Abogado Bernardo Constantino wins SC reversal in notary falsification raps

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The Supreme Court has cleared a lawyer of charges of falsification of a public document but ordered administrative charges against him.

In a statement released Tuesday, the tribunal said the court’s Third Division, through Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, granted the petition of lawyer Bernardo Constantino to reverse and set aside the Court of Appeals (CA) rulings which affirmed his conviction six years ago by the Laoag City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 14.

Both the RTC and CA found that Constantino had notarized a will of his client Severino Cabrales prior to it being signed by a witness whose name was printed on the document, Dr. Eliezer John Asuncion.

Asuncion did not appear before Constantino who also did not cross out the name of the witness before notarizing it.

Asuncion only signed the will after it had already been notarized.

The SC held that “[it] is presumed when the alleged falsity committed by the notary public pertains to the notarization since only notaries public have the duty and authority to notarize documents.”

The SC also underscored that the RTC and CA disregarded that Asuncion signed the Joint Acknowledgment after it had been notarized by Constantino.

It also found that Asuncion signed the document on the prodding of Rene Ferrer Jr., son-in-law of Cabrales’ daughter, and that Constantino seemed unaware that Asuncion later signed the document.

Asuncion admitted that his signature was genuine and that he was aware of what he was signing.

In acquitting Constantino, the SC held that “[s]ince Dr. Asuncion did not sign the Joint Acknowledgment before it was notarized, he cannot be considered as having attested and subscribed to its due execution at the time of its notarization. Thus, when Constantino certified that the persons who attested and subscribed to the document were present before him, there could have been no falsity.”

The SC found that it was not Constantino who made it appear that Asuncion participated in the execution of the Joint Acknowledgment, but Ferrer and Asuncion himself.

The SC, however, ruled that “while [Atty. Constantino]’s acts may be inadequate to find him criminally-liable, he may still be liable for administrative sanctions.”

It noted that the failure of Constantino to cross out Asuncion’s name when he notarized the Joint Acknowledgement has allowed Asuncion to still sign the document despite not having participated in its due execution.

The SC said that although the incidents of the case occurred in 2001 and
the applicable Notarial Law then contained a provision on false and incomplete certificates, the Court had already cautioned notaries public from notarizing incomplete documents even before the applicability of the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice. (PNA)

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