My friend and I went to a notary public near our place to have our contract notarized. Unfortunately, the private lawyer was out of town at the time. We asked the tricycle drivers if there are other notaries nearby, but they only directed us to the town proper. When we got there, I saw one which appears to be a law office. I asked the person there if the lawyer was available to notarize our document. She said that the lawyer only goes there once a week, but she can process the notarization of my document as she normally does it for the lawyer. I was not sure if her proposal was okay, so I just told her that we will come back and made an excuse that our money was not enough for the notarial fee.
We walked several meters and saw another law office. Luckily, the lawyer was there, and so we were able to have our contract notarized. My question is: Is it okay for private lawyers to delegate the processing of notarization to their liaisons? I am asking this, so that next time, if the same thing would happen to us at least we know the rules. Thank you and best regards.
“Notarial act” and “notarization” refer to any act which a notary public is empowered to perform under A.M. No. 02-8-13-SC, otherwise known as the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice (Section 7, Rule II, Ibid.). It includes carrying out acknowledgments, oaths and affirmations, jurats, signature witnessings, copy certifications and any other act that is authorized by said Rules (Section 1, Rule IV, Id.).
It bears stressing that only those who have lawfully secured notarial commission from an Executive Judge may perform notarial acts. It cannot be assigned or delegated to any other person for the very reason that such commission is only granted to those who qualify and are eligible thereof. Such commission is likewise limited only for the period to which such authority was granted.
Our Supreme Court has repeatedly explained, as it did in the case of Carlito Ang vs. Atty. James Joseph Gupana (penned by Former Associate Justice Martin S. Villarama, Jr., A.C. No. 4545, February 5, 2014), that notarization of a document is not an empty act or routine. Citing Bernardo v. Atty. Ramos (433 Phil. 8), the Court held:
“x x x 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. x x x” (Emphasis supplied)
Taking these into consideration, it can be gainsaid that it is an improper and reprehensible practice for lawyers to delegate the processing of notarization to their liaison officers, secretaries or clerks. They must personally perform the notarial acts themselves. If they are proven to have engaged in such misconduct, they may be disciplined and penalized accordingly, such as by revoking their notarial commission, disqualifying them from again being commissioned as a notary public and/or suspension from the practice of law.
We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to email@example.com