G.R. No. 185145 : February 5, 2014
FACTS: Petitioners, Sps. Vicente and Leticia Afulugencia, filed a Complaint for nullification of mortgage, foreclosure, auction sale, certificate of sale and other documents, with damages, against respondents Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co. (Metrobank, a domestic banking corporation) and Ortega (Clerk of Court and Ex-Officio Sheriff) before the RTC of Malolos City. After the filing of the parties’ pleadings and with the conclusion of pre-trial, petitioners filed a Motion for Issuance of Subpoena Duces Tecum Ad Testificandum to require Metrobank’s officers to appear and testify as the petitioners’ initial witnesses during the hearing for the (1) presentation of their evidence-in-chief, and (2) to bring the documents relative to their loan with Metrobank, as well as those covering the extrajudicial foreclosure and sale of petitioners’ 200-square meter land in Meycauayan, Bulacan. Metrobank filed an Opposition arguing that for lack of a proper notice of hearing, the Motion must be denied; that being a litigated motion, the (1) failure of petitioners to set a date and time for the hearing renders the Motion ineffective and pro forma; (2) that pursuant to Sections 1 and 611 of Rule 25 of the Rules, Metrobank’s officers – who are considered adverse parties – may not be compelled to appear and testify in court for the petitioners since they were not initially served with written interrogatories; (3) that petitioners have not shown the materiality and relevance of the documents sought to be produced in court; and that petitioners were merely fishing for evidence. Petitioners submitted a Reply stating that (1) the lack of a proper notice of hearing was cured by the filing of Metrobank’s Opposition; (2) that applying the principle of liberality, the defect may be ignored; (3) that leave of court is not necessary for the taking of Metrobank’s officers’ depositions; that for their case, (4) the issuance of a subpoena is not unreasonable and oppressive, but instead favorable to Metrobank, since it will present the testimony of these officers just the same during the presentation of its own evidence; (5) that the documents sought to be produced are relevant and will prove whether petitioners have paid their obligations to Metrobank in full, and will settle the issue relative to the validity or invalidity of the foreclosure proceedings; (6) and that the Rules do not prohibit a party from presenting the adverse party as its own witness.
ISSUE: Whether or not the Notice and Hearing apply to Motion for subpoena of respondent bank’s officers? Yes.
Held: YES. It is quite clear that Metrobank was notified of the Motion for Issuance of Subpoena Duces Tecum Ad Testificandum; in fact, it filed a timely Opposition thereto. The technical defect of lack of notice of hearing was thus cured by the filing of the Opposition. As officers of the adverse party Metrobank are being compelled to testify as the calling party’s main witnesses; likewise, they are tasked to bring with them documents which shall comprise the petitioners’ principal evidence. This is not without significant consequences that affect the interests of the adverse party, as will be shown below. As a rule, in civil cases, the procedure of calling the adverse party to the witness stand is not allowed, unless written interrogatories are first served upon the latter. This can be found in Section 6, Rule 25 of the Rules. One of the purposes of such rule is to prevent fishing expeditions and needless delays; it is there to maintain order and facilitate the conduct of trial. It will be presumed that a party who does not serve written interrogatories on the adverse party beforehand will most likely be unable to elicit facts useful to its case if it later opts to call the adverse party to the witness stand as its witness. On the procedural issue, it is quite clear that Metrobank was notified of the Motion for Issuance of Subpoena Duces Tecum Ad Testificandum; in fact, it filed a timely Opposition thereto. The technical defect of lack of notice of hearing was thus cured by the filing of the Opposition. As officers of the adverse party Metrobank are being compelled to testify as the calling party’s main witnesses; likewise, they are tasked to bring with them documents which shall comprise the petitioners’ principal evidence. This is not without significant consequences that affect the interests of the adverse party. It is true that under the Rules, a party may, for good cause shown and to prevent a failure of justice, be compelled to give testimony in court by the adverse party who has not served written interrogatories. But what petitioners seek goes against the very principles of justice and fair play. They would want that Metrobank provide the very evidence with which to prosecute and build their case from the start.