In an SEC Case, Atty. Sabate notarized the document called “Motion to Dismiss with Answer.” The document has three signatories – of Paterno Diaz, Dr. Levi Pagunsan, and Pastor Bofetiado. However, above the name of Paterno Diaz, the words “by Lilian Diaz” was written, and above it was the signature of Lilian Diaz. Above the names of Pagunsan and Bofetiado was the handwriting “by Atty. Sabate” together with his signature. In other words, he was the affiant of the document he notarized. This was questioned by Villarin et al arguing that the signatures did not belong to the affiants and that the act of Atty. Sabate undermined the public’s confidence and therefore administrative sanctions should be imposed against him.
As a defense, Atty. Sabate argued that (a) he did not make it appear that the affiants signed it in his presence; (b) that he was properly authorized by his clients; (c) their residence is far and the time for filing is short. He argues that he did so because he was confronted with an urgent situation. He also argued that Villarin’s complaint is malicious and with evil motives.
Issue: Can a lawyer notarized without the presence of the affiants? No.
- Not represented. Atty. Sabate failed to state in the preliminary statements of said motion/answer that the three respondents were represented by their designated attorneys-in-fact.
- The notary cannot be the signatory of his notarized pleading. A notary public cannot swear that he appeared before himself as Notary Public. The purpose of the notary public would be defeated if he was one of the signatories to the instrument. For then, he would be interested in sustaining the validity thereof as it directly involves himself and the validity of his own act. It would place him in an inconsistent position, and the very purpose of the acknowledgment, which is to minimize fraud, would be thwarted.
- Be made in the place of the act, known to the notary public, and that the person acted freely. RA 2103 Sec. 1a “The acknowledgment shall be made before a notary public… in the place where the act is done. The notary public shall certify that the person acknowledging the instrument … is known to him and that he is the same person who executed it, and acknowledged that the same is his free act and deed.”
- Signatories must personally appear. The persons who signed must be the very persons who personally appeared. The facts stated there are facts they have personal knowledge of and not through their representatives. Otherwise, their representative’s names should appear in the said documents.
- Public interest and due diligence. His duties are dictated by public policy and impressed with public interest. His argument that was confronted with an alleged urgent situation is no excuse at all. As a member of the legal profession, he is required to obey the laws of the land at all times and must exercise due diligence.
Atty. Restituto Sabate, Jr. is SUSPENDED from his Commission as Notary Public for a period of one (1) year.