2016 (Political Law) Bar Exam Questions: Question 11

[Answer/discuss the question below, or see 2016 bar exam Political Law Instructions; 2016 Political Law Questions: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 1012, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20; See also 2016 Bar Exam: Information, Discussions, Tips, Questions and Results]

-XI-

The USS Liberty, a warship of the United States (U.S.), entered Philippine archipelagic waters on its way to Australia. Because of the negligence of the naval officials on board, the vessel ran aground off the island of Palawan, damaging coral reefs and other marine resources in the area. Officials of Palawan filed a suit for damages against the naval officials for their negligence, and against the U.S., based on Articles 30 and 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Article 31 provides that the Flag State shall bear international responsibility for any loss or damage to the Coastal State resulting from noncompliance by a warship with the laws and regulations of the coastal State concerning passage through the territorial sea. The U. S. Government raised the defenses that:

[a] The Philippine courts cannot exercise jurisdiction over another sovereign State, including its warship and naval officials. (2.5%)

(b] The United States is not a signatory to UNCLOS and thus cannot be bound by its provisions. (2.5%)

Rule on the validity of the defenses raised by the U.S., with reasons.

One comment

  1. (a) The Philippine courts cannot exercise jurisdiction over another sovereign State, including its warship and naval officials in line with the doctrine of sovereign immunity. It is contended that all states are sovereign equals and cannot assert jurisdiction over one another. This precept is a long-standing rule of customary international law. Suing a representative of the state acting in his official capacity such as in this case the naval officials, is in effect, suing the state itself.

    In diplomatic immunity, the privilege is not an immunity from the observance of the law of the territorial sovereign; instead, it is an immunity from the exercise of territorial jurisdiction.

    (b) Even if the United States is not a signatory to UNCLOS they are still bound by its provisions as a matter of a long-standing policy on the traditional uses of the ocean under Article 31 of the UNCLOS. Non-membership in the UNCLOS does not mean that the US will disregard the rights of the Philippines as a Coastal State over its internal waters and territorial sea and therefore they are expected to bear international responsibility under Article 31.

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