Tuesday, October 5, 2010

An Illegal Proposal

A few days ago, a man came to our Legal Office seeking legal advice. This man has been married to his wife for over a decade but in the last few years, they have been having some marital problems. Basically, both of them have paramours. In a misguided attempt at making peace with his wife, he wanted to execute a contract with his her with the goal of freeing themselves of each other, and allowing each of them to marry other people in spite of the fact they are still married and that their marriage has not been annulled, to the extent that they wanted to waive any right to file charges for bigamy, adultery and concubinage against each other.
I truthfully and honestly told the man that what we wanted to do was illegal. Aside from being illegal, it was an immoral proposition. He then proceeded to show me that he already prepared a document denominated as a Memorandum of Agreement wherein it set forth what I knew were illegal and immoral stipulations. I told the man that I would have to decline his offer for me to notarize the document as it was plainly immoral. No Lawyer-Notary in his right mind would ever notarize such a document. He protested and told me that his neighbor told him it was quite alright. At that moment I told him bluntly, "your neighbor is not a lawyer and he knows nothing about the law. By asking me to notarize that document which I know is chock-full of immoral and illegal stipulations, you are asking me to betray my Oath as a Lawyer." At that instance, I politely asked him to leave the office.

In SELANOVA vs LEJANDRO E. MENDOZA, City Judge of Mandaue City (AM-894-CJ May 19, 1975) citing Panganiban vs Borromeo (58 Phil. 367) and Biton vs Momongon (62 Phil. 7) the Supreme Court held, a lawyer was severely censured for having notarized a document containing "an agreement between the husband and the wife which permitted the husband to take unto himself a concubine and the wife to live in adulterous relationship with another man, without opposition from either one of them". The document was prepared by another person.

In that case this Court noted that while adultery and concubinage are private crimes, "they still remain crimes" and a contract legalizing their commission is "contrary to law, morals and public order, and as a consequence not judicially recognizable".Severe censure was also administered to a notary of Cebu City who ratified a document entitled "Legal Separation", executed by husband and wife, wherein they agreed that they separated mutually and voluntarily, that they renounced their rights and obligations, and that they authorized each other to remarry, renouncing any action to which they might be entitled and each promising not to be a witness against the other. Those covenants are contrary to law, morals and good customs and tend to subvert the vital foundation of the legitimate family.
 
I'm pretty sure that after leaving our office, that man went to one of those street-corner notaries in downtown Cebu City. Those people are no better than those neighborhood smart-alecks, and beer-garden "lawyers" who think they know more about the law than lawyers and insist on what a lawyer can or cannot do.

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