Natural Resources Cases Batch 2

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Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
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.

QUISUMBING, J.:
For review is the decision1 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
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 illegallysourced 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 Prosecutor's 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
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
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 Code. . .
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:
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 areauthorized 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
oversaid 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.
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 Sheriff's Return, and wait for the
judge's 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
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. 23However, 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 State's consent.
Given the circumstances in this case, we need not pursue the Office of the
Solicitor General's 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
ACCORDINGLY, the Petition is GRANTED, and the assailed Decision of the Court
of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 29191 is SET ASIDE.1âwphi1 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.1âwphi1.nêt
SO ORDERED.

[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.
DECISION
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, [1]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.

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:

Moreover, the prosecution underscored the facts that when apprehended,

"SEC. 68. Cutting, Gathering and/or collecting Timber, or Other Forest Products

the accused presented Private Land Timber Permit No. 030140 dated February

Without License.- Any person who shall cut, gather, collect, remove timber or

10, 1991 which had expired; that while the certificate of origin indicated Brgy.

other forest products from any forest land, or timber from alienable or disposable

Sta. Cruz, the product actually came from Sitio Cadiz, and that the two jeeps

public land, or from private land, without any authority, or possess timber or

bearing

transport

other forest products without the legal documents as required under existing

agreement. Added to this was the fact that, if the product were indeed lumber,

forest laws and regulations, shall be punished with the penalties imposed under

then the accused could have presented a certificate of lumber origin, lumber sale

Articles 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code: Provided, That in the case of

invoices in case of sale, tally sheets and delivery receipts for transportation from

partnerships, associations, or corporations, the officers who ordered the cutting,

one point to another.[6]

gathering, collection or possession shall be liable, and if such officers are aliens,

the

product

were

not

equipped

with

certificates

of

they shall, in addition to the penalty, be deported without further proceedings on
Petitioner opposed the motion for reconsideration contending that the DENR

the part of the Commission on Immigration and Deportation.

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

The Court shall further order the confiscation in favor of the government of the

mean a clear legislative intent to exclude possession of "lumber" from the acts

timber or any forest products cut, gathered, collected, removed, or possessed, as

penalized under that section.[7]

well as the machinery, equipment, implements and tools illegally used in the area
where the timber or forest products are found." (Underscoring supplied.)

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.

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

On June 10, 1992, the lower court [8] issued the herein questioned Order

the legal documents as required under existing forest laws and regulations.

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

In the recent case of Mustang Lumber, Inc. v. Court of Appeals,[9] this Court,
thru Justice Hilario Davide, held:

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.

"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

Petitioner sought the reconsideration of this Order but the lower court

definition of 'Processing plant,' which reads:

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

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

and in denying his motion for reconsideration on the ground that Sec. 68 of P.D.

machine used for the processing of logs and other forest raw materials

No. 705 neither specifies nor includes "lumber" in the phrase "timber or other

into lumber, veneer, plywood, wallboard, blockboard, paper board, pulp, paper or

forest products."

other finished wood product.

The petition is devoid of merit.

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

"Even should it be conceded that lumber is not timber and is thus not covered by

Dictionary, lumberis defined, inter alia, as 'timber or logs after being prepared for

the prohibition, still it cannot be denied that lumber is a forest product and

the market.' Simply put, lumber is a processed log or timber.

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

It is settled that in the absence of legislative intent to the contrary, words and

Forestry Code defines forest products, viz., x x x

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

Stress must be given to the term WOOD embodied in the definition of forest

documents is concerned, Section 68 of P.D. No. 705, as amended, makes no

product (supra). If we are to follow the rather tangential argument by the accused

distinction between raw or processed timber. Neither should we. Ubi lex non

that lumber is not timber, then, it will be very easy for a person to circumvent the

distinguit nec nos distinguere debemus."

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

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,

also provided a plug for the loophole. If lumber is not timber, then surely, lumber
is wood. x x x.

under Executive Order No. 277, are the following:
If in seeking to abate the proceedings the accused also seek to imply that lumber
"WHEREAS, there is an urgency to conserve the remaining forest resources of the

seized in their possession were procured from lawful source, all they have to do is

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

produce the legal documents contemplated by the law. It is not the mere cutting

Filipinos;

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

WHEREAS, our forest resources may be effectively conserved and protected

possessing of timber, wood, or other forest products without lawful authority."

through the vigilant enforcement and implementation of our forestry laws, rules
The Court, therefore, finds that the lower court did not gravely abuse its

and regulations;

discretion in denying the quashal of the information. The petition simply has no
WHEREAS, the implementation of our forestry laws suffers from technical
difficulties, due to certain inadequacies in the penal provisions of the Revised

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

Forestry Code of the Philippines; and

or to virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law, or to act at all in

WHEREAS, to overcome these difficulties, there is a need to penalize certain acts

manner by reason of passion or personal hostility. [11] Grave abuse of discretion

to make our forestry laws more responsive to present situations and realities; x x

contemplation of law, as where the power is exercised in an arbitrary and despotic
implies a capricious and whimsical exercise of power.[12]

x"

On the other hand, certiorari may not be availed of where it is not shown that
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:

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

of a constitutional matter are present in a case, [25] this Court will not pass upon a

exercise of its jurisdiction is not correctible through the original civil action

constitutional question unless it is the lis mota of the case or if the case can be

of certiorari."[15]

disposed of on some other grounds, such as the application of the statute or
general law.[26]

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 Court can well take judicial notice of the deplorable problem of
deforestation in this country, considering that the deleterious effects of this

The unavailability of the writ of certiorari, and even that of prohibition, in

problem are now imperiling our lives and properties, more specifically, by causing

this case is borne out of the fact that what petitioner considers as grave abuse of

rampaging floods in the lowlands. While it is true that the rights of an accused

discretion in this case is the denial of his motion to quash the information filed

must be favored in the interpretation of penal provisions of law, it is equally true

against him and three others. This Court has consistently defined the proper

that when the general welfare and interest of the people are interwoven in the

procedure in case of denial of a motion to quash. The accused has to enter a plea,

prosecution of a crime, the Court must arrive at a solution only after a fair and

go to trial without prejudice on his part to present the special defenses he had

just balancing of interests. This the Court did in arriving at the foregoing

invoked in his motion and, if after trial on the merits, an adverse decision is

interpretation of Sec. 68 of the Revised Forestry Reform Code. This task, however,

rendered, to appeal therefrom in the manner authorized by law.[17]

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

Certiorari is not the proper remedy where a motion to quash an information

clearly shown to have been jeopardized.

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

WHEREFORE, the instant petition for certiorari and prohibition is hereby

quash, is impelled by the fact that a denial of a motion to quash is an

DISMISSED. The lower court is enjoined to proceed with dispatch in the

interlocutory procedural aspect which cannot be appealed nor can it be the

prosecution

subject of a petition for certiorari.[18] The remedies of appeal andcertiorari are

executory. Costs against petitioner.

of

Criminal

Case

No.

9543.

This

Decision

is

immediately

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

SO ORDERED.

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 certiorariwould not only delay the administration of

PERFECTO PALLADA, petitioner, vs. PEOPLE OF THE
PHILIPPINES, respondent.

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

DECISION

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

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:

That on or about the 1st day of October, 1992, and prior thereto
at

the

Valencia

Golden

Harvest

Corporation

Compound,

Sometime in the latter part of 1992, the Department of Environment and Natural

municipality of Valencia, province of Bukidnon, Philippines, and

Resources (DENR) office in Bukidnon received reports that illegally cut lumber

within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-

was being delivered to the warehouse of the Valencia Golden Harvest Corporation

named accused, conspiring, confederating and mutually helping

in Valencia, Bukidnon. The company is engaged in rice milling and trading.

one another, with intent of gain, did then and there willfully,
unlawfully and criminally possess 2,115 pieces [of] lumber of

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.

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.

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

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

licensed sawmill operator. Jo spped

by E.O. 277.

The team made an inventory of the seized lumber which, all in all, constituted

As all the accused pleaded not guilty, trial ensued. Then on July 27, 1994,

29,299.25 board feet, worth P488,334.45 in total. The following day, September

judgment was rendered as follows:[7]

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,

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered finding accused

Malaybalay, Bukidnon. The seizure order

Perfecto Pallada and Francisco Tankiko guilty beyond reasonable

[4]

was served on petitioner Perfecto

Pallada as general manager of the company, but he refused to acknowledge it.

doubt of having in their possession timber products worth of
P488,334.45 without the legal documents as charged in the

On October 1, 1992, the raiding team returned for the remaining lumber.

information in violation of Section 68 of Presidential Decree 705,

Company president Francisco Tankiko and a certain Isaias Valdehueza, who

as amended and are, therefore, each sentenced to suffer

represented himself to be a lawyer, asked for a suspension of the operations to

imprisonment of TEN (10) YEARS ofprision mayor as minimum

enable them to seek a lifting of the warrant. The motion was filed with the court

to TWENTY (20) YEARS of Reclusion temporal as maximum. The

which issued the warrant but, on October 5, 1992, the motion was denied.

lumber subject of the crime are confiscated in favor of the

[5]

Accordingly, the remaining lumber was confiscated. By October 9, 1992, all the

government. Spped jo

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 &

Accused Isaias Valdehueza and Noel Sy are ACQUITTED for lack

G).

of evidence against them.

On February 23, 1993, petitioner, as general manager, together with Noel Sy, as

Petitioner and Francisco Tankiko appealed to the Court of Appeals, which, on

assistant operations manager, and Francisco Tankiko, as president of the

October 31, 1997, affirmed petitioner's conviction but acquitted Tankiko for lack

Valencia Golden Harvest Corporation, and Isaias Valdehueza, were charged with

of proof of his participation in the purchase or acquisition of the seized lumber. [8]

violation of 68 of P.D .No. 705, as amended. The Information alleged:

[6]

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

I. WHETHER OR NOT THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS

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

WAS CORRECT IN UPHOLDING THE RULING OF THE TRIAL

Enterprises, dated December 16, 1991, for the 5,056.94 board

COURT THAT THE PROSECUTION HAD PROVED BEYOND

feet of lumber

REASONABLE

DOUBT

THE

GUILT

OF

THE

ACCUSED-

PETITIONER PALLADA.

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

II. WHETHER OR NOT THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS

2. Exh. 7 - CTO, (undated), for 961 pieces of log equivalent to

WAS CORRECT IN UPHOLDING THE DECISION OF THE TRIAL

25.4 cubic meter[s] taken from the forest area of a certain

COURT THAT THE CERTIFICATE OF TIMBER ORIGIN WAS NOT

Somira M. Ampuan in Lama Lico, Bombaran of the ARMM

THE

PROPER

DOCUMENT

TO

JUSTIFY

PETITIONER'S

POSSESSION OF THE SQUARED TIMBER OR FLITCHES.

Exh. 7-A - Auxiliary Invoice

III. WHETHER OR NOT THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS

Exh. 7-B - CTA

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

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

summarized by the trial court, to establish that Valencia Golden Harvest
Corporation's possession of the seized lumber was legal:[10]

Exh. 7-E - Official Receipt for environmental fee issued to
Somira M. Ampuan, dated August 9, 1991

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. 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. 6-B - Certificate of Transport Agreement (CTA, for short)
Exh. 8-A - Auxiliary InvoiceNex old
Exh. 6-C - Tally Sheet, dated December 14, 1992, for 463 pieces
of lumber equivalent to 5,056.94 board feet

Exh. 8-B - CTA

Exh. 6-D - Delivery Receipt, dated December 16, 1991, from

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

WHP Enterprises of Maguing, Lanao del Sur, to the Corporation
for the lumber mentioned in Exh. "6-C"

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

Exh. 8-E - Official Receipt for environmental fee

5. Lumber . . . transported/shipped without the necessary
Certificate of Lumber Origin (CLO) . . . as herein required shall

Exh. 8-F - Cash Voucher for P93,614.50 in payment for 8,024.99

be considered as proceeding from illegal sources and as such,

board feet of lumber issued by the Corporation payable to WHP

shall be subject to confiscation and disposition in accordance

Enterprises

with LOI 1020 and BFD implementing guidelines.

4. Exh. 9 - CTO for 426 pieces of logs (?) with an equivalent

Petitioner contends that the term "timber" includes lumber and, therefore, the

volume of 12.24 cubic meters from licensee Somira M. Ampuan

Certificates of Timber Origin and their attachments should have been considered

of Lama Lico, Bombaran, Lanao del Sur, consigned to the

in establishing the legality of the company's possession of the lumber. [13] In

Corporation, (undated). Stamped "Release 3/2/92"

support of his contention, petitioner invokes our ruling in Mustang Lumber, Inc.
v. Court of Appeals.[14]

Exh. 9-A - Auxiliary Invoice
The contention has no merit. The statement in Mustang Lumber that lumber is
Exh. 9-B - CTA, dated March 20, 1992

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

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

timber or other forest products" in 68 of P.D. No. 705 means that only those who

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

criminally liable, while those who possess lumber are not liable. On the other

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. 1083[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. . . .

possess timber and forest products without the documents required by law are
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

products, they were still in the form of flitches and logs, and they were cut into

pieces of hand-sawn lumber. Its Auxiliary Invoice also states the

lumber by the company.[18]

same load of lumber. Someone may have noticed the "mistake" of
mentioning lumber in the Auxiliary Invoice and so the words

These irregularities and discrepancies make the documents in which they are

"flitches 87 pieces" were written down and enclosed in

found not only questionable but invalid and, thus, justified the trial court in

parenthesis.

giving no credence to the same.[19]

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

It is argued that the irregularities in the documentary exhibits should not be
taken against petitioner because the documents came from lumber dealers. In

The CTO marked Exh. "6" is consigned to "any buyer (sic)

addition, it is contended that the CTOs and Auxiliary Receipts, being public

Cagayan de Oro", but its Auxiliary Invoice (Exh. "6-A") mentions

documents, should be accorded the presumption of regularity in their execution.

Valencia

[20]

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

This contention is untenable. What render these documents without legal effect

Invoice (Exh. 6-A) has invoice number 000488.

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

In the CTO marked Exhibit "7", the original typewritten name of

corporate officer in charge of the purchase of the lumber, petitioner should have

the consignee was clearly erased and changed to "Valencia

noticed such obvious irregularities, and he should have taken steps to have them

Golden Harvest Corporation, Valencia, Bukidnon". In the

corrected. He cannot now feign ignorance and assert that, as far as he is

Auxiliary Invoice (Exh. "7-A") the blank space for the name and

concerned, the documents are regular and complete.[21]

address of the consignee was smudged with a typewriter
correction fluid (the better to erase what was originally

The presence of such glaring irregularities negates the presumption that the

typewritten in it?) and changed to "Valencia Golden Harvest

CTOs were regularly executed by the DENR officials concerned. The presumption

Corporation, Valencia, Bukidnon".

invoked by petitioner applies only when the public documents are, on their faces,
regular and properly accomplished.[22]

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,

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:

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

ART.

309. Penalties.- Any

person

guilty

of

theft

shall

be

punished by: Oldmis o
1. The penalty of prision mayor in its minimum and medium
periods, if the value of the thing stolen is more than P12,000
pesos but does not exceed P22,000 pesos; but if the value of the
thing stolen exceeds the latter amount, the penalty shall be the
maximum period of the one prescribed in this paragraph, and
one year for each additional ten thousand pesos, but the total of
the penalty which may be imposed shall not exceed twenty
years. In such cases, and in connection with the accessory

penalties which may be imposed and for the purpose of the
other provisions of this Code, the penalty shall be termed prision
mayor or reclusion temporal, as the case may be. . . .
As the lumber involved in this case is worth P488,334.45, and applying the
Indeterminate Sentence Law,[23] the penalty to be imposed should be six (6) years
of prision correccional to twenty (20) years of reclusion temporal.
WHEREFORE, the decision of the Court of Appeals, dated October 31, 1997, is
AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that petitioner is sentenced to six (6) years
of prision correccional, as minimum, to twenty (20) years ofreclusion temporal, as
maximum.
SO ORDERED.

[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.
DECISION
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 DENRCENRO, 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 accusedappellant 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.

Republic of the Philippines

petitioner

SUPREME COURT

"Procedural

entered

into

a

Memorandum

of

Guidelines

in

the

of

Manila

Plantation."4 The MOA provided, among others, that field validation/verification of

Conduct

Agreement
Verification

(MOA)
of

containing

Private

Tree

applications for Certificates of Private Tree Ownership (CTPOs) shall be conducted
jointly by the DENR, the local government unit concerned, and petitioner.

SECOND DIVISION
G.R. No. 161798

Pursuant to these Memoranda, petitioner’s security personnel were deputized as
October 20, 2004

PICOP RESOURCES, INC., petitioner,
vs.
HON. AUGUSTUS L. CALO, Presiding Judge, RTC of Agusan del Norte and
Butuan City, 10th Judicial Region, Branch 5, Butuan City, HON. VICTOR A.
TOMANENG, Acting Presiding Judge, RTC of Agusan del Norte and Butuan
City, 10th Judicial Region, Branch 5, Butuan City, EDUARDO CASIA,
ROGELIO CASTILLO, ULDARICO CASINGINAN, ELADIO GALANO, CATALINO
VIRTUDAZO, RICARDO BALAD-ON, JOEL VILLAREAL, TIBURCIO IMPUERTO,

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 PICOP’s impounding area.

HILARIO FERNANDEZ, ANDREA VASQUEZ, SPOUSES REMELITO CODERA

On June 18, 2001, private respondents Eduardo Casia, Rogelio Castillo, Uldarico

and MARILYN RANOSO-CODERA, and FLORIO JOSAFAT, JR., for himself and

Casinginan, Eladio Galano, Catalino Virtudazo, Ricardo Balad-on, Joel Villareal,

in representation by way of a class suit the Members of the UNIFIED

Tiburcio Impuerto, Hilario Fernandez, Andrea Vasquez, Spouses Remelito Codera

FARMERS ASSOCIATION OF BISLIG (UFAB),respondents.

and Marilyn Ranoso-Codera, and Florio Josafat, Jr., for himself and in

RESOLUTION

ASSOCIATION OF BISLIG (UFAB), filed a complaint for damages and injunction

representation, by way of a class suit, of the members of the UNITED FARMERS
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

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

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 PICOP’S
security officers transporting without any permit several hundred cubic meters of
falcata logs allegedly grown in petitioner’s plantation. The logs, trucks and other
forms of conveyance on which they were carried were confiscated and kept in
petitioner’s 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 their

behalf, including herein petitioner, from enforcing or implementing said

determined in the cases pending either at the CENRO-Bislig or at the Office of the

Memoranda.

Government Prosecution-Surigao del Sur. Hence, petitioner’s interest in the
confiscated forest products was merely contingent and cannot be material as

On September 21, 2001, the RTC rendered its Decision. With regard to private

contemplated under Section 2, Rule 3 of the Revised Rules of Civil Procedure.

respondent’s allegation that the aforesaid Memoranda were illegally issued, the

Necessarily therefore, petitioner had no basis to bring the action against

trial court disregarded the claim and sustained the validity of the Memoranda.

respondents and it was not entitled to the ancillary remedy of a writ of

The Memoranda were issuances of a duly-authorized government agency in the

preliminary injunction.

6

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

On August 15, 2003, petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration but this was

wrong remedy to assail the legality of the Memoranda, such an action being

denied in the Resolution of January 16, 2003.11

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

Petitioner then filed this petition for review.

respondent’s 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 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
petitioner’s 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.

Petitioner moved for reconsideration but this was denied for lack of merit on
October 17, 2001.8

Public respondents never refuted petitioner PICOP’s allegation that private
respondents were apprehended by the DENR-deputized PICOP guards at its

On January 21, 2002, DENR-Region XIII RED Benjamin T. Tumaliuan issued a

checkpoint within PICOP’s concession area. Private respondents also never denied

Memorandum revoking the February 16, 2001 Memorandum issued by former

that PICOP’s guards had been deputized as DENR officers to enforce the

OIC-RED Constancio A. Paye, Jr.9

Memoranda. Petitioner was therefore within its rights in exercising control over its
concession area pursuant to its duty as DENR depository.

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

Petitioner also argues that the RTC intruded upon the primary jurisdiction of the

Appeals. The petition was dismissed for lack of merit on July 23, 2003. 10 The

DENR when it took cognizance of private respondents’ complaint for damages and

appellate court held there was no grave abuse of discretion when the RTC issued

issued the writ of injunction. Petitioner invokes DENR Department Administrative

the assailed Decision and Resolution. Petitioner had no right or interest to protect

Order (DAO) No. 97-3213 in asserting that it has the obligation to keep custody of

in the confiscated forest products and conveyances. Petitioner’s compound was

the apprehended forest products, tools and conveyances, the disposal of which

used only as a depository for the confiscated logs and conveyances by virtue of

rests solely on the DENR.

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

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

of the vehicles and forest products since, being confiscated items, they will have to

should have awaited the results of the administrative procedure for summary

be handed over to the proper government agencies for appropriate disposition

administrative apprehensions and seizures of the DENR under Sections 5 and 6

proceedings.

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

Furthermore, the transfer of custody of the confiscated products and conveyances

prima facie case lies against the offenders and whether the apprehended articles

will not in any way place petitioner at a disadvantage. Petitioner is merely a

should answer for the offense. By issuing the assailed writ of injunction, the trial

depository and the release of the conveyances and products to the government

court arrogated unto itself the power to rule on the rightful possession of the

agencies concerned has to be done but only in compliance with lawful court

subject conveyances.

orders.

Petitioner also contends that the injunctive writ was issued without due process

It should also be remembered that the Memorandum dated February 16, 2001,

of law since the transfer of custody of the forest products and conveyances was

which designated petitioner as a DENR depository, had been revoked by the

not even sought by private respondents in their complaint. Consequently, the

Memorandum of January 21, 2002. As of the filing of the petition for review before

matter of the return of the seized conveyances was never ventilated during the

this Court on March 11, 2004, petitioner no longer had any right, as a depository,

hearing and the issuance of the writ not sought for violates the rules of due

to retain possession of the conveyances.

process.
All the foregoing considered, petitioner’s contention that the trial court violated
Petitioner’s arguments do not convince us. The petition should be denied.

the doctrines of primary jurisdiction and exhaustion of administrative remedies
should also fail. The transfer of custody of the confiscated products to the CENRO

It is clear that petitioner has no material interest to protect in the confiscated

and the Office of the Government Prosecution was for the purpose of resolving the

forest products and conveyances. It has no subsisting proprietary interest, as

cases with dispatch.

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

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Petition for Review is DENIED.

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

SO ORDERED.

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 is pending.
The trial court noted that the confiscated vehicles were already subject of
administrative proceedings before the CENRO-Bislig and criminal complaints

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.

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

Tañada, Vivo & Tan for petitioner.

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

PURSUANT TO THE INSTRUCTIONS OF THE PRESIDENT YOU

Corporation.

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

COURTS, J.:

PRIOR TO THIS ORDER THE SUBMISSION OF A COMPLIANCE
REPORT WITHIN THIRTY DAYS SHALL BE APPRECIATED —

Soon after the change of government in February 1986, petitioner sent a letter

[Annex "4" of the Petition; Rollo, p. 48];

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:

(d) That after the cancellation of its timber license agreement, it immediately sent
a

letter

addressed

reconsideration

of

to
the

then

President

Bureau's

Ferdinand

directive,

citing

Marcos
in

which

support

sought

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

The Ministry, through the Bureau of Forest Development, has

conservation and national security.

jurisdiction and authority over all forest lands. On the basis of
this authority, the Ministry issued the order banning all logging

The Ministry imposed the ban because it realizes the great

operations/activities in Quirino province, among others, where

responsibility it bear [sic] in respect to forest t considers itself

movant's former concession area is located. Therefore, the

the trustee thereof. This being the case, it has to ensure the

issuance of an order disallowing any person or entity from

availability of forest resources not only for the present, but also

removing cut or uncut logs from the portion of TLA No. 87, now

for the future generations of Filipinos.

under TLA No. 356, would constitute an unnecessary or
superfluous act on the part of the Ministry.

On the other hand, the activities of the insurgents in these parts
xxx xxx xxx

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

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

of funds in order to preserve itself, its established institutions
and the liberty and democratic way of life of its people.

On November 26, 1986, petitioner's supplemental motion for reconsideration was
likewise denied. Meanwhile, per MNR Administrative Order No. 54, series of 1986,

xxx xxx xxx

issued on November 26, 1986, the logging ban in the province of Quirino was
lifted.

[Annex "9" of the Petition, pp. 2-4; Rollo, pp. 65-67.]
Petitioner subsequently appealed from the orders of the MNR to the Office of the
Petitioner moved for reconsideration of the aforestated order reiterating, among

President. In a resolution dated July 6, 1987, the Office of the President, acting

others. its request that TLA No. 356 issued to private respondent be declared null

through then Deputy Executive Secretary Catalino Macaraig, denied petitioner's

and void. The MNR however denied this motion in an order dated September 15,

appeal for lack of merit. The Office of the President ruled that the appeal of

1986. stating in part:

petitioner was prematurely filed, the matter not having been terminated in the
MNR. Petitioner's motion for reconsideration was denied on August 14, 1987.

xxx xxx xxx
Hence, petitioner filed directly with this Court a petition for certiorari, with prayer
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

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.

exploration, development, exploitation, or utilization of natural
resources entered into, granted, issued or acquired before the

After a careful study of the circumstances in the case at bar, the Court finds

issuance of Proclamation No. 3, otherwise known as the

several factors which militate against the issuance of a writ of certiorari in favor of

Freedom Constitution for the purpose of amending, modifying or

petitioner.

revoking them when the national interest so requires.
1. Firstly, the refusal of public respondents herein to reverse final and executory
xxx xxx xxx

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

2. Moreover, petitioner is precluded from availing of the benefits of a writ of

administrative agencies have upon their finality, the force and binding effect of a

certiorari in the present case because he failed to file his petition within a

final judgment within the purview of the doctrine of res judicata. These decisions

reasonable period.

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

The principal issue ostensibly presented for resolution in the instant petition is

judicata thus forbids the reopening of a matter once determined by competent

whether or not public respondents herein acted with grave abuse of discretion

authority acting within their exclusive jurisdiction [See Brillantes v. Castro, 99

amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in refusing to overturn administrative

Phil. 497 (1956); Ipekdjian Merchandising Co., Inc. v. Court of Tax Appeals, G.R.

orders issued by their predecessors in the past regime. Yet, what the petition

No. L-15430, September 30, 1963, 9 SCRA 72; San Luis v. Court of Appeals, G.R.

ultimately seeks is the nullification of the Bureau orders cancelling TLA No. 87

No. 80160, June 26, 1989].

and granting TLA No. 356 to private respondent, which were issued way back in
1983 and 1984, respectively.

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

Once again, the fact that petitioner failed to seasonably take judicial recourse to

17, 1986 and April 2, 1986, respectively, sought the reconsideration of a

have the earlier administrative actions reviewed by the courts through a petition

memorandum order issued by the Bureau of Forest Development which cancelled

for certiorari is prejudicial to its cause. For although no specific time frame is

its timber license agreement in 1983, as well as the revocation of TLA No. 356

fixed for the institution of a special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65 of the

subsequently issued by the Bureau to private respondents in 1984.

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

But as gleaned from the record, petitioner did not avail of its remedies under the

"reasonableness of the length of time that had expired from the commission of the

law, i.e. Section 8 of Pres. Dec. No. 705 as amended, for attacking the validity of

acts complained of up to the institution of the proceeding to annul the same"

these administrative actions until after 1986. By the time petitioner sent its letter

[Toledo v. Pardo, G.R. No. 56761, November 19, 1982, 118 SCRA 566, 571]. And

dated April 2, 1986 to the newly appointed Minister of the MNR requesting

failure to file the petition for certiorari within a reasonable period of time renders

reconsideration of the above Bureau actions, these were already settled matters

the

as far as petitioner was concerned [See Rueda v. Court of Agrarian Relations, 106

[Municipality of Carcar v. Court of First Instance of Cebu, G.R. No. L-31628,

Phil. 300 (1959); Danan v. Aspillera G.R. No. L-17305, November 28, 1962, 6

December 27, 1982, 119 SCRA 392).

petitioner

susceptible

to

the

adverse

legal

consequences

of

laches

SCRA 609; Ocampo v. Arboleda G.R. No. L-48190, August 31, 1987, 153 SCRA
374].

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

No particular significance can be attached to petitioner's letter dated September

been done earlier, or to assert a right within a reasonable time, warranting a

19, 1983 which petitioner claimed to have sent to then President Marcos [Annex

presumption that the party entitled thereto has either abandoned it or declined to

"6" of Petition, Rollo, pp. 50-53], seeking the reconsideration of the 1983 order

assert it [Tijam v. Sibonghanoy, G.R. No. L-21450, April 15, 1968, 23 SCRA 29;

issued by Director Cortes of the Bureau. It must be pointed out that the

Seno v. Mangubat, G.R. No. L-44339, December 2, 1987, 156 SCRA 113]. The

averments in this letter are entirely different from the charges of fraud against

rule is that unreasonable delay on the part of a plaintiff in seeking to enforce an

officials under the previous regime made by petitioner in its letters to public

alleged right may, depending upon the circumstances, be destructive of the right

respondents herein. In the letter to then President Marcos, petitioner simply

itself. Verily, the laws aid those who are vigilant, not those who sleep upon their

contested its inclusion in the list of concessionaires, whose licenses were

rights (Vigilantibus et non dormientibus jura subveniunt) [See Buenaventura v.

cancelled, by defending its record of selective logging and reforestation practices

David, 37 Phil. 435 (1918)].

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

In the case at bar, petitioner waited for at least three years before it finally filed a

scheme became apparent in 1984 as evidenced by the awarding of the subject

petition for certiorari with the Court attacking the validity of the assailed Bureau

timber concession area to other entities in that year.

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

balanced and healthful ecology. Section 16 of Article II of the 1987 Constitution

which were normally operating at the time, its delay constitutes unreasonable and

provides:

inexcusable neglect, tantamount to laches. Accordingly, the writ of certiorari
requiring the reversal of these orders will not lie.

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

3. Finally, there is a more significant factor which bars the issuance of a writ of

rhythm and harmony of nature.

certiorari in favor of petitioner and against public respondents herein. It is
precisely this for which prevents the Court from departing from the general

Thus, while the administration grapples with the complex and multifarious

application of the rules enunciated above.

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

A cursory reading of the assailed orders issued by public respondent Minister

interfere in matters which are addressed to the sound discretion of government

Maceda of the MNR which were ed by the Office of the President, will disclose

agencies entrusted with the regulation of activities coming under the special

public policy consideration which effectively forestall judicial interference in the

technical knowledge and training of such agencies [See Espinosa v. Makalintal, 79

case at bar,

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

Public respondents herein, upon whose shoulders rests the task of implementing

SCRA 461; Ganitano v. Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, G. R. No.

the policy to develop and conserve the country's natural resources, have indicated

L-21167, March 31, 1966, 16 SCRA 543; Villegas v. Auditor General, G.R. No. L-

an ongoing department evaluation of all timber license agreements entered into,

21352, November 29, 1966, 18 SCRA 877; Manuel v. Villena, G.R. No. L-28218,

and permits or licenses issued, under the previous dispensation. In fact, both the

February 27, 1971, 37 SCRA 745; Lacuesta v. Herrera, G.R. No. L-33646,

executive and legislative departments of the incumbent administration are

January 28, 1975, 62 SCRA 115; Lianga Bay Logging Co., Inc. v. Enage, G.R. No.

presently taking stock of its environmental policies with regard to the utilization

L-30637, July 16, 1987, 152 SCRA 80]. More so where, as in the present case,

of timber lands and developing an agenda for future programs for their

the interests of a private logging company are pitted against that of the public at

conservation and rehabilitation.

large on the pressing public policy issue of forest conservation. For this Court
recognizes the wide latitude of discretion possessed by the government in

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

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

energy resources required by the people seriously depleted.

permanent or irrevocable right to the particular concession area and the forest

While there is a desire to harness natural resources to amass profit and to meet

by the Chief Executive when national interests so require. Thus, they are not

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

products therein. They may be validly amended, modified, replaced or rescinded
deemed contracts within the purview of the due process of law clause [See
Sections 3 (ee) and 20 of Pres. Decree No. 705, as amended. Also, Tan v. Director
of Forestry, G.R. No. L-24548, October 27, 1983, 125 SCRA 302].

In fine, the legal precepts highlighted in the foregoing discussion more than
suffice to justify the Court's refusal to interfere in the DENR evaluation of timber
licenses and permits issued under the previous regime, or to pre-empt the
adoption of appropriate corrective measures by the department.
Nevertheless, the Court cannot help but express its concern regarding alleged
irregularities in the issuance of timber license agreements to a number of logging
concessionaires.
The grant of licenses or permits to exploit the country's timber resources, if done
in contravention of the procedure outlined in the law, or as a result of fraud and
undue influence exerted on department officials, is indicative of an arbitrary and
whimsical exercise of the State's power to regulate the use and exploitation of
forest resources. The alleged practice of bestowing "special favors" to preferred
individuals, regardless of merit, would be an abuse of this power. And this Court
will not be a party to a flagrant mockery of the avowed public policy of
conservation enshrined in the 1987 Constitution. Therefore, should the
appropriate case be brought showing a clear grave abuse of discretion on the part
of officials in the DENR and related bureaus with respect to the implementation
of this public policy, the Court win not hesitate to step in and wield its authority,
when invoked, in the exercise of judicial powers under the Constitution [Section 1,
Article VIII].
However, petitioner having failed to make out a case showing grave abuse of
discretion on the part of public respondents herein, the Court finds no basis to
issue a writ of certiorari and to grant any of the affirmative reliefs sought.
WHEREFORE, the present petition is DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 152160
January 13, 2004
VIRGILIO BON, petitioner,
vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondent.

DECISION

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 Decision2 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 herebyAFFIRMED 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 petitioner’s 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 DangalanMendoza, [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:
‘Prosecution’s 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-Mendoza’s] 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 Teresita’s
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
landowner’s share of produce, he deposited the money in the

Rural Bank of Sorsogon in the name of Teresita [DangalanMendoza] 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 court’s 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 DangalanMendoza’s 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 1336 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 latter’s participation in the offense charged. Moreover, the appellate court
held that the res inter alios acta rule under Section 28 of Rule 1307 of the Rules of
Court would be violated by binding Jeniebre to petitioner’s admission, which did
not constitute any of the exceptions8 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 Court’s 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 Lascano’s and Dangalan’s separate
testimonies12 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. Chatto16 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 Dangalan’s 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 party’s verbal admission that is established through the testimonies
of the persons who heard it19 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 tanods23 -- was conducted by the owner’s 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. 27Equally
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 CA’s 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 prosecution’s 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-inlaw, 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 petitioner’s 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 CENRO’s computation of the value40of 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 twentyone (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 30942 and 31043 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 court45 and the CA46 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 correccional in 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 ofreclusion 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 court’s
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.
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 ofprision mayor as maximum. Costs against appellant.
SO ORDERED.

[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.
DECISION

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

from Branch 23 whether respondent judge examined any witness before issuing

of pagatpat lumber (mangrove specie) with an estimated value of P183,790.

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

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

Search Warrant No. 364, as forwarded by respondent judge to the OCA and as
obtained by complainant.

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

In his Report, dated 30 July 2001, RTC Pagadian City Executive Judge

of the complete records of the case, also certified by Clerk of Court

Franklyn A. Villegas (Executive Judge Villegas) stated that he verified the records

Lumapas. These certified copies did not contain any transcript of respondent

of Search Warrant No. 364 in Branch 23. He found on page 5 of the records a

judges examination of CENRO dela Cruz or his witnesses as required under

copy of the transcript of the examination conducted by respondent judge on one

Section 4, Rule 126 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure. Thus,

Reynaldo Cuaresma. He attached in his report the explanations of respondent

complainant filed this administrative complaint.

judge and Clerk of Court Lumapas.[3]

Complainant pointed out that this was the fifth time that respondent judge

In his explanation, dated 11 July 2001, respondent judge reiterated the

issued, under questionable procedure, search warrants against him for violation

claim he made in his Indorsement of 16 December 1999 that he examined a

of PD 705. Complainant recalled that on 10 November 1998, respondent judge

certain Reynaldo Cuaresma before issuing Search Warrant No. 364. He explained

issued four search warrants against him (Search Warrant Nos. 281 to 284),

that the records of the case contained a copy of the transcript of the

authorizing the seizure from his compound of pagatpat lumber worth more

examination. However, respondent judge alleged, for the first time, that the legal

than P1.5 million. Complainant alleged that the records of the four warrants did

researcher in his office who prepared the duplicate copy issued to complainant on

not also contain any transcript of the required examination of witnesses.

22 September 1999 failed, through pure inadvertence, to recopy such transcript.

Complainant therefore moved to quash the four warrants. Respondent judge,

Respondent judge attributed such omission to the fact that at that time, the

however, denied the motion on the ground that he had in fact conducted such

pages of the records were not yet physically paged. He claimed that the pages were

examination but the record of the deposition was misfiled in another case folder

numbered only upon preparation of the records for transmittal to Branch 24 the

through inadvertence.

following week. He further asserted that the copy of the transcript in question was

[2]

numbered page 5. Branch 24, however, refused to accept the referral of the
In response to the directive of the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) of

case. Thus, respondent judge forwarded the records to the OCA with a request for

this Court to comment on the complaint, respondent judge, in his Second

their transmittal to Branch 24. The OCA later returned the records to respondent

Indorsement (Indorsement) dated 16 December 1999, denied complainants

judge as their proper custodian.[4]

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

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

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,

In the Resolution of 10 September 2001, the Court referred this case to the
OCA for evaluation, report, and recommendation.

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

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

writing. Thus, respondent judge erred because Section 5, Rule 126, [of the ] Rules
of Court specifically [requires such] x x x.

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

This is a basic legal precept which all judges are expected to be conversant

append the same to the record of the case. x x x x The transcript of the searching

with. Th[e] Court has often impressed upon judges that as mandated by the Code

questions was, in fact, produced [only] after the filing of the instant

of Judicial Conduct, they owe it to the public and legal profession to know the

complaint. Further, it was noted that during the hearing of [complainants motion

very law they are supposed to apply to a given case. In this case, respondent

to quash Search Warrant] Nos. 281, 282, 283 and 28[4] taken on 21 January

judge failed to observe an elementary rule which amount[s] to ignorance of the

1999 at 9:30 a.m.[,] respondent judge apparently believes that searching

law, thereby subjecting him to disciplinary action. (Emphasis in the original)

questions need not be in writing. This is borne by the following exchange during
the said hearing:

The Ruling of the Court

Atty. R. Rambuyong [Counsel for complainant Alfredo Chu]:

The report of the OCA is well-taken.

In other words Your Honor, they would not admit that the

Section 5, Rule 126[6] of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure provides:

accused received copies?

The judge must, before issuing the warrant, personally examine in the form of

Court:

searching questions and answers, in writing and under oath, the complainant

Is there a rule that the searching question must be in writing?

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)

Atty. R. Rambuyong:
This provision implements the proscription against unreasonable searches and
From the Case of HATA versus BAYONA, Your Honor, the

seizures found in Section 2, Article III of the Constitution which states:

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]

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.

with.

The Court, in Pendon v. Court of Appeals,[7] reiterated the requirements of
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

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

We uphold the OCAs findings that respondent judge, who had earlier

must be reduced to writing in the form of searching questions and answers.

professed ignorance of the rule in question, failed either to examine any witness

(Emphasis supplied)[9]

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

Respondent judge explained that in issuing Search Warrant No. 364, he

elementary, such as the provisions of the Constitution and the Rules of Court on

complied with the rule that he must personally examine in the form of searching

search warrant issuance, not to know it or to act as if one does not know it,

questions and answers, in writing and under oath, the complainant and the

constitutes gross ignorance of the law. [11] Specifically, respondent judge failed to

witnesses. Respondent judge stated, however, that the certified copies of the

conform to the high standards of competence required of judges under the Code

records obtained by complainant did not include the transcript of his examination

of Judicial Conduct, which mandates that:

because the clerical staff in his office who prepared the certified copies
inadvertently failed to do so. This explanation fails to persuade us.

Rule 1.01. A judge should be the embodiment of competence, integrity, and
independence.

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

Rule 3.01 A judge shall x x x maintain professional competence.

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

What was said in a case,[12] similarly involving gross ignorance of basic rules,
bears repeating here:

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.

[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. Judge 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
of P5,000 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.

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

G.R. No. L-46772 February 13, 1992

of about 541.48 cubic meters, with total value of FIFTY
THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED FIVE PESOS and FIFTY TWO

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner,

CENTAVOS (P50,205.52) including government charges, to the

vs.

damage and prejudice of the said owner in the aforesaid

COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE OF QUEZON (BRANCH VII), GODOFREDO

amount.

ARROZAL AND LUIS FLORES,respondents.

Contrary to Law.

Felipe B. Pagkanlungan for private respondents.

Lucena City, 7 January 1977. (p.17, Rollo).
On March 23, 1977, the named accused filed a motion to quash the information

MEDIALDEA, J.:

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

This petition seeks the annulment of the order of the Court of First Instance (now

form.

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.

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).

The antecedent facts are as follows:
On October 15, 1977, this petition was filed directly with this Court, raising the
The private respondents were charged with the crime of qualified theft of logs,

following questions of law: (1) whether or not the information charged an offense;

defined and punished under Section 68 of Presidential Decree No. 705, otherwise

and (2) whether or not the trial court had jurisdiction over the case.

known as the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines, in an information which
read:

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
That on or about the 28th, 29th and 30th days of July 1976, at

alleged all the elements of the crime of qualified theft of logs as described in

Barangay Mahabang Lalim, Municipality of General Nakar,

Section 68 of P.D. 705. While it was admitted that the information did not

Province of Quezon, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of

precisely allege that the taking of the logs in question was "without the consent of

this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, Godofredo

the state," nevertheless, said information expressly stated that the accused

Arrozal and Luis Flores, together with twenty (20) other John

"illegally cut, gather, take, steal and carry away therefrom, without the consent of

Does whose identities are still unknown, the first-named

said owner and without any authority under a license agreement, lease, lease,

accused

Logging

license or permit, sixty (60) logs of different species. . . ." Since only the state can

Corporation, with intent to gain, conspiring and confederating

grant the lease, license, license agreement or permit for utilization of forest

together and mutually helping one another, did then and there

resources, including timber, then the allegation in the information that the

willfully, unlawfully and feloniously enter the privately-owned

asportation of the logs was "without any authority" under a license agreement,

being

the

administrator

of

the

Infanta

land of one Felicitacion Pujalte, titled in the name of her

lease, license or permit, is tantamount to alleging that the taking of the logs was

The failure of the information to allege that the logs taken were owned by the

without the consent of the state.

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

We agree with the petitioner.

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

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

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:

from private lands, without any authority under a license
agreement, lease, license or permit, shall be guilty of qualified

The defendant has appealed, claiming that it should not be held

theft as defined and punished under Articles 309 and 310 of the

liable to the plaintiff because the timber which it cut and

Revised Penal Code. . . .

gathered on the land in question belongs to the government and
not to the plaintiff, the latter having failed to comply with a

When an accused invokes in a motion to quash the ground that the facts charged

requirement of the law with respect to his property.

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

The provision of law referred to by appellant is a section of the

hypothetically admitted, meet the essential elements of the offense defined in the

Revised Administrative Code, as amended, which reads;

law (People v. Segovia, 103 Phil. 1162 [1958]; People v. Abad, L-55132, August 30,
1988, 165 SCRA 57).

"Sec. 1829. Registration of title to private forest
land. — Every private owner of land containing

The elements of the crime of qualified theft of logs are: 1) That the accused cut,

timber,

firewood

and

other

minor

forest

gathered, collected or removed timber or other forest products; 2) that the timber

products shall register his title to the same

or other forest products cut, gathered, collected or removed belongs to the

with the Director of Forestry. A list of such

government or to any private individual; and 3) that the cutting, gathering,

owners, with a statement of the boundaries of

collecting or removing was without authority under a license agreement, lease,

their property, shall be furnished by said

license, or permit granted by the state.

Director to the Collector of Internal Revenue,
and the same shall be supplemented from time

The Order dismissing the complaint concluded that the information was defective

to time as occasion may require.

because:
Upon application of the Director of Forestry the
. . ., it is noted that the Information alleges that the cutting,

fiscal of the province in which any such land

gathering and carrying away of the logs were done without the

lies shall render assistance in the examination

consent of the owner of the land. While the prosecution admits

of the title thereof with a view to its registration

that timber is a forest product that belongs to the state, the

in the Bureau of Forestry."

information, however, fails to allege that the taking was without
the consent of the latter, for which reason the Information is

In the above provision of law, there is no statement to the effect

patently defective. (p. 39, Rollo)

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

(Art. 429, New Civil Code) — the very rights violated by the

plaintiff under that Land Registration Act could no longer be the

defendant Basilan Lumber Company.

object of a forester license issued by the Director of Forestry
because ownership of said land includes also ownership of

While it is only the state which can grant a license or authority to cut, gather,

everything found on its surface (Art. 437, New Civil Code).

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

Obviously, the purpose of the registration required in section

private lands is retained under the principle in civil law that ownership of the

1829 of the Administrative Code is to exempt the title owner of

land includes everything found on its surface.

the land from the payment of forestry charges as provided for
under Section 266 of the National Internal Revenue Code, to wit:

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

"Charges collective on forest products cut,

forest products is not material; it was sufficient that it alleged that the taking was

gathered and removed from unregistered private

without any authority or license from the government.

lands. — The charges above prescribed shall be
collected on all forest products cut, gathered

Anent the second issue raised, Section 80 of Presidential Decree 705, provides:

and removed from any private land the title to
which is not registered with the Director of

Sec. 80. Arrest; Institution of Criminal Actions. — A forest officer

Forestry

Law;

or employee of the Bureau shall arrest even without warrant any

Provided, however, That in the absence of such

person who has committed or is committing in his presence any

registration, the owner who desires to cut,

of the offenses defined in this Chapter. He shall also seize and

gather and remove timber and other forest

confiscate, in favor of the Government, the tools and equipment

products from such land shall secure a license

used in committing the offense, and the forest products cut,

from

as

the

required

Director

by

Forest

Law

and

gathered or taken by the offender in the process of committing

gathering

and

the offense. The arresting forest officer or employee shall

forest

thereafter deliver within six (6) hours from the time of arrest and

products from said private lands without

seizure, the offender and the confiscated forest products, tools

license shall be considered as unlawful cutting,

and equipment to, and file the proper complaint with, the

gathering and removing of forest products from

appropriate official designated by law to conduct preliminary

public forests and shall be subject to the

investigations and file informations in court.

Regulations.
removing

The

of

the

Forestry

cutting,

of timber

and

the

other

charges prescribed in such cases in this
chapter.

If the arrest and seizure are made in the forests, far from the
authorities

xxx xxx xxx

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

On the other hand, while it is admitted that the plaintiff has

ordinary travel from the place of arrest to the place of delivery.

failed to register the timber in his land as a private woodland in

The

seized

products,

accordance with the oft-repeated provision of the Revised

immediately

disposed

Administrative Code, he still retained his rights of ownership,

administrative orders promulgated by the Department Head.

among which are his rights to the fruits of the land and to
exclude any person from the enjoyment and disposal thereof

materials
of

in

and

equipment

accordance

with

shall

be

forestry

The Department Head may deputize any member or unit of the

. . ., the authority given to the forest officer to investigate reports

Philippine Constabulary, police agency, barangay or barrio

and complaints regarding the commission of offenses defined in

official, or any qualified person to protect the forest and exercise

P.D. No. 705 by the said last and penultimate paragraphs of

the power or authority provided for in the preceding paragraph.

Section 80 may be considered as covering only such reports and
complaints as might be brought to the forest officer assigned to

Reports and complaints regarding the commission of any of the

the area by other forest officers or employees of the Bureau of

offenses defined in this Chapter, not committed in the presence

Forest Development, or any of the deputized officers or officials,

of any forest officer or employee, or any of the deputized officers

for violations of forest laws not committed in their presence.

or officials, shall immediately be investigated by the forest officer

Such interpretation becomes cogent when we consider that the

assigned in the area where the offense was allegedly committed,

whole of Section 80 deals precisely with the authority of forest

who shall thereupon receive the evidence supporting the report

officers or employees to make arrests and institute criminal

or complaint.

actions involving offenses defined in the Decree. (p. 26, Rollo).

If there is a prima facie evidence to support the complaint or

Likewise, the Solicitor General was correct in insisting that P.D. 705 did not

report, the investigating forest officer shall file the necessary

repeal Section 1687 of the Administrative Code giving authority to the fiscal to

complaint with the appropriate official authorized by law to

conduct investigation into the matter of any crime or misdemeanor and have the

conduct a preliminary investigation of criminal cases and file an

necessary information or complaint prepared or made against persons charged

information in Court.

with the commission of the crime.

The above cited provision covers two (2) specific instances when a forest officer

Sec. 1687. Authority of fiscal to conduct investigation in criminal

may commence a prosecution for the violation of the Revised Forestry Code of the

matter. — A provincial fiscal shall have authority, if he deems it

Philippines. The first authorizes a forest officer or employee of the Bureau of

wise, to conduct an investigation into the matter of any crime or

Forestry to arrest without a warrant, any person who has committed or is

misdemeanor. To this end, he may summon reputed witnesses

committing, in his presence, any of the offenses described in the decree. The

and require them to appear and testify upon oath before

second covers a situation when an offense described in the decree is not

him. . . .

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.

With

the

offenses,

2

exception

of

the

so-called

"private

crimes"

1

and

in

election

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

The circumstances in the instant case do not fall under any of the situations

both cases under said Sec. 80 namely, 1) after a forest officer had made the arrest

covered by Section 80 of P.D. 705. The alleged offense was committed not in the

(for offenses committed in his presence); or 2) after conducting an investigation of

presence of a forest officer and neither was the alleged commission reported to

reports or complaints of violations of the decree (for violations not committed in

any forest officer. The offense was committed in a private land and the complaint

his presence) — he is still required to file the proper complaint with the

was brought by a private offended party to the fiscal.

appropriate official designated by law to conduct preliminary investigations in
court. Said section should not be interpreted to vest exclusive authority upon

The trial court erred in dismissing the case on the ground of lack of jurisdiction

forest officers to conduct investigations regarding offenses described in the decree

over the subject matter because the information was filed not pursuant to the

rather, it should be construed as granting forest officers and employees special

complaint of any forest officer as prescribed in Section 80 of P.D. 705. We agree
with the observation of the Solicitor General that:

authority to arrest and investigate offenses described in P.D. 705, to reinforce the

There were three persons on board the truck: driver Wilfredo Cacao, accused-

exercise of such authority by those upon whom it is vested by general law.

appellant Wilson Que, and an unnamed person. The driver identified accusedappellant as the owner of the truck and the cargo.

5

ACCORDINGLY, the petition is GRANTED. The questioned order of the trial court
dismissing the information is SET ASIDE. Criminal Cases No. 1591 is reinstated.

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

SO ORDERED.

inserted in between the coconut slabs.

6

SPO1 Corpuz asked accused-appellant for the cargo's supporting documents,
specifically: (1) certificate of lumber origin, (2) certificate of transport agreement,
G.R. No. 120365 December 17, 1996

(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
7

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,

present any of these documents . All he could show was a certification

from the

vs.

Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO), Sanchez Mira,

WILSON B. QUE, accused-appellant

Cagayan that he legally acquired the coconut slabs. The certification was issued
to facilitate transport of the slabs from Sanchez Mira, Cagayan to San Vicente,
Urdaneta, Pangasinan.

7

PUNO, J.:p

SPO1 Corpuz brought accused-appellant to the office of the Provincial Task Force

Accused-appellant Wilson B. Que appeals from his conviction for violation of

Provincial Task Force that there were sawn lumber under the coconut slabs.

at the provincial capitol. Again, accused-appellant admitted to the members of the

Section 68 of Presidential Decree (P.D.) 705
(E.O.) 277.

1

as amended by Executive Order

2

At 10:00 o'clock in the morning, the members of the Provincial Task Force,
together with three CENRO personnel examined the cargo. The examination

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.

9

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

confirmed that the cargo consisted of coconut slabs and sawn tanguile lumber.
The coconut slabs were piled at the sides of the truck, concealing the tanguile
lumber.

10

When the CENRO personnel inventoried and scaled the seized forest

products, they counted two hundred fifty eight (258) pieces of tanguile lumber
with a total volume of 3,729.3 board feet (8.79 cubic meters) and total assessed
value of P93,232.50.

11

On June 23, 1994, accused-appellant was charged before the Regional Trial Court
of Laoag with violation of Section 68 of P.D. 705 as amended by E.O. 277. The
Information alleged:
That on or about the 8th day of March, 1994, in the City of
Laoag, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable
Court, the above-named accused, being then the owner of an
I(s)uzu Ten wheeler Truck bearing Plate No. PAD-548, with
intent of gain, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and

feloniously have in possession, control and custody 258 pieces of

ordered confiscated in favor of the government to be disposed of

various sizes of Forest Products chainsawn lumber (species of

in accordance with law.

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

Costs against the accused.

P25.00/bd. ft., necessary permit, license or authority to do so
from the proper authorities, thus violating the aforecited

SO ORDERED. 17

provision of the law, to the damage and prejudice of the
government.
CONTRARY TO LAW.

Appellant
errors:

12

14

us

with

the

following

assignment

under existing forest laws and regulations on the ground that

and Elpidio

since it is only in EO No. 277 where for the first time mere

The PLTP authorizes its holder to cut, gather and dispose timber from

possession of timber was criminalized, there are no existing

the forest area covered by the permit. He alleged that the tanguile lumber came

forest laws and

from the forest area covered by the PLTP's of Cayosa and Sabal and that they were

documents for possession of timber and other forest products.

given to him by Cayosa and Sabal as payment for his hauling services.

of

other forest products without the legal documents as required

presented the private land timber permits (PLTP) issued by the Department
Sabal.

before

68, PD 705 as amended by EO 277 for possessing timber or

the 258 pieces of tanguile lumber from a legal source. During the trial, he
13

comes

1. It was error for the Court to convict accused under Section

Accused-appellant denied the charge against him. He claimed that he acquired

of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to Enrica Cayosa

now

18

regulations which required certain legal

15

2. The Court erred in allowing evidence secured in violation of
Accused-appellant also objected to the admission of the 258 pieces of lumber as

the constitutional rights of accused against unlawful searches

evidence against him. He contended that they were fruits of an illegal search and

and seizures.

seizure and of an uncounselled extrajudicial admission.
3. The Court erred in allowing evidence secured in violation of
The trial court found accused-appellant guilty and sentenced him to reclusion

the

constitutional

perpetua. It also ordered the confiscation of the seized lumber and the ten-

investigation.

rights

of

accused

under

custodial

wheeler truck owned by accused-appellant. The dispositive portion of the
Decision

16

states:

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

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered declaring accused
Wilson B. Que guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the violation of
Section 68 of PD 705, as amended by Executive Order No. 277
and he is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of RECLUSION

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.

PERPETUA, plus all the accessory penalties provided by law. The
bail bond filed for the provisional liberty of the accused is

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

CANCELLED.

provides:

The two hundred fifty-eight (258) pieces of lumber (tanguile

Sec. 68. Cutting, Gathering and/or Collecting Timber, or other

specie) and the ten-wheeler truck bearing plate No. PAD-548

Forest Products Without License. — Any person who shall cut,

which was used in the commission of the crime are hereby

gather, collect, remove timber or other forest products from any

forest land, or timber from alienable or disposable public land,

ORIGIN (CLO) issued by the CENRO or his duly authorized

or from private land without any authority, or possess timber or

representative which has jurisdiction over the processing plant

other forest products without the legal documents as required

producing the said lumber or the lumber firm authorized to deal

under existing forest laws and regulations, shall be punished

in such commodities. In order to be valid, the CLO must be

with the penalties imposed under Articles 309 and 310 of the

supported by the company tally sheet or delivery receipt, and in

Revised Penal Code: Provided, That in the case of partnerships,

case of sale, a lumber sales invoice.

associations, or corporations, the officers who ordered the
cutting, gathering, collection or possession shall be liable and if

xxx xxx xxx

such officers are aliens, they shall, in addition to the penalty, be
deported without further proceedings on the part of the

When apprehended on March 8, 1994, accused-appellant failed to present any

Commission on Immigration and Deportation.

certificate of origin of the 258 pieces of tanguile lumber. The trial court found:

The Court shall further order the confiscation in favor of the

xxx xxx xxx

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 woodbased or nonwood-based products/commodities shall be covered
with appropriate Certificates of Origin, issued by authorized
DENR officials, as specified in the succeeding sections.
xxx xxx xxx
3.3 Lumber. Unless otherwise herein provided, the transport of
lumber shall be accompanied by a CERTIFICATE OF LUMBER

. . . When apprehended by the police officers, the accused
admittedly could not present a single document to justify his
possession of the subject lumber. . . .
Significantly, at the time the accused was apprehended by the
police offices, he readily showed documents to justify his
possession of the coconut slabs. Thus, he showed a certification
issued by Remigio B. Rosario, Forest Ranger, of the DENR,
CENRO, Sanchez Mira, Cagayan (Exhibit "E") and a xerox copy of
the original certificate of title covering the parcel of land where
the coconut slabs were cut.(Exhibit "F").
It is worthy to note that the certification dated March 7, 1994
states:
THIS IS TO CERTIFY that the one (1) truckload
of coconut slabs to be transported by Mr. Wilson
Que on board truck bearing Plate No. PAD
548 were derived from matured coconut palms
gathered inside the private land of Miss
Bonifacia Collado under OCT No. P-11614(8)
located

at

Nagrangtayan,

Sanchez

Mira,

Cagayan.
This certification is being issued upon the
request of Mr. Wilson Que for the purpose of

facilitating the transportation of said coconut

The fact that the letter-request was returned to him creates

slabs from Sanchez Mira, Cagayan to San

doubts on the stance of the accused. Documents or other

Vicente, Urdaneta, Pangasinan and is valid up

papers, i.e., letter-request of this kind filed with a government

to March 11, 1994 or upon discharge of its

agency are not returned. Hence, when a person files or submits

cargoes at its final destination, whichever

any document to a government agency, the agency gets the

comes first.

original copy. The filer only gets a duplicate copy to show that he
has filed such document with the agency. Moreover, his

It is crystal clear, therefore, that the accused was given permit

avoidance as regards the identity of the employee of the CENRO

by the DENR to transport one (1) truckload of coconut slabs only

who allegedly returned the letter-request to him also creates

between March 7 to 11, 1994. The accused was apprehended

doubts on his stance. Thus, on cross-examination, the accused,

onMarch 8, 1994 aboard his truck bearing plate number PAD-

when asked about the identity of the employee of the CENRO

548 which was loaded not only with coconut slabs but with

who returned the letter-request to him answered that he could

chainsawn lumber as well. Admittedly, the lumber could not be

recognize the person ". . . but they were already reshuffled."

seen from the outside. The lumber were placed in the middle

(TSN, February 8, 1995, p. 104) At one point, the accused also

and not visible unless the coconut slabs which were placed on

said that he did not know if that person was an employee of the

the top, sides and rear of the truck were removed.

DENR. (Ibid, p. 105)

Under these circumstances, the Court has no doubt that the

Be that as it may, the Court finds significance in the last

accused was very much aware that he needed documents to

paragraph of this letter-request, to wit:

possess and transport the lumber (b)ut could not secure one
xxx xxx xxx

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.

Please consider this as my Certificate of
Transport Agreement in view of the fact that I

In this regard, the Court cannot give credence to his alleged

am hauling and transporting my own lumber

letter dated March 3, 1994 addressed to the OIC CENRO Officer,

for my own needs.

CENRO, Sanchez Mira, Cagayan informing the CENRO that he
would be transporting the subject lumber on March 7, 1994

Thus, the accused through this letter considered the same as

from Sanchez Mira, Cagayan to Sto. Domingo, Ilocos Sur but

his certificate of transport agreement. Why then, if he was telling

was returned to him for the reason that he did not need a permit

the truth, did he not take this letter with him when he

to transport the subject lumber. (Exhibits "8", "8-A").

transported the lumber on March 7, 1994?

While it is true that the letter indicates that it was received by

All these circumstances clearly show that the letter comes from

CENRO on March 4, 1994, the Court has doubts that this was

a polluted source.

19

duly filed with the concerned office. According to the accused,
he filed the letter in the morning of March 4 and returned in the

xxx xxx xxx

afternoon of the same day. He was then informed by an
employee of the CENRO whom he did not identify that he did not
need a permit to transport the lumber because the lumber
would be for personal used (sic) and ". . . came from PLTP." (Ibid)
The letter-request was returned to him.

Accused-appellant's possession of the subject lumber without any
documentation clearly constitutes an offense under Section 68 of P.D.
705.

We also reject appellant's argument that the law only penalizes possession of

The basis for the rule can be found in Article III, Section 2 of the

illegal forest products and that the possessor cannot be held liable if he proves

1987 Constitution, which states:

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.

The right of the people to be secure in their

705, to wit:

persons, houses, papers, and effects against
unreasonable

searches

and

seizures

of

(1) Cutting, gathering, collecting and removing timber or other

whatever nature and for any purpose, shall be

forest products from any forest land, or timber from alienable or

inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of

disposable public land, or from private land without any

arrest shall issue except upon probable cause

authority; and

to be determined personally by the judge after
examination under oath or affirmation of the

(2) Possession of timber or other forest products without the

complainant and witnesses he may produce,

legal documents required under existing forest laws and

and particularly describing the place to be

regulations.

searched, and the person or things to be
seized.

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

Article III, Section 3 (2) further ordains that any evidence

authorization issued by the DENR. In the second offense, however, it is

obtained in violation of the aforementioned right shall, among

immaterial whether the cutting, gathering, collecting and removal of the forest

others, "be inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding."

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

The constitutional proscription against warrantless searches

legal source is immaterial because E.O 277 considers the mere possession of

and seizures admits of certain exceptions. Aside from a search

timber or other forest products without the proper legal documents as malum

incident to a lawful arrest, a warrantless search had been

prohibitum.

upheld in cases of moving vehicles, and the seizure of evidence
in plain view.

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".

With regard to the search of moving vehicles, this had been

Appellant avers that these pieces of lumber were obtained in violation of his

justified on the ground that the mobility of motor vehicles makes

constitutional right against unlawful searches and seizures as well as his right to

it possible for the vehicle to be searched to move out of the

counsel.

locality or jurisdiction in which the warrant must be sought.

We do not agree.

This in no way, however, gives the police officers unlimited
discretion to conduct warrantless searches of automobiles in the

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.

absence of probable cause. When a vehicle is stopped and
subjected to an extensive search, such a warrantless search has
been held to be valid as long as the officers conducting the
search have reasonable or probable cause to believe before
search that they will find the instrumentality or evidence
pertaining to a crime, in the vehicle to be searched. (citations
omitted; emphasis supplied)

As in Bagista, the police officers in the case at bar had probable cause to search
appellant's truck. A member of the Provincial Task Force on Illegal Logging
received a reliable information that a ten-wheeler truck bearing plate number
PAD-548 loaded with illegal lumber would pass through Ilocos Norte. Two weeks
later, while members of the Provincial Task Force were patrolling along General
Segundo Avenue, they saw the ten-wheeler truck described by the informant.
When they apprehended it at the Marcos Bridge, accused-appellant, the owner of
the truck and the cargo, admitted that there were sawn lumber in between the
coconut slabs. When the police officers asked for the lumber's supporting
documents,

accused-appellant

could

not

present

any.

The

foregoing

circumstances are sufficient to prove the existence of probable cause which
justified the extensive search of appellant's truck even without a warrant. Thus,
the 258 pieces of tanguile lumber were lawfully seized and were thus properly
admitted as evidence to prove the guilt of accused-appellant.
The foregoing disquisition renders unnecessary the issue of whether appellant's
right to counsel under custodial investigation was violated. The Resolution of the
issue will not affect the finding of guilt of appellant.
IN VIEW WHEREOF, the instant appeal is DISMISSED. The Decision appealed
from is AFFIRMED. Costs against appellant.
SO ORDERED.

[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 petitioner’s 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, petitioner’s 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 finishedwood 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. Wellentrenched is the rule that this Court is not duty bound to render advisory
opinions.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED for lack of merit.
Very truly yours,
(Sgd.) JULIETA Y.
CARREON
Clerk of Court
THE SECRETARY OF THE G.R. No. 167707
DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT
AND NATURAL RESOURCES, THE
REGIONAL EXECUTIVE Present:
DIRECTOR, DENR-REGION VI,
REGIONAL TECHNICAL PUNO, C.J.,
DIRECTOR FOR LANDS, QUISUMBING,
LANDS MANAGEMENT BUREAU, YNARES-SANTIAGO,
REGION VI PROVINCIAL CARPIO,
ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
RESOURCES OFFICER OF KALIBO, CORONA,*
AKLAN, REGISTER OF DEEDS, CARPIO MORALES,
DIRECTOR OF LAND AZCUNA,
REGISTRATION AUTHORITY, TINGA,
DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM CHICO-NAZARIO,
SECRETARY, DIRECTOR OF VELASCO, JR.,
PHILIPPINE TOURISM NACHURA,**
AUTHORITY, REYES,
Petitioners, LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, and
BRION, JJ.

- versus MAYOR JOSE S. YAP, LIBERTAD
TALAPIAN, MILA Y. SUMNDAD, and
ANICETO YAP, in their behalf and Promulgated:
in behalf of all those similarly situated,
Respondents. October 8, 2008
x--------------------------------------------------x
DR. ORLANDO SACAY and G.R. No. 173775
WILFREDO GELITO, joined by
THE LANDOWNERS OF
BORACAY SIMILARLY
SITUATED NAMED IN A LIST,
ANNEX A OF THIS PETITION,
Petitioners,
- versus THE SECRETARY OF THE
DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT
AND NATURAL RESOURCES, THE
REGIONAL TECHNICAL
DIRECTOR FOR LANDS, LANDS
MANAGEMENT BUREAU,
REGION VI, PROVINCIAL
ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL
RESOURCES OFFICER, KALIBO,
AKLAN,
Respondents.
x--------------------------------------------------x
DECISION
REYES, R.T., J.:
AT stake in these consolidated cases is the right of the present occupants
of Boracay Island to secure titles over their occupied lands.
There are two consolidated petitions. The first is G.R. No. 167707, a petition for
review on certiorari of the Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals (CA) affirming that [2] of the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Kalibo, Aklan, which granted the petition for declaratory relief
filed by respondents-claimants Mayor Jose Yap, et al. and ordered the survey of Boracay
for titling purposes. The second is G.R. No. 173775, a petition for prohibition, mandamus,
and nullification of Proclamation No. 1064[3] issued by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
classifying Boracay into reserved forest and agricultural land.
The Antecedents

G.R. No. 167707
Boracay Island in the Municipality of Malay, Aklan, with its powdery white sand
beaches and warm crystalline waters, is reputedly a premier Philippine tourist
destination. The island is also home to 12,003 inhabitants[4] who live in the bone-shaped
islands three barangays.[5]
On April 14, 1976, the Department of Environment and Natural
Resources (DENR) approved the National Reservation Survey of Boracay
Island,[6] which identified several lots as being occupied or claimed by named persons. [7]
On November 10, 1978, then President Ferdinand Marcos issued Proclamation
No. 1801[8] declaring Boracay Island, among other islands, caves and peninsulas in
the Philippines, as tourist zones and marine reserves under the administration of the
Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA). President Marcos later approved the issuance
of PTA Circular 3-82[9] dated September 3, 1982, to implement Proclamation No. 1801.
Claiming that Proclamation No. 1801 and PTA Circular No 3-82 precluded them
from filing an application for judicial confirmation of imperfect title or survey of land for
titling purposes, respondents-claimants Mayor Jose S. Yap, Jr., Libertad Talapian, Mila Y.
Sumndad, and Aniceto Yap filed a petition for declaratory relief with the RTC in Kalibo,
Aklan.
In their petition, respondents-claimants alleged that Proclamation No. 1801
and PTA Circular No. 3-82 raised doubts on their right to secure titles over their occupied
lands. They declared that they themselves, or through their predecessors-in-interest, had
been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation in Boracay
since June 12, 1945, or earlier since time immemorial. They declared their lands for tax
purposes and paid realty taxes on them.[10]
Respondents-claimants posited that Proclamation No. 1801 and its implementing
Circular did not place Boracay beyond the commerce of man. Since the Island was
classified as a tourist zone, it was susceptible of private ownership. Under Section 48(b) of
Commonwealth Act (CA) No. 141, otherwise known as the Public Land Act, they had the
right to have the lots registered in their names through judicial confirmation of imperfect
titles.
The Republic, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), opposed the
petition for declaratory relief. The OSG countered that Boracay Island was an unclassified
land of the public domain. It formed part of the mass of lands classified as public forest,
which was not available for disposition pursuant to Section 3(a) of Presidential Decree
(PD) No. 705 or the Revised Forestry Code,[11] as amended.
The OSG maintained that respondents-claimants reliance on PD No. 1801
and PTA Circular No. 3-82 was misplaced. Their right to judicial confirmation of title was
governed by CA No. 141 and PD No. 705. Since Boracay Island had not been classified as
alienable and disposable, whatever possession they had cannot ripen into ownership.
During pre-trial, respondents-claimants and the OSG stipulated on the following
facts: (1) respondents-claimants were presently in possession of parcels of land in Boracay
Island; (2) these parcels of land were planted with coconut trees and other natural growing
trees; (3) the coconut trees had heights of more or less twenty (20) meters and were
planted more or less fifty (50) years ago; and (4) respondents-claimants declared the land
they were occupying for tax purposes.[12]

The parties also agreed that the principal issue for resolution was purely legal:
whether Proclamation No. 1801 posed any legal hindrance or impediment to the titling of
the lands in Boracay. They decided to forego with the trial and to submit the case for
resolution upon submission of their respective memoranda.[13]
The RTC took judicial notice[14] that certain parcels of land in Boracay Island,
more particularly Lots 1 and 30, Plan PSU-5344, were covered by Original Certificate of
Title No. 19502 (RO 2222) in the name of the Heirs of Ciriaco S. Tirol. These lots were
involved in Civil Case Nos. 5222 and 5262 filed before the RTC of Kalibo, Aklan.
[15]
The titles were issued on
August 7, 1933.[16]
RTC and CA Dispositions
On July 14, 1999, the RTC rendered a decision in favor of respondentsclaimants, with a fallo reading:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Court declares
that Proclamation No. 1801 and PTA Circular No. 3-82 pose no legal
obstacle to the petitioners and those similarly situated to acquire title to
their lands in Boracay, in accordance with the applicable laws and in
the manner prescribed therein; and to have their lands surveyed and
approved by respondent Regional Technical Director of Lands as the
approved survey does not in itself constitute a title to the land.
SO ORDERED.[17]
The RTC upheld respondents-claimants right to have their occupied lands titled
in their name. It ruled that neither Proclamation No. 1801 nor PTA Circular No. 3-82
mentioned that lands in Boracay were inalienable or could not be the subject of disposition.
[18]
The Circular itself recognized private ownership of lands. [19] The trial court cited Sections
87[20] and 53[21] of the Public Land Act as basis for acknowledging private ownership of
lands in Boracay and that only those forested areas in public lands were declared as part
of the forest reserve.[22]
The OSG moved for reconsideration but its motion was denied. [23] The Republic
then appealed to the CA.
On December 9, 2004, the appellate court affirmed in toto the RTC decision,
disposing as follows:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing premises, judgment is
hereby rendered by us DENYING the appeal filed in this case and
AFFIRMING the decision of the lower court.[24]
The CA held that respondents-claimants could not be prejudiced by a declaration
that the lands they occupied since time immemorial were part of a forest reserve.
Again, the OSG sought reconsideration but it was similarly denied. [25] Hence, the
present petition under Rule 45.
G.R. No. 173775

On May 22, 2006, during the pendency of G.R. No. 167707, President Gloria MacapagalArroyo issued Proclamation No. 1064[26] classifying Boracay Island into four hundred (400)
hectares of reserved forest land (protection purposes) and six hundred twenty-eight and
96/100 (628.96) hectares of agricultural land (alienable and disposable). The Proclamation
likewise provided for a fifteen-meter buffer zone on each side of the centerline of roads and
trails, reserved for right-of-way and which shall form part of the area reserved for forest
land protection purposes.
On August 10, 2006, petitioners-claimants Dr. Orlando Sacay,[27] Wilfredo Gelito,
and other landowners[29] in Boracay filed with this Court an original petition for
prohibition, mandamus, and nullification of Proclamation No. 1064. [30] They allege that the
Proclamation infringed on their prior vested rights over portions of Boracay. They have
been in continued possession of their respective lots in Boracay since time
immemorial. They have also invested billions of pesos in developing their lands and
building internationally renowned first class resorts on their lots. [31]
[28]

Petitioners-claimants contended that there is no need for a proclamation
reclassifying Boracay into agricultural land. Being classified as neither mineral nor timber
land, the island is deemed agricultural pursuant to the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act No.
926, known as the first Public Land Act. [32] Thus, their possession in the concept of owner
for the required period entitled them to judicial confirmation of imperfect title.
Opposing the petition, the OSG argued that petitioners-claimants do not have a
vested right over their occupied portions in the island. Boracay is an unclassified public
forest land pursuant to Section 3(a) of PD No. 705. Being public forest, the claimed
portions of the island are inalienable and cannot be the subject of judicial confirmation of
imperfect title. It is only the executive department, not the courts, which has authority to
reclassify lands of the public domain into alienable and disposable lands. There is a need
for a positive government act in order to release the lots for disposition.
On November 21, 2006, this Court ordered the consolidation of the two
petitions as they principally involve the same issues on the land classification
of Boracay Island.[33]
Issues

THE AREAS OCCUPIED BY THEM PUBLIC AGRICULTURAL LANDS
AS DEFINED BY LAWS THENON JUDICIAL CONFIRMATION OF
IMPERFECT TITLES OR PUBLIC FOREST AS DEFINED BY SEC. 3a,
PD 705?
II.
HAVE PETITIONERS OCCUPANTS ACQUIRED PRIOR VESTED
RIGHT OF PRIVATE OWNERSHIP OVER THEIR OCCUPIED
PORTIONS OF BORACAY LAND, DESPITE THE FACT THAT THEY
HAVE NOT APPLIED YET FOR JUDICIAL CONFIRMATION OF
IMPERFECT TITLE?
III.
IS THE EXECUTIVE DECLARATION OF THEIR AREAS AS
ALIENABLE AND DISPOSABLE UNDER SEC 6,
CA
141
[AN]
INDISPENSABLE PRE-REQUISITE FOR PETITIONERS TO OBTAIN
TITLE UNDER THE TORRENS SYSTEM?
IV.
IS THE ISSUANCE OF PROCLAMATION 1064 ON MAY 22, 2006,
VIOLATIVE OF THE PRIOR VESTED RIGHTS TO PRIVATE
OWNERSHIP OF PETITIONERS OVER THEIR LANDS IN BORACAY,
PROTECTED BY THE DUE PROCESS CLAUSE OF THE
CONSTITUTION OR IS PROCLAMATION 1064 CONTRARY TO SEC.
8, CA 141, OR SEC. 4(a) OF RA 6657.
V.
CAN RESPONDENTS BE COMPELLED BY MANDAMUS TO ALLOW
THE SURVEY AND TO APPROVE THE SURVEY PLANS FOR
PURPOSES OF THE APPLICATION FOR TITLING OF THE LANDS
OF PETITIONERS IN BORACAY?[35] (Underscoring supplied)
In capsule, the main issue is whether private claimants (respondents-claimants in
G.R. No. 167707 and petitioners-claimants in G.R. No. 173775) have a right to secure
titles over their occupied portions in Boracay. The twin petitions pertain to their right, if any,
to judicial confirmation of imperfect title under CA No. 141, as amended. They do not
involve their right to secure title under other pertinent laws.

G.R. No. 167707
Our Ruling
The OSG raises the lone issue of whether Proclamation No. 1801
and PTA Circular No. 3-82 pose any legal obstacle for respondents, and all those similarly
situated, to acquire title to their occupied lands in Boracay Island.[34]

G.R. No. 173775
Petitioners-claimants hoist five (5) issues, namely:
I.
AT THE TIME OF THE ESTABLISHED POSSESSION OF
PETITIONERS IN CONCEPT OF OWNER OVER THEIR
RESPECTIVE AREAS IN BORACAY, SINCE TIME IMMEMORIAL OR
AT THE LATEST SINCE 30 YRS. PRIOR TO THE FILING OF THE
PETITION FOR DECLARATORY RELIEF ON NOV. 19, 1997, WERE

Regalian Doctrine and power of the executive
to reclassify lands of the public domain
Private claimants rely on three (3) laws and executive acts in their bid for judicial
confirmation of imperfect title, namely: (a) Philippine Bill of 1902 [36] in relation to Act No.
926, later amended and/or superseded by Act No. 2874 and CA No. 141; [37] (b)
Proclamation No. 1801[38] issued by then President Marcos; and (c) Proclamation No.
1064[39] issued by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. We shall proceed to determine their
rights to apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect title under these laws and executive
acts.
But first, a peek at the Regalian principle and the power of the executive to
reclassify lands of the public domain.

The 1935 Constitution classified lands of the public domain into agricultural,
forest or timber.[40] Meanwhile, the 1973 Constitution provided the following divisions:
agricultural, industrial or commercial, residential, resettlement, mineral, timber or forest and
grazing lands, and such other classes as may be provided by law,[41] giving the government
great leeway for classification. [42] Then the 1987 Constitution reverted to the 1935
Constitution classification with one addition: national parks. [43] Of these, only agricultural
lands may be alienated.[44] Prior to Proclamation No. 1064 of May 22,
2006,Boracay Island had never been expressly and administratively classified under any
of these grand divisions. Boracay was an unclassified land of the public domain.
The Regalian Doctrine dictates that all lands of the public domain belong to the
State, that the State is the source of any asserted right to ownership of land and charged
with the conservation of such patrimony.[45] The doctrine has been consistently adopted
under the 1935, 1973, and 1987 Constitutions.[46]
All lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly within private ownership are
presumed to belong to the State. [47] Thus, all lands that have not been acquired from the
government, either by purchase or by grant, belong to the State as part of the inalienable
public domain.[48] Necessarily, it is up to the State to determine if lands of the public domain
will be disposed of for private ownership. The government, as the agent of the state, is
possessed of the plenary power as the persona in law to determine who shall be the
favored recipients of public lands, as well as under what terms they may be granted such
privilege, not excluding the placing of obstacles in the way of their exercise of what
otherwise would be ordinary acts of ownership.[49]
Our present land law traces its roots to the Regalian Doctrine. Upon the Spanish
conquest of the Philippines, ownership of all lands, territories and possessions in
the Philippines passed to the Spanish Crown.[50] The Regalian doctrine was first introduced
in the Philippines through the Laws of the Indies and the Royal Cedulas, which laid the
foundation that all lands that were not acquired from the Government, either by purchase
or by grant, belong to the public domain.[51]
The Laws of the Indies was followed by the Ley Hipotecaria or the Mortgage Law
of 1893. The Spanish Mortgage Law provided for the systematic registration of titles and
deeds as well as possessory claims.[52]
The Royal Decree of 1894 or the Maura Law[53] partly amended the Spanish
Mortgage Law and the Laws of the Indies. It established possessory information as the
method of legalizing possession of vacant Crown land, under certain conditions which
were set forth in said decree. [54] Under Section 393 of the Maura Law, an informacion
posesoria or possessory information title,[55] when duly inscribed in the Registry of Property,
is converted into a title of ownership only after the lapse of twenty (20) years of
uninterrupted possession which must be actual, public, and adverse, [56] from the date of its
inscription.[57] However, possessory information title had to be perfected one year after the
promulgation of the Maura Law, or until April 17, 1895. Otherwise, the lands would revert to
the State.[58]

public domain in the Philippine Islands were classified into three (3) grand divisions, to wit:
agricultural, mineral, and timber or forest lands. [61] The act provided for, among others, the
disposal of mineral lands by means of absolute grant (freehold system) and by lease
(leasehold system).[62] It also provided the definition by exclusion of agricultural public
lands.[63] Interpreting the meaning of agricultural lands under the Philippine Bill of 1902, the
Court declared in Mapa v. Insular Government:[64]
x x x In other words, that the phrase agricultural land as
used in Act No. 926 means those public lands acquired
from Spain which are not timber or mineral lands. x x
x[65] (Emphasis Ours)
On February 1, 1903, the Philippine Legislature passed Act No. 496, otherwise
known as the Land Registration Act. The act established a system of registration by which
recorded title becomes absolute, indefeasible, and imprescriptible. This is known as
the Torrens system.[66]
Concurrently, on October 7, 1903, the Philippine Commission passed Act
No. 926, which was the first Public Land Act. The Act introduced the homestead system
and made provisions for judicial and administrative confirmation of imperfect titles and for
the sale or lease of public lands. It permitted corporations regardless of the nationality of
persons owning the controlling stock to lease or purchase lands of the public domain.
[67]
Under the Act, open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of
agricultural lands for the next ten (10) years preceding July 26, 1904 was sufficient for
judicial confirmation of imperfect title.[68]
On November 29, 1919, Act No. 926 was superseded by Act No. 2874,
otherwise known as the second Public Land Act. This new, more comprehensive law
limited the exploitation of agricultural lands to Filipinos and Americans and citizens of other
countries which gave Filipinos the same privileges. For judicial confirmation of title,
possession and occupation en concepto dueo since time immemorial, or since July 26,
1894, was required.[69]
After the passage of the 1935 Constitution, CA No. 141 amended Act No. 2874
on December 1, 1936. To this day, CA No. 141, as amended, remains as the existing
general law governing the classification and disposition of lands of the public domain other
than timber and mineral lands,[70] and privately owned lands which reverted to the State.[71]
Section 48(b) of CA No. 141 retained the requirement under Act No. 2874 of
possession and occupation of lands of the public domain since time immemorial or
since July 26, 1894. However, this provision was superseded by Republic Act (RA) No.
1942,[72] which provided for a simple thirty-year prescriptive period for judicial confirmation
of imperfect title. The provision was last amended by PD No. 1073,[73] which now provides
for possession and occupation of the land applied for since June 12, 1945, or earlier.[74]

In sum, private ownership of land under the Spanish regime could only be
founded on royal concessions which took various forms, namely: (1) titulo real or royal
grant; (2) concesion especial or special grant; (3) composicion con el estado or adjustment
title; (4) titulo de compra or title by purchase; and (5) informacion posesoria or possessory
information title.[59]

The issuance of PD No. 892[75] on February 16, 1976 discontinued the use of
Spanish titles as evidence in land registration proceedings. [76] Under the decree, all holders
of Spanish titles or grants should apply for registration of their lands under Act No. 496
within six (6) months from the effectivity of the decree on February 16, 1976. Thereafter,
the recording of all unregistered lands[77] shall be governed by Section 194 of the Revised
Administrative Code, as amended by Act No. 3344.

The first law governing the disposition of public lands in the Philippines under
American rule was embodied in the Philippine Bill of 1902.[60] By this law, lands of the

On June 11, 1978, Act No. 496 was amended and updated by PD No. 1529,
known as the Property Registration Decree. It was enacted to codify the various laws

relative to registration of property.[78] It governs registration of lands
the Torrens system as well as unregistered lands, including chattel mortgages. [79]

under

A positive act declaring land as alienable and disposable is required. In
keeping with the presumption of State ownership, the Court has time and again
emphasized that there must be a positive act of the government, such as an official
proclamation,[80] declassifying inalienable public land into disposable land for agricultural or
other purposes.[81] In fact, Section 8 of CA No. 141 limits alienable or disposable lands only
to those lands which have been officially delimited and classified.[82]
The burden of proof in overcoming the presumption of State ownership of the
lands of the public domain is on the person applying for registration (or claiming
ownership), who must prove that the land subject of the application is alienable or
disposable.[83] To overcome this presumption, incontrovertible evidence must be
established that the land subject of the application (or claim) is alienable or disposable.
[84]
There must still be a positive act declaring land of the public domain as alienable and
disposable. To prove that the land subject of an application for registration is alienable, the
applicant must establish the existence of a positive act of the government such as a
presidential proclamation or an executive order; an administrative action; investigation
reports of Bureau of Lands investigators; and a legislative act or a statute. [85] The applicant
may also secure a certification from the government that the land claimed to have been
possessed for the required number of years is alienable and disposable. [86]
In the case at bar, no such proclamation, executive order, administrative action,
report, statute, or certification was presented to the Court. The records are bereft of
evidence showing that, prior to 2006, the portions of Boracay occupied by private
claimants were subject of a government proclamation that the land is alienable and
disposable. Absent such well-nigh incontrovertible evidence, the Court cannot accept the
submission that lands occupied by private claimants were already open to disposition
before 2006. Matters of land classification or reclassification cannot be assumed. They call
for proof.[87]
Ankron and De Aldecoa did not make the whole of Boracay Island, or
portions of it, agricultural lands. Private claimants posit that Boracay was already an
agricultural land pursuant to the old casesAnkron v. Government of the
Philippine Islands (1919)[88] and De Aldecoa v. The Insular Government (1909).[89] These
cases were decided under the provisions of the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act No.
926. There is a statement in these old cases that in the absence of evidence to the
contrary, that in each case the lands are agricultural lands until the contrary is shown. [90]
Private claimants reliance on Ankron and De Aldecoa is misplaced. These cases
did not have the effect of converting the whole of Boracay Island or portions of it into
agricultural lands. It should be stressed that the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act No. 926
merely provided the manner through which land registration courts would classify lands of
the public domain. Whether the land would be classified as timber, mineral, or agricultural
depended on proof presented in each case.
Ankron and De Aldecoa were decided at a time when the President of the
Philippines had no power to classify lands of the public domain into mineral, timber, and
agricultural. At that time, the courts were free to make corresponding classifications in
justiciable cases, or were vested with implicit power to do so, depending upon the
preponderance of the evidence. [91] This was the Courts ruling in Heirs of the Late Spouses
Pedro S. Palanca and Soterranea Rafols Vda. De Palanca v. Republic,[92] in which it stated,
through Justice Adolfo Azcuna, viz.:

x x x Petitioners furthermore insist that a particular land need
not be formally released by an act of the Executive before it can be
deemed open to private ownership, citing the cases of Ramos v.
Director of Lands andAnkron v. Government of the Philippine Islands.
xxxx
Petitioners
reliance
upon Ramos
v.
Director
of
Lands and Ankron v. Government is misplaced. These cases were
decided under the Philippine Bill of 1902 and the first Public Land Act
No. 926 enacted by the Philippine Commission on October 7, 1926,
under which there was no legal provision vesting in the Chief Executive
or President of the Philippines the power to classify lands of the public
domain into mineral, timber and agricultural so that the courts then
were free to make corresponding classifications in justiciable cases, or
were vested with implicit power to do so, depending upon the
preponderance of the evidence.[93]
To aid the courts in resolving land registration cases under Act No. 926, it was
then necessary to devise a presumption on land classification. Thus evolved the dictum
in Ankron that the courts have a right to presume, in the absence of evidence to the
contrary, that in each case the lands are agricultural lands until the contrary is shown. [94]

But We cannot unduly expand the presumption in Ankron and De Aldecoa to an
argument that all lands of the public domain had been automatically reclassified as
disposable and alienable agricultural lands. By no stretch of imagination did the
presumption convert all lands of the public domain into agricultural lands.
If We accept the position of private claimants, the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act
No. 926 would have automatically made all lands in the Philippines, except those already
classified as timber or mineral land, alienable and disposable lands. That would take these
lands out of State ownership and worse, would be utterly inconsistent with and totally
repugnant to the long-entrenched Regalian doctrine.
The presumption in Ankron and De Aldecoa attaches only to land registration
cases brought under the provisions of Act No. 926, or more specifically those cases
dealing with judicial and administrative confirmation of imperfect titles. The presumption
applies to an applicant for judicial or administrative conformation of imperfect title under Act
No. 926. It certainly cannot apply to landowners, such as private claimants or their
predecessors-in-interest, who failed to avail themselves of the benefits of Act No. 926. As
to them, their land remained unclassified and, by virtue of the Regalian doctrine, continued
to be owned by the State.
In any case, the assumption in Ankron and De Aldecoa was not absolute. Land
classification was, in the end, dependent on proof. If there was proof that the land was
better suited for non-agricultural uses, the courts could adjudge it as a mineral or timber
land despite the presumption. In Ankron, this Court stated:
In the case of Jocson vs. Director of Forestry (supra), the
Attorney-General admitted in effect that whether the particular land in
question belongs to one class or another is a question of fact. The mere
fact that a tract of land has trees upon it or has mineral within it is not of
itself sufficient to declare that one is forestry land and the other, mineral

land. There must be some proof of the extent and present or future
value of the forestry and of the minerals. While, as we have just
said, many definitions have been given for agriculture, forestry, and
mineral lands, and that in each case it is a question of fact, we think it is
safe to say that in order to be forestry or mineral land the proof must
show that it is more valuable for the forestry or the mineral which it
contains than it is for agricultural purposes. (Sec. 7, Act No. 1148.) It is
not sufficient to show that there exists some trees upon the land or that
it bears some mineral. Land may be classified as forestry or mineral
today, and, by reason of the exhaustion of the timber or mineral, be
classified as agricultural land tomorrow. And vice-versa, by reason of
the rapid growth of timber or the discovery of valuable minerals, lands
classified as agricultural today may be differently classified
tomorrow. Each case must be decided upon the proof in that
particular case, having regard for its present or future value for
one or the other purposes. We believe, however, considering the fact
that it is a matter of public knowledge that a majority of the lands in the
Philippine Islands are agricultural lands that the courts have a right to
presume, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, that in each case
the lands are agricultural lands until the contrary is shown. Whatever
the land involved in a particular land registration case is forestry
or mineral land must, therefore, be a matter of proof. Its superior
value for one purpose or the other is a question of fact to be
settled by the proof in each particular case. The fact that the land is
a manglar [mangrove swamp] is not sufficient for the courts to decide
whether it is agricultural, forestry, or mineral land. It may perchance
belong to one or the other of said classes of land. The Government, in
the first instance, under the provisions of Act No. 1148, may, by
reservation, decide for itself what portions of public land shall be
considered forestry land, unless private interests have intervened
before such reservation is made. In the latter case, whether the land is
agricultural, forestry, or mineral, is a question of proof. Until private
interests have intervened, the Government, by virtue of the terms of
said Act (No. 1148), may decide for itself what portions of the public
domain shall be set aside and reserved as forestry or mineral land.
(Ramos vs. Director of Lands, 39 Phil. 175; Jocson vs. Director of
Forestry, supra)[95] (Emphasis ours)
Since 1919, courts were no longer free to determine the classification of lands
from the facts of each case, except those that have already became private lands. [96] Act
No. 2874, promulgated in 1919 and reproduced in Section 6 of CA No. 141, gave the
Executive Department, through the President, the exclusive prerogative to classify or
reclassify public lands into alienable or disposable, mineral or forest. 96-a Since then, courts
no longer had the authority, whether express or implied, to determine the classification of
lands of the public domain.[97]
Here, private claimants, unlike the Heirs of Ciriaco Tirol who were issued their
title in 1933,[98] did not present a justiciable case for determination by the land registration
court of the propertys land classification. Simply put, there was no opportunity for the
courts then to resolve if the land the Boracay occupants are now claiming were agricultural
lands. When Act No. 926 was supplanted by Act No. 2874 in 1919, without an application
for judicial confirmation having been filed by private claimants or their predecessors-ininterest, the courts were no longer authorized to determine the propertys land
classification. Hence, private claimants cannot bank on Act No. 926.

We note that the RTC decision[99] in G.R. No. 167707 mentioned Krivenko v.
Register of Deeds of Manila,[100] which was decided in 1947 when CA No. 141, vesting the
Executive with the sole power to classify lands of the public domain was already in
effect. Krivenko cited the old cases Mapa v. Insular Government,[101] De Aldecoa v. The
Insular Government,[102] and Ankron v. Government of the Philippine Islands.[103]
Krivenko, however, is not controlling here because it involved a totally different
issue. The pertinent issue in Krivenko was whether residential lots were included in the
general classification of agricultural lands; and if so, whether an alien could acquire a
residential lot. This Court ruled that as an alien, Krivenko was prohibited by the 1935
Constitution[104] from acquiring agricultural land, which included residential lots. Here, the
issue is whether unclassified lands of the public domain are automatically deemed
agricultural.
Notably, the definition of agricultural public lands mentioned in Krivenko relied on
the old cases decided prior to the enactment of Act No. 2874, including Ankron and De
Aldecoa.[105] As We have already stated, those cases cannot apply here, since they were
decided when the Executive did not have the authority to classify lands as agricultural,
timber, or mineral.
Private claimants continued possession under Act No. 926 does not create
a presumption that the land is alienable. Private claimants also contend that their
continued possession of portions ofBoracay Island for the requisite period of ten (10) years
under Act No. 926[106] ipso facto converted the island into private ownership. Hence, they
may apply for a title in their name.
A similar argument was squarely rejected by the Court in Collado v. Court of
Appeals.[107] Collado, citing the separate opinion of now Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno
in Cruz v. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources,107-a ruled:
Act No. 926, the first Public Land Act, was
passed in pursuance of the provisions of the
Philippine Bill of 1902. The law governed the
disposition of lands of the public domain. It
prescribed rules and regulations for the
homesteading, selling and leasing of portions of the
public domain of the Philippine Islands, and
prescribed the terms and conditions to enable
persons to perfect their titles to public lands in
theIslands. It also provided for the issuance of
patents to certain native settlers upon public lands,
for the establishment of town sites and sale of lots
therein, for the completion of imperfect titles, and for
the cancellation or confirmation of Spanish
concessions and grants in the Islands. In short, the
Public Land Act operated on the assumption that
title to public lands in the Philippine Islands
remained in the government; and that the
governments title to public land sprung from the
Treaty of Paris and other subsequent treaties
between Spain and the United States. The term
public land referred to all lands of the public domain
whose title still remained in the government and are
thrown open to private appropriation and settlement,

and excluded the patrimonial property of the
government and the friar lands.
Thus, it is plain error for petitioners to argue that under the
Philippine Bill of 1902 and Public Land Act No. 926, mere
possession by private individuals of lands creates the legal
presumption that the lands are alienable and disposable.
[108]
(Emphasis Ours)
Except for lands already covered by existing titles, Boracay was an
unclassified land of the public domain prior to Proclamation No. 1064. Such
unclassified lands are considered public forest under PD No. 705. The DENR[109] and
the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority[110] certify that Boracay Island is
an unclassified land of the public domain.
PD No. 705 issued by President Marcos categorized all unclassified lands of the
public domain as public forest. Section 3(a) of PD No. 705 defines a public forest as
a mass of lands of the public domain which has not been the subject of the present system
of classification for the determination of which lands are needed for forest purpose and
which are not. Applying PD No. 705, all unclassified lands, including those
in Boracay Island, are ipso facto considered public forests. PD No. 705, however, respects
titles already existing prior to its effectivity.
The Court notes that the classification of Boracay as a forest land under PD No.
705 may seem to be out of touch with the present realities in the island. Boracay, no doubt,
has been partly stripped of its forest cover to pave the way for commercial
developments. As a premier tourist destination for local and foreign tourists, Boracay
appears more of a commercial island resort, rather than a forest land.
Nevertheless, that the occupants of Boracay have built multi-million peso beach
resorts on the island;[111] that the island has already been stripped of its forest cover; or that
the implementation of Proclamation No. 1064 will destroy the islands tourism industry,
do not negate its character as public forest.
Forests, in the context of both the Public Land Act and the
Constitution[112] classifying lands of the public domain into agricultural, forest or timber,
mineral lands, and national parks, do not necessarily refer to large tracts of wooded land or
expanses covered by dense growths of trees and underbrushes. [113] The discussion
in Heirs of Amunategui v. Director of Forestry[114] is particularly instructive:
A forested area classified as forest land of the public domain
does not lose such classification simply because loggers or settlers
may have stripped it of its forest cover. Parcels of land classified as
forest land may actually be covered with grass or planted to crops
by kaingin cultivators or other farmers. Forest lands do not have to be
on mountains or in out of the way places. Swampy areas covered by
mangrove trees, nipa palms, and other trees growing in brackish or sea
water may also be classified as forest land. The classification is
descriptive of its legal nature or status and does not have to be
descriptive of what the land actually looks like. Unless and until the
land classified as forest is released in an official proclamation to that
effect so that it may form part of the disposable agricultural lands of the
public domain, the rules on confirmation of imperfect title do not apply.
[115]
(Emphasis supplied)

There is a big difference between forest as defined in a dictionary and forest or timber land
as a classification of lands of the public domain as appearing in our statutes. One is
descriptive of what appears on the land while the other is a legal status, a classification for
legal purposes.[116] At any rate, the Court is tasked to determine the legal status
of Boracay Island, and not look into its physical layout. Hence, even if its forest cover has
been replaced by beach resorts, restaurants and other commercial establishments, it has
not been automatically converted from public forest to alienable agricultural land.
Private claimants cannot rely on Proclamation No. 1801 as basis for judicial
confirmation of imperfect title. The proclamation did not convert Boracay into an
agricultural land. However, private claimants argue that Proclamation No. 1801 issued by
then President Marcos in 1978 entitles them to judicial confirmation of imperfect title. The
Proclamation classified Boracay, among other islands, as a tourist zone. Private claimants
assert that, as a tourist spot, the island is susceptible of private ownership.
Proclamation No. 1801 or PTA Circular No. 3-82 did not convert the whole of
Boracay into an agricultural land. There is nothing in the law or the Circular which
made Boracay Island an agricultural land. The reference in Circular No. 3-82 to private
lands[117] and areas declared as alienable and disposable[118] does not by itself classify the
entire island as agricultural. Notably, Circular No. 3-82 makes reference not only to private
lands and areas but also to public forested lands. Rule VIII, Section 3 provides:
No trees in forested private lands may be cut without prior
authority from the PTA. All forested areas in public lands are declared
forest reserves. (Emphasis supplied)
Clearly, the reference in the Circular to both private and public lands merely
recognizes that the island can be classified by the Executive department pursuant to its
powers under CA No. 141. In fact, Section 5 of the Circular recognizes the then Bureau of
Forest Developments authority to declare areas in the island as alienable and disposable
when it provides:
Subsistence farming, in areas declared as alienable and
disposable by the Bureau of Forest Development.
Therefore, Proclamation No. 1801 cannot be deemed the positive act needed to
classify Boracay Island as alienable and disposable land. If President Marcos intended to
classify the island as alienable and disposable or forest, or both, he would have identified
the specific limits of each, as President Arroyo did in Proclamation No. 1064. This was not
done in Proclamation No. 1801.
The Whereas clauses of Proclamation No. 1801 also explain the rationale behind
the declaration of Boracay Island, together with other islands, caves and peninsulas in the
Philippines, as a tourist zone and marine reserve to be administered by the PTA to ensure
the concentrated efforts of the public and private sectors in the development of the areas
tourism potential with due regard for ecological balance in the marine environment. Simply
put, the proclamation is aimed at administering the islands for tourism and ecological
purposes. It does not address the areas alienability.[119]
More importantly, Proclamation No. 1801 covers not only Boracay Island, but
sixty-four (64) other islands, coves, and peninsulas in the Philippines, such as Fortune and
Verde Islands in Batangas, Port Galera in Oriental Mindoro, Panglao and Balicasag Islands
in Bohol, Coron Island, Puerto Princesa and surrounding areas in Palawan, Camiguin
Island in Cagayan de Oro, and Misamis Oriental, to name a few. If the designation
of Boracay Island as tourist zone makes it alienable and disposable by virtue of

Proclamation No. 1801, all the other areas mentioned would likewise be declared wide
open for private disposition. That could not have been, and is clearly beyond, the intent of
the proclamation.

That Boracay Island was classified as a public forest under PD No. 705 did not
bar the Executive from later converting it into agricultural land. Boracay Island still
remained an unclassified land of the public domain despite PD No. 705.

It was Proclamation No. 1064 of 2006 which positively declared part of
Boracay as alienable and opened the same to private ownership. Sections 6 and 7 of
CA No. 141[120] provide that it is only the President, upon the recommendation of the proper
department head, who has the authority to classify the lands of the public domain into
alienable or disposable, timber and mineral lands.[121]

In Heirs of the Late Spouses Pedro S. Palanca and Soterranea Rafols v.
Republic,[124] the Court stated that unclassified lands are public forests.

In issuing Proclamation No. 1064, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo merely
exercised the authority granted to her to classify lands of the public domain, presumably
subject to existing vested rights.Classification of public lands is the exclusive prerogative of
the Executive Department, through the Office of the President. Courts have no authority to
do so.[122] Absent such classification, the land remains unclassified until released and
rendered open to disposition.[123]
Proclamation No. 1064 classifies Boracay into 400 hectares of reserved forest
land and 628.96 hectares of agricultural land. The Proclamation likewise provides for a 15meter buffer zone on each side of the center line of roads and trails, which are reserved for
right of way and which shall form part of the area reserved for forest land protection
purposes.
Contrary to private claimants argument, there was nothing invalid or irregular,
much less unconstitutional, about the classification of Boracay Island made by the
President through Proclamation No. 1064. It was within her authority to make such
classification, subject to existing vested rights.
Proclamation No. 1064 does not violate the Comprehensive Agrarian
Reform Law. Private claimants further assert that Proclamation No. 1064 violates the
provision of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) or RA No. 6657 barring
conversion of public forests into agricultural lands. They claim that since Boracay is a
public forest under PD No. 705, President Arroyo can no longer convert it into an
agricultural land without running afoul of Section 4(a) of RA No. 6657, thus:
SEC. 4. Scope. The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of
1988 shall cover, regardless of tenurial arrangement and commodity
produced, all public and private agricultural lands as provided in
Proclamation No. 131 and Executive Order No. 229, including other
lands of the public domain suitable for agriculture.
More specifically, the following lands are covered by the
Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program:
(a) All alienable and disposable lands of the public
domain
devoted
to
or
suitable
for
agriculture. No reclassification of forest or
mineral lands to agricultural lands shall be
undertaken after the approval of this Act until
Congress, taking into account ecological,
developmental and equity considerations, shall
have determined by law, the specific limits of
the public domain.

While it is true that the land classification map does not
categorically state that the islands are public forests, the fact that
they were unclassified lands leads to the same result. In the
absence of the classification as mineral or timber land, the land remains
unclassified land until released and rendered open to disposition.
[125]
(Emphasis supplied)
Moreover, the prohibition under the CARL applies only to a reclassification of
land. If the land had never been previously classified, as in the case of Boracay, there can
be no prohibited reclassification under the agrarian law. We agree with the opinion of the
Department of Justice[126] on this point:
Indeed, the key word to the correct application of the
prohibition in Section 4(a) is the word reclassification. Where there has
been no previous classification of public forest [referring, we repeat, to
the mass of the public domain which has not been the subject of the
present system of classification for purposes of determining which are
needed for forest purposes and which are not] into permanent forest or
forest reserves or some other forest uses under the Revised Forestry
Code, there can be no reclassification of forest lands to speak of within
the meaning of Section 4(a).
Thus, obviously, the prohibition in Section 4(a) of the CARL
against the reclassification of forest lands to agricultural lands without a
prior law delimiting the limits of the public domain, does not, and
cannot, apply to those lands of the public domain, denominated as
public forest under the Revised Forestry Code, which have not been
previously determined, or classified, as needed for forest purposes in
accordance with the provisions of the Revised Forestry Code. [127]
Private claimants are not entitled to apply for judicial confirmation of
imperfect title under CA No. 141. Neither do they have vested rights over the
occupied lands under the said law. There are two requisites for judicial confirmation of
imperfect or incomplete title under CA No. 141, namely: (1) open, continuous, exclusive,
and notorious possession and occupation of the subject land by himself or through his
predecessors-in-interest under a bona fide claim of ownership since time immemorial or
from June 12, 1945; and (2) the classification of the land as alienable and disposable land
of the public domain.[128]
As discussed, the Philippine Bill of 1902, Act No. 926, and Proclamation No.
1801 did not convert portions of Boracay Island into an agricultural land. The island
remained an unclassified land of the public domain and, applying the Regalian doctrine, is
considered State property.
Private claimants bid for judicial confirmation of imperfect title, relying on the
Philippine Bill of 1902, Act No. 926, and Proclamation No. 1801, must fail because of the
absence of the second element of alienable and disposable land. Their entitlement to a

government grant under our present Public Land Act presupposes that the land possessed
and applied for is already alienable and disposable. This is clear from the wording of the
law itself.[129] Where the land is not alienable and disposable, possession of the land, no
matter how long, cannot confer ownership or possessory rights. [130]
Neither may private claimants apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect title
under Proclamation No. 1064, with respect to those lands which were classified as
agricultural lands. Private claimants failed to prove the first element of open, continuous,
exclusive, and notorious possession of their lands in Boracay since June 12, 1945.
We cannot sustain the CA and RTC conclusion in the petition for declaratory
relief that private claimants complied with the requisite period of possession.
The tax declarations in the name of private claimants are insufficient to prove the
first element of possession. We note that the earliest of the tax declarations in the name of
private claimants were issued in 1993. Being of recent dates, the tax declarations are not
sufficient to convince this Court that the period of possession and occupation commenced
on June 12, 1945.
Private claimants insist that they have a vested right in Boracay, having been in
possession of the island for a long time. They have invested millions of pesos in
developing the island into a tourist spot.They say their continued possession and
investments give them a vested right which cannot be unilaterally rescinded by
Proclamation No. 1064.
The continued possession and considerable investment of private claimants do
not automatically give them a vested right in Boracay. Nor do these give them a right to
apply for a title to the land they are presently occupying. This Court is constitutionally
bound to decide cases based on the evidence presented and the laws applicable. As the
law and jurisprudence stand, private claimants are ineligible to apply for a judicial
confirmation of title over their occupied portions in Boracay even with their continued
possession and considerable investment in the island.
One Last Note
The Court is aware that millions of pesos have been invested for the
development of Boracay Island, making it a by-word in the local and international tourism
industry. The Court also notes that for a number of years, thousands of people have called
the island their home. While the Court commiserates with private claimants plight, We are
bound to apply the law strictly and judiciously. This is the law and it should prevail. Ito ang
batas at ito ang dapat umiral.
All is not lost, however, for private claimants. While they may not be eligible
to apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect title under Section 48(b) of CA No. 141, as
amended, this does not denote their automatic ouster from the residential, commercial,
and other areas they possess now classified as agricultural. Neither will this mean the loss
of their substantial investments on their occupied alienable lands. Lack of title does not
necessarily mean lack of right to possess.
For one thing, those with lawful possession may claim good faith as builders of
improvements. They can take steps to preserve or protect their possession. For another,

they may look into other modes of applying for original registration of title, such as by
homestead[131] or sales patent,[132] subject to the conditions imposed by law.
More realistically, Congress may enact a law to entitle private claimants to
acquire title to their occupied lots or to exempt them from certain requirements under the
present land laws. There is one such bill [133] now pending in the House of
Representatives. Whether that bill or a similar bill will become a law is for Congress to
decide.
In issuing Proclamation No. 1064, the government has taken the step necessary
to open up the island to private ownership. This gesture may not be sufficient to appease
some sectors which view the classification of the island partially into a forest reserve as
absurd. That the island is no longer overrun by trees, however, does not becloud the vision
to protect its remaining forest cover and to strike a healthy balance between progress and
ecology. Ecological conservation is as important as economic progress.
To be sure, forest lands are fundamental to our nations survival. Their promotion
and protection are not just fancy rhetoric for politicians and activists. These are needs that
become more urgent as destruction of our environment gets prevalent and difficult to
control. As aptly observed by Justice Conrado Sanchez in 1968 in Director of Forestry v.
Munoz:[134]
The view this Court takes of the cases at bar is but in
adherence to public policy that should be followed with respect to forest
lands. Many have written much, and many more have spoken, and
quite often, about the pressing need for forest preservation,
conservation, protection, development and reforestation. Not without
justification. For, forests constitute a vital segment of any country's
natural resources. It is of common knowledge by now that absence of
the necessary green cover on our lands produces a number of adverse
or ill effects of serious proportions. Without the trees, watersheds dry
up; rivers and lakes which they supply are emptied of their contents.
The fish disappear. Denuded areas become dust bowls. As waterfalls
cease to function, so will hydroelectric plants. With the rains, the fertile
topsoil is washed away; geological erosion results. With erosion come
the dreaded floods that wreak havoc and destruction to property crops,
livestock, houses, and highways not to mention precious human
lives. Indeed, the foregoing observations should be written down in a
lumbermans decalogue.[135]
WHEREFORE, judgment is rendered as follows:
1. The petition for certiorari in G.R. No. 167707 is GRANTED and the Court of
Appeals Decision in CA-G.R. CV No. 71118 REVERSED AND SET ASIDE.
2. The petition for certiorari in G.R. No. 173775 is DISMISSED for lack of merit.
SO ORDERED.

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