Court Fines Sheriff for Directly Demanding and Receiving Money from a Litigant
October 4, 2023
The Supreme Court En Banc found Ma. Consuelo Joie Almeda-Fajardo (Fajardo), former Sheriff IV of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 93, San Pedro, Laguna, guilty of one (1) count of Gross Misconduct constituting violation of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel and one (1) count of Serious Dishonesty for unilaterally demanding and directly receiving money from a litigant for sheriff’s expenses without complying with the procedure prescribed in Section 10, Rule 141 of the Rules of Court.
Under Section 10, Rule 141 of the Rules of Court, expenses for the execution of writs shall be paid by the interested party based on estimates by the sheriff and subject to the approval of the court. Upon approval of the estimates, the party must deposit the amount with the clerk of court, who shall disburse it to the sheriff. The sheriff must liquidate the amount within the same period of filing the return before the court.
Instead of observing the foregoing procedure, Fajardo directly demanded and received money from a party-litigant to defray the expenses arising from the implementation of a writ of execution without the court’s imprimatur. Moreover, Fajardo failed to liquidate the amount that she received.
The Court emphasized that the rules on sheriff’s expenses demand strict compliance as any circumvention thereof opens the door not only to suspicion of, but actual corruption. According to the Court, a sheriff’s conduct of unilaterally demanding sums of money from a party without observing the proper procedure falls short of the required standards of public service and threatens the very existence of the system of administration of justice.
The Court likewise found Fajardo guilty of one (1) count of Gross Misconduct constituting violation of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel for releasing an impounded vehicle despite the absence of an affidavit supporting the purported third party claim required under Section 16, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court or the court’s order.
Considering that Fajardo has been previously dismissed from service for dishonesty and conduct unbecoming of an office of the court, the Court imposed on Fajardo a fine in the aggregate amount of ₱300,000.00.
The case, docketed as A.M. No. P-12-3098, Reynaldo M. Solema v. Ma. Consuelo Joie Almeda-Fajardo, Sheriff IV, Br. 93, Regional Trial Court, San Pedro, Laguna, was decided by the Court during its deliberations on October 3, 2023.
The Supreme Court Public Information Office will upload a copy of the Resolution to the Supreme Court website once it receives the same from the Office of the Clerk of Court En Banc. ###