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SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 115634. April 27, 2000]


FELIPE CALUB and RICARDO VALENCIA, DEPARTMENT of ENVIRONMENT and NATURAL
RESOURCES (DENR), CATBALOGAN, SAMAR, petitioners, vs. COURT OF APPEALS,
MANUELA T. BABALCON, and CONSTANCIO ABUGANDA, respondents.
D E C I S I O N
QUISUMBING, J .:
For review is the decision
.[1]
dated May 27, 1994, of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 29191,
denying the petition filed by herein petitioners for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus, in order to
annul the Order dated May 27, 1992, by the Regional Trial Court of Catbalogan, Samar. Said Order
had denied petitioners (a) Motion to Dismiss the replevin case filed by herein private respondents, as
well as (b) petitioners Motion for Reconsideration of the Order of said trial court dated April 24, 1992,
granting an application for a Writ of replevin.
.[2]
h Y
The pertinent facts of the case, borne by the records, are as follows:
On January 28, 1992, the Forest Protection and Law Enforcement Team of the Community
Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) of the DENR apprehended two (2) motor
vehicles, described as follows:
"1. Motor Vehicle with Plate No. HAK-733 loaded with one thousand and twenty six (1,026) board feet
of illegally sourced lumber valued at P8,544.75, being driven by one Pio Gabon and owned by [a
certain] Jose Vargas.
2. Motor Vehicle with Plate No. FCN-143 loaded with one thousand two hundred twenty four and
ninety seven (1,224.97) board feet of illegally-sourced lumber valued at P9,187.27, being driven by
one Constancio Abuganda and owned by [a certain] Manuela Babalcon. "
.[3]

Constancio Abuganda and Pio Gabon, the drivers of the vehicles, failed to present proper documents
and/or licenses. Thus, the apprehending team seized and impounded the vehicles and its load of
lumber at the DENR-PENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Provincial
Environment and Natural Resources) Office in Catbalogan.
.[4]
Seizure receipts were issued but the
drivers refused to accept the receipts.
.[5]
Felipe Calub, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources
Officer, then filed before the Provincial Prosecutors Office in Samar, a criminal complaint against
Abuganda, in Criminal Case No. 3795, for violation of Section 68 [78), Presidential Decree 705 as
amended by Executive Order 277, otherwise known as the Revised Forestry Code.
[6]
Mis sc
On January 31, 1992, the impounded vehicles were forcibly taken by Gabon and Abuganda from the
custody of the DENR, prompting DENR Officer Calub this time to file a criminal complaint for grave
coercion against Gabon and Abuganda. The complaint was, however, dismissed by the Public
Prosecutor.
.[7]

On February 11, 1992, one of the two vehicles, with plate number FCN 143, was again apprehended
by a composite team of DENR-CENR in Catbalogan and Philippine Army elements of the 802nd
Infantry Brigade at Barangay Buray, Paranas, Samar. It was again loaded with forest products with an
equivalent volume of 1,005.47 board feet, valued at P10,054.70. Calub duly filed a criminal complaint
against Constancio Abuganda, a certain Abegonia, and several John Does, in Criminal Case No.
3625, for violation of Section 68 [78], Presidential Decree 705 as amended by Executive Order 277,
otherwise known as the Revised Forestry Code.
.[8]

In Criminal Cases Nos. 3795 and 3625, however, Abegonia and Abuganda were acquitted on the
ground of reasonable doubt. But note the trial court ordered that a copy of the decision be furnished
the Secretary of Justice, in order that the necessary criminal action may be filed against Noe Pagarao
and all other persons responsible for violation of the Revised Forestry Code. For it appeared that it
was Pagarao who chartered the subject vehicle and ordered that cut timber be loaded on it.
.[9]

Subsequently, herein private respondents Manuela Babalcon, the vehicle owner, and Constancio
Abuganda, the driver, filed a complaint for the recovery of possession of the two (2) impounded
vehicles with an application for replevin against herein petitioners before the RTC of Catbalogan. The
trial court granted the application for replevin and issued the corresponding writ in an Order dated
April 24, 1992.
.[10]
Petitioners filed a motion to dismiss which was denied by the trial court.
[11]

Thus, on June 15, 1992, petitioners filed with the Supreme Court the present Petition for Certiorari,
Prohibition and Mandamus with application for Preliminary Injunction and/or a Temporary Restraining
Order. The Court issued a TRO, enjoining respondent RTC judge from conducting further
proceedings in the civil case for replevin; and enjoining private respondents from taking or attempting
to take the motor vehicles and forest products seized from the custody of the petitioners. The Court
further instructed the petitioners to see to it that the motor vehicles and other forest products seized
are kept in a secured place and protected from deterioration, said property being in custodia legis and
subject to the direct order of the Supreme Court.
.[12]
In a Resolution issued on September 28, 1992,
the Court referred said petition to respondent appellate court for appropriate disposition.
.[13]

On May 27, 1994, the Court of Appeals denied said petition for lack of merit. It ruled that the mere
seizure of a motor vehicle pursuant to the authority granted by Section 68 [78] of P.D. No. 705 as
amended by E.O. No. 277 does not automatically place said conveyance in custodia legis. According
to the appellate court, such authority of the Department Head of the DENR or his duly authorized
representative to order the confiscation and disposition of illegally obtained forest products and the
conveyance used for that purpose is not absolute and unqualified. It is subject to pertinent laws,
regulations, or policies on that matter, added the appellate court. The DENR Administrative Order No.
59, series of 1990, is one such regulation, the appellate court said. For it prescribes the guidelines in
the confiscation, forfeiture and disposition of conveyances used in the commission of offenses
penalized under Section 68 [78] of P.D. No. 705 as amended by E.O. No. 277.
.[14]

Additionally, respondent Court of Appeals noted that the petitioners failed to observe the procedure
outlined in DENR Administrative Order No. 59, series of 1990. They were unable to submit a report of
the seizure to the DENR Secretary, to give a written notice to the owner of the vehicle, and to render
a report of their findings and recommendations to the Secretary. Moreover, petitioners failure to
comply with the procedure laid down by DENR Administrative Order No. 59, series of 1990, was
confirmed by the admission of petitioners counsel that no confiscation order has been issued prior to
the seizure of the vehicle and the filing of the replevin suit. Therefore, in failing to follow such
procedure, according to the appellate court, the subject vehicles could not be considered in custodia
legis.
.[15]

Respondent Court of Appeals also found no merit in petitioners claim that private respondents
complaint for replevin is a suit against the State. Accordingly, petitioners could not shield themselves
under the principle of state immunity as the property sought to be recovered in the instant suit had not
yet been lawfully adjudged forfeited in favor of the government. Moreover, according to respondent
appellate court, there could be no pecuniary liability nor loss of property that could ensue against the
government. It reasoned that a suit against a public officer who acted illegally or beyond the scope of
his authority could not be considered a suit against the State; and that a public officer might be sued
for illegally seizing or withholding the possession of the property of another.
.[16]

Respondent court brushed aside other grounds raised by petitioners based on the claim that the
subject vehicles were validly seized and held in custody because they were contradicted by its own
findings.
.[17]
Their petition was found without merit.
[18]
Rtc spped
Now, before us, the petitioners assign the following errors:
.[19]

(1) THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN HOLDING THAT MERE SEIZURE OF A CONVEYANCE
PURSUANT TO SECTION 68-A [78-A] OF P.D. NO. 705 AS AMENDED BY EXECUTIVE ORDER
277 DOES NOT PLACE SAID CONVEYANCE IN CUSTODIA LEGIS;
(2) THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN NOT HOLDING THAT THE OPERATIVE ACT GIVING
RISE FOR THE SUBJECT CONVEYANCE TO BE IN CUSTODIA LEGIS IS ITS LAWFUL SEIZURE
BY THE DENR PURSUANT TO SECTION 68-A [78-A] OF P.D. NO. 705, AS AMENDED BY E.O.
NO. 277; AND
(3) THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE COMPLAINT FOR REPLEVIN
AGAINST THE PETITIONERS IS NOT A SUIT AGAINST THE STATE.
In brief, the pertinent issues for our consideration are:
(1) Whether or not the DENR-seized motor vehicle, with plate number FCN 143, is in custodia legis.
(2) Whether or not the complaint for the recovery of possession of impounded vehicles, with an
application for replevin, is a suit against the State.
We will now resolve both issues.
The Revised Forestry Code authorizes the DENR to seize all conveyances used in the commission of
an offense in violation of Section 78. Section 78 states:
Sec. 78. 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 forestland,
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 Codeslx mis
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.
This provision makes mere possession of timber or other forest products without the accompanying
legal documents unlawful and punishable with the penalties imposed for the crime of theft, as
prescribed in Articles 309-310 of the Revised Penal Code. In the present case, the subject vehicles
were loaded with forest products at the time of the seizure. But admittedly no permit evidencing
authority to possess and transport said load of forest products was duly presented. These products,
in turn, were deemed illegally sourced. Thus there was a prima facie violation of Section 68 [78] of the
Revised Forestry Code, although as found by the trial court, the persons responsible for said violation
were not the ones charged by the public prosecutor.
The corresponding authority of the DENR to seize all conveyances used in the commission of an
offense in violation of Section 78 of the Revised Forestry Code is pursuant to Sections 78-A and 89 of
the same Code. They read as follows: Sc
Sec. 78-A. Administrative Authority of the Department Head 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 or policies on the matter.
Sec. 89. Arrest; Institution of criminal actions. -- A forest officer or employee of the Bureau
[Department] or any personnel of the Philippine Constabulary/Philippine National Police shall arrest
even without warrant any person who has committed or is committing in his presence any of the
offenses defined in this Chapter. He shall also seize and confiscate, in favor of the Government, the
tools and equipment used in committing the offense... [Emphasis supplied.]
Note that DENR Administrative Order No. 59, series of 1990, implements Sections 78-A and 89 of the
Forestry Code, as follows:
Sec. 2. Conveyances Subject to Confiscation and Forfeiture. -- All conveyances used in the transport
of any forest product obtained or gathered illegally whether or not covered with transport documents,
found spurious or irregular in accordance with Sec. 68-A [78-A] of P.D. No. 705, shall be confiscated
in favor of the government or disposed of in accordance with pertinent laws, regulations or policies on
the matter.
Sec. 4. Who are Authorized to Seize Conveyance. -- The Secretary or his duly authorized
representative such as the forest officers and/or natural resources officers, or deputized officers of the
DENR are authorized to seize said conveyances subject to policies and guidelines pertinent thereto.
Deputized military personnel and officials of other agencies apprehending illegal logs and other forest
products and their conveyances shall notify the nearest DENR field offices, and turn over said forest
products and conveyances for proper action and disposition. In case where the apprehension is made
by DENR field officer, the conveyance shall be deposited with the nearest CENRO/PENRO/RED
Office as the case may be, for safekeeping wherever it is most convenient and secured. [Emphasis
supplied.]
Upon apprehension of the illegally-cut timber while being transported without pertinent documents
that could evidence title to or right to possession of said timber, a warrantless seizure of the involved
vehicles and their load was allowed under Section 78 and 89 of the Revised Forestry Code. Slxs c
Note further that petitioners failure to observe the procedure outlined in DENR Administrative Order
No. 59, series of 1990 was justifiably explained. Petitioners did not submit a report of the seizure to
the Secretary nor give a written notice to the owner of the vehicle because on the 3rd day following
the seizure, Gabon and Abuganda, drivers of the seized vehicles, forcibly took the impounded
vehicles from the custody of the DENR. Then again, when one of the motor vehicles was
apprehended and impounded for the second time, the petitioners, again were not able to report the
seizure to the DENR Secretary nor give a written notice to the owner of the vehicle because private
respondents immediately went to court and applied for a writ of replevin. The seizure of the vehicles
and their load was done upon their apprehension for a violation of the Revised Forestry Code. It
would be absurd to require a confiscation order or notice and hearing before said seizure could be
effected under the circumstances.
Since there was a violation of the Revised Forestry Code and the seizure was in accordance with law,
in our view the subject vehicles were validly deemed in custodia legis. It could not be subject to an
action for replevin. For it is property lawfully taken by virtue of legal process and considered in the
custody of the law, and not otherwise.
.[20]

In Mamanteo, et. al. v. Deputy Sheriff Magumun, A.M. No. P-98-1264, promulgated on July 28, 1999,
the case involves property to be seized by a Deputy Sheriff in a replevin suit. But said property were
already impounded by the DENR due to violation of forestry laws and, in fact, already forfeited in
favor of the government by order of the DENR. We said that such property was deemed in custodia
legis. The sheriff could not insist on seizing the property already subject of a prior warrant of seizure.
The appropriate action should be for the sheriff to inform the trial court of the situation by way of
partial Sheriffs Return, and wait for the judges instructions on the proper procedure to be observed.
Note that property that is validly deposited in custodia legis cannot be the subject of a replevin suit. In
Mamanteo v. Deputy Sheriff Magumun, we elucidated further:
". . . the writ of replevin has been repeatedly used by unscrupulous plaintiffs to retrieve their chattel
earlier taken for violation of the Tariff and Customs Code, tax assessment, attachment or execution.
Officers of the court, from the presiding judge to the sheriff, are implored to be vigilant in their
execution of the law otherwise, as in this case, valid seizure and forfeiture proceedings could easily
be undermined by the simple devise of a writ of replevin..."
.[21]
Scslx
On the second issue, is the complaint for the recovery of possession of the two impounded vehicles,
with an application for replevin, a suit against the State?
Well established is the doctrine that the State may not be sued without its consent.
.[22]
And a suit
against a public officer for his official acts is, in effect, a suit against the State if its purpose is to hold
the State ultimately liable.
.[23]
However, the protection afforded to public officers by this doctrine
generally applies only to activities within the scope of their authority in good faith and without
willfulness, malice or corruption.
[24]
In the present case, the acts for which the petitioners are being
called to account were performed by them in the discharge of their official duties. The acts in question
are clearly official in nature.
[25]
In implementing and enforcing Sections 78-A and 89 of the Forestry
Code through the seizure carried out, petitioners were performing their duties and functions as
officers of the DENR, and did so within the limits of their authority. There was no malice nor bad faith
on their part. Hence, a suit against the petitioners who represent the DENR is a suit against the State.
It cannot prosper without the States consent.
Given the circumstances in this case, we need not pursue the Office of the Solicitor Generals line for
the defense of petitioners concerning exhaustion of administrative remedies. We ought only to recall
that exhaustion must be raised at the earliest time possible, even before filing the answer to the
complaint or pleading asserting a claim, by a motion to dismiss.
.[26]
If not invoked at the proper time,
this ground for dismissal could be deemed waived and the court could take cognizance of the case
and try it.
[27]
Mesm
ACCORDINGLY, the Petition is GRANTED, and the assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-
G.R. SP No. 29191 is SET ASIDE. Consequently, the Order issued by the Regional Trial Court of
Catbalogan, dated May 27, 1992, and the Writ of replevin issued in the Order dated April 24, 1992,
are ANNULLED. The Sheriff of the Regional Trial Court of Catbalogan, Branch 29, is directed to take
possession of the subject motor vehicle, with plate number FCN 143, for delivery to the custody of
and appropriate disposition by petitioners. Let a copy of this decision be provided the Honorable
Secretary of Justice for his appropriate action, against any and all persons responsible for the
abovecited violation of the Revised Forestry Code.
Costs against private respondents.
SO ORDERED.
SECOND DIVISION
[G.R. No. 108619. July 31, 1997]
EPIFANIO LALICAN, petitioner, vs. HON. FILOMENO A. VERGARA, Presiding Judge, RTC
Branch 52, Puerto Princesa City and PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents.
D E C I S I O N
ROMERO, J .:
The issue posed for resolution in this petition for certiorari and prohibition with prayer for the issuance
of a temporary restraining order is whether or not a charge of illegal possession of "lumber" is
excluded from the crime of illegal possession of "timber" as defined in Sec. 68 of Presidential Decree
No. 705 (The Forestry Reform Code of the Philippines), as amended, to warrant the quashal of an
information charging the former offense or a "nonexistent crime."
On July 23, 1991, an information for violation of Section 68 of P.D. No. 705, as amended by
Executive Order No. 277, was filed by the City Prosecutor of Puerto Princesa City against petitioner
Epifanio Lalican, Ruben Benitez, Allan Pulgar and Jose Roblo before the Regional Trial Court of that
city. Docketed as Criminal Case No. 9543, the information reads:
"That on or about the 9th day of February, 1991, at Sitio Cadiz, Barangay Bacungan, City of Puerto
Princesa, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused,
without lawful authority or permit, conspiring and confederating together and mutually helping one
another, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have in their possession, custody and
control 1,800 board feet of assorted species and dimensions of lumber on board two (2) passenger
jeeps, with a value of Fourteen Thousand Pesos (14,000.00), Philippine Currency, to the damage and
prejudice of the Government in the amount aforestated.
CONTRARY TO LAW."
At their arraignment on August 9, 1991, all the accused pleaded not guilty to the crime charged.
On August 23, 1991, petitioner Lalican filed a motion to quash the information on the ground that the
facts charged did not constitute an offense. Contending that Sec. 68 of P.D. No. 705 refers to "timber
and other forest products" and not to "lumber," and asserting that "timber" becomes "lumber" only
after it is sawed into beams, planks or boards, petitioner alleged that said decree "does not apply to
'lumber.'" He added that the law is "vague and standardless" as it does not specify the authority or
the legal documents required by existing forest laws and regulations. Hence, petitioner asserted that
the information should be quashed as it violated his constitutional rights to due process and equal
protection of the law.
[2]

The prosecution opposed the motion to quash on the ground that it is not for the courts to determine
the wisdom of the law nor to set out the policy of the legislature which deemed it proper that the word
"timber" should include "lumber" which is a "product or derivative after the timber is cut." The position
of the prosecution was that to hold otherwise would result in the easy circumvention of the law, for
one could stealthily cut timber from any forest, have it sawn into lumber and escape criminal
prosecution. The prosecution asserted that the issue raised by petitioner was more semantical than a
question of law.
[3]

On September 24, 1991, the lower court,
[4]
guided by the principles that penal laws should be
construed strictly against the state and that all doubts should be resolved in favor of the accused,
issued an Order quashing the information. It held that the distinction between "timber" and "lumber"
is not artificial nor a matter of semantics as the law itself distinguishes the two terms. Sec. 3(q) of
P.D. No. 705 classifies "timber" as a forest product while Sec. 3(aa) thereof considers "lumber" as a
finished wood product. Adding that unlicensed cutting, gathering and/or collecting of "timber" is
penalized under Sec. 68 while sale of "lumber" without compliance with grading rules established by
the government is prohibited by Sec. 79, the lower court categorically stated that:
"Logically, lumber, being a manufactured wood product, poses no more danger to forest lands by
being cut, gathered, collected or removed. It is in fact, only bought and sold. Thus, Sec. 68 cannot
be made to apply to lumber."
The court, however, refrained from exploring the constitutional issues raised by petitioner upon a
holding that the case could be resolved on some other grounds or issues.
[5]

The prosecution filed a motion for the reconsideration of this Order, pointing out that under the Primer
on Illegal Logging of the Department of Energy and Natural Resources (DENR), timber is not just any
piece of wood for it may consist of squared and manufactured timber or one which has been sawn to
pieces to facilitate transportation or hauling. It stressed that to consider a person who had made
lumber out of timber as not criminally liable is an absurd interpretation of the law.
Moreover, the prosecution underscored the facts that when apprehended, the accused presented
Private Land Timber Permit No. 030140 dated February 10, 1991 which had expired; that while the
certificate of origin indicated Brgy. Sta. Cruz, the product actually came from Sitio Cadiz, and that the
two jeeps bearing the product were not equipped with certificates of transport agreement. Added to
this was the fact that, if the product were indeed lumber, then the accused could have presented a
certificate of lumber origin, lumber sale invoices in case of sale, tally sheets and delivery receipts for
transportation from one point to another.
[6]

Petitioner opposed the motion for reconsideration contending that the DENR primer's definition of
"timber" is erroneous because the law itself distinguishes "timber" from "sawn lumber." The non-
inclusion of "lumber" in Sec. 68 could only mean a clear legislative intent to exclude possession of
"lumber" from the acts penalized under that section.
[7]

Pending resolution of the motion for reconsideration, the Presiding Judge of Branch 49 inhibited
himself from taking cognizance of Criminal Case No. 9543. The case was subsequently assigned to
Branch 52.
On June 10, 1992, the lower court
[8]
issued the herein questioned Order setting aside the quashal
Order of the previous judge. It declared that from the law itself, it is evident that what is sought to be
penalized is not the possession, without the required legal documents, of timber only but also of
"other forest products." It stated that even if lumber is not timber, still, lumber is a forest product and
possession thereof without legal documents is equally prohibited by the law which includes "wood" in
the definition of forest products.
Petitioner sought the reconsideration of this Order but the lower court denied it. Hence, the instant
petition arguing that the lower court gravely abused its discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction in
setting aside the quashal order and in denying his motion for reconsideration on the ground that Sec.
68 of P.D. No. 705 neither specifies nor includes "lumber" in the phrase "timber or other forest
products."
The petition is devoid of merit.
Sec. 68 of P.D. No. 705, as amended by Executive Order No. 277 which was issued on July 25, 1987
by then President Corazon C. Aquino, provides:
"SEC. 68. Cutting, Gathering and/or collecting Timber, or Other Forest Products Without License.-
Any person who shall cut, gather, collect, remove timber or other forest products from any forest land,
or timber from alienable or disposable public land, or from private land, without any authority,
or possess timber or other forest products without the legal documents as required under existing
forest laws and regulations, shall be punished with the penalties imposed under Articles 309 and 310
of the Revised Penal Code: Provided, That in the case of partnerships, associations, or corporations,
the officers who ordered the cutting, gathering, collection or possession shall be liable, and if such
officers are aliens, they shall, in addition to the penalty, be deported without further proceedings on
the part of the Commission on Immigration and Deportation.
The Court shall further order the confiscation in favor of the government of the timber or any forest
products cut, gathered, collected, removed, or possessed, as well as the machinery, equipment,
implements and tools illegally used in the area where the timber or forest products are found."
(Underscoring supplied.)
Punished then in this section are: (a) the cutting, gathering, collection, or removal of timber or other
forest products from the places therein mentioned without any authority; or (b) possession of timber
or other forest products without the legal documents as required under existing forest laws and
regulations.
In the recent case of Mustang Lumber, Inc. v. Court of Appeals,
[9]
this Court, thru Justice Hilario
Davide, held:
"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,
blockboard, paper board, pulp, paper or other finished wood product.
This simply means that lumber is a processed log or processed forest raw material. Clearly, the
Code uses the term lumber in its ordinary or common usage. In the 1993 copyright edition of
Webster's Third New International Dictionary, lumber is defined, inter alia, as 'timber or logs after
being prepared for the market.' 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 insofar as
possession of timber without the required legal documents is concerned, Section 68 of P.D. No. 705,
as amended, makes no distinction between raw or processed timber. Neither should we. Ubi lex non
distinguit nec nos distinguere debemus."
Be that as it may, the legislative intent to include possession of lumber in Sec. 68 is clearly gleaned
from the expressed reasons for enacting the law which, under Executive Order No. 277, are the
following:
"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 these difficulties, there is a need to penalize certain acts to make our
forestry laws more responsive to present situations and realities; x x x"
To exclude possession of "lumber" from the acts penalized in Sec. 68 would certainly emasculate the
law itself. A law should not be so construed as to allow the doing of an act which is prohibited by law,
nor so interpreted as to afford an opportunity to defeat compliance with its terms, create an
inconsistency, or contravene the plain words of the law.
[10]
After all, the phrase "forest products" is
broad enough to encompass lumber which, to reiterate, is manufactured timber. Hence, to mention
lumber in Sec. 68 would merely result in tautology. As the lower court said:
"Even should it be conceded that lumber is not timber and is thus not covered by the prohibition, still it
cannot be denied that lumber is a forest product and possession thereof without legal documents is
equally and, to the same extent, prohibited. Sec. 3 (q) of PD 705 as amended or otherwise known as
the Revised Forestry Code defines forest products, viz., x x x
Stress must be given to the term WOOD embodied in the definition of forest product (supra). If we
are to follow the rather tangential argument by the accused that lumber is not timber, then, it will be
very easy for a person to circumvent the law. He could stealthily cut timber from any forest, have it
sawn into lumber and escape criminal prosecution. It is rather too narrow an interpretation. But the
law also provided a plug for the loophole. If lumber is not timber, then surely, lumber is wood. x x x.
If in seeking to abate the proceedings the accused also seek to imply that lumber seized in their
possession were procured from lawful source, all they have to do is produce the legal documents
contemplated by the law. It is not the mere cutting or possession of timber, forest products or
whatever that is prohibited and penalized by the law. What is prohibited and penalized is the act of
cutting or possessing of timber, wood, or other forest products without lawful authority."
The Court, therefore, finds that the lower court did not gravely abuse its discretion in denying the
quashal of the information. The petition simply has no legal basis. Certiorari may be issued only
where it is clearly shown that there is patent and gross abuse of discretion as to amount to an
evasion of positive duty or to virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law, or to act at all in
contemplation of law, as where the power is exercised in an arbitrary and despotic manner by reason
of passion or personal hostility.
[11]
Grave abuse of discretion implies a capricious and whimsical
exercise of power.
[12]

On the other hand, certiorari may not be availed of where it is not shown that the respondent court
lacked or exceeded its jurisdiction or committed grave abuse of discretion.
[13]
Where the court has
jurisdiction over the case, even if its findings are not correct, its questioned acts would at most
constitute errors of law and not abuse of discretion correctible by certiorari.
[14]
As this Court said:
"x x x. When a court exercises its jurisdiction, an error committed while so engaged does not deprive
it of the jurisdiction being exercised when the error is committed. If it did, every error committed by a
court would deprive it of its jurisdiction and every erroneous judgment would be a void judgment. This
cannot be allowed. The administration of justice would not survive such a rule. Consequently, an
error of judgment that the court may commit in the exercise of its jurisdiction is not correctible through
the original civil action of certiorari."
[15]

In other words, certiorari will issue only to correct errors of jurisdiction and not to correct errors of
procedure or mistakes in the judge's findings and conclusions.
[16]

The unavailability of the writ of certiorari, and even that of prohibition, in this case is borne out of the
fact that what petitioner considers as grave abuse of discretion in this case is the denial of his motion
to quash the information filed against him and three others. This Court has consistently defined the
proper procedure in case of denial of a motion to quash. The accused has to enter a plea, go to trial
without prejudice on his part to present the special defenses he had invoked in his motion and, if after
trial on the merits, an adverse decision is rendered, to appeal therefrom in the manner authorized by
law.
[17]

Certiorari is not the proper remedy where a motion to quash an information is denied. That the
appropriate recourse is to proceed to trial and in case of conviction, to appeal such conviction, as well
as the denial of the motion to quash, is impelled by the fact that a denial of a motion to quash is an
interlocutory procedural aspect which cannot be appealed nor can it be the subject of a petition
for certiorari.
[18]
The remedies of appeal and certiorari are mutually exclusive and not alternative or
successive.
[19]
An interlocutory order may be assailed by certiorari or prohibition only when it is shown
that the court acted without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion.
[20]
However,
this Court generally frowns upon this remedial measure as regards interlocutory orders. To tolerate
the practice of allowing interlocutory orders to be the subject of review by certiorari would not only
delay the administration of justice but also would unduly burden the courts.
[21]

Petitioner may not seek refuge under Flordelis v. Himalaloan
[22]
for his contention that a denial of a
motion to quash may be the subject of a petition for certiorari. That case has an entirely different
factual milieu from the one at bar. The information herein not being "patently defective" nor that the
offense charged has prescribed,
[23]
this case may not be considered an exception to the rule on the
proper remedy for the denial of a motion to quash.
With respect to the constitutionality of Sec. 68 of P.D. No. 705 which petitioner would have this Court
consider,
[24]
this Court has always desisted from delving on constitutional issues. Thus, even if all the
requisites for judicial review of a constitutional matter are present in a case,
[25]
this Court will not pass
upon a constitutional question unless it is the lis mota of the case or if the case can be disposed of on
some other grounds, such as the application of the statute or general law.
[26]

The Court can well take judicial notice of the deplorable problem of deforestation in this country,
considering that the deleterious effects of this problem are now imperiling our lives and properties,
more specifically, by causing rampaging floods in the lowlands. While it is true that the rights of an
accused must be favored in the interpretation of penal provisions of law, it is equally true that when
the general welfare and interest of the people are interwoven in the prosecution of a crime, the Court
must arrive at a solution only after a fair and just balancing of interests. This the Court did in arriving
at the foregoing interpretation of Sec. 68 of the Revised Forestry Reform Code. This task, however,
has not at all been a difficult one considering that, contrary to petitioner's assertion, his rights to due
process and equal protection of the law have not been clearly shown to have been jeopardized.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition for certiorari and prohibition is hereby DISMISSED. The lower
court is enjoined to proceed with dispatch in the prosecution of Criminal Case No. 9543. This
Decision is immediately executory. Costs against petitioner.
SO ORDERED.
SECOND DIVISION
[G.R. No. 131270. March 17, 2000]
PERFECTO PALLADA, petitioner, vs. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondent. Spped
D E C I S I O N
MENDOZA, J .:
This is a petition for review of the decision
[1]
of the Court of Appeals affirming petitioner's conviction of
illegal possession of lumber in violation of 68
[2]
of the Revised Forestry Code
[3]
(P.D. No. 705, as
amended) by the Regional Trial Court, Branch 8, Malaybalay, Bukidnon.
The facts are as follows:
Sometime in the latter part of 1992, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)
office in Bukidnon received reports that illegally cut lumber was being delivered to the warehouse of
the Valencia Golden Harvest Corporation in Valencia, Bukidnon. The company is engaged in rice
milling and trading.
DENR officers, assisted by elements of the Philippine National Police, raided the company's
warehouse in Poblacion, Valencia on the strength of a warrant issued by the Regional Trial Court,
Branch 8, Malaybalay, Bukidnon and found a large stockpile of lumber of varying sizes cut by a chain
saw. As proof that the company had acquired the lumber by purchase, petitioner produced two
receipts issued by R.L. Rivero Lumberyard of Maramag, Bukidnon, dated March 6 and 17, 1992. The
DENR officers did not, however, give credit to the receipts considering that R. L. Rivero Lumberyard's
permit to operate had long been suspended. What is more, the pieces of lumber were cut by chain
saw and thus could not have come from a licensed sawmill operator. Jo spped
The team made an inventory of the seized lumber which, all in all, constituted 29,299.25 board feet,
worth P488,334.45 in total. The following day, September 29, 1992, the first batch of lumber,
consisting of 162 pieces measuring 1,954.66 board feet, was taken and impounded at the FORE
stockyard in Sumpong, Malaybalay, Bukidnon. The seizure order
[4]
was served on petitioner Perfecto
Pallada as general manager of the company, but he refused to acknowledge it.
On October 1, 1992, the raiding team returned for the remaining lumber. Company president
Francisco Tankiko and a certain Isaias Valdehueza, who represented himself to be a lawyer, asked
for a suspension of the operations to enable them to seek a lifting of the warrant. The motion was
filed with the court which issued the warrant but, on October 5, 1992, the motion was
denied.
[5]
Accordingly, the remaining lumber was confiscated. By October 9, 1992, all the lumber in
the warehouse had been seized. As before, however, petitioner Pallada refused to sign for the
seizure orders issued by the DENR officers (Exhs. E, F & G).
On February 23, 1993, petitioner, as general manager, together with Noel Sy, as assistant operations
manager, and Francisco Tankiko, as president of the Valencia Golden Harvest Corporation, and
Isaias Valdehueza, were charged with violation of 68 of P.D .No. 705, as amended. The Information
alleged:
[6]

That on or about the 1st day of October, 1992, and prior thereto at the Valencia Golden Harvest
Corporation Compound, municipality of Valencia, province of Bukidnon, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring, confederating and
mutually helping one another, with intent of gain, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and criminally
possess 2,115 pieces [of] lumber of different dimensions in the total volume of 29,299 .25 board feet
or equivalent to 69.10 cubic meters with an estimated value of FOUR HUNDRED EIGHTY EIGHT
THOUSAND THREE HUNDRED THIRTY FOUR PESOS AND 45/100 (P488,334.45) Philippine
Currency, without any authority, license or legal documents from the government, to the damage and
prejudice of the government in the amount of P488,334.45.
Contrary to and in violation of Section 68, P.D. 705 as amended by E.O. 277.
As all the accused pleaded not guilty, trial ensued. Then on July 27, 1994, judgment was rendered as
follows:
[7]

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered finding accused Perfecto Pallada and Francisco Tankiko
guilty beyond reasonable doubt of having in their possession timber products worth of P488,334.45
without the legal documents as charged in the information in violation of Section 68 of Presidential
Decree 705, as amended and are, therefore, each sentenced to suffer imprisonment of TEN (10)
YEARS of prision mayor as minimum to TWENTY (20) YEARS of Reclusion temporal as maximum.
The lumber subject of the crime are confiscated in favor of the government. Spped jo
Accused Isaias Valdehueza and Noel Sy are ACQUITTED for lack of evidence against them.
Petitioner and Francisco Tankiko appealed to the Court of Appeals, which, on October 31, 1997,
affirmed petitioner's conviction but acquitted Tankiko for lack of proof of his participation in the
purchase or acquisition of the seized lumber.
[8]

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

I. WHETHER OR NOT THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS WAS CORRECT IN UPHOLDING
THE RULING OF THE TRIAL COURT THAT THE PROSECUTION HAD PROVED BEYOND
REASONABLE DOUBT THE GUILT OF THE ACCUSED-PETITIONER PALLADA.
II. WHETHER OR NOT THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS WAS CORRECT IN UPHOLDING
THE DECISION OF THE TRIAL COURT THAT THE CERTIFICATE OF TIMBER ORIGIN WAS NOT
THE PROPER DOCUMENT TO JUSTIFY PETITIONER'S POSSESSION OF THE SQUARED
TIMBER OR FLITCHES.
III. WHETHER OR NOT THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS WAS CORRECT IN
UPHOLDING THE RULING OF THE TRIAL COURT THAT THE PRESENCE OF ERASURES IN
THE CERTIFICATE OF TIMBER ORIGIN RENDER THEM VALUELESS AS EVIDENCE.
First. During the trial, the defense presented the following documents, as summarized by the trial
court, to establish that Valencia Golden Harvest Corporation's possession of the seized lumber was
legal:
[10]

1. Exh. 6 - Certificate of Timber Origin (CTO for short), dated December 15, 1991, for 56 pieces of
flitches equivalent to 12.23 cubic meters, transported from Bombaran, Lanao del Sur of the
Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. Taken from the forest area of Wahab and H.D. Pangcoga
Exh. 6-A - Auxiliary InvoiceMiso
Exh. 6-B - Certificate of Transport Agreement (CTA, for short)
Exh. 6-C - Tally Sheet, dated December 14, 1992, for 463 pieces of lumber equivalent to
5,056.94 board feet
Exh. 6-D - Delivery Receipt, dated December 16, 1991, from WHP Enterprises of Maguing,
Lanao del Sur, to the Corporation for the lumber mentioned in Exh. "6-C"
Exh. 6-F - Cash Voucher for P58,832.45 in payment to WHP Enterprises, dated December 16,
1991, for the 5,056.94 board feet of lumber
Exh. 6-D-1 - [C]arbon copy of Exh. "6-D" above
2. Exh. 7 - CTO, (undated), for 961 pieces of log equivalent to 25.4 cubic meter[s] taken from the
forest area of a certain Somira M. Ampuan in Lama Lico, Bombaran of the ARMM
Exh. 7-A - Auxiliary Invoice
Exh. 7-B - CTA
Exh. 7-C - Tally Sheet, dated February 6, 1992, for 961 pieces of lumber equal to 10,758.2
board feet
Exh. 7-D - Delivery Receipt to Golden Harvest Corporation issued by SMA Trading Company,
dated February 6, 1992
Exh. 7-E - Official Receipt for environmental fee issued to Somira M. Ampuan, dated August 9,
1991
Exh. 7-F - Cash Voucher for P126,562.05 issued by the Corporation in payment to SMA
Trading Company for 10,758.02 board feet of lumber, dated February 6, 1992
3. Exh. 8 - CTO for 678 pieces of chain-sawn lumber with an equivalent volume of 18.93 cubic
meter from the forest area of Wahab Pangcoga and H.D. Pangcoga, dated February 25, 1992
Exh. 8-A - Auxiliary InvoiceNex old
Exh. 8-B - CTA
Exh. 8-C - Tally Sheet for the 678 pieces of lumber
Exh. 8-D - Delivery Receipt to Golden Harvest Corporation issued by WHP Enterprises,
Exh. 8-E - Official Receipt for environmental fee
Exh. 8-F - Cash Voucher for P93,614.50 in payment for 8,024.99 board feet of lumber issued
by the Corporation payable to WHP Enterprises
4. Exh. 9 - CTO for 426 pieces of logs (?) with an equivalent volume of 12.24 cubic meters from
licensee Somira M. Ampuan of Lama Lico, Bombaran, Lanao del Sur, consigned to the Corporation,
(undated). Stamped "Release 3/2/92"
Exh. 9-A - Auxiliary Invoice
Exh. 9-B - CTA, dated March 20, 1992
Exh. 9-C - Tally Sheet, dated March 20, 1992
Exh. 9-D - Delivery Receipt issued by SMA Trading Company to the Corporation, dated March
20, 1992
Exh. 9-E - Official Receipt for environmental fee
Exh. 9-F - Cash Voucher, for P64,299.50 to pay [for] 5,189 board feet of lumber
Exh. 9-D-1 - Xerox copy of Exh. "9-D"
The trial court acted correctly in not giving credence to the Certificates of Timber Origin presented by
petitioner since the lumber held by the company should be covered by Certificates of Lumber
Origin.
[11]
For indeed, as BFD Circular No. 10-83
[12]
states in pertinent parts: Mani kx
In order to provide an effective mechanism to pinpoint accountability and responsibility for shipment
of lumber . . . and to have uniformity in documenting the origin thereof, the attached Certificate of
Lumber Origin (CLO) . . . which form[s] part of this circular [is] hereby adopted as accountable forms
for official use by authorized BFD officers. . . .
5. Lumber . . . transported/shipped without the necessary Certificate of Lumber Origin (CLO) . . .
as herein required shall be considered as proceeding from illegal sources and as such, shall be
subject to confiscation and disposition in accordance with LOI 1020 and BFD implementing
guidelines.
Petitioner contends that the term "timber" includes lumber and, therefore, the Certificates of Timber
Origin and their attachments should have been considered in establishing the legality of the
company's possession of the lumber.
[13]
In support of his contention, petitioner invokes our ruling in
Mustang Lumber, Inc. v. Court of Appeals.
[14]

The contention has no merit. The statement in Mustang Lumber that lumber is merely processed
timber and, therefore, the word "timber" embraces lumber, was made in answer to the lower court's
ruling in that case that the phrase "possess timber or other forest products" in 68 of P.D. No. 705
means that only those who possess timber and forest products without the documents required by
law are criminally liable, while those who possess lumber are not liable. On the other hand, the
question in this case is whether separate certificates of origin should be issued for lumber and timber.
Indeed, different certificates of origin are required for timber, lumber and non-timber forest
products.
[15]
As already noted, the opening paragraph of BFD Circular No. 10-83 expressly states that
the issuance of a separate certificate of origin for lumber is required in order to "pinpoint
accountability and responsibility for shipment of lumber . . . and to have uniformity in documenting the
origin thereof."
Even assuming that a Certificate of Timber Origin could serve as a substitute for Certificate of Lumber
Origin, the trial court and the Court of Appeals were justified in convicting petitioner, considering the
numerous irregularities and defects found in the documents presented by the latter. According to the
trial court:
[16]

Although the CTO marked Exh. "6" mentions 56 pieces of flitches, the supporting documents, like the
Tally Sheet, the Delivery Receipt from the lumber dealer and the Cash Voucher describe 463 pieces
of lumber. . . . Maniks
In like manner, Exh. "7" and Exh. "9" mention 961 and 420 pieces of log, respectively. But the
supporting documents describe the forest product[s] as lumber.
The CTO marked Exh. "[8]" reveals a half-truth: it mentions 678 pieces of hand-sawn lumber. Its
Auxiliary Invoice also states the same load of lumber. Someone may have noticed the "mistake" of
mentioning lumber in the Auxiliary Invoice and so the words "flitches 87 pieces" were written down
and enclosed in parenthesis.
The said exhibits also appear to be questionable, [t]hus[:]
The CTO marked Exh. "6" is consigned to "any buyer (sic) Cagayan de Oro", but its Auxiliary Invoice
(Exh. "6-A") mentions Valencia Golden Harvest Corporation as the consignee. Moreover, the CTO
states (at the back page) that the same is covered by Auxiliary Invoice No. 00491; in fact, the
Auxiliary Invoice (Exh. 6-A) has invoice number 000488.
In the CTO marked Exhibit "7", the original typewritten name of the consignee was clearly erased and
changed to "Valencia Golden Harvest Corporation, Valencia, Bukidnon". In the Auxiliary Invoice (Exh.
"7-A") the blank space for the name and address of the consignee was smudged with a typewriter
correction fluid (the better to erase what was originally typewritten in it?) and changed to "Valencia
Golden Harvest Corporation, Valencia, Bukidnon".
The CTO marked Exh. "9" and its Auxiliary Invoice marked Exh. "9-A" [were] "doctored" in the same
manner as Exh. "[7]" and Exh. "[7-A]".
[17]

Additionally, all the Auxiliary Invoice were not properly accomplished: the data required to be filled are
left in blank. Manikan
Indeed, aside from the fact that the Certificate of Timber Origin in Exh. 7 bears no date, the dorsal
side bears the certification that the logs were "scaled on August 7, 1991," while the receipt attached
to that Certificate is dated February 6, 1992. Moreover, the four delivery receipts list the sizes and
volume of the lumber sold, indicating that the company purchased cut lumber from the dealers, thus
belying the testimony of petitioner that when the company bought the forest products, they were still
in the form of flitches and logs, and they were cut into lumber by the company.
[18]

These irregularities and discrepancies make the documents in which they are found not only
questionable but invalid and, thus, justified the trial court in giving no credence to the same.
[19]

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

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

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

Second. The penalty imposed should be modified. Art. 309 of the Revised Penal Code, made
applicable to the offense by P.D. No. 705, 68, provides:
ART. 309. Penalties.- Any person guilty of theft shall be punished by: Oldmis o
1. The penalty of prision mayor in its minimum and medium periods, if the value of the thing stolen is
more than P12,000 pesos but does not exceed P22,000 pesos; but if the value of the thing stolen
exceeds the latter amount, the penalty shall be the maximum period of the one prescribed in this
paragraph, and one year for each additional ten thousand pesos, but the total of the penalty which
may be imposed shall not exceed twenty years. In such cases, and in connection with the accessory
penalties which may be imposed and for the purpose of the other provisions of this Code, the penalty
shall be termed prision mayor or reclusion temporal, as the case may be. . . .
As the lumber involved in this case is worth P488,334.45, and applying the Indeterminate Sentence
Law,
[23]
the penalty to be imposed should be six (6) years of prision correccional to twenty (20) years
ofreclusion temporal.
WHEREFORE, the decision of the Court of Appeals, dated October 31, 1997, is AFFIRMED with the
MODIFICATION that petitioner is sentenced to six (6) years of prision correccional, as minimum, to
twenty (20) years of reclusion temporal, as maximum.
SO ORDERED.
SECOND DIVISION
[G.R. No. 136142. October 24, 2000]
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. ALFONSO DATOR and BENITO
GENOL, accused (Acquitted)
PASTOR TELEN, accused-appellant.
D E C I S I O N
DE LEON, JR., J .:
Before us on appeal is the Decision
[1]
of the Regional Trial Court of Maasin, Southern Leyte, Branch
25, in Criminal Case No. 1733 convicting the appellant of the crime of violation of Presidential Decree
No. 705.
Pastor Telen and his co-accused, Alfonso Dator and Benito Genol, were charged with the crime of
violation of Section 68
[2]
of Presidential Decree No. 705, otherwise known as the Revised Forestry
Code,
[3]
in an Information that reads:
That on or about the 29th day of October, 1993 at around 8:00 oclock in the evening, in barangay
Laboon, municipality of Maasin, province of Southern Leyte, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of
this Honorable Court, the above-named accused conspiring, confederating and mutually helping each
other, with intent of gain, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously possess 1,560.16
board feet of assorted lumber flitches valued at TWENTY-THREE THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED
PESOS (23,500.00), Philippine Currency, without any legal document as required under existing
forest laws and regulations from proper government authorities, to the damage and prejudice of the
government.
CONTRARY TO LAW.
Upon being arraigned on May 27, 1994, Pastor Telen and his co-accused, Alfonso Dator and Benito
Genol, assisted by counsel, separately entered the plea of Not guilty to the charge in the
Information. Thereafter, trial on the merits ensued.
It appears that on October 29, 1993, Police Station Commander Alejandro Rojas of Maasin, Southern
Leyte, and SPO1 Necitas Bacala, were on board a police patrol vehicle heading towards Barangay
San Rafael, Maasin, Southern Leyte. Upon reaching Barangay Laboon of the same municipality, they
noticed a Isuzu cargo truck loaded with pieces of lumber bound toward the town proper of
Maasin. Suspicious that the cargo was illegally cut pieces of lumber, Police Station Commander
Rojas maneuvered their police vehicle and gave chase.
[4]

Upon catching up with the Isuzu cargo truck in Barangay Soro-soro, Maasin, Southern Leyte, they
ordered the driver, accused Benito Genol, to pull over. Benito Genol was left alone in the truck after
his companions hurriedly left. When asked if he had the required documents for the proper transport
of the pieces of lumber, Genol answered in the negative. Genol informed the police authorities that
the pieces of lumber were owned by herein appellant, Pastor Telen, while the Isuzu cargo truck
bearing Plate No. HAF 628 was registered in the name of Southern Leyte Farmers Agro-Industrial
Cooperative, Inc. (SLEFAICO) which is a local cooperative. Consequently, Police Officers Rojas and
Bacala directed Benito Genol to proceed to the Maasin Police Station, Maasin, Southern Leyte for
further investigation.
[5]

On November 5, 1993, Forest Ranger Romeo Galola was fetched from his office at the Community
Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO), Maasin, Southern Leyte by SPO1 Necitas
Bacala to inspect the pieces of lumber that were confiscated on October 29, 1993 in Soro-soro,
Maasin, Southern Leyte from Pastor Telen. Galola and his immediate supervisor, Sulpicio Saguing,
found that the cargo consisted of forty-one (41) pieces of Dita lumber and ten (10) pieces of Antipolo
lumber of different dimensions with a total volume of 1,560.16 board feet.
[6]

Subsequently, SPO1 Bacala issued a seizure receipt
[7]
covering the fifty-one (51) pieces of
confiscated Dita and Antipolo lumber and one (1) unit of Isuzu cargo truck with Plate No. HAF
628. The confiscated pieces of lumber and the cargo truck were turned over to SPO3 Daniel Lasala,
PNP Property Custodian, Maasin, Southern Leyte who, in turn, officially transferred custody of the
same to the CENRO, Maasin, Southern Leyte.
[8]

The defense denied any liability for the crime charged in the Information. Pastor Telen, a utility worker
at the Integrated Provincial Health Office, Southern Leyte for nineteen (19) years, testified that he
needed lumber to be used in renovating the house of his grandparents in Barangay Abgao, Maasin,
Southern Leyte where he maintained residence. Knowing that it was prohibited by law to cut trees
without appropriate permit from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR),
Telen sought the assistance of a certain Lando dela Pena who was an employee at the CENRO,
Maasin, Southern Leyte. Dela Pena accompanied Telen to the office of a certain Boy Leonor, who
was the Officer in Charge of CENRO in Maasin, Southern Leyte. Leonor did not approve of the plan
of Telen to cut teak or hard lumber from his (Telen) mothers track of land in Tabunan, San Jose,
Maasin, Southern Leyte. However, Leonor allegedly allowed Telen to cut the aging Dita trees
only. According to Telen, Leonor assured him that a written permit was not anymore necessary
before he could cut the Dita trees, which are considered soft lumber, from the private land of his
mother, provided the same would be used exclusively for the renovation of his house and that he
shall plant trees as replacement thereof, which he did by planting Gemelina seedlings.
[9]

On September 15, 1993, Telen requested his cousin, Vicente Sabalo, to hire for him a cargo truck in
order to haul the sawn lumber from the land of his mother in Tabunan, San Jose, Maasin, Southern
Leyte. His cousin obliged after Telen assured him that he had already secured verbal permission from
Boy Leonor, Officer in Charge of CENRO in Maasin, Southern Leyte, before cutting the said
lumber.
[10]

After having been informed by Vicente Sabalo on October 29, 1993 at about 4:00 oclock in the
afternoon that a cargo truck was available for hire, Telen instructed his cousin to personally supervise
the hauling of the sawn lumber for him inasmuch as he was busy with his work in the office. At around
7:00 oclock in the evening, Telen learned from his daughter that the sawn lumber were confiscated
by the police in Barangay Soro-soro, Maasin, Southern Leyte.
[11]

Upon arrival in Barangay Soro-Soro, Telen was accosted by Police Station Commander Alejandro
Rojas who demanded from him DENR permit for the sawn lumber. After confirming ownership of the
sawn lumber, Telen explained to Rojas that he had already secured verbal permission from Boy
Leonor to cut Dita trees, which are considered soft lumber, to be used in the renovation of his house
and that he had already replaced the sawn Dita trees with Gemelina seedlings, but to no avail. Rojas
ordered that the pieces of lumber and the Isuzu cargo truck be impounded at the municipal building of
Maasin, Southern Leyte for failure of Telen to produce the required permit from the DENR.
[12]

Pastor Telen appeared before Bert Pesidas, CENRO hearing officer, in Maasin, Southern Leyte for
investigation in connection with the confiscated pieces of lumber. Telen had tried to contact Officer-in-
Charge Boy Leonor of the CENRO Maasin, Southern Leyte after the confiscation of the sawn lumber
on October 29, 1993 and even during the investigation conducted by the CENRO hearing officer for
three (3) times but to no avail, for the reason that Boy Leonor was assigned at a reforestation site in
Danao, Cebu province.
[13]

Alfonso Dator, was the accounting manager of SLEFAICO, Inc., a local cooperative engaged in
buying and selling abaca fibers. Dator testified that on October 29, 1993 at 3:00 oclock in the
afternoon, a certain Vicente Sabalo, accompanied by their company driver, Benito Genol, proposed to
hire the Isuzu cargo truck owned by SLEFAICO, Inc. to haul pieces of coconut lumber from Barangay
San Jose to Barangay Soro-soro in Maasin, Southern Leyte. He readily acceded to the proposal
inasmuch as the owner of the alleged coconut lumber, according to Sabalo, was Pastor Telen, who is
a long time friend and former officemate at the provincial office of the Department of Health. Besides,
the fee to be earned from the hauling services meant additional income for the cooperative.
[14]

At about 6:00 oclock in the evening of the same day, Dator met the Isuzu cargo truck of SLEFAICO,
Inc. at the Canturing bridge in Maasin, Southern Leyte, being escorted by a police patrol vehicle,
heading towards the municipal town proper. At the municipal hall building of Maasin, he learned that
the Isuzu truck was apprehended by the police for the reason that it contained a cargo of Dita and
Antipolo lumber without the required permit from the DENR. He explained to the police authorities
that the Isuzu cargo truck was hired merely to transport coconut lumber, however, it was impounded
at the municipal building just the same.
[15]
Due to the incident Dator lost his job as accounting
manager in SLEFAICO, Inc.
[16]

For his defense, Benito Genol testified that he was employed by the SLEFAICO, Inc. as driver of its
Isuzu cargo truck. Aside from transporting abaca fibers, the Isuzu cargo truck was also available for
hire.
[17]

While Genol was having the two tires of the Isuzu cargo truck vulcanized on October 29, 1993 in
Barangay Mantahan, Maasin, Southern Leyte, Vicente Sabalo approached him and offered to hire the
services of the cargo truck. Genol accompanied Sabalo to the residence of the accounting manager
of SLEFAICO, Inc., Alfonso Dator, which was nearby, and the latter agreed to the proposal of Sabalo
to hire the Isuzu cargo truck to haul pieces of coconut lumber from San Jose, Maasin, Southern
Leyte, for a fee.
[18]

At 4:00 oclock in the afternoon of the same day, Genol, Sabalo and a son of Alfonso Dator,
proceeded to San Jose after fetching about six (6) haulers along the way in Barangay Soro-
soro. Upon arrival in San Jose, Genol remained behind the steering wheel to take a rest. He was
unmindful of the actual nature of the lumber that were being loaded. After the loading, Genol was
instructed to proceed to Barangay Soro-soro in front of the lumberyard of a certain Jimmy Go. Before
the lumber could be unloaded at 8:00 oclock in the evening Genol was approached by Police Station
Commander Alejandro Rojas who demanded DENR permit for the lumber. The pieces of lumber were
confiscated by Rojas after Genol failed to produce the required permit from the DENR office.
[19]

Vicente Sabalo corroborated the testimonies of the three (3) accused in this case. He testified in
substance that he was requested by his cousin, Pastor Telen, to engage the services of a cargo truck
to transport sawn pieces of lumber from San Jose to be used in the renovation of his house in Abgao,
Maasin, Southern Leyte; that he approached Benito Genol and offered to hire the services of the
Isuzu cargo truck that he was driving; that both of them asked the permission of Alfonso Dator who
readily acceded to the proposal for a fee of P500.00;
[20]
that he saw Genol remained behind the
steering wheel as the loading of the lumber was going on in San Jose; and that the lumber and the
Isuzu cargo truck were confiscated in Barangay Soro-soro for failure of his cousin, Pastor Telen, to
show to Police Station Commander Alejandro Rojas any written permit from the DENR for the subject
lumber.
[21]

After analyzing the evidence, the trial court rendered a decision, the dispositive portion of which
reads:
WHEREFORE, judgment is rendered as follows:
1. CONVICTING the accused PASTOR TELEN beyond reasonable doubt of the offense charged and
there being no modifying circumstances, and with the Indeterminate Sentence Law being
inapplicable, the herein accused is hereby sentenced to suffer the indivisible penalty of RECLUSION
PERPETUA, with the accessory penalties provided by law, which is two (2) degrees higher than
PRISION MAYOR maximum, the authorized penalty similar to Qualified Theft, and to pay the
costs. His bail for his provisional liberty is hereby cancelled and he shall be committed to the New
Bilibid Prisons, Muntinlupa, Metro Manila thru the Abuyog Regional Prisons, Abuyog, Leyte via the
Provincial Warden, Maasin, Southern Leyte;
2. ACQUITTING co-accused Alfonso Dator and Benito Genol on reasonable doubt for insufficiency of
evidence; and cancelling their bail;
3. CONFISCATING and SEIZING the 1,560.16 board feet of illegal lumber worth P23,500.00 and
ORDERING the CENRO Maasin, Southern Leyte to sell the lumber at public auction under proper
permission from the Court, with the proceeds thereof turned over to the National Government thru the
National Treasury under proper receipt, and to REPORT the fact of sale to this Court duly covered by
documents of sale and other receipts by evidencing the sale within five (5) days from the
consummation of sale; and
4. DIRECTING the CENRO authorities to coordinate with its Regional Office for immediate
administrative proceedings and determination of any administrative liability of the truck owner,
SLEFAICO Inc. if any, otherwise, to release the truck to its owner.
SO ORDERED.
In his appeal Pastor Telen interpose the following assignments of error:
I
THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN FINDING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT GUILTY BEYOND
REASONABLE DOUBT FOR VIOLATION OF SEC. 68, P. D. 705, AS AMENDED, BEING
CONTRARY TO LAW AND THE EVIDENCE ON RECORD AND FOR BEING NOT IN
CONFORMITY WITH DENR ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER NO. 79, SERIES OF 1990.
II
THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN IMPOSING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT THE PENALTY OF
RECLUSION PERPETUA FOR THE ALLEGED VIOLATION OF SEC. 68, P. D. 705, AS AMENDED,
IT BEING A PATENTLY ERRONEOUS PENALTY NOT WARRANTED BY ANY PROVISION OF
THE REVISED PENAL CODE OR JURISPRUDENCE.
III
THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE VALUE OF THE CONFISCATED LUMBER
IS P23,500.00 FOR NO EVIDENCE OF SUCH VALUE WAS ESTABLISHED DURING THE TRIAL.
The appeal is not impressed with merit.
It is not disputed that appellant Pastor Telen is the owner of the fifty-one (51) pieces of assorted
Antipolo and Dita lumber with a total volume of 1,560.16 board feet. He alleged that the pieces of
lumber were cut from the track of land belonging to his mother in San Jose, Maasin, Southern Leyte
which he intended to use in the renovation of his house in Barangay Abgao of the same
municipality. After having been confiscated by the police, while in transit, in Barangay Soro-soro,
appellant Telen failed to produce before the authorities the required legal documents from the DENR
pertaining to the said pieces of lumber.
The fact of possession by the appellant of the subject fifty-one (51) pieces of assorted Antipolo and
Dita lumber, as well as his subsequent failure to produce the legal documents as required under
existing forest laws and regulations constitute criminal liability for violation of Presidential Decree No.
705, otherwise known as the Revised Forestry Code.
[22]
Section 68 of the code 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.
Appellant Telen contends that he secured verbal permission from Boy Leonor, Officer-in-Charge of
the DENR-CENRO in Maasin, Southern Leyte before cutting the lumber, and that the latter
purportedly assured him that written permit was not anymore necessary before cutting soft lumber,
such as the Antipolo and Dita trees in this case, from a private track of land, to be used in renovating
appellants house, provided that he would plant trees as replacements thereof, which he already
did. It must be underscored that the appellant stands charged with the crime of violation of Section 68
of Presidential Decree No. 705, a special statutory law, and which crime is considered mala
prohibita. In the prosecution for crimes that are considered mala prohibita, the only inquiry is whether
or not the law has been violated.
[23]
The motive or intention underlying the act of the appellant is
immaterial for the reason that his mere possession of the confiscated pieces of lumber without the
legal documents as required under existing forest laws and regulations gave rise to his criminal
liability.
In any case, the mere allegation of the appellant regarding the verbal permission given by Boy
Leonor, Officer in Charge of DENR-CENRO, Maasin, Southern Leyte, is not sufficient to overturn the
established fact that he had no legal documents to support valid possession of the confiscated pieces
of lumber. It does not appear from the record of this case that appellant exerted any effort during the
trial to avail of the testimony of Boy Leonor to corroborate his allegation. Absent such corroborative
evidence, the trial court did not commit an error in disregarding the bare testimony of the appellant on
this point which is, at best, self-serving.
[24]

The appellant cannot validly take refuge under the pertinent provision of DENR Administrative Order
No. 79, Series of 1990
[25]
which prescribes rules on the deregulation of the harvesting, transporting
and sale of firewood, pulpwood or timber planted in private lands. Appellant submits that under the
said DENR Administrative Order No. 79, no permit is required in the cutting of planted trees within
titled lands except Benguet pine and premium species listed under DENR Administrative Order No.
78, Series of 1987, namely: narra, molave, dao, kamagong, ipil, acacia, akle, apanit, banuyo,
batikuling, betis, bolong-eta, kalantas, lanete, lumbayao, sangilo, supa, teak, tindalo and manggis.
Concededly, the varieties of lumber for which the appellant is being held liable for illegal possession
do not belong to the premium species enumerated under DENR Administrative Order No. 78, Series
of 1987. However, under the same DENR administrative order, a certification from the CENRO
concerned to the effect that the forest products came from a titled land or tax declared alienable and
disposable land must still be secured to accompany the shipment. This the appellant failed to do,
thus, he is criminally liable under Section 68 of Presidential Decree No. 705 necessitating prior
acquisition of permit and legal documents as required under existing forest laws and regulations.
The pertinent portion of DENR Administrative Order No. 79, Series of 1990, is quoted hereunder, to
wit:
In line with the National Reforestation Program and in order to promote the planting of trees by
owners of private lands and give incentives to the tree farmers, Ministry Administrative Order No. 4
dated January 19, 1987 which lifted the restriction in the harvesting, transporting and sale of firewood,
pulpwood or timber produced from Ipil-Ipil (leucaenia spp) and Falcate (Albizzia falcataria) is hereby
amended to include all other tree species planted in private lands except BENGUET PINE and
premium hardwood species. Henceforth, no permit is required in the cutting of planted trees within the
titled lands or tax declared A and D lands with corresponding application for patent or acquired
through court proceedings, except BENGUET PINE and premium species listed under DENR
Administrative Order No 78, Series of 1987, provided, that a certification of the CENRO concerned to
the effect that the forest products came from a titled land or tax declared alienable and disposable
land is issued accompanying the shipment.
Appellant Telen next contends that proof of value of the confiscated pieces of lumber is
indispensable, it being the basis for the computation of the penalty prescribed in Article 309 in relation
to Article 310 of the Revised Penal Code; and that in the absence of any evidence on record to prove
the allegation in the Information that the confiscated pieces of lumber have an equivalent value of
P23,500.00 there can be no basis for the penalty to be imposed and hence, he should be acquitted.
The appellants contention is untenable. It is a basic rule in criminal law that penalty is not an element
of the offense. Consequently, the failure of the prosecution to adduce evidence in support of its
allegation in the Information with respect to the value of the confiscated pieces of lumber is not
necessarily fatal to its case. This Court notes that the estimated value of the confiscated pieces of
lumber, as appearing in the official transmittal letter
[26]
of the DENR-CENRO, Maasin, Southern Leyte
addressed to the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of the same province, is P23,500.00 which is
alleged in the Information. However, the said transmittal letter cannot serve as evidence or as a valid
basis for the estimated value of the confiscated pieces of lumber for purposes of computing the
proper penalty to be imposed on the appellant considering that it is hearsay and it was not formally
offered in evidence contrary to Section 34 of Rule 132 of the Revised Rules of Court.
In the case of People vs. Elizaga,
[27]
the accused-appellant therein was convicted of the crimes of
homicide and theft, and the value of the bag and its contents that were taken by the accused-
appellant from the victim was estimated by the prosecution witness to be P500.00. In the absence of
a conclusive or definite proof relative to their value, this Court fixed the value of the bag and its
contents at P100.00 based on the attendant circumstances of the case. More pertinently, in the case
of People vs. Reyes,
[28]
this Court held that if there is no available evidence to prove the value of the
stolen property or that the prosecution failed to prove it, the corresponding penalty to be imposed on
the accused-appellant should be the minimum penalty corresponding to theft involving the value of
P5.00.
In the case at bench, the confiscated fifty-one (51) pieces of assorted Dita and Antipolo lumber were
classified by the CENRO officials as soft, and therefore not premium quality lumber. It may also be
noted that the said pieces of lumber were cut by the appellant, a mere janitor in a public hospital, from
the land owned by his mother, not for commercial purposes but to be utilized in the renovation of his
house. It does not appear that appellant Telen had been convicted nor was he an accused in any
other pending criminal case involving violation of any of the provisions of the Revised Forestry Code
(P.D. No. 705, as amended). In view of the attendant circumstances of this case, and in the interest of
justice, the basis for the penalty to be imposed on the appellant should be the minimum amount
under Article 309 paragraph (6) of the Revised Penal Code which carries the penalty of arresto
mayor in its minimum and medium periods for simple theft.
Considering that the crime of violation of Section 68 of Presidential Decree No. 705, as amended, is
punished as qualified theft under Article 310 of the Revised Penal Code, pursuant to the said decree,
the imposable penalty on the appellant shall be increased by two degrees, that is, from arresto
mayor in its minimum and medium periods to prision mayor in its minimum and medium
periods.
[29]
Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law,
[30]
the penalty to be imposed on the appellant
should be six (6) months and one (1) day of prision correccional to six (6) years and one (1) day
of prision mayor.
WHEREFORE, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Maasin, Southern Leyte, Branch 25, in
Criminal Case No. 1733 is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that appellant Pastor Telen is
sentenced to six (6) months and one (1) day of prision correccional, as minimum, to six (6) years and
one (1) day of prision mayor, as maximum.
SO ORDERED.
ECOND DIVISION
[G.R. No. 161798. October 20, 2004]
PICOP RESOURCES, INC., petitioner, vs. HON. AUGUSTUS L. CALO, Presiding Judge, RTC of
Agusan del Norte and Butuan City, 10
th
Judicial Region, Branch 5, Butuan City, HON. VICTOR
A. TOMANENG, Acting Presiding Judge, RTC of Agusan del Norte and Butuan City,
10
th
Judicial Region, Branch 5, Butuan City, EDUARDO CASIA, ROGELIO CASTILLO,
ULDARICO CASINGINAN, ELADIO GALANO, CATALINO VIRTUDAZO, RICARDO BALAD-ON,
JOEL VILLAREAL, TIBURCIO IMPUERTO, HILARIO FERNANDEZ, ANDREA VASQUEZ,
SPOUSES REMELITO CODERA and MARILYN RANOSO-CODERA, and FLORIO JOSAFAT, JR.,
for himself and in representation by way of a class suit the Members of the UNIFIED
FARMERS ASSOCIATION OF BISLIG (UFAB), respondents.
R E S O L U T I O N
Tinga, J .:
Petitioner PICOP Resources, Inc. (PICOP) owns and operates a multi-billion peso pulp and paper
manufacturing facility in Bislig City, Agusan del Norte. It holds government-issued Pulpwood and
Timber License Agreement (PTLA) No. 47 and Integrated Forest Management Agreement (IFMA) No.
35 which gave petitioner the exclusive right to co-manage and develop with the State almost 130,000
hectares of forest land within the Agusan-Davao-Surigao Forest Reserve.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), through its officers, rendered three
Memoranda, dated August 22, 1997,
[1]
February 16, 2001,
[2]
and April 6, 2001,
[3]
by virtue of which
petitioner was designated a DENR depository and custodian for apprehended forest products and
conveyances within its concession. On May 25, 2001, the Office of the CENRO-Bislig and petitioner
entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) containing Procedural Guidelines in the Conduct
of Verification of Private Tree Plantation.
[4]
The MOA provided, among others, that field
validation/verification of applications for Certificates of Private Tree Ownership (CTPOs) shall be
conducted jointly by the DENR, the local government unit concerned, and petitioner. Pursuant to
these Memoranda, petitioners security personnel were deputized as DENR officers to apprehend and
seize the tools, equipment and conveyance used in the commission of illegal logging and the forest
products removed and possessed by the offenders.
In the course of the enforcement of the aforesaid Memoranda, petitioner PICOP, through its security
personnel, had on numerous occasions apprehended within its concession and tree plantation area,
violators who loaded the illegally cut trees in trucks and other forms of conveyance, such as
carabaos, for transport out of the plantation area. These illegally cut forest products and
conveyances were kept in PICOPs impounding area.
On June 18, 2001, private respondents Eduardo Casia, Rogelio Castillo, Uldarico Casinginan, Eladio
Galano, Catalino Virtudazo, Ricardo Balad-on, Joel Villareal, Tiburcio Impuerto, Hilario Fernandez,
Andrea Vasquez, Spouses Remelito Codera and Marilyn Ranoso-Codera, and Florio Josafat, Jr., for
himself and in representation, by way of a class suit, of the members of the UNITED FARMERS
ASSOCIATION OF BISLIG (UFAB), filed a complaint for damages and injunction with prayer for
issuance of writ of preliminary mandatory injunction before the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 5,
Agusan del Norte and Butuan City against the DENR Regional Office XIII (CARAGA) and/or its
Regional Executive Director Elias C. Seraspi, Jr., Provincial Environment and Natural Resources
Offices (PENRO) of Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Norte and Butuan City and/or their respective PENR
Officers, Community Environment and Natural Resources Offices (CENRO) of San Francisco,
Bunawan, Lianga and Bislig and/or their respective CENR Officers, and herein petitioner
PICOP/Wilfredo D. Fuentes.
[5]

Private respondents-complainants were some of those apprehended by PICOPS security officers
transporting without any permit several hundred cubic meters of falcata logs allegedly grown in
petitioners plantation. The logs, trucks and other forms of conveyance on which they were carried
were confiscated and kept in petitioners impounding area. Private respondents alleged in their
complaint that the Memoranda dated August 22, 1997, February 16, 2001 and April 6, 2001 and the
MOA dated May 25, 2001 were illegal for having been issued with grave abuse of discretion. They
sought to have the Memoranda declared null and void for this reason and also sought to restrain the
DENR and all those acting for and in its behalf, including herein petitioner, from enforcing or
implementing said Memoranda.
On September 21, 2001, the RTC rendered its Decision.
[6]
With regard to private respondents
allegation that the aforesaid Memoranda were illegally issued, the trial court disregarded the claim
and sustained the validity of the Memoranda. The Memoranda were issuances of a duly-authorized
government agency in the normal and regular course of its duty to enforce forestry laws and
procedures. The RTC added that the application for the writ of preliminary injunction was the wrong
remedy to assail the legality of the Memoranda, such an action being merely a collateral attack.
Private respondents should instead have filed a petition to declare the Memoranda null and void.
However, the trial court granted private respondents prayer for preliminary mandatory injunction. It
noted that administrative or criminal cases had been filed against private respondents involving the
apprehended conveyances. The RTC ordered RED Elias R. Seraspio, Jr. to recall, withdraw and
abrogate the enforcement of the assailed Memorandum dated February 16, 2001 and commanded all
those acting pursuant to said Memorandum to refrain and desist from implementing the
Memorandum. Petitioner was also ordered to release the confiscated falcata logs and vehicles to the
owners thereof, or to the CENRO-Bislig or the Office of the Government Prosecution-Surigao del Sur,
where the administrative and criminal proceedings were ongoing.
[7]

Petitioner moved for reconsideration but this was denied for lack of merit on October 17, 2001.
[8]

On January 21, 2002, DENR-Region XIII RED Benjamin T. Tumaliuan issued a Memorandum
revoking the February 16, 2001 Memorandum issued by former OIC-RED Constancio A. Paye, Jr.
[9]

On April 29, 2002, petitioner filed a petition for certiorari with prayer for issuance of a temporary
restraining order and/or writ of injunction before the Court of Appeals. The petition was dismissed for
lack of merit on July 23, 2003.
[10]
The appellate court held there was no grave abuse of discretion
when the RTC issued the assailed Decision and Resolution. Petitioner had no right or interest to
protect in the confiscated forest products and conveyances. Petitioners compound was used only as
a depository for the confiscated logs and conveyances by virtue of the Memorandum dated February
16, 2001. Neither did petitioner claim ownership of the confiscated conveyances. While it claimed
that some of the confiscated forest products may have come from its concession area, petitioner
admitted that the ownership of the confiscated products was still to be determined in the cases
pending either at the CENRO-Bislig or at the Office of the Government Prosecution-Surigao del Sur.
Hence, petitioners interest in the confiscated forest products was merely contingent and cannot be
material as contemplated under Section 2, Rule 3 of the Revised Rules of Civil Procedure.
Necessarily therefore, petitioner had no basis to bring the action against respondents and it was not
entitled to the ancillary remedy of a writ of preliminary injunction.
On August 15, 2003, petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration but this was denied in the
Resolution of January 16, 2004.
[11]

Petitioner then filed this petition for review.
Petitioner argues that it is a proper party-in-interest, vested with a material interest in the outcome of
the case. It allegedly has more than just a contingent interest in the outcome of the dispute.
Petitioner contend that private respondents intrusion was in violation of petitioners PTLA No. 47 and
IFMA No. 35. These license agreements gave petitioner the exclusive right to co-manage and
develop forest lands, and recognized petitioner as owner of the trees and other products in the
concession area.
[12]
In filing this petition, petitioner is merely defending its subsisting proprietary
interest pursuant to these license agreements.
Public respondents never refuted petitioner PICOPs allegation that private respondents were
apprehended by the DENR-deputized PICOP guards at its checkpoint within PICOPs concession
area. Private respondents also never denied that PICOPs guards had been deputized as DENR
officers to enforce the Memoranda. Petitioner was therefore within its rights in exercising control over
its concession area pursuant to its duty as DENR depository.
Petitioner also argues that the RTC intruded upon the primary jurisdiction of the DENR when it took
cognizance of private respondents complaint for damages and issued the writ of injunction.
Petitioner invokes DENR Department Administrative Order (DAO) No. 97-32
[13]
in asserting that it has
the obligation to keep custody of the apprehended forest products, tools and conveyances, the
disposal of which rests solely on the DENR.
The RTC also allegedly committed grave abuse of discretion in granting private respondents prayer
for issuance of injunction in violation of the doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies.
Petitioner argues that private respondents should have awaited the results of the administrative
procedure for summary administrative apprehensions and seizures of the DENR under Sections 5
and 6 of DAO No. 97-32, instead of filing the complaint before the trial court. This would have
allegedly allowed the proper administrative officer to ascertain whether a prima facie case lies against
the offenders and whether the apprehended articles should answer for the offense. By issuing the
assailed writ of injunction, the trial court arrogated unto itself the power to rule on the rightful
possession of the subject conveyances.
Petitioner also contends that the injunctive writ was issued without due process of law since the
transfer of custody of the forest products and conveyances was not even sought by private
respondents in their complaint. Consequently, the matter of the return of the seized conveyances
was never ventilated during the hearing and the issuance of the writ not sought for violates the rules
of due process.
Petitioners arguments do not convince us. The petition should be denied.
It is clear that petitioner has no material interest to protect in the confiscated forest products and
conveyances. It has no subsisting proprietary interest, as borne out by its licensing agreements,
which need to be protected by annulling the writ of injunction issued by the trial court. As observed
by the Court of Appeals, any interest petitioner has in the confiscated properties is dependent on the
outcome of the proceedings before the CENRO-Bislig and the Office of the Government Prosecution-
Surigao del Sur. The issue of ownership and possession of the confiscated products still has to be
determined in those proceedings. Petitioner had not refuted this.
Petitioner also cannot claim the right to retain custody of the apprehended logs and conveyances by
virtue of its being designated a depository of the DENR pursuant to the assailed Memoranda. As
such depository, petitioner merely holds the confiscated products and conveyances in custody for the
DENR while the administrative or criminal proceedings regarding said products are pending.
The trial court noted that the confiscated vehicles were already subject of administrative proceedings
before the CENRO-Bislig and criminal complaints before the Office of the Government Prosecution-
Surigao del Sur. There were also letters or notices to petitioner from officers of the CENRO and the
Office of the Government Prosecution requesting the release of some of the conveyances to their
owners.
[14]
There is no reason for petitioner to refuse to hand over possession of the vehicles and
forest products since, being confiscated items, they will have to be handed over to the proper
government agencies for appropriate disposition proceedings.
Furthermore, the transfer of custody of the confiscated products and conveyances will not in any way
place petitioner at a disadvantage. Petitioner is merely a depository and the release of the
conveyances and products to the government agencies concerned has to be done but only in
compliance with lawful court orders.
It should also be remembered that the Memorandum dated February 16, 2001, which designated
petitioner as a DENR depository, had been revoked by the Memorandum of January 21, 2002. As of
the filing of the petition for review before this Court on March 11, 2004, petitioner no longer had any
right, as a depository, to retain possession of the conveyances.
All the foregoing considered, petitioners contention that the trial court violated the doctrines of
primary jurisdiction and exhaustion of administrative remedies should also fail. The transfer of
custody of the confiscated products to the CENRO and the Office of the Government Prosecution
was for the purpose of resolving the cases with dispatch.
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Petition for Review is DENIED.
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. L-30637, July 16, 1987, 152 SCRA 80]. More so
where, as in the present case, the interests of a private logging company are pitted against that of the
public at large on the pressing public policy issue of forest conservation. For this Court recognizes the
wide latitude of discretion possessed by the government in determining the appropriate actions to be
taken to preserve and manage natural resources, and the proper parties who should enjoy the
privilege of utilizing these resources [Director of Forestry v. Munoz, G.R. No. L-24796, June 28, 1968,
23 SCRA 1183; Lim, Sr. v. The Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, G.R. No. L-26990,
August 31, 1970, 34 SCRA 751]. Timber licenses, permits and license agreements are the principal
instruments by which the State regulates the utilization and disposition of forest resources to the end
that public welfare is promoted. And it can hardly be gainsaid that they merely evidence a privilege
granted by the State to qualified entities, and do not vest in the latter a permanent or irrevocable right
to the particular concession area and the forest products therein. They may be validly amended,
modified, replaced or rescinded by the Chief Executive when national interests so require. Thus, they
are not deemed contracts within the purview of the due process of law clause [See Sections 3 (ee)
and 20 of Pres. Decree No. 705, as amended. Also, Tan v. Director of Forestry, G.R. No. L-24548,
October 27, 1983, 125 SCRA 302].
In fine, the legal precepts highlighted in the foregoing discussion more than suffice to justify the
Court's refusal to interfere in the DENR evaluation of timber licenses and permits issued under the
previous regime, or to pre-empt the adoption of appropriate corrective measures by the department.
Nevertheless, the Court cannot help but express its concern regarding alleged irregularities in the
issuance of timber license agreements to a number of logging concessionaires.
The grant of licenses or permits to exploit the country's timber resources, if done in contravention of
the procedure outlined in the law, or as a result of fraud and undue influence exerted on department
officials, is indicative of an arbitrary and whimsical exercise of the State's power to regulate the use
and exploitation of forest resources. The alleged practice of bestowing "special favors" to preferred
individuals, regardless of merit, would be an abuse of this power. And this Court will not be a party to
a flagrant mockery of the avowed public policy of conservation enshrined in the 1987 Constitution.
Therefore, should the appropriate case be brought showing a clear grave abuse of discretion on the
part of officials in the DENR and related bureaus with respect to the implementation of this public
policy, the Court win not hesitate to step in and wield its authority, when invoked, in the exercise of
judicial powers under the Constitution [Section 1, Article VIII].
However, petitioner having failed to make out a case showing grave abuse of discretion on the part of
public respondents herein, the Court finds no basis to issue a writ of certiorari and to grant any of the
affirmative reliefs sought.
WHEREFORE, the present petition is DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC

G.R. No. 101083 July 30, 1993
JUAN ANTONIO, ANNA ROSARIO and JOSE ALFONSO, all surnamed OPOSA, minors, and
represented by their parents ANTONIO and RIZALINA OPOSA, ROBERTA NICOLE SADIUA,
minor, represented by her parents CALVIN and ROBERTA SADIUA, CARLO, AMANDA SALUD
and PATRISHA, all surnamed FLORES, minors and represented by their parents ENRICO and
NIDA FLORES, GIANINA DITA R. FORTUN, minor, represented by her parents SIGRID and
DOLORES FORTUN, GEORGE II and MA. CONCEPCION, all surnamed MISA, minors and
represented by their parents GEORGE and MYRA MISA, BENJAMIN ALAN V. PESIGAN, minor,
represented by his parents ANTONIO and ALICE PESIGAN, JOVIE MARIE ALFARO, minor,
represented by her parents JOSE and MARIA VIOLETA ALFARO, MARIA CONCEPCION T.
CASTRO, minor, represented by her parents FREDENIL and JANE CASTRO, JOHANNA
DESAMPARADO,
minor, represented by her parents JOSE and ANGELA DESAMPRADO, CARLO JOAQUIN T.
NARVASA, minor, represented by his parents GREGORIO II and CRISTINE CHARITY
NARVASA, MA. MARGARITA, JESUS IGNACIO, MA. ANGELA and MARIE GABRIELLE, all
surnamed SAENZ, minors, represented by their parents ROBERTO and AURORA SAENZ,
KRISTINE, MARY ELLEN, MAY, GOLDA MARTHE and DAVID IAN, all surnamed KING, minors,
represented by their parents MARIO and HAYDEE KING, DAVID, FRANCISCO and THERESE
VICTORIA, all surnamed ENDRIGA, minors, represented by their parents BALTAZAR and
TERESITA ENDRIGA, JOSE MA. and REGINA MA., all surnamed ABAYA, minors, represented
by their parents ANTONIO and MARICA ABAYA, MARILIN, MARIO, JR. and MARIETTE, all
surnamed CARDAMA, minors, represented by their parents MARIO and LINA CARDAMA,
CLARISSA, ANN MARIE, NAGEL, and IMEE LYN, all surnamed OPOSA, minors and
represented by their parents RICARDO and MARISSA OPOSA, PHILIP JOSEPH, STEPHEN
JOHN and ISAIAH JAMES, all surnamed QUIPIT, minors, represented by their parents JOSE
MAX and VILMI QUIPIT, BUGHAW CIELO, CRISANTO, ANNA, DANIEL and FRANCISCO, all
surnamed BIBAL, minors, represented by their parents FRANCISCO, JR. and MILAGROS
BIBAL, and THE PHILIPPINE ECOLOGICAL NETWORK, INC., petitioners,
vs.
THE HONORABLE FULGENCIO S. FACTORAN, JR., in his capacity as the Secretary of the
Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and THE HONORABLE ERIBERTO U.
ROSARIO, Presiding Judge of the RTC, Makati, Branch 66, respondents.
Oposa Law Office for petitioners.
The Solicitor General for respondents.

DAVIDE, JR., J .:
In a broader sense, this petition bears upon the right of Filipinos to a balanced and healthful ecology
which the petitioners dramatically associate with the twin concepts of "inter-generational
responsibility" and "inter-generational justice." Specifically, it touches on the issue of whether the said
petitioners have a cause of action to "prevent the misappropriation or impairment" of Philippine
rainforests and "arrest the unabated hemorrhage of the country's vital life support systems and
continued rape of Mother Earth."
The controversy has its genesis in Civil Case No. 90-77 which was filed before Branch 66 (Makati,
Metro Manila) of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), National Capital Judicial Region. The principal
plaintiffs therein, now the principal petitioners, are all minors duly represented and joined by their
respective parents. Impleaded as an additional plaintiff is the Philippine Ecological Network, Inc.
(PENI), a domestic, non-stock and non-profit corporation organized for the purpose of, inter alia,
engaging in concerted action geared for the protection of our environment and natural resources. The
original defendant was the Honorable Fulgencio S. Factoran, Jr., then Secretary of the Department of
Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). His substitution in this petition by the new Secretary,
the Honorable Angel C. Alcala, was subsequently ordered upon proper motion by the
petitioners.
1
The complaint
2
was instituted as a taxpayers' class suit
3
and alleges that the plaintiffs
"are all citizens of the Republic of the Philippines, taxpayers, and entitled to the full benefit, use and
enjoyment of the natural resource treasure that is the country's virgin tropical forests." The same was
filed for themselves and others who are equally concerned about the preservation of said resource
but are "so numerous that it is impracticable to bring them all before the Court." The minors further
asseverate that they "represent their generation as well as generations yet unborn."
4
Consequently, it
is prayed for that judgment be rendered:
. . . ordering defendant, his agents, representatives and other persons acting in his behalf to
(1) Cancel all existing timber license agreements in the country;
(2) Cease and desist from receiving, accepting, processing, renewing or approving new timber
license agreements.
and granting the plaintiffs ". . . such other reliefs just and equitable under the premises."
5

The complaint starts off with the general averments that the Philippine archipelago of 7,100 islands
has a land area of thirty million (30,000,000) hectares and is endowed with rich, lush and verdant
rainforests in which varied, rare and unique species of flora and fauna may be found; these
rainforests contain a genetic, biological and chemical pool which is irreplaceable; they are also the
habitat of indigenous Philippine cultures which have existed, endured and flourished since time
immemorial; scientific evidence reveals that in order to maintain a balanced and healthful ecology, the
country's land area should be utilized on the basis of a ratio of fifty-four per cent (54%) for forest
cover and forty-six per cent (46%) for agricultural, residential, industrial, commercial and other uses;
the distortion and disturbance of this balance as a consequence of deforestation have resulted in a
host of environmental tragedies, such as (a) water shortages resulting from drying up of the water
table, otherwise known as the "aquifer," as well as of rivers, brooks and streams, (b) salinization of
the water table as a result of the intrusion therein of salt water, incontrovertible examples of which
may be found in the island of Cebu and the Municipality of Bacoor, Cavite, (c) massive erosion and
the consequential loss of soil fertility and agricultural productivity, with the volume of soil eroded
estimated at one billion (1,000,000,000) cubic meters per annum approximately the size of the
entire island of Catanduanes, (d) the endangering and extinction of the country's unique, rare and
varied flora and fauna, (e) the disturbance and dislocation of cultural communities, including the
disappearance of the Filipino's indigenous cultures, (f) the siltation of rivers and seabeds and
consequential destruction of corals and other aquatic life leading to a critical reduction in marine
resource productivity, (g) recurrent spells of drought as is presently experienced by the entire country,
(h) increasing velocity of typhoon winds which result from the absence of windbreakers, (i) the
floodings of lowlands and agricultural plains arising from the absence of the absorbent mechanism of
forests, (j) the siltation and shortening of the lifespan of multi-billion peso dams constructed and
operated for the purpose of supplying water for domestic uses, irrigation and the generation of electric
power, and (k) the reduction of the earth's capacity to process carbon dioxide gases which has led to
perplexing and catastrophic climatic changes such as the phenomenon of global warming, otherwise
known as the "greenhouse effect."
Plaintiffs further assert that the adverse and detrimental consequences of continued and
deforestation are so capable of unquestionable demonstration that the same may be submitted as a
matter of judicial notice. This notwithstanding, they expressed their intention to present expert
witnesses as well as documentary, photographic and film evidence in the course of the trial.
As their cause of action, they specifically allege that:
CAUSE OF ACTION
7. Plaintiffs replead by reference the foregoing allegations.
8. Twenty-five (25) years ago, the Philippines had some sixteen (16) million hectares of rainforests
constituting roughly 53% of the country's land mass.
9. Satellite images taken in 1987 reveal that there remained no more than 1.2 million hectares of said
rainforests or four per cent (4.0%) of the country's land area.
10. More recent surveys reveal that a mere 850,000 hectares of virgin old-growth rainforests are left,
barely 2.8% of the entire land mass of the Philippine archipelago and about 3.0 million hectares of
immature and uneconomical secondary growth forests.
11. Public records reveal that the defendant's, predecessors have granted timber license agreements
('TLA's') to various corporations to cut the aggregate area of 3.89 million hectares for commercial
logging purposes.
A copy of the TLA holders and the corresponding areas covered is hereto attached as Annex "A".
12. At the present rate of deforestation, i.e. about 200,000 hectares per annum or 25 hectares per
hour nighttime, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays included the Philippines will be bereft of forest
resources after the end of this ensuing decade, if not earlier.
13. The adverse effects, disastrous consequences, serious injury and irreparable damage of this
continued trend of deforestation to the plaintiff minor's generation and to generations yet unborn are
evident and incontrovertible. As a matter of fact, the environmental damages enumerated in
paragraph 6 hereof are already being felt, experienced and suffered by the generation of plaintiff
adults.
14. The continued allowance by defendant of TLA holders to cut and deforest the remaining forest
stands will work great damage and irreparable injury to plaintiffs especially plaintiff minors and
their successors who may never see, use, benefit from and enjoy this rare and unique natural
resource treasure.
This act of defendant constitutes a misappropriation and/or impairment of the natural resource
property he holds in trust for the benefit of plaintiff minors and succeeding generations.
15. Plaintiffs have a clear and constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology and are entitled
to protection by the State in its capacity as the parens patriae.
16. Plaintiff have exhausted all administrative remedies with the defendant's office. On March 2,
1990, plaintiffs served upon defendant a final demand to cancel all logging permits in the country.
A copy of the plaintiffs' letter dated March 1, 1990 is hereto attached as Annex "B".
17. Defendant, however, fails and refuses to cancel the existing TLA's to the continuing serious
damage and extreme prejudice of plaintiffs.
18. The continued failure and refusal by defendant to cancel the TLA's is an act violative of the rights
of plaintiffs, especially plaintiff minors who may be left with a country that is desertified (sic), bare,
barren and devoid of the wonderful flora, fauna and indigenous cultures which the Philippines had
been abundantly blessed with.
19. Defendant's refusal to cancel the aforementioned TLA's is manifestly contrary to the public policy
enunciated in the Philippine Environmental Policy which, in pertinent part, states that it is the policy of
the State
(a) to create, develop, maintain and improve conditions under which man and nature can thrive in
productive and enjoyable harmony with each other;
(b) to fulfill the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations of Filipinos
and;
(c) to ensure the attainment of an environmental quality that is conductive to a life of dignity and well-
being. (P.D. 1151, 6 June 1977)
20. Furthermore, defendant's continued refusal to cancel the aforementioned TLA's is contradictory to
the Constitutional policy of the State to
a. effect "a more equitable distribution of opportunities, income and wealth" and "make full and
efficient use of natural resources (sic)." (Section 1, Article XII of the Constitution);
b. "protect the nation's marine wealth." (Section 2, ibid);
c. "conserve and promote the nation's cultural heritage and resources (sic)" (Section 14, Article
XIV,id.);
d. "protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the
rhythm and harmony of nature." (Section 16, Article II, id.)
21. Finally, defendant's act is contrary to the highest law of humankind the natural law and
violative of plaintiffs' right to self-preservation and perpetuation.
22. There is no other plain, speedy and adequate remedy in law other than the instant action to arrest
the unabated hemorrhage of the country's vital life support systems and continued rape of Mother
Earth.
6

On 22 June 1990, the original defendant, Secretary Factoran, Jr., filed a Motion to Dismiss the
complaint based on two (2) grounds, namely: (1) the plaintiffs have no cause of action against him
and (2) the issue raised by the plaintiffs is a political question which properly pertains to the legislative
or executive branches of Government. In their 12 July 1990 Opposition to the Motion, the petitioners
maintain that (1) the complaint shows a clear and unmistakable cause of action, (2) the motion is
dilatory and (3) the action presents a justiciable question as it involves the defendant's abuse of
discretion.
On 18 July 1991, respondent Judge issued an order granting the aforementioned motion to
dismiss.
7
In the said order, not only was the defendant's claim that the complaint states no cause
of action against him and that it raises a political question sustained, the respondent Judge further
ruled that the granting of the relief prayed for would result in the impairment of contracts which is
prohibited by the fundamental law of the land.
Plaintiffs thus filed the instant special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Revised Rules of
Court and ask this Court to rescind and set aside the dismissal order on the ground that the
respondent Judge gravely abused his discretion in dismissing the action. Again, the parents of the
plaintiffs-minors not only represent their children, but have also joined the latter in this case.
8

On 14 May 1992, We resolved to give due course to the petition and required the parties to submit
their respective Memoranda after the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) filed a Comment in behalf
of the respondents and the petitioners filed a reply thereto.
Petitioners contend that the complaint clearly and unmistakably states a cause of action as it contains
sufficient allegations concerning their right to a sound environment based on Articles 19, 20 and 21 of
the Civil Code (Human Relations), Section 4 of Executive Order (E.O.) No. 192 creating the DENR,
Section 3 of Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 1151 (Philippine Environmental Policy), Section 16,
Article II of the 1987 Constitution recognizing the right of the people to a balanced and healthful
ecology, the concept of generational genocide in Criminal Law and the concept of man's inalienable
right to self-preservation and self-perpetuation embodied in natural law. Petitioners likewise rely on
the respondent's correlative obligation per Section 4 of E.O. No. 192, to safeguard the people's right
to a healthful environment.
It is further claimed that the issue of the respondent Secretary's alleged grave abuse of discretion in
granting Timber License Agreements (TLAs) to cover more areas for logging than what is available
involves a judicial question.
Anent the invocation by the respondent Judge of the Constitution's non-impairment clause, petitioners
maintain that the same does not apply in this case because TLAs are not contracts. They likewise
submit that even if TLAs may be considered protected by the said clause, it is well settled that they
may still be revoked by the State when the public interest so requires.
On the other hand, the respondents aver that the petitioners failed to allege in their complaint a
specific legal right violated by the respondent Secretary for which any relief is provided by law. They
see nothing in the complaint but vague and nebulous allegations concerning an "environmental right"
which supposedly entitles the petitioners to the "protection by the state in its capacity as parens
patriae." Such allegations, according to them, do not reveal a valid cause of action. They then
reiterate the theory that the question of whether logging should be permitted in the country is a
political question which should be properly addressed to the executive or legislative branches of
Government. They therefore assert that the petitioners' resources is not to file an action to court, but
to lobby before Congress for the passage of a bill that would ban logging totally.
As to the matter of the cancellation of the TLAs, respondents submit that the same cannot be done by
the State without due process of law. Once issued, a TLA remains effective for a certain period of
time usually for twenty-five (25) years. During its effectivity, the same can neither be revised nor
cancelled unless the holder has been found, after due notice and hearing, to have violated the terms
of the agreement or other forestry laws and regulations. Petitioners' proposition to have all the TLAs
indiscriminately cancelled without the requisite hearing would be violative of the requirements of due
process.
Before going any further, We must first focus on some procedural matters. Petitioners instituted Civil
Case No. 90-777 as a class suit. The original defendant and the present respondents did not take
issue with this matter. Nevertheless, We hereby rule that the said civil case is indeed a class suit. The
subject matter of the complaint is of common and general interest not just to several, but to all
citizens of the Philippines. Consequently, since the parties are so numerous, it, becomes
impracticable, if not totally impossible, to bring all of them before the court. We likewise declare that
the plaintiffs therein are numerous and representative enough to ensure the full protection of all
concerned interests. Hence, all the requisites for the filing of a valid class suit under Section 12, Rule
3 of the Revised Rules of Court are present both in the said civil case and in the instant petition, the
latter being but an incident to the former.
This case, however, has a special and novel element. Petitioners minors assert that they represent
their generation as well as generations yet unborn. We find no difficulty in ruling that they can, for
themselves, for others of their generation and for the succeeding generations, file a class suit. Their
personality to sue in behalf of the succeeding generations can only be based on the concept of
intergenerational responsibility insofar as the right to a balanced and healthful ecology is concerned.
Such a right, as hereinafter expounded, considers
the "rhythm and harmony of nature." Nature means the created world in its entirety.
9
Such rhythm
and harmony indispensably include, inter alia, the judicious disposition, utilization, management,
renewal and conservation of the country's forest, mineral, land, waters, fisheries, wildlife, off-shore
areas and other natural resources to the end that their exploration, development and utilization be
equitably accessible to the present as well as future generations.
10
Needless to say, every
generation has a responsibility to the next to preserve that rhythm and harmony for the full enjoyment
of a balanced and healthful ecology. Put a little differently, the minors' assertion of their right to a
sound environment constitutes, at the same time, the performance of their obligation to ensure the
protection of that right for the generations to come.
The locus standi of the petitioners having thus been addressed, We shall now proceed to the merits
of the petition.
After a careful perusal of the complaint in question and a meticulous consideration and evaluation of
the issues raised and arguments adduced by the parties, We do not hesitate to find for the petitioners
and rule against the respondent Judge's challenged order for having been issued with grave abuse of
discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction. The pertinent portions of the said order reads as follows:
xxx xxx xxx
After a careful and circumspect evaluation of the Complaint, the Court cannot help but agree with the
defendant. For although we believe that plaintiffs have but the noblest of all intentions, it (sic) fell
short of alleging, with sufficient definiteness, a specific legal right they are seeking to enforce and
protect, or a specific legal wrong they are seeking to prevent and redress (Sec. 1, Rule 2, RRC).
Furthermore, the Court notes that the Complaint is replete with vague assumptions and vague
conclusions based on unverified data. In fine, plaintiffs fail to state a cause of action in its Complaint
against the herein defendant.
Furthermore, the Court firmly believes that the matter before it, being impressed with political color
and involving a matter of public policy, may not be taken cognizance of by this Court without doing
violence to the sacred principle of "Separation of Powers" of the three (3) co-equal branches of the
Government.
The Court is likewise of the impression that it cannot, no matter how we stretch our jurisdiction, grant
the reliefs prayed for by the plaintiffs, i.e., to cancel all existing timber license agreements in the
country and to cease and desist from receiving, accepting, processing, renewing or approving new
timber license agreements. For to do otherwise would amount to "impairment of contracts" abhored
(sic) by the fundamental law.
11

We do not agree with the trial court's conclusions that the plaintiffs failed to allege with sufficient
definiteness a specific legal right involved or a specific legal wrong committed, and that the complaint
is replete with vague assumptions and conclusions based on unverified data. A reading of the
complaint itself belies these conclusions.
The complaint focuses on one specific fundamental legal right the right to a balanced and healthful
ecology which, for the first time in our nation's constitutional history, is solemnly incorporated in the
fundamental law. Section 16, Article II of the 1987 Constitution explicitly provides:
Sec. 16. The State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful
ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.
This right unites with the right to health which is provided for in the preceding section of the same
article:
Sec. 15. The State shall protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health
consciousness among them.
While the right to a balanced and healthful ecology is to be found under the Declaration of Principles
and 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 the correlative duty to refrain from
impairing the environment. During the debates on this right in one of the plenary sessions of the 1986
Constitutional Commission, the following exchange transpired between Commissioner Wilfrido
Villacorta and Commissioner Adolfo Azcuna who sponsored the section in question:
MR. VILLACORTA:
Does this section mandate the State to provide sanctions against all forms of pollution air, water
and noise pollution?
MR. AZCUNA:
Yes, Madam President. The right to healthful (sic) environment necessarily carries with it the
correlative duty of not impairing the same and, therefore, sanctions may be provided for impairment
of environmental balance.
12

The said right implies, among many other things, the judicious management and conservation of the
country's forests.
Without such forests, the ecological or environmental balance would be irreversiby disrupted.
Conformably with the enunciated right to a balanced and healthful ecology and the right to health, as
well as the other related provisions of the Constitution concerning the conservation, development and
utilization of the country's natural resources,
13
then President Corazon C. Aquino promulgated on 10
June 1987 E.O. No. 192,
14
Section 4 of which expressly mandates that the Department of
Environment and Natural Resources "shall be the primary government agency responsible for the
conservation, management, development and proper use of the country's environment and natural
resources, specifically forest and grazing lands, mineral, resources, including those in reservation and
watershed areas, and lands of the public domain, as well as the licensing and regulation of all natural
resources as may be provided for by law in order to ensure equitable sharing of the benefits derived
therefrom for the welfare of the present and future generations of Filipinos." Section 3 thereof makes
the following statement of policy:
Sec. 3. Declaration of Policy. It is hereby declared the policy of the State to ensure the sustainable
use, development, management, renewal, and conservation of the country's forest, mineral, land, off-
shore areas and other natural resources, including the protection and enhancement of the quality of
the environment, and equitable access of the different segments of the population to the development
and the use of the country's natural resources, not only for the present generation but for future
generations as well. It is also the policy of the state to recognize and apply a true value system
including social and environmental cost implications relative to their utilization, development and
conservation of our natural resources.
This policy declaration is substantially re-stated it Title XIV, Book IV of the Administrative Code of
1987,
15
specifically in Section 1 thereof which reads:
Sec. 1. Declaration of Policy. (1) The State shall ensure, for the benefit of the Filipino people, the
full exploration and development as well as the judicious disposition, utilization, management,
renewal and conservation of the country's forest, mineral, land, waters, fisheries, wildlife, off-shore
areas and other natural resources, consistent with the necessity of maintaining a sound ecological
balance and protecting and enhancing the quality of the environment and the objective of making the
exploration, development and utilization of such natural resources equitably accessible to the different
segments of the present as well as future generations.
(2) The State shall likewise recognize and apply a true value system that takes into account social
and environmental cost implications relative to the utilization, development and conservation of our
natural resources.
The above provision stresses "the necessity of maintaining a sound ecological balance and protecting
and enhancing the quality of the environment." Section 2 of the same Title, on the other hand,
specifically speaks of the mandate of the DENR; however, it makes particular reference to the fact of
the agency's being subject to law and higher authority. Said section provides:
Sec. 2. Mandate. (1) The Department of Environment and Natural Resources shall be primarily
responsible for the implementation of the foregoing policy.
(2) It shall, subject to law and higher authority, be in charge of carrying out the State's constitutional
mandate to control and supervise the exploration, development, utilization, and conservation of the
country's natural resources.
Both E.O. NO. 192 and the Administrative Code of 1987 have set the objectives which will serve as
the bases for policy formulation, and have defined the powers and functions of the DENR.
It may, however, be recalled that even before the ratification of the 1987 Constitution, specific
statutes already paid special attention to the "environmental right" of the present and future
generations. On 6 June 1977, P.D. No. 1151 (Philippine Environmental Policy) and P.D. No. 1152
(Philippine Environment Code) were issued. The former "declared a continuing policy of the State (a)
to create, develop, maintain and improve conditions under which man and nature can thrive in
productive and enjoyable harmony with each other, (b) to fulfill the social, economic and other
requirements of present and future generations of Filipinos, and (c) to insure the attainment of an
environmental quality that is conducive to a life of dignity and well-being."
16
As its goal, it speaks of
the "responsibilities of each generation as trustee and guardian of the environment for succeeding
generations."
17
The latter statute, on the other hand, gave flesh to the said policy.
Thus, the right of the petitioners (and all those they represent) to a balanced and healthful ecology is
as clear as the DENR's duty under its mandate and by virtue of its powers and functions under
E.O. No. 192 and the Administrative Code of 1987 to protect and advance the said right.
A denial or violation of that right by the other who has the corelative duty or obligation to respect or
protect the same gives rise to a cause of action. Petitioners maintain that the granting of the TLAs,
which they claim was done with grave abuse of discretion, violated their right to a balanced and
healthful ecology; hence, the full protection thereof requires that no further TLAs should be renewed
or granted.
A cause of action is defined as:
. . . an act or omission of one party in violation of the legal right or rights of the other; and its essential
elements are legal right of the plaintiff, correlative obligation of the defendant, and act or omission of
the defendant in violation of said legal right.
18

It is settled in this jurisdiction that in a motion to dismiss based on the ground that the complaint fails
to state a cause of action,
19
the question submitted to the court for resolution involves the sufficiency
of the facts alleged in the complaint itself. No other matter should be considered; furthermore, the
truth of falsity of the said allegations is beside the point for the truth thereof is deemed hypothetically
admitted. The only issue to be resolved in such a case is: admitting such alleged facts to be true, may
the court render a valid judgment in accordance with the prayer in the complaint?
20
In Militante vs.
Edrosolano,
21
this Court laid down the rule that the judiciary should "exercise the utmost care and
circumspection in passing upon a motion to dismiss on the ground of the absence thereof [cause of
action] lest, by its failure to manifest a correct appreciation of the facts alleged and deemed
hypothetically admitted, what the law grants or recognizes is effectively nullified. If that happens,
there is a blot on the legal order. The law itself stands in disrepute."
After careful examination of the petitioners' complaint, We find the statements under the introductory
affirmative allegations, as well as the specific averments under the sub-heading CAUSE OF ACTION,
to be adequate enough to show, prima facie, the claimed violation of their rights. On the basis thereof,
they may thus be granted, wholly or partly, the reliefs prayed for. It bears stressing, however, that
insofar as the cancellation of the TLAs is concerned, there is the need to implead, as party
defendants, the grantees thereof for they are indispensable parties.
The foregoing considered, Civil Case No. 90-777 be said to raise a political question. Policy
formulation or determination by the executive or legislative branches of Government is not squarely
put in issue. What is principally involved is the enforcement of a right vis-a-vis policies already
formulated and expressed in legislation. It must, nonetheless, be emphasized that the political
question doctrine is no longer, the insurmountable obstacle to the exercise of judicial power or the
impenetrable shield that protects executive and legislative actions from judicial inquiry or review. The
second paragraph of section 1, Article VIII of the Constitution states that:
Judicial power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights
which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether or not there has been a
grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or
instrumentality of the Government.
Commenting on this provision in his book, Philippine Political Law,
22
Mr. Justice Isagani A. Cruz, a
distinguished member of this Court, says:
The first part of the authority represents the traditional concept of judicial power, involving the
settlement of conflicting rights as conferred as law. The second part of the authority represents a
broadening of judicial power to enable the courts of justice to review what was before forbidden
territory, to wit, the discretion of the political departments of the government.
As worded, the new provision vests in the judiciary, and particularly the Supreme Court, the power to
rule upon even the wisdom of the decisions of the executive and the legislature and to declare their
acts invalid for lack or excess of jurisdiction because tainted with grave abuse of discretion. The
catch, of course, is the meaning of "grave abuse of discretion," which is a very elastic phrase that can
expand or contract according to the disposition of the judiciary.
In Daza vs. Singson,
23
Mr. Justice Cruz, now speaking for this Court, noted:
In the case now before us, the jurisdictional objection becomes even less tenable and decisive. The
reason is that, even if we were to assume that the issue presented before us was political in nature,
we would still not be precluded from revolving it under the expanded jurisdiction conferred upon us
that now covers, in proper cases, even the political question. Article VII, Section 1, of the Constitution
clearly provides: . . .
The last ground invoked by the trial court in dismissing the complaint is the non-impairment of
contracts clause found in the Constitution. The court a quo declared that:
The Court is likewise of the impression that it cannot, no matter how we stretch our jurisdiction, grant
the reliefs prayed for by the plaintiffs, i.e., to cancel all existing timber license agreements in the
country and to cease and desist from receiving, accepting, processing, renewing or approving new
timber license agreements. For to do otherwise would amount to "impairment of contracts" abhored
(sic) by the fundamental law.
24

We are not persuaded at all; on the contrary, We are amazed, if not shocked, by such a sweeping
pronouncement. In the first place, the respondent Secretary did not, for obvious reasons, even invoke
in his motion to dismiss the non-impairment clause. If he had done so, he would have acted with
utmost infidelity to the Government by providing undue and unwarranted benefits and advantages to
the timber license holders because he would have forever bound the Government to strictly respect
the said licenses according to their terms and conditions regardless of changes in policy and the
demands of public interest and welfare. He was aware that as correctly pointed out by the petitioners,
into every timber license must be read Section 20 of the Forestry Reform Code (P.D. No. 705) which
provides:
. . . Provided, That when the national interest so requires, the President may amend, modify, replace
or rescind any contract, concession, permit, licenses or any other form of privilege granted herein . . .
Needless to say, all licenses may thus be revoked or rescinded by executive action. It is not a
contract, property or a property right protested by the due process clause of the Constitution. In Tan
vs. Director of Forestry,
25
this Court held:
. . . 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 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 property or a property right, nor does it create a vested right; nor is it taxation (37 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).
We reiterated this pronouncement in Felipe Ysmael, Jr. & Co., Inc. vs. Deputy Executive Secretary:
26

. . . 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.
27

cannot be invoked.
In the second place, even if it is to be assumed that the same are contracts, the instant case does not
involve a law or even an executive issuance declaring the cancellation or modification of existing
timber licenses. Hence, the non-impairment clause cannot as yet be invoked. Nevertheless, granting
further that a law has actually been passed mandating cancellations or modifications, the same
cannot still be stigmatized as a violation of the non-impairment clause. This is because by its very
nature and purpose, such as law could have only been passed in the exercise of the police power of
the state for the purpose of advancing the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology,
promoting their health and enhancing the general welfare. In Abe vs. Foster Wheeler
Corp.
28
this Court stated:
The freedom of contract, under our system of government, is not meant to be absolute. The same is
understood to be subject to reasonable legislative regulation aimed at the promotion of public health,
moral, safety and welfare. In other words, the constitutional guaranty of non-impairment of obligations
of contract is limited by the exercise of the police power of the State, in the interest of public health,
safety, moral and general welfare.
The reason for this is emphatically set forth in Nebia vs. New York,
29
quoted in Philippine American
Life Insurance Co. vs. Auditor General,
30
to wit:
Under our form of government the use of property and the making of contracts are normally matters
of private and not of public concern. The general rule is that both shall be free of governmental
interference. But neither property rights nor contract rights are absolute; for government cannot exist
if the citizen may at will use his property to the detriment of his fellows, or exercise his freedom of
contract to work them harm. Equally fundamental with the private right is that of the public to regulate
it in the common interest.
In short, the non-impairment clause must yield to the police power of the state.
31

Finally, it is difficult to imagine, as the trial court did, how the non-impairment clause could apply with
respect to the prayer to enjoin the respondent Secretary from receiving, accepting, processing,
renewing or approving new timber licenses for, save in cases of renewal, no contract would have as
of yet existed in the other instances. Moreover, with respect to renewal, the holder is not entitled to it
as a matter of right.
WHEREFORE, being impressed with merit, the instant Petition is hereby GRANTED, and the
challenged Order of respondent Judge of 18 July 1991 dismissing Civil Case No. 90-777 is hereby
set aside. The petitioners may therefore amend their complaint to implead as defendants the holders
or grantees of the questioned timber license agreements.
No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.
Cruz, Padilla, Bidin, Grio-Aquino, Regalado, Romero, Nocon, Bellosillo, Melo and Quiason, JJ.,
concur.
Narvasa, C.J., Puno and Vitug, JJ., took no part.



Separate Opinions

FELICIANO, J ., concurring
I join in the result reached by my distinguished brother in the Court, Davide, Jr., J., in this case which,
to my mind, is one of the most important cases decided by this Court in the last few years. The
seminal principles laid down in this decision are likely to influence profoundly the direction and course
of the protection and management of the environment, which of course embraces the utilization
of all the natural resources in the territorial base of our polity. I have therefore sought to clarify,
basically to myself, what the Court appears to be saying.
The Court explicitly states that petitioners have the locus standi necessary to sustain the bringing
and, maintenance of this suit (Decision, pp. 11-12). Locus standi is not a function of petitioners' claim
that their suit is properly regarded as a class suit. I understand locus standi to refer to the legal
interest which a plaintiff must have in the subject matter of the suit. Because of the very broadness of
the concept of "class" here involved membership in this "class" appears to
embrace everyone living in the country whether now or in the
future it appears to me that everyone who may be expected to benefit from the course of action
petitioners seek to require public respondents to take, is vested with the necessary locus standi. The
Court may be seen therefore to be recognizing a beneficiaries' right of action in the field of
environmental protection, as against both the public administrative agency directly concerned and the
private persons or entities operating in the field or sector of activity involved. Whether such
beneficiaries' right of action may be found under any and all circumstances, or whether some failure
to act, in the first instance, on the part of the governmental agency concerned must be shown ("prior
exhaustion of administrative remedies"), is not discussed in the decision and presumably is left for
future determination in an appropriate case.
The Court has also declared that the complaint has alleged and focused upon "one specific
fundamental legal right the right to a balanced and healthful ecology" (Decision, p. 14). There is no
question that "the right to a balanced and healthful ecology" is "fundamental" and that, accordingly, it
has been "constitutionalized." But although it is fundamental in character, I suggest, with very great
respect, that it cannot be characterized as "specific," without doing excessive violence to language. It
is in fact very difficult to fashion language more comprehensive in scope and generalized in character
than a right to "a balanced and healthful ecology." The list of particular claims which can be
subsumed under this rubic appears to be entirely open-ended: prevention and control of emission of
toxic fumes and smoke from factories and motor vehicles; of discharge of oil, chemical effluents,
garbage and raw sewage into rivers, inland and coastal waters by vessels, oil rigs, factories, mines
and whole communities; of dumping of organic and inorganic wastes on open land, streets and
thoroughfares; failure to rehabilitate land after strip-mining or open-pit mining; kaingin or slash-and-
burn farming; destruction of fisheries, coral reefs and other living sea resources through the use of
dynamite or cyanide and other chemicals; contamination of ground water resources; loss of certain
species of fauna and flora; and so on. The other statements pointed out by the Court: Section 3,
Executive Order No. 192 dated 10 June 1987; Section 1, Title XIV, Book IV of the 1987
Administrative Code; and P.D. No. 1151, dated 6 June 1977 all appear to be formulations of policy,
as general and abstract as the constitutional statements of basic policy in Article II, Section 16 ("the
right to a balanced and healthful ecology") and 15 ("the right to health").
P.D. No. 1152, also dated 6 June 1977, entitled "The Philippine Environment Code," is, upon the
other hand, a compendious collection of more "specific environment management policies" and
"environment quality standards" (fourth "Whereas" clause, Preamble) relating to an extremely wide
range of topics:
(a) air quality management;
(b) water quality management;
(c) land use management;
(d) natural resources management and conservation embracing:
(i) fisheries and aquatic resources;
(ii) wild life;
(iii) forestry and soil conservation;
(iv) flood control and natural calamities;
(v) energy development;
(vi) conservation and utilization of surface and ground water
(vii) mineral resources
Two (2) points are worth making in this connection. Firstly, neither petitioners nor the Court has
identified the particular provision or provisions (if any) of the Philippine Environment Code which give
rise to a specific legal right which petitioners are seeking to enforce. Secondly, the Philippine
Environment Code identifies with notable care the particular government agency charged with the
formulation and implementation of guidelines and programs dealing with each of the headings and
sub-headings mentioned above. The Philippine Environment Code does not, in other words, appear
to contemplate action on the part of private persons who are beneficiaries of implementation of that
Code.
As a matter of logic, by finding petitioners' cause of action as anchored on a legal right comprised in
the constitutional statements above noted, the Court is in effect saying that Section 15 (and Section
16) of Article II of the Constitution are self-executing and judicially enforceable even in their present
form. The implications of this doctrine will have to be explored in future cases; those implications are
too large and far-reaching in nature even to be hinted at here.
My suggestion is simply that petitioners must, before the trial court, show a more specific legal right
a right cast in language of a significantly lower order of generality than Article II (15) of the
Constitution that is or may be violated by the actions, or failures to act, imputed to the public
respondent by petitioners so that the trial court can validly render judgment granting all or part of the
relief prayed for. To my mind, the Court should be understood as simply saying that such a more
specific legal right or rights may well exist in our corpus of law, considering the general policy
principles found in the Constitution and the existence of the Philippine Environment Code, and that
the trial court should have given petitioners an effective opportunity so to demonstrate, instead of
aborting the proceedings on a motion to dismiss.
It seems to me important that the legal right which is an essential component of a cause of action be
a specific, operable legal right, rather than a constitutional or statutory policy, for at least two (2)
reasons. One is that unless the legal right claimed to have been violated or disregarded is given
specification in operational terms, defendants may well be unable to defend themselves intelligently
and effectively; in other words, there are due process dimensions to this matter.
The second is a broader-gauge consideration where a specific violation of law or applicable
regulation is not alleged or proved, petitioners can be expected to fall back on the expanded
conception of judicial power in the second paragraph of Section 1 of Article VIII of the Constitution
which reads:
Section 1. . . .
Judicial power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights
which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether or not there has been
agrave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or
instrumentality of the Government. (Emphasis supplied)
When substantive standards as general as "the right to a balanced and healthy ecology" and "the
right to health" are combined with remedial standards as broad ranging as "a grave abuse of
discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction," the result will be, it is respectfully submitted, to
propel courts into the uncharted ocean of social and economic policy making. At least in respect of
the vast area of environmental protection and management, our courts have no claim to special
technical competence and experience and professional qualification. Where no specific, operable
norms and standards are shown to exist, then the policy making departments the legislative and
executive departments must be given a real and effective opportunity to fashion and promulgate
those norms and standards, and to implement them before the courts should intervene.
My learned brother Davide, Jr., J., rightly insists that the timber companies, whose concession
agreements or TLA's petitioners demand public respondents should cancel, must be impleaded in the
proceedings below. It might be asked that, if petitioners' entitlement to the relief demanded
is not dependent upon proof of breach by the timber companies of one or more of the specific terms
and conditions of their concession agreements (and this, petitioners implicitly assume), what will
those companies litigate about? The answer I suggest is that they may seek to dispute the existence
of the specific legal right petitioners should allege, as well as the reality of the claimed factual nexus
between petitioners' specific legal rights and the claimed wrongful acts or failures to act of public
respondent administrative agency. They may also controvert the appropriateness of the remedy or
remedies demanded by petitioners, under all the circumstances which exist.
I vote to grant the Petition for Certiorari because the protection of the environment, including the
forest cover of our territory, is of extreme importance for the country. The doctrines set out in the
Court's decision issued today should, however, be subjected to closer examination.


# Separate Opinions
FELICIANO, J ., concurring
I join in the result reached by my distinguished brother in the Court, Davide, Jr., J., in this case which,
to my mind, is one of the most important cases decided by this Court in the last few years. The
seminal principles laid down in this decision are likely to influence profoundly the direction and course
of the protection and management of the environment, which of course embraces the utilization
of all the natural resources in the territorial base of our polity. I have therefore sought to clarify,
basically to myself, what the Court appears to be saying.
The Court explicitly states that petitioners have the locus standi necessary to sustain the bringing
and, maintenance of this suit (Decision, pp. 11-12). Locus standi is not a function of petitioners' claim
that their suit is properly regarded as a class suit. I understand locus standi to refer to the legal
interest which a plaintiff must have in the subject matter of the suit. Because of the very broadness of
the concept of "class" here involved membership in this "class" appears to
embrace everyone living in the country whether now or in the
future it appears to me that everyone who may be expected to benefit from the course of action
petitioners seek to require public respondents to take, is vested with the necessary locus standi. The
Court may be seen therefore to be recognizing a beneficiaries' right of action in the field of
environmental protection, as against both the public administrative agency directly concerned and the
private persons or entities operating in the field or sector of activity involved. Whether such
beneficiaries' right of action may be found under any and all circumstances, or whether some failure
to act, in the first instance, on the part of the governmental agency concerned must be shown ("prior
exhaustion of administrative remedies"), is not discussed in the decision and presumably is left for
future determination in an appropriate case.
The Court has also declared that the complaint has alleged and focused upon "one specific
fundamental legal right the right to a balanced and healthful ecology" (Decision, p. 14). There is no
question that "the right to a balanced and healthful ecology" is "fundamental" and that, accordingly, it
has been "constitutionalized." But although it is fundamental in character, I suggest, with very great
respect, that it cannot be characterized as "specific," without doing excessive violence to language. It
is in fact very difficult to fashion language more comprehensive in scope and generalized in character
than a right to "a balanced and healthful ecology." The list of particular claims which can be
subsumed under this rubic appears to be entirely open-ended: prevention and control of emission of
toxic fumes and smoke from factories and motor vehicles; of discharge of oil, chemical effluents,
garbage and raw sewage into rivers, inland and coastal waters by vessels, oil rigs, factories, mines
and whole communities; of dumping of organic and inorganic wastes on open land, streets and
thoroughfares; failure to rehabilitate land after strip-mining or open-pit mining; kaingin or slash-and-
burn farming; destruction of fisheries, coral reefs and other living sea resources through the use of
dynamite or cyanide and other chemicals; contamination of ground water resources; loss of certain
species of fauna and flora; and so on. The other statements pointed out by the Court: Section 3,
Executive Order No. 192 dated 10 June 1987; Section 1, Title XIV, Book IV of the 1987
Administrative Code; and P.D. No. 1151, dated 6 June 1977 all appear to be formulations of policy,
as general and abstract as the constitutional statements of basic policy in Article II, Section 16 ("the
right to a balanced and healthful ecology") and 15 ("the right to health").
P.D. No. 1152, also dated 6 June 1977, entitled "The Philippine Environment Code," is, upon the
other hand, a compendious collection of more "specific environment management policies" and
"environment quality standards" (fourth "Whereas" clause, Preamble) relating to an extremely wide
range of topics:
(a) air quality management;
(b) water quality management;
(c) land use management;
(d) natural resources management and conservation embracing:
(i) fisheries and aquatic resources;
(ii) wild life;
(iii) forestry and soil conservation;
(iv) flood control and natural calamities;
(v) energy development;
(vi) conservation and utilization of surface and ground water
(vii) mineral resources
Two (2) points are worth making in this connection. Firstly, neither petitioners nor the Court has
identified the particular provision or provisions (if any) of the Philippine Environment Code which give
rise to a specific legal right which petitioners are seeking to enforce. Secondly, the Philippine
Environment Code identifies with notable care the particular government agency charged with the
formulation and implementation of guidelines and programs dealing with each of the headings and
sub-headings mentioned above. The Philippine Environment Code does not, in other words, appear
to contemplate action on the part of private persons who are beneficiaries of implementation of that
Code.
As a matter of logic, by finding petitioners' cause of action as anchored on a legal right comprised in
the constitutional statements above noted, the Court is in effect saying that Section 15 (and Section
16) of Article II of the Constitution are self-executing and judicially enforceable even in their present
form. The implications of this doctrine will have to be explored in future cases; those implications are
too large and far-reaching in nature even to be hinted at here.
My suggestion is simply that petitioners must, before the trial court, show a more specific legal right
a right cast in language of a significantly lower order of generality than Article II (15) of the
Constitution that is or may be violated by the actions, or failures to act, imputed to the public
respondent by petitioners so that the trial court can validly render judgment granting all or part of the
relief prayed for. To my mind, the Court should be understood as simply saying that such a more
specific legal right or rights may well exist in our corpus of law, considering the general policy
principles found in the Constitution and the existence of the Philippine Environment Code, and that
the trial court should have given petitioners an effective opportunity so to demonstrate, instead of
aborting the proceedings on a motion to dismiss.
It seems to me important that the legal right which is an essential component of a cause of action be
a specific, operable legal right, rather than a constitutional or statutory policy, for at least two (2)
reasons. One is that unless the legal right claimed to have been violated or disregarded is given
specification in operational terms, defendants may well be unable to defend themselves intelligently
and effectively; in other words, there are due process dimensions to this matter.
The second is a broader-gauge consideration where a specific violation of law or applicable
regulation is not alleged or proved, petitioners can be expected to fall back on the expanded
conception of judicial power in the second paragraph of Section 1 of Article VIII of the Constitution
which reads:
Section 1. . . .
Judicial power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights
which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether or not there has been
agrave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or
instrumentality of the Government. (Emphasis supplied)
When substantive standards as general as "the right to a balanced and healthy ecology" and "the
right to health" are combined with remedial standards as broad ranging as "a grave abuse of
discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction," the result will be, it is respectfully submitted, to
propel courts into the uncharted ocean of social and economic policy making. At least in respect of
the vast area of environmental protection and management, our courts have no claim to special
technical competence and experience and professional qualification. Where no specific, operable
norms and standards are shown to exist, then the policy making departments the legislative and
executive departments must be given a real and effective opportunity to fashion and promulgate
those norms and standards, and to implement them before the courts should intervene.
My learned brother Davide, Jr., J., rightly insists that the timber companies, whose concession
agreements or TLA's petitioners demand public respondents should cancel, must be impleaded in the
proceedings below. It might be asked that, if petitioners' entitlement to the relief demanded
is not dependent upon proof of breach by the timber companies of one or more of the specific terms
and conditions of their concession agreements (and this, petitioners implicitly assume), what will
those companies litigate about? The answer I suggest is that they may seek to dispute the existence
of the specific legal right petitioners should allege, as well as the reality of the claimed factual nexus
between petitioners' specific legal rights and the claimed wrongful acts or failures to act of public
respondent administrative agency. They may also controvert the appropriateness of the remedy or
remedies demanded by petitioners, under all the circumstances which exist.
I vote to grant the Petition for Certiorari because the protection of the environment, including the
forest cover of our territory, is of extreme importance for the country. The doctrines set out in the
Court's decision issued today should, however, be subjected to closer examination.
FIRST DIVISION
[G.R. No. 152160. January 13, 2004]
VIRGILIO BON, petitioner, vs. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondent.
D E C I S I O N
PANGANIBAN, J .:
Testimony of what one heard a party say is not necessarily hearsay. It is admissible in evidence, not
to show that the statement was true, but that it was in fact made. If credible, it may form part of the
circumstantial evidence necessary to convict the accused.
The Case
Before us is a Petition for Review
[1]
under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, seeking to nullify the August
22, 2001 Decision
[2]
and the February 15, 2002 Resolution
[3]
of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA - GR
CR No. 15673. The dispositive part of the assailed Decision reads as follows:
WHEREFORE, the Decision dated August 23, 1993 convicting [Petitioner] Virgilio Bon is
hereby AFFIRMED with modification on the penalty in that [petitioner] is sentenced to suffer an
indeterminate penalty of imprisonment ranging from ten (10) years of prision mayor, as minimum to
fourteen (14) years [and] eight (8) months of reclusion temporal, as maximum. Accused-appellant
Alejandro Jeniebre, Jr. is hereby ACQUITTED.
[4]

The assailed Resolution, on the other hand, denied petitioners Motion for Reconsideration.
The Antecedents
The antecedents are summarized by the CA as follows:
[Petitioner] Virgilio Bon and Alejandro Jeniebre, Jr. were charged for violating Section 68 of PD 705,
as amended[,] together with Rosalio Bon under an Information, the accusatory portion of which reads
as follows:
That sometime in the month of January or February, 1990, at Barangay Basud, Municipality of
Sorsogon, Province of Sorsogon, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the
above-named accused, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, conspiring,
confederating and mutually helping one another, cut, gather and manufacture into lumber four (4)
narra trees, one (1) cuyao-yao tree, and one (1) amugis tree, with an approximate volume of 4,315
bd. ft. and valued at approximately P25,000.00, without the knowledge and consent of the owner
Teresita Dangalan-Mendoza and without having first obtained from proper authorities the necessary
permit or license and/or legal supporting documents, to the damage and prejudice of the Government
and the owner in the aforementioned amount of P25,000.00.
Contrary to law.
Upon arraignment on May 16, 1991, [Petitioner] Virgilio Bon[,] Alejandro Jeniebre, Jr. and Rosalio
Bon entered a plea of Not Guilty to the crime charged. Thereafter, the trial of the case proceeded.
The prosecution presented Nestor Labayan[e], [Private Complainant] Teresita Dangalan-Mendoza,
[Barangay] Tanod Julian Lascano, Alexander Mendones [and] Manuel Dangalan as its
witnesses. The defense, on the other hand, presented accused Alejandro Jeniebre, Jr., Rosalio Bon
and Virgilio Bon.
The evidence for the prosecution [w]as synthesized by the trial court, as follows:
Prosecutions evidence was supplied by Julian Lascano, Oscar Narvaez, Alexander Mendones,
Manuel Dangalan, Nestor Labayan[e] and Teresita [Dangalan-Mendoza] which shows that Teresita
[Dangalan-Mendoza] owns a titled agricultural land under Title No. 6666 located in Basud, Sorsogon,
Sorsogon, administered by Virgilio Bon. Receiving information that trees inside the land were being
stolen, cut [and] sawed into lumber by her administrator and/or workers, she sent her brother Manuel
Dangalan to investigate the report. On February 7, 1990, Manuel Dangalan sought the help of
Barangay Captain Nestor Labayane, who in turn wrote a letter to one of the [b]arangay [t]anod[s],
Julian Lascano, to assist and investigate Teresita [Dangalan-Mendozas] complaint of Illegal Cutting
of Trees. On February 12, 1990, together with Julian Lascano, Manuel Dangalan, Ricardo Valladolid,
Natividad Legaspi and Virgilio Bon repaired to the land of Teresita [Dangalan-Mendoza]. During their
investigation, the group discovered six (6) stumps of trees[:] four (4) Narra trees, one cuyao-yao tree
and one am[u]gis tree. Pictures were taken of the stumps x x x. On the land, Virgilio Bon admitted
ordering the cutting and sawing of the trees into lumber. Oscar Narvaez testified that sometime in
January, 1990, he sawed the trees into six flitches upon instruction of Alejandro Jeniebre, Jr.;
Alexander Mendones, CENRO Officer, upon complaint of Teresita [Dangalan-Mendoza] for Illegal
Cutting of Trees repaired to the land on July 17, 1990, and found four stumps of trees. Scaling the
four stumps, it was his estimate that the lumber produced was 11.97 cubic meters o[r] 4,315 board
feet, with a value of P25,376.00 x x x.
In their defense, all the three accused took the witness stand and denied the accusation. Their
testimonies were summarized by the trial court, as follows:
All the accused testified in their defense. Rosalio Bon, the son of Virgilio Bon denied the charge[.]
[He said] that he was in Manila from December 1989 and returned to Sorsogon on March 21,
1990. He mentioned that the purpose of filing this case was to eject his father as tenant of the land.
Virgilio Bon testified that he is the tenant of the land of Teresita [Dangalan-Mendoza] [and was]
instituted [as such] by Teresitas father. He developed the land[,] planting coconuts, abaca and fruit
trees. Teresita [Dangalan-Mendoza] wanted to eject him as tenant. He and the private complainant
[have] an agrarian case. Since Teresita [Dangalan-Mendoza] refused to receive the landowners
share of produce, he deposited the money in the Rural Bank of Sorsogon in the name of Teresita
[Dangalan-Mendoza] x x x. He denied cutting and gathering the trees in the land and pointed to
Teresita [Dangalan-Mendoza] as the one who ordered the trees [to be cut] and sawed by Oscar
Narvaez. Teresita [Dangalan-Mendoza] upon being confronted about the cutting of trees, ignored his
complaint.
Alejandro Jeniebre, Jr., son-in-law of Virgilio Bon, denied that he hired Oscar Narvaez to saw the
lumber. Oscar Narvaez [indicted] him of the crime because the former had a grudge against him. In
a drinking spree, he happened to box Oscar Narvaez[,] after [which he] heard [the latter threaten him
with] revenge.
On August 23, 1993, the trial court rendered its decision convicting [Petitioner] Virgilio Bon and
Alejandro Jeniebre, Jr. for the crime charged. Co-accused Rosalio Bon was acquitted. Aggrieved by
the said decision, [Petitioner] Virgilio Bon and Alejandro Jeniebre, Jr. interposed [an] appeal [to the
CA].
[5]

In their appeal to the CA, petitioner and Jeniebre questioned the prosecution witnesses credibility
and the sufficiency of the evidence proving their guilt.
Ruling of the Court of Appeals
The CA sustained the trial courts assessment of the credibility of Prosecution Witnesses Julian
Lascano and Manuel Dangalan. Both testified that petitioner had admitted to having ordered the
cutting of trees on Teresita Dangalan-Mendozas land.
Furthermore, the appellate court held that despite the absence of direct evidence in this case, the
circumstantial evidence was sufficient to convict petitioner. It ruled that the requirements for the
sufficiency of the latter type of evidence under Section 4 of Rule 133
[6]
of the Rules of Court were
amply satisfied by the following established facts: 1) in the presence of Dangalan, Lascano and
Natividad Legaspi, petitioner admitted that he had ordered the cutting of the trees; 2) on February 12,
1990, he and his son Rosalio went to Dangalan-Mendoza, demanding that she pay the value of the
trees cut; and 3) on February 13, 1990, petitioner asked her to forgive him for cutting the trees.
The CA held, however, that the same circumstances did not support the conviction of
Jeniebre. Aside from the testimony of Oscar Narvaez that Jeniebre hired him to cut the trees into
flitches, no other evidence was presented to show the latters participation in the offense
charged. Moreover, the appellate court held that the res inter alios acta rule under Section 28 of Rule
130
[7]
of the Rules of Court would be violated by binding Jeniebre to petitioners admission, which did
not constitute any of the exceptions
[8]
to this provision. It thus acquitted him.
As to petitioner, the CA modified the penalty imposed, pursuant to Section 68 of the Revised Forestry
Code as amended, Articles 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code, and Section 1 of the
Indeterminate Sentence Law.
Hence, this Petition.
[9]

Issues
Petitioner submits the following issues for our consideration:
I
Whether hearsay testimony[,] which is denied by the alleged author under oath in open court, is
admissible in evidence against him.
II
Whether hearsay testimony allegedly made to potential prosecution witnesses who are not police
operatives or media representatives is admissible in evidence against the author because what a
man says against himself[,] if voluntary, is believable for the reason that it is fair to presume that [it]
correspond[s] with the truth and it is his fault if they do not (U.S. v. Ching Po, 23 Phil. 578, 583
(1912).
III
Whether or not x x x the [testimonies of the] prosecution witnesses x x x that x x x petitioner Bon
admitted his guilt to them should be given high credence by the courts of justice considering that x x x
many people who are being quoted in media today x x x have been found to be x x x lying. In other
words, how much probity should we give a lying witness?
IV
Assuming arguendo that petitioner Bon ma[d]e the extra-judicial admission to the prosecution
witnesses, [whether or not] x x x the same [is constitutionally] admissible in evidence against him?
[10]

Simply put, the points challenged by petitioner are as follows: 1) the admissibility of his purported
extrajudicial admission of the allegation, testified to by the prosecution witnesses, that he had ordered
the cutting of the trees; and 2) the credibility and the sufficiency of the testimonies of those
witnesses.
The Courts Ruling
The Petition has no merit.
First Issue:
Admissibility of the Extrajudicial Admission
At the outset, it must be emphasized that the present Petition is grounded on Rule 45 of the Rules of
Court. Under Section 1 thereof, only questions of law which must be distinctly set forth may be
raised. A reading of the pleadings reveals that petitioner actually raised questions of fact -- the
credibility of the prosecution witnesses and the sufficiency of the evidence against him. Nonetheless,
this Court, in the exercise of its sound discretion and after taking into account the attendant
circumstances, opts to take cognizance of and decide the factual issues raised in the Petition, in the
interest of the proper administration of justice.
[11]

In the main, petitioner contends that Lascanos and Dangalans separate testimonies
[12]
regarding his
alleged extrajudicial admission constitute hearsay evidence and are, therefore, inadmissible. He also
argues that his supposed admission should not have been admitted, because it had been taken
without the assistance of counsel at a time when he was already regarded as a suspect.
We disagree.
Section 36 of Rule 130 of the Rules of Court states the rule on hearsay evidence as follows:
Sec. 36. Testimony generally confined to personal knowledge; hearsay excluded. - A witness can
testify only to those facts which he knows of his personal knowledge; that is, which are derived from
his own perception, except as otherwise provided in these rules.
Under the above rule, any evidence -- whether oral or documentary -- is hearsay if its probative value
is not based on the personal knowledge of the witness, but on that of some other person who is not
on the witness stand.
[13]
Hence, information that is relayed to the former by the latter before it reaches
the court is considered hearsay.
[14]

In the instant case, Lascano and Dangalan testified that on February 12, 1990, they had heard
petitioner admit to having ordered the cutting of the trees. Their testimonies cannot be considered as
hearsay for three reasons. First, they were indisputably present and within hearing distance when he
allegedly made the admission. Therefore, they testified to a matter of fact that had been derived from
their own perception.
Second, what was sought to be admitted as evidence was the fact that the utterance was actually
made by petitioner, not necessarily that the matters stated therein were true. On this basis, a
statement attributed to a person who is not on the witness stand is admissible; it is not covered by the
hearsay rule.
[15]
Gotesco Investment Corporation v. Chatto
[16]
ruled that evidence regarding the
making of such statement is not secondary but primary, because the statement itself may constitute a
fact in issue or be circumstantially relevant as to the existence of that fact.
Third, even assuming that the testimonies were hearsay, petitioner is barred from questioning the
admission of Dangalans testimony, because he failed to object to it at the time it was offered. It has
been held that when parties fail to object to hearsay evidence, they are deemed to have waived their
right to do so; thus, it may be admitted.
[17]
The absence of an objection is clearly shown by the
transcript of the stenographic notes, from which we quote:
"Atty. Fajardo:
Q Did you reach the land in question?
A Yes, sir.
Q And upon reaching the land in question, what did you do?
A We were able to see the cut trees.
Q And were you able to see who cut the trees?
A We were not able to see.
Q And how many trees were cut?
A There were newly cut trees and 4 others which have been cut for a long time.
Q What kind of trees were cut according to you?
A Narra, amogis and kuyawyaw.
Q Upon seeing these cut trees, what did you do?
A I asked Virgilio Bon why those trees were [cut] down and he said that he took the liberty of
cutting those trees.
Q In your own understanding, [M]r. [W]itness, what did the accused mean when he said that he
took [the] liberty of cutting those trees?
A He caused the cutting of the trees.
Q And during the time you were conversing, were you alone?
A I was with the barangay tanod.
Q And who were the members of the barangay tanod who were with you at that time?
A Julian Lascano, Jr. and Natividad Legaspi.
[18]

Moreover, a partys verbal admission that is established through the testimonies of the persons who
heard it
[19]
fall under Section 26 of Rule 130 of the Rules of Court. According to this provision, [t]he
act, declaration or omission of a party as to a relevant fact may be given in evidence against
him. This rule is based upon the notion that no man would make any declaration against himself,
unless it is true.
[20]
The testimony of petitioner may, therefore, be received in evidence against him.
Regarding his alleged uncounselled admission, suffice it to stress that it was not given during a
custodial investigation and, certainly, not to police authorities. Custodial investigation has been
defined as any questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into
custody or otherwise deprived of freedom of action in any significant way.
[21]
We have ruled
previously that constitutional procedures on custodial investigation do not apply to a spontaneous
statement that is not elicited through questioning by the authorities, but is given in an ordinary
manner.
[22]

Verily, the inquiry on the illegal cutting of trees, which -- with the assistance of the
barangay tanods
[23]
-- was conducted by the owners brother, Manuel Dangalan cannot be deemed a
custodial investigation. Consequently, the guarantees of Section 12 (1) of Article III
[24]
of the 1987
Constitution, or the so-called Miranda rights, cannot be successfully invoked by petitioner.
[25]

Furthermore, allegations of impropriety committed during custodial investigation are relevant and
material only to cases in which an extrajudicial admission or confession is the basis of
conviction.
[26]
In the present case, the conviction of petitioner was not deduced solely from his
admission, but from the confluence of circumstantial evidence showing his guilt beyond reasonable
doubt.
Second Issue:
Credibility and Sufficiency of Prosecution Evidence
The time-tested rule is that the factual findings and conclusions of the trial court on the credibility of
witnesses deserve to be respected because of its unique advantage of having observed their
demeanor as they testified.
[27]
Equally established is the rule that factual findings of the Court of
Appeals are conclusive on the parties and carry even more weight when such findings affirm those of
the trial court,
[28]
as in this case. This Court refrains from disturbing the CAs findings, if no glaring
errors bordering on a gross misapprehension of facts can be gleaned from them.
[29]
We have no
reason to depart from this rule. Hence, we affirm the lower courts assessment of the credibility of the
prosecution witnesses.
We now come to the sufficiency of the prosecutions evidence.
Section 68 of the Forestry Code, as amended,
[30]
provides:
SEC. 68. Cutting, Gathering and/or Collecting Timber, or Other Forest Products Without License.
Any person who shall cut, gather, collect, remove timber or other forest products from any forest
land, or timber from alienable or disposable public land, or from private land, without any authority, or
possess timber or other forest products without the legal documents as required under existing forest
laws and regulations, shall be punished with the penalties imposed under Articles 309 and 310 of the
Revised Penal Code: Provided, That in the case of partnerships, associations, or corporations, the
officers who ordered the cutting, gathering, collection or possession shall be liable, and if such
officers are aliens, they shall, in addition to the penalty, be deported without further proceedings on
the part of the Commission on Immigration and Deportation.
The Court shall further order the confiscation in favor of the government of the timber or any forest
products cut, gathered, collected, removed, or possessed, as well as the machinery, equipment,
implements and tools illegally used in the area where the timber or forest products are found.
Punishable under the above provision are the following acts: (1) cutting, gathering, collecting or
removing timber or other forest products from the places therein mentioned without any authority; and
(b) possessing timber or other forest products without the legal documents.
[31]

Petitioner was charged with the first offense.
[32]
It was thus necessary for the prosecution to prove the
alleged illegal cutting, gathering or manufacture of lumber from the trees.
It is undisputed that no direct evidence was presented. This kind of evidence, however, is not the only
matrix from which the trial court may draw its conclusions and findings of guilt.
[33]
Conviction may be
based on circumstantial evidence, as long as the circumstances proven constitute an unbroken chain
that leads to a fair and reasonable conclusion that the accused is guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
[34]

To sustain a conviction based on circumstantial evidence, it is necessary that the following elements
concur:
1. There is more than one circumstance.
2. The facts from which the inferences are derived are proven.
3. The combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable
doubt.
[35]

Did the circumstances in this case satisfy the above requirements? We rule in the affirmative. In its
assessment of the evidence, the regional trial court (RTC) considered the following proven facts and
circumstances:
x x x Accused Virgilio Bon[,] being the tenant is in actual possession and control over the land, fruit
trees and big trees. Virgilio Bon has a better chance to cut and saw the lumber. He admitted before
the [b]arangay [t]anod[,] Julian Lascano[,] with other witnesses present[,] that he ordered the cutting
of the trees[, and the] saw[ing thereof] by his son-in-law, accused Alejandro Jeniebre, Jr. His
admission was corroborated by Oscar Narvaez, the one hired by Alejandro Jeniebre, Jr., to saw the
lumber. His extrajudicial confession is admissible evidence against him as it was voluntary and not
under custodial investigation.
[36]

The appellate court, on the other hand, found that the following circumstances sufficiently proved
petitioners culpability:
x x x (1) [Petitioner] Virgilio Bon admitted in the presence of Manuel Dangalan, Julian Lascano and
Natividad Legaspi that he caused the cutting of the questioned trees; (2) [o]n February 12, 1990,
[Petitioner] Virgilio Bon and his son[,] x x x Rosalio Bon[,] went to private complainant[,] demanding
[that] the latter x x x pay the value of the questioned trees which they had cut; (3) [o]n February 13,
1990, [Petitioner] Virgilio Bon went to private complainant to ask forgiveness for cutting the trees.
[37]

A review of the records also shows that the fact of the alleged cutting, gathering and manufacture of
lumber from the trees was proven by the prosecution through the following pieces of documentary
evidence: photographs of tree stumps,
[38]
the investigation report of an officer of the Community
Environment and Natural Resources (CENRO) that no permit was secured for the cutting of the
trees,
[39]
and the CENROs computation of the value
[40]
of the timber generated from the felled
trees. This fact, together with the circumstantial evidence, indubitably points to no other conclusion
than that petitioner was guilty as charged.
Correct Penalty
We now go to the penalty. We deem it necessary to discuss this matter because of the differing
penalties imposed by the appellate and the trial courts. The RTC imposed an indeterminate sentence
of seven (7) years, four (4) months and one (1) day of prision mayor as minimum; to eleven (11)
years, six (6) months and twenty-one (21) days of prision mayor as maximum. The CA, however,
increased the penalty to imprisonment ranging from ten (10) years of prision mayor as minimum; to
fourteen (14) years and eight (8) months of reclusion temporal as maximum.
Article 68 of the Revised Forestry Law, as amended by Executive Order No. 277,
[41]
provides that any
violation thereof shall be punished with the penalties imposed under Articles 309
[42]
and 310
[43]
of
Revised Penal Code. This amendment -- which eliminated the phrase shall be guilty of qualified
theft as defined and punished under Articles 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code -- has already
been interpreted by this Court. According to its interpretation, the quoted phrase means that the acts
of cutting, gathering, collecting, removing or possessing forest products without authority constitute
distinct offenses that are now independent of the crime of theft under Articles 309 and 310 of the
Revised Penal Code (RPC), but that the penalty to be imposed is that which is provided under these
articles.
[44]

Both the trial court
[45]
and the CA
[46]
found that the value of the lumber was P12,000. Under Articles
309 and 310 of the RPC, the statutory penalty should be two degrees higher than prision
correccionalin its medium and maximum periods;
[47]
or prision mayor in its maximum period
to reclusion temporal in its minimum period. The Indeterminate Sentence Law,
[48]
however, reduces
the sentence to an indeterminate penalty anywhere in the range of six (6) years and one (1) day
of prision mayor, as minimum, to 14 years and eight (8) months of reclusion temporal as
maximum. Clearly, the sentences imposed by the trial court and the CA are within the allowable
range. In view, however, of the finding of the RTC that no mitigating or aggravating circumstance
attended the commission of the offense, the penalty it imposed was more in accord with the liberal
spirit of the law towards the accused. Hence, we adopt the trial courts indeterminate sentence of
seven (7) years, four (4) months and one (1) day ofprision mayor as minimum; to eleven (11) years,
six (6) months and twenty-one (21) days of prision mayor as maximum.
WHEREFORE, the assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals is hereby AFFIRMED with
the MODIFICATION that petitioner is sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty of imprisonment
of seven (7) years, four (4) months and one (1) day of prision mayor as minimum; to eleven (11)
years, six (6) months and twenty-one (21) days of prision mayor as maximum. Costs against
appellant.
SO ORDERED.
FIRST DIVISION
[A.M. No. RTJ-03-1786. August 28, 2003]
ALFREDO Y. CHU, complainant, vs. JUDGE CAMILO E. TAMIN, Presiding Judge, Regional
Trial Court, Branch 23, Ninth Judicial Region, Molave, Zamboanga del Sur, respondent.
D E C I S I O N
CARPIO, J .:
The Case
This is a complaint for gross ignorance of the law, serious misconduct, and grave abuse of discretion
filed by Alfredo Y. Chu (complainant) against Judge Camilo E. Tamin (respondent judge) of the
Regional Trial Court, Branch 23, Molave, Zamboanga del Sur (Branch 23).
The Facts
Complainant alleged that on 9 September 1999, Community Environment and Natural Resources
Officer Michael F. dela Cruz (CENRO dela Cruz) of the Department of Environment and Natural
Resources, Region IX, applied for a search warrant with respondent judge. CENRO dela Cruz
claimed that complainant was in possession of forest products of dubious origin in violation of
Section 68 of Presidential Decree No. 705
[1]
(PD 705), as amended. On the same day, respondent
judge issued Search Warrant No. 364 ordering the seizure of several pieces of mangrove lumber
from complainants fishpond in Bulawan, Payao, Zamboanga del Sur. On the strength of the warrant,
CENRO dela Cruz, assisted by law enforcement agents, seized from complainant 576 pieces
of pagatpat lumber (mangrove specie) with an estimated value of P183,790.
On 22 September 1999, complainant obtained from Branch 23 a copy of the complete records of the
issuance of Search Warrant No. 364, as certified by Branch Clerk of Court Ma. Asuncion Pabatao-
Lumapas (Clerk of Court Lumapas). On 24 September 1999, complainant again obtained, for the
second time, a copy of the complete records of the case, also certified by Clerk of Court
Lumapas. These certified copies did not contain any transcript of respondent judges examination of
CENRO dela Cruz or his witnesses as required under Section 4, Rule 126 of the Revised Rules of
Criminal Procedure. Thus, complainant filed this administrative complaint.
Complainant pointed out that this was the fifth time that respondent judge issued, under questionable
procedure, search warrants against him for violation of PD 705. Complainant recalled that on 10
November 1998, respondent judge issued four search warrants against him (Search Warrant Nos.
281 to 284), authorizing the seizure from his compound of pagatpat lumber worth more than P1.5
million. Complainant alleged that the records of the four warrants did not also contain any transcript of
the required examination of witnesses. Complainant therefore moved to quash the four
warrants. Respondent judge, however, denied the motion on the ground that he had in fact
conducted such examination but the record of the deposition was misfiled in another case folder
through inadvertence.
[2]

In response to the directive of the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) of this Court to comment
on the complaint, respondent judge, in his Second Indorsement (Indorsement) dated 16 December
1999, denied complainants allegations. Respondent judge asserted that at around 1:15 p.m. of 9
September 1999, he personally examined a certain Reynaldo Cuaresma (Cuaresma), allegedly a
witness of CENRO dela Cruz, before issuing the warrant in question. He claimed that a transcript of
the examination was included in the records of Search Warrant No. 364. However, he forwarded the
records to the OCA on 30 September 1999 in connection with his request for the transfer of the case
to the RTC, Branch 24, in Ipil, Zamboanga del Sur (Branch 24). In lieu of the original copy,
respondent judge attached to his Indorsement an alleged computer printout of the transcript, claiming
that the time and date of its encoding was verifiable in the computer files in his office.
Due to the conflicting factual allegations of the parties, the Court directed the Executive Judge of the
RTC of Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur to: (1) verify from Branch 23 whether respondent judge
examined any witness before issuing Search Warrant No. 364; and (2) secure from Clerk of Court
Lumapas her explanation on the apparent discrepancy between the copy of the records of Search
Warrant No. 364, as forwarded by respondent judge to the OCA and as obtained by complainant.
In his Report, dated 30 July 2001, RTC Pagadian City Executive Judge Franklyn A. Villegas
(Executive Judge Villegas) stated that he verified the records of Search Warrant No. 364 in Branch
23. He found on page 5 of the records a copy of the transcript of the examination conducted by
respondent judge on one Reynaldo Cuaresma. He attached in his report the explanations of
respondent judge and Clerk of Court Lumapas.
[3]

In his explanation, dated 11 July 2001, respondent judge reiterated the claim he made in his
Indorsement of 16 December 1999 that he examined a certain Reynaldo Cuaresma before issuing
Search Warrant No. 364. He explained that the records of the case contained a copy of the transcript
of the examination. However, respondent judge alleged, for the first time, that the legal researcher in
his office who prepared the duplicate copy issued to complainant on 22 September 1999 failed,
through pure inadvertence, to recopy such transcript. Respondent judge attributed such omission to
the fact that at that time, the pages of the records were not yet physically paged. He claimed that
the pages were numbered only upon preparation of the records for transmittal to Branch 24 the
following week. He further asserted that the copy of the transcript in question was numbered page
5. Branch 24, however, refused to accept the referral of the case. Thus, respondent judge forwarded
the records to the OCA with a request for their transmittal to Branch 24. The OCA later returned the
records to respondent judge as their proper custodian.
[4]

Clerk of Court Lumapas affirmed respondent judges claims and defenses in her explanation dated 11
July 2001.
[5]

In the Resolution of 10 September 2001, the Court referred this case to the OCA for evaluation,
report, and recommendation.
OCAs Findings and Conclusions
In its Report dated 10 December 2002, the OCA found respondent judge liable for gross ignorance of
the law and recommended the imposition of a P5,000 fine. The Report reads in part:
Respondent judge stands firm on his claim that he conducted searching questions on Reynaldo
Charesma [sic]. We find this claim highly suspect. First, the respondent judge [initially] failed to
produce a copy of the transcript of the searching questions allegedly made on September 9, 1999
and append the same to the record of the case. x x x x The transcript of the searching questions
was, in fact, produced [only] after the filing of the instant complaint. Further, it was noted that during
the hearing of [complainants motion to quash Search Warrant] Nos. 281, 282, 283 and 28[4] taken
on 21 January 1999 at 9:30 a.m.[,] respondent judge apparently believes that searching questions
need not be in writing. This is borne by the following exchange during the said hearing:
Atty. R. Rambuyong [Counsel for complainant Alfredo Chu]:
In other words Your Honor, they would not admit that the accused received copies?
Court:
Is there a rule that the searching question must be in writing?
Atty. R. Rambuyong:
From the Case of HATA versus BAYONA, Your Honor, the Supreme Court has required. As a matter
of fact, I cited that in my supplemental motion and the Court said that, mere affidavits of the
complainant and his witnesses is not enough. There must be the deposition in writing, and under
oath of the complainants and his witnesses; and searching questions should be propounded by the
examining Judge. As a matter of fact, there have been several decisions of the Supreme Court to
the effect that mere ceremonial searching questions and answers reiterating the contents of the
affidavits will not be sufficient compliance [there] with.
x x x x.
From the foregoing, it can be concluded that respondent judge either did not conduct the required
searching questions, or if he did, he did not put it in writing. Thus, respondent judge erred because
Section 5, Rule 126, [of the ] Rules of Court specifically [requires such] x x x.
This is a basic legal precept which all judges are expected to be conversant with. Th[e] Court has
often impressed upon judges that as mandated by the Code of Judicial Conduct, they owe it to the
public and legal profession to know the very law they are supposed to apply to a given case. In this
case, respondent judge failed to observe an elementary rule which amount[s] to ignorance of the law,
thereby subjecting him to disciplinary action. (Emphasis in the original)
The Ruling of the Court
The report of the OCA is well-taken.
Section 5, Rule 126
[6]
of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure provides:
The judge must, before issuing the warrant, personally examine in the form of searching questions
and answers, in writing and under oath, the complainant and the witnesses he may produce on facts
personally known to them and attach to the record their sworn statements, together with the affidavits
submitted. (Emphasis supplied)
This provision implements the proscription against unreasonable searches and seizures found in
Section 2, Article III of the Constitution which states:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against
unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for whatever purpose shall be inviolable,
and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined
personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the
witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or
things to be seized.
The Court, in Pendon v. Court of Appeals,
[7]
reiterated the requirements of Section 2 on the
issuance of search warrants, which judges must strictly observe,
[8]
as follows:
Under the above provision, the issuance of a search warrant is justified only upon a finding of
probable cause. x x x In determining the existence of probable cause, it is required that: (1) the
judge x x x must examine the x x x witnesses personally; (2) the examination must be under oath;
and (3) the examination must be reduced to writing in the form of searching questions and answers.
(Emphasis supplied)
[9]

Respondent judge explained that in issuing Search Warrant No. 364, he complied with the rule that
he must personally examine in the form of searching questions and answers, in writing and under
oath, the complainant and the witnesses. Respondent judge stated, however, that the certified
copies of the records obtained by complainant did not include the transcript of his examination
because the clerical staff in his office who prepared the certified copies inadvertently failed to do so.
This explanation fails to persuade us.
Respondent judges own Clerk of Court certified twice, first on 22 September 1999 and later on 24
September 1999, that the 29-page copy of the records obtained by complainant constitutes the entire
record of the matter.
[10]
This renders improbable respondent judges claim that the transcript already
formed part of the records but the legal researcher in his office inadvertently missed it in preparing the
copy obtained by complainant on 22 September 1999. The alleged legal researcher, who
presumably also prepared the second certified copy, could not have committed the same mistake,
twice in a row, within two days of each other. Curiously, in his Indorsement of 16 December 1999,
respondent judge did not point to his legal researchers negligence as the cause for the discrepancy.
Neither did respondent judge state that the pages of the contents of the folder of Search Warrant No.
364 were unnumbered when complainant requested for copies. What he stated in his Indorsement
was that the records contained a copy of the transcript but the same was already forwarded to the
OCA.
If, as respondent judge claims, he personally examined a certain Cuaresma as the witness of
CENRO dela Cruz, he should have secured the affidavit of Cuaresma. Respondent judge should also
have secured the affidavit of the unnamed legal researcher who allegedly prepared the copies of the
records obtained by complainant. Respondent judge failed to secure their affidavits to corroborate his
claims. Lastly, respondent judge should have shown Executive Judge Villegas, during the latters
investigation, the magnetic (hard disk) copy of the transcript allegedly stored in his office computer.
These omissions bolster complainants claim and correspondingly weaken respondent judges
defense. As it is, other than respondent judges bare claim that he examined a certain Cuaresma, the
only proof on record in his favor is an unsigned computer printout of the alleged record of the
examination. Considering that any one can easily create and print out such document, it does not
suffice to exculpate respondent judge from administrative liability.
We uphold the OCAs findings that respondent judge, who had earlier professed ignorance of the rule
in question, failed either to examine any witness before issuing Search Warrant No. 364 or to reduce
the examination in writing. His omission renders him liable for gross ignorance of the law. When the
law is so elementary, such as the provisions of the Constitution and the Rules of Court on search
warrant issuance, not to know it or to act as if one does not know it, constitutes gross ignorance of the
law.
[11]
Specifically, respondent judge failed to conform to the high standards of competence required
of judges under the Code of Judicial Conduct, which mandates that:
Rule 1.01. A judge should be the embodiment of competence, integrity, and independence.
Rule 3.01 A judge shall x x x maintain professional competence.
What was said in a case,
[12]
similarly involving gross ignorance of basic rules, bears repeating here:
[A judge] is called upon to exhibit more than just a cursory acquaintance with the statutes and
procedural rules. It is imperative that he be studious of and conversant with basic legal principles. He
owes [it] to the dignity of the court he sits in, to the legal profession he belongs, and to the public who
depends on him, to know the law which he is called upon to x x x apply. Not only that, there would be
on the part of the litigants less expense and greater faith in the administration of justice if there be a
belief on their part that the occupants of the bench cannot justly be accused of apparent deficiency in
their grasp [of] legal principles.
On the Penalty to be Imposed
As recommended by the OCA, respondent judge should be fined P5,000. On 26 June 2003,
in Gregorio Limpot Lumapas v. J udge Camilo Tamin,
[13]
this Court dismissed respondent judge
from the service for disobedience to an order issued by a superior court, as well as for gross
ignorance of the law x x x with forfeiture of all benefits due him except for accrued leave
credits. Thus, the fine ofP5,000 should be deducted from respondent judges accrued leave
benefits.
[14]

WHEREFORE, the Court finds respondent Judge Camilo E. Tamin, of the Regional Trial Court,
Branch 23, Molave, Zamboanga del Sur, guilty of gross ignorance of the law. He is ordered to pay a
fine of P5,000 to be deducted from his accrued leave credits.
SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. L-46772 February 13, 1992
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner,
vs.
COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE OF QUEZON (BRANCH VII), GODOFREDO ARROZAL AND LUIS
FLORES,respondents.
Felipe B. Pagkanlungan for private respondents.

MEDIALDEA, J .:
This petition seeks the annulment of the order of the Court of First Instance (now Regional Trial
Court) of Quezon in Criminal Case No. 1591, entitled "People of the Philippines vs. Godofredo,
Arrozal, Luis Flares and twenty other John Does," dismissing the information filed therein.
The antecedent facts are as follows:
The private respondents were charged with the crime of qualified theft of logs, defined and punished
under Section 68 of Presidential Decree No. 705, otherwise known as the Revised Forestry Code of
the Philippines, in an information which read:
That on or about the 28th, 29th and 30th days of July 1976, at Barangay Mahabang Lalim,
Municipality of General Nakar, Province of Quezon, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named accused, Godofredo Arrozal and Luis Flores, together with twenty
(20) other John Does whose identities are still unknown, the first-named accused being the
administrator of the Infanta Logging Corporation, with intent to gain, conspiring and confederating
together and mutually helping one another, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously
enter the privately-owned land of one Felicitacion Pujalte, titled in the name of her deceased father,
Macario Prudente, under Original Certificate of Title No. 6026, and once inside, illegally cut, gather,
take, steal and carry away therefrom, without the consent of the said owner and without any authority
under a license agreement, lease license or permit, sixty (60) logs of different species, consisting of
about 541.48 cubic meters, with total value of FIFTY THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED FIVE PESOS
and FIFTY TWO CENTAVOS (P50,205.52) including government charges, to the damage and
prejudice of the said owner in the aforesaid amount.
Contrary to Law.
Lucena City, 7 January 1977. (p.17, Rollo).
On March 23, 1977, the named accused filed a motion to quash the information on two (2) grounds,
to wit: (1) that the facts charged do not constitute an offense; and, (2) that the information does not
conform substantially to the prescribed form.
On April 13, 1977, the trial court dismissed the information on the grounds invoked (pp. 32-42, Rollo),
The reconsideration sought was denied on August 9, 1977 (p.42, Rollo).
On October 15, 1977, this petition was filed directly with this Court, raising the following questions of
law: (1) whether or not the information charged an offense; and (2) whether or not the trial court had
jurisdiction over the case.
On the first issue, the People alleged that, contrary to the allegation of the private respondents and
the opinion of the trial court, the information substantially alleged all the elements of the crime of
qualified theft of logs as described in Section 68 of P.D. 705. While it was admitted that the
information did not precisely allege that the taking of the logs in question was "without the consent of
the state," nevertheless, said information expressly stated that the accused "illegally cut, gather, take,
steal and carry away therefrom, without the consent of said owner and without any authority under a
license agreement, lease, lease, license or permit, sixty (60) logs of different species. . . ." Since only
the state can grant the lease, license, license agreement or permit for utilization of forest resources,
including timber, then the allegation in the information that the asportation of the logs was "without
any authority" under a license agreement, lease, license or permit, is tantamount to alleging that the
taking of the logs was without the consent of the state.
We agree with the petitioner.
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 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. . . .
When an accused invokes in a motion to quash the ground that the facts charged do not constitute an
offense (Rule 117, Sec. 2 [a] Rules of Court), the sufficiency of the Information hinges on the question
of whether the facts alleged, if hypothetically admitted, meet the essential elements of the offense
defined in the law (People v. Segovia, 103 Phil. 1162 [1958]; People v. Abad, L-55132, August 30,
1988, 165 SCRA 57).
The elements of the crime of qualified theft of logs are: 1) That the accused cut, gathered, collected
or removed timber or other forest products; 2) that the timber or other forest products cut, gathered,
collected or removed belongs 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.
The Order dismissing the complaint concluded that the information was defective because:
. . ., it is noted that the Information alleges that the cutting, gathering and carrying away of the logs
were done without the consent of the owner of the land. While the prosecution admits that timber is a
forest product that belongs to the state, the information, however, fails to allege that the taking was
without the consent of the latter, for which reason the Information is patently defective. (p. 39, Rollo)
The failure of the information to allege that the logs taken were owned by the state is not fatal. It
should be noted that the logs subject of the complaint were taken not from a public forest but from a
private woodland registered in the name of complainant's deceased father, Macario Prudente. The
fact that only the state can grant a license agreement, license or lease does not make the state the
owner of all the logs and timber products produced in the Philippines including those produced in
private woodlands. The case of Santiago v. Basilan Company, G.R. No. L-15532, October 31, 1963,
9 SCRA 349, clarified the matter on ownership of timber in private lands. This Court held therein:
The defendant has appealed, claiming that it should not be held liable to the plaintiff because the
timber which it cut and gathered on the land in question belongs to the government and not to the
plaintiff, the latter having failed to comply with a requirement of the law with respect to his property.
The provision of law referred to by appellant is a section of the Revised Administrative Code, as
amended, which reads;
"Sec. 1829. Registration of title to private forest land. Every private owner of land containing
timber, firewood and other minor forest products shall register his title to the same with the Director of
Forestry. A list of such owners, with a statement of the boundaries of their property, shall be furnished
by said Director to the Collector of Internal Revenue, and the same shall be supplemented from time
to time as occasion may require.
Upon application of the Director of Forestry the fiscal of the province in which any such land lies shall
render assistance in the examination of the title thereof with a view to its registration in the Bureau of
Forestry."
In the above provision of law, there is no statement to the effect that non-compliance with the
requirement would divest the owner of the land of his rights thereof and that said rights of ownership
would be transferred to the government. Of course, the land which had been registered and titled in
the name of the plaintiff under that Land Registration Act could no longer be the object of a forester
license issued by the Director of Forestry because ownership of said land includes also ownership of
everything found on its surface (Art. 437, New Civil Code).
Obviously, the purpose of the registration required in section 1829 of the Administrative Code is to
exempt the title owner of the land from the payment of forestry charges as provided for under Section
266 of the National Internal Revenue Code, to wit:
"Charges collective on forest products cut, gathered and removed from unregistered private lands.
The charges above prescribed shall be collected on all forest products cut, gathered and removed
from any private land the title to which is not registered with the Director of Forestry as required by
the Forest Law; Provided, however, That in the absence of such registration, the owner who desires
to cut, gather and remove timber and other forest products from such land shall secure a license from
the Director of Forestry Law and Regulations. The cutting, gathering and removing of timber and the
other forest products from said private lands without license shall be considered as unlawful cutting,
gathering and removing of forest products from public forests and shall be subject to the charges
prescribed in such cases in this chapter.
xxx xxx xxx
On the other hand, while it is admitted that the plaintiff has failed to register the timber in his land as a
private woodland in accordance with the oft-repeated provision of the Revised Administrative Code,
he still retained his rights of ownership, among which are his rights to the fruits of the land and to
exclude any person from the enjoyment and disposal thereof (Art. 429, New Civil Code) the very
rights violated by the defendant Basilan Lumber Company.
While it is only the state which can grant a license or authority to cut, gather, collect or remove forest
products it does not follow that all forest products belong to the state. In the just cited case, private
ownership of forest products grown in private lands is retained under the principle in civil law that
ownership of the land includes everything found on its surface.
Ownership is not an essential element of the offense as defined in Section 60 of P.D. No. 705. Thus,
the failure of the information to allege the true owner of the forest products is not material; it was
sufficient that it alleged that the taking was without any authority or license from the government.
Anent the second issue raised, Section 80 of Presidential Decree 705, provides:
Sec. 80. Arrest; Institution of Criminal Actions. A forest officer or employee of the Bureau shall
arrest even without warrant any person who has committed or is committing in his presence any of
the offenses defined in this Chapter. He shall also seize and confiscate, in favor of the Government,
the tools and equipment used in committing the offense, and the forest products cut, gathered or
taken by the offender in the process of committing the offense. The arresting forest officer or
employee shall thereafter deliver within six (6) hours from the time of arrest and seizure, the offender
and the confiscated forest products, tools and equipment to, and file the proper complaint with, the
appropriate official designated by law to conduct preliminary investigations and file informations in
court.
If the arrest and seizure are made in the forests, far from the authorities designated by law to conduct
preliminary investigations, the delivery to, and filing of the complaint with, the latter shall be done
within a reasonable time sufficient for ordinary travel from the place of arrest to the place of delivery.
The seized products, materials and equipment shall be immediately disposed of in accordance with
forestry administrative orders promulgated by the Department Head.
The Department Head may deputize any member or unit of the Philippine Constabulary, police
agency, barangay or barrio official, or any qualified person to protect the forest and exercise the
power or authority provided for in the preceding paragraph.
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 a 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.
The above cited provision covers two (2) specific instances when a forest officer may commence a
prosecution for the violation of the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines. The first authorizes a
forest officer or employee of the Bureau of Forestry to arrest without a warrant, any person who has
committed or is committing, in his presence, any of the offenses described in the decree. The second
covers a situation when an offense described in the decree is not committed in the presence of the
forest officer or employee and the commission is brought to his attention by a report or a complaint. In
both cases, however, the forest officer or employee shall investigate the offender and file a complaint
with the appropriate official authorized by law to conduct a preliminary investigation and file the
necessary informations in court.
The circumstances in the instant case do not fall under any of the situations covered by Section 80 of
P.D. 705. The alleged offense was committed not in the presence of a forest officer and neither was
the alleged commission reported to any forest officer. The offense was committed in a private land
and the complaint was brought by a private offended party to the fiscal.
The trial court erred in dismissing the case on the ground of lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter
because the information was filed not pursuant to the complaint of any forest officer as prescribed in
Section 80 of P.D. 705. We agree with the observation of the Solicitor General that:
. . ., the authority given to the forest officer to investigate reports and complaints regarding the
commission of offenses defined in P.D. No. 705 by the said last and penultimate paragraphs of
Section 80 may be considered as covering only such 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. Such interpretation becomes cogent when we consider that the whole of Section 80
deals precisely with the authority of forest officers or employees to make arrests and institute criminal
actions involving offenses defined in the Decree. (p. 26, Rollo).
Likewise, the Solicitor General was correct in insisting that P.D. 705 did not repeal Section 1687 of
the Administrative Code giving authority to the fiscal to conduct investigation into the matter of any
crime or misdemeanor and have the necessary information or complaint prepared or made against
persons charged with the commission of the crime.
Sec. 1687. Authority of fiscal to conduct investigation in criminal matter. A provincial fiscal shall
have authority, if he deems it wise, to conduct an investigation into the matter of any crime or
misdemeanor. To this end, he may summon reputed witnesses and require them to appear and
testify upon oath before him. . . .
With the exception of the so-called "private crimes"
1
and in election offenses,
2
prosecutions in
Courts of First Instance may be commenced by an information signed by a fiscal after conducting a
preliminary investigation. Section 80 of P.D. 705 did not divest the fiscals of this general authority.
Neither did the said decree grant forest officers the right of preliminary investigations. In both cases
under said Sec. 80 namely, 1) after a forest officer had made the arrest (for offenses committed in his
presence); or 2) after conducting an investigation of reports or complaints of violations of the decree
(for violations not committed in his presence) he is still required to file the proper complaint with the
appropriate official designated by law to conduct preliminary investigations in court. Said section
should not be interpreted to vest exclusive authority upon forest officers to conduct investigations
regarding offenses described in the decree rather, it should be construed as granting forest officers
and employees special authority to arrest and investigate offenses described in P.D. 705, to reinforce
the exercise of such authority by those upon whom it is vested by general law.
ACCORDINGLY, the petition is GRANTED. The questioned order of the trial court dismissing the
information is SET ASIDE. Criminal Cases No. 1591 is reinstated.
SO ORDERED.
SECOND DIVISION
[G.R. No. 120365. December 17, 1996]
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appelle, vs. WILSON B. QUE, accused-appellant.
D E C I S I O N
PUNO, J .:
Accused-appellant Wilson B. Que appeals from his conviction for violation of Section 68 of
Presidential Decree (P.D.) 705
[1]
as amended by Executive Order (E.O.) 277.
[2]

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

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

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

SPO1 Corpuz checked the cargo and found that it contained coconut slabs. When interviewed,
accused-appellant told SPO1 Corpuz that there were sawn lumber inserted in between the coconut
slabs.
[6]

SPO1 Corpuz asked accused-appellant for the Cargos supporting documents, specifically: (1)
certificate of lumber origin, (2) certificate of transport agreement, (3) auxiliary invoice, (4) receipt from
the DENR, and (5) certification from the forest ranger regarding the origin of the coconut
slabs. Accused-appellant failed to present any of these documents. All he could show was a
certification
[7]
from the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO), Sanchez
Mira, Cagayan that he legally acquired the coconut slabs. The certification was issued to facilitate
transport of the slabs from Sanchez Mira, Cagayan to San Vicente, Urdaneta, Pangasinan.
[8]

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

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

On June 23, 1994, accused-appellant was charged before the Regional Trial Court of Laoag with
violation of Section 68 of P.D. 705 as amended by E.O. 277. The Information alleged:
That on or about the 8
th
day of March, 1994, in the City of Laoag, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, being then the owner of an I(s)uzu
Ten Wheeler Truck bearing Plate No. PAD-548, with intent of gain, did then and there willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously have in possession, control and custody 258 pieces of various sizes of
Forest Products Chainsawn lumber (Species of Tanguile) with a total volume of 3,729.3 bd. ft. or
equivalent to 8.79 cubic meters valued in the total amount of P93,232.50 at P25.00/bd. ft., necessary
permit, license or authority to do so from the proper authorities, thus violating the aforecited provision
of the law, to the damage and prejudice of the government.
CONTRARY TO LAW.
[12]

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

Accused-appellant also objected to the admission of the 258 pieces of lumber as evidence against
him. He contended that they were fruits of an illegal search and seizure and of an uncounselled
extrajudicial admission.
The trial court found accused-appellant guilty and sentenced him to reclusion perpetua. It also
ordered the confiscation of the seized lumber and the ten-wheeler truck owned by accused-
appellant. The dispositive portion of the Decision
[16]
states:
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered declaring accused Wilson B. Que guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of the violation of Section 68 of PD 705, as amended by Executive Order No. 277
and he is sentenced to suffer the penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA, plus all the accessory
penalties provided by law. The bail bond filed for the provisional liberty of the accused is
CANCELLED.
The two hundred fifty-eight (258) pieces of lumber (tanguile specie) and the ten-wheeler truck bearing
plate No. PAD-548 which was used in the commission of the crime are hereby ordered confiscated in
favor of the government to be disposed of in accordance with law.
Costs against the accused.
SO ORDERED.
[17]

Appellant now comes before us with the following assignment of errors:
[18]

1. It was error for the Court to convict accused under Section 68, PD705 as amended by EO 277 for
possessing timber or other forest products without the legal documents as required under existing
forest laws and regulations on the ground that since it is only in EO No. 277 where for the first time
mere possession of timber was criminalized, there are no existing forest laws and regulations which
required certain legal documents for possession of timber and other forest products.
2. The Court erred in allowing evidence secured in violation of the constitutional rights of accused
against unlawful searches and seizures.
3. The Court erred in allowing evidence secured in violation of the constitutional rights of accused
under custodial investigation.
On the first assignment of error, appellant argues that he cannot be convicted for violation of Section
68 of P.D. 705 because E.O. 277 which amended Section 68 to penalize the possession of timber or
other forest products without the proper legal documents did not indicate the particular documents
necessary to make the possession legal. Neither did the other forest laws and regulations existing at
the time of its enactment.
Appellants argument deserves scant consideration. Section 68 of P.D. 705 provides:
Sec. 68. Cutting, Gathering and/or Collecting Timber, or other Forest Products Without License.
Any person who shall cut, gather, collect, remove timber or other forest products from any forest
land, or timber from alienable or disposable public land, or from private land without any authority, or
possess timber or other forest products without the legal documents as required under existing forest
laws and regulations, shall be punished with the penalties imposed under Articles 309 and 310 of the
Revised Penal Code: Provided, That in the case of partnerships, associations, or corporations, the
officers who ordered the cutting, gathering, collection or possession shall be liable and if such officers
are aliens, they shall, in addition to the penalty, be deported without further proceedings on the part of
the Commission on Immigration and Deportation.
The Court shall further order the confiscation in favor of the government of the timber or any forest
products cut, gathered, collected, removed, or possessed, as well as the machinery, equipment,
implements and tools illegally used in the area where the timber or forest products are
found. (emphasis supplied)
Appellant interprets the phrase existing forest laws and regulations to refer to those laws and
regulations which were already in effect at the time of the enactment of E. O. 277. The suggested
interpretation is strained and would render the law inutile. Statutory construction should not kill but
give life to the law. The phrase should be construed to refer to laws and regulations existing at the
time of possession of timber or other forest products. DENR Administrative Order No. 59 series of
1993 specifies the documents required for the transport of timber and other forest products. Section
3 of the Administrative Order provides:
Section 3. Documents Required.
Consistent with the policy stated above, the movement of logs, lumber, plywood, veneer, non-timber
forest products and wood-based or nonwood-based products/commodities shall be covered with
appropriate Certificates of Origin, issued by authorized DENR officials, as specified in the succeeding
sections.
xxx
3.3 Lumber. Unless otherwise herein provided, the transport of lumber shall be accompanied by a
CERTIFICATE OF LUMBER ORIGIN (CLO) issued by the CENRO or his duly authorized
representative which has jurisdiction over the processing plant producing the said lumber or the
lumber firm authorized to deal in such commodities. In order to be valid, the CLO must be supported
by the company tally sheet or delivery receipt, and in case of sale, a lumber sales invoice.
xxx
When apprehended on March 8, 1994, accused-appellant failed to present any certificate of origin of
the 258 pieces of tanguile lumber. The trial court found:
xxx
xxx When apprehended by the police officers, the accused admittedly could not present a single
document to justify his possession of the subject lumber. xxx
Significantly, at the time the accused was apprehended by the police offices, he readily showed
documents to justify his possession of the coconut slabs. Thus, he showed a certification issued by
Remigio B. Rosario, Forest Ranger, of the DENR, CENRO, Sanchez Mira, Cagayan (Exhibit "E") and
a xerox copy of the original certificate of title covering the parcel of land where the coconut slabs were
cut. (Exhibit "F")
It is worthy to note that the certification dated March 7, 1994 states:
THIS IS TO
CERTIFY that the one (1) truckload of coconut slabs to be transported by Mr. Wilson Que on board tr
uck bearing Plate No. PAD 548 were derived from matured coconut palms gathered inside the private
land of Miss Bonifacia Collado under OCT No. P-11614 (8) located at Nagrangtayan, Sanchez Mira,
Cagayan.
This certification is being issued upon the request of Mr. Wilson Que for the purpose of facilitating the
transportation of said coconut slabs from Sanchez Mira, Cagayan to San Vicente, Urdaneta,
Pangasinan and is valid up to March 11, 1994 or upon discharge of its cargoes at its final destination,
whichever comes first.
It is crystal clear, therefore, that the accused was given permit by the DENR to
transport one (1) truckload of coconut slabs only between March 7 to 11, 1994. The accused was
apprehended on March 8, 1994 aboard his truck bearing plate number PAD-548 which was loaded
not only with coconut slabs but with chainsawn lumber as well. Admittedly, the lumber could not be
seen from the outside. The lumber were placed in the middle and not visible unless the coconut
slabs which were placed on the top, sides and rear of the truck were removed.
Under these circumstances, the Court has no doubt that the accused was very much aware that he
needed documents to possess and transport the lumber (b)ut could not secure one and, therefore,
concealed the lumber by placing the same in such a manner that they could not be seen by police
authorities by merely looking at the cargo.
In this regard, the Court cannot give credence to his alleged letter dated March 3, 1994 addressed to
the OIC CENRO Officer, CENRO, Sanchez Mira, Cagayan informing the CENRO that he would be
transporting the subject lumber on March 7, 1994 from Sanchez Mira, Cagayan to Sto. Domingo,
Ilocos Sur but was returned to him for the reason that he did not need a permit to transport the
subject lumber. (Exhibit 8, 8-A)
While it is true that the letter indicates that it was received by CENRO on March 4, 1994, the court
has doubts that this was duly filed with the concerned office. According to the accused, he filed the
letter in the morning of March 4 and returned in the afternoon of the same day. He was then informed
by an employee of the CENRO whom he did not identify that he did not need a permit to transport the
lumber because the lumber would be for personal used (sic) and x x came from PLTP. (Ibid) The
letter-request was returned to him.
The fact that the letter-request was returned to him creates doubts on the stance of the
accused. Documents or other papers, i.e., letter-request of this kind filed with a government agency
are not returned. Hence, when a person files or submits any document to a government agency, the
agency gets the original copy. The filer only gets a duplicate copy to show that he has filed such
document with the agency. Moreover, his avoidance as regards the identity of the employee of the
CENRO who allegedly returned the letter-request to him also creates doubts on his stance. Thus, on
cross-examination, the accused, when asked about the identity of the employee of the CENRO who
returned the letter-request to him answered that he could recognize the person x x but they were
already reshuffled. (TSN, February 8, 1995, p. 104) At one point, the accused also said that he did
not know if that person was an employee of the DENR. (Ibid, p. 105)
Be that as it may, the Court finds significance in the last paragraph of this letter-request, to wit:
x x x
Please consider this as my Certificate of Transport Agreement in view of the fact that I am hauling
and transporting my own lumber for my own needs.
Thus, the accused through this letter considered the same as his certificate of transport
agreement. Why then, if he was telling the truth, did he not take this letter with him when he
transported the lumber on March 7, 1994?
All these circumstances clearly show that the letter comes from a polluted source.
[19]

xxx
Accused-appellants possession of the subject lumber without any documentation clearly constitutes
an offense under Section 68 of P.D. 705.
We also reject appellants argument that the law only penalizes possession of illegal forest products
and that the possessor cannot be held liable if he proves that the cutting, gathering, collecting or
removal of such forest products is legal. There are two (2) distinct and separate offenses punished
under Section 68 of P.D. 705, to wit:
(1) Cutting, gathering, collecting and removing timber or other forest products from any forest land, or
timber from alienable or disposable public land, or from private land without any authority; and
(2) Possession of timber or other forest products without the legal documents required under existing
forest laws and regulations.
In the first offense, one can raise as a defense the legality of the acts of cutting, gathering, collecting
or removing timber or other forest products by presenting the authorization issued by the DENR. In
the second offense, however, it is immaterial whether the cutting, gathering, collecting and removal of
the forest products is legal or not. Mere possession of forest products without the proper documents
consummates the crime. Whether or not the lumber comes from a legal source is immaterial
because E.O. 277 considers the mere possession of timber or other forest products without the
proper legal documents as malum prohibitum.
On the second and third assignment of error, appellant contends that the seized lumber are
inadmissible in evidence for being fruits of a poisonous tree. Appellant avers that these pieces of
lumber were obtained in violation of his constitutional right against unlawful searches and seizures as
well as his right to counsel.
We do not agree.
The rule on warrantless search and seizure of a moving vehicle was summarized by this court in
People vs. Bagista,
[20]
thus:
The general rule regarding searches and seizures can be stated in this manner: no person shall be
subjected to a search of his person, personal effects or belongings, or his residence except by virtue
of a search warrant or on the occasion of a lawful arrest. The basis for the rule can be found in
Article III, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution, which states:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against
unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose, shall be inviolable, and
no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined
personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and witnesses
he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the person or things to be
seized.
Article III, Section 3 (2) further ordains that any evidence obtained in violation of the aforementioned
right shall, among others, be inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding.
The Constitutional proscription against warrantless searches and seizures admits of certain
exceptions. Aside from a search incident to a lawful arrest, a warrantless search had been upheld in
cases of moving vehicles, and the seizure of evidence in plain view.
With regard to the search of moving vehicles, this had been justified on the ground that the mobility of
motor vehicles makes it possible for the vehicle to be searched to move out of the locality or
jurisdiction in which the warrant must be sought.
This in no way, however, gives the police officers unlimited discretion to conduct warrantless
searches of automobiles in the absence of probable cause. When a vehicle is stopped and subjected
to an extensive search, such a warrantless search has been held to be valid as long as the officers
conducting the search have reasonable or probable cause to believe before search that they will find
the instrumentality or evidence pertaining to a crime, in the vehicle to be searched. (citations omitted;
emphasis supplied)
As in Bagista, the police officers in the case at bar had probable cause to search appellants truck. A
member of the Provincial Task Force on Illegal Logging received a reliable information that a ten-
wheeler truck bearing plate number PAD-548 loaded with illegal lumber would pass through Ilocos
Norte. Two weeks later, while members of the Provincial Task Force were patrolling along General
Segundo Avenue, they saw the ten-wheeler truck described by the informant. When they
apprehended it at the Marcos Bridge, accused-appellant, the owner of the truck and the cargo,
admitted that there were sawn lumber in between the coconut slabs. When the police officers asked
for the lumbers supporting documents, accused-appellant could not present any. The foregoing
circumstances are sufficient to prove the existence of probable cause which justified the extensive
search of appellants truck even without a warrant. Thus, the 258 pieces of tanguile lumber were
lawfully seized and were thus properly admitted as evidence to prove the guilt of accused-appellant.
The foregoing disquisition renders unnecessary the issue of whether appellants right to counsel
under custodial investigation was violated. The Resolution of the issue will not affect the finding of
guilt of appellant.
IN VIEW WHEREOF, the instant appeal is DISMISSED. The decision appealed from is
AFFIRMED. Costs Against appellant.
SO ORDERED.
[G.R. No. 152989. September 4, 2002]
ROLDAN, JR. vs. HON. MADRONA, et al.
THIRD DIVISION
Gentlemen:
Quoted hereunder, for your information, is a resolution of this Court dated 04 SEPT 2002.
G.R. No. 152989 (Manuel Jorge Roldan, Jr. vs. Hon. Fortunito L. Madrona Pairing Judge, RTC
Branch 12, Ormoc City and Hon. Alberto L. Conopio, City Prosecutor, Ormoc City, ATTY. FIEL
MARMITA, OIC, DENR-CENRO, Albuera, Leyte.)
At bar is a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.
Herein petitioner is the owner of a parcel of land consisting of about 60,000 square meters covered
by Transfer Certificate of Title No. TP-331 which he bought from a certain Ildefonso O. Maglasang.
On August 9, 2001, petitioner applied for a Private Land Timber Permit (PLTP) from the Department
of Environment and Natural Resources for him to cut some trees for a proposed road and poultry
farm in his property. He also paid all the fees required by the various government agencies.
While waiting for the permit to be issued, petitioner was allegedly informed by some employees from
the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) that he could proceed with the
cutting of trees even though his application was still awaiting approval.
Consequently, petitioner proceeded with the cutting of trees and bulldozing of the roadway. He used
the cut logs as materials to build his chicken cages.
About three weeks later, representatives of the Community Environment and Natural Resources
Office (CENRO) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and personnel from the
Intelligence Service, Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) of Tacloban City raided petitioners
place, allegedly without a search warrant. An inventory of the cut trees was conducted. The logs were
not confiscated but were entrusted to a barangay kagawad since there was allegedly no search
warrant at that time.
About two days later, the CENRO representatives came back with members of the media and ISAFP
charging illegal logging but they failed to get the logs, again for alleged lack of search warrant.
Several days thereafter, the CENRO group and ISAFP returned, this time armed with a search
warrant and proceeded to confiscate 872 pieces of sawn lumber/flitches (8,506 board feet) and three
felled timber logs with a total market value of P235,454.68 at P27.00 per board foot.
Consequently, on September 21, 2001, a complaint for violation of Section 68 of PD 705 as amended
was filed against herein petitioner by CENRO before the City Prosecutor of Ormoc City. Thereafter,
the City Prosecutor issued a resolution dated November 16, 2001 finding probable cause to convict
petitioner for violation of Section 68 of PD 705 as amended.
A motion for reconsideration proved futile for, as it turned out, the information had already been filed
in court. Jurisdiction over the case was transferred to the regional trial court, also a public respondent
in this case.
A warrant for the arrest of petitioner was then issued by the court a quo. In view thereof, herein
petitioner filed with the trial court a motion for judicial determination of probable cause and the recall
of his warrant of arrest.
After hearing the said motion, public respondent Judge Fortunito L. Madrona, in an order dated
February 15, 2000 denied the motion but reduced the recommended bail of petitioner.
Hence, the instant petition.
Before us, petitioner raises the following issues: (1) whether the owner of a private land, the petitioner
in this case, is criminally liable under Section 68 of PD 705 for cutting trees within his own property;
(2) whether the owner of the private property is administratively liable under Sec. 14 of DENR
Administrative Order No. 2000-21 despite the fact that he did not transport the logs out of his property
and just used them for his own agricultural purposes therein and (3) whether the logs confiscated by
the DENR should be returned to the petitioner considering that the same were not transported out
and merely used for his own agricultural purposes.
As to the first issue, petitioner contends that he should not be held liable under Section 68 of PD 705
as amended since the timber that was cut and gathered came from his titled property.
He further asserts that the part of Section 68, PD 705 incorporating the provisions of Articles 309 and
310 of the Revised Penal Code regarding qualified theft should not be made to apply to his case
since the aforestated articles of the penal code apply only to those who commit theft, which under the
law is a crime committed when there is unlawful taking of a property belonging to another. He insists
that both penal provisions should not be made to apply since he is the owner of the property and as
owner he cannot be accused of stealing his own property. Petitioner concludes that Article 309
therefore applies only to other persons or strangers gathering timber from the titled property of
another while Article 310 is inapplicable in his case since such pertains to theft of coconuts in a
plantation.
At the outset, the Court notes that while petitioner continues to harp on the alleged questions of law
present in this case, the petition at bar was filed via a petition for certiorari under Rule 65. Nothing is
more settled than the rule that a writ of certiorari lies only where a court has acted without or in
excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion. The Court believes that none of the
aforementioned circumstances is present in this case.
Be that as it may, although this Court at the outset had pointed out that herein petitioner adopted the
wrong remedy and committed certain technical violations of the Rules on Civil Procedure which
necessitate its outright dismissal, nevertheless, in the interest of substantial justice and in view of the
novelty of the question of law involved, the Court in the exercise of its judicial discretion shall treat this
petition as having been filed under Rule 45.
The fundamental question of law we seek to resolve in this case is: may a person who cuts trees for
his own use within his property without the necessary permit from the DENR and without transporting
the same outside said property, be criminally charged for violating PD 705?
Section 68 of PD 705, as amended by E.O. 277, otherwise known as the Revised Forestry Code of
the Philippines provides:
SEC. 68. Cutting, Gathering and/or collecting Timber, or Other Forest Products Without License.-
Any person who shall cut, gather, collect, remove timber or other forest products from any
forest land, or timber from alienable or disposable public land, or from private land, without
any authority, or possess timber or other forest products without the legal documents as required
under existing forest laws and regulations, shall be punished with the penalties imposed under
Articles 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code: Provided, That in 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)
Herein petitioner argues that even if the phrase pertaining to Articles 309 and 310 of the penal code
was only meant to prescribe the imposable penalty, since the cut trees were from his private land, his
penalty should not be equated with that imposable on those who commit theft inasmuch as theft and
qualified theft involve the unlawful taking of a property belonging to another.
The argument of petitioner is specious. Under Section 68, PD 705 as amended by E.O. 277, it is clear
that the violators of the said law are not declared as being guilty of qualified theft. Articles 309 and
310 of the Revised Penal Code were referred to only for the purpose of determining the imposable
penalties and not to define acts which constitute qualified theft.
Moreover, petitioners argument that the provisions of the law regarding qualified theft should not be
applied to him since he is the owner of the property is devoid of merit. It must be stressed that
petitioner is not being charged for qualified theft but for violation of Section 68, PD 705 hence his
ownership of the land is of no moment. The said law does not even distinguish whether or not the
person who commits the punishable acts under the aforementioned law is the owner of the property,
for what is material in determining the culpability of a person is whether or not the person or entity
involved or charged with its violation possesses the required permit, license or authorization from
DENR at the time he or it cuts, gathers or collects timber or other forest products.
As to his assertion that his penalty for cutting trees in his own land should not be equated with that for
qualified theft, suffice it to say that the judiciary is never concerned with the wisdom of the law.
Whether or not the legislature was correct in imposing on violators of PD 705 a penalty equal to that
imposable on those guilty of qualified theft is a question beyond the power of this Court to resolve. It
is a settled rule that the fundamental duty of the Court is to apply the law regardless of who may be
affected, even if the law is harsh - dura lex sed lex. The remedy is elsewhere clemency from the
executive or an amendment of the law by the legislature.
We come now to the second issue posed by herein petitioner on whether the owner of a private
property is administratively liable under Section 14 of DENR Administrative Order No. 2000-21
despite the fact that he did not transport the logs out of his property and used them for his own
agricultural purposes.
Section 14 of Administrative Order No. 2000-21, the Revised Guidelines in the Issuance of Private
Land Timber Permit/Special Private Land Timber Permit, provides:
SEC. 14. Penal Provisions. - Any log/timber or finished-wood products covered by these
regulations which are transported without the prescribed documents shall be considered illegal
and, therefore, subject to confiscation in favor of the government and shall be disposed
in accordance with laws, rules and regulations governing the matter.
DENR Officials found issuing defective certificate of origin and other transport documents required in
this Order shall be subject to suspension without prejudice to the imposition of other penalties as may
be warranted by extant Civil Service Laws, rules and regulations.
The rule is clear. The aforementioned administrative order considers the mere act of transporting any
wood product or timber without the prescribed documents as an offense which is subject to the
penalties provided for by law. As to the defense of petitioner that he never transported the logs out of
his property, suffice it to say that such is a factual issue which this Court under Rule 45 cannot
determine. We are limited to resolving questions of law.
On the issue of whether the logs confiscated by the DENR should be returned to petitioner, any
pronouncement thereon at this point would be premature as the guilt of the petitioner has not been
legally established. The records of the case indicate that trial on the merits is still in progress. Hence,
this Court is not in a position to speculate on or prescribe the courses of action or remedies the
petitioner may avail of under the aforementioned law. Well-entrenched is the rule that this Court is not
duty bound to render advisory opinions.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED for lack of merit.