The Supreme Court has ordered the suspension of a lawyer who notarized documents for a civil case without authority or commission from a local court.
In a nine-page en banc decision authored by Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin, the SC suspended Atty. Gerardo Wilfredo Alberto from law practice for five years and permanently barred him from being commissioned as a notary public.
The magistrates have found Alberto administratively liable for notarizing documents despite the lack of necessary authority, allowing his client to sign a motion filed in court, and failing to indicate his Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) compliance number.
The SC said that the lawyer notarized a supplemental agreement and an amended joint venture agreement which was attached in the civil case for recovery of possession filed by his client Cristeto Dinopol Jr. against Singfil Hydro Builders.
However, it was found that Alberto was not commissioned by the Cavite City Regional Trial Court (RTC) as a notary public in the city where he notarized the documents.
“The respondent, by making it appear that he had been duly commissioned to act as notary public, thereby vested the documents with evidentiary value. Yet, because of the absence of a notarial commission in his favor, he foisted a deliberate falsehood on the trial court,” the SC ruled.
The high court also declared that Alberto violated Rule 9.01, Canon 9 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which prohibits lawyers from delegating their tasks to unqualified persons.
It explained that the lawyer violated the rule when he made his client (Dinopol)—not a lawyer—sign a motion seeking the admission of the amended complaint, due to the defects in the original filing.
“The responsibility of signing the so-called Motion for Prior Leave of Court to Admit the Herein Attached Amended Complaint was personal to the respondent as the attorney of record. That he delegated it to a non-lawyer was an abdication of the responsibility that subjected him to sanction,” the SC said.
Lastly, the SC cited Alberto’s non-disclosure of his MCLE compliance number in the complaint he filed was a “flagrant disobedience” of Bar Matter No. 1922.
It noted that the lawyer “seemed to be a repeat violator,” as he had previously been directed by the Mandaluyong City RTC in August 2014 to show cause for his failure to comply with this particular rule.