Thursday, November 25, 2010

Saudi Arabian Airlines v. Court of Appeals

Chester Cabalza recommends his visitors to please read the original & full text of the case cited. Xie xie!

G.R. No. 122191 October 8, 1998

COURT OF APPEALS, MILAGROS P. MORADA and HON. RODOLFO A. ORTIZ, in his capacity as Presiding Judge of Branch 89, Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, respondents.


The defendant Saudi Arabian Airlines hired the Filipina flight attendant on January 21, 1988.

On April 27, 1990, while on a lay-over in Jakarta, Indonesia, plaintiff went to a disco dance with fellow crew members Thamer Al-Gazzawi and Allah Al-Gazzawi, both Saudi nationals. Because it was almost morning when they returned to their hotels, they agreed to have breakfast together at the room of Thamer.

An attempted rape occurred by Thamer to the plaintiff. Fortunately, a roomboy and several security personnel heard her cries for help and rescued her. Later, the Indonesian police came and arrested Thamer and Allah Al-Gazzawi, the latter as an accomplice.

On January 14, 1992, just when plaintiff thought that the Jakarta incident was already behind her, her superiors requested her to see Mr. Ali Meniewy, Chief Legal Officer of SAUDIA, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Mr. Meniewy brought her to the police station where the police took her passport and questioned her about the Jakarta incident. Miniewy simply stood by as the police put pressure on her to make a statement dropping the case against Thamer and Allah. Not until she agreed to do so did the police return her passport and allowed her to catch the afternoon flight out of Jeddah.

One year and a half later or on lune 16, 1993, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, a few minutes before the departure of her flight to Manila, plaintiff was not allowed to board the plane and instead ordered to take a later flight to Jeddah to see Mr. Miniewy.

When she did, a certain Khalid of the SAUDIA office brought her to a Saudi court where she was asked to sign a document written in Arabic. They told her that this was necessary to close the case against Thamer and Allah. As it turned out, plaintiff signed a notice to her to appear before the court on June 27, 1993. Plaintiff then returned to Manila.

On July 3, 1993 a SAUDIA legal officer again escorted plaintiff to the same court where the judge, to her astonishment and shock, rendered a decision, translated to her in English, sentencing her to five months imprisonment and to 286 lashes. Only then did she realize that the Saudi court had tried her, together with Thamer and Allah, for what happened in Jakarta. The court found plaintiff 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.

Facing conviction, private respondent sought the help of her employer, petitioner SAUDIA. Unfortunately, she was denied any assistance. She then asked the Philippine Embassy in Jeddah to help her while her case is on appeal. Meanwhile, to pay for her upkeep, she worked on the domestic flight of SAUDIA, while Thamer and Allah continued to serve in the international

Because she was wrongfully convicted, the Prince of Makkah dismissed the case against her and allowed her to leave Saudi Arabia. Shortly before her return to Manila, she was terminated from the service by SAUDIA, without her being informed of the cause.

Respondent's Action to File the Case in the Philippines

On November 23, 1993, Morada filed a Complaint for damages against SAUDIA, and Khaled Al-Balawi ("Al-Balawi"), its country manager.

The trial court issued an Order dated August 29, 1994 denying the Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint filed by Saudia. Respondent Judge subsequently issued another Order dated February 2, 1995, denying SAUDIA's Motion for Reconsideration.
Consequently, on February 20, 1995, SAUDIA filed its Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition with Prayer for Issuance of Writ of Preliminary Injunction and/or Temporary Restraining Order with the Court of Appeals.

Respondent Court of Appeals promulgated a Resolution with Temporary Restraining Order dated February 23, 1995, prohibiting the respondent Judge from further conducting any proceeding, unless otherwise directed, in the interim.

In another Resolution promulgated on September 27, 1995, now assailed, the appellate court denied SAUDIA's Petition for the Issuance of a Writ of Preliminary Injunction dated February 18, 1995.

However, during the pendency of the instant Petition, respondent Court of Appeals rendered the Decision dated April 10, 1996, now also assailed. It 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. It further held that certiorari is not the proper remedy in a denial of a Motion to Dismiss, inasmuch as the petitioner should have proceeded to trial, and in case of an adverse ruling, find recourse in an appeal.

On May 7, 1996, SAUDIA filed its Supplemental Petition for Review with Prayer for Temporary Restraining Order dated April 30, 1996, given due course by this Court. After both parties submitted their Memoranda, the instant case is now deemed submitted for decision.


a) Whether the Respondent Appellate Court erred in holding that the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City has jurisdiction to hear and try the civil case?

b) Whether the Respondent Appellate Court erred in ruling that in this case Philippine law should govern?


As to the choice of applicable law, we note that 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.
Several theories have been propounded in order to identify the legal system that should ultimately control. Although ideally, all choice-of-law theories should intrinsically advance both notions of justice and predictability, they do not always do so. The forum is then faced with the problem of deciding which of these two important values should be stressed.

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 a factual relationship (such as property right, contract claim) and a connecting factor or point of contact, such as the situs of the res, the place of celebration, the place of performance, or the place of wrongdoing. 58
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 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. (Emphasis ours).

Lastly, no error could be imputed to the respondent appellate court in upholding the trial court's denial of defendant's (herein petitioner's) motion to dismiss the case. Not only was jurisdiction in order and venue properly laid, but appeal after trial was obviously available, and expeditious trial itself indicated by the nature of the case at hand. Indubitably, the Philippines is the state intimately concerned with the ultimate outcome of the case below, not just for the benefit of all the litigants, but also for the vindication of the country's system of law and justice in a transnational setting. With these guidelines in mind, the trial court must proceed to try and adjudge the case in the light of relevant Philippine law, with due consideration of the foreign element or elements involved. Nothing said herein, of course, should be construed as prejudging the results of the case in any manner whatsoever.

WHEREFORE, the instant petition for certiorari is hereby DISMISSED. Civil Case No. Q-93-18394 entitled "Milagros P. Morada vs. Saudi Arabia Airlines" is hereby REMANDED to Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 89 for further proceedings.



Anonymous said...

Apart from the legal aspects, the lesson that can be learned is for expatriate workers to be very mindful of the different culture and religious norms of the host country they are working for. That and never to sign any documents in a foreign language without a certified translation. The Filipina stewardess is lucky in that the Prince of Makkah overturned the decision - many others are not as fortunate. Justice is definitely stacked against foreigners under Saudi Arabia's Sharia Law simply because their social norms and religious doctrine are totally different.

Anonymous said...

the stewardess in this case only signed the documents in a foreign language because she was under duress and pressure. in addition, she had a certain degree of trust in her employer, and never thought that they would give her away to the wolves.

given the attending circumstances, i believe that the stewardess knew that it was not very wise to sign documents in a foreign language, yet she still signed them, because she was under duress and pressure, and because she never thought that her employer would do such an injustice.

Chester Cabalza said...

I share the same views as yours. Thanks for your comments :-)