Sheriff's duty to implement writs of execution

It is well-settled that a sheriff performs a sensitive role in the dispensation of justice. He is duty-bound to know the basic rules in the implementation of a writ of execution and be vigilant in the exercise of that authority. While sheriffs have the ministerial duty to implement writs of execution promptly, they are bound to discharge their duties with prudence, caution, and attention which careful men usually exercise in the management of their affairs. Sheriffs, as officers of the court upon whom the execution of a judgment depends, must be circumspect and proper in their behavior.[1] Anything less is unacceptable because in serving the court's writs and processes and in implementing the orders of the court, sheriffs cannot afford to err without affecting the efficiency of the process of the administration of justice.[2]In the case of Cachero v. United Overseas Bank,[3] Sheriff Cachero failed to exercise circumspection in the enforcement of the writ of execution, given the information that a TRO had already been issued by the CA enjoining him from implementing the same. This clearly evinces an intention to defy the TRO. As aptly observed by the CA:
Sheriff Cachero, being an officer of the court, should have exercised prudence by verifying whether there was really a TRO issued so as to avoid committing an act that would result in the thwarting of this Court's order. Assuming that [his] testimony that the loading of the items was completed at 4:00 p.m., and that the process server was fifteen minutes late in serving the TRO, the phone call and the presentation of the fax copy of the TRO sufficiently notified him of the Court's order which enjoined them (the Sheriffs) from carrying out the writ of execution. The fact of [his] prior actual knowledge was never refuted by him. It was also undisputed that he already knew of the existence of the TRO even before he broke the padlock of the warehouse.[4]

In this relation, the Court does not find credence in Sheriff Cachero's insistence that while he may have "gotten wind" of the TRO through a cellular phone call, he was not bound thereby unless an official copy of the TRO was duly served upon him.[5]

Settled is the rule that where a party has actual notice, no matter how acquired, of an injunction clearly informing him from what he must abstain, he is "legally bound from that time to desist from what he is restrained and inhibited from doing, and will be punished for a violation thereof, even though it may not have served, or may have been served on him defectively."[6]

In view of the foregoing, the Court finds that Sheriff Cachero's open defiance of the TRO constitutes contumacious behavior falling under Section 3 (b),[105] Rule 71 of the Rules of Court, which is punishable by a fine not exceeding P30,000.00 or imprisonment not exceeding six (6) months or both.

[1] Corpuz v. Pascua, A.M. No. P-11-2972, September 28, 2011, 658 SCRA 239, 247-248; underscoring supplied.

[2] Sarmiento v. Mendiola, A.M. No. P-07-2383, December 15, 2010, 638 SCRA 345, 357, citing Escobar vda. de Lopez v. Atty. Luna, 517 Phil. 467, 477 (2006).

[3] Cachero, v. UNITED OVERSEAS BANK PHILS, G.R. No. 180162.

[4] Rollo (G.R. No. 180162), pp. 51-52.

[5] Id. at 27.

[6] See Spouses Lee v. CA, 528 Phil. 1050, 1065-1066 (2006); emphasis supplied.