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Feb 23, 2009

G.R. No. 122191, Oct. 8, 1998

  • Jurisdiction is based on allegations on the pleading
  • State of the Most Significant Relationship Theory
  • Conflicts of Laws Problem
  • Points of Contact


Plaintiff Morada is a flight attendant for defendant SAUDIA’s airlines based in Jeddah. On April 27, 1990, while on a lay-over in Jakarta, Indonesia, Morada became a victim of attempted rape by fellow crewmembers, Thamer and Allah, who are both Saudi nationals. The two were eventually arrested and deported back to Saudi Arabia while Morada was transferred to Manila. On various dates after the incident, Morada was summoned to Jeddah by her employer in order to sign documents, purporting to be statements dropping the case against Thamer and Allah. However, it turned out that a case was in fact filed against her before the Saudi court, which later found her guilty of (1) adultery; (2) going to a disco, dancing and listening to the music in violation of Islamic laws; and (3) socializing with the male crew, in contravention of Islamic tradition.

Hence, Morada filed this complaint for damages based on Article 21 of the New Civil Code against SAUDIA and its country manager.


  • Whether or not the trial court has jurisdiction over the case
  • Whether the proper law applicable is Philippine law or the law of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
  • Whether or not the case involves a ‘conficts problem’


Is there a ‘conflicts’ case?

The Supreme Court held in the affirmative.

A factual situation that cuts across territorial lines and is affected by the diverse laws of two or more states is said to contain a “foreign element.” The presence of a foreign element is inevitable since social and economic affairs of individuals and associations are rarely confined to the geographic limits of their birth or conception.

The forms in which this foreign element may appear are many. The foreign element may simply consist in the fact that one of the parties to a contract is an alien or has a foreign domicile, or that a contract between nationals of one State involves properties situated in another State. In other cases, the foreign element may assume a complex form.

In the instant case, the foreign element consisted in the fact that private respondent Morada is a resident Philippine national, and that petitioner SAUDIA is a resident foreign corporation. Also, by virtue of the employment of Morada with the petitioner SAUDIA as a flight stewardess, events did transpire during her many occasions of travel across national borders, particularly from Manila, Philippines to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and vice versa, that caused a “conflicts” situation to arise.

Applicability of Art. 19 and 21, NCC and Jurisdiction of Quezon City RTC

The Supreme Court held that private respondent aptly predicated her cause of action on Articles 19 and 21 of the New Civil Code. Although Article 19 merely declares a principle of law, Article 21 gives flesh to its provisions. Thus, violations of Articles 19 and 21 are actionable, with judicially enforceable remedies in the municipal forum.

Based on the allegations in the Amended Complaint, read in the light of the Rules of Court on jurisdiction, the Supreme Court found that the RTC of Quezon City possesses jurisdiction over the subject matter of the suit. Its authority to try and hear the case is provided under Section 1 of RA 7691. Venue was also held to be proper. Furthermore, jurisdiction over the person of the plaintiff and defendant were properly acquired.

Choice-of-law Problem

Choice-of-law problems seek to answer two important questions: (1) What legal system should control a given situation where some of the significant facts occurred in two or more states; and (2) to what extent should the chosen legal system regulate the situation.

Before a choice can be made, it is necessary for us to determine under what category a certain set of facts or rules fall. This process is known as “characterization,” or the “doctrine of qualification.” It is the “process of deciding whether or not the facts relate to the kind of question specified in a conflicts rule.” The purpose of “characterization” is to enable the forum to select the proper law.

Our starting point of analysis here is not a legal relation, but a factual situation, event or operative fact. An essential element of conflict rules is the indication of a “test” or “connecting factor” or “point of contact.” Choice-of-law rules invariably consist of factual relationship (such as property right, contract claim) and a connecting factor or point of contract, such as the situs of the res, the place of celebration, the place of performance, or the place of wrongdoing.

Note that one or more circumstances may be present to serve as the possible test for the determination of the applicable law. These “test factors” or “points of contact” or “connecting factors” could be any of the following:

  1. The nationality of a person, his domicile, his residence, his place of sojourn, or his origin;
  2. The seat of a legal or juridical person, such as a corporation;
  3. The situs of a thing, that is, the place where a thing is, or is deemed to be situated. In particular, the lex situs is decisive when real rights are involved;
  4. The place where an act has been done, the locus actus, such as the place where a contract has been made, a marriage celebrated, a will signed or a tort committed. The lex loci actus is particularly important in contracts and torts;
  5. The place where an act is intended to come into effect, e.g. the place of performance of contractual duties, or the place where a power of attorney is to be exercised;
  6. The intention of the contracting parties as to the law that should govern their agreement, the lex loci intentionis;
  7. The place where judicial or administrative proceedings are instituted or done. The lex fori – the law of the forum – is particularly important because, as we have seen earlier, matters of ‘procedure’ not going to the substance of the claim involved are governed by it; and because the lex fori applies whenever the content of the otherwise applicable foreign law is excluded from application in a given case for the reason that it falls under one of the exceptions to the applications of foreign law; and
  8. The flag of the ship, which in many cases is decisive of practically all legal relationships of the ship and of its master or owner as such. It also covers contractual relationships particularly contracts of affreightment.”

Considering that the complaint in the court a quo is one involving torts, the “connecting factor” or “point of contact” could be the place or places where the tortious conduct or lex loci actus occurred. And applying the torts principle in a conflicts case, we find that the Philippines could be said as a situs of the tort (the place where the alleged tortious conduct took place). This is because it is in the Philippines where petitioner allegedly deceived private respondent, a Filipina residing and working here. According to her, she had honestly believed that petitioner would, in the exercise of its rights and in the performance of its duties, “act with justice, give her her due and observe honesty and good faith.” Instead, petitioner failed to protect her, she claimed. That certain acts or parts of the injury allegedly occurred in another country is of no moment. For in our view what is important here is the place where the over-all harm or the fatality of the alleged injury to the person, reputation, social standing and human rights of the complainant, had lodged, according to the plaintiff below (herein private respondent). All told, it is not without basis to identify the Philippines as the situs of the alleged tort.

Moreover, with the widespread criticism of the traditional rule of lex loci delicti commissi, modern theories and rules on tort liability have been advanced to offer fresh judicial approaches to arrive at just results. In keeping abreast with the modern theories on tort liability, we find here an occasion to apply the “State of the most significant relationship” rule, which in our view should be appropriate to apply now, given the factual context of this case.

In applying said principle to determine the State which has the most significant relationship, the following contacts are to be taken into account and evaluated according to their relative importance with respect to the particular issue: (a) the place where the injury occurred; (b) the place where the conduct causing the injury occurred; (c) the domicile, residence, nationality, place of incorporation and place of business of the parties; and (d) the place where the relationship, if any, between the parties is centered.

Over-all injury occurred in the Philippines

As already discussed, there is basis for the claim that over-all injury occurred and lodged in the Philippines. There is likewise no question that private respondent is a resident Filipina national, working with petitioner, a resident foreign corporation engaged here in the business of international air carriage. Thus, the “relationship” between the parties was centered here, although it should be stressed that this suit is not based on mere labor law violations. From the record, the claim that the Philippines has the most significant contact with the matter in this dispute, raised by private respondent as plaintiff below against defendant (herein petitioner), in our view, has been properly established.


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