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Emma Lee vs. CA Case Digest


 The grounds cited unreasonable and oppressive are proper for subpoena ad duces tecum or for the production of documents and things in the possession of the witness, not for subpoena ad testificandum.

The parental and filial privilege cannot apply to stepmothers and stepdaughters 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. 


Facts:

Spouses Lee and Keh entered the Philippines in the 1930s as immigrants from China. They had 11 children.

In 1948, Lee brought from China a young woman named Tiu 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.

Shortly after Keh died in 1989, the Lee-Keh children learned that Tiu's children with Lee claimed that they, too, were children of Lee and Keh. This prompted the Lee-Keh children to request the NBI to investigate the matter. After investigation, the NBI concluded that the mother of the 8 children is certainly not Keh, but a much younger woman, most probably Tiu.

On the basis of this report, the respondent Lee-Keh children filed a petition 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.

The 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. The RTC granted the motion but Tiu moved to quash the subpoena, claiming that it was oppressive and violated Section 25, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court, the rule on parental privilege, she being Emma Lee's stepmother. The 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.

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 Tiu's 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.


Issues:

1. May the subpoena ad testificandum be quashed for being oppressive or unreasonable?

2. May a stepmother be compelled to testify against her stepdaughter?


Held:

1. The CA correctly ruled that the grounds cited - unreasonable and oppressive - are proper for subpoena ad duces tecum or for the production of documents and things in the possession of the witness, a command that has a tendency to infringe on the right against invasion of privacy. 

Taking in mind the ultimate purpose of the Lee-Keh childrens action, obviously, they would want Tiu to testify or admit that she is the mother of Lees other children, including petitioner Emma Lee. Keh had died and so could not give testimony that Lees other children were not hers. The Lee-Keh children have, therefore, a legitimate reason for seeking Tius testimony and, normally, the RTC cannot deprive them of their right to compel the attendance of such a material witness.

Regarding the physical and emotional punishment that would be inflicted on Tiu if she were compelled at her age and condition to come to court to testify, petitioner Emma Lee must establish this claim to the satisfaction of the trial court. 

Tiu has no need to worry that the oral examination might subject her to badgering by adverse counsel. The trial courts duty is to protect every witness against oppressive behavior of an examiner and this is especially true where the witness is of advanced age.


2. Yes. Section 25, Rule 130 of the Rules of Evidence reads:

 Sec. 25. Parental and filial privilege.- No person may be compelled to testify against his parents, other direct ascendants, children or other direct descendants.

The above is an adaptation from a similar provision in Article 315 of the Civil Code that applies only in criminal cases. But those who revised the Rules of Civil Procedure chose to extend the prohibition to all kinds of actions, whether civil, criminal, or administrative, filed against parents and other direct ascendants or descendants.

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. Article 965 thus provides:

 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.

Consequently, Tiu can be compelled to testify against petitioner Emma Lee. (Emma Lee vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 177861, July 13, 2010)

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