SC suspends lawyer for notarizing legal separation documents without judicial approval

October 18, 2011 9:49 pm 

MANILA, Oct. 18 – The Supreme Court (SC) has suspended a notary public for one year for violating the Code of Professional Responsibility for notarizing legal separation documents without judicial approval.

In an eight-page ruling penned by Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio, the SC's Second Division also revoked Atty. Julieta A. Omana's commission, if still existing, as well as suspended her as a notary public for two years.

The suspension arose from the complaint of Rodolfo A. Espinosa and Maximo A. Glindo who alleged that Omana prepared and notarized on Nov. 17, 1997 in Gumaca, Quezon the Kasunduan ng Paghihiwalay, the contract supposedly dissolving the marriage of Espinosa to one Elena Marantal.

The SC affirmed the findings of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD) that, in preparing and notarizing a void document, Omana violated Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which provides that "(a) lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct."

It said that Omana knew fully well that the Kasunduan ng Paghihiwalay has no legal effect and is against public policy.

The SC ruled that the extrajudicial dissolution of the conjugal partnership without judicial approval is void.

It further ruled that a notary public should not facilitate the disintegration of a marriage and the family by encouraging the separation of the spouses and extrajudicially dissolving the conjugal partnership, which was exactly what respondent Omana did.

The SC rejected Omana's argument that it was her part-time office staff who notarized the contract, stressing that if such were true, it only showed Omana's negligence in doing her notarial duties.

It reiterated that a notary public "is personally responsible for the entries in his notarial register."

Espinosa and Marantal entered into the Kasunduan and started implementing its terms and conditions.

However, when Marantal eventually violated the purported contract by taking custody of all their three children, Espinosa sought Glindo's advice.

Glindo, a law student and Espinosa's fellow worker, subsequently hired the services of a lawyer to file a complaint against Omana before the IBP-CBD. (PNA) RMA/PTR/utb

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