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Case Digest: Laude v. Ginez-Jabalde, G.R. No. 217456, 24 November 2015

Laude v. Ginez-Jabalde, G.R. No. 217456, 24 November 2015

TOPIC: Conditions for the Exercise of Judicial Review: Lis Mota


On October 11, 2014, Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude (Jennifer) was killed at the Celzone Lodge on Ramon Magsaysay Drive in Olongapo City allegedly by 19-year-old US Marine L/CPL Joseph Scott Pemberton (Pemberton). On October 15, 2014, a Complaint for murder was filed by Jennifer’s sibling, Marilou S. Laude, against Pemberton before the Olongapo City Office of the City Prosecutor. On October 22, 2014, Pemberton was detained in Camp Aguinaldo, the general headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

On December 15, 2014, the Public Prosecutor filed an Information for murder against Pemberton before the Regional Trial Court in Olongapo City. The case was docketed as Case No. 865-14, and was raffled to Branch 74. A warrant of arrest against Pemberton was issued on December 16, 2014. Pemberton surrendered personally to Judge Roline M. Ginez-Jabalde (Judge Ginez-Jabalde) on December 19, 2014, and he was then arraigned.

Petitioners argue that “[Respondent Judge committed grave abuse of discretion tantamount to an excess or absence of jurisdiction when she dismissed the Urgent Motion to Compel the Armed Forces of the Philippines to Surrender Custody o[f] Accused to the Olongapo City Jail [based] on mere technicalities[.]” In particular, they argue that the three-day rule on motions under Rule 15, Section 4 of the 1997 Rules of Court is not absolute, and should be liberally interpreted when a case is attended by exigent circumstances.


WON the constitutionality of the Visiting Forces Agreement is not the lis mota of this Petition.


Finally, petitioners argue that the Visiting Forces Agreement should be declared “unconstitutional insofar as it impairs the . . . power of the Supreme Court[.]” They advance this argument in the context of their Motion to place Pemberton under the custody of Philippine authorities while the case is being tried, with their prayer in this Petition phrased thus:

(b) Declare the VFA unconstitutional insofar as it impairs the constitutional power of the Supreme Court to promulgate rules for practice before it, including the Rules of Criminal Procedure[.]

The constitutionality of an official act may be the subject of judicial review, provided the matter is not raised collaterally. In Planters Products, Inc. v. Fertiphil Corporation:

Judicial review of official acts on the ground of unconstitutionality may be sought or availed of through any of the actions cognizable by courts of justice, not necessarily in a suit for declaratory relief. . . The constitutional issue, however, (a) must be properly raised and presented in the case, and (b) its resolution is necessary to a determination of the case, i.e., the issue of constitutionality must be the very lis mota presented. (Emphasis supplied, citation omitted)

The constitutionality of the Visiting Forces Agreement is not the lis mota of this Petition. Petitioners started their Petition with a claim that their right to access to justice was violated, but ended it with a prayer for a declaration of the Visiting Forces Agreement’s unconstitutionality. They attempt to create the connection between the two by asserting that the Visiting Forces Agreement prevents the transfer of Pemberton to Olongapo City Jail, which allegedly is tantamount to the impairment of this court’s authority.


First, this Petition is not the proper venue to rule on the issue of whether the Visiting Forces Agreement transgresses the judicial authority of this court to promulgate rules pertaining to criminal cases. Second, the issues of criminal jurisdiction and custody during trial as contained in the Visiting Forces Agreement were discussed in Nicolas v. Secretary Romulo, et al

The VFA being a valid and binding agreement, the parties are required as a matter of international law to abide by its terms and provisions.

The VFA provides that in cases of offenses committed by the members of the US Armed Forces in the Philippines, the following rules apply:

Article V

Criminal Jurisdiction

xxx  xxx  xxx

  1. The custody of any United States personnel over whom the Philippines is to exercise jurisdiction shall immediately reside with United States military authorities, if they so request, from the commission of the offense until completion of all judicial proceedings. United States military authorities shall, upon formal notification by the Philippine authorities and without delay, make such personnel available to those authorities in time for any investigative or judicial proceedings relating to the offense with which the person has been charged. In extraordinary cases, the Philippine Government shall present its position to the United States Government regarding custody, which the United States Government shall take into full account. In the event Philippine judicial proceedings are not completed within one year, the United States shall be relieved of any obligations under this paragraph. The one year period will not include the time necessary to appeal. Also, the one year period will not include any time during which scheduled trial procedures are delayed because United States authorities, after timely notification by Philippine authorities to arrange for the presence of the accused, fail to do so.

Petitioners contend that these undertakings violate another provision of the Constitution, namely, that providing for the exclusive power of this Court to adopt rules of procedure for all courts in the Philippines (Art. VIII, Sec. 5[5]). They argue that to allow the transfer of custody of an accused to a foreign power is to provide for a different rule of procedure for that accused, which also violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution (Art. Ill, Sec. 1. [sic]).

Again, this Court finds no violation of the Constitution.

The equal protection clause is not violated, because there is a substantial basis for a different treatment of a member of a foreign military armed forces allowed to enter our territory and all other accused.

The rule in international law is that a foreign armed forces allowed to enter one’s territory is immune from local jurisdiction, except to the extent agreed upon. The Status of Forces Agreements involving foreign military units around the world vary in terms and conditions, according to the situation of the parties involved, and reflect their bargaining power. But the principle remains, i.e., the receiving State can exercise jurisdiction over the forces of the sending State only to the extent agreed upon by the parties.

As a result, the situation involved is not one in which the power of this Court to adopt rules of procedure is curtailed or violated, but rather one in which, as is normally encountered around the world, the laws (including rules of procedure) of one State do not extend or apply — except to the extent agreed upon — to subjects of another State due to the recognition of extraterritorial immunity given to such bodies as visiting foreign armed forces.

Nothing in the Constitution prohibits such agreements recognizing immunity from jurisdiction or some aspects of jurisdiction (such as custody), in relation to long-recognized subjects of such immunity like Heads of State, diplomats and members of the armed forces contingents of a foreign State allowed to enter another State’s territory. On the contrary, the Constitution states that the Philippines adopts the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land. (Art. II, Sec. 2).

Applying, however, the provisions of VFA, the Court finds that there is a different treatment when it comes to detention as against custody. The moment the accused has to be detained, e.g., after conviction, the rule that governs is the following provision of the VFA:

Article V

Criminal Jurisdiction

xxx  xxx   xxx

Sec. 10. The confinement or detention by Philippine authorities of United States personnel shall be carried out in facilities agreed on by appropriate Philippines and United States authorities. United States personnel serving sentences in the Philippines shall have the right to visits and material assistance.

It is clear that the parties to the VFA recognized the difference between custody during the trial and detention after conviction, because they provided for a specific arrangement to cover detention. And this specific arrangement clearly states not only that the detention shall be carried out in facilities agreed on by authorities of both parties, but also that the detention shall be “by Philippine authorities.”[137] (Emphasis supplied, citations omitted)

In any case, Pemberton is confined, while undergoing trial, in Camp Aguinaldo, which by petitioners’ own description is the “General Head Quarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines[.] ” Their claim that the detention facility is under the “control, supervisionfj and jurisdiction of American military authorities” is not substantiated.

Petitioners’ prayer for the issuance of a writ of mandatory injunction to compel public respondents to turn over the custody of Pemberton “from American military authorities to the OLONGAPO CITY JAIL” is likewise denied for lack of merit. In Semirara Coal Corporation v. HGL Development Corporation:

It is likewise established that a writ of mandatory injunction is granted upon a showing that (a) the invasion of the right is material and substantial; (b) the right of complainant is clear and unmistakable; and (c) there is an urgent and permanent necessity for the writ to prevent serious damage. (Emphasis supplied, citation omitted)

Nowhere in their Petition did petitioners discuss the basis for their claim that they are entitled to the sought writ, let alone mention it in their arguments. This court cannot consider the issuance of a writ of mandatory injunction or a temporary restraining order without any legal and factual basis.

Besides, considering the extent of the scope of this court’s power to issue a temporary restraining order, prayers for the issuance of a writ of mandatory injunction is usually unnecessary.



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