Political Law

Augusto Santos III vs Northwest Orient Airlines

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G.R. No. 101538 – 210 SCRA 256 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – The Judicial Department – Judicial Review – Constitutionality of a Treaty – Warsaw Convention

Augusto Benedicto Santos III is a minor represented by his dad. In October 1986, he bought a round trip ticket from Northwest Orient Airlines (NOA) in San Francisco. His flight would be from San Francisco to Manila via Tokyo and back to San Francisco. His scheduled flight was in December. A day before his departure he checked with NOA and NOA said he made no reservation and that he bought no ticket. The next year, due to the incident, he sued NOA for damages. He sued NOA in Manila. NOA argued that Philippine courts have no jurisdiction over the matter pursuant to Article 28(1) of the Warsaw Convention, which provides that complaints against international carriers can only be instituted in:

1.  the court of the domicile of the carrier (NOA’s domicile is in the USA);

2.  the court of its principal place of business (which is San Francisco, USA);

3.  the court where it has a place of business through which the contract had been made (ticket was purchased in San Francisco so that’s where the contract was made);

4.  the court of the place of destination (Santos bought a round trip ticket which final destination is San Francisco).

The lower court ruled in favor of NOA. Santos III averred that Philippine courts have jurisdiction over the case and he questioned the constitutionality of Article 28 (1) of the Warsaw Convention.

ISSUE: Whether or  not Philippine courts have jurisdiction over the matter to conduct judicial review.

HELD: No. The Supreme Court ruled that they cannot rule over the matter for the SC is bound by the provisions of the Warsaw Convention which was ratified by the Senate. Until and unless there would be amendments to the Warsaw Convention, the only remedy for Santos III is to sue in any of the places indicated in the Convention such as in San Francisco, USA.

The SC cannot rule upon the constitutionality of Article 28(1) of the Warsaw Convention. In the first place, it is a treaty which was a joint act by the legislative and the executive. The presumption is that it was first carefully studied and determined to be constitutional before it was adopted and given the force of law in this country. In this case, Santos was not able to offer any compelling argument to overcome the presumption.

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