Law School

People v. Gozo G.R. No. L-36409 October 26, 1973 Sovereignty, National Territory


Loreta Gozo bought a house and lot located inside the United States Naval Reservation within the territorial jurisdiction of Olongapo City. She demolished the house and built another one in its place, without a building permit, because she was told by an assistant in the City Mayor’s office, and by her neighbors in the area, that such building permit was not necessary for the construction of the house. 

A building and lot inspector of the City Engineer’s Office, with Patrolman Macahilas of the Olongapo City police force, apprehended four carpenters working on the house of the accused and they brought the carpenters to the Olongapo City police headquarters for interrogation. 

After due investigation, Loreta Gozo was charged with violation of Municipal Ordinance No. 14, S. of 1964 and found guilty thereof, and was sentenced to an imprisonment of one month as well as to pay the costs. The Court of Instance of Zambales, on appeal, found her guilty but would sentence her merely to pay a fine of P200.00 and to demolish the house thus erected. 

Before the CA, she questioned the validity of such an ordinance on constitutional ground or at the very least its applicability to her in view of the location of her dwelling within the naval base. 

Accordingly, the CA certified the case to this Court.


Whether or not accused-appellant is correct in denying the applicability of the ordinance to her, on the pretext that her house was constructed within the naval base leased to the American armed forces.


Two leading cases may be cited to show how offensive is such thinking to the juristic concept of sovereignty, People v. Acierto,  and Reagan v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue.  

As set forth in Acierto: “By the Agreement, it should be noted, the Philippine Government merely consents that the United States exercise jurisdiction in certain cases. The consent was given purely as a matter of comity, courtesy, or expediency. The Philippine Government has not abdicated its sovereignty over the bases as part of the Philippine territory or divested itself completely of jurisdiction over offenses committed therein. 

Under the terms of the treaty, the United States Government has prior or preferential but not exclusive jurisdiction of such offenses. The Philippine Government retains not only jurisdictional rights not granted, but also all such ceded rights as the United States Military authorities for reasons of their own decline to make use of. 

The first proposition is implied from the fact of Philippine sovereignty over the bases; the second from the express provisions of the treaty.”  

Thus, in the case of Raegan: “Nothing is better settled than that the Philippines being independent and sovereign, its authority may be exercised over its entire domain. There is no portion thereof that is beyond its power. Within its limits, its decrees are supreme, its commands paramount. Its laws govern therein, and everyone to whom it applies must submit to its terms. That is the extent of its jurisdiction, both territorial and personal. Necessarily, likewise, it has to be exclusive. If it were not thus, there is a diminution of sovereignty.”  

The words employed follow: “Its laws may as to some persons found within its territory no longer control. Nor does the matter end there. It is not precluded from allowing another power to participate in the exercise of jurisdictional right over certain portions of its territory. 

If it does so, it by no means follows that such areas become impressed with an alien character. They retain their status as native soil. They are still subject to its authority. Its jurisdiction may be diminished, but it does not disappear. So it is with the bases under lease to the American armed forces by virtue of the military bases agreement of 1947. They are not and cannot be foreign territory.”

Within the limits of its territory, whatever statutory powers are vested upon it may be validly exercised. Any residual authority and therein conferred, whether expressly or impliedly, belongs to the national government, not to an alien country. 

The rights granted to the United States by the treaty insure solely to that country and can not be raised by the offender.”  

The appealed decision is affirmed insofar as it found the accused, Loreta Gozo, guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

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