People v. Invencion y Soriano, G.R. No. 131636, March 5, 2003

Facts: Elven Invencion, an 8-year-old grade two pupil of Sapang Tagalog Elementary School in Tarlac, Tarlac, testified that he is a half-brother of Cynthia and son of Artemio with his second common-law wife. Sometime before the end of the school year in 1996, while he was sleeping in one room with his father Artemio, Cynthia, and two other younger brothers, he was awakened by Cynthias loud cries. Looking towards her, he saw his father on top of Cynthia, doing a pumping motion. After about two minutes, his father put on his short pants. Elven further declared that Artemio was a very strict and cruel father and a drunkard. Eddie Sucat also testified to what Elven had seen. Gloria Pagala, the mother of Cynthia and former common-law wife of Artemio, testified that she and Artemio started living together in Guimba, Nueva Ecija. And out of the relationship, it bore them 6 kids. One of her son Novelito told her that Cynthia was pregnant. Gloria then went to the house of Artemio and asked Cynthia about her condition. The latter confessed that she had been sexually abused by her father. Gloria then went to the office of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Tarlac and reported what Artemio had done to their daughter Cynthia. Dr. Rosario Fider of Tarlac Provincial Hospital testified that she examined Cynthia on 16 September 1996. She found Cynthia to be five to six months pregnant and to have incomplete, healed hymenal lacerations at 3, 5, 8 oclock positions, which could have been caused by sexual intercourse or any foreign body inserted in her private part. Atty. Florencio Canlas, an NBI agent, testified that on 18 September 1996, Cynthia, accompanied by her mother, complained before him and NBI Supervising Agent Rolando Vergara that she was raped by her father Artemio. She then executed a written statement. The defense did not present Artemio as a witness. Instead, his counsel de parte, Atty. Isabelo Salamida, took the witness stand and testified for the defense. trial court convicted Artemio in Criminal Case No. 9375. It, however, acquitted him in all the other twelve cases for lack of evidence. Hence this appeal. 

Issue: WON Elven’s testimony may be admissible and nor violative of parental and filial relationship

Held: No. As to the competency of Elven to testify, we rule that such is not affected by Section 25, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court, otherwise known as the rule on filial privilege. This rule is not strictly a rule on disqualification because a descendant is not incompetent or disqualified to testify against an ascendant. The rule refers to a privilege not to testify, which can be invoked or waived like other privileges. As correctly observed by the lower court, Elven was not compelled to testify against his father; he chose to waive that filial privilege when he voluntarily testified against Artemio. Elven declared that he was testifying as a witness against his father of his own accord and only to tell the truth.

Lee v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 177861, July 13, 2010

Facts: Spouses Lee & *Keh entered the Philippines in the 1930s as immigrants from China. This gave resulted to 11 kids. Lee brought from China a young woman named Tiu Chuan, supposedly to serve as housemaid. The respondent Lee-Keh children believe that Tiu left the Lee-Keh household, moved into another property of Lee nearby, and had a relation with him. One of the spouses died, Lee-Keh children learned that Tius children with Lee (collectively, the Lees other children) claimed that they, too, were children of Lee and Keh. This prompted the Lee-Keh children to request the National Bureau of Investigation to investigate the matter. This was the NBI’s report 

“It is very obvious that the mother of these 8 children is certainly not KEH SHIOK CHENG, but a much younger woman, most probably TIU CHUAN. Upon further evaluation and analysis by these Agents, LEE TEK SHENG is in a quandary in fixing the age of KEH SHIOK CHENG possibly to conform with his grand design of making his 8 children as their own legitimate children, consequently elevating the status of his second family and secure their future. The doctor lamented that this complaint would not have been necessary had not the father and his second family kept on insisting that the 8 children are the legitimate children of KEH SHIOK CHENG” 

By the hospital records of the Lees other children, Kehs declared age did not coincide with her actual age when she supposedly gave birth to such other children, numbering eight. On the basis of this report, the respondent Lee-Keh children filed two separate petitions, one of them before the RTC of Caloocan City in Special Proceeding C-1674 for the deletion from the certificate of live birth of the petitioner Emma Lee, one of Lees other children, the name Keh and replace the same with the name Tiu to indicate her true mothers name. Lee-Keh children filed with the RTC an ex parte request for the issuance of a subpoena ad testificandum to compel Tiu, Emma Lees presumed mother, to testify in the case. But invoked parental privilege therefore RTC quashed the subpoena it issued for being unreasonable and oppressive considering that Tiu was already very old and that the obvious object of the subpoena was to badger her into admitting that she was Emma Lees mother. MR denied hence the special civil action. CA rendered a decision, setting aside the RTCs August 5, 2005 Order. The CA ruled that only a subpoena duces tecum, not a subpoena ad testificandum, may be quashed for being oppressive or unreasonable under Section 4, Rule 21 of the Rules of Civil Procedure. The CA also held that Tius advanced age alone does not render her incapable of testifying. The party seeking to quash the subpoena for that reason must prove that she would be unable to withstand the rigors of trial, something that petitioner Emma Lee failed to do. CA denied Emma Lee’s MR so she filed the present petition. 

Issue: Can the parental/filial privilege granted be applicable here?

Held: No! But here Tiu, who invokes the filial privilege, claims that she is the stepmother of petitioner Emma Lee. The privilege cannot apply to them because the rule applies only to direct ascendants and descendants, a family tie connected by a common ancestry. A stepdaughter has no common ancestry by her stepmother. 

Invoking Art 965: “ The direct line is either descending or ascending. The former unites the head of the family with those who descend from him. The latter binds a person with those from whom he descends.” Therefore she can be compelled to testify.

Pentagon Steel Corp. v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 174141, June 26, 2009

Facts: The petitioner, a corporation engaged in the manufacture of G.I. wire and nails, employed respondent Perfecto Balogo (the respondent) since September 1, 1979 in its wire drawing department. Respondent has been absent from work on Aug 7 2002 without prior notice. Numerous number of letter were sent to the address of the respondent requiring his explanation for his absence however no respond therefore petitioner considered him AWOL. A complaint was filed by respondent with the Arbitration Branch of the NLRC for underpayment/nonpayment of salaries and wages, overtime pay, holiday pay, service incentive leave, 13th month pay, separation pay, and ECOLA. He further explained that his absence from work was due to a flu and diarrhea and when he was gonna go back to work petitioner refused to take him back despite the medical certificate. (2x bumalik, ayaw pdn ni petitioner) During the conciliation, petitioner required him, however, to submit himself to the company physician to determine whether he was fit to return to work in accordance with existing policies. Respondent presented a medical certificate issued by the company physician; according to the petitioner, the respondent refused to return to work and insisted that he be paid his separation pay. The petitioner refused the respondents demand for separation pay for lack of basis. Therefore respondent formally amended his complaint to include his claim of illegal dismissal. 

LA — dismissed the complaint for illegal dismissal 

NLRC — vacated and set aside the ruling of the LA. Petitioners defense of abandonment has no legal basis since there was no clear intent on the respondents part to sever the employer-employee relationship. The NLRC found it difficult to accept the petitioners allegation that the respondent absented himself for unknown reasons; this kind of action is inconsistent with the respondents twenty-three (23) years of service and lack of derogatory record during these years. As a consequence, the NLRC held that the respondent was illegally dismissed. MR was denied

CA — special civil action certiorari for grave abuse of discretion. CA affirmed the NLRCs finding that the dismissal was illegal, but modified the challenged decision by adding reinstatement and the payment of full backwages, inclusive of allowances and other benefits or their monetary equivalent computed from the time his compensation was withheld from him up to the time of his actual reinstatement. CA held that the respondent was constructively dismissed when the petitioner repeatedly refused to accept the respondent back to work despite the valid medical reason that justified his absence from work. The CA concluded that the respondent complied with the petitioners directive to submit a written explanation when the former presented the medical certificate to explain his absences. Also held that to deny the respondent the benefits due from his long service with the company would be very harsh since his long service would not be amply compensated by giving him only separation pay. MR denied. 

Issue: Can any of the statement used during the conciliation maybe used as evidence? 

Held: No. Based on Art 233 of the Labor Code, “Information and statements made at conciliation proceedings shall be treated as privileged communication and shall not be used as evidence in the Commission. Conciliators and similar officials shall not testify in any court or body regarding any matters taken up at conciliation proceedings conducted by them.”  

Also in the case of Nissan v. Sec of Labor, the SC pointedly disallowed the award made by the public respondent Secretary; the award was based on the information NCMB Administrator Olalia secured from the confidential position given him by the company during conciliation.

Therefore it was said since the law favors the settlement of controversies out of court, a person is entitled to buy his or her peace without danger of being prejudiced in case his or her efforts fail; hence, any communication made toward that end will be regarded as privileged.

People v. Estrada, G.R. Nos. 164368-69, April 2, 2009

Facts: 3 cases (plunder, illegal use of alias and perjury were consolidated in this case against Estrada. Estrada was subsequently arrested on the basis of a warrant of arrest that the Sandiganbayan issued. An order for the creation of a Special Division in the Sandiganbayan to try, hear, and decide the charges of plunder and related cases (illegal use of alias and perjury) against respondent Estrada. At the trial, the People presented testimonial and documentary evidence to prove the allegations of the Informations for plunder, illegal use of alias, and perjury. Officers of PCIB declared that Estrada opened an account with them signed Jose Velarde. The People filed its Formal Offer of Exhibits in the consolidated cases, which the Sandiganbayan admitted into evidence in a Resolution. Estrada filed separate Demurrers to Evidence on the following grounds, 

1.      Of the thirty-five (35) witnesses presented by the prosecution, only two (2) witnesses, Ms. Clarissa Ocampo and Atty. Manuel Curato, testified that on one occasion (4 February 2000), they saw movant use the name Jose Velarde;

2.      The use of numbered accounts and the like was legal and was prohibited only in late 2001 as can be gleaned from Bangko Sentral Circular No. 302, series of 2001, dated 11 October 2001;

3.      There is no proof of public and habitual use of alias as the documents offered by the prosecution are banking documents which, by their nature, are confidential and cannot be revealed without following proper procedures; and

4.      The use of alias is absorbed in plunder.

Sandiganbayan had several points on its resolution, 

1. The Sandiganbayan found that the only relevant evidence for the indictment are those relating to what is described in the Information. 

2. the Peoples failure to present evidence that proved Estradas commission of the offense. 

3. The Sandiganbayan said that the absolute prohibition in R.A. No. 9160 against the use of anonymous accounts, accounts under fictitious names, and all other similar accounts, is a legislative acknowledgment that a gaping hole previously existed in our laws that allowed depositors to hide their true identities.

Issue: WON there was insufficiency of evidence presented & if the Ursua Ruling holds value in this case

Held: The Sandiganbayan solely looked at the allegations of the Information to determine the sufficiency of these allegations and did not consider any evidence aliunde. This is far different from the present demurrer to evidence where the Sandiganbayan had a fuller view of the prosecutions case, and was faced with the issue of whether the prosecutions evidence was sufficient to prove the allegations of the Information. Under these differing views, the Sandiganbayan may arrive at a different conclusion on the application of Ursua, the leading case in the application of CA 142, and the change in ruling is not per se indicative of grave abuse of discretion. That there is no error of law is strengthened by our consideration of the Sandiganbayan ruling on the application of Ursua.

In an exercise of caution given Ursuas jurisprudential binding effect, the People also argues in its petition that Estradas case is different from Ursuas for the following reasons: (1) respondent Estrada used and intended to continually use the alias Jose Velarde in addition to the name Joseph Estrada; (2) Estradas use of the alias was not isolated or limited to a single transaction; and (3) the use of the alias Jose Velarde was designed to cause and did cause confusion and fraud in business transactions which the anti-alias law and its related statutes seek to prevent. The People also argues that the evidence it presented more than satisfied the requirements of CA No. 142, as amended, and Ursua, as it was also shown or established that Estradas use of the alias was public.

In light of our above conclusions and based on the parties expressed positions, we shall now examine within the Ursua framework the assailed Sandiganbayan Resolution granting the demurrer to evidence. The prosecution has the burden of proof to show that the evidence it presented with the Sandiganbayan satisfied the Ursua requirements, particularly on the matter of publicity and habituality in the use of an alias.

Banco Filipino Savings and Mortgage Bank v. Purisima, G.R. No. 56429, May 28, 1988

The inquiry into illegally acquired property – or property not legitimately acquired –, under the exception under  RA 1405 extends to cases where such property is concealed by being held by or recorded in the name of other persons. This proposition is made clear by RA 3019 which quite categorically states that the term “legitimately acquired property of a public officer or employee shall not include … property unlawfully acquired by the respondent, but its ownership is concealed by its being recorded in the name of, of held by, respondent’s spouse, ascendants, descendants, relatives or any other persons.

Facts: 

The Bureau of Internal Revenue accused Customs special agent Manuel Caturla before the Tanodbayan of having illegal acquired property manifestly out of proportion to his salary and other lawful income. During the preliminary investigation, the Tanodbayan issued a subpoena duces tecum to the Banco Filipino Savings and Mortgage Bank, commanding its representative to appear at a specified time at the Office of the Tanodbayan and furnish the latter with duly certified copies of the records in all its branches and extension offices of the loans, savings and time deposits and other banking transactions, in the names of Caturla, his wife, Purita, their children, and/or Pedro Escuyos.

Caturla moved to quash the subpoena for violating Sections 2 and 3 of RA 1405 which was denied by the Tanodbayan. In fact, the Tanodbayan issued another subpoena which expanded its scope including the production of bank records not only of the persons enumerated above but of additional persons and entities as well. The Banco Filipino filed an action for declaratory relief with the CFI of Manila which was denied by the lower court. 

Issue:   

Whether or not the Law on Secrecy of Bank Deposits precludes production by subpoena duces tecum of bank records of transactions by or in the names of the wife, children and friends of a special agent of the Bureau of Customs accused before the Tanodbayan of having allegedly acquired property manifestly out of proportion to his salary and other lawful income in violation of RA 3019.

Held:  

The inquiry into illegally acquired property – or property not legitimately acquired – extends to cases where such property is concealed by being held by or recorded in the name of other persons. This proposition is made clear by RA 3019 which quite categorically states that the term “legitimately acquired property of a public officer or employee shall not include … property unlawfully acquired by the respondent, but its ownership is concealed by its being recorded in the name of, of held by, respondent’s spouse, ascendants, descendants, relatives or any other persons.

In PNB v. Gancayco, we ruled that: “while Section 2 of Republic Act No. 1405 provides that bank deposits are “absolutely confidential … and, therefore, may not be examined, inquired or looked into,” except in those cases enumerated therein, Section 8 of Republic Act No. 3019 (Anti-graft law) directs in mandatory terms that bank deposits “shall be taken into consideration in the enforcement of this section, notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary.” The only conclusion possible is that Section 8 of the Anti-Graft Law is intended to amend Section 2 of Republic Act No. 1405 by providing an additional exception to the rule against the disclosure of bank deposits.”

To sustain the petitioner’s theory, and restrict the inquiry only to property held by or in the name of the government official or employee, or his spouse and unmarried children is unwarranted in the light of the provisions of the statutes in question, and would make available to persons in government who illegally acquire property an easy and fool-proof means of evading investigation and prosecution; all they have to do would be to simply place the property in the possession or name of persons other than their spouse and unmarried children. This is an absurdity that we will not ascribe to the lawmakers.

Philippine National Bank v. Gancayco, G.R. No. L-18343, September 30, 1965

Section 8 of the Anti-Graft Law is intended to amend Section 2 of Republic Act No. 1405 by providing an additional exception to the rule against the disclosure of bank deposits.

Facts: 

Emilio Gancayco and Florentino Flor, as special prosecutors of the Department of Justice, required the Philippine National Bank to produce at a hearing the records of the bank deposits of Ernesto Jimenez, former administrator of the Agricultural Credit and Cooperative Administration, who was then under investigation for unexplained wealth.

PNB refused to disclose his bank deposits, invoking Section 2 of Republic Act No. 1405. On the other hand, the prosecutors cited the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, particularly Section 8 therewith, to wit:

“Section 8. Dismissal due to unexplained wealth. – If in accordance with the provisions of RA 1379, a public official has been found to have acquired during his incumbency, whether in his name or in the name of other persons, an amount of property and/or money manifestly out of proportion to his salary and to his other lawful income, that fact shall be a ground for dismissal or removal. Properties in the name of the spouse and unmarried children of such public official, may be taken into consideration, when their acquisition through legitimate means cannot be satisfactorily shown. Bank deposits shall be taken into consideration in the enforcement of this section, notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary.” PNB then filed an action for declaratory judgment in the CFI of Manila which ruled that Section 8 of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act clearly intended to provide an additional ground for the examination of bank deposits. Hence, this appeal.

Issue:  

Whether or not a bank can be compelled to disclose the records of accounts of a depositor who is under investigation for unexplained wealth

Held :   

Yes. While Republic Act No. 1405 provides that bank deposits are “absolutely confidential … and  may not be examined, inquired or looked into,” , the Anti-Graft Law directs in mandatory terms that bank deposits shall be taken into consideration notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary 

While No reconciliation is possible between Republic Act No. 1405 and Republic Act No. 3019 as the two laws are so repugnant to each other. Thus, while Section 2 of Republic Act No. 1405 provides that bank deposits are “absolutely confidential … and, therefore, may not be examined, inquired or looked into,” except in those cases enumerated therein, Section 8 of Republic Act No. 3019 (Anti-graft law) directs in mandatory terms that bank deposits “shall be taken into consideration in the enforcement of this section, notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary.” The only conclusion possible is that Section 8 of the Anti-Graft Law is intended to amend Section 2 of Republic Act No. 1405 by providing an additional exception to the rule against the disclosure of bank deposits.

With regard to the claim that disclosure would be contrary to the policy making bank deposits confidential, it is enough to point out that while Section 2 of Republic Act No. 1405 declares bank deposits to be “absolutely confidential,” it nevertheless allows such disclosure in the following instances: (1) Upon written permission of the depositor; (2) In cases of impeachment; (3) Upon order of a competent court in cases of bribery or dereliction of duty of public officials; (4) In cases where the money deposited is the subject of the litigation.

Cases of unexplained wealth are similar to cases of bribery or dereliction of duty and no reason is seen why these two classes of cases cannot be excepted from the rule making bank deposits confidential. The policy as to one cannot be different from the policy as to the other. This policy expresses the notion that a public office is a public trust and any person who enters upon its discharge does so with the full knowledge that his life, so far as relevant to his duty, is open to public scrutiny.

A.M. No. 004-07-SC, December 15, 2000 Neri v. Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations, G.R. No. 180643, March 25, 2008

FACTS:

On April 21, 2007, the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) entered into a contract with Zhong Xing Telecommunications Equipment (ZTE) for the supply of equipment and services for the National Broadband Network (NBN) Project in the amount of U.S. $ 329,481,290 (approximately P16 Billion Pesos). The Project was to be financed by the Peoples Republic of China. The Senate issued various Senate Resolutions directing SBRC, among others, to conduct an investigation regarding the NBN-ZTE deal.

Respondent Committees initiated the investigation by sending invitations to certain personalities and cabinet officials involved in the NBN Project. Petitioner was among those invited. He was summoned to appear and testify on September 18, 20, and 26 and October 25, 2007.

On September 26, 2007, petitioner testified before respondent Committees for eleven (11) hours. He disclosed that then Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Chairman Benjamin Abalos offered him P200 Million in exchange for his approval of the NBN Project. He further narrated that he informed President Arroyo about the bribery attempt and that she instructed him not to accept the bribe. However, when probed further on what they discussed about the NBN Project, petitioner refused to answer, invoking executive privilege. In particular, he refused to answer the questions on (a) whether or not President Arroyo followed up the NBN Project, (b) whether or not she directed him to prioritize it, and (c) whether or not she directed him to approve.

Issue: Whether or not the communications elicited by the subject three (3) questions are covered by executive privilege.

HELD:

The Court ruled that the communications elicited by the 3 questions were covered by executive privilege.

In Chavez v. PCGG, this Court held that there is a governmental privilege against publicdisclosure with respect to state secrets regarding military, diplomatic and other security matters. In Chavez v. PEA, there is also a recognition of the confidentiality of Presidential conversations, correspondences, and discussions in closed-door Cabinet meetings. In Senate v. Ermita, the concept of presidential communications privilege is fully discussed.

The claim of executive privilege is highly recognized in cases where the subject of inquiry relates to a power textually committed by the Constitution to the President, such as the area of military and foreign relations. Under our Constitution, the President is the repository of the commander-in-chief, appointing, pardoning, and diplomatic powers. Consistent with the doctrine of separation of powers, the information relating to these powers may enjoy greater confidentiality than others.

In the cases of Nixon, In Re Sealed Case and Judicial Watch, somehow provide the elements of presidential communications privilege, to wit:

1) The protected communication must relate to a quintessential and non-delegable presidential power. 

2)    The communication must be authored or solicited and received by a close advisor of the President or the President himself. The judicial test is that an advisor must be in operational proximity with the President.

3)    The presidential communications privilege remains a qualified privilege that may be overcome by a showing of adequate need, such that the information sought likely contains important evidence and by the unavailability of the information elsewhere by an appropriate investigating authority.

Using the above elements, we are convinced that, indeed, the communications elicited by the three (3) questions are covered by the presidential communications privilege. First, the communications relate to a quintessential and non-delegable power of the President, i.e. the power to enter into an executive agreement with other countries. This authority of the President to enter into executive agreements without the concurrence of the Legislature has traditionally been recognized in Philippine jurisprudence. Second, the communications are received by a close advisor of the President. Under the operational proximity test, petitioner can be considered a close advisor, being a member of President Arroyos cabinet. And third, there is no adequate showing of a compelling need that would justify the limitation of the privilege and of the unavailability of the information elsewhere by an appropriate investigating authority. Here, the record is bereft of any categorical explanation from respondent Committees to show a compelling or citical need for the answers to the three (3) questions in the enactment of a law. Instead, the questions veer more towards the exercise of the legislative oversight function under Section 22 of Article VI rather than Section 21 of the same Article. Senate v. Ermita ruled that the the oversight function of Congress may be facilitated by compulsory process only to the extent that it is performed in pursuit of legislation.

Respondent Committees argue that a claim of executive privilege does not guard against a possible disclosure of a crime or wrongdoing. We see no dispute on this. It is settled in United States v. Nixon that demonstrated, specific need for evidence in pending criminal trial outweighs the Presidents generalized interest in confidentiality. However, the present casesdistinction with the Nixon case is very evident. In Nixon, there is a pending criminal proceeding where the information is requested and it is the demands of due process of law and the fair administration of criminal justice that the information be disclosed. This is the reason why the U.S. Court was quick to limit the scope of its decision. It stressed that it is not concerned here with the balance between the Presidents generalized interest in confidentiality x x x and congressional demands for information. Unlike in Nixon, the information here is elicited, not in a criminal proceeding, but in a legislative inquiry. In this regard, Senate v. Ermita stressed that the validity of the claim of executive privilege depends not only on the ground invoked but, also, on the procedural setting or the context in which the claim is made. Furthermore, in Nixon, the President did not interpose any claim of need to protect military, diplomatic or sensitive national security secrets. In the present case, Executive Secretary Ermita categorically claims executive privilege on the grounds of presidential communications privilege in relation to her executive and policy decision-making process and diplomatic secrets.

Respondent Committees further contend that the grant of petitioners claim of executive privilege violates the constitutional provisions on the right of the people to information on matters of public concern. We might have agreed with such contention if petitioner did not appear before them at all. But petitioner made himself available to them during the September 26 hearing, where he was questioned for eleven (11) hours. Not only that, he expressly manifested his willingness to answer more questions from the Senators, with the exception only of those covered by his claim of executive privilege.

The right of Congress or any of its Committees to obtain information in aid of legislation cannot be equated with the peoples right to public information. The former cannot claim that every legislative inquiry is an exercise of the peoples right to information. The distinction between such rights is laid down in Senate v. Ermita:

There are, it bears noting, clear distinctions between the right of Congress to information which underlies the power of inquiry and the right of people to information on matters of public concern. For one, the demand of a citizen for the production of documents pursuant to his right to information does not have the same obligatory force as a subpoena duces tecum issued by Congress. Neither does the right to information grant a citizen the power to exact testimony from government officials. These powers belong only to Congress, not to an individual citizen.

Thus, while Congress is composed of representatives elected by the people, it does not follow, except in a highly qualified sense, that in every exercise of its power of inquiry, the people are exercising their right to information.

Krohn v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 108854, June 14, 1994

FACTS:

On 14 June 1964, Edgar Krohn, Jr., and Ma. Paz Fernandez were married at the Saint Vincent de Paul Church in San Marcelino, Manila. The union produced three children, Edgar Johannes, Karl Wilhelm and Alexandra. Their blessings notwithstanding, the relationship between the couple developed into a stormy one. In 1971, Ma. Paz underwent psychological testing purportedly in an effort to ease the marital strain. The effort however proved futile. In 1973, they finally separated in fact.

In 1975, Edgar was able to secure a copy of the confidential psychiatric report on Ma. Paz prepared and signed by Drs. Cornelio Banaag, Jr., and Baltazar Reyes. On 2 November 1978, presenting the report among others, he obtained a decree (“Conclusion”) from the Tribunal Metropolitanum Matrimoniale in Manila nullifying his church marriage with Ma. Paz on the ground of “incapacitas assumendi onera conjugalia due to lack of due discretion existent at the time of the wedding and thereafter.” On 10 July 1979, the decree was confirmed and pronounced “Final and Definite.”

Meanwhile, on 30 July 1982, the then Court of First Instance (now Regional Trial Court) of Pasig, Br. II, issued an order granting the voluntary dissolution of the conjugal partnership.

On 23 October 1990, Edgar filed a petition for the annulment of his marriage with Ma. Paz before the trial court. In his petition, he cited the Confidential Psychiatric Evaluation Report which Ma. Paz merely denied in her Answer as “either unfounded or irrelevant.”

At the hearing on 8 May 1991, Edgar took the witness stand and tried to testify on the contents of the Confidential Psychiatric Evaluation Report. This was objected to on the ground that it violated the rule on privileged communication between physician and patient.

Issue: Whether or not Edgar Krohn may be allowed to testify on the contents of the Confidential Psychiatric Evaluation Report.

HELD:

The Court ruled that Edgar Krohn is allowed to testify on the contents of the Confidential Psychiatric Evaluation Report.

Lim v. Court of Appeals clearly lays down the requisites in order that the privilege may be successfully invoked: (a) the privilege is claimed in a civil case; (b) the person against whom the privilege is claimed is one duly authorized to practice medicine, surgery or obstetrics; (c) such person acquired the information while he was attending to the patient in his professional capacity; (d) the information was necessary to enable him to act in that capacity; and, (e) the information was confidential and, if disclosed, would blacken the reputation (formerly character) of the patient.

In the instant case, the person against whom the privilege is claimed is not one duly authorized to practice medicine, surgery or obstetrics. He is simply the patient’s husband who wishes to testify on a document executed by medical practitioners. Plainly and clearly, this does not fall within the claimed prohibition. Neither can his testimony be considered a circumvention of the prohibition because his testimony cannot have the force and effect of the testimony of the physician who examined the patient and executed the report.

Chan v. Chan, G.R. No. 179786, July 24, 2013

Facts:

On february 6, petitioner josielene filed before the RTC of makati a petition for declaration of nullity of her marriage to respondent johnny for failure to care for and support his family and that a psychiatrist diagnosed him as mentally deficient due to incessant drinking and excessive use of prohibited drugs. 

In his defense, johnny denied the claim and stated that it was josielene who failed in her wifely duties. To save the marriage he agreed to marriage counseling but when he and josielene got to the hospital, two men forcibly held him by both arms while another gave him an injection. 

The case got worse when josielene was filed with an unrelated criminal case and was only released after such case ended. It was at that time the marriage relationship could no longer be repaired.

During the pre-trial conference, josielene filed with the RTC a request for the issuance of subpoena decus tecum addressed to medical city, covering johnny;s medical records when he was confined. 

Johnny opposed the motion arguing the medical records were covered by physician-patient privilege.

RTC sustained and opposed joseilene’s motion

CA affirmed the RTC decision stating that if they were to allow production of medical records, then patients would be left with no assurance that whatever disclosures they may have made to their physicians would be kept confidential. 

Issue:
WON the ca erred in ruling that the trial court correctly denied the issuance of a subpoena ducus tecum covering johnny’s hospital records on the ground that these are covered by the privileged character of physician-patient communication

Held:

The court ruled that, the physician-patient privileged communication rule essentially means that a physician who gets information while professionally attending a patient cannot in a civil case be examined without the patient’s consent as to any facts which would blacken the latter’s reputation. 

The case however presents a procedural issue, given that the time to object to admission of evidence, such as the hospital records, would be at the time they are offered. The offer could be made part of the physician’s testimony or an independent evidence that he had made entries in those records that concern the patient’s health problems. (in short the procurement of the subpeona is made prematurely since the case is only in pre-trial) 

Petition DENIED

Lim v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 91114, September 25, 1992

Facts:

Petitioner and respondent Sim were married until the latter filed for annulment on the ground that petitioner has been allegedly suffering from a mental illness called schizophrenia “before, during and after the marriage and until the present.”

During the trial, respondent presented as a witness Dr. Acampado who had examined the petitioner in a professional capacity and had diagnosed her to be suffering from schizophrenia.

Petitioner filed a motion to oppose the testimony claiming that the doctor would divulge privileged communication pertaining to petitioner w/c was covered by doctor-patient confidentiality.

Respondent said that Dr. Acampado would only be appearing as an expert witness and would not testify on any information acquired while attending to the petitioner in a professional capacity.

Issue: WON Dr. Acampado should be allowed to testify.

Held:

Yes. The SC held after a careful scrutiny of the transcript of Dr. Acampado’s testimony, We find no declaration that touched or disclosed any information which she has acquired from her patient, Nelly Lim, during the period she attended her patient in a professional capacity. Although she testified that she examined and interviewed the patient, she did not disclose anything she obtained in the course of her examination, interview and treatment of her patient. Given a set of facts and asked a hypothetical question, Dr. Acampado rendered an opinion regarding the history and behaviour of the fictitious character in the hypothetical problem. The facts and conditions alleged in the hypothetical problem did not refer and had no bearing to whatever information or findings the doctor obtained from attending the patient. A physician is not disqualified to testify as an expert concerning a patient’s ailment, when he can disregard knowledge acquired in attending such patient and make answer solely on facts related in  the hypothetical question.

Expert testimony of a physician based on hypothetical question as to cause of illness of a person whom he has attended is not privileged, provided the physician does not give testimony tending to disclose confidential information related to him in his professional capacity while attending to the patient.

The rule on privilege communication in the relation of physician and patient proceeds from the fundamental assumption that the communication to deserve protection must be confidential in their origin. Confidentiality is not to be blindly implied from the mere relation of physician and patient. It might be implied according to circumstances of each case, taking into consideration the nature of the ailment and the occasion of the consultation. The claimant of the privilege has the burden of establishing in each instance all the facts necessary to create the privilege, including the confidential nature of the information given.”

These requisites conform with the four (4) fundamental conditions necessary for the establishment of a privilege against the disclosure of certain communications, to wit:

“1.      The communications must originate in a confidence that they will not be disclosed.

2.        This element of confidentiality must be essential to the full and satisfactory maintenance of the relation between the parties.

3.        The relation must be one which in the opinion of the community ought to be sedulously fostered

4.        The injury that would inure to the relation by the disclosure of the communications must be greater than the benefit thereby gained for the correct disposal of litigation.” 15

The physician may be considered to be acting in his professional capacity when he attends to the patient for curative, preventive, or palliative treatment. Thus, only disclosures which would have been made to the physician to enable him “safely and efficaciously to treat his patient” are covered by the privilege. 16 It is to be emphasized that “it is the tenor only of the communication that is privileged. The mere fact of making a communication, as well as the date of a consultation and the number of consultations, are therefore not privileged from disclosure, so long as the subject communicated is not stated.”

One who claims this privilege must prove the presence of these aforementioned requisites.