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A.C. No.

10132

HEIRS OF PEDRO ALILANO represented by DAVID ALILANO, Complainants,


vs.
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
1

heirs of Pedro Alilario against Atty. Roberto E. Examen for misconduct and malpractice for falsifying
documents and presenting these as evidence in court thus violating the Lawyer's Oath, Canons 2

1, 10 and 19, and Rules 1.01, 1.02, 10.01, and 19.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility
3 4 5 6 7 8 9

(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
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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
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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
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Barretto v. Cabreza, violated the notarial law when he notarized the absolute deeds of sale since a
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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 Florentina’s residence certificate as
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Ramon’s, 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
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the use of another’s 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.16

In its Report and Recommendation, the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD) found Atty.
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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 Alilano’s signature in the September 1984 Absolute Deed of Sale was significantly different
from the specimen signatures. It also noted that Ramon Examen’s 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 CBD’s report
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but modified the penalty to suspension from the practice of law for a period of two years and a
suspension of Atty. Examen’s 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.19

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
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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
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discipline cases. It pointed out this has been the policy since 1967 with the Court’s ruling in Calo, Jr.
v. Degamo and reiterated in Heck v. Santos where we had the chance to state:
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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 Lawyer’s 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) 24

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.
25

This ruling was reiterated in the more recent case of Bengco v. Bernardo, where the Court stated
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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. Examen’s 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.
27

In Kapunan, et al. v. Casilan and Court of Appeals, the Court had the opportunity to state that
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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)
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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 Court’s 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.
30
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:


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…[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)
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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
1âwphi1

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:

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
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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 notary’s
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)
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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 Florentina’s residence certificate number. Atty.
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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
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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 secretary’s 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 .
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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.

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

SEC. 241. Powers of notary public. – Every notary public shall have power to administer all oaths
and affirmations provided for by law, in all matters incident to his notarial office, and in the execution
of affidavits, depositions, and other documents requiring an oath, and to receive the proof or
acknowledgment of all writings relating to commerce or navigation, such as bills of sale bottomries,
mortgages, and hypothecations of ships, vessels, or boats, charter parties of affreightments, letters
of attorney, deeds, mortgages, transfers and assignments of land or buildings, or an interest therein,
and such other writings as are commonly proved or acknowledged before notaries; to act as a
magistrate, in the writing of affidavits or depositions, and to make declarations and certify the truth
thereof under his seal of office, concerning all matters done by him by virtue of his office. 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 lawyer’s mandate includes thoroughly going over
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documents presented to them typed or transcribed by their secretaries. 39

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
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his sister-in-law questioned via a petition for certiorari the propriety of three Court of Appeals’
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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 appellant’s 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
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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-appellant’s, herein respondent, motion was
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"a mockery of the procedural rules." This Court denied the petition for various procedural defects.
44 45

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 lawyer’s 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 Court’s decision in Caalim-Verzonilla v. Pascua. 46

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
respondent’s 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.

A.C. No. 9081 October 12, 2011

RODOLFO A. ESPINOSA and MAXIMO A. GLINDO, Complainants,


vs.
ATTY. JULIETA A. OMAÑA, Respondent.
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. Omaña (Omaña).

The Antecedent Facts

Complainants Espinosa and Glindo charged Omaña 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 Omaña’s legal advice on whether they could legally live separately and dissolve their
marriage solemnized on 23 July 1983. Omaña 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 kaya’t 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. OMAÑA


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 Omaña was not valid. Espinosa and Glindo then hired
the services of a lawyer to file a complaint against Omaña before the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD).

Omaña 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. Omaña 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. Omaña
presented Marantal’s "Sinumpaang Salaysay" (affidavit) to support her allegations and to show that
the complaint was instigated by Glindo. Omaña further presented a letter of apology from her staff,
Arlene Dela Peña, acknowledging that she notarized the document without Omaña’s knowledge,
consent, and authority.

Espinosa later submitted a "Karagdagang Salaysay" stating that Omaña arrived at his residence
together with a girl whom he later recognized as the person who notarized the contract. He further
stated that Omaña was not in her office when the contract was notarized.
The Decision of the Commission on Bar Discipline

In its Report and Recommendation1 dated 6 February 2007, the IBP-CBD stated that Espinosa’s
desistance did not put an end to the proceedings. The IBP-CBD found that Omaña 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 Omaña 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 Omaña
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 Omaña 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.

Omaña filed a motion for reconsideration.

In a Resolution dated 26 June 2011, the IBP Board of Governors denied Omaña’s motion for
reconsideration.

The Issue

The sole issue in this case is whether Omaña violated the Canon of Professional Responsibility in
the notarization of Marantal and Espinosa’s "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.2 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,3 which is exactly what Omaña did in
this case.
1avvphi1

In Selanova v. Judge Mendoza,4 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; 5 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;6 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;7 and preparing a document declaring the conjugal partnership dissolved. 8
We cannot accept Omaña’s allegation that it was her part-time office staff who notarized the
contract. We agree with the IBP-CBD that Omaña herself notarized the contract. Even if it were true
that it was her part-time staff who notarized the contract, it only showed Omaña’s 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
secretaries9 or any member of his staff.

We likewise agree with the IBP-CBD that in preparing and notarizing a void document, Omaña
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." Omaña knew fully well
that the "Kasunduan Ng Paghihiwalay" has no legal effect and is against public policy. Therefore,
Omaña 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.10

WHEREFORE, we SUSPEND Atty. Julieta A. Omaña from the practice of law for ONE YEAR.
We REVOKE Atty. Omaña’s 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. Omaña’s 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

G.R. No. 176984 August 29, 2012

METROPOLITAN BANK & TRUST COMPANY, Petitioner,


vs.
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.

x-----------------------x

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,
vs.
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 ₱ 50,000.00 as down
payment. The balance ofl!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 ₱ 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, Cavite for the cancellation of TCT T-316427 in the latter’s names.
1

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 ₱
1,000,000.00 and attorney’s fees of ₱ 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). 2
In its decision of March 6, 2007, the CA affirmed that of the RTC but reduced the award of moral
3

damages to ₱ 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. 4

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; and

4. The testimony of the expert witness for the Arguelleses sufficiently proved that the two
brothers’ signatures were forged.

First. Both the RTC and the CA held that the presumption of regularity of a public document did not
5

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
6

the documents in his presence. 7

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
8

waive the receipts is evidenced by Claudio Arguelles’ own admission that they also did not issue any
receipt for the ₱ 50,000.00 down payment that the Trinidads made. 9

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. 10

The Court finds it difficult to believe the Arguelleses’ version that the Trinidads did not pay even one
centavo of the ₱ 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
11

payment would come. And they did not bother to make any demand from 1983 to 1996 on
12

the Trinidads for what was due them. Indeed, it was only after some 13 years that Claudio
13

Arguelles went to the Registry of Deeds to check on the standing of their title. Incredible!
14

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
15 16

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. 17

d. Further, the Arguelleses ceased paying real estate taxes on the property after 1986. The 1âwphi1

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. 18

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. 19

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. 20
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
21

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.

ROBERTO A. ABAD

EN BANC

A.C. No. 8384 April 11, 2013

EFIGENIA M. TENOSO Complainant,


vs.
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:
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. 1 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." 2

In his two-page Answer, respondent denied the allegations saying, "I have never been notarizing any
document or pleadings"3 and added that he has "never committed any malpractice, nor deceit nor
have violated thelawyers (sic) oath".4 He dismissed such allegations as being "preposterous, full of
lies, politically motivated and x x x meant to harass or intimidate him". 5

Also, he surmised that the documents annexed to the Affidavit-Complaint were "tampered and
adulterated," or that "somebody might have forged his signature."6 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. 7

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. 8

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
1âwphi1

of the Rules of Court,9 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,10where 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.11 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."12 Accordingly, '"lawyers are bound to maintain
not only a high standard of legal proficiency, but also of morality, honesty, integrity and fair dealing." 13

Similarly, the duties of notaries public are dictated by public policy and impressed with public
interest.14"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." 15

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.

FIRST DIVISION

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 complaint1 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-affidavit2 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
act3 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 principal4within 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 comment5 to the disbarment complaint, Atty. Revilla, Jr. did not deny but admitted Jandoquile’s
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
certificate6 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 wife’s 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. 7 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 27,8 Rule 138 of the Rules of Court. We recall the case
of Maria v. Cortez9 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 Cortez’s 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 notary’s 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. 1âwphi1

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.

MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.


Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

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
1

Sale which allowed the transfer to spouses Benjamin Durante and Eleonor Lavifia (Spouses
2

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
3

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. 4
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 father’s 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 father’s 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".5

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 document’s execution, "no notary
6

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. 7

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.
8

Rinen’s notarial commission and his suspension from notarial practice for a period of one year. The 9

report indicated that per Atty. Rinen’s 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.
Rinen’s 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." 10

In the meantime, Atty. Rinen filed a motion for reconsideration of Commissioner Abelita’s
11

recommendation. The IBP Board of Governors, nonetheless, adopted and approved on March 20,
2013, via Resolution No. XX-2013-247, the Investigating Commissioner’s Report and
Recommendation. 12

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
13

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
1âwphi1

engages public interest in a substantial degree x x x." 14

It must then be stressed that, "a notary public’s 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
15 16

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." 17

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 deed’s 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
18

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
19

instruments would be undermined. 20

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.

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.
1

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
2 3

one Jocelyn Rodriguez (Rodriguez) in the amount of ₱50,000.00 and, in such regard, signed blank
documents, including an "incomplete" Promissory Note (PN). Subsequently, he restructured the
4
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),
5 6

and a pre-formed Deed of Absolute Sale covering the subject property as collateral.
7 8

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
9

later duly entered in the Register of Deeds of Davao Del Norte. 10

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,
11

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
12

Deed of Absolute Sale had already been notarized by Atty. Salve and his Community Tax Certificate
13

Numbers were allegedly falsified. During a Barangay Conciliation proceeding, Rodriguez presented
14

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
15

on September 12, 2007. Thus, Salita went on to conclude that because of the foregoing events, it
16

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
17

Rodriguez and Atty. Salve. Salita likewise filed the instant administrative case against Atty. Salve.
18 19

In his defense, Atty. Salve vehemently denied that he falsified the Deed of Absolute Sale. He
20

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
21

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 PN’s 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
22

the Clerk of Court of Tagum City and the ones in his law office are identical and the same, while
Salita’s alleged falsified photocopy is totally different. 23

The IBP Report and Recommendation

In a Report and Recommendation dated January 4, 2010, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
24

(IBP) Investigating Commissioner dismissed Salita’s complaint for lack of merit. He found that Salita
25

was not able to obtain the required quantum of proof to hold Atty. Salve administratively liable,
especially considering that Salita’s criminal complaint was dismissed for lack of probable cause. 26

In a Resolution dated December 29, 2012 (December 29, 2012 Resolution), the IBP Board of
27

Governors adopted and approved the IBP Investigating Commissioner’s Report and
Recommendation dismissing the case for lack of merit.

On reconsideration, however, the IBP Board of Governors issued a Resolution dated March 8,
28 29

2014 (March 8,2014 Resolution) setting aside its December 29, 2012 Resolution and accordingly,
recommended the suspension of Atty. Salve’s 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 Court’s resolution is whether or not Atty. Salve should be held administratively
liable.

The Court’s 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 Investigator’s 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 IBP’s recommendation only covers herein respondent’s 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
30

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. Salve’s 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
Salita’s 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 representative’s names should appear in the said documents as the ones who
executed the same. 31

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 32

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.33

In the case of Atty. Dela Cruz v. Atty. Zabala, the Court revoked the errant lawyer’s notarial
34

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
35

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 Commissioner’s 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. Salve’s administrative liability for
36

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.

EN BANC
A.C. No. 5482 February 10, 2015

JIMMY ANUDON and JUANITA ANUDON, Complainants,


vs.
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 Jimmy’s brothers and sister co-own a 4,446-square-meter parcel of land
1

located in Sison, Pangasinan covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 69244. Respondent
2

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. 3

On August 12, 1998, Atty. Cefra notarized a Deed of Absolute Sale over a land covered by TCT No.
4

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. 5

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
6

Bureau of Investigation’s Questioned Documents Division certified that Jimmy and Juanita’s
signatures were forged. This is contrary to Atty. Cefra’s acknowledgment over the document, which
7

states:

BEFORE ME, a Notary Public for and in the Municipality 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 8

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. 9

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. 10

Jimmy and Juanita also initiated a disciplinary action by filing a Complaint with this court on August
11

6, 2001 questioning the propriety of Atty. Cefra’s conduct as lawyer and notary public.

In the Resolution dated September 19, 2001, this court required Atty. Cefra to comment on the
12

administrative complaint. Atty. Cefra filed multiple Motions for Extension of Time, which this court
13

granted. Despite the allowance for extension of time, Atty. Cefra did not comply with this court’s
14

order to file a Comment. This court fined Atty. Cefra in the Resolutions dated March 12, 2003 and
15

November 17, 2003. In both Resolutions, this court directed Atty. Cefra to file his Comment.
16 17

Atty. Cefra’s continued refusal to file his Comment caused this court to order his arrest and
commitment. Thus, the National Bureau of Investigation’s agents arrested Atty. Cefra at his
18

residence on January 14, 2007. 19

Atty. Cefra finally submitted his Comment on January 15, 2008.


20

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 Jimmy’s 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
21

sale, which included the deed of sale and the acknowledgment receipts for payment. On August 13,
22

1998, Paran’s relatives, Viola Carantes and Lita Paran, brought the Deed of Absolute Sale tothe
residences of Jimmy, Juanita, and Johnny’s son, Loejan Anudon (Loejan) to have the document
signed. Viola Carantes and Lita Paran informed Atty. Cefra that they witnessed Jimmy, Juanita, and
23

Loejan sign the document. Loejan affixed the signatures for his father, Johnny, and his uncleand
24

aunt, Alfonso and Benita. 25

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
26

was justified since Loejan needed the proceeds of the sale for the amputation of his mother’s leg. It 27

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[.]" 28

After receiving Atty. Cefra’s Comment, this court referred the case to the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines for investigation, report, and recommendation. 29
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 Attorney’s Office. She also
30

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
31 32

Investigating Commissioner issued an Order terminating the mandatory conference and requiring
33

the parties to submit their respective Position Papers.

The Investigating Commissioner found that Atty. Cefra’s conduct in notarizing the Deed of Absolute
Sale violated the Notarial Law. In addition, Atty. Cefra violated Canon 1 of the Code of Professional
34

Responsibility, which requires that "[a]lawyer shall uphold the Constitution, obey the laws of the
35

land and promote respect for law and legal processes." Hence, the Investigating Commissioner
recommended the revocation of Atty. Cefra’s 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. 36

In Resolution No. XIX-2011-249 dated May 14, 2011, the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar
37

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:
38

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)
39

Atty. Cefra filed a Motion for Reconsideration, asking the Integrated Bar of the Philippines to temper
40

the recommended penalty against him. In Resolution No. XXI-2014-93 dated March 21, 2014, the
41 42

Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines proposed to lower its original penalty
against Atty. Cefra:

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)
43

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. 44

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)
45
The earliest law on notarization is Act No. 2103. This law refers specifically to the acknowledgment
46

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 notary’s 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
47

is obvious that the party acknowledging must . . . appear before the notary public[.]" Furthermore,
48

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)
49

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 Paran’s 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.
50 51 52

Bernabe, the respondent notaries were all guilty of notarizing documents without the presence of
53

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
54

(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
55

documents even without the signatures of the parties on those documents. This court suspended
56

the respondent-lawyer from the practice of law for one (1) year and perpetually disqualified her from
being a notary public.57

Aside from Atty. Cefra’s 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 court’s 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 court’s order. Atty. Cefra’s actions show utter disrespect for legal processes.

The act of disobeying a court order constitutes violation of Canon 11 of the Code of Professional
58

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
59

order of a superior court" constitutes a ground for disbarment or suspension from the practice of law.
Atty. Cefra’s disobedience to this court’s directive issued in 2001 was not explained even as he
eventually filed his Comment in2008. 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 court’s
60

directives to submit a Rejoinder and to comment on complainant’s Manifestation. The lawyer 61

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
62

Manifestation filed after four (4) months without explaining her delay. This court found that the
63

lawyer’s "conduct indicates a high degree of irresponsibility. . . . [Her] obstinate refusal to comply
with the Court’s orders ‘not only betrays a recalcitrant flaw in her character; it also underscores her
disrespect of the Court’s lawful orders which is only too deserving of reproof.’" 64
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
respondent's 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.

FIRST DIVISION

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
1 2

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.
3

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
4

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,
5

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
6

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
7 8

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 Magpayo’s signature was forged as
clearly shown by the Certification issued by the Office of the Clerk of Court of the Regional Trial
9

Court (RTC) of Cebu. Further, the certified true copy of page 37, Book No. XII, Series of 1989 of
respondent’s 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
10

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.
11

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
12

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. 13

In his Comment, respondent denied any wrongdoing and argued that Ang is merely using the
14

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
15

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 document…as well as the erroneous entry in his notarial
register…." Nonetheless, the Investigating Commissioner merely reminded respondent to be more
16

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 respondent’s 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.
17 18
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
19

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 respondent’s 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
20

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 respondent’s motion for reconsideration and affirming Resolution No. XVII-2005-141.
21

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. 22

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
23

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
24

when he notarized the documents.


Time and again, we have held that notarization of a document is not an empty act or routine. Thus,
25

in Bernardo v. Atty. Ramos, the Court emphasized the significance of the act of notarization, to wit:
26

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 xecuted 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 party’s free act and deed.

A notary public’s 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
27

respondent to act with due care and diligence in stamping fiat on the questioned documents.
Respondent’s 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
1âwphi1

respondent and failing therein, he must now accept the commensurate consequences of his
professional indiscretion. As the Court has held in Flores v. Chua,
28 29

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,
30

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.
31

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.

SECOND DIVISION

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
1

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
2

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.
3

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
4

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.5

This Court, in its Resolution, dated February 2, 2009, resolved to note the letter of Atty. Angeles, Jr.,
6

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
7

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
8

respective position papers. Only respondent submitted a position paper, to which he added that for
9

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
10

Commissioner found that the letter of Atty. Angeles, Jr., dated June11, 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 respondent’s 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 respondent’s 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.
11

Respondent filed a motion for reconsideration of the said resolution of the IBP. He contended that
12

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 Respondent’s 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. 13

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 commentand 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 public’s 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 secretary’s 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 respondent’s 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
14

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
15

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
16

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.
17

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 pub! ic must observe with utmost care the basic requirements in the performance of
their duties. Otherwise, the confidence of the public in the integrity of pub! ic instruments would be
undermined. 18

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
1âwphi1

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.