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Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila THIRD DIVISION G.R. No. 163509 December 6, 2006

PICOP RESOURCES, INC., petitioner, vs. BASE METALS MINERAL RESOURCES CORPORATION, and THE MINES ADJUDICATION BOARD,respondents.

DECISION

TINGA, J.: PICOP Resources, Inc. (PICOP) assails the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals dated November 28, 2003 and its Resolution2 dated May 5, 2004, which respectively denied its petition for review and motion for reconsideration.

The undisputed facts quoted from the appellate court's Decision are as follows: In 1987, the Central Mindanao Mining and Development Corporation (CMMCI for brevity) entered into a Mines Operating Agreement (Agreement for brevity) with Banahaw Mining and Development Corporation (Banahaw Mining for brevity) whereby the latter agreed to act as Mine Operator for the exploration, development, and eventual commercial operation of CMMCI's eighteen (18) mining claims located in Agusan del Sur. Pursuant to the terms of the Agreement, Banahaw Mining filed applications for Mining Lease Contracts over the mining claims with the Bureau of Mines. On April 29, 1988, Banahaw Mining was issued a Mines Temporary Permit authorizing it to extract and dispose of precious minerals found within its mining claims. Upon its expiration, the temporary permit was subsequently renewed thrice by the Bureau of Mines, the last being on June 28, 1991. Since a portion of Banahaw Mining's mining claims was located in petitioner PICOP's logging concession in Agusan del Sur, Banahaw Mining and petitioner PICOP entered into a Memorandum of Agreement, whereby, in mutual recognition of each other's right to the area concerned, petitioner PICOP allowed Banahaw Mining an access/right of way to its mining claims. In 1991, Banahaw Mining converted its mining claims to applications for Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSA for brevity). While the MPSA were pending, Banahaw Mining, on December 18, 1996, decided to sell/assign its rights and interests over thirty-seven (37) mining claims in favor of private respondent Base Metals Mineral Resources Corporation (Base Metals for brevity). The transfer included mining claims held by Banahaw Mining in its own right as claim owner, as well as those covered by its mining operating agreement with CMMCI. Upon being informed of the development, CMMCI, as claim owner, immediately approved the assignment made by Banahaw Mining in favor of private respondent Base Metals, thereby recognizing private respondent Base Metals as the new operator of its claims. On March 10, 1997, private respondent Base Metals amended Banahaw Mining's pending MPSA applications with the Bureau of Mines to substitute itself as applicant and to submit additional documents in support of the application. Area clearances from the DENR Regional Director and Superintendent of the Agusan Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary were submitted, as required. On October 7, 1997, private respondent Base Metals' amended MPSA applications were published in accordance with the requirements of the Mining Act of 1995. On November 18, 1997, petitioner PICOP filed with the Mines Geo-Sciences Bureau (MGB), Caraga Regional Office No. XIII an Adverse Claim and/or Opposition to private respondent Base Metals' application on the following grounds: I. THE APPROVAL OF THE APPLICATION AND ISSUANCE OF THE MPSA OF BASE METALS WILL VIOLATE THE CONSTITUTIONAL MANDATE AGAINST IMPAIRMENT OF OBLIGATION IN A CONTRACT.

II. THE APPROVAL OF THE APPLICATION WILL DEFEAT THE RIGHTS OF THE HEREIN ADVERSE CLAIMANT AND/OR OPPOSITOR. In its Answer to the Adverse Claim and/or Opposition, private respondent Base Metals alleged that: a) the Adverse Claim was filed out of time; b) petitioner PICOP has no rights over the mineral resources on their concession area. PICOP is asserting a privilege which is not protected by the non-impairment clause of the Constitution; c) the grant of the MPSA will not impair the rights of PICOP nor create confusion, chaos or conflict. Petitioner PICOP's Reply to the Answer alleged that: a) the Adverse Claim was filed within the reglementary period; b) the grant of MPSA will impair the existing rights of petitioner PICOP; c) the MOA between PICOP and Banahaw Mining provides for recognition by Banahaw Mining of the Presidential Warranty awarded in favor of PICOP for the exclusive possession and enjoyment of said areas. As a Rejoinder, private respondent Base Metals stated that: 1. it is seeking the right to extract the mineral resources in the applied areas. It is not applying for any right to the forest resources within the concession areas of PICOP; 2. timber or forest lands are open to Mining Applications; 3. the grant of the MPSA will not violate the so called "presidential fiat"; 4. the MPSA application of Base Metals does not require the consent of PICOP; and 5. it signified its willingness to enter into a voluntary agreement with PICOP on the matter of compensation for damages. In the absence of such agreement, the matter will be brought to the Panel of Arbitration in accordance with law. In refutation thereto, petitioner PICOP alleged in its Rejoinder that: a) the Adverse Claim filed thru registered mail was sent on time and as prescribed by existing mining laws and rules and regulations; b) the right sought by private respondent Base Metals is not absolute but is subject to existing rights, such as those which the adverse claimant had, that have to be recognized and respected in a manner provided and prescribed by existing laws as will be expounded fully later;

c) as a general rule, mining applications within timber or forest lands are subject to existing rights as provided in Section 18 of RA 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and it is an admitted fact by the private respondent that petitioner PICOP had forest rights as per Presidential Warranty; d) while the Presidential Warranty did not expressly state exclusivity, P.D. 705 strengthened the right of occupation, possession and control over the concession area; e) the provisions of Section 19 of the Act and Section 15 of IRR expressly require the written consent of the forest right holder, PICOP. After the submission of their respective position paper, the Panel Arbitrator issued an Order dated December 21, 1998, the dispositive portion of which reads as: WHEREFORE, premises considered, Mineral Production Sharing Agreement Application Nos. (XIII) 010, 011, 012 of Base Metal Resources Corporation should be set aside. The disapproval of private respondent Base Metals' MPSA was due to the following reasons: Anent the first issue the Panel find (sic) and so hold (sic) that the adverse claim was filed on time, it being mailed on November 19, 1997, at Metro Manila as evidenced by Registry Receipt No. 26714. Under the law (sic) the date of mailing is considered the date of filing. As to whether or not an MPSA application can be granted on area subject of an IFMA 3 or PTLA4which is covered by a Presidential Warranty, the panel believes it can not, unless the grantee consents thereto. Without the grantee's consent, the area is considered closed to mining location (sec. 19) (b) (No. 2), DAO No. 96-40). The Panel believe (sic) that mining location in forest or timberland is allowed only if such forest or timberland is not leased by the government to a qualified person or entity. If it is leased the consent of the lessor is necessary, in addition to the area clearance to be issued by the agency concerned before it is subjected to mining operation. Plantation is considered closed to mining locations because it is off tangent to mining. Both are extremes. They can not exist at the same time. The other must necessarily stop before the other operate. On the other hand, Base Metals Mineral Resources Corporation can not insist the MPSA application as assignee of Banahaw. PICOP did not consent to the assignment as embodied in the agreement. Neither did it ratify the Deed of Assignment. Accordingly, it has no force and effect. Thus, for lack of consent, the MPSA must fall. On January 11, 1999, private respondent Base Metals filed a Notice of Appeal with public respondent MAB and alleged in its Appeal Memorandum the following arguments: 1. THE CONSENT OF PICOP IS NOT NECESSARY FOR THE APPROVAL OF BASE METALS' MPSA APPLICATION. 2. EVEN ASSUMING SUCH CONSENT IS NECESSARY, PICOP HAD CONSENTED TO BASE

METALS' MPSA APPLICATION. In Answer thereto, petitioner PICOP alleged that: 1. Consent is necessary for the approval of private respondent's MPSA application; 2. Provisions of Memorandum Order No. 98-03 and IFMA 35 are not applicable to the instant case; 3. Provisions of PD 7055 connotes exclusivity for timber license holders; and 4. MOA between private respondent's assignor and adverse claimant provided for the recognition of the latter's rightful claim over the disputed areas. Private respondent Base Metals claimed in its Reply that: 1. The withholding of consent by PICOP derogates the State's power to supervise and control the exploration, utilization and development of all natural resources; 2. Memorandum Order No, 98-03, not being a statute but a mere guideline imposed by the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), can be applied retroactively to MPSA applications which have not yet been finally resolved; 3. Even assuming that the consent of adverse claimant is necessary for the approval of Base Metals' application (which is denied), such consent had already been given; and 4. The Memorandum of Agreement between adverse claimant and Banahaw Mining proves that the Agusan-Surigao area had been used in the past both for logging and mining operations. After the filing of petitioner PICOP's Reply Memorandum, public respondent rendered the assailed decision setting aside the Panel Arbitrator's order. Accordingly, private respondent Base Metals' MPSA's were reinstated and given due course subject to compliance with the pertinent requirements of the existing rules and regulations.6 The Court of Appeals upheld the decision of the MAB, ruling that the Presidential Warranty of September 25, 1968 issued by then President Ferdinand E. Marcos merely confirmed the timber license granted to PICOP and warranted the latter's peaceful and adequate possession and enjoyment of its concession areas. It was only given upon the request of the Board of Investments to establish the boundaries of PICOP's timber license agreement. The Presidential Warranty did not convert PICOP's timber license into a contract because it did not create any obligation on the part of the government in favor of PICOP. Thus, the non-impairment clause finds no application. Neither did the Presidential Warranty grant PICOP the exclusive possession, occupation and exploration of the concession areas covered. If that were so, the government would have effectively surrendered its police power to control and supervise the exploration, development and utilization of the country's natural resources. On PICOP's contention that its consent is necessary for the grant of Base Metals' MPSA, the appellate court ruled that the amendment to PTLA No. 47 refers to the grant of gratuitous permits, which the MPSA subject of this case is not. Further, the amendment pertains to the cutting and extraction of timber for mining purposes and not to the act of

mining itself, the intention of the amendment being to protect the timber found in PICOP's concession areas. The Court of Appeals noted that the reinstatement of the MPSA does not ipso facto revoke, amend, rescind or impair PICOP's timber license. Base Metals still has to comply with the requirements for the grant of a mining permit. The fact, however, that Base Metals had already secured the necessary Area Status and Clearance from the DENR means that the areas applied for are not closed to mining operations. In its Resolution7 dated May 5, 2004, the appellate court denied PICOP's Motion for Reconsideration. It ruled that PICOP failed to substantiate its allegation that the area applied for is a forest reserve and is therefore closed to mining operations because it did not identify the particular law which set aside the contested area as one where mining is prohibited pursuant to applicable laws. The case is now before us for review. In its Memorandum8 dated April 6, 2005, PICOP presents the following issues: (1) the 2,756 hectares subject of Base Metals' MPSA are closed to mining operations except upon PICOP's written consent pursuant to existing laws, rules and regulations and by virtue of the Presidential Warranty; (2) its Presidential Warranty is protected by the nonimpairment clause of the Constitution; and (3) it does not raise new issues in its petition. PICOP asserts that its concession areas are closed to mining operations as these are within the Agusan-SurigaoDavao forest reserve established under Proclamation No. 369 of then Gov. Gen. Dwight Davis. The area is allegedly also part of permanent forest established under Republic Act No. 3092 (RA 3092), 9 and overlaps the wilderness area where mining applications are expressly prohibited under RA 7586.10 Hence, the area is closed to mining operations under Sec. 19(f) of RA 7942.11 PICOP further asserts that to allow mining over a forest or forest reserve would allegedly be tantamount to changing the classification of the land from forest to mineral land in violation of Sec. 4, Art. XII of the Constitution and Sec. 1 of RA 3092. According to PICOP, in 1962 and 1963, blocks A, B and C within the Agusan-Surigao-Davao forest reserve under Proclamation No. 369 were surveyed as permanent forest blocks in accordance with RA 3092. These areas cover PICOP's PTLA No. 47, part of which later became IFMA No. 35. In turn, the areas set aside as wilderness as in PTLA No. 47 became the initial components of the NIPAS under Sec. 5(a) of RA 7586. When RA 7942 was signed into law, the areas covered by the NIPAS were expressly determined as areas where mineral agreements or financial or technical assistance agreement applications shall not be allowed. PICOP concludes that since there is no evidence that the permanent forest areas within PTLA No. 47 and IFMA No. 35 have been set aside for mining purposes, the MAB and the Court of Appeals gravely erred in reinstating Base Metals' MPSA and, in effect, allowing mining exploration and mining-related activities in the protected areas. PICOP further argues that under DENR Administrative Order (DAO) No. 96-40 implementing RA 7942, an exploration permit must be secured before mining operations in government reservations may be undertaken. There being no exploration permit issued to Banahaw Mining or appended to its MPSA, the MAB and the Court of Appeals should not have reinstated its application. PICOP brings to the Court's attention the case of PICOP Resources, Inc. v. Hon. Heherson T. Alvarez,12 wherein the Court of Appeals ruled that the Presidential Warranty issued to PICOP for its TLA No. 43 dated July 29, 1969, a TLA distinct from PTLA No. 47 involved in this case, is a valid contract involving mutual prestations on the part of the Government and PICOP.

The Presidential Warranty in this case is allegedly not a mere confirmation of PICOP's timber license but a commitment on the part of the Government that in consideration of PICOP's investment in the wood-processing business, the Government will assure the availability of the supply of raw materials at levels adequate to meet projected utilization requirements. The guarantee that PICOP will have peaceful and adequate possession and enjoyment of its concession areas is impaired by the reinstatement of Base Metals' MPSA in that the latter's mining activities underneath the area in dispute will surely undermine PICOP's supply of raw materials on the surface. Base Metals' obtention of area status and clearance from the DENR is allegedly immaterial, even misleading. The findings of the DENR Regional Disrector and the superintendent of the Agusan Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary are allegedly misplaced because the area applied for is not inside the Agusan Marsh but in a permanent forest. Moreover, the remarks in the area status itself should have been considered by the MAB and the appellate court as they point out that the application encroaches on surveyed timberland projects declared as permanent forests/forest reserves. Finally, PICOP insists that it has always maintained that the forest areas of PTLA No. 47 and IFMA No. 35 are closed to mining operations. The grounds relied upon in this petition are thus not new issues but merely amplifications, clarifications and detailed expositions of the relevant constitutional provisions and statutes regulating the use and preservation of forest reserves, permanent forest, and protected wilderness areas given that the areas subject of the MPSA are within and overlap PICOP's PTLA No. 47 and IFMA No. 35 which have been classified and blocked not only as permanent forest but also as protected wilderness area forming an integral part of the Agusan-Davao-Surigao Forest Reserve. In its undated Memorandum,13 Base Metals contends that PICOP never made any reference to land classification or the exclusion of the contested area from exploration and mining activities except in the motion for reconsideration it filed with the Court of Appeals. PICOP's object to the MPSA was allegedly based exclusively on the ground that the application, if allowed to proceed, would constitute a violation of the constitutional proscription against impairment of the obligation of contracts. It was upon this issue that the appellate court hinged its Decision in favor of Base Metals, ruling that the Presidential Warranty merely confirmed PICOP's timber license. The instant petition, which raises new issues and invokes RA 3092 and RA 7586, is an unwarranted departure from the settled rule that only issues raised in the proceedings a quo may be elevated on appeal. Base Metals notes that RA 7586 expressly requires that there be a prior presidential decree, presidential proclamation, or executive order issued by the President of the Philippines, expressly proclaiming, designating, and setting aside the wilderness area before the same may be considered part of the NIPAS as a protected area. Allegedly, PICOP has not shown that such an express presidential proclamation exists setting aside the subject area as a forest reserve, and excluding the same from the commerce of man. PICOP also allegedly misquoted Sec. 19 of RA 7942 by placing a comma between the words "watershed" and "forest" thereby giving an altogether different and misleading interpretation of the cited provision. The cited provision, in fact, states that for an area to be closed to mining applications, the same must be a watershed forest reserve duly identified and proclaimed by the President of the Philippines. In this case, no presidential proclamation exists setting aside the contested area as such. Moreover, the Memorandum of Agreement between Banahaw Mining and PICOP is allegedly a clear and tacit recognition by the latter that the area is open and available for mining activities and that Banahaw Mining has a right to enter and explore the areas covered by its mining claims. Base Metals reiterates that the non-impairment clause is a limit on the exercise of legislative power and not of judicial or quasi-judicial power. The Constitution prohibits the passage of a law which enlarges, abridges or in any manner

changes the intention of the contracting parties. The decision of the MAB and the Court of Appeals are not legislative acts within the purview of the constitutional proscription. Besides, the Presidential Warranty is not a contract that may be impaired by the reinstatement of the MPSA. It is a mere confirmation of PICOP's timber license and draws its life from PTLA No. 47. Furthermore, PICOP fails to show how the reinstatement of the MPSA will impair its timber license. Following the regalian doctrine, Base Metals avers that the State may opt to enter into contractual arrangements for the exploration, development, and extraction of minerals even it the same should mean amending, revising, or even revoking PICOP's timber license. To require the State to secure PICOP's prior consent before it can enter into such contracts allegedly constitutes an undue delegation of sovereign power. Base Metals further notes that Presidential Decree No. 705 (PD 705), under which PTLA No. 47, IFMA No. 35 and the Presidential Warranty were issued, requires notice to PICOP rather than consent before any mining activity can be commenced in the latter's concession areas. The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) filed a Memorandum 14 dated April 21, 2005 on behalf of the MAB, contending that PICOP's attempt to raise new issues, such as its argument that the contested area is classified as a permanent forest and hence, closed to mining activities, is offensive to due process and should not be allowed. The OSG argues that a timber license is not a contract within the purview of the due process and non-impairment clauses. The Presidential Warranty merely guarantees PICOP's tenure over its concession area and covers only the right to cut, collect and remove timber therein. It is a mere collateral undertaking and cannot amplify PICOP's rights under its PTLA No. 47 and IFMA No. 35. To hold that the Presidential Warranty is a contract separate from PICOP's timber license effectively gives the latter PICOP an exclusive, perpetual and irrevocable right over its concession area and impairs the State's sovereign exercise of its power over the exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources. The case of PICOP Resources, Inc. v. Hon. Heherson T. Alvarez, supra, cited by PICOP cannot be relied upon to buttress the latter's claim that a presidential warranty is a valid and subsisting contract between PICOP and the Government because the decision of the appellate court in that case is still pending review before the Court's Second Division. The OSG further asserts that mining operations are legally permissible over PICOP's concession areas. Allegedly, what is closed to mining applications under RA 7942 are areas proclaimed as watershed forest reserves. The law does not totally prohibit mining operations over forest reserves. On the contrary, Sec. 18 of RA 7942 permits mining over forest lands subject to existing rights and reservations, and PD 705 allows mining over forest lands and forest reservations subject to State regulation and mining laws. Sec. 19(a) of RA 7942 also provides that mineral activities may be allowed even over military and other government reservations as long as there is a prior written clearance by the government agency concerned. The area status clearances obtained by Base Metals also allegedly show that the area covered by the MPSA is within timberland, unclassified public forest, and alienable and disposable land. Moreover, PICOP allegedly chose to cite portions of Apex Mining Corporation v. Garcia,15 to make it appear that the Court in that case ruled that mining is absolutely prohibited in the Agusan-Surigao-Davao Forest Reserve. In fact, the Court held that the area is not open to mining location because the proper procedure is to file an application for a permit to prospect with the Bureau of Forest and Development. In addition, PICOP's claimed wilderness area has not been designated as a protected area that would operate to bar

mining operations therein. PICOP failed to prove that the alleged wilderness area has been designated as an initial component of the NIPAS pursuant to a law, presidential decree, presidential proclamation or executive order. Hence, it cannot correctly claim that the same falls within the coverage of the restrictive provisions of RA 7586. The OSG points out that the Administrative Code of 1917 which RA 3092 amended has been completely repealed by the Administrative Code of 1978. Sec. 4, Art. XII of the 1987 Constitution, on the other hand, provides that Congress shall determine the specific limits of forest lands and national parks, marking clearly their boundaries on the ground. Once this is done, the area thus covered by said forest lands and national parks may not be expanded or reduced except also by congressional legislation. Since Congress has yet to enact a law determining the specific limits of the forest lands covered by Proclamation No. 369 and marking clearly its boundaries on the ground, there can be no occasion that could give rise to a violation of the constitutional provision. Moreover, Clauses 10 and 14 of PICOP's IFMA No. 35 specifically provides that the area covered by the agreement is open for mining if public interest so requires. Likewise, PTLA No. 47 provides that the area covered by the license agreement may be opened for mining purposes. Finally, the OSG maintains that pursuant to the State's policy of multiple land use, R.A. No. 7942 provides for appropriate measures for a harmonized utilization of the forest resources and compensation for whatever damage done to the property of the surface owner or concessionaire as a consequence of mining operations. Multiple land use is best demonstrated by the Memorandum of Agreement between PICOP and Banahaw Mining. First, the procedural question of whether PICOP is raising new issues in the instant petition. It is the contention of the OSG and Base Metals that PICOP's argument that the area covered by the MPSA is classified as permanent forest and therefore closed to mining activities was raised for the first time in PICOP's motion for reconsideration with the Court of Appeals. Our own perusal of the records of this case reveals that this is not entirely true. In its Adverse Claim and/or Opposition16 dated November 19, 1997 filed with the MGB Panel of Arbitrators, PICOP already raised the argument that the area applied for by Base Metals is classified as a permanent forest determined to be needed for forest purposes pursuant to par. 6, Sec. 3 of PD 705, as amended. PICOP then proceeded to claim that the area should remain forest land if the purpose of the presidential fiat were to be followed. It stated: Technically, the areas applied for by Base Metals are classified as a permanent forest being land of the public domain determined to be needed for forest purposes (Paragraph 6, Section 3 of Presidential Decree No. 705, as amended) If these areas then are classified and determined to be needed for forest purpose then they should be developed and should remain as forest lands. Identifying, delineating and declaring them for other use or uses defeats the purpose of the aforecited presidential fiats. Again, if these areas would be delineated from Oppositor's forest concession, the forest therein would be destroyed and be lost beyond recovery.17 Base Metals met this argument head on in its Answer18 dated December 1, 1997, in which it contended that PD 705 does not exclude mining operations in forest lands but merely requires that there be proper notice to the licensees of the area. Again in its Petition19 dated January 25, 2003 assailing the reinstatement of Base Metals' MPSA, PICOP argued that RA 7942 expressly prohibits mining operations in plantation areas such as PICOP's concession area. Hence, it posited that the MGB Panel of Arbitrators did not commit grave abuse of discretion when it ruled that without PICOP's

consent, the area is closed to mining location. It is true though that PICOP expounded on the applicability of RA 3092, RA 7586, and RA 7942 for the first time in its motion for reconsideration of the appellate court's Decision. It was only in its motion for reconsideration that PICOP argued that the area covered by PTLA No. 47 and IFMA No. 35 are permanent forest lands covered by RA 7586 which cannot be entered for mining purposes, and shall remain indefinitely as such for forest uses and cannot be excluded or diverted for other uses except after reclassification through a law enacted by Congress. Even so, we hold that that the so-called new issues raised by PICOP are well within the issues framed by the parties in the proceedings a quo. Thus, they are not, strictly speaking, being raised for the first time on appeal.20Besides, Base Metals and the OSG have been given ample opportunity, by way of the pleadings filed with this Court, to respond to PICOP's arguments. It is in the best interest of justice that we settle the crucial question of whether the concession area in dispute is open to mining activities. We should state at this juncture that the policy of multiple land use is enshrined in our laws towards the end that the country's natural resources may be rationally explored, developed, utilized and conserved. The Whereas clauses and declaration of policies of PD 705 state: WHEREAS, proper classification, management and utilization of the lands of the public domain to maximize their productivity to meet the demands of our increasing population is urgently needed; WHEREAS, to achieve the above purpose, it is necessary to reassess the multiple uses of forest lands and resources before allowing any utilization thereof to optimize the benefits that can be derived therefrom; Sec. 2. Policies.The State hereby adopts the following policies: a) The multiple uses of forest lands shall be oriented to the development and progress requirements of the country, the advancement of science and technology, and the public welfare; In like manner, RA 7942, recognizing the equiponderance between mining and timber rights, gives a mining contractor the right to enter a timber concession and cut timber therein provided that the surface owner or concessionaire shall be properly compensated for any damage done to the property as a consequence of mining operations. The pertinent provisions on auxiliary mining rights state: Sec. 72. Timber Rights.Any provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding, a contractor may be granted a right to cut trees or timber within his mining areas as may be necessary for his mining operations subject to forestry laws, rules and regulations: Provided, That if the land covered by the mining area is already covered by existing timber concessions, the volume of timber needed and the manner of cutting and removal thereof shall be determined by the mines regional director, upon consultation with the contractor, the timber concessionair/permittee and the Forest Management Bureau of the Department: Provided, further, That in case of disagreement between the contractor and the timber concessionaire, the matter shall be submitted to the Secretary whose decision shall be final. The contractor shall perform reforestation work within his mining area in accordance with forestry laws, rules and regulations.

Sec. 76. Entry into Private Lands and Concession Areas.Subject to prior notification, holders of mining rights shall not be prevented from entry into private lands and concession areas by surface owners, occupants, or concessionaires when conducting mining operations therein: Provided, That any damage done to the property of the surface owner, occupant, or concessionaire as a consequence of such operations shall be properly compensated as may be provided for in the implementing rules and regulations: Provided, further, That to guarantee such compensation, the person authorized to conduct mining operation shall, prior thereto, post a bond with the regional director based on the type of properties, the prevailing prices in and around the area where the mining operations are to be conducted, with surety or sureties satisfactory to the regional director. With the foregoing predicates, we shall now proceed to analyze PICOP's averments. PICOP contends that its concession area is within the Agusan-Surigao-Davao Forest Reserve established under Proclamation No. 369 and is closed to mining application citing several paragraphs of Sec. 19 of RA 7942. The cited provision states: Sec. 19 Areas Closed to Mining Applications.Mineral agreement or financial or technical assistance agreement applications shall not be allowed: (a) In military and other government reservations, except upon prior written clearance by the government agency concerned; (d) In areas expressly prohibited by law; (f) Old growth or virgin forests, proclaimed watershed forest reserves, wilderness areas, mangrove forests, mossy forests, national parks, provincial/municipal forests, parks, greenbelts, game refuge and bird sanctuaries as defined by law in areas expressly prohibited under the National Ingrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) under Republic Act No. 7586, Department Administrative Order No. 25, series of 1992 and other laws. [emphasis supplied] We analyzed each of the categories under which PICOP claims that its concession area is closed to mining activities and conclude that PICOP's contention must fail. Firstly, assuming that the area covered by Base Metals' MPSA is a government reservation, defined as proclaimed reserved lands for specific purposes other than mineral reservations,21 such does not necessarily preclude mining activities in the area. Sec. 15(b) of DAO 96-40 provides that government reservations may be opened for mining applications upon prior written clearance by the government agency having jurisdiction over such reservation. Sec. 6 of RA 7942 also provides that mining operations in reserved lands other than mineral reservations may be undertaken by the DENR, subject to certain limitations. It provides:

Sec. 6. Other Reservations.Mining operations in reserved lands other than mineral reservations may be undertaken by the Department, subject to limitations as herein provided. In the event that the Department cannot undertake such activities, they may be undertaken by a qualified person in accordance with the rules and regulations promulgated by the Secretary. The right to develop and utilize the minerals found therein shall be awarded by the President under such terms and conditions as recommended by the Director and approved by the Secretary: Provided, That the party who undertook the exploration of said reservations shall be given priority. The mineral land so awarded shall be automatically excluded from the reservation during the term of the agreement: Provided, further, That the right of the lessee of a valid mining contract existing within the reservation at the time of its establishment shall not be prejudiced or impaired. Secondly, RA 7942 does not disallow mining applications in all forest reserves but only those proclaimed aswatershed forest reserves. There is no evidence in this case that the area covered by Base Metals' MPSA has been proclaimed as watershed forest reserves. Even granting that the area covered by the MPSA is part of the Agusan-Davao-Surigao Forest Reserve, such does not necessarily signify that the area is absolutely closed to mining activities. Contrary to PICOP's obvious misreading of our decision in Apex Mining Co., Inc. v. Garcia, supra, to the effect that mineral agreements are not allowed in the forest reserve established under Proclamation 369, the Court in that case actually ruled that pursuant to PD 463 as amended by PD 1385, one can acquire mining rights within forest reserves, such as the Agusan-Davao-Surigao Forest Reserve, by initially applying for a permit to prospect with the Bureau of Forest and Development and subsequently for a permit to explore with the Bureau of Mines and Geosciences. Moreover, Sec. 18 RA 7942 allows mining even in timberland or forestty subject to existing rights and reservations. It provides: Sec. 18. Areas Open to Mining Operations.Subject to any existing rights or reservations and prior agreements of all parties, all mineral resources in public or private lands, including timber or forestlands as defined in existing laws, shall be open to mineral agreements or financial or technical assistance agreement applications. Any conflict that may arise under this provision shall be heard and resolved by the panel of arbitrators. Similarly, Sec. 47 of PD 705 permits mining operations in forest lands which include the public forest, the permanent forest or forest reserves, and forest reservations.22 It states: Sec. 47. Mining Operations.Mining operations in forest lands shall be regulated and conducted with due regard to protection, development and utilization of other surface resources. Location, prospecting, exploration, utilization or exploitation of mineral resources in forest reservations shall be governed by mining laws, rules and regulations. No location, prospecting, exploration, utilization, or exploitation of mineral resources inside forest concessions shall be allowed unless proper notice has been served upon the licensees thereof and the prior approval of the Director, secured. Significantly, the above-quoted provision does not require that the consent of existing licensees be obtained but that they be notified before mining activities may be commenced inside forest concessions. DENR Memorandum Order No. 03-98, which provides the guidelines in the issuance of area status and clearance or

consent for mining applications pursuant to RA 7942, provides that timber or forest lands, military and other government reservations, forest reservations, forest reserves other than critical watershed forest reserves, and existing DENR Project Areas within timber or forest lands, reservations and reserves, among others, are open to mining applications subject to area status and clearance. To this end, area status clearances or land status certifications have been issued to Base Metals relative to its mining right application, to wit: II. MPSA No. 010 1. Portion colored green is the area covered by the aforestated Timberland Project No. 31-E, Block A and Project No. 59-C, Block A, L.C. Map No. 2466 certified as such on June 30, 1961; and 2. Shaded brown represent CADC claim.23 III. MPSA No. 011 1. The area applied covers the Timberland, portion of Project No. 31-E, Block-E, L.C. Map No. 2468 and Project No. 36-A Block II, Alienable and Disposable Land, L.C. Map No. 1822, certified as such on June 30, 1961 and January 1, 1955, respectively; 2. The green shade is the remaining portion of Timber Land Project; 3. The portion colored brown is an applied and CADC areas; 4. Red shade denotes alienable and disposable land.24 IV. MPSA No. 012 Respectfully returned herewith is the folder of Base Metals Mineral Resources Corporation, applied under Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA (XIII) 012), referred to this office per memorandum dated August 5, 1997 for Land status certification and the findings based on available references file this office, the site is within the unclassified Public Forest of the LGU, Rosario, Agusan del Sur. The shaded portion is the wilderness area of PICOP Resources Incorporated (PRI), Timber License Agreement.25 V. MPSA No. 013 1. The area status shaded green falls within Timber Land, portion of Project No. 31-E, Block-A, Project No. 59-C, Block-A, L.C. Map No. 2468 certified as such on June 30, 1961; 2. Colored brown denotes a portion claimed as CADC areas; 3. Violet shade represent a part of reforestation project of PRI concession; and 4. The yellow color is identical to unclassified Public Forest of said LGU and the area inclosed in Red is the wilderness area of PICOP Resources, Inc. (PRI), Timber License Agreement. 26

Thirdly, PICOP failed to present any evidence that the area covered by the MPSA is a protected wilderness area designated as an initial component of the NIPAS pursuant to a law, presidential decree, presidential proclamation or executive order as required by RA 7586. Sec. 5(a) of RA 7586 provides: Sec. 5. Establishment and Extent of the System.The establishment and operationalization of the System shall involve the following: (a) All areas or islands in the Philippines proclaimed, designated or set aside, pursuant to a law, presidential decree, presidential proclamation or executive order as national park, game refuge, bird and wildlife sanctuary, wilderness area, strict nature reserve, watershed, mangrove reserve, fish sanctuary, natural and historical landmark, protected and managed landscape/seascape as well as identified virgin forests before the effectivity of this Act are hereby designated as initial components of the System. The initial components of the System shall be governed by existing laws, rules and regulations, not inconsistent with this Act. Although the above-cited area status and clearances, particularly those pertaining to MPSA Nos. 012 and 013, state that portions thereof are within the wilderness area of PICOP, there is no showing that this supposed wilderness area has been proclaimed, designated or set aside as such, pursuant to a law, presidential decree, presidential proclamation or executive order. It should be emphasized that it is only when this area has been so designated that Sec. 20 of RA 7586, which prohibits mineral locating within protected areas, becomes operational. From the foregoing, there is clearly no merit to PICOP's contention that the area covered by Base Metals' MPSA is, by law, closed to mining activities. Finally, we do not subscribe to PICOP's argument that the Presidential Warranty dated September 25, 1968 is a contract protected by the non-impairment clause of the 1987 Constitution. An examination of the Presidential Warranty at once reveals that it simply reassures PICOP of the government's commitment to uphold the terms and conditions of its timber license and guarantees PICOP's peaceful and adequate possession and enjoyment of the areas which are the basic sources of raw materials for its wood processing complex. The warranty covers only the right to cut, collect, and remove timber in its concession area, and does not extend to the utilization of other resources, such as mineral resources, occurring within the concession. The Presidential Warranty cannot be considered a contract distinct from PTLA No. 47 and IFMA No. 35. We agree with the OSG's position that it is merely a collateral undertaking which cannot amplify PICOP's rights under its timber license. Our definitive ruling in Oposa v. Factoran27 that a timber license is not a contract within the purview of the non-impairment clause is edifying. We declared: Needless to say, all licenses may thus be revoked or rescinded by executive action. It is not a contract, property or a property right protected by the due process clause of the Constitution. In Tan vs. Director of Forestry, this Court held: "x x x A timber license is an instrument by which the State regulates the utilization and disposition of forest resources to the end that public welfare is promoted. A timber license is not a contract within the purview of the due process clause; it is only a license or a privilege, which can be validly withdrawn whenever dictated by public interest or public

welfare as in this case. 'A license is merely a permit or privilege to do what otherwise would be unlawful, and is not a contract between the authority, federal, state, or municipal, granting it and the person to whom it is granted; neither is it a property or a property right, nor does it create a vested right; nor is it taxation' (C.J. 168). Thus, this Court held that the granting of license does not create irrevocable rights, neither is it property or property rights (People vs. Ong Tin, 54 O.G. 7576). x x x" We reiterated this pronouncement in Felipe Ysmael, Jr. & Co., Inc. vs. Deputy Executive Secretary: "x x x 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]." Since timber licenses are not contracts, the non-impairment clause, which reads: "Sec. 10. No law impairing the obligation of contracts shall be passed." cannot be invoked.28 [emphasis supplied] The Presidential Warranty cannot, in any manner, be construed as a contractual undertaking assuring PICOP of exclusive possession and enjoyment of its concession areas. Such an interpretation would result in the complete abdication by the State in favor of PICOP of the sovereign power to control and supervise the exploration, development and utilization of the natural resources in the area. In closing, we should lay emphasis on the fact that the reinstatement of Base Metals' MPSA does not automatically result in its approval. Base Metals still has to comply with the requirements outlined in DAO 96-40, including the publication/posting/radio announcement of its mineral agreement application. IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the instant petition is DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals November 28, 2003 is AFFIRMED. No pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED. Quisumbing, J., Chairperson, Carpio, Carpio Morales, and Velasco, Jr., JJ., concur.

Footnotes

Rollo, pp. 86-101; Penned by Associate Justice Remedios A. Salazar-Fernando and concurred in by Associate Justices Eubulo G. Verzola and Eugenio S. Labitoria.
2

Id. 103-106. Integrated Forest Management Agreement. Plantation Timber License Agreement.

Revising Presidential Decree No. 389, Otherwise Known as the Forestry Reform Code of the Philippines.
6

Rollo, pp. 87-92.

Id. at 103-106; Penned by Associate Justice Remedios A. Salazar-Fernando and concurred in by Associate Justices Eugenio S. Labitoria and Mario L. Guarina III.
8

Id. at 533-611. An Act to Amend Certain Sections of the Revised Administrative Code and for Other Purposes. The National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992 (NIPAS Law). The Philippine Mining Act of 1995. C.A.-G.R. Sp. No. 76605. Rollo, pp. 613-645. Id. at 651-693. 199 SCRA 278 (1991). MGB Records I, pp. 1-11. Id. at 4. Id. at 60-67. CA Records, pp. 10-52. Lim v. Queensland Tokyo Commodities, Inc., G.R. No. 136031, January 4, 2002. Sec. 5, Chapter I, DAO 96-40.

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22

Sec. 3(d), PD 705. Public forest is the mass of lands of the public domain which has not been the subject of the persent system of classification for the determination of which lands are needed for forest

purposes and which are not [Sec. 3(a), PD 705]; Permanent forest or forest reserves refer to those lands of the public domain which have been the subject of the present system of classification and determined to be needed for forest purposes [Sec. 3(b), PD 705]; Forest reservations refer to forest lands which have been reserved by the President of the Philippines for any specific purpose or purposes [Sec. 3(g), PD 705].
23

MGB Records I, p. 22 Id. at 21. Id. at 20. Id. at 19. G.R. No. 101083, July 30, 1993, 224 SCRA 792. Id. at 811-812.

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Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila THIRD DIVISION 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. Taada, 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. L30637, 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. Fernan, C.J., Gutierrez Jr. and Bidin, JJ., concur. Feliciano, J., is on leave.

Footnotes * As a result of the creation of the province of Quirino the municipality of Maddela is now deemed part of the Quirino province.
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Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila FIRST DIVISION

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 BATCAGAN 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. Narvasa, C.J., Grio-Aquino and Medialdea, JJ., concur.

Footnotes 1 CA Rollo, p. 35. 2 Ibid., p. 48. 3 Rollo, p. 23; Penned by Melo, J. with Herrera M. and Imperial, JJ., concurring. 4 Ibid., p. 29. 5 14 SCRA 269. 6 63 SCRA 193.

7 149 SCRA 305. 8 Pineda v. Court of First Instance of Davao, 1 SCRA 1020; Atlas Consolidated Mining and Development Corporation v. Mendoza, 2 SCRA 1064; Pestanas v. Dyogi, 81 SCRA 574; Aboitiz and Co. Inc. v. The Collector of Customs, 83 SCRA 265; Abe-Abe v. Manta, 90 SCRA 524. 9 Cruz, Carlo L., Philippine Administrative Law, 1991 ed., op. cit., pp. 85-96. 10 Valmonte v. Belmonte, 170 SCRA 256. 11 Tan v. Veterans Backpay Commission, 105 Phil. 377. 12 Laganapan v. Asedillo, 154 SCRA 377. 13 Aquino v. Luntok, 184 SCRA 177. 14 Cipriano v. Marcelino, 43 SCRA 291. 15 De Lara v. Cloribel, supra. 16 National Development Company v. Collector of Customs, 9 SCRA 429. 17 Arrow Transportation Corporation v. Board of Transportation, supra. 18 Soto v. Jareno, 144 SCRA 116. 19 Corpus v. Cuaderno, 4 SCRA 749. 20 Paragraphs 12 and 15, Section 4, Chapter I, Title XIV of Executive Order No. 292. 21 Section 5 of P.D. 705. 22 CA Rollo, p. 7. 23 Rollo, p. 17. 24 Ibid., pp. 60-61. 25 Zandueta v. de la Costa, 66 Phil. 615.
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Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 111107 January 10, 1997 LOEONARDO A. PAAT, in his capacity as Officer-in-Charge (OIC), Regional Executive Director (RED), Region 2 and JOVITO LAYUGAN, JR., in his capacity as Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer (CENRO), both of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), petitioners, vs. COURT OF APPEALS, HON. RICARDO A. BACULI in his capacity as Presiding Judge of Branch 2, Regional Trial Court at Tuguegarao, Cagayan, and SPOUSES BIENVENIDO and VICTORIA DE GUZMAN, respondents.

TORRES, JR., J.: Without violating the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies, may an action for replevin prosper to recover a movable property which is the subject matter of an administrative forfeiture proceeding in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources pursuant to Section 68-A of P.D. 705, as amended, entitled The Revised

Forestry Code of the Philippines? Are the Secretary of DENR and his representatives empowered to confiscate and forfeit conveyances used in transporting illegal forest products in favor of the government? These are two fundamental questions presented before us for our resolution. The controversy on hand had its incipiency on May 19, 1989 when the truck of private respondent Victoria de Guzman while on its way to Bulacan from San Jose, Baggao, Cagayan, was seized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR, for brevity) personnel in Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya because the driver could not produce the required documents for the forest products found concealed in the truck. Petitioner Jovito Layugan, the Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer (CENRO) in Aritao, Cagayan, issued on May 23, 1989 an order of confiscation of the truck and gave the owner thereof fifteen (15) days within which to submit an explanation why the truck should not be forfeited. Private respondents, however, failed to submit the required explanation. On June 22, 1989, 1 Regional Executive Director Rogelio Baggayan of DENR sustained petitioner Layugan's action of confiscation and ordered the forfeiture of the truck invoking Section 68-A of Presidential Decree No. 705 as amended by Executive Order No. 277. Private respondents filed a letter of reconsideration dated June 28, 1989 of the June 22, 1989 order of Executive Director Baggayan, which was, however, denied in a subsequent order of July 12, 1989. 2 Subsequently, the case was brought by the petitioners to the Secretary of DENR pursuant to private respondents' statement in their letter dated June 28, 1989 that in case their letter for reconsideration would be denied then "this letter should be considered as an appeal to the Secretary." 3 Pending resolution however of the appeal, a suit for replevin, docketed as Civil Case 4031, was filed by the private respondents against petitioner Layugan and Executive Director Baggayan 4 with the Regional Trial Court, Branch 2 of Cagayan, 5 which issued a writ ordering the return of the truck to private respondents. 6 Petitioner Layugan and Executive Director Baggayan filed a motion to dismiss with the trial court contending, inter alia, that private respondents had no cause of action for their failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss in an order dated December 28, 1989. 7 Their motion for reconsideration having been likewise denied, a petition for certiorari was filed by the petitioners with the respondent Court of Appeals which sustained the trial court's order ruling that the question involved is purely a legal question. 8 Hence, this present petition, 9with prayer for temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction, seeking to reverse the decision of the respondent Court of Appeals was filed by the petitioners on September 9, 1993. By virtue of the Resolution dated September 27, 1993, 10 the prayer for the issuance of temporary restraining order of petitioners was granted by this Court. Invoking the doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies, petitioners aver that the trial court could not legally entertain the suit for replevin because the truck was under administrative seizure proceedings pursuant to Section 68A of P.D. 705, as amended by E.O. 277. Private respondents, on the other hand, would seek to avoid the operation of this principle asserting that the instant case falls within the exception of the doctrine upon the justification that (1) due process was violated because they were not given the chance to be heard, and (2) the seizure and forfeiture was unlawful on the grounds: (a) that the Secretary of DENR and his representatives have no authority to confiscate and forfeit conveyances utilized in transporting illegal forest products, and (b) that the truck as admitted by petitioners was not used in the commission of the crime. Upon a thorough and delicate scrutiny of the records and relevant jurisprudence on the matter, we are of the opinion that the plea of petitioners for reversal is in order. This Court in a long line of cases has consistently held that before a party is allowed to seek the intervention of the court, it is a pre-condition that he should have availed of all the means of administrative processes afforded him. Hence, if a remedy within the administrative machinery can still be resorted to by giving the administrative officer

concerned every opportunity to decide on a matter that comes within his jurisdiction then such remedy should be exhausted first before court's judicial power can be sought, The premature invocation of court's intervention is fatal to one's cause of action. 11 Accordingly, absent any finding of waiver or estoppel the case is susceptible of dismissal for lack of cause of action. 12 This doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies was not without its practical and legal reasons, for one thing, availment of administrative remedy entails lesser expenses and provides for a speedier disposition of controversies. It is no less true to state that the courts of justice for reasons of comity and convenience will shy away from a dispute until the system of administrative redress has been completed and complied with so as to give the administrative agency concerned every opportunity to correct its error and to dispose of the case. However, we are not amiss to reiterate that the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies as tested by a battery of cases is not an ironclad rule. This doctrine is a relative one and its flexibility is called upon by the peculiarity and uniqueness of the factual and circumstantial settings of a case. Hence, it is disregarded (1) when there is a violation of due process, 13 (2) when the issue involved is purely a legal question, 14 (3) when the administrative action is patently illegal amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, 15 (4) when there is estoppel on the part of the administrative agency concerned, 16 (5) when there is irreparable injury, 17 (6) when the respondent is a department secretary whose acts as an alter ego of the President bears the implied and assumed approval of the latter, 18 (7) when to require exhaustion of administrative remedies would be unreasonable, 19 (8) when it would amount to a nullification of a claim, 20 (9) when the subject matter is a private land in land case proceedings, 21(10) when the rule does not provide a plain, speedy and adequate remedy, and (11) when there are circumstances indicating the urgency of judicial intervention. 22 In the case at bar, there is no question that the controversy was pending before the Secretary of DENR when it was forwarded to him following the denial by the petitioners of the motion for reconsideration of private respondents through the order of July 12, 1989. In their letter of reconsideration dated June 28, 1989, 23 private respondents clearly recognize the presence of an administrative forum to which they seek to avail, as they did avail, in the resolution of their case. The letter, reads, thus: xxx xxx xxx
If this motion for reconsideration does not merit your favorable action, then this letter should be considered as an appeal to the 24 Secretary.

It was easy to perceive then that the private respondents looked up to the Secretary for the review and disposition of their case. By appealing to him, they acknowledged the existence of an adequate and plain remedy still available and open to them in the ordinary course of the law. Thus, they cannot now, without violating the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies, seek court's intervention by filing an action for replevin for the grant of their relief during the pendency of an administrative proceedings. Moreover, it is important to point out that the enforcement of forestry laws, rules and regulations and the protection, development and management of forest lands fall within the primary and special responsibilities of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. By the very nature of its function, the DENR should be given a free hand unperturbed by judicial intrusion to determine a controversy which is well within its jurisdiction. The assumption by the trial court, therefore, of the replevin suit filed by private respondents constitutes an unjustified encroachment into the domain of the administrative agency's prerogative. The doctrine of primary jurisdiction does not warrant a court to arrogate unto itself the authority to resolve a controversy the jurisdiction over which is initially lodged with an administrative body of special competence. 25 In Felipe Ismael, Jr. and Co. vs. Deputy Executive Secretary, 26 which was reiterated in the recent case of Concerned Officials of MWSS vs. Vasquez, 27this Court held: Thus, while the administration grapples with the complex and multifarious problems caused by

unbriddled 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. To sustain the claim of private respondents would in effect bring the instant controversy beyond the pale of the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies and fall within the ambit of excepted cases heretofore stated. However, considering the circumstances prevailing in this case, we can not but rule out these assertions of private respondents to be without merit. First, they argued that there was violation of due process because they did not receive the May 23, 1989 order of confiscation of petitioner Layugan. This contention has no leg to stand on. Due process does not necessarily mean or require a hearing, but simply an opportunity or right to be heard. 28 One may be heard, not solely by verbal presentation but also, and perhaps many times more creditably and practicable than oral argument, through pleadings. 29 In administrative proceedings moreover, technical rules of procedure and evidence are not strictly applied; administrative process cannot be fully equated with due process in its strict judicial sense. 30 Indeed, deprivation of due process cannot be successfully invoked where a party was given the chance to be heard on his motion for reconsideration, 31 as in the instant case, when private respondents were undisputedly given the opportunity to present their side when they filed a letter of reconsideration dated June 28, 1989 which was, however, denied in an order of July 12, 1989 of Executive Director Baggayan, In Navarro III vs.Damasco, 32 we ruled that : The essence of due process is simply an opportunity to be heard, or as applied to administrative proceedings, an opportunity to explain one's side or an opportunity to seek a reconsideration of the action or ruling complained of. A formal or trial type hearing is not at all times and in all instances essential. The requirements are satisfied when the parties are afforded fair and reasonable opportunity to explain their side of the controversy at hand. What is frowned upon is the absolute lack of notice or hearing. Second, private respondents imputed the patent illegality of seizure and forfeiture of the truck because the administrative officers of the DENR allegedly have no power to perform these acts under the law. They insisted that only the court is authorized to confiscate and forfeit conveyances used in transporting illegal forest products as can be gleaned from the second paragraph of Section 68 of P.D. 705, as amended by E.O. 277. The pertinent provision reads as follows: Sec. 68. . . . xxx xxx xxx 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, equipments,implements and tools illegaly [sic] used in the area where the timber or forest products are found. (Emphasis ours) A reading, however, of the law persuades us not to go along with private respondents' thinking not only because the aforequoted provision apparently does not mention nor include "conveyances" that can be the subject of confiscation by the courts, but to a large extent, due to the fact that private respondents' interpretation of the subject provision unduly restricts the clear intention of the law and inevitably reduces the other provision of Section 68-A, which is quoted herein below:

Sec. 68-A. Administrative Authority of the Department or His Duly Authorized Representative To Order Confiscation. In all cases of violation of this Code or other forest laws, rules and regulations, the Department Head or his duly authorized representative, may order the confiscation of any forest products illegally cut, gathered, removed, or possessed or abandoned, and all conveyances used either by land, water or air in the commission of the offense and to dispose of the same in accordance with pertinent laws, regulations and policies on the matter . (Emphasis ours) It is, thus, clear from the foregoing provision that the Secretary and his duly authorized representatives are given the authority to confiscate and forfeit any conveyances utilized in violating the Code or other forest laws, rules and regulations. The phrase "to dispose of the same" is broad enough to cover the act of forfeiting conveyances in favor of the government. The only limitation is that it should be made "in accordance with pertinent laws, regulations or policies on the matter." In the construction of statutes, it must be read in such a way as to give effect to the purpose projected in the statute. 33 Statutes should be construed in the light of the object to be achieved and the evil or mischief to be suppressed, and they should be given such construction as will advance the object, suppress the mischief, and secure the benefits intended. 34 In this wise, the observation of the Solicitor General is significant, thus: But precisely because of the need to make forestry laws "more responsive to present situations and realities" and in view of the "urgency to conserve the remaining resources of the country," that the government opted to add Section 68-A. This amendatory provision is an administrative remedy totally separate and distinct from criminal proceedings. More than anything else, it is intended to supplant the inadequacies that characterize enforcement of forestry laws through criminal actions. The preamble of EO 277-the law that added Section 68-A to PD 705-is most revealing: "WHEREAS, there is an urgency to conserve the remaining forest resources of the country for the benefit and welfare of the present and future generations of Filipinos; WHEREAS, our forest resources may be effectively conserved and protected through the vigilant enforcement and implementation of our forestry laws, rules and regulations; WHEREAS, the implementation of our forestry laws suffers from technical difficulties, due to certain inadequacies in the penal provisions of the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines; and WHEREAS, to overcome this difficulties, there is a need to penalize certain acts more responsive to present situations and realities;"
It is interesting to note that Section 68-A is a new provision authorizing the DENR to confiscate, not only "conveyances," but forest products as well. On the other hand, confiscation of forest products by the "court" in a criminal action has long been provided for in Section 68. If as private respondents insist, the power on confiscation cannot be exercised except only through the court under Section 68, then Section 68-A would have no Purpose at all. Simply put, Section 68-A would not have provided any solution to the problem 35 perceived in EO 277, supra.

Private respondents, likewise, contend that the seizure was illegal because the petitioners themselves admitted in the Order dated July 12, 1989 of Executive Director Baggayan that the truck of private respondents was not used in the

commission of the crime. This order, a copy of which was given to and received by the counsel of private respondents, reads in part, viz.:
. . . while it is true that the truck of your client was not used by her in the commission of the crime, we uphold your claim that the truck owner is not liable for the crime and in no case could a criminal case be filed against 36 her as provided under Article 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code. . .

We observed that private respondents misread the content of the aforestated order and obviously misinterpreted the intention of petitioners. What is contemplated by the petitioners when they stated that the truck "was not used in the commission of the crime" is that it was not used in the commission of the crime of theft, hence, in no case can a criminal action be filed against the owner thereof for violation of Article 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code. Petitioners did not eliminate the possibility that the truck was being used in the commission of another crime, that is, the breach of Section 68 of P.D. 705 as amended by E.O. 277. In the same order of July 12, 1989, petitioners pointed out:
. . . However, under Section 68 of P.D. 705 as amended and further amended by Executive Order No. 277 specifically provides for the confiscation of the conveyance used in the transport of forest products not covered by the required legal documents. She may not have been involved in the cutting and gathering of the product in 37 question but the fact that she accepted the goods for a fee or fare the same is therefor liable. . .

Private respondents, however, contended that there is no crime defined and punishable under Section 68 other than qualified theft, so that, when petitioners admitted in the July 12, 1989 order that private respondents could not be charged for theft as provided for under Articles 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code, then necessarily private respondents could not have committed an act constituting a crime under Section 68. We disagree. For clarity, the provision of Section 68 of P.D. 705 before its amendment by E.O. 277 and the provision of Section 1 of E.O. No. 277 amending the aforementioned Section 68 are reproduced herein, thus: Sec. 68. Cutting, gathering and/or collecting timber or other products without license. Any person who shall cut, gather, collect, or remove timber or other forest products from any forest land, or timber from alienable and disposable public lands, or from private lands, without any authority under a license agreement, lease, license or permit, shall be guilty of qualified theft as defined and punished under Articles 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code . . . (Emphasis ours; Section 68, P.D. 705 before its amendment by E.O. 277) Sec. 1. Section 68 of Presidential Decree No. 705, as amended, is hereby amended to read as follows: 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 bepunished with the penalties imposed under Articles 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code . . . (Emphasis ours; Section 1, E.O. No. 277 amending Section 68, P.D. 705 as amended) With the introduction of Executive Order No. 277 amending Section 68 of P.D. 705, the act of cutting, gathering, collecting, removing, or possessing forest products without authority constitutes a distinct offense independent now from the crime of theft under Articles 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code, but the penalty to be imposed is that

provided for under Article 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code. This is clear from the language of Executive Order No. 277 when it eliminated the phrase "shall be guilty of qualified theft as defined and punished under Articles 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code" and inserted the words "shall be punished with the penalties imposed under Article 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code". When the statute is clear and explicit, there is hardly room for any extended court ratiocination or rationalization of the law. 38 From the foregoing disquisition, it is clear that a suit for replevin can not be sustained against the petitioners for the subject truck taken and retained by them for administrative forfeiture proceedings in pursuant to Section 68-A of the P.D. 705, as amended. Dismissal of the replevin suit for lack of cause of action in view of the private respondents' failure to exhaust administrative remedies should have been the proper course of action by the lower court instead of assuming jurisdiction over the case and consequently issuing the writ ordering the return of the truck. Exhaustion of the remedies in the administrative forum, being a condition precedent prior to one's recourse to the courts and more importantly, being an element of private respondents' right of action, is too significant to be waylaid by the lower court. It is worth stressing at this point, that a suit for replevin is founded solely on the claim that the defendant wrongfully withholds the property sought to be recovered. It lies to recover possession of personal chattels that are unlawfully detained. 39 "To detain" is defined as to mean "to hold or keep in custody," 40 and it has been held that there is tortious taking whenever there is an unlawful meddling with the property, or an exercise or claim of dominion over it, without any pretense of authority or right; this, without manual seizing of the property is sufficient. 41 Under the Rules of Court, it is indispensable in replevin proceeding that the plaintiff must show by his own affidavit that he is entitled to the possession of property, that the property is wrongfully detained by the defendant, alleging the cause of detention, 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, and the actual value of the property. 42 Private respondents miserably failed to convince this Court that a wrongful detention of the subject truck obtains in the instant case. It should be noted that the truck was seized by the petitioners because it was transporting forest products without the required permit of the DENR in manifest contravention of Section 68 of P.D. 705 as amended by E.O 277. Section 68-A of P.D. 705, as amended, unquestionably warrants the confiscation as well as the disposition by the Secretary of DENR or his duly authorized representatives of the conveyances used in violating the provision of forestry laws. Evidently, the continued possession or detention of the truck by the petitioners for administrative forfeiture proceeding is legally permissible, hence, no wrongful detention exists in the case at bar. Moreover, the suit for replevin is never intended as a procedural tool to question the orders of confiscation and forfeiture issued by the DENR in pursuance to the authority given under P.D. 705, as amended. Section 8 of the said law is explicit that actions taken by the Director of the Bureau of Forest Development concerning the enforcement of the provisions of the said law are subject to review by the Secretary of DENR and that courts may not review the decisions of the Secretary except through a special civil action for certiorari or prohibition. It reads: Sec. 8. REVIEW All actions and decisions of the Director are subject to review, motu propio or upon appeal of any person aggrieved thereby, by the Department Head whose decision shall be final and executory after the lapse of thirty (30) days from the receipt of the aggrieved party of said decision, unless appealed to the President in accordance with Executive Order No. 19, Series of 1966. The Decision of the Department Head may not be reviewed by the courts except through a special civil action for certiorari or prohibition. WHEREFORE, the Petition is GRANTED; the Decision of the respondent Court of Appeals dated October 16, 1991 and its Resolution dated July 14, 1992 are hereby SET ASIDE AND REVERSED; the Restraining Order promulgated on September 27, 1993 is hereby made permanent; and the Secretary of DENR is directed to resolve the controversy with utmost dispatch.

SO ORDERED. Regalado, Romero, Puno and Mendoza, JJ., concur. Footnotes 1 Rollo p. 235. 2 Rollo pp. 241-242. 3 Rollo p. 239. 4 Baggayan died during the pendency of Civil Case 4031, he was succeeded in office by Petitioner Leonardo Paat. 5 Presided by Judge Ricardo A. Baculi. 6 Rollo pp. 251-252. 7 Rollo pp. 274-275. 8 Rollo pp. 36-46 penned by Justice Serafin V.C. Guingona, concurred by Justices Luis A. Javellana and Jorge S. Imperial. 9 Rollo pp. 14-35. 10 Rollo pp. 117-119. 11 National Development Company v. Hervilla, L-65718, June 30, 1987; Atlas Consolidated Mining Company vs. Mendoza, G.R. No. L -15809, August 30, 1961; Aboitiz v. Collector of Customs, G.R. No. L-29466, May 18, 1978; Pestenas v. Dyogi, G.R. No. L-25786, February 27, 1978. 12 Soto v. Jareno, G.R. No. 38962, September 15, 1986; Hodges v. Mun. Board, L-18276, January 12, 1967; Abe-Abe v. Manta, L-4827, May 31, 1979; Gone v. District Engineer, L-22782, August 29, 1975. 13 Quisumbing v. Judge Gumban, G.R. No. 85156, February 5, 1991. 14 Eastern Shipping Lines v. POEA, L-76633, October 18, 1988. 15 Industrial Power Sales, Inc. V. Sinsuat, L-29171, April 15, 1988. 16 Vda. De Tan v. Veterans Backpay Commission, L-12944, March 30, 1959. 17 De Lara v. Cloribel, G.R. No. L-21653, May 31, 1965.

18 Demaisip v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 13000, September 25, 1959; Bartulata v. Peralta, G.R. No. 23155, September 9, 1974. 19 Cipriano v. Marcelino, G.R. No. L-27793, February 28, 1972. 20 Alzate v. Aldana, G.R. No. 14407, February 29, 1960. 21 Soto v. Jareno, supra. 22 Quisumbing v. Judge Gumban, supra. 23 Rollo pp. 236-240. 24 Rollo p. 239. 25 Vidad v. RTC, G.R. No. 98084, October 18, 1993. 26 G.R. No. 79538, October 18, 1990. 27 G.R. No. 109113, January 25, 1995. 28 Pepsi Cola Distributors of the Phil. V. NLRC, G.R. No. 100686, August 15, 1995. 29 Concerned Officials of MWSS vs. Vasquez, supra. 30 Ibid. 31 Rodriguez v. Project 6 Market Service Cooperative, G.R. No. 79968, August 23, 1995. 32 G.R. No. 101875, July 14, 1995. 33 Lopez, Jr. v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 104158, November 6, 1992. 34 De Guia v. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 104712, May 6, 1992. 35 Rollo pp. 170-171; Memorandum pp. 12-13. 36 Rollo p. 242. 37 Ibid. 38 Libanan v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No. 112386, June 14, 1994. 39 American Jurisprudence, Second Edition, Volume 66, p. 850, footnote 57; I. Tanenbaum Son and Company vs. C. Ludwig Baumann and Company, 261 NY 85, 184 NE 503, 86 ALR 102. 40 Ibid., footnote 59; Anderson vs. Hapler, 34 III 436; Wails vs. Farrington, 27 Okla 754, 116 P

428. 41 Id., footnote 60 ; Haythorn vs. Rushforth, 19 NJL 160. 42 Section 2, Rule 60 of the Rules of Court.
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Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila SECOND DIVISION 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 Decision1 dated 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 applicants 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-03003446 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 Republics present recourse on its basic submission that the CAs 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 respondents 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 Act 7 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 9A 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 courts disposition, finding a registerable title for respondent, is her and her predecessor-in-interests 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, respondents 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. CANCIO C. GARCIA Associate Justice WE CONCUR: REYNATO S. PUNO Associate Justice Chairperson ANGELINA SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ Associate Justice ADOLFO S. AZCUNA Associate Justice ATTESTATION I attest that the conclusions in the above decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the RENATO C. CORONA Asscociate Justice

writer of the opinion of the Courts Division. REYNATO S. PUNO Associate Justice Chairperson, Second Division CERTIFICATION Pursuant to Article VIII, Section 13 of the Constitution, and the Division Chairman's Attestation, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court. ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN Chief Justice

Footnotes
1

Penned by Associate Justice Buenaventura J. Guerrero (ret.), with Associate Justices Arturo B. Buena (ret.) and Portia Alio-Hormachuelos, concurring; Rollo, pp. 22-27.
2

Rollo, pp. 28-38. Ibid., pp. 22-23. Id., pp. 28-38.

Heirs of Amunategui vs. Director of Forestry, 126 SCRA 69 (1983); Director of Forestry vs. Munoz, 126 SCRA 1148 (1983).
6

Ibid. Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended. Art. XII, Sec. 3. See Note # 5, supra.

Sec. 2 All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other resources are owned by the State. xxx
10 11

Seville vs. NDC, 351 SCRA 112 (2001). Bracewell vs. CA, 323 SCRA 193 (2000).

12

13

Menguito vs. Republic, 348 SCRA 128 (2000).

14

Bilog LAND TITLES and DEEDS, 2005 ed., p. 59, citing Director of Lands vs. CA, 178 SCRA 708 (1989).
15

Pagkatipunan vs. CA, 379 SCRA 621 (2000). 146 SCRA 509 (1986). 95 SCRA 437 (1980). Director of Lands vs. Funtilar, 142 SCRA 57 (1986); Republic vs. CA, 154 SCRA 476 (1987). Republic vs. Lao, 405 SCRA 291 (2003). Director of Lands vs. Court of Appeals, 133 SCRA 701 (1984). Heirs of Amunategui vs. Director of Forestry; supra; Republic vs. CA 201 SCRA 1 (1991).

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

De Ocampo vs. Arlos, 343 SCRA 716 (2000); Republic vs. Animas, 56 SCRA 499 [1974). Lacson vs. Del Rosario, 151 SCRA 714 (1987).

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THIRD DIVISION

[G.R. No. 135527. October 19, 2000]

Spouses GEMINIANO and AMPARO DE OCAMPO and Spouses PEDRO and CRISANTA SANTOS, petitioners, vs. FEDERICO ARLOS, MARY ARLOS, TEOFILO OJERIO and BELLA OJERIO, respondents. DECISION
PANGANIBAN, J.:

Under the Public Land Act as amended, only titles to alienable and disposable lands of the public domain may be judicially confirmed. Unless a public land is reclassified and declared as such, occupation thereof in the concept of owner, no matter how long ago, cannot confer ownership or possessory rights. A suit for the reversion of such property to the State may be instituted only by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).
The Case

Before us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari assailing the August 28, 1998 Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-GR CV No. 52048, the decretal portion of which reads as follows:[2]

ACCORDINGLY, for want of merit, the appeal is DENIED and the challenged Decision dated 26 November 1993 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 2, Balanga, Bataan, is AFFIRMED. No costs.
The affirmed Decision[3] of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) ruled on the following: (1) Land Registration Case No. N-340, filed in 1977 for confirmation of respondents title to three parcels of land; and (2) Civil Case No. 4739, filed in 1981 for cancellation of petitioners Sales Patents and Transfer Certificates of T itle covering two of the said lots. The dispositive portion of the RTC Decision reads:[4]

ACCORDINGLY, judgment is hereby rendered: I. In Civil Case No. 4739 1. Ordering the cancellation of Sales Patent Nos. 5387 and 5388 as well as Transfer Certificate of Title Nos. T-43298 and T-44205 in the names of [herein petitioner-

]spouses Geminiano de Ocampo and Amparo de Ocampo and x x x Pedro Santos and Crisanta Santos. 2. Taking judicial cognizance of the decision in Civil Case No. 3769, which ordered the cancellation of Free Patent Nos. 522697 and 502977 as well as Original Certificate of Title Nos. 296 and 297, which decision has already become final and executory; 3. Ordering [Petitioners] Geminiano de Ocampo and Amparo de Ocampo and x x x Pedro Santos and Crisanta Santos to pay jointly and severally to the plaintiffs attorneys fees in the sum of fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) and the costs of suit.

II. In Land Registration Case No. N-340 1. Confirming [herein respondents] title [to] the land subject of registration and ordering the registration thereof in the names of [Respondent] Teofilo D. Ojerio, of legal age, Filipino, married to Bella V. Ojerio and a resident of Cabcaben, Mariveles, Bataan - share; and Cecilia P. Arlos, Jose P. Arlos, Gloria P. Arlos, Luisito P. Arlos, all of legal age, Filipinos, single and residents of 500-A, Fifth Avenue corner Baltazar Street, Grace Park, Caloocan City, Metro Manila, and Alberto U. Arlos, minor, Filipino, and a resident of 500-A, Fifth Avenue corner Baltazar Street, Grace Park, Caloocan City, Metro Manila - share; and 2. As soon as this decision becomes final and executory, let an order for the issuance of the corresponding decrees be issued. SO ORDERED.
The Facts

The undisputed facts are quoted by the CA from the RTC judgment, as follows: [5]

On 14 April 1977, Federico S. Arlos and Teofilo D. Ojerio filed an application for registration, docketed as Land Registration Case No. N-340, wherein they seek judicial confirmation of their titles [to] three parcels of land, namely: (1) a parcel of land covered by SGS 4140 [PLAN] with an area of 226,105 square meters; (2) a parcel of land identified as Lot 1, SGS 41241 [PLAN] with an area of 111,333 square meters; and (3) a parcel of land identified as Lot 2, SGS 4141 [PLAN] with an area of 63,811 square meters, all located at Cabcaben, Mariveles, Bataan, and having a total area of 401,159 square meters or 40.1159 hectares. Spouses Geminiano de Ocampo and Amparo De Ocampo and spouses Pedro Santos and Crisanta Santos opposed the application for registration, alleging that they are the co-owners of Lots 1 and 2 of Plan SGS 3062, situated at Cabcaben, Mariveles,

Bataan, and their ownership is evidenced by Transfer Certificate of Title Nos. T43298 and T-44205, and that they became owners of said lots by purchase from the government through sales patents. The Republic of the Philippines also opposed the application, contending that neither the applicants nor their predecessors-in-interests have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the lands in question for at least 30 years immediately preceding the filing of the application; and that the parcels of land applied for are portions of the public domain belonging to the Republic of the Philippines not subject to private appropriation. Spouses Placido Manalo and Rufina Enriquez and spouses Armando Manalo and Jovita Baron also opposed the application for registration. Almost four years after the filing of the land registration case or, to be exact, on 20 February 1981, applicant Arlos and his spouse, Mary Alcantara Arlos, and applicant Ojerio and his spouse Bella V. Ojerio, filed Civil Case No. 4739, seeking to cancel; (1) the free patent title of defendants-spouses Placido Manalo and Rufina Enriquez, that is, Original Certificate of Title (OCT) No. 296-Bataan, covering Lot, 1, Plan F(III-4) 508-D with an area of 155,772 square meters, and Lot 2, same plan, containing an area of 43,089 square meters, or a total area of 198,861 square meters or 19.8861 hectares; (2) the free patent title of defendants Armando Manalo and Jovito Baron, that is, OCT No. 297-Bataan, covering Lot, 1, F-(III-4) 510-D with an area of 72,065 square meters or 7.2065 hectares; and (3) the sales patent title of defendants-spouses Geminiano de Ocampo and Amparo de Ocampo and defendants-spouses Pedro Santos and Crisanta Santos, that is, Transfer Certificate of Title Nos. T-44205-Bataan with an area of 225,011 square meters or 22.5011 hectares, and T-43298-Bataan with an area of 111,333 square meters or 11.1333 hectares. In the Order dated 31 July 1991 of the RTC, Branch 1, Balanga, Bataan, Civil Case No. 4739 which was then assigned to said Branch was ordered consolidated with the land registration cases assigned to Branch 2. Of relevance to this case on appeal is the Decision of the Supreme Court dated 26 April 1989 in G.R. 64753 involving Civil Case No. 3769 entitled Spouses de Ocampo et al. v. Manalo, et al. which annulled the free patent titles of the spouses Manalo and declared as valid the sales patent title issued in favor of the spouses De Ocampo and spouses Santos involving the same properties subject of this appeal.
Ruling of the Court of Appeals

Affirming the factual findings of the trial court, the CA ruled that petitioners had failed to comply with the Public Land Act, which required sales patent applicants to be the actual occupants and cultivators of the land. It held that the testimonies of petitioners, which were incongruous with reality, bolstered the finding that [they had] never occupied, cultivated or made improvements on the property. It explained:

On the basis of its own findings, the trial court, after evaluating the evidence presented, concluded that [herein respondents] and their predecessors-in-interest were in actual possession of the subject lands in 1947 and continuously up to the present. In contrast, the checkered testimonies of [petitioners] reveal that they have never been in possession of the lands. And because of the absence of the actual occupancy on their part, the sales patents and titles issued in their favor are null and void citing therein the ruling in Republic v. Mina (114 SCRA 946) that the alleged misrepresentation of the applicant that he had been occupying and cultivating the land are sufficient grounds to nullify the patent and title under Section 9 of the Public Land Laws. On this particular note, we find no reason to disturb the factual findings of the trial court. x x x.[6] Debunking petitioners reliance on Manalo v. IAC and de Ocampo,[7] the CA ratiocinated as follows: [Herein respondents] do not challenge the Decision of the High Court dated 26 April 1989 in GR No. 64753 which annulled the free patent titles of defendants-appellants Manalos and granted the issuance of sales patent titles of [Petitioners] De Ocampos and Santoses. What is being disputed is that the issuance of the sales patents of the subject property in favor of the Santoses and the De Ocampos was allegedly tainted by fraud and misrepresentation on their part by misrepresenting themselves to be actual occupants of the subject properties when in fact the subject properties were being actually occupied by the [respondents] since 1947 way back when the land still formed part of the military reservation and further on when it was declared to be public agricultural land. x x x.[8]
Hence, this Petition.[9]
The Issues

In their Memorandum, consideration:[10]

petitioners

submit

the

following

issues

for

our

Whether or not the Court of Appeals committed an error in disregarding the Decision of the Supreme Court in G.R. No. 64753 entitled, Placido Manalo, et al. vs. Spouses Geminiano de Ocampo and Amparo de Ocampo, et al., wherein the validity and legality of petitioners TCT No. T-44205 and TCT No. T-43298 [pertaining to] the land in dispute were upheld.
II

Whether or not the Court of Appeals committed an error in ordering the cancellation of petitioners Sales Patent as well as TCT Nos. T-43298 and T-44205 considering that private respondents are not the proper party to institute the action for annulment of petitioners titles [to] the lots.
III

Whether or not the Court of Appeals committed an error in ruling that petitioners committed an act of misrepresentation in their Application for Sales Patent.
IV

Whether or not the Court of Appeals committed an error in ordering petitioners to pay private respondents the amount of P50,000.00 representing attorneys fees.
In short, petitioners ask this Court to determine the propriety of (1) the registration of respondents title under the Public Land Act and (2) the cancellation of petitioners Sales Patents and Transfer Certificates of Title (TCTs).
The Courts Ruling

The Petition is meritorious.


First Issue:Registration of Respondents Title

Respondents application for registration of title to the three parcels of land that were once part of the public domain is governed by the Public Land Act, [11] the pertinent portion of which reads:

SEC. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance of the

province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit:
xxxxxxxxx

(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 abona fide claim of acquisition or 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.
x x x x x x x x x Respondents claim that they purchased the subject lots in 1967 from Bernardo and Arsenio Obdin,[12] who in turn had been in possession of the property since 1947. Hence, when the former filed their application for registration in 1977, they and their predecessors-in-interest had been occupying and cultivating, in the concept of owners, the said parcels of land for at least 30 years, as required by the Public Land Act. We are not convinced. First, a title may be judicially confirmed under Section 48 of the Public Land Act only if it pertains to alienable lands of the public domain.[13] Unless such assets are reclassified and considered disposable and alienable, occupation thereof in the concept of owner, no matter how long cannot ripen into ownership and be registered as a title. Verily, Presidential Decree No. 1073[14] clarified Section 48 (b) of the Public Land Act by specifically declaring that the latter applied only to alienable and disposable lands of the public domain.[15] In the present case, the disputed land which was formerly a part of a US military reservation that had been turned over to the Philippine government in 1965, was declared disposable and alienable only in 1971. In Manalo v. IAC and de Ocampo,[16] a suit involving the same parcel of land and instituted by herein petitioners against other claimants, the Court held:

As correctly pointed out by the appellate court in its questioned decision: x x x. It is not correct to say that when the U.S. Military Reservation in Bataan, of which the land in question forms part, was turned over to the Philippine government, the same automatically became a disposable land of the public domain. The ownership and control over said reservation was transferred to the Philippine government, but its nature as a military reservation remained unchanged. Said parcels of land became a disposable land of public domain only on May 19, 1971, per certification of the Bureau of Forestry (Project No. 4-A, C-C. Map No 26-40). Its disposition only by sale was duly authorized pursuant to the provisions of Republic

Act No. 274. If the land in question became immediately disposable upon its turn over to the Philippine government in 1965, then why, it may be asked, was it certified disposable only in 1971. This Court is of the conclusion that this land above referred to continued to be a military reservation land while in the custody of the Philippine government until it was certified alienable in 1971. (Emphasis supplied.)
Second, respondents and their predecessors-in-interest could not have occupied the subject property from 1947 until 1971 when the land was declared alienable and disposable, because it was a military reservation at the time. Hence, it was not subject to occupation, entry or settlement. This is clear from Sections 83 and 88 of the Public Land Act, which provide as follows:

SEC. 83. Upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce, the President may designate by proclamation any tract or tracts of land of the public domain as reservations for the use of the Commonwealth of the Philippines or of any of its branches, or of the inhabitants thereof, in accordance with regulations prescribed for this purpose, or for quasi-public uses or purposes when the public interest requires it, including reservations for highways, rights of way for railroads, hydraulic power sites, irrigation systems, communal pastures or leguas comunales, public parks, public quarries, public fishponds, working-men's village and other improvements for the public benefit. SEC. 88. The tract or tracts of land reserved under the provisions of section eightythree shall be non-alienable and shall not be subject to occupation, entry, sale, lease, or other disposition until again declared under the provision of this Act or by proclamation of the President. (Emphasis supplied.)
Verily, in Manalo, the Court debunked therein petitioners similar argument that they had been occupying the property since 1944. It ruled in this wise:

The big tract of land in Mariveles, Bataan to which the parcels of land involved in the case belong was formerly a portion of the US Military Reservation in Mariveles, Bataan which was turned over to the Philippine Government only on December 22, 1965 (Republic of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals et al., No. L-39473, April 30, 1979, 89 SCRA 648). Under the situation, the Court seriously doubts whether Placido Mapa and their predecessors-in-interest could have been in possession of the land since 1944 as they claimed: Lands covered by reservation are not subject to entry, and no lawful settlement on them can be acquired (Republic of the Philippines v. Hon. Court of Appeals, et al., No. 14912, September 30, 1976, 73 SCRA 146).

We reiterate that the land was declared alienable only in 1971; hence, respondents have not satisfied the thirty-year requirement under the Public Land Act. Moreover, they could not have occupied the property for thirty years, because it formed part of a military reservation. Clearly then, their application for the registration of their titles was erroneously granted by the appellate and the trial courts.
Second Issue: Cancellation of Petitioners Titles

Petitioners claim that their titles can no longer be challenged, because it is a rule that the Torrens Title issued on the basis of a free patent becomes indefeasible as one which was judicially secured upon registration upon expiration of one year from date of issuance of patent.[17] Petitioners further contend that the action for the cancellation of their Sales Patents and TCTs should have been initiated by the solicitor general, not by herein respondents, pursuant to Section 101 of the Public Land Act, which we quote:

SEC. 101. All actions for the reversion to the Government of lands of the public domain or improvements thereon shall be instituted by the Solicitor General or the officer acting in his stead, in the proper courts, in the name of the Republic of the Philippines.
Respondents argue, however, that the present proceedings are not for reversion, but for reconveyance. Hence, they have the personality to file the present suit. We are not persuaded by respondents argument. In an action for reconveyance, the decree of registration is respected as incontrovertible. What is sought instead is the transfer of the property, in this case the title thereof, which has been wrongfully or erroneously registered in another persons name, to its rightful owner or to one with a better right. That is what reconveyance is all about.[18] Reconveyance, however, is not available to respondents, because they have not shown a title better than that of petitioners. As earlier shown, the former have not proven any title that may be judicially confirmed. Moreover, respondents invocation of Heirs of Nagano v. CA[19] must be rejected. In that case, the Court noted that the allegations in the Complaint, which were deemed admitted for the purpose of resolving the Motion to Dismiss, were an assertion that the lot is private land, or that even assuming it was part of the public domain, private respondents had already acquired imperfect title thereto under Section 48 (b) of CA No. 141 x x x. Hence, the Court ruled that respondents, not the OSG, were the proper parties to file the suit. In the present case, we reiterate that respondents failed to show entitlement to the land. They have not established that they are the rightful owners of the property; or at least, that they, not petitioners, have a better right thereto.

Respondents vigorously contend that the Sales Patents were fraudulently obtained by petitioners, who have allegedly failed to prove the requisite actual occupation of the land in question. The former cite several portions of the transcript of stenographic notes, showing that the latter have not actually occupied or cultivated the property. The Court, however, finds that a ruling on the veracity of these factual averments would be improper in this Decision. If petitioners Sales Patents and TCTs were in fact fraudulently obtained, the suit to recover the disputed property should be filed by the State through the Office of the Solicitor General. Since petitioners titles originated from a grant by the government, their cancellation is a matter between the grantor and the grantee.[20] At the risk of being repetitive, we stress that respondents have no personality to recover the property, because they have not sho wn that they are the rightful owners thereof. WHEREFORE, the Petition is GRANTED and the assailed Decisions of the Court of Appeals and the Regional Trial Court are REVERSED. No pronouncement as to costs. Let a copy of this Decision be furnished the Office of the Solicitor General for a possible review, in its sound discretion, of the issuance of the Sales Patents and Certificates of Titles in the name of herein petitioners. SO ORDERED. Melo, (Chairman), Vitug, and Purisima, JJ., concur. Gonzaga-Reyes, J., no part.

[1]

Penned by Justice Omar U. Amin, with the concurrence of Justices Minerva P. Gonzaga-Reyes (Division chairman and now an associate justice of the Supreme Court) and Hector L. Hofilea (member).
[2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]

CA Decision, p. 11; rollo, p. 58. Written by Judge Vivencio S. Baclig. RTC Decision, pp. 6-7; rollo, pp. 192-193. CA Decision, pp. 3-4; rollo, pp. 50-51. CA Decision, p. 9; rollo, p. 56. Infra. CA Decision, p. 6; rollo, p. 53.

The case was deemed submitted for resolution on August 17, 1999, upon receipt by this Court of petitioners Memorandum, signed by Attys. Benito F. Ambr osio and Saklolo A. Leao. Filed earlier was respondents Memorandum signed by Atty. Paul P. Sagayo Jr.
[10] [11] [12] [13]

Petitioners Memorandum, pp. 8-10; rollo, pp. 236-238. Original in upper case. Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended. Bilihang Tuluyan, dated September 8, 1967; Records (LRC No. 340), p. 12.

See Republic v. Damian Ermitao de Guzman et al., GR No. 137887, February 28, 2000; Yturalde v. Falcasantos, 301 SCRA 293, January 20, 1999; Director of Lands vs. Court of Appeals, 178

SCRA 708, October 26, 1989; Atok Big Wedge v. CA, 193 SCRA 71, January 18, 1991. See also Vitug, Compendium of Civil Law and Jurisprudence, 1993 ed., p. 460.
[14] [15]

Promulgated on January 25, 1977.

4 thereof reads as follows: SEC. 4. The provisions of Section 48 (b) and Section 48 (c), Chapter VIII, of the Public Land Act, are hereby amended in the sense that these provisions shall apply only to alienable and disposable lands of the public domain which have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation by the applicant himself or thru his predecessor-in-interest, under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, since June 12, 1945.
[16] [17] [18]

172 SCRA 795, April 26, 1989, per Gutierrez, J. Petitioners Memorandum, pp. 15-16; rollo, pp. 243-244.

Amerol v. Bagumbaran, 154 SCRA 396, September 30, 1987, per Sarmiento, J.; Esquivias v. CA, May 29, 1997; De la Cruz v. CA, 286 SCRA 230, February 11, 1998; David v. Malay, GR No. 132644, November 19, 1999; Manangan v. De los Reyes, GR No. 115794, June 10, 1999.
[19] [20]

282 SCRA 43, November 17, 1997, per Davide, J. (now CJ).

Tankiko v. Cesar, GR No. 131277, February 2, 1999; Ingaran v. Ramelo, 107 Phil. 498, March 30, 1960.

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Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila EN BANC G.R. No. L-32266 February 27, 1989 THE DIRECTOR OF FORESTRY, petitioner vs. RUPERTO A. VILLAREAL, respondent. The Solicitor General for petitioner. Quasha, Asperilla, Ancheta, Valmonte, Pena & Marcos for respondents.

CRUZ, J.: The basic question before the Court is the legal classification of mangrove swamps, or manglares, as they are commonly known. If they are part of our public forest lands, they are not alienable under the Constitution. If they are considered public agricultural lands, they may be acquired under private ownership. The private respondent's claim to the land in question must be judged by these criteria.

The said land consists of 178,113 square meters of mangrove swamps located in the municipality of Sapian, Capiz. Ruperto Villareal applied for its registration on January 25, 1949, alleging that he and his predecessors-in-interest had been in possession of the land for more than forty years. He was opposed by several persons, including the petitioner on behalf of the Republic of the Philippines. After trial, the application was approved by the Court of First Instance. of Capiz. 1 The decision was affirmed by the Court of Appeals. 2 The Director of Forestry then came to this Court in a petition for review on certiorari claiming that the land in dispute was forestal in nature and not subject to private appropriation. He asks that the registration be reversed. It should be stressed at the outset that both the petitioner and the private respondent agree that the land is mangrove land. There is no dispute as to this. The bone of contention between the parties is the legal nature of mangrove swamps or manglares. The petitioner claims, it is forestal and therefore not disposable and the private respondent insists it is alienable as agricultural land. The issue before us is legal, not factual. For a proper background of this case, we have to go back to the Philippine Bill of 1902, one of the earlier American organic acts in the country. By this law, lands of the public domain in the Philippine Islands were classified into three grand divisions, to wit, agricultural, mineral and timber or forest lands. This classification was maintained in the Constitution of the Commonwealth, promulgated in 1935, until it was superseded by the Constitution of 1973. That new charter expanded the classification of public lands to include industrial or commercial, residential, resettlement, and grazing lands and even permitted the legislature to provide for other categories. 3 This provision has been reproduced, but with substantial modifications, in the present Constitution. 4 Under the Commonwealth Constitution, which was the charter in force when this case arose, only agricultural lands were allowed to be alienated. 5 Their disposition was provided for under C.A. No. 141. Mineral and timber or forest lands were not subject to private ownership unless they were first reclassified as agricultural lands and so released for alienation. In the leading case of Montano v. Insular Government, 6 promulgated in 1909, mangrove swamps or manglareswere defined by the Court as: ... mud flats, alternately washed and exposed by the tide, in which grows various kindred plants which will not live except when watered by the sea, extending their roots deep into the mud and casting their seeds, which also germinate there. These constitute the mangrove flats of the tropics, which exist naturally, but which are also, to some extent cultivated by man for the sake of the combustible wood of the mangrove and like trees as well as for the useful nipa palm propagated thereon. Although these flats are literally tidal lands, yet we are of the opinion that they cannot be so regarded in the sense in which that term is used in the cases cited or in general American jurisprudence. The waters flowing over them are not available for purpose of navigation, and they may be disposed of without impairment of the public interest in what remains. xxx Under this uncertain and somewhat unsatisfactory condition of the law, the custom had grown of converting manglares and nipa lands into fisheries which became a common feature of settlement along the coast and at the same time of the change of sovereignty constituted one of the most productive industries of the Islands, the abrogation of which would destroy vested interests and prove a public disaster.

Mangrove swamps were thus considered agricultural lands and so susceptible of private ownership. Subsequently, the Philippine Legislature categorically declared, despite the above-cited case, that mangrove swamps form part of the public forests of this country. This it did in the Administrative Code of 1917, which became effective on October 1 of that year, thus: Section 1820. Words and phrase defined. - For the purpose of this chapter 'public forest' includes, except as otherwise specially indicated, all unreserved public land, including nipa and mangrove swamps, and all forest reserves of whatever character. It is noteworthy, though, that notwithstanding this definition, the Court maintained the doctrine in the Montano case when two years later it held in the case of Jocson v. Director of Forestry: 7 ...the words timber land are always translated in the Spanish translation of that Act (Act of Congress) as terrenos forestales. We think there is an error in this translation and that a better translation would be 'terrenos madereros.' Lumber land in English means land with trees growing on it. The mangler plant would never be called a tree in English but a bush, and land which has only bushes, shrubs or aquatic plants growing on it cannot be called 'timber land. xxx xxx xxx The fact that there are a few trees growing in a manglare or nipa swamps does not change the general character of the land from manglare to timber land. More to the point, addressing itself directly to above-quoted Section 1820, the Court declared: 'In the case of Mapa vs. Insular Government (10 Phil. Rep., 175), this Court said that the phrase agricultural lands as used in Act No. 926 means those public lands acquired from Spain which are not timber or mineral lands. Whatever may have been the meaning of the term 'forestry' under the Spanish law, the Act of Congress of July 1st 1902, classifies the public lands in the Philippine Islands as timber, mineral or agricultural lands, and all public lands that are not timber or mineral lands are necessarily agricultural public lands, whether they are used as nipa swamps, manglares, fisheries or ordinary farm lands. The definition of forestry as including manglares found in the Administrative Code of 1917 cannot affect rights which vested prior to its enactment. These lands being neither timber nor mineral lands, the trial court should have considered them agricultural lands. If they are agricultural lands, then the rights of appellants are fully established by Act No. 926. The doctrine was reiterated still later in Garchitorena Vda. de Centenera v. Obias, 8 promulgated on March 4, 1933, more than fifteen years after the effectivity of the Administrative Code of 1917. Justice Ostrand declared for a unanimous Court: The opposition rests mainly upon the proposition that the land covered by the application there

are mangrove lands as shown in his opponent's Exh. 1, but we think this opposition of the Director of Forestry is untenable, inasmuch as it has been definitely decided that mangrove lands are not forest lands in the sense in which this phrase is used in the Act of Congress. No elaboration was made on this conclusion which was merely based on the cases of Montano and Jocson. And in 1977, the above ruling was reaffirmed in Tongson v. Director of Forestry, 9 with Justice Fernando declaring that the mangrove lands in litis were agricultural in nature. The decision even quoted with approval the statement of the trial court that: ... Mangrove swamps where only trees of mangrove species grow, where the trees are small and sparse, fit only for firewood purposes and the trees growing are not of commercial value as lumber do not convert the land into public land. Such lands are not forest in character. They do not form part of the public domain. Only last year, in Republic v. De Porkan, 10 the Court, citing Krivenko v. Register of Deeds, 11 reiterated the ruling in the Mapa case that "all public lands that are not timber or mineral lands are necessarily agricultural public lands, whether they are used as nipa swamps, manglares, fisheries or ordinary farm lands. But the problem is not all that simple. As it happens, there is also a line of decisions holding the contrary view. In Yngson v. Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, 12 promulgated in 1983, the Court ruled "that the Bureau of Fisheries has no jurisdiction to dispose of swamp lands or mangrove lands forming part of the public domain while such lands are still classified as forest lands. Four months later, in Heirs of Amunategui v. Director of Forestry, 13 the Court was more positive when it held, again through Justice Gutierrez: 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 swamps.' Although conceding that '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 the 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. 'Forested 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 classsified 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 titles do not apply.' The view was maintained in Vallarta v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 14 where this Court agreed with the Solicitor General's submission that the land in dispute, which he described as "swamp mangrove or forestal land," were not private properties and so not registerable. This case was decided only twelve days after the De Porkan case. Faced with these apparent contradictions, the Court feels there is a need for a categorical pronouncement that should resolve once and for all the question of whether mangrove swamps are agricultural lands or forest lands. The determination of this question is a function initially belonging to the legislature, which has the authority to implement the constitutional provision classifying the lands of the public domain (and is now even permitted to provide for more categories of public lands). The legislature having made such implementation, the executive officials may then, in the discharge of their own role, administer our public lands pursuant to their constitutional duty " to ensure that the laws be faithfully executed' and in accordance with the policy prescribed. For their part, the courts will step into the picture if the rules laid down by the legislature are challenged or, assuming they are valid, it is claimed that they are not being correctly observed by the executive. Thus do the three departments, coordinating with each other, pursue and achieve the objectives of the Constitution in the conservation and utilization of our natural resources. In C.A. No. 141, the National Assembly delegated to the President of the Philippines the function of making periodic classifications of public lands, thus: Sec. 6. The President, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, shall from time to time classify the lands of the public domain into: (a) Alienable or disposable, (b) Lumber, and (c) Mineral lands, and may at any time and in a like manner transfer such lands from one class to another, for the purposes of their administration and disposition. Sec. 7. For the purposes of the administration and disposition of alienable or disposable lands, the President, upon recommendation by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, shall from time to time declare what lands are open to disposition or concession under this Act. With particular regard to alienable public lands, Section 9 of the same law provides: For the purpose of their administration and disposition, the lands of the public domain alienable or open to disposition shall be classified, according to the use or purposes to which such lands are destined, as follows: (a) Agricultural; (b) Residential, commercial, industrial, or for similar productive purposes;

(c) Educational, charitable, or other similar purposes; and (d) Reservations for townsites and for public and quasi-public uses. The President, upon recommendation by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, shall from time to time make the classifications provided for in this section, and may, at any time and in a similar manner, transfer lands from one class to another. As for timber or forest lands, the Revised Administrative Code states as follows: Sec. 1826. Regulation setting apart forest reserves- Revocation of same. - Upon there commendation of the Director of Forestry, with the approval of the Department Head, the President of the Philippines may set apart forest reserves from the public lands and he shall by proclamation declare the establishment of such reserves and the boundaries thereof, and thereafter such forest reserves shall not be entered, sold, or otherwise disposed of, but shall remain as such for forest uses, and shall be administered in the same manner as public forest. The President of the Philippines may in like manner by proclamation alter or modify the boundaries of any forest reserve from time to time, or revoke any such proclamation, and upon such revocation such forest reserve shall be and become part of the public lands as though such proclamation had never been made. Sec. 1827. Assignment of forest land for agricultural purposes. - Lands in public forest, not including forest reserves, upon the certification of the Director of Forestry that said lands are better adapted and more valuable for agricultural than for forest purposes and not required by the public interests to be kept under forest, shall be declared by the Department Head to be agricultural lands. With these principles in mind, we reach the following conclusion: Mangrove swamps or manglares should be understood as comprised within the public forests of the Philippines as defined in the aforecited Section 1820 of the Administrative Code of 1917. The legislature having so determined, we have no authority to ignore or modify its decision, and in effect veto it, in the exercise of our own discretion. The statutory definition remains unchanged to date and, no less noteworthy, is accepted and invoked by the executive department. More importantly, the said provision has not been challenged as arbitrary or unrealistic or unconstitutional assuming the requisite conditions, to justify our judicial intervention and scrutiny. The law is thus presumed valid and so must be respected. We repeat our statement in the Amunategui case that the classification of mangrove swamps as forest lands is descriptive of its legal nature or status and does not have to be descriptive of what the land actually looks like. That determination having been made and no cogent argument having been raised to annul it, we have no duty as judges but to apply it. And so we shall. Our previous description of the term in question as pertaining to our agricultural lands should be understood as covering only those lands over which ownership had already vested before the Administrative Code of 1917 became effective. Such lands could not be retroactively legislated as forest lands because this would be violative of a duly acquired property right protected by the due process clause. So we ruled again only two months ago in Republic of the Philippines vs. Court of Appeals, 15 where the possession of the land in dispute commenced as early as 1909, before it was much later classified as timberland.

It follows from all this that the land under contention being admittedly a part of the mangrove swamps of Sapian, and for which a minor forest license had in fact been issued by the Bureau of Forestry from 1920 to 1950, it must be considered forest land. It could therefore not be the subject of the adverse possession and consequent ownership claimed by the private respondent in support of his application for registration. To be so, it had first to be released as forest land and reclassified as agricultural land pursuant to the certification the Director of Forestry may issue under Section 1827 of the Revised Administrative Code. The private respondent invokes the survey plan of the mangrove swamps approved by the Director of Lands, 16 to prove that the land is registerable. It should be plain, however, that the mere existence of such a plan would not have the effect of converting the mangrove swamps, as forest land, into agricultural land. Such approval is ineffectual because it is clearly in officious. The Director of Lands was not authorized to act in the premises. Under the aforecited law, it is the Director of Forestry who has the authority to determine whether forest land is more valuable for agricultural rather than forestry uses, as a basis for its declaration as agricultural land and release for private ownership. Thus we held in the Yngson case: It is elementary in the law governing the disposition of lands of the public domain that until timber or forest lands are released as disposable and alienable neither the Bureau of Lands nor the Bureau of Fisheries has authority to lease, grant, sell or otherwise dispose of these lands for homesteads, sales patents, leases for grazing or other purposes, fishpond leases and other modes of utilization. The Bureau of Fisheries has no jurisdiction to administer and dispose of swamp lands or mangrove lands forming part of the public domain while such lands are still classified as forest land or timber land and not released for fishery or other purposes. The same rule was echoed in the Vallarta case, thus: It is elementary in the law governing natural resources that forest land cannot be owned by private persons. It is not registerable. The adverse possession which can be the basis of a grant of title in confirmation of imperfect title cases cannot commence until after the forest land has been declared alienable and disposable. Possession of forest land, no matter bow long cannot convert it into private property.' We find in fact that even if the land in dispute were agricultural in nature, the proof the private respondent offers of prescriptive possession thereof is remarkably meager and of dubious persuasiveness. The record contains no convincing evidence of the existence of the informacion posesoria allegedly obtained by the original transferor of the property, let alone the fact that the conditions for acquiring title thereunder have been satisfied. Nowhere has it been shown that the informacion posesoria has been inscribed or registered in the registry of property and that the land has been under the actual and adverse possession of the private respondent for twenty years as required by the Spanish Mortgage Law. 17 These matters are not presumed but must be established with definite proof, which is lacking in this case. Significantly, the tax declarations made by the private respondent were practically the only basis used by the appellate court in sustaining his claim of possession over the land in question. Tax declarations are, of course, not sufficient to prove possession and much less vest ownership in favor of the declarant, as we have held in countless cases. 18

We hold, in sum, that the private respondent has not established his right to the registration of the subject land in his name. Accordingly, the petition must be granted. It is reiterated for emphasis that, conformably to the legislative definition embodied in Section 1820 of the Revised Administrative Code of 1917, which remains unamended up to now, mangrove swamps or manglares form part of the public forests of the Philippines. As such, they are not alienable under the Constitution and may not be the subject of private ownership until and unless they are first released as forest land and classified as alienable agricultural land. WHEREFORE, the decision of the Court of Appeals is SET ASIDE and the application for registration of title of private respondent is DISMISSED, with cost against him. This decision is immediately executory. SO ORDERED. Narvasa, Melencio-Herrera, Gutierrez, Jr., Paras, Feliciano, Gancayco, Padilla, Bidin, Sarmiento, Cortes, GrioAquino, Medialdea and Regalado, JJ., concur. Fernan, C.J., took no part.

Footnotes 1 Record on Appeal, pp. 41-63, Rollo p. 18; Decision penned by Judge Ignacio Debuque. 2 Rollo pp. 15-17; Decision penned by Concepcion, Jr., J., Serrano and San Diego, JJ., concurring. 3 Sec. 10, Art. XIV, 1973 Constitution. 4 Sec. 3, Art. XII, 1987 Constitution. 5 Sec. 1, Art. XIII, 1935 Constitution. 6 12 Phil. 572. 7 39 Phil. 560. 8 58 Phil. 21. 9 79 SCRA 130. 10 151 SCRA 88. 11 79 SCRA 461.

12 3 SCRA 441. 13 126 SCRA 69. 14 151 SCRA 679. 15 G.R. No. L-46048, November 29, 1988. 16 Brief for the Applicant-Appellee, pp. 5-6, Rollo, p. 20. 17 Republic of the Philippines v. CA and Miguel, G.R. No. I, 60847, May 21, 1988, citing Director of Lands v. Reyes, 68 SCRA 177, Fernandez Hermanos v. Director of Lands, 57 Phil. 929, Querol v. Querol, 48 Phil. 90; Archbishop of Manila v. Arnedo, 30 Phil. 593 and Carino v. Insular Government, 8 Phil. 150. 18 J.M. Tuason and Co., Inc. v. Villanueva, 104 Phil. 643; Masaganda v. Argamosa, 109 SCRA 53; Director of Lands v. CA., 133 SCRA 701; De Guzman, v. C.A., 148 SCRA 75.
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Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila SECOND DIVISION G.R. No. L- 24548 October 27, 1983 WENCESLAO VlNZONS TAN, THE DIRECTOR OF FORESTRY, APOLONIO THE SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE AND NATURAL RESOURCES JOSE Y. FELICIANO, respondents-appelllees, vs. THE DIRECTOR OF FORESTRY, APOLONIO RIVERA, THE SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE AND N ATURAL RESOURCES JOSE Y. FELICIANO, respon dents-appellees,RAVAGO COMMERCIAL CO., JORGE LAO HAPPICK and ATANACIO MALLARI, intervenors, Camito V Pelianco Jr. for petitioner-appellant. Solicitor General for respondent Director. Estelito P. Mendoza for respondent Ravago Comm'l Co. Anacleto Badoy for respondent Atanacio Mallari.

Mariano de Joya, Jr. for respondent Jorge Lao Happick, Jr.

MAKASIAR, J: This is an appeal from the order dated January 20, 1965 of the then Court of First Instance of Manila, Branch VII, in Civil Case No. 56813, a petition for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus with preliminary prohibitory injunction (p. 2. rec.), which dismissed the petition of petitioner-appellant Wenceslao Vinzons Tan on the ground that it does not state a sufficient cause of action, and upon the respondents-appellees' (Secretary of Agriculture and Natural resources and the Director of Forestry) motion to dismiss (p. 28, rec.). Sometime in April 1961, the Bureau of Forestry issued Notice No. 2087, advertising for public bidding a certain tract of public forest land situated in Olongapo, Zambales, provided tenders were received on or before May 22, 1961 (p. 15, CFI rec.). This public forest land, consisting of 6,420 hectares, is located within the former U.S. Naval Reservation comprising 7,252 hectares of timberland, which was turned over by the United States Government to the Philippine Government (P. 99, CFI rec.). On May 5, 1961, petitioner-appellant Wenceslao Vinzons Tan submitted his application in due form after paying the necessary fees and posting tile required bond therefor. Nine other applicants submitted their offers before the deadline (p. 29, rec.). Thereafter, questions arose as to the wisdom of having the area declared as a forest reserve or allow the same to be awarded to the most qualified bidder. On June 7, 1961, then President Carlos P. Garcia issued a directive to the Director of the Bureau of Forestry, which read as follows: It is desired that the area formerly covered by the Naval Reservation be made a forest reserve for watershed purposes. Prepare and submit immediately a draft of a proclamation establishing the said area as a watershed forest reserve for Olongapo, Zambales. It is also desired that the bids received by the Bureau of Forestry for the issuance of the timber license in the area during the public bidding conducted last May 22, 1961 be rejected in order that the area may be reserved as above stated. ... (SGD.) CARLOS P. GARCIA (pp. 98, CFI rec.). On August 3, 1961, Secretary Cesar M. Fortich of Agriculture and Natural Resources sustained the findings and re comendations of the Director of Forestry who concluded that "it would be beneficial to the public interest if the area is made available for exploitation under certain conditions," and We quote: Respectfully forwarded to the honorable, the Executive Secretary Malacanang. Manila inviting particular attention to the comment and recommendation of the Director of Forestry in the proceeding in indorsement in which this Of fice fully concurs.

The observations of responsible forest officials are most revealing of their zeal to promote forest conservation and watershed protection especially in Olongapo, Zambales area. In convincing fashion, they have demonstrated that to declare the forest area involved as a forest reserve ratify than open it for timber exploitation under license and regulation would do more harm than of to the public interest. To convert the area into a forest reserve without an adequate forest protection force, would make of it a 'Free Zone and Logging Paradise,' to the ever 'Problem Loggers' of Dinalupihan, Bataan . . . an open target of timber smugglers, kaingineros and other forms of forest vandals and despoilers. On the other hand, to award the area, as planned, to a reputable and responsible licensee who shall conduct logging operations therein under the selective logging method and who shall be obliged to employ a sufficient number of forest guards to patrol and protect the forest consecration and watershed protection. Worthy of mention is the fact that the Bureau of Forestry had already conducted a public bidding to determine the most qualified bidder to whom the area advertised should be awarded. Needless to stress, the decision of the Director of Forestry to dispose of the area thusly was arrived at after much thought and deliberation and after having been convinced that to do so would not adversely affect the watershed in that sector. The result of the bidding only have to be announced. To be sure, some of the participating bidders like Mr. Edgardo Pascual, went to much expense in the hope of winning a virgin forest concession. To suddenly make a turn about of this decision without strong justifiable grounds, would cause the Bureau of Forestry and this Office no end of embarrassment. In view of the foregoing, it is earnestly urged that the Director of Forestry be allowed to proceed with the announcement of the results of the bidding for the subject forest area (p. 13, CFI rec.). The Office of the President in its 4th Indorsement dated February 2, 1962, signed by Atty. Juan Cancio, Acting Legal Officer, "respectfully returned to the Honorable Secretary of the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources for appropriate action," the papers subject of Forestry Notice No. 2087 which was referred to the Bureau of Forestry for decision (p. 14, CFI rec.). Finally, of the ten persons who submitted proposed the area was awarded to herein petitioner-appellant Wenceslao Vinzons Tan, on April 15, 1963 by the Bureau of Forestry (p. 17, CFI rec.). Against this award, bidders Ravago Commercial Company and Jorge Lao Happick filed motions for reconsideration which were denied by the Director of Forestry on December 6, 1963. On May 30, 1963, the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources Benjamin M. Gozon who succeeded Secretary Cesar M. Fortich in office issued General Memorandum Order No. 46, series of 1963, pertinent portions of which state: xxx xxx xxx SUBJECT: ... ... ... (D)elegation of authority to the Director of Forestry to grant ordinary timber licenses. 1. ... ... ... 2. The Director of Forestry is hereby authorized to grant (a) new ordinary timber licenses where

the area covered thereby is not more than 3,000 hectares each; and (be the extension of ordinary timber licenses for areas not exceeding 5,000 hectares each; 3. This Order shall take effect immediately (p. 267, CFI rec.). Thereafter, Jose Y. Feliciano was appointed as Acting secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, replacing secretary Benjamin M. Gozon. Upon assumption of office he Immediately promulgate on December 19, 19b3 General memorandum Order No. 60, revoking the authority delegated to the Director of Forestry, under General Memorandum order No. 46, to grant ordinary timber licenses, which order took effect on the same day, December 19, 1963. Pertinent portions of the said Order read as follows: xxx xxx xxx SUBJECT: Revocation of General Memorandum Order No 46 dated May 30, 1963 1. In order to acquaint the undersigned with the volume and Nature of the work of the Department, the authority delegated to the Director of forestry under General Memorandum Order No. 46, dated May 30, 1963, to grant (a) new ordinary timber licenses where the area covered thereby is not more than 3,000 hectares each; and (b) the extension of ordinary timber licenses for areas not exceeding 3,000 hectares each is hereby revoked. Until further notice, the issuance of' new licenses , including amendments thereto, shall be signed by the secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources. 2. This Order shall take effect immediately and all other previous orders, directives, circulars, memoranda, rules and regulations inconsistent with this Order are hereby revoked (p. 268, CFl rec.; Emphasis supplied). On the same date that the above-quoted memorandum took effect, December 19, 1963, Ordinary Timber License No. 20-'64 (NEW) dated April 22, 1963, in the name of Wenceslao Vinzons Tan, was signed by then Acting Director of Forestry Estanislao R. Bernal without the approval of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources. On January 6, 1964, the license was released by the Office of the Director of Forestry (p. 30, CFI rec.; p. 77, rec.). It was not signed by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources as required by Order No. 60 aforequoted. On February 12, 1964, Ravago Commercial Company wrote a letter to the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources shall be considered by tile Natural Resources praying that, pending resolution of the appeal filed by Ravago Commercial Company and Jorge Lao Happick from the order of the Director of Forestry denying their motion for reconsideration, OTI No. 20-'64 in the name of Wenceslao V. Tan be cancelled or revoked on the ground that the grant thereof was irregular, anomalous and contrary to existing forestry laws, rules and regulations. On March 9, 1964, acting on the said representation made by Ravago Commercial Company, the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources promulgated an order declaring Ordinary Timber License No. 20-'64 issued in the name of Wenceslao Vinzons Tan, as having been issued by the Director of Forestry without autho

FIRST DIVISION

ERNESTO AQUINO, Petitioner,

G.R. No. 165448 Present: PUNO, C.J., Chairperson, CARPIO, CORONA, LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, and BERSAMIN, JJ.

- versus -

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Promulgated: Respondent. July 27, 2009 x - - - - - - - - - - - - -- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - x

DECISION

CARPIO, J.:

The Case Before the Court is a petition for review[1] assailing the 5 June 1997 Decision[2] and 24 September 2004 Resolution[3] of the Court of Appeals in CAG.R. CR No. 17534. The Antecedent Facts

On behalf of Teachers Camp, Sergio Guzman filed with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) an application to cut down 14 dead Benguet pine trees within the Teachers Camp in Baguio City. The trees, which had a total volume of 13.37 cubic meters, were to be used for the repairs of Teachers Camp. On 19 May 1993, before the issuance of the permit, a team composed of members from the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) and Michael Cuteng (Cuteng), a forest ranger of the Forest Section of the Office of the City Architect and Parks Superintendent of Baguio City, conducted an inspection of the trees to be cut. Thereafter, Sabado T. Batcagan, Executive Director of the DENR, issued a permit allowing the cutting of 14 trees under the following terms and conditions:
2. That the cut timber shall be utilized as lumber and fuel-wood by the permittee; 3. As replacement, the permittee shall plant one hundred forty (140) pine seedlings in an appropriate place within the area. In the absence of plantable area in the property, the same is required to plant within forest area duly designated by CENRO concerned which shall be properly maintained and protected to ensure/enhance growth and development of the planted seedlings; Violation of any of the conditions set hereof is punishable under Section 68 of PD 705 as amended by E.O. No. 277, Series of 1987; and That non-compliance with any of the above conditions or violations of forestry laws and regulations shall render this permit null and void without prejudice to the imposition of penalties in accordance with existing laws and regulations.

4.

5.

This PERMIT is non-transferable and shall expire ten (10) days from issuance hereof or as soon as the herein authorized volume is exhausted whichever comes [4] first.

On 23 July 1993, Forest Rangers Ramil Windo, Moises Sobrepea, Daniel Salamo, Pablo Guinawan, Antonio Abellera, and Forester Paul Apilis received information that pine trees were being cut at Teachers Camp without proper authority. They proceeded to the site where they found Ernesto Aquino (petitioner), a forest ranger from CENRO, and Cuteng supervising the cutting of the trees. They also found sawyers Benedicto Santiago (Santiago) and Mike Masing (Masing) on the site, together with Clemente Salinas (Salinas) and Andrew Nacatab (Nacatab), who were also supervising the cutting of the trees. The forest rangers found 23 tree stumps, out of which only 12 were covered by the permit. The volume of the trees cut with permit was 13.58 cubic meters while the volume of the trees cut without permit was 16.55 cubic meters. The market value of the trees cut without permit was P182,447.20, and the forest charges were P11,833.25. An Information for violation of Section 68 of Presidential Decree No. 705[5] (PD 705) was filed against petitioner, Cuteng, Nacatab, Masing, and Santiago, as follows:
That on or about the 23rd day of July, 1993, and subsequent thereto, in the City of Baguio, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring, confederating and mutually aiding one another, and without any authority, license or permit, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously cut nine (9) pine trees with a total volume and market price as P182,447.20 (Volume 16.55 M3 424 bd. ft./M3 and unit price P26.00 bd. ft.) and with a total forest charge of P11,833.25 or having a total sum ofP194,280.45 at Teachers Camp, Baguio City, without the legal documents as required under existing forest laws and regulations, particularly the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Circular No. 05, Series of 1989, in violation [6] of the aforecited law.

Masing alleged that he was not aware of the limitations on the permit as he was not given a copy of the permit. Masing stated that he cut 10 pine trees under the supervision of petitioner who claimed to be in possession of the necessary permit. He stated that three of the trees were stumps about four or five feet high

and were not fit for lumber. He stated that while he was cutting trees, petitioner and Salinas were present. Santiago testified that he cut trees under petitioners supervision. He stated that petitioner was in possession of the permit. He stated that he cut 10 trees, six of which were cut into lumber while two were stumps and two were rotten. Salinas testified that Masing and Santiago were merely hired as sawyers and they merely followed petitioners instructions. Cuteng testified that he was part of the team that inspected the trees to be cut before the permit was issued. He stated that the trees cut by Santiago were covered by the permit. Nacatab testified that he only went to Teachers Camp on 13 July 1993 and he saw Santiago and Masing cutting down the trees in petitioners presence. Petitioner alleged that he was sent to supervise the cutting of trees at Teachers Camp. He allegedly informed his superior, Paul Apilis, that he was not aware of the trees covered by the permit. However, he still supervised the cutting of trees without procuring a copy of the vicinity map used in the inspection of the trees to be cut. He claimed that he could not prevent the overcutting of trees because he was just alone while Cuteng and Santiago were accompanied by three other men. The Decision of the Trial Court In its 26 May 1994 Decision,[7] the Regional Trial Court of Baguio City, Branch 5 (trial court), ruled as follows:
WHEREFORE, the Court finds and declares the accused ERNESTO AQUINO y ESTIPULAR, MICHAEL CUTENG y LESCAO and BENEDICTO SANTIAGO y DOCLES guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime charged and hereby sentences EACH of them to suffer an indeterminate penalty of SIX (6)

YEARS of prision correccional, as minimum, to TWENTY (20) YEARS of reclusion temporal, as maximum; to indemnify, jointly and severally, the Government in the amounts of P182,477.20 and P11,833.25, representing the market value of and forest charges on the Benguet pine trees cut without permit; and to pay their proportionate shares in the costs. The chainsaw confiscated from the accused Santiago is hereby declared forfeited in favor of the Government. On the other hand, the accused ANDREW NACATAB y DODOY and MIKE MASING y GANAS are acquitted on reasonable doubt, with costs de oficio, and the cash bonds they deposited for their provisional liberty in the amount of P7,500.00 each under O.R. Nos. 139605 and 139646, dated February 4, 1996 and February 23, 1994, respectively, are ordered released to them upon proper receipt therefor. SO ORDERED.
[8]

The trial court ruled that the trees cut exceeded the allowed number of the trees authorized to be cut. The trial court further ruled that the cutting of trees went beyond the period stated in the permit. Petitioner, Cuteng and Santiago appealed from the trial courts Decision.

The Decision of the Court of Appeals In its 5 June 1997 Decision, the Court of Appeals modified the trial courts Decision as follows:
WHEREFORE, the decision of the court a quo is MODIFIED. The accused-appellants Benedicto Santiago and Michael Cuteng are hereby acquitted on reasonable doubt. The appellant Ernesto Aquino is found guilty, and is hereby sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of six (6) years and one (1) day of prision mayor as minimum, to fourteen (14) years, eight (8) months, and one (1)

day of reclusion temporal, as maximum. The award of damages is deleted. No costs. SO ORDERED.
[9]

The Court of Appeals ruled that as a forest guard or ranger of the CENRO, DENR, petitioner had the duty to supervise the cutting of trees and to ensure that the sawyers complied with the terms of the permit which only he possessed. The Court of Appeals ruled that while it was Teachers Camp which hired the sawyers, petitioner had control over their acts. The Court of Appeals rejected petitioners claim that he was restrained from taking a bolder action by his fear of Santiago because petitioner could have informed his superiors but he did not do so. The Court of Appeals further rejected petitioners contention that the law contemplated cutting of trees without permit, while in this case there was a permit for cutting down the trees. The Court of Appeals ruled that the trees which were cut by the sawyers were not covered by the permit. The Court of Appeals ruled that conspiracy was not sufficiently proven. As such, the Court of Appeals found that the prosecution failed to prove Cutengs guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The Court of Appeals likewise acquitted Santiago because he was only following orders as to which trees to cut and he did not have a copy of the permit. Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration. In its 24 September 2004 Resolution, the Court of Appeals denied the motion for lack of merit. Hence, the petition before this Court. The Issue The only issue in this case is whether petitioner is guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of Section 68 of PD 705.

The Ruling of this Court The petition has merit. The Solicitor General alleges that the petition should be denied because petitioner only raises questions of facts and not questions of law. We do not agree. A question of law arises when there is doubt as to what the law is on a certain state of facts, while there is a question of fact when the doubt arises as to the truth or falsity of the alleged facts.[10] For questions to be one of law, the same must not involve an examination of the probative value of the evidence presented by the litigants.[11] The resolution of the issue must rest solely on what the law provides on the given set of circumstances.[12] In this case, petitioner challenges his conviction under Section 68 of PD 705. Section 68 of PD 705 provides:
Section 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.

There are two distinct and separate offenses punished under Section 68 of PD 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.[13]

The provision clearly punishes anyone who shall cut, gather, collect or remove timber or other forest products from any forest land, or timber from alienable or disposable public land, or from private land, without any authority. In this case, petitioner was charged by CENRO to supervise the implementation of the permit. He was not the one who cut, gathered, collected or removed the pine trees within the contemplation of Section 68 of PD 705. He was not in possession of the cut trees because the lumber was used by Teachers Camp for repairs. Petitioner could not likewise be convicted of conspiracy to commit the offense because all his co-accused were acquitted of the charges against them. Petitioner may have been remiss in his duties when he failed to restrain the sawyers from cutting trees more than what was covered by the permit. As the Court of Appeals ruled, petitioner could have informed his superiors if he was really intimidated by Santiago. If at all, this could only make petitioner administratively liable for his acts. It is not enough to convict him under Section 68 of PD 705. Neither could petitioner be liable under the last paragraph of Section 68 of PD 705 as he is not an officer of a partnership, association, or corporation who ordered the cutting, gathering, or collection, or is in possession of the pine trees. WHEREFORE, we GRANT the petition. We SET ASIDE the 5 June 1997 Decision and 24 September 2004 Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CAG.R. CR No. 17534. Petitioner Ernesto Aquino is ACQUITTED of the charge of violation of Section 68 of Presidential Decree No. 705. Costs de officio. SO ORDERED.

ANTONIO T. CARPIO Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

REYNATO S. PUNO Chief Justice Chairperson

RENATO CASTRO

C.

CORONA

TERESITA

J.

LEONARDO-DE

Associate Justice

Associate Justice

LUCAS P. BERSAMIN

Associate Justice

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

REYNATO S. PUNO Chief Justice

[1] [2]

Under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. Rollo, pp. 16-31. Penned by Associate Justice Eubulo G. Verzola with Associate Justices Minerva P. Gonzaga-Reyes and Hilarion L. Aquino, concurring. [3] Id. at 33-35. Penned by Associate Justice Eubulo G. Verzola with Associate Justices Jose L. Sabio, Jr. and Monina Arevalo-Zenarosa, concurring. [4] Records, p. 190. [5] Revised Forestry Code. [6] Rollo, p. 20. [7] CA rollo, pp. 11-18. Penned by Judge Salvador J. Valdez, Jr. [8] Id. at 17-18. [9] Rollo, pp. 30-31. [10] Republic v. Heirs of Fabio, G.R. No. 159589, 23 December 2008. [11] Id. [12] Id. [13] Revaldo v. People, G.R. No. 170589, 16 April 2009.

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Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila SECOND DIVISION G.R. No. 144640 June 26, 2006

RODOLFO TIGOY, Petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS AND PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondents. DECISION AZCUNA, J.: This is a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court assailing the decision and resolution, dated March 6, 2000 and August 23, 2000, respectively, of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 20864 entitled "People of the Philippines v. Nestor Ong and Rodolfo Tigoy," acquitting Nestor Ong for insufficiency of evidence, while convicting Rodolfo Tigoy for violating Section 68 of Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 705 or the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines, as amended by Executive Order (E.O.) No. 277, Series of 1987, in relation to Articles 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code. The facts of the case are as follows:

On August 3, 1993, Nestor Ong, who had been engaged in the trucking business in Iligan City since 1986, was allegedly introduced by his friend Gamad Muntod to Lolong Bertodazo who signified his intent to rent the trucks of Ong to transport construction materials from Larapan, Lanao del Norte to Dipolog City. A Contract to Transport was supposedly entered into between Ong and Bertodazo, the salient portions of which state: 1. That the party of the First Part is an owner of Cargo Trucks with place of business at Iligan City; 2. That the party of the Second Part is a businessman dealing in buy and sell of General Merchandise, dry goods and construction materials; 3. That the party of the Second Part will engage the services of the two (2) cargo trucks of the party of the First Part; 4. That the services agreed upon should be rendered by the party of the First Part on August 3, 1993 from Larapan, Linamon, Lanao del Norte to Dipolog City for an agreed amount of TEN THOUSAND (P10,000.00) Pesos per truck or a total of TWENTY THOUSAND (P20,000.00) Pesos, Philippine Currency for the carriage of cement and other merchandise owned by the party of the Second Part; 5. That any legal controversy involving the cargo or of and when the cargo trucks are not actually used for the purpose herein stipulated, it is agreed that the same is the sole responsibility of the party of the Second Part without any liability of the party of the First Part.1 In the evening of October 3, 1993, Ong allegedly ordered Nestor Sumagang and petitioner Rodolfo Tigoy who had been employed by him as truck drivers for two (2) years and ten (10) years, respectively, to bring the two trucks to Lolong Bertodazo in Larapan, Lanao del Norte which is about fifteen (15) minutes away from Iligan City. He instructed the two drivers to leave the trucks in Larapan for the loading of the construction materials by Lolong Bertodazo, and to go back at dawn for the trip to Dipolog City. Thus, after meeting with Bertodazo, Sumagang and petitioner Tigoy allegedly went home to return to Larapan at four oclock in the morning the next day. When they arrived, the trucks had been laden with bags of cement and were half-covered with canvas.2 Before departing, they allegedly checked the motor oil, water, engine and tires of the trucks to determine if the same were in good condition. That same morning of October 4, 1993, Senior Inspector Rico Lacay Tome (then Deputy Chief of Police of Ozamis City), while escorting Provincial Director Dionisio Coloma at the ICC Arts Center in Ozamis City, along with the members of the Special Operation Group, received a dispatch from the 466th PNP Company situated at Barangay Bongbong, Ozamis City, informing him that two trucks, a blue and green loaded with cement, that were going towards Ozamis City did not stop at the checkpoint. Upon receiving the report, Tome, along with PO2 Peter Paul Nuqui and PO3 Bienvenido Real, boarded their patrol vehicle, a mini cruiser jeep, to intercept the two trucks at Lilian Terminal, Ozamis City.3 At the Lilian Terminal, PO2 Nuqui, who was the only one in uniform among the police officers, flagged down the two trucks but the same just sped away and proceeded towards the direction of Oroquieta City. Aboard their patrol vehicle, they chased the trucks and overtook the same at Barangay Manabay. They blocked the road with their vehicle causing the two trucks to stop. According to Senior Inspector Tome, he asked the driver who had alighted from the green truck why he did not stop at the checkpoint but the latter did not answer. When he inquired what was loaded in the truck, the driver replied that there is "S.O.P," which means grease money in street parlance. 4 This raised the suspicion of Tome that the trucks were loaded with "hot items."

Meanwhile, the blue truck which had been speeding behind the green truck and was being driven by Sumagang was intercepted by PO3 Real. Upon inspection, the police officers discovered piles of sawn lumber beneath the cement bags in both trucks. Tome inquired if the drivers had a permit for the lumber but the latter could not produce any. The drivers were brought and turned over to the investigator at the City Hall in Ozamis City. The truckmen, namely, Felix Arante and Doro Lopez, and another passenger whom Tigoy identified as Lolong Bertodazo, who were riding with them in the trucks, were not investigated. According to Nuqui, they did not notice that the group had left. It was later learned that they were instructed by Sumagang to inform Nestor Ong of the incident. Afterwards, the group of Tome proceeded back to the ICC Arts Center and informed the Provincial Director of the apprehension. Meanwhile, the drivers, Tigoy and Sumagang, were detained at the Ozamis City Police Station while Arante and Lopez were released.5 Meanwhile, Ermelo delos Santos, Chief of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Community and Environment and Natural Resources Office (DENR-CENRO),6 after receiving a call from the Ozamis City Police Station that two trucks were apprehended transporting sawn lumber without a permit and were brought to the City Hall, sent Rolando Dingal, Forester of the DENR, together with Teodoro Echavez, Juanito Taruc and Lucio Penaroya, to investigate. Petitioner Tigoy and Sumagang presented to Dingal the registration papers of the two trucks and appearing therein was the name of Nestor Ong as the owner. After ascertaining that the sawn lumber loaded on the two trucks did not have supporting documents, Dingal and his companions scaled the subject lumber and prepared a tally sheet. Loaded in the blue Nissan ten-wheeler truck were 229 pieces of lumber with a total volume of 6,232.46 board feet; and, in the green Isuzu eight-wheeler truck, 333 pieces of lumber with a total volume of 5,095.5 board feet.7 Consequently, the lumber and the vehicles were seized upon the order of the DENR Regional Executive Director.8 On October 6, 1993, an Information was filed against Nestor Ong, Sumagang, Lolong Bertodazo and petitioner Tigoy for possession of forest products without legal permit, thus: That on or about the 4th day of August, 1993 at Barangay Catadman, Ozamiz City, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring and confederating together and mutually helping each other, for a common design, did then and there willfully, unlawfully, feloniously and illegally possess and transport without the necessary legal documents nor permit from the lawful authorities, sawn dipterocarp lumbers (Philippine Mahogany), in the following manner, to wit: accused Nestor Ong, being the owner of 2 ten wheeler trucks with Plate Nos. GDA-279 and PNH-364 facilitated and allowed the use and transport of above-stated sawn [lumber] from Larapan, Lanao del Norte, but intercepted by the PNP authorities in Ozamiz City; while the accused Lolong Bertodazo facilitated the loading and transport of said sawn lumbers, while accused Nestor Sumagang y Lacson drove the Nissan 10 wheeler cargo truck bearing Plate No. GDA-279 which was loaded with 333 pieces of said sawn dipterocarp lumbers (Philippine Mahogany) of assorted sizes equivalent [to] 5,095.5 board feet which was concealed under piled bags of cement, which lumbers [were] valued at P134, 242.36; while accused Rodolfo Tigoy drove the 8 wheeler Isuzu truck bearing Plate No. ONH-364, which was loaded and transported with 229 pieces of sawn dipterocarp lumbers (Philippine Mahogany) of assorted sizes equivalent to 6,232.46 board feet which was concealed under piled bags of cement which lumbers [were] valued atP92,316.77 or total value of P226,559.13, without, however, causing damage to the government, inasmuch as the aforestated lumbers were recovered. CONTRARY to Section 68 of Presidential Decree 705, as amended by Executive Order No. 277, Series of 1987, in relation to Article 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code.9

Ong and petitioner Tigoy entered pleas of not guilty during the arraignment. Sumagang died after the case was filed while the other co-accused, Lolong Bertodazo, was not arrested and has remained at large. On October 11, 1996, the Regional Trial Court rendered its Decision, the dispositive portion of which reads: WHEREFORE, finding accused Nestor Ong and Rodolfo Tigoy [GUILTY] beyond reasonable doubt of possession of dipterocarp lumber [VALUED] at more than P22,000.00 without the legal documents as required by existing laws and regulations, penalized as qualified theft, this Court sentences them to an indeterminate penalty of ten (10) years and one (1) day of prision mayor to eighteen (18) years and three (3) months of reclusion temporal. The lumber and the conveyances used are forfeited in favor of the government. With costs. The DENR is ordered to sell/dispose of the lumber and conveyances in accordance with the existing laws, WITHOUT DELAY. Let the Court of Appeals, Fourteenth Division, before which accused Ongs appeal of this Courts denial of his action for replevin relative to his trucks is pending, be furnished with a copy of this judgment. With costs. SO ORDERED.10 Declaring that "constructive possession" of unlicensed lumber is not within the contemplation of Section 68 of P.D. No. 705, and for failure by the prosecution to prove the complicity of Ong, the Court of Appeals rendered its decision on March 6, 2000 modifying the ruling of the lower court, thus: WHEREFORE, the judgment appealed from is hereby MODIFIED in that accused-appellant Nestor Ong is acquitted for insufficiency of evidence and his two (2) trucks are ordered returned to him. The conviction of Rodolfo Tigoy is upheld and the decision dated October 11, 1996 is AFFIRMED in all respects. SO ORDERED.11 On March 24, 2000, petitioner filed with the Court of Appeals a Motion for Reconsideration praying for his acquittal but the same was denied on August 23, 2000. Hence, this petition, with the following assignment of errors: I THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN FINDING "COLLUSION" BETWEEN LOLONG BERTODAZO AND PETITIONER TIGOY; II THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN COMPLETELY DISREGARDING THE AFFIDAVIT OF LOLONG BERTODAZO AGAINST HIS PENAL INTEREST; III THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN FINDING PETITIONER TIGOY TO HAVE KNOWLEDGE OF THE LUMBER HE WAS TRANSPORTING; AND,

IV THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN FINDING THAT PETITIONER TIGOY HAD ACTUAL AND PHYSICAL POSSESSION OF THE UNDOCUMENTED LUMBER.12 Stated otherwise, the core issue presented is whether or not petitioner Tigoy is guilty of conspiracy in possessing or transporting lumber without the necessary permit in violation of the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines. Section 68 of P.D. No. 705, as amended by E.O. No. 277, otherwise known as the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines, provides: Section 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. . . . There are two ways of violating Section 68 of the above Code: 1) by cutting, gathering and/or collecting timber or other forest products without a license; and, 2) by possessing timber or other forest products without the required legal documents. Petitioner was charged with and convicted of transporting lumber without a permit which is punishable under Section 68 of the Code. He, Sumagang and the rest of their companions were apprehended by the police officers in flagrante delicto as they were transporting the subject lumber from Larapan to Dipolog City. Petitioner maintains that he could not have conspired with Lolong Bertodazo as he did not know about the unlicensed lumber in the trucks. He believed that what he was transporting were bags of cement in view of the contract between Ong and Bertodazo. Also, he was not around when Bertodazo loaded the trucks with the lumber hidden under the bags of cement. This contention by petitioner, however, was not believed by the lower court. In declaring that petitioner connived with Bertodazo in transporting the subject lumber, the court a quo noted: x x x The evidence of the prosecution established that the two drivers of accused Ong refused to stop at a checkpoint, a fact admitted by both in their affidavit, Exhs. "E" and "E-2". Likewise, the two drivers refused to stop on the national highway near a bus terminal when required by a uniformed policeman. When finally accosted, one of the drivers, whom witness Tome identified as the driver of the green truck, Sumagang, but who actually was Tigoy (as he was the driver of the green truck and who came to the road block first, being the lead driver) offered "S.O.P." which to witness Tome meant that the trucks were carrying "hot items." Why would the drivers refuse to stop when required? Did they fear inspection of their cargo? Why would "S.O.P." (which in street parlance is grease money) be offered to facilitate the passage of the trucks? The only logical answer to all these questions is that the drivers knew that they were carrying contraband lumber. This Court believes that the drivers had knowledge of the fact that they were transporting and were in possession of undocumented lumber in violation of law.13 In offenses considered as mala prohibita or when the doing of an act is prohibited by a special law such as in the present case, the commission of the prohibited act is the crime itself. It is sufficient that the offender has the intent to

perpetrate the act prohibited by the special law, and that it is done knowingly and consciously. 14 Direct proof of previous agreement to commit an offense is not necessary to prove conspiracy. 15 Conspiracy may be proven by circumstantial evidence.16 It may be deduced from the mode, method and manner by which the offense is perpetrated, or inferred from the acts of the accused when such acts point to a joint purpose and design, concerted action and community of interest.17 It is not even required that the participants have an agreement for an appreciable period to commence it.18 Petitioners actions adequately show that he intentionally participated in the commission of the offense for which he had been charged and found guilty by both the trial court and the Court of Appeals. Finding that petitioners conviction was reached without arbitrariness and with sufficient basis, this Court upholds the same. The Court accords high respect to the findings of facts of the trial court, its calibration of the collective testimonies of the witnesses, its assessment of the probative weight of the evidence of the parties as well as its conclusions19 especially when these are in agreement with those of the Court of Appeals, which is the case here. As a matter of fact, factual findings of the trial court, when adopted and confirmed by the Court of Appeals, are generally final and conclusive.20 WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED and the Decision and Resolution, dated March 6, 2000 and August 23, 2000, respectively, of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 20864 are hereby AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioner. SO ORDERED. ADOLFO S. AZCUNA Associate Justice WE CONCUR: REYNATO S. PUNO Chairperson Associate Justice ANGELINA SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ Associate Justice CANCIO C. GARCIA Associate Justice ATTESTATION I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division. REYNATO S. PUNO Associate Justice RENATO C. CORONA Asscociate Justice

Chairperson, Second Division CERTIFICATION Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the Divis ion Acting Chairpersons Attestation, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division. ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN Chief Justice

Footnotes
1

Records, Exhibit "1," p. 237. TSN, August 23, 1996, p. 40. TSN, September 13, 1990, pp. 12-14. CA Rollo, p. 50. TSN, September 13, 1995, pp. 28-36.

The original and exclusive jurisdiction over the confiscation of "all conveyances used either by land, water or air in the commission of the offense and to dispose of the same" is vested in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary or a duly authorized representative. The DENR has the supervision and control over the enforcement of forestry, reforestation, parks, game and wildlife laws, rules and regulations (Sections 5 and 7 of P.D. No. 705).
7

CA Rollo, pp. 174-176. Records, Exhibit "D," p. 240. Rollo, pp. 25-26. CA Rollo, pp. 51-52. Rollo, p. 38. Id. at 14. Rollo, p. 191. United States v. Go Chico, 14 Phil. 128 (1909), citing Gardner v. The People, 62 N.Y., 299.

10

11

12

13

14

15

Serrano v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 123896, June 25, 2003, 404 SCRA 639. People v. Miranda, G.R. No. 123917, December 10, 2003, 417 SCRA 383. People v. Gomez, G.R. No. 128378, April 30, 2003, 402 SCRA 210. People v. Miranda, supra note 16. People v. Sibonga, G.R. No. 95901, June 16, 2003, 404 SCRA 10.

16

17

18

19

20

Serrano v. Court of Appeals, supra note 15, states: "Factual findings of the trial court, when adopted and confirmed by the Court of Appeals , are final and conclusive , and may not be reviewed on appeal except: (1) when the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible; (2) when there is a grave abuse of discretion; (3) when the finding is grounded entirely on speculations, surmises or conjectures; (4) when the judgment of the Court of Appeals is based on a misapprehension of facts; (5) when the Court of Appeals, in making its findings, went beyond the issues of the case and the same is contrary to the admissions of both appellant and appellee; (6) when the findings of fact are conclusions without citation of specific evidence on which they are based; (7) when the Court of Appeals manifestly overlooked certain relevant facts not disputed by the parties and which, if properly considered, would justify a different conclusion; and, (8) when the findings of fact are premised on the absence of evidence and are contradicted by the evidence on record."

The Lawphil Project - Arellano Law Foundation

AMADO TAOPA,

FIRST DIVISION G.R. No. 184098 Petitioner, Present: PUNO, C.J., Chairperson, CARPIO, CORONA, AZCUNA and TINGA, JJ.

-versus-

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

Promulgated: November 25, 2008

x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x RESOLUTION CORONA, J.: On April 2, 1996, the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office of Virac, Catanduanes seized a truck loaded with illegally-cut lumber and arrested its driver, Placido Cuison. The lumber was covered with bundles of abaca fiber to prevent detection. On investigation, Cuison pointed to petitioner Amado Taopa and a certain Rufino Ogalesco as the owners of the seized lumber. Taopa, Ogalesco and Cuison were thereafter charged with violating Section 68 of Presidential Decree (PD) No. 705,[1] as amended, in the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Virac, Catanduanes. The information against them read:

That on or about the 2nd day of April 1996 at around 9:00 oclock in the morning at Barangay Capilihan, Municipality of Virac, Province of Catanduanes, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, with intent to possess, conspiring, confederating and helping one another, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully, criminally possess, transport in a truck bearing Plate No. EAS 839 and have in their control forest products, particularly one hundred thirteen (113) pieces of lumber of Philippine Mahogany Group and Apitong species with an aggregate net volume of One Thousand Six Hundred Eighty Four (1,684) board feet with an approximate value of NinetyNine Thousand One Hundred Twenty (Php99,120.00) Pesos, Philippine Currency, without any authority and/or legal documents as required under existing forest laws and regulations, prejudicial to the public interest. ACTS CONTRARY TO LAW.[2]

Taopa, Ogalesco and Cuison pleaded not guilty on arraignment. After trial on the merits, the RTC found them guilty as charged beyond reasonable doubt.[3] Only Taopa and Cuison appealed the RTC decision to the Court of Appeals (CA). Cuison was acquitted but Taopas conviction was affirmed.[4] The dispositive portion of the CA decision read:
WHEREFORE, the Decision appealed from is REVERSED with respect to accused-appellant Placido Cuison, who is ACQUITTED of the crime charged on reasonable doubt, and MODIFIED with respect to accused-appellants Amado Taopa and Rufino Ogalesco by reducing the penalty imposed on them to four (4) years, nine (9) months and eleven (11) days ofprision correccional, as minimum, to ten (10) years of prision mayor, as maximum. SO ORDERED.[5]

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

We deny the petition. Both the RTC and the CA gave scant consideration to Taopas alibi because Cuisons testimony proved Taopas active participation in the transport of the seized lumber. In particular, the RTC and the CA found that the truck was loaded with the cargo in front of Taopas house and that Taopa and Ogalesco were accompanying the truck driven by Cuison up to where the truck and lumber were seized. These facts proved Taopas (and Ogalescos) exercise of dominion and control over the lumber loaded in the truck. The acts of Taopa (and of his coaccused Ogalesco) constituted possession of timber or other forest products without the required legal documents. Moreover, the fact that Taopa and Ogalesco ran away at the mere sight of the police was likewise largely indicative of guilt. We are thus convinced that Taopa and Ogalesco were owners of the seized lumber. However, we disagree with both the RTC and CA as to the penalty imposed on Taopa. Section 68 of PD 705, as amended,[7] refers to Articles 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) for the penalties to be imposed on violators. Violation of Section 68 of PD 705, as amended, is punished as qualified theft.[8] The law treats cutting, gathering, collecting and possessing timber or other forest products without license as an offense as grave as and equivalent to the felony of qualified theft.

Articles 309 and 310 read:


Art. 309. Penalties. Any person guilty of theft shall be punished by: 1. The penalty of prision mayor in its minimum and medium periods, if the value of the thing stolen is more 12,000 pesos but does not exceed 22,000 pesos; but if the value of the thing stolen exceeds the latter amount, the penalty shall be the maximum period of the one prescribed in this paragraph, and one year for each additional ten thousand pesos, but the total of the penalty which may be imposed shall not exceed twenty years. In such cases, and in connection with the accessory penalties which may be imposed and for the purpose of the other provisions of this Code, the penalty shall be termed prision mayor or reclusion temporal, as the case may be. (emphasis supplied) 2. xxx Art. 310. Qualified theft. The crime of theft shall be punished by the penalties next higher by two degrees than those respectively specified in the next preceding articles xxx (emphasis supplied).

The actual market value of the 113 pieces of seized lumber was P67,630.[9] Following Article 310 in relation to Article 309, the imposable penalty should bereclusion temporal in its medium and maximum periods or a period ranging from 14 years, eight months and one day to 20 years plus an additional period of four years for the excess of P47,630. The minimum term of the indeterminate sentence[10] imposable on Taopa shall be the penalty next lower to that prescribed in the RPC. In this case, the minimum term shall be anywhere between 10 years and one day to 14 years and eight months or prision mayor in its maximum period to reclusion temporal in its minimum period.

The maximum term shall be the sum of the additional four years and the medium period[11] of reclusion temporal in its medium and maximum periods or 16 years, five months and 11 days to 18 years, two months and 21 days of reclusion temporal. The maximum term therefore may be anywhere between 16 years, five months and 11 days of reclusion temporal to 22 years, two months and 21 days of reclusion perpetua. WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DENIED. The January 31, 2008 decision and July 28, 2008 resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 30380 are AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. Petitioner Amado Taopa is hereby found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt for violation of Section 68 of PD No. 705, as amended, and sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of imprisonment from 10 years and one day of prision mayor, as minimum, to 20 years of reclusion temporal as maximum, with the accessory penalties provided for by law. SO ORDERED. RENATO C. CORONA Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

REYNATO S. PUNO Chief Justice

Chairperson

ANTONIO T. CARPIO Associate Justice

ADOLFO S. AZCUNA Associate Justice

DANTE O. TINGA Associate Justice

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

REYNATO S. PUNO Chief Justice

[1] [2] [3]

As replacement of Justice Teresita J. Leonardo-De Castro who is on official leave per Special Order No. 539. Revised Forestry Code. Rollo, p. 27. Rollo, pp. 30-31. The dispositive portion of the RTC decision read: WHEREFORE, In view of the foregoing, this Court finds: Accused Amado Taopa and Rufino Ogalesco GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt as principal of the crime charged and applying Articles 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code and the Indeterminate Sentence Law, hereby sentences both of them to suffer imprisonment from ten (10) years and one (1) day as minimum to twenty (20) years as maximum. Accused Placido Cuison GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt as accessory to the crime by transporting the lumber materials in his truck covered by bundles of abaca fiber, which is akin to concealing the body of the crime in order to prevent its discovery, and

hereby sentences him to suffer an imprisonment, the maximum period of which is two (2) degrees lower than that of the principal and the minimum period of which is one (1) degree lower, applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, hence, from two (2) years four (4) months and one (1) day as minimum to eight (8) years eight (8) months and one (1) day as maximum. The lumber materials are likewise confiscated in favor of the government to be disposed of through public auction sale to be conducted by the Clerk of Court and ExOfficio Provincial Sheriff of the Regional Trial Court of Virac, Catanduanes. The truck, which was included in the Seizure Receipt is ordered released to its owner inasmuch as the evidence proved that it was hired purposely for the transport of abaca fibers and not lumber materials.
[4]

[5]

[6] [7]

[8] [9]

[10]

[11]

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

SECOND DIVISION
GALO MONGE, Petitioner, G.R. No. 170308 Present:

- versus -

CARPIO, Acting Chairperson, CARPIO MORALES, AZCUNA,*

TINGA, and VELASCO, JR., JJ.


PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent. Promulgated:

March 7, 2008 x ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

RESOLUTION
TINGA, J.:
This is a Petition for Review[1] under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court whereby petitioner Galo Monge (petitioner) assails the Decision[2] of the Court of Appeals dated 28 June 2005 which affirmed his conviction as well as the discharge of accused Edgar Potencio (Potencio) as a state witness.

The factual antecedents follow. On 20 July 1994, petitioner and Potencio were found by barangay tanods Serdan and Molina in possession of and transporting three (3) pieces of mahogany lumber in Barangay Santo Domingo, Iriga City. Right there and then, the tanods demanded that they be shown the requisite permit and/or authority from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) but neither petitioner nor Potencio was able to produce any.[3] Petitioner fled the scene in that instant whereas Potencio was brought to the police station for interrogation, and thereafter, to the DENRCommunity Environment and Natural Resources Office (DENR-CENRO).[4] The DENR-CENRO issued a seizure receipt for the three pieces of lumber indicating that the items, totaling 77 board feet of mahogany valued atP1,925.00, had been seized from Potencio.[5] Later on, petitioner was arrested, but Potencios whereabouts had been unknown since the time of the seizure[6] until he surfaced on 3 January 1998.[7]

An information was filed with the Regional Trial Court of Iriga City, Branch 35 charging petitioner and Potencio with violation of Section 68[8] of Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 705,[9] as amended by Executive Order (E.O.) No. 277, series of 1997. The inculpatory portion of the information reads:
That on or about the 20th day of [July 1994], at about 9:30 oclock in the morning, in Barangay Sto. Domingo, Iriga City, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring, confederating with each other, without any authority of law, nor armed with necessary permit/license or other documents, with intent to gain, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, transport and have in their possession three (3) pieces of Mahogany of assorted [dimension] with a[n] appropriate volume of seventy-seven (77) board feet or point eighteen (0.18) cubic meter with a total market value of P1,925.00, Philippine currency, to the damage and prejudice of the DENR in the aforesaid amount. CONTRARY TO LAW.
[10]

At the 26 November 1996 arraignment, petitioner entered a negative plea.[11] Trial ensued. On 17 June 1997, Serdan testified on the circumstances of the apprehension but for failing to appear in court for cross examination, his testimony was stricken out.[12] On 16 January 1998, Potencio was discharged to be used as a state witness on motion of the prosecutor.[13] Accordingly, he testified on the circumstances of the arrest but claimed that for a promised fee he was merely requested by petitioner, the owner of the log, to assist him in hauling the same down from the mountain. Potencios testimony was materially corroborated by Molina.[14] Petitioner did not contest the allegations, except that it was not he but Potencio who owned the lumber. He lamented that contrary to what Potencio had stated in court, it was the latter who hired him to bring the log from the site to the sawmill where the same was to be sawn into pieces.[15]

The trial court found petitioner guilty as charged. Petitioner was imposed nine (9) years, four (4) months and one (1) day to ten (10) years and eight (8) months of prision mayor in its medium and maximum periods and ordered to pay the costs.[16] Aggrieved, petitioner elevated the case to the Court of Appeals where he challenged the discharge of Potencio as a state witness on the ground that the latter was not the least guilty of the offense and that there was no absolute necessity for his testimony.[17] The appellate court dismissed this challenge and affirmed the findings of the trial court. However, it modified the penalty to an indeterminate prison sentence of six (6) years of prision correccional as minimum to ten (10) years and eight (8) months of prision mayor as maximum.[18] His motion for reconsideration was denied, hence the present appeal whereby petitioner reiterates his challenge against the discharge of Potencio. The petition is utterly unmeritorious. Petitioner and Potencio were caught in flagrante delicto transporting, and thus in possession of, processed mahogany lumber without proper authority from the DENR. Petitioner has never denied this fact. But in his attempt to exonerate himself from liability, he claims that it was Potencio, the owner of the lumber, who requested his assistance in hauling the log down from the mountain and in transporting the same to the sawmill for processing. The contention is unavailing. Section 68 of P.D. No. 705, as amended by E.O. No. 277, criminalizes two distinct and separate offenses, namely: (a) the cutting, gathering, collecting and removing of timber or other forest products from any forest land, or timber from alienable or disposable public land, or from private land without any authority; and (b) the possession of timber or other forest products without the legal documents required under existing laws and regulations.[19] DENR Administrative Order No. 59

series of 1993 specifies the documents required for the transport of timber and other forest products. Section 3 thereof materially requires that the transport of lumber be accompanied by a certificate of lumber origin duly issued by the DENR-CENRO. In the first offense, the legality of the acts of cutting, gathering, collecting or removing timber or other forest products may be proven by the authorization duly issued by the DENR. In the second offense, however, it is immaterial whether or not the cutting, gathering, collecting and removal of forest products are legal precisely because mere possession of forest products without the requisite documents consummates the crime.[20] It is thus clear that the fact of possession by petitioner and Potencio of the subject mahogany lumber and their subsequent failure to produce the requisite legal documents, taken together, has already given rise to criminal liability under Section 68 of P.D. No. 705, particularly the second act punished thereunder. The direct and affirmative testimony of Molina and Potencio as a state witness on the circumstances surrounding the apprehension well establishes petitioners liability. Petitioner cannot take refuge in his denial of ownership over the pieces of lumber found in his possession nor in his claim that his help was merely solicited by Potencio to provide the latter assistance in transporting the said lumber. P.D. No. 705 is a special penal statute that punishes acts essentially malum prohibitum. As such, in prosecutions under its provisions, claims of good faith are by no means reliable as defenses because the offense is complete and criminal liability attaches once the prohibited acts are committed.[21] In other words, mere possession of timber or other forest products without the proper legal documents, even absent malice or criminal intent, is illegal.[22] It would therefore make no difference at all whether it was petitioner himself or Potencio who owned the subject pieces of lumber. Considering the overwhelming body of evidence pointing to nothing less than petitioners guilt of the offense charged, there is no cogent reason to reverse his conviction.

Petitioners challenge against Potencios discharge as a state witness must also fail. Not a few cases established the doctrine that the discharge of an accused so he may turn state witness is left to the

exercise of the trial courts sound discretion[23] limited only by the requirements set forth in Section 17,[24] Rule 119 of the Rules of Court. Thus, whether the accused offered to be discharged appears to be the least guilty and whether there is objectively an absolute necessity for his testimony are questions that lie within the domain of the trial court, it being competent to resolve issues of fact. The discretionary judgment of the trial court with respect this highly factual issue is not to be interfered with by the appellate courts except in case of grave abuse of discretion.[25] No such grave abuse is present in this case. Suffice it to say that issues relative to the discharge of an accused must be raised in the trial court as they cannot be addressed for the first time on appeal.[26]

Moreover and more importantly, an order discharging an accused from the information in order that he may testify for the prosecution has the effect of an acquittal.[27] Once the discharge is ordered by the trial court, any future development showing that any or all of the conditions provided in Section 17, Rule 119 have not actually been fulfilled will not affect the legal consequence of an acquittal.[28] Any witting or unwitting error of the prosecution, therefore, in moving for the discharge and of the court in granting the motion no question of jurisdiction being involvedwill not deprive the discharged accused of the benefit of acquittal and of his right against double jeopardy. A contrary rule would certainly be unfair to the discharged accused because he would then be faulted for a failure attributable to the prosecutor. It is inconceivable that the rule has adopted the abhorrent legal policy of placing the fate of the discharged accused at the mercy of anyone who may handle the prosecution.[29] Indeed, the only instance where the testimony of a discharged accused may be disregarded is when he deliberately fails to testify truthfully in court in accordance with his commitment,[30] as provided for in Section 18, Rule 119. Potencio lived up to his commitment and for that reason, petitioners challenge against his discharge must be dismissed.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED and the assailed decision of the Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED. SO ORDERED.

DANTE TINGA

O. Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

ANTONIO T. CARPIO Associate Justice Acting Chairperson

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES Associate Justice

ADOLFO S. AZCUNA Associate Justice

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR. Associate Justice

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

ANTONIO T. CARPIO Associate Justice Acting Chairperson

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

REYNATO S. PUNO Chief Justice

As replacement of Justice Leonardo A. Quisumbing who is on official leave per Administrative Circular No. 84-2007.
[1]

Rollo, pp. 10-25.

Docketed as CA-G.R. CR No. 25249. The decision was penned by Associate Justice Edgardo F. Sundiam and concurred in by Associate Justices Renato C. Dacudao and Japar B. Dimaampao, id. at 65-77.
[3]

[2]

TSN, 23 July 1999, pp. 4-5, 12-14. Rollo, p. 67. Records, p. 157.

[4]

[5]

The warrant of arrest against Potencio dated 10 March 1997 was returned unserved. The sheriffs return stated that Potencio has escaped from custody and was in Manila,id. at 48.
[7]

[6]

TSN, 30 January 1998, p. 16.

SEC. 68. Cutting, gathering and/or collecting timber or other products without license Any person who shall cut, gather, collect or remove timber or other forest products from any forest land, or timber from alienable or disposable public land or from private land whose title has no limitation on the disposition of forest products found therein, without any authority under a license agreement, lease license or permit shall be punished with the penalty imposed under Arts. 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code : Provided, That in the case of partnership, association or corporation, the officers who ordered the cutting, gathering or collecting shall be liable, and if such officers are aliens, they shall in addition to the penalty, be deported without further proceedings on the part of the Commission on Immigration and Deportation. The Court shall further order the confiscation in favor of the government of the timber or forest products so cut, gathered, collected or removed as well as the machinery, equipment, implements and tools used therein and the forfeiture of his improvements in the area: Provided, That the timber or forest products cut, gathered, collected or removed from a license area shall be delivered to the licensee, lessee or permitee in whose area the forest products were cut, gathered, collected or removed, free from claims of the illegal cutter, but subject to the payment of the corresponding forest charges. Should the licensee refuse to accept the products, the same may be confiscated in favor of the government to be disposed in accordance with law, regulation or policy on the matter. REVISING PRESIDENTIAL DECREE NO. 389, OTHERWISE KNOWN AS THE FORESTRY REFORM CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES.
[10] [9]

[8]

Records, p. 1.

Id. at 24-25. The decision of the Court of Appeals stated that accused Edgar Potencio had been arraigned, contrary to what is kept in the records as the Certificate of Arraignment and the Order of Arraignment indicate that only petitioner Galo Monge had been arraigned.
[12]

[11]

Id. at 215. Id. at 76. Id. at 215-217. Id. at 217-218. Id. at 220-221. CA rollo, p. 40. Id. at 108.

[13]

[14]

[15]

[16]

[17]

[18]

[19]

People v. Que, 333 Phil. 582, 594 (1996). Id.

[20]

[21]

People v. Dator, 398 Phil. 109, 121 (2000). Id.; Tan v. People, 352 Phil. 724, 738 (1998); People v. Que, 333 Phil. 582, 594 (1996).

[22]

Yu v. Presiding Judge, RTC of Tagaytay City, Br. 18, G.R. No. 142848, 30 June 2006, 494 SCRA 101, 116; People v. Armada, Jr., G.R. No. 100592, 26 August 1993, 225 SCRA 644, 647; Flores v. Sandiganbayan, 209 Phil. 89, 84 (1983). Sec. 17. Discharge of accused to be state witness. When two or more persons are jointly charged with the commission of any offense, upon motion of the prosecution before resting its case, the court may direct one or more of the accused to be discharged with their consent so that they may be witnesses for the state when, after requiring the prosecution to present evidence and the sworn statement of each proposed state witness at a hearing in support of the discharge, the court is satisfied that: (a) There is absolute necessity for the testimony of the accused whose discharge is requested; (b) There is no other direct evidence available for the proper prosecution of the offense committed, except the testimony of said accused; (c) The testimony of said accused can be substantially corroborated in its material points; (d) Said accused does not appear to be the most guilty; and (e) Said accused has not at any time been convicted of any offense involving moral turpitude. Evidence adduced in support of the discharge shall automatically form part of the trial. If the court denies the motion for discharge of the accused as state witness, his sworn statement shall be inadmissible in evidence.
[25] [24]

[23]

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

[26]

[27]

Sec. 18. Discharge of accused operates as acquittal.The order indicated in the preceding section shall amount to an acquittal of the discharged accused and shall be a bar to future prosecution for the same offense, unless the accused fails or refuses to testify against his co-accused in accordance with his sworn statement constituting the basis for his discharge.
[28]

Rosales v. Court of Appeals, G.R. Nos. 80418-19, 23 October 1992, 215 SCRA 102, 108. People v. Mendiola, 82 Phil. 740, 746 (1949).

[29]

Bogo-Medellin Milling Co., Inc. v. Son, G.R. No. 80268, 27 May 1992, 209 SCRA 329; People v. Tabayoyong, No. L-31084, 29 May 1981, 104 SCRA 724, 739; United States v. De Guzman, 30 Phil. 416, 425 (1915).

[30]

THIRD DIVISION

[G.R. No. 125797. February 15, 2002]

DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT and NATURAL RESOURCES (DENR), Region VIII, Tacloban City, Represented by Regional Executive Director Israel C. Gaddi, petitioner, vs. GREGORIO DARAMAN, NARCISO LUCENECIO and Hon. CLEMENTE C. ROSALES, Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 32, Calbayog City, respondents. DECISION
PANGANIBAN, J.:

Under the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines, particularly Section 68-A, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources secretary or a duly authorized representative may order the confiscation in favor of the government of, among others, the vehicles used in the commission of offenses punishable by the said Code.

The Case Before us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, assailing the December 6, 1995 Decision[1] and the June 3, 1996 Order[2] of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Calbayog City (Branch 32) in Criminal Case No. 1958. The assailed Decision disposed as follows:

WHEREFORE, for insufficiency of evidence, the Court hereby declares accused GREGORIO DARAMAN and NARCISO LUCENECIO acquitted of the crime charged, with costs de [o]ficio. The bond of the accused is hereby cancelled. The court hereby orders the CENR Officer of Samar, or any DENR employee who is taking custody of the Holy Cross Funeral Services vehicle St. Jude, with Plate No. HAJ-848, to return the said vehicle to the owner thereof.
[3]

The assailed Order denied the Motion for Reconsideration challenging the last paragraph of the Decision regarding the return of the subject vehicle to herein respondents.

The Facts In the assailed Decision, the trial court summarized the facts of this case as follows:

The accused herein Gregorio Daraman and Narciso Lucenecio are charged [with] violation of Section 68 of Presidential Decree No. 705 as amended by Executive Order No. 277 in an information which is quoted herein below: That on or about the 30th day of November, 1993, at about 1:00 oclock in the afternoon, at Barangay Bulao, Municipality of San Jorge, Province of Samar, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring, confederating together and mutually helping one another, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously gather, collect and possess seventy two (72) pieces of assorted sizes of lumber, with a total volume of 72.93 board feet valued at SEVEN HUNDRED TWENTY NINE PESOS (P729.30) and THIRTY CENTAVOS, without first securing and obtaining any permit or license therefor from the proper authorities, thus Violating Section 68 of Presidential Decree No. 705, as amended and further Amended by Executive Order No. 277, series of 1989. CONTRARY TO LAW. Assisted by their counsels, the accused were arraigned and they entered the plea of not guilty. Thereafter trial was conducted. The prosecution presented Pablo Opinion who testified as follows: That he is an employee of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources as a Forest Ranger. On November 30, 1993 at about 1:00 oclock in the afternoon, while he was in his house in Brgy.Bulao, San Jorge, Samar, a vehicle named St. Jude with Plate No. HAJ-848 coming from barangay Blanca Aurora passed by. He stopped the said vehicle and found some lumber of assorted sizes [and] wood shavings inside. The lumber consisted of 62 pieces of 1 x 2 x 4, 16 pieces of 1 x 24 x 2.3 and 1 piece of 1 x 2 x 4. In his estimate at the price of P10.00 per board foot the total value of the lumber would be P729.30. He asked the driver for [the] owner of the lumber and he was informed that it was a certain Asan of Brgy. Blanca Aurora. The driver also informed him that the vehicle was owned by his employer, Narciso Lucenecio of the Holy Cross Funeral Services in Calbayog City. He then took hold of the vehicle and the assorted lumber and, thereafter, he issued a Seizure Receipt marked asExhs. B and series. He also took photographs of the lumber which are now marked as Exhs. C and series. Besides, he signed a Joint Affidavit with Oligario Mabansag, also a

Forest Ranger. When he asked the driver Gregorio Daraman for some papers for the assorted lumber, the latter replied that he had none because they were not his. Daraman further told him that [they] went to Brgy. Blanca Aurora to secure some wood shavings from the furniture shop owned by Asan and Asan merely asked him a favor of loading his assorted lumbers in the vehicle of the Holy Cross Funeral Services to be brought to his (Asans) house in Barangay Abrero, Calbayog City. The prosecution has still another witness in the person of Oligario Mabansag, but both the prosecution and the defense agreed to dispense with his testimony considering that the case would be merely corroborative [of] those already offered by Pablo Opinion. The prosecution rested its case with the admission of Exhs. A and B and their series. Its Exhs. C and series were rejected because the photographer who took them did not testify to identify [them]. For the defense, only accused Gregorio Daraman testified because his co-accused would merely offer corroborative testimony. From his testimony, the following facts have been established: That on November 30, 1993 in the afternoon his employer Baby Lucenecio instructed him to procure some wood shavings (sinapyo) in San Jorge, Samar. He used the service vehicle of the Holy Cross Funeral Services. His companion[s] were Melio Bedoya, Fanny Fiel and Ragi Mabutol. They went to barangay Blanca Aurora, San Jorge, Samar and thereat, they got some wood shavings from the furniture shop owned by a certain Asan Abing. They loaded 20 sacks of wood shavings, each sack measuring 22 inches in height by 32 1/2 inches in circumference as he demonstrated in court. The wood shavings [were] being used by the Holy Cross Funeral Services as cushions in the coffin. After the 20 sacks of wood shavings were loaded, Asan Abing asked him a favor to bring his (Asan) assorted lumber to his house in Brgy. Obrero, Calbayog City where the Holy Cross Funeral Services [was] also located. Asan himself personally loaded his assorted lumber into the vehicle. The subject assorted lumber were already in the furniture shop where they got the wood shavings. On their way home as they passed by Brgy. Bulao, Pablo Opinion stopped him and took the wood shavings. Opinion also inquired about the assorted lumber and he told him that they were owned by Asan, owner of the furniture shop in Brgy. Blanca Aurora, who loaded them in his vehicle to be brought to his (Asans) house in Barangay Obrero,Calbayog City. He told Opinion also that Asan advised him that if somebody would [ask] about his lumber, just to tell the person that Asan had the papers for the lumber with him in his furniture shop at Brgy. Blanca Aurora, San Jorge, Samar. Pablo Opinion, however, did not take his word and he instead impounded the vehicle together with the assorted lumber. At about 5:00 oclock in the afternoon, the vehicle was still not returned to him and so

Gregorio Daraman left and returned to his employer at Brgy. Obrero, Calbayog City and told the latter about what happened.

[4]

After trial, the RTC acquitted both accused and ordered the return of the disputed vehicle to Lucenecio. Prior to these court proceedings, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Community and Environment and Natural Resources Office (DENRCENRO) ofCatbalogan, Samar conducted administrative confiscation proceedings on the seized lumber and vehicle in the presence of private respondents. [5] The two failed to present documents to show the legality of their possession and transportation of the lumber seized. Hence, CENRO Officer Marciano T. Talavera recommended to the Regional Executive Director (RED) the final confiscation of the seized lumber and conveyance.[6] Atty. Pastor C. Salazar filed a Memorandum dated January 26, 1994, concurring with the recommendation to forfeit the lumber and the vehicle seized from private respondents. The Memorandum was approved by RED Augustus L. Momongan and Arty. Fiel I. Marmita, chief of the Legal Division of the DENR, Region VIII, Tacloban City.[7] Atty. Rogelio G. Bato Jr. of DENR, Region 8, Tacloban City, moved for the reconsideration of the assailed Decision, only insofar as it ordered the return of the said vehicle to the owner thereof.[8] He contended that the vehicle had already been administratively confiscated by the DENR on December 2, 1993, and that the RED approved its forfeiture onJanuary 26, 1994.[9] He further claimed that the DENR had exclusive jurisdiction over the conveyance, which had been used in violation of the Revised Forestry Code pursuant to Section 68-A of PD 705, as amended by EO 277. The trial court denied the Motion via the assailed Order.

Ruling of the Trial Court The trial court acquitted private respondents for insufficiency of evidence. The unrebutted testimony of Respondent Daraman was that, in exchange for the wood shavings fromAsan, the former agreed to take the lumber to the latters house in Calbayog City, where the Holy Cross Funeral Services office was also located. Asan advised Daraman to reply, when asked, that the papers showing the authorization for the lumber were in the formers shop in Barangay Blanca Aurora. Finding the evidence against Respondent Lucenecio to be likewise insufficient, the RTC considered the vehicle as an effect of the crime and ordered its delivery to him. In the challenged Order, the trial court ruled that the Motion for Reconsideration was untenable on procedural and substantive grounds. Since Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Feliciano Aguilar did not sign the Motion, the RTC deemed his silence a sign of his disapproval of the Motion. Substantively, the trial court ruled:

x x x [T]he Court finds the motion still wanting in merits considering that as found by the Court the owner of the vehicle in question, St. Jude, which is the Holy Cross Funeral Parlor owned by accusedNarciso Lucenecio, did not commit any violation of P.D. 705. Likewise, the prosecution failed to sufficiently establish that accused Gregorio Daraman had taken or kept control of the lumber subject of the motion which would thereby demonstrate that he had x x x possession of the subject forest products. Instead, as established by the evidence it was a certain Asan who owned the subject lumber. xxx. xxx xxx xxx

The decision of the Court has never been brought on appeal, thereby the same has long become final and executory. Again, as shown by the evidence in the alleged confiscation proceedings conducted by the OIC DENR Officer Marciano Talavera of Samar on December 2, 1992, the lumber in question [was] found to be owned by Asan Abing. But notwithstanding this fact, for reasons not known to the Court, the said Asan Abing was never made an accused in the present case. Sec. 68-1 of P.D. 705 contemplates a situation where the owner of the vehicle is himself a violator of P.D. 705 or has been found to have conspired with any other persons who committed the violation of Sec. 68 of P.D. 705 or consented to the use of his vehicle in violating the said law. In the present case as shown by the evidence, neither the Holy Cross Funeral Parlor or its owner accused NarcisoLucenecio has committed a violation of P.D. 705 as already declared by the Court in its decision of December 6, 1995 nor the driver, accused Gregorio Daraman. In fact both were declared acquitted of the violation charged, and the decision has not been appealed.
Hence, this Petition.[11]

[10]

Issues In its Memorandum, petitioner raises the following issues for the Courts consideration:

(A) Regional Trial Courts have no jurisdiction and/or authority to order x x x the return of property already owned by the government. (B) Respondent judge utterly disregarded and/or misinterpreted the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 705, as amended by Executive

Order No. 277, otherwise known as the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines. (C) The government is not estopped from protecting its interest by reason of mistake, error or failure of its officers to perform their duties.
[12]

Stated simply, the issues are: (1) whether the RTC had jurisdiction to release the confiscated vehicle; (2) whether the trial court misconstrued PD 705, as amended; and (3) whether, as a result of its filing of the criminal action, petitioner is estopped from confiscating the vehicle administratively. The Courts Ruling The Petition is meritorious. First Issue: Jurisdiction to Order Return of Vehicle Petitioner contends that the RTC overstepped its jurisdiction when it ordered the return of the disputed vehicle, because the vehicle had already become government property by virtue of the forfeiture Order issued by DENR on January 26, 1994. The DENR secretary or his duly authorized representative, under Section 68-A of PD 705 as amended by EO 277, may order the confiscation and disposition of all conveyances -by land, water or air -- used in illegally cutting, gathering, removing, possessing or abandoning forest products. We agree. Jurisdiction is conferred by substantive law.[13] A comparison of the provisions of the two relevant sections of PD 705, as amended, shows that the jurisdiction of the RTC covers the confiscation of the timber or forest products as well as the machinery, equipment, implements and tools illegally used in the area where the timber or forest products are found; it is the DENR that has jurisdiction over the confiscation of forest products and, to stress, all conveyances used in the commission of the offense. Section 68 reads:

Section 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: x x x. 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.
[14]

Section 68-A, in contrast, provides:

SEC. 68-A. Administrative Authority of the Department Head or His Duly Authorized Representative to Order Confiscation. -- In all cases of violations of this Code or other forest laws rules and regulations, the Department Head or his duly authorized representative, may order the confiscation of any forest products illegally cut, gathered, removed, or possessed or abandoned, and all conveyances used either by land, water or air in the commission of the offense and to dispose of the same in accordance with pertinent laws, regulations or policies on the matter.
[15]

If a statute is clear, plain and free from ambiguity, it must be understood in its literal meaning and applied without resort to interpretation, on the presumption that its wording correctly expresses its intent or will. The courts may not construe it differently. [16] Machinery is a collective term for machines and appliances used in the industrial arts;[17] equipment covers physical facilities available for production, including buildings, machineries and tools;[18] and implements pertains to whatever may supply a want, especially an instrument, tool or utensil.[19] These terms do not include conveyances that are specifically covered by Section 68-A. The implementing guidelines of Section 68-A define conveyance in a manner that includes any type or class of vehicle, craft, whether motorized or not, used either in land, water or air, or a combination thereof or any mode of transport used in the movement of any forest product. [20] Hence, the original and exclusive jurisdiction over the confiscation of all conveyances used either by land, water or air in the commission of the offense and to dispose of the same is vested in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) secretary or a duly authorized representative. The DENR secretary has supervision and control over the enforcement of forestry, reforestation, parks, game and wildlife laws, rules and regulations.[21] To implement Section 68-A, DENR promulgated Administrative Order (AO) No. 5493, amending Department Administrative Order (DAO) No. 59-90. AO 54-93 provides the guidelines for the confiscation, forfeiture and disposition of conveyances used in violation of forestry laws, rules and regulations. Even the Information filed in Criminal Case No. 1958 limited the acts attributed to private respondents to willfully, unlawfully and feloniously gather, col lect and possess seventy two (72) pieces of assorted sizes of lumber, x x x without first securing and obtaining any permit or license therefor from the proper authorities, x x x. The Information did not contain any allegation pertaining to the transportation or conveyance of illegally cut, gathered, possessed or abandoned lumber in violation of Section 68-A of PD 705, as amended.

Confiscation Without Due Process Private respondents main defense is that the Order of Forfeiture (Annex C) is a false, falsified and perjurious document. The Order was attached to and made part of the record only when petitioner filed its Motion for Reconsideration dated February 6, 1996, or only after the trial court rendered the assailed Decision. Petitioner made it appear, according to the private respondents, that RED Momongan had approved the Memorandum on January 26, 1994. This does not appear to be true because Atty. Marmita, officer-in-charge (OIC) of the DENR Legal Division of Tacloban City, signed the Memorandum recommending approval only on January 31, 1994. Further, on April 6, 1995, Judge Rosales of the RTC of Calbayog City (Branch 32) ordered the provincial environment and natural resources officer to transfer the confiscated vehicle and pieces of lumber in connection with the prosecution of Criminal Case 1958.[22] Reynaldo R. Villafuerte, OIC of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO), replied that his office could not deliver the vehicle because it was not in running condition.[23] We are not persuaded. The validity and legality of the Order of Forfeiture falls outside the ambit of the review of the assailed Decision and Order. The basis for the assailed Order to release the vehicle was private respondents acquittal of the charge of violating Section 68. On the other hand, the forfeiture Order issued by the DENR was based on Section 68-A, which involved a distinct and separate matter cognizable by it. Petitioner is questioning only the RTCs jurisdiction over the assailed Order to release the confiscated vehicle. Private respondents have not appealed the DENRs Order of Forfeiture, the validity of which can thus be presumed. [24] The genuineness of the Order and its proper service upon them are factual issues that will not be dwelt upon by this Court, which is not a trier of facts.[25] The jurisdiction of this Court, under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Court, is in the main limited to reviewing legal errors committed by a lower court.[26] Under PD 705, the actions and the decisions of the DENR are reviewable by the courts only through special civil actions for certiorari or prohibition.[27]

Second Issue: Construing PD 705, as Amended Petitioner alleges that the RTC misinterpreted the law when it held that Section 68A, PD 705 contemplated a situation in which the very owner of the vehicle was the violator or was a conspirator with other violators of that law. Department Order No. 54, Series of 1993, provides that the proceedings for the confiscation and the forfeiture of the conveyance shall be directed against its owner, and that lack of knowledge of its illegal use shall not bar its forfeiture. In the present Petition, the trial court ruled in the assailed Order that Section 68-A of PD 705 contemplated a situation in which the very owner of the vehicle violated this law

or conspired with other persons who violated it or consented to the use of his or her vehicle in violating it. Respondents Lucenecio and Daraman were not shown to have violated PD 705, and their acquittals were not appealed. We side with petitioner. The guilt or the innocence of the accused in the criminal case is immaterial, because what is punished under Section 68 is the transportation, movement or conveyance of forest products without legal documents. The DENR secretary or the authorized representatives do not possess criminal jurisdiction; thus, they are not capable of making such a ruling, which is properly a function of the courts. Even Section 68-A of PD 705, as amended, does not clothe petitioner with that authority. Conversely, the same law takes out of the general jurisdiction of the regional trial courts the confiscation of conveyances used in violation of forestry laws. Hence, we cannot expect the DENR to rule on the criminal liability of the accused before it impounds such vehicles. Section 68-A covers only the movement of lumber or forest products without proper documents. Where the language of a statute is clear and unambiguous, the law is applied according to its express terms, and interpretation is resorted to only where a literal interpretation would lead to either an absurdity or an injustice.[28] We also uphold petitioners argument that the release of the vehicle to private respondents would defeat the purpose and undermine the implementation of forestry laws. The preamble of the amendment in EO 277 underscores the urgency to conserve the remaining forest resources of the country for the benefit of the present and future generations. Our forest resources may be effectively conserved and protected only through the vigilant enforcement and implementation of our forestry laws. [29] Strong paramount public policy should not be degraded by narrow constructions of the law that frustrate its clear intent or unreasonably restrict its scope.[30]

Third Issue: Estoppel In view of the foregoing, it becomes unnecessary for this Court to resolve petitioners third issue. It is no longer material to rule on whether it was erroneous for the RTC to hold that the assistant provincial prosecutors failure to comment on petitioners Motion for Reconsideration was an implied disapproval thereof. The public prosecutors disapproval does not vest in the trial court t he jurisdiction or authority to release the vehicle to private respondents. WHEREFORE, the Petition is GRANTED and the assailed Decision and Order are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. No costs. SO ORDERED. Melo, (Chairman), Vitug, Sandoval-Gutierrez, and Carpio, JJ., concur.

[1]

Penned by Judge Clemente C. Rosales; rollo, pp. 39-47. Rollo, pp. 53-54. Rollo, p. 47. RTC Decision, pp. 1-5; rollo, pp. 39-42. Rollo, pp. 33-35. Rollo, p. 35. Order of Forfeiture; rollo, p. 147. Motion for Reconsideration, pp. 1-4; rollo, pp. 48-51. Memorandum dated January 26, 1994, Annex C, rollo, p. 38; Annex 11, rollo, p. 147; and Annex H, rollo, p. 177. Rollo, pp. 53-54. The case was deemed submitted for resolution upon this Courts receipt of the Memorandum for private respondents on January 30, 2001. The resolution of this case was delayed by private respondents failure/refusal to file their pleadings on time. The Court had to issue two separate Orders of Arrest and Commitment against private respondents on April 20, 1998, for their failure to submit their Comment on the Petition (rollo, pp. 71-72) and against Atty. Sisenando Fiel Jr. on November 20, 2000 for his failure to file the Memorandum for private re

[2]

[3]

[4]

[5]

[6]

[7]

[8]

[9]

[10]

[11]

FIRST DIVISION

SESINANDO MERIDA, Petitioner,

G.R. No. 158182

Present:

PUNO, C.J., Chairperson, CARPIO, - versus AZCUNA, CORONA, and LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, JJ.

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

Promulgated: June 12, 2008

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

DECISION

CARPIO, J.: The Case

This is a petition for review[1] of the Decision[2] dated 28 June 2002 and the Resolution dated 14 May 2003 of the Court of Appeals. The 28 June 2002Decision affirmed the conviction of petitioner Sesinando Merida (petitioner) for violation of Section 68,[3] Presidential Decree No. 705 (PD 705),[4] as amended by Executive Order No. 277. The Resolution dated 14 May 2003 denied admission of petitioners motion for reconsideration.[5] The Facts

Petitioner was charged in the Regional Trial Court of Romblon, Romblon, Branch 81 (trial court) with violation of Section 68 of PD 705, as amended, for cut*ting+, gather*ing+, collect*ing+ and remov*ing+ a lone narra tree inside a private land in Mayod, Ipil, Magdiwang, Romblon (Mayod Property) over which private complainant Oscar M. Tansiongco (Tansiongco) claims ownership.[6]

The prosecution evidence showed that on 23 December 1998, Tansiongco learned that petitioner cut a narra tree in the Mayod Property. Tansiongco reported the matter to Florencio Royo (Royo), the punong barangay of Ipil. On 24 December 1998,[7] Royo summoned petitioner to a meeting with Tansiongco. When confronted during the meeting about the felled narra tree, petitioner

admitted cutting the tree but claimed that he did so with the permission of one Vicar Calix (Calix) who, according to petitioner, bought the Mayod Property from Tansiongco in October 1987 under a pacto de retro sale. Petitioner showed to Royo Calixs written authorization signed by Calixs wife.[8]

On 11 January 1999, Tansiongco reported the tree-cutting to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) forester Thelmo S. Hernandez (Hernandez) in Sibuyan, Romblon. When Hernandez confronted petitioner about the felled tree, petitioner reiterated his earlier claim to Royo that he cut the tree with Calixs permission. Hernandez ordered petitioner not to convert the felled tree trunk into lumber.

On 26 January 1999, Tansiongco informed Hernandez that petitioner had converted the narra trunk into lumber. Hernandez, with other DENR employees and enforcement officers, went to the Mayod Property and saw that the narra tree had been cut into six smaller pieces of lumber. Hernandez took custody of the lumber,[9]deposited them for safekeeping with Royo, and issued an apprehension receipt to petitioner. A larger portion of the felled tree remained at the Mayod Property. The DENR subsequently conducted an investigation on the matter.[10]

Tansiongco filed a complaint with the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Romblon (Provincial Prosecutor) charging petitioner with violation of Section 68 of PD 705, as amended. During the preliminary investigation, petitioner submitted a counter-affidavit reiterating his claim that he cut the narra tree with Calixs permission. The Provincial Prosecutor[11] found probable cause to indict petitioner and filed the Information with the trial court (docketed as Criminal Case No. 2207).

During the trial, the prosecution presented six witnesses including Tansiongco, Royo, and Hernandez who testified on the events leading to the discovery of and investigation on the tree-cutting. Petitioner testified as the lone defense witness and claimed, for the first time, that he had no part in the treecutting.

The Ruling of the Trial Court

In its Decision dated 24 November 2000, the trial court found petitioner guilty as charged, sentenced him to fourteen (14) years, eight (8) months and one (1) day to twenty (20) years of reclusion temporal and ordered the seized lumber forfeited in Tansiongcos favor.[12] The trial court dismissed petitioners defense of denial in view of his repeated extrajudicial admissions that he cut the narra tree in the Mayod Property with Calixs permission. With this finding and petitioners lack of DENR permit to cut the tree, the trial court held petitioner liable for violation of Section 68 of PD 705, as amended.

Petitioner appealed to the Court of Appeals reiterating his defense of denial. Petitioner also contended that (1) the trial court did not acquire jurisdiction over the case because it was based on a complaint filed by Tansiongco and not by a forest officer as provided under Section 80 of PD 705 and (2) the penalty imposed by the trial court is excessive.

The Ruling of the Court of Appeals

In its Decision dated 28 June 2002, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial courts ruling but ordered the seized lumber confiscated in the governments favor.[13] The Court of Appeals sustained the trial courts finding that petitioner is bound by his extrajudicial admissions of cutting the narra tree in the Mayod Property without any DENR permit. The Court of Appeals also found nothing irregular in the filing of the complaint by Tansiongco instead of a DENR forest officer considering that the case underwent preliminary investigation by the proper officer who filed the Information with the trial court.

On the imposable penalty, the Court of Appeals, in the dispositive portion of its ruling, sentenced petitioner to 14 years, 8 months and 1 day to 17 years ofreclusion temporal. However, in the body of its ruling, the Court of Appeals held that the penalty to be imposed on *petitioner+ should be (14) years, eight (8) months and one (1) day to twenty (20) years of reclusion temporal,[14] the same penalty the trial court imposed.

Petitioner sought reconsideration but the Court of Appeals, in its Resolution dated 14 May 2003, did not admit his motion for having been filed late.[15]

Hence, this petition. Petitioner raises the following issues:

I. WHETHER x x x SECTION 68 OF P.D. 705 AS AMENDED PROHIBITING THE CUTTING, GATHERING, COLLECTING AND REMOVING TIMBER OR OTHER FOREST PRODUCTS FROM ANY FOREST LAND APPLIES TO PETITIONER.

II. WHETHER x x x POSSESSION OF THE NARRA TREE CUT IN PRIVATE LAND CONTESTED BY VICAR CALIX AND PRIVATE-COMPLAINANT OSCAR TANSIONGCO IS COVERED BY SECTION 80 OF P.D. 705 AS AMENDED.

III. WHETHER PRIVATE-COMPLAINANT CAN INITIATE THE CHARGE EVEN WITHOUT THE STANDING AUTHORITY COMING FROM THE INVESTIGATINGFOREST OFFICER OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES AS MANDATED BY SECTION 80 OF P.D. 705 AS AMENDED.

[IV.] WHETHER x x x THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN TAKING COGNIZANCE OF THE CASE FILED BY PRIVATE-COMPLAINANT BECAUSE IT WAS NOT THE INVESTIGATING OFFICER AS REQUIRED BY SECTION 80 OF P.D. 705 AS AMENDED WHO MUST BE THE ONE TO INSTITUTE THE FILING OF THE SAME.[16]

In its Comment to the petition, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) countered that (1) the trial court acquired jurisdiction over the case even though Tansiongco, and not a DENR forest officer, filed the complaint against petitioner and (2) petitioner is liable for violation of Section 68 of PD 705, as amended.

The Issues

The petition raises the following issues:[17]

1) Whether the trial court acquired jurisdiction over Criminal Case No. 2207 even though it was based on a complaint filed by Tansiongco and not by a DENR forest officer; and 2) Whether petitioner is liable for violation of Section 68 of PD 705, as amended.

The Ruling of the Court

The petition has no merit.

The Trial Court Acquired Jurisdiction Over Criminal Case No. 2207

We sustain the OSGs claim that the trial court acquired jurisdiction over Criminal Case No. 2207. The Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure (Revised Rules) list the cases which must be initiated by a complaint filed by specified individuals,[18] non-compliance of which ousts the trial court of jurisdiction from trying such cases.[19] However, these cases concern only defamation and other

crimes against chastity[20] and not to cases concerning Section 68 of PD 705, as amended. Further, Section 80 of PD 705 does not prohibit an interested person from filing a complaint before any qualified officer for violation of Section 68 of PD 705, as amended. Section 80 of PD 705 provides in relevant parts:

SECTION 80. Arrest; Institution of criminal actions. x x x x Reports and complaints regarding the commission of any of the offenses defined in this Chapter, not committed in the presence of any forest officer or employee, or any of the deputized officers or officials, shall immediately be investigated by the forest officer assigned in the area where the offense was allegedly committed, who shall thereupon receive the evidence supporting the report or complaint.

If there is prima facie evidence to support the complaint or report, the investigating forest officer shall file the necessary complaint with the appropriate official authorized by law to conduct a preliminary investigation of criminal cases and file an information in Court. (Emphasis supplied)

We held in People v. CFI of Quezon[21] that the phrase reports and complaints in Section 80 refers to reports and complaints as might be brought to the forest officer assigned to the area by other forest officers or employees of the Bureau of Forest Development or any of the deputized officers or officials , for violations of forest laws not committed in their presence.[22]

Here, it was not forest officers or employees of the Bureau of Forest Development or any of the deputized officers or officials who reported to Hernandez the tree-cutting in the Mayod Property but Tansiongco, a private citizen who claims ownership over the Mayod Property. Thus, Hernandez cannot be faulted for not conducting an investigation to determine if there is prima facie evidence to support the complaint or report.[23] At any rate, Tansiongco was not

precluded, either under Section 80 of PD 705 or the Revised Rules, from filing a complaint before the Provincial Prosecutor for petitioners alleged violation of Section 68 of PD 705, as amended. For its part, the trial court correctly took cognizance of Criminal Case No. 2207 as the case falls within its exclusive original jurisdiction.[24]

Petitioner is Liable for Cutting Timber in Private Property Without Permit

Section 68, as amended, one of the 12 acts[25] penalized under PD 705, provides:
SECTION 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)

Section 68 penalizes three categories of acts: (1) the cutting, gathering, collecting, or removing of timber or other forest products from any forest land without any authority; (2) the cutting, gathering, collecting, or removing of timber from alienable or disposable public land, or from private land without any authority;[26]and (3) the possession of timber or other forest products without the legal documents as required under existing forest laws and regulations.[27] Petitioner stands charged of having cut, gathered, collected and removed timber or other forest products from a private land[28] without x x x the necessary permit x x x thus his liablity, if ever, should be limited only for cut*ting+, gather*ing+, collect*ing+ and remov*ing+ timber, under the second category. Further, the prosecution evidence showed that petitioner did not perform any acts of gathering, collecting, or removing but only the act of cutting a lone narra tree. Hence, this case hinges on the question of whether petitioner cut x x x timber in the Mayod Property without a DENR permit.[29]

We answer in the affirmative and thus affirm the lower courts rulings.

On the question of whether petitioner cut a narra tree in the Mayod Property without a DENR permit, petitioner adopted conflicting positions. Before his trial, petitioner consistently represented to the authorities that he cut a narra tree in the Mayod Property and that he did so only with Calixs permission. However, when he testified, petitioner denied cutting the tree in question. We sustain the lower courts rulings that petitioners extrajudicial admissions bind him.[30] Petitioner does not explain why Royo and Hernandez, public officials who testified under oath in their official capacities, would lie on the stand to implicate petitioner in a serious criminal offense, not to mention that the acts of these public officers enjoy the presumption of regularity. Further, petitioner does not deny presenting Calixs authorization to Royo and Hernandez as his basis for

cutting the narra tree in the Mayod Property. Petitioner has no use of Calixs authorization if, as he claimed during the trial, he did not cut any tree in the Mayod Property.

We further hold that the lone narre tree petitioner cut from the Mayod Property constitutes timber under Section 68 of PD 705, as amended. PD 705 does not define timber, only forest product (which circuitously includes timber.)[31] Does the narra tree in question constitute timber under Section 68? The closest this Court came to defining the term timber in Section 68 was to provide that timber, includes lumber or processed log.[32] In other jurisdictions, timber is determined by compliance with specified dimensions[33] or certain stand age or rotation age.[34] In Mustang Lumber, Inc. v. Court of Appeals,[35] this Court was faced with a similar task of having to define a term in Section 68 of PD 705 - lumber - to determine whether possession of lumber is punishable under that provision. In ruling in the affirmative, we held that lumber should be taken in its ordinary or common usage meaning to refer to processed log or timber, thus:

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, wallboard, blackboard, 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 Websters Third New International Dictionary, lumber is

defined, inter alia, as timber or logs after being prepared for the market. Simply 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. And in so far as possession of timber without the required legal documents is concerned, Section 68 of PD No. 705, as amended, makes no distinction between raw and procesed timber. Neither should we.[36] x x x x (Italicization in the original; boldfacing supplied)

We see no reason why, as in Mustang, the term timber under Section 68 cannot be taken in its common acceptation as referring to wood used for or suitable for building or for carpentry or joinery.[37] Indeed, tree saplings or tiny tree stems that are too small for use as posts, panelling, beams, tables, or chairs cannot be considered timber.[38]

Here, petitioner was charged with having felled a narra tree and converted the same into several pieces of sawn lumber, about three (3) pcs. 2x16x6 and three (3) pcs. 2x18x7 x x x consisting of 111 board feet x x x. These measurements were indicated in the apprehension receipt Hernandez issued to petitioner on 26 January 1999 which the prosecution introduced in evidence.[39] Further, Hernandez testified that the larger portion of the felled log left in the Mayod Property measured 76 something centimeters *at the big end+ while the smaller end measured 65 centimeters and the length was 2.8 meters.[40] Undoubtedly, the narra tree petitioner felled and converted to lumber was timber fit for building or for carpentry or joinery and thus falls under the ambit of Section 68 of PD 705, as amended.

The Penalty Imposable on Petitioner

Violation of Section 68 of PD 705, as amended, is punishable as Qualified Theft under Article 310 in relation to Article 309 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), thus:

Art. 310. Qualified theft. - The crime of qualified theft shall be punished by the penalties next higher by two degrees than those respectively specified in the next preceding article x x x.

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

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

2. The penalty of prisin correccional in its medium and maximum periods, if the value of the thing stolen is more than 6,000 pesos but does not exceed 12,000 pesos.

3. The penalty of prisin correccional in its minimum and medium periods, if the value of the property stolen is more than 200 pesos but does not exceed 6,000 pesos.

4. Arresto mayor in its medium period to prisin correccional in its minimum period, if the value of the property stolen is over 50 pesos but does not exceed 200 pesos.

5. Arresto mayor to its full extent, if such value is over 5 pesos but does not exceed 50 pesos.

6. Arresto mayor in its minimum and medium periods, if such value does not exceed 5 pesos.

7. Arresto menor or a fine not exceeding 200 pesos, if the theft is committed under the circumstances enumerated in paragraph 3 of the next preceding article and the value of the thing stolen does not exceed 5 pesos. If such value exceeds said amount, the provisions of any of the five preceding subdivisions shall be made applicable. . 8. Arresto menor in its minimum period or a fine not exceeding 50 pesos, when the value of the thing stolen is not over 5 pesos, and the offender shall have acted under the impulse of hunger, poverty, or the difficulty of earning a livelihood for the support of himself or his family.

The Information filed against petitioner alleged that the six pieces of lumber measuring 111 board feet were valued at P3,330. However, if the value of the log left at the Mayod Property is included, the amount increases to P20,930.40. To prove this allegation, the prosecution relied on Hernandezs testimony that these amounts, as stated in the apprehension receipt he issued, are his estimates based on prevailing local price.[41] This evidence does not suffice. To prove the amount of the property taken for fixing the penalty imposable against the accused under Article 309 of the RPC, the prosecution must present more than a mere uncorroborated estimate of such fact.[42] In the absence of independent and reliable corroboration of such estimate, courts may either apply the minimum penalty under Article 309 or fix the value of the property taken based on the attendant circumstances of the

case.[43] In People v. Dator[44] where, as here, the accused was charged with violation of Section 68 of PD 705, as amended, for possession of lumber without permit, the prosecutions evidence for the lumbers value consisted of an estimate made by the apprehending authorities whose apparent lack of corroboration was compounded by the fact that the transmittal letter for the estimate was not presented in evidence. Accordingly, we imposed on the accused the minimum penalty under Article 309(6)[45] of the RPC.[46]

Applying Dator in relation to Article 310 of the RPC and taking into account the Indeterminate Sentence Law, we find it proper to impose on petitioner, under the circumstances obtaining here, the penalty of four (4) months and one (1) day of arresto mayor, as minimum, to three (3) years, four (4) months and twenty-one (21) days of prision correcional, as maximum.

WHEREFORE, we AFFIRM the Decision dated 28 June 2002 and the Resolution dated 14 May 2003 of the Court of Appeals with the modification that petitioner Sesinando Merida is sentenced to four (4) months and one (1) day of arresto mayor, as minimum, to three (3) years, four (4) months and twenty-one (21) days of prision correcional, as maximum.

SO ORDERED.

ANTONIO T. CARPIO Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

REYNATO S. PUNO Chief Justice Chairperson

RENATO AZCUNA Associate Justice

C.

CORONA

ADOLFO

S.

Justice

Associate

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO Associate Justice

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

REYNATO S. PUNO Chief Justice

[1] [2]

[3] [4] [5] [6]

Under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. Penned by Associate Justice Eliezer R. De Los Santos with Associate Justices Cancio C. Garcia (a retired member of this Court) and Marina L. Buzon, concurring. Re-numbered as Section 77 under Section 7, Republic Act No. 7161. The Revised Forestry Code. Filed by petitioners new counsel, Atty. Marcelino P. Arias. The Information alleged (CA rollo, p. 10): That on or about the 23 day of December 1998, in barangay Ipil, municipality of Magdiwang, province of Romblon, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, with intent to gain, did then and there willfully, unlawfully, feloniously cut, gather, collect, remove and/or caused to be cut, gathered and removed one (1) narra tree [from] the private land owned by OSCAR M. TANSIONGCO and converted the same into several pieces of sawn lumber, about three (3) pcs. 2x16x6 and three (3) pcs. 2x18x7 narra sawn lumber were confiscated by the elements of the DENR personnel consisting of 111 board feet, valued in the sum of P3,330.00, Philippine currency, including the remaining felled narra tree showing the total amount of P20,930.40 due to the government, without having first secured and obtained the necessary permit or license and/or legal supporting documents from the proper authorities.
rd

[7] [8] [9]

[10] [11]

Other parts of the records place this date on 26 December 1998. Imelda Muros. Valued at P3,330.00. If a larger part of the narra tree, left at the Mayod Property, is included in the valuation, the total amount is P20,930.40. The Information filed against petitioner alleged the higher amount. The records do not contain the results of the investigation. Senior State Prosecutor-OIC PPO Francisco F. Benedicto, Jr.

[12]

The dispositive portion of the ruling provides ( rollo, p. 31): WHEREFORE, this Court finds the accused SESINANDO MERIDA GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime charged in the aforementioned Information, dated January 28, 2000, and hereby sentences him to an indeterminate sentence of from fourteen (14) years, eight (8) months and one (1) day to twenty (20) years of reclusion temporal, and to pay the costs.

[13]

The dispositive portion of the ruling provides (id. at 51): WHEREFORE, premises considered, the 24 November 2000 trial court decision is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. Defendant-appellant is sentenced to an indeterminate penalty of 14 years, 8 months and 1 day of reclusion temporal as minimum to 17 years of

reclusion temporal as maximum. The forest products derived from the narra tree, including the 6 pieces of lumber, are confiscated in favor of the government.
[14] [15] [16] [17]

Id. at 51. The Court of Appeals entered judgment on 27 August 2002. Rollo, p. 14. The OSG does not claim that this Court is precluded from reviewing the Court of Appeals rulings for having attained finality. At any rate, the Court resolved to give due course to the petition in the interest of justice taking into account the nature of the case and the issues raised for resolution.

[18]

Section 5, Rule 110. See People v. Mandia, 60 Phil. 372 (1934); People v. Trinidad, 58 Phil. 163 (1933). [20] Adultery, Concubinage, Seduction, Abduction, and Acts of Lasciviousness. [21] G.R. No. 46772, 13 February 1992, 206 SCRA 187. [22] Id. at 194. [23] It cannot be said, however, that Hernandez failed to act on Tansiongcos report as Hernandez conducted field investigation, oversaw the confiscation of the lumber, and took part in the subsequent DENR investigation. [24] Under Section 20 in relation to Section 32(2) of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129 as amended by Republic Act No. 7691, Regional Trial Courts are vested with exclusive original jurisdiction over offenses punishable with imprisonment exceeding six years. Here, the offense for which petitioner was charged is punishable by reclusion temporal in its medium and maximum periods (that is, 14 years, 8 months and 1 day to 20 years) and thus falls under the RTC Romblons exclusive original jurisdiction. [25] The other acts penalized under PD 705, as amended by Presidential Decree No. 1559 and re-numbered by RA 7161, are: cutting, gathering and/or collecting timber or other products without license (Section 77); unlawful occupation or destruction of forest lands (Section 78); pasturing livestock (Section 79); illegal occupation of national parks system and recreation areas and vandalism therein (Section 80); destruction of wildlife resources (Section 81); survey by unauthorized person (Section 82); misclassification and survey by government official or employee (Section 83); tax declaration on real property (Section 84); coercion and influence (Section 85); unlawful possession of implements and devices used by forest officers (Section 86); payment, collection and remittance of forest charges (Section 87); and sale of wood products (Section 88). [26] Thus, there is no merit in petitioners claim that Section 68 of PD 705 does not penalize the cutting of timber in private land. [27] In Mustang Lumber, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, (G.R. No. 104988, 18 June 1996, 257 SCRA 430), the acts falling under the first and second groups were lumped together. The elements for the criminal acts under the first and second groups are: (1) that the accused cut, gathered, collected, or removed timber of other forest products; (2) that the timber or other forest products cut, gathered, collected, or removed belong to the government or to any private individual; and (3) that the cutting, gathering, collecting, or removing was without authority under a license agreement, lease, license, or permit granted by the state ( People v. CFI of Quezon, G.R. No. 46772, 13 February 1992, 206 SCRA 187). [28] It cannot be determined from the records if the Mayod Property is registered. [29] Under DENR Administrative Order No. 2000-21, dated 28 February 2000, private land owners are required to obtain a Special Private Land Timber Permit (SPLTP) from the DENR to cut, gather and utilize premium hardwood species, whether planted or naturally-grown. [30] Section 26, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court provides: The act, declaration or omission of a party as to a relevant fact may be given in evidence against him. [31] Section 3(q), PD 705 provides: Forest product means 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) [32] Mustang Lumber, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 104988, 18 June 1996, 257 SCRA 430. [33] In the Pacific and Northwestern Region (Region 6) of the United States Forest Service, timber utilization limits are set as follows: length 8 feet; diameter (breast-height) 9 inches; and top diameter 4 inches
[19]

[34]

[35] [36] [37] [38] [39] [40] [41] [42] [43]

[44] [45] [46]

(see A Review of the Forest Practices Code of British Columbia and Fourteen other Jurisdictions Background Report - 1995 at http://www.for.gov.bc.ca/tasb/legsregs/westland /report/2-3.htm [British Columbia Report]). In the Baden-Wurttemberg State of the Federal Republic of Germany, the stand ages are: 50 years for coniferous stands and 70 years for deciduous stands (Section 16 of the Forest Law). In Sweden, the following are the minimum rotation age: conifer stands - 45 years to 100 years (depending on the quality of the site); hardwood stands 35 years; and oak and beech trees 100 years (see British Columbia Report). Supra. Supra at 448. Websters Third New International Dictionary (1996 ed.). Wood pulps from timber can also be used for paper production. Exh. E. RTC Decision, p. 4; Rollo, p. 25. CA Decision, p. 8; Rollo, p. 42. Lucas v. Court of Appeals, 438 Phil. 530 (2002). See also People v. Elizaga, 86 Phil. 364 (1950). People v. Dator, 398 Phil. 109 (2000). The Court deems it improper to take judicial notice of the selling price of narra at the time of the commission of the offense in this case. Such evidence would both be unreliable and inconclusive considering the lack of independent and competent source of such information. Supra. Arresto mayor in its minimum and medium periods. The Court also took into account the following circumstances: (1) the accused, a janitor, cut the pieces of soft lumber from his mother's landholding for use in renovating his house and (2) the accused had no prior record for violation of PD 705. Here, petitioner also appears to have no record for violation of PD 705.

THIRD DIVISION

[A.C. No. 5499. August 16, 2005]

WILSON PO CHAM, complainant, vs. PIZARRO, respondent. DECISION


CARPIO MORALES, J.:

ATTY.

EDILBERTO

D.

Before this Court is an administrative complaint for disbarment filed by Wilson Po Cham (complainant) against Atty. Edilberto D. Pizarro (respondent) for commission of falsehood and misrepresentations in violation of a lawyers oath. Complainant gives the following account of the facts that spawned the filing of the present administrative complaint. Sometime in July 1995, Emelita Caete (Caete), Elenita Alipio (Alipio), and now deceased Mario Navarro (Navarro) who was then the Municipal Assessor of Morong, Bataan, offered for sale to him a parcel of land with an area of approximately forty (40) hectares, identified as Lot 1683 of Cad. Case No. 262, situated at Sitio Gatao, Nagbalayong, Morong,Bataan (the property). He having expressed interest in the offer, Caete and Navarro arranged a meeting between him and respondent at the latters residence in Balanga, Bataan[1] where respondent categorically represented to him that the property being offered for sale was alienable and disposable.[2] Respondent in fact presented to him 1) Real Property Tax Order of Payment[3] dated July 10, 1995 covering the property signed by Edna P. Pizarro as Municipal Treasurer and Navarro as Municipal Assessor; 2) a Deed of Absolute Sale[4] dated July 25, 1995 purportedly executed by the alleged previous actual occupant of the property, one Jose R. Monzon (Monzon), transferring all his rights, interest and possession thereover in favor of Virgilio Banzon (Banzon), Rolando B. Zabala (Zabala) and respondent for an agreed consideration of P500,000.00; and 3) Special Power of Attorney[5] dated July 25, 1995 executed by Banzon and Zabala authorizing him (respondent) to:

1. x x x offer to sell [their] rights over a certain parcel of land, which is more particularly described as follows: AREA: 40 has. more or less situated at Pook Batangas, Nagbalayong, Morong, Bataan covered by Tax Declaration No. 6066 PIN #108-08-044-05-126

2. x x x negotiate and enter into a contract for the consumation (sic) of sale of the subject property; and to sign the same. 3. x x x receive proceeds thereof with obligation to distribute the corresponding share of each co-owner; x x x (Underscoring supplied)
[6]

On July 25, 1995, he as buyer and respondent as seller executed an Option to Buy,[7] the pertinent portions of which provide:

WHEREAS, the SELLER is the owner and Attorney-In-Fact of his co-owners of rights with planted trees (improvements) containing an area of FORTY THREE (43) hectares, situated in Pook Batangas, Nagbalayong, Morong, Bataan; (Portion of Lot 1683, Cad. 262, Morong Cadastre), covered by Tax Declaration 6066. WHEREAS, the BUYER is interested to buy the same for a total price of THREE MILLION AND SEVEN HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS (P3,700,000.00) payable in two (2) gives (sic), as follows: a) Earnest money of P10,000.00 upon signing of this contract and the balance of full payment within three (3) weeks from date hereof which offer the SELLER accepts; NOW THEREFORE, for and in consideration of the foregoing premises and the terms and conditions hereunder specified the parties have agreed on the following: 1) That the Buyer shall give an option money and earnest (sic) of P10,000.00 upon signing of this contract, which shall form part of the contract price if and when the buyer comply (sic) with his obligation to pay in full within three (3) weeks from date hereof, otherwise should the BUYER fails (sic) to comply with his obligation to pay in full on the scheduled period the P10,000.00 earnest money shall be forfeited in favor of the SELLER and the Option to Buy is automatically cancelled. 2) That the SELLER upon full payment of the price shall execute a final Deed of Sale and shall surrender all documents, plans and paper relative to the properties subject of sale; 3) That the SELLER shall warrants (sic) their rights and claims over the above stated properties including the trees planted on it as against the rights of third party except that of the government. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
[8]

In accordance with the terms of the Option to Buy, he paid respondent the amount of P10,000.00 for which respondent issued the corresponding Receipt [9] reading:

Received the sum of TEN THOUSAND PESOS (P10,000.00) from MR. WILSON CHAM, representing earnest/option money for Lot 1683 of Cad. Case No. 262 situated at Boundaries: NORTH : Right of Catalino Agujo SOUTH : National Road-Bagac-Morong WEST : Right of Nicasio Canta EAST : Sapang Batang Panao including the trees and improvement situated thereon. Full payment shall be paid within three (3) weeks from date hereof. (Underscoring supplied)
[10]

On August 21, 1995, respondent executed a Deed of Absolute Sale [11] over the property in his favor, the pertinent portions of which read as follows:

For and in consideration of the sum of THREE MILLION THREE HUNDRED SEVENTY TWO THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED THIRTY THREE (P3,372,533.00), Philippine Currency, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged from the BUYER to the entire satisfaction of the SELLERS, the said SELLERS do by these presents SELL, TRANSFER and CONVEY, in manner absolute and irrevocable, in favor of the said BUYER, his heirs and assigns, all their rights, interest and participation over that certain real estate destined for, and in actual use as fruit land, situated at Pook Batangas, Nagbalayong, Morong, Bataan and more particularly described as follows: Location : Pook Batangas, Nagbalayong, Morong, Bataan Area : That portion of Lot 1683, Cad. 262, Morong Cadastre, containing an area of 392,155 square meters more or less. Boundaries : North : Right of Catalino Agujo South : National Road, Bagac-Morong West : Right of Nicasio Canta East : Sapang Batang Panao The SELLERS do hereby declare that the boundaries of the foregoing land are visible by means of monuments, creeks and trees; that the land including the permanent improvements existing thereon consist of fruit-bearing trees assessed for the current

year at TWO HUNDRED SIXTY TWO THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED P262,400.00 as per Tax Declaration No. 5010; and that the property is presently in the possession of the SELLERS. The SELLERS hereby agree with the BUYER that they are the absolute owners of the rights over the said property; that they have the perfect right to convey the same; that they acquired their rights over the said property by absolute deed of sale from Jose R. Monzon who acquired his rights over the property from Marianito Holgado; that Marianito Holgado acquired his right from Pedro de Leon who, in turn, acquired his right from Julian Agujo who was the original owner who cleared the land and who was in possession of the same immediately after the Second World War. The SELLERS warrant their rights and claims over the aforedescribed real estate including the trees planted thereon and they undertake to defend the same unto said Vendee, his heirs and assigns against the claims of any third person whomsoever. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
[12]

Respondent thereafter furnished him with a copy of Tax Declaration No. 5010[13] with Property Index No. 018-08-004-05-126 issued in his (respondents) name and his alleged co-owners, and Real Property Tax Receipt No. 025201[14] dated August 17, 1995 issued in his (respondents) name. He thus gave respondent two checks dated August 21, 1995 representing the purchase price of the rights over the property, Asian Bank Corporation Check No. GA063210[15] in the amount of P168,627.00 payable to respondent, and Asian Bank Managers Check No. 004639GA[16] in the amount of P3,193,906.00 payable to respondent, Banzon and Zabala. He subsequently took possession of the property and installed a barbed wire fence at its front portion. Soon after, however, a forest guard approached him and informed him that the property could not be fenced as it was part of the Bataan National Park.[17] Upon investigation, he discovered that the property is not an alienable or disposable land susceptible of private ownership. He thus secured a Certification[18] from the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENR) in Bagac, Bataan of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) dated July 2, 1998, signed by CENR Officer Laurino D. Macadangdang, reading:

This pertains to your request for a certification as to the status of land claimed by spouses Perfecto and Purificacion, Jose Monson, et. al, Virgilio Banzon and Edilberto Pizarro, all located at Nagbalayong, Morong, Bataan. Please be informed that per verification conducted by the personnel of this Office, said lands fall within the Bataan Natural Park per L.C. Map/N.P. Map No. 34

as certified on December 1, 1945. Under thePublic Land Law, lands within this category are not subject for disposition. (Underscoring supplied)
[19]

He also obtained a Letter-directive[20] dated August 31, 1995 issued by Officer-inCharge Ricardo R. Alarcon of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENR) of Balanga, Bataan to the Municipal Assessor, the pertinent portions of which read:

Please be informed that it comes to our attention that there are some forest occupants that are securing land tax declarations from your office in (sic) the pretext that the area they occupied (sic)were (sic) within alienable and disposable lands. Presently, this tax declaration is being used in the illegal selling of right [of] possession within the Bataan Natural Park which is prohibited under our laws.
xxx

In this regard, I would like to request for your assistance by way of informing us and in controlling this land rush and massive selling and buying of rights of possession within prohibited areas as stated above. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
[21]

Upon his request, the PENR issued a Certification[22] dated March 14, 1996 stating that those named by respondent as prior owners of rights over the property from whom respondent and his alleged co-owners acquired their alleged rights were not among those inventoried as occupants per the PENRs 1978 to 1994 Forest Occupancy Census (IFO) Survey. Despite repeated demands, respondent refused to return the purchase price of the rights over the property.[23] In his present complaint[24] dated September 10, 2001, complainant charges respondent to have violated his oath as a member of the Bar in committing manifest falsehood and evident misrepresentation by employing fraudulent means to lure him into buying rights over the property which property he represented to be disposable and alienable.[25] In his Comment[26] dated January 12, 2002, respondent denied having employed deceit or having pretended to co-own rights over the property or having represented that it was alienable and disposable. He claimed that complainant, being engaged in speculation in the purchase of property, knew exactly the character and nature of the object of his purchase;[27] and that despite complainants awareness that he was merely buying rights to forest land, he just the same voluntarily entered into the transaction because of the propertys proximity to the Subic Bay Economic Zone. Respondent surmised that complainant bought the rights over the property in the hope that lands belonging to the public domain in Morong would be eventually declared alienable and disposable to meet the rising demand for economic zones. [28]

By Resolution[29] of February 6, 2002, this Court referred the case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation or decision within ninety (90) days from notice. On May 6, 2002, complainant filed before the IBP his Reply[30] to respondents Comment, maintaining that the sale of rights over the property was attended with deceit as respondent deliberately did not disclose that the property was within the confines of the Bataan National Park.[31] And he denied being engaged in speculation, he claiming that with his purchase of the property, he would venture into low-cost housing for the employees of the nearby Subic Bay area.[32] To complainants Reply, respondent filed his Rejoinder on June 21, 2002.[33] Complainant later filed his Affidavit[34] and Position Paper[35] on June 21, 2002 and September 17, 2001, respectively, reiterating his assertions in his previous pleadings. The record shows that complainant filed a criminal complaint for estafa against respondent, Banzon, Zabala, Caete, Alipio and Navarro in 1999 [36] arising from the questioned sale of rights. The complaint was twice dismissed by the City Prosecutor of Quezon City. On petition for review, however, the Department of Justice, through then Secretary Hernando B. Perez, by Resolution[37] of March 6, 2002, reversed the dismissal of the complaint as it found probable cause to indict respondent et al. in court. An information for estafa was thereupon filed against respondent et al. before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City, docketed as Criminal Case No. Q-00-94232. By Report and Recommendation of April 20, 2004, the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD), through Commissioner Lydia A. Navarro, finding respondent to have violated his oath as a member of the Bar to do no falsehood and misrepresentations, recommended his suspension from the practice of law for three (3) months, subject to the approval of the members of the Board of Governors. Pertinent portions of the Report and Recommendation read:

. . . [I]t is evident that as early as of (sic) 1992, the Implementing Rules and Regulations of NIPAS ACT prohibited the illegal selling of rights or possession of the areas occupied within the Bataan Natural Park, the subject property not excluded as per letter of OIC CENRO Laurino D. Mapadanig [illegible], Bagac, Bataan per L.C. map/N.P. Map No. 34 to the Municipal Assessor therein and certified on December 1, 1945 that subject property which is within this category was not subject for disposition; a fact supposed to be known by the respondent being a resident of Balanga, Bataan and was in the practice of his profession also in said area.
[38]

Aside from the fact that the alleged original owner Monzon was not among those inventoried occupants as per Forest Occupancy (IFO) Survey since 1978 up to the latest census in 1994 from whom respondent allegedly bought the subject property; the Absolute Deed of Sale executed between the complainant Wilson Po Cham and

the respondent relative to the same subject property was not notarizedwhich partook the nature of a private and not official document. Although respondent furnished complainant the foregoing documents to prove their rights, interest and possession to the subject property, respondent and his co-owners failed to show a permit from the government conferring upon them rights or concessions over the subject property, which formed part of the Bataan Natural Park classified as public and not subject to disposition, therefore respondent and his coowners have no rights and interests whatsoever over the subject property and their representations to complainant were simply not true but a falsehood. Respondent being extensively conversant and knowledgeable about the law took advantage of his versatility in the practice of law and committed misrepresentations that he and his co-owners have irrevocable rights, interests and possession over the subject property which convinced complainant into purchasing subject property unmindful that the same is not alienable or disposable being a portion of the public domain; whereby respondent violated his solemn oath as member of the Philippine Bar for having committed such falsehood and misrepresentations to the complainant. (Underscoring supplied).
[39]

By CBD Resolution No. XVI-2004-407 of October 7, 2004, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved the April 20, 2004 Committee Report and Recommendation. The case was forwarded to this Court for final action pursuant to Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court.[40] The IBP findings are well-taken. The Bar is enjoined to maintain a high standard of not only legal proficiency but of honesty and fair dealing.[41] Thus, a member should refrain from doing any act which might lessen in any degree the confidence and trust reposed by the public in the fidelity, honesty and integrity of the legal profession.[42] The misconduct of a lawyer, whether in his professional or private capacity, which shows him to be wanting in moral character, honesty, probity and good demeanor to thus render him unworthy of the privileges which his license and the law confer upon him, may be sanctioned with disbarment or suspension.[43] Thus, under Section 27, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court, a member of the Bar may be disbarred or suspended from his office as attorney on the following grounds: 1) deceit; 2) malpractice or other gross misconduct in office; 3) grossly immoral conduct; 4) conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude; 5) violation of the lawyers oath; 6) willful disobedience to any lawful order of a superior court; and 7) willfully appearing as an attorney for a party without authority.

And he may be faulted under Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which mandates a member of the Bar to obey the laws of the land and promote respect for the law. Rule 1.01 of the Code specifically enjoins him not to engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct. Conduct, as used in this rule, is not limited to conduct exhibited in connection with the performance of professional duties. [44] In the case at bar, as reflected above, complainant presented certifications from the DENR that the property is part of the public domain and not disposable as it is within the Bataan National Park. Indeed, by virtue of Proclamation No. 24[45] issued on December 1, 1945, all properties of the public domain therein designated as part of the Bataan National Park were withdrawn from sale, settlement or other disposition, subject to private rights. On the other hand, respondent has utterly failed to substantiate his documented claim of having irrevocable rights and interests over the property which he could have conveyed to complainant. E.g., he could have presented any document issued by the government conferring upon him and his alleged co-owners, or even upon his alleged predecessors-in-interest, with any such right or interest, but he presented none. He merely presented a Deed of Absolute Sale purportedly executed by a certain Jose R. Monzon in his, Banzons and Zabalas favor on July 25, 1995, a month shy of the execution on August 21, 1995 of the Deed of Absolute Sale in favor of complainant. The tax declaration and receipt which respondent presented do not help his cause any as neither tax receipts nor realty tax declarations are sufficient evidence of the right of possession over realty unless supported by other effective proof.[46] The presentation of a tax declaration must indeed have been a pretext, as observed by the PENR in its earlier-quoted portion of its letter-directive to the Balanga Municipal Assessor that the area occupied . . . [is] within alienable and disposable land. Respondent must thus be faulted for fraudulently inducing complainant to purchase, for P3,372,533.00, non-existent irrevocable rights, interest and participation over an inalienable property. In Lizaso v. Amante[47] where therein respondent lawyer enticed the therein complainant to invest in the casino business with the proposition that her investment would yield her substantial profit, but therein respondent not only failed to deliver the promised return on the investment but also the principal thereof, this Court took occasion to expound on sanctioning lawyers for committing fraud, deceit or falsehood in their private dealings:

It is true, of course, that there was no attorney-client relationship between respondent Amante and complainant Cuyugan-Lizaso. The transaction that complainant entered into with respondent did not require respondent to perform professional legal services for complainant nor did that transaction relate to the rendition of professional services by respondent to any other person.

As early as 1923, however, the Court laid down in In Re Vicente Pelaez the principle that it can exercise its power to discipline lawyers for causes which do not involve the relationship of an attorney and client. x x x x x x [A]s a general rule, a court will not assume jurisdiction to discipline one of its officers for misconduct alleged to have been committed in his private capacity. But this is a general rule with many exceptions. The courts sometimes stress the point that the attorney has shown, through misconduct outside of his professional dealings, a want of such professional honesty as render him unworthy of public confidence, and an unfit and unsafe person to manage the legal business of others. The reason why such a distinction can be drawn is because it is the court which admits an attorney to the bar, and the court requires for such admission the possession of a good moral character.
x x x

The rationale of the rule that misconduct, indicative of moral unfitness, whether relating to professional or non-professional matters, justifies suspension or disbarment, was expressed by Mr. Chief Justice Prentice in In Re Disbarment of Peck, with eloquence and restraint: As important as it is that an attorney be competent to deal with the oftentimes intricate matters which may be intrusted to him, it is infinitely more so that he be upright and trustworthy. Unfortunately, it is not easy to limit membership in the profession to those who satisfy the standard of test of fitness. But scant progress in that direction can be hoped for if, in the determination of the qualification of professional fitness, non-professional dishonor and dishonesty in whatsoever path of life is to be ignored. Professional honesty and honor are not to be expected as the accompaniment of dishonesty and dishonor in other relations. x x x misconduct, indicative of moral unfitness for the profession, whether it be professional or nonprofessional, justifies dismission as well as exclusion from the bar. The rule in this jurisdiction was stated by Mr. Justice Malcolm in Piatt v. Abordo x xx: The courts are not curators of the morals of the bar. At the same time the profession is not compelled to harbor all persons whatever their character, who are fortunate enough to keep out of prison. As good character is an essential qualification for admission of an attorney to practice, when the attorneys character is bad in such respects as to show that he is unsafe and unfit to be entrusted with the powers of an attorney, the courts retain the power to discipline him. (Italics in the original)
[48]

This Lizaso ruling was reiterated in Co v. Bernardino[49] and Lao v. Medel.[50] To be sure, complainant is not entirely blameless. Had he exhibited a modicum of prudence before entering into the transaction with respondent, he would have spared himself from respondents sham. It is jurisprudentially established though that in a disbarment proceeding, it is immaterial that the complainant is not blameless or is in pari delicto as this is not a proceeding to grant relief to the complainant, but one to purge the law profession of unworthy members to protect the public and the courts.[51] The record does not disclose the status of the estafa case against respondent. His conviction or acquittal is not, however, essential insofar as the present administrative case against him is concerned.[52]

Administrative cases against lawyers belong to a class of their own. They are distinct from and they may proceed independently of x x x criminal cases. The burden of proof for these types of cases differ. In a criminal case, proof beyond reasonable doubt is necessary; in an administrative case for disbarment or suspension, clearly preponderant evidence is all that is required. Thus, a criminal prosecution will not constitute a prejudicial question even if the same facts and circumstances are attendant in the administrative proceedings. It should be emphasized that a finding of guilt in the criminal case will not necessarily result in a finding of liability in the administrative case. Conversely, respondents acquittal does not necessarily exculpate him administratively. (Emphasis supplied)
[53]

It is not thus sound judicial policy to await the final resolution of a criminal case before a complaint against a lawyer may be acted upon; otherwise, this Court will be rendered helpless from vigorously applying the rules on admission to and continuing membership in the legal profession during the whole period that the criminal case is pending final disposition when the objectives of the two proceedings are vastly disparate.[54] While the facts and circumstances of the case do not warrant the imposition of so severe a penalty as disbarment, the inherent power of this Court to discipline an errant member of the Bar must, nonetheless, be exercised as it cannot be denied that respondent violated his solemn oath as a lawyer not to engage in unlawful, dishonest or deceitful conduct.[55] The penalty of suspension for three (3) months recommended by the IBP is not, however, commensurate to the gravity of the wrong committed by respondent. This Court finds that respondents suspension from the practice of law for One (1) Year is warranted.

WHEREFORE, respondent, Atty. Edilberto D. Pizarro, is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for One (1) Year and STERNLY WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar offense will merit a more severe penalty. Let copies of this Decision be entered in the personal record of respondent as a member of the Bar and furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of thePhilippines, and the Court Administrator for circulation to all courts of the country. SO ORDERED. Panganiban, (Chairman), Sandoval-Gutierrez, Corona, and Garcia, JJ., concur.

[1]

TSN, September 13, 2002 at 45. Exhibit A, IBP Records at 33. Rollo at 9. Id. at 10. Id. at 13. Ibid. Id. at 11. Ibid. Id. at 12. Ibid. Id. at 14-16. Id. at 14-15. Id. at 17. Id. at 18. Id. at 19. Id. at 20. Exhibit A, IBP Records at 34. Rollo at 22. Ibid. Id. at 23-24. Ibid. Id. at 21. IBP Records at 35. Rollo at 1-8. Id. at 5.

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Id. at 28-35. Id. at 30. Id. at 34. Id. at 38. IBP Records at 4-10. Id. at 6. Id. at 8. Id. at 23-25. Exhibit A, Id. at 33-35. Id. at 73-88. TSN, September 13, 2002 at 88. IBP Records at 11-15. Republic Act No. 7586, otherwise known as the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992. Report and Recommendation at 9-11. Disbarment and Discipline of Attorneys. Maligsa v. Cabanting, 272 SCRA 408, 413 (1997). Ibid. Lao v. Medel, 405 SCRA 227, 232 (2003) (citations omitted), Barnachea v. Quiocho, 399 SCRA 1, 7 (2003) (citation omitted), Zaguirre v. Castillo, 398 SCRA 658, 666 (2003) (citation omitted), Rivera v. Corral, 384 SCRA 1, 9 (2002) (citation omitted), Ong v. Unto, 376 SCRA 152, 160 (2002) (citation omitted), Ducat, Jr. v. Villalon, Jr., 337 SCRA 622, 628 (2000) (citation omitted), Cruz v. Jacinto, 328 SCRA 636, 641 (2000) (citation omitted), Maligsa

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Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila EN BANC

G.R. No. 110249 August 21, 1997 ALFREDO TANO, BALDOMERO TANO, DANILO TANO, ROMUALDO TANO, TEOCENES MIDELLO, ANGEL DE MESA, EULOGIO TREMOCHA, FELIPE ONGONION, JR., ANDRES LINIJAN, ROBERT LIM, VIRGINIA LIM, FELIMON DE MESA, GENEROSO ARAGON, TEODORICO ANDRE, ROMULO DEL ROSARIO, CHOLITO ANDRE, ERICK MONTANO, ANDRES OLIVA, VITTORIO SALVADOR, LEOPOLDO ARAGON, RAFAEL RIBA, ALEJANDRO LEONILA, JOSE DAMACINTO, RAMIRO MANAEG, RUBEN MARGATE, ROBERTO REYES, DANILO PANGARUTAN, NOE GOLPAN, ESTANISLAO ROMERO, NICANOR DOMINGO, ROLDAN TABANG, ADRIANO TABANG, FREDDIE SACAMAY, MIGUEL TRIMOCHA, PACENCIO LABABIT, PABLO H. OMPAD, CELESTINO A. ABANO, ALLAN ALMODAI, BILLY D. BARTOLAY, ALBINO D. LIQUE, MECHOR J. LAYSON, MELANIE AMANTE, CLARO E. YATOC, MERGELDO B. BALDEO, EDGAR M. ALMASETA, JOSELITO MANAEG, LIBERATO ANDRADA, JR., ROBERTO BERRY, RONALD VILLANUEVA, EDUARDO VALMORIA, WILFREDO MENDOZA, NAPOLEON BABANGGA, ROBERTO TADEPA, RUBEN ASINGUA, SILVERIO GABO, JERRY ROMERO, DAVID PANGGARUTAN, DANIEL PANGGARUTAN, ROMEO AGAWIN, FERNANDO EQUIZ, DITO LEQUIZ, RONILO MODERABLE, BENEDICTO TORRES, ROSITO A. VALDEZ, CRESENCIO A. SAYANG, NICOMEDES S. ACOSTA, ERENEO A. SEGARINO, JR., WILFREDO A. RAUTO, DIOSDADO A. ACOSTA,

BONIFACIO G. SISMO, TACIO ALUBA, DANIEL B. BATERZAL, ELISEO YBAEZ, DIOSDADO E. HANCHIC, EDDIE ESCALICAS, ELEAZAR B. BATERZAL, DOMINADOR HALICHIC, ROOSEVELT RISMO-AN, ROBERT C. MERCADER, TIRSO ARESGADO, DANIEL CHAVEZ, DANILO CHAVEZ, VICTOR VILLAROEL, ERNESTO C. YBAEZ, ARMANDO T. SANTILLAN, RUDY S. SANTILLAN, JODJEN ILUSTRISIMO, NESTOR SALANGRON, ALBERTO SALANGRON, ROGER L. ROXAS, FRANCISCO T. ANTICANO, PASTOR SALANGRON, BIENVENIDO SANTILLAN, GILBUENA LADDY, FIDEL BENJAMIN, JOVELITO BELGANO, HONEY PARIOL, ANTONIO SALANGRON, NICASIO SALANGRON, & AIRLINE SHIPPERS ASSOCIATION OF PALAWAN, petitioners, vs. HON. GOV. SALVADOR P. SOCRATES, MEMBERS OF SANGGUNIANG PANLALAWIGAN OF PALAWAN, namely, VICE-GOVERNOR JOEL T. REYES, JOSE D. ZABALA, ROSALINO R. ACOSTA, JOSELITO A. CADLAON, ANDRES R. BAACO, NELSON P. PENEYRA, CIPRIANO C. BARROMA, CLARO E. ORDINARIO, ERNESTO A. LLACUNA, RODOLFO C. FLORDELIZA, GILBERT S. BAACO, WINSTON G. ARZAGA, NAPOLEON F. ORDONEZ and GIL P. ACOSTA, CITY MAYOR EDWARD HAGEDORN, MEMBERS OF SANGGUNIANG PANLUNGSOD NG PUERTO PRINCESA, ALL MEMBERS OF BANTAY DAGAT, MEMBERS OF PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE OF PALAWAN, PROVINCIAL AND CITY PROSECUTORS OF PALAWAN and PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, and ALL JUDGES OF PALAWAN, REGIONAL, MUNICIPAL AND METROPOLITAN,respondents.

DAVIDE, JR., J.: Petitioners caption their petition as one for "Certiorari, Injunction With Preliminary and Mandatory Injunction, with Prayer for Temporary Restraining Order" and pray that this Court: (1) declare as unconstitutional: (a) Ordinance No. 15-92, dated 15 December 1992, of the Sangguniang Panglungsod of Puerto Princesa; (b) Office Order No. 23, Series of 1993, dated 22 January 1993, issued by Acting City Mayor Amado L. Lucero of Puerto Princesa City; and (c) Resolution No. 33, Ordinance No. 2, Series of 1993, dated 19 February 1993, of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Palawan; (2) enjoin the enforcement thereof; and (3) restrain respondents Provincial and City Prosecutors of Palawan and Puerto Princesa City and Judges of the Regional Trial Courts, Metropolitan Trial Courts 1 and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts in Palawan from assuming jurisdiction over and hearing cases concerning the violation of the Ordinances and of the Office Order. More appropriately, the petition is, and shall be treated as, a special civil action for certiorari and prohibition. The following is petitioners' summary of the factual antecedents giving rise to the petition: 1. On December 15, 1992, the Sangguniang Panlungsod ng Puerto Princesa City enacted Ordinance No. 15-92 which took effect on January 1, 1993 entitled: "AN ORDINANCE BANNING THE SHIPMENT OF ALL LIVE FISH AND LOBSTER OUTSIDE PUERTO PRINCESA CITY FROM JANUARY 1, 1993 TO JANUARY 1, 1998 AND PROVIDING EXEMPTIONS, PENALTIES AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES THEREOF", the full text of which reads as follows: Sec. 1. Title of the Ordinance. This Ordinance is entitled: AN ORDINANCE BANNING THE SHIPMENT OF ALL LIVE FISH AND LOBSTER OUTSIDE PUERTO PRINCESA CITY FROM JANUARY 1, 1993 TO JANUARY 1, 1998 AND PROVIDING EXEMPTIONS, PENALTIES AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES THEREOF.

Sec. 2. Purpose, Scope and Coverage. To effectively free our City Sea Waters from Cyanide and other Obnoxious substance[s], and shall cover all persons and/or entities operating within and outside the City of Puerto Princesa who is are (sic) directly or indirectly in the business or shipment of live fish and lobster outside the City. Sec. 3. Definition of terms. For purpose of this Ordinance the following are hereby defined: A. SEA BASS A kind of fish under the family of Centropomidae, better known as APAHAP; B. CATFISH A kind of fish under the family of Plotosidae, better known as HITO-HITO; C. MUDFISH A kind of fish under the family of Orphicaphalisae better known as DALAG; D. ALL LIVE FISH All alive, breathing not necessarily moving of all specie[s] use[d] for food and for aquarium purposes. E. LIVE LOBSTER Several relatively, large marine crusteceans [sic] of the genus Homarus that are alive and breathing not necessarily moving. Sec. 4. It shall be unlawful [for] any person or any business enterprise or company to ship out from Puerto Princesa City to any point of destination either via aircraft or seacraft of any live fish and lobster except SEA BASS, CATFISH, MUDFISH, AND MILKFISH FRIES. Sec. 5. Penalty Clause. Any person/s and or business entity violating this Ordinance shall be penalized with a fine of not more than P5,000.00 or imprisonment of not more than twelve (12) months, cancellation of their permit to do business in the City of Puerto Princesa or all of the herein stated penalties, upon the discretion of the court. Sec. 6. If the owner and/or operator of the establishment found violating the provisions of this ordinance is a corporation or a partnership, the penalty prescribed in Section 5 hereof shall be imposed upon its president and/or General Manager or Managing Partner and/or Manager, as the case maybe [sic]. Sec. 7. Any existing ordinance or any provision of any ordinance inconsistent to [ sic] this ordinance is deemed repealed. Sec. 8. This Ordinance shall take effect on January 1, 1993. SO ORDAINED. xxx xxx xxx

2. To implement said city ordinance, then Acting City Mayor Amado L. Lucero issued Office Order No. 23, Series of 1993 dated January 22, 1993 which reads as follows: In the interest of public service and for purposes of City Ordinance No. PD 426-14-74, otherwise known as "AN ORDINANCE REQUIRING ANY PERSON ENGAGED OR INTENDING TO ENGAGE IN ANY BUSINESS, TRADE, OCCUPATION, CALLING OR PROFESSION OR HAVING IN HIS POSSESSION ANY OF THE ARTICLES FOR WHICH A PERMIT IS REQUIRED TO BE HAD, TO OBTAIN FIRST A MAYOR'S PERMIT" and "City Ordinance No. 15-92, AN ORDINANCE BANNING THE SHIPMENT OF ALL LIVE FISH AND LOBSTER OUTSIDE PUERTO PRINCESA CITY FROM JANUARY 1, 1993 TO JANUARY 1, 1998, you are hereby authorized and directed to check or conduct necessary inspections on cargoes containing live fish and lobster being shipped out from the Puerto Princesa Airport, Puerto Princesa Wharf or at any port within the jurisdiction of the City to any point of destinations [ sic] either via aircraft or seacraft. The purpose of the inspection is to ascertain whether the shipper possessed the required Mayor's Permit issued by this Office and the shipment is covered by invoice or clearance issued by the local office of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and as to compliance with all other existing rules and regulations on the matter. Any cargo containing live fish and lobster without the required documents as stated herein must be held for proper disposition. In the pursuit of this Order, you are hereby authorized to coordinate with the PAL Manager, the PPA Manager, the local PNP Station and other offices concerned for the needed support and cooperation. Further, that the usual courtesy and diplomacy must be observed at all times in the conduct of the inspection. Please be guided accordingly. xxx xxx xxx 3. On February 19, 1993, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, Provincial Government of Palawan enacted Resolution No. 33 entitled: "A RESOLUTION PROHIBITING THE CATCHING, GATHERING, POSSESSING, BUYING, SELLING AND SHIPMENT OF LIVE MARINE CORAL DWELLING AQUATIC ORGANISMS, TO WIT: FAMILY: SCARIDAE (MAMENG), EPINE PHELUS FASCIATUS (SUNO). CROMILEPTES ALTIVELIS(PANTHER OR SENORITA), LOBSTER BELOW 200 GRAMS AND SPAWNING, TRIDACNA GIGAS(TAKLOBO), PINCTADA MARGARITEFERA (MOTHER PEARL, OYSTERS, GIANT CLAMS AND OTHER SPECIES), PENAEUS MONODON (TIGER PRAWN-BREEDER SIZE OR MOTHER), EPINEPHELUS SUILLUS (LOBA OR GREEN GROUPER) AND FAMILY: BALISTIDAE (TROPICAL AQUARIUM FISHES) FOR A PERIOD FIVE (5) YEARS IN AND COMING FROM PALAWAN WATERS", the full text of which reads as follows: WHEREAS, scientific and factual researches [sic] and studies disclose that only five (5) percent of the corals of our province remain to be in excellent condition as [a] habitat of marine coral dwelling aquatic organisms; WHEREAS, it cannot be gainsaid that the destruction and devastation of the corals of our

province were principally due to illegal fishing activities like dynamite fishing, sodium cyanide fishing, use of other obnoxious substances and other related activities; WHEREAS, there is an imperative and urgent need to protect and preserve the existence of the remaining excellent corals and allow the devastated ones to reinvigorate and regenerate themselves into vitality within the span of five (5) years; WHEREAS, Sec. 468, Par. 1, Sub-Par. VI of the [sic] R.A. 7160 otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1991 empowers the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to protect the environment and impose appropriate penalties [upon] acts which endanger the environment such as dynamite fishing and other forms of destructive fishing, among others. NOW, THEREFORE, on motion by Kagawad Nelson P. Peneyra and upon unanimous decision of all the members present; Be it resolved as it is hereby resolved, to approve Resolution No. 33, Series of 1993 of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan and to enact Ordinance No. 2 for the purpose, to wit: ORDINANCE NO. 2 Series of 1993 BE IT ORDAINED BY THE SANGGUNIANG PANLALAWIGAN IN SESSION ASSEMBLED: Sec. 1. TITLE This Ordinance shall be known as an "Ordinance Prohibiting the catching, gathering, possessing, buying, selling and shipment of live marine coral dwelling aquatic organisms, to wit: 1. Family: Scaridae (Mameng), 2. Epinephelus Fasciatus (Suno) 3. Cromileptes altivelis (Panther or Senorita), lobster below 200 grams and spawning), 4. Tridacna Gigas (Taklobo), 5. Pinctada Margaretefera (Mother Pearl, Oysters, Giant Clams and other species), 6. Penaeus Monodon (Tiger Prawn-breeder size or mother), 7. Epinephelus Suillus (Loba or Green Grouper) and 8. Family: Balistidae (T[r]opical Aquarium Fishes) for a period of five (5) years in and coming from Palawan Waters. Sec. II. PRELIMINARY CONSIDERATIONS 1. Sec. 2-A (Rep. Act 7160). It is hereby declared, the policy of the state that the territorial and political subdivisions of the State shall enjoy genuine and meaningful local autonomy to enable them to attain their fullest development as self-reliant communities and make them more effective partners in the attainment of national goals. Toward this end, the State shall provide for [a] more responsive and accountable local government structure instituted through a system of decentralization whereby local government units shall be given more powers, authority, responsibilities and resources. 2. Sec. 5-A (R.A. 7160). Any provision on a power of [a] local Government Unit shall be liberally interpreted in its favor, and in case of doubt, any question thereon shall be resolved in favor of devolution of powers and of the lower government units. "Any fair and reasonable doubts as to the existence of the power shall be interpreted in favor of the

Local Government Unit concerned." 3. Sec. 5-C (R.A. 7160). The general welfare provisions in this Code shall be liberally interpreted to give more powers to local government units in accelerating economic development and upgrading the quality of life for the people in the community. 4. Sec. 16 (R.A. 7160). 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. Sec. III. DECLARATION OF POLICY. It is hereby declared to be the policy of the Province of Palawan to protect and conserve the marine resources of Palawan not only for the greatest good of the majority of the present generation but with [the] proper perspective and consideration of [sic] their prosperity, and to attain this end, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan henceforth declares that is (sic) shall be unlawful for any person or any business entity to engage in catching, gathering, possessing, buying, selling and shipment of live marine coral dwelling aquatic organisms as enumerated in Section 1 hereof in and coming out of Palawan Waters for a period of five (5) years; Sec. IV. PENALTY CLAUSE. Any person and/or business entity violating this Ordinance shall be penalized with a fine of not more than Five Thousand Pesos (P5,000.00), Philippine Currency, and/or imprisonment of six (6) months to twelve (12) months and confiscation and forfeiture of paraphernalias [sic] and equipment in favor of the government at the discretion of the Court; Sec. V. SEPARABILITY CLAUSE. If for any reason, a Section or provision of this Ordinance shall be held as unconditional [sic] or invalid, it shall not affect the other provisions hereof. Sec. VI. REPEALING CLAUSE. Any existing Ordinance or a provision of any ordinance inconsistent herewith is deemed modified, amended or repealed. Sec. VII. EFFECTIVITY This Ordinance shall take effect ten (10) days after its publication. SO ORDAINED. xxx xxx xxx 4. The respondents implemented the said ordinances, Annexes "A" and "C" hereof thereby depriving all the fishermen of the whole province of Palawan and the City of Puerto Princesa of their only means of livelihood and the petitioners Airline Shippers Association of Palawan and other marine merchants from performing their lawful occupation and trade; 5. Petitioners Alfredo Tano, Baldomero Tano, Teocenes Midello, Angel de Mesa, Eulogio Tremocha, and Felipe Ongonion, Jr. were even charged criminally under criminal case no. 93-05-C in the 1st Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Cuyo-Agutaya-Magsaysay, an original carbon copy of the criminal

complaint dated April 12, 1993 is hereto attached as Annex "D"; while xerox copies are attached as Annex "D" to the copies of the petition; 6. Petitioners Robert Lim and Virginia Lim, on the other hand, were charged by the respondent PNP with the respondent City Prosecutor of Puerto Princess City, a xerox copy of the complaint is hereto attached as Annex "E"; Without seeking redress from the concerned local government units, prosecutor's office and courts, petitioners directly invoked our original jurisdiction by filing this petition on 4 June 1993. In sum, petitioners contend that: First, the Ordinances deprived them of due process of law, their livelihood, and unduly restricted them from the practice of their trade, in violation of Section 2, Article XII and Sections 2 and 7 of Article XIII of the 1987 Constitution. Second, Office Order No. 23 contained no regulation nor condition under which the Mayor's permit could be granted or denied; in other words, the Mayor had the absolute authority to determine whether or not to issue the permit. Third, as Ordinance No. 2 of the Province of Palawan "altogether prohibited the catching, gathering, possession, buying, selling and shipping of live marine coral dwelling organisms, without any distinction whether it was caught or gathered through lawful fishing method," the Ordinance took away the right of petitioners-fishermen to earn their livelihood in lawful ways; and insofar as petitioners-members of Airline Shippers Association are concerned, they were unduly prevented from pursuing their vocation and entering "into contracts which are proper, necessary, and essential to carry out their business endeavors to a successful conclusion." Finally, as Ordinance No. 2 of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan is null and void, the criminal cases based thereon against petitioners Tano and the others have to be dismissed. In the Resolution of 15 June 1993 we required respondents to comment on the petition, and furnished the Office of the Solicitor General with a copy thereof. In their comment filed on 13 August 1993, public respondents Governor Socrates and Members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Palawan defended the validity of Ordinance No. 2, Series of 1993, as a valid exercise of the Provincial Government's power under the general welfare clause (Section 16 of the Local Government Code of 1991 [hereafter, LGC]), and its specific power to protect the environment and impose appropriate penalties for acts which endanger the environment, such as dynamite fishing and other forms of destructive fishing under Section 447 (a) (1) (vi), Section 458 (a) (1) (vi), and Section 468 (a) (1) (vi), of the LGC. They claimed that in the exercise of such powers, the Province of Palawan had "the right and responsibility . . . to insure that the remaining coral reefs, where fish dwells [sic], within its territory remain healthy for the future generation." The Ordinance, they further asserted, covered only live marine coral dwelling aquatic organismswhich were enumerated in the ordinance and excluded other kinds of live marine aquatic organisms not dwelling in coral reefs; besides the prohibition was for only five (5) years to protect and preserve the pristine coral and allow those damaged to regenerate. Aforementioned respondents likewise maintained that there was no violation of the due process and equal protection clauses of the Constitution. As to the former, public hearings were conducted before the enactment of the Ordinance which, undoubtedly, had a lawful purpose and employed reasonable means; while as to the latter, a substantial distinction existed "between a fisherman who catches live fish with the intention of selling it live, and a fisherman who catches live fish with no intention at all of selling it live," i.e., "the former uses sodium cyanide while the latter does not." Further, the Ordinance applied equally to all those belonging to one class.

On 25 October 1993 petitioners filed an Urgent Plea for the Immediate Issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order, claiming that despite the pendency of this case, Branch 50 of the Regional Trial Court of Palawan was bent on proceeding with Criminal Case No. 11223 against petitioners Danilo Tano, Alfredo Tano, Eulogio Tremocha, Romualdo Tano, Baldomero Tano, Andres Linijan and Angel de Mesa for violation of Ordinance No. 2 of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Palawan. Acting on said plea, we issued on 11 November 1993 a temporary restraining order directing Judge Angel Miclat of said court to cease and desist from proceeding with the arraignment and pretrial of Criminal Case No. 11223. On 12 July 1994, we excused the Office of the Solicitor General from filing a comment, considering that as claimed by said office in its Manifestation of 28 June 1994, respondents were already represented by counsel. The rest of the respondents did not file any comment on the petition. In the resolution of 15 September 1994, we resolved to consider the comment on the petition as the Answer, gave due course to the petition and required the parties to submit their respective memoranda. 2 On 22 April 1997 we ordered impleaded as party respondents the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and required the Office of the Solicitor General to comment on their behalf. But in light of the latter's motion of 9 July 1997 for an extension of time to file the comment which would only result in further delay, we dispensed with said comment. After due deliberation on the pleadings filed, we resolved to dismiss this petition for want of merit, and on 22 July 1997, assigned it to the ponente to write the opinion of the Court. I There are actually two sets of petitioners in this case. The first is composed of Alfredo Tano, Baldomero Tano, Danilo Tano, Romualdo Tano, Teocenes Midello, Angel de Mesa, Eulogio Tremocha, Felipe Ongonion, Jr., Andres Linijan, and Felimon de Mesa, who were criminally charged with violating Sangguniang Panlalawigan Resolution No. 33 and Ordinance No. 2, Series of 1993, of the Province of Palawan, in Criminal Case No. 93-05-C of the 1st Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) of Palawan; 3 and Robert Lim and Virginia Lim who were charged with violating City Ordinance No. 15-92 of Puerto Princesa City and Ordinance No. 2, Series of 1993, of the Province of Palawan before the Office of the City Prosecutor of Puerto Princesa. 4 All of them, with the exception of Teocenes Midello, Felipe Ongonion, Jr., Felimon de Mesa, Robert Lim and Virginia Lim, are likewise the accused in Criminal Case No. 11223 for the violation of Ordinance No. 2 of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Palawan, pending before Branch 50 of the Regional Trial Court of Palawan. 5 The second set of petitioners is composed of the rest of the petitioners numbering seventy-seven (77), all of whom, except the Airline Shippers Association of Palawan an alleged private association of several marine merchants are natural persons who claim to be fishermen. The primary interest of the first set of petitioners is, of course, to prevent the prosecution, trial and determination of the criminal cases until the constitutionality or legality of the Ordinances they allegedly violated shall have been resolved. The second set of petitioners merely claim that being fishermen or marine merchants, they would be adversely affected by the ordinance's. As to the first set of petitioners, this special civil for certiorari must fail on the ground of prematurity amounting to a lack of cause of action. There is no showing that said petitioners, as the accused in the criminal cases, have filed

motions to quash the informations therein and that the same were denied. The ground available for such motions is that the facts charged therein do not constitute an offense because the ordinances in question are unconstitutional. 6 It cannot then be said that the lower courts acted without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion to justify recourse to the extraordinary remedy of certiorari or prohibition. It must further be stressed that even if petitioners did file motions to quash, the denial thereof would not forthwith give rise to a cause of action under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. The general rule is that where a motion to quash is denied, the remedy therefrom is not certiorari, but for the party aggrieved thereby to go to trial without prejudice to reiterating special defenses involved in said motion, and if, after trial on the merits an adverse decision is rendered, to appeal therefrom in the manner authorized by law. 7 And, even where in an exceptional circumstance such denial may be the subject of a special civil action for certiorari, a motion for reconsideration must have to be filed to allow the court concerned an opportunity to correct its errors, unless such motion may be dispensed with because of existing exceptional circumstances. 8 Finally, even if a motion for reconsideration has been filed and denied, the remedy under Rule 65 is still unavailable absent any showing of the grounds provided for in Section 1 thereof. 9 For obvious reasons, the petition at bar does not, and could not have, alleged any of such grounds. As to the second set of petitioners, the instant petition is obviously one for DECLARATORY RELIEF, i.e., for a declaration that the Ordinances in question are a "nullity . . . for being unconstitutional." 10 As such, their petition must likewise fail, as this Court is not possessed of original jurisdiction over petitions for declaratory relief even if only questions of law are involved, 11 it being settled that the Court merely exercises appellate jurisdiction over such petitions. 12 II Even granting arguendo that the first set of petitioners have a cause of action ripe for the extraordinary writ ofcertiorari, there is here a clear disregard of the hierarchy of courts, and no special and important reason or exceptional and compelling circumstance has been adduced why direct recourse to us should be allowed. While we have concurrent jurisdiction with Regional Trial courts and with the Court of Appeals to issue writs of certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, habeas corpus and injunction, such concurrence gives petitioners no unrestricted freedom of choice of court forum, so we held in People v. Cuaresma. 13 This concurrence of jurisdiction is not . . . to be taken as according to parties seeking any of the writs an absolute unrestrained freedom of choice of the court to which application therefor will be directed. There is after all hierarchy of courts. That hierarchy is determinative of the venue of appeals, and should also serve as a general determinant of the appropriate forum for petitions for the extraordinary writs. A becoming regard for that judicial hierarchy most certainly indicates that petitions for the issuance of extraordinary writs against first level ("inferior") courts should be filed with the Regional Trial Court, and those against the latter, with the Court of Appeals. A direct invocation of the Supreme Court's original jurisdiction to issue these writs should be allowed only when there are special and important reasons therefor, clearly and specifically set out in the petition. This is established policy. It is a policy necessary to prevent inordinate demands upon the Court's time and attention which are better devoted to those matters within its exclusive jurisdiction, and to prevent further over-crowding of the Court's docket. . . . The Court feels the need to reaffirm that policy at this time, and to enjoin strict adherence thereto in the light of what it perceives to be a growing tendency on the part of litigants and lawyers to have their applications for the so-called extraordinary writs, and sometimes even their appeals, passed upon and adjudicated directly and immediately by the highest tribunal of the land. . . .

In Santiago v. Vasquez, 14 this Court forcefully expressed that the propensity of litigants and lawyers to disregard the hierarchy of courts must be put to a halt, not only because of the imposition upon the precious time of this Court, but also because of the inevitable and resultant delay, intended or otherwise, in the adjudication of the case which often has to be remanded or referred to the lower court, the proper forum under the rules of procedure, or as better equipped to resolve the issues since this Court is not a trier of facts. We reiterated "the judicial policy that this Court will not entertain direct resort to it unless the redress desired cannot be obtained in the appropriate courts or where exceptional and compelling circumstances justify availment of a remedy within and calling for the exercise of [its] primary jurisdiction." III Notwithstanding the foregoing procedural obstacles against the first set of petitioners, we opt to resolve this case on its merits considering that the lifetime of the challenged Ordinances is about to end. Ordinance No. 15-92 of the City of Puerto Princesa is effective only up to 1 January 1998, while Ordinance No. 2 of the Province of Palawan, enacted on 19 February 1993, is effective for only five (5) years. Besides, these Ordinances were undoubtedly enacted in the exercise of powers under the new LGC relative to the protection and preservation of the environment and are thus novel and of paramount importance. No further delay then may be allowed in the resolution of the issues raised. It is of course settled that laws (including ordinances enacted by local government units) enjoy the presumption of constitutionality. 15 To overthrow this presumption, there must be a clear and unequivocal breach of the Constitution, not merely a doubtful or argumentative contradiction. In short, the conflict with the Constitution must be shown beyond reasonable doubt. 16 Where doubt exists, even if well-founded, there can be no finding of unconstitutionality. To doubt is to sustain. 17 After a scrutiny of the challenged Ordinances and the provisions of the Constitution petitioners claim to have been violated, we find petitioners' contentions baseless and so hold that the former do not suffer from any infirmity, both under the Constitution and applicable laws. Petitioners specifically point to Section 2, Article XII and Sections 2 and 7, Article XIII of the Constitution as having been transgressed by the Ordinances. The pertinent portion of Section 2 of Article XII reads: Sec. 2. . . . The State shall protect the nation's marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens. The Congress may, by law, allow small-scale utilization of natural resources by Filipino citizens, as well as cooperative fish farming, with priority to subsistence fishermen and fishworkers in rivers, lakes, bays, and lagoons. Sections 2 and 7 of Article XIII provide: Sec. 2. The promotion of social justice shall include the commitment to create economic opportunities based on freedom of initiative and self-reliance. xxx xxx xxx

Sec. 7. The State shall protect the rights of subsistence fishermen, especially of local communities, to the preferential use of the communal marine and fishing resources, both inland and offshore. It shall provide support to such fishermen through appropriate technology and research, adequate financial, production, and marketing assistance, and other services. The State shall also protect, develop, and conserve such resources. The protection shall extend to offshore fishing grounds of subsistence fishermen against foreign intrusion. Fishworkers shall receive a just share from their labor in the utilization of marine and fishing resources. There is absolutely no showing that any of the petitioners qualifies as a subsistence or marginal fisherman. In their petition, petitioner Airline Shippers Association of Palawan is self-described as "a private association composed of Marine Merchants;" petitioners Robert Lim and Virginia Lim, as "merchants;" while the rest of the petitioners claim to be "fishermen," without any qualification, however, as to their status. Since the Constitution does not specifically provide a definition of the terms "subsistence" or "marginal" fishermen, 18 they should be construed in their general and ordinary sense. A marginal fisherman is an individual engaged in fishing whose margin of return or reward in his harvest of fish as measured by existing price levels is barely sufficient to yield a profit or cover the cost of gathering the fish, 19 while a subsistence fisherman is one whose catch yields but the irreducible minimum for his livelihood. 20 Section 131(p) of the LGC (R.A. No. 7160) defines a marginal farmer or fisherman as "an individual engaged in subsistence farming or fishing which shall be limited to the sale, barter or exchange of agricultural or marine products produced by himself and his immediate family." It bears repeating that nothing in the record supports a finding that any petitioner falls within these definitions. Besides, Section 2 of Article XII aims primarily not to bestow any right to subsistence fishermen, but to lay stress on the duty of the State to protect the nation's marine wealth. What the provision merely recognizes is that the State may allow, by law, cooperative fish farming, with priority to subsistence fishermen and fishworkers in rivers, lakes, bays and lagoons. Our survey of the statute books reveals that the only provision of law which speaks of a preferential right of marginal fishermen is Section 149 of the LGC, which pertinently provides: Sec. 149. Fishery Rentals, Fees and Charges. . . . (b) The sangguniang bayan may: (1) Grant fishery privileges to erect fish corrals, oyster, mussels or other aquatic beds or bangus fry areas, within a definite zone of the municipal waters, as determined by it: Provided, however, That duly registered organizations and cooperatives of marginal fishermen shall have the preferential right to such fishery privileges . . . . In a Joint Administrative Order No. 3 dated 25 April 1996, the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government prescribed guidelines concerning the preferential treatment of small fisherfolk relative to the fishery right mentioned in Section 149. This case, however, does not involve such fishery right. Anent Section 7 of Article XIII, it speaks not only of the use of communal marine and fishing resources, but of their protection, development and conservation. As hereafter shown, the ordinances in question

are meant precisely to protect and conserve our marine resources to the end that their enjoyment may be guaranteed not only for the present generation, but also for the generations to come. The so-called "preferential right" of subsistence or marginal fishermen to the use of marine resources is not at all absolute. In accordance with the Regalian Doctrine, marine resources belong to the State, and, pursuant to the first paragraph of Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution, their "exploration, development and utilization . . . shall be under the full control and supervision of the State." Moreover, their mandated protection, development and conservation as necessarily recognized by the framers of the Constitution, imply certain restrictions on whatever right of enjoyment there may be in favor of anyone. Thus, as to the curtailment of the preferential treatment of marginal fishermen, the following exchange between Commissioner Francisco Rodrigo and Commissioner Jose F.S. Bengzon, Jr., took place at the plenary session of the Constitutional Commission: MR. RODRIGO: Let us discuss the implementation of this because I would not raise the hopes of our people, and afterwards fail in the implementation. How will this be implemented? Will there be a licensing or giving of permits so that government officials will know that one is really a marginal fisherman? Or if policeman say that a person is not a marginal fisherman, he can show his permit, to prove that indeed he is one. MR. BENGZON: Certainly, there will be some mode of licensing insofar as this is concerned and this particular question could be tackled when we discuss the Article on Local Governments whether we will leave to the local governments or to Congress on how these things will be implemented. But certainly, I think our congressmen and our local officials will not be bereft of ideas on how to implement this mandate. xxx xxx xxx MR. RODRIGO: So, once one is licensed as a marginal fisherman, he can go anywhere in the Philippines and fish in any fishing grounds. MR. BENGZON:
Subject to whatever rules and regulations and local laws that may be passed, may be existing 21 or will be passed. (emphasis supplied)

What must likewise be borne in mind is the state policy enshrined in the Constitution regarding the duty of the State to protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature. 22 On this score, in Oposa v. Factoran, 23 this Court declared: While the right to a balanced and healthful ecology is to be found under the Declaration of Principles the State Policies and not under the Bill of Rights, it does not follow that it is less

important than any of the civil and political rights enumerated in the latter. Such a right belongs to a different category of rights altogether for it concerns nothing less than self-preservation and self-perpetuation aptly and fittingly stressed by the petitioners the advancement of which may even be said to predate all governments and constitutions. As a matter of fact, these basic rights need not even be written in the Constitution for they are assumed to exist from the inception of humankind. If they are now explicitly mentioned in the fundamental charter, it is because of the well-founded fear of its framers that unless the rights to a balanced and healthful ecology and to health are mandated as state policies by the Constitution itself, thereby highlighting their continuing importance and imposing upon the state a solemn obligation to preserve the first and protect and advance the second, the day would not be too far when all else would be lost not only for the present generation, but also for those to come generations which stand to inherit nothing but parched earth incapable of sustaining life. The right to a balanced and healthful ecology carries with it a correlative duty to refrain from impairing the environment. . . . The LGC provisions invoked by private respondents merely seek to give flesh and blood to the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology. In fact, the General Welfare Clause, expressly mentions this right: Sec. 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 supplied). Moreover, Section 5(c) of the LGC explicitly mandates that the general welfare provisions of the LGC "shall be liberally interpreted to give more powers to the local government units in accelerating economic development and upgrading the quality of life for the people of the community." The LGC vests municipalities with the power to grant fishery privileges in municipal waters and impose rentals, fees or charges therefor; to penalize, by appropriate ordinances, the use of explosives, noxious or poisonous substances, electricity, muro-ami, and other deleterious methods of fishing; and to prosecute any violation of the provisions of applicable fishery laws. 24 Further, the sangguniang bayan, the sangguniang panlungsod and the sangguniang panlalawigan are directed to enact ordinances for the general welfare of the municipality and its inhabitants, which shall include, inter alia, ordinances that "[p]rotect the environment and impose appropriate penalties for acts which endanger the environment such as dynamite fishing and other forms of destructive fishing . . . and such other activities which result in pollution, acceleration of eutrophication of rivers and lakes, or of ecological imbalance." 25 Finally, the centerpiece of LGC is the system of decentralization 26 as expressly mandated by the Constitution. 27 Indispensable to decentralization is devolution and the LGC expressly provides that

"[a]ny provision on a power of a local government unit shall be liberally interpreted in its favor, and in case of doubt, any question thereon shall be resolved in favor of devolution of powers and of the lower local government unit. Any fair and reasonable doubt as to the existence of the power shall be interpreted in favor of the local government unit concerned." 28 Devolution refers to the act by which the National Government confers power and authority upon the various local government units to perform specific functions and responsibilities. 29 One of the devolved powers enumerated in the section of the LGC on devolution is the enforcement of fishery laws in municipal waters including the conservation of mangroves. 30 This necessarily includes the enactment of ordinances to effectively carry out such fishery laws within the municipal waters. The term "municipal waters," in turn, includes not only streams, lakes, and tidal waters within the municipality, not being the subject of private ownership and not comprised within the national parks, public forest, timber lands, forest reserves, or fishery reserves, but also marine waters included between two lines drawn perpendicularly to the general coastline from points where the boundary lines of the municipality or city touch the sea at low tide and a third line parallel with the general coastline and fifteen kilometers from it. 31 Under P.D. No. 704, the marine waters included in municipal waters is limited to three nautical miles from the general coastline using the above perpendicular lines and a third parallel line. These "fishery laws" which local government units may enforce under Section 17(b)(2)(i) in municipal waters include: (1) P.D. No. 704; (2) P.D. No. 1015 which, inter alia, authorizes the establishment of a "closed season" in any Philippine water if necessary for conservation or ecological purposes; (3) P.D. No. 1219 which provides for the exploration, exploitation, utilization and conservation of coral resources; (4) R.A. No. 5474, as amended by B.P. Blg. 58, which makes it unlawful for any person, association or corporation to catch or cause to be caught, sell, offer to sell, purchase, or have in possession any of the fish specie calledgobiidae or "ipon" during closed season; and (5) R.A. No. 6451 which prohibits and punishes electrofishing, as well as various issuances of the BFAR. To those specifically devolved insofar as the control and regulation of fishing in municipal waters and the protection of its marine environment are concerned, must be added the following: 1. Issuance of permits to construct fish cages within municipal waters; 2. Issuance of permits to gather aquarium fishes within municipal waters; 3. Issuance of permits to gather kapis shells within municipal waters; 4. Issuance of permits to gather/culture shelled mollusks within municipal waters; 5. Issuance of licenses to establish seaweed farms within municipal waters; 6. Issuance of licenses to establish culture pearls within municipal waters; 7. Issuance of auxiliary invoice to transport fish and fishery products; and 8. Establishment of "closed season" in municipal waters.

These functions are covered in the Memorandum of Agreement of 5 April 1994 between the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Interior and Local Government. In light then of the principles of decentralization and devolution enshrined in the LGC and the powers granted therein to local government units under Section 16 (the General Welfare Clause), and under Sections 149, 447(a) (1) (vi), 458 (a) (1) (vi) and 468 (a) (1) (vi), which unquestionably involve the exercise of police power, the validity of the questioned Ordinances cannot be doubted. Parenthetically, we wish to add that these Ordinances find full support under R.A. No. 7611, otherwise known as the Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) for Palawan Act, approved on 19 June 1992. This statute adopts a "comprehensive framework for the sustainable development of Palawan compatible with protecting and enhancing the natural resources and endangered environment of the province," which "shall serve to guide the local government of Palawan and the government agencies concerned in the formulation and implementation of plans, programs and projects affecting said province." 32 At this time then, it would be appropriate to determine the relation between the assailed Ordinances and the aforesaid powers of the Sangguniang Panlungsod of the City of Puerto Princesa and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of the Province of Palawan to protect the environment. To begin, we ascertain the purpose of the Ordinances as set forth in the statement of purposes or declaration of policies quoted earlier. It is clear to the Court that both Ordinances have two principal objectives or purposes: (1) to establish a "closed season" for the species of fish or aquatic animals covered therein for a period of five years; and (2) to protect the coral in the marine waters of the City of Puerto Princesa and the Province of Palawan from further destruction due to illegal fishing activities. The accomplishment of the first objective is well within the devolved power to enforce fishery laws in municipal waters, such as P.D. No. 1015, which allows the establishment of "closed seasons." The devolution of such power has been expressly confirmed in the Memorandum of Agreement of 5 April 1994 between the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Interior and Local Government. The realization of the second objective clearly falls within both the general welfare clause of the LGC and the express mandate thereunder to cities and provinces to protect the environment and impose appropriate penalties for acts which endanger the environment. 33 The destruction of coral reefs results in serious, if not irreparable, ecological imbalance, for coral reefs are among nature's life-support systems. 34 They collect, retain and recycle nutrients for adjacent nearshore areas such as mangroves, seagrass beds, and reef flats; provide food for marine plants and animals; and serve as a protective shelter for aquatic organisms. 35 It is said that "[e]cologically, the reefs are to the oceans what forests are to continents: they are shelter and breeding grounds for fish and plant species that will disappear without them." 36 The prohibition against catching live fish stems, in part, from the modern phenomenon of live-fish trade which entails the catching of so-called exotic species of tropical fish, not only for aquarium use in the West, but also for "the market for live banquet fish [which] is virtually insatiable in ever more affluent Asia. 37These exotic species are coral-dwellers, and fishermen catch them by "diving in shallow water with corraline habitats and squirting sodium cyanide poison at passing fish directly or onto coral crevices; once affected the fish are immobilized [merely stunned] and then scooped by hand." 38 The

diver then surfaces and dumps his catch into a submerged net attached to the skiff. Twenty minutes later, the fish can swim normally. Back on shore, they are placed in holding pens, and within a few weeks, they expel the cyanide from their system and are ready to be hauled. They are then placed in saltwater tanks or packaged in plastic bags filled with seawater for shipment by air freight to major markets for live food fish. 39 While the fish are meant to survive, the opposite holds true for their former home as "[a]fter the fisherman squirts the cyanide, the first thing to perish is the reef algae, on which fish feed. Days later, the living coral starts to expire. Soon the reef loses its function as habitat for the fish, which eat both the algae and invertebrates that cling to the coral. The reef becomes an underwater graveyard, its skeletal remains brittle, bleached of all color and vulnerable to erosion from the pounding of the waves." 40 It has been found that cyanide fishing kills most hard and soft corals within three months of repeated application. 41 The nexus then between the activities barred by Ordinance No. 15-92 of the City of Puerto Princesa and the prohibited acts provided in Ordinance No. 2, Series of 1993 of the Province of Palawan, on one hand, and the use of sodium cyanide, on the other, is painfully obvious. In sum, the public purpose and reasonableness of the Ordinances may not then be controverted. As to Office Order No. 23, Series of 1993, issued by Acting City Mayor Amado L. Lucero of the City of Puerto Princesa, we find nothing therein violative of any constitutional or statutory provision. The Order refers to the implementation of the challenged ordinance and is not the Mayor's Permit. The dissenting opinion of Mr. Justice Josue N. Bellosillo relies upon the lack of authority on the part of the Sangguniang Panglungsod of Puerto Princesa to enact Ordinance No. 15, Series of 1992, on the theory that the subject thereof is within the jurisdiction and responsibility of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) under P.D. No. 704, otherwise known as the Fisheries Decree of 1975; and that, in any event, the Ordinance is unenforceable for lack of approval by the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), likewise in accordance with P.D. No. 704. The majority is unable to accommodate this view. The jurisdiction and responsibility of the BFAR under P.D. No. 704, over the management, conservation, development, protection, utilization and disposition of all fishery and aquatic resources of the country is not all-encompassing. First, Section 4 thereof excludes from such jurisdiction and responsibility municipal waters, which shall be under the municipal or city government concerned, except insofar as fishpens and seaweed culture in municipal centers are concerned. This section provides, however, that all municipal or city ordinances and resolutions affecting fishing and fisheries and any disposition thereunder shall be submitted to the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources for appropriate action and shall have full force and effect only upon his approval. 42 Second, it must at once be pointed out that the BFAR is no longer under the Department of Natural Resources (now Department of Environment and Natural Resources). Executive Order No. 967 of 30 June 1984 transferred the BFAR from the control and supervision of the Minister (formerly Secretary) Of Natural Resources to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food (MAF) and converted it into a mere staff agency thereof, integrating its functions with the regional offices of the MAF. In Executive Order No. 116 of 30 January 1987, which reorganized the MAF, the BFAR was retained as an attached agency of the MAF. And under the Administrative Code of 1987, 43 the BFAR is placed under the Title concerning the Department of Agriculture. 44

Therefore, it is incorrect to say that the challenged Ordinance of the City of Puerto Princesa is invalid or unenforceable because it was not approved by the Secretary of the DENR. If at all, the approval that should be sought would be that of the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture. However, the requirement of approval by the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture (not DENR) of municipal ordinances affecting fishing and fisheries in municipal waters has been dispensed with in view of the following reasons: (1) Section 534 (Repealing Clause) of the LGC expressly repeals or amends Sections 16 and 29 of P.D. No. 704 45 insofar as they are inconsistent with the provisions of the LGC. (2) As discussed earlier, under the general welfare clause of the LGC, local government units have the power, inter alia, to enact ordinances to enhance the right of the people to a balanced ecology. It likewise specifically vests municipalities with the power to grant fishery privileges in municipal waters, and impose rentals, fees or charges therefor; to penalize, by appropriate ordinances, the use of explosives, noxious or poisonous substances, electricity, muro-ami, and other deleterious methods of fishing; and to prosecute any violation of the provisions of applicable fishery laws. 46 Finally, it imposes upon the sangguniang bayan, the sangguniang panlungsod, and the sangguniang panlalawigan the duty to enact ordinances to "[p]rotect the environment and impose appropriate penalties for acts which endanger the environment such as dynamite fishing and other forms of destructive fishing . . . and such other activities which result in pollution, acceleration of eutrophication of rivers and lakes or of ecological imbalance." 47 In closing, we commend the Sangguniang Panlungsod of the City of Puerto Princesa and Sangguniang Panlalawigan of the Province of Palawan for exercising the requisite political will to enact urgently needed legislation to protect and enhance the marine environment, thereby sharing in the herculean task of arresting the tide of ecological destruction. We hope that other local government units shall now be roused from their lethargy and adopt a more vigilant stand in the battle against the decimation of our legacy to future generations. At this time, the repercussions of any further delay in their response may prove disastrous, if not, irreversible. WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DISMISSED for lack of merit and the temporary restraining order issued on 11 November 1993 is LIFTED. No pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED. Narvasa, C.J., Padilla, Romero, Melo, Vitug, Francisco Panganiban and Torres, Jr., JJ., concur. Regalado, J., is on leave.

Separate Opinions

MENDOZA, J., concurring: I fully concur in the opinion of the Court written by Justice Davide. I write separately to emphasize two points which I believe are important. The first is the need to uphold the presumption of validity of the ordinances in this case in view of the total absence of evidence to undermine their factual basis. The second is the need not to allow a shortcircuiting of the normal process of adjudication on the mere plea that unless we take cognizance of petitions like this, by-passing the trial courts, alleged violations of constitutional rights will be left unprotected, when the matter can very well be looked into by trial courts and in fact should be brought there. The ordinances in question in this case are conservation measures which the local governments of Palawan have adopted in view of the widespread destruction caused by cyanide fishing of corals within their territorial waters. At the very least, these ordinances must be presumed valid in the absence of evidence to show that the necessary factual foundation for their enactment does not exist. Their invalidation at this point can result in the untimely exoneration of otherwise guilty parties on the basis of doubtful constitutional claims. Ordinance No. 2-93, which the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Palawan adopted in 1993, prohibits, for a period of five years, the "catching, gathering, possessing, buying, selling and shipment" of five fish and lobsters. As originally enacted, the prohibition applied to eight species of fish and lobsters caught in the waters of Palawan, namely, "1. Family: Scaridae (Mameng), 2. Epinephelus Fasciatus (Suno), 3. Cromileptes altivelis (Panther or Seorita), lobster (below 200 grams and spawning), 4. Tridacna Gigas (Giant Clams or Taklobo and other species), 5. Pinctada Margaritifera (Mother Pearl Oysters), 6. Penaeus Monodon (Tiger Prawn breeder size or mother), 7. Epinephelus Suillus (Loba or Green Grouper) and 8. Family: Balistidae (Tropical Aquarium Fishes)." 1 Later, however, the ordinance was amended to limit the ban to three species only, namely: mameng ( scaridae), panther or seorita (cromileptes altivelis) and ornamental or aquarium fishes (balistidae). Violation of the ordinance is punishable by a fine of P5,000.00 and/or imprisonment of not less than 6 nor more than 12 months and confiscation of the paraphernalia and equipment used in the commission of the offense. 2 Ordinance No. 2-93 was adopted by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan on the basis of a 1992 study submitted by the Department of Agriculture, 3 showing that, as a result of the use of cyanide and other noxious substances for fishing, only 5% of the coral reefs in the Province of Palawan remained in excellent condition as fish sanctuaries and habitats, while 75% was heavily damaged. The rampant use of cyanide has been encouraged by the lucrative trade in live fishes which are shipped not only to Manila but also abroad, principally to Hongkong, Taiwan and Malaysia. The fishes are sold to gourmet restaurants because of the great demand for exotic food, to aquariums and to pet shops. In its issue of July 19, 1993. Time Magazine 4 reported that the illicit trade in live animals is the third biggest contraband business in the world, after drugs and arms, and identified the Philippines as a major source of tropical fishes for the global traffic in live fishes. The use of cyanide enables fishermen to catch fish alive and in commercial quantity in a way not possible with the use of such traditional methods as hook and line, fish traps, baklad and the like, which allows only limited catch and often results in injuries to fishes and the loss of their scales, thereby reducing their survival for transportation abroad. 5 Cyanide does not kill fish but only stuns them. The

stunned creatures are then scooped up and placed in containers ready for shipment across borders, national and transnational. What cyanide does, however, is poison the fragile reefs and cause them to die and cease as fish habitats. 6 Concern over the use of cyanide in fishing and its ill effect on the marine environment also prompted the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Puerto Princesa to pass Ordinance No. 15-92, which makes it unlawful for any person or business enterprise or company "to ship out from Puerto Princesa City to any point of destinations either via aircraft or seacraft of any live fish and lobster except SEA BASS, CATFISH, MUDFISH and MILKFISH FRIES." 7 The ban is for five years, from January 1, 1993 to January 1, 1998. The penalty for violation of the ordinance is a fine of not more than P5,000.00 or imprisonment of not more than 12 months.8 To enforce the ordinance, the mayor of Puerto Princesa ordered the inspection of cargoes of live fish and lobsters leaving the city by air or sea. Inspectors are to ascertain if the shipper has a permit issued by the office of the city mayor. Any cargo of live fish and lobster without a permit from the mayor's office will be "held for proper disposition." 9 The ordinances in question are police power measures, enacted by the Province of Palawan and the City of Puerto Princesa, pursuant to the Local Government Code of 1991 which makes it in fact their duty to enact measures to "protect the environment and impose appropriate penalties for acts which endanger the environment, such as dynamite fishing and other forms of destructive fishing. . . ." 10 There is no basis for the claim in the dissenting opinion that the subject of these ordinances lies within the competence of the national government. For the matter concerns a local problem, namely, the destruction of aquatic resources in the Province of Palawan. For this reason the Solicitor General asked for leave to withdraw from this case. On the other hand, the Department of Agriculture submitted its report on the extent of the devastation of coral reefs caused by illegal fishing to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Palawan and thereby left the solution of the problem to be worked out by the local authorities. It would therefore set back the policy of decentralization were this Court to sustain such a claim. Indeed, petitioners' challenge to the validity of the ordinances does not rest on the claim that the ordinances are beyond the power of local governments to enact but on the ground that they deprive petitioners of their means of livelihood and occupation and for that reason violate the Constitution of the Philippines. For support, petitioners invoke the following constitutional provisions: Art. XII, 2 . . . . . The State shall protect the nation's marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens. The Congress may, by law, allow small-scale utilization of natural resources by Filipino citizens, as well as cooperative fish farming, with priority to subsistence fishermen and fishworkers in rivers, lakes, bays and lagoons. Art. XIII, 1: The Congress shall give highest priority to the enactment of measures that protect and enhance the right of all the people to human dignity, reduce social, economic, and political inequalities, and remove cultural inequities by equitably diffusing wealth and political power for the common good.

Id., 7: The State shall protect the rights of subsistence fishermen, especially of local communities, to the preferential use of the communal marine and fishing resources, both inland and offshore. It shall provide support to such fishermen through appropriate technology and research, adequate financial, production, and marketing assistance, and other services. The State shall also protect, develop, and conserve such resources. The protection shall extend to offshore fishing grounds of subsistence fishermen against foreign intrusion. Fishworkers shall receive a just share from their labor in the utilization of marine and fishing resources. I cannot see how these provisions can, in any way, lend support to petitioners' contention that the ordinances violate the Constitution. These provisions refer to the duty of the State to protect the nation's marine resources for the exclusive use and enjoyment of Filipino citizens, to the preferential right of subsistence fishermen in the use of such communal marine resources, and to their right to be protected, even in offshore fishing grounds, against foreign intrusion. There is no question here of Filipino preference over aliens in the use of marine resources. What is in issue is the protection of marine resources in the Province of Palawan. It was precisely to implement Art. XII, 2 that the ordinances in question were enacted. For, without these marine resources, it would be idle to talk of the rights of subsistence fishermen to be preferred in the use of these resources. It has been held that "as underlying questions of fact may condition the constitutionality of legislation of this character, the presumption of constitutionality must prevail in the absence of some factual foundation of record for overthrowing the statute." 11 No evidence has been presented by petitioners to overthrow the factual basis of the ordinances that, as a result of the use of cyanide and other noxious substances for fishing, only 5% of the coral reefs in Palawan was in excellent condition, that 75% had been heavily destroyed, and that because of the thriving market for live fish and lobster here and abroad there was rampant illicit trade in live fish. Nor has it been shown by petitioners that the local legislation here involved is arbitrary or unreasonable. It has been held: "If the laws passed are seen to have a reasonable relation to a proper legislative purpose, and are neither arbitrary nor discriminatory, the requirements of due process are satisfied, and judicial determination to that effect renders a court functus officio. . . . With the wisdom of the policy adopted, with the adequacy or practicability of the law enacted to forward it, the courts are both incompetent and unauthorized to deal. . . ." 12 It is contended that neither Provincial Ordinance No. 2-93 nor City Ordinance No. 15-92 prohibits cyanide fishing and therefore the prohibition against catching certain species of fish and their transportation is "excessive and irrational." It is further argued that the ban is unreasonable because it is not limited to cyanide fishing but includes even legitimate fishing. The ban on the use of cyanide and other noxious substances is already provided for in other legislation. P.D. No. 534, 2 punishes fishing by means of "explosives, obnoxious or poisonous substances or by the use of electricity." Consequently, the ordinances in question can be seen as a necessary corollary of the prohibition against illegal fishing contained in this Decree. By prohibiting the catching of certain fishes and lobsters, Ordinance No. 2-93 in effect discourages cyanide fishing because, as already stated, cyanide is preferred in catching fishes because it does not kill but only stuns them and thus preserves them for export to the world market. On the other hand, the claim that the ordinance sweeps overbroadly by "absolutely prohibit[ing] the catching, gathering, buying and shipment of live fishes and marine coral resources by any and all

means including those lawfully executed or done in the pursuit of legitimate occupation" misconceives the principal purpose of the ordinance, which is not so much to prohibit the use of cyanide for fishing as to rebuild corals because of their destruction by cyanide fishing. This is clear from the "whereas" clauses of Resolution No. 33, accompanying Ordinance No. 2-93: WHEREAS, scientific and factual researches and studies disclose that only five (5) percent of the corals of our province remain to be in excellent condition as habitat of marine coral dwelling aquatic organisms; WHEREAS, it cannot be gainsaid that the destruction and devastation of the corals of our province were principally due to illegal fishing activities like dynamite fishing, sodium cyanide fishing, use of other obnoxious substances and other related activities; WHEREAS, there is an imperative and urgent need to protect and preserve the existence of the remaining excellent corals and allow the devastated ones to reinvigorate and regenerate themselves into vitality within the span of five (5) years; WHEREAS, Sec. 468, Par. 1, Sub-Par. VI of R.A. 7160 otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1991 empowers the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to protect the environment and impose appropriate penalties [for] acts which endanger the environment such as dynamite fishing and other forms of destructive fishing, among others; The principal aim of the ordinance is thus the preservation and rehabilitation of the corals. Only indirectly is it also concerned with prohibiting the use of cyanide. That this is the aim of the ordinance can also be inferred from the fact that the ban imposed by it on the catching and gathering of fishes is for a limited period (5 years) calculated to be the time needed for the growth and regeneration of the corals. Were the purpose of the ordinance the prohibition of the use of cyanide for fishing, the ban would not be for a limited period only but for all time. I am not much moved by the plea that the ordinances deprive small fishermen of their means of livelihood and occupation. The ban imposed by Ordinance No. 2-93, as amended, covers only three species, i.e., mameng (scaridae), panther or seorita (cromilepres altivelis) and ornamental aquarium fishes (balistiedae), which are prized in the black market. With respect to other species, it is open season for legitimate fishermen. On the other hand, the ban imposed by Ordinance No. 15-92 allows the transportation and shipment of sea bass, catfish, mudfish and milkfish fries. The ban imposed by the two ordinances is limited to five years. It is thus limited both as to scope and as to period of effectivity. There is, on the other hand, the imperative necessity for measures to prevent the extinction of certain species of fish. Indeed, the burden of showing that there is no reasonable relation between the end and the means adopted in this case is not on the local governments but on petitioners because of the presumption that a regulatory statute is valid in the absence of factual evidence to the contrary. As held in United States v. Salaveria. 13"The presumption is all in favor of validity. . . The councilors must, in the very nature of things, be familiar with the necessities of their particular municipality and with all the facts and circumstances which surround the subject, and necessitate action. The local legislative body, by enacting the ordinance, has in effect given notice that the regulations are essential to the well being of the people. . . . The Judiciary should not lightly set aside legislative action when there is not a clear invasion of personal or property rights under the guise of police regulation."

Finally, petitioners question Office Order No. 23, s. of 1993, of the city mayor of Puerto Princesa, for being allegedly vague. This order prohibits the transportation of fish outside the city without permit from the mayor's office. Petitioners contend that the order does not state under what condition a permit may be granted and, consequently, leaves it to the absolute discretion of the mayor when to grant and when to deny a permit. The questioned paragraph of the order states: The purpose of the inspection is to ascertain whether the shipper possessed the required Mayor's Permit issued by this Office and the shipment is covered by invoice or clearance issued by the local office of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and as to compliance with all other existing rules and regulations on the matter. This contention is untenable. As the office order is intended to implement City Ordinance No. 15-92, resort must be made to the ordinance in order to determine the scope of such office order. As already noted, the ordinance prohibits the shipment out of Puerto Princesa of live fish and lobsters, with the exception of catfish, mudfish and milkfish fries. Consequently, a permit may be denied if it is for the transportation of fishes which are covered by the ban, but not for those not covered by it. This is the common sense meaning of the office order in question. Criminal laws must be precisely drawn, but, as Justice Holmes once said, "We agree to all the generalities about not supplying criminal laws with what they omit, but there is no canon against using common sense in construing laws as saying what they obviously mean." 14 One final point. This case was brought to this Court on the bare bones of the ordinances, on the mere claim of petitioner Alfredo Tano and his 83 copetitioners that they are subsistence fishermen. The constitutional protection refers to small fishermen who depend on the sea for their existence. Ten of the petitioners, led by Alfredo Tano, are accused in the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of possession of the species covered by Provincial Ordinance No. 2-93, while two, Roberto Lim and Virginia Lim, are charged with violation of the two ordinances in the City Prosecutor's Office. There is no telling from the records of this case whether petitioners are subsistence fishermen or simply impecunious individuals selling their catch to the big businessmen. The other petitioners are admittedly fish traders, members of an association of airline shippers, to whom the constitutional provisions obviously do not apply. The judicial invalidation of the ordinances in this case could undermine the on-going trial of some of petitioners. Instead of leaving the determination of the validity of the ordinances to the trial court, where some of petitioners are facing charges, this Court will be shortcircuiting the criminal process by prematurely passing upon the constitutional questions and indirectly on the criminal liability of some of the petitioners. This is a task which should await the development of evidence of record. Indeed because of the unsatisfactory abstractness of the record, this case should not have been brought here. The mere fact that some of petitioners are facing prosecution for violation of the ordinances is no reason for entertaining their suit. Our jurisdiction is limited to cases and controversies. Who are petitioners? What is the impact of the ordinance on their economic situation? Are the factual bases of the two ordinances supported by evidence? These questions must be raised in the criminal trial or in a suit brought in the trial court so that facts necessary to adjudicate the constitutional questions can be presented. Nothing can take the place of the flesh and blood of litigation to assess the actual operation of a statute and thus ground the judicial power more firmly. Petitioners justify the filing of the present action in this Court on the ground that constitutional questions must be raised at the earliest time. That is true, but it does not mean that the questions should be

presented to the Supreme Court first hand. Moreover, the rule is not absolute. Constitutional questions like those invoked by petitioners can be raised anytime, even in a motion for reconsideration, if their resolution is necessary to the decision of an actual case or controversy, as our recent resolution 15 of the constitutionality of R.A. No. 7659, reimposing the death penalty, amply demonstrates. Romero, Melo, Puno and Francisco, JJ., concur.

BELLOSILLO, J., dissenting: It is settled rule that where the provisions of the law are clear and unambiguous there is no room for interpretation. The duty of the court is only to apply the law. The exception to such rule cannot be justified on the sole basis of good motives or noble objectives. For it is also basic that the end does not justify the means. The petition raises significant constitutional questions. While petitioners apparently instituted the action to enjoin their criminal prosecution, the issue boils down to whether the subject ordinances of Palawan and Puerto Princesa are valid and enforceable as to authorize the criminal prosecution of those charged with violation thereof. Notwithstanding the procedural limitations strictly applied in the majority opinion to render the petition dismissible on grounds of prematurity and lack of real interest in the controversy, the case clearly falls under the exceptions allowed by law. The petition, I submit, can be properly treated as a special civil action for certiorari and prohibition under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court to correct errors of jurisdiction committed by the lower court arising from the implementation of a void ordinance. Even if the purpose of the petition is for declaratory relief, if the petition has far-reaching implications and raises questions that should be resolved as they involve national interest, it may be treated as a special civil action under Rule 65. 1 The mere absence of a prior motion to quash the Information in the trial court should not prevent the accused, petitioners herein, from seeking to render null and void the criminal proceedings below. In criminal cases, when the constitutionality or validity of a law or ordinance is essentially involved, the same may be raised at any stage of the proceedings. It can also be considered by the appellate court at any time if it involves the jurisdiction of the lower Court. 2 Further, under Sec. 8, Rule 117, of the Rules on Criminal Procedure, the failure of the accused to assert any ground of a motion to quash before he pleads to the Complaint or Information either because he did not file a motion to quash or failed to allege the same in the motion shall be deemed a waiver of the grounds of a motion to quash, except the grounds of no offense charged, lack of jurisdiction over the offense charged, extinction of the offense or penalty, and jeopardy. Petitioners are proper parties to set aside the proceedings in the trial court. A proper party is one who has sustained or is in immediate danger of sustaining an injury as a result of the act complained of. Petitioners have been criminally charged and arrested for alleged violation of the ordinances in question. Consequently, unless the trial court is enjoined from continuing with the proceedings, petitioners are in danger of being convicted and punished under ordinances which they allege to be invalid and ineffective. In fact this Court initially recognized the real interest of petitioners in instituting the action when it issued a restraining order directing Judge Angel R. Miclat to cease and desist until

further orders from proceeding with the arraignment and pre-trial of People v. Alfredo Tano, et al., Crim. Case No. 11223, for violation of Resolution No. 2-93 of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Palawan, and Ordinance No. 15-92 of the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Puerto Princesa City. The question to be resolved is whether Resolution No. 2-93, Office Order No. 23 and Ordinance No. 15-92 are constitutional, valid and enforceable. By considering the purpose and objective of the ordinances as laudable, the majority adopts the affirmative view in consonance with the general welfare clause and principle of devolution well-rooted in the Local Government Code of 1991. While I agree with the majority that the local leaders of Palawan and Puerto Princesa City be commended for their efforts to uplift and protect the environment and natural resources within their areas, the general welfare clause is not the sole criterion to determine the validity or constitutionality of the ordinances. InMagtajas v. Pryce Properties Corporation, 3 we reiterated that the well-established tests of a valid ordinance are: (a) It must not contravene the Constitution or any statute; (b) It must not be unfair or oppressive; (c) It must not be partial or discriminatory; (d) It must not prohibit but may regulate trade; (e) It must be general and consistent with public policy; and, (f) It must not be unreasonable. As admitted by the majority, among our existing statutes on fishing and fishery or aquatic resources are P.D. Nos. 704, 1015 and 1219. P.D. No. 704 is titled "Revising and Consolidating All Laws and Decrees Affecting Fishing and Fisheries." With the enactment of the Local Government Code of 1991, only Secs. 16 and 29 of P.D. No. 704 were expressly repealed. All the rest of the provisions of P.D. No. 704 remain valid and effective, Sec. 4 of which is enlightening Sec. 4. Jurisdiction of the Bureau (of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources). The Bureau shall have jurisdiction and responsibility in the management, conservation, development, protection, utilization and disposition of all fishery and aquatic resources of the country except municipal waters which shall be under the municipal or city government concerned: Provided, That fishpens and seaweed culture in municipal centers shall be under the jurisdiction of the Bureau: Provided, further, That all municipal or city ordinances and resolutions affecting fishing and fisheries and any disposition thereunder shall be submitted to the Secretary for appropriate action and shall have full force and effect only upon his approval. The Bureau shall also have authority to regulate and supervise the production, capture and gathering of fish and fishery/aquatic products. There is no doubt that under P.D. No. 704 fishing, fishery and aquatic resources in municipal waters are under the jurisdiction of the municipal or city government concerned. However, the same decree imposes a mandatory requirement directing municipal or city governments to submit ordinances enacted pertinent to fishing and fishery resources to the Secretary of Agriculture who now has control and supervision over the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR). The ordinances will attain full force and effect only upon the approval of the Secretary of Agriculture. Ordinance 15-92 of Puerto Princesa City, admittedly, was not submitted to the Secretary of Agriculture through the BFAR for approval. Such failure of compliance with the law prevented it from becoming valid and effective. Consequently, Office Order No. 23 of the Mayor of Puerto Princesa City which seeks to implement and enforce Ordinance No. 15-92 is also ineffective as there is nothing to implement.

To say that Sec. 4 of P.D. No. 704 was impliedly repealed by the Local Government Code is gratuitous. For, if it was the intention of the legislature to dispense with the requirement of prior approval by the Secretary of Agriculture of ordinances pertinent to fishery resources, it would. have expressly repealed Sec. 4 when, in fact, it did so with Secs. 16 and 29 of P.D. No. 704. Cases abound holding that a repeal by implication is not presumed or favored considering that the legislature is presumed to be aware of existing laws; ordinarily, if it intends to revoke a statute it would manifest such intention in express terms. 4 Before such a repeal is deemed to exist it should be shown that the statutes or statutory provisions deal with the same subject matter and that the latter be inconsistent with the former. There must be a showing of repugnancy clear and convincing in character. The language used in the latter statute must be such as to render it irreconcilable with what has been formerly enacted. An inconsistency that falls short of that standard does not suffice. In fact, there is no inconsistency between the Local Government Code and P.D. No. 704 as amended. While the Local Government Code vests power upon the local government to enact ordinances for the general welfare of its inhabitants, such power is subject to certain limitations imposed by the Code itself and by other statutes. When the legislature failed to repeal Sec. 4 of P.D. No. 704 it accepted and recognized a limitation on the power of the local government to enact ordinances relative to matters affecting fishery and aquatic resources. A reading of particular provisions of the Local Government Code itself will reveal that devolution on the powers of the local government pertaining to the protection of environment is limited and not allencompassing, as will be discussed in the succeeding paragraphs. Further, while the Local Government Code is a general law on the powers, responsibilities and composition of different local government units, P.D. No. 704 is a special law dealing with the protection and conservation of fishing and aquatic resources including those in the municipal waters. Hence, the special law should prevail over the general law. There is also P.D. No. 1015 which vests upon the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to establish closed seasons. Another existing law on fisheries which has not been repealed by the Local Government Code is P.D. No. 1219, which provides for the exploration, exploitation, utilization and conservation of coral resources. Section 4 thereof provides that the decree shall be implemented by the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources who shall have jurisdiction and responsibility in the exploration, exploitation, utilization and conservation of coral resources. Section 6 authorizes the Secretary to issue special permit to any person or institution to gather in limited quantities any coral for scientific or educational purposes. Section 10 empowers the Secretary to promulgate rules and regulations for the implementation of this law. It is true that police power can be exercised through the general welfare clause. But, while police power is inherent in a state, it is not so in municipal corporations or local governments. In order that a local government may exercise police power, there must be a legislative grant which necessarily sets the limits for the exercise of the power. 5 In this case, Congress has enacted the Local Government Code which provides the standards as well as the limitations in the exercise of the police power by the local government unit. Section 2 of the Local Government Code provides for a system of decentralization whereby local government units are given more powers, authority, responsibilities and resources, and the process shall proceed from the national government to the local government units. However, under Sec 3, par. (i), of the Local Government Code, the operative principles of decentralization upon the environment and natural resources are not absolute when it is provided therein that "local government units shall share with the national government the responsibility in the management and maintenance of

ecological balance within their territorial jurisdiction, subject to the provisions of this Code and national policies." The national policies mentioned here refer to existing policies which the DENR and other government agencies concerned with the environment may implement at any given moment. The national policies are embodied in existing laws, rules and regulations pertaining to environment and natural resources, such as P.D. Nos. 704 and 1219 relating to fishery resources. The above provision was crafted to make sure that local government enactments do not supplant or negate national government policies on environment. 6 This is precisely the reason why the Local Government Code did not repeal Sec. 4 of P.D. NO. 704 requiring prior submission to and approval by the Secretary of Agriculture of ordinances relative to fishery and aquatic resources. Needless to stress, the approval of the Secretary is necessary in order to ensure that these ordinances are in accordance with the laws on fisheries and national policies. Likewise, the jurisdiction of the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources over coral resources under P.D. No. 1219 remains. The core of the devolution adopted by the Local Government Code is found in Sec. 17 thereof which reiterates the basic services and facilities to be rendered by the local governments. With respect to the protection and conservation of fisheries, Sec. 17, par. 2 (i), specifically provides that the municipality shall conduct "extension and on-site research services and facilities related to agriculture and fishery activities which include dispersal of livestock and poultry, fingerlings and other seeding materials for aquaculture . . . . and enforcement of fishery laws in municipal waters including the conservation of mangroves . . . ." The power devolved upon the municipality under the Local Government Code is the enforcement of existing fishery laws of the State and not the enactment thereof. While a local government unit may adopt ordinances upon subjects covered by law or statute, such ordinances should be in accordance with and not repugnant to the law. 7 In view thereof, ordinances which may be enacted by the municipality or city should be pursuant to the provisions of P.D. Nos. 704, 1015 and 1219. Thus, under the provisions of Secs. 447, par. 1 (vi), 458, par. 1 (vi) and 468, par. 1 (vi), the municipality, city and province respectively may approve ordinances protecting the environment by specifically penalizing only those acts which endanger the environment such as dynamite fishing and other forms of destructive fishing which are already prohibited under P.D. Nos. 704 and 1219, and other laws on illegal fishing. 8 The questioned ordinances may also be struck down for being not only a prohibitory legislation but also an unauthorized exercise of delegation of powers. An objective, however worthy or desirable it may be, such as the protection and conservation of our fisheries in this case, can be attained by a measure that does not encompass too wide a field. The purpose can be achieved by reasonable restrictions rather than by absolute prohibition. Local governments are not possessed with prohibitory powers but only regulatory powers under the general welfare clause. 9 They cannot therefore exceed the powers granted to them by the Code by altogether prohibiting fishing and selling for five (5) years all live fishes through Ordinance No. 15-92 and coral organisms through Ordinance No. 2-93 involving even lawful methods of fishing. These prohibitions are tantamount to the establishment of a closed season for fish and aquatic resources which authority is not among those powers vested by the Local Government Code to the local government units. For the authority to establish a closed season for fisheries is vested upon the Secretary of Agriculture by virtue of P.D. Nos. 704 and 1015 and in the Secretary of Environment and Natural resources pursuant to P.D. No. 1219 in relation to coral resources. The power of the local governments is confined and limited to ensuring that these national fishery laws are implemented and enforced within their territorial jurisdictions. Hence, any memorandum of agreement which might have

been executed by the Department of Agriculture or Department of Environment and Natural Resources granting additional powers and functions to the local governments which are not vested upon the latter by the Local Government Code because such powers are covered by existing statutes, is an undue delegation of power and, consequently, null and void. The majority also cites R.A. No. 7611, otherwise known as the Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) for Palawan Act, as proof of the power of the local governments of Palawan and Puerto Princesa City to issue the assailed ordinances. Although the objectives of R.A. No. 7611 and of the ordinances are one and the same, i.e., the protection, conservation and development of natural resources, the former does not grant additional powers to the local governments pertaining to the environment. In fact, the law adopts a comprehensive framework which shall serve to direct and guide local governments and national government agencies in the implementation of programs and projects affecting Palawan. With the enactment of this Act, the local governments are mandated to coordinate and align their developmental plans, projects and budgets in accord with the framework of the SEP. It can be said that this is another limitation on the exercise of police power by the local governments of Palawan and Puerto Princesa City because the governance, implementation and policy direction of the SEP shall be exercised by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) which is under the Office of the President. Finally, I find unreasonable Resolution No. 2-93 of Palawan and Ordinance No. 15-92 of Puerto Princesa City. The prohibitions set forth are not germane to the accomplishment of their goals. Ordinance No. 15-92 is aimed to free effectively the marine resources of Puerto Princesa from cyanide and other obnoxious substances. But the means to achieve this objective borders on the excessive and irrational, for the edict would absolutely ban the shipment of live fishes and lobsters out of the city for a period of five (5) years without prohibiting cyanide fishing itself which is the professed goal of the ordinance. The purpose of Resolution No. 2-93, on the other hand, is to protect and preserve all marine coral-dwelling organisms from devastation and destruction by illegal fishing activities, e.g., dynamite fishing, sodium cyanide fishing, and the use of other obnoxious substances. But in absolutely prohibiting the catching, gathering, buying and shipment of live fishes and marine coral resources by any means including those lawfully executed or done in the pursuit of legitimate occupation, the ordinance overstepped the reasonable limits and boundaries of its raison d'etre. This I cannot help viewing as plain arbitrariness masquerading as police power. For the consequent deprivation of the main source of livelihood of the people of Palawan can only be regarded as utter depravation of this awesome power of the State. For all the foregoing, I vote to grant the petition. Kapunan and Hermosisima, Jr., JJ., concur.

Separate Opinions MENDOZA, J., concurring: I fully concur in the opinion of the Court written by Justice Davide. I write separately to emphasize two points which I believe are important. The first is the need to uphold the presumption of validity of the ordinances in this case in view of the total absence of evidence to undermine their factual basis. The

second is the need not to allow a shortcircuiting of the normal process of adjudication on the mere plea that unless we take cognizance of petitions like this, by-passing the trial courts, alleged violations of constitutional rights will be left unprotected, when the matter can very well be looked into by trial courts and in fact should be brought there. The ordinances in question in this case are conservation measures which the local governments of Palawan have adopted in view of the widespread destruction caused by cyanide fishing of corals within their territorial waters. At the very least, these ordinances must be presumed valid in the absence of evidence to show that the necessary factual foundation for their enactment does not exist. Their invalidation at this point can result in the untimely exoneration of otherwise guilty parties on the basis of doubtful constitutional claims. Ordinance No. 2-93, which the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Palawan adopted in 1993, prohibits, for a period of five years, the "catching, gathering, possessing, buying, selling and shipment" of five fish and lobsters. As originally enacted, the prohibition applied to eight species of fish and lobsters caught in the waters of Palawan, namely, "1. Family: Scaridae (Mameng), 2. Epinephelus Fasciatus (Suno), 3. Cromileptes altivelis (Panther or Seorita), lobster (below 200 grams and spawning), 4. Tridacna Gigas (Giant Clams or Taklobo and other species), 5. Pinctada Margaritifera (Mother Pearl Oysters), 6. Penaeus Monodon (Tiger Prawn breeder size or mother), 7. Epinephelus Suillus (Loba or Green Grouper) and 8. Family: Balistidae (Tropical Aquarium Fishes)." 1 Later, however, the ordinance was amended to limit the ban to three species only, namely: mameng (scaridae), panther or seorita (cromileptes altivelis) and ornamental or aquarium fishes (balistidae). Violation of the ordinance is punishable by a fine of P5,000.00 and/or imprisonment of not less than 6 nor more than 12 months and confiscation of the paraphernalia and equipment used in the commission of the offense. 2 Ordinance No. 2-93 was adopted by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan on the basis of a 1992 study submitted by the Department of Agriculture, 3 showing that, as a result of the use of cyanide and other noxious substances for fishing, only 5% of the coral reefs in the Province of Palawan remained in excellent condition as fish sanctuaries and habitats, while 75% was heavily damaged. The rampant use of cyanide has been encouraged by the lucrative trade in live fishes which are shipped not only to Manila but also abroad, principally to Hongkong, Taiwan and Malaysia. The fishes are sold to gourmet restaurants because of the great demand for exotic food, to aquariums and to pet shops. In its issue of July 19, 1993. Time Magazine 4 reported that the illicit trade in live animals is the third biggest contraband business in the world, after drugs and arms, and identified the Philippines as a major source of tropical fishes for the global traffic in live fishes. The use of cyanide enables fishermen to catch fish alive and in commercial quantity in a way not possible with the use of such traditional methods as hook and line, fish traps, baklad and the like, which allows only limited catch and often results in injuries to fishes and the loss of their scales, thereby reducing their survival for transportation abroad. 5 Cyanide does not kill fish but only stuns them. The stunned creatures are then scooped up and placed in containers ready for shipment across borders, national and transnational. What cyanide does, however, is poison the fragile reefs and cause them to die and cease as fish habitats. 6 Concern over the use of cyanide in fishing and its ill effect on the marine environment also prompted the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Puerto Princesa to pass Ordinance No. 15-92, which makes it unlawful for any person or business enterprise or company "to ship out from Puerto Princesa City to any point of

destinations either via aircraft or seacraft of any live fish and lobster except SEA BASS, CATFISH, MUDFISH and MILKFISH FRIES." 7 The ban is for five years, from January 1, 1993 to January 1, 1998. The penalty for violation of the ordinance is a fine of not more than P5,000.00 or imprisonment of not more than 12 months.8 To enforce the ordinance, the mayor of Puerto Princesa ordered the inspection of cargoes of live fish and lobsters leaving the city by air or sea. Inspectors are to ascertain if the shipper has a permit issued by the office of the city mayor. Any cargo of live fish and lobster without a permit from the mayor's office will be "held for proper disposition." 9 The ordinances in question are police power measures, enacted by the Province of Palawan and the City of Puerto Princesa, pursuant to the Local Government Code of 1991 which makes it in fact their duty to enact measures to "protect the environment and impose appropriate penalties for acts which endanger the environment, such as dynamite fishing and other forms of destructive fishing. . . ." 10 There is no basis for the claim in the dissenting opinion that the subject of these ordinances lies within the competence of the national government. For the matter concerns a local problem, namely, the destruction of aquatic resources in the Province of Palawan. For this reason the Solicitor General asked for leave to withdraw from this case. On the other hand, the Department of Agriculture submitted its report on the extent of the devastation of coral reefs caused by illegal fishing to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Palawan and thereby left the solution of the problem to be worked out by the local authorities. It would therefore set back the policy of decentralization were this Court to sustain such a claim. Indeed, petitioners' challenge to the validity of the ordinances does not rest on the claim that the ordinances are beyond the power of local governments to enact but on the ground that they deprive petitioners of their means of livelihood and occupation and for that reason violate the Constitution of the Philippines. For support, petitioners invoke the following constitutional provisions: Art. XII, 2 . . . . . The State shall protect the nation's marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens. The Congress may, by law, allow small-scale utilization of natural resources by Filipino citizens, as well as cooperative fish farming, with priority to subsistence fishermen and fishworkers in rivers, lakes, bays and lagoons. Art. XIII, 1: The Congress shall give highest priority to the enactment of measures that protect and enhance the right of all the people to human dignity, reduce social, economic, and political inequalities, and remove cultural inequities by equitably diffusing wealth and political power for the common good. Id., 7: The State shall protect the rights of subsistence fishermen, especially of local communities, to the preferential use of the communal marine and fishing resources, both inland and offshore. It shall provide support to such fishermen through appropriate technology and research, adequate financial, production, and marketing assistance, and other services. The State shall also protect, develop, and conserve such resources. The protection shall extend to offshore fishing grounds of subsistence fishermen against foreign intrusion. Fishworkers shall

receive a just share from their labor in the utilization of marine and fishing resources. I cannot see how these provisions can, in any way, lend support to petitioners' contention that the ordinances violate the Constitution. These provisions refer to the duty of the State to protect the nation's marine resources for the exclusive use and enjoyment of Filipino citizens, to the preferential right of subsistence fishermen in the use of such communal marine resources, and to their right to be protected, even in offshore fishing grounds, against foreign intrusion. There is no question here of Filipino preference over aliens in the use of marine resources. What is in issue is the protection of marine resources in the Province of Palawan. It was precisely to implement Art. XII, 2 that the ordinances in question were enacted. For, without these marine resources, it would be idle to talk of the rights of subsistence fishermen to be preferred in the use of these resources. It has been held that "as underlying questions of fact may condition the constitutionality of legislation of this character, the presumption of constitutionality must prevail in the absence of some factual foundation of record for overthrowing the statute." 11 No evidence has been presented by petitioners to overthrow the factual basis of the ordinances that, as a result of the use of cyanide and other noxious substances for fishing, only 5% of the coral reefs in Palawan was in excellent condition, that 75% had been heavily destroyed, and that because of the thriving market for live fish and lobster here and abroad there was rampant illicit trade in live fish. Nor has it been shown by petitioners that the local legislation here involved is arbitrary or unreasonable. It has been held: "If the laws passed are seen to have a reasonable relation to a proper legislative purpose, and are neither arbitrary nor discriminatory, the requirements of due process are satisfied, and judicial determination to that effect renders a court functus officio. . . . With the wisdom of the policy adopted, with the adequacy or practicability of the law enacted to forward it, the courts are both incompetent and unauthorized to deal. . . ." 12 It is contended that neither Provincial Ordinance No. 2-93 nor City Ordinance No. 15-92 prohibits cyanide fishing and therefore the prohibition against catching certain species of fish and their transportation is "excessive and irrational." It is further argued that the ban is unreasonable because it is not limited to cyanide fishing but includes even legitimate fishing. The ban on the use of cyanide and other noxious substances is already provided for in other legislation. P.D. No. 534, 2 punishes fishing by means of "explosives, obnoxious or poisonous substances or by the use of electricity." Consequently, the ordinances in question can be seen as a necessary corollary of the prohibition against illegal fishing contained in this Decree. By prohibiting the catching of certain fishes and lobsters, Ordinance No. 2-93 in effect discourages cyanide fishing because, as already stated, cyanide is preferred in catching fishes because it does not kill but only stuns them and thus preserves them for export to the world market. On the other hand, the claim that the ordinance sweeps overbroadly by "absolutely prohibit[ing] the catching, gathering, buying and shipment of live fishes and marine coral resources by any and all means including those lawfully executed or done in the pursuit of legitimate occupation" misconceives the principal purpose of the ordinance, which is not so much to prohibit the use of cyanide for fishing as to rebuild corals because of their destruction by cyanide fishing. This is clear from the "whereas" clauses of Resolution No. 33, accompanying Ordinance No. 2-93: WHEREAS, scientific and factual researches and studies disclose that only five (5) percent of

the corals of our province remain to be in excellent condition as habitat of marine coral dwelling aquatic organisms; WHEREAS, it cannot be gainsaid that the destruction and devastation of the corals of our province were principally due to illegal fishing activities like dynamite fishing, sodium cyanide fishing, use of other obnoxious substances and other related activities; WHEREAS, there is an imperative and urgent need to protect and preserve the existence of the remaining excellent corals and allow the devastated ones to reinvigorate and regenerate themselves into vitality within the span of five (5) years; WHEREAS, Sec. 468, Par. 1, Sub-Par. VI of R.A. 7160 otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1991 empowers the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to protect the environment and impose appropriate penalties [for] acts which endanger the environment such as dynamite fishing and other forms of destructive fishing, among others; The principal aim of the ordinance is thus the preservation and rehabilitation of the corals. Only indirectly is it also concerned with prohibiting the use of cyanide. That this is the aim of the ordinance can also be inferred from the fact that the ban imposed by it on the catching and gathering of fishes is for a limited period (5 years) calculated to be the time needed for the growth and regeneration of the corals. Were the purpose of the ordinance the prohibition of the use of cyanide for fishing, the ban would not be for a limited period only but for all time. I am not much moved by the plea that the ordinances deprive small fishermen of their means of livelihood and occupation. The ban imposed by Ordinance No. 2-93, as amended, covers only three species, i.e., mameng (scaridae), panther or seorita (cromilepres altivelis) and ornamental aquarium fishes (balistiedae), which are prized in the black market. With respect to other species, it is open season for legitimate fishermen. On the other hand, the ban imposed by Ordinance No. 15-92 allows the transportation and shipment of sea bass, catfish, mudfish and milkfish fries. The ban imposed by the two ordinances is limited to five years. It is thus limited both as to scope and as to period of effectivity. There is, on the other hand, the imperative necessity for measures to prevent the extinction of certain species of fish. Indeed, the burden of showing that there is no reasonable relation between the end and the means adopted in this case is not on the local governments but on petitioners because of the presumption that a regulatory statute is valid in the absence of factual evidence to the contrary. As held in United States v. Salaveria. 13"The presumption is all in favor of validity. . . The councilors must, in the very nature of things, be familiar with the necessities of their particular municipality and with all the facts and circumstances which surround the subject, and necessitate action. The local legislative body, by enacting the ordinance, has in effect given notice that the regulations are essential to the well being of the people. . . . The Judiciary should not lightly set aside legislative action when there is not a clear invasion of personal or property rights under the guise of police regulation." Finally, petitioners question Office Order No. 23, s. of 1993, of the city mayor of Puerto Princesa, for being allegedly vague. This order prohibits the transportation of fish outside the city without permit from the mayor's office. Petitioners contend that the order does not state under what condition a permit may be granted and, consequently, leaves it to the absolute discretion of the mayor when to grant and when to deny a permit. The questioned paragraph of the order states:

The purpose of the inspection is to ascertain whether the shipper possessed the required Mayor's Permit issued by this Office and the shipment is covered by invoice or clearance issued by the local office of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and as to compliance with all other existing rules and regulations on the matter. This contention is untenable. As the office order is intended to implement City Ordinance No. 15-92, resort must be made to the ordinance in order to determine the scope of such office order. As already noted, the ordinance prohibits the shipment out of Puerto Princesa of live fish and lobsters, with the exception of catfish, mudfish and milkfish fries. Consequently, a permit may be denied if it is for the transportation of fishes which are covered by the ban, but not for those not covered by it. This is the common sense meaning of the office order in question. Criminal laws must be precisely drawn, but, as Justice Holmes once said, "We agree to all the generalities about not supplying criminal laws with what they omit, but there is no canon against using common sense in construing laws as saying what they obviously mean." 14 One final point. This case was brought to this Court on the bare bones of the ordinances, on the mere claim of petitioner Alfredo Tano and his 83 copetitioners that they are subsistence fishermen. The constitutional protection refers to small fishermen who depend on the sea for their existence. Ten of the petitioners, led by Alfredo Tano, are accused in the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of possession of the species covered by Provincial Ordinance No. 2-93, while two, Roberto Lim and Virginia Lim, are charged with violation of the two ordinances in the City Prosecutor's Office. There is no telling from the records of this case whether petitioners are subsistence fishermen or simply impecunious individuals selling their catch to the big businessmen. The other petitioners are admittedly fish traders, members of an association of airline shippers, to whom the constitutional provisions obviously do not apply. The judicial invalidation of the ordinances in this case could undermine the on-going trial of some of petitioners. Instead of leaving the determination of the validity of the ordinances to the trial court, where some of petitioners are facing charges, this Court will be shortcircuiting the criminal process by prematurely passing upon the constitutional questions and indirectly on the criminal liability of some of the petitioners. This is a task which should await the development of evidence of record. Indeed because of the unsatisfactory abstractness of the record, this case should not have been brought here. The mere fact that some of petitioners are facing prosecution for violation of the ordinances is no reason for entertaining their suit. Our jurisdiction is limited to cases and controversies. Who are petitioners? What is the impact of the ordinance on their economic situation? Are the factual bases of the two ordinances supported by evidence? These questions must be raised in the criminal trial or in a suit brought in the trial court so that facts necessary to adjudicate the constitutional questions can be presented. Nothing can take the place of the flesh and blood of litigation to assess the actual operation of a statute and thus ground the judicial power more firmly. Petitioners justify the filing of the present action in this Court on the ground that constitutional questions must be raised at the earliest time. That is true, but it does not mean that the questions should be presented to the Supreme Court first hand. Moreover, the rule is not absolute. Constitutional questions like those invoked by petitioners can be raised anytime, even in a motion for reconsideration, if their resolution is necessary to the decision of an actual case or controversy, as our recent resolution 15 of the constitutionality of R.A. No. 7659, reimposing the death penalty, amply demonstrates. Romero, Melo, Puno and Francisco, JJ., concur.

BELLOSILLO, J., dissenting: It is settled rule that where the provisions of the law are clear and unambiguous there is no room for interpretation. The duty of the court is only to apply the law. The exception to such rule cannot be justified on the sole basis of good motives or noble objectives. For it is also basic that the end does not justify the means. The petition raises significant constitutional questions. While petitioners apparently instituted the action to enjoin their criminal prosecution, the issue boils down to whether the subject ordinances of Palawan and Puerto Princesa are valid and enforceable as to authorize the criminal prosecution of those charged with violation thereof. Notwithstanding the procedural limitations strictly applied in the majority opinion to render the petition dismissible on grounds of prematurity and lack of real interest in the controversy, the case clearly falls under the exceptions allowed by law. The petition, I submit, can be properly treated as a special civil action for certiorari and prohibition under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court to correct errors of jurisdiction committed by the lower court arising from the implementation of a void ordinance. Even if the purpose of the petition is for declaratory relief, if the petition has far-reaching implications and raises questions that should be resolved as they involve national interest, it may be treated as a special civil action under Rule 65. 1 The mere absence of a prior motion to quash the Information in the trial court should not prevent the accused, petitioners herein, from seeking to render null and void the criminal proceedings below. In criminal cases, when the constitutionality or validity of a law or ordinance is essentially involved, the same may be raised at any stage of the proceedings. It can also be considered by the appellate court at any time if it involves the jurisdiction of the lower Court. 2 Further, under Sec. 8, Rule 117, of the Rules on Criminal Procedure, the failure of the accused to assert any ground of a motion to quash before he pleads to the Complaint or Information either because he did not file a motion to quash or failed to allege the same in the motion shall be deemed a waiver of the grounds of a motion to quash, except the grounds of no offense charged, lack of jurisdiction over the offense charged, extinction of the offense or penalty, and jeopardy. Petitioners are proper parties to set aside the proceedings in the trial court. A proper party is one who has sustained or is in immediate danger of sustaining an injury as a result of the act complained of. Petitioners have been criminally charged and arrested for alleged violation of the ordinances in question. Consequently, unless the trial court is enjoined from continuing with the proceedings, petitioners are in danger of being convicted and punished under ordinances which they allege to be invalid and ineffective. In fact this Court initially recognized the real interest of petitioners in instituting the action when it issued a restraining order directing Judge Angel R. Miclat to cease and desist until further orders from proceeding with the arraignment and pre-trial of People v. Alfredo Tano, et al., Crim. Case No. 11223, for violation of Resolution No. 2-93 of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Palawan, and Ordinance No. 15-92 of the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Puerto Princesa City. The question to be resolved is whether Resolution No. 2-93, Office Order No. 23 and Ordinance No. 15-92 are constitutional, valid and enforceable. By considering the purpose and objective of the ordinances as laudable, the majority adopts the affirmative view in consonance with the general welfare

clause and principle of devolution well-rooted in the Local Government Code of 1991. While I agree with the majority that the local leaders of Palawan and Puerto Princesa City be commended for their efforts to uplift and protect the environment and natural resources within their areas, the general welfare clause is not the sole criterion to determine the validity or constitutionality of the ordinances. InMagtajas v. Pryce Properties Corporation, 3 we reiterated that the well-established tests of a valid ordinance are: (a) It must not contravene the Constitution or any statute; (b) It must not be unfair or oppressive; (c) It must not be partial or discriminatory; (d) It must not prohibit but may regulate trade; (e) It must be general and consistent with public policy; and, (f) It must not be unreasonable. As admitted by the majority, among our existing statutes on fishing and fishery or aquatic resources are P.D. Nos. 704, 1015 and 1219. P.D. No. 704 is titled "Revising and Consolidating All Laws and Decrees Affecting Fishing and Fisheries." With the enactment of the Local Government Code of 1991, only Secs. 16 and 29 of P.D. No. 704 were expressly repealed. All the rest of the provisions of P.D. No. 704 remain valid and effective, Sec. 4 of which is enlightening Sec. 4. Jurisdiction of the Bureau (of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources). The Bureau shall have jurisdiction and responsibility in the management, conservation, development, protection, utilization and disposition of all fishery and aquatic resources of the country except municipal waters which shall be under the municipal or city government concerned: Provided, That fishpens and seaweed culture in municipal centers shall be under the jurisdiction of the Bureau: Provided, further, That all municipal or city ordinances and resolutions affecting fishing and fisheries and any disposition thereunder shall be submitted to the Secretary for appropriate action and shall have full force and effect only upon his approval. The Bureau shall also have authority to regulate and supervise the production, capture and gathering of fish and fishery/aquatic products. There is no doubt that under P.D. No. 704 fishing, fishery and aquatic resources in municipal waters are under the jurisdiction of the municipal or city government concerned. However, the same decree imposes a mandatory requirement directing municipal or city governments to submit ordinances enacted pertinent to fishing and fishery resources to the Secretary of Agriculture who now has control and supervision over the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR). The ordinances will attain full force and effect only upon the approval of the Secretary of Agriculture. Ordinance 15-92 of Puerto Princesa City, admittedly, was not submitted to the Secretary of Agriculture through the BFAR for approval. Such failure of compliance with the law prevented it from becoming valid and effective. Consequently, Office Order No. 23 of the Mayor of Puerto Princesa City which seeks to implement and enforce Ordinance No. 15-92 is also ineffective as there is nothing to implement. To say that Sec. 4 of P.D. No. 704 was impliedly repealed by the Local Government Code is gratuitous. For, if it was the intention of the legislature to dispense with the requirement of prior approval by the Secretary of Agriculture of ordinances pertinent to fishery resources, it would. have expressly repealed Sec. 4 when, in fact, it did so with Secs. 16 and 29 of P.D. No. 704. Cases abound holding that a repeal by implication is not presumed or favored considering that the legislature is presumed to be aware of existing laws; ordinarily, if it intends to revoke a statute it would manifest such intention in express terms. 4 Before such a repeal is deemed to exist it should be shown that the statutes or statutory

provisions deal with the same subject matter and that the latter be inconsistent with the former. There must be a showing of repugnancy clear and convincing in character. The language used in the latter statute must be such as to render it irreconcilable with what has been formerly enacted. An inconsistency that falls short of that standard does not suffice. In fact, there is no inconsistency between the Local Government Code and P.D. No. 704 as amended. While the Local Government Code vests power upon the local government to enact ordinances for the general welfare of its inhabitants, such power is subject to certain limitations imposed by the Code itself and by other statutes. When the legislature failed to repeal Sec. 4 of P.D. No. 704 it accepted and recognized a limitation on the power of the local government to enact ordinances relative to matters affecting fishery and aquatic resources. A reading of particular provisions of the Local Government Code itself will reveal that devolution on the powers of the local government pertaining to the protection of environment is limited and not allencompassing, as will be discussed in the succeeding paragraphs. Further, while the Local Government Code is a general law on the powers, responsibilities and composition of different local government units, P.D. No. 704 is a special law dealing with the protection and conservation of fishing and aquatic resources including those in the municipal waters. Hence, the special law should prevail over the general law. There is also P.D. No. 1015 which vests upon the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to establish closed seasons. Another existing law on fisheries which has not been repealed by the Local Government Code is P.D. No. 1219, which provides for the exploration, exploitation, utilization and conservation of coral resources. Section 4 thereof provides that the decree shall be implemented by the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources who shall have jurisdiction and responsibility in the exploration, exploitation, utilization and conservation of coral resources. Section 6 authorizes the Secretary to issue special permit to any person or institution to gather in limited quantities any coral for scientific or educational purposes. Section 10 empowers the Secretary to promulgate rules and regulations for the implementation of this law. It is true that police power can be exercised through the general welfare clause. But, while police power is inherent in a state, it is not so in municipal corporations or local governments. In order that a local government may exercise police power, there must be a legislative grant which necessarily sets the limits for the exercise of the power. 5 In this case, Congress has enacted the Local Government Code which provides the standards as well as the limitations in the exercise of the police power by the local government unit. Section 2 of the Local Government Code provides for a system of decentralization whereby local government units are given more powers, authority, responsibilities and resources, and the process shall proceed from the national government to the local government units. However, under Sec 3, par. (i), of the Local Government Code, the operative principles of decentralization upon the environment and natural resources are not absolute when it is provided therein that "local government units shall share with the national government the responsibility in the management and maintenance of ecological balance within their territorial jurisdiction, subject to the provisions of this Code and national policies." The national policies mentioned here refer to existing policies which the DENR and other government agencies concerned with the environment may implement at any given moment. The national policies are embodied in existing laws, rules and regulations pertaining to environment and natural resources, such as P.D. Nos. 704 and 1219 relating to fishery resources. The above provision was crafted to make sure that local government enactments do not supplant or negate national government policies on environment. 6 This is precisely the reason why the Local Government Code did

not repeal Sec. 4 of P.D. NO. 704 requiring prior submission to and approval by the Secretary of Agriculture of ordinances relative to fishery and aquatic resources. Needless to stress, the approval of the Secretary is necessary in order to ensure that these ordinances are in accordance with the laws on fisheries and national policies. Likewise, the jurisdiction of the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources over coral resources under P.D. No. 1219 remains. The core of the devolution adopted by the Local Government Code is found in Sec. 17 thereof which reiterates the basic services and facilities to be rendered by the local governments. With respect to the protection and conservation of fisheries, Sec. 17, par. 2 (i), specifically provides that the municipality shall conduct "extension and on-site research services and facilities related to agriculture and fishery activities which include dispersal of livestock and poultry, fingerlings and other seeding materials for aquaculture . . . . and enforcement of fishery laws in municipal waters including the conservation of mangroves . . . ." The power devolved upon the municipality under the Local Government Code is the enforcement of existing fishery laws of the State and not the enactment thereof. While a local government unit may adopt ordinances upon subjects covered by law or statute, such ordinances should be in accordance with and not repugnant to the law. 7 In view thereof, ordinances which may be enacted by the municipality or city should be pursuant to the provisions of P.D. Nos. 704, 1015 and 1219. Thus, under the provisions of Secs. 447, par. 1 (vi), 458, par. 1 (vi) and 468, par. 1 (vi), the municipality, city and province respectively may approve ordinances protecting the environment by specifically penalizing only those acts which endanger the environment such as dynamite fishing and other forms of destructive fishing which are already prohibited under P.D. Nos. 704 and 1219, and other laws on illegal fishing. 8 The questioned ordinances may also be struck down for being not only a prohibitory legislation but also an unauthorized exercise of delegation of powers. An objective, however worthy or desirable it may be, such as the protection and conservation of our fisheries in this case, can be attained by a measure that does not encompass too wide a field. The purpose can be achieved by reasonable restrictions rather than by absolute prohibition. Local governments are not possessed with prohibitory powers but only regulatory powers under the general welfare clause. 9 They cannot therefore exceed the powers granted to them by the Code by altogether prohibiting fishing and selling for five (5) years all live fishes through Ordinance No. 15-92 and coral organisms through Ordinance No. 2-93 involving even lawful methods of fishing. These prohibitions are tantamount to the establishment of a closed season for fish and aquatic resources which authority is not among those powers vested by the Local Government Code to the local government units. For the authority to establish a closed season for fisheries is vested upon the Secretary of Agriculture by virtue of P.D. Nos. 704 and 1015 and in the Secretary of Environment and Natural resources pursuant to P.D. No. 1219 in relation to coral resources. The power of the local governments is confined and limited to ensuring that these national fishery laws are implemented and enforced within their territorial jurisdictions. Hence, any memorandum of agreement which might have been executed by the Department of Agriculture or Department of Environment and Natural Resources granting additional powers and functions to the local governments which are not vested upon the latter by the Local Government Code because such powers are covered by existing statutes, is an undue delegation of power and, consequently, null and void. The majority also cites R.A. No. 7611, otherwise known as the Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) for Palawan Act, as proof of the power of the local governments of Palawan and Puerto Princesa City to

issue the assailed ordinances. Although the objectives of R.A. No. 7611 and of the ordinances are one and the same, i.e., the protection, conservation and development of natural resources, the former does not grant additional powers to the local governments pertaining to the environment. In fact, the law adopts a comprehensive framework which shall serve to direct and guide local governments and national government agencies in the implementation of programs and projects affecting Palawan. With the enactment of this Act, the local governments are mandated to coordinate and align their developmental plans, projects and budgets in accord with the framework of the SEP. It can be said that this is another limitation on the exercise of police power by the local governments of Palawan and Puerto Princesa City because the governance, implementation and policy direction of the SEP shall be exercised by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) which is under the Office of the President. Finally, I find unreasonable Resolution No. 2-93 of Palawan and Ordinance No. 15-92 of Puerto Princesa City. The prohibitions set forth are not germane to the accomplishment of their goals. Ordinance No. 15-92 is aimed to free effectively the marine resources of Puerto Princesa from cyanide and other obnoxious substances. But the means to achieve this objective borders on the excessive and irrational, for the edict would absolutely ban the shipment of live fishes and lobsters out of the city for a period of five (5) years without prohibiting cyanide fishing itself which is the professed goal of the ordinance. The purpose of Resolution No. 2-93, on the other hand, is to protect and preserve all marine coral-dwelling organisms from devastation and destruction by illegal fishing activities, e.g., dynamite fishing, sodium cyanide fishing, and the use of other obnoxious substances. But in absolutely prohibiting the catching, gathering, buying and shipment of live fishes and marine coral resources by any means including those lawfully executed or done in the pursuit of legitimate occupation, the ordinance overstepped the reasonable limits and boundaries of its raison d'etre. This I cannot help viewing as plain arbitrariness masquerading as police power. For the consequent deprivation of the main source of livelihood of the people of Palawan can only be regarded as utter depravation of this awesome power of the State. For all the foregoing, I vote to grant the petition. Kapunan and Hermosisima, Jr., JJ., concur. Footnotes 1 None, however, exists in Puerto Princesa City. 2 Petitioners filed their Memorandum on 24 October 1994, respondents City Mayor Hagedorn and Members of the Sangguniang Panlungsod of the City of Puerto Princess filed their Memorandum on 25 January 1995, while respondents Governor Socrates and Members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Palawan filed their Memorandum on 31 January 1995. 3 Annex "D" of Petition, Rollo, 35. 4 Annex "E" of Petition; id, 36. 5 Annex "A" to "A-5" of Urgent Plea for the Immediate Issuance of Temporary Restraining Order,Rollo, 86 et seq.

6 VICENTE J. FRANCISCO, THE REVISED RULES OF COURT IN THE PHILIPPINES, CRIMINAL PROCEDURE, 582 (2nd ed. 1969), citing U.S. v. Pompeya, 31 Phil. 245 [1915]. 7 Acharon v. Purisima, 13 SCRA 309, 311 [1965]; Cruz v. Court of Appeals, 194 SCRA 145, 152-153 [1991]; Yap v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 220 SCRA 245, 253 [1993]; People v. Bans, 239 SCRA 48, 54-55 [1994]. 8 Liberty Insurance Corporation v. Court of Appeals, 222 SCRA 37, 47 [1993]; Lasco v. United Nations Revolving Fund for Natural Resources Exploration, 241 SCRA 681, 684 [1995]. 9 See Mendoza v. Court of Appeals, 201 SCRA 343 [1991]; People v. Bans, supra note 7. 10 Rollo, 25. 11 Macasiano v. National Housing Authority, 224 SCRA 236, 243 [1993], citing Remotigue v. Osmea, 21 SCRA 837 [1967]; Rural Bank of Olongapo v. Commissioner of Land Registration, 102 SCRA 794 [1981]; and Allied Broadcasting Center v. Republic of the Philippines, 190 SCRA 782 [1990]. 12 Philnabank Employees Association v. Hon. Estanislao, 227 SCRA 804, 811 [1993]. 13 172 SCRA 415, 423-424 [1989], reiterated in Manalo v. Gloria, 236 SCRA 130, 138-139 [1994]. 14 217 SCRA 633, 652 [1993]. 15 La Union Electric Cooperative Inc. v. Yaranon, 179 SCRA 828, 836 [1989]; Francisco v. Permskul, 173 SCRA 324, 333 [1989]. 16 See Peralta v. Commission on Elections, 82 SCRA 30, 55 [1978]. 17 Paredes v. Executive Secretary, 128 SCRA 6, 11 [1984], citing Yu Gong Eng v. Trinidad, 47 Phil. 385 [1925]. See also Aris (Phil.) Inc. v. NLRC, 200 SCRA 246, 255-256 [1991]. 18 Although the intent of the framers was to have the terms refer to those "who lived a hand-tomouth existence.," JOAQUIN G. BERNAS, THE INTENT OF THE 1986 CONSTITUTION WRITERS 964 (1995). 19 Webster's Third New International Dictionary 1381 [1993]. 20 Webster's, supra, 2279. 21 III Record of the Constitutional Commission, 50. 22 Section 16, Article II. 23 224 SCRA 792, 804-805 [1993].

24 Section 149. 25 Section 447[a][1][vi]; Section 458[a][1][vi]; Section 468[a][1][vi]. 26 Section 2(a). 27 Section 3, Article X. 28 Section 5(a). 29 Section 17(e). 30 Section 17[b][2][i]. 31 Section 13[r], LGC. 32 Sec. 4. R.A. No. 7611. 33 Section 458[a][1][vi]; Section 468[a][1][vi]. 34 Section 3[3], R.A. No. 7611. 35 Jay Batongbacal, Note, The Coastal Environment and the Small-Scale Fisherfolk: Advocacy for Community-Based Coastal Zone Management, 66 PHIL. L. J. 149, 162 (December 1991). 36 Anthony Spaeth, Reef killers, TIME Magazine, 3 June 1996, 49, 50. 37 Anthony Spaeth, Reef Killers, TIME Magazine, 3 June 1996, 49, 50. 38 Batongbacal, 168. 39 Spaeth. 51. 40 Id. 41 Batongbacal, 168. 42 Said section reads: Sec. 4. Jurisdiction of the Bureau. The Bureau shall have jurisdiction and responsibility in the management, conservation, development, protection, utilization and disposition of all fishery and aquatic resources of the country except municipal waters which shall be under the municipal or city government concerned: Provided, That fishpens and seaweed culture in municipal centers shall be under the jurisdiction of the Bureau: Provided, further, That all municipal or city ordinances and resolutions affecting fishing and fisheries and any disposition thereunder shall be submitted to the Secretary for appropriate action and shall have full force and effect only upon his approval. The Bureau shall also have authority to regulate and supervise the

production, capture and gathering of fish and fishery/aquatic products. The Bureau shall prepare and implement, upon approval of the Fishery Industry Development Council, a Fishery Industry Development Program. 43 Executive Order No. 292. 44 Section 20, Chapter 4, Title IV, Book IV. 45 These sections read as follows: Sec. 16. License, lease, and permit. No person shall exploit, occupy, produce, culture, capture or gather fish, or fry or fingerling of any species of fish or fishery/aquatic products, or engage in any fishery activity in Philippine or municipal waters without a license, lease or permit: Provided, That when due to destruction wrought upon fishponds, fishpens or fish nurseries, by typhoons, floods and other fortuitous events, or due to speculation, monopolistic and other pernicious practices which tend to create an artificial shortage of fry and/or fingerling, the supply of fish and fishery/aquatic products can reasonably be expected to fall below the usual demand therefor and the price thereof, to increase, the Secretary, upon recommendation of the Director, is hereby authorized to fix a fair and reasonable price for fry and fingerling of any species of fish, and in so doing and when necessary, fix different price levels for various areas or regions taking into account such variable factors as availability, accessibility to transportation facilities, packing and crating, and to regulate the movement, shipment and transporting of such fry and fingerling: Provided, Further, That the price so fixed shall guarantee the gatherers of fry a just and equitable return for their labor: Provided, Finally, That any administrative order issued by the Secretary to implement the foregoing shall take effect immediately, the provisions of Section 7 hereof to the contrary notwithstanding. xxx xxx xxx C. MUNICIPAL FISHERIES Sec. 29. Grant of fishery privileges. A municipal or city council, conformably with an ordinance duly approved by the Secretary pursuant to Section 4 hereof may: a. grant to the highest qualified bidder the exclusive privilege of constructing and operating fish corrals, oyster culture beds, or of gathering "bangus" fry, or the fry of other species, in municipal waters for a period not exceeding five (5) years: Provided, That in the zoning and classification of municipal waters for purposes of awarding, through public bidding, areas for the construction or operation of fish corrals, oyster culture beds, or the gathering of fry, the municipal or city council shall set aside not more than one-fifth (1/5) of the area, earmarked for the gathering of fry, as may be designated by the Bureau, as government "bangus" fry reservation: Provided, Further, That no fish corral shall be constructed within two hundred (200) meters of another fish corral in marine fisheries, or one hundred (100) meters in freshwater fisheries, unless they belong to the same licensee, but in no case shall the distance be less than sixty (60) meters, except in waters less than two (2) meters deep at low tide, or unless

previously approved by the Secretary; b. authorize the issuance to qualified persons of license for the operation of fishing boats three (3) gross tons or less, or for the privilege of fishing in municipal waters with nets, traps or other fishing gear: Provided, That it shall be beyond the power of the municipal or city council to impose a license for the privilege of gathering marine mollusca or the shells thereof, for pearling boats and pearl divers, or for prospecting, collecting, or gathering sponges or other aquatic products, or for the culture of fishery/aquatic products: Provided, Further, That a licensee under this paragraph shall not operate within two hundred (200) meters of any fish corral licensed by the municipality except when the licensee is the owner or operator of the fish corral but in no case within sixty (60) meters of said corral. The municipality or city council shall furnish the Bureau, for statistical purposes, on forms which shall be furnished by the Bureau, such information and data on fishery matters as are reflected in such forms. 46 Section 149. 47 Section 447[a][1][vi]; Section 458[a][1][vi]; Section 468[a][1][vi]. MENDOZA, J., concurring: 1 I and III. 2 IV. 3 Quoted in Respondents Comment on the Petition. p. 7. 4 Toufexis. All God's Creatures Priced to Sell. Time, July 19, 1993, p. 32. 5 Supra note 3 at p. 8. 6 Supra note 4 at p. 34. 7 4. 8 5. 9 Office Order No. 33, s. 1993. 10 R.A. No. 7160, 458(a)(1 )(vi) and 468(a)(1)(vi). 11 Ermita-Malate Hotel and Motel Operators Ass'n v. City Mayor, 20 SCRA 849, 857 (1967), citingO'Gozman & Young v. Hartford Fire Ins. Co., 282 U.S. 255, 257, 75 L.Ed. 324, 328 (1931). 12 Nebbia v. New York, 291 U.S. 502 (1934). See also Lansang v. Garcia, 42 SCRA 448, 481 (1971): People v. Ferrer, 48 SCRA 382 (1972).

13 39 Phil. 102, 111 (1918). 14 Roschen v. Ward, 279 U.S. 337, 339, 73 L.Ed. 722, 728 (1929), quoted by this Court in Ermita-Malate Hotel and Motel Operators Ass'n v. City Mayor, 20 SCRA at 867. 15 People v. Echegaray, G.R. No. 117472, Feb. 7, 1997 (death penalty statute valid). BELLOSILLO, J.: dissenting: 1 Alliance of Government Workers v. Minister of Labor, G.R. No. 60403, 3 August 1983, 124 SCRA 1. 2 San Miguel Brewery, Inc. v. Magno, No. L-2187, 29 September 1967, 21 SCRA 292. 3 G.R. No. 111097, 20 July 1994, 234 SCRA 255. 4 Almeda v. Florentino, No. L-23800, 21 December 1965, 15 SCRA 514. 5 Martin, Ruperto G., Public Corporations, Rev. Ed., p. 46, citing Elliot, Municipal Corporations, p. 33. 6 Pimentel, Aquilino, The Local Government Code of 1991, Key to National Development, 1993, p. 19. 7 See Note 5, p. 69, citing U.S. v. Chan Tienco, 25 Phil. 89 (1913). 8 See Note 6, p. 73. 9 Cruz v. Paras, Nos. L-42571-72, 25 July 1983, 123 SCRA 569.
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Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila FIRST DIVISION

G.R. Nos. 120865-71 December 7, 1995 LAGUNA LAKE DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY, petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS; HON. JUDGE HERCULANO TECH, PRESIDING JUDGE, BRANCH 70, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF BINANGONAN RIZAL; FLEET DEVELOPMENT, INC. and CARLITO ARROYO; THE MUNICIPALITY OF BINANGONAN and/or MAYOR ISIDRO B. PACIS, respondents. LAGUNA LAKE DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY, petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS; HON. JUDGE AURELIO C. TRAMPE, PRESIDING JUDGE, BRANCH 163, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF PASIG; MANILA MARINE LIFE BUSINESS RESOURCES, INC. represented by, MR. TOBIAS REYNALD M. TIANGCO; MUNICIPALITY OF TAGUIG, METRO MANILA and/or MAYOR RICARDO D. PAPA, JR., respondents. LAGUNA LAKE DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY, petitioner,

vs. COURT OF APPEALS; HON. JUDGE ALEJANDRO A. MARQUEZ, PRESIDING JUDGE, BRANCH 79, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF MORONG, RIZAL; GREENFIELD VENTURES INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION and R. J. ORION DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION; MUNICIPALITY OF JALA-JALA and/or MAYOR WALFREDO M. DE LA VEGA, respondents. LAGUNA LAKE DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY, petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS; HON. JUDGE MANUEL S. PADOLINA, PRESIDING JUDGE, BRANCH 162, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF PASIG, METRO MANILA; IRMA FISHING & TRADING CORP.; ARTM FISHING CORP.; BDR CORPORATION, MIRT CORPORATION and TRIM CORPORATION; MUNICIPALITY OF BINANGONAN and/or MAYOR ISIDRO B. PACIS, respondents. LAGUNA LAKE DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY, petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS; HON. JUDGE ARTURO A. MARAVE, PRESIDING JUDGE, BRANCH 78, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF MORONG, RIZAL; BLUE LAGOON FISHING CORP. and ALCRIS CHICKEN GROWERS, INC.; MUNICIPALITY OF JALA-JALA and/or MAYOR WALFREDO M. DE LA VEGA, respondents. LAGUNA LAKE DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY, petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS; HON. JUDGE ARTURO A. MARAVE, PRESIDING JUDGE, BRANCH 78, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF MORONG, RIZAL; AGP FISH VENTURES, INC., represented by its PRESIDENT ALFONSO PUYAT; MUNICIPALITY OF JALA-JALA and/or MAYOR WALFREDO M. DE LA VEGA, respondents. LAGUNA LAKE DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY, petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS; HON. JUDGE EUGENIO S. LABITORIA, PRESIDING JUDGE, BRANCH 161, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF PASIG, METRO MANILA; SEA MAR TRADING CO. INC.; EASTERN LAGOON FISHING CORP.; MINAMAR FISHING CORP.; MUNICIPALITY OF BINANGONAN and/or MAYOR ISIDRO B. PACIS,respondents.

HERMOSISIMA, JR., J.: It is difficult for a man, scavenging on the garbage dump created by affluence and profligate consumption and extravagance of the rich or fishing in the murky waters of the Pasig River and the Laguna Lake or making a clearing in the forest so that he can produce food for his family, to understand why protecting birds, fish, and trees is more important than protecting him and keeping his family alive. How do we strike a balance between environmental protection, on the one hand, and the individual personal interests of people, on the other? Towards environmental protection and ecology, navigational safety, and sustainable development, Republic Act No. 4850 created the "Laguna Lake Development Authority." This Government Agency is supposed to carry out and effectuate the aforesaid declared policy, so as to accelerate the development and balanced growth of the Laguna Lake area and the surrounding provinces, cities and towns, in the act clearly named, within the context of the national

and regional plans and policies for social and economic development. Presidential Decree No. 813 of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos amended certain sections of Republic Act No. 4850 because of the concern for the rapid expansion of Metropolitan Manila, the suburbs and the lakeshore towns of Laguna de Bay, combined with current and prospective uses of the lake for municipal-industrial water supply, irrigation, fisheries, and the like. Concern on the part of the Government and the general public over: the environment impact of development on the water quality and ecology of the lake and its related river systems; the inflow of polluted water from the Pasig River, industrial, domestic and agricultural wastes from developed areas around the lake; the increasing urbanization which induced the deterioration of the lake, since water quality studies have shown that the lake will deteriorate further if steps are not taken to check the same; and the floods in Metropolitan Manila area and the lakeshore towns which will influence the hydraulic system of Laguna de Bay, since any scheme of controlling the floods will necessarily involve the lake and its river systems, likewise gave impetus to the creation of the Authority. Section 1 of Republic Act No. 4850 was amended to read as follows:
Sec. 1. Declaration of Policy. It is hereby declared to be the national policy to promote, and accelerate the development and balanced growth of the Laguna Lake area and the surrounding provinces, cities and towns hereinafter referred to as the region, within the context of the national and regional plans and policies for social and economic development and to carry out the development of the Laguna Lake region with due regard and adequate provisions for environmental management and control, preservation of the quality of human life and 1 ecological systems, and the prevention of undue ecological disturbances, deterioration and pollution.

Special powers of the Authority, pertinent to the issues in this case, include: Sec. 3. Section 4 of the same Act is hereby further amended by adding thereto seven new paragraphs to be known as paragraphs (j), (k), (l), (m), (n), (o), and (p) which shall read as follows: xxx xxx xxx (j) The provisions of existing laws to the contrary notwithstanding, to engage in fish production and other aqua-culture projects in Laguna de Bay and other bodies of water within its jurisdiction and in pursuance thereof to conduct studies and make experiments, whenever necessary, with the collaboration and assistance of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, with the end in view of improving present techniques and practices. Provided, that until modified, altered or amended by the procedure provided in the following sub-paragraph, the present laws, rules and permits or authorizations remain in force; (k) For the purpose of effectively regulating and monitoring activities in Laguna de Bay,the Authority shall have exclusive jurisdiction to issue new permit for the use of the lake waters for any projects or activities in or affecting the said lake including navigation, construction, and operation of fishpens, fish enclosures, fish corrals and the like, and to impose necessary safeguards for lake quality control and management and to collect necessary fees for said activities and projects: Provided, That the fees collected for fisheries may be shared between the Authority and other government agencies and political sub-divisions in such proportion as may be determined by the President of the Philippines upon

recommendation of the Authority's Board: Provided, further, That the Authority's Board may determine new areas of fishery development or activities which it may place under the supervision of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources taking into account the overall development plans and programs for Laguna de Bay and related bodies of water: Provided, finally, That the Authority shall subject to the approval of the President of the Philippines promulgate such rules and regulations which shall govern fisheries development activities in Laguna de Bay which shall take into consideration among others the following: socio-economic amelioration of bonafide resident fishermen whether individually or collectively in the form of cooperatives, lakeshore town development, a master plan for fishpen construction and operation, communal fishing ground for lake shore town residents, and preference to lake shore town residents in hiring laborer for fishery projects; (l) To require the cities and municipalities embraced within the region to pass appropriate zoning ordinances and other regulatory measures necessary to carry out the objectives of the Authority and enforce the same with the assistance of the Authority; (m) The provisions of existing laws to the contrary notwithstanding, to exercise water rights over public waters within the Laguna de Bay region whenever necessary to carry out the Authority's projects;
(n) To act in coordination with existing governmental agencies in establishing water quality standards for industrial, agricultural and municipal waste discharges into the lake and to cooperate with said existing agencies of the government of the Philippines in enforcing such standards, or to separately pursue enforcement and penalty actions as provided for in Section 4 (d) and Section 39-A of this Act: Provided, That in case of conflict on the appropriate water 2 quality standard to be enforced such conflict shall be resolved thru the NEDA Board.

To more effectively perform the role of the Authority under Republic Act No. 4850, as though Presidential Decree No. 813 were not thought to be completely effective, the Chief Executive, feeling that the land and waters of the Laguna Lake Region are limited natural resources requiring judicious management to their optimal utilization to insure renewability and to preserve the ecological balance, the competing options for the use of such resources and conflicting jurisdictions over such uses having created undue constraints on the institutional capabilities of the Authority in the light of the limited powers vested in it by its charter, Executive Order No. 927 further defined and enlarged the functions and powers of the Authority and named and enumerated the towns, cities and provinces encompassed by the term "Laguna de Bay Region". Also, pertinent to the issues in this case are the following provisions of Executive Order No. 927 which include in particular the sharing of fees: Sec 2. Water Rights Over Laguna de Bay and Other Bodies of Water within the Lake Region: To effectively regulate and monitor activities in the Laguna de Bay region, the Authority shall have exclusive jurisdiction to issue permit for the use of all surface water for any projects or activities in or affecting the said region including navigation, construction, and operation of fishpens, fish enclosures, fish corrals and the like. For the purpose of this Executive Order, the term "Laguna de Bay Region" shall refer to the

Provinces of Rizal and Laguna; the Cities of San Pablo, Pasay, Caloocan, Quezon, Manila and Tagaytay; the towns of Tanauan, Sto. Tomas and Malvar in Batangas Province; the towns of Silang and Carmona in Cavite Province; the town of Lucban in Quezon Province; and the towns of Marikina, Pasig, Taguig, Muntinlupa, and Pateros in Metro Manila. Sec 3. Collection of Fees. The Authority is hereby empowered to collect fees for the use of the lake water and its tributaries for all beneficial purposes including but not limited to fisheries, recreation, municipal, industrial, agricultural, navigation, irrigation, and waste disposal purpose; Provided, that the rates of the fees to be collected, and the sharing with other government agencies and political subdivisions, if necessary, shall be subject to the approval of the President of the Philippines upon recommendation of the Authority's Board, except fishpen fee, which will be shared in the following manner; 20 percent of the fee shall go to the lakeshore local governments, 5 percent shall go to the Project Development Fund which shall be administered by a Council and the remaining 75 percent shall constitute the share of LLDA. However, after the implementation within the three-year period of the Laguna Lake Fishery Zoning and Management Plan, the sharing will be modified as follows: 35 percent of the fishpen fee goes to the lakeshore local governments, 5 percent goes to the Project Development Fund and the remaining 60 percent shall be retained by LLDA; Provided, however, that the share of LLDA shall form part of its corporate funds and shall not be remitted to the National Treasury as an exception to the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 1234. (Emphasis supplied) It is important to note that Section 29 of Presidential Decree No. 813 defined the term "Laguna Lake" in this manner: Sec 41. Definition of Terms. (11) Laguna Lake or Lake. Whenever Laguna Lake or lake is used in this Act, the same shall refer to Laguna de Bay which is that area covered by the lake water when it is at the average annual maximum lake level of elevation 12.50 meters, as referred to a datum 10.00 meters below mean lower low water (M.L.L.W). Lands located at and below such elevation are public lands which form part of the bed of said lake. Then came Republic Act No. 7160, the Local Government Code of 1991. The municipalities in the Laguna Lake Region interpreted the provisions of this law to mean that the newly passed law gave municipal governments the exclusive jurisdiction to issue fishing privileges within their municipal waters because R.A. 7160 provides: Sec. 149. Fishery Rentals, Fees and Charges. (a) Municipalities shall have the exclusive authority to grant fishery privileges in the municipal waters and impose rental fees or charges therefor in accordance with the provisions of this Section. (b) The Sangguniang Bayan may: (1) Grant fishing privileges to erect fish corrals, oyster, mussel or other aquatic beds or bangus fry areas, within a definite zone of the municipal waters, as determined by it; . . . . (2) Grant privilege to gather, take or catch bangus fry, prawn fry or kawag-

kawag or fry of other species and fish from the municipal waters by nets, traps or other fishing gears to marginal fishermen free from any rental fee, charges or any other imposition whatsoever. xxx xxx xxx Sec. 447. Power, Duties, Functions and Compensation. . . . . xxx xxx xxx (XI) Subject to the provisions of Book II of this Code, grant exclusive privileges of constructing fish corrals or fishpens, or the taking or catching of bangus fry, prawn fry orkawag-kawag or fry of any species or fish within the municipal waters. xxx xxx xxx Municipal governments thereupon assumed the authority to issue fishing privileges and fishpen permits. Big fishpen operators took advantage of the occasion to establish fishpens and fishcages to the consternation of the Authority. Unregulated fishpens and fishcages, as of July, 1995, occupied almost one-third of the entire lake water surface area, increasing the occupation drastically from 7,000 hectares in 1990 to almost 21,000 hectares in 1995. The Mayor's permit to construct fishpens and fishcages were all undertaken in violation of the policies adopted by the Authority on fishpen zoning and the Laguna Lake carrying capacity. To be sure, the implementation by the lakeshore municipalities of separate independent policies in the operation of fishpens and fishcages within their claimed territorial municipal waters in the lake and their indiscriminate grant of fishpen permits have already saturated the lake area with fishpens, thereby aggravating the current environmental problems and ecological stress of Laguna Lake. In view of the foregoing circumstances, the Authority served notice to the general public that: In compliance with the instructions of His Excellency PRESIDENT FIDEL V. RAMOS given on June 23, 1993 at Pila, Laguna pursuant to Republic Act 4850 as amended by Presidential Decree 813 and Executive Order 927 series of 1983 and in line with the policies and programs of the Presidential Task Force on Illegal Fishpens and Illegal Fishing, the general public is hereby notified that: 1. All fishpens, fishcages and other aqua-culture structures in the Laguna de Bay Region, which were not registered or to which no application for registration and/or permit has been filed with Laguna Lake Development Authority as of March 31, 1993 are hereby declared outrightly as illegal. 2. All fishpens, fishcages and other aqua-culture structures so declared as illegal shall be subject to demolition which shall be undertaken by the Presidential Task Force for Illegal Fishpen and Illegal Fishing. 3. Owners of fishpens, fishcages and other aqua-culture structures declared as illegal shall, without prejudice to demolition of their structures be criminally charged in accordance with Section 39-A of Republic Act 4850 as amended by P.D. 813 for violation of the same laws.

Violations of these laws carries a penalty of imprisonment of not exceeding 3 years or a fine not exceeding Five Thousand Pesos or both at the discretion of the court. All operators of fishpens, fishcages and other aqua-culture structures declared as illegal in accordance with the foregoing Notice shall have one (1) month on or before 27 October 1993 to show cause before the LLDA why their said fishpens, fishcages and other aqua-culture structures should not be demolished/dismantled. One month, thereafter, the Authority sent notices to the concerned owners of the illegally constructed fishpens, fishcages and other aqua-culture structures advising them to dismantle their respective structures within 10 days from receipt thereof, otherwise, demolition shall be effected. Reacting thereto, the affected fishpen owners filed injunction cases against the Authority before various regional trial courts, to wit: (a) Civil Case No. 759-B, for Prohibition, Injunction and Damages, Regional Trial Court, Branch 70, Binangonan, Rizal, filed by Fleet Development, Inc. and Carlito Arroyo; (b) Civil Case No. 64049, for Injunction, Regional Trial Court, Branch 162, Pasig, filed by IRMA Fishing and Trading Corp., ARTM Fishing Corp., BDR Corp., MIRT Corp. and TRIM Corp.; (c) Civil Case No. 566, for Declaratory Relief and Injunction, Regional Trial Court, Branch 163, Pasig, filed by Manila Marine Life Business Resources, Inc. and Tobias Reynaldo M. Tianco; (d) Civil Case No. 556-M, for Prohibition, Injunction and Damages, Regional Trial Court, Branch 78, Morong, Rizal, filed by AGP Fishing Ventures, Inc.; (e) Civil Case No. 522-M, for Prohibition, Injunction and Damages, Regional Trial Court, Branch 78, Morong, Rizal, filed by Blue Lagoon and Alcris Chicken Growers, Inc.; (f) Civil Case No. 554-, for Certiorari and Prohibition, Regional Trial Court, Branch 79, Morong, Rizal, filed by Greenfields Ventures Industrial Corp. and R.J. Orion Development Corp.; and (g) Civil Case No. 64124, for Injunction, Regional Trial Court, Branch 15, Pasig, filed by SEA-MAR Trading Co., Inc. and Eastern Lagoon Fishing Corp. and Minamar Fishing Corporation. The Authority filed motions to dismiss the cases against it on jurisdictional grounds. The motions to dismiss were invariably denied. Meanwhile, temporary restraining order/writs of preliminary mandatory injunction were issued in Civil Cases Nos. 64124, 759 and 566 enjoining the Authority from demolishing the fishpens and similar structures in question. Hence, the herein petition for certiorari, prohibition and injunction, G.R. Nos. 120865-71, were filed by the Authority with this court. Impleaded as parties-respondents are concerned regional trial courts and respective private parties, and the municipalities and/or respective Mayors of Binangonan, Taguig and Jala-jala, who issued permits for the construction and operation of fishpens in Laguna de Bay. The Authority sought the following reliefs,viz.: (A) Nullification of the temporary restraining order/writs of preliminary injunction issued in Civil Cases Nos. 64125, 759 and 566; (B) Permanent prohibition against the regional trial courts from exercising jurisdiction over cases involving the Authority which is a co-equal body; (C) Judicial pronouncement that R.A. 7610 (Local Government Code of 1991) did not repeal, alter or modify the provisions of R.A. 4850, as amended, empowering the Authority to issue permits for fishpens, fishcages and other aqua-culture structures in Laguna de Bay and that, the Authority the government agency vested with exclusive authority to issue said permits. By this Court's resolution of May 2, 1994, the Authority's consolidated petitions were referred to the Court of Appeals.

In a Decision, dated June 29, 1995, the Court of Appeals dismissed the Authority's consolidated petitions, the Court of Appeals holding that: (A) LLDA is not among those quasi-judicial agencies of government whose decision or order are appealable only to the Court of Appeals; (B) the LLDA charter does vest LLDA with quasi-judicial functions insofar as fishpens are concerned; (C) the provisions of the LLDA charter insofar as fishing privileges in Laguna de Bay are concerned had been repealed by the Local Government Code of 1991; (D) in view of the aforesaid repeal, the power to grant permits devolved to and is now vested with their respective local government units concerned. Not satisfied with the Court of Appeals decision, the Authority has returned to this Court charging the following errors: 1. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS PROBABLY COMMITTED AN ERROR WHEN IT RULED THAT THE LAGUNA LAKE DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY IS NOT A QUASI-JUDICIAL AGENCY. 2. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED SERIOUS ERROR WHEN IT RULED THAT R.A. 4850 AS AMENDED BY P.D. 813 AND E.O. 927 SERIES OF 1983 HAS BEEN REPEALED BY REPUBLIC ACT 7160. THE SAID RULING IS CONTRARY TO ESTABLISHED PRINCIPLES AND JURISPRUDENCE OF STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION. 3. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED SERIOUS ERROR WHEN IT RULED THAT THE POWER TO ISSUE FISHPEN PERMITS IN LAGUNA DE BAY HAS BEEN DEVOLVED TO CONCERNED (LAKESHORE) LOCAL GOVERNMENT UNITS. We take a simplistic view of the controversy. Actually, the main and only issue posed is: Which agency of the Government the Laguna Lake Development Authority or the towns and municipalities comprising the region should exercise jurisdiction over the Laguna Lake and its environs insofar as the issuance of permits for fishery privileges is concerned? Section 4 (k) of the charter of the Laguna Lake Development Authority, Republic Act No. 4850, the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 813, and Section 2 of Executive Order No. 927, cited above, specifically provide that the Laguna Lake Development Authority shall have exclusive jurisdiction to issue permits for the use of all surface water for any projects or activities in or affecting the said region, including navigation, construction, and operation of fishpens, fish enclosures, fish corrals and the like. On the other hand, Republic Act No. 7160, the Local Government Code of 1991, has granted to the municipalities the exclusive authority to grant fishery privileges in municipal waters. The Sangguniang Bayan may grant fishery privileges to erect fish corrals, oyster, mussels or other aquatic beds or bangus fry area within a definite zone of the municipal waters. We hold that the provisions of Republic Act No. 7160 do not necessarily repeal the aforementioned laws creating the Laguna Lake Development Authority and granting the latter water rights authority over Laguna de Bay and the lake region. The Local Government Code of 1991 does not contain any express provision which categorically expressly repeal the charter of the Authority. It has to be conceded that there was no intent on the part of the legislature to repeal Republic Act No. 4850 and its amendments. The repeal of laws should be made clear and expressed. It has to be conceded that the charter of the Laguna Lake Development Authority constitutes a special law. Republic Act No. 7160, the Local Government Code of 1991, is a general law. It is basic in statutory construction that the enactment of a later legislation which is a general law cannot be construed to have repealed a special law. It is a wellsettled rule in this jurisdiction that "a special statute, provided for a particular case or class of cases, is not repealed

by a subsequent statute, general in its terms, provisions and application, unless the intent to repeal or alter is manifest, although the terms of the general law are broad enough to include the cases embraced in the special law." 3 Where there is a conflict between a general law and a special statute, the special statute should prevail since it evinces the legislative intent more clearly than the general statute. The special law is to be taken as an exception to the general law in the absence of special circumstances forcing a contrary conclusion. This is because implied repeals are not favored and as much as possible, effect must be given to all enactments of the legislature. A special law cannot be repealed, amended or altered by a subsequent general law by mere implication. 4 Thus, it has to be concluded that the charter of the Authority should prevail over the Local Government Code of 1991. Considering the reasons behind the establishment of the Authority, which are environmental protection, navigational safety, and sustainable development, there is every indication that the legislative intent is for the Authority to proceed with its mission. We are on all fours with the manifestation of petitioner Laguna Lake Development Authority that "Laguna de Bay, like any other single body of water has its own unique natural ecosystem. The 900 km lake surface water, the eight (8) major river tributaries and several other smaller rivers that drain into the lake, the 2,920 km basin or watershed transcending the boundaries of Laguna and Rizal provinces, greater portion of Metro Manila, parts of Cavite, Batangas, and Quezon provinces, constitute one integrated delicate natural ecosystem that needs to be protected with uniform set of policies; if we are to be serious in our aims of attaining sustainable development. This is an exhaustible natural resource a very limited one which requires judicious management and optimal utilization to ensure renewability and preserve its ecological integrity and balance." "Managing the lake resources would mean the implementation of a national policy geared towards the protection, conservation, balanced growth and sustainable development of the region with due regard to the inter-generational use of its resources by the inhabitants in this part of the earth. The authors of Republic Act 4850 have foreseen this need when they passed this LLDA law the special law designed to govern the management of our Laguna de Bay lake resources." "Laguna de Bay therefore cannot be subjected to fragmented concepts of management policies where lakeshore local government units exercise exclusive dominion over specific portions of the lake water. The garbage thrown or sewage discharged into the lake, abstraction of water therefrom or construction of fishpens by enclosing its certain area, affect not only that specific portion but the entire 900 km of lake water. The implementation of a cohesive and integrated lake water resource management policy, therefore, is necessary to conserve, protect and sustainably develop Laguna de Bay." 5 The power of the local government units to issue fishing privileges was clearly granted for revenue purposes. This is evident from the fact that Section 149 of the New Local Government Code empowering local governments to issue fishing permits is embodied in Chapter 2, Book II, of Republic Act No. 7160 under the heading, "Specific Provisions On The Taxing And Other Revenue Raising Power Of Local Government Units." On the other hand, the power of the Authority to grant permits for fishpens, fishcages and other aqua-culture structures is for the purpose of effectively regulating and monitoring activities in the Laguna de Bay region (Section 2, Executive Order No. 927) and for lake quality control and management. 6 It does partake of the nature of police power which is the most pervasive, the least limitable and the most demanding of all State powers including the power of taxation. Accordingly, the charter of the Authority which embodies a valid exercise of police power should prevail over the Local Government Code of 1991 on matters affecting Laguna de Bay.

There should be no quarrel over permit fees for fishpens, fishcages and other aqua-culture structures in the Laguna de Bay area. Section 3 of Executive Order No. 927 provides for the proper sharing of fees collected. In respect to the question as to whether the Authority is a quasi-judicial agency or not, it is our holding that, considering the provisions of Section 4 of Republic Act No. 4850 and Section 4 of Executive Order No. 927, series of 1983, and the ruling of this Court in Laguna Lake Development Authority vs. Court of Appeals, 231 SCRA 304, 306, which we quote: xxx xxx xxx As a general rule, the adjudication of pollution cases generally pertains to the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB), except in cases where the special law provides for another forum. It must be recognized in this regard that the LLDA, as a specialized administrative agency, is specifically mandated under Republic Act No. 4850 and its amendatory laws to carry out and make effective the declared national policy of promoting and accelerating the development and balanced growth of the Laguna Lake area and the surrounding provinces of Rizal and Laguna and the cities of San Pablo, Manila, Pasay, Quezon and Caloocan with due regard and adequate provisions for environmental management and control, preservation of the quality of human life and ecological systems, and the prevention of undue ecological disturbances, deterioration and pollution. Under such a broad grant of power and authority, the LLDA, by virtue of its special charter, obviously has the responsibility to protect the inhabitants of the Laguna Lake region from the deleterious effects of pollutants emanating from the discharge of wastes from the surrounding areas. In carrying out the aforementioned declared policy, the LLDA is mandated, among others, to pass upon and approve or disapprove all plans, programs, and projects proposed by local government offices/agencies within the region, public corporations, and private persons or enterprises where such plans, programs and/or projects are related to those of the LLDA for the development of the region. xxx xxx xxx . . . . While it is a fundamental rule that an administrative agency has only such powers as are expressly granted to it by law, it is likewise a settled rule that an administrative agency has also such powers as are necessarily implied in the exercise of its express powers. In the exercise, therefore, of its express powers under its charter, as a regulatory and quasi-judicial body with respect to pollution cases in the Laguna Lake region, the authority of the LLDA to issue a "cease and desist order" is, perforce, implied. Otherwise, it may well be reduced to a "toothless" paper agency. there is no question that the Authority has express powers as a regulatory and quasi-judicial body in respect to pollution cases with authority to issue a "cease and desist order" and on matters affecting the construction of illegal fishpens, fishcages and other aqua-culture structures in Laguna de Bay. The Authority's pretense, however, that it is co-equal to the Regional Trial Courts such that all actions against it may only be instituted before the Court of Appeals cannot be sustained. On actions necessitating the resolution of legal questions affecting the powers of the Authority as provided for in its charter, the Regional Trial Courts have jurisdiction. In view of the foregoing, this Court holds that Section 149 of Republic Act No. 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1991, has not repealed the provisions of the charter of the Laguna Lake Development Authority,

Republic Act No. 4850, as amended. Thus, the Authority has the exclusive jurisdiction to issue permits for the enjoyment of fishery privileges in Laguna de Bay to the exclusion of municipalities situated therein and the authority to exercise such powers as are by its charter vested on it. Removal from the Authority of the aforesaid licensing authority will render nugatory its avowed purpose of protecting and developing the Laguna Lake Region. Otherwise stated, the abrogation of this power would render useless its reason for being and will in effect denigrate, if not abolish, the Laguna Lake Development Authority. This, the Local Government Code of 1991 had never intended to do. WHEREFORE, the petitions for prohibition, certiorari and injunction are hereby granted, insofar as they relate to the authority of the Laguna Lake Development Authority to grant fishing privileges within the Laguna Lake Region. The restraining orders and/or writs of injunction issued by Judge Arturo Marave, RTC, Branch 78, Morong, Rizal; Judge Herculano Tech, RTC, Branch 70, Binangonan, Rizal; and Judge Aurelio Trampe, RTC, Branch 163, Pasig, Metro Manila, are hereby declared null and void and ordered set aside for having been issued with grave abuse of discretion. The Municipal Mayors of the Laguna Lake Region are hereby prohibited from issuing permits to construct and operate fishpens, fishcages and other aqua-culture structures within the Laguna Lake Region, their previous issuances being declared null and void. Thus, the fishing permits issued by Mayors Isidro B. Pacis, Municipality of Binangonan; Ricardo D. Papa, Municipality of Taguig; and Walfredo M. de la Vega, Municipality of Jala-jala, specifically, are likewise declared null and void and ordered cancelled. The fishpens, fishcages and other aqua-culture structures put up by operators by virtue of permits issued by Municipal Mayors within the Laguna Lake Region, specifically, permits issued to Fleet Development, Inc. and Carlito Arroyo; Manila Marine Life Business Resources, Inc., represented by, Mr. Tobias Reynald M. Tiangco; Greenfield Ventures Industrial Development Corporation and R.J. Orion Development Corporation; IRMA Fishing And Trading Corporation, ARTM Fishing Corporation, BDR Corporation, Mirt Corporation and Trim Corporation; Blue Lagoon Fishing Corporation and ALCRIS Chicken Growers, Inc.; AGP Fish Ventures, Inc., represented by its President Alfonso Puyat; SEA MAR Trading Co., Inc., Eastern Lagoon Fishing Corporation, and MINAMAR Fishing Corporation, are hereby declared illegal structures subject to demolition by the Laguna Lake Development Authority. SO ORDERED. Davide, Jr., Bellosillo and Kapunan, JJ., concur.

Separate Opinions

PADILLA, J., concurring:

I fully concur with the decision written by Mr. Justice R. Hermosisima, Jr.. I would only like to stress what the decision already states, i.e., that the local government units in the Laguna Lake area are not precluded from imposing permits on fishery operations for revenue raising purposes of such local government units. In other words, while the exclusive jurisdiction to determine whether or not projects or activities in the lake area should be allowed, as well as their regulation, is with the Laguna Lake Development Authority, once the Authority grants a permit, the permittee may still be subjected to an additional local permit or license for revenue purposes of the local government units concerned. This approach would clearly harmonize the special law, Rep. Act No. 4850, as amended, with Rep. Act No. 7160, the Local Government Code. It will also enable small towns and municipalities in the lake area, like Jala-Jala, to rise to some level of economic viability. Separate Opinions PADILLA, J., concurring: I fully concur with the decision written by Mr. Justice R. Hermosisima, Jr.. I would only like to stress what the decision already states, i.e., that the local government units in the Laguna Lake area are not precluded from imposing permits on fishery operations for revenue raising purposes of such local government units. In other words, while the exclusive jurisdiction to determine whether or not projects or activities in the lake area should be allowed, as well as their regulation, is with the Laguna Lake Development Authority, once the Authority grants a permit, the permittee may still be subjected to an additional local permit or license for revenue purposes of the local government units concerned. This approach would clearly harmonize the special law, Rep. Act No. 4850, as amended, with Rep. Act No. 7160, the Local Government Code. It will also enable small towns and municipalities in the lake area, like Jala-Jala, to rise to some level of economic viability. Footnotes 1 Section 1, PD No. 813. 2 At pages 64-65. 3 Manila Railroad Company vs. Rafferty, 40 Phils. 225; National Power Corporation vs. Arca, 25 SCRA 935; Province of Misamis Oriental vs. Cagayan Electric Power and Light Company, Inc., 181 SCRA 43. 4 Fajardo vs. Villafuerte, G.R. No. 89135, December 21, 1989. 5 Petition, under caption, "Nature of Petition". 6 Section 3 (k), Presidential Decree No. 813.
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Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila SECOND DIVISION G.R. No. 119619 December 13, 1996 RICHARD HIZON, SILVERIO GARGAR, ERNESTO ANDAYA, NEMESIO GABO, RODRIGO ABRERA, CHEUNG TAI FOOK, SHEK CHOR LUK, EFREN DELA PENA, JONEL AURELIO, GODOFREDO VILLAVERDE, ANGELITO DUMAYBAG, DEOMEDES ROSIL, AMADO VILLANUEVA, FRANCISCO ESTREMOS, ANGEL VILLAVERDE, NEMESIO CASAMPOL, RICHARD ESTREMOS, JORNIE DELA PENA, JESUS MACTAN, MARLON CAMPORAZO, FERNANDO BIRING, MENDRITO CARPO, LUIS DUARTE, JOSEPH AURELIO, RONNIE JUEZAN, BERNARDO VILLACARLOS, RICARDO SALES, MARLON ABELLA, TEODORO DELOS REYES, IGNACIO ABELLA, JOSEPH MAYONADO, JANAIRO LANGUYOD, DODONG DELOS REYES, JOLLY CABALLERO and ROPLANDO ARCENAS, petitioners, vs. HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS and THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents.

PUNO, J.:p This is a petition for review on certiorari of the decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 15417 affirming the

decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 52, Palawan in Criminal Case No. 10429 convicting petitioners of the offense of illegal fishing with the use of obnoxious or poisonous substance penalized under Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 704, the Fisheries Decree of 1975. In an Information dated October 15, 1992, petitioners were charged with a violation of P.D. 704 committed as follows:
That on or about the 30th day of September 1992, at Brgy. San Rafael, Puerto Princesa City, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused crew members and fishermen of F/B Robinson owned by First Fishermen Fishing Industries, Inc., represented by Richard Hizon, a domestic corporation duly organized under the laws of the Philippines, being then the owner, crew members and fishermen of F/B Robinson and with the use of said fishing boat, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously the said accused conspiring and confederating together and mutually helping one another catch, take or gather or cause to be caught, taken or gathered fish or fishery aquatic products in the coastal waters of Puerto Princess City, Palawan, with the use of obnoxious or poisonous substance (sodium cyanide), of more or less one (1) ton of assorted live fishes which were illegally caught thru the use of obnoxious/poisonous 1 substance (sodium cyanide).

The following facts were established by the prosecution: In September 1992, the Philippine National Police (PNP) Maritime Command of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan received reports of illegal fishing operations in the coastal waters of the city. In response to these reports, the city mayor organized Task Force Bantay Dagat to assist the police in the detection and apprehension of violators of the laws on fishing. On September 30, 1992 at about 2:00 in the afternoon, the Task Force Bantay Dagat reported to the PNP Maritime Command that a boat and several small crafts were fishing by "muro ami" within the shoreline of Barangay San Rafael of Puerto Princesa. The police, headed by SPO3 Romulo Enriquez, and members of the Task Force Bantay Dagat, headed by Benito Marcelo, Jr., immediately proceeded to the area and found several men fishing in motorized sampans and a big fishing boat identified as F/B Robinson within the seven-kilometer shoreline of the city. They boarded the F/B Robinson and inspected the boat with the acquiescence of the boat captain, Silverio Gargar. In the course of their inspection, the police saw two foreigners in the captain's deck. SP03 Enriquez examined their passports and found them to be mere photocopies. The police also discovered a large aquarium full of live lapu-lapu and assorted fish weighing approximately one ton at the bottom of the boat. 2 They checked the license of the boat and its fishermen and found them to be in order. Nonetheless, SP03 Enriquez brought the boat captain, the crew and the fishermen to Puerto Princesa for further investigation. At the city harbor, members of the Maritime Command were ordered by SP03 Enriquez to guard the F/B Robinson. The boat captain and the two foreigners were again interrogated at the PNP Maritime Command office. Thereafter, an Inspection/Apprehension Report was prepared and the boat, its crew and fishermen were charged with the following violations: 1. Conducting fishing operations within Puerto Princesa coastal waters without mayor's permit; 2. Employing excess fishermen on board (Authorized 26; On board 36);
3. Two (2) Hongkong nationals on board without original passports.
3

The following day, October 1, 1992, SPO3 Enriquez directed the boat captain to get random samples of fish from the fish cage of F/B Robinson for laboratory examination. As instructed, the boat engineer, petitioner Ernesto Andaya, delivered to the Maritime Office four (4) live lapu-lapu fish inside a plastic shopping bag filled with water. SPO3 Enriquez received the fish and in the presence of the boat engineer and captain, placed them inside a large

transparent plastic bag without water. He sealed the plastic with heat from a lighter. 4 The specimens were brought to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) sub-office in the city for examination "to determine the method of catching the same for record or evidentiary purposes." 5 They were received at the NBI office at 8:00 in the evening of the same day. The receiving clerk, Edna Capicio, noted that the fish were dead and she placed the plastic bag with the fish inside the office freezer to preserve them. Two days later, on October 3, 1992, the chief of the NBI sub-office, Onos Mangotara, certified the specimens for laboratory examination at the NBI Head Office in Manila. The fish samples were to be personally transported by Edna Capicio who was then scheduled to leave for Manila for her board examination in Criminology. 6 On October 4, 1992, Ms. Capicio, in the presence of her chief, took the plastic with the specimens from the freezer and placed them inside two shopping bags and sealed them with masking tape. She proceeded to her ship where she placed the specimens in the ship's freezer. Capicio arrived in Manila the following day, October 5, 1992 and immediately brought the specimens to the NBI Head Office. On October 7, 1992, NBI Forensic Chemist Emilia Rosaldes conducted two tests on the fish samples and found that they contained sodium cyanide, thus: FINDINGS: Weight of Specimen. . . . . . 1.870 kilograms Examinations made on the above-mentioned specimen gave POSITIVE RESULTS to the test for the presence of SODIUM CYANIDE. . . . REMARKS:
Sodium Cyanide is a violent poison.
7

In light of these findings, the PNP Maritime Command of Puerto Princesa City filed the complaint at bar against the owner and operator of the F/B Robinson, the First Fishermen Fishing Industries, Inc., represented by herein petitioner Richard Hizon, the boat captain, Silverio Gargar, the boat engineer, Ernesto Andaya, two other crew members, the two Hongkong nationals and 28 fishermen of the said boat. Petitioners were arraigned and they pled not guilty to the charge. As defense, they claimed that they are legitimate fishermen of the First Fishermen Industries, Inc., a domestic corporation licensed to engage in fishing. They alleged that they catch fish by the hook and line method and that they had used this method for one month and a half in the waters of Cuyo Island. They related that on September 30, 1992 at about 7:00 A.M., they anchored the F/B Robinson in the east of Podiado Island in Puerto Princesa City. The boat captain and the fishermen took out and boarded their sampans to fish for their food. They were still fishing in their sampans at 4:00 P.M. when a rubber boat containing members of the PNP Maritime Command and the Task Force Bantay Dagat approached them and boarded the F/B Robinson. The policemen were in uniform while the Bantay Dagat personnel were in civilian clothes. They were all armed with guns. One of the Bantay Dagat personnel introduced himself as Commander Jun Marcelo and he inspected the boat and the boat's documents. Marcelo saw the two foreigners and asked for their passports. As their passports were photocopies, Marcelo demanded for their original. The captain explained that the original passports were with the company's head office in Manila. Marcelo angrily insisted for the originals and threatened to arrest everybody. He then ordered the captain, his crew and the fishermen to follow him to Puerto Princesa. He held the magazine of his gun and warned the captain "Sige, huwag kang tatakas, kung hindi babarilin ko kayo!" 8 The captain herded all his men into the boat and followed Marcelo and the police to Puerto Princesa.

They arrived at the city harbor at 7:45 in the evening and were met by members of the media. As instructed by Marcelo, the members of the media interviewed and took pictures of the boat and the fishermen. 9 The following day, October 1, 1992, at 8:00 in the morning, Amado Villanueva, one of the fishermen at the F/B Robinson, was instructed by a policeman guarding the boat to get five (5) fish samples from the fish cage and bring them to the pier. Villanueva inquired whether the captain knew about the order but the guard replied he was taking responsibility for it. Villanueva scooped five pieces of lapu-lapu, placed them inside a plastic bag filled with water and brought the bag to the pier. The boat engineer, Ernesto Andaya, received the fish and delivered them to the PNP Maritime Office. Nobody was in the office and Andaya waited for the apprehending officers and the boat captain. Later, one of the policemen in the office instructed him to leave the bag and hang it on a nail in the wall. Andaya did as he was told and returned to the boat at 10:00 A.M. 10 In the afternoon of the same day, the boat captain arrived at the Maritime office. He brought along a representative from their head office in Manila who showed the police and the Bantay Dagat personnel the original passports of the Hongkong nationals and other pertinent documents of the F/B Robinson and its crew. Finding the documents in order, Marcelo approached the captain and whispered to him "Tandaan mo ito, kapitan, kung makakaalis ka dito, magkikita pa rin uli tayo sa dagat, kung hindi kayo lulubog ay palulutangin ko kayo!" It was then that SP03 Enriquez informed the captain that some members of the Maritime Command, acting under his instructions, had just taken five (5) pieces of lapu-lapu from the boat. SP03 Enriquez showed the captain the fish samples. Although the captain saw only four (4) pieces of lapu-lapu, he did not utter a word of protest. 11 Under Marcelo's threat, he signed the "Certification" that he received only four (4) pieces of the fish. 12 Two weeks later, the information was filed against petitioners. The case was prosecuted against thirty-one (31) of the thirty-five (35) accused. Richard Hizon remained at large while the whereabouts of Richard Estremos, Marlon Camporazo and Joseph Aurelio were unknown. On July 9, 1993, the trial court found the thirty one (31) petitioners guilty and sentenced them to imprisonment for a minimum of eight (8) years and one (1) day to a maximum of nine (9) years and four (4) months. The court also ordered the confiscation and forfeiture of the F/B Robinson, the 28 sampans and the ton of assorted live fishes as instruments and proceeds of the offense, thus: WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered finding the accused SILVERIO GARGAR, ERNESTO ANDAYA, NEMESIO GABO, RODRIGO ABRERA, CHEUNG TAI FOOK, SHEK CHOR LUK, EFREN DELA PENA, JONEL AURELIO, GODOFREDO VILLAVERDE, ANGELITO DUMAYBAG, DEOMEDES ROSIL, AMADO VILLANUEVA, FRANCISCO ESTREMOS, ARNEL VILLAVERDE, NEMESIO CASAMPOL, JORNIE DELA CRUZ, JESUS MACTAN, FERNANDO BIRING, MENDRITO CARPO, LUIS DUARTE, RONNIE JUEZAN, BERNARDO VLLLACARLOS, RICARDO SALES, MARLON ABELLA, TEODORO DELOS REYES, IGNACIO ABELLA, JOSEPH MAYONADO, JANAIRO LANGUYOD, DODONG DELOS REYES, ROLANDO ARCENAS and JOLLY CABALLERO guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Illegal Fishing with the use of obnoxious or poisonous substance commonly known as sodium cyanide, committed in violation of section 33 and penalized in section 38 of Presidential Decree No. 704, as amended, and there being neither mitigating nor aggravating circumstances appreciated and applying the provisions of the Indeterminate Sentence Law, each of the aforenamed accused is sentenced to an indeterminate penalty of imprisonment ranging from a minimum of EIGHT (8) YEARS and ONE (1) DAY to a maximum of NINE (9) YEARS and FOUR (4) MONTHS and to pay the costs.

Pursuant to the provisions of Article 45, in relation to the second sentence of Article 10 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended: a) Fishing Boat (F/B) Robinson; b) The 28 motorized fiberglass sampans; and c) The live fishes in the fish cages installed in the F/B Robinson, all of which have been respectively shown to be tools or instruments and proceeds of the offense, are hereby ordered confiscated and declared forfeited in favor of the government.
SO ORDERED.
13

On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court. Hence, this petition. Petitioners contend that: I THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE MERE "POSITIVE RESULTS TO THE TEST FOR THE PRESENCE OF SODIUM CYANIDE" IN THE FISH SPECIMEN, ALBEIT ILLEGALLY SEIZED ON THE OCCASION OF A WARRANTLESS SEARCH AND ARREST, IS ADMISSIBLE AND SUFFICIENT BASIS FOR THE PETITIONERS' CONVICTION OF THE CRIME OF ILLEGAL FISHING. II THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN NOT HOLDING THAT THE STATUTORY PRESUMPTION OF GUILT UNDER SEC. 33 OF PRESIDENTIAL DECREE NO. 704 CANNOT PREVAIL AGAINST THE CONSTITUTIONAL PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE, SUCH THAT THE GRAVAMEN OF THE OFFENSE OF ILLEGAL FISHING MUST STILL BE PROVED BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT. III
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN NOT REVERSING THE JUDGMENT OF THE TRIAL 14 COURT AND ACQUITTING THE PETITIONERS.

The Solicitor General submitted a "Manifestation in Lieu of Comment" praying for petitioners' acquittal. 15 The petitioners, with the concurrence of the Solicitor General, primarily question the admissibility of the evidence against petitioners in view of the warrantless search of the fishing boat and the subsequent arrest of petitioners. More concretely, they contend that the NBI finding of sodium cyanide in the fish specimens should not have been admitted and considered by the trial court because the fish samples were seized from the F/B Robinson without a search warrant. Our Constitution proscribes search and seizure and the arrest of persons without a judicial warrant. 16 As a general rule, any evidence obtained without a judicial warrant is inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding. The rule is,

however, subject to certain exceptions. Some of these are: 17 (1) a search incident to a lawful of arrest; 18 (2) seizure of evidence in plain view; (3) search of a moving motor vehicle; 19 and (4) search in violation of customs laws. 20 Search and seizure without search warrant of vessels and aircrafts for violations of customs laws have been the traditional exception to the constitutional requirement of a search warrant. It is rooted on the recognition that a vessel and an aircraft, like motor vehicles, can be quickly moved out of the locality or jurisdiction in which the search warrant must be sought and secured. Yielding to this reality, judicial authorities have not required a search warrant of vessels and aircrafts before their search and seizure can be constitutionally effected. 21 The same exception ought to apply to seizures of fishing vessels and boats breaching our fishery laws. These vessels are normally powered by high-speed motors that enable them to elude arresting ships of the Philippine Navy, the Coast Guard and other government authorities enforcing our fishery laws. 22 We thus hold as valid the warrantless search on the F/B Robinson, a fishing boat suspected of having engaged in illegal fishing. The fish and other evidence seized in the course of the search were properly admitted by the trial court. Moreover, petitioners failed to raise the issue during trial and hence, waived their right to question any irregularity that may have attended the said search and seizure. 23 Given the evidence admitted by the trial court, the next question now is whether petitioners are guilty of the offense of illegal fishing with the use of poisonous substances. Again, the petitioners, joined by the Solicitor General, submit that the prosecution evidence cannot convict them. We agree. Petitioners were charged with illegal fishing penalized under sections 33 and 38 of P.D. 704 24 which provide as follows: Sec. 33. Illegal fishing, illegal possession of explosives intended for illegal fishing; dealing in illegally caught fish or fishery/aquatic products. It shall be unlawful for any person to catch, take or gather or cause to be caught, taken or gathered fish or fishery/aquatic products in Philippine waters with the use of explosives, obnoxious or poisonous substance, or by the use of electricity as defined in paragraphs (l), (m) and (d), respectively, of section 3 hereof: Provided, That mere possession of such explosives with intent to use the same for illegal fishing as herein defined shall be punishable as hereinafter provided: Provided, That the Secretary may, upon recommendation of the Director and subject to such safeguards and conditions he deems necessary, allow for research, educational or scientific purposes only, the use of explosives, obnoxious or poisonous substance or electricity to catch, take or gather fish or fishery/aquatic products in the specified area: Provided, further, That the use of chemicals to eradicate predators in fishponds in accordance with accepted scientific fishery practices without causing deleterious effects in neighboring waters shall not be construed as the use of obnoxious or poisonous substance within the meaning of this section: Provided, finally, That the use of mechanical bombs for killing whales, crocodiles, sharks or other large dangerous fishes, may be allowed, subject to the approval of the Secretary. It shall, likewise, be unlawful for any person knowingly to possess, deal in, sell or in any manner dispose of, for profit, any fish or fishery/aquatic products which have been illegally caught, taken or gathered.

The discovery of dynamite, other explosives and chemical compounds containing combustible elements, or obnoxious or poisonous substance, or equipment or device for electric fishing in any fishing boat or in the possession of a fisherman shall constitute a presumption that the same were used for fishing in violation of this Decree, and the discovery in any fishing boat of fish caught or killed by the use of explosives, obnoxious or poisonous substance or by electricity shall constitute a presumption that the owner, operator or fisherman were fishing with the use of explosives, obnoxious or poisonous substance or electricity. xxx xxx xxx Sec. 38. Penalties. (a) For illegal fishing and dealing in illegally caught fish or fishery/aquatic products. Violation of Section 33 hereof shall be punished as follows: xxx xxx xxx (2) By imprisonment from eight (8) to ten (10) years, if obnoxious or poisonous substances are used:Provided, That if the use of such substances results 1) in physical injury to any person, the penalty shall be imprisonment from ten (10) to twelve (12) years, or 2) in the loss of human life, then the penalty shall be imprisonment from twenty (20) years to life or death;
xxx xxx xxx
25

The offense of illegal fishing is committed when a person catches, takes or gathers or causes to be caught, taken or gathered fish, fishery or aquatic products in Philippine waters with the use of explosives, electricity, obnoxious or poisonous substances. The law creates a presumption that illegal fishing has been committed when: (a) explosives, obnoxious or poisonous substances or equipment or device for electric fishing are found in a fishing boat or in the possession of a fisherman; or (b) when fish caught or killed with the use of explosives, obnoxious or poisonous substances or by electricity are found in a fishing boat. Under these instances, the boat owner, operator or fishermen are presumed to have engaged in illegal fishing. Petitioners contend that this presumption of guilt under the Fisheries Decree violates the presumption of innocence guaranteed by the Constitution. 26 As early as 1916, this Court has rejected this argument by holding that: 27
In some States, as well as in England, there exist what are known as common law offenses. In the Philippine Islands no act is a crime unless it is made so by statute. The state having the right to declare what acts are criminal, within certain well-defined limitations, has the right to specify what act or acts shall constitute a crime, as well as what proof shall constitute prima facie evidence of guilt, and then to put upon the defendant the burden of showing that such act or acts are innocent and are not committed with any criminal intent or 28 intention.

The validity of laws establishing presumptions in criminal cases is a settled matter. It is generally conceded that the legislature has the power to provide that proof of certain facts can constitute prima facie evidence of the guilt of the accused and then shift the burden of proof to the accused provided there is a rational connection between the facts proved and the ultimate fact presumed. 29 To avoid any constitutional infirmity, the inference of one from proof of the other must not be arbitrary and unreasonable. 30 In fine, the presumption must be based on facts and these facts must be part of the crime when committed. 31

The third paragraph of section 33 of P.D. 704 creates a presumption of guilt based on facts proved and hence is not constitutionally impermissible. It makes the discovery of obnoxious or poisonous substances, explosives, or devices for electric fishing, or of fish caught or killed with the use of obnoxious and poisonous substances, explosives or electricity in any fishing boat or in the possession of a fisherman evidence that the owner and operator of the fishing boat or the fisherman had used such substances in catching fish. The ultimate fact presumed is that the owner and operator of the boat or the fisherman were engaged in illegal fishing and this presumption was made to arise from the discovery of the substances and the contaminated fish in the possession of the fisherman in the fishing boat. The fact presumed is a natural inference from the fact proved. 32 We stress, however, that the statutory presumption is merely prima facie. 33 It can not, under the guise of regulating the presentation of evidence, operate to preclude the accused from presenting his defense to rebut the main fact presumed. 34 At no instance can the accused be denied the right to rebut the presumption. 35 thus:
The inference of guilt is one of fact and rests upon the common experience of men. But the experience of men has taught them that an apparently guilty possession may be explained so as to rebut such an inference and an accused person may therefore put witnesses on the stand or go on the witness stand himself to explain his possession, and any reasonable explanation of his possession, inconsistent with his guilty connection with the commission of the crime, will rebut the inference as to his guilt which the prosecution seeks to have drawn from 36 his guilty possession of the stolen goods.

We now review the evidence to determine whether petitioners have successfully rebutted this presumption. The facts show that on November 13, 1992, after the Information was filed in court and petitioners granted bail, petitioners moved that the fish specimens taken from the F/B Robinson be reexamined. 37 The trial court granted the motion. 38 As prayed for, a member of the PNP Maritime Command of Puerto Princesa, in the presence of authorized representatives of the F/B Robinson, the NBI and the local Fisheries Office, took at random five (5) live lapu-lapu from the fish cage of the boat. The specimens were packed in the usual manner of transporting live fish, taken aboard a commercial flight and delivered by the same representatives to the NBI Head Office in Manila for chemical analysis. On November 23, 1992, Salud Rosales, another forensic chemist of the NBI in Manila conducted three (3) tests on the specimens and found the fish negative for the presence of sodium cyanide, 39 thus: Gross weight of specimen = 3.849 kg.
Examinations made on the above-mentioned specimens gave NEGATIVE RESULTS to the tests for the 40 presence of SODIUM CYANIDE.

The Information charged petitioners with illegal fishing "with the use of obnoxious or poisonous substance (sodium cyanide), of more or less one (1) ton of assorted live fishes" There was more or less one ton of fishes in the F/B Robinson's fish cage. It was from this fish cage that the four dead specimens examined on October 7, 1992 and the five specimens examined on November 23, 1992 were taken. Though all the specimens came from the same source allegedly tainted with sodium cyanide, the two tests resulted in conflicting findings. We note that after its apprehension, the F/B Robinson never left the custody of the PNP Maritime Command. The fishing boat was anchored near the city harbor and was guarded by members of the Maritime Command. 41 It was later turned over to the custody of the Philippine Coast Guard Commander of Puerto Princesa City. 42 The prosecution failed to explain the contradictory findings on the fish samples and this omission raises a reasonable doubt that the one ton of fishes in the cage were caught with the use of sodium cyanide.

The absence of cyanide in the second set of fish specimens supports petitioners' claim that they did not use the poison in fishing. According to them, they caught the fishes by the ordinary and legal way, i.e., by hook and line on board their sampans. This claim is buttressed by the prosecution evidence itself. The apprehending officers saw petitioners fishing by hook and line when they came upon them in the waters of Barangay San Rafael. One of the apprehending officers, SPO1 Demetrio Saballuca, testified as follows: ATTY. TORREFRANCA ON CROSS-EXAMINATION: Q: I get your point therefore, that the illegal fishing supposedly conducted at San Rafael is a moro ami type of fishing [that] occurred into your mind and that was made to understand by the Bantay Dagat personnel? A: Yes, sir. Q: Upon reaching the place, you and the pumpboat, together with the two Bantay Dagat personnel were SPO3 Romulo Enriquez and Mr. Benito Marcelo and SPO1 Marzan, you did not witness that kind of moro ami fishing, correct? A: None, sir. Q: In other words, there was negative activity of moro ami type of fishing on September 30, 1992 at 4:00 in the afternoon at San Rafael? A: Yes, sir. Q: And what you saw were 5 motorized sampans with fishermen each doing a hook and line fishing type? A: Yes, sir. More or less they were five. Q: And despite the fact you had negative knowledge of this moro ami type of fishing, SP03 Enriquez together with Mr. Marcelo boarded the vessel just the same? A: Yes, sir.
xxx xxx xxx
43

The apprehending officers who boarded and searched the boat did not find any sodium cyanide nor any poisonous or obnoxious substance. Neither did they find any trace of the poison in the possession of the fishermen or in the fish cage itself. An Inventory was prepared by the apprehending officers and only the following items were found on board the boat: ITEMS QUANTITY REMARKS
F/B Robinson (1) unit operating

engine (1) unit ICE-900-BHP

sampans 28 units fiberglass outboard motors 28 units operating assorted fishes more or less 1 ton live hooks and lines assorted
xxx xxx xxx
44

We cannot overlook the fact that the apprehending officers found in the boat assorted hooks and lines for catching fish. 45 For this obvious reason, the Inspection/Apprehension Report prepared by the apprehending officers immediately after the search did not charge petitioners with illegal fishing, much less illegal fishing with the use of poison or any obnoxious substance. 46 The only basis for the charge of fishing with poisonous substance is the result of the first NBI laboratory test on the four fish specimens. Under the circumstances of the case, however, this finding does not warrant the infallible conclusion that the fishes in the F/B Robinson, or even the same four specimens, were caught with the use of sodium cyanide. Prosecution witness SPO1 Bernardino Visto testified that for the first laboratory test, boat engineer Ernesto Andaya did not only get four (4) samples of fish but actually got five (5) from the fish cage of the F/B Robinson. 47The Certification that four (4) fish samples were taken from the boat shows on its face the number of pieces as originally "five (5)" but this was erased with correction fluid and "four (4)" written over it. 48 The specimens were taken, sealed inside the plastic bag and brought to Manila by the police authorities in the absence of petitioners or their representative. SP02 Enriquez testified that the same plastic bag containing the four specimens was merely sealed with heat from a lighter. 49 Emilia Rosales, the NBI forensic chemist who examined the samples, testified that when she opened the package, she found the two ends of the same plastic bag knotted. 50 These circumstances as well as the time interval from the taking of the fish samples and their actual examination 51 fail to assure the impartial mind that the integrity of the specimens had been properly safeguarded. Apparently, the members of the PNP Maritime Command and the Task Force Bantay Dagat were the ones engaged in an illegal fishing expedition. As sharply observed by the Solicitor General, the report received by the Task Force Bantay Dagat was that a fishing boat was fishing illegally through "muro ami" on the waters of San Rafael. "Muro ami" according to SPO1 Saballuca is made with "the use of a big net with sinkers to make the net submerge in the water with the fishermen surround[ing] the net." 52 This method of fishing needs approximately two hundred (200) fishermen to execute. 53 What the apprehending officers instead discovered were twenty eight (28) fishermen in their sampans fishing by hook and line. The authorities found nothing on the boat that would have indicated any form of illegal fishing. All the documents of the boat and the fishermen were in order. It was only after the fish specimens were tested, albeit under suspicious circumstances, that petitioners were charged with illegal fishing with the use of poisonous substances. IN VIEW WHEREOF, the petition is granted and the decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 15417 is reversed and set aside. Petitioners are acquitted of the crime of illegal fishing with the use of poisonous substances defined under Section 33 of Republic Act No. 704, the Fisheries Decree of 1975. No costs. SO ORDERED.

Regalado, Romero, Mendoza and Torres, Jr., JJ., concur. Footnotes 1 Information, Records, pp. 1-2. 2 TSN of February 1, 1993, pp. 16-22. 3 Exhibit "C," "0-5." 4 Exhibit "F;" TSN of February 1, 1993, pp. 39-40; TSN of February 2, 1993, pp. 13-16. 5 Exhibit "G." 6 Exhibit "N," Exhibit "8;" TSN of March 11, 1993, p. 9. 7 Exhibit "I," "I-7." 8 TSN of April 25, 1993, pp. 4-19; TSN of April 22, 1993, pp. 14-16. 9 TSN of March 23, 1993, pp. 15-16; TSN of April 22, 1993, p. 17; TSN of April 25, 1993, pp. 1923. 10 TSN of March 23, 1993, pp. 19 -21; TSN of March 24, 1993, pp. 3-12. 11 TSN of April 25, 1993, pp. 25-31. 12 Id., pp. 30-31; Exhibit "F" and Exhibit "4." 13 Decision, pp. 21-22, Records, pp. 264-265. 14 Petition, p. 8, Rollo, p. 16. 15 Manifestation, pp. 13-20, Rollo, pp. 80-87. 16 Article III, Sections 2 and 3 [2]. 17 People v. Lo Ho Wing, 193 SCRA 122, 128 [1991]; Manipon, Jr. v. Sandiganbayan, 143 SCRA 267, 276 [1986]. 18 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure, Rule 113, section 5. 19 People v. Bagista, 214 SCRA 63, 69 [1992]; People v. Lo Ho Wing, supra, at 126-128. 20 Roldan v. Arca, 65 SCRA 336 [1975]; Magoncia v. Palacio, 80 Phil. 770, 774 [1948]; Papa v. Mago, 22 SCRA 857, 871-874 [1968].

21 Papa v. Mago, supra, at 873. 22 Roldan, Jr. v. Arca, supra, at 348. 23 People v. Exala, 221 SCRA 494, 499 [1993]; and Demaisip v. Court of Appeals, 193 SCRA 373, 382 [1991] on waiver of objection to the legality of the search and the admissibility of evidence obtained in a warrantless search; People v. Lopez, Jr., 245 SCRA 95, 105 [1995]; People v. Rivera, 245 SCRA 421, 430 [1995]; and People v. Codilla, 224 SCRA 104, 117 [1993] on waiver of objection to the warrantless arrest. 24 as amended by P.D. 1058. 25 Emphasis supplied. 26 Article III, section 14 (2). 27 United States v. Luling, 34 Phil. 725, reiterating and expounding the ruling in United States v. Tria, 17 Phil. 303 [1910]; Cooley, Treatise on Constitutional Limitations, vol. 1, 639-641 [1927]; see alsoPeople v. Mingoa, 92 Phil. 857, 858 [1953]. 28 United States v. Luling, supra, at 728. 29 Underhill, A Treatise on the Law of Criminal Evidence, vol. 1, pp. 76-77 [1956]; see also Wigmore, A Treatise on the Anglo-American System of Evidence in Trials at Common Law, vol. 9, pp. 423-424 [1940]. 30 Underhill, supra; 31 Underhill, supra, at 76, citing People v. Marcello, 25 N.Y.S. 2d 533; People v. Mingoa, 92 Phil. 857, 859, [1953]. 32 People v. Mingoa, supra; United States v. Catimbang, 35 Phil. 367, 371-372 [1916]. 33 Conclusive statutory presumptions are generally held unconstitutional (Underhill, supra, at 76citing State v. Kelly, 218 Minn. 247, 15 N.W. 2d 554, 162 A.L.R. 477; Kellogg v. Murphy, 349 Mo. 1165, 164 S.W. 2d 285; Miller v. Commonwealth, 172 Va. 639, 2 S.E. 2d 343). 34 Underhill, supra. 35 People v. Mingoa, supra, at 859. 36 United States v. Catimbang, supra, at 371-372; This case involved stolen cattle found in the possession of the accused. 37 Records, pp. 67-69. 38 Id., pp. 71-73; Exhibit "14."

39 TSN of March 26, 1993, pp. 22, 28. 40 Exhibit "16." 41 TSN of March 10, 1993, pp. 63-64. 42 Records, p. 79. 43 TSN of March 10, 1993, pp. 29-31. 44 Exhibit "D." 45 TSN of February 1, 1993, pp. 22-23. 46 Exhibit "C." 47 TSN of March 9, 1993, p. 9. 48 Exhibit "F," "F-3;" Exhibit "4." 49 TSN of February 2, 1993, p. 14. 50 TSN of February 3, 1993, pp. 45-46. 51 Six days. 52 TSN of March 10, 1993, p. 26; TSN of February 1, 1993, p. 66. Fisheries Administrative Order No. 163, Series of 1986, "Prohibiting the Operation of "Muro-Ami" and "Kayakas" in all Philippine Waters" defines "muro-ami" as: Sec. 1 (a). "Muro-ami" or drive-in-net means a Japanese fishing gear used in reef fishing which consists of a movable bagnet and two detachable wings effecting the capture of fish by spreading the net in an arc form around reefs or shoals and with the aid of scaring devices, a cordon of fishermen drive the fish from the reefs toward the bag portion of the whole net." ( 82 O.G. No. 48, 5052 Dec. 1, 1986). 53 TSN of March 10, 1993, p. 28.
The Lawphil Project - Arellano Law Foundation

THIRD DIVISION

[G.R. No. 118806. July 10, 1998]

SANTIAGO ARGONCILLO, RICHARDO BALBONA and POLICARPIO UMITEN, petitioners, vs. COURT OF APPEALS and THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents. DECISION
KAPUNAN, J.: This is a petition to review the decision[1] of the Court of Appeals which affirmed in toto the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Roxas City, Branch 15, [2] finding petitioners herein guilty of illegal fishing with the use of an explosive, the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, the Court finds the accused, Policarpio Umiten, Santiago Argoncillo and Richard Balbona, guilty beyond reasonable doubt for the crime of illegal fishing with the use of an explosive punishable under Section 33 in relation to Section 38 of Presidential Decree No. 704 dated May 16, 1975 as amended by Presidential Decree No. 1058 dated December 1, 1976 and each shall suffer a straight penalty of twenty (20) years imprisonment. However, accused, Johnson Sucgang, Elvis Villar and Efren Alvaro, are acquitted for failure of the prosecution to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The fish sample is forfeited in favor of the government. Considering the penalty imposed upon the accused, Policarpio Umiten, Santiago Argoncillo and Richard Balbona, the bail bond for their provisional liberty is increased to Twenty Thousand (P20,000.00) Pesos each effective immediately upon promulgation. They shall not be released from detention until they put up an appropriate bail bond for their provisional liberty. The property bond of accused, Johnson Sucgang, Elvis Villar and Efren Alvaro, are deemed cancelled. Costs against the convicted accused.
SO ORDERED.[3]

On August 1, 1990, an Information was filed by the Provincial Fiscal of Capiz charging Johnson Sucgang, Policarpio Umiten, Elvis Villar, Santiago Argoncillo, Richardo Balbona and Efren Alvaro with illegal fishing (with the use of dynamite), as follows:

That at or about 6:30 oclock [sic] in the evening of May 7, 1990, in the sea water of Barangay Basiao, Ivisan, Capiz, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring, confederating and helping one another, wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously catch, take, gather and have in their possession and control different species of fish with the use of explosives.
[4]

Upon arraignment on September 11, 1990, the accused, with the assistance of counsel, pleaded not guilty to the offense charged. Trial ensued thereafter. The lower court synthesized the evidence presented by the prosecution as follows: [5] Due to reports of rampant illegal fishing at Barangay Basiao, Ivisan, Capiz, personnel from the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources specifically from the Bureau of Fisheries as well as the Barangay Captain of said place assisted by the local policemen created a team to conduct surveillance within the Ivisan Bay. Thus, around 5:30 in the afternoon of May 7, 1990, a team riding in two (2) pumpboats from the Barangay Basiao wharf proceeded along the waters of Ivisan Bay. Riding in one pumpboat were Persinefles U. Oabe, the Barangay Captain of said place; Rolando Amoroso, an employee of the Bureau of Fisheries; Pat. Rafael Tupaz, a member of the local Integrated National Police and Remegio Unasin, a barangay councilman who acted as the pilot. In the other pumpboat were Joey de la Cruz, a co-employee of Rolando Amoroso; Pat. Reggie Uadan and Enido Baldesimo. Now and then, the team had to stop and listen for possible occurrences of illegal fishing within their vicinity. Around 6:30 of the same evening while standing by with their engines off, in a place facing Barangay Culasi, they heard an explosion. Sensing it was caused by dynamite, they proceeded to the area around five hundred meters (500 m.) away from them. After ten minutes of navigation, the team arrived at the scene in question which was near an islet. They surrounded the area. At a distance of around ten meters, Joey de la Cruz, an employee of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, saw three persons diving into the water. Thereafter, they would surface and throw their catch of fish to the unmotorized banca around four meters long nearby. In the seashore of said islet, around three to four meters away from these three persons floating in the water, were three other persons standing in the rocky portions around three meters apart. These six persons tried to escape but Rolando Amoroso, the co-employee of Joey de la Cruz, advised them not to do so and introduced themselves as law enforcers. The team found out that the fishes they caught were deep sea fish of four kinds locally known as vulgan, bulawis, pacol, and bag-angan. Joey de la Cruz gathered seven fish samples from their banca while Rolando Amoroso went down from the pumpboat and proceeded to the islet. However, upon inspection, he failed to find any explosive (dynamite) either on the seashore or on the banca. No paraphernalia

used in dynamite fishing were found. Both Joey de la Cruz and Rolando Amoroso recognized the six persons as the herein accused by their faces. Persinefles U. Oabe, barangay captain of Barangay Basiao, who was with the team riding in a pumpboat with Rolando Amoroso identified the three persons retrieving fish from the water as Policarpio Umiten, Santiago Argoncillo and Richard Balbona while the other three persons standing on the rocky portions of the islet as Johnson Sucgang, Elvis Umiten and Efren Alvaro. The team apprehended the six accused and brought them to the fish cage of the barangay captain located within the same barangay. While on their way, Joey de la Cruz externally examined the fish samples. Upon their arrival at the fish cage, another external examination was conducted by Joey de la Cruz and Rolando Amoroso. In both external examinations, the two found out that the fishes were caught with the use of explosives because blood was oozing from their operculums and their eyes were protruding. An on-the-spot investigation was conducted but the accused denied any culpability. They were then released on the strength of their promise to report to the local police the following day. The fish samples were then placed in a plastic bag filled with ice at the house of Barangay Captain Persinefles U. Oabe that evening. In the morning, Joey de la Cruz and Rolando Amoroso brought the fish samples to their office in Roxas City where they conducted an internal examination. The examination revealed that the fish samples were caught with the use of explosives because their air bladders were raptured and deeply stained with blood; the vertebral columns were broken but with bloodstains; their ribs were broken; and there were blood clots in their abdomens. Joey de la Cruz and Rolando Amoroso rendered a written report of their internal examination to the Provincial Agricultural Officer. The testimonies of Joey de la Cruz, Rolando Amoroso, and Persinefles U. Oabe above were corroborated by Pat. Rafael Tupaz, one of the police escorts of the team. Sgt. Sergio Ordales, a member of the local police of the municipality of Ivisan testified that while on duty in the morning of May 8, 1990, herein six accused arrived at their station. He asked why they were there and they answered that they were told to report to the police station. He learned from them that they were arrested for illegal fishing with the use of explosives. On the other hand, the lower court portrayed the evidence presented by the version of the defense, thus: All the accused denied the imputation of the prosecution. Policarpio Umiten, Santiago Argoncillo, Richard O. Balbona were uniform in alleging that around 4:00 in the afternoon of May 7, 1990, they dropped a fishnet about two hundred (200) armslength and one (1) meter in width at the scene where they were apprehended. This method they locally call patuloy requires that the fishnet be retrieved every hour to collect its catch. The trio went back to the place near the islet in

question around 6:30 in the evening for the purpose of collecting their catch from the fishnet. They had not been able to collect all their catch from the net when the team of law enforcers, prosecution witnesses herein, arrived. They were asked whether they heard an explosion. After they denied having heard any, Barangay Captain Persinefles U. Oabe, told the accused to go with them. The team got seven pieces of fish samples. The accused left around one and one-half kilos of fish they had gathered at the time the team of law enforcers arrived. They were then brought to the fish cage owned by Persinefles U. Oabe at Barangay Basiao. Above three accused would like the Court to believe that the seven pieces of fish samples taken by the team of fishing law enforcers were the catch of their fishnet they locally called patuloy. On the other hand, Elvis Villar testified that he and Efren Alvaro were together in going to the islet in question, riding in an unmotorized banca to gather shells locally called suso and butlogan for viand. Both started gathering shells under the stones in the islet around 5:30 in the afternoon. While they were preparing to go home at around 6:30 in the evening, the team of law enforcers riding in motorized pumpboats arrived. The barangay captain and the personnel from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources asked them whether they heard an explosion. After they denied having heard any, they were told by the barangay captain to board their pumpboats. They obliged, leaving the shells they had gathered. They were then brought to the fish cage of the barangay captain. Although accused Johnson Sucgang admitted his presence in the islet in question, he offered a different explanation. He testified that he went to said place to look for pulutan requested by his customer, Wilfredo Arcangeles. Being an operator and manager of Virgen Beach Resort located at Sitio Manangkalan, he obliged. Thus, between 5:00 to 5:30 in the afternoon of May 7, 1990, he left his resort riding in a banca. He paddled his way towards the islet where he saw two persons at the bank while the other three were on the water. He went ashore. Later, the barangay captain and his companions riding in two pumpboats arrived. Like his co-accused, he was asked if he heard an explosion. After he denied hearing any, the barangay captain told him to go with them. They were all brought to the fish cage of the barangay captain for questioning. Wilfredo Arcangeles corroborated the claim of Johnson Sucgang. He confirmed that he requested the latter to look for pulutan since he had visitors from Bacolod City prompting Johnson Sucgang to look for some. He saw the accused leave in a banca and affirmed that he had no dynamite with him.[6] On September 30, 1991, the trial court rendered its decision which, as stated at the beginning, was affirmed by the Court of Appeals. Hence, this petition. Petitioners point out that the fact that neither explosives nor related paraphernalia were found in their possession is an indication of their innocence.

We do not agree. First, it is quite probable that petitioners dumped these materials into the sea while the raiding party was approaching. Moreover, Section 33, Presidential Decree No. 704, as amended by Presidential Decree No. 1058, provides:

Sec. 33. Illegal fishing; xxx -- It shall be unlawful for any person to catch, take or gather, or cause to be caught, taken or gathered fish or fishery/aquatic products in Philippine waters with the use of explosives, obnoxious or poisonous substance, or by the use of electricity as defined in paragraphs (l),[7] (m)[8] and (d),[9] respectively, of Sec. 3 hereof xxx.
xxx.

The discovery of dynamite, other explosives and chemical compounds containing combustible elements, or obnoxious or poisonous substance, or equipment or device for electric fishing in any fishing boat or in the possession of a fisherman shall constitute a presumption that the same were used for fishing in violation of this Decree, the discovery in any fishing boat of fish caught or killed by the use of explosives, obnoxious or poisonous substance or by electricity shall constitute a presumption that the owner, operator or fisherman were fishing with the use of explosives, obnoxious or poisonous substance or electricity.
In Hizon vs. Court of Appeals,[10] this Court held that the law, as contained in the last paragraph of Section 33, creates a presumption that illegal fishing has been committed when fish caught or killed with the use of explosives, obnoxious or poisonous substances or by electricity are found in a fishing boat. In this case, it cannot be denied that the fishes found in petitioners banca were caught or killed by the use of explosives. The Report[11] of Bureau of Fisheries employees Joey de la Cruz and Rolando Amoroso states:

Republic of the Philippines Department of Agriculture Roxas City 1990-05-08 The Provincial Agricultural Officer Department of Agriculture Roxas City

Sir: I have the honor to submit to this office the result of the scientific fish examination conducted on the fish samples taken from the possession of Mr. Johnson Umiten Sucgang, 38 years old, married and resident of Barangay Basiao, Ivisan, Capiz and company on May 7, 1990, 6:30 PM by combined elements of the Department of Agriculture, PC/INP Unit of Ivisan, Capiz and Barangay officials of Basiao, Ivisan, Capiz conducting sea borne patrol on illegal fishing. Source of fish samples : Sea water of Brgy., Basiao, Ivisan, Capiz Fish samples taken from : Johnson U. Sucgang, 38 years old, married, of Brgy., Basiao, Ivisan, Capiz, et. al. Date fish samples taken Date fish samples examined Name of fish samples taken Local Name Bulawis Bulgan Pakol Bag-angan Bukod 1 pc. 2 pcs. 2 pcs. 1 pc. 1 pc. 300 gms 200 gms 100 gms 150 gms 150 gms 3.00 P 8.00 10.00 2.00 3.00 : May 7, 1990 at 6:30 PM : May 7, 1990 at 7:00 PM Number Weight Value

Characteristics noted on the fish examined: 1. External Manifestation a. Blood, oozing on the operculum.

2. Internal Manifestation a. Air bladder raptured deeply stained with blood; b. Vertebral column broken with blood stain. Conclusion: The fish samples manifested signs that said fish were caught or killed by the use of explosives. Examined by:
(Sgd.) JOEY I. DE LA CRUZ (Sgd.) ROLANDO E. AMOROSO Fish Examiners Joey de la Cruz affirmed the above findings in his testimony before the trial court.[12] Said testimony was corroborated by Rolando Amoroso, a co-employee of De la Cruz in the Bureau of Fisheries. The latter further stated that the fish were killed specifically by dynamite:
ATTY. LUMAWAG: Q A Can you identify whether it was through dynamite or any other means of explosive the fish was caught? Yes, sir. Because you know when we saw, when we conducted the external manifestation of the fish, not only blood oozing from the ears but also from the eyes that were protruding. Is it not possible that it be caused also through fishing by means of electricity? No. Other kinds of explosives? Yes, explosives. For example, what other aside from dynamite?

Q A Q A Q

What explosives aside from dynamite, no other. [13]

The trial court correctly gave credence to these testimonies, thus:

Above three (3) accused would like the Court to believe that the seven (7) pieces of fish samples taken by the team of fishing law enforcers were the catch of their fish net they locally called [sic] patuloy.

x x x.

With the external and internal examination by Joey de la Cruz and Rolando Amoroso showing that these fishes were caught with the use of explosive, bare denial of above three (3) accused that they caught them by means of a fishing net they locally call patoloy is insufficient to disprove such finding. It is simply a superiority of weight of object evidence over testimonies of the accused.
Joey de la Cruz is an agricultural technologist of their office and a graduate of Bachelor of Science in Fishery. Joey de la Cruz and Rolando Amoroso had undergone training course in fishery laws and implementing regulations as well as actual demonstrations in sea to practice what they had learned in theory. [As] xxx technical personnel of the Bureau of Fishery and Aquatic Resources, their finding after an internal and external examination of fish samples to prove they were caught with the use of explosives should be presented to show that these prosecution witnesses fabricated their story. There is no ulterior motive which implied them to testify as they did. Furthermore, no evidence was introduced by the defense to impeach their credibility nor evidence to discredit their persons. Credibility of the testimonies having remained unimpeached, it shall be given great weight in the determination of the guilt of the accused. Besides, being public officers to enforce fishing laws, in the absence of ill-motive on their part, to impute to the accused a serious offense of illegal fishing with the use of explosive, the presumption is that there was regular performance of public duty on their part.[14] The presumption that the crime of illegal fishing was committed has, therefore, been clearly established. Such presumption, however, is merely prima facie, and may be rebutted by the accused.[15] Petitioners attempt to overcome said presumption by disputing the findings of prosecution witnesses Joey de la Cruz and Rolando Amoroso. They claim that since not all their catch were examined, there can be no conclusive proof that the fish were killed with the use of explosives.[16] They also question the credibility of these witnesses, thus: xxx. If it is true that prosecution witness Joey dela Cruz, allegedly a technical personnel [sic] of the Bureau of Fisheries and competent to determine if a fish is killed by dynamite blast, found the 7 fishes to have been killed by a dynamite blast, it was unnatural for the team not to arrest the petitioners on the spot. xxx.[17] Petitioners arguments have no merit. It is ridiculous to have expected that all the fish found in the accuseds fishing boat would be subjected to an examination. It is sufficient that, as in the case at bar, a random sample of the accuseds catch was examined and found to have been killed with the use of explosives. A patent impracticality would result if the law required otherwise. The fact that the patrol team did not immediately deliver the accused to the municipal jail does not diminish the credibility of the above witnesses. Persinefles U.

Oabe, the barangay captain of Basiao, gave a plausible explanation for the accuseds release: A We released those six persons because if we bring them to the municipality of Ivisan we have no available transportation because they were only riding in a single motor vehicle.[18]

The want of available transportation is not surprising. The dearth in law enforcement facilities, especially in the provinces, is not lost on this Court and is a matter of judicial notice. In fine, we find no reason to disturb the assessment of the trial court regarding the credibility of prosecution witnesses Joey de la Cruz and Rolando Amoroso. Its findings are accorded great respect by appellate tribunals since trial courts have the advantage of examining the witnesses testimonies and observing their demeanor first hand. [19] Petitioners also argue that they could not have been caught fishing with the use of dynamite in shallow waters because the fishes used as evidence were described by the prosecution witnesses as deep sea fishes. According to petitioners:

The seven (7) fishes that the prosecution used as evidence were described by prosecution witnesses as deep sea fishes. But it has been shown in the testimony of petitioner Santiago Argoncillo that he and the other petitioners were fishing in shallow waters about 1 1/2 meters deep (TSN, March 13, 1991, p. 7) and using fishnet 200 armslength long and 1 meter wide (TSN, March 13, 1991, p. 4). This testimony was not rebutted by the prosecution. In fact, the 3 accused who were acquitted by the trial court were found by the prosecution witnesses standing on the seashore near where the petitioners were fishing (TSN, January 23, 1991, pp. 5 to 6). That petitioners would engage in dynamite fishing in shallow waters and near the seashore would be unnatural. The allegation that the petitioners were fishing with the use of explosive is therefore not credible.
[20]

We are not persuaded. The fishes caught by petitioners were not actually deep sea fishes in the sense that they came from the deep portions of the sea as distinguished from shallow waters or waters near or along the shores. The fishes caught were locally known as vulgan, bulawis, pacol, and bag-angan. They are generally described as isda sa bato or bottom feeders. The following excerpt from the testimony of fish examiner Joey de la Cruz shows that the term deep sea fishes arose from the trial courts erroneous translation of isda sa bato or bottom feeders which were the terms actually employed by said witness to describe the subject fishes:
ATTY. LUMAWAG: Q A What were the species of the fishes that you recovered from that banca? Bottom feeders.

COURT:

Isda sa bato, in English? A Bottom feeders.

COURT:

Deep sea fishes.[21] Petitioners next contend that if it is true that they were engaged in illegal fishing, it would be unnatural for them to use a boat which would make it difficult for them to escape from the law enforcers riding motorized boats.[22] Petitioners contention is too ludicrous to warrant serious consideration. The law punishing illegal fishing does not require the use of motorized banca or boat for the crime to be committed. Concededly, a motorized banca can better serve those engaged in illegal fishing for purposes of eluding law enforcers. However, not everyone can financially afford to fit a motor in his banca. Indeed, petitioner Argoncillo admitted that the banca that they were using was leased from a certain Dikoy Odrunia.[23] Petitioners likewise aver that they did not flee when the law enforcers arrived, and even voluntarily reported to the Ivisan Police Station the following morning. They submit that their alleged non-flight should strengthen their claim of innocence.[24] We disagree. There is no established doctrine to the effect that, in every instance, non-flight is an indication of innocence.[25] Moreover, even if they wanted to, petitioners could not have possibly eluded the law enforcers who were in two pump boats. Attempts to flee would also have been useless since petitioners were already identified by the barrio captain. Lastly, the fact that the accused were asked by the patrol team whether or not they heard an explosion is not in any way reflective of petitioners innocence. We deem such inquiry as nothing more than a part of the investigative process. It is quite common, and in most cases, necessary, for law enforcers to ask questions to help them ascertain whether or not there exists probable cause to arrest persons suspected of committing a crime. Having failed to discharge themselves of the burden of disproving that they have committed illegal fishing, the Court is left with no alternative but to affirm petitioners conviction. The penalty imposed by law[26] for illegal fishing if explosive is actually used is imprisonment ranging from twenty (20) years to life imprisonment. The Indeterminate Sentence Law provides that if, as in this case, the offense is punished by a law other than the Revised Penal Code, the court shall sentence the accused to an indeterminate sentence, the maximum term of which shall not exceed the maximum fixed by said law and the minimum shall not be less than the minimum term prescribed by the same.[27] The trial court therefore erred when it sentenced petitioners to suffer a straight penalty of twenty (20) years imprisonment.[28] In Spouses Jose and Trinidad Bacar vs. Judge Salvador P. de Guzman, Jr.,[29] we held that it was erroneous to impose a straight penalty of six (6) years imprisonment on the accused for homicide. We explained:

xxx. It is basic law that xxx the application of the Indeterminate Sentence Law is mandatory where imprisonment exceeds one (1) year, except only in the following cases: a. Offenses punished by death or life imprisonment. b. Those convicted of treason (Art. 114), conspiracy or proposal to commit treason (Art. 115). c. Those convicted of misprision of treason (Art. 116), rebellion (Art. 134), sedition (Art.139), or espionage (Art. 117). d. Those convicted of piracy (Art. 122). e. Habitual delinquents(Art. 62, par. 5). Recidivists are entitled to an indeterminate sentence. (People v. Jaramilla, L-28547, Feb. 22, 1974). Offender is not disqualified to avail of the benefits of the law even if the crime is committed while he is on parole. (People v. Calreon, CA 78 O.G. 6701, Nov. 19, 1982). f. Those who escaped from confinement or those who evaded sentence. g. Those granted conditional pardon and who violated the terms of the same (Art. 159). (People v. Corral, 74 Phil. 359). h. Those whose maximum period of imprisonment does not exceed one year. Where the penalty actually imposed does not exceed one year, the accused cannot avail himself of the benefits of the law, the application of which is based upon the penalty actually imposed in accordance with law and not upon that which may be imposed in the discretion of the Court. (People v. Hidalgo, [CA] G.R. No. 00452-CR, Jan. 22, 1962). i. Those who are already serving final judgment upon the approval of the Indeterminate Sentence Law. The need for specifying the minimum and maximum periods of the indeterminate sentence is to prevent the unnecessary and excessive deprivation of liberty and to enhance the economic usefulness of the accused, since he may be exempted from serving the entire sentence, depending upon his behavior and his physical, mental, and moral record. The requirement of imposing an indeterminate sentence in all criminal

offenses whether punishable by the or by special laws, with definite minimum and maximum terms, as the Court deems proper within the legal range of the penalty specified by the law must, therefore, be deemed mandatory.
[30]

Accordingly, the proper penalty to be imposed upon the accused should be an indeterminate penalty which is hereby set at twenty (20) years as minimum to twentyfive (25) years as maximum. WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DISMISSED, and the decision of the Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED with the modification that petitioners are hereby sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty of imprisonment ranging from twenty (20) years as minimum to twenty-five (25) years as maximum. SO ORDERED. Narvasa, C.J., (Chairman), Romero, and Purisima, JJ., concur.

[1] [2]

Penned by Mabutas, Jr., J.; De Pano, Jr., P.J., and Luna, J., concurring. Presided by Judge David A. Alfeche, Jr. [3] Rollo, pp. 70-71. [4] Id., at 73. [5] Id., at 74-76. [6] Id., at 76-78.
[7]

Fishing with the use of explosives means the use of dynamite, other explosives, or chemical compound that contains combustible elements or ingredients that upon ignition by friction, concussion, percussion, or detonation of all or parts of the compound; kill, stupefy, disable or render unconscious any fish or fishery/aquatic product. It shall also refer to the use of any other substance and/or device that causes explosion capable of producing the said harmful effects on fish or fishery/aquatic products. [Sec. 3 (l), P.D. No. 704, as amended.]
[8]

Fishing with the use of obnoxious or poisonous substance means the use of any substance, plants, extracts or juice thereof, chemicals, whether in raw or processed form, harmful or harmless to human beings, which kill, stupefy, disable or render unconscious fish or fishery/aquatic products. [Sec. 3 (m), P.D. No. 704, as amended.]
[9]

Electro fishing means the use of electricity generated by dry-cell batteries, electric generators or other sources of electric power to kill, stupefy, disable or render unconscious fish or fishery/aquatic products in both fresh and salt water areas. [Sec. 3 (d), P.D. No. 704, as amended.]
[10] [11]

265 SCRA 517 (1996). Exhibit A; emphasis ours. [12] TSN, 17 January 1991. [13] TSN, January 29, 1991, p. 26; underscoring supplied. [14] Rollo, pp. 64-67. [15] Hizon vs. Court of Appeals, supra, note 7. [16] Rollo, p. 16. [17] Id., at 15. [18] TSN, 23 January 1991, p. 9.
[19]

People vs. Pajaro, 265 SCRA 668 (1996); People vs. Perez, 265 SCRA 506 (1996); People vs. Balisnomo, 265 SCRA 98 (1996); People vs. Leoterio, 264 SCRA 608 (1996); People vs. Paredes, 264 SCRA 578 (1996); People vs. De Gracia, 264 SCRA 200 (1996).

[20] [21]

Rollo, p. 14. TSN, January 17, 1991, p. 19. [22] Rollo., pp. 13-14. [23] TSN, March 13, 1991, p. 8. [24] Id., at 15. [25] People vs. Inocencio, 229 SCRA 517 (1994). [26] Sec. 38 (a) (1), P.D. No. 704, as amended by P.D. No. 1058. [27] Sec. 1, Act No. 4103, as amended by Act No. 4225. Cf. People vs. Viente, 225 SCRA 361 (1993). [28] Rollo, p. 48. [29] 271 SCRA 328 (1997). [30] Id., at 339-340. Underscoring supplied.

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Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila EN BANC G.R. Nos. L-8895 and L-9191 April 30, 1957

SALVADOR A. ARANETA, ETC., ET AL., petitioners, vs. THE HON. MAGNO S. GATMAITAN, ETC., ET AL., respondents. EXEQUIEL SORIANO, ET AL., petitioners-appellees, vs. SALVADOR ARANETA, ETC., ET AL., respondents-appellants. Office of the Solicitor General Ambrosio Padilla, Assistant Solicitor General Jose G. Bautista and Solicitor Troadio T. Quiazon for petitioners. San Juan, Africa and Benedicto for respondents. FELIX, J.: San Miguel Bay, located between the provinces of Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur, a part of the National waters of the Philippines with an extension of about 250 square miles and an average depth of approximately 6 fathoms

(Otter trawl explorations in Philippine waters p. 21, Exh. B), is considered as the most important fishing area in the Pacific side of the Bicol region. Sometime in 1950, trawl1 operators from Malabon, Navotas and other places migrated to this region most of them settling at Sabang, Calabanga, Camarines Sur, for the purpose of using this particular method of fishing in said bay. On account of the belief of sustenance fishermen that the operation of this kind of gear caused the depletion of the marine resources of that area, there arose a general clamor among the majority of the inhabitants of coastal towns to prohibit the operation of trawls in San Miguel Bay. This move was manifested in the resolution of December 18, 1953 (Exh. F), passed by the Municipal Mayors' League condemning the operation of trawls as the cause of the wanton destruction of the shrimp specie and resolving to petition the President of the Philippines to regulate fishing in San Miguel Bay by declaring it closed for trawl fishing at a certain period of the year. In another resolution dated March 27, 1954, the same League of Municipal Mayor, prayed the President to protect them and the fish resources of San Miguel Bay by banning the operation of trawls therein (Exh. 4). The Provincial Governor also made proper presentations to this effect and petitions in behalf of the non-trawl fishermen were likewise presented to the President by social and civic organizations as the NAMFREL (National Movement for Free Elections) and the COMPADRE (Committee for Philippine Action in Development, Reconstruction and Education), recommending the cancellation of the licenses of trawl operators after investigation, if such inquiry would substantiate the charges that the operation of said fishing method was detrimental to the welfare of the majority of the inhabitants (Exh. 2). In response to these pleas, the President issued on April 5, 1954, Executive Order No. 22 (50 Off. Gaz., 1421) prohibiting the use of trawls in San Miguel Bay, but said executive order was amended by Executive Order No. 66, issued on September 23, 1954 (50 Off. Gaz., 4037), apparently in answer to a resolution of the Provincial Board of Camarines Sur recommending the allowance of trawl fishing during the typhoon season only. On November 2, 1954, however, Executive Order No. 80 (50 Off. Gaz., 5198) was issued reviving Executive Order No. 22, to take effect after December 31, 1954. A group of Otter trawl operators took the matter to the court by filing a complaint for injunction and/or declaratory relief with preliminary injunction with the Court of First Instance of Manila, docketed as Civil Case No. 24867, praying that a writ of preliminary injunction be issued to restrain the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Director of Fisheries from enforcing said executive order; to declare the same null and void, and for such other relief as may be just and equitable in the premises. The Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Director of Fisheries, represented by the Legal Adviser of said Department and a Special Attorney of the Office of the Solicitor General, answered the complaint alleging, among other things, that of the 18 plaintiff (Exequiel Soriano, Teodora Donato, Felipe Concepcion, Venancio Correa, Santo Gaviana, Alfredo General, Constancio Gutierrez, Arsenio de Guzman, Pedro Lazaro, Porfirio Lazaro, Deljie de Leon, Jose Nepomuceno, Bayani Pingol, Claudio Salgado, Porfirio, San Juan, Luis Sioco, Casimiro Villar and Enrique Voluntad), only 11 were issued license to operate fishing boats for the year 1954 (Annex B, petition L-8895); that the executive orders in question were issued accordance with law; that the encouragement by the Bureau of Fisheries of the use of Otter trawls should not be construed to mean that the general welfare of the public could be disregarded, and set up the defenses that since plaintiffs question the validity of the executive orders issued by the President, then the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Director of Fisheries were not the real parties in interest; that said executive orders do not constitute a deprivation of property without due process of law, and therefore prayed that the complaint be dismissed (Exh. B, petition, L-8895). During the trial of the case, the Governor of Camarines Sur appearing for the municipalities of Siruma, Tinambac, Calabanga, Cabusao and Sipocot, in said province, called the attention of the Court that the Solicitor General had not been notified of the proceeding. To this manifestation, the Court ruled that in view of the circumstances of the case, and as the Solicitor General would only be interested in maintaining the legality of the executive orders sought to be

impugned, section 4 of Rule 66 could be interpreted to mean that the trial could go on and the Solicitor General could be notified before judgement is entered. After the evidence for both parties was submitted and the Solicitor General was allowed to file his memorandum, the Court rendered decision on February 2, 1955, the last part of which reads as follows: The power to close any definite area of the Philippine waters, from the fact that Congress has seen fit to define under what conditions it may be done by the enactment of the sections cited, in the mind of Congress must be of transcendental significance. It is primarily within the fields of legislation not of execution: for it goes far and says who can and who can not fish in definite territorial waters. The court can not accept that Congress had intended to abdicate its inherent right to legislate on this matter of national importance. To accept respondents' view would be to sanction the exercise of legislative power by executive decrees. If it is San Miguel Bay now, it may be Davao Gulf tomorrow, and so on. That may be done only by Congress. This being the conclusion, there is hardly need to go any further. Until the trawler is outlawed by legislative enactment, it cannot be banned from San Miguel Bay by executive proclamation. The remedy for respondents and population of the coastal towns of Camarines Sur is to go to the Legislature. The result will be to issue the writ prayed for, even though this be to strike at public clamor and to annul the orders of the President issued in response therefor. This is a task unwelcome and unpleasant; unfortunately, courts of justice use only one measure for both the rich and poor, and are not bound by the more popular cause when they give judgments. IN VIEW WHEREOF, granted; Executive Order Nos. 22, 66 and 80 are declared invalid; the injunction prayed for is ordered to issue; no pronouncement as to costs. Petitioners immediately filed an ex-parte motion for the issuance of a writ of injunction which was opposed by the Solicitor General and after the parties had filed their respective memoranda, the Court issued an order dated February 19, 1955, denying respondents' motion to set aside judgement and ordering them to file a bond in the sum of P30,000 on or before March 1, 1955, as a condition for the non-issuance of the injunction prayed for by petitioners pending appeal. The Solicitor General filed a motion for reconsideration which was denied for lack of merit, and the Court, acting upon the motion for new trial filed by respondents, issued another order on March 3, 1965, denying said motion and granting the injunction prayed for by petitioners upon the latter's filing a bond for P30,000 unless respondents could secure a writ of preliminary injunction from the Supreme Court on or before March 15, 1955. Respondents, therefore, brought the matter to this Court in a petition for prohibition and certiorariwith preliminary injunction, docketed as G.R. No. L-8895, and on the same day filed a notice to appeal from the order of the lower court dated February 2, 1955, which appeal was docketed in this Court as G.R. No. L-9191. In the petition for prohibition and certiorari, petitioners (respondents therein) contended among other things, that the order of, the respondent Judge requiring petitioners Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Director of Fisheries to post a bond in the sum of P30,000 on or before March 1, 1955, had been issued without jurisdiction or in excess thereof, or at the very least with grave abuse of discretion, because by requiring the bond, the Republic of the Philippines was in effect made a party defendant and therefore transformed the suit into one against the Government which is beyond the jurisdiction of the respondent Judge to entertain; that the failure to give the Solicitor General the opportunity to defend the validity of the challenged executive orders resulted in the receipt of objectionable matters at the hearing; that Rule 66 of the Rules of Court does not empower a court of law to pass upon the validity of an executive order in a declaratory relief proceeding; that the respondent Judge did not have the power to grant the injunction as Section 4 of Rule 39 does not apply to declaratory relief proceedings but only to injunction, receivership and patent accounting proceedings; and prayed that a writ of preliminary injunction be issued to enjoin the respondent Judge from enforcing its order of March 3, 1955, and for such other relief as may be deem just and

equitable in the premises. This petition was given due course and the hearing on the merits was set by this Court for April 12, 1955, but no writ of preliminary injunction was issued. Meanwhile, the appeal (G.R. No. L-9191) was heard on October 3, 1956, wherein respondents-appellants ascribed to the lower court the commission of the following errors: 1. In ruling that the President has no authority to issue Executive Orders Nos. 22, 66 and 80 banning the operation of trawls in San Miguel Bay; 2. In holding that the power to declare a closed area for fishing purposes has not been delegated to the President of the Philippines under the Fisheries Act; 3. In not considering Executive Orders Nos. 22, 66 and 80 as declaring a closed season pursuant to Section 7, Act 4003, as amended, otherwise known as the Fisheries Act; 4. In holding that to uphold the validity of Executive Orders Nos. 22 and 80 would be to sanction the exercise of legislative power by executive decrees; 5. In its suggestion that the only remedy for respondents and the people of the coastal towns of Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte is to go to the Legislature; and 6. In declaring Executive Orders Nos. 22, 66 and 80 invalid and in ordering the injunction prayed for to issue. As Our decision in the prohibition and certiorari case (G.R. No. L-8895) would depend, in the last analysis, on Our ruling in the appeal of the respondents in case G.R. No. L-9191, We shall first proceed to dispose of the latter case. It is indisputable that the President issued Executive Orders Nos. 22, 66 and 80 in response to the clamor of the inhabitants of the municipalities along the coastline of San Miguel Bay. They read as follows: EXECUTIVE ORDER No. 22 PROHIBITING THE USE OF TRAWLS IN SAN MIGUEL BAY In order to effectively protect the municipal fisheries of San Miguel Bay, Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur, and to conserve fish and other aquatic resources of the area, I, RAMON MAGSAYSAY, President of the Philippines, by virtue of the powers vested in me by law, do hereby order that: 1. Fishing by means of trawls (utase, otter and/or perenzella) of any kind, in the waters comprised within San Miguel Bay, is hereby prohibited. 2. Trawl shall mean, for the purpose of this Order, a fishing net made in the form of a bag with the mouth kept open by a device, the whole affair being towed, dragged, trailed or trawled on the bottom of the sea to capture demersal, ground or bottom species. 3. Violation of the provisions of this Order shall subject the offender to the penalty provided under Section 83 of Act 4993, or more than six months, or both, in the discretion of the Court.

Done in the City of Manila, this 5th day of April, nineteen hundred and fifty-four and of the Independence of the Philippines, the eighth. (50 Off. Gaz. 1421) EXECUTIVE ORDER No. 66 AMENDING EXECUTIVE ORDER No. 22, DATED APRIL 5, 1954, ENTITLED "PROHIBITING THE USE OF TRAWLS IN SAN MIGUEL BAY" By virtue of the powers voted in me by law, I, RAMON MAGSAYSAY, President of the Philippines, do hereby amend Executive Order No. 22, dated April 5, 1954, so as to allow fishing by means of trawls, as defined in said Executive Order, within that portion of San Miguel Bay north of a straight line drawn from Tacubtacuban Hill in the Municipality of Tinambac, Province of Camarines Sur. Fishing by means of trawls south of said line shall still be absolutely prohibited. Done in the City of Manila, this 23rd day of September, in the year of our Lord, nineteen hundred and fifty-four, and of the Independence of the Philippines, the ninth." (50 Off. Gaz. 4037). EXECUTIVE ORDER No. 80. FURTHER AMENDING EXECUTIVE ORDER No. 22, DATED APRIL 5, 1954, AS AMENDED BY EXECUTIVE ORDER No. 66, DATED SEPTEMBER 23, 1954. By virtue of the powers vested in me by law, I, RAMON MAGSAYSAY, President of the Philippines, do hereby amend Executive Order No. 66 dated September 23, 1954, so as to allow fishing by means of trawls, as defined in Executive Order No. 22, dated April 5, 1954, within the portion of San Miguel Bay North of a straight line drawn from Tacubtacuban Hill in the Municipality of Mercedes, Province of Camarines Norte to Balocbaloc Point in the Municipality of Tinambac, Province of Camarines Sur, until December 31, 1954, only. Thereafter, the provisions of said Executive Order No. 22 absolutely prohibiting fishing by means of trawls in all the waters comprised within the San Miguel Bay shall be revived and given full force and effect as originally provided therein. Done in the City of Manila, this 2nd day of November, in the year of Our Lord, nineteen hundred and fifty-four and of the Independence of the Philippines, the ninth. (50 Off. Gaz. 5198) It is likewise admitted that petitioners assailed the validity of said executive orders in their petition for a writ of injunction and/or declaratory relief filed with the Court of First Instance of Manila, and that the lower court, upon declaring Executive Orders Nos. 22, 66 and 80 invalid, issued an order requiring the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Director of Fisheries to post a bond for P30,000 if the writ of injunction restraining them from enforcing the executive orders in question must be stayed. The Solicitor General avers that the constitutionality of an executive order cannot be ventilated in a declaratory relief proceeding. We find this untenable, for this Court taking cognizance of an appeal from the decision of the lower court in the case of Hilado vs. De la Costa, et al., 83 Phil., 471, which involves the constitutionality of another executive order presented in an action for declaratory relief, in effect accepted the propriety of such action. This question being eliminated, the main issues left for Our determination with respect to defendants' appeal (G.R.

No. L-9191), are: (1) Whether the Secretary of an Executive Department and the Director of a Bureau, acting in their capacities as such Government officials, could lawfully be required to post a bond in an action against them; (2) Whether the President of the Philippines has authority to issue Executive Orders Nos. 22, 66 and 80, banning the operation of trawls in San Miguel Bay, or, said in other words, whether said Executive Orders Nos. 22, 66 and 80 were issued in accordance with law; and. (3) Whether Executive Orders Nos. 22, 66 and 80 were valid, for the issuance thereof was not in the exercise of legislative powers unduly delegated to the President. Counsel for both parties presented commendable exhaustive defenses in support of their respective stands. Certainly, these cases deserve such efforts, not only because the constitutionality of an act of a coordinate branch in our tripartite system of Government is in issue, but also because of the number of inhabitants, admittedly classified as "subsistence fishermen", that may be affected by any ruling that We may promulgate herein. I. As to the first proposition, it is an elementary rule of procedure that an appeal stays the execution of a judgment. An exception is offered by section 4 of Rule 39 of the Rules of Court which provides that: SEC. 4. INJUNCTION, RECEIVERSHIP AND PATENT ACCOUNTING, NOT STAYED. Unless otherwise ordered by the court, a judgment in an action for injunction or in a receivership action, or a judgment or order directing an accounting in an action for infringement of letter patent, shall not be stayed after its rendition and before an appeal is taken or during the pendency of an appeal. The trial court, however, in its discretion, when an appeal is taken from a judgement granting, dissolving or denying an injunction, may make an order suspending, modifying, restoring, or granting such injunction during the pendency of an appeal, upon such terms as to bond or otherwise as it may consider proper for the security of the rights of the adverse party. This provision was the basis of the order of the lower court dated February 19, 1955, requiring the filing by the respondents of a bond for P30,000 as a condition for the non-issuance of the injunction prayed for by plaintiffs therein, and which the Solicitor General charged to have been issued in excess of jurisdiction. The State's counsel, however, alleges that while judgment could be stayed in injunction, receivership and patent accounting cases and although the complaint was styled "Injunction, and/or Declaratory Relief with Preliminary Injunction", the case is necessarily one for declaratory relief, there being no allegation sufficient to convince the Court that the plaintiffs intended it to be one for injunction. But aside from the title of the complaint, We find that plaintiffs pray for the declaration of the nullity of Executive Order Nos. 22, 66 and 80; the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction, and for such other relief as may be deemed just and equitable. This Court has already held that there are only two requisites to be satisfied if an injunction is to issue, namely, the existence of the right sought to be protected, and that the acts against which the injunction is to be directed are violative of said right (North Negros Sugar Co., Inc.vs. Serafin Hidalgo, 63 Phil., 664). There is no question that at least 11 of the complaining trawl operators were duly licensed to operate in any of the national waters of the Philippines, and it is undeniable that the executive enactment's sought to be annulled are detrimental to their interests. And considering further that the granting or refusal of an injunction, whether temporary or permanent, rests in the sound discretion of the Court, taking into account the circumstances and the facts of the particular case (Rodulfa vs. Alfonso, 76 Phil,, 225, 42 Off. Gaz., 2439), We find no abuse of discretion when the trial Court treated the complaint as one for injunction and declaratory relief and executed the judgment pursuant to the provisions of section 4 of Rule 39 of the Rules of Court.

On the other hand, it shall be remembered that the party defendants in Civil Case No. 24867 of the Court of First Instance of Manila are Salvador Araneta, as Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and, Deogracias Villadolid, as Director of Fisheries, and were sued in such capacities because they were the officers charged with duty of carrying out the statutes, orders and regulations on fishing and fisheries. In its order of February 19, 1955, the trial court denied defendants' motion to set aside judgment and they were required to file a bond for P30,000 to answer for damages that plaintiffs were allegedly suffering at that time, as otherwise the injunction prayed for by the latter would be issued. Because of these facts, We agree with the Solicitor General when he says that the action, being one against herein petitioners as such Government officials, is essentially one against the Government, and to require these officials to file a bond would be indirectly a requirement against the Government for as regards bonds or damages that may be proved, if any, the real party in interest would be the Republic of the Philippines (L. S. Moon and Co. vs. Harrison, 43 Phi., 39; Salgado vs. Ramos, 64 Phil., 724-727, and others). The reason for this pronouncement is understandable; the State undoubtedly is always solvent (Tolentino vs. Carlos 66 Phil., 140; Government of the P. I. vs. Judge of the Court of First Instance of Iloilo, 34 Phil., 167, cited in Joaquin Gutierrez et al. vs. Camus et al. * G.R. No. L-6725, promulgated October 30, 1954). However, as the records show that herein petitioners failed to put up the bond required by the lower court, allegedly due to difficulties encountered with the Auditor General's Office (giving the impression that they were willing to put up said bond but failed to do so for reasons beyond their control), and that the orders subjects of the prohibition and certiorari proceedings in G.R. No. L-8895, were enforced, if at all,2 in accordance with section 4 of Rule 39, which We hold to be applicable to the case at bar, the issue as to the regularity or adequacy of requiring herein petitioners to post a bond, becomes moot and academic. II. Passing upon the question involved in the second proposition, the trial judge extending the controversy to the determination of which between the Legislative, and Executive Departments of the Government had "the power to close any definite area of the Philippine waters" instead of limiting the same to the real issue raised by the enactment of Executive Orders No. 22, 26 and 80, especially the first and the last "absolutely prohibiting fishing by means trawls in all the waters comprised within the San Miguel Bay", ruled in favor of Congress had not intended to abdicate its power to legislate on the matter, he maintained as stated before, that "until the trawler is outlawed by legislative enactment, it cannot be banned from San Miguel Bay by executive proclamation", and that "the remedy for respondents and population of the coastal towns of Camarines Sur is to go to Legislature," and thus declared said Executive Orders Nos. 22, 66 and 80 invalid". The Solicitor General, on the contrary, asserts that the President is empowered by law to issue the executive enactment's in question. Sections 6, 13 and 75 of Act No. 4003, known as the Fisheries Law, the latter two sections as amended by section 1 of Commonwealth Act No. 471, read as follows: SEC. 6. WORDS AND PHRASES DEFINED. Words and terms used in this Act shall be construed as follows: xxx xxx xxx

TAKE or TAKING includes pursuing, shooting, killing, capturing, trapping, snaring, and netting fish and other aquatic animals, and all lesser acts, such as disturbing, wounding, stupefying; or placing, setting, drawing, or using any net or other device commonly used to take or collect fish and other aquatic animals, whether they result in taking or not, and includes every attempt to take and every act of assistance to every other person in taking or attempting to take or collect fish and other aquatic

animals: PROVIDED, That whenever taking is allowed by law, reference is had to taking by lawful means and in lawful manner. xxx xxx xxx

SEC. 13. PROTECTION OF FRY OR FISH EGGS. Except for scientific or educational purpose or for propagation, it shall be unlawful to take or catch fry or fish eggs and the small fish, not more than three (3) centimeters long, known as siliniasi, in the territorial waters of the Philippines. Towards this end, the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce shall be authorized to provide by regulations such restrictions as may be deemed necessary to be imposed on THE USE OF ANY FISHING NET OR FISHING DEVICE FOR THE PROTECTION OF FRY OR FISH EGGS; Provided, however , That the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce shall permit the taking of young of certain species of fish known as hipon under such restrictions as may be deemed necessary. SEC. 75. FISH REFUGEES AND SANCTUARIES. Upon the recommendation of the officer or chief of the bureau, office or service concerned, the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce may set aside and establish fishery reservation or fish refuges and sanctuaries to be administered in the manner to be prescribed by him. All streams, ponds and waters within the game refuge, birds, sanctuaries, national parks, botanical gardens, communal forest and communal pastures are hereby declared fishing refuges and sanctuaries. It shall be unlawful for any person, to take, destroy or kill in any of the places aforementioned, or in any manner disturb or drive away or take therefrom, any fish fry or fish eggs . Act No. 4003 further provides as follows: SEC. 83. OTHER VIOLATIONS. Any other violation of the provisions of this Act or any rules and regulations promulgated thereunder shall subject the offender to a fine of not more than two hundred pesos, or imprisonment for not more than six months, or both, in the discretion of the Court. As may be seen from the just quoted provisions, the law declares unlawful and fixes the penalty for the taking (except for scientific or educational purposes or for propagation), destroying or killing of any fish fry or fish eggs, and the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce (now the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources) is authorized to promulgate regulations restricting the use of any fish net or fishing device (which includes the net used by trawl fishermen) for the protection of fry or fish eggs, as well as to set aside and establish fishery reservations or fish refuges and sanctuaries to be administered in the manner prescribed by him, from which no person could lawfully take, destroy or kill in any of the places aforementioned, or in any manner disturb or drive away or take therefrom any small or immature fish, fry or fish eggs. It is true that said section 75 mentions certain streams, ponds and waters within the game refuges, . . . communal forest, etc., which the law itself declares fish refuges and sanctuaries, but this enumeration of places does not curtail the general and unlimited power of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources in the first part of section 75, to set aside and establish fishery reservations or fish refuges and sanctuaries, which naturally include seas or bays, like the San Miguel Bay in Camarines. From the resolution passed at the Conference of Municipal Mayors held at Tinambac, Camarines Sur, on December 18, 1953 (Exh. F), the following manifestation is made: WHEREAS, the continuous operation of said trawls even during the close season as specified in said Executive Order No. 20 caused the wanton destruction of the mother shrimps laying their eggs and the millions of eggs laid and the inevitable extermination of the shrimps specie; in order to save the shrimps specie from eventual extermination and in order to conserve the shrimps specie for posterity;

In the brief submitted by the NAMFREL and addressed to the President of the Philippines (Exh. 2), in support of the petition of San Miguel Bay fishermen (allegedly 6, 175 in number), praying that trawlers be banned from operating in San Miguel Bay, it is stated that: The trawls ram and destroy the fish corrals. The heavy trawl nets dig deep into the ocean bed. They destroy the fish foods which lies below the ocean floor. Their daytime catches net millions of shrimps scooped up from the mud. In their nets they bring up the life of the sea: algea, shell fish and star fish . . . The absence of some species or the apparent decline in the catch of some fishermen operating in the bay may be due to several factors, namely: the indiscriminate catching of fry and immature sizes of fishes, the wide-spread use of explosives inside as well as at the mouth and approaches of the bay, and the extensive operation of the trawls. (p.9, Report of Santos B. Rasalan, Exh. A) Extensive Operation of Trawls: The strenuous effect of the operations of the 17 TRAWLS of the demersal fisheries of San Miguel Bay is better appreciated when we consider the fact that out of its about 850 square kilometers area, only about 350 square kilometers of 5 fathoms up could be trawled. With their continuous operation, is greatly strained. This is shown by the fact that in view of the nonobservance of the close season from May to October, each year, majority of their catch are immature. If their operation would continue unrestricted, the supply would be greatly depleted. (p. 11), Report of Santos B. Rasalan, Exh. A) San Miguel Bay can sustain 3 to 4 small trawlers (Otter Trawl Explorations in Philippine Waters, Research Report 25 of the Fish and Wildlife Service, United States Department of the Interior, p. 9 Exhibit B). According to Annex A of the complaint filed in the lower court in Civil Case No. 24867 G.R. No. L-9191 (Exh. D, p. 53 of the folder of Exhibits), the 18 plaintiffs-appellees operate 29 trawling boats, and their operation must be in a big scale considering the investments plaintiffs have made therefore, amounting to P387,000 (Record on Appeal, p. 1617). In virtue of the aforementioned provisions of law and the manifestation just copied, We are of the opinion that with or without said Executive Orders, the restriction and banning of trawl fishing from all Philippine waters come, under the law, within the powers of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, who in compliance with his duties may even cause the criminal prosecution of those who in violation of his instructions, regulations or orders are caught fishing with trawls in the Philippine waters. Now, if under the law the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources has authority to regulate or ban the fishing by trawl which, it is claimed, obnoxious for it carries away fish eggs and fry's which should be preserved, can the President of the Philippines exercise that same power and authority? Section 10(1), Article VII of the Constitution of the Philippines prescribes: SEC. 10 (1). The President shall have control of all the executive departments, bureaus or offices, exercises general supervision over all local governments as may be provided by law, and take care that the laws be faithfully executed. Section 63 of the Revised Administrative Code reads as follows:

SEC. 63. EXECUTIVE ORDERS AND EXECUTIVE PROCLAMATION. Administrative acts and commands of the President of the Philippines touching the organization or mode of operation of the Government or rearranging or readjusting any of the district, divisions, parts or ports of the Philippines, and all acts and commands governing the general performance of duties by public employees or disposing of issues of general concern shall be made in executive orders . xxx xxx xxx

Regarding department organization Section 74 of the Revised Administrative Code also provides that: All executive functions of the government of the Republic of the Philippines shall be directly under the Executive Departments subject to the supervision and control of the President of the Philippines in matters of general policy. The Departments are established for the proper distribution of the work of the Executive, for the performance of the functions expressly assigned to them by law, and in order that each branch of the administration may have a chief responsible for its direction and policy. Each Department Secretary shall assume the burden of, and responsibility for, all activities of the Government under his control and supervision. For administrative purposes the President of the Philippines shall be considered the Department Head of the Executive Office. One of the executive departments is that of Agriculture and Natural Resources which by law is placed under the direction and control of the Secretary, who exercises its functions subject to the general supervision and control of the President of the Philippines (Sec. 75, R. A. C.). Moreover, "executive orders, regulations, decrees and proclamations relative to matters under the supervision or jurisdiction of a Department, the promulgation whereof is expressly assigned by law to the President of the Philippines, shall as a general rule, be issued upon proposition and recommendation of the respective Department" (Sec. 79-A, R.A.C.), and there can be no doubt that the promulgation of the questioned Executive Orders was upon the proposition and recommendation of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources and that is why said Secretary, who was and is called upon to enforce said executive Orders, was made a party defendant in one of the cases at bar (G.R. No. L-9191). For the foregoing reasons We do hesitate to declare that Executive Orders Nos. 22, 66 and 80, series of 1954, of the President, are valid and issued by authority of law. III. But does the exercise of such authority by the President constitute and undue delegation of the powers of Congress? As already held by this Court, the true distinction between delegation of the power to legislate and the conferring of authority or discretion as to the execution of law consists in that the former necessary involves a discretion as to what the law shall be, wile in the latter the authority or discretion as to its execution has to be exercised under and in pursuance of the law. The first cannot be done; to the latter no valid objection can be made (Cruz vs.Youngberg, 56 Phil., 234, 239. See also Rubi, et al. vs. The Provincial Board of Mindoro, 39 Phil., 660). In the case of U. S. vs. Ang Tang Ho, 43 Phil. 1, We also held: THE POWER TO DELEGATE. The Legislature cannot delegate legislative power to enact any law. If Act No. 2868 is a law unto itself, and it does nothing more than to authorize the Governor-General to make rules and regulations to carry it into effect, then the Legislature created the law. There is no

delegation of power and it is valid. On the other hand, if the act within itself does not define a crime and is not complete, and some legislative act remains to be done to make it a law or a crime, the doing of which is vested in the Governor-General, the act is delegation of legislative power, is unconstitutional and void. From the provisions of Act No. 4003 of the Legislature, as amended by Commonwealth Act No. 471, which have been aforequoted, We find that Congress (a) declared it unlawful "to take or catch fry or fish eggs in the territorial waters of the Philippines; (b) towards this end, it authorized the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources to provide by the regulations such restrictions as may be deemed necessary to be imposed on the use of any fishing net or fishing device for the protection of fish fry or fish eggs (Sec. 13); (c) it authorized the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources to set aside and establish fishery reservations or fish refuges and sanctuaries to be administered in the manner to be prescribed by him and declared it unlawful for any person to take, destroy or kill in any of said places, or, in any manner disturb or drive away or take therefrom, any fish fry or fish eggs (See. 75); and (d) it penalizes the execution of such acts declared unlawful and in violation of this Act (No. 4003) or of any rules and regulations promulgated thereunder, making the offender subject to a fine of not more than P200, or imprisonment for not more than 6 months, or both, in the discretion of the court (Sec. 83). From the foregoing it may be seen that in so far as the protection of fish fry or fish egg is concerned, the Fisheries Act is complete in itself, leaving to the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources the promulgation of rules and regulations to carry into effect the legislative intent. It also appears from the exhibits on record in these cases that fishing with trawls causes "a wanton destruction of the mother shrimps laying their eggs and the millions of eggs laid and the inevitable extermination of the shrimps specie" (Exh. F), and that, "the trawls ram and destroy the fish corrals. The heavy trawl nets dig deep into the ocean bed. They destroy the fish food which lies below the ocean floor. Their daytime catches net millions of shrimps scooped up from the mud. In their nets they bring up the life of the sea" (Exh2). In the light of these facts it is clear to Our mind that for the protection of fry or fish eggs and small and immature fishes, Congress intended with the promulgation of Act No. 4003, to prohibit the use of any fish net or fishing device like trawl nets that could endanger and deplete our supply of sea food, and to that end authorized the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources to provide by regulations such restrictions as he deemed necessary in order to preserve the aquatic resources of the land. Consequently, when the President, in response to the clamor of the people and authorities of Camarines Sur issued Executive Order No. 80 absolutely prohibiting fishing by means of trawls in all waters comprised within the San Miguel Bay, he did nothing but show an anxious regard for the welfare of the inhabitants of said coastal province and dispose of issues of general concern (Sec. 63, R.A.C.) which were in consonance and strict conformity with the law. Wherefore, and on the strength of the foregoing considerations We render judgement, as follows: (a) Declaring that the issues involved in case G.R. No. L-8895 have become moot, as no writ of preliminary injunction has been issued by this Court the respondent Judge of the Court of First Instance of Manila Branch XIV, from enforcing his order of March 3, 1955; and (b) Reversing the decision appealed from in case G. R. No. L-9191; dissolving the writ of injunction prayed for in the lower court by plaintiffs, if any has been actually issued by the court a quo; and declaring Executive Orders Nos. 22, 66 and 80, series of 1954, valid for having been issued by authority of the Constitution, the Revised Administrative Code and the Fisheries Act. Without pronouncement as to costs. It is so ordered.

Bengzon, Padilla, Montemayor, Bautista Angelo, Labrador, Concepcion, Reyes, J.B.L. and Endencia, JJ., concur.

Footnotes
1

Trawl is a fishing net made in the form of a bag with the mouth kept open by a device the whole affair being towed, dragged, trailed or trawled on the bottom of the sea to capture demersal, ground or bottom species (Executive Order No. 22, series of 1954).
*

96 Phil., 114.

Whether said orders were enforced is not clear from the record, for it does not appear certain therefrom that plaintiffs furnished the bond required from them and that the writ of injunction was actually issued by the Court.

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Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. L-25434 July 25, 1975 HONORABLE ARSENIO N. ROLDAN, JR., in his capacity as Acting Commissioner, Philippine Fisheries Commission, and THE PHILIPPINE NAVY, petitioners, vs. HONORABLE FRANCISCO ARCA, as Presiding Judge of the Court of First Instance of Manila (Branch 1) and MORABE, DE GUZMAN & COMPANY, respondents. Office of the Solicitor General Arturo A. Alafriz and Solicitor Augusto M. Amores for petitioners. J. C. Yuseco and A.R. Narvasa for private respondent.

MAKASIAR, J.:

A petition for certiorari and prohibition with preliminary injunction to restrain respondent Judge from enforcing his order dated October 18, 1965, and the writ of preliminary mandatory injunction thereunder issued. On April 3, 1964, respondent company filed with the Court of First Instance of Manila a civil case docketed as No. 56701 against petitioner Fisheries Commissioner Arsenio N. Roldan, Jr., for the recovery of fishing vessel Tony Lex VI (one of two fishing boats in question) which had been seized and impounded by petitioner Fisheries Commissioner through the Philippine Navy. On April 10, 1964, respondent company prayed for a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction with respondent court, but said prayer was, however, denied. On April 28, 1964, the Court of First Instance of Manila set aside its order of April 10, 1964 and granted respondent company's motion for reconsideration praying for preliminary mandatory injunction. Thus, respondent company took Possession of the vessel Tony Lex VI from herein petitioners by virtue of the abovesaid writ. On December 10, 1964, the Court of First Instance of Manila dismissed Civil Case No. 56701 for failure of therein petitioner (respondent company herein) to prosecute as well as for failure of therein defendants (petitioners herein)to appear on the scheduled date of hearing. The vessel, Tony Lex VI or Srta. Winnie however, remained in the possession of respondent company. On July 20, 1965, petitioner Fisheries Commissioner requested the Philippine Navy to apprehend vessels Tony Lex VI and Tony Lex III, also respectively called Srta. Winnie and Srta. Agnes, for alleged violations of some provisions of the Fisheries Act and the rules and regulations promulgated thereunder. On August 5 or 6, 1965, the two fishing boats were actually seized for illegal fishing with dynamite. Fish caught with dynamite and sticks of dynamite were then found aboard the two vessels. On August 18, 1965, the Fisheries Commissioner requested the Palawan Provincial Fiscal to file criminal charges against the crew members of the fishing vessels. On September 30, 1965, there were filed in the court of First Instance of Palawan a couple of informations, one against the crew members of Tony Lex III, and another against the crew members of Tony Lex VI both for violations of Act No. 4003, as amended by Commonwealth Acts Nos. 462, 659 and 1088, i.e., for illegal fishing with the use of dynamite. On the same day, the Fiscal filed an ex parte motion to hold the boats in custody as instruments and therefore evidence of the crime (p. 54, rec.), and cabled the Fisheries Commissioner to detain the vessels (p. 56, rec.). On October 2 and 4, likewise, the Court of First Instance of Palawan ordered the Philippine Navy to take the boats in custody. On October 2, 1965, respondent company filed a complaint with application for preliminary mandatory injunction, docketed as Civil Case No. 62799 with the Court of First Instance of Manila against herein petitioners. Among others, it was alleged that at the time of the seizure of the fishing boats in issue, the same were engaged in legitimate fishing operations off the coast of Palawan; that by virtue of the offer of compromise dated September 13, 1965 by respondent company to the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the numerous violations of the Fishery Laws, if any, by the crew members of the vessels were settled. On October 9, 1965, petitioners, represented by the Solicitor General, opposed the above-mentioned complaint,

alleging among others, that: (1) the issuance of the writ would disrupt the status quo of the parties and would render nugatory any decision of the respondent court favorable to the defendant; (2) that the vessels, being instruments of a crime in criminal cases Nos. 3416 and 3417 filed with the Court of First Instance of Palawan, the release of the vessels sans the corresponding order from the above-mentioned court would deprive the same of its authority to dispose of the vessels in the criminal cases and the Provincial Fiscal would not be able to utilize said vessels as evidence in the prosecution of said cases; (3) that as petitioners herein were in possession of one of the vessels in point, they cannot now be deprived of the legal custody thereof by reason of the dismissal of Civil Case No. 56701; (4) that petitioner Fisheries Commissioner has the power to seize and detain the vessels pursuant to Section 5 of Republic Act No. 3215 in relation to Sections 903 and 2210 of the Revised Tariff and Customs Code; (5) that respondents herein have not exhausted administrative remedies before coming to court; (6) that the compromise agreement approved by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources and indorsed to the Fisheries Commissioner is never a bar to the prosecution of the crime perpetrated by the crew members of the vessels belonging to respondent company. And again, on October 15, 1965, herein petitioners filed their memorandum praying for the denial of the application for preliminary mandatory injunction. On the same day, October 15, 1965, herein petitioners filed an urgent motion to submit additional documentary evidence. On October 18, 1965, herein petitioners, as defendants in said Civil Case No. 62799, filed their answer to the complaint with affirmative defenses, reiterating the grounds in their opposition to the issuance of a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction and adding that herein private respondent admitted committing the last violation when it offered in its letter dated September 21, 1965 to the Acting Commissioner of Fisheries, to compromise said last violation (Exh. 12, pp. 60-61, rec.). On said day, October 18, 1965, the respondent Judge issued the challenged order granting the issuance of the writ of preliminary mandatory injunction and issued the preliminary writ upon the filing by private respondent of a bond of P5,000.00 for the release of the two vessels(pp. 95-102, rec.). On October 19, 1965, herein petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration of the order issuing the preliminary writ on October 18, 1965 on the ground, among others, that on October 18, 1965 the Philippine Navy received from the Palawan Court of First Instance two orders dated October 2 and 4, 1965 requiring the Philippine Navy to hold the fishing boats in custody and directing that the said vessels should not be released until further orders from the Court, and that the bond of P5,000.00 is grossly insufficient to cover the Government's losses in case the two vessels, which are worth P495,000.00, are placed beyond the reach of the Government, thus frustrating their forfeiture as instruments of the crime (pp. 103-109, rec.).
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On November 23, 1965, respondent Judge denied the said motion for reconsideration (p. 110, rec.). WE rule that the respondent Judge of the Manila Court of First Instance acted without jurisdiction and with grave abuse of discretion when he issued on October 18, 1965 the order directing the issuance of a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction and when he refused to reconsider the same. I When the respondent Judge issued the challenged order on October 18, 1965 and the writ of preliminary mandatory injunction pursuant thereto, the fishing vessels were already under the jurisdiction of the Court of First Instance of Palawan by virtue of its orders of October 2 and 4, 1965, upon motion of the Provincial Fiscal (pp. 54, 55, rec.), directing the Philippine Navy to detain (pp. 108, 109, rec.) said vessels, which are subject to forfeiture as instruments

of the crime, to be utilized as evidence in Criminal Cases Nos. 3416 and 3417 for illegal fishing pending in said court (pp. 54-55, rec.). The said vessels were seized while engaging in prohibited fishing within the territorial waters of Palawan (pp. 45, 48,-53, rec.) and hence within the jurisdiction of the Court of First Instance of Palawan, in obedience to the rule that "the place where a criminal offense was committed not only determines the venue of the action but is an essential element of jurisdiction"(Lopez vs. Paras, L-25795, Oct. 29, 1966, 18 SCRA 616, 619). The jurisdiction over the vessels acquired by the Palawan Court of First Instance cannot be interfered with by another Court of First Instance. The orders of October 2 and 4, 1965 by the Palawan Court of First Instance expressly direct the Philippine Navy "to hold in custody" the two vessels and that "same should not be released without prior order or authority from this Court" (pp. 108, 109, rec.). Only the Palawan court can order the release of the two vessels. Not even the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources nor the Fisheries Commissioner can direct that the fishing boats be turned over to private respondent without risking contempt of court. The grave abuse of discretion committed by the respondent Judge was heightened by the fact that he did not reconsider his order of October 18, 1965 after he was informed by petitioners in their motion for reconsideration filed on October 19, 1965 that the Palawan Court of First Instance had already issued the two orders dated October 2 and 4, 1965 directing the Philippine Navy to hold in custody the fishing boats until further orders. It is basic that one court cannot interfere with the judgments, orders or decrees of another court of concurrent or coordinate jurisdiction having equal power to grant the relief sought by injunction; because if coordinate courts were allowed to interfere with each other's judgments, decrees or injunctions, the same would obviously lead to confusion and might seriously hinder the administration of justice (Ongsinco, etc. vs. Tan, et al., 97 Phil. 330; PNB vs. Javellana, 92 Phil. 525; Montesa vs. Manila Cordage Company, 92 Phil. 25; Hubahib vs. Insular Drug Company, 64 Phil. 119; Hacbang, et al. vs. The Leyte Auto Bus Company, et al., G.R. No. L-17907, May 30, 1963, 8 SCRA, 103, 107-109; NPC vs. Hon. Jesus de Vera, G.R. No. L-15763, Dec. 22, 1961, 3 SCRA, 646, 648; Cabigao vs. del Rosario, 44 Phil. 182; Araneta & Uy vs. Commonwealth Insurance Company, 55 OG 431; Moran, Comments on the Rules of Court, Vol. III, 1970 ed., p. 64). As early as October 2 and 4, 1965, the two boats were already in custodia legis under the sole control of the Palawan Court of First Instance. The Manila Court of First Instance cannot interfere with and change that possession (Hacbang vs. Leyte Bus Co., Inc., supra; NPC vs. Hon. Jesus de Vera, supra). It is immaterial that the vessels were then in the Philippine Navy basin in Manila; for the same in no way impugns the jurisdiction already vested in the Palawan court, which has custody thereof through the Philippine Navy. This is analogous to the situation in Colmenares versus Villar (L-27124, May 29, 1970, 33 SCRA 186, 188-9), wherein We ruled "where the illegal possession of firearms was committed in the town where the Court sits, the fact that the firearms were confiscated from the accused in another town does not affect the jurisdiction of the Court" (pp. 186, 189). It is likewise of no moment that the herein respondents were not notified by the herein petitioners of the seizure of the questioned vessels by the Philippine Navy, because such previous notice is not required by law. II The dismissal on December 10, 1964 of the first Civil Case No. 56701 by the Court of First Instance of Manila had the necessary effect of automatically dissolving the writ of preliminary mandatory injunction issued therein on April 28, 1964, directing the return of fishing vessel Tony Lex VI (pp. 156-157, rec.). Such a preliminary writ, like any other interlocutory order, cannot survive the main case of which it was but an incident; because "an ancillary writ of preliminary injunction loses its force and effect after the dismissal of the main petition" (National Sugar Workers'

Union, etc., vs. La Carlota Sugar Central, et al., L-23569, May 25, 1972, 45 SCRA 104, 109; Lazaro vs. Mariano, 59 Phil. 6Z7, 631; Saavedra vs. Ibaez, 56 Phil. 33, 37; Hi Caiji vs. Phil. Sugar Estate and Development Company, 50 Phil. 592, 594).
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Moreover, the writ of preliminary injunction issued on April 28, 1964 in Civil Case No. 56701 was directed against the detention of the vessel Tony Lex VI for violations committed prior to August 5, 1965, and therefore cannot and does not extend to the seizure and detention of said vessel for violations on August 5 or 6, 1965, which violations were not and could not possibly be the subject-matter of said Civil Case No. 56701 which was filed on April 3, 1964 (p. 12, rec.). III Herein petitioners can validly direct and/or effect the seizure of the vessels of private respondent for illegal fishing by the use of dynamite and without the requisite licenses. Section 4 of Republic Act No. 3512 approved on March 20, 1963 empowers the Fisheries Commissioner to carry out the provisions of the Fisheries Act, as amended, and all rules and regulations promulgated thereunder, to make searches and seizures personally or through his duly authorized representatives in accordance with the Rules of Court, of "explosives such as ... dynamites and the like ...; including fishery products, fishing equipment, tackle and other things that are subject to seizure under existing fishery laws"; and "to effectively implement the enforcement of existing fishery laws on illegal fishing." Paragraph 5 of Section 4 of the same Republic Act 3512 likewise transferred to and vested in the Philippine Fisheries Commission "all the powers, functions and duties heretofore exercised by the Bureau of Customs, Philippine Navy and Philippine Constabulary over fishing vessels and fishery matters ..." Section 12 of the Fisheries Act, otherwise known as Republic Act No. 4003, as amended, prohibits fishing with dynamites or other explosives which is penalized by Section 76 thereof "by a fine of not less than P1,500.00 nor more than P5,000.00, and by imprisonment for not less than one (1) year and six (6) months nor more than five (5) years, aside from the confiscation and forfeiture of all explosives, boats, tackles, apparel, furniture, and other apparatus used in fishing in violation of said Section 12 of this Act." Section 78 of the same Fisheries Law provides that "in case of a second offense, the vessel, together with its tackle, apparel, furniture and stores shall be forfeited to the Government." The second paragraph of Section 12 also provides that "the possession and/or finding, of dynamite, blasting caps and other explosives in any fishing boat shall constitute a presumption that the said dynamite and/or blasting capsand explosives are being used for fishing purposes in violation of this Section, and that the possession or discovery in any fishing boat or fish caught or killed by the use of dynamite or other explosives, under expert testimony, shall constitute a presumption that the owner, if present in the fishing boat, or the fishing crew have been fishing with dynamite or other explosives." (Emphasis supplied). Under Section 78 of the Fisheries Act, as amended, any person, association or corporation fishing in deep sea fishery without the corresponding license prescribed in Sections 17 to 22 Article V of the Fisheries Act or any other order or regulation deriving force from its provisions, "shall be punished for each offense by a fine of not more than P5,000.00, or imprisonment, for not more than one year, or both, in the discretion of the Court; Provided, That in case of an association or corporation, the President or manager shall be directly responsible for the acts of his employees or laborers if it is proven that the latter acted with his knowledge; otherwise the responsibility shall extend only as far as fine is concerned: Provided, further, That in the absence of a known owner of the vessel, the master, patron or person in charge of such vessel shall be responsible for any violation of this Act: and Provided, finally, That in case of a

second offense, the vessel together with its tackle, apparel, furniture and storesshall be forfeited to the Government" (Emphasis supplied). Under Section 13 of Executive Order No. 389 of December 23, 1950, reorganizing the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine Navy has the function, among others, "to assist the proper governmental agencies in the enforcement of laws and regulations pertaining to ... fishing ..." (46 OG 5905, 5911). Section 2210 of the Tariff and Customs Code, as amended by PD No. 34 of October 27, 1972, authorized any official or person exercising police authority under the provisions of the Code, to search and seize any vessel or air craft as well as any trunk, package, bag or envelope on board and to search any person on board for any breach or violation of the customs and tariff laws. When the Philippine Navy, upon request of the Fisheries Commissioner, apprehended on August 5 or 6, 1965 the fishing boats Tony Lex III and Tony Lex VI, otherwise known respectively as Srta. Agnes and Srta. Winnie, these vessels were found to be without the necessary license in violation of Section 903 of the Tariff and Customs Code and therefore subject to seizure under Section 2210 of the same Code, and illegally fishing with explosives and without fishing license required by Sections 17 and 18 of the Fisheries Law (pp. 46-47, rec.).
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The operation of the fishing boat Tony Lex III was suspended pursuant to the order dated January 28, 1964 issued by the Commissioner of Fisheries pending the final determination of the case against it for illegal fishing with explosives on January 21, 1964 (p. 34, rec.) and remained suspended until its apprehension on August 5 or 6, 1965 (p. 46, rec.). For illegal fishing with explosives on March 23, 1963, the renewal of the fishing boat license of Tony Lex VI was suspended for one year from the time said boat was moored at Pier 14 at North Harbor, Manila, without prejudice to the institution of a criminal case against its owner and/or operator, pursuant to the order dated May 19, 1964 issued by the Commissioner of Fisheries (pp. 35-36, rec.), the motion for reconsideration of which order was denied by the Commissioner of Fisheries in an order dated August 17, 1964 (pp. 41-42, rec.). For illegal fishing with dynamite on March 28, 1963, the operation of Tony Lex VI was suspended by the Commissioner of Fisheries in an order dated April 1, 1963 (p. 62, rec.). For illegal fishing again with explosives on April 25, 1963, the fishing boat Tony Lex VI together with its tackle, apparel, furniture and all other apparatus used in fishing was ordered confiscated and forfeited in favor of the Government and a fine in the amount of P5,000.00 was imposed on its owners-operators, without prejudice to the filing of the necessary criminal action, pursuant to the order of June 2, 1964 of the Commissioner of Fisheries(pp. 3738, rec.). Again, for comitting the same violation on June 19, 1963, a fine in the amount of P5,000.00 was imposed on the owners-operators of fishing boat Tony Lex VI pursuant to the order of June 4, 1964 issued by the Commissioner of Fisheries (pp. 39-40, rec.).. It appears, therefore, that since January 28, 1964, the fishing boat Tony Lex III was suspended from operating and was ordered moored at Pier 14, North Harbor, Manila (pp. 34, 46-47, rec.); and that the fishing vessel Tony Lex VI was suspended for one year from May 24, 1964 and was actually ordered forfeited to the Government pursuant to the order of June 2, 1964 for repeated violations of Section 12 of the Fisheries Act (pp. 37- 38. rec.). As a matter of fact, when apprehended on August 5 or 6, 1965, both vessels were found to be without any license or permit for coastwise trade or for fishing and unlawfully fishing with explosives, for which reason their owners and crew were accordingly indicted by the Provincial Fiscal of Palawan for illegal fishing with dynamite and without the requisite license (pp. 481w ph1.t

53, rec.). As heretofore intimated, the two fishing boats were apprehended on numerous occasions for fishing with dynamite from March 28, 1963 to March 11, 1964, which violations private respondent, as owner-operator, sought to compromise by offering to pay a fine of P21,000.00 for all said prior violations. Such previous violations of Sections 12, 17 and 18 of the Fisheries Act committed by the two fishing boats, Tony Lex III and Tony Lex VI, from March 28, 1963 until August 5 or 6, 1965, rendered the said vessels subject to forfeiture under Sections 76 and 78 of the Fisheries Act, as amended. Search and seizure without search warrant of vessels and air crafts for violations of the customs laws have been the traditional exception to the constitutional requirement of a search warrant, because the vessel can be quickly moved out of the locality or jurisdiction in which the search warrant must be sought before such warrant could be secured; hence it is not practicable to require a search warrant before such search or seizure can be constitutionally effected (Papa vs. Mago, L-27360, Feb. 28, 1968, 22 SCRA 857, 871-74; Magoncia vs. Palacio, 80 Phil. 770, 774; Caroll vs. U.S. 267, pp. 132, 149, 158; Justice Fernando, The Bill of Rights, 1972 ed., p. 225; Gonzales, Philippine Constitutional Law, 1966 ed., p. 300). The same exception should apply to seizures of fishing vessels breaching our fishery laws. They are usually equipped with powerful motors that enable them to elude pursuing ships of the Philippine Navy or Coast Guard. Another exception to the constitutional requirement of a search warrant for a valid search and seizure, is a search or seizure as an incident to a lawful arrest (Alvero vs. Dizon, 76 Phil. 637; Justice Fernando, The Bill of Rights, 1972 ed., p. 224). Under our Rules of Court, a police officer or a private individual may, without a warrant, arrest a person (a) who has committed, is actually committing or is about to commit an offense in his presence; (b) who is reasonably believed to have committed an offense which has been actually committed; or (c) who is a prisoner who has escaped from confinement while serving a final judgment or from temporary detention during the pendency of his case or while being transferred from one confinement to another (Sec. 6, Rule 113, Revised Rules of Court). In the case at bar, the members of the crew of the two vessels were caught in flagrante illegally fishing with dynamite and without the requisite license. Thus their apprehension without a warrant of arrest while committing a crime is lawful. Consequently, the seizure of the vessel, its equipment and dynamites therein was equally valid as an incident to a lawful arrest. The alleged compromise approved by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources on September 13, 1965 (pp. 63-64, 158-159, rec.) cannot be invoked by the respondents because the said compromise referred to about thirty violations of the fisheries law committed by the private respondent from March 28, 1963 to March 11, 1964. The violations by the two vessels of private respondent by reason of which these vessels were apprehended and detained by the Philippine Navy upon request of the Commissioner of Fisheries, were committed on August 5 or 6, 1965. Moreover, the power to compromise would exist only before a criminal prosecution is instituted; otherwise the Department Secretary or any of his sub-alterns can render criminal prosecutions for violations of the fisheries law a mere mockery. It is not in the public interest nor is it good policy to sustain the viewpoint that the Department Secretary can compromise criminal cases involving public, not private, offenses after the indictment had been instituted in court. The fishing vessels together with all their equipment and the dynamites found therein are not only evidence of the crime of illegal fishing but also subject to forfeiture in favor of the Government as instruments of the crime (Art. 45, Revised Penal Code, Sec. 78, Act No. 4003, as amended). Section 80(j) of Act No. 4003, as amended, precludes such a compromise the moment the Fisheries Commissioner decides to prosecute the criminal action in accordance with Sections 76 and 78 of the other penal provisions of the fisheries law. Furthermore, any compromise

shall be upon the recommendation of the Fisheries Commission (Section 80[i], Act No. 4003), which did not recommend such a compromise for the violation on August 5 or 6, 1965 of Section 12 in relation to Sections 76 and 78 of Act No. 4003, as amended. On the contrary, the Fisheries Commissioner requested the Provincial Fiscal to institute the criminal cases (pp. 43-45, rec.) and the Provincial Fiscal filed the corresponding informations docketed as Criminal Cases Nos. 3416 and 3417 on September 30, 1965 against the owners and the members of the crew of the vessels (pp. 48-53, rec.). It should be noted that in the first indorsement dated September 13, 1965 of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources approving the compromise fine of P21,000.00 for the various violations committed previous to August 5 or 6, 1965 (pp. 34-42, 47, 58-64, 149-155, 158-159, rec.), the Department Secretary "believes that the offer made by the company was an implied admission of violations of said provisions of the Fisheries Law and regulations, ..." (pp. 63, 158, rec.). The said approval was granted after the private respondent filed a motion for reconsideration of the indorsement dated March 5, 1965 of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources disapproving the offer by private respondent to pay the fine by way of compromise. There can be no dispute that the term fishing boat (employed in the second paragraph of Section 12 of the Fisheries Act applies to the vessels Tony Lex III and Tony Lex VI. Even private respondent refers to said fishing boats as fishing vessels "engaged in fishing operations" or "in commercial fishing" in paragraph IV of its complaint in Civil Case No. 62799 (p. 18, rec.), as well as in its various communications to the Fisheries Commissioner (pp. 60-61, 65, 82, rec.). The two fishing vessels Tony Lex III and Tony Lex VI likewise fall under the term vessel used in Sections 17, 76 and 78, as well as the term boats utilized in the second paragraph of Section 76 of the Fisheries Act. They can also fall under the term fishing equipment employed in Section 4 of Republic Act No. 3512; because a fishing equipment is never complete and cannot be effectively used in off-shore or deep-sea fishing without the fishing boat or fishing vessel itself. And these two vessels of private respondent certainly come under the term fishing vessels employed in paragraph 5 of Section 4 of the same Republic Act 3512 creating the Fisheries Commission.
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Hence, no useful purpose can be served in trying to distinguish between boat and vessel with reference to Tony Lex III and Tony Lex VI. As a matter of fact, the accepted definition of vessel includes "every description of water craft, large or small, used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water" (Cope versus Vallete, etc., 199 U.S. 625; U.S. vs. Holmes, 104 Fed. 884; Charles Barnes Co. vs. One Dredge Boat, 169 Fed. 895; and Yu Con vs. Ipil, 41 Phil. 780). The word boat in its ordinary sense, means any water craft (Monongahela River Construction, etc. vs. Hardsaw, 77 NE 363, 365). The fishing boats Tony Lex III and Tony Lex VI are likewise vessels within the meaning of the termvessel used in Sections 903 and 2210 of the Tariff and Customs Code. WHEREFORE, THE PETITION IS HEREBY GRANTED AND THE ORDER OF RESPONDENT JUDGE DATED OCTOBER 18, 1965, THE WRIT OF PRELIMINARY MANDATORY INJUNCTION ISSUED THEREUNDER AND THE ORDER DATED NOVEMBER 23, 1965, ARE HEREBY SET ASIDE AS NULL AND VOID, WITH COSTS AGAINST PRIVATE RESPONDENT. Castro (Chairman,), Esguerra, Muoz Palma and Martin, JJ., concur. Teehankee, J., took no part.

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SECOND DIVISION

COMMISSIONER OF CUSTOMS, Petitioner,

G.R. Nos. 111202-05

Present: - versus -

PUNO, J., Chairperson, THE COURT OF APPEALS; SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, CORONA, AZCUNA, and GARCIA, JJ.

Honorable ARSENIO M. GONONG, Presiding Judge Regional Trial Court, Manila, Branch 8; Honorable

MAURO T. ALLARDE, Presiding Judge, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT Kalookan City, Branch 123; AMADO SEVILLA and ANTONIO VELASCO, Special Sheriffs of Manila; JOVENAL SALAYON, Special Sheriff of Kalookan City, DIONISIO J. CAMANGON, Ex-Deputy Sheriff January 31, 2006 Promulgated:

of Manila and CESAR S. URBINO, SR., doing business under the name and style Duraproof Services, Respondents. x----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

DECISION
AZCUNA, J.:
These Petitions for Certiorari and Prohibition, with Prayers for a Writ of Preliminary Injunction and/or Temporary Restraining Order, are the culmination of several court cases wherein several resolutions and decisions are sought to be annulled. Petitioner Commissioner of Customs specifically assails the following:

A)

Decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila dated February 18, 1991 in Civil Case No. 89-51451;

B)

Order of the RTC of Kalookan dated May 28, 1991 in Special Civil Case No. C-234;

C)

Resolution of the Court of Appeals (CA) dated March 6, 1992 in CA-G.R. SP No. 24669;

D)

Resolution of the CA dated August 6, 1992 in CA-G.R. SP No. 28387;

E)

Resolution of the CA dated November 10, 1992 in CA-G.R. SP No. 29317;

F)

Resolution of the CA dated May 31, 1993 in CA-G.R. No. CV32746; and

G)

Decision of the CA dated July 19, 1993 in the consolidated petitions of CA-G.R. SP Nos. 24669, 28387 and 29317.

Petitioner also seeks to prohibit the CA and the RTC of Kalookan[1] from further acting in CA-G.R. CV No. 32746 and Civil Case No. 234, respectively.

The whole controversy revolves around a vessel and its cargo. On January 7, 1989, the vessel M/V Star Ace, coming from Singapore laden with cargo, entered the Port of San Fernando, La Union (SFLU) for needed repairs. The vessel and the cargo had an appraised value, at that time, of more or less Two Hundred Million Pesos (P200,000,000). When the Bureau of Customs later became suspicious that the vessels real purpose in docking was to smuggle its cargo into the country, seizure proceedings were instituted under S.I. Nos. 02-89 and 03-89 and, subsequently, two Warrants of Seizure and Detention were issued for the vessel and its cargo.

Respondent Cesar S. Urbino, Sr., does not own the vessel or any of its cargo but claimed a preferred maritime lien under a Salvage Agreement dated June 8, 1989. To protect his claim, Urbino initially filed two motions in the seizure and detention cases: a Motion to Dismiss and a Motion to Lift Warrant of Seizure and Detention.[2] Apparently not content with his administrative remedies, Urbino sought relief with the regular courts by filing a case for Prohibition, Mandamus and Damages before the RTC of SFLU[3] on July 26, 1989, seeking to restrain the District Collector of Customs from interfering with his salvage operation. The case was docketed as Civil Case No. 89-4267. On January 31, 1991 the RTC of SFLU dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction because of the pending seizure and detention cases. Urbino then elevated the matter to the CA where it was docketed as CA-G.R. CV No. 32746. The Commissioner of Customs, in response, filed a Motion to Suspend Proceedings, advising the CA that it intends to question the jurisdiction of the CA before this Court. The motion was denied on May 31, 1993. Hence, in this petition the Commissioner of Customs assails the Resolution F recited above and seeks to prohibit the CA from continuing to hear the case.

On January 9, 1990, while Civil Case No. 89-4267 was pending, Urbino filed another case for Certiorari and Mandamus with the RTC of Manila, presided by Judge Arsenio M. Gonong,[4] this time to enforce his maritime lien. Impleaded as defendants were the Commissioner of Customs, the District Collector of Customs, the owners of the vessel and cargo, Vlason Enterprises, Singkong Trading Company, Banco do Brazil,Dusit International Company Incorporated, Thai-Nam Enterprises Limited, Thai-United Trading Company Incorporated and Omega Sea Transport Company, and the vessel M/V Star Ace. This case was docketed as Civil Case No. 89-51451. The Office of the Solicitor General

filed a Motion to Dismiss on the ground that a similar case was pending with the RTC of SFLU. The Motion to Dismiss was granted on July 2, 1990, but only insofar as the Commissioner of Customs and the District Collector were concerned. The RTC of Manila proceeded to hear the case against the other parties and received evidence ex parte. The RTC of Manila later rendered a decision on February 18, 1991 finding in favor of Urbino(assailed Decision A recited above).

Thereafter, on March 13, 1991, a writ of execution was issued by the RTC of Manila. Respondent Camangon was appointed as Special Sheriff to execute the decision and he issued a notice of levy and sale against the vessel and its cargo. The Commissioner of Customs, upon learning of the notice of levy and sale, filed with the RTC of Manila a motion to recall the writ, but before it could be acted upon, Camangon had auctioned off the vessel and the cargo to Urbino for One Hundred and Twenty Million Pesos (P120,000,000). The following day, Judge Gonong issued an order commanding Sheriff Camangon to cease and desist from implementing the writ. Despite the order, Camangon issued a Certificate of Sale in favor of Urbino. A week later, Judge Gonong issued another order recalling the writ of execution. Both cease and desist and recall orders of JudgeGonong were elevated by Urbino to the CA on April 12, 1991 where it was docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 24669. On April 26, 1991, the CA issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) enjoining the RTC of Manila from enforcing its cease and desist and recall orders. The TRO was eventually substituted by a writ of preliminary injunction. A motion to lift the injunction was filed by the Commissioner of Customs but it was denied. Hence, in this petition the Commissioner of Customs assails Resolution C recited above.

On May 8, 1991, Urbino attempted to enforce the RTC of Manilas decision and the Certificate of Sale against the Bureau of Customs by filing a third case, a Petition for Certiorari, Prohibition and Mandamus with the RTC of Kaloocan.[5] The case was docketed as Civil Case No. 234. OnMay 28, 1991, the RTC of Kaloocan ordered the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction to enjoin the Philippine Ports Authority and the Bureau of Customs from interfering with the relocation of the vessel and its cargo by Urbino (assailed Order B recited above).

Meanwhile, on June 5, 1992, Camangon filed his Sheriffs Return with the Clerk of Court. On June 26, 1992, the Executive Judge for the RTC of Manila, Judge Bernardo P. Pardo,[6] having been informed of the circumstances of the sale, issued an order nullifying the report and all proceedings taken in connection therewith. With this order Urbino filed his fourth case with the CA on July 15, 1992, a Petition for Certiorari, Prohibition and Mandamus against Judge Pardo. This became CA-G.R. SP No. 28387. The CA issued a Resolution on August 6, 1992 granting the TRO against the Executive Judge to enjoin the implementation of his June 26, 1992 Order. Hence, in this petition the Commissioner of Customs assails Resolution D recited above.

Going back to the seizure and detention proceedings, the decision of the District Collector of Customs was to forfeit the vessel and cargo in favor of the Government. This decision was affirmed by the Commissioner of Customs. Three appeals were then filed with the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) by different parties, excluding Urbino, who claimed an interest in the vessel and cargo. These three cases were docketed as CTA Case No. 4492, CTA Case No. 4494 and CTA Case No. 4500. Urbino filed his own case, CTA Case No. 4497, but it was dismissed for want of capacity to sue. He, however, was allowed to intervene in CTA Case No. 4500. On October

5, 1992, the CTA issued an order authorizing the Commissioner of Customs to assign customs police and guards around the vessel and to conduct an inventory of the cargo. In response, onNovember 3, 1992, Urbino filed a fifth Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition with the CA to assail the order as well as the jurisdiction of the Presiding Judge and Associate Judges of the CTA in the three cases. That case was docketed as CA G.R. SP No. 29317. On November 10, 1992, the CA issued a Resolution reminding the parties that the vessel is under the control of the appellate court in CA-G.R. SP No. 24669 (assailed Resolution E recited above).

CA-G.R. SP Nos. 24669, 28387 and 29317 were later consolidated and the CA issued a joint Decision in July 19, 1993 nullifying and setting aside: 1) the Order recalling the writ of execution by Judge Gonong of the the RTC of Manila; 2) the Order of Executive Judge Pardo of the RTC of Manila nullifying the Sheriffs Report and all proceedings connected therewith; and 3) the October 19, 1993 Order of the CTA, on the ground of lack of jurisdiction. Hence, in these petitions, which have been consolidated, the Commissioner of Customs assails Decision G recited above.

For purposes of deciding these petitions, the assailed Decisions and Resolutions will be divided into three groups:

1.

The Resolution of the CA dated May 31, 1993 in CA-G.R. No. CV-32746 with the additional prayer to enjoin the CA from deciding the said case.

2.

The Order of the RTC of Kalookan dated May 28, 1991 in Special Civil Case No. C-234 with the additional prayer to enjoin the RTC ofKalookan from proceeding with said case.

3.

The Decision of the RTC of Manila dated February 18, 1991 in Civil Case No. 89-51451, the Resolutions of the CA dated March 6, 1992, August 6, 1992, November 10, 1992 and the Decision of the CA dated July 19, 1993 in the consolidated petitions CAG.R. SP Nos. 24669, 28387 and 29317.

First Group

The Commissioner of Customs seeks to nullify the Resolution of the CA dated May 31, 1993 denying the Motion to Suspend Proceedings and to prohibit the CA from further proceeding in CA-G.R. No. CV-32746 for lack of jurisdiction. This issue can be easily disposed of as it appears that the petition has become moot and academic, with the CA having terminated CA-G.R. No. CV-32746 by rendering its Decision on May 13, 2002 upholding the dismissal of the case by the RTC of SFLU for lack of jurisdiction, a finding that sustains the position of the Commissioner of Customs. This decision became final and entry of judgment was made on June 14, 2002.[7]

Second Group

The Court now proceeds to consider the Order granting an injunction dated May 28, 1991 in Civil Case No. C-234 issued by the RTC ofKalookan.

The Commissioner of Customs seeks its nullification and to prohibit the RTC of Kalookan from further proceeding with the case.

The RTC of Kalookan issued the Order against the Philippine Ports Authority and Bureau of Customs solely on the basis of Urbinos alleged ownership over the vessel by virtue of his certificate of sale. By this the RTC of Kalookan committed a serious and reversible error in interfering with the jurisdiction of customs authorities and should have dismissed the petition outright. In Mison v. Natividad,[8] this Court held that the exclusive jurisdiction of the Collector of Customs cannot be interfered with by regular courts even upon allegations of ownership.

To summarize the facts in that case, a warrant of seizure and detention was issued against therein plaintiff over a number of vehicles found in his residence for violation of customs laws. Plaintiff then filed a complaint before the RTC of Pampanga alleging that he is the registered owner of certain vehicles which the Bureau of Customs are threatening to seize and praying that the latter be enjoined from doing so. The RTC of Pampanga issued a TRO and eventually, thereafter, substituted it with a writ of preliminary injunction. This Court found that the proceedings conducted by the trial court were null and void as it had no jurisdiction over the res subject of the warrant of seizure and detention, holding that:

A warrant of seizure and detention having already been issued, presumably in the regular course of official duty, the Regional Trial Court of Pampangawas indisputably precluded from interfering in said proceedings. That in his complaint in Civil Case No. 8109 private respondent alleges ownership over several vehicles which are legally registered in his name, having paid all the taxes and corresponding licenses incident thereto, neither divests the

Collector of Customs of such jurisdiction nor confers upon said trial court regular jurisdiction over the case. Ownership of goods or the legality of its acquisition can be raised as defenses in a seizure proceeding; if this were not so, the procedure carefully delineated by law for seizure and forfeiture cases may easily be thwarted and set to naught by scheming parties. Even the illegality of the warrant of seizure and detention cannot justify the trial courts interference with the Collectors jurisdiction. In the first place, there is a distinction between the existence of the Collectors power to issue it and the regularity of the proceeding taken under such power. In the second place, even if there be such an irregularity in the latter, the Regional Trial Court does not have the competence to review, modify or reverse whatever conclusions may result therefrom x x x.

The facts in this case are like those in that case. Urbino claimed to be the owner of the vessel and he sought to restrain the PPA and the Bureau of Customs from interfering with his rights as owner. His remedy, therefore, was not with the RTC but with the CTA where the seizure and detention cases are now pending and where he was already allowed to intervene.

Moreover, this Court, on numerous occasions, cautioned judges in their issuance of temporary restraining orders and writs of preliminary injunction against the Collector of Customs based on the principle enunciated in Mison v. Natividad and has issued Administrative Circular No. 7-99 to carry out this policy.[9] This Court again reminds all concerned that the rule is clear: the Collector of Customs has exclusive jurisdiction over seizure and forfeiture proceedings and trial courts are precluded from assuming cognizance over such matters even through petitions for certiorari, prohibition or mandamus.

Third Group

The Decision of the RTC of Manila dated February 18, 1991 has the following dispositive portion:

WHEREFORE, IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, based on the allegations, prayer and evidence adduced, both testimonial and documentary, the Court is convinced, that, indeed, defendants/respondents are liable to plaintiff/petitioner in the amount prayed for in the petition for which [it] renders judgment as follows:

1. Respondent M/V Star Ace, represented by Capt. Nahum Rada, Relief Captain of the vessel and Omega Sea Transport Company, Inc., represented by Frank Cadacio is ordered to refrain from alienating or transfer[r]ing the vessel M/V Star Ace to any third parties;

2.

Singko Trading Company to pay the following:

a.

Taxes due the Government;

b.

Salvage fees on the vessel in the amount of $1,000,000.00 based on the Lloyds Standard Form of Salvage Agreement;

c.

Preservation, securing and guarding fees on the vessel in the amount of $225,000.00;

d.

Salaries of the crew from August 16, 1989 to December, in the amount of $43,000.00 and unpaid salaries from January 1990 up to the present;

e.

Attorneys fees in the amount of P656,000.00;

3. Vlazon Enterprises to pay plaintiff in the amount of P3,000,000.00 for damages;

4. Banco do Brazil to pay plaintiff in the amount of $300,000.00 in damages; and finally,

5.

Costs of suit.

SO ORDERED.

On the other hand, the CA Resolutions are similar orders for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction to enjoin Judge Gonong and Judge Pardo from enforcing their recall and nullification orders and the CTA from exercising jurisdiction over the case, to preserve the status quo pending resolution of the three petitions.

Finally, the Decision of the CA dated July 19, 1993 disposed of all three petitions in favor of Urbino, and has the following dispositive portion:

ACCORDINGLY, in view of the foregoing disquisitions, all the three (3) consolidated petitions for certiorari are hereby GRANTED.

THE assailed Order of respondent Judge Arsenio Gonong of the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 8, dated, April 5, 1991, in the first assailed petition for certiorari (CA-G.R. SP No. 24669); the assailed Order of Judge Bernardo Pardo, Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 8, dated July 6, 1992, in the second petition for certiorari (CA-G.R. SP No. 28387); and Finally, the assailed order or Resolution en banc of the respondent Court of Tax Appeals[,] Judges Ernesto Acosta, Ramon de Veyra and Manuel Gruba, under date of October 5, 1992, in the third petition for certiorari (CAG.R. SP No. 29317) are all hereby NULLIFIED and SET ASIDE thereby giving way to the entire decision dated February 18, 1991 of the respondent Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 8, in Civil Case No. 89-51451 which remains valid, final and executory, if not yet wholly executed.

THE writ of preliminary injunction heretofore issued by this Court on March 6, 1992 and reiterated on July 22, 1992 and this date against the named respondents specified in the dispositive portion of the judgment of the respondent Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 8, in the first petition for certiorari, which remains valid, existing and enforceable, is hereby MADE PERMANENT without prejudice (1) to the petitioners remaining unpaid obligations to hereinparty-intervenor in accordance with the Compromise Agreement or in connection with the decision of the respondent lower court in CA-G.R. SP No. 24669 and (2) to the government, in relation to the forthcoming decision of the respondent Court of Tax Appeals on the amount of taxes, charges, assessments or obligations that are due, as totally secured and fully guaranteed payment by petitioners bond, subject to relevant rulings of the Department of Finance and other prevailing laws and jurisprudence.

We make no pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.

The Court rules in favor of the Commissioner of Customs.

First of all, the Court finds the decision of the RTC of Manila, in so far as it relates to the vessel M/V Star Ace, to be void as jurisdiction was never acquired over the vessel.[10] In filing the case, Urbino had impleaded the vessel as a defendant to enforce his alleged maritime lien. This meant that he brought an action in rem under the Code of Commerce under which the vessel may be attached and sold.[11] However, the basic operative fact for the institution and perfection of proceedings in rem is the actual or constructive possession of the res by the tribunal empowered by law to conduct the proceedings.[12] This means that to acquire jurisdiction over the vessel, as a defendant, the trial court must have obtained either actual or constructive possession over it. Neither was accomplished by the RTC of Manila.

In his comment to the petition, Urbino plainly stated that petitioner has actual[sic] physical custody not only of the goods and/or cargo but the subject vessel, M/V Star Ace, as well.[13] This is clearly an admission that the RTC of Manila did not have jurisdiction over the res. WhileUrbino contends that the Commissioner of Customs custody was illegal, such fact, even if true, does not deprive the Commissioner of Customs of jurisdiction thereon. This is a question that ought to be resolved in the seizure and forfeiture cases, which are now pending with the CTA, and not by the regular courts as a collateral matter to enforce his lien. By simply filing a case in rem against the vessel, despite its being in the custody of customs officials, Urbino has circumvented the rule that regular trial courts are devoid of any competence to pass upon the validity or regularity of seizure and forfeiture proceedings conducted in the Bureau of Customs, on his mere assertion that the administrative proceedings were a nullity.[14]

On the other hand, the Bureau of Customs had acquired jurisdiction over the res ahead and to the exclusion of the RTC of Manila. The forfeiture proceedings conducted by the Bureau of Customs are in the nature of proceedings in rem[15] and jurisdiction was obtained from the moment the vessel entered the SFLU port. Moreover, there is no question that forfeiture proceedings were instituted and the vessel was seized even before the filing of the RTC of Manila case.

The Court is aware that Urbino seeks to enforce a maritime lien and, because of its nature, it is equivalent to an attachment from the time of its existence.[16] Nevertheless, despite his liens constructive attachment, Urbino still cannot claim an advantage as his lien only came about after the warrant of seizure and detention was issued and implemented. The Salvage Agreement, upon which Urbino based his lien, was entered into on June 8, 1989. The warrants of seizure and detention, on the other hand, were issued on January 19 and 20, 1989. And to remove further doubts that the forfeiture case takes precedence over the RTC of Manila case, it should be noted that forfeiture retroacts to the date of the commission of the offense, in this case the day the vessel entered the country.[17] A maritime lien, in contrast, relates back to the period when it first attached,[18] in this case the earliest retroactive date can only be the date of the Salvage Agreement. Thus, when the vessel and its cargo are ordered forfeited, the effect will retroact to the moment the vessel entered Philippine waters.

Accordingly, the RTC of Manila decision never attained finality as to the defendant vessel, inasmuch as no jurisdiction was acquired over it, and the decision cannot be binding and the writ of execution issued in connection therewith is null and void.

Moreover, even assuming that execution can be made against the vessel and its cargo, as goods and chattels to satisfy the liabilities of the other defendants who have an interest therein, the RTC of Manila may not execute its decision against them while, as found by this Court, these are under the proper and lawful custody of the Bureau of Customs.[19] This is especially true when, in case of finality of the order of forfeiture, the execution cannot anymore cover the vessel and cargo as ownership of the Government will retroact to the date of entry of the vessel into Philippine waters.

As regards the jurisdiction of the CTA, the CA was clearly in error when it issued an injunction against it from deciding the forfeiture case on the basis that it interfered with the subject of ownership over the vessel which was, according to the CA, beyond the jurisdiction of the CTA. Firstly, the execution of the Decision against the vessel and cargo, as aforesaid, was a nullity and therefore the sale of the vessel was invalid. Without a valid certificate of sale, there can be no claim of ownership which Urbino can present against the Government. Secondly, as previously stated, allegations of ownership neither divest the Collector of Customs of such jurisdiction nor confer upon the trial court jurisdiction over the case. Ownership of goods or the legality of its acquisition can be raised as defenses in a seizure proceeding.[20] The actions of the Collectors of Customs are appealable to the Commissioner of Customs, whose decision, in turn, is subject to the exclusive appellate jurisdiction of the CTA.[21] Clearly, issues of ownership over goods in the custody of custom officials are within the power of the CTA to determine.

WHEREFORE, the consolidated petitions are GRANTED. The Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Manila dated February 18, 1991 in Civil Case No. 89-51451, insofar as it affects the vessel M/V Star Ace, the Order of the Regional Trial Court of Kalookan dated May 28, 1991 in Special Civil Case No. C-234, the Resolution of the Court of Appeals dated March 6, 1992 in CA-G.R. SP No. 24669, the Resolution of the Court of Appeals dated August 6, 1992 in CA-G.R. SP No. 28387, the Resolution of the Court of Appeals dated November 10, 1992 in CA-G.R. SP No. 29317 and the Decision of the Court of Appeals dated July 19, 1993 in the consolidated petitions in CA-G.R. SP Nos. 24669, 28387 and 29317 are all SET ASIDE. The Regional Trial Court of Kalookan is enjoined from further acting in Special Civil Case No. C-234. The Order of respondent JudgeArsenio M. Gonong dated April 5, 1991 and the Order of then Judge Bernardo P. Pardo dated June 26, 1992 are REINSTATED. The Court of Tax Appeals is ordered to proceed with CTA Case No. 4492, CTA Case No. 4494 and CTA Case No. 4500. No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.

ADOLFO S. AZCUNA Associate Justice WE CONCUR:

REYNATO S. PUNO Chairperson

ANGELINA SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ Associate Justice

RENATO C. CORONA Associate Justice

CANCIO C. GARCIA Associate Justice

ATTESTATION
I attest that the conclusions in the above decision were reached in consultation before the cases were assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.

REYNATO S. PUNO Associate Justice Chairperson, Second Division

CERTIFICATION
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the Division Chairmans Attestation, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above Decision were reached in consultation before the cases were assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.

ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN Chief Justice

[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]

[10]

[11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16]

[17]

[18] [19] [20] [21]

Branch 123. Both were denied by the District Collector of Customs. Branch 29. Branch 8. Branch 123. Subsequently, a Member of this Court and now retired. CA-G.R. CV No. 32746, Rollo, pp. 309-316 & 372. G.R. No. 82586, September 11, 1992, 213 SCRA 734. Violation of this Circular has even led to the dismissal from service of judges, see Zuo v. Cabredo, A.M. No. RTJ-03-1779, April 30, 2003, 402 SCRA 75. Previous decisions of this Court have set aside the same judgment in favor of two other defendants to the case, namely: Vlason Enterprises Corp. (G.R. Nos. 121662-64, July 6, 1999) and Banco do Brasil (G.R. Nos. 121576-78, June 16, 2000). Ivancich v. Odlin, et al., 1 Phil. 284 (1902). Commissioner of Customs v. Makasiar, G.R. No. 79307, August 29, 1989, 177 SCRA 27. Rollo, p. 368. Republic v. Bocar, L-35260, September 4, 1979, 93 SCRA 78. Vierneza v. Commissioner of Customs, L-24348, July 30, 1968, 24 SCRA 394. Quasha Asperilla Ancheta Valmonte Pea & Marcos v. Juan, L-49140, November 19, 1982, 118 SCRA 505. Carrara Marble Philippines, Inc. v. Commissioner of Customs, G.R. No. 129680, September 1, 1999, 313 SCRA 453. Philippine National Bank v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 128661, August 8, 2000, 337 SCRA 381. Virata v. Aquino, L-35027, September 10, 1973, 53 SCRA 24. Mison v. Natividad, supra, note 8. Bureau of Customs v. Ogario, G.R. No. 138081, March 30, 2000, 329 SCRA 289.

PICOP vs Base metals dec 6, 2006


DOCTRINE The Presidential Warranty cannot, in any manner, be construed as a contractual undertaking assuring PICOP of exclusive possession and enjoyment of its concession areas. Such an interpretation would result in the complete abdication by the State in favor of PICOP of the sovereign power to control and supervise the exploration, development and utilization of the natural resources in the area.

FACTS Central Mindanao Mining and Development Corporation entered into a Mines Operating Agreement with Banahaw Mining and Development Corporation

Pursuant to the terms of the Agreement, Banahaw Mining filed applications for Mining Lease Contracts over the mining claims with the Bureau of Mines. On April 29, 1988, Banahaw Mining was issued a Mines Temporary Permit authorizing it to extract and dispose of precious minerals found within its mining claims

Since a portion of Banahaw Mining's mining claims was located in petitioner PICOP's logging concession in Agusan del Sur, Banahaw Mining and petitioner PICOP entered into a Memorandum of Agreement, whereby, in mutual recognition of each other's right to the area concerned, petitioner PICOP allowed Banahaw Mining an access/right of way to its mining claims

Banahaw Mining thereafter converted its mining claims to applications for Mineral Production Sharing Agreements.

While the MPSA were pending, Banahaw Mining, on December 18, 1996, decided to sell/assign its rights and interests over thirty-seven mining claims in favor of private respondent Base Metals Mineral Resources Corporation (Base Metals for brevity). The transfer included mining claims held by Banahaw Mining in its own right as claim owner, as well as those covered by its mining operating agreement with CMMCI.

Upon being informed of the development, CMMCI, as claim owner, immediately approved the assignment made by Banahaw Mining in favor of private respondent Base Metals, thereby recognizing private respondent Base Metals as the new operator of its claims

On November 18, 1997, petitioner PICOP filed with the Mines Geo-Sciences Bureau (MGB), Caraga Regional Office No. XIII an Adverse Claim and/or Opposition to private respondent Base Metals' application on the following grounds:

I. THE APPROVAL OF THE APPLICATION AND ISSUANCE OF THE MPSA OF BASE METALS WILL VIOLATE THE CONSTITUTIONAL MANDATE AGAINST IMPAIRMENT OF OBLIGATION IN A CONTRACT

The Court of Appeals upheld the decision of the MAB, ruling that the Presidential Warranty of September 25, 1968 issued by then President Ferdinand E. Marcos merely confirmed the timber license granted to PICOP and warranted the latter's peaceful and adequate possession and enjoyment of its concession areas. It was only given upon the request of the Board of Investments to establish the boundaries of PICOP's timber license agreement. The Presidential Warranty did not convert PICOP's timber license into a contract because it did not create any obligation on the part of the government in favor of PICOP. Thus, the nonimpairment clause finds no application. Neither did the Presidential Warranty grant PICOP the exclusive possession, occupation and exploration of the concession areas covered. If that were so, the government would have effectively surrendered its police power to control and supervise the exploration, development and utilization of the country's natural resources. ISSUE: w/n the impairment of contracts apply? HELD No. The guaranty is merely a collateral inducement

An examination of the Presidential Warranty at once reveals that it simply reassures PICOP of the government's commitment to uphold the terms and conditions of its timber license and guarantees PICOP's peaceful and adequate possession and enjoyment of the areas which are the basic sources of raw materials for its wood processing complex. The warranty covers only the right to cut, collect, and remove timber in its concession area, and does not extend to the utilization of other resources, such as mineral resources, occurring within the concession.

The Presidential Warranty cannot, in any manner, be construed as a contractual undertaking assuring PICOP of exclusive possession and enjoyment of its concession areas. Such an interpretation would result in the complete abdication by the State in favor of PICOP of the sovereign power to control and supervise the exploration, development and utilization of the natural resources in the area.

FELIPE YSMAEL, JR. & CO., INC. Vs. THE DEPUTY EXECUTIVE SECRETARY

Facts:

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

Issue:

Whether or not the petitioners cancellation of timber license was a violation of his right as forest productbusinessman

Held:

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. L26990, 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

SUNVILLE vs. JUDGE ABAD 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.

FACTS: Sunville was granted a Timber License Agreement (TLA) authorizing it to exploit timber in Lison Valley, Zamboanga del Sur. Respondents filed a petition with the DENR to annul the said TLA due to some serious violations of its conditions and provisions of forestry laws, carried out by petitioner. They likewise filed a complaint for injunction in the RTC, based on the same causes of action. Sunville filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction of the court and non-exhaustion of administrative remedies. The motion was denied by Judge Abad of the RTC. The CA affirmed and held that the 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 given the petitioners operations have caused heavy siltation in various rivers. ISSUE: Whether the respondents should first exhaust administrative remedies? HELD: YES. 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. 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. As correctly suggested by the 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; (2) when the administrative body is in estoppel; (3) when the act complained of is patently illegal; (4) when there is urgent need for judicial intervention; (5) when the claim involved is small; (6) when irreparable damage will be suffered; (7) when there is no other plain, speedy and adequate remedy; (8) when strong public interest is involved; (9) when the subject of the controversy is private land; and 10) in quo warranto proceedings. In this case, the Forest Management Bureau of the DENR should be allowed to rule in the first instance on this controversy coming under its express powers before the courts of justice may intervene. The respondents have failed to satisfactorily establish that the extraordinary circumstances to justify deviation from the doctrine by exhaustion of administrative remedies and immediate resort to the courts. In fact, Sunville has stopped its operations in compliance with the order of the DENR.

LOEONARDO A. PAAT Vs. COURT OF APPEALS

Facts:

On May 19, 1989 when the truck of private respondent Victoria de Guzman while on its way to Bulacan from San Jose, Baggao, Cagayan, was seized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR, for brevity) personnel in Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya because the driver could not produce the required documents for the forest products found concealed in the truck. Petitioner Jovito Layugan, the Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer (CENRO) in Aritao, Cagayan, issued on May 23, 1989 an order of confiscation of the truck and gave the owner thereof fifteen (15) days within which to submit an explanation why the truck should not be forfeited. Private respondents, however, failed to submit the required explanation. On June 22, 1989, 1 Regional Executive Director Rogelio Baggayan of DENR sustained petitioner Layugan's action of confiscation and ordered the forfeiture of the truck invoking Section 68-A of Presidential Decree No. 705 as amended by Executive Order No. 277. Private respondents filed a letter of reconsideration dated June 28, 1989 of the June 22, 1989 order of Executive Director Baggayan, which was, however, denied in a subsequent order of July 12, 1989. 2 Subsequently, the case was brought by the petitioners to the Secretary of DENR pursuant to private respondents' statement in their letter dated June 28, 1989 that in case their letter for reconsideration would be denied then "this letter should be considered as an appeal to the Secretary." 3 Pending resolution however of the appeal, a suit for replevin, docketed as Civil Case 4031, was filed by the private respondents against petitioner Layugan and Executive Director Baggayan 4 with the Regional Trial Court, Branch 2 of Cagayan, 5 which issued a writ ordering the return of the truck to private respondents. 6 Petitioner Layugan and Executive Director Baggayan filed a motion to dismiss with the trial court contending, inter alia, that private respondents had no cause of action for their failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss in an order dated December 28, 1989. 7 Their motion for reconsideration having been likewise denied, a petition for certiorari was filed by the petitioners with the respondent Court of Appeals which sustained the trial court's order ruling that the question involved is purely a legal question. 8 Hence, this present petition, 9 with prayer for temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction, seeking to reverse the decision of the respondent Court of Appeals was filed by the petitioners on September 9, 1993. By virtue of the Resolution dated September 27, 1993, 10 the prayer for the issuance of temporary restraining order of petitioners was granted by this Court.

Issue:

Whether or not the sevretary of DENR and his representatives are empowered to confiscate and forfeit conveyances used in transporting illegal forest product in favor of the government.

Held:

A reading, however, of the law persuades us not to go along with private respondents' thinking not only because the aforequoted provision apparently does not mention nor include "conveyances" that can be the subject of confiscation by the courts, but to a large extent, due to the fact that private respondents' interpretation of the subject provision unduly restricts the clear intention of the law and inevitably reduces the other provision of Section 68-A, which is quoted herein below:
Sec. 68-A. Administrative Authority of the Department or His Duly Authorized Representative To Order Confiscation. In all cases of violation of this Code or other forest laws, rules and regulations, the Department Head or his duly authorized representative , may order the confiscation of any forest products illegally cut, gathered, removed, or possessed or abandoned, and all conveyances used either by land, water or air in the commission of the offense and to dispose of the same in accordance with pertinent laws, regulations and policies on the matter. (Emphasis ours)

It is, thus, clear from the foregoing provision that the Secretary and his duly authorized representatives are given the authority to confiscate and forfeit any conveyances utilized in violating the Code or other forest laws, rules and regulations. The phrase "to dispose of the same" is broad enough to cover the act of forfeiting conveyances in favor of the government. The only limitation is that it should be made "in accordance with pertinent laws, regulations or policies on the matter." In the construction of statutes, it must be read in such a way as to give effect to the purpose projected in the statute. 33 Statutes should be construed in the light of the object to be achieved and the evil or mischief to be suppressed, and they should be given such construction as will advance the object, suppress the mischief, and secure the benefits intended. 34 In this wise, the observation of the Solicitor General is significant, thus:
But precisely because of the need to make forestry laws "more responsive to present situations and realities" and in view of the "urgency to conserve the remaining resources of the country," that the government opted to add Section 68-A. This amendatory provision is an administrative remedy totally separate and distinct from criminal proceedings. More than anything else, it is intended to supplant the inadequacies that

characterize enforcement of forestry laws through criminal actions. The preamble of EO 277-the law that added Section 68-A to PD 705-is most revealing: "WHEREAS, there is an urgency to conserve the remaining forest resources of the country for the benefit and welfare of the present and future generations of Filipinos; WHEREAS, our forest resources may be effectively conserved and protected through the vigilant enforcement and implementation of our forestry laws, rules and regulations; WHEREAS, the implementation of our forestry laws suffers from technical difficulties, due to certain inadequacies in the penal provisions of the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines; and WHEREAS, to overcome this difficulties, there is a need to penalize certain acts more responsive to present situations and realities;"

Republic vs. Naguiat (Jan. 24, 2006)


unclassified lands cannot be acquired by adverse possession/occupation; occupation in the concept of an owner however long cannot ripen into private ownership and be registered as a title. Facts: Respondent applies for registration of title to 4 parcels of land contending she is the owner of the said land which she acquired from the LID Corporation which in turn acquired the same from persons who have been in possession thereof for more than 30 years. The Republic filed in opposition that said lands belong to the public domain and not subject to private appropriation. Issue: Whether or not the land in dispute as a forest land belonging to public domain may be appropriated as private property. Ruling: For a public forest land/reserves to be subject for private appropriation, it requires an express and positive act of the government that it will become a part of alienable and disposable agricultural lands of public domain. Occupation in the concept of an owner cannot ripen into private ownership and be registered to as a title.

Spouses GEMINIANO and AMPARO DE OCAMPO and Spouses PEDRO and CRISANTA SANTOS, petitioners, vs. FEDERICO ARLOS, MARY ARLOS, TEOFILO OJERIO and BELLA OJERIO, respondents. DECISION PANGANIBAN, J.: Under the Public Land Act as amended, only titles to alienable and disposable lands of the public domain may be judicially confirmed. Unless a public land is reclassified and declared as such, occupation thereof in the concept of owner, no matter how long ago, cannot confer ownership or possessory rights. A suit for the reversion of such property to the State may be instituted only by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).
The Facts

Federico S. Arlos and Teofilo D. Ojerio filed an application for registration, docketed as Land Registration Case No. N-340, wherein they seek judicial confirmation of their titles [to] three parcels of land, all located at Cabcaben, Mariveles, Bataan,. Spouses Geminiano de Ocampo and Amparo De Ocampo and spouses Pedro Santos and Crisanta Santos opposed the application for registration, alleging that they are the co-owners of Lots 1 and 2 of Plan SGS 3062, situated at Cabcaben, Mariveles, Bataan, and their ownership is evidenced by Transfer Certificate of Title Nos. T-43298 and T-44205, and that they became owners of said lots by purchase from the government through sales patents. The Republic of the Philippines also opposed the application, contending that neither the applicants nor their predecessors-in-interests have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the lands in question for at least 30 years immediately

preceding the filing of the application; and that the parcels of land applied for are portions of the public domain belonging to the Republic of the Philippines not subject to private appropriation. the CA ruled that petitioners had failed to comply with the Public Land Act, which required sales patent applicants to be the actual occupants and cultivators of the land. It held that the testimonies of petitioners, which were incongruous with reality, bolstered the finding that [they had] never occupied, cultivated or made improvements on the property.
The Issues

ISSUE: Whther or not (1) the registration of respondents title under the Public Land Act is proper?
HELD:

Respondents application for registration of title to the three parcels of land that were once part of the public domain is governed by the Public Land Act, a title may be judicially confirmed under Section 48 of the Public Land Act only if it pertains to alienable lands of the public domain. Unless such assets are reclassified and considered disposable and alienable, occupation thereof in the concept of owner, no matter how long cannot ripen into ownership and be registered as a title. Verily, Presidential Decree No. 1073 clarified Section 48 (b) of the Public Land Act by specifically declaring that the latter applied only to alienable and disposable lands of the public domain. In the present case, the disputed land which was formerly a part of a US military reservation that had been turned over to the Philippine government in 1965, was declared disposable and alienable only in 1971. Second, respondents and their predecessors-in-interest could not have occupied the subject property from 1947 until 1971 when the land was

declared alienable and disposable, because it was a military reservation at the time. Hence, it was not subject to occupation, entry or settlement. We reiterate that the land was declared alienable only in 1971; hence, respondents have not satisfied the thirty-year requirement under the Public Land Act. Moreover, they could not have occupied the property for thirty years, because it formed part of a military reservation. Clearly then, their application for the registration of their titles was erroneously granted by the appellate and the trial courts.

Amunategui vs Director of Forestry 126 SCRA 69Facts: There were two petitions for review on certiorariquestioning the decision of the Court of Appealswhich declared the disputed property as forestlan d, not sub je ct to t itlin g in f a vo r of p rivate persons, Borre and Amunategui. The Director of Forestry, through the ProvincialFiscal of Capiz, also filed an opposition to theapplication for registration of title claiming thatthe land was mangrove swamp which was stillclassified as forest land and part of the publicdomain.Another oppositor, Emeterio Bereber filed hisopposition insofar as a portion of Lot No. 885c o n t a i n i n g 1 1 7 , 9 5 6 s q u a r e m e t e r s w a s concerned and prayed that title to said portionbe confirmed and registered in his name. Issue: W O N t h e l o t i n q u e s t i o n c a n b e s u b j e c t o f re gistrat io n an d conf ir mat io n of t itle in the name of the private person. Held: The opposition of the Director of Forestry wasstrengthened by the appellate court's findingthat timber licenses had to be issued to certainlicensees and e ven Jo se Amu na te gu i him se lf t o o k t h e t r o u b l e t o a s k f o r a l i c e n s e t o c u t timber within the area. It was only sometime in1 9 5 0 t h a t t h e p r o p e r t y w a s c o n v e r t e d i n t o fishpond but only after a previous warning fromthe District Forester that the same could not bed o n e b e c a u s e i t w a s c l a s s i f i e d a s " p u b l i c forest.A forested area classified as forest land of thepublic domain does not lose such classificationsimply because loggers or settlers may havestripped it of its forest cover. "Forest lands" donot ha ve to b e on m ount ain s o r in out of t he w a y p l a c e s . S w a m p y a r e a s c o v e r e d b y mangrove trees, nipa palms, and other treesgrowing in brackish or sea water may also beclassif ied a s f ore st land. The p osse ssio n of forest lands, no matter how long, cannot ripenint o p rivate o wne rship . The ref o re, the lo t in question never ceased to be classified as forestland of public domain.
The ruling in Heirs of Amunategui v. Director of Forestry (126 SCRA 69) governs applications for confirmation of imperfect title. The applicant shoulders the burden of overcoming the presumption that the land sought to be registered forms part of the public domain.

Spouses GEMINIANO and AMPARO DE OCAMPO and Spouses PEDRO and CRISANTA SANTOS, petitioners, vs. FEDERICO ARLOS, MARY ARLOS, TEOFILO OJERIO and BELLA OJERIO, respondents. DECISION PANGANIBAN, J.: Under the Public Land Act as amended, only titles to alienable and disposable lands of the public domain may be judicially confirmed. Unless a public land is reclassified and declared as such, occupation thereof in the concept of owner, no matter how long ago, cannot confer ownership or possessory rights. A suit for the reversion of such property to the State may be instituted only by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).
The Facts

Federico S. Arlos and Teofilo D. Ojerio filed an application for registration, docketed as Land Registration Case No. N-340, wherein they seek judicial confirmation of their titles [to] three parcels of land, all located at Cabcaben, Mariveles, Bataan,. Spouses Geminiano de Ocampo and Amparo De Ocampo and spouses Pedro Santos and Crisanta Santos opposed the application for registration, alleging that they are the co-owners of Lots 1 and 2 of Plan SGS 3062, situated at Cabcaben, Mariveles, Bataan, and their ownership is evidenced by Transfer Certificate of Title Nos. T-43298 and T-44205, and that they became owners of said lots by purchase from the government through sales patents. The Republic of the Philippines also opposed the application, contending that neither the applicants nor their predecessors-in-interests have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the lands in question for at least 30 years immediately

preceding the filing of the application; and that the parcels of land applied for are portions of the public domain belonging to the Republic of the Philippines not subject to private appropriation. the CA ruled that petitioners had failed to comply with the Public Land Act, which required sales patent applicants to be the actual occupants and cultivators of the land. It held that the testimonies of petitioners, which were incongruous with reality, bolstered the finding that [they had] never occupied, cultivated or made improvements on the prop erty.
The Issues

ISSUE: Whther or not (1) the registration of respondents title under the Public Land Act is proper?
HELD:

Respondents application for registration of title to the three parcels of land that were once part of the public domain is governed by the Public Land Act, a title may be judicially confirmed under Section 48 of the Public Land Act only if it pertains to alienable lands of the public domain. Unless such assets are reclassified and considered disposable and alienable, occupation thereof in the concept of owner, no matter how long cannot ripen into ownership and be registered as a title. Verily, Presidential Decree No. 1073 clarified Section 48 (b) of the Public Land Act by specifically declaring that the latter applied only to alienable and disposable lands of the public domain. In the present case, the disputed land which was formerly a part of a US military reservation that had been turned over to the Philippine government in 1965, was declared disposable and alienable only in 1971. Second, respondents and their predecessors-in-interest could not have occupied the subject property from 1947 until 1971 when the land was

declared alienable and disposable, because it was a military reservation at the time. Hence, it was not subject to occupation, entry or settlement. We reiterate that the land was declared alienable only in 1971; hence, respondents have not satisfied the thirty-year requirement under the Public Land Act. Moreover, they could not have occupied the property for thirty years, because it formed part of a military reservation. Clearly then, their application for the registration of their titles was erroneously granted by the appellate and the trial courts.

1. G.R. No. 32266. February 27, 1989.* THE DIRECTOR OF FORESTRY, petitioner, vs. RUPERTO A. VILLAREAL, respondent. FACTS: The said land consists of 178,113 square meters of mangrove swamps located in the municipality of Sapian, Capiz. RupertoVillareal applied for its registration on January 25, 1949, alleging that he and his predecessors-in-interest had been in possession of the land for more than forty years. He was opposed by several persons, including the petitioner on behalf of the Republic of the Philippines. After trial, the application was approved by the Court of First Instance of Capiz. The decision was affirmed by the Court of Appeals. The Director of Forestry then came to this Court in a petition for review on certiorari claiming that the land in dispute was forestal in nature and not subject to private appropriation. Both the petitioner and the private respondent agree that the land is mangrove land. ISSUE: What is the legal classification of mangrove swamps, or manglares, as they are commonly known? Part of our public forest lands, they are not alienable under the Constitution or are they considered public agricultural lands; they may be acquired under private ownership. RULING: Mangrove swamps or manglares should be understood as comprised within the public forests of the Philippines as defined in the aforecited Section 1820 of the Administrative Code of 1917. The legislature having so determined, we have no authority to ignore or modify its decision, and in effect veto it, in the exercise of our own discretion. The statutory definition remains unchanged to date and, no less noteworthy is accepted and invoked by the executive department. More importantly, the said provision has not been challenged as arbitrary or unrealistic or unconstitutional, assuming the requisite conditions, to justify our judicial intervention and scrutiny. The law is thus presumed valid and so must be respected. As such, they are not alienable under the Constitution and may not be the subject of private ownership until and unless they are first released as forest land and classified as alienable agricultural land. WHEREFORE, the decision of the Court of Appeals is SET ASIDE and the application for registration of title of private respondent is DISMISSED.

TAN vs. DIRECTOR OF FORESTRY FACTS: The Bureau of Forestry issued Notice No. 2087, advertising for public bidding a certain tract of public forest land situated in Olongapo, Zambales. Herein petitioner-appellant Wenceslao Vinzons Tan submitted his application after paying the necessary fees and posting the required bond therefore. Nine other applicants submitted their offers before the deadline. The proposed area was awarded to petitioner. Thereafter he was given an Ordinary Timber License. However, it was not signed by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources as required. One of the bidders, Ravago Commercial Company wrote a letter to the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources praying that the license issued in the name of petitioner be cancelled or revoked on the ground that the grant thereof was irregular, anomalous and contrary to existing forestry laws, rules and regulations. The Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources revokes Tans timber license. His motion for reconsideration was denied. Hence, this petition. Petitionerappellant, in his petition, alleged that he has exhausted all his administrative remedies to no avail as respondents-appellees have failed, neglected, refused and continue to refuse to allow petitioner-appellant to continue operation in the area covered by his timber license. ISSUE: Whether or not petitioner has exhausted all administrative remedies before filing his petition to the Supreme Court. HELD: NO. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the CFI. Petitioner did not appeal the order of the respondent Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources to the President of the Philippines, who issued Executive Proclamation No. 238 withdrawing the area from private exploitation, and establishing it as the Olongapo Watershed Forest Reserve. Considering that the President has the power to review on appeal the orders or acts of the respondents, the failure of the petitioner-appellant to take that appeal is failure on his part to exhaust all available administrative remedies.

TIGOY vs. CA Case Digest


RODOLFO TIGOY vs. COURT OF APPEALS G.R. No. 144640. June 26, 2006

FACTS: Nestor Ong, who had been engaged in the trucking business in Iligan City since 1986, was allegedly introduced by his friend Gamad Muntod to Lolong Bertodazo who signified his intent to rent the trucks of Ong to transport construction materials from Larapan, Lanao del Norte to Dipolog City. A Contract to Transport was supposedly entered into between Ong and Bertodazo.

In the evening of October 3, 1993, Ong allegedly ordered Nestor Sumagang and petitioner Rodolfo Tigoy to bring the two trucks to Lolong Bertodazo in Larapan, Lanao del Norte. He instructed the two drivers to leave the trucks in Larapan for the loading of the construction materials by Lolong Bertodazo. Thus, after meeting with Bertodazo, Sumagang and petitioner Tigoy allegedly went home to return to Larapan at four o'clock in the morning the next day. When they arrived, the trucks had been laden with bags of cement and were halfcovered with canvas.

That same morning of October 4, 1993, the Ozamis City police received a report that two trucks, a blue and green loaded with cement, did not stop at the checkpoint. Thus, some police officers boarded their patrol vehicle to intercept the two trucks. Upon inspection, the police officers discovered piles of sawn lumber beneath the cement bags in both trucks. The police officers inquired if the drivers had a permit for the lumber but the latter could not produce any.

After an investigation was held by the police and the DENR office in the city, an Information was filed against Nestor Ong, Sumagang, Lolong Bertodazo and petitioner Tigoy for possession of forest products without legal permit in violation of Section 68 of Presidential Decree 705, as amended by Executive Order No. 277, Series of 1987, in relation to Article 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code.

Ong and petitioner Tigoy entered pleas of not guilty during the arraignment. After trial, the Regional Trial Court found both Ong and Tigoy guilty. On appeal, Ong was acquitted while Tigoys conviction was upheld.

ISSUE: Is Tigoy guilty of possession of forest products without permit?

HELD: Yes. There are two ways of violating the said Section 68: 1) by cutting, gathering and/or collecting timber or other forest products without a license; and, 2) by possessing timber or other forest products without the required legal documents.

Petitioner was charged with and convicted of transporting lumber without a permit which is punishable under Section 68 of the Code. The appellant, Sumagang and the rest of their companions were apprehended by the

police officers in flagrante delicto as they were transporting the subject lumber from Larapan to Dipolog City. Tigoy contends that he did not know that the truck was loaded with timber without the necessary permit. However, the circumstances shows otherwise. Why would the drivers refuse to stop when required? Did they fear inspection of their cargo? Why would "S.O.P." (which in street parlance is grease money) be offered to facilitate the passage of the trucks? The only logical answer to all these questions is that the drivers knew that they were carrying contraband lumber.

In offenses considered as mala prohibita or when the doing of an act is prohibited by a special law such as in the present case, the commission of the prohibited act is the crime itself. It is sufficient that the offender has the intent to perpetrate the act prohibited by the special law, and that it is done knowingly and consciously. Direct proof of previous agreement to commit an offense is not necessary to prove conspiracy. Conspiracy may be proven by circumstantial evidence. It may be deduced from the mode, method and manner by which the offense is perpetrated, or inferred from the acts of the accused when such acts point to a joint purpose and design, concerted action and community of interest. It is not even required that the participants have an agreement for an appreciable period to commence it.

TAOPA v. PEOPLE FACTS: the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office of Virac, Catanduanes seized a truck loaded with illegally-cut lumber (113 pieces of lumber of Philippine Mahogany Group and Apitong species without any authority and/or legal documents as required under existing forest laws and regulations, prejudicial to the public interest.) and arrested its driver, Placido Cuison. The lumber was covered with bundles of abaca fiber to prevent detection. On investigation, Cuison pointed to petitioner Amado Taopa and a certain Rufino Ogalesco as the owners of the seized lumber. Taopa, Ogalesco and Cuison were charged with violating Section 68 of Presidential Decree (PD) No. 705 as amended, in the RTC Virac, Catanduanes. Taopa, Ogalesco and Cuison pleaded not guilty on arraignment. After trial on the merits, RTC found them guilty as charged beyond reasonable doubt. Only Taopa and Cuison appealed to CA, Cuison was acquitted but Taopa's conviction was affirmed.4 The dispositive portion of the CA decision read: In this petition, Taopa seeks his acquittal from the charges against him alleging that the prosecution failed to prove that he was one of the owners of the seized lumber as he was not in the truck when the lumber was seized. ISSUE: WON taopa is guilty of violating Section 68 of PD No. 705, as amended? HELD: YESPetition is denied. CA decision affirmed with modification. Petitioner Amado Taopa is hereby found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt for violation of Section 68 of PD No. 705, as amended, and sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of imprisonment from 10 years and one day of prision mayor, as minimum, to 20 years of reclusion temporal as maximum, with the accessory penalties provided for by law. Both RTC and CA gave no consideration to Taopa's alibi because Cusion's testimony proved Taopa's active participation in the transport of the seized lumber RTC and CA found that the truck was loaded with the cargo in front of Taopa's house and that Taopa and Ogalesco were accompanying the truck driven by Cuison up to where the truck and lumber were seized. These facts proved Taopa's (and Ogalesco's) exercise of dominion and control over the lumber loaded in the truck. The acts of Taopa (and of his co-accused Ogalesco) constituted possession of timber or other forest products without the required legal documents. The mere fact that Taopa and Ogalesco ran away at the mere sight of the police was likewise largely indicative of guilt. Court is convinced that Taopa and Ogalesco were owners of the seized lumber. However, Court disagree with RTC and CA as to the penalty imposed on Taopa. Section 68 of PD 705, as amended,7 refers to Articles 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) for the penalties to be imposed on violators. Violation of Section 68 of PD 705, as amended, is punished as qualified theft.8 The law treats cutting, gathering, collecting and possessing timber or other forest products without license as an offense as grave as and equivalent to the felony of qualified theft. Articles 309 and 310 read: Art. 309. Penalties. - Any person guilty of theft shall be punished by: 1. The penalty of prision mayor in its minimum and medium periods, if the value of the thing stolen is more 12,000 pesos but does not exceed 22,000 pesos; but if the value of the thing stolen exceeds the latter amount, the penalty shall be the maximum period of the one prescribed in this paragraph, and one year for each additional ten thousand pesos, but the total of the penalty which may be imposed shall not exceed twenty years. In such cases, and in connection with the accessory penalties which may be imposed and for the purpose of the other provisions of this Code, the penalty shall be termed prision mayor or reclusion temporal, as the case may be. (emphasis supplied)

2. xxx Art. 310. Qualified theft. - The crime of theft shall be punished by the penalties next higher by two degrees than those respectively specified in the next preceding articles xxx (emphasis supplied). The actual market value of the 113 pieces of seized lumber was P67,630.9 Following Article 310 in relation to Article 309, the imposable penalty should be reclusion temporal in its medium and maximum periods or a period ranging from 14 years, eight months and one day to 20 years plus an additional period of four years for the excess of P47,630. The minimum term of the indeterminate sentence10 imposable on Taopa shall be the penalty next lower to that prescribed in the RPC. In this case, the minimum term shall be anywhere between 10 years and one day to 14 years and eight months or prision mayor in its maximum period to reclusion temporal in its minimum period. The maximum term shall be the sum of the additional four years and the medium period11 of reclusion temporal in its medium and maximum periods or 16 years, five months and 11 days to 18 years, two months and 21 days of reclusion temporal. The maximum term therefore may be anywhere between 16 years, five months and 11 days of reclusion temporal to 22 years, two months and 21 days of reclusion perpetua.