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1.) The Ambassador of the Republic of Kafirista referred to you for handling, the case of the Embassy’s Maintenance Agreement with CBM, a private domestic company engaged in maintenance work. The Agreement binds CBM, for a defined fee, to maintain the Embassy’s elevators, air- conditioning units and electrical facilities. Section 10 of the Agreement provides that the Agreement shall be governed by Philippine laws and that any legal action shall be brought before the proper court of Makati. Kafiristan terminated the Agreement because CBM allegedly did not comply with their agreed maintenance standards. CBM contested the termination and filed a complaint against Kafiristan before the Regional Trial Court of Makati. The Ambassador wants you to file a motion to dismiss on the ground of state immunity from suit and to oppose the position that under Section 10 of the Agreement, Kafiristan expressly waives its immunity from suit. Under these facts, can the Embassy successfully invoke immunity from suit?
YES, the Embassy can invoke immunity from suit. Section 10 of the Maintenance Agreement is not necessarily a waiver of sovereign immunity from suit. It was meant to apply in case the Republic of Kafiristan elects to sue in the local courts or waives its immunity by a subsequent act. The establishment of a diplomatic mission is a sovereign function. This encompasses its maintenance and upkeep. The Maintenance Agreement was in pursuit of a sovereign activity. (Republic of the Indonesia v. Vinzon, G.R. No. 154705, June 26, 2003, 405 SCRA 126)
2.) Ambassador Robert of State Alpha committed a very serious crime while he headed his foreign mission in the Philippines. Is he subject to arrest by Philippine authorities? Explain your answer
NO, he is not subject to arrest by Philippines authorities. Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (VCDR), a diplomatic agent shall enjoy immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of the receiving State. As a consequence, Article 29 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations provides: “The person of a diplomatic agent shall be inviolable. He shall not be liable to any form of arrest or detention.
3.) In the last quarter of 2012, about 5,000 container vans of imported goods intended for the Christmas Season were seized by agents of the Bureau of Customs. The imported goods were released only on January 10, 2013. A group of importers got together and filed an action for damages before the Regional Trial Court of Manila against the Department of Finance and Bureau of Customs. The Bureau of Customs raised the defense of immunity from suit and, alternatively, that liability should lie with XYZ Corp. which the Bureau had contracted for the lease of 10 high powered van cranes but delivered only 5 of these cranes, thus causing the delay in its cargo-handling operations. It appears that the Bureau, despite demand, did not pay XYZ Corp the P 1 Million deposit and advance rental required under their contract. (2013 BAR) a. Will the action by the group of importers prosper? b. Can XYZ Corp. sue the Bureau of Customs to collect rentals for the delivered cranes?
a.) NO. The action by the group of importers will not prosper. The primary function of the Bureau of Customs is governmental, that of assessing and collecting lawful revenues from imported articles and all other tariff and customs duties, fees, charges, fines and penalties. (Mobil Philippines Exploration, Inc. v. Customs Arrastre Service, 18 SCRA 120)
b.) NO. XYZ Corporation cannot sue the Bureau of Customs to collect rentals for the delivered cranes. The contract was a necessary incident to the performance of its governmental function. To properly collect the revenues and customs duties, the Bureau of Customs must check to determine if the declaration of the importers tallies with the landed merchandise. The cranes are needed to haul the landed merchandise to a suitable place for inspection. (Mobil Philippines Exploration v. Customs Arrastre Service, supra)
4.) The doctrine of immunity from suit in favor of the State extends to public officials in the performance of their official duties. May such officials be sued nonetheless to prevent or to undo their oppressive or illegal acts, or to compel them to act? Explain your answer.
Public officials may be sued if they acted oppressively or illegally in the performance of their duties. A suit against a public officer who acted illegally is not a suit against the state. (Aberca v. Ver, G.R. No. 69866, April 15, 1988, 160 SCRA 590)
A public official may be compelled to act through a writ of mandamus. The main objective of mandamus is to compel the performance of a ministerial duty on the part of the respondent official; however, the writ does not issue to control or review the exercise of discretion or to compel a course of conduct. The writ of prohibition can also be availed of, as it is an extraordinary writ which can be directed against a public officer ordering said officer to desist from further proceedings when said proceedings are without or in excess of said officer’s jurisdiction, or are accompanied with grave abuse of discretion. (Rule 65, Revised Rules of Court)
Lastly, a public officer is by law not immune from damages in his/her personal capacity for acts done in bad faith which, being outside the scope of his authority, are no longer protected by the mantle of immunity for official actions. (Vinzons-Chuto v. Fortune Tobacco Corp., G.R. No. 141309, June 19, 2007, 525 SCRA 11)
5.) Do government-owned or -controlled corporations also enjoy the immunity of the State from suit? Explain your answer.
A government-owned or controlled corporation may be sued. A suit against it is not a suit against the State, because it has a separate juridical personality. (Social Security Systems v. Court of Appeals, GR. No. L- 41299, February 21, 1983, 120 SORA 707)
6.) Annika sued the Republic of the Philippines, represented by the Director of the Bureau of Plant Industry, and asked for the revocation of a deed of donation executed by her in favor of said Bureau. She alleged that, contrary to the terms of the donation, the donee failed to install lighting facilities and a water system on the property donated, and to build an office building and parking lot thereon, which should have been constructed and made ready for occupancy on or before the date fixed in the deed of donation. The Republic invoked state immunity and moved for the dismissal of the case on the ground that it had not consented to be sued. Should the Republic's motion be granted?
The motion of the Republic should be granted. There appears to be no consent on the part of the State to be sued.
In Section 3, Article XVI of the Constitution it is provided that: “The State shall not be sued without its consent.”
That no consent was given by the Republic is shown by the fact that the Bureau or the Government did seem to have complied with the demands of the deed of donation. Compliance with the state immunity is essential for two reasons:
It is required as a provision of the Constitution; and
Immunity is an essential element of state sovereignty.