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Human Rights Law Case Digest: Mejoff v. Director of Prisons (1951)

G.R. No. L-4254             September 26, 1951

Lessons Applicable:  characteristics of human rights, constitutional guarantee that no person shall be deprived of liberty without due process of law,

Laws Applicable: Bill of Rights


  • Boris Mejoff, an alien of Russian descent who was brought to this country from Shanghai as a secret operative by the Japanese forces during the latter's regime in these Islands. (The petitioner's entry into the Philippines was not unlawful; he was brought by the armed and belligerent forces of a de facto government whose decrees were law furing the occupation.)
  • He was arrested on March 18, 1948 as a Japanese spy, by U. S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps. and later there was an order for his release.  
  • But on April 5, 1948, the Board of Commissioners of Immigration declared that Mejoff had entered the Philippines illegally in 1944 and ordered that he be deported on the first available transportation to Russia. 
  • He was transferred to Cebu Provincial Jail and then Bilibid Prison at Muntinlupa on October, 1948.
  • He then filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus on the basis that too long a detention may justify the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus - denied 
  • Over two years having elapsed since the decision aforesaid was promulgated, the Government has not found way and means of removing the petitioner out of the country, and none are in sight, although it should be said in justice to the deportation authorities, it was through no fault of theirs that no ship or country would take the petitioner.
  • This is his 2nd petition for writ of habeas corpus
ISSUE: W/N the writ of habeas corpus should be granted since he was detained longer than a reasonable time

HELD: YES. writ will issue commanding the respondents to release the petitioner from custody upon these terms: The petitioner shall be placed under the surveillance of the immigration authorities or their agents in such form and manner as may be deemed adequate to insure that he keep peace and be available when the Government is ready to deport him. The surveillance shall be reasonable and the question of reasonableness shall be submitted to this Court or to the Court of First Instance of Manila for decision in case of abuse. He shall also put up a bond for the above purpose in the amount of P5,000 with sufficient surety or sureties, which bond the Commissioner of Immigration is authorized to exact by section 40 of Commonwealth Act No. 613.
  • Aliens illegally staying in the Philippines have no right of asylum therein even if they are "stateless," which the petitioner claims to be.
  • The protection against deprivation of liberty without due process of law and except for crimes committed against the laws of the land is not limited to Philippine citizens but extends to all residents, except enemy aliens, regardless of nationality. 
    • Moreover, by its Constitution (Art. II, Sec. 3) the Philippines "adopts the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of Nation." And in a resolution entitled "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" and approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations of which the Philippines is a member, at its plenary meeting on December 10, 1948, the right to life and liberty and all other fundamental rights as applied to all human beings were proclaimed. It was there resolved that "All human beings are born free and equal in degree and rights" (Art. 1); that "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedom set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, nationality or social origin, property, birth, or other status" (Art. 2): that "Every one has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the Constitution or by law" (Art. 8); that "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile" (Art. 9); etc.
  • petitioner's unduly prolonged detention would be unwarranted by law and the Constitution, if the only purpose of the detention be to eliminate a danger that is by no means actual, present, or uncontrollable
  •  Imprisonment to protect society from predicted but unconsummated offenses is so unprecedented in this country and so fraught with danger of excesses and injustice that I am loath to resort it, even as a discretionary judicial technique to supplement conviction of such offenses as those of which defendants stand convicted.
  • If that case is not comparable with ours on the issues presented, its underlying principle is of universal application.
  • As already noted, not only are there no charges pending against the petitioner, but the prospects of bringing any against him are slim and remote.