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G.R. NO. 152375, Dec.

13, 2011
Republic of the Phils. vs. Sandiganbayan, et. al.

A case was filed against the respondents for before the Sandiganbayan (SB) for reconveyance, reversion,
accounting, restitution, and damages in relation to the allegation that respondents illegally manipulated the
purchase of the major shareholdings of Cable and Wireless Limited in Eastern Telecommunications Philippines,
Inc. (ETPI). This case docketed as Civil Case No. 0009 spawned numerous incidental cases, among them, Civil
Case No. 0130, a petition instituted by Victor Africa (Son of the late Jose Africa) which sought to nullify the orders
of the PCGG directing him to account for the alleged sequestered shares in ETPI and to cease and desist from
exercising voting rights. The present respondents were not made parties either in Civil Case No. 0130. In the
former case, Victor Africa (Africa) was not impleaded in and so is plainly not a party thereto.

In the proceedings for Civil Case No. 0130, testimony of Mr. Maurice V. Bane (former director and treasurer-
in-trust of ETPI) was taken by way of deposition upon oral examination (Bane deposition) before Consul General
Ernesto Castro of the Philippine Embassy in London, England. The purpose was for Bane to identify and testify on
the facts set forth in his affidavit so as to prove the ownership issue in favor of the petitioner and/or establish the
prima facie factual foundation for sequestration of ETPI’s Class A stock.

As to Civil Case No. 009, the petitioner filed a motion (1 st Motion) to adopt the testimonies of the witnesses in
Civil Case No. 0130, including the deposition of Mr. Maurice Bane which was denied by SB in its April 1998
Resolution because he was not available for cross-examination. The petitioners did not in any way question the
1998 resolution, and instead made its Formal Offer of Evidence on December 14, 1999. Significantly, the Bane
deposition was not included as part of its offered exhibits. In rectifying this, they filed a second motion with prayer
for re-opening of the case for the purpose of introducing additional evidence and requested the court to take
judicial notice of the facts established by the Bane deposition. This was however denied by the SB in its
November 6, 2000 resolution (2000 resolution). A third motion was filed by the petitioners on November 16,
2001 seeking once more to admit the Bane deposition which the SB denied for the reason that the 1998 resolution
has become final in view of the petitioner’s failure to file a motion for reconsideration or appeal within the 15-day
reglementary period.

1. Whether the SB committed grave abuse of discretion in holding that the 1998 resolution has already attained
finality and in refusing to re-open the case.
2. Whether the Bane deposition is admissible under the rules of court and under the principle of judicial notice.

1. The court ruled that the SB’s ruling on the finality of its 1998 resolution was legally erroneous but did not
constitute grave abuse of discretion due to the absence of a clear showing that its action was a capricious
and whimsical exercise of judgment affecting its exercise of jurisdiction. The SB’s ruling, although an erroneous
legal conclusion was only an error of judgment, or, at best, an abuse of discretion but not a grave one.

The 1998 resolution is an interlocutory decision, thus petition for certiorari is still premature since the rules of
court provides that certiorari should be availed in a situation where neither an appeal nor any plain, speedy and
adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law is available to the aggrieved party except if such remedy is
inadequate or insufficient in relieving the aggrieved party of the injurious effects of the order complained of. At
the time of the 1st motion, the presentation of evidence has not yet concluded. The remedy after the denial of the
1st motion should have been for the petitioner to move for a reconsideration to assert and even clarify its position
on the admission of the Bane deposition. But upon denial of the 2nd motion, petitioners should have already
questioned it by way of certiorari since it effectively foreclosed all avenues available to it for the consideration of
the Bane deposition. Instead of doing so, however, the petitioner allowed the 60-day reglementary period, under
Section 4, Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, to lapse, and proceeded to file its 3rd motion.

However, the court ruled that the Sandiganbayan gravely abused its discretion in ultimately refusing to
reopen the case for the purpose of introducing and admitting in evidence the Bane deposition. The
Rules of Court does not prohibit a party from requesting the court to allow it to present additional evidence even
after it has rested its case provided that the evidence is rebuttal in character, whose necessity, for instance, arose
from the shifting of the burden of evidence from one party to the other; or where the evidence sought to be
presented is in the nature of newly discovered evidence. At the time the petitioner moved to re-open its case, the
respondents had not yet even presented their evidence in chief. The respondents, therefore, would not have been
prejudiced by allowing the petitioner’s introduction of the Bane deposition, which was concededly omitted
“through oversight.”

2. Despite the cases being closely related, admissibility of the Bane deposition still needs to
comply with the rules of court on the admissibility of testimonies or deposition taken in a
different proceeding. Depositions are not meant as substitute for the actual testimony in open court of a party
or witness. Generally, the deponent must be presented for oral examination in open court at the trial or hearing
otherwise, the adverse party may oppose it as mere hearsay. Cross-examination will test the truthfulness of the
statements of the witness; it is an essential safeguard of the accuracy and completeness of a testimony.
Depositions from the former trial may be introduced as evidence provided that the parties to the first proceeding
must be the same as the parties to the later proceeding. In the present case, the petitioner failed to establish the
identity of interest or privity between the opponents of the two cases. While Victor Africa is the son of the late
respondent Jose Africa, the deposition is admissible only against him as an ETPI stockholder who filed Civil Case
No. 0130.

Further, the rule of judicial notice is not applicable in this case as it would create confusion between the two
cases. It is the duty of the petitioner, as a party-litigant, to properly lay before the court the evidence it relies upon
in support of the relief it seeks, instead of imposing that same duty on the court.

The petition was DISMISSED for lack of merit.