys commission. The Court said:

As a lawyer commissioned as a notary public, respondent is mandated to discharge


with fidelity the sacred duties appertaining to his office, such duties being
dictated by public policy and impressed with public interest. Faithful observance
and utmost respect for the legal solemnity of an oath in an acknowledgment are
sacrosanct. He cannot simply disregard the requirements and solemnities of the Notarial
Law. (Emphasis supplied)

Here, based on the submission of the complainants, it is clear that the residence
certificate number used by Ramon Examen and as notarized by Atty. Examen in both
Absolute Deeds of Sale was not in fact the residence certificate of Ramon but
Florentinas residence certificate number. Atty. Examen interposes that he was in good
faith in that it was office practice to have his secretary type up the details of the
documents and requirements without him checking the correctness of same.

A notary public must discharge his powers and duties, which are impressed with public
interest, with accuracy and fidelity. Good faith cannot be a mitigating circumstance in
situations since the duty to function as a notary public is personal. We note that the error
could have been prevented had Atty. Examen diligently performed his functions:
personally checked the correctness of the documents. To say that it was his secretarys
fault reflects disregard and unfitness to discharge the functions of a notary public for it is
he who personally acknowledges the document. He was behooved under Section 251,
Chapter 11 of the Revised Administrative Code to check if the proper cedulas were
presented and inspect if the documents to be acknowledged by him reflected the correct
details. This Court cannot stress enough that notarization is not a routinary act. It is
imbued with substantive public interest owing to the public character of his duties

Atty. Examen posits that the failure of a notary to make the proper notation of cedulas
can only be a ground for disqualification and not the proper subject for a disbarment
proceeding. We disagree.

In violating the provisions of the Notarial Law, Atty. Examen also transgressed the his
oath as a lawyer, provisions of the CPR and Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court
which provides:

SEC. 27. Disbarment or suspension of attorneys by Supreme Court; grounds therefor. 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 he is required to take before admission
to practice, or for a wilful 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 so
to do. The practice of soliciting cases at law for the purpose of gain, either personally or
through paid agents or brokers, constitutes malpractice.c

By his negligent act of not checking the work of his secretary and merely perfunctorily
notarizing documents, it cannot be said that he upheld legal processes thus violating
Canon 1 of the CPR. Neither can it be said that he promoted confidence in the legal
system. If anything, his acts serve to undermine the functions of a diligent lawyer. He
thus ran afoul Rule 1.02 of the CPR. We cannot stress enough that as a lawyer,
respondent is expected at all times to uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal
profession and refrain from any act or omission which might lessen the trust and
confidence reposed by the public in the integrity of the legal profession. A lawyers
mandate includes thoroughly going over documents presented to them typed or
transcribed by their secretaries.

The Court notes that the case between the parties is not the first that reached this
Court. In Edna Examen and Roberto Examen v. Heirs of Pedro Alilano and Florentina
Pueblo, Atty. Examen and his sister-in-law questioned via a petition for certiorari the
propriety of three Court of Appeals Resolutions relating to a case involving Lot No. 1085
Pls-544-D this time with respect to its fruits. There the Court of Appeals (CA) after giving
Atty. Examen 90 days to file his appellants brief, denied a second motion for extension
of time merely on the basis of a flimsy reason that he had misplaced some of the
transcript of the witnesses testimonies. The CA did not find the reason of misplaced
transcript as good and sufficient cause to grant the extension pursuant to Section 12,
Rule 44 of the Revised Rules of Court. It stated that it was a flimsy and lame excuse to
unnecessarily delay the proceedings. The CA was of the opinion that defendant-
appellants, herein respondent, motion was a mockery of the procedural rules. 44 This
Court denied the petition for various procedural defects.

With respect to the penalty imposed, given that Atty. Examen not only failed to uphold
his duty as a notary public but also failed to uphold his lawyers oath and ran afoul the
provisions of the CPR, the Court deems it proper to suspend Atty. Examen from the
practice of law for a period of two years following this Courts decision in Caalim-
Verzonilla v. Pascua.

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Roberto E. Examen is hereby SUSPENDED from the


practice of law for TWO (2) YEARS. In addition, his present notarial commission, if any,
is hereby REVOKED, and he is DISQUALIFIED from reappointment as a notary public
for a period of two (2) years from finality of this Decision. He is further WARNED that
any similar act or infraction in the future shall be dealt with more severely.

Let copies of this Decision be furnished to the Office of the Bar Confidant to be appended
to respondents personal record as an attorney, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the
Department of Justice and all courts in the country for their information and guidance.

SO ORDERED.

\\

CASE NO. 2
A.C. No. 9081
RODOLFO A. ESPINOSA and MAXIMO A. GLINDO,Complainants,
- versus -
ATTY. JULIETA A. OMAA, Respondent.
Promulgated:
October 12, 2011
x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - x
DECISION
CARPIO, J.:

The Case
Before the Court is a complaint for disbarment filed by Rodolfo A. Espinosa (Espinosa)
and Maximo A. Glindo (Glindo) against Atty. Julieta A. Omaa (Omaa).

The Antecedent Facts

Complainants Espinosa and Glindo charged Omaa with violation of her oath as a lawyer,
malpractice, and gross misconduct in office.

Complainants alleged that on 17 November 1997, Espinosa and his wife Elena Marantal
(Marantal) sought Omaas legal advice on whether they could legally live separately and
dissolve their marriage solemnized on 23 July 1983. Omaa then prepared a document
entitled Kasunduan Ng Paghihiwalay (contract) which reads:

REPUBLIKA NG PILIPINAS
BAYAN NG GUMACA
LALAWIGAN NG QUEZON

KASUNDUAN NG PAGHIHIWALAY

KAMI, ELENA MARANTAL AT RODOLFO ESPINOSA, mga Filipino, may sapat na gulang,
dating legal na mag-asawa, kasalukuyang naninirahan at may pahatirang sulat sa Brgy.
Buensoceso, Gumaca, Quezon, at COMELEC, Intramuros, Manila ayon sa pagkakasunod-
sunod, matapos makapanumpa ng naaayon sa batas ay nagpapatunay ng nagkasundo
ng mga sumusunod:

1. Na nais na naming maghiwalay at magkanya-kanya ng aming mga buhay ng walang


pakialaman, kung kayat bawat isa sa amin ay maaari ng humanap ng makakasama sa
buhay;
2. Na ang aming mga anak na sina Ariel John Espinosa, 14 na taong gulang; Aiza
Espinosa, 11 taong gulang at Aldrin Espinosa, 10 taong gulang ay namili na kung kanino
sasama sa aming dalawa. Si Ariel John at Aiza Espinosa ay sasama sa kanilang ama,
Rodolfo Espinosa, at ang bunso, Aldrin Espinosa at sasama naman sa ina na si Elena;
3. Na dahil sina Ariel John at Aiza ay nagsisipag-aral sa kasalukuyan sila ay
pansamantalang mananatili sa kanilang ina, habang tinatapos ang kanilang pag-aaral.
Sa pasukan sila ay maaari ng isama ng ama, sa lugar kung saan siya ay naninirahan;
4. Na ang mga bata ay maaaring dalawin ng sino man sa aming dalawa tuwing may
pagkakataon;
5. Na magbibigay ng buwanang gastusin o suporta ang ama kay Aldrin at ang
kakulangan sa mga pangangailangan nito ay pupunan ng ina;
6. Na lahat ng mga kasangkapan sa bahay tulad ng T.V., gas stove, mga kagamitan sa
kusina ay aking (Rodolfo) ipinagkakaloob kay Elena at hindi na ako interesado dito;
7. Na lahat ng maaaring maipundar ng sino man sa amin dalawa sa mga panahong
darating ay aming mga sari-sariling pag-aari na at hindi na pinagsamahan o conjugal.

BILANG PATUNAY ng lahat ng ito, nilagdaan namin ito ngayong ika-17 ng Nobyembre,
1997, dito sa Gumaca, Quezon.

(Sgd) (Sgd)
ELENA MARANTAL RODOLFO ESPINOSA
Nagkasundo Nagkasundo
PINATUNAYAN AT PINANUMPAAN dito sa harap ko ngayong ika-17 ng Nobyembre, 1997,
dito sa Gumaca, Quezon

ATTY. JULIETA A. OMAA


Notary Public
PTR No. 3728169; 1-10-97
Gumaca, Quezon

Doc. No. 482;


Page No. 97;
Book No. XI;
Series of 1997.

Complainants alleged that Marantal and Espinosa, fully convinced of the validity of the
contract dissolving their marriage, started implementing its terms and conditions.
However, Marantal eventually took custody of all their children and took possession of
most of the property they acquired during their union.

Espinosa sought the advice of his fellow employee, complainant Glindo, a law graduate,
who informed him that the contract executed by Omaa was not valid. Espinosa and
Glindo then hired the services of a lawyer to file a complaint against Omaa before the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD).

Omaa alleged that she knows Glindo but she does not personally know Espinosa. She
denied that she prepared the contract. She admitted that Espinosa went to see her and
requested for the notarization of the contract but she told him that it was illegal. Omaa
alleged that Espinosa returned the next day while she was out of the office and managed
to persuade her part-time office staff to notarize the document. Her office staff forged
her signature and notarized the contract. Omaa presented Marantals Sinumpaang
Salaysay (affidavit) to support her allegations and to show that the complaint was
instigated by Glindo. Omaa further presented a letter of apology from her staff, Arlene
Dela Pea, acknowledging that she notarized the document without Omaas knowledge,
consent, and authority.

Espinosa later submitted a Karagdagang Salaysay stating that Omaa arrived at his
residence together with a girl whom he later recognized as the person who notarized the
contract. He further stated that Omaa was not in her office when the contract was
notarized.

The Decision of the Commission on Bar Discipline

In its Report and Recommendation dated 6 February 2007, the IBP-CBD stated that
Espinosas desistance did not put an end to the proceedings. The IBP-CBD found that
Omaa violated Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which
provides that a lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful
conduct. The IBP-CBD stated that Omaa had failed to exercise due diligence in the
performance of her function as a notary public and to comply with the requirements of
the law. The IBP-CBD noted the inconsistencies in the defense of Omaa who first claimed
that it was her part-time staff who notarized the contract but then later claimed that it
was her former maid who notarized it. The IBP-CBD found:

Respondent truly signed the questioned document, yet she still disclaimed its
authorship, thereby revealing much more her propensity to lie and make deceit, which
she is deserving [of] disciplinary sanction or disbarment.

The IBP-CBD recommended that Omaa be suspended for one year from the practice of
law and for two years as a notary public.

In a Resolution dated 19 September 2007, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and
approved the recommendation of the IBP-CBD.

Omaa filed a motion for reconsideration.

In a Resolution dated 26 June 2011, the IBP Board of Governors denied Omaas motion for
reconsideration.
The Issue

The sole issue in this case is whether Omaa violated the Canon of Professional
Responsibility in the notarization of Marantal and Espinosas Kasunduan Ng Paghihiwalay.

The Ruling of this Court

We adopt the findings and recommendation of the IBP-CBD.

This case is not novel. This Court has ruled that the extrajudicial dissolution of the
conjugal partnership without judicial approval is void. The Court has also ruled that a
notary public should not facilitate the disintegration of a marriage and the family by
encouraging the separation of the spouses and extrajudicially dissolving the conjugal
partnership, which is exactly what Omaa did in this case.

In Selanova v. Judge Mendoza, the Court cited a number of cases where the lawyer was
sanctioned for notarizing similar documents as the contract in this case, such as:
notarizing a document between the spouses which permitted the husband to take a
concubine and allowed the wife to live with another man, without opposition from each
other; ratifying a document entitled Legal Separation where the couple agreed to be
separated from each other mutually and voluntarily, renouncing their rights and
obligations, authorizing each other to remarry, and renouncing any action that they
might have against each other; preparing a document authorizing a married couple who
had been separated for nine years to marry again, renouncing the right of action which
each may have against the other; and preparing a document declaring the conjugal
partnership dissolved.

We cannot accept Omaas allegation that it was her part-time office staff who notarized
the contract. We agree with the IBP-CBD that Omaa herself notarized the contract. Even
if it were true that it was her part-time staff who notarized the contract, it only showed
Omaas negligence in doing her notarial duties. We reiterate that a notary public is
personally responsible for the entries in his notarial register and he could not relieve
himself of this responsibility by passing the blame on his secretaries or any member of
his staff.

We likewise agree with the IBP-CBD that in preparing and notarizing a void document,
Omaa violated Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which
provides that [a] lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful
conduct. Omaa knew fully well that the Kasunduan Ng Paghihiwalay has no legal effect
and is against public policy. Therefore, Omaa may be suspended from office as an
attorney for breach of the ethics of the legal profession as embodied in the Code of
Professional Responsibility.

WHEREFORE, we SUSPEND Atty. Julieta A. Omaa from the practice of law for ONE
YEAR. We REVOKE Atty. Omaas notarial commission, if still existing, and SUSPEND her
as a notary public for TWO YEARS.Let a copy of this Decision be attached to Atty. Omaas
personal record in the Office of the Bar Confidant. Let a copy of this Decision be also
furnished to all chapters of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and to all courts in the
land.

SO ORDERED.

CASE NO. 3
[G.R. NO. 176984 - August 29, 2012]
METROPOLITAN BANK & TRUST COMPANY, Petitioner, v. SERVANDO ARGUELLES
(Deceased) & CLAUDIO ARGUELLES and MARILOU TRINIDAD, for herself and as
guardian ad litem of her minor children namely, LLOYD, MARK, ADRIAN, and
GEORGIA, all surnamed TRINIDAD, TRISTAN TRINIDAD and EDGARDO TRINIDAD,
JR., Respondents.
[G.R. NO. 179131]
MARILOU TRINIDAD, for herself and as guardian ad litem of her minor children
LLOYD, MARK, ADRIAN & GEORGIA, all surnamed TRINIDAD, EDGARDO
TRINIDAD, JR. and TRISTAN TRINIDAD, Petitioners, v. SERVANDO ARGUELLES
(Deceased) and CLAUDIO ARGUELLES, and METROPOLITAN BANK & TRUST
COMPANY, Respondents.
DECISION
ABAD, J.:
These cases involve an action for the annulment of a transfer certificate of title (TCT)
over a parcel of land on the basis of an allegedly falsified deed of sale transferring title
over the property.
The Facts and the Case
Respondent brothers, Servando and Claudio Arguelles (the Arguelleses ), were registered
owners of a parcel of land in Imus, Cavite, under TCT T-115897. On November 23, 1983
the Arguelleses entered into a conditional sale of the land to Edgardo Trinidad and his
wife Marilou (the Trinidads). In accordance with the terms of the sale, the Trinidads gave
the Arguelleses P 50,000.00 as down payment. The balance of 396,720.00 was to be
paid in monthly installments.
The Trinidads occupied and began developing the property in 1986. They paid the real
estate taxes due on it from 1987 to 1997. With a deed of sale in their favor, the Trinidads
eventually had the land titled in their names on August 15, 1991 under TCT T-316427. In
that same year, they applied with Metropolitan Bank & Trust Company (Metrobank) for a
loan, offering the land as collateral. Satisfied that the Trinidads owned the property,
Metrobank accepted it as collateral and lent them money. Subsequently, Metrobank
granted the couple several more loans, totaling more than P 11 million, all secured by
the land.
On January 7, 1997 the Arguelleses filed a complaint against the Trinidads with the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Imus, Cavite1 for the cancellation of TCT T-316427 in the
latter s names. Subsequently, the complaint was amended to implead Metrobank and
sought the cancellation of the real estate mortgages over the property in its favor.
The Arguelleses denied having executed a deed of sale in favor of the Trinidads. They
alleged that they entrusted their owner s duplicate copy of title to Atty. Alejandro Saulog,
Sr., who assisted the parties in executing a conditional sale covering the land. The
Trinidads used a fictitious deed of sale, notarized by a certain Atty. Saulog, Jr. to effect
the transfer of title in their names.
In answer, the Trinidads claimed that they paid for the land by installments, completing
the payment on June 24, 1986 with the result that the Arguelleses executed the deed of
sale in their favor. For its part, Metrobank filed a cross-claim against the Trinidads for
litigation expenses, alleging that the Trinidads were answerable for such expenses under
the mortgage contracts.
In its decision of December 27, 2005 the RTC ruled in favor of the Arguelleses and
cancelled both the title in the name of the Trinidads and the mortgages in Metrobank s
favor. The primordial issue, said the RTC, was whether or not the Trinidads paid the
balance of the agreed purchase price by installments. It found that they did not since
they could not present proof of the payments they supposedly made. When asked on
cross-examination, Marilou Trinidad could not even remember when they made those
installment payments.
Two handwriting experts testified during the trial on the authenticity of the Arguelleses
signatures appearing on the deed of sale: 1) Atty. Desiderio Pagui whom the Arguelleses
hired and 2) Rogelio Azores of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). Their opinions
differed. Atty. Pagui concluded that the signatures were forged, while Azores maintained
that the signatures were authentic. The RTC adopted the conclusion of Atty. Pagui,
finding that he presented a more thorough and detailed analysis. He compared both
similarities and differences between the questioned signatures and specimen signatures;
whereas, Azores gave emphasis to the similarities.
In addition to annulling the Trinidads title, the RTC awarded the Arguelleses moral
damages of P 1,000,000.00 and attorney s fees of P 200,000.00. It denied Metrobank s
cross-claim against the Trinidads, holding that Metrobank was a mortgagee in bad faith,
having had prior notice of the irregularity in the Trinidads title. The defendants appealed
the decision to the Court of Appeals (CA).
In its decision of March 6, 2007, the CA affirmed that of the RTC but reduced the award of
moral damages to P 50,000.00 each in favor of Servando and Claudio Arguelles. As for
Metrobank, the CA held that it was not a mortgagee in good faith as it appears that
Metrobank compelled the Trinidads to acquire title over the property before the initial
loan could be approved.
The Trinidads filed their motion for reconsideration while Metrobank appealed the CA
Decision to this Court. Upon the denial of their motion, the Trinidads filed their own
petition with this Court as well. Both cases were then consolidated on November 21,
2007. During the pendency of these cases, Servando Arguelles passed away and was
substituted by his heirs.
The Issues Presented
The issues in these cases are:
1. Whether or not the CA erred in holding that the deed of sale, which the Arguelleses
supposedly executed and that the Trinidads used for the transfer of the property in their
names, was a falsified document; and
2. Whether or not the CA erred in holding that the real estate mortgages that the
Trinidads executed in favor of Metrobank are not binding on the Arguelleses.
The Court s Rulings
The key question in these cases is the authenticity of the deed of sale that the
Arguelleses supposedly executed in favor of the Trinidads and that the latter used in
transferring the property title in their names. Both the RTC and the CA held that the deed
was not authentic. Ordinarily, being a question of fact, the RTC s finding, affirmed by the
CA, carries great weight. But, here, since such finding appears to be based on a flawed
drawing of conclusions from the facts, the Court is justified in taking a second look.rll
The courts below concluded that the subject deed of sale is not authentic based on the
following:
1. The notary public who notarized the document could not recall if the Arguelleses
personally appeared and signed the deed of sale before him;
2. Two copies of the deed of sale, one dated 1986 and the other 1991, were presented;
3. The Trinidads failed to prove that they paid the Arguelleses the full purchase price
mentioned in the conditional sale; andc
4. The testimony of the expert witness for the Arguelleses sufficiently proved that the
two brothers signatures were forged.
law library
First. Both the RTC and the CA held that the presumption of regularity of a public
document did not attach to the subject deed of sale, given that the notary public, Atty.
Saulog, Jr. failed to establish the authenticity of the signatures on it. He could not
remember if the Arguelleses, present in court as he testified, were the same persons who
appeared and acknowledged the document before him.
But it is too much to expect a notary public who had but a brief time with the Arguelleses
during the notarial ceremony to remember their faces 12 years later. What matters is
Atty. Saulog, Jr. s testimony respecting the ritual of notarization that he invariably
followed. He gave unbending assurance that he ascertained the identities of the parties
to documents who appeared before him, including the Arguelleses, by requiring them to
show documentary proofs of the same and to sign the documents in his presence.rll
Besides, the theory of the Arguelleses is that it was Atty. Saulog, Jr. who facilitated the
preparation of the falsified deed of sale for the benefit of the Trinidads. But, if this were
so, it would have made more sense for Atty. Saulog, Jr. to testify in defense of the
genuineness of the transaction by claiming that he recalled the faces of those who
appeared before him 12 years ago and that they were no other than the Arguelleses.
Second. The Arguelleses point out that the residence certificates on the
acknowledgment portion of the deed of sale did not belong to them since these did not
tally with their 1991 residence certificates. Further, they presented evidence that Atty.
Saulog, Jr. did not have a notarial commission in 1991.
But two copies of the deed of sale were presented in this case, identical in every way
except that the first, the Trinidad s original copy of the deed of sale, Exhibit "4," carried
the date June 24, 1986 while the second, a certified copy of the deed of sale from the
Register of Deeds, Exhibit "D" of the Arguelleses, bore the date June 24, 1991. Evidently,
it is the first document, original, unblemished, and bearing the year 1986 that is the
correctly dated copy. On the other hand, the year typewritten on the second document,
the certified copy, had been crudely altered by erasure with the digits "91"
superimposed to make the year read "1991." In other words, the deed of sale was
executed in 1986, not 1991.
The Arguelleses merely claim that their residence certificate numbers on the copies of
the deed of sale did not reflect their 1991 residence certificates. They do not state,
however, that those numbers do not represent their 1986 residence certificates, the
correct year when the deed of sale was executed. Further, they do not also claim that
Atty. Saulog, Jr. did not have a notarial commission in 1986 the year that the clean deed
of sale was actually notarized.
Third. Both the RTC and the CA held that what is crucial in determining the authenticity
of the deed of sale is the question of whether or not the Trinidads paid the balance of the
purchase price after November 23, 1983. The two courts point out that the Trinidads not
only failed to present proof of payment, but Marilou Trinidad was also unable to say
specifically when they paid their installments to the Arguelleses.
But, firstly, the fact that Marilou Trinidad did not have any receipt evidencing payment of
the balance of the price cannot give rise to the assumption that they had not paid the
same. Marilou testified that she in fact asked the Arguelleses to issue receipts for the
payments made but the latter declined, saying that they would be executing a deed of
sale upon full payment and that this would be better proof of payment than ordinary
receipts. That the Trinidads trusted the Arguelleses sufficiently to waive the receipts is
evidenced by Claudio Arguelles own admission that they also did not issue any receipt
for the P 50,000.00 down payment that the Trinidads made.rll
Secondly, while the conditional sale contained an undertaking by the Trinidads to pay the
balance of the purchase price in installments, such payment may be assumed to have
been made from the fact that the Trinidads were subsequently found in possession of a
deed of sale that the Arguelleses executed in their favor. Not only this, unquestionably,
the Arguelleses gave up possession of their owner s duplicate copy of the title and this
subsequently found its way into the hands of the Trinidads. There can be no better proof
than these that the Trinidads had already paid their obligation to the Arguelleses. Indeed,
in 1991 the Trinidads succeeded in registering the title to the land in their names.
Actually, as plaintiffs, the Arguelleses carried the burden of proving the affirmative of
their claims (1) that the Trinidads had not fully paid for the land and (2) that they caused
the falsification of a deed of sale supposedly executed by the Arguelleses in their favor
and used it to transfer the title to the property in their names. Further, by the nature of
their action, the Arguelleses must rely on the strength of their evidence and not on the
weakness of the evidence of the defendants.rll
The Court finds it difficult to believe the Arguelleses version that the Trinidads did not
pay even one centavo of the P 396,720.00 balance of the purchase price that they
undertook to pay by installments. Consider the following:
A. If the Arguelleses were to be believed, they endured the fact that the Trinidads did not
bother to pay them even one installment after the down payment made in November
1983. The Arguelleses supposedly contented themselves with just waiting for when the
payment would come. And they did not bother to make any demand from 1983 to 1996
on the Trinidads for what was due them. Indeed, it was only after some 13 years that
Claudio Arguelles went to the Registry of Deeds to check on the standing of their title.
Incredible!
b. According to the Arguelleses, they turned over their owner s duplicate copy of the title
to Atty. Saulog, Sr. who assisted them in 1983 in preparing the conditional sale they
entered into with the Trinidads. But it makes no sense for the Arguelleses to entrust their
original title to Atty. Saulog, Sr. who was practically a stranger to them. And, although
the Trinidads supposedly failed for 13 years to pay the monthly installment due, they
made no effort to demand from the lawyer the return of their duplicate owner s copy of
the title.
c. The Arguelleses had all along been aware that the Trinidads took possession of the
land as early as 1983 after supposedly making a mere down payment. Claudio Arguelles
who lived about half a kilometer from the property, passed by it almost every day, and
observed the presence of the Trinidads on it and the fact they had built improvements.
Yet, Claudio never bothered to drop in and demand payments of what was due him and
his brother or ask the Trinidads to leave the property. Claudio s mere excuse was that he
was very busy.rll
d. Further, the Arguelleses ceased paying real estate taxes on the property after 1986.
The Trinidads were the ones who paid those taxes from 1987 to 1996. Only in 1997 when
the Arguelleses filed their action to recover the property did they begin to pay the taxes.
rll
law library
Fourth. Of two handwriting experts who examined the questioned signatures, Atty.
Desiderio Pagui and Rogelio Azores, both the RTC and the CA gave more credence to the
opinion of the first because he identified both the similarities and the differences and
gave more details. Pagui was a private handwriting expert that the Arguelleses
presented. Azores was an expert from the NBI.
In essence, Atty. Pagui gave the opinion that, whereas the specimen signatures were
clumsily written, the questioned signatures were done with greater dexterity. He imputed
the similarities between the two sets of signatures to simulation through practice.rll
Azores found, on the other hand, significant similarities between the questioned
signatures and the specimen: the structural pattern of elements, the directions of
strokes, and the manner of execution. He also observed allowable natural variations
between the sets of signatures. Finally, he held the view that there were no indications or
symptoms of forgery, such as hesitations and tremors in writing, and that the questioned
signatures were written with free and spontaneous strokes, made unconsciously without
attention given to the act of writing.rll
The RTC gave greater weight to the report of Atty. Pagui because it gave more details
and extensively discussed both differences and similarities between the questioned
signatures and specimen; whereas Azores focused mainly on the similarities.
But, while the trial court generally has discretion to determine the weight to be given to
an expert testimony, it erroneously disregarded Azores findings. Azores, as government
handwriting expert, was a neutral source of opinion. The Chief of the Questioned
Documents Division of the
NBI concurred in his findings. Azores findings should be treated as an official act
performed with accepted competence and cloaked with the mantle of impartiality and
neutrality. Atty. Pagui, on the other hand, was a private practitioner paid for by the
Arguelleses. It was but natural for him to support the position of his client, bringing up
tiny details to make up for lack of substance.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court concludes that the Arguelleses have failed to
overcome the presumed validity of the Trinidads title over the property in dispute.
Fifth. With the Court s above conclusion, there is no further need to determine whether
or not the real estate mortgages that the Trinidads executed in favor of Metrobank are
binding on the Arguelleses. They are, based on such conclusion.
WHEREFORE, the Court GRANTS the petitions, REVERSES and SETS ASIDE the
decision of the Court of Appeals dated March 6, 2007 and resolution dated August 8,
2007 in CA-G.R. CV 86714 as well as the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Imus,
Cavite in Civil Case 1465-97 dated December 27, 2005, and DENIES the action for the
annulment of Transfer Certificate of Title T-316427 of the Register of Deeds of the
Province of Cavite and of the real estate mortgages entered into by the Trinidad spouses
and Metrobank and the cross-claim of Metrobank.
SO ORDERED.

CASE NO. 4
A.C. No. 8384 : April 11, 2013
EFIGENIA M. TENOSO Complainant, v. ATTY. ANSELMO S. ECHANEZ, Respondent.
RESOLUTION
LEONEN, J.:
Etigenia M. Tenoso (complainant) tiled a complaint against Atty. Anselmo S. Echanez
(respondent) alleging that respondent was engaged in practice as a notary public in
Cordon, lsabela, without having been properly commissioned by the Regional Trial Court
(RTC) of Santiago City, Isabela. This is the RTC exercising jurisdiction over the
Municipality of Cordon.
This alleged act violates Rule III of the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice (A.M. No. 02-8-13-
SC). To support her allegations, complainant attached the following documents to her
pleadings:c
a. Two (2) documents signed and issued by RTC Santiago City Executive Judge Efren M.
Cacatian bearing the names of commissioned notaries public within the territorial
jurisdiction of the RTC of Santiago City for the years 2006 to 2007 and 2007 to 2008.
Respondent's name does not appear on either list;
b. Copies of ten (10) documents that appear to have been notarized by respondent in the
years 2006, 2007, and 2008; and
c. A copy of a certification issued by Judge Cacatian stating that a joint-affidavit
notarized by respondent in 2008 could not be "authenticated as to respondent's seal and
signature as NO Notarial Commission was issued upon him at the time of the document's
notarization."
In his two-page Answer, respondent denied the allegations saying, "I have never been
notarizing any document or pleadings" and added that he has "never committed any
malpractice, nor deceit nor have violated thelawyers (sic) oath". He dismissed such
allegations as being "preposterous, full of lies, politically motivated and x x x meant to
harass or intimidate him".
Also, he surmised that the documents annexed to the Affidavit-Complaint were
"tampered and adulterated," or that "somebody might have forged his signature." He
failed to attend the mandatory conference and likewise failed to file his Position Paper.
In his Report and Recommendation dated 29 September 2008, Investigating
Commissioner Atty. Salvador B. Hababag recommended that respondent be suspended
from the practice of law for six (6) months and disqualified from being commissioned as
a notary public for two (2) years for violating Rules 1.01 and 10.01 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility.
In a Resolution dated 11 December 2008, the IBP Board of Governors affirmed the
findings of the Investigating Commissioner but increased the penalty of suspension from
six (6) months to one (1) year. Respondent did not file a Motion for Reconsideration or
any other subsequent pleading.
On 12 August 2009, the IBP Board of Governors transmitted its Resolution to the
Supreme Court for its action following Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court.
The Court modifies the IBP Board of Governors' Resolution.
Complainant presented evidence supporting her allegation that respondent had
notarized various documents in Cordon, Isabela from 2006 to 2008 and that respondent's
name does not appear on the list of notaries public commissioned by the RTC of Santiago
City, Isabela for the years 2006 to 2007 and 2007 to 2008.
Respondent failed to present evidence to rebut complainant's allegations. Per Section 1,
Rule 131 of the Rules of Court, the burden of proof is vested upon the party who alleges
the truth of his claim or defense or any fact in issue. Thus, in Leave Division, Office of
Administrative Services, Office of the Court Administrator v. Gutierrez, where a party
resorts to bare denials and allegations and fails to submit evidence in support of his
defense, the determination that he committed the violation is sustained. Respondent
merely posited that the notarized documents presented by complainant were "tampered
and adulterated" or were results of forgery, but he failed to present any proof.
Respondent also resorted to a sweeping and unsupported statement that he never
notarized any document. Accordingly, the reasonable conclusion is that respondent
repeatedly notarized documents without the requisite notarial commission.
Time and again, this Court emphasizes that the practice of law is imbued with public
interest and that "a lawyer owes substantial duties not only to his client, but also to his
brethren in the profession, to the courts, and to the nation, and takes part in one of the
most important functions of the State - the administration of justice - as an officer of the
court." Accordingly, '"lawyers are bound to maintain not only a high standard of legal
proficiency, but also of morality, honesty, integrity and fair dealing."
Similarly, the duties of notaries public are dictated by public policy and impressed with
public interest. "Notarization is not a routinary, meaningless act, for notarization
converts a private document to a public instrument, making it admissible in evidence
without the necessity of preliminary proof of its authenticity and due execution."
In misrepresenting himself as a notary public, respondent exposed party-litigants, courts,
other lawyers and the general public to the perils of ordinary documents posing as public
instruments. As noted by the Investigating Commissioner, respondent committed acts of
deceit and falsehood in open violation of the explicit pronouncements of the Code of
Professional Responsibility. Evidently, respondent's conduct falls miserably short of the
high standards of morality, honesty, integrity and fair dealing required from lawyers. It is
proper that he be sanctioned.
WHEREFORE, We find Atty. Anselmo S. Echanez guilty of engaging in notarial practice
without a notarial commission, and accordingly, We SUSPEND him from the practice of
law for two (2) years and DISQUALIFY him from being commissioned as a notary public
for two (2) years. He is warned that a repetition of the same or similar act in the future
shall merit a more severe sanction.
SO ORDERED.

CASE NO. 5
A.C. No. 9514 April 10, 2013
BERNARD N. JANDOQUILE, Complainant, vs. ATTY. QUIRINO P. REVILLA, JR.,
Respondent.
RESOLUTION
VILLARAMA, JR., J.:
Before us is a complaint for disbarment filed by complainant Bernard N. Jandoquile
against respondent Atty. Quirino P. Revilla, Jr.
The Facts of the case are not disputed.
Atty. Revilla, Jr. notarized a complaint-affidavit signed by Heneraline L. Brosas, Herizalyn
Brosas Pedrosa and Elmer L. Alvarado. Heneraline Brosas is a sister of Heizel Wynda
Brosas Revilla, Atty. Revilla, Jr.'s wife. Jandoquile complains that Atty. Revilla, Jr. is
disqualified to perform the notarial act per Section 3( c), Rule IV of the 2004 Rules on
Notarial Practice which reads as follows:
SEC. 3. Disqualifications. A notary public is disqualified from performing a notarial act if
he:
xxxx
(c) is a spouse, common-law partner, ancestor, descendant, or relative by affinity or
consanguinity of the principal within the fourth civil degree.
Jandoquile also complains that Atty. Revilla, Jr. did not require the three affiants in the
complaint-affidavit to show their valid identification cards.
In his comment to the disbarment complaint, Atty. Revilla, Jr. did not deny but admitted
Jandoquiles material allegations. The issue, according to Atty. Revilla, Jr., is whether the
single act of notarizing the complaint-affidavit of relatives within the fourth civil degree
of affinity and, at the same time, not requiring them to present valid identification cards
is a ground for disbarment. Atty. Revilla, Jr. submits that his act is not a ground for
disbarment. He also says that he acts as counsel of the three affiants; thus, he should be
considered more as counsel than as a notary public when he notarized their complaint-
affidavit. He did not require the affiants to present valid identification cards since he
knows them personally. Heneraline Brosas and Herizalyn Brosas Pedrosa are sisters-in-
law while Elmer Alvarado is the live-in houseboy of the Brosas family.
Since the facts are not contested, the Court deems it more prudent to resolve the case
instead of referring it to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for investigation.
Indeed, Atty. Revilla, Jr. violated the disqualification rule under Section 3(c), Rule IV of the
2004 Rules on Notarial Practice. We agree with him, however, that his violation is not a
sufficient ground for disbarment.
Atty. Revilla, Jr.s violation of the aforesaid disqualification rule is beyond dispute. Atty.
Revilla, Jr. readily admitted that he notarized the complaint-affidavit signed by his
relatives within the fourth civil degree of affinity. Section 3(c), Rule IV of the 2004 Rules
on Notarial Practice clearly disqualifies him from notarizing the complaint-affidavit, from
performing the notarial act, since two of the affiants or principals are his relatives within
the fourth civil degree of affinity. Given the clear provision of the disqualification rule, it
behooved upon Atty. Revilla, Jr. to act with prudence and refuse notarizing the document.
We cannot agree with his proposition that we consider him to have acted more as
counsel of the affiants, not as notary public, when he notarized the complaint-affidavit.
The notarial certificate at the bottom of the complaint-affidavit shows his signature as a
notary public, with a notarial commission valid until December 31, 2012.
He cannot therefore claim that he signed it as counsel of the three affiants.
On the second charge, we agree with Atty. Revilla, Jr. that he cannot be held liable. If the
notary public knows the affiants personally, he need not require them to show their valid
identification cards. This rule is supported by the definition of a "jurat" under Section 6,
Rule II of the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice. A "jurat" refers to an act in which an
individual on a single occasion: (a) appears in person before the notary public and
presents an instrument or document; (b) is personally known to the notary public or
identified by the notary public through competent evidence of identity; (c) signs the
instrument or document in the presence of the notary; and (d) takes an oath or
affirmation before the notary public as to such instrument or document. In this case,
Heneraline Brosas is a sister of Atty. Revilla, Jr.s wife; Herizalyn Brosas Pedrosa is his
wifes sister-in-law; and Elmer Alvarado is the live-in houseboy of the Brosas family. Atty.
Revilla, Jr. knows the three affiants personally. Thus, he was justified in no longer
requiring them to show valid identification cards. But Atty. Revilla, Jr. is not without fault
for failing to indicate such fact in the "jurat" of the complaint-affidavit. No statement was
included therein that he knows the three affiants personally. Let it be impressed that Atty.
Revilla, Jr. was clearly disqualified to notarize the complaint-affidavit of his relatives
within the fourth civil degree of affinity. While he has a valid defense as to the second
charge, it does not exempt him from liability for violating the disqualification rule.
As we said, Atty. Revilla, Jr.s violation of the disqualification rule under Section 3(c), Rule
IV of the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice is not a sufficient ground to disbar him. To our
mind, Atty. Revilla, Jr. did not commit any deceit, malpractice, gross misconduct or gross
immoral conduct, or any other serious ground for disbarment under Section 27, Rule 138
of the Rules of Court. We recall the case of Maria v. Cortez where we reprimanded Cortez
and disqualified him from being commissioned as notary public for six months. We were
convinced that said punishment, which is less severe than disbarment, would already
suffice as sanction for Cortezs violation. In Cortez, we noted the prohibition in Section
2(b), Rule IV of the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice that a person shall not perform a
notarial act if the person involved as signatory to the instrument or document (1) is not
in the notarys presence personally at the time of the notarization and (2) is not
personally known to the notary public or otherwise identified by the notary public
through a competent evidence of identity. Cortez had notarized a special power of
attorney without having the alleged signatories appear before him. In imposing the less
severe punishment, we were mindful that removal from the Bar should not really be
decreed when any punishment less severe such as reprimand, temporary suspension or
fine would accomplish the end desired.
Considering the attendant circumstances and the single violation committed by Atty.
Revilla, Jr., we are in agreement that a punishment less severe than disbarment would
suffice.
WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Quirino P. Revilla, Jr., is REPRIMANDED and DISQUALIFIED
from being commissioned as a notary public, or from performing any notarial act if he is
presently commissioned as a notary public, for a period of three (3) months. Atty. Revilla,
Jr. is further DIRECTED to INFORM the Court, through an affidavit, once the period of his
disqualification has lapsed.
SO ORDERED.

CASE NO. 6
A.C. No. 8761 February 12, 2014
WILBERTO C. TALISIC, Complainant, vs. ATTY. PRIMO R. RINEN, Respondent.
RESOLUTION
REYES, J.:
This is an administrative case instituted by complainant Wilberto C. Talisic (Wilberto)
against Atty. Primo R. Rinen (Atty. Rinen), charging the latter with falsification of an Extra
Judicial Partition with Sale which allowed the transfer to spouses Benjamin Durante and
Eleonor Lavifia (Spouses Durante) of a parcel of land formerly owned by Wilberto's
mother, Aurora Corpuz (Aurora). The property, measuring 3,817 square meters and
situated in Barangay Langgas, Infanta, Quezon, was formerly covered by Original
Certificate of Title No. P-4875 under Aurora's name. After Atty. Rinen filed his comment
on the complaint, the Court referred the case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
(IBP), Commission on Bar Discipline, for investigation, report and recommendation.
Wilberto claimed that his mother Aurora died on May 7, 1987, leaving behind as heirs her
spouse, Celedonio Talisic, and their three children, namely: Arlene Talisic Villarazo,
Wilberto and Alvin Corpuz Talisic. It was only after his fathers death on November 2,
2000 that Wilberto and his siblings knew of the transfer of the subject parcel via the
subject deed. While Wilberto believed that his fathers signature on the deed was
authentic, his and his siblings supposed signatures were merely forged. Wilberto also
pointed out that even his name was erroneously indicated in the deed as "Wilfredo".
For his defense, Atty. Rinen denied the charge against him and explained that it was only
on April 7, 1994 that he came to know of the transaction between the Spouses Durante
and the Talisics, when they approached him in his office as the then Presiding Judge of
the Municipal Trial Court, Real, Quezon, to have the subject deed prepared and notarized.
His clerk of court prepared the deed and upon its completion, ushered the parties to his
office for the administration of oath. The deed contained his certification that at the time
of the documents execution, "no notary public was available to expedite the transaction
of the parties." Notarial fees paid by the parties were also covered by a receipt issued by
the Treasurer of the Municipality of Real, Quezon.
After due proceedings, Investigating Commissioner Felimon C. Abelita III (Commissioner
Abelita) issued the Report and Recommendation dated November 20, 2012 for the
cancellation of Atty. Rinens notarial commission and his suspension from notarial
practice for a period of one year. The report indicated that per Atty. Rinens admission,
the subject deed was prepared in his office and acknowledged before him. Although
there was no evidence of forgery on his part, he was negligent in not requiring from the
parties to the deed their presentation of documents as proof of identity. Atty. Rinens
failure to properly satisfy his duties as a notary public was also shown by the
inconsistencies in the dates that appear on the deed, to wit: "1994 as to the execution;
1995 when notarized; [and] entered as Series of 1992 in the notarial book x x x."
In the meantime, Atty. Rinen filed a motion for reconsideration of Commissioner Abelitas
recommendation. The IBP Board of Governors, nonetheless, adopted and approved on
March 20, 2013, via Resolution No. XX-2013-247, the Investigating Commissioners
Report and Recommendation.
The Court agrees with the findings and recommendations of the IBP.
"[F]aithful observance and utmost respect of the legal solemnity of the oath in an
acknowledgment or jurat is sacrosanct." "The notarization of a document carries
considerable legal effect. Notarization of a private document converts such document
into a public one, and renders it admissible in court without further proof of its
authenticity. Thus, notarization is not an empty routine; to the contrary, it engages public
interest in a substantial degree x x x."
It must then be stressed that, "a notary publics function should not be trivialized and a
notary public must discharge his powers and duties which are impressed with public
interest, with accuracy and fidelity." Towards this end, the Court emphasized in Bautista
v. Atty. Bernabe that "[a] notary public should not notarize a document unless the
persons who signed the same are the very same persons who executed and personally
appeared before him to attest to the contents and truth of what are stated therein. The
presence of the parties to the deed will enable the notary public to verify the
genuineness of the signature of the affiant."
In the present case, Atty. Rinen did not deny his failure to personally verify the identity of
all parties who purportedly signed the subject document and whom, as he claimed,
appeared before him on April 7, 1994. Such failure was further shown by the fact that the
pertinent details of the community tax certificates of Wilberto and his sister, as proof of
their identity, remained unspecified in the subject deeds acknowledgment portion.
Clearly, there was a failure on the part of Atty. Rinen to exercise the due diligence that
was required of him as a notary public ex-officio. The lapses he committed in relation to
such function then justified the recommendations presented by the IBP.
The fact that Atty. Rinen was a trial court judge during the time that he administered the
oath for the subject deed did not relieve him of compliance with the same standards and
obligations imposed upon other commissioned notaries public. He also could not have
simply relied on his clerk of court to perform the responsibilities attached to his function,
especially as it pertained to ensuring that the parties to the document were then
present, performing an act that was of their own free will and deed. "Notarization is not
an empty, meaningless, routinary act. It is invested with substantive public interest, such
that only those who are qualified or authorized may act as notaries public." It converts a
private document into a public one, making it admissible in court without further proof of
its authenticity. Thus, "notaries public must observe with utmost care the basic
requirements in the performance of their duties." Otherwise, the confidence of the public
in the integrity of public instruments would be undermined.
WHEREFORE, as recommended by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the Court
REVOKES the notarial commission which Atty. Primo R. Rinen may presently have, and
DISQUALIFIES him from being commissioned as a notary public for one year, effective
immediately. He is WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar act in the future shall
merit a more severe sanction. He is DIRECTED to report to this Court the date of his
receipt of this Resolution to enable it to determine when the revocation of his notarial
commission and his disqualification from being commissioned as notary public shall take
effect.
Let copies of this Resolution be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant to be appended
to Atty. Primo R. Rinen's personal record. Likewise, copies shall be furnished to the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines and all courts in the country for their information and
guidance.
SO ORDERED.
CASE NO. 7
A.C. No. 8101 February 4, 2015
MELANIO S. SALITA, Complainant, vs. ATTY. REYNALDO T. SALVE, Respondent.
RESOLUTION
PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:
This instant administrative case arose from an Affidavit-Complaint filed by complainant
Melania S. Salita (Salita) against respondent Atty. Reynaldo T. Salve (Atty. Salve) in
connection with the latter's alleged falsification of public documents.
The Facts
On December 14, 2002, Salita - the registered owner of a parcel of land located at
Visayan Village, Tagum City with Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-67850 (subject
property) - applied for a loan from one Jocelyn Rodriguez (Rodriguez) in the amount of
P50,000.00 and, in such regard, signed blank documents, including an "incomplete"
Promissory Note (PN). Subsequently, he restructured the aforesaid loan and further
signed several documents prepared by the latter, including two (2) Real Estate Mortgage
Agreements dated November 9, 2005 and November 18, 2005 (REM instruments), and a
pre-formed Deed of Absolute Sale covering the subject property as collateral.
On November 15, 2006, Salita was able to pay his loan in full as evidenced by a Release
of Real Estate Mortgage executed by Rodriguez before Notary Public Buenaventura
Melendres, which was later duly entered in the Register of Deeds of Davao Del Norte.
Notwithstanding such full payment, Rodriguez, on September 17, 2007, instituted an
ejectment complaint against Salita before the Office of the Barangay of Visayan Village,
Tagum City, presenting in furtherance of his cause the pre-formed Deed of Absolute Sale
and the two (2) REM instruments signed by the latter. Upon checking the said
documents, Salita discovered that the Deed of Absolute Sale had already been notarized
by Atty. Salve and his Community Tax Certificate Numbers were allegedly falsified.
During a Barangay Conciliation proceeding, Rodriguez presented the same documents to
reinforce her claims. Salita, for his part, noticed that one copy of the Deed of Sale was
purportedly notarized on August 12, 2007, while another was notarized a month later, or
on September 12, 2007. Thus, Salita went on to conclude that because of the foregoing
events, it appeared as if he had sold the subject property to Rodriguez and executed the
same before Atty. Salve. Aggrieved, Salita filed a criminal case for falsification of public
documents against Rodriguez and Atty. Salve. Salita likewise filed the instant
administrative case against Atty. Salve.
In his defense, Atty. Salve vehemently denied that he falsified the Deed of Absolute Sale.
He averred that the said document was regular on its face except the month of sale, i.e.,
August 12, 2007 instead of September 12, 2007, which is a mere clerical error due to
"sheer" inadvertence on the part of his secretary. Accounting for such, Atty. Salve
claimed that the date stamp accidentally slid to August instead of September as it was
also being used by three (3) other office clerks and two (2) lawyers for other office
documents. Atty. Salve further narrated that both Salita and Rodriguez went to him and
brought the PN and other loan documents executed by Salita himself. He also clarified
that the PN was notarized in their presence on December 12, 2002 and both got a copy
right after. Atty. Salve then inferred that it was Salita who erased the PNs machine
printed numbers using his own handwriting and thereafter photocopied it to make it
appear that the document was not among the notarial documents he submitted to the
Office of the Clerk of Court of Tagum City for the year 2002. Finally, Atty. Salve averred
that the certified electronic copies of the PN in the Office of the Clerk of Court of Tagum
City and the ones in his law office are identical and the same, while Salitas alleged
falsified photocopy is totally different.
The IBP Report and Recommendation
In a Report and Recommendation dated January 4, 2010, the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP) Investigating Commissioner dismissed Salitas complaint for lack of
merit. He found that Salita was not able to obtain the required quantum of proof to hold
Atty. Salve administratively liable, especially considering that Salitas criminal complaint
was dismissed for lack of probable cause.
In a Resolution dated December 29, 2012 (December 29, 2012 Resolution), the IBP Board
of Governors adopted and approved the IBP Investigating Commissioners Report and
Recommendation dismissing the case for lack of merit.
On reconsideration, however, the IBP Board of Governors issued a Resolution dated
March 8, 2014 (March 8,2014 Resolution) setting aside its December 29, 2012 Resolution
and accordingly, recommended the suspension of Atty. Salves notarial commission for a
period of three (3) months. It, however, failed to state the reasons for imposing the
suspension.
The Issue Before the Court
The sole issue for the Courts resolution is whether or not Atty. Salve should be held
administratively liable.
The Courts Ruling
The Court rules in the affirmative.
Before delving on the merits, the Court finds it proper to first call out the IBP for failing to
articulate the reasons behind its resolution. Section 12 (a), Rule 139-B of the Rules of
Court mandates that the decision of the IBP Board of Governors shall clearly and
distinctly state the facts and the reasons on which it is based:
SEC. 12. Review and decision by the Board of Governors. (a) Every case heard by an
investigator shall be reviewed by the IBP Board of Governors upon the record and
evidence transmitted to it by the Investigator with his report. The decision of the Board
upon such review shall be in writing and shall clearly and distinctly state the facts and
the reasons on which it is based. It shall be promulgated within a period not exceeding
thirty (30) days from the next meeting of the Board following the submittal of the
Investigators Report. (Emphasis supplied) Section 12 (b), Rule 139-B of the Rules of
Court further states that:
SEC. 12. Review and decision by the Board of Governors. x x x
xxxx
(b) If the Board, by the vote of a majority of its total membership, determines that the
respondent should be suspended from the practice of law or disbarred, it shall issue a
resolution setting forth its findings and recommendations which, together with the whole
record of the case, shall forthwith be transmitted to the Supreme Court for final action.
(Emphasis supplied)
Notably, although the IBPs recommendation only covers herein respondents notarial
commission and not his license to practice law, still, in view of the necessary connection
between the two (for only members of the Bar in good standing may be commissioned
as notaries public), the Court equally exhorts compliance with the preceding provision
requiring the IBP Board of Governors to set forth its findings, both of fact and law, and its
recommendations in the resolution it submits to this Court for final action.
With its March 8, 2014 Resolution barren of any reason to support the proffered
recommendation, said body had clearly failed to comply with the foregoing provisions.
Thus, it is strongly prompted to be ever-mindful of the above-mentioned rules.
Be that as it may, the Court takes up the cudgels and explains the reasons warranting
the suspension of Atty. Salves notarial commission.
To recount, records reveal that Rodriguez used, among others, the Deed of Absolute Sale
notarized by Atty. Salve to file an ejectment complaint against Salita. However, it must
be remembered that Salita was merely made to sign such document as collateral for his
loan and that he had already fully paid the same, as evidenced by the notarized Release
of Real Estate Mortgage executed by Rodriguez herself. Considering the circumstances, it
is simply unfathomable for Salita to appear before Atty. Salve to have the said document
notarized, as it will be detrimental to his own interests. Hence, the Court finds that Atty.
Salve notarized the pre-formed Deed of Absolute Sale without Salitas presence before
him.
Verily, a notary public should not notarize a document unless the persons who signed the
same are the very same persons who executed and personally appeared before him to
attest to the contents and the truth of what are stated therein. These acts of the affiants
cannot be delegated because what are stated therein are facts they have personal
knowledge of and are personally sworn to. Otherwise, their representatives names
should appear in the said documents as the ones who executed the same.
The function of a notary public is, among others, to guard against any illegal or immoral
arrangements. By affixing his notarial seal on the instrument, he converted the Deed of
Absolute Sale, from a private document into a public document. In doing so, Atty. Salve,
as borne from the records of this case, effectively proclaimed to the world that: (a) all the
parties therein personally appeared before him; (b) they are all personally known to him;
(c) they were the same persons who executed the instruments; (d) he inquired into the
voluntariness of execution of the instrument; and (e) they acknowledged personally
before him that they voluntarily and freely executed the same. As a lawyer
commissioned to be a notary public, Atty. Salve is mandated to discharge his sacred
duties with faithful observance and utmost respect for the legal solemnity of an oath in
an acknowledgment or jurat. Having failed in this regard, he must now accept the
commensurate consequences of his professional indiscretion. His act of certifying under
oath an irregular Deed of Absolute Sale without requiring the personal appearance of the
persons executing the same constitutes gross negligence in the performance of duty as a
notary public.
In the case of Atty. Dela Cruz v. Atty. Zabala, the Court revoked the errant lawyers
notarial commission and disqualified him from being commissioned as such for a period
of two (2) years for similarly committing gross negligence in the performance of his duty
as a notary public through his failure to ascertain the identities of the persons executing
the Deed of Absolute sale he notarized. Thus, due to the infractions relative
comparability, the Court finds it apt to impose the same against Atty. Salve, thereby
effectively modifying the suspension initially recommended by the IBP.
As a final point, it bears noting that unlike the aforesaid misdeed which palpably
appears from the records the Court expresses its concurrence with the IBP Investigating
Commissioners finding that Atty. Salve should nevertheless be absolved from the
falsification charges against him. Suffice it to state that Salita failed to prove the
allegations against Atty. Salve, especially considering the resolutions in the criminal case
against the latter finding no probable cause to indict him of the crime of Falsification of
Public Documents. That being said, only Atty. Salves administrative liability for gross
negligence in his conduct as a notary public stands. WHEREFORE, respondent Atty.
Reynaldo T. Salve is found GUILTY of gross negligence in his conduct as a notary public.
His notarial commission, if still existing, is hereby REVOKED and he is DISQUALIFIED from
being commissioned as a notary public for a period of two (2) years.
Let copies of this Resolution be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, to be appended
to respondent's personal record as attorney. Further, let copies of this Resolution be
furnished the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Office of the Court Administrator,
which is directed to circulate them to all courts in the country for their information and
guidance.
SO ORDERED.

CASE NO. 8
A.C. No. 5482, February 10, 2015
JIMMY ANUDON AND JUANITA ANUDON, Complainants, v. ATTY. ARTURO B. CEFRA,
Respondent.
RESOLUTION
LEONEN, J.:
Whoever acts as Notary Public must ensure that the parties executing the document be
present. Otherwise, their participation with respect to the document cannot be
acknowledged. Notarization of a document in the absence of the parties is a breach of
duty.

Complainants Jimmy Anudon (Jimmy) and Juanita Anudon (Juanita) are brother- and
sister-in-law. Complainants and Jimmys brothers and sister co-own a 4,446-square-
meter parcel of land located in Sison, Pangasinan covered by Transfer Certificate of Title
(TCT) No. 69244.

Respondent Atty. Arturo B. Cefra (Atty. Cefra) is a distant relative of Jimmy and Juanita.
He was admitted to the bar in 1996. He practices law and provides services as notary
public in the Municipality of Sison, Pangasinan.

On August 12, 1998, Atty. Cefra notarized a Deed of Absolute Sale over a land covered
by TCT No. 69244. The names of Johnny Anudon (Johnny), Alfonso Anudon (Alfonso),
Benita Anudon-Esguerra (Benita), and complainants Jimmy and Juanita appeared as
vendors, while the name of Celino Paran, Jr. (Paran) appeared as the vendee.
Jimmy and Juanita claimed that the Deed of Absolute Sale was falsified. They alleged
that they did not sign the Deed of Absolute Sale. Moreover, they did not sign it before
Atty. Cefra. The National Bureau of Investigations Questioned Documents Division
certified that Jimmy and Juanitas signatures were forged. This is contrary to Atty. Cefras
acknowledgment over the document, which states:

BEFORE ME, a Notary Public for and in the Munici[pa]lity of Sison, personally appeared
JOHNNY ANUDON, ALFONSO ANUDON, BENITA ESGUERRA, JIMMY ANUDON and JUANITA
ANUDON, who exhibited to me their respective Community Tax Certificates as above-
indicated, known to me and known to be the same persons who executed the foregoing
Deed of Absolute Sale and acknowledged to me that the same is their free act and
voluntary deed.

This instrument, which refers to a Deed of Absolute Sale over a parcel of lot, consists of
two pages and have [sic] been signed by the parties and the respective witnesses on
each and every page thereof.

WITNESS MY HAND AND SEAL THIS 12TH DAY OF AUGUST, 1998.

(Sgd.)
ARTURO B. CEFRA
Notary Public
Until December 31, 1999
PTR NO. 2461164; 1-7-98
SISON, PANGASINAN

In addition to the forgery of their signatures, Jimmy and Juanita stated that it was
physically impossible for their brothers and sister, Johnny, Alfonso, and Benita, to sign
the Deed of Absolute Sale. Johnny and Benita were in the United States on the day the
Deed of Absolute Sale was executed, while Alfonso was in Cavite.

Due to the forgery of the Deed of Absolute Sale, the Assistant Provincial Prosecutor, with
Jimmy and Juanita as witnesses, filed a case of falsification of public document against
Atty. Cefra and Paran.

Jimmy and Juanita also initiated a disciplinary action by filing a Complaint with this court
on August 6, 2001 questioning the propriety of Atty. Cefras conduct as lawyer and
notary public.

In the Resolution dated September 19, 2001, this court required Atty. Cefra to comment
on the administrative complaint. Atty. Cefra filed multiple Motions for Extension of Time,
which this court granted. Despite the allowance for extension of time, Atty. Cefra did not
comply with this courts order to file a Comment. This court fined Atty. Cefra in the
Resolutions dated March 12, 2003 and November 17, 2003. In both Resolutions, this
court directed Atty. Cefra to file his Comment.

Atty. Cefras continued refusal to file his Comment caused this court to order his arrest
and commitment. Thus, the National Bureau of Investigations agents arrested Atty.
Cefra at his residence on January 14, 2007.
Atty. Cefra finally submitted his Comment on January 15, 2008.

In his defense, Atty. Cefra stated that Jimmy and Juanita were aware of the sale of the
property covered by TCT No. 69244. He narrated that on July 10, 1998, Juanita and
Jimmys wife Helen Anudon went to his residence to consult him on how they could sell
the land covered by TCT No. 69244 to Paran. Atty. Cefra claimed that he assisted in the
preparation of the documents for the sale, which included the deed of sale and the
acknowledgment receipts for payment.

On August 13, 1998, Parans relatives, Viola Carantes and Lita Paran, brought the Deed
of Absolute Sale to the residences of Jimmy, Juanita, and Johnnys son, Loejan Anudon
(Loejan) to have the document signed. Viola Carantes and Lita Paran informed Atty.
Cefra that they witnessed Jimmy, Juanita, and Loejan sign the document. Loejan affixed
the signatures for his father, Johnny, and his uncle and aunt, Alfonso and Benita.

Atty. Cefra admitted knowing that Loejan affixed the signatures of Johnny, Alfonso, and
Benita with the full knowledge and permission of the three[.] He allowed this on the
basis of his belief that this was justified since Loejan needed the proceeds of the sale for
the amputation of his mothers leg. It clearly appeared that Loejan forged the three (3)
signatures. Loejan did not have formal authorization to sign on behalf of his father,
uncle, and aunt.

According to Atty. Cefra, he notarized the questioned document in good faith, trusting in
[complainants] words and pronouncements; with the only purpose of helping them out
legally and financially[.]

After receiving Atty. Cefras Comment, this court referred the case to the Integrated Bar
of the Philippines for investigation, report, and recommendation.

During the investigation of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Juanita appeared
without any counsel and manifested her intention to solicit the services of the Public
Attorneys Office. She also informed the Investigating Commissioner that her co-
complainant, Jimmy, had already passed away. The mandatory conference was held on
February 20, 2009. On the same day, the Investigating Commissioner issued an Order
terminating the mandatory conference and requiring the parties to submit their
respective Position Papers.

The Investigating Commissioner found that Atty. Cefras conduct in notarizing the Deed
of Absolute Sale violated the Notarial Law. In addition, Atty. Cefra violated Canon 1 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility, which requires that [a] lawyer shall uphold the
Constitution, obey the laws of the land and promote respect for law and legal processes.

Hence, the Investigating Commissioner recommended the revocation of Atty. Cefras


notarial commission and the disqualification of Atty. Cefra from reappointment as notary
public for two (2) years. The Investigating Commissioner also recommended the penalty
of suspension from the practice of law for six (6) months.

In Resolution No. XIX-2011-249 dated May 14, 2011, the Board of Governors of the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines resolved to adopt the report and recommendation of the
Investigating Commissioner. However, they recommended that the penalty imposed on
Atty. Cefra be modifed:c
Atty. Arturo B. Cefra is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for one (1) year and
immediate Revocation of his Notarial Commission and Perpetual Disqualification
from re-appointment as Notary Public. (Emphasis in the original)

Atty. Cefra filed a Motion for Reconsideration, asking the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
to temper the recommended penalty against him. In Resolution No. XXI-2014-93 dated
March 21, 2014, the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines proposed
to lower its original penalty against Atty. Cefra:c

Atty. Arturo B. Cefra [is] SUSPENDED from the practice of law for one (1) year, his
notarial practice, if presently existing, immediately REVOKED and his notarial
practice SUSPENDED for two (2) years. (Emphasis in the original)c

On September 9, 2014, the Office of the Bar Confidant reported that both parties no
longer filed a Petition for Review of Resolution No. XXI-2014-93.

We agree and adopt the findings of fact of the Investigating Commissioner. Respondent
Atty. Arturo B. Cefra violated the Notarial Law and the Code of Professional Responsibility
in notarizing a document without requiring the presence of the affiants.

The notarization of documents ensures the authenticity and reliability of a document. As


this court previously explained:

Notarization of a private document converts such document into a public one, and
renders it admissible in court without further proof of its authenticity. Courts,
administrative agencies and the public at large must be able to rely upon the
acknowledgment executed by a notary public and appended to a private instrument.
Notarization is not an empty routine; to the contrary, it engages public interest in a
substantial degree and the protection of that interest requires preventing those who are
not qualified or authorized to act as notaries public from imposing upon the public and
the courts and administrative offices generally. (Citation omitted)

The earliest law on notarization is Act No. 2103. This law refers specifically to the
acknowledgment and authentication of instruments and documents. Section 1(a) of this
law states that an acknowledgment shall be made before a notary public or an officer
duly authorized by law of the country to take acknowledgments of instruments or
documents in the place where the act is done.

The 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice reiterates that acknowledgments require the affiant
to appear in person before the notary public. Rule II, Section 1 states:

SECTION 1. Acknowledgment.Acknowledgment refers to an act in which an individual


on a single occasion:

(a) appears in person before the notary public and presents and integrally
complete instrument or document;
(b) is attested to be personally known to the notary public or identified by the notary
public through competent evidence of identity as defined by these Rules; and
(c) represents to the notary public that the signature on the instrument or
document was voluntarily affixed by him for the purposes stated in the instrument
or document, declares that he has executed the instrument or document as his free and
voluntary act and deed, and, if he acts in a particular representative capacity, that he
has the authority to sign in that capacity. (Emphasis supplied)

Rule IV, Section 2(b) states further:


SEC. 2. Prohibitions. . . .
(b) A person shall not perform a notarial act if the person involved as signatory to the
instrument or document
(1) is not in the notarys presence personally at the time of the notarization; and
(2) is not personally known to the notary public or otherwise identified by the notary
public through competent evidence of identity as defined by these Rules.

The rules require the notary public to assess whether the person executing the
document voluntarily affixes his or her signature. Without physical presence, the notary
public will not be able to properly execute his or her duty under the law. In Gamido v.
New Bilibid Prisons Officials, we stated that [i]t is obvious that the party acknowledging
must . . . appear before the notary public[.] Furthermore, this court pronounced that:

[a] document should not be notarized unless the persons who are executing it are the
very same ones who are personally appearing before the notary public. The affiants
should be present to attest to the truth of the contents of the document and to enable
the notary to verify the genuineness of their signature. Notaries public are enjoined from
notarizing a fictitious or spurious document. In fact, it is their duty to demand that the
document presented to them for notarization be signed in their presence. Their function
is, among others, to guard against illegal deeds. (Citations omitted)

Notarization is the act that ensures the public that the provisions in the document
express the true agreement between the parties. Transgressing the rules on notarial
practice sacrifices the integrity of notarized documents. It is the notary public who
assures that the parties appearing in the document are the same parties who executed
it. This cannot be achieved if the parties are not physically present before the notary
public acknowledging the document.

Atty. Cefra claims that Jimmy and Juanita wanted to sell their land. Even if this is true,
Jimmy and Juanita, as vendors, were not able to review the document given for
notarization. The Deed of Absolute Sale was brought to Atty. Cefra by Parans
representatives, who merely informed Atty. Cefra that the vendors signed the document.
Atty. Cefra should have exercised vigilance and not just relied on the representations of
the vendee.

It is possible that the terms and conditions favorable to the vendors might not be in the
document submitted by the vendee for notarization. In addition, the possibility of
forgery became real.

In Isenhardt v. Atty. Real, Linco v. Atty. Lacebal, Lanuzo v. Atty. Bongon, and Bautista v.
Atty. Bernabe, the respondent notaries were all guilty of notarizing documents without
the presence of the parties. In Linco, Lanuzo, and Bautista, the respondents notarized
documents even if the persons executing those documents were already dead at the
time of notarization. In Bautista, the respondent, like Atty. Cefra, also allowed another
individual to sign on behalf of another despite lack of authorization. In these cases, this
court imposed the penalty of disqualification as notaries for two (2) years and
suspension from the practice of law for one (1) year.

In the recent case of De Jesus v. Atty. Sanchez-Malit, the respondent-lawyer notarized 22


public documents even without the signatures of the parties on those documents. This
court suspended the respondent-lawyer from the practice of law for one (1) year and
perpetually disqualified her from being a notary public.

Aside from Atty. Cefras violation of his duty as a notary public, Atty. Cefra is also guilty of
violating Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. This canon requires [a]
lawyer [to] uphold the Constitution, obey the laws of the land and promote respect for
law and legal processes. He contumaciously delayed compliance with this courts order
to file a Comment. As early as September 19, 2001, this court already required Atty.
Cefra to comment on the Complaint lodged against him. Atty. Cefra did not comply with
this order until he was arrested by the National Bureau of Investigation. Atty. Cefra only
filed his Comment on January 15, 2008, more than seven years after this courts order.
Atty. Cefras actions show utter disrespect for legal processes.

The act of disobeying a court order constitutes violation of Canon 11 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility, which requires a lawyer to observe and maintain the respect
due to the courts[.]

Under Rule 138, Section 27, paragraph 1 of the Rules of Court, wilful disobedience of
any lawful order of a superior court constitutes a ground for disbarment or suspension
from the practice of law. Atty. Cefras disobedience to this courts directive issued in
2001 was not explained even as he eventually filed his Comment in 2008. Clearly, his
disobedience was willful and inexcusable. Atty. Cefra should be penalized for this
infraction.

In Sebastian v. Atty. Bajar, this court suspended a lawyer who refused to comply with this
courts directives to submit a Rejoinder and to comment on complainants Manifestation.
The lawyer complied with the order to file a Rejoinder only after being detained by the
National Bureau of Investigation for five (5) days. Likewise, she complied with the order
to comment through a Manifestation filed after four (4) months without explaining her
delay. This court found that the lawyers conduct indicates a high degree of
irresponsibility. . . . [Her] obstinate refusal to comply with the Courts orders not only
betrays a recalcitrant flaw in her character; it also underscores her disrespect of the
Courts lawful orders which is only too deserving of reproof.

We thus find that the penalty recommended against Atty. Cefra should be modified to
take into account all his acts of misconduct.

WHEREFORE, this court finds respondent Atty. Arturo B. Cefra GUILTY of notarizing the
Deed of Absolute Sale dated August 12, 1998 in the absence of the affiants, as well as
failure to comply with an order from this court. Accordingly, this court SUSPENDS him
from the practice of law for two (2) years, REVOKES his incumbent notarial commission,
if any, and PERPETUALLY DISQUALIFIES him from being commissioned as a notary
public. Respondent is also STERNLY WARNED that more severe penalties will be
imposed for any further breach of the Canons in the Code of Professional Responsibility.

Let copies of this Resolution be furnished to the Office of the Bar Confidant, to be
appended to respondents personal record as attorney. Likewise, copies shall be
furnished to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and all courts in the country for their
information and guidance.

SO ORDERED.
CASE NO. 9
A.C. No. 4545 February 5, 2014
CARLITO ANG, Complainant, vs. ATTY. JAMES JOSEPH GUPANA, Respondent.
DECISION
VILLARAMA, JR., J.:
Before us is a petition for review under Rule 139-B, Section 12(c) of the Rules of Court
assailing Resolution Nos. XVII-2005-141 and XVIII-2008-698 of the Board of Governors of
the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP). The IBP Board of Governors found respondent
Atty. James Joseph Gupana administratively liable and imposed on him the penalty of
suspension for one year from the practice of law and the revocation of his notarial
commission and disqualification from reappointment as notary public for two years.
The case stemmed from an affidavit-complaint filed by complainant Carlito Ang against
respondent. Ang alleged that on May 31, 1991, he and the other heirs of the late
Candelaria Magpayo, namely Purificacion Diamante and William Magpayo, executed an
Extra-judicial Declaration of Heirs and Partition involving Lot No. 2066-B-2-B which had
an area of 6,258 square meters and was covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No.
(T-22409)-6433. He was given his share of 2,003 square meters designated as Lot No.
2066-B-2-B-4, together with all the improvements thereon. However, when he tried to
secure a TCT in his name, he found out that said TCT No. (T-22409)-6433 had already
been cancelled and in lieu thereof, new TCTs had been issued in the names of William
Magpayo, Antonio Diamante, Patricia Diamante, Lolita D. Canque, Gregorio Diamante, Jr.
and Fe D. Montero.
Ang alleged that there is reasonable ground to believe that respondent had a direct
participation in the commission of forgeries and falsifications because he was the one
who prepared and notarized the Affidavit of Loss and Deed of Absolute Sale that led to
the transfer and issuance of the new TCTs. Ang pointed out that the Deed of Absolute
Sale which was allegedly executed by Candelaria Magpayo on April 17, 1989, was
antedated and Candelaria Magpayos signature was forged as clearly shown by the
Certification issued by the Office of the Clerk of Court of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of
Cebu. Further, the certified true copy of page 37, Book No. XII, Series of 1989 of
respondents Notarial Report indubitably showed that Doc. No. 181 did not refer to the
Deed of Absolute Sale, but to an affidavit. As to the Affidavit of Loss, which was allegedly
executed by the late Candelaria Magpayo on April 29, 1994, it could not have been
executed by her as she Died three years prior to the execution of the said affidavit of
loss.
Ang further alleged that on September 22, 1995, respondent made himself the attorney-
in-fact of William Magpayo, Antonio Diamante, Patricia Diamante, Lolita Canque,
Gregorio Diamante, Jr. and Fe D. Montero, and pursuant to the Special Power of Attorney
in his favor, executed a Deed of Sale selling Lot No. 2066-B-2-B-4 to Lim Kim So
Mercantile Co. on October 10, 1995. Ang complained that the sale was made even
though a civil case involving the said parcel of land was pending before the RTC of
Mandaue City, Cebu.
In his Comment, respondent denied any wrongdoing and argued that Ang is merely using
the present administrative complaint as a tool to force the defendants in a pending civil
case and their counsel, herein respondent, to accede to his wishes. Respondent averred
that Ang had filed Civil Case No. Man-2202 before Branch 55 of the Mandaue City RTC.
He anchored his claim on the Extra-judicial Declaration of Heirs and Partition and sought
to annul the deed of sale and prayed for reconveyance of the subject parcel of land.
During the pre-trial conference in Civil Case No. Man-2202, Ang admitted that he is not
an heir of the late Candelaria Magpayo but insisted on his claim for a share of the lot
because he is allegedly the son of the late Isaias Ang, the common-law husband of
Candelaria Magpayo. Because of his admission, the notice of lis pendens annotated in
the four certificates of title of the land in question were ordered cancelled and the land
effectively became available for disposition. Ang sought reconsideration of the order, but
a compromise was reached that only one TCT (TCT No. 34266) will be annotated with a
notice of lis pendens. Respondent surmised that these developments in Civil Case No.
Man-2202 meant that Ang would lose his case so Ang resorted to the filing of the present
administrative complaint. Thus, respondent prayed for the dismissal of the case for being
devoid of any factual or legal basis, or in the alternative, holding resolution of the instant
case in abeyance pending resolution of Civil Case No. Man-2202 allegedly because the
issues in the present administrative case are similar to the issues or subject matters
involved in said civil case.
Investigating Commissioner Lydia A. Navarro of the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline, to
whom the case was referred for investigation, report and recommendation, submitted
her Report and Recommendation finding respondent administratively liable. She
recommended that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for three months.
She held that respondent committed an unethical act when he allowed himself to be an
instrument in the disposal of the subject property through a deed of sale executed
between him as attorney-in-fact of his client and Lim Kim So Mercantile Co. despite his
knowledge that said property is the subject of a pending litigation before the RTC of
Mandaue City, Cebu. The Investigating Commissioner additionally found that respondent
"delegated the notarial functions to the clerical staff of their office before being brought
to him for his signature." This, according to the commissioner, "must have been the
reason for the forged signatures of the parties in the questioned documentas well as
the erroneous entry in his notarial register." Nonetheless, the Investigating
Commissioner merely reminded respondent to be more cautious in the performance of
his duties as regards his infraction of his notarial duties. She held, Respondent should
have been more cautious in his duty as notary public which requires that the party
subscribing to the authenticity of the document should personally appear and sign the
same before respondents actual presence. As such notary public respondent should not
delegate to any unqualified person the performance of any task which by law may only
be performed by a member of the bar in accordance with Rule 9.01 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility.
On November 12, 2005, the Board of Governors of the IBP issued Resolution No. XVII-
2005-141, adopting the findings of the Investigating Commissioner but modifying the
recommended penalty. Instead of suspension for three months, the Board recommended
the penalty of suspension from the practice of law for one year and revocation of
respondents notarial commission and disqualification from reappointment as notary
public for two years.
Respondent filed a motion for reconsideration, arguing that it was neither illegal nor
unethical for a lawyer to accept appointment as attorney-in-fact of a client to sell a
property involved in a pending litigation and to act as such. He further contended that
granting that his act was unethical, the modified penalty was evidently too harsh and
extremely excessive considering that the act complained of was not unlawful and done
without malice.
On December 11, 2008, the IBP Board of Governors adopted Resolution No. XVIII-2008-
698 denying respondents motion for reconsideration and affirming Resolution No. XVII-
2005-141. Hence, this petition for review.
Respondent reiterates that being commissioned by his own clients to sell a portion of a
parcel of land, part of which is involved in litigation, is not per se illegal or unethical.
According to him, his clients got his help to sell part of the land and because they were
residing in different provinces, they executed a Special Power of Attorney in his favor.
We affirm the resolution of the IBP Board of Governors finding respondent
administratively liable.
After reviewing the records of the case, the Court finds that respondent did not act
unethically when he sold the property in dispute as the sellers attorney-in-fact because
there was no more notice of lis pendens annotated on the particular lot sold. Likewise,
the Court finds no sufficient evidence to show that the Deed of Absolute Sale executed
by Candelaria Magpayo on April 17, 1989 was antedated.
However, the Court finds respondent administratively liable for violation of his notarial
duties when he failed to require the personal presence of Candelaria Magpayo when he
notarized the Affidavit of Loss which Candelaria allegedly executed on April 29, 1994.
Section 1 of Public Act No. 2103, otherwise known as the Notarial Law, explicitly
provides:
Sec. 1. x x x
(a) The acknowledgment shall be made before a notary public or an officer duly
authorized by law of the country to take acknowledgments of instruments or documents
in the place where the act is done. The notary public or the officer taking the
acknowledgment shall certify that the person acknowledging the instrument or
document is known to him and that he is the same person who executed it, and
acknowledged that the same is his free act and deed. The certificate shall be made
under his official seal, if he is by law required to keep a seal, and if not, his certificate
shall so state.
From the foregoing, it is clear that the party acknowledging must appear before the
notary public or any other person authorized to take acknowledgments of instruments or
documents. In the case at bar, the jurat of the Affidavit of Loss stated that Candelaria
subscribed to the affidavit before respondent on April 29, 1994, at Mandaue City.
Candelaria, however, was already dead since March 26, 1991. Hence, it is clear that the
jurat was made in violation of the notarial law. Indeed, respondent averred in his position
paper before the IBP that he did not in fact know Candelaria personally before, during
and after the notarization thus admitting that Candelaria was not present when he
notarized the documents.
Time and again, we have held that notarization of a document is not an empty act or
routine. Thus, in Bernardo v. Atty. Ramos, the Court emphasized the significance of the
act of notarization, to wit:
The importance attached to the act of notarization cannot be overemphasized.
Notarization is not an empty, meaningless, routinary act. It is invested with substantive
public interest, such that only those who are qualified or authorized may act as notaries
public. Notarization converts a private document into a public document thus making
that document admissible in evidence without further proof of its authenticity. A notarial
document is by law entitled to full faith and credit upon its face. Courts, administrative
agencies and the public at large must be able to rely upon the acknowledgment
executed by a notary public and appended to a private instrument.
For this reason notaries public must observe with utmost care the basic requirements in
the performance of their duties. Otherwise, the confidence of the public in the integrity
of this form of conveyance would be undermined. Hence a notary public should not
notarize a document unless the persons who signed the same are the very same persons
who executed and personally appeared before him to attest to the contents and truth of
what are stated therein. The purpose of this requirement is to enable the notary public to
verify the genuineness of the signature of the acknowledging party and to ascertain that
the document is the partys free act and deed.
A notary publics function should not be trivialized and a notary public must discharge
his powers and duties which are impressed with public interest, with accuracy and
fidelity. It devolves upon respondent to act with due care and diligence in stamping fiat
on the questioned documents. Respondents failure to perform his duty as a notary
public resulted in undermining the integrity of a notary public and in degrading the
function of notarization. Hence, he should be liable for his infraction, not only as a notary
public but also as a lawyer.
As a lawyer commissioned as notary public, respondent is mandated to subscribe to the
sacred duties appertaining to his office, such duties being dictated by public policy
impressed with public interest. Faithful observance and utmost respect of the legal
solemnity of the oath in an acknowledgment or jurat is sacrosanct. Simply put, such
responsibility is incumbent upon respondent and failing therein, he must now accept the
commensurate consequences of his professional indiscretion. As the Court has held in
Flores v. Chua,
Where the notary public is a lawyer, a graver responsibility is placed upon his shoulder
by reason of his solemn oath to obey the laws and to do no falsehood or consent to the
doing of any. The Code of Professional Responsibility also commands him not to engage
in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct and to uphold at all times the
integrity and dignity of the legal profession. (Emphasis supplied.)
Respondent likewise violated Rule 9.01, Canon 9, of the Code of Professional
Responsibility which provides that "[a] lawyer shall not delegate to any unqualified
person the performance of any task which by law may only be performed by a member
of the Bar in good standing." Respondent averred in his position paper that it had been
his consistent practice to course through clerical staff documents to be notarized. Upon
referral, said clerical staff investigates whether the documents are complete as to the
fundamental requirements and inquires as to the identity of the individual signatories
thereto. If everything is in order, they ask the parties to sign the documents and forward
them to him and he again inquires about the identities of the parties before affixing his
notarial signature. It is also his clerical staff who records entries in his notarial report. As
aforesaid, respondent is mandated to observe with utmost care the basic requirements
in the performance of his duties as a notary and to ascertain that the persons who
signed the documents are the very same persons who executed and personally appeared
before him to attest to the contents and truth of what are stated therein. In merely
relying on his clerical staff to determine the completeness of documents brought to him
for notarization, limiting his participation in the notarization process to simply inquiring
about the identities of the persons appearing before him, and in notarizing an affidavit
executed by a dead person, respondent is liable for misconduct. Under the facts and
circumstances of the case, the revocation of his notarial commission, disqualification
from being commissioned as a notary public for a period of two years and suspension
from the practice of law for one year are in order.
WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. James Joseph Gupana is found administratively liable for
misconduct and is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for one year. Further, his notarial
commission, if any, is REVOKED and he is disqualified from reappointment as Notary
Public for a period of two years, with a stem warning that repetition of the same or
similar conduct in the future will be dealt with more severely.
Let copies of this Decision be furnished to the Office of the Bar Confidant, the Integrated
Bar of the Philippines, and all courts all over the country. Let a copy of this Decision
likewise be attached to the personal records of respondent.
SO ORDERED.
CASE NO. 10
A.C. No. 8103 December 3, 2014
ATTY. AURELIO C. ANGELES, JR., PROVINCIAL LEGAL OFFICER, BATAAN CAPITOL,
BALANGA CITY, BATAAN, Complainant, vs. ATTY. RENATO C. BAGAY, Respondent.
DECISION
MENDOZA, J.:
Subject of this disposition is the September 28, 2013 Resolution or the IBP Board of
Governors which reads:
RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby unanimously ADOPTED and
APPROVED, the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner xxx and
finding the recommendation fully supported by the evidence on record and the
applicable laws and rules and considering the Respondent guilty of negligence in the
performance of his notarial duty, Atty. Renato C. Bagay's Notarial Commission is hereby
immediately REVOKED. Further, he is DISQUALIFIED from reappointment as Notary Public
for two (2) years.
It appears from the records that this case stemmed from the letter, dated June 11, 2008,
submitted by Atty. Aurelio C. Angeles, Jr. (Atty. Angeles, Jr.),the Provincial Legal Officer of
Bataan, to Hon. Remigio M. Escalada, Jr. (Executive Judge), Executive Judge of the
Regional Trial Court of Bataan against Atty. Renato C. Bagay (respondent), for his alleged
notarization of 18 documents at the time he was out of the country from March 13, 2008
to April 8, 2008. The notarized documents were as follows:
1. Deed of Donation executed by and between Renato Macalinao and Loida C. Macalinao
and Trisha Katrina Macalinao, notarized on April 3, 2008;
2. Deed of Donation executed by and between Renato S. Sese and Sandy Margaret L.
Sese, notarized on March 25, 2008;
3. Deed of Absolute Sale executed by and between Josefina A. Castro married to Eduardo
Samson and Thelma Medina and Gina Medina notarized on April 3, 2008;
4. Deed of Absolute Sale executedby Rowena Berja, notarized on March 17, 2008;
5. Deed of Donation executed by and between Crispulo Rodriguez and Luisa Rodriguez
Jorgensen, notarized on April 8, 2008;
6. Extra Judicial Settlement of Estate with Waiver of Rights executed by the wife and sons
of Rodrigo Dy Jongco, notarized March 19, 2008;
7. Deed of Absolute Sale executed by and between Sps. Rolando and Nelia Francisco and
Violeta Hernandez, notarized on April 3, 2008;
8. Deed of Absolute Sale executed by and between Josefina Baluyot and Carmelita
Padlan, notarized on April 3, 2008;
9. Deed of Absolute Sale executed by Gregorio Limcumpao and Simeona Limcumpao,
notarized on March 27, 2008;
10. Deed of Absolute Sale executed by and between Sps. Eusebio and Libertad Bacricio
and Carlos Tamayo married to Teresa Tamayo notarized on March 18, 2008;
11. Deed of Absolute Sale executed by and between Natividad S. Consengco and Sps.
Gilvert and Johanna Gervacio, notarized March 18, 2008;
12. Deed of Absolute Sale executed by and between the Rural Bank of Pilar and Mila
Gatdula, notarized on April 2, 2008;
13. Deed of Absolute Sale executed by and between Natividad Cosengco and Sps. Jay
and Helen Zulueta, notarized on March 18, 2008;
14. Deed of Absolute Sale executed by Cipriano and Salvacion Violago, notarized on April
1, 2008;
15. Deed of Absolute Sale executed by Sahara Management and Development
Corporation, notarized on March 26, 2008;
16. Deed of Absolute Sale executed by and between Danilo Arellano, Luzviminda Ramos
and Sps. Fernando and Agnes Silva, notarized on March 18, 2008;
17. Deed of Absolute Sale executed by and between Vicente Banzon married to Elizabeth
Banzon and Sps. Dommel and Crystal Lima, notarized on April 2, 2008; and
18. Deed of Absolute Sale executed by and between Marilyn T. Casupanan and
Dominador M. Manalansan notarized on March 14, 2008.
These documents were endorsed to the Provincial Legal Office by the Provincial Treasurer
who had information that they were notarized while respondent was outside the country
attending the Prayer and Life Workshop in Mexico. The letter contained the affidavits of
the persons who caused the documents to be notarized which showed a common
statement that they did not see respondent sign the documents himself and it was either
the secretary who signed them or the documents cameout of the office already signed.
Upon verification with the Bureau of Immigration, it was found out that a certain Renato
C. Bagay departed from the country on March 13, 2008 and returned on April 8, 2008.
The copy of the Certification issued by the Bureau of Immigration was also attached to
the letter.
The Executive Judge referred the matter to the IBP, Bataan Chapter, and the latter
endorsed the same to the IBP National Office for appropriate action. The latter endorsed
it to the Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD).
When CBD Director Alicia Risos-Vidal (Atty. Risos-Vidal) required Atty. Angeles, Jr. to
formalize the complaint, the latter replied on September 30, 2008 stating, among others,
that his June 11, 2008 Letter was not intended to be a formal complaint but rather "a
report on, and endorsement of, public documents by Atty. Bagay while he was out of the
country," and that any advice on how to consider or treat the documents concerned
would be welcome.
On December 3, 2008, Atty. Risos-Vidal opted to endorse the matter to the Office of the
Bar Confidant for appropriate action.
This Court, in its Resolution, dated February 2, 2009, resolved to note the letter of Atty.
Angeles, Jr., dated September 30,2008, and require respondent to comment on the said
letter. In his comment, dated 27 March 2009, respondent claimed that he was not aware
that those were documents notarized using his name while he was out of the country.
Upon his own inquiry, he found out that the notarizations were done by his secretary and
without his knowledge and authority. The said secretary notarized the documents
without realizing the import of the notarization act. Respondent apologized to the Court
for his lapses and averred that he had terminated the employment of his secretary from
his office.
The Court then referred the case tothe IBP for investigation, report and recommendation.
When the case was called for mandatory conference on September 16, 2009, only
respondent appeared. Atty. Angeles filed a manifestation reiterating his original position
and requesting that his attendance be excused. The mandatory conference was
terminated and the parties were directed to file their respective position papers. Only
respondent submitted a position paper, to which he added that for 21 years that he had
been practicing law, he acted as a notary public without any blemish on record dutifully
minding the rules of the law profession and notarial practice.
The Report and Recommendation of Atty. Felimon C. Abelita III (Atty. Abelita III)as
Investigating Commissioner found that the letter of Atty. Angeles, Jr., dated June 11,
2008, was not verified, that most of the attachments were not authenticated photocopies
and that the comment of respondent was likewise not verified. Atty. Abelita III, however,
observed that respondents signature on his comment appeared to be strikingly similar
to the signatures in most of the attached documents which he admitted were notarized
in his absence by his office secretary. He admitted the fact that there were documents
that were notarized while he was abroad and his signature was affixed by his office
secretary who was not aware of the import of the act. Thus, by his own admission, it was
established that by his negligence in employing an office secretary who had access to his
office, his notarial seal and records especially pertaining to his notarial documents
without the proper training, respondent failed to live up to the standard required by the
Rules on Notarial Practice.
Finding respondent guilty of negligence in the performance of his notarial duty which
gave his office secretary the opportunity to abuse his prerogative authority as notary
public, the Investigating Commissioner recommended the immediate revocation of
respondents commission as notary public and his disqualification to be commissioned as
such for a period of two (2) years.
The IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved the said recommendation in its
Resolution, dated September 28, 2013.
Respondent filed a motion for reconsideration of the said resolution of the IBP. He
contended that by admitting and owning up to what had happened, but without any
wrongful intention, he should be merited with leniency. Moreover, he claimed that he
only committed simple negligence which did not warrant such harsh penalty.
On May 4, 2014, the IBP Board of Governors denied the motion for reconsideration of
respondent stating:
RESOLVED to DENY Respondents Motion for Reconsideration, there being no cogent
reason to reverse the findings of the Commission and the resolution subject of the
motion, it being a mere reiteration of the matters which had already been threshed out
and taken into consideration. Thus, Resolution No. XX-2013-85 dated September 28,
2013 is hereby affirmed.
On August 1, 2014, the Director for Bar Discipline endorsed the May 4, 2014 Resolution
of the IBP Board of Governors to the Office of the Chief Justice for appropriate action.
The sole issue to resolve in this case is whether the notarization of documents by the
secretary of respondent while he was out of the country constituted negligence.
The Court answers in the affirmative.
Respondent admitted in his comment and motion for reconsideration that the 18
documents were notarized under his notarial seal by his office secretary while he was out
of the country. This clearly constitutes negligence considering that respondent is
responsible for the acts of his secretary. Section 9 of the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice
provides that a "Notary Public" refers to any person commissioned to perform official
acts under these Rules. A notary publics secretary is obviously not commissioned to
perform the official acts of a notary public. Respondent cannot take refuge in his claim
that it was his secretarys act which he did not authorize. He is responsible for the acts of
the secretary which he employed. He left his office open to the public while leaving his
secretary in charge. He kept his notarial seal and register within the reach of his
secretary, fully aware that his secretary could use these items to notarize documents
and copy his signature. Such blatant negligence cannot be countenanced by this Court
and it is far from being a simple negligence. There is an inescapable likelihood that
respondents flimsy excuse was a mere afterthought and such carelessness exhibited by
him could be a conscious act of what his secretary did.
Respondent must fully bear the consequence of his negligence. A person who is
commissioned as a notary public takes full responsibility for all the entries in his notarial
register. He cannot relieve himself of this responsibility by passing the buck to his
secretary.
As to his plea of leniency, the Court cannot consider it. Respondent claims that for the 21
years that he has been practicing law, he acted as a notary public without any blemish
and this was his first and only infraction. His experience, however, should have placed
him on guard and could have prevented possible violations of his notarial duty. By his
sheer negligence, 18 documents were notarized by an unauthorized person and the
public was deceived. Such prejudicial act towards the public cannot be tolerated by this
Court. Thus, the penalty of revocation of notarial commission and disqualification from
reappointment as Notary Public for two (2) years is appropriate.
Because of the negligence of respondent, the Court also holds him liable for violation of
the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR). His failure to solemnly perform his duty as
a notary public not only damaged those directly affected by the notarized documents but
also undermined the integrity of a notary public and degraded the function of
notarization. He should, thus, be held liable for such negligence not only as a notary
public but also as a lawyer. Where the notary public is a lawyer, a graver responsibility is
placed upon his shoulder by reason of his solemn oath to obey the laws and to do no
falsehood or consent to the doing of any. Respondent violated Canon 9 of the CPR which
requires lawyers not to directly or indirectly assist in the unauthorized practice of law.
Due to his negligence that allowed his secretary to sign on his behalf as notary public, he
allowed an unauthorized person to practice law. By leaving his office open despite his
absence in the country and with his secretary in charge, he virtually allowed his
secretary to notarize documents without any restraint.
Respondent also violated his obligation under Canon 7 of the CPR, which directs every
lawyer to uphold at all times the integrity and dignity of the legal profession. The people
who came into his office while he was away, were clueless as to the illegality of the
activity being conducted therein. They expected that their documents would be
converted into public documents. Instead, they later found out that the notarization of
their documents was a mere sham and without any force and effect. By prejudicing the
persons whose documents were notarized by an unauthorized person, their faith in the
integrity and dignity of the legal profession was eroded.
Considering the facts and circumstances of the case, an additional penalty of suspension
from the practice of law for three (3) months is in order.
Respondent should remember that a notarial commission is a privilege and a significant
responsibility. It is a privilege granted only to those who are qualified to perform duties
imbued with public interest. As we have declared on several occasions, notarization is
not an empty, meaningless, routinary act. It is invested with substantive public interest,
such that only those who are qualified or authorized may act as notary public. The
protection of that interest necessarily requires that those not qualified or authorized to
act must be prevented from imposing upon the public, the courts, and the administrative
offices in general.
It must be underscored that notarization by a notary public converts a private document
into a public document, making that document admissible in evidence without further
proof of its authenticity. Thus, notaries public must observe with utmost care the basic
requirements in the performance of their duties. Otherwise, the confidence of the public
in the integrity of public instruments would be undermined.
Let this serve as a reminder to the members of the legal profession that the Court will
not take lightly complaints of unauthorized acts of notarization, especially when the trust
and confidence reposed by the public in our legal system hang in the balance.
WHEREFORE, the recommendation of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines is ADOPTED
with MODIFICATION. Finding Atty. Renato C. Bagay grossly negligent in his duty as a
notary public, the Court REVOKES his notarial commission and DISQUALIFIES him from
being commissioned as notary public for a period of two (2) years. The Court also
SUSPENDS him from the practice of law for three (3) months effective immediately, with
a WARNING that the repetition of a similar violation will be dealt with even more severely.
The respondent is DIRECTED to report the date of his receipt of this Decision to enable
this Court to determine when his suspension shall take effect.
Let copies of this Decision be furnished to Office of the Bar Confidant to be appended to
Atty. Renato C. Bagay's personal record; the Integrated Bar of the Philippines; and all
courts in the country for their information and guidance.
SO ORDERED.