Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic v Cibario

235 NY 255 ; Mar 6, 1923


This action is brought by plaintiff Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic in its alleged capacity of a sovereign State, to compel the defendants to account for moneys which, it is claimed, the defendant Cibrario fraudulently obtained under a contract made by him on July 24, 1918, with the Cinematographic Committee of the Commissariat of Public Instruction, which is alleged to be a subordinate government body of the plaintiff. In substance plaintiff charges that Cibrario made large secret profits in connection with his purchases, that the materials purchased were not in compliance with the contract, but were in large part worthless, and that the time limitation prescribed by the contract was not observed. 

The first objection raised by the defendants is, that the "Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic," never having been recognized as a sovereignty by the executive or legislative departments of the United States government, has no capacity to sue in the courts of the United States, or of any of the States.

ISSUE: Is a foreign power’s right to sue a matter of right?

RULING: NO. A foreign power brings an action in the courts not as a matter of right. Its power to do so is the creature of comity. Until such government is recognized by the United States, no such comity exists. The plaintiff concededly has not been so recognized. There is, therefore, no proper party before us. We may add that recognition and consequently the existence of comity is purely a matter for the determination of the legislative or executive departments of the government. Who is the sovereign of a territory is a political question. In any case where that question is in dispute the courts are bound by the decision reached by those departments. It is not for the courts to say whether the present governments of Russia or Mexico or Great Britain should or should not be recognized. They are or they are not. That is as far as we may inquire. Upon the facts in that case, if the defendant was not an existing government it might not be sued. There was no party before the court. If it were, as was alleged and admitted, the same result followed not because of comity, but because an independent government is not answerable for its acts to our courts. 

Banco Nacional de Cuba v Sabatino

376 U.S. 398; 1964


In February and July of 1960, respondent Farr, Whitlock & Co., an American commodity broker, contracted to purchase Cuban sugar from a wholly owned subsidiary of Compania Azucarera Vertientes-Camaguey de Cuba (C.A.V.), a corporation organized under Cuban law whose capital stock was owned principally by United States residents. Farr, Whitlock agreed to pay for the sugar in New York upon presentation of the shipping documents and a sight draft.

On July 6, 1960, the Congress of the United States amended the Sugar Act of 1948 to permit a presidentially directed reduction of the sugar quota for Cuba. On the same day, President Eisenhower exercised the granted power. The day of the congressional enactment, the Cuban Council of Ministers adopted "Law No. 851” as a countermeasure for the reduction of sugar quota. The law gave the Cuban President and Prime Minister discretionary power to nationalize by forced expropriation of property or enterprises in which American nationals had an interest. The Cuban President and Prime Minister, acting pursuant to Law No. 851, issued Executive Power Resolution No. 1. It provided for the compulsory expropriation of all property and enterprises, and of rights and interests arising therefrom, of certain listed companies, including C.A.V., wholly or principally owned by American nationals.

In consequence of the resolution, the consent of the Cuban Government was necessary before a ship carrying sugar of a named company could leave Cuban waters. In order to obtain this consent, Farr, Whitlock, on August 11, entered into contracts, identical to those it had made with C.A.V., with the Banco Para el Comercio Exterior de Cuba (Banco exterior), an instrumentality of the Cuban Government.

Banco Exterior assigned the bills of lading to petitioner, also an instrumentality of the Cuban Government, which instructed its agent in New York, Societe Generale, to deliver the bills and a sight draft in the sum of $175,250.69 to Farr, Whitlock in return for payment. Societe Generale's initial tender of the documents was refused by Farr, Whitlock, which on the same day was notified of C.A.V.'s claim that, as rightful owner of the sugar, it was entitled to the proceeds. In return for a promise not to turn the funds over to petitioner or its agent, C.A.V. agreed to indemnify Farr, Whitlock for any loss. Farr, Whitlock subsequently accepted the shipping documents, negotiated the bills of lading to its customer, and received payment for the sugar. It refused, however, to hand over the proceeds to Societe Generale. Shortly thereafter, Farr, Whitlock was served with an order of the New York Supreme Court, which had appointed Sabbatino as Temporary Receiver of C.A.V.'s New York assets, enjoining it from taking any action in regard to the money claimed by C.A.V. that might result in its removal from the State. Following this, Farr, Whitlock, pursuant to court order, transferred the funds to Sabbatino, to abide the event of a judicial determination as to their ownership.

Petitioner brought this action alleging conversion of the bills of lading to recover payment from the broker and to enjoin from exercising dominion over the proceeds. The District Court sustained federal in personam jurisdiction despite state control of the funds. It found that the sugar was located within Cuban territory at the time of expropriation, and determined that, under merchant law common to civilized countries, Farr, Whitlock could not have asserted ownership of the sugar against C.A.V. before making payment. It concluded that C.A.V. had a property interest in the sugar subject to the territorial jurisdiction of Cuba. The court then dealt with the question of Cuba's title to the sugar, on which rested petitioner's claim of conversion. While acknowledging the continuing vitality of the act of state doctrine, the court believed it inapplicable when the questioned foreign act is in violation of international law. Proceeding on the basis that a taking invalid under international law does not convey good title, the District Court found the Cuban expropriation decree to violate such law in three separate respects: it was motivated by a retaliatory, and not a public, purpose; it discriminated against American nationals; and it failed to provide adequate compensation.

ISSUE: Should the Act of State doctrine should be applied?

RULING: YES. The Court reversed the ruling of the lower court and held that the Act of State Doctrine applies. The Supreme Court held that it will not decide the validity of a decree by a foreign government absent a treaty or other agreement. Moreover, The Court found that the Cuban seizure did not violate international law, because there was no clear international opinion that a seizure of land or property in a country by the government of that country was illegal. Even in a situation whereby international law has been violated, the clear implication of past cases is that the Act of State Doctrine is applicable because the Act of State doctrine does not deprive the courts of jurisdiction once acquired over a case.

Under the Bernstein exception, a court may determine the legality of the foreign expropriation if the Executive indicates to the court that it does not oppose such judicial consideration. In the given case, The Court found that there was no need for the Executive branch to ask the courts to apply the Act of State Doctrine. According to the court “Often, the State Department will wish to refrain from taking an official position, particularly at a moment that would be dictated by the development of private litigation but might be inopportune diplomatically. Adverse domestic consequences might flow from an official stand which could be assuaged, if at all, only by revealing matters best kept secret. Of course, a relevant consideration for the State Department would be the position contemplated in the court to hear the case. It is highly questionable whether the examination of validity by the judiciary should depend on an educated guess by the Executive as to probable result, and, at any rate, should a prediction be wrong, the Executive might be embarrassed in its dealings with other countries.”

The court also held that the act of state doctrine, although it shares with the immunity doctrine a respect for sovereign states, concerns the limits for determining the validity of an otherwise applicable rule of law. It is plain that, if a recognized government sued on a contract with a United States citizen, concededly legitimate by the locus of its making, performance, and most significant contacts, the forum would not apply its own substantive law of contracts. Since the act of state doctrine reflects the desirability of presuming the relevant transaction valid, the same result follows; the forum may not apply its local law regarding foreign expropriations. 

The expropriation was legal because it was an official act of another country, not subject to question in US courts.

Oetjen v Central Leather

No. 268, 269 ; Mar 11, 1918


In January, 1914, General Francisco Villa, while conducting independent operations as a duly commissioned military commander of the Carranza government, which had then made much progress in its revolution in Mexico, levied a military contribution, and, in enforcing it, seized and sold some hides then owned and possessed by a citizen of Mexico. Held that the act could not be reexamined and modified by a New Jersey court in replevin.

ISSUE/S: Can the act be reexamined and modified by a New Jersey court?

RULING: NO. We have a duly commissioned military commander of what must be accepted as the legitimate government of Mexico, in the progress of a revolution, and when conducting active independent operations, seizing and selling in Mexico, as a military contribution, the property in controversy at the time owned and in the possession of a citizen of Mexico, the assignor of the plaintiff in error. Plainly this was the action, in Mexico, of the legitimate Mexican government when dealing with a Mexican citizen, and, as we have seen, for the soundest reasons, and upon repeated decisions of this Court such action is not subject to reexamination and modification by the courts of this country. The principle that the conduct of one independent government cannot be successfully questioned in the courts of another is as applicable to a case involving the title to property brought within the custody of a court, such as we have here, as it was held to be to the cases cited, in which claims for damages were based upon acts done in a foreign country, for it rests at last upon the highest considerations of international comity and expediency. To permit the validity of the acts of one sovereign state to be reexamined and perhaps condemned by the courts of another would very certainly "imperil the amicable relations between governments and vex the peace of nations."

Underhill v Hernandez

168 US 250; Nov 29, 1897


A revolution commenced in Venezuela in 1892 against the administration which the Revolutionists claimed had ceased to be the legitimate government. The principal parties were those who were under the control and leadership of Crespo and those who acknowledged Palacio as their head. Gen. Hernandez belonged to the anti-administration party also known as the revolutionists and commanded its forces in the vicinity of Ciudad Bolivar. On Aug. 8, 1892, an engagement took place between the armies of the two parties at Buena Vista, some seven miles from Bolivar, in which the troops under Hernandez prevailed. 

On the 13th of Aug, Hernandez entered Bolívar, and assumed command of the city. All of the local officials had in the meantime left, and the vacant positions were filled by Gen. Hernandez who was the civil and military chief of the city and district. In October the Crespo party had achieved success generally and was formally recognized as the legitimate government of Venezuela by the United States

George F. Underhill was a citizen of the United States, who had constructed a waterworks system for the city of Bolivar, under a contract with the government. He was engaged in supplying the place with water and also carried on a machinery repair business. 

Sometime after the entry of Gen. Hernandez, underhill applied to him as the officer in command for a passport to leave the city. Hernandez refused this request. On Oct. 18, a passport was given to him and Underhill left the country. Underhill brought an action to recover damages for the detention caused by reason of the refusal to grant him passport and for the assault suffered by Hernandez’s army 

The Circuit court of the United States for the Eastern district of New York ruled in favor of the defendant Hernandez, on the ground that 'because the acts of defendant were those of a military commander, representing a de facto government in the prosecution of a war, he was not civilly responsible therefore. Underhill appealed the judgment to the circuit court of appeals where the judgment was affirmed. The circuit court of appeals held that the acts of the defendant were the acts of the government of Venezuela, and as such are not properly the subject of adjudication in the courts of another government. The cause was brought to the Supreme Court on certiorari

ISSUE: Can Underhill file a suit against Hernandez?

RULING: NO. Hernandez’s acts are acts of another country which is the Venezuelan government hence it cannot be subject to the adjudication of the United States government and courts. As stated, “Every sovereign state is bound to respect the independence of every other sovereign state, and the courts of one country will not sit in judgment on the acts of the government of another, done within its own territory. Redress of grievances by reason of such acts must be obtained through the means open to be availed of by sovereign powers as between themselves.”

“Public agents, military or civil, of foreign governments, whether such governments be de jure or de facto, cannot be held responsible, in any court within the United States, for acts done within their own states, In the exercise of the sovereignty thereof, or pursuant to the directions of their governments; and this immunity extends to the agents of a revolutionary government, set up by a part of the citizens of a foreign country, which is ultimately established and recognized by the government of the United States.”

The government and the courts of the United States cannot pass judgment or subject Hernandez under their adjudication because his acts are acts of the government of Venezuela. As a rule, each and every state must observe respect for the sovereignty of the other states – especially in this case where United States expressly recognized the new government

PCGG v Sandiganbayan

GR No. 124772; Aug 14, 2007


On April 7, 1986, in connection with criminal proceedings initiated in the Philippines to locate, sequester and seek restitution of alleged ill-gotten wealth amassed by the Marcoses and other accused from the Philippine Government, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) wrote the Federal Office for Police Federal Office for Police Matters in Berne, Switzerland, requesting assistance for the latter office to: (a) ascertain and provide the OSG with information as to where the ill-gotten fortune of the Marcoses and other accused are located, the names of the depositors and the banks and the amounts involved; and (b) take necessary precautionary measures, such as sequestration, to freeze the assets in order to preserve their existing value and prevent any further transfer. The Office of the District Attorney in Zurich, pursuant to the OSG’s request, issued an Order directing the Swiss Banks in Zurich to freeze the accounts of the accused. In compliance with said Order, Bankers Trust A.G. (BTAG) of Zurich froze the accounts of Officeco Holdings, N.V. (Officeco).

Officeco made representations with the OSG and the PCGG for them to officially advise the Swiss Federal Office for Police Matters to unfreeze Officeco’s assets. The PCGG required Officeco to present countervailing evidence to support its request, but instead of complying with the PCGG requirement for it to submit countervailing evidence, Officeco filed the complaint with the Sandiganbayan praying for the PCGG and the OSG to officially advise the Swiss government to exclude from the freeze or sequestration order the account of Officeco with BTAG and to unconditionally release the said account to unconditionally release the said account to Officeco. A motion to dismiss was filed but it was denied hence, a petition was brought to the Supreme Court claiming that the civil action in effect seeks a judicial review of the legality or illegality of the acts of the Swiss government since the Sandiganbayan would inevitably examine and review the freeze orders of Swiss officials in resolving the case. This would be in violation of the “act of state” doctrine which states that courts of one country will not sit in judgment on the acts of the government of another in due deference to the independence of sovereignty of every sovereign state.

ISSUE: Can state immunity from suit be invoked in the instant case?

RULING: NO. The act of state doctrine is one of the methods by which States prevent their national courts from deciding disputes which relate to the internal affairs of another State, the other two being immunity and non-justiciability. It is an avoidance technique that is directly related to a State's obligation to respect the independence and equality of other States by not requiring them to submit to adjudication in a national court or to settle their disputes without their consent. It requires the forum court to exercise restraint in the adjudication of disputes relating to legislative or other governmental acts which a foreign State has performed within its territorial limits. 

It is petitioners' contention that the Sandiganbayan "could not grant or deny the prayers in Officeco's complaint without first examining and scrutinizing the freeze order of the Swiss officials in the light of the evidence, which however is in the possession of said officials" and that it would therefore "sit in judgment on the acts of the government of another country." The Court disagrees.

Even assuming that international law requires the application of the act of state doctrine, it bears stressing that the Sandiganbayan will not examine and review the freeze orders of the concerned Swiss officials in Civil Case No. 0164. The Sandiganbayan will not require the Swiss officials to submit to its adjudication nor will it settle a dispute involving said officials. In fact, as prayed for in the complaint, the Sandiganbayan will only review and examine the propriety of maintaining PCGG's position with respect to Officeco's accounts with BTAG for the purpose of further determining the propriety of issuing a writ against the PCGG and the OSG. Therefore, the act of state doctrine finds no application in this case and petitioners' resort to it is utterly mislaid. 

Baer v Tizon

GR No. L-24294; May 3, 1974


Respondent Edgardo Gener filed a complaint for injunction against petitioner, Donald Baer, Commander of the United States Naval Base in Olongapo. He alleged that he was engaged in the business of logging in an area situated in Morong, Bataan and that the American Naval Base authorities stopped his logging operations. He prayed for a writ of preliminary injunction—which was then issued by respondent Judge—restraining petitioner from interfering with his logging operations. Upon instructions of the American Ambassador to the Philippines, the counsel of petitioner entered their appearance for the purpose of contesting the jurisdiction of respondent Judge on the ground that the suit was one against a foreign sovereign without its consent. Petitioner argued that he is the chief or head of an agency or instrumentality of the United States of America, with the subject matter of the action being official acts done by him for and in behalf of the United States of America. In directing the cessation of logging operations by respondent Gener within the Naval Base, petitioner was entirely within the scope of his authority and official duty, the maintenance of the security of the Naval Base and of the installations therein being the first concern and most important duty of the Commander of the Base. Respondent Judge issued an order granting respondent Gener's application for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction and denying petitioner's motion to dismiss the opposition to the application for a writ of preliminary injunction.

ISSUE: Is the Doctrine of State Immunity applicable to Baer?

RULING: Yes. The Court cited the case of Raquiza v. Bradford which then quoted Coleman v. Tennessee, the Court ruled herein that, “It is well settled that a foreign army, permitted to march through a friendly country or to be stationed in it, by permission of its government or sovereign, is exempt from the civil and criminal jurisdiction of the place.” In this case, what was sought by private respondent and what was granted by respondent Judge amounted to an interference with the performance of the duties of petitioner in the base area in accordance with the powers possessed by him under the Philippine-American Military Bases Agreement. The doctrine of state immunity is not limited to cases which would result in a pecuniary charge against the sovereign or would require the doing of an affirmative act by it. Prevention of a sovereign from doing an affirmative act pertaining directly and immediately to the most important public function of any government - the defense of the state — is equally as untenable as requiring it to do an affirmative act.

Syquia v Almeda Lopez

GR No L-1648; Aug 17, 1949


Petitioners Pedro, Gonzalo and Leopoldo Syquia are joint owners of properties in Manila, namely, the North Qyauia Apartments, South Syquia Apartments and Michel Apartments. In 1945, they executed contracts for lease of the apartments to USA, with the term being until the war has ended and six months after, or unless terminated sooner by USA, as the buildings were used for billeting and quartering officers of te US armed forces stationed in the Manila Area. George Moore, a Commanding General of the US Army, and Erland Tillman, Chief of the Real Estate Division to the US Army in Manila who was under the command of Moore, was said to be in control of the apartment buildings and had authority in the name of USA to assign officers of the army to the buildings or order them to vacuate the same. When Japan surrendered on September 2, 1945, the lease would be terminated six months after. The petitioners approached the predecessors of Moore and Tillman and requested the buildings to be returned to them, as per contract agreement. However, they were advised that the US Army wanted to continue their occupancy of the buildings, and refused to execute new leases but advised that they will vacate the premises before February 1, 1947, not the original terms of the contract agreement. Petitioner-plaintiffs sued before the Municipal Court of Manila with the demand to get the properties as their agreement supposedly expired, and furthermore asked for increased rentals until the premises were vacated. Respondent-defendants were part of the armed forces of the US moved to dismiss the suit for lack of jurisdiction on the part of the court. The MTC of Manila granted the motion to dismiss the suit, sustained by the CFI of Manila, hence the petition for certiorari.

ISSUE: Does the Philippine Courts have a lack of jurisdiction, considering, under the doctrine of Sovereign Immunity, that the USA has not given their consent to be a respondent?

RULING: No. Considering the facts involved therein as well as those of public knowledge of which we take judicial cognizance, we are convinced that the real party in interest as defendant in the original case is the United States of America. The lessee in each of the three lease agreements was the United States of America and the lease agreement themselves were executed in her name by her officials acting as her agents. The considerations or rentals was always paid by the U. S. Government. The original action in the municipal court was brought on the basis of these three lease contracts and it is obvious in the opinion of this court that any back rentals or increased rentals will have to be paid by the U. S. Government not only because, as already stated, the contracts of lease were entered into by such Government but also because the premises were used by officers of her armed forces during the war and immediately after the terminations of hostilities.

USA v Guinto

G.R. No. 76607; Feb 26, 1990


Private respondents are suing several officers of the US Air Force stationed in Clark Air Base in connection with the bidding conducted by them for contracts for barber services in the base. On February 24, 1986, the Western Pacific Contracting Office, Okinawa Area Exchange, U.S. Air Force, solicited bids for such contracts through its contracting officer, James F. Shaw. Among those that submitted their bids were the private respondents. The bidding was won by Ramon Dizon over the objection of the private respondents, who claimed that he had made a bid for four facilities, including the Civil Engineering Area, which was not included in the invitation to bid.

The private respondents complained to the Philippine Area Exchange (PHAX). The latter, through its representatives petitioners Reeves and Shouse, explained that the Civil Engineering concession had not been awarded to Dizon as a result of the February 24, 1986 solicitation. Dizon was already operating this concession and the expiration of the contract had been extended. Private respondents filed a case to compel PHAX to cancel the award to Dizon, to conduct a rebidding, and by a writ of preliminary injunction to continue operation of concessions pending litigation.

Petitioners filed a motion to dismiss on the ground that the action was in effect a suit against the United States of America, which had not waived its non-suability. The individual defendant, as official employees of the US Air Force, were also immune from suit. Trial court denied the petition on the basis that the Court's attention is called by the relationship between the plaintiffs as well as the defendants, including the US Government, in that prior to the bidding or solicitation in question, there was a binding contract between the plaintiffs as well as the defendants, including the US Government.

ISSUE: Is the petitioner immune from suit?

RULING: YES. The restrictive application of State immunity is proper only when the proceedings arise out of commercial transactions of the foreign sovereign, its commercial activities or economic affairs. Stated differently, a State may be said to have descended to the level of an individual and can thus be deemed to have tacitly given its consent to be sued only when it enters into business contracts. It does not apply where the contract relates to the exercise of its sovereign functions. In this case the projects are an integral part of the naval base which is devoted to the defense of both the United States and the Philippines, indisputably a function of the government of the highest order; they are not utilized for nor dedicated to commercial or business purposes. The barbershops subject to the concessions granted by the United States government are commercial enterprises operated by private persons. They are not agencies of the United States Armed Forces nor are their facilities demandable as a matter of right by the American servicemen. This being the case, the petitioners cannot plead any immunity from the complaint filed by the private respondents in the court below.

USA v Rodrigo

G.R. No. 79470; Feb 26, 1990


Fabian Genove, a cook in the U.S. Air Force Recreation Center at the John Hay Air Station in Baguio City, was dismissed because as testified by one of the respondents, he poured urine in the soup stock used in cooking the vegetables served to the club customers. Lamachia, the club manager referred this incident to a board of arbitrators where he was found guilty. Genove filed a complaint against the respondents in the RTC Baguio City. The respondents, joined by the U.S.A moved to dismiss the complaint but was denied. It ruled that although defendants acted initially in their official capacities, their going beyond what their functions called for brought them out of the protective mantle of whatever immunities they may have had in the beginning. Thus, the allegation that the acts complained of were illegal, done with extreme bad faith and with pre-conceived sinister plan to harass and finally dismiss the plaintiff, gains significance. The petitioners (former respondents) then came to this Court seeking certiorari and prohibition with preliminary injunction.

ISSUE: Are the petitioners immune from suit?

RULING: No. There is a need to distinguish between jure imperii – sovereign and governmental acts and jure gestionis – private, commercial and proprietary acts because state immunity now extends only to acts jure imperii. In this case, Lamachia, the manager of Open Mess Complex at John Hay Air Station, is responsible for eleven diversified activities generating an annual income of $2 million. Under his executive management are three service restaurants, a cafeteria, a bakery, a Class VI store, a coffee and pantry shop, a main cashier cage, an administrative office, and a decentralized warehouse which maintains a stock level of $200,000.00 per month in resale items. He supervises 167 employees, one of whom was Genove, with whom the United States government has concluded a collective bargaining agreement.

From these circumstances, the Court can assume that the restaurant services offered at the John Hay Air Station partake of the nature of a business enterprise undertaken by the United States government in its proprietary capacity. Such services are not extended to the American servicemen for free as a perquisite of membership in the Armed Forces of the United States. Neither does it appear that they are exclusively offered to these servicemen; on the contrary, it is well known that they are available to the general public as well, including the tourists in Baguio City, many of whom make it a point to visit John Hay for this reason. All persons availing themselves of this facility pay for the privilege like all other customers as in ordinary restaurants. Although the prices are concededly reasonable and relatively low, such services are undoubtedly operated for profit, as a commercial and not a governmental activity.

The consequence of this finding is that the petitioners cannot invoke the doctrine of state immunity to justify the dismissal of the damage suit against them by Genove. Such defense will not prosper even if it be established that they were acting as agents of the United States when they investigated and later dismissed Genove. For that matter, not even the United States government itself can claim such immunity. The reason is that by entering into the employment contract with Genove in the discharge of its proprietary functions, it impliedly divested itself of its sovereign immunity from suit. 

But these considerations notwithstanding, we hold that the complaint against the petitioners in the court below must still be dismissed. While suable, the petitioners are nevertheless not liable. It is obvious that the claim for damages cannot be allowed on the strength of the evidence before us, which we have carefully examined.

The dismissal of the private respondent was decided upon only after a thorough investigation where it was established beyond doubt that he had polluted the soup stock with urine. The investigation, in fact, did not stop there. Despite the definitive finding of Genove's guilt, the case was still referred to the board of arbitrators provided for in the collective bargaining agreement. This board unanimously affirmed the findings of the investigators and recommended Genove's dismissal. There was nothing arbitrary about the proceedings. The petitioners acted quite properly in terminating the private respondent's employment for his unbelievably nauseating act. It is surprising that he should still have the temerity to file his complaint for damages after committing his utterly disgusting offense.

USA v Ceballos

GR No : 80018; June 16, 2015


The respondent, Louis Bautista, was arrested pursuant to RA 6425 (Dangerous Drugs Act) in a buy-bust operation conducted by the petitioners, Tomi J. King, Darrel D. Dye and Stephen F. Bostick, who were officers and special agents of the US Air Force and Air Force Office of Special Investigators. He was charged before the RTC which caused his dismissal as a barracks boy in Camp O’Donnell, an extension of Clark Air base. Bautista then filed a complaint against the petitioners. The petitioners, in defense, filed a motion to dismiss the case with the contention that they were acting in official capacity when the acts were committed, hence the suit against them is, in effect, a suit against the US. The motion was denied by the judge, with the contention that the immunity covers only civil cases that are not criminal under the Military Bases Agreement. Ergo, the petitioners filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition for preliminary injunction. A TRO was issued.

ISSUE: Can the petitioners invoke State Immunity?

RULING: YES. The individually-named petitioners therein were acting in the exercise of their official functions when they conducted the buy-bust operation against the complainant and thereafter testified against him at his trial. The said petitioners were in fact connected with the Air Force Office of Special Investigators and were charged precisely with the function of preventing the distribution, possession and use of prohibited drugs and prosecuting those guilty of such acts. It cannot for a moment be imagined that they were acting in their private or unofficial capacity when they apprehended and later testified against the complainant. It follows that for discharging their duties as agents of the United States, they cannot be directly impleaded for acts imputable to their principal, which has not given its consent to be sued. 

USA v Vergara

US Case: Case No. 16-15059; Mar 15, 2018


Vergara returned to Tampa, Florida on a cruise ship from Cozumel, Mexico, with three phones: a Samsung phone inside a bag in his luggage, an LG phone, and an iPhone. An officer with Customs and Border Protection, identified Vergara and searched his luggage. When Ragan found the Samsung phone in Vergara’s luggage, he asked Vergara to turn the phone on and then looked through the phone for about five minutes and found video of two topless female minors. A special agent with the Department of Homeland Security, decided to have all three phones forensically examined.A forensic examination of the Samsung and LG phones conducted that day revealed more than 100 images and videos, “the production of which involved the use of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct and the visual depictions were of such conduct.”A grand jury later indicted Vergara on two counts: (1) that he “did knowingly transport in and affecting interstate and foreign commerce one or more visual depictions, the production of which involved the use of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct and such visual depictions were of such conduct”; and (2) that he “did knowingly possess numerous matters that had been shipped and transported using any means and facility of interstate and foreign commerce, including by computer, which matters contained visual depictions of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct and the production of which involved the use of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct.”

ISSUE: Did the warrantless forensic searches of two cell phones at the border violate the Fourth Amendment (US Constitution)

RULING: No. Border searches “never” require probable cause or a warrant. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause..” Ordinarily, “where a search is undertaken by law enforcement officials to discover evidence of criminal wrongdoing, reasonableness . . . requires the obtaining of a judicial warrant.” But searches at the border, “from before the adoption of the Fourth Amendment, have been considered to be ‘reasonable’ by the single fact that the person or item in question had entered into our country from outside.” The forensic searches of Vergara’s phones required neither a warrant nor probable cause. “The Supreme Court has consistently held that border searches are not subject to the probable cause and warrant requirements of the Fourth Amendment.”And “[t]here has never been any additional requirement that the reasonableness of a border search depended on the existence of probable cause.”At the border, the highest standard for a search is reasonable suspicion, and Vergara has not challenged the finding of the district court that reasonable suspicion existed for the searches of his phones. 

USA v Ruiz

GR No. L-35645; May 22, 1985


Sometime in May 1972, the United States invited the submission of bids for certain naval projects. Eligio de Guzman & Co. Inc. responded to the invitation and submitted bids. Subsequently, the company received two telegrams requesting it to confirm its price. In June 1972, the company received a letter which said that the company did not qualify to receive an award for the projects. The company then sued the United States of America and individual petitioners demanding that the company perform the work on the projects, or for the petitioners to pay damages and to issue a writ of preliminary injunction to restrain the petitioners from entering into contracts with third parties concerning the project.


1) Did the petitioners exercise governmental or proprietary functions?

2) Does the Court have jurisdiction over the case?


1. YES. The rule of State immunity exempts a State from being sued in the courts of another state without its consent or waiver. This is a necessary consequence of the principles of independence and equality of states. However, state immunity now extends only to governmental acts of the state. The restrictive application of State immunity is proper only when the proceedings arise out of commercial transactions of the foreign sovereign. 

2. NO. In this case, the projects are an integral part of the naval base which is devoted to the defense of the USA and Philippines which is, indisputably, a function of the government. As such, by virtue of state immunity, the courts of the Philippines have no jurisdiction over the case for the US government has not given consent to the filing of this suit.

USA v Reyes

G.R. No. 79253; Mar 1, 1993


Private respondent, hereinafter referred to as Montoya, is an American citizen who, at the time material to this case, was employed as an identification (I.D.) checker at the U.S. Navy Exchange (NEX) at the Joint United States Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG) headquarters in Quezon City. She is married to one Edgardo H. Montoya, a Filipino-American serviceman employed by the U.S. Navy and stationed in San Francisco, California. Petitioner Maxine Bradford, hereinafter referred to as Bradford, is likewise an American citizen who was the activity exchange manager at the said JUSMAG Headquarters.

On January 22, 1987, after working as the duty ID checker from 7:45 to 11:45 a.m., plaintiff went shopping and left the store at 12:00 noon of that day. That on the way to her car while already outside the store, Mrs. Yong Kennedy, also an ID checker, upon the instruction of the store manager, Ms. Maxine Bradford, approached plaintiff and informed her that she needed to search her bags. That plaintiff went to defendant, who was then outside the store talking to some men, to protest the search but she was informed by the defendant that the search is to be made on all Jusmag employees that day; That the search was thereafter made on the person, car and bags of the plaintiff by Mrs. Yong Kennedy in the presence of the defendant and numerous curious onlookers; That having found nothing irregular on her person and belongings, plaintiff was allowed to leave the premises; That feeling aggrieved, plaintiff checked the records and discovered that she was the only one whose person and belonging was (sic) searched that day contrary to defendant's allegation as set forth in par. 5 hereof and as evidenced by the memorandum dated January 30, 1987 made by other Filipino Jusmag employees, a photocopy of which is hereto attached as ANNEX "A" and made integral (sic) part hereof: That moreover, a check with Navy Exchange Security Manager, R.L. Roynon on January 27, 1987 was made and she was informed by Mr. Roynon that it is a matter of policy that customers and employees of NEX Jusmag are not searched outside the store unless there is a very strong evidence of a wrongdoing; That plaintiff knows of no circumstances sufficient to trigger suspicion of a wrongdoing on her part but on the other hand, is aware of the propensity of defendant to lay suspicion on Filipinos for theft and/or shoplifting. That plaintiff formally protested the illegal search on February 14, 1987 in a letter addressed to Mr. R.L. Roynon, a photocopy of which is hereto attached as ANNEX "B" and made integral (sic) part hereof; but no action was undertaken by the said officer; That the illegal search on the person and belongings of the plaintiff in front of many people has subjected the plaintiff to speculations of theft, shoplifting and such other wrongdoings and has exposed her to contempt and ridicule which was caused her undue embarrassment and indignity; That since the act could not have been motivated by other (sic) reason than racial discrimination in our own land, the act constitute (sic) a blow to our national pride and dignity which has caused the plaintiff a feeling of anger for which she suffers sleepless nights and wounded feelings; That considering the above, plaintiff is entitled to be compensated by way of moral damages in the amount of P500,000.00; That to serve as a deterrent to those inclined to follow the oppressive act of the defendant, exemplary damages in the amount of P100,000.00 should also be awarded.

Montoya opposed Bradford’s motion to dismiss. She claims that: (1) search was outside NEX JUSMAG store thus it’s improper, unlawful & highly-discriminatory and beyond Bradford’s authority; (2) due to excess in authority and since her liability is personal, Bradford can’t rely on sovereign immunity; (3) Bradford’s act was committed outside the military base thus under the jurisdiction of Philippine courts; (4) the Court can inquire into the factual circumstances of case to determine WON Bradford acted w/in or outside her authority.


1. Is this a suit against the State?

2. Does Bradford enjoy diplomatic immunity?


1. No. While the doctrine appears to prohibit only suits against the state without its consent, it is also applicable to complaints filed against officials of the state for acts allegedly performed by them in the discharge of their duties. The rule is that if the judgment against such officials will require the state itself to perform an affirmative act to satisfy the same, such as the appropriation of the amount needed to pay the damages awarded against them, the suit must be regarded as against the state itself although it has not been formally impleaded.It must be noted, however, that the rule is not so all-encompassing as to be applicable under all circumstances.

It is a different matter where the public official is made to account in his capacity as such for acts contrary to law and injurious to the rights of plaintiff. As was clearly set forth by Justice Zaldivar in Director of the Bureau of Telecommunications, et al. vs. Aligaen, etc., et al. "Inasmuch as the State authorizes only legal acts by its officers, unauthorized acts of government officials or officers are not acts of the State, and an action against the officials or officers by one whose rights have been invaded or violated by such acts, for the protection of his rights, is not a suit against the State within the rule of immunity of the State from suit. In the same tenor, it has been said that an action at law or suit in equity against a State officer or the director of a State department on the ground that, while claiming to act or the State, he violates or invades the personal and property rights of the plaintiff, under an unconstitutional act or under an assumption of authority which he does not have, is not a suit against the State within the constitutional provision that the State may not be sued without its consent."The rationale for this ruling is that the doctrinaire of state immunity cannot be used as an instrument for perpetrating an injustice.

They state that the doctrine of immunity from suit will not apply and may not be invoked where the public official is being sued in his private and personal capacity as an ordinary citizen. The cloak of protection afforded the officers and agents of the government is removed the moment they are sued in their individual capacity. This situation usually arises where the public official acts without authority or in excess of the powers vested in him. It is a well-settled principle of law that a public official may be liable in his personal private capacity for whatever damage he may have caused by his act done with malice and in bad faith, or beyond the scope of his authority or jurisdiction.

2. No. In the latter, even on the claim of diplomatic immunity — which Bradford does not in fact pretend to have in the instant case as she is not among those granted diplomatic immunity under Article 16(b) of the 1953 Military Assistance Agreement creating the JUSMAG — this Court ruled:

Even Article 31 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations admits of exceptions. It reads:

1. A diplomatic agent shall enjoy immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of the receiving State. He shall also enjoy immunity from its civil and administrative jurisdiction except in the case of:

3. x x x           x x x          x x x

(c) an action relating to any professional or commercial activity exercised by the diplomatic agent in the receiving State outside his official functions (Emphasis supplied).

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