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[G.R. No. L-27873. November 29, 1983.

HEIRS OF JOSE AMUNATEGUI, Petitioners, v. DIRECTOR OF FORESTRY, Respondent.

[G.R. No. L-30035. November 29, 1983.]

ROQUE BORRE and ENCARNACION DELFIN, Petitioners, v. ANGEL ALPASAN, HEIRS OF


MELQUIADES BORRE, EMETERIO BEREBER and HEIRS OF JOSE AMUNATEGUI and THE CAPIZ
COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE, Respondents.

SYLLABUS

1. CIVIL LAW; PUBLIC LAND ACT; FOREST LAND; CLASSIFICATION NOT LOST EVEN IF IT HAS BEEN
STRIPPED OF FOREST COVER; UNLESS RELEASED IN AN OFFICIAL PROCLAMATION AS DISPOSABLE LANDS,
RULES ON CONFIRMATION OF IMPERFECT TITLE DO NOT APPLY. — A forested area classified as forest land
of the public domain does not lose such classification simply because loggers or settlers may have stripped it
of its forest cover. Parcels of land classified as forest land may actually be covered with grass or planted to
crops by kaingin cultivators or other farmers. "Forest lands" do not have to be on mountains or in out of the
way places. Swampy areas covered by mangrove trees, nipa palms, and other tress growing in brackish or
sea water may also be classified as forest land. The classification is descriptive of its legal nature or status
and does not have to be descriptive of what the land actually looks like. Unless and until the land classified
as "forest" is released in an official proclamation to that effect so that it may form part of the disposable
agricultural lands of the public domain, the rules on confirmation of imperfect title do not apply.

2. ID.; ID.; FOREST LANDS; ACQUISITIVE OWNERSHIP NOT ACQUIRED. — This Court ruled in the leading
case of Director of Forestry v. Muñoz (23 SCRA 1184) that possession of forest lands, no matter how long,
cannot ripen into private ownership. And in Republic v. Animas (56 SCRA 499), we granted the petition on
the ground that the ares covered by the patent and title was not disposable public land, it being a part of
the forest zone and any patent and title to said area is void ab initio. It bears emphasizing that a positive act
of Government is needed to declassify land which is classified as forest and to convert it into alienable or
disposable land for agricultural or other purposes.

3. ID.; ID.; CONFIRMATION, OF IMPERFECT TITLE CASES; BURDEN OF PROVING THAT THE REQUIREMENTS
OF THE LAW HAVE BEEN MET, RESTS ON THE APPLICANT. — In confirmation of imperfect title cases, the
applicant shoulders the burden of proving that he meets the requirements of Section 48, Commonwealth Act
No. 141, as amended by Republic Act No. 1942. He must overcome the presumption that the land he is
applying for is part of the public domain but that he has an interest therein sufficient to warrant registration
in his name because of an imperfect title such as those derived from old Spanish grants or that he has had
continuous, open, and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain under
a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership for at least thirty (30) years preceding the filing of his
application.

DECISION

GUTIERREZ, JR., J.:

The two petitions for review on certiorari before us question the decision of the Court of Appeals which
declared the disputed property as forest land, not subject to titling in favor of private persons.

These two petitions have their genesis in an application for confirmation of imperfect title and its registration
filed with the Court of First Instance of Capiz. The parcel of land sought to be registered is known as Lot No.
885 of the Cadastral Survey of Pilar, Capiz, and has an area of 645,703 square meters. cralawna d

Roque Borre, petitioner in G.R. No, L-30035, and Melquiades Borre, filed the application for registration. In
due time, the heirs of Jose Amunategui, petitioners in G.R. No. L-27873 filed an opposition to the application
of Roque and Melquiades Borre. At the same time, they prayed that the title to a portion of Lot No. 885 of
Pilar Cadastre containing 527,747 square meters be confirmed and registered in the names of said Heirs of
Jose Amunategui.

The Director of Forestry, through the Provincial Fiscal of Capiz, also filed an opposition to the application for
registration of title claiming that the land was mangrove swamp which was still classified as forest land and
part of the public domain.

Another oppositor, Emeterio Bereber filed his opposition insofar as a portion of Lot No. 885 containing
117,956 square meters was concerned and prayed that title to said portion be confirmed and registered in
his name.

During the progress of the trial, applicant-petitioner Roque Borre sold whatever rights and interests he may
have on Lot No. 885 to Angel Alpasan. The latter also filed an opposition, claiming that he is entitled to have
said lot registered in his name.

After trial, the Court of First Instance of Capiz adjudicated 117,956 square meters to Emeterio Bereber and
the rest of the land containing 527,747 square meters was adjudicated in the proportion of 5/6 share to
Angel Alpasan and 1/6 share to Melquiades Borre.

Only the Heirs of Jose Amunategui and the Director of Forestry filed their respective appeals with the Court
of Appeals, The case was docketed as CA-G.R. No. 34190-R.

In its decision, the Court of Appeals held:jgc:cha nrob les.com .ph

". . . the conclusion so far must have to be that as to the private litigants that have been shown to have a
better right over Lot 885 are, as to the northeastern portion of a little less than 117,956 square meters, it
was Emeterio Bereber and as to the rest of 527,747 square meters, it was the heirs of Jose Amunategui; but
the last question that must have to be considered is whether after all, the title that these two (2) private
litigants have shown did not amount to a registerable one in view of the opposition and evidence of the
Director of Forestry; . . .

". . . turning back the clock thirty (30) years from 1955 when the application was filed which would place it
at 1925, the fact must have to be accepted that during that period, the land was a classified forest land so
much so that timber licenses had to be issued to certain licensee before 1926 and after that; that even Jose
Amunategui himself took the trouble to ask for a license to cut timber within the area; and this can only
mean that the Bureau of Forestry had stood and maintained its ground that it was a forest land as indeed
the testimonial evidence referred to above persuasively indicates, and the only time when the property was
converted into a fishpond was sometime after 1950; or a bare five (5) years before the filing of the
application; but only after there had been a previous warning by the District Forester that that could not be
done because it was classified as a public forest; so that having these in mind and remembering that even
under Republic Act 1942 which came into effect in 1957, two (2) years after this case had already been filed
in the lower Court, in order for applicant to be able to demonstrate a registerable title he must have shown.

"‘open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public
domain under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership for at least thirty (30) years, preceding the filing
of the application;’

the foregoing details cannot but justify the conclusion that not one of the applicants or oppositors had
shown that during the required period of thirty (30) years prescribed by Republic Act 1942 in order for him
to have shown a registerable title for the entire period of thirty (30) years before filing of the application, he
had been in

"‘open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public
domain’,

it is evident that the Bureau of Forestry had insisted on its claim all throughout that period of thirty (30)
years and even before and applicants and their predecessors had made implicit recognition of that; the
result must be to deny all these applications; this Court stating that it had felt impelled notwithstanding, just
the same to resolve the conflicting positions of the private litigants among themselves as to who of them
had demonstrated a better right to possess because this Court foresees that this litigation will go all the way
to the Supreme Court and it is always better that the findings be as complete as possible to enable the
Highest Court to pass final judgment;
"IN VIEW WHEREOF, the decision must have to be as it is hereby reversed; the application as well as all the
oppositions with the exception of that of the Director of Forestry which is hereby sustained are dismissed;
no more pronouncement as to costs." cralaw virtua1aw l ibra ry

A petition for review on certiorari was filed by the Heirs of Jose Amunategui contending that the disputed lot
had been in the possession of private persons for over thirty years and therefore in accordance with
Republic Act No. 1942, said lot could still be the subject of registration and confirmation of title in the name
of a private person in accordance with Act No. 496 known as the Land Registration Act. On the other hand,
another petition for review on certiorari was filed by Roque Borre and Encarnacion Delfin, contending that
the trial court committed grave abuse of discretion in dismissing their complaint against the Heirs of Jose
Amunategui. The Borre complaint was for the annulment of the deed of absolute sale of Lot No. 885
executed by them in favor of the Heirs of Amunategui. The complaint was dismissed on the basis of the
Court of Appeals’ decision that the disputed lot is part of the public domain. The petitioners also question the
jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals in passing upon the relative rights of the parties over the disputed lot
when its final decision after all is to declare said lot a part of the public domain classified as forest land.
chan robles law lib rary : re d

The need for resolving the questions raised by Roque Borre and Encarnacion Delfin in their petition depends
on the issue raised by the Heirs of Jose Amunategui, that is, whether or not Lot No. 885 is public forest land,
not capable of registration in the names of the private applicants.

The Heirs of Jose Amunategui maintain that Lot No. 885 cannot be classified as forest land because it is not
thickly forested but is a "mangrove swamp." Although conceding that a "mangrove swamp" is included in
the classification of forest land in accordance with Section 1820 of the Revised Administrative Code, the
petitioners argue that no big trees classified in Section 1821 of said Code as first, second and third groups
are found on the land in question. Furthermore, they contend that Lot 885, even if it is a mangrove swamp,
is still subject to land registration proceedings because the property had been in actual possession of private
persons for many years, and therefore, said land was already "private land" better adapted and more
valuable for agricultural than for forest purposes and not required by the public interests to be kept under
forest classification.

The petition is without merit.

A forested area classified as forest land of the public domain does not lose such classification simply because
loggers or settlers may have stripped it of its forest cover. Parcels of land classified as forest land may
actually be covered with grass or planted to crops by kaingin cultivators or other farmers. "Forest lands" do
not have to be on mountains or in out of the way places. Swampy areas covered by mangrove trees, nipa
palms, and other trees growing in brackish or sea water may also be classified as forest land. The
classification is descriptive of its legal nature or status and does not have to be descriptive of what the land
actually looks like. Unless and until the land classified as "forest" is released in an official proclamation to
that effect so that it may form part of the disposable agricultural lands of the public domain, the rules on
confirmation of imperfect title do not apply.

This Court ruled in the leading case of Director of Forestry v. Muñoz (23 SCRA 1184) that possession of
forest lands, no matter how long, cannot ripen into private ownership. And in Republic v. Animas (56 SCRA
499), we granted the petition on the ground that the area covered by the patent and title was not
disposable public land, it being a part of the forest zone and any patent and title to said area is void ab
initio. It bears emphasizing that a positive act of Government is needed to declassify land which is classified
as forest and to convert it into alienable or disposable land for agricultural or other purposes.

The findings of the Court of Appeals are particularly well-grounded in the instant petition.

The fact that no trees enumerated in Section 1821 of the Revised Administrative Code are found in Lot No.
885 does not divest such land of its being classified as forest land, much less as land of the public domain.
The appellate court found that in 1912, the land must have been a virgin forest as stated by Emeterio
Bereber’s witness Deogracias Gavacao, and that as late as 1926, it must have been a thickly forested area
as testified by Jaime Bertolde. The opposition of the Director of Forestry was strengthened by the appellate
court’s finding that timber licenses had to be issued to certain licensees and even Jose Amunategui himself
took the trouble to ask for a license to cut timber within the area. It was only sometime in 1950 that the
property was converted into fishpond but only after a previous warning from the District Forester that the
same could not be done because it was classified as "public forest." chan robles. com:c ralaw:red
In confirmation of imperfect title cases, the applicant shoulders the burden of proving that he meets the
requirements of Section 48, Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended by Republic Act No. 1942. He must
overcome the presumption that the land he is applying for is part of the public domain but that he has an
interest therein sufficient to warrant registration in his name because of an imperfect title such as those
derived from old Spanish grants or that he has had continuous, open, and notorious possession and
occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership for
at least thirty (30) years preceding the filing of his application.

The decision of the appellate court is not based merely on the presumptions implicit in Commonwealth Act
No. 141 as amended. The records show that Lot No. 88S never ceased to be classified as forest land of the
public domain.

In Republic v. Gonong (118 SCRA 729) we ruled: jgc:c hanro bles. com.ph

"As held in Oh Cho v. Director of Lands, 75 Phil. 890, all lands that were not acquired from the Government,
either by purchase or by grant, belong to the public domain. An exception to the rule would be any land that
should have been in the possession of an occupant and of his predecessors in-interests since time
immemorial, for such possession would justify the presumption that the land had never been part of the
public domain or that it had been a private property even before the Spanish conquest." cralaw virtua 1aw lib rary

In the instant petitions, the exception in the Oh Cho case does not apply. The evidence is clear that Lot No.
885 had always been public land classified as forest.

Similarly, in Republic v. Vera (120 SCRA 210), we ruled: jgc:chan roble s.com.p h

". . . The possession of public land however long the period thereof may have extended, never confers title
thereto upon the possessor because the statute of limitations with regard to public land does not operate
against the State, unless the occupant can prove possession and occupation of the same under claim of
ownership for the required number of years to constitute a grant from the State. (Director of Lands v.
Reyes, 68 SCRA 177, 195)." cralaw virtua 1aw lib rary

We, therefore, affirm the finding that the disputed property Lot No. 885 is part of the public domain,
classified as public forest land. There is no need for us to pass upon the other issues raised by petitioners
Roque Borre and Encarnacion Delfin, as such issues are rendered moot by this finding. chanro bles vi rtua l lawli bra ry

WHEREFORE, the petitions in G. R. No. L-30035 and G. R. No. L-27873 are DISMISSED for lack of merit.
Costs against the petitioners.

SO ORDERED.

[G.R. No. L-40402. March 16, 1987.]

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner, v. THE HON. COURT OF APPEALS, and EMILIO
BERNABE, SR., EMILIO BERNABE, JR., LUZ BERNABE, AMPARO BERNABE, and ELISA
BERNABE, Respondents.

DECISION

PARAS, J.:

This is a petition for review on certiorari seeking a reversal of the decision of Respondent Court of Appeals 1
dated February 5, 1975 in CA-G.R. No. 50076-R, entitled "EMILIO BERNABE, SR., Et. Al. v. REPUBLIC OF
THE PHILIPPINES," affirming the order of the Court of First Instance of Bataan dated August 14, 1971 in
Cadastral Case No. 19, LRC Cadastral Record No. 1097, which dismissed petitioner Republic’s petition for
review of the decrees of registration issued pursuant to the decision rendered on December 17, 1968
adjudicating in favor of the private Respondents herein, the lots applied for by them, and the Resolution of
Respondent Court dated March 19, 1975 denying herein Petitioner’s motion for reconsideration.
The undisputed facts are as follows: cha nro b1es vi rtua l 1aw lib ra ry

Lot No. 622 of the Mariveles Cadastre was declared public land in a decision rendered before the last war in
Cadastral Case No. 19, LRC Cadastral Record No. 1097.

On July 6, 1965, Lot 622 was segregated from the forest zone and released and certified by the Bureau of
Forestry as an agricultural land for disposition under the Public Land Act (Record on Appeal, p. 7).

On April 26, 1967, Respondents filed in the Court of First Instance of Bataan a petition to reopen Cadastral
Case No. 19, LRC Cadastral Record No. 1097, under Republic Act 931, as amended by Republic Act 2061,
concerning a portion of Lot No. 622 — Lot Nos. 792, 793, 794, 795, 796, 797, 798 — and a portion of Lot
No. 324 — Lot Nos. 791 and 799 — more particularly identified and delineated in the segregation plans of
Sgs-3343, Sgs-3440, Sgs-3340, Sgs-3341, Sgs-3342 and Sgs-3339, approved by the Director of Lands, to
perfect their rights and register their titles to said lots, having allegedly acquired ownership and possession
of said parcels of land by purchase from the original owners thereof, whose possession of the same including
that of the herein Respondents, has always been continuous, open, active, exclusive, public, adverse, and in
the concept of owners thereof for more than 30 years (Record on Appeal, pp. 3-5 and 11).

On May 17, 1967, the lower court issued an Order setting the petition for hearing and directing that the
Republic of the Philippines be notified thereof by furnishing the Solicitor-General, the Director of Lands and
the Director of Forestry, a copy of said Order together with Respondents’ petition by registered mail (Record
on Appeal, p. 6).

On August 24, 1967, the Director of Forestry filed an opposition to the petition praying for the denial of the
petition once the area involved is found to be within the timberland and therefore inalienable under the
Constitution (Record on Appeal, p. 7). Upon verification, however, the Director of Forestry found the area to
be the portion of the timberland already released by the government from the mass of public forests and
promptly withdrew his Opposition (Record on Appeal, p. 8).

On September 1, 1967, the Acting Provincial Fiscal of Bataan, for and in behalf of the Director of Lands, filed
his opposition to the petition alleging that the land is still, in truth and in fact, public land and as such
cannot be the subject of a land registration proceeding under Act 496.

The lower court found that the petitioners have complied with all the terms and conditions which would
entitle them to a grant. Thus, the dispositive portion of its decision dated December 17, 1968 (Record on
Appeal, p. 19), reads:jgc:chanrob les.com .ph

"WHEREFORE, the segregation plans, Sgs-3340, Sgs-3339, Sgs-3341, Sgs-3342, Sgs-3343 and Sgs-3340
and their technical descriptions are hereby APPROVED, and pursuant to Sec. 11 of Act 2259, the court
hereby adjudicates in favor of petitioners Emilio Bernabe, Sr., married; Emilio Bernabe, Jr., married; Luz
Bernabe, single; Amparo Bernabe, single and Elisa Bernabe, single, all Filipinos and residents of Balanga,
Bataan, the lots herein applied for as follows: chan rob1e s virtual 1aw lib rary

Luz Bernabe Sgs-791 82,771 sq. m.

3339

Elisa Bernabe Sgs-793 71.596 sq. m.

3341

Amparo Bernabe Sgs-794 43,399 sq. m.

3342 795 100,439 sq. m.

Josefina Bernabe Sgs-796 69,355 sq. m.

3343 797 75,100 sq. m.

Emilio Bernabe, Jr. Sgs-798 100,183 sq. m.


Sgs-3440 Sgs-799 64,052. sq. m.

and upon this decision having become final, the Commissioner of Land Registration is hereby directed to
issue the corresponding decrees of registration therefor." cralaw virtua1aw li bra ry

Pursuant to the aforecited decision, the Commissioner of Land Registration issued Decrees Nos. N-124813-
124818, all dated May 7, 1969 (Record on Appeal, pp. 20-25).

On May 7, 1979, petitioner Republic of the Philippines, acting in its behalf and in behalf of the Director of
Lands and the Director of Forestry, through the Solicitor-General, filed a petition for review of the decrees of
registration under Section 38, of Act No. 496, as amended, and the corresponding decision of the lower
court, on the grounds that the entire proceeding was vitiated by lack of notice to the Solicitor General of the
subsequent hearings of the petition for re-opening of the cadastral proceedings; that the parcels of land
subject matter of the petition to re-open cadastral proceedings are portions of the public domain, admittedly
within the unclassified public forest of Mariveles, Bataan, opened for disposition only on or about July 6,
1965; that subsequently, respondents do not have a registerable title to the land subject matter of the
proceedings; and the lower court, without jurisdiction to decree the confirmation of registerable title to
respondents over portions of the public domain, as respondents do not qualify under the provisions of
Section 48(b) of CA 141, as amended, and that under the circumstances, respondents employed actual
fraud in procuring title over the parcels of land (Record on Appeal, p. 25).

On May 29, 1979, respondents moved to dismiss the Petition for Review on the grounds that: (1) The trial
court has no jurisdiction over the nature of the action or suit as there is no fraud to justify the setting aside
on review of a decree of registration. If the Solicitor General was not notified of the subsequent hearings, it
was because he delegated his appearance to the Provincial Fiscal of Bataan. Besides the setting aside or
review was filed out of time. (2) The petition states no cause of action, the parcels of land involved in the
actions having been already transferred to innocent purchasers for value long before the Solicitor-General
even filed the petition for review (Record on Appeal, pp. 27-40).

Their motion to dismiss having been held in abeyance until the hearing of the merits of the case which was
set for August 16, 1970, respondents filed their answer to the Petition for Review on August 4, 1970. In
their answer, respondents reiterated their grounds in their motion to dismiss (Record on Appeal, pp. 40-44).

On November 12, 1970, Petitioner filed an amended Petition for Review, with the additional allegation that
after having fraudulently secured title over the parcels of land involved, the petitioners executed simulated
deeds of sale purporting to convey various lots composing portions of the parcels involved to third parties
for fictitious considerations in an obvious attempt to remove the parcels of land involved from the coverage
of Section 38 of Act 496, but in truth, the aforementioned third parties are not innocent purchasers for
value, being mere dummies of the petitioners, holding the parcels of land involved only in trust for the
petitioners. On November 23, 1970, respondents filed their answer to the Amended Petition for Review
(Record on Appeal, p. 56).

On August 14, 1971, the lower court issued its Order denying petitioner’s Amended Petition for Review
(Record on Appeal, p. 56).

On appeal to the Court of Appeals on September 20, 1971, the questioned Order of the Court of First
Instance of Bataan, Branch I was affirmed (Rollo, p. 33).

On February 25, 1975, Petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration which was denied by the Court of
Appeals for lack of merit, in the Resolution of a special Division of Five, promulgated on March 19, 1975.

Hence this petition.

Without giving due course to the Petition, the Court, through its First Division, resolved on May 5, 1975 to
require the respondents to comment thereon. On May 30, 1975, respondents filed their comment, alleging
that the decision of respondent Court and the questioned resolution were not rendered without or in excess
of its jurisdiction. Neither was the discretion exercised by respondent Court arbitrary or despotic.

In its Resolution dated June 4, 1975, the Court resolved to give due course to the Petition and denied the
urgent motion of respondents for leave to file a supplemental and/or amended comment. Petitioners filed its
Brief on November 29, 1975; respondents, on March 2, 1976. Petitioner filed its Reply Brief on March 25,
1976 and on May 5, 1976, the case was deemed submitted for decision.
Petitioner assigns the following errors:cha nro b1es vi rtua l 1aw lib ra ry

I. THE RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED A REVERSIBLE ERROR IN TOTALLY DISREGARDING


THE UNDISPUTED FACT THAT THE LOTS CLAIMED BY HEREIN PRIVATE RESPONDENTS BECAME
AGRICULTURAL ONLY ON JULY 6, 1965 WHEN THE SAME WERE RELEASED FROM THE FOREST ZONE AND
THAT CONSEQUENTLY THEY LACK THE REQUISITE THIRTY (30) YEARS POSSESSION TO ENTITLE THEM TO
A GRANT.

II. THE RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED A REVERSIBLE ERROR IN NOT HOLDING THAT THE
ENTIRE PROCEEDING FOR REOPENING OF THE CADASTRAL CASE OVER THE LOTS IN QUESTION WAS
VITIATED BY LACK OF NOTICE TO THE SOLICITOR-GENERAL.

III. THE RESPONDENT COURT ERRED IN NOT HOLDING THAT THE ALLEGED TRANSFER OF THE LOTS IN
QUESTION BY PRIVATE RESPONDENTS TO THIRD PARTIES WHEN THEIR TITLES WERE STILL SUBJECT TO
THE ONE-YEAR PERIOD OF REVIEW CONSTITUTES FRAUD SCHEMED BY THE TRANSFERORS AS A MEANS OF
FRUSTRATING ANY ACTION AIMED AT NULLIFYING THEIR TITLES THERETO.

The government’s cause is meritorious.

It is evident from the facts of the case at bar that private respondents did file a claim for Lot No. 622 of the
Mariveles Cadastre and in fact a decision was rendered before the last war in Cadastral Case No. 19 LRC
Cadastral Record No. 1097, declaring the lot in question as public land. It must be stressed that said lot was
declared public land by virtue of a court decision which has become final and as held by the Supreme Court
aforesaid decision is res judicata. (Republic v. Estenzo, 120 SCRA 222 [1983]). It is therefore beyond
question that the trial court has no jurisdiction to reopen the cadastral proceeding under R.A. 931 as
amended by R.A. 2061 and the decision therein rendered is null and void ab initio.

Furthermore, it is undisputed that aforesaid Lot No. 622 was released as an agricultural land for disposition
under Public Land Act only on July 6, 1965. The lower court ordered the issuance of the corresponding
decrees of registration for the lots, pursuant to Sec. 48(b), C.A. 141, otherwise known as the Public Land
Act, as amended by Republic Act No. 1942, providing for the confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles,
which reads: jgc:chan roble s.com.p h

"(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors in interest have been in open, continuous,
exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona
fide claim of acquisition of ownership, for at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the
application for confirmation of title except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be
conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be
entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter." cralaw virtua1aw l ib rary

As pointed out by petitioner, the question is whether or not the lots claimed by respondents could legally be
the subject of a judicial confirmation of title under the aforequoted provisions of the Public Land Act, as
amended.

The answer is in the negative.

Section 48(b) of C.A. No. 141, as amended, applies exclusively to public agricultural land. Forest lands or
areas covered with forests are excluded. They are incapable of registration and their inclusion in a title,
whether such title be one issued during the Spanish sovereignty or under the present Torrens system of
registration, nullifies the title (Li Seng Giap v. Director of Lands, 55 Phil. 693 [1931]; Director of Lands v.
Reyes, 68 SCRA 177 [1975]). Thus, possession of forest lands, however long, cannot ripen into private
ownership (Vano v. Government, 41 Phil. 161 [1920]; Adorable v. Director of Forestry, 107 Phil. 401
[1960]; Director of Forestry v. Muñoz, 23 SCRA 1183 [1968]; Director of Lands v. Abanzado, 65 SCRA 5
[1975]). A parcel of forest land is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Bureau of Forestry and beyond the
power and jurisdiction of the cadastral court to register under the Torrens System (Republic v. Court of
Appeals, 89 SCRA 648 [1979]; Republic v. Vera (120 SCRA 210 [1983]; Director of Lands v. Court of
Appeals, 129 SCRA 689 [1984].
Thus, even if the reopening of the cadastral proceedings was at all possible, private respondents have not
qualified for a grant under Sec. 48(b) of Commonwealth Act 141, the facts being that private respondents
could only be credited with 1 year, 9 months and 20 days possession and occupation of the lots involved,
counted from July 6, 1965, the date when the land area in sitio San Jose, barrio Cabcaban, Mariveles,
Bataan, known as Bataan PMD No. 267, which includes the lots claimed by respondents, had been
segregated from the forest zone and released by the Bureau of Forestry as an agricultural land for
disposition under the Public Land Act. (Record on Appeal, p. 19). Consequently, under the above mentioned
jurisprudence, neither private respondents nor their predecessors-in-interest could have possessed the lots
for the requisite period of thirty (30) years as disposable agricultural land.

II

Petitioner argues that the government, being a necessary party in the cadastral case, as reopened, its
counsel, the Solicitor-General, should have been furnished copies of all court orders, notices and decisions,
as in ordinary cases, in order to bind the government. Failure to give such notice deprives the State of its
day in Court, and renders the decision void. (Brief for Petitioner, pp. 16-17).

The records show that the Solicitor-General was duly notified of the initial hearing on the petition to reopen
Cadastral Case No. 19 but thereafter, notice of subsequent hearings as well as a copy of the decision itself
promulgated by the lower court on December 19, 1968 was sent instead to the Provincial Fiscal of Bataan,
admittedly the duly authorized representative of the Solicitor-General in the cadastral proceeding as shown
in a telegram dated January 19, 1968. (Record on Appeal, p. 47).

In the case of Republic v. Director of Lands (71 SCRA 426 [1976], the Supreme Court, applying the time-
honored principle of agency ruled that the service of the questioned decision on the Provincial Fiscal must
necessarily be service on the Solicitor-General, and added that technical transgressions relative to the filing
and service may be brushed aside when the adverse party (this time the Director of Lands and Forestry and
their counsel, the Solicitor-General) is aware of the matter which his adversary would want the court to act
upon. Once it appears that the party is already informed by one means or another of what he is to be
notified, the required service becomes an empty gesture and strict observance thereof is considered waived.
(Citing Estrada v. Sto. Domingo, 28 SCRA 890 [1969]).

In the case at bar, it does not appear that the Solicitor General was so apprised of the decision of the lower
court in question as there is no proof that the Provincial Fiscal of Bataan ever sent the Solicitor-General a
copy thereof. Furthermore, after the 3rd Assistant Provincial Fiscal filed a notice of appeal from the decision
of the trial court, the Provincial Fiscal on March 21, 1969 manifested that he was withdrawing the appeal
upon the intervention of the District Forester. (Respondent’s Brief, p. 44).

It will be observed however that later decisions of the Supreme Court tend to be more strict in the matter of
giving notice to the Solicitor General. In a more recent case, Republic v. Court of Appeals, 135 SCRA 161
[1985], it was established that the Solicitor-General is the only legal counsel of the government in land
registration cases and as such, he alone may withdraw the Government’s appeal with binding effect on the
latter. He is entitled to be furnished copies of all court orders, notices and decisions and as held the
reglementary thirty-day period for appeal should be reckoned from the time the Solicitor-General’s Office is
apprised of the 1970 order of denial and not from the time the special counsel or the fiscal was served with
that order. Thus, representatives of the Solicitor General in the case at bar, had no power to decide whether
or not an appeal should be made. They should have referred the matter to the Solicitor-General and without
copies of court orders, notices and decisions, having been provided by either the trial court or the Provincial
Fiscal of Bataan to the Solicitor-General, the assailed decision has no binding effect on the government.

III

The petition for review of Decrees Nos. N-124813 to N-124818 under Sec. 38 of Act No. 496 as amended
was filed by the Solicitor General on May 7, 1970 in representation of the Republic of the Philippines, in the
same Cadastral Case No. 19, LRC Cadastral Record No. 1097, exactly a year after the issuance of aforesaid
decrees of registration, on the ground of actual fraud. (Record on Appeal, pp. 43-44).

The basic elements for the allowance of the reopening or review of a decree, are: (1) that the petitioner has
real or dominical right; (2) that he has been deprived thereof through fraud; (3) that the petition is filed
within one year from the issuance of the decree and (4) that the property has not as yet been transferred to
an innocent purchaser. (Libudan v. Gil, 45 SCRA 27 [1972]; Rubico, Et. Al. v. Orellana, 30 SCRA 513
[1969]). It has been held however that the action to annul a judgment, upon the ground of fraud would be
unavailing unless the fraud be extrinsic or collateral and the facts upon which it is based have not been
controverted or resolved in the case where the judgment sought to be annulled was rendered. (Libudan v.
Gil, supra). Review of the decree demands a showing of actual (not constructive) fraud, i.e. actual malice.
(Rublico v. Orellana, supra).

In the case at bar, it cannot be said that private respondents employed actual fraud in procuring titles over
parcels of land of the public domain as it is a matter of record that the land in question was opened for
disposition and alienation only on July 6, 1965. The matter was threshed out in the lower court and the
decision of the latter was affirmed by the Court of Appeals. Actual malice is therefore absent.

However, it has been held that, if a decree issued in pursuance of a valid decision, obtained by fraud, may
be annulled within one (1) year from entry of said decree, there is more reason to hold that the same is true
if entered in compliance with a decision suffering from a fatal infirmity, such as want of due process, (Vda.
de Cuaycong v. Vda. de Sangbengoo, 110 Phil. 118 [1960] or lack of jurisdiction of the court that decided
the cadastral case. (Republic v. De Kalintas, 25 SCRA 720 [1969]). Thus, on both counts, the case at bar
can properly be the subject of review, it having been shown that the Solicitor-General was not properly
furnished the requisite notices and copy of the assailed decision but more importantly, the lower court as
previously stated had no jurisdiction to re-open the cadastral proceeding under Republic Act 931 as
amended by R.A. No. 2061.

IV

As to whether or not the transferees of the lot in question are innocent purchasers for value, it is a well
settled rule that a purchaser cannot close his eyes to facts which should put a reasonable man upon his
guard, and then claim that he acted in good faith under the belief that there was no defect in the title of the
vendor. (Leung Yee v. F.L. Strong Machiner Co., Et Al., 37 Phil. 651[1918]. Without the needed verification,
he cannot claim to be an innocent purchaser for value in contemplation of law.

Moreover, it is well-settled that a certificate of title is void, when it covers property of public domain
classified as forest or timber and mineral lands. Any title issued on non-disposable lots even in the hands of
an alleged innocent purchaser for value, shall be cancelled. (Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company v.
Dumyung, 89 SCRA 540 [1979] underscoring supplied). In the case at bar, it will be noted that in granting
titles to the land in dispute, the lower court counted the period of possession of private respondents before
the same were released as forest lands for disposition, which release is tantamount to qualifying the latter
to a grant on said lands while they were still non-disposable. Thus, under the foregoing rulings, even
assuming that the transferees are innocent purchasers for value, their titles to said lands derived from the
titles of private respondents which were not validly issued as they cover lands still a part of the public
domain, may be cancelled.

PREMISES CONSIDERED, the assailed decision of the Court of Appeals and the decision of the Court of First
Instance are hereby SET ASIDE and REVERSED, because the lots in question still form part of the public
domain. The certificates of title issued over them are hereby ordered CANCELLED.

SO ORDERED.

[G.R. No. L-56984. September 30, 1987.]

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, represented by the Director of Forest Development and the
Director of Lands, Petitioner, v. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, and MARTINA CARANTES
for and in behalf of the Heirs of SALMING PIRASO, Respondents.

DECISION

GUTIERREZ, JR., J.:


This is a petition for review on certiorari to set aside the decision of the Court of Appeals affirming in toto
the judgment of the Court of First Instance of Baguio and Benguet, Branch III, at La Trinidad in LRC Case
No. N-287, Record No. 37205, the dispositive portion of which reads as follows: jgc:chan robles. com.ph

"It having been proven convincingly that this land was owned and possessed by the late Salming Piraso and
later by his successors-in- interest, who are his children for a period of more than thirty years up to this
date, they have shown to have a registerable title on the property which the Court therefore confirms and
affirms in accordance with the law. Let the land so described in the technical description of the survey made
of the same and in accordance with the corresponding plan be so registered." (p. 50, Rollo)

On May 9, 1968, respondent Martina S. Carantes for and in behalf of the Heirs of Salming Piraso filed with
the Court of First Instance of Baguio and Benguet, Land Registration No. N-287, covering the following
described property: jg c:chan roble s.com.p h

"A parcel of land (as shown on plan PSU-43639) situated in the Barrio of Ansagan, Municipality of Tuba,
Mountain Province. Bounded in the NE., along line 1-2 by property of Sioco Carino (PSU-43643, Lot 1); on
the SE., and SW., along lines 2-3-4-5 by public land, on the W., along lines 5-6-1 by property of Tunccalo.
Containing an area of TWO MILLION ONE HUNDRED NINETY SEVEN THOUSAND EIGHT HUNDRED AND
SEVENTY NINE (2,197,879) SQUARE METERS. . ." (p. 13, Rollo)

On January 13, 1970, the Director of Lands, through the Solicitor General, filed an opposition to the
application for registration stating, among others: jgc:chan robles .com.p h

"That neither the applicant nor her predecessors-in-interest possess sufficient title to said parcel of land the
same not having been acquired by them either by composition title from the Spanish Government or by
possessory information title under the Royal Decree of February 13, 1894;

"That neither the applicant nor her predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive,
notorious possession and occupation of the land in question for at least thirty years immediately preceding
the filing of the present application;

"That the aforementioned parcel of land is a portion of the public domain belonging to the Republic of the
Philippines." (pp. 13-14, Rollo)

On April 7, 1970, the Director of Forestry also filed an opposition to the application for registration on the
following grounds: jg c:chan roble s.com. ph

"That the whole area applied for registration is within the Central Cordillera Forest Reserve established
under Proclamation No. 217, dated February 16, 1929;

"That the area sought to be registered is neither released for disposition nor alienation; and that the herein
applicant has no registerable title over the whole parcel of land either in fact or in law." (p. 14, Rollo)

After trial, a decision was rendered by the land registration court, as earlier stated, adjudicating the parcel
of land to the applicants. The motion for reconsideration filed by Government oppositor’s having been
denied, an appeal was made to the Court of Appeals which affirmed in toto the decision of the land
registration court. chan roble s.com : vi rtual law lib rary

In this petition, the petitioner assigns the following alleged errors of the Court of Appeals: chan rob 1es vi rtual 1aw lib rary

A. RESPONDENT COURT ERRED IN NOT DECLARING THAT THE LAND IN QUESTION IS NOT CAPABLE OF
REGISTRATION BEING PART OF THE PUBLIC FORESTS WITHIN THE CENTRAL CORDILLERA FOREST
RESERVE: chanrob1es vi rtua l 1aw li bra ry

B. RESPONDENT COURT ERRED IN NOT FINDING THAT THE ALLEGED POSSESSION OF THE LAND BY
PRIVATE RESPONDENTS AND THEIR PREDECESSORS-IN-INTEREST WAS NOT IN CONCEPT OF OWNER
UNDER SECTION 48 of the PUBLIC LAND LAW, THE LAND BEING IN-ALIENABLE;

C. RESPONDENT COURT ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE LAND IS AGRICULTURAL BECAUSE THE
GOVERNMENT FAILED TO SUBMIT PROOF THAT THE LAND IS MORE VALUABLE FOR FOREST PURPOSES;
D. RESPONDENT COURT ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE PROPERTY BECAME SEGREGATED FROM THE LAND
OF THE PUBLIC DOMAIN AND ASSUMED THE CHARACTER OF PRIVATE OWNERSHIP UPON APPROVAL OF ITS
SURVEY PLAN BY THE DIRECTOR OF LAND IN 1925;)

E. ASSUMING THAT PRIVATE RESPONDENTS HAD POSSESSED AND CULTIVATED 10 TO 15 HECTARES OF


THE LAND APPLIED FOR, RESPONDENT COURT ERRED IN RULING THAT THEY HAD ACQUIRED OWNERSHIP
THRU CONSTRUCTIVE POSSESSION OVER THE REST OF THE 219.7879 HECTARES APPLIED FOR. (p. 18,
Rollo)

The issues raised are:chan rob1es v irt ual 1aw l ibra ry

1. Whether or not the land in question is part of the public forest within the Central Cordillera Forest
Reserve; and

2. Whether or not private respondents have established registerable title over the land in question.

It is the stand of the petitioner that the land in question covered by the Plan-Psu-43639 is part of the public
forests within the Central Cordillera Forest Reserve established under Proclamation No. 217 of Governor
General Henry Stimson dated February 16, 1929. On February 27, 1980, an ocular inspection of said
property was made by Land Inspector Crisogono Bartolo, Jr., of the Bureau of Lands together with
representatives of the Bureau of Forestry, the Land Registration Court, and the applicants for registration.
During the ocular inspection, the land was found to be rolling and stony in nature. Bartolo, Jr., submitted a
report on April 17, 1970 stating among others, that the land is covered with trees, bushes and grasses and
being also stony is not suitable for agricultural purposes. chanrob les.co m:cra law:red

The representative of the Bureau of Forestry, Forester Ricardo D. Zapatero, submitted to the Provincial
Fiscal a separate report dated April 6, 1970 to the effect that the whole area falls within the Central
Cordillera Forest Reserve and that the same has not been released for agricultural purposes by the Director
of Forestry who had administrative jurisdiction over the same.

The petitioner states that since the land in question is indubitably part of the public forest and has not been
reclassified or released from the forest zone, the same can not be the subject of registration either under
Act 496, otherwise known as the Land Registration Act, or under Section 48(b) of Commonwealth Act No.
141, otherwise known as the Public Land Act. The petitioner points out that lands within the forest zone or
within a duly established reservation do not form part of the disposable portion of the public domain nor can
the same be alienated as said lands are not capable of private appropriation or ownership and possession
thereof, however long, cannot convert that same into private property. chan roble s lawli bra ry : rednad

It is further argued by the petitioner that the private respondents or their predecessors-in-interest, Salming
Piraso, had not acquired ownership over the land prior to its classification as part of the Cordillera Forest
Reserve because there is no evidence on record that Salming Piraso had possessed the property for any
appreciable period prior to 1929 when the and became part of the Cordillera Forest Reserve.

On the other hand, the private respondents assert that the findings of fact of the Court of Appeals show that
the land subject of application is not within the Central Cordillera Forest Reserve and the same land applied
for registration is disposable and alienable. The private respondents, as applicants, claim to have sufficiently
shown by preponderance of evidence that the land being applied for registration had been possessed by
Salming Piraso as far back as 1915 when he and his workers planted the arable portion of about 15 hectares
to rice and other products and raised cows on the other portion suited for pasture. The late Salming Piraso
had the land surveyed by private surveyor Jose Castro on April 3-9, 1924 as Plan Psu-43639 which was
approved by the then Director of Lands, Jorge B. Vargas on March 6, 1925, while Proclamation No. 217 was
promulgated only on February 16, 1929. They state that the approval of the said survey by the government
thru the Director of Lands Jorge B. Vargas can only mean that said land was no longer included in the
overall survey of the government as it was no longer part of the public land. As applicants, they contend
that they have possessed the land applied for in concept of owner, openly and publicly, adverse against the
whole world and continuously for more than thirty (30) years before they filed the application over the land
which is agricultural and separate from the public domain. chanrob les lawl ibra ry : redna d

We find the petition to be meritorious. It is already a settled rule that forest lands or forest reserves are not
capable of private appropriation and possession thereof, however long, cannot convert them into private
property (Vano v. Government of Philippine Islands, 41 Phil. 161; Adorable v. Director of Forestry, 107 Phil.
401; Director of Forestry v. Muñoz, 23 SCRA 1183; Republic v. De la Cruz, 67 SCRA 221; Director of Lands
v. Reyes & Alinsunurin v. Director of Lands, 68 SCRA 177; Republic v. Court of Appeals, 89 SCRA 648; and
Director of Lands v. Court of Appeals, 133 SCRA 701) unless such lands are reclassified and considered
disposable and alienable by the Director of Forestry, but even then, possession of the land by the applicants
prior to the reclassification of the land as disposable and alienable cannot be credited as part of the thirty-
year requirement under Section 48 (b) of the Public Land Act (Director of Lands v. Court of Appeals, supra).
In this case, there is no showing of reclassification by the Director of Forestry that the land in question is
disposable or alienable. This is a matter which cannot be assumed. It calls for proof.

There is an erroneous assumption implicit in the challenged decision of the Court of Appeals which the
government oppositors also appear to have overlooked. This is the reliance on Proclamation No. 217 of
Governor General Henry L. Stimson as the operative act which converted the lands covered by the Central
Cordillera Forest Reserve into forest lands. This is wrong. The land was not non-forest or agricultural land
prior to the 1929 proclamation. It did not earn a classification from non-forest into forest land because of
the proclamation. The proclamation merely declared a special forest reserve out of already existing forest
lands. The land was already forest or timber land even before the proclamation. The alleged entry in 1915 of
Salming Piraso and the cultivation of 15 hectares out of a 219.7879 hectares claimed area has no legal
significance. A person cannot enter into forest land and by the simple act of cultivating a portion of that
land, earn credits towards an eventual confirmation of imperfect title. The Government must first declare the
forest land to be alienable and disposable agricultural land before the year of entry, cultivation, and
exclusive and adverse possession can be counted for purposes of an imperfect title. chan rob les vi rt ual lawlib rary

The records positively establish that the land in question is part of the public forest which the Executive
formally proclaimed as the Central Cordillera Forest Reserve to further preserve its integrity and to give it a
status which is more special for certain purposes than that of ordinary forest lands.

One reason for the respondent court’s decision finding a registerable title for the private respondents is its
observation that the Government failed to show that the disputed land is more valuable for forest purposes.
The court noted a failure to prove that trees are thriving in the land.

The Court of Appeals finding is based on a wrong concept of what is forest land. There is a big difference
between "forest" as defined in a dictionary and "forest or timber land" as a classification of lands of the
public domain in the Constitution. (Section 3, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, Section 10, Article XIV of
the 1973 Constitution, as amended; and Section 1, Article XIII of the 1935 Constitution).

One is descriptive of what appears on the land while the other is a legal status, a classification for legal
purposes.

The "forest land" started out as a "forest" or vast tracts of wooded land with dense growths of trees and
underbush. However, the cutting down of trees and the disappearance of virgin forest and not automatically
convert the lands of the public domain from forest or timber land to alienable agricultural land.

As stated by this Court in Heirs of Amunategui v. Director of Forestry (126 SCRA 69, 75);

"A forested area classified as forest land of the public domain does not lose such classification simply
because loggers or settlers may have stripped it of its forest cover. Parcels of land classified as forest land
may actually be covered with grass or planted to crops by kaingin cultivators or other farmers.’Forest lands’
do not have to be on mountains or in out of the way places. Swampy areas covered by mangrove trees, nipa
palms, and other trees growing in brackish or sea water may also be classified as forest land. The
classification is descriptive of its legal nature or status and does not have to be descriptive of what the land
actually looks like. Unless and until the land classified as ‘forest’ is released in an official proclamation to
that effect so that it may form part of the disposable agricultural lands of the public domain, the rules on
confirmation of imperfect title do not apply.

"This Court ruled in the leading case of Director of Forestry v. Muñoz (23 SCRA 1184) that possession of
forest lands, no matter how long, cannot ripen into private ownership. And in Republic v. Animas, (56 SCRA
499), we granted the petition on the ground that the area covered by the patent and title was not
disposable public land, it being a part of the forest zone and any patent and title to said area is void ab
initio. It bears emphasizing that a positive act of Government is needed to declassify land which is classified
as forest and to convert it into alienable or disposable land for agricultural or other purposes." (at p. 75)

On February 27, 1970, an ocular inspection of the questioned property was conducted by Land Inspector
Crisogono Bartolo, Jr., of the Bureau of Lands, together with Forester Ricardo D. Zapatero of the Bureau of
Forestry, Deputy Clerk of Court Roberto Gogoling as representative of the land registration court, Fiscal
Navarro and Andres Carantes as representative of the applicant.

Land Inspector Crisogono Bartolo, Jr., submitted his report dated April 17, 1970, which states, among
others, that the land is covered with trees, bushes and grasses and being stony is not suitable for
agricultural purposes. This negates the claim of the private respondents that the land has been cultivated
since 1915.

More important, however, than the appearance of the land is its status, as stated in the separate report
dated April 6, 1970 submitted to the Provincial Fiscal of Benguet Province by Forester Ricardo D. Zapatero
which declares that the whole area applied for by the applicant falls within the Central Cordillera Forest
Reserve and that the same has not been released for agricultural purposes by the Director of Forestry who
has administrative jurisdiction over the same. This has not been successfully refuted. It has not been proved
erroneous.

Testifying in connection with the matters stated in his report, Forester Ricardo D. Zapatero stated that: jgc:chanrobles. com.ph

"Q Do you know the land in question here in this case?

"A I know sir.

"Q In connection with your duty to inspect the lands that are subject matters of land registration cases,
have you inspected this land in question also?

"A Yes, I inspected it, sir.

"Q What is the purpose of your inspection?

"A The purpose of my inspection is to determine the status of the area if it falls within the reservation, or
within the alienable or disposable area.

"Q What is your finding, if any?

"A My finding was that the area falls within the Central Cordillera Forest Reserve.

"Q Was that finding reduced into writing?

"A Yes, sir.

"Q I am showing to you a report found on Pages Sixty-Eight (68) of the records which for purposes of
identification, we pray that the same be marked as Exhibit "A" for the government oppositors, your Honor.

"COURT: chanrob 1es vi rtua l 1aw lib rary

As what?

"FISCAL BRAWNER: chanrob1es v irt ual 1aw l ibra ry

Rather as Exhibit "1."

"COURT: chanrob 1es vi rtua l 1aw lib rary

Have it marked.

"Q What is the relation of this report with that report that you made?

"A This is the original copy of the Report which I submitted to the Provincial Fiscal.

"Q There appears a signature above the typewritten name ‘Ricardo D. Zapatero’, whose signature is that?

"A That is mine, sir.


"Q You stated that in paragraph 3 of your report, Exhibit 1 that the land falls within the Central Cordillera
Forest Reserve, how did you arrive at that conclusion?

"A Because of what I have even of the improvements of the applicant and because of the Bureau of Forestry
map.

"Q Did you actually go to the land in question or the land applied for?

"A Yes, sir.

"Q So, you actually saw this land applied for?

"A Yes, sir.

"Q What is the nature of this land applied for?

"A It is generally stony and the topography is level to rolling and there are certain species of plants inside
the land, in some area.

"COURT: jgc:chanro bles. com.ph

"Q What are the species of plants?

"A There are species of Binayuyu.

"Q That is for lumber?

"A No, that is not.

"FISCAL BRAWNER: jgc:chanroble s.com.p h

"Q You stated in paragraph 2 of your report that the topography of the land applied for is generally stony,
and because of the Binayuyu species, the condition of the land is not suited for agricultural purposes?

"A Yes, sir.

"Q What is the basis of that statement?

"A Because of the topography which is of solid inclination, we believe that is not good for agricultural
purposes. The land applied for is more suited for pasture purposes." (pp. 203-206, tsn., September 6,
1971; Emphasis supplied)

The reports and testimonies of Land Inspector Bartolo and Forester Zapatero support the contention of the
petitioner that the area applied for by the applicant is forest land within the Central Cordillera Forest
Reserve. In the case of Ramos v. Director of Lands (39 Phil. 175) we have stated: jgc:chanrobles. com.ph

"Great consideration, it may be stated, should, and undoubtedly will be, paid by the courts to the opinion of
the technical expert who speaks with authority on Forestry matters." cralaw virtua1aw l ib rary

There is no factual basis for the conclusion of the appellate court that the property in question was no longer
part of the public land when the Government through the Director of Lands approved on March 6, 1925, the
survey plan (Psu-43639) for Salming Piraso. The existence of a sketch plan of real property even if approved
by the Bureau of Lands is no proof in itself of ownership of the land covered by the plan. (Gimeno v. Court
of Appeals, 80 SCRA 623). The fact that a claimant or a possessor has a sketch plan or a survey map
prepared for a parcel of land which forms part of the country’s forest reserves does not convert such land
into alienable land, much less private property. Assuming that a public officer erroneously approves the
sketch plan, such approval is null and void. There must first be a formal Government declaration that the
forest land has been re-classified into alienable and disposable agricultural land which may then be acquired
by private persons in accordance with the various modes of acquiring public agricultural lands. chanrob les.com : vi rtua l law lib ra ry

WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby GRANTED. The decision of the Court of Appeals affirming the decision of
the land registration court which granted the private respondents’ application for registration of the land in
question is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The application for land registration is DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. L-44649 April 15, 1988

DAYLINDA A. LAGUA, MANUEL P. LAGUA, HONORATO ACHANZAR and RESTITUTO


DONGA, petitioners,
vs.
HONORABLE VICENTE N. CUSI, JR., in his capacity as Presiding Judge of the Court of First
Instance of Davao City, Branch I, CONSTANCIO MAGLANA and the EASTCOAST
DEVELOPMENT ENTERPRISES, respondents.

Wilfred D. Asis for petitioner.

Carlos A. Carbonilla for respondents.

GUTIERREZ, JR., J.:

This petition for mandamus originated from a complaint for damages which was instituted by the petitioners against the private respondents
for closing a logging road without authority.

In their complaint, the petitioners, alleged, among others:

In Paragraph 5(a):

a) On 1 January 1976, Atty. Ernesto Nombrado, legal counsel for defendants, issued
a memorandum to the Chief Security Guard of Defendant Eastcoast directing the
latter to prevent the passage of Plaintiff Laguas' hauling trucks loaded with logs for
the Japanese vessel (there were no other trucks hauling logs at that time) on the
national highway loading towards where the vessel was berthed. In compliance with
this directive, the security force of Defendant Eastcoast closed the road to the use by
plaintiffs trucks and other equipments and effectively prevented their passage thereof
while the vehicles and trucks of other people were curiously not disturbed and were
allowed passess on the same road. It resulted that the loading of logs on the M/S
"Kyofuku Maru" was discontinued. A xeroxed copy of this Nombrado memorandum,
the original of which is however in the possession of defendants, is hereto attached
as Annex "C" and made an integral part hereof.

In Paragraph 5(b):

b) Upon representations made to Indalecio L. Aspiras, Acting Station Officer-in-


Charge, BFD Lambajon Forest Station, and in response to plaintiff Laguas'
complaint, a letter dated 2 January 1976 was addressed by Aspiras to the Resident
Manager of Defendant Eastcoast with instructions to open and allow Plaintiff Laguas'
trucks and machineries to pass that road closed to them (but not to others) by
Defendant Eastcoast. A xeroxed copy of this letter is hereto attached as Annex "D"
and made a part hereof. Accordingly, Sagrado Constantino, Resident Manager of
Defendant Eastcoast, issued an order to their Chief Security Guard for the latter to
comply with the Aspiras letter. These events, however, took the whole day of 2
January 1976 so that notwithstanding the lifting of the road closure no hauling of logs
could be made by Plaintiff Laguas on that day.

In Paragraph 5(c):

c) When Plaintiffs Laguas were already resuming the hauling operations of their logs
towards the Japanese Vessel on 3 January 1976, again that same road, only the day
before ordered by the BFD to be opened for use and passage by plaintiffs, was
closed to them by Defendant Eastcoast's security men upon a radio message order
of Defendant Maglana. Even the vessel M/S "Kyofuku Maruwas" ordered by
Defendant Maglana to untie her anchor contrary to existing laws, rules and
regulations of the Bureau of Customs and the Philippine Coastguard. A xeroxed copy
of the Maglana message, the original of which is in the possession of the defendants,
is hereto attached as Annex "E" and made an integral part hereof.

And in paragraph 5(d):

d) Given no recourse in the face of the blatant and illegal closure of the road in
defiance of BFD orders to the contrary by the Defendant Eastcoast through the order
of Defendant Maglana, Plaintiff Laguas had to depart postpaste to Mati, Davao
Oriental, from Baganga where the shipment and the road closure were made, to
seek the assistance of the PC thereat. Thus on 5 January 1976, Provincial
Commander Alfonso Lumebao issued a directive to the PC Detachment Commander
at Baganga to lift the illegal checkpoint made by defendants. A xeroxed copy of this
directive is hereto attached as Annex "F" and made a part hereof. (Rollo, pp. 57-58)

The private respondents filed a motion to dismiss on two grounds, namely: (1) lack of jurisdiction,
and (2) lack of cause of action.

The private respondents extended that as the acts complained of by the petitioners arose out of the
legitimate exercise of respondent Eastcoast Development Enterprises, Inc., rights as a timber
licensee, more particularly in the use of its logging roads, therefore, the resolution of this question is
properly and legally within the Bureau of Forest Development, citing as authority Presidential Decree
(P.D.) No. 705. The private respondents also argued that petitioner Daylinda Laguas has no capacity
to sue as her name was not registered as an "agent" or "dealer" of logs in the Bureau of Forestry.

On August 3, 1976, the trial court issued the questioned order dismissing the petitioners' complaint
on the basis of the abovementioned grounds. It ruled:

The Court agrees with the defendants that under the law, the Bureau of Forest
Development has the exclusive power to regulate the use of logging road and to
determine whether their use is in violation of laws. Since the damages claimed to
have been sustained by the plaintiffs arose from the alleged illegal closure of a
logging road — in the language of the defendants on page 3 of their motion to
dismiss. The simple fact is there was an illegal closure of the national highway
affecting the private rights of the plaintiffs who sustained damages and losses as a
consequence thereof — the question whether or not the road was illegally closed
must first be determined by the Bureau of Forest Development. If the said Bureau
finds that the road was legally closed, an action for damages may be filed in Court.
Otherwise, no civil action would prosper, for there would be no tortious act. (Rollo,
pp. 58-69).

xxx xxx xxx

After the logging road was closed for the first time, more so after the second time, by
the defendant Eastcoast Development Enterprises, Inc., the plaintiffs should have
asked the Bureau of Forest Development to determine the legality or illegality of the
closure since they wanted to file, as they did file, an action for damages based on the
alleged illegal closure. The fact that the letter of January 2, 1976, directed defendant
Eastcoast Development Enterprises, Inc. to open the road does not necessarily
mean that the Bureau of Forest Development had found that the closure was illegal.
There must be a positive finding that the closure was illegal. ... (Rollo, p. 60)

xxx xxx xxx

As an attorney-in-fact, Daylinda A. Lagua is not entitled to, and cannot cannot claim,
damages in her personal capacity. For she could not have sustained damages as a
result of the alleged illegal closure of the road in her personal capacity while acting in
her representative capacity. So if she and her husband sustained damages, it must
have been because their legal rights were violated by a tortious act committed by the
defendants other than the alleged illegal closure of the road. But as stated elsewhere
in this order, even the plaintiffs admit that the damages they claimed to have
sustained arose from the alleged illegal closure of the logging road. Assuming,
however, that another tortious act violated the legal rights of the Laguas, still they
could not joint Achanzar and Donga in this complaint for there would be misjoinder of
parties. (Rollo, pp. 61-62)

Hence, this petition for mandamus which we will treat as a petition for certiorari in the interest of
justice.

The petitioners maintain that since their action is for damages, the regular courts have jurisdiction
over the same. According to them, the respondent court had no basis for holding that the Bureau of
Forestry Development must first determine that the closure of a logging road is illegal before an
action for damages can be instituted.

We agree.

P.D. No. 705 upon which the respondent court based its order does not vest any power in the
Bureau of Forest Development to determine whether or not the closure of a logging road is legal or
illegal and to make such determination a pre-requisite before an action for damages may be
maintained. Moreover, the complaint instituted by the petitioners is clearly for damages based on the
alleged illegal closure of the logging road. Whether or not such closure was illegal is a matter to be
established on the part of the petitioners and a matter to be disproved by the private respondents.
This should appropriately be threshed out in a judicial proceeding. It is beyond the power and
authority of the Bureau of Forest Development to determine the unlawful closure of a passage way,
much less award or deny the payment of damages based on such closure. Not every activity inside
a forest area is subject to the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Forest Development. As we have held
in Ateneo de Manila University v. Court of appeals (145 SCRA 100, 110):

The issue in this court was whether or not the private respondents can recover
damages as a result of the of their son from the petitioner university. This is a purely
legal question and nothing of an a administrative nature is to or can be done
(Gonzales v. Hechanova, 9 SCRA 230; Tapales v. University of the Philippines, 7
SCRA 533; Limoico v. Board of Administrators. (PJA) 133 SCRA 43; Malabanan v.
Ramonte, 129 SCRA 359). The case was brought pursuant to the law on damages
provided in the Civil Code. The jurisdiction to try the case belongs to the civil courts.

The private respondents, in their memorandum filed with the respondent court, alleged that the logs
of petitioner Achanzar were cut down and removed outside of the area granted to the latter under his
Private Timber License No. 2 and therefore inside the concession area of respondent company's
Timber License Agreement. This, apparently, was the reason why the respondent company denied
to the petitioners the use of the logging road. If we hold the respondents to their contention that the
Bureau of Forest Development has the power and authority not only to regulate the use or blockade
of logging roads but also to exclusively determine the legality of a closure of such roads, why then
did they take it upon themselves to initially close the disputed logging road before taking up the
matter with the Bureau and why did they close it again notwithstanding the Bureau's order to open it
after the petitioners had duly informed the said Bureau of the closure? To use the Bureau's authority
which the respondents ignored to now defeat the court's jurisdiction would be totally unacceptable.
We, therefore, find that the trial court committed grave abuse of discretion in dismissing the
complaint on the ground of lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter.

Anent the legal capacity to sue of the petitioners, spouses Laguas, we affirm the trial court's ruling
that since they were mere agents of petitioners Achanzar and Donga and were suing in their own
behalf, they did not have the capacity to sue for damages. They are not the real parties in interest.
However, the complaint can still be maintained. It cannot be dismissed because the real parties in
interest, Achanzar and Donga were also plaintiffs. Thus, the trial court should have ordered only the
dropping of the names of the spouses Laguas pursuant to Section 11, Rule 3 of the Revised Rules
of Court but not the dismissal of the complaint.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the petition is hereby GRANTED. The questioned order of
the respondent court is SET ASIDE and this case is ordered remanded to the court of origin for trial
on the merits

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 79538 October 18, 1990

FELIPE YSMAEL, JR. & CO., INC., petitioner,


vs.
THE DEPUTY EXECUTIVE SECRETARY, THE SECRETARY OF ENVIRONMENT AND
NATURAL RESOURCES, THE DIRECTOR OF THE BUREAU OF FOREST DEVELOPMENT and
TWIN PEAKS DEVELOPMENT AND REALTY CORPORATION, respondents.

Tañada, Vivo & Tan for petitioner.

Antonio E. Escober and Jurado Law Office for respondent Twin Peaks Development Corporation.

COURTS, J.:

Soon after the change of government in February 1986, petitioner sent a letter dated March 17, 1986 to the Office of the President, and
another letter dated April 2, 1986 to Minister Ernesto Maceda of the Ministry of Natural Resources [MNR], seeking: (1) the reinstatement of
its timber license agreement which was cancelled in August 1983 during the Marcos administration; (2) the revocation of TLA No. 356 which
was issued to Twin Peaks Development and Realty Corporation without public bidding and in violation of forestry laws, rules and regulations;
and, (3) the issuance of an order allowing petitioner to take possession of all logs found in the concession area [Annexes "6" and "7" of the
Petition; Rollo, pp. 54-63].

Petitioner made the following allegations:

(a) That on October 12, 1965, it entered into a timber license agreement designated as TLA No. 87
with the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, represented by then Secretary Jose
Feliciano, wherein it was issued an exclusive license to cut, collect and remove timber except
prohibited species within a specified portion of public forest land with an area of 54,920 hectares
located in the municipality of Maddela, province of Nueva Vizcaya * from October 12, 1965 until June 30, 1990;

(b) That on August 18, 1983, the Director of the Bureau of Forest Development [hereinafter referred
to as "Bureau"], Director Edmundo Cortes, issued a memorandum order stopping all logging
operations in Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino provinces, and cancelling the logging concession of
petitioner and nine other forest concessionaires, pursuant to presidential instructions and a
memorandum order of the Minister of Natural Resources Teodoro Pena [Annex "5" of the Petition;
Rollo, p. 49];

(c) that on August 25, 1983, petitioner received a telegram from the Bureau, the contents of which
were as follows:

PURSUANT TO THE INSTRUCTIONS OF THE PRESIDENT YOU ARE


REQUESTED TO STOP ALL LOGGING OPERATIONS TO CONSERVE
REMAINING FORESTS PLEASE CONDUCT THE ORDERLY PULL-OUT OF
LOGGING MACHINERIES AND EQUIPMENT AND COORDINATE WITH THE
RESPECTIVE DISTRICT FORESTERS FOR THE INVENTORY OF LOGS CUT
PRIOR TO THIS ORDER THE SUBMISSION OF A COMPLIANCE REPORT
WITHIN THIRTY DAYS SHALL BE APPRECIATED — [Annex "4" of the Petition;
Rollo, p. 48];

(d) That after the cancellation of its timber license agreement, it immediately sent a letter addressed
to then President Ferdinand Marcos which sought reconsideration of the Bureau's directive, citing in
support thereof its contributions to alleging that it was not given the forest conservation and
opportunity to be heard prior to the cancellation of its logging 531, but no operations (Annex "6" of
the Petition; Rollo, pp. 50 favorable action was taken on this letter;

(e) That barely one year thereafter, approximately one-half or 26,000 hectares of the area formerly
covered by TLA No. 87 was re-awarded to Twin Peaks Development and Reality Corporation under
TLA No. 356 which was set to expire on July 31, 2009, while the other half was allowed to be logged
by Filipinas Loggers, Inc. without the benefit of a formal award or license; and,

(f) That the latter entities were controlled or owned by relatives or cronies of deposed President
Ferdinand Marcos. Acting on petitioner's letter, the MNR through then Minister Ernesto Maceda
issued an order dated July 22, 1986 denying petitioner's request. The Ministry ruled that a timber
license was not a contract within the due process clause of the Constitution, but only a privilege
which could be withdrawn whenever public interest or welfare so demands, and that petitioner was
not discriminated against in view of the fact that it was among ten concessionaires whose licenses
were revoked in 1983. Moreover, emphasis was made of the total ban of logging operations in the
provinces of Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino and Ifugao imposed on April 2, 1986, thus:

xxx xxx xxx


It should be recalled that [petitioner's] earlier request for reinstatement has been
denied in view of the total ban of all logging operations in the provinces of Nueva
Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino and Ifugao which was imposed for reasons of
conservation and national security.

The Ministry imposed the ban because it realizes the great responsibility it bear [sic]
in respect to forest t considers itself the trustee thereof. This being the case, it has to
ensure the availability of forest resources not only for the present, but also for the
future generations of Filipinos.

On the other hand, the activities of the insurgents in these parts of the country are
well documented. Their financial demands on logging concessionaires are well
known. The government, therefore, is well within its right to deprive its enemy of
sources of funds in order to preserve itself, its established institutions and the liberty
and democratic way of life of its people.

xxx xxx xxx

[Annex "9" of the Petition, pp. 2-4; Rollo, pp. 65-67.]

Petitioner moved for reconsideration of the aforestated order reiterating, among others. its request
that TLA No. 356 issued to private respondent be declared null and void. The MNR however denied
this motion in an order dated September 15, 1986. stating in part:

xxx xxx xxx

Regarding [petitioner's] request that the award of a 26,000 hectare portion of TLA
No. 87 to Twin Peaks Realty Development Corporation under TLA No. 356 be
declared null and void, suffice it to say that the Ministry is now in the process of
reviewing all contracts, permits or other form of privileges for the exploration,
development, exploitation, or utilization of natural resources entered into, granted,
issued or acquired before the issuance of Proclamation No. 3, otherwise known as
the Freedom Constitution for the purpose of amending, modifying or revoking them
when the national interest so requires.

xxx xxx xxx

The Ministry, through the Bureau of Forest Development, has jurisdiction and
authority over all forest lands. On the basis of this authority, the Ministry issued the
order banning all logging operations/activities in Quirino province, among others,
where movant's former concession area is located. Therefore, the issuance of an
order disallowing any person or entity from removing cut or uncut logs from the
portion of TLA No. 87, now under TLA No. 356, would constitute an unnecessary or
superfluous act on the part of the Ministry.

xxx xxx xxx

[Annex "11" of the Petition, pp. 3-4; Rollo, pp. 77-78.]


On November 26, 1986, petitioner's supplemental motion for reconsideration was likewise denied.
Meanwhile, per MNR Administrative Order No. 54, series of 1986, issued on November 26, 1986,
the logging ban in the province of Quirino was lifted.

Petitioner subsequently appealed from the orders of the MNR to the Office of the President. In a
resolution dated July 6, 1987, the Office of the President, acting through then Deputy Executive
Secretary Catalino Macaraig, denied petitioner's appeal for lack of merit. The Office of the President
ruled that the appeal of petitioner was prematurely filed, the matter not having been terminated in the
MNR. Petitioner's motion for reconsideration was denied on August 14, 1987.

Hence, petitioner filed directly with this Court a petition for certiorari, with prayer for the issuance of a
restraining order or writ of preliminary injunction, on August 27, 1987. On October 13, 1987, it filed a
supplement to its petition for certiorari. Thereafter, public and private respondents submitted their
respective comments, and petitioner filed its consolidated reply thereto. In a resolution dated May
22, 1989, the Court resolved to give due course to the petition.

After a careful study of the circumstances in the case at bar, the Court finds several factors which
militate against the issuance of a writ of certiorari in favor of petitioner.

1. Firstly, the refusal of public respondents herein to reverse final and executory administrative
orders does not constitute grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.

It is an established doctrine in this jurisdiction that the decisions and orders of administrative
agencies have upon their finality, the force and binding effect of a final judgment within the purview
of the doctrine of res judicata. These decisions and orders are as conclusive upon the rights of the
affected parties as though the same had been rendered by a court of general jurisdiction. The rule
of res judicata thus forbids the reopening of a matter once determined by competent authority acting
within their exclusive jurisdiction [See Brillantes v. Castro, 99 Phil. 497 (1956); Ipekdjian
Merchandising Co., Inc. v. Court of Tax Appeals, G.R. No. L-15430, September 30, 1963, 9 SCRA
72; San Luis v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 80160, June 26, 1989].

In the case at bar, petitioner's letters to the Office of the President and the MNR [now the
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) dated March 17, 1986 and April 2,
1986, respectively, sought the reconsideration of a memorandum order issued by the Bureau of
Forest Development which cancelled its timber license agreement in 1983, as well as the revocation
of TLA No. 356 subsequently issued by the Bureau to private respondents in 1984.

But as gleaned from the record, petitioner did not avail of its remedies under the law, i.e. Section 8 of
Pres. Dec. No. 705 as amended, for attacking the validity of these administrative actions until after
1986. By the time petitioner sent its letter dated April 2, 1986 to the newly appointed Minister of the
MNR requesting reconsideration of the above Bureau actions, these were already settled matters as
far as petitioner was concerned [See Rueda v. Court of Agrarian Relations, 106 Phil. 300 (1959);
Danan v. Aspillera G.R. No. L-17305, November 28, 1962, 6 SCRA 609; Ocampo v. Arboleda G.R.
No. L-48190, August 31, 1987, 153 SCRA 374].

No particular significance can be attached to petitioner's letter dated September 19, 1983 which
petitioner claimed to have sent to then President Marcos [Annex "6" of Petition, Rollo, pp. 50-53],
seeking the reconsideration of the 1983 order issued by Director Cortes of the Bureau. It must be
pointed out that the averments in this letter are entirely different from the charges of fraud against
officials under the previous regime made by petitioner in its letters to public respondents herein. In
the letter to then President Marcos, petitioner simply contested its inclusion in the list of
concessionaires, whose licenses were cancelled, by defending its record of selective logging and
reforestation practices in the subject concession area. Yet, no other administrative steps appear to
have been taken by petitioner until 1986, despite the fact that the alleged fraudulent scheme became
apparent in 1984 as evidenced by the awarding of the subject timber concession area to other
entities in that year.

2. Moreover, petitioner is precluded from availing of the benefits of a writ of certiorari in the present
case because he failed to file his petition within a reasonable period.

The principal issue ostensibly presented for resolution in the instant petition is whether or not public
respondents herein acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction
in refusing to overturn administrative orders issued by their predecessors in the past regime. Yet,
what the petition ultimately seeks is the nullification of the Bureau orders cancelling TLA No. 87 and
granting TLA No. 356 to private respondent, which were issued way back in 1983 and 1984,
respectively.

Once again, the fact that petitioner failed to seasonably take judicial recourse to have the earlier
administrative actions reviewed by the courts through a petition for certiorari is prejudicial to its
cause. For although no specific time frame is fixed for the institution of a special civil action for
certiorari under Rule 65 of the Revised Rules of Court, the same must nevertheless be done within a
"reasonable time". The yardstick to measure the timeliness of a petition for certiorari is the
"reasonableness of the length of time that had expired from the commission of the acts complained
of up to the institution of the proceeding to annul the same" [Toledo v. Pardo, G.R. No. 56761,
November 19, 1982, 118 SCRA 566, 571]. And failure to file the petition for certiorari within a
reasonable period of time renders the petitioner susceptible to the adverse legal consequences of
laches [Municipality of Carcar v. Court of First Instance of Cebu, G.R. No. L-31628, December 27,
1982, 119 SCRA 392).

Laches is defined as the failure or neglect for an unreasonable and unexplained length of time to do
that which by exercising due diligence, could or should have been done earlier, or to assert a right
within a reasonable time, warranting a presumption that the party entitled thereto has either
abandoned it or declined to assert it [Tijam v. Sibonghanoy, G.R. No. L-21450, April 15, 1968, 23
SCRA 29; Seno v. Mangubat, G.R. No. L-44339, December 2, 1987, 156 SCRA 113]. The rule is
that unreasonable delay on the part of a plaintiff in seeking to enforce an alleged right may,
depending upon the circumstances, be destructive of the right itself. Verily, the laws aid those who
are vigilant, not those who sleep upon their rights (Vigilantibus et non dormientibus jura subveniunt)
[See Buenaventura v. David, 37 Phil. 435 (1918)].

In the case at bar, petitioner waited for at least three years before it finally filed a petition for
certiorari with the Court attacking the validity of the assailed Bureau actions in 1983 and 1984.
Considering that petitioner, throughout the period of its inaction, was not deprived of the opportunity
to seek relief from the courts which were normally operating at the time, its delay constitutes
unreasonable and inexcusable neglect, tantamount to laches. Accordingly, the writ of certiorari
requiring the reversal of these orders will not lie.

3. Finally, there is a more significant factor which bars the issuance of a writ of certiorari in favor of
petitioner and against public respondents herein. It is precisely this for which prevents the Court from
departing from the general application of the rules enunciated above.

A cursory reading of the assailed orders issued by public respondent Minister Maceda of the MNR
which were ed by the Office of the President, will disclose public policy consideration which
effectively forestall judicial interference in the case at bar,
Public respondents herein, upon whose shoulders rests the task of implementing the policy to
develop and conserve the country's natural resources, have indicated an ongoing department
evaluation of all timber license agreements entered into, and permits or licenses issued, under the
previous dispensation. In fact, both the executive and legislative departments of the incumbent
administration are presently taking stock of its environmental policies with regard to the utilization of
timber lands and developing an agenda for future programs for their conservation and rehabilitation.

The ongoing administrative reassessment is apparently in response to the renewed and growing
global concern over the despoliation of forest lands and the utter disregard of their crucial role in
sustaining a balanced ecological system. The legitimacy of such concern can hardly be disputed,
most especially in this country. The Court takes judicial notice of the profligate waste of the country's
forest resources which has not only resulted in the irreversible loss of flora and fauna peculiar to the
region, but has produced even more disastrous and lasting economic and social effects. The
delicate balance of nature having been upset, a vicious cycle of floods and droughts has been
triggered and the supply of food and energy resources required by the people seriously depleted.

While there is a desire to harness natural resources to amass profit and to meet the country's
immediate financial requirements, the more essential need to ensure future generations of Filipinos
of their survival in a viable environment demands effective and circumspect action from the
government to check further denudation of whatever remains of the forest lands. Nothing less is
expected of the government, in view of the clear constitutional command to maintain a balanced and
healthful ecology. Section 16 of Article II of the 1987 Constitution provides:

SEC. 16. The State shall protect and promote the right of the people to a balanced
and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.

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 [See Espinosa v. Makalintal, 79 Phil. 134 (1947); Coloso v.
Board of Accountancy, 92 Phil. 938 (1953); Pajo v. Ago, 108 Phil. 905 (1960); Suarez v. Reyes, G.R.
No. L-19828, February 28, 1963, 7 SCRA 461; Ganitano v. Secretary of Agriculture and Natural
Resources, G. R. No. L-21167, March 31, 1966, 16 SCRA 543; Villegas v. Auditor General, G.R. No.
L-21352, November 29, 1966, 18 SCRA 877; Manuel v. Villena, G.R. No. L-28218, February 27,
1971, 37 SCRA 745; Lacuesta v. Herrera, G.R. No. L-33646, January 28, 1975, 62 SCRA 115;
Lianga Bay Logging Co., Inc. v. Enage, G.R. No. L-30637, July 16, 1987, 152 SCRA 80]. More so
where, as in the present case, the interests of a private logging company are pitted against that of
the public at large on the pressing public policy issue of forest conservation. For this Court
recognizes the wide latitude of discretion possessed by the government in determining the
appropriate actions to be taken to preserve and manage natural resources, and the proper parties
who should enjoy the privilege of utilizing these resources [Director of Forestry v. Munoz, G.R. No.
L-24796, June 28, 1968, 23 SCRA 1183; Lim, Sr. v. The Secretary of Agriculture and Natural
Resources, G.R. No. L-26990, August 31, 1970, 34 SCRA 751]. Timber licenses, permits and
license agreements are the principal instruments by which the State regulates the utilization and
disposition of forest resources to the end that public welfare is promoted. And it can hardly be
gainsaid that they merely evidence a privilege granted by the State to qualified entities, and do not
vest in the latter a permanent or irrevocable right to the particular concession area and the forest
products therein. They may be validly amended, modified, replaced or rescinded by the Chief
Executive when national interests so require. Thus, they are not deemed contracts within the
purview of the due process of law clause [See Sections 3 (ee) and 20 of Pres. Decree No. 705, as
amended. Also, Tan v. Director of Forestry, G.R. No. L-24548, October 27, 1983, 125 SCRA 302].
In fine, the legal precepts highlighted in the foregoing discussion more than suffice to justify the
Court's refusal to interfere in the DENR evaluation of timber licenses and permits issued under the
previous regime, or to pre-empt the adoption of appropriate corrective measures by the department.

Nevertheless, the Court cannot help but express its concern regarding alleged irregularities in the
issuance of timber license agreements to a number of logging concessionaires.

The grant of licenses or permits to exploit the country's timber resources, if done in contravention of
the procedure outlined in the law, or as a result of fraud and undue influence exerted on department
officials, is indicative of an arbitrary and whimsical exercise of the State's power to regulate the use
and exploitation of forest resources. The alleged practice of bestowing "special favors" to preferred
individuals, regardless of merit, would be an abuse of this power. And this Court will not be a party to
a flagrant mockery of the avowed public policy of conservation enshrined in the 1987 Constitution.
Therefore, should the appropriate case be brought showing a clear grave abuse of discretion on the
part of officials in the DENR and related bureaus with respect to the implementation of this public
policy, the Court win not hesitate to step in and wield its authority, when invoked, in the exercise of
judicial powers under the Constitution [Section 1, Article VIII].

However, petitioner having failed to make out a case showing grave abuse of discretion on the part
of public respondents herein, the Court finds no basis to issue a writ of certiorari and to grant any of
the affirmative reliefs sought.

WHEREFORE, the present petition is DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. L-52518 August 13, 1991

INTERNATIONAL HARDWOOD AND VENEER COMPANY OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner-


appellee,
vs.
UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES and JOSE C. CAMPOS, JR., respondents-appellants.

Tañada, Vivo & Tan for petitioner-appellee.

DAVIDE, JR., J.:

From an adverse decision of the then Court of First Instance (now RTC) Laguna dated 3 June 1968
in a special civil action for declaratory relief with injunction, Civil Case No. SC-650 entitled
International Hardwood and Veneer Company of the Philippines vs. University of the Philippines and
Jose Campos, the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, the Court hereby renders judgment in favor of petitioner and against the
respondents:

(a) Declaring that Rep. Act No. 3990 does not empower the University of the Philippines, in
lieu of the Bureau of Internal Revenue and Bureau of Forestry, to scale, measure and seal
the timber cut by the petitioner within the tract of land referred to in said Act, and collect the
corresponding forest charges prescribed by the National Internal Revenue Code therefor;
and

(b) Dismissing the respondents' counterclaim.

respondents appealed to the Court of Appeals. The appeal was docketed as C.A.-G.R. No. 49409-R.

After the parties filed their respective Briefs in 1971, the Court of Appeals (Sixth Division)
promulgated on 28 December 1979 a resolution elevating the case to this Court as the "entire case
hinges on the interpretation and construction of Republic Act 3990 as it applies to a set of facts
which are not disputed by the parties and therefore, is a legal question.1

Civil Case No. SC-650 was filed by petitioner Hardwood before the trial court on 28 June
1966.2 Petitioner seeks therein a declaration that respondent University of the Philippines (hereafter
referred to as UP) does not have the right to supervise and regulate the cutting and removal of
timber and other forest products, to scale, measure and seal the timber cut and/or to collect forest
charges, reforestation fees and royalties from petitioner and/or impose any other duty or burden
upon the latter in that portion of its concession, covered by License Agreement No. 27-A issued on 1
February 1963, ceded in full ownership to the UP by Republic Act No. 3990; asks that respondents
be enjoined from committing the acts complained of and prays that respondents be required to pay
petitioner the sum of P100,000.00 as damages and costs of the suit.

Its motion to dismiss on the ground of improper venue having been unfavorably acted upon, and
pursuant to the order of the trial court of 26 August 1967, respondents filed their Answer on 13
September 1987,3 wherein they interpose the affirmative defenses of, among others, improper venue
and that the petition states no cause of action; they further set up a counterclaim for the payment of
it by petitioner of forest charges on the forest products cut and felled within the area ceded to UP
under R.A. No. 3990 from 18 June 1964, with surcharges and interests as provided in the National
Internal Revenue Code.

Petitioner filed a Reply and Answer to Counterclaim.4

On 18 October 1967, the parties submitted a Joint Stipulation of Facts and Joint Submission of the
Case for Judgment,5 which reads as follows:

COME NOW the parties in the above entitled case by the undersigned counsel, and
respectfully submit the following JOINT STIPULATION OF FACTS AND JOINT
SUBMISSION OF THE CASE FOR JUDGMENT, without prejudice to the presentation of
evidence by either party:

xxx xxx xxx

2. Plaintiff is, among others, engaged in the manufacture, processing and exportation of
plywood and was, for said purpose, granted by the Government an exclusive license for a
period of 25 years expiring on February 1, 1985, to cut, collect and remove timber from that
portion of timber land located in the Municipalities of Infanta, Mauban and Sampaloc
Province of Quezon and in the Municipalities of Siniloan, Pangil, Paete, Cavite and Calauan,
Province of Laguna under License Agreement No. 27-A (Amendment) issued and
promulgated by the Government through the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources
on January 11, 1960. ... ;
3. That aforementioned Timber License No. 27-A (Amendment) is a renewal of the Timber
License Agreement No. 27-A previously granted by the Government to the plaintiff on June
4, 1953 to February 1, 1963. ... ;

4. Plaintiff, since June 4, 1953, continuously up to the present, has been in peaceful
possession of said timber concession and had been felling cutting and removing timber
therefrom pursuant to the aforementioned Timber License Agreement No. 27-A
(Amendment) of January 11, 1960;

5. Plaintiff, on the strength of the License Agreement executed by the Government on June
4,1953 (License Agreement No. 27-A) and of the License Agreement No. 27-A (Amendment)
of January 11, 1960, has constructed roads and other improvements and installations of the
aforementioned area subject to the grant and purchased equipment in implementation of the
conditions contained in the aforementioned License Agreement and has in connection
therewith spent more than P7,000,000.00 as follows: ... ;

6. Sometime on September 25, 1961, during the effectivity of License Agreement No. 27-A
(Amendment) of January 11, 1960, the President of the Philippines issued Executive
Proclamation No. 791 which reads as follows:

xxx xxx xxx

RESERVING FOR THE COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE, UNIVERSITY OF THE


PHILIPPINES, AS EXPERIMENT STATION FOR THE PROPOSED DAIRY
RESEARCH AND TRAINING INSTITUTE AND FOR AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH
AND PRODUCTION STUDIES OF THIS COLLEGE A CERTAIN PARCEL OF LAND
OF THE PUBLIC DOMAIN, SITUATED PARTLY IN THE MUNICIPALITIES OF
PAETE AND PAKIL ,PROVINCE OF LAGUNA, AND PARTLY IN THE
MUNICIPALITY OF INFANTA, PROVINCE OF QUEZON, ISLAND OF LUZON.

Upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources and
pursuant to the authority vested in me by law, I, Carlos P. Garcia, President of the
Philippines, do hereby withdraw from sale or settlement and reserve for the College of
Agriculture, University of the Philippines, as experiment station for the proposed Dairy
Research and production studies of this College, a certain parcel of land of the Public
domain situated partly in the municipalities of Paete and Pakil province of Laguna, and partly
in the municipality of Infants, Province of Quezon, Island of Luzon, subject to private rights, if
any there be, and to the condition that the disposition of timber and other forest products
found therein shall be subject to the forestry laws and regulations, which parcel of land is
more particularly described as follows, to wit:

xxx xxx xxx

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the Republic
of the Philippines to be affixed.

Done in the City of Manila this 25th day of September, in the year of Our Lord, nineteen
hundred and sixty-one, and of the Independence of the Philippines, the sixteenth.

(SGD.) CARLOS P. GARCIA


President of the Philippines
xxx xxx xxx

7. That on or about June 18, 1964, during the effectivity of the aforementioned License
Agreement No. 27-A (Amendment) of July 11, 1960, Republic Act No. 3990 was enacted by
the Congress of the Philippines and approved by the President of the Philippines, which
Republic Act provides as follows:

AN ACT TO ESTABLISH A CENTRAL EXPERIMENT STATION FOR THE


UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES.

Be it enacted by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the Philippines in


Congress assembled:

SECTION 1. There is hereby established a central experiment station for the use of
the University of the Philippines in connection with its research and extension
functions, particularly by the College of Agriculture, College of Veterinary Medicine
and College of Arts and Sciences.

SEC. 2. For this purpose, the parcel of the public domain consisting of three
thousand hectares, more or less, located in the Municipality of Paete, Province of
Laguna, the precise boundaries of which are stated in Executive Proclamation 791,
Series of 1961, is hereby ceded and transferred in full ownership to the University of
the Philippines, subject to any existing concessions, if any.

SEC. 3. All operations and activities carried on in the central experiment station shall
be exempt from taxation, local or general, any provision of law to the contrary
notwithstanding, and any incidental receipts or income therefrom shall pertain to the
general fund of the University of the Philippines.

SEC. 4. This Act shall take effect upon its approval. Approved, June 18, 1964.

8. That on the strength of the provisions of Republic Act No. 3990, and prior to the institution
of the present suit, defendants have demanded, verbally as well as in writing to plaintiff-.

(a) That the forest charges due and payable by plaintiff under the License Agreement
27-A (Amendment) referred to in paragraph 2 hereof be paid to the University of the
Philippines, instead of the Bureau of Internal Revenue; and

(b) That the selling of any timber felled or cut by plaintiff within the boundaries of the
Central Experiment Station as defined in Republic Act No. 3990 be performed by
personnel of the University of the Philippines.

9. That the position of the plaintiff oil the demand of the defendants was fully discussed in the
letter dated April 29, 1966 of plaintiffs lawyer addressed to the President of the University of
the Philippines, copy of which is hereto attached as Annex "A" hereof.

10. That in line with its position as stated in paragraph thereof, plaintiff has refused to allow
entry to personnel of the University of the Philippines to the Central Experiment Station area
assigned thereto for the purpose of supervising the felling cutting and removal of timber
therein and scaling any such timber cut and felled prior to removal
11. That in view of the stand taken by plaintiff and in Relation to the implemetation of
Republic Act No. 3990 the defendant Business Executive sent the letter quoted below to the
Commissioner of Internal Revenue:

xxx xxx xxx

February 8, 1966

Commissioner of Internal Revenue


Manila

Re: Forest Charges of U.P. Paete Land Grant

Dear Sir:

Under Republic Act 3990 approved in June, 1964 a parcel of forest land
approximately 3,500 hectares in area was ceded in full ownership by the government
to the University of the Philippines. This area is known as Paete Land Grant, the title
to which is presently issued in the name of the University of the Philippines. The law
transferring the ownership to the University of the Philippines gives the university full
rights of dominion and ownership, subject to the existing concession of International
Hardwood and Veneer Company of the Philippines. Under the terms of this law all
forest charges due from the concessionaire should now be paid to the University of
the Philippines. The purpose of giving this land grant to the University is to enable us
to generate income out of the land grant and establish a research and experimental
station for the Colleges of Agriculture, Forestry, Arts and Sciences and Veterinary
Medicine.

I would like, therefore, to inform you and to secure your approval of the following
matters:

1. All forest charges paid by Interwood to the District Forester of Laguna from
June, 1964 up to the present should be remitted in favor of the University of
the Philippines pines;

2. All forest charges presently due from Interwood shall hereafter be paid to
the University of the Philippines and lastly

3. Hereafter the University of the Philippines shall receive all forest charges
and royalties due from any logging concession at the land grant.

May we request that proper instructions be issued by the district Forester of Laguna
about this matter. Thank you.

Very truly yours,

Sgd.) JOSE C. CAMPOS JR.


Business Executive
12. That in reply to the above letter of defendant Business Executive dated February 8,
1966, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue issued the following letter-ruling dated March
11, 1966:

xxx xxx xxx

March 11, 1966

U.P. Paete Land Grant


University of the Philippines
Diliman, Quezon City

Attn: Jose C. Campos, Jr.


Business Executive

Gentlemen:

This has reference to your letter dated February 8, 1966 stating as follows:

xxx xxx xxx

In reply thereto, I have the honor to inform you as follows:

In accordance with Section 266 of the Tax Code as amplified by Section 15(a) of
Revenue Regulations No. 85, the Forest Products Regulations, forest products, cut,
gathered and removed from registered private woodlands are not subject to forest
charges, but they must be invoiced when removed to another municipality or for
commercial purposes in the manner prescribed by the regulations. As the Paete
Land Grant was ceded by law to the U.P. in full private ownership and as the grant is
manifestly to be considered registered, no forest charges are actually due and
payable on the timber cut and removed therefrom. The forest charges purportedly to
be paid by any concessionaire under any licensing agreement entered or to be
entered into by the U.P. are, therefore, to be considered not as the charges
contemplated by the National Internal Revenue Code but as part of the royalties
payable by the concessionaires for the exploitation of the timber resources of the
land grant.

Accordingly, you queries are answered viz:

1. The University may directly collect the supposed forest charges payable by
concessionaires of the land grant.

2. The forest charges paid by International Hardwood and Veneer Company


of the Philippines may be refunded provided that a formal claim for the refund
thereof is made within two years from the date of payment. The proper
claimant shall be International Hardwood and not the University.

Very truly yours,

(Sgd.) MISAEL P. VERA


Commissioner of Internal Revenue
13. That subsequently, defendant Business Executive sent the letter quoted below to the
District Forester of the province of Laguna una dated April 18, 1 966:

April 18, 1966

The District Forester


Bureau of Forestry
Sta. Cruz, Laguna

Dear Sir:

Enclosed is a copy of a letter to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue concerning


the right of the University of the Philippines to collect forest charges from the existing
logging concessionaire at the Laguna Land Grant (formerly Paete Land Grant). This
tract of forest land containing some 3,500 hectares was ceded to the University of
the Philippines in full ownership by Republic Act No. 3990, approved in June, 1964.
In view thereof, the University of the Philippines requested that its authority over said
land be recognized and that the existing concessionaire, International Hardwood and
Veneer Company of the Philippines, in turn pay its forest charges directly to the
University instead of to the national government.

Please take note of page "2" of the enclosed letter of the Commissioner of Internal
Revenue on the official ruling of the Bureau of Internal Revenue to the following
points raised by the University:

1. That the University of the Philippines may now directly collect forest
charges from INTERWOOD, the existing logging concessionaire.

2. That forest charges paid by INTERWOOD to the Bureau of Forestry from


June, 1964 up to April, 1966 shall be refunded to the University of the
Philippines. In this manner, INTERWOOD is requested to file a claim for the
refund in the amount heretofore paid by it to be remitted to the University of
the Philippines.

On the basis of this letter to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, it is understood


that forest charges on timber cut from the Laguna Land Grant as scaled by scalers of
the University of the Philippines shall now be paid directly to the University of the
Philippines. In another ruling by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, the
University, particularly the Laguna Land Grant, is exempted from all kinds of Internal
Revenue taxes.

Very truly yours,

(Sgd.) Jose C. Campos, Jr.


Business Executive

14. That the above quoted letter of defendant Business Executive dated April 18, 1966 was
duly endorsed by the District Forester of the province of Laguna to the Director of Forestry.

15. That on or about June 7, 19667 the Assistant Director of Forestry addressed to plaintiff
the letter dated June 7, 1966, which states as follows:
Sirs:

This is in connection with your request for this Office to comment on your reply to the
letter of Mr. Jose C. Campos, Jr. of the University of the Philippines.

In your reply to the letter of Mr. Campos, it is stated that the University of the
Philippines is claiming the right:

(a) To scale, measure and seal the timber cut inside the area covered by the
U.P. Land Grant at Paete, Laguna;

(b) To collect the corresponding forest charges;

(c) To collect royalties aside from the forest charges; and

(d) To exercise in effect all the authority vested by law upon the Bureau of
Forestry in the cutting, removal and disposition of the timber from said area,
and the authority of the Bureau of Internal Revenue respecting the
measurement and scaling of the logs and the collection of the corresponding
forest charges and other fees in connection therewith.

This office is in full accord with your arguments against the claim of the University of
the Philippines to have acquired the above rights. We believe that the right vested
the INTERWOOD by virtue of number License Agreement No. 27-A (Amendment) to
utilize the timber inside subject area is still binding and should therefore, be
respected. It is on the basis of this acknowledgment that we sent your client our letter
of November 4,1965 requesting him to comment on the application of the State
University for a Special Timber License over the said area.

16. That acting on the endorsement referred to in paragraph l4, the Director of Bureau of
Forestry issued the letter ruling quoted below, dated June 30,1966:

xxx xxx xxx

June 30, 1966

District Forester
Sta. Cruz, Laguna

(Thru the Regional Director of Forestry, Manila)

Sir:

This concerns your inquiry contained in the 3rd paragraph of your letter dated April
26, 1966, designated as above, as to whether or not you shall turn over the scaling
work for logs cut from the area of the International Hardwood & Veneer Company of
the Philippines in the Pacto Land Grant to Scalers of the University of the Philippines.

In view of the ruling of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue that the Paete Land
Grant, which embraces the area of the International Hardwood & Veneer Company
of the Philippines, is considered a registered private woodland of the University of the
Philippines and therefore no forest charges are actually due and payable on the
timber cut and removed therefrom, and in view further of the ruling of said
Commissioner that the forest charges purportedly to be paid by any concessionaire
under any licensing agreement entered or to be entered into by the U.P. are to be
considered not as the charged contemplated by the National Internal Revenue Code
but as part of the royalties payable by the concessionaires for the exploitation of the
timber resources of the land grant, you may turn over the scaling work therein to the
scalers of the U.P.

However, you should guard against the use of such licensing agreements entered or
to be entered into by the U.P. as a means of smuggling forest products from the
neighboring public forests.

Very truly yours,

(SGD.) ANTONIO A. QUEJADA

xxx xxx xxx

On the basis of the above JOINT STIPULATION OF FACTS, the pleadings filed in the case, and
whatever additional evidence may be presented by the parties, the parties hereto, through counsel,
jointly move and pray of this Honorable Court that judgment be rendered granting full and
appropriate relief, on the following issues:

1. Whether plaintiff, as of the date of present case was filed, should pay forest charges due
and payable under its timber License Agreement No. 27-A (Amendment) as set forth in
paragraph 2 hereof', to the Bureau of Internal Revenue, or to the University of the
Philippines; and

2. In the event that it be found by this Honorable Court that said forest charges are to be paid
to the University of the Philippines, whether or not the University of the Philippines is entitled
to supervise, through its duly appointed personnel, the logging, telling and removal of timber
within the Central Experiment Station area as described in Republic Act No. 3990, and to
scale the timber thus felled and cut.

Manila for Laguna, September 29,1967.

Upon the foregoing Stipulation of Facts, the trial court rendered its judgment on 3 June 1968 in favor
of the petitioner, the dispositive portion of which is quoted at the beginning of this decision. In
deciding the case against UP, it held:

... the court finds that the respondents' demand on the petitioner has no legal basis. In the
first place, the cession in full ownership of the tract of land referred to in the Act was
expressly made 'subject to any existing concessions.' Inasmuch as at the time of the
enactment of the Act, the petitioner's timber concession over the tract of land was existing
and would continue to exist until February 1, 1985, the University of the Philippines will
acquire full ownership' and exclusive jurisdiction to control and administer the property only
after February 1, 1985. The cession of the property to the University of the Philippines is akin
to the donation of a parcel of land, subject to usufruct. The donee acquires full ownership
thereof only upon the termination of the usufruct. At the time of the donation, all what the
donee acquires is the 'naked' ownership of the property donated. In the second place, the
respondents' demand cannot be valid unless the provisions of Sees. 262 to 276 of the
National Internal Revenue Code regarding the measuring of timber cut from the forest and
the collection of the prescribed forest charges by the Bureau of Internal Revenue and Bureau
of Forestry are first amended. In their arguments, the respondents tried to stretch the scope
of the provisions of Republic Act No. 3990 in order to include therein such amendment of the
provisions of the National Internal Revenue Code and Revised Administrative Code, but they
failed to convince the Court, not only because of the first reason above stated, but also
because it clearly appears that such amendment is not intended in Republic Act No. 3990,
which does not contain even a remote allusion thereto in its title or a general amendatory
provision at the end. In the third place, under Republic Act No. 3990, the University of the
Philippines cannot legally use the tract of land ceded to it for purposes other than those
therein expressly provided, namely, 'for the use of the University of the Philippines in
connection with its research and extension functions, particularly by the College of
Agriculture, College of Veterinary Medicine and College of Arts and Sciences.' Hence, upon
the expiration of the petitioner's timber concession, the University of the Philippines cannot
even legally renew it or grant timber concession over the whole tract of land or over portions
thereof to other private individuals and exercise the functions of the Bureau of Internal
Revenue and Bureau of Forestry by scaling and measuring the timber cut within the area
and collecting from them the forest charges prescribed by the National Internal Revenue
Code.

Respondents claim in their Brief that the trial court erred:

... WHEN IT DID NOT DISMISS THE PETITION FOR DECLARATORY RELIEF WITH
INJUNCTION INSPITE OF ITS INHERENT JURISDICTIONAL DEFECTS THAT SHOULD
WARRANT A DISMISSAL.

II

... WHEN IT DECLARED THAT REPUBLIC ACT NO. 3990 DOES NOT EMPOWER THE
RESPONDENT UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES, IN LIEU OF THE BUREAU OF
INTERNAL REVENUE AND BUREAU OF FORESTRY, TO SCALE, MEASURE AND SEAL
THE TIMBER CUT BY THE PETITIONER WITHIN THE TRACT OF LAND REFERRED TO
IN SAID ACT, AND COLLECT THE CORRESPONDING FOREST CHARGES
PRESCRIBED BY THE NATIONAL INTERNAL REVENUE CODE.

1. The first assigned error is without merit. In the Joint Stipulation of Facts, the parties jointly move
and pray that the trial court render judgment granting full and appropriate remedy on the following
issues:

1. Whether plaintiff, as of the date of present case was filed, should pay forest
charges due and payable under its Timber License Agreement No. 27-A
(Amendment) as set forth in paragraph 2 hereof, to the Bureau of Internal Revenue,
or to the University of the Philippines; and

2. In the event that it be found by this Honorable Court that said forest charges are to
be paid to the University of the Philippines, whether or not the University of the
Philippines is entitled to supervise, through its duly appointed personnel, the logging,
felling and removal of timber within the Central Experiment Station area as described
in Republic Act No. 3990, and to scale the timber thus felled
These issues bring the matter within the scope of an action for declaratory relief under Section 1,
Rule 64 of the Rules of Court and render meaningless the appeal to the rule laid down in Sarmiento,
et al. vs. Caparas, et al.6 that declaratory relief cannot be joined by injunction, because herein
petitioner, for all legal intents and purposes, abandoned it by its failure to raise it in the Stipulation of
Facts. Thus, what attains is an amendment to both pleadings (the complaint and the answer), which
is authorized by Section 5, Rule 10 of the Rules of Court. Said section pertinently provides:

SEC. 5. Amendment to conform to or authorize presentation of evidence.— When


issues not raised by the pleadings are tried by express or implied consent of the
parties, they shall be treated in all respect, as if they had been raised in the
pleadings. Such amendment of the pleadings as may be necessary to cause them to
conform to the evidence and to raise these issues may be made upon motion of any
party at any time, even after judgment; but failure to so amend does not affect the
result of the trial by these issues. ...

The stipulation of facts and the agreement as to the issues unquestionably satisfy the requisites for
declaratory relief. (a) there must be a justiciable controversy; (b) the controversy must be between
persons whose interests are adverse; (c) the party seeking declaratory relief must have a legal
interest in the controversy; and (d) the issue invoked must be ape for judicial determination.7

There is a justiciable controversy where there is an actual controversy, or the ripening seeds of one
exists between the parties, all of whom are sui juris and before the court, and that the declaration
sought will help in ending the controversy. A doubt becomes a justiciable controversy when it is
translated into a claim of right which is actually contested.8

2. On the second assigned error, respondents assert that: (a) Under R.A. No. 3990, the Republic of
the Philippines may effect collection of forest charges through the University of the Philippines
because the License Agreement does not expressly provide that the forest charges shall be paid to
the Bureau of Internal Revenue; in the absence of a specific contractual provision limiting it to a
particular agency in collecting forest charges owing to it, the Republic may effect such collection
through another agency. (b) Having been vested with administrative jurisdiction over and being the
owner of the tract of land in question, the UP acquired full control and benefit of the timber and other
resources within the area. Timber areas within the ceded property but outside the concession of
petitioner can be fully exploited by UP. However, in respect to timber areas within the ceded property
but covered by the concession of petitioner, only forest charges (or more appropriately, royalties)
may be enjoyed by UP until the expiration of petitioner's license. To deny it such charges would
render its "full ownership" empty and futile. (c) The UP is clearly entitled to the income derived from
the tract of land ceded to it, for Section 3 of R.A. No. 3990 expressly provides:

All operations and activities carried on in the central experiment station shall be
exempt from taxation, local or general, any provision of law to the contrary
notwithstanding, and any incidental receipts or income therefrom shall pertain to the
general fund of the University of the Philippines. (emphasis supplied for emphasis).

(d) As provided by R.A. No. 3990, the UP is duty bound to operate and maintain a central
experiment station; since this law does not provide for appropriations for such purpose, it is clearly
the legislative intention that the establishment and maintenance thereof must be financed by the
earnings or income from the area, which can only come from the timber and the royalties or charges
payable therefrom. This is in accordance with the general principle that a grant of authority or
jurisdiction extends to all incidents that may arise in connection with the matter over which
jurisdiction is exercised. (e) Supervision of the License Agreement in favor of petitioner by UP was
intended by R.A. No. 3990. (f) Finally, the two government agencies affected by R.A. No. 3990 have
issued specific rulings recognizing the authority of UP to collect royalties or charges and to supervise
petitioner's logging operations.

Petitioner refutes the foregoing arguments of respondents by asserting that: (a) The UP has not
been granted by R.A. No. 3990 the authority to collect forest charges or the authority to supervise
the operation by the petitioner of the timber concession affected by said Act.

The rule is well-settled that legislative grants must be construed strictly in favor of the public and
most strongly against the grantee, and nothing will be included in the grant except that which is
granted expressly or by clear implication. Under Section 262 of the Tax Code, as amended, the
duties incident to the measuring of forest products and the collection of the charges thereon shall be
discharged by the Bureau of Internal Revenue under the regulations of the Department of Finance.
The reforestation fee shall be collected by the Bureau of Forestry.9 The supervision and regulation of
the use of forest products and of the cutting and removal of forest products are vested upon the
Bureau of Forestry.10 R.A. No. 3990 does not expressly, or even impliedly, grant the UP any authority
to collect from the holders of timber concessions on the area ceded to it forest charges due and
payable to the Government under the Tax Code, or to enforce its provisions relating to charges on
forest products or to supervise the operations of the concessions by the holders thereof; (b) The
cession in full ownership of the land in question was expressly made "subject to any concession, if
any", and that petitioner's concession would continue until 1 February 1985; the UP then would
acquire full ownership and exclusive jurisdiction to control and administer the property only after 1
February 1985. The position of UP is akin to that of a donee of a parcel of land subject to usufruct.
(c) The rulings of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue and the Acting Director of the Bureau of
Forestry are patently incorrect; moreover, said agencies do not have the power to interpret the law,
which is primarily a function of the judiciary. (d) Finally, it has acquired a vested right to operate the
timber concession under the supervision and control of the Bureau of Forestry.

There is merit in the second assigned error.

Under Proclamation No. 791, dated 25 September 1961, a parcel of land of the public domain
described therein, with an area of 3,500 hectares, which is the very parcel of land subject of R.A. No.
3990, was withdrawn from sale or settlement and was reserved for the College of Agriculture of the
UP as experiment station for the proposed Dairy Research and Training Institute and for research
and production studies of said college, subject however to private rights, if any, and to the condition
that the disposition of timber and other forest products found thereon shall be subject to forestry laws
and regulations.

The above reservation is within the area covered by petitioner's timber license.

Pursuant, however, to R.A. No. 3990 which establishes a central experiment station for the use of
the UP in connection with its research and extension functions, particularly by the College of
Agriculture, College of Veterinary Medicine and College of Arts and Sciences, the above "reserved"
area was "ceded and transferred in full ownership to the University of the Philippines subject to any
existing concessions, if any."

When it ceded and transferred the property to UP, the Republic of the Philippines completely
removed it from the public domain and, more specifically, in respect to the areas covered by the
timber license of petitioner, removed and segregated it from a public forest; it divested itself of its
rights and title thereto and relinquished and conveyed the same to the UP; and made the latter the
absolute owner thereof, subject only to the existing concession. That the law intended a transfer of
the absolute ownership is unequivocally evidenced by its use of the word "full" to describe
it. Full means entire, complete, or possessing all particulars, or not wanting in any essential
quality.11 The proviso regarding existing concessions refers to the timber license of petitioner. All that
it means, however, is that the right of petitioner as a timber licensee must not be affected, impaired
or diminished; it must be respected. But, insofar as the Republic of the Philippines is concerned, all
its rights as grantor of the license were effectively assigned, ceded and conveyed to UP as a
consequence of the above transfer of full ownership. This is further home out by Section 3 of R.A.
No. 3990 which provides, inter alia, that "any incidental receipts or income therefrom shall pertain to
the general fund of the University of the Philippines. Having been effectively segregated and
removed from the public domain or from a public forest and, in effect, converted into a registered
private woodland, the authority and jurisdiction of the Bureau of Forestry over it were likewise
terminated. This is obvious from the fact that the condition in Proclamation No. 971 to the effect that
the disposition of timber shall be subject to forestry laws and regulations is not reproduced iii R.A.
No. 3990. The latter does not likewise provide that it is subject to the conditions set forth in the
proclamation. An owner has the right to enjoy and dispose of a thing without other limitations than
those established by law.12 The right to enjoy includes the jus utendi or the right to receive from the
thing what it produces, and the jus abutendi or the right to consume the thing by its use.13 As
provided for in Article 441 of the Civil Code, to the owner belongs the natural fruits, the industrial
fruits and the civil fruits. There are, however, exceptions to this rules, as where the property is
subject to a usufruct, in which case the usufructuary gets the fruits.14 In the instant case, that
exception is made for the petitioner as licensee or grantee of the concession, which has been given
the license to cut, collect, and remove timber from the area ceded and transferred to UP until I
February 1985. However, it has the correlative duty and obligation to pay the forest charges, or
1âwphi1

royalties, to the new owner, the UP, at the same rate as provided for in the Agreement. The charges
should not be paid anymore to the Republic of the Philippines through the Bureau of Internal
Revenue because of the very nature of the transfer as aforestated. Consequently, even the Bureau
of Internal Revenue automatically lost its authority and jurisdiction to measure the timber cut from
the subject area and to collect forestry charges and other fees due thereon.

The foregoing disposes of the contention of petitioner that R.A. No. 3990 does not grant the UP the
authority to collect forest charges and to supervise the operations of its concession insofar as the
property of the UP within it is concerned. Its argument that it has acquired vested rights to operate its
concession under the supervision and control of the Bureau of Forestry is preposterous. The grantor,
Republic of the Philippines, was by no means bound under the License to perpetuate the Bureau as
its agent. Neither is there force to its contention that legislative grants must be construed strictly in
favor of the public and most strongly against the grantee. The grant under R.A. No. 3990 is transfer
of absolute, full and entire ownership which leaves no room for a strict interpretation against the
grantee, the UP. The reservation therein made is in favor of the private party pursuant to the license,
which is nevertheless protected. It is the concession in favor of the petitioner which should, on the
contrary, be bound by the rule.

It follows then that respondent UP is entitled to supervise, through its duly appointed personnel, the
logging, felling and removal of timber within the area covered by R.A. No. 3990.

IN THE LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, judgment is hereby rendered REVERSING the decision
of the trial court in Civil Case No. C-650, rendered on 3 June 1968; DECLARING that forest charges
due from and payable by petitioner for timber cut pursuant to its License Agreement No. 27-A
(Amendment) within the area ceded and transferred to the University of the Philippine pursuant to
R.A. No. 3990 shall be paid to the University of the Philippines; DECLARING that the University of
the Philippines is entitled to supervise, through its duly appointed personnel, the logging, felling and
removal of timber within the aforesaid area covered by R.A. No. 3990.

Costs against petitioner.


SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 85502 February 24, 1992

SUNVILLE TIMBER PRODUCTS, INC., petitioner,


vs.
HON. ALFONSO G. ABAD, as Judge RTC, Br. 22 of Pagadian City, COURT OF APPEALS,
ISIDRO GILBOLINGO AND ROBUSTIANO BUGTAI, respondents.

Manuel V. Trinida for petitioner.

Adolf Leo P. Boncavil for private respondents.

CRUZ, J.:

The Court will focus its attention only on one of the issues raised in this petition — the correct
application of the doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies.

The petitioner was granted a Timber License Agreement (TLA), authorizing it to cut, remove and
utilize timber within the concession area covering 29,500 hectares of forest land in Zamboanga del
Sur, for a period of ten years expiring on September 31, 1992.

On July 31, 1987, the herein private respondents filed a petition with the Department of Environment
and Natural Resources for the cancellation of the TLA on the ground of serious violations of its
conditions and the provisions of forestry laws and regulations.

The same charges were subsequently made, also by the herein private respondents, in a complaint
for injunction with damages against the petitioner, which was docketed as Civil Case No. 2732 in the
Regional Trial Court of Pagadian City.

The petitioner moved to dismiss this case on three grounds, to wit: 1) the court had no jurisdiction
over the complaint; 2) the plaintiffs had not yet exhausted administrative remedies; and 3) the
injunction sought was expressly prohibited by section 1 of PD 605.

Judge Alfonso G. Abad denied the motion to dismiss on December 11, 1987, 1 and the motion for
reconsideration on February 15, 1988. 2 The petitioner then elevated the matter to the respondent
Court of Appeals, which sustained the trial court in a decision dated July 4, 1988, 3 and in its
resolution of September 27, 1988, denying the motion for reconsideration. 4

The Court of Appeals held that the doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies was not without
exception and pointed to the several instances approved by this Court where it could be dispensed
with. The respondent court found that in the case before it, the applicable exception was the urgent
need for judicial intervention, which it explained thus:

The lower court found out that sometime on July 1981, the City Council of Pagadian
in its Resolution No. 111 requested the Bureau of Forest Development to reserve
1,000 hectares in Lison Valley. This request remained unacted upon. Instead in
1982, a TLA covering 29,500 hectares, including the area requested, was given to
petitioner.
Then the fear expressed by the City Council of Pagadian in its resolution became
reality.

"As averred in the complaint, the erosion caused by the logging


operations of the defendant has caused heavy siltation not only in the
Labangan River (as predicted by the City Council of Pagadian City in
1981) but also in the Tukuran River, Salug River, Sindangan River,
and Sibuguey River. In other words, the adverse effects of the
logging operations of the defendant have already covered a wider
area than that feared to be adversely affected by the City Council of
Pagadian City.

Floods are unknown phenomena in heavily forested areas years


back, particularly in the Island of Mindanao. When the grant of
logging concessions started, so was the denudation of forests. . . . It
is common knowledge that heavy floods have occurred in
areas/places adjoining logging concessions. (Resolution dated
December 11, 1987, p. 5).

Thus, it is urgent that indiscriminate logging be stopped. Irreparable damage would


ensue unless the court intervenes. Reliance on the DENR may not be enough,
judging from its inaction on the council's request seven years back.

The respondent court cited in support of this conclusion the case of De Lara v. Cloribel, 5 where
"irreparable damage and injury" was allowed as an exceptional ground, and Arrow Transportation
Corporation v. Board of Transportation, 6 where the doctrine was waived because of "the strong
public interest in having the matter settled" as soon as possible.

The decision also declared invalid Section 1 of PD 605, which provides:

Sec. 1. No court of the Philippines shall have jurisdiction to issue any restraining
order, preliminary injunction or preliminary mandatory injunction in any case involving
or growing out of the issuance, approval or disapproval, revocation or suspension of,
or any action whatsoever by the proper administrative official or body on
concessions, licenses, permits, patents, or public grants of any kind in connection
with the disposition, exploitation, utilization, exploration and/or development of the
natural resources of the Philippines.

This was held to be an encroachment on the judicial power vested in the Supreme Court and the
lower courts by Article VIII, Section 1, of the Constitution. The respondent court cited Export
Processing Zone Authority v. Dulay, 7where several presidential decrees were declared
unconstitutional for divesting the courts of the judicial power to determine just compensation in
expropriation cases.

The petitioner is now before the Court, contending that the doctrine of exhaustion of administrative
remedies was not correctly applied and that the declaration of the unconstitutionality of Section 1 of
PD 605 was improper.

The doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies calls for resort first to the appropriate
administrative authorities in the resolution of a controversy falling under their jurisdiction before the
same may be elevated to the courts of justice for review. Non-observance of the doctrine results in
lack of a cause of action, 8 which is one of the grounds allowed in the Rules of Court for the dismissal of the complaint. The
deficiency is not jurisdictional. Failure to invoke it operates as a waiver of the objection as a ground for a motion to dismiss and the court may
then proceed with the case as if the doctrine had been observed.

One of the reasons for the doctrine of exhaustion is the separation of powers, which enjoins upon
the Judiciary a becoming policy of non-interference with matters coming primarily (albeit not
exclusively) within the competence of the other departments. The theory is that the administrative
authorities are in a better position to resolve questions addressed to their particular expertise and
that errors committed by subordinates in their resolution may be rectified by their superiors if given a
chance to do so. A no less important consideration is that administrative decisions are usually
questioned in the special civil actions of certiorari, prohibition and mandamus, which are allowed
only when there is no other plain, speedy and adequate remedy available to the petitioner. It may be
added that strict enforcement of the rule could also relieve the courts of a considerable number of
avoidable cases which otherwise would burden their heavily loaded dockets. 9

As correctly suggested by he respondent court, however, there are a number of instances when the
doctrine may be dispensed with and judicial action validly resorted to immediately. Among these
exceptional cases are: 1) when the question raised is purely legal; 10 2) when the administrative body
is in estoppel; 11 3) when the act complained of is patently illegal; 12 4) when there is urgent need for
judicial intervention; 13 5) when the claim involved is small; 14 6) when irreparable damage will be
suffered; 15 7) when there is no other plain, speedy and adequate remedy; 16 8) when strong public
interest is involved; 17 9) when the subject of the controversy is private land; 18 and 10) in quo
warranto proceedings. 19

The private respondents now submit that their complaint comes under the exceptions because
forestry laws do not require observance of the doctrine as a condition precedent to judicial action;
the question they are raising is purely legal; application of the doctrine will cause great and
irreparable damage; and public interest is involved.

We rule for the petitioner.

Even if it be assumed that the forestry laws do not expressly require prior resort to administrative
remedies, the reasons for the doctrine above given, if nothing else, would suffice to still require its
observance. Even if such reasons were disregarded, there would still be the explicit language of
pertinent laws vesting in the DENR the power and function "to regulate the development, disposition,
extraction, exploration and use of the country's forests" and "to exercise exclusive jurisdiction" in the
"management and disposition of all lands of the public domain," 20 and in the Forest Management
Bureau (formerly the Bureau of Forest Development) the responsibility for the enforcement of the
forestry laws aid regulations 21 here claimed to have been violated. This comprehensive conferment
clearly implies at the very least that the DENR should be allowed to rule in the first instance on any
controversy coming under its express powers before the courts of justice may intervene.

The argument that the questions raised in the petition are purely legal is also not acceptable. The
private respondents have charged, both in the administrative case before the DENR and in the civil
case before the Regional Trial Court of Pagadian City, that the petitioner has violated the terms and
conditions of the TLA and the provisions of forestry laws and regulations. The charge involves
factual issues calling for the presentation of supporting evidence. Such evidence is best evaluated
first by the administrative authorities, employing their specialized knowledge of the agreement and
the rules allegedly violated, before the courts may step in to exercise their powers of review.

As for the alleged urgent necessity for judicial action and the claimed adverse impact of the case on
the national interest, the record does not show that the petitioners have satisfactorily established
these extraordinary circumstances to justify deviation from the doctrine by exhaustion of
administrative remedies and immediate resort to the courts of justice. In fact, this particular
submission must fall flat against the petitioner's uncontested contention that it has since 1988
stopped its operations under the TLA in compliance with the order of the DENR.

In the Petition for prohibition filed with the respondent court, the petitioner alleged that its logging
operations had been suspended pursuant to a telegram 22 received on February 23, 1988, by the
District Forester from the Regional Executive Director of the DENR, Zamboanga City; reading as
follows:

DISTRICT FORESTER
PAGADIAN CITY

QUOTED HEREUNDER IS RADIO MESSAGE DATED FEBRUARY 22, 1988 FROM


SECRETARY FULGENCIO S. FACTORAN, JR. QUOTE EFFECTIVE
IMMEDIATELY CMA SUSPEND ALL LOGGING OPERATIONS OF SUNVILLE IN
VIEW OF SERIOUS VIOLATIONS OF FOREST PROTECTION AND
REFORESTATION UNQUOTE SUBMIT REPORT ASAP.

RED
BATCA
GAN

The petition now before us contains the allegations that the "petition for cancellation of petitioner's
TLA is still pending up to this date and that petitioner's logging operations (were) ordered suspended
by the Secretary of the DENR pending further investigation." 23

In the memorandum filed by the petitioner with this Court, it is informed that "the Secretary of the
DENR suspended petitioner's logging operations until further investigation. The suspension is still in
force up to this date after the lapse of almost 3 years." 24

These statements have not been disputed by the private respondents in their pleadings before the
respondent court and this Court and are therefore deemed admitted.

There in no question that Civil Case No. 2732 comes within the jurisdiction of the respondent court.
Nevertheless, as the wrong alleged in the complaint was supposedly committed as a result of the
unlawful logging activities of the petitioner, it will be necessary first to determine whether or not the
TLA and the forestry laws and regulations had indeed been violated. To repeat for emphasis,
determination of this question is the primary responsibility of the Forest Management Bureau of the
DENR. The application of the expertise of the administrative agency in the resolution of the issue
raised is a condition precedent for the eventual examination, if still necessary, of the same question
by a court of justice.

In view of the above observations, we find that there was no need for the respondent court to
declare the unconstitutionality of Section 1 of PD 605. The rule is that a question of constitutionality
must be avoided where the case can be decided on some other available ground, 25 as we have
done in the case before us. The resolution of this same question must await another case, where all
the indispensable requisites of a judicial inquiry into a constitutional question are satisfactorily
established. In such an event, it will be time for the Court "to make the hammer fall, and heavily," in
the words of Justice Laurel, if such action is warranted.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The decision of the respondent court dated July 4, 1988,
and its resolution dated September 27, 1988, as well as the resolutions of the trial court dated
December 11, 1987 and February 15, 1988, are all REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Civil Case No.
2732 in the Regional Trial Court of Pagadian City is hereby DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.

[G.R. No. 86218. September 18, 1992.]

THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. ELSIE BAGISTA y BANGCO, Accused-


Appellant.

SYLLABUS

1. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; BILL OF RIGHTS; RIGHT AGAINST UNREASONABLE SEARCH AND SEIZURE;
RULE. — The general rule regarding searches and seizures can be stated in this manner: no person shall be
subjected to a search of his person, personal effects or belongings, or his residence except by virtue of a
search warrant or on the occasion of a lawful arrest. The basis for the rule can be found in Article III,
Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution. Art. III, Section 3 (2) further ordains that any evidence obtained in
violation of the aforementioned right shall, among others, "be inadmissible for any purpose in any
proceeding."cra law virt ua1aw li bra ry

2. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; SEARCH OF A MOVING VEHICLE, AN EXCEPTION. — The constitutional proscription
against warrantless searches and seizures admits of certain exceptions. Aside from a search incident to a
lawful arrest, a warrantless search had been upheld in cases of a moving vehicle, and the seizure of
evidence in plain view. With regard to the search of moving vehicles, this had been justified on the ground
that the mobility of motor vehicles makes it possible for the vehicle to be searched to move out of the
locality or jurisdiction in which the warrant must be sought.

3. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; REQUISITE. — This in no way, however, gives the police officers unlimited
discretion to conduct warrantless searches of automobiles in the absence of probable cause. When a vehicle
is stopped and subjected to an extensive search, such a warrantless search has been held to be valid only as
long as the officers conducting the search have reasonable or probable cause to believe before the search
that they will find the instrumentality or evidence pertaining to a crime, in the vehicle to be searched.

4. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; APPLICATION IN CASE AT BAR. — The NARCOM officers in the case at bar
had probable cause to stop and search all vehicles coming from the north at Acop, Tublay, Benguet in view
of the confidential information they received from their regular informant that a woman having the same
appearance as that of accused-appellant would be bringing marijuana from up north. They likewise have
probable cause to search accused-appellant’s belongings since she fits the description given by the NARCOM
informant. Since there was a valid warrantless search by the NARCOM agents, any evidence obtained during
the course of said search is admissible against Accused-Appellant.

5. REMEDIAL LAW; EVIDENCE; CREDIBILITY OF WITNESS; FINDINGS OF TRIAL JUDGE; RULE AND
EXCEPTION; CASE AT BAR. — The prosecution had shown, primarily through the positive testimony of Sgt.
Parajas, that the bag containing the dried marijuana leaves was taken from accused-appellant’s possession.
She denies this fact and contends that the bag in question was actually taken from the luggage carrier
above the passenger seats and not from her. Indisputably, We have two opposing versions of what actually
happened at the checkpoint in Km. 16, Acop, Tublay, Benguet, resulting in the accused-appellant’s
apprehension, that of the prosecution and that of the defense. In situations like this, the matter of assigning
values to the testimony of witnesses is best performed by the trial courts because, unlike appellate courts,
they can weigh such testimony in the light of the demeanor, conduct and attitude of the witnesses at the
trial. The exception is when the trial court has overlooked certain facts of substance and value that, if
considered, might affect the result, which We do not find in the instant case.

6. ID.; ID.; ID.; NOT AFFECTED BY MINOR DISCREPANCIES; CASE AT BAR. — As to the alleged
discrepancies in the prosecution’s case, such as the color of the stripes of the bag which contained the
marijuana and whether the items seized from accused-appellant were marijuana leaves or marijuana fruit
tops, these are minor in character and do not detract from the prosecution’s case since it was shown by the
Receipt of Property Seized, which was signed by accused-appellant, that these were the very items taken
from her at the time of her arrest.

PADILLA, J., dissenting:chanrob1es v irt ual 1aw li bra ry

1. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; BILL OF RIGHTS; RIGHT AGAINST UNREASONABLE SEARCH AND SEIZURE;
RULE; SEARCH OF MOVING VEHICLE AS AN EXCEPTION; REQUIRES PROBABLE CAUSE; NOT PRESENT IN
CASE AT BAR. — In the case at bar, the NARCOM agents searched the bag of the accused on the basis alone
of an information they received that a woman, 23 years of age with naturally curly hair, and 5’2" or 5’3" in
height would be transporting marijuana. The extensive search was indiscriminately made on all the
baggages of all passengers of the bus where the accused was riding, whether male or female, and whether
or not their physical appearance answered the description of the suspect as described in the alleged
information. If there really was such an information, as claimed by the NARCOM agents, it is a perplexing
thought why they had to search the baggages of ALL passengers, not only the bags of those who appeared
to answer the description of the woman suspected of carrying marijuana. Moreover, the accused was not at
all acting suspiciously when the NARCOM agents searched her bag, where they allegedly found the
marijuana. From the circumstances of the case at bar, it would seem that the NARCOM agents were only
fishing for evidence when they searched the baggages of all the passengers, including that of the accused.
They had no probable cause to reasonably believe that the accused was the woman carrying marijuana
alluded to in the information they allegedly received. Thus, the warrantless search made on the personal
effects of herein accused on the basis of mere information, without more, is to my mind bereft of probable
cause and therefore, null and void. It follows that the marijuana seized in the course of such warrantless
search was inadmissible in evidence.

DECISION

NOCON, J.:

Appeal by accused-appellant Elsie Bagista from the decision dated September 26, 1988 of the Regional Trial
Court of La Trinidad, Benguet, Branch 10, finding her guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating Section 4,
Article II of Republic Act No. 6425, and sentencing her to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and to pay
a fine of P20,000.00, with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency, and to pay the costs.

The facts of the case are as follows: On July 4, 1988, at around 8:00 o’clock in the morning, the Narcotics
Command (NARCOM) Detachment Office located at the Arix Building, Bokawkan Road, Baguio City, received
information from one of its regular informants that a certain woman, 23 years of age, with naturally curly
hair, and with a height of 5’2" or 5’3", would be transporting marijuana from up north. 1 Acting upon this
piece of information, Sgt. Oscar Parajas testified that he, Sgt. Godofredo Fider and a civilian NARCOM agent
proceeded to Km. 16, Acop, Tublay, Benguet. Upon arriving at said location at around 11:00 o’clock that
same morning, they established a checkpoint and flagged down all vehicles, both private and public, coming
from the north to check if any of these vehicles were carrying marijuana leaves on board. 2

After about 4 1/2 hours, the NARCOM agents stopped a Dangwa Tranco bus with Plate No. AVD 938 and
body number 428, which came from Lepanto, Benguet. Sgts. Parajas and Fider boarded the bus and
thereupon Sgt. Parajas announced to the passengers that they were NARCOM agents and that they were
going to search their baggages. Sgt. Parajas then proceeded to the rear of the bus while Sgt. Fider began
inspecting the bags in the front. 3

While at the back, Sgt. Parajas noticed a woman with curly hair seated at the right side (as one is facing the
driver) of the last seat of the bus, with a travelling bag with black and orange stripes 4 on her lap. Sgt.
Parajas inspected the bag and discovered three (3) bundles of marijuana leaves covered by assorted
clothing. The bag and the contents thereof were confiscated and the woman arrested; she was later brought
to the NARCOM office in Baguio City where she was booked and investigated. The woman was then
identified as Accused-Appellant. 5 The confiscated bundles were subjected to laboratory examination, and
found positive for marijuana. 6

Accused-appellant’s defense rests solely on denial. She claimed that she was engaged in the buying and
selling of vegetables, particularly cabbages. On the day in question, she boarded the Dangwa Tranco bus at
Abatan, Benguet, bringing with her ten (10) sacks of cabbages which she intended to sell to a certain Maria
Opino in Baguio City. While inside the bus, she approached the conductor for her ticket to cover the fare for
her sacks of cabbages, but was told by the latter that he would attend to her later.

When the bus reached Tublay, Benguet, it was stopped by the NARCOM agents who boarded the same and
began inspecting the baggages of the passengers. Accused-appellant claimed that the bag containing the
marijuana was taken from the luggage carrier above the passenger seats. When nobody admitted owning
the bag, the NARCOM agent approached her, took the shoulder bag on her lap, and asked her to come with
them for investigation as she fits the description of the would-be transporter of the marijuana given by the
NARCOM informer. She denied having anything to do with the marijuana found on the bus. chanrob les.co m.ph : virtual law lib rary

To corroborate her story, Accused-appellant presented the conductor of the Dangwa Tranco bus, Nestor
Yangkin. He testified that when the NARCOM agents boarded the bus at Tublay, Benguet, one of them got a
bag from the luggage carrier, opened it, and smelled the contents. The agent then asked the passengers
who among them owned the bag; when nobody answered, he walked to the back of the bus, all the time
looking at the faces of the passengers. When the agent approached accused-appellant, who was seated at
the rear of the bus, the former talked to her, then escorted her out of the bus. 7

During Yangkin’s cross-examination, it came out that the 10 sacks of vegetables that were loaded at Abatan
were brought by a man who told him that the fare for the sacks will be paid upon arrival at the Dangwa
Station in Baguio City but that the owner of the sacks would be riding in the bus. And yet, Yangkin did not
seek out the alleged owner of the sacks. The witness also testified that none of the passengers approached
him and offered to pay for the fare of the sacks, 8 contrary to accused-appellant’s testimony.

In convicting accused-appellant, the trial court found the testimony of Sgt. Parajas credible. Said the court a
quo:chan roblesv irt ualawli bra ry

". . . The testimony of Sgt. Oscar Parajas was direct and straightforward as he gave all the requisite details
of the entrapment operation they conducted based on an information provided by a coordinating individual.
His testimony reveals that the bag containing the marijuana leaves was found on the lap of the accused.
There is nothing in the record to suggest that Sgt. Parajas was moved by any motive than simply the
carrying out of his official mission or duty. Where there is no evidence and nothing to indicate that the
principal witness for the prosecution was actuated by improper motives, the presumption is that he was not
so actuated and his testimony is entitled to full faith and credit (People v. Francia, L-69253, September 30,
1987, 154 SCRA 495)." 9

The trial court brushed aside the defense’s observation that there were discrepancies between the testimony
of Sgt. Parajas and the evidence presented, such as the color of the bag allegedly taken from accused-
appellant and the kind of marijuana taken from the bag, as immaterial. Similarly brushed aside was the
defense’s contention that the evidence against accused-appellant, such as the Receipt of Property Seized 10
and her signature thereon, 11 and the Booking Sheet and Arrest Report 12 and her signature thereon, 13
were inadmissible due to the absence of counsel, since these were not confessions or extra-judicial
statements.

Finally, the trial court did not give credence to the testimonies of accused-appellant and her witness Nestor
Yangkin, in view of the testimony of Sgt. Parajas that he took the bag containing the marijuana from
accused-appellant’s lap. Moreover, the court a quo observed that there was a discrepancy between the
testimonies of accused-appellant and Yangkin on the matter of the 10 sacks of cabbage, which led the court
to conclude that the former was in the act of transporting marijuana at the time of her arrest.

Accused-appellant filed a motion for reconsideration, alleging that the marijuana leaves found in the bag
taken from her was inadmissible in evidence as it was the product of a warrantless search, which motion
was denied by the trial court for lack of merit on November 22, 1988. chan robles. com:c ralaw:red

Aggrieved, Accused-appellant filed the instant appeal, alleging that the court a quo erred (1) in not finding
the warrantless search conducted by the NARCOM agents as illegal and unconstitutional, and (2) in
admitting the illegally obtained evidences and convicting her on the basis of said evidences.

Accused-appellant is in error.

The general rule regarding searches and seizures can be stated in this manner: no person shall be subjected
to a search of his person, personal effects or belongings, or his residence except by virtue of a search
warrant or on the occasion of a lawful arrest. 14 The basis for the rule can be found in Article III, Section 2
of the 1987 Constitution, which states: jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable
searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose, shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or
warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after
examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and
particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." cralaw virtua1aw l ibra ry

Article III, Section 3 (2) further ordains that any evidence obtained in violation of the aforementioned right
shall, among others, "be inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding." cralaw virtua1aw l ibra ry

The constitutional proscription against warrantless searches and seizures admits of certain exceptions. Aside
from a search incident to a lawful arrest, a warrantless search had been upheld in cases of a moving vehicle,
15 and the seizure of evidence in plain view. 16

With regard to the search of moving vehicles, this had been justified on the ground that the mobility of
motor vehicles makes it possible for the vehicle to be searched to move out of the locality or jurisdiction in
which the warrant must be sought. 17

This in no way, however, gives the police officers unlimited discretion to conduct warrantless searches of
automobiles in the absence of probable cause. When a vehicle is stopped and subjected to an extensive
search, such a warrantless search has been held to be valid only as long as the officers conducting the
search have reasonable or probable cause to believe before the search that they will find the instrumentality
or evidence pertaining to a crime, in the vehicle to be searched. 18

The NARCOM officers in the case at bar had probable cause to stop and search all vehicles coming from the
north at Acop, Tublay, Benguet in view of the confidential information they received from their regular
informant that a woman having the same appearance as that of accused-appellant would be bringing
marijuana from up north. They likewise have probable cause to search accused-appellant’s belongings since
she fits the description given by the NARCOM informant.

Since there was a valid warrantless search by the NARCOM agents, any evidence obtained during the course
of said search is admissible against Accused-Appellant. chan roble s virtual lawli bra ry

At any rate, no objection was raised by the accused-appellant in the court below on the inadmissibility of the
evidence against her on the ground that the same was obtained in a warrantless search. This amounts to a
waiver of the objection on the legality of the search and the admissibility of the evidence obtained
therefrom. 19 Amid a waiver, the court is duty bound to admit the evidence. 20

Reviewing the evidence, We find the same sufficient to prove accused-appellant’s guilt beyond reasonable
doubt.

The prosecution had shown, primarily through the positive testimony of Sgt. Parajas, that the bag containing
the dried marijuana leaves was taken from accused-appellant’s possession.

She denies this fact and contends that the bag in question was actually taken from the luggage carrier
above the passenger seats and not from her. Indisputably, We have two opposing versions of what actually
happened at the checkpoint in Km. 16, Acop, Tublay, Benguet, resulting in the accused-appellant’s
apprehension, that of the prosecution and that of the defense. In situations like this, the matter of assigning
values to the testimony of witnesses is best performed by the trial courts because, unlike appellate courts,
they can weigh such testimony in the light of the demeanor, conduct and attitude of the witnesses at the
trial. 21 The exception is when the trial court has overlooked certain facts of substance and value that, if
considered, might affect the result, 22 which We do not find in the instant case.

Moreover, Accused-appellant’s defense was weakened by the fact that her witness Nestor Yangkin
contradicted her on the matter of the 10 sacks of vegetables appellant claims to have brought with her at
the time of her arrest. Appellant claims she loaded the sacks of vegetables on the bus and tried to pay for
its fare, but that conductor Yangkin, put her off. Yangkin claims otherwise: the sacks of vegetables were
loaded by a man who told him that the fare for the sacks will be paid upon arrival in Baguio City, and that
no one on the bus offered to pay for the same. cralawnad

In weighing contrary declarations and statements, greater weight must generally be given to the positive
testimonies of the prosecution witnesses than the denials of the Accused-Appellant. 23

Given the discrepancy on this point, the trial court correctly disregarded the corroborative testimony of
Nestor Yangkin. The matter of the ownership of the 10 sacks of vegetables is material since appellant’s
reason for being on the bus was to deliver these sacks to Baguio City. If the sacks of vegetables are not
hers, then the only conclusion that can be drawn is that she was on her way to Baguio City to sell the
marijuana found in her possession.

As to the alleged discrepancies in the prosecution’s case, such as the color of the stripes of the bag which
contained the marijuana and whether the items seized from accused-appellant were marijuana leaves or
marijuana fruit tops, these are minor in character and do not detract from the prosecution’s case since it
was shown by the Receipt of Property Seized, 24 which was signed by accused-appellant, that these were
the very items taken from her at the time of her arrest.

WHEREFORE, finding no error in the decision appealed from, the same is hereby AFFIRMED in toto. Costs
against Accused-Appellant.

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C.J., Regalado and Melo, JJ., concur.

Separate Opinions

PADILLA, J., dissenting:chanrob1es v irt ual 1aw li bra ry

Although there is a similarity in the factual circumstances of the case at bar with those of the Malmstedt
case (GR No. 91107, 19 June 1991, 198 SCRA 101) where the Court upheld the validity of the warrantless
search, however, in the present case, I am of the view that the information alone received by the NARCOM
agents, without other suspicious circumstances surrounding the accused, did not give rise to a probable
cause justifying the warrantless search made on the bag of the accused.

In the Malmstedt case, it will be recalled that no extensive search was immediately made of the Personal
effects of the accused. It was only after the NARCOM agents noticed a bulge on the waist of the accused
(causing them to suspect that he was carrying a gun) and only after he failed or refused to present his
passport when required to do so, that a warrantless search was made of the personal effects of the accused.
In other words, the information received by the NARCOM agents that a certain Caucasian travelling from
Sagada to Baguio City was carrying prohibited drugs together with the suspicious failure or refusal of the
accused to present his passport, supplied the probable cause that reasonably led the NARCOM agents to
believe that the said accused was then and there committing a crime. Thus —

"Warrantless search of the personal effects of an accused has been declared by this Court as valid, because
of existence of probable cause, where the smell of marijuana emanated from a plastic bag owned by the
accused, or where the accused was acting suspiciously, and attempted to flee." cralaw virtua 1aw lib rary

x x x

"The receipt of information by NARCOM that a Caucasian coming from Sagada had prohibited drugs in his
possession, plus the suspicious failure of the accused to produce his passport, taken together as a whole, led
the NARCOM officers to reasonably believe that the accused was trying to hide something illegal from the
authorities. From these circumstances arose a probable cause which justified the warrantless search that
was made on the personal effects of the accused. In other words, the acts of the NARCOM officers in
requiring the accused to open his pouch bag and in opening one of the wrapped objects found inside said
bag (which was discovered to contain hashish) as well as the two (2) travelling bags containing two (2)
teddy bears with hashish stuffed inside them, were prompted by accused’s own attempt to hide his identity
by refusing to present his passport, and by the information received by the NARCOM that a Caucasian
coming from Sagada had prohibited drugs in his possession. To deprive the NARCOM agents of the ability
and facility to act accordingly, including, to search even without warrant, in the light of such circumstances,
would be to sanction impotence and ineffectiveness in law enforcement, to the detriment of society." (198
SCRA 401).
In the case at bar, the NARCOM agents searched the bag of the accused on the basis alone of an
information they received that a woman, 23 years of age with naturally curly hair, and 5’2" or 5’3" in height
would be transporting marijuana. The extensive search was indiscriminately made on all the baggages of all
passengers of the bus where the accused was riding, whether male or female, and whether or not their
physical appearance answered the description of the suspect as described in the alleged information. If there
really was such an information, as claimed by the NARCOM agents, it is a perplexing thought why they had
to search the baggages of ALL passengers, not only the bags of those who appeared to answer the
description of the woman suspected of carrying marijuana.

Moreover, the accused was not at all acting suspiciously when the NARCOM agents searched her bag, where
they allegedly found the marijuana.

From the circumstances of the case at bar, it would seem that the NARCOM agents were only fishing for
evidence when they searched the baggages of all the passengers, including that of the accused. They had no
probable cause to reasonably believe that the accused was the woman carrying marijuana alluded to in the
information they allegedly received. Thus, the warrantless search made on the personal effects of herein
accused on the basis of mere information, without more, is to my mind bereft of probable cause and
therefore, null and void. It follows that the marijuana seized in the course of such warrantless search was
inadmissible in evidence.

G.R. No. 104988 June 18, 1996

MUSTANG LUMBER, INC., petitioner,


vs.
HON. COURT OF APPEALS, HON. FULGENCIO S. FACTORAN, JR., Secretary, Department of
Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and ATTY. VINCENT A. ROBLES, Chief, Special
Actions and Investigations Division, DENR, respondents.

G.R. No. 106424 June 18, 1996

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner,


vs.
HON. TERESITA DIZON-CAPULONG, in her capacity as the Presiding Judge, Regional Trial
Court, National Capital Judicial Region, Branch 172, Valenzuela, Metro Manila, and RI CHUY
PO, respondents.

G.R. No. 123784 June 18, 1996

MUSTANG LUMBER, INC., petitioner,


vs.
HON. COURT OF APPEALS, ATTY. VINCENT A. ROBLES, Chief, Special Actions and
Investigation Division, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), ATTY.
NESTOR V. GAPUSAN, TIRSO P. PARIAN, JR., and FELIPE H. CALLORINA, JR., respondents.

DAVIDE, JR., J.:p

The first and third case, G.R. No. 104988 and G.R. No. 123784, were originally assigned to the Second and Third Divisions of the Court,
respectively. They were subsequently consolidated with the second, a case of the Court en banc.

Petitioner, a domestic corporation with principal office at Nos. 1350-1352 Juan Luna Street, Tondo,
Manila, and with a Lumberyard at Fortune Street, Fortune Village, Paseo de Blas, Valenzuela, Metro
Manila, was duly registered as a lumber dealer with the Bureau of Forest Development (BFD) under
Certificate of Registration No. NRD-4-092590-0469. Its permit as such was to expire on 25
September 1990.

Respondent Secretary Fulgencio S. Factoran, Jr., and respondent Atty. Vincent A. Robles were,
during all the time material to these cases, the Secretary of the Department of Environment and
Natural Resources (DENR) and the Chief of the Special Actions and Investigation Division (SAID) of
the DENR, respectively.

The material operative facts are as follows:

On 1 April 1990, acting on an information that a huge stockpile of narra flitches, shorts, and slabs
were seen inside the lumberyard of the petitioner in Valenzuela, Metro Manila, the SAID organized a
team of foresters and policemen and sent it to conduct surveillance at the said lumberyard. In the
course thereof, the team members saw coming out from the lumberyard the petitioner's truck, with
Plate No. CCK-322, loaded with lauan and almaciga lumber of assorted sizes and dimensions. Since
the driver could not produce the required invoices and transport documents, the team seized the
truck together with its cargo and impounded them at the DENR compound at Visayas Avenue,
Quezon City.1 The team was not able to gain entry into the premises because of the refusal of the
owner.2

On 3 April 1990, the team was able to secure a search warrant from Executive Judge Adriano R.
Osorio of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Valenzuela, Metro Manila. By virtue thereof, the team
seized on that date from the petitioner's lumberyard four truckloads of narra shorts, trimmings, and
slabs; a negligible number of narra lumber; and approximately 200,000 board feet of lumber and
shorts of various species including almaciga and supa.3

On 4 April 1990, the team returned to the premises of the petitioner's lumberyard in Valenzuela and
placed under administrative seizure the remaining stockpile of almaciga, supa, and lauan lumber
with a total volume of 311,000 board feet because the petitioner failed to produce upon demand the
corresponding certificate of lumber origin, auxiliary invoices, tally sheets, and delivery receipts from
the source of the invoices covering the lumber to prove the legitimacy of their source and origin.4

Parenthetically, it may be stated that under an administrative seizure the owner retains the physical
possession of the seized articles. Only an inventory of the articles is taken and signed by the owner
or his representative. The owner is prohibited from disposing them until further orders.5

On 10 April 1990, counsel for the petitioner sent a letter to Robles requesting an extension of fifteen
days from 14 April 1990 to produce the required documents covering the seized articles because
some of them, particularly the certificate of lumber origin, were allegedly in the Province of Quirino
Robles denied the motion on the ground that the documents being required from the petitioner must
accompany the lumber or forest products placed under seizure.6

On 11 April 1990, Robles submitted his memorandum-report recommending to Secretary Factoran


the following:

1. Suspension and subsequent cancellation of the lumber Dealer's Permit of Mustang


Lumber, Inc. for operating an unregistered lumberyard and resaw mill and
possession of Almaciga Lumber (a banned specie) without the required documents;

2. Confiscation of the lumber seized at the Mustang Lumberyard including the truck
with Plate No. CCK-322 and the lumber loaded herein [sic] now at the DENR
compound in the event its owner fails to submit documents showing legitimacy of the
source of said lumber within ten days from date of seizure;

3. Filing of criminal charges against Mr. Ri Chuy Po, owner of Mustang Lumber Inc.
and Mr. Ruiz, or if the circumstances warrant for illegal possession of narra and
almaciga lumber and shorts if and when recommendation no. 2 pushes through;

4. Confiscation of Trucks with Plate No. CCS-639 and CDV. 458 as well as the
lumber loaded therein for transport lumber using "recycled" documents.7

On 23 April 1990, Secretary Factoran issued an order suspending immediately the petitioner's
lumber-dealer's permit No. NRD-4-092590-0469 and directing the petitioner to explain in writing
within fifteen days why its lumber-dealer's permit should not be cancelled.

On the same date, counsel for the petitioner sent another letter to Robles informing the latter that the
petitioner had already secured the required documents and was ready to submit them. None,
however, was submitted.8

On 3 May 1990, Secretary Factoran issued another order wherein, after reciting the events which
took place on 1 April and 3 April 1990, he ordered "CONFISCATED in favor of the government to be
disposed of in accordance with law" the approximately 311,000 board feet of lauan, supa, and
almaciga lumber, shorts, and sticks found inside the petitioner's lumberyard.9

On 11 July 1990, the petitioner filed with the RTC of Manila a petition for certiorari and prohibition
with a prayer for a restraining order or preliminary injunction against Secretary Fulgencio S.
Factoran, Jr., and Atty. Vincent A. Robles. The case (hereinafter, the FIRST CIVIL CASE) was
docketed as Civil Case No. 90-53648 and assigned to Branch 35 of the said court. The petitioner
questioned therein (a) the seizure on 1 April 1990, without any search and seizure order issued by a
judge, of its truck with Plate No. CCK-322 and its cargo of assorted lumber consisting of apitong,
tanguile, and lauan of different sizes and dimensions with a total value of P38,000.00; and (b) the
orders of Secretary Factoran of 23 April 1990 for lack of prior notice and hearing and of 3 May 1990
for violation of Section 2, Article III of the Constitution.

On 17 September 1990, in response to reports that violations of P.D. No. 705 (The Revised Forestry
Code of the Philippines), as amended, were committed and acting upon instruction of Robles and
under Special Order No. 897, series of 1990, a team of DENR agents went to the business premises
of the petitioner located at No. 1352 Juan Luna Street, Tondo, Manila. The team caught the
petitioner operating as a lumber dealer although its lumber-dealer's permit had already been
suspended or 23 April 1990. Since the gate of the petitioner's lumberyard was open, the team went
inside and saw an owner-type jeep with a trailer loaded with lumber. Upon investigation, the team
was informed that the lumber loaded on the trailer was to be delivered to the petitioner's customer. It
also came upon the sales invoice covering the transaction. The members of the team then
introduced themselves to the caretaker, one Ms. Chua, who turned out to be the wife of the
petitioner's president and general manager, Mr. Ri Chuy Po, who was then out of town. The team's
photographer was able to take photographs of the stockpiles of lumber including newly cut ones,
fresh dust around sawing or cutting machineries and equipment, and the transport vehicles loaded
with lumber. The team thereupon effected a constructive seizure of approximately 20,000 board feet
of lauan lumber in assorted sizes stockpiled in the premises by issuing a receipt
therefor. 10
As a consequence of this 17 September 1990 incident, the petitioner filed with the RTC of Manila a
petition for certiorari and prohibition. The case (hereinafter, the SECOND CIVIL CASE) was
docketed as Civil Case No. 90-54610 and assigned to Branch 24 of the said court.

In the meantime, Robles filed with the Department of Justice (DOJ) a complaint against the
petitioner's president and general manager, Ri Chuy Po, for violation of Section 68 of P.D. No. 705,
as amended by E.O. No. 277. After appropriate preliminary investigation, the investigating
prosecutor, Claro Arellano, handed down a resolution 11whose dispositive portion reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, it is hereby recommended that an information


be filed against respondent Ri Chuy Po for illegal possession of approximately
200,000 bd. ft. of lumber consisting of almaciga and supa and for illegal shipment of
almaciga and lauan in violation of Sec. 68 of PD 705 as amended by E.O. 277,
series of 1987.

It is further recommended that the 30,000 bd. ft. of narra shorts, trimmings and slabs
covered by legal documents be released to the rightful owner, Malupa. 12

This resolution was approved by Undersecretary of Justice Silvestre H. Bello III, who served as
Chairman of the Task Force on Illegal Logging." 13

On the basis of that resolution, an information was filed on 5 June 1991 by the DOJ with Branch 172
of the RTC of Valenzuela, charging Ri Chuy Po with the violation of Section 58 of P.D. No. 705, as
amended, which was docketed as Criminal Case No. 324-V-91 (hereinafter, the CRIMINAL CASE).
The accusatory portion of the information reads as follows:

That on or about the 3rd day of April 1990, or prior to or subsequent thereto, within
the premises and vicinity of Mustang Lumber, Inc. in Fortune Village, Valenzuela,
Metro Manila, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named
accused, did then and there wilfully, feloniously and unlawfully have in his
possession truckloads of almaciga and lauan and approximately 200,000 bd. ft. of
lumber and shorts of various species including almaciga and supa, without the legal
documents as required under existing forest laws and
regulations. 14

On 7 June 1991, Branch 35 of the RTC of Manila rendered its decision 15 in the FIRST CIVIL CASE,
the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, judgment in this case is rendered as follows:

1. The Order of Respondent Secretary of the DENR, the Honorable Fulgencio S.


Factoran, Jr., dated 3 May 1990 ordering the confiscation in favor of the Government
the approximately 311,000 board feet of Lauan, supa, end almaciga Lumber, shorts
and sticks, found inside and seized from the Lumberyard of the petitioner at Fortune
Drive, Fortune Village, Paseo de Blas, Valenzuela, Metro Manila, on April 4, 1990
(Exhibit 10), is hereby set aside and vacated, and instead the respondents are
required to report and bring to the Hon. Adriano Osorio, Executive Judge, Regional
Trial Court, NCR, Valenzuela, Metro Manila, the said 311,000 board feet of Lauan,
supa and almaciga Lumber, shorts and sticks, to be dealt with as directed by Law;

2. The respondents are required to initiate and prosecute the appropriate action
before the proper court regarding the Lauan and almaciga lumber of assorted sizes
and dimensions Loaded in petitioner's truck bearing Plate No. CCK-322 which were
seized on April 1, 1990;

3. The Writ of Preliminary Injunction issued by the Court on August 2, 1990 shall be
rendered functus oficio upon compliance by the respondents with paragraphs 1 and
2 of this judgment;.

4. Action on the prayer of the petitioner that the Lauan, supa and almaciga lumber,
shorts and sticks mentioned above in paragraphs 1 and 2 of this judgment be
returned to said petitioner is withheld in this case until after the proper court has
taken cognizance and determined how those Lumber, shorts and sticks should be
disposed of; and

5. The petitioner is ordered to pay the costs.

SO ORDERED.

In resolving the said case, the trial court held that the warrantless search and seizure on 1 April 1990
of the petitioner's truck, which was moving out from the petitioner's lumberyard in Valenzuela, Metro
Manila, loaded with large volumes of lumber without covering document showing the legitimacy of its
source or origin did not offend the constitutional mandate that search and seizure must be supported
by a valid warrant. The situation fell under one of the settled and accepted exceptions where
warrantless search and seizure is justified, viz., a search of a moving vehicle. 16 As to the seizure of a
large volume of almaciga, supa, and lauan lumber and shorts effected on 4 April 1990, the trial court
ruled that the said seizure was a continuation of that made the previous day and was still pursuant to
or by virtue of the search warrant issued by Executive Judge Osorio whose validity the petitioner did
not even question. 17 And, although the search warrant did not specifically mention almaciga, supa,
and lauan lumber and shorts, their seizure was valid because it is settled that the executing officer is
not required to ignore contrabands observed during the conduct of the
search.18

The trial court, however, set aside Secretary Factoran's order of 3 May 1990 ordering the
confiscation of the seized articles in favor of the Government for the reason that since the articles
were seized pursuant to the search warrant issued by Executive Judge Osorio they should have
been returned to him in compliance with the directive in the warrant.

As to the propriety of the 23 April 1990 order of Secretary Factoran, the trial court ruled that the
same had been rendered moot and academic by the expiration of the petitioner's lumber dealer's
permit on 25 September 1990, a fact the petitioner admitted in its memorandum.

The petitioner forthwith appealed from the decision in the FIRST CIVIL CASE to the Court of
Appeals, which docketed the appeal as CA-G.R. SP No. 25510.

On 7 July 1991, accused Ri Chuy Po filed in the CRIMINAL CASE a Motion to Quash and/or to
Suspend Proceedings based on the following grounds: (a) the information does not charge an
offense, for possession of lumber, as opposed to timber, is not penalized in Section 68 of P.D. No.
705, as amended, and even grantingarguendo that lumber falls within the purview of the said
section, the same may not be used in evidence against him for they were taken by virtue of an illegal
seizure; and (b) Civil Case No. 90-53648 of Branch 35 of the RTC of Manila, the FIRST CIVIL
CASE, then pending before the Court of Appeals, which involves the legality of the seizure, raises a
prejudicial question. 19
The prosecution opposed the motion alleging that lumber is included in Section 68 of P.D. No. 705,
as amended, and possession thereof without the required legal documents is penalized therein. It
referred to Section 3.2 of DENR Administrative Order No. 19, series of 1989, for the definitions
of timber and lumber, and then argued that exclusion of lumber from Section 68 would defeat the
very purpose of the law, i.e., to minimize, if not halt, illegal logging that has resulted in the rapid
denudation of our forest resources. 20

In her order of 16 August 1991 in the CRIMINAL CASE, 21 respondent Judge Teresita Dizon-
Capulong granted the motion to quash and dismissed the case on the ground that "possession of
lumber without the legal documents required by forest laws and regulations is not a crime. 22

Its motion for reconsideration having been denied in the order of 18 October 1991, 23 the People filed
a petition for certiorari with this Court in G.R. No. 106424, wherein it contends that the respondent
Judge acted with grave abuse of discretion in granting the motion to quash and in dismissing the
case.

On 29 November 1991, the Court of Appeals rendered a decision 24 in CA-G.R. SP


No. 25510 dismissing for lack of merit the petitioner's appeal from the decision in the FIRST CIVIL
CASE and affirming the trial court's rulings on the issues raised. As to the claim that the truck was
not carrying contraband articles since there is no law punishing the possession of lumber, and
that lumber is not timber whose possession without the required legal documents is unlawful under
P.D. No. 705, as amended, the Court of Appeals held:

This undue emphasis on lumber or the commercial nature of the forest product
involved has always been foisted by those who claim to be engaged in the legitimate
business of lumber dealership. But what is important to consider is that when
appellant was required to present the valid documents showing its acquisition and
lawful possession of the lumber in question, it failed to present any despite the period
of extension granted to it. 25

The petitioner's motion to reconsider the said decision was denied by the Court of Appeals in its
resolution of 3 March 1992. 26 Hence, the petitioner came to this Court by way of a petition for review
on certiorari in G.R. No. 104988, which was filed on 2 May 1992. 27

On 24 September 1992, Branch 24 of the RTC of Manila handed down a decision in the SECOND
CIVIL CASE dismissing the petition for certiorari and prohibition because (a) the petitioner did not
exhaust administrative remedies; (b) when the seizure was made on 17 September 1990 the
petitioner could not lawfully sell lumber, as its license was still under suspension; (c) the seizure was
valid under Section 68-A of P.D. No. 705, as amended; and (d) the seizure was justified as a
warrantless search and seizure under Section 80 of P.D. No. 705, as amended.

The petitioner appealed from the decision to the Court of Appeals, which docketed the appeal
as CA-G.R. SP No.33778.

In its decision 28 of 31 July 1995, the Court of Appeals dismissed the petitioner's appeal in CA-G.R.
SP No. 33778 for lack of merit and sustained the grounds relied upon by the trial court in dismissing
the SECOND CIVIL CASE. Relying on the definition of "lumber" by Webster, viz., "timber or logs,
especially after being prepared for the market," and by the Random House Dictionary of the English
Language, viz., "wood, esp. when suitable or adapted for various building purposes," the respondent
Court held that since wood is included in the definition of forest product in Section 3(q) of P.D. No.
705, as amended, lumber is necessarily included in Section 68 under the term forest product.
The Court of Appeals further emphasized that a forest officer or employee can seize the forest
product involved in a violation of Section 68 of P.D. No. 705 pursuant to Section 80 thereof, as
amended by P.D. No. 1775, which provides in part as follows:

Sec. 80. Arrest, Institution of Criminal Actions. -- A forest officer or employee of the
Bureau or any personnel of the Philippine Constabulary/Integrated National Police
shall arrest even without 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, or the forest products cut, gathered or taken by the offender in the
process of committing the offense.

Among the offenses punished in the chapter referred to in said Section 80 are the cutting, gathering,
collection, or removal of timber or other forest products or possession of timber or other forest
products without the required legal documents.

Its motion to reconsider the decision having been denied by the Court of Appeals in the resolution of
6 February 1996, the petitioner filed with this Court on 27 February 1996 a petition for review
on certiorari in G.R. No. 123784.

We shall now resolve these three cases starting with G.R. No. 106424 with which the other two were
consolidated.

G.R. No. 106424

The petitioner had moved to quash the information in Criminal Case No. 324-V-91 on the ground
that it does not charge an offense. Respondent Judge Dizon-Capulong granted the motion reasoning
that the subject matter of the information in the CRIMINAL CASE is LUMBER, which is neither
"timber" nor "other forest product" under Section 68 of P.D. No. 705, as amended, and hence,
possession thereof without the required legal documents is not prohibited and penalized under the
said section.

Under paragraph (a), Section 3, Rule 117 of the Rules of Court, an information may be quashed on
the ground that the facts alleged therein do not constitute an offense. It has been said that "the test
for the correctness of this ground is the sufficiency of the averments in the information, that is,
whether the facts alleged, if hypothetically admitted, constitute the elements of the
offense, 29 and matters aliunde will not be considered." Anent the sufficiency of the information,
Section 6, Rule 110 of the Rules of Court requires, inter alia, that the information state the acts or
omissions complained of as constituting the offense.

Respondent Ri Chuy Po is charged with the violation of Section 68 of P.D. No. 705, as amended by
E.O. No. 277, which provides:

Sec. 68. 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 Articles 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.

Punished then in this section are (1) the cutting, gathering, collection, or removal of timber or
other forest products from the places therein mentioned without any authority; and
(b) possession of timber forest products without the legal documents as required under
existing forest laws and regulations.

Indeed, the word lumber does not appear in Section 68. But conceding ex gratia that this omission
amounts to an exclusion of lumber from the section's coverage, do the facts averred in the
information in the CRIMINAL CASE validly charge a violation of the said section?

A cursory reading of the information readily leads us to an infallible conclusion that lumber is not
solely its subject matter. It is evident therefrom that what are alleged to be in the possession of the
private respondent, without the required legal documents, are truckloads of

(1) almaciga and lauan; and

(2) approximately 200,000 bd. ft. of lumber and shorts of various


species including almaciga and supa.

The "almaciga and lauan" specifically mentioned in no. (1) are not described as "lumber."
They cannot refer to the "lumber" in no. (2) because they are separated by the words
"approximately 200,000 bd. ft." with the conjunction "and," and not with the preposition "of."
They must then be raw forest products or, more specifically, timbers under Section 3(q) of
P.D. No. 705, as amended, which reads:

Sec. 3. Definitions. --

xxx xxx xxx

(q) Forest product means timber, firewood, bark, tree top, resin, gum,
wood, oil, honey, beeswax, nipa, rattan, or other forest plant, the
associated water, fish game, scenic, historical, recreational and
geological resources in forest lands.

It follows then that lumber is only one of the items covered by the information. The public and the
private respondents obviously miscomprehended the averments in the information. Accordingly,
even if lumber is not included in Section 68, the other items therein as noted above fall within the
ambit of the said section, and as to them, the information validly charges an offense.

Our respected brother, Mr. Justice Jose C. Vitug, suggests in his dissenting opinion that this Court
go beyond the four corners of the information for enlightenment as to whether the information
exclusively refers to lumber. With the aid of the pleadings and the annexes thereto, he arrives at the
conclusion that "only lumber has been envisioned in the indictment."
The majority is unable to subscribe to his view. First, his proposition violates the rule that only the
facts alleged in the information vis-a-vis the law violated must be considered in determining whether
an information charges an offense.

Second, the pleadings and annexes he resorted to are insufficient to justify his conclusion. On the
contrary, the Joint Affidavit of Melencio Jalova, Jr., and Araman Belleng, which is one of the annexes
he referred to, 30 cannot lead one to infer that what the team seized was all lumber. Paragraph 8
thereof expressly states:

8. That when inside the compound, the team found approximately


four (4) truckloads of narra shorts, trimmings and slabs and a
negligible amount of narra lumber, and approximately 200,000 bd. ft.
of lumber and shorts of various species including almaciga and supa
which are classified as prohibited wood species. (emphasis supplied)

In the same vein, the dispositive portion of the resolution31 of the investigating prosecutor,
which served as the basis for the filing of the information, does not limit itself to lumber; thus:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, it is hereby recommended that an information


be filed against respondent Ri Chuy Po for illegal possession of 200,000 bd. ft. of
lumber consisting of almaciga and supa and for illegal shipment of almaciga and
lauan in violation of Sec. 63 of PD 705 as amended by E.O. 277, series of 1987.
(emphasis supplied)

The foregoing disquisitions should not, in any manner, be construed as an affirmance of the
respondent Judge's conclusion that lumber is excluded from the coverage of Section 68 of P.D. No.
705, as amended, and thus possession thereof without the required legal documents is not a crime.
On the contrary, this Court rules that such possession is penalized in the said section
because lumber is included in the term timber.

The Revised Forestry Code contains no definition of either timber or lumber. While the former is
included in forest products as defined in paragraph (q) of Section 3, the latter is found in paragraph
(aa) of the same section in the definition of "Processing plant," which reads:

(aa) Processing plant is any mechanical set-up, machine or


combination of machine used for the processing of logs and other
forest raw materials into lumber, veneer, plywood, wallbond,
blockboard, paper board, pulp, paper or other finished wood
products.

This simply means that lumber is a processed log or processed forest raw material. Clearly,
the Code uses the term lumber in its ordinary or common usage. In the 1993 copyright
edition of Webster's Third New International Dictionary, lumber is defined, inter alia, as
"timber or logs after being prepared for the market." 32Simply put, lumber is a processed log
or timber.

It is settled that in the absence of legislative intent to the contrary, words and phrases used in a
statute should be given their plain, ordinary, and common usage meaning. 33 And insofar as
possession of timber without the required legal documents is concerned, Section 68 of P.D. No. 705,
as amended, makes no distinction between raw or processed timber. Neither should we. Ubi lex non
distinguere debemus.
Indisputably, respondent Judge Teresita Dizon-Capulong of Branch 172 of the RTC of Valenzuela,
Metro Manila, committed grave abuse of discretion in granting the motion to quash the information in
the CRIMINAL CASE and in dismissing the said case.

G.R. No. 104988

We find this petition to be without merit. The petitioner has miserably failed to show that the Court of
Appeals committed any reversible error in its assailed decision of 29 November 1991.

It was duly established that on 1 April 1990, the petitioner's truck with Plate No. CCK-322 was
coming out from the petitioner's lumberyard loaded with lauan and almaciga lumber of different sizes
and dimensions which were not accompanied with the required invoices and transport documents.
The seizure of such truck and its cargo was a valid exercise of the power vested upon a forest officer
or employee by Section 80 of P.D. No. 705, as amended by P.D. No. 1775. Then, too, as correctly
held by the trial court and the Court of Appeals in the FIRST CIVIL CASE, the search was conducted
on a moving vehicle. Such a search could be lawfully conducted without a search warrant.

Search of a moving vehicle is one of the five doctrinally accepted exceptions to the constitutional
mandate 34 that no search or seizure shall be made except by virtue of a warrant issued by a judge
after personally determining the existence of probable cause. The other exceptions are (3) search as
an incident to a lawful arrest, (2) seizure of evidence in plain view, (3) customs searches, and (4)
consented warrantless search. 35

We also affirm the rulings of both the trial court and the Court of Appeals that the search on 4 April
1990 was a continuation of the search on 3 April 1990 done under and by virtue of the search
warrant issued on 3 April 1990 by Executive Judge Osorio. Under Section 9, Rule 126 of the Rules
of Court, a search warrant has a lifetime of ten days. Hence, it could be served at any time within the
said period, and if its object or purpose cannot be accomplished in one day, the same may be
continued the following day or days until completed. Thus, when the search under a warrant on one
day was interrupted, it may be continued under the same warrant the following day, provided it is still
within the ten-day period. 36

As to the final plea of the petitioner that the search was illegal because possession of lumber without
the required legal documents is not illegal under Section 68 of P.D. No. 705, as amended,
since lumber is neither specified therein nor included in the term forest product, the same hardly
merits further discussion in view of our ruling in G.R. No. 106424.

G.R. No. 123784

The allegations and arguments set forth in the petition in this case palpally fail to shaw prima
facie that a reversible error has been committed by the Court of Appeals in its challenged decision of
31 July 1995 and resolution of 6 February 1996 in CA-G.R. SP No. 33778. We must, forthwith, deny
it for utter want of merit. There is no need to require the respondents to comment on the petition.

The Court of Appeals correctly dismissed the petitioner's appeal from the judgment of the trial court
in the SECOND CIVIL CASE. The petitioner never disputed the fact that its lumber-dealer's license
or permit had been suspended by Secretary Factoran on 23 April 1990. The suspension was never
lifted, and since the license had only a lifetime of up to 25 September 1990, the petitioner has
absolutely no right to possess, sell, or otherwise dispose of lumber. Accordingly, Secretary Factoran
or his authorized representative had the authority to seize the Lumber pursuant to Section 68-A of
P.D. No. 705, as amended, which provides as follows:
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. . . .

The petitioner's insistence that possession or sale of lumber is not penalized must also fail view of
our disquisition and ruling on the same issue in G.R. No. 106424. Besides, the issue is totally
irrelevant in the SECOND CIVIL CASE which involves administrative seizure as a consequence of
the violation of the suspension of the petitioner's license as lumber dealer.

All told then, G.R. No. 104988 and G.R. No. 123784 are nothing more than rituals to cover up blatant
violations of the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines (P.D. No. 705), as amended. They are
presumably trifling attempts to block the serious efforts of the DENR to enforce the decree, efforts
which deserve the commendation of the public in light of the urgent need to take firm and decisive
action against despoilers of our forests whose continuous destruction only ensures to the
generations to come, if not the present, an inheritance of parched earth incapable of sustaining life.
The Government must not tire in its vigilance to protect the environment by prosecuting without fear
or favor any person who dares to violate our laws for the utilization and protection of our forests.

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered

1. (a) GRANTING the petition in G.R. No. 106424; (b) SETTING ASIDE and
ANNULLING, for having been rendered with grave abuse of discretion, the
challenged orders of 16 August 1991 and 18 October 1991 of respondent Judge
Teresita Dizon-Capulong, Branch 172, Regional Trial Court of Valenzuela, Metro
Manila, in Criminal Case No. 324-V-91, entitled "People of the Philippines vs. Ri
Chuy Po"; (c) REINSTATING the information in the said criminal case; and (d)
DIRECTING the respondent Judge or her successor to hear and decide the case
with purposeful dispatch; and

2. DENYING the petitions in G.R. No. 104988 and in G. R. No. 123784 for utter
failure of the petitioner to show that the respondent Court of Appeals committed any
reversible error in the challenged decisions of 29 November 1991 in CA-G.R. SP No.
25510 in the FIRST CIVIL CASE and of 31 July 1995 in CA-G.R. SP No. 33778 on
the SECOND CIVIL CASE.

Costs against the petitioner in each of these three cases.

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C.J., Padilla, Regalado, Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Kapunan, Mendoza, Francisco,
Hermosisima, Jr., Panganiban and Torres, Jr., JJ., concur.

Separate Opinions
VITUG, J., dissenting:

The prosecution seeks, in its petition for review on certiorari in G.R. No. 106424, the annulment of
the 16th August 1991 Order of respondent Judge granting the motion of private respondent Ri Chuy
Po to quash the information that has charged him with the Violation of Section 68 of Presidential
Decree ("PD") No. 705 (otherwise known as the Forestry Reform Code, as amended by Executive
Order ["EO"] No. 2771) and the 18th October 1991 Order denying petitioner's motion for
reconsideration.

The information of 04 June 1991, containing the alleged inculpatory facts against private respondent,
reads:

The undersigned State Prosecutor hereby accuses RI CHUY PO of the crime of


violation of Section 68, Presidential Decree No. 705, as amended by Executive Order
No. 277, Series of 1987, committed as follows:

"That on or about the 3rd day of April 1990, or prior to or subsequent


thereto, within the premises and vicinity of Mustang Lumber, Inc. in
Fortune Drive, Fortune Village, Valenzuela, Metro Manila, and within
the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused,
did then and there wilfully, feloniously and unlawfully, have in his
possession truckloads of almaciga and lauan and approximately
200,000 bd. ft. of lumber and shorts of various species including
almaciga and supa, without the legal documents as required under
existing forest laws and regulations.

"CONTRARY TO LAW."2

Private respondent, on 10 July 1991, moved for the quashal of the information on the ground that the
facts comprising the charge did not amount to a criminal offense, or in the alternative, to suspend the
proceedings on the ground of a prejudicial question, private respondent having formally challenged
the legality of the seizure of the lumber in question in a civil case before the Regional Trial Court
("RTC") of Manila, Branch 35, and now pending with the Court of Appeals.

On 16 August 1991, the trial court promulgated its now questioned order granting the motion of
private respondent to quash the information. It ruled that, unlike the possession of "timber or other
forest products" (without supporting legal documents), the mere possession of "lumber" had not itself
been declared a criminal offense under Section 68 of PD 705. Petitioner moved for a reconsideration
insisting that lumber should be held to come within the purview of "timber" defined by Section 2.26
(b) of DENR Administrative Order No. 50, Series of 1986. The motion for reconsideration was
denied; hence, the petition for review on certiorari filed by the prosecution before this Court.

Private respondent maintains (1) that PD 705 distinguishes "timber" and "other forest products," on
the one hand, from "lumber" and "other finished wood products," on the other, and that the
possession of lumber of any specie, size or dimension, whether it be lauan, tanguile, apitong,
almaciga, supa, or narra, is not under that law declared a criminal offense; (2) that DENR
Administrative Order No. 74, Series of 1987, totally bans the cutting, handling and disposition
of almaciga trees but that possession of almaciga lumber is not considered illegal; (3) that while
under DENR Administrative Order No. 78, Series of 1987, the cutting or gathering of narra and other
premium hardwood species (supa included) is prohibited, it does not, however, make possession of
premium hardwood lumber (narra and supa included) punishable by mere inference; and (4) that
Bureau of Forest Development Circular No. 10, Series of 1983, clarified by DENR Memorandum No.
12, Series of 1988, requires a certificate of lumber origin ("CLO") only on lumber shipped outside the
province, city or the greater Manila area to another province or city or, in lieu of a CLO, an invoice to
accompany a lumber shipment from legitimate sources if the origin and destination points are both
within the greater Manila area or within the same province or city, and not, like in the instant case,
where the lumber is not removed from the lumber yard.

Petitioner counters (1) that the almaciga, supa and lauan lumber products found in the compound of
Mustang Lumber, Inc., are included in Section 68, PD 705, as amended by EO No. 277, the
possession of which without requisite legal documents is penalized under Section 3.2 of DENR
Administrative Order No. 19, Series of 1989, dated 17 March 1989, that defines "lumber" to be a --

. . . solid wood not further manufactured other than sawing, resawing, kiln-drying and
passing lengthwise through a standard planing machine, including boules or
unedged lumber;

and "timber," under Section 1.11 of DENR Administrative Order No. 80, Series of 1987,
dated 28 December 1987, to be --

. . . any piece of wood having an average diameter of at least 15 centimeters and at


1.5 meters long, except all mangrove species which in all cases, shall be considered
as timber regardless of size;

which may either be --

a) Squared timber (or) timber squared with an ax or other similar


mechanical hard tools in the forest and which from the size of the
piece and the character of the wood is obviously unfit for use in that
form (Sec. 1.10 DENR Administrative Order No. 80, Series of 1987,
dated December 28, 1987); or

b) Manufactured timber (or) timber other than round and squared


timber shall include logs longitudinally sawn into pieces, even if only
to facilitate transporting or hauling, as well as all sawn products, all
timber hewn or otherwise worked to approximate its finished form,
such as house posts, ship keels, mine props, ties, trolly poles,
bancas, troughs, bowls, cart wheels, table tops and other similar
articles (Sec. 2.26, DENR Administrative Order No. 50, Series of
1986, dated November 11, 1986) --

(2) that to exclude "lumber" under Section 68 of PD 705 would be to defeat the purpose of
the law, i.e., to stop or minimize illegal logging that has resulted in the rapid denudation of
forest resources; (3) that the claim of private respondent that a CLO is required only upon
the transportation or shipment of lumber, and not when lumber is merely stored in a
compound, contravenes the provisions of Section 68 of PD 705; (4) that the failure to show
any CLO or other legal document required by administrative issuances raises the
presumption that the lumber has been shipped or received from illegal sources; and, (5) that
the decision of the RTC in Civil Case No. 90-53648 sustaining the legality of the seizure has
rendered moot any possible prejudicial issue to the instant case.
The real and kernel issue then brought up by the parties in G.R. No. 106424, as well as in the two
consolidated cases (G.R. No. 104988 and G.R. No. 123784), is whether or not the term "timber or
other forest products" the possession of which without the required legal documents would be a
criminal offense under Section 68 of PD 705 also covers "lumber".

Prefatorily, I might point out that the information, charging private respondent with the possession
without required legal documents of ". . . truckloads of almaciga and lauan and approximately
200,000 bd. ft. of lumber and shorts of various species including almaciga and supa, . . ." has failed
to specify whether the "almaciga" and "lauan" there mentioned refer to "timber" or "lumber" or both.
A perusal of the pleadings and annexes before the Court, however, would indicate that only lumber
has been envisioned in the indictment. For instance --

(a) The pertinent portions of the joint affidavit of Melencio Jalova, Jr., and Araman
Belleng,3 subscribed and sworn to before State Prosecutor Claro Arellano, upon
which basis the latter recommended the filing of the information, read, as follows:

"That during the weekend, (April 1 and 2, 1990) the security detail
from our agency continued to monitor the activities inside the
compound and in fact apprehended and later on brought to the DENR
compound a six-wheeler truck loaded with almaciga and lauan
lumber after the truck driver failed to produce any documents
covering the shipment;

xxx xxx xxx

"That we are executing this affidavit in order to lodge a criminal


complaint against Mr. Ri Chuy Po, owner of Mustang Lumber for
violation of Section 68, P.D. 705, as amended by Executive Order
277, having in its possession prohibited wood and wood products
without the required documents."4 (Emphasis supplied)

(b) The resolution, dated 14 May 1991, issued by Investigating Prosecutor Arellano,
approved by Undersecretary of Justice Silvestre Bello III, confirmed that --

" . . . On April 1 and 2 1990, the security detail continued to monitor


the activities inside the compound and in fact apprehended a six-
wheeler truck coming from the compound of Mustang loaded with
almaciga and lauan lumber without the necessary legal documents
covering the shipment."5

(c) The 23rd April 1990 Order of then DENR Secretary Fulgencio Factoran,
suspending the Certificate of Registration No. NRD-4-092590-0469 of Mustang
Lumber, Inc., was issued because of, among other things, the latter's possession of
almaciga lumber without the required documents.6

(d) The subsequent 03rd May 1990 Order, likewise issued by Secretary Factoran,
authorized the confiscation of approximately 311,000 board feet of lauan, supa and
almaciga lumber, shorts and sticks of various sizes and dimensions owned by
Mustang Lumber, Inc.7

(e) The complaint filed on 27 July 1990 by Vincent A. Robles, Chief, PIC/SAID,
DENR, before the Department of Justice, Manila, against private respondent was
for possession of lauan and almaciga lumber without required legal documents,8 in
violation of P.D. 705, as amended by EO 277.

(f) The prosecution, in its opposition to private respondent's motion to quash, sought
to argue that the possession of "almaciga, supa and lauan lumber found in the
compound of Mustang Lumber, Inc.,9 was covered by the penal provisions of P.D.
705, as amended, pursuant to Section 32 of DENR Administrative Order No. 19,
Series of 1989.

Indeed, the instant petition itself questions the quashal order of the court a quo solely on the thesis
that "lumber" should be held to be among the items that are banned under Section 68 of PD 705.

While generally factual matters outside of the information should not weigh in resolving a motion to
quash following the standing rule that the allegations of the information must alone be considered
and should not be challenged, there should, however, be no serious objections to taking into account
additional and clarificatory facts which, although not made out in the information, are admitted,
conceded, or not denied by the parties. As early as the case of People vs. Navarro, 10 reiterated
in People vs. Dela Rosa, 11 the Court has had occasion to explain --

. . . It would seem to be pure technicality to hold that in the consideration of the


motion the parties and the judge were precluded from considering facts which the
fiscal admitted to be true, simply because they were not described in the complaint.
Of course, it may be added that upon similar motions the court and the fiscal are not
required to go beyond the averments of the information, nor is the latter to be
inveigled into a premature and risky revelation of his evidence. But we see no reason
to prohibit the fiscal from making, in all candor, admissions of undeniable facts,
because the principle can never be sufficiently reiterated that such official's role is to
see that justice is done: not that all accused are convicted, but that the guilty are
justly punished. Less reason can there be to prohibit the court from considering those
admissions, and deciding accordingly, in the interest of a speedy administration of
justice.

And now on the main substantive issue.

Section 68 of PD 705, as amended by EO No. 277, reads:

Sec. 68. 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 Articles 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.
I agree with the court a quo that the coverage of Section 68, PD 705, as so amended, is explicit, and
it is confined to "timber and other forest products." Section 3(q) of the decree defines "forest product"
to mean --

(q) . . . timber, pulpwood, firewood, bark, tree top, resin, gum, wood, oil, honey,
beeswax, nipa, rattan, or other forest growth such as grass, shrub, and flowering
plant, the associated water, fish, game, scenic, historical, recreational and geologic
resources in forest lands (emphasis supplied);

and distinguishes it, in correlation with Section 3(aa) of the law, from that which has
undergone processing. In defining a "processing plant," this section of the decree holds it to
refer to --

. . . any mechanical set-up, machine or combination of machine used for the


processing of logs and other forest raw materials into lumber veneer, plywood,
wallboard, block-board, paper board, pulp, paper or other finished wood products
(emphasis supplied).

In fine, timber is so classified, under Section 3(q) of the law, as a forest product, while lumber
has been categorized, under Section 3(aa), among the various finished wood products.

The various DENR issuances, cited by the Solicitor General, to wit:

(1) Section 1.11 of the DENR Order No. 80, dated 28 December 1987, Series of 1987, which defines
"timber" to be --

. . . any piece of wood having an average diameter of at least 15 centimeters and at


1.5 meters long, except all mangrove species which in all cases, shall be considered
as timber regardless of size; 12

(2) Section 3.2 of DENR Administrative Order No. 19, dated 17 March 1989, Series of 1989, stating
that "lumber" includes --

. . . solid wood not further manufactured other than sawing, resawing, kiln-drying and passing
lengthwise through a standard planing machine, including boules or unedged lumber;" and

(3) DENR Memorandum Order No. 36, Series of 1988, dated 06 May 1988, to the effect that the
term "forest products" shall include "lumber --

cannot, in my view, go beyond the clear language of the basic law.

While great weight is ordinarily accorded to an interpretation or construction of a statute by the


government agency called upon to implement the enactment, 13 the rule would only be good,
however, to the extent that such interpretation or construction is congruous with the governing
statute. 14 Administrative issuances can aptly carry the law into effect 15 but it would be legal absurdity
to allow such issuances to also have the effect, particularly those which are penal in nature, of
extending the scope of the law or its plain
mandate. 16

Accordingly, and with respect, I vote to deny the petition in G.R. No. 106424, to grant the petition in
G.R. No. 104988 and to require comment on the petition in G.R. No. 123784. I must hasten to add,
nevertheless, that I do appreciate the well-meant rationale of DENR Memorandum Order No. 36,
Series of 1988, for, indeed, the need for preserving whatever remains of the country's forest
reserves can never now be fully emphasized. Until properly addressed and checked, the continued
denudation of forest resources, already known to be the cause of no few disasters, as well as of
untold loss of lives and property, could well be on end the expected order of the day. I, therefore, join
ail those who call for the passage of remedial legislation before the problem truly becomes
irreversible.

Separate Opinions

VITUG, J., dissenting:

The prosecution seeks, in its petition for review on certiorari in G.R. No. 106424, the annulment of
the 16th August 1991 Order of respondent Judge granting the motion of private respondent Ri Chuy
Po to quash the information that has charged him with the Violation of Section 68 of Presidential
Decree ("PD") No. 705 (otherwise known as the Forestry Reform Code, as amended by Executive
Order ["EO"] No. 2771) and the 18th October 1991 Order denying petitioner's motion for
reconsideration.

The information of 04 June 1991, containing the alleged inculpatory facts against private respondent,
reads:

The undersigned State Prosecutor hereby accuses RI CHUY PO of the crime of


violation of Section 68, Presidential Decree No. 705, as amended by Executive Order
No. 277, Series of 1987, committed as follows:

"That on or about the 3rd day of April 1990, or prior to or subsequent


thereto, within the premises and vicinity of Mustang Lumber, Inc. in
Fortune Drive, Fortune Village, Valenzuela, Metro Manila, and within
the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused,
did then and there wilfully, feloniously and unlawfully, have in his
possession truckloads of almaciga and lauan and approximately
200,000 bd. ft. of lumber and shorts of various species including
almaciga and supa, without the legal documents as required under
existing forest laws and regulations.

"CONTRARY TO LAW."2

Private respondent, on 10 July 1991, moved for the quashal of the information on the ground that the
facts comprising the charge did not amount to a criminal offense, or in the alternative, to suspend the
proceedings on the ground of a prejudicial question, private respondent having formally challenged
the legality of the seizure of the lumber in question in a civil case before the Regional Trial Court
("RTC") of Manila, Branch 35, and now pending with the Court of Appeals.

On 16 August 1991, the trial court promulgated its now questioned order granting the motion of
private respondent to quash the information. It ruled that, unlike the possession of "timber or other
forest products" (without supporting legal documents), the mere possession of "lumber" had not itself
been declared a criminal offense under Section 68 of PD 705. Petitioner moved for a reconsideration
insisting that lumber should be held to come within the purview of "timber" defined by Section 2.26
(b) of DENR Administrative Order No. 50, Series of 1986. The motion for reconsideration was
denied; hence, the petition for review on certiorari filed by the prosecution before this Court.

Private respondent maintains (1) that PD 705 distinguishes "timber" and "other forest products," on
the one hand, from "lumber" and "other finished wood products," on the other, and that the
possession of lumber of any specie, size or dimension, whether it be lauan, tanguile, apitong,
almaciga, supa, or narra, is not under that law declared a criminal offense; (2) that DENR
Administrative Order No. 74, Series of 1987, totally bans the cutting, handling and disposition
of almaciga trees but that possession of almaciga lumber is not considered illegal; (3) that while
under DENR Administrative Order No. 78, Series of 1987, the cutting or gathering of narra and other
premium hardwood species (supa included) is prohibited, it does not, however, make possession of
premium hardwood lumber (narra and supa included) punishable by mere inference; and (4) that
Bureau of Forest Development Circular No. 10, Series of 1983, clarified by DENR Memorandum No.
12, Series of 1988, requires a certificate of lumber origin ("CLO") only on lumber shipped outside the
province, city or the greater Manila area to another province or city or, in lieu of a CLO, an invoice to
accompany a lumber shipment from legitimate sources if the origin and destination points are both
within the greater Manila area or within the same province or city, and not, like in the instant case,
where the lumber is not removed from the lumber yard.

Petitioner counters (1) that the almaciga, supa and lauan lumber products found in the compound of
Mustang Lumber, Inc., are included in Section 68, PD 705, as amended by EO No. 277, the
possession of which without requisite legal documents is penalized under Section 3.2 of DENR
Administrative Order No. 19, Series of 1989, dated 17 March 1989, that defines "lumber" to be a --

. . . solid wood not further manufactured other than sawing, resawing, kiln-drying and
passing lengthwise through a standard planing machine, including boules or
unedged lumber;

and "timber," under Section 1.11 of DENR Administrative Order No. 80, Series of 1987,
dated 28 December 1987, to be --

. . . any piece of wood having an average diameter of at least 15 centimeters and at


1.5 meters long, except all mangrove species which in all cases, shall be considered
as timber regardless of size;

which may either be --

a) Squared timber (or) timber squared with an ax or other similar


mechanical hard tools in the forest and which from the size of the
piece and the character of the wood is obviously unfit for use in that
form (Sec. 1.10 DENR Administrative Order No. 80, Series of 1987,
dated December 28, 1987); or

b) Manufactured timber (or) timber other than round and squared


timber shall include logs longitudinally sawn into pieces, even if only
to facilitate transporting or hauling, as well as all sawn products, all
timber hewn or otherwise worked to approximate its finished form,
such as house posts, ship keels, mine props, ties, trolly poles,
bancas, troughs, bowls, cart wheels, table tops and other similar
articles (Sec. 2.26, DENR Administrative Order No. 50, Series of
1986, dated November 11, 1986) --
(2) that to exclude "lumber" under Section 68 of PD 705 would be to defeat the purpose of
the law, i.e., to stop or minimize illegal logging that has resulted in the rapid denudation of
forest resources; (3) that the claim of private respondent that a CLO is required only upon
the transportation or shipment of lumber, and not when lumber is merely stored in a
compound, contravenes the provisions of Section 68 of PD 705; (4) that the failure to show
any CLO or other legal document required by administrative issuances raises the
presumption that the lumber has been shipped or received from illegal sources; and, (5) that
the decision of the RTC in Civil Case No. 90-53648 sustaining the legality of the seizure has
rendered moot any possible prejudicial issue to the instant case.

The real and kernel issue then brought up by the parties in G.R. No. 106424, as well as in the two
consolidated cases (G.R. No. 104988 and G.R. No. 123784), is whether or not the term "timber or
other forest products" the possession of which without the required legal documents would be a
criminal offense under Section 68 of PD 705 also covers "lumber".

Prefatorily, I might point out that the information, charging private respondent with the possession
without required legal documents of ". . . truckloads of almaciga and lauan and approximately
200,000 bd. ft. of lumber and shorts of various species including almaciga and supa, . . ." has failed
to specify whether the "almaciga" and "lauan" there mentioned refer to "timber" or "lumber" or both.
A perusal of the pleadings and annexes before the Court, however, would indicate that only lumber
has been envisioned in the indictment. For instance --

(a) The pertinent portions of the joint affidavit of Melencio Jalova, Jr., and Araman
Belleng,3 subscribed and sworn to before State Prosecutor Claro Arellano, upon
which basis the latter recommended the filing of the information, read, as follows:

"That during the weekend, (April 1 and 2, 1990) the security detail
from our agency continued to monitor the activities inside the
compound and in fact apprehended and later on brought to the DENR
compound a six-wheeler truck loaded with almaciga and lauan
lumber after the truck driver failed to produce any documents
covering the shipment;

xxx xxx xxx

"That we are executing this affidavit in order to lodge a criminal


complaint against Mr. Ri Chuy Po, owner of Mustang Lumber for
violation of Section 68, P.D. 705, as amended by Executive Order
277, having in its possession prohibited wood and wood products
without the required documents."4 (Emphasis supplied)

(b) The resolution, dated 14 May 1991, issued by Investigating Prosecutor Arellano,
approved by Undersecretary of Justice Silvestre Bello III, confirmed that --

" . . . On April 1 and 2 1990, the security detail continued to monitor


the activities inside the compound and in fact apprehended a six-
wheeler truck coming from the compound of Mustang loaded with
almaciga and lauan lumber without the necessary legal documents
covering the shipment."5

(c) The 23rd April 1990 Order of then DENR Secretary Fulgencio Factoran,
suspending the Certificate of Registration No. NRD-4-092590-0469 of Mustang
Lumber, Inc., was issued because of, among other things, the latter's possession of
almaciga lumber without the required documents.6

(d) The subsequent 03rd May 1990 Order, likewise issued by Secretary Factoran,
authorized the confiscation of approximately 311,000 board feet of lauan, supa and
almaciga lumber, shorts and sticks of various sizes and dimensions owned by
Mustang Lumber, Inc.7

(e) The complaint filed on 27 July 1990 by Vincent A. Robles, Chief, PIC/SAID,
DENR, before the Department of Justice, Manila, against private respondent was
for possession of lauan and almaciga lumber without required legal documents,8 in
violation of P.D. 705, as amended by EO 277.

(f) The prosecution, in its opposition to private respondent's motion to quash, sought
to argue that the possession of "almaciga, supa and lauan lumber found in the
compound of Mustang Lumber, Inc.,9 was covered by the penal provisions of P.D.
705, as amended, pursuant to Section 32 of DENR Administrative Order No. 19,
Series of 1989.

Indeed, the instant petition itself questions the quashal order of the court a quo solely on the thesis
that "lumber" should be held to be among the items that are banned under Section 68 of PD 705.

While generally factual matters outside of the information should not weigh in resolving a motion to
quash following the standing rule that the allegations of the information must alone be considered
and should not be challenged, there should, however, be no serious objections to taking into account
additional and clarificatory facts which, although not made out in the information, are admitted,
conceded, or not denied by the parties. As early as the case of People vs. Navarro, 10 reiterated
in People vs. Dela Rosa, 11 the Court has had occasion to explain --

. . . It would seem to be pure technicality to hold that in the consideration of the


motion the parties and the judge were precluded from considering facts which the
fiscal admitted to be true, simply because they were not described in the complaint.
Of course, it may be added that upon similar motions the court and the fiscal are not
required to go beyond the averments of the information, nor is the latter to be
inveigled into a premature and risky revelation of his evidence. But we see no reason
to prohibit the fiscal from making, in all candor, admissions of undeniable facts,
because the principle can never be sufficiently reiterated that such official's role is to
see that justice is done: not that all accused are convicted, but that the guilty are
justly punished. Less reason can there be to prohibit the court from considering those
admissions, and deciding accordingly, in the interest of a speedy administration of
justice.

And now on the main substantive issue.

Section 68 of PD 705, as amended by EO No. 277, reads:

Sec. 68. 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 Articles 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.

I agree with the court a quo that the coverage of Section 68, PD 705, as so amended, is explicit, and
it is confined to "timber and other forest products." Section 3(q) of the decree defines "forest product"
to mean --

(q) . . . timber, pulpwood, firewood, bark, tree top, resin, gum, wood, oil, honey,
beeswax, nipa, rattan, or other forest growth such as grass, shrub, and flowering
plant, the associated water, fish, game, scenic, historical, recreational and geologic
resources in forest lands (emphasis supplied);

and distinguishes it, in correlation with Section 3(aa) of the law, from that which has
undergone processing. In defining a "processing plant," this section of the decree holds it to
refer to --

. . . any mechanical set-up, machine or combination of machine used for the


processing of logs and other forest raw materials into lumber veneer, plywood,
wallboard, block-board, paper board, pulp, paper or other finished wood products
(emphasis supplied).

In fine, timber is so classified, under Section 3(q) of the law, as a forest product, while lumber
has been categorized, under Section 3(aa), among the various finished wood products.

The various DENR issuances, cited by the Solicitor General, to wit:

(1) Section 1.11 of the DENR Order No. 80, dated 28 December 1987, Series of 1987, which defines
"timber" to be --

. . . any piece of wood having an average diameter of at least 15 centimeters and at


1.5 meters long, except all mangrove species which in all cases, shall be considered
as timber regardless of size; 12

(2) Section 3.2 of DENR Administrative Order No. 19, dated 17 March 1989, Series of 1989, stating
that "lumber" includes --

. . . solid wood not further manufactured other than sawing, resawing, kiln-drying and passing
lengthwise through a standard planing machine, including boules or unedged lumber;" and

(3) DENR Memorandum Order No. 36, Series of 1988, dated 06 May 1988, to the effect that the
term "forest products" shall include "lumber --

cannot, in my view, go beyond the clear language of the basic law.


While great weight is ordinarily accorded to an interpretation or construction of a statute by the
government agency called upon to implement the enactment, 13 the rule would only be good,
however, to the extent that such interpretation or construction is congruous with the governing
statute. 14 Administrative issuances can aptly carry the law into effect 15 but it would be legal absurdity
to allow such issuances to also have the effect, particularly those which are penal in nature, of
extending the scope of the law or its plain
mandate. 16

Accordingly, and with respect, I vote to deny the petition in G.R. No. 106424, to grant the petition in
G.R. No. 104988 and to require comment on the petition in G.R. No. 123784. I must hasten to add,
nevertheless, that I do appreciate the well-meant rationale of DENR Memorandum Order No. 36,
Series of 1988, for, indeed, the need for preserving whatever remains of the country's forest
reserves can never now be fully emphasized. Until properly addressed and checked, the continued
denudation of forest resources, already known to be the cause of no few disasters, as well as of
untold loss of lives and property, could well be on end the expected order of the day. I, therefore, join
ail those who call for the passage of remedial legislation before the problem truly becomes
irreversible.

G.R. No. 120365 December 17, 1996

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
WILSON B. QUE, accused-appellant

PUNO, J.:p

Accused-appellant Wilson B. Que appeals from his conviction for violation of Section 68 of Presidential Decree (P.D.) 705 1 as amended by
Executive Order (E.O.) 277. 2

The facts show that two weeks before March 8, 1994, SPO1 Dexter Corpuz, a member of the
Provincial Task Force on Illegal Logging, received an information that a ten-wheeler truck bearing
plate number PAD-548 loaded with illegally cut lumber will pass through Ilocos Norte. Acting on said
information, members of the Provincial Task Force went on patrol several times within the vicinity of
General Segundo Avenue in Laoag City. 3

On March 8, 1994, SPO1 Corpuz, together with SPO1 Zaldy Asuncion and SPO1 Elmer Patoc went
on patrol around the area. At about 1:00 in the morning, they posted themselves at the corner of
General Segundo Avenue and Rizal Street. Thirty minutes later, they saw a ten-wheeler truck with
plate number PAD-548 pass by. They followed the truck and apprehended it at the Marcos Bridge. 4

There were three persons on board the truck: driver Wilfredo Cacao, accused-appellant Wilson Que,
and an unnamed person. The driver identified accused- appellant as the owner of the truck and the
cargo. 5

SPO1 Corpuz checked the cargo and found that it contained coconut slabs. When interviewed,
accused-appellant told SPO1 Corpuz that there were sawn lumber inserted in between the coconut
slabs. 6
SPO1 Corpuz asked accused-appellant for the cargo's supporting documents, specifically: (1)
certificate of lumber origin, (2) certificate of transport agreement, (3) auxiliary invoice, (4) receipt
from the DENR, and (5) certification from the forest ranger regarding the origin of the coconut slabs.
Accused-appellant failed to present any of these documents . All he could show was a
certification 7 from the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO), Sanchez
Mira, Cagayan that he legally acquired the coconut slabs. The certification was issued to facilitate
transport of the slabs from Sanchez Mira, Cagayan to San Vicente, Urdaneta, Pangasinan. 7

SPO1 Corpuz brought accused-appellant to the office of the Provincial Task Force at the provincial
capitol. Again, accused-appellant admitted to the members of the Provincial Task Force that there
were sawn lumber under the coconut slabs. 9

At 10:00 o'clock in the morning, the members of the Provincial Task Force, together with three
CENRO personnel examined the cargo. The examination confirmed that the cargo consisted of
coconut slabs and sawn tanguile lumber. The coconut slabs were piled at the sides of the truck,
concealing the tanguile lumber. 10 When the CENRO personnel inventoried and scaled the seized
forest products, they counted two hundred fifty eight (258) pieces of tanguile lumber with a total
volume of 3,729.3 board feet (8.79 cubic meters) and total assessed value of P93,232.50. 11

On June 23, 1994, accused-appellant was charged before the Regional Trial Court of Laoag with
violation of Section 68 of P.D. 705 as amended by E.O. 277. The Information alleged:

That on or about the 8th day of March, 1994, in the City of Laoag, Philippines, and
within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, being then
the owner of an I(s)uzu Ten wheeler Truck bearing Plate No. PAD-548, with intent of
gain, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have in possession,
control and custody 258 pieces of various sizes of Forest Products chainsawn
lumber (species of Tanguile) with a total volume of 3,729.3 bd. ft. or equivalent to
8.79 cubic meters valued in the total amount of P93,232.50 at P25.00/bd. ft.,
necessary permit, license or authority to do so from the proper authorities, thus
violating the aforecited provision of the law, to the damage and prejudice of the
government.

CONTRARY TO LAW. 12

Accused-appellant denied the charge against him. He claimed that he acquired the 258 pieces of
tanguile lumber from a legal source. During the trial, he presented the private land timber permits
(PLTP) issued by the Department
of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to Enrica Cayosa 13 and Elpidio Sabal. 14 The PLTP
authorizes its holder to cut, gather and dispose timber from the forest area covered by the permit. He
alleged that the tanguile lumber came from the forest area covered by the PLTP's of Cayosa and
Sabal and that they were given to him by Cayosa and Sabal as payment for his hauling services. 15

Accused-appellant also objected to the admission of the 258 pieces of lumber as evidence against
him. He contended that they were fruits of an illegal search and seizure and of an uncounselled
extrajudicial admission.

The trial court found accused-appellant guilty and sentenced him to reclusion perpetua. It also
ordered the confiscation of the seized lumber and the ten-wheeler truck owned by accused-
appellant. The dispositive portion of the Decision 16 states:
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered declaring accused Wilson B. Que guilty
beyond reasonable doubt of the violation of Section 68 of PD 705, as amended by
Executive Order No. 277 and he is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty
of RECLUSION PERPETUA, plus all the accessory penalties provided by law. The
bail bond filed for the provisional liberty of the accused is CANCELLED.

The two hundred fifty-eight (258) pieces of lumber (tanguile specie) and the ten-
wheeler truck bearing plate No. PAD-548 which was used in the commission of the
crime are hereby ordered confiscated in favor of the government to be disposed of in
accordance with law.

Costs against the accused.

SO ORDERED.17

Appellant now comes before us with the following assignment of


errors: 18

1. It was error for the Court to convict accused under Section 68, PD 705 as
amended by EO 277 for possessing timber or other forest products without the legal
documents as required under existing forest laws and regulations on the ground that
since it is only in EO No. 277 where for the first time mere possession of timber was
criminalized, there are no existing forest laws and regulations which required certain
legal documents for possession of timber and other forest products.

2. The Court erred in allowing evidence secured in violation of the constitutional


rights of accused against unlawful searches and seizures.

3. The Court erred in allowing evidence secured in violation of the constitutional


rights of accused under custodial investigation.

On the first assignment of error, appellant argues that he cannot be convicted for violation of Section
68 of P.D. 705 because E.O. 277 which amended Section 68 to penalize the possession of timber or
other forest products without the proper legal documents did not indicate the particular documents
necessary to make the possession legal. Neither did the other forest laws and regulations existing at
the time of its enactment.

Appellant's argument deserves scant consideration. Section 68 of P.D. 705 provides:

Sec. 68. 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 Articles 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. (emphasis supplied).

Appellant interprets the phrase "existing forest laws and regulations" to refer to those laws and
regulations which were already in effect at the time of the enactment of E.O. 277. The suggested
interpretation is strained and would render the law inutile. Statutory construction should not kill but
give life to the law. The phrase should be construed to refer to laws and regulations existing at the
time of possession of timber or other forest products. DENR Administrative Order No. 59 series of
1993 specifies the documents required for the transport of timber and other forest products. Section
3 of the Administrative Order provides:

Section 3. Documents Required.

Consistent with the policy stated above, the movement of logs, lumber, plywood,
veneer, non-timber forest products and wood-based or nonwood-based
products/commodities shall be covered with appropriate Certificates of Origin, issued
by authorized DENR officials, as specified in the succeeding sections.

xxx xxx xxx

3.3 Lumber. Unless otherwise herein provided, the transport of lumber shall be
accompanied by a CERTIFICATE OF LUMBER ORIGIN (CLO) issued by the
CENRO or his duly authorized representative which has jurisdiction over the
processing plant producing the said lumber or the lumber firm authorized to deal in
such commodities. In order to be valid, the CLO must be supported by the company
tally sheet or delivery receipt, and in case of sale, a lumber sales invoice.

xxx xxx xxx

When apprehended on March 8, 1994, accused-appellant failed to present any certificate of origin of
the 258 pieces of tanguile lumber. The trial court found:

xxx xxx xxx

. . . When apprehended by the police officers, the accused admittedly could not
present a single document to justify his possession of the subject lumber. . . .

Significantly, at the time the accused was apprehended by the police offices, he
readily showed documents to justify his possession of the coconut slabs. Thus, he
showed a certification issued by Remigio B. Rosario, Forest Ranger, of the DENR,
CENRO, Sanchez Mira, Cagayan (Exhibit "E") and a xerox copy of the original
certificate of title covering the parcel of land where the coconut slabs were
cut.(Exhibit "F").

It is worthy to note that the certification dated March 7, 1994 states:

THIS IS TO CERTIFY that the one (1) truckload of coconut slabs to


be transported by Mr.Wilson Que on board truck bearing Plate
No. PAD 548 were derived from matured coconut palms gathered
inside the private land of Miss Bonifacia Collado under OCT No. P-
11614(8) located at Nagrangtayan, Sanchez Mira, Cagayan.

This certification is being issued upon the request of Mr. Wilson Que
for the purpose of facilitating the transportation of said coconut slabs
from Sanchez Mira, Cagayan to San Vicente, Urdaneta, Pangasinan
and is valid up to March 11, 1994 or upon discharge of its cargoes at
its final destination, whichever comes first.

It is crystal clear, therefore, that the accused was given permit by the DENR to
transport one (1) truckload of coconut slabs only between March 7 to 11, 1994. The
accused was apprehended on March 8, 1994 aboard his truck bearing plate number
PAD-548 which was loaded not only with coconut slabs but with chainsawn lumber
as well. Admittedly, the lumber could not be seen from the outside. The lumber were
placed in the middle and not visible unless the coconut slabs which were placed on
the top, sides and rear of the truck were removed.

Under these circumstances, the Court has no doubt that the accused was very much
aware that he needed documents to possess and transport the lumber (b)ut could
not secure one and, therefore, concealed the lumber by placing the same in such a
manner that they could not be seen by police authorities by merely looking at the
cargo.

In this regard, the Court cannot give credence to his alleged letter dated March 3,
1994 addressed to the OIC CENRO Officer, CENRO, Sanchez Mira, Cagayan
informing the CENRO that he would be transporting the subject lumber on March 7,
1994 from Sanchez Mira, Cagayan to Sto. Domingo, Ilocos Sur but was returned to
him for the reason that he did not need a permit to transport the subject lumber.
(Exhibits "8", "8-A").

While it is true that the letter indicates that it was received by CENRO on March 4,
1994, the Court has doubts that this was duly filed with the concerned office.
According to the accused, he filed the letter in the morning of March 4 and returned
in the afternoon of the same day. He was then informed by an employee of the
CENRO whom he did not identify that he did not need a permit to transport the
lumber because the lumber would be for personal used (sic) and ". . . came from
PLTP." (Ibid) The letter-request was returned to him.

The fact that the letter-request was returned to him creates doubts on the stance of
the accused. Documents or other papers, i.e., letter-request of this kind filed with a
government agency are not returned. Hence, when a person files or submits any
document to a government agency, the agency gets the original copy. The filer only
gets a duplicate copy to show that he has filed such document with the agency.
Moreover, his avoidance as regards the identity of the employee of the CENRO who
allegedly returned the letter-request to him also creates doubts on his stance. Thus,
on cross-examination, the accused, when asked about the identity of the employee
of the CENRO who returned the letter-request to him answered that he could
recognize the person ". . . but they were already reshuffled." (TSN, February 8, 1995,
p. 104) At one point, the accused also said that he did not know if that person was an
employee of the DENR. (Ibid, p. 105)
Be that as it may, the Court finds significance in the last paragraph of this letter-
request, to wit:

xxx xxx xxx

Please consider this as my Certificate of Transport Agreement in view


of the fact that I am hauling and transporting my own lumber for my
own needs.

Thus, the accused through this letter considered the same as his certificate of
transport agreement. Why then, if he was telling the truth, did he not take this letter
with him when he transported the lumber on March 7, 1994?

All these circumstances clearly show that the letter comes from a polluted source. 19

xxx xxx xxx

Accused-appellant's possession of the subject lumber without any documentation clearly


constitutes an offense under Section 68 of P.D. 705.

We also reject appellant's argument that the law only penalizes possession of illegal forest products
and that the possessor cannot be held liable if he proves that the cutting, gathering, collecting or
removal of such forest products is legal. There are two (2) distinct and separate offenses punished
under Section 68 of P.D. 705, to wit:

(1) Cutting, gathering, collecting and removing 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

(2) Possession of timber or other forest products without the legal documents
required under existing forest laws and regulations.

In the first offense, one can raise as a defense the legality of the acts of cutting, gathering, collecting
or removing timber or other forest products by presenting the authorization issued by the DENR. In
the second offense, however, it is immaterial whether the cutting, gathering, collecting and removal
of the forest products is legal or not. Mere possession of forest products without the proper
documents consummates the crime. Whether or not the lumber comes from a legal source is
immaterial because E.O 277 considers the mere possession of timber or other forest products
without the proper legal documents as malum prohibitum.

On the second and third assignment of error, appellant contends that the seized lumber are
inadmissible in evidence for being "fruits of a poisonous tree". Appellant avers that these pieces of
lumber were obtained in violation of his constitutional right against unlawful searches and seizures
as well as his right to counsel.

We do not agree.

The rule on warrantless search and seizure of a moving vehicle was summarized by this court
in People vs. Bagista, 20 thus:
The general rule regarding searches and seizures can be stated in this manner: no
person shall be subjected to a search of his person, personal effects or belongings,
or his residence except by virtue of a search warrant or on the occasion of a lawful
arrest. The basis for the rule can be found in Article III, Section 2 of the 1987
Constitution, which states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers,


and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever
nature and for any purpose, shall be inviolable, and no search
warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause
to be determined personally by the judge after examination under
oath or affirmation of the complainant and witnesses he may produce,
and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the person
or things to be seized.

Article III, Section 3 (2) further ordains that any evidence obtained in violation of the
aforementioned right shall, among others, "be inadmissible for any purpose in any
proceeding."

The constitutional proscription against warrantless searches and seizures admits of


certain exceptions. Aside from a search incident to a lawful arrest, a warrantless
search had been upheld in cases of moving vehicles, and the seizure of evidence in
plain view.

With regard to the search of moving vehicles, this had been justified on the ground
that the mobility of motor vehicles makes it possible for the vehicle to be searched to
move out of the locality or jurisdiction in which the warrant must be sought.

This in no way, however, gives the police officers unlimited discretion to conduct
warrantless searches of automobiles in the absence of probable cause. When a
vehicle is stopped and subjected to an extensive search, such a warrantless search
has been held to be valid as long as the officers conducting the search have
reasonable or probable cause to believe before search that they will find the
instrumentality or evidence pertaining to a crime, in the vehicle to be searched.
(citations omitted; emphasis supplied)

As in Bagista, the police officers in the case at bar had probable cause to search appellant's truck. A
member of the Provincial Task Force on Illegal Logging received a reliable information that a ten-
wheeler truck bearing plate number PAD-548 loaded with illegal lumber would pass through Ilocos
Norte. Two weeks later, while members of the Provincial Task Force were patrolling along General
Segundo Avenue, they saw the ten-wheeler truck described by the informant. When they
apprehended it at the Marcos Bridge, accused-appellant, the owner of the truck and the cargo,
admitted that there were sawn lumber in between the coconut slabs. When the police officers asked
for the lumber's supporting documents, accused-appellant could not present any. The foregoing
circumstances are sufficient to prove the existence of probable cause which justified the extensive
search of appellant's truck even without a warrant. Thus, the 258 pieces of tanguile lumber were
lawfully seized and were thus properly admitted as evidence to prove the guilt of accused-appellant.

The foregoing disquisition renders unnecessary the issue of whether appellant's right to counsel
under custodial investigation was violated. The Resolution of the issue will not affect the finding of
guilt of appellant.
IN VIEW WHEREOF, the instant appeal is DISMISSED. The Decision appealed from is AFFIRMED.
Costs against appellant.

SO ORDERED.

A.M. No. P-98-1264 July 28, 1999

BASILIO P. MAMANTEO, FLORENTINO B. TRINIDAD, BONIFACIO MANGANIP and EDGAR S.


SALLIDAO, complainants,
vs.
DEPUTY SHERIFF MANUEL M. MAGUMUN, 1 respondent.

BELLOSILLO, J.:

What should the sheriff do when he is informed by the defendant in a replevin that the property to be
seized is in custodia legis and in fact already forfeited in favor of the government by order of another
government agency?

This question assumes importance in light of the charges of grave misconduct filed by complainants
Basilio P. Mamanteo, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources (PENR) Officer; Florentino B.
Trinidad, Community Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) Officer; and Bonifacio Manganip
and Edgar S. Sallidao, both DENR forestry employees stationed in Tabuk, Kalinga, against Deputy
Sheriff Manuel M. Magumun of the Regional Trial Court, Br. 4, Tuguegarao, Cagayan.

On 12 April 1996 forestry employees of the DENR, Cordillera Administrative Region, Tabuk, Kalinga,
tasked with the enforcement of forestry laws, intercepted a San Miguel Corporation van with Plate
No. PJC-321 loaded with narra flitches wrapped in nylon sacks and covered with empty beer bottles
and cartons. Confronted by the forestry employees, Villamor Martinez, driver of the van, could not
produce any legal permit authorizing him to transport the narra lumber. Hence, after issuing seizure
receipts, the vehicle and its load of narra flitches were confiscated by the DENR forestry employees.

On 24 May 1996 a criminal complaint against driver Villamor Martinez was filed before the Provincial
Prosecutors Office of Tabuk, Kalinga, for violation of Sec. 78 of P.D. 705 2 as amended, and
implemented by DENR Administrative Order 59. 3 On 24 July 1996, after due notice and opportunity
to be heard, an order of forfeiture of the vehicle and its load was issued by the DENR Regional
Office pursuant to its quasi-judicial authority to administratively order the confiscation and forfeiture
of lumber possessed without permit including its conveyance.

Thereafter, San Miguel Corporation, the owner of the vehicle, through its agent Aimardo V. Interior,
filed a case for recovery of personal property and damages with application for writ of replevin with
the Regional Trial Court, Br. 4, Tuguegarao, Cagayan, against herein complainants. The trial court
issued a warrant of seizure of personal property directing its sheriff to take hold of the van and its
contents.

On 1 August 1996 Deputy Sheriff Manuel M. Magumun, escorted by Sheriff Jacinto Contapay of
RTC-Br. 1, Tabuk, Kalinga, and agents of the Philippine National Police, went to the office of the
DENR in Tabuk, Kalinga, to enforce the warrant issued by the trial court but the forestry employees
and officials refused to release the van on the ground that it had already been forfeited in favor of the
government and was now in custodia legis. Despite this explanation, on 7 August 1996, Deputy
Sheriff Magumun accompanied this time by Sheriff John Dongui-is Jr. of the Office of the Clerk of
Court of Tabuk, Kalinga, and twenty (20) other persons, took the van without permission of the
employees and officials of the DENR. On 13 August 1996, after the lapse of the five-day period
prescribed by law for filing an opposition to the writ, the vehicle was delivered to Aimardo V. Interior,
agent of SMC.

In his comment, Deputy Sheriff Magumun explained that it was his ministerial duty to execute the
warrant in accordance with its mandate and his duties as sheriff under the Rules of Court and the
Manual for Clerks of Court. 4He conceded that he was informed by the forestry employees and
officials of the forfeiture of the vehicle subject of the warrant of seizure but he reasoned that it was
not within his discretion to withhold the implementation of the warrant. 5 The execution of a warrant of
seizure on a vehicle allegedly forfeited in favor of the government was a question of law too
technical for him to resolve 6 and faced with such a dilemma he opted to follow the order of the court
and execute the warrant in accordance with its mandate.

On 20 October 1997 the complaint was referred to the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) for
evaluation, report and recommendation. The OCA observed that Deputy Sheriff Magumun made a
very literal interpretation of Sec. 4, Rule 60, of the Rules of Court as amended. 7 The OCA noted that
while Rule 60 was silent on what should be done when the sheriff is informed by the defendant in the
replevin that the personal property to be seized has been forfeited in favor of the government and is
already in custodia legis, Deputy Sheriff Magumun should not have insisted on seizing the property
subject of the warrant of seizure. 8 The appropriate action should have been for respondent to inform
his judge of the situation by way of partial Sheriff's Return and wait for instructions on the proper
procedure to be observed. 9 For such ignorance of proper procedure the OCA recommended that
Sheriff Magumun be penalized in the amount of P5,000.00 at the very least. 10

We agree. Respondent was placed in a difficult situation where the vehicle subject of the warrant of
seizure had already been confiscated by another government agency and forfeited in favor of the
government. However, the novelty of his predicament did not call for him to use his discretion and
justify his insistence on taking the property subject of the warrant without waiting for instructions from
his judge. A sheriff's prerogative does not give him the liberty to determine who among the parties is
entitled to the possession of the attached property, 11 much less does he have any discretion to
decide which agency has primary jurisdiction and authority over the matter at hand.

When a writ is placed in the hands of a sheriff, it is his duty, in the absence of any instructions to the
contrary, to proceed with reasonable celerity and promptness to execute it according to its
mandate. 12 However, the prompt implementation of a warrant of seizure is called for only in
instances where there is no question regarding the right of the plaintiff to the property. Where the
plaintiff has shown by his own affidavit that he is entitled to the possession of the property; that the
property is wrongfully detained by the defendant; that the same has not been taken for tax
assessment or seized under execution or attachment, or if so seized, that it is exempt from such
seizure, 13 then the executing officer has no other recourse but to execute the warrant or writ
expeditiously.

In the instant case, Deputy Sheriff Magumun has been informed that the property had been
impounded due to violation of forestry laws and an order for its forfeiture had already been issued by
the DENR. Moreover, he was advised that the proper remedy for SMC, owner of the vehicle, was to
appeal the order of forfeiture to the Secretary of the DENR. 14 The prudent recourse then for
respondent was to desist from executing the warrant and convey the information to his judge and to
the plaintiff. Instead, Deputy Sheriff Magumun carried out the implementation of the warrant of
seizure with undue haste as evidenced by the mere 6-day lapse from the time he first served the
warrant of seizure on the DENR officials to the time of his precipitate seizure of the van. A warrant
could be returned within a period of not less than ten (10) days nor more than sixty (60) days after its
receipt by the executing officer. 15 Within this time frame, Deputy Sheriff Magumun should have
conferred with his judge and thereafter execute the warrant judiciously and with more certainty.

True, sheriffs must comply with their mandated ministerial duty to implement writs promptly and
expeditiously, but equally true is the principle that sheriffs by the nature of their functions must at all
times conduct themselves with propriety and decorum and act above suspicion. 16 There must be no
room for anyone to conjecture that sheriffs and deputy sheriffs as officers of the court have
conspired with any of the parties to a case to obtain a favorable judgment or immediate execution.
The sheriff is the front line representative of the judiciary and by his act he may build or destroy the
institution.

As observed by the OCA, the writ of replevin has been repeatedly used by unscrupulous plaintiffs to
retrieve their chattel earlier taken for violation of the Tariff and Customs Code, 17 tax assessment,
attachment or execution. Officers of the court, from the presiding judge to the sheriff, are implored to
be vigilant in their execution of the law otherwise, as in this case, valid seizure and forfeiture
proceedings could easily be undermined by the simple devise of a writ of replevin. Hence, sheriffs
and deputy sheriffs, as agents of the law, are called upon to discharge their duties with due care and
utmost diligence because in serving the court's writs and processes and implementing the orders of
the court, they cannot afford to err without affecting the integrity of their office and the efficient
administration of justice. 18

WHEREFORE, respondent Deputy Sheriff Manuel M. Magumun is found guilty of grave misconduct
and, as recommended, is fined P5,000.00 for arbitrarily implementing the warrant of seizure of
personal property and for ignorance of the proper procedure in serving writs of replevin in cases
where the personal property to be recovered has already been seized and forfeited in favor of the
government for violation of forestry laws. Respondent is warned that a repetition of the same or
similar act will merit a more severe sanction.

SO ORDERED.

Puno, Mendoza, Quisumbing and Buena, JJ., concur.

Footnotes

1 Respondent Deputy Sheriff Manuel M. Magumun was referred to as Deputy Sheriff M.


Magiimun in the affidavit-complaints submitted by complainants, although in his answer to
the complaint as well as in his Sheriff's Report he gave his family name as "Magumun."

2 Sec. 78. 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 and disposable public land, or from private land, without
any authority or possess timber or other forest products without the legal documents required
under existing laws and regulations, shall be punished with the penalties imposed under
Articles 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. 1âw phi 1.nêt

The court shall further order the confiscation in favor of the government of the timber or
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. (Revised Forestry Code, P.D. 705 as amended by P.D. 1559, and by
E.O. No. 277, promulgated 25 July 1987, 83 OG No. 31, 3 August 1987)

3 Guidelines for the Confiscation, Forfeiture and Disposition of Conveyance used in the
commission of offenses.

4 Rollo, p. 21.

5 Id., p. 22.

6 Ibid.

7 Sec. 4. Duty of the sheriff. — Upon receiving such order, the sheriff must serve a copy
thereof on the adverse party, together with a copy of the application, affidavit and bond, and
must forthwith take the property, if it be in the possession of the adverse party, or his agent,
and retain it in his custody. If the property or any part thereof be concealed in a building or
enclosure, the sheriff must demand its delivery, and if it be not delivered, he must cause the
building or enclosure to be broken open and take the property into his possession. After the
sheriff has taken possession of the property as herein provided, he must keep it in a secure
place and shall be responsible for its delivery to the party entitled thereto upon receiving his
fees and necessary expenses for taking and keeping the same.

G.R. No. 134209 January 24, 2006

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner,


vs.
CELESTINA NAGUIAT, Respondent.

DECISION

GARCIA, J.:

Before the Court is this petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court seeking the reversal
of the Decision1dated May 29, 1998 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 37001 which
affirmed an earlier decision2 of the Regional Trial Court at Iba, Zambales, Branch 69 in Land
Registration Case No. N-25-1.

The decision under review recites the factual backdrop, as follows:

This is an application for registration of title to four (4) parcels of land located in Panan, Botolan,
Zambales, more particularly described in the amended application filed by Celestina Naguiat on 29
December 1989 with the Regional Trial Court of Zambales, Branch 69. Applicant [herein respondent]
alleges, inter alia, that she is the owner of the said parcels of land having acquired them by purchase
from the LID Corporation which likewise acquired the same from Demetria Calderon, Josefina
Moraga and Fausto Monje and their predecessors-in-interest who have been in possession thereof
for more than thirty (30) years; and that to the best of her knowledge, said lots suffer no mortgage or
encumbrance of whatever kind nor is there any person having any interest, legal or equitable, or in
possession thereof.
On 29 June 1990, the Republic of the Philippines [herein petitioner]. . . filed an opposition to the
application on the ground that neither the applicant nor her predecessors-in interest have been in
open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the lands in question since
12 June 1945 or prior thereto; that the muniments of title and tax payment receipts of applicant do
not constitute competent and sufficient evidence of a bona-fide acquisition of the lands applied for or
of his open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation thereof in the concept
of (an) owner; that the applicant’s claim of ownership in fee simple on the basis of Spanish title or
grant can no longer be availed of . . .; and that the parcels of land applied for are part of the public
domain belonging to the Republic of the Philippines not subject to private appropriation.

On 15 October 1990, the lower court issued an order of general default as against the whole world,
with the exception of the Office of the Solicitor General, and proceeded with the hearing of this
registration case.

After she had presented and formally offered her evidence . . . applicant rested her case. The
Solicitor General, thru the Provincial Prosecutor, interposed no objection to the admission of the
exhibits. Later . . . the Provincial Prosecutor manifest (sic) that the Government had no evidence to
adduce. 3

In a decision4 dated September 30, 1991, the trial court rendered judgment for herein respondent
Celestina Naguiat, adjudicating unto her the parcels of land in question and decreeing the
registration thereof in her name, thus:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, this Court hereby adjudicates the parcels of land situated in
Panan, Botolan, Zambales, appearing on Plan AP-03-003447 containing an area of 3,131 square
meters, appearing on Plan AP-03-003446 containing an area of 15,322 containing an area of 15,387
square meters to herein applicant Celestina T. Naguiat, of legal age, Filipino citizen, married to
Rommel Naguiat and a resident of Angeles City, Pampanga together with all the improvements
existing thereon and orders and decrees registration in her name in accordance with Act No. 496,
Commonwealth Act No. 14, [should be 141] as amended, and Presidential Decree No. 1529. This
adjudication, however, is subject to the various easements/reservations provided for under pertinent
laws, presidential decrees and/or presidential letters of instructions which should be annotated/
projected on the title to be issued. And once this decision becomes final, let the corresponding
decree of registration be immediately issued. (Words in bracket added)

With its motion for reconsideration having been denied by the trial court, petitioner Republic went on
appeal to the CA in CA-G.R. CV No. 37001.

As stated at the outset hereof, the CA, in the herein assailed decision of May 29, 1998, affirmed that
of the trial court, to wit:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the decision appealed from is hereby AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

Hence, the Republic’s present recourse on its basic submission that the CA’s decision "is not in
accordance with law, jurisprudence and the evidence, since respondent has not established with the
required evidence her title in fee simple or imperfect title in respect of the subject lots which would
warrant their registration under … (P.D. 1529 or Public Land Act (C.A.) 141." In particular, petitioner
Republic faults the appellate court on its finding respecting the length of respondent’s occupation of
the property subject of her application for registration and for not considering the fact that she has
not established that the lands in question have been declassified from forest or timber zone to
alienable and disposable property.

Public forest lands or forest reserves, unless declassified and released by positive act of the
Government so that they may form part of the disposable agricultural lands of the public domain, are
not capable of private appropriation.5 As to these assets, the rules on confirmation of imperfect title
do not apply.6 Given this postulate, the principal issue to be addressed turns on the question of
whether or not the areas in question have ceased to have the status of forest or other inalienable
lands of the public domain.

Forests, in the context of both the Public Land Act7 and the Constitution8 classifying lands of the
public domain into "agricultural, forest or timber, mineral lands and national parks," do not
necessarily refer to a large tract of wooded land or an expanse covered by dense growth of trees
and underbrush. As we stated in Heirs of Amunategui 9-

A forested area classified as forest land of the public domain does not lose such classification simply
because loggers or settlers have stripped it of its forest cover. Parcels of land classified as forest
land may actually be covered with grass or planted to crops by kaingin cultivators or other farmers.
"Forest lands" do not have to be on mountains or in out of the way places. xxx. The classification is
merely descriptive of its legal nature or status and does not have to be descriptive of what the land
actually looks like. xxx

Under Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution,10 which embodies the Regalian doctrine, all lands of
the public domain belong to the State – the source of any asserted right to ownership of land.11 All
lands not appearing to be clearly of private dominion presumptively belong to the
State.12 Accordingly, public lands not shown to have been reclassified or released as alienable
agricultural land or alienated to a private person by the State remain part of the inalienable public
domain.13 Under Section 6 of the Public Land Act, the prerogative of classifying or reclassifying lands
of the public domain, i.e., from forest or mineral to agricultural and vice versa, belongs to the
Executive Branch of the government and not the court.14 Needless to stress, the onus to overturn, by
incontrovertible evidence, the presumption that the land subject of an application for registration is
alienable or disposable rests with the applicant.15

In the present case, the CA assumed that the lands in question are already alienable and
disposable. Wrote the appellate court:

The theory of [petitioner] that the properties in question are lands of the public domain cannot be
sustained as it is directly against the above doctrine. Said doctrine is a reaffirmation of the principle
established in the earlier cases . . . that open, exclusive and undisputed possession of alienable
public land for period prescribed by law creates the legal fiction whereby the land, upon completion
of the requisite period, ipso jure and without the need of judicial or other sanction, ceases to be
public land and becomes private property …. (Word in bracket and underscoring added.)

The principal reason for the appellate court’s disposition, finding a registerable title for respondent, is
her and her predecessor-in-interest’s open, continuous and exclusive occupation of the subject
property for more than 30 years. Prescinding from its above assumption and finding, the appellate
court went on to conclude, citing Director of Lands vs. Intermediate Appellate Court
(IAC)16 and Herico vs. DAR,17 among other cases, that, upon the completion of the requisite period of
possession, the lands in question cease to be public land and become private property.

Director of Lands, Herico and the other cases cited by the CA are not, however, winning cards for
the respondent, for the simple reason that, in said cases, the disposable and alienable nature of the
land sought to be registered was established, or, at least, not put in issue. And there lies the
difference.

Here, respondent never presented the required certification from the proper government agency or
official proclamation reclassifying the land applied for as alienable and disposable. Matters of land
classification or reclassification cannot be assumed. It calls for proof.18 Aside from tax receipts,
respondent submitted in evidence the survey map and technical descriptions of the lands, which,
needless to state, provided no information respecting the classification of the property. As the Court
has held, however, these documents are not sufficient to overcome the presumption that the land
sought to be registered forms part of the public domain.19

It cannot be overemphasized that unwarranted appropriation of public lands has been a notorious
practice resorted to in land registration cases.20 For this reason, the Court has made it a point to
stress, when appropriate, that declassification of forest and mineral lands, as the case may be, and
their conversion into alienable and disposable lands need an express and positive act from the
government.21

The foregoing considered, the issue of whether or not respondent and her predecessor-in-interest
have been in open, exclusive and continuous possession of the parcels of land in question is now of
little moment. For, unclassified land, as here, cannot be acquired by adverse occupation or
possession; occupation thereof in the concept of owner, however long, cannot ripen into private
ownership and be registered as title.22

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED and the assailed decision dated May 29, 1998 of
the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 37001 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Accordingly,
respondent’s application for original registration of title in Land Registration Case No. N-25-1 of the
Regional Trial Court at Iba, Zambales, Branch 69, is DENIED.

No costs.

SO ORDERED.

[G.R. NO. 166854 : December 6, 2006]

SEMIRARA COAL CORPORATION (now SEMIRARA MINING


CORPORATION), Petitioner, v. HGL DEVELOPMENT
CORPORATION and HON. ANTONIO BANTOLO, Presiding
Judge, Branch 13, Regional Trial Court, 6th Judicial Region,
Culasi, Antique,Respondents.

DECISION

QUISUMBING, J.:

Before us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari assailing the


Decision1dated January 31, 2005, of the Court of Appeals in CA G.R.
CEB SP No. 00035 which affirmed the Resolution2 dated September
16, 2004 of the Regional Trial Court of Culasi, Antique, Branch 13.

The facts are as follows:

Petitioner Semirara Mining Corporation is a grantee by the


Department of Energy (DOE) of a Coal Operating Contract under
Presidential Decree No. 9723 over the entire Island of Semirara,
Antique, which contains an area of 5,500 hectares more or less.4

Private respondent HGL Development Corporation is a grantee of


Forest Land Grazing Lease Agreement (FLGLA) No. 184 by the then
Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources,5 over 367 hectares
of land located at the barrios of Bobog and Pontod, Semirara,
Caluya, Antique. The FLGLA No. 184 was issued on September 28,
19846 for a term of 25 years, to end on December 31, 2009. Since
its grant, HGL has been grazing cattle on the subject property.

Sometime in 1999, petitioner's representatives approached HGL and


requested for permission to allow petitioner's trucks and other
equipment to pass through the property covered by the FLGLA. HGL
granted the request on condition that petitioner's use would not
violate the FLGLA in any way. Subsequently, however, petitioner
erected several buildings for petitioner's administrative offices and
employees' residences without HGL's permission. Petitioner also
conducted blasting and excavation; constructed an access road to
petitioner's minesite in the Panaan Coal Reserve, Semirara; and
maintained a stockyard for the coal it extracted from its mines.
Thus, the land which had been used for cattle grazing was greatly
damaged, causing the decimation of HGL's cattle.

On September 22, 1999, HGL wrote petitioner demanding full


disclosure of petitioner's activities on the subject land as well as
prohibiting petitioner from constructing any improvements without
HGL's permission. Petitioner ignored the demand and continued with
its activities.

On December 6, 2000, the Department of Environment and Natural


Resources (DENR) unilaterally cancelled FLGLA No. 184 and ordered
HGL to vacate the premises. The DENR found that HGL failed to pay
the annual rental and surcharges from 1986 to 1999 and to submit
the required Grazing Reports from 1985 to 1999 or pay the
corresponding penalty for non-submission thereof.7

HGL contested the findings and filed a letter of reconsideration on


January 12, 2001, which was denied by DENR Secretary Heherson
Alvarez in a letter-order dated December 9, 2002. The DENR stated
that it had coordinated with the DOE, which had jurisdiction over
coal or coal deposits and coal-bearing lands, and was informed that
coal deposits were very likely to exist in Sitios Bobog and Pontod.
Hence, unless it could be proved that coal deposits were not
present, HGL's request had to be denied.8

HGL sent a letter dated March 6, 2003 to DENR Secretary Alvarez


seeking reconsideration. The DENR did not act on the letter and HGL
later withdrew this second letter of reconsideration in its letter of
August 4, 2003.

On November 17, 2003, HGL filed a complaint against the DENR for
specific performance and damages with prayer for a temporary
restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction, docketed as
Civil Case No. 20675 (2003) with the Regional Trial Court of
Caloocan City. A writ of preliminary injunction was issued by the
Caloocan City RTC on December 22, 2003, enjoining the DENR from
enforcing its December 6, 2000 Order of Cancellation.

Meanwhile, HGL had also filed on November 17, 2003, a complaint


against petitioner for Recovery of Possession and Damages with
Prayer for TRO and/or Writ of Preliminary Mandatory Injunction,
docketed as Civil Case No. C-146 with the Regional Trial Court of
Culasi, Antique, Branch 13.9

On December 1, 2003, the Antique trial court heard the application


for Writ of Preliminary Mandatory Injunction in Civil Case No. C-146.
Only HGL presented its evidence. Reception for petitioner's evidence
was set to March 23-24, 2004. Petitioner was notified. But, on
March 19, 2004, petitioner's President wrote the court asking for
postponement since its counsel had suddenly resigned. The trial
court refused to take cognizance of the letter and treated it as a
mere scrap of paper since it failed to comply with the requisites for
the filing of motions and since it was not shown that petitioner's
President was authorized to represent petitioner. Because of
petitioner's failure to attend the two scheduled hearings, the trial
court, in an Order dated March 24, 2004, deemed the application for
issuance of a Writ of Preliminary Mandatory Injunction submitted for
decision. Meanwhile, petitioner had filed its Answer dated February
26, 2004, raising among others the affirmative defense that HGL no
longer had any right to possess the subject property since its FLGLA
has already been cancelled and said cancellation had already
become final.

On April 14, 2004, petitioner filed a verified Omnibus Motion praying


that the trial court reconsider its Order of March 24, 2004, since
petitioner's failure to attend the hearing was due to an accident.
Petitioner also prayed that the trial court admit as part of
petitioner's evidence in opposition to the application for injunction,
certified copies of the DENR Order of Cancellation dated December
6, 2000; HGL's letter of reconsideration dated January 12, 2001;
letter of DENR Secretary Alvarez dated December 9, 2002 denying
reconsideration of the order; and registry return receipt showing
HGL's receipt of the denial of reconsideration. In the alternative,
petitioner prayed that the case be set for preliminary hearing on its
affirmative defense of lack of cause of action and forum-
shopping.10 Public respondent denied the Omnibus Motion in a
Resolution dated June 21, 2004.

Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration of the said resolution.


Upon HGL's opposition, the motion was declared submitted for
resolution in accordance with the trial court's Order of August 5,
2004.11

On September 16, 2004, the trial court granted the prayer for
issuance of a Writ of Preliminary Mandatory Injunction.12 Petitioner
did not move for reconsideration of the order. The Writ of
Preliminary Mandatory Injunction was accordingly issued by the trial
court on October 6, 2004.13The writ restrained petitioner or its
agents from encroaching on the subject land or conducting any
activities in it, and commanded petitioner to restore possession of
the subject land to HGL or its agents.
Petitioner questioned the Resolution dated September 16, 2004,
and the Writ of Preliminary Mandatory Injunction dated October 6,
2004 before the Court of Appeals in a petition for certiorari, raising
eight issues. On January 31, 2005, however, the appellate court
dismissed the petition. The Court of Appeals in its decision by
Justice Magpale ruled on the issues posed before the appellate
court:

1. PRIVATE RESPONDENT HAS NO LEGAL RIGHT OR CAUSE OF


ACTION UNDER THE PRINCIPAL ACTION OR COMPLAINT, MUCH
LESS, TO THE ANCILLARY REMEDY OF INJUNCTION;

2. PRIVATE RESPONDENT DID NOT COME TO COURT WITH "CLEAN


HANDS";

3. RESPONDENT JUDGE UNJUSTIFIABLY AND ARBITRARILY


DEPRIVED PETITIONER OF ITS FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT TO DUE
PROCESS BY NOT GIVING IT AN OPPORTUNITY TO PRESENT
EVIDENCE IN OPPOSITION TO THE MANDATORY INJUNCTION;

4. RESPONDENT JUDGE IMMEDIATELY GRANTED THE APPLICATION


FOR THE ISSUANCE OF A WRIT OF MANDATORY INJUNCTION
WITHOUT FIRST RESOLVING THE PENDING MOTION FOR
RECONSIDERATION DATED JULY 12, 2004 OF PETITIONER;

5. RESPONDENT JUDGE DID NOT CONSIDER OR ADMIT THE


CERTIFIED TRUE COPIES OF THE OFFICIAL RECORDS OF THE DENR
CANCELLING PRIVATE RESPONDENT'S FLGLA AS EVIDENCE
AGAINST THE MANDATORY INJUNCTION PRAYED FOR;

6. RESPONDENT JUDGE SHOULD HAVE GRANTED PETITIONER'S


MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY HEARING ON ITS AFFIRMATIVE
DEFENSE THAT PRIVATE RESPONDENT UNDER ITS COMPLAINT HAS
NO CAUSE OF ACTION AGAINST PETITIONER;

7. RESPONDENT JUDGE SHOULD HAVE DISMISSED THE COMPLAINT


OUTRIGHT FOR VIOLATION OF THE RULES ON FORUM SHOPPING
BY PRIVATE RESPONDENT;
8. THE MANDATORY INJUNCTION ISSUED IN THE INSTANT CASE IS
VIOLATIVE OF THE PROVISIONS OF PRESIDENTIAL DECREE 605.14

The Court of Appeals in the assailed Decision dated January 31,


2005, opined and ruled as follows (which we quote verbatim):

Anent the first issue, WE rule against the petitioner.

Perusal of the allegations in the Complaint filed by the private


respondent with the court a quo show that its cause of action is
mainly anchored on the Forest Land Grazing Lease Agreement
("FLGLA") executed by and between said private respondent and
the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)
which became effective on August 28, 1984 and to expire on
December 31, 2009.

Under the said lease agreement, the private respondent was


granted permission to use and possess the subject land comprising
of 367-hectares located at the barrios of Bobog and Pontod,
Semirara Island, Antique for cattle-grazing purposes.

However, petitioner avers that the "FLGLA" on which private


respondent's cause of action is based was already cancelled by the
DENR by virtue of its Orders dated December 6, 2000 and
December 9, 2002.

While it is true that the DENR issued the said Orders cancelling the
"FLGLA", the same is not yet FINAL since it is presently the subject
of Civil Case No. 20675 pending in the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of
Caloocan City. Thus, for all intents and purposes, the "FLGLA" is still
subsisting.

The construction of numerous buildings and the blasting activities


thereon by the petitioner undertaken without the consent of the
private respondent blatantly violates the rights of the latter because
it reduced the area being used for cattle-grazing pursuant to the
"FLGLA".

From the foregoing it is clear that the three (3) indispensable


requisites of a cause of action, to wit: (a) the right in favor of the
plaintiff by whatever means and under whatever law it arises or is
created; (b) an obligation on the part of the named defendant to
respect or not to violate such right; (c) an act or omission on the
part of such defendant is violative of the right of plaintiff or
constituting a breach of the obligation of defendant to the plaintiff
for which the latter may maintain an action for recovery of
damages, are PRESENT.

Hence, having established that private respondent herein has a


cause of action under the principal action in Civil Case No. C-146,
necessarily it also has a cause of action under the ancillary remedy
of injunction.

Anent the third issue, WE rule against the petitioner.

This Court finds that the petitioner was not deprived of due process.

It appears from the records of the instant case that the petitioner
was given two (2) settings for the reception of its evidence in
support of its opposition to the prayer of herein private respondent
for the issuance of a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction.
Unfortunately, on both occasions, petitioner did not present its
evidence.

Petitioner claims that its failure to attend the hearings for the
reception of its evidence was excusable due to the sudden
resignation of its lawyer and as such, nobody can attend the
hearings of the case.

WE are not persuaded.

Scrutiny of the pleadings submitted by both parties shows that


petitioner's lawyer, Atty. Mary Catherine P. Hilario, affiliates herself
with the law firm of BERNAS SAN JUAN & ASSOCIATE LAW OFFICES
with address at 2nd Floor, DMCI Plaza 2281 Pasong Tamo Extension,
Makati City, by signing on and in behalf of the said law office. This
Court takes judicial notice of the fact that law offices employ more
than one (1) associate attorney aside from the name partners. As
such, it can easily assign the instant case to its other lawyers who
are more than capable to prepare the necessary "motion for
postponement" or personally appear to the court a quo to explain
the situation.

Even assuming arguendo that Atty. Hilario is the only one who is
knowledgeable of the facts of the case, still, petitioners cannot claim
that there was violation of due process because the "ESSENCE of
due process is reasonable opportunity to be heard x x x. What the
law proscribed is lack of opportunity to be heard." In the case at
bar, petitioner was given two (2) settings to present its evidence
but it opted not to.

Lastly, a prayer for the issuance of a writ of preliminary mandatory


injunction demands urgent attention from the court and as such,
delay/s is/are frowned upon due to the irreparable damage/s that
can be sustained by the movant.

Anent the fourth issue, WE rule against the petitioner.

Petitioner claims that the court a quo gravely erred when it issued
the writ of preliminary injunction without first resolving its Motion
for Reconsideration dated July 12, 2004.

WE rule that the public respondent cannot be faulted for not


resolving the Motion for Reconsideration dated July 12, 2004
because the same partakes of the nature of a second motion for
reconsideration of the Order dated March 24, 2004.

Records readily disclose that a prior motion for reconsideration was


filed by the petitioner herein assailing the Order dated March 24,
2004. Although captioned as "Omnibus Motion" the same was really
a motion for reconsideration. Said "Omnibus Motion" was resolved
by the court a quo in its Order dated June 21, 2004.

Hence, the public respondent is no longer duty bound to resolve the


subsequent, reiterative and second motion for reconsideration.

Anent the fifth issue, WE rule against the petitioner.

The court a quo was correct in disregarding the documentary


evidence submitted by the petitioner in support of its opposition to
the prayer for the issuance of a writ of preliminary mandatory
injunction.

The documentary evidence submitted by the petitioner herein with


the court a quo were merely attached to an "Omnibus Motion" and
was not properly identified, marked and formally offered as
evidence which is a blatant disregard and violation of the Rules on
Evidence.

Considering the above discussions, this Court finds that the public
respondent did not abuse his discretion in issuing the assailed
resolution.

Anent the eighth issue, WE likewise rule against the petitioner.

Presidential Decree (PD) 605 is the law "Banning the Issuance by


Courts of Preliminary Injunctions in Cases Involving Concessions,
Licenses, and Other Permits Issued by Public Administrative Officials
or Bodies for the Exploitation of Natural Resources."

Section 1 thereof provides that "No court of the Philippines shall


have jurisdiction to issue any restraining order, preliminary
injunction or preliminary mandatory injunction in any case involving
or growing out of the issuance, suspension, revocation, approval or
disapproval of any concession, license, permit, patent or public
grant of any kind for the disposition, exploitation, utilization,
exploration and development of the natural resources of the
country."

The instant case is not within the purview of the above-cited law
because the issue/s raised herein does not involve or arise out of
petitioner's coal operation contract.

The case filed with the court a quo is principally based on the
alleged encroachment by the petitioner of the subject land over
which private respondent claims it has authority to occupy or
possess until December 31, 2009 pursuant to FLGLA No. 184.
As such, the preliminary mandatory injunction issued by the court a
quo did not in any way affect the efficacy of the petitioner's coal
concession or license.

WHEREFORE, the instant petition for certiorari is DENIED and


consequently, the assailed Resolution is hereby AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.15

Hence, this instant petition. On February 23, 2005, this Court issued
a TRO enjoining the implementation and enforcement of the Court
of Appeals Decision dated January 31, 2005.16

Petitioner submits in the petition now the following grounds:

THE RESOLUTION DATED 16 SEPTEMBER 2004 AND THE WRIT OF


PRELIMINARY MANDATORY INJUNCTION DATED 6 OCTOBER 2004
ISSUED BY PUBLIC RESPONDENT ARE A PATENT NULLITY AS
PRIVATE RESPONDENT CLEARLY HAS NO LEGAL RIGHT OR CAUSE
OF ACTION UNDER ITS PRINCIPAL ACTION OR COMPLAINT, MUCH
LESS, TO THE ANCILLARY REMEDY OF PRELIMINARY MANDATORY
INJUNCTION;

II

A WRIT OF PRELIMINARY MANDATORY INJUNCTION CANNOT BE


USED TO TAKE PROPERTY OUT OF THE POSSESSION OF ONE PARTY
AND PLACE IT INTO THAT OF ANOTHER WHO HAS NO CLEAR LEGAL
RIGHT THERETO;

III

PRIVATE RESPONDENT'S COMPLAINT IN CIVIL CASE NO. C-146 IS


IN THE NATURE OF AN ACCION PUBLICIANA, NOT FORCIBLE
ENTRY; HENCE, A WRIT OF PRELIMINARY MANDATORY INJUNCTION
IS NOT A PROPER REMEDY;

IV
PETITIONER WAS UNJUSTIFIABLY AND ARBITRARILY DEPRIVED OF
ITS FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS WHEN IT WAS DENIED
THE RIGHT TO PRESENT EVIDENCE IN OPPOSITION TO THE
APPLICATION FOR PRELIMINARY MANDATORY INJUNCTION;

THE PUBLIC RESPONDENT DELIBERATELY WITHHELD THE


RESOLUTION OF PETITIONER'S MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION
DATED 12 JULY 2004 AND PROCEEDED TO PREMATURELY ISSUE
THE PRELIMINARY MANDATORY INJUNCTION IN VIOLATION OF
PETITIONER'S RIGHT TO FAIR PLAY AND JUSTICE;

VI

PUBLIC RESPONDENT COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION


WHEN:

1) HE REFUSED OR FAILED TO ADMIT AND/OR CONSIDER THE


CERTIFIED DENR RECORDS OF THE DENR ORDER CANCELLING
PRIVATE RESPONDENT'S FLGLA;

2) HE REFUSED OR FAILED TO CONDUCT A HEARING ON THESE


CERTIFIED PUBLIC DOCUMENTS WHICH CONCLUSIVELY PROVE
PRIVATE RESPONDENT'S LACK OF CAUSE OF ACTION UNDER THE
PRINCIPAL ACTION; AND

3) HE REFUSED OR FAILED TO DISMISS THE COMPLAINT


OUTRIGHT FOR VIOLATING THE RULES ON FORUM SHOPPING BY
PRIVATE RESPONDENT.17

Before this Court decides the substantive issues raised herein,


certain procedural issues that were raised by the parties must first
be addressed.

Petitioner contends that it was improper for the Regional Trial Court
of Antique to issue the writ of preliminary mandatory injunction
(and for the Court of Appeals to affirm the same) without giving it
an opportunity to present evidence and without first resolving the
Motion for Reconsideration dated July 12, 2004. But as borne by the
records of the case, it is evident that petitioner had the opportunity
to present evidence in its favor during the hearing for the
application of the writ of preliminary mandatory injunction before
the lower court. However, petitioner's failure to present its evidence
was brought by its own failure to appear on the hearing dates
scheduled by the trial court. Thus, petitioner cannot complain of
denial of due process when it was its own doing that prevented it
from presenting its evidence in opposition to the application for a
writ of preliminary mandatory injunction. It must be pointed out
that the trial court correctly refused to take cognizance of the letter
of petitioner's President which prayed for the postponement of the
scheduled hearings. Said letter was not a proper motion that must
be filed before the lower court for the stated purpose by its counsel
of record. Moreover, there was absolutely no proof given that the
sender of the letter was the duly authorized representative of
petitioner.

Second, the filing of the motion for reconsideration dated July 12,
2004, which essentially reproduced the arguments contained in the
previously filed and denied Omnibus Motion dated April 14, 2004,
renders the said motion for reconsideration dated July 12, 2004, a
mere pro forma motion. Moreover, the motion for reconsideration
dated June 12, 2004, being a second motion for reconsideration, the
trial court correctly denied it for being a prohibited motion.18

Third, it must be stated that the petition for certiorari before the
Court of Appeals should not have prospered because petitioner
failed to file a motion for reconsideration from the assailed
resolution of the Regional Trial Court of Antique, granting the writ of
preliminary mandatory injunction. Well settled is the rule that
before a party may resort to the extraordinary writ of certiorari, it
must be shown that there is no other plain, speedy and adequate
remedy in the ordinary course of law. Thus, it has been held by this
Court that a motion for reconsideration is a condition sine qua
non for the grant of the extraordinary writ of certiorari.19 Here, a
motion for reconsideration was an available plain, speedy and
adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law, designed to give the
trial court the opportunity to correct itself.
Now on the merits of the instant petition.

The pivotal issue confronting this Court is whether the Court of


Appeals seriously erred or committed grave abuse of discretion in
affirming the September 16, 2004 Resolution of the Regional Trial
Court of Antique granting the writ of preliminary mandatory
injunction.

Under Article 539 of the New Civil Code, a lawful possessor is


entitled to be respected in his possession and any disturbance of
possession is a ground for the issuance of a writ of preliminary
mandatory injunction to restore the possession.20 Thus, petitioner's
claim that the issuance of a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction
is improper because the instant case is allegedly one for accion
publiciana deserves no consideration. This Court has already ruled
in Torre, et al. v. Hon. J. Querubin, et al.21 that prior to the
promulgation of the New Civil Code, it was deemed improper to
issue a writ of preliminary injunction where the party to be enjoined
had already taken complete material possession of the property
involved. However, with the enactment of Article 539, the plaintiff is
now allowed to avail of a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction to
restore him in his possession during the pendency of his action to
recover possession.22

It is likewise established that a writ of mandatory injunction is


granted upon a showing that (a) the invasion of the right is material
and substantial; (b) the right of complainant is clear and
unmistakable; and (c) there is an urgent and permanent necessity
for the writ to prevent serious damage.23

In the instant case, it is clear that as holder of a pasture lease


agreement under FLGLA No. 184, HGL has a clear and unmistakable
right to the possession of the subject property. Recall that under the
FLGLA, HGL has the right to the lawful possession of the subject
property for a period of 25 years or until 2009. As lawful possessor,
HGL is therefore entitled to protection of its possession of the
subject property and any disturbance of its possession is a valid
ground for the issuance of a writ of preliminary mandatory
injunction in its favor. The right of HGL to the possession of the
property is confirmed by petitioner itself when it sought permission
from HGL to use the subject property in 1999. In contrast to HGL's
clear legal right to use and possess the subject property,
petitioner's possession was merely by tolerance of HGL and only
because HGL permitted petitioner to use a portion of the subject
property so that the latter could gain easier access to its mining
area in the Panaan Coal Reserve.

The urgency and necessity for the issuance of a writ of mandatory


injunction also cannot be denied, considering that HGL stands to
suffer material and substantial injury as a result of petitioner's
continuous intrusion into the subject property. Petitioner's continued
occupation of the property not only results in the deprivation of HGL
of the use and possession of the subject property but likewise
affects HGL's business operations. It must be noted that petitioner
occupied the property and prevented HGL from conducting its
business way back in 1999 when HGL still had the right to the use
and possession of the property for another 10 years or until 2009.
At the very least, the failure of HGL to operate its cattle-grazing
business is perceived as an inability by HGL to comply with the
demands of its customers and sows doubts in HGL's capacity to
continue doing business. This damage to HGL's business standing is
irreparable injury because no fair and reasonable redress can be
had by HGL insofar as the damage to its goodwill and business
reputation is concerned.

Petitioner posits that FLGLA No. 184 had already been cancelled by
the DENR in its order dated December 6, 2000. But as rightly held
by the Court of Appeals, the alleged cancellation of FLGLA No. 184
through a unilateral act of the DENR does not automatically render
the FLGLA invalid since the unilateral cancellation is subject of a
separate case which is still pending before the Regional Trial Court
of Caloocan City. Notably, said court has issued a writ of preliminary
injunction enjoining the DENR from enforcing its order of
cancellation of FLGLA No. 184.

The Court of Appeals found that the construction of numerous


buildings and blasting activities by petitioner were done without the
consent of HGL, but in blatant violation of its rights as the lessee of
the subject property. It was likewise found that these unauthorized
activities effectively deprived HGL of its right to use the subject
property for cattle-grazing pursuant to the FLGLA. It cannot be
denied that the continuance of petitioner's possession during the
pendency of the case for recovery of possession will not only be
unfair but will undeniably work injustice to HGL. It would also cause
continuing damage and material injury to HGL. Thus, the Court of
Appeals correctly upheld the issuance of the writ of preliminary
mandatory injunction in favor of HGL.

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DENIED. The Decision dated


January 31, 2005, of the Court of Appeals in CA G.R. CEB SP No.
00035, which affirmed the Resolution dated September 16, 2004 of
the Regional Trial Court of Culasi, Antique, Branch 13, as well as the
Writ of Preliminary Mandatory Injunction dated October 6, 2004
issued pursuant to said Resolution, is AFFIRMED. The temporary
restraining order issued by this Court is hereby lifted. No
pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.
G.R. Nos. 186739-960 April 17, 2013

LEOVEGILDO R. RUZOL, Petitioner,


vs.
THE HON. SANDIGANBAYAN and the PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondents.

DECISION

VELASCO, JR., J.:

This is an appeal seeking to nullify the December 19, 2008 Decision1 of the First Division of the
Sandiganbayan in Criminal Case Nos. SB-08-CRIM-0039 to 0259, which convicted Leovegildo R.
Ruzol (Ruzol), then Mayor of General Nakar, Quezon, of Usurpation of Official Functions penalized
under Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).

The Facts

Ruzol was the mayor of General Nakar, Quezon from 2001 to 2004. Earlier in his term, he organized
a Multi-Sectoral Consultative Assembly composed of civil society groups, public officials and
concerned stakeholders with the end in view of regulating and monitoring the transportation of
salvaged forest products within the vicinity of General Nakar. Among those present in the
organizational meeting were Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer (PENRO)
Rogelio Delgado Sr. and Bishop Julio Xavier Labayen, the OCD-DD of the Prelature of Infanta
Emeritus of the Catholic Church and Chairperson of TIPAN, an environmental non-government
organization that operates in the municipalities of General Nakar, Infanta and Real in Quezon
province. During the said assembly, the participants agreed that to regulate the salvaged forests
products, the Office of the Mayor, through Ruzol, shall issue a permit to transport after payment of
the corresponding fees to the municipal treasurer.2

Consequently, from 2001 to 2004, two hundred twenty-one (221) permits to transport salvaged
forest products were issued to various recipients, of which forty-three (43) bore the signature of
Ruzol while the remaining one hundred seventy-eight (178) were signed by his co-accused
Guillermo T. Sabiduria (Sabiduria), then municipal administrator of General Nakar.3

On June 2006, on the basis of the issued Permits to Transport, 221 Informations for violation of Art.
177 of the RPC or for Usurpation of Authority or Official Functions were filed against Ruzol and
Sabiduria, docketed as Criminal Case Nos. SB-08-CRIM-0039 to 0259.

Except for the date of commission, the description of forest product, person given the permit, and
official receipt number, the said Informations uniformly read:

That, on (date of commission) or sometime prior or subsequent thereto, in General Nakar, Quezon,
and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused Leovegildo R. Ruzol
and Guillermo M. Sabiduria, both public officers, being then the Municipal Mayor and Municipal
Administrator, respectively, of General Nakar, Quezon, taking advantage of their official position and
committing the offense in relation to their office, conspiring and confederating with each other did
then and there willfully, unlawfully and criminally, issue permit to transport (description of forest
product) to (person given the permit) under O.R. No. (official receipt number) under the pretense of
official position and without being lawfully entitled to do so, such authority properly belonging to the
Department of Environment and Natural Resources, to the damage and prejudice of the of the
government.

CONTRARY TO LAW.4

The details for each Information are as follows:5

Criminal Date of Description of Forest Person Given the Official


Case Commission Product Permit Receipt
No. No.
0039 20 Jan. 2004 1,000 board ft malaruhat/ David Villareal Jr. 1623446
marang
0040 16 Jan. 2004 600 board ft lawaan Pepito Aumentado 1623463
0041 15 Jan. 2004 100 pcs. malaruhat Francisco 1708352
(assorted sizes) Mendoza
0042 15 Jan. 2004 300 cubic m or 3,000 board Edmundo dela 1708353
ft good lumber Vega
0043 15 Jan. 2004 600 board ft good lumber David Villareal, Jr. 1708321
0044 15 Jan. 2004 1,050 board ft good lumber Romeo Sabiduria 1708322
0045 12 Jan. 2004 1,000 board ft malaruhat Nestor Astejada 1625521
0046 09 Jan. 2004 4,000 board ft good lumber Naty Orozco 1623421
(assorted sizes)
0047 08 Jan. 2004 700 board ft lauan Winnie Aceboque 1623415
0048 05 Jan. 2004 500 board ft lauan Edmundo dela 1623041
Vega
0049 07 Jan. 2004 4 x 5 haligi Mercy Vargas 1623314
0050 06 Jan. 2004 good lumber Mario Pujeda 1623310
0051 21 Oct. 2002 1,000 board ft sliced Conchita Odi 0830825
lumber
0052 21 Oct. 2002 400 board ft sliced lumber Lita Crisostomo 0830826
0053 28 Oct. 2002 450 board ft marang Agosto Astoveza 0830829
lumber
0054 08 Jan. 2003 300 board ft sliced lumber Edna E. Moises 0943941
(assorted sizes)
0055 13 Jan. 2003 1,500 board ft sliced Dante Z. Medina 0943964
lumber (assorted sizes)
0056 16 Jan. 2003 400 board ft sliced lumber Johnny A. 0943975
(assorted sizes) Astoveza
0057 27 Jan. 2003 7 pcs sliced lumber & 1 Sonny Leynes 1181827
piece 18 roda
0058 14 Feb. 2003 2,000 pcs trophy (wood Flordeliza Espiritu 1182033
carvings)
0059 17 Feb. 2003 700 board ft sliced lumber Nestor Astejada 1181917
(assorted sizes)
0060 18 Feb. 2003 1,632 board ft hard wood, Arthur/ Lanie 1182207
kisame & sanipa Occeña
0061 20 Feb. 2004 126 pcs lumber Lamberto 1708810
Aumentado
0062 3 March 2003 450 board ft hard wood Nestor Astoveza 1182413
(assorted sizes)
0063 6 March 2003 160 pcs sliced lumber Remedios Orozco 1182366
(assorted sizes)
0064 10 March 1,500 board ft malaruhat Nestor Astejada 1181996
2003 (assorted sizes)
0065 11 March 900 board ft sliced lumber Fernando Calzado 1182233
2003 (assorted sizes)
0066 13 March 1,408 board ft hard wood Nestor Astejada 1182553
2003 (assorted sizes)
0067 20 March 90 pcs. sliced lumber Remy Orozco 1182157
2003 (assorted sizes)
0068 21 March 90 pcs. sliced lumber Rene Francia 1182168
2003 (assorted sizes)
0069 25 March 500 board ft lumber Thelma Ramia 1182179
2003 (assorted sizes)
0070 26 March 1 pc. 60 x 75 bed (narra) Roy Justo 1182246
2003 finished product
0071 14 April 2004 95 pcs. kalap (9 ft.); 6 pcs. Anita Solloza 3651059
post (10 ft.) & 500 pcs.
Anahaw
0072 08 April 2004 460 board ft lumber Remy Orozco 3651101
(assorted sizes)
0073 14 April 2004 69 pcs. sliced lumber Dindo America 3651101
(assorted sizes)
0074 23 April 2003 870 board ft hard lumber Amado Pradillada 3651268
(assorted sizes)
0075 24 April 2003 400 board ft lumber Romy Buendicho 3651237
(assorted sizes)
0076 24 April 2003 400 board ft rattan Emmanuel 3651324
Buendicho
0077 30 April 2004 1,000 board ft good lumber Mylene Moises 3651335-C
(assorted sizes)
0078 30 April 2004 500 board ft sliced lumber Carlito Vargas 3651336
(assorted sizes)
0079 08 May 2003 72 x 78 bed (narra); 3 pcs. Fely Justo 3651519
60 x 75 bed (ling manok)
& 1 pc. 48 x 75 ed (kuling
manok) finished product
0080 12 May 2003 294 board ft lumber Virgilio Cuerdo 3650927
0081 13 May 2003 43 pcs. sliced lumber Amando Lareza 3651783
(assorted sizes)
0082 14 May 2003 750 board ft good lumber Wilma Cuerdo 3651529
0083 15 May 2003 440 board ft lumber Marte Cuballes 3651532
0084 15 May 2003 214 pcs. 2x6x7 or 1,500 Anneliza Vargas 3651531
board ft finished product
0085 26 May 2003 57 pcs. sliced lumber Danny Sanchez 3651585
(assorted sizes)
0086 27 May 2003 400 board ft cut woods Emy Francia 3651394
0087 30 May 2003 300 board ft lumber Daisy Cuerdo 3650943
0088 30 May 2003 1,000 board ft lumber Lea Astoveza 3651161
(assorted sizes)
0089 05 June 2003 130 pcs. or 1,500 board ft Jose Noly Moises 3651809
lumber cut woods
0090 06 June 2003 300 board ft lumber Mercy Escaraga 3651169
0091 18 June 2003 800 board ft good lumber Dante Medena 3651749
0092 24 June 2003 28 pcs. good lumber Virgilio Cuerdo 1247102
(assorted sizes)
0093 25 June 2003 190 pcs. good lumber Dante Medina 1247205
(assorted sizes)
0094 02 July 2003 800 board ft. good lumber Dante Medina 1247221
0095 02 July 2003 105 pcs. fresh cut lumber Emmanuel Lusang 1247167
(assorted sizes)
0096 04 July 2003 Assorted sizes of good Alberto dela Cruz 1247172
Lumber
0097 07 July 2003 Bulukan woods Conchita Ligaya 1247175
0098 07 July 2003 6 pcs. Haligi Jane Bulagay 1247173
0099 11 July 2003 700 board ft. cut woods Dominador Aveno 1247452
0100 14 July 200 800 board ft. cut wood/ Dante Medina 1247180
lumber
0101 16 July 2003 600 board ft. cut lumber Rachelle Solana 1247182
0102 23 July 2003 1,200 board ft. hard lumber Necito Crisostomo 1247188
0103 23 July 2003 700 board ft. good lumber Nestor Astejada 1247129
0104 28 July 2003 959 board ft. cut lumber Necito Crisostomo 1247428
0105 29 July 2003 600 board ft. lumber Marilou Astejada 1247191
0106 01 Aug. 2003 1,000 board Malaruhat Ruel Ruzol 1247198
0107 05 Aug. 2003 800 board ft. lumber Virgilio Aumentado 1322853
0108 08 Aug. 2003 4.8 cubic ft. Amlang Rosa Turgo 1322862
woods
0109 12 Aug. 2003 788 Board ft. cut woods Maria Teresa 1322865
Adornado
0110 25 Aug. 2003 500 board ft. assorted Romy Buendicho 1322929
lumber
0111 28 Aug. 2003 2 sala sets Roy Justo 1322879
0112 29 Aug. 2003 456 pieces good lumber Marilou Astejada 1323056
(assorted sizes)
0113 03 Sept. 2003 5 cubic ft softwoods Rosa Turgo 1322834
(assorted sizes)
0114 05 Sept. 2003 1,000 board ft. good Agustin Vargas 1323064
lumber (assorted sizes)
0115 08 Sept. 2003 80 pcs. wood post Peter Banton 1323124
0116 09 Sept. 2003 1 forward load (soft wood) Efifania V. Astrega 1323023
0117 11 Sept. 2003 1 forward load (assorted Noling Multi 1323072
species) Purpose Corp.
0118 11 Sept. 2003 500 board ft. good lumber Agustin Vargas 1323071
0119 12 Sept. 2003 900 board ft. good lumber Nestor Astejada 1323073
(assorted sizes)
0120 15 Sept. 2003 950 board ft. Malaruhat Edna Moises 1323128
0121 16 Sept. 2003 14 pcs. Panel door Roy Justo 1323041
0122 17 Sept. 2003 546 board ft. soft woods Mr. Marquez 1322951
0123 19 Sept. 2003 1,600 board ft. good Decembrano 1323085
lumber (assorted sizes) Sabiduria
0124 22 Sept. 2003 900 board ft. good lumber Jeffrey dela Vega 1323095
0125 22 Sept. 2003 1 Jeep load hard wood Federico Marquez 1323100
0126 25 Sept. 2003 750 board ft. Malaruhat/ Virgilio Villareal 1323252
Marang
0127 03 Oct. 2003 750 board ft. Malaruhat/ Virgilio Villareal 1323252
Marang
0128 02 Oct. 2003 60 pcs. good lumber Nestor Astorza 1482662
(assorted sizes)
0129 03 Oct. 2003 1,600 board ft. good Virgilio Villareal 1482666
lumber (assorted sizes)
0130 03 Oct. 2003 400 board ft. Malaruhat Amado Pradillada 1482815
(assorted sizes)
0131 03 Oct. 2003 1 full load (soft wood) Flordeliza Espiritu 1482867
0132 03 Oct. 2003 6,342 board ft sticks Joel Pacaiqui 1482716
0133 03 Oct. 2003 6,090 board ft sticks Joel Pacaiqui 1482717
0134 07 Oct. 2003 900 board ft. good lumber Mylene Moises 1482670
(assorted sizes)
0135 13 Oct. 2003 600 board ft. Lawaan Winnie Acebaque 1482734
(assorted sizes)
0136 13 Oct. 2003 1,700 board ft. Malaruhat Nestor Bautista 1482740
(assorted sizes)
0137 13 Oct. 2003 300 board ft. Lawaan Trinidad Guerero 1482774
(assorted sizes)
0138 16 Oct. 2003 700 board ft. Lawaan Federico Marquez 1482782
0139 17 Oct. 2003 4,602 board ft. good Nenita Juntreal 1482787
lumber (assorted sizes)
0140 20 Oct. 2003 1,700 board ft. Malaruhat Belen Ordinado 1482793
(assorted sizes)
0141 23 Oct. 2003 66 pcs. good lumber Nestor Astejada 1482847
(assorted sizes)
0142 25 Oct. 2003 1,700 board ft. good Dante Medina 1323277
lumber
0143 27 Oct. 2003 1,800 board ft. good Dante Medina 1482951
lumber (assorted sizes)
0144 28 Oct. 2003 1,254 board ft. good Jonathan Supremo 1323281
lumber (assorted sizes)
0145 28 Oct. 2003 2,500 board ft. lumber Ramir Sanchez 1483001
(assorted sizes)
0146 28 Oct. 2003 500 board ft. good lumber Rolando Franela 1323280
(assorted sizes)
0147 03 Nov. 2003 850 finished products Naty Orozco 1483020
(cabinet component,
balusters, door jambs)
0148 03 Nov. 2003 400 board ft. good lumber Elizabeth Junio 1483022
(assorted sizes) & 6
bundles of sticks
0149 10 Nov. 2003 1,770 board ft. good Dante Medina 1483032
lumber (assorted sizes)
0150 10 Nov. 2003 1,000 board ft. lumber Nestor Astejada 1483033
0151 12 Nov. 2003 900 board ft. lumber Federico Marquez 1483041
(assorted sizes)
0152 12 Nov. 2003 Mini dump truck good Rizalito Francia 1483042
lumber (assorted sizes)
0153 14 Nov. 2003 500 components, 100 pcs Annie Gonzales 1483070
balusters (assorted sizes of
stringers, tassels)
0154 14 Nov. 2003 700 board ft. good lumber Winnie Aceboque 1323287
0155 17 Nov. 2003 1,600 board ft. Malaruhat Federico Marquez 1483072
lumber (assorted sizes)
0156 05 Nov. 2003 400 board ft. Tapil & 7 Belen Ordinado 1483023
pcs. 1x10x14
0157 05 Nov. 2003 1,000 board ft. lumber Leonardo Aveno 1623003
(assorted sizes)
0158 05 Nov. 2003 150 board ft. good lumber Francisco 1483027
Mendoza
0159 07 Nov. 2003 433 bundles of semi-finished Naty Orozco 1483031
products
0160 08 Nov. 2003 800 board ft. lumber Armando 1483134
(assorted sizes) Pradillada
0161 25 Nov. 2003 30 pcs. sliced lumber Ariel Molina 1632059
0162 19 Nov. 2003 1,000 board ft. good Dante Medina 1623053
lumber (assorted sizes)
0163 20 Nov. 2003 500 board ft. good lumber Maria Teresa 1323288
(assorted sizes) Adornado
0164 20 Nov. 2003 1,500 board ft. good Romeo Sabiduria 1483080
lumber (assorted sizes)
0165 21 Nov. 2003 1,000 board ft. Malaruhat Dante Medina 1623057
lumber (assorted sizes)
0166 25 Oct. 2003 2,000 board ft. lumber Federico Marquez 1322982
(assorted sizes)
0167 25 Nov. 2003 500 board ft. Malaruhat Federico Marquez 1483090
0168 25 Nov. 2003 70 bundles of Rattan Manuel Buendicho 1483095
(assorted sizes)
0169 28 Nov. 2003 6,542 board ft. finished Nenita Juntareal 1623019
products (cabinet and
components)
0170 01 Dec. 2003 400 board ft. Malaruhat Federico Marquez 1623061
0171 01 Dec. 2003 500 board ft. good lumber Nestor Astejada 1483123
0172 01 Dec. 2003 1,500 board ft. lumber Belen Ordinado 1623063
(assorted sizes)
0173 03 Dec. 2003 500 board ft. Laniti Rosa Turgo 1483125
0174 04 Dec. 2003 1,000 board ft. lumber Dante Medina 1483127
0175 04 Dec. 2003 26 pcs. lumber (assorted Nenita Juntareal 1483128
sizes) & 2 bundles of sticks
0176 05 Dec. 2003 800 board ft. lumber Nestor Astejada 1483131
0177 08 Dec. 2003 678 board ft. good lumber Elenor Rutaquio 1623082
(assorted sizes)
0178 08 Dec. 2003 200 board ft. lumber William Rutaquio 1623010
(assorted sizes)
0179 09 Dec. 2003 1,800 board ft. lumber Nestor Astejada 1623090
0180 12 Dec. 2003 One jeep load of good Angelo Avellano 1623099
lumber (assorted sizes)
0181 12 Dec. 2003 One jeep load of good Angelo Avellano 1623099
lumber (assorted sizes)
0182 12 Dec. 2003 800 board ft. lumber Pepito Aumentado 1483147
0183 16 Dec. 2003 600 board ft. Malaruhat Jonathan Marcial 1623033
0184 16 Dec. 2003 650 board ft. lumber Pepito Aumentado 1482987
0185 16 Dec. 2003 1,000 board ft. Malaruhat Dante Medina 1482986
0186 18 Dec. 2003 100 board ft. lumber Aladin Aveno 1322992
0187 19 Dec. 2003 780 board ft. lumber Pepito Aumentado 1323000
0188 19 Dec. 2003 1,500 board ft. coco Felecita Marquez 1322998
lumber
0189 22 Dec. 2003 600 board ft. lumber Belen C. Ordinado 1623209
0190 29 Dec. 2003 600 board ft. Lawaan Winnie Aciboque 1623211
0191 29 Dec. 2003 300 board ft. lumber Yolanda 1623210
Crisostomo
0192 30 Dec. 2003 800 board ft. Lawaan Pepito Aumentado 1623215
0193 20 Nov. 2003 150 board ft. good lumber Francisco 1483086
(assorted sizes) Mendoza
0194 30 June 2003 450 board ft. fresh cut Mylene Moises 1247126
lumber
0195 13 July 2001 1 L-300 load of finished Evangeline Moises 9894843-Q
and semi-finished products
0196 02 July 2001 96 pcs. good lumber Rollie L. Velasco 9894996-Q
(assorted sizes)
0197 07 May 2004 1,500 board ft. babayahin Nemia Molina 200647
lumber
0198 19 April 2004 107 pcs. sliced lumber Carlo Gudmalin 1868050
(assorted sizes)
0199 5 March 2004 10 pcs. Deadwood Elizabeth Junio 1708899
(Bulakan)
0200 2 March 2004 600 board ft. Amalang Roda Turgo 1867608
wood
0201 1 March 2004 149 sliced lumber (assorted Necito Crisostomo 1708891
sizes)
0202 1 March 2004 80 bundles of rattan Manuel Buendicho 1708890
0203 23 Feb. 2004 30 pcs. sliced lumber Leonardo Aveno 1708863
(assorted sizes)
0204 13 Feb. 2004 50 pcs. sliced sliced lumber Federico Marquez 1708698
(assorted sizes)
0205 12 Feb. 2004 69 pcs. sliced sliced lumber Florencio Borreo 1708694
(assorted sizes)
0206 17 Feb. 2004 50 pcs. sliced sliced lumber Ronnie Astejada 1708774
(assorted sizes)
0207 04 Feb. 2004 600 board ft. sliced lumber Pepito Aumentado 1708486
(assorted sizes)
0208 1 March 2004 21 pcs. Lawaan (assorted Atan Marquez 1708878
sizes)
0209 4 Feb. 2004 563 board ft. sliced lumber Decembrano 1708487
(assorted sizes) Sabiduria
0210 06 Feb. 2004 80 pcs. Buukan (Ugat) Maila S. Orozco 1708547
0211 30 Jan. 2004 1,000 board ft. good Pepito Aumentado 1708534
lumber (assorted sizes)
0212 29 Jan. 2004 950 board ft. good lumber Leonardo Moises 1708528
(assorted sizes)
0213 28 Jan. 2004 1,000 board ft. good Pepito Aumentado 1708518
lumber (assorted sizes)
0214 28 Jan. 2004 5, 000 board ft. good Carmelita Lorenzo 1708521
lumber (assorted sizes)
0215 28 Jan. 2004 350 board ft. good lumber Amando Pradillada 1708368
(assorted sizes)
0216 23 Jan. 2004 800 board ft. lumber Pepito Aumentado 1708517
(assorted sizes)
0217 21 Jan. 2004 1,050 board ft. good Romeo Sabiduria 1708508
lumber (assorted sizes)
0218 06 April 2004 800 board ft. sliced lumber Mylene Moises 1868025
(assorted sizes)
0219 11 March 300 pieces or 1, 200 board Ernesto 1708975
2004 ft. sliced lumber (assorted Aumentado
sizes)
0220 02 Feb. 2004 7,000 board ft. good Carmelita Lorenzo 1708376
lumber
0221 08 Jan. 2004 600 board ft. Malaruhat Nestor Astejada 1623451
0222 10 Dec. 2003 300 pieces good lumber Francisco 1623096
Mendoza
0223 18 Nov. 2003 6,432 board ft. assorted Naty Orozco 1483048
species
0224 30 Oct. 2003 8,000 board ft. Malauban Ma. Teresa 1483019
Adornado
0225 21 Oct. 2003 1,770 board ft. good Dante Medina 1482796
lumber (assorted sizes)
0226 21 Oct. 2003 300 board ft. Malaruhat Leonardo S. Aveno 1323271
(assorted sizes)
0227 21 Oct. 2003 10,875 board ft. lumber Annie Gonzales 1323273
(assorted sizes)
0228 20 Oct. 2003 300 board ft. sliced lumber Bernardo Gonzalvo 1482835
0229 17 Oct. 2003 6,090 board ft. lumber Naty Orozco 1482834
0230 17 Oct. 2003 16 pcs. panel door Roy Justo 1482743
(finished product)
0231 01 Oct. 2003 300 board ft. good lumber Analiza Vargas 1482710
(assorted sizes)
0232 01 Oct. 2003 700 board ft. Malaruhat Engr. Mercado 1482760
(assorted sizes)
0233 30 Sept. 2003 500 board ft. sliced lumber Mylene Moises 1482810
(assorted sizes)
0234 29 Sept. 2003 800 board ft. good lumber Wennie Acebuque 1482703
(assorted sizes)
0235 15 Sept. 2003 1,500 board ft. malaruhat Decembrano 1323076
lumber (assorted sizes) Sabiduria
0236 10 Sept. 2003 200 board ft. good lumber Junier Franquia 1323027
(assorted sizes)
0237 29 Aug. 2003 600 board ft. good lumber Annaliza Vargas 1322830
0238 07 Aug. 2003 2,000 board ft. lumber Abilardo dela Cruz 1247200
(assorted sizes)
0239 06 Aug. 2003 1,000 board ft. hardwood Jennifer Nudalo 1322802
0240 25 June 2003 600 board ft. good lumber Roy Justo 1247024
0241 26 May 2003 800 board ft. lumber Adelino Lareza 3651096
0242 26 May 2003 Assorted sizes good lumber Rollie Velasco 3651587
0243 23 May 2003 342 sliced lumber (assorted Dolores S. Gloria 3651499
sizes)
0244 20 May 2003 500 board ft. lumber Marylyn de Loreto/ 3651574
Melita Masilang
0245 02 May 2003 123 pieces sliced lumber Armando Lariza 3651656
(assorted sizes)
0246 17 Feb. 2003 70 pieces sliced lumber Efren Tena/ 1182204
(assorted sizes) Romeo
Serafines
0247 07 Feb. 2003 1 piece narra bed; 1 piece Roy D. Justo 1182060
narra panel door; 6 pcs.
Refrigerator stand & 1 pc.
Narra cabinet (finished
product)
0248 05 Dec. 2002 140 pcs. round poles Lamberto R. Ruzol 0943647
0249 20 Nov. 2002 500 board ft. lumber Luz Astoveza 0943618
(assorted sizes)
0250 30 Oct. 2002 1,200 board ft. sliced Arceli Fortunado 0830698
lumber (assorted sizes)
0251 04 Oct. 2002 500 board ft. Huling Roy Justo 0830646
Manok
0252 27 Sept. 2002 300 board ft. sliced lumber Roy Justo 0830625
(assorted sizes)
0253 24 Sept. 2002 1,000 board ft. sliced Inna L. 0830771
lumber (assorted sizes) Customerado
0254 23 Sept. 2002 1,000 board ft. sliced Normelita L. 0830610
lumber (assorted sizes) Curioso
0255 03 Sept. 2002 2,000 pcs. trophy (wood Floredeliza D. 686642
carvings) Espiritu
0256 7 March 2002 2,000 sets trophy (wood Floredeliza D. 090549
carvings) Espiritu
0257 03 Dec. 2001 10,000 sets trophy (wood Floredeliza D. 090769
carvings) Espiritu
0258 12 Sept. 2001 1,075 board ft of sticks & Lea A. Rivera 7786333
1,450 board ft. Bollilo
(assorted sizes)
0259 07 Oct. 2003 Assorted lumber Roy D. Justo 1482765

Considering that the facts are undisputed, the parties during Pre-Trial agreed to dispense with the
presentation of testimonial evidence and submit the case for decision based on the documentary
evidence and joint stipulation of facts contained in the Pre-Trial Order. Thereafter, the accused and
the prosecution submitted their respective memoranda.6

Ruzol's Defense

As summarized by the Sandiganbayan, Ruzol professes his innocence based on following


arguments:

(1) As Chief Executive of the municipality of General Nakar, Quezon, he is authorized to


issue permits to transport forest products pursuant to RA 7160 which give the LGU not only
express powers but also those powers that are necessarily implied from the powers
expressly granted as well as those that are necessary, appropriate or incidental to the LGU’s
efficient and effective governance. The LGU is likewise given powers that are essential to the
promotion of the general welfare of the inhabitants. The general welfare clause provided in
Section 16, Chapter 2, Title One, Book I of R.A. 7160 is a massive grant of authority that
enables LGUs to perform or exercise just about any power that will benefit their local
constituencies.

(2) In addition to the foregoing, R.A. 7160 has devolved certain functions and responsibilities
of the DENR to the LGU. And the permits to transport were issued pursuant to the devolved
function to manage and control communal forests with an area not exceeding fifty (50)
square kilometers.
(3) The Permits to Transport were issued as an incident to the payment of Transport Fees
levied by the municipality for the use of local public roads for the transport of salvaged forest
products. Under (a) Section 5, Article X of the Constitution, (b) Section 129, Chapter I, Title
One Book II of R.A. 7160, and (c) Section 186, Article Five, Chapter 5, Tile One, Book II of
R.A. 7160, the municipality is granted the power to create its own sources of revenue and to
levy fees in accordance therewith.

(4) The only kind of document the DENR issues relating to log, timber or lumber is
denominated "Certificate of Timber Origin" or CTO for logs and "Certificate of Lumber Origin"
or CLO for lumber; hence, even if accused issued the Transport Permits on his side, a
person wanting to transport the said forest products would have to apply and obtain a CTO
or CLO from the DENR. The Transport Permits issued by the accused were never taken as a
substitute for the CTO or CLO, and this is the reason why said permits contain the
annotation "Subject to DENR rules, laws and regulations."

(5) There is no proof of conspiracy between the accused. The Transport Permits were issued
by accused Sabiduria in his capacity as Municipal Administrator and his mere issuance is not
enough to impute upon the accused Ruzol any transgression or wrongdoing that may have
been committed in the issuance thereof following the ruling in Arias v. Sandiganbayan (180
SCRA 309).

(6) The DENR directly sanctioned and expressly authorized the issuance of the 221
Transport permits through the Provincial Environment and natural Resources officer Rogelio
Delgado Sr., in a Multi-Sectoral Consultative Assembly.

(7) The accused cannot be convicted of Usurpation of Authority since they did not act "under
the pretense of official position," accused Ruzol having issued the permits in his capacity as
Mayor and there was no pretense or misrepresentation on his part that he was an officer of
DENR.7

Ruling of the Sandiganbayan

After due consideration, the Sandiganbayan rendered on December 19, 2008 a Decision, acquitting
Sabiduria but finding Ruzol guilty as charged, to wit:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court resolves these cases as follows:

1. Against the accused LEOVEGILDO R. RUZOL, judgment is hereby rendered finding him
GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of Two Hundred Twenty One (221) counts of the offense
of Usurpation of Official Functions as defined and penalized under Article 177 of the Revised
Penal Code and hereby sentences him to suffer for each case a straight penalty of SIX (6)
MONTHS and ONE (1) DAY.

However, in the service of his sentences, accused Ruzol shall be entitled to the benefit of the
three-fold rule as provided in Article 70 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended.

2. On the ground of reasonable doubt, accused GUILLERMO M. SABIDURIA is


ACQUITTED of all 221 charges. The cash bond posted by him for his provisional liberty may
now be withdrawn by said accused upon presentation of the original receipt evidencing
payment thereof subject to the usual accounting and auditing procedures. The hold
departure procedure issued by this Court dated 16 April 2008 is set aside and the Order
issued by the Bureau of Immigration dated 29 April 2008 including the name of Sabiduria in
the Hold Departure List is ordered recalled and cancelled.

SO ORDERED.8

The Sandiganbayan predicated its ruling on the postulate that the authority to issue transport permits
with respect to salvaged forest products lies with the Department of Environment and Natural
Resources (DENR) and that such authority had not been devolved to the local government of
General Nakar.9 To the graft court, Ruzol’s issuance of the subject permits constitutes usurpation of
the official functions of the DENR.

The Issue

The critical issue having a determinative bearing on the guilt or innocence of Ruzol for usurpation
revolves around the validity of the subject permits to transport, which in turn resolves itself into the
question of whether the authority to monitor and regulate the transportation of salvaged forest
product is solely with the DENR, and no one else.

The Ruling of this Court

The petition is partly meritorious.

Subsidiary Issue:

Whether the Permits to Transport Issued by Ruzol Are Valid

In ruling that the DENR, and not the local government units (LGUs), has the authority to issue
transportation permits of salvaged forest products, the Sandiganbayan invoked Presidential Decree
No. 705 (PD 705), otherwise known as the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines and in relation
to Executive Order No. 192, Series of 1987 (EO 192), or the Reorganization Act of the Department
of Environment and Natural Resources.

Section 5 of PD 705 provides:

Section 5. Jurisdiction of Bureau. The Bureau of Forest Management shall have jurisdiction and
authority over all forest land, grazing lands, and all forest reservations including watershed
reservations presently administered by other government agencies or instrumentalities.

It shall be responsible for the protection, development, management, regeneration, and reforestation
of forest lands; the regulation and supervision of the operation of licensees, lessees and permittees
for the taking or use of forest products therefrom or the occupancy or use thereof; the
implementation of multiple use and sustained yield management in forest lands; the protection,
development and preservation of national parks, marine parks, game refuges and wildlife; the
implementation of measures and programs to prevent kaingin and managed occupancy of forest and
grazing lands; in collaboration with other bureaus, the effective, efficient and economic classification
of lands of the public domain; and the enforcement of forestry, reforestation, parks, game and
wildlife laws, rules, and regulations.

The Bureau shall regulate the establishment and operation of sawmills, veneer and plywood mills
and other wood processing plants and conduct studies of domestic and world markets of forest
products. (Emphasis Ours.)
On the other hand, the pertinent provisions of EO 192 state:

SECTION 4. Mandate. The Department shall be the primary government agency responsible for the
conservation, management, development, and proper use of the country’s environment and natural
resources, specifically forest and grazing lands of the public domain, as well as the licensing and
regulation of all natural resources as maybe provided for by law in order to ensure equitable sharing
of the benefits derived therefrom for the welfare of the present and future generations of Filipinos.

xxxx

SECTION 5. Powers and Functions. To accomplish its mandate, the Department shall have the
following functions:

xxxx

(d) Exercise supervision and control over forest lands, alienable and disposal lands, and
mineral resources and in the process of exercising such control the Department shall impose
appropriate payments, fees, charges, rentals and any such revenues for the exploration,
development, utilization or gathering of such resources.

xxxx

(j) Regulate the development, disposition, extraction, exploration and use of the country’s
forest, land and mineral resources;

(k) Assume responsibility for the assessment, development, protection, conservation,


licensing and regulation as provided for by law, where applicable, of all natural resources;
the regulation and monitoring of service contractors, licensees, lessees, and permittees for
the extraction, exploration, development and utilization of natural resources products; the
implementation of programs and measures with the end in view of promoting close
collaboration between the government and the private sector; the effective and efficient
classification and sub-classification of lands of the public domain; and the enforcement of
natural resources laws, rules and regulations;

(l) Promulgate rules, regulations and guidelines on the issuance of co-production, joint
venture or production sharing agreements, licenses, permits, concessions, leases and such
other privileges and arrangement concerning the development, exploration and utilization of
the country’s natural resources and shall continue to oversee, supervise and police our
natural resources; to cancel or cause to cancel such privileges and arrangement upon
failure, non-compliance or violations of any regulations, orders, and for all other causes
which are furtherance of the conservation of natural resources and supportive of the national
interests;

xxxx

(n) Implement measures for the regulation and supervision of the processing of forest
products, grading and inspection of lumber and other forest products and monitoring of the
movement of timber and other forest products. (Emphasis Ours.)

Invoked too is DENR Administrative Order No. 2000-78 (DAO 2000-78) which mandates that the
permittee should secure the necessary transport and other related documents before the retrieved
wood materials are sold to the buyers/users and/or wood processing plants.10 DAO 2000-78 obliges
the entity or person concerned to secure a Wood Recovery Permit––a "permit issued by the DENR
to gather/retrieve and dispose abandoned logs, drifted logs, sunken logs, uprooted, and fire and
typhoon damaged tress, tree stumps, tops and branches."11 It prescribes that the permittee shall only
be allowed to gather or recover logs or timber which had already been marked and inventoried by
the Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer.12 To the Sandiganbayan, this
mandatory requirement for Wood Recovery Permit illustrates that DENR is the sole agency vested
with the authority to regulate the transportation of salvaged forest products.1âwphi1

The Sandiganbayan further reasoned that the "monitoring and regulating salvaged forest products"
is not one of the DENR’s functions which had been devolved upon LGUs. It cited Sec. 17 of
Republic Act No. 7160 (RA 7160) or the Local Government Code (LGC) of 1991 which provides:

Section 17. Basic Services and Facilities. -

(a) Local government units shall endeavor to be self-reliant and shall continue exercising the powers
and discharging the duties and functions currently vested upon them. They shall also discharge the
functions and responsibilities of national agencies and offices devolved to them pursuant to this
Code. Local government units shall likewise exercise such other powers and discharge such other
functions and responsibilities as are necessary, appropriate, or incidental to efficient and effective
provisions of the basic services and facilities enumerated herein.

xxxx

(2) For a Municipality:

xxxx

(ii) Pursuant to national policies and subject to supervision, control and review of the DENR,
implementation of community-based forestry projects which include integrated social forestry
programs and similar projects; management and control of communal forests with an area not
exceeding fifty (50) square kilometers; establishment of tree parks, greenbelts, and similar forest
development projects. (Emphasis Ours.)

According to the Sandiganbayan, Sec. 17 of the LGC has limited the devolved functions of the
DENR to the LGUs to the following: (1) the implementation of community-based forestry products;
(2) management and control of communal forests with an area not exceeding fifty (50) square
kilometers; and (3) establishment of tree parks, greenbelts and similar forest development
projects.13 It also referred to DENR Administrative Order No. 30, Series of 1992 (DAO 1992-30),
which enumerates the forest management functions, programs and projects of the DENR which had
been devolved to the LGUs, as follows:14

Section 3.1 Forest Management

a. Implementation of the following community-based forestry projects:

i. Integrated Social Forestry Projects, currently funded out of regular appropriations,


except at least one project per province that shall serve as research and training
laboratory, as identified by the DENR, and those areas located in protected areas
and critical watersheds;
ii. Establishment of new regular reforestation projects, except those areas located in
protected areas and critical watersheds;

iii. Completed family and community-based contract reforestation projects, subject to


policies and procedures prescribed by the DENR;

iv. Forest Land Management Agreements in accordance with DENR Administrative


Order No. 71, Series of 1990 and other guidelines that the DENR may adopt; and

v. Community Forestry Projects, subject to concurrence of financing institution(s), if


foreign assisted.

b. Management and control of communal forests with an area not exceeding fifty (50) square
kilometers or five thousand (5,000) hectares, as defined in Section 2, above. Provided, that
the concerned LGUs shall endeavor to convert said areas into community forestry projects;

c. Management, protection, rehabilitation and maintenance of small watershed areas which


are sources of local water supply as identified or to be identified by the DENR; and

d. Enforcement of forest laws in community-based forestry project areas, small watershed


areas and communal forests, as defined in Section 2 above, such as but not limited to:

i. Prevention of forest fire, illegal cutting and kaingin;

ii. Apprehension of violators of forest laws, rules and regulations;

iii. Confiscation of illegally extracted forest products on site;

iv. Imposition of appropriate penalties for illegal logging, smuggling of natural


resources products and of endangered species of flora and fauna, slash and burn
farming and other unlawful activities; and

v. Confiscation, forfeiture and disposition of conveyances, equipment and other


implements used in the commission of offenses penalized under P.D. 705 as
amended by E.O. 277, series of 1987 and other forestry laws, rules and regulations.

Provided, that the implementation of the foregoing activities outside the devolved areas above
mentioned, shall remain with the DENR.

The Sandiganbayan ruled that since the authority relative to salvaged forest products was not
included in the above enumeration of devolved functions, the correlative authority to issue transport
permits remains with the DENR15and, thus, cannot be exercised by the LGUs.

We disagree and refuse to subscribe to this postulate suggesting exclusivity. As shall be discussed
shortly, the LGU also has, under the LGC of 1991, ample authority to promulgate rules, regulations
and ordinances to monitor and regulate salvaged forest products, provided that the parameters set
forth by law for their enactment have been faithfully complied with.

While the DENR is, indeed, the primary government instrumentality charged with the mandate of
promulgating rules and regulations for the protection of the environment and conservation of natural
resources, it is not the only government instrumentality clothed with such authority. While the law
has designated DENR as the primary agency tasked to protect the environment, it was not the
intention of the law to arrogate unto the DENR the exclusive prerogative of exercising this function.
Whether in ordinary or in legal parlance, the word "primary" can never be taken to be synonymous
with "sole" or "exclusive." In fact, neither the pertinent provisions of PD 705 nor EO 192 suggest that
the DENR, or any of its bureaus, shall exercise such authority to the exclusion of all other
government instrumentalities, i.e., LGUs.

On the contrary, the claim of DENR’s supposedly exclusive mandate is easily negated by the
principle of local autonomy enshrined in the 1987 Constitution16 in relation to the general welfare
clause under Sec. 16 of the LGC of 1991, which provides:

Section 16. General Welfare. - Every local government unit shall exercise the powers expressly
granted, those necessarily implied therefrom, as well as powers necessary, appropriate, or incidental
for its efficient and effective governance, and those which are essential to the promotion of the
general welfare. Within their respective territorial jurisdictions, local government units shall ensure
and support, among other things, the preservation and enrichment of culture, promote health and
safety, enhance the right of the people to a balanced ecology, encourage and support the
development of appropriate and self-reliant scientific and technological capabilities, improve public
morals, enhance economic prosperity and social justice, promote full employment among their
residents, maintain peace and order, and preserve the comfort and convenience of their inhabitants.
(Emphasis Ours.)

Pursuant to the aforequoted provision, municipal governments are clothed with authority to enact
such ordinances and issue such regulations as may be necessary to carry out and discharge the
responsibilities conferred upon them by law, and such as shall be necessary and proper to provide
for the health, safety, comfort and convenience, maintain peace and order, improve public morals,
promote the prosperity and general welfare of the municipality and its inhabitants, and ensure the
protection of property in the municipality.17

As held in Oposa v. Factoran, Jr.,18 the right of the people "to a balanced and healthful ecology
carries with it the correlative duty to refrain from impairing the environment." In ensuring that this
duty is upheld and maintained, a local government unit may, if it deems necessary, promulgate
ordinances aimed at enhancing the right of the people to a balanced ecology and, accordingly,
provide adequate measures in the proper utility and conservation of natural resources within its
territorial jurisdiction. As can be deduced from Ruzol’s memoranda, as affirmed by the parties in their
Joint Stipulation of Facts, it was in the pursuit of this objective that the subject permits to transport
were issued by Ruzol––to regulate the salvaged forest products found within the municipality of
General Nakar and, hence, prevent abuse and occurrence of any untoward illegal logging in the
area.19

In the same vein, there is a clear merit to the view that the monitoring and regulation of salvaged
forest products through the issuance of appropriate permits is a shared responsibility which may be
done either by DENR or by the LGUs or by both. DAO 1992-30, in fact, says as much, thus: the
"LGUs shall share with the national government, particularly the DENR, the responsibility in the
sustainable management and development of the environment and natural resources within their
territorial jurisdiction."20 The significant role of the LGUs in environment protection is further echoed
in Joint Memorandum Circular No. 98-01(JMC 1998-01) or the Manual of Procedures for DENR-
DILG-LGU Partnership on Devolved and other Forest Management Functions, which was
promulgated jointly by the DILG and the DENR in 1998, and provides as follows:

Section 1. Basic Policies


Subject to the general policies on devolution as contained in RA 7160 and DENR Administrative
Order No. 30, Series of 1992, the following basic policies shall govern the implementation of DENR-
DILG-LGU partnership on devolved and other forest management functions:

1.1. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) shall be the primary
government agency responsible for the conservation, management, protection, proper use
and sustainable development of the country’s environment and natural resources.

1.2. The LGUs shall share with DENR the responsibility in the sustainable management and
development of the forest resources within their territorial jurisdiction. Toward this end, the
DENR and the LGUs shall endeavor to strengthen their collaboration and partnership in
forest management.

1.3. Comprehensive land use and forest land use plans are important tools in the holistic and
efficient management of forest resources. Toward this end, the DENR and the LGUs
together with other government agencies shall undertake forest land use planning as an
integral activity of comprehensive land use planning to determine the optimum and balanced
use of natural resources to support local, regional and national growth and development.

1.4. To fully prepare the LGUs to undertake their shared responsibilities in the sustainable
management of forest land resources, the DENR, in coordination with DILG, shall enhance
the capacities of the LGUs in the various aspects of forest management. Initially, the DENR
shall coordinate, guide and train the LGUs in the management of the devolved functions. As
the LGUs’ capacity in forest management is enhanced, the primary tasks in the management
of devolved functions shall be performed by the LGUs and the role of the DENR becomes
assistive and coordinative.

1.5. To further the ends of local autonomy, the DENR in consultation with the LGUs shall
devolved [sic] additional functions and responsibilities to the local government units, or enter
into agreements with them for enlarged forest management and other ENR-related functions.

1.6. To seek advocacy, popular support and ultimately help achieve community
empowerment, DENR and DILG shall forge the partnership and cooperation of the LGUs and
other concerned sectors in seeking and strengthening the participation of local communities
for forest management including enforcement of forestry laws, rules and regulations.
(Emphasis Ours.)

To our mind, the requirement of permits to transport salvaged forest products is not a manifestation
of usurpation of DENR’s authority but rather an additional measure which was meant to complement
DENR’s duty to regulate and monitor forest resources within the LGU’s territorial jurisdiction.

This is consistent with the "canon of legal hermeneutics that instead of pitting one statute against
another in an inevitably destructive confrontation, courts must exert every effort to reconcile them,
remembering that both laws deserve respect as the handiwork of coordinate branches of the
government."21 Hence, if there appears to be an apparent conflict between promulgated statutes,
rules or regulations issued by different government instrumentalities, the proper action is not to
immediately uphold one and annul the other, but rather give effect to both by harmonizing them if
possible.22 Accordingly, although the DENR requires a Wood Recovery Permit, an LGU is not
necessarily precluded from promulgating, pursuant to its power under the general welfare clause,
complementary orders, rules or ordinances to monitor and regulate the transportation of salvaged
forest products.
Notwithstanding, We still find that the Permits to Transport issued by Ruzol are invalid for his failure
to comply with the procedural requirements set forth by law for its enforcement.

Then and now, Ruzol insists that the Permit to Transport partakes the nature of transport fees levied
by the municipality for the use of public roads.23 In this regard, he argues that he has been conferred
by law the right to issue subject permits as an incident to the LGU’s power to create its own sources
of revenue pursuant to the following provisions of the LGC:

Section 153. Service Fees and Charges. – Local government units may impose and collect such
reasonable fees and charges for services rendered.

xxxx

Section 186. Power to Levy Other Taxes, Fees or Charges. – Local government units may exercise
the power to levy taxes, fees or charges on any base or subject not otherwise specifically
enumerated herein or taxed under the provisions of the National Internal Revenue Code, as
amended, or other applicable laws: Provided, That the taxes, fees, or charges shall not be unjust,
excessive, oppressive, confiscatory or contrary to declared national policy: Provided, further, That
the ordinance levying such taxes, fees or charges shall not be enacted without any prior public
hearing conducted for the purpose. (Emphasis Ours.)

Ruzol further argued that the permits to transport were issued under his power and authority as
Municipal Mayor under Sec. 444 of the same law:

(iv) Issue licenses and permits and suspend or revoke the same for any violation of the conditions
upon which said licenses or permits had been issued, pursuant to law or ordinance;

xxxx

vii) Adopt adequate measures to safeguard and conserve land, mineral, marine, forest, and other
resources of the municipality; provide efficient and effective property and supply management in the
municipality; and protect the funds, credits, rights and other properties of the municipality. (Emphasis
Ours.)

Ruzol is correct to a point. Nevertheless, We find that an enabling ordinance is necessary to confer
the subject permits with validity. As correctly held by the Sandiganbayan, the power to levy fees or
charges under the LGC is exercised by the Sangguniang Bayan through the enactment of an
appropriate ordinance wherein the terms, conditions and rates of the fees are prescribed.24 Needless
to say, one of the fundamental principles of local fiscal administration is that "local revenue is
generated only from sources expressly authorized by law or ordinance."25

It is likewise expressly stated in Sec. 444(b)(3)(iv) of the LGC that the authority of the municipal
mayor to issue licenses and permits should be "pursuant to a law or ordinance." It is the
Sangguniang Bayan, as the legislative body of the municipality, which is mandated by law to enact
ordinances against acts which endanger the environment, i.e., illegal logging, and smuggling of logs
and other natural resources.26

In this case, an examination of the pertinent provisions of General Nakar’s Revised Municipal
Revenue Code27 and Municipal Environment Code28 reveals that there is no provision unto which the
issuance of the permits to transport may be grounded. Thus, in the absence of an ordinance for the
regulation and transportation of salvaged products, the permits to transport issued by Ruzol are
infirm.

Ruzol’s insistence that his actions are pursuant to the LGU’s devolved function to "manage and
control communal forests" under Sec. 17 of the LGC and DAO 1992-3029 is specious. Although We
recognize the LGU’s authority in the management and control of communal forests within its
territorial jurisdiction, We reiterate that this authority should be exercised and enforced in
accordance with the procedural parameters established by law for its effective and efficient
execution. As can be gleaned from the same Sec. 17 of the LGC, the LGU’s authority to manage
and control communal forests should be "pursuant to national policies and is subject to supervision,
control and review of DENR."

As correctly held by the Sandiganbayan, the term "communal forest"30 has a well-defined and
technical meaning.31Consequently, as an entity endowed with specialized competence and
knowledge on forest resources, the DENR cannot be discounted in the establishment of communal
forest. The DILG, on behalf of the LGUs, and the DENR promulgated JMC 1998-01 which outlined
the following procedure:

Section 8.4 Communal Forest

8.4.1 Existing Communal Forest

The devolution to and management of the communal forest by the city and municipal governments
shall be governed by the following general procedures:

(a) DENR, through its CENRO, and the concerned LGU shall undertake the actual
identification and assessment of existing communal forests. The assessment shall determine
the suitability of the existing communal forests. If these are no longer suitable, then these
communal forests may be disestablished. The Approval for disestablishment shall be by the
RED upon recommendation of the DENR-LGU assessment Team through the PENRO and
the RTD for Forestry;

(b) Existing communal forest which are found and recommended by the DENR-LGU
Assessment Team as still suitable to achieve their purpose shall be maintained as such.
Thereafter, the Sangguniang Panglungsod or Sangguniang Bayan where the communal
forest is located shall pass resolution requesting the DENR Secretary for the turnover of said
communal forest to the city or municipality. Upon receipt of said resolution, the DENR
Secretary shall issue an Administrative Order officially transferring said communal forest to
the concerned LGU. The DENR RED shall effect the official transfer to the concerned LGU
within fifteen (15) days from the issuance of the administrative order;

(c) Within twelve months from the issuance of the Administrative Order and turnover of said
communal forest to the city or municipality, the LGU to which the communal forest was
transferred shall formulate and submit to the Provincial ENR Council for approval a
management plan governing the sustainable development of the communal forest.

For the purpose of formulating the communal forest management plan, DENR shall, in coordination
with the concerned LGU, undertake a forest resource inventory and determine the sustainable level
of forest resource utilization and provide the LGU technical assistance in all facets of forest
management planning to ensure sustainable development. The management plan should include
provision for replanting by the communities and the LGUs of the communal forests to ensure
sustainability.
8.4.2 Establishment of New Communal Forest

The establishment of new communal forests shall be governed by the following guidelines:

(a) DENR, through its CENRO, together with the concerned city/municipal LGU shall jointly
identify potential communal forest areas within the geographic jurisdiction of the concerned
city/municipality.

(b) Communal forests to be established shall be identified through a forest land use planning
to be undertaken jointly between the DENR and the concerned LGU. The ensuing forest land
use plan shall indicate, among others, the site and location of the communal forests within
the production forest categorized as such in the forest land use plan;

(c) Once the forest land use plan has been affirmed, the local chief executive shall initiate the
passage by the LGU’s sanggunian of a resolution requesting the DENR Secretary to issue
an Administrative Order declaring the identified area as a communal forest. The required
administrative order shall be issued within sixty (60) days after receipt of the resolution;

(d) Upon acceptance of the responsibility for the communal forest, the city/municipal LGU
shall formulate the management plan and submit the same to its ENR Council. The
management plan shall include provision for replanting by the communities and the LGUs of
the communal forests to ensure sustainability.

The communal forests of each municipality shall in no case exceed a total of 5,000 hectares.
(Emphasis Ours.)

It is clear, therefore, that before an area may be considered a communal forest, the following
requirements must be accomplished: (1) an identification of potential communal forest areas within
the geographic jurisdiction of the concerned city/municipality; (2) a forest land use plan which shall
indicate, among other things, the site and location of the communal forests; (3) a request to the
DENR Secretary through a resolution passed by the Sangguniang Bayan concerned; and (4) an
administrative order issued by DENR Secretary declaring the identified area as a communal forest.

In the present case, the records are bereft of any showing that these requirements were complied
with. Thus, in the absence of an established communal forest within the Municipality of General
Nakar, there was no way that the subject permits to transport were issued as an incident to the
management and control of a communal forest.

This is not to say, however, that compliance with abovementioned statutory requirements for the
issuance of permits to transport foregoes the necessity of obtaining the Wood Recovery Permit from
the DENR. As earlier discussed, the permits to transport may be issued to complement, and not
substitute, the Wood Recovery Permit, and may be used only as an additional measure in the
regulation of salvaged forest products. To elucidate, a person seeking to transport salvaged forest
products still has to acquire a Wood Recovery Permit from the DENR as a prerequisite before
obtaining the corresponding permit to transport issued by the LGU.

Main Issue:

Whether Ruzol Is Guilty of Usurpation of Official Functions


The foregoing notwithstanding, Ruzol cannot be held guilty of Usurpation of Official Functions as
defined and penalized under Art. 177 of the RPC, to wit:

Art. 177. Usurpation of authority or official functions. — Any person who shall knowingly and falsely
represent himself to be an officer, agent or representative of any department or agency of the
Philippine Government or of any foreign government, or who, under pretense of official position,
shall perform any act pertaining to any person in authority or public officer of the Philippine
Government or any foreign government, or any agency thereof, without being lawfully entitled to do
so, shall suffer the penalty of prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods. (Emphasis
Ours.)

As the aforementioned provision is formulated, there are two ways of committing this crime: first, by
knowingly and falsely representing himself to be an officer, agent or representative of any
department or agency of the Philippine Government or of any foreign government; or second, under
pretense of official position, shall perform any act pertaining to any person in authority or public
officer of the Philippine Government or any foreign government, or any agency thereof, without being
lawfully entitled to do so.32 The former constitutes the crime of usurpation of authority, while the latter
act constitutes the crime of usurpation of official functions.33

In the present case, Ruzol stands accused of usurpation of official functions for issuing 221 permits
to transport salvaged forest products under the alleged "pretense of official position and without
being lawfully entitled to do so, such authority properly belonging to the Department of Environment
and Natural Resources."34 The Sandiganbayan ruled that all the elements of the crime were
attendant in the present case because the authority to issue the subject permits belongs solely to the
DENR.35

We rule otherwise.

First, it is settled that an accused in a criminal case is presumed innocent until the contrary is proved
and that to overcome the presumption, nothing but proof beyond reasonable doubt must be
established by the prosecution.36As held by this Court in People v. Sitco:37

The imperative of proof beyond reasonable doubt has a vital role in our criminal justice system, the
accused, during a criminal prosecution, having a stake interest of immense importance, both
because of the possibility that he may lose his freedom if convicted and because of the certainty that
his conviction will leave a permanent stain on his reputation and name. (Emphasis supplied.)

Citing Rabanal v. People,38 the Court further explained:

Law and jurisprudence demand proof beyond reasonable doubt before any person may be deprived
of his life, liberty, or even property. Enshrined in the Bill of Rights is the right of the petitioner to be
presumed innocent until the contrary is proved, and to overcome the presumption, nothing but proof
beyond reasonable doubt must be established by the prosecution. The constitutional presumption of
innocence requires courts to take "a more than casual consideration" of every circumstance of doubt
proving the innocence of petitioner. (Emphasis added.)

Verily, an accused is entitled to an acquittal unless his or her guilt is shown beyond reasonable
doubt and it is the primordial duty of the prosecution to present its side with clarity and persuasion,
so that conviction becomes the only logical and inevitable conclusion, with moral certainty.39 As
explained by this Court in People v. Berroya:40
The necessity for proof beyond reasonable doubt lies in the fact that "(i)n a criminal prosecution, the
State is arrayed against the subject; it enters the contest with a prior inculpatory finding in its hands;
with unlimited means of command; with counsel usually of authority and capacity, who are regarded
as public officers, and therefore as speaking semi-judicially, and with an attitude of tranquil majesty
often in striking contrast to that of defendant engaged in a perturbed and distracting struggle for
liberty if not for life. These inequalities of position, the law strives to meet by the rule that there is to
be no conviction when there is a reasonable doubt of guilt."

Indeed, proof beyond reasonable doubt does not mean such a degree of proof, excluding possibility
of error, produces absolute certainty; moral certainly only is required, or that degree of proof which
produces conviction in an unprejudiced mind.41 However, contrary to the ruling of the
Sandiganbayan, We find that a careful scrutiny of the events surrounding this case failed to prove
that Ruzol is guilty beyond reasonable doubt of committing the crime of usurpation of official
functions of the DENR.

We note that this case of usurpation against Ruzol rests principally on the prosecution’s theory that
the DENR is the only government instrumentality that can issue the permits to transport salvaged
forest products. The prosecution asserted that Ruzol usurped the official functions that properly
belong to the DENR.

But erstwhile discussed at length, the DENR is not the sole government agency vested with the
authority to issue permits relevant to the transportation of salvaged forest products, considering that,
pursuant to the general welfare clause, LGUs may also exercise such authority. Also, as can be
gleaned from the records, the permits to transport were meant to complement and not to replace the
Wood Recovery Permit issued by the DENR. In effect, Ruzol required the issuance of the subject
permits under his authority as municipal mayor and independently of the official functions granted to
the DENR. The records are likewise bereft of any showing that Ruzol made representations or false
pretenses that said permits could be used in lieu of, or at the least as an excuse not to obtain, the
Wood Recovery Permit from the DENR.

Second, contrary to the findings of the Sandiganbayan, Ruzol acted in good faith.

It bears stressing at this point that in People v. Hilvano,42 this Court enunciated that good faith is a
defense in criminal prosecutions for usurpation of official functions.43 The term "good faith" is
ordinarily used to describe that state of mind denoting "honesty of intention, and freedom from
knowledge of circumstances which ought to put the holder upon inquiry; an honest intention to
abstain from taking any unconscientious advantage of another, even though technicalities of law,
together with absence of all information, notice, or benefit or belief of facts which render transaction
unconscientious."44 Good faith is actually a question of intention and although something internal, it
can be ascertained by relying not on one’s self-serving protestations of good faith but on evidence of
his conduct and outward acts.45

In dismissing Ruzol’s claim of good faith, the Sandiganbayan reasoned as follows:

If it is really true that Ruzol believed himself to be authorized under R.A. 7160 to issue the subject
permits, why did he have to secure the approval of the various NGOs, People’s Organizations and
religious organizations before issuing the said permits? He could very well have issued subject
permits even without the approval of these various organizations if he truly believed that he was
legally empowered to do so considering that the endorsement of these organizations is not required
by law. That Ruzol had to arm himself with their endorsement could only mean that he actually knew
that he had no legal basis for issuing the said permits; thus he had to look elsewhere for support and
back-up.46 (Emphasis Ours.)
We, however, cannot subscribe to this posture as there is neither legal basis nor established
doctrine to draw a conclusion that good faith is negated when an accused sought another person’s
approval. Neither is there any doctrine in law which provides that bad faith is present when one
seeks the opinion or affirmation of others.

Contrary to the conclusions made by the Sandiganbayan, We find that the conduct of the public
consultation was not a badge of bad faith, but a sign supporting Ruzol’s good intentions to regulate
and monitor the movement of salvaged forest products to prevent abuse and occurrence of
untoward illegal logging. In fact, the records will bear that the requirement of permits to transport was
not Ruzol’s decision alone; it was, as earlier narrated, a result of the collective decision of the
participants during the Multi-Sectoral Consultative Assembly. As attested to by Bishop Julio Xavier
Labayen, it was the participants who agreed that the subject permits be issued by the Office of the
Mayor of General Nakar, through Ruzol, in the exercise of the latter’s authority as local chief
executive.47

The Sandiganbayan also posits the view that Ruzol’s good faith is negated by the fact that if he truly
believed he was authorized to issue the subject permits, Ruzol did not have to request the presence
and obtain the permission of PENRO Rogelio Delgado Sr. during the Multi-Sectoral Assembly.48

The graft court’s above posture, however, does not commend itself for concurrence. If, indeed,
Ruzol willfully and deliberately intended to usurp the official functions of the DENR as averred by the
prosecution, he would not have asked the presence of a DENR official who has the authority and
credibility to publicly object against Ruzol’s allegedly intended usurpation. Thus, the presence of
PENRO Delgado during the Multi-Sectoral Assembly does not negate, but strengthens Ruzol’s claim
of good faith.

As a final note, We emphasize that the burden of protecting the environment is placed not on the
shoulders of DENR alone––each and every one of us, whether in an official or private capacity, has
his or her significant role to play. Indeed, protecting the environment is not only a responsibility but
also a right for which a citizen could and should freely exercise. Considering the rampant forest
denudation, environmental degradation and plaguing scarcity of natural resources, each of us is now
obligated to contribute and share in the responsibility of protecting and conserving our treasured
natural resources.

Ruzol chose to exercise this right and to share in this responsibility by exercising his authority as
municipal mayor––an act which was executed with the concurrence and cooperation of non-
governmental organizations, industry stakeholders, and the concerned citizens of General Nakar.
Admittedly, We consider his acts as invalid but it does necessarily mean that such mistakes
automatically demand Us to rule a conviction. This is in consonance with the settled principle that "all
reasonable doubt intended to demonstrate error and not crime should be indulged in for the benefit
of the accused."49

Under our criminal judicial system, "evil intent must unite with the unlawful act for a crime to exist,"
as "there can be no crime when the criminal mind is wanting."50 Actus non facit reum, nisi mens sit
rea.

In the present case, the prosecution has failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Ruzol
possessed that "criminal mind" when he issued the subject permits. What is clear from the records is
that Ruzol, as municipal mayor, intended to regulate and monitor salvaged forest products within
General Nakar in order to avert the occurrence of illegal logging in the area. We find that to hold him
criminally liable for these seemingly noble intentions would be a step backward and would run
contrary to the standing advocacy of encouraging people to take a pro-active stance in the protection
of the environment and conservation of our natural resources.

Incidentally, considering the peculiar circumstances of the present case and considering further that
this case demands only the determination of Ruzol's guilt or innocence for usurpation of official
functions under the RPC, for which the issue on the validity of the subject Permits to Transport is
only subsidiary, We hereby resolve this case only for this purpose and only in this instance, pro hac
vice, and, in the interest of justice, rule in favor of Ruzol' s acquittal.

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the December 19, 2008 Decision of the Sandiganbayan First
Division in Criminal Case Nos. SB-08-CRIM-0039 to 0259, finding Leovegildo R. Ruzol guilty of
violating Art. 177 of the Revised Penal Code, is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE.

Accused Leovegildo R. Ruzol is, thus, ACQUITTED on the basis of reasonable doubt of the crimes
as charged.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 211356, September 29, 2014

CRISOSTOMO B. AQUINO, Petitioner, v. MUNICIPALITY OF MALAY, AKLAN, REPRESENTED BY HON.


MAYOR JOHN P. YAP, SANGGUNIANG BAYAN OF MALAY, AKLAN, REPRESENTED BY HON. EZEL
FLORES, DANTE PASUGUIRON, ROWEN AGUIRRE, WILBEC GELITO, JUPITER GALLENERO, OFFICE
OF THE MUNICIPAL ENGINEER, OFFICE OF THE MUNICIPAL TREASURER, BORACAY PNP CHIEF,
BORACAY FOUNDATION, INC., REPRESENTED BY NENETTE GRAF, MUNICIPAL AUXILIARY POLICE,
AND JOHN AND JANE DOES, Respondents.

DECISION

VELASCO JR., J.:

Nature of the Case

Before the Court is a Petition for Review on Certiorari challenging the Decision1 and the Resolution of the
Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 120042 dated August 13, 2013 and February 3, 2014, respectively.
The assailed rulings denied Crisostomo Aquino’s Petition for Certiorari for not being the proper remedy to
question the issuance and implementation of Executive Order No. 10, Series of 2011 (EO 10), ordering the
demolition of his hotel establishment.

The Facts

Petitioner is the president and chief executive officer of Boracay Island West Cove Management Philippines,
Inc. (Boracay West Cove). On January 7, 2010, the company applied for a zoning compliance with the
municipal government of Malay, Aklan.2 While the company was already operating a resort in the area, the
application sought the issuance of a building permit covering the construction of a three-storey hotel over a
parcel of land measuring 998 sqm. located in Sitio Diniwid, Barangay Balagab, Boracay Island, Malay, Aklan,
which is covered by a Forest Land Use Agreement for Tourism Purposes (FLAgT) issued by the Department
of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in favor of Boracay West Cove.

Through a Decision on Zoning dated January 20, 2010, the Municipal Zoning Administrator denied
petitioner’s application on the ground that the proposed construction site was within the “no build zone”
demarcated in Municipal Ordinance 2000-131 (Ordinance).3 As provided in the Ordinance: chanRoble svirtual Lawlib ra ry

SECTION 2. – Definition of Terms. As used in this Ordinance, the following words, terms and phrases shall
mean as follows: chanRoblesvi rtua lLawl ibrary

xxxx
(b) No Build Zone – the space twenty-five (25) meters from the edge of the mean high water mark
measured inland;

xxxx

SECTION 3. – No building or structure of any kind whether temporary or permanent shall be allowed to be
set up, erected or constructed on the beaches around the Island of Boracay and in its offshore waters.
During the conduct of special activities or special events, the Sangguniang Bayan may, through a
Resolution, authorize the Office of the Mayor to issue Special Permits for construction of temporary
structures on the beach for the duration of the special activity as embodied in the Resolution.

In due time, petitioner appealed the denial action to the Office of the Mayor on February 1, 2010.

On May 13, 2010, petitioner followed up his appeal through a letter but no action was ever taken by the
respondent mayor. On April 5, 2011, however, a Notice of Assessment was sent to petitioner asking for the
settlement of Boracay West Cove’s unpaid taxes and other liabilities under pain of a recommendation for
closure in view of its continuous commercial operation since 2009 sans the necessary zoning clearance,
building permit, and business and mayor’s permit. In reply, petitioner expressed willingness to settle the
company’s obligations, but the municipal treasurer refused to accept the tendered payment. Meanwhile,
petitioner continued with the construction, expansion, and operation of the resort hotel.

Subsequently, on March 28, 2011, a Cease and Desist Order was issued by the municipal government,
enjoining the expansion of the resort, and on June 7, 2011, the Office of the Mayor of Malay, Aklan issued
the assailed EO 10, ordering the closure and demolition of Boracay West Cove’s hotel.

EO 10 was partially implemented on June 10, 2011. Thereafter, two more instances followed wherein
respondents demolished the improvements introduced by Boracay West Cove, the most recent of which was
made in February 2014.

Alleging that the order was issued and executed with grave abuse of discretion, petitioner filed a Petition for
Certiorari with prayer for injunctive relief with the CA. He argued that judicial proceedings should first be
conducted before the respondent mayor could order the demolition of the company’s establishment; that
Boracay West Cove was granted a FLAgT by the DENR, which bestowed the company the right to construct
permanent improvements on the area in question; that since the area is a forestland, it is the DENR—and
not the municipality of Malay, or any other local government unit for that matter—that has primary
jurisdiction over the area, and that the Regional Executive Director of DENR-Region 6 had officially issued an
opinion regarding the legal issues involved in the present case; that the Ordinance admits of exceptions;
and lastly, that it is the mayor who should be blamed for not issuing the necessary clearances in the
company’s favor.

In rebuttal, respondents contended that the FLAgT does not excuse the company from complying with the
Ordinance and Presidential Decree No. 1096 (PD 1096), otherwise known as the National Building Code of
the Philippines. Respondents also argued that the demolition needed no court order because the municipal
mayor has the express power under the Local Government Code (LGC) to order the removal of illegally
constructed buildings.

Ruling of the Court of Appeals

In its assailed Decision dated August 13, 2013, the CA dismissed the petition solely on procedural ground,
i.e., the special writ of certiorari can only be directed against a tribunal, board, or officer exercising judicial
or quasi-judicial functions and since the issuance of EO 10 was done in the exercise of executive functions,
and not of judicial or quasi-judicial functions, certiorari will not lie. Instead, the proper remedy for the
petitioner, according to the CA, is to file a petition for declaratory relief with the Regional Trial Court.

Petitioner sought reconsideration but this was denied by the CA on February 3, 2014 through the challenged
Resolution. Hence, the instant petition raising arguments on both procedure and substance.

The Issues

Stripped to the essentials, the pivotal issues in the extant case are as follows: chanRoble svirtual Lawli bra ry
The propriety under the premises of the filing of a petition for certiorari instead of a petition for
declaratory relief;

a. Whether or not declaratory relief is still available to petitioner;

b. Whether or not the CA correctly ruled that the respondent mayor was performing neither a judicial
nor quasi-judicial function when he ordered the closure and demolition of Boracay West Cove’s
hotel;

Whether or not respondent mayor committed grave abuse of discretion when he issued EO 10;

a. Whether or not petitioner’s right to due process was violated when the respondent mayor ordered
the closure and demolition of Boracay West Cove’s hotel without first conducting judicial
proceedings;

b. Whether or not the LGU’s refusal to issue petitioner the necessary building permit and clearances
was justified;

c. Whether or not petitioner’s rights under the FLAgT prevail over the municipal ordinance providing
for a no-build zone; and ChanRobles Vi rtua lawlib rary

d. Whether or not the DENR has primary jurisdiction over the controversy, not the LGU.

The Court’s Ruling

We deny the petition.

Certiorari, not declaratory relief, is the proper remedy

a. Declaratory relief no longer viable

Resolving first the procedural aspect of the case, We find merit in petitioner’s contention that the special writ
of certiorari , and not declaratory relief, is the proper remedy for assailing EO 10. As provided under Sec. 1,
Rule 63 of the Rules of Court: chanRoble svirtual Lawlib ra ry

SECTION 1. Who may file petition. – Any person interested under a deed, will, contract or other written
instrument, whose rights are affected by a statute, executive order or regulation, ordinance or any other
governmental regulation may, before breach or violation thereof, bring an action in the appropriate
Regional Trial Court to determine any question of construction or validity arising, and for a declaration of his
rights or duties, thereunder. x x x (emphasis added)

An action for declaratory relief presupposes that there has been no actual breach of the instruments
involved or of the rights arising thereunder. Since the purpose of an action for declaratory relief is to secure
an authoritative statement of the rights and obligations of the parties under a statute, deed, or contract for
their guidance in the enforcement thereof, or compliance therewith, and not to settle issues arising from an
alleged breach thereof, it may be entertained before the breach or violation of the statute, deed or contract
to which it refers. A petition for declaratory relief gives a practical remedy for ending controversies that
have not reached the state where another relief is immediately available; and supplies the need for a form
of action that will set controversies at rest before they lead to a repudiation of obligations, an invasion of
rights, and a commission of wrongs.4 cralawlawl ibra ry

In the case at bar, the petition for declaratory relief became unavailable by EO 10’s enforcement and
implementation. The closure and demolition of the hotel rendered futile any possible guidelines that may be
issued by the trial court for carrying out the directives in the challenged EO 10. Indubitably, the CA erred
when it ruled that declaratory relief is the proper remedy given such a situation.

b. Petitioner correctly resorted to certiorari


On the propriety of filing a petition for certiorari , Sec. 1, Rule 65 of the Rules of Court provides: chanRoble svirtual Lawli bra ry

Section 1. Petition for certiorari . — When any tribunal, board or officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial
functions has acted without or in excess of its or his jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion
amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, and there is no appeal, or any plain, speedy, and adequate
remedy in the ordinary course of law, a person aggrieved thereby may file a verified petition in the proper
court, alleging the facts with certainty and praying that judgment be rendered annulling or modifying the
proceedings of such tribunal, board or officer, and granting such incidental reliefs as law and justice may
require. x x x

For certiorari to prosper, the petitioner must establish the concurrence of the following requisites,
namely: chanRoble svirtual Lawlib ra ry

1. The writ is directed against a tribunal, board, or officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions;

2. Such tribunal, board, or officer has acted without or in excess of jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of
discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction; and ChanRobles Vi rtua lawlib rary

3. There is no appeal or any plain speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.5

Guilty of reiteration, the CA immediately dismissed the Petition for Certiorari upon determining that the first
element is wanting—that respondent mayor was allegedly not exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions
when he issued EO 10.

We are not persuaded.

The CA fell into a trap when it ruled that a mayor, an officer from the executive department, exercises an
executive function whenever he issues an Executive Order. This is tad too presumptive for it is the nature of
the act to be performed, rather than of the office, board, or body which performs it, that determines
whether or not a particular act is a discharge of judicial or quasi-judicial functions. The first requirement
for certiorari is satisfied if the officers act judicially in making their decision, whatever may be their public
character.6 cralawlawlib rary

It is not essential that the challenged proceedings should be strictly and technically judicial, in the sense in
which that word is used when applied to courts of justice, but it is sufficient if they are quasi-judicial.7 To
contrast, a party is said to be exercising a judicial function where he has the power to determine what the
law is and what legal rights of the parties are, and then undertakes to determine these questions and
adjudicate upon the rights of the parties, whereas quasi-judicial function is “a term which applies to the
actions, discretion, etc., of public administrative officers or bodies x x x required to investigate facts or
ascertain the existence of facts, hold hearings, and draw conclusions from them as a basis for their official
action and to exercise discretion of a judicial nature.”8 cralawlawlib rary

In the case at bench, the assailed EO 10 was issued upon the respondent mayor’s finding that Boracay West
Cove’s construction, expansion, and operation of its hotel in Malay, Aklan is illegal. Such a finding of
illegality required the respondent mayor’s exercise of quasi-judicial functions, against which the special writ
of certiorari may lie. Apropos hereto is Our ruling in City Engineer of Baguio v. Baniqued:9 cra lawlawlib rary

There is no gainsaying that a city mayor is an executive official nor is the matter of issuing demolition
notices or orders not a ministerial one. In determining whether or not a structure is illegal or it should be
demolished, property rights are involved thereby needing notices and opportunity to be heard as provided
for in the constitutionally guaranteed right of due process. In pursuit of these functions, the city mayor has
to exercise quasi-judicial powers.

With the foregoing discussion, the CA erred in ruling that the respondent mayor was merely exercising his
executive functions, for clearly, the first requisite for the special writ has been satisfied.

Aside from the first requisite, We likewise hold that the third element, i.e., the unavailability of a plain,
speedy, or adequate remedy, is also present herein. While it may be argued that, under the LGC, Executive
Orders issued by mayors are subject to review by provincial governors,10 this cannot be considered as an
adequate remedy given the exigencies of petitioner’s predicament.

In a litany of cases, We have held that it is inadequacy, not the mere absence of all other legal remedies
and the danger of failure of justice without the writ, that must usually determine the propriety of certiorari .
A remedy is plain, speedy and adequate if it will promptly relieve the petitioner from the injurious effects of
the judgment, order, or resolution of the lower court or agency. It is understood, then, that a litigant need
not mark time by resorting to the less speedy remedy of appeal in order to have an order annulled and set
aside for being patently void for failure of the trial court to comply with the Rules of Court.11
cralawlawlib rary

Before applying this doctrine, it must first be borne in mind that respondents in this case have already taken
measures towards implementing EO 10. In fact, substantial segments of the hotel have already been
demolished pursuant to the mayor’s directive. It is then understandable why petitioner prayed for the
issuance of an injunctive writ––a provisional remedy that would otherwise have been unavailable had he
sought a reversal from the office of the provincial governor of Aklan. Evidently, petitioner correctly saw the
urgent need for judicial intervention via certiorari .

In light of the foregoing, the CA should have proceeded to grab the bull by its horns and determine the
existence of the second element of certiorari ––whether or not there was grave abuse of discretion on the
part of respondents.

Upon Our finding that a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 is the appropriate remedy, We will proceed to
resolve the core issues in view of the urgency of the reliefs prayed for in the petition.

Respondents did not commit grave abuse of discretion

a. The hotel’s classification as a nuisance

Article 694 of the Civil Code defines “nuisance” as any act, omission, establishment, business, condition or
property, or anything else that (1) injures or endangers the health or safety of others; (2) annoys or offends
the senses; (3) shocks, defies or disregards decency or morality; (4) obstructs or interferes with the free
passage of any public highway or street, or any body of water; or (5) hinders or impairs the use of
property.12c ralawlawl ibra ry

In establishing a no build zone through local legislation, the LGU effectively made a determination that
constructions therein, without first securing exemptions from the local council, qualify as nuisances for they
pose a threat to public safety. No build zones are intended for the protection of the public because the
stability of the ground’s foundation is adversely affected by the nearby body of water. The ever present
threat of high rising storm surges also justifies the ban on permanent constructions near the shoreline.
Indeed, the area’s exposure to potential geo-hazards cannot be ignored and ample protection to the
residents of Malay, Aklan should be afforded.

Challenging the validity of the public respondents’ actuations, petitioner posits that the hotel cannot
summarily be abated because it is not a nuisance per se, given the hundred million peso-worth of capital
infused in the venture. Citing Asilo, Jr. v. People,13 petitioner also argues that respondents should have first
secured a court order before proceeding with the demolition.

Preliminarily, We agree with petitioner’s posture that the property involved cannot be classified as a
nuisance per se, but not for the reason he so offers. Property valuation, after all, is not the litmus test for
such a determination. More controlling is the property’s nature and conditions, which should be evaluated to
see if it qualifies as a nuisance as defined under the law.

As jurisprudence elucidates, nuisances are of two kinds: nuisance per se and nuisance per accidens. The first
is recognized as a nuisance under any and all circumstances, because it constitutes a direct menace to
public health or safety, and, for that reason, may be abated summarily under the undefined law of
necessity. The second is that which depends upon certain conditions and circumstances, and its existence
being a question of fact, it cannot be abated without due hearing thereon in a tribunal authorized to decide
whether such a thing does in law constitute a nuisance.14 cralaw lawlib rary

In the case at bar, the hotel, in itself, cannot be considered as a nuisance per se since this type of nuisance
is generally defined as an act, occupation, or structure, which is a nuisance at all times and under any
circumstances, regardless of location or surrounding.15 Here, it is merely the hotel’s particular incident––
its location––and not its inherent qualities that rendered it a nuisance. Otherwise stated, had it not been
constructed in the no build zone, Boracay West Cove could have secured the necessary permits without
issue. As such, petitioner is correct that the hotel is not a nuisance per se, but to Our mind, it is still a
nuisance per accidens.

b. Respondent mayor has the power to order the demolition of illegal constructions

Generally, LGUs have no power to declare a particular thing as a nuisance unless such a thing is a
nuisance per se.16 So it was held in AC Enterprises v. Frabelle Properties Corp:17 cra lawlawlib rary

We agree with petitioner’s contention that, under Section 447(a)(3)(i) of R.A. No. 7160, otherwise known as
the Local Government Code, the Sangguniang Panglungsod is empowered to enact ordinances declaring,
preventing or abating noise and other forms of nuisance. It bears stressing, however, that the Sangguniang
Bayan cannot declare a particular thing as a nuisance per se and order its condemnation. It does not have
the power to find, as a fact, that a particular thing is a nuisance when such thing is not a
nuisance per se; nor can it authorize the extrajudicial condemnation and destruction of that as a
nuisance which in its nature, situation or use is not such. Those things must be determined and
resolved in the ordinary courts of law. If a thing, be in fact, a nuisance due to the manner of its
operation, that question cannot be determined by a mere resolution of the Sangguniang Bayan. (emphasis
supplied)

Despite the hotel’s classification as a nuisance per accidens, however, We still find in this case that the LGU
may nevertheless properly order the hotel’s demolition. This is because, in the exercise of police power and
the general welfare clause,18 property rights of individuals may be subjected to restraints and burdens in
order to fulfill the objectives of the government. Otherwise stated, the government may enact legislation
that may interfere with personal liberty, property, lawful businesses and occupations to promote the general
welfare.19cra lawlawlib ra ry

One such piece of legislation is the LGC, which authorizes city and municipal governments, acting through
their local chief executives, to issue demolition orders. Under existing laws, the office of the mayor is given
powers not only relative to its function as the executive official of the town; it has also been endowed with
authority to hear issues involving property rights of individuals and to come out with an effective order or
resolution thereon.20 Pertinent herein is Sec. 444 (b)(3)(vi) of the LGC, which empowered the mayor to
order the closure and removal of illegally constructed establishments for failing to secure the necessary
permits, to wit: cha nRoblesvi rt ual Lawlib rary

Section 444. The Chief Executive: Powers, Duties, Functions and Compensation. –

xxxx

(b) For efficient, effective and economical governance the purpose of which is the general welfare of the
municipality and its inhabitants pursuant to Section 16 of this Code, the municipal mayor shall: chanro blesvi rt uallawl ibra ry

xxxx

(3) Initiate and maximize the generation of resources and revenues, and apply the same to the
implementation of development plans, program objectives and priorities as provided for under Section 18 of
this Code, particularly those resources and revenues programmed for agro-industrial development and
country-wide growth and progress, and relative thereto, shall: chan roble svirtuallaw lib rary

xxxx

(vi) Require owners of illegally constructed houses, buildings or other structures to obtain the
necessary permit, subject to such fines and penalties as may be imposed by law or ordinance, or
to make necessary changes in the construction of the same when said construction violates any
law or ordinance, or to order the demolition or removal of said house, building or structure
within the period prescribed by law or ordinance. (emphasis supplied)

c. Requirements for the exercise of the power are present


i. Illegality of structures

In the case at bar, petitioner admittedly failed to secure the necessary permits, clearances, and exemptions
before the construction, expansion, and operation of Boracay Wet Cove’s hotel in Malay, Aklan. To recall,
petitioner declared that the application for zoning compliance was still pending with the office of the mayor
even though construction and operation were already ongoing at the same time. As such, it could no longer
be denied that petitioner openly violated Municipal Ordinance 2000-131, which provides: cha nRoblesv irt ual Lawlib rary

SECTION 9. – Permits and Clearances.

(a) No building or structure shall be allowed to start construction


unless a Building Permit therefore has been duly issued by the
Office of the Municipal Engineer. Once issued, the building owner or
any person in charge of the construction shall display on the lot or on
the building undergoing construction a placard containing the Building
Permit Number and the date of its issue. The office of the Municipal
Engineer shall not issue any building permit unless:
1. The proposed construction has been duly issued a Zoning
Clearance by the Office of the Municipal Zoning Officer;
2. The proposed construction has been duly endorsed by the
Sangguniang Bayan through a Letter of Endorsement.

(b) Only buildings/structures which has complied with all the requirements
for its construction as verified to by the Building Inspector and the
Sangguniang Bayan shall be issued a Certificate of Occupancy by the
Office of the Municipal Engineer.
(c) No Business or Mayor’s Permit shall be issued to businesses
being undertaken on buildings or structures which were not
issued a certificate of Occupancy beginning January 2001 and
thereafter.
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SECTION 10. – Penalties.

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(e) Any building, structure, or contraption erected in any public place within the Municipality of Malay such
as but not limited to streets, thoroughfares, sidewalks, plazas, beaches or in any other public place are
hereby declared as nuisance and illegal structure. Such building structure or contraption shall be
demolished by the owner thereof or any of his authorized representative within ten (10) days
from receipt of the notice to demolish. Failure or refusal on the part of the owner or any of his
authorized representative to demolish the illegal structure within the period herein above
specified shall automatically authorize the government of the Municipality of Malay to demolish
the same, gather and keep the construction materials of the demolished structure. (emphasis
supplied)

Petitioner cannot justify his position by passing the blame onto the respondent mayor and the latter’s failure
to act on his appeal for this does not, in any way, imply that petitioner can proceed with his infrastructure
projects. On the contrary, this only means that the decision of the zoning administrator denying the
application still stands and that petitioner acquired no right to construct on the no build zone.
The illegality of the construction cannot be cured by merely tendering payment for the necessary fees and
permits since the LGU’s refusal rests on valid grounds.

Instead of taking the law into his own hands, petitioner could have filed, as an alternative, a petition for
mandamus to compel the respondent mayor to exercise discretion and resolve the controversy pending
before his office. There is indeed an exception to the rule that matters involving judgment and discretion are
beyond the reach of a writ of mandamus, for such writ may be issued to compel action in those matters,
when refused. Whether or not the decision would be for or against petitioner would be for the respondent
mayor to decide, for while mandamus may be invoked to compel the exercise of discretion, it cannot compel
such discretion to be exercised in a particular way.21 What would have been important was for the
respondent mayor to immediately resolve the case for petitioner to be able to go through the motions that
the zoning clearance application process entailed.

Alas, petitioner opted to defy the zoning administrator’s ruling. He consciously chose to violate not only the
Ordinance but also Sec. 301 of PD 1096, laying down the requirement of building permits, which
provides:c hanRoble svirtual Lawli bra ry

Section 301. Building Permits. No person, firm or corporation, including any agency or instrumentality of the
government shall erect, construct, alter, repair, move, convert or demolish any building or structure or
cause the same to be done without first obtaining a building permit therefor from the Building Official
assigned in the place where the subject building is located or the building work is to be done.

This twin violation of law and ordinance warranted the LGU’s invocation of Sec. 444 (b)(3)(vi) of the LGC,
which power is separate and distinct from the power to summarily abate nuisances per se. Under the law,
insofar as illegal constructions are concerned, the mayor can, after satisfying the requirement of due notice
and hearing, order their closure and demolition.
ii. Observance of procedural due process rights
In the case at bench, the due process requirement is deemed to have been sufficiently complied
with. First, basic is the rule that public officers enjoy the presumption of regularity in the performance of
their duties.22 The burden is on the petitioner herein to prove that Boracay West Cove was deprived of the
opportunity to be heard before EO 10 was issued. Regrettably, copies of the Cease and Desist Order issued
by the LGU and of the assailed EO 10 itself were never attached to the petition before this Court, which
documents could have readily shed light on whether or not petitioner has been accorded the 10-day grace
period provided in Section 10 of the Ordinance. In view of this fact, the presumption of regularity must be
sustained. Second, as quoted by petitioner in his petition before the CA, the assailed EO 10 states that
petitioner received notices from the municipality government on March 7 and 28, 2011, requiring Boracay
West Cove to comply with the zoning ordinance and yet it failed to do so.23 If such was the case, the grace
period can be deemed observed and the establishment was already ripe for closure and demolition by the
time EO 10 was issued in June. Third, the observance of the 10-day allowance for the owner to demolish the
hotel was never questioned by petitioner so there is no need to discuss the same. Verily, the only grounds
invoked by petitioner in crying due process violation are (1) the absence of a court order prior to demolition
and (2) the municipal government’s exercise of jurisdiction over the controversy instead of the DENR.
Therefore, it can no longer be belatedly argued that the 10-day grace period was not observed because to
entertain the same would result in the violation of the respondents’ own due process rights.

Given the presence of the requirements under Sec. 444 (b)(3)(vi) of the LGC, whether the building
constituted a nuisance per se or a nuisance per accidens becomes immaterial. The hotel was demolished not
exactly because it is a nuisance but because it failed to comply with the legal requirements prior to
construction. It just so happened that, in the case at bar, the hotel’s incident that qualified it as a
nuisance per accidens––its being constructed within the no build zone––further resulted in the non-issuance
of the necessary permits and clearances, which is a ground for demolition under the LGC. Under the
premises, a court order that is required under normal circumstances is hereby dispensed with.

d. The FLAgT cannot prevail over the municipal ordinance and PD 1096

Petitioner next directs our attention to the following FLAgT provision: cha nRoblesv irt ual Lawlib rary

VII. The SECOND PARTY may construct permanent and/or temporary improvements or infrastructure in the
FLAgT Area necessary and appropriate for its development for tourism purposes pursuant to the approved
SMP. “Permanent Improvements” refer to access roads, and buildings or structures which adhere to the
ground in a fixed and permanent manner. On the other hand, “Temporary Improvements” include those
which are detachable from the foundation or the ground introduced by the SECOND PARTY in the FLAgT
Area and which the SECOND PARTY may remove or dismantle upon expiration or cancellation of this
AGREEMENT x x x.24 chanrobleslaw

Taken in conjunction with the exceptions laid down in Sections 6 and 8 of the Ordinance, petitioner argues
that Boracay West Cove is exempted from securing permits from the LGU. Said exceptions read: chanRo blesvi rtua lLaw lib rary

SECTION 6. – No building or structure shall be allowed to be constructed on a slope Twenty Five Percent
(25%) or higher unless provided with soil erosion protective structures and authorized by the Department of
Environment and Natural Resources.

xxxx

SECTION 8. – No building or structure shall be allowed to be constructed on a swamp or other water-


clogged areas unless authorized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

According to petitioner, the fact that it was issued a FLAgT constitutes sufficient authorization from the
DENR to proceed with the construction of the three-storey hotel.

The argument does not persuade.

The rights granted to petitioner under the FLAgT are not unbridled. Forestlands, although under the
management of the DENR, are not exempt from the territorial application of municipal laws, for local
government units legitimately exercise their powers of government over their defined territorial jurisdiction.

Furthermore, the conditions set forth in the FLAgT and the limitations circumscribed in the ordinance are not
mutually exclusive and are, in fact, cumulative. As sourced from Sec. 447 (a)(5)(i) of the LGC: chanRoblesvi rt ualLaw lib rary

Section 447. Powers, Duties, Functions and Compensation. –

(a) The sangguniang bayan, as the legislative body of the municipality, shall enact ordinances, approve
resolutions and appropriate funds for the general welfare of the municipality and its inhabitants pursuant to
Section 16 of this Code and in the proper exercise of the corporate powers of the municipality as provided
for under Section 22 of this Code, and shall: chan roblesv irtuallaw lib rary

xxxx

(5) Approve ordinances which shall ensure the efficient and effective delivery of the basic services and
facilities as provided for under Section 17 of this Code, and in addition to said services and facilities,
shall:
chan roble svirtual lawlib rary

(i) Provide for the establishment, maintenance, protection, and conservation of communal
forests and watersheds, tree parks, greenbelts, mangroves, and other similar forest development
projects x x x. (emphasis added)

Thus, aside from complying with the provisions in the FLAgT granted by the DENR, it was incumbent on
petitioner to likewise comply with the no build zone restriction under Municipal Ordinance 2000-131, which
was already in force even before the FLAgT was entered into. On this point, it is well to stress that Sections
6 and 8 of the Ordinance do not exempt petitioner from complying with the restrictions since these
provisions adverted to grant exemptions from the ban on constructions on slopes and swamps, not on the
no build zone.

Additionally, the FLAgT does not excuse petitioner from complying with PD 1096. As correctly pointed out by
respondents, the agreement cannot and will not amend or change the law because a legislative act cannot
be altered by mere contractual agreement. Hence, petitioner has no valid reason for its failure to secure a
building permit pursuant to Sec. 301 of the National Building Code.

e. The DENR does not have primary jurisdiction over the controversy

Lastly, in ascribing grave abuse of discretion on the part of the respondent mayor, petitioner argued that the
hotel site is a forestland under the primary jurisdiction of the DENR. As such, the merits of the case should
have been passed upon by the agency and not by the LGU. In the alternative, petitioner explains that even
if jurisdiction over the matter has been devolved in favor of the LGU, the DENR still has the power of review
and supervision over the former’s rulings. As cited by the petitioner, the LGC reads: chanR oblesvi rtual Lawl ibra ry

Section 17. Basic Services and Facilities. –

xxxx

(b) Such basic services and facilities include, but are not limited to, the following: c hanroblesv irt uallawl ibra ry

xxxx

(2) For a Municipality: chan roble svirtuallaw lib rary


xxxx

(ii) Pursuant to national policies and subject to supervision, control and review of the DENR, implementation
of community-based forestry projects which include integrated social forestry programs and similar projects;
management and control of communal forests with an area not exceeding fifty (50) square kilometers;
establishment of tree parks, greenbelts, and similar forest development projects. (emphasis added)

Petitioner has made much of the fact that in line with this provision, the DENR Region 6 had issued an
opinion favourable to petitioner.25 To petitioner, the adverted opinion effectively reversed the findings of the
respondent mayor that the structure introduced was illegally constructed.

We disagree.

In alleging that the case concerns the development and the proper use of the country’s environment and
natural resources, petitioner is skirting the principal issue, which is Boracay West Cove’s non-compliance
with the permit, clearance, and zoning requirements for building constructions under national and municipal
laws. He downplays Boracay West Cove’s omission in a bid to justify ousting the LGU of jurisdiction over the
case and transferring the same to the DENR. He attempts to blow the issue out of proportion when it all
boils down to whether or not the construction of the three-storey hotel was supported by the necessary
documentary requirements.

Based on law and jurisprudence, the office of the mayor has quasi-judicial powers to order the closing and
demolition of establishments. This power granted by the LGC, as earlier explained, We believe, is not the
same power devolved in favor of the LGU under Sec. 17 (b)(2)(ii), as above-quoted, which is subject to
review by the DENR. The fact that the building to be demolished is located within a forestland under the
administration of the DENR is of no moment, for what is involved herein, strictly speaking, is not an issue on
environmental protection, conservation of natural resources, and the maintenance of ecological balance, but
the legality or illegality of the structure. Rather than treating this as an environmental issue then, focus
should not be diverted from the root cause of this debacle––compliance.

Ultimately, the purported power of review by a regional office of the DENR over respondents’ actions
exercised through an instrumentality of an ex-parte opinion, in this case, finds no sufficient basis. At best,
the legal opinion rendered, though perhaps informative, is not conclusive on the courts and should be taken
with a grain of salt.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the petition is hereby DENIED for lack of merit. The Decision and
the Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 120042 dated August 13, 2013 and February 3,
2014, respectively, are hereby AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED. cralawred