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PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

SECOND DIVISION

[A.M. No. P-00-1409. August 16, 2000.]

CHRISTOPHER VALENCIA, Complainant, v. RODOLFO L. VALENA, Sheriff IV, RTC, Branch 63, Calauag, Quezon, Respondent.

D E C I S I O N


MENDOZA, J.:


This is a complaint against Rodolfo L. Valena, sheriff of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 63, Calauag, Quezon, for failure to enforce the writ of execution in Civil Case No. C-846. It appears that, in Civil Case No. 037, the Municipal Trial Court of Tagkawayan, Quezon, rendered judgment declaring complainant entitled to the possession of certain parcels of land used as fishponds. On appeal, the Regional Trial Court of Calauag, Quezon, affirmed the trial court’s decision. Romeo Quejada, the opposing party, filed a petition for relief from judgment, but it E as denied. His motion for reconsideration was likewise denied by the RTC in an order dated September 13, 1989.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

As certified by the branch clerk of court 1 the order became final and executory on October 11, 1989. Accordingly, a writ of execution was issued on February 13, 1991, but it was returned unsatisfied. Respondent sheriff said that Quejada had refused to deliver possession of the properties to complainant because the latter had invested P200,000.00 on the lands and wanted to consult his lawyer first. 2 Three alias writs of execution were issued from 1991 to 1995, all of which were returned unsatisfied. With regard to the last writ issued on July 7, 1995, respondent sheriff’s return stated:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

That in the first week of September, 1995, undersigned received said Alias Writ from the plaintiff Christopher Valencia;

That on September 14, 1995, undersigned met with Christopher Valencia together with his counsel, Atty. Donardo Paglinawan at Brgy. Aloneros, Guinayangan, Quezon and altogether proceeded to Brgy. Cabuguang, Tagkawayan, Quezon to serve said Alias Writ;

That at the house of Romeo Quejada, who refused to sign the alias Writ in the presence of his wife and his Army son but that there was an agreement that after the harvest of the prawns in the fishpond subject of this case by the end of October, 1995, defendant will turn over to the plaintiff possession of the fishpond; 3

Complainant. therefore, brought this matter to this Court, alleging that respondent had failed to execute the decision because he readily accepted Quejada’s excuse that he had to consult his lawyer before complying with the court’s order. Complainant alleged he suspected respondent to be secretly favoring Quejada.

Respondent denies the allegations against him. He blames complainant himself for not informing him of Quejada’s failure to turn over possession of the subject fishponds after harvest. Respondent explains that, as the only sheriff assigned to Branch 63 of the Calauag RTC, the responsibility of serving summons, complaints, writs, and other court processes, fell on him entirely. With such heavy workload, he just could not keep track of Quejada’s promise that he would vacate the property as soon as he had harvested the prawns from the fishpond. Respondent further says that the properties in question are located far from the court and are in the "critical" areas of Quezon province.

The Court Administrator, to whom this matter had been referred for investigation, found the complaint meritorious. In his report, dated April 14, 2000, he stated: 4

To begin with, the subject matter of this case is the judgment of the Municipal Trial Court in Civil Case No. C-037 for ejectment dated September 13, 1989 which has become final and executory on October 11, 1989 but remained unexecuted up to the present. Feeling aggrieved, complainant brought to the attention of this office the inordinate delay in the execution of the judgment which he attributes to respondent’s lack of zeal in executing the same.

x       x       x


In the instant case, respondent, on more than one occasion, had failed to execute the judgment by submitting himself to the whims, caprice and ploy of defendant to delay the delivery of the possession of the proper to the plaintiff. This scheme of the defendant had become more apparent for he was able to drag the execution of the judgment for more than nine (9) years and respondent has become the instrument in this annoying scheme. This attitude of respondent can not be countenanced.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

It is well settled that the sheriff’s duty in the execution of a writ issued by a court is purely ministerial. (Evangelista v. Pensurga, 242 SCRA 702) The Sheriff is also responsible for the speedy and efficient implementation of writs of execution. (Casal v. Concepcion, 242 SCRA 369) This duty becomes more significant in ejectment cases where the rule is that the judgments therein must be executed immediately when it is in favor of the plaintiff. (Salientes v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 746 SCRA 150)

RECOMMENDATION: Respectfully submitted for the consideration of the Honorable Court is our recommendation that respondent Sheriff Rodolfo L. Valena be ordered to pay a FINE in the amount of P2,000.00 for gross inefficiency, with a STERN WARNING that a repetition of similar acts shall be dealt with more severely.

Gross inefficiency in the performance of official duties cannot be tolerated. Respondent’s failure to carry out what is a purely ministerial duty 5 cannot be justified. His only duty was to eject Romeo Quejada from the subject properties in order to place complainant in possession thereof, and to satisfy the money judgment. Quejada asked for time to comply with the judgment of the court so that he could confer with his lawyer and harvest the produce of the fishpond. But, after a reasonable opportunity to do so, Quejada could no longer be allowed to remain in possession of- the subject properties without raising suspicion that respondent was favoring Quejada. From the time the writ of execution was issued in 1991 to the time when the OCA rendered its report in April 14, 2000, a period of nine years had lapsed, too long for the writ of execution to remain unenforced. If Quejada nevertheless refused to leave, respondent could have sought police assistance to enforce the writ. He failed to do this. Instead, he readily accepted Quejada’s flimsy excuse that he needed time to consult his counsel first. After once acceding to Quejada’s request, respondent should not have accepted any more excuses from Quejada for his failure to comply with the decision.

When respondent attempted to enforce the third alias writ of execution on September 14, 1995, he should have refused Quejada’s request to be allowed to stay until he had harvested the prawns in the fishpond, for he was bereft of authority to grant the same. That respondent granted the request only heightened the suspicion that he was really favoring Quejada.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

Respondent blames complainant for the latter’s alleged failure to follow up the matter. However, this was a problem of respondent’s own creation because he allowed Quejada several extensions to leave the property. Complainant was under no obligation to follow up the matter in respondent’s office.

What was apparently lost to respondent is that the prevailing party in a case is entitled to the fruits of his victory. As an officer of the court, respondent was tasked to enable the prevailing party to benefit from the judgment. After nine years, complainant is entitled to realize the law’s promise that his right to possession would be vindicated as speedily as possible to preserve peace and order in the community. For that purpose, the proceedings in ejectment are summary in nature.

The Court Administrator recommends that respondent be fined P2,000.00 for his gross inefficiency.

In Vda. de Tisado v. Tablizo, 6 a sheriff failed to enforce several writs of execution ordering him to reinstate the complainant to the possession of a piece of land. His inaction covered a period of five years. As a result, complainant had to file an action for revival of the judgment, which was granted by the trial court. A writ of execution was issued anew, but the sheriff still failed to enforce the same. The sheriff explained that his failure to enforce the writ was due to the belligerent and defiant attitude of the defendant in the case. The Court did not find the explanation satisfactory. The sheriff was found guilty of gross inefficiency and suspended for six months without pay. It was held:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

The mere fact that defendants, in a threatening manner, prohibited respondent Trampe from entering the premises is no excuse for him to retreat and refuse to enforce the writ of execution: A deputy sheriff is a front-line justice system in this country. If he shows by mere threats from enforcing the legitimate orders of courts, then by his cowardly act, he diminishes the judiciary. He erodes the faith and trust of the citizenry in the ability and capacity of the courts to settle disputes and to safeguard their rights. Specifically, he breaches his sworn duty to uphold the majesty of the law and the integrity of the justice system. 7

In accordance with the ruling in Tablizo, respondent must be meted out the penalty of suspension for six months.

WHEREFORE, respondent is found GUILTY of gross inefficiency and is SUSPENDED for six months without pay, with a WARNING that repetition of the same or similar acts in the future will be dealt with more severely.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

SO ORDERED.

Bellosillo, Quisumbing, Buena and De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur.

Endnotes:



1. Ma. Chona E. P. Navarro; Rollo, p. 16.

2. Sheriff’s Return dated March 15, 1991.

3. Rollo, p. 10. (Emphasis added)

4. Dated April 14, 2000. (Emphasis added).

5. Araza v. Garcia, A. M. No P-00-1363 Feb. 8, 2000; Casenares v. Almeida, Jr., A.M. No. P-00-1359, Feb. 2, 2000.

6. 253 SCRA 646 (1996).

7. Id., at 653.

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