HARRY L. GO, TONNY NGO, JERRY NGO AND JANE GO, Petitioners, vs. THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES and HIGHDONE COMPANY, LTD., ET AL., Resondents. G.R. No. !"##$% J&'( !", $)!$ FACTS* Petitioners were charged with Other Deceits under Art 318 of RPC before MTC Manila. They leaded not guilty! trial dates were ostoned due to the una"ailability of ri"ate co#lainant $i $uen Ping! a frail old business#an fro# $aos! Ca#bodia. The Prosecution filed a Motion to Ta%e Oral Deosition of $i $uen Ping! alleging that he was being treated for lung infection at the Ca#bodia Charity &osital in $aos! Ca#bodia and that! uon doctor's ad"ice! he could not #a%e the long tra"el to the Philiines by reason of ill health. Petitioners oosed. MTC granted said Motion( denied ensuing MR. Petitioners! filed a Rule )* before RTC Manila RTC granted the etition( declared the MTC Order null and "oid( denied ensuing Motion for Reconsideration +ection 1,! Rule -3 on the ta%ing of deositions of witnesses in ci"il cases cannot aly suletorily to the case since there is a secific ro"ision in the Rules of Court with resect to the ta%ing of deositions of rosecution witnesses in cri#inal cases! which is ri#arily ri#aril y intended to safeguard the constitutional rights of the accused to #eet the witness against hi# face to face. Prosecution! ele"ated to CA. CA re"ersed RTC no gra"e abuse of discretion can be i#uted uon the MeTC for allowing the deosition ta%ing of the co#laining witness $i $uen Ping because no rule of rocedure e/ressly disallows the ta%ing of deositions in cri#inal cases and that! in any case! etitioners would still ha"e e"ery oortunity to crosse/a#ine crosse/a#i ne the co#laining witness and #a%e ti#ely ob0ections during the ta%ing of the oral deosition either through counsel or through the consular officer who would be ta%ing the deosition of the witness.
ISS+ES* 1. s allowing the deosition deosition of ri"ate co#lainant co#lainant tanta#ou tanta#ount nt to a "iolation "iolation of etitioners2 etitioners2 rights to ublic trial and to confront the witnesses face to face 45+. HELD* The rocedure for ta%ing deositions in cri#inal cases recogni6es the rosecution's right to reser"e testi#onial e"idence and ro"e its case desite the una"ailability of its witness. t cannot! howe"er! gi"e license to rosecutorial indifference or unsee#ly in"ol"e#ent in a rosecution witness' absence fro# trial. To rule otherwise would effecti"ely deri"e the accused of his funda#ental right to be confronted with the witnesses against hi#.
The Procedure for Testi#onial 5/a#ination of an 7na"ailable Prosecution itness is Co"ered 7nder +ection 1*! Rule 119. The e/a#ination of witnesses #ust be done orally before a 0udge in oen court.13 This is true esecially in cri#inal cases where the Constitution secures to the accused his right to a ublic trial and to #eet the witnessess against hi# face to face. The re:uire#ent is the ;safest and #ost satisfactory #ethod of in"estigating facts; as it enables the 0udge to test the witness' credibility through his #anner and deort#ent while testifying.1< t is not without e/cetions! howe"er! as the Rules of Court recogni6es the conditional e/a#ination of witnesses and the use of their deositions as testi#onial e"idence in lieu of direct court testi#ony. 5"en in cri#inal roceedings! there is no doubt as to the a"ailability of conditional e/a#ination of witnesses = both for the benefit of the defense! as well as the rosecution. The Court's ruling in the case of >da. de Manguerra ". Risos1* e/licitly states that = o ;/ / / As e/cetions! Rule -3 to -8 of the Rules of Court ro"ide for the different #odes of disco"ery that #ay be resorted to by a arty to an action. These rules are adoted either to eretuate the testi#onies of witnesses or as #odes of disco"ery. n cri#inal roceedings! +ections 1-! 13 and 1*! Rule 119 of the Re"ised Rules of Cri#inal Procedure! which too% effect on Dece#ber 1! -???! allow the conditional e/a#ination of both the defense and rosecution witnesses.; @7nderscoring sulied The rocedure under Rule -3 to -8 of the Rules of Court allows the ta%ing of deositions in ci"il cases! either uon oral e/a#ination or written interrogatories! before any 0udge! notary ublic or erson authori6ed to ad#inister oaths at any ti#e or lace within the Philiines( or before any Philiine consular official! co##issioned officer or erson authori6ed to ad#inister oaths in a foreign state or country! with no additional re:uire#ent e/cet reasonable notice in writing to the other arty. But for uroses of ta%ing the deosition in cri#inal cases! #ore articularly of a rosecution witness who would forseeably be una"ailable for trial! the testi#onial e/a#ination should be #ade before the court! or at least before the 0udge! where the case is ending as re:uired by the clear #andate of +ection 1*! Rule 119 of the Re"ised Rules of Cri#inal Procedure. The ertinent ro"ision reads thus +5C. 1*. 5/a#ination of witness for the rosecution. = hen it satisfactorily aears that a witness for the rosecution is too sic% or infir# to aear at the trial as directed by the court! or has to lea"e the Philiines with no definite date of returning! he #ay forthwith be conditionally e/a#ined before the court where the case is ending. +uch e/a#ination! in the resence of the accused! or in his absence after reasonable notice to attend the e/a#ination has been ser"ed on hi# shall be conducted in the sa#e #anner as an e/a#ination at the trial. ailure or refusal of the accused to attend the e/a#ination after notice shall be considered a wai"er. The state#ent ta%en #ay be ad#itted in behalf of or against the accused. +ince the conditional e/a#ination of a rosecution witness #ust ta%e lace at no other lace than the court where the case is ending! the RTC roerly nullified the MeTC's orders granting the #otion to ta%e the deosition of $i $uen Ping before the Philiine consular official in $aos! Ca#bodia. e :uote with aro"al the RTC's ratiocination in this wise
The condition of the ri"ate co#lainant being sic% and of ad"anced age falls within the ro"ision of +ection 1* Rule 119 of the Rules of Court. &owe"er! said rule substantially ro"ides that he should be conditionally e/a#ined before the court where the case is ending. Thus! this Court concludes that the language of +ection 1* Rule 119 #ust be interreted to re:uire the arties to resent testi#ony at the hearing through li"e witnesses! whose de#eanor and credibility can be e"aluated by the 0udge residing at the hearing! rather than by #eans of deosition. Eo where in the said rule er#its the ta%ing of deosition outside the Philiines whether the deonent is sic% or not.18 @7nderscoring sulied Certainly! to ta%e the deosition of the rosecution witness elsewhere and not before the "ery sa#e court where the case is ending would not only deri"e a detained accused of his right to attend the roceedings but also deri"e the trial 0udge of the oortunity to obser"e the rosecution witness' deort#ent and roerly assess his credibility! which is esecially intolerable when the witness' testi#ony is crucial to the rosecution's case against the accused. This is the i#ort of the Court's ruling in >da. de Manguerra19 where we further declared that = hile we recogni6e the rosecution's right to reser"e the testi#ony of its witness in order to ro"e its case! we cannot disregard the rules which are designed #ainly for the rotection of the accused's constitutional rights. The gi"ing of testi#ony during trial is the general rule. The conditional e/a#ination of a witness outside of the trial is only an e/cetion! and as such! calls for a strict construction of the rules. t is argued that since the Rules of Ci"il Procedure is #ade e/licitly alicable in all cases! both ci"il and cri#inal as well as secial roceedings! the deositionta%ing before a Philiine consular official under Rule -3 should be dee#ed allowable also under the circu#stances. &owe"er! the suggested suletory alication of Rule -3 in the testi#onial e/a#ination of an una"ailable rosecution witness has been categorically ruled out by the Court in the sa#e case of >da. de Manguerra! as follows t is true that +ection 3! Rule 1 of the Rules of Court ro"ides that the rules of ci"il rocedure aly to all actions! ci"il or cri#inal! and secial roceedings. n effect! it says that the rules of ci"il rocedure ha"e suletory alication to cri#inal cases. &owe"er! it is li%ewise true that cri#inal roceedings are ri#arily go"erned by the Re"ised Rules of Cri#inal Procedure. Considering that Rule 119 ade:uately and s:uarely co"ers the situation in the instant case! we find no cogent reason to aly Rule -3 suletorily or otherwise.; The Conditional 5/a#ination of a Prosecution itness Cannot Defeat the Rights of the Accused to Public Trial and Confrontation of itnesses The CA too% a si#listic "iew on the use of deositions in cri#inal cases and o"erloo%ed funda#ental considerations no less than the Constitution secures to the accused! i.e.! the right to a ublic trial and the right to confrontation of witnesses. +ection 1