Vinuya v. Romulo (G.R. No. 162230; April 28, 2010)


FACTS: Petitioners are all members of the MALAYA LOLAS, a non-stock, non-profit organization established for the purpose of providing aid to the victims of rape by Japanese military forces in the Philippines during the Second World War.Petitioners narrate that during the Second World War, the Japanese army attacked villages and systematically raped the women as part of the destruction of the village. Their communities were bombed, houses were looted and burned, and civilians were publicly tortured, mutilated, and slaughtered. Japanese soldiers forcibly seized the women and held them in houses or cells, where they were repeatedly raped, beaten, and abused by Japanese soldiers. As a result of the actions of their Japanese tormentors, the petitioners have spent their lives in misery, having endured physical injuries, pain and disability, and mental and emotional suffering. Petitioners claim that since 1998, they have approached the Executive Department through the DOJ, DFA, and OSG, requesting assistance in filing a claim against the Japanese officials and military officers who ordered the establishment of the comfort women stations in the Philippines. However, officials of the Executive Department declined to assist the petitioners, and took the position that the individual claims of the comfort women for compensation had already been fully satisfied by Japans compliance with the Peace Treaty between the Philippines and Japan.
ISSUE: Did respondents commit grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of discretion in refusing to espouse their claims for the crimes against humanity and war crimes committed against them?

HELD: Political questions refer "to those questions which, under the Constitution, are to be decided by the people in their sovereign capacity, or in regard to which full discretionary authority has been delegated to the legislative or executive branch of the government. It is concerned with issues dependent upon the wisdom, not legality of a particular measure." Certain types of cases often have been found to present political questions.One such category involves questions of foreign relations.It is well-established that "the conduct of the foreign relations of our government is committed by the Constitution to the executive and legislative--'the political'--departments of the government, and the propriety of what may be done in the exercise of this political power is not subject to judicial inquiry or decision."

Not all cases implicating foreign relations present political questions, and courts certainly possess the authority to construe or invalidate treaties and executive agreements. However, the question whether the Philippine government should espouse claims of its nationals against a foreign government is a foreign relations matter, the authority for which is demonstrably committed by our Constitution not to the courts but to the political branches.In this case, the Executive Department has already decided that it is to the best interest of the country to waive all claims of its nationals for reparations against Japan in the Treaty of Peace of 1951.The wisdom of such decision is not for the courts to question.Neither could petitioners herein assail the said determination by the Executive Department via the instant petition for certiorari.

The Executive Department has determined that taking up petitioners cause would be inimical to our country's foreign policy interests, and could disrupt our relations withJapan, thereby creating serious implications for stability in this region.For the Court to overturn the Executive Departments determination would mean an assessment of the foreign policy judgments by a coordinate political branch to which authority to make that judgment has been constitutionally committed. DISMISSED.