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CASE DIGEST OF MAGALLONA VS ERMITA

FACTS OF THE CASE: The antecedent facts of this case emerged upon the passing of Republic Act 3046 in 1961. The law’s purpose is to demarcate the maritime baselines of the Philippines as it was deemed to be an archipelago. RA 3046 stood unchallenged until 2009, when Congress amended it and passed RA 9522. This amending law shortened one baseline and determined new base points of the archipelago. Moreso, it has identified the Kalayaan Island Group and the Scarborough Shoal, as "regimes of islands", generating their own maritime zones. The petitioners filed a case assailing the constitutionality of RA 9522. To their opinion, the law has effectively reduced the maritime territory of the country. With this, Article I of the 1987 Constitution will be violated. The petitioners also worried that that because of the suggested changes in the maritime baselines will allow for foreign aircrafts and vessels to traverse the Philippine territory freely. In effect, it steps on the state’s sovereignty and national security. Meanwhile, the Congress insisted that in no way will the amendments affect any pertinent power of the state. It also deferred to agree that the law impliedly relinquishes the Philippines claims over Sabah. Lastly, they have questioned the normative force of the notion that all the waters within the rectangular boundaries in the Treaty of Paris. Now, because this treaty still has undetermined controversies, the Congress believes that in the perspective of international law, it did not see any binding obligation to honor it. Thus, this case of prayer for writs of certiorari and prohibition is filed before the court, assailing the constitutionality of RA 9522. THE COURT’S RULING: The Court dismissed the case. It upheld the constitutionality of the law and made it clear that it has merely demarcated the country’s maritime zones and continental shelves in accordance to UNCLOS III. Secondly, the Court found that the framework of the regime of islands suggested by the law is not incongruent with the Philippines’ enjoyment of territorial sovereignty over the areas of Kalayaan Group of Islands and the Scarborough. Third, the court reiterated that the claims over Sabah remained even with the adoption of the amendments. Further, the Court importantly stressed that the baseline laws are mere mechanisms for the UNCLOS III to precisely describe the delimitations. It serves as a notice to the international family of states and it is in no way affecting or producing any effect like enlargement or diminution of territories. With regard to the petitioners’ assertion that RA 9522 has converted the internal waters into archipelagic waters, the Court did not appear to be persuaded. Instead, the Court suggested that the political branches of Government can pass domestic laws that will aid in the competent security measures and policies that will regulate innocent passage. Since the Court emphasized innocent passage as a right based on customary law, it also believes that no state can validly invoke sovereignty to deny a right acknowledged by modern states. In the case of archipelagic states such as ours, UNCLOS III required the imposition of innocent passage as a concession in lieu of their right to claim the entire waters landward baseline. It also made it possible for archipelagic states to be recognized as a cohesive entity under the UNCLOS III.