My father, who is already dead, bought from Jerome a parcel of land in San Jose, Nueva Ecija, sometime in 2003. The transaction is supported by a notarized Deed of Absolute Sale executed between my father and Jerome. After Jerome’s death in 2011, his son came to us and asked for the return of their land. He said he is willing to refund the amount paid by my late father. According to him, what really transpired between my father and Jerome was a contract of loan, not really a sale, and the signature of the latter in the deed was forged. Supposedly, Jerome’s son had obtained the services of a handwriting expert from the Philippine National Police, and the latter came up with a finding that Jerome’s signature in the Deed of Sale was different from his signature, which appeared in other documents submitted for examination. Hence, his signature in the Deed of Sale is different or maybe made by another person.
Jerome’s son is threatening to file the appropriate cases against us if we will not return the land to him. Is the finding of the handwriting expert sufficient to nullify the Deed of Sale between my father and Jerome?
Before we answer your question, it would be best for you to know the powers and limitations of notaries public. The powers of notaries public are provided under Section 1 (a), Rule IV of A.M. No. 02-8-13-SC or the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice which are as follows:
(2) oaths and affirmations;
(4) signature witnessings;
(5) copy certifications; and
(6) any other act authorized by these Rules.
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Section 2 (b) also states 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 competent evidence of identity as defined by these Rules.”
In the notarized Deed of Sale executed by your father and Jerome, it is presumed that the parties appeared personally before the notary public with sufficient proof of identification and had acknowledged that the transaction is their voluntary act.
In Vda. De Mendez vs. CA and Spouses Dabon (G.R. No. 174937, June 13, 2012), Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo stated:
“As we have often said, forgery is not presumed but must be proved by clear, positive and convincing evidence by the party alleging it. It is established by comparing the alleged forged signature with the genuine signatures. Considering the technical nature of the procedure in examining forged documents, handwriting experts are often offered as expert witnesses. But although their testimonies are useful, resort to these experts is not mandatory or indispensable because a finding of forgery does not depend entirely on their testimonies. Judges must also exercise independent judgment in determining the authenticity or genuineness of the signatures in question, and not rely merely on the testimonies of handwriting experts.
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“More credence was also given by the RTC [Regional Trial Court] and the CA [Court of Appeals] to the testimony of the notary public who personally saw petitioner sign the Deed of Absolute Sale. No doubt, direct evidence, such as the testimony of the notary public, outweighs the testimony of the expert witness, which, at best, is considered indirect or circumstantial evidence.”
Applying the said ruling in your case, the examination made by the handwriting expert is not sufficient to nullify the Deed of Sale executed by your father and Jerome. The allegation of Jerome’s son that the latter’s signature was forged must be supported by clear, positive and convincing evidence to overcome the presumption of due execution of the Deed of Sale.
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 or elaborated.
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.