Case Digest: Garcia v. Montejar

A.M. No. P-10-2860 : October 20, 2010

RENATO MIGUEL D. GARCIA,Complainant, v. RICKY MONTEJAR, Sheriff, Regional Trial Court, Branch 64, Guihulngan, Negros Oriental, Respondent.



The complainant accused respondent of committing irregularities in his official duties in the implementation of the writ of execution in the six (6) civil cases where the complainant bank was the party plaintiff.

Respondent denied the charges and maintained that there was proper enforcement of the writs of execution, albeit they were returned not executed or partially executed because the defendants no longer had properties.

OCA recommended that the matter be docketed as an administrative case. The OCA found the respondent guilty of simple misconduct and recommended that he be fined in an amount equivalent to two (2) months salary to be deducted from the benefits that may be due to him. The penalty of fine was recommended in lieu of suspension, considering the respondents death during the pendency of the case.

The OCA found that the respondent violated the accepted procedure provided in Section 10, Rule 141 (Sheriffs, process servers and other persons serving processes) of the Rules of Court on sheriff expenses by directly receiving sums of money from the complainant bank as sheriff expenses and by failing to properly render and/or substantiate the liquidation reports.

ISSUE: Whether or not accused respondent is administratively liable as charged?

HELD: OCAs report and recommendation is sustained.

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW: court personnel; sheriffs; misconduct

The rule requires that the sheriff executing the writs shall provide an estimate of the expenses to be incurred that shall be approved by the court. Upon the courts approval, the interested party shall then deposit the amount with the clerk of court and ex-officio sheriff. Thereafter, the expenses shall then be disbursed to the assigned deputy sheriff who shall execute the writ subject to the latters liquidation upon the return of the writ.Any amount unspent shall be returned to the interested party. Clearly, the rule does not allow direct payment of sheriff expenses from the interested party to the sheriff.

Moreover, the rules on sheriff expenses are clear-cut and do not provide procedural shortcuts. Compulsory observance of the rules under the circumstances is also underscored by the use of the word "shall" in the above sections.

In this case, the records show that the respondent failed to comply with the rules. The respondent admitted that he directly received from the complainant bank the amount of P7,000.00 as sheriff expenses in Civil Case No. 352. He also stated that he gave the amount of P1,000.00 to another sheriff who assisted him, instead of using the amount to implement the writ. The respondent further admitted that his conduct in preparing, submitting and substantiating his liquidation reports fell below the standard prescribed by the above rule. Thus, in Civil Case No. 352, he admitted that his expenses in his liquidation report were not substantiated by receipts. Moreover, in Civil Case No. 375, the respondent failed to properly liquidate the P2,000.00 he received for the execution of the writ.

These circumstances show without doubt that the respondent is liable for simple misconduct, defined as a transgression of some established rule of action, an unlawful behavior, or negligence committed by a public officer. He cannot be held liable for grave misconduct since this offense requires substantial evidence showing that the acts complained of were corrupt or inspired by an intention to violate the law or were in persistent disregard of well-known legal rules. In this case, there is lack of evidence showing that the respondents actuations were motivated by any corrupt interest or were done intentionally or willfully to violate the law and the established rules. At most, the records only show that the respondent was remiss in efficiently performing and discharging his duties as sheriff. As an officer of the court, the respondent is expected to discharge his duties competently and diligently and with a high degree of professionalism. After all, the sheriff is the front-line representative of the justice system in this country; if he loses the trust reposed in him, he inevitably diminishes the faith of the people in the Judiciary. A sheriff who fails to comply with the standard of conduct of his office may be subjected to administrative liability.

Respondent Sheriff Ricky Montejar is held guilty of SIMPLE MISCONDUCT.