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“SPA,” “red ribbon,” “apostille,” and how to consularise those documents

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Anthony Mandap | Consular Bulletin
ANTHONY MANDAP is the Philippine Deputy Consul General in Melbourne. He was Deputy Consul General in Vancouver. Anton also worked as a journalist in Malaya and the now-defunct Times Journal. He was also Consul in Caracas, San Francisco and Venezuela. He is a product of the University of the Philippines for his journalism and law degrees.

It is not uncommon for us at the Consulate to be asked questions like, “Sa inyo po ba kumukuha ng SPA?” or “Papaano po magpa-red ribbon?” These, of course, refer to the requirement for overseas Filipinos, or anyone, for that matter, to get their important papers consularised, legalised or notarised by the Consulate before sending them to the Philippines. 

There remains a steady demand for consularisation services, owing to the fact that Filipinos in general, while living or working overseas, or despite having taken up the citizenship of their host countries, never really sever their ties to their motherland – they take care of business, buy or sell property, and support relatives and family members.

So, whether it is to buy a condominium unit, sell a piece of land, or file pleadings in a court case, we often need to execute a written authorisation for someone in the Philippines to represent us. This document invariably has to bear the seal of the Consulate, and the signature of a consular officer, (“consularised”), for it to be honoured in the Philippines. This “ritual” is indispensable, and the reason is to make the document trustworthy, or to prevent fraud or forgery. 

To have a full understanding and appreciation of the concepts and procedures for consularisation, we ask our readers to pay attention to the following facts:

What is SPA? 

SPA is short for special power of attorney. It is a document you need to execute for the purpose of authorising a representative in the Philippines (called “attorney-in-fact”) to perform a particular act on your behalf, owing to your physical absence. A consularised SPA is necessary – any other format, even if written, would not be acceptable – especially for matters like selling property or receiving amounts of money on your behalf as principal. Banks, government agencies, schools, property vendors, lawyers and courts will only accept a consularised SPA, and not any substitute, because this is the only way they can be assured that the person claiming to be your representative is telling the truth.

A SPA is not the only way a legal transaction in the Philippines can be delegated. A close cousin of the SPA is the GPA, or general power of attorney. A GPA works in a similar way, although is rarely used or prescribed because it is limited to powers of administration, e.g., managing or maintaining property, paying taxes thereon, etc.

Who should write the SPA? What is the role of the Consulate?

You, the principal, should write or execute your SPA. It is, therefore, incorrect to say “kukuha sa Consulate ng SPA,” because we do not write the SPA; we are not responsible for its contents, and our only role is to ascertain, through the process of consularisation: 1) your identity as the person signing or executing the document; and 2) that the same is your voluntary act. 

The Consulate understands that it is never easy for a layman to write their own SPA because of its legal and technical nature. The usual way is for your lawyer, if you have one, to write it for you. A more convenient and economical way (you don’t need to engage a lawyer!) we recommend is to copy an existing template: Google “Philippine legal forms” and download a sample, then, using your computer, modify and customise it according to your particular need and personal circumstances. 

If this too is hard for you, then we can provide you a blank form, though this is rarely recommended because it is not nearly as presentable and credible-looking as a typewritten one, not to mention that writing in long-hand usually sacrifices clarity or precision. 

What other documents are required to be consularised? 

Aside from the very familiar SPA, other private legal documents may still be consularised, if these are to be used or presented in the Philippines. These include affidavits (such as affidavit of loss or affidavit of support and consent), sworn statements, deeds of sale or contracts to sell, deeds of assignment, estate settlement documents, and various other legal documents requiring the signature of a person who is located in our consular jurisdiction. 

How are these documents consularised?

The Consulate will require you to sign the document in person, in the presence of a consular officer or employee, and subscribe and swear to the contents of the document. If witnesses are required in the document, they too will sign in the presence of Consulate personnel.

The Consulate will then prepare a covering document called “Jurat,” with respect to affidavits and sworn statements, or “Certificate of Acknowledgment,” for SPAs and other documents. This covering document is attached to the consularised document with a rivet, embossed with the Consulate’s seal, and signed by a consular officer. 

The finished product is the consularised document released to you. It will be your responsibility now to send this to your attorney-in-fact or representative in the Philippines.

What is a “red ribbon?” 

Red ribbon refers to how consularised documents were traditionally bound or fastened, to ensure that no page is left out of or added or inserted in the pile of sheets. A narrow red ribbon was inserted in the rivet, looped from front to back and around, then then glued to the first page with a gold adhesive foil embossed with the Consulate’s dry seal.

The practice of binding with ribbon has been discontinued. Consularised documents now have the same look, fastened with a rivet, and only bear the gold seal and the name and signature of the consular officer. 

What about public documents? 

Public documents issued in Australia, for use in the Philippines, are no longer allowed to be consularised. Instead, they are presented for “apostillisation,” the process required under the Apostille Convention.

The Apostille Convention is an international agreement which seeks to eliminate the need among member countries to consularise public documents as a means to facilitate international business and other transactions. The Convention entered into force in Australia on 13 January 1968, while in the Philippines, it became effective on 14 May 2019. The apostille process merely requires the applicants in Australia to present the document to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) or an authorised Australian Passport Office for the issuance of an apostille certificate, without need to submit the same to the Philippine Consulate. 

Public documents include birth, marriage and death certificates, land titles, certified school records, government certifications and licenses and other documents issued by local, state and federal government agencies.

For more information on apostille service, visit the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Can SPAs, affidavits and other private documents also be apostillised? 

Strictly speaking, no, because these are not covered by the Apostille Convention. However, private documents which have been notarised by a Notary Public become public documents, and thus may be apostillised. 

The apostille option, therefore, is available to certain clients who live far from the Consulate and find it more convenient to bring their documents to a Notary Public and send them to DFAT or an authorised Australian Passport Office for apostillisation, rather than visit the Consulate. 

What is the procedure for consularisation of documents at the Philippine Consulate General in Melbourne? 

In view of the Consulate’s inadequate staffing and limited space in its present office, consularisation or legalisation of documents is done strictly by appointment only. Applicants are required to book an appointment by sending an email to Melbournephilconsulate@gmail.com.

Applicants executing documents are required to do this in person. 

Only in exceptional cases where the applicant cannot travel to the Consulate due to serious illness or disability may a special arrangement be made, at the discretion of the Consul General or a consular officer. 

What are the requirements?

Aside from personal appearance by the applicant, the following are required:

  • Original and photocopy of the document/s to be acknowledged.
  • Original and photocopy of valid identification with photograph and signature of the holder (e.g. passport, driver’s license or any other government-issued identification card). The identification must bear the name that appears on the document to be acknowledged.
  • A non-refundable cash payment of A$45.00. 
  • A self-addressed, stamped Express Post mailing envelope (because at the moment, documents cannot be done while-you-wait).

These requirements and procedures are subject to changes, as the Consulate settles into its permanent office and upscales its operations with the arrival of more personnel. 

How long should you wait for the consularised document to reach you? 

You can expect the mailed document to reach you within 3-5 working days from the date of application. 

For more information, call (03) 8375 9646, email melbourne.pcg@dfa.gov.ph, or check out our Facebook account, Konsulado Ng Pilipinas Melbourne.

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