Amicus Curiae

The Supreme Court recognized in the case of Saudi Arabian Airlines v. Court of Appeals (G.R. No. 122191, 8 October 1998, 297 SCRA 469) that “the presence of foreign elements (in transactions) is inevitable, since social and economic affairs of (persons and/or entities) are rarely confined to the geographic limits of their births or conception.” Thus, as an example, persons/corporations from various States may enter into contracts, which contracts may even involve properties located in an entirely different State. In case of breach, it could happen that a party will resort to its own local court to obtain relief, or may go to the courts of another State with a significance or connection to them or to their transaction.
In such situations, it is important to note that it is one matter to get a decision in your favor, and another to have it recognized and enforced by the State whose courts did not render the same but where the other party currently resides or conducts business.
Judgments obtained abroad may be recognized and enforced in the Philippines. It is required, however, that an action be instituted here specifically for such purpose. Our laws provide that a foreign judgment or order upon a specific thing shall be conclusive upon the title to the thing (e.g., judgments for sums of money or ownership over properties), and one against a person shall be presumptive evidence of a right between the parties (e.g., divorce decrees, etc.).
One of the requirements for the recognition and enforcement of a judgment obtained abroad is proof that the same was rendered by a court or tribunal which had jurisdiction over the parties and over the case. Otherwise, it may be questioned, and may not be recognized/enforced, on the grounds that there was no jurisdiction over, and/or no notice to, the other party. To effectively comply with this, the foreign judgment and law must at the outset be properly pleaded and proven like any other facts, as after all, our courts do not take judicial notice of them. This may either be by an official publication, or by a copy of the public document or law attested to by the officer having legal custody of the record. If the record is not kept in our country, the copy must be accompanied with a certificate that the attesting officer has the legal custody thereof. The certificate may be issued by any of the authorized Philippine embassy or consular officials stationed in the foreign country in which the record is kept, and authenticated by the seal of his office. Further, the attestation must state, in substance, that the copy is a correct copy of the original, or a specific part thereof, as the case may be, and must be under the official seal of the attesting officer.
There are exceptional instances when proof other than the foregoing may be considered as competent and therefore acceptable to our courts. In some cases, the testimony under oath of an expert witness was allowed, such as an attorney-at-law in the country where the foreign law operates, who quoted verbatim a section of the law, stated that the same was in force at the time material to the facts at hand. Thus, where the lawyer failed to testify on all aspects relevant to the foreign law invoked, or where no such lawyer actually appeared in open court and identified his/her affidavit, the same was deemed insufficient.
Other grounds to repel a foreign judgment are extraneous factors such as collusion, fraud, or clear mistake of law or fact.
Allowing recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments in the Philippines is important because it is based on comity with the international community. It also has another noble purpose — to give finality to litigation. Indeed, with our clogged court dockets, it would be more expedient that the merits of these cases be no longer tried here. Under present rules, our courts are not required to look into and decide on the correctness of the foreign judgment, as long as it does not violate public policy or prohibitive laws. On their part, litigants may be shielded from protracted legal battles and may reasonably expect that cases already subjected to full-blown trial and won in other jurisdictions may be enforced in our country.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. This article is for general informational and educational purposes, and not offered as, and does not constitute, legal advice or legal opinion.
Jessa G. Wong-Cantano is an associate of the Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices (ACCRALAW), Cebu Branch.
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