De Lima camp admits notarization 'not face to face'

MANILA, Philippines – The camp of detained Senator Leila de Lima admitted in their memorandum that the notarization of her affidavits was not done face to face with notary public Maria Cecile Tresvalles-Cabalo, but dismissed the issue as "legal nitpicking and hairsplitting."

The issue of a falsified notarization was raised by Solicitor General Jose Calida who said it was his "knock-out punch" against De Lima.

Calida said that because the notarization is falsified, the entire petition before the Supreme Court (SC) is moot and should therefore be dismissed outright.

In their memorandum submitted to the SC on Tuesday, April 17, De Lima's lawyers said the situation on February 24, the day she was arrested, made it difficult for the senator to make a personal appearance before Cabalo and have her affidavit notarized.

They maintained, however, that Cabalo notarized the petition inside Camp Crame in Quezon City on February 24 after personally meeting with De Lima at the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) headquarters.

Calida previously submitted affidavits of De Lima's close-in cops who swore that they did not witness any signing of document between De Lima and another lawyer.

Cabalo, in her affidavit, explained that the documents were already signed by De Lima when it was handed to her for notarization.

"(Cabalo) was present and met with (De Lima) on the day of the notarization, and that Petitioner has clearly and previously discussed with her that she has caused the preparation of a petition that she would like the notary public to notarize the same," De Lima's memorandum reads.

"Due to the fact of the conditions of incarceration that Petitioner was suffering on that day, the act of signing was not done face to face with the notary. But the signature was presented to her immediately after the act of signing, with the notary having the knowledge that (De Lima) was signing the petition. Despite these certainties, the notary public still took the additional step to verify the signature of the Petitioner by asking for her proof of identification from her staffers," the memorandum said.

During the SC's oral arguments, Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr pointed out that Section 6 of the rules on notarial practice requires the individual to personally appear before the notary public and sign the document in the presence of the notary.

De Lima's lawyers cited SC decisions to support their assertion that despite the notarization constraints, "the petition is genuine and valid as any other."

"In the case of Uy v. Landbank, the Supreme Court ruled that the requirement regarding verification of a pleading is formal, not jurisdictional. Such requirement regarding verification of a pleading is formal, not jurisdictional. Such requirement is simply a condition affecting the form of pleading, the non-compliance of which does not necessarily render the pleading fatally defective," the memorandum said.

It added: "In the case of Shipside v. CA, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Court may even act on the pleading although it is not verified, if the attending circumstances are such that strict compliance with the rules may be dispensed with in order that the ends of justice may thereby be served."

Calida had also threatened to file separate suits against De Lima and Cabalo for falsification of documents.

But De Lima's lawyers are shrugging off the issue as just nitpicking.

"With due respect, the petitioner believes that the Honorable Court has more substantive and relevant issues to resolve than be bothered with such narrow, formalistic pettiness," they said in the memorandum. –

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.