Apostilles and Their Effect on Foreign Public Documents
By Atty. Jonathan de Guzman
On 12 September 2018, the Philippines acceded to The Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents, otherwise known as the Apostille Convention, which took effect last 14 May 2019.
Before we discuss apostillation, it might be advantageous to ask….um…what exactly is an apostille? Well, essentially, it’s a certificate that verifies the authenticity and legitimacy of a public document.
Apostillized public documents can only be recognized by another state if all of the following conditions are met:
- The state in which the document was issued is a party to the Convention;
- The state in which the document is to be used is also party to the Convention;
- The law of the state in which the document was issued considers the document as a public instrument; and
- The state in which the document is to be used requires an apostille in order to recognize the document as a foreign public document.
At this point, it is crucial to note that apostille only applies if both states consider the document a public document, and the definition and classification of a public document may differ between states, as defined by the municipal law of each one.
Here in the Philippines, the following are treated as public documents, according to Section19, R ule 132 of the Rules of Court:
(a) The written official acts, or records of the official acts of the sovereign authority, official bodies and tribunals, and public officers, whether of the Philippines, or of a foreign country; (b) Documents acknowledged before a notary public except last wills and testaments; and (c) Public records, kept in the Philippines, of private documents required by law to be entered therein.
Under the previous authentication process, documents issued abroad were required to be authenticated by the Philippine Embassy or Consulate General before they could be used here. Under the Apostille Convention, however, a public document can easily be authenticated or apostillized by the issuing authority, called the Competent Authority, of the state where the document was executed, allowing it to be used in other countries, provided, as previously mentioned, they are also a member of the Apostille Convention. Let’s say, for example, a certificate of birth originating in Japan is required to be presented to one of the government agencies here in the Philippines. Under the Apostille Convention, the certificate will be treated as a public document here once an apostille is issued by the Competent Authority in Japan.
Simply put, the purpose of an apostille is to authenticate the origin of public documents intended to be used abroad. Much like in the traditional method, an apostillized document certifies only the origin of the document; it certifies the document as authentic and the authority of the person who certified the document as a public document. The apostille does not certify the contents of the public document.
To ensure the authenticity of the apostille, the Competent Authority is required to have a register of all the apostilles it issues for verification should it be necessary. Now, what if the State in which the document is to be used is not a party to the convention, will the apostille have an effect? The answer is no. Such document will only be recognized as a public document by reverting back to the traditional mode of authenticating public documents.
The Hague Conference on Private International Law keeps records of the contracting State Parties to the international law and their corresponding Competent Authorities that issue apostilles in their respective states.
Here in the Philippines, the Department of Foreign Affairs – Office of Consular Affairs (DFA- OCA) is the registered Competent Authority that issues apostilles.
Atty. Jonathan de Guzman. August 20, 2019.
LINK: The Hague Apostille Covention
Picture by Andrew Stutesman @ Unsplash
Recognizing the need to protect the dignity of every human being and guarantee full respect for human rights, Republic Act No. 11313, otherwise known as the “Safe Spaces Act”, was enacted.
The Safe Spaces Act, principally authored and sponsored by Senator Risa Hontiveros, seeks to complement the existing Anti-Sexual Harassment Law, and is described by her as “a big victory and a major push back against the growing ‘bastos culture’ in our streets and communities.” The new law expands the coverage of sexual harassment by not limiting the same to the workplace, and acknowledging that it can occur not just in superior-subordinate relationships. The crime of gender-based sexual harassment may also be committed, for example, between peers, by a subordinate to a superior officer, by a student to a teacher, or by a trainee to a trainer.
The new law punishes gender-based street and public spaces harassment such as wolf-whistling, catcalling, and online sexual harassment among others.
More specifically, it covers the following crimes:
a) Gender-Based Streets and Public Spaces Sexual Harassment
b) Gender-Based Online Sexual Harassment
c) Qualified Gender-Based Streets, Public Spaces and Online Sexual Harassment
d) Gender-Based Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, and
e) Gender Based Sexual Harassment in Educational and Training Institutions.
Below are some of the salient features of the law:
A. The crime of Gender-based Streets and Public Spaces Sexual Harassment are committed through any unwanted and uninvited sexual actions or remarks against any person regardless of the motive for committing such action or remarks.
Specific Acts and Penalties for Gender-based Streets and Public Spaces Sexual Harassment:
Degree of Offense
First degree offenses:
2nd degree offenses:
3rd degree offenses:
Section 4, Article 1, Republic Act No. 11313.
B. Gender-Based Online Sexual Harassment includes:
- Acts that use information and communications technology in terrorizing and intimidating victims through physical, psychological, and emotional threats; Unwanted sexual misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic, and sexist remarks
- and comments online whether publicly or through direct and private messages;
- Invasion of victim’s privacy through cyberstalking and incessant messaging;
- Uploading and sharing without the consent of the victims, any form of media that contains photos, voice, or video with sexual content;
- Unauthorized recording and sharing of any of the victim’s photos, videos, or any information online;
- Impersonating identities of victims online or posting lies about victims to harm their reputation;
- Filing false abuse reports to online platforms to silence victims.
Penalty 2 years, 4 months, and 1 day to 4 years and 2 months in prison or P100,000 to P500,000-fine, or both
C. Qualified Gender-Based Streets, Public Spaces and Online Sexual Harassment is committed in the following instances:
- If the act takes place in a common carrier or PUV, including, but not limited to, jeepneys, taxis, tricycles, or app-based transport network vehicle services, where the perpetrator is the driver of the vehicle and the offended party is a passenger;
- If the offended party is a minor, a senior citizen, or a person with disability (PWD), or a breastfeeding mother nursing her child;
- If the offended party is diagnosed with a mental problem tending to impair consent;
- If the perpetrator is a member of the uniformed services, such as the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the act was perpetrated while the perpetrator was in uniform; and
- If the act takes place in the premises of a government agency offering frontline services to the public and the perpetrator is a government employee.
Penalty The penalty next higher will apply.
D. Gender-Based Sexual Harassment in the Workplace includes:
- An act or series of acts involving any unwelcome sexual advances, requests or demand for sexual favors or any act of sexual nature, whether done verbally, physically or through the use of technology such as text messaging or electronic mail or through any other forms of information and communication systems, that has or could have a detrimental effect on the conditions of an individual’s employment or education, job performance or opportunities;
- A conduct of sexual nature and other conduct-based on sex affecting the dignity of a person, which is unwelcome, unreasonable, and offensive to the recipient, whether done verbally, physically or through the use of technology such as text messaging or electronic mail or through any other forms of information and communication systems;
- A conduct that is unwelcome and pervasive and creates an intimidating, hostile or humiliating environment for the recipient; Provided, That the crime of gender-based sexual harassment may also be committed between peers and those committed to a superior officer by a subordinate, or to a teacher by a student, or to a trainer by a trainee.