According to the World Atlas, there are 195 nations in the world, including the 193 that are members of the United Nations (UN), as well as the Holy See (Vatican) and the State of Palestine, both of which are non-member observer states. Meanwhile, only 138 of the 193 United Nations member states acknowledge Palestine, while nations such as the United States and Canada do not recognize it.1
There are 54 nations in Africa, 48 in Asia, 44 in Europe, 33 in Latin America and the Caribbean, 14 in Oceania, and 2 in Northern America among the 195 countries in the globe.2 Some sources may indicate a larger figure, while others may give a lower one. Each of the nations has distinct laws in place or directives in order to ensure the general safety of its citizens and protect their rights.
Pope John Paul II once said, “The international community should support a system of laws to regularize the international relations an maintain the peace in the same manner that law governs national order.”3 In each nation there are different sources or basis of laws. It can be the constitution, customs, traditions or even treaties. The nation’s values can be articulated based on its judicial or legal system.
It can be very diverse if one will look into each country’s judicial or legal system. Because of that, there are instances wherein conflict of laws arise. The term conflict of laws (sometimes also conflicts or conflicts law) describes the body of law of each country or state that is designed to resolve problems arising from the differences between legal systems.
Conflict of laws is a term used primarily in the United States, Canada, and, increasingly, the United Kingdom. In most other countries (and historically in the United Kingdom), the phrase private international law is utilized.4
Relevance of Conflicts of Law
According to the book entitled, Conflict of Laws written by Ruben E. Agpalo, Conflict of Laws or Private International Law is a branch of international law which regulates the comity of states in giving effect in one to the municipal laws of another relating private persons, or concerns the rights of persons within the territory and dominion of one state or nation, by reason of acts, private or public, done within the dominion of another, and which is based on the board general principle that one country will respect and give effect to the laws of another so far as can be done consistently with its own interests.5
It was mentioned in the Harvard Law Review that in every conflict of laws case two questions are of primary importance: (1) has some foreign law really created the right, duty, or status that has been alleged? (2) will that foreign-created right be enforced at the forum?6
In the Philippines the common sources of laws are the 1987 Constitution, Statutes, Traditions and Customs which are not contrary to law public order or public policy and provided that it is proven as a fact according to the rules of evidence. Judicial Decisions applying or deciphering the laws or the Constitution will shape a piece of the overall set of laws of the Philippines.
In Chapter One of the Civil Code of the Philippines there are certain provisions that can be associated with the topic, Conflict of Laws such as:
“Article 14. Penal laws and those of public security and safety shall be obligatory upon all who live or sojourn in the Philippine territory, subject to the principles of public international law and to treaty stipulations. (8a)“7
“Article 15. Laws relating to family rights and duties, or to the status, condition and legal capacity of persons are binding upon citizens of the Philippines, even though living abroad. (9a)“8
“Article 16. Real property as well as personal property is subject to the law of the country where it is stipulated.“9
“However, intestate and testamentary successions, both with respect to the order of succession and to the amount of successional rights and to the intrinsic validity of testamentary provisions, shall be regulated by the national law of the person whose succession is under consideration, whatever may be the nature of the property and regardless of the country wherein said property may be found. (10a)“10
“Article 17. The forms and solemnities of contracts, wills, and other public instruments shall be governed by the laws of the country in which they are executed.11
“When the acts referred to are executed before the diplomatic or consular officials of the Republic of the Philippines in a foreign country, the solemnities established by Philippine laws shall be observed in their execution.12
“Prohibitive laws concerning persons, their acts or property, and those which have for their object public order, public policy and good customs shall not be rendered ineffective by laws or judgments promulgated, or by determinations or conventions agreed upon in a foreign country. (11a)“13
“Article 18. In matters which are governed by the Code of Commerce and special laws, their deficiency shall be supplied by the provisions of this Code. (16a)“14
What is the nature and scope of conflicts of law?
The standard for choosing the most objective law, in reference to other laws dealing with the same subject matter, to apply in a particular scenario in order to arrive at a reasonable result is called conflict of laws. The following are some of the most regularly used terminology or legal jargon when dealing with conflicts of law:
- Foreign element
A factual situation that crosses territorial limits and is thus influenced by the laws of two or more states is referred to as a foreign element.
The acknowledgment that one state accords to the legislative, executive, or judicial activities of another state inside the former’s territory, while keeping in mind both international responsibility and convenience, as well as the rights of its own people [citizens] or other individuals protected by its laws.
- Lex situs
The law in the jurisdiction where the property is located governs the acquisition, transfer, and devolution of title to property.
- Lex fori
The law of the forum, where the case should be heard if filed.
- Lex loci actus
The law of the place where the act is done.
- Lex loci celebrationis
The law of the place where the contract is entered into.
- Lex loci contractus
The proper law applicable in deciding the rights and liabilities of the contracting parties.
- Lex loci delictus
The law of the place where the offense or wrong took place.
- Lex loci domicilii
The law of the place of the domicile of the person.
- Lex loci rei sitae (Lex situs)
The law of the place where a thing is situated.
- Kilberg doctrine
A rule stating that the forum is not bound by the law of the site, where the harm, injury, or death occurs, in terms of the restriction on damages for wrongful acts since such rule is procedural, and thus the forum’s law should apply in the instant legal dispute.
- Center of gravity doctrine
In a conflict of laws, choice of law issues are handled by applying the law of the jurisdiction having the closest link to or contact with the event and parties to the lawsuit and the issue and matters at hand.
General Rule: Law of one country has no application and force in another country. Philippine laws have no extraterritorial effect.
Exception: This happens when our laws provide extraterritorial effect to our laws with respect to citizens and nationals (e.g. extraterritoriality principle of RPC). This is also know as consent.15
It is also necessary to comprehend the concept of characterization, commonly known as the Doctrine of Qualification.
In Agpalo’s book, Doctrine of Qualification means that “it is the process of deciding whether or not the facts relate (refer to the connecting factors) to the kind of question specified in a conflicts rule; to enable the forum to select the proper law.”
Characterization has its elements, such as:
(1) Foreign element,
(2) Points of contact
(3) Proper law applicable
Here are the Test Factors / Points of Contract / Connecting Factors:
- Nationality of a person, his domicile, his residence, his place of sojourn, or his origin16
- The seat of a legal or juridical person, such as a corporation17
- 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 still decisive when real rights are involved18
- 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 torts19
- 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 exercised20
- The intention of the contracting parties to the law that should govern their agreement, the lex loci intentionis21
- The place where judicial or administrative proceedings are instituted or done22
- The flag of the 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 affreightment23
In the Philippines Foreign Law is given application by the following manners:
- By statutory directives (consent of the state)
- By agreement of the parties
- By treaty of convention
- By conflict of laws rule
On the other hand there are also instances when Foreign Law, even though applicable, may not be given application due to the following circumstances:
- Foreign law contravenes prohibitive law or public policy of the forum
- Relationship of the parties affects public interest
- Real property is involved (apply lex rei sitae)
- Foreign law, judgment or contract is contrary to a sound and established public policy of the forum
- Foreign law is procedural in nature (lex fori governs procedural matters)
- Foreign law is penal in nature
People would be able to better grasp and appreciate the law if they will expose themselves to landmark jurisprudence as regards conflicts of law situations, such as Supreme Court Decisions. Here are some examples of decisions in which the above concepts were applied:
Personal Law: Nationality Rule; Renvoi Doctrine; Doctrine of Processual Presumption
Bellis vs. Bellis. G. R. No. L-23678. June 6, 1967
Amos Bellis, a US citizen, died as a Texas resident. He left two wills, one of which gave a certain sum of money to his first wife and three illegitimate children, and leaving the remainder of his fortune to his seven legal children. Before division, illegitimate Filipino children opposed it since they were robbed of their legal rights.24
Whether the applicable law is Texas law or Philippine laws.
Applying the nationality rule, the law of Texas should govern the intrinsic validity of the will and therefore answer the question on entitlement to legitimes. But since the law of Texas was never proven, the doctrine of processual presumption was applied.
Hence, the Supreme Court assumed that Texas law is the same as Philippine laws, which upholds the nationality rule. Renvoi doctrine is not applicable because there is no conflict as to the nationality and domicile of Bellis. He is both a citizen and a resident of Texas. So even if assuming the law of Texas applies the domiciliary rule, it is still Texas law that governs because his domicile is Texas.25
Legal Capacity: Law of the Place where the Contract was entered into
Government vs. Frank, G. R. No. 2935, March 23, 1909
In Chicago, Ill., USA, Frank entered into an employment contract as stenographer with the Government. The contract is to be performed in the Philippines. However, upon arrival in the Philippines, Frank left the service. Government thus sued him for the breach. Frank raised the defense of minority, contending that by Philippine laws, he does not have legal capacity to enter into contracts.26
Whether or not Frank has legal capacity to enter into contracts.
It is not disputed that at the time and place of the making of the contract in question, the defendant had full capacity to make the same. No rule is better settled in law than that matters bearing upon the execution, interpretation and validity of a contract are determined by the law of the place where the contract is made.27
Matters connected with its performance are regulated by the law prevailing at the place of performance. Matters respecting a remedy, such as the bringing of suit, admissibility of evidence, and statutes of limitations, depend upon the law of the place where the suit is brought.28
The plaintiff (defendant) being fully qualified to enter into the contract at the place and time the contract is made, he cannot implead infancy as a defense at the place where the contract is being enforced.29
Contract is the Law of, and between, the Parties
Bagong Filipinas Overseas Corp. vs. NLRC, G. R. No. L-66006, Feb. 28, 1985
Pancho was hired by Bagong Filipinas Overseas Corp. as an oiler on board the M/V Olivine, a vessel registered in Hong Kong. While the vessel was docked at Gothenberg, Sweden, he suffered a cerebral stroke and was rushed to the hospital. Later, he was repatriated to the Philippines where he died later on. His widow filed for compensation benefits with the NSB, which Board awarded her the disability compensation benefits under the employment contract. NLRC, however, modified the decision and instead applied the law of Hong Kong, awarding a higher amount of benefits to the widow.30
Whether or not the Hong Kong law should be applied.
The Supreme Court held that the employment contract should be applied, not Hong Kong law. The case of Norse Management cannot be a precedent because it was expressly stipulated in the employment contract in that case that the workmen’s compensation payable to the employee should be in accordance with the Philippine law or the Workmen’s Insurance Law of the country where the vessel is registered, “whichever is higher.” Such stipulation is not found in the employment contract between Pancho and Bagong Filipinas Overseas Corp.31
Reprobate of a Last Will and Testament
Vda. De Perez vs. Tolete, G. R. No. 76714, June 2, 1994
The Cunanan spouses, formerly Filipino but became American citizens and residents of New York, each executed a will also in New York, containing provisions on presumption of survivorship (in case of doubt, husband presumed to have died first). Later, the entire family perished in a fire that gutted their home.32
Rafael, the trustee of the Cunanan husband’s will, filed for separate probate proceedings of both wills. Meanwhile, Salud Perez, the Cunanan wife’s mother, filed a petition for reprobate of her daughter’s will in Bulacan, without notifying the husband’s heirs.33
Rafael opposed the reprobate arguing that New York law should govern and under which law Salud is not an heir but he and his brothers and sisters are. For her part, Salud claimed that she was her daughter’s sole heir and that two wills were in accordance with New York law. Before she could present evidence to prove New York law, however, the reprobate court disallowed the wills.34
Whether or not the wills should be allowed.
The Supreme Court held that petitioner should be allowed to present evidence for reprobate of the wills and that notice should be given to Rafael and the other heirs. To allow the wills, proof that both conform to the formalities prescribed by New York laws or by Philippine laws is imperative.35
Evidence required are as follows: (1) due execution of the will in accordance with the foreign laws; (2) testator has his domicile in the foreign country and not in the Philippines; (3) the will has been admitted to probate in such country; (4) the fact that the foreign tribunal is a probate court; and (5) the laws of a foreign country on procedure and allowance of wills.36
Except for the first and last requirements, the petitioner submitted all the needed evidence. The necessity of presenting evidence on the foreign laws upon which the probate in the foreign country is impelled by the fact that our courts cannot take judicial notice of them.37
Divorce Obtained by Filipino Citizen Abroad Not Recognized in the Philippines
Tenchavez vs. Escano, G. R. No. L-19671, Nov. 29, 1965
Vicenta Escano, 27, and Pastor Tenchavez, 32, without knowledge of Vicenta’s parents, contracted a marriage solemnized by a Catholic chaplain. Once the parents found out, it was decided that the marriage should be re-celebrated since, according to Fr. Reynes, said marriage was invalid for lack of authority of the solemnizing chaplain from the Archbishop or the parish priest.38
The marriage never pushed through and Vicenta and Tenchavez continued to live separately from each other. Years later, Vicenta went to the US where she obtained a divorce and then married an American. She subsequently acquired American citizenship, but in the meantime, Tenchavez initiated legal separation proceedings in the Philippines.39
Whether or not the marriage between Vicenta and Tenchavez still exist.
The Supreme Court held that the marriage was valid and existing. The alleged lack of authority of the chaplain from the Archbishop is irrelevant in civil law, not only because of separation of Church and State but also because of the law in force at the time the marriage was celebrated.40
On the divorce obtained by Vicenta, the same is not recognized in the Philippines. When the divorce decree was issued, she was still Filipina, subject to Philippine laws. Under the Civil Code, absolute divorce is not allowed, only legal separation.41
The Supreme Court held that legal separation is proper in this case since Vicenta’s marriage to the American is technically “intercourse with a person not her husband” (or adultery, and a ground for legal separation) from the standpoint of Philippine law.42
Why is it called conflict of laws?
The use of the correct law, which is the most prudent and vital in the understanding of the current issue, is the foundation of applying the principles of Conflicts of Law. The doctrine’s foundation is established in the appropriate law that is applied in order to reach a reasonable result.
Because such situations are not international in nature, the phrase “Conflict of Laws” is utilized. As a result, “Conflict of Laws” has become a more general term for a legal process that deals with resolving similar disputes, regardless of whether the relevant legal systems are international or inter-state; however, this term has been criticized as misleading because the goal is to resolve conflicts between competing systems rather than “conflict” itself.
The first examples of conflict of laws may be found in Roman law, when foreign parties would plead their case before a praetor perigrinus at Rome. The praetor perigrinus would frequently choose the law of the foreign parties over Roman law.43
The birth of the modern conflict of laws is generally considered to have occurred at Northern Italy of the late Middle Ages and, in particular, at trading cities such as Genoa, Pisa, and Venice.44
The need to adjudicate issues involving commercial transactions between traders belonging to different cities led to the development of the theory of statuta, whereby certain city laws would be considered as statuta personalia “following” the person to wherever the action took place, and other city laws would be considered as statuta realia, resulting in application of the law of the city where the action under dispute was located (cf. lex rei sitae).45
The modern field of conflicts emerged in the United States during the nineteenth century, with the publishing of Joseph Story’s Treatise on the Conflict of Laws, in 1834. Story’s work had a great influence on the subsequent development of the field in England, such as those written by A.V. Dicey. Much of the English law then became the basis for conflict of laws for most commonwealth countries.46
Conflict of laws relates to the contrast between the laws of at least two locales that are appropriate to a dispute being referred to. The decision of the case rely on the choice of the law to determine the dispute. The contention can be among government and state laws, among the state laws themselves, or between the laws of various nations.
The primary question that arises in the situation of conflicting laws is: which law should be used in resolving the case? Courts follow a certain process in order to determine the law it would apply in deciding a case. In legal parlance, this process is known as characterization or classification. Courts usually have two choices while determining which law to apply in the case of a conflict:
- Lex fori: When the conflict in laws pertains to a procedural matter, courts mostly go by lex fori or the law of the forum.
- Lex loci: When the conflict in laws pertains to a substantive matter, courts mostly go by lex loci or the law of the place where the cause of action arose.
Legal professionals and scholars in civil law refer to the conflict of laws as private international law. It is applied to legal disputes that have a foreign element in them.47
What is the difference between choice of law and conflict of laws?
Choice of law is a bunch of rules used to select which laws should apply to a given claim, involving foreign elements, such as foreign parties or transactions. Choice of law questions most habitually emerge in claims in the government courts that depend on variety locale, where the offended party and respondent are from various states.48
In these claims, the courts are frequently defied with the topic of which ward’s laws ought to apply. The decision of law rules build up a technique by which the courts can choose the suitable law.
Classic theories of conflicts law were territorially oriented. The German jurist and legal scholar Friedrich Karl von Savigny (1779–1861) sought to identify the law where, “according to its nature,” the legal problem or relationship had its “seat.”49
Anglo-American law also sought the territorially applicable law because, in the view of the American legal scholar Joseph Beale (1861–1943), whose thoughts shaped much of American conflict-of-laws theory in the first half of the 20th century, that is where the rights and obligations of the parties “vested.” This vested-rights doctrine maintained that, once a right was created in one locale, its existence should be recognized everywhere.50
New approaches to choice of law, starting with the governmental-interest analysis developed by the American legal scholar Brainerd Currie, began to emerge in the 1950s. Currie’s approach sought to determine whether a “true” or “false” conflict exists between the law of the forum state and that of the other involved state.51
Whereas, “choice of law” and “conflict of law” are frequently used interchangeably. When a lawsuit brings contradictory laws from two or more jurisdictions, a conflict of law occurs. The courts of the concerned nations may claim jurisdiction, and the laws of the participating countries may be suitable in the situation at hand. When confronted with such issues, the courts must ensure that mechanisms are established in order to resolve or settle the problem.
What happens when there is a conflict of laws?
At whatever point there is Conflict of Laws, the Philippine Government can manage it absolutely. For example, the Court might hear the case and carry out the neighborhood law. Thusly, the state is practicing its sovereign rights.
Then again, it can likewise hear the case then, at that point apply unique guidelines or unfamiliar laws in to check the heaviness of the case prior to showing up to a choice. Also, the discussion non conveniens can be summon.
Whenever there is Conflict of Laws, the Philippine Government can deal with it in certain ways. For instance, the Court may hear the case and implement the local law. By doing so, the state is exercising its sovereign prerogatives.
On the other hand, it can likewise hear the case then, at that point apply unique guidelines or unfamiliar laws in to check the heaviness of the case prior to showing up to a choice it can also hear the case then apply special rules or foreign laws in to gauge the weight of the case before arriving to a decision. Moreover, the forum non conveniens can be invoke.
In the case of Continental Micronesia, Inc., vs. Joseph Basco,52 it was explained that under the doctrine of forum non conveniens, a Philippine court in a conflict-of-laws case may assume jurisdiction if it chooses to do so, provided, that the following requisites are met: (1) that the Philippine Court is one to which the parties may conveniently resort to; (2) that the Philippine Court is in a position to make an intelligent decision as to the law and the facts; and (3) that the Philippine Court has or is likely to have power to enforce its decision.53
The Doctrine of Renvoi can also be imposed. It is a legal doctrine which applies when a court is faced with a conflict of law and must consider the law of another state, referred to as private international law (“PIL”) rules. This can apply when considering foreign issues arising in succession planning and in administering estates.
The word “Renvoi” comes from the French “send back” or “return unopened”. The “Doctrine of Renvoi” is the process by which the court adopts the rules of a foreign jurisdiction with respect to any conflict of law that arises. The idea behind the doctrine is that it prevents forum shopping and the same law is applied to achieve the same outcome regardless of where the case is actually dealt with. The system of Renvoi attempts to achieve that end.54
Furthermore, the Doctrine of Processual Presumption can be draw on. Under this doctrine, if the foreign law involved is not properly pleaded and proved, our courts will presume that the foreign law is the same as our local or domestic or internal law.55
Thus, since the law of the Netherlands as regards the obligation to support has not been properly pleaded and proved in the instant case, it is presumed to be the same with Philippine law, which enforces the obligation of parents to support their children and penalizing the non-compliance therewith.56
In the event that a particular party wants to present documents to the Court, which they believe is material to the case, such documents must be duly authenticated before it can be admitted as evidence.
What are the basic issues identified under the Conflict of Laws?
Conflicts law should address three chief inquiries. In the first place, when a legitimate issue addresses more than one country, it should be resolved which court has jurisdiction to arbitrate the matter.
Second, when a court has taken jurisdiction, it should choose what law it ought to apply to the inquiry before it. The guidelines administering the court might guide it to apply its own law or require the use of the law of another country.
Third, accepting that the court at last delivers a judgment for the offended party, conflicts law should address the authorization of the judgment. If the respondent has lacking resources locally, acknowledgment and requirement of the judgment should be looked for in a nation where resources do exist.
As noted above, cases of conflict of laws arise from differences between legal systems. Notable differences exist, for example, between countries with a common-law tradition and those employing civil law.
In contract law, for example, civil law has no direct counterpart to the common-law requirement that a promise be supported by “consideration”—i.e., by a bargained-for exchange—in order to be binding.
Similarly, the systems differ with respect to formalities that may be required for a contract (e.g., a writing). Even within the broad groups of common law and civil law, national legal systems diverge, sometimes substantially.
Legal diversity may be based on religion or ethnicity as well as on territory. Such a situation has existed historically in many Islamic countries. In India the laws concerning matters of the family, including succession upon death, are different for Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, Buddhists, and other religious groups.
In Lebanon and Israel they are different for Muslims, Jews, and the various groups of Christians. American Indian reservations present similar problems when the occurrence of events on a reservation or the affiliation of a person with a reservation results in the application of tribal law rather than the law of the state in which the reservation is located. Membership in an American Indian tribe, for example, may determine the applicable law.57
The term conflict of laws alludes to the issues courts face when a case at bar has associations with at least two states or nations. In such cases, courts apply ‘choice of law’ rules to figure out which jurisdiction must be implemented in order to resolve a certain matter or issue.
By and large, the standards of conflicts of laws give rules to decide if a court of the discussion ward will apply its law or the laws of another intrigued purview to a dispute. This request regularly requires a court to settle on a decision that might be influenced by open approach contemplations of the discussion purview.
Conflict of laws principles, also, may stretch out to numerous parts of a case, like legal ward, portrayal of property, choice of law, and the acknowledgment and authorization of unfamiliar decisions.
Assuming the Court needs an approach to determine these clashing rules, it should look to the “rule of lenity.” Accordingly, it focuses in interpreting uncertain criminal rules, courts should resolve the vagueness for the respondent.
The standard is likewise applied in deportation statutes. It mirrors the central rule that Congress should talk clearly assuming it needs to force on an individual a particularly serious hardship of freedom—which extradition most certainly is.
At the point when expulsion from the nation is in question, courts shouldn’t concede to an office translation that orders a more prominent encroachment on freedom than a resolution requires despite how prohibitive or broad that rule might be.
- 2021 World Atlas
- World Order, The Catholic Church’s Teaching on World Peace [Sub-topic], Peace and Justice – Fr. Benjamin J. Urmston
- Drobnig, U. M. Conflicts of Law, Britannica
- Agpalo, R. E. Conflict of Laws Notes
- Sohn, L.B. New Bases for Solution of Conflict of Laws Problems
- Article 14, Civil Code of the Philippines
- Article 15, Id.
- Article 16, Id.
- Article 16, Id.
- Article 17, Id.
- Article 17, Id.
- Article 17, Id.
- Article 18, Id.
- Agpalo, R. E. Retrieved Conflicts of Laws Notes from Academia website
- G. R. No. L-23678, June 6, 1967
- G.R. No. 2935, March 23, 1909
- G. R. No. L-66006, Feb. 28, 1985
- G. R. No. 76714, June 2, 1994
- G. R. No. L-19671, Nov. 29, 1965
- Agpalo, R. E. Retrieved Conflicts of Laws Notes from Academia website
- Conflict of Laws
- New World Encyclopedia
- Up Counsel, Conflict of Laws Principles: Everything You Need to Know
- Choice of Law
- G.R. Nos. 178382-83, September 23, 2015
- The Rule of Doctrine, Pearse Trust
- Del Socorro vs. Wilsem, G. R. No. 193707; December 10, 2014
- Rheinstein, M., Conflicts of Law, Britannica