February 2014 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Legal and Judicial Ethics

Here are select February 2014 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on legal and judicial ethics:

Attorney; Notarization; Importance. An administrative case was filed against Atty. Rinen for falsification of an Extra Judicial Partition with Sale which allowed the transfer to Spouses Durante of a parcel of land. In Bautista v. Atty. Bernabe, the Court held that “[a] notary public should not notarize a document unless the persons who signed the same are the very same persons who executed and personally appeared before him to attest to the contents and truth of what are stated therein. The presence of the parties to the deed will enable the notary public to verify the genuineness of the signature of the affiant.” Notarization is not an empty, meaningless, routinary act. It is invested with substantive public interest, such that only those who are qualified or authorized may act as notaries public. It converts a private document into a public one, making it admissible in court without further proof of its authenticity. Thus, notaries public must observe with utmost care the basic requirements in the performance of their duties. Otherwise, the confidence of the public in the integrity of public instruments would be undermined.

In this 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 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. Thus, Atty. Rinen’s notarial commission as revoked and he was disqualified from being commissioned as a notary public for one year. Wilberto C. Talisic v. Atty. Primo R. Rinen, A.C. No. 8761, February 12, 2014.

Attorney; Notarization not an empty act. Complainant charged Atty. Gupana of forgeries and falsifications in the notarization of certain documents. The Supreme Court found Atty. Gupana administratively liable under Section 1 of Public Act No. 2103, otherwise known as the Notarial Law, 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.

Under the law, the party acknowledging must appear before the notary public or any other person authorized to take acknowledgments of instruments or documents. In this case, the jurat of the Affidavit of Loss stated that Candelaria subscribed to the affidavit before Atty. Gupana 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. The notarization of a document is not an empty act or routine. 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. As a lawyer commissioned as notary public, Atty. Gupana is mandated to subscribe to the sacred duties appertaining to his office, such duties being dictated by public policy impressed with public interest. Thus, the Supreme Court held that Atty. Gupana’s 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. Carlito Ang v. Atty. James Joseph GupanaA.C. No. 4545. February 5, 2014.

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