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695 Phil. 592


[ A.M. No. P-12-3087 (Formerly A.M. OCA IPI No. 08-2720-P), September 24, 2012 ]




On October 8, 2007, complainant filed a letter-complaint[1] before the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) of the Supreme Court charging respondent sheriff of grave misconduct[2] for his failure/refusal to conduct the auction sale of the levied property pursuant to the Order of Execution issued by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Pasig City, Branch 264 in Civil Case No. 66262.[3]

Complainant is the judgment obligee in the Decision[4] dated February 25, 2006 rendered in the aforementioned case, in the amount of P516,297.50 with legal interest from December 1993, moral and exemplary damages and attorney’s fees, each in the amount of P50,000.00, as well as the costs of the suit.

To implement the writ of execution (writ) issued therein and for the payment of publication expenses, respondent sheriff asked and received  from complainant the amount of P15,000.00 and thereafter, levied the house and lot of the judgment obligors, Spouses Noel and Gregoria Bambalan  (Sps. Bambalan), located in Bo. Rosario, Pasig City and covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. PT-78872.  While the auction sale was scheduled on September 3, 2007, the same did not push through purportedly for lack of publication.  Instead, it was reset to September 19, 2007, then to September 25, 2007 and later to October 5, 2007, which were all canceled on account of complainant's failure to heed respondent sheriff's additional demand of the amount of P18,000.00 for publication expenses.

On September 25, 2007, respondent sheriff instructed complainant to proceed to his office to receive the amount of P500,000.00 paid by the daughter of Sps. Bambalan.  When the latter ignored the instruction, he offered to deliver the said amount for a sheriff’s fee of 2.5% of the amount indicated in the notice of auction sale.[5]  Moreover, on several occasions, he solicited money from complainant for his cellphone load and transportation expenses in the service of the notice of sale.

Despite directives[6] from the Court, respondent sheriff failed to submit his comment to the letter-complaint.  A fine of P1,000.00,[7] later increased to P2,000.00,[8] was imposed upon him which he likewise failed to pay, prompting the Court to declare the case submitted for decision on the basis of the pleadings filed.[9]

The complaint has merit.

Sheriffs play an important role in the administration of justice since they are tasked to execute final judgments of the courts that would otherwise become empty victories for the prevailing party if not enforced.[10]  The 2002 Revised Manual for Clerks of Court characterizes sheriffs' functions as purely ministerial, to wit:

Sheriffs are ministerial officers.  They are agents of the law and not agents of the parties, neither of the creditor nor of the purchaser at a sale conducted by him.  It follows, therefore, that the sheriff can make no compromise in an execution sale.

As a ministerial officer, a sheriff is expected to faithfully perform what is incumbent upon him, even in the absence of instruction.[11] Thus, he must discharge his duties with due care and utmost diligence.  In serving court writs and processes and in implementing court orders, he cannot afford to err without affecting the integrity of his office and the efficient administration of justice.[12]

Respondent sheriff, by his omission to file the required comment and to pay the fine imposed by the Court, disregarded the duty of every employee in the judiciary to obey the orders and processes of the Court without delay.  The same evinces lack of interest in clearing his name in the face of grave imputations, constituting an implied admission of the charges.[13]  Nonetheless, the Court evaluated and examined the records of the case and found sufficient basis in complainant's charges.

Records disclose that after levying on the property of the judgment obligors, respondent sheriff issued a notice of auction sale (notice) and accordingly scheduled the sale on September 3, 2007. It was, thus, incumbent upon him to comply with the requirements of Section 15, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court (Rules) prior to the sale, namely, (a) to cause the posting of the notice for 20 days in 3 public places in Pasig City where the sale was to take place;  (b) to cause the publication of the notice once a week for two consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation, selected by raffle; (c) to serve a written notice of the sale to the judgment obligors at least three days before the sale.  However, notwithstanding receipt from the complainant of the amount of P15,000.00 under an assurance that he would take care of everything, no auction sale was conducted on the scheduled date for lack of the required publication.  Worse, he asked anew for publication expenses in a higher amount, and solicited money for his cellphone load, transportation expenses in the service of the notice, as well as sheriff's fee of 2.5% of the minimum bid amount indicated in the notice.  Moreover, instead of conducting the auction sale as re-scheduled, he unjustifiably insisted that complainant accept the P500,000.00 paid by the daughter of Sps. Bambalan which is below the amount sought to be recovered under the subject decision.  He likewise failed to observe the proper procedural steps laid down in Section 10,[14] Rule 141 of the Rules in collecting sums of money from a party-litigant.  He should have (a) prepared an estimate of expenses to be incurred; (b) obtained  court  approval  for  such  estimated  expenses; (c) caused the interested party to deposit with the Clerk of Court and Ex Officio Sheriff the corresponding amount; (d) secured from the Clerk of Court the said amount; (e) disbursed/liquidated his expenses within the same period for rendering a return on the writ; and (f) refunded any unspent amount[15] to the complainant.

Consequently, the Court finds respondent sheriff guilty of dishonesty and grave misconduct when he unlawfully collected[16] and pocketed the amount of P15,000.00 intended to defray the expenses for the publication of the notice and enforcement of the writ of execution but which was not accordingly spent.  He is likewise guilty of dereliction of duty in failing to observe the proper procedure in collecting execution expenses and conducting an execution sale.[17]  Moreover, he violated Canon III, Section 2(b) of A.M. No. 03-06-13-SC,[18] which prohibits court employees from receiving tips or any remuneration from parties to the actions or proceedings with the courts.[19]

Under Section 52[20] of the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service, dishonesty and grave misconduct are classified as grave offenses meriting the supreme penalty of dismissal from service[21] even for the first offense.  On the other hand, dereliction of duty for failure to comply with Section 10, Rule 141 of the Rules of Court is punishable with a fine of P5,000.00.[22]

Considering, however, the Resolution of the Court dated April 19, 2010 in A.M. No. 10-3-76-RTC which declared respondent sheriff dropped from the rolls effective May 4, 2009 for having been on absence without official leave (AWOL), the only appropriate imposable penalty is fine.  Under the premises, the Court imposes upon him a fine in the reasonable amount of P40,000.00, which may be deducted from his accrued leave credits, if sufficient.

WHEREFORE, the Court finds respondent RENATO B.  BARON GUILTY of dishonesty and grave misconduct, violation of  Canon III, Section 2(b) of A.M. No. 03-06-13-SC and dereliction of duty, and is FINED in the amount of FORTY THOUSAND PESOS (P40,000.00) to be deducted from his accrued leave credits, if sufficient.

Let copies of this Resolution be filed in the personal record of respondent and furnished him at his address of record.


Carpio, (Chairperson), Leonardo-De Castro,* Brion, and Reyes,**  JJ., concur.

* Acting Member per Special Order No. 1308 dated September 21, 2012.

** Designated Member per Raffle dated September 24, 2012.

[1] Rollo, pp. 1-3.

[2] The OCA described the offense as one for grave misconduct in its 1st Indorsement dated October 11, 2007 which required respondent sheriff to submit his comment to the letter-complaint, id. at 27.

[3] A collection case against Philippine National Bank, Philippine State College of Aeronautics, Policarpio R. Zacarias and Spouses Noel and Gregoria Bambalan.

[4] Rollo, pp. 4-18.

[5] Id. at 20.

[6] 1st Indorsement dated October 11, 2007, id. at 27; 1st Tracer letter dated January 9, 2008, id. at 28; and Resolutions of the Court dated April 1, 2009, id. at 31-32, September 9, 2009, id. at 33-34, and March 22, 2010, id. at 35-36.

[7] Resolution dated September 9, 2009, id. at 33-34.

[8] Resolution dated March 22, 2010, id. at 35-36.

[9] Resolution dated June 1, 2011, id. at 38-39.

[10] Santuyo v. Benito, A.M. No. P-05-1997 (Formerly A.M. OCA I.P.I. No. 04-1963-P), August 3, 2006, 497 SCRA 461, 467-468.

[11] Erdenberger v. Aquino, A.M. No. P-10-2739 (Formerly A.M. OCA I.P.I. No. 08-3015-P), August 24, 2011,  656 SCRA 44, 48.

[12] Supra note 10.

[13] Re: Criminal Case No. MC-02-5637 Against Arturo V. Peralta and Larry C. De Guzman, Employees of MeTC, Br. 31, Q.C., A.M. No. 02-8-198-MeTC, June 08, 2005, 459 SCRA 278, 285.

[14] As amended by A.M. No. 04-2-04-SC dated August 16, 2004.

[15] Pasok v. Diaz, A.M. No. P-07-2300 (Formerly A.M. OCA I.P.I. No. 05-2231-P), November 29, 2011, 661 SCRA 483, 492-493.

[16] Geronca v. Magalona, A.M. No. P-07-2398 (Formerly A.M. OCA I.P.I. No. 03-1621-P), February 13, 2008, 545 SCRA 1, 6-7.

[17] Id.

[18] Otherwise known as the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel.

[19] Supra note 15.

[20] Section 52 pertinently provides:

Classification of Offenses. – Administrative offenses with corresponding penalties are classified into grave, less grave or light, depending on their gravity or depravity and effects on the government service. 1. The following are grave offenses with their corresponding penalties:
1. Dishonesty
1st offense – Dismissal x x x x

3. Grave Misconduct
1st offense – Dismissal. x x x x

[21] Taguinod  v. Tomas,  A.M. No. P-09-2660, November 29, 2011, 661 SCRA 496, 502.

[22] Tiongco v. Molina, A.M. No. P-00-1373 (Formerly A.M. OCA IPI No. 97-365-P), September 4, 2001, 364 SCRA 294, 300-301.

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