Monday, August 9, 2010

LIANG VS PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES GR no. 125865 January 28, 2000

Petitioner: Jeffrey Liang
Respondent: People of the Philippines

Petitioner is an economist working with the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Sometime in 1994, for allegedly uttering defamatory words against fellow ADB worker Joyce Cabal, he was charged before the MeTC of Mandaluyong City with two counts of oral defamation. Petitioner was arrested by virtue of a warrant issued by the MeTC. After fixing petitioner’s bail, the MeTC released him to the custody of the Security Officer of ADB. The next day, the MeTC judge received an “office of protocol” from the DFA stating that petitioner is covered by immunity from legal process under section 45 of the Agreement between the ADB and the Philippine Government regarding the Headquarters of the ADB in the country. Based on the said protocol communication that petitioner is immune from suit, the MeTC judge without notice to the prosecution dismissed the criminal cases. The latter filed a motion for reconsideration which was opposed by the DFA. When its motion was denied, the prosecution filed a petition for certiorari and mandamus with the RTC of Pasig City which set aside the MeTC rulings and ordered the latter court to enforce the warrant of arrest it earlier issued. After the motion for reconsideration was denied, the petitioner elevated the case to the SC via a petition for review arguing that he is covered by immunity under the Agreement and that no preliminary investigation was held before the criminal case.

(1)   Whether or not the petitioner’s case is covered with immunity from legal process with regard to Section 45 of the Agreement between the ADB and the Philippine Gov’t.
(2)   Whether or not the conduct of preliminary investigation was imperative.

(1)   NO. The petitioner’s case is not covered by the immunity. Courts cannot blindly adhere to the communication from the DFA that the petitioner is covered by any immunity. It has no binding effect in courts. The court needs to protect the right to due process not only of the accused but also of the prosecution. Secondly, the immunity under Section 45 of the Agreement is not absolute, but subject to the exception that the acts must be done in “official capacity”. Hence, slandering a person could not possibly be covered by the immunity agreement because our laws do not allow the commission of a crime, such as defamation, in the name of official duty.
(2)   NO. Preliminary Investigation is not a matter of right in cases cognizable by the MeTC such as this case. Being purely a statutory right, preliminary investigation may be invoked only when specifically granted by law. The rule on criminal procedure is clear that no preliminary investigation is required in cases falling within the jurisdiction of the MeTC.

Hence, SC denied the petition.

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