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Digest: Manibago-Santos v. Francisco (794 SCRA 161, 2016)

Digest: Manibago-Santos v. Francisco (794 SCRA 161, 2016)


Facts: Atty. Santos received a letter of Intent to Redeem Subject Property6 dated March 28, 2012 from Overlook Resort Inc. and its President, Raymond C. Ricardo, in relation to its extrajudicial foreclosure case.

Planters Development Bank (Plantersbank) was adjudged highest bidder during the auction held earlier on January 10, 2012.8 Thus, Atty. Santos wrote the bank's Senior Vice President, Ma. Agnes J. Angeles, to inform her of the mortgagors' intent to redeem the foreclosed property.9 In accordance with the rules, she requested the bank to submit a statement of account of all the expenses it incurred relative to the foreclosure sale

Atty. Santos received a letter from Atty. Alexander L. Paulino, legal counsel for Plantersbank, stating the redemption price  for the foreclosed property. Attached to the letter were statements of accounts and receipts in support of this amount, including a receipt signed by Sheriff Francisco, who was then Sheriff-in-Charge.

Atty. Santos required Sheriff Francisco to explain why he did not submit an estimate of expenses and liquidation in relation to the P8,000.00 he received. Sheriff Francisco admitted receiving a check for P8,000.00 from Jeson Talbo Ganalongo of Plantersbank.He explained that he received the check when the auction had already been concluded, as a token of appreciation.

Issue: Whether or not Sheriff Francisco is guilty for violating R.A 6713.

Ruling: Yes. This Court has considered the solicitation and acceptance of monetary considerations by sheriffs as conduct unbecoming of a court employee, grave misconduct, and dishonesty. In Astorga v. Villanueva, we discussed the need to put an end to the deplorable behavior of soliciting litigants:

The Code of Conduct for Court Personnel requires that court personnel avoid conflicts of interest in performing official duties. It mandates that court personnel should not receive tips or other remunerations for assisting or attending to parties engaged in transactions or involved in actions or proceedings with the judiciary. "The Court has always stressed that all members of the judiciary should be free from any whiff of impropriety, not only with respect to their duties in the judicial branch but also to their behavior outside the court as private individuals, in order that the integrity and good name of the courts of justice shall be preserved." Court personnel cannot take advantage of the vulnerability of party-litigants.

. . . .

Indeed, "[a]s a court employee, [one] should be more circumspect in [one's] behavior and should [steer] clear of any situation casting the slightest of doubt on [one's] conduct."chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

Both respondent and Plantersbank allege that no solicitation took place and that Plantersbank insisted on giving respondent the amount as a token of appreciation and gratitude.

Still, this Court has repeatedly emphasized that "sheriffs are not authorized to receive any voluntary payments from parties in the course of the performance of their duties." This opens doubt on monetary considerations being made for wrongful and unethical purposes, creates cracks in our justice system, and proves "inimical to the best interests of the service."

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