Republic of the Philippines
G.R. No. 176783 June 27, 2012
ELIZABETH DIMAANO, Petitioner,
THE HON. SANDIGANBAYAN and REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
This is a case about the propriety of collecting sheriff’s percentage fee on the execution of a court order for return to a party of money that the government illegally confiscated from her.
The Facts and the Case
On March 3, 1986 respondent Republic of the Philippines, acting through the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), confiscated cash of ₱2,868,850.00 and US$50,000.00 and some items from petitioner Elizabeth Dimaano’s (Dimaano) house on a belief that they were ill-gotten wealth of an army general who belonged to the martial law regime.1 The PCGG subsequently filed a forfeiture action against her and others before the Sandiganbayan.2
On November 18, 1991 the Sandiganbayan dismissed the forfeiture case against Dimaano and ordered the Republic to return the money and items it seized from her.3 On July 21, 2003 this Court affirmed the order.4 Consequently, Dimaano filed with the Sandiganbayan a motion for the release of the seized cash and items5 which that court granted on March 3, 20056 and further affirmed on August 1, 2005.7
Following the issuance of the writ of execution on February 14, 2006,8 Dimaano discovered that the PCGG had transferred the money to accounts that needed allocation documents from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) before it could be withdrawn from the National Treasury. Eventually, however, the mistake was rectified and on April 4, 2006 the Bureau of Treasury released a ₱4,058,850.00 check to Dimaano in partial satisfaction of the writ.9 But the Sandiganbayan assessed Dimaano ₱163,391.50 as sheriff’s percentage collection fee10 pursuant to A.M. 04-2-04-SC Re: Revision of Rule 141 of the Rules of Court.
Dimaano filed a motion for reconsideration of the Sandiganbayan’s assessment order.11 She assailed it as unwarranted since the sheriff’s percentage collection fee applied only to actions for money covering collectibles or unsatisfied debts or in actions pertaining to interest-bearing obligations. She also argued that the fee assessment would be iniquitous in her case because a) it penalized her when in fact, she was the wronged party; and b) it rewarded the police officers’ transgressions of her rights.12
On January 5, 2007 the Sandiganbayan denied Dimaano’s motion for reconsideration, holding that the assessment of the challenged fee was not dependent on the "nature of the case" but on the fact of collection. And since the rule did not distinguish between "money collected" and "money returned" through the sheriff’s effort, neither should petitioner, hence, Dimaano’s recourse to this Court.
The sole issue presented in this case is whether or not the Sandiganbayan rightfully assessed Dimaano a sheriff’s percentage collection fee on the money that the Republic returned to her pursuant to the writ of execution that the court issued in the case.
Ruling of the Court
Dimaano attempts to make a distinction between money ordered "collected" from the judgment debtor and paid to the judgment creditor and money ordered "returned" by one party to another from whom such money was unlawfully taken. Dimaano claims that she was already a victim when the government illegally seized her money. It would be unfair that she should still pay the government some fee to get her money back.
But, first, the imposition of the sheriff’s fee is not a penalty for some wrong that Dimaano had done.1âwphi1 It is an assessment for the cost of the sheriff’s service in collecting the judgment amount for her benefit. Its collection is authorized under Rule 141 of the Rules of Court, as amended,13 thus:
x x x x
SEC. 3. Persons authorized to collect legal fees. – Except as otherwise provided in this rule, the officers and persons hereinafter mentioned, together with their assistants and deputies, may demand, receive, and take the several fees hereinafter mentioned x x x.
x x x x
SEC. 10. Sheriffs, PROCESS SERVERS and other persons serving processes. – x x x (l) For money collected by him x x x by order, execution, attachment, or any other process, judicial or extrajudicial which shall immediately be turned over to the Clerk of Court, x x x.
Second, the order to pay a party the money owed him and the order to pay another the money unlawfully taken from him are both awards of actual or compensatory damages. They compensate for the pecuniary loss that the party suffered and proved in court.14 The recipients of the award, whether for money owed or taken from him, benefit from the court’s intervention and service in collecting the amount. As the Sandiganbayan correctly said, what determines the assessment of the disputed court fee is the fact that the court, through valid processes, ordered a certain sum of money to be placed in the hands of the sheriff for turnover to the winning party.
In addition to raising before the Court the matter of the sheriff’s fee, Dimaano also questions the Sandiganbayan’s failure to award interest on the amount that was to be returned to her considering that the government used and invested the money as if it were its own. But, as the Republic points out, Dimaano could no longer seek the award of interest since she filed no appeal from the decision of the Sandiganbayan that ordered merely the return of such amount with no mention of interest.15
WHEREFORE, the Court AFFIRMS the Resolutions of the Sandiganbayan dated July 25, 2006 and January 5, 2007 that assessed petitioner Elizabeth Dimaano sheriff’s percentage fee for the partial satisfaction of the writ of execution dated February 14, 2006.
ROBERTO A. ABAD
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
|LUCAS P. BERSAMIN*
|MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO**
ESTELA M. PERLAS-BERNABE
A T T E S T A T I O N
I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court’s Division.
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
Chairperson, Third Division
C E R T I F I C A T I O N
I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court’s Division.
ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Senior Associate Justice
(Per Section 12, R.A. 296, The Judiciary Act of 1948, as amended)
* Designated Acting Member in lieu of Associate Justice Jose Catral Mendoza, per Special Order 1241 dated June 14, 2012.
** Designated Additional Member in lieu of Associate Justice Diosdado M. Peralta, per Raffle dated June 27, 2012.
1 See Republic of the Philippines v. Sandiganbayan, 454 Phil. 504 (2003). The PCGG suspected that several properties of Dimaano were part of Major General Josephus Q. Ramas’ unexplained wealth.
2 The case was docketed before the Sandiganbayan as Civil Case 0037 (Republic v. Josephus Ramas and Elizabeth Dimaano); records, Vol. 1, pp. 11-39.
3 Rollo, pp. 32-60.
4 Republic of the Philippines v. Sandiganbayan, supra note 1. According to the Supreme Court, it is true that under the resulting government of the EDSA Revolution no constitution was operative. This did not necessarily mean, however, that the Philippines ceased to be bound by its treaty obligations, examples of which are the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Court thus concluded that the raiding team, headed by Capt. Rodolfo Sebastian, exceeded their authority when they seized items not particularly described in the search warrant. And failing to show any other legal basis for the monies’ seizure, they indeed violated petitioner’s rights to privacy, home, and property.
5 Records, Vol. 1, pp. 202-204.
6 Penned by Presiding Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro (now a member of the Court) and concurred in by Justices Francisco H. Villaruz, Jr. and Efren N. dela Cruz.
7 Penned by Presiding Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro (now a member of the Court) and concurred in by Justices Diosdado M. Peralta (now also a member of the Court) and Efren N. dela Cruz.
8 Rollo, pp. 115-116.
9 The pieces of jewelry had not yet been returned to Dimaano.
10 Rollo, pp. 118-119; Resolution written by Justice Diosdado M. Peralta and concurred in by Presiding Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro (both are now members of the Court) and Justice Efren N. De La Cruz.
11 Records, Vol. 2, pp. 69-72.
12 Rollo, pp. 120-123.
13 Amended by A.M. 04-2-04-SC effective August 16, 2004.
14 Civil Code, Article 2199 in relation to Articles 2195 and 1157.
15 Rollo, pp. 130-145.
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