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G.R. No.

162230 April 28, 2010

ISABELITA C. VINUYA, et.al, Complainants


vs.
THE HONORABLE EXECUTIVE SECRETARY ALBERTO G. ROMULO, THE HONORABLE
SECRETARY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS DELIA DOMINGO-ALBERT, THE HONORABLE
SECRETARY OF JUSTICE MERCEDITAS N. GUTIERREZ, and THE HONORABLE SOLICITOR
GENERAL ALFREDO L. BENIPAYO, Respondents.

Petitioners claim that since 1998, they have approached the Executive Department through the DOJ,
DFA, and OSG, requesting assistance in filing a claim against the Japanese officials and military
officers who ordered the establishment of the "comfort women" stations in the Philippines. However,
officials of the Executive Department declined to assist the petitioners, and took the position that the
individual claims of the comfort women for compensation had already been fully satisfied by Japan’s
compliance with the Peace Treaty between the Philippines and Japan.

Issues

Hence, this petition where petitioners pray for this court to (a) declare that respondents committed
grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of discretion in refusing to espouse their
claims for the crimes against humanity and war crimes committed against them; and (b) compel the
respondents to espouse their claims for official apology and other forms of reparations against Japan
before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and other international tribunals.

Petitioners’ arguments

Petitioners argue that the general waiver of claims made by the Philippine government in the Treaty
of Peace with Japan is void. They claim that the comfort women system established by Japan, and
the brutal rape and enslavement of petitioners constituted a crime against humanity,3 sexual
slavery,4 and torture.5 They allege that the prohibition against these international crimes is jus
cogens norms from which no derogation is possible; as such, in waiving the claims of Filipina
comfort women and failing to espouse their complaints against Japan, the Philippine government is
in breach of its legal obligation not to afford impunity for crimes against humanity. Finally, petitioners
assert that the Philippine government’s acceptance of the "apologies" made by Japan as well as
funds from the Asian Women’s Fund (AWF) were contrary to international law.

Respondents’ Arguments

Respondents maintain that all claims of the Philippines and its nationals relative to the war were
dealt with in the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1951 and the bilateral Reparations Agreement of
1956.6

Stripped down to its essentials, the issue in this case is whether the Executive Department
committed grave abuse of discretion in not espousing petitioners’ claims for official apology and
other forms of reparations against Japan.

The petition lacks merit.

From a Domestic Law Perspective, the Executive Department has the exclusive prerogative to
determine whether to espouse petitioners’ claims against Japan.
The Executive Department has determined that taking up petitioners’ cause would be inimical to our
country’s foreign policy interests, and could disrupt our relations with Japan, thereby creating serious
implications for stability in this region. For us to overturn the Executive Department’s determination
would mean an assessment of the foreign policy judgments by a coordinate political branch to which
authority to make that judgment has been constitutionally committed.

The official record of treaty negotiations establishes that a fundamental goal of the agreement was to
settle the reparations issue once and for all. As the statement of the chief United States negotiator,
John Foster Dulles, makes clear, it was well understood that leaving open the possibility of future
claims would be an unacceptable impediment to a lasting peace:

Reparation is usually the most controversial aspect of peacemaking. The present peace is no
exception.

We thus hold that, from a municipal law perspective, that certiorari will not lie. As a general principle
– and particularly here, where such an extraordinary length of time has lapsed between the treaty’s
conclusion and our consideration – the Executive must be given ample discretion to assess the
foreign policy considerations of espousing a claim against Japan, from the standpoint of both the
interests of the petitioners and those of the Republic, and decide on that basis if apologies are
sufficient, and whether further steps are appropriate or necessary.

The Philippines is not under any international obligation to espouse petitioners’ claims.

In the international sphere, traditionally, the only means available for individuals to bring a claim
within the international legal system has been when the individual is able to persuade a government
to bring a claim on the individual’s behalf.55 Even then, it is not the individual’s rights that are being
asserted, but rather, the state’s own rights.

Since the exercise of diplomatic protection is the right of the State, reliance on the right is within the
absolute discretion of states, and the decision whether to exercise the discretion may invariably be
influenced by political considerations other than the legal merits of the particular claim.

We fully agree that rape, sexual slavery, torture, and sexual violence are morally reprehensible as
well as legally prohibited under contemporary international law.65 However, petitioners take quite a
theoretical leap in claiming that these proscriptions automatically imply that that the Philippines is
under a non-derogable obligation to prosecute international crimes, particularly since petitioners do
not demand the imputation of individual criminal liability, but seek to recover monetary reparations
from the state of Japan. Absent the consent of states, an applicable treaty regime, or a directive by
the Security Council, there is no non-derogable duty to institute proceedings against Japan. Indeed,
precisely because of states’ reluctance to directly prosecute claims against another state, recent
developments support the modern trend to empower individuals to directly participate in suits against
perpetrators of international crimes.66 Nonetheless, notwithstanding an array of General Assembly
resolutions calling for the prosecution of crimes against humanity and the strong policy arguments
warranting such a rule, the practice of states does not yet support the present existence of an
obligation to prosecute international crimes.67 Of course a customary duty of prosecution is ideal, but
we cannot find enough evidence to reasonably assert its existence. To the extent that any state
practice in this area is widespread, it is in the practice of granting amnesties, immunity, selective
prosecution, or de facto impunity to those who commit crimes against humanity."68

Even the invocation of jus cogens norms and erga omnes obligations will not alter this analysis.
Even if we sidestep the question of whether jus cogens norms existed in 1951, petitioners have not
deigned to show that the crimes committed by the Japanese army violated jus cogens prohibitions at
the time the Treaty of Peace was signed, or that the duty to prosecute perpetrators of international
crimes is an erga omnes obligation or has attained the status of jus cogens.

The term erga omnes (Latin: in relation to everyone) in international law has been used as a legal
term describing obligations owed by States towards the community of states as a whole.

The term is closely connected with the international law concept of jus cogens. In international law,
the term "jus cogens" (literally, "compelling law") refers to norms that command peremptory
authority, superseding conflicting treaties and custom. Jus cogens norms are considered peremptory
in the sense that they are mandatory, do not admit derogation, and can be modified only by general

Of course, we greatly sympathize with the cause of petitioners, and we cannot begin to comprehend
the unimaginable horror they underwent at the hands of the Japanese soldiers. We are also deeply
concerned that, in apparent contravention of fundamental principles of law, the petitioners appear to
be without a remedy to challenge those that have offended them before appropriate fora. Needless
to say, our government should take the lead in protecting its citizens against violation of their
fundamental human rights. Regrettably, it is not within our power to order the Executive Department
to take up the petitioners’ cause. Ours is only the power to urge and exhort the Executive
Department to take up petitioners’ cause.

WHEREFORE, the Petition is hereby DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 118295 May 2, 1997

WIGBERTO E. TAÑADA and ANNA DOMINIQUE COSETENG, as members of the Philippine


Senate and as taxpayers; GREGORIO ANDOLANA and JOKER ARROYO as members of the
House of Representatives and as taxpayers; NICANOR P. PERLAS and HORACIO R.
MORALES, both as taxpayers; CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION, NATIONAL ECONOMIC
PROTECTIONISM ASSOCIATION, CENTER FOR ALTERNATIVE DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVES,
LIKAS-KAYANG KAUNLARAN FOUNDATION, INC., PHILIPPINE RURAL RECONSTRUCTION
MOVEMENT, DEMOKRATIKONG KILUSAN NG MAGBUBUKID NG PILIPINAS, INC., and
PHILIPPINE PEASANT INSTITUTE, in representation of various taxpayers and as non-
governmental organizations, petitioners,
vs.
EDGARDO ANGARA, ALBERTO ROMULO, LETICIA RAMOS-SHAHANI, HEHERSON
ALVAREZ, AGAPITO AQUINO, RODOLFO BIAZON, NEPTALI GONZALES, ERNESTO
HERRERA, JOSE LINA, GLORIA. MACAPAGAL-ARROYO, ORLANDO MERCADO, BLAS
OPLE, JOHN OSMEÑA, SANTANINA RASUL, RAMON REVILLA, RAUL ROCO, FRANCISCO
TATAD and FREDDIE WEBB, in their respective capacities as members of the Philippine
Senate who concurred in the ratification by the President of the Philippines of the Agreement
Establishing the World Trade Organization; SALVADOR ENRIQUEZ, in his capacity as
Secretary of Budget and Management; CARIDAD VALDEHUESA, in her capacity as National
Treasurer; RIZALINO NAVARRO, in his capacity as Secretary of Trade and Industry;
ROBERTO SEBASTIAN, in his capacity as Secretary of Agriculture; ROBERTO DE OCAMPO,
in his capacity as Secretary of Finance; ROBERTO ROMULO, in his capacity as Secretary of
Foreign Affairs; and TEOFISTO T. GUINGONA, in his capacity as Executive
Secretary, respondents.
PANGANIBAN, J.:

Arguing mainly (1) that the WTO requires the Philippines "to place nationals and products of
member-countries on the same footing as Filipinos and local products" and (2) that the WTO
"intrudes, limits and/or impairs" the constitutional powers of both Congress and the Supreme Court,
the instant petition before this Court assails the WTO Agreement for violating the mandate of the
1987 Constitution to "develop a self-reliant and independent national economy effectively controlled
by Filipinos . . . (to) give preference to qualified Filipinos (and to) promote the preferential use of
Filipino labor, domestic materials and locally produced goods."

On April 15, 1994, Respondent Rizalino Navarro, then Secretary of The Department of Trade and
Industry (Secretary Navarro, for brevity), representing the Government of the Republic of the
Philippines, signed in Marrakesh, Morocco, the Final Act Embodying the Results of the Uruguay
Round of Multilateral Negotiations (Final Act, for brevity).

On December 16, 1994, the President of the Philippines signed7 the Instrument of Ratification,

On December 29, 1994, the present petition was filed.

To recapitulate, the issues that will be ruled upon shortly are:

(1) DOES THE PETITION PRESENT A JUSTICIABLE CONTROVERSY?


OTHERWISE STATED, DOES THE PETITION INVOLVE A POLITICAL QUESTION
OVER WHICH THIS COURT HAS NO JURISDICTION?

(2) DO THE PROVISIONS OF THE WTO AGREEMENT AND ITS THREE


ANNEXES CONTRAVENE SEC. 19, ARTICLE II, AND SECS. 10 AND 12, ARTICLE
XII, OF THE PHILIPPINE CONSTITUTION?

(3) DO THE PROVISIONS OF SAID AGREEMENT AND ITS ANNEXES LIMIT,


RESTRICT, OR IMPAIR THE EXERCISE OF LEGISLATIVE POWER BY
CONGRESS?

(4) DO SAID PROVISIONS UNDULY IMPAIR OR INTERFERE WITH THE


EXERCISE OF JUDICIAL POWER BY THIS COURT IN PROMULGATING RULES
ON EVIDENCE?

(5) WAS THE CONCURRENCE OF THE SENATE IN THE WTO AGREEMENT AND
ITS ANNEXES SUFFICIENT AND/OR VALID, CONSIDERING THAT IT DID NOT
INCLUDE THE FINAL ACT, MINISTERIAL DECLARATIONS AND DECISIONS,
AND THE UNDERSTANDING ON COMMITMENTS IN FINANCIAL SERVICES?

The First Issue: Does the Court


Have Jurisdiction Over the Controversy?

The jurisdiction of this Court to adjudicate the matters 14 raised in the petition is clearly set out in the
1987 Constitution, 15

Second Issue: The WTO Agreement


and Economic Nationalism
This is the lis mota, the main issue, raised by the petition.

It is petitioners' position that the foregoing "national treatment" and "parity provisions" of the WTO
Agreement "place nationals and products of member countries on the same footing as Filipinos and
local products," in contravention of the "Filipino First" policy of the Constitution. They allegedly
render meaningless the phrase "effectively controlled by Filipinos." The constitutional conflict
becomes more manifest when viewed in the context of the clear duty imposed on the Philippines as
a WTO member to ensure the conformity of its laws, regulations and administrative procedures with
its obligations as provided in the annexed agreements. 20 Petitioners further argue that these
provisions contravene constitutional limitations on the role exports play in national development and
negate the preferential treatment accorded to Filipino labor, domestic materials and locally produced
goods.

On the other hand, respondents through the Solicitor General counter (1) that such Charter
provisions are not self-executing and merely set out general policies; (2) that these nationalistic
portions of the Constitution invoked by petitioners should not be read in isolation but should be
related to other relevant provisions of Art. XII, particularly Secs. 1 and 13 thereof; (3) that read
properly, the cited WTO clauses do not conflict with Constitution; and (4) that the WTO Agreement
contains sufficient provisions to protect developing countries like the Philippines from the harshness
of sudden trade liberalization.

Declaration of Principles
Not Self-Executing

By its very title, Article II of the Constitution is a "declaration of principles and state policies." The
counterpart of this article in the 1935 Constitution 21 is called the "basic political creed of the nation"
by Dean Vicente Sinco. 22 These principles in Article II are not intended to be self-executing
principles ready for enforcement through the courts. 23They are used by the judiciary as aids or as
guides in the exercise of its power of judicial review, and by the legislature in its enactment of laws.
As held in the leading case of Kilosbayan, Incorporated vs. Morato, 24 the principles and state policies
enumerated in Article II and some sections of Article XII are not "self-executing provisions, the
disregard of which can give rise to a cause of action in the courts. They do not embody judicially
enforceable constitutional rights but guidelines for legislation."

Economic Nationalism Should Be Read with


Other Constitutional Mandates to Attain
Balanced Development of Economy

All told, while the Constitution indeed mandates a bias in favor of Filipino goods, services, labor and
enterprises, at the same time, it recognizes the need for business exchange with the rest of the
world on the bases of equality and reciprocity and limits protection of Filipino enterprises only
against foreign competition and trade practices that are unfair. 32 In other words, the Constitution did
not intend to pursue an isolationist policy. It did not shut out foreign investments, goods and services
in the development of the Philippine economy. While the Constitution does not encourage the
unlimited entry of foreign goods, services and investments into the country, it does not prohibit them
either. In fact, it allows an exchange on the basis of equality and reciprocity, frowning only on foreign
competition that is unfair.

WTO Recognizes Need to


Protect Weak Economies
Hence, poor countries can protect their common interests more effectively through the WTO than
through one-on-one negotiations with developed countries. Within the WTO, developing countries
can form powerful blocs to push their economic agenda more decisively than outside the
Organization. This is not merely a matter of practical alliances but a negotiating strategy rooted in
law. Thus, the basic principles underlying the WTO Agreement recognize the need of developing
countries like the Philippines to "share in the growth in international trade commensurate with the
needs of their economic development." These basic principles are found in the preamble 34of the
WTO Agreement as follows:

Specific WTO Provisos


Protect Developing Countries

Moreover, GATT itself has provided built-in protection from unfair foreign competition and trade
practices including anti-dumping measures, countervailing measures and safeguards against import
surges. Where local businesses are jeopardized by unfair foreign competition, the Philippines can
avail of these measures. There is hardly therefore any basis for the statement that under the WTO,
local industries and enterprises will all be wiped out and that Filipinos will be deprived of control of
the economy. Quite the contrary, the weaker situations of developing nations like the Philippines
have been taken into account; thus, there would be no basis to say that in joining the WTO, the
respondents have gravely abused their discretion. True, they have made a bold decision to steer the
ship of state into the yet uncharted sea of economic liberalization. But such decision cannot be set
aside on the ground of grave abuse of discretion, simply because we disagree with it or simply
because we believe only in other economic policies. As earlier stated, the Court in taking jurisdiction
of this case will not pass upon the advantages and disadvantages of trade liberalization as an
economic policy. It will only perform its constitutional duty of determining whether the Senate
committed grave abuse of discretion.

Constitution Does Not


Rule Out Foreign Competition

Furthermore, the constitutional policy of a "self-reliant and independent national economy" 35 does
not necessarily rule out the entry of foreign investments, goods and services. It contemplates neither
"economic seclusion" nor "mendicancy in the international community."

The WTO reliance on "most favored nation," "national treatment," and "trade without discrimination"
cannot be struck down as unconstitutional as in fact they are rules of equality and reciprocity that
apply to all WTO members. Aside from envisioning a trade policy based on "equality and
reciprocity," 37 the fundamental law encourages industries that are "competitive in both domestic and
foreign markets," thereby demonstrating a clear policy against a sheltered domestic trade
environment, but one in favor of the gradual development of robust industries that can compete with
the best in the foreign markets. Indeed, Filipino managers and Filipino enterprises have shown
capability and tenacity to compete internationally. And given a free trade environment, Filipino
entrepreneurs and managers in Hongkong have demonstrated the Filipino capacity to grow and to
prosper against the best offered under a policy of laissez faire.

Constitution Favors Consumers,


Not Industries or Enterprises

The Constitution has not really shown any unbalanced bias in favor of any business or enterprise,
nor does it contain any specific pronouncement that Filipino companies should be pampered with a
total proscription of foreign competition. On the other hand, respondents claim that WTO/GATT aims
to make available to the Filipino consumer the best goods and services obtainable anywhere in the
world at the most reasonable prices. Consequently, the question boils down to whether WTO/GATT
will favor the general welfare of the public at large.

The responses to these questions involve "judgment calls" by our policy makers, for which they are
answerable to our people during appropriate electoral exercises. Such questions and the answers
thereto are not subject to judicial pronouncements based on grave abuse of discretion.

Constitution Designed to Meet


Future Events and Contingencies

Constitutions are designed to meet not only the vagaries of contemporary events. They should be
interpreted to cover even future and unknown circumstances. It is to the credit of its drafters that a
Constitution can withstand the assaults of bigots and infidels but at the same time bend with the
refreshing winds of change necessitated by unfolding events.

Third Issue: The WTO Agreement and Legislative Power

Sovereignty Limited by
International Law and Treaties

By their inherent nature, treaties really limit or restrict the absoluteness of sovereignty. By their
voluntary act, nations may surrender some aspects of their state power in exchange for greater
benefits granted by or derived from a convention or pact. After all, states, like individuals, live with
coequals, and in pursuit of mutually covenanted objectives and benefits, they also commonly agree
to limit the exercise of their otherwise absolute rights. Thus, treaties have been used to record
agreements between States concerning such widely diverse matters as, for example, the lease of
naval bases, the sale or cession of territory, the termination of war, the regulation of conduct of
hostilities, the formation of alliances, the regulation of commercial relations, the settling of claims, the
laying down of rules governing conduct in peace and the establishment of international
organizations. 46 The sovereignty of a state therefore cannot in fact and in reality be considered
absolute. Certain restrictions enter into the picture: (1) limitations imposed by the very nature of
membership in the family of nations and (2) limitations imposed by treaty stipulations. As aptly put by
John F. Kennedy, "Today, no nation can build its destiny alone. The age of self-sufficient nationalism
is over. The age of interdependence is here." 47

UN Charter and Other Treaties


Limit Sovereignty

The point is that, as shown by the foregoing treaties, a portion of sovereignty may be waived without
violating the Constitution, based on the rationale that the Philippines "adopts the generally accepted
principles of international law as part of the law of the land and adheres to the policy of . . .
cooperation and amity with all nations."

Fourth Issue: The WTO Agreement and Judicial Power

By and large, the arguments adduced in connection with our disposition of the third issue —
derogation of legislative power — will apply to this fourth issue also. Suffice it to say that the
reciprocity clause more than justifies such intrusion, if any actually exists. Besides, Article 34 does
not contain an unreasonable burden, consistent as it is with due process and the concept of
adversarial dispute settlement inherent in our judicial system.
So too, since the Philippine is a signatory to most international conventions on patents, trademarks
and copyrights, the adjustment in legislation and rules of procedure will not be substantial. 52

Fifth Issue: Concurrence Only in the WTO Agreement and


Not in Other Documents Contained in the Final Act

It should be added that the Senate was well-aware of what it was concurring in as shown by the
members' deliberation on August 25, 1994. After reading the letter of President Ramos dated August
11, 1994, 59 the senators of the Republic minutely dissected what the Senate was concurring in

It is true, as alleged by petitioners, that broad constitutional principles require the State to develop an
independent national economy effectively controlled by Filipinos; and to protect and/or prefer Filipino
labor, products, domestic materials and locally produced goods. But it is equally true that such
principles — while serving as judicial and legislative guides — are not in themselves sources of
causes of action. Moreover, there are other equally fundamental constitutional principles relied upon
by the Senate which mandate the pursuit of a "trade policy that serves the general welfare and
utilizes all forms and arrangements of exchange on the basis of equality and reciprocity" and the
promotion of industries "which are competitive in both domestic and foreign markets," thereby
justifying its acceptance of said treaty. So too, the alleged impairment of sovereignty in the exercise
of legislative and judicial powers is balanced by the adoption of the generally accepted principles of
international law as part of the law of the land and the adherence of the Constitution to the policy of
cooperation and amity with all nations.

That the Senate, after deliberation and voting, voluntarily and overwhelmingly gave its consent to the
WTO Agreement thereby making it "a part of the law of the land" is a legitimate exercise of its
sovereign duty and power. We find no "patent and gross" arbitrariness or despotism "by reason of
passion or personal hostility" in such exercise. It is not impossible to surmise that this Court, or at
least some of its members, may even agree with petitioners that it is more advantageous to the
national interest to strike down Senate Resolution No. 97. But that is not a legal reason to attribute
grave abuse of discretion to the Senate and to nullify its decision. To do so would constitute grave
abuse in the exercise of our own judicial power and duty. Ineludably, what the Senate did was a
valid exercise of its authority. As to whether such exercise was wise, beneficial or viable is outside
the realm of judicial inquiry and review. That is a matter between the elected policy makers and the
people. As to whether the nation should join the worldwide march toward trade liberalization and
economic globalization is a matter that our people should determine in electing their policy makers.
After all, the WTO Agreement allows withdrawal of membership, should this be the political desire of
a member.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED for lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 113191 September 18, 1996

DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, petitioner,


vs.
NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION, HON. LABOR ARBITER NIEVES V. DE
CASTRO and JOSE C. MAGNAYI, respondents.

VITUG, J.:
On 27 January 1993, private respondent initiated NLRC-NCR Case No. 00-01-0690-93 for his
alleged illegal dismissal by ADB and the latter's violation of the "labor-only" contracting law. Two
summonses were served, one sent directly to the ADB and the other through the Department of
Foreign Affairs ("DFA"), both with a copy of the complaint. Forthwith, the ADB and the DFA notified
respondent Labor Arbiter that the ADB, as well as its President and Office, were covered by an
immunity from legal process except for borrowings, guaranties or the sale of securities pursuant to
Article 50(1) and Article 55 of the Agreement Establishing the Asian Development Bank (the
"Charter") in relation to Section 5 and Section 44 of the Agreement Between The Bank And The
Government Of The Philippines Regarding The Bank's Headquarters (the "Headquarters
Agreement").

The Labor Arbiter took cognizance of the complaint on the impression that the ADB had waived its
diplomatic immunity from suit. In time, the Labor Arbiter rendered his decision, dated 31 August
1993, that concluded declaring the complainant as a regular employee of respondent ADB, and the
termination of his services as illegal.

The ADB did not appeal the decision. Instead, on 03 November 1993, the DFA referred the matter to
the National Labor Relations Commission ("NLRC"); in its referral, the DFA sought a "formal
vacation of the void judgment."

Dissatisfied, the DFA lodged the instant petition for certiorari. In this Court's resolution of 31 January
1994, respondents were required to comment. The Office of the Solicitor General ("OSG"), in its
comment of 26 May 1994, initially assailed the claim of immunity by the ADB. Subsequently,
however, it submitted a Manifestation (dated 20 June 1994) stating, among other things, that "after a
thorough review of the case and the records," it became convinced that ADB, indeed, was correct in
invoking its immunity from suit under the Charter and the Headquarters Agreement.

The Court is of the same view.

Being an international organization that has been extended diplomatic status, the ADB is
independent of the municipal law. 10 In Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center vs. Acosta. 11

Contrary to private respondent's assertion, the claim of immunity is not here being raised for the first
time, it has been invoked before the forum of origin through communications sent by petitioner and
the ADB to the Labor Arbiter, as well as before the NLRC following the rendition of the questioned
judgment by the Labor Arbiter, but evidently to no avail.

In its communication of 27 May 1993, the DFA, through the Office of legal Affairs, has advised the
NLRC. The Office of the President, likewise, has issued on 18 May 1993 a letter to the Secretary of
Labor.

With regard to the issue of whether or not the DFA has the legal standing to file the present petition,
and whether or not petitioner has regarded the basic rule that certiorari can be availed of only when
there is no appeal nor plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law, we hold
both in the affirmative.

The DFA's function includes, among its other mandates, the determination of persons and
institutions covered by diplomatic immunities, a determination which, when challenge, entitles it to
seek relief from the court so ass not to seriously impair the conduct of the country's foreign relations.
The DFA must be allowed to plead its case whenever necessary or advisable to enable it to help
keep the credibility of the Philippine government before the international community. When
international agreements are concluded, the parties therto are deemed to have likewise accepted
the responsibility of seeing to it that their agreements are duly regarded. In our country, this task falls
principally of the DFA as being the highest executive department with the competence and authority
to so act in this aspect of the international arena. 18

Relative to the property of the extraordinary remedy of certiorari, the Court has, under special
circumstances, so allowed and entertained such a petition when (a) the questioned order or decision
is issued in excess of or without jurisdiction, 21 or (b) where the order or decision is a patent
nullity, 22 which, verily, are the circumstances that can be said to obtain in the present case. When an
adjudicator is devoid of jurisdiction on a matter before him, his action that assumes otherwise would
be a clear nullity.

WHEREFORE, the petition for certiorari is GRANTED, and the decision of the Labor Arbiter, dated
31 August 1993 is VACATED, for being NULL AND VOID. The temporary restraining order issued by
this Court on 07 April 1994 is hereby made permanent. No costs.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 125865 March 26, 2001

JEFFREY LIANG (HUEFENG), petitioner,


vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondent.

RESOLUTION

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

This case has its origin in two criminal Informations1 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.

For the most part, petitioner's 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,"
After a careful deliberation of the arguments raised in petitioner's and intervenor's 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 petitioner's 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.

G.R. No. 154705 June 26, 2003

THE REPUBLIC OF INDONESIA, HIS EXCELLENCY AMBASSADOR SOERATMIN, and


MINISTER COUNSELLOR AZHARI KASIM, Petitioners,
vs.
JAMES VINZON, doing business under the name and style of VINZON TRADE AND
SERVICES, Respondent.

AZCUNA, J:

Petitioner, Republic of Indonesia, represented by its Counsellor, Siti Partinah, entered into a
Maintenance Agreement in August 1995 with respondent James Vinzon, sole proprietor of Vinzon
Trade and Services. The Maintenance Agreement stated that respondent shall, for a consideration,
maintain specified equipment at the Embassy Main Building, Embassy Annex Building and the
Wisma Duta, the official residence of petitioner Ambassador Soeratmin.

Petitioners claim that sometime prior to the date of expiration of the said agreement, or before
August 1999, they informed respondent that the renewal of the agreement shall be at the discretion
of the incoming Chief of Administration, Minister Counsellor Azhari Kasim, who was expected to
arrive in February 2000. When Minister Counsellor Kasim assumed the position of Chief of
Administration in March 2000, he allegedly found respondent’s work and services unsatisfactory and
not in compliance with the standards set in the Maintenance Agreement. Hence, the Indonesian
Embassy terminated the agreement in a letter dated August 31, 2000.2 Petitioners claim, moreover,
that they had earlier verbally informed respondent of their decision to terminate the agreement.

On the other hand, respondent claims that the aforesaid termination was arbitrary and unlawful.
Respondent cites various circumstances which purportedly negated petitioners’ alleged
dissatisfaction over respondent’s services: (

Hence, on December 15, 2000, respondent filed a complaint3 against petitioners docketed as Civil
Case No. 18203 in the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Makati, Branch 145. On February 20, 2001,
petitioners filed a Motion to Dismiss, alleging that the Republic of Indonesia, as a foreign sovereign
State, has sovereign immunity from suit and cannot be sued as a party-defendant in the Philippines.
The said motion further alleged that Ambassador Soeratmin and Minister Counsellor Kasim are
diplomatic agents as defined under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and therefore
enjoy diplomatic immunity.4 In turn, respondent filed on March 20, 2001, an Opposition to the said
motion alleging that the Republic of Indonesia has expressly waived its immunity from suit.
The trial court’s denial of the Motion to Dismiss was brought up to the Court of Appeals by herein
petitioners in a petition for certiorari and prohibition.

On May 30, 2002, the Court of Appeals rendered its assailed decision denying the petition for lack of
merit.6 On August 16, 2002, it denied herein petitioners’ motion for reconsideration.7

Hence, this petition.

In the case at bar, petitioners raise the sole issue of whether or not the Court of Appeals erred in
sustaining the trial court’s decision that petitioners have waived their immunity from suit by using as
its basis the abovementioned provision in the Maintenance Agreement.

The petition is impressed with merit.

International law is founded largely upon the principles of reciprocity, comity, independence, and
equality of States which were adopted as part of the law of our land under Article II, Section 2 of the
1987 Constitution.8 The rule that a State may not be sued without its consent is a necessary
consequence of the principles of independence and equality of States.

Apropos the present case, the mere entering into a contract by a foreign State with a private party
cannot be construed as the ultimate test of whether or not it is an act jure imperii or jure gestionis.
Such act is only the start of the inquiry. Is the foreign State engaged in the regular conduct of a
business? If the foreign State is not engaged regularly in a business or commercial activity, and in
this case it has not been shown to be so engaged, the particular act or transaction must then be
tested by its nature. If the act is in pursuit of a sovereign activity, or an incident thereof, then it is an
act jure imperii.17

Hence, the existence alone of a paragraph in a contract stating that any legal action arising out of
the agreement shall be settled according to the laws of the Philippines and by a specified court of
the Philippines is not necessarily a waiver of sovereign immunity from suit. The aforesaid provision
contains language not necessarily inconsistent with sovereign immunity. On the other hand, such
provision may also be meant to apply where the sovereign party elects to sue in the local courts, or
otherwise waives its immunity by any subsequent act. The applicability of Philippine laws must be
deemed to include Philippine laws in its totality, including the principle recognizing sovereign
immunity. Hence, the proper court may have no proper action, by way of settling the case, except to
dismiss it.

Submission by a foreign state to local jurisdiction must be clear and unequivocal. It must be given
explicitly or by necessary implication. We find no such waiver in this case.

There is no dispute that the establishment of a diplomatic mission is an act jure imperii. A sovereign
State does not merely establish a diplomatic mission and leave it at that; the establishment of a
diplomatic mission encompasses its maintenance and upkeep. Hence, the State may enter into
contracts with private entities to maintain the premises, furnishings and equipment of the embassy
and the living quarters of its agents and officials. It is therefore clear that petitioner Republic of
Indonesia was acting in pursuit of a sovereign activity when it entered into a contract with
respondent for the upkeep or maintenance of the air conditioning units, generator sets, electrical
facilities, water heaters, and water motor pumps of the Indonesian Embassy and the official
residence of the Indonesian ambassador.
The act of petitioners Ambassador Soeratmin and Minister Counsellor Kasim in terminating the
Maintenance Agreement is not covered by the exceptions provided.

WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby GRANTED. The decision and resolution of the Court of
Appeals in CA G.R. SP No. 66894 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE and the complaint in Civil Case
No. 18203 against petitioners is DISMISSED.

No costs.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 142396 February 11, 2003

KHOSROW MINUCHER, petitioner,


vs.
HON. COURT OF APPEALS and ARTHUR SCALZO, respondents.

VITUG, J.:

Sometime in May 1986, an Information for violation of Section 4 of Republic Act No. 6425, otherwise
also known as the "Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972," was filed against petitioner Khosrow Minucher
and one Abbas Torabian with the Regional Trial Court, Branch 151, of Pasig City. The criminal
charge followed a "buy-bust operation" conducted by the Philippine police narcotic agents in the
house of Minucher, an Iranian national, where a quantity of heroin, a prohibited drug, was said to
have been seized. On 03 August 1988, Minucher filed Civil Case No. 88-45691 before the Regional
Trial Court (RTC), Branch 19, of Manila for damages on account of what he claimed to have been
trumped-up charges of drug trafficking made by Arthur Scalzo. The Manila RTC detailed what it had
found to be the facts and circumstances surrounding the case.

"The testimony of the plaintiff disclosed that he is an Iranian national. He came to the Philippines to
study in the University of the Philippines in 1974. In 1976, under the regime of the Shah of Iran, he
was appointed Labor Attaché for the Iranian Embassies in Tokyo, Japan and Manila, Philippines.
When the Shah of Iran was deposed by Ayatollah Khomeini, plaintiff became a refugee of the United
Nations and continued to stay in the Philippines. He headed the Iranian National Resistance
Movement in the Philippines.

On 17 November 1995, the trial court reached a decision adjudging defendant liable to plaintiff in
actual and compensatory damages of P520,000.00; moral damages in the sum of P10 million;
exemplary damages in the sum of P100,000.00; attorney's fees in the sum of P200,000.00 plus
costs.

While the trial court gave credence to the claim of Scalzo and the evidence presented by him that he
was a diplomatic agent entitled to immunity as such, it ruled that he, nevertheless, should be held
accountable for the acts complained of committed outside his official duties. On appeal, the Court of
Appeals reversed the decision of the trial court and sustained the defense of Scalzo that he was
sufficiently clothed with diplomatic immunity during his term of duty and thereby immune from the
criminal and civil jurisdiction of the "Receiving State" pursuant to the terms of the Vienna
Convention.

Hence, this recourse by Minucher. The instant petition for review raises a two-fold issue: (1) whether
or not the doctrine of conclusiveness of judgment, following the decision rendered by this Court in
G.R. No. 97765, should have precluded the Court of Appeals from resolving the appeal to it in an
entirely different manner, and (2) whether or not Arthur Scalzo is indeed entitled to diplomatic
immunity.

The doctrine of conclusiveness of judgment, or its kindred rule of res judicata, would require 1) the
finality of the prior judgment, 2) a valid jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties on the part
of the court that renders it, 3) a judgment on the merits, and 4) an identity of the parties, subject
matter and causes of action.3 Even while one of the issues submitted in G.R. No. 97765 - "whether or
not public respondent Court of Appeals erred in ruling that private respondent Scalzo is a diplomat
immune from civil suit conformably with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations" - is also a
pivotal question raised in the instant petition, the ruling in G.R. No. 97765, however, has not
resolved that point with finality.

The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations was a codification of centuries-old customary law
and, by the time of its ratification on 18 April 1961, its rules of law had long become stable. The
Convention lists the classes of heads of diplomatic missions to include (a) ambassadors or nuncios
accredited to the heads of state,10 (b) envoys,11 ministers or internuncios accredited to the heads of
states; and (c) charges d' affairs12 accredited to the ministers of foreign affairs.13 Comprising the "staff
of the (diplomatic) mission" are the diplomatic staff, the administrative staff and the technical and
service staff. Only the heads of missions, as well as members of the diplomatic staff, excluding the
members of the administrative, technical and service staff of the mission, are accorded diplomatic
rank. Even while the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations provides for immunity to the
members of diplomatic missions, it does so, nevertheless, with an understanding that the same be
restrictively applied. Only "diplomatic agents," under the terms of the Convention, are vested with
blanket diplomatic immunity from civil and criminal suits. The Convention defines "diplomatic agents"
as the heads of missions or members of the diplomatic staff, thus impliedly withholding the same
privileges from all others. It might bear stressing that even consuls, who represent their respective
states in concerns of commerce and navigation and perform certain administrative and notarial
duties, such as the issuance of passports and visas, authentication of documents, and
administration of oaths, do not ordinarily enjoy the traditional diplomatic immunities and privileges
accorded diplomats, mainly for the reason that they are not charged with the duty of representing
their states in political matters. Indeed, the main yardstick in ascertaining whether a person is a
diplomat entitled to immunity is the determination of whether or not he performs duties of diplomatic
nature.

But while the diplomatic immunity of Scalzo might thus remain contentious, it was sufficiently
established that, indeed, he worked for the United States Drug Enforcement Agency and was tasked
to conduct surveillance of suspected drug activities within the country on the dates pertinent to this
case. If it should be ascertained that Arthur Scalzo was acting well within his assigned functions
when he committed the acts alleged in the complaint, the present controversy could then be
resolved under the related doctrine of State Immunity from Suit.

The precept that a State cannot be sued in the courts of a foreign state is a long-standing rule
of customary international law then closely identified with the personal immunity of a foreign
sovereign from suit20 and, with the emergence of democratic states, made to attach not just to the
person of the head of state, or his representative, but also distinctly to the state itself in its sovereign
capacity.21 If the acts giving rise to a suit are those of a foreign government done by its foreign agent,
although not necessarily a diplomatic personage, but acting in his official capacity, the complaint
could be barred by the immunity of the foreign sovereign from suit without its consent. Suing a
representative of a state is believed to be, in effect, suing the state itself. The proscription is not
accorded for the benefit of an individual but for the State, in whose service he is, under the maxim -
par in parem, non habet imperium - that all states are sovereign equals and cannot assert
jurisdiction over one another.22 The implication, in broad terms, is that if the judgment against an
official would require the state itself to perform an affirmative act to satisfy the award, such as the
appropriation of the amount needed to pay the damages decreed against him, the suit must be
regarded as being against the state itself, although it has not been formally impleaded.23

A foreign agent, operating within a territory, can be cloaked with immunity from suit but only as long
as it can be established that he is acting within the directives of the sending state. The consent of
the host state is an indispensable requirement of basic courtesy between the two sovereigns. Guinto
and Shauf both involve officers and personnel of the United States, stationed within Philippine
territory, under the RP-US Military Bases Agreement. While evidence is wanting to show any similar
agreement between the governments of the Philippines and of the United States (for the latter to
send its agents and to conduct surveillance and related activities of suspected drug dealers in the
Philippines), the consent or imprimatur of the Philippine government to the activities of the United
States Drug Enforcement Agency, however, can be gleaned from the facts heretofore elsewhere
mentioned. The official exchanges of communication between agencies of the government of the
two countries, certifications from officials of both the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs and the
United States Embassy, as well as the participation of members of the Philippine Narcotics
Command in the "buy-bust operation" conducted at the residence of Minucher at the behest of
Scalzo, may be inadequate to support the "diplomatic status" of the latter but they give enough
indication that the Philippine government has given its imprimatur, if not consent, to the activities
within Philippine territory of agent Scalzo of the United States Drug Enforcement Agency. The job
description of Scalzo has tasked him to conduct surveillance on suspected drug suppliers and, after
having ascertained the target, to inform local law enforcers who would then be expected to make the
arrest. In conducting surveillance activities on Minucher, later acting as the poseur-buyer during the
buy-bust operation, and then becoming a principal witness in the criminal case against Minucher,
Scalzo hardly can be said to have acted beyond the scope of his official function or duties.

All told, this Court is constrained to rule that respondent Arthur Scalzo, an agent of the United States
Drug Enforcement Agency allowed by the Philippine government to conduct activities in the country
to help contain the problem on the drug traffic, is entitled to the defense of state immunity from suit.

WHEREFORE, on the foregoing premises, the petition is DENIED. No costs.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 138570 October 10, 2000

BAYAN (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan), a JUNK VFA MOVEMENT, BISHOP TOMAS


MILLAMENA (Iglesia Filipina Independiente), BISHOP ELMER BOLOCAN (United Church of
Christ of the Phil.), DR. REYNALDO LEGASCA, MD, KILUSANG MAMBUBUKID NG PILIPINAS,
KILUSANG MAYO UNO, GABRIELA, PROLABOR, and the PUBLIC INTEREST LAW
CENTER, petitioners,
vs.
EXECUTIVE SECRETARY RONALDO ZAMORA, FOREIGN AFFAIRS SECRETARY DOMINGO
SIAZON, DEFENSE SECRETARY ORLANDO MERCADO, BRIG. GEN. ALEXANDER AGUIRRE,
SENATE PRESIDENT MARCELO FERNAN, SENATOR FRANKLIN DRILON, SENATOR BLAS
OPLE, SENATOR RODOLFO BIAZON, and SENATOR FRANCISCO TATAD, respondents.

x-----------------------x

G.R. No. 138572 October 10, 2000


PHILIPPINE CONSTITUTION ASSOCIATION, INC.(PHILCONSA), EXEQUIEL B. GARCIA,
AMADOGAT INCIONG, CAMILO L. SABIO, AND RAMON A. GONZALES, petitioners,
vs.
HON. RONALDO B. ZAMORA, as Executive Secretary, HON. ORLANDO MERCADO, as
Secretary of National Defense, and HON. DOMINGO L. SIAZON, JR., as Secretary of Foreign
Affairs, respondents.

x-----------------------x

G.R. No. 138587 October 10, 2000

TEOFISTO T. GUINGONA, JR., RAUL S. ROCO, and SERGIO R. OSMEÑA III, petitioners,
vs.
JOSEPH E. ESTRADA, RONALDO B. ZAMORA, DOMINGO L. SIAZON, JR., ORLANDO B.
MERCADO, MARCELO B. FERNAN, FRANKLIN M. DRILON, BLAS F. OPLE and RODOLFO G.
BIAZON, respondents.

x-----------------------x

G.R. No. 138680 October 10, 2000

INTEGRATED BAR OF THE PHILIPPINES, Represented by its National President, Jose Aguila
Grapilon, petitioners,
vs.
JOSEPH EJERCITO ESTRADA, in his capacity as President, Republic of the Philippines, and
HON. DOMINGO SIAZON, in his capacity as Secretary of Foreign Affairs, respondents.

x-----------------------x

G.R. No. 138698 October 10, 2000

JOVITO R. SALONGA, WIGBERTO TAÑADA, ZENAIDA QUEZON-AVENCEÑA, ROLANDO


SIMBULAN, PABLITO V. SANIDAD, MA. SOCORRO I. DIOKNO, AGAPITO A. AQUINO, JOKER
P. ARROYO, FRANCISCO C. RIVERA JR., RENE A.V. SAGUISAG, KILOSBAYAN, MOVEMENT
OF ATTORNEYS FOR BROTHERHOOD, INTEGRITY AND NATIONALISM, INC.
(MABINI), petitioners,
vs.
THE EXECUTIVE SECRETARY, THE SECRETARY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, THE SECRETARY
OF NATIONAL DEFENSE, SENATE PRESIDENT MARCELO B. FERNAN, SENATOR BLAS F.
OPLE, SENATOR RODOLFO G. BIAZON, AND ALL OTHER PERSONS ACTING THEIR
CONTROL, SUPERVISION, DIRECTION, AND INSTRUCTION IN RELATION TO THE VISITING
FORCES AGREEMENT (VFA), respondents.

On March 14, 1947, the Philippines and the United States of America forged a Military Bases
Agreement which formalized, among others, the use of installations in the Philippine territory by
United States military personnel. To further strengthen their defense and security relationship, the
Philippines and the United States entered into a Mutual Defense Treaty on August 30, 1951. Under
the treaty, the parties agreed to respond to any external armed attack on their territory, armed
forces, public vessels, and aircraft.1
In view of the impending expiration of the RP-US Military Bases Agreement in 1991, the Philippines
and the United States negotiated for a possible extension of the military bases agreement. On
September 16, 1991, the Philippine Senate rejected the proposed RP-US Treaty of Friendship,
Cooperation and Security which, in effect, would have extended the presence of US military bases in
the Philippines.2 With the expiration of the RP-US Military Bases Agreement, the periodic military
exercises conducted between the two countries were held in abeyance. Notwithstanding, the
defense and security relationship between the Philippines and the United States of America
continued pursuant to the Mutual Defense Treaty.

On July 18, 1997, the United States panel, headed by US Defense Deputy Assistant Secretary for
Asia Pacific Kurt Campbell, met with the Philippine panel, headed by Foreign Affairs Undersecretary
Rodolfo Severino Jr., to exchange notes on "the complementing strategic interests of the United
States and the Philippines in the Asia-Pacific region." Both sides discussed, among other things, the
possible elements of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA for brevity). Negotiations by both panels
on the VFA led to a consolidated draft text, which in turn resulted to a final series of conferences and
negotiations3 that culminated in Manila on January 12 and 13, 1998. Thereafter, then President Fidel
V. Ramos approved the VFA, which was respectively signed by public respondent Secretary Siazon
and Unites States Ambassador Thomas Hubbard on February 10, 1998.

On October 5, 1998, President Joseph E. Estrada, through respondent Secretary of Foreign Affairs,
ratified the VFA.4

On October 6, 1998, the President, acting through respondent Executive Secretary Ronaldo
Zamora, officially transmitted to the Senate of the Philippines,5 the Instrument of Ratification, the
letter of the President6 and the VFA, for concurrence pursuant to Section 21, Article VII of the 1987
Constitution.

On May 27, 1999, Proposed Senate Resolution No. 443 was approved by the Senate, by a two-
thirds (2/3) vote9 of its members. Senate Resolution No. 443 was then re-numbered as Senate
Resolution No. 18.10

On June 1, 1999, the VFA officially entered into force after an Exchange of Notes between

Via these consolidated11 petitions for certiorari and prohibition, petitioners - as legislators, non-
governmental organizations, citizens and taxpayers - assail the constitutionality of the VFA and
impute to herein respondents grave abuse of discretion in ratifying the agreement.

We have simplified the issues raised by the petitioners into the following:

Do petitioners have legal standing as concerned citizens, taxpayers, or legislators to question the
constitutionality of the VFA?

II

Is the VFA governed by the provisions of Section 21, Article VII or of Section 25, Article XVIII of the
Constitution?

III
Does the VFA constitute an abdication of Philippine sovereignty?

a. Are Philippine courts deprived of their jurisdiction to hear and try offenses committed by
US military personnel?

b. Is the Supreme Court deprived of its jurisdiction over offenses punishable by reclusion
perpetua or higher?

IV

Does the VFA violate:

a. the equal protection clause under Section 1, Article III of the Constitution?

b. the Prohibition against nuclear weapons under Article II, Section 8?

c. Section 28 (4), Article VI of the Constitution granting the exemption from taxes and duties
for the equipment, materials supplies and other properties imported into or acquired in the
Philippines by, or on behalf, of the US Armed Forces?

LOCUS STANDI

Clearly, inasmuch as no public funds raised by taxation are involved in this case, and in the absence
of any allegation by petitioners that public funds are being misspent or illegally expended,
petitioners, as taxpayers, have no legal standing to assail the legality of the VFA.

Similarly, Representatives Wigberto Tañada, Agapito Aquino and Joker Arroyo, as petitioners-
legislators, do not possess the requisite locus standi to maintain the present suit.

In the same vein, petitioner Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) is stripped of standing in these
cases. As aptly observed by the Solicitor General, the IBP lacks the legal capacity to bring this suit in
the absence of a board resolution from its Board of Governors authorizing its National President to
commence the present action.19

Notwithstanding, in view of the paramount importance and the constitutional significance of the
issues raised in the petitions, this Court, in the exercise of its sound discretion, brushes aside the
procedural barrier and takes cognizance of the petitions

APPLICABLE CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISION

It is our considered view that both constitutional provisions, far from contradicting each other,
actually share some common ground. These constitutional provisions both embody phrases in the
negative and thus, are deemed prohibitory in mandate and character. In particular, Section 21 opens
with the clause "No treaty x x x," and Section 25 contains the phrase "shall not be allowed."
Additionally, in both instances, the concurrence of the Senate is indispensable to render the treaty or
international agreement valid and effective.

At this juncture, we shall then resolve the issue of whether or not the requirements of Section 25
were complied with when the Senate gave its concurrence to the VFA.
Section 25, Article XVIII disallows foreign military bases, troops, or facilities in the country, unless
the following conditions are sufficiently met, viz: (a) it must be under a treaty; (b) the treaty must
be duly concurred in by the Senate and, when so required by congress, ratified by a majority of
the votes cast by the people in a national referendum; and (c) recognized as a treaty by the other
contracting state.

There is no dispute as to the presence of the first two requisites in the case of the VFA. The
concurrence handed by the Senate through Resolution No. 18 is in accordance with the provisions
of the Constitution, whether under the general requirement in Section 21, Article VII, or the specific
mandate mentioned in Section 25, Article XVIII, the provision in the latter article requiring ratification
by a majority of the votes cast in a national referendum being unnecessary since Congress has not
required it.

As to the matter of voting, Section 21, Article VII particularly requires that a treaty or international
agreement, to be valid and effective, must be concurred in by at least two-thirds of all the
members of the Senate. On the other hand, Section 25, Article XVIII simply provides that the treaty
be "duly concurred in by the Senate."

Applying the foregoing constitutional provisions, a two-thirds vote of all the members of the Senate is
clearly required so that the concurrence contemplated by law may be validly obtained and deemed
present.

Having resolved that the first two requisites prescribed in Section 25, Article XVIII are present, we
shall now pass upon and delve on the requirement that the VFA should be recognized as a treaty by
the United States of America.

This Court is of the firm view that the phrase "recognized as a treaty" means that the other
contracting party accepts or acknowledges the agreement as a treaty.32 To require the other
contracting state, the United States of America in this case, to submit the VFA to the United States
Senate for concurrence pursuant to its Constitution,33 is to accord strict meaning to the phrase.

Well-entrenched is the principle that the words used in the Constitution are to be given their ordinary
meaning except where technical terms are employed, in which case the significance thus attached to
them prevails. Its language should be understood in the sense they have in common use.34

Moreover, it is inconsequential whether the United States treats the VFA only as an executive
agreement because, under international law, an executive agreement is as binding as a treaty.35 To
be sure, as long as the VFA possesses the elements of an agreement under international law, the
said agreement is to be taken equally as a treaty.

A treaty, as defined by the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, is "an international instrument
concluded between States in written form and governed by international law, whether embodied in a
single instrument or in two or more related instruments, and whatever its particular designation."36

Worth stressing too, is that the ratification, by the President, of the VFA and the concurrence of the
Senate should be taken as a clear an unequivocal expression of our nation’s consent to be bound by
said treaty, with the concomitant duty to uphold the obligations and responsibilities embodied
thereunder.

Ratification is generally held to be an executive act, undertaken by the head of the state or of the
government, as the case may be, through which the formal acceptance of the treaty is
proclaimed.43 In our jurisdiction, the power to ratify is vested in the President and not, as commonly
believed, in the legislature. The role of the Senate is limited only to giving or withholding its consent,
or concurrence, to the ratification.45

With the ratification of the VFA, which is equivalent to final acceptance, and with the exchange of
notes between the Philippines and the United States of America, it now becomes obligatory and
incumbent on our part, under the principles of international law, to be bound by the terms of the
agreement. Thus, no less than Section 2, Article II of the Constitution,46 declares that the Philippines
adopts the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land and
adheres to the policy of peace, equality, justice, freedom, cooperation and amity with all nations.

As a member of the family of nations, the Philippines agrees to be bound by generally accepted
rules for the conduct of its international relations. While the international obligation devolves upon
the state and not upon any particular branch, institution, or individual member of its government, the
Philippines is nonetheless responsible for violations committed by any branch or subdivision of its
government or any official thereof. As an integral part of the community of nations, we are
responsible to assure that our government, Constitution and laws will carry out our international
obligation.47 Hence, we cannot readily plead the Constitution as a convenient excuse for non-
compliance with our obligations, duties and responsibilities under international law.

Beyond this, Article 13 of the Declaration of Rights and Duties of States adopted by the International
Law Commission in 1949 provides: "Every State has the duty to carry out in good faith its obligations
arising from treaties and other sources of international law, and it may not invoke provisions in its
constitution or its laws as an excuse for failure to perform this duty."48

Equally important is Article 26 of the convention which provides that "Every treaty in force is binding
upon the parties to it and must be performed by them in good faith." This is known as the principle
of pacta sunt servanda which preserves the sanctity of treaties and have been one of the most
fundamental principles of positive international law, supported by the jurisprudence of international
tribunals.49

NO GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION

In the instant controversy, the President, in effect, is heavily faulted for exercising a power and
performing a task conferred upon him by the Constitution-the power to enter into and ratify treaties.
Through the expediency of Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, petitioners in these consolidated cases
impute grave abuse of discretion on the part of the chief Executive in ratifying the VFA, and
referring the same to the Senate pursuant to the provisions of Section 21, Article VII of the
Constitution.

On this particular matter, grave abuse of discretion implies such capricious and whimsical exercise
of judgment as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction, or, when the power is exercised in an arbitrary or
despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility, and it must be so patent and gross as to
amount to an evasion of positive duty enjoined or to act at all in contemplation of law.50

By constitutional fiat and by the intrinsic nature of his office, the President, as head of State, is the
sole organ and authority in the external affairs of the country. In many ways, the President is the
chief architect of the nation’s foreign policy; his "dominance in the field of foreign relations is (then)
conceded."51 Wielding vast powers an influence, his conduct in the external affairs of the nation, as
Jefferson describes, is "executive altogether."52

As regards the power to enter into treaties or international agreements, the Constitution vests the
same in the President, subject only to the concurrence of at least two-thirds vote of all the members
of the Senate. In this light, the negotiation of the VFA and the subsequent ratification of the
agreement are exclusive acts which pertain solely to the President, in the lawful exercise of his vast
executive and diplomatic powers granted him no less than by the fundamental law itself. Into the
field of negotiation the Senate cannot intrude, and Congress itself is powerless to invade
it.53 Consequently, the acts or judgment calls of the President involving the VFA-specifically the acts
of ratification and entering into a treaty and those necessary or incidental to the exercise of such
principal acts - squarely fall within the sphere of his constitutional powers and thus, may not be
validly struck down, much less calibrated by this Court, in the absence of clear showing of grave
abuse of power or discretion.

It is the Court’s considered view that the President, in ratifying the VFA and in submitting the same
to the Senate for concurrence, acted within the confines and limits of the powers vested in him by
the Constitution. It is of no moment that the President, in the exercise of his wide latitude of
discretion and in the honest belief that the VFA falls within the ambit of Section 21, Article VII of the
Constitution, referred the VFA to the Senate for concurrence under the aforementioned provision.
Certainly, no abuse of discretion, much less a grave, patent and whimsical abuse of judgment, may
be imputed to the President in his act of ratifying the VFA and referring the same to the Senate for
the purpose of complying with the concurrence requirement embodied in the fundamental law. In
doing so, the President merely performed a constitutional task and exercised a prerogative that
chiefly pertains to the functions of his office. Even if he erred in submitting the VFA to the Senate for
concurrence under the provisions of Section 21 of Article VII, instead of Section 25 of Article XVIII of
the Constitution, still, the President may not be faulted or scarred, much less be adjudged guilty of
committing an abuse of discretion in some patent, gross, and capricious manner.

For while it is conceded that Article VIII, Section 1, of the Constitution has broadened the scope of
judicial inquiry into areas normally left to the political departments to decide, such as those relating
to national security, it has not altogether done away with political questions such as those which
arise in the field of foreign relations.54 The High Tribunal’s function, as sanctioned by Article VIII,
Section 1, "is merely (to) check whether or not the governmental branch or agency has gone beyond
the constitutional limits of its jurisdiction, not that it erred or has a different view. In the absence of a
showing… (of) grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction, there is no occasion for
the Court to exercise its corrective power…It has no power to look into what it thinks is apparent
error."55

As to the power to concur with treaties, the constitution lodges the same with the Senate
alone. Thus, once the Senate56 performs that power, or exercises its prerogative within the
1âwphi1

boundaries prescribed by the Constitution, the concurrence cannot, in like manner, be viewed to
constitute an abuse of power, much less grave abuse thereof. Corollarily, the Senate, in the exercise
of its discretion and acting within the limits of such power, may not be similarly faulted for having
simply performed a task conferred and sanctioned by no less than the fundamental law.

For the role of the Senate in relation to treaties is essentially legislative in character;57 the Senate, as
an independent body possessed of its own erudite mind, has the prerogative to either accept or
reject the proposed agreement, and whatever action it takes in the exercise of its wide latitude of
discretion, pertains to the wisdom rather than the legality of the act. In this sense, the Senate
partakes a principal, yet delicate, role in keeping the principles of separation of powers and
of checks and balances alive and vigilantly ensures that these cherished rudiments remain true to
their form in a democratic government such as ours. The Constitution thus animates, through this
treaty-concurring power of the Senate, a healthy system of checks and balances indispensable
toward our nation’s pursuit of political maturity and growth. True enough, rudimentary is the principle
that matters pertaining to the wisdom of a legislative act are beyond the ambit and province of the
courts to inquire.
In fine, absent any clear showing of grave abuse of discretion on the part of respondents, this Court-
as the final arbiter of legal controversies and staunch sentinel of the rights of the people - is then
without power to conduct an incursion and meddle with such affairs purely executive and legislative
in character and nature. For the Constitution no less, maps out the distinct boundaries and limits the
metes and bounds within which each of the three political branches of government may exercise the
powers exclusively and essentially conferred to it by law.

WHEREFORE, in light of the foregoing disquisitions, the instant petitions are hereby DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.