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474 Phil. 1


[ A.M. No. P-01-1497 (Formerly AM-OCA-IPI-00-837-P), May 27, 2004 ]




Before us is a complaint for Gross Misconduct, Conduct Unbecoming of a Public Official and Graft and Corruption filed by Horacio B. Apuyan, Jr. and Alexander O. Eugenio against Alfredo Sta. Isabel, Sheriff IV, Regional Trial Court, Branch 161, Pasig City (RTC for brevity).

The complaint against Sheriff Sta. Isabel was filed before the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) on February 22, 2000. In compliance with the 1st Indorsement dated March 29, 2000 of the OCA, the respondent filed his Comment on May 4, 2000. Complainants filed their Reply Affidavit on October 27, 2000. Respondent submitted a Rejoinder dated December 3, 2000 denying complainants’ allegations in the Reply-Affidavit.

In our Resolution dated August 20, 2001,[1] we referred the administrative matter to Executive Judge Edwin A. Villasor of the Regional Trial Court, Pasig City, for investigation, report and recommendation. The Executive Judge then conducted several hearings where both parties presented their respective evidence.

Witnesses for the complainants were Horacio B. Apuyan, Jr., Alexander O. Eugenio, Atty. Norberto Ortiz Perez, Mario Pangilinan; and Court Stenographer Ramona Teresita Vega, as rebuttal witness.

At the hearing held on January 3, 2002, complainant Apuyan, Jr., through counsel, manifested that he is adopting the Joint-Affidavit Complaint[2] as his direct testimony wherein it is averred that: complainants are employees of plaintiff corporation in a civil case[3] pending before the RTC, docketed as Civil Case No. 67654; that in connection with said case, a writ of attachment was issued by the RTC against the monies and properties of defendants; on February 8, 2000, complainants fetched respondent in his office and together with Process Server Julio Bautista and a certain Rey de Leon, they proceeded to the Western Police District to fetch some police officers to assist them in the implementation of the writ of attachment; respondent started to dictate to complainants that the police officers should receive no less than P1,000.00 each and another P1,000.00 for each mobile car used; they proceeded to the office of defendant corporation and while in said office, respondent told them that he was able to gather information relative to defendant’s bank account that can be the subject of garnishment; respondent started hinting that the ongoing sheriff’s rate in Manila is 5% while it is 3% in Pasig but he is willing to settle for a 0.05% share based on the total amount of P10,000,000.00, that was the subject of attachment; complainant Apuyan called their counsel, Atty. Norberto Ortiz Perez, who requested respondent to immediately garnish said account; respondent replied that he could not do so for he failed to bring with him the necessary papers; Atty. Perez then told respondent to effect garnishment the following morning and assured respondent that he will instruct his client to prepare monetary goodwill for respondent; after levying some properties of defendant, they and the group of respondent proceeded to their (complainants’) office where complainant Apuyan handed respondent an envelope containing P2,000.00; when respondent saw the amount, he threw the envelope and cursed them, saying that the amount of P2,000.00 is a big insult to his person; complainant Eugenio tried to pacify respondent who then demanded to see the company president; complainants told respondent that their president is out of the country and explained to him that Atty. Perez promised to give respondent some goodwill money when the garnishment is effected the next day; respondent blurted out that from then on, he would no longer effect the garnishment; the next day, or on February 9, 2000, while complainant Apuyan was waiting for their case to be called in court relative to a hearing of a Motion to Discharge Attachment filed by the defendant, respondent grabbed his collar, uttering, “O, ano ang gusto mong mangyari ngayon?”;[4] respondent’s officemates intervened to avoid further harm and embarrassment to complainant Apuyan; on February 10 and 11, 2000, respondent did not report for work to avoid proceeding with the garnishment; on February 14, 2000, complainant Apuyan and Atty. Perez went to court to file a Motion to Assign a Special Sheriff; while they were waiting along the court’s corridor, respondent came out of the staff room and started cursing them and vehemently denying the allegations in their motion; respondent uttered to Atty. Perez, “Ikaw, abogado ka lang, baka hindi mo ako kakilala, hindi ako basta bastang sheriff. Ididimanda kita ng libel, gago. Puwede ako sa physical, puwede ako sa mental. Hindi ko palalagpasin and ginawa ninyo sa aking ito;” thereafter, complainant Apuyan and Atty. Perez obtained a copy of the court’s Order granting the assignment of a special sheriff, and pursuant thereto, Sheriff Mario Pangilinan was assigned to their case; on February 15, 2000, however, respondent submitted his Sheriff’s Report stating that the writ of attachment was duly satisfied.

During cross-examination, complainant Apuyan further testified thus:

After surrendering the equipment here in the Justice Hall in Kapitolyo, where did you go if any?

Sheriff Sta. Isabel demanded for Fifty Thousand (P50,000.00) Pesos service fee and I told Sheriff Sta. Isabel that we have no money but since you are very persistent on that may we just go to our Office and have a snack and then we could endorse the same with the former Chief Operating Officer.

Can you tell this Honorable Court if this demand is made in writing?

It was not actually made in writing because I think nobody will do it in writing. Actually the very first time that he insisted for Fifty Thousand (P50,000.00) Pesos was before our lunch during the time that the process of attachment was made where Alex approached me together with Sheriff Sta. Isabel informing me that Sheriff Sta. Isabel was able to chance upon an account number, Metro Bank account number of People’s Trans-East Asia Insurance, Corp. and the money worth Fifty Thousand (P50,000.00) Pesos so while inside the lobby they approached me and so I asked him if it is really true and he said yes, “hawak ko na ang alas alam ko na and bank account number ng People’s Trans-East but first you have to give me at least .5% of the Ten Million (P10,000,000.00) Pesos so I told him “siguro igarnish muna natin” in a dialect.

. . .         . . .         . . .

And is it also true that one of the reasons as stated to you by the Respondent for refusing to issue a notice of garnishment is the possibility of over levy?

A: No sir.

Q: He did not tell you that?

No, the very word that he told us is that he will not push through with the garnishment if we will not able to bring out the Fifty Thousand (P50,000.00) Pesos that he demanded from us.

Q: Did you pay the Respondent any amount for his services?

He demanded for the amount and we gave him Two Thousand (P2,000.00) Pesos to make his initial demand from us but instead of taking it, I was insulted, berated and he threw the money on my face.[5]

Complainant Alexander Eugenio also adopted the aforementioned Joint Affidavit-Complaint as his direct testimony. On cross-examination, he further testified as follows:

Actually when this particular incident happened I was standing outside the building when Sheriff Sta. Isabel approached me and told me that he has chanced to see the account no. of People’s Trans-East Asia Insurance Corporation with the Metrobank. As a matter of fact, he showed me the inside cover of the folder he was holding and he told me this is the account number and he told me in vernacular that “hawak ko na and alas, alam ko na and account number ng People’s Trans-East Asia sa Metro Bank” and we can garnish the account of Metro Bank with the condition that we should give him the half percent (1/2%) of what we have (sic) claiming after People’s Trans-East Asia Insurance Corporation which is equivalent to Fifty Thousand (P50,000.00) Pesos and then I told him that I am not in a position to decide on that matter and I suggested to open this up to Mr. Apuyan who is in-charge of that activity as far as our company’s concerned.

. . .         . . .         . . .

Q: Who handed the envelope to Sheriff Sta. Isabel pursuant to this statement?

A: It was Mr. Horacio Apuyan who handed the envelope.

Q: And it also states here that he threw the envelope, where did he throw the envelope?

A: He threw it to Mr. Apuyan, to his face.[6]

Another witness for complainants, Atty. Norberto Perez, testified as follows: He first came to know respondent when they talked over the phone on February 8, 2000 during the time that the writ of preliminary attachment was being implemented. He had to talk to respondent over the phone because the latter was insinuating that he would not serve the notice of garnishment if he is not paid P50,000.00. He was only able to talk personally to respondent on February 14, 2000 when he was at the corridor in front of Branch 161, RTC, Pasig City and respondent confronted him, shouting at the top of his voice cursing him (Atty. Perez) and complainant Apuyan. Respondent only stopped shouting and cursing when he was pacified by some BJMP people, police officers and other court personnel who told him to keep quiet because there was a hearing going on.[7]

Sheriff Mario Pangilinan testified that he was appointed as the special sheriff and proceeded to serve the notice of garnishment of the accounts of defendant corporation on several banks. For his efforts, he received P5,000.00 goodwill money from plaintiff corporation.[8]

For respondent’s defense, the testimonies of respondent Alfredo Sta. Isabel himself, Process Server Julio S. Bautista and Atty. Emmanuel R. Jabla were presented.

Respondent adopted his Comment dated May 2, 2000 as part of his direct testimony. In his Comment, he contends as follows: The complaint was brought about by a personal grudge between him and complainant Apuyan. He implemented the writ of attachment on February 8, 2000. While in the course of effecting the writ, he talked to Atty. Perez on the phone because the latter wanted him to garnish defendant’s bank account. He made the excuse that he was not prepared to do so for he did not have a notice of garnishment. He never made mention of any monetary consideration during their phone conversation. He believes that Atty. Perez was not pleased with his response. Thereafter, he and his co-employees proceeded to complainants’ office upon the latter’s invitation for snacks. At said office, no snacks were offered, but complainant Apuyan handed him an envelope. His co-employee opened the envelope and showed him that it contained two pieces of P1,000.00 bills. He refused to take the envelope and complainant Apuyan made an outburst, saying “Why do you have to ask me to give you so much money? That is illegal. I know the same fact (sic) because I am a law student! You are very corrupt!”.[9] The next day, February 9, 2000, he prepared a notice of garnishment but complainants did not come to see him or even call him. On February 10, 2000, complainants went to court but he was then on sick leave. On February 14, 2000, when complainants went to court for the hearing of their Motion for Appointment of Special Sheriff, he confronted Atty. Perez regarding the allegations made in said motion. Atty. Perez said, “Hoy, huwag mo akong question-in, sheriff ka lang at malapit na ang katapusan mo![10] and a verbal tussle ensued between him and Atty. Perez.

At the hearing held on January 18, 2002 before the Executive Judge, respondent denied that he ever touched any of the complainants or their counsel. He insists that only a verbal altercation transpired between them. On cross-examination, however, respondent admitted that on February 9, 2000, complainant Apuyan was there at the staff room of Branch 161, RTC Pasig City, and he even told said complainant to get out of the staff room, contradicting his statement in his Comment that on said date of February 9, 2000, he prepared a notice of garnishment but complainants did not come to see him or even call him.[11]

Respondent also recounted that at the time they went to complainants’ office, there was already animosity between him and Mr. Apuyan, but he still acceded to the latter’s invitation for snacks at their office, with the intention to see Dr. Cenon Alfonso, the company president, supposedly to complain about Apuyan’s arrogant demeanor. Respondent also admitted that there is a contradiction between his statement in paragraph 22 of his Rejoinder that he was not able to memorize the numerals contained in the account number of defendant corporation and his testimony where he stated that he did, in fact, see and note down the account number and told complainants about it.[12]

The next witness for respondent, Process Server Bautista, adopted his Joint Affidavit[13] dated May 3, 2000 as his direct testimony wherein he stated that: he proceeded with respondent and complainants to the office of defendant corporation to effect the writ of attachment; respondent was able to see some checks issued by defendant corporation but respondent stated that he was not able to memorize the account number; complainants wanted respondent to immediately garnish said bank account, and Atty. Norberto Perez even talked to respondent over the phone, but respondent said he could not proceed with the garnishment as he did not have the necessary papers with him; they went to complainants’ office for snacks and there, complainant Apuyan placed an envelope on top of the table; thereafter, Apuyan returned to where he, respondent, and a certain de Leon were seated and Apuyan started yelling at respondent, calling the latter corrupt; respondent was angered by the accusation; Apuyan then told respondent that if the latter did not want to take it, “Thank You, anyway,” then placed the envelope into the pocket of his polo-shirt; respondent never made any demand for money from complainants; that when complainants and Atty. Norberto Perez filed a Motion for the Appointment of Special Sheriff, a verbal tussle occurred between Atty. Perez and respondent; and when they learned that an administrative case had been filed against respondent, he executed the affidavit of his own free will to help respondent.

On cross-examination, Process Server Bautista stated that they went to complainants’ office not mainly because they were invited for snacks but rather, “Hindi ko alam kung kasama na ang snack pero ang alam ko doon mayroong ibang trabahong pag-uusapan kaya nagyaya sila.”[14] With regard to the confrontation between complainant Apuyan and Atty. Perez on the one hand and respondent on the other, witness Bautista testified thus:

Were you present during the altercation between Atty. Perez, Mr. Apuyan and Sheriff Sta. Isabel?

I was not there sir.

. . .     . . .     . . .

You did not see any of the events where there was an altercation among them?

I was at the Office sir at the session hall because we were having a hearing sir.

. . .     . . .     . . .

If you were inside the courtroom at the time that there was an altercation among Sheriff Sta. Isabel, Atty. Perez and Horacio Apuyan how would you able to quote and unquote what was uttered by Atty. Perez?

A: “Kasi nasa may pintuan lang ako ng session hall sa tabi ng staff room narinig ko lang parang may malakas na nag-uusap kaya sumilip ako, narinig ko na ung pag-uusap nila yung pangyayari na yun.”

. . .     . . .     . . .

Q: How long were you peeping at the corridor at the time that there was an altercation among them?

Noong narinig ko na may malakas na nag-uusap sumilip lang ako tapos pumasok na ako sa staffroom hindi na maganda yung tono ng pag-uusap nila sabi ko tama na yan, alam nyo naman yan Atty.

Q: What do you mean by “alam nyo naman yan Atty.”?

“Nandoon po kayo nandoon din po ako sabi ko tama na yan para lang tumigil na dahil naghehearing si Judge Alicia Mariño-Co.”[15]

The last witness for respondent, Atty. Emmanuel Jabla, merely stated that he is a retained lawyer of defendant corporation and he knows for a fact that respondent sheriff was actually able to levy on the building and land and some equipment of said defendant; that he warned respondent to refrain from further levying on other properties of defendant because it would be a case of over-levy.[16]

On rebuttal, complainants presented Court Stenographer Vega who testified that she remembers an incident when respondent grabbed complainant Apuyan, holding the latter by the collar.[17]

After the parties presented their respective evidence, Executive Judge Villasor submitted his Report dated March 13, 2002, finding that the details of what transpired at the complainants’ office on February 8, 2000 and of the incident that happened in the court premises on February 14, 2000 are only based on the self-serving versions of the complainants and respondent sheriff;[18] that only the reprehensible conduct of respondent in collaring complainant Apuyan had been established; and recommending that respondent sheriff be fined the amount of P10,000.00 therefor.

The Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) disagrees with the findings and recommendation of Executive Judge Villasor. Based on the evidence presented, it found that respondent really made the demand of 0.05% of the amount to be garnished from the bank account of defendant corporation; that there was a verbal altercation that transpired between respondent and Atty. Perez within the court premises; and that respondent collared complainant Apuyan, on which bases, it recommends the suspension of respondent for one year without pay.

After a careful examination of the records, we agree with the findings and recommendation of the OCA, the same being in accord with the evidence presented and the law. We find no cogent reason to disregard the same, except that what is clear on the basis of the testimonies of complainants are that respondent demanded for the payment of P50,000.00, not 0.05% of the P10,000,000.00, subject of the writ of preliminary attachment, or P500,000.00 mentioned by the OCA.

We agree with the finding of the OCA that respondent’s explanations do not inspire belief due to the inconsistencies in his allegations in his pleadings and his testimony and that of his witness, Court Process Server Bautista. We quote and adopt the OCA’s dissertation on this matter, to wit:
On the other hand, respondent testified that after effecting the writ on February 8, 2002[19] (sic), they went to complainant’s office upon the latter’s invitation to have some snacks. However, upon arrival at the office premises, complainant Apuyan left them at the garden and went inside the office. No snacks were offered. Apuyan later came out of the office and placed an envelope on top of a garden table in front of respondent sheriff and went back inside the office. Respondent never touched the envelope. About 20 minutes later, Process Server Bautista opened the envelope despite respondent’s warning not to touch it, and showed the latter its contents of two P1,000.00 bills then returned it back on the table. Fifteen (15) minutes thereafter, Apuyan came out of the office, went straight at him, hurling invectives and blurting out, “Why do you have to ask me to give you so much money? That is illegal. I know the same act (sic) because I am a law student! You are very corrupt.”

However, in the Manifestation with Motion dated 14[20] (sic) February 2000 (marked as Exh. A for complainants and Exh. 1 for respondent) filed by respondent, he stated therein:

. . . .
  1. That there was no occasion that he had thrown the envelope containing the P2,000.00 as the undersigned place (sic) the same neatly on top of the table and gently pushed it with his fingers towards Mr. Apuyan who in turn placed the same envelope towards the pocket of his polo shirt and said, “THANK YOU, ANYWAY.”
It is also worthy to note that upon further cross examination, respondent mentioned, for the first time, that when Apuyan laid down the P2,000.00, he conveyed that said amount was for respondent to defray the expenses on the garnishment of People’s account to be effected the following day (tsn, p. 22, 01 February 2002). However, upon cross-examination, Court Process Server Bautista testified, thus:

So it was you who opened the envelope?

“Noong initcha ni Mr. Apuyan ang envelope sabi niya, Ito para sa inyo ni Sheriff, tapos tumalikod na si Mr. Apuyan sabi ni Sheriff, “Huwag ninyong gagalawin yan hindi natin alam kung ano yan”. Ngayon ang ginawa ko sa envelope sinilip ko lang ang laman kung may laman ba o kung anuman yun nakita ko may pera tapos nalingunan ako ni Sheriff Sta. Isabel sabi niya, Sinabi ng huwag ninyong gagalawin yan eh! kaya nilapag ko na po yung envelope”. (Underscoring supplied)

tsn, p. 50, 06 February 2002

Respondent’s conflicting versions, thus appear too contrived to inspire belief. The tenor of his allegation sought to establish that Apuyan was angered when respondent refused to accept the offer of P2,000.00. We, however, cannot believe that complainant would strongly react and make such an outburst because of a mere refusal of respondent to accept the goodwill money. Human nature dictates that a person would not be easily infuriated unless provoked. Complainant may have been angered not by the refusal of respondent to accept the envelope but by respondent’s own outburst upon discovering that the envelope contained only P2,000.00 and his subsequent act of throwing it back at him. At any rate, what is clearly established is the fact that respondent flared up and felt insulted when given the measly sum of P2,000.00 as monetary consideration for the implementation of the writ of attachment on 08 February 2000.[21] (Emphasis ours)
Respondent’s claim that complainant Apuyan suddenly made a hostile outburst, accusing him of corruption for expecting more monetary consideration only because he (respondent) refused to accept the goodwill money of P2,000.00, defies all logical explanation. Human experience tells us that if respondent’s version of what transpired were correct, then the reaction of the person making such monetary offer to a public official who refused the same would be respect for the latter, instead of derision. We just could not summon ourselves to believe that a sane person would be driven to anger and to making accusations of corruption had there not been any provocation or actuation from respondent that made complainants believe that he is demanding a bigger amount of money.

Respondent’s testimony that his relations with complainant Apuyan had already been strained earlier when they were at defendant corporation’s office, makes us wonder why respondent still agreed to proceed to complainants’ office, allegedly for snacks, after having served the writ on defendant. It also puzzles us why respondent and his companions did not just leave complainants’ office when they were just left by complainants waiting in a garden and no snacks were ever served. In the first place, it is not proper for court employees to go to the office of a litigant to have snacks, even if invited.

Respondent testified that after complainant Apuyan presented the envelope to him, some twenty minutes have elapsed before Process Server Bautista peeked into the envelope and only sometime thereafter did complainant Apuyan emerge from the office angrily asking him why he refused to take the money. [22] Such scenario immediately presents to us the nagging questions: why did respondent and his co-employees continue to wait at said office, if indeed they were only invited for a snack? Was respondent expecting something more than the promised snacks from complainants? Why would complainant Apuyan go back to respondent after several minutes asking him angrily why he refused to take the money? All these remained unexplained by respondent. His evidence failed to support his defense of denial. Evidently, respondent went to complainants’ office expecting remuneration for the implementation of the writ of attachment as he demanded from them. The fact that respondent made demands upon complainants to pay him P50,000.00 on subject of the writ of preliminary attachment, remained unrefuted.

In addition to the foregoing, respondent himself admitted his propensity to be inaccurate with his statements. He testified, thus:


Mr. witness I just would like to inquire from you whether your Comment that you submitted in this case which is now marked as Exhibit “N” is the factual statements of all that had transpired relative to the accusations filed against you by the Complainants?


Some were true facts, however, some sort of my answer I was forming a defense so some may not be that accurate.[23] (Emphasis supplied)

Thus, the OCA did not commit any error in not giving credence to his testimony. Respondent’s bare denials of complainants’ claim that he was demanding P50,000.00 for the implementation of the writ of attachment is insufficient to overcome complainants’ straightforward, positive and unwavering testimony against him.

Moreover, respondent subjected complainant Apuyan and Atty. Perez to physical and verbal abuse in the courtroom premises.

Respondent’s denial in grabbing the collar of complainant Apuyan and in the occurrence of the verbal altercation between him and Atty. Perez are implausible.

The evidence on record, especially the testimony of respondent’s own officemate, Court Stenographer Vega, confirms the fact that indeed, respondent collared complainant Apuyan while the latter was inside the court staffroom on February 9, 2000.[24]

The fact that respondent engaged in a heated verbal altercation with Atty. Perez on February 14, 2000 is also established by complainants’ testimonial evidence and the testimony of respondent’s own witness, Court Process Server Bautista, who said that he had to caution respondent and Atty. Perez against talking in a loud voice because the court was then in session.[25] Such actuation, even assuming that complainant Apuyan and Atty. Perez did something to anger respondent, is highly unbecoming of a public servant who is called upon to demonstrate courtesy, civility and self-restraint in their official actuations to the public at all times even when confronted with rudeness and insulting behavior.[26] We definitely cannot tolerate respondent’s misconduct. We have consistently emphasized that:
Time and again, this Court has pointed out the heavy burden and responsibility which court personnel are saddled with in view of their exalted positions as keepers of the public faith. They should therefore be constantly reminded that any impression of impropriety, misdeed or negligence in the performance of official functions must be avoided. Those who work in the judiciary must adhere to high ethical standards to preserve the courts’ good name and standing. They should be examples of responsibility, competence and efficiency, and they must discharge their duties with due care and utmost diligence since they are officers of the court and agents of the law. Indeed, any conduct, act or omission on the part of those who would violate the norm of public accountability and diminish or even just tend to diminish the faith of the people in the judiciary shall not be countenanced.[27]
In Alvarez, Jr. vs. Martin,[28] which is analogous to the present case, we laid out the conduct demanded from a sheriff, thus:
Respondent sheriff should have exerted every effort and indeed considered it his bounden duty to see to it that the final stage in the litigation process, i.e., the execution of the judgment is carried out in order to ensure a speedy and efficient administration of justice. . .

Furthermore, respondent’s act of demanding money and receiving P1,500.00 from the complainant for the lunch and merienda of the policemen who will accompany him in executing the decision of the Court is a clear violation of section 9, Rule 141. The Rules require the sheriff to estimate his expenses in the execution of the decision. The prevailing party will then deposit the said amount to the Clerk of Court who will disburse the amount to the sheriff, subject to liquidation. Any unspent amount will have to be returned to the prevailing party. In this case, no estimate of sheriff’s expenses was submitted to the court by respondent. In fact, the money which respondent deputy sheriff had demanded and received from complainant was not among those prescribed and authorized by the Rules of Court. This Court has ruled that any amount received by the sheriff in excess of the lawful fees allowed by the Rules of Court is an unlawful exaction and renders him liable for grave misconduct and gross dishonesty. (Emphasis supplied).
Finally, the procedure for execution of a final judgment is the same as that in carrying out a writ of preliminary attachment, as set forth in Rule 141 of the Rules of Court, the pertinent provisions of which are as follows:
Section 3. Persons authorized to collect legal fees. – Except as otherwise provided in this rule, the officers and persons hereinafter mentioned, together with their assistants and deputies, may demand, receive, and take the several fees hereinafter mentioned and allowed for any business by them respectively done by virtue of their several offices, and no more. All fees so collected shall be forthwith remitted to the Supreme Court. The fees collected shall accrue to the general fund.

. . .

Section 9. Sheriff, and other persons serving processes. -

. . .

(l) For money collected by him by order, execution, attachment, or any other processes, judicial or extrajudicial, the following sums, to wit:
  1. On the first four thousand (P4,000.00) pesos, five (5%) per centum.

  2. On all sums in excess of four thousand (P4,000.00) pesos, two and one-half (2.5%) per centum.
In addition to the fees hereinabove fixed, the party requesting the process of any court, preliminary, incidental, or final, shall pay the sheriff’s expenses in serving or executing the process, or safeguarding the property levied upon, attached or seized, including kilometrage, for each kilometer of travel, guard’s fees, warehousing and similar charges, in an amount estimated by the sheriff, subject to the approval of the court. Upon approval of said estimated expenses, the interested party shall deposit such amount with the clerk of court and ex-officio sheriff, who shall disburse the same to the deputy sheriff assigned to effect the process, subject to liquidation within the same period for rendering a return on the process. Any unspent amount shall be refunded to the party making the deposit. A full report shall be submitted by the deputy sheriff assigned with his return, and the sheriff’s expenses shall be taxed as costs against the judgment debtor. (Emphasis supplied)
Clearly, in this case, respondent not only utterly failed to live up to the high ethical standards required of a sheriff, but also, he totally ignored Section 9, Rule 141 of the Rules of Court. Respondent failed to demonstrate that he followed the procedure laid down by Rule 141.

The OCA’s recommendation that respondent be found guilty of grave misconduct, dishonesty and conduct grossly prejudicial to the best interest of the service is firmly supported by the records of this case.

Section 23 (a), (c), & (t), Rule XIV of the Omnibus Rules implementing Book V of Executive Order No. 292, provides:
Sec. 23. Administrative offenses with its corresponding penalties are classified into grave, less grave, and light, depending on the gravity of its nature and effects of said acts on the government service.

The following are grave offenses with its corresponding penalties:

(a) Dishonesty
1st offense – Dismissal
. . .
(c ) Grave Misconduct
1st offense – Dismissal
. . .
(t) Conduct grossly prejudicial to the best interest of the service
1st offense – Suspension for six (6) months and one day to one (1) year.
2nd offense – Dismissal
. . .
However, as correctly recommended by the OCA, we shall apply Section 53 of the Revised Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service which provides that in the determination of the penalties to be imposed, the extenuating, mitigating, aggravating or alternative circumstances may be considered. Per report of the OCA, this is the first time that respondent has ever been charged administratively. Thus, instead of imposing the penalty of dismissal which is the imposable penalty for commission of the first offense of grave misconduct and dishonesty, respondent, as appropriately recommended by the OCA, should be suspended for a period of one year without pay with a stern warning that a repetition of the same or similar acts in the future will be dealt with more severely.

WHEREFORE, respondent is found GUILTY of Grave Misconduct, Dishonesty and Conduct Grossly Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service. He is SUSPENDED for a period of one (1) year without pay with a STERN WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar acts in the future will be dealt with more severely.

Let copy of herein Resolution be attached to the personal records of respondent in the Office of the Administrative Services, Office of the Court Administrator.


Quisumbing, (Acting Chairman), Callejo, Sr., and Tinga, JJ., concur.
Puno, (Chairman), J., on official leave.

[1] Rollo, p. 40.

[2] Rollo, p. 3.

[3] Entitled, “Doctors of New Millennium Holdings, Inc. vs. People’s Trans-East Asia Insurance Corporation, et al.

[4] Joint Affidavit-Complaint, Rollo, p. 3.

[5] TSN of January 3, 2002, pp. 91-93, 107-108.

[6] TSN of January 4, 2002, pp. 34-35, 38-39.

[7] TSN of January 8, 2002, pp. 9-20.

[8] TSN of January 9, 2002, pp. 12-35, 61.

[9] Comment, Rollo, p. 17.

[10] Id., p. 18.

[11] TSN of February 1, 2002, pp. 11-17, 21-23.

[12] TSN of January 18, 2002, pp. 8, 34-55.

[13] Executed with one Reynaldo de Leon, Rollo, pp. 20-23.

[14] TSN of February 6, 2002, p. 40.

[15] TSN of February 6, 2002, pp. 58-62.

[16] TSN of February 13, 2002, pp. 12-19.

[17] TSN of March 11, 2002, pp. 34-36.

[18] Report, Rollo, p. 59.

[19] Should be “2000.”

[20] Should be “15”.

[21] Memorandum submitted by DCA Christopher O. Lock, Rollo, pp. 67-68.

[22] TSN of January 18, 2002, pp. 34-49.

[23] TSN of January 23, 2002, pp.3-4.

[24] TSN, March 11, 2002, pp. 35-36.

[25] TSN of Feb. 6, 2002, pp. 60-62.

[26] Policarpio vs. Fortus 248 SCRA 272, 275 (1995).

[27] Gutierrez vs. Quitalig, A.M. No. P-02-1545, April 2, 2003.

[28] A.M. No. P-03-1724, September 18, 2003.

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