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28 Jan 2000 | Ynares-Santiago, J. | Petition for review | Conejero

PETITIONER: Jeffrey Liang (Huafeng)

RESPONDENT: People of the Philippines
SUMMARY: Liang accused his co-worker of theft and was charged with two counts of slander. The DFA sent an “office of protocol”
communication saying that Liang was covered by immunity under the Headquarters Agreement between the ADB and the PH
government. The MeTC judge dismissed the two charges, but the RTC reversed the MeTC and ordered Liang’s arrest. Liang appeals
to the SC for his acquittal but the SC dismissed, saying that the DFA communication was not binding regarding his immunity.
DOCTRINE: Slandering a person could not possibly be covered by the Headquarters Agreement or even the Vienna Convention on
Diplomatic Relations because the commission of a crime is not part of official functions which are covered by relative immunity.

1. Liang is an economist working with the Asian as it is of the prosecution.

Development Bank (ADB). Sometime in 1994, for
allegedly uttering defamatory words and accusations 2. Whether Liang is a diplomatic agent entitled to
of theft against fellow ADB worker Joyce Cabal, he absolute immunity—NO.
was charged before the MeTC of Mandaluyong City  Section 45(a) of the ADB Headquarters
with two counts of grave oral defamation and was Agreement1 does not provide absolute immunity,
arrested. After fixing petitioners bail at P2,400.00 per but only for acts done in "official capacity".
criminal charge, the MeTC released him to the custody Slandering a person could not possibly be covered
of the Security Officer of ADB. by the immunity agreement because our laws do
2. The next day, the MeTC judge received an "office of not allow the commission of a crime, such as an
protocol" from the Department of Foreign Affairs ultra vires imputation of theft, for official duty. A
(DFA) stating that Liang is covered by immunity from public official may be liable in his personal
legal process under Section 45 of the Agreement private capacity for whatever damage he may
between the ADB and the Philippine Government have caused by his act done with malice or in bad
regarding the Headquarters of the ADB in the country. faith or beyond his authority or jurisdiction.
3. Based on the said protocol communication that  Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic
petitioner is immune from suit, the MeTC judge Relations, a diplomatic agent enjoys immunity
without notice to the prosecution dismissed the two from criminal jurisdiction of the receiving state
criminal cases. except in the case of an action relating to
4. When its MR was denied, the prosecution filed a professional or commercial activity exercised by
petition for certiorari and mandamus with the RTC the agent in the receiving state outside his official
Pasig which set aside the MeTC rulings and ordered functions. Crime is not such a function.
the latter court to enforce its earlier warrant of arrest. 3. Whether the lack of preliminary investigation is a
5. After his MR was denied, Liang elevated the case to ground for dismissal of the case—NO. Preliminary
this Court via a petition for review. investigation is not a matter of right in cases cognizable
by the MeTC as it is a purely statutory right invoked only
DISPOSITIVE: Petition denied. when specifically granted by law. Besides, the absence of
preliminary investigation does not affect the courts
ISSUES/RATIO: jurisdiction nor does it impair the validity of the
1. Whether the DFA “office of protocol” stating Liang’s information or otherwise render it defective.
immunity warrants his acquittal—NO.
 The DFAs determination of immunity is only
preliminary which has no binding effect in courts.
Evidentiary basis is needed to show in what
capacity Liang was acting at the time of the
alleged utterances. In any case, mere invocation
of the immunity clause does not ipso facto result
in dropping of charges.
 In receiving ex-parte the DFAs advice and in
motu proprio dismissing the two criminal cases
without notice to the prosecution, the latters right
to due process was violated. It should be noted
that due process is a right of the accused as much

1. "Officers and staff of the Bank including for the purpose of this Article with respect to acts performed by them in their official capacity except when
experts and consultants performing missions for the Bank shall enjoy the the Bank waives the immunity."
following privileges and immunities: a.).......immunity from legal process