Criminal Law

People v. Lol-lo and Saraw G.R. No. 17958 February 27, 1922 Piracy, Jurisdiction


On or about June 30, 1920, two boats left Matuta, a Dutch possession. In the second boat were eleven men, women, and children, all subjects of Holland. 

At about 7 o’clock in the evening, between the Islands of Buang and Bukid in the Dutch East Indies, the said boat was surrounded by six vintas manned by twenty-four Moros, all armed. 

The Moros first asked for food, but once on the Dutch boat, they took all of the cargo, attacked some of the men, and brutally violated two of the women. 

Holes were made in the boat in order to submerge it.

Two of the Moros were Lol-lo, who also raped one of the women, and Saraw. 

Lol-lo and Saraw later returned to their home in South Ubian, Tawi-Tawi,  where they were arrested and charged in the Court of First Instance of Sulu with the crime of piracy. 

The trial court rendered judgment finding the two defendants guilty and sentencing each of them to life imprisonment.

A demurrer was interposed by counsel de officio for the Moros, on the grounds that the offense charged was not within the jurisdiction of the Court of First Instance, nor of any court of the Philippine Islands, and that the facts did not constitute a public offense, under the laws in force in the Philippine Islands.


Whether or not Philippine Courts has jurisdiction over the crime?


All of the elements of the crime of piracy are present. Piracy is robbery or forcible depredation on the high seas, without lawful authority and done animo furandi (intention to steal), and in the spirit and intention of universal hostility.

Pirates are in law hostes humani generis (“enemy of mankind”). Piracy is a crime not against any particular state but against all mankind. It may be punished in the competent tribunal of any country where the offender may be found or into which he may be carried. 

The jurisdiction of piracy unlike all other crimes has no territorial limits. As it is against all so may it be punished by all. Nor does it matter that the crime was committed within the jurisdictional 3-mile limit of a foreign state, “for those limits, though neutral to war, are not neutral to crimes.” (U.S. vs. Furlong [1820], 5 Wheat., 184.)

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