Sismaet v. Sabas : AM P-03-1680 : May 27, 2004 : J. Corona : En Banc :
[A.M. NO. P-03-1680 : May 27, 2004]
JUDY SISMAET, Complainant, v. ERIBERTO R. SABAS,
Clerk of Court IV, MTCC Puerto Princesa City and ERNESTO T. SIMPLICIANO,
Sheriff III, MTCC Puerto Princesa City, Respondents.
R E S O L U T I O N
This concerns the letter-complaint dated March 3, 1999 filed with
the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) by Judy Sismaet against Eriberto
Sabas, Clerk of Court IV, and Ernesto Simpliciano, Sheriff III, both of the
Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) of Puerto Princesa City, for grave
misconduct and dishonesty, relative to Barangay Case No. 018-95 entitled Sps.
Pedro and Judy Sismaet v. Sps. Anatolio and Marilyn Baylon, for specific
The case stemmed from the special power of attorney executed by
complainant Judy Sismaet and her husband in favor of Spouses Anatolio and
Marilyn Baylon allowing the latter to use complainants property as collateral
for their loan application.
approved the loan in the amount of
P250,000.The Baylons, however, failed to pay the loan and to avoid
foreclosure, the Sismaets advanced the amount outstanding, with the following
agreement executed on May 3, 1995 before the Lupon of Barangay Tiniguiban,
Puerto Princesa City (the Kasunduan).
1.Na ang titulo ng lupa
ay tutubusin ng ikalawang party at ibabalik sa unang party ngayong Mayo 30,
2.Na kapag hindi ito
naibalik sa amin kami ay magsasampa ng demanda laban sa mag-asawang Baylon
upang matupad ang aming kasunduan na ginawa sa harap ni Attorney Edgar O.
3.Na kung hindi nila
matupad ang pagsauli sa panahon na ibinigay sa ikalawang party sila ay
mag-e-execute ng Deed of Transfer or Conveyance pabor sa unang party.
4.Na kung hindi nila
maibabalik ang titulo ng lupa kami ang siyang magbabayad o tutubos sa banko sa
dahilan na ang interest ay lumalaki at upang hindi maforeclose ng bangko.
Na ang kasunduang ito ay ginawa namin
ng walang nag-utos o tumakot sa amin na sa katunayan kami ay lalagda sa ilalim
ng Kasunduang ito.1 cralawred
The Baylons still failed to comply with their undertaking,
prompting the complainant to file a civil case for specific performance at the
MTCC of Puerto Princesa City.
Ruling in favor of the spouses Sismaet, then MTCC Judge Fernando
R. Gomez, Jr. issued a writ of execution dated December 6, 1996 directing
respondent ex-officio sheriff Eriberto Sabas to enforce the Kasunduan
by requiring the Baylons to execute the Deed of Transfer of Lot Nos. 26 and 27
at the United Homeowners Subdivision and the ten-hectare parcel of land covered
by Tax Declaration No. 14-1466-A.
pertinent portion of the writ of execution stated:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
Now therefore, you are hereby commanded to enforce the said
KASUNDUAN by requiring the defendants, Anatolio Baylon and Marilyn Baylon, to
execute a Deed of Transfer of their property mentioned in their Agreement
acknowledged by Notary Public, Edgar O. Palay andspecified in no. 2 of said Agreement as security in favor of spouses
That said property is described in the Agreement as follows:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
1.Lot Nos. 26 and 27, of the United Homeowners
Subdivision, Barangay Tiniguiban, Puerto Princesa City, with residential house
made of concrete, G.I. roofings, and
2.A parcel of land located at Barake, Aborlan,
Palawan with an area of ten (10) hec., more or less, covered by Tax Declaration
Return of this writ shall be made by you at anytime not less than
ten (10) days nor more than sixty (60) days after receipt hereof.2 cralawred
The execution of the writ was deferred because the spouses Baylon
appealed to the Regional Trial Court (RTC) which, however, upheld the MTCCs
December 6, 1996 writ of execution.
Accordingly, incumbent MTCC Judge Jocelyn Sundiang-Dilig issued an alias
writ of execution on September 22, 1997 which was, however, never served on the
This prompted complainant to
seek an explanation from Sabas who could only say: Nakikiusap si Mrs.
Baylon na magbabayad na lang siya, pagbigyan natin.Hintayin natin ang pagbabayad nila hanggang October 24, 1997.
Kawawa naman sila.3 cralawred
On October 23, 1997, Sabas summoned complainant to his office and
offered money from the spouses Baylon.
When complainant refused, Sabas furiously shouted: Bakit ba
gusting-gusto mo ang lupa nina Baylon?4 Hethen showed her an alias writ of execution dated October
A close scrutiny thereof,
however, revealed that the alias writ in the possession of Sabas
differed substantially from the December 6, 1996 writ issued by Judge
There was a new provision (in
italics below) giving the sheriff the option to collect cash from the judgment
NOW, THEREFORE, you are hereby commanded to cause the execution of
the aforesaid writ strictly in accordance with the terms of the agreement and
the kasunduan by collecting from the defendants jointly and severally the
entire amount of
P303,020.00 and turn over the same to plaintiff
with interest at the legal rate effective December 1, 1995, until fully paid;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Should defendants fail to pay the aforesaid amount, then you are
commanded to strictly enforce the terms and conditions set forth in the
agreement and kasunduan and turn over to plaintiffs the real properties of
defendants specified in the agreement and kasunduan which must be read
This writ shall have a lifetime of five (5) years, nevertheless,
you are required to make a return hereof every thirty (30) days until the same
is fully satisfied.5 (italics supplied)
Confronted with the discrepancy, Sabas merely shrugged: Eh
kasi mali ang ginawa ni Judge Gomez.6 Complainant filed a motion for clarification of the writ of execution.
After Judge Dilig was apprised of the
discrepancy during the hearing, she ordered the quashing of the October 16,
1997 alias writ and the issuance of a new one to conform with the
December 6, 1996 order of Judge Gomez:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
After conducting a clarificatory hearing on the Writ of Execution
issued by this Court on October 16, 1997, the Court noted that the said writ
was erroneously issued because the Decision issued by the Hon. Nelia Yap
Fernandez dated April 17, 1997 affirmed the appealed Order issued by this Court
on December 6, 1996.
There is nothing in the Order of December 6, 1996 which mandated
the defendants to pay the amount of
Contrary to the said Writ dated October 16,
1998, the December 6, 1996 Order sought to enforce the Kasunduan executed
before the Barangay Level. The said Kasunduan clearly provides the obligation
of the defendants to return the property of the plaintiff on May 30, 1995.7 cralawred
Again, the Baylons elevated the said order to the RTC but it was acted
On October 30, 1998, another alias writ of execution was
issued to enforce the Kasunduan but, before the same could be served,
Ligaya Bautista, complainants sister-in-law and a neighbor of the Baylons at
the United Homeowners Association, informed complainant that a certain Alicia
Mendoza and her family had moved into the house of the Baylons on November 19,
Complainant then went to the
house of respondent sheriff Simpliciano who showed her an undated sheriffs
return signed by Sabas in his capacity as ex-officio sheriff, stating in
part as follows:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
This is to certify that on November 6, 1998, the undersigned served
the Writ of Execution issued by this court dated October 30, 1998, in order to
enforce the judgment of the court in the above-entitled case.
It turned out however, that the house and
the two adjoining lots on which it is erected, all subject of the writ, is no
longer occupied by the defendants, but by a third party, Mrs. Alicia E.
Mendoza, who claims to have purchased the same from the defendant spouses,
Anatolio and Marilyn Baylon.8 cralawred
Complainant went to the office of Sabas and confronted him about
the sheriffs return but the latter answered: Bakit ay, hinihintay lang
naman ni Alicia Mendoza na umalis si Baylon at siya na nga ang lilipat.
Alam naman ng buong korte na ang hangad mo
lang ay makuha mo ang bahay in Baylon at kung tutuusin ay mas malaki ang perang
galing kay Alicia.9 Complainant then asked Sabas to correct his report but the latter refused.
Hence, this complaint.
In his comment dated May 13, 1999, Simpliciano vehemently denied
the accusations against him.
that he had no participation in the implementation of the writ and that it was
Sabas who enforced it.
Sabas likewise denied all the allegations of the
He alleged that what
probably enraged complainant was his refusal to change his report as stated in
the sheriffs return.
He stood pat on
his statement that, when he served the writ on November 6, 1998, he found
Alicia Mendoza occupying the premises.
Mendoza even showed him a Deed of Absolute Sale dated March 18, 1998, an
Affidavit of Ownership and Transfer Certificate of Title Nos. 130185 and
Sabas pointed out further that
the actual date when the Mendoza family moved to the subject premises was
In a resolution dated November 22, 2000, this Court referred the
complaint to Executive Judge Nelia Y. Fernandez of the RTC Puerto Princesa
City, for investigation, report and recommendation.
On July 16, 2002, Executive Judge Fernandez submitted her report
Pursuant to the above facts gathered during the investigation
conducted by the undersigned and in compliance with Res. Dated November 22,
2000 of the Honorable Court Administrator of the Supreme Court, Manila, it is
hereby respectfully recommended that Mr. Eriberto Sabas be found
administratively guilty as charged but without forfeiture of his retirement
benefits for subject employee has retired upon reaching his compulsory
retirement age of 65 last September 17, 200111 due
to his long dedicated government service. It is however, further recommended
that said respondent be held liable for exemplary damages in the sum of
in favor of complainant who had been prejudiced by the misconduct of respondent
Eriberto Sabas. The case as against respondent Ernesto Simpliciano is hereby
recommended dismissed on account of his death on January 13, 2002.12 cralawred
In its memorandum dated July 31, 2003, the OCA, through Deputy
Court Administrator Jose P. Perez, found no reason to disturb the findings of
the investigating judge.
the investigating Judges recommended penalty, it ruled:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
PREMISES CONSIDERED, it is respectfully recommended that Ex-Oficio
Sheriff Eriberto Sabas be found GUILTY of grave misconduct and dishonesty and
be FINED in the amount equivalent to his six (6) months salary to be deducted
from his retirement benefits.
also recommended that the instant complaint against Sheriff Ernesto Simpliciano
be DISMISSED for lack of merit.
We agree with the findings and the recommendation of the OCA.
Sheriffs play an important role in the administration of justice
because they are tasked to execute the final orders and judgments of the
If not enforced, such decisions
will become nothing more than paper victories of the prevailing parties.
Indeed, the execution of a final judgment is the fruit and end of the suit and
is the life of the law. Thus, the sheriff charged with this task must act with
considerable dispatch so as not to delay the administration of justice.13 cralawred
We rule that respondent Sabas was guilty of grave misconduct and
dishonesty when he drafted an alias writ of execution substantially
different from the writ earlier issued by Judge Gomez and caused it to be
signed by Judge Dilig on October 16, 1997.
The September 22, 1997 order of Judge Dilig merely directed the issuance
of an alias writ to enforce the December 6, 1996 order of Judge
There was nothing in it giving
the defendants the option to pay the amount of
P303,020 in cash.
The order clearly mandated the enforcement
of the Kasunduan executed in the barangay office. Being a lawyer
and having been in the service for more than 11 years, respondent should have
known that he could neither add to nor subtract from the contents of the
His duty was simply to
carry it out.
The duty of a sheriff to execute a valid writ is ministerial and
A purely ministerial
act or duty is one which an officer or tribunal performs in the context of a
given set of facts, in a prescribed manner and without regard to the exercise
of his own judgment upon the propriety or impropriety of the act done.14 A
discretionary act, on the other hand, is a faculty conferred upon a court or
official by which he may decide the question either way and still be right.15 The 2002 Revised Manual for Clerks of Court
categorically states that:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
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.
In general, a sheriff is the proper officer to execute all writs
returnable to the court, unless another is appointed, by special order, for the
It is not his duty to decide
on the truth or sufficiency of the processes committed to him for service.
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.
He is supposed to execute the order of the
court strictly to the letter.16 cralawred
Respondent Sabas degraded the judicial system not only by
refusing to perform a specific duty, that is, to execute the writ in accordance
with the courts order, but also by submitting a maliciously erroneous return
by making it appear that the third party claimant moved into the subject
premises on November 6, 1998 instead of November 19, 1998, thus delaying and
rendering nugatory the final order of the court.
The conduct of every person connected with an office charged with
the dispensation of justice, from the presiding judge to the lowest clerk, is
charged with a heavy burden of responsibility.
His behavior must at all times be characterized by propriety and
decorum, and must, more than anything else, always be above suspicion.17 cralawred
LaO v. Hatab, 18 we dismissed respondent sheriff for his unreasonable delay in executing the
judgment of the trial court in an ejectment case.
In Padilla v. Arabia,19 we dismissed a deputy sheriff for serious misconduct and dereliction of duty
when he failed to enforce the writs of execution and instead granted the
judgment debtor a grace period within which to settle his obligation.
In this case, respondent sheriffs
misconduct was no less different, thus warranting the same punishment meted out
to the sheriffs involved in the Gonzales LaO and Padilla cases.
However, before this Court could dispose of this case, respondent
compulsorily retired on September 16, 2001.
This effectively precluded us from imposing the penalty of dismissal
which respondent deserved.
prevents us from ordering the forfeiture of his retirement benefits, which the
Court earlier ordered withheld, for his malfeasance in office.
We also take note that this was not respondents first
In A.M. No.
P-02-1615,20 respondent was reprimanded by this Court for dishonesty and conduct unbecoming
a public officer.
The complaint against sheriff Ernesto T. Simpliciano should be
dismissed not only because of the latters death but also because of the
failure of the complainant to prove the alleged connivance between him and
WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Eriberto R. Sabas, former
clerk of court and ex-officio sheriff of MTCC Puerto Princesa City, is
hereby found GUILTY of gross misconduct and dishonesty.
Consequently, in accordance with Civil
Service rules and regulations, this Court imposes on him a fine equivalent to
six months salary, to be deducted from his retirement benefits earlier ordered
withheld pending resolution of this case.
The balance of his retirement benefits shall be released to him in due course.
Vitug, (Acting Chief Justice),
Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Carpio-Morales,
Callejo, Sr., Azcuna andTINGA, JJ., concur.
Davide, Jr., C.J., andPuno, J., on official leave.
10 During the investigation later conducted by Judge Fernandez, Barangay Captain
Earl Buenvije testified that proceedings in the Barangay Council showed that
the Mendozas actually moved into the house of the Baylons on November 19,
1998, as evidenced by her (Alicia Mendozas) signature appearing in the
11 Should be September 16, 2001, Rollo, p. 282.
13 Dilan v. Dulfo, 304
SCRA 460, 468-469 , citing Villareal v. Rarama, 247 SCRA 493
; Jumio v. Egay-Eviota, 231 SCRA 551 .
20 Promulgated on April 29, 2003.
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