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E. Jurisdiction of states

1. Basis of jurisdiction

a. Territory principle

1) Concept

Subject to § 403, a state has jurisdiction to prescribe law with respect to:

1) Conduct that, wholly or in substantial part, takes place within its territory;

2) The status of persons, or interests in things, present within its territory; or,

3) Conduct outside its territory that has or is intended to have substantial effect within its territory. (Section 402[1], Restatement [Third] of Foreign Relations Law of the United States)

Cross-referenced article


(1) Even when one of the bases for jurisdiction under § 402 is present, a state may not exercise jurisdiction to prescribe law with respect to a person or activity having connections with another state when the exercise of such jurisdiction is unreasonable.

(2) Whether exercise of jurisdiction over a person or activity is unreasonable is determined by evaluating all relevant factors, including, where appropriate:

(a) the link of the activity to the territory of the regulating state, i.e., the extent to which the activity takes place within the territory, or has substantial, direct, and foreseeable effect upon or in the territory;

(b) the connections, such as nationality, residence, or economic activity, between the regulating state and the person principally responsible for the activity to be regulated, or between that state and those whom the regulation is designed to protect;

(c) the character of the activity to be regulated, the importance of regulation to the regulating state, the extent to which other states regulate such activities, and the degree to which the desirability of such regulation is generally accepted;

(d) the existence of justified expectations that might be protected or hurt by the regulation;

(e) the importance of the regulation to the international political, legal, or economic system;

(f) the extent to which the regulation is consistent with the traditions of the international system;

(g) the extent to which another state may have an interest in regulating the activity; and, 

(h) the likelihood of conflict with regulation by another state.

(3) When it would not be unreasonable for each of two states to exercise jurisdiction over a person or activity, but the prescriptions by the two states are in conflict, each state has an obligation to evaluate its own as well as the other state’s interest in exercising jurisdiction, in light of all the relevant factors, including those set out in Subsection (2); a state should defer to the other state if that state’s interest is clearly greater. (Ibid.)

2) PH Jurisdiction for Crimes within territory

Territorial jurisdiction in criminal cases is the territory where the court has jurisdiction to take cognizance or to try the offense allegedly committed therein by the accused. Thus, it cannot take jurisdiction over a person charged with an offense allegedly committed outside of that limited territory. (Foz, Jr. v. People, G.R. No. 167764, 09 October 2009)

b. Nationality principle and statelessness

1) Concept

Subject to § 403, a state has jurisdiction to prescribe law with respect to the activities, interests, status, or relations of its nationals outside as well as within its territory. (Section 402[2], Ibid.)

2) PH Nationality Principle: Article 15, Civil Code

Laws relating to family rights and duties, or to the status, condition and legal capacity of persons are binding upon citizens of the Philippines, even though living abroad. (Article 15, Civil Code)

c. Protective principle

1) Concept

Subject to § 403, a state has jurisdiction to prescribe law with respect to certain conduct outside its territory by persons not its nationals that is directed against the security of the state or against a limited class of other state interests. (Section 402[3], Restatement [Third] of Foreign Relations Law of the United States)

d. Universality principle

1) Concept

A state has jurisdiction to define and prescribe punishment for certain offenses recognized by the community of nations as of universal concern, such as piracy, slave trade, attacks on or hijacking of aircraft, genocide, war crimes, and perhaps certain acts of terrorism, even where none of the bases of jurisdiction indicated in § 402 is present. (Section 404, Restatement [Third] of Foreign Relations Law of the United States)

e. Passive personality principle

1) Concept

It is jurisdiction by a state over a crime committed against its national by a foreign national in a foreign country. (See Watson, Geoffrey R. The Passive Personalit Principle. Texas International Law Journal, Volume 28:1, p.1)

2. Exemptions from jurisdiction

a. Act of State doctrine

1) Concept

The act of state doctrine is one of the methods by which States prevent their national courts from deciding disputes which relate to the internal affairs of another State, the other two being immunity and non-justiciability. It is an avoidance technique that is directly related to a State’s obligation to respect the independence and equality of other States by not requiring them to submit to adjudication in a national court or to settlement of their disputes without their consent. It requires the forum court to exercise restraint in the adjudication of disputes relating to legislative or other governmental acts which a foreign State has performed within its territorial limits. (PCGG v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No. 124772, 14 August 2007)

Every sovereign state is bound to respect the independence of every other state, and the courts of one country will not sit in judgment on the acts of the government of another, done within its territory. Redress of grievances by reason of such acts must be obtained through the means open to be availed of by sovereign powers as between themselves. (Underhill v. Hernandez, 168 U.S. 250, 18 S.Ct. 83, 42 L.Ed. 456 [1897] cited in PCGG v. Sandiganbayan, supra.)

International law does not require the application of this doctrine nor does it forbid the application of the rule even if it is claimed that the act of state in question violated international law. Moreover, due to the doctrine’s peculiar nation-to-nation character, in practice the usual method for an individual to seek relief is to exhaust local remedies and then repair to the executive authorities of his own state to persuade them to champion his claim in diplomacy or before an international tribunal. (Ibid.)

b. International organizations and their officers

1) Concept

NB: International organizations have diplomatic immunity.

The Philippine Government is bound by the procedure laid down in Article VII of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the Specialized Agencies of the United Nations 14 for consultations between the Host State and the United Nations agency concerned to determine, in the first instance the fact of occurrence of the abuse alleged, and if so, to ensure that no repetition occurs and for other recourses. This is a treaty commitment voluntarily assumed by the Philippine Government and as such, has the force and effect of law. (World Health Organization v. Aquino, En Banc, G.R. No. L-35131, 29 November 1972)

Case Law

1) In WHO vs. Aquino which involved the search and seizure of personal effects of petitioner Leonce Verstuyft, an official of the WHO. Verstyft was certified to be entitled to diplomatic immunity pursuant to the Host Agreement executed between the Philippines and the WHO. (CJ Sereno, Concurring Opinion in Arigo v. Swift, En Banc, G.R. No. 206510, 16 September 2014)

2) In  CMC vs. Calleja which concerned a petition for certification election filed against ICMC and IRRI. As international organizations, ICMC and IRRI were declared to possess diplomatic immunity. It was held that they are not subject to local jurisdictions. It was ruled that the exercise of jurisdiction by the Department of Labor over the case would defeat the very purpose of immunity, which is to shield the affairs of international organizations from political pressure or control by the host country and to ensure the unhampered performance of their functions. (Ibid.)

3) In Holy See v. Rosario, Jr. which involved an action for annulment of sale of land against the Holy See, as represented by the Papal Nuncio. The Court upheld the petitioner’s defense of sovereign immunity. It ruled that where a diplomatic envoy is granted immunity from the civil and administrative jurisdiction of the receiving state over any real action relating to private immovable property situated in the territory of the receiving state, which the envoy holds on behalf of the sending state for the purposes of the mission, with all the more reason should immunity be recognized as regards the sovereign itself, which in that case is the Holy See. (Ibid.)

4) In Lasco vs. United Nations, the United Nations Revolving Fund for Natural Resources Exploration was sued before the NLRC for illegal dismissal. The Court again upheld the doctrine of diplomatic immunity invoked by the Fund. (Ibid.)

5) In DFA v. NLRC which involved an illegal dismissal case filed against the Asian Development Bank. Pursuant to its Charter and the Headquaters Agreement the diplomatic immunity of the Asian Development Bank was recognized by the Court. (Ibid.)

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