Sheriff dismissed for dishonesty and neglect - A.M. No. P-11-2896

A.M. No. P-11-2896
()click link)

"x x x.

Under Section 9, Rule 141 of the Rules of Court, the sheriff is required to secure the court’s prior approval of the estimated expenses and fees needed to implement the court process. Specifically, the Rules provide:

SEC. 9. Sheriffs and other persons serving processes. − x x x

(l) For money collected by him by order, execution, attachment, or any other process, judicial or extrajudicial, the following sums, to wit:

1. On the first four thousand (P4,000.00) pesos, four (4%) per centum.

2. On all sums in excess of four thousand (P4,000.00) pesos, two (2%) 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.[2]

Thus, following the above-mentioned rules, a sheriff is guilty of violating the Rules if he fails to observe the following: (1) prepare an estimate of expenses to be incurred in executing the writ, for which he must seek the court's approval; (2) render an accounting; and (3) issue an official receipt for the total amount he received from the judgment debtor. The rule requires the sheriff executing writs or processes to estimate the expenses to be incurred. Upon the approval of the estimated expenses, the interested party has to deposit the amount with the Clerk of Court and ex-officio Sheriff. The expenses shall then be disbursed to the executing Sheriff subject to his liquidation within the same period for rendering a return on the process or writ. Any unspent amount shall be refunded to the party who made the deposit.[3] In the instant case, none of these procedures were complied with by respondent sheriff.

It must be stressed that sheriffs are not allowed to receive any voluntary payments from parties in the course of the performance of their duties. Corollary, a sheriff cannot just unilaterally demand sums of money from a party-litigant without observing the proper procedural steps; otherwise, it would amount to dishonesty or extortion.[4] Even assuming such payments were indeed given and received in good faith, this fact alone would not dispel the suspicion that such payments were made for less than noble purposes. Neither will complainant's acquiescence or consent to such expenses absolve the sheriff for his failure to secure the prior approval of the court concerning such expense.[5]

Likewise, Section 14, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court explicitly provides that:

Sec. 14. Return of writ of execution. - The writ of execution shall be returnable to the court issuing it immediately after the judgment has been satisfied in part or in full. If the judgment cannot be satisfied in full within thirty (30) days after his receipt of the writ, the officer shall report to the court and state the reason therefor. Such writ shall continue in effect during the period within which the judgment may be enforced by motion. The officer shall make a report to the court every thirty (30) days on the proceedings taken thereon until the judgment is satisfied in full, or its effectivity expires. The returns or periodic reports shall set forth the whole of the proceedings taken, and shall be filed with the court and copies thereof furnished the parties.

The Rules clearly provide that it is mandatory for sheriffs to execute and make a return on the writ of execution within 30 days from receipt of the writ and every 30 days thereafter until it is satisfied in full or its effectivity expires. Even if the writs are unsatisfied or only partially satisfied, sheriffs must still file the reports so that the court, as well as the litigants, may be informed of the proceedings undertaken to implement the writ. Periodic reporting also provides the court insights on the efficiency of court processes after promulgation of judgment. Over-all, the purpose of periodic reporting is to ensure the speedy execution of decisions.[6]

Indeed, respondent's submission of sheriff's report was long overdue, considering that it was filed only on September 9, 2008, or about 11 months delayed as the writ was assigned to him on October 4, 2007. His allegation that he had gone to various places did not excuse him from promptly submitting a return.

Sheriffs play an important role in the administration of justice. They are tasked to execute final judgments of the courts. If not enforced, such decisions become empty victories of the prevailing parties. As agents of the law, sheriffs are called upon to discharge their duties with due care and utmost diligence because in serving the court's writs and processes and implementing its order, they cannot afford to err without affecting the integrity of their office and the efficient administration of justice.[7]

We will reiterate that a sheriff's duty in the execution of a writ is purely ministerial; he is to execute the order of the court strictly to the letter. He has no discretion whether to execute the judgment or not. He is mandated to uphold the majesty of the law as embodied in the decision. When a writ is placed in the hands of a sheriff, it is his duty, in the absence of any instructions to the contrary, to proceed with reasonable celerity and promptness to execute it according to its mandate. Accordingly, a sheriff must comply with his mandated ministerial duty as speedily as possible. There is even no need for the litigants to "follow up" a writ's implementation.[8]

Respondent's failure to carry out what is a purely ministerial duty and to follow well-established rules in the implementation of court orders and writs is truly deplorable. The long delay in the execution of the judgments and the failure to accomplish the required periodic reports demonstrate respondent sheriff's gross neglect and gross inefficiency in the performance of his official duties. Likewise, respondent sheriff's receipt of the money in his official capacity and his failure to turn over the amount to the clerk of court is an act of misappropriation of funds amounting to dishonesty.[9] These, we will not tolerate.

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.[10]

Under the Civil Service Rules, if the respondent is found guilty of two or more charges, the penalty to be imposed should be that corresponding to the most serious charge and the rest will be considered aggravating circumstances.[11] Dishonesty, a grave offense punishable by dismissal on the first offense, is the most serious charge of which respondent sheriff is found guilty.[12] Gross Neglect of Duty will be considered as an aggravating circumstance. Thus, dismissal from service is the appropriate penalty to be imposed on respondent sheriff.

WHEREFORE, respondent EMERSON B. PILIPIÑA, Sheriff IV, Office of the Clerk of Court, Regional Trial Court of Manila, is found GUILTY of DISHONESTY and GROSS NEGLECT OF DUTY and is ordered DISMISSED from service with forfeiture of all retirement benefits and privileges, except accrued leave credits, if any, with prejudice to re-employment in any branch or instrumentality of the government, including government-owned or controlled corporations.


x x x."
law and justice foundation,law and justice symbol,law justice and morality,law or justice 1988,relationship between law and justice,difference between law and justice,law and justice careers,law and justice essay law and justice foundation,law and justice symbol,law justice and morality,law or justice 1988,relationship between law and justice,difference between law and justice,law and justice careers,law and justice essay