CASE 2014-0016: DESIGN SOURCES INTERNATIONAL INC. and KENNETH SY, Petitioners – versus – LOURDES L. ERISTINGCOL, Respondent.  (G.R. No. 193966, 19 FEBRUARY 2014, SERENO, CJ.)  SUBJECT: EXCLUSION OF WITNESS. (BRIEF TITLE: DESIGN SOURCES VS. ERISTINGCOL)

 

DISPOSITIVE:

 

“Therefore, this Court finds that the R TC committed grave abuse of discretion in not allowing Stephen to testify notwithstanding the absence of any order for exclusion of other witnesses during the presentation of Kenneth’s testimony.

 

In view thereof, the RTC is hereby ordered to allow the presentation of Stephen Sy as witness for petitioners. Accordingly, petitioners’ Motion for Issuance of a Writ of Preliminary Mandatory Injunction or Temporary Restraining Order is now rendered moot.

 

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant Petition is hereby GRANTED.

 

SO ORDERED.”

 

SUBJECTS/DOCTRINES/DIGEST:

 

STEPHEN, A WITNESS, WAS IN COURT WHEN WITNESS KENNETH WAS TESTIFYING. RTC DID NOT ALLOW STEPHEN TO TESTIFY BECAUSE HE ALREADY HEARD THE TESTIMONY OF KENNETH. WAS RTC CORRECT?

 

NO, BECAUSE THERE WAS NO ORDER FOR EXCLUSION OF OTHER WITNESSES DURING THE PRESENTATION OF KENNETH’S TESTIMONY.

 

There is nothing in the records of this case that would show that there was an order of exclusion from the RTC, or that there was any motion from respondent’s counsel to exclude other witnesses from the courtroom prior to or even during the presentation of the testimony of Kenneth. We are one with the CA in finding that under such circumstances, there was nothing to prevent Stephen from hearing the testimony of Kenneth.  Therefore, the RTC should have allowed Stephen to testify for petitioners.

 

WHAT IS THE BASIS IN THE RULES FOR EXCLUSION OF WITNESSES?

 

SECTION 15, RULE 132 OF THE REVISED RULES OF COURT WHICH PROVIDES:

 

SEC. 15.Exclusion and separation of witnesses. — On any trial or hearing, the judge may exclude from the court any witness not at the time under examination, so that he may not hear the testimony of other witnesses. The judge may also cause witnesses to be kept separate and to be prevented from conversing with one another until all shall have been examined. 

 

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF EXCLUDING WITNESSES FROM THE COURTROOM?

 

TO ENSURE THAT THE WITNESSES TESTIFY TO THE TRUTH BY PREVENTING THEM FROM BEING INFLUENCED BY THE TESTIMONIES OF THE OTHERS.

 

Excluding future witnesses from the courtroom at the time another witness is testifying, or ordering that these witnesses be kept separate from one another, is primarily to prevent them from conversing with one another.  The purpose is to ensure that the witnesses testify to the truth by preventing them from being influenced by the testimonies of the others. In other words, this measure is meant to prevent connivance or collusion among witnesses. The efficacy of excluding or separating witnesses has long been recognized as a means of discouraging fabrication, inaccuracy, and collusion.  However, without any motion from the opposing party or order from the court, there is nothing in the rules that prohibits a witness from hearing the testimonies of other witnesses.

 

BASED ON THE SANDAL CASE, THE RTC AND THE CA MOVED ON TO DETERMINE THE MATERIALITY OF THE TESTIMONY OF STEPHEN WHICH BECAME THEIR BASIS FOR NOT ALLOWING THE LATTER TO TESTIFY. IS THE SANDAL CASE APPLICABLE?

 

NO BECAUSE IN THE SANDAL CASE THERE WAS AN ORDER OF EXCLUSION AND THE SUBJECT WITNESS DID NOT FOLLOW THE ORDER. HERE THERE WAS NO ORDER OF EXCLUSION.

 

The RTC and the CA, however, moved on to determine the materiality of the testimony of Stephen, which became their basis for not allowing the latter to testify.  Applying Sandal, the CA ruled that the absence of a showing of how his testimony would bolster the position of petitioners saved the judgment of the RTC in issuing the order of exclusion.

 

 We agree with petitioners that the application of Sandal is misplaced.  Contrary to the present case, in Sandal there was a court order for exclusion which was disregarded by the witness.  The defiance of the order led to the exercise by the court of its discretion to admit or reject the testimony of the

witness who had defied its order. Again, in this case, there was no order or motion for exclusion that was defied by petitioners and their witnesses. Thus, the determination of the materiality of Stephen’s testimony in relation to the strengthening of petitioners’ defense was uncalled for.

 

Without any prior order or at least a motion for exclusion from any of the parties, a court cannot simply allow or disallow the presentation of a witness solely on the ground that the latter heard the testimony of another witness. It is the responsibility of respondent’s counsel to protect the interest of his client during the presentation of other witnesses. If respondent actually believed that the testimony of Kenneth would greatly affect that of Stephen’s, then respondent’s counsel was clearly remiss in his duty to protect the interest of his client when he did not raise the issue of the exclusion of the witness in a timely manner.

 

 

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SCD-2014-0016-FEB 2014-DESIGN SOURCES