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Salonga vs.

Executive Secretary (2009)


Doctrine: The VFA is constitutional for being an implementing agreement of the RP-US Military Defense Treaty
which has been ratified & concurred by both US & Philippine Senates. Also, the VFA provisions regarding the
detention & custody of foreign military forces are not in violation of the Constitutional mandate about the Courts
exclusive power of promulgating rules of procedure. On the other hand, the Romulo-Kenney agreement is void for
not being in accord with the VFA.
Facts:
1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

Daniel Smith
a. Member of the US Armed Forces
b. Charged with the crime of rape against a Filipina (Suzette Nicolas, 22-year old unmarried woman)
Trial of the accused
a. Pursuant to the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the US, the US was
granted custody of defendant Smith pending the proceedings
b. Trial was transferred from RTC Zambales to RTC Makati for security purposes
c. During trial, the US Government faithfully complied to their obligation of bringing Smith to the
trial court every time his presence was required
RTC Makati decision Smith is guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape
a. Pursuant to Article V, par. 10, of the VFA Smith shall serve his sentence in a facility that shall be
agreed upon by the Philippine and US authorities.
b. Pending this agreement, Smith is ordered to be temporarily committed to the Makati city jail
Romulo-Kenney Agreement
a. This is the agreement pursuant to Art. V, par. 10, of the VFA
b. It has been agreed upon by Kristie Kenney (representative of US) and Alberto Romulo
st
(representative of the Philippines) that Smith shall be detained at the 1 floor, Rowe (JUSMAG)
Building, US Embassy Compound in a room of approximately 10x12 square feet
i. The Philippine police & jail authorities shall have access to the place of detention in
order to ensure the compliance of the US with the terms of the VFA
c. Dec. 29, 2006 Smith was taken out of the Makati jail by Philippine law enforcement agents
(acting upon the orders of DILG) and brought to the US Embassy
The matter was brought to the CA, which dismissed the petition for having become moot. Hence, the
present action.

Procedure:
1. RTC Makati - Smith was convicted of the crime rape
2. CA to question the Romulo-Kenney agreement; petition dismissed
3. SC petitions for certiorari, as special civil actions and/or for review of the CA decision

Issue/s:
1. WON the VFA is void and unconstitutional No
2. WON the VFA provision on cases of offenses committed by the members of the US Armed Forces in the
Philippines violates Art. VIII, Sec. 5(5) (...providing for the exclusive power of this Court to adopt rules of
procedure for all courts in the Philippines)- No

3.
4.

WON the Romulo-Kenney Agreement is in accord of the VFA No


WON the VFA is affected by the US SC decision on Medellin vs. Texas - No

Held/Ratio:
1. The VFA is constitutional.
a. The petitioners contend that the issue is of primordial importance involving the sovereignty of
the Republic, as well as the mandate of the Constitution
b. The SC upheld the constitutionality of the VFA for the following reasons:
i. The SC, in Bayan vs. Zamora, has already resolved in favour of the constitutionality of
the VFA.
1. The VFA was duly concurred in by the Philippine senate and has been
recognized as a treaty by the US. Thus, it follows the Constitutional mandate
that an agreement concerning Military Bases shall only be allowed under a
treaty duly concurred in by the Senate ... and recognized as a treaty by the
other contracting state (Art. XVIII, Sec. 25)
2. Though the VFA was not submitted for advice and consent of the US Senate, it
is still a binding international agreement or treaty recognized by the US
a. Only policymaking agreements are submitted to the US Senate
b. Those that carry out or further implement policymaking agreements
are submitted to Congress under the provisions of Case-Zablocki Act.
Submission of this kind of agreement to the US Senate is not
necessary.
c. The RP-US Military Defense Treaty is the policymaking agreement,
while the VFA is its implementing agreement. The RP-US Military
Defense Treaty has been ratified & concurred by both Philippine & US
senates.
2. Art. VIII, Sec 5 (5) is not violated
a. Equal protection clause is not violated due to the presence of substantial basis for a different
treatment of a member of foreign military allowed to enter the Philippine territory
b. Rule on international law a foreign military allowed to enter ones territory is immune from
local jurisdiction, except to the extent agreed upon
i. The issue does not involve the adoption of rules of procedure. Rather, it is the question
of extraterritorial immunity based on what has been agreed upon by the contracting
States. Nothing in the Constitution prohibits such.
3. The Romulo-Kenney is not in accord with the VFA
a. The VFA provides for a different treatment between detention and custody
i. Detention in a facility agreed by both States BUT shall be by Philippine authorities
b. Romulo-Kenney agreement is in violation of the VFA because the detention agreed upon is not
by Philippine authorities
4. The VFA is different from the subject matter of the Medellin vs. Texas case
a. In Medellin vs. Texas, the US SC held that treaties entered into by the US are not automatically
part of their domestic law unless these treaties are self-executing or there is an implementing
legislation to make them enforceable.
b. VFA vs Vienna Convention on Consular Relations & the Avena decision of the International Court
of Justice (subject matter of the Medellin decision)

i. VFA (1) self- executing agreement because the parties intend its provisions to be
enforceable and (2) it is covered by implementing legislation which is the Case-Zablocki
Act
1. These two characteristics are absent in the subject matter of the Medellin
decision

Taada, et al., v. Angara, et al., G.R. No. 118295, May 2, 1997

PANGANIBAN, J.:
I.

THE FACTS

Petitioners Senators Taada, et al. questioned the constitutionality of the concurrence by


the Philippine Senate of the Presidents ratification of the international Agreement establishing the
World Trade Organization (WTO). They argued that the WTO Agreement violates 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. Further, they contended that
the 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 our Constitution, and render meaningless the phrase effectively controlled
by Filipinos.
II. THE ISSUE
Does the 1987 Constitution prohibit our country from participating in worldwide trade
liberalization and economic globalization and from integrating into a global economy that is
liberalized, deregulated and privatized?
III. THE RULING
[The Court DISMISSED the petition. It sustained the concurrence of the Philippine Senate of
the Presidents ratification of the Agreement establishing the WTO.]
NO, the 1987 Constitution DOES NOT prohibit our country from participating in
worldwide trade liberalization and economic globalization and from integrating into a global
economy that is liberalized, deregulated and privatized.
There are enough balancing provisions in the Constitution to allow the Senate to ratify the
Philippine concurrence in the WTO Agreement.
[W]hile 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. 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.
xxx

xxx

xxx

[T]he constitutional policy of a self-reliant and independent national economy does not
necessarily rule out the entry of foreign investments, goods and services. It contemplates neither
economic seclusion nor mendicancy in the international community. As explained by
Constitutional Commissioner Bernardo Villegas, sponsor of this constitutional policy:
Economic self-reliance is a primary objective of a developing country that is keenly aware of
overdependence on external assistance for even its most basic needs. It does not mean autarky or
economic seclusion; rather, it means avoiding mendicancy in the international community.
Independence refers to the freedom from undue foreign control of the national economy, especially
in such strategic industries as in the development of natural resources and public utilities.
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, 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.
xxx

xxx

xxx

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. Ineludibly, 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.