A.M. No.P-09-2627, January 26, 2011
REINA EDENLYNE GARCIA, petitioner, vs. ROBERT V. ALEJO, Sheriff IV, Regional Trial Court, Branch 142, Makati City,respondent.
Garcia filed the present administrative complaint against Alejo, Sheriff IV of the RTC Makati for Gross Misconduct, Gross Dishonesty and Conduct Prejudicial to the Interest of the Service. The Office of the Court Administrator recommended that Alejo be found guilty of dereliction of duty and be suspended for three months without pay.
Complainant Garcia claims to the legitimate president of Concorde, a domestic corporation engaged in real estate development and management which has been managed and controlled by a group of what she described as usurpers purporting to be the officers of Concorde. The complainant alleges that when the legitimate board of directors took over the management of the corporation, it was discovered that, in order to maintain power, anomalies and irregularities were committed by the usurpers including conspiring with people who willingly cooperated with the former. One such conspirator, as alleged, was Alejo. A receipt of expenses of legal fees by Concorde showed that respondent Alejo was paid sheriff's fees without court approval. It was also alleged that Alejo has been acting as an employee of Concorde by collecting rentals from the tenants of said corporation and that he has been receiving a monthly allowance of P2,500.00.
For acting as a paid mercenary, the complainant declares that the respondent is not worthy to be an employee of the Court and should be held liable for gross misconduct, gross dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the interest of the service.
Alejo denied the allegations.
The OCA took notice of Alejos receipt of sheriffs fees without court approval and moonlighting activities. The OCA stated that Alejofailed to observe the procedure provided in Section 10(1)(2), Rule 141 of the Rules of Court. The OCA found Alejo guilty of dereliction of duty, which has the corresponding penalty of suspension of one month and one day to six months for the first offense. The OCA also found that Alejos moonlighting activities gave rise to understandable suspicions regarding Alejos independence of judgment in performing his official duties. Moreover, Alejos position as Sheriff may have a direct bearing on why he was commissioned by Concorde as its collecting agent, for the authority of the judicial office he represented undoubtedly played a major influencing factor in effecting collection from otherwise difficult tenants or lessees. Alejos role as collecting officer, though allegedly performed outside of normal working hours, is incompatible with the performance of his duties and responsibilities since it would appear that the work would adversely reflect on the integrity of the judiciary.
ISSUE: Whether Alejo is guilty of dereliction of duty.
HELD: The petition is meritorious.
POLITICAL LAW - Administrative Law; Court Personnel; Sheriffs
Pertinent portions of Section 9, Rule 141 of the Rules of Court read:
Section 9. Sheriffs and other persons serving processes. x x x In addition to the fees hereinabove fixed, the party requesting the process of any court, preliminary, incidental, or final, shall pay the sheriffs expenses in serving or executing the process, or safeguarding the property levied upon, attached or seized, including kilometrage for each kilometer of travel, guards fees, warehousing and similar charges, in an amount estimated by the sheriff, subject to the approval of the court. Upon approval of said estimated expenses, the interested party shall deposit such amount with the clerk of court and ex-officio sheriff, who shall disburse the same to the deputy sheriff assigned to effect the process, subject to liquidation within the same period for rendering a return on the process. Any unspent amount shall be refunded to the party making the deposit. A full report shall be submitted by the deputy sheriff assigned with his return, and the sheriffs expenses shall be taxed as costs against the judgment debtor.
A sheriff may collect fees for his expenses from the party requesting the execution of a writ but only in accordance with the procedure laid down in the aforecited provision.
Sheriffs are not allowed to receive any voluntary payments from parties in the course of the performance of their duties. To do so would be inimical to the best interest of the service because even assuming arguendo such payments were indeed given and received in good faith, this fact alone would not dispel the suspicion that such payments were made for less than noble purposes. Sheriffs cannot receive gratuities or voluntary payments from parties they are ordered to assist. Court personnel shall not accept any fee or remuneration beyond what they receive or are entitled to in their official capacity.
Moreover, Alejo received money for extra work he rendered for Concorde. Alejos defense that he is not using government time in doing his duties is not tenable considering that there is a prohibition for all officials and employees of the judiciary to engage directly in any private business, vocation or profession even outside office hours. Alejos acts can be considered as moonlighting, which, though not normally considered as a serious misconduct, amounts to malfeasance in office.

Petition is GRANTED.