Unauthorized notarization of documents constitutes malpractice of law

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Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
My cousin had his document notarized by a lawyer. Eventually, this document was used in a proceeding. The other party pointed out in the trial that the lawyer who notarized the document was not commissioned and that he had no authority to do such act; hence, my cousin actually failed to make the document a public one. Whether its allegation is true, I want to know if we can have the lawyer notarizing the document administratively liable, in any case.
Sincerely yours,
Anastacia

Dear Anastacia,
The fact that the lawyer acted beyond what he was authorized to, it is safe to assume that he may be held administratively liable for malpractice and misrepresenting himself to your cousin.

Not all lawyers are automatically imbued with the authority to administer oaths or notarize documents. A commission for that purpose is granted and the same is bound by jurisdiction and time.

To be precise, the case of Flora C. Mariano vs. Atty. Anselmo Echavez (A.C. No. 10373, May 31, 2016), penned by Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta is instructive:


“Time and again, this court has stressed that notarization is not an empty, meaningless and routine act. It is invested with substantive public interest that only those who are qualified or authorized may act as notaries public. It must be emphasized that the act of notarization by a notary public converts a private document into a public document making that document admissible in evidence without further proof of authenticity. A notarial document is by law entitled to full faith and credit upon its face, and for this reason, notaries public must observe with utmost care the basic requirements in the performance of their duties.” [Emphasis supplied, citations omitted.]

In the same case, it was discussed:

“In a number of cases, the court has subjected lawyers to disciplinary action for notarizing documents outside their territorial jurisdiction or with an expired commission. In the case of Nunga v. Viray, a lawyer was suspended by the court for three (3) years for notarizing an instrument without a commission. In Zoreta v. Simpliciano, the respondent was also suspended from the practice of law for a period of two (2) years and was permanently barred from being commissioned as a notary public for notarizing several documents after the expiration of his commission. In the more recent case of Laquindanum v. Quintana, the court suspended a lawyer for six (6) months and was disqualified from being commissioned as notary public for a period of two (2) years because he notarized documents outside the area of his commission, and with an expired commission.” [Emphasis supplied, citations omitted.]

Evidently, if it would be proven that the lawyer who notarized the document of your cousin was not actually commissioned to do such act at the time, such will be construed as malpractice and he may accordingly be penalized by the Supreme Court. The penalty can even include barring the lawyer for ever being commissioned as a notary public, which was ultimately the decision in the above-cited case.

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 dearpao@manilatimes.net

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