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Consti Bayan v Romulo

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  Bayan Muna vs RomuloG. R. No. 159618, February 01, 2011Facts:Peoner Bayan Muna is a duly registered party-list group established to represent the marginalized sectors of society. Respondent Blas F. Ople, now deceased, was the Secretary of Foreign Aairs during the period material to this case. Respondent Alberto Romulo was impleaded in his capacity as then Execuve Secretary.Rome Statute of the Internaonal Criminal CourtHaving a key determinave bearing on this case is the Rome Statute establishing the Internaonal Criminal Court (ICC) with “the power to exercise its jurisdicon over persons for the most serious crimes of internaonal concern x x x and shall be complementary to the naonal criminal jurisdicons.” The serious crimes adverted to cover those considered grave under internaonal law, such as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression.On December 28, 2000, the RP, through Charge d’Aaires Enrique A. Manalo, signed the Rome Statute which, by its terms, is “subject to racaon, acceptance or approval” by the signatory states. As of the ling of the instant peon, only 92 out of the 139 signatory countries appear to have completed the racaon, approval and concurrence process. The Philippines is not among the 92.RP-US Non-Surrender AgreementOn May 9, 2003, then Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone sent US Embassy Note No. 0470 to the Department of Foreign Aairs (DFA) proposing the terms of the non-surrender bilateral agreement (Agreement, hereinaer) between the USA and the RP.Via Exchange of Notes No. BFO-028-037 dated May 13, 2003 (E/N BFO-028-03, hereinaer), the RP, represented by then DFA Secretary Ople, agreed with and accepted the US proposals embodied under the US Embassy Note adverted to and put in eect the Agreement with the US government. In esse, the Agreement aims to protect what it refers to and denes as “persons” of the RP and US from frivolous and harassment suits that might be brought against them in internaonal tribunals.8 It is reecve of the increasing pace of the strategic security and defense partnership between the two countries. As of May 2, 2003, similar bilateral agreements have been eected by and between the US and 33 other countries.The Agreement pernently provides as follows:1. For purposes of this Agreement, “persons” are current or former Government ocials, employees (including contractors), or military personnel or naonals of one Party.2. Persons of one Party present in the territory of the other shall not, absent the express consent of the rst Party,  (a) be surrendered or transferred by any means to any internaonal tribunal for any purpose, unless such tribunal has been established by the UN Security Council, or(b) be surrendered or transferred by any means to any other enty or third country, or expelled to a third country, for the purpose of surrender to or transfer to any internaonal tribunal, unless such tribunal has been established by the UN Security Council.3. When the [US] extradites, surrenders, or otherwise transfers a person of the Philippines to a third country, the [US] will not agree to the surrender or transfer of that person by the third country to any internaonal tribunal, unless such tribunal has been established by the UN Security Council, absent the express consent of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines [GRP].4. When the [GRP] extradites, surrenders, or otherwise transfers a person of the [USA] to a third country,the [GRP] will not agree to the surrender or transfer of that person by the third country to any internaonal tribunal, unless such tribunal has been established by the UN Security Council, absent the express consent of the Government of the [US].5. This Agreement shall remain in force unl one year aer the date on which one party noes the other of its intent to terminate the Agreement. The provisions of this Agreement shall connue to apply with respect to any act occurring, or any allegaon arising, before the eecve date of terminaon.In response to a query of then Solicitor General Alfredo L. Benipayo on the status of the non-surrender agreement, Ambassador Ricciardone replied in his leer of October 28, 2003 that the exchange of diplomac notes constuted a legally binding agreement under internaonal law; and that, under US law, the said agreement did not require the advice and consent of the US Senate.In this proceeding, peoner imputes grave abuse of discreon to respondents in concluding and rafying the Agreement and prays that it be struck down as unconstuonal, or at least declared as without force and eect.Issue: Whether or not the RP-US NON SURRENDER AGREEMENT is void ab inio for contracng obligaons thatare either immoral or otherwise at variance with universally recognized principles of internaonal law.Ruling: The peon is bere of merit.Validity of the RP-US Non-Surrender AgreementPeoner’s inial challenge against the Agreement relates to form, its threshold posture being that E/N BFO-028-03 cannot be a valid medium for concluding the Agreement.  Peoners’ contenon––perhaps taken unaware of certain well-recognized internaonal doctrines, pracces, and jargons––is untenable. One of these is the doctrine of incorporaon, as expressed in Secon 2, Arcle II of the Constuon, wherein the Philippines adopts the generally accepted principles of internaonal law and internaonal jurisprudence as part of the law of the land and adheres to the policy of peace, cooperaon, and amity with all naons. An exchange of notes falls “into the category of inter-governmental agreements,” which is an internaonally accepted form of internaonal agreement. The United Naons Treaty Collecons (Treaty Reference Guide) denes the term as follows:An “exchange of notes” is a record of a roune agreement, that has many similaries with the private law contract. The agreement consists of the exchange of two documents, each of the pares being in thepossession of the one signed by the representave of the other. Under the usual procedure, the accepng State repeats the text of the oering State to record its assent. The signatories of the leers may be government Ministers, diplomats or departmental heads. The technique of exchange of notes is frequently resorted to, either because of its speedy procedure, or, somemes, to avoid the process of legislave approval.In another perspecve, the terms “exchange of notes” and “execuve agreements” have been used interchangeably, exchange of notes being considered a form of execuve agreement that becomes binding through execuve acon. On the other hand, execuve agreements concluded by the President “somemes take the form of exchange of notes and at other mes that of more formal documents denominated ‘agreements’ or ‘protocols.’” As former US High Commissioner to the Philippines Francis B. Sayre observed in his work, The Constuonality of Trade Agreement Acts:The point where ordinary correspondence between this and other governments ends and agreements – whether denominated execuve agreements or exchange of notes or otherwise – begin, may somemesbe dicult of ready ascertainment. x x xIt is fairly clear from the foregoing disquision that E/N BFO-028-03––be it viewed as the Non-Surrender Agreement itself, or as an integral instrument of acceptance thereof or as consent to be bound––is a recognized mode of concluding a legally binding internaonal wrien contract among naons.Agreement Not Immoral/Not at Variance with Principles of Internaonal LawPeoner urges that the Agreement be struck down as void ab inio for imposing immoral obligaons and/or being at variance with allegedly universally recognized principles of internaonal law. The immoral aspect proceeds from the fact that the Agreement, as peoner would put it, “leaves criminals immune from responsibility for unimaginable atrocies that deeply shock the conscience of humanity; x x x it precludes our country from delivering an American criminal to the [ICC] x x x.”63The above argument is a kind of recycling of peoner’s earlier posion, which, as already discussed, contends that the RP, by entering into the Agreement, virtually abdicated its sovereignty and in the  process undermined its treaty obligaons under the Rome Statute, contrary to internaonal law principles.The Court is not persuaded. Suce it to state in this regard that the non-surrender agreement, as aptly described by the Solicitor General, “is an asseron by the Philippines of its desire to try and punish crimes under its naonal law. x x x The agreement is a recognion of the primacy and competence of thecountry’s judiciary to try oenses under its naonal criminal laws and dispense jusce fairly and  judiciously.”Peoner, we believe, labors under the erroneous impression that the Agreement would allow Filipinos and Americans comming high crimes of internaonal concern to escape criminal trial and punishment. This is manifestly incorrect. Persons who may have commied acts penalized under the Rome Statute can be prosecuted and punished in the Philippines or in the US; or with the consent of the RP or the US, before the ICC, assuming, for the nonce, that all the formalies necessary to bind both countries to the Rome Statute have been met. For perspecve, what the Agreement contextually prohibits is the surrender by either party of individuals to internaonal tribunals, like the ICC, without the consent of theother party, which may desire to prosecute the crime under its exisng laws. With the view we take of things, there is nothing immoral or violave of internaonal law concepts in the act of the Philippines of assuming criminal jurisdicon pursuant to the non-surrender agreement over an oense considered criminal by both Philippine laws and the Rome Statute.

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