December 2008 - Philippine Supreme Court Decisions/Resolutions
A.M. No. P-04-1793 - RAUL ZAMUDIO v. EFREN AURO
[A.M. NO. P-04-1793 : December 8, 2008]
(Formerly OCA I.P.I. No. 03-1650-P)
RAUL ZAMUDIO, Complainant, v. EFREN AURO, Deputy Sheriff, Regional Trial Court, Camarines Norte, Respondent.
R E S O L U T I O N
In a Complaint dated April 23, 2003, Raul Zamudio (complainant) charges Efren Auro (respondent), Deputy Sheriff of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Daet, Camarines Norte, with gross negligence of duty for his failure to implement the writ of execution in Civil Case No. 2527 entitled "Raul Zamudio v. Romeo Aloc" for Sum of Money.
Complainant avers: The Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Daet, Camarines Norte issued a writ of execution on October 30, 2002, pursuant to its decision1 in Civil Case No. 2527 which ordered defendant therein (Aloc) to pay complainant
P144,680.00 as unpaid balance of the value of the subject motor vehicle, P37,265.00 as interest, and attorney's fees of P10,000.00 and P500.00 per appearance. The writ was forwarded to the Office of the Clerk of Court (OCC), RTC, Daet and endorsed to respondent for service and implementation. However, respondent up to the date of the filing of the instant complaint has failed to implement the writ. Such failure constitutes gross negligence of duty and has caused complainant damage as he was not able to recover the amount due him as awarded by the court.2
Respondent filed his Comment dated July 24, 2003, claiming that he was not negligent of his duties and his failure to implement the writ was for reasons beyond his control; and praying that the administrative case against him be dismissed. He explained that he received the folder of Civil Case No. 2527 only on January 20, 2003; that he sent a Notice of Levy dated March 27, 2003 to Aloc which was received by Aloc's wife on April 3, 2003; that before he could take possession of the subject vehicle, however, it became subject of Criminal Case No. 03-7675 for Violation of the Anti-Carnapping Act. Presently, the subject vehicle is impounded at the Old Municipal Building of Daet as it was used to transport illegal logs.3
Complainant filed a Reply dated August 7, 2003, stating that while respondent received the folder of Civil Case No. 2527 on January 20, 2003, he prepared the Notice of Levy only on March 27, 2003 or two months after receipt of the records. Respondent also did not cause the annotation of the Notice of Levy in the records of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) in Daet and from January 20, 2003 to June 30, 2003, respondent did not execute the writ despite constant reminders from complainant4 .
The Court, in its Resolution dated March 10, 2004, referred the instant complaint to the Executive Judge of the RTC, Daet for investigation, report and recommendation.5
In compliance with the Court's directive, Investigating Judge Winston Racoma submitted his report dated December 21, 2007 recommending that the instant complaint against respondent be dismissed.6
Judge Racoma held: Respondent had not been remiss in his duty and he implemented the writ of execution in accordance with Section 9, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court7 on money judgment, which requires the sheriff to first make a demand on the obligor for the immediate payment of the full amount stated in the writ of execution before a levy can be made. Respondent served the writ of execution on Aloc through his wife and demanded the immediate payment of the money judgment. Respondent accommodated the request of Mrs. Aloc and gave her time to comply with the monetary obligation of her husband. Respondent cannot be faulted for granting such request for extension of time to satisfy the writ of execution because from January 20, 2003 to March 3, 2003, Aloc, who was the judgment obligor in Civil Case No. 2527 was still abroad and the wife did not have the money to satisfy the judgment of the court. Moreover, Mrs. Aloc not a party to the case; thus, the liability of Aloc was something personal to him. When Mrs. Aloc failed to pay the amount within the additional period requested, that was the time respondent issued the Notice of Levy. Respondent also cannot be faulted for failing to take possession of the motor vehicle owned by Aloc after the Notice of Levy had been served on his wife, since the vehicle became the subject matter in a criminal case for carnapping and was later impounded for having been used in transporting illegal logs. The motor vehicle was in the legal custody of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of Daet which had every right to hold the same as it was an evidence of an offense. If ever respondent failed to take physical possession of the vehicle, it was already beyond his control.8
The Court referred Judge Racoma's report to the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) for its evaluation, report and recommendation9 and in its Memorandum dated July 23, 2008, the OCA10 agreed with Judge Racoma that every effort had been exerted by respondent in implementing the writ. However, the OCA disagreed that respondent was totally free from administrative liability. The OCA noted that no sheriff's report was filed by respondent and under Section 14, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court, it is respondent's duty to make a report to the court every 30 days on the proceedings taken on the writ of execution until the judgment is satisfied in full or its effectivity expires. The existence of the present case did not excuse respondent from filing the required sheriff's report. The OCA then recommended that respondent be reprimanded for failure to file the required sheriff's report and that he be warned that a repetition of the same or similar offenses will warrant the imposition of a more severe penalty.11
The Court agrees that respondent should be disciplined for his failure to comply with Section 14, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court, but disagrees as to the extent of his liability.
Section 14, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court12 makes it mandatory for a sheriff to make a return of the writ of execution to the clerk or judge issuing it. Specifically, a sheriff is required (1) to make a return and submit it to the court immediately upon satisfaction in part or in full of the judgment; and (2) if the judgment cannot be satisfied in full, to make a report to the court within 30 days after his receipt of the writ and state why full satisfaction could not be made. The sheriff shall continue making a report every 30 days in the proceedings being undertaken by him until judgment is fully satisfied.13 The reason behind this requirement is to update the court on the status of the execution and to take necessary steps to ensure speedy execution of decisions.14
In this case, respondent in his testimony before Judge Racoma admitted that after he served the writ of execution, he did not make a report to the court stating only that he did not do so because he was waiting for the result of his arrangement with Mrs. Aloc who promised to pay upon the arrival of her husband, and there was already the instant administrative case filed against him.15
Whatever arrangement Mrs. Aloc made with him or complainant does not justify respondent's failure to make a report on the writ. The filing of the present administrative case also cannot absolve him from non-compliance with Section 14, because from the time he received the folder of Civil Case No. 2527 on January 20, 2003 up to April 23, 2003, the date of the complaint, three months had already lapsed with respondent not having complied with the Rules.
Failure to comply with Section 14, Rule 39 constitutes simple neglect of duty, which is defined as the failure of an employee to give one's attention to a task expected of him and signifies a disregard of a duty resulting from carelessness or indifference.16
However, the Court finds that respondent's infraction does not end with his failure to make a report.
As the Court has held time and again, execution of a final judgment is the fruit and end of the suit and is the life of the law. A judgment, if not executed, would be an empty victory on the part of the prevailing party; and sheriffs are the ones primarily responsible for the execution of final judgments. Thus, they are expected at all times to show a high degree of professionalism in the performance of their duties.17
Here respondent avers that he served the writ on defendant Aloc through his wife on January 20, 2003 and gave her 15 days to settle her husband's obligation. Mrs. Aloc went to the OCC on February 10, 2003 requesting an additional 15 days within which to comply with the writ; and again on March 3, 2003 pleading for another extension. It was only upon Mrs. Aloc's failure to keep her promise after the 3rd extension that respondent decided to levy on Aloc's property.18 The Notice of Levy is dated March 27, 2003.19
A sheriff is not required to give the judgment debtor some time to raise cash; otherwise, the property may be placed in danger of being lost or absconded.20 A period of fifteen days as initially given by respondent to Mrs. Aloc in order to comply with the writ may be considered excusable in order to give her ample time to confer with her husband, who was the defendant in the civil case and was allegedly out of the country. After the said period however, and with the wife clearly acting in behalf of her husband, respondent took a risk in not immediately implementing the writ. As held by the Court, a sheriff, after serving the writ and upon failure of the judgment obligor to immediately pay the amounts therein, should levy on whatever personal properties he may find in defendant's house and, in default thereof, defendant's real properties.21 By allowing Mrs. Aloc to have a total of three extensions, respondent risked, as it happened in this case, that the judgment may no longer be satisfied.
Disregard of the rules on execution of judgment is tantamount to neglect of duty.22 Under Section 52 (B) (2) of the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service, simple neglect of duty carries the penalty of suspension of one month and one day to six months for the first offense and dismissal from the service for the second offense.
The Court finds that respondent committed two offenses in this case, failure to implement the writ and failure to make a report, which both constitute simple neglect of duty. Following Section 55 of the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service, only one penalty shall be imposed, with one of the infractions to be considered as an aggravating circumstance. Such aggravating circumstance, however, shall be offset by mitigating circumstances in respondent's favor,23 such as his length of service, having been part of the judiciary since 1979,24 and the fact that this is his first administrative infraction.25 The Court in several cases also imposed the penalty of fine instead of suspension as an alternative penalty26 to prevent any undue adverse effect on public service which would ensue if work were otherwise left unattended by reason of respondent's suspension.27 Considering the foregoing circumstances and following several cases involving simple neglect of duty, the Court finds the imposition of a
P5,000.00 fine reasonable in this case.28
WHEREFORE, the Court finds Efren Auro, Deputy Sheriff, Regional Trial Court, Daet, Camarines Norte, guilty of simple neglect of duty for which he is FINED the amount
P5,000.00 with the STERN WARNING that repetition of the same or similar acts in the future shall be dealt with more severely.
1 Dated June 28, 2002.
2 Rollo, pp. 1-3.
3 Id. at 11-12.
4 Id. at 16-17.
5 Rollo, p. 22.
6 Id. at 379.
7 Sec. 9. Execution of judgments for money, how enforced. - -
(a) Immediate payment on demand. - - The officer shall enforce an execution of a judgment for money by demanding from the judgment obligor the immediate full payment of the full amount stated in the writ of execution and all the lawful fees. x x x
(b) Satisfaction by levy. - - If the judgment obligor cannot pay all or part of the obligation in cash, certified bank check or other mode of payment acceptable to the judgment obligee, the officer shall levy upon the properties of the judgment obligor of every kind and nature whatsoever which may be disposed of for value and not otherwise exempt from execution giving the latter the option to immediately choose which property or part thereof may be levied upon, sufficient to satisfy the judgment. If the judgment obligor does not exercise the option, the officer shall first levy on the personal properties, if any, and then on the real properties if the personal properties are insufficient to answer for the judgment.
8 Rollo, pp. 378-379.
9 Id. at 373.
10 Through Court Administrator Jose P. Perez and Deputy Court Administrator Antonio H. Dujua.
11 Rollo, pp. 399-340.
12 Section 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 promptly furnished the parties.
15 TSN, November 12, 2004, rollo, pp. 300-302, 304-305.
17 Mangubat v. Camino, supra note 14; Zarate v. Untalan, supra note 13.
18 TSN, October 11, 2004, rollo, pp. 257-265.
19 Exhibit "G," id. at 14.
21 Mangubat v. Camino, supra note 14.
23 See Section 54, Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service, Memorandum Circular No. 19, s. 1999.
24 Respondent started as a security guard in the Court of Agrarian Relations on December 1,1977 up to 1979, then served as sheriff at the RTC Daet starting February 28, 1986 up to the present, per OCA OAS Records Division. See also Section 53, Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service, Memorandum Circular No. 19, s. 1999.
25 Per OCA Docket Legal Office.
27 Juario v. Labis, id.
28 See Juario v. Labis, supra note 26; Patawaran v. Nepomuceno, supra note 16; Balanag, Jr. v. Osita, A.M. No. P-01-1454, September 12, 2002, 388 SCRA 630, 636.