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[G.R. No. 125865.

January 28, 2000]

JEFFREY LIANG (HUEFENG), petitioner, vs. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondent.

DECISION

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

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 Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) of Mandaluyong City with two
counts of grave oral defamation docketed as Criminal Cases Nos. 53170 and 53171.
Petitioner was arrested by virtue of a warrant issued by the MeTC. After fixing petitioners
bail at P2,400.00 per criminal charge, 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
Department of Foreign Affairs (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 (hereinafter Agreement) 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 two 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 Regional Trial
Court (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, petitioner elevated the case to this Court 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 cases were filed in court.

The petition is not impressed with merit.

First, courts cannot blindly adhere and take on its face the communication from the DFA
that petitioner is covered by any immunity. The DFAs determination that a certain person is
covered by immunity is only preliminary which has no binding effect in courts. In receiving
ex-parte the DFAs advice and in motu proprio dismissing the two criminal cases without
notice to the prosecution, the latters right to due process was violated. It should be noted
that due process is a right of the accused as much as it is of the prosecution. The needed
inquiry in what capacity petitioner was acting at the time of the alleged utterances requires
for its resolution evidentiary basis that has yet to be presented at the proper time.[1] At any
rate, it has been ruled that the mere invocation of the immunity clause does not ipso facto
result in the dropping of the charges.[2]

Second, under Section 45 of the Agreement which provides: Jksm

"Officers and staff of the Bank including for the purpose of this Article experts and
consultants performing missions for the Bank shall enjoy the following privileges and
immunities:

a.).......immunity from legal process with respect to acts performed by them in their official
capacity except when the Bank waives the immunity."

the immunity mentioned therein is not absolute, but subject to the exception that the act
was done in "official capacity." It is therefore necessary to determine if petitioners case falls
within the ambit of Section 45(a). Thus, the prosecution should have been given the chance
to rebut the DFA protocol and it must be accorded the opportunity to present its
controverting evidence, should it so desire.

Third, 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.[3] The imputation of theft is ultra vires and cannot be part of official
functions. It is well-settled principle of law that a public official may be liable in his
personal private capacity for whatever damage he may have caused by his act done with
malice or in bad faith or beyond the scope of his authority or jurisdiction.[4] It appears that
even the governments chief legal counsel, the Solicitor General, does not support the stand
taken by petitioner and that of the DFA.

Fourth, under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, a diplomatic agent, assuming
petitioner is such, enjoys immunity from criminal jurisdiction of the receiving state except
in the case of an action relating to any professional or commercial activity exercised by the
diplomatic agent in the receiving state outside his official functions.[5] As already
mentioned above, the commission of a crime is not part of official duty.

Finally, on the contention that there was no preliminary investigation conducted, suffice it
to say that preliminary investigation is not a matter of right in cases cognizable by the
MeTC such as the one at bar.[6] Being purely a statutory right, preliminary investigation
may be invoked only when specifically granted by law.[7] The rule on criminal procedure is
clear that no preliminary investigation is required in cases falling within the jurisdiction of
the MeTC.[8] Besides, the absence of preliminary investigation does not affect the courts
jurisdiction nor does it impair the validity of the information or otherwise render it
defective.[9]

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman), Puno, Kapunan, and Pardo, JJ., concur.2/22/00 9:47 AM

JEFFREY LIANG (HUEFENG), petitioner, vs. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondent.


RESOLUTION
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

This resolves petitioners Motion for Reconsideration of our Decision dated January 28,
2000, denying the petition for review.
The Motion is anchored on the following arguments:
1) THE DFAS DETERMINATION OF IMMUNITY IS A POLITICAL QUESTION TO BE
MADE BY THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH OF THE GOVERNMENT AND IS
CONCLUSIVE UPON THE COURTS.
2) THE IMMUNITY OF INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS IS ABSOLUTE.
3) THE IMMUNITY EXTENDS TO ALL STAFF OF THE ASIAN DEVELOPMENT BANK
(ADB).
4) DUE PROCESS WAS FULLY AFFORDED THE COMPLAINANT TO REBUT THE DFA
PROTOCOL.
5) THE DECISION OF JANUARY 28, 2000 ERRONEOUSLY MADE A FINDING OF
FACT ON THE MERITS, NAMELY, THE SLANDERING OF A PERSON WHICH
PREJUDGED PETITIONERS CASE BEFORE THE METROPOLITAN TRIAL COURT
(MTC)-MANDALUYONG.
6) THE VIENNA CONVENTION ON DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS IS NOT APPLICABLE
TO THIS CASE.
This case has its origin in two criminal Informations [1] for grave oral defamation filed
against petitioner, a Chinese national who was employed as an Economist by the Asian
Development Bank (ADB), alleging that on separate occasions on January 28 and January
31, 1994, petitioner allegedly uttered defamatory words to Joyce V. Cabal, a member of the
clerical staff of ADB. On April 13, 1994, the Metropolitan Trial Court of Mandaluyong City,
acting pursuant to an advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs that petitioner enjoyed
immunity from legal processes, dismissed the criminal Informations against him. On a
petition for certiorari and mandamus filed by the People, the Regional Trial Court of Pasig
City, Branch 160, annulled and set aside the order of the Metropolitan Trial Court
dismissing the criminal cases.[2]
Petitioner, thus, brought a petition for review with this Court. On January 28, 2000, we
rendered the assailed Decision denying the petition for review. We ruled, in essence, that
the immunity granted to officers and staff of the ADB is not absolute; it is limited to acts
performed in an official capacity. Furthermore, we held that the immunity cannot cover the
commission of a crime such as slander or oral defamation in the name of official duty.
On October 18, 2000, the oral arguments of the parties were heard. This Court also
granted the Motion for Intervention of the Department of Foreign Affairs. Thereafter, the
parties were directed to submit their respective memorandum.
For the most part, petitioners Motion for Reconsideration deals with the diplomatic
immunity of the ADB, its officials and staff, from legal and judicial processes in the
Philippines, as well as the constitutional and political bases thereof. It should be made clear
that nowhere in the assailed Decision is diplomatic immunity denied, even remotely. The
issue in this case, rather, boils down to whether or not the statements allegedly made by
petitioner were uttered while in the performance of his official functions, in order for this
case to fall squarely under the provisions of Section 45 (a) of the Agreement Between the
Asian Development Bank and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines Regarding
the Headquarters of the Asian Development Bank, to wit:

Officers ands staff of the Bank, including for the purpose of this Article experts and
consultants performing missions for the Bank, shall enjoy the following privileges and
immunities:

(a) Immunity from legal process with respect to acts performed by them in their official
capacity except when the Bank waives the immunity.

After a careful deliberation of the arguments raised in petitioners and intervenors


Motions for Reconsideration, we find no cogent reason to disturb our Decision of January
28, 2000. As we have stated therein, the slander of a person, by any stretch, cannot be
considered as falling within the purview of the immunity granted to ADB officers and
personnel. Petitioner argues that the Decision had the effect of prejudging the criminal case
for oral defamation against him. We wish to stress that it did not. What we merely stated
therein is that slander, in general, cannot be considered as an act performed in an official
capacity. The issue of whether or not petitioners utterances constituted oral defamation is
still for the trial court to determine.
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Motions for Reconsideration filed by
petitioner and intervenor Department of Foreign Affairs are DENIED with FINALITY.
SO ORDERED.
Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman), join the concurring opinion of Mr. Justice Puno.
Kapunan, and Pardo, JJ., concur.
Puno, J., Pls. See concurring opinion.
LIANG VS PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES GR no. 125865 January 28, 2000

Petitioner: Jeffrey Liang

Respondent: People of the Philippines

FACTS:

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 petitioners
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.

ISSUES:

(1) Whether or not the petitioners case is covered with immunity from legal process with
regard to Section 45 of the Agreement between the ADB and the Philippine Govt.

(2) Whether or not the conduct of preliminary investigation was imperative.

HELD:

(1) NO. The petitioners 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.


Liang vs. People, 323 SCRA 652 (2000)

FACTS: Petitioner is an economist for ADB who was charged by the Metropolitan Trial Court
of Mandaluyong city for allegedly uttering defamatory words against her fellow worker
with two

counts of grave oral defamation. MeTC judge then received an office of protocol from the
Department of Foreign Affairs, stating that petitioner is covered by immunity from legal
process under section 45 of the agreement bet ADB and the government. MeTC judge,
without notice, dismissed the two criminal cases. Prosecution filed writ of mandamus and
certiorari and ordered

the MeTC to enforce the warrant of arrest.

ISSUES: Whether or not the petitioner is covered by immunity under the agreement and
that no preliminary investigation was held before the criminal cases were filed in court.

RULING: He is not covered by immunity because the commission of a crime is part of the
performance of official duty. Courts cannot blindly adhere and take on its face the
communication from the DFA that a certain person is covered by immunity. That

a person is covered by immunity is preliminary. Due process is right of the accused as much
as the prosecution.

Slandering a person is not covered by the agreement because our laws do not allow the
commission of a crime such as defamation in the name of official duty. Under Vienna

convention on Diplomatic Relations, commission of a crime is not part of official duty.

On the contention that there was no preliminary investigation conducted, suffice it to say
that preliminary investigation is not a matter of right in cases cognizable by the MeTC such
as the one at bar. Being purely a statutory right, preliminary investigation may be invoked
only when specifically granted by law. The rule on criminal procedure is clear than no
preliminary investigation is required in cases falling within the jurisdiction of the MeTC.
Besides, the absence of preliminary investigation does not affect the courts jurisdiction nor
does it

impair the validity of the information or otherwise render it

defective.