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Republic of the Philippines

Supreme Court



G.R. No. 166199






- versus -



April 24, 2009




Before the Court is a Petition for Review onCertiorari under Rule 45 of

the Rules of Court assailing the Decision[1] dated September 14,
2004 and the Resolution[2] dated November 24, 2004 of the Court of
Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 76578. The assailed Decision set aside
the Resolution dated April 1, 2003 of the Secretary of the Department
of Justice (DOJ) and the Judgment dated February 11, 2002 of the
Board of Commissioners (BOC) of the Bureau of Immigration (BI), and
dismissed the deportation case filed against Christopher Koruga
(respondent), an American national, for violation of Section 37(a)(4) of
Commonwealth Act No. 613, as amended, otherwise known as the
Philippine Immigration Act of 1940; while the assailed Resolution
denied petitioners' Motion for Reconsideration.

The factual background of the case is as follows:

Sometime in August 2001, then BI Commissioner Andrea Domingo

received an anonymous letter[3] requesting the deportation of
respondent as an undesirable alien for having been found guilty of
Violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act in the State of
Washington, United States of America (USA) for attempted possession
of cocaine sometime in 1983.

On the basis of a Summary of Information,[4] the Commissioner issued

Mission Order No. ADD-01-162[5] on September 13, 2001 directing

Police Superintendent (P/Supt.) Lino G. Caligasan, Chief of the

Intelligence Mission and any available BI Special Operations Team
Member to conduct verification/ validation of the admission status and
activities of respondent and effect his immediate arrest if he is found to
have violated the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940, as amended.

On September 17, 2001, respondent was arrested and charged before

the Board of Special Inquiry (BSI) for violation of Section 37(a)(4) of the
Philippine Immigration Act of 1940, as amended. The case was
docketed as BSI-D.C. No. ADD-01-126. The Charge Sheet reads:
On September 17, 2001, at about 10:00 A.M., respondent was arrested by
Intelligence operatives at his residence, located at 1001 MARBELLA
CONDOMINIUM II, Roxas Boulevard, Malate, Manila, pursuant to Mission Order
No. ADD-01-162;

That respondent was convicted and/or sentenced for Uniform Controlled

Substance Act in connection with his being Drug Trafficker and/or Courier of
prohibited drugs in the State of Washington, United States of America, thus,
making him an undesirable alien and/or a public burden in violation of Sec.
37(4) [sic] of the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940, as amended.


On September 28, 2001, after filing a Petition for Bail[7] and

Supplemental Petition for Bail,[8]respondent was granted bail and
provisionally released from the custody of the BI.[9]

Following the submission of respondent's Memorandum[10] and the BI

Special Prosecutor's Memorandum,[11] the BOC rendered a
Judgment[12] dated February 11, 2002 ordering the deportation of
respondent under Section 37(a)(4) of the Philippine Immigration Act of
1940, as amended.

On February 26, 2002, respondent filed a Motion for Reconsideration,

but it was denied by the BOC in a Resolution dated March 19, 2002.

Unaware that the BOC already rendered its Resolution dated March 19,
2002, respondent filed on April 2, 2002, a Manifestation and Notice of
Appeal Ex Abundanti Cautelam[14] with the Office of the President,
which referred[15] the appeal to the DOJ.

On April 1, 2003, then DOJ Secretary Simeon A. Datumanong rendered

a Resolution[16]dismissing the appeal. On April 15, 2003, respondent
filed a Motion for Reconsideration[17] which he subsequently
withdrew[18] on April 23, 2003.

On April 24, 2003, respondent filed a Petition forCertiorari and

with the CA, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 76578, seeking to set aside
the Resolution dated April 1, 2003 of the DOJ Secretary and the
Judgment dated February 11, 2002 of the BOC.

On September 14, 2004, the CA rendered a Decision[20] setting aside

the Resolution datedApril 1, 2003 of the DOJ Secretary and the
Judgment dated February 11, 2002 of the BOC and dismissing the
deportation case filed against respondent. The CA held that there was
no valid and legal ground for the deportation of respondent since there
was no violation of Section 37(a)(4) of the Philippine Immigration Act of
1940, as amended, because respondent was not convicted or
sentenced for a violation of the law on prohibited drugs since the U.S.
Court dismissed the case for violation of the Uniform Controlled
Substances Act in the State of Washington, USA filed against
respondent; that petitioners further failed to present or attach to their

pleadings any document which would support their allegations that

respondent entered into a plea bargain with the U.S. Prosecutor for
deferred sentence nor did they attach to the record the alleged order
or judgment of the U.S. Court which would show the conviction of
respondent for violation of the prohibited drugs law in the USA; that
even if respondent was convicted and sentenced for the alleged
offense, his deportation under Section 37(a)(4) is improper, since the
prohibited drugs law referred to therein refers not to a foreign drugs
law but to the Philippine drugs law, then Republic Act No. 6425 or the
Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972; that although the BOC is clothed with
exclusive authority to decide as to the right of a foreigner to enter the
country, still, such executive officers must act within the scope of their
authority or their decision is a nullity.

Petitioners' Motion for Reconsideration[21] was denied by the CA in its

presently assailed Resolution[22] dated November 24, 2004.

Hence, the present petition on the following grounds:







Petitioners contend that the BI has exclusive authority in deportation

proceedings and no other tribunal is at liberty to reexamine or to
controvert the sufficiency of the evidence presented therein; that there
was no grave abuse of discretion on the part of petitioners when they
sought the deportation of respondent since he was convicted by the
Supreme Court of the State of Washington for attempted Violation of
the Uniform Controlled Substances Act and underwent probation in lieu
of the imposition of sentence; that the dismissal of the charge against
respondent was only with respect to penalties and liabilities, obtained
after fulfilling the conditions for his probation, and was not an acquittal
from the criminal case charged against him; that there is a valid basis
to declare respondent's undesirability and effect his deportation since
respondent has admitted guilt of his involvement in a drug-related

On the other hand, respondent submits that the proceedings against

him reek of persecution; that the CA did not commit any error of law;
that all the arguments raised in the present petition are mere rehashes
of arguments raised before and ruled upon by the CA; and that, even
assuming that Section 37(a)(4) of the Philippine Immigration Act of
1940 does not apply, there is no reason, whether compelling or slight,
to deport respondent.

There are two issues for resolution: (1) whether the exclusive authority
of the BOC over deportation proceedings bars judicial review, and (2)
whether there is a valid and legal ground for the deportation of

The Court resolves the first issue in the negative.

It is beyond cavil that the BI has the exclusive authority and jurisdiction
to try and hear cases against an alleged alien, and that the BOC has

jurisdiction over deportation proceedings.[24]Nonetheless, Article VIII,

Section 1[25] of the Constitution has vested power of judicial review in
the Supreme Court and the lower courts such as the CA, as established
by law. Although the courts are without power to directly decide
matters over which full discretionary authority has been delegated to
the legislative or executive branch of the government and are not
empowered to execute absolutely their own judgment from that of
Congress or of the President,[26] the Court may look into and resolve
questions of whether or not such judgment has been made
with grave abuse ofdiscretion, when the act of the legislative or
executive department is contrary to the Constitution, the law or
jurisprudence, or when executed whimsically, capriciously or arbitrarily
out of malice, ill will or personal bias.[27]

In Domingo v. Scheer,[28] the Court set aside the Summary Deportation

Order of the BOC over an alien for having been issued with grave
abuse of discretion in violation of the alien's constitutional and
statutory rights to due process, since the BOC ordered the deportation
of the alien without conducting summary deportation proceedings and
without affording the alien the right to be heard on his motion for
reconsideration and adduce evidence thereon.

In House of Sara Lee v. Rey,[29] the Court held that while, as a general
rule, the factual findings of administrative agencies are not subject to
review, it is equally established that the Court will not uphold
erroneous conclusions which are contrary to evidence, because the
agency a quo, for that reason, would be guilty of a grave abuse of

When acts or omissions of a quasi-judicial agency are involved, a

petition for certiorari or prohibition may be filed in the CA as provided
by law or by the Rules of Court, as amended.[30]Clearly, the filing by
respondent of a petition forcertiorari and prohibition before the CA to

assail the order of deportation on the ground of grave abuse of

discretion is permitted.

This brings us to the second issue.

The settled rule is that the entry or stay of aliens in the Philippines is
merely a privilege and a matter of grace; such privilege is not absolute
or permanent and may be revoked. However, aliens may be expelled
or deported from the Philippinesonly on grounds and in the manner
provided for by the Constitution, the Philippine Immigration Act of
1940, as amended, and administrative issuances pursuant thereto.[31]

Respondent was charged with violation of Section 37(a)(4) of the

Philippine Immigration Act of 1940, as amended, which provides:
Sec. 37. (a) The following aliens shall be arrested upon the warrant of the
Commissioner of Immigration or of any other officer designated by him for the
purpose and deported upon the warrant of the Commissioner of Immigration
after a determination by the Board of Commissioners of the existence of the
ground for deportation as charged against the alien.


(4) Any alien who is convicted and sentenced for a violation of the law
governing prohibited drugs;

x x x x (Emphasis supplied)

Respondent contends that the use of the definite article the

immediately preceding the phrase law on prohibited drugs emphasizes

not just any prohibited drugs law but the law applicable in this
jurisdiction, at that time, the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972.[32]

The Court disagrees.

The general rule in construing words and phrases used in a statute is

that in the absence of legislative intent to the contrary, they should be
given their plain, ordinary, and common usage meaning.[33] However, a
literal interpretation of a statute is to be rejected if it will operate
unjustly, lead to absurd results, or contract the evident meaning of the
statute taken as a whole.[34] After all, statutes should receive a sensible
construction, such as will give effect to the legislative intention and so
as to avoid an unjust or an absurd conclusion.[35] Indeed, courts are not
to give
words meanings that would lead to absurd or unreasonable

Were the Court to follow the letter of Section 37(a)(4) and make it
applicable only to convictions under the Philippine prohibited drugs
law, the Court will in effect be paving the way to an absurd situation
whereby aliens convicted of foreign prohibited drugs laws may be
allowed to enter the country to the detriment of the public health and
safety of its citizens. It suggests a double standard of treatment where
only aliens convicted of Philippine prohibited drugs law would be
deported, while aliens convicted of foreign prohibited drugs laws would
be allowed entry in the country. The Court must emphatically reject
such interpretation of the law. Certainly, such a situation was not
envisioned by the framers of the law, for to do so would be contrary to
reason and therefore, absurd. Over time, courts have recognized with
almost pedantic adherence that what is contrary to reason is not
allowed in law.

Indubitably, Section 37(a)(4) should be given a reasonable

interpretation, not one which defeats the very purpose for which the
law was passed.This Court has, in many cases involving the
construction of statutes, always cautioned against narrowly
interpreting a statute as to defeat the purpose of the legislator and
stressed that it is of the essence of judicial duty to construe statutes so
as to avoid such a deplorable result of injustice or absurdity, and that
therefore a literal interpretation is to be rejected if it would be unjust or
lead to absurd results.[37]

Moreover, since Section 37(a)(4) makes nodistinction between a

foreign prohibited drugs law and the Philippine prohibited drugs law,
neither should this Court. Ubi lex non distinguit nec nos distinguere
debemos.[38] Thus, Section 37(a)(4) should apply to those convicted of
all prohibited drugs laws, whether local or foreign.

There is no dispute that respondent was convicted of Violation of the

Uniform Controlled Substances Act in the State of Washington, USA for
attempted possession of cocaine, as shown by the Order Deferring
Imposition of Sentence (Probation).[39] While he may have pleaded
guilty to a lesser offense, and was not imprisoned but applied for and
underwent a one-year probation, still, there is no escaping the fact that
he was convicted under a prohibited drugs law, even though it may
simply be called a misdemeanor drug offense.[40] The BOC did not
commit grave abuse of discretion in ordering the deportation of

The Court quotes with approval the following acute pronouncements of

the BOC:

x x x We note that the respondent admitted in his Memorandum dated

8 October 2001 that he pleaded guilty to the amended information
where he allegedly attempted to have in his possession a certain
controlled substance, and a narcotic drug. Further, he filed a Petition for
Leave to Withdraw Plea of Guilty and Enter Plea of Not Guilty to obtain a
favorable release from all penalties and disabilities resulting from the filing of
the said charge.

Evidently, the U.S. Court issued the Order of Dismissal in exchange for the
respondent's plea of guilty to the lesser offense. Though legally allowed in the
U.S. Law, We perceive that this strategy afforded the respondent with a
convenient vehicle to avoid conviction and sentencing. Moreover, the plea
of guilty is by itself crystal clear acknowledgment of his involvement
in a drug-related offense. Hence, respondent's discharge from conviction
and sentencing cannot hide the fact that he has a prior history of drug-related

This country cannot countenance another alien with a history of a

drug-related offense. The crime may have been committed two
decades ago but it cannot erase the fact that the incident actually
happened. This is the very core of his inadmissibility into
the Philippines.Apparently, respondent would like Us to believe that his
involvement in this drug case is a petty offense or a mere
misdemeanor.However, the Philippine Government views all drug-related
cases with grave concern; hence, the enactment of Republic Act No. 6425,
otherwise known as The Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972 and the creation of
various drug-enforcement agencies. While We empathize with the innocent
portrayal of the respondent as a man of irreproachable conduct, not to
mention the numerous written testimonies of good character submitted in his
behalf, this incomplete and sanitized representation cannot, however,
outweigh our commitment and sworn duty to safeguard public health and
public safety.Moreover, while the U.S. Government may not have any law
enforcement interest on respondent, Philippine immigration authorities
certainly do in the able and competent exercise of its police
powers. Thus,this case of the respondent is no different from a
convicted felon abroad, who argues that he cannot be removed
from thePhilippines on the ground that the crime was committed
abroad. Otherwise, it would open the floodgates to other similarly
situated aliens demanding their admission into the country. Indeed,
respondent may not be a menace to the U.S.as a result of his being
discharged from criminal liability, but that does not ipso facto mean that the
immigration authorities should unquestionably admit him into the country.

x x x x[41] (Emphasis supplied)

It must be remembered that aliens seeking entry in the Philippines do

not acquire the right to be admitted into the country by the simple
passage of time. When an alien, such as respondent, has already
physically gained entry in the country, but such entry is later found
unlawful or devoid of legal basis, the alien can be excluded anytime
after it is found that he was not lawfully admissible at the time of his
entry.[42] Every sovereign power has the inherent power to exclude
aliens from its territory upon such grounds as it may deem proper for
its self-preservation or public interest.[43] The power to deport aliens is
an act of State, an act done by or under the authority of the sovereign
power.[44] It is a police measure against undesirable aliens whose
continued presence in the country is found to be injurious to the public
good and the domestic tranquility of the people.[45]
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The assailed Decision and
Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 76578
are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Judgment dated February 11,
2002 of the Board of Commissioners of the Bureau of Immigration
ordering the deportation of respondent Christopher Koruga under
Section 37(a)(4) of the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940, as
amended, is REINSTATED.



Associate Justice

Associate Justice


Associate Justice

Associate Justice

Associate Justice


I attest that the conclusions in the above Resolution had been reached
in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the
opinion of the Courts Division.

Associate Justice
Chairperson, Third Division


Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, and the

Division Chairpersons Attestation, it is hereby certified that the
conclusions in the above Resolution had been reached in consultation
before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts

Chief Justice


Penned by Associate Justice Mariano C. del Castillo and concurred in by Associate Justices Romeo A. Brawner and Jose L. Sabio,
Jr., CA rollo, p. 610.


Id. at 677.


CA rollo, p.140.


Id. at 139.


Id. at 138.


CA rollo, p. 141.


Id. at 144.


Id. at 154.


Id. at 157.


Id. at 159.


Id. at 187.


Id. at 243.


Id. at 72.


Id. at 103.


Id. at 124.


Id. at 74.


Id. at 126.


Id. at 133.


CA rollo, p. 9.


Supra note 1.


CA rollo, p. 630.


Supra note 2.


Rollo, pp. 36-37.


Board of Commissioners (CID) v. De la Rosa, G.R. Nos. 95122-23, May 31, 1991, 197 SCRA 853, 874; Lao Gi v. Court of
Appeals, G.R. No. 81798, December 29, 1989, 180 SCRA 756, 761; Miranda v. Deportation Board, 94 Phil 531, 533


Article VIII, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution, states:

SECTION 1. The judicial power shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in such lower courts as may be established by law.
Judicial power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable
and enforceable, and to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of
jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the government.

See Tatad v. Secretary of the Department of Energy, G.R. No. 124360, November 5, 1997, 281 SCRA 330, 347;Ledesma v.
Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 113216, September 5, 1997, 278 SCRA 656, 681; Taada v. Angara, G.R. No. 118295, May 2,
1997, 272 SCRA 18, 48-49.


Republic v. Garcia, G.R No. 167741, July 12, 2007, 527 SCRA 495, 502; Information Technology Foundation of the
Philippines v. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 159139, January 13, 2004, 419 SCRA 141, 148.


466 Phil. 235 (2004).


G.R. No. 149013, August 31, 2006, 500 SCRA 419.


RULES OF COURT, Rule 65, Section 4.


Supra note 28, at 269-270; 487.


Repealed by Republic Act No. 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 approved on June 7, 2002, or about
four (4) months after the BOC rendered its Judgment on February 11, 2002.


Ruben E. Agpalo, Statutory Construction (1990), p. 131, citing Central Azucarera Don Pedro v. Central Bank, 104 Phil. 598
(1954); Espino v. Cleofe, G.R. No. 33410, July 13, 1973, 52 SCRA 92; Philippine Acetylene Co. v. Central Bank, 120
Phil. 829 (1964).


Solid Homes, Inc. v. Tan, G.R. Nos. 145156-57, July 29, 2005, 465 SCRA 137, 149; Commissioner of Internal Revenue v.
Solidbank Corporation, G.R. No. 148191, November 25,2003, 416 SCRA 436, 460; In Re Allen, 2 Phil. 630, 643 (1903).


Philippine Retirement Authority (PRA) v. Buag, G.R. No. 143784, February 5, 2003, 397 SCRA 27, 37; Cosico, Jr. v. National
Labor Relations Commission, G.R. No. 118432, May 23, 1997, 272 SCRA 583, 591; Commissioner of Internal Revenue
v. Esso Standard Eastern, Inc., G.R. No. 28502-03, April 18, 1989, 172 SCRA 364, 370.


Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Solidbank Corporation, supra, note 35; People v. Rivera, 59 Phil. 236, 242 (1933).


Soriano v. Offshore Shipping and Manning Corporation,G.R. No. 78309, September 14, 1989, 177 SCRA 513, 519;Bello v.
Court of Appeals, G.R. No. L-38161, March 29, 1974, 56 SCRA 509, 518; Vda. de Macabanta v. Davao Stevedore
Terminal Company, G.R. No. L 27489, April 30, 1970, 32 SCRA 553, 558; Automotive Parts & Equipment Co., Inc. v.
Lingad, G.R. No. L-26406, October 31, 1969, 30 SCRA 248, 256.


BAYAN (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan) v. Exec. Sec. Zamora, G.R. No. 138570, October 10, 2000, 342 SCRA 449, 484; Pilar
v. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 115245, July 11, 1995, 245 SCRA 759, 763; Commissioner of Internal Revenue v.
Commission on Audit, G.R. No. 101976, January 29, 1993, 218 SCRA 203, 214-215.


CA rollo, p. 650.


Letters dated September 19, 2001 and September 20, 2001of Michael A. Newbill, Vice Consul of the U.S. Embassy in
the Philippines, CA rollo, pp. 148 and 149.


CA rollo, p. 245.


Board of Commissioners (CID) v. Dela Rosa, supra note 24, at 896.


Lao Tan Bun v. Fabre, 81 Phil. 682 (1948).


In re McCulloch Dick, 38 Phil. 41 (1918).


Forbes v. Chuoco Tiaco, 16 Phil. 534 (1910).