What is a subpoena?

The live media coverage of the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona has given everyone the opportunity to witness the proceedings even without having to go to the Senate acting as an impeachment court.

As we watch the trial, we see how the prosecution and the defense team argue and defend, respectively, their cases, examine witnesses, and make manifestations and motions.

And the prosecution team would, time and again, request the impeachment court, through its presiding officer, to issue a subpoena. This is done by way of a motion, which, in turn, may either be in oral or written form.

If done orally, the movant (referring to someone who is making a motion or request) would, in open court, simply say,  “Your Honor, we move for the issuance of a subpoena …” The presiding officer, if he decides to grant the same, would then respond and say, “Issue a subpoena to…”.

But what is a subpoena? Rule 21 of the Rules of Court provides an answer to this question.

A subpoena, in consonance with Section 1, Rule 21 of the Rules of Court, is a process directed to a person requiring him to attend and to testify at the hearing or the trial of an action, or at any investigation conducted by competent authority, or for the taking of his deposition. This kind of subpoena is called a subpoena ad testificandum.

And it is called a subpoena duces tecum if it requires that person to bring with him any books, documents, or other things under his control.

In case of failure of a witness to attend, the court or judge issuing the subpoena, upon proof of its service and of the failure of the witness, may issue a warrant to the sheriff of the province, or his deputy, to arrest the witness and bring him before the court or officer where his attendance is required.

The cost of such warrant and seizure of such witness shall be paid by the witness if the court issuing it shall determine that his failure to answer the subpoena was willful and without just excuse.

And the failure by any person without adequate cause to obey a subpoena served upon him shall be deemed a contempt of the court from which the subpoena is issued.

If the subpoena was not issued by a court, the disobedience shall be punished in accordance with the applicable law or Rule.

A person found liable for contempt for disobeying a subpoena may be punished by a fine or imprisonment, or both.

[References: Rule 21 of the Rules of Court, Section 1, Rule 21 of the Rules of Court, Section 8, Rule 21 of the Rules of Court, Section 9, Rule 21 of the Rules of Court, and Rule 71 of the Rules of Court/Author’s Note: This was first posted on the Internet on January 22, 2012]


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