Saturday, February 25, 2012

US vs. Look Chaw, December 16, 1911

Facts: Several persons (including the internal-revenue agent of Cebu) went aboard the steamship Erroll to inspect and search its cargo. Note that steamship Erroll is of English nationality and it came from HongKong bound for Mexico via the call ports of Manila and Cebu. These persons found sacks of opium (exhibits A, B, and C.) 

The complaint filed against defendant stated that defendant “carried, kept, possessed, and had in his possession and control 96 kg of opium” and that he “he had been surprised in the act of selling P1,000 worth prepared opium.” However, since there was more than 1 crime charged, the fiscal just filed for “unlawful possession of opium” 

Defense admitted that Exhibits A, B, and C, contained opium and were found on board Erroll and that it was true that the defendant stated that these sacks of opium were his and that he had them in his possession. (There was an exhibit D but exhibit D was the opium bought from the defendant.) 

According to the testimony of the internal-revenue, the opium seized in the vessel had been bought by the defendant in HongKong, at P3.00 for each round can and P5.00 for each of the others, for the purpose of selling it, as contraband, in Mexico and Puerto de Vera Cruz; that the vessel arrived at Cebu and on the same day he sold opium. 

Issue: Whether or not the Philippine courts have jurisdiction 

Held: Yes, the Philippine courts have jurisdiction. 

Mere possession of a thing of prohibited use in the Philippine Islands, aboard a foreign vessel in transit, in any of their ports, does not, as a general rule, constitute a crime triable by the courts of the Philippines. However, in the case at bar, a can of opium is landed from the vessel upon Philippine soil, thus committing an open violation of the Philippine laws. 

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