Notaries public have been forewarned.
The Supreme Court has suspended a notary public from the practice of law for one year after he notarized a document despite the absence of the person executing it.
In a decision dated Feb. 13 and released recently, the Supreme Court’s Third Division found lawyer Roseller Viray of Asingan, Pangasinan, guilty of breaching the Code of Professional Responsibility and the 2004 Rules of Notarial Practice.
Aside from the suspension, Viray was prohibited from performing the functions of a notary public for two years. He was also warned that repetition of the offense would be dealt with “more severely.”
“Respondent’s failure to perform his duty as a notary public resulted not only in damage to those directly affected by the notarized document but also in undermining the integrity of a notary public and degrading the function of notarization. Lawyers commissioned as notaries public are mandated to discharge with fidelity the duties of their offices, such duties being dictated by public policy and impressed with public interest,” the high tribunal said in a six-page ruling penned by Justice Diosdado Peralta.
Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr., division chairman, and Justices Roberto Abad, Jose Mendoza and Marvic Leonen, division members, concurred in the ruling.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) initiated an investigation of Viray after one Patrocinio Agbulos filed a complaint in the Office of the Bar Confidant alleging the lawyer had notarized a document known as an affidavit of nontenancy in her name even though she never executed such a document and the signature and the community tax certificate (CTC) presented during the notarization process were not hers.
Agbulos claimed it was Viray’s client, Rolando Dollente, who benefited from the falsified affidavit which helped in the illegal transfer of a property registered in her name to Dollente.
In his defense, Viray admitted preparing and notarizing the document at the request of Dollente, who assured him it had been personally signed by Agbulos and the CTC was hers. Viray claimed good faith when he notarized the document and later even apologized to Agbulos.
IBP investigating commissioner Dennis Funa recommended a guilty verdict against Viray for violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility and the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice and that he be given the penalty of six months’ suspension as a lawyer and six months’ suspension as a notary public.
In April 2008, the IBP board of governors approved Funa’s recommendation but lowered his suspension from law practice to just one month.
The Supreme Court, however, raised the penalty, citing Viray’s admission of his indiscretion.
“With his indiscretion, he allowed the use of a CTC by someone who did not own it. Worse, he allowed himself to be an instrument of fraud. Based on existing jurisprudence, when a lawyer commissioned as a notary public fails to discharge his duties as such, he is meted out the penalties of revocation of his notarial commission, disqualification from being commissioned as a notary public for a period of two years, and suspension from the practice of law for one year,” the high court said.