Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence


Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence > Year 2005 > January 2005 Decisions > A.M. No. P-01-1496 - LEONILA S. RAYMUNDO, ET AL. v. ENRIQUE M. CALAGUAS:




A.M. No. P-01-1496 - LEONILA S. RAYMUNDO, ET AL. v. ENRIQUE M. CALAGUAS

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

FIRST DIVISION

[A.M. NO. P-01-1496 : January 28, 2005]

LEONILA S. RAYMUNDO and LUZVIMINDA VDA. DE RAYMUNDO, Complainants, v. ENRIQUE M. CALAGUAS,1 Sheriff IV, Regional Trial Court of Malolos, Bulacan, Branch 79, Respondent.

D E C I S I O N

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

In their sworn complaint dated March 15, 1999, complainants charged respondent sheriff with grave abuse of authority, oppression, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, discourtesy and violation of Administrative Circular No. 12, relative to the implementation of a writ of possession.

The complaint averred that complainant Leonila S. Raymundo filed a petition for the probate of the holographic will of Sofia J. Raymundo before the Regional Trial Court of Malolos, Bulacan, Branch 79, docketed as Special Proceedings No. 72-M-98 and entitled "In the Matter of the Testamentary Estate of the Deceased Sofia J. Raymundo." Among the properties left by the deceased is a 40-hectare fishpond located in Anda, Pangasinan, covered by FLA No. 2082; and a house and lot situated at 311 Ferguson, Guisad, Baguio City, covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-22794. Both properties are occupied by complainants.

In its Resolution2 dated November 27, 1998, the trial court ordered the issuance of a writ of possession to place Teofila Raymundo, the duly appointed administratrix of the estate of the deceased, in possession of the subject properties.

On November 28, 1998, the trial court issued the writ of possession.3 On the same day, respondent sheriff together with several others implemented the writ by forcibly ejecting complainants from the fishpond. The next day, November 29, 1998, respondent sheriff attempted to oust complainants from their residence in Baguio City but desisted upon learning of the arrival of the city authorities.

Complainants claim that respondent sheriff is administratively liable for enforcing the writ without giving them a grace period within which to vacate the premises and for implementing the writ in Pangasinan and attempting to implement the same in Baguio City without notifying the sheriffs who have jurisdiction thereat. In support thereof, complainants presented certifications from the Office of the Provincial & Ex-Officio Sheriff of Alaminos, Pangasinan,4 and the Office of the Clerk of Court of Baguio City, both to the effect that said offices did not receive any request or notice for the implementation of a writ of possession from the Regional Trial Court of Malolos, Bulacan, in November 1998.5

In his Comment/Answer,6 respondent sheriff denied that he forced or threatened complainants in implementing the writ and averred that the complaint was intended merely to harass him. He admitted that he implemented the writ on the same day it was issued on the impression that the same was immediately executory. He allegedly tried to coordinate with the Sheriff of the Regional Trial Court of Alaminos, Pangasinan, but was not able to do so because of time constraint. Respondent sheriff did not, however, explain his failure to notify the concerned sheriff when he attempted to execute the writ in Baguio City.

In its Agenda Report7 dated June 19, 2001, the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) recommended that respondent sheriff be administratively held liable for grave abuse of authority and violation of Administrative Circular No. 12 and be ordered to pay a fine of P3,000.00 with a stern warning that a repetition of the same or similar act shall be dealt with more severely.8

On October 10, 2001, the Court referred the case to Executive Judge Oscar C. Herrera, Jr., Regional Trial Court of Malolos, Bulacan for investigation, report and recommendation.9

During the investigation, complainants manifested that they are no longer interested in pursuing this administrative case. Subsequently, complainant Leonila Raymundo submitted an affidavit of desistance, which reads:

2. After a careful study of the pleadings filed in the said administrative case, I hereby declare that the same was just a product of misunderstanding and misappreciation of the facts between me and my co-complainants on one hand and our co-heirs led by Reiniero Raymundo on the other hand.

3. Sheriff Enrique Calaguas and his companions were just caught in the midstream of the conflict between the two (2) groups of the heirs of the late Sofia Raymundo.

4. Sheriff Calaguas and his companions did not abuse their authority in enforcing a valid Order of the Regional Trial Court of Malolos, Bulacan, Branch 79 and 85 which was even affirmed by the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. Neither did they oppress us nor commit any conduct prejudicial to the government service.

5. As of now, I and my co-heirs have already settled our differences including the estate of the late Sofia Raymundo.

6. I executed this affidavit to attest to the truthfulness of the foregoing and for the purpose of moving for the dismissal of the administrative case against Sheriff Calaguas and his companions.

Nevertheless, the investigating Judge found respondent sheriff guilty of grave abuse of authority and violation of Administrative Circular No. 12 and recommended the imposition of a fine of P3,000.00.

On September 4, 2002, the Court further referred the instant case to the OCA which reiterated the findings and recommendation in its June 19, 2001 Agenda Report.

In a Manifestation dated December 6, 2004, respondent sheriff agreed to submit the case for resolution based on the pleadings filed.

The settled rule is that the filing of an affidavit of desistance by the complainant for lack of interest does not ipso facto result in the termination of an administrative case against the respondent. The Court's disciplinary authority cannot be dependent on or frustrated by private arrangements between parties; otherwise, the prompt and fair administration of justice, as well as the discipline of court personnel, would be undermined.10

We agree with the findings of the OCA that respondent sheriff violated Administrative Circular No. 12 dated October 1, 1985, on the Guidelines and Procedure in the Service and Execution of Court Writs and Processes in the Reorganized Courts. Pertinent portion thereof, provides:

5. No sheriff or Deputy Sheriff shall execute a court writ outside his territorial jurisdiction without first notifying in writing, and seeking the assistance of the Sheriff of the place where the writ of execution shall take place;

In the instant case, respondent sheriff of Malolos, Bulacan, enforced the writ in Pangasinan and attempted to implement the same in Baguio City, outside his territorial jurisdiction without informing the respective sheriffs of said places of the intended implementation of the writ. We find no merit in respondent sheriff's claim that he failed to comply with Administrative Circular No. 12 because of time constraint. Had he followed the rules by giving complainants prior notice and reasonable time to vacate the premises, he would have had ample time to notify the sheriffs concerned of the actual date of the enforcement of the writ.

Section 10 (c), Rule 39 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, states'

(c) Delivery or restitution of real property. The officer shall demand of the person against whom the judgment for the delivery or restitution of real property is rendered and all persons claiming rights under him to peaceably vacate the property within three (3) working days, and restore possession thereof to the judgment obligee; otherwise, the officer shall oust all such persons therefrom with the assistance, if necessary, of appropriate peace officers, and employing such means as may be reasonably necessary to retake possession, and place the judgment obligee in possession of such property.ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

Any costs, damages, rents or profits awarded by the judgment shall be satisfied in the same manner as a judgment for money. (Emphasis supplied)ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

Respondent sheriff's alleged ignorance of the foregoing rule which pertains particularly to his function is inexcusable. The requirement of notice is based on the rudiments of justice and fair play. It frowns upon arbitrariness and oppressive conduct in the execution of an otherwise legitimate act. It is an amplification of the provision that every person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith.

In Manuel v. Escalante, 11 we stressed that an immediate enforcement of a writ does not mean the abdication of the notification requirement, thus'

In the case at bar, the writ of execution was issued by the trial court on August 30, 1985. Petitioner served the same on respondents on September 2, 1985. Petitioner, therefore, had three days from the issuance of the writ until its service within which to give notice to respondents. There was no notice given. Respondents only learned of the issuance of the writ of execution at the time it was being enforced by petitioner.

Time and again, this Court has stressed the doctrine requiring that notice be given to the defendant in ejectment cases. In Reformina v. Adriano, we declared that, "the immediate enforcement of the writ of ejectment execution is carried out by giving the defendant notice of such writ, and making a demand that defendant comply therewith within a reasonable period, normally from three (3) to five (5) days, and it is only after such period that the sheriff enforces the writ by the bodily removal of the defendant and his belongings." This was reiterated in City of Manila v. Court of Appeals, to wit:

The Court notes with disapproval the arbitrary manner in which Sheriff Dominandor Cacpal and Deputy Sheriff Reynaldo Cordero acted in delivering possession of the leased premises to the petitioner. The evidence shows that they enforced the writ of execution on the same date they received it, forcibly taking out movables from the said premises, including chandeliers, furniture and furnishings, music organs, stereo components, lighting fixtures and computers. They turned off the water, cut off the electricity and disconnected the telephones. They also unreasonably prevented ANC members from entering the premises to get their personal belongings.ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

Cacpal and Cordero are hereby sternly reprimanded and warned that a repetition of similar arbitrariness will be dealt with more severely. Their conduct was a clear violation of the requirement that:

"Under the Rules of Court the immediate enforcement of a writ of ejectment execution is carried out by giving the defendant notice of such writ, and making demand that defendant comply therewith within a reasonable period, normally from three (3) to five (5) days, and it is only after such period that the sheriff enforces the writ by the bodily removal of the defendant and his personal belongings."12

Having enforced the writ of possession with undue haste and without giving complainants the required prior notice and reasonable time to vacate the fishpond in Pangasinan, respondent sheriff is guilty of grave abuse of authority.13

Under the circumstances, we find it reasonable to impose the penalty of fine of P5,000.00 against respondent sheriff for grave abuse of authority and violation of Administrative Circular No. 12 dated October 1, 1985.14

The charges of oppression, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service and discourtesy against respondent sheriff should be dismissed for lack of basis. As correctly pointed out by the OCA, except for the bare declaration of complainants, the record is bereft of evidence showing that he employed force and violence in the implementation of the writ. Hence, the dismissal of said charges is proper.

Sheriffs play an important role in the administration of justice. As agents of the law, high standards are expected of them. More importantly, the conduct and behavior of every person connected with an office charged with the dispensation of justice, from the presiding judge to the lowest clerk, is circumscribed with a heavy burden of responsibility. His conduct, at all times, must not only be characterized by propriety and decorum but must, and above all else, be above suspicion.15

WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, respondent Enrique M. Calaguas, Sheriff IV, Regional Trial Court of Malolos, Bulacan, Branch 79, is found GUILTY of grave abuse of authority and violation of Administrative Circular No. 12 dated October 1, 1985, and is ORDERED to pay a FINE in the amount of FIVE THOUSAND PESOS (P5,000.00) with a stern warning that a repetition of similar acts shall be dealt with more severely.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman), Quisumbing, Carpio, and Azcuna, JJ., concur.

Endnotes:


1 Manolito G. Eusebio, Sheriff IV, Regional Trial Court, Malolos, Bulacan, Branch 82 and Joselito Q. Martinez, Process Server, Regional Trial Court of Laoag City, Branch 65 were also included in the original charge but the Court in its Resolution dated March 13, 2002 resolved to dismiss the complaint against them for lack of merit.

2 Rollo, p. 52.

3 Id., p. 64.

4 Annex "P", Rollo, p. 69.

5 Annex "Q", Rollo, p. 70.

6 Rollo, p. 72.

7 Id., p. 98.

8 Id., p. 102.

9 Id., p. 108.

10 Teodosio v. Carpio, A.M. No. MTJ-02-1416, 27 February 2004.

11 G. R. No. 134141, 13 August 2002, 387 SCRA 239.

12 Id., pp. 246-247.

13 Babor v. Garchitorena, A.M. No. P-94-1070, 8 April 1997, 271 SCRA 23.

14 See Torres v. Cabesuela, 418 Phil. 445 (2001), where a sheriff was ordered to pay a fine of P5,000.00 for enforcing a writ outside his territorial jurisdiction and for deputizing the Chief of Police to implement the writ instead of seeking assistance from the sheriff who has jurisdiction over the place where the writ was executed.

15 Llamado v. Ravelo, 345 Phil. 842, 853 (1997).




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