Thursday, February 02, 2012

Agagon vs. Bustamante, A.C. No. 5510, December 20, 2007

Facts: Complainant Sajid D. Agagon filed the instant administrative case against respondent Atty. Artemio Bustamante charging the latter with malpractice and violation of the lawyer’s oath. Complainant alleged that respondent acted as Notary Public to the "Deed of Sale" allegedly executed by and between Dominador Panglao and Alessandro Panglao. However, upon verification with the Office of the Clerk of Court of the Regional Trial Court of Baguio City, it was discovered that the alleged Deed of Sale was not included in the notarial report. Instead, Doc. No. 375 appearing on Page 76 of Book XXXIII, Series of 2000 of respondent Atty. Bustamante referred to an Affidavit executed by a certain Teofilo M. Malapit. Moreover, the Community Tax Certificates used by the parties in the Deed of Sale were fictitious, as certified to by the City Treasurer’s Office.

In his Comment, respondent admitted that he was the one who prepared the Deed of Sale. However, he claimed that the parties merely dictated to him their Community Tax Certificate Numbers;and that it was pure inadvertence that the document that was reported and included in the report to the Office of the Clerk of Court and which bore the document number assigned to the Deed of Sale was an Affidavit executed by Teofilo Malapit.

Issue: Whether the respondent violated the Code of Professional Responsibility.

Held: YES. There is no doubt that respondent violated the Code of Professional Responsibility and the Notarial Law when he failed to include a copy of the Deed of Sale in his Notarial Report and for failing to require the parties to the deed to exhibit their respective community tax certificates. Doubts were cast as to the existence and due execution of the subject deed, thus undermining the integrity and sanctity of the notarization process and diminishing public confidence in notarial.

In the performance of notarial acts, the notary public must be mindful of the significance of the notarial seal as affixed on a document. The notarial seal converts the document from private to public, after which it may be presented as evidence without need for proof of its genuineness and due execution. Thus, notarization should not be treated as an empty, meaningless, or routinary act. It is invested with substantive public interest, such that only those who are qualified or authorized may act as notaries public. Indeed, 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. Otherwise, the confidence of the public in the integrity of this form of conveyance would be undermined.

Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility requires every lawyer to uphold the Constitution, obey the laws of the land and promote respect for the law and legal processes. Moreover, the Notarial Law and the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice require a duly commissioned notary public to make the proper entries in his Notarial Register and to refrain from committing any dereliction or act which constitutes good cause for the revocation of commission or imposition of administrative sanction. Unfortunately, respondent failed in both respects.

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