As the world moves to adapt to the ever-growing,
rapid-changing digital and globalised times, signing through
electronic means is a concept many companies are trying to
implement to increase the efficiency with which they connect
with consumers and suppliers.
Panama has regulated electronic signature since 2008,
through the enactment of Law 51 of 2008 (as amended) (Law 51).
It is important to point out the differences between the
various types of electronic signatures as set forth in Law
- Electronic signature (Firma electronica): A
technical method to identify the person executing the
document and to indicate that such person approves the
information contained in a data message or electronic
- Qualified electronic signature (Firma electronica
calificada): electronic signature whose validity is
backed by a qualified electronic certificate which:
- Allows identifying the signer and detecting any
subsequent change in the signed data.
- Is linked to the signer in a unique way and to the
data to which it refers.
- Is created using secure electronic signature creation
devices, which the signer maintains under his or her
- Is created through the infrastructure of a
certification service provider registered with the
National Directorate of Electronic Signature.
- Digitised or scanned signature (firma digitalizada o
escaneada): Image of the trace of the handwritten
signature; the result of scanning an executed document. This
type of signature is in no case a qualified electronic
The purpose of Law 51 is to regulate the qualified
electronic signature (QES). From reviewing the aforementioned
definitions, we can see that the QES is implemented through the
use of a cryptographic device that generates - with respect to
a specific document - a series of algorithms that relate a
message or document with the personal information of the
The cryptographic device for the use of the QES is obtained
by applying before the National Directorate of Electronic
Signature, which is the entity in charge of authorising and
issuing the QES. The QES is the only method whose authenticity
is fully presumed. The QES may be granted to individuals or
companies (through its representatives). At the moment, QES is
mainly being used by banks and government officials for
The main advantage of signing documents using a QES is that it
creates a binding effect for the parties regarding the contract
or signed document and, at the same time, it has automatic and
assumed legal validity. This is not the case for the electronic
signature or the digitised or scanned signature, which are more
exposed to being rejected by one of the parties, creating the
need to pursue legal action to prove the validity and
legitimacy of such signature.
||Juan Francisco Moreno C.