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516 Phil. 398

THIRD DIVISION

[ A.M. NO. P-04-1872, January 31, 2006 ]

MANUEL V. MENDOZA, COMPLAINANT, VS. ANGEL L. DORONI, SHERIFF IV, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, BRANCH 77,QUEZON CITY, RESPONDENT.

D E C I S I O N

CARPIO, J.:

The Case

This is an administrative complaint for misconduct and gross negligence filed by complainant Manuel V. Mendoza ("complainant") against Angel L. Doroni ("respondent"), Sheriff IV of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 77, of Quezon City ("RTC").

Originally, complainant filed this complaint against Joy Manalang Bulauitan, Clerk of Court of RTC, and respondent. However, in the 16 August 2004 Resolution, the Court dismissed the case against Joy Manalang Bulauitan for insufficiency of evidence. Hence, only the case against respondent was docketed as a regular administrative matter. [1]

The Facts

The Metropolitan Trial Court ("MeTC") of Quezon City rendered a Decision [2] dated 26 March 2002 in Civil Case No. 38-26931 entitled "Atty. Manuel V. Mendoza v. Edgar A. Cariaga, et al." for forcible entry and damages. The MeTC issued a writ of execution on 4 September 2002 ordering the defendants to vacate the property and restore complainant's peaceful possession. [3] The MeTC Sheriff successfully enforced the writ as evidenced by the Sheriff's Return dated 22 January 2003. [4]

The defendants in Civil Case No. 38-26931 appealed the MeTC decision. On 10 September 2003, the RTC reversed the appealed decision. The dispositive portion of the RTC's Decision reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appealed decision dated March 26, 2002, of the Court a quo in Civil Case No. 38-26931 is hereby reversed and set aside. Accordingly, the complaint for forcible entry against the defendants-appellants is hereby dismissed.

Nevertheless, defendants-appellants are hereby ordered to pay to each of the owners of the structures in the subject property the amount of Fifteen Thousand Pesos (P15,000.00) as financial assistance.

SO ORDERED. [5]
Defendants filed a Motion for Execution [6] while complainant filed a Motion for Reconsideration [7] and an Opposition [8] to the Motion for Execution. On 6 November 2003, the RTC denied complainant's motion and opposition, and ordered the issuance of a writ of execution. [9] The Branch Clerk of Court issued the writ directing respondent to "execute the decision rendered in this case." [10]

On 11 November 2003, respondent, accompanied by members of the Philippine National Police, served the writ. Respondent issued a Certificate of Turn-Over of the property on the same date. [11]

In a Complaint dated 1 December 2003, complainant asserted that respondent was guilty of misconduct and gross negligence in the following instances: [12]
  1. He enforced the writ of execution without serving a prior notice to vacate in violation of Section 10(c), [13] Rule 39, of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure and relevant jurisprudence.

  2. He ejected complainant from the property although the decision, especially the dispositive portion, did not provide for ejectment. Furthermore, he placed Genuino Ice Co. in possession of the property although it was not a party to the case.

  3. He delivered possession of the ice-making machines and equipment although it was not included in the case.

  4. He failed to enforce the money judgment in favor of the owners of the destroyed structures in the amount P15,000 each.
In his Comment [14] dated 6 February 2004, respondent denied complainant's allegations. Respondent claimed that he has consistently exhibited good performance of duties in his fifteen years of government service. He further states that the complaint against him is premature and impermissible because of a pending motion ("Omnibus Motion") [15] to reconsider the order granting the writ of execution filed on 13 November 2003 and the pending motion to quash ("Supplementary Omnibus Motion") [16] the writ of execution filed on 21 November 2003.
Specifically, respondent assailed complainant's allegations, as follows:
  1. There is an inconsistency in complainant's allegation that "[t]here is nothing in the dispositive portion of the judgment that ordered complainant to vacate the property and surrender possession to Genuino Ice Co. or to the defendants-appellants x x x" vis-รก-vis the failure to give prior notice to vacate. Following complainant's argument, if the decision did not provide for complainant's ejectment, then Section 10(c), Rule 39 will not apply to the present case. Hence, respondent did not violate the requirement of giving prior notice to vacate in cases of ejectment. [17]

  2. Respondent asserted that he never ordered the caretaker and the security guard to leave the property. Respondent pointed out that the caretaker and the security guard never left the property but only transferred what appeared to be sleeping bags from the sleeping quarters to the guardhouse. As of the date of filing respondent's Comment, complainant's security guards were still present in the property. Respondent stated that this belies complainant's claim that respondent ejected complainant from the property. [18]

    Respondent refuted complainant's contention that respondent placed a non-party to the case in possession of the property. As stated in the Certificate of Turn-Over, respondent transferred possession of the property to defendant Cariaga and not to Genuino Ice Co. [19]

  3. Respondent claimed he acted in good faith and with the best of intentions when he turned over the machineries and equipment in the ice plant to defendant Cariaga. Respondent believed it was his obligation to ensure the proper safekeeping of the machineries and equipment to prevent pilferage. [20]

  4. Respondent insisted that when he served the writ, he also tried to locate the whereabouts of the four owners of the destroyed structures. Nobody knew how to contact them and the RTC Judge who handled the case inhibited himself. Thus, respondent did not have another opportunity to implement the decision. [21]
In a Joint Manifestation [22] dated 18 May 2004, respondent stated that Presiding Judge Rogelio M. Pizarro [23] had issued an Order denying complainant's Omnibus Motion and Supplementary Omnibus Motion in this wise:
x x x (1) The record of this case show [sic] defendants had been ejected from the premises by virtue of a writ of execution issued in the lower court and hence given the fact that the appealed case against them had been dismissed they should automatically be restored in possession of the subject premises; (2) Although the Decision failed inadvertently to order the restitution of possession in favor of the defendants in the dispositive portion, the implementation thereof is nonetheless approved as proper consequence of the dismissal thereof; (3) The 3-day notice rule under Section 10(c) [sic] Rule 39 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure does not mean that the occupant therein can be removed only after 3 days but within such period and thus may include the day the Writ was served upon them; and (4) Further movant offered no compelling reason to warrant anew a modification of the November 6, 2003 Decision.

SO ORDERED. [24]
On 30 July 2004, the Office of the Court Administrator ("OCA") issued a Report ("Report") [25] recommending that respondent be fined P10,000 for not implementing fully the writ of execution.

In the Resolution dated 16 August 2004, the Court docketed the case against respondent as a regular administrative matter. Further, the Court required complainant and respondent to manifest if they were willing to submit the case for decision based on the pleadings.

On 13 September 2004, respondent submitted a Manifestation and a Motion [26] asserting that respondent did not eject complainant from the property to this date. Respondent asked for an ocular inspection of the premises to prove this fact.

In the 6 October 2004 Resolution, the Court denied the motion for ocular inspection and gave respondent ten days from notice to submit additional documentary evidence.

On 14 October 2004, complainant filed his Comment stating that he had no objection to an ocular inspection. Complainant stated that respondent removed him from actual possession of 1,100 square meters out of the 1,565 square meters of land.

On 18 November 2004, complainant filed a Manifestation stating that he was willing to submit the case for decision based on the pleadings on record.

On 22 November 2004, respondent filed his Compliance. He refuted complainant's allegation of ejectment by showing pictures of the property. He submitted a copy of the RTC's order denying the Omnibus Motion and Supplemental Omnibus Motion. He also submitted a copy of the Court of Appeals' Resolutions denying complainant's "Urgent Last and Final Motion for Extension to file Petition for Review," "Supplementary Petition," "Manifestation and Motion" and "Petition for Review."

In a Resolution dated 15 December 2004, the Court noted respondent's Compliance and referred the case to the OCA for re-evaluation, report and recommendation.

The OCA's Evaluation and Recommendation

In its Report dated 30 July 2004, the OCA found respondent liable for violating Section 10(c), Rule 39 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure and for not enforcing the money judgment. The OCA's Evaluation reads:
x x x

Complainant alleged that respondent Sheriff committed misconduct for implementing the writ of execution without prior Notice to Vacate the premises in violation of Section 10 (e) [sic] Rule 39 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure which provides that:

(e) [sic] Delivery or restitution of real property โ€“ The officer shall demand of the person against whom the judgment for the delivery or restitution of real property is rendered and all persons claiming rights under him to peacefully vacate the property within three (3) days, and restore possession thereof to the judgment oblige [sic]; x x x

This allegation was not denied by respondent Sheriff. In his COMMENT dated February 6, 2004, he stated that:

(f) On November 11, 2003, Atty. Joy Manalang Balauitan, Branch Clerk of Court of RTC Branch 77, Quezon City, handed to the undersigned a writ of execution dated November 6, 2003;

(g) On the same day, November 11, 2003, one of the defendant-appellants in Civil Case No. 2 Q-03-48950, Edgar A. Cariaga came to the office and requested the undersigned to serve the writ which he acceded.

On the same date (November 11, 2003) respondent Sheriff turned over the possession of the property subject of Civil Case No. Q-03-48-950 to Edgardo Cariaga as shown in the turn over receipt issued by the respondent in violation of complainant's right to a three (3) day notice to vacate the premises.

Complainant claimed that he was illegally ejected because the dispositive portion and the body of the decision did not provide for his ejectment. This allegation of the complainant is not correct for in the case of Forcible Entry and Detainer, the main action is priority of possession. The legal right to the property is not essential to the possessor's cause of action.

When complainant filed the complaint for forcible entry against the defendants in Civil Case No. 26931, the latter was in actual possession of the property subject of the complaint. The possession of the property was transferred to the complainant after the court decided the case in his favor and, the writ of execution was issued on motion. After the decision of the lower court was reversed by the higher court, it follows that the possession of the property should be restored to the persons who [were] in possession of the property before the case of Forcible Entry and Damages was filed by the complainant.

Respondent sheriff is also liable for not enforcing the money judgment in favor of the owners of the structures in the property the amount P15,000.00 each as financial assistance after he turned over the possession of the subject property to defendant-appellants. Respondent should not have turned over the possession of the property subject of litigation unless the money judgment in favor of the owners of the structures is satisfied. Moreover, there is no showing that respondent Sheriff demanded from the defendant-appellants the full payment of the money judgment. If he cannot find the owners of the structures, as he claimed, the money could be deposited in the Office of the Clerk of court under the custody of the court for proper disposition. [27]
The OCA recommended that the Court penalize respondent with a fine of P10,000.

After re-evaluating this case, the OCA remained firm in its finding that respondent is liable for the offense. In the OCA Memorandum dated 12 April 2005, it states:
x x x

Notably, nothing in the additional evidence submitted by the respondent shows his compliance with the aforementioned rules. Thus, our previous findings should remain.

Likewise, we faulted the respondent for his failure to execute the money judgment in favor of the owners of the structures in the property in the amount of P15,000.00 each as financial assistance. As we have observed in our first report, respondent should not have turned over the possession of the property [as shown by the Certificate of Turn-Over (of) Possession of the Premises, Annex "J" to the Complaint] unless the money judgment in favor of the owners of the structures is satisfied. If the owners cannot be found, as the respondent claimed, the money could be deposited in the Office of the Clerk of Court under the custody of the court for proper disposition. Verily, it was not shown that our previous findings should be reversed. [28]
The Ruling of the Court

The Court finds the recommendation of the OCA well-taken.

On Respondent's Failure to Serve a Prior Notice to Vacate

Well-settled is the rule that the sheriff's duty in the execution of a writ issued by a court is purely ministerial. [29] The sheriff must comply with the Rules of Court in executing a writ. Any act deviating from the procedure laid down in the Rules of Court is a misconduct and warrants disciplinary action. [30]

In this case, Section 10(c) of Rule 39 prescribes the procedure in the implementation of the writ. Section 10(c) expressly provides:
Sec. 10(c). Delivery or restitution of real property. โ€“ The officer shall demand of the person against whom the judgment for the delivery or restitution of real property is rendered and all persons claiming rights under him to peaceably vacate the property within three (3) working days, and restore possession thereof to the judgment obligee; otherwise, the officer shall oust all such persons therefrom with the assistance, if necessary, of appropriate peace officers, and employing such means as may be reasonably necessary to retake possession, and place the judgment obligee in possession of such property. Any costs, damages, rents or profits awarded by the judgment shall be satisfied in the same manner as a judgment for money. (Emphasis supplied)
Based on this provision, enforcement in ejectment cases requires that the sheriff must give notice of such writ and demand from defendant to vacate the property within three days. Only after such period can the sheriff enforce the writ by the bodily removal of defendant and his personal belongings. [31]

Immediacy of execution does not mean instant execution. When a decision in ejectment cases states that it is "immediately executory," it does not mean dispensing with the required notice or three-day removal period. [32] A sheriff who enforces the writ without the required notice or before the expiry of the three-day period runs afoul with Section 10(c) of Rule 39.

Respondent, having been in the government service for almost fifteen years, should have known by heart this rule. The notice requirement is based on the rudiments of justice and fair play. The law frowns upon arbitrariness and oppressive conduct in the execution of an otherwise legitimate act. [33]

It is evident from the records that respondent failed to serve a prior notice to vacate. On the very same day the writ was handed to him, respondent immediately went to the property to oust complainant's employees. Respondent did not give any notice to the occupants to vacate peaceably the property.

On Respondent's Failure to Enforce the Money Judgment

Respondent's duty is to enforce the writ fully as ordered by the court. In this case, the RTC ejected complainant from the property, allowing defendants to regain possession of the property. However, the RTC required defendants to pay P15,000 to each owner of the four destroyed structures within the property. Defendants did not contest this particular ruling for defendants even moved for the execution of the RTC's judgment.

Respondent's excuse in not collecting the P60,000 [34] from defendants is that he could not locate the owners of the destroyed structures. This is untenable. Rule 39 provides for a remedy in case the judgment creditor could not be located. Section 9 of Rule 39 states:
Section 9. Execution of judgments for money, how enforced. โ€“ x x x.

If the judgment obligee or his authorized representative is not present to receive payment, the judgment obligor shall deliver the aforesaid payment to the executing sheriff. The latter shall turn over all the amounts coming into his possession within the same day to the clerk of court of the court that issued the writ, or if the same is not practicable, deposit said amounts to a fiduciary account in the nearest government depository bank of the Regional Trial Court of the locality.

xxx.
Respondent should have collected the P60,000 from defendants and turned over this amount to the clerk of court or deposited it to a fiduciary account in the nearest government depository bank. In fact, respondent should have collected the P60,000 before turning over possession of the property to defendants. Defendants would have been only too willing to pay the P60,000 because defendants prayed for the execution of the writ. By neglecting to collect the P60,000, respondent failed to implement the writ fully, to the prejudice of the judgment creditors who were owners of the four destroyed structures.

Execution puts an end to litigation, giving justice to the prevailing party. A decision left unexecuted because of the sheriff's inefficiency, negligence, misconduct or ignorance negates all the painstaking effort exerted by the entire judiciary to render justice to litigants. A sheriff who fails to execute, or who selectively executes, a final judgment commits not only a great disservice to the entire judiciary, he also diminishes the people's faith in the judiciary.

WHEREFORE, we find respondent Angel L. Doroni, Sheriff IV of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 77, of Quezon City, GUILTY of misconduct and simple neglect of duty for failing to follow the procedure laid down in Sections 9 and 10(c), Rule 39 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. We FINE him P10,000, with a STERN WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar act shall merit a more severe sanction.

SO ORDERED.

Quisumbing, (Chairperson), Carpio-Morales, and Tinga, JJ., concur.



[1]
Resolution of this Court (First Division) dated 16 August 2004. Rollo, p. 219.

[2] Rollo, pp. 25-33. This case is entitled "Atty. Manuel V. Mendoza v. Edgar A. Cariaga, Eduardo S. Genuino, Victor S. Genuino, Jacinto S. Genuino, Hector S. Genuino, Evelyn S. Genuino, Ernesto Millanes, Manuel S. Alba, Marlowe Y. Jacutin, Romeo Espino and Several John Does Security Guards of Millgos Security Agency."

[3] Rollo, p. 34.

[4] Id. at 35.

[5] Id. at 47-48.

[6] Id. at 66-69.

[7] Id. at 49-65.

[8] Id. at 70-74.

[9] Id. at 75-78.

[10] Id. at 81-82.

[11] Id. at 83-84.

[12] Id. at 12-18.

[13] Rule 39, Section 10(c): "Delivery or restitution of real property. " The officer shall demand of the person against whom the judgment for the delivery or restitution of real property is rendered and all persons claiming rights under him to peaceably vacate the property within three (3) working days, and restore possession thereof to the judgment obligee; otherwise, the officer shall oust all such persons therefrom with the assistance, if necessary, of appropriate peace officers, and employing such means as may be reasonably necessary to retake possession, and place the judgment obligee in possession of such property. Any costs, damages, rents or profits awarded by the judgment shall be satisfied in the same manner as a judgment for money.

[14] Rollo, pp. 88-106.

[15] Id. at 107-119.

[16] Id. at 126-131.

[17] Id. at 90.

[18] Id. at 99-100.

[19] Id. at 102.

[20] Id. at 100.

[21] Id. at 104.

[22] Id. at 207-211.

[23] The case was re-raffled to Presiding Judge Rogelio M. Pizarro of Branch 222, Regional Trial Court, Quezon City after Judge Vivencio C. Baclig of RTC, Branch 77, inhibited himself from the case.

[24] Rollo, p. 212.

[25] Id. at 213-218.

[26] This Motion is both for ocular inspection and for time to submit additional evidence.

[27] Rollo, pp. 217-218.

[28] Id. at 285.

[29] Zarate v. Untalan, A.M. No. MTJ-05-1584, March 31, 2005, 454 SCRA 206, 215.

[30] Tan v. Dael, 390 Phil. 841, 845 (2000).

[31] Lu v. Judge Siapno, 390 Phil. 489 (2000).

[32] Torres v. Sicat, Jr., 438 Phil. 109, 116-117 (2002).

[33] Raymundo v. Calaguas, A.M. No. P-01-1496, January 28, 2005, 449 SCRA 437, 443.

[34] P15,000 x 4 = P60,000.

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