Understanding the Apostille Convention: Recognition of Public Documents Abroad

The advent of the Apostille Convention1 (“Convention”) paved the way for a more convenient authentication process in the legalization of documents through the issuance of a certificate called an Apostille. The Convention only applies to public documents. To determine whether a document may be a public document, reference must be made to the law of the country in which the document was issued. In the Philippines, a document is considered a public document, by virtue of its official or sovereign character, or because it has been acknowledged before a notary public (except a notarial will) or a competent public official with the formalities required by law, or because it is a public record of a private writing authorized by law. 2 Because of the presumption of regularity, public documents are self-authenticating and require no further authentication in order to be presented as evidence in court. 3

The Certificate or an Apostille is a document which authenticates the origin of a public document. It certifies the authenticity of the signature or seal of the person or authority that signed or sealed the public document, and the capacity in which this was done. An Apostille does not certify the contents of the public document to which it relates. Further, the Apostille is strictly for use of public documents abroad. Therefore, the Apostille can be issued for documents executed in one country party to the Convention and which is to be used in another country which must also be a party to the Convention.

In the Philippines, the Convention became effective last 14 May 2019. The Office of the Consular Affairs of the Department of Foreign Affairs (“DFA”) will be issuing the Apostille. Once the Apostille is issued in accordance with the requirements of the Convention, it is the only formality required to establish the origin of the public document; thus, no additional requirement may be imposed to authenticate it. In order to verify the Apostille, the DFA is required to keep a register which contains the records as to the date and number of every Apostille it issues, as well as information relating to the person or authority who signed or sealed the public document.

1 Hague Convention of 05 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Documents.
2 Section 19 Rule 132 of the Rules of Court.
3 Anna Lerima Patula v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 164457, 11 April 2012.