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'Goodbye ribbons! Hello apostilles!'.

After depositing its instrument of accession in the Hague Conference on Private International Law in The Hague on September 12, 2018, the Apostille Convention officially entered into force between the Philippines and the other State Parties that have raised no objection to its accession on May 14, 2019.

While this made a lot of people rejoice at the relief brought about by using 'apostillized' documents, others would ask: What is an apostille?

Before we delve into the specifics of apostillization, let's recall the old process in having a document authenticated to be used abroad. Whenever a public document from the Philippines would be used abroad, it must first be certified by the relevant government agency or office issuing or having custody of such document. Afterward the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) must authenticate it. The perennial 'red ribbon' attached to the public document more commonly identifies such authentication. Last, the embassy of the country where the document would be used would authenticate the public document in a process called 'Legalization.' Similar process applies on documents coming from outside.

With the old process cleared up, let us go to apostillization. An 'apostille' is a certificate placed on the public document itself or on an allonge. It has the effect of certifying the origin of the public document. Specifically, 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 it was done. Although the apostille has the effect of certifying the document, it does not relate to the latter's underlying content.

Instead of using the 'red ribbon,' the DFA would now issue an apostille to authenticate the document. Once apostillized, the public document may now be presented and used abroad. There is no more need to undergo Legalization of the public document. With apostillization, the process is significantly made more efficient and less costly.

Before we go and avail ourselves of this new development, let us first ask: Is my document required to be apostillized? Based on Article 1 of the Apostille Convention, apostillization applies to the following public documents: (1) court-issued documents; (2) administrative documents (such as civil status documents); (3) notarial acts; and (4) official certificates that are placed on documents signed by persons in their private capacities. Apostilles may also be issued for certified true copies of a public document.

On the other hand, apostillization does not apply to: (1) documents issued by diplomatic or consular agents; and (2) administrative documents dealing directly with commercial or customs operations.

It must be remembered that the purpose of an apostille is to authenticate a public document for use abroad. In other words, an apostille may never be used for the recognition of a public document in the country where that document was issued.

If the apostillization applies to the public document, the next question to be asked is: Is the country of destination a State Party to the Apostille Convention? It should be noted that the use of the apostille is by virtue of an agreement, the Apostille Convention, between Contracting State Parties. All those not parties to the Apostille Convention cannot be forced to recognize an apostille.

As of September 12, 2018, the Apostille Convention has 117 Contracting State Parties, which include States where the Apostille Convention has not yet entered into force following its deposit of its instruments of ratification, accession, acceptance or approval. As such, the Philippine-issued apostilles will be honored in the territories of the Contracting State Parties, with the exception of Austria, Finland, Germany and Greece all of whom objected to the accession of the Philippines to the Apostille Convention. Any public document that would originate from or would be used in the said countries will still undergo the Legalization process in the embassy.

Once it is verified that the public document is among those that may be apostillized and that the country where the document would be used is a Contracting State Party to the Apostille Convention, the next logical question is: Where to go to get an apostille?

Under Article 6 of the Apostille Convention, the apostille must be issued by the 'competent authority' of the State. Only the competent authority of a country may issue an apostille for a document, which was executed or which originated from the said country for use abroad. In the case of the Philippines, the competent authority is the Authentication Division of the Office of the Consular Affairs of the DFA.

Recipients may also verify apostilles by contacting the competent authority that issued the same. For Philippine-issued apostilles, recipients may either access an online portal created by the DFA or scan the QR code on the apostille to verify it.

The accession in and eventual entry into force of the Apostille Convention surely is a breath of fresh air. It steers us in the right direction toward loosening up the rigid processes in our near-archaic system.
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Publication:Business Mirror (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:May 28, 2019
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