Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Heirs of the late Spouses Lucas vs. Beradio [A.C. No. 6270, January 22, 2007]

Facts: On 22 May 1984, Alfonso executed an Affidavit of Adjudication stating that as "the only surviving son and sole heir" of the spouses Villanueva, he was adjudicating to himself the parcel of land under OCT No. 2522. Alfonso then executed a Deed of Absolute Sale on 5 July 1984, conveying the property to Adriano Villanueva. Respondent appeared as notary public on both the affidavit of adjudication and the deed of sale. 

Contrary to the misrepresentations of Alfonso, his sister Florencia was still alive at the time he executed the affidavit of adjudication and the deed of sale, as were descendants of the other children of the spouses Villanueva. Complainants claimed that respondent was aware of this fact, as respondent had been their neighbor, from the time of their birth, and respondent constantly mingled with their family. 

Respondent said that the properties of the late spouses have been divided equally among their compulsory heirs, but said old couple left for themselves one titled lot to answer for their needs, which is subject now of the complaint. Alfonso and his wife were tasked to take care of the old couple, as they were the ones living in the same compound with their late parents. This fact was and is known by the other compulsory heirs. 

He said that he notarized said documents in good faith, to help, assist and to guide people who come to me for legal assistance. 

Issue: Whether good faith on the part of the respondent justified her act

Held: No. Respondent herself admitted that she knew of the falsity of Alfonso's statement that he was the "sole heir" of the spouses Villanueva. Respondent therefore notarized a document while fully aware that it contained a material falsehood, 

Where admittedly the notary public has personal knowledge of a false statement or information contained in the instrument to be notarized, yet proceeds to affix his or her notarial seal on it, the Court must not hesitate to discipline the notary public accordingly as the circumstances of the case may dictate. Otherwise, the integrity and sanctity of the notarization process may be undermined and public confidence on notarial documents diminished. In this case, respondent's conduct amounted to a breach of Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which requires lawyers to obey the laws of the land and promote respect for the law and legal processes. Respondent also violated Rule 1.01 of the Code which proscribes lawyers from engaging in unlawful, dishonest, immoral, or deceitful conduct.

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