G.R. No. 197122, June 15, 2016
INGRID SALA SANTAMARIA AND ASTRID SALA BOZA, Petitioners, v. THOMAS CLEARY, Respondent.
G.R. No. 197161
KATHRYN GO-PEREZ, Petitioner, v. THOMAS CLEARY, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
This case stems from a motion for court authorization to take deposition in Los Angeles by respondent Thomas Cleary, an American citizen and Los Angeles resident who filed a civil suit against petitioners Ingrid Sala Santamaria, Astrid Sala Boza, and Kathryn Go-Perez before the Regional Trial Court of Cebu.
We resolve whether a foreigner plaintiff residing abroad who chose to file a civil suit in the Philippines is allowed to take deposition abroad for his direct testimony on the ground that he is "out of the Philippines" pursuant to Rule 23, Section 4(c)(2) of the Rules of Court.
These two separate Petitions1 assail the Court of Appeals' (1) August 10, 2010 Decision2 that granted Thomas Cleary's (Cleary) Petition for Certiorari and reversed the trial court's Orders3 denying Cleary's Motion for Court Authorization to Take Deposition4 before the Consulate- General of the Philippines in Los Angeles; and (2) May 11, 2011 Resolution5 that denied reconsideration.
On January 10, 2002, Cleary, an American citizen with office address in California, filed a Complaint6 for specific performance and damages against Miranila Land Development Corporation, Manuel S. Go, Ingrid Sala Santamaria (Santamaria), Astrid Sala Boza (Boza), and Kathyrn Go-Perez (Go-Perez) before the Regional Trial Court of Cebu.
The Complaint involved shares of stock of Miranila Land Development Corporation, for which Cleary paid US$191,250.00.7 Cleary sued in accordance with the Stock Purchase and Put Agreement he entered into with Miranila Land Development Corporation, Manuel S. Go, Santamaria, Boza, and Go-Perez. Paragraph 9.02 of the Agreement provides:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Any suit, action or proceeding with respect to this Agreement may be brought in (a) the courts of the State of California, (b) the United States District Court for the Central District of California, or (c) the courts of the country of Corporation's incorporation, as Cleary may elect in his sole discretion, and the Parties hereby submit to any such suit, action proceeding or judgment and waives any other preferential jurisdiction by reason of domicile.8chanroblesvirtuallawlibraryCleary elected to file the case in Cebu.
As regards the taking of depositions, Rule 23, Section 1 is clear that the testimony of any person may be taken by deposition upon oral examination or written interrogatories at the instance of any party.
DEPOSITIONS PENDING ACTION
SECTION 1. Depositions pending action, when may be taken. - By leave of court after jurisdiction has been obtained over any defendant or over property which is the subject of the action, or without such leave after an answer has been served, the testimony of any person, whether a party or not, may be taken, at the instance of any party, by deposition upon oral examination or written interrogatories. The attendance of witnesses may be compelled by the use of a subpoena as provided in Rule 21. Depositions shall be taken only in accordance with these Rules. The deposition of a person confined in prison may be taken only by leave of court on such terms as the court prescribes. (Emphasis supplied)
SEC 4. Use of depositions. - At the trial or upon the hearing of a motion or an interlocutory proceeding, any part or all of a deposition, so far as admissible under the rules of evidence, may be used against any party who was present or represented at the taking of the deposition or who had due notice thereof, in accordance with any one of the following provisions:The difference between the taking of depositions and the use of depositions taken is apparent in Rule 23, which provides separate sections to govern them. Jurisprudence has also discussed the importance of this distinction and its implications:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary. . . .
(c) The deposition of a witness, whether or not a party, may be used by any party for any purpose if the court finds: (1) that the witness is dead; or (2) that the witness resides at distance more than one hundred (100) kilometers from the place of trial or hearing, or is out of the Philippines, unless it appears that his absence was procured by the party offering the deposition; or (3) that the witness is unable to attend or testify because of age, sickness, infirmity, or imprisonment; or (4) that the party offering the deposition has been unable to procure the attendance of the witness by subpoena; or (5) upon application and notice, that such exceptional circumstances exist as to make it desirable, in the interest of justice and with due regard to the importance of presenting the testimony of witnesses orally in open court, to allow the deposition to be used[.] (Emphasis supplied)
The availability of the proposed deponent to testify in court does not constitute "good cause" to justify the court's order that his deposition shall not be taken. That the witness is unable to attend or testify is one of the grounds when the deposition of a witness may be used in court during the trial. But the same reason cannot be successfully invoked to prohibit the taking of his deposition.The rules and jurisprudence support greater leeway in allowing the parties and their witnesses to be deposed in the interest of collecting information for the speedy and complete disposition of cases.
The right to take statements and the right to use them in court have been kept entirely distinct. The utmost freedom is allowed in taking depositions; restrictions are imposed upon their use. As a result, there is accorded the widest possible opportunity for knowledge by both parties of all the facts before the trial. Such of this testimony as may be appropriate for use as a substitute for viva voce examination may be introduced at the trial; the remainder of the testimony, having served its purpose in revealing the facts to the parties before trial, drops out of the judicial picture.
. . . [U]nder the concept adopted by the new Rules, the deposition serves the double function of a method of discovery — with use on trial not necessarily contemplated — and a method of presenting testimony. Accordingly, no limitations other than relevancy and privilege have been placed on the taking of depositions, while the use at the trial is subject to circumscriptions looking toward the use of oral testimony wherever practicable.72 (Emphasis supplied)
SEC. 16. Orders for the protection of parties and deponents. — After notice is served for taking a deposition by oral examination, upon motion seasonably made by any party or by the person to be examined and for good cause shown, the court in which the action is pending may make an order that the deposition shall not be taken, or that it may be taken only at some designated place other than that stated in the notice, or that it may be taken only on written interrogatories, or that certain matters shall not be inquired into, or that the scope of the examination shall be held with no one present except the parties to the action and their officers or counsel, or that after being sealed the deposition shall be opened only by order of the court, or that secret processes, developments, or research need not be disclosed, or that the parties shall simultaneously file specified documents or information enclosed in sealed envelopes to be opened as directed by the court or the court may make any other order which justice requires to protect the party or witness from annoyance, embarrassment, or oppression. (Emphasis supplied)The provision includes a full range of protective orders, from designating the place of deposition, limiting those in attendance, to imposing that it be taken through written interrogatories. At the extreme end of this spectrum would be a court order that completely denies the right to take deposition. This is what the trial court issued in this case.
The matter of good cause is to be determined by the court in the exercise of judicial discretion. Good cause means a substantial reason—one that affords a legal excuse. Whether or not substantial reasons exist is for the court to determine, as there is no hard and fast rule for determining the question as to what is meant by the term "for good cause shown."Thus, we consider the trial court's explanation for its denial of respondent's Motion for Court Authorization to Take Deposition. The trial court's Order was based on two (2) premises: first, that respondent should submit himself to our court processes since he elected to seek judicial relief with our courts; and second, that respondent is not suffering from any impairment and it is best that he appear before our courts considering he is the plaintiff himself.77chanrobleslaw
The requirement, however, that good cause be shown for a protective order puts the burden on the party seeking relief to show some plainly adequate reasons for the order. A particular and specific demonstration of facts, as distinguished from conclusory statements, is required to establish good cause for the issuance of a protective order. What constitutes good cause furthermore depends upon the kind of protective order that is sought.
In light of the general philosophy of full discovery of relevant facts and the board statement of scope in Rule 24, and in view of the power of the court under Sections 16 and 18 of said Rule to control the details of time, place, scope, and financing for the protection of the deponents and parties, it is fairly rare that it will be ordered that a deposition should not be taken at all. All motions under these subparagraphs of the rule must be supported by "good cause" and a strong showing is required before a party will be denied entirely the right to take a deposition. A mere allegation, without proof, that the deposition is being taken in bad faith is not a sufficient ground for such an order. Neither is an allegation that it will subject the party to a penalty or forfeiture. The mere fact that the information sought by deposition has already been obtained through a bill of particulars, interrogatories, or other depositions will not suffice, although if it is entirely repetitious a deposition may be forbidden. The allegation that the deponent knows nothing about the matters involved does not justify prohibiting the taking of a deposition, nor that whatever the witness knows is protected by the "work product doctrine," nor that privileged information or trade secrets will be sought in the course of the examination, nor that all the transactions were either conducted or confirmed in writing.76 (Emphasis supplied, citations omitted)
The Rules of Court and jurisprudence, however, do not restrict a deposition to the sole function of being a mode of discovery before trial. Under certain conditions and for certain limited purposes, it may be taken even after trial has commenced and may be used without the deponent being actually called to the witness stand. In Dasmariñas Garments v. Reyes, we allowed the taking of the witnesses' testimonies through deposition, in lieu of their actual presence at the trial.Petitioners rely on Northwest in that absent any compelling or valid reason, the witness must personally testify in open court.91 They add that the more recent Republic v. Sandiganbayan92 reiterated the rulings in Northwest,93 specifically, that Northwest emphasized that the "court should always see to it that the safeguards for the protection of the parties and deponents are firmly maintained."94 Moreover, "[w]here the deposition is taken not for discovery purposes, but to accommodate the deponent, then the deposition should be rejected in evidence."95Northwest and Republic are not on all fours with this case.
Thus, "[d]epositions may be taken at any time after the institution of any action, whenever necessary or convenient. There is no rule that limits deposition-taking only to the period of pre-trial or before it; no prohibition against the taking of depositions after pre-trial." There can be no valid objection to allowing them during the process of executing final and executory judgments, when the material issues of fact have become numerous or complicated.
In keeping with the principle of promoting the just, speedy and inexpensive disposition of every action and proceeding, depositions are allowed as a "departure from the accepted and usual judicial proceedings of examining witnesses in open court where their demeanor could be observed by the trial judge." Depositions are allowed, provided they are taken in accordance with the provisions of the Rules of Court (that is, with leave of court if the summons have been served, without leave of court if an answer has been submitted); and provided, further, that a circumstance for their admissibility exists.
. . . .
When a deposition does not conform to the essential requirements of law and may reasonably cause material injury to the adverse party, its taking should not be allowed. This was the primary concern in Northwest Airlines v. Cruz. In that case, the ends of justice would be better served if the witness was to be brought to the trial court to testify. The locus of the oral deposition therein was not within the reach of ordinary citizens, as there were time constraints; and the trip required a travel visa, bookings, and a substantial travel fare. In People v. Webb, the taking of depositions was unnecessary, since the trial court had already admitted the Exhibits on which the witnesses would have testified. (Emphasis supplied)90chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
SEC. 6. Objections to admissibility. - Subject to the provisions of section 29 of this Rule, objection may be made at the trial or hearing to receiving in evidence any deposition or part thereof for any reason which would require the exclusion of the evidence if the witness were then present and testifying.As regards weight of evidence, "the admissibility of the deposition does not preclude the determination of its probative value at the appropriate time."104 In resorting to depositions, respondent takes the risk of not being able to fully prove his case.
. . . .
SEC. 29. Effect of errors and irregularities in depositions. . . .
. . . .
(c) As to competency and relevancy of evidence. — Objections to the competency of a witness or the competency, relevancy [sic], or materiality of testimony are not waived by failure to make them before or during the taking of the deposition, unless the ground of the objection is one which might have been obviated or removed if presented at that time[.]
1 Both Petitions were filed pursuant to Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.
2Rollo (G.R. No. 197122), pp. 19-24. The Decision was penned by Associate Justice Edwin D. Sorongon and concurred in by Executive Justice Portia A. Hormachuelos and Associate Justice Socorro B. Inting of the Eighteenth Division, Court of Appeals, Cebu City.
3 Id. at 97-98 and 124-125.
4 Id. at 84-87.
5 Id. at 25-26. The Resolution was penned by Executive Justice Portia Aliño-Hormachuelos (Chair) and concurred in by Associate Justices Myra V. Garcia-Fernandez and Nina G. Antonio-Valenzuela of the Eighteenth Division, Court of Appeals, Cebu City.
6 Id. at 27-34; rollo (G.R. No. 197161), pp. 47-54. A copy of the Complaint is attached as Annex C of both Petitions. The civil case entitled Thomas Cleary v. Miranila Land Development Corporation, et al. was docketed as Civil Case No. CEB-27296.
7Rollo (G.R. No. 197161), p. 51, Complaint.
8 Id. at 68, Stock Purchase and Put Agreement.
9 Santamaria filed an Answer with Compulsory Counterclaims on July 21, 2006 (rollo (G.R. No. 197122), p. 60), Boza on March 27, 2007 (Id. at 72), and Go-Perez on June 6, 2002 (rollo (G.R. No. 197161), p. 80).
10Rollo (G.R. No. 197161), p. 84, Pre-trial Brief.
11 Id. at 100, Annex F of Petition.
13Rollo (G.R. No. 197122), pp. 84-87, Annex F of Petition.
14 Id. at 6, Petition; rollo (G.R. No. 197161), p. 17, Petition.
15Rollo (G.R. No. 197122), pp. 88-90, Santamaria and Boza's Opposition.
16 Id. at 88.
17 Id. at 89.
18 Id. at 91-96, Go-Perez's Opposition.
19 Id. at 91.
20 Id. at 94.
21 Id. at 92-93.
22Rollo, (G.R. No. 197161), pp. 125-126. The Order was penned by Presiding Judge Estela Alma A. Singco of Branch 12 of the Regional Trial Court, Cebu.
23 Id. at 126.
24 Id. at 146-147.
25cralawred Rollo (G.R. No. 197122), pp. 19-24.
26 Id. at 21-22.
27 Id. at 25-26.
28 Id. at 252, Santamaria and Boza's Memorandum.
29 RULES OF COURT, Rule 23, sec. 16 provides:
chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrarySEC. 16. Orders for the protection of parties and deponents. — After notice is served for taking a deposition by oral examination, upon motion seasonably made by any party or by the person to be examined and for good cause shown, the court in which the action is pending may make an order that the deposition shall not be taken, or that it may be taken only at some designated place other than that stated in the notice, or that it may be taken only on written interrogatories, or that certain matters shall not be inquired into, or that the scope of the examination shall be held with no one present except the parties to the action and their officers or counsel, or that after being sealed the deposition shall be opened only by order of the court, or that secret processes, developments, or research need not be disclosed, or that the parties shall simultaneously file specified documents or information enclosed in sealed envelopes to be opened as directed by the court or the court may make any other order which justice requires to protect the party or witness from annoyance, embarrassment, or oppression. (16a, R24)
30Rollo (G.R. No. 197122), p. 252.
31 376 Phil. 96 (1999) [Per J. Kapunan, First Division].
32Rollo (G.R. No. 197122), p. 253.
33 Id. at 254.
34 Id. at 255.
36 Id. at 256.
37 Id. at 257.
38 Id. at 256-257.
39 Id. at 270-275, Go-Perez's Memorandum.
40 527 Phil. 685 (2006) [Per J. Corona, Second Division].
41 667 Phil. 474 (2011) [Per J. Velasco, Jr., First Division].
42Rollo (G.R. No. 197122), pp. 272-273.
44 371 Phil. 491 (1999) [Per J. Ynares-Santiago, First Division].
45 Id. at 273-274.
46Rollo (G.R. No. 197122), pp. 273-274.
47 Id. at 275.
48 Id. at 277.
49 Id. at 278.
50 Id. at 279.
51 Id. at 281.
52 Id. at 232-233, Cleary's Memorandum.
53 Id. at 233.
54 G.R. No. 108229, August 24, 1993, 225 SCRA 622, 629-632 [Per C J. Narvasa, Second Division].
55 571 Phil. 51, 69-71 (2008) [Per J. Austria-Martinez, Third Division].
56Rollo (G.R. No. 197122), p. 233, Go-Perez's Memorandum.
58 Id. at 236, citing Dasmariñas Garments v. Reyes, G.R. No. 108229, August 24, 1993, 225 SCRA 622, 632 [Per C.J. Narvasa, Second Division].
60 Id. at 237.
62 Id. at 238.
63 Id. at 237.
64 Id. at 239.
66 Id. at 240.
67 Id. at 241.
68See Fortune Corp. v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 108119, January 19, 1994, 229 SCRA 355, 376 [Per J Regalado, Second Division].
69San Luis v. Rojas, 571 Phil. 51, 65 (2008) [Per J. Austria-Martinez, Third Division].
71Dasmariñas Garments v. Reyes, G.R. No. 108229, August 24, 1993, 225 SCRA 622, 630 [Per C.J. Narvasa, Second Division].
72Hyatt Industrial v. Ley Construction, 519 Phil. 272, 288-289 (2006) [Per J. Austria-Martinez, First Division], citing Fortune Corporation v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 108119, January 19, 1994, 229 SCRA 355, 376-377 [Per J. Regalado, Second Division].
73Rollo (G.R. No. 197122), p. 252, Santamaria and Boza's Memorandum.
74Fortune Corp. v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 108119, January 19, 1994, 229 SCRA 355, 368 [Per J. Regalado, Second Division]. Fortune cites Lopez v. Maceren, 95 Phil. 753, 756-757 (1954) [Per J. Concepcion, En Banc] on the objectives of Rule 24 (then Rule 18), sec. 16:
chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary"Referring to the objective of Section 16 of then Rule 18 (now Rule 24) of the Rules of Court, former Chief Justice Manuel V. Moran had these comments:
chanRoblesvirtualLawlibraryThe advisory committee of the United States Supreme Court said that this provision is intended to be one of the safeguards for the protection of the parties and deponents on account of the unrestricted right to discovery given by sections 1 and 2 of this Rule. A party may take the deposition of a witness who knows nothing about the case, with the only purpose of annoying him or wasting the time of the other parties. In such case, the court may, on motion, order that the deposition shall not be taken. Or, a party may designate a distinct place for the taking of a deposition, and the adverse party may not have sufficient means to reach that place, because of poverty or otherwise, in which case the court, on motion, may order that the deposition be taken at another place, or that it be taken by written interrogatories. The party serving the notice may wish to inquire into matters the disclosure of which may be oppressive or embarrassing to the deponent, especially if the disclosure is to be made in the presence of third persons, or, the party serving the notice may attempt to inquire into matters which are absolutely private of the deponent, the disclosure of which may affect his interests and is not absolutely essential to the determination of the issues involved in the case. Under such circumstances, the court, on motion, may order 'that certain matter shall not be inquired into or that the scope of the examination shall be limited to certain matters, or that the examination shall be held with no one present except the parties to the action and their officers or counsel, or that after being sealed the deposition shall be opened only by order of the court, or that secret processes, developments, or research need not be disclosed, or that the parties shall simultaneously file specific documents or informations enclosed in sealed envelopes to be opened as directed by the court.' In other words, this provision affords the adverse party, as well as the deponent, sufficient protection against abuses that may be committed by a party in the exercise of his unlimited right to discovery. As a writer said: 'Any discovery involves a prying into another person's affairs, a prying that is quite justified if it is to be a legitimate aid to litigation, but not justified if it is not to be such an aid.' For this reason, courts are given ample powers to forbid discovery which is intended not as an aid to litigation, but merely to annoy, embarrass or oppress either the deponent or the adverse party, or both" (Id. at 368-369; Emphasis supplied).
75 G.R. No. 108119, January 19, 1994, 229 SCRA 355 [Per J. Regalado, Second Division].
76 Id. at 371-372.
77Rollo (G.R. No. 197122), p. 98, Regional Trial Court Order states:
chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary"As correctly pointed out by the defendants, as plaintiff elected to seek judicial relief in the Philippines, he should submit himself to the processes and procedures as provided by the Rules of Court. As the supposed deponent is the plaintiff himself who is not suffering from any impairment, physical or otherwise, it would be best for him to appear in court and testify under oath, and have a fair contest with the basic issues and facts disclosed to the fullest practicable extent."
78 Id. at 256, Santamaria and Boza's Memorandum.
79 Id. at 255.
80Rollo (G.R. No. 197161), p. 68, Stock Purchase and Put Agreement.
81Rollo (G.R. No. 197122), pp. 84-87.
82Fortune Corp. v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 108119, January 19, 1994, 229 SCRA 355, 377 [Per J. Regalado, Second Division], citing Lopez v. Maceren, 95 Phil. 753 (1954) [Per J. Concepcion, En Banc].
83 RULES OF COURT, Rule 23, sec. 25 provides:
chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrarySEC. 25. Deposition upon written interrogatories; service of notice and of interrogatories. - A party desiring to take the deposition of any person upon written interrogatories shall serve them upon every other party with a notice stating the name and address of the person who is to answer them and the name or descriptive title and address of the officer before whom the deposition is to be taken. Within ten (10) days thereafter, a party so served may serve cross-interrogatories upon the party proposing to take the deposition. Within five (5) days thereafter, the latter may serve re-direct interrogatories upon a party who has served cross-interrogatories. Within three (3) days after being served with re-direct interrogatories, a party may serve recross-interrogatories upon the party proposing to take the deposition.
84Rollo (G.R. No. 197122), p. 22, Court of Appeals Decision.
85 Id. at 84.
86 Id. at 255, Santamaria and Boza's Memorandum.
87 Id. at 278, Go-Perez's Memorandum, citing Northwest Airlines, Inc. v. Cruz, 376 Phil. 96, 112 (1999) [Per J. Kapunan, First Division].
88Fortune Corporation v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 108119, January 19, 1994, 229 SCRA 355, 377 [Per J. Regalado, Second Division].
89 480 Phil. 236 (2004) [Per J. Panganiban, Third Division].
90 Id. at 254-256, citing Dasmariñas Garments v. Reyes, G.R. No. 108229, August 24, 1993, 225 SCRA 622, 634-635 [Per CJ. Narvasa, Second Division]; East Asiatic Co., Ltd., v. CIR, 148-B Phil. 401, 425 (1971) [Per J. Barredo, En Banc]; Northwest Airlines, Inc. v. Cruz, 376 Phil. 96, 111 (1999) [Per J. Kapunan, First Division]; Lopez v. Maceren, 95 Phil. 753, 756 (1954) [Per J. Concepcion, En Banc]; People v. Webb, 371 Phil. 491 (1999) [Per J. Ynares-Santiago, First Division]; RULES OF COURT, Rule 1, sec. 6; Rule 23, sec. 4; Rule 134.
91Rollo (G.R. No. 197122), p. 278.
92 678 Phil. 358 (2011) [Per J. Brion, En Banc].
93Rollo (G.R. No. 197122), p. 280.
94Northwest Airlines, Inc. v. Cruz, 376 Phil. 96, 111 (1999) [Per J. Kapunan, First Division].
95Republic v. Sandiganbayan, 678 Phil. 358, 415 (2011) [Per J. Brion, En Banc].
96Northwest Airlines, Inc. v. Cruz, 376 Phil. 96, 102 (1999) [Per J. Kapunan, First Division].
97 Id. at 113.
98 Id. at 102.
99 Id. at 113.
100Rollo (G.R. No. 197122), p. 257.
101Republic v. Sandiganbayan, 678 Phil. 358, 408-414 (2011) [Per J. Brion, En Banc].
102 Id. at 414-416.
103Ayala Land Inc. v. Tagle, 504 Phil. 94, 103-104 (2005) [Per J. Chico-Nazario, Second Division], citing Permanent Savings and Loan Bank v. Velarde, 482 Phil. 193, 202-203 (2004) [Per J. Austria-Martinez, Second Division]; PNOC Shipping and Transport Corporation v. Court of Appeals, 358 Phil. 38, 60 (1998) [Per J. Romero, Third Division]; De la Torre v. Court of Appeals, 355 Phil. 628, 641 (1998) [Per J. Mendoza, Second Division].
104 Id. at 103.