My mother learned that one of her cousins replicated her signature in a document purporting to sell a property to her. According to my mother, my grandfather (her father) bought that property for my mother after she graduated cum laude in college. She did not utilize the property as it was in the province but she never thought that someone would fiddle her. What infuriates my mother more is the fact that it was done by her own relative. Can my mother file a criminal case against her cousin? If so, what is the proper case to file? Will it matter if the document is notarized or not? Any advice you can give will be much appreciated.
We believe that the proper remedy for your mother is to file a criminal complaint for falsification against her cousin. For a better understanding, the crime of falsification can be committed through any of the following acts: Counterfeiting or imitating any handwriting, signature or rubric; Causing it to appear that persons have participated in any act or proceeding when they did not in fact so participate; Attributing to persons who have participated in an act or proceeding statements other than those in fact made by them; Making untruthful statements in a narration of facts; Altering true dates; Making any alteration or intercalation in a genuine document which changes its meaning; Issuing in an authenticated form a document purporting to be a copy of an original document when no such original exists, or including in such a copy a statement contrary to, or different from, that of the genuine original; or Intercalating any instrument or note relative to the issuance thereof in a protocol, registry, or official book (Article 172, Revised Penal Code of the Philippines).
If the cousin of your mother who committed the alleged act of falsification is a public officer, employee, or notary, and the same was done by taking advantage of his or her official position, he or she may be made to suffer the penalty of prision mayor and a fine not to P5,000 (id).
On the other hand, if he or she is a private individual, the penalty that may be imposed against him or her, should it be clearly established with proof beyond reasonable doubt that the crime was indeed committed, is prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods and a fine of not more than P5,000 (Article 171, id). This is true whether the document which purports to transfer the ownership of the subject property is notarized or not. But it bears emphasis that if the said document is a private document, your mother must prove that the act complained of caused her damage or there was an intent to cause such damage. If the document was notarized, making it a public document, such damage is not an essential element of the crime (id).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org