FRANCISCO and SALVACION NICOL, complainants, vs. JOSE BLANCA, Sheriff IV, RTC, Legazpi City, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
On 9 September 1996, complainant Salvacion M. Nicol furnished the
Office of the Court Administrator with copies of two (2) criminal informations
for Direct Bribery1 filed by the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon
against respondent Jose Blanca, Sheriff IV, Regional Trial Court, Legazpi
The criminal informations accused
respondent of taking advantage of his office as Sheriff by demanding and
receiving a total amount of three thousand pesos (
In his Comment4 dated 17 January 1997, respondent averred that the
On 20 May 1997, the OCA received another letter5 dated 19 April 1997 from Salvacion Nicol narrating more details of their complaint.
On recommendation of the OCA, the Court, on 21 July 1997, referred the complaint to Executive Judge Rafael P. Santelices for investigation, report and recommendation.
The evidence for the complainants
show that Salvacion Nicol and her husband were operators of a mini-bus.
On 13 March 1993, they obtained a loan of
Respondent denied complainants allegations. He alleged that the two (2) checks he received from Salvacion Nicol on 27 February 1995 and 7 March 1995, were loans. He contended that on these dates, the petition for extra-judicial foreclosure has not yet been filed. He declared she is in the business of lending money with interest. He maintained that he conducted an auction sale. The RFC filed the petition for extra-judicial foreclosure (Exhibit 1) on 10 April 1995. He found the mini-bus in the possession of Engineer Rito. On 12 April 1995, he sent RFC and the complainants a notice of auction sale (Exhibit 3) scheduled on 21 April 1995, at 10 oclock in the morning, at the Office of the Land Management Sector. The auction sale was conducted on the scheduled date, time and place with him, Jorge Santurcas representing RFC, Jose Villanueva, Jun Colicta and Elbert Vibal in attendance. As proof of the conduct of the auction sale, he presented the minutes of action sale dated 21 April 1995 (Exhibit 4), the written bids of the participants (Exhibit 5 and 6), the certificate of sale issued to Vibal as the winner in the bidding (Exhibit 7), a receipt representing the proceeds of the auction sale (Exhibit 8) and a receipt for the amount paid by Vibal (Exhibit 9). He opined that the charge was filed against him when he failed to accommodate Bragais who was recommended by Salvacion Nicol to participate in the bidding.9cräläwvirtualibräry
On rebuttal, Salvacion Nicol alleged that she could not have given respondent any loan since she was financially distressed at that time. For failing to meet her various financial obligations, she was charged with estafa and violation of B.P. 22 (Exhibits I, J, K, L, M, and N). She maintained that the auction sale never took place on the scheduled date and place. She also claimed that respondent never gave her the excess of the bid price.10cräläwvirtualibräry
On 18 March 1998, Judge Santelices submitted his Report and Recommendation. He recommended that respondent be suspended for six (6) months without pay, viz:
x x x
The malfeasance, wrongdoing or misconduct being charged herein is the alleged act of respondent (sic) asking some amounts from the complainants in consideration of not proceeding with the foreclosure/auction sale of the motor vehicle mortgaged by the complainants to the RFC.
There is no doubting the fact that respondent received from the
complainants the checks for
Except for the testimony of the respondent, there was no corroborating evidence presented to establish the fact that complainant Salvacion Nicol was indeed once upon a time engaged in the lending business. Salvacion Nicol, however, when she took the witness stand on rebuttal, never, refuted this alleged lending business of her. (sic) But it was also not shown that these amounts were already paid by the respondent if they were in fact loans.
It might be argued that respondent could not have asked that amount in consideration of not proceeding with the foreclosure because on February 27 and March 7, 1995, no petition for extra-judicial foreclosure was yet filed.
It must be noted however that on the same month of February 1995, before the first check was issued to respondent on February 27, complainant Salvacion Nicol went to RFC to request the latter not to first foreclose the chattel as she has a buyer for it. Respondent was then around and was introduced to the complainant by the manager of RFC as the Sheriff of RFC. There is then reasonable ground to believe that even if no petition for extra-judicial foreclosure was yet filed, respondent already knew about the impending foreclosure vehicle.
Already knowing the threatened foreclosure of the chattel mortgaged by the complainants to RFC, the act of respondent (sic) approaching the complainants to ask for loans, even if it is admitted only for the sake of argument, does not speak well of the actuation of the respondent. As a sheriff, he must know that sooner or later, he will have to deal with the complainants in the event foreclosure takes place. Or that having obtained loans from the complainants, he should have inhibited himself from acting or taking cognizance of the foreclosure proceedings. This actuation of the respondent was not above-board, not expected of a public servant."11
After a review of the evidence adduced by the parties, we reject respondents assertion that the checks he received from Salvacion Nicol represented loans. His testimony that Salvacion was engaged in lending money is foggy to say the least. We quote his testimony:
x x x
Q. How did you know that she was engaged in lending money?
A. Through the pin boys, and for the last two years from the drivers of buses.
Q. Did you ask that question if Mrs. Nicol is engaged in lending money?
A. I can see only.
Q. What did you see?
A. That she is lending money.
Q. Where do you see her that (sic) she is lending money?
A. Sometimes she brought goods.
Q. When was that (sic) when you saw Mrs. Nicol peddling goods?
A. I cannot remember.
Q. Sometime in 1995, do you remember Mrs. Nicol peddling goods in this place?
A. I cannot remember.
Q In 1995, do you know that Mrs. Nicol was already engaged in lending money to other persons?
A. Before 1995."12
x x x
As observed by the investigating judge, the charge that Salvacion was engaged in money lending with interest was not corroborated. Indeed, respondent even failed to testify on the terms and conditions of the alleged loans. Salvacions rebuttal testimony totally demolished respondents loan defense, viz:
x x x
Q. Respondent testified that two checks issued by you to him was (sic) a mere loan, what can you say to this?
A In the name of God, that is not a loan.
Q. Why do you say that the two checks given by you to Blanca was (sic) not a loan to Blanca?
A. I am the one who is indebt (sic) to the RFC.
Q. Why do you say that you are indebted to the RFC?
A. According to the evidence, I am the one who is in need of money.
We request you Honor that the witness be instructed to answer only those questions being asked. The answer is no longer responsive.
Q. Do you have other evidence to prove that you [are] incapacitated in extending loans?
A. There are cases filed against me by persons whom I was indebted, wherein (sic) I took some tires for the maintenance of my vehicle that was foreclosed.
Q. Do you have any evidence to show?
A. Yes, sir. I have.
Which for purpose of identification (sic), we request that Crim. Case No. 18105 entitled People versus Salvacion Nicol be marked in evidence as our Exhibit I;
Crim. Case No. 18102 entitled People versus Salvacion Nicol' for Estafa be marked in evidence as our Exhibit J';
Crim. Case No. 18103 entitled People versus Salvacion Nicol be marked in evidence as our Exhibit K;
Crim. Case No. 18104 entitled People versus Salvacion Nicol for Violation of B.P. 22 be marked in evidence as our Exhibit L;
Crim. Case No. 18085 entitled People versus Salvacion Nicol for Violation of B.P. 22 be marked in evidence as our Exhibit M; and
Crim. Case No. 18086 entitled People versus Salvacion Nicol' for Violation of B.P. 22 be marked in evidence as our Exhibit N.
x x x
Q. And you are working (sic) at the Be Lovely Bowling Lanes?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And you are acquainted (sic) with the employees of the Be Lovely, particularly the pin boys?
A. Yes, because as employees thereat, they are working (sic) as pin boys.
Q. And these pin boys, because they belong to the lower class of social life, sometimes they come (sic) to you for financial aid?
Incompetent your Honor. There is no testimony as regards to (sic) that matter.
Never mind about (sic) that.
(To the witness)
Q. Was there anytime when these pin boys come (sic) to you for financial help?
A No, your Honor, because our procedure whenever they needed money, our cashier has (sic) an intended cash money for their advance or Bale.
Q. But if the maximum amount was already advanced by them and then the cashier refused to give them, they come (sic) to you?
A. They never go (sic) to me and ask (sic) for financial help.
Q. During the time when you are (sic) with Mrs. Aquino and was engaged in the selling of these T-shirts of RTW
Objection your Honor. Not touched during the direct examination, your Honor.
Witness may answer.
A. No, sir.
That is all, your Honor.13
x x x
examination of the aforestated exhibits reveals that Salvacion Nicol was
backrupt and could not lend money to anyone.
Exhibits M and N14 are criminal informations for violation of B.P. 22
allegedly committed by Salvacion against one Edwin Malit and involving a total
We are also unconvinced by respondents contention that he could not have asked money from Salvacion Nicol in consideration of not proceeding with the foreclosure since the petition for extra-judicial foreclosure was not yet filed on 27 February and 7 March 1995. We agree with the investigating judge that respondent already knew about the coming foreclosure of the mini-bus when he demanded money from her. Respondent was present when Salvacion asked RFC not to proceed with the foreclosure of the chattel as she has a buyer for it. In all likelihood, respondent used the information to exact money from the complainants.
Finally, we find as inexcusable
respondents failure to give the complainants the excess of the bid price.
Respondent submitted a receipt issued by RFC
showing that he turned over to RFC the proceeds of the auction sale in the
Accordingly, we find respondent guilty of grave misconduct and of gross negligence in the performance of his duties. Considering the gravity of his offenses and his record showing a previous administrative conviction, we are not satisfied with the recommended penalty of suspension. Respondent not only failed to comply with the strict and rigorous standards required of all public officers and employees but worse, his act eroded the faith of the complainants in the judiciary. Thus, he must be punished with maximum severity because all involved in the dispensation of justice must live up to the strictest standard of honesty and integrity in the public service.17cräläwvirtualibräry
IN VIEW WHEREOF, respondent Jose Blanca, Sheriff IV, RTC, Legazpi
City, is DISMISSED from service for gross neglect of duty and grave misconduct,
with forfeiture of retirement benefits and accrued leave credits and
disqualification for re-employment in government service including government
owned and controlled corporations.
administrative penalty is imposed upon respondent without prejudice to the
criminal cases filed against him.
further REQUIRED to return the
Davide, Jr., C.J., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Pardo, Gonzaga-Reyes, and Ynares-Santiago, JJ., concur.
Purisima, and Buena, JJ., on leave.
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