China Bank v. CA (G.R. No. 140687)

Facts:

Jose Gotianuy accused his daughter Mary Margaret Dee of stealing, among his other properties, US dollar deposits with Citibank N.A. Mary Margaret Dee received these amounts from Citibank through checks which she allegedly deposited at petitioner China Bank. Jose Gotianuy, died during the pendency of the case and was substituted by his daughter, Elizabeth Gotianuy Lo. The latter presented the US Dollar checks withdrawn by Mary Margaret Dee from his US dollar placement with Citibank. Upon motion of Elizabeth Gotianuy Lo, the trial court issued a subpoena to employees of China Bank to testify on the case. China Bank moved for reconsideration. The trial court resolved by directing the employees to appear at the trial of the case only for the purpose of disclosing in whose name/s is the foreign currency fund deposited with. CA affirmed the order of the trial court.

Issue:

Whether or not a co-depositor may inquire into the deposit without a written consent of the other co-depositor?

Ruling: YES. [Pro Hac Vice Ruling]

The Court of Appeals, in allowing the inquiry, considered Jose Gotianuy, a co-depositor of Mary Margaret Dee. It reasoned that since Jose Gotianuy is the named co-payee of the latter in the subject checks, which checks were deposited in China Bank, then, Jose Gotianuy is likewise a depositor thereof. On that basis, no written consent from Mary Margaret Dee is necessitated.

We agree in the conclusion arrived at by the Court of Appeals.

Thus, with this, there is no issue as to the source of the funds. Mary Margaret Dee declared the source to be Jose Gotianuy. There is likewise no dispute that these funds in the form of Citibank US dollar Checks are now deposited with China Bank. As the owner of the funds unlawfully taken and which are undisputably now deposited with China Bank, Jose Gotianuy has the right to inquire into the said deposits.

On this score, the observations of the Court of Appeals are worth reiterating:

Furthermore, it is indubitable that the Citibank checks were drawn against the foreign currency account with Citibank, NA. The monies subject of said checks originally came from the late Jose Gotianuy, the owner of the account. Thus, he also has legal rights and interests in the CBC account where said monies were deposited. More importantly, the Citibank checks readily demonstrate that the late Jose Gotianuy is one of the payees of said checks. Being a co-payee thereof, then he or his estate can be considered as a co-depositor of said checks. Ergo, since the late Jose Gotianuy is a co-depositor of the CBC account, then his request for the assailed subpoena is tantamount to an express permission of a depositor for the disclosure of the name of the account holder.

All things considered and in view of the distinctive circumstances attendant to the present case, we are constrained to render a limited pro hac vice ruling. Clearly it was not the intent of the legislature when it enacted the law on secrecy on foreign currency deposits to perpetuate injustice. This Court is of the view that the allowance of the inquiry would be in accord with the rudiments of fair play, the upholding of fairness in our judicial system and would be an avoidance of delay and time-wasteful and circuitous way of administering justice.

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