International organizations officials’ immunity limited to ‘official acts’ — SC

Ian Laqui - Philstar.com
International organizations officials� immunity limited to �official acts� � SC
This file photo shows a picture of the Supreme Court.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — The immunity granted to officials and personnel of international organizations is only limited to actions done in their official capacities, the Supreme Court said.

This has been ruled by SC en banc after it affirmed the dismissal of the complaint for damages filed by Matthew Westfall against the officials of the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

It is said that Westfall applied for the position of Technical Advisor in the ADB. However, he was not selected.

Westfall alleged that the statements made in the panel notes and interview reports by Maria Carmela Locsin and other ADB officers, who are members of the firm’s screening committee, were defamatory and damaging to his reputation.

This prompted Westfall to file a complaint for damages before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Makati City.

However, the RTC dismissed his complaint saying that Locsin and the ADB officers enjoyed “functional immunity” since the acts of Westfall which he complained were done in their official capacities. 

This decision by the RTC was also affirmed by the Court of Appeals.

This prompted Westfall to file a petition before the high court.

The SC first ordered the case to be remanded to the RTC as an inquiry to determine if the act was done in the performance of official duties must be held before applying immunity.

This led Locsin and the other ADB officers to file a motion for partial reconsideration ad cautelam, contending that there is no requirement to send the case back to the RTC.

Locsin and the ADB officer’s motion was partially granted by the SC. It ruled that the complaint for damages against Locsin and other ADB officials should be dismissed. 

The high court determined that the actions in question were carried out in their official capacities and therefore fell under the functional immunity provided to them as ADB officials.

“International organizations enjoy almost absolute, if not absolute, immunity. This grant of immunity protects their affairs from political pressure or control by the host country and prevents local courts from exercising jurisdiction over them,” the court’s press release read.

“On the other hand, personnel of international organizations are entitled to immunity only for acts performed in their official capacity. They enjoy functional immunity or only that necessary to exercise the organization's functions and fulfill its purposes. Immunity does not apply to their private acts, crimes, and those acts contrary to law,” it added. 

The decision, which has yet to be released, was decided on by the SC on April 16, 2024. It was penned by Associate Justice Rodil Zalameda.

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