Republic of the Philippines
A.M. No. P-06-2224 April 30, 2010
[Formerly OCA IPI No. 06-2367-P]
ATTY. ALBERTO II BORBON REYES, Complainant,
CLERK OF COURT V RICHARD C. JAMORA, DEPUTY SHERIFF IV LUCITO ALEJO, and CLERK III EULOGIO T. MONDIDO, all of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 56, Makati City, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
Before this Court is a Complaint1 dated January 16, 2006, filed by Atty. Alberto II Borbon Reyes against respondents Atty. Richard C. Jamora, Branch Clerk of Court; Lucito Alejo, Deputy Sheriff IV; Ely Mondido, Officer-in-Charge of cases, all of the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Branch 56, for Usurpation of Authority and Grave Abuse of Authority, relative to Civil Case No. 01-887 entitled "Kevin Ross McDonald v. Dukes and Co. Securities, Inc., et al."
The antecedent facts of the case, as culled from the records, are as follows:
Complainant Atty. Alberto II Borbon Reyes is the counsel of Amador Pastrana, one of the defendants in the afore-mentioned civil case. On December 9, 2004, Judge Nemesio Felix, then Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Branch 56, rendered a judgment in the subject case in favor of the plaintiff. 2 On June 17, 2005, said Decision had become final and executory.3 On June 29, 2005, unknown to Reyes, a Writ of Execution was issued by Jamora relative to the December 9, 2004 decision.4
Meanwhile, dissatisfied with the Decision, Reyes, on July 4, 2005, filed a petition for relief from judgment. On November 18, 2005, Judge Reinato Quilala, Pairing Judge of the court a quo, granted the petition for relief and ordered the deputy sheriff to desist from implementing the Decision dated December 9, 2004.5 However, Reyes discovered later that the December 9, 2004 Decision had already been executed by virtue of a writ of execution.
Thus, Reyes filed the instant administrative complaint against Jamora, Alejo and Mondido. He insisted that at the time he filed the petition, no writ of execution had been issued yet in the said case. Reyes pointed out that neither the Writ of Execution nor the Sheriff’s Return on the service of the writ was attached to the records of the case.
Moreover, Reyes averred that there was an over-levy because the plaintiff’s claim amounted to a total of
P550,000.00 ($10,000.00) only, but Alejo allegedly levied P7,000.000.00 worth of real properties of his client.
Finally, Reyes accused Mondido of losing the copy of the petition for relief from judgment he filed in court. Thus, Reyes claimed that Jamora, Alejo and Mondido connived together, as shown by their alleged concerted actions, to prejudice the rights of his client.
On January 31, 2006, the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) directed respondents Jamora, Mondido and Alejo to file their respective Comments on the instant complaint.6
On February 22, 2006, in his Comment,7 Mondido averred that he was in charged of purely criminal cases only in the RTC of Makati City, Branch 56. He denied that he personally received the copy of the petition for relief from judgment and claimed that it was another court personnel named Ethel who received the same as indicated in the petition. He added that at the time the petition for relief from judgment was lost, a certain Teodorico Duran was the person in charge of the civil cases. Thus, he had nothing to do with the alleged loss of the copy of the petition for relief.
For his part, Alejo, in his Comment8 dated February 28, 2006, denied that there was collusion among him, Jamora and Mondido to prejudice the rights of the complainant. Alejo clarified that the Writ of Execution had already been issued on June 29, 2005 contrary to complainant’s claim that there was no writ yet at the time he filed the Petition for Relief from Judgment on July 4, 2005. He explained that he was merely implementing the directive given to him pursuant to the writ to demand from the defendants the immediate payment, in full, of the sum of US$10,282.15 as actual damages with interest;
P200,000.00 as incidental actual expense; P300,000.00 as exemplary damages; and P200,000.00 as attorney’s fees.
Alejo added that at the time he conducted the public auction on August 3 and 4, 2005 against the properties of the defendants, there was no order or injunction to stay its execution; thus, he proceeded with the execution according to his mandate.
Alejo likewise maintained that there was no over-levy over the defendant’s real properties, since in addition to the US$10,282.15 as actual damages with interest at 12% per annum, there were also incidental expenses, exemplary damages and attorney’s fees to be levied. In a nutshell, Alejo averred that the defendant’s obligation amounted to
P1,702,663.86 while the levied property in Cavite has a market value of P662,949.49 and the Makati property was valued at P254,000.00 only. Moreover, Alejo pointed out that the subject judgment stated that the liability of the defendants is solidary.
On the other hand, in his Comment9 dated March 6, 2006, Jamora stressed that his only involvement in the subject case was solely limited to his issuance of the Writ of Execution dated June 29, 2005 pursuant to the Order of the Court dated June 17, 2005. He controverted Reyes’s claim that no writ of execution was issued yet at the time he filed the petition for relief and insisted that he personally signed the Writ of Execution, addressed to Sheriff Alejo on June 29, 2005.
Jamora likewise explained that the task of attaching to the records of the case any pleading or pertinent documents belongs to the person in charge of civil cases. Thus, with regard to the alleged loss of the original copy of the petition for relief from judgment filed by the defendants, Jamora maintained that he was totally unaware of such incident, which he came to know only after he received the instant administrative complaint. He averred that even the complainant admitted that he never followed up said petition from him but always dealt directly with then Pairing Judge of Branch 56, Hon. Reinato G. Quilala.1avvphi1
Subsequently, in its Memorandum10 dated July 7, 2006, the OCA recommended that the instant complaint be re-docketed as a regular administrative complaint and be referred to the Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Makati City for investigation, report and recommendation, due to the conflicting versions of the parties.
In a Resolution11 dated August 9, 2006, the Court, as recommended by the OCA, resolved to re-docket the instant case as a regular administrative matter and refer the case to the Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Makati City for investigation, report and recommendation.
In his Report dated January 5, 2007, Judge Winlove M. Dumayas, Executive Judge, Regional Trial Court of Makati City, concluded that Reyes’s allegations that respondents connived to prejudice the rights of his client were unsubstantiated. He recommended that all the respondents be exonerated from the charges of usurpation of authority and grave abuse of discretion. He, however, recommended that Alejo should be held reprimanded for neglect of duty for his failure to comply with Rule 141 of the Rules of Court.
During the investigation, Judge Dumayas found that indeed Jamora’s participation in the subject case was limited only to the issuance of the Writ of Execution on June 29, 2005, which he addressed to Alejo for implementation. As to the liability of Mondido, it was established that he was not remiss in his duties, since in the first place, he was not the one who received the copy of the petition. Mondido was, likewise, not the person in charge of civil cases at that time. Judge Dumayas narrated that when Judge Reinato G. Quilala directed the deputy sheriff to desist from implementing the Writ of Execution, he was unaware that the decision had already been fully executed.
However, Judge Dumayas found Alejo liable for hastily implementing the Writ of Execution without the payment of the required legal fees by the prevailing party in violation of the Rules.
Thus, in a Memorandum dated April 12, 2007, the OCA adopted the findings and recommendation of Judge Dumayas.
We agree with the findings of the Investigating Judge pertaining to the allegations of usurpation of authority and abuse of authority, but with modification as to those relative to the implementation of the writ.
A review of the records shows that no evidence was presented during the investigation to prove that the acts of respondents amounted to usurpation of authority and grave abuse of authority. Reyes failed to substantiate his accusations. In the absence of proof, complainant’s bare assertions cannot overturn the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duties by court officials and personnel.
In the instant case, it is apparent that the issuance of the Writ of Execution was within the scope of duties of Jamora as Branch Clerk of Court. It was also proven that the Writ of Execution was indeed issued on June 29, 2005. Significantly, Reyes failed to show proof that there was no writ of execution yet at the time he filed his petition for relief from judgment.
Likewise, it was established that it was not Mondido who received the copy of the petition, thus, complainant’s allegation that they connived with each other to prejudice the latter’s rights is completely baseless.
As to the liability of Alejo in the alleged hasty implementation of the writ of execution, we find the same to be unmeritorious. When a writ is placed in the hands of a sheriff, it becomes his ministerial duty to proceed with reasonable celerity and promptness to implement it in accordance with its mandate. This duty, in the proper execution of a valid writ, is not just directory, but mandatory. He has no discretion whether to execute the writ or not. He is mandated to uphold the majesty of the law as embodied in the decision.12 In the instant case, respondent Sheriff was merely performing his ministerial duty when he implemented the writ of execution issued by the court. Alejo, however, should be reminded that it is required of him to pay the required fees before the implementation of the writ of execution.
It is settled that in administrative proceedings, the complainant has the burden of proving the allegations in his complaint with substantial evidence, and in the absence of evidence to the contrary, the presumption is that respondent has regularly performed his duties. Indeed, in the absence of cogent proof, bare allegations of misconduct cannot prevail over the presumption of regularity in the performance of official functions.13 The Court cannot give credence to charges based on mere suspicion and speculation.
WHEREFORE, the instant administrative complaint filed against respondents Atty. Richard C. Jamora, Sheriff Lucito V. Alejo and Eulogio T. Mondido, of the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Branch 56, is DISMISSED for lack of merit. Respondent Alejo, however, is ADMONISHED to be more vigilant in complying with payment of fees as required under Rule 141 of the Rules of Court in the implementation of writs of execution.
DIOSDADO M. PERALTA
RENATO C. CORONA
|PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
|ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA
JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA
1 Rollo, pp. 1-3.
2 Id. at 108-111.
3 Id. at 48.
4 Id. at 49.
5 Id. at 8.
6 Id. at 49.
7 Id. at 14-16.
8 Id. at 35-40.
9 Id. at 53-55.
10 Id. at 58-60.
11 Id. at 61.
12 Go v. Hortaleza, A.M. No. P-05-1971, June 26, 2008, 555 SCRA 406, 411.
13 Borromeo-Garcia v. Judge Pagayatan, A.M. No. RTJ-08-2127, September 25, 2008, 566 SCRA 320, 329.
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