GR 85750, Sept.28 1990
As an aftermath of the Vietnam War, the plight of Vietnamese refugees fleeing from South Vietnam's communist rule confronted the international community.
In response to this crisis, on 23 February 1981, an Agreement was forged between the Philippine Government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees whereby an operating center for processing Indo-Chinese refugees for eventual resettlement to other countries was to be established in Bataan .
ICMC was one of those accredited by the Philippine Government to operate the refugee processing center in Morong, Bataan. It was incorporated in New York, USA, at the request of the Holy See, as a non-profit agency involved in international humanitarian and voluntary work. It is duly registered with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and enjoys Consultative Status, Category II. As an international organization rendering voluntary and humanitarian services in the Philippines, its activities are parallel to those of the International Committee for Migration (ICM) and the International Committee of the Red Cross
On 14 July 1986, Trade Unions of the Philippines and Allied Services (TUPAS) filed with the then Ministry of Labor and Employment a Petition for Certification Election among the rank and file members employed by ICMC The latter opposed the petition on the ground that it is an international organization registered with the United Nations and, hence, enjoys diplomatic immunity.
ISSUE: Whether or not the grant of diplomatic privileges and immunites to ICMC extends to immunity from the application of Philippine labor laws?
The grant of immunity from local jurisdiction to ICMC is clearly necessitated by their international character and respective purposes. The objective is to avoid the danger of partiality and interference by the host country in their internal workings. The exercise of jurisdiction by the Department of Labor in these instances would defeat the very purpose of immunity, which is to shield the affairs of international organizations, in accordance with international practice, from political pressure or control by the host country to the prejudice of member States of the organization, and to ensure the unhampered performance of their functions
ICMC employees are not without recourse whenever there are disputes to be settled. Section 31 of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the Specialized Agencies of the United Nations 17 provides that "each specialized agency shall make provision for appropriate modes of settlement of: (a) disputes arising out of contracts or other disputes of private character to which the specialized agency is a party." Moreover, pursuant to Article IV of the Memorandum of Agreement between ICMC the the Philippine Government, whenever there is any abuse of privilege by ICMC, the Government is free to withdraw the privileges and immunities accorded.
Clauses on jurisdictional immunity are said to be standard provisions in the constitutions of international Organizations. "The immunity covers the organization concerned, its property and its assets. It is equally applicable to proceedings in personam and proceedings in rem.
ICMC did not invoke its immunity and, therefore, may be deemed to have waived it, assuming that during that period (1983-1985) it was tacitly recognized as enjoying such immunity.
Petition is GRANTED, the Order of the Bureau of Labor Relations for certification election is SET ASIDE, and the Temporary Restraining Order earlier issued is made