Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence


Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence > Year 1998 > January 1998 Decisions > Adm. Matter No. P-98-1260 January 14, 1998 - PHILIPPINE BANK OF COMMUNICATIONS v. CESAR TORIO, ET AL.:




PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

SECOND DIVISION

[Adm. Matter No. P-98-1260. January 14, 1998.]

(Adm. Matter No. OCA IPI 96-206-P)

PHILIPPINE BANK OF COMMUNICATIONS, complaint, v. CESAR TORIO, EFREN GUMBOC, NILO CABANG and JUANITO LINDO, Respondents.

SYLLABUS


1. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; SUPREME COURT ADMINISTRATIVE SUPERVISION OVER COURT PERSONNEL; SHERIFF; WITH A MINISTERIAL DUTY TO EXECUTE A VALID WRIT. — It is basic that the duty imposed upon the sheriff to execute a valid writ is ministerial and not directory. A purely ministerial act or duty is one which an officer or tribunal performs in 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.

2. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; CASE AT BAR. — The alias writ of execution issued by the trial court directing respondents to implement the decision in said case left respondents no options. Respondents were mandated to comply with the court order and, in doing so, it was sufficient for the justification of their acts that the process was regular on its face and issued by competent authority. Their duty was complied with when they presented the writ and a copy of decision to the employees of the PBCom Ayala Branch and the PBCom Crossroad Branch on September 13, 1996. The allegations of complainant that the writ of execution presented had expired and thus could not be enforced against the bank cannot be sustained. The factual findings of the OCA was that an alias writ of execution was issued by the trial court and was validly enforced by respondents when they presented the same to the bank managers and seized the cash held by the establishment in satisfaction of the judgment. Cabang and Lindo cannot therefore be held liable for the charges filed against them concerning the events which transpired in the PBCom Crossroad Branch on September 13, 1996. Neither can Torio and Gumboc be held liable for the charges filed against them regarding the incident which took place in the PBCom Ayala Branch on the same day.

3. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; BOUND TO DISCHARGE HIS DUTIES WITH PRUDENCE AND CAUTION. — The authority of a sheriff is broad but it is not boundless. In the enforcement of judgments and judicial orders, a sheriff as an officer of the court upon whom the execution of a final judgment depends, must necessarily be circumspect and proper in this behaviour. He must know what is inherently right and wrong and is bound to discharge his duties with prudence and caution. Moreover, he must at all times show a high degree of professionalism in the performance of his duties.

4. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; MUST NOT EXERCISE UNNECESSARY VIOLENCE IN IMPLEMENTATION OF WRIT. — A sheriff is required to perform the duties of his office without needless severity or oppression as he is an agent of the law. In enforcing a writ, he must not exercise unnecessary violence or subject the persons on whose premises he enters to indignities and he is liable where process in legality and properly issued but afterwards employed wrongfully and unlawfully by him. Hence, a sheriff may be held liable for negligent or wrongful acts in the execution of process causing damage to property.

5. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; USE OF FORCE IN IMPLEMENTING WRIT AND CAUSING DAMAGE TO BANK PROPERTY CONSTITUTE GROSS MISCONDUCT. — Contrary to the claims of complainant, the enforcement of the writ of execution by Torio and Gumboc not prematurely made. Nonetheless the same were irregularly done in an oppressive manner. It is conceded that respondents took it upon themselves to force open and destroy the bank vault when the bank employees refused to open the vault and turn over the cash demanded from them in satisfaction of the judgment. The pictures submitted in evidence show that they went to the bank provided with an acetylene torch, a large acetylene tank, and a big sledgehammer. Public officials and employees should at all times respect the rights of others and act with justices. They should necessarily refrain from doing acts contrary to law and public order. The use of force by respondents and the resulting damage to bank property was clearly unjustified and is unacceptable. Respondents Torio and Gumboc acted with grave abuse of their authority and are guilty of gross misconduct. This Court will not tolerate or condone any conduct of judicial agents or employees which would tend to or actually diminish the faith of the people in the judiciary. With the number of incidents reported to this Court involving abusive sheriffs, it is high time to take firm action and make this case serve as an example of such judicial policy and resolve. Respondents Cesar Torio and Efren Guboc are declared GUILTY of gross misconduct in irregularly enforcing the writ of execution in complainant bank’s Buendia Branch in a highhanded manner and with the use of unnecessary and unwarranted force. They are hereby ORDERED to each pay a FINE of P5,000.00, with a warning that a repetition of the same or any similar misconduct will be dealt with more severely.


D E C I S I O N


REGALADO, J.:


This administrative case arose from three complaints filed by the Philippine Bank of Communications (PBCom), against respondents Cesar Torio, Efren Gumboc, Nilo Cabang and Juanito Lindo, deputy sheriffs of Branches 76, 78, 82, and 83, respectively, of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City. Respondents were charged with gross misconduct for having prematurely implemented the decision of the Court of Appeals in C.A.-G.R. SP No. 40636, entitled "PBCom v. Hon. Pedro Santiago, Et Al.," promulgated on September 13, 1996, with the use of unwarranted and unnecessary force and intimidation.chanrobles law library : red

On January 2, 1996, Branch 28 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City rendered a decision in Civil Case No. Q-95-22625, entitled "Falcon Garments Corporation Quality Labels, Inc., Et. Al. v. PBCom," ordering defendant therein to restore immediately to the current account of plaintiff corporation a sum of money plus interest, and to operate said current account in accordance with the instructions of plaintiff. In addition, defendant was ordered to pay plaintiff its loan with interest, as well as to pay damages, attorney’s fees, and litigation expenses. 1

The foregoing decision was appealed by PBCom to the Court of Appeals where it was docketed as C.A.-G.R. SP No. 40636. On February 9, 1996 a motion for execution of judgment pending appeal was filed by plaintiff. PBCom opposed the motion. 2

On March 13, 1996, Judge Percival Lopez of Branch 78 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City inhibited himself from the case. 3 The case was re-raffled to Branch 101 of the same trial court where the motion was heard and the incident was submitted for resolution.

On May 7, 1996, the trial court issued an order granting the motion for a writ of execution pending appeal upon a bond to be filed by plaintiff and conditioned to answer for damages which may be sustained by defendants therein. 4 The required bond was filed on May 14. 1996.

On September 13, 1996, plaintiff corporation filed an ex-parte motion for issuance of an alias writ of execution pending appeal. 5 The trial court granted the motion on the same date and directed Sheriffs Efren Cachero, Efren Gumboc, Nilo Cabang, Cesar Torio, and Juanito Lindo to implement the aforestated order of May 7, 1996 6 which was quoted in the alias writ. Pursuant thereto, personal properties of complainant bank were levied upon and a notice of levy and sale thereof was made by Sheriff Cesar Torio. 7 That same day, a decision was promulgated by the Court of Appeals in C.A.-G.R. SP No. 40636 affirming the decision in Civil Case No. Q-95-22625.

Later that day, Sheriffs Torio and Gumboc of Branches 76 and 78 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City implemented the alias writ of execution at the PBCom Ayala Branch. Accompanied by a certain Atty. Mahinay of the Mahinay Law Offices and armed men from the Makati Police Force, said sheriffs presented to the manager of the PBCom Ayala Branch a copy of the decision and the original writ of execution pending appeal in Civil Case No. Q-95-22625. 8

The bank manager demanded an alias writ of execution as the original writ presented by the sheriffs had allegedly expired. He also demanded a certificate of finality or entry of judgment of C.A.-G.R. SP No. 40636. Torio and Gumboc were allegedly unable to present said documents but, over the objection of the bank employees, they took funds of the bank from its vault and the teller’s booths in the sum of P1,705,793.47. 9 Torio and Gumboc issued receipts for the amount taken and then left the bank. 10

That same afternoon, respondents Cabang and Lindo of Branches 82 and 83 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, together with a certain Atty. Acosta and representatives of Falcon Garments Corporation, the prevailing party in Civil Case No. Q-95-22625, allegedly entered the premises of PBCom Crossroad Branch and presented the writ of execution pending appeal dated May 14, 1996, the same writ presented in the PBCom Ayala Branch. 11

When the presentation of an alias writ of execution in Civil Case No. Q-95-22625 and the certificate of finality of the decision of the Court of Appeals in C.A.-G.R. SP No. 40636 was demanded from them, respondents allegedly could not present said documents. They nevertheless proceeded to take all the cash in the teller’s booths over the objections of the bank employees. Cabang and Lindo were able to take with them the sum of P187,760.00. 12

Three days later, or on October 16, 1996, respondents Torio and Gumboc, together with a certain Atty. Romy Pejo of the Mahinay Law Office and around ten armed policemen from the Makati Police Force, allegedly barged into the PBCom Buendia Branch and presented to its manager a copy of the decision of the Court of Appeals in C.A.-G.R. SP No. 40636 and the same writ of execution pending appeal dated May 14, 1996 issued in Civil Case No. Q-95-22625. 13 Torio and Gumboc allegedly tried to enforce said judgment and writ by ordering the bank employees to open the bank vault.

The bank employees refused to do so and demanded from these respondents an alias writ of execution as the writ presented had allegedly expired. Respondents were also asked to present a certificate of finality or entry of judgment in C.A.-G.R. SP No. 40636. Torio and Gumboc ignored said demands and, in an arrogant and high-handed manner, forthwith proceeded to cut open the door of the bank vault with the use of an acetylene torch and to pound it with a sledgehammer, despite the remonstrations of the bank manager. It was only when a temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court was later served upon them that they ceased from causing further damage to the property of the bank. 14

On October 15, 1996, an administrative complaint against Sheriffs Torio and Gumboc was filed in behalf of complainant bank with the Office of the Chief Justice by Atty. Sebastian F. Caponong, Jr., manager of the legal department of PBCom. Said complaint was with regard to the alleged irregularities committed by respondents in the implementation of the decision of the Court of Appeals in C.A.-G.R. SP No. 40636 on September 16, 1996 at the PBCom Buendia Branch. 15

The following day, another administrative complaint was filed against Torio and Gumboc, likewise by PBCom through its counsel. Said complaint concerned the alleged irregularities committed by respondents on September 13, 1996 at the PBCom Ayala Branch. 16

On October 21, 1996, a third administrative complaint was filed by PBCom through its counsel against Sheriffs Cabang and Lindo. The charge was for the alleged premature implementation of the decision of the Court of Appeals in C.A.-G.R. SP No. 40636 on September 13, 1996 at the PBCom Crossroad Branch. 17

On January 22, 1997, respondents were ordered by the Court to file their comments. 18 Torio and Gumboc filed a joint comment on March 26, 1997 19 while Cabang and Lindo filed a joint comment on March 31, 1997. 20

Torio and Gumboc denied the charges of gross misconduct, claiming that the same were baseless. They averred that when they implemented the decision in C.A.-G.R. SP No. 40636, they merely complied with the order of the trial court directing them to implement it, as stated in the alias writ of execution which, contrary to the allegations of complainant bank, they presented to the PBCom Ayala Branch management when it was demanded from them. 21 They asserted that when they were informed that a restraining order was issued by the Supreme Court for them to stop the execution of the judgment, they immediately ceased from further implementing the same. 22

Cabang and Lindo likewise denied the charges filed against them. According to these respondents, on September 16, 1996 they, the representatives of plaintiff Falcon Garments Corporation and its counsel, Atty. Acosta, proceeded to the PBCom Crossroad Branch and presented to the bank cashier and officers an alias writ of execution. They then instructed the cashier and tellers to turn over the cash held by them. The sum of P183,565.00 was allegedly turned over to Cabang and Lindo who issued receipts therefore to the lawyer of the bank. When a temporary restraining order was transmitted to the bank through a facsimile machine and shown to them, they immediately desisted from further acts and left the place. 23

With regard to the incident which allegedly occurred in the PBCom Buendia Branch on September 16, 1996, Cabang and Lindo denied any involvement in the same. They claimed that they never went to said branch and had no knowledge whatsoever of the events that transpired in the establishment on that day. 24

On June 9, 1997, the Court referred the case to the Office of the Court Administrative (OCA) for evaluation, report and recommendation. 25 In a recommendation dated September 26, 1997, submitted by the OCA, it was opined that the implementation by respondents of the judgment against complainant was valid. An alias writ of execution of the judgment in said case had been issued by the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City directing respondents to implement the decision in Civil Case No. Q-95-22625, then the subject of the case on appeal. Hence, it was incumbent upon respondents to implement the writ.

However, while respondents validly complied with the foregoing order of the trial court, the manner in which Torio and Gumboc implemented the same in the PBCom Buendia Branch was decried as uncalled for, if not abusive. In the implementation of the judgment and the enforcement of the writ, said respondents used unnecessary force and caused the destruction of the bank vault over the objections of the employees of the establishment. It was accordingly recommended that they be severely reprimanded.cralawnad

With regard to Cabang and Lindo, said respondents were found to have acted within the bounds of their authority in implementing the subject judgment and in enforcing the writ in the PBCom Crossroad Branch. It was therefore recommended that the complaint against them be dismissed for lack of merit.

We agree in part with the recommendation. It is basic that the duty imposed upon the sheriff to execute a valid writ is ministerial and not directory. A purely ministerial act or duty is one which an officer or tribunal performs in 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. 26

We are persuaded by the finding of the OCA that there was no irregularity committed by Torio and Gumboc in their enforcement of the writ of execution in the PBCom Ayala Branch. Neither was there any irregularity in the conduct of Cabang and Lindo in their enforcement of the writ in the PBCom Crossroad Branch.

The alias writ of execution issued by the trial court directing respondents to implement the decision in said case left respondents no options. Respondents were mandated to comply with the court order and, in doing so, it was sufficient for the justification of their acts that the process was regular on its face and issued by competent authority. 27 Their duty was complied with when they presented the writ and a copy of the decision to the employees of the PBCom Ayala Branch and the PBCom Crossroad Branch on September 13, 1996.

The allegations of complainant that the writ of execution presented had expired and thus could not be enforced against the bank cannot be sustained. The factual findings of the OCA was that an alias writ of execution was issued by the trial court and was validly enforced by respondents when they presented the same to the bank managers and seized the cash held by the establishment in satisfaction of the judgment. Cabang and Lindo cannot therefore be held liable for the charges filed against them concerning the events which transpired in the PBCom Crossroad Branch on September 13, 1996. Neither can Torio and Gumboc be held liable for the charges filed against them regarding the incident which took place in the PBCom Ayala Branch on the same day.

However, the same cannot be said with respect to the conduct of Torio and Gumboc when they enforced the same writ and implemented the judgment in the PBCom Buendia Branch on September 16, 1997.

The Court agrees with the finding of the OCA that Torio and Gumboc acted in palpable excess of their authority when, in enforcing the alias writ of execution of the trial court, they peremptorily destroyed the vault of the PBCom Buendia Branch over the objections of the bank employees. They consequently caused damage to bank property just because the bank employees allegedly refused to recognize the documents presented to them as bases for the seizure of the funds of the bank.

The authority of a sheriff is broad but it is not boundless. In the enforcement of judgments and judicial orders, a sheriff as an officer of the court upon whom the execution of a final judgment depends, must necessarily be circumspect and proper in his behavior. 28 He must know what is inherently right and wrong 29 and is bound to discharge his duties with prudence and caution. Moreover, he must at all times show a high degree of professionalism in the performance of his duties. 30

A sheriff is required to perform the duties of his office without needless severity or oppression as he is an agent of the law. 31 In enforcing a writ, he must not exercise unnecessary violence or subject the persons on whose premises he enters to indignities 32 and he is liable where process is legally and properly issued but afterwards employed wrongfully and unlawfully by him. 33 Hence, a sheriff may be held liable for negligent or wrongful acts in the execution of process causing damage to property. 34

Contrary to the claims of complainant, the enforcement of the writ of execution by Torio and Gumboc were not prematurely made. Nonetheless, the same were irregularly done in an oppressive manner. It is conceded that respondents took it upon themselves to force open and destroy the bank vault when the bank employees refused to open the vault and turn over the cash demanded from them in satisfaction of the judgment. The pictures submitted in evidence show that they went to the bank provided with an acetylene torch, a large acetylene tank, and a big sledgehammer.chanrobles virtual lawlibrary

It was imprudent of Torio and Gumboc to resort to such unwarranted force and unnecessary destruction of property merely because the officers of the PBCom Buendia Branch supposedly refused to cooperative with them and meet their demands. It is clear that what initially transpired was a mere misunderstanding as the bank officials were seeking clarification as to the validity of the writ and the finality of the decision presented to them.

Respondents could have resolved the dispute in a lawful, prudent and orderly manner, observing and high degree of diligence and professionalism expected of them as agents of the law. They could have sealed or placed the vault under guard and asked the prevailing party to obtain a "break open" or appropriate judicial order, instead of being more interested than the litigant corporation itself and employing extreme measures by summarily destroying the vault in order to seize the cash kept therein. This is the kind of individual offensive conduct that unfairly puts the entire corps of sheriffs in disrepute or public suspicion, to the prejudice of the dedicated and trustworthy members thereof.

Public officials and employees should at all times respect the rights of others and act with justness. They should necessarily refrain from doing acts contrary to law and public order. 35 The use of force by respondents and the resulting damage to bank property was clearly unjustified and is unacceptable. Respondents Torio and Gumboc acted with grave abuse of their authority and are guilty of gross misconduct. This Court will not tolerate or condone any conduct of judicial agents or employees which would tend to or actually diminish the faith of the people in the judiciary. With the number of incidents reported to this Court involving abusive sheriffs, it is high time to take firm action and make this case serve as an example of such judicial policy and resolve.

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

(1) The complaint against respondents Nilo Cabang and Juanito Lindo for prematurely implementing the decision of the Court of Appeals in C.A.-G.R. SP No. 40636 is hereby DISMISSED for lack of merit.

(2) Respondents Cesar Torio and Efren Gumboc are declared GUILTY of gross misconduct in irregularly enforcing the writ of execution in complainant bank’s Buendia Branch in a high-handed manner and with the use of unnecessary and unwarranted force. They are hereby ORDERED to each pay a FINE of P5,000.00, with a warning that a repetition of the same or any similar misconduct will be dealt with more severely. Let a copy of this decision be attached to the personal records of all respondents herein.

SO ORDERED.

Puno, Mendoza and Martinez, JJ., concur.

Endnotes:



1. Rollo, 29.

2. Ibid., 30.

3. Ibid., id.

4. The order was issued by Judge Pedro Santiago of Branch 101, Regional Trial Court of Quezon City.

5. Rollo, 30.

6. Ibid., 29-31.

7. Ibid., 15.

8. Ibid., 13-14.

9. Loc cit.

10. Ibid., 14.

11. Ibid., 39-40.

12. Ibid., 21.

13. Ibid., 1-3.

14. Loc., cit.

15. Ibid, 1.

16. Ibid., 13.

17. Ibid., 19.

18. Ibid., 24-25.

19. Ibid., 26-28.

20. Ibid., 33-34.

21. Ibid., 26-28.

22. Loc., cit.

23. Ibid., 33-34.

24. Loc. cit.

25. Ibid., 42.

26. Florendo v. Enrile, A.M. No. P-92-695, December 7, 1994, 239 SCRA 22; Young v. Momblan, A.M. No. P-89-367, January 9, 1992, 205 SCRA 33.

27. 70 Am. Jur. 2d, Sheriffs, Police and Constables, Sec. 61, 275.

28. Villareal v. Rarama, Et Al., A.M. No. P-94-1108, August 23, 1995, 247 SCRA 493; Eduarte, etc. v. Ramos, etc., A.M. No. P-94-1069, November 9, 1994, 238 SCRA 36.

29. Manual for Clerks of Court, Chapter VIII, Sec. F(1), 177-178.

30. Active Wood Products, Inc. v. Intermediate Appellate Court, Et Al., G.R. No. 70144, March 26, 1990, 183 SCRA 671.

31. 70 Am. Jur. 2d, Sheriffs, Police, and Constables, Sec. 48, 262-263.

32. Ibid., id., Sec. 61, 275.

33. Ibid., id., Sec. 109, 313.

34. Ibid., id., Sec. 111, 315.

35. Section 4(c), Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees (Republic Act No. 6713).




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  • G.R. No. 119835 January 28, 1998 - THE PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. JOSEPH BARRIENTOS

  • G.R. No. 121004 January 28, 1998 - ROMEO LAGATIC v. NLRC, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 121534 January 28, 1998 - JUAN M. CASIL v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 121901 January 28, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. CLARITA BAHATAN

  • G.R. No. 122075 January 28, 1998 - HAGONOY RURAL BANK v. NLRC, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 125334 January 28, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. CRESENCIO TABUGOCA

  • G.R. No. 126196 January 28, 1998 - GREGORIO C. MORALES, ET AL. v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 127549 January 28, 1998 - CESAR STA. MARIA, ET AL. v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • Adm. Matter No. RTJ-94-1135 January 29, 1998 - SALAM NAGA PANGADAPUN v. AMER R. IBRAHIM

  • G.R. No. 106233 January 29, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. ROBINSON ESTRERA

  • G.R. No. 110495 January 29, 1998 - PRODUCERS BANK OF THE PHIL. v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 114385 January 29, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. EFREN JEREZ

  • G.R. No. 116382 January 29, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. MA. LOURDES BAUTISTA DE GUIANG

  • G.R. No. 117572 January 29, 1998 - GSIS v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 120921 January 29, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. FELIPE BALLESTEROS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 121824 January 29, 1998 - BRITISH AIRWAYS v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 121898 January 29, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. RENE H. ARANJUEZ

  • G.R. No. 123151 January 29, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. SABINO GEMENTIZA

  • G.R. No. 124521 January 29, 1998 - MICHAEL O. MASTURA v. COMELEC, ET AL.

  • G.R. Nos. 127073 & 126995 January 29, 1998 - JOSE P. DANS, ET AL. v. PEOPLE OF THE PHIL., ET AL

  • G.R. No. 127823 January 29, 1998 - "J" MARKETING CORP., ET AL. v. FELICIDAD SIA, JR., ET AL.

  • CBD Adm. Case No. 313 January 30, 1998 - AUGUSTO G. NAVARRO, ET AL. v. ROSENDO MENESES III

  • G.R. Nos. 106210-11 January 30, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. ROBERTO LISING, ET AL.

  • G.R. Nos. 115253-74 January 30, 1998 - ANTONIO P. CALLANTA, ET AL. v. OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 118744 January 30, 1998 - IRENEO V. GUERRERO v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 119246 January 30, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. ANTONIO CORREA, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 123872 January 30, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. RUBEN MONTILLA