Saudi Arabian Airlines v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 122191, October 8, 1998.


Morada is  a Flight Attendant for SAUDIA airlines based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. While on a lay-over in Jakarta, Indonesia, Morada went to a disco dance with fellow crew members Thamer AlGazzawi and Allah Al-Gazzawi, both Saudi nationals. Thamer attempted to rape Morada. Fortunately, a roomboy and several security personnel helped and rescued her. Later, the Indonesian police came and arrested Thamer and Allah Al-Gazzawi, the latter as an accomplice. When plaintiff returned to Jeddah, SAUDIA officials requested her to help arrange the release of Thamer and Allah; but she refused to cooperate.  

Through the intervention of the Saudi Arabian government, the Indonesian authorities agreed to deport Thamer and Allah. Eventually, they were again put in service by SAUDIA.  She was forced to drop the cases. After one year and a half, a few minutes before the departure of her flight to Manila, Morada was not allowed to board the plane SAUDIA unless she signed a document written in Arabic. It turned out to be a notice to her to appear before the court. Morada then returned to Manila.

SAUDIA summoned Morada to report to Jeddah for investigation and assured her that  such was routinary and that it posed no danger to her. However, she was made to face trial for very serious charges, including adultery and violation of Islamic laws and tradition. The Court sentenced her to five months imprisonment and to 286 lashes .Prince of Makkah dismissed the case against her and allowed her to leave Saudi Arabia.

Morada filed a Complaint for damages against SAUDIA with RTC of Quezon City. SAUDI alleged that the trial court (a) has no jurisdiction to hear and try the case since the proper law applicable is the law of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and (b) applying the lex loci delicti commissi rule, the existence of a foreign element qualifies the instant case for the application of the law of the Kingdom of Saudi

Morada contends that the case is properly a matter of domestic law and predicated her cause of action on Articles 19 and 21 of the New Civil Code.

The CA ruled that the Philippines is an appropriate forum considering that the Amended Complaint’s basis for recovery of damages is Article 21 of the Civil Code, and thus, clearly within the jurisdiction of respondent Court.


(1) Whether the the case is purely domestic

(2) Whether the RTC has jurisdiction over the case

(3) Whether the Philippine law shall govern


(1) NO. 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.

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.

(2) YES, the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City possesses jurisdiction over the subject matter of the suit. Pragmatic considerations, including the convenience of the parties, also weigh heavily in favor of the RTC Quezon City assuming jurisdiction. Paramount is the private interest of the litigant. Enforceability of a judgment if one is obtained is quite obvious. Relative advantages and obstacles to a fair trial are equally important. Weighing the relative claims of the parties, the court found it best to hear the case in the Philippines. Had it refused to take cognizance of the case, it would be forcing Morada to seek remedial action elsewhere, i.e. in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia where she no longer maintains substantial connections. That would have caused a fundamental unfairness to her.

        Additionally, SAUDIA had submitted to the jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City. By filing her Complaint and Amended Complaint with the trial court, SAUDIA has voluntarily submitted herself to the jurisdiction of the court. The records show that petitioner SAUDIA has filed several motions praying for the dismissal of Morada’s Amended Complaint.

(3) YES.  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 the petitioner allegedly deceived Morada, 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, the petitioner failed to protect her. What is important here is the place where the over-all harm or the totality of the alleged injury to the person, reputation, social standing and human rights of complainant, had lodged. All told, it is not without basis to identify the Philippines as the situs of the alleged tort.

         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. Based on modern theories, the Court applied the “State of the most significant relationship” rule. 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.

        There is basis for the claim that overall 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.


In order to identify the legal system that should ultimately control, it is necessary 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 conflict’s rule.” The purpose of “characterization” is to enable the forum to select the proper law.

One or more circumstances may be present to serve as the possible test for the determination of the applicable law; “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 a 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.”

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