(Question A.1, Legal and Judicial Ethics, 2019 Bar Exam)
Atty. A, a duly licensed notary public, has maintained several notarial registers in his separate offices in order to cater to the needs of his clients and accommodate their growing number. Due to Atty. A’s busy schedule, Atty. A’s secretary would usually perform the notarial acts on his behalf.
Sometime in April 2017, Mrs. B, an Overseas Filipino Worker staying in Singapore, sought the legal services of Atty. A for the nullification of her marriage. Consequently, Atty. A drafted a petition with verification which was sent from his law office in Manila to Singapore for the signature of Mrs. B, who, after signing the same, sent it back to Atty. A. When the document arrived in Atty. A’s office, his secretary, as per usual practice, notarized the signed document upon Atty. A’s instruction.
(a) Name at least two (2) violations of the Rules on Notarial Practice committed by Atty. A. (3%)
(b) May Atty. A be also held liable under the Code of Professional Responsibility for the same infractions committed by him as a notary public? Explain. (2%)
(c) What does the phrase “competent evidence of identity” refer to under the Rules on Notarial Practice? (3%)
(a) Atty. A committed the following violations:
1) A notary public shall keep only one active notarial register at any given time; and
2) Only the notary public who is a lawyer should perform its duties and functions.
(b) Yes. Answer
Under jurisprudence, a notary public is a lawyer whose actions are subject to the Code of Professional Responsibility. Accordingly, the canons and rules apply to the notary public, including disciplinary action for violations. Rule
In the case at bar, Atty. A violated the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice by having more than one active notarial register and allowing his secretary to exercise the duties and functions of a notary public. Such infraction committed as a notary public may also be a subject of disciplinary action under the Code of Professional Responsibility. Apply
Thus, Atty. A may be also held liable under the Code of Professional Responsibility for the same infractions committed by him as a notary public. Conclusion
(c) Competent evidence of identity – refers to the identification of an individual based on:
1) At least one (1) current identification document issued by an official agency bearing the photograph and signature of the individual; or
2) The oath or affirmation of one credible witness not privy to the instrument, document or transaction who is personally known to the notary public and who personally knows the individual, or of two (2) credible witnesses neither of whom is privy to the instrument, document or transaction who each personally knows the individual and shows to the notary public documentary identification.
(Notice: The suggested answers simulate those that a bar examinee may provide, and thus specific citations are not provided. Notwithstanding, in the reviewers, the bar exam question is answered under the appropriate topic which discusses the concepts and principles, as well as provide for specific citations. Accordingly, please refer to it on the reviewer or in the Library.)
Lawyer, Author, Mentor