People of the Philippines vs. Wong Cheng

G.R. No. L-18924, October 19, 1922.


Wong Cheng is accused of having illegally smoked opium aboard the merchant vessel Changsa of English nationality while said vessel was anchored in Manila Bay two and a half miles from the shores of the city.


Whether the courts of the Philippines have jurisdiction over crime, committed aboard merchant vessels anchored in our jurisdiction waters.


YES. There are two fundamental rules on this particular matter in connection with International Law; to wit:

  1. The French rule, according to which crimes committed aboard a foreign merchant vessel should not be prosecuted in the courts of the country within whose territorial jurisdiction they were committed, unless their commission affects the peace and security of the territory; and 
  2. the English rule, based on the territorial principle and followed in the United States, according to which, crimes perpetrated under such circumstances are in general triable in the courts of the country within whose territory they were committed. 

Of these two rules, it is’ the last one that obtains in this jurisdiction, because at present the theories and jurisprudence prevailing in the United States on this matter are authority in the Philippines which is now a territory of the United States.

Disorders which disturb only the peace of the ship or those on board are to be dealt with exclusively by the sovereignty of the home of the ship, but those which disturb the public peace may be suppressed, and, if need be, the offenders punished by the proper authorities of the local jurisdiction.

The mere possession of opium aboard a foreign vessel in transit was held by this court not triable by our courts, because it being the primary object of our Opium Law to protect the inhabitants of the Philippines against the disastrous effects entailed by the use of this drug, its mere possession in such a ship, without being used in our territory, does not bring about in the said territory those effects that our statute contemplates avoiding. Hence such a mere possession is not considered a disturbance of “the public order.But to smoke opium within our territorial limits, even though aboard a foreign merchant ship, is certainly a breach of the public order here established, because it causes such drug to produce its pernicious effects within our territory. It seriously contravenes the purpose that our Legislature has in mind in enacting the aforesaid repressive statute.

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