A.M. No. P-02-1568      April 25, 2002
(Formerly OCA I.P.I. No. 00-1015-P)

CRISTE A. TA-OCTA, complainant,
Sheriff IV WINSTON T. EGUIA, Sheriff IV EDWIN G. TORRES, Regional Trial Court, Iloilo City, Branch 26 and Branch 38, respectively, respondents.


In a complaint, dated 20 March 2000, filed with the Office of the Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court ("RTC") of Iloilo City, Criste Ta-Octa charged respondent sheriffs Winston Eguia and Edwin Torres with grave abuse of authority in connection with a petition for foreclosure of chattel mortgage instituted by AC (Iloilo) Lenders, Inc., against complainant Ta-Octa for the latter's failure to comply with the conditions of the Chattel Mortgage and Promissory Note he had executed on 02 July 1999. The chattel mortgage covered a one (1) unit motor vehicle, viz:


:     FUSO


:     Fighter Tanker

Motor NO.

:     6D14-563562

Serial No.

:     FK335J-530111

Plate No.

:     FEA-691

Complainant claimed that the petition for foreclosure of chattel mortgage had been served by respondent sheriffs on the same day it was filed with the Office of Provincial/City Sheriff of Iloilo, without any raffle being first conducted and sans the approval of the trial court. He asserted that no notice or demand from either AC (Iloilo) Lenders, Inc., or respondents had been made before possession of the motor vehicle was taken away from him nor did respondents issue any receipt on the accessories of the vehicle. Complainant said that respondents, after taking possession of the subject vehicle, hid it instead of having it parked at the grounds of the Hall of Justice. Complainant added that respondents had made erasures on the entry in the foreclosure book at the Office of the Sheriff when the petition for foreclosure of mortgage was filed and recorded.1âwphi1.nęt

Executive Judge Tito A. Gustilo required respondents to submit their respective answers to the complaint.

In their joint comment, respondents averred that they had complied with the procedure for extrajudicial foreclosures of mortgages. The petition was filed and docketed, and the filing fees were duly paid with the Office of the Clerk of Court. Respondents, however, admitted that the petition was immediately served, without a raffle having first been conducted because of the fear, entertained by AC Lenders, Inc., that complainant might abscond. In fact, respondents already found the subject vehicle at the house of a relative of complainant. Respondents were informed that complainant had pending criminal cases before the municipal trial courts for violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22. Respondents denied having made erasures on the entries in the foreclosure book and, by way of substantiating the denial, submitted the affidavits of Josephine Marie Lagura and Jonalyn Gasataya, employees both assigned at the Office of the Clerk of Court ("OCC") of the Regional Trial Court of Iloilo City and tasked with receiving, docketing and updating the entries in the Sheriff and Notary Public Foreclosure cases filed before the OCC. In her affidavit, Josephine Lagura attested that on 22 February 2000 (the date when petition was filed), the Rural Bank of Guimbal, through its counsel, had filed notarial foreclosure incidents which she erroneously docketed in the Sheriff's Foreclosure Book, and the mistake was only discovered when Atty. Gerry Sumaculub, Assistant Clerk of Court, reviewed the book. She claimed that the erasures and erroneous entries were done in good faith. Jonalyn Gasataya, in her affidavit, corroborated the statements of Josephine.

The Executive Judge conducted an investigation pursuant to Administrative Order No. 6, dated 30 June 1975.1 In his report of 13 October 2000, Judge Gustilo stated that -

"After a thorough reading and evaluation of the evidence both oral and documentary submitted by the complainant and the respondents the undersigned Executive Judge finds respondents Sheriff Winston T. Eguia and Edwin G. Torres, of RTC, Branch 26 and Branch 38, respectively, Guilty for violation of Administrative Circular No. 3-98, dated February 5, 1998, and Administrative Order No. 3, dated October 9, 1984, which mandates the raffling of extra-judicial foreclosure of mortgage shall be strictly enforced by the Executive Judge among the deputy sheriffs in order to avoid an unequal distribution of cases and fraternization between sheriffs and the applicant mortgagee."

The Investigating Judge recommended that the penalty of one month suspension, without pay, be imposed on respondents.

The Office of the Court Administrator, in its memorandum of 02 March 2001, adopted in toto the findings and recommendation of the Investigating Judge.

The Court sees the findings of the Investigating Judge and the Office of the Court Administrator to be well-taken but finds the recommended penalty of suspension, given the circumstances, a bit too harsh.

A.M. No. 99-10-05-0, issued by the Court En Banc on 07 August 2001 and made effective on 01 September 2001, provides for the procedure in the extra-judicial foreclosure of mortgage, thusly:

"1. All applications for extra-judicial foreclosure of mortgage whether under the direction of the sheriff or a notary public, pursuant to Act 3135, as amended by Act 4118, and Act 1508, as amended, shall be filed with the Executive Judge, through the Clerk of Court who is also the Ex-Officio Sheriff.

"2. Upon receipt of an application for extra-judicial foreclosure of mortgage, it shall be the duty of the Clerk of Court to:

"a) receive and docket said application and to stamp thereon the corresponding file number, date and time of filing;

"b) collect the filing fees therefor pursuant to Rule 141, Section 7(c), as amended by A.M. No. 00-2-01-SC, and issue the corresponding official receipt;

"x x x      x x x      x x x

"d) sign and issue the certificate of sale, subject to the approval of the Executive Judge, or in his absence, the Vice-Executive Judge. No certificate of sale shall be issued in favor of the highest bidder until all fees provided for in the aforementioned sections and in Rule 141, Section 9(1), as amended by A.M. No. 00-2-01-SC, shall have been paid; Provided, that in no case shall the amount payable under Rule 141, Section 9(1), as amended, exceed P100,000.00;

"e) after the certificate of sale has been issued to the highest bidder, keep the complete records, while awaiting any redemption within a period of one (1) year from date of registration of the certificate of sale with the Register of Deeds concerned, after which, the records shall be archived. Notwithstanding the foregoing provision, juridical persons whose property is sold pursuant to an extra-judicial foreclosure, shall have the right to redeem the property until, but not after, the registration of the certificate of foreclosure sale which in no case shall be more than three (3) months after foreclosure, whichever is earlier, as provided in Section 47 of Republic Act No. 8791 (as amended, Res. of August 7, 2001).

"x x x      x x x      x x x

"3. The notices of auction sale in extrajudicial foreclosure for publication by the sheriff or by a notary public shall be published in a newspaper of general circulation pursuant to Section 1, Presidential Decree No. 1079, dated January 2, 1977, and non-compliance therewith shall constitute a violation of Section 6 thereof.

"4. The Executive Judge shall, with the assistance of the Clerk of Court, raffle applications for extrajudicial foreclosure of mortgage under the direction of the sheriff among all sheriffs, including those assigned to the Office of the Clerk of Court and Sheriffs IV assigned in the branches.

"5. The name/s of the bidder/s shall be reported by the sheriff or the notary public who conducted the sale to the Clerk of Court before the issuance of the certificate of sale."

Verily, respondent sheriffs have violated the procedure set forth in A.M. No. 99-10-05-0 in failing to conduct a raffle of the petition for extrajudicial foreclosure of mortgage filed by AC Lenders, Inc., against complainant before the office of the Clerk of Court. The raffling of cases is designed to avoid the unequal distribution of cases and fraternization between the sheriff and the applicant-mortgagee.2

While it might be true that petitioner (AC Iloilo Lenders Inc.) requested for the immediate enforcement of the petition for foreclosure of chattel mortgage on the ground that complainant could likely flee and abscond with his assets and that, in fact, the subject vehicle was recovered from the house of one of his relatives, respondents, nevertheless, were not excused from observing the mandated procedure therefor.

Respondents should not forget that they are public officials entrusted with a grave responsibility, and their conduct not only should be characterized by great circumspection but also be always above suspicion.3 Sheriffs play an important role in the administration of justice, called upon, no less than others, to carry out their tasks with utmost care and diligence. High standards in their performance of duty are rightly required of them.4

Regrettably, respondents have failed to live up to expectations. Being respondents’ first offense, however, the Court deems it proper to decrease the recommended penalty of suspension to a fine of One Thousand Pesos (P1,000.00) on each respondent and to caution them to do better than what they have shown.

WHEREFORE, respondents Winston T. Eguia and Edwin G. Torres are found to have violated A.M. No. 99-10-05-0 relative to the procedure on extrajudicial foreclosure of mortgage and are each hereby ordered to pay a fine in the amount of One Thousand Pesos (P1,000.00), with a warning that the commission of similar or other infractions in the future will be dealt with severely.1âwphi1.nęt


Panganiban, Sandoval-Gutierrez, and Carpio, JJ., concur.
Melo, J., on official leave.


1 IV - Specific Powers, Prerogatives and Duties. The specific powers, prerogatives and duties of the Executive Judge are as follows:

1) To investigate administrative complaints against Municipal and City Judges, and other court personnel within his administrative area; and to submit his findings and recommendations to the Supreme Court.

2 Administrative Order No. 3, dated 19 October 1984, which was amended by A.M. 99-10-05-0.

3 Philippine Bank of Communication vs. Sheriff Efren V. Cashero, A.M. No. P-00-1399, 19 February 2001.

4 NBI vs. Tuliao, 270 SCRA 351.

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