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EN BANC

[ A.M. No. P-16-3507 [Formerly OCA IPI No. 14-4365-P], September 25, 2018 ]

CESAR T. DUQUE, COMPLAINANT, VS. JAARMY G. BOLUS-ROMERO AND MA. CONSUELO JOIE A. FAJARDO, CLERK OF COURT V AND SHERIFF IV, RESPECTIVELY, BOTH OF BRANCH 93, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, SAN PEDRO, LAGUNA, RESPONDENTS.

D E C I S I O N

PER CURIAM:

Before the Court is the administrative complaint brought by Cesar T. Duque (complainant) charging respondents Clerk of Court (CoC) V Jaarmy G. Bolus-Romero and Sheriff IV Ma. Consuelo Joie E. Fajardo, both of Branch 93 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in San Pedro City, Laguna with falsification of public documents, inefficiency and incompetence in the performance of their duties committed in relation to Civil Case No. SPL-0823 entitled Benjamin G. Cariño v. Safeway Shuttle Service, Inc. and Cesar Duque, an action for collection and damages.[1]

The complainant averred in his complaint-affidavit[2] that on April 29, 2002, Benjamin G. Cariño had filed in the RTC a complaint for the recovery of sum of money against him and Safeway Service Inc. (SSSI), a passenger bus company providing shuttle services to the employees of manufacturing companies located within the export processing zones of Cavite and Laguna, docketed as Civil Case No. SPL-0823; that on August 15, 2005, the RTC had rendered judgment ordering him and SSSI to pay Cariño jointly and severally the amount of P231,262.00, plus interest computed at 12% per annum from the filing of the complaint, and 25% of the recoverable amount as and for attorney's fee; that he and SSSI had appealed the adverse judgment in due course, but the CA had affirmed it on August 31, 2007, disposing:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appeal is DISMISSED. The decision of the Regional Trial Court of San Pedro, Laguna dated 15 August 2005 is AFFIRMED. The defendants-appellants are hereby ordered to pay the plaintiff-appellee, the sum of P231,262.00 plus legal interest as payment for the supplies and spare parts delivered by the plaintiff-appellee and accordingly received by the defendants-appellants. The defendants-appellants are likewise ordered to pay the plaintiff-appellee twenty-five percent (25%) of the recoverable amount as attorney's fee. Costs againts the defendants-appellants.

SO ORDERED.[3]


and that respondent CoC Bolus-Romero had pre-empted the Presiding Judge of the RTC by issuing the writ of execution dated July 14, 2008 in Civil Case No. SPL-0823 whereby she altered the judgment to increase the "legal interest" of 6% per annum decreed in the CA's decision dated August 31, 2007 to "12%" per annum in manifest partiality and evident bad faith to benefit Cariño.[4]

As to respondent Sheriff Fajardo, the complainant declared as follows:

1)
That he issued a falsified Notice to Pay dated July 14, 2008 giving complainant Duque and SSSI three days receipt thereof within which to pay Php 555,037.00 exclusive of interest and legal fees.


2)
That Sheriff Fajardo issued a falsified levy dated July 28, 2008 to and served only upon "[To]: The Registrar of Deeds, Muntinlupa City" which levied complainant Duque's real property in Ayala Alabang with an appraised value then of P6,600,000.00, more or less, covered by TCT No. 29049 in the Registry of Deeds of Muntilupa City without said notice of levy being addressed to and first served on complainant Duque.


3)
That Sheriff Fajardo issued a Notice of Sale purportedly dated September 23, 2008 containing a printed text involving substitution of transfer certificate of real property owned by another person covered by TCT No. T-447031 located at Barangay Landayan, San Pedro, Laguna that respondent Fajardo caused to be published for the auction sale in Laguna Courier on October 27 and November 3, 2008; but that what she actually sold in a sham auction sale purportedly held on November 1, 2008 for P350,467.12 only to respondent Cariño was a different real property covered by TCT No. T-29049 located at Brgy. Ayala Alabang, Muntinlupa City, with an appraised value then of P6,600,000.00, more or less owned by complainant.[5]


The complainant further asserted that Cariño and his counsel had been guilty of bad faith because they employed various schemes of enticement to persuade the respondents to act in concert to manipulate the execution proceedings: from the issuance of the illegal writ of execution to increase the "legal rate of interest from 6% to 12%"; to the falsification of the sheriffs notice of levy and sale to cover up the sham execution sale involving substitution of titles and registration, and to the annotation of the fake certificate of sale in favor of Carino in the Registry of Deeds of Muntinlupa City.[6]

In her comment dated March 19, 2015,[7]  CoC Bolus-Romero countered that the charges against her had no legal and factual bases at all. She pointed out that she had drafted the resolution on the execution as directed by Presiding Judge Francisco Dizon Pafio of the RTC and in accordance with the dispositive portion of the decision of the CA, Fifteenth Division; that the task of ordering the execution of the judgment had devolved upon Judge Pafio as the trial judge, but she could perform the issuance and release of the writ of execution as the clerk of court because doing so was among her ministerial duties under Section 4, Rule 136 of the Rules of Court; and that she did not alter the dispositive portions of the judgments of the RTC and the CA, but only copied therefrom verbatim.[8]

The Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) twice required Sheriff Fajardo to comment on the complaint-affidavit dated July 22, 2014,[9] the first time, through the first Indorsement dated December 3, 2014, and the second through the 1st tracer dated July 23, 2015 , 10 but she did not comply.

Findings of the OCA


In its evaluation and report,[11] the OCA found that respondent CoC Bolus-Romero was not administratively culpable for falsifying the dispositive portion of the CA 's decision considering that the extant records indicated that she had only copied verbatim the dispositive portions of the final judgments of the RTC and the CA; that based on the records she had not participated in the proceedings conducted after the issuance of the writ of execution; and that there was no link between her and the bogus and sham proceedings of execution.[12]

As to respondent Sheriff Fajardo, the OCA concluded that she should be held administratively liable for inefficiency and incompetence in the performance of her official duties, and for neglect of duty.[13] The OCA pointed out that the notice of sheriff's sale did not state the correct number of the Torrens title of the property to be sold; that the omission was a substantial and fatal error that invalidated the entire notice inasmuch as the purpose of the publication of the notice of sheriff's sale was to inform all the interested parties on the date, time, place of the execution sale of the real property subject of the notice; and that the omissions and lapses by respondent Sheriff Fajardo constituted inefficiency and incompetence in the performance of her official duties.[14]

Accordingly, the OCA recommended that:

1) the instant administrative complaint be RE-DOCKETED as regular administrative matter against respondent Sheriff IV Ma. Consuela Joie A. Fajardo, Branch 93, Regional Trial Court, San Pedro, Laguna;

2) respondent Sheriff Fajardo be found GUILTY of inefficiency and incompetence in the performance of official duties and simple neglect of duty and be FINED in the amount of Php 50,000.00 pro hac vice;

3) the Financial Management Office, Office of the Court Administrator, be DIRECTED to collect the fine of Php 50,000.00 from respondent Sheriff Fajardo or offset the fine against her total accrued leave credits totaling 166.71 days as of 31 December 2014 per attached Certification dated 4 November 2015 of the OAS-Employees' Leave Division; and

4) the instant administrative complaint against Clerk of Court V Atty. Jaarmy G. Bolus-Romero be DISMISSED for lack of merit.[15]


The Court ADOPTS the OCA's findings and APPROVES the OCA's recommendations considering that the records fully supported them.

CoC Bolus-Romero was not liable under the charges tendered by the complainant for the simple reason that she did not commit any violation of her functions and responsibilities in the issuance of the writ of execution. As the OCA found, all that she had done was to faithfully reflect the executory portions of the judgments of the RTC and the CA. That she did so constituted her strict compliance with and adherence to the requirements of the Rules of Court and the relevant jurisprudence for the writ of execution not to be different or vary from the judgment subject of execution.

On the other hand, Sheriff Fajardo did not comply with the orders issued for her to comment on the complaint. She thereby impliedly admitted that she had no reasonable explanation to give or offer for the serious charges upon which she was being held accountable. The graver violation she committed, as the OCA justifiably found, concerned her omission from the notice of sheriffs sale of the correct number of the Torrens title of the property to be sold. Thereby, she was administratively liable for inefficiency and incompetence in the performance of her official duties as the sheriff. In our view, the omission of such important and significant details was apparently deliberate, and necessarily invalidated the notice and the ensuing sheriffs sale of the property. We cannot tolerate her omission considering that the issuance and publication of the notice of the sheriffs sale were not idle ceremonies to be casually made. The notice was intended to serve the public interest attendant to the sheriffs sale in order to widely disseminate the date, time, and place of the execution sale of the real property subject of the notice not only to avoid the forced disposition through the auction from becoming a fire sale to the. prejudice of the owner but also to invite the public to participate and compete with the judgment creditor as far as bidding for the property during the sheriffs auction was concerned.

We cannot overemphasize that the sheriff is one of the front-line representatives of the justice system, and if, by her lack of care and diligence in the implementation of judicial writs, she should lose the trust reposed on her, she inevitably diminishes the faith of the people in the Judiciary. Hence, we cannot tolerate, least of all condone, any act of a sheriff like the respondent herein for if we did so we would permit her to diminish the faith of the people in the entire Judiciary.[16]

Under Rule 10, paragraph B.4 of the Revised Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service (RRACS), inefficiency and incompetence in the performance of official duties are grave offenses punishable by suspension from office for six months one day to one year for the first offenses, and dismissal from the service for the second violations. On the other hand, simple neglect of duty is a less grave offense under Rule 10, paragraph D.1 of the RRACS that deserves suspension from office for one month and one day to six months for the first violation, and dismissal from the service for the second.

It is relevant to mention that respondent Sheriff Fajardo had been dismissed from the service with forfeiture of all benefits except her accrued leave benefits, and perpetual disqualification for re-employment in the government service, including government-owned and government­ controlled corporations pursuant to the ruling handed down against her in Gillera v. Fajardo,[17] whereby she was declared guilty of dishonesty and conduct unbecoming an officer of the Court.

Respondent Sheriff Fajardo, being guilty of gross inefficiency and incompetence in the performance of her official duties, as well as simple neglect of duty, would be penalized with suspension from office for one year, but in view of her dismissal from the service having mooted the imposition of suspension as the penalty, she should be punished with a straight fine of P50,000.00 as the OCA has recommended.

WHEREFORE, the Court FINDS and DECLARES:

1. Respondent Sheriff IV MA. CONSUELO JOIE A. FAJARDO of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 93, in San Pedro, Laguna guilty of gross inefficiency and incompetence in the performance of her official duties, and simple neglect, and, accordingly, FINES her in the amount of P50,000.00; and

2. DISMISSES the administrative charge of falsification and alteration of the writ of execution brought against Clerk of Court (COC) V ATTY. JAARMY G. BOLUS-ROMERO for lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.

Leonardo-De Castro, C.J., Carpio, Peralta, Bersamin, Del Castillo, Perlas-Bernabe, Tijam, Gesmundo, and J. Reyes, Jr., JJ., concur.
Leonen and Jadeleza, JJ., on wellness leave.
Caguioa, J., on official leave.
A. Reyes, Jr., J., on leave.





NOTICE  OF  JUDGMENT

Sirs/Mesdames:

Please take notice that on September 25, 2018 a Decision, copy attached herewith, was rendered by the Supreme Court in the above-entitled Administrative matter, the original of which was received by this Office on October 24, 2018 at 4:35 p.m.

Very truly yours,

(SGD.) EDGAR O. ARICHETA
Clerk of Court



[1] Rollo, pp. 2-16.

[2] Id.

[3] Id. at 37.

[4] Id. at 6.

[5] Id. at 7-8.

[6] Id.

[7] Id. at 277-290.

[8] Id. at 283.

[9] Id. at 271.

[10] Id. at 311.

[11] Id. at 319-320.

[12] Id.at 318.

[13] Id. at 318.

[14] Id. at 319-320.

[15] Id. at 320.

[16] Office  of the Court Administrator v. Macusi, Jr., A.M. No. P-13-3105, September 11, 2013, 705 SCRA 377, 390.

[17] A.M. No. P-14-3237 (formerly OCA I.P.I. No. 09-3256-P), October 21, 2014, 738 SCRA 632.

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