I am a part-time real estate agent in my hometown. I was able to close a deal with a client who was looking to purchase a house and lot in a subdivision. To complete the transaction, we needed to prepare an absolute deed of sale and have it notarized. We thought about going to a Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) in our area so we can have it made and notarized for free, since I have heard that the PAO does not charge for its legal assistance. Before we were able to go to the PAO office, however, one of my co-agents informed me that the PAO does not prepare and notarize documents such as deed of sale. Luckily there was a notary public nearby so we just went there to have our documents made and notarized although we still paid him some fees for his services.
Because of this, and for purposes of future transactions in my work as a real estate agent, I want to confirm whether the PAO can make and notarize a deed of sale for us and whether it is free of charge. Thank you!
As a background, the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) is a government office that provides free legal assistance to the public not just by representing clients as its legal counsel in court hearings, but also through preparation of legal documents and administration of oaths related to the performance of its duties. As provided for in the PAO Operations Manual, in accordance with Republic Act (RA) 9406, also known as the PAO Law, public attorneys are also given the authority to perform non-judicial services that include documentation of legal documents and administration of oaths. This authority is specifically mentioned in Section 3 and Section 5 of Article X of the PAO Operations Manual, which states:
“Section 3. Documentation. Requests for the preparation of affidavits, notices and other documents must be attended to immediately.
Included in this service is administering oaths pursuant to Republic Act 9406. Requests for documentation services shall not be subjected to the merit test, and neither shall it be necessary to accomplish the Interview Sheet. Again, care should be taken that documentation services are availed of only by indigents. Hence, requests for the preparation of deeds of sale of real properties and other commercial documents shall be denied.”
“Section 5. Authority to Administer Oaths. – Public Attorneys shall have the general authority to administer oaths in connection with the performance of their official duty free of charge.”
As stated in the above-cited provisions, while the PAO has legal authority to prepare documents and administer oaths to notarize documents, this authority is not absolute. This is because these services, specifically the preparation of documents, are only for those who are indigents. And to qualify as an indigent, it is necessary to prove that one’s individual monthly net income does not exceed the following amounts:
1. If residing in Metro Manila, P14,000 a month;
2. If residing in other cities, P13,000 a month;
3. If residing in all other places, P12,000 a month (Section 3, Article II, PAO Operations Manual).
Furthermore, even if a person is qualified as an indigent, the aforementioned provision regarding free documentation services by the PAO expressly states that preparation of deeds of sale and other commercial documents is prohibited. This, therefore, answers your question as to whether the PAO can prepare and notarize a deed of sale since it clearly appears from the above-mentioned provisions that preparation and notarization of a deed of sale, which is a commercial document, is not allowed with the PAO. Thus, it can be seen here that while the other services of the PAO are generally open to indigents and free of charge, the handling of documentation and notarization of commercial documents are among those that cannot be accommodated by the legal services of the PAO in accordance with the law.
Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org