BSB Group v. Sally Go (G.R. No. 168644)

Facts:

Petitioner is a duly organized domestic corporation presided by its representative, Ricardo Bangayan, husband of herein respondent Sally Go. Respondent was employed as a cashier, and was engaged, among others, to receive and account for the payments made by the various customers of the company. Bangayan filed with the Manila Prosecutor’s Office a complaint for estafa/qualified theft against respondent alleging that several checks issued by the company’s customers in payment of their obligation were, instead of being turned over to the company’s coffers, indorsed by respondent who deposited the same to her personal banking account maintained at Security Bank. Accordingly, respondent was charged and the prosecution moved for the issuance of subpoena duces tecum/ad testificandum against the respective managers or records custodians of Security Bank and Asian Savings Bank. Respondent opposed and meanwhile, prosecution was able to present in court the testimony of one Security Bank representative. Petitioner moved to exclude the testimony but was denied by the trial court. CA reversed and set aside the order.

Issue:

Whether or not the testimony on the particulars of respondent’s account with Security Bank, as well as of the corresponding evidence of the checks allegedly deposited in said account, constitutes an unallowable inquiry under R.A. 1405.

Ruling: YES.

The Court found guidance in the relevant portions of the legislative deliberations on Senate Bill No. 351 and House Bill No. 3977, which later became the Bank Secrecy Act, and it held that the absolute confidentiality rule in R.A. No. 1405 actually aims at protection from unwarranted inquiry or investigation if the purpose of such inquiry or investigation is merely to determine the existence and nature, as well as the amount of the deposit in any given bank account.

What indeed constitutes the subject matter in litigation in relation to Section 2 of R.A. No. 1405 has been pointedly and amply addressed in Union Bank of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals, in which the Court noted that the inquiry into bank deposits allowable under R.A. No. 1405 must be premised on the fact that the money deposited in the account is itself the subject of the action. Given this perspective, we deduce that the subject matter of the action in the case at bar is to be determined from the indictment that charges respondent with the offense, and not from the evidence sought by the prosecution to be admitted into the records. In the criminal Information filed with the trial court, respondent, unqualifiedly and in plain language, is charged with qualified theft by abusing petitioner’s trust and confidence and stealing cash. The said Information makes no factual allegation that in some material way involves the checks subject of the testimonial and documentary evidence sought to be suppressed. Neither do the allegations in said Information make mention of the supposed bank account in which the funds represented by the checks have allegedly been kept.

In other words, it can hardly be inferred from the indictment itself that the Security Bank account is the ostensible subject of the prosecution’s inquiry. Without needlessly expanding the scope of what is plainly alleged in the Information, the subject matter of the action in this case is the money alleged to have been stolen by respondent, and not the money equivalent of the checks which are sought to be admitted in evidence. Thus, it is that, which the prosecution is bound to prove with its evidence, and no other.

It comes clear that the admission of testimonial and documentary evidence relative to respondent’s Security Bank account serves no other purpose than to establish the existence of such account, its nature and the amount kept in it. It constitutes an attempt by the prosecution at an impermissible inquiry into a bank deposit account the privacy and confidentiality of which is protected by law. On this score alone, the objection posed by respondent in her motion to suppress should have indeed put an end to the controversy at the very first instance it was raised before the trial court.

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