466 Phil. 919

EN BANC

[ A.C. NO. 4595, February 06, 2004 ]

OCTAVIO J. TRAYA, JR., COMPLAINANT, VS. ATTY. FRANCISCO M. VILLAMOR, RESPONDENT.

D E C I S I O N

CARPIO MORALES, J.:

In a sworn letter dated May 22, 1996 addressed to then Chief Justice Andres A. Narvasa, complainant, Octavio J. Traya, Jr., Municipal Mayor of Abuyog, Leyte, brought attention to an affidavit purportedly executed by one Rolando de la Cruz which was spurious but which was nevertheless notarized by Atty. Francisco M. Villamor, respondent herein, who, it was informed, had previously been reprimanded and admonished by the Supreme Court in Realino v. Villamor[1] in connection with the discharge of his notarial duties.

From the record of this case, it is gathered that one Engineer Cynthia de la Cruz Catalya filed an application for building permit in connection with the renovation of a building situated on a lot owned by her brother Rolando C. de la Cruz (de la Cruz). One of the documents required in the processing of the application was an affidavit to be executed by the lot owner. Since de la Cruz was a resident abroad, an affidavit was prepared wherein it was made to appear that he was a resident of Loyonsawang, Abuyog, Leyte; that he was the owner of the lot whereon the building subject of the application for the issuance of a building permit was situated; and that he was executing the affidavit “to attest to the veracity of the abovementioned facts thereby certifying (sic) the requirements of the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board relative to the application for Locational Clearance/Certificate of Zoning Compliance.”

Respondent notarized the purported affidavit of de la Cruz who was residing abroad; hence, the letter-complaint of complainant.

Acting on the letter-complaint, this Court required respondent to comment thereon.

In respondent’s comment denominated as “Answer,” he proferred the following explanation:
In the afternoon, at more or less 2:00 P.M. of Jan. 29, 1996, a Chinese mestizo appeared in the law office of herein respondent. After a customary courtesy, he made known his purpose, stating that he wanted his affidavit (Annex “A”) notarized, which was being handed simultaneously to the herein respondent. Respondent after briefly perusing the same, asked who Rolando de la Cruz was, and the chinese mestizo, declared that he was the one. Then respondent asked if the signature over the space for the affiant was his, and he affirmed the same as his. Then respondent asked for the production of his Res. Certificate, but he said, he did not bother to bring the same along with him anymore as, he has already indicated his Serial number, in the jurat portion together with the date of issue and place of issue. Finally, respondent asked him if he understood the written contents of his affidavit, and he affirmed that the did (sic) understand because, he was applying for a clearance with the Municipal Planning and Development Coordinator for the renovation/repair of the second floor of his building. And respondent having become fully satisfied already with all the pertinent matters relevant to the affidavit to be notarized, without any more much ado, notarized the same.[2] (Underscoring supplied)
The case was referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation and report. The IBP Committee on Bar Discipline noted that the “main defense” of respondent was that complainant filed the case against him because he (respondent) filed cases against complainant before the Ombudsman.

Resolving in the affirmative the issue of whether respondent “violated the legal ethics of a notary public,” Commissioner Wifredo E. J. E. Reyes of the IBP Committee on Bar Discipline, by Report and Recommendation dated April 26, 2002, recommended that respondent’s commission as notary public be suspended for one (1) year.

By Resolution No. XV-2002-409, the IBP Board of Governors resolved to adopt and approve, with modification, the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner, it finding that respondent failed to observe the proper procedure in determining if a person appearing before him is the same person who executed the document presented for notarization.

The IBP Board accordingly resolved to suspend respondent as notary public and disqualify him from appointment as notary public for one (1) year from receipt of notice of decision.

In the earlier mentioned case of Realino v. Villamor[3] of which herein respondent was the respondent, this Court stressed its repeated pronouncement that it is the duty of the notarial officer to demand that the document presented to him for notarization should be signed in his presence, for “[a] notarial document is by law entitled to full faith and credit upon its face, and for this reason, notaries public must observe utmost care in complying with the elementary formalities in the performance of their duties.”[4]

By respondent’s admission, the affidavit was already signed by the purported affiant at the time it was presented to him for notarization. Respondent thus failed to heed his duty as a notary public to demand that the document for notarization be signed in his presence.

Also by respondent’s admission, when the affidavit was brought to him, it already bore the Residence Certificate Number of the “affiant” which residence certificate number turned out to be that of de la Cruz’s brother in law, Benjamin Catalya, husband of his sister Engineer Cynthia de la Cruz Catalya. Where a lawyer as a notary makes it appear in the acknowledgment or jurat of a contract that the affiant exhibited to him a residence certificate when in fact he did not, the notary is guilty of misconduct.[5] Such misrepresentation is unquestionably censurable and justifies disciplinary action against him as a member of the bar and as a notary public. For he violated the mandate in his attorney’s oath to “obey the law” and “do no falsehood.”[6]
[A] lawyer commissioned as notary public . . . is mandated to subscribe to the sacred duties appertaining to his office, such duties being dictated by public policy impressed with public interest. Faithful observance and utmost respect of the legal solemnity of the oath in an acknowledgment or jurat is sacrosanct. Simply put, such responsibility is incumbent upon and failing therein, he must now accept the commensurate consequences of his professional indiscretion.[7]
By thus making it appear in the jurat that the “affiant” exhibited to him his residence certificate when in fact he did not, respondent is guilty of misconduct.

Respondent’s imputation of ill-motive on complainant’s filing of the case against him owing to, so he claims, his filing of cases against complainant before the Office of the Ombudsman is immaterial to the merits of the present case.

Respondent having previously been reprimanded and warned also in connection with his duties as a notary public, despite which he has demonstrated a clear and blatant disregard thereof, he should now be faulted strictly.

WHEREFORE, Atty. Francisco M. Villamor is guilty of gross misconduct in his notarial practice. Accordingly, he is perpetually DISQUALIFIED from being commissioned as a notary public.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., Puno, Vitug, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Callejo, Sr., and Tinga, JJ., concur.

Azcuna, J., on official leave.



[1] 87 SCRA 318 (1978).

[2] Rollo at 21.

[3] Supra.

[4] Id. at 322, citing Ramirez v. Ner, 21 SCRA 207 (1978).

[5] Vda. de Guerrero v. Hernando, Adm. Case. No. 707, 68 SCRA 76 (1975).

[6] Ibid.

[7] Villarin v. Sabate, Jr., 325 SCRA 123, 128 (2000).



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