SC Permanently Bans Court Sheriff from Public Office

March 27, 2019

The Supreme Court has perpetually disqualified from public office a court sheriff with 22 years of service who used for personal gain the P10,000 he had received for publication of a notice of extrajudicial foreclosure.

In a seven-page per curiam decision, the Court En Banc found guilty of grave misconduct Manuel H. Gimeno, Sheriff IV, Branch 19, Regional Trial Court, Cebu City, who would have been dismissed from the service had he not been earlier dropped from the rolls for being on absence without leave. The Court also forfeited his retirement and other benefits, except accrued leave credits.

“[H]is act of appropriating the money given to him by complainant puts the Judiciary and its processes in a bad light. This gives an impression to the public that the courts and its personnel would not hesitate to shun their public duties in exchange for personal gain,” the Court held.

The case stemmed from the complaint filed by the Rural Bank of Talisay (Cebu), Inc., represented by its President Adele V. Villo, who sought Gimeno’s dismissal from service. In 2011, Gimeno received P10,000 from Villo as cost for publication of the notice of extrajudicial foreclosure in Cebu Daily News. However, Gimeno failed to remit payment despite repeated demands.

Gimeno did not deny receiving the P10,000 but claimed that he used it supposedly to pay for the hospital expenses of his mother. He also pleaded that in his 22 years of service, this was the first and only complaint against him.

The Court, however, held that “[Gimeno’s] actions were clearly tainted with corruption as he received money from complainant in his capacity as sheriff for the RTC…Even if it were true that respondent only used it to pay for the hospital funds of his mother, it cannot be gainsaid that he used his position as sheriff to obtain funds from private persons for his own benefit and to the detriment of the latter.”

“Measured by the exacting standards imposed on court personnel, it is unquestionable that respondent severely failed to uphold what was expected of him. He readily admits that he appropriated for himself the money given to him by complainant as payment for publication costs. Respondent’s liability is indubitable and the only genuine issue to be resolved is the penalty to be imposed for his transgressions,” the Court said.

The Court also stressed that Gimeno failed to exhibit contriteness after he continuously failed to make the necessary payments for publications in spite of demands or opportunities for him to correct his wrongdoings.

The Court held that “respondent’s length of service does not justify the imposition of a penalty lesser than dismissal from service. The length of service had been taken against the erring public official, even if it is for the first offense, in cases involving serious offense such as grave misconduct.”

(A.M. No. P-19-3911, Rural Bank of Talisay (Cebu), Inc. v. Gimeno, January 15, 2019)