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THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION and DR.

LEONCE VERSTUYFT,
petitioners,

vs.

HON. BENJAMIN H. AQUINO, as Presiding Judge of Branch VIII, Court of First


Instance of Rizal, MAJOR WILFREDO CRUZ, MAJOR ANTONIO G. RELLEVE, and
CAPTAIN PEDRO S. NAVARRO of the Constabulary Offshore Action Center
(COSAC), respondents.
Sycip, Salazar, Luna, Manalo and Feliciano for petitioners.

Emilio L. Baldia for respondents.

G.R. No. L-35131 November 29, 1972

Facts:

 Dr. Verstuyft, assigned by WHO to its regional office in Manila as Acting Assistant
Director of Health Services, was suspected by the Constabulary Offshore Action Center
(COSAC) officers of carrying dutiable goods under the Customs and Tariff Code of the
Philippines.

 Respondent Judge then issued a search warrant at the instance of the COSAC officers for
the search and seizure of the personal effects (/belongings,10 out of 12 crates) of Dr.
Verstuyft, notwithstanding his entitlement to diplomatic immunity, pursuant to the Host
Agreement executed between Philippine Government and WHO.

 (Such diplomatic immunity carries with it, among other diplomatic privileges and
immunities, personal inviolability, inviolability of the official's properties, exemption
from local jurisdiction, and exemption from taxation and customs duties.)

 Upon protest of WHO Regional Director Dr. Dy, DFA Sec. Carlos Romulo personally
wired Judge Aquino that Dr. Verstuyft is entitled to immunity from search in respect for
his personal baggage as accorded to members of diplomatic missions pursuant to the Host
Agreementand further requested for the suspension of the search warrant.

 Nevertheless. respondent judge issued his order of the same date maintaining the
effectivity of the search warrant issued by him, unless restrained by a higher court.

 Petitioner Verstuyft's special appearance on March 24, 1972 for the limited purpose of
pleading his diplomatic immunity and motion to quash search warrant of April 12, 1972
failed to move respondent judge.

 The Solicitor General accordingly joined the petitioner for the quashal (nullification) of
the search warrant but respondent judge nevertheless denied the quashal.

Issues:
Whether or not the personal effects of Dr. Verstuyft can be exempted from search and seizure
under the diplomatic immunity.

Ruling:

1. YES.

The WRITS OF CERTIORARI AND PROHIBITION prayed for are hereby GRANTED, and
the T.R.O. issued against execution or enforcement of the questioned search warrant, which is
hereby declared NULL AND VOID, is hereby MADE PERMANENT. The respondent court
is hereby commanded to DESIST from further proceedings in the matter. NO COSTS, none
having been prayed for.

The clerk of court is hereby directed to FURNISH A COPY of this decision to the Secretary
of Justice for such action as he may find appropriate with regard to the matters mentioned in
paragraph 3 hereof. So ordered.

Ratio:

1. The executive branch of the Philippines has expressly recognized that Verstuyft is entitled
to diplomatic immunity, pursuant to the provisions of the Host Agreement. The DFA
formally advised respondent judge of the Phil. Gov’t's official position. The SolGen, as
principal law officer of the government, likewise expressly affirmed said petitioner's right to
diplomatic immunity and asked for the quashal of the search warrant. It is a recognized
principle of international law and under our system of separation of powers that diplomatic
immunity is essentially a political question and courts should refuse to look beyond a
determination by the executive branch of government, and where the plea of diplomatic
immunity is recognized by the executive branch of the government as in the case at bar, it is
then the duty of the courts to accept the claim of immunity upon appropriate suggestion by
the principal law officer of the government, the SolGen in this case, or other officer acting
under his discretion.Courts may not so exercise their jurisdiction by seizure and detention of
property, as to embarrass the executive arm of the government in conducting foreign
relations.

2. Philippines is bound by the procedure laid down in Article VII of the Convention on the
Privileges and Immunities of the Specialized Agencies of the United Nations Article VII on
abuse of privilege, calls for consultations between the Host State and the UN agency
concerned and in case no satisfactory result is reached, for submission to the ICJ.

3. The seriousness of the matter is underscored when the provisions of RA 75 enacted since
October 21, 1946 to safeguard the jurisdictional immunity of diplomatic officials in the
Philippines are taken into account. Said Act declares as null and void writs or processes sued
out or prosecuted whereby inter alia the person of an ambassador or public minister is
arrested or imprisoned or his goods or chattels are seized or attached and makes it a penal
offense for "every person by whom the same is obtained or prosecuted, whether as party or
as attorney, and every officer concerned in executing it" to obtain or enforce such writ or
process.
4. The Court, therefore, holds the respondent judge acted without jurisdiction and with grave
abuse of discretion in not ordering the quashal of the search warrant issued by him in
disregard of the diplomatic immunity of petitioner Verstuyft.