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BAR MATTER NO. 702 May 12, 1994

BAR MATTER NO. 702 May 12, 1994

Gentlemen:

Quoted hereunder, for your information, is a Resolution of the Court En Banc dated May 12, 1994.

Bar Matter No. 702 (In the Matter of Petition to authorize Sharia'h District Court Judges to Appoint Shari'a Lawyers as Notaries Public, Atty. Royo M. Gampong, petitioner)

Petitioner Royo M. Gampong, a Bachelor of Laws (LIB) graduate of Notre Dame University who was admitted to the Philippine Shari'a Bar on October 7, 1991, filed the instant petition praying that this Court, after due notice and hearing, issue an order authorizing all Shari'a District Court Judges to appoint Shari'a Lawyers who possess the qualifications and none of the disqualifications as notaries public within their respective jurisdictions.

On the theory that Shari'a District Courts are co-equal with the regular Regional Trial Courts in the hierarchy of the Philippine Judicial System, petitioner claims that by analogy, Shari'a District Court Judges may be authorized to appoint the members of the Philippine Shari'a Bar. Petitioner further argues that, being a special member of the Philippine Bar and a practicing Shari'a lawyer, notarial work is indispensable and imperative in the exercise of his profession; therefore, he is qualified to be appointed as notary public by Shari'a District Judge. Petitioner likewise claims that Shari'a lawyers cannot be appointed as notaries public in their places of residence and in cities and other pilot centers where Shari'a courts are established because the RTC Executive Judges in Cotabato and Maguindanao require them to secure certifications from the IBP Secretary that there are no practicing lawyers in the place where they are applying. Thus, Shari'a lawyers lose their chance to be appointed as notaries public because of the policy of the IBP chapters in Region 12 to appoint regular IBP members practically in all municipalities and provinces.

The petition is denied.

The appointment, qualification, jurisdiction and powers of notaries public are governed by the provisions of the Notarial Law embodied in Sections 231 to Section 241, Chapter 11 of the Revised Administrative Code, Section 232 of the Revised Administrative Code as amended by Executive Order No. 41, May 11, 1945 provides:

Section 232. Appointment of notaries public. Judges of Court of First Instance (now Regional Trial Court) in the respective may appoint as many notaries public as the public good requires, and there shall be at least one for every municipality in each province. Notaries public in the City of Manila shall be appointed by one of the judges of the Court of First Instance (now Regional Trial Court) of Manila to be chosen by the judges of the branches of said court" (Words in parenthesis supplied)

Strictly speaking, Shari'a District Courts do not form part of the integrated judicial system of the Philippines. Section 2 of the Judiciary Reorganization Acts of 1980 (B.P. Blg. 129) enumerates the courts covered by the Act, comprising the integrated judicial system. Shari'a Courts are not included in the enumeration notwithstanding that, when said B.P. Blg. 129 took effect on August 14, 1981, P.D. No. 1083 (otherwise known as "Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines") was already in force. The Shari'a Courts are mentioned in Section 45 of the Act only for the purpose of including them "in the funding appropriations."

The fact that judges thereof are required by law to possess the same qualifications as those of Regional Trial Courts does not signify that the Shari'a Court is a regular court like the Regional Trial Court. The latter is a court of general jurisdiction, i.e., competent to decide all cases, civil and criminal, within its jurisdiction. A Shari'a District Court, created pursuant to Article 137 of Presidential Decree No. 1083, is a court of limited jurisdiction, exercising original only over cases specifically enumerated in Article 143 thereof. In other words, a Shari'a District Court is not a regular court exercising general jurisdiction within the meaning of Section 232 of the Notarial Law.

The fact, too, that Shari'a Courts are called "courts" does not imply that they are on equal footing or are identical with regular courts, for the word "court" may be applied to tribunals which are not actually judicial in character, but are quasi-judicial agencies, like the Securities and Exchange Commission, Land Registration Authority, Social Security Commission, Civil Aeronautics Boards, Bureau of Patents, Trademark and Technology, Energy Regulatory Board, etc. 1

Moreover, decisions of the Shari'a District Courts are not elevated to this Court by appeal under Rule 41, or by petition for review under Rule 45, of the Rules of Court. Their decisions are final "whether on appeal from the Shari'a Circuit Court or not" 2 and hence, may reach this Court only by way of a special civil action under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, similar to those of the National Labor Relations Commission, or the Central Board of Assessment Appeals. 3

Furthermore, the qualifications for appointment as a judge of a Shari'a District Court are different from those required of a judge of a Regional Trial Court under Section 15 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129 which provides:

Section 15. Qualifications No person shall be appointed Regional trial Court Judge unless he is a natural born citizen of the Philippines, at least thirty-five years of age, and, for at least ten years, has been engaged in the practice of law in the Philippines requiring admission to the practice of law as an indispensable requirement.

In case of Shari'a Court judges, on the other hand, a Special Bar Examination for Shari'a Courts was authorized by the Supreme Court in its En Banc resolution dated September 20, 1983. Those who pass said examination are qualified for appointment for Shari'a court judges and for admission to special membership in the Philippine Bar to practice law in the Shari'a courts pursuant to Article 152, in relation to Articles 148 and 158 of P.D. No. 1083. Said Article 152, P.D. No. 1083 provides, thus:

Art. 152. Qualifications. No person shall be appointed judge of the Shari'a Circuit Court unless he is a natural born citizen of the Philippines, at least twenty-five years of age, and has passed an examination in the Sharia' and Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) to be given by the Supreme Court for admission to special membership in the Philippine Bar to practice law in the Shari'a courts.

The authority thus conferred by the Notarial Law upon judges of the Court of First Instance, now the Regional Trial Court, in their respective provinces to appoint notaries public cannot be expanded to cloth the judges of the Shari'a District Court with the same statutory authority. The authority to appoint notaries public contemplated under Section 232 of the Notarial Law and the corresponding supervising authority over them authorized under Section 248 thereof require the qualifications and experience of an RTC Judge.

It must be made clear in this regard that since a person who has passed the Shari'a Bar Examination does not automatically become a regular member of the Philippine Bar, he lacks the necessary qualification to be appointed a notary public. Section 233 of the Notarial Law provides for the qualifications for appointment as notary public, thus:

Section 233. Qualifications for Appointment. To be eligible for appointment as notary public, a person must be a citizen of the Philippines (or of the United States) and over twenty-one years of age. He must, furthermore, be a person who has been admitted to the practice of law or who has completed and passed in the studies of law in a reputable university or school of law, or has passed the examination for the office of the peace or clerk or deputy clerk of court, or be a person who had qualified for the office of notary public under the Spanish sovereignty.

In the chartered cities and in the capitals of the provinces, where there are two or more lawyers appointed as notaries public, no person other than a lawyer or a person who had qualified to hold the office of notary public under the Spanish sovereignty shall hold said office.

In municipalities or municipal districts where no person resides having the qualifications herein before specified or having them, refuses to hold such office, judges of first instance may appoint other persons temporarily to exercise the office of notary public who have the requisite qualifications or fitness and morality.

In an En Banc resolution of the Court dated August 5, 1993, in Bar Matter No. 681 "Re: Petition to Allow Shari'a Lawyers to exercise their profession at the regular courts," this Court categorically stated that a person who has passed the Shari'a Bar Examination is only a special member of the Philippine Bar and not a full-fledged member thereof even if he is a Bachelor of Laws degree holder. As such, he is authorized to practice only in the Shari'a courts.

Only a person duly admitted as members of the Philippine Bar in accordance with the Rules of Court are entitled to practice law before the regular courts. Section 1, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court provides:

Section 1. Who may practice law. Any person heretofore duly admitted as a member of the bar, or hereafter admitted as such in accordance with the provisions of this rule, and who is in good and regular standing, is entitled to practice law.

This Court further emphasized in its resolution in Bar Matter 681, that:

In order to be admitted as member of the Philippine Bar, the candidate must pass an examination for admission covering the following subjects: Political and International Law; Labor and Social Legislation; Civil Law and Taxation; Mercantile Law; Criminal Law; Remedial Law; and Legal Ethics and Practical Exercises (Sec. 11, Rule 138) Further, in order that a candidate may be deemed to have passed the bar examination, he must have obtained a general average of 75% in all the aforementioned subjects without failing below 50% in any subject (Sec. 14, Rule 138). On the other hand, the subjects covered by the special bar examination for Shari'a courts are: (1) Jurisprudence (Fiqh) and Customary laws (Adat); (2) Persons, Family Relations and Property; (3) Successions, Wills/Adjudication and Settlement of Property; (4) Procedure in Shari'a Courts (See Resolution dated September 20, 1983).

It is quite obvious that the subject matter of the two examinations are different. The Philippine Bar Examination covers the entire range of the Philippine Laws and jurisprudence, while the Shari'a Bar Examination covers Muslim personal laws and jurisprudence only. Hence, a person who has passed the Shari'a Bar Examination, who is not a lawyer, is not qualified to practice law before the regular courts because he has not passed the requisite examinations for admission as a member of the Philippine Bar. However, the Shari'a bar lawyer may appear before the Municipal Trial Courts as agent or friend of a litigant, if appointed by the latter for the purpose but not before the Regional Trial Courts as only duly authorized members of the Bar may conduct litigations in the latter court (Sec. 34, Rule 138).

Considering, therefore that a person who has passed the Shari'a Bar Examination is only a special member of the Philippine Bar and not a full-fledged member thereof even if he holds a Bachelor of Laws Degree, he is not qualified to practice to qualified to practice law before the regular courts. As a general rule, a Shari'a Lawyer is not possessed of the basic requisite of "practice of law" in order to be appointed as a notary public under Section 233 of the Notarial Law in relation to Section 1, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court.

WHEREFORE, the petition to authorize Shari'a District Court Judges to appoint Shari'a Lawyers as notaries public in their respective jurisdiction is DENIED.

Very Truly Yours,

LUZVIMINDA D. PUNO

Clerk of Court

By:

(Sgd.) MA. LUISA D. VILLARAMA

Assistant Clerk of Court

Footnotes

1 See Circular 1-91, February 27, 1991.

2 Art 145, P.D. 1083.

3 See Resolution of November 26, 1990, G.R. No. 95895, Heirs of Datu Mangindra Sinsuat, represented by Lourdes Sinsuat v. Datu Haakon Sinsuat and Hon. Corocoy D. Moson, Shari'a District Judge; cf., Tampar v. Usman, 200 SCRA 652 (1991); Rulona-Al Awadhi v. Astih, 165 SCRA 771 (1988).


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