At common law a governmental privilege against disclosure is recognized with respect to state secrets bearing on military, diplomatic and similar matters

This Court is unimpressed.  We agree with the view taken by the Solicitor General that the assailed subpoena duces tecum indeed particularly and sufficiently described the records to be produced.  There is every indication that petitioner knew precisely what records were being referred to as it even suggested that the tax dockets sought to be produced may not contain evidence material to the inquiry and that it has already submitted the same to Baldrias.

The records do not show how the production of the subpoenaed documents would necessarily contravene Sec. 269[29] of the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC) on unlawful divulgence of trade secrets and Sec. 277[30] of the same Code on  procuring unlawful divulgence of trade secrets.  The documents sought to be produced were only the case dockets of the tax refunds granted to Limtuaco and La Tondeña which are public  records, and the subpoena duces tecum were directed to the  public officials who  have   the official custody of the said records.  We find no valid reason why the trade secrets of Limtuaco and La Tondeña would be unnecessarily disclosed if such official records, subject of the subpoena duces tecum, were to be produced by the petitioner BIR to respondent Office of the Ombudsman.

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the case dockets of the tax refunds which were granted to Limtuaco and La Tondeña contain trade secrets, that fact, however, would not justify their non-production before the Ombudsman.  As this Court has underscored in Almote v. Vasquez[31]

At common law a governmental privilege against disclosure is recognized with respect to state secrets bearing on military, diplomatic and similar matters.  This privilege is based upon public interest of such paramount importance as in and of itself transcending the individual interests of a private citizen, even though, as a consequence thereof, the plaintiff cannot enforce his legal rights xxx

In the case at bar, there is no claim that military or diplomatic secrets will be disclosed by the production of records pertaining to the personnel of EIB.  Indeed, EIIB’s function is the gathering and evaluation of intelligence reports and information regarding “illegal activities affecting the national economy, such as, but not limited to economic sabotage, smuggling, tax evasion, dollar salting.  Consequently, while in cases which involve state secrets it may be sufficient to determine from the circumstances of the case that there is reasonable danger that compulsion of the evidence will expose military maters without compelling production, no similar excuse can be made for a privilege resting on other consideration.

Above all, even if the subpoenaed documents are treated as presumptively privileged, this decision would only justify ordering their inspection in camera but not their nonproduction xxx

Besides, under the facts of this case, petitioner should not have concerned itself with possibly violating the pertinent provisions of the NLRC on unlawful divulgence or unlawful procurement of trade secrets considering Rule V of the Rules of Procedure of the Office of the Ombudsman[32] which  provides that –

(a) Any person whose testimony or production of documents or other evidence is necessary to determine the truth in any inquiry, hearing, or proceeding being conducted by the Office of the Ombudsman or under its authority in the performance or furtherance or its constitutional functions and statutory objectives, including preliminary investigation, may be granted immunity from criminal prosecution by the Ombudsman, upon such terms and conditions as the Ombudsman may determine, taking into account the pertinent provisions of the Rules of Court xxx

About Erineus

Born on December 28, 1965, Surallah, South Cotabato, Southern Mindanao, Philippines.
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