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FIRST DIVISION

AMADO TAOPA, G.R. No. 184098


Petitioner,
Present:
PUNO, C.J., Chairperson,
CARPIO,
- v e r s u s - CORONA,
AZCUNA and
TINGA, JJ.

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES,


Respondent. Promulgated:
November 25, 2008

x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

RESOLUTION

CORONA, J.:

On April 2, 1996, the Community Environment and Natural Resources


Office of Virac, Catanduanes seized a truck loaded with illegally-cut lumber and
arrested its driver, Placido Cuison. The lumber was covered with bundles of abaca
fiber to prevent detection. On investigation, Cuison pointed to petitioner Amado
Taopa and a certain Rufino Ogalesco as the owners of the seized lumber.
Taopa, Ogalesco and Cuison were thereafter charged with violating Section
68 of Presidential Decree (PD) No. 705,[1] as amended, in the Regional Trial Court
(RTC) of Virac, Catanduanes. The information against them read:
That on or about the 2nd day of April 1996 at around 9:00 oclock in the
morning at Barangay Capilihan, Municipality of Virac, Province of Catanduanes,
Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named
accused, with intent to possess, conspiring, confederating and helping one
another, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully, criminally possess, transport in
a truck bearing Plate No. EAS 839 and have in their control forest products,
particularly one hundred thirteen (113) pieces of lumber of Philippine Mahogany
Group and Apitong species with an aggregate net volume of One Thousand Six
Hundred Eighty Four (1,684) board feet with an approximate value of Ninety-
Nine Thousand One Hundred Twenty (Php99,120.00) Pesos, Philippine Currency,
without any authority and/or legal documents as required under existing forest
laws and regulations, prejudicial to the public interest.
ACTS CONTRARY TO LAW.[2]

Taopa, Ogalesco and Cuison pleaded not guilty on arraignment. After trial
on the merits, the RTC found them guilty as charged beyond reasonable doubt.[3]
Only Taopa and Cuison appealed the RTC decision to the Court of Appeals (CA).
Cuison was acquitted but Taopas conviction was affirmed.[4] The dispositive
portion of the CA decision read:

WHEREFORE, the Decision appealed from is REVERSED with respect to


accused-appellant Placido Cuison, who is ACQUITTED of the crime charged on
reasonable doubt, and MODIFIED with respect to accused-appellants Amado
Taopa and Rufino Ogalesco by reducing the penalty imposed on them to four (4)
years, nine (9) months and eleven (11) days of prision correccional, as minimum,
to ten (10) years of prision mayor, as maximum.

SO ORDERED.[5]

In this petition,[6] Taopa seeks his acquittal from the charges against him. He
alleges that the prosecution failed to prove that he was one of the owners of the
seized lumber as he was not in the truck when the lumber was seized.
We deny the petition.

Both the RTC and the CA gave scant consideration to Taopas alibi because
Cuisons testimony proved Taopas active participation in the transport of the seized
lumber. In particular, the RTC and the CA found that the truck was loaded with the
cargo in front of Taopas house and that Taopa and Ogalesco were accompanying
the truck driven by Cuison up to where the truck and lumber were seized. These
facts proved Taopas (and Ogalescos) exercise of dominion and control over the
lumber loaded in the truck. The acts of Taopa (and of his co-accused Ogalesco)
constituted possession of timber or other forest products without the required legal
documents. Moreover, the fact that Taopa and Ogalesco ran away at the mere sight
of the police was likewise largely indicative of guilt. We are thus convinced that
Taopa and Ogalesco were owners of the seized lumber.

However, we disagree with both the RTC and CA as to the penalty imposed
on Taopa.
Section 68 of PD 705, as amended,[7] refers to Articles 309 and 310 of the
Revised Penal Code (RPC) for the penalties to be imposed on violators. Violation
of Section 68 of PD 705, as amended, is punished as qualified theft.[8] The law
treats cutting, gathering, collecting and possessing timber or other forest products
without license as an offense as grave as and equivalent to the felony of qualified
theft.

Articles 309 and 310 read:

Art. 309. Penalties. Any person guilty of theft shall be punished by:

1. The penalty of prision mayor in its minimum and medium periods, if


the value of the thing stolen is more 12,000 pesos but does not exceed
22,000 pesos; but if the value of the thing stolen exceeds the latter
amount, the penalty shall be the maximum period of the one
prescribed in this paragraph, and one year for each additional ten
thousand pesos, but the total of the penalty which may be imposed
shall not exceed twenty years. In such cases, and in connection with
the accessory penalties which may be imposed and for the purpose of
the other provisions of this Code, the penalty shall be termed prision
mayor or reclusion temporal, as the case may be. (emphasis supplied)

2. xxx

Art. 310. Qualified theft. The crime of theft shall be punished by the
penalties next higher by two degrees than those respectively specified in the
next preceding articles xxx (emphasis supplied).

The actual market value of the 113 pieces of seized lumber


was P67,630.[9] Following Article 310 in relation to Article 309, the imposable
penalty should be reclusion temporal in its medium and maximum periods or a
period ranging from 14 years, eight months and one day to 20 years plus an
additional period of four years for the excess of P47,630.
The minimum term of the indeterminate sentence[10] imposable on Taopa
shall be the penalty next lower to that prescribed in the RPC. In this case, the
minimum term shall be anywhere between 10 years and one day to 14 years and
eight months or prision mayor in its maximum period to reclusion temporal in its
minimum period.
The maximum term shall be the sum of the additional four years and the
medium period[11] of reclusion temporal in its medium and maximum periods or 16
years, five months and 11 days to 18 years, two months and 21 days of reclusion
temporal. The maximum term therefore may be anywhere between 16 years, five
months and 11 days of reclusion temporal to 22 years, two months and 21 days
of reclusion perpetua.

WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DENIED. The January 31, 2008


decision and July 28, 2008 resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No.
30380 are AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. Petitioner Amado Taopa is
hereby found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt for violation of Section 68 of PD
No. 705, as amended, and sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of
imprisonment from 10 years and one day of prision mayor, as minimum, to 20
years of reclusion temporal as maximum, with the accessory penalties provided for
by law.

SO ORDERED.

RENATO C. CORONA
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

REYNATO S. PUNO
Chief Justice
Chairperson

ANTONIO T. CARPIO ADOLFO S. AZCUNA


Associate Justice Associate Justice
DANTE O. TINGA
Associate Justice

CERTIFICATION

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, I certify that the
conclusions in the above resolution had been reached in consultation before the
case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.

REYNATO S. PUNO
Chief Justice

As replacement of Justice Teresita J. Leonardo-De Castro who is on official leave per Special Order No. 539.
[1]
Revised Forestry Code.
[2]
Rollo, p. 27.
[3]
Rollo, pp. 30-31. The dispositive portion of the RTC decision read:

WHEREFORE, In view of the foregoing, this Court finds:

Accused Amado Taopa and Rufino Ogalesco GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt
as principal of the crime charged and applying Articles 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal
Code and the Indeterminate Sentence Law, hereby sentences both of them to suffer
imprisonment from ten (10) years and one (1) day as minimum to twenty (20) years as
maximum.

Accused Placido Cuison GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt as accessory to the


crime by transporting the lumber materials in his truck covered by bundles of abaca fiber,
which is akin to concealing the body of the crime in order to prevent its discovery, and
hereby sentences him to suffer an imprisonment, the maximum period of which is two (2)
degrees lower than that of the principal and the minimum period of which is one (1)
degree lower, applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, hence, from two (2) years four
(4) months and one (1) day as minimum to eight (8) years eight (8) months and one (1)
day as maximum.

The lumber materials are likewise confiscated in favor of the government to be


disposed of through public auction sale to be conducted by the Clerk of Court and Ex-
Officio Provincial Sheriff of the Regional Trial Court of Virac, Catanduanes. The truck,
which was included in the Seizure Receipt is ordered released to its owner inasmuch as
the evidence proved that it was hired purposely for the transport of abaca fibers and not
lumber materials.

SO ORDERED.
[4]
Despite Ogalescos failure to appeal, the CA held that the modification of the penalty will benefit him pursuant to
Section 11 (a), Rule 122 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure. Rollo, p. 14.
[5]
Decision dated January 31, 2008 in CA-G.R. CR No. 30380. Penned by Associate Justice Marina L. Buzon and
concurred in by Associate Justices Rosmari D. Carandang and Mariflor P. Punzalan Castillo of the Third
Division of the Court of Appeals. Rollo, pp. 26-40. The motion for reconsideration thereto was denied in a
Resolution dated July 28, 2008. Rollo, pp. 56-58.
[6]
Under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.
[7]
Section 68 provides: Sec. 68. Cutting, Gathering and/or Collecting Timber, or Other Forest Products without
License. Any person who shall xxx possess timber or other forest products without the legal documents as
required under existing forest laws and regulations shall be punished with the penalties imposed under
Articles 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code.
[8]
Merida v. People, G.R. No. 158182, 12 June 2008 citing People v. Dator, 398 Phil. 109, 124 (2000).
[9]
The CA did not contest the correctness of the value as stated in the information. However, the CA clarified that
the value of the lumber pegged at P99,120 was inclusive of surcharges and forest charges. The CA thus
provided a breakdown of the values for a more correct computation of the penalties to be imposed on the
accused. The relevant portion of the CA decision reads: The Statement of Lumber Apprehended, which was
prepared by Forest Ranger Jose San Roque, states that the market value of the 113 pieces of lumber is
only P67,630. It appears that that the amount of P99,120 was arrived at by adding regular forest charges in
the amount of P7,940 and 300% surcharges in the amount of P23,820 to the market value of the lumber
pegged at P67,[63]0.Rollo, p. 39.
[10]
Section 1 of the Indeterminate Sentence Law (RA 4103) provides: SECTION 1. Hereafter, in imposing a prison
sentence for an offense punished by the Revised Penal Code, or its amendments, the court shall sentence
the accused to an indeterminate sentence the maximum term of which shall be that which, in view of the
attending circumstances, could be properly imposed under the rules of the said Code, and the minimum
which shall be within the range of the penalty next lower to that prescribed by the Code for the offense. xxx
[11]
The medium period is imposed following Article 64 of the RPC which states: When there is neither aggravating
nor mitigating circumstances, they shall impose the penalty prescribed by law in its medium period.
Although PD No. 705 is a special law, the penalties therein were taken from the RPC. Hence, the rules in
the RPC for graduating by degrees or determining the period should be applied. This is pursuant to People
v. Simon, G.R. No. 93028, 29 July 1994, 234 SCRA 555.

SECOND DIVISION

GALO MONGE, G.R. No. 170308


Petitioner,
Present:

CARPIO,
Acting Chairperson,
- versus - CARPIO MORALES,
AZCUNA,*
TINGA, and
VELASCO, JR., JJ.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES,
Respondent. Promulgated:
March 7, 2008

x ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

RESOLUTION

TINGA, J.:

This is a Petition for Review[1] under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court


whereby petitioner Galo Monge (petitioner) assails the Decision[2] of the Court of
Appeals dated 28 June 2005 which affirmed his conviction as well as the discharge
of accused Edgar Potencio (Potencio) as a state witness.

The factual antecedents follow. On 20 July 1994, petitioner


and Potencio were found by barangay tanods Serdan and Molina in possession of
and transporting three (3) pieces of mahogany lumber in Barangay Santo
Domingo, Iriga City. Right there and then, the tanods demanded that they be
shown the requisite permit and/or authority from the Department of Environment
and Natural Resources (DENR) but neither petitioner nor Potencio was able to
produce any.[3] Petitioner fled the scene in that instant whereas Potencio was
brought to the police station for interrogation, and thereafter, to the DENR-
Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (DENR-CENRO).[4] The
DENR-CENRO issued a seizure receipt for the three pieces of lumber indicating
that the items, totaling 77 board feet of mahogany valued at P1,925.00, had been
seized from Potencio.[5] Later on, petitioner was arrested,
but Potencios whereabouts had been unknown since the time of the seizure[6] until
he surfaced on 3 January 1998.[7]

An information was filed with the Regional Trial Court of Iriga City, Branch 35
charging petitioner and Potencio with violation of Section 68[8] of Presidential
Decree (P.D.) No. 705,[9] as amended by Executive Order (E.O.) No. 277, series of
1997. The inculpatory portion of the information reads:
That on or about the 20th day of [July 1994], at about 9:30 oclock in the
morning, in Barangay Sto. Domingo, Iriga City, Philippines and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring,
confederating with each other, without any authority of law, nor armed with
necessary permit/license or other documents, with intent to gain, did then and
there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, transport and have in their
possession three (3) pieces of Mahogany of assorted [dimension] with a[n]
appropriate volume of seventy-seven (77) board feet or point eighteen (0.18)
cubic meter with a total market value of P1,925.00, Philippine currency, to the
damage and prejudice of the DENR in the aforesaid amount.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[10]

At the 26 November 1996 arraignment, petitioner entered a negative plea.[11]

Trial ensued. On 17 June 1997, Serdan testified on the circumstances of the


apprehension but for failing to appear in court for cross examination, his testimony
was stricken out.[12] On 16 January 1998, Potencio was discharged to be used as a
state witness on motion of the prosecutor.[13] Accordingly, he testified on the
circumstances of the arrest but claimed that for a promised fee he was merely
requested by petitioner, the owner of the log, to assist him in hauling the same
down from the mountain. Potenciostestimony was materially corroborated by
Molina.[14] Petitioner did not contest the allegations, except that it was not he
but Potencio who owned the lumber. He lamented that contrary to
what Potencio had stated in court, it was the latter who hired him to bring the log
from the site to the sawmill where the same was to be sawn into pieces.[15]

The trial court found petitioner guilty as charged. Petitioner was imposed nine (9)
years, four (4) months and one (1) day to ten (10) years and eight (8) months
of prision mayor in its medium and maximum periods and ordered to pay the
costs.[16]
Aggrieved, petitioner elevated the case to the Court of Appeals where he
challenged the discharge of Potencio as a state witness on the ground that the latter
was not the least guilty of the offense and that there was no absolute necessity for
his testimony.[17] The appellate court dismissed this challenge and affirmed the
findings of the trial court. However, it modified the penalty to an indeterminate
prison sentence of six (6) years of prision correccional as minimum to ten (10)
years and eight (8) months of prisionmayor as maximum.[18] His motion for
reconsideration was denied, hence the present appeal whereby petitioner reiterates
his challenge against the discharge of Potencio.

The petition is utterly unmeritorious.

Petitioner and Potencio were caught in flagrante delicto transporting, and


thus in possession of, processed mahogany lumber without proper authority from
the DENR. Petitioner has never denied this fact. But in his attempt to exonerate
himself from liability, he claims that it was Potencio, the owner of the lumber, who
requested his assistance in hauling the log down from the mountain and in
transporting the same to the sawmill for processing. The contention is unavailing.

Section 68 of P.D. No. 705, as amended by E.O. No. 277,


criminalizes two distinct and separate offenses, namely: (a) the cutting, gathering,
collecting and removing of timber or other forest products from
any forest land, or timber from alienable or disposable public land, or from private
land without any authority; and (b) the possession of timber or other forest
products without the legal documents required under existing laws and
regulations.[19] DENR Administrative Order No. 59
series of 1993 specifies the documents required for the transport of timber and
other forest products. Section 3 thereof materially requires that the transport of
lumber be accompanied by a certificate of lumber origin duly issued by the DENR-
CENRO. In the first offense, the legality of the acts of cutting, gathering, collecting
or removing timber or other forest products may be proven by the authorization
duly issued by the DENR. In the second offense, however, it is immaterial whether
or not the cutting, gathering, collecting and removal of forest products are legal
precisely because mere possession of forest products without the requisite
documents consummates the crime.[20]

It is thus clear that the fact of possession by petitioner and Potencio of the
subject mahogany lumber and their subsequent failure to produce the requisite
legal documents, taken together, has already given rise to criminal liability under
Section 68 of P.D. No. 705, particularly the second act punished thereunder. The
direct and affirmative testimony of Molina and Potencio as a state witness on the
circumstances surrounding the apprehension well establishes petitioners
liability. Petitioner cannot take refuge in his denial of ownership over
the pieces of lumber found in his possession nor in his claim that his help was
merely solicited by Potencioto provide the latter assistance in transporting the said
lumber. P.D. No. 705 is a special penal statute that punishes acts
essentially malum prohibitum. As such, in prosecutions
under its provisions, claims of good faith are by no means reliable as defenses
because the offense is complete and criminal liability attaches once the prohibited
acts are committed.[21] In other words, mere possession of timber or other forest
products without the proper legal documents, even absent malice or criminal intent,
is illegal.[22] It would therefore make no difference at all whether it was petitioner
himself or Potencio who owned the subject pieces of lumber.

Considering the overwhelming body of evidence pointing to nothing less


than petitioners guilt of the offense charged, there is no cogent reason to reverse
his conviction.

Petitioners challenge against Potencios discharge as a state witness must also


fail. Not a few cases established the doctrine that the discharge of an accused so he
may turn state witness is left to the

exercise of the trial courts sound discretion[23] limited only by


the requirements set forth in Section 17,[24] Rule 119 of the Rules of Court. Thus,
whether the accused offered to be discharged appears to be the least guilty and
whether there is objectively an absolute necessity for his testimony are questions
that lie within the domain of the trial court, it being competent to resolve issues of
fact. The discretionary judgment of the trial court with respect this highly factual
issue is not to be interfered with by the appellate courts except in case of grave
abuse of discretion.[25] No such grave abuse is present in this case. Suffice it to say
that issues relative to the discharge of an accused must be raised in the trial court
as they cannot be addressed for the first time on appeal.[26]

Moreover and more importantly, an order discharging an accused


from the information in order that he may testify for the prosecution has the effect
of an acquittal.[27] Once the discharge is ordered by the trial court, any future
development showing that any or all of the conditions provided in Section 17, Rule
119 have not actually been fulfilled will not affect the legal consequence of an
acquittal.[28] Any witting or unwitting error of the prosecution, therefore, in moving
for the discharge and of the court in granting the motionno question of jurisdiction
being involvedwill not deprive the discharged accused of the benefit of acquittal
and of his right against double jeopardy. A contrary rule would certainly be unfair
to the discharged accused because he would then be faulted for a failure
attributable to the prosecutor. It is inconceivable that the rule has adopted the
abhorrent legal policy of placing the fate of the discharged accused at the mercy of
anyone who may handle the prosecution.[29] Indeed, the only instance where the
testimony of a discharged accused may be disregarded is when he deliberately fails
to testify truthfully in court in accordance with his commitment, [30] as provided for
in Section 18, Rule 119. Potencio lived up to his commitment and for that reason,
petitioners challenge against his discharge must be dismissed.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED and the assailed decision of the


Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

DANTE O. TINGA Associate


Justice

WE CONCUR:

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Acting Chairperson

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES ADOLFO S. AZCUNA


Associate Justice Associate Justice
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
Associate Justice

ATTESTATION

I attest that the conclusions in the above Resolution had been reached in
consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the
Courts Division.

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Acting Chairperson

CERTIFICATION

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, and the Acting
Division Chairpersons Attestation, it is hereby certified that the conclusions
in the above Resolution had been reached in consultation before the case was
assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.

REYNATO S. PUNO
Chief Justice

*
As replacement of Justice Leonardo A. Quisumbing who is on official leave per Administrative Circular
No. 84-2007.
[1]
Rollo, pp. 10-25.

[2]
Docketed as CA-G.R. CR No. 25249. The decision was penned by Associate
Justice Edgardo F. Sundiam and concurred in by Associate Justices Renato C. Dacudao and Japar B. Dimaampao,
id. at 65-77.
[3]
TSN, 23 July 1999, pp. 4-5, 12-14.
[4]
Rollo, p. 67.
[5]
Records, p. 157.
[6]
The warrant of arrest against Potencio dated 10 March 1997 was returned unserved. The sheriffs return
stated that Potencio has escaped from custody and was in Manila,id. at 48.
[7]
TSN, 30 January 1998, p. 16.

[8]
SEC. 68. Cutting, gathering and/or collecting timber or other products without license Any person who
shall cut, gather, collect or remove timber or other forest products from any forest land, or timber from alienable or
disposable public land or from private land whose title has no limitation on the disposition of forest products found
therein, without any authority under a license agreement, lease license or permit shall be punished with the penalty
imposed under Arts. 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code : Provided, That in the case of partnership, association
or corporation, the officers who ordered the cutting, gathering or collecting shall be liable, and if such officers are
aliens, they shall in addition to the penalty, be deported without further proceedings on the part of the Commission
on Immigration and Deportation.

The Court shall further order the confiscation in favor of the government of the timber or forest products so
cut, gathered, collected or removed as well as the machinery, equipment, implements and tools used therein and the
forfeiture of his improvements in the area: Provided, That the timber or forest products cut, gathered, collected or
removed from a license area shall be delivered to the licensee, lessee or permitee in whose area the forest products
were cut, gathered, collected or removed, free from claims of the illegal cutter, but subject to the payment of the
corresponding forest charges. Should the licensee refuse to accept the products, the same may be confiscated in
favor of the government to be disposed in accordance with law, regulation or policy on the matter.
[9]
REVISING PRESIDENTIAL DECREE NO. 389, OTHERWISE KNOWN AS THE FORESTRY
REFORM CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES.
[10]
Records, p. 1.

[11]
Id. at 24-25. The decision of the Court of Appeals stated that accused Edgar Potencio had been
arraigned, contrary to what is kept in the records as the Certificate of Arraignment and the Order of Arraignment
indicate that only petitioner Galo Monge had been arraigned.
[12]
Id. at 215.
[13]
Id. at 76.
[14]
Id. at 215-217.
[15]
Id. at 217-218.
[16]
Id. at 220-221.
[17]
CA rollo, p. 40.
[18]
Id. at 108.

[19]
People v. Que, 333 Phil. 582, 594 (1996).
[20]
Id.

[21]
People v. Dator, 398 Phil. 109, 121 (2000).
[22]
Id.; Tan v. People, 352 Phil. 724, 738 (1998); People v. Que, 333 Phil. 582, 594 (1996).
[23]
Yu v. Presiding Judge, RTC of Tagaytay City, Br. 18, G.R. No. 142848, 30 June 2006, 494 SCRA 101,
116; People v. Armada, Jr., G.R. No. 100592, 26 August 1993, 225 SCRA 644, 647; Flores v. Sandiganbayan, 209
Phil. 89, 84 (1983).
[24]
Sec. 17. Discharge of accused to be state witness. When two or more persons are jointly charged with
the commission of any offense, upon motion of the prosecution before resting its case, the court may direct one or
more of the accused to be discharged with their consent so that they may be witnesses for the state when, after
requiring the prosecution to present evidence and the sworn statement of each proposed state witness at a hearing in
support of the discharge, the court is satisfied that: (a) There is absolute necessity for the testimony of the accused
whose discharge is requested; (b) There is no other direct evidence available for the proper prosecution of the
offense committed, except the testimony of said accused; (c) The testimony of said accused can be substantially
corroborated in its material points; (d) Said accused does not appear to be the most guilty; and (e) Said accused has
not at any time been convicted of any offense involving moral turpitude.

Evidence adduced in support of the discharge shall automatically form part of the trial. If the court denies
the motion for discharge of the accused as state witness, his sworn statement shall be inadmissible in evidence.

[25]
Yu v. The Honorable Presiding Judge, supra note 23, 116; People v. Sison, 371 Phil. 713, 724 (1999).
[26]
People v. Sison, supra citing U.S. v. Inductivo, 40 Phil 84 (1919).
[27]
RULES OF COURT, Rule 119, Sec. 18 states:

Sec. 18. Discharge of accused operates as acquittal.The order indicated in the preceding section shall
amount to an acquittal of the discharged accused and shall be a bar to future prosecution for the same offense, unless
the accused fails or refuses to testify against his co-accused in accordance with his sworn statement constituting the
basis for his discharge.
[28]
Rosales v. Court of Appeals, G.R. Nos. 80418-19, 23 October 1992, 215 SCRA 102, 108.
[29]
People v. Mendiola, 82 Phil. 740, 746 (1949).
[30]
Bogo-Medellin Milling Co., Inc. v. Son, G.R. No. 80268, 27 May 1992, 209 SCRA 329; People
v. Tabayoyong, No. L-31084, 29 May 1981, 104 SCRA 724, 739; United States v. De Guzman, 30 Phil. 416, 425
(1915).

SECOND DIVISION
[G.R. No. 131270. March 17, 2000]

PERFECTO PALLADA, petitioner, vs. PEOPLE OF THE


PHILIPPINES, respondent. Spped

DECISION

MENDOZA, J.:

This is a petition for review of the decision[1] of the Court of Appeals affirming petitioner's
conviction of illegal possession of lumber in violation of 68[2] of the Revised Forestry
Code[3] (P.D. No. 705, as amended) by the Regional Trial Court, Branch 8, Malaybalay,
Bukidnon.

The facts are as follows:

Sometime in the latter part of 1992, the Department of Environment and Natural
Resources (DENR) office in Bukidnon received reports that illegally cut lumber was
being delivered to the warehouse of the Valencia Golden Harvest Corporation in
Valencia, Bukidnon. The company is engaged in rice milling and trading.

DENR officers, assisted by elements of the Philippine National Police, raided the
company's warehouse in Poblacion, Valencia on the strength of a warrant issued by the
Regional Trial Court, Branch 8, Malaybalay, Bukidnon and found a large stockpile of
lumber of varying sizes cut by a chain saw. As proof that the company had acquired
the lumber by purchase, petitioner produced two receipts issued by R.L. Rivero
Lumberyard of Maramag, Bukidnon, dated March 6 and 17, 1992. The DENR officers
did not, however, give credit to the receipts considering that R. L. Rivero Lumberyard's
permit to operate had long been suspended. What is more, the pieces of lumber were
cut by chain saw and thus could not have come from a licensed sawmill operator. Jo spped

The team made an inventory of the seized lumber which, all in all, constituted 29,299.25
board feet, worth P488,334.45 in total. The following day, September 29, 1992, the first
batch of lumber, consisting of 162 pieces measuring 1,954.66 board feet, was taken
and impounded at the FORE stockyard in Sumpong, Malaybalay, Bukidnon. The
seizure order[4] was served on petitioner Perfecto Pallada as general manager of the
company, but he refused to acknowledge it.

On October 1, 1992, the raiding team returned for the remaining lumber. Company
president Francisco Tankiko and a certain Isaias Valdehueza, who represented himself
to be a lawyer, asked for a suspension of the operations to enable them to seek a lifting
of the warrant. The motion was filed with the court which issued the warrant but, on
October 5, 1992, the motion was denied.[5] Accordingly, the remaining lumber was
confiscated. By October 9, 1992, all the lumber in the warehouse had been seized. As
before, however, petitioner Pallada refused to sign for the seizure orders issued by the
DENR officers (Exhs. E, F & G).
On February 23, 1993, petitioner, as general manager, together with Noel Sy, as
assistant operations manager, and Francisco Tankiko, as president of the Valencia
Golden Harvest Corporation, and Isaias Valdehueza, were charged with violation of 68
of P.D .No. 705, as amended. The Information alleged:[6]

That on or about the 1st day of October, 1992, and prior thereto at the
Valencia Golden Harvest Corporation Compound, municipality of
Valencia, province of Bukidnon, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of
this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring,
confederating and mutually helping one another, with intent of gain, did
then and there willfully, unlawfully and criminally possess 2,115 pieces [of]
lumber of different dimensions in the total volume of 29,299 .25 board feet
or equivalent to 69.10 cubic meters with an estimated value of FOUR
HUNDRED EIGHTY EIGHT THOUSAND THREE HUNDRED THIRTY
FOUR PESOS AND 45/100 (P488,334.45) Philippine Currency, without
any authority, license or legal documents from the government, to the
damage and prejudice of the government in the amount of P488,334.45.

Contrary to and in violation of Section 68, P.D. 705 as amended by E.O.


277.

As all the accused pleaded not guilty, trial ensued. Then on July 27, 1994, judgment
was rendered as follows:[7]

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered finding accused Perfecto


Pallada and Francisco Tankiko guilty beyond reasonable doubt of having
in their possession timber products worth of P488,334.45 without the legal
documents as charged in the information in violation of Section 68 of
Presidential Decree 705, as amended and are, therefore, each sentenced
to suffer imprisonment of TEN (10) YEARS of prision mayor as minimum
to TWENTY (20) YEARS of Reclusion temporal as maximum. The lumber
subject of the crime are confiscated in favor of the government. Spped jo

Accused Isaias Valdehueza and Noel Sy are ACQUITTED for lack of


evidence against them.

Petitioner and Francisco Tankiko appealed to the Court of Appeals, which, on October
31, 1997, affirmed petitioner's conviction but acquitted Tankiko for lack of proof of his
participation in the purchase or acquisition of the seized lumber.[8]

Hence this petition which raises the following issues:[9]

I. WHETHER OR NOT THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS WAS


CORRECT IN UPHOLDING THE RULING OF THE TRIAL COURT THAT
THE PROSECUTION HAD PROVED BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT
THE GUILT OF THE ACCUSED-PETITIONER PALLADA.
II. WHETHER OR NOT THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS WAS
CORRECT IN UPHOLDING THE DECISION OF THE TRIAL COURT
THAT THE CERTIFICATE OF TIMBER ORIGIN WAS NOT THE
PROPER DOCUMENT TO JUSTIFY PETITIONER'S POSSESSION OF
THE SQUARED TIMBER OR FLITCHES.

III. WHETHER OR NOT THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS WAS


CORRECT IN UPHOLDING THE RULING OF THE TRIAL COURT THAT
THE PRESENCE OF ERASURES IN THE CERTIFICATE OF TIMBER
ORIGIN RENDER THEM VALUELESS AS EVIDENCE.

First. During the trial, the defense presented the following documents, as summarized
by the trial court, to establish that Valencia Golden Harvest Corporation's possession of
the seized lumber was legal:[10]

1. Exh. 6 - Certificate of Timber Origin (CTO for short), dated December


15, 1991, for 56 pieces of flitches equivalent to 12.23 cubic meters,
transported from Bombaran, Lanao del Sur of the Autonomous Region of
Muslim Mindanao. Taken from the forest area of Wahab and H.D.
Pangcoga

Exh. 6-A - Auxiliary InvoiceMiso

Exh. 6-B - Certificate of Transport Agreement (CTA, for short)

Exh. 6-C - Tally Sheet, dated December 14, 1992, for 463 pieces of
lumber equivalent to 5,056.94 board feet

Exh. 6-D - Delivery Receipt, dated December 16, 1991, from WHP
Enterprises of Maguing, Lanao del Sur, to the Corporation for the lumber
mentioned in Exh. "6-C"

Exh. 6-F - Cash Voucher for P58,832.45 in payment to WHP Enterprises,


dated December 16, 1991, for the 5,056.94 board feet of lumber

Exh. 6-D-1 - [C]arbon copy of Exh. "6-D" above

2. Exh. 7 - CTO, (undated), for 961 pieces of log equivalent to 25.4 cubic
meter[s] taken from the forest area of a certain Somira M. Ampuan in
Lama Lico, Bombaran of the ARMM

Exh. 7-A - Auxiliary Invoice

Exh. 7-B - CTA


Exh. 7-C - Tally Sheet, dated February 6, 1992, for 961 pieces of lumber
equal to 10,758.2 board feet

Exh. 7-D - Delivery Receipt to Golden Harvest Corporation issued by SMA


Trading Company, dated February 6, 1992

Exh. 7-E - Official Receipt for environmental fee issued to Somira M.


Ampuan, dated August 9, 1991

Exh. 7-F - Cash Voucher for P126,562.05 issued by the Corporation in


payment to SMA Trading Company for 10,758.02 board feet of lumber,
dated February 6, 1992

3. Exh. 8 - CTO for 678 pieces of chain-sawn lumber with an equivalent


volume of 18.93 cubic meter from the forest area of Wahab Pangcoga and
H.D. Pangcoga, dated February 25, 1992

Exh. 8-A - Auxiliary InvoiceNex old

Exh. 8-B - CTA

Exh. 8-C - Tally Sheet for the 678 pieces of lumber

Exh. 8-D - Delivery Receipt to Golden Harvest Corporation issued by


WHP Enterprises,

Exh. 8-E - Official Receipt for environmental fee

Exh. 8-F - Cash Voucher for P93,614.50 in payment for 8,024.99 board
feet of lumber issued by the Corporation payable to WHP Enterprises

4. Exh. 9 - CTO for 426 pieces of logs (?) with an equivalent volume of
12.24 cubic meters from licensee Somira M. Ampuan of Lama Lico,
Bombaran, Lanao del Sur, consigned to the Corporation, (undated).
Stamped "Release 3/2/92"

Exh. 9-A - Auxiliary Invoice

Exh. 9-B - CTA, dated March 20, 1992

Exh. 9-C - Tally Sheet, dated March 20, 1992

Exh. 9-D - Delivery Receipt issued by SMA Trading Company to the


Corporation, dated March 20, 1992

Exh. 9-E - Official Receipt for environmental fee


Exh. 9-F - Cash Voucher, for P64,299.50 to pay [for] 5,189 board feet of
lumber

Exh. 9-D-1 - Xerox copy of Exh. "9-D"

The trial court acted correctly in not giving credence to the Certificates of Timber Origin
presented by petitioner since the lumber held by the company should be covered by
Certificates of Lumber Origin.[11] For indeed, as BFD Circular No. 10-83[12] states in
pertinent parts: Mani kx

In order to provide an effective mechanism to pinpoint accountability and


responsibility for shipment of lumber . . . and to have uniformity in
documenting the origin thereof, the attached Certificate of Lumber Origin
(CLO) . . . which form[s] part of this circular [is] hereby adopted as
accountable forms for official use by authorized BFD officers. . . .

5. Lumber . . . transported/shipped without the necessary Certificate of


Lumber Origin (CLO) . . . as herein required shall be considered as
proceeding from illegal sources and as such, shall be subject to
confiscation and disposition in accordance with LOI 1020 and BFD
implementing guidelines.

Petitioner contends that the term "timber" includes lumber and, therefore, the
Certificates of Timber Origin and their attachments should have been considered in
establishing the legality of the company's possession of the lumber.[13] In support of his
contention, petitioner invokes our ruling in Mustang Lumber, Inc. v. Court of Appeals.[14]

The contention has no merit. The statement in Mustang Lumber that lumber is merely
processed timber and, therefore, the word "timber" embraces lumber, was made in
answer to the lower court's ruling in that case that the phrase "possess timber or other
forest products" in 68 of P.D. No. 705 means that only those who possess timber and
forest products without the documents required by law are criminally liable, while those
who possess lumber are not liable. On the other hand, the question in this case is
whether separate certificates of origin should be issued for lumber and timber. Indeed,
different certificates of origin are required for timber, lumber and non-timber forest
products.[15] As already noted, the opening paragraph of BFD Circular No. 10-83
expressly states that the issuance of a separate certificate of origin for lumber is
required in order to "pinpoint accountability and responsibility for shipment of lumber . . .
and to have uniformity in documenting the origin thereof."

Even assuming that a Certificate of Timber Origin could serve as a substitute for
Certificate of Lumber Origin, the trial court and the Court of Appeals were justified in
convicting petitioner, considering the numerous irregularities and defects found in the
documents presented by the latter. According to the trial court:[16]
Although the CTO marked Exh. "6" mentions 56 pieces of flitches, the
supporting documents, like the Tally Sheet, the Delivery Receipt from the
lumber dealer and the Cash Voucher describe 463 pieces of lumber. . .
. Maniks

In like manner, Exh. "7" and Exh. "9" mention 961 and 420 pieces of log,
respectively. But the supporting documents describe the forest product[s]
as lumber.

The CTO marked Exh. "[8]" reveals a half-truth: it mentions 678 pieces of
hand-sawn lumber. Its Auxiliary Invoice also states the same load of
lumber. Someone may have noticed the "mistake" of mentioning lumber in
the Auxiliary Invoice and so the words "flitches 87 pieces" were written
down and enclosed in parenthesis.

The said exhibits also appear to be questionable, [t]hus[:]

The CTO marked Exh. "6" is consigned to "any buyer (sic) Cagayan de
Oro", but its Auxiliary Invoice (Exh. "6-A") mentions Valencia Golden
Harvest Corporation as the consignee. Moreover, the CTO states (at the
back page) that the same is covered by Auxiliary Invoice No. 00491; in
fact, the Auxiliary Invoice (Exh. 6-A) has invoice number 000488.

In the CTO marked Exhibit "7", the original typewritten name of the
consignee was clearly erased and changed to "Valencia Golden Harvest
Corporation, Valencia, Bukidnon". In the Auxiliary Invoice (Exh. "7-A") the
blank space for the name and address of the consignee was smudged
with a typewriter correction fluid (the better to erase what was originally
typewritten in it?) and changed to "Valencia Golden Harvest Corporation,
Valencia, Bukidnon".

The CTO marked Exh. "9" and its Auxiliary Invoice marked Exh. "9-A"
[were] "doctored" in the same manner as Exh. "[7]" and Exh. "[7-A]".[17]

Additionally, all the Auxiliary Invoice were not properly accomplished: the
data required to be filled are left in blank. Manikan

Indeed, aside from the fact that the Certificate of Timber Origin in Exh. 7 bears no date,
the dorsal side bears the certification that the logs were "scaled on August 7, 1991,"
while the receipt attached to that Certificate is dated February 6, 1992. Moreover, the
four delivery receipts list the sizes and volume of the lumber sold, indicating that the
company purchased cut lumber from the dealers, thus belying the testimony of
petitioner that when the company bought the forest products, they were still in the form
of flitches and logs, and they were cut into lumber by the company.[18]
These irregularities and discrepancies make the documents in which they are found not
only questionable but invalid and, thus, justified the trial court in giving no credence to
the same.[19]

It is argued that the irregularities in the documentary exhibits should not be taken
against petitioner because the documents came from lumber dealers. In addition, it is
contended that the CTOs and Auxiliary Receipts, being public documents, should be
accorded the presumption of regularity in their execution.[20]

This contention is untenable. What render these documents without legal effect are the
patent irregularities found on their faces. That petitioner may not have any responsibility
for such irregularity is immaterial. In any case, as the corporate officer in charge of the
purchase of the lumber, petitioner should have noticed such obvious irregularities, and
he should have taken steps to have them corrected. He cannot now feign ignorance and
assert that, as far as he is concerned, the documents are regular and complete.[21]

The presence of such glaring irregularities negates the presumption that the CTOs were
regularly executed by the DENR officials concerned. The presumption invoked by
petitioner applies only when the public documents are, on their faces, regular and
properly accomplished.[22]

Second. The penalty imposed should be modified. Art. 309 of the Revised Penal Code,
made applicable to the offense by P.D. No. 705, 68, provides:

ART. 309. Penalties.- Any person guilty of theft shall be punished by: Oldmis
o

1. The penalty of prision mayor in its minimum and medium periods, if the
value of the thing stolen is more than P12,000 pesos but does not exceed
P22,000 pesos; but if the value of the thing stolen exceeds the latter
amount, the penalty shall be the maximum period of the one prescribed in
this paragraph, and one year for each additional ten thousand pesos, but
the total of the penalty which may be imposed shall not exceed twenty
years. In such cases, and in connection with the accessory penalties
which may be imposed and for the purpose of the other provisions of this
Code, the penalty shall be termed prision mayor or reclusion temporal, as
the case may be. . . .

As the lumber involved in this case is worth P488,334.45, and applying the
Indeterminate Sentence Law,[23] the penalty to be imposed should be six (6) years
of prision correccional to twenty (20) years of reclusion temporal.

WHEREFORE, the decision of the Court of Appeals, dated October 31, 1997, is
AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that petitioner is sentenced to six (6) years
of prision correccional, as minimum, to twenty (20) years of reclusion temporal, as
maximum.
SO ORDERED.

Bellosillo, (Chairman), Quisumbing, Buena, and De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur. Ncm

[1]
Per Justice Minerva P. Gonzaga-Reyes (now Associate Justice of this Court), concurred in by Justices B.A.
Adefuin-Dela Cruz and Demetrio C. Demetria.
[2]
Renumbered 78 by Republic Act No. 7161.

[3]
Cutting, Gathering and/or Collecting Timber, or Other Forest Products Without License. - Any person who
shall cut, gather, collect, remove timber or other forest products from any forest land, or timber from alienable or
disposable public land, or from private land, without any authority, or possess timber or other forest products
without the legal documents as required under existing forest laws and regulations, shall be punished with the
penalties imposed under Article 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code: Provided, That in the case of partnerships,
associations, or corporations, the officers who ordered the cutting, gathering, collection or possession shall be
liable, and if such officers are aliens, they shall, in addition to the penalty, be deported without further proceedings
on the part of the Commission on Immigration and Deportation.

The Court shall further order the confiscation in favor of the government of the timber or any forest products cut,
gathered, collected, removed, or possessed, as well as the machinery, equipment, implements and tools illegally used
in the area where the timber or forest products are found. (As amended by PD No.1559, and by EO No. 277, prom,
July 25, 1987, emphasis added).
[4]
Records, p. 28.
[5]
Id., p. 136-C.
[6]
Id., p. 1.
[7]
Id., p. 255.
[8]
CA Decision, p. 14; Rollo, p. 28.
[9]
Petition, p. 2; Id., p. 4.
[10]
RTC Decision, pp. 3-5; Records, pp. 249-251.
[11]
Id., p. 5; Id., p. 251.
[12]
Issued on February 28, 1983, now superseded by DENR Administrative Order No. 07, issued on February 17,
1994.
[13]
Petition, pp. 5-6; Rollo, pp. 7-8.
[14]
257 SCRA 430 (1996).
[15]
DENR Administrative Circular No. 07, 2&17 (series of 1994).
[16]
RTC Decision, pp. 5-6; Records, p. 251-252 (emphasis in the original).
[17]
The original consignee's name, still legible, reads: "NORTHWEST FOOD PROCESSING CORPORATION,
______, TAGOLCAN, MIS. OR."
[18]
TSN, pp. 10, 13 & 22, March 12, 1994.
[19]
Compare DENR Administrative Order No. 59-93, series of 1993, 6 in relation to 2.8, which provides that
certificates of origin with erased or tampered vital entries, such as the name and address of consignee, are void (now
superseded by DENR Administrative Order No.07, series of 1994.)
[20]
Petition, pp. 6-10; Rollo, pp. 8-12.
[21]
Id., pp. 8-10; Id., pp. 10-12.
[22]
See Veloso v. Sandiganbayan, 187 SCRA 504 (1990).
[23]
People v. Simon, 234 SCRA 555 (1994).
[G.R. No. 93540. December 13, 1999]

FULGENCIO S. FACTORAN, JR., Secretary, Department of Environment


and Natural Resources, VICENTE A. ROBLES and NESTOR
GAPUZAN, petitioners, vs. COURT OF APPEALS (Third Division),
Hon. BENIGNO T. DAYAW,as, Judge, Regional Trial Court of Quezon
City, Branch 80, JESUS SY and LILY FRANCISCO UY, respondents.

DECISION
DE LEON, JR., J.:

Before us is a petition for review on certiorari of the Decision and Resolution of the Court of
Appeals dated March 30, 1990 and May 18, 1990, respectively, dismissing petitioners charge
that Honorable Benigno T. Dayaw, Presiding Judge of Branch 80 of the Regional Trial Court
(RTC) of Quezon City, committed grave abuse of discretion in ordering them to deliver to
private respondents the six-wheeler truck and its cargo, some 4,000 board feet of narra lumber
which were confiscated by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and
forfeited in favor of the government.[1]
The antecedent facts:
On August 9, 1988, two (2) police officers of the Marikina Police Station, Sub-Station III,
intercepted a six-wheeler truck, with Plate No. NJT-881, carrying 4,000 board feet of narra
lumber as it was cruising along the Marcos Highway. They apprehended the truck driver, private
respondent Jesus Sy, and brought the truck and its cargo to the Personnel Investigation
Committee/Special Actions and Investigation Division (PIC/SAID) of the DENR Office in
Quezon City. There, petitioner Atty. Vicente Robles of the PIC/SAID investigated them, and
discovered the following discrepancies in the documentation of the narra lumber:[2]

a. What were declared in the documents (Certificate of Timber Origin, Auxiliary


Invoices and various Certifications) were narra flitches, while the cargo of the truck
consisted of narra lumber;

b. As appearing in the documents, the Plate Numbers of the truck supposed to carry
the forest products bear the numbers BAX-404, PEC-492 or NSN-267, while the Plate
Number of the truck apprehended is NVT-881;

c. Considering that the cargo is lumber, the transport should have been accompanied
by a Certificate of Lumber Origin, scale sheet of said lumber and not by a Certificate
of Timber Origin, which merely covers only transport of logs and flitches;
d. The Log Sale Purchase Agreement presented is between DSM Golden Cup
International as the seller and Bonamy Enterprises as the buyer/consignee and not
with Lily Francisco Lumber and Hardware,[3]

which are in violation of Bureau of Forestry Development (BFD) Circular No. 10. The said BFD
Circular requires possession or transportation of lumber to be supported by the following
documents: (1) Certificate of Lumber Origin (CLO) which shall be issued only by the District
Forester, or in his absence, the Assistant District Forester; (2) Sales Invoice; (3) Delivery
Receipt; and (4) Tally Sheets.[4] Such omission is punishable under Sec. 68 of Presidential
Decree (P.D.) No. 705 otherwise known as the Revised Forestry Code.[5] Thus, petitioner Atty.
Robles issued a temporary seizure order and seizure receipt for the narra lumber and the six-
wheeler truck.[6]
On January 20, 1989, petitioner Fulgencio S. Factoran, then Secretary of Environment and
Natural Resources (hereinafter referred to as petitioner Secretary) issued an order for the
confiscation of the narra lumber and the six-wheeler truck.[7]
Private respondents neither asked for reconsideration of nor appealed, the said order to the
Office of the President. Consequently, the confiscated narra lumber and six-wheeler truck were
forfeited in favor of the government. They were subsequently advertised to be sold at public
auction on March 20, 1989.[8]
On March 17, 1989, private respondents filed a complaint with prayer for the issuance of
writs of replevin and preliminary injunction and/or temporary restraining order for the recovery
of the confiscated lumber and six-wheeler truck, and to enjoin the planned auction sale of the
subject narra lumber, respectively.[9] Said complaint was docketed as Civil Case No. Q-89-2045
and raffled to Branch 80 of the RTC of Quezon City.
On the same day, the trial court issued an Order directing petitioners to desist from
proceeding with the planned auction sale and setting the hearing for the issuance of the writ of
preliminary injunction on March 27, 1989.[10]
On March 20, 1989, the scheduled date of the auction sale, private respondents filed an Ex-
Parte Motion for Release and Return of Goods and Documents (Replevin) supported by an
Affidavit for Issuance of Writ of Replevin and Preliminary Injunction and a Replevin Bond in
the amount of P180,000.00.[11] The trial court granted the writ of replevin on the same day and
directed the petitioners to deliver the xxx [n]arra lumber, original documents and truck with plate
no. NJT 881 to the custody of the plaintiffs and/or their representative x x x.[12]
On March 22, 1989, the trial court issued a writ of seizure. However, petitioners refused to
comply therewith.[13] David G. Brodett, Sheriff of Branch 80 of the RTC of Quezon City
(hereinafter referred to as the Sheriff) reported that petitioners prevented him from removing the
subject properties from the DENR Compound and transferring them to the Mobil Unit
Compound of the Quezon City Police Force. To avoid any unwarranted confrontation between
them, he just agreed to a constructive possession of the properties in question.[14] In the afternoon
of the same day, petitioners filed a Manifestation stating their intention to file a counterbond
under Rule 60 of the Rules of Court to stay the execution of the writ of seizure and to post a cash
bond in the amount of P180,000.00. But the trial court did not oblige petitioners for they failed to
serve a copy of the Manifestation on private respondents. Petitioners then immediately made the
required service and tendered the cash counterbond in the amount of P180,000.00, but it was
refused, petitioners Manifestation having already been set for hearing on March 30, 1989. [15]
On March 27, 1989, petitioners made another attempt to post a counterbond which was,
however, denied for the same reason. [16]
On the same day, private respondents filed a motion to declare petitioners in contempt for
disobeying the writ of seizure.[17] The trial court gave petitioners twenty-four (24) hours to
answer the motion. Hearing thereon was scheduled on March 30, 1989.
However, on March 29, 1989, petitioners filed with the Court of Appeals a Petition for
Certiorari, Prohibition and/or Mandamus to annul the Orders of the trial court dated March 20,
1989 and March 27, 1989.[18]
On March 30, 1989, the Court of Appeals granted petitioners temporary relief in the form of
a temporary restraining order (TRO).
On September 11, 1989, the Court of Appeals converted the TRO into a writ of preliminary
injunction upon filing by petitioners of a bond in the amount of P180,000.00.[19]
However, on March 30, 1990, the Court of Appeals lifted the writ of preliminary injunction
and dismissed the petition. It declared that as the complaint for replevin filed by private
respondents complied with the requirements of an affidavit and bond under Secs. 1 and 2 of Rule
60 of the Revised Rules of court, issuance of the writ of replevin was mandatory.[20]
As for the contempt charges against petitioners, the Court of Appeals believed the same
were sufficiently based on a written charge by private respondents and the report submitted by
the Sheriff.[21]
On April 25, 1990, petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration of the foregoing
decision. However, that motion was denied by the Court of Appeals in its Resolution dated May
18, 1990.[22]
Hence this petition.
On the one hand, petitioners contend, thus:
(1) Confiscated lumber cannot be subject of replevin.[23]
(2) Petitioners not compelled to criminally prosecute private respondents but may opt only to
confiscate lumber".[24]
(3) Private respondent charged criminally in court.[25] and
(4) Writ of Replevin issued in contravention of PD #605.[26]
On the other hand, private respondents argue that:
(1) The respondent Judge had jurisdiction to take cognizance of the
complaint for recovery of personal property and, therefore, had
jurisdiction to issue thenecessary orders in connection therewith.[27]
(2) The issuance of the order for the delivery of personal property
upon application, affidavit and filing of replevin bond by the plaintiff is mandatory and not
discretionary, hence, no abuse of discretion can be committed by the trial court in the
issuance thereof.[28]
(3) The Order of March 20, 1989 was in accordance with Section 4, Rule 60 of the Rules of
Court and is, therefore, valid.[29]
(4) The private respondents have not been proven to have violated Section 68 of the Revised
Forestry Code.[30]
(5) The petitioners do not have the authority to keep private respondents property for an
indefinite period, more so, to dispose of the same without notice and hearing or without due
process.[31]
(6) Contrary to the allegation of petitioners, no formal investigation was conducted by the PIC
with respect to the subject lumber in this case.[32]
(7) The alleged Order dated January 20, 1989 of the petitioner Secretary Fulgencio Factoran, Jr.
of the DENR is not valid and does not make the issuance of the order of replevin
illegal.[33] and
(8) The subject properties were not in custody of the law and may be replevied.[34]
At the outset we observe that herein respondents never appealed the confiscation order of
petitioner Secretary to the Office of the President as provided for in Sec. 8 of P.D. No. 705 which
reads:

All actions and decisions of the Director are subject to review, motu propio or upon
appeal of any person aggrieved thereby, by the Department Head whose decision shall
be final and executory after the lapse of thirty (30) days from receipt by the
aggrieved party of said decision unless appealed to the President x x x. The decision
of the Department Head may not be reviewed by the courts except through a special
civil action for certiorari and prohibition.

The doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies is basic. Courts, for reasons of law,
comity and convenience, should not entertain suits unless the available administrative remedies
have first been resorted to and the proper authorities have been given an appropriate opportunity
to act and correct their alleged errors, if any, committed in the administrative forum.[35] As to the
application of this doctrine in cases involving violations of P.D. No. 705, our ruling in Paat v.
Court of Appeals, is apropos:

Moreover, it is important to point out that the enforcement of forestry laws, rules and
regulations and the protection, development and management of forest lands fall
within the primary and special responsibilities of the Department of Environment and
Natural Resources. By the very nature of its function, the DENR should be given a
free hand unperturbed by judicial intrusion to determine a controversy which is well
within its jurisdiction. The assumption by the trial court, therefore, of the replevin suit
filed by private respondents constitutes an encroachment into the domain of the
administrative agencys prerogative. The doctrine of primary jurisdiction does not
warrant a court to arrogate unto itself the authority to resolve a controversy the
jurisdiction over which is initially lodged with an administrative body of special
competence. In Felipe Ismael, Jr. and Co. vs. Deputy Executive Secretary, which was
reiterated in the recent case of Concerned Officials of MWSS vs. Vasquez, this Court
held:

Thus, while the administration grapples with the complex and multifarious problems
caused by unbridled exploitation of these resources, the judiciary will stand clear. A
long line of cases establish the basic rule that the courts will not interfere in matters
which are addressed to the sound discretion of government agencies entrusted with the
regulation of activities coming under the special technical knowledge and training of
such agencies.[36]

However, petitioners did not file a motion to dismiss based on the ground of non-exhaustion
of administrative remedies. Thus, it is deemed waived.[37]
Nonetheless, the petition is impressed with merit.
First. A writ of replevin does not just issue as a matter of course upon the applicants filing of
a bond and affidavit, as the Court of Appeals has wrongly put it. The mere filing of an affidavit,
sans allegations therein that satisfy the requirements of Sec. 2, Rule 60 of the Revised Rules of
Court, cannot justify the issuance of a writ of replevin. Said provision reads:

Affidavit and bond. - Upon applying for such order the plaintiff must show by his own
affidavit or that of some other person who personally knows the facts:

(a) That the plaintiff is the owner of the property claimed, particularly describing it, or
entitled to the possession thereof;

(b) That the property is wrongfully detained by the defendant, alleging the cause of
detention thereof to his best knowledge, information, and belief;

(c) That it has not been taken for a tax assessment or fine pursuant to law, or seized
under an execution, or an attachment against the property of the plaintiff, or, if so
seized, that it is exempt from such seizure; and

(d) The actual value of the property.

xxxxxxxxx.
Wrongful detention by the defendant of the properties sought in an action for replevin must
be satisfactorily established. If only a mechanistic averment thereof is offered, the writ should
not be issued.
In the case at bar, the subject narra lumber and six-wheeler truck were confiscated by
petitioner Secretary pursuant to Section 68-A of P.D. No. 705, as amended by Executive Order
(E.O.) No. 277, to wit:
SEC. 68-A. Administrative Authority of the Department Head or His Duly Authorized
Representative to Order Confiscation. - In all cases of violations of this Code or other
forest laws, rules and regulations, the Department Head or his duly authorized
representative, may order the confiscation of any forest products illegally cut,
gathered, removed, or possessed or abandoned, and all conveyances used either by
land, water, or air in the commission of the offense and to dispose of the same in
accordance with pertinent laws, regulations or policies on the matter.[38]

As the petitioner Secretarys administrative authority to confiscate is clearly provided by law, the
taking of the subject properties is not wrongful and does not warrant the issuance of a writ of
replevin prayed for by private respondents.
Second. Issuance of the confiscation order by petitioner Secretary was a valid exercise of his
power under Sec. 68-A of P.D. No. 705. By virtue of said order, the narra lumber and six-
wheeler truck of private respondents were held in custodia legis and hence, beyond the reach of
replevin.
Property lawfully taken by virtue of legal process is deemed to be in custodia legis. [39] When
a thing is in official custody of a judicial or executive officer in pursuance of his execution of a
legal writ, replevin will not lie to recover it.[40] Otherwise, there would be interference with the
possession before the function of law had been performed as to the process under which the
property was taken.[41] So basic is this doctrine that it found inclusion in the 1997 amendments
introduced to the Rules of Civil Procedure. Thus, Sec. 2(c), Rule 60 of the 1997 Rules of Civil
Procedure provides that:

Affidavit and bond. - Upon applying for such order the plaintiff must show by his own
affidavit or that of some other person who personally knows the facts:

x x x x x x x x x;

(c) That the property has not been distrained or taken for a tax assessment or fine
pursuant to law, or seized under a writ of execution, or preliminary attachment or
otherwise placed under custodia legis, or if so seized, that it is exempt from such
seizure or custody; x x x

x x x x x x x x x.[42]
Third. Petitioner Secretarys authority to confiscate forest products under Sec. 68-A of P.D.
No. 705 is distinct from and independent of the confiscation of forest products in a criminal
action provided for in Section 68 of P.D. No. 705. Thus, in Paat, we held that:

x x x precisely because of the need to make forestry laws more responsive to present
situations and realities and in view of the urgency to conserve the remaining resources
of the country, that the government opted to add Section 68-A. This amendatory
provision is an administrative remedy totally separate and distinct from criminal
proceedings. x x x. The preamble of EO 277 that added Section 68-A to PD 705- is
most revealing:

WHEREAS, there is an urgency to conserve the remaining forest resources of the


country for the benefit and welfare of the present and future generations of Filipinos;

WHEREAS, our forest resources may be effectively conserved and protected through
the vigilant enforcement and implementation of our forestry laws, rules and
regulations;

WHEREAS, the implementation of our forestry laws suffers from technical


difficulties, due to certain inadequacies in the Penal provisions of the Revised
Forestry Code of the Philippines; and

WHEREAS, to overcome this [sic] difficulties, there is a need to penalize certain acts
more responsive to present situations and realities;

It is interesting to note that Section 68-A is a new provision authorizing the DENR to
confiscate, not only conveyances but forest products as well. On the other hand,
confiscation of forest products by the court in a criminal action has long been
provided for in Section 68. If as private respondents insist, the power of confiscation
cannot be exercised except only through the court under Section 68, then Section 68-
A would have no purpose at all. Simply put, Section 68-A would not have provided
any solution to the problem perceived in EO 277, x x x.[43]

Sec. 68-A was added precisely to supplant the inadequacies and supplement criminal
enforcement of forestry laws.
Fourth. Sec. 80 of P. D. No. 705 which requires delivery of the seized forest products within
six (6) hours from the time of the seizure to the appropriate official designated by law to conduct
preliminary investigations applies only to criminal prosecutions provided for in Sec. 68, and not
to administrative confiscation provided for in Section 68-A.
Sec. 80 of P.D. No. 705 provides:

SEC. 80. Arrest; Institution of criminal actions. - A forest officer or employee of the
Bureau shall arrest even without a warrant any person who has committed or is
committing in his presence any of the offenses defined in this Chapter. He shall also
seize and confiscate, in favor of the Government, the tools and equipment used in
committing the offense, and the forest products cut, gathered or taken by the offender
in the process of committing the offense. The arresting officer or employee shall
thereafter deliver within six (6) hours from the time of arrest and seizure, the offender
and the confiscated forest products, tools and equipment to, and file the proper
complaint with, the appropriate official designated by law to conduct preliminary
investigations and file informations in court.

x x x x x x x x x.
The title of Sec. 80 - Arrest; Institution of Criminal Actions - bespeaks this intendment of the
law. The fact, too, that Secs. 68 and 80 were co-existing prior to the introduction of Sec. 68-A,
proves that Sec. 80 applies to the criminal prosecutions subject of Sec. 68 and not to the
administrative confiscation subject of Sec. 68-A. Sec. 68-A, therefore, should not be interpreted
in relation to Sec. 80 as to require that criminal charges be filed with and seized forest products
be immediately delivered to, the fiscal in case of administrative confiscation, for this renders
nugatory the purpose sought to be achieved thereby. Statutes should always be construed in the
light of the object to be achieved and the evil or mischief to be suppressed, and they should be
given such interpretation as will advance the object, suppress the mischief, and secure the
benefits intended.[44]
Fifth. Nothing in the records supports private respondents allegation that their right to due
process was violated as no investigation was conducted prior to the confiscation of their
properties.
On the contrary, by private respondents own admission, private respondent Sy who drove
the six-wheeler truck was properly investigated by petitioner Atty. Robles at the PIC/SAID
Office of the DENR. Thereafter, private respondent Sy and his witnesses were given full
opportunity to explain the deficiencies in the documents.[45] Private respondents categorically
stated that they made a continuous and almost daily follow-up and plea x x x with the PIC for the
return of the truck and lumber x x x.[46] Finally in a letter dated December 30, 1989, private
respondent Lily Francisco Uy requested petitioner Secretary for immediate resolution and release
of the impounded narra sawn lumber.[47]
Undoubtedly, private respondents were afforded an opportunity to be heard before the order
of confiscation was issued. There was no formal or trial type hearing but the same is not, in all
instances, essential in administrative proceedings. It is settled that due process is satisfied when
the parties are afforded fair and reasonable opportunity to explain their side of the controversy or
an opportunity to move for a reconsideration of the action or ruling complained of.[48]
Moreover, respondents claim that the order of confiscation was antedated and not the
product of the investigation supposedly conducted by the PIC of the DENR. However, they
proffer no proof to support that allegation. On the other hand, there is the legal presumption that
official duty has been regularly performed. The presumption of regularity in the performance of
official duties is even particularly strong with respect to administrative agencies like the DENR
which are vested with quasi-judicial powers in enforcing the laws affecting their respective fields
of activity, the proper regulation of which requires of them such technical mastery of all relevant
conditions obtaining in the nation.[49]
Finally. The writ of seizure and the writ of replevin were issued by the trial court in grave
abuse of its discretion. Thus, disobedience thereto cannot constitute indirect contempt of court
which presupposes that the court order thereby violated was valid and legal. Without a lawful
order having been issued, no contempt of court could be committed.[50]
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is hereby GRANTED. The Decision of the Court of
Appeals dated March 30, 1990 and its Resolution dated May 18, 1990 in CA-G.R. SP No. 17194
are hereby SET ASIDE and REVERSED. Respondent Presiding Judge Benigno T. Dayaw, of the
Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, is PERMANENTLY ENJOINED from enforcing the
Orders dated March 20, 1989 and March 22, 1989 in Civil Case No. Q-89-2045, or if said orders
have already been enforced, the said respondent Judge is directed to render judgment of
forfeiture on the replevin bond filed by private respondents. Finally, the said respondent Judge is
PERMANENTLY ENJOINED from further acting on the Motion for Contempt filed by private
respondents against the petitioners.
Costs against private respondents.
SO ORDERED.
Bellosillo, (Chairman), Mendoza, Quisumbing and Buena, JJ., concur.

[1]
Petitioners Memorandum, p. 1, Rollo, p. 276.
[2]
Petition , pp. 4-5; Rollo, pp. 9-10.
[3]
Annex A of Petition; Rollo, p. 35.
[4]
See note 2, supra, p.16; Rollo, p.21.
[5]
SEC. 68. Cutting, Gathering and/or collecting Timber or Other Forest Products Without License.- Any person
who shall cut, gather, collect, remove timber and other forest products from any forest land, or timber from alienable
or disposable public land, or from private land, without any authority, or possess timber or other forest products
without the legal documents as required under existing forest laws and regulations, shall be punished with the
penalties imposed under Article 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code: Provided, That in the case of partnerships,
associations, or corporations, the officers who ordered the cutting, gathering, collection or possession shall be liable,
and if such officers are aliens, they shall, in addition to the penalty, be deported without further proceedings on the
part of the Commission on Immigration and Deportation.
The Court shall further order the confiscation in favor of the government of the timber or any forest products cut,
gathered, collected, removed or possessed, as well as the machinery, equipment, implements and tools illegally used
in the area where the timber or forest products are found.
[6]
Annex 1 of Comment, Rollo, p. 165.
[7]
See note 3, supra.
[8]
See note 1, supra, pp. 5-6; Rollo, pp. 280-281.
[9]
Annex 4 of Comment; Rollo, pp. 170-171.
[10]
Annex 5 of Comment; Rollo, 179-180.
[11]
Annex M of Petition, p. 3; Rollo, p. 105.
[12]
Annex 7-A of Comment; Rollo, p. 191.
[13]
See note 11, supra, p. 4; Rollo, p. 106.
[14]
Annex 9-B of Comment, pp. 2-3; Rollo, pp. 195-196.
[15]
Annex I of the Petition, pp. 7-8; Rollo, pp. 57-58.
[16]
Annex 12 of Comment; Rollo, p. 199.
[17]
Private Respondents Memorandum, pp. 11-12; Rollo, pp. 312-313.
[18]
Id., p. 12, Rollo, p. 313.
[19]
See note 11, supra, pp. 4-5; Rollo, pp. 106-107.
[20]
Id., pp. 5-7, Rollo, pp. 107-109.
[21]
Id., pp. 7-9; Rollo, pp. 109-111.
[22]
See note 2, supra, pp. 22, 25; Rollo, pp. 27, 30.
[23]
See note 1, supra, p. 10; Rollo, p. 285.
[24]
Id., p. 15; Rollo, p. 290.
[25]
Id., p. 17; Rollo, p. 292.
[26]
Id., p. 18; Rollo, p. 293.
[27]
See note 17, supra, pp. 13-14; Rollo, pp. 314-315.
[28]
Id., pp. 14-15; Rollo, pp. 315-316.
[29]
Id., p. 18; Rollo, p. 319.
[30]
Id., p. 19; Rollo, p.320.
[31]
Id., p. 22; Rollo, p. 323.
[32]
Id., p. 24; Rollo, p.325.
[33]
Id., p. 25; Rollo, p. 326.
[34]
Id., p. 29; Rollo, p. 330.
[35]
University of the Philippines et al. vs. Hon. Elpidio M. Catungal, Jr. etc., et al., 272 SCRA 221, 240 (1997); Hon.
Bartolome Carale vs. Hon. Pampio A. Abarintos, et al., 269 SCRA 132, 141 (1997).
[36]
Paat vs. Court of Appeals, 266 SCRA 167, 181 (1997); Soledad Dy vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 121587,
March 9, 1999.
[37]
Soto vs. Jareno, 144 SCRA 116, 119 (1986); C.N. Hodges vs. Municipal Board of Iloilo, 19 SCRA 28, 34 (1967).
[38]38
Underscoring provided.
[39]
Chua vs. Court of Appeals, 222 SCRA 85, 89 (1993); Bagalihog vs. Fernandez, 198 SCRA 614; 621 (1991);
Auyong Hian vs. Court of Tax Appeals, 59 SCRA 110, 134 (1974).
[40]
Chua vs. Court of Appeals, supra.
[41]
Ibid.
[42]
Underscoring provided.
[43]
Paat vs. Court of Appeals, supra, pp. 181-182.
[44]
Ibid.
[45]
Annex I of Petition, pp. 5-6; Rollo, pp. 72-73.
[46]
Id., p. 6; Rollo, p. 73.
[47]
Annex 3 of Comment; Rollo, p. 167.
[48]
Paat vs. Court of Appeals, supra, p. 179; Navarro vs. Damasco, 246 SCRA 260, 265 (1995); Stayfast Philippines
Corp. vs. NLRC, 218 SCRA 596, 601 (1993).
[49]
Beautifont, Inc. vs. Court of Appeals, et al., 157 SCRA 481, 493 (1988).
[50]
Francisco, The Revised Rules of Court in the Philippines, Annotated and Commented, Vol. IV-B, Part II, p. 305;
Angel Jose Realty Corporation vs. Galao, 76 Phil. 201, 204-205 (1946); Weigall vs. Shuster, 11 Phil. 340, 345
(1908); Chanco vs. Madrilejos, 9 Phil. 356, 361 (1908).