>>>>Rules on Mode of Discovery (PAPERBOUND)

Rules on Mode of Discovery (PAPERBOUND)


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The historical context of the Philippine legal system provides the contextual framework on the origin of deposition-discovery measures. The Philippines is a civil law jurisdiction, as a result of a 400 hundred year Spanish colonial period. The primary source of legal authority is the written code.

When the Spanish-American war ended, the control of the Philippines was transferred by Spain to the United States by virtue of the Treaty of Paris (1898). During the American colonization, judicial institutions based on Anglo-American tradition were established. The legal methodologies that were developed during those times were based on common law rules. Even the post-World War II Philippine Constitution was greatly influenced by the American Constitution. Thus, Philippine courts were organized similar to the U.S. court system.

As a result of colonization by different powers, the Philippine legal system resulted in a mixed jurisdiction. Hence, a fusion of civil and common law traditions. Moreover, because of the strong influence of American justice system, the Philippine justice system was modeled on the “broad discovery” model of the United States. This is where pieces of evidence may be discovered in the pre-trial phase.

The foregoing historical context, as noted by the American Bar Association in its Legal Assessment, dated January 10, 2007, entitled Analysis of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure for the Republic of the Philippines, played an important factor on why the Rules of Court on Civil Procedure in the Philippines was patterned on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) of the United States, particularly the provisions on the modes of discovery. The former Chief of the Philippine Supreme Court, Justice Manuel V. Moran, in his work Comments on the Rules of Court even specifically cited the provisions on modes of discovery that were taken substantially from the Federal Rules of Procedure (FRCP).

The subject matter of this humble work are the following provisions of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, which took effect last July 1,1997, on deposition-discovery measures:

a. RULE 23 — Depositions Pending Action

b. RULE 24 — Depositions Before Action or Pending Appeal

c. RULE 25 — Interrogatories to Parties

d. RULE 26 — Admission by Adverse Party

e. RULE 27 — Production or Inspection of Documents or Things

f. RULE 28 — Physical and Mental Examination of Persons

g. RULE 29 — Refusal to Comply with Modes of Discovery

Depositions are principally made available by law to the parties as a means of informing themselves of all the relevant facts; they are not therefore generally meant to be a substitute for the actual testimony in open court of a party or witness. The deponent must, as a rule, be presented for oral examination in open court at the trial or hearing. This is a requirement of the rules of evidence. (Dasmariñas Garments, Inc. v. Reyes, G.R. No. 108299,August 24,1993)

The Honorable Supreme Court in A.M. No. 03-1-09-SC, Rule on Guidelines to be Observed by Trial Court Judges and Clerks of Court in the Conduct of Pre-Trial and Use of Deposition-Discovery Measures, effective on August 16, 2004, had clearly recognized the fact that deposition-discovery measures are undeniably an important and vital components of case management in Philippine trial courts.

The abbreviation of court proceedings, ensure prompt disposition of cases and decongest court dockets were amongst the philosophies in encouraging the use of deposition-discovery measures. In fact, the aforesaid guidelines of the Supreme Court specifically requires that the court shall issue within five days from the filing of the answer an order requiring the parties to avail of the discovery measures of interrogatories to parties, request for admission by adverse party or at their discretion make use of depositions or other measures involving production or inspection of things, physical and mental examination of persons.

In practice, there were few practicing lawyers who avail the use of the deposition-discovery measures in the management of their cases in Philippine trial courts. Worthy of attention was the observation made by the Supreme Court in Republic v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No. 90478, November 21, 1991, “that among far too many lawyers (and not a few judges), there is, if not a regrettable unfamiliarity and even outrightignorance about the nature, purposes and operation of the modes of discovery, at least a strong yet unreasoned and unreasonable disinclination to resort to them — which is a great pity for the intelligent and adequate use of the deposition-discovery mechanism, coupled with pre-trial procedure, could, as the experience of other jurisdictions convincingly demonstrates, effectively shorten the period of litigation and speed up adjudication.”

The Supreme Court in the said case of Republic v. Sandiganbayan, further stated “Seventy-one years ago, in Alonso v. Villamor, the Court described the nature and object of litigation and in the process laid down the standards by which judicial contests are to be conducted in this jurisdiction. It said:

A litigation is not a game of technicalities in which one, more deeply schooled and skilled in the subtle art of movement and position, entraps and destroys the other. It is, rather a contest in which each contending party fully and fairly lays before the court the facts in issue and then brushing aside as wholly trivial and indecisive all imperfections of form and technicalities of procedure, asks that justice be done on the merits. Lawsuits, unlike duels, are not to be won by a rapier’s thrust. Technicality, when it deserts its proper office as an aid to justice and becomes its great hindrance and chief enemy, deserves scant consideration from courts. There should be no vested right in technicalities. . . .

The message is plain. It is the duty of each contending party to lay before the court the facts-in-issue fully and fairly, i.e., to present to the court all the material and relevant facts known to him, suppressing or concealing nothing, nor preventing another party, by clever and adroit manipulation of the technical rules of pleading and evidence, from also presenting all the facts within his knowledge.

The truth is that “evidentiary matters” may be inquired into and learned by the parties before the trial. Indeed, it is the purpose and policy of the law that the parties — before the trial, if not indeed even before the pre-trial –– should discover or inform themselves of all the facts relevant to the action, not only those known to them individually, but also those known to adversaries; in other words, the desideratum is that civil trials should not be carried on in the dark; and the Rules of Court make this ideal possible through the deposition-discovery mechanism set forth in Rules 24 to 29. The experience in other jurisdictions has been that ample discovery before trial, under proper regulation, accomplished one of the most necessary of modern procedure: it not only eliminates unessential issue from trials thereby shortening them considerably, but also requires parties to play the game with the cards on the table so that the possibility of fair settlement before trial is measurably increased. . .”

Since there are various types or modes of discovery, and their respective applications will depend on the stage of a given case or proceedings a lawyer’s knowledge or familiarity on how deposition-discovery measures works in a given case and its various characteristics is important. However, the unfamiliarity about the nature, purposes and operation of the modes of discovery contributed as to why deposition-discovery measures was never included or even considered as one of the checklists of things to do in a practicing lawyer’s litigation plan.

The modes of discovery included in the First Draft of the 2013 Revised Civil Procedure and its salient points were included in this work to show the interplay and distinctions with the provisions of modes of discovery under the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.

On a final note, this humble work discussed the importance of knowing and practicing the philosophy behind the use of deposition-discovery measures. For practicing lawyers, to provide a simple step-by-step guide on how to use deposition-discovery measures in their case management in Philippine trial courts and for law students, to serve as reference for the subject.

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