G.R. No. 185527 : July 18, 2012

FACTS: Petitioners were charged before the Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) of Manila for Other Deceits under Article 318 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).The prosecution’s complaining witness, Li Luen Ping, a frail old businessman from Laos, Cambodia, traveled from his home country back to the Philippines in order to attend the hearing held on September 9, 2004. However, trial dates were subsequently postponed due to his unavailability. The private prosecutor filed with the MeTC a Motion to Take Oral Deposition of Li Luen Ping, alleging that he was being treated for lung infection at the Cambodia Charity Hospital in Laos, Cambodia and that, upon doctor’s advice, he could not make the long travel to the Philippines by reason of ill health. Notwithstanding petitioners’ Opposition, the MeTC granted the motion after the prosecution complied with the directive to submit a Medical Certificate of Li Luen Ping. Petitioners sought its reconsideration which the MeTC denied, prompting petitioners to file a Petition for Certiorari  before the RTC. Upon denial by the RTC of their motion for reconsideration through an Order dated March 5, 2006, the prosecution elevated the case to the CA. the CA denied petitioners’ motion for Reconsideration.

ISSUE: Whether or not CA erred in sustaining that the rules on deposition-taking in civil cases is also applicable to criminal cases? Yes.

Held: YES. Rules on deposition-taking in civil cases is not applicable to criminal cases because the examination of witnesses in criminal cases must be done orally before a judge in open court in order to allow the accused to meet the witness against him face to face. The Procedure for Testimonial Examination of an Unavailable Prosecution Witness is covered under Section 15, Rule 119. The requirement is the “safest and most satisfactory method of investigating facts” as it enables the judge to test the witness’ credibility through his manner and deportment while testifying. It is not without exceptions, however, as the Rules of Court recognizes the conditional examination of witnesses and the use of their depositions as testimonial evidence in lieu of direct court testimony. But for purposes of taking the deposition in criminal cases, more particularly of a prosecution witness who would foreseeably be unavailable for trial, the testimonial examination should be made before the court, or at least before the judge, where the case is pending.