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SC: Immunity for ADB officers limited to official acts

The Supreme Court (SC) has ruled that the immunity granted to officials and personnel of international organizations, such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB), is only applicable to acts done in their official capacities.

“Personnel of international organizations are entitled to immunity only for acts performed in their official capacity,” the SC said in a statement.

“They enjoy functional immunity, or only that [is] necessary to exercise the organization's functions and fulfill its purposes. Immunity does not apply to their private acts, crimes, and those acts contrary to law,” it added.

The SC made the statement as it affirmed the dismissal of the complaint for damages filed by Matthew Westfall against Maria Carmela Locsin and others who were members of the ADB screening committee.

Westfall applied for a position in the ADB but was not selected.

He later claimed that the statements made in the Panel Notes and Interview Report by the screening committee were defamatory and damaging to his professional reputation, prompting him to file a complaint for damages before the Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC).

The RTC dismissed his complaint on the ground that Locsin and others enjoyed functional immunity. This was affirmed by the Court of Appeals (CA).

In April 2022, the SC remanded the case to the RTC for further proceedings, as courts must first conduct a factual inquiry to determine if an act was done in the performance of official duties, something it said the CA and the RTC did not thoroughly do.

Locsin then filed a petition before the SC, arguing that there was no need to send the case back to the RTC.

The SC partially granted the petition.

“The Court ruled that the complaint for damages against them must be dismissed. It held that the subject acts were done in their official capacities and thus covered by the functional immunity granted to them as ADB officials,” it said.

The SC also said that courts should assess the application of immunity on a case-by-case basis. — VBL, GMA Integrated News