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HARRY L.

GO, TONNY NGO, JERRY NGO AND JANE GO, Petitioners, September 1994 thereby causing damage and prejudice to said HIGHDONE COMPANY LTD., in the
vs. said amount of $464,266.90 or its peso equivalent at P20,892,010.50 more or less."
THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES and HIGHDONE COMPANY, LTD., ET AL., Respondents.
Upon arraignment, petitioners pleaded not guilty to the charge.
DECISION
The prosecution's complaining witness, Li Luen Ping, a frail old businessman from Laos, Cambodia,
PERLAS-BERNABE, J.: traveled from his home country back to the Philippines in order to attend the hearing held on
September 9, 2004. However, trial dates were subsequently postponed due to his unavailability.
The procedure for taking depositions in criminal cases recognizes the prosecution's right to preserve
testimonial evidence and prove its case despite the unavailability of its witness. It cannot, however, On October 13, 2005, the private prosecutor filed with the MeTC a Motion to Take Oral
give license to prosecutorial indifference or unseemly involvement in a prosecution witness' absence Deposition6 of Li Luen Ping, alleging that he was being treated for lung infection at the Cambodia
from trial. To rule otherwise would effectively deprive the accused of his fundamental right to be Charity Hospital in Laos, Cambodia and that, upon doctor's advice, he could not make the long travel
confronted with the witnesses against him. to the Philippines by reason of ill health.

In this Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court, petitioners seek Notwithstanding petitioners' Opposition,7 the MeTC granted8 the motion after the prosecution
1 2
to nullify and set aside the February 19, 2008 Decision and November 28, 2008 Resolution of the complied with the directive to submit a Medical Certificate of Li Luen Ping. Petitioners sought its
Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 99383, which reversed the September 12, 2006 Order 3 issued reconsideration which the MeTC denied,9 prompting petitioners to file a Petition for
by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch 27 in Civil Case No. 06-114844 and upheld the Certiorari10 before the RTC.
grant of the prosecutions motion to take the testimony of a witness by oral depositions in Laos,
Cambodia. On September 12, 2006, the RTC granted the petition and declared the MeTC Orders null and
void.11 The RTC held that Section 17, Rule 23 on the taking of depositions of witnesses in civil cases
Petitioners Harry Go, Tonny Ngo, Jerry Ngo and Jane Go were charged before the Metropolitan Trial cannot apply suppletorily to the case since there is a specific provision in the Rules of Court with
Court (MeTC) of Manila for Other Deceits under Article 318 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) docketed respect to the taking of depositions of prosecution witnesses in criminal cases, which is primarily
as Criminal Case No. 396447. The Information 4 dated September 24, 2003, later amended5 on intended to safeguard the constitutional rights of the accused to meet the witness against him face to
September 14, 2004, reads: face.

"That sometime in August 1996, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused, conspiring, Upon denial by the RTC of their motion for reconsideration through an Order dated March 5,
confederating together and helping one another, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and 2006,12 the prosecution elevated the case to the CA.
feloniously defraud Highdone Company Ltd. Represented by Li Luen Ping, in the following manner, to
wit: all said accused, by means of false manifestations and fraudulent representations which they On February 19, 2008, the CA promulgated the assailed Decision which held that no grave abuse of
made to said Li Luen Ping to the effect that they have chattels such as machinery, spare parts, discretion can be imputed upon the MeTC for allowing the deposition-taking of the complaining
equipment and raw materials installed and fixed in the premises of BGB Industrial Textile Mills witness Li Luen Ping because no rule of procedure expressly disallows the taking of depositions in
Factory located in the Bataan Export Processing Zone (BEPZ) in Mariveles, Bataan, executed a Deed of criminal cases and that, in any case, petitioners would still have every opportunity to cross-examine
Mortgage for a consideration of the amount of $464,266.90 or its peso equivalent at P20,892,010.50 the complaining witness and make timely objections during the taking of the oral deposition either
more or less in favor of ML Resources and Highdone Company Ltd. Representing that the said deed is through counsel or through the consular officer who would be taking the deposition of the witness.
a FIRST MORTGAGE when in truth and in fact the accused well knew that the same had been
previously encumbered, mortgaged and foreclosed by CHINA BANK CORPORATION as early as
On November 28, 2008, the CA denied petitioners' motion for reconsideration. Hence, this petition Even in criminal proceedings, there is no doubt as to the availability of conditional examination of
alleging that witnesses both for the benefit of the defense, as well as the prosecution. The Court's ruling in the
15
case of Vda. de Manguerra v. Risos explicitly states that
I.THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN NOT FINDING THAT THE METROPOLITAN TRIAL COURT
INFRINGED THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT OF THE PETITIONERS TO A PUBLIC TRIAL IN "x x x As exceptions, Rule 23 to 28 of the Rules of Court provide for the different modes of discovery
ALLOWING THE TAKING OF THE DEPOSITION OF THE COMPLAINING WITNESS IN LAOS, that may be resorted to by a party to an action. These rules are adopted either to perpetuate the
CAMBODIA. testimonies of witnesses or as modes of discovery. In criminal proceedings, Sections 12, 13 and 15,
Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, which took effect on December 1, 2000, allow
II.THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN NOT FINDING THAT THE DEPOSITION TAKING OF THE the conditional examination of both the defense and prosecution witnesses." (Underscoring
16
COMPLAINING WITNESS IN LAOS, CAMBODIA IS AN INFRINGEMENT OF THE supplied)
CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT OF THE PETITIONERS TO CONFRONT THE SAID WITNESS FACE TO
FACE. The procedure under Rule 23 to 28 of the Rules of Court allows the taking of depositions in civil cases,
either upon oral examination or written interrogatories, before any judge, notary public or person
III.THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN SUSTAINING THE JUDICIAL LEGISLATION COMMITTED authorized to administer oaths at any time or place within the Philippines; or before any
BY THE METROPOLITAN TRIAL COURT IN APPLYING THE RULES ON DEPOSITION-TAKING IN
CIVIL CASES TO CRIMINAL CASES. Philippine consular official, commissioned officer or person authorized to administer oaths in a
foreign state or country, with no additional requirement except reasonable notice in writing to the
IV.THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN LIMITING THE TRADITIONAL DEFINITION OF GRAVE other party.17
ABUSE OF DISCRETION, OVERLOOKING THE ESTABLISHED RULE THAT VIOLATION OF THE
CONSTITUTION, THE LAW OR JURISPRUDENCE SIMILARLY COMES WITHIN THE PURVIEW OF But for purposes of taking the deposition in criminal cases, more particularly of a prosecution witness
GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION. who would forseeably be unavailable for trial, the testimonial examination should be made before
the court, or at least before the judge, where the case is pending as required by the clear mandate of
We rule in favor of petitioners. Section 15, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure. The pertinent provision reads thus:

The Procedure for Testimonial Examination of an Unavailable Prosecution Witness is Covered Under SEC. 15. Examination of witness for the prosecution. When it satisfactorily appears that a witness
Section 15, Rule 119. for the prosecution is too sick or infirm to appear at the trial as directed by the court, or has to leave
the Philippines with no definite date of returning, he may forthwith be conditionally examined before
The examination of witnesses must be done orally before a judge in open court.13 This is true the court where the case is pending. Such examination, in the presence of the accused, or in his
especially in criminal cases where the Constitution secures to the accused his right to a public trial absence after reasonable notice to attend the examination has been served on him shall be
and to meet the witnessess against him face to face. The requirement is the "safest and most conducted in the same manner as an examination at the trial. Failure or refusal of the accused to
satisfactory method of investigating facts" as it enables the judge to test the witness' credibility attend the examination after notice shall be considered a waiver. The statement taken may be
14
through his manner and deportment while testifying. It is not without exceptions, however, as the admitted in behalf of or against the accused.
Rules of Court recognizes the conditional examination of witnesses and the use of their depositions
as testimonial evidence in lieu of direct court testimony. Since the conditional examination of a prosecution witness must take place at no other place than
the court where the case is pending, the RTC properly nullified the MeTC's orders granting the motion
to take the deposition of Li Luen Ping before the Philippine consular official in Laos, Cambodia. We
quote with approval the RTC's ratiocination in this wise:
The condition of the private complainant being sick and of advanced age falls within the provision of The Conditional Examination of a Prosecution Witness Cannot Defeat the Rights of the Accused to
Section 15 Rule 119 of the Rules of Court. However, said rule substantially provides that he should be Public Trial and Confrontation of Witnesses
conditionally examined before the court where the case is pending. Thus, this Court concludes that
the language of Section 15 Rule 119 must be interpreted to require the parties to present testimony The CA took a simplistic view on the use of depositions in criminal cases and overlooked fundamental
at the hearing through live witnesses, whose demeanor and credibility can be evaluated by the judge considerations no less than the Constitution secures to the accused, i.e., the right to a public trial and
presiding at the hearing, rather than by means of deposition. No where in the said rule permits the the right to confrontation of witnesses. Section 14(2), Article III of the
18
taking of deposition outside the Philippines whether the deponent is sick or not. (Underscoring
supplied) Constitution provides as follows:

Certainly, to take the deposition of the prosecution witness elsewhere and not before the very same Section 14. (1) x x x
court where the case is pending would not only deprive a detained accused of his right to attend the
proceedings but also deprive the trial judge of the opportunity to observe the prosecution witness'
(2) In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved,
deportment and properly assess his credibility, which is especially intolerable when the witness'
and shall enjoy the right to be heard by himself and counsel, to be informed of the nature and cause
testimony is crucial to the prosecution's case against the accused. This is the import of the Court's
19 of the accusation against him, to have a speedy, impartial and public trial, to meet the witnesses face
ruling in Vda. de Manguerra where we further declared that
to face, and to have compulsory process to secure the attendance of witnesses and the production of
evidence in his behalf. However, after arraignment, trial may proceed notwithstanding the absence of
While we recognize the prosecution's right to preserve the testimony of its witness in order to prove the accused provided that he has been duly notified and his failure to appear is unjustifiable.
its case, we cannot disregard the rules which are designed mainly for the protection of the accused's (Underscoring supplied)
constitutional rights. The giving of testimony during trial is the general rule. The conditional
examination of a witness outside of the trial is only an exception, and as such, calls for a strict
In dismissing petitioners' apprehensions concerning the deprivation of their constitutional rights to a
construction of the rules.20 (Underscoring supplied)
public trial and confrontation, the CA opined that petitioners would still be accorded the right to
cross-examine the deponent witness and raise their objections during the deposition-taking in the
It is argued that since the Rules of Civil Procedure is made explicitly applicable in all cases, both civil same manner as in a regular court trial.
and criminal as well as special proceedings, the deposition-taking before a Philippine consular official
under Rule 23 should be deemed allowable also under the circumstances.
We disagree. There is a great deal of difference between the face-to- face confrontation in a public
criminal trial in the presence of the presiding judge and the cross-examination of a witness in a
However, the suggested suppletory application of Rule 23 in the testimonial examination of an foreign place outside the courtroom in the absence of a trial judge. In the aptly cited case of People v.
unavailable prosecution witness has been categorically ruled out by the Court in the same case of Estenzo,21 the Court noted the uniqueness and significance of a witness testifying in open court, thus:
Vda. de Manguerra, as follows:
"The main and essential purpose of requiring a witness to appear and testify orally at a trial is to
It is true that Section 3, Rule 1 of the Rules of Court provides that the rules of civil procedure apply to secure for the adverse party the opportunity of cross-examination. "The opponent", according to an
all actions, civil or criminal, and special proceedings. In effect, it says that the rules of civil procedure eminent authority, "demands confrontation, not for the idle purpose of gazing upon the witness, or
have suppletory application to criminal cases. However, it is likewise true that criminal proceedings of being gazed upon by him, but for the purpose of cross examination which cannot be had except by
are primarily governed by the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure. the direct and personal putting of questions and obtaining immediate answers." There is also the
advantage of the witness before the judge, and it is this it enables the judge as trier of facts "to
Considering that Rule 119 adequately and squarely covers the situation in the instant case, we find no obtain the elusive and incommunicable evidence of a witness' deportment while testifying, and a
cogent reason to apply Rule 23 suppletorily or otherwise." (Underscoring supplied) certain subjective moral effect is produced upon the witness. It is only when the witness testifies
orally that the judge may have a true idea of his countenance, manner and expression, which may The CA found the frail and infirm condition of the prosecution witness as sufficient and compelling
confirm or detract from the weight of his testimony. Certainly, the physical condition of the witness reason to uphold the MeTC Orders granting the deposition-taking, following the ruling in the case of
28
will reveal his capacity for accurate observation and memory, and his deportment and physiognomy People v. Webb that the taking of an unavailable witness' deposition is in the nature of a discovery
will reveal clues to his character. These can only be observed by the judge if the witness testifies procedure the use of which is within the trial court's sound discretion which needs only to be
22 29
orally in court. x x x" (Underscoring supplied)1wphi1 exercised in a reasonable manner and in consonance with the spirit of the law.

The right of confrontation, on the other hand, is held to apply specifically to criminal proceedings and But the ruling in the cited case is not instantly applicable herein as the factual settings are not
to have a twofold purpose: (1) to afford the accused an opportunity to test the testimony of similar.1wphi1 The accused in the Webb case had sought to take the oral deposition of five defense
witnesses by cross-examination, and (2) to allow the judge to observe the deportment of witnesses before a Philippine consular agent in lieu of presenting them as live witnesses, alleging that
23 24
witnesses. The Court explained in People v. Seneris that the constitutional requirement "insures they were all residents of the United States who could not be compelled by subpoena to testify in
that the witness will give his testimony under oath, thus deterring lying by the threat of perjury court. The trial court denied the motion of the accused but the CA differed and ordered the
charge; it forces the witness to submit to cross-examination, a valuable instrument in exposing deposition taken. When the matter was raised before this Court, we sustained the trial court's
falsehood and bringing out the truth; and it enables the court to observe the demeanor of the disallowance of the deposition-taking on the limited ground that there was no necessity for the
25
witness and assess his credibility." procedure as the matter sought to be proved by way of deposition was considered merely
30
corroborative of the evidence for the defense.
As the right of confrontation is intended "to secure the accused in the right to be tried as far as facts
provable by witnesses as meet him face to face at the trial who give their testimony in his presence, In this case, where it is the prosecution that seeks to depose the complaining witness against the
and give to the accused an opportunity of cross-examination,"26 it is properly viewed as a guarantee accused, the stringent procedure under Section 15, Rule 119 cannot be ignored without violating the
against the use of unreliable testimony in criminal trials. In the American case of Crawford v. constitutional rights of the accused to due process.
Washington,27 the US Supreme Court had expounded on the procedural intent of the confrontation
requirement, thus: Finally, the Court takes note that prosecution witness Li Luen Ping had managed to attend the initial
trial proceedings before the MeTC of Manila on September 9, 2004. At that time, Li Luen Ping's old
Where testimonial statements are involved, we do not think the Framers meant to leave the Sixth age and fragile constitution should have been unmistakably apparent and yet the prosecution failed
Amendment's right to confront witness face to face protection to the vagaries of the rules of to act with zeal and foresight in having his deposition or testimony taken before the MeTC pursuant
evidence, much less to amorphous notions of "reliability". Certainly, none of the authorities discussed to Section 15, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Court. In fact, it should have been imperative for the
above acknowledges any general reliability exception to the common-law rule. prosecution to have moved for the preservation of Li Luen Ping's testimony at that first instance given
the fact that the witness is a non-resident alien who can leave the Philippines anytime without any
Admitting statements deemed reliable by a judge is fundamentally at odds with the right of definite date of return. Obviously, the prosecution allowed its main witness to leave the court's
confrontation. To be sure, the Clause's ultimate goal is to ensure reliability of evidence, but it is a jurisdiction without availing of the court procedure intended to preserve the testimony of such
procedural rather than a substantive guarantee. It commands, not that evidence be reliable, but that witness. The loss of its cause is attributable to no other party.
reliability be assessed in a particular manner: by testing in the crucible of cross-examination. The
Clause thus reflects a judgment, not only about the desirability of reliable evidence (a point on which Still, even after failing to secure Li Luen Ping's conditional examination before the MeTC prior to said
there could be little dissent), but about how reliability can best be determined." (Underscoring witness' becoming sick and unavailable, the prosecution would capitalize upon its own failure by
supplied) pleading for a liberal application of the rules on depositions. It must be emphasized that while the
prosecution must provide the accused every opportunity to take the deposition of witnesses that are
The Webb Ruling is Not on All Fours with the Instant Case material to his defense in order to avoid charges of violating the right of the accused to compulsory
process, the State itself must resort to deposition-taking sparingly if it is to guard against accusations
of violating the right of the accused to meet the witnesses against him face to face. Great care must On November 4, 1999, respondents were charged with Estafa Through Falsification of Public
be observed in the taking and use of depositions of prosecution witnesses to the end that no Document before the RTC of Cebu City, Branch 19, through a criminal information dated October 27,
31
conviction of an accused will rely on ex parte affidavits and deposition. 1999, which was subsequently amended on November 18, 1999. The case, docketed as Criminal Case
5
No. CBU-52248, arose from the falsification of a deed of real estate mortgage allegedly committed
Thus, the CA ignored the procedure under the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure for taking the by respondents where they made it appear that Concepcion, the owner of the mortgaged property
6
deposition of an unavailable prosecution witness when it upheld the trial court's order allowing the known as the Gorordo property, affixed her signature to the document. Hence, the criminal case.
deposition of prosecution witness Li Luen Ping to take place in a venue other than the court where
the case is pending. This was certainly grave abuse of discretion. Earlier, on September 10, 1999, Concepcion, who was a resident of Cebu City, while on vacation in
Manila, was unexpectedly confined at the Makati Medical Center due to upper gastro-intestinal
7
WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby GRANTED. The assailed Decision dated February 19, 2008 and the bleeding; and was advised to stay in Manila for further treatment.
Resolution dated November 28, 2008 of the Court of Appeals are REVERSED and SET ASIDE.
Accordingly, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court which disallowed the deposition-taking in Laos, On November 24, 1999, respondents filed a Motion for Suspension of the Proceedings in Criminal
Cambodia is REINSTATED. Case No. CBU-52248 on the ground of prejudicial question. They argued that Civil Case No. CEB-
8
20359, which was an action for declaration of nullity of the mortgage, should first be resolved. On
SO ORDERED. May 11, 2000, the RTC granted the aforesaid motion. Concepcions motion for reconsideration was
9
denied on June 5, 2000.
G.R. No. 152643 August 28, 2008
This prompted Concepcion to institute a special civil action for certiorari before the CA seeking the
CONCEPCION CUENCO VDA. DE MANGUERRA and THE HON. RAMON C. CODILLA, JR., Presiding nullification of the May 11 and June 5 RTC orders. The case was docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 60266
Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Cebu City, Branch 19, petitioners, and remains pending before the appellate court to date.10
vs.
RAUL RISOS, SUSANA YONGCO, LEAH ABARQUEZ and ATTY. GAMALIEL D.B. BONJE,respondents. On August 16, 2000, the counsel of Concepcion filed a motion to take the latters deposition. 11 He
explained the need to perpetuate Concepcions testimony due to her weak physical condition and old
DECISION age, which limited her freedom of mobility.

NACHURA, J.: On August 25, 2000, the RTC granted the motion and directed that Concepcions deposition be taken
before the Clerk of Court of Makati City.12 The respondents motion for reconsideration was denied
by the trial court on November 3, 2000. The court ratiocinated that procedural technicalities should
This is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, assailing the Court of
be brushed aside because of the urgency of the situation, since Concepcion was already of advanced
Appeals (CA) Decision1 dated August 15, 2001 and its Resolution 2 dated March 12, 2002. The CA
age.13 After several motions for change of venue of the deposition-taking, Concepcions deposition
decision set aside the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Orders dated August 25, 2000 3 granting Concepcion
was finally taken on March 9, 2001 at her residence.14
Cuenco Vda. de Manguerras (Concepcions) motion to take deposition, and dated November 3,
4
2000 denying the motion for reconsideration of respondents Raul G. Risos, Susana Yongco, Leah
Abarquez, and Atty. Gamaliel D.B. Bonje. Aggrieved, respondents assailed the August 25 and November 3 RTC orders in a special civil action
for certiorari before the CA in CA-G.R. SP No. 62551.15
The facts of the case, as culled from the records, follow:
On August 15, 2001, the CA rendered a Decision16 favorable to the respondents, the dispositive
portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED and the August 25, 2000 and November 3, 2000 provided in Section 5, Rule 110 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, all criminal actions are
orders of the court a quo are hereby SET ASIDE, and any deposition that may have been prosecuted under the direction and control of the public prosecutor. Therefore, it behooved the
taken on the authority of such void orders is similarly declared void. petitioners (respondents herein) to implead the People of the Philippines as respondent in the CA
21
case to enable the Solicitor General to comment on the petition.
SO ORDERED.17
However, this Court has repeatedly declared that the failure to implead an indispensable party is not
At the outset, the CA observed that there was a defect in the respondents petition by not impleading a ground for the dismissal of an action. In such a case, the remedy is to implead the non-party
the People of the Philippines, an indispensable party. This notwithstanding, the appellate court claimed to be indispensable. Parties may be added by order of the court, on motion of the party or on
resolved the matter on its merit, declaring that the examination of prosecution witnesses, as in the its own initiative at any stage of the action and/or such times as are just. If the petitioner/plaintiff
present case, is governed by Section 15, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure and not refuses to implead an indispensable party despite the order of the court, the latter may dismiss the
Rule 23 of the Rules of Court. The latter provision, said the appellate court, only applies to civil cases. complaint/petition for the petitioners/plaintiffs failure to comply. 22
Pursuant to the specific provision of Section 15, Rule 119, Concepcions deposition should have been
taken before the judge or the court where the case is pending, which is the RTC of Cebu, and not In this case, the CA disregarded the procedural flaw by allowing the petition to proceed, in the
before the Clerk of Court of Makati City; and thus, in issuing the assailed order, the RTC clearly interest of substantial justice. Also noteworthy is that, notwithstanding the non-joinder of the People
18
committed grave abuse of discretion. of the Philippines as party-respondent, it managed, through the Office of the Solicitor General, to file
its Comment on the petition for certiorari. Thus, the People was given the opportunity to refute the
In its Resolution dated March 12, 2002 denying petitioners motion for reconsideration, the CA added respondents arguments.
that the rationale of the Rules in requiring the taking of deposition before the same court is the
constitutional right of the accused to meet the witnesses face to face. The appellate court likewise Instructive is the Courts pronouncement in Commissioner Domingo v. Scheer23 in this wise:
concluded that Rule 23 could not be applied suppletorily because the situation was adequately
addressed by a specific provision of the rules of criminal procedure. 19 There is nothing sacred about processes or pleadings, their forms or contents. Their sole
purpose is to facilitate the application of justice to the rival claims of contending parties.
Hence, the instant petition raising the following issues: They were created, not to hinder and delay, but to facilitate and promote, the
administration of justice. They do not constitute the thing itself, which courts are always
I. striving to secure to litigants. They are designed as the means best adapted to obtain that
thing. In other words, they are a means to an end. When they lose the character of the one
WHETHER OR NOT RULE 23 OF THE 1997 RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE APPLIES TO THE and become the other, the administration of justice is at fault and courts are
DEPOSITION OF PETITIONER. correspondingly remiss in the performance of their obvious duty.24

II. Accordingly, the CA cannot be faulted for deciding the case on the merits despite the procedural
defect.
WHETHER OR NOT FAILURE TO IMPLEAD THE "PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES" IN A PETITION
FOR CERTIORARI ARISING FROM A CRIMINAL CASE A QUO CONSTITUTES A WAIVABLE On the more important issue of whether Rule 23 of the Rules of Court applies to the instant case, we
DEFECT IN THE PETITION FOR CERTIORARI.20 rule in the negative.

It is undisputed that in their petition for certiorari before the CA, respondents failed to implead the It is basic that all witnesses shall give their testimonies at the trial of the case in the presence of the
People of the Philippines as a party thereto. Because of this, the petition was obviously defective. As judge.25 This is especially true in criminal cases in order that the accused may be afforded the
opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses pursuant to his constitutional right to confront the that time, her motion would have been denied. Instead of conditionally examining her outside the
witnesses face to face.26 It also gives the parties and their counsel the chance to propound such trial court, she would have been compelled to appear before the court for examination during the
questions as they deem material and necessary to support their position or to test the credibility of trial proper.
27 28
said witnesses. Lastly, this rule enables the judge to observe the witnesses demeanor.
Undoubtedly, the procedure set forth in Rule 119 applies to the case at bar. It is thus required that
This rule, however, is not absolute. As exceptions, Rules 23 to 28 of the Rules of Court provide for the the conditional examination be made before the court where the case is pending. It is also necessary
different modes of discovery that may be resorted to by a party to an action. These rules are adopted that the accused be notified, so that he can attend the examination, subject to his right to waive the
either to perpetuate the testimonies of witnesses or as modes of discovery. In criminal proceedings, same after reasonable notice. As to the manner of examination, the Rules mandate that it be
Sections 12,29 1330 and 15,31 Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, which took effect conducted in the same manner as an examination during trial, that is, through question and answer.
on December 1, 2000, allow the conditional examination of both the defense and prosecution
witnesses. At this point, a query may thus be posed: in granting Concepcions motion and in actually taking her
deposition, were the above rules complied with? The CA answered in the negative. The appellate
In the case at bench, in issue is the examination of a prosecution witness, who, according to the court considered the taking of deposition before the Clerk of Court of Makati City erroneous and
petitioners, was too sick to travel and appear before the trial court. Section 15 of Rule 119 thus contrary to the clear mandate of the Rules that the same be made before the court where the case is
comes into play, and it provides: pending. Accordingly, said the CA, the RTC order was issued with grave abuse of discretion.

Section 15. Examination of witness for the prosecution. When it satisfactorily appears that We agree with the CA and quote with approval its ratiocination in this wise:
a witness for the prosecution is too sick or infirm to appear at the trial as directed by the
court, or has to leave the Philippines with no definite date of returning, he may forthwith be Unlike an examination of a defense witness which, pursuant to Section 5, Rule 119 of the
conditionally examined before the court where the case is pending. Such examination, in the previous Rules, and now Section 13, Rule 119 of the present Revised Rules of Criminal
presence of the accused, or in his absence after reasonable notice to attend the examination Procedure, may be taken before any "judge, or, if not practicable, a member of the Bar in
has been served on him, shall be conducted in the same manner as an examination at the good standing so designated by the judge in the order, or, if the order be made by a court of
trial. Failure or refusal of the accused to attend the examination after notice shall be superior jurisdiction, before an inferior court to be designated therein," the examination of a
considered a waiver. The statement taken may be admitted in behalf of or against the witness for the prosecution under Section 15 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure
32
accused. (December 1, 2000) may be done only "before the court where the case is pending."

Petitioners contend that Concepcions advanced age and health condition exempt her from the Rule 119 categorically states that the conditional examination of a prosecution witness shall be made
application of Section 15, Rule 119 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure, and thus, calls for the before the court where the case is pending. Contrary to petitioners contention, there is nothing in
application of Rule 23 of the Rules of Civil Procedure. the rule which may remotely be interpreted to mean that such requirement applies only to cases
where the witness is within the jurisdiction of said court and not when he is kilometers away, as in
The contention does not persuade. the present case. Therefore, the court may not introduce exceptions or conditions. Neither may it
engraft into the law (or the Rules) qualifications not contemplated. 33 When the words are clear and
The very reason offered by the petitioners to exempt Concepcion from the coverage of Rule 119 is at categorical, there is no room for interpretation. There is only room for application. 34
once the ground which places her squarely within the coverage of the same provision. Rule 119
specifically states that a witness may be conditionally examined: 1) if the witness is too sick or infirm Petitioners further insist that Rule 23 applies to the instant case, because the rules on civil procedure
to appear at the trial; or 2) if the witness has to leave the Philippines with no definite date of apply suppletorily to criminal cases.
returning. Thus, when Concepcion moved that her deposition be taken, had she not been too sick at
1
It is true that Section 3, Rule 1 of the Rules of Court provides that the rules of civil procedure apply to Section 6, Rule 25 of the Rules of Court (Rules) provides that "a party not served with written
all actions, civil or criminal, and special proceedings. In effect, it says that the rules of civil procedure interrogatories may not be compelled by the adverse party to give testimony in open court, or to give
have suppletory application to criminal cases. However, it is likewise true that the criminal a deposition pending appeal." The provision seeks to prevent fishing expeditions and needless delays.
proceedings are primarily governed by the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure. Considering that Rule Its goal is to maintain order and facilitate the conduct of trial.
119 adequately and squarely covers the situation in the instant case, we find no cogent reason to
2 3
apply Rule 23 suppletorily or otherwise. Assailed in this Petition for Review on Certiorari are the April 15, 2008 Decision of the Court of
Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 99535 which dismissed petitioners' Petition for Certiorari for lack of
4 5
To reiterate, the conditional examination of a prosecution witness for the purpose of taking his merit and its October 2, 2008 Resolution denying petitioners' Motion for Reconsideration.
deposition should be made before the court, or at least before the judge, where the case is pending.
Such is the clear mandate of Section 15, Rule 119 of the Rules. We find no necessity to depart from, Factual Antecedents
or to relax, this rule. As correctly held by the CA, if the deposition is made elsewhere, the accused
may not be able to attend, as when he is under detention. More importantly, this requirement 6
Petitioners, spouses Vicente and Leticia Afulugencia, filed a Complaint for nullification of mortgage,
ensures that the judge would be able to observe the witness deportment to enable him to properly foreclosure, auction sale, certificate of sale and other documents, with damages, against respondents
assess his credibility. This is especially true when the witness testimony is crucial to the prosecutions Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co. (Metrobank) and Emmanuel L. Ortega (Ortega) before the Regional
case. Trial Court (RTC) of Malolos City, where it was docketed as Civil Case No. 336-M-2004 and assigned to
Branch 7.
While we recognize the prosecutions right to preserve its witness testimony to prove its case, we
cannot disregard rules which are designed mainly for the protection of the accuseds constitutional Metrobank is a domestic banking corporation existing under Philippine laws, while Ortega is the Clerk
rights. The giving of testimony during trial is the general rule. The conditional examination of a of Court and Ex-Officio Sheriff of the Malolos RTC.
witness outside of the trial is only an exception, and as such, calls for a strict construction of the rules.
After the filing of the parties pleadings and with the conclusion of pre-trial, petitioners filed a Motion
WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DENIED. The Court of Appeals Decision and Resolution dated for Issuance of Subpoena Duces Tecum Ad Testificandum7 to require Metrobanks officers8 to appear
August 25, 2000 and March 12, 2002, respectively, in CA-G.R. SP No. 62551, are AFFIRMED. and testify as the petitioners initial witnesses during the August 31, 2006 hearing for the
presentation of their evidence-in-chief, and to bring the documents relative to their loan with
SO ORDERED. Metrobank, as well as those covering the extrajudicial foreclosure and sale of petitioners 200-square
meter land in Meycauayan, Bulacan covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 20411 (M). The
Ynares-Santiago, Chairperson, Austria-Martinez, Chico-Nazario, Reyes, JJ., concur. Motion contained a notice of hearing written as follows:

SPOUSES VICENTE AFULUGENCIA and LETICIA AFULUGENCIA, Petitioners, NOTICE


vs.
METROPOLITAN BANK & TRUST CO. and EMMANUEL L. ORTEGA, Clerk of Court, Regional Trial The Branch Clerk of Court
Court and Ex-Officio Sheriff, Province of Bulacan, Respondents. Regional Trial Court
Branch 7, Malolos, Bulacan
DECISION
Greetings:
DEL CASTILLO, J.:
Please submit the foregoing motion for the consideration and approval of the Hon. Court In view of the foregoing, and for lack of merit, the motion under consideration is hereby DENIED.
immediately upon receipt hereof.
14
SO ORDERED.
(signed)
Vicente C. Angeles9 Petitioners filed a Motion for Reconsideration 15 pleading for leniency in the application of the Rules
and claiming that the defective notice was cured by the filing of Metrobanks Opposition, which they
10
Metrobank filed an Opposition arguing that for lack of a proper notice of hearing, the Motion must claim is tantamount to notice. They further argued that Metrobanks officers who are the subject of
be denied; that being a litigated motion, the failure of petitioners to set a date and time for the the subpoena are not party-defendants, and thus do not comprise the adverse party; they are
hearing renders the Motion ineffective and pro forma; that pursuant to Sections 1 and 6 11 of Rule 25 individuals separate and distinct from Metrobank, the defendant corporation being sued in the case.
of the Rules, Metrobanks officers who are considered adverse parties may not be compelled to
appear and testify in court for the petitioners since they were not initially served with written In an Opposition16 to the Motion for Reconsideration, Metrobank insisted on the procedural defect of
interrogatories; that petitioners have not shown the materiality and relevance of the documents improper notice of hearing, arguing that the rule relative to motions and the requirement of a valid
sought to be produced in court; and that petitioners were merely fishing for evidence. notice of hearing are mandatory and must be strictly observed. It added that the same rigid
treatment must be accorded to Rule 25, in that none of its officers may be summoned to testify for
12
Petitioners submitted a Reply to Metrobanks Opposition, stating that the lack of a proper notice of petitioners unless written interrogatories are first served upon them. Finally, it said that since a
hearing was cured by the filing of Metrobanks Opposition; that applying the principle of liberality, corporation may act only through its officers and employees, they are to be considered as adverse
the defect may be ignored; that leave of court is not necessary for the taking of Metrobanks officers parties in a case against the corporation itself.
depositions; that for their case, the issuance of a subpoena is not unreasonable and oppressive, but
17
instead favorable to Metrobank, since it will present the testimony of these officers just the same In another Order dated April 17, 2007, the trial court denied petitioners Motion for
during the presentation of its own evidence; that the documents sought to be produced are relevant Reconsideration. The trial court held, thus:
and will prove whether petitioners have paid their obligations to Metrobank in full, and will settle the
issue relative to the validity or invalidity of the foreclosure proceedings; and that the Rules do not Even if the motion is given consideration by relaxing Sections 4 and 5, Rule 15 of the Rules of Court,
prohibit a party from presenting the adverse party as its own witness. no such laxity could be accorded to Sections 1 and 6 of Rule 25 of the Revised Rules of Court which
require prior service of written interrogatories to adverse parties before any material and relevant
Ruling of the Regional Trial Court facts may be elicited from them more so if the party is a private corporation who could be
represented by its officers as in this case. In other words, as the persons sought to be subpoenaed by
On October 19, 2006, the trial court issued an Order 13 denying petitioners Motion for Issuance of the plaintiffs-movants are officers of the defendant bank, they are in effect the very persons who
Subpoena Duces Tecum Ad Testificandum, thus: represent the interest of the latter and necessarily fall within the coverage of Sections 1 and 6, Rule
25 of the Revised Rules of Court.
The motion lacks merit.
In view of the foregoing, the motion for reconsideration is hereby denied.
As pointed out by the defendant bank in its opposition, the motion under consideration is a mere
scrap of paper by reason of its failure to comply with the requirements for a valid notice of hearing as SO ORDERED.18
specified in Sections 4 and 5 of Rule 15 of the Revised Rules of Court. Moreover, the defendant bank
and its officers are adverse parties who cannot be summoned to testify unless written interrogatories Ruling of the Court of Appeals
are first served upon them, as provided in Sections 1 and 6, Rule 25 of the Revised Rules of Court.
19
Petitioners filed a Petition for Certiorari with the CA asserting this time that their Motion for x x x Where a party unjustifiedly refuses to elicit facts material and relevant to his case by addressing
Issuance of Subpoena Duces Tecum Ad Testificandum is not a litigated motion; it does not seek relief, written interrogatories to the adverse party to elicit those facts, the latter may not thereafter be
but aims for the issuance of a mere process. For these reasons, the Motion need not be heard. They compelled to testify thereon in court or give a deposition pending appeal. The justification for this is
likewise insisted on liberality, and the disposition of the case on its merits and not on mere that the party in need of said facts having foregone the opportunity to inquire into the same from the
20 21
technicalities. They added that Rule 21 of the Rules requires prior notice and hearing only with other party through means available to him, he should not thereafter be permitted to unduly burden
respect to the taking of depositions; since their Motion sought to require Metrobanks officers to the latter with courtroom appearances or other cumbersome processes. The sanction adopted by the
appear and testify in court and not to obtain their depositions, the requirement of notice and hearing Rules is not one of compulsion in the sense that the party is being directly compelled to avail of the
22
may be dispensed with. Finally, petitioners claimed that the Rules particularly Section 10, Rule 132 discovery mechanics, but one of negation by depriving him of evidentiary sources which would
do not prohibit a party from presenting the adverse party as its own witness. otherwise have been accessible to him.25

On April 15, 2008, the CA issued the questioned Decision, which contained the following decretal Petitioners filed their Motion for Reconsideration,26 which the CA denied in its assailed October 2,
portion: 2008 Resolution. Hence, the present Petition.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED for lack of merit. The assailed orders dated October 19, 2006 Issues
and April 17, 2007 in Civil Case No. 336-M-2004 issued by the RTC, Branch 7, Malolos City, Bulacan,
are AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioners. Petitioners now raise the following issues for resolution:

SO ORDERED.23 I

The CA held that the trial court did not commit grave abuse of discretion in issuing the assailed THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERRORS IN REQUIRING NOTICE AND HEARING
Orders; petitioners Motion is a litigated motion, especially as it seeks to require the adverse party, (SECS. 4 AND 5, RULE 15, RULES OF COURT) FOR A MERE MOTION FOR SUBPOENA OF RESPONDENT
Metrobanks officers, to appear and testify in court as petitioners witnesses. It held that a proper BANKS OFFICERS WHEN SUCH REQUIREMENTS APPLY ONLY TO DEPOSITION UNDER SEC. 6, RULE 25,
notice of hearing, addressed to the parties and specifying the date and time of the hearing, was RULES OF COURT.
24
required, consistent with Sections 4 and 5, Rule 15 of the Rules.
II
The CA held further that the trial court did not err in denying petitioners Motion to secure a
subpoena duces tecum/ad testificandum, ratiocinating that Rule 25 is quite clear in providing that the THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED (REVERSIBLE) ERROR IN HOLDING THAT THE PETITIONERS
consequence of a partys failure to serve written interrogatories upon the opposing party is that the MUST FIRST SERVE WRITTEN INTERROGATORIES TO RESPONDENT BANKS OFFICERS BEFORE THEY
latter may not be compelled by the former to testify in court or to render a deposition pending CAN BE SUBPOENAED.
27

appeal. By failing to serve written interrogatories upon Metrobank, petitioners foreclosed their right
to present the banks officers as their witnesses.
Petitioners Arguments

The CA declared that the justification for the rule laid down in Section 6 is that by failing to seize the
Praying that the assailed CA dispositions be set aside and that the Court allow the issuance of the
opportunity to inquire upon the facts through means available under the Rules, petitioners should
subpoena duces tecum/ad testificandum, petitioners assert that the questioned Motion is not a
not be allowed to later on burden Metrobank with court hearings or other processes. Thus, it held:
litigated motion, since it seeks not a relief, but the issuance of process. They insist that a motion
which is subject to notice and hearing under Sections 4 and 5 of Rule 15 is an application for relief
other than a pleading; since no relief is sought but just the process of subpoena, the hearing and
28
notice requirements may be done away with. They cite the case of Adorio v. Hon. Bersamin, which On the procedural issue, it is quite clear that Metrobank was notified of the Motion for Issuance of
held that Subpoena Duces Tecum Ad Testificandum; in fact, it filed a timely Opposition thereto. The technical
32
defect of lack of notice of hearing was thus cured by the filing of the Opposition.
Requests by a party for the issuance of subpoenas do not require notice to other parties to the
action.1wphi1 No violation of due process results by such lack of notice since the other parties Nonetheless, contrary to petitioners submission, the case of Adorio cannot apply squarely to this
would have ample opportunity to examine the witnesses and documents subpoenaed once they are case. In Adorio, the request for subpoena duces tecum was sought against bank officials who were
29
presented in court. not parties to the criminal case for violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22. The situation is different
here, as officers of the adverse party Metrobank are being compelled to testify as the calling partys
Petitioners add that the Rules should have been liberally construed in their favor, and that main witnesses; likewise, they are tasked to bring with them documents which shall comprise the
Metrobanks filing of its Opposition be considered to have cured whatever defect the Motion petitioners principal evidence. This is not without significant consequences that affect the interests
suffered from. of the adverse party, as will be shown below.

Petitioners likewise persist in the view that Metrobanks officers the subject of the Motion do not As a rule, in civil cases, the procedure of calling the adverse party to the witness stand is not allowed,
comprise the adverse party covered by the rule; they insist that these bank officers are mere unless written interrogatories are first served upon the latter. This is embodied in Section 6, Rule 25
employees of the bank who may be called to testify for them. of the Rules, which provides

Respondents Arguments Sec. 6. Effect of failure to serve written interrogatories.

30
Metrobank essentially argues in its Comment that the subject Motion for the issuance of a Unless thereafter allowed by the court for good cause shown and to prevent a failure of justice, a
subpoena duces tecum/ad testificandum is a litigated motion, especially as it is directed toward its party not served with written interrogatories may not be compelled by the adverse party to give
officers, whose testimony and documentary evidence would affect it as the adverse party in the civil testimony in open court, or to give a deposition pending appeal.
case. Thus, the lack of a proper notice of hearing renders it useless and a mere scrap of paper. It adds
that being its officers, the persons sought to be called to the stand are themselves adverse parties One of the purposes of the above rule is to prevent fishing expeditions and needless delays; it is there
who may not be compelled to testify in the absence of prior written interrogatories; they are not to maintain order and facilitate the conduct of trial. It will be presumed that a party who does not
ordinary witnesses whose presence in court may be required by petitioners at any time and for any serve written interrogatories on the adverse party beforehand will most likely be unable to elicit facts
reason. useful to its case if it later opts to call the adverse party to the witness stand as its witness. Instead,
the process could be treated as a fishing expedition or an attempt at delaying the proceedings; it
Finally, Metrobank insists on the correctness of the CA Decision, adding that since petitioners failed produces no significant result that a prior written interrogatories might bring.
31
up to this time to pay the witnesses fees and kilometrage as required by the Rules, the issuance of
a subpoena should be denied. Besides, since the calling party is deemed bound by the adverse partys testimony, 33 compelling the
adverse party to take the witness stand may result in the calling party damaging its own case.
Our Ruling Otherwise stated, if a party cannot elicit facts or information useful to its case through the facility of
written interrogatories or other mode of discovery, then the calling of the adverse party to the
The Court denies the Petition. witness stand could only serve to weaken its own case as a result of the calling partys being bound
by the adverse partys testimony, which may only be worthless and instead detrimental to the calling
partys cause.
Another reason for the rule is that by requiring prior written interrogatories, the court may limit the admitting that indeed, it did not furnish petitioners with these documents prior to the signing of the
inquiry to what is relevant, and thus prevent the calling party from straying or harassing the adverse loan agreement, and while the loan was outstanding, in violation of the law.
party when it takes the latter to the stand.
With the view taken of the case, the Court finds it unnecessary to further address the other issues
Thus, the rule not only protects the adverse party from unwarranted surprises or harassment; it raised by the parties, which are irrelevant and would not materially alter the conclusions arrived at.
likewise prevents the calling party from conducting a fishing expedition or bungling its own case.
Using its own judgment and discretion, the court can hold its own in resolving a dispute, and need WHEREFORE, the Petition is DENIED. The assailed April 15, 2008 Decision and October 2, 2008
not bear witness to the parties perpetrating unfair court practices such as fishing for evidence, Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 99535 are AFFIRMED.
badgering, or altogether ruining their own cases. Ultimately, such unnecessary processes can only
constitute a waste of the courts precious time, if not pointless entertainment. SO ORDERED.

In the present case, petitioners seek to call Metrobanks officers to the witness stand as their initial G.R. No. 169677 February 18, 2013
and main witnesses, and to present documents in Metrobanks possession as part of their principal
documentary evidence. This is improper. Petitioners may not be allowed, at the incipient phase of the
METROPOLITAN BANK AND TRUST COMPANY, as successor-in-interest of ASIAN BANK
presentation of their evidence-in-chief at that, to present Metrobanks officers who are considered
CORPORATION,Petitioner,
adverse parties as well, based on the principle that corporations act only through their officers and
vs.
duly authorized agents34 as their main witnesses; nor may they be allowed to gain access to
HON. EDILBERTO G. SANDOVAL, HON. FRANCISCO H. VILLARUZ, JR. and HON. RODOLFO A.
Metrobanks documentary evidence for the purpose of making it their own. This is tantamount to
PONFERRADA (in their capacities as Chairman and Members, respectively, of the Second Division of
building their whole case from the evidence of their opponent. The burden of proof and evidence
SANDIGANBAYAN) and the REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondents.
falls on petitioners, not on Metrobank; if petitioners cannot prove their claim using their own
evidence, then the adverse party Metrobank may not be pressured to hang itself from its own
defense. DECISION

It is true that under the Rules, a party may, for good cause shown and to prevent a failure of justice, BERSAMIN, J.:
be compelled to give testimony in court by the adverse party who has not served written
interrogatories. But what petitioners seek goes against the very principles of justice and fair play; The court, in furtherance of convenience or to avoid prejudice, may order a separate trial of any
they would want that Metrobank provide the very evidence with which to prosecute and build their claim, cross-claim, counterclaim, or third-party complaint, or of any separate issue or of any number
case from the start. This they may not be allowed to do. of claims, cross-claims, counterclaims, third-party complaints or issues.1 But a separate trial may be
denied if a party is thereby deprived of his right to be heard upon an issue dealt with and determined
in the main trial.
Finally, the Court may not turn a blind eye to the possible consequences of such a move by
petitioners. As one of their causes of action in their Complaint, petitioners claim that they were not
furnished with specific documents relative to their loan agreement with Metrobank at the time they Through this special civil action for certiorari, Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company (Metrobank)
2 3
obtained the loan and while it was outstanding. If Metrobank were to willingly provide petitioners hereby seeks to set aside and nullify the resolutions dated June 25, 2004 and July 13, 2005 issued in
with these documents even before petitioners can present evidence to show that indeed they were Civil Case No. 0004, whereby the Sandiganbayan granted the motion for separate trial filed by the
never furnished the same, any inferences generated from this would certainly not be useful for Republic of the Philippines (Republic), and upheld its jurisdiction over the Republics claim against the
Metrobank. One may be that by providing petitioners with these documents, Metrobank would be petitioner as the successor-in-interest of Asian Bank Corporation (Asian Bank).
Antecedents Asian Banks rejoinder to the Republics reply asserted that the issue concerning its supposed actual
or constructive knowledge of the properties being the subject of the complaint in Civil Case No. 0004
On July 17, 1987, the Republic brought a complaint for reversion, reconveyance, restitution, was intimately related to the issue delving on the character of the properties as the ill-gotten wealth
accounting and damages in the Sandiganbayan against Andres V. Genito, Jr., Ferdinand E. Marcos, of the original defendants; that it thus had a right to confront the evidence presented by the Republic
Imelda R. Marcos and other defendants. The action was obviously to recover allegedly ill-gotten as to the character of the properties; and that the Sandiganbayan had no jurisdiction to decide Asian
wealth of the Marcoses, their nominees, dummies and agents. Among the properties subject of the Banks ownership of the properties because the Sandiganbayan, being a special court with limited
action were two parcels of commercial land located in Tandang Sora (Old Balara), Quezon City, jurisdiction, could only determine the issue of whether or not the properties were illegally acquired
4 5 11
covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 266423 and TCT No. 266588 of the Registry of by the original defendants.
Deeds of Quezon City registered in the names of Spouses Andres V. Genito, Jr. and Ludivina L. Genito.
On June 25, 2004, the Sandiganbayan issued the first assailed resolution granting the Republics
On February 5, 2001, the Republic moved for the amendment of the complaint in order to implead motion for separate trial, giving its reasons as follows:
6
Asian Bank as an additional defendant. The Sandiganbayan granted the motion. It appears that Asian
Bank claimed ownership of the two parcels of land as the registered owner by virtue of TCT No. N- xxxx
201383 and TCT No. N-201384 issued in its name by the Registry of Deeds of Quezon City. Asian Bank
was also in possession of the properties by virtue of the writ of possession issued by the Regional A cursory reading of the comment filed by defendant Asian Bank to plaintiffs request for a separate
7
Trial Court (RTC) in Quezon City. trial would readily reveal that defendant is not actually opposing the conduct of a separate trial
insofar as the said bank is concerned. What it seeks is the opportunity to confront the witnesses and
When the Republic was about to terminate its presentation of evidence against the original whatever documentary exhibits that may have been earlier presented by plaintiff in the case before
defendants in Civil Case No. 0004, it moved to hold a separate trial against Asian Bank. 8 the Court grants a separate trial. This being the situation, we find no reason to deny the motion in
light of plaintiffs position that its claim as against Asian Bank is entirely separate and distinct from its
Commenting on the motion, Asian Bank sought the deferment of any action on the motion until it claims as against the original defendants, albeit dealing with the same subject matter. In fact, as
was first given the opportunity to test and assail the testimonial and documentary evidence the shown by the allegations of the Second Amended Complaint where Asian Bank was impleaded as a
Republic had already presented against the original defendants, and contended that it would be party defendant, the action against the latter is anchored on the claim that its acquisition of the
deprived of its day in court if a separate trial were to be held against it without having been subject properties was tainted with bad faith because of its actual or constructive knowledge that the
sufficiently apprised about the evidence the Republic had adduced before it was brought in as an said properties are subject of the present recovery suit at the time it acquired the certificates of title
9
additional defendant. covering the said properties in its name. Consequently, whether or not it is ultimately established
that the properties are ill-gotten wealth is of no actual significance to the incident pending
In its reply to Asian Banks comment, the Republic maintained that a separate trial for Asian Bank was consideration since the action against defendant bank is predicated not on the claim that it had
proper because its cause of action against Asian Bank was entirely distinct and independent from its knowledge of the ill-gotten wealth character of the properties in question but rather on whether or
cause of action against the original defendants; and that the issue with respect to Asian Bank was not it had knowledge, actual or constructive, of the fact that the properties it registered in its name
whether Asian Bank had actual or constructive knowledge at the time of the issuance of the TCTs for are the subject of the instant recovery suit. Besides, plaintiff already admits that the evidence it had
the properties in its name that such properties were the subject of the complaint in Civil Case No. presented as against the original defendants would not apply to defendant bank for the reason that
0004, while the issue as to the original defendants was whether they had "committed the acts there is no allegation in the second amended complaint imputing responsibility or participation on
complained of as constituting illegal or unlawful accumulation of wealth which would, as a the part of the said bank insofar as the issue of accumulation of wealth by the original defendants are
consequence, justify forfeiture of the said properties or the satisfaction from said properties of the concerned. Thus, there appears no basis for defendant banks apprehension that it would be
judgement that may be rendered in favor of the Republic."
10 deprived of its right to due process if its not given the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses
presented prior to its inclusion as party defendant in the case. To reiterate, the only issue insofar as
defendant bank is concerned is whether there is evidence to show that it acquired the titles to the Asian Bank should be given the opportunity to refute the Republics adverse evidence on the
sequestered properties in bad faith. allegedly illgotten nature of the properties.16

Neither are we inclined to sustain defendants bank argument that the Court cannot grant a separate With respect to the second issue, Metrobank submits thuswise:
trial in this case because it has no jurisdiction over the claim that defendant bank acquired the
properties in bad faith. Indeed, the issue of defendant banks acquisition of the properties in bad faith 8.02 x x x the Honorable Sandiganbayan failed to consider that Respondent Republic of the
is merely incidental to the main action which is for reversion, reconveyance, restitution, accounting Philippines claim for the recovery of the subject properties from Asian Bank Corporation is anchored
and damages. It is axiomatic that jurisdiction over the subject matter of a case is conferred by law mainly on its allegations that: a) the subject properties constitute ill-gotten wealth of the other
and is determined by the allegations in the complaint and the character of the relief sought, defendants in the instant civil case; and, b) Asian Bank Corporation acquired the subject properties in
irrespective of whether the plaintiff is entitled to all or some of the claims asserted therein (Russell v. bad faith and with due notice of the pendency of the ill-gotten wealth case. In other words, the
Vestil, 304 SCRA 738; Saura v. Saura, Jr., 313 SCRA 465).12 determination of the character of the subject properties as "ill-gotten wealth" is equally important
and relevant for Asian Bank Corporation as it is for the other defendants considering that the issue of
Asian Bank moved for the reconsideration of the resolution, but the Sandiganbayan denied its motion its alleged acquisition in bad faith of the subject properties is premised on Respondent Republic of
13
through the second assailed resolution issued on July 13, 2005. the Philippines claim that the subject properties form part of the ill-gotten wealth of the late
President Marcos and his cronies. Such being the case, Asian Bank Corporation is entitled as a matter
Hence, Metrobank commenced this special civil action for certiorari as the successor-in-interest of of right to contest whatever evidence was presented by Respondent Republic of the Philippines on
Asian Bank and transferee of the properties.14 these two (2) issues, specifically the character and nature of the subject properties.

Issues 8.03 It must be stressed that the discretion of the court to order a separate trial of such issues should
only be exercised where the issue ordered to be separately tried is so independent of the other issues
Metrobank contends that the Sandiganbayan committed grave abuse of discretion in ruling that: (1) that its trial will in no way involve the trial of the issues to be thereafter tried and where the
the Republic was entitled to a separate trial against Asian Bank; (2) the only issue as regards Asian determination of that issues will satisfactorily and with practical certainty dispose of the case, if
Bank was whether there was evidence that Asian Bank acquired the properties in bad faith; and decided for defendant. Considering that the issue on Asian Bank Corporations alleged acquisition in
bad faith of the subject properties is intimately related to the issue on the character and nature of
the subject properties as ill-gotten wealth of the other defendants in the instant civil case, there is
(3) the Sandiganbayan had jurisdiction over the issue of Asian Banks alleged bad faith in acquiring
absolutely no legal or factual basis for the holding of a separate trial against Asian Bank
the properties.15
Corporation.17
Anent the first issue, Metrobank states that the holding of a separate trial would deny it due process,
As to the third issue, Metrobank posits that Asian Bank acquired the properties long after they had
because Asian Bank was entitled to contest the evidence of the Republic against the original
been acquired by the original defendants supposedly through unlawful means; that the Republic
defendants prior to Asian Banks inclusion as an additional defendant; that Asian Bank (Metrobank)
admitted that the evidence adduced against the original defendants would not apply to Asian Bank
would be deprived of its day in court if a separate trial was held against it, considering that the
because the amended complaint in Civil Case No. 0004 did not impute any responsibility to Asian
Republic had already presented such evidence prior to its being impleaded as an additional
Bank for the accumulation of wealth by the original defendants, or did not allege that Asian Bank had
defendant; that such evidence would be hearsay unless Asian Bank (Metrobank) was afforded the
participated in such accumulation of wealth; that there was also no allegation or proof that Asian
opportunity to test and to object to the admissibility of the evidence; that because Asian Bank
Bank had been a business associate, dummy, nominee or agent of the Marcoses; that the inclusion of
disputed the allegedly ill-gotten character of the properties and denied any involvement in their
Asian Bank was not warranted under the law; that Asian Bank was a transferee in good faith and for
allegedly unlawful acquisition or any connivance with the original defendants in their acquisition,
valuable consideration; that the Sandiganbayan had no jurisdiction over civil cases against innocent
purchasers for value like Asian Bank that had no notice of the allegedly ill-gotten nature of the First and Second Issues:
properties; and that considering the admission of the Republic that the issue on the accumulation of Separate Trials are Improper
wealth by the original defendants did not at all concern Asian Bank, it follows that the Sandiganbayan
18
had no jurisdiction to pass judgment on the validity of Asian Banks ownership of the properties. The first and second issues, being interrelated, are jointly discussed and resolved.

In contrast, the Republic insists that the Rules of Court allowed separate trials if the issues or claims The rule on separate trials in civil actions is found in Section 2, Rule 31 of the Rules of Court, which
against several defendants were entirely distinct and separate, notwithstanding that the main claim reads:
against the original defendants and the issue against Asian Bank involved the same properties; that
the allegations in the case against Spouses Genito and the other original defendants pertained to the Section 2. Separate trials. The court, in furtherance of convenience or to avoid prejudice, may order
Republics claim that the properties listed in Annex A of the original complaint constituted ill-gotten a separate trial of any claim, cross-claim, counterclaim, or third-party complaint, or of any separate
wealth, resulting in the probable forfeiture of the listed properties should the Republic establish in issue or of any number of claims, cross-claims, counterclaims, third-party complaints or issues.
the end that such original defendants had illegally or unlawfully acquired such properties; that
although the Republic conceded that neither Asian Bank nor Metrobank had any participation
The text of the rule grants to the trial court the discretion to determine if a separate trial of any claim,
whatsoever in the commission of the illegal or unlawful acts, the only issue relevant to Metrobank
cross-claim, counterclaim, or third-party complaint, or of any separate issue or of any number of
being whether it had knowledge that the properties had been in custodia legis at the time of its
claims, cross-claims, counterclaims, third-party complaints or issues should be held, provided that the
acquisition of them to determine its allegation of being an innocent purchaser for valuable
exercise of such discretion is in furtherance of convenience or to avoid prejudice to any party.
consideration; that because the properties were situated in the heart of Quezon City, whose land
records had been destroyed by fire in 1998, resulting in the rampant proliferation of fake land titles,
The rule is almost identical with Rule 42(b) of the United States Federal Rules of Civil
Asian Bank should have acted with extra caution in ascertaining the validity of the mortgagors
certificates of title; and that the series of transactions involving the properties was made under Procedure (Federal Rules), a provision that governs separate trials in the United States Federal Courts
(US Federal Courts), viz:
dubious circumstances.19

Rule 42. Consolidation; Separate Trials.


The Republic posits that the Sandiganbayan had exclusive original jurisdiction over all cases involving
the recovery of ill-gotten wealth pursuant to Executive Orders No. 1, No. 2, No. 14 and No. 14-A
issued in 1986, laws encompassing the recovery of sequestered properties disposed of by the original xxxx
defendants while such properties remained in custodia legis and pending the final resolution of the
suit; and that the properties pertaining to Spouses Genito were among the properties placed under (b) Separate Trials. The court, in furtherance of convenience or to avoid prejudice, or when separate
the writs of sequestration issued by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), trials will be conducive to expedition and economy, may order a separate trial of any claim,
thereby effectively putting such properties in custodia legis and rendering them beyond disposition crossclaim, counterclaim, or third-party claim, or of any separate issue or of any number of claims,
except upon the prior approval of the Sandiganbayan. 20 crossclaims, counterclaims, third-party claims, or issues, always preserving the inviolate right of trial
by jury as declared by the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution or as given by a statute of the
Ruling United States.

The petition for certiorari is partly meritorious. The US Federal Courts have applied Rule 42(b) by using several principles and parameters whose
application in this jurisdiction may be warranted because our rule on separate trials has been
patterned after the original version of Rule 42(b).21 There is no obstacle to adopting such principles
The Sandiganbayan gravely abused its discretion in granting the Republics motion for separate trial,
and parameters as guides in the application of our own rule on separate trials. This is because,
but was correct in upholding its jurisdiction over the Republics claim against Asian Bank (Metrobank).
generally speaking, the Court has randomly accepted the practices in the US Courts in the elucidation
and application of our own rules of procedure that have themselves originated from or been inspired Rule 42 (b) provides that a court has discretion to order separate trials of claims "in furtherance of
by the practice and procedure in the Federal Courts and the various US State Courts. convenience or to avoid prejudice, or when separate trials will be conducive to expedition and
economy." FED. R. CIV. P.42 (b). Thus, the two primary factors to be considered in determining
22
In Bowers v. Navistar International Transport Corporation, we find the following explanation made whether to order separate trials are efficient judicial administration and potential prejudice.
by the US District Court for the Southern District of New York on the objectives of having separate Separation of issues for separate trials is "not the usual course that should be followed," McDaniel v.
trials, to wit: Anheuser-Bush, Inc., 987 F. 2d 298, 304 (5th Cir. 1993), and the burden is on the party seeking
separate trials to prove that separation is necessary. 9A CHARLES ALAN WRIGHT, ARTHUR R. MILLER
The aim and purpose of the Rule is aptly summarized in C. Wright and A Millers Federal Practice and & MARY KAY KANE, FEDERAL PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE 2388 (3d ed. 2001).
Procedure:
xxxx
The provision for separate trials in Rule 42 (b) is intended to further convenience, avoid delay and
24
prejudice, and serve the ends of justice. It is the interest of efficient judicial administration that is to Still, in Corrigan v. Methodist Hospital, the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
be controlling rather than the wishes of the parties. The piecemeal trial of separate issues in a single has cautioned against the unfettered granting of separate trials, thusly:
suit is not to be the usual course. It should be resorted to only in the exercise of informed discretion
when the court believes that separation will achieve the purposes of the rule. Courts order separate trials only when "clearly necessary." Wetherill v. University of Chicago, 565 F.
Supp. 1553, 1566-67 (N.D. Ill. 1983) (citing 5 James William Moore, Moores Federal Practice at pp.
xxxx 42-37 to 42-38 & n.4 (1982)). This is because a "single trial will generally lessen the delay, expense,
and inconvenience to the parties and the courts." 5 James William Moore, Moores Federal Practice P.
As explained recently by the Second Circuit in United v. Alcan Aluminum Corp., Nos. 92-6158, 6160 42-03[1], at p. 42-43 (1994); Laitram Corp. v. Hewlett-Packard Co., 791 F. Supp. 113, 115 (E.D. La.
1993 WL 100100, 1 (2d Cir., April 6, 1993), the purpose of separate trials under Rule 42 (b) is to 1992); Willemijn Houdstermaatschaapij BV. V. Apollo Computer, 707 F. Supp. 1429, 1433 (D. Del.
"isolate issues to be resolved, avoid lengthy and perhaps needless litigation . . . and to encourage 1989). The movant has the burden to show prejudice. Moore at p. 42-48.
settlement discussions and speed up remedial action." (citing, Amoco Oil v. Borden, Inc., 889 F.2d
664, 668 (5th Cir. 1989); Katsaros v. Cody, 744 F.2d 270, 278 (2d Cir.), cert. denied sub nom., 469 U.S. x x x A Colorado District Court found three factors to weigh in determining whether to order separate
1072, 105 S. Ct. 565, 83 L. Ed. 2d 506 (1984) (separate trials are proper to further convenience or to trials for separate defendants. These are 1) whether separate trials would further the convenience of
avoid prejudice); Ismail v. Cohen, 706 F. Supp. 243, 251 (S.D.N.Y. 1989) (quoting, United States v. the parties; 2) whether separate trials would promote judicial economy; and 3) whether separate
International Business Machines Corp., 60 F.R.D. 654, 657 (S.D.N.Y. 1973) (separate trials under Rule trials would avoid substantial prejudice to the parties.
42 (b) are appropriate, although not mandatory, to "(1) avoid prejudice; (2) provide for convenience,
or (3) expedite the proceedings and be economical.") Separate trials, however, remain the exception Tri-R Sys. V. Friedman & Son, 94 F.R.D. 726, 727 (D. Colo. 1982).
rather than the rule. See, e.g., Response of Carolina, Inc. v. Leasco Response, Inc., 537 F.2d 137 (5th
Cir. 1976) xxx (separation of issues is not the usual course under Rule 42 (b)). The moving party bears In Miller v. American Bonding Company,25 the US Supreme Court has delimited the holding of
the burden of establishing that separate trials are necessary to prevent prejudice or confusion and separate trials to only the exceptional instances where there were special and persuasive reasons for
serve the ends of justice. Buscemi v. Pepsico, Inc., 736 F. Supp. 1267, 1271 (S.D.N.Y. 1990). departing from the general practice of trying all issues in a case at only one time, stating:

In Divine Restoration Apostolic Church v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co.,23 the US District Court for In actions at law, the general practice is to try all the issues in a case at one time; and it is only in
the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division specified that separate trials remained the exception, exceptional instances where there are special and persuasive reasons for departing from this practice
and emphasized that the moving party had the burden to establish the necessity for the separation of that distinct causes of action asserted in the same case may be made the subjects of separate trials.
issues, viz: Whether this reasonably may be done in any particular instance rests largely in the courts discretion.
26
Further, Corpus Juris Secundum makes clear that neither party had an absolute right to have a original defendants, the properties would be thereby adjudged as ill-gotten and liable to forfeiture in
separate trial of an issue; hence, the motion to that effect should be allowed only to avoid prejudice, favor of the Republic without Metrobank being given the opportunity to rebut or explain its side. The
further convenience, promote justice, and give a fair trial to all parties, to wit: outcome would surely be prejudicial towards Metrobank.

Generally speaking, a lawsuit should not be tried piecemeal, or at least such a trial should be The representation by the Republic in its comment to the petition of Metrobank, that the latter
undertaken only with great caution and sparingly. There should be one full and comprehensive trial "merely seeks to be afforded the opportunity to confront the witnesses and documentary exhibits,"
covering all disputed matters, and parties cannot, as of right, have a trial divided. It is the policy of the and that it will "still be granted said right during the conduct of the separate trial, if proper grounds
28
law to limit the number of trials as far as possible, and are presented therefor," unfairly dismisses the objective possibility of leaving the opportunity to
confront the witnesses and documentary exhibits to be given to Metrobank in the separate trial as
separate trials are granted only in exceptional cases. Even under a statute permitting trials of already too late. The properties, though already registered in the name of Asian Bank, would be
separate issues, neither party has an absolute right to have a separate trial of an issue involved. The meanwhile declared liable to forfeiture in favor of the Republic, causing Metrobank to suffer the
trial of all issues together is especially appropriate in an action at law wherein the issues are not deprivation of its properties without due process of law. Only a joint trial with the original defendants
complicated, x x x, or where the issues are basically the same x x x could afford to Metrobank the equal and efficient opportunity to confront and to contest all the
evidence bearing on its ownership of the properties. Hence, the disadvantages that a separate trial
x x x Separate trials of issues should be ordered where such separation will avoid prejudice, further would cause to Metrobank would far outweigh any good or benefit that the Republic would
convenience, promote justice, and give a fair trial to all parties. seemingly stand to gain from the separation of trials.

Bearing in mind the foregoing principles and parameters defined by the relevant US case law, we We must safeguard Metrobanks right to be heard in the defense of its registered ownership of the
conclude that the Sandiganbayan committed grave abuse of its discretion in ordering a separate trial properties, for that is what our Constitution requires us to do. Hence, the grant by the Sandiganbayan
as to Asian Bank (Metrobank) on the ground that the issue against Asian Bank was distinct and of the Republics motion for separate trial, not being in furtherance of convenience or would not
separate from that against the original defendants. Thereby, the Sandiganbayan veered away from avoid prejudice to a party, and being even contrary to the Constitution, the law and jurisprudence,
the general rule of having all the issues in every case tried at one time, unreasonably shunting aside was arbitrary, and, therefore, a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction
29
the dictum in Corrigan, supra, that a "single trial will generally lessen the delay, expense, and on the part of the Sandiganbayan.
27
inconvenience to the parties and the courts."
Third Issue:
Exceptions to the general rule are permitted only when there are extraordinary grounds for Sandiganbayan has exclusive original jurisdiction
conducting separate trials on different issues raised in the same case, or when separate trials of the over the matter involving Metrobank
issues will avoid prejudice, or when separate trials of the issues will further convenience, or when
separate trials of the issues will promote justice, or when separate trials of the issues will give a fair Presidential Decree No. 1606,30 as amended by Republic Act No. 797531 and Republic Act No. 8249,32
trial to all parties. Otherwise, the general rule must apply. vests the Sandiganbayan with original exclusive jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases instituted
pursuant to and in connection with Executive Orders No. 1, No. 2, No. 14 and No. 14-A, issued in 1986
As we see it, however, the justification of the Sandiganbayan for allowing the separate trial did not by then President Corazon C. Aquino.
constitute a special or compelling reason like any of the exceptions. To begin with, the issue relevant
to Asian Bank was not complicated. In that context, the separate trial would not be in furtherance of Executive Order No. 1 refers to cases of recovery and sequestration of ill-gotten wealth amassed by
convenience. And, secondly, the cause of action against Asian Bank was necessarily connected with the Marcoses their relatives, subordinates, and close associates, directly or through nominees, by
the cause of action against the original defendants.1wphi1 Should the Sandiganbayan resolve the taking undue advantage of their public office and/or by using their powers, authority, influence,
issue against Spouses Genito in a separate trial on the basis of the evidence adduced against the connections or relationships. Executive Order No. 2 states that the ill-gotten wealth includes assets
and properties in the form of estates and real properties in the Philippines and abroad. Executive Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company in the same trial conducted against the original defendants in
Orders No. 14 and No. 14-A pertain to the Sandiganbayans jurisdiction over criminal and civil cases Civil Case No. 0004.
relative to the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses and their cronies.
The Court DECLARES that the Sandiganbayan has original exclusive jurisdiction over the amended
The amended complaint filed by the Republic to implead Asian Bank prays for reversion, complaint in Civil Case No. 0004 as against Asian Bank Corporation/Metropolitan Bank and Trust
reconveyance, reconstitution, accounting and damages. In other words, the Republic would recover Company.
ill-gotten wealth, by virtue of which the properties in question came under sequestration and are
33
now, for that reason, in custodia legis. No pronouncements on costs of suit.

Although the Republic has not imputed any responsibility to Asian Bank for the illegal accumulation of SO ORDERED.
wealth by the original defendants, or has not averred that Asian Bank was a business associate,
dummy, nominee, or agent of the Marcoses, the allegation in its amended complaint in Civil Case No.
0004 that Asian Bank acted with bad faith for ignoring the sequestration of the properties as ill-
gotten wealth has made the cause of action against Asian Bank incidental or necessarily connected to
the cause of action against the original defendants. Consequently, the Sandiganbayan has original
exclusive jurisdiction over the claim against Asian Bank, for the Court has ruled in Presidential
Commission on Good Government v. Sandiganbayan,34 that "the Sandiganbayan has original and
exclusive jurisdiction not only over principal causes of action involving recovery of ill-gotten wealth,
but also over all incidents arising from, incidental to, or related to such cases." The Court made a
similar pronouncement sustaining the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan in Republic of the Philippines
(PCGG) v. Sandiganbayan (First Division),35 to wit:

We cannot possibly sustain such a puerile stand. Pea itself already dealt with the matter when it
stated that under Section 2 of Executive Order No. 14, all cases of the Commission regarding alleged
illgotten properties of former President Marcos and his relatives, subordinates, cronies, nominees
and so forth, whether civil or criminal, are

lodged within the exclusive and original jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan, "and all incidents arising
from, incidental to, or related to such cases necessarily fall likewise under the Sandiganbayans
exclusive and original jurisdiction, subject to review on certiorari exclusively by the Supreme Court."

WHEREFORE, the Court PARTIALLY GRANTS the petition for certiorari.

Let the writ of certiorari issue: (a) ANNULLING AND SETTING ASIDE the Resolution dated June 25,
2004 and the Resolution dated July 13, 2005 issued by the Sandiganbayan in Civil Case No. 0004
granting the motion for separate trial of the Republic of the Philippines as to Metropolitan Bank and
Trust Company; and (b), DIRECTINGthe Sandiganbayan to hear Civil Case No. 0004 against