Augusto Benedicto Santos III vs. Northwest Orient Lines, G.R. No. 101538 June 23, 1992.
The petitioner purchased from NOA a round-trip ticket in San Francisco, U.S.A., for his flight from San Francisco to Manila via Tokyo and back. For his scheduled departure to Manila to San Francisco, he was informed that he had no reservation for his flight from Tokyo to Manila. He therefore had to be wait-listed.
Petitioner, sued Nortwest Orient Airlines (NOA) for damages in the Regional Trial Court of Makati. NOA moved to dismiss the complaint on the ground of lack of jurisdiction. Citing the Article 28(1) of the Warsaw Convention, it contended that the complaint could be instituted only in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, before:
- the court of the domicile of the carrier;
- the court of its principal place of business;
- the court where it has a place of business through which the contract had been made;
- the court of the place of destination.
The petitioner invokes that Article 28(1) of the Warsaw Convention violates the constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection. The classification of the places in which actions for damages may be brought is arbitrary and irrational and thus violates the due process and equal protection clauses. The petitioner is invoking the doctrine of rebus sic stantibus. He argues that in view of the significant developments in the airline industry through the years, the treaty has become irrelevant.
(1) Whether Article 28(1) of the Warsaw Convention is unconstitutional on the ground of the doctrine of rebus sic stantibus.
(2) whether the petitioner is denied of his right to access to our courts for the protection of his rights.
(3) Whether the case was properly filed in the Philippines because the defendant has its domicile in the Philippines.
(1) The circumstance alone is not sufficient justification for the rejection of the treaty at this time.The doctrine of rebus sic stantibus does not operate automatically to render the treaty inoperative. There is a necessity for a formal act of rejection, usually made by the head of State, with a statement of the reasons why compliance with the treaty is no longer required.
The doctrine of rebus sic stantibus constitutes an attempt to formulate a legal principle which would justify non-performance of a treaty obligation if the conditions with relation to which the parties contracted have changed so materially and so unexpectedly as to create a situation in which the exaction of performance would be unreasonable.” The key element of this doctrine is the vital change in the condition of the contracting parties that they could not have foreseen at the time the treaty was concluded.
Additionally, the treaty may be denounced under Article 39 of Warsaw. However, rejection of the treaty, whether on the ground of rebus sic stantibus or pursuant to Article 39, is not a function of the courts but of the other branches of government. This is a political act. The conclusion and renunciation of treaties is the prerogative of the political departments and may not be usurped by the judiciary.
(2) NO. The constitutional guarantee of access to courts refers only to courts with appropriate jurisdiction as defined by law. It does not mean that a person can go to any court for redress of his grievances regardless of the nature or value of his claim. If the petitioner is barred from filing his complaint before our courts, it is because they are not vested with the appropriate jurisdiction under the Warsaw Convention, which is part of the law of our land.
(3) NO. Pending such ratification, the petitioner will still have to file his complaint only in any of the four places designated by Article 28(1) of the Warsaw Convention.
The treaty which is the subject matter of this petition was a joint legislative-executive act.
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