Supreme Court disbars lawyer for fake court decision

MANILA The Supreme Court (SC) has disbarred a lawyer for falsifying a court decision on the annulment of the marriage of an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in 2011.

In an 11-page decision promulgated last July 3, the Supreme Court disbarred laywer Dionisio Apoya Jr. for violating Canon 1, Rules 1.01 and 1.02 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, and Section 2, Rule IV of the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice.

"Respondent committed unlawful, dishonest, immoral and deceitful conduct, and lessened the confidence of the public in the legal system. Instead of being an advocate of justice, he became a perpetrator of injustice. His reprehensible acts do not merit him to remain the rolls of the legal profession. Thus, the ultimate penalty of disbarment must be imposed upon him, the Court said.

The High Court also ordered Apoya's name to be immediately stricken off the Roll of Attorneys.

The case stemmed from the complaint of Leah Taday, an OFW in Norway, who with the help of her parents, sought Apoya's legal services to nullify her marriage in 2011.

Court records showed that Apoya, who accepted Taday's case for PHP140,000 to be paid in tranches, drafted the petition for annulment of marriage and had it notarized and filed before the Caloocan City Regional Trial Court (RTC). The case was subsequently raffled off to Caloocan City RTC Branch 131.

On Nov. 17, 2011, while Taday was on vacation in the Philippines, Apoya delivered a decision dated Nov. 16, 2011, which supposedly granted the annulment of her marriage. A certain Judge Ma. Eliza Becamon-Angeles of RTC Branch 162 purportedly came up with the ruling.

Suspicious of the decision, which came out too soon and from a different court branch, and which was poorly crafted, Taday and her parents verified its validity and discovered that Judge Angeles and Branch 162 do not exist.

Taday's parents sought the withdrawal of Apoya as counsel from the case. Apoya, however, filed an urgent motion to withdraw the petition, which RTC Branch 131 had granted.

Taday then sought the legal services of another lawyer, who had sent a letter to Apoya, calling his attention regarding the payment of his attorney's fees and the bogus decision.

Apoya denied delivering the decision or filing an urgent motion to withdraw the petition, claiming he merely drafted the motion and gave it to Taday's parents but never signed it.

The SC also ruled that Apoya notarized the verification and certification of non-forum shopping of the Petition for Annulment, even though Taday did not personally appear before him in violation of the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice.

Notarization is not an empty, meaning and routinary act. It is imbued with public interest. Notarization converts a private document to a public document, making it admissible in evidence without further proof of its authenticity. A notarial document is, by law, entitled to full faith and credit upon its face," the decision said. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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