Jurisdiction of Philippine Courts

Jurisdiction sounds a bit intimidating for the layman, specially if you add “court” to it. This is particularly true if there’s a “foreign element,” such as in contracts, where a particular aspect of the contract — whether in its nature, negotiations, execution, performance or breach — is done or governed in a territorial jurisdiction outside the Philippines.

The word “jurisdiction,” as applied to the exercise of judicial power, is used in different, though related, senses. Jurisdiction may refer (1) to the authority of the court to entertain a particular kind of action or to administer a particular kind of relief, or it may refer to the power of the court over the parties, or (2) over the property which is the subject to the litigation.


Jurisdiction over the subject matter is the power to hear and determine cases of the general class to which the proceedings in question belong and is conferred by the sovereign authority which organized courts and defines its powers. Jurisdiction over the subject matter is provided by law. For instance, the law provides what matters are under the jurisdiction of the Securities and Exchance Commission (SEC), the Military Tribunals or the regular courts.


This is acquired by the filing of the complaint or initiatory pleading before the court by the plaintiff. This is related to the right of a person to file a case in a Philippines court.

The more problematic concern is the right of the non-resident alien to seek remedy in Philippine courts. As held in the case of Dilweg vs. Phillips (12 Phil. 243, 247 [1964]), “it is not indispensable for a foreigner to establish residence, nor need he be physically present in a state which he is not a resident or citizen in order that he may initiate or maintain a personal action against a resident or citizen of that other state for rights of action arising in, or for violations of laws committed within, the territorial jurisdiction of that other state. In this jurisdiction, no general law has come to our knowledge which restricts the right of non-resident aliens to sue in our courts. It is not disputed that plaintiffs cause of action arose in, and that the defendants are within, our territorial jurisdiction.”


Jurisdiction over the person is acquired by the voluntary appearance of a party in court and his submission to its authority, or it is acquired by the coercive power of legal process exerted over the person of the defendant. In other words, a defendant who wasn’t served with summons is generally not bound by the decision in that particular case.

Now, if we consider a “foreign element,” it may happen that a Philippine court will refuse to take cognizance of a case even if it has jurisdiciton. Indeed, Philippine courts, having acquired jurisdiction over the case, may refuse to assume jurisdiction in spite of its having acquired jurisdiction. Conversely, courts may assume jurisdiction over the case 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.

Under the principle of forum non conveniens, in conflicts of law cases, courts may refuse to exercise jurisdiction where it is not the most “convenient” or available forum and the parties are not precluded from seeking remedies elsewhere. This principle was developed to combat the practice of non-resident litigants to choose the forum or place wherein to bring their suit for various reasons or excuses, including securing procedural advantages, annoying and harassing the defendant, avoiding overcrowded dockets, or selecting a more friendly venue. On the other hand, even if a Philippine court assumes jurisdiction and decides a case, it may choose to apply foreign a law. This, however, is a tricky subject that requires an entirely separate post.


25 thoughts on “Jurisdiction of Philippine Courts

  1. AvatarRugged Terry

    A Canadian used to be a Filipino citizen married me in the Philippines and found out that he is still very much married in the Philippines too. He is now in Canada how can I file a case against him. I’m from Manila married last 2013

    1. AvatarGina

      My husband and I are both us citizen, I just found out that my husband has a mistress and a child with this woman and living together from the condo unit that my husband bought bought. Can I sue my husband for concubinage and adultery for his mistress even we’re both us citizen? Do I have the right to get half of whatever he owns in the Philippines even my name was not in the record?

  2. AvatarAlan

    My wide has been fraudulently cheated/scammed. Obviously this is a criminal matter. Can my wife bring a Civil Case for money taken/owing? And also bring a Criminal Case for the crime?

  3. AvatarMaricris

    My friend is a foreigner and have a gf filipina.nagkahiwalay na sila.pilit kinukuha ng babae house n lot nabili ni foreigner pati car.d nakapangalan both sa kanila ang property.pwde ba kasuhan ng friend q c ex gf niya?and if pwde ano pwde i kaso,my pangba black mail na din xe xa sa foreigner na mgbigay dw ng pera.pls help

  4. AvatarManuel

    A foreigner sale his motorcycle to me, after one day I return his motorcycle because I found its defective as He receive the motorcycle He promise to bring back my money but until now his not returning my money to me how can I file complain against thus foreigner

    1. Atty.FredAtty.Fred Post author

      Manuel, by way of general information, a civil case is filed in court (which has jurisdiction over the complainant or defendant, at the option of the defendant); a criminal case is filed with the prosecutor’s office (of the place where any element of the crime happened). Good luck.

  5. AvatarDarryl

    Good day Atty,
    I am an Australian citizen. In 2012, I made a comment on facebook about a Filipino using drugs. I was in Perth, Australia at the time I made the comment. I am often in the Philippines and he has filed a case against me in the Mandaluyung RTC. The case has dragged out until now. My Atty. filed a motion for the case to be dismissed foe a number of reasons, most relevant being that I was in Australia when I posted the comment. The motion was denied. Can a foreigner be charged with libel, if he makes a libelous comment on facebook in another country?

  6. Avataremil

    greetings po. if you don’t mind, ask ko lang po sana if is it possible to file a case in a court in Manila over a person in Visayas? maraming salamat po.

  7. AvatarElna

    A female friend whos married to a foriegner had done libel or made some fabricated stories destroying the reputation and character of my daughter . That resulted to accusation and threatning of my daughter and me as mother for letting my daughter doing dishonestly ..and that my husband have believe and acuse and threaten my daughter and me.


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