You are on page 1of 108

No. L-30389. December 27, 1972.

PEDRO LEE HONG HOK, SIMEON LEE HONG HOK, ROSITA LEE HONG HOK and LEONCIO LEE HONG HOK, petitioners, vs. ANIANO DAVID, THE HON. SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE AND NATURAL RESOURCES, THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS and COURT OF APPEALS, respondents. Public land; Validity of government grants.Only the Government, represented by the Director of Lands, or the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, can bring an action to cancel a void certificate of title issued pursuant to a void patent Whether the grant was in conformity with the law or not is a question which the government may raise, but until it is raised by the government and set aside, the defendant cannot question it. The legality of the grant is a question between the grantee and the government. Same; Imperium distinguished from dominium.The government authority possessed by the state which is appropriately embraced in the concept of sovereignty comes under the heading of imperium; its capacity to own or acquire property under dominiun. The use of this term is appropriate with reference to lands held by the state in its proprietary character. In such capacity, it may provide for the exploitation and use of lands and other natural resources, including their disposition, -except as limited by the Constitution. Same; Jura regalia, adopted by the Constitution.The concept of jura, regalia was adopted by the present Constitution. ownership however being vested in the state as such rather than the head thereof. Same; When property considered of public domain.There being no evidence whatever that the property in question was ever acquired by the applicants or their ancestors either by composition title or by any other means for the acquisition of public lands, the property must be held to be public domain, For it is well-settled that no public land can be acquired by private persons without any grant, express or implied, from the government. It is indispensable then that there be a showing of a title from the state or any other mode of acquisition recognized by law. Same; Proceedings under Land Registration Law and under Chapter VI of the Public Land Law; Similarities betweenThe proceedings under the Land Registration Law and under the provisions of Chapter VI of the Public Land Law are the same in that both are against the whole world, both take the nature of judicial proceedings, and for both the decree of registration issued is conclusive and final. APPEAL by certiorari from a decision of the Court of Appeals. The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court, Augusto A. Pardalis for petitioners. Luis General, Jr. for respondent Aniano David. Office of the Solicitor General for other respondents

FERNANDO, J.: Petitioners in this appeal by certiorari would have us reverse a decision of respondent Court of Appeals affirming a lower court judgment dismissing their complaint to have the Torrens Title of respondent Aniano David declared null and void. What makes the task for petitioners quite difficult is that their factual support for their pretension to ownership of such disputed lot through accretion was rejected by respondent Court of Appeals. Without such underpinning, they must perforce rely on a legal theory, which, to put it mildly, is distinguished by unorthodoxy and is therefore far from persuasive. A grant by the government through the appropriate public officials3 exercising the competence duly vested in them by law is not to be set at naught on the premise, unexpressed but implied, that land not otherwise passing into private ownership may not be disposed of by the state. Such an assumption is at war with settled principles of constitutional law. It cannot receive our assent. We affirm. The decision of respondent Court of Appeals following that of the lower court makes clear that there is no legal justification for nullifying the right of respondent Aniano David to the disputed lot arising from the grant made in his favor by respondent officials. As noted in the decision under review, he "acquired lawful title thereto pursuant to his miscellaneous sales application in accordance with which an order of award and for issuance of a sales patent was made by the Director of Lands on June 18, 1958, covering Lot 2892 containing an area of 226 square meters, which is a portion of Lot 2863 of the Naga Cadastre, On the basis of the order of award of the Director of Lands the Undersecretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources issued on August 26, 1959, Miscellaneous Sales Patent No. V-1209 pursuant to which OCT No. 510 was issued by the Register of Deeds of Naga City to defendant-appellee Aniano David on October 21, 1959. According to the Stipulation of Facts, since the filing of the sales application of Aniano David and during all the proceedings in connection with said application, up to the actual issuance of the sales patent in his favor, the plaintiffsappellants did not put up any opposition or adverse claim thereto. This is fatal to them because after the registration and issuance of the certificate and duplicate certificate of title based on a public land patent, the land covered thereby automatically comes under the operation of Republic Act 496 subject to all the safeguards provided therein * * *. Under Section 38 of Act 496 any question concerning the validity of the certificate of title based on fraud should be raised within one year from the date of the issuance of the patent. Thereafter the certificate of title based thereon becomes indefeasible * * *. In this case the land in question is not a private property as the Director of Lands and the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources have always sustained the public character thereof for having been formed by reclamation. * * * The only remedy therefore, available to the appellants is an action for reconveyance on the ground of fraud. In this case we do not see any fraud committed by defendant-appellant Aniano David in applying for the purchase of the land involved through his Miscellaneous Sales Application No. MSA-V-26747, entered in the records of the Bureau of Lands [Miscellaneous Sales] Entry No. V-9033, because everything was done in the open. The notices regarding the auction sale of the land were published, the actual sale and award thereof to Aniano David were not clandestine but open and public official acts of an officer of the Government. The application was merely a renewal of his deceased wif e's application, and the said deceased occupied the land since 1938." On such finding of facts, the attempt of petitioners to elicit a different conclusion is likely to be attended with frustration. The first error assigned predicated an accretion having taken place, notwithstanding its rejection by

1 |Page

respondent Court of Appeals, would seek to disregard what was accepted by respondent Court as to how the disputed lot came into being, namely by reclamation. It does not therefore call for any further consideration. Neither of the other two errors imputed to respondent Court, as to its holding that authoritative doctrines preclude a party other than the government to dispute the validity of a grant and the recognition of the indefeasible character of a public land patent after one year, is possessed of merit. Consequently, as set forth at the outset, there is no justification for reversal. 1. More specifically, the sham of criticism was let loose by petitioner aimed at this legal proposition set forth in the exhaustive opinion of then Justice Salvador Esguerra of the Court of Appeals, now a member of this Court: "There is, furthermore, a fatal defect of parties to this action. Only the Government, represented by the Director of Lands, or the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, can bring an action to cancel a void certificate of title issued pursuant to a void patent (Lucas vs. Durian, 102 Phil. 1157; Director of Lands vs. Heirs of Ciriaco Carlo, G.R. No. L-12485, July 31, 1959). This was not done by said officers but by private parties like the plaintiffs, who cannot claim that the patent and title issued for the land involved are void since they are not the registered owners thereof nor had they been declared as owners in the cadastral proceedings of Naga Cadastre after claiming it as their private property. The cases cited by appellants are not in point as they refer to private registered lands or public lands over which vested rights have been acquired but notwithstanding such fact the Land Department subsequently granted patents to public land applicants." Petitioner ought to have known better. The above excerpt is invulnerable to attack. It is a restatement of a principle that dates back to Maninang v. Consolacion, a 1908 decision. As was there categorically stated: "The fact that the grant was made by the government is undisputed. Whether the grant was in conformity with the law or not is a question which the government may raise, but until it is raised by the government and set aside, the defendant cannot question it. The legality of the grant is a question between the grantee and the government" The above citation was repeated ipsissimisverbis in Salazar v. Court of Appeals. Bereft as petitioners were of the right of ownership in accordance with the findings of the Court of Appeals, they cannot, in the language of Reyes v. Rodriguez, "question the [title] legally issued." The second assignment of error is thus disposed of. 2. As there are overtones indicative of skepticism, if not of outright rejection, of the well-known distinction in public law between the government authority possessed by the state which is appropriately embraced in the concept of sovereignty, and its capacity to own or acquire property, it is not inappropriate to pursue the matter further. The former comes under the heading of imperium and the latter of dominium. The use of this term is appropriate with reference to lands held by the state in its proprietary character, In such capacity, it may provide for the exploitation and use of lands and other natural resources, including their disposition, except as limited by the Constitution. Dean Pound did speak of the confusion that existed during the medieval era between such two concepts, but did note the existence of res publicae as a corollary to dominium. As far as the Philippines was concerned, there was a recognition by Justice Holmes inCario v. Insular Government, a case of Philippine origin, that "Spain in its earlier decrees embodied the universal feudal theory that all lands were held from the Crown * * *."That was a manifestation of the concept of jura regalia, which was adopted by the present Constitution, ownership however being vested in the state as such rather than the head thereof. What was stated by Holmes served to confirm a much more extensive discussion of the matter in the leading case of Valenton v. Murciano,

decided in 1904. One of the royal decrees cited was incorporated in the Recopilacion de Leyes de lasIndias in these words: "We having acquired full sovereignty over the Indies, and all lands, territories, and possessions not heretofore ceded away by our royal predecessors, or by us, or in our name, still pertaining to the royal crown and patrimony, it is our will that all lands which are held without proper and true deeds of grant be restored to us according as they belong to us, in order that after reserving before all what to us or to our viceroys, audiencias, and governors may seem necessary for public squares, ways, pastures, and commons in those places which are peopled, taking into consideration not only their present condition, but also their future and their probable increase, and after distributing to the natives what may be necessary for tillage and pasturage, confirming them in what they now have and giving them more if necessary, all the rest of said lands may remain free and unencumbered for us to dispose of as we may wish." It could therefore be affirmed in Montano v. Insular Government that "as to the unappropriated public lands constituting the public domain the sole power of legislation is vested in Congress, * * *." They continue to possess that character until severed therefrom by state grant,where, as in this case, it was found by the Court of Appeals that the disputed lot was the result of reclamation, its being correctly categorized as public land is undeniable. What was held in Heirs of DatuPendatun v. Director of Lands finds application. Thus: "There being no evidence whatever that the property in question was ever acquired by the applicants or their ancestors either by composition title from the Spanish Government or by possessory information title or by any other means for the acquisition of public lands, the property must be held to be public domain." For it is well-settled "that no public land can be acquired by private persons without any grant, express or implied, from the government." It is indispensable then that there be a showing of a title from the state or any other mode of acquisition recognized by law. The most recent restatement of the doctrine, found in an opinion of Justice J.B.L. Reyes, follows: "The applicant, having failed to establish his right or title over the northern portion of Lot No. 463 involved in the present controversy, and there being no showing that the same has been acquired by any private person from the Government, either by purchase or by grant, the property is and remains part of the public domain." To repeat, the second assignment of error is devoid of merit. 3. The last error assigned would take issue with this portion of the opinion of Justice Esguerra: "According to the Stipulation of Facts, since the filing of the sales application of Aniano David and during all the proceedings in connection with said application, up to the actual issuance of the sales patent in his favor, the plaintiffs-appellants did not put up any opposition or adverse claim thereto. This is fatal to them because after the registration and issuance of the certificate and duplicate certificate of title based on a public land patent, the land covered thereby automatically comes under the operation of Republic Act 496 subject to all the safeguards provided therein * * *. Under Section 38 of Act 496 any question concerning the validity of the certificate of title based on fraud should be raised within one year from the date of the issuance of the patent. Thereafter the certificate of title based thereon becomes indefeasible * * *." Petitioners cannot reconcile themselves to the view that respondent David's title is impressed with the quality of indefeasibility. In thus manifesting such an attitude, they failed to accord deference to controlling precedents. As f ar back as 1919, in Aquino v. Director of Lands, Justice Malcolm, speaking for the Court, stated: "The proceedings under the Land Registration Law and under the provisions of Chapter VI of the Public Land Law are the same in that both are against the whole world, both take the nature of

2 |Page

judicial proceedings, and for both the decree of registration issued is conclusive and final." Such a view has been followed since then.The latest case in point is Cabacug v. Lao. There is this revealing excerpt appearing in that decision: "It is said, and with reason, that a holder of a land acquired under a free patent is more favorably situated than that of an owner of registered property. Not only does a free patent have a force and effect of a Torrens Title, but in addition the person to whom it is granted has likewise in his favor the right to repurchase within a period of five years.It is quite apparent, therefore, that petitioners' stand is legally indefensible. WHEREFORE, the decision of respondent Court of Appeals of January 31, 1969 and its resolution of March 14, 1969 are affirmed. With costs against petitioners-appellants. Concepcion, C.J., Makalintal, Zaldivar, Castro, Teehankee, Barredo, Makasiar, Antonio and Esguerra, JJ., concur. Decision and resolution affirmed. Notes. a) Nature of title over public lands.While with the due registration and issuance of a certificate of title over a land acquired pursuant to the Public Land Law, said property becomes registered in contemplation of Act 496, in view of its nature and manner of acquisition, such certificate of title, when in conflict with one obtained on the same date through judicial proceedings must give way to the latter (Nieto vs. Quines, 6 SCRA 74). b) Public lands still subject to tax.Public lands granted by the State to private persons are subject to tax even though title remains in the State (Francisco vs. City of Davao, 12 SCRA 628). [No. 48321. August 31, 1946] OH CHO, applicant and appellee, vs. THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS, oppositor and appellant. 1. LAND REGISTRATION ; PUBLIC LANDS; WHAT LANDS BELONG TO PUBLIC DOMAIN; EXCEPTION.All lands that were not acquired from the Government, either by purchase or by grant, belong to the public domain. An exception to the rule would be any land that should have been in the possession of an occupant and of his predecessors in interest since time immemorial, for such possession would justify the presumption that the land had never been part of the public domain or that it had been a private property even before the Spanish conquest. 2. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; CASE AT BAR.The earliest possession of the lot by the first predecessor in interest of the applicant for registration began in 1880. Held: He does not come under the exception. 3. ID. ; PUBLIC LAND ACT, REGISTRATION UNDER; ALIEN DISQUALIFIED.An alien is not entitled to a decree of registration under the provisions of the Public Land Act, because he is disqualified from acquiring lands of the public domain.

4. ID. ; PUBLIC LAND ACT, BENEFITS OF ; CONDITION PRECEDENT ; CASE AT BAR. The benefits provided in the Public Land Act for applicant's immediate predecessors in interest are or constitute a grant or concession by the State; and before they could acquire any right under such benefits, the applicant's immediate predecessors in interest should comply with the condition precedent for the grant of such benefits. The condition precedent is to apply for the registration of the land of which they had been in possession at least since July 26, 1894. This the applicant's immediate predecessors in interest failed to do. They did not have any vested right in the lot amounting to title which was transmissible to the applicant. The only right, if it may thus be called, is their possession of the lot which, tacked to that of their predecessors in interest, may be availed of by a qualified person to apply for its registration but not by a person as the applicant who is disqualified. APPEAL from a judgment of the Court of First Instance of Tayabas. Magsalin, J. The facts are stated in the opinion of the court. Solicitor General Roman Ozaeta and Assistant Solicitor General Rafael Amparo for appellant. Vicente Constantino for appellee. Ferrier, Gomez &, Sotelo and J. T. Chuidian as amici curi. PADILLA, J.: This is an appeal from a judgment decreeing the registration of a residential lot located in the municipality of Guinayangan, Province of Tayabas, in the name of the applicant. The opposition of the Director of Lands is based on the applicant's lack of title to the lot, and on his disqualification, as alien, from acquiring lands of the public domain. The applicant, who is an alien, and his predecessors in interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of the lot from 1880 to the filing of the application for registration on January 17, 1940. The Solicitor General reiterates the second objection of the opponent and adds that the lower court committed an error in not declaring null and void the sale of the lot to the applicant. The applicant invokes the Land Registration Act (Act No. 496), or should it not be applicable to the case, then he would apply for the benefits of the Public Land Act (C. A. No. 141). The applicant failed to show that he has title to the lot that may be confirmed under the Land Registration Act. He failed to show that he or any of his predecessors in interest had acquired the lot from the Government, either by purchase or by grant, under the laws, orders and decrees promulgated by the Spanish Government in the Philippines, or by possessory information under the Mortgage Law (section 19, Act 496). All lands that were not

3 |Page

acquired from the Government, either by purchase or by grant, belong to the public domain. An exception to the rule would be any land that should have been in the possession of an occupant and of his predecessors in interest since time immemorial, for such possession would justify the presumption that the land had never been part of the public domain or that it had been a private property even before the Spanish conquest. (Cario vs. Insular Government, 212 U. S., 449; 53 Law. ed., 594.) The applicant does not come under the exception, for the earliest possession of the lot by his first predecessor in interest began in 1880. As the applicant failed to show title to the lot, the next question is whether he is entitled to a decree of registration thereof under the provisions of the Public Land Act (C. A. No, 141), Under the provisions of the Act invoked by the applicant, he is not entitled to a decree of registration of the lot, because he is an alien disqualified from acquiring lands of the public domain (sections 48, 49, C. A. No. 141). As the applicant failed to prove title to the lot and has invoked the provisions of the Public Land Act, it seems unnecessary to make pronouncement in this case on the nature, character or classification of the lot sought to be registered. It may be argued that under the provisions of the Public Land Act the applicant's immediate predecessors in interest would have been entitled to a decree of registration of the lot had they applied for its registration; and that he having purchased or acquired it, the right of his immediate predecessors in interest to a decree of registration must be deemed also to have been acquired by him. The benefits provided in the Public Land Act for applicant's immediate predecessors in interest are or constitute a grant or concession by the State; and before they could acquire any right under such benefits, the applicant's immediate predecessors in interest should comply with the condition precedent for the grant of such benefits. The condition precedent is to apply for the registration of the land of which they had been in possession at least since July 26, 1894. This the applicant's immediate predecessors in interest failed to do. They did not have any vested right in the lot amounting to title which was transmissible to the applicant. The only right, if it may thus be called, is their possession of the lot which, tacked to that of their predecessors in interest, may be availed of by a qualified person to apply for its registration but not by a person as the applicant who is disqualified. It is urged that the sale of the lot to the applicant should have been declared null and void. In a suit between vendor and vendee for the annulment of the sale, such pronouncement -would be necessary, if the court were of the opinion that it is void. It is not necessary in this case where the vendors do not even object to the application filed by the vendee. Accordingly, judgment is reversed and the application for registration dismissed, without costs.

G.R. No. 57667. May 28, 1990.* SAN MIGUEL CORPORATION, petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS and DIRECTOR OF LANDS, respondents.

Civil Procedure; Evidence; Factual findings of trial courts may nonetheless be reversed by the Court of Appeals if by the evidence on record, it appears that the trial court involved erred. Suffice it to state that while trial courts may have the opportunity to observe the demeanor of witnesses, their factual findings may nonetheless be reversed by the Court of Appeals, the appellate court vested by law to resolve both legal and factual issues, if, by the evidence on record, it appears that the trial court involved erred. Civil Law; Property; Prescription; Such open, continuous, exclusive and notorious occupation of the disputed properties for more than 30 years must be conclusively established. Open, exclusive and undisputed possession of alienable public land for the period prescribed by law creates the legal fiction whereby the land, upon completion of the requisite period ipso jure and without the need of judicial or other sanction, ceases to be public land and becomes private property. Such open, continuous, exclusive and notorious occupation of the disputed properties for more than 30 years must, however, be conclusively established. This quantum of proof is necessary to avoid the erroneous validation of actually fictitious claims of possession over the property in dispute. Same; Same; Land Titles; Tax declarations and receipts not conclusive evidence of ownership or right of possession over a piece of land.Tax declarations and receipts are not conclusive evidence of ownership or right of possession over a piece of land. They are merely indicia of a claim of ownership. Tax declarations only become strong evidence of ownership of land acquired by prescription, a mode of acquisition of ownership relied upon by petitioner in this case, when accompanied by proof of actual possession. PETITION for certiorari to review the decision of the Court of Appeals. Asuncion, J. The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court. Ciriaco Lopez, Jr. & Associates for petitioner. FERNAN, C.J.: In this petition for review on certiorari, San Miguel Corporation seeks the reversal of the decision of the Court of Appeals1 denying its application for registration of a parcel of land in view of its failure to show entitlement thereto. On December 23, 1975, petitioner San Miguel Corporation (SMC for brevity) purchased from Silverio Perez Lot 684, a 14,531-square-meter parcel of land located in Sta. Anastacia, Sto. Tomas, Batangas, in consideration of the sum of P133,084.80.2 On February 21, 1977, claiming ownership in fee simple of the land, SMC filed before the

4 |Page

then Court of First Instance, now Regional Trial Court of Batangas an application for its registration under the Land Registration Act. The Solicitor General, appearing for the Republic of the Philippines, opposed the application for registration contending that SMCs claim of ownership in fee simple on the basis of a Spanish title or grant could no longer be availed of by the applicant as the six-month period from February 16, 1976 prescribed by Presidential Decree No. 892 had elapsed; that the parcel of land in question is part of the public domain, and that SMC, being a private corporation, is disqualified under Section 11, Article XIV of the Constitution from holding alienable lands of the public domain. The Solicitor General thereafter authorized the Provincial Fiscal of Batangas to appear in said case, subject to his supervision and control. At the initial and only hearing held on October 12, 1977, the Court, upon motion of SMC and there being no opposition to the application except that of the Republic of the Philippines, issued an order of general default. SMC was allowed to mark documentary evidence to establish jurisdictional facts and to present additional evidence before the Clerk of Court who was appointed Commissioner for that purpose. On December 12, 1977, the lower court, presided by Judge Eduardo C. Abaya, rendered a decision granting the application for registration and adjudicating the property in favor of SMC. The Solicitor General appealed to the Court of Appeals. In its decision of March 23, 1981, said court reversed the decision of the lower court and declared the parcel of land involved as public land. Hence, the instant petition with SMC submitting the following alleged grave errors of the Court of Appeals for this Courts resolution: (1) the Court of Appeals failure to hold that prescription is a mode of acquiring title or ownership of land and that the title thus acquired is registrable; (2) the Court of Appeals disregard of SMCs evidence not on the basis of controverting evidence but on the basis of unfounded suppositions and conjectures, and (3) the Court of Appeals reversal of the factual findings of the trial court which had the opportunity of observing the demeanor and sincerity of the witnesses. We need not dwell lengthily on the third error assigned by petitioner. Suffice it to state that while trial courts may have the opportunity to observe the demeanor of witnesses, their factual findings may nonetheless be reversed by the Court of Appeals, the appellate court vested by law to resolve both legal and factual issues, if, by the evidence on record, it appears that the trial court involved erred. What is of primary concern to us in this case is the issue of whether or not the evidence presented by the petitioner is sufficient to warrant a ruling that SMC and/ or its predecessor-in-interest has a registrable right over Lot 684. Open, exclusive and undisputed possession of alienable public land for the period prescribed by law creates the legal fiction whereby the land, upon completion of the requisite period ipso jure and without the need of judicial or other sanction, ceases to be public land and becomes private property.4 Such open, continuous, exclusive and notorious occupation of the disputed properties for more than 30 years must, however, be conclusively established. This quantum of proof is necessary to avoid the erroneous validation of actually fictitious claims of possession over the property in dispute.

In this case, petitioners claim that its predecessor-in-interest had open, exclusive and undisputed possession of Lot 684 for more than thirty years is anchored on certain documentary and testimonial evidence. Its documentary evidence consist of tax declaration No. 923 wherein it appears that in 1974, Silverio Perez declared as his own for taxation purposes, a certain riceland with an area of 1.5657 hectares located in Sta. Anastacia, Sto. Tomas, Batangas, and a certification of the Office of the Treasurer of Sto. Tomas to the effect that in 1977, Silverio Perez paid realty taxes for the land subject of tax declaration no. 923. Tax declarations and receipts are not conclusive evidence of ownership or right of possession over a piece of land.8 They are merely indicia of a claim of ownership. Tax declarations only become strong evidence of ownership of land acquired by prescription, a mode of acquisition of ownership relied upon by petitioner in this case, when accompanied by proof of actual possession. Such proof of actual possession was sought to be provided by the testimony of vendor Silverio Perez that he had been in possession of the property since 1933 until he sold it to SMC in 1975; that the property was given to him by his parents when he got married; that no document evidenced that transfer; that it had been in the possession of his parents since 1925; that he had declared the property in his name for taxation purposes; that he had paid taxes therefor, and that he was in peaceful, continuous and exclusive possession of the property until its sale to SMC. Petitioner did not present other witnesses to corroborate Perez testimony. Its other witness, Antonio M. de las Alas, Jr., a lawyer of the petitioner, simply testified that he handled the negotiations for the purchase of the property; that SMC was authorized to own and acquire property as shown by its articles of incorporation and bylaws; that since its acquisition in 1975, the property had been used as a hatchery farm of SMC; that SMCs possession in the concept of an owner had been continuous, adverse and against the whole world, and that the land was declared for taxation purposes still in the name of Silverio Perez. We hold that there is paucity of evidence of actual, notorious and exclusive possession of the property on the part of vendor Silverio Perez so as to attach to it the character of an express grant from the government. Indeed, as correctly held by the Court of Appeals, Silverio Perezs testimony, being uncorroborated, is simply self -serving and hence, undeserving of any weight. WHEREFORE, the decision of the Court of Appeals is hereby AFFIRMED. Costs against the petitioner. SO ORDERED.

5 |Page

G.R. No. 85322. April 30, 1991.* ALFREDO M. ALMEDA, LEONARDO M. ALMEDA and ERNESTO M. ALMEDA, petitioners, vs. HON. COURT OF APPEALS and REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, represented by THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS, respondents.

After Emilianos death on May 1, 1948 at the age of 67, his wife, Ana Menguito, and their children received the produce of the land and rented out to third persons portions of the property where Emiliano had three houses built. Upon Anas death on April 3, 1950, her children with Emiliano i nherited the property and the lessees moved out. On June 9, 1980, the brothers Alfredo, Leonardo and Ernesto executed an extrajudicial partition adjudicating the land to themselves (Exh. J). On September 12, 1984, the Almeda brothers applied for the registration of the land in the Regional Trial Court of Pasig, Branch CLVI, where the case was docketed as LRC Case No. N-10771, LRC Record No. N-58761 entitled, Alfredo M. Almeda, Leonardo M. Almeda and Ernesto M. Almeda, Applicants. Their application was set for hearing on December 20, 1984. The notice of hearing dated October 10, 1984 was duly published in the Official Gazette and posted by the deputy sheriff. On the date of the hearing, no one appeared to oppose the application except the Director of Lands, through the Solicitor General, who had earlier filed a formal opposition. An order of general default was issued against the whole world, except the aforementioned oppositor, and the case was set for hearing. The report of the Bureau of Lands stated that the land is not included in any military area or naval reservation nor is it covered by any land patent or public land application. The Land Registration Commission Report also stated that Plan Psu-128539, when plotted in the Municipal Index map, does not overlap with any previously-plotted titled properties under Act 496 as amended by PD 1525, and that the survey books do not show that the subject lot had been applied for except in this case. The Director of Lands, through the Office of the Solicitor General, presented Corazon Calamno, senior forester of the Bureau of Forest Development, who stated that she prepared the inspection report on November 26, 1984; that the land falls within the alienable and disposable land under Project No. 29 of Pateros, Metro Manila, as per BFD Map LC 2623, certified and declared as such on January 23, 1968. The Court found that the applicants possession of the parcel of land sought to be registered, together with that of their predecessors-in-interest, has been public, peaceful, continuous, adverse to the whole world and in the concept of an owner for a period of more than thirty (30) years, and, that the land is not located within any forest reservation nor mortgaged or encumbered in favor of any person or lending institution. In a decision dated January 18, 1986, the trial court affirmed the order of general default and confirmed the title of the applicants to the parcel of land covered by the plan, Psu-128539, and ordered its registration in the names of Alfredo, Leonardo and Ernesto Almeda pro-indiviso (pp. 42-45, Rollo). From that decision, the Republic of the Philippines, represented by the Solicitor General, appealed to the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 09309, alleging that the applicants-appellees have not met the statutory requirements on possession under Section 48(b) of CA 141, mainly because the land applied for was inalienable forest land before its release as alienable and disposable land on January 3, 1968. The applicants possession thereof prior to January 3, 1968 was invalid for purposes of a grant under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act.

Land Registration; Civil Law; Private respondents had not qualified for a grant under Sec. 48(b) of Com. Act 141 which requires public, peaceful, continuous, adverse possession by the applicants in the concept of an owner for a period of at least 30 years.The Court of Appeals correctly ruled that the private respondents had not qualified for a grant under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act because their possession of the land while it was still inalienable forest land, or before it was declared alienable and disposable land of the public domain on January 3, 1968, could not ripen into private ownership, and should be excluded from the computation of the 30-year open and continuous possession in concept of owner required under Section 48(b) of Com.Act 141. Same; Same; Villareal and Marcelo cases not applicable to case at bar. The situation of the land in this case is the reverse of the Villareal and Marcelo cases. The land here was already forest land when occupied by the petitioners but it was later released on January 23, 1968 from its forest classification. In other words, the petitioners here occupied forest land before it was released as alienable and disposable, while the applicants in the Villareal and Marcelo cases possessed parcels of land long before they were reserved as forest land. The subsequent reservation did not prejudice their vested rights therein. PETITION for review from the decision of the Court of Appeals. The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court. Leonardo M. Almeda for petitioners. GRIO-AQUINO, J.: This petition for review assails the Court of Appeals decision dated May 9, 1988 in CA-G.R. No. 09309-CV reversing the judgment dated January 6, 1986 of the Regional Trial Court in LRC Case No. N-10771 entitled, Alfredo M. Almeda, Leonardo M. Almeda and Ernesto M. Almeda, Applicants versus Republic of the Philippines, represented by the Director of Lands, Oppositor. The case involves a parcel of land with an area of 1,208 square meters located in Barrio Pampangin, Pateros, Rizal, and described in Survey Plan Psu-128539. It was originally owned and possessed by EmilianoAlmeda, father of the petitioners, by virtue of an Escritura de Particion Extrajudicial (Exh. G) executed on June 15, 1935, between him and his brother Adriano, wherein they attested the fact that the land in question was inherited from their parents, VedastoAlmeda and Josefa C. Concepcion, who had inherited the same from their own parents (great-grandparents of herein petitioners).

6 |Page

The Court of Appeals, in a decision dated May 9, 1988, reversed the lower court and denied the application for registration. It held that private respondents had not qualified for a grant under Section 48(b) of Commonwealth Act 141 which requires public, peaceful, continuous, adverse possession by the applicants in the concept of an owner, for a period of at least 30 years. They have to their credit only seventeen (17) years possession and occupation of the land, counted from January 23, 1968, when it was declared alienable and disposable, up to September 12, 1984, when their application for registration was filed. After their motion for reconsideration was denied by the Court of Appeals, the applicants filed this petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. Petitioners allege that the Court of Appeals erred: 1. in not holding that the land classification made by the Director of Forestry (Bureau of Forest Development) could not affect the vested rights of the applicants and their predecessors-in-interest who had continuously occupied and profited from the land since 1918 or very much earlier, as in this case; and 2. in denying the motion for reconsideration despite the ruling in The Director of Lands vs. The Honorable Court of Appeals and Iglesiani Cristo, 158 SCRA 568 promulgated on March 14, 1988, which allowed registration even when the land applied for was within the proposed alienable or disposable block of a proposed LC project. There is no merit in the petition.

The petitioners have erroneously cited our decisions in Director of Forestry vs. Villareal, 170 SCRA 598 and Republic vs. Court of Appeals, Miguel Marcelo, et al., 168 SCRA 77, in support of their position in this case. In those cases, the applicants possession of the land antedated its classification as forest land. We held that such lands could not be retroactively legislated or classified as forest lands because it would violate previously acquired property rights protected by the due process clause of the Constitution. The situation of the land in this case is the reverse of the Villareal and Marcelo cases. The land here was already forest land when occupied by the petitioners but it was later released on January 23, 1968 from its forest classification. In other words, the petitioners here occupied forest land before it was released as alienable and disposable, while the applicants in the Villareal and Marcelo cases possessed parcels of land long before they were reserved as forest land. The subsequent reservation did not prejudice their vested rights therein. Petitioners recourse to the decision of this Court in Director of Lands vs. Court of Appeals and Iglesia Ni Cristo, 158 SCRA 568, is inappropriate. That case did not involve forest land, but agricultural land of the public domain within the proposed alienable or disposable block. WHEREFORE, the petition for review is denied for lack of merit.Costs against the petitioners. SO ORDERED. Narvasa (Chairman), Cruz, Gancayco and Medialdea, JJ., concur. Petition denied.

The Court of Appeals correctly ruled that the private respondents had not qualified for a grant under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act because their possession of the land while it was still inalienable forest land, or before it was declared alienable and disposable land of the public domain on January 13, 1968, could not ripen into private ownership, and should be excluded from the computation of the 30-year open and continuous possession in concept of owner required under Section 48(b) of Com. Act 141. It accords with our ruling in Director of Lands vs. Court of Appeals, Ibarra Bishar, et al., 178 SCRA 708, that: 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 (Amunategui vs. Director of Forestry, 126 SCRA 69; Director of Lands vs. Court of Appeals, 129 SCRA 689; Director of Lands vs. Court of Appeals, 133 SCRA 701; Republic vs. Court of Appeals, 148 SCRA 480; Vallarta vs. Intermediate Appellate Court, 151 SCRA 679). Thus, possession of forest lands, however long, cannot ripen into private ownership (Vamo vs. Government, 41 Phil. 161 [1920]; Adorable vs. Director of Forestry, 107 Phil. 401 [1960]). A parcel of forest land is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Bureau of Forestry and beyond the power and jurisdiction of the cadastral court to register under the Torrens System (Republic vs. Court of Appeals, 89 SCRA 648; Republic vs. Vera, 120 SCRA 210 [1983]; Director of Lands vs. Court of Appeals, 129 SCRA 689 [1984]).

Note.Possession of forested land cannot ripen into ownership. (Director of Lands vs. Court of Appeals, 133 SCRA 701.) G.R. No. 48066. January 31, 1989.* THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS, petitioner-appellee, vs. KALAHI INVESTMENTS, INC., claimantappellant.

Land Registration; Mining Claims; Possessory Rights; The right of a locator of a mining claim is merely a possessory right.In the recent case of Santa Rosa Mining Co., Inc. vs. Hon. Minister of Natural Resources Jose J. Leido, Jr. and Director of Mines Juanito C. Fernandez, (G.R. No. L-49109, dated Dec. 1, 1987), this Court ruled that while it is recognized that the right of a locator of a mining claim is a property right, this right is not absolute. It is merely a possessory right x xx more so where petitioners claims are still unpatented x xx, viz: x xxxxx Mere location does not mean absolute ownership over the affected land or the mining claim. It merely segregates the located land or area from the public domain by barring other would-be locators from locating the same and appropriating for themselves the minerals found therein. To rule otherwise would imply that location is all that is needed to acquire and maintain rights over a located mining claim. This, we cannot approve or sanction

7 |Page

because it is contrary to the intention of the lawmaker that the locator should faithfully and consistently comply with the requirements for annual work and improvements in the located mining claims. Same; Same; Same; PD 1214; By virtue of PD 1214 issued on October 14, 1977, a holder of a subsisting and valid mining claim can no longer proceed with the acquisition of a mining patent. It is not clear if claimant Kalahi has fully complied with the requirements of the Act of Congress of 1902. This is a factual issue which is not within the scope of our jurisdiction. Nonetheless, even assuming claimant to be a holder of a subsisting and valid patentable mining claim, We hold that it can no longer proceed with the acquisition of a mining patent in view of P.D. No. 1214, issued on October 14, 1977, directing holders of subsisting and valid patentable mining claims, lode or placer, located under the provisions of the Act of Congress of July 1, 1902, as amended, to file a mining lease application x xx within one year from the approval of the Decree and upon the filing thereof, holders of said claims shall be considered to have waived their rights to the issuance of mining patents thereof: Provided, however, That the non-filing of the application for mining lease by the holders thereby within the period herein prescribed shall cause the forfeiture of all his rights to the claim. APPEAL from the decision of the Court of First Instance of Pampanga, Br. I. Sarmiento, J. The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court. The Solicitor General for petitioner-appellee. Martin N. Roque for claimant-appellant. MEDIALDEA, J.: This is an appeal from the decision of the Court of First Instance (now Regional Trial Court) of Pampanga, denying the application of Kalahi Investments, Inc. (Kalahi, for short) for registration of Lot No. 1851-B of the FloridablancaCadastre, certified to this Court by the Court of Appeals on January 11, 1978 on the following legal questions: Do mining claims, acquired, registered, perfected, and patentable under the Old Mining Law, mature to private ownership which would entitle the claimant-applicant to the ownership thereof? Which agency has the authority to examine, process, and find out whether or not the requirements of the Act of Congress of 1902 have been complied with, by the applicant the courts or the Bureau of Mines? In its decision, the Court of Appeals found the following facts to be established by the evidence: On December 12, 1963, Kalahi Investment, Inc. moved for an advanced hearing of Lot No. 1851-B, FloridablancaCadastre. Evidence was presented and Kalahis title was to be registered under the provisions of Act 496." (p. 355, Record on Appeal)

x xxxxxxxx It was later on disclosed that Lot No. 1851 was a vast land of mountain ranges containing an area of no less than 886,021,588 square meters. Kalahis s present claim, otherwise known as Lot No. 1851 -B is graphically shown in the Plan, Annex A of the Report of the Commissioner shaded in orange color, which Report was made during the pendency of this case for trial. The alleged claim of 123 mineral claims are inside this portion. The very plan of the Commissioner labelled this portion as Project No. 11, Forest Reserve, Proc. No. 82, dated August 8, 1966, under Republic Act No. 3092, labelled timber land also designated as Lot 2 in said Commissioners Report. In the land classification, province of Pampanga and province of Zambales, dated May 26, 1960, known as Exhibit 4, Director of Forestry, these lands were also considered part of the Project No. 11, Timber Land. (pp. 356357, Record on Appeal) x xxxxxxxx The Bureau of Forestrys opposition is based on the ground that these lands are part of the vast public forest, known as TIMBER LAND of Project No. 11, Exhibit 4, Director of Forestry. Until now these lands are not released by the proper authorities as alienable agricultural lands; instead on August 9, 1966, the President of the Philippines issued Proclamation No. 82, declaring these lands as part of the Mt. Dorst Forest Reserve. Other reservations are also existing in these areas for the so-called minorities, the Negritos. (p. 359, Record on Appeal). x xxxxxxxx Kalahi abandoned its former claim over the entire area of Lot No. 1851 -B, covering an area of 886,021,588 square meters (Psd2387-D). It limited its present claim to 1,730 hectares, known as Lot No. 1 of Plan Sgs-3690, a portion of Lot 2210, FloridablancaCadastre, formerly a part of Lot No. 1851-B. It is in this Lot No. 1 of Plan Sgs3690, with an area of 1.284.2340 hectares, and in Lot No. 2, with an area of 446.0870 hectares, giving a total of 1,720 hectares where the alleged 123 lode mining claims are said to be existing and where the alleged 500,000 coffee plants were planted. (p. 360, Record on Appeal) Kalahi presented evidence to support perfected mining rights over the 123 mineral claims, viz., that it had located in 1934 and prior thereto 123 mineral claims in Floridablanca mountains; made annual assessment work thereto; made declaration of location and paid annual assessment work from 19651966; constructed roads traversing the mountains and hills, and planted 500,000 coffee trees. These were, however, not considered by the court a quo as basis sufficient in law and in fact for the registration of title under act 496. Kalahi thus contends that these mineral lands are now segregated from the government lands and its mining claims thereon, deemed property rights, based on the following opinion of the Secretary of Justice No. 52, Series of 1956, dated August 31, 1956, viz: x xxxxxxxx

8 |Page

The legal effect of a valid location of a mining claim is not only to segregate the area from the public domain, but to grant to the locator the beneficial ownership of the claim and the right to a patent therefore upon compliance with the terms and conditions prescribed by law. Where there is a valid location of the mining claim, the area becomes segregated from the public domain and becomes the property of the locator/ (St. Louis Mining & Milling Co. vs. Montana Mining Co., 171 U.S. 650, 855, 43 Law Ed., 320, 323.) When a location of a mining claim is perfected it has the effect of a grant by the United States of the right of present and exclusive possession with the right to the exclusive enjoyment of all the surface ground as well as of all the minerals within the lines of the claim, except as limited by the extralateral rights of adjoining locators; and this is the locators right before as well as after the issuance of the patent. (Italics ours) (p. 376, Record on Appeals) and the decision of the Court of Appeals in the case of San Mauricio Mining Co., Inc. vs. Dantoy, et. al. (C.A. No. 22274-R, dated March 23, 1963, 60 O.G. No. 3, p. 367): MINING LAW; MINING CLAIM; Right perfected under Act of Congress of 1902 is exclusive against whole worldUnder the Act of Congress of 1902, otherwise known as the Philippine Bill, a right or rights acquired by a holder of unpatented but valid and existing claim located and registered under its provisions becomes the property of the locator. The moment the locator discovered some valuable mineral deposits on the land located and proved that such location was in accordance with the rules and regulations, the land located becomes mineral land and is segregated from the public domain. The right of the locator to enjoy the surface ground and the minerals within the limits of his claim becomes exclusive as against the whole world, limited only by the extra lateral rights of adjoining locators. He is not required to purchase the claim or secure a patent and as long as he could comply with the mining laws, his possessory rights of ownership is as good as though secured by patent (Wilbur v. U.S. rel. Krusnic, 230 U.S. 306, 74 Law Ed. 455; Salakot Mining Co. vs. Rodriguez, 67 Phil. 97). (Italics ours) (cited in the Record on Appeal, p. 372) Likewise, it claims registration of title based on its actual, open, public, peaceful, continuous, adverse possession in the concept of an owner for more than 30 years, or confirmation of imperfect title under Sec. 48(b) CA141, as amended by RA No. 1942. In its decision dated September 17, 1980 the court a quo denied the claim for registration, ruling that a) the 123 mineral lode claims are governed by the mining laws; hence, under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Mines which is the proper agency to enforce the claims and to adjudicate the rights of claimants, which in fact, Kalahi recognized when it filed an application for lease with said Bureau, and b) that the claim for confirmation of imperfect title cannot be sustained, based on the evidence and the Public Land Law provisions: x xxxxxxxx x xxThe lands in the public domain are classified under three main categories: Mineral, Forest and Agricultural Lands. It is only on agricultural lands in the public domain that title could be issued either under administrative proceedings by application in the Bureau of Lands or under compulsory proceedings under Cadastral Act or

ordinary proceedings under Act 496. The Public Law never governs private lands (Susi vs. Razon, 41 Phil. 420). These lands are never private lands either. The Public Land Law (Commonwealth Act 141) is not applicable to forest lands nor to mineral lands. These lands are covered by separate laws. The confirmation of imperfect title under the Public Land Law can not be made the basis for registration of titles over forest (Vao vs. Government of the P.I., 41 Phil. 161) and/or mineral lands (Li SengGiap y Cia vs. Director, 55 Phil. 963). (p. 368, Record on Appeal) Kalahis motion for reconsideration, filed on October 15, 1970, was denied on November 15, 1970. On appeal, Kalahi invoked anew its vested rights over the mining claims, having been perfected and registered under the Act of Congress of 1902, and its consequent ownership, exclusive even as against the government. It assigned as errors the following: I The lower court erred in not considering the basis for the registration of the land in question sufficient in law and in fact. II The lower court erred in declaring that the doctrine of the Supreme Court and the opinion of the Secretary of Justice never contemplate of a procedure that will entitle the claimants to the registration of the land in question. III The lower court erred in denying the claim for registration of the claimants title over the land in question at least a portion thereof covered by the mining claims and their gaps. (pp, 56, CA decision) On the other hand, the Director of Lands contended: As regards the first, it is admitted by Kalahi that the land in questio n is a mining property consisting of mining claims located and registered under the provisions of the Act of the U.S. Congress of July 1, 1902 (Cf. Kalahis Petition for Admission of Attached Answer and for Advanced Hearing, pp. 29, Record on Appeal). Such being the case, said Act requires Kalahi as holder of the mining claims to do no other act except to proceed with the acquisition of mining patents in the Bureau of Mines, which is the proper agency in the Administrative Branch of the government entrusted by law (C.A 137, the Mining Law) to determine the qualifications of said claimant, and to examine, process and find out whether or not the requirements of the Act of Congress of 1902 are complied with. Said Act does not contemplate a situation where titles covering mining claims should be secured from the Judicial Branch of the government thru the process of land registration or cadastral proceedings. In other words,

9 |Page

the Act of the U.S. Congress prescribes an explicit and definite procedure by which mining patents are to be secured administratively after whichwhen registered under Section 122 of the Land Registration Act, said mining patents are transcribed into original certificates of title. (pp. 67, Appellees Brief, p. 115, Rollo) The Court of Appeals has thus certified the following questions for our resolution: a) Are mining claims acquired, registered, perfected, and patentable under the Old Mining Law matured to private ownership that would entitle the claimant-appellant to the ownership thereof? (Appellants Brief, p. 13) b) Who has authority to examine, process, and find out whether or not the requirements of the Act of Congress of 1902 have been complied by the applicantthe court or the Bureau of Mines? (Appellants (sic) should be Appellees Brief, p. 7) In the recent case of Santa Rosa Mining Co., Inc. vs. Hon. Minister of Natural Resources Jose J. Leido, Jr. and Director of Mines Juanito C. Fernandez. (G.R. No. L-49109, dated Dec. 1, 1987), this Court ruled that while it is recognized that the right of a locator of a mining claim is a property right, this right is not absolute. It is merely a possessory right x xx, more so where petitioners claims are still unpatented x xx. (Italics ours), viz: x xxxxxxxx Mere location does not mean absolute ownership over the affected land or the located claim. It merely segregates the located land or area from the public domain by barring other would-be locators from locating the same and appropriating for themselves the minerals found therein. To rule otherwise would imply that location is all that is needed to acquire and maintain rights over a located mining claim. This, we cannot approve or sanction because it is contrary to the intention of the lawmaker that the locator should faithfully and consistently comply with the requirements for annual work and improvements in the located mining claims. (Italics ours) The aforecited ruling modifies the San Mauricio doctrine cited by petitioner, in that while a perfected location of a mining claim has the effect of segregating said land from the body of public domain, the area covered does not thereby become the private property of the locator. There must be evidence of full, faithful compliance with the requirements of law. Noteworthy in this regard is the concurring opinion of Justice Jose P. Laurel in the case of Gold Creek Mining Corp. vs. E. Rodriguez and Q. Abadilla (66 Phil. 259), upholding the property rights of a valid location of a mining claim, viz: But while I regard the recognition and protection of the right here invoked inevitable, I feel constrained to withhold my assent to the invocation of the case of McDaniel vs. Apacible and Cuisia [1922], 42 Phil. 749), insofar as citation thereof may imply unqualified acceptance of or adherence to the broad rule that where there is a valid and perfected location of a mining claim, the area covered is not only thereby segregated from the body of the public domain but becomes the private property of the locator. My opinion is that while the locator, under the

circumstances, secures the beneficial ownership or the dominium utile, the government retains the bare ownership or the dominium directum, until the locators claim ripens into full ownership upon full compliance with all the requirements of the law for the issuance of a patent. The dissenting opinion of Justice Pedro Concepcion in the Gold Creek Mining Corp. case, insofar as pertinent, is worthy of mention: Location should only be understood as segregating the land located from the public do main in the sense that it is no longer open to location or susceptible of appropriation by another, while the locator has not lost his right to or abandoned the mining claim. To give a broader meaning and a greater effect to the location of a mining claim is to contendagainst the express provisions of Sections 36, 37 and 39 of the Act of Congress of July 1, 1902, as amended by Section 9 of another Act of Congress of February 6, 1905, that location is all that is necessary to acquire absolute ownership over a located mining claim. This is not the law. From the location of a claim to the issuance of the patent for or title to the land, is a far cry. Location, without more, confers only the right of possession. Thus Section 36 of the Act of Congress of February 6, 1905 refers to the manner of recording, and amount of work necessary to hold possession of a mining claim. Section 39 of the same Act also speaks of the right of possession of the claim, and the right to the issuance of a patent only arises after the execution of certain works and acts prescribed by law, such as labor or description and identification of the land by means of plat and field notes (Sec. 37); the notice of publication of the application for a patent by the locator, etc., etc., (Sec. 37). x xx (pp. 273274, Rollo) x xx I gather from the majority opinion that, as long as the location of the mining claim was perfected before the inauguration of the new Government of the Philippines on November 15, 1935, the other conditions may be complied with even after said date in order that the locator may acquire a right to the patent. I dissent on this fundamental point from the majority opinion. I maintain that in prohibiting the alienation of natural resources, save any existing right, the Constitution does not refer to the right of location or to the inherent right of possession, or to any inchoate or contingent right which are only a means to bring about another right; it refers only to the right to obtain a patent. And inasmuch as this right cannot be acquired until after compliance with all the conditions prescribed by law, it is evident that the prescribed conditions should be complied with before the inauguration of the Commonwealth. (Italics ours) (p. 274, Rollo) It is not clear if claimant Kalahi has fully complied with the requirements of the Act of Congress of 1902. This is a factual issue which is not within the scope of our jurisdiction. Nonetheless, even assuming claimant to be a holder of a subsisting and valid patentable mining claim, we hold that it can no longer proceed with the acquisition of a mining patent in view of P.D. No. 1214, issued on October 14, 1977, directing holders of subsisting and valid patentable mining claims, lode or placer, located under the provisions of the Act of Congress of July 1, 1902, as amended, to file a mining lease application x xx within one year from the approval of the Decree and upon the filing thereof, holders of said claims shall be considered to have waived their rights to the issuance of mining patents therefor: Provided, however, That the non-filing of the application for mining lease by the holders thereby within the period herein prescribed shall cause the forfeiture o f all his rights to the claim.

10 | P a g e

The constitutionality of P.D. No. 1214 was upheld in the case of Santa Rosa Mining Co., supra, as a valid exercise of the sovereign power of the state as owners over lands of the public domain of which petitioners mining claims still form a part, and over the patrimony of the nation, of which mineral deposits are a valuable asset. The records show that claimant has already filed a mining lease application (p. 357, Record on Appeal). Its mining claims, therefore, are deemed covered by P.D. 1214, and the Bureau of Mines may, accordingly process the same as a lease application, in accordance with P.D. 463, pursuant to Sec. 2 of P.D. No. 1214. It is understood of course that prior to the approval of the lease application, the applicant must show that it has fully and faithfully complied with the requirements of the Philippine Bill of 1902, in effect upholding the dissenting opinion of Justice Concepcion in the Gold Creek Mining case, supra. As to whether or not the Bureau of Mines is likewise qualified to rule on whether there has been full and faithful compliance with the requirements of the Philippine Bill of 1902 as amended, We rule that the Bureau of Mines is so empowered as a corollary function in the processing of mining lease applications. Accordingly, the decision of the CFI of Pampanga, (now Regional Trial Court) is hereby AFFIRMED, with the MODIFICATION in that Kalahis mining claims may be processed as a mining lease appl ication by the Bureau of Mines. SO ORDERED. Narvasa, Cruz, Gancayco and Grio-Aquino, JJ., concur. Decision affirmed with modification. Notes.A mining corporation cannot obtain a free patent to a public land. (Marcopper Mining Corporation vs. Garcia, 143 SCRA 178.) A land where location of mineral claim has been perfected may be the subject of expropriation. (Banquet Consolidated, Inc. vs. Republic, 143 SCRA 466.) No. L-49109.December 1, 1987.* SANTA ROSA MINING COMPANY, INC., petitioner, vs. HON. MINISTER OF NATURAL RESOURCES JOSE J. LEIDO, JR. AND DIRECTOR OF MINES JUANITO C. FERNANDEZ, respondents.

petitioner's attempt to seek judicial recognition of the continuing validity of its mining claims, cannot be entertained by the Court. As stated by the Court, through Mr. Justice Sabino Padilla in Ham v. Bachrach Motor Co., Inc., applying the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies: "By its own act of appealing from the decision of the Director of Lands and the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources to the President of the Philippines, and without waiting for the latter's decision, the defendant cannot complain if the courts do not take action before the President has decided its appeal." Land Registration; The right of a locator of a mining claim is merely a possessory right since it can be lost through abandonment or forfeiture.The cases cited by petitioner, true enough, recognize the right of a locator of a mining claim as a property right. This right, however, is not absolute. It is merely a possessory right, more so, in this case, where petitioner's claims are still unpatented. They can be lost through abandonment or forfeiture or they may be revoked for valid legal grounds. The statement in McDaniel v. Apacible that 'There is no pretense in the present case that the petitioner has not complied with all the requirements of the law in making the location of the mineral claims in question, or that the claims in question were ever abandoned or forfeited by him," confirms that a valid mining claim may still be lost through abandonment or forfeiture. Same; Presidential Decree No. 1214, constitutional and valid exercise of sovereign power of the state over lands of the public domain; Scope of P.D. No. 1214.We now come to the question of whether or not Presidential Decree No. 1214 is constitutional. Even assuming arguendo that petitioner was not bound to exhaust administrative remedies on the question of whether or not its mining claims are still subsisting (not abandoned or cancelled), before challenging the constitutionality of said Decree, we hold that Presidential Decree No. 1214 is not unconstitutional. It is a valid exercise of the sovereign power of the State, as owner, over lands of the public domain, of which petitioner's mining claims still form a part, and over the patrimony of the nation, of which mineral deposits are a valuable asset. It may be underscored, in this connection, that the Decree does not cover all mining claims located under the Phil. Bill of 1902, but only those claims over which their locators had failed to obtain a patent. And even then, such locators may still avail of the renewable twenty-five year (25) lease prescribed by Pres. Decree No. 463, the Mineral Development Resources Decree of 1974. Same; Same; Same; Mere location does not mean absolute ownership over the mining claim. Mere location does not mean absolute ownership over the affected land or the mining claim. It merely segregates the located land or area from the public domain by barring other would-be locators from locating the same and appropriating for themselves the minerals found therein. To rule otherwise would imply that location is all that is needed to acquire and maintain rights over a located mining claim. This, we cannot approve or sanction because it is contrary to the intention of the lawmaker that the locator should faithfully and consistently comply with the requirements for annual work and improvements in the located mining claim. Same; Same; Same; Case at bar differs from Gold Creek Mining Corp. vs. Rodriguez (66 Phil 259) where the issue was Gold Creek's right to a patent over its mining claim. The petitioner cannot successfully plead the ruling in Gold Creek Mining Corp. v. Rodriguez, supra. In that case, what was in issue was Gold Creek 's right to a patent over its mining claim, after compliance with all legal requirements for a patent. In the present case, no

Administrative Law; Principle of Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies; it is premature for the court to make findings in the matter whether petitioner had abandoned its mining claim. We agree with respondents' contention that it is premature for the Court to now make a finding on the matter of whether petitioner had abandoned its mining claims. Until petitioner's appeal shall have been decided by the Office of the President, where it is pending,

11 | P a g e

application for patent is in issue, although as a holder of patentable mining claims petitioner could have applied for one during all these years but inexplicably did not do so. In Gold Creek, no finding of abandonment was ever made against the mining claimant as to deprive it of the initial privilege given by virtue of its location; on the other hand, such a finding has been made in petitioner's case (although the finding among others is on appeal with the President). Same; Same; Same; Constitutional mandate of P.D. 1214 found in Sec. 2, Art. XII, 1987 Constitution.The same constitutional mandate is found in Sec. 2, Art. XII of the 1987 Constitution, which declares: "All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State. With the exception of agricultural lands, all other natural resources shall not be alienated. The exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the State. x xx SPECIAL CIVIL ACTION for certiorari and prohibition to review the order of the Court of First Instance of Camarines Norte. The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court. PADILLA, J.: This is a special civil action for certiorari and prohibition with prayer for a writ of preliminary injunction, to declare Presidential Decree No. 1214 unconstitutional and to enjoin respondent public officials from enforcing it. On 19 October 1978, the Court required the respondents to comment on the petition and issued a temporary restraining order continuing until otherwise ordered by the Court. Petitioner Santa Rosa Mining Company, Inc. (petitioner, for short) is a mining corporation duly organized and existing under the laws of the Philippines. It alleges that it is the holder of fifty (50) valid mining claims situated in Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte, acquired under the provisions of the Act of the U.S. Congress dated 1 July 1902 (Philippine Bill of 1902, for short). On 14 October 1977, Presidential Decree No. 1214 was issued, requiring holders of subsisting and valid patentable mining claims located under the provisions of the Philippine Bill of 1902 to file a mining lease application within one (1) year from the approval of the Decree. Petitioner accordingly filed a mining lease application, but "under protest," on 13 October 1978, with a reservation annotated on the back of its application that it is not waiving its rights over its mining claims until the validity of Presidential Decree No. 1214 shall have been passed upon by this Court. On 10 October 1978, or three (3) days before filing the disputed mining lease application, petitioner filed this special civil action for certiorari and prohibition, alleging.that it has no other plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law to protect its rights (except by said petition). Petitioner assails Presidential Decree No. 1214 as unconstitutional in that it amounts to a deprivation of property without due process of law.

Petitioner avers that its fifty (50) mining claims had already been declared as its own private and exclusive property in final judgments rendered by the Court of First Instance of Camarines Norte (CFI, for short) in land registration proceedings initiated by third persons, such as, a September 1951 land title application by a certain GervacioLiwanag, where the Director of Mines opposed the grant of said application because herein petitioner, according to him (Director of Mines), had already located and perfected its mining claims over the area applied for. Petitioner also cites LRC Case No. 240, filed 11 July 1960, by one Antonio Astudillo, and decided in 1974 against said applicant, in which, petitioner's mining claims were described as vested property outside the jurisdiction of the Director of Mines. In answer, the respondents allege that petitioner has no standing to file the instant petition as it failed to fully exhaust administrative remedies. They cite the pendency of petitioner's appeal, with the Office of the President, of the ruling of the respondent Secretary of Natural Resources issued on 2 April 1977 in DNR Case No. 4140, which upheld the decision of the Director of Mines finding that forty four (44) out of petitioner's fifty (50) mining claims were void for lack of valid "tie points" as required under the Philippine Bill of 1902, and that all the mining claims had already been abandoned and cancelled, for petitioner's non-compliance with the legal requirements of the same Phil. Bill of 1902 and Executive Order No. 141. We agree with respondents' contention that it is premature for the Court to now make a finding on the matter of whether petitioner had abandoned its mining claims. Until petitioner's appeal shall have been decided by the Office of the President, where it is pending, petitioner's attempt to seek judicial recognition of the continuing validity of its mining claims, cannot be entertained by the Court. As stated by the Court, through Mr. Justice Sabino Padilla in Ham v. Bachrach Motor Co., Inc.4 applying the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies: "By its own act of appealing from the decision of the Director of Lands and the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources to the President of the Philippines, and without waiting for the latter's decision, the defendant cannot complain if the courts do not take action before the President has decided its appeal.'' The decisions of the Court of First Instance of Camarines Norte in applications for land registration filed by third persons covering the area over which petitioner had located and registered its mining claims, as cited by petitioner, are inapplicable. Said decisions merely denied the applications of such third persons for land registration over areas already covered by petitioner's mining claims, for failure to show titles that were registrable under the Torrens system; that was all. While the CFI made a statement in one case declaring that the petitioner's mining claims are its vested property and even patentable at that time, there is nothing in said CFI decision that squarely passed upon the question of whether petitioner had valid, patentable (but still unpatented) mining claims which it had continued to maintain, in compliance with the requirements of applicable laws. This question, which involves a finding of facts, is precisely the issue before the Office of the President in the petitioner's appeal from the decision of the Secretary of Natural Resources in DNR Case No. 4140 holding that petitioner's mining claims are considered abandoned and cancelled for failure of petitioner to comply with the requirements of the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Executive Order No. 141. In short, the decisions of the Court of First Instance of Camarines Norte, relied upon by petitioner, do not foreclose a proceeding, such as DNR Case No. 4140, to determine whether petitioner's unpatented mining claims have remained valid and subsisting.

12 | P a g e

Respondents further contend that, even assuming arguendo that petitioner's mining claims were valid at the outset, if they are deemed abandoned and cancelled due to non-compliance with the legal requirements for maintaining a perfected mining claim, under the provisions of the Philippine Bill of 1902, petitioner has no valid and subsisting claim which could be lost through the implementation of Presidential Decree No. 1214, thus giving it no standing to question the Decree. Petitioner, on the other hand, would rebut respondents' argument by declaring that it already had a vested right over its mining claims even before Presidential Decree No. 1214, following the rulings in McDaniel v. Apacible and Gold Creek Mining Corp, v. Rodriguez. The Court is not impressed that this is so. The cases cited by petitioner, true enough, recognize the right of a locator of a mining claim as a property right. This right, however, is not absolute. It is merely a possessory right, more so, in this case, where petitioner's claims are still unpatented. They can be lost through abandonment or forfeiture or they may be revoked for valid legal grounds. The statement in McDaniel v. Apacible that "There is no pretense in the present case that the petitioner has not complied with all the requirements of the law in making the location of the mineral claims in question, or that the claims in question were ever abandoned or forfeited by him, " confirms that a valid mining claim may still be lost through abandonment or forfeiture. The petitioner cannot successfully plead the ruling in Gold Creek Mining Corp. v. Rodriguez, supra. In that case, what was in issue was Gold Creek's right to a patent over its mining claim, after compliance with all legal requirements for a patent In the present case, no application for patent is in issue, although as a holder of patentable mining claims petitioner could have applied for one during all these years but inexplicably did not do so. In Gold Creek, no finding of abandonment was ever made against the mining claimant as to deprive it of the initial privilege given by virtue of its location; on the other hand, such a finding has been made in petitioner's case (although the finding among others is on appeal with the President). We now come to the question of whether or not Presidential Decree No. 1214 is constitutional. Even assuming arguendo that petitioner was not bound to exhaust administrative remedies on the question of whether or not its mining claims are still subsisting (not abandoned or cancelled), before challenging the constitutionality of said Decree, we hold that Presidential Decree No. 1214 is not unconstitutional. It is a valid exercise of the sovereign power of the State, as owner, over lands of the public domain, of which petitioner's mining claims still form a part, and over the patrimony of the nation, of which mineral deposits are a valuable asset. It may be underscored, in this connection, that the Decree does not cover all mining claims located under the Phil. Bill of 1902, but only those claims over which their locators had failed to obtain a patent And even then, such locators may still avail of the renewable twenty-five year (25) lease prescribed by Pres. Decree No. 463, the Mineral Development Resources Decree of 1974. Mere location does not mean absolute ownership over the affected land or the mining claim. It merely segregates the located land or area from the public domain by barring other would-be locators from locating the same and appropriating for themselves the minerals found therein. To rule otherwise would imply that location is all that is

needed to acquire and maintain rights over a located mining claim. This, we cannot approve or sanction because it is contrary to the intention of the lawmaker that the locator should faithfully and consistently comply with the requirements for annual work and improvements in the located mining claim. Presidential Decree No. 1214 is in accord with Sec. 8, Art. XIV of the 1973 Constitution which states: "All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, wildlife, and other natural resources of the Philippines belong to the State. With the exception of agricultural, industrial or commercial, residential and resettlement lands of the public domain, natural resources shall not be alienated, and no license, concession, or lease for the exploration, development, exploitation, or utilization of any of the natural resources shall be granted for a period exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for not more than twenty-five years, except as to water rights for irrigation, water supply, fisheries, or industrial uses other than the development of water power, in which cases, beneficial use may be the measure and the limit of the grant." The same constitutional mandate is found in Sec. 2, Art. XII of the 1987 Constitution, which declares: "All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State. With the exception of agricultural lands, all other natural resources shall not be alienated. The exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the State. x xx WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is hereby DISMISSED. The temporary restraining order issued by the Court on 19 October 1978 is LIFTED and SET ASIDE. Costs against the petitioner. SO ORDERED. Teehankee (C.J.), Yap, Fernan, Narvasa, MelencioHerrera, Gutierrez, Jr., Cruz, Paras, Feliciano, Gancayco, Bidin, Sarmiento and Corts, JJ., concur. Petition dismissed. No. L-58867.June 22, 1984.* DIRECTOR OF LANDS and DIRECTOR OF FOREST DEVELOPMENT, petitioners, vs. HON. COURT OF APPEALS and ANTONIO VALERIANO, GABRIELA VALERIANO VDA. DE LA CRUZ, LETICIA A. VALERIANO and MARISSA VALERIANO DE LA ROSA, respondents.

Civil Law; Land Registration; Regalian Doctrine; Classification of public lands, an exclusive prerogative of the Executive Department, not the courts; Absence of classification of land renders the land as unclassified in consonance with the Regalian doctrine.In effect, what the Courts a quo have done is to release the subject property from the unclassified category, which is beyond their competence and jurisdiction. The classification of

13 | P a g e

public lands is an exclusive prerogative of the Executive Department of the Government and not of the Courts. In the absence of such classification, the land remains as unclassified land until it is released therefrom and rendered open to disposition. This should be so under time-honored Constitutional precepts. This is also in consonance with the Regalian doctrine that all lands of the public domain belong to the State, and that the State is the source of any asserted right to ownership in land and charged with the conservation of such patrimony. Same; Same; Estoppel by State; Non-presentation of evidence that property is within the unclassified region, will not operate against the State under the rule that the State cannot be estopped by omission, mistake or error of its officials or agents.The recommendation of the District Forester for release of subject property from the unclassified region is not the ultimate word on the matter. And the fact that BF Map LC No. 637 dated March 1, 1927 showing subject property to be within the unclassified region was not presented in evidence will not operate against the State considering the stipulation between the parties and under the well-settled rule that the State cannot be estopped by the omission, mistake or error of its officials or agents, if omission there was, in fact. Same; Same; Jurisdiction; Torrens System; Land within the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Forest Development is beyond the jurisdiction of the cadastral court to register under the Torrens System.While it may be that the Municipality of Obando has been cadastrally surveyed in 1961, it does not follow that all lands comprised therein are automatically released as alienable. A survey made in a cadastral proceeding merely identifies each lot preparatory to a judicial proceeding for adjudication of title to any of the lands upon claim of interested parties. Besides, if land is within the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Forest Development, it would be beyond the jurisdiction of the Cadastral Court to register it under the Torrens System. Same; Same; Where property is still unclassified, possession of applicants, however long, cannot ripen into private ownership.Since the subject property is still unclassified, whatever possession Applicants may have had, and, however long, cannot ripen into private ownership. Same; Same; Conversion of property into fishpond or titling of properties around it, does not automatically render the property as alienable and disposable; Remedy is the release of the property from its being unclassified.The conversion of subject property into a fishpond by Applicants, or the alleged titling of properties around it, does not automatically render the property as alienable and disposable. Applicants remed y lies in the release of the property from its present classification. In fairness to Applicants, and it appearing that there are titled lands around the subject property, petitioners-officials should give serious consideration to the matter of classification of the land in question. PETITION to review the decision of the Court of Appeals. The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court. The Solicitor General for petitioners. Carlos C. Serapio for private respondents.

MELENCIO-HERRERA, J.: Petitioners-public officials, through the Solicitor General, seek a review of the Decision and Resolution of the then Court of Appeals affirming the judgment of the former Court of First Instance of Bulacan, Branch III, decreeing registration of a parcel of land in private respondents favor. The land in question, identified as Lot 2347, Cad302-D, Case 3, ObandoCadastre, under Plan Ap-03-000535, is situated in Obando, Bulacan, and has an area of approximately 9.3 hectares. It adjoins the Kailogan River and private respondents have converted it into a fishpond. In their application for registration filed on May 10, 1976, private respondents (Applicants, for brevity) claimed that they are the co-owners in fee simple of the land applied for partly through inheritance in 1918 and partly by purchase on May 2, 1958; that it is not within any forest zone or military reservation; and that the same is assessed for taxation purposes in their names. The Republic of the Philippines, represented by the Director of the Bureau of Forest Development opposed the application on the principal ground that the land applied for is within the unclassified region of Obando, Bulacan, per BF Map LC No. 637 dated March 1, 1927; and that areas within the unclassified region are denominated as forest lands and do not form part of the disposable and alienable portion of the public domain. After hearing, the Trial Court ordered registration of the subject land in favor of the Applicants. This was affirmed on appeal by respondent Appellate Court, which fou nd that through indubitable evidence (Applicants) and their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, public, continuous, peaceful and adverse possession of the subject parcel of land under a bona fide claim of ownership for more than 30 years prior to the filing of the application and are, therefore, entitled to registration. It further opined that since the subject property is entirely devoted to fishpond purposes, it cannot be categorized as part of forest lands. Before this instance, the principal issues posed are: (1) whether or not Courts can reclassify the subject public land; and (2) whether or not applicants are entitled to judicial confirmation of title. The parties, through their respective counsel, stipulated that the land is within an unclassified region of Obando, Bulacan, as shown by BF Map LC No. 637, dated March 1, 1927.1 No evidence has been submitted that the land has been released or subsequently classified despite an Indorsement, dated November 17, 1976, of the District Forester, to the Director of Forest Development, containing the following recommendation: Subject area requested for release was verified and found to be within the Unclassified Region of Obando, Bulacan per BF LC Map No. 637, certified March 1, 1927. However, on-the-spot inspection conducted by a representative of this Office, it disclosed that the same was devoid of any forest growth and forms part of a welldeveloped and 100 percent producing fishponds. Two houses of light materials were erected within the area for the caretakers temporary dwelling.

14 | P a g e

In view thereof, and in fairness to the applicant considering the investment introduced therein this Office believe s that the release is in order. Recommended for approval and be disposed of in accordance with the Public Land Law.

SO ORDERED. Teehankee, (Chairman), Plana, Relova and De la Fuente, JJ., concur. Gutierrez, Jr., **J., took no part.

The Governments cause is meritorious. Decision reversed and the application for registration is dismissed. In effect, what the Courts a quo have done is to release the subject property from the unclassified category, which is beyond their competence and jurisdiction. The classification of public lands is an exclusive prerogative of the Executive Department of the Government and not of the Courts. In the absence of such classification, the land remains as unclassified land until it is released therefrom and rendered open to disposition. This should be so under time-honored Constitutional precepts. This is also in consonance with the Regalian doctrine that all lands of the public domain belong to the State, and that the State is the source of any asserted right to ownership in land and charged with the conservation of such patrimony. The recommendation of the District Forester for release of subject property from the unclassified region is not the ultimate word on the matter. And the fact that BF Map LC No. 637 dated March 1, 1927 showing subject property to be within the unclassified region was not presented in evidence will not operate against the State considering the stipulation between the parties and under the well-settled rule that the State cannot be estopped by the omission, mistake or error of its officials or agents,6if omission there was, in fact. While it may be that the Municipality of Obando has been cadastrally surveyed in 1961, it does not follow that all lands comprised therein are automatically released as alienable. A survey made in a cadastral proceeding merely identifies each lot preparatory to a judicial proceeding for adjudication of title to any of the lands upon claim of interested parties. Besides, if land is within the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Forest Development, it would be beyond the jurisdiction of the Cadastral Court to register it under the Torrens System. Since the subject property is still unclassified, whatever possession Applicants may have had, and, however long, cannot ripen into private ownership. The conversion of subject property into a fishpond by Applicants, or the alleged titling of properties around it, does not automatically render the property as alienable and disposable. Applicants remedy lies in the release of the property from its present classification. In fairness to Applicants, and it appearing that there are titled lands around the subject property, petitioners-officials should give serious consideration to the matter of classification of the land in question. WHEREFORE, the appealed Decision is reversed and the application for registration in Land Registration Case No. N-299-V-76 of the former Court of First Instance of Bulacan, Branch III, is hereby dismissed, without prejudice to the availment by the applicants of the proper administrative remedy. No costs. Notes.The policy of the State to enable occupants or tenants of agricultural lands to acquire small holdings is that the old tenants were preferred over others in acquisition of property. (Pindagan Agricultural Co., Inc. vs. Dans, 4 SCRA 1035.) Subsequent to the authority of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the Director of Lands has, by law, direct control over the sale or any other form of concession or disposition and the management of the public domain. (Pineda vs. Court of First Instance of Davao, 1 SCRA 1020.) The Director of Lands has no authority to grant to another a free patent for land that has ceased to be a public land and has passed to private ownership. (De la Concha vs. Magtira, 18 SCRA 398.) G.R. No. 31688. December 17, 1990.* DIRECTOR OF LANDS, DIRECTOR OF FORESTRY and REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioners, vs. HON. JUAN P. AQUINO, as Judge of the Court of First Instance of Abra, Second Judicial District and ABRA INDUSTRIAL CORPORATION, respondents.

Civil Procedure; Appeals; Motions; A motion for new trial or reconsideration is not a prerequisite to an appeal, petition for review, or a petition for review on certiorari. A motion for new trial or reconsideration is not a prerequisite to an appeal, petition for review or a petition for review on certiorari. The reglementary period for filing the petition for review on certiorari in the instant case was thirty (30) days from notice of the order or judgment subject of review which period, parenthetically, is now fifteen (15) days pursuant to Section 39 of the Judiciary Act of 1980. Petitioners having been granted a total of sixty (60) days within which to file the petition, the same was timely filed. Land Registration; Forest Reserves; Commonwealth Act 141; Under CA 141, the power to exclude an area from the forest zone belongs to the President, upon recommendation of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and not the District Forester or even the Director of Forestry.Petitioners herein contend that the lower court erred in granting the application for registration of the parcels of land notwithstanding its finding that they are within the forest zone. The District Forester's failure to object to the exclusion of the area sought to be registered from the forest reserve was not enough justification for registration because under Commonwealth Act No. 141, the power to exclude an area from the forest zone belongs to the President of the Philippines, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and not the District Forester or even the Director of Forestry. x xx We find the petition to be meritorious. Once again, we reiterate the rule enunciated by

15 | P a g e

this Court in Director of Forestry vs. Muoz and consistently adhered to in a long line of cases the more recent of which is Republic vs. Court of Appeals, that forest lands or forest reserves are incapable of private appropriation and possession thereof, however long, cannot convert them into private properties. This ruling is premised on the regalian doctrine enshrined not only in the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions but also in the 1987 Constitution Article XIII of which provides that: "Sec. 2. All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal x xx, forests or timber, x xx and other natural resources are owned by the State. With the exception of agricultural lands, all other natural resources shall not be alienated." Pursuant to this constitutional provision, the land must first be released from its classification as forest land and reclassified as agricultural land in accordance with the certification issued by the Director of Forestry as provided for by Section 1827 of the Revised Administrative Code. This is because the classification of public lands is an exclusive prerogative of the executive department of the government and not of the courts. Moreover, a positive act of the government is needed to declassify a forest land into alienable or disposable land for agricultural or other purposes. Same; Same; Public Lands; An applicant for registration has the burden to overcome the presumption that the land sought to be registered forms part of the public domain.Being the interested party, an applicant for registration of a parcel of land bears the burden of overcoming the presumption that the land sought to be registered forms part of the public domain. In this case, AIC asserts that the land in dispute is no longer part of the Cordillera Forest Reserve because the communal forest in Bucay, Abra which had been established in 1909 by virtue of Forestry Administrative Order No. 2-298, had been "cancelled and de-established" by Forestry Administrative Order No. 2622 dated October 1, 1965 and issued by then Acting Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources Jose Y. Feliciano. AIC therefore tries to impress upon the Court the fact that as there was no longer a forested area, the same area had become alienable more so because its actual occupants, who had been devoting it to agriculture, had relinquished their rights over it in favor of AIC "to give way for greater economic benefits for the people in the locality." It should be emphasized, however, that the classification of the land as forest land is descriptive of its legal nature or status and does not have to be descriptive of what the land actually looks like. Hence, the fact that the contested parcels of land have long been denuded and actually contains rich limestone deposits does not in any way affect its present classification as forest land. Same; Same; Same; The inclusion in a title of a part of the public domain nullified the title. The petitioners therefore validly insisted on the review of the decision ordering the issuance of the decree of registration in view of its patent infirmity. The lower court closed its eyes to a basic doctrine in land registration cases that the inclusion in a title of a part of the public domain nullifies the title. Its decision to order the registration of an inalienable land in favor of AIC under the misconception that it is imperative for the Director of Forestry to object to its exclusion from the forest reserve even in the face of its finding that indeed a sizable portion of the Central Cordillera Forest Reserve is involved, cannot be allowed to stay unreversed. It betrays an inherent infirmity which must be corrected. PETITION to review the order of the then Court of First Instance of Abra. Aquino, J. The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.

The Solicitor General for petitioners. Demetrio V. Pre for private respondent. FERNAN, C.J.: The center of controversy in the instant petition for review on certiorari is a limestone-rich 70-hectare land in Bucay, Abra 66 hectares of which are, according to petitioners, within the Central Cordillera Forest Reserve. Private respondent Abra Industrial Corporation (AIC for brevity), a duly registered corporation established for the purpose of setting up a cement factory, claims on the other hand, to be the owner in fee simple of the whole 70hectare area indicated in survey plans PSU-217518, PSU-217519 and PSU-217520 with a total assessed value of P6,724.48. Thus, on September 23, 1965, it filed in the then Court of First Instance of Abra an application for registration in its name of said parcels of land under the Land Registration Act or, in the alternative, under Sec. 48 of Commonwealth Act No. 1411 as amended by Republic Act No. 1942 inasmuch as its predecessors-in-interest had allegedly been in possession thereof since July 26,1894. The requisite publication and posting of notice having been complied with, the application was set for hearing. Except for the Director of Lands, nobody appeared to oppose the application. Hence, the court issued an order of default against the whole world except the Director of Lands. After the applicant had rested its case, the provincial fiscal, appearing for the Director of Lands, submitted evidence supporting the opposition filed by the Solicitor General to the effect that AIC had no registerable title and that the highly mineralized parcels of land applied for were within the Central Cordillera Forest Reserve which had not yet been released as alienable and disposable land pursuant to the Public Land Law. On July 22, 1966, the lower court favorably acted on the application and ordered the registration of the parcels of land under the Land Registration Act. It ruled that although said land was within the forest zone, the opposition of the Director of Lands was not well-taken because the Bureau of Forestry, thru the District Forester of Abra, "offered no objection to exclude the same area from the forest reserve." It found that the parcels of land had been acquired by purchase and AIC's possession thereof, including that of its predecessors-in-interest, had been for forty-nine (49) years. The Director of Lands, through the provincial fiscal, filed a motion for reconsideration of the decision asserting that except for a 4-hectare area, the land covered by PSU-217518, 217519 and 217520 fell within the Central Cordillera Forest Reserve, under Proclamation No. 217 dated February 16, 1929; that although it had been denuded, it was covered with massive, corraline, tufaceous limestone estimated to yield 200,000,000 metric tons about a fifth of which was suitable for the manufacture of high grade portland cement type and that the limestone, being 250 meters thick, could yield 10,000 bags of cement a day for 1,000 years.5 He contended that, while the land could be reclassified as mineral land under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Mines, the process of exclusion

16 | P a g e

from the Cordillera Forest Reserve had not yet been undertaken pursuant to Sec. 1826 of Republic Act No. 3092 and therefore it was still part of the forest zone which was inalienable under the 1935 Constitution. AIC having filed its opposition to the motion for reconsideration, the lower court denied it on September 28, 1967 holding that the grounds raised therein were relevant and proper only if the Bureau of Forestry and the Bureau of Mines were parties to the case. It added that the motion for intervention filed by the Bureau of Lands and the Bureau of Mines was improper in land registration cases. The Director of Lands filed a petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals but the same was dismissed for having been filed out of time.Hence, on December 22, 1967, the Commissioner of Land Registration issued Decrees Nos. 118198,118199 and 118200 for the registration of the subject parcels of land in the name of AIC. Within one year from the issuance of said decrees or on May 22,1968, the Republic of the Philippines, through the Solicitor General, invoking Section 38 of Act No. 496, filed in the Court of First Instance of Abra a petition for review of the decrees of registration and the lower court's decision of July 22,1966. The Solicitor General alleged that although the evidence presented by AIC showed that it had purchased from individual owners only a total area of 24 hectares, the application included 46 hectares of the Central Cordillera Forest Reserve and therefore AIC "employed actual fraud" which misled the court "to error in finding the applicant to have a registerable title over the parcels of land subject of the application." On November 27, 1969, the lower court denied the petition on the ground that if, as alleged by the Solicitor General, then presiding Judge Macario M. Ofilada was mistaken in appreciating the evidence presented, the judicial error was "not synonymous with actual fraud." Without asking for a reconsideration of said order, on February 25, 1970, the Solicitor General, representing the Director of Lands, the Director of Forestry and the Republic of the Philippines, filed the present petition for review on certiorari under Republic Act No. 5440. The petition was forthwith given due course by the Court but inasmuch as no action was taken on their prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order, the petitioners filed a motion reiterating said prayer. Finding the motion meritorious, the Court issued a temporary restraining order enjoining the private respondent and its agents and representatives "from further acts of possession and disposition to innocent purchasers for value of the parcels of land involved" in this case. AIC filed a motion to dismiss the instant petition on the grounds that it raises "unsubstantial" issues and that it was filed out of time. The motion was denied by the Court but it bears pointing out that AIC's second ground for dismissal, which is premised on its perception that a motion for reconsideration of the order of November 27, 1969 is necessary before the filing of the instant petition, is incorrect. A motion for new trial or reconsideration is not a prerequisite to an appeal, petition for review or a petition for review on certiorari. The reglementary period for filing the petition for review on certiorari in the instant case was

thirty (30) days from notice of the order or judgment subject of review which period, parenthetically, is now fifteen (15) days pursuant to Section 39 of the Judiciary Act of 1980. Petitioners having been granted a total of sixty (60) days within which to file the petition, the same was timely filed. Petitioners herein contend that the lower court erred in granting the application for registration of the parcels of land notwithstanding its finding that they are within the forest zone. The District Forester's failure to object to the exclusion of the area sought to be registered from the forest reserve was not enough justification for registration because under Commonwealth Act No. 141, the power to exclude an area from the forest zone belongs to the President of the Philippines, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and not the District Forester or even the Director of Forestry. Petitioners also contend that the lower court erred in denying the petition for review based on actual fraud because under Section 38 of Act No. 496, a decree of registration may be reviewed not only by reason of, actual fraud but also for a fatal infirmity of the decision upon which the decree is based, provided no innocent purchaser for value will be prejudiced. We find the petition to be meritorious. Once again, we reiterate the rule enunciated by this Court in Director of Forestry vs. Muoz and consistently adhered to in a long line of cases the more recent of which is Republic vs. Court of Appeals, that forest lands or forest reserves are incapable of private appropriation and possession thereof, however long, cannot convert them into private properties. This ruling is premised on the Regalian doctrine enshrined not only in the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions but also in the 1987 Constitution Article XIII of which provides that: "Sec. 2. All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal x xx, forests or timber, x xx and other natural resources are owned by the State. With the exception of agricultural lands, all other natural resources shall not be alienated." Pursuant to this constitutional provision, the land must first be released from its classification as forest land and reclassified as agricultural land in accordance with the certification issued by the Director of Forestry as provided for by Section 1827 of the Revised Administrative Code. This is because the classification of public lands is an exclusive prerogative of the executive department of the government and not of the courts. Moreover, a positive act of the government is needed to declassify a forest land into alienable or disposable land for agricultural or other purposes. Being the interested party, an applicant for registration of a parcel of land bears the burden of overcoming the presumption that the land sought to be registered forms part of the public domain. In this case, AIC asserts that the land in dispute is no longer part of the Cordillera Forest Reserve because the communal forest in Bucay, Abra which had been established in 1909 by virtue of Forestry Administrative Order No. 2-298, had been "cancelled and de-established" by Forestry Administrative Order No. 2-622 dated October 1, 1965 and issued by then Acting Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources Jose Y. Feliciano. AIC therefore tries to impress upon the Court the fact that as there was no longer a forested area, the same area had become alienable more so because its actual occupants, who had been devoting it to agriculture, had relinquished their rights over it in favor of AIC "to give

17 | P a g e

way for greater economic benefits for the people in the locality." It should be emphasized, however, that the classification of the land as forest land is descriptive of its legal nature or status and does not have to be descriptive of what the land actually looks like. Hence, the fact that the contested parcels of land have long been denuded and actually contains rich limestone deposits does not in any way affect its present classification as forest land. While it is true that under Section 1839 of the Revised Administrative Code, the Director of Forestry, with the approval of the Department Head, may change the location of a communal forest, such executive action does not amount to a declassification of a forest reserve into an alienable or disposable land. Under Commonwealth Act No. 141, it is no less than 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. The President shall also declare from time to time what lands are open to disposition or concession. AIC therefore, should prove first of all that the lands it claims for registration are alienable or disposable lands. As it is, AIC has not only failed to prove that it has a registerable title but more importantly, it failed to show that the lands are no longer a part of the public domain. The petitioners therefore validly insisted on the review of the decision ordering the issuance of the decree of registration in view of its patent infirmity. The lower court closed its eyes to a basic doctrine in land registration cases that the inclusion in a title of a part of the public domain nullifies the title.31 Its decision to order the registration of an inalienable land in favor of AIC under the misconception that it is imperative for the Director of Forestry to object to its exclusion from the forest reserve even in the face of its finding that indeed a sizable portion of the Central Cordillera Forest Reserve is involved, cannot be allowed to stay unreversed. It betrays an inherent infirmity which must be corrected. WHEREFORE, the order of November 27, 1969 denying the petition for review under Section 38 of Act No. 496 and the decision of July 22,1966 insofar as it orders the registration of land within the Central Cordillera Forest Reserve are hereby REVERSED AND SET ASIDE. The temporary restraining order issued on April 7, 1970 is hereby made permanent. Costs against the private respondent. SO ORDERED. Gutierrez, Jr. and Bidin, JJ., concur. Order reversed and set aside. G.R. No. 32266. February 27, 1989.* THE DIRECTOR OF FORESTRY, petitioner, vs. RUPERTO A. VILLAREAL, respondent.

to be descriptive of what the land actually looks like.Mangrove swamps or manglares should be understood as comprised within the public forests of the Philippines as defined in the aforecited Section 1820 of the Administrative Code of 1917. The legislature having so determined, we have no authority to ignore or modify its decision, and in effect veto it, in the exercise of our own discretion. The statutory definition remains unchanged to date and, no less noteworthy, is accepted and invoked by the executive department. More importantly, the said provision has not been challenged as arbitrary or unrealistic or unconstitutional, assuming the requisite conditions, to justify our judicial intervention and scrutiny. The law is thus presumed valid and so must be respected. We repeat our statement in the Amunategui case that the classification of mangrove swamps as forest lands is descriptive of its legal nature or status and does not have to be descriptive of what the land actually looks like. That determination having been made and no cogent argument having been raised to annul it, we have no duty as judges but to apply it. And so we shall. Same; Same; Same; Same; The previous description of mangrove swamps as agricultural lands covers only those lands over which ownership had already vested before the Administrative Code of 1917 became effective. Our previous description of the term in question as pertaining to our agricultural lands should be understood as covering only those lands over which ownership had already vested before the Administrative Code of 1917 became effective. Such lands could not be retroactively legislated as forest lands because this would be violative of a duly acquired property right protected by the due process clause. So we ruled again only two months ago in Republic of the Philippines vs. Court of Appeals, where the possession of the land in dispute commenced as early as 1909, before it was much later classified as timberland. Same; Same; Same; Tax declarations are not sufficient to prove possession and much less prove ownership in favor of the declarant.Significantly, the tax declarations made by the private respondent were practically the only basis used by the appellate court in sustaining his claim of possession over the land in question. Tax declarations are, of course, not sufficient to prove possession and much less vest ownership in favor of the declarant, as we have held in countless cases. Same; Same; Alienable Public Lands; Mangrove Swamps; Mangrove swamps form part of the public forests and are not alienable under the Constitution.It is reiterated for emphasis that, conformably to the legislative definition embodied in Section 1820 of the Revised Administrative Code of 1917, which remains unamended up to now, mangrove swamps or manglares form part of the public forests of the Philippines. As such, they are not alienable under the Constitution and may not be the subject of private ownership until and unless they are first released as forest land and classified as alienable agricultural land. PETITION for certiorari to review the decision of the Court of Appeals. The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court. The Solicitor General for petitioner. Quasha, Asperilla, Ancheta, Valmonte, Pea & Marcos for respondents.

Land Registration; Public Lands; Public Forests; Mangrove Swamps, Classification Of; Mangrove swamps are classified as forest lands but said classification is descriptive only of its legal nature and status and does not have

18 | P a g e

CRUZ, J.: The basic question before the Court is the legal classification of mangrove swamps, or manglares, as they are commonly known. If they are part of our public forest lands, they are not alienable under the Constitution. If they are considered public agricultural lands, they may be acquired under private ownership. The private respondents claim to the land in question must be judged by these criteria. The said land consists of 178,113 square meters of mangrove swamps located in the municipality of Sapian, Capiz. RupertoVillareal applied for its registration on January 25, 1949, alleging that he and his predecessors-ininterest had been in possession of the land for more than forty years. He was opposed by several persons, including the petitioner on behalf of the Republic of the Philippines. After trial, the application was approved by the Court of First Instance of Capiz. The decision was affirmed by the Court of Appeals.The Director of Forestry then came to this Court in a petition for review on certiorari claiming that the land in dispute was forestal in nature and not subject to private appropriation. He asks that the registration be reversed. It should be stressed at the outset that both the petitioner and the private respondent agree that the land is mangrove land. There is no dispute as to this. The bone of contention between the parties is the legal nature of mangrove swamps or manglares. The petitioner claims, it is forestal and therefore not disposable and the private respondent insists it is alienable as agricultural land. The issue before us is legal, not factual. For a proper background of this case, we have to go back to the Philippine Bill of 1902, one of the earlier American organic acts in the country. By this law, lands of the public domain in the Philippine Islands were classified into three grand divisions, to wit, agricultural, mineral and timber or forest lands. This classification was maintained in the Constitution of the Commonwealth, promulgated in 1935, until it was superseded by the Constitution of 1973. That new charter expanded the classification of public lands to include industrial or commercial, residential, resettlement, and grazing lands and even permitted the legislature to provide for other categories.3 This provision has been reproduced, but with substantial modifications, in the present Constitution. Under the Commonwealth Constitution, which was the charter in force when this case arose, only agricultural lands were allowed to be alienated.Their disposition was provided for under C.A. No. 141. Mineral and timber or forest lands were not subject to private ownership unless they were first reclassified as agricultural lands and so released for alienation. In the leading case of Montano v. Insular Government, promulgated in 1909, mangrove swamps or manglares were defined by the Court as: x xx mud flats, alternately washed and exposed by the tide, in which grows various kindred plants which will not live except when watered by the sea, extending their roots deep into the mud and casting their seeds, which also germinate there. These constitute the mangrove flats of the tropics, which exist naturally, but which are also, to some extent cultivated by man for the sake of the combustible wood of the mangrove and like trees as well as for the useful nipa palm propagated thereon. Although these flats are literally tidal lands, yet we are of the opinion that they cannot be so regarded in the sense in which that term is used in the cases cited or in general American

jurisprudence. The waters flowing over them are not available for purpose of navigation, and they may be disposed of without impairment of the public interest in what remains. xxx Under this uncertain and somewhat unsatisfactory condition of the law, the custom had grown of converting manglares and nipa lands into fisheries which became a common feature of settlement along the coast and at the same time of the change of sovereignty constituted one of the most productive industries of the Islands, the abrogation of which would destroy vested interests and prove a public disaster. Mangrove swamps were thus considered agricultural lands and so susceptible of private ownership. Subsequently, the Philippine Legislature categorically declared, despite the above-cited case, that mangrove swamps form part of the public forests of this country. This it did in the Administrative Code of 1917, which became effective on October 1 of that year, thus: Section 1820. Words and phrase defined.For the purpose of this chapter public forest includes, except as otherwise specially indicated, all unreserved public land, including nipa and mangrove swamps, and all forest reserves of whatever character. It is noteworthy, though, that notwithstanding this definition, the Court maintained the doctrine in the Montano case when two years later it held in the case of Jocson v. Director of Forestry: x xx the words timber land are always translated in the Spanish translation of that Act (Act of Congress) as terrenosforestales. We think there is an error in this translation and that a better translation would be terrenosmadereros. Timber land in English means land with trees growing on it. The manglar plant would never be called a tree in English but a bush, and land which has only bushes, shrubs or aquatic plants growing on it cannot be called timber land. xxx The fact that there are a few trees growing in a manglare or nipa swamps does not change the general character of the land from manglare to timber land. More to the point, addressing itself directly to above-quoted Section 1820, the Court declared: In the case of Mapa vs. Insular Government (10 Phil. Rep., 175), this Court said that the phrase agricultural lands as used in Act No. 926 means those public lands acquired from Spain which are not timber or mineral lands.

19 | P a g e

Whatever may have been the meaning of the term forestry under the Spanish law, the Act of Congress of July 1st, 1902, classifies the public lands in the Philippine Islands as timber, mineral or agricultural lands, and all public lands that are not timber or mineral lands are necessarily agricultural public lands, whether they are used as nipa swamps, manglares, fisheries or ordinary farm lands. The definition of forestry as including manglares found in the Administrative Code of 1917 cannot affect rights which vested prior to its enactment. These lands being neither timber nor mineral lands, the trial court should have considered them agricultural lands. If they are agricultural lands, then the rights of appellants are fully established by Act No. 926. The doctrine was reiterated still later in GarchitorenaVda. deCentenera v. Obias,8 promulgated on March 4, 1933, more than fifteen years after the effectivity of the Administrative Code of 1917. Justice Ostranddeclared for a unanimous Court: The opposition rests mainly upon the proposition that the land covered by the application there are mangrove lands as shown in his opponents Exh. I, but we think this opposition of the Director of Forestry is untenable, inasmuch as it has been definitely decided that mangrove lands are not forest lands in the sense in which this phrase is used in the Act of Congress. No elaboration was made on this conclusion which was merely based on the cases of Montano and Jocson. And in 1977, the above ruling was reaffirmed in Tongson v. Director of Forestry,9 with Justice Fernando declaring that the mangrove lands in litis were agricultural in nature. The decision even quoted with approval the statement of the trial court that: x xx Mangrove swamps where only trees of mangrove species grow, where the trees are small and sparse, fit only for firewood purposes and the trees growing are not of commercial value as lumber do not convert the land into public land. Such lands are not forest in character. They do not form part of the public domain. Only last year, in Republic v. De Porkan, the Court, citing Krivenko v. Register of Deeds, reiterated the ruling in the Mapa case that all public lands that are not timber or mineral lands are necessarily agricultural public lands, whether they are used as nipa swamps, manglares, fisheries or ordinary farm lands. But the problem is not all that simple. As it happens, there is also a line of decisions holding the contrary view. In Yngson v. Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, promulgated in 1983, the Court ruled that the Bureau of Fisheries has no jurisdiction to dispose of swamplands or mangrove lands forming part of the public domain while such lands are still classified as forest lands. Four months later, in Heirs of Amunategui v. Director of Forestry,13 the Court was more positive when it held, again through Justice Gutierrez:

The Heirs of Jose Amunategui maintain that Lot No. 885 cannot be classified as forest land because it is not thickly forested but is a mangrove swamps. Although conceding that a mangrove swamp is included in the classification of forest land in accordance with Section 1820 of the Revised Administrative Code, the petitioners argue that no big trees classified in Section 1821 of the said Code as first, second and third groups are found on the land in question. Furthermore, they contend that Lot 885, even if it is a mangrove swamp, is still subject to land registration proceedings because the property had been in actual possession of private persons for many years, and therefore, said land was already private land better adapted and more valuable for agricultural than for forest purposes and not required by the public interests to be kept under forest classification. The petition is without merit. A forested area classified as forest land of the public domain does not lose such classification simply because loggers or settlers may have stripped it of its forest cover. Parcels of land classified as forest land may actually be covered with grass or planted to crops by kaingin cultivators or other farmers. Forested lands do not have to be on mountains or in out-of-the-way places. Swampy areas covered by mangrove trees, nipa palms, and other trees growing in brackish or sea water may also be classified as forest land. The classification is descriptive of its legal nature or status and does not have to be descriptive of what the land actually looks like. Unless and until the land classsified as forest is released in an official proclamation to that effect so that it may form part of the disposable agricultural lands of the public domain, the rules on confirmation of imperfect titles do not apply. The view was maintained in Vallarta v. Intermediate Appellate Court, where this Court agreed with the Solicitor Generals submission that the land in dispute, which he described as swamp mangrove or forestal land, were not private properties and so not registerable. This case was decided only twelve days after the De Porkan case. Faced with these apparent contradictions, the Court feels there is a need for a categorical pronouncement that should resolve once and for all the question of whether mangrove swamps are agricultural lands or forest lands. The determination of this question is a function initially belonging to the legislature, which has the authority to implement the constitutional provision classifying the lands of the public domain (and is now even permitted to provide for more categories of public lands). The legislature having made such implementation, the executive officials may then, in the discharge of their own role, administer our public lands pursuant to their constitutional duty to ensure that the laws be faithfully executed and in accordance with the policy prescribed. For their part, the courts will step into the picture if the rules laid down by the legislature are challenged or, assuming they are valid, it is claimed that they are not being correctly observed by the executive. Thus do the three departments, coordinating with each other, pursue and achieve the objectives of the Constitution in the conservation and utilization of our natural resources. In C.A. No. 141, the National Assembly delegated to the President of the Philippines the function of making periodic classifications of public lands, thus:

20 | P a g e

Sec. 6. The President, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, shall from time to time classify the lands of the public domain into: (a) Alienable or disposable, (b) Timber, and (c) Mineral lands, and may at any time and in a like manner transfer such lands from one class to another, for the purposes of their administration and disposition. Sec. 7. For the purposes of the administration and disposition of alienable or disposable lands, the President, upon recommendation by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, shall from time to time declare what lands are open to disposition or concession under this Act. With particular regard to alienable public lands, Section 9 of the same law provides: For the purpose of their administration and disposition, the lands of the public domain alienable or open to disposition shall be classified, according to the use or purposes to which such lands are destined, as follows: (a) Agricultural; (b) Residential, commercial, industrial, or for similar productive purposes; (c) Educational, charitable, or other similar purposes; and (d) Reservations for townsites and for public and quasi-public uses. The President, upon recommendation by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, shall from time to time make the classifications provided for in this section, and may, at any time and in a similar manner, transfer lands from one class to another. As for timber or forest lands, the Revised Administrative Code states as follows: Sec. 1826. Regulation setting apart forest reservesRevocation of same.Upon the recommendation of the Director of Forestry, with the approval of the Department Head, the President of the Philippines may set apart forest reserves from the public lands and he shall by proclamation declare the establishment of such reserves and the boundaries thereof, and thereafter such forest reserves shall not be entered, sold, or otherwise disposed of, but shall remain as such for forest uses, and shall be administered in the same manner as public forest.

The President of the Philippines may in like manner by proclamation alter or modify the boundaries of any forest reserve from time to time, or revoke any such proclamation, and upon such revocation such forest reserve shall be and become part of the public lands as though such proclamation had never been made. Sec. 1827. Assignment of forest land for agricultural purposes.Lands in public forest, not including forest reserves, upon the certification of the Director of Forestry that said lands are better adapted and more valuable for agricultural than for forest purposes and not required by the public interests to be kept under forest, shall be declared by the Department Head to be agricultural lands. With these principles in mind, we reach the following conclusion: Mangrove swamps or manglares should be understood as comprised within the public forests of the Philippines as defined in the aforecited Section 1820 of the Administrative Code of 1917. The legislature having so determined, we have no authority to ignore or modify its decision, and in effect veto it, in the exercise of our own discretion. The statutory definition remains unchanged to date and, no less noteworthy, is accepted and invoked by the executive department. More importantly, the said provision has not been challenged as arbitrary or unrealistic or unconstitutional, assuming the requisite conditions, to justify our judicial intervention and scrutiny. The law is thus presumed valid and so must be respected. We repeat our statement in the Amunategui case that the classification of mangrove swamps as forest lands is descriptive of its legal nature or status and does not have to be descriptive of what the land actually looks like. That determination having been made and no cogent argument having been raised to annul it, we have no duty as judges but to apply it. And so we shall. Our previous description of the term in question as pertaining to our agricultural lands should be understood as covering only those lands over which ownership had already vested before the Administrative Code of 1917 became effective. Such lands could not be retroactively legislated as forest lands because this would be violative of a duly acquired property right protected by the due process clause. So we ruled again only two months ago in Republic of the Philippines vs. Court of Appeals, where the possession of the land in dispute commenced as early as 1909, before it was much later classified as timber-land. It follows from all this that the land under contention being admittedly a part of the mangrove swamps of Sapian, and for which a minor forest license had in fact been issued by the Bureau of Forestry from 1920 to 1950, it must be considered forest land. It could therefore not be the subject of the adverse possession and consequent ownership claimed by the private respondent in support of his application for registration. To be so, it had first to be released as forest land and reclassified as agricultural land pursuant to the certification the Director of Forestry may issue under Section 1827 of the Revised Administrative Code. The private respondent invokes the survey plan of the mangrove swamps approved by the Director of Lands,16 to prove that the land is registerable. It should be plain, however, that the mere existence of such a plan would not have the effect of converting the mangrove swamps, as forest land, into agricultural land. Such approval is ineffectual because it is clearly inofficious. The Director of Lands was not authorized to act in the premises. Under the aforecited law, it is the Director of Forestry who has the authority to determine whether forest land is more

21 | P a g e

valuable for agricultural rather than forestry uses, as a basis for its declaration as agricultural land and release for private ownership. Thus we held in the Yngson case: It is elementary in the law governing the disposition of lands of the public domain that until timber or forest lands are released as disposable and alienable neither the Bureau of Lands nor the Bureau of Fisheries has authority to lease, grant, sell or otherwise dispose of these lands for homesteads, sales patents, leases for grazing or other purposes, fishpond leases and other modes of utilization. The Bureau of Fisheries has no jurisdiction to administer and dispose of swamplands or mangrove lands forming part of the public domain while such lands are still classified as forest land or timber land and not released for fishery or other purposes. The same rule was echoed in the Vallarta case, thus: It is elementary in the law governing natural resources that forest land cannot be owned by private persons. It is not registerable. The adverse possession which can be the basis of a grant of title in confirmation of imperfect title cases cannot commence until after the forest land has been declared alienable and disposable. Possession of forest land, no matter how long cannot convert it into private property. We find in fact that even if the land in dispute were agricultural in nature, the proof the private respondent offers of prescriptive possession thereof is remarkably meager and of dubious persuasiveness. The record contains no convincing evidence of the existence of the informacionposesoria allegedly obtained by the original transferor of the property, let alone the fact that the conditions for acquiring title thereunder have been satisfied. Nowhere has it been shown that the informacionposesoria has been inscribed or registered in the registry of property and that the land has been under the actual and adverse possession of the private respondent for twenty years as required by the Spanish Mortgage Law. These matters are not presumed but must be established with definite proof, which is lacking in this case. Significantly, the tax declarations made by the private respondent were practically the only basis used by the appellate court in sustaining his claim of possession over the land in question. Tax declarations are, of course, not sufficient to prove possession and much less vest ownership in favor of the declarant, as we have held in countless cases. We hold, in sum, that the private respondent has not established his right to the registration of the subject land in his name. Accordingly, the petition must be granted. It is reiterated for emphasis that, conformably to the legislative definition embodied in Section 1820 of the Revised Administrative Code of 1917, which remains unamended up to now, mangrove swamps or manglares form part of the public forests of the Philippines. As such, they are not alienable under the Constitution and may

not be the subject of private ownership until and unless they are first released as forest land and classified as alienable agricultural land. WHEREFORE, the decision of the Court of Appeals is SET ASIDE and the application for registration of title of private respondent is DISMISSED, with cost against him. This decision is immediately executory. SO ORDERED. Narvasa, Melencio-Herrera, Gutierrez, Jr., Paras, Feliciano, Gancayco, Padilla, Bidin, Sarmiento, Corts, GrioAquino, Medialdea and Regalado, JJ., concur. Fernan (C.J.), no partmy brother-in-law is part of the law firm representing respondent. Decision set aside. No. L-73002.December 29, 1986.* THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS, petitioner, vs. INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT and ACME PLYWOOD & VENEER CO. INC., ETC., respondents.

Land Registration; A juridical confirmation proceeding should at most be limited to ascertaining whether the possession claimed is of the required character and length of time as it is not so much one to confer title as it is to recognize a title already vested.Nothing can more clearly demonstrate the logical inevitability of considering possession of public land which is of the character and duration prescribed by statute as the equivalent of an express grant from the State than the dictum of the statute itself that the possessor(s) "x xx shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title x xx." No proof being admissible to overcome a conclusive presumption, confirmation proceedings would, in truth be little more than a formality, at the most limited to ascertaining whether the possession claimed is of the required character and length of time; and registration thereunder would not confer title, but simply recognize a title already vested. The proceedings would not originally convert the land from public to private land, but only confirm such a conversion already affected by operation of law from the moment the required period of possession became complete. As was so well put in Cario, "x xx (T)here are indications that registration was expected from all, but none sufficient to show that, for want of it, ownership actually gained would be lost. The effect of the proof, wherever made, was not to confer title, but simply to establish it, as already conferred by the decree, if not by earlier law." Same; Constitutional Law; The 1973 Constitution cannot impair vested rights. Thus where land was acquired in 1962 when corporations were allowed to acquire lands not beyond 1,024 hectares, the same may be registered in 1982 although under 1973 Constitution corporations cannot acquire lands of the public domain.Even on the proposition that the land remained technically "public" land, despite immemorial possession of the Infiels and their ancestors, until title in their favor was actually confirmed in appropriate proceedings under the Public Land

22 | P a g e

Act, there can be no serious question of Acme's right to acquire the land at the time it did, there also being nothing in the 1935 Constitution that might be construed to prohibit corporations from purchasing or acquiring interests in public land to which the vendor had already acquired that type of so-called "incomplete" or "imperfect" title. The only limitation then extant was that corporations could not acquire, hold or lease public agricultural lands in excess of 1,024 hectares. The purely accidental circumstance that confirmation proceedings were brought under the aegis of the 1973 Constitution which forbids corporations from owning lands of the public domain cannot defeat a right already vested before that law came into effect, or invalidate transactions then perfectly valid and proper. This Court has already held, in analogous circumstances, that the Constitution cannot impair vested rights. Same; Same; Same.The fact, therefore, that the confirmation proceedings were instituted by Acme in its own name must be regarded as simply another accidental circumstance, productive of a defect hardly more than procedural and in nowise affecting the substance and merits of the right of ownership sought to be confirmed in said proceedings, there being no doubt of Acme's entitlement to the land. As it is unquestionable that in the light of the undisputed facts, the Infiels, under either the 1935 or the 1973 Constitution, could have had title in themselves confirmed and registered, only a rigid subservience to the letter of the law would deny the same benefit to their lawful successor-in-interest by valid conveyance which violates no constitutional mandate. Same; Same; The ruling in MERALCO vs. CASTROBARTOLOME (114 SCRA 799), that public land ceases to be so only upon issuance of a certificate of title, is hereby reconsidered and abandoned. Correct rule is that in Susi vs. Razon, 48 Phil 424.The Court, in the light of the foregoing, is of the view, and so holds, that the majority ruling in Meralco must be reconsidered and no longer deemed to be binding precedent. The correct rule, as enunciated in the line of cases already referred to, is that alienable public land held by a possessor, personally or through his predecessors-in-interest, openly, continuously and exclusively for the prescribed statutory period (30 years under The Public Land Act, as amended) is converted to private property by the mere lapse or completion of said period, ipso jure. Following that rule and on the basis of the undisputed facts, the land subject of this appeal was already private property at the time it was acquired from the Infiels by Acme. Acme thereby acquired a registrable title, there being at the time no prohibition against said corporation's holding or owning private land. The objection that, as a juridical person, Acme is not qualified to apply for judicial confirmation of title under section 48(b) of the Public Land Act is technical, rather than substantial and, again, finds its answer in the dissent in Meralco. Same; Same; Same; A corporation that acquired private land in 1962 may have it registered in 1982 despite the prohibition in the 1973 Constitution which cannot be given retroactive effect as to impair vested rights. There is also nothing to prevent Acme from reconveying the lands to the Infiels and the latter from themselves applying for confirmation of title and, after issuance of the certificate/s of title in their names, deeding the lands back to Acme. But this would be merely indulging in empty charades, whereas the same result is more efficaciously and speedily obtained, with no prejudice to anyone, by a liberal application of the rule on amendment to conform to the evidence suggested in the dissent in Meralco.

Same; Same; Same; Same.While this opinion seemingly reverses an earlier ruling of comparatively recent vintage, in a real sense, it breaks no precedent, but only reaffirms and re-established, as it were, doctrines the soundness of which has passed the test of searching examination and inquiry in many past cases. Indeed, it is worth noting that the majority opinion, as well as the concurring opinions of Chief Justice Fernando and Justice Abad Santos, in Meralco rested chiefly on the proposition that the petitioner therein, a juridical person, was disqualified from applying for confirmation of an imperfect title to public land under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act. Reference to the 1973 Constitution and its Article XIV, Section 11, was only tangential, limited to a brief paragraph in the main opinion, and may, in that context, be considered as essentially obiter. Meralco, in short, decided no constitutional question. APPEAL by certiorari to review the judgment of the Intermediate Appellate Court. The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court. D. Nacion Law Office for private respondent. NARVASA, J.: The Director of Lands has brought this appeal by certiorari from a judgment of the Intermediate Appellate Court affirming a decision of the Court of First Instance of Isabela, which ordered registration in favor of Acme Plywood & Veneer Co., Inc. of five parcels of land measuring 481, 390 square meters, more or less, acquired by it from Mariano and Acer Infiel, members of the Dumagat tribe. The registration proceedings were for confirmation of title under Section 48 of Commonwealth Act No. 141 (The Public Land Act). as amended; and the appealed judgment sums up the findings of the trial court in said proceedings in this wise: "1. That Acme Plywood & Veneer Co. Inc., represented by Mr. Rodolfo Nazario is a corporation duly organized in accordance with the laws of the Republic of the Philippines and registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission on December 23, 1959; 2. That Acme Plywood & Veneer Co. Inc., represented by Mr. Rodolfo Nazario can acquire real properties pursuant to the provisions of the Articles of Incorporation particularly on the provision of its secondary purposes (paragraph (9), Exhibit 'M-1'); 3. That the land subject of the Land Registration proceeding was ancestrally acquired by Acme Plywood & Veneer Co., Inc., on October 29,1962, from Mariano Infiel and Acer Infiel, both members of the Dumagat tribe and as such are cultural minorities; 4. That the constitution of the Republic of the Philippines of 1935 is applicable as the sale took place on October 29,1962;

23 | P a g e

5. That the possession of the Infiels over the land relinquished or sold to Acme Plywood & Veneer Co., Inc., dates back before the Philippines was discovered by Magellan as the ancestors of the Infiels have possessed and occupied the land from generation to generation until the same came into the possession of Mariano Infiel and Acer Infiel; 6. That the possession of the applicant Acme Plywood & Veneer Co., Inc., is continuous, adverse and public from 1962 to the present and tacking the possession of the Infiels who were granted from whom the applicant bought said land on October 29, 1962, hence the possession is already considered from time immemorial; 7. That the land sought to be registered is a private land pursuant to the provisions of Republic Act No. 3872 granting absolute ownership to members of the non-Christian Tribes on land occupied by them or their ancestral lands, whether with the alienable or disposable public land or within the public domain; 8. That applicant Acme Plywood & Veneer Co. Inc., has introduced more than Forty-Five Million (P45,000,000.00) Pesos worth of improvements, said improvements were seen by the Court during its ocular investigation of the land sought to be registered on September 18,1982; 9. That the ownership and possession of the land sought to be registered by the applicant was duly recognized by the government when the Municipal Officials of Maconacon, Isabela, have negotiated for the donation of the townsitefrom Acme Plywood & Veneer Co. Inc., and this negotiation came to reality when the Board of Directors of the Acme Plywood & Veneer Co., Inc., had donated a part of the land bought by the Company from the lnfiels for the townsite of Maconacon, Isabela (Exh. 'N') on November 15, 1979, and which donation was accepted by the Municipal Government of Maconacon, Isabela (Exh. 'N-1'), during their special session on November 22. 1979." The Director of Lands takes no issue with any of these findings except as to the applicability of the 1935 Constitution to the matter at hand. Concerning this, he asserts that, the registration proceedings have been commenced only on July 17, 1981, or long after the 1973 Constitution had gone into effect, the latter is the correctly applicable law; and since section 11 of its Article XIV prohibits private corporations or associations from holding alienable lands of the public domain, except by lease not to exceed 1,000 hectares (a prohibition not found in the 1935 Constitution which was in force in 1962 when Acme purchased the lands in question from the Infiels), it was reversible error to decree registration in favor of Acme. Section 48, paragraphs (b) and (c), of Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended, reads: "SEC. 48, The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims, and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit: x xx

(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-ininterest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition or ownership, for at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter. (c) Members of the National Cultural minorities who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of lands of the public domain suitable to agriculture, whether disposable or not, under a bona fide claim of ownership for at least 30 years shall be entitled to the rights granted in subsection (b) hereof." The Petition for Review does not disputeindeed, in view of the quoted findings of the trial court which were cited and affirmed by the Intermediate Appellate Court, it can no longer controvert before this Court the fact that Mariano and Acer Infiel, from whom Acme purchased the lands in question on October 29, 1962, are members of the national cultural minorities who had, by themselves and through their progenitors, possessed and occupied those lands since time immemorial, or for more than the required 30-year period and were, by reason thereof, entitled to exercise the right granted in Section 48 of the Public Land Act to have their title judicially confirmed. Nor is there any pretension that Acme, as the successor-in-interest of the Infiels, is disqualified to acquire and register ownership of said lands under any provisions of the 1973 Constitution other than Section 11 of its Article XIV already referred to. Given the foregoing, the question before this Court is whether or not the title that the Infiels had transferred to Acme in 1962 could be confirmed in favor of the latter in proceedings instituted by it in 1981 when the 1973 Constitution was already in effect, having in mind the prohibition therein against private corporations holding lands of the public domain except in lease not exceeding 1,000 hectares. The question turns upon a determination of the character of the lands at the time of institution of the registration proceedings in 1981. If they were then still part of the public domain, it must be answered in the negative. If, on the other hand, they were then already private lands, the constitutional prohibition against their acquisition by private corporations or associations obviously does not apply. In this regard, attention has been invited to Manila Electric Company vs. Castro-Bartolome, et al, where a similar set of facts prevailed. In that case, Manila Electric Company, a domestic corporation more than 60% of the capital stock of which is Filipino-owned, had purchased in 1947 two lots in Tanay, Rizal from the Piguing spouses. The lots had been possessed by the vendors and, before them, by their predecessor-in-interest, Olimpia Ramos, since prior to the outbreak of the Pacific War in 1941. On December 1, 1976, Meralco applied to the Court of First Instance of Rizal, Makati Branch, for confirmation of title to said lots. The court, assuming that the lots were public land, dismissed the application on the ground that Meralco, a juridical person, was not qualified to apply for registration under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act which allows only Filipino citizens or natural persons to

24 | P a g e

apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect titles to public land. Meralco appealed, and a majority of this Court upheld the dismissal. It was held that: "x xx, the said land is still public land. It would cease to be public land only upon the issuance of the certificate of title to any Filipino citizen claiming it under section 48(b). Because it is still public land and the Meralco, as a juridical person, is disqualified to apply for its registration under section 48(b), Meralco's application cannot be given due course or has to be dismissed. x xxx. "Finally, it may be observed that the constitutional prohibition makes no distinction between (on the one hand) alienable agricultural public lands as to which no occupant has an imperfect title and (on the other hand) alienable lands of the public domain as to which an occupant has an imperfect title subject to judicial confirmation. Since section 11 of Article XIV does not distinguish, we should not make any distinction or qualification. The prohibition applies to alienable public lands as to which a Torrens title may be secured under section 48(b). The proceeding under section 48(b) 'presupposes that the land is public' (Mindanao vs. Director of Lands, L-19535, July 30, 1967, 20 SCRA 641, 644)." The present Chief Justice entered a vigorous dissent, tracing the line of cases beginning with Cario in 19092 thru Susi in 1925 down to Hericoin 1980, which developed, affirmed and reaffirmed the doctrine that open, exclusive and undisputed possession of alienable public land f or the period prescribed by law creates the legal fiction whereby the land, upon completion of the requisite period ipso jure and without the need of judicial or other sanction, ceases to be public land and becomes private property. That said dissent expressed what is the better and, indeed, the correct, viewbecomes evident from a consideration of some of the principal rulings cited therein. The main theme was given birth, so to speak, in Cario, involving the Decree/Regulations of June 25, 1880 for adjustment of royal lands wrongfully occupied by private individuals in the Philippine Islands. It was ruled that: "It is true that the language of articles 4 and 55 attributes title to those 'who may prove' possession for the necessary time and we do not overlook the argument that this means may prove in registration proceedings. It may be that an English conveyancer would have recommended an application under the foregoing decree, but certainly it was not calculated to convey to the mind of an Igorot chief the notion that ancient family possessions were in danger, if he had read every word of it. The words 'may prove' (acrediten), as well or better, in view of the other provisions, might be taken to mean when called upon to do so in any litigation. There are indications that registration was expected from all, but none sufficient to show that, for want of it, ownership actually gained would be lost. The effect of the proof, wherever made, was not to confer title, but simply to establish it, as already conferred by the decree, if not by earlier law. x xx." That ruling assumed a more doctrinal character because expressed in more categorical language, in Susi:

"x xx. In favor of Valentin Susi, there is, moreover, the presumption juris et de jure established in paragraph (b) of section 45 of Act No. 2874, amending Act No. 926, that all the necessary requirements for a grant by the Government were complied with, for he has been in actual and physical possession, personally and through his predecessors, of an agricultural land of the public domain openly, continuously, exclusively and publicly since July 26, 1984, with a right to a certificate of title to said land under the provisions of Chapter VIII of said Act. So that when Angela Razon applied for the grant in her favor, Valentin Susi had already acquired, by operation of law not only a right to a grant, but a grant of the Government, for it is not necessary that a certificate of title should be issued in order that said grant may be sanctioned by the courts, an application therefor is sufficient, under the provisions of section 47 of Act No. 2874. If by a legal fiction, Valentin Susi had acquired the land in question by a grant of the State, it had already ceased to be of the public domain and had become private property, at least by presumption, of Valentin Susi, beyond the control of the Director of Lands. Consequently, in selling the land in question of Angela Razon, the Director of Lands disposed of a land over which he had no longer any title or control, and the sale thus made was void and of no effect, and Angela Razon did not thereby acquire any right. Succeeding cases, of which only some need be mentioned, like Lacaste vs. Director of Lands,Mesina vs. Vda. de Sonza,Manarpac vs. Cabanatuan, Miguel vs. Court of Appeals and Herico vs. Dar, supra, by invoking and affirming the Susi doctrine have firmly rooted it in jurisprudence. Herico, in particular, appears to be squarely affirmative: "x xx. Secondly, under the provisions of Republic Act No. 1942, which the respondent Court held to be inapplicable to the petitioner's case, with the latter's proven occupation and cultivation for more than 30 years since 1914, by himself and by his predecessors-ininterest, title over the land has vested on petitioner so as to segregate the land from the mass of public land. Thereafter, it is no longer disposable under the Public Land Act as by free patent. x xx. x xxx

As interpreted in several cases, when the conditions as specified in the foregoing provision are complied with, the possessor is deemed to have acquired, by operation of law, a right to a grant, a government grant, without the necessity of a certificate of title being issued. The land, therefore, ceases to be of the public domain and beyond the authority of the Director of Lands to dispose of. The application for confirmation is mere formality, the lack of which does not affect the legal sufficiency of the title as would be evidenced by the patent and the Torrens title to be issued upon the strength of said patent " Nothing can more clearly demonstrate the logical inevitability of considering possession of public land which is of the character and duration prescribed by statute as the equivalent of an express grant from the State than the dictum of the statute itself that the possessor(s) "x xx shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title x xx." No proof being admissible to overcome a conclusive presumption, confirmation proceedings would, in truth be little more than a formality, at the most limited to ascertaining whether the possession claimed is of the required character and

25 | P a g e

length of time; and registration thereunder would not confer title, but simply recognize a title already vested. The proceedings would not originally convert the land from public to private land, but only confirm such a conversion already affected by operation of law from the moment the required period of possession became complete. As was so well put in Cario, "x xx (T)here are indications that registration was expected from all, but none sufficient to show that, for want of it, ownership actually gained would be lost. The effect of the proof, wherever made, was not to confer title, but simply to establish it, as already conferred by the decree, if not by earlier law." If it is acceptedas it must bethat the land was already private land to which the Infiels had a legally sufficient and transferable title on October 29, 1962 when Acme acquired it from said owners, it must also be conceded that Acme had a perfect right to make such acquisition, there being nothing in the 1935 Constitution then in force (or, for that matter, in the 1973 Constitution which came into effect later) prohibiting corporations from acquiring and owning private lands. Even on the proposition that the land remained technically "public" land, despite immemorial possession of the Infiels and their ancestors, until title in their favor was actually confirmed in appropriate proceedings under the Public Land Act, there can be no serious question of Acme's right to acquire the land at the time it did, there also being nothing in the 1935 Constitution that might be construed to prohibit corporations from purchasing or acquiring interests in public land to which the vendor had already acquired that type of so-called "incomplete" or "imperfect" title. The only limitation then extant was that corporations could not acquire, hold or lease public agricultural lands in excess of 1,024 hectares. The purely accidental circumstance that confirmation proceedings were brought under the aegis of the 1973 Constitution which forbids corporations from owning lands of the public domain cannot defeat a right already vested before that law came into effect, or invalidate transactions then perfectly valid and proper. This Court has already held, in analogous circumstances, that the Constitution cannot impair vested rights. "We hold that the said constitutional prohibition14 has no retroactive application to the sales application of Bian Development Co., Inc. because it had already acquired a vested right to the land applied for at the time the 1973 Constitution took effect. That vested right has to be respected. It could not be abrogated by the new Constitution. Section 2, Article XIII of the 1935 Constitution allows private corporations to purchase public agricultural lands not exceeding one thousand and twenty-four hectares. Petitioner' prohibition action is barred by the doctrine of vested rights in constitutional law. * * *

In the instant case, it is incontestable that prior to the effectivity of the 1973 Constitution the right of the corporation to purchase the land in question had become fixed and established and was no longer open to doubt or controversy. Its compliance with the requirements of the Public Land Law for the issuance of a patent had the effect of segregating the said land from the public domain. The corporation's right to obtain a patent for the land is protected by law. It cannot be deprived of that right without due process (Director of Lands vs. CA, 123 Phil. 919). " The fact, therefore, that the confirmation proceedings were instituted by Acme in its own name must be regarded as simply another accidental circumstance, productive of a defect hardly more than procedural and in nowise affecting the substance and merits of the right of ownership sought to be confirmed in said proceedings, there being no doubt of Acme's entitlement to the land. As it is unquestionable that in the light of the undisputed facts, the Infiels, under either the 1935 or the 1973 Constitution, could have had title in themselves confirmed and registered, only a rigid subservience to the letter of the law would deny the same benefit to their lawful successorin-interest by valid conveyance which violates no constitutional mandate. The Court, in the light of the foregoing, is of the view, and so holds, that the majority ruling in Meralco must be reconsidered and no longer deemed to be binding precedent. The correct rule, as enunciated in the line of cases already referred to, is that alienable public land held by a possessor, personally or through his predecessors-ininterest, openly, continuously and exclusively for the prescribed statutory period (30 years under The Public Land Act, as amended) is converted to private property by the mere lapse or completion of said period, ipso jure. Following that rule and on the basis of the undisputed facts, the land subject of this appeal was already private property at the time it was acquired from the Infiels by Acme. Acme thereby acquired a registrable title, there being at the time no prohibition against said corporation's holding or owning private land. The objection that, as a juridical person, Acme is not qualified to apply for judicial confirmation of title under section 48(b) of the Public Land Act is technical, rather than substantial and, again, finds its answer in the dissent in Meralco: "6. To uphold respondent judge's denial of Meralco's application on the technicality that the Public Land Act allows only citizens of the Philippines who are natural persons to apply for confirmation of their title would be impractical and would just give rise to multiplicity of court actions. Assuming that there was a technical error in not having filed the application for registration in the name of the Piguing spouses as the original owners and vendors, still it is conceded that there is no prohibition against their sale of the land to the applicant Meralco and neither is there any prohibition against the application being refiled with retroactive effect in the name of the original owners and vendors (as such natural persons) with the end result of their application being granted, because of their indisputable acquisition of ownership by operation of law and the conclusive presumption therein provided in their favor. It should not be necessary to go through all the rituals at the great cost of refiling of all such applications in their names and adding to the overcrowded court dockets when the Court can after all these years dispose of it here and now. (See Francisco vs. City of Davao)

The due process clause prohibits the annihilation of vested rights. 'A state may not impair vested rights by legislative enactment, by the enactment or by the subsequent repeal of a municipal ordinance, or by a change in the constitution of the State, except in a legitimate exercise of the police power' (16 C.J.S. 1177-78). * * *

26 | P a g e

The ends of justice would best be served, therefore, by considering the applications for confirmation as amended to conform to the evidence, i.e. as filed in the names of the original persons who as natural persons are duly qualified to apply for formal confirmation of the title that they had acquired by conclusive presumption and mandate of the Public Land Act and who thereafter duly sold to the herein corporations (both admittedly Filipino corporations duly qualified to hold and own private lands) and granting the applications for confirmation of title to the private lands so acquired and sold or exchanged." There is also nothing to prevent Acme from reconveying the lands to the Infiels and the latter from themselves applying for confirmation of title and, after issuance of the certificate/s of title in their names, deeding the lands back to Acme. But this would be merely indulging in empty charades, whereas the same result is more efficaciously and speedily obtained, with no prejudice to anyone, by a liberal application of the rule on amendment to conform to the evidence suggested in the dissent in Meralco. While this opinion seemingly reverses an earlier ruling of comparatively recent vintage, in a real sense, it breaks no precedent, but only reaffirms and re-established, as it were, doctrines the soundness of which has passed the test of searching examination and inquiry in many past cases. Indeed, it is worth noting that the majority opinion, as well as the concurring opinions of Chief Justice Fernando and Justice Abad Santos, in Meralco rested chiefly on the proposition that the petitioner therein, a juridical person, was disqualified from applying for confirmation of an imperfect title to public land under Section 48(b) of the Public Land Act. Reference to the 1973 Constitution and its Article XIV, Section 11, was only tangential, limited to a brief paragraph in the main opinion, and may, in that context, be considered as essentially obiter. Meralco, in short, decided no constitutional question. WHEREFORE, there being no reversible error in the appealed judgment of the Intermediate Appellate Court, the same is hereby affirmed, without costs in this instance. SO ORDERED. Feria, Yap, Fernan, Alampay, Cruz, Paras and Feliciano, JJ., concur. Teehankee, C.J., files a concurring opinion. Melencio-Herrera, J., please see dissent. Judgment affirmed .

No. L-75042.November 29, 1988.* REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs. INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF LUCENA, represented by Msgr. Jose T. Sanchez, and REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, BRANCH LIII, LUCENA CITY, respondents.

Constitutional Law; Land Registration; Whether or not private corporation can acquire alienable lands of the public domain the character of the lands at the time of institution of the registration proceedings must first be determined.The questioned posed before this Court has been settled in the case of DIRECTOR OF LANDS vs. Intermediate Appellate Court (146 SCRA 509 [1986]) which reversed the ruling first enunciated in the 1982 case of Manila Electric Co. vs. CASTRO BARTOLOME, (114 SCRA 789 [1982]) imposing the constitutional ban on public land acquisition by private corporations which ruling was declared emphatically as res judicata on January 7, 1986 in Director of Lands vs. Hermanos y Hermanas de Sta. Cruz de Mayo, Inc., (141 SCRA 21 [1986]). In said case, (Director of Lands v. IAC, supra), this Court stated that a determination of the character of the lands at the time of institution of the registration proceedings must be made. If they were then still part of the public domain, it must be answered in the negative. If, on the other hand, they were already private lands, the constitutional prohibition against their acquisition by private corporation or association obviously does not apply. In affirming the Decision of the Intermediate Appellate Court in said case, this Court adopted the vigorous dissent of the then Justice, later Chief Justice, Claudio Teehankee, tracing the line of cases beginning with CARINO, in 1909, thru SUSI, in 1925, down to HERICO, in 1980, which developed, affirmed and reaffirmed the doctrine that open, exclusive and undisputed possession of alienable public land for the period prescribed by law creates the legal fiction whereby the land, upon completion of the requisite period ipso jure and without the need of judicial or other sanction, ceases to be public land and becomes private property. Same; Same; Possession; The possessor is conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title. Nothing can more clearly demonstrate the logical inevitability of considering possession ofpublic land which is of the character and duration prescribed by statute as the equivalent of an express grant from the state than the victim of the statute itself; that the possessor x xx shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title x xx . No proof b eing admissible to overcome a conclusive presumption, confirmation proceedings would, in truth be little more than a formality, at the most limited to ascertaining whether the possession claimed is of the required character and length of time, and registration thereunder would not confer title, but simply recognize a title already vested. The proceedings would not ORIGINALLY convert the land from public to private land, but only confirm such a conversion already effected by operation of law from the moment the required period of possession became complete. Same; Same; Same; Same; Open, continuous and exclusive possession of the four lots by private respondent clearly established.The open, continuous and exclusive possession of the four lots by private respondent can clearly be gleaned from the following facts on record: Lot 1 and portion of lot 2 was acquired by purchase in 1928 and 1929, respectively. The remaining portion of lots 2 and 3 was already owned and possessed by private respondent even prior to the survey of said lots in 1928. In fact, records of burial of the Roman Catholic Church of

27 | P a g e

Candelaria, Quezon showed that as early as 1919, Lot 3 has already been utilized by the Roman Catholic Church as its cemetery. That at present, said three lots are utilized as the Roman Catholic Church of Candelaria, Quezon. That said lots are declared for taxation purpose in the name of the Roman Catholic Church. The fourth parcel of land was acquired by donation in 1941 and same lot is utilized as church site. Same; Same; The lands subject of the petition were already private property at the time the application for confirmation of title was filed in 1979.There is no doubt that a corporation sole by the nature of its incorporation is vested with the right to purchase and hold real state and personal property. It need not therefore be treated as an ordinary private corporation because whether or not it be so treated as such, the Constitutional provision involved will, nevertheless, be not applicable. Corporation Law; Corporation Sole; A corporation sole is by the nature of its incorporation vested with the right to purchase and hold real and personal property.In the light of the facts obtaining in this case and the ruling of this Court in Director of Lands vs. IAC, (supra,513), the lands subject of this petition were already private property at the time the application for confirmation of title was filed in 1979. There is therefore no cogent reason to disturb the findings of the appellate court. APPEAL from the decision of the Intermediate Appellate Court. The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court. The Solicitor General for petitioner.

On February 2, 1979, the ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP of Lucena, represented by Msgr. Jose T. Sanchez, filed an applicationfor confirmation of title to four (4) parcels of land. Three of said parcels, denominated as Lots 1, 2 and 3, respectively, of plan PSU-65686 are situated in Barrio Masin, Municipality of Candelaria, Quezon Province. The fourth parcels under plan PSU-112592 is located in Barrio Bucal (Taguan), same municipality and province. As basis for the application, the applicant claimed title to the various properties through either purchase or donation dating as far back as 1928. The legal requirements of publication and posting were duly complied with, as was the service of copies of notice of initial hearing on the proper government officials. In behalf of the Director of Lands and the Director of the Bureau of Forest Development, the Solicitor General filed an Opposition on April 20, 1979, alleging therein among others, that the applicant did not have an imperfect title or title in fee simple to the parcel of land being applied for. At the initial hearing held on November 13, 1979, only the Provincial Fiscal in representation of the Solicitor General appeared to interpose personal objection to the application. Hence, an Order of General Default against the whole world was issued by the Court a quo except for the Director of Lands and the Director of the Bureau of Forest Development. The preliminaries dispensed with, the applicant then introduced its proofs in support of the petition, summed up by the lower court as follows: With respect to Lots 1, 2, and 3, plan PSU-65686:

Gilbert D. Camaligan for private respondent. BIDIN, J.: This is an appeal from the 1) decision** of the FIRST CIVIL CASES DIVISION of the then Intermediate Appellate Court dated May 13, 1986, in AC G.R. No. 01410 entitled the ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF Lucena, represented by Msgr. Jose T. Sanchez, applicant-appellee vs. Republic of the Philippines, et al., Oppositors-appellants, affirming the decision*** of the then Court of FIRST INSTANCE of Quezon, 9th Judicial District, Branch 1, dated November 4, 1980 in Land Registration Case No. N-1106 entitled the ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP of Lucena, represented by Msgr. Jose T. Sanchez, applicant vs. the Director of Lands and the Director, Bureau of Forest Development, oppositors, ordering the registration of title to the parcel of land designated, as lots 1, 2 and 3 of plan PSD-65686 and its technical descriptions, and the parcel of land described in plan PSU-112592 and its technical description, together with whatever improvements existing thereon, in the name of the ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP of Lucena and 2) its resolution Dated June 19, 1986, denying appellants Motion for Reconsideration for lack of merit. The factual background of the case as found by the Intermediate Appellate Court are as follows: Lots 1, 2 and 3 of plan PSU-65686 respectively containing an area of 18,977, 6,910 and 16,221 square meters, are adjoining lots & are situated in the Barrio of Masin, Municipality of Candelaria, Province of Quezon (formerly Tayabas) (Exhibits F, F-1, F-2 and F-3). Said lots were surveyed for the Roman Catholic Church on November 3, 1928 (Exhibit P-5) and the survey plan approved on October 20, 1929 (Exhibit F-6). Lot 1 was acquired by the Roman Catholic Church thru Rev. Father RaymundoEsquenet by purchase from the spouses AtanacioYranso and Maria Coronado on October 20, 1928 (Exhibits G, G-1), portion of Lot 2 also by purchase thru Rev. Father RaymundoEsquenet from the spouses Benito Maramot and VenanciaDescaller on May 22, 1969 (Exhibits M, N-1), while the remaining portion of Lot 2 and Lot 3 were already owned and possessed by the Roman Catholic Church even prior to the survey of the said three lots in 1928. Records of burial of the Roman Catholic Church of Candelaria, Quezon showed that even as early as November 1918, Lot 3 has already been utilized by the Roman Catholic Church as its cemetery in Candelaria, Quezon (Exhibit N, N-1 to N-5). These three lots presently constituted the Roman Catholic Church cemetery in Candelaria, Quezon.

28 | P a g e

Lots 1, 2 and 3 are declared for taxation purposes in the name of the Roman Catholic Church under Tax Declaration Nos. 22-19-02-079, 22-19-02-077 and 22-19-02-082 as cemetery site (Exhibit S, V and T). With respect to the parcel of land described in plan PSU-112592: This parcel of land situated in the barrio of Bucal (Taguan), Municipality of Candelaria, Province of Quezon (formerly Tayabas) and more particularly described in plan PSU-112592 and its technical description with an area of 3,221 square meters (Exhibit 1) was formerly owned and possessed by the spouses Paulo G. Macasaet and Gabriela V. de Macasaet. Said spouses, on February 26, 1941, donated this lot to the Roman Catholic Church represented by Reverend Father RaymundoEsquenet (Exhibit J, J-1 to J-4). It was surveyed for the Roman Catholic Church on Aug. 16, 1940 as church site and the corresponding survey plan approved on Jan. 15, 1941 (Exhibits I-1, I-2, I-3). Previously erected on this Lot was an old chapel which was demolished and new chapel now stands in its place on the same site. For his part, the Fiscal in a Manifestation dated July 2 2, 1980, said the State will not adduce evidence in support of its opposition and will submit the instant case for decision. Evaluating the applicants submitted proofs, the court a quo concluded, on the basis of acquisitive prescription at the very least, that the former had adequately shown title to the parcels of land being claimed. Since the acquisition of these four (4) lots by the applicant, it has been in continuous possession and enjoyment thereof, and such possession, together with its predecessors-in interest, covering a period of more than 52 years (at least from the date of the survey in 1928) with respect to lots 1 and 2, about 62 years with respect to lot 3, all of plan PSU- 65686; and more than 39 years with respect to the fourth parcel described in plan PSU-112592 (at least from the date of the survey in 1940) have been open, public, continuous, peaceful, adverse against thewhole world, and in the concept of owner. Accordingly, the court ordered the registration of the four parcels togethe r with the improvements thereon in the name of the ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF LUCENA, INC., a religious corporation sole duly registered and existing under the laws of the Republic of the Philippines. Against this decision, the Solicitor General filed a Motion for reconsideration on the following grounds: 1. Article XIV, Section 11 of the New Constitution (1973) disqualifies a private corporation from acquiring alienable lands for the public domain. 2. In the case at bar the application was filed after the effectivity on the New Constitution on January 17, 1973. which was denied by the lower court for lack of merit.

Still insisting of the alleged unconstitutionality of the registration (a point which, incidentally, the appellant never raised in the lower court prior to its Motion for Reconsideration), the Republic elevated this appeal. (Rollo, pp. 25-28) On May 13, 1986, the first Civil Cases Division of the Intermediate Appellate Court rendered its Decision the dispositive part of which reads: WHEREFORE, finding the judgment a quo to be supported by law and the evidence on record, the same is hereby AFFIRMED. No pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED. (Rollo p. 30) A reconsideration of the aforequoted Decision was sought by Appellant Republic of the Philippines, but for lack of merit, its motion for reconsideration was denied on June 19, 1986, by Resolution of the First Civil Case Division, Intermediate Appellate Court which resolution reads in full: Considering appellant Republic of the Philippines Motion for reconsideration filed on June 4, 1986; the Court RESOLVED to DENY the Motion for Reconsideration for lack of merit, grounds raised therein having all been considered in the decision. (Rollo, p. 31) Hence, this petition. The following are the assigned errors raised by the petitioner in its petition: 1. The decision and the resolution in question are contrary to law and decisions of this honorable Court in Meralco vs. Castro-Bartolome and Republic, 114 SCRA 799 (prom. June 29, 1982); Republic vs. Judge Villanueva and Iglesiani Cristo, 114 SCRA 875, June 29, 1982); and Republic vs. Judge Gonong and Iglesiani Cristo, 118 SCRA 729-733 (November 25, 1982); Director of Lands vs. Hermanos y Hermanas, Inc. 141 SCRA 21-25 (Jan. 7, 1986). 2. The lands applied for registration were the subject of a previous registration case where a decree of registration was already issued. 3. Respondent corporation failed to establish the indentity of the lands applied for. (Rollo, pp. 14 -15) The issue raised in this case involves the question of whether the Roman Catholic Bishop of Lucena, as a corporation sole is qualified to apply for confirmation of its title to the four (4) parcels of land subject of this case. Corollary thereto is the question of whether or not a corporation sole should be treated as an ordinary private corporation, for purpose of the application of Art. XIV, Sec. 11 of the 1973 Constitution. Article XIV, Sec. 11 of the 1973 Constitution, in part provides:

29 | P a g e

Sec. 11.x xx. No private corporation or association may hold alienable lands of the public domain except by lease not to exceed one thousand hectares in area; nor may any citizen hold such lands by lease in excess of five hundred hectares x xx . Sec. 48 of the Public Land Act, in part, provides: Sec. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines occupying lands of the public domain or claiming to own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a Certificate of title therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit: (a) xxxxxxxxx (b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessor-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership for at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title except when prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter. (c) x xxxxxxxx. In its Motion for Reconsideration, petitioner contends that the Roman Catholic Bishop of Lucena (private respondent herein) which is admittedly a corporation sole is disqualified to own and register its title over the parcels of land involved herein. (Rollo, p. 41) In its petition it likewise argued that being a juridical entity, private respondent cannot avail of the benefits of Sec. 48(b) of the public land law which applies to FILIPINO citizens or NATURAL persons. On the other hand, private respondent in its MEMORANDUM espoused the contrary view. There is no merit in this petition. The parties herein do not dispute that since the acquisition of the four (4) lots by the applicant, it has been in continuous possession and enjoyment thereof, and such possession, together with its predecessors-in-interest, covering a period of more than 52 years (at least from the date of survey in 1928) with respect to lots 1 and 2, about 62 years with respect to lot 3, all of plan PSU-65686; and more than 39 years with respect to the fourth parcel described in plan PSU-112592 (at least from the date of the survey in 1940) have been open, public, continuous, peaceful, adverse against the whole world, and in the concept of owner. Being disputed before this Court is the matter of the applicability of Art. XIV Sec. 11 of the 1973 Constitution to the case at bar.

Petitioner argues that considering such constitutional prohibition, private respondent is disqualified to own and register its title to the lots in question. Further, it argues that since the application for registration was filed only on February 2, 1979,long after the 1973 Constitution took effect on January 17, 1973, the application for registration and confirmation of title is ineffectual because at the time it was filed, private corporation had been declared ineligible to acquire alienable lands of the public domain pursuant to Art. XIV, Sec. 11 of the said constitution. (Rollo, p. 41) The questioned posed before this Court has been settled in the case of DIRECTOR OF LANDS vs. Intermediate Appellate Court (146 SCRA 509 [1986]) which reversed the ruling first enunciated in the 1982 case of Manila Electric Co. vs. CASTRO BARTOLOME, (114 SCRA 789 [1982]) imposing the constitutional ban on public land acquisition by private corporations which ruling was declared emphatically as res judicata on January 7, 1986 in Director of Lands vs. Hermanos y Hermanas de Sta. Cruz de Mayo, Inc., (141 SCRA 21 [1986]). In said case, (Director of Lands v. IAC, supra), this Court stated that a determination of the character of the lands at the time of institution of the registration proceedings must be made. If they were then still part of the public domain, it must be answered in the negative. If, on the other hand, they were already private lands, the constitutional prohibition against their acquisition by private corporation or association obviously does not apply. In affirming the Decision of the Intermediate Appellate Court in said case, this Court adopted the vigorous dissent of the then Justice, later Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee, tracing the line of cases beginning with CARINO,1 in 1909, thru SUSI,2 in 1925, down to HERICO, in 1980, which developed, affirmed and reaffirmed the doctrine that open, exclusive and undisputed possession of alienable public land for the period prescribed by law creates the legal fiction whereby the land, upon completion of the requisite period ipso jure and without the need of judicial or other sanction, ceases to be public land and becomes private property. (DIRECTOR OF LANDS vs. IAC, supra, p. 518). Nothing can more clearly demonstrate the logical inevitability of considering possession of public land which is of the character and duration prescribed by statute as the equivalent of an express grant from the state than the dictim of the statute itself;4 that the possessor x xx shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title x xx. No proof being admissable to overcome a conclusive presumption, confirmation proceedings would, in truth be little more than a formality, at the most limited to ascertaining whether the possession claimed is of the required character and length of time, and registration thereunder would not confer title, but simply recognize a title already vested. The proceedings would not ORIGINALLY convert the land from public to private land, but only confirm such a conversion already effected by operation of law from the moment the required period of possession became complete. As was so well put in Carino, x xx There are indications that registration was expected from all, but none sufficient to show that, for want of it, ownership actually gained would be lost. The effect of the proof, wherever made, was not to confer title, but simply to establish it, as already conferred by the decree, if not by earlier law. (DIRECTOR OF LANDS vs. IAC, supra, p. 520).

30 | P a g e

The open, continuous and exclusive possession of the four lots by private respondent can clearly be gleaned from the following facts on record: Lot 1 and portion of Lot 2 was acquired by purchase in 1928 and 1929, respectively. The remaining portion of lots 2 and 3 was already owned and possessed by private respondent even prior to the survey of said lots in 1928. In fact, records of burial of the Roman Catholic Church of Candelaria, Quezon showed that as early as 1919, Lot 3 has already been utilized by the Roman Catholic Church as its cemetery. That at present, said three lots are utilized as the Roman Catholic Church of Candelaria, Quezon. That said lots are declared for taxation purposes in the name of the Roman Catholic Church. The fourth parcel of land was acquired by donation in 1941 and same lot is utilized as church site. It must be emphasized that the Court is not here saying that a corporation sole should be treated like an ordinary private corporation. In Roman Catholic Apostolic Administration of Davao, Inc. vs. Land Registration Commission, et al. (L-8451, December 20, 1957, 102 Phil. 596). We articulated: In solving the problem thus submitted to our consideration, We can say the following: A corporation sole is a special form of corporation usually associated with the clergy. Conceived and introduced into the common law by sheer necessity, this legal creation which was referred to as that unhappy freak of English Law was designed to facilitate the exercise of the functions of ownership carried on by the clerics for and on behalf of the church which was regarded as the property owner (See 1 Bouviers Law Dictionary, p. 682 -683). A corporation sole consists of one person only, and his successors (who will always be one at a time), in some particular station, who are incorporated by law in order to give them some legal capacities and advantages, particulary that of perpetuity, which in their natural persons they could not have had. In this sense, the King is a sole corporation; so is a bishop, or deans, distinct from their several chapters (Reid vs. Barry, 93 fla. 849, 112 So. 846). Pertinent to this case is the provision of Sec. 113 Batas PambansaBlg. 68 which reads as follows: Sec. 113. Acquisition and alienation of property.Any corporation sole may purchase and hold real estate and personal property for its church, charitable, benevolent or educational purposes, and may receive bequests or gifts for such purposes. Such corporation may mortgage or sell real property held by it upon obtaining an order for that purpose from the Court of First Instance of the province where the property is situated; but before the order is issued, proof must be made to the satisfaction of the Court that notice of the application for leave to mortgage or sell has been given by publication or otherwise in such manner and for such time as said court may have directed, and that it is to the interest of the corporation that leave to mortgage or sell should be granted. The application for leave to mortgage or sell must be made by petition, duly verified by the chief archbishop, bishop, priest, minister, rabbi or presiding elder acting as corporation sole, and may be opposed by any member of the religious denomination, sect or church represented by the corporation sole: Provided, That in cases where the rules, regulations anddiscipline of the religious denomination, sect or church religious society or order concerned represented by such corporation sole regulate the method of acquiring, holding, selling and mortgaging real estate

and personal property, such rules, regulations and discipline shall control and the intervention of the courts shall not be necessary. There is no doubt that a corporation sole by the nature of its incorporation is vested with the right to purchase and hold real estate and personal property. It need not therefore be treated as an ordinary private corporation because whether or not it be so treated as such, the Constitutional provision involved will, nevertheless, be not applicable. In the light of the facts obtaining in this case and the ruling of this Court in Director of Lands vs. IAC, (supra, 513), the lands subject of this petition were already private property at the time the application for confirmation of title was filed in 1979. There is therefore no cogent reason to disturb the findings of the appellate court. WHEREFORE, the petition is dismissed for lack of merit and the appealed decision and Resolution of the Intermediate Appellate Court is hereby AFFIRMED. SO ORDERED. No. L-46729.November 19, 1982.* LAUSAN AYOG, BENITO AYOG, DAMASO AYOG, JULIO AYOG, SEGUNDA AYOG, VICENTE ABAQUETA, BERNARDINO ADORMEO, VIDAL ALBANO, FELICIANO ARIAS, ANTONIO BALDOS, MAXIMO BALDOS, ROMERO BINGZON, EMILIO CADAYDAY, FRUCTUOSO CHUA, SR., HERACLEO CHUA, GUILLER-MO DAGOY, ABDON DEIMOS, NICASIO DE LEON, JULIANA VDA. DE DIANNA, DEMOCRITO DEVERO, ALFREDO DIVINAGRACIA, ESTEBAN DIVINAGRACIA, LEODEGARDIO DIVINAGRACIA, NELLO DIVINAGRACIA, MERQUIADES EMBERADOR, JESUS EMPERADO, PORFERIO ENOC, SOFRONIO ENOC, RAFAEL GAETOS, NICOLAS GARLET, TRINIDAD GARLET, FORTUNATA GEONZON, NICOLADA NAQUILA, TORIBIO NAQUILA, EFREN OKAY, ELPIDIO OKAY, SR., DIEGO ONGRIA, ERNESTO PAARES, VICENTE PATULOT, IGNACIA RIBAO, JUANO RICO, JESUS ROSALITA, ARMANDO TANTE and ANSELMO VALMORES, petitioners, vs. JUDGE VICENTE N. CUSI, JR., Court of First Instance of Davao, Branch I, PROVINCIAL SHERIFF OF DAVAO, and BIAN DEVELOPMENT CO., INC., respondents. MINISTER OF NATURAL RESOURCES and DIRECTOR OF LANDS, intervenors.

Constitutional Law; Public Lands; The provision of the 1973 Constitution that no private corporation may hold alienable lands of the public domain except by lease cannot be given retroactive effect so as to adversely affect rights that vested already prior to its effectivity.We hold that the said constitutional prohibition has no retroactive application to the sales application of Bian Development Co., Inc. because it had already acquired a vested right to the land applied for at the time the 1973 Constitution took effect. That vested right has to be respected. It could not be abrogated by the new Constitution. Section 2, Article XIII of the 1935 Constitution allows private corporations to purchase public agricultural lands not exceeding one thousand and twenty-four hectares. Petitioners prohibition action is barred by the doctrine of vested rights in constitutional law. Same; Same; Words and Phrases; Vested right defined.A right is vested when the right to enjoyment has become the property of some particular person or persons as a present interest (16 C.J.S. 1173). It is the

31 | P a g e

privilege to enjoy property legally vested, to enforce contracts, and enjoy the rights of property conferred by the existing law (12 C.J. 955, Note 46, No. 6) or some right or interest in property which has become fixed and established and is no longer open to doubt or controversy (Downs vs. Blount, 170 Fed 15, 20, cited in Balboa vs. Farrales, 51 Phil. 498, 502). Same; Same; Same; Same.It has been observed that, generally, the term vested right expresses the concept of present fixed interest, which in right reason and natural justice should be protected against arbitrary State action, or an innately just and imperative right which an enlightened free society, sensitive to inherent and irrefragable individual rights, cannot deny (16 C.J.S. 1174, Note 71, No. 5, citing Pennsylvania Greyhound Lines, Inc. vs. Rosenthal, 192 Atl. 2nd 587). Same; Same; An applicant who has fulfilled all the requirements for purchase of public land and paid the price should be deemed to have acquired it already by purchase. In Opinion No. 140, series of 1974, he held that as soon as the applicant had fulfilled the construction or cultivation requirements and has fully paid the purchase price, he should be deemed to have acquired by purchase the particular tract of land and to him the area limitation in the new Constitution would not apply. Same; Same; Agrarian Law; Administrative authorities should find ways and means to accommodate some of the petitioners if they are landless and are tillers of the soil. Nevertheless, in the interest of social justice, to avoid agrarian unrest and to dispel the notion that the law grinds the faces of the poor, the administrative authorities should find ways and means of accommodating some of the petitioners if they are landless and really tillers of the soil who in the words of President Magsaysay deserve a little more food in their stomachs, a little more shelter over their heads and a little more clothing on their backs. The State should endeavor to help the poor who find it difficult to make both ends meet and who suffer privations in the universal struggle for existence. Judgment; Ejectment; A judgment cannot be enforced against petitioners who are not defendants in the case of ejectment below.Who hold that that judgment cannot be enforced against the said petitioners who were not defendants in that litigation or who were not summoned and heard in that case. Generally, it is an axiom of the law that no man shall be affected by proceedings to which he is a stranger (Ed. A. Keller & Co. vs. Ellerman&Bucknall Steamship Co., 38 Phil. 514, 520). Same; Same; Same.To enforce the judgment against those who were not parties to the case and who occupy portions of the disputed land distinct and separate from the portions occupied by the defendants in the ejectment suit, would be violative of due process of law, the law which, according to Daniel Webster in his argument in the Dartmouth College case, is the law of the land, a law which hears before it condemns, which proceeds upon inquiry and renders judgment only after trial. The meaning is, that every citizen shall hold his life, liberty, property, and immunities, under the protection of the general rules which govern society. Contempt; No contempt of court is committed by a party who plowed the land and destroyed the standing crops of one of the herein petitioners who is not a party-defendant in the ejectment case below. Petitioners remedy is not contempt but a civil and/or criminal action.We hold that no contempt was committed. The temporary restraining

order was not directed to Bian Development Co., Inc. its officers, agents or privies. Emberador was not named specifically in the trial courts judgment as one of the occupants to be ejected. For the redress of whatever wrong or delict was committed against Emberador by reason of the destruction of his improvements, his remedy is not in a contempt proceeding but in some appropriate civil and criminal actions against the destroyer of the improvements. PETITION for prohibition to review the judgment of the Court of First Instance of Davao, Br. I. Cusi, Jr., J. The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court. AQUINO, J.: This case is about the application of section 11, Article XIV of the 1973 Constitution (disqualifying a private corporation from purchasing public lands) to a 1953 sales award made by the Bureau of Lands, for which a sales patent and Torrens title were issued in 1975,and to the 1964decision of the trial court, ejecting some of the petitioners from the land purchased, which decision was affirmed in 1975by the Court, of Appeals. That legal question arises under the following facts: On January 21, 1953, the Director of Lands, after a bidding, awarded to Bian Development Co., Inc. on the basis of its 1951 Sales Application No. V-6834 Cadastral Lot No. 281 located at Barrio Tamugan, Guianga (Baguio District), Davao City with an area of about two hundred fifty hectares. Some occupants of the lot protested against the sale. The Director of Lands in his decision of August 30, 1957 dismissed the protests and ordered the occupants to vacate the lot and remove their improvements. No appeal was made from that decision. The Director found that the protestants (defendants in the 1961 ejectment suit, some of whom are now petitioners herein) entered the land only after it was awarded to the corporation and, therefore, they could not be regarded as bona fide occupants thereof. The Director characterized them as squatters. He found that some claimants were fictitious persons (p. 30, Rollo of L-43505, Okay vs. CA). He issued a writ of execution land (p. 28, Rollo of L43505, Okay vs. CA).** Because the alleged occupants refused to vacate the land, the corporation filed against them on February 27, 1961 in the Court of First Instance of Davao, Civil Case No. 3711, an ejectment suit (accionpubliciana). ** According to respondent corporation, some of the adverse claimants or protestants were not landless farmers but were welleducated persons belonging to the middle class. Thus, Elpidio Okay was an elementary school principal. Vicente Rehoy was a landowner and barrio captain. Patricio de Leon was a cashier and later assistant branch manager of the Philippine National Bank. Ernesto Paares was a high school teacher and later a college professor. Francisco Mateo was a former college dean (p. 105, Rollo). According to the 44 petitioners, they are tillers of the soil (p. 126, Rollo).

32 | P a g e

That ejectment suit delayed the issuance of the patent. The trial court found that the protests of twenty of the abovenamed defendants were among those that were dismissed by the Director of Lands in his 1957 decision already mentioned. On July 18, 1961 the purchase price of ten thousand pesos was fully paid by Bian Development Co., Inc. On November 10, 1961, an official of the Bureau of Lands submitted a final investigation report wherein it was stated that the corporation had complied with the cultivation and other requirements under the Public Land Law and had paid the purchase price of the land (p. 248, Rollo). It was only more than thirteen years later or on August 14, 1975 when Sales Patent No. 5681 was issued to the corporation for that lot with a reduced area of 175.3 hectares. The patent was registered. Original Certificate of Title No. P-5176 was issued to the patentee. The Director of Lands in his memorandum dated June 29, 1974 for the Secretary of Natural Resources, recommending approval of the sales patent, pointed out that the purchasercorporation had complied with the said requirements long before the effectivity of the Constitution, that the land in question was free from claims and conflicts and that the issuance of the patent was in conformity with the guidelines prescribed in Opinion No. 64, series of 1973, of Secretary of Justice Vicente Abad Santos and was an exception to the prohibition in section 11, Article XIV of the Constitution (p. 258, Rollo). Secretary of Natural Resources Jose J. Leido, Jr., in approving the patent on August 14, 1975, noted that the applicant had acquired a vested right to its issuance (p. 259, Rollo). Before that patent was issued, there was a trial in the ejectment suit. Fifteen defendants (out of forty), namely, Julio Ayog, Guillermo Bagoy, GenerosoBangonan, Jose Catibring, PorfirioEnoc, Jose Emperado, ArcadioLomanto, ToribioNaquila, Elpidio Okay, AlfeoSante, MelitonSante, Ramon Samsa, Rebecca Samsa, ArcadioSarumines and Felix Tahantahan, testified that they entered the disputed land long before 1951 and that they planted it to coconuts, coffee, jackfruit and other fruit trees (p. 28, Record on Appeal). The trial court did not give credence to their testimonies. It believed the report of an official of the Bureau of Lands that in 1953 the land was free from private claims and conflicts and it gave much weight to the decision of the Director of Lands dismissing the protests of the defendants against the sales award (p. 30, Record on Appeal). Furthermore, the trial court during its ocular inspection of the land on November 8, 1964 found that the plantings on the land could not be more than ten years old, meaning that they were not existing in 1953 when the sales award was made. Hence, the trial court ordered the defendants to vacate the land and to restore the possession thereof to the company. The Court of Appeals affirmed that judgment on December 5, 1975 in its decision in Bian Development Co., Inc. vs. Sante, CA-G.R. No. 37142-R. The review of the decision was denied by this Court on May 17, 1976in Elpidio Okay vs. Court of Appeals, L-43505.

After the record was remanded to the trial court, the corporation filed a motion for execution. The defendants, some of whom are now petitioners herein, opposed the motion. They contended that the adoption of the Constitution, which took effect on January 17, 1973, was a supervening fact which rendered it legally impossible to execute the lower courts judgment. They invoked the constitutional prohibition, already mentioned, that no private corporation or association may hold alienable lands of the public domain except by lease not to exceed one thousand hectares in area. The lower court suspended action on the motion for execution because of the manifestation of the defendants that they would file a petition for prohibition in this Court. On August 24, 1977, the instant prohibition action was filed. Some of the petitioners were not defendants in the ejectment case. We hold that the said constitutional prohibition has no retroactive application to the sales application of Bian Development Co., Inc. because it had already acquired a vested right to the land applied for at the time the 1973 Constitution took effect. That vested right has to be respected. It could not be abrogated by the new Constitution. Section 2, Article XIII of the 1935 Constitution allows private corporations to purchase public agricultural lands not exceeding one thousand and twenty-four hectares. Petitioners prohibition action is barred by the doctrine of vested rights in constitutional law. A right is vested when the right to enjoyment has become the property of some particular person or persons as a present interest (16 C.J.S. 1173). It is the privilege to enjoy property legally vested, to enforce contracts, and enjoy the rights of property conferred by the existing law (12 C.J. 955, Note 46, No. 6) or some right or interest in property which has become fixed and established and is no longer open to doubt or controversy (Downs vs. Blount, 170 Fed. 15, 20, cited in Balboa vs. Farrales, 51 Phil. 498, 502). The due process clause prohibits the annihilation of vested rights. A state may not impair v ested rights by legislative enactment, by the enactment or by the subsequent repeal of a municipal ordinance, or by a change in the constitution of the State, except in a legitimate exercise of the police power (16 C.J.S. 1177 -78). It has been observed that, generally, the term vested right expresses the concept of present fixed interest, which in right reason and natural justice should be protected against arbitrary State action, or an innately just and imperative right which an enlightened free society, sensitive to inherent and irrefragable individual rights, cannot deny (16 C.J.S. 1174, Note 71, No. 5, citing Pennsylvania Greyhound Lines, Inc. vs. Rosenthal, 192 Atl. 2nd 587). Secretary of Justice Abad Santos in his 1973 opinion ruled that where the applicant, before the Constitution took effect, had fully complied with all his obligations under the Public Land Act in order to entitle him to a sales patent, there would seem to be no legal or equitable justification for refusing to issue or release the sales patent (p. 254, Rollo).

33 | P a g e

In Opinion No. 140, series of 1974, he held that as soon as the applicant had fulfilled the construction or cultivation requirements and has fully paid the purchase price, he should be deemed to have acquired by purchase the particular tract of land and to him the area limitation in the new Constitution would not apply. In Opinion No. 185, series of 1976, Secretary Abad Santos held that where the cultivation requirements were fulfilled before the new Constitution took effect but the full payment of the price was completed after January 17, 1973, the applicant was, nevertheless, entitled to a sales patent (p. 256, Rollo). Such a contemporaneous construction of the constitutional prohibition by a high executive official carries great weight and should be accorded much respect. It is a correct interpretation of section 11 of Article XIV. In the instant case, it is incontestable that prior to the effectivity of the 1973 Constitution the right of the corporation to purchase the land in question had become fixed and established and was no longer open to doubt or controversy. Its compliance with the requirements of the Public Land Law for the issuance of a patent had the effect of segregating the said land from the public domain. The cor porations right to obtain a patent for that land is protected by law. It cannot be deprived of that right without due process (Director of Lands vs. CA, 123 Phil. 919). As we cannot review the factual findings of the trial court and the Court of Appeals, we cannot entertain petitioners contention that many of them by themselves and through their predecessors -in-interest have possessed portions of land even before the war. They should have filed homestead or free patent applications. Our jurisdiction is limited to the resolution of the legal issue as to whether the 1973 Constitution is an obstacle to the implementation of the trial courts 1964 final and executory judgment ejecting the petitioners. On that issue, we have no choice but to sustain its enforceability. Nevertheless, in the interest of social justice, to avoid agrarian unrest and to dispel the notion that the law grinds the faces of the poor, the administrative authorities should find ways and means of accommodating some of the petitioners if they are landless and are really tillers of the soil who in the words of President Magsaysay deserve a little more food in their stomachs, a little more shelter over their heads and a little more clothing on their backs. The State should endeavor to help the poor who find it difficult to make both ends meet and who suffer privations in the universal struggle for existence. A tiller of the soil is entitled to enjoy basic human rights, particularly freedom from want. The common man should be assisted in possessing and cultivating a piece of land for his sustenance, to give him social security and to enable him to achieve a dignified existence and become an independent, selfreliant and responsible citizen in our democratic society.

To guarantee him that right is to discourage him from becoming a subversive or from rebelling against a social order where, as the architect of the French Revolution observed, the rich are choking with the superfluities of life but the famished multitude lack the barest necessities. Indeed, one purpose of the constitutional prohibition against purchases of public agricultural lands by private corporations is to equitably diffuse land ownership or to encourage owner -cultivatorship and the economic family-size farm and to prevent a recurrence of cases like the instant case. Huge landholdings by corporations or private persons had spawned social unrest. Petitioners counsel claims that Bian Development Co., Inc. seeks to execute the judgment in Civil Case No. 3711, the ejectment suit from which this prohibition case arose, against some of the petitioners who were not defendants in that suit (p. 126, Rollo). Those petitioners are not successors-in-interest of the defendants in the ejectment suit. Nor do they derive their right of possession from the said defendants. Those petitioners occupy portions of the disputed land distinct and separate from the portions occupied by the said defendants. We hold that that judgment cannot be enforced against the said petitioners who were not defendants in that litigation or who were not summoned and heard in that case. Generally, it is an axiom of the law that no man shall be affected by proceedings to which he is a stranger (Ed. A. Keller & Co. vs. Ellerman&Bucknall Steamship Co., 38 Phil. 514; 520). To enforce the judgment against those who were not parties to the case and who occupy portions of the disputed land distinct and separate from the portions occupied by the defendants in the ejectment suit, would be violative of due process of law, the law which, according to Daniel Webster in his argument in the Dartmouth College case, is the law of the land, a law which hears before it condemns, which proceeds upon inquiry and renders judgment only after trial. The meaning is, that every citizen shall hold h is life, liberty, property, and immunities, under the protection of the general rules which govern society. (Cited in Lopez vs. Director of Lands, 47 Phil. 23, 32.See Gatchalian vs. Arlegui, L-35615 and Tang Tee vs. Arlegui, L-41360, February 17, 1977, 75 SCRA 234 and Berses vs. Villanueva, 25 Phil. 473.) Contempt incident.During the pendency of this case, or at about four oclock in the morning of December 12, 1978, CiriacoTebayan, Domingo Nevasca, Rogelio Duterte and SofronioEtac, employees of the Crown Fruits and Cannery Corporation, plowed or bulldozed with their tractors a portion of the disputed land which was occupied by MelquiadesEmberador, one of the petitioners herein. The disputed land was leased by Bian Development Co., Inc. to the canning corporation. The four tractor drivers destroyed the improvements thereon worth about five thousand pesos consisting of coffee, coconut and banana plants. Emberador was in the hospital at the time the alleged destruction of the improvements occurred. However, it should be noted that Emberador was not expressly named as a defendant in the ejectment

34 | P a g e

suit. Apparently, he is not included in the trial courts decision although he was joined as a co -petitioner in this prohibition case. The petitioners in their motion of January 11, 1979 asked that the four tractor drivers and Honesto Garcia, the manager of Bian Development Co., Inc., be declared in contempt of court for having disregarded the restraining order issued by this Court on August 29, 1977, enjoining specifically Judge Vicente N. Cusi and the provincial sheriff from enforcing the decision in the ejectment suit, Civil Case No. 3711 (pp. 46-47, 138-141, Rollo). Garcia and the four drivers answered the motion. The incident was assigned for hearing to Judge Antonio M. Martinez of the Court of First Instance of Davao. Judge Martinez found that the plowing was made at the instance of Garcia who told the barrio captain, petitioner LausanAyog, a Bagobo, that he (Garcia) could not wait anymore for the termination of this case. The record shows that on April 30, 1979 or four months after the said incident, Emberador, in consideration of P3,500, as the value of the improvements on his land, executed a quitclaim in favor of the Crown Fruits and Cannery Corporation (Exh. 1, 2 and 3). We hold that no contempt was committed. The temporary restraining order was not directed to Bian Development Co., Inc. its officers, agents or privies. Emberador was not named specifically in the trial courts judgment as one of the occupants to be ejected. For the redress of whatever wrong or delict was committed against Emberador by reason of the destruction of his improvements, his remedy is not in a contempt proceeding but in some appropriate civil and criminal actions against the destroyer of the improvements. In resume, we find that there is no merit in the instant prohibition action. The constitutional prohibition relied upon by the petitioners as a ground to stop the execution of the judgment in the ejectment suit has no retroactive application to that case and does not divest the trial court of jurisdiction to enforce that judgment. WHEREFORE, the petition is dismissed for lack of merit but with the clarification that the said judgment cannot be enforced against those petitioners herein who were not defen-dants in the ejectment case, Civil Case No. 3711, and over whom the lower court did not acquire jurisdiction. The contempt proceeding is also dismissed. No costs. SO ORDERED.

No. L-27952.February 15, 1982.* TESTATE ESTATE OF JOSE EUGENIO RAMIREZ, MARIA LUISA PALACIOS, Administratrix, petitioner-appellee, vs. MARCELLE D. VDA.DE RAMIREZ, ET AL., oppositors, JORGE and ROBERTO RAMIREZ, legatees, oppositors-appellants. Testate Succession, The testator cannot impose any lien, substitution, or condition on his widows legitime.The appellants do not question the legality of giving Marcelle one-half of the estate in full ownership. They adroit that the testators dispositions impaired his widows legitime. Indeed, under Art. 900 of the Civil Code If the only survivor is the widow or widower, she or he shall be entitled to one -half of the hereditary estate. And since Marcelle alone survived the deceased, she is entitled to one-half of his estate over which he could impose no burden, encumbrance, condition or substitution of any kind whatsoever. (Art. 904, par. 2, Civil Code.) Same; The proposed creation by the administratrix in favor of the testators widow of a usufruct over 113 of the free portion of the testators estate cannot be made where it will run counter to testators express will.It is the one-third usufruct over the free portion which the appellants question and justifiably so. It appears that the court a quo approved the usufruct in favor of Marcelle because the testament provides for a usufruct in her favor of onethird of the estate. The court a quo erred for Marcelle who is entitled to one-half of the estate en plenodominio as her legitime and which is more than what she is given under the will is not entitled to have any additional share in the estate. To give Marcelle more than her legitime will run counter to the testators intention for as stated above his dispositions even impaired her legitime and tended to favor Wanda. Same; A vulgar substitution of heirs is valid even if the heir designated survives the testator inasmuch us vulgar substitution can take place also by refusal or incapacity to inherit of the first heir. They allege that the substitution in its vulgar aspect is void because Wanda survived the testator or stated differently because she did not predecease the testator. But dying before the testator is not the only case for vulgar substitution for it also includes refusal or incapacity to accept the inheritance as provided in Art. 859 of the Civil Code, supra. Hence, the vulgar substitution is valid. Same; A fideicommissary substitution is void if first heir is not related in the 1st degree to the second heir. As regards the substitution in its fideicommissary aspect, the appellants are correct in their claim that it is void for the following reasons: The substitutes (Juan Pablo Jankowski and Horace V. Ramirez) are not related to Wanda, the heir originally instituted. Art 863 of the Civil Code validates a fideicommissary substitution provided such substitution does not go beyond one degree from the heir originally instituted. Same; Constitutional Law; The Constitutional provision which allows aliens to acquire lands by succession does not apply to testamentary succession.We are of the opinion that the Constitutional provision which enables aliens to acquire private lands does not extend to testamentary succession for otherwise the prohibition will be for naught and meaningless. Any alien would be able to circumvent the prohibition by paying money to a Philippine landowner in exchange for a devise of a piece of land.

35 | P a g e

Same; Same; An alien may be bestowed usufructuary rights over a parcel of land in the Philippines.We uphold the usufruct in favor of Wanda because a usufruct, albeit a real right, does not vest title to the land in the usufructuary and it is the vesting of title to land in favor of aliens which is proscribed by the Constitution. APPEAL from the decision of the Court of First Instance of Manila, Branch X. The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court. ABAD SANTOS, J.: The main issue in this appeal is the manner of partitioning the testate estate of Jose Eugenio Ramirez among the principal beneficiaries, namely: his widow MarcelleDemoron de Ramirez; his two grandnephews Roberto and Jorge Ramirez; and his companion Wanda de Wrobleski. The task is not trouble-free because the widow Marcelle is a French who lives in Paris, while the companion Wanda is an Austrian who lives in Spain. Moreover, the testator provided for substitutions. Jose Eugenio Ramirez, a Filipino national, died in Spain on December 11, 1964, with only his widow as compulsory heir. His will was admitted to probate by the Court of First Instance of Manila, Branch X, on July 27, 1965. Maria Luisa Palacios was appointed administratrix of the estate. On June 23, 1966, the administratrix submitted a project of partition as follows: the property of the deceased is to be divided into two parts. One part shall go to the widow en plenodominio in satisfaction of her legitime; the other part or free portion shall go to Jorge and Roberto Ramirez en nudapropriedad. Furthermore, one third (1/3) of the free portion is charged with the widows usufruct and the remaining two-third (2/3) with a usufruct in favor of Wanda. Jorge and Roberto opposed the project of partition on the grounds: (a) that the provisions for vulgar substitution in favor of Wanda de Wrobleski with respect to the widows usufruct and in favor of Juan Pablo Jankowski and Horacio V. Ramirez, with respect to Wandas usufruct are invalid because the first heirs (Marcelle and Wanda) survived the testator; (b) that the provisions for fideicommissary substitutions are also invalid because the first heirs are not related to the second heirs or substitutes within the first degree, as provided in Article 863 of the Civil Code; (c) that the grant of a usufruct over real property in the Philippines in favor of Wanda Wrobleski, who is an alien, violates Section 5, Article III of the Philippine Constitution; and that (d) the proposed partition of the testators interest in the Santa Cruz (Escolta) Building between the widow Marcelle, and the appellants, violates the testators express will to give this property to them. Nonetheless, the lower court approved the project of partition in its order dated May 3, 1967. It is this order which Jorge and Roberto have appealed to this Court. 1. The widows legitime.

The appellants do not question the legality of giving Marcelle one-half of the estate in full ownership. They admit that the testators dispositions impaired his widows legitime. Indeed, under Art. 900 of the Civil Code If the only survivor is the widow or widower, she or he shall be entitled to one-half of the hereditary estate. And since Marcelle alone survived the deceased, she is entitled to one-half of his estate over which he could impose no burden, encumbrance, condition or substitution of any kind whatsoever. (Art. 904, par. 2, Civil Code.) It is the one-third usufruct over the free portion which the appellants question and justifiably so. It appears that the court a quo approved the usufruct in favor of Marcelle because the testament provides for a usufruct in her favor of one-third of the estate. The court a quo erred for Marcelle who is entitled to one-half of the estate en plenodominio as her legitime and which is more than what she is given under the will is not entitled to have any additional share in the estate. To give Marcelle more than her legitime will run counter to the testators intention for as stated above his dispositions even impaired her legitime and tended to favor Wanda. 2. The substitutions. It may be useful to recall that Substitution is the appointment of another heir so that he may enter into the inheritance in default of the heir originally instituted. (Art. 857, Civil Code.) And that there are several kinds of substitutions, namely: simple or common, brief or compendious, reciprocal, and fideicommissary. (Art. 858, Civil Code.) According to Tolentino, Although the Code enumerates four classes, there are really only two principal classes of substitutions: the simple and the fideicommissary. The others are merely variations of these two. (III Civil Code, p. 185 [1973].) The simple or vulgar is that provided in Art. 859 of the Civil Code which reads: ART. 859. The testator may designate one or more persons to substitute the heir or heirs instituted in case such heir or heirs should die before him, or should not wish, or should be incapacitated to accept the inheritance. A simple substitution, without a statement of the cases to which it refers, shall comprise the three mentioned in the preceding paragraph, unless the testator has otherwise provided. The fideicommissary substitution is described in the Civil Code as follows: ART. 863. A fideicommissary substitution by virtue of which the fiduciary or first heir instituted is entrusted with the obligation to preserve and to transmit to a second heir the whole or part of inheritance, shall be valid and shall take effect, provided such substitution does not go beyond one degree from the heir originally instituted, and provided further that the fiduciary or first heir and the second heir are living at time of the death of the testator. It will be noted that the testator provided for a vulgar substitution in respect of the legacies of Roberto and Jorge Ramirez, the appellants, thus: con sustitucion vulgar a favor de susrespectivosdescendientes, y, en sudefecto, con substitution vulgar reciproca entre ambos. The appellants do not question the legality of the substitution so provided.

36 | P a g e

The appellants question the sustitucion vulgar y fideicomisaria a favor de Da. Wanda de Wrobleski in connection with the one-third usufruct over the estate given to the widow Marcelle. However, this question has become moot because as We have ruled above, the widow is not entitled to any usufruct. The appellants also question the sustitucion vulgar y fideicomisaria in connection with Wandas usufruct over two-thirds of the estate in favor of Juan Pablo Jankowski and Horace V. Ramirez. They allege that the substitution in its vulgar aspect as void because Wanda survived the testator or stated differently because she did not predecease the testator. But dying before the testator is not the only case for vulgar substitution for it also includes refusal or incapacity to accept the inheritance as provided in Art. 859 of the Civil Code, supra. Hence, the vulgar substitution is valid. As regards the substitution in its fideicommissary aspect, the appellants are correct in their claim that it is void for the following reasons: (a) The substitutes (Juan Pablo Jankowski and Horace V. Ramirez) are not related to Wanda, the heir originally instituted. Art. 863 of the Civil Code validates a fideicommissary substitution provided such substitution does not go beyond one degree from the heir originally instituted. What is meant by one degree from the first heir is explained by Tolen tino as follows: Scaevola, Maura, and Traviesas construe degree as designation, substitution, or transmission. The Supreme Court of Spain has decidedly adopted this construction. From this point of view, there can be only one transmission or substitution, and the substitute need not be related to the first heir. Manresa, Morell, and Sanchez Roman, however, construe the word degree as generation, and the present Code has obviously followed this interpretation, by providing that the substitution shall no t go beyond one degree from the heir originally instituted. The Code thus clearly indicates that the second heir must be related to and be one generation from the first heir. From this, it follows that the fideicommissary can only be either a child or a parent of the first heir. These are the only relatives who are one generation or degree from the fiduciary. (Op cit, pp. 193 -194.) (b) There is no absolute duty imposed on Wanda to transmit the usufruct to the substitutes as required by Arts. 865 and 867 of the Civil Code. In fact, the appellee admits that the testator contradicts the establishment of a fideicommissary substitution when he permits the properties subject of the usufruct to be sold upon mutual agreement of the usufructuaries and the naked owners. (Brief, p. 26.) 3. The usufruct of Wanda. The appellants claim that the usufruct over real properties of the estate in favor of Wanda is void because it violates the constitutional prohibition against the acquisition of lands by aliens.

The 1935 Constitution which is controlling provides as follows: SEC. 5. Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private agricultural land shall be transferred or assigned except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain in the Philippines. (Art. XIII.) The court a quo upheld the validity of the usufruct given to Wanda on the ground that the Constitution covers not only succession by operation of law but also testamentary succession. We are of the opinion that the Constitutional provision which enables aliens to acquire private lands does not extend to testamentary succession for otherwise the prohibition will be for naught and meaningless. Any alien would be able to circumvent the prohibition by paying money to a Philippine landowner in exchange for a devise of a piece of land. This opinion notwithstanding, We uphold the usufruct in favor of Wanda because a usufruct, albeit a real right, does not vest title to the land in the usufructuary and it is the vesting of title to land in favor of aliens which is proscribed by the Constitution. IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the estate of Jose Eugenio Ramirez is hereby ordered distributed as follows: One-half (1/2) thereof to his widow as her legitime; One-half (1/2) thereof which is the free portion to Roberto and Jorge Ramirez in naked ownership and the usufruct to Wanda de Wrobleski with a simple substitution in favor of Juan Pablo Jankowski and Horace V. Ramirez. The distribution herein ordered supersedes that of the court a quo. No special pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED. G.R. No. 74833. January 21, 1991.* THOMAS C. CHEESMAN, petitioner, vs. INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT and ESTELITA PADILLA, respondents.

Appeals; Question of Law; Question of Fact; A question of law exists when the doubt or difference arises as to what the law is on a certain state of facts; whereas, a question of fact exists when the doubt or difference arises as to the truth or the falsehood of alleged facts.Such conclusions as that (1) fraud, mistake or excusable negligence existed in the premises justifying relief to Estelita Padilla under Rule 38 of the Rules of Court, or (2) that CriseldaCheesman had used money she had brought into her marriage to Thomas Cheesman to purchase the lot and house in question, or (3) that Estelita Padilla believed in good faith that CriseldaCheesman was the exclusive owner of the property that she (Estelita) intended to and did in fact buyderived from the evidence adduced by the parties, the facts set out in the pleadings or otherwise appearing on record are conclusions or findings of fact. As distinguished from a question of lawwhich exists when the doubt or difference arises as to what the law is on a certain state of factsthere is a question of fact when the doubt or difference arises as to the truth or the

37 | P a g e

falsehood of alleged facts; or when the query necessarily invites calibration of the whole evidence considering mainly the credibility of witnesses, existence and relevancy of specific surrounding circumstances, their relation; to each other and to the whole and the probabilities of the situation. Civil Procedure; Relief from Judgment; The prayer in a petition for relief from judgment under Rule 38 is not necessarily the same prayer in the petitioners complaint, answer or other basic pleading.An order of a Court of First Instance (now Regional Trial Court) granting a petition for relief under Rule 38 is interlocutory and is not appealable. Hence, the failure of the party who opposed the petition to appeal from said order, or his participation in the proceedings subsequently had, cannot be construed as a waiver of his objection to the petition for relief so as to preclude his raising the same question on an appeal from the judgment on the merits of the main case. Such a party need not repeat his objections to the petition for relief, or perform any act thereafter (e.g., take formal exception) in order to preserve his right to question the same eventually, on appeal, it being sufficient for this purpose that he has made of record the action which he desires the court to take or his objection to the action of the court and his grounds therefor. Again, the prayer in a petition for relief from judgme nt under Rule 38 is not necessarily the same prayer in the petitioners complaint, answer or other basic pleading. This should be obvious. Equally obvious is that once a petition for relief is granted and the judgment subject thereof set aside, and further proceedings are thereafter had, the Court in its judgment on the merits may properly grant the relief sought in the petitioners basic pleadings, although different from that stated in his petition for relief. Constitutional Law; Prohibition against Aliens to Acquire Residential Lands; Even if it were a fact that petitioners Filipina wife used conjugal funds to purchase the lot in question, petitioner, who is an alien, cannot recover or hold the lot so acquired, in view of the prohibition in the Constitution as to the sale to aliens of residential lands.Finally, the fundamental law prohibits the sale to aliens of residential land. Section 14, Article XIV of the 1973 Constitution ordains that, Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private land shall be transferred or conveyed except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain. Petitioner Thomas Cheesman was, of course, charged with knowledge of this prohibition. Thus, assuming that it was his intention that the lot in question be purchased by him and his wife, he acquired no right whatever over the property by virtue of that purchase; and in attempting to acquire a right or interest in land, vicariously and clandestinely, he knowingly violated the Constitution; the sale as to him was null and void. In any event, he had and has no capacity or personality to question the subsequent sale of the same property by his wife on the theory that in so doing he is merely exercising the prerogative of a husband in respect of conjugal property. To sustain such a theory would permit indirect controversion of the constitutional prohibition. If the property were to be declared conjugal, this would accord to the alien husband a not insubstantial interest and right over land, as he would then have a decisive vote as to its transfer or disposition. This is a right that the Constitution does not permit him to have. As already observed, the finding that his wife had used her own money to purchase the property cannot, and will not, at this stage of the proceedings be reviewed and overturned. But even if it were a fact that said wife had used conjugal funds to make the acquisition, the considerations just set out militate, on high constitutional grounds, against his recovering and holding the property so acquired, or any part thereof. And whether in such an event, he may recover from his wife any share of the money used for the purchase or charge

her with unauthorized disposition or expenditure of conjugal funds is not now inquired into; that would be, in the premises, a purely academic exercise. PETITION to review the decision of the then Intermediate Appellate Court. The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court. Estanislao L. Cesa, Jr. for petitioner. Benjamin I. Fernandez for private respondent. NARVASA, J.: This appeal concerns the attempt by an American citizen (petitioner Thomas Cheesman) to annulfor lack of consent on his partthe sale by his Filipino wife (Criselda) of a residential lot and building to Estelita Padilla, also a Filipino. Thomas Cheesman and Criselda P. Cheesman were married on December 4, 1970 but have been separated since February 15, 1981. On June 4, 1974, a Deed of Sale and Transfer of Possessory Rights was executed by Armando Altares conveying a parcel of unregistered land and the house thereon (at No. 7 Neptune Street, Gordon Heights, Olongapo City) in favor of Criselda P. Cheesman, of legal age, Filipino citizen, married to Thomas Cheesman, and residing at Lot No. 1, Blk. 8, Filtration Ro ad, Sta. Rita, Olongapo City x x. Thomas Cheesman, although aware of the deed, did not object to the transfer being made only to his wife. Thereafterand again with the knowledge of Thomas Cheesman and also without any protest by himtax declarations for the property purchased were issued in the name only of CriseldaCheesman and Criselda assumed exclusive management and administration of said property, leasing it to tenants. On July 1, 1981, CriseldaCheesman sold the property to Estelita M. Padilla, without the knowledge or consent of Thomas Cheesman. The deed described Criselda as being . . . . of legal age, married to an American citizen, x x. Thirty days later, or on July 31, 1981, Thomas Cheesman brought suit in the Court of First Instance at Olongapo City against his wife, Criselda, and Estelita Padilla, praying for the annulment of the sale on the ground that the transaction had been executed without his knowledge and consent. An answer was filed in the names of both defendants, alleging that (1) the property sold was paraphernal, having been purchased by Criselda with funds exclusively belonging to her (her own separate money); (2) Thomas Cheesman, being an American, was disqualified to have any interest or right of ownership inthe land; and (3) Estelita Padilla was a buyer in good faith.

38 | P a g e

During the pre-trial conference, the parties agreed upon certain facts which were subsequently set out in a pre-trial Order dated October 22, 1981, as follows: 1. Both parties recognize the existence of the Deed of Sale over the residential house located at No. 7 Granada St., Gordon Heights, Olongapo City, which was acquired from Armando Altares on June 4, 1974 and sold by defendant CriseldaCheesman to Estelita Padilla on July 12, 1981; and 2. That the transaction regarding the transfer of their property took place during the existence of their marriage as the couple were married on December 4, 1970 and the questioned property was acquired sometime on June 4, 1974. The action resulted in a judgment dated June 24, 1982, declaring void ab initio the sale executed by CriseldaCheesman in favor of Estelita M. Padilla, and ordering the delivery of the property to Thomas Cheesman as administrator of the conjugal partnership property, and the payment to him of P5, 000.00 as attorneys fees and expenses of litigation. The judgment was however set aside as regards Estelita Padilla on a petition for relief filed by the latter, grounded on fraud, mistake and/or excusable negligence which had seriously impaired her right to present her case adequately. After the petition for relief from judgment was given due course, according to petitioner, a new judge presided over the case. Estelita Padilla filed a supplemental pleading on December 20, 1982 as her own answer to the complaint, and a motion for summary judgment on May 17, 1983. Although there was initial opposition by Thomas Cheesman to the motion, the parties ultimately agreed on the rendition by the court of a summary judgment after entering into a stipulation of facts, at the hearing of the motion on June 21, 1983, the stipulation being of the following tenor: (1) that the property in question was bought during the existence of the marriage between the plaintiff and the defendant Criselda P. Cheesman; (2) that the property bought during the marriage was registered in the name of CriseldaCheesman and that the Deed of Sale and Transfer of Possessory Rights executed by the former owner-vendor Armando Altares in favor of CriseldaCheesman made no mention of the plaintiff; (3) that the property, subject of the proceedings, was sold by defendant CriseldaCheesman in favor of the other defendant Estelita M. Padilla, without the written consent of the plaintiff. Obviously upon the theory that no genuine issue existed any longer and there was hence no need of a trial, the parties having in fact submitted, as also stipulated, their respective memoranda each praying for a favorable verdict, the Trial Court rendered a Summary Judgment dated August 3, 1982 declaring the sale executed by x xCriseldaCheesman in favor of x xEstelita Padilla to be valid, dismissing Thomas Cheesmans complaint and

ordering him to immediately turn over the possession of the house and lot subject of x x (the) case to x xEstelita Padilla x x. The Trial Court found that 1) the evidence on record satisfactorily overcame the disputable presumption in Article 160 of the Civil Code that all property of the marriage belongs to the conjugal partnership unless it be proved that it pertains exclusively to the husband or to the wifeand that the immovable in question was in truth Criseldasparaphernal property; 2) that moreover, said legal presumption in Article 160 could not apply inasmuch as the husband -plaintiff is an American citizen and therefore disqualified under the Constitution to acquire and own real properties; and 3) that the exercise by Criselda of exclusive acts of dominion with the knowledge of her husband had led x xEstelita Padilla to believe that the properties were the exclusive properties of CriseldaCheesman and on the faith of such a belief she bought the properties from her and for value, and therefore, Thomas Cheesman was, under Article 1473 of the Civil Code, estopped to impugn the transfer to Estelita Padilla. Thomas Cheesman appealed to the Intermediate Appellate Court. There he assailed the Trial Court acts (1) of granting Estelita Padillas petition for relief, and its resolution of matters not subject of said petition; (2) of declaring valid the sale to Estelita Padilla despite the lack of consent thereto by him, and the presumption of the conjugal character of the property in question pursuant to Article 160 of the Civil Code; (3) of disregarding the judgment of June 24, 1982 which, not having been set aside as against CriseldaCheesman, continued to be binding on her; and (4) of making findings of fact not supported by evidence. All of these contentions were found to be without merit by the Appellate Tribunal which, on January 7, 1986, promulgated a decision (erroneously denominated, Report) affirming the Summary Judgment complained of, having found no reversible error therein. Once more, Thomas Cheesman availed of the remedy of appeal, this time to this Court. Here, he argues that it was reversible error for the Intermediate Appellate Court 1) to find that the presumption that the property in question is conjugal in accordance with Article 160 had been satisfactorily overcome by Estelita Padilla; 2) to rule that Estelita Padilla was a purchaser of said property in good faith, it appearing: a) that the deed by which the property was conveyed to CriseldaCheesman described her as married to Thomas C. Cheesman, as well as the deed by which the property was later conveyed to Estelita Padill a by CriseldaCheesman also described her as married to an American citizen, and both said descriptions had thus placed Estelita on knowledge of the conjugal nature of the property; and

39 | P a g e

b) that furthermore, Estelita had admitted to stating in the deed by which she acquired the property a price much lower than that actually paid in order to avoid payment of more obligation to the government; 3) to decline to declare that the evidence did not warrant the grant of Estelita Padillas petition for r elief on the ground of fraud, mistake and/or excusable negligence; 4) to hold that Thomas Cheesman had waived his objection to Estelitas petition for relief by failing to appeal from the order granting the same; 5) to accord to Estelita Padilla a relief other than that she had specifically prayed for in her petition for relief, i.e., the restoration of the purchase price which Estelita allegedly paid to Criselda; and 6) to fail to declare that Thomas Cheesmans citizenship is not a bar to h is action to recover the lot and house for the conjugal partnership. Such conclusions as that (1) fraud, mistake or excusable negligence existed in the premises justifying relief to Estelita Padilla under Rule 38 of the Rules of Court, or (2) that CriseldaCheesman had used money she had brought into her marriage to Thomas Cheesman to purchase the lot and house in question, or (3) that Estelita Padilla believed in good faith that CriseldaCheesman was the exclusive owner of the property that she (Estelita) intended to and did in fact buyderived from the evidence adduced by the parties, the facts set out in the pleadings or otherwise appearing on recordare conclusions or findings of fact. As distinguished from a question of lawwhich exists when the doubt or difference arises as to what the law is on a certain state of factsthere is a question of fact when the doubt or difference arises as to the truth or the falsehood of alleged facts;23 or when the query necessarily invites calibration of the whole evi dence considering mainly the credibility of witnesses, existence and relevancy of specific surrounding circumstances, their relation; to each other and to the whole and the probabilities of the situation. Now, it is axiomatic that only questions of law, distinctly set forth, may be raised in a petition for the review on certiorari of a decision of the Court of Appeals presented to this Court. As everyone knows or ought to know, the appellate jurisdiction of this Court is limited to reviewing errors of law, accepting as conclusive the factual findings of the lower court upon its own assessment of the evidence. The creation of the Court of Appeals was precisely intended to take away from the Supreme Court the work of examining the evidence, and confine its task to the determination of questions which do not call for the reading and study of transcripts containing the testimony of witnesses. The rule of conclusiveness of the factual findings or conclusions of the Court of Appeals is, to be sure, subject to certain exceptions, none of which however obtains in the case at bar. It is noteworthy that both the Trial Court and the Intermediate Appellate Court reached the same conclusions on the three (3) factual matters above set forth, after assessment of the evidence and determination of the probative value thereof. Both Courts found that the facts on record adequately proved fraud, mistake or excusable negligence by which Estelita Padillas rights had been substantially impaired; that the funds used by CriseldaCheesman was money she had earned and saved prior to her marriage to Thomas Cheesman, and that

Estelita Padilla did believe in good faith that CriseldaCheesman was the sole owner of the property in question. Consequently, these determinations of fact will not be here disturbed, this Court having been cited to no reason for doing so. These considerations dispose of the first three (3) points that petitioner Cheesman seeks to make in his appeal. They also make unnecessary an extended discussion of the other issues raised by him. As to them, it should suffice to restate certain fundamental propositions. An order of a Court of First Instance (now Regional Trial Court) granting a petition for relief under Rule 38 is interlocutory and is not appealable. Hence, the failure of the party who opposed the petition to appeal from said order, or his participation in the proceedings subsequently had, cannot be construed as a waiver of his objection to the petition for relief so as to preclude his raising the same question on appeal from the judgment on the merits of the main case. Such a party need not repeat his objections to the petition for relief, or perform any act thereafter (e.g., take formal exception) in order to preserve his right to question the same eventually, on appeal, it being sufficient for this purpose that he has made of record the action which he desires the court to take or his objection to the action of the court and his grounds therefor. Again, the prayer in a petition for relief from judgment under Rule 38 is not necessarily the same prayer in the petitioners complaint, answer or other basic pleading. This should be obvious. Equally obvious is that once a petition for relief is granted and the judgment subject thereof set aside, and further proceedings are thereafter had, the Court in its judgment on the merits may properly grant the relief sought in the petitioners basic pleadings, although different from that stated in his petition for relief. Finally, the fundamental law prohibits the sale to aliens of residential land. Section 14, Article XIV of the 1973 Constitution ordains that, Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private land shall be transferred or conveyed except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain.30 Petitioner Thomas Cheesman was, of course, charged with knowledge of this prohibition. Thus, assuming that it was his intention that the lot in question be purchased by him and his wife, he acquired no right whatever over the property by virtue of that purchase; and in attempting to acquire a right or interest in land, vicariously and clandestinely, he knowingly violated the Constitution; the sale as to him was null and void. In any event, he had and has no capacity or personality to question the subsequent sale of the same property by his wife on the theory that in so doing he is merely exercising the prerogative of a husband in respect of conjugal property. To sustain such a theory would permit indirect controversion of the constitutional prohibition. If the property were to be declared conjugal, this would accord to the alien husband a not insubstantial interest and right over land, as he would then have a decisive vote as to its transfer or disposition. This is a right that the Constitution does not permit him to have. As already observed, the finding that his wife had used her own money to purchase the property cannot, and will not, at this stage of the proceedings be reviewed and overturned. But even if it were a fact that said wife had used conjugal funds to make the acquisition, the considerations just set out militate, on high constitutional grounds,

40 | P a g e

against his recovering and holding the property so acquired, or any part thereof. And whether in such an event, he may recover from his wife any share of the money used for the purchase or charge her with unauthorized disposition or expenditure of conjugal funds is not now inquired into; that would be, in the premises, a purely academic exercise. An equally decisive consideration is that Estelita Padilla is a purchaser in good faith, both the Trial Court and the Appellate Court having found that Cheesmans own conduct had led her to believe the property to be exclusive property of the latters wife, freely disposable by her wit hout his consent or intervention. An innocent buyer for value, she is entitled to the protection of the law in her purchase, particularly as against Cheesman, who would assert rights to the property denied him by both letter and spirit of the Constitution itself. WHEREFORE, the appealed decision is AFFIRMED, with costs against petitioner. SO ORDERED. G.R. No. 110249. August 21, 1997.* ALFREDO TANO, BALDOMERO TANO, DANILO TANO, ROMUALDO TANO, TEOCENES MIDELLO, ANGEL DE MESA, EULOGIO TREMOCHA, FELIPE ONGONION, JR., ANDRES LINIJAN, ROBERT LIM, VIRGINIA LIM, FELIMON DE MESA, GENEROSO ARAGON, TEODORICO ANDRE, ROMULO DEL ROSARIO, CHOLITO ANDRE, ERICK MONTANO, ANDRES OLIVA, VITTORIO SALVADOR, LEOPOLDO ARAGON, RAFAEL RIBA, ALEJANDRO LEONILA, JOSE DAMACINTO, RAMIRO MANAEG, RUBEN MARGATE, ROBERTO REYES, DANILO PANGARUTAN, NOE GOLPAN, ESTANISLAO ROMERO, NICANOR DOMINGO, ROLDAN TABANG, ADRIANO TABANG, FREDDIE SACAMAY, MIGUEL TRIMOCHA, PACENCIO LABABIT, PABLO H. OMPAD, CELESTINO A. ABANO, ALLAN ALMODAL, BILLY D. BARTOLAY, ALBINO D. LIQUE, MELCHOR J. LAYSON, MELANIE AMANTE, CLARO E. YATOC, MERGELDO B. BALDEO, EDGAR M. ALMASETA, JOSELITO MANAEG, LIBERATO ANDRADA, JR., ROBERTO BERRY, RONALD VILLANUEVA, EDUARDO VALMORIA, WILFREDO MENDOZA, NAPOLEON BABANGGA, ROBERTO TADEPA, RUBEN ASINGUA, SILVERIO GABO, JERRY ROMERO, DAVID PANGGARUTAN, DANIEL PANGGARUTAN, ROMEO AGAWIN, FERNANDO EQUIZ, DITO LEQUIZ, RONILO MODERABLE, BENEDICTO TORRES, ROSITO A. VALDEZ, CRESENCIO A. SAYANG, NICOMEDES S. ACOSTA, ERENEO A. SEGARINO, JR., WILFREDO A. RAUTO, DIOSDADO A. ACOSTA, BONIFACIO G. SISMO, TACIO ALUBA, DANIEL B. BATERZAL, ELISEO YBAEZ, DIOSDADO E. HANCHIC, EDDIE ESCALICAS, ELEAZAR B. BATERZAL, DOMINADOR HALICHIC, ROOSEVELT RISMO-AN, ROBERT C. MERCADER, TIRSO ARESGADO, DANIEL CHAVEZ, DANILO CHAVEZ, VICTOR VILLAROEL, ERNESTO C. YBAEZ, ARMANDO T. SANTILLAN, RUDY S. SANTILLAN, JODJEN ILUSTRISIMO, NESTOR SALANGRON, ALBERTO SALANGRON, ROGER L. ROXAS, FRANCISCO T. ANTICANO, PASTOR SALANGRON, BIENVENIDO SANTILLAN, GILBUENA LADDY, FIDEL BENJAMIN, JOVELITO BELGANO, HONEY PARIOL, ANTONIO SALANGRON, NICASIO SALANGRON, & AIRLINE SHIPPERS ASSOCIATION OF PALAWAN, petitioners, vs. HON. GOV. SALVADOR P. SOCRATES, MEMBERS OF SANGGUNIANG PANLALAWIGAN OF PALAWAN, namely, VICE-GOVERNOR JOEL T. REYES, JOSE D. ZABALA, ROSALINO R. ACOSTA, JOSELITO A. CADLAON, ANDRES R. BAACO, NELSON P. PENEYRA, CIPRIANO C. BARROMA, CLARO E. ORDINARIO, ERNESTO A. LLACUNA, RODOLFO C. FLORDELIZA, GILBERT S. BAACO, WINSTON G. ARZAGA, NAPOLEON F. ORDONEZ and GIL P. ACOSTA, CITY MAYOR EDWARD HAGEDORN, MEMBERS OF

SANGGUNIANG PANLUNGSOD NG PUERTO PRINCESA, ALL MEMBERS OF BANTAY DAGAT, MEMBERS OF PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE OF PALAWAN, PROVINCIAL AND CITY PROSECUTORS OF PALAWAN and PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, and ALL JUDGES OF PALAWAN, REGIONAL, MUNICIPAL AND METROPOLITAN, respondents.

Remedial Law; Special Civil Action; Certiorari; The general rule is that where a motion to quash is denied, the remedy therefrom is not certiorari, but for the party aggrieved thereby to go to trial without prejudice to reiterating special defenses involved in said motion, and if, after trial on the merits an adverse decision is rendered, to appeal therefrom in the manner authorized by law.As to the first set of petitioners, this special civil for certiorari must fail on the ground of prematurity amounting to a lack of cause of action. There is no showing that said petitioners, as the accused in the criminal cases, have filed motions to quash the informations therein and that the same were denied. The ground available for such motions is that the facts charged therein do not constitute an offense because the ordinances in question are unconstitutional. It cannot then be said that the lower courts acted without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion to justify recourse to the extraordinary remedy of certiorari or prohibition. It must further bestressed that even if petitioners did file motions to quash, the denial thereof would not forthwith give rise to a cause of action under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. The general rule is that where a motion to quash is denied, the remedy therefrom is not certiorari, but for the party aggrieved thereby to go to trial without prejudice to reiterating special defenses involved in said motion, and if, after trial on the merits an adverse decision is rendered, to appeal therefrom in the manner authorized by law. And, even where in an exceptional circumstance such denial may be the subject of a special civil action for certiorari, a motion for reconsideration must have to be filed to allow the court concerned an opportunity to correct its errors, unless such motion may be dispensed with because of existing exceptional circumstances. Finally, even if a motion for reconsideration has been filed and denied, the remedy under Rule 65 is still unavailable absent any showing of the grounds provided for in Section 1 thereof. For obvious reasons, the petition at bar does not, and could not have, alleged any of such grounds. Same; Same; Same; While the Court has concurrent jurisdiction with Regional Trial Courts and with the Court of Appeals to issue writs of certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, habeas corpus and injunction, such concurrence gives petitioners no unrestricted freedom of choice of court forum. Even granting arguendo that the first set of petitioners have a cause of action ripe for the extraordinary writ of certiorari, there is here a clear disregard of the hierarchy of courts, and no special and important reason or exceptional and compelling circumstance has been adduced why direct recourse to us should be allowed. While we have concurrent jurisdiction with Regional Trial courts and with the Court of Appeals to issue writs of certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, habeas corpus and injunction, such concurrence gives petitioners no unrestricted freedom of choice of court forum. Same; Same; Same; The judicial policy that the Court will not entertain direct resort to it unless the redress desired cannot be obtained in the appropriate courts or where exceptional and compelling circumstances justify availment of a remedy within and calling for the exercise of a primary jurisdiction. In Santiago v. Vasquez, this Court forcefully expressed that the propensity of litigants and lawyers to disregard the hierarchy of courts must be put to

41 | P a g e

a halt, not only because of the imposition upon the precious time of this Court, but also because of the inevitable and resultant delay, intended or otherwise, in the adjudication of the case which often has to be remanded or referred to the lower court, the proper forum under the rules of procedure, or as better equipped to resolve the issues since this Court is not a trier of facts. We reiterated the judicial policy that this Court will not entertain direct resort to it unless the redress desired cannot be obtained in the appropriate courts or where exceptional and compelling circumstances justify availment of a remedy within and calling for the exercise of [its] primary jurisdiction. Same; Same; Declaratory Relief; Supreme Court is not possessed of original jurisdiction over petitions for declaratory relief even if only questions of law are involved. As to the second set of petitioners, the instant petition is obviously one for DECLARATORY RELIEF, i.e., for a declaration that the Ordinances in question are a nullity. . . for being unconstitutional. As such, their petition must likewise fail, as this Court is not possessed of original jurisdiction over petitions for declaratory relief even if only questions of law are involved, it being settled that the Court merely exercises appellate jurisdiction over such petitions. Constitutional Law; Statute; Statutory Construction; It is settled that laws (including ordinances enacted by local government units) enjoy the presumption of constitutionality.It is of course settled that laws (including ordinances enacted by local government units) enjoy the presumption of constitutionality. To overthrow this presumption, there must be a clear and unequivocal breach of the Constitution, not merely a doubtful or argumentative contradiction. In short, the conflict with the Constitution must be shown beyond reasonable doubt. Where doubt exists, even if well-founded, there can be no finding of unconstitutionality. To doubt is to sustain. Same; Same; Same; Court finds petitioners contentions baseless and holds that the Ordinances do not suffer from any infirmity both under the Constitution and applicable laws.After a scrutiny of the challenged Ordinances and the provisions of the Constitution petitioners claim to have been violated, we find petitioners contentions baseless and so hold that the former do not suffer from any infirmity, both under the Constitution and applicable laws. SPECIAL CIVIL ACTION in the Supreme Court.Certiorari and Prohibition. The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court. Arturo S. Santos for petitioners. Agustin M. Rocamora for Edward S. Hagedorn, SanggunianPanlungsod of Puerto Princesa City and BantayDagat of Puerto Princesa City. Romeo M. Seratubas, Robert Y. Peneyra and Martin E. Ruelo for Salvador P. Socrates. DAVIDE, JR., J.:

Petitioners caption their petition as one for Certiorari, Injunction With Preliminary and Mandatory Injunction, with Prayer for Temporary Restraining Order and pray that this Court: (1) declare as unconstitutional: (a) Ordinance No. 15-92, dated 15 December 1992, of the SangguniangPanlungsod of Puerto Princesa; (b) Office Order No. 23, Series of 1993, dated 22 January 1993, issued by Acting City Mayor Amado L. Lucero of Puerto Princesa City; and (c) Resolution No. 33, Ordinance No. 2, Series of 1993, dated 19 February 1993, of the SangguniangPanlalawigan of Palawan; (2) enjoin the enforcement thereof; and (3) restrain respondents Provincial and City Prosecutors of Palawan and Puerto Princesa City and Judges of the Regional Trial Courts, Metropolitan Trial Courts1 and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts in Palawan from assuming jurisdiction over and hearing cases concerning the violation of the Ordinances and of the Office Order. More appropriately, the petition is, and shall be treated as, a special civil action for certiorari and prohibition. The following is petitioners summary of the factual antecedents giving rise to the petition: 1. On December 15, 1992, the SangguniangPanlungsodng Puerto Princesa City enacted Ordinance No. 15-92 which took effect on January 1, 1993 entitled: AN ORDINANCE BANNING THE SHIPMENT OF ALL LIVE FISH AND LOBSTER OUTSIDE PUERTO PRINCESA CITY FROM JANUARY 1, 1993 TO JANUARY 1, 1998 AND PROVIDING EXEMPTIONS, PENALTIES AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES THEREOF, the full text of which reads as follows: Section 1. Title of the Ordinance.This Ordinance is entitled: AN ORDINANCE BANNING THE SHIPMENT OF ALL LIVE FISH AND LOBSTER OUTSIDE PUERTO PRINCESA CITY FROM JANUARY 1, 1993 TO JANUARY 1, 1998 AND PROVIDING EXEMPTIONS, PENALTIES AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES THEREOF. Section 2. Purpose, Scope and Coverage.To effectively free our City Sea Waters from Cyanide and other Obnoxious substance[s], and shall cover all persons and/or entities operating within and outside the City of Puerto Princesa who is are (sic) directly or indirectly in the business or shipment of live fish and lobster outside the City. Section 3. Definition of terms.For purpose of this Ordinance the following are hereby defined: A. SEA BASSA kind of fish under the family of Centropomidae, better known as APAHAP; B. CATFISHA kind of fish under the family of Plotosidae, better known as HITO-HITO; C. MUDFISHA kind of fish under the family of Orphicaphalisae better known as DALAG; D. ALL LIVE FISHAll alive, breathing not necessarily moving of all specie[s] use[d] for food and for aquarium purposes.

42 | P a g e

E. LIVE LOBSTERSeveral relatively, large marine crusteceans [sic] of the genus Homarus that are alive and breathing not necessarily moving. Section 4. It shall be unlawful [for] any person or any business enterprise or company to ship out from Puerto Princesa City to any point of destination either via aircraft or seacraft of any live fish and lobster except SEA BASS, CATFISH, MUDFISH, AND MILKFISH FRIES. Section 5. Penalty Clause.Any person/s and or business entity violating this Ordinance shall be penalized with a fine of not more than P5,000.00 or imprisonment of not more than twelve (12) months, cancellation of their permit to do business in the City of Puerto Princesa or all of the herein stated penalties, upon the discretion of the court. Section 6. If the owner and/or operator of the establishment found violating the provisions of this ordinance is a corporation or a partnership, the penalty prescribed in Section 5 hereof shall be imposed upon its president and/or General Manager or Managing Partner and/or Manager, as the case maybe [sic]. Section 7. Any existing ordinance or any provision of any ordinance inconsistent to [sic] this ordinance is deemed repealed. Section 8. This Ordinance shall take effect on January 1, 1993. SO ORDAINED. x xx 2. To implement said city ordinance, then Acting City Mayor Amado L. Lucero issued Office Order No. 23, Series of 1993 dated January 22, 1993 which reads as follows: In the interest of public service and for purposes of City Ordinance No. PD426 -14-74, otherwise known as AN ORDINANCE REQUIRING ANY PERSON ENGAGED OR INTENDING TO ENGAGE IN ANY BUSINESS, TRADE, OCCUPATION, CALLING OR PROFESSION OR HAVING IN HIS POSSESSION ANY OF THE ARTICLES FOR WHICH A PERMIT IS REQUIRED TO BE HAD, TO OBTAIN FIRST A MAYORS PERMIT and City Ordinance No. 15-92, AN ORDINANCE BANNING THE SHIPMENT OF ALL LIVE FISH AND LOBSTER OUTSIDE PUERTO PRINCESA CITY FROM JANUARY 1, 1993 TO JANUARY 1, 1998, you are hereby authorized and directed to check or conduct necessary inspections on cargoes containing live fish and lobster being shipped out from the Puerto Princesa Airport, Puerto Princesa Wharf or at any port within the jurisdiction of the City to any point of destinations [sic] either via aircraft or seacraft. The purpose of the inspection is to ascertain whether the shipper possessed the req uired Mayors Permit issued by this Office and the shipment is covered by invoice or clearance issued by the local office of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and as to compliance with all other existing rules and regulations on the matter.

Any cargo containing live fish and lobster without the required documents as stated herein must be held for proper disposition. In the pursuit of this Order, you are hereby authorized to coordinate with the PAL Manager, the PPA Manager, the local PNP Station and other offices concerned for the needed support and cooperation. Further, that the usual courtesy and diplomacy must be observed at all times in the conduct of the inspection. Please be guided accordingly. x xx 3. On February 19, 1993, the SangguniangPanlalawigan, Provincial Government of Palawan enacted Resolution No. 33 entitled: A RESOLUTION PROHIBITING THE CATCHING, GATHERING, POSSESSING, BUYING, SELLING AND SHIPMENT OF LIVE MARINE CORAL DWELLING AQUATIC ORGANISMS, TO WIT: FAMILY: SCARIDAE (MAMENG), EPINE PHELUS FASCIATUS (SUNO). CROMILEPTES ALTIVELIS (PANTHER OR SENORITA), LOBSTER BELOW 200 GRAMS AND SPAWNING, TRIDACNA GIGAS (TAKLOBO), PINCTADA MARGARITEFERA (MOTHER PEARL, OYSTERS, GIANT CLAMS AND OTHER SPECIES), PENAEUS MONODON (TIGER PRAWN-BREEDER SIZE OR MOTHER), EPINEPHELUS SUILLUS (LOBA OR GREEN GROUPER) AND FAMILY: BALISTIDAE (TROPICAL AQUARIUM FISHES) FOR A PERIOD FIVE (5) YEARS IN AND COMING FROM PALAWAN WATERS, the full text of which reads as follows: WHEREAS, scientific and factual researches [sic] and studies disclose that only five (5) percent of the corals of our province remain to be in excellent condition as [a] habitat of marine coral dwelling aquatic organisms; WHEREAS, it cannot be gainsaid that the destruction and devastation of the corals of our province were principally due to illegal fishing activities like dynamite fishing, sodium cyanide fishing, use of other obnoxious substances and other related activities; WHEREAS, there is an imperative and urgent need to protect and preserve the existence of the remaining excellent corals and allow the devastated ones to reinvigorate and regenerate themselves into vitality within the span of five (5) years; WHEREAS, Sec. 468, Par. 1, Sub-Par. VI of the [sic] R.A. 7160 otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1991 empowers the SangguniangPanlalawigan to protect the environment and impose appropriate penalties [upon] acts which endanger the environment such as dynamite fishing and other forms of destructive fishing, among others. NOW, THEREFORE, on motion by Kagawad Nelson P. Peneyra and upon unanimous decision of all the members present;

43 | P a g e

Be it resolved as it is hereby resolved, to approve Resolution No. 33, Series of 1993 of the SangguniangPanlalawigan and to enact Ordinance No. 2 for the purpose, to wit: ORDINANCE NO. 2 Series of 1993 BE IT ORDAINED BY THE SANGGUNIANG PANLALAWIGAN IN SESSION ASSEMBLED: Section 1. TITLEThis Ordinance shall be known as an Ordinance Prohibiting the catching, gathering, possessing, buying, selling and shipment of live marine coral dwelling aquatic organisms, to wit: 1. Family: Scaridae (Mameng), 2. EpinephelusFasciatus (Suno), 3. Cromileptesaltivelis (Panther or Senorita), lobster below 200 grams and spawning), 4. TridacnaGigas (Taklobo), 5. PinctadaMargaretefera (Mother Pearl, Oysters, Giant Clams and other species), 6.PenaeusMonodon (Tiger Prawn-breeder size or mother), 7.EpinephelusSuillus (Loba or Green Grouper) and 8. Family: Balistidae (T[r]opical Aquarium Fishes) for a period of five (5) years in and coming from Palawan Waters. Section II. PRELIMINARY CONSIDERATIONS 1. Sec. 2-A (Rep. Act 7160). It is hereby declared, the policy of the state that the territorial and political subdivisions of the State shall enjoy genuine and meaningful local autonomy to enable them to attain their fullest development as selfreliant communities and make them more effective partners in the attainment of national goals. Toward this end, the State shall provide for [a] more responsive and accountable local government structure instituted through a system of decentralization whereby local government units shall be given more powers, authority, responsibilities and resources. 2. Sec. 5-A (R.A. 7160). Any provision on a power of [a] local Government Unit shall be liberally interpreted in its favor, and in case of doubt, any question thereon shall be resolved in favor of devolution of powers and of the lower government units. Any fair and reasonable doubts as to the existence of the power shall be interpreted in favor of the Local Government Unit concerned. 3. Sec. 5-C (R.A. 7160). The general welfare provisions in this Code shall be liberally interpreted to give more powers to local government units in accelerating economic development and upgrading the quality of life for the people in the community. 4. Sec. 16 (R.A. 7160). General Welfare.Every local government unit shall exercise the powers expressly granted, those necessarily implied therefrom, as well as powers necessary, appropriate, or incidental for its efficient and effective governance; and those which are essential to the promotion of the general welfare. Section III. DECLARATION OF POLICY.It is hereby declared to be the policy of the Province of Palawan to protect and conserve the marine resources of Palawan not only for the greatest good of the majority of the present

generation but with [the] proper perspective and consideration of [sic] their prosperity, and to attain this end, the SangguniangPanlalawigan henceforth declares that is [sic] shall be unlawful for any person or any business entity to engage in catching, gathering, possessing, buying, selling and shipment of live marine coral dwelling aquatic organisms as enumerated in Section 1 hereof in and coming out of Palawan Waters for a period of five (5) years; Section IV. PENALTY CLAUSE.Any person and/or business entity violating this Ordinance shall be penalized with a fine of not more than Five Thousand Pesos (P5,000.00), Philippine Currency, and/or imprisonment of six (6) months to twelve (12) months and confiscation and forfeiture of paraphernalias [sic] and equipment in favor of the government at the discretion of the Court; Section V. SEPARABILITY CLAUSE.If for any reason, a Section or provision of this Ordinance shall be held as unconditional [sic] or invalid, it shall not affect the other provisions hereof. Section VI. REPEALING CLAUSE.Any existing Ordinance or a provision of any ordinance inconsistent herewith is deemed modified, amended or repealed. Section VII. EFFECTIVITY. This Ordinance shall take effect ten (10) days after its publication. SO ORDAINED. x xx 4. The respondents implemented the said ordinances, Annexes A and C hereof thereby depriving all the fishermen of the whole province of Palawan and the City of Puerto Princesa of their only means of livelihood and the petitioners Airline Shippers Association of Palawan and other marine merchants from performing their lawful occupation and trade; 5. Petitioners Alfredo Tano, BaldomeroTano, TeocenesMidello, Angel de Mesa, EulogioTremocha, and Felipe Ongonion, Jr. were even charged criminally under criminal case no. 93-05-C in the 1st Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Cuyo-Agutaya-Magsaysay, an original carbon copy of the criminal complaint dated April 12, 1993 is hereto attached as Annex D; while xerox copies are attached as Annex D to the copies of the petition;

6. Petitioners Robert Lim and Virginia Lim, on the other hand, were charged by the respondent PNP with the respondent City Prosecutor of Puerto Princesa City, a xerox copy of the complaint is hereto attached as Annex E; Without seeking redress from the concerned local government units, prosecutors office an d courts, petitioners directly invoked our original jurisdiction by filing this petition on 4 June 1993. In sum, petitioners contend that:

44 | P a g e

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

On 25 October 1993 petitioners filed an Urgent Plea for the Immediate Issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order, claiming that despite the pendency of this case, Branch 50 of the Regional Trial Court of Palawan was bent on proceeding with Criminal Case No. 11223 against petitioners DaniloTano, Alfredo Tano, EulogioTremocha, RomualdoTano, BaldomeroTano, Andres Linijan and Angel de Mesa for violation of Ordinance No. 2 of the SangguniangPanlalawigan of Palawan. Acting on said plea, we issued on 11 November 1993 a temporary restraining order directing Judge Angel Miclat of said court to cease and desist from proceeding with the arraignment and pre-trial of Criminal Case No. 11223. On 12 July 1994, we excused the Office of the Solicitor General from filing a comment, considering that as claimed by said office in its Manifestation of 28 June 1994, respondents were already represented by counsel. The rest of the respondents did not file any comment on the petition. In the resolution of 15 September 1994, we resolved to consider the comment on the petition as the Answer, gave due course to the petition and required the parties to submit their respective memoranda. On 22 April 1997 we ordered impleaded as party respondents the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and required the Office of the Solicitor General to comment on their behalf. But in light of the latters motion of 9 July 1997 for an extension of time to file the comment which would only result in further delay, we dispensed with said comment. After due deliberation on the pleadings filed, we resolved to dismiss this petition for want of merit, and on 22 July 1997, assigned it to the ponente to write the opinion of the Court. I There are actually two sets of petitioners in this case. The first is composed of Alfredo Tano, BaldomeroTano, DaniloTano, RomualdoTano, TeocenesMidello, Angel de Mesa, EulogioTremocha, Felipe Ongonion, Jr., Andres Linijan, and Felimon de Mesa, who were criminally charged with violating SangguniangPanlalawigan Resolution No. 33 and Ordinance No. 2, Series of 1993, of the Province of Palawan, in Criminal Case No. 93-05-C of the 1st Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) of Palawan; and Robert Lim and Virginia Lim who were charged with violating City Ordinance No. 15-92 of Puerto Princesa City and Ordinance No. 2, Series of 1993, of the Province of Palawan before the Office of the City Prosecutor of Puerto Princesa. All of them, with the exception of TeocenesMidello, Felipe Ongonion, Jr., Felimon de Mesa, Robert Lim and Virginia Lim, are likewise the accused in Criminal Case No. 11223 for the violation of Ordinance No. 2 of the SangguniangPanlalawigan of Palawan, pending before Branch 50 of the Regional Trial Court of Palawan. The second set of petitioners is composed of the rest of the petitioners numbering seventy-seven (77), all of whom, except the Airline Shippers Association of Palawanan alleged private association of several marine merchants are natural persons who claim to be fishermen.

45 | P a g e

The primary interest of the first set of petitioners is, of course, to prevent the prosecution, trial and determination of the criminal cases until the constitutionality or legality of the Ordinances they allegedly violated shall have been resolved. The second set of petitioners merely claim that being fishermen or marine merchants, they would be adversely affected by the ordinances. As to the first set of petitioners, this special civil for certiorari must fail on the ground of prematurity amounting to a lack of cause of action. There is no showing that said petitioners, as the accused in the criminal cases, have filed motions to quash the informations therein and that the same were denied. The ground available for such motions is that the facts charged therein do not constitute an offense because the ordinances in question are unconstitutional.6 It cannot then be said that the lower courts acted without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion to justify recourse to the extraordinary remedy of certiorari or prohibition. It must further be stressed that even if petitioners did file motions to quash, the denial thereof would not forthwith give rise to a cause of action under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. The general rule is that where a motion to quash is denied, the remedy therefrom is not certiorari, but for the party aggrieved thereby to go to trial without prejudice to reiterating special defenses involved in said motion, and if, after trial on the merits an adverse decision is rendered, to appeal therefrom in the manner authorized by law. And, even where in an exceptional circumstance such denial may be the subject of a special civil action for certiorari, a motion for reconsideration must have to be filed to allow the court concerned an opportunity to correct its errors, unless such motion may be dispensed with because of existing exceptional circumstances.8 Finally, even if a motion for reconsideration has been filed and denied, the remedy under Rule 65 is still unavailable absent any showing of the grounds provided for in Section 1 thereof. For obvious reasons, the petition at bar does not, and could not have, alleged any of such grounds. As to the second set of petitioners, the instant petition is obviously one for DECLARATORY RELIEF, i.e., for a declaration that the Ordinances in question are a nullity. . . for being unconstitutional. As s uch, their petition must likewise fail, as this Court is not possessed of original jurisdiction over petitions for declaratory relief even if only questions of law are involved, it being settled that the Court merely exercises appellate jurisdiction over such petitions. Even granting arguendo that the first set of petitioners have a cause of action ripe for the extraordinary writ of certiorari, there is here a clear disregard of the hierarchy of courts, and no special and important reason or exceptional and compelling circumstance has been adduced why direct recourse tous should be allowed. While we have concurrent jurisdiction with Regional Trial courts and with the Court of Appeals to issue writs of certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, habeas corpus and injunction, such concurrence gives petitioners no unrestricted freedom of choice of court forum, so we held in People v. Cuaresma: This concurrence of jurisdiction is not . . . to be taken as according to parties seeking any of the writs an absolute unrestrained freedom of choice of the court to which application therefor will be directed. There is after all hierarchy of courts. That hierarchy is determinative of the venue of appeals, and should also serve as a general determinant of the appropriate forum for petitions for the extraordinary writs. A becoming regard for that judicial hierarchy most certainly indicates that petitions for the issuance of extraordinary writs against first level

(inferior) courts should be filed with the Regional Trial Court, and those against the latter, with the Court of Appeals. A direct invocation of the Supreme Courts original jurisdiction to issue these writs should be allowed only when there are special and important reasons therefor, clearly and specifically set out in the petition. This is established policy. It is a policy necessary to prevent inordinate demands upon the Courts time and attention which are better devoted to those matters within its exclusive jurisdiction, and to prevent further over-crowding of the Courts docket. . . . The Court feels the need to reaffirm that policy at this time, and to enjoin strict adherence thereto in the light of what it perceives to be a growing tendency on the part of litigants and lawyers to have their applications for the socalled extraordinary writs, and sometimes even their appeals, passed upon and adjudicated directly and immediately by the highest tribunal of the land. . . . In Santiago v. Vasquez, this Court forcefully expressed that the propensity of litigants and lawyers to disregard the hierarchy of courts must be put to a halt, not only because of the imposition upon the precious time of this Court, but also because of the inevitable and resultant delay, intended or otherwise, in the adjudication of the case which often has to be remanded or referred to the lower court, the proper forum under the rules of procedure, or as better equipped to resolve the issues since this Court is not a trier of facts. We reiterated the judicial policy that this Court will not entertain direct resort to it unless the redress desired cannot be obtained in the appropriate courts or where exceptional and compelling circumstances justify availment of a remedy within and calling for the exercise of [its] primary jurisdiction. III Notwithstanding the foregoing procedural obstacles against the first set of petitioners, we opt to resolve this case on its merits considering that the lifetime of the challenged Ordinances is about to end. Ordinance No. 15-92 of the City of Puerto Princesa is effective only up to 1 January 1998, while Ordinance No. 2 of the Province of Palawan, enacted on 19 February 1993, is effective for only five (5) years. Besides, these Ordinances were undoubtedly enacted in the exercise of powers under the new LGC relative to the protection and preservation of the environment and are thus novel and of paramount importance. No further delay then may be allowed in the resolution of the issues raised. It is of course settled that laws (including ordinances enacted by local government units) enjoy the presumption of constitutionality. To overthrow this presumption, there must be a clear and unequivocal breach of the Constitution, not merely a doubtful or argumentative contradiction. In short, the conflict with the Constitution must be shown beyond reasonable doubt. Where doubt exists, even if well-founded, there can be no finding of unconstitutionality. To doubt is to sustain. After a scrutiny of the challenged Ordinances and the provisions of the Constitution petitioners claim to have been violated, we find petitioners contentions baseless and so hold that the former do not suffer from any infirmity, both under the Constitution and applicable laws.

46 | P a g e

Petitioners specifically point to Section 2, Article XII and Sections 2 and 7, Article XIII of the Constitution as having been transgressed by the Ordinances. The pertinent portion of Section 2 of Article XII reads: SEC. 2. x xx The State shall protect the nations marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exc lusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens. The Congress may, by law, allow small-scale utilization of natural resources by Filipino citizens, as well as cooperative fish farming, with priority to subsistence fishermen and fishworkers in rivers, lakes, bays, and lagoons. Sections 2 and 7 of Article XIII provide: SEC. 2. The promotion of social justice shall include the commitment to create economic opportunities based on freedom of initiative and self-reliance. x xx SEC. 7. The State shall protect the rights of subsistence fishermen, especially of local communities, to the preferential use of the communal marine and fishing resources, both inland and offshore. It shall provide support to such fishermen through appropriate technology and research, adequate financial, production, and marketing assistance, and other services. The State shall also protect, develop, and conserve such resources. The protection shall extend to offshore fishing grounds of subsistence fishermen against foreign intrusion. Fishworkers shall receive a just share from their labor in the utilization of marine and fishing resources. There is absolutely no showing that any of the petitioners qualifies as a subsistence or marginal fisherman. In their petition, petitioner Airline Shippers Association of Palawan is self-described as a private association composed of Marine Merchants; petitioners Robert Lim and Virginia Lim, as merchants; while the rest of the petitioners claim to be fishermen, without any qualification, however, as to their status. Since the Constitution does not specifically provide a definition of the terms subsistence or marginal fishermen,18 they should be construed in their general and ordinary sense. A marginal fisherman is an individual engaged in fishing whose margin of return or reward in his harvest of fish as measured by existing price levels is barely sufficient to yield a profit or cover the cost of gathering the fish, while a subsistence fisherman is one whose catch yields but the irreducible minimum for his livelihood. Section 131(p) of the LGC (R.A. No. 7160) defines a marginal farmer or fisherman as an individual engaged in subsistence farming or fishing which shall be limited to the sale, barter or exchange of agricultural or marine products produced by himself and his immediate

family. It bears repeating that nothing in the record supports a finding that any petitioner falls within these definitions. Besides, Section 2 of Article XII aims primarily not to bestow any right to subsistence fishermen, but to lay stress on the duty of the State to protect the nations marine wealth. What the provision merely recognizes is that the State may allow, by law, cooperative fish farming, with priority to subsistence fishermen and fishworkers in rivers, lakes, bays and lagoons. Our survey of the statute books reveals that the only provision of law which speaks of a preferential right of marginal fishermen is Section 149 of the LGC, which pertinently provides:

SEC. 149. Fishery Rentals, Fees and Charges.x xx (b) The sangguniangbayan may: (1) Grant fishery privileges to erect fish corrals, oyster, mussels or other aquatic beds or bangus fry areas, within a definite zone of the municipal waters, as determined by it: Provided, however, That duly registered organizations and cooperatives of marginal fishermen shall have the preferential right to such fishery privileges. . . . In a Joint Administrative Order No. 3 dated 25 April 1996, the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government prescribed guidelines concerning the preferential treatment of small fisherfolk relative to the fishery right mentioned in Section 149. This case, however, does not involve such fishery right. Anent Section 7 of Article XIII, it speaks not only of the use of communal marine and fishing resources, but of their protection, development and conservation. As hereafter shown, the ordinances in question are meant precisely to protect and conserve our marine resources to the end that their enjoyment may be guaranteed not only for the present generation, but also for the generations to come. The so-called preferential right of subsistence or marginal fishermen to the use of marine resour ces is not at all absolute. In accordance with the Regalian Doctrine, marine resources belong to the State, and, pursuant to the first paragraph of Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution, their exploration, development and utilization . . . shall be under the full control and supervision of the State. Moreover, their mandated protection, development and conservation as necessarily recognized by the framers of the Constitution, imply certain restrictions on whatever right of enjoyment there may be in favor of anyone. Thus, as to the curtailment of the preferential treatment of marginal fishermen, the following exchange between Commissioner Francisco Rodrigo and Commissioner Jose F.S. Bengzon, Jr., took place at the plenary session of the Constitutional Commission: MR. RODRIGO:

47 | P a g e

Let us discuss the implementation of this because I would not raise the hopes of our people, and afterwards fail in the implementation. How will this be implemented? Will there be a licensing or giving of permits so that government officials will know that one is really a marginal fisherman? Or if policeman say that a person is not a marginal fisherman, he can show his permit, to prove that indeed he is one. MR. BENGZON: Certainly, there will be some mode of licensing insofar as this is concerned and this particular question could be tackled when we discuss the Article on Local Governmentswhether we will leave to the local governments or to Congress on how these things will be implemented. But certainly, I think our congressmen and our local officials will not be bereft of ideas on how to implement this mandate. x xx MR. RODRIGO: So, once one is licensed as a marginal fisherman, he can go anywhere in the Philippines and fish in any fishing grounds. MR. BENGZON Subject to whatever rules and regulations and local laws that may be passed, may be existing or will be passed.21 (italics supplied) What must likewise be borne in mind is the state policy enshrined in the Constitution regarding the duty of the State to protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature. On this score, in Oposa v. Factoran, this Court declared: While the right to a balanced and healthful ecology is to be found under the Declaration of Principles and State Policies and not under the Bill of Rights, it does not follow that it is less important than any of the civil and political rights enumerated in the latter. Such a right belongs to a different category of rights altogether for it concerns nothing less than self-preservation and self-perpetuationaptly and fittingly stressed by the petitionersthe advancement of which may even be said to predate all governments and constitutions. As a matter of fact, these basic rights need not even be written in the Constitution for they are assumed to exist from the inception of humankind. If they are now explicitly mentioned in the fundamental charter, it is because of the wellfounded fear of its framers that unless the rights to a balanced and healthful ecology and to health are mandated as state policies by the Constitution itself, thereby highlighting their continuing importance and imposing upon the state a solemn obligation to preserve the first and protect and advance the second, the day would not be too far when all else would be lost not only for the present generation, but also for those to come generations which stand to inherit nothing but parched earth incapable of sustaining life.

The right to a balanced and healthful ecology carries with it a correlative duty to refrain from impairing the environment. . . The LGC provisions invoked by private respondents merely seek to give flesh and blood to the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology. In fact, the General Welfare Clause, expressly mentions this right: SEC. 16. General Welfare.Every local government unit shall exercise the powers expressly granted, those necessarily implied therefrom, as well as powers necessary, appropriate, or incidental for its efficient and effective governance, and those which are essential to the promotion of the general welfare. Within their respective territorial jurisdictions, local government units shall ensure and support, among other things, the preservation and enrichment of culture, promote health and safety, enhance the right of the people to a balanced ecology, encourage and support the development of appropriate and self-reliant scientific and technological capabilities, improve public morals, enhance economic prosperity and social justice, promote full employment among their residents, maintain peace and order, and preserve the comfort and convenience of their inhabitants. (italics supplied). Moreover, Section 5(c) of the LGC explicitly mandates that the general welfare provisions of the L GC shall be liberally interpreted to give more powers to the local government units in accelerating economic development and upgrading the quality of life for the people of the community. The LGC vests municipalities with the power to grant fishery privileges in municipal waters and impose rentals, fees or charges therefor; to penalize, by appropriate ordinances, the use of explosives, noxious or poisonous substances, electricity, muro-ami, and other deleterious methods of fishing; and to prosecute any violation of the provisions of applicable fishery laws. Further, the sangguniangbayan, the sangguniangpanlungsod and the sangguniangpanlalawigan are directed to enact ordinances for the general welfare of the municipality and its inhabitants, which shall include, inter alia, ordinances that [p]rotect the environment and impose appropriate penalties for acts which endanger the environment such as dynamite fishing and other forms of destructive fishing. . . and such other activities which result in pollution, acceleration of eutrophication of rivers and lakes, or of ecological imbalance. Finally, the centerpiece of LGC is the system of decentralization26 as expressly mandated by the Constitution. Indispensable to decentralization is devolution and the LGC expressly provides that [a]nyprovision on a power of a local government unit shall be liberally interpreted in its favor, and in case of doubt, any question thereon shall be resolved in favor of devolution of powers and of the lower local government unit. Any fair and reasonable doubt as to the existence of the power shall be interpreted in favor of the local government unit concerned. Devolution refers to the act by which the National Government confers power and authority upon the various local government units to perform specific functions and responsibilities. One of the devolved powers enumerated in the section of the LGC on devolution is the enforcement of fishery laws in municipal waters including the conservation of mangroves. This necessarily includes the enactment of ordinances to effectively carry out such fishery laws within the municipal waters.

48 | P a g e

The term municipal waters, in turn, includes not only streams, lakes, and tidal waters within the municipality, not being the subject of private ownership and not comprised within the national parks, public forest, timber lands, forest reserves, or fishery reserves, but also marine waters included between two lines drawn perpendicularly to the general coastline from points where the boundary lines of the municipality or city touch the sea at low tide and a third line parallel with the general coastline and fifteen kilometers from it. Under P.D. No. 704, the marine waters included in municipal waters is limited to three nautical miles from the general coastline using the above perpendicular lines and a third parallel line. These fishery laws which local government units may enforce under Section 17(b)(2)(i) in municipal waters include: (1) P.D. No. 704; (2) P.D. No. 1015 which, inter alia, authorizes the es tablishment of a closed season in any Philippine water if necessary for conservation or ecological purposes; (3) P.D. No. 1219 which provides for the exploration, exploitation, utilization and conservation of coral resources; (4) R.A. No. 5474, as amended by B.P. Blg. 58, which makes it unlawful for any person, association or corporation to catch or cause to be caught, sell, offer to sell, purchase, or have in possession any of the fish species called gobiidae or ipon during closed season; and (5) R.A. No. 6451 which prohibits and punishes electrofishing, as well as various issuances of the BFAR. To those specifically devolved insofar as the control and regulation of fishing in municipal waters and the protection of its marine environment are concerned, must be added the following: 1. Issuance of permits to construct fish cages within municipal waters; 2. Issuance of permits to gather aquarium fishes within municipal waters; 3. Issuance of permits to gather kapis shells within municipal waters; 4. Issuance of permits to gather/culture shelled mollusks within municipal waters; 5. Issuance of licenses to establish seaweed farms within municipal waters; 6. Issuance of licenses to establish culture pearls within municipal waters; 7. Issuance of auxiliary invoice to transport fish and fishery products; and 8. Establishment of closed season in municipal waters. These functions are covered in the Memorandum of Agreement of 5 April 1994 between the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Interior and Local Government. In light then of the principles of decentralization and devolution enshrined in the LGC and the powers granted therein to local government units under Section 16 (the General Welfare Clause), and under Sections 149,

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

49 | P a g e

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

In Executive Order No. 116 of 30 January 1987, which reorganized the MAF, the BFAR was retained as an attached agency of the MAF. And under the Administrative Code of 1987,43 the BFAR is placed under the Title concerning the Department of Agriculture. Therefore, it is incorrect to say that the challenged Ordinance of the City of Puerto Princesa is invalid or unenforceable because it was not approved by the Secretary of the DENR. If at all, the approval that should be sought would be that of the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture. However, the requirement of approval by the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture (not DENR) of municipal ordinances affecting fishing and fisheries in municipal waters has been dispensed with in view of the following reasons: (1) Section 534 (Repealing Clause) of the LGC expressly repeals or amends Sections 16 and 29 of P.D. No. 70445 insofar as they are inconsistent with the provisions of the LGC. (2) As discussed earlier, under the general welfare clause of the LGC, local government units have the power, inter alia, to enact ordinances to enhance the right of the people to a balanced ecology. It likewise specifically vests municipalities with the power to grant fishery privileges in municipal waters, and impose rentals, fees or charges therefor; to penalize, by appropriate ordinances, the use of explosives, noxious or poisonous substances, electricity, muro-ami, and other deleterious methods of fishing; and to prosecute any violation of the provisions of applicable fishery laws.46 Finally, it imposes upon the sangguniangbayan, the sangguniangpanlungsod, and the sangguniangpanlalawigan the duty to enact ordinances to [p]rotect the environment and impose appropriate penalties for acts which endanger the environment such as dynamite fishing and other forms of destructive fishing. . . and such other activities which result in pollution, acceleration of eutrophication of rivers and lakes or of ecological imbalance. In closing, we commend the SangguniangPanlungsod of the City of Puerto Princesa and SangguniangPanlalawigan of the Province of Palawan for exercising the requisite political will to enact urgently needed legislation to protect and enhance the marine environment, thereby sharing in the herculean task of arresting the tide of ecological destruction. We hope that other local government units shall now beroused from their lethargy and adopt a more vigilant stand in the battle against the decimation of our legacy to future generations. At this time, the repercussions of any further delay in their response may prove disastrous, if not, irreversible. WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DISMISSED for lack of merit and the temporary restraining order issued on 11 November 1993 is LIFTED. No pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED.

50 | P a g e

Nos. L-49634-36.July 25, 1981.* BENJAMIN V. GUIANG and NATIVIDAD H. GUIANG; AURELIO B. HIQUIANA and PASTORA O. HIQUIANA, petitioners, vs. FILOMENO C. KINTANAR and CORAZON B. KINTANAR; CORA ANN B. KINTANAR, CORA LOU B. KINTANAR, FIL ROGER B. KINTANAR, private respondents, and Hon. Judge SERGIO APOSTOL, Quezon City Court of First Instance, Branch XVI, Quezon City, respondent. Constitutional Law; Public Lands; Section 122 of the Public Land Act, on the maximum area of public lands that may be held, has been amended by Sec. 11, Art. XIV of the 1973 Constitution. After mature deliberation and consideration of pertinent principles of statutory and constitutional construction together with what appears to be the obvious intent and objective of the legal and constitutional provisions relevant to the above issue, We encounter no difficulty at all in holding that, as contended by petitioners, Section 122 of the Public Land Act has been amended by no less than Section 11, Article XIV of the 1973 Constitution of the Philippines by reducing correspondingly the areas of the disposable public lands mentioned therein. Same; Same; Same.The argument about unintended "coincidence" in the limit of purchasable areas is too speculative, even puerile, to require any refutation. What to Us is clear and obvious is that when the Constitution fixes a limit of the area of public lands that can be "acquired" by purchase by an individual, it follows as a matter of logic that such is also the maximum area of land originating from the public domain that can be transferred to him. True, lands once acquired from the government under the Act do become private property, as private respondent argues, but for reasons of public policy and interest implicit in Section 122 itself, such private ownership is subject to the limitations stated therein. Proof of the strictness of the policy is that the prohibition or injunction is automatically embodied in the Torrens Title issued to the purchaser. Same; Same; Same.lt is Our considered opinion, and We so hold, consistently with the view of the Legal Division of the Bureau of Lands cited by petitioners in their petition (p. 14) that after the ratification of the Philippine Constitution of 1973 on January 17, 1973, the maximum area of land acquired from the disposable public domain that can be transferred or assigned to another party by the original patentee, purchaser or homesteader became 24 hectares (instead of the 144 hectares under the 1973 Constitution), thereby reducing correspondingly the 144-hectare limitation set in Section 122 to only 24 hectares. We hereby adopt as Our own the subsequent opinion of the Director of Lands quoted not only in the petition, as already stated, but also in petitioners' "Motion Ex-Parte for Earliest Decision of the Above-Entitled Case" dated October 7, 1980. Same; Same; Same; The 1973 Constitution reduced to only 24 hectares (formerly 144) the maximum area of public land that may be transferred by any purchaser, patentee or homesteader thereof. Earlier, in resolving the first issue between the parties, as formulated by Us, We came to the inevitable conclusion that Section 122 of the Public Land Act has been amended by the 1973 Constitution by reducing the area of land acquired under the Act that could be transferred by any purchaser, patentee or homesteader to only 24 hectares instead of the 144 hectares allowed under the 1935 Constitution. Same; Same; Judgments; A compromise agreement approved by the trial court under which one party conveys to the other an area of land, previously acquired from the Government, of more than 24 hectares, especially where

the transferee already owns 29 hectares acquired under the Public Land Act, is null and void ab initio. Now, the compromise agreement, executed on August 20, 1975 and here in dispute, provides for the transfer of a total of 146 hectares. It inevitably follows then that said compromise agreement contravenes not only a statute but the fundamental law of the land. Adding to its being contrary to law, which undoubtedly is also covered by the public policy expressed in the Constitution, is the fact that private respondents, the Kintanars, already owned at the time of the agreement a lot of 29 hectares which they had acquired also from the government pursuant to the Public Land Act. Such being the situation, it is incontestable that under Paragraph (1) of Article 1409 of the Civil Code said agreement is "inexistent and void from the beginning" since its "object or purpose is contrary to lawor public policy". Same; Same; Same; Contracts; Prescription; The delay in asking for nullification of the approved compromise agreement is of no consequence, as an action or defense for declaration of the inexistence of a contract does not prescribe.It is of no consequence, pursuant to the same article, that petitioners, the Guiang spouses, executed on August 21, 1975, apparently in ratification of the impugned agreement, the deeds of sale covering the two lots already referred to and that petitioners actually received in part or in whole the money consideration stipulated therein, for according to the same Article 1409, contracts contemplated therein, as the one We are dealing with, "cannot be ratified nor the defense of its illegality be waived." Neither is it material, much less decisive, that petitioners had not earlier judicially moved to have the same annulled or set aside. Under Article 1410 of the Civil Code, "(t)he action or defense for declaration of the inexistence of a contract does not prescribe.'' Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; A conveyance of public land in excess of the Constitutional limitation is malumprohibitum only not malum in se.ln regard to the requirement that the agreement must not be illegal per se, it might be contended that Our holding that the compromise under consideration is contrary to public policy removes the recovery of the two delivered lots and the further nonenforcement of the impugned orders of the trial court from the application of Article 1416. We hold it is not so. Any act in violation of the limitations and prohibitions herein involved is malumprohibitum, not malum in se. Same; Same; Contracts; A contract illegal per se defined and distinguished by contracts against public policy. An act or contract that is illegal per se is one that by universally recognized standards is inherently or by its very nature bad, improper, immoral or contrary to good conscience. On the other hand, what is contrary to public policy may not be necessarily universally so, for public policy, like public interests, whether expressed in a Constitution or in any statute or official declaration of the duly constituted authorities or evinced from the situation or circumstances of the time concerned, is something dictared by the conditions obtaining within each country or nation. Indeed, in respect to the very matter under discussion, namely, the limitation and control of the disposition of lands of the public domain, every government in the world can have its own distinct policy suitable and peculiar to its internal interests, including the history, mores, customs and traditions of the people thereof. For instance, the provisions of our Constitution and our laws covering such matter and the others relative to the conservation of our natural resources exclusively for us, Filipinos, are easily distinguishable from those of the Constitutions and laws of the United States, Russia, England, Singapore, Malaysia, etc., etc. Thus, the juridical concept of what is illegal per se cannot be necessarily equated with what is contrary to public policy in all instances.

51 | P a g e

Same; Same; Same; Article 1416 of the new Civil Code is applicable to conveyances of public land made in excess of Constitutional limitations.As already stated earlier, under Article 1410 of the Civil Code, "the action or defense for the declaration of inexistence of a contract does not prescribe" just as under Article 1409, "(n)either can the right to set up such defense of illegality be waived." From which it is clearly implicit that one against whom the doctrine is invoked may deny its application whether he be plaintiff or defendant, or the movant or oppositor. Here, private respondents are the movants for enforcement. We hold that as oppositors to such motion, petitioners are in the right in putting up the defense that the agreement and orders sought to be enforced are contrary to public policy and that the said agreement is not illegal per se, hence, Article 1416 affords relief to them. Contracts; Leases; A contract that is clearly a sale cannot be characterized as a lease to avoid being declared null and void.Petitioners suggest that to avoid entire invalidity of the questioned agreement, it be construed merely as a lease. We are loath to follow the suggestion for the simple reason that it is juridicallydoubtful how a contract worded in the clearest tenor as one of transfer or conveyance of the title or ownership of the property concerned itself could be construed as merely a lease thereof . We believe and so hold that it would be simplest and best to let the natural consequence of the constitutional invalidity, which We here declare, of the compromise agreement and of the decision based thereon as well as the subsequent orders of execution of such decision be allowed to f ollow its natural course. PETITION for certiorari and mandamus to review the decision of the Court of First Instance of Quezon City, Branch XVI.Apostol, J. The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court. BARREDO, J.: Petition filed on January 15, 1979 for certiorari and mandamus seeking the setting aside of the decision and the two orders subsequent thereto of respondent judge dated August 20, 1975 and November 14, 1978 and December 27, 1978, respectively, as acts committed in grave abuse of discretion, the compromise agreement on which said decision was based being allegedly in contravention of the Constitution and the Public Land Act, hence the execution thereof under the two questioned subsequent orders had no legal basis. WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered granting the herein petition and declaring the rights of the parties to be as they are stated above in the paragraph preceding the penultimate one of the above opinion. Costs against private respondents. It is so ordered.

G.R. No. 135385. December 6, 2000.* ISAGANI CRUZ and CESAR EUROPA, petitioners, vs. SECRETARY OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES, SECRETARY OF BUDGET AND MANAGEMENT and CHAIRMAN and COMMISSIONERS OF THE NATIONAL COMMISSION ON INDIGENOUS PEOPLES,respondents. x ----------------------------------------------------------------------- x HON. JUAN M. FLAVIER, HON. PONCIANO BENNAGEN, BAYANI ASCARRAGA, EDTAMI MANSAYANGAN, BASILIO WANDAG, EVELYN DUNUAN, YAOM TUGAS, ALFREMO CARPIANO, LIBERATO A. GABIN, MATERNIDAD M. COLAS, NARCISA M. DALUPINES, BAI KIRAM-CONNIE SATURNO, BAE MALOMO-BEATRIZ T. ABASALA, DATU BALITUNGTUNG-ANTONIO D. LUMANDONG, DATU MANTUMUKAW TEOFISTO SABASALES, DATU EDUARDO BANDA, DATU JOEL UNAD, DATU RAMON BAYAAN, TIMUAY JOSE ANOY, TIMUAY MACARIO D. SALACAO, TIMUAY EDWIN B. ENDING, DATU SAHAMPONG MALANAW VI, DATU BEN PENDAO CABIGON, BAI NANAPNAY-LIZA SAWAY, BAI INAY DAYA-MELINDA S. REYMUNDO, BAI TINANGHAGA HELINITA T. PANGAN, DATU MAKAPUKAW ADOLINO L. SAWAY, DATU MAUDAYAW-CRISPEN SAWAY, VICKY MAKAY, LOURDES D. AMOS, GILBERT P. HOGGANG, TERESA GASPAR, MANUEL S. ONALAN, MIA GRACE L. GIRON, ROSEMARIE G. PE, BENITO CARINO, JOSEPH JUDE CARANTES, LYNETTE CARANTES-VIVAL, LANGLEY SEGUNDO, SATUR S. BUGNAY, CARLING DOMULOT, ANDRES MENDIGORIN, LEOPOLDO ABUGAN, VIRGILIO CAYETANO, CONCHITA G. DESCAGA, LEVY ESTEVES, ODETTE G. ESTEVEZ, RODOLFO C. AGUILAR, MAURO VALONES, PEPE H. ATONG, OFELIA T. DAVI, PERFECTO B. GUINOSAO, WALTER N. TIMOL, MANUEL T. SELEN, OSCAR DALUNHAY, RICO O. SULATAN, RAFFY MALINDA, ALFREDO ABILLANOS, JESSIE ANDILAB, MIRLANDO H. MANGKULINTAS, SAMIE SATURNO, ROMEO A. LINDAHAY, ROEL S. MANSANGCAGAN, PAQUITO S. LIESES, FILIPE G. SAWAY, HERMINIA S. SAWAY, JULIUS S. SAWAY, LEONARDA SAWAY, JIMMY UGYUB, SALVADOR TIONGSON, VENANCIO APANG, MADION MALID, SUKIM MALID, NENENG MALID, MANGKATADONG AUGUSTO DIANO, JOSEPHINE M. ALBESO, MORENO MALID, MARIO MANGCAL, FELAY DIAMILING, SALOME P. SARZA, FELIFE P. BAGON, SAMMY SALNUNGAN, ANTONIO D. EMBA, NORMA MAPANSA GONOS, ROMEO SALIGA, SR., JERSON P. GERADA, RENATO T. BAGON, JR., SARING MASALONG, SOLEDAD M. GERARDA, ELIZABETH L. MENDI, MORANTE S. TIWAN, DANILO M. MALUDAO, MINORS MARICEL MALID, represented by her father CORNELIO MALID, MARCELINO M. LADRA, represented by her father MONICO D. LADRA, JENNYLYN MALID, represented by her father TONY MALID, ARIEL M. EVANGELISTA, represented by her mother LINAY BALBUENA, EDWARD M. EMUY, SR., SUSAN BOLANIO, OND, PULA BATO BLAAN TRIBAL FARMERS ASSOCIATION, INTER-PEOPLES EXCHANGE, INC. and GREEN FORUM-WESTERN VISAYAS, intervenor. x ----------------------------------------------------------------------- x COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS, intervenor. x ----------------------------------------------------------------------- x

52 | P a g e

IKALAHAN INDIGENOUS PEOPLE and HARIBON FOUNDATION FOR THE CONSERVATION OF NATURAL RESOURCES, INC., intervenor. Supreme Court; Judgments; Judicial Review; Where the votes in the Court en banc are equally divided and the necessary majority is not obtained, the case is redeliberated upon, but if after deliberation, the votingremains the same, the petition is dismissed pursuant to Rule 56, Section 7 of the Rules of Civil Procedure. After due deliberation on the petition, the members of the Court voted as follows: Seven (7) voted to dismiss the petition. Justice Kapunan filed an opinion, which the Chief Justice and Justices Bellosillo, Quisumbing, and Santiago join, sustaining the validity of the challenged provisions of R.A. 8371. Justice Puno also filed a separate opinion sustaining all challenged provisions of the law with the exception of Section 1, Part II, Rule III of NCIP Administrative Order No. 1, series of 1998, the Rules and Regulations Implementing the IPRA, and Section 57 of the IPRA which he contends should be interpreted as dealing with the large-scale exploitation of natural resources and should be read in conjunction with Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution. On the other hand, Justice Mendoza voted to dismiss the petition solely on the ground that it does not raise a justiciable controversy and petitioners do not have standing to question the constitutionality of R.A. 8371. Seven (7) other members of the Court voted to grant the petition. Justice Panganiban filed a separate opinion expressing the view that Sections 3 (a)(b), 5, 6, 7 (a)(b), 8, and related provisions of R.A. 8371 are unconstitutional. He reserves judgment on the constitutionality of Sections 58, 59, 65, and 66 of the law, which he believes must await the filing of specific cases by those whose rights may have been violated by the IPRA. Justice Vitug also filed a separate opinion expressing the view that Sections 3(a), 7, and 57 of R.A. 8371 are unconstitutional. Justices Melo, Pardo, Buena, GonzagaReyes, and De Leon join in the separate opinions of Justices Panganiban and Vitug. As the votes were equally divided (7 to 7) and the necessary majority was not obtained, the case was redeliberated upon. However, after redeliberation, the voting remained the same. Accordingly, pursuant to Rule 56, Section 7 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, the petition is DISMISSED. SPECIAL CIVIL ACTION in the Supreme Court.Certiorari and Prohibition. The facts are stated in the resolution of the Court. Barbara Anne C. Migallos& Troy A. Luna, Raymond Parsifal A. Fortun&Bienvenido O. Bulatao for petitioners. The Solicitor General for respondents. Luna, Bonpin,Perez& Associates for intervenors. Rodolfo C. Rapista for intervenors-oppositors. LeileneCarantes-San Juan for Sioco-Cario Family. R E S O L U TI O N

PER CURIAM: Petitioners Isagani Cruz and Cesar Europa brought this suit for prohibition and mandamus as citizens and taxpayers, assailing the constitutionality of certain provisions of Republic Act No. 8371 (R.A. 8371), otherwise known as the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA), and its Implementing Rules and Regulations (Implementing Rules). In its resolution of September 29, 1998, the Court required respondents to comment.1 In compliance, respondents Chairperson and Commissioners of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the government agency created under the IPRA to implement its provisions, filed on October 13, 1998 their Comment to the Petition, in which they defend the constitutionality of the IPRA andpray that thepetitionbedismissed for lack of merit. On October 19, 1998, respondents Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) filed through the Solicitor General a consolidated Comment. The Solicitor General is of the view that the IPRA is partly unconstitutional on the ground that it grants ownership over natural resources to indigenouspeoples and prays thatthepetitionbegranted in part. On November 10, 1998, a group of intervenors, composed of Sen. Juan Flavier, one of the authors of the IPRA, Mr. PoncianoBennagen, a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, and the leaders and members of 112 groups of indigenous peoples (Flavier, et al.), filed their Motion for Leave to Intervene. They join the NCIP in defending the constitutionality of IPRA and praying for the dismissal of the petition. On March 22, 1999, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) likewise filed a Motion to Intervene and/or to Appear as Amicus Curiae. The CHR asserts that IPRA is an expression of the principle of parenspatriae and that the State has the responsibility to protect and guarantee the rights of those who are at a serious disadvantage like indigenous peoples. For this reason it prays that the petition be dismissed. On March 23, 1999, another group, composed of the Ikalahan Indigenous People and the Haribon Foundation for the Conservation of Natural Resources, Inc. (Haribon, et al.), filed a Motion to Intervene with attached Commentin-Intervention. They agree with the NCIP and Flavier, et al. that IPRA is consistent with the Constitution and pray that the petition for prohibition and mandamus be dismissed. The motions for intervention of the aforesaid groups and organizations were granted. Oral arguments were heard on April 13, 1999. Thereafter, the parties and intervenors filed their respective memoranda in which they reiterate the arguments adduced in their earlier pleadings and during the hearing. Petitioners assail the constitutionality of the following provisions of the IPRA and its Implementing Rules on the ground that they amount to an unlawful deprivation of the States ownership over lands of the public domain as

53 | P a g e

well as minerals and other natural resources therein, in violation of the regalian doctrine embodied in Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution: (1) Section 3(a) which defines the extent and coverage of ancestral domains, and Section 3(b) which, in turn, defines ancestral lands; (2) Section 5, in relation to section 3(a), which provides that ancestral domains including inalienable public lands, bodies of water, mineral and other resources found within ancestral domains are private but community property of the indigenous peoples; (3) Section 6 in relation to Section 3(a) and 3(b) which defines the composition of ancestral domains and ancestral lands; (4) Section 7 which recognizes and enumerates the rights of the indigenous peoples over theancestral domains; (5) Section 8 which recognizes and enumerates the rights of the indigenous peoples over theancestrallands; (6) Section 57 which provides for priority rights of the indigenous peoples in the harvesting, extraction, development or exploration of minerals and other natural resources within the areas claimed to be their ancestral domains, and the right to enter into agreements with non-indigenous peoples for the development and utilization of natural resources therein for a period not exceeding 25 years, renewable for not more than 25 years;and (7) Section 58 which gives the indigenous peoples the responsibility to maintain, develop, protect and conserve the ancestral domains and portions thereof which are found to be necessary for critical watersheds, mangroves, wildlife sanctuaries, wilderness, protected areas, forest cover or reforestation.2 Petitioners also contend that, by providing for an allencompassing definition of ancestral domains and ancestral lands which might even include private lands found within said areas, Sections 3(a) and 3(b) violate the rights of private landowners. In addition, petitioners question the provisions of the IPRA defining the powers and jurisdiction of the NCIP and making customary law applicable to the settlement of disputes involving ancestral domains and ancestral lands on the ground that these provisions violate the due process clause of the Constitution. These provisions are: (1) Sections 51 to 53 and 59 which detail the process of delineation and recognition of ancestral domains and which vest on the NCIP the sole authority todelineateancestraldomainsand ancestral lands; (2) Section 52[i] which provides that upon certification by the NCIP that a particular area is an ancestral domain and upon notification to the following officials, namely, the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, Secretary of Interior and Local Governments, Secretary of Justice and Commissioner of the National Development Corporation, the jurisdiction of said officials oversaid area terminates;

(3) Section 63 which provides the customary law, traditions and practices of indigenous peoples shall be applied first with respect to property rights, claims of ownership, hereditary succession and settlement of land disputes, and that any doubt or ambiguity in the interpretation thereof shall be resolvedinfavorof the indigenous peoples; (4) Section 65 which states that customary laws and practices shall be used to resolve disputes involving indigenous peoples; and (5) Section 66 which vests on the NCIP the jurisdiction over all claims and disputes involving rights of theindigenous peoples. Finally, petitioners assail the validity of Rule VII, Part II, Section 1 of the NCIP Administrative Order No. 1, series of 1998, which provides that the administrative relationship of the NCIP to the Office of the President is characterized as a lateral but autonomous relationship for purposes of policy and program coordination. They contend that said Rule infringes upon the Presidents power of control over executive departments under Section 17,Article VII of the Constitution. Petitionerspray for the following: (1) A declaration that Sections 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 52[i], 57, 58, 59, 63, 65 and 66 and other related provisions of R.A. 8371 are unconstitutional and invalid; (2) The issuance of a writ of prohibition directing the Chairperson and Commissioners of the NCIP to cease and desist from implementing theassailed provisions of R.A.8371 and its Implementing Rules; (3) The issuance of a writ of prohibition directing the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to cease and desist from implementing Department of Environment and Natural Resources CircularNo. 2, series of 1998; (4) The issuance of a writ of prohibition directing the Secretary of Budget and Management to cease and desist from disbursing public funds for the implementation of the assailed provisions of R.A. 8371; and (5) The issuance of a writ of mandamus commanding the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources to comply with his duty of carrying out the States constitutional mandate to control and supervise the exploration, development, utilization and conservation of Philippine natural resources. After due deliberation on the petition, the members of the Court voted as follows: Seven (7) voted to dismiss the petition. Justice Kapunan filed an opinion, which the Chief Justice and Justices Bellosillo, Quisumbing, and Santiago join, sustaining the validity of the challenged provisions of R.A. 8371. Justice Puno also filed a separate opinion sustaining all challenged provisions of the law with the exception of

54 | P a g e

Section 1, Part II, Rule III of NCIP Administrative Order No. 1, series of 1998, the Rules and Regulations Implementing the IPRA, and Section 57 of the IPRA which he contends should be interpreted as dealing with the large-scale exploitation of natural resources and should be read in conjunction with Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution. On the other hand, Justice Mendoza voted to dismiss the petition solely on the ground that it does not raise a justiciable controversy and petitioners do not have standing toquestion the constitutionality of R.A. 8371. Seven (7) other members of the Court voted to grant the petition. Justice Panganiban filed a separate opinion expressing the view that Sections 3 (a)(b), 5, 6, 7 (a)(b), 8, and related provisions of R.A. 8371 are unconstitutional. He reserves judgment on the constitutionality of Sections 58, 59, 65, and 66 of the law, which he believes must await the filing of specific cases by those whose rights may have been violated by the IPRA. Justice Vitug also filed a separate opinion expressing the view that Sections 3(a), 7, and 57 of R.A. 8371 are unconstitutional. Justices Melo, Pardo, Buena, Gonzaga-Reyes, and De Leon join in the separate opinions of Justices Panganiban and Vitug. As the votes were equally divided (7 to 7) and the necessary majority was not obtained, the case was redeliberated upon. However, after redeliberation, the voting remained the same. Accordingly, pursuant to Rule 56, Section 7 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, thepetition is DISMISSED. Attached hereto and made integral parts thereof are the separate opinions of Justices Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, and Panganiban. SO ORDERED.Davide, Jr. (C.J.), Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Pardo, Buena, Gonzaga-Reyes, Ynares-Santiago and De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur. G.R. No. 133047. August 17, 1999.* HEIRS OF LORENZO YAP, namely SALLY SUN YAP, MARGARET YAP-UY and MANUEL YAP, petitioners, vs. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, RAMON YAP and BENJAMIN YAP, respondents. Civil Law; Trust; A trust may either be express or implied; Implied trusts are ordinarily subdivided into resulting and constructive trusts.A trust may either be express or implied. Express trusts are those which are created by the direct and positive acts of the parties, by some writing or deed, or will, or by words evincing an intention to create a trust. Implied trusts are those which, without being express, are deducible from the nature of the transaction as matters of intent or, independently of the particular intention of the parties, as being superinduced on the transaction by operation of law basically by reason of equity. These species of implied trust are ordinarily subdivided into resulting and constructive trusts. A resulting trust is one that arises by implication of law and presumed always to have been contemplated by the parties, the intention as to which can be found in the nature of their transaction although not expressed in a deed or instrument of conveyance. Resulting trusts are based on the equitable doctrine that it is the more valuable consideration than the legal title that determines the equitable interest in property. Upon the other hand, a constructive trust is a trust not created by any word or phrase, either

expressly or impliedly, evincing a direct intention to create a trust, but one that arises in order to satisfy the demands of justice. It does not come about by agreement or intention but in main by operation of law construed against one who, by fraud, duress or abuse of confidence, obtains or holds the legal right to property which he ought not, in equity and good conscience, to hold. Same; Same; In order to establish an implied trust in real property by parol evidence, the proof should be as fully convincing as if the acts giving rise to the trust obligation are proven by an authentic document. One basic distinction between an implied trust and an express trust is that while the former may be established by parol evidence, the latter cannot. Even then, in order to establish an implied trust in real property by parol evidence, the proof should be as fully convincing as if the acts giving rise to the trust obligation are proven by an authentic document. An implied trust, in fine, cannot be established upon vague and inconclusive proof. PETITION for review on certiorari of a decision of the Court of Appeals. The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court. Siruelo, Muyco& Associates for petitioners. Rico & Associates for private respondents. VITUG, J.: What in essence petitioners seek is the enforcement of an alleged trust agreement between Lorenzo Yap, now deceased, and his brothers Ramon and Benjamin, herein co-respondents, covering a piece of land and its improvement. The case and factual settings found by the Court of Appeals do not appear to deviate significantly from that priorly made by the trial court. Sometime in February 1966, Ramon Yap purchased a parcel of land situated at 123 (formerly 75) Batanes Street, Galas, Quezon City, covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 82001/T-414, from the spouses Carlos and Josefina Nery. The lot was thereupon registered in the name of Ramon Yap under Transfer Certificate of Title No. 102132; forthwith, he also declared the property in his name for tax purposes and paid the real estate taxes due thereon from 1966 to 1992. In 1967, Ramon Yap constructed a two-storey 3-door apartment building for the use of the Yap family. One-fifth (1/5) of the cost of the construction was defrayed by Ramon Yap while the rest was shouldered by Chua Mia, the mother of Lorenzo, Benjamin and Ramon. Upon its completion, the improvement was declared for real estate tax purposes in the name of Lorenzo Yap in deference to the wishes of the old woman. Lorenzo Yap died on 11 July 1970. A few months later, his heirs (herein petitioners) left their family dwelling in LucenaCity to reside permanently in Manila. Ramon Yap allowed petitioners to use one unit of the apartment building.

55 | P a g e

On 18 March 1992, Ramon Yap sold the land and his share of the 3-door apartment to his brother, his herein corespondent Benjamin Yap, for the sum of P337,500.00 pursuant to a Deed of Sale, recorded on even date in the Memorandum of Encumbrances of the title to said property. Transfer Certificate of Title No. 73002 was in due time issued in the name of Benjamin Yap. The controversy started when herein petitioners, by a letter of 08 June 1992, advised respondents of the formers claim of ownership over the property and demanded that respondents execute the proper deed necessary to transfer the title to them. At about the same time, petitioners filed a case for ejectment against one of the bonafide tenants of the property. On 29 July 1992, respondents filed an action with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City, docketed Civil Case No. Q-92-12899, for quieting of title against petitioners. In their answer, petitioners averred that sometime in 1966 the spouses Carlos and Josefina Nery offered to sell the disputed parcel of land to their predecessor-in-interest, Lorenzo Yap, for the sum of P15,000.00. Since Lorenzo and his wife Sally Yap were at that time Chinese citizens, Lorenzo requested his brother Ramon to allow the use of the latters name in the purchase, registration, and declaration for tax purposes of the subject lot to which Ramon Yap consented. It was agreed that the property would remain registered in the name of Ramon Yap until such time as Lorenzo would have acquired Philippine citizenship but that, should Lorenzo pre-decease, the lot would then be transferred to Lorenzos heirs upon the latters naturalization. Petitioners contended that it was Lorenzo who had caused the construction of the 3-door apartment on the property, merely entrusting the money therefor to Ramon Yap. The death of Lorenzo in 1970 prompted petitioners to move in and occupy the apartment and lot, without any objection from Ramon and Benjamin, although the latter were allowed to stay in the premises since they had no other place to live in. In 1991, petitioners acquired Philippine citizenship and, forthwith, they requested Ramon Yap to have the title to the lot transferred to their names but to their chagrin they discovered that Ramon had sold the lot to his co-respondent Benjamin. Assessing the evidence before it, the trial court found for the respondents and adjudged Benjamin Yap to be the true and lawful owner of the disputed property. On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court and debunked the claim of petitioners that Ramon Yap was merely so used as a dummy by Lorenzo Yap. Giving full weight and credit to the Deed of Sale executed by the Nery spouses in favor of Ramon Yap, the appellate court stressed that to overcome the presumption of regularity in the execution of a public document, the evidence to the contrary should be clear and convincing even as it was equally incumbent upon petitioners to show that the subsequent sale of the property to Benjamin had only been simulated and fictitious. The appellate court, however, deleted the award of attorneys fees in favor of respondents for, in its view, it was not adequately shown that petitioners had acted in bad faith in pursuing their case. Petitioners are now before this Court seeking a reversal of the decision of the Court of Appeals and contending that

I THE RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR WHEN IT HOLDS THAT DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS FATHER, LORENZO YAP, BEING CHINESE CAN NOT ENTER INTO A TRUST AGREEMENT AND THE EXISTENCE OF A TRUST AGREEMENT CAN NOT BE PROVEN BEING CHINESE. II THE RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR WHEN IT HOLDS THAT THE FAILURE TO SHOW WRITTEN TRUST AGREEMENT RENDERS THE ALLEGED AGREEMENT UNENFORCEABLE BY NOT CONSIDERING THE SAME AS ONE UNDER IMPLIED TRUST. III THE RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR WHEN IT HOLDS THAT PAROL EVIDENCE AND/OR STATUTE OF FRAUDS APPLIED IN THE CASE AT BAR. IV THE RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR WHEN IT HOLDS THAT APPELLANTS HAVE TO REFUTE THE DEED OF SALE EXECUTED BY THE NERY SPOUSES IN FAVOR OF RAMON YAP BY CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE NOTWITHSTANDING ADMISSION OF THE SAID DEED OF SALE. V THE RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR WHEN IT DID NOT CONSIDER THAT IN TRUST THE TITLE IS IN THE NAME OF THE TRUSTEE AND NOT IN THE NAME OF THE NAKED OWNER. VI THE RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS ERRED WHEN IT HOLDS THAT RAMON YAP CAN NOT BE A DUMMY OF LORENZO YAP BEING ALIEN AND DISQUALIFIED TO OWN REAL PROPERTY. VII THE RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN NOT DECLARING THE TITLE IN THE NAME OF RAMON YAP VOID BEING ACQUIRED AS DUMMY.

56 | P a g e

VIII THAT RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR WHEN IT RULED THAT BENJAMIN YAP HAS POSSESSION OF APARTMENT UNIT 123 LIKEWISE OWNERSHIP PERSONAL PROPERTIES THEREIN ON THE BASIS OF THE INVENTORY OF THE SHERIFF OF THE COURT A QUO BY WAY OF A SUBSEQUENT MANDATORY INJUNCTION WHICH WAS DENIED.1 The Court finds no merit in the appeal. To begin with, a brief discussion on the trust relation between two parties could be helpful. A trust may either be express or implied. Express trusts are those which are created by the direct and positive acts of the parties, by some writing or deed, or will, or by words evincing an intention to create a trust. Implied trusts are those which, without being express, are deducible from the nature of the transaction as matters of intent or, independently of the particular intention of the parties, as being superinduced on the transaction by operation of law basically by reason of equity. These species of implied trust are ordinarily subdivided into resulting and constructive trusts. A resulting trust is one that arises by implication of law and presumed always to have been contemplated by the parties, the intention as to which can be found in the nature of their transaction although not expressed in a deed or instrument of conveyance.6 Resulting trusts are based on the equitable doctrine that it is the more valuable consideration than the legal title that determines the equitable interest in property. Upon the other hand, a constructive trust is a trust not created by any word or phrase, either expressly or impliedly, evincing a direct intention to create a trust, but one that arises in order to satisfy the demands of justice. It does not come about by agreement or intention but in main by operation of law construed against one who, by fraud, duress or abuse of confidence, obtains or holds the legal right to property which he ought not, in equity and good conscience, to hold. One basic distinction between an implied trust and an express trust is that while the former may be established by parol evidence, the latter cannot. Even then, in order to establish an implied trust in real property by parol evidence, the proof should be as fully convincing as if the acts giving rise to the trust obligation are proven by an authentic document. An implied trust, in fine, cannot be established upon vague and inconclusive proof. Unfortunately for petitioners, the issues they submit in the case at bar boil down to the appreciation of the evidence presented. The Court of Appeals, sustaining the court a quo, has found the evidence submitted by petitioners to be utterly wanting, consisting mainly of the self-serving testimony of Sally Yap. She herself admitted that the business establishment of her husband Lorenzo was razed by fire in 1964 that would somehow place to doubt the claim that he indeed had the means to purchase the subject land about two years later from the Nery spouses. Upon the other hand, Ramon Yap was by then an accountant with apparent means to buy the property himself. At all events, findings of fact by the Court of Appeals, particularly when consistent with those made by the trial court, should deserve utmost regard when not devoid of evidentiary support. No cogent reason had been shown by petitioners for the Court to now hold otherwise. Not to be dismissed, furthermore, is the long standing and broad doctrine of clean hands that will not allow the creation or the use of a juridical relation, a trust whether express or implied included, to perpetrate fraud or

tolerate bad faith nor to subvert, directly or indirectly, the law. The trust agreement between Ramon and Lorenzo, if indeed extant, would have been in contravention of, in fact, the fundamental law. Then Section 5, Article XIII, of the 1935 Constitution has provided that Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private agricultural land shall be transferred or assigned except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain in the Philippines. The mandate has also been adopted in Section 14, Article XIV, of the 1973 Constitution and now reiterated under Section 7, Article XII, of the 1987 Constitution. A trust or a provision in the terms of a trust would be invalid if the enforcement of the trust or provision is against the law even though its performance does not involve the commission of a criminal or tortuous act. It likewise must follow that what the parties are not allowed to do expressly is one that they also may not do impliedly as, for instance, in the guise of a resulting trust. The foregoing disquisition renders unnecessary the resolution of the incidental issues raised in the petition. WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DENIED, and the decision of the respondent Court of Appeals of 08 January 1998 in C.A.-G.R. CV No. 46838 is AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioners. SO ORDERED. G.R. No. 128195. October 3, 2001.* ELIZABETH LEE and PACITA YU LEE, HON. JUDGE JOSE D. ALOVERA,** Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 17, Roxas City, THE REGISTER OF DEEDS OF ROXAS CITY, petitioners, vs. REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, represented by THE DIRECTOR OF LANDS AND THE ADMINISTRATOR, LAND REGISTRATION AUTHORITY and THE HON. COURT OF APPEALS,** respondents.

Land Titles; Reconstitution; Words and Phrases; The reconstitution of a certificate of title denotes restoration in the original form and condition of a lost or destroyed instrument attesting the title of a person to a piece of land. The reconstitution of a certificate of title denotes restoration in the original form and condition of a lost or destroyed instrument attesting the title of a person to a piece of land. The purpose of the reconstitution of title is to have, after observing the procedures prescribed by law, the title reproduced in exactly the same way it has been when the loss or destruction occurred. Same; Sales; In Pari Delicto; Prescription; In sales of real estate to aliens incapable of holding title thereto by virtue of the provisions of the Constitution, both the vendor and the vendee are deemed to have committed the constitutional violation and being thus in pari delicto the courts will not afford protection to either party; Prescription never lies against the State.The fact that the Court did not annul the sale of the land to an alien did not validate the transaction, for it was still contrary to the constitutional proscription against aliens acquiring lands of the public or private domain. However, the proper party to assail the illegality of the transaction was not the

57 | P a g e

parties to the transaction. In sales of real estate to aliens incapable of holding t itle thereto by virtue of the provisions of the Constitution, both the vendor and the vendee are deemed to have committed the constitutional violation and being thus in pari delicto the courts will not afford protection to either party. The proper party t o assail the sale is the Solicitor General. This was what was done in this case when the Solicitor General initiated an action for annulment of judgment of reconstitution of title. While it took the Republic more than sixty years to assert itself, it is not barred from initiating such action. Prescription never lies against the State. Same; Same; Same; If land is invalidly transferred to an alien who subsequently becomes a citizen or transfers it to a citizen, the flaw in the original transaction is considered cured and the title of the transferee is rendered valid.The constitutional proscription on alien ownership of lands of the public or private domain was intended to protect lands from falling in the hands of non-Filipinos. In this case, however, there would be no more public policy violated since the land is in the hands of Filipinos qualified to acquire and own such land. If land is invalidly transferred to an alien who subsequently becomes a citizen or transfers it to a citizen, the flaw in the original transaction is considered cured and the title of the transferee is rendered valid. Thus, the subsequent transfer of the property to qualified Filipinos may no longer be impugned on the basis of the invalidity of the initial transfer. The objective of the constitutional provision to keep our lands in Filipino hands has been achieved. Same; Reconstitution; Reconstitution of the original certificate of title must be based on an owners duplicate, secondary evidence thereof, or other valid sources of title to be reconstituted, and where reconstitution was based on the plan and technical description approved by the Land Registration Authority, the order of reconstitution is void for lack of factual support.Incidentally, it must be mentioned that reconstitution of the original certificate of title must be based on an owners duplicate, secondary evidence thereof, or other valid sources of the title to be reconstituted. In this case, reconstitution was based on the plan and technical description approved by the Land Registration Authority. This renders the order of reconstitution void for lack of factual support. A judgment with absolutely nothing to support it is void. Same; Same; A proceeding for reconstitution of title does not pass upon the ownership of the land covered by the lost or destroyed titleany change in the ownership of the property must be the subject of a separate suit. As earlier mentioned, a reconstitution of title is the re-issuance of a new certificate of title lost or destroyed in its original form and condition. It does not pass upon the ownership of the land covered by the lost or destroyed title. Any change in the ownership of the property must be the subject of a separate suit. Thus, although petitioners are in possession of the land, a separate proceeding is necessary to thresh out the issue of ownership of the land. PETITION for review on certiorari of a decision of the Court of Appeals. The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court. Patrocinio S. Palanog for petitioners. The Solicitor General for respondents.

PARDO, J.: The case under consideration is a petition for review on certiorari of the decision1 of the Court of Appeals nullifying that of the Regional Trial Court, Roxas City, in Reconstitution Case No. R- 1928, pertaining to Lot 398, CapizCadastre, covered by Original Certificate of Title No. 3389. Sometime in March 1936, Rafael, Carmen, Francisco, Jr., Ramon, Lourdes, Mercedes, Concepcion, Mariano, Jose, Loreto, Manuel, Rizal and Jimmy, all surnamed Dinglasan sold to Lee Liong, a Chinese citizen, a parcel of land with an approximate area of 1,631 square meters, designated as Lot 398 and covered by Original Certificate of Title No. 3389, situated at the corner of Roxas Avenue and Pavia Street, Roxas City. However, in 1948, the former owners filed with the Court of First Instance, Capiz an action against the heirs of Lee Liong for annulment of sale and recovery of land.4 The plaintiffs assailed the validity of the sale because of the constitutional prohibition against aliens acquiring ownership of private agricultural land, including residential, commercial or industrial land. Rebuffed in the trial court and the Court of Appeals, plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court. On June 27, 1956, the Supreme Court ruled thus: . . . granting the sale to be null and void and cannot give title to the vendee, it does not necessarily follow therefrom that the title remained in the vendor, who had also violated the constitutional prohibition, or that he (vendor) has the right to recover the title of which he has divested himself by his act in ignoring the prohibition. In such contingency another principle of law sets in to bar the equally guilty vendor from recovering the title which he had voluntarily conveyed for a consideration, that of pari delicto. On July 1, 1968, the same former owners Rafael A. Dinglasan, together with Francisco, Carmen, Ramon, Lourdes, Mercedes, Concepcion, Mariano, Jose, Loreto, Rizal, Jimmy, and Jesse Dinglasan filed with the Court of First Instance, Capiz an action for recovery of the same parcel of land. Citing the case of Philippine Banking Corporation v. Lui She, they submitted that the sale to Lee Liong was null and void for being violative of the Constitution. On September 23, 1968, the heirs of Lee Liong filed with the trial court a motion to dismiss the case on the ground of res judicata. On October 10, 1968, and November 9, 1968, the trial court denied the motion.The heirs of Lee Liongelevated the case to the Supreme Court by petition for certiorari. On April 22, 1977, the Supreme Court annulled the orders of the trial court and directed it to dismiss the case, holding that the suit was barred by res judicata. On September 7, 1993, Elizabeth Manuel-Lee and Pacita Yu Lee filed with the Regional Trial Court, Roxas City a petition for reconstitution of title of Lot No. 398 of the CapizCadastre, formerly covered by Original Certificate of Title No. 3389 of the Register of Deeds of Roxas City. Petitioners alleged that they were the widows of the deceased Lee Bing Hoo and Lee Bun Ting, who were the heirs of Lee Liong, the owner of the lot. Lee Liong died intestate in February 1944. On June 30, 1947, Lee Liongs widow, Ang Chia, and his two sons, Lee Bun Ting and Lee Bing Ho, executed an extra-judicial settlement of the estate of Lee Liong, adjudicating to themselves the subject parcel of land. Petitioner Elizabeth Lee acquired her share in Lot No. 398 through an extra-judicial settlement and donation executed in her favor by her deceased husband Lee Bing Hoo. Petitioner Pacita Yu Lee

58 | P a g e

acquired her share in the same lot by succession from her deceased husband Lee Bun Ting, as evidenced by a deed of extra-judicial settlement. Previously, on December 9, 1948, the Register of Deeds, Capiz, Salvador Villaluz, issued a certification that a transfer certificate of title over the property was issued in the name of Lee Liong. However, the records of the Register of Deeds, Roxas City were burned during the war. Thus, as heretofore stated, on September 7, 1968, petitioners filed a petition for reconstitution of title. On June 10, 1994, the Regional Trial Court, Roxas City, Branch 17, ordered the reconstitution of the lost or destroyed certificate of title in the name of Lee Liong on the basis of an approved plan and technical description. The dispositive portion of the trial courts decision reads thus: WHEREFORE, in reiteration, the Register of Deeds for the City of Roxas is ordered to reconstitute the lost or destroyed certificate of title in the name of Lee Liong, deceased, of Roxas City, with all the conditions stated in paragraph 2 of this decision. This decision shall become final after the lapse of thirty (30) days from receipt by the Register of Deeds and by the Commissioner of LRA of a notice of such judgment without any appeal having been filed by any of such officials. SO ORDERED. Given at Roxas City, Philippines, June 10, 1994. JOSE O. ALOVERA Judge On August 18, 1994, the Clerk of Court, Regional Trial Court, Roxas City, Branch 17 issued an Entry of Judgment. On January 25, 1995, the Solicitor General filed with the Court of Appeals a petition for annulment of judgment in Reconstitution Case No. 1928, alleging that the Regional Trial Court,Roxas City had no jurisdiction over the case.The Solicitor General contended that the petitioners were not the proper parties in the reconstitution of title, since their predecessor-in-interest Lee Liong did not acquire title to the lot because he was a Chinese citizen and was constitutionally not qualified to own the subject land. On April 30, 1996, the Court of Appeals promulgated its decision declaring the judgment of reconstitution void. On May 24, 1996, Elizabeth Manuel-Lee and Pacita Yu Lee filed with the Court of Appeals a motion for reconsideration of the decision. On February 18, 1997, the Court of Appeals denied the motion.

Hence, this petition. Petitioners submitted that the Solicitor General was estopped from seeking annulment of the judgment of reconstitution after failing to object during the reconstitution proceedings before the trial court, despite due notice. Petitioners alleged that the Solicitor General merely acted on the request of private and politically powerful individuals who wished to capitalize on the prime location of the subject land. Petitioners emphasized that the ownership of the land had been settled in two previous cases of the Supreme Court, where the Court ruled in favor of their predecessor-in-interest, Lee Liong. Petitioners also pointed out that they acquired ownership of the land through actual possession of the lot and their consistent payment of taxes over the land for more than sixty years. On the other hand, the Solicitor General submitted that the decision in the reconstitution case was void; otherwise, it would amount to circumventing the constitutional proscription against aliens acquiring ownership of private or public agricultural lands. We grant the petition. The reconstitution of a certificate of title denotes restoration in the original form and condition of a lost or destroyed instrument attesting the title of a person to a piece of land.23 The purpose of the reconstitution of title is to have, after observing the procedures prescribed by law, the title reproduced in exactly the same way it has been when the loss or destruction occurred. In this case, petitioners sought a reconstitution of title in the name of Lee Liong, alleging that the transfer certificate of title issued to him was lost or destroyed during World War II. All the documents recorded and issued by the Register of Deeds, Capiz, which include the transfer certificate of title issued in the name of Lee Liong, were all destroyed during the war. The fact that the original of the transfer certificate of title was not in the files of the Office of the Register of Deeds did not imply that a transfer certificate of title had not been issued. In the trial court proceedings, petitioners presented evidence proving the sale of the land from the Dinglasans to Lee Liong and the latters subsequent possession of the property in the con cept of owner. Thus, the trial court, after examining all the evidence before it, ordered the reconstitution of title in the name of Lee Liong. However, there is a question as to whether Lee Liong has the qualification to own land in the Philippines. The sale of the land in question was consummated sometime in March 1936, during the effectivity of the 1935 Constitution. Under the 1935 Constitution, aliens could not acquire private agricultural lands, save in cases of hereditary succession. Thus, Lee Liong, a Chinese citizen, was disqualified to acquire the land in question. The fact that the Court did not annul the sale of the land to an alien did not validate the transaction, for it was still contrary to the constitutional proscription against aliens acquiring lands of the public or private domain. However, the proper party to assail the illegality of the transaction was not the parties to the transaction.In sales of real

59 | P a g e

estate to aliens incapable of holding title thereto by virtue of the provisions of the Constitution both the vendor and the vendee are deemed to have committed the constitutional violation and being thus in pari delicto the courts will not afford protection to either party.The proper party to assail the sale is the Solicitor General. This was what was done in this case when the Solicitor General initiated an action for annulment of judgment of reconstitution of title. While it took the Republic more than sixty years to assert itself, it is not barred from initiating such action. Prescription never lies against the State. Although ownership of the land cannot revert to the original sellers, because of the doctrine of pari delicto, the Solicitor General may initiate an action for reversion or escheat of the land to the State, subject to other defenses, as hereafter set forth. In this case, subsequent circumstances militate against escheat proceedings because the land is now in the hands of Filipinos. The original vendee, Lee Liong, has since died and the land has been inherited by his heirs and subsequently their heirs, petitioners herein. Petitioners are Filipino citizens, a fact the Solicitor General does not dispute. The constitutional proscription on alien ownership of lands of the public or private domain was intended to protect lands from falling in the hands of non-Filipinos. In this case, however, there would be no more public policy violated since the land is in the hands of Filipinos qualified to acquire and own such land. If land is invalidly transferred to an alien who subsequently becomes a citizen or transfers it to a citizen, the flaw in the original transaction is considered cured and the title of the transferee is rendered valid. Thus, the subsequent transfer of the property to qualified Filipinos may no longer be impugned on the basis of the invalidity of the initial transfer. The objective of the constitutional provision to keep our lands in Filipino hands has been achieved. Incidentally, it must be mentioned that reconstitution of the original certificate of title must be based on an owners duplicate, secondary evidence thereof, or other valid sources of the title to be reconstituted. In this case, reconstitution was based on the plan and technical description approved by the Land Registration Authority.36 This renders the order of reconstitution void for lack of factual support. A judgment with absolutely nothing to support it is void. As earlier mentioned, a reconstitution of title is the re-issuance of a new certificate of title lost or destroyed in its original form and condition. It does not pass upon the ownership of the land covered by the lost or destroyed title. Any change in the ownership of the property must be the subject of a separate suit. Thus, although petitioners are in possession of the land, a separate proceeding is necessary to thresh out the issue of ownership of the land. WHEREFORE, the Court REVERSES and SETS ASIDE the decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 36274. In lieu thereof, the Court sets aside the order of reconstitution of title in Reconstitution Case No. R-1928, Regional Trial Court, Roxas City, and dismisses the petition, without prejudice. No costs.

SO ORDERED. No. L-33048.April 16, 1982.* EPIFANIA SARSOSA VDA. DE BARSOBIA and PACITA W. VALLER, petitioners, vs. VICTORIANO T. CUENCO, respondent.

Civil Law; Sales; Sale of land to a Chinese citizen in 1936 renders sale inexistent and void from the beginning; Reason.There should be no question that the sale of the land in question in 1936 by Epifania to Ong King Po was inexistent and void from the beginning (Art. 1409 [7], Civil Code) because it was a contract executed against the mandatory provision of the 1935 Constitution, which is an expression of public policy to conserve lands for the Filipinos. Same; Same; Same; Exception is, where land previously sold by the Filipino citizen to the Chinese, a disqualified vendee, was later sold by the Chinese to a qualified person, a naturalized Filipino citizen, Reason. But the factual set-up has changed. The litigated property is now in the hands of a naturalized Filipino. It is no longer owned by a disqualified vendee. Respondent, as a naturalized citizen, was constitutionally qualified to own the subject property. There would be no more public policy to be served in allowing petitioner Epifania to recover the land as it is already in the hands of a qualified person. Same; Same; Laches; Filipino landowner barred from asserting claim of ownership over the land for inexcusable neglect, despite absence of rights of ownership of Chinese to transmit the property.While, strictly speaking, Ong King Po, private respondents vendor, had no rights of ownership to transmit, it is likewise inescapable that petitioner Epifania had slept on her rights for 26 years from 1936 to 1962. By her long inaction or inexcusable neglect, she should be held barred from asserting her claim to the litigated property (Sotto vs. Teves, 86 SCRA 157 [1978]). Same; Same; Damages; Award of actual damages to owner of land for having been deprived of possession of land; Vendee in good faith not liable to award of actual damages.The award of actual damages in respondents favor of P10,000.00, as well as of attorneys fees and expenses of litigation of P2,000.00, is justified. Respondent was deprived of the possession of his land and the enjoyment of its fruits from March, 1962. The Court of Appeals fixed respondents share of the sale of copra at P10,000.00 for eight years at four (4) harvests a year. The accuracy of this finding has not been disputed. However, we find merit in the assigned error that petitioner, PacitaVallar, should not be held also liable for actual damages to respondent. In the absence of contrary proof, she, too, must be considered as a vendee in good faith of petitioner Epifania. Same; Same; Attorneys fees and litigation expenses, awarded where respondent was compelled to litigate for protection of his interests.The award of attorneys fees and litigation expenses in the sum of P2,000.00 in respondents favor is in order considering that both petitioners compell ed respondent to litigate for the protection of his interests. Moreover, the amount is reasonable.

60 | P a g e

PETITION to review the judgment of the Court of Appeals. The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court. MELENCIO-HERRERA, J.: Sought to be reviewed herein is the judgment dated August18, 1970, of the Court of Appeals, rendered in CAG.R. No. 41318-R, entitled Victoriano T. Cuenco, Plaintiff-appellant,versusEpifaniaSarsosaVda. deBarsobia and PacitaW.Vallar, Defendants-appellees, declaring Victoriano T. Cuenco(now the respondent) as the absolute owner of the coconut land in question. The lot in controversy is a one-half portion (on the northern side) of two adjoining parcels of coconut land located at Barrio Mancapagao, Sagay, Camiguin, Misamis Oriental (now Camiguin province), with an area of 29,150 square meters, more or less. The entire land was owned previously by a certain LeocadiaBalisado, who had sold it to the spouses Patricio Barsobia (now deceased) and EpifaniaSarsosa, one of the petitioners herein. They are Filipino citizens. On September 5, 1936, EpifaniaSarsosa, then a widow, sold the land in controversy to a Chinese, Ong King Po, for the sum of P1,050.00 (Exhibit B). Ong King Po took actual possession and enjoyed the fruits thereof. On August 5, 1961, Ong King Po sold the litigated property to Victoriano T. Cuenco (respondent herein), a naturalized Filipino, for the sum of P5,000.00 (Exhibit A). Respondent immediately took actual possession and harvested the fruits therefrom. On March 6, 1962, Epifania usurped the controverted property, and on July 26, 1962, Epifania (through her only daughter and child, EmeteriaBarsobia), sold a one-half (1/2) portion of the land in question to Pacita W. Vallar, the other petitioner herein (Exhibit 2). Epifania claimed that it was not her intention to sell the land to Ong King Po and that she signed the document of sale merely to evidence her indebtedness to the latter in the amount of P1,050.00. Epifania has been in possession ever since except for the portion sold to the other petitioner Pacita. On September 19, 1962, respondent filed a Forcible Entry case against Epifania before the Municipal Court of Sagay, Camiguin. The case was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction since, as the laws then stood, the question of possession could not be properly determined without first settling that of ownership. On December 27, 1966, respondent instituted before the Court of First Instance of Misamis Oriental a Complaint for recovery of possession and ownership of the litigated land, against Epifania and PacitaVallar (hereinafter referred to simply as petitioners).

In their Answer below, petitioners insisted that they were the owners and possessors of the litigated land; that its sale to Ong King Po, a Chinese, was inexistent and/or void ab initio; and that the deed of sale between them was only an evidence of Epifanias indebtedness to Ong King Po. The trial Court rendered judgment: 1. Dismissing the complaint with costs against plaintiff (respondent herein). 2. Declaring the two Deeds of Sale, Exhibits A and B, respectively, inexistent and void from the beginning; and 3. Declaring defendant Pacita W. Vallar as the lawful owner and possessor of the portion of land she bought from Emeteria Bar-sobia (pp. 57, 67, Record.) On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed the aforementioned Decision and decreed instead that respondent was the owner of the litigated property, thus: x xx. In view of all the foregoing considerations, the judgment appealed from is hereby reversed. In lieu thereof, we render judgment: (a) Declaring the plaintiff-appellant Victoriano T. Cuenco the absolute owner of the land in question, with the right of possession thereof; (b) Ordering the defendants-appellees to restore the possession of said land to the plaintiff; (c) Dismissing the defendants counterclaim; (d) Condemning the defendants to pay to the plaintiff the sum of P10,000.00 representing the latters share from the sale of copra which he failed to receive since March, 1962 when he was deprived of his possession over the land, and which defendants illegally appropriated it to their own use and benefit, plus legal interest from the filing of the complaint until fully paid, plus P2,000.00 representing expenses and attorneys fees. (e) Sentencing the defendants to pay the costs. SO ORDERED. Following the denial of their Motion for Reconsideration, petitioners filed the instant Petition for Review on Certiorari with this Court on January 21, 1971. Petitioners claim that the Court of Appeals erred:

61 | P a g e

I. x xx when it reversed the judgment of the trial court declaring petitioner Pacita W. Vallar as the lawful possessor and owner of the portion of land she purchased from EmeteriaBarsobia, not a party to this case, there being no evidence against her. II. x xx when it included petitioner Pacita W. Vallar to pay P10,000.00, with legal interest from the filing of the complaint, representing respondents share in the harvest and to pay the costs, there being no evidence agains t her. III. xxx when it condemned petitioners to pay P2,000.00 representing expenses and attorneys fees, there being no factual, legal and equitable justification. IV. xxx in not applying the rule on pan delicto to the facts of the case or the d octrine enunciated x xx in the case of Philippine Banking Corporation vs. Lui She, L-17587, September 12, 1967, to x xx Petitioner EpifaniaSarsosaVda. deBarsobia.

But the factual set-up has changed. The litigated property is now in the hands of a naturalized Filipino. It is no longer owned by a disqualified vendee. Respondent, as a naturalized citizen, was constitutionally qualified to own the subject property. There would be no more public policy to be served in allowing petitioner Epifania to recover the land as it is already in the hands of a qualified person. Applying by analogy the ruling of this Court in Vasquez vs.Giap and Li SengGiap& Sons: x xx if the ban on aliens from acquiring not only agricultural but also urban lands, as construed by this Court in the Krivenko case, is to preserve the nations lands for future generations of Filipinos, that aim or purpose would not be thwarted but achieved by making lawful the acquisition of real estate by aliens who became Filipino citizens by naturalization. While, strictly speaking, Ong King Po, private respondents vendor, had no rights of ownership to transmit, it is likewise inescapable that petitioner Epifania had slept on her rights for 26 years from 1936 to 1962. By her long inaction or inexcusable neglect, she should be held barred from asserting her claim to the litigated property (Sotto vs. Teves, 86 SCRA 157 11978]). Laches has been defined as the failure or neglect, for an unreasonable and unexplained length of time, to do that which by exercising due diligence could or should have been done earlier; it is negligence or omission to assert a right within a reasonable time, warranting a presumption that the party entitled to assert it either has abandoned it or declined to assert it. (Tijam, et al. vs. Sibonghanoy, et al., No.L-21450, April 15, 1968, 23 SCRA 29, 35). (cited in Sotto vs. Teves, 86 SCRA 154 [1978]). Respondent, therefore, must be declared to be the rightful owner of the property. The award of actual damages in respondents favor of P10,000.00, as well as of attorneys fees and expenses of litigation of P2,000.00, is justified. Respondent was deprived of the possession of his land and the enjoyment of its fruits from March, 1962. The Court of Appeals fixed respondents share of the sale of copra at P10,000.00 for eight years at four (4) harvests a year. The accuracy of this finding has not been disputed. However, we find merit in the assigned error that petitioner, PacitaVallar, should not be held also liable for actual damages to respondent. In the absence of contrary proof, she, too, must be considered as a vendee in good faith of petitioner Epifania. The award of attorneys fees and litigation expenses in the sum of P2,000.00 in respondents favor is in order considering that both petitioners compelled respondent to litigate for the protection of his interests. Moreover, the amount is reasonable. WHEREFORE, except for that portion holding petitioner, Pacita W. Vallar, also liable for damages of P10,000.00, the appealed judgment is hereby affirmed. Costs against petitioners.SO ORDERED.

V. x xx in denying, for lack of sufficient merits, petitioners motion for rehearing or rec onsideration of its decision. As the facts stand, a parcel of coconut land was sold by its Filipino owner, petitioner Epifania, to a Chinese, Ong King Po, and by the latter to a naturalized Filipino, respondent herein. In the meantime, the Filipino owner had unilaterally repudiated the sale she had made to the Chinese and had resold the property to another Filipino. The basic issue is: Who is the rightful owner of the property? There should be no question that the sale of the land in question in 1936 by Epifania to Ong King Po was inexistent and void from the beginning (Art. 1409 [7], Civil Code)6 because it was a contract executed against the mandatory provision of the 1935 Constitution, which is an expression of public policy to conserve lands for the Filipinos. Said provision reads: Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private agricultural land shall be transferred or assigned except to individuals, corporations, or associations, qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain. Had this been a suit between Epifania and Ong King Po, she could have been declared entitled to the litigated land on the basis, as claimed, of the ruling in Philippine Banking Corporation vs. Lui She,8 reading: x xxFor another thing, and this is not only cogent but also important. Article 1416 of the Civil Code provides as an exception to the rule on pari delicto that when the agreement is not illegal per se but is merely prohibited, and the prohibition by the law is designed for the protection of the plaintiff, he may, if public policy is thereby enhanced, recover what he has sold or delivered. x xx

62 | P a g e

No. L-31956.April 30, 1984.* FILOMENA GERONA DE CASTRO, petitioner, vs. JOAQUIN TENG QUEEN TAN, TAN TENG BIO, DOLORES TAN, ROSARIO TAN HUA ING, and TO O. HIAP, respondents.

In 1938, petitioner Filomena Gerona de Castro sold a 1,258 sq. m. residential lot in Bulan, Sorsogon to Tan Tai, a Chinese. In 1956, Tan Tai died leaving herein respondentshis widow, To O. Hiap, and children Joaquin Teng Queen Tan, Tan Teng Bio, Dolores Tan and Rosario Tan HuaIng. Before the death of Tan Tai or on August 11, 1956, one of his sons, Joaquin, became a naturalized Filipino. Six years after Tan Tais death, or on November 18, 1962, his heirs executed an extra -judicial settlement of estate with sale, whereby the disputed lot in its entirety was alloted to Joaquin. On July 15, 1968, petitioner commenced suit against the heirs of Tan Tai for annulment of the sale for alleged violation of the 1935 Constitution prohibiting the sale of land to aliens. Except for respondent Tan Teng Bio who filed an answer to the complaint, respondents moved to dismiss the complaint on the grounds of (a) lack of cause of action, the plaintiff being in pari delicto with the vendee, and the land being already owned by a Philippine citizen; (b) laches; and (c) acquisitive prescription. Over the opposition of petitioner, the court a quo dismissed the complaint, sustaining the first two grounds invoked by the movants. It is this order of dismissal that is now the subject of this review. The assailed order must be sustained. Independently of the doctrine of pari delicto, the petitioner cannot have the sale annulled and recover the lot she herself has sold. While the vendee was an alien at the time of the sale, the land has since become the property of respondent Joaquin Teng, a naturalized Philippine citizen, who is constitutionally qualified to own land. . . . The litigated property is now in the hands of a naturalized Filipino. It is no longer owned by a disqualified vendee. Respondent, as a naturalized citizen, was constitutionally qualified to own the subject property. There would be no more public policy to be served in allowing petitioner Epifania to recover the land as it is already in the hands of a qualified person. Applying by analogy the ruling of this Court in Vasquez vs. Giap and Li SengGiap& Sons: x xx if the ban on aliens from acquiring not only agricultural but also urban lands, as construed by this Court in the Krivenko case, is to preserve the nations lands for future generations of Filipinos, that aim or purpose would not be thwarted but achieved by making lawful the acquisition of real estate by aliens who became Filipino citizens by naturalization. (SarsosaVda.deBarsobia vs.Cuenco, 113 SCRA 547, at 553.) Laches also militates against petitioners cause. She sold the disputed lot in 1938. She instituted the action to annul the sale only on July 15, 1968. What the Court said in the cited Sarsosa case applies with equal force to the petitioner. . . . it is likewise inescapable that petitioner Epifania had slept on her rights for 26 years from 1936 to 1962. By her long inaction of inexcusable neglect, she should be held barred from asserting her claim to the litigated

Constitutional Law; Aliens; Sale of residential land to an alien but now already in the hands of a naturalized Filipino citizen valid.Independently of the doctrine of pari delicto, the petitioner cannot have the sale annulled and recover the lot she herself has sold. While the vendee was an alien at the time of the sale, the land has since become the property of respondent Joaquin Teng, a naturalized Philippine citizen, who is constitutionally qualified to own land. Same; Same; Same; Laches; Annulment of sale; Filing of an action on July 15, 1968 to annul sale of land made in 1938, barred by laches.Laches also militates against petitioners cause. She sold the disputed lot in 1938. She instituted the action to annul the sale only on July 15, 1968. What the Court said in the cited Sarsosa case applies with equal force to the petitioner. Same; Same; Same; Same; Concept of laches.Laches has been defined as the failure or neglect, for an unreasonable and unexplained length of time, to do that which by exercising due diligence could or should have been done earlier; it is negligence or omission to assert a right within a reasonable time, warranting a presumption that the party entitled to assert it either has abandoned it or declined to assert it. (Tijam, et al. vs. Sibonghanoy, et al., No.L-21450, April 15, 1968, 23 SCRA 29, 35). (cited in Sotto vs. Teves, 86 SCR A 154 [1978]). PETITION for certiorari to review the order of the Court of First Instance of Sorsogon. The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court. Pascual G. Mier for petitioner. Eddie Tamondong for respondent Joaquin Teng Queen Tan. Carlos Buenviaje for respondent Tan Teng Bio. Arnulfo L. Perete for respondent Ong Shi (To O. Hiap). PLANA, J.: Review on certiorari of the order of the former Court of First Instance of Sorsogon dismissing petitioners action for annulment of contract with damages.

63 | P a g e

property (Sotto vs. Teves, 86 SCRA 157 [1978]). Laches has been defined as the failure or neglect, for an unreasonable and unexplained length of time, to do that which by exercising due diligence could or should have been done earlier; it is negligence or omission to assert a right within a reasonable time, warranting a presumption that the party entitled to assert it either has abandoned it or declined to assert it. (Tijam, et al. vs. Sibonghanoy, et al., No.L-21450, April 15, 1968, 23 SCRA 29, 35). (cited in Sotto vs. Teves, 86 SCRA 154 [1978]). Respondent, therefore, must be declared to be the rightful owner of the property. (p. 553.) WHEREFORE, the appealed order is affirmed. Costs against petitioner.

by an applicant and his predecessors-in-interest, vest title on such applicant so as to segregate the land from the mass of public land (National Power Corporation v. CA, 218 SCRA 41 [1993]). Same; Same; Same; Torrens System; When the conditions set by law are complied with, the possessor of the land, by operation of law, acquires a right to a grant, a government grant, without the necessity of a certificate of title being issued; The Torrens system was not established as a means for the acquisition of title to private land, as it merely confirms, but does not confer ownership.The Public Land Act requires that the applicant must prove that (a) the land is alienable public land and (b) his possession, in the concept above stated, must be either since time immemorial or for the period prescribed in the Public Land Act (Director of Lands v. Buyco, 216 SCRA 78 [1992]). When the conditions set by law are complied with, the possessor of the land, by operation of law, acquires a right to a grant, a government grant, without the necessity of a certificate of title being issued (National Power Corporation v. CA, supra). As such, the land ceases to be a part of the public domain and goes beyond the authority of the Director of Lands to dispose of. In other words, the Torrens system was not established as a means for the acquisition of title to private land (Municipality of Victorias v. CA, 149 SCRA 32 [1987]). It merely confirms, but does not confer ownership. Same; Same; Same; The Constitution allows natural-born citizens who have lost their Philippine citizenship to acquire private lands; BP 185 governs the disposition of private lands in favor of natural-born Filipino citizens who have lost their Philippine citizenship.But what should not be missed in the disposition of this case is the fact that the Constitution itself allows private respondents to register the contested parcels of land in their favor. Sections 7 and 8 of Article XII of the Constitution contain the pertinent provisions. Section 8 is similar to Section 15, Article XIV of the then 1973 Constitution. Pursuant thereto, B.P. 185 was passed into law. From the adoption of the 1987 Constitution up to the present, no other law has been passed by the legislature on the same subject. Thus, what governs the disposition of private lands in favor of a natural-born Filipino citizen who has lost his Philippine citizenship remains to be BP 185. Same; Same; Same; A foreign national may apply for registration of title over a parcel of land which he acquired by purchase while still a citizen of the Philippines from a vendor who has complied with the requirements for registration under the law.Even if private respondents were already Canadian citizens at the time they applied for registration of the properties in question, said properties as discussed above were already private lands; consequently, there could be no legal impediment for the registration thereof by respondents in view of what the Constitution ordains. The parcels of land sought to be registered no longer form part of the public domain. They are already private in character since private respondents predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous and exclusive possession and occupation thereof under claim of ownership prior to June 12, 1945 or since 1937. The law provides that a natural-born citizen of the Philippines who has lost his Philippine citizenship may be a transferee of a private land up to a maximum area of 1,000 sq. m., if urban, or one (1) hectare in case of rural land, to be used by him as his residence (BP 185). It is undisputed that private respondents, as vendees of a private land, were natural-born citizens of the Philippines. For the purpose of transfer and/or acquisition of a parcel of residential land, it is not significant whether private respondents are no longer Filipino citizens at the time they purchased or registered the parcels of land in question. What is important is that private respondents were formerly

G.R. No. 108998. August 24, 1994.* REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs. THE COURT OF APPEALS AND SPOUSES MARIO B. LAPIA AND FLOR DE VEGA, respondents.

Natural Resources; Land Registration; Confirmation of Imperfect Title; It matters not whether the vendee/applicant has been in possession of the subject property for only a day so long as the period and/or legal requirements for confirmation of title has been complied by his predecessor-in-interest, the said period being tacked to his possession.It must be noted that with respect to possession and occupation of the alienable and disposable lands of the public domain, the law employs the terms by themselves, the applicant himself or through his pre-decessor-in-interest. Thus, it matters not whether the vendee/applicant has been in possession of the subject property for only a day so long as the period and/or legal requirements for confirmation of title has been complied with by his predecessor-in-interest, the said period is tacked to his possession. In the case at bar, respondents predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of the disputed land not only since June 12, 1945, but even as early as 1937. Petitioner does not deny this except that respondent spouses, in its perception, were in possession of the land sought to be registered only in 1978 and therefore short of the required length of time. As aforesaid, the disputed parcels of land were acquired by private respondents through their predecessors-in-interest, who, in turn, have been in open and continued possession thereof since 1937. Private respondents stepped into the shoes of their predecessors-in-interest and by virtue thereof, acquired all the legal rights necessary to confirm what could otherwise be deemed as an imperfect title. Same; Same; Same; Occupation and cultivation for more than 30 years by an applicant and his predecessors-ininterest, vest title on such applicant so as to segregate the land from the mass of public land. Subsequent cases have hewed to the above pronouncement such that open, continuous and exclusive possession for at least 30 years of alienable public land ipso jure converts the same to private property (Director of Lands v. IAC, 214 SCRA 604 [1992]; Pineda v. CA, 183 SCRA 602 [1990]). This means that occupation and cultivation for more than 30 years

64 | P a g e

natural-born citizens of the Philippines, and as transferees of a private land, they could apply for registration in accordance with the mandate of Section 8, Article XII of the Constitution. Considering that private respondents were able to prove the requisite period and character of possession of their predecessors-in-interest over the subject lots, their application for registration of title must perforce be approved. Same; Same; Same; The requirements in Sec. 6 of BP 185 are primarily directed to the register of deeds before whom compliance therewith is to be submitted.The Court is of the view that the requirements in Sec. 6 of BP 185 do not apply in the instant case since said requirements are primarily directed to the register of deeds before whom compliance therewith is to be submitted. Nowhere in the provision is it stated, much less implied, that the requirements must likewise be submitted before the land registration court prior to the approval of an application for registration of title. An application for registration of title before a land registration court should not be confused with the issuance of a certificate of title by the register of deeds. It is only when the judgment of the land registration court approving the application for registration has become final that a decree of registration is issued. And that is the time when the requirements of Sec. 6, BP 185, before the register of deeds should be complied with by the applicants. This decree of registration is the one that is submitted to the office of the register of deeds for issuance of the certificate of title in favor of the applicant. Prior to the issuance of the decree of registration, the register of deeds has no participation in the approval of the application for registration of title as the decree of registration is yet to be issued. PETITION for review on certiorari to nullify a decision of the Court of Appeals. The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court. Byron V. Belarmino and Juan B. Belarmino for private respondents. BIDIN, J.: Can a foreign national apply for registration of title over a parcel of land which he acquired by purchase while still a citizen of the Philippines, from a vendor who has complied with the requirements for registration under the Public Land Act (CA 141)? The Republic would have us rule on the negative and asks this Court to nullify the decision of the appellate court which affirmed the judgment of the court a quo in granting the application of respondent spouses for registration over the lots in question. On June 17, 1978, respondent spouses bought Lots 347 and 348, Cad. s38-D, as their residence with a total area of 91.77 sq. m. situated in San Pablo City, from one Cristeta Dazo Belen (Rollo, p. 41). At the time of the purchase, respondent spouses were then natural-born Filipino citizens.

On February 5, 1987, the spouses filed an application for registration of title of the two (2) parcels of land before the Regional Trial Court of San Pablo City, Branch XXXI. This time, however, they were no longer Filipino citizens and have opted to embrace Canadian citizenship through naturalization. An opposition was filed by the Republic and after the parties have presented their respective evidence, the court a quo rendered a decision confirming private respondents title to the lots in question, the dispositive portion of which reads as follows: WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, this Court hereby approves the said application and confirms the title and possession of herein applicants over Lots 347 and 348, Ap-04-003755 in the names of spouses Mario B. Lapia and Flor de Vega, all of legal age, Filipino citizens by birth but now Canadian citizens by naturalization and residing at 14 A. Mabini Street, San Pablo City and/or 201-1170-124 Street, Edmonton, Alberta T5M-OK9, Canada. Once this Decision becomes final, let the corresponding decree of registration be issued. In the certificate of title to be issued, there shall be annotated an easement of .265 meters road right-of-way. SO ORDERED. (Rollo, p. 25) On appeal, respondent court affirmed the decision of the trial court based on the following ratiocination: In the present case, it is undisputed that both applicants were still Filipino citizens when they bought the land in controversy from its former owner. For this reason, the prohibition against the acquisition of private lands by aliens could not apply. In justice and equity, they are the rightful owners of the subject realty considering also that they had paid for it quite a large sum of money. Their purpose in initiating the instant action is merely to confirm their title over the land, for, as has been passed upon, they had been the owners of the same since 1978. It ought to be pointed out that registration is not a mode of acquiring ownership. The Torrens System was not established as a means for the acquisition of title to private land. It is intended merely to confirm and register the title which one may already have (Municipality of Victorias vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. L-31189, March 31, 1987). With particular reference to the main issue at bar, the High Court has ruled that title and ownership over lands within the meaning and for the purposes of the constitutional prohibition dates back to the time of their purchase, not later. The fact that the applicants-appellees are not Filipino citizens now cannot be taken against them for they were not disqualified from acquiring the land in question (Bollozos vs. Yu Tieng Su, G.R. No. L-29442, November 11, 1987). (Rollo, pp. 27-28) Expectedly, respondent courts disposition did not merit petitioners approval, hence this p resent recourse, which was belatedly filed. Ordinarily, this petition would have been denied outright for having been filed out of time had it not been for the constitutional issue presented therein.

65 | P a g e

At the outset, petitioner submits that private respondents have not acquired proprietary rights over the subject properties before they acquired Canadian citizenship through naturalization to justify the registration thereof in their favor. It maintains that even privately owned unregistered lands are presumed to be public lands under the principle that lands of whatever classification belong to the State under the Regalian doctrine. Thus, before the issuance of the certificate of title, the occupant is not in the juridical sense the true owner of the land since it still pertains to the State. Petitioner further argued that it is only when the court adjudicates the land to the applicant for con-firmation of title would the land become privately owned land, for in the same proceeding, the court may declare it public land, depending on the evidence. As found by the trial court: The evidence thus presented established that applicants, by themselves and their predecessors -in-interest, had been in open, public, peaceful, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation of the two adjacent parcels of land applied for registration of title under a bona-fide claim of ownership long before June 12, 1945. Such being the case, it is conclusively presumed that all the conditions essential to the confirmation of their title over the two adjacent parcels of land are sought to be registered have been complied with thereby entitling them to the issuance of the corresponding certificate of title pursuant to the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 1529, otherwise known as the Property Registration Decree. (Rollo, p. 26) Respondent court echoed the court a quos observation, thus: The land sought to be registered has been declared to be within the alienable and disposable zone established by the Bureau of Forest Development (Exhibit P). The investigation conducted by the Bureau of Lands, Natural Resources District (IV-2) reveals that the disputed realty had been occupied by the applicants whose house of strong materials stands thereon; that it had been declared for taxation purposes in the name of applicants-spouses since 1979; that they acquired the same by means of a public instrument entitled Kasulatan ng Bilihang Tuluyan duly executed by the vendor, Cristeta Dazo Belen, on June 17, 1978 (Exhibits I and J); and that applicants and their predecessors in interest had been in possession of the land for more than 30 years prior to the filing of the application for registration. But what is of great significance in the instant case is the circumstance that at the time the applicants purchased the subject lot in 1978, both of them were Filipino citizens such that when they filed their application for registration in 1987, ownership over the land in dispute had already passed to them. (Rollo, p., 27) The Republic disagrees with the appellate courts concept of possession and argues: 17. The Court of Appeals found that the land was declared for taxation purposes in the name of respondent spouses only since 1979. However, tax declarations or realty tax payments of property are not conclusive evidence of ownership. (citing cases) 18. Then again, the appellate court found that applicants (respondents) and their predecessors -in-interest had been in possession of the land for more than 30 years prior to the filing of t he application for registration. This is not, however, the same as saying that respondents have been in possession since June 12, 1945. (PD No. 1073,

amending Sec. 48[b], CA No. 141; see also Sec. 14, PD No. 1529). So there is a void in respondents pos session. They fall short of the required possession since June 12, 1945 or prior thereto. And, even if they needed only to prove thirty (30) years possession prior to the filing of their application (on February 5, 1987), they would still be short of the required possession if the starting point is 1979 when, according to the Court of Appeals, the land was declared for taxation purposes in their name. (Rollo, pp. 14 -15) The argument is myopic, to say the least. Following the logic of petitioner, any transferee is thus foreclosed to apply for registration of title over a parcel of land notwithstanding the fact that the transferor, or his predecessorin-interest has been in open, notorious and exclusive possession thereof for thirty (30) years or more. This is not, however, what the law provides. As petitioner itself argues, Section 48 of the Public Land Act (CA 141) reads: Sec. 48. The following-described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public domain or claiming interest therein, but whose titles have not been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance (now Regional Trial Court) of the province where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate of title therefor under the Land Registration Act, to wit: xxx (b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition or ownership, for at least thirty years immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title except when prevented by wars or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title under the provisions of this chapter. (Italics supplied) As amended by PD 1073: Sec. 4. The provisions of Section 48(b) and Section 48(c), Chapter VIII, of the Public Land Act ar e hereby amended in the sense that these provisions shall apply only to alienable and disposable lands of the public domain which have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession and occupation by the applicant himself or thru his predecessor-in-interest, under a bona fide claim of acquisition or ownership, since June 12, 1945. It must be noted that with respect to possession and occupation of the alienable and disposable lands of the public domain, the law employs the terms by themselves, the applicant himself or through his predecessor-ininterest. Thus, it matters not whether the vendee/applicant has been in possession of the subject property for only a day so long as the period and/or legal requirements for confirmation of title has been complied with by his predecessor-in-interest, the said period is tacked to his possession. In the case at bar, respondents predecessors -ininterest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious possession of the disputed land not only since June 12, 1945, but even as early as 1937. Petitioner does not deny this except that respondent spouses, in its perception,

66 | P a g e

were in possession of the land sought to be registered only in 1978 and therefore short of the required length of time. As aforesaid, the disputed parcels of land were acquired by private respondents through their predecessorsin-interest, who, in turn, have been in open and continued possession thereof since 1937. Private respondents stepped into the shoes of their predecessors-in-interest and by virtue thereof, acquired all the legal rights necessary to confirm what could otherwise be deemed as an imperfect title. At this juncture, petitioners reliance in Republic v. Villanueva (114 SCRA 875 [1982]) deserves scant consideration. There, it was held that before the issuance of the certificate of title, the occupant is not in the juridical sense the true owner of the land since it still pertains to the State. Suffice it to state that the ruling in Republic v. Villanueva (supra), has already been abandoned in the 1986 case of Director of Lands v. Intermediate Appellate Court (146 SCRA 509; and reiterated in Director of Lands v. Iglesia ni Cristo, 200 SCRA 606 [1991]) where the Court, through then Associate Justice, now Chief Justice Narvasa, declared that: (The weight of authority is) that open, exclusive and undisputed possession of alienable public land for the period prescribed by law creates the legal fiction whereby the land, upon completion of the requisite period ipso jure and without the need of judicial or other sanction, ceases to be public land and becomes private property. x x x Herico in particular, appears to be squarely affirmative: x x x. Secondly, under the provisions of Republic Act No. 1942, which the respondent C ourt held to be inapplicable to the petitioners case, with the latters proven occupation and cultivation for more than 30 years since 1914, by himself and by his predecessors-in-interest, title over the land has vested on petitioner so as to segregate the land from the mass of public land. Thereafter, it is no longer disposable under the Public Land Act as by free patent. x x x x x x

more than a formality, at the most limited to ascertaining whether the possession claims is of the required character and length of time; and registration thereunder would not confer title, but simply recognize a title already vested. The proceedings would not originally convert the land from public to private land, but only confirm such a conversion already affected by operation of law from the moment the required period of possession became complete. As was so well put in Cario, x x x (There are indications that registration was expected from all, but none sufficient to show that, for want of it, ownership actually gained would be lost. The effect of the proof, wherever made, was not to confer title, but simply to establish it, as already conferred by the decree, if not by earlier law. (Italics supplied) Subsequent cases have hewed to the above pronouncement such that open, continuous and exclusive possession for at least 30 years of alienable public land ipso jure converts the same to private property (Director of Lands v. IAC, 214 SCRA 604 [1992]; Pineda v. CA, 183 SCRA 602 [1990]). This means that occupation and cultivation for more than 30 years by an applicant and his predecessors-in-interest, vest title on such applicant so as to segregate the land from the mass of public land (National Power Corporation v. CA, 218 SCRA 41 [1993]). The Public Land Act requires that the applicant must prove that (a) the land is alienable public land and (b) his possession, in the concept above stated, must be either since time immemorial or for the period prescribed in the Public Land Act (Director of Lands v. Buyco, 216 SCRA 78 [1992]). When the conditions set by law are complied with, the possessor of the land, by operation of law, acquires a right to a grant, a government grant, without the necessity of a certificate of title being issued (National Power Corporation v. CA, supra). As such, the land ceases to be a part of the public domain and goes beyond the authority of the Director of Lands to dispose of. In other words, the Torrens system was not established as a means for the acquisition of title to private land (Municipality of Victorias v. CA, 149 SCRA 32 [1987]). It merely confirms, but does not confer ownership. As could be gleaned from the evidence adduced, private respondents were able to establish the nature of possession of their predecessors-in-interest. Evidence was offered to prove that their predecessors-in-interest had paid taxes on the subject land and introduced improvements thereon (Exhibits F to F9). A certified true copy of the affidavit executed by Cristeta Dazo and her sister Simplicia was also formally offered to prove that the subject parcels of land were inherited by vendor Cristeta Dazo from her father Pedro Dazo with the conformity of her only sister Simplicia (Exhibit G). Likewise, a report from the Bureau of Lands was presented in evidence together with a letter from the Bureau of Forest Development, to prove that the questioned lots were part of the alienable and disposable zone of the government and that no forestry interest was affected (CA GR No. 28953, Records, p. 33). In the main, petitioner seeks to defeat respondents application for registration of title on the ground of foreign nationality. Accordingly, the ruling in Director of Lands v. Buyco (supra) supports petitioners thesis. We disagree. In Buyco, the applicants therein were likewise foreign nationals but were natural-born Filipino citizens at the time of their supposed acquisition of the property. But this is where the similarity ends. The applicants in Buyco sought to register a large tract of land under the provisions of the Land Registration Act, and in the alternative, under the

As interpreted in several cases, when the conditions as specified in the foregoing provision are complied with, th e possessor is deemed to have acquired, by operation of law, a right to a grant, a government grant, without the necessity of a certificate of title being issued. The land, therefore, ceases to be of the public domain and beyond the authority of the Director of Lands to dispose of. The application for confirmation is mere formality, the lack of which does not affect the legal sufficiency of the title as would be evidenced by the patent and the Torrens title to be issued upon the strength of said patent. Nothing can more clearly demonstrate the logical inevitability of considering possession of public land which is of the character and duration prescribed by the statute as the equivalent of an express grant from the State than the dictum of the statute itself (Section 48 [b]) that the possessor(s) x x x shall be conclusively presumed to have performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a certificate of title x x x. No proof being admissible to overcome a conclusive presumption, confirmation proceedings would, in truth be little

67 | P a g e

provisions of the Public Land Act. The land registration court decided in favor of the applicants and was affirmed by the appellate court on appeal. The Director of Lands brought the matter before us on review and we reversed. This Court, speaking through Justice Davide, Jr., stated: As could be gleaned from the evidence adduced, the private respondents do not rely on fee simple ownership based on a Spanish grant or possessory information title under Section 19 of the Land Registration Act; the private respondents did not present any proof that they or their predecessors-in-interest derived title from an old Spanish grant such as (a) the titulo real or royal grant (b) the con -cession especial or special grant; (c) the composicion con el estado title or adjustment title; (d) the titulo de compra or title by purchase; and (e) the informacion posesoria or possessory information title, which could become a titulo gratuito or a gratuitous title (Director of Forestry v. Muoz, 23 SCRA 1183 [1968]). The primary basis of their claim is possession, by themselves and their predecessors-in-interest, since time immemorial. If indeed private respondents and their predecessors have been in possession since time immemorial, the rulings of both courts could be upheld for, as this Court stated in Oh Cho v. Director of Lands (75 Phil. 890 [1946]): x x x All lands that were not acquired from the Government, either by purchase or by grant, belong to the public domain. An exception to the rule would be any land that should have been in the possession of an occupant and of his predecessors in interest since time immemorial, for such possession would justify the presumption that the land had never been part of the public domain or that it had been a private property even before the Spanish conquest. (Cario v. Insular Government, 41 Phil. 935 [1909]; 212 U.S. 449; 53 Law. Ed., 594) The applicant does not come under the exception, for the earliest possession of the lot by his first predecessor in interest began in 1880. x x x alienable public land held by a possessor, personally or through his predecessors-in-interest, openly, continuously and exclusively for the prescribed statutory period (30 years under the Public Land Act, as amended) is converted to private property by the mere lapse or completion of said period, ipso jure. (Director of Lands v. Intermediate Appellate Court, supra) It is obvious from the foregoing rule that the applicant must prove that (a) the land is alienable public land and (b) his possession, in the concept above stated, must be either since time immemorial, as ruled in both Cario and Susi, or for the period prescribed in the Public Land Act. As to the latter, this Court, in Gutierrez Hermanos v. Court of Appeals (178 SCRA 37 [1989]), adopted the rule enunciated by the Court of Appeals, per then Associate Justice Hugo R. Gutierrez, Jr., x x x, that an applicant for registration under Section 48 of the Public Land Act must secure a certification from the Government that the lands which he claims to have possessed as owner for more than thirty (30) years are alienable and disposable. It is the burden of the applicant to prove its positive averments. In the instant case, private respondents offered no evidence at all to prove that the property subject of the application is an alienable and disposable land. On the contrary, the entire property x x x was pasture land (and therefore inalienable under the then 1973 Constitu-tion).

x x x (P)rivate respondents evidence miserably failed to establish their imperfect title to the property in question. Their allegation of possession since time immemorial, x x x, is patently baseless. x x x When referring to possession, specifically immemorial possession, it means possession of which no man living has seen the beginning, and the existence of which he has learned from his elders (Susi v. Razon, supra). Such possession was never present in the case of private respondents. x x x x x x, there does not even exist a reasonable basis for the finding that the private respondents and the ir predecessors-in-interest possessed the land for more than eighty (80) years, x x x. x x x

To this Courts mind, private respondents failed to prove that (their predecessor -in-interest) had possessed the property___allegedly covered by Tax Declaration No. 15853 and made the subject of both his last will and testament and the project of partition of his estate among his heirsin such manner as to remove the same from the public domain under the Cario and Susi doctrines. Thus, (when the pre-decessor-in-interest) died on 31 May 1937, he transmitted no right whatsoever, with respect to the said property, to his heirs. This being the case, his possession cannot be tacked to that of the private respondents for the latters benefit pursuant to Section 4 8(b) of the Public Land Act, the alternative ground relied upon in their application. x x x x x x

Considering that the private respondents became American citizens before such filing, it goes without saying that they had acquired no vested right, consisting of an imperfect title, over the property before they lost their Philippine citizenship. (Italics supplied) Clearly, the applicants in Buyco were denied registration of title not merely because they were American citizens at the time of their application therefor. Respondents therein failed to prove possession of their predecessor-ininterest since time immemorial or possession in such a manner that the property has been segregated from public domain; such that at the time of their application, as American citizens, they have acquired no vested rights over the parcel of land. In the case at bar, private respondents were undoubtedly natural-born Filipino citizens at the time of the acquisition of the properties and by virtue thereof, acquired vested rights thereon, tacking in the process, the possession in the concept of owner and the prescribed period of time held by their predecessors-in-interest under the Public Land Act. In addition, private respon-dents have constructed a house of strong materials on the contested property, now occupied by respondent Lapias mother. But what should not be missed in the disposition of this case is the fact that the Constitution itself allows private respondents to register the contested parcels of land in their favor. Sections 7 and 8 of Article XII of the Constitution contain the following pertinent provisions, to wit:

68 | P a g e

Sec. 7. Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private lands shall be transferred or conveyed except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain. Sec. 8. Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 7 of this Article, a natural-born citizen of the Philippines who has lost his Philippine citizenship may be a transferee of private lands, subject to limitations provided by law. (Italics supplied) Section 8, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution above quoted is similar to Section 15, Article XIV of the then 1973 Constitution which reads: Sec. 15. Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 14 of this Article, a natural -born citizen of the Philippines who has lost his citizenship may be a transferee of private land, for use by him as his residence, as the Batasang Pambansa may provide. Pursuant thereto, Batas Pambansa Blg. 185 was passed into law, the relevant provision of which provides: Sec. 2. Any natural-born citizen of the Philippines who has lost his Philippine citizenship and who has the legal capacity to enter into a contract under Philippine laws may be a transferee of a private land up to a maximum area of one thousand square meters, in the case of urban land, or one hectare in the case of rural land, to be used by him as his residence. In the case of married couples, one of them may avail of the privilege herein granted; Provided, That if both shall avail of the same, the total area acquired shall not exceed the maximum herein fixed. In case the transferee already owns urban or rural lands for residential purposes, he shall still be entitled to be a transferee of an additional urban or rural lands for residential purposes which, when added to those already owned by him, shall not exceed the maximum areas herein authorized. From the adoption of the 1987 Constitution up to the present, no other law has been passed by the legislature on the same subject. Thus, what governs the disposition of private lands in favor of a natural-born Filipino citizen who has lost his Philippine citizenship remains to be BP 185. Even if private respondents were already Canadian citizens at the time they applied for registration of the properties in question, said properties as discussed above were already private lands; consequently, there could be no legal impediment for the registration thereof by respondents in view of what the Constitution ordains. The parcels of land sought to be registered no longer form part of the public domain. They are already private in character since private respondents predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous and exclusive possession and occupation thereof under claim of ownership prior to June 12, 1945 or since 1937. The law provides that a natural-born citizen of the Philippines who has lost his Philippine citizenship may be a transferee of a private land up to a maximum area of 1,000 sq. m., if urban, or one (1) hectare in case of rural land, to be used by him as his residence (BP 185).

It is undisputed that private respondents, as vendees of a private land, were natural-born citizens of the Philippines. For the purpose of transfer and/or acquisition of a parcel of residential land, it is not significant whether private respondents are no longer Filipino citizens at the time they purchased or registered the parcels of land in question. What is important is that private respondents were formerly natural-born citizens of the Philippines, and as transferees of a private land, they could apply for registration in accordance with the mandate of Section 8, Article XII of the Constitution. Considering that private respondents were able to prove the requisite period and character of possession of their predecessors-in-interest over the subject lots, their application for registration of title must perforce be approved. The dissenting opinion, however, states that the requirements in BP 185, must also be complied with by private respondents. Specifically, it refers to Section 6, which provides: Sec. 6. In addition to the requirements provided for in other laws for the registration of titles to lands, no private land shall be transferred under this Act, unless the transferee shall submit to the register of deeds of the province or city where the property is located a sworn statement showing the date and place of his birth; the names and addresses of his parents, of his spouse and children, if any; the area, the location and the mode of acquisition of his landholdings in the Philippines, if any; his intention to reside permanently in the Philippines; the date he lost his Philippine citizenship and the country of which he is presently a citizen; and such other information as may be required under Section 8 of this Act. The Court is of the view that the requirements in Sec. 6 of BP 185 do not apply in the instant case since said requirements are primarily directed to the register of deeds before whom compliance therewith is to be submitted. Nowhere in the provision is it stated, much less implied, that the requirements must likewise be submitted before the land registration court prior to the approval of an application for registration of title. An application for registration of title before a land registration court should not be confused with the issuance of a certificate of title by the register of deeds. It is only when the judgment of the land registration court approving the application for registration has become final that a decree of registration is issued. And that is the time when the requirements of Sec. 6, BP 185, before the register of deeds should be complied with by the applicants. This decree of registration is the one that is submitted to the office of the register of deeds for issuance of the certificate of title in favor of the applicant. Prior to the issuance of the decree of registration, the register of deeds has no participation in the approval of the application for registration of title as the decree of registration is yet to be issued. WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED and the decision appealed from is hereby AFFIRMED. SO ORDERED. Narvasa (C.J.), Regalado, Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Quiason, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan and Mendoza, JJ., concur. Cruz, J., See dissent. Feliciano, J., Please see concurring statement.

69 | P a g e

Padilla and Davide, Jr., JJ., I join Mr. Justice Cruz in his dissent.

G.R. No. 122156. February 3, 1997. * MANILA PRINCE HOTEL, petitioner, vs. GOVERNMENT SERVICE INSURANCE SYSTEM, MANILA HOTEL CORPORATION, COMMITTEE ON PRIVATIZATION and OFFICE OF THE GOVERNMENT CORPORATE COUNSEL, respondents.

Same; Same; Same; Unless it is expressly provided that a legislative act is necessary to enforce a constitutional mandate, the presumption now is that all provisions of the constitution are self-executing.As against constitutions of the past, modern constitutions have been generally drafted upon a different principle and have often become in effect extensive codes of laws intended to operate directly upon the people in a manner similar to that of statutory enactments, and the function of constitutional conventions has evolved into one more like that of a legislative body. Hence, unless it is expressly provided that a legislative act is necessary to enforce a constitutional mandate, the presumption now is that all provisions of the constitution are self-executing. If the constitutional provisions are treated as requiring legislation instead of self-executing, the legislature would have the power to ignore and practically nullify the mandate of the fundamental law. This can be cataclysmic. Same; Same; Same; Minor details may be left to the legislature without impairing the self-executing nature of constitutional provisions.Quite apparently, Sec. 10, second par., of Art. XII is couched in such a way as not to make it appear that it is non-self-executing but simply for purposes of style. But, certainly, the legislature is not precluded from enacting further laws to enforce the constitutional provision so long as the contemplated statute squares with the Constitution. Minor details may be left to the legislature without impairing the self-executing nature of constitutional provisions. Same; Same; Same; The omission from a constitution of any express provision for a remedy for enforcing a right or liability is not necessarily an indication that it was not intended to be self-executingthe rule is that a selfexecuting provision of the constitution does not necessarily exhaust legislative power on the subject, but any legislation must be in harmony with the constitution, further the exercise of constitutional right and make it more available.In self-executing constitutional provisions, the legislature may still enact legislation to facilitate the exercise of powers directly granted by the constitution, further the operation of such a provision, prescribe a practice to be used for its enforcement, provide a convenient remedy for the protection of the rights secured or the determination thereof, or place reasonable safeguards around the exercise of the right. The mere fact that legislation may supplement and add to or prescribe a penalty for the violation of a self-executing constitutional provision does not render such a provision ineffective in the absence of such legislation. The omission from a constitution of any express provision for a remedy for enforcing a right or liability is not necessarily an indication that it was not intended to be self-executing. The rule is that a self-executing provision of the constitution does not necessarily exhaust legislative power on the subject, but any legislation must be in harmony with the constitution, further the exercise of constitutional right and make it more available. Subsequent legislation however does not necessarily mean that the subject constitutional provision is not, by itself, fully enforceable. Same; Same; Same; A constitutional provision may be selfexecuting in one part and non-self-executing in another.Respondents also argue that the non-self-executing nature of Sec. 10, second par., of Art. XII is implied from the tenor of the first and third paragraphs of the same section which undoubtedly are not selfexecuting. The argument is flawed. If the first and third paragraphs are not self-executing because Congress is still to enact measures to encourage the formation and operation of enterprises fully owned by Filipinos, as in the first paragraph, and the State still needs legislation to regulate and exercise authority over foreign investments within its national jurisdiction, as in the third paragraph, then a fortiori, by the same logic, the second paragraph can only

Constitutional Law; Statutes; Contracts; Words and Phrases; A constitution is a system of fundamental laws for the governance and administration of a nationit is supreme, imperious, absolute and unalterable except by the authority from which it emanates. Since the Constitution is the fundamental, paramount and supreme Iaw of the nation, it is deemed written in every statute and contract. We now resolve. A constitution is a system of fundamental laws for the governance and administration of a nation. It is supreme, imperious, absolute and unalterable except by the authority from which it emanates. It has been defined as the fundamental and paramount law of the nation. lt prescribes the permanent framework of a system of government, assigns to the different departments their respective powers and duties, and establishes certain fixed principles on which government is founded. The fundamental conception in other words is that it is a supreme law to which all other laws must conform and in accordance with which all private rights must be determined and all public authority administered. Under the doctrine of constitutional supremacy, if a law or contract violates any norm of the constitution that law or contract whether promulgated by the legislative or by the executive branch or entered into by private persons for private purposes is null and void and without any force and effect. Thus, since the Constitution is the fundamental, paramount and supreme law of the nation, it is deemed written in every statute and contract. Same; Same; Statutory Construction; A constitutional provision is self-executing if the nature and extent of the right conferred and the liability imposed are fixed by the constitution itself, so that they can be determined by an examination and.construction of its terms, and there is no language indicating that the subject is referred to the legislature for action.Admittedly, some constitutions are merely declarations of policies and principles. Their provisions command the legislature to enact laws and carry out the purposes of the framers who merely establish an outline of government providing for the different departments of the governmental machinery and securing certain fundamental and inalienable rights of citizens. A provision which lays down a general principle, such as those found in Art. II of the 1987 Constitution, is usually not self-executing. But a provision which is complete in itself and becomes operative without the aid of supplementary or enabling legislation, or that which supplies sufficient rule by means of which the right it grants may be enjoyed or protected, is self-executing. Thus a constitutional provision is selfexecuting if the nature and extent of the right conferred and the liability imposed are fixed by the constitution itself, so that they can be determined by an examination and construction of its terms, and there is no language indicating that the subject is referred to the legislature for action.

70 | P a g e

be selfexecuting as it does not by its language require any legislation in order to give preference to qualified Filipinos in the grant of rights, privileges and concessions covering the national economy and patrimony. A constitutional provision may be self-executing in one part and non-self-executing in another. Same; National Economy and Patrimony; When the Constitution mandates that in the grant of rights, privileges, and concessions covering national economy and patrimony, the State shall give preference to qualified Filipinos, it means just thatqualified Filipinos shall be preferred.On the other hand, Sec. 10, second par., Art. XII of the 1987 Constitution is a mandatory, positive command which is complete in itself and which needs no further guidelines or implementing laws or rules for its enforcement. From its very words the provision does not require any legislation to put it in operation. It is per se judicially enforceable. When our Constitution mandates that [i]n the grant of rights, privileges, and concessions covering national economy and patrimony, the State shall give preference to qualified Filipinos, it means just thatqualified Filipinos shall be preferred. Same; Same; When the Constitution declares that a right exists in certain specified circumstances, an action may be maintained to enforce such right notwithstanding the absence of any legislation on the subject such right enforces itself by its own inherent potency and puissance.And when our Constitution declares that a right exists in certain specified circumstances an action may be maintained to enforce such right notwithstanding the absence of any legislation on the subject; consequently, if there is no statute especially enacted to enforce such constitutional right, such right enforces itself by its own inherent potency and puissance, and from which all legislations must take their bearings. Where there is a right there is a remedy. Ubi jus ibi remedium. Same; Same; Words and Phrases; When the Constitution speaks of national patrimony, it refers not only to the natural resources of the Philippines but also to the cultural heritage of the Filipinos. In its plain and ordinary meaning, the term patrimony pertains to heritage. When the Constitution speaks of national patrimony, it refers not only to the natural resources of the Philippines, as the Constitution could have very well used the term natural resources, but also to the cultural heritage of the Filipinos. Same; Same; Manila Hotel; Manila Hotel has become a landmark a living testimonial of Philippine heritage. Manila Hotel has become a landmarka living testimonial of Philippine heritage. While it was restrictively an American hotel when it first opened in 1912, it immediately evolved to be truly Filipino. Formerly a concourse for the elite, it has since then become the venue of various significant events which have shaped Philippine history. It was called the Cultural Center of the 1930s. It was the site of the festivities during the inauguration of the Philippine Commonwealth, Dubbed as the Official Guest House of the Philippine Government it plays host to dignitaries and official visitors who are accorded the traditional Philippine hospitality. Same; Same; Same; Verily, Manila Hotel has become part of our national economy and patrimony. For more than eight (8) decades Manila Hotel has bore mute witness to the triumphs and failures, loves and frustrations of the Filipinos; its existence is impressed with public interest; its own historicity associated with our struggle for sovereignty, independence and nationhood. Verily, Manila Hotel has become part of our national economy and patrimony. For sure, 51% of the equity of the MHC comes within the purview of the constitutional shelter for it

comprises the majority and controlling stock, so that anyone who acquires or owns the 51% will have actual control and management of the hotel. In this instance, 51% of the MHC cannot be disassociated from the hotel and the land on which the hotel edifice stands. Same; Same; Same; Filipino First Policy; Words and Phrases; The ter m qualified Filipinos as used in the Constitution also includes corporations at least 60% of which is owned by Filipinos. Consequently, we cannot sustain respondents claim that the Filipino First Policy provision is not applicable since what is being s old is only 51% of the outstanding shares of the corporation, not the Hotel building nor the land upon which the building stands. The argument is pure sophistry. The term qualified Filipinos as used in our Constitution also includes corporations at least 60% of which is owned by Filipinos. This is very clear from the proceedings of the 1986 Constitutional Commission. Same; Statutory Construction; Even some of the provisions of the Constitution which evidently need implementing legislation have juridical life of their own and can be the source of judicial remedy. The penchant to try to whittle away the mandate of the Constitution by arguing that the subject provision is not self-executory and requires implementing legislation is quite disturbing. The attempt to violate a clear constitutional provision by the government itselfis only too distressing. To adopt such a line of reasoning is to renounce the duty to ensure faithfulness to the Constitution, For, even some of the provisions of the Constitution which evidently need implementing legislation have juridical life of their own and can be the source of a judicial remedy. We cannot simply afford the government a defense that arises out of the failure to enact further enabling, implementing or guiding legislation. Same; Same; Words and Phrases; In constitutional jurisprudence, the acts of a person distinct from the government are considered state action covered by the Constitution (1) when the activity it engages in is a public function; (2) when the government is so significantly involved with the private actor as to make the government responsible for his action; and, (3) when the government has approved or authorized the action. Respondents further argue that the constitutional provision is addressed to the State, not to respondent GSIS which by itself possesses a separate and distinct personality. This argument again is at best specious. It is undisputed that the sale of 51% of the MHC could only be carried out with the prior approval of the State acting through respondent Committee on Privatization. As correctly pointed out by Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J., this fact alone makes the sale of the assets of respondents GSIS and MHC a state action. In constitutional jurisprudence, the acts of persons distinct from the government are considered state action covered by the Constitution (1) when the activity it engages in is a public function; (2) when the government is so significantly involved with the private actor as to make the government responsible for his action; and, (3) when the government has approved or authorized the action. It is evident that the act of respondent GSIS in selling 51% of its share in respondent MHC comes under the second and third categories of state action. Without doubt therefore the transaction, although entered into by respondent GSIS, is in fact a transaction of the State and therefore subject to the constitutional command.

71 | P a g e

Same; Same; Same; When the Constitution addresses the State it refers not only to the people but also to the government as elements of the State.When the Constitution addresses the State it refers not only to the people but also to the government as elements of the State. After all, government is composed of three (3) divisions of powerlegislative, executive and judicial. Accordingly, a constitutional mandate directed to the State is correspondingly directed to the three (3) branches of government. It is undeniable that in this case the subject constitutional injunction is addressed among others to the Executive Department and respondent GSIS, a government instrumentality deriving its authority from the State. Same; National Economy and Patrimony; Filipino First Policy; Bids and Bidding; Since the Filipino First Policy provision of the Constitution bestows preference on qualified Filipinos, the mere tending of the highest bid is not an assurance that the highest bidder will be declared the winning bidder. It should be stressed that while the Malaysian firm offered the higher bid it is not yet the winning bidder. The bidding rules expressly provide that the highest bidder shall only be declared the winning bidder after it has negotiated and executed the necessary contracts, and secured the requisite approvals. Since the Filipino First Policy provision of the Constitution bestows preference on qualified Filipinos the mere tending of the highest bid is not an assurance that the highest bidder will be declared the winning bidder. Resultantly, respondents are not bound to make the award yet, nor are they under obligation to enter into one with the highest bidder. For in choosing the awardee respondents are mandated to abide by the dictates of the 1987 Constitution the provisions of which are presumed to be known to all the bidders and other interested parties. Same; Same; Same; Same; Adhering to the doctrine of constitutional supremacy, the Filipino First Policy constitutional provision is, as it should be, impliedly written in the bidding rules issued by GSIS, lest the bidding rules be nullified for being violative of the Constitution.Adhering to the doctrine of constitutional supremacy, the subject constitutional provision is, as it should be, impliedly written in the bidding rules issued by respondent GSIS, lest the bidding rules be nullified for being violative of the Constitution. It is a basic principle in constitutional law that all laws and contracts must conform with the fundamental law of the land. Those which violate the Constitution lose their reason for being. Same; Same; Same; Same; Certainly, the constitutional mandate itself is reason enough not to award the block of shares immediately to the foreign bidder notwithstanding its submission of a higher, or even the highest, bid Paragraph V.J.1 of the bidding rules provides that [i]f for any reason the Highest Bidder cannot be awarded the Block of Shares, GSIS may offer this to other Qualified Bidders that have validly submitted bids provided that these Qualified Bidders are willing to match the highest bid in terms of price per share. Certainly, the constitutional mandate itself is reason enough not to award the block of shares immediately to the foreign bidder notwithstanding its submission of a higher, or even the highest, bid. In fact, we cannot conceive of a stronger reason than the constitutional injunction itself. Same; Same; Same; Where a foreign firm submits the highest bid in a public bidding concerning the grant of rights, privileges and concessions covering the national economy and patrimony, thereby exceeding the bid of a Filipino, there is no question that the Filipino will have to be allowed to match the bid of the foreign entity. ln

the instant case, where a foreign firm submits the highest bid in a public bidding concerning the grant of rights, privileges and concessions covering the national economy and patrimony, thereby exceeding the bid of a Filipino, there is no question that the Filipino will have to be allowed to match the bid of the foreign entity. And if the Filipino matches the bid of a foreign firm the award should go to the Filipino. It must be so if we are to give life and meaning to the Filipino First Policy provision of the 1987 Constitution. For, while this may neither be expressly stated nor contemplated in the bidding rules, the constitutional fiat is omnipresent to be simply disregarded. To ignore it would be to sanction a perilous skirting of the basic law. Same; Any person desiring to do business in the Philippines or with any of its agencies or instrumentalities is presumed to know his rights and obligations under the Constitution and the laws of the forum.This Court does not discount the apprehension that this policy may discourage foreign investors. But the Constitution and laws of the Philippines are understood to be always open to public scrutiny. These are given factors which investors must consider when venturing into business in a foreign jurisdiction. Any person therefore desiring to do business in the Philippines or with any of its agencies or instrumentalities is presumed to know his rights and obligations under the Constitution and the laws of the forum. Same; Statutory Construction; The miscomprehension of the Constitution is regrettable, thus the Supreme Court would rather remedy the indiscretion while there is still an opportunity to do so than let the government develop the habit of forgetting that the Constitution lays down the basic conditions and parameters for its actions. Besides, there is no time frame for invoking the constitutional safeguard unless perhaps the award has been finally made. To insist on selling the Manila Hotel to foreigners when there is a Filipino group willing to match the bid of the foreign group is to insist that government be treated as any other ordinary market player, and bound by its mistakes or gross errors of judgment, regardless of the consequences to the Filipino people. The miscomprehension of the Constitution is regrettable. Thus we would rather remedy the indiscretion while there is still an opportunity to do so than let the government develop the habit of forgetting that the Constitution lays down the basic conditions and parameters for its actions. Same; Same; National Economy and Patrimony; Filipino First Policy; Nationalism; The Filipino First Policy is a product of Philippine nationalism, embodied in the 1987 Constitution not merely to be used as a guideline for future legislation but primarily to be enforcedso must it be enforced.The Filipino First Policy is a product of Philippine nationalism. lt is embodied in the 1987 Constitution not merely to be used as a guideline for future legislation but primarily to be enforced; so must it be enforced. This Court as the ultimate guardian of the Constitution will never shun, under any reasonable circumstance, the duty of upholding the majesty of the Constitution which it is tasked to defend. It is worth emphasizing that it is not the intention of this Court to impede and diminish, much less undermine, the influx of foreign investments. Far from it, the Court encourages and welcomes more business opportunities but avowedly sanctions the preference for Filipinos whenever such preference is ordained by the Constitution. Same; Same; Same; The Supreme Court will always defer to the Constitution in the proper governance of a free society, after all, there is nothing so sacrosanct in any economic policy as to draw itself beyond judicial review

72 | P a g e

when the Constitution is involved.Privatization of a business asset for purposes of enhancing its business viability and preventing further losses, regardless of the character of the asset, should not take precedence over non-material values. A commercial, nay even a budgetary, objective should not be pursued at the expense of national pride and dignity. For the Constitution enshrines higher and nobler non-material values. Indeed, the Court will always defer to the Constitution in the proper governance of a free society; after all, there is nothing so sacrosanct in any economic policy as to draw itself beyond judicial review when the Constitution is involved. Same; Same; Same; Nationalism; Nationalism is inherent in the very concept of the Philippines being a democratic and republican state, with sovereignty residing in the Filipino people and from whom all government authority emanates.Nationalism is inherent in the very concept of the Philippines being a democratic and republican state, with sovereignty residing in the Filipino people and from whom all government authority emanates. In nationalism, the happiness and welfare of the people must be the goal. The nation-state can have no higher purpose. Any interpretation of any constitutional provision must adhere to such basic concept. Protection of foreign investments, while laudible, is merely a policy. It cannot override the demands of nationalism. Same; Same; Same; Same; Manila Hotel; Manila Hotel has played and continues to play a significant role as an authentic repository of twentieth century Philippine history and culture, and in this sense, it has become truly a reflection of the Filipino soula place with a history of grandeur, a most historical setting that has played a part in the shaping of a country.The Manila Hotel or, for that matter, 51% of the MHC, is not just any commodity to be sold to the highest bidder solely for the sake of privatization. We are not talking about an ordinary piece of property in a commercial district. We are talking about a historic relic that has hosted many of the most important events in the short history of the Philippines as a nation. We are talking about a hotel where heads of states would prefer to be housed as a strong manifestation of their desire to cloak the dignity of the highest state function to their official visits to the Philippines. Thus the Manila Hotel has played and continues to play a significant role as an authentic repository of twentieth century Philippine history and culture. In this sense, it has become truly a reflection of the Filipino soula place with a history of grandeur; a most historical setting that has played a part in the shaping of a country. Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; The conveyance of Manila Hotel, an epic exponent of the Filipino psyche, to alien hands cannot be less than mephistophelian for it is, in whatever manner viewed, a veritable alienation of a nations soul for some pieces of foreign silver.This Court cannot extract rhyme nor reason from the determined efforts of respondents to sell the historical landmarkthis Grand Old Dame of hotels in Asiato a total stranger. For, indeed, the conveyance of this epic exponent of the Filipino psyche to alien hands cannot be less than mephistophelian for it is, in whatever manner viewed, a veritable alienation of a nations soul for some pieces of foreign silver. And so we ask: What advantage, which cannot be equally drawn from a qualified Filipino, can be gained by the Filipinos if Manila Hoteland all that it stands foris sold to a non-Filipino? How much of national pride will vanish if the nations cultural heritage is entrusted to a foreign entity? On the other hand, how much dignity will be preserved and realized if the national patrimony is safekept in the hands of a qualified, zealous and wellmeaning Filipino? This is the plain and simple meaning of the Filipino First Policy provision of

the Philippine Constitution. And this Court, heeding the clarion call of the Constitution and accepting the duty of being the elderly watchman of the nation, will continue to respect and protect the sanctity of the Constitution. PADILLA, J ., Concurring Opinion: Constitutional Law; National Economy and Patrimony; Manila Hotel; There is no doubt that the Manila Hotel is very much a part of our national patrimony and, as such, deserves constitutional protection as to who shall own it and benefit from its operation.There is no doubt in my mind that the Manila Hotel is very much a part of our national patrimony and, as such, deserves constitutional protection as to who shall own it and benefit from its operation. This institution has played an important role in our nations history, having been the venue of many a historical event, and serving as it did, and as it does, as the Philippine Guest House for visiting foreign heads of state, dignitaries, celebrities, and others. Same; Same; Same; Bids and Bidding; The Constitutional preference should give the qualified Filipino an opportunity to match or equal the higher bid of the non-Filipino bidder if the preference of the qualified Filipino bidder is to be significant at all.Now, a word on preference. In my view preference to qualified Filipinos, to be meaningful, must refer not only to things that are peripheral, collateral, or tangential. It must touch and affect the very heart of the existing order. In the field of public bidding in the acquisition of things that pertain to the national patrimony, preference to qualified Filipinos must allow a qualified Filipino to match or equal the higher bid of a non-Filipino; the preference shall not operate only when the bids of the qualified Filipino and the nonFilipino are equal in which case, the award should undisputedly be made to the qualified Filipino. The Constitutional preference should give the qualified Filipino an opportunity to match or equal the higher bid of the non-Filipino bidder if the preference of the qualified Filipino bidder is to be significant at all. Same; Same; Same; It is true that in this present age of globalization of attitude towards foreign investments in our country, stress is on the elimination of barriers to foreign trade and investment in the country, yet we should not preclude ourselves from reserving to us Filipinos certain areas where our national identity, culture and heritage are involved.It is true that in this present age of globalization of attitude towards foreign investments in our country, stress is on the elimination of barriers to foreign trade and investment in the country. While government agencies, including the courts should recondition their thinking to such a trend, and make it easy and even attractive for foreign investors to come to our shores, yet we should not preclude ourselves from reserving to us Filipinos certain areas where our national identity, culture and heritage are involved. In the hotel industry, for instance, foreign investors have established themselves creditably, such as in the Shangri-La, the Nikko, the Peninsula, and Mandarin Hotels. This should not stop us from retaining 51% of the capital stock of the Manila Hotel Corporation in the hands of Filipinos. This would be in keeping with the intent of the Filipino people to preserve our national patrimony, including our historical and cultural heritage in the hands of Filipinos. VITUG, J., Separate Opinion: Constitutional Law; National Economy and Patrimony; Manila Hotel; Bids and Bidding; In this particular case before us, the only meaningful preference, it seems, would realty be to allow the qualified Filipino to match the

73 | P a g e

foreign bid.On the pivotal issue of the degree of preference to qualified Filipinos, I find it somewhat difficult to take the same path traversed by the forceful reasoning of Justice Puno. In the particular case before us, the only meaningful preference it seems, would really be to allow the qualified Filipino to match the foreign bid for, as a practical matter, I cannot see any bid that literally calls for millions of dollars to be at par (to the last cent) with another. The magnitude of the bids is such that it becomes hardly possible for the competing bids to stand exactly equal which alone, under the dissenting view, could trigger the right of preference. Same; Separation of Powers; Supreme Court; Judicial Review; It is regrettable that the Supreme Court at times is seen to be the refuge for bureaucratic inadequacies which create the perception that it even takes on nonjusticiable controversies.It is most unfortunate that Renong Berhad has not been spared this great disappointment, a letdown that it did not deserve, by a simple and timely advise of the proper rules of bidding along with the peculiar constitutional implications of the proposed transaction. It is also regrettable that. the Court at times is seen to, instead, be the refuge for bureaucratic inadequacies which create the perception that it even takes on nonjusticiable controversies. MENDOZA, J., Concurring in the Judgment: Constitutional Law; National Economy and Patrimony; Manila Hotel; Bids and Bidding; In the context of the present controversy the only way to enforce the constitutional mandate that "[i]n the grant of rights, privileges and concessions covering the national patrimony the State shall give preference to qualified Filipinos is to allow petitioner ioner Philippine corporation to equal the bid of the Malaysian firm for the purchase of the controlling shares of stocks in the Manila Hotel Corporation.I take the view that in the context of the present contro-versy the only way to enforce the constitutional mandate that "[i]n the grant of rights, privileges and concessions covering the national patrimony the State shall give preference to qualified Filipinos is to allow petitioner Philippine corporation to equal the bid of the Malaysian firm Renong Berhad for the purchase of the controlling shares of stocks in the Manila Hotel Corporation. Indeed, it is the only way a qualified Filipino or Philippine corporation can be given preference in the enjoyment of a right, privilege or concession given by the State, by favoring it over a foreign national or corporation. TORRES, JR., J., Separate Opinion: Constitutional Law; National Economy and Patrimony; Manila Hotel; Bids and Bidding; The history of the Manila Hotel should not be placed in the auction block of a purely business transaction, where profit subverts the cherished historical values of our people.I subscribe to the view that history, culture, heritage, and tradition are not legislated and is the product of events, customs, usages and practices. It is actually a product of growth and acceptance by the collective mores of a race. It is the spirit and soul of a people. The Manila Hotel is part of our history, culture and heritage. Every inch of the Manila Hotel is witness to historic events (too numerous to mention) which shaped our history for almost 84 years. As I intimated earlier, it is not my position in this opinion, to examine the single instances of the legal largesse which have given rise to this controversy, as I believe that has been exhaustively discussed in the ponencia. Suffice it to say at this point, that the history of the Manila Hotel

should not be placed in the auction block of a purely business transaction, where profit subverts the cherished historical values of our people. PUNO, J., Dissenting Opinion: Constitutional Law; Statutory Construction; To determine whether a particular provision of a Constitution is selfexecuting, a searching inquiry should be made to find out if the provision is intended as a present enactment, complete in itself as a definite law, or if it needs future legislation for completion and enforcement. To determine whether a particular provision of a Constitution is selfexecuting is a hard row to hoe. The key lies on the intent of the framers of the fundamental law oftentimes submerged in its language. A searching inquiry should be made to find out if the provision is intended as a present enactment, complete in itself as a definitive law, or if it needs future legislation for completion and en-forcement. The inquiry demands a micro-analysis of the text and the context of the provision in question. Same; Same; Suffused with wisdom of the ages is the unyielding rule that legislative actions may give breath to constitutional rights but congressional inaction should not suffocate them. Courts as a rule consider the provisions of the Constitution as selfexecuting, rather than as requiring future legislation for their enforcement. The reason is not difficult to discern. For if they are not treated as self-executing, the mandate of the fundamental law ratified by the sovereign people can be easily ignored and nullified by Congress. Suffused with wisdom of the ages is the unyielding rule that legislative actions may give breath to constitutional rights but congressional inaction should not suffocate them. Same; Same; A constitutional provision is not self-executing where it merely announces a policy and its language empowers the Legislature to prescribe the means by which the policy shall be carried into effect. Contrariwise, case law lays down the rule that a constitutional provision is not self-executing where it merely announces a policy and its language empowers the Legislature to prescribe the means by which the policy shall be carried into effect. Same; Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations; Government Service Insurance System; As a stateowned and controlled corporation, the GSIS is skin-bound to adhere to the policies spelled out in the Constitution especially those designed to promote the general welfare of the people. The submission is unimpressive. The GSIS is not a pure private corporation. It is essentially a public corporation created by Congress and granted an original charter to serve a public purpose. It is subject to the jurisdictions of the Civil Service Commission and the Commission on Audit. As a state-owned and controlled corporation, it is skin-bound to adhere to the policies spelled out in the Constitution especially those designed to promote the general welfare of the people. One of these policies is the Filipino First Policy which the people elevated as a constitutional command. Same; Only a constitution strung with elasticity can grow as a living constitution. The fourth issue demands that we look at the content of the phrase qualified Filipinos and their preferential right. The Constitution desisted from defining their contents. This is as it ought to be for a Constitution only lays down flexible policies and principles which can be bent to meet todays manifest needs and tomorrows unmanifested demands. Only a constitution strung with elasticity can grow as a living constitution.

74 | P a g e

Same; National Economy and Patrimony; Filipino First Policy; The second paragraph of Section 10, Article XII of the Constitution is pro-Filipino but not anti-alienit is pro-Filipino for it gives preference to Filipinos but it is not anti-alien per se for it does not absolutely bar aliens in the grant of rights, privileges and concessions covering the national economy and patrimony. Thus, we come to the critical issue of the degree of preference which GSIS should have accorded petitioner, a qualified Filipino, over Renong Berhad, a foreigner, in the purchase of the controlling shares of the Manila Hotel. Petitioner claims that after losing the bid, this right of preference gives it a second chance to match the highest bid of Renong Berhad. With due respect, I can not sustain petitioners submission. I prescind from the premise that the second paragraph of Section 10, Article XII of the Constitution is pro-Filipino but not anti-alien. It is pro-Filipino for it gives preference to Filipinos. It is not, however, anti-alien per se for it does not absolutely bar aliens in the grant of rights, privileges and concessions covering the national economy and patrimony. Indeed, in the absence of qualified Filipinos, the State is not prohibited from granting these rights, privileges and concessions to foreigners if the act will promote the weal of the nation. Same; Same; Same; In implementing the policy articulated in Section 10, Article XII of the Constitution, the stellar task of our State policy-makers is to maintain a creative tension between two desideratafirst, the need to develop our economy and patrimony with the help of foreigners if necessary, and, second, the need to keep our economy controlled by Filipinos.In implementing the policy articulated in Section 10, Article XII of the Constitution, the stellar task of our State policy-makers is to maintain a creative tension between two desiderata first, the need to develop our economy and patrimony with the help of foreigners if necessary, and, second, the need to keep our economy controlled by Filipinos. Rightfully, the framers of the Constitution did not define the degree of the right of preference to be given to qualified Filipinos. They knew that for the right to serve the general welfare, it must have a malleable content that can be adjusted by our policy-makers to meet the changing needs of our people. In fine, the right of preference of qualified Filipinos is to be determined by degree as time dictates and circumstances warrant. The lesser the need for alien assistance, the greater the degree of the right of preference can be given to Filipinos and vice versa. Same; Same; Same; Bids and Bidding; 1 submit that the right of preference of a Filipino bidder arises only if it tied the bid of the foreign bidder.To date, Congress has not enacted a law defining the degree of the preferential right. Consequently, we must turn to the rules and regulations of respondents Committee on Privatization and GSIS to determine the degree of preference that petitioner is entitled to as a qualified Filipino in the subject sale. A tearless look at the rules and regulations will show that they are silent on the degree of preferential right to be accorded a qualified Filipino bidder. Despite their silence, however, they cannot be read to mean that they do not grant any degree of preference to petitioner for paragraph 2, Section 10, Article XII of the Constitution is deemed part of said rules and regulations. Pursuant to legal hermeneutics which demand that we interpret rules to save them from unconstitutionality, I submit that the right of preference of petitioner arises only if it tied the bid of Renong Berhad. In that instance, all things stand equal, and petitioner, as a qualified Filipino bidder, should be preferred. Same; Same; Same; While the Filipino First Policy requires that we incline to a Filipino, it does not demand that we wrong an alien.We support the Filipino First Policy without any reservation. The visionary nationalist Don

Claro M. Recto has warned us that the greatest tragedy that can befall a Filipino is to be an alien in his own land. The Constitution has embodied Rectos counsel as a state policy and our decision should be in sync with this policy. But while the Filipino First Policy requires that we incline to a Filipino, it does not demand that we wrong an alien. Our policy makers can write laws and rules giving favored treatment to the Filipino but we are not free to be unfair to a foreigner after writing the laws and the rules. After the laws are written, they must be obeyed as written, by Filipinos and foreigners alike. The equal protection clause of the Constitution protects all against unfairness. We can be pro-Filipino without unfairness to foreigners. PANGANIBAN, J., Dissenting Opinion: Constitutional Law; National Economy and Patrimony; Filipino First Policy; Bids and Bidding; The majoritys strained interpretation constitutes unadulterated judicial legislation, which makes bidding a ridiculous sham where no Filipino can lose and where no foreigner can win.The majority contends the Constitution should be interpreted to mean that, after a bidding process is concluded, the losing Filipino bidder should be given the right to equal the highest foreign bid, and thus to win. However, the Constitution [Sec. 10(2), Art. XII] simply states that in the grant of rights x x x covering the national economy and patrimony, the State shall give preference to qualified Filipinos. The majority concedes that there is no law defining the extent or degree of such preference. Specifically, no statute empowers a losing Filipino bidder to increase his bid and equal that of the winning foreigner. In the absence of such empowering law, the majoritys strained interpretation, I respectfully submit, constitutes unadulterated judicial legislation, which makes bidding a ridiculous sham where no Filipino can lose and where no foreigner can win. Only in the Philippines! SPECIAL CIVIL ACTION in the Supreme Court. Prohibition and Mandamus. The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court. Arturo M. Tolentino for petitioner. Napoleon G. Rama, Adolfo S. Azcuna, Perla Y. Duque & Francis Y. Gaw for Manila Prince Hotel Corp. The Government Corporate Counsel for G.S.I.S. Yulo, Torres, Tarriela & Bello Law Office for Manila Hotel Corporation. Jooaquin Bernas and Enrique M. Fernando amici curiae. BELLOSILLO, J.: The Filipino First Policy enshrined in the 1987 Constitution, i.e., in the grant of rights, privileges, and concessions covering the national economy and patrimony, the State shall give preference to qualified Filipinos,1 is invoked by petitioner in its bid to acquire 51% of the shares of the Manila Hotel Corporation (MHC) which owns the historic

75 | P a g e

Manila Hotel. Opposing, respondents maintain that the provision is not selfexecuting but requires an implementing legislation for its enforcement. Corollarily, they ask whether the 51% shares form part of the national economy and patrimony covered by the protective mantle of the Constitution. The controversy arose when respondent Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), pursuant to the privatization program of the Philippine Government under Proclamation No. 50 dated 8 December 1986, decided to sell through public bidding 30% to 51% of the issued and outstanding shares of respondent MHC. The winning bidder, or the eventual strategic partner, is to provide management expertise and/or an international marketing / reservation system, and financial support to strengthen the profitability and performance of the Manila Hotel.2 In a close bidding held on 18 September 1995 only two (2) bidders participated: petitioner Manila Prince Hotel Corporation, a Filipino corporation, which offered to buy 51% of the MHC or 15,300,000 shares at P41.58 per share, and Renong Berhad, a Malaysian firm, with ITT-Sheraton as its hotel operator, which bid for the same number of shares at P44.00 per share, or P2.42 more than the bid of petitioner. Pertinent provisions of the bidding rules prepared by respondent GSIS state I. EXECUTION OF THE NECESSARY CONTRACTS WITH GSIS/MHC 1. The Highest Bidder must comply with the conditions set forth below by October 23, 1995 (reset to November 3, 1995) or the Highest Bidder will lose the right to purchase the Block of Shares and GSIS will instead offer the Block of Shares to the other Qualified Bidders: a. The Highest Bidder must negotiate and execute with the GSIS/MHC the Management Contract, International Marketing/Reservation System Contract or other type of contract specified by the Highest Bidder in its strategic plan for the Manila Hotel x x x x b. The Highest Bidder must execute the Stock Purchase and Sale Agreement with GSIS x x x x K. DECLARATION OF THE WINNING BIDDER/STRATEGIC PARTNER The Highest Bidder will be declared the Winning Bidder/Strategic Partner after the following conditions are met: a. Execution of the necessary contracts with GSIS/MHC not later than October 23, 1995 (reset to November 3, 1995); and b. Requisite approvals from the GSIS/MHC and COP (Committee on Privatization)/OGCC (Office of the Government Corporate Counsel) are obtained."3 Pending the declaration of Renong Berhad as the winning bidder/strategic partner and the execution of the necessary contracts, petitioner in a letter to respondent GSIS dated 28 September 1995 matched the bid price of P44.00 per share tendered by Renong Berhad.4 In a subsequent letter dated 10 October 1995 petitioner sent a

managers check issued by Philtrust Bank for Thirty-three Million Pesos (P33,000,000.00) as Bid Security to match the bid of the Malaysian Group, Messrs. Renong Berhad x x x x5 which respondent GSIS refused to accept. On 17 October 1995, perhaps apprehensive that respondent GSIS has disregarded the tender of the matching bid and that the sale of 51% of the MHC may be hastened by respondent GSIS and consummated with Renong Berhad, petitioner came to this Court on prohibition and mandamus. On 18 October 1995 the Court issued a temporary restraining order enjoining respondents from perfecting and consummating the sale to the Malaysian firm. On 10 September 1996 the instant case was accepted by the Court En Banc after it was was referred to it by the First Division. The case was then set for oral arguments with former Chief Justice Enrique M. Fernando and Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J., as amici curiae. In the main, petitioner invokes Sec. 10, second par., Art. XII, of the 1987 Constitution and submits that the Manila Hotel has been identified with the Filipino nation and has practically become a historical monument which reflects the vibrancy of Philippine heritage and culture. It is a proud legacy of an earlier generation of Filipinos who believed in the nobility and sacredness of independence and its power and capacity to release the full potential of the Filipino people. To all intents and purposes, it has become a part of the national patrimony.6 Petitioner also argues that since 51% of the shares of the MHC carries with it the ownership of the business of the hotel which is owned by respondent GSIS, a government-owned and controlled corporation, the hotel business of respondent GSIS being a part of the tourism industry is unquestionably a part of the national economy. Thus, any transaction involving 51% of the shares of stock of the MHC is clearly covered by the term national economy, to which Sec. 10, second par., Art. XII, 1987 Constitution, applies.7 It is also the thesis of petitioner that since Manila Hotel is part of the national patrimony and its business also unquestionably part of the national economy petitioner should be preferred after it has matched the bid offer of the Malaysian firm. For the bidding rules mandate that if for any reason, the Highest Bidder cannot be awarded the Block of Shares, GSIS may offer this to the other Qualified Bidders that have validly submitted bids provided that these Qualified Bidders are willing to match the highest bid in terms of price per share.8 Respondents except. They maintain that: First. Sec. 10, second par., Art. XII, of the 1987 Constitution is merely a statement of principle and policy since it is not a self-executing provision and requires implementing legislation(s) x x x x Thus, for the said provision to operate, there must be existing laws to lay down conditions under which business may be done."9 Second. granting that this provision is self-executing, Manila Hotel does not fall under the term national patrimony which only refers to lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna and all marine wealth in its territorial sea, and exclusive marine zone as cited in the first and second paragraphs of Sec. 2, Art. XII, 1987 Constitution. According to respondents, while petitioner speaks of the guests who have slept in the hotel and the events that have transpired therein which make the hotel historic, these alone do not make the hotel fall under the patrimony

76 | P a g e

of the nation. What is more, the mandate of the Constitution is addressed to the State, not to respondent GSIS which possesses a personality of its own separate and distinct from the Philippines as a State, Third, granting that the Manila Hotel forms part of the national patrimony, the constitutional provision invoked is still inapplicable since what is being sold is only 51% of the outstanding shares of the corporation, not the hotel building nor the land upon which the building stands. Certainly, 51% of the equity of the MHC cannot be considered part of the national patrimony. Moreover, if the disposition of the shares of the MHC is really contrary to the Constitution, petitioner should have questioned it right from the beginning and not after it had lost in the bidding. Fourth. the reliance by petitioner on par. V., subpar. J. 1., of the bidding rules which provides that if for any reason, the Highest Bidder cannot be awarded the Block of Shares, GSIS may offer this to the other Qualified Bidders that have validly submitted bids provided that these Qualified Bidders are willing to match the highest bid in terms of price per share, is misplaced. Respondents postulate that the privilege of submitting a matching bid has not yet arisen since it only takes place if for any reason, the Highest Bidder cannot be awarded the Block of Shares. Thus the submission by petitioner of a matching bid is premature since Renong Berhad could still very well be awarded the block of shares and the condition giving rise to the exercise of the privilege to submit a matching bid had not yet taken place. Finally, the prayer for prohibition grounded on grave abuse of discretion should fail since respondent GSIS did not exercise its discretion in a capricious, whimsical manner, and if ever it did abuse its discretion it was not so patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of a positive duty or a virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law. Similarly, the petition for mandamus should fail as petitioner has no clear legal right to what it demands and respondents do not have an imperative duty to perform the act required of them by petitioner. We now resolve. A constitution is a system of fundamental laws for the governance and administration of a nation. It is supreme, imperious, absolute and unalterable except by the authority from which it emanates. It has been defined as the fundamental and paramount law of the nation.10 It prescribes the permanent framework of a system of government, assigns to the different departments their respective powers and duties, and establishes certain fixed principles on which government is founded. The fundamental conception in other words is that it is a supreme law to which all other laws must conform and in accordance with which all private rights must be determined and all public authority administered.11 Under the doctrine of constitutional supremacy, if a law or contract violates any norm of the constitution that law or contract whether promulgated by the legislative or by the executive branch or entered into by private persons for private purposes is null and void and without any force and effect. Thus, since the Constitution is the fundamental, paramount and supreme law of the nation, it is deemed written in every statute and contract. Admittedly, some constitutions are merely declarations of policies and principles. Their provisions command the legislature to enact laws and carry out the purposes of the framers who merely establish an outline of government providing for the different departments of the governmental machinery and securing certain fundamental and

inalienable rights of citizens.12 A provision which lays down a general principle, such as those found in Art. II of the 1987 Constitution, is usually not self-executing. But a provision which is complete in itself and becomes operative without the aid of supplementary or enabling legislation, or that which supplies sufficient rule by means of which the right it grants may be enjoyed or protected, is self-executing. Thus a constitutional provision is selfexecuting if the nature and extent of the right conferred and the liability imposed are fixed by the constitution itself, so that they can be determined by an examination and construction of its terms, and there is no language indicating that the subject is referred to the legislature for action.13 As against constitutions of the past, modern constitutions have been generally drafted upon a different principle and have often become in effect extensive codes of laws intended to operate directly upon the people in a manner similar to that of statutory enactments, and the function of constitutional conventions has evolved into one more like that of a legislative body. Hence, unless it is expressly provided that a legislative act is necessary to enforce a constitutional mandate, the presumption now is that all provisions of the constitution are self-executing. If the constitutional provisions are treated as requiring legislation instead of self-executing, the legislature would have the power to ignore and practically nullify the mandate of the fundamental law.14 This can be cataclysmic. That is why the prevailing view is, as it has always been, that x x x x in case of doubt, the Constitution should be considered self-executing rather than non-self-executing x x x x Unless the contrary is clearly intended, the provisions of the Constitution should be considered self-executing, as a contrary rule would give the legislature discretion to determine when, or whether, they shall be effective. These provisions would be subordinated to the will of the lawmaking body, which could make them entirely meaningless by simply refusing to pass the needed implementing statute.15 Respondents argue that Sec. 10, second par., Art. XII, of the 1987 Constitution is clearly not self-executing, as they quote from discussions on the floor of the 1986 Constitutional Commission MR. RODRIGO. Madam President, I am asking this question as the Chairman of the Committee on Style. If the wording of PREFERENCE" is given to QUALIFIED FILIPINOS," can it be understood as a preference to qualified Filipinos vis--vis Filipinos who are not qualified. So, why do we not make it clear? To qualified Filipinos as against aliens? THE PRESIDENT. What is the question of Commissioner Rodrigo? Is it to remove the word QUALIFIED?" MR. RODRIGO; No, no, but say definitely TO QUALIFIED FILIPINOS" as against whom? As against alie ns or over aliens? MR. NOLLEDO. Madam President, I think that is understood. We use the word QUALIFIED" because the existing laws or prospective laws will always lay down conditions under which business may be done. For example, qualifications on capital, qualifications on the setting up of other financial structures, et cetera (italics supplied by respondents).

77 | P a g e

MR. RODRIGO. It is just a matter of style. MR. NOLLEDO. Yes.16 Quite apparently, Sec. 10, second par., of Art. XII is couched in such a way as not to make it appear that it is nonself-executing but simply for purposes of style. But, certainly, the legislature is not precluded from enacting further laws to enforce the constitutional provision so long as the contemplated statute squares with the Constitution. Minor details may be left to the legislature without impairing the selfexecuting nature of constitutional provisions. In self-executing constitutional provisions, the legislature may still enact legislation to facilitate the exercise of powers directly granted by the constitution, further the operation of such a provision, prescribe a practice to be used for its enforcement, provide a convenient remedy for the protection of the rights secured or the determination thereof, or place reasonable safeguards around the exercise of the right. The mere fact that legislation may supplement and add to or prescribe a penalty for the violation of a self-executing constitutional provision does not render such a provision ineffective in the absence of such legislation. The omission from a constitution of any express provision for a remedy for enforcing a right or liability is not necessarily an indication that it was not intended to be self-executing. The rule is that a self-executing provision of the constitution does not necessarily exhaust legislative power on the subject, but any legislation must be in harmony with the constitution, further the exercise of constitutional right and make it more available.17 Subsequent legislation however does not necessarily mean that the subject constitutional provision is not, by itself, fully enforceable. Respondents also argue that the non-self-executing nature of Sec. 10, second par., of Art. XII is implied from the tenor of the first and third paragraphs of the same section which undoubtedly are not self-executing.18 The argument is flawed. If the first and third paragraphs are not self-executing because Congress is still to enact measures to encourage the formation and operation of enterprises fully owned by Filipinos, as in the first paragraph, and the State still needs legislation to regulate and exercise authority over foreign investments within its national jurisdiction, as in the third paragraph, then a fortiori, by the same logic, the second paragraph can only be self-executing as it does not by its language require any legislation in order to give preference to qualified Filipinos in the grant of rights, privileges and concessions covering the national economy and patrimony. A constitutional provision may be self-executing in one part and non-self-executing in another.19 Even the cases cited by respondents holding that certain constitutional provisions are merely statements of principles and policies, which are basically not self-executing and only placed in the Constitution as moral incentives to legislation, not as judicially enforceable rightsare simply not in point. Basco v. Philippine Amusements and Gaming Corporation20 speaks of constitutional provisions on personal dignity,21 the sanctity of family life,22 the vital role of the youth in nation-building,23 the promotion of social justice,24 and the values of education.25 Tolentino v. Secretary of Finance26 refers to constitutional provisions on social justice and human rights27 and on education.28 Lastly, Kilosbayan, Inc. v. Morato29 cites provisions on the promotion of general welfare,30 the sanctity of family life,31 the vital role of the youth in nation-building32 and the promotion of total

human liberation and development.33 A reading of these provisions indeed clearly shows that they are not judicially enforceable constitutional rights but merely guidelines for legislation. The very terms of the provisions manifest that they are only principles upon which legislations must be based. Res ipsa loquitur. On the other hand, Sec. 10, second par., Art. XII of the 1987 Constitution is a mandatory, positive command which is complete in itself and which needs no further guidelines or implementing laws or rules for its enforcement. From its very words the provision does not require any legislation to put it in operation. lt is per se judicially enforceable. When our Constitution mandates that [i]n the grant of rights, privileges, and concessions covering national economy and patrimony, the State shall give preference to qualified Filipinos, it means just thatqualified Filipinos shall be preferred. And when our Constitution declares that a right exists in certain specified circumstances an action may be maintained to enforce such right notwithstanding the absence of any legislation on the subject; consequently, if there is no statute especially enacted to enforce such constitutional right, such right enforces itself by its own inherent potency and puissance, and from which all legislations must take their bearings. Where there is a right there is a remedy. Ubi jus ibi remedium. As regards our national patrimony, a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission34 explains The patrimony of the Nation that should be conserved and developed refers not only to our rich natural resources but also to the cultural heritage of our race. It also refers to our intelligence in arts, sciences and letters. Therefore, we should develop not only our lands, forests, mines and other natural resources but also the mental ability or faculty of our people. We agree. In its plain and ordinary meaning, the term patrimony pertains to heritage.35 When the Constitution speaks of national patrimony, it refers not only to the natural resources of the Philippines, as the Constitution could have very well used the term natural resources, but also to the cultural heritage of the Filipinos. Manila Hotel has become a landmarka living testimonial of Philippine heritage. While it was restrictively an American hotel when it first opened in 1912, it immediately evolved to be truly Filipino. Formerly a concourse for the elite, it has since then become the venue of various significant events which have shaped Philippine history. It was called the Cult ural Center of the 1930s. It was the site of the festivit ies during the inauguration of the Philippine Commonwealth. Dubbed as the Official Guest House of the Philippine Government it plays host to dignitaries and official visitors who are accorded the traditional Philippine hospitality.36 The history of the hotel has been chronicled in the book The Manila Hotel: The Heart and Memory of a City.37 During World War II the hotel was converted by the Japanese Military Administration into a military headquarters, When the American forces returned to recapture Manila the hotel was selected by the Japanese together with Intramuros as the two (2) places for their final stand. Thereafter, in the 1950s and 1960s, the hotel became the center of political activities, playing host to almost every political convention. In 1970 the hotel reopened after a renovation and reaped numerous international recognitions, an acknowledgment of the Filipino talent and ingenuity. In 1986 the hotel was the site of a failed coup detat where an aspirant for vice -president was proclaimed President of the Philippine Republic.

78 | P a g e

For more than eight (8) decades Manila Hotel has bore mute witness to the triumphs and failures, loves and frustrations of the Filipinos; its existence is impressed with public interest; its own historicity associated with our struggle for sovereignty, independence and nationhood. Verily, Manila Hotel has become part of our national economy and patrimony. For sure, 51% of the equity of the MHC comes within the purview of the constitutional shelter for it comprises the majority and controlling stock, so that anyone who acquires or owns the 51% will have actual control and management of the hotel. In this instance, 51% of the MHC cannot be disassociated from the hotel and the land on which the hotel edifice stands. Consequent ly, we cannot sustain respondents claim that the Filipino First Policy provision is not applicable since what is being sold is only 51% of the outstanding shares of the corporation, not the Hotel building nor the land upon which the building stands.38 The argument is pure sophistry. The term qualified Filipinos as used in our Constitution also includes corporations at least 60% of which is owned by Filipinos. This is very clear from the proceedings of the 1986 Constitutional Commission THE PRESIDENT. Commissioner Davide is recognized. MR. DAVIDE. I would like to introduce an amendment to the Nolledo amendment. And the amendment would consist in substituting the words QUALIFIED FILIPINOS" with the following: CITIZENS OF THE PHILIPPINES OR CORPORATIONS OR ASSOCIATIONS WHOSE CAPITAL OR CONTROLLING STOCK IS WHOLLY OWNED BY SUCH CITIZENS." xxxx MR. FOZ. In connection with that amendment, if a foreign enterprise is qualified and a Filipino enterprise is also qualified, will the Filipino enterprise still be given a preference? MR. NOLLEDO. Obviously. MR. FOZ. If the foreigner is more qualified in some aspects than the Filipino enterprise, will the Filipino still be preferred? MR. NOLLEDO. The answer is yes. MR. FOZ. Thank you.41 Expounding further on the Filipino First Policy provision Commissioner Nolledo continues MR. NOLLEDO. Yes, Madam President. Instead of MUST," it will be SHALLTHE STATE SHALL GIVE PREFERENCE TO QUALIFIED FILIPINOS." This embodies the so-called Filipino First policy. That means that Filipinos should be given preference in the grant of concessions, privileges and rights covering the national patrimony.42

The exchange of views in the sessions of the Constitutional Commission regarding the subject provision was still further clarified by Commissioner Nolledo43 Paragraph 2 of Section 10 explicitly mandates the Pro -Filipino bias in all economic concerns. It is better known as the FILIPINO FIRST Policy x x x x This provision was never found in previous Constitutions x x x x The term qualified Filipinos simply means that preference shall be given to those citizens who can make a viable contribution to the common good, because of credible competence and efficiency. It certainly does NOT mandate the pampering and preferential treatment to Filipino citizens or organizations that are incompetent or inefficient, since such an indiscriminate preference would be counterproductive and inimical to the common good. In the granting of economic rights, privileges, and concessions, when a choice has to be made between a qualified foreigner and a qualified Filipino, the latter shall be chosen over the former. Lastly, the word qualified is also determinable, Petitioner was so considered by respondent GSIS and selected as one of the qualified bidders. It was pre-qualified by respondent GSIS in accordance with its own guidelines so that the sole inference here is that petitioner has been found to be possessed of proven management expertise in the hotel industry, or it has significant equity ownership in another hotel company, or it has an overall management and marketing proficiency to successfully operate the Manila Hotel.44 The penchant to try to whittle away the mandate of the Constitution by arguing that the subject provision is not selfexecutory and requires implementing legislation is quite disturbing. The attempt to violate a clear constitutional provisionby the government itselfis only too distressing. To adopt such a line of reasoning is to renounce the duty to ensure faithfulness to the Constitution. For, even some of the provisions of the Constitution which evidently need implementing legislation have juridical life of their own and can be the source of a judicial remedy. We cannot simply afford the government a defense that arises out of the failure to enact further enabling, implementing or guiding legislation. In fine, the discourse of Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J., on constitutional government is apt The executive department has a constitutional duty to implement laws, including the Constitution, even before Congress actsprovided that there are discoverable legal standards for executive action. When the executive acts, it must be guided by its own understanding of the constitutional command and of applicable laws. The responsibility for reading and understanding the Constitution and the laws is not the sole prerogative of Congress. If it were, the executive would have to ask Congress, or perhaps the Court, for an interpretation every time the executive is confronted by a constitutional command. That is not how constitutional government operates.45 Respondents further argue that the constitutional provision is addressed to the State, not to respondent GSIS which by itself possesses a separate and distinct personality. This argument again is at best specious. It is undisputed that the sale of 51% of the MHC could only be carried out with the prior approval of the State acting through respondent Committee on Privatization. As correctly pointed out by Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J., this fact alone makes the sale of the assets of respondents GSIS and MHC a state action. In constitutional jurisprudence, the

79 | P a g e

acts of persons distinct from the government are considered state action covered by the Constitution (1) when the activity it engages in is a public function; (2) when the government is so significantly involved with the private actor as to make the government responsible for his action; and, (3) when the government has approved or authorized the action. It is evident that the act of respondent GSIS in selling 51% of its share in respondent MHC comes under the second and third categories of state action. Without doubt therefore the transaction, although entered into by respondent GSIS, is in fact a transaction of the State and therefore subject to the constitutional command.46 When the Constitution addresses the State it refers not only to the people but also to the government as elements of the State. After all, government is composed of three (3) divisions of power legislative, executive and judicial. Accordingly, a constitutional mandate directed to the State is correspondingly directed to the three (3) branches of government. It is undeniable that in this case the subject constitutional injunction is addressed among others to the Executive Department and respondent GSIS, a government instrumentality deriving its authority from the State. It should be stressed that while the Malaysian firm offered the higher bid it is not yet the winning bidder. The bidding rules expressly provide that the highest bidder shall only be declared the winning bidder after it has negotiated and executed the necessary contracts, and secured the requisite approvals. Since the Filipino First Policy provision of the Constitution bestows preference on qualified Filipinos the mere tending of the highest bid is not an assurance that the highest bidder will be declared the winning bidder. Resultantly, respondents are not bound to make the award yet, nor are they under obligation to enter into one with the highest bidder. For in choosing the awardee respondents are mandated to abide by the dictates of the 1987 Constitution the provisions of which are presumed to be known to all the bidders and other interested parties. Adhering to the doctrine of constitutional supremacy, the subject constitutional provision is, as it should be, impliedly written in the bidding rules issued by respondent GSIS, lest the bidding rules be nullified for being violative of the Constitution. It is a basic principle in constitutional law that all laws and contracts must conform with the fundamental law of the land. Those which violate the Constitution lose their reason for being. Paragraph V.J.1 of the bidding rules provides that [i]f for any reason the Highest Bidder cannot be awarded the Block of Shares, GSIS may offer this to other Qualified Bidders that have validly submitted bids provided that these Qualified Bidders are willing to match the highest bid in terms of price per share.47 Certainly, the constitutional mandate itself is reason enough not to award the block of shares immediately to the foreign bidder notwithstanding its submission of a higher, or even the highest, bid. In fact, we cannot conceive of a stronger reason than the constitutional injunction itself. In the instant case, where a foreign firm submits the highest bid in a public bidding concerning the grant of rights, privileges and concessions covering the national economy and patrimony, thereby exceeding the bid of a Filipino, there is no question that the Filipino will have to be allowed to match the bid of the foreign entity. And if the Filipino matches the bid of a foreign firm the award should go to the Filipino. lt must be so if we are to give life and meaning to the Filipino First Policy provision of the 1987 Constitution. For, while this may neither be

expressly stated nor contemplated in the bidding rules, the constitutional fiat is omnipresent to be simply disregarded. To ignore it would be to sanction a perilous skirting of the basic law. This Court does not discount the apprehension that this policy may discourage foreign investors. But the Constitution and laws of the Philippines are understood to be always open to public scrutiny. These are given factors which investors must consider when venturing into business in a foreign jurisdiction. Any person therefore desiring to do business in the Philippines or with any of its agencies or instrumentalities is presumed to know his rights and obligations under the Constitution and the laws of the forum. The argument of respondents that petitioner is now estopped from questioning the sale to Renong Berhad since petitioner was well aware from the beginning that a foreigner could participate in the bidding is meritless. Undoubtedly, Filipinos and foreigners alike were invited to the bidding. But foreigners may be awarded the sale only if no Filipino qualifies, or if the qualified Filipino fails to match the highest bid tendered by the foreign entity. In the case before us, while petitioner was already preferred at the inception of the bidding because of the constitutional mandate, petitioner had not yet matched the bid offered by Renong Berhad. Thus it did not have the right or personality then to compel respondent GSIS to accept its earlier bid. Rightly, only after it had matched the bid of the foreign firm and the apparent disregard by respondent GSIS of petitioners matching bid did the latter have a cause of action. Besides, there is no time frame for invoking the constitutional safeguard unless perhaps the award has been finally made. To insist on selling the Manila Hotel to foreigners when there is a Filipino group willing to match the bid of the foreign group is to insist that government be treated as any other ordinary market player, and bound by its mistakes or gross errors of judgment, regardless of the consequences to the Filipino people. The miscomprehension of the Constitution is regrettable. Thus we would rather remedy the indiscretion while there is still an opportunity to do so than let the government develop the habit of forgetting that the Constitution lays down the basic conditions and parameters for its actions. Since petitioner has already matched the bid price tendered by Renong Berhad pursuant to the bidding rules, respondent GSIS is left with no alternative but to award to petitioner the block of shares of MHC and to execute the necessary agreements and documents to effect the sale in accordance not only with the bidding guidelines and procedures but with the Constitution as well. The refusal of respondent GSIS to execute the corresponding documents with petitioner as provided in the bidding rules after the latter has matched the bid of the Malaysian firm clearly constitutes grave abuse of discretion. The Filipino First Policy is a product of Philippine nationalism. It is embodied in the 1987 Constitution not merely to be used as a guideline for future legislation but primarily to be enforced; so must it be enforced. This Court as the ultimate guardian of the Constitution will never shun, under any reasonable circumstance, the duty of upholding the majesty of the Constitution which it is tasked to defend. It is worth emphasizing that it is not the intention of this Court to impede and diminish, much less undermine, the influx of foreign investments. Far from it, the Court encourages and welcomes more business opportunities but avowedly sanctions the preference for

80 | P a g e

Filipinos whenever such preference is ordained by the Constitution. The position of the Court on this matter could have not been more appropriately articulated by Chief Justice Narvasa As scrupulously as it has tried to observe that it is not its function to substitute its judgment for that of the legislature or the executive about the wisdom and feasibility of legislation economic in nature, the Supreme Court has not been spared criticism for decisions perceived as obstacles to economic progress and development x x x x in connection with a temporary injunction issued by the Courts First Division against the sale of the Manila Hotel to a Malaysian Firm and its partner, certain statements were published in a major daily to the effect that that injunction again demonstrates that the Philippine legal system can be a major obstacle to doing business here. Let it be stated for the record once again that while it is no business of the Court to intervene in contracts of the kind referred to or set itself up as the judge of whether they are viable or attainable, it is its bounden duty to make sure that they do not violate the Constitution or the laws, or are not adopted or implemented with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. It will never shirk that duty, no matter how buffeted by winds of unfair and ill-informed criticism.48 Privatization of a business asset for purposes of enhancing its business viability and preventing further losses, regardless of the character of the asset, should not take precedence over non-material values. A commercial, nay even a budgetary, objective should not be pursued at the expense of national pride and dignity. For the Constitution enshrines higher and nobler non-material values. Indeed, the Court will always defer to the Constitution in the proper governance of a free society; after all, there is nothing so sacrosanct in any economic policy as to draw itself beyond judicial review when the Constitution is involved.49 Nationalism is inherent in the very concept of the Philippines being a democratic and republican state, with sovereignty residing in the Filipino people and from whom all government authority emanates. In nationalism, the happiness and welfare of the people must be the goal. The nation-state can have no higher purpose. Any interpretation of any constitutional provision must adhere to such basic concept, Protection of foreign investments, while laudible, is merely a policy. It cannot override the demands of nationalism.50 The Manila Hotel or, for that matter, 51% of the MHC, is not just any commodity to be sold to the highest bidder solely for the sake of privatization. We are not talking about an ordinary piece of property in a commercial district. We are talking about a historic relic that has hosted many of the most important events in the short history of the Philippines as a nation. We are talking about a hotel where heads of states would prefer to be housed as a strong manifestation of their desire to cloak the dignity of the highest state function to their official visits to the Philippines. Thus the Manila Hotel has played and continues to play a significant role as an authentic repository of twentieth century Philippine history and culture. In this sense, it has become truly a reflection of the Filipino soula place with a history of grandeur; a most historical setting that has played a part in the shaping of a country.51 This Court cannot extract rhyme nor reason from the determined efforts of respondents to sell the historical landmarkthis Grand Old Dame of hotels in Asiato a total stranger. For, indeed, the conveyance of this epic

exponent of the Filipino psyche to alien hands cannot be less than mephistophelian for it is, in whatever manner viewed, a veritable alienation of a nations soul for some pieces of foreign silver. And so we ask: What advantage, which cannot be equally drawn from a qualified Filipino, can be gained by the Filipinos if Manila Hoteland all that it stands foris sold to a nonFilipino? How much of national pride will vanish if the nations cultural heritage is entrusted to a foreign entity? On the other hand, how much dignity will be preserved and realized if the national patrimony is safekept in the hands of a qualified, zealous and well-meaning Filipino? This is the plain and simple meaning of the Filipino First Policy provision of the Philippine Constitution. And this Court, heeding the clarion call of the Constitution and accepting the duty of being the elderly watchman of the nation, will continue to respect and protect the sanctity of the Constitution. WHEREFORE, respondents GOVERNMENT SERVICE INSURANCE SYSTEM, MANILA HOTEL CORPORATION, COMMITTEE ON PRIVATIZATION and OFFICE OF THE GOVERNMENT CORPORATE COUNSEL are directed to CEASE and DESIST from selling 51% of the shares of the Manila Hotel Corporation to RENONG BERHAD, and to ACCEPT the matching bid of petitioner MANILA PRINCE HOTEL CORPORATION to purchase the subject 51% of the shares of the Manila Hotel Corporation at P44.00 per share and thereafter to execute the necessary agreements and documents to effect the sale, to issue the necessary clearances and to do such other acts and deeds as may be necessary for the purpose. SO ORDERED. Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Kapunan, Francisco and Hermosisima, Jr., JJ., concur. Narvasa (C.J.), I join Justice Puno in his dissent. Padilla, J., See concurring opinion. Melo, J., I join in the dissent of Justice Puno. Puno, J., Please see dissent. Vitug, J., Please see separate (concurring) opinion. Mendoza, J., See concurring opinion. Panganiban, J., Please see separate (dissenting) opinion. Torres, Jr., J., With separate opinion. RA 408(1997)]

81 | P a g e

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.

Administrative Law; Administrative Agencies; Judgments; Res Judicata; Decisions and orders of administrative agencies have upon their finality, the force and binding effect of a final judgment within the purview of the doctrine of resjudicata.It is an established doctrine in this jurisdiction that the decisions and orders of administrative agencies have upon their finality, the force and binding effect of a final judgment within the purview of the doctrine of res judicata. These decisions and orders are as conclusive upon the rights of the affected parties as though the same had been rendered by a court of general jurisdiction. The rule of resjudicata thus forbids the reopening of a matter once determined by competent authority acting within their exclusive jurisdiction [See Brillantes v. Castro, 99 Phil. 497 (1956); Ipekdjian Merchandising Co., Inc. v. Court of Tax Appeals, G.R. No. L15430, September 30, 1963, 9 SCRA 72; San Luis v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 80160, June 26,1989]. Same; Same; Civil Procedure; Certiorari; Laches; A special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65 must be filed within a "reasonable time" otherwise laches may set in.Once again, the fact that petitioner failed to seasonably take judicial recourse to have the earlier administrative actions reviewed by the courts through a petition for certiorari is prejudicial to its cause. For although no specific time frame is fixed for the institution of a special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Revised Rules of Court, the same must nevertheless be done within a "reasonable time". The yardstick to measure the timeliness of a petition for certiorari is the "reasonableness of the length of time that had expired from the commission of the acts complained of up to the institution of the proceeding to annul the same" [Toledo v. Pardo, G.R. No. 56761, November 19, 1982, 118 SCRA 566, 571]. And failure to file the petition for certiorari within a reasonable period of time renders the petitioner susceptible to the adverse legal consequences of laches [Municipality of Carcar v. Court of First Instance of Cebu, G.R. No. L31628, December 27, 1982, 119 SCRA 392]. Laches is defined as the failure or neglect for an unreasonable and unexplained length of time to do that which by exercising due diligence, could or should have been done earlier, or to assert a right within a reasonable time, warranting a presumption that the party entitled thereto has either abandoned it or declined to assert it [Tijam v. Sibonghanoy, G.R. No. L-21450, April 15, 1968, 23 SCRA 29; Seno v. Mangubat, G.R. No. L-44339, December 2, 1987,156 SCRA 113]. The rule is that unreasonable delay on the part of a plaintiff in seeking to enforce an alleged right may, depending upon the circumstances, be destructive of the right itself. Verily, the laws aid those who are vigilant, not those who sleep upon their rights (Vigilantibus et non dormientibus jura subveniunt) (See Buenaventura v. David, 37 Phil. 435 (1918)].

Same; Same; Courts will not interfere in matters which are addressed to the sound discretion of government agencies entrusted with the regulation of activities under the special technical knowledge and training of such agencies.Thus, while the administration grapples with the complex and multifarious problems caused by unbridled exploitation of these resources, the judiciary will stand clear. A long line of cases establish the basic rule that the courts will not interfere in matters which are addressed to the sound discretion of government agencies entrusted with the regulation of activities coming under the special technical knowledge and training of such agencies [See Espinosa v. Makalintal, 79 Phil. 134 (1947); Coloso v. Board of Accountancy, 92 Phil. 938 (1953); Pajo v. Ago, 108 Phil. 905 (1960); Suarez v. Reyes, G.R. No. L-19828, February 28, 1963, 7 SCRA 461; Ganitano v. Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, G.R. No. L-21167, March 31, 1966, 16 SCRA 543; Villegas v. Auditor General, G.R. No. L21352, November 29,1966,18 SCRA 877; Manuel v. Villena, G.R. No. L-28218, February 27, 1971, 37 SCRA 745; Lacuesta v. Herrera, G.R. No. L-33646, January 28, 1975, 62 SCRA 115; Lianga Bay Logging Co., Inc. v. Enage, G.R. No. L-30637, July 16, 1987, 152 SCRA 80]. More so where, as in the present case, the interests of a private logging company are pitted against that of the public at large on the pressing public policy issue of forest conservation. For this Court recognizes the wide latitude of discretion possessed by the government in determining the appropriate actions to be taken to preserve and manage natural resources, and the proper parties who should enjoy the privilege of utilizing these resources. Same; Same; Due Process; Department of Natural Resources; Timber licenses, permits and license agreements are merely evidence of a privilege granted by the State to qualified entities; they are not deemed contracts within the purview of the due process clause.Timber licenses, permits and license agreements are the principal instruments by which the State regulates the utilization and disposition of forest resources to the end that public welfare is promoted. And it can hardly be gainsaid that they merely evidence a privilege granted by the State to qualified entities, and do not vest in the latter a permanent or irrevocable right to the particular concession area and the forest products therein. They may be validly amended, modified, replaced or rescinded by the Chief Executive when national interests so require. Thus, they are not deemed contracts within the purview of the due process of law clause [See Sections 3 (ee) and 20 of Pres. Decree No. 705, as amended. Also, Tan v. Director of Forestry, G.R. No. L-24548, October 27, 1983, 125 SCRA 302]. Same; Same; Same; Same; Judicial Powers; The Court will not hesitate to step in and wield its authority when invoked if an appropriate case is brought showing a clear grave abuse of discretion on the part of the DENR officials and related bureaus with respect to the implementation of the public policy concerning the conservation of natural resources.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

82 | P a g e

Court will not hesitate to step in and wield its authority, when invoked, in the exercise of judicial powers under the Constitution [Section 1, Article VIII]. PETITION for certiorari to review the decision of the Deputy Executive Secretary. The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court'. Taada, Vivo & Tan for petitioner. Antonio E. Escober and Jurado Law Office for respondent Twin Peaks Development Corporation. CORTS, J.: Soon after the change of government in February 1986, petitioner sent a letter dated March 17, 1986 to the Office of the President, and another letter dated April 2, 1986 to Minister Ernesto Maceda of the Ministry of Natural Resources [MNR], seeking: (1) the reinstatement of its timber license agreement which was cancelled in August 1983 during the Marcos administration; (2) the revocation of TLA No. 356 which was issued to Twin Peaks Development and Realty Corporation without public bidding and in violation of forestry laws, rules and regulations; and, (3) the issuance of an order allowing petitioner to take possession of all logs found in the concession area [Annexes "6" and "7" of the Petition; Rollo, pp. 54-63]. Petitioner made the following allegations: (a) That on October 12, 1965, it entered into a timber license agreement designated as TLA No. 87 with the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, represented by then Secretary Jose Feliciano, wherein it was issued an exclusive license to cut, collect and remove timber except prohibited species within a specified portion of public forest land with an area of 54,920 hectares located in the municipality of Maddela, province of Nueva Vizcaya** from October 12, 1965 until June 30, 1990; (b) That on August 18, 1983, the Director of the Bureau of Forest Development [hereinafter referred to as "Bureau"], Director Edmundo Cortes, issued a memorandum order stopping all logging operations in Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino provinces, and cancelling the logging concession of petitioner and nine other forest concessionaires, pursuant to presidential instructions and a memorandum order of the Minister of Natural Resources Teodoro Pena [Annex "5" of the Petition; Rollo, p. 49]; (c) that on August 25, 1983, petitioner received a telegram from the Bureau, the contents of which were as follows: PURSUANT TO THE INSTRUCTIONS OF THE PRESIDENT YOU ARE REQUESTED TO STOP ALL LOGGING OPERATIONS TO CONSERVE REMAINING FORESTS PLEASE CONDUCT THE ORDERLY PULLOUT OF LOGGING MACHINERIES AND EQUIPMENT AND COORDINATE WITH THE

RESPECTIVE DISTRICT FORESTERS FOR THE INVENTORY OF LOGS CUT PRIOR TO THIS ORDER THE SUBMISSION OF A COMPLIANCE REPORT WITHIN THIRTY DAYS SHALL BE APPRECIATED [Annex "4" of the Petition; Rollo, p. 48]; (d) That after the cancellation of its timber license agreement, it immediately sent a letter addressed to then President Ferdinand Marcos which sought reconsideration of the Bureau's directive, citing in support thereof its contributions to forest conservation and alleging that it was not given the opportunity to be heard prior to the cancellation of its logging operations [Annex "6" of the Petition; Rollo, pp. 50-53], but no 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 Realty 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: x x x

It should be recalled that [petitioner's] earlier request for reinstatement has been denied in view of the total ban of all logging operations in the provinces of Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino and Ifugao which was imposed for reasons of conservation and national security. The Ministry imposed the ban because it realizes the great responsibility it bear [sic] in respect to forests. It considers itself the trustee thereof. This being the case, it has to ensure the availability of forest resources not only for the present, but also for the future generations of Filipinos. On the other hand, the activities of the insurgents in these parts of the country are well documented. Their financial demands on logging concessionaires are well known. The government, therefore, is well within its right to deprive its enemy of sources of funds in order to preserve itself, its established institutions and the liberty and democratic way of life of its people. x x x

83 | P a g e

[Annex "9" of the Petition, pp. 2-4; Rollo, pp. 65-67.] Petitioner moved for reconsideration of the aforestated order reiterating, among others, its request that TLA No. 356 issued to private respondent be declared null and void. The MNR however denied this motion in an order dated September 15, 1986, stating in part: x x x

petitioner filed its consolidated reply thereto. In a resolution dated May 22,1989, the Court resolved to give due course to the petition. After a careful study of the circumstances in the case at bar, the Court finds several factors which militate against the issuance of a writ of certiorari in favor of petitioner. 1. Firstly, the refusal of public respondents herein to reverse final and executory administrative orders does not constitute grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. It is an established doctrine in this jurisdiction that the decisions and orders of administrative agencies have upon their finality, the force and binding effect of a final judgment within the purview of the doctrine of res judicata. These decisions and orders are as conclusive upon the rights of the affected-parties as though the same had been rendered by a court of general jurisdiction. The rule of res judicata thus forbids the reopening of a matter once determined by competent authority acting within their exclusive jurisdiction [See Brillantes v. Castro, 99 Phil. 497 (1956); Ipekdjian Merchandising Co., Inc. v. Court of Tax Appeals, G.R. No. L-15430, September 30, 1963, 9 SCRA 72; San Luis v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 80160, June 26, 1989]. In the case at bar, petitioner's letters to the Office of the President and the MNR [now the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)] dated March 17, 1986 and April 2, 1986, respectively, sought the reconsideration of a memorandum order issued by the Bureau of Forest Development which cancelled its timber license agreement in 1983, as well as the revocation of TLA No. 356 subsequently issued by the Bureau to private respondents in 1984. But as gleaned from the record, petitioner did not avail of its remedies under the law, i.e. Section 8 of Pres. Dec. No. 705 as amended, for attacking the validity of these administrative actions until after 1986. By the time petitioner sent its letter dated April 2, 1986 to the newly appointed Minister of the MNR, requesting reconsideration of the above Bureau actions, these were already settled matters as far as petitioner was concerned [See Rueda v. Court of Agrarian Relations, 106 Phil. 300 (1959); Danan v. Aspillera, G.R. No. L-17305, November 28, 1962, 6 SCRA 609; Ocampo v. Arboleda, G.R. No. L-48190, August 31, 1987, 153 SCRA 374]. No particular significance can be attached to petitioner's letter dated September 19, 1983 which petitioner claimed to have sent to then President Marcos [Annex "6" of Petition, Rollo, pp. 50-53], seeking the reconsideration of the 1983 order issued by Director Cortes of the Bureau. It must be pointed out that the averments in this letter are entirely different from the charges of fraud against officials under the previous regime made by petitioner in its letters to public respondents herein. In the letter to then President Marcos, petitioner simply contested its inclusion in the list of concessionaires, whose licenses were cancelled, by defending its record of selective logging and reforestation practices in the subject concession area. Yet, no other administrative steps appear to have been taken by petitioner until 1986, despite the fact that the alleged fraudulent scheme became apparent in 1984 as evidenced by the awarding of the subject timber concession area to other entities in that year.

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

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

[Annex "11" of the Petition, pp. 3-4; Rollo, pp. 77-78.] On November 26,1986, petitioner's supplemental motion for reconsideration was likewise denied. Meanwhile, per MNR Administrative Order No. 54, series of 1986, issued on November 26, 1986, the logging ban in the province of Quirino was lifted. Petitioner subsequently appealed from the orders of the MNR to the Office of the President. In a resolution dated July 6, 1987, the Office of the President, acting through then Deputy Executive Secretary Catalino Macaraig, denied petitioner's appeal for lack of merit. The Office of the President ruled that the appeal of petitioner was prematurely filed, the matter not having been terminated in the MNR. Petitioner's motion for reconsideration was denied on August 14, 1987. Hence, petitioner filed directly with this Court a petition for certiorari, with prayer for the issuance of a restraining order or writ of preliminary injunction, on August 27, 1987. On October 13, 1987, it filed a supplement to its petition for certiorari. Thereafter, public and private respondents submitted their respective comments, and

84 | P a g e

2. Moreover, petitioner is precluded from availing of the benefits of a writ of certiorari in the present case because he failed to file his petition within a reasonable period. The principal issue ostensibly presented for resolution in the instant petition is whether or not public respondents herein acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in refusing to overturn administrative orders issued by their predecessors in the past regime. Yet, what the petition ultimately seeks is the nullification of the Bureau orders cancelling TLA No. 87 and granting TLA No. 356 to private respondent, which were issued way back in 1983 and 1984, respectively. Once again, the fact that petitioner failed to seasonably take judicial recourse to have the earlier administrative actions reviewed by the courts through a petition for certiorari is prejudicial to its cause. For although no specific time frame is fixed for the institution of a special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Revised Rules of Court, the same must nevertheless be done within a "reasonable time". The yardstick to measure the timeliness of a petition for certiorari is the "reasonableness of the length of time that had expired from the commission of the acts complained of up to the institution of the proceeding to annul the same" [Toledo v. Pardo, G.R. No. 56761, November 19,1982, 118 SCRA 566, 571]. And failure to file the petition for certiorari within a reasonable period of time renders the petitioner susceptible to the adverse legal consequences of laches [Municipality of Carcar v. Court of First Instance of Cebu, G.R. No. L-31628, December 27, 1982, 119 SCRA 392]. Laches is defined as the failure or neglect for an unreasonable and unexplained length of time to do that which by exercising due diligence, could or should have been done earlier, or to assert a right within a reasonable time, warranting a presumption that the party entitled thereto has either abandoned it or declined to assert it [Tijam v. Sibonghanoy, G.R. No. L-21450, April 15, 1968, 23 SCRA 29; Seno v. Mangubat, G.R. No. L44339, December 2, 1987, 156 SCRA 113]. The rule is that unreasonable delay on the part of a plaintiff in seeking to enforce an alleged right may, depending upon the circumstances, be destructive of the right itself. Verily, the laws aid those who are vigilant, not those who sleep upon their rights (Vigilantibus et non dormientibus jura subveniunt) [See Buenaventura v. David, 37 Phil. 435 (1918)]. In the case at bar, petitioner waited for at least three years before it finally filed a petition for certiorari with the Court attacking the validity of the assailed Bureau actions in 1983 and 1984. Considering that petitioner, throughout the period of its inaction, was not deprived of the opportunity to seek relief from the courts which were normally operating at the time, its delay constitutes unreasonable and inexcusable neglect, tantamount to laches. Accordingly, the writ of certiorari requiring the reversal of these orders will not lie. 3. Finally, there is a more significant factor which bars the issuance of a writ of certiorari in favor of petitioner and against public respondents herein. It is precisely this factor which prevents the Court from departing from the general application of the rules enunciated above. A cursory reading of the assailed orders issued by public respondent Minister Maceda of the MNR, which were affirmed by the Office of the President, will disclose public policy considerations which effectively forestall judicial interference in the case at bar.

Public respondents herein, upon whose shoulders rests the task of implementing the policy to develop and conserve the country's natural resources, have indicated an ongoing department evaluation of all timber license agreements entered into, and permits or licenses issued, under the previous dispensation. In fact, both the executive and legislative departments of the incumbent administration are presently taking stock of its environmental policies with regard to the utilization of timber lands and developing an agenda for future programs for their conservation and rehabilitation. The ongoing administrative reassessment is apparently in response to the renewed and growing global concern over the despoliation of forest lands and the utter disregard of their crucial role in sustaining a balanced ecological system. The legitimacy of such concern can hardly be disputed, most especially in this country. The Court takes judicial notice of the profligate waste of the country's forest resources which has not only resulted in the irreversible loss of flora and fauna peculiar to the region, but has produced even more disastrous and lasting economic and social effects. The delicate balance of nature having been upset, a vicious cycle of floods and droughts has been triggered and the supply of food and energy resources required by the people seriously depleted. While there is a desire to harness natural resources to amass profit and to meet the country's immediate financial requirements, the more essential need to ensure future generations of Filipinos of their survival in a viable environment demands effective and circumspect action from the government to check further denudation of whatever remains of the forest lands. Nothing less is expected of the government, in view of the clear constitutional command to maintain a balanced and healthful ecology. Section 16 of Article II of the 1987 Constitution provides: SEC. 16. The State shall protect and promote the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature. Thus, while the administration grapples with the complex and multifarious problems caused by unbridled exploitation of these resources, the judiciary will stand clear. A long line of cases establish the basic rule that the courts will not interfere in matters which are addressed to the sound discretion of government agencies entrusted with the regulation of activities coming under the special technical knowledge and training of such agencies [See Espinosa v. Makalintal, 79 Phil. 134 (1947); Coloso v. Board of Accountancy, 92 Phil. 938 (1953); Pajo v. Ago, 108 Phil. 905 (1960); Suarez v. Reyes, G.R. No. L-19828, February 28, 1963, 7 SCRA 461; Ganitano v. Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, G.R. No. L-21167, March 31, 1966, 16 SCRA 543; Villegas v. Auditor General, G.R. No. L-21352, November 29,1966,18 SCRA 877; Manuel v. Villena, G.R. No. L-28218, February 27, 1971, 37 SCRA 745; Lacuesta v. Herrera, G.R. No. L-33646, January 28, 1975, 62 SCRA 115; Lianga Bay Logging Co., Inc. v. Enage, G.R. No. L-30637, July 16, 1987, 152 SCRA 80]. More so where, as in the present case, the interests of a private logging company are pitted against that of the public at large on the pressing public policy issue of forest conservation. For this Court recognizes the wide latitude of discretion possessed by the government in determining the appropriate actions to be taken to preserve and manage natural resources, and the proper parties who should enjoy the privilege of utilizing these resources [Director of Forestry v. Muoz, G.R. No. L-24796, June 28, 1968, 23 SCRA 1183; Lim, Sr. v. The Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, G.R.

85 | P a g e

No. L26990, August 31, 1970, 34 SCRA 751]. Timber licenses, permits and license agreements are the principal instruments by which the State regulates the utilization and disposition of forest resources to the end that public welfare is promoted. And it can hardly be gainsaid that they merely evidence a privilege granted by the State to qualified entities, and do not vest in the latter a permanent or irrevocable right to the particular concession area and the forest products therein. They may be validly amended, modified, replaced or rescinded by the Chief Executive when national interests so require. Thus, they are not deemed contracts within the purview of the due process of law clause [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 will not hesitate to step in and wield its authority, when invoked, in the exercise of judicial powers under the Constitution [Section 1, Article VIII]. However, petitioner having failed to make out a case showing grave abuse of discretion on the part of public respondents herein, the Court finds no basis to issue a writ of certiorari and to grant any of the affirmative reliefs sought. WHEREFORE, the present petition is DISMISSED. SO ORDERED. Fernan (C.J.), Gutierrez Jr. and Bidin, JJ., concur. Feliciano, J., On leave. Petition dismissed.

Note.General rule that factual findings of trial courts and administrative tribunals are accorded finality. (Ateneo de Manila vs. Court of Appeals, 145 SCRA 100.)

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

Administrative Law; Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies; Before a party is allowed to seek the intervention of the court, it is a pre-condition that he should have availed of all the means of administrative processes afforded him.This Court in a long line of cases has consistently held that before a party is allowed to seek the intervention of the court, it is a pre-condition that he should have availed of all the means of administrative processes afforded him. Hence, if a remedy within the administrative machinery can still be resorted to by giving the administrative officer concerned every opportunity to decide on a matter that comes within his jurisdiction then such remedy should be exhausted first before courts judicial power can be sought. The premature invocation of courts intervention is fatal to ones cause of action. Accordingly, absent any finding of waiver or estoppel the case is susceptible of dismissal for lack of cause of action. This doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies was not without its practical and legal reasons, for one thing, availment of administrative remedy entails lesser expenses and provides for a speedier disposition of controversies. It is no less true to state that the courts of justice for reasons of comity and convenience will shy away from a dispute until the system of administrative redress has been completed and complied with so as to give the administrative agency concerned every opportunity to correct its error and to dispose of the case. Same; Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies; Exceptions.However, we are not amiss to reiterate that the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies as tested by a battery of cases is not an ironclad rule. This doctrine is a relative one and its flexibility is called upon by the peculiarity and uniqueness of the factual and circumstantial settings of a case. Hence, it is disregarded (1) when there is a violation of due process, (2) when the

86 | P a g e

issue involved is purely a legal question, (3) when the administrative action is patently illegal amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, (4) when there is estoppel on the part of the administrative agency concerned, (5) when there is irreparable injury, (6) when the respondent is a department secretary whose acts as an alter ego of the President bears the implied and assumed approval of the latter, (7) when to require exhaustion of administrative remedies would be unreasonable, (8) when it would amount to a nullification of a claim, (9) when the subject matter is a private land in land case proceedings, (10) when the rule does not provide a plain, speedy and adequate remedy, and (11) when there are circumstances indicating the urgency of judicial intervention. Same; Same; A party cannot, without violating the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies, seek courts intervention by filing an action for replevin for the grant of their relief during the pendency of an administrative proceedings.It was easy to perceive then that the private respondents looked up to the Secretary for the review and disposition of their case. By appealing to him, they acknowledged the existence of an adequate and plain remedy still available and open to them in the ordinary course of the law. Thus, they cannot now, without violating the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies, seek courts intervention by fili ng an action for replevin for the grant of their relief during the pendency of an administrative proceedings. Same; Same; Doctrine of Primary Jurisdiction; Doctrine of primary jurisdiction does not warrant a court to arrogate unto itself the authority to resolve a controversy the jurisdiction over which is initially lodged with an administrative body of special competence.Moreover, it is important to point out that the enforcement of forestry laws, rules and regulations and the protection, development and management of forest lands fall within the primary and special responsibilities of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. By the very nature of its function, the DENR should be given a free hand unperturbed by judicial intrusion to determine a controversy which is well within its jurisdiction. The assumption by the trial court, therefore, of the replevin suit filed by private respondents constitutes an unjustified encroachment into the domain of the administrative agencys prerogative. The doctrine of primary jurisdiction does not warrant a court to arrogate unto itself the authority to resolve a controversy the jurisdiction over which is initially lodged with an administrative body of special competence. Same; Same; Due Process; Deprivation of due process cannot be successfully invoked where a party was given the chance to be heard on his motion for reconsideration.To sustain the claim of private respondents would in effect bring the instant controversy beyond the pale of the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies and fall within the ambit of excepted cases heretofore stated. However, considering the circumstances prevailing in this case, we can not but rule out these assertions of private respondents to be without merit. First, they argued that there was violation of due process because they did not receive the May 23, 1989 order of confiscation of petiioner Layugan. This contention has no leg to stand on. Due process does not necessarily mean or require a hearing, but simply an opportunity or right to be heard. One may be heard, not solely by verbal presentation but also, and perhaps many times more creditably and practicable than oral argument, through pleadings. In administrative proceedings moreover, technical rules of procedure and evidence are not strictly applied; administrative process cannot be fully equated with due process in its strict judicial sense. Indeed, deprivation of due process cannot be successfully invoked where a party was given the chance to be heard on his motion for reconsideration, as in the

instant case, when private respondents were undisputedly given the opportunity to present their side when they filed a letter of reconsideration dated June 28, 1989 which was,however, denied in an order of July 12, 1989 of Executive Director Baggayan. Statutes; Statutory Construction; Statutes should be construed in the light of the object to be achieved and the evil or mischief to be suppressed, and they should be given such construction as will advance the object, suppress the mischief, and secure the benefits intended.The Secretary and his duly authorized representatives are given the authority to confiscate and forfeit any conveyances utilized in violating the Code or other forest laws, rules and regulations. The phrase to dispose of the same is broad enough to cover the act of forfeiting conveyances in favor of the government. The only limitation is that it should be made in accordance with pertinent laws, regulations or policies on the matter. In the construction of statutes, it must be read in such a way as to give effect to the purpose projected in the statute. Statutes should be construed in the light of the object to be achieved and the evil or mischief to be suppressed, and they should be given such construction as will advance the object, suppress the mischief, and secure the benefits intended. Same; Same; When the statute is clear and explicit, there is hardly room for any extended court ratiocination or rationalization of the law.With the introduction of Executive Order No. 277 amending Section 68 of P.D. 705, the act of cutting, gathering, collecting, removing, or possessing forest products without authority constitutes a distinct offense independent now from the crime of theft under Articles 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code, but the penalty to be imposed is that provided for under Article 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code. This is clear from the language of Executive Order No. 277 when it eliminated the phrase shall be guilty of qualified theft as defined and punished under Articles 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code and inserted the words shall be punished with the penalties imposed under Article 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code. When the statute is clear and explicit, there is hardly room for any extended court ratiocination or rationalization of the law. Administrative Law; Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies; Exhaustion of the remedies in the administrative forum, being a condition precedent prior to ones recourse to the courts and more importantly, being an element of private respondents right of action,is too significant to be waylaid by the lower court.From the foregoing disquisition, it is clear that a suit for replevin can not be sustained against the petitioners for the subject truck taken and retained by them for administrative forfeiture proceedings in pursuant to Section 68-A of the P.D. 705, as amended. Dismissal of the replevin suit for lack of cause of action in view of the private respondents failure to exhaust administrative remedies should have been the proper course of action by the lower court instead of assuming jurisdiction over the case and consequently issuing the writ ordering the return of the truck. Exhaustion of the remedies in the administrative forum, being a condition precedent prior to ones recourse to the courts and more importantly, being an element of private respondents right of action, is too significant to be waylaid by the lower court. Remedial Law; Replevin; Under the Rules of Court, it is indispensable in replevin proceeding that the plaintiff must show by his own affidavit that he is entitled to the possession of property, that the property is wrongfully detained by the defendant, alleging the cause of detention, that the same has not been taken for tax assessment, or

87 | P a g e

seized under execution, or attachment, or if so seized, that it is exempt from such seizure, and the actual value of the property.It is worth stressing at this point, that a suit for replevin is founded solely on the claim that the defendant wrongfully withholds the property sought to be recovered. It lies to recover possession of personal chattels that are unlawfully detained. To detain is defined as to mean to hold or keep in custody, and it has been held that there is tortious taking whenever there is an unlawful meddling with the property, or an exercise or claim of dominion over it, without any pretense of authority or right; this, without manual seizing of the property is sufficient. Under the Rules of Court, it is indispensable in replevin proceeding that the plaintiff must show by his own affidavit that he is entitled to the possession of property, that the property is wrongfully detained by the defendant, alleging the cause of detention, that the same has not been taken for tax assessment, or seized under execution, or attachment, or if so seized, that it is exempt from such seizure, and the actual value of the property. Private respondents miserably failed to convince this Court that a wrongful detention of the subject truck obtains in the instant case. It should be noted that the truck was seized by the petitioners because it was transporting forest products without the required permit of the DENR in manifest contravention of Section 68 of P.D. 705 as amended by E.O. 277. Section 68-A of P.D. 705, as amended, unquestionably warrants the confiscation as well as the disposition by the Secretary of DENR or his duly authorized representatives of the conveyances used in violating the provision of forestry laws. Evidently, the continued possession or detention of the truck by the petitioners for administrative forfeiture proceeding is legally permissible, hence, no wrongful detention exists in the case at bar. Same; Certiorari; Courts may not review the decisions of the Secretary except through a special civil action for certiorari or prohibition.Moreover, the suit for replevin is never intended as a procedural tool to question the orders of confiscation and forfeiture issued by the DENR in pursuance to the authority given under P.D. 705, as amended. Section 8 of the said law is explicit that actions taken by the Director of the Bureau of Forest Development concerning the enforcement of the provisions of the said law are subject to review by the Secretary of DENR and that courts may not review the decisions of the Secretary except through a special civil action for certiorari or prohibition. It reads: SECTION 8. REVIEWAll actions and decisions of the Director are subject to review, motu propio or upon appeal of any person aggrieved thereby, by the Department Head whose decision shall be final and executory after the lapse of thirty (30) days from the receipt of the aggrieved party of said decision, unless appealed to the President in accordance with Executive Order No. 19, Series of 1966. The Decision of the Department Head may not be reviewed by the courts except through a special civil action for certiorari or prohibition. PETITION for review on certiorari of a decision of the Court of Appeals. The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court. Pedro R. Perez, Jr. for private respondents. TORRES, JR., J.:

Without violating the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies, may an action for replevin prosper to recover a movable property which is the subject matter of an administrative forfeiture proceeding in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources pursuant to Section 68-A of P.D. 705, as amended, entitled The Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines? Are the Secretary of DENR and his representatives empowered to confiscate and forfeit conveyances used in transporting illegal forest products in favor of the government? These are two fundamental questions presented before us for our resolution. The controversy on hand had its incipiency on May 19, 1989 when the truck of private respondent Victoria de Guzman while on its way to Bulacan from San Jose, Baggao, Cagayan, was seized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR, for brevity) personnel in Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya because the driver could not produce the required documents for the forest products found concealed in the truck. Petitioner Jovito Layugan, the Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer (CENRO) in Aritao, Cagayan, issued on May 23, 1989 an order of confiscation of the truck and gave the owner thereof fifteen (15) days within which to submit an explanation why the truck should not be forfeited. Private respondents, however, failed to submit the required explanation. On June 22, 1989,1 the Regional Executive Director Rogelio Baggayan of DENR sustained petitioner of Layugans action of confiscation and ordered the forfeiture of the truck invoking Section 68 -A of Presidential Decree No. 705 as amended by Executive Order No. 277. Private respondents filed a letter of reconsideration dated June 28, 1989 of the June 22, 1989 order of Executive Director Baggayan, which was, however, denied in a subsequent order of July 12, 1989.2 Subsequently, the case was brought by the petitioners to the Secretary of DENR pursuant to private respondents statement in their letter dated June 28, 1989 that in case their letter for reconsideration would be denied then this letter should be considered as an appeal to the Secretary.3 Pending resolution however of the appeal, a suit for replevin, docketed as Civil Case 4031, was filed by the private respondents against petitioner Layugan and Executive Director Baggayan4 with the Regional Trial Court, Branch 2 of Cagayan,5 which issued a writ ordering the return of the truck to private respondents.6 Petitioner Layugan and Executive Director Baggayan filed a motion to dismiss with the trial court contending, inter alia, that private respondents had no cause of action for their failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss in an order dated December 28, 1989.7 Their motion for reconsideration having been likewise denied, a petition for certiorari was filed by the petitioners with the respondent Court of Appeals which sustained the trial courts order ruling that the question involved is purely a legal question.8 Hence, this present petition,9 with prayer for temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction, seeking to reverse the decision of the respondent Court of Appeals was filed by the petitioners on September 9, 1993. By virtue of the Resolution dated September 27, 1993,10 the prayer for the issuance of temporary restraining order of petitioners was granted by this Court. Invoking the doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies, petitioners aver that the trial court could not legally entertain the suit for replevin because the truck was under administrative seizure proceedings pursuant to Section 68-A of P.D. 705, as amended by E.O. 277. Private respondents, on the other hand, would seek to avoid

88 | P a g e

the operation of this principle asserting that the instant case falls within the exception of the doctrine upon the justification that (1) due process was violated because they were not given the chance to be heard, and (2) the seizure and forfeiture was unlawful on the grounds: (a) that the Secretary of DENR and his representatives have no authority to confiscate and forfeit conveyances utilized in transporting illegal forest products, and (b) that the truck as admitted by petitioners was not used in the commission of the crime. Upon a thorough and delicate scrutiny of the records and relevant jurisprudence on the matter, we are of the opinion that the plea of petitioners for reversal is in order. This Court in a long line of cases has consistently held that before a party is allowed to seek the intervention of the court, it is a pre-condition that he should have availed of all the means of administrative processes afforded him. Hence, if a remedy within the administrative machinery can still be resorted to by giving the administrative officer concerned every opportunity to decide on a matter that comes within his jurisdiction then such remedy should be exhausted first before courts judicial power can be sought. The premature invocation of courts interv ention is fatal to ones cause of action.11 Accordingly, absent any finding of waiver or estoppel the case is susceptible of dismissal for lack of cause of action.12 This doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies was not without its practical and legal reasons, for one thing, availment of administrative remedy entails lesser expenses and provides for a speedier disposition of controversies. It is no less true to state that the courts of justice for reasons of comity and convenience will shy away from a dispute until the system of administrative redress has been completed and complied with so as to give the administrative agency concerned every opportunity to correct its error and to dispose of the case. However, we are not amiss to reiterate that the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies as tested by a battery of cases is not an ironclad rule. This doctrine is a relative one and its flexibility is called upon by the peculiarity and uniqueness of the factual and circumstantial settings of a case. Hence, it is disregarded (1) when there is a violation of due process,13 (2) when the issue involved is purely a legal question,14 (3) when the administrative action is patently illegal amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction,15 (4) when there is estoppel on the part of the administrative agency concerned,16 (5) when there is irreparable injury,17 (6) when the respondent is a department secretary whose acts as an alter ego of the President bears the implied and assumed approval of the latter,18 (7) when to require exhaustion of administrative remedies would be unreasonable,19 (8) when it would amount to a nullification of a claim,20 (9) when the subject matter is a private land in land case proceedings,21 (10) when the rule does not provide a plain, speedy and adequate remedy, and (11) when there are circumstances indicating the urgency of judicial intervention.22 In the case at bar, there is no question that the controversy was pending before the Secretary of DENR when it was forwarded to him following the denial by the petitioners of the motion for reconsideration of private respondents through the order of July 12, 1989. In their letter of reconsideration dated June 28, 1989,23 private respondents clearly recognize the presence of an administrative forum to which they seek to avail, as they did avail, in the resolution of their case. The letter, reads, thus: x x x

If this motion for reconsideration does not merit your favorable action, then this letter should be considered as an appeal to the Secretary.24 It was easy to perceive then that the private respondents looked up to the Secretary for the review and disposition of their case. By appealing to him, they acknowledged the existence of an adequate and plain remedy still available and open to them in the ordinary course of the law. Thus, they cannot now, without violating the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies, seek the courts intervention by filing an action for replevin for the grant of their relief during the pendency of an administrative proceedings. Moreover, it is important to point out that the enforcement of forestry laws, rules and regulations and the protection, development and management of forest lands fall within the primary and special responsibilities of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. By the very nature of its function, the DENR should be given a free hand unperturbed by judicial intrusion to determine a controversy which is well within its jurisdiction. The assumption by the trial court, therefore, of the replevin suit filed by private respondents constitutes an unjustified encroachment into the domain of the administrative agencys prerogative. The doctrine of primary jurisdiction does not warrant a court to arrogate unto itself the authority to resolve a controversy the jurisdiction over which is initially lodged with an administrative body of special competence.25 In Felipe Ismael, Jr. and Co. vs. Deputy Executive Secretary,26 which was reiterated in the recent case of Concerned Officials of MWSS vs. Vasquez,27 this Court held: Thus, while the administration grapples with the complex and multifarious problems caused by unbriddled exploitation of these resources, the judiciary will stand clear. A long line of cases establish the basic rule that the courts will not interfere in matters which are addressed to the sound discretion of government agencies entrusted with the regulation of activities coming under the special technical knowledge and training of such agencies. To sustain the claim of private respondents would in effect bring the instant controversy beyond the pale of the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies and fall within the ambit of excepted cases heretofore stated. However, considering the circumstances prevailing in this case, we can not but rule out these assertions of private respondents to be without merit. First, they argued that there was violation of due process because they did not receive the May 23, 1989 order of confiscation of petitioner Layugan. This contention has no leg to stand on. Due process does not necessarily mean or require a hearing, but simply an opportunity or right to be heard.28 One may be heard, not solely by verbal presentation but also, and perhaps many times more creditably and practicable than oral argument, through pleadings.29 In administrative proceedings moreover, technical rules of procedure and evidence are not strictly applied; administrative process cannot be fully equated with due process in its strict judicial sense.30 Indeed, deprivation of due process cannot be successfully invoked where a party was given the chance to be heard on his motion for reconsideration,31 as in the instant case, when private respondents were undisputedly given the opportunity to present their side when they filed a letter of reconsideration dated June 28, 1989 which was, however, denied in an order of July 12, 1989 of Executive Director Baggayan. In Navarro III vs. Damasco,32 we ruled that:

89 | P a g e

The essence of due process is simply an opportunity to be heard , or as applied to administrative proceedings, an opportunity to explain ones side or an opportunity to seek a reconsideration of the action or ruling complained of. A formal or trial type hearing is not at all times and in all instances essential. The requirements are satisfied when the parties are afforded fair and reasonable opportunity to explain their side of the controversy at hand. What is frowned upon is the absolute lack of notice or hearing. Second, private respondents imputed the patent illegality of seizure and forfeiture of the truck because the administrative officers of the DENR allegedly have no power to perform these acts under the law. They insisted that only the court is authorized to confiscate and forfeit conveyances used in transporting illegal forest products as can be gleaned from the second paragraph of Section 68 of P.D. 705, as amended by E.O. 277. The pertinent provision reads as follows: SECTION 68. x x x xxx The court shall further order the confiscation in favor of the government of the timber or any forest products cut, gathered, collected, removed, or possessed, as well as the machinery, equipments, implements and tools illegaly [sic] used in the area where the timber or forest products are found. (Italics ours) A reading, however, of the law persuades us not to go along with private respondents thinking not only because the aforequoted provision apparently does not mention nor include conveyances that can be the subject of confiscation by the courts, but to a large extent, due to the fact that private respondents interpretation of the subject provision unduly restricts the clear intention of the law and inevitably reduces the other provision of Section 68-A, which is quoted herein below: SECTION 68-A. Administrative Authority of the Department or His Duly Authorized Representative To Order Confiscation. In all cases of violation of this Code or other forest laws, rules and regulations, the Department Head or his duly authorized representative, may order the confiscation of any forest products illegally cut, gathered, removed, or possessed or abandoned, and all conveyances used either by land, water or air in the commission of the offense and to dispose of the same in accordance with pertinent laws, regulations and poli cies on the matter. (Italics ours) It is thus clear from the foregoing provision that the Secretary and his duly authorized representatives are given the authority to confiscate and forfeit any conveyances utilized in violating the Code or other forest laws, rules and regulations. The phrase to dispose of the same is broad enough to cover the act of forfeiting conveyances in favor of the government. The only limitation is that it should be made in accordance with pertinent laws, regulations or policies on the matter. In the construction of statutes, it must be read in such a way as to give effect to the purpose projected in the statute.33 Statutes should be construed in the light of the object to be achieved and the evil or mischief to be suppressed, and they should be given such construction as will advance the object,

suppress the mischief, and secure the benefits intended.34 In this wise, the observation of the Solicitor General is significant, thus: But precisely because of the need to make forestry laws more responsive to present situations and realities and in view of the urgency to conserve the remaining resources of the country, that the government opted to add Section 68-A. This amendatory provision is an administrative remedy totally separate and distinct from criminal proceedings. More than anything else, it is intended to supplant the inadequacies that characterize enforcement of forestry laws through criminal actions. The preamble of EO 277 the law that added Section 68-A to PD 705is most revealing: WHEREAS, there is an urgency to conserve the remaining forest resources of the country for the benefit and welfare of the present and future generations of Filipinos; WHEREAS, our forest resources may be effectively conserved and protected through the vigilant enforcement and implementation of our forestry laws, rules and regulations; WHEREAS, the implementation of our forestry laws suffers from technical difficulties, due to certain inadequacies in the penal provisions of the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines; and WHEREAS, to overcome this difficulties, there is a need to penalize certain acts more responsive to present situations and realities; It is interesting to note that Section 68-A is a new provision authorizing the DENR to confiscate, not only conveyances, but forest products as well. On the other hand, confiscation of forest products by the court in a criminal action has long been provided for in Section 68. If as private respondents insist, the power of confiscation cannot be exercised except only through the court under Section 68, then Section 68-A would have no purpose at all. Simply put, Section 68-A would not have provided any solution to the problem perceived in EO 277, supra.35 Private respondents, likewise, contend that the seizure was illegal because the petitioners themselves admitted in the Order dated July 12, 1989 of Executive Director Baggayan that the truck of private respondents was not used in the commission of the crime. This order, a copy of which was given to and received by the counsel of private respondents, reads in part, viz.: x x x while it is true that the truck of your client was not used by her in the commission of the crime, we uphold your claim that the truck owner is not liable for the crime and in no case could a criminal case be filed against her as provided under Article 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code. x x x36 We observed that private respondents misread the content of the aforestated order and obviously misinterpreted the intention of petitioners. What is contemplated by the petitioners when they stated that the truck was not used in the commission of the crime is that it was not used in the commission of the crime of theft, hence, in no case

90 | P a g e

can a criminal action be filed against the owner thereof for violation of Article 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code. Petitioners did not eliminate the possibility that the truck was being used in the commission of another crime, that is, the breach of Section 68 of P.D. 705 as amended by E.O 277. In the same order of July 12, 1989, petitioners pointed out: x x x However, under Section 68 of P.D. 705 as amended and further amended by Executive Order No. 277 specifically provides for the confiscation of the conveyance used in the transport of forest products not covered by the required legal documents. She may not have been involved in the cutting and gathering of the product in question but the fact that she accepted the goods for a fee or fare the same is therefor liable. x x x37 Private respondents, however, contended that there is no crime defined and punishable under Section 68 other than qualified theft, so that, when petitioner admitted in the July 12, 1989 order that private respondents could not be charged for theft as provided for under Articles 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code, then necessarily private respondents could not have committed an act constituting a crime under Section 68. We disagree. For clarity, the provision of Section 68 of P.D. 705 before its amendment by E.O. 277 and the provision of Section 1 of E.O. No. 277 amending the aforementioned Section 68 are reproduced herein, thus: SECTION 68. Cutting, gathering and/or collecting timber or other products without license.Any person who shall cut, gather, collect, or remove timber or other forest products from any forest land, or timber from alienable and disposable public lands, or from private lands, without any authority under a license agreement, lease, license or permit, shall be guilty of qualified theft as defined and punished under Articles 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code x x x. (Italics ours; Section 68, P.D. 705 before its amendment by E.O. 277) SECTION 1. Section 68 of Presidential Decree No. 705, as amended, is hereby amended to read as follows: Section 68. Cutting, gathering and/or collecting timber or other forest products without license.Any person who shall cut, gather, collect, remove timber or other forest products from any forest land, or timber from alienable or disposable public land, or from private land, without any authority, or possess timber or other forest products without the legal documents as required under existing forest laws and regulations, shall be punished with the penalties imposed under Articles 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code x x x (Italics ours; Section 1, E.O. No. 277 amending Section 68, P.D. 705 as amended) With the introduction of Executive Order No. 277 amending Section 68 of P.D. 705, the act of cutting, gathering, collecting, removing, or possessing forest products without authority constitutes a distinct offense independent now from the crime of theft under Articles 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code, but the penalty to be imposed is that provided for under Article 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code. This is clear from the language of Executive Order No. 277 when it eliminated the phrase shall be guilty of qualified theft as defined and punished under Articles 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code and inserted the words shall be punished with the penalties imposed under Article 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code. When the statute is clear and explicit, there is hardly room for any extended court ratiocination or rationalization of the law.38

From the foregoing disquisition, it is clear that a suit for replevin can not be sustained against the petitioners for the subject truck taken and retained by them for administrative forfeiture proceedings in pursuant to Section 68-A of the P.D. 705, as amended. Dismissal of the replevin suit for lack of cause of action in view of the private respondents failure to exhaust administrative remedies should have been the proper course of action by the lower court instead of assuming jurisdiction over the case and consequently issuing the writ ordering the return of the truck. Exhaustion of the remedies in the administrative forum, being a condition precedent prior to ones recourse to the courts and more importantly, being an element of private respondents right of action, is too significant to be waylaid by the lower court. It is worth stressing at this point, that a suit for replevin is founded solely on the claim that the defendant wrongfully withholds the property sought to be recovered. It lies to recover possession of personal chattels that are unlawfully detained.39 To detain is defined as to mean to hold or keep in custody,40 and it has been held that there is tortious taking whenever there is an unlawful meddling with the property, or an exercise or claim of dominion over it, without any pretense of authority or right; this, without manual seizing of the property is sufficient.41 Under the Rules of Court, it is indispensable in replevin proceeding that the plaintiff must show by his own affidavit that he is entitled to the possession of property, that the property is wrongfully detained by the defendant, alleging the cause of detention, that the same has not been taken for tax assessment, or seized under execution, or attachment, or if so seized, that it is exempt from such seizure, and the actual value of the property.42 Private respondents miserably failed to convince this Court that a wrongful detention of the subject truck obtains in the instant case. It should be noted that the truck was seized by the petitioners because it was transporting forest products without the required permit of the DENR in manifest contravention of Section 68 of P.D. 705 as amended by E.O 277. Section 68-A of P.D. 705, as amended, unquestionably warrants the confiscation as well as the disposition by the Secretary of DENR or his duly authorized representatives of the conveyances used in violating the provision of forestry laws. Evidently, the continued possession or detention of the truck by the petitioners for administrative forfeiture proceeding is legally permissible, hence, no wrongful detention exists in the case at bar. Moreover, the suit for replevin is never intended as a procedural tool to question the orders of confiscation and forfeiture issued by the DENR in pursuance to the authority given under P.D. 705, as amended. Section 8 of the said law is explicit that actions taken by the Director of the Bureau of Forest Development concerning the enforcement of the provisions of the said law are subject to review by the Secretary of DENR and that courts may not review the decisions of the Secretary except through a special civil action for certiorari or prohibition. It reads: SECTION 8. REVIEWAll actions and decisions of the Director are subject to review, motu propio or upon appeal of any person aggrieved thereby, by the Department Head whose decision shall be final and executory after the lapse of thirty (30) days from the receipt of the aggrieved party of said decision, unless appealed to the President in accordance with Executive Order No. 19, Series of 1966. The Decision of the Department Head may not be reviewed by the courts except through a special civil action for certiorari or prohibition.

91 | P a g e

WHEREFORE, the Petition is GRANTED; the Decision of the respondent Court of Appeals dated October 16, 1991 and its Resolution dated July 14, 1992 are hereby SET ASIDE AND REVERSED; the Restraining Order promulgated on September 27, 1993 is hereby made permanent; and the Secretary of DENR is directed to resolve the controversy with utmost dispatch. SO ORDERED. Regalado (Chairman), Romero, Puno and Mendoza, JJ., concur. Petition granted. Note.When the language of the statute is clear it should be given its natural meaning. (Basbacio vs. Office of the Secretary, Department of Justice, 238 SCRA 5 [1994]) o0o

the seized articles. Only an inventory of the articles is taken and signed by the owner or his representative. The owner is prohibited from disposing them until further orders. Criminal Procedure; Informations; Motion to Quash; The test for the correctness of the ground that the facts alleged in the information do not constitute an offense is the sufficiency of the averments in the information, that is, whether the facts alleged, if hypothetically admitted, constitute the elements of the offense. Under paragraph (a), Section 3, Rule 117 of the Rules of Court, an information may be quashed on the ground that the facts alleged therein do not constitute an offense. It has been said that the test for the correctness of this ground is the sufficiency of the averments in the information, that is, whether the facts alleged, if hypothetically admitted, constitute the elements of the offense, and matters aliunde will not be considered. Anent the sufficiency of the information, Section 6, Rule 110 of the Rules of Court requires, inter alia, that the information state the acts or omissions complained of as constituting the offense. Administrative Law; Natural Resources; Forestry Laws; IllegalLogging; Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines (P.D. 705); Words and Phrases; Possession of lumber without the required legal documents is penalized in Section 68 of P.D. No. 705 because lumber is included in the term timber. The foregoing disquisitions should not, in any manner, be construed as an affirmance of the respondent Judges conclusion that lumber is excluded from the coverage of Section 68 of P.D. No. 705, as amended, and thus possession thereof without the required legal documents is not a crime. On the contrary, this Court rules that such possession is penalized in the said section because lumber is included in the term timber. Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; Simply put, lumber is processed log or timber. The Revised Forestry Code contains no definition of either timber or lumber. While the former is included in forest products as defined in paragraph (q) of Section 3, the latter is found in paragraph (aa) of the same section in the definition of Processing plant, which reads: (aa) Processing plant is any mechanical set-up, machine or combination of machine used for the processing of logs and other forest raw materials into lumber, veneer, plywood, wallboard, blockboard, paper board, pulp, paper or other finished wood products. This simply means that lumber is a processed log or processed forest raw material. Clearly, the Code uses the term lumber in its ordinary or common usage. In the 1993 copyright edition of Websters Third New International Dictionary, lumber is defined, inter alia, as timber or logs after being prepared for the market. Simply put, lumber is a processed log or timber. Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; Statutory Construction; In the absence of legislative intent to the contrary, words and phrases used in a statute should be given their plain, ordinary, and common usage meaning. It is settled that in the absence of legislative intent to the contrary, words and phrases used in a statute should be given their plain, ordinary, and common usage meaning. And insofar as possession of timber without the required legal documents is concerned, Section 68 of P.D. No. 705, as amended, makes no distinction between raw or processed timber. Neither should we. Ubi lex non distinguit nec nos distinguere debemus. Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; Constitutional Law; Searches and Seizures; Seizure of a truck loaded with lauan and almaciga lumber not accompanied with the required invoices and transport documents is a valid exercise of

G.R. No. 104988. June 18, 1996.* MUSTANG LUMBER, INC., petitioner, vs. HON. COURT OF APPEALS, HON. FULGENCIO S. FACTORAN, JR., Secretary, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and ATTY. VINCENT A. ROBLES, Chief, Special Actions and Investigation Division, DENR, respondents.

G.R. No. 106424. June 18, 1996. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs. HON. TERESITA DIZON-CAPULONG, in her capacity as the Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, National Capital Judicial Region, Branch 172, Valenzuela, Metro Manila, and RI CHUY PO, respondents. G.R. No. 123784. June 18, 1996. MUSTANG LUMBER, INC., petitioner, vs. HON. COURT OF APPEALS, ATTY. VINCENT A. ROBLES, Chief, Special Actions and Investigation Division, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), ATTY. NESTOR V. GAPUSAN, TIRSO P. PARIAN, JR., and FELIPE H. CALLORINA, JR., respondents.

Administrative Law; Natural Resources; Forestry Laws; Illegal Logging; Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines (P.D. 705); Under an administrative seizure, the owner retains the physical possession of the seized articles. Parenthetically, it may be stated that under an administrative seizure the owner retains the physical possession of

92 | P a g e

the power vested upon a forest officer or employee by Section 80 of P.D. No. 705; A search could be lawfully conducted on a moving vehicle without a search warrant.It was duly established that on 1 April 1990, the petitioners truck with Plate No. CCK-322 was coming out from the petitioners lumberyard load ed with lauan and almaciga lumber of different sizes and dimensions which were not accompanied with the required invoices and transport documents. The seizure of such truck and its cargo was a valid exercise of the power vested upon a forest officer or employee by Section 80 of P.D. No. 705, as amended by P.D. No. 1775. Then, too, as correctly held by the trial court and the Court of Appeals in the FIRST CIVIL CASE, the search was conducted on a moving vehicle. Such a search could be lawfully conducted without a search warrant. Constitutional Law; Searches and Seizures; Exceptions to the constitutional mandate that no search or seizure shall be made except by virtue of a warrant issued by a judge after personally determining the existence of probable cause.Search of a moving vehicle is one of the five doctrinally accepted exceptions to the constitutional mandate that no search or seizure shall be made except by virtue of a warrant issued by a judge after personally determining the existence of probable cause. The other exceptions are: (1) search as an incident to a lawful arrest, (2) seizure of evidence in plain view, (3) customs searches, and (4) consented warrantless search. Same; Same; Search Warrants; A search warrant has a lifetime of ten days and it could be served at any time within the said period, and if its object or purpose cannot be accomplished in one day, the same may be continued the following day or days until completed.We also affirm the rulings of both the trial court and the Court of Appeals that the search on 4 April 1990 was a continuation of the search on 3 April 1990 done under and by virtue of the search warrant issued on 3 April 1990 by Executive Judge Osorio. Under Section 9, Rule 126 of the Rules of Court, a search warrant has a lifetime of ten days. Hence, it could be served at any time within the said period, and if its object or purpose cannot be accomplished in one day, the same may be continued the following day or days until completed. Thus, when the search under a warrant on one day was interrupted, it may be continued under the same warrant the following day, provided it is still within the ten-day period. Administrative Law; Natural Resources; Forestry Laws; Illegal Logging; Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines (P.D. 705); Where a lumber-dealers license or permit has been suspended, he has absolutely no right to possess, sell, or otherwise dispose of lumber and the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources or his authorized representative has the authority to seize the lumber.The Court of Appeals correctly dismissed the petitioners appeal from the judgment of the trial court in the SECOND CIVIL CASE. The petitioner never disputed the fact that its lumber-dealers license or permit had been suspended by Secretary Fact oran on 23 April 1990. The suspension was never lifted, and since the license had only a lifetime of up to 25 September 1990, the petitioner has absolutely no right to possess, sell, or otherwise dispose of lumber. Accordingly, Secretary Factoran or his authorized representative had the authority to seize the lumber pursuant to Section 68-A of P.D. No. 705, as amended. VITUG, J., Separate opinion:

Criminal Procedure; Informations; Motion to Quash; While generally factual matters outside of the information should not weigh in resolving a motion to quash, there should, however, be no serious objections to taking into account additional and clarificatory facts which, although not made out in the information, are admitted, conceded, or not denied by the parties.While generally factual matters outside of the information should not weigh in resolving a motion to quash following the standing rule that the allegations of the information must alone be considered and should not be challenged, there should, however, be no serious objections to taking into account additional and clarificatory facts which, although not made out in the information, are admitted, conceded, or not denied by the parties. PETITIONS for review of a decision of the Court of Appeals. The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court. Francisco D. Estrada for Mustang Lumber. DAVIDE, JR., J.: The first and third cases, G.R. No. 104988 and G.R. No. 123784, were originally assigned to the Second and Third Divisions of the Court, respectively. They were subsequently consolidated with the second, a case of the Court en banc. Petitioner, a domestic corporation with principal office at Nos. 1350-1352 Juan Luna Street, Tondo, Manila, and with a lumberyard at Fortune Street, Fortune Village, Paseo de Blas, Valenzuela, Metro Manila, was duly registered as a lumber dealer with the Bureau of Forest Development (BFD) under Certificate of Registration No. NRD-4-092590-0469. Its permit as such was to expire on 25 September 1990. Respondent Secretary Fulgencio S. Factoran, Jr., and respondent Atty. Vincent A. Robles were, during all the time material to these cases, the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Chief of the Special Actions and Investigation Division (SAID) of the DENR, respectively. The material operative facts are as follows: On 1 April 1990, acting on an information that a huge stockpile of narra flitches, shorts, and slabs were seen inside the lumberyard of the petitioner in Valenzuela, Metro Manila, the SAID organized a team of foresters and policemen and sent it to conduct surveillance at the said lumberyard. In the course thereof, the team members saw coming out from the lumberyard the petitioners truck, with Plate No. CCK -322, loaded with lauan and almaciga lumber of assorted sizes and dimensions. Since the driver could not produce the required invoices and transport documents, the team seized the truck together with its cargo and impounded them at the DENR compound at Visayas Avenue, Quezon City.1 The team was not able to gain entry into the premises because of the refusal of the owner.2

93 | P a g e

On 3 April 1990, the team was able to secure a search warrant from Executive Judge Adriano R. Osorio of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Valenzuela, Metro Manila. By virtue thereof, the team seized on that date from the petitioners lumberyard four truckloads of narra shorts, trimmings, and slabs; a negligible number of narra lumber; and approximately 200,000 board feet of lumber and shorts of various species including almaciga and supa.3 On 4 April 1990, the team returned to the premises of the petitioners lumberyard in Valenzuela and placed under administrative seizure the remaining stockpile of almaciga, supa, and lauan lumber with a total volume of 311,000 board feet because the petitioner failed to produce upon demand the corresponding certificate of lumber origin, auxiliary invoices, tally sheets, and delivery receipts from the source of the invoices covering the lumber to prove the legitimacy of their source and origin.4 Parenthetically, it may be stated that under an administrative seizure the owner retains the physical possession of the seized articles. Only an inventory of the articles is taken and signed by the owner or his representative. The owner is prohibited from disposing them until further orders.5 On 10 April 1990, counsel for the petitioner sent a letter to Robles requesting an extension of fifteen days from 14 April 1990 to produce the required documents covering the seized articles because some of them, particularly the certificate of lumber origin, were allegedly in the Province of Quirino. Robles denied the motion on the ground that the documents being required from the petitioner must accompany the lumber or forest products placed under seizure.6 On 11 April 1990, Robles submitted his memorandum report recommending to Secretary Factoran the following: 1. Suspension and subsequent cancellation of the lumber Dealers Permit of Mustang Lumber, Inc. for operating an unregistered lumberyard and resaw mill and possession of Almaciga Lumber (a banned specie) without the required documents; 2. Confiscation of the lumber seized at the Mustang Lumber-yard including the truck with Plate No. CCK-322 and the lumber loaded herein [sic] now at the DENR compound in the event its owner fails to submit documents showing legitimacy of the source of said lumber within ten days from date of seizure; 3. Filing of criminal charges against Mr. Ri Chuy Po, owner of Mustang Lumber Inc. and Mr. Ruiz, or if the circumstances warrant for illegal possession of narra and almaciga lumber and shorts if and when recommendation No. 2 pushes through; 4. Confiscation of Trucks with Plate No. CCS-639 and CDV-458 as well as the lumber loaded therein for transport lumber using recycled documents.7 On 23 April 1990, Secretary Factoran issued an order suspending immediately the petitioners lumber -dealers permit No. NRD-4-092590-0469 and directing the petitioner to explain in writing within fifteen days why its lumber-dealers permit should not be cancelled.

On the same date, counsel for the petitioner sent another letter to Robles informing the latter that the petitioner had already secured the required documents and was ready to submit them. None, however, was submitted.8 On 3 May 1990, Secretary Factoran issued another order wherein, after reciting the events which took place on 1 April and 3 April 1990, he ordered CONFISCATED in favor of the government to be d isposed of in accordance with law the approximately 311,000 board feet of lauan, supa, and almaciga lumber, shorts, and sticks found inside the petitioners lumberyard.9 On 11 July 1990, the petitioner filed with the RTC of Manila a petition for certiorari and prohibition with a prayer for a restraining order or preliminary injunction against Secretary Fulgencio S. Factoran, Jr., and Atty. Vincent A. Robles. The case (hereinafter, the FIRST CIVIL CASE) was docketed as Civil Case No. 90-53648 and assigned to Branch 35 of the said court. The petitioner questioned therein (a) the seizure on 1 April 1990, without any search and seizure order issued by a judge, of its truck with Plate No. CCK-322 and its cargo of assorted lumber consisting of apitong, tanguile, and lauan of different sizes and dimensions with a total value of P38,000.00; and (b) the orders of Secretary Factoran of 23 April 1990 for lack of prior notice and hearing and of 3 May 1990 for violation of Section 2, Article III of the Constitution. On 17 September 1990, in response to reports that violations of P.D. No. 705 (The Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines), as amended, were committed and acting upon instruction of Robles and under Special Order No. 897, series of 1990, a team of DENR agents went to the business premises of the petitioner located at No. 1352 Juan Luna Street, Tondo, Manila. The team caught the petitioner operating as a lumber dealer although its lumberdealers permit had already been suspended on 23 April 1990. Since the gate of the petitioners lumberyard was open, the team went inside and saw an owner-type jeep with a trailer loaded with lumber. Upon investigation, the team was informed that the lumber loaded on the trailer was to be delivered to the petitioners customer. It also came upon the sales invoice covering the transaction. The members of the team then introduced themselves to the caretaker, one Ms. Chua, who turned out to be the wife of the petitioners president and general manager, Mr. Ri Chuy Po, who was then out of town. The teams photographer was able to take photographs of the stockpiles of lumber including newly cut ones, fresh dust around sawing or cutting machineries and equipment, and the transport vehicles loaded with lumber. The team thereupon effected a constructive seizure of approximately 20,000 board feet of lauan lumber in assorted sizes stockpiled in the premises by issuing a receipt therefor.10 As a consequence of this 17 September 1990 incident, the petitioner filed with the RTC of Manila a petition for certiorari and prohibition. The case (hereinafter, the SECOND CIVIL CASE) was docketed as Civil Case No. 9054610 and assigned to Branch 24 of the said court. In the meantime, Robles filed with the Department of Justice (DOJ) a complaint against t he petitioners president and general manager, Ri Chuy Po, for violation of Section 68 of P.D. Nos. 705, as amended by E.O. No. 277. After appropriate preliminary investigation, the investigating prosecutor, Claro Arellano, handed down a resolution11 whose dispositive portion reads:

94 | P a g e

WHEREFORE, premises considered, it is hereby recommended that an information be filed against respondent Ri Chuy Po for illegal possession of approximately 200,000 bd. ft. of lumber consisting of almaciga and supa and for illegal shipment of almaciga and lauan in violation of Sec. 68 of PD 705 as amended by E.O. 277, series of 1987. It is further recommended that the 30,000 bd. ft. of narra shorts, trimmings and slabs covered by legal documents be released to the rightful owner, Malupa.12 This resolution was approved by Undersecretary of Justice Silvestre H. Bello III, who served as Chairman of the Task Force on Illegal Logging.13 On the basis of that resolution, an information was filed on 5 June 1991 by the DOJ with Branch 172 of the RTC of Valenzuela, charging Ri Chuy Po with the violation of Section 68 of P.D. No. 705, as amended, which was docketed as Criminal Case No. 324-V-91 (hereinafter, the CRIMINAL CASE). The accusatory portion of the information reads as follows: That on or about the 3rd day of April 1990, or prior to or subsequent thereto, within the premises and vicinity of Mustang Lumber, Inc. in Fortune Village, Valenzuela, Metro Manila, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, did then and there wilfully, feloniously and unlawfully, have in his possession truckloads of almaciga and lauan and approximately 200,000 bd. ft. of lumber and shorts of various species including almaciga and supa, without the legal documents as required under existing forest laws and regulations.14 On 7 June 1991, Branch 35 of the RTC of Manila rendered its decision15 in the FIRST CIVIL CASE, the dispositive portion of which reads: WHEREFORE, judgment in this case is rendered as follows: 1. The Order of Respondent Secretary of the DENR, the Honorable Fulgencio S. Factoran, Jr., dated 3 May 1990 ordering the confiscation in favor of the Government the approximately 311,000 board feet of lauan, supa, and almaciga lumber, shorts and sticks, found inside and seized from the lumberyard of the petitioner at Fortune Drive, Fortune Village, Paseo de Blas, Valenzuela, Metro Manila, on April 4, 1990 (Exhibit 10), is hereby set aside and vacated, and instead the respondents are required to report and bring to the Hon. Adriano Osorio, Executive Judge, Regional Trial Court, NCJR, Valenzuela, Metro Manila, the said 311,000 board feet of lauan, supa and almaciga lumber, shorts and sticks, to be dealt with as directed by law; 2. The respondents are required to initiate and prosecute the appropriate action before the proper court regarding the lauan and almaciga lumber of assorted sizes and dimensions loaded in petitioners truck bearing Plate No. CCK-322 which were seized on April 1, 1990; 3. The Writ of Preliminary Injunction issued by the Court on August 2, 1990 shall be rendered functus oficio upon compliance by the respondents with paragraphs 1 and 2 of this judgment;

4. Action on the prayer of the petitioner that the lauan, supa and almaciga lumber, shorts and sticks mentioned above in paragraphs 1 and 2 of this judgment be returned to said petitioner, is withheld in this case until after the proper court has taken cognizance and determined how those lumber, shorts and sticks should be disposed of; and 5. The petitioner is ordered to pay the costs. SO ORDERED. In resolving the said case, the trial court held that the warrantless search and seizure on 1 April 1990 of the petitioners truck, which was moving out from the petitioners lumberyard in Valenzuela, Metro Manila, loa ded with large volumes of lumber without covering document showing the legitimacy of its source or origin did not offend the constitutional mandate that search and seizure must be supported by a valid warrant. The situation fell under one of the settled and accepted exceptions where warrantless search and seizure is justified, viz., a search of a moving vehicle.16 As to the seizure of a large volume of almaciga, supa, and lauan lumber and shorts effected on 4 April 1990, the trial court ruled that the said seizure was a continuation of that made the previous day and was still pursuant to or by virtue of the search warrant issued by Executive Judge Osorio whose validity the petitioner did not even question.17 And, although the search warrant did not specifically mention almaciga, supa, and lauan lumber and shorts, their seizure was valid because it is settled that the executing officer is not required to ignore contrabands observed during the conduct of the search.18 The trial court, however, set aside Secretary Factorans order of 3 May 1990 ordering the confiscation of the seized articles in favor of the Government for the reason that since the articles were seized pursuant to the search warrant issued by Executive Judge Osorio they should have been returned to him in compliance with the directive in the warrant. As to the propriety of the 23 April 1990 order of Secretary Factoran, the trial court ruled that the same had been rendered moot and academic by the expiration of the petitioners lumber -dealers permit on 25 September 1990, a fact the petitioner admitted in its memorandum. The petitioner forthwith appealed from the decision in the FIRST CIVIL CASE to the Court of Appeals, which docketed the appeal as CA-G.R. SP No. 25510. On 7 July 1991, accused Ri Chuy Po filed in the CRIMINAL CASE a Motion to Quash and/or to Suspend Proceedings based on the following grounds: (a) the information does not charge an offense, for possession of lumber, as opposed to timber, is not penalized in Section 68 of P.D. No. 705, as amended, and even granting arguendo that lumber falls within the purview of the said section, the same may not be used in evidence against him for they were taken by virtue of an illegal seizure; and (b) Civil Case No. 90-53648 of Branch 35 of the RTC of Manila, the FIRST CIVIL CASE, then pending before the Court of Appeals, which involves the legality of the seizure, raises a prejudicial question.19

95 | P a g e

The prosecution opposed the motion alleging that lumber is included in Section 68 of P.D. Nos. 705, as amended, and possession thereof without the required legal documents is penalized therein. It referred to Section 3.2 of DENR Administrative Order No. 19, series of 1989, for the definitions of timber and lumber, and then argued that exclusion of lumber from Section 68 would defeat the very purpose of the law, i.e., to minimize, if not halt, illegal logging that has resulted in the rapid denudation of our forest resources.20 In her order of 16 August 1991 in the CRIMINAL CASE,21 respondent Judge Teresita Dizon-Capulong granted the motion to quash and dismissed the case on the ground that possession of lumber without the legal documents required by forest laws and regulations is not a crime.22 Its motion for reconsideration having been denied in the order of 18 October 1991,23 the People filed a petition for cer-tiorari with this Court in G.R. No. 106424, wherein it contends that the respondent Judge acted with grave abuse of discretion in granting the motion to quash and in dismissing the case. On 29 November 1991, the Court of Appeals rendered a decision24 in CA-G.R. SP No. 25510 dismissing for lack of merit the petitioners appeal from the decision in the FIRST CIVIL CASE and affirming the trial courts rulings on the issues raised. As to the claim that the truck was not carrying contraband articles since there is no law punishing the possession of lumber, and that lumber is not timber whose possession without the required legal documents is unlawful under P.D. No. 705, as amended, the Court of Appeals held: This undue emphasis on lumber or the commercial nature of the forest product involved has always been foisted by those who claim to be engaged in the legitimate business of lumber dealership. But what is important to consider is that when appellant was required to present the valid documents showing its acquisition and lawful possession of the lumber in question, it failed to present any despite the period of extension granted to it.25 The petitioners motion to reconsider the said decision was denied by t he Court of Appeals in its resolution of 3 March 1992.26 Hence, the petitioner came to this Court by way of a petition for review on certiorari in G.R. No. 104988, which was filed on 2 May 1992.27 On 24 September 1992, Branch 24 of the RTC of Manila handed down a decision in the SECOND CIVIL CASE dismissing the petition for certiorari and prohibition because (a) the petitioner did not exhaust administrative remedies; (b) when the seizure was made on 17 September 1990 the petitioner could not lawfully sell lumber, as its license was still under suspension; (c) the seizure was valid under Section 68-A of P.D. No. 705, as amended; and (d) the seizure was justified as a warrantless search and seizure under Section 80 of P.D. No. 705, as amended. The petitioner appealed from the decision to the Court of Appeals, which docketed the appeal as CA-G.R. SP No. 33778. In its decision28 of 31 July 1995, the Court of Appeals dismissed the petitioners appeal in CA-G.R. SP No. 33778 for lack of merit and sustained the grounds relied upon by the trial court in dismissing the SECOND CIVIL CASE. Relying on the definition of lumber by Webster, viz., timber or logs, especially after being prepared for

the market, and by the Random House Dictionary of the English Language, viz., wood, esp. when suitable or adapted for various building purposes, the respondent Court held that since wood is included in the definition of forest product in Section 3(q) of P.D. No. 705, as amended, lumber is necessarily included in Section 68 under the term forest product. The Court of Appeals further emphasized that a forest officer or employee can seize the forest product involved in a violation of Section 68 of P.D. No. 705 pursuant to Section 80 thereof, as amended by P.D. No. 1775, which provides in part as follows: SEC. 80. Arrest, Institution of Criminal Actions.A forest officer or employee of the Bureau or any personnel of the Philippine Constabulary/Integrated National Police shall arrest even without warrant any person who has committed or is committing in his presence any of the offenses defined in this chapter. He shall also seize and confiscate, in favor of the Government, the tools and equipment used in committing the offense, or the forest products cut, gathered or taken by the offender in the process of committing the offense. Among the offenses punished in the chapter referred to in said Section 80 are the cutting, gathering, collection, or removal of timber or other forest products or possession of timber or other forest products without the required legal documents. Its motion to reconsider the decision having been denied by the Court of Appeals in the resolution of 6 February 1996, the petitioner filed with this Court on 27 February 1996 a petition for review on certiorari in G.R. No. 123784. We shall now resolve these three cases starting with G.R. No. 106424 with which the other two were consolidated. G.R. No. 106424 The petitioner had moved to quash the information in Criminal Case No. 324-V-91 on the ground that it does not charge an offense. Respondent Judge Dizon-Capulong granted the motion reasoning that the subject matter of the information in the CRIMINAL CASE is LUMBER, which is neither timber nor other forest product under Section 68 of P.D. No. 705, as amended, and hence, possession thereof without the required legal documents is not prohibited and penalized under the said section. Under paragraph (a), Section 3, Rule 117 of the Rules of Court, an information may be quashed on the ground that the facts alleged therein do not constitute an offense. It has been said that the test for the correctness of this ground is the sufficiency of the averments in the information, that is, whether the facts alleged, if hypothetically admitted, constitute the elements of the offense,29 and matters aliunde will not be considered. Anent the sufficiency of the information, Section 6, Rule 110 of the Rules of Court requires, inter alia, that the information state the acts or omissions complained of as constituting the offense.

96 | P a g e

Respondent Ri Chuy Po is charged with the violation of Section 68 of P.D. No. 705, as amended by E.O. No. 277, which provides: SEC. 68. Cutting, Gathering and/or Collecting Timber, or Other Forest Products Without License. Any person who shall cut, gather, collect, remove timber or other forest products from any forest land, or timber from alienable or disposable public land, or from private land, without any authority, or possess timber or other forest products without the legal documents as required under existing forest laws and regulations, shall be punished with the penalties imposed under Articles 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code: Provided, That in the case of partnerships, associations, or corporations, the officers who ordered the cutting, gathering, collection or possession shall be liable, and if such officers are aliens, they shall, in addition to the penalty, be deported without further proceedings on the part of the Commission on Immigration and Deportation. The Court shall further order the confiscation in favor of the government of the timber or any forest products cut, gathered, collected, removed, or possessed, as well as the machinery, equipment, implements and tools illegally used in the area where the timber or forest products are found. Punished then in this section are (a) the cutting, gathering,collection, or removal of timber or other forest products fromthe places therein mentioned without any authority; and (b)possession of timber or other forest products without the legaldocuments as required under existing forest laws andregulations. Indeed, the word lumber does not appear in Section 68. But conceding ex gratia that this omission amounts to an exclusion of lumber from the sections coverage, do the facts averred in the information in the CRIMINAL CASE validly charge a violation of the said section? A cursory reading of the information readily leads us to an infallible conclusion that lumber is not solely its subject matter. It is evident therefrom that what are alleged to be in the possession of the private respondent, without the required legal documents, are truckloads of (1) almaciga and lauan; and (2) approximately 200,000 bd. ft. of lumber and shorts of various species including almaciga and supa. The almaciga and lauan specifically mentioned in no. (1) are not described as lumber. They cannot refer to the lumber in no. (2) because they are separated by the words approximately 200,000 bd. ft. with the conjunction and, and not with the preposition of. They must then be raw fo rest products or, more specifically, timbers under Section 3(q) of P.D. No. 705, as amended, which reads: SEC. 3. Definitions. xxx

(q) Forest product means timber, pulpwood, firewood, bark, tree top, resin, gum, wood, oil, honey, beeswax, nipa, rattan, or other forest growth such as grass, shrub, and flowering plant, the associated water, fish, game, scenic, historical, recreational and geological resources in forest lands. It follows then that lumber is only one of the items covered by the information. The public and the private respondents obviously miscomprehended the averments in the information. Accordingly, even if lumber is not included in Section 68, the other items therein as noted above fall within the ambit of the said section, and as to them, the information validly charges an offense. Our respected brother, Mr. Justice Jose C. Vitug, suggests in his dissenting opinion that this Court go beyond the four corners of the information for enlightenment as to whether the information exclusively refers to lumber. With the aid of the pleadings and the annexes thereto, he arrives at the conclusion that only lumber has been envisioned in the indict-ment. The majority is unable to subscribe to his view. First, his proposition violates the rule that only the facts alleged in the information vis-a-vis the law violated must be considered in determining whether an information charges an offense. Second, the pleadings and annexes he resorted to are insufficient to justify his conclusion. On the contrary, the Joint Affidavit of Melencio Jalova, Jr., and Araman Belleng, which is one of the annexes he referred to,30 cannot lead one to infer that what the team seized was all lumber. Paragraph 8 thereof expressly states: 8. That when inside the compound, the team found approximately four (4) truckloads of narra shorts, trimmings and slabs and a negligible amount of narra lumber, and approximately 200,000 bd. ft. of lumber and shorts of various species including almaciga and supa which are classified as prohibited wood species. (emphasis supplied) In the same vein, the dispositive portion of the resolution31 of the investigating prosecutor, which served as the basis for the filing of the information, does not limit itself to lumber; thus: WHEREFORE, premises considered, it is hereby recommended that an information be filed against respondent Ri Chuy Po for illegal possession of 200,000 bd. ft. of lumber consisting of almaciga and supa and for illegal shipment of almaciga and lauan in violation of Sec. 63 of PD 705 as amended by E.O. 277, series of 1987. (emphasis supplied) The foregoing disquisitions should not, in any manner, be construed as an affirmance of the responden t Judges conclusion that lumber is excluded from the coverage of Section 68 of P.D. No. 705, as amended, and thus possession thereof without the required legal documents is not a crime. On the contrary, this Court rules that such possession is penalized in the said section because lumber is included in the term timber. The Revised Forestry Code contains no definition of either timber or lumber. While the former is included in forest products as defined in paragraph (q) of Section 3, the latter is found in paragraph (aa) of the same section in the definition of Processing plant, which reads:

97 | P a g e

(aa) Processing plant is any mechanical set-up, machine or combination of machine used for the processing of logs and other forest raw materials into lumber, veneer, plywood, wallboard, blockboard, paper board, pulp, paper or other finished wood products. This simply means that lumber is a processed log or processed forest raw material. Clearly, the Code uses the term lumber in its ordinary or common usage. In the 1993 copyright edition of Websters Third New International Dictionary, lumber is defined, inter alia, as timber or logs after being prepared for the market.32 Simply put, lumber is a processed log or timber. It is settled that in the absence of legislative intent to the contrary, words and phrases used in a statute should be given their plain, ordinary, and common usage meaning.33 And insofar as possession of timber without the required legal documents is concerned, Section 68 of P.D. No. 705, as amended, makes no distinction between raw or processed timber. Neither should we. Ubi lex non distinguit nec nos distinguere debemus. Indisputably, respondent Judge Teresita Dizon-Capulong of Branch 172 of the RTC of Valenzuela, Metro Manila, committed grave abuse of discretion in granting the motion to quash the information in the CRIMINAL CASE and in dismissing the said case. G.R. No. 104988 We find this petition to be without merit. The petitioner has miserably failed to show that the Court of Appeals committed any reversible error in its assailed decision of 29 November 1991. It was duly established that on 1 April 1990, the petitioners truck with Plate No. CCK -322 was coming out from the petitioners lumberyard loaded with lauan and almaciga lumber of different si zes and dimensions which were not accompanied with the required invoices and transport documents. The seizure of such truck and its cargo was a valid exercise of the power vested upon a forest officer or employee by Section 80 of P.D. No. 705, as amended by P.D. No. 1775. Then, too, as correctly held by the trial court and the Court of Appeals in the FIRST CIVIL CASE, the search was conducted on a moving vehicle. Such a search could be lawfully conducted without a search warrant. Search of a moving vehicle is one of the five doctrinally accepted exceptions to the constitutional mandate34 that no search or seizure shall be made except by virtue of a warrant issued by a judge after personally determining the existence of probable cause. The other exceptions are: (1) search as an incident to a lawful arrest, (2) seizure of evidence in plain view, (3) customs searches, and (4) consented warrantless search.35 We also affirm the rulings of both the trial court and the Court of Appeals that the search on 4 April 1990 was a continuation of the search on 3 April 1990 done under and by virtue of the search warrant issued on 3 April 1990 by Executive Judge Osorio. Under Section 9, Rule 126 of the Rules of Court, a search warrant has a lifetime of ten days. Hence, it could be served at any time within the said period, and if its object or purpose cannot be accomplished in one day, the same may be continued the following day or days until completed. Thus, when the

search under a warrant on one day was interrupted, it may be continued under the same warrant the following day, provided it is still within the ten-day period.36 As to the final plea of the petitioner that the search was illegal because possession of lumber without the required legal documents is not illegal under Section 68 of P.D. No. 705, as amended, since lumber is neither specified therein nor included in the term forest product, the same hardly merits further discussion in view of our ruling in G.R. No. 108424. G.R. No. 123784 The allegations and arguments set forth in the petition in this case palpably fail to show prima facie that a reversible error has been committed by the Court of Appeals in its challenged decision of 31 July 1995 and resolution of 6 February 1996 in CA-G.R. SP No. 33778. We must, forthwith, deny it for utter want of merit. There is no need to require the respondents to comment on the petition. The Court of Appeals correctly dismissed the petitioners appeal from the judgment of the trial court in the SECOND CIVIL CASE. The petitioner never disputed the fact that its lumber-dealers license or permit had been suspended by Secretary Factoran on 23 April 1990. The suspension was never lifted, and since the license had only a lifetime of up to 25 September 1990, the petitioner has absolutely no right to possess, sell, or otherwise dispose of lumber. Accordingly, Secretary Factoran or his authorized representative had the authority to seize the lumber pursuant to Section 68-A of P.D. No. 705, as amended, which provides as follows: Section 68-A. Administrative Authority of the Department Head or his Duly Authorized Representative to Order Confiscation.In all cases of violations of this Code or other forest laws, rules and regulations, the Department Head or his duly authorized representative may order the confiscation of any forest products illegally cut, gathered, removed, or possessed or abandoned . . . . The petitioners insistence that possession or sale of lumber is not penalized must also fail in view of our disquisition and ruling on the same issue in G.R. No. 106424. Besides, the issue is totally irrelevant in the SECOND CIVIL CASE which involves administrative seizure as a consequence of the viola tion of the suspension of the petitioners license as lumber dealer. All told then, G.R. No. 104988 and G.R. No. 123784 are nothing more than rituals to cover up blatant violations of the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines (P.D. No. 705), as amended. They are presumably trifling attempts to block the serious efforts of the DENR to enforce the decree, efforts which deserve the commendation of the public in light of the urgent need to take firm and decisive action against despoilers of our forests whose continuous destruction only ensures to the generations to come, if not the present, an inheritance of parched earth incapable of sustaining life. The Government must not tire in its vigilance to protect the environment by prosecuting without fear or favor any person who dares to violate our laws for the utilization and protection of our forests.

98 | P a g e

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered 1. (a) GRANTING the petition in G.R. No. 106424; (b) SETTING ASIDE and ANNULLING, for having been rendered with grave abuse of discretion, the challenged orders of 16 August 1991 and 18 October 1991 of respondent Judge Teresita Dizon-Capulong, Branch 172, Regional Trial Court of Valenzuela, Metro Manila, in Criminal Case No. 324-V-91, entitled People of the Philippines vs. Ri Chuy Po; (c) REINSTATING the information in the said criminal case; and (d) DIRECTING the respondent Judge or her successor to hear and decide the case with purposeful dispatch; and 2. DENYING the petitions in G.R. No. 104988 and in G.R. No. 123784 for utter failure of the petitioner to show that the respondent Court of Appeals committed any reversible error in the challenged decisions of 29 November 1991 in CA-G.R. SP No. 25510 in the FIRST CIVIL CASE and of 31 July 1995 in CA-G.R. SP No. 33778 in the SECOND CIVIL CASE. Costs against the petitioner in each of these three cases. SO ORDERED. Narvasa (C.J.), Padilla, Regalado, Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Kapunan, Mendoza, Francisco, Hermosisima, Jr., Panganiban and Torres, Jr., JJ., concur. Vitug, J., Pls. see separate opinion. G.R. No. 101083. July 30, 1993.* JUAN ANTONIO, ANNA ROSARIO and JOSE ALFONSO, all surnamed OPOSA, minors, and represented by their parents ANTONIO and RIZALINA OPOSA, ROBERTA NICOLE SADIUA, minor, represented by her parents CALVIN and ROBERTA SADIUA, CARLO, AMANDA SALUD and PATRISHA, all surnamed FLORES, minors and represented by their parents ENRICO and NIDA FLORES, GIANINA DITA R. FORTUN, minor, represented by her parents SIGFRID and DOLORES FORTUN, GEORGE II and MA. CONCEPCION, all surnamed MISA, minors and represented by their parents GEORGE and MYRA MISA, BENJAMIN ALAN V. PESIGAN, minor, represented by his parents ANTONIO and ALICE PESIGAN, JOVIE MARIE ALFARO, minor, represented by her parents JOSE and MARIA VIOLETA ALFARO, MARIA CONCEPCION T. CASTRO, minor, represented by her parents FREDENIL and JANE CASTRO, JOHANNA DESAMPARADO, minor, represented by her parents JOSE and ANGELA DESAMPARADO, CARLO JOAQUIN T. NARVASA, minor, represented by his parents GREGORIO II and CRISTINE CHARITY NARVASA, MA. MARGARITA, JESUS IGNACIO, MA. ANGELA and MARIE GABRIELLE, all surnamed SAENZ, minors, represented by their parents ROBERTO and AURORA SAENZ, KRISTINE, MARY ELLEN, MAY, GOLDA MARTHE and DAVID IAN, all surnamed KING, minors, represented by their parents MARIO and HAYDEE KING, DAVID, FRANCISCO and THERESE VICTORIA, all surnamed ENDRIGA, minors, represented by their parents BALTAZAR and TERESITA ENDRIGA, JOSE MA. and REGINA MA., all surnamed ABAYA, minors, represented by their parents ANTONIO and MARICA ABAYA, MABILIN, MARIO, JR. and MARIETTE, all surnamed CARDAMA, minors, represented by their parents MARIO and LINA

CARDAMA, CLARISSA, ANN MARIE, NAGEL and IMEE LYN, all surnamed OPOSA, minors and represented by their parents RICARDO and MARISSA OPOSA, PHILIP JOSEPH, STEPHEN JOHN and ISAIAH JAMES, all surnamed QUIPIT,minors, represented by their parents JOSE MAX and VILMI QUIPIT, BUGHAW CIELO, CRISANTO, ANNA, DANIEL and FRANCISCO, all surnamed BIBAL, minors, represented by their parents FRANCISCO, JR. and MILAGROS BIBAL, and THE PHILIPPINE ECOLOGICAL NETWORK, INC., petitioners, vs. THE HONORABLE FULGENCIO S. FACTORAN, JR., in his capacity as the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and THE HONORABLE ERIBERTO U. ROSARIO, Presiding Judge of the RTC, Makati, Branch 66, respondents. Remedial Law; Actions; Class Suit; The subject matter of the complaint is of common and general interest not just to several, but to all citizens of the Philippines; All the requisites for the filing of a valid class suit under Section 12 Rule 3 of the Revised Rules of Court are present.Petitioners instituted Civil Case No. 90-777 as a class suit. The original defendant and the present respondents did not take issue with this matter. Nevertheless, We hereby rule that the said civil case is indeed a class suit. The subject matter of the complaint is of common and general interest not just to several, but to all citizens of the Philippines. Consequently, since the parties are so numerous, it becomes impracticable, if not totally impossible, to bring all of them before the court. We likewise declare that the plaintiffs therein are numerous and representative enough to ensure the full protection of all concerned interests. Hence, all the requisites for the filing of a valid class suit under Section 12, Rule 3 of the Revised Rules of Court are present both in the said civil case and in the instant petition, the latter being but an incident to the former. Same; Same; Same; Same; Petitioners personality to sue in behalf of the succeeding generations can only be based on the concept of intergenerational responsibility insofar as the right to a balanced and healthful ecology is concerned.This case, however, has a special and novel element. Petitioners minors assert that they represent their generation as well as generations yet unborn. We find no difficulty in ruling that they can, for themselves, for others of their generation and for the succeeding generations, file a class suit. Their personality to sue in behalf of the succeeding generations can only be based on the concept of intergenerational responsibility insofar as the right to a balanced and healthful ecology is concerned. Such a right, as hereinafter expounded, considers the rhythm and harmony of nature. Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; The minors assertion of their right to a sound environment constitutes at the same time the performance of their obligation to ensure the protection of that right for the generation to come. Needless to say, every generation has a responsibility to the next to preserve that rhythm and harmony for the full enjoyment of a balanced and healthful ecology. Put a little differently, the minors assertion of their right to a sound environment constitutes, at the same time, the performance of their obligation to ensure the protection of that right for the generations to come. Constitutional Law; The complaint focuses on one specific fundamental legal right; The right to a balanced and healthful ecology.The complaint focuses on one specific fundamental legal rightthe right to a balanced and healthful ecology which, for the first time in our nations constitutional history, is solemnly incorporated in the fundamental law.

99 | P a g e

Same; Same; The right to a balanced and healthful ecology carries with it the correlative duty to refrain from impairing the environment.The right to a balanced and healthful ecology carries with it the correlative duty to refrain from impairing the environment. Same; Same; The right of the petitioners to a balanced and healthful ecology is as clear as the DENRs dut y to protect and advance the said right.Thus, the right of the petitioners (and all those they represent) to a balanced and healthful ecology is as clear as the DENRs dutyunder its mandate and by virtue of its powers and functions under E.O. No. 192 and the Administrative Code of 1987to protect and advance the said right. Same; Political Question; The political question doctrine is no longer the insurmountable obstacle to the exercise of judicial power or the impenetrable shield that protects executive and legislative actions from judicial inquiry or review.The foregoing considered, Civil Case No. 90-777 cannot be said to raise a political question. Policy formulation or determination by the executive or legislative branches of Government is not squarely put in issue. What is principally involved is the enforcement of a right vis-a-vis policies already formulated and expressed in legislation. It must, nonetheless, be emphasized that the political question doctrine is no longer the insurmountable obstacle to the exercise of judicial power or the impenetrable shield that protects executive and legislative actions from judicial inquiry or review. Same; Contracts; Non-impairment Clause; A timber license is not a contract, property or a property right protected by the due process clause of the Constitution.Needless to say, all licenses may thus be revoked or rescinded by executive action. It is not a contract, property or a property right protected by the due process clause of the Constitution. Same; Same; Same; Same; The granting of license does not create irrevocable rights, neither is it property or property rights.A license is merely a permit or privilege to do what otherwise would be unlawful, and is not a contract between the authority, federal, state, or municipal, granting it and the person to whom it is granted; neither is it property or a property right, nor does it create a vested right; nor is it taxation (37 C.J. 168). Thus, this Court held that the granting of license does not create irrevocable rights, neither is it property or property rights. Same; Same; Same; Same; Timber licenses are not contracts, the non-impairment clause cannot be invoked. Since timber licenses are not contracts, the non-impairment clause, cannot be invoked. Same; Same; Same; Same; Same; The non-impairment clause must yield to the police power of the state.In short, the non-impairment clause must yield to the police power of the state. FELICIANO, J., Concurring Opinion: Constitutional Law; The protection of the environment including the forest cover of our territory is of extreme importance for the country.I vote to grant the Petition for Certiorari because the protection of the environment, including the forest cover of our territory, is of extreme importance for the country.

SPECIAL CIVIL ACTION for certiorari of the dismissal order of the RTC of Makati, Br. 66. The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court. Oposa Law Office for petitioners. The Solicitor General for respondents. DAVIDE, JR., J.: In a broader sense, this petition bears upon the right of Filipinos to a balanced and healthful ecology which the petitioners dramatically associate with the twin concepts of inter-generational responsibility and intergenerational justice. Specifically, it touches on the issue of whether the said petitioners have a cause of action to prevent the misappropriation or impairment of Philippine rainforests and arrest the unabated hemorrhage of the countrys vital life-support systems and continued rape of Mother Earth. The controversy has its genesis in Civil Case No. 90-777 which was filed before Branch 66 (Makati, Metro Manila) of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), National Capital Judicial Region. The principal plaintiffs therein, now the principal petitioners, are all minors duly represented and joined by their respective parents. Impleaded as an additional plaintiff is the Philippine Ecological Network, Inc. (PENI), a domestic, non-stock and non-profit corporation organized for the purpose of, inter alia, engaging in concerted action geared for the protection of our environment and natural resources. The original defendant was the Honorable Fulgencio S. Factoran, Jr., then Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). His substitution in this petition by the new Secretary, the Honorable Angel C. Alcala, was subsequently ordered upon proper motion by the petitioners.1 The complaint2 was instituted as a taxpayers class suit3 and alleges that the plaintiffs are all citizens of the Republic of the Philippines, taxpayers, and entitled to the full benefit, use and enjoyment of the natural resource treasure that is the countrys virgin tropical rainforests. The same was filed for themselves and others who are equally concerned about the preservation of said resource but are so numerous that it is impracticable to bring them all before the Court. The minors further asseverate that they represent their generation as well as generation yet unborn.4 Consequently, it is prayed for that judgment be rendered: x x x ordering defendant, his agents, representatives and other persons acting in his behalf to (1) Cancel all existing timber license agreements in the country; (2) Cease and desist from receiving, accepting, processing, renewing or approving new timber license agreements. and granting the plaintiffs x x x such other reliefs just and equitable under the premises.5

100 | P a g e

The complaint starts off with the general averments that the Philippine archipelago of 7,100 islands has a land area of thirty million (30,000.00) hectares and is endowed with rich, lush and verdant rainforests in which varied, rare and unique species of flora and fauna may be found; these rainforests contain a genetic, biological and chemical pool which is irreplaceable; they are also the habitat of indigenous Philippine cultures which have existed, endured and flourished since time immemorial; scientific evidence reveals that in order to maintain a balanced and healthful ecology, the countrys land area should be utilized on the basis of a ratio of fifty-four per cent (54%) for forest cover and forty-six per cent (46%) for agricultural, residential, industrial, commercial and other uses; the distortion and disturbance of this balance as a consequence of deforestation have resulted in a host of environmental tragedies, such as (a) water shortages resulting from the drying up of the water table, otherwise known as the aquifer, as well as of rivers, brooks and streams, (b) salinization of the water table as a result of the intrusion therein of salt water, incontrovertible examples of which may be found in the island of Cebu and the Municipality of Bacoor, Cavite, (c) massive erosion and the consequential loss of soil fertility and agricultural productivity, with the volume of soil eroded estimated at one billion (1,000,000,000) cubic meters per annum approximately the size of the entire island of Catanduanes, (d) the endangering and extinction of the countrys unique, rare and varied flora and fauna, (e) the disturbance and dislocation of cultural communities, including the disappearance of the Filipinos indigenous cultures, (f) the siltation of rivers and seabeds and consequential destruction of corals and other aquatic life leading to a critical reduction in marine resource productivity, (g) recurrent spells of drought as is presently experienced by the entire country, (h) increasing velocity of typhoon winds which result from the absence of windbreakers, (i) the flooding of lowlands and agricultural plains arising from the absence of the absorbent mechanism of forests, (j) the siltation and shortening of the lifespan of multibillion peso dams constructed and operated for the purpose of supplying water for domestic uses, irrigation and the generation of electric power, and (k) the reduction of the earths capacity to process carbon dioxide gases which had led to perplexing and catastrophic climatic changes such as the phenomenon of global warming, otherwise known as the greenhouse effect. Plaintiffs further assert that the adverse and detrimental consequences of continued and deforestation are so capable of unquestionable demonstration that the same may be submitted as a matter of judicial notice. This notwithstanding, they expressed their intention to present expert witnesses as well as documentary, photographic and film evidence in the course of the trial. As their cause of action, they specifically allege that: CAUSE OF ACTION 7. Plaintiffs replead by reference the foregoing allegations. 8. Twenty-five (25) years ago, the Philippines had some sixteen (16) million hectares of rainforests constituting roughly 53% of the countrys land mass. 9. Satellite images taken in 1987 reveal that there remained no more than 1.2 million hectares of said rainforests or four per cent (4.0%) of the countrys land area.

10. More recent surveys reveal that a mere 850,000 hectares of virgin old-growth rainforests are left, barely 2.8% of the entire land mass of the Philippine archipelago and about 3.0 million hectares of immature and uneconomical secondary growth forests. 11. Public records reveal that defendants predecessors have granted timber license agreements (TLAs) to various corporations to cut the aggregate area of 3.89 million hectares for commercial logging purposes. A copy of the TLA holders and the corresponding areas covered is hereto attached as Annex A.

12. At the present rate of deforestation, i.e. about 200,000 hectares per annum or 25 hectares per hour nighttime, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays includedthe Philippines will be bereft of forest resources after the end of this ensuing decade, if not earlier. 13. The adverse effects, disastrous consequences, serious injury and irreparable damage of this continued trend of deforestration to the plaintiff minors generation and to generations yet unborn are evident and incontrovertible. As a matter of fact, the environmental damages enumerated in paragraph 6 hereof are already being felt, experienced and suffered by the generation of plaintiff adults. 14. The continued allowance by defendant of TLA holders to cut and deforest the remaining forest stands will work great damage and irreparable injury to plaintiffsespecially plaintiff minors and their successorswho may never see, use, benefit from and enjoy this rare and unique natural resource treasure. This act of defendant constitutes a misappropriation and/or impairment of the natural resource property he holds in trust for the benefit of plaintiff minors and succeeding generations. 15. Plaintiffs have a clear and constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology and are entitled to protection by the State in its capacity as the parens patriae. 16. Plaintiffs have exhausted all administrative remedies with the defendants office. On March 2, 1990, plaintiffs served upon defendant a final demand to cancel all logging permits in the country. A copy of the plaintiffs letter dated March 1, 1990 is hereto attached as Annex B. 17. Defendant, however, fails and refuses to cancel the existing TLAs, to the continuing serious damage and extreme prejudice of plaintiffs. 18. The continued failure and refusal by defendant to cancel the TLAs is an act violative to the rights of plaintiffs, especially plaintiff minors who may be left with a country that is desertified (sic), bare, barren and

101 | P a g e

devoid of the wonderful flora, fauna and indigenous cultures which the Philippines has been abundantly blessed with. 19. Defendants refusal to cancel the aforementioned TLAs is manifestly contrary to the public policy enunciated in the Philippine Environmental Policy which, in pertinent part, states that it is the policy of the State (a) to create, develop, maintain and improve conditions under which man and nature can thrive in productive and enjoyable harmony with each other; (b) to fulfill the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations of Filipinos and; (c) to ensure the attainment of an environmental quality that is conducive to a life of dignity and well being. (P.D. 1151, 6 June 1977) 20. Furthermore, defendants continued refusal to cancel the aforementioned TLAs is contradictory to the Constitutional policy of the State to a. effect a more equitable distribution of opportunities, income and wealth and make full and efficient use of natural resources (sic). (Section 1, Article XII of the Constitution); b. protect the nations marine wealth. (Section 2, ibid); c. conserve and promote the nations cultural heritage and resources (sic). (Section 14, Article XIV, id.); d. protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature. (Section 16, Article II. id.) 21. Finally, defendants act is contrary to the highest law of humankindthe natural lawand violative of plaintiffs right to self-preservation and perpetuation. 22. There is no other plain, speedy and adequate remedy in law other than the instant action to arrest the unabated hemorrhage of the countrys vital life-support systems and continued rape of Mother Earth.6 On 22 June 1990, the original defendant, Secretary Factoran, Jr., filed a Motion to Dismiss the complaint based on two (2) grounds, namely: (1) the plaintiffs have no cause of action against him and (2) the issue raised by the plaintiffs is a political question which properly pertains to the legislative or executive branches of Government. In their 12 July 1990 Opposition to the Motion, the petitioners maintain that (1) the complaint shows a clear and unmistakable cause of action, (2) the motion is dilatory and (3) the action presents a justiciable question as it involves the defendants abuse of discretion. On 18 July 1991, respondent Judge issued an order granting the aforementioned motion to dismiss.7 In the said order, not only was the defendants claimthat the complaint states no cause of action against him and that it

raises a political questionsustained, the respondent Judge further ruled that the granting of the reliefs prayed for would result in the impairment of contracts which is prohibited by the fundamental law of the land. Plaintiffs thus filed the instant special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Revised Rules of Court and ask this Court to rescind and set aside the dismissal order on the ground that the respondent Judge gravely abused his discretion in dismissing the action. Again, the parents of the plaintiffs-minors not only represent their children, but have also joined the latter in this case.8 On 14 May 1992, We resolved to give due course to the petition and required the parties to submit their respective Memoranda after the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) filed a Comment in behalf of the respondents and the petitioners filed a reply thereto. Petitioners contend that the complaint clearly and unmistakably states a cause of action as it contains sufficient allegations concerning their right to a sound environment based on Articles 19, 20 and 21 of the Civil Code (Human Relations), Section 4 of Executive Order (E.O.) No. 192 creating the DENR, Section 3 of Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 1151 (Philippine Environmental Policy), Section 16, Article II of the 1987 Constitution recognizing the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology, the concept of generational genocide in Criminal Law and the concept of mans inalienable right to self-preservation and self-perpetuation embodied in natural law. Petitioners likewise rely on the respondents correlative obligation, per Section 4 of E.O. No. 192, to safeguard the peoples right to a healthful environment. It is further claimed that the issue of the respondent Secretarys alleged grave abuse of discretion in granting Timber License Agreements (TLAs) to cover more areas for logging than what is available involves a judicial question. Anent the invocation by the respondent Judge of the Constitutions non-impairment clause, petitioners maintain that the same does not apply in this case because TLAs are not contracts. They likewise submit that even if TLAs may be considered protected by the said clause, it is well settled that they may still be revoked by the State when public interest so requires. On the other hand, the respondents aver that the petitioners failed to allege in their complaint a specific legal right violated by the respondent Secretary for which any relief is provided by law. They see nothing in the complaint but vague and nebulous allegations concerning an environmental right which supposedly e ntitles the petitioners to the protection by the state in its capacity as parens patriae. Such allegations, according to them, do not reveal a valid cause of action. They then reiterate the theory that the question of whether logging should be permitted in the country is a political question which should be properly addressed to the executive or legislative branches of Government. They therefore assert that the petitioners recourse is not to file an action to court, but to lobby before Congress for the passage of a bill that would ban logging totally. As to the matter of the cancellation of the TLAs, respondents submit that the same cannot be done by the State without due process of law. Once issued, a TLA remains effective for a certain period of time usually for

102 | P a g e

twenty-five (25) years. During its effectivity, the same can neither be revised nor cancelled unless the holder has been found, after due notice and hearing, to have violated the terms of the agreement or other forestry laws and regulations. Petitioners proposition to have all the TLAs indiscriminately cancelled without the requisite hearing would be violative of the requirements of due process. Before going any further, We must first focus on some procedural matters. Petitioners instituted Civil Case No. 90-777 as a class suit. The original defendant and the present respondents did not take issue with this matter. Nevertheless, We hereby rule that the said civil case is indeed a class suit. The subject matter of the complaint is of common and general interest not just to several, but to all citizens of the Philippines. Consequently, since the parties are so numerous, it becomes impracticable, if not totally impossible, to bring all of them before the court. We likewise declare that the plaintiffs therein are numerous and representative enough to ensure the full protection of all concerned interests. Hence, all the requisites for the filing of a valid class suit under Section 12, Rule 3 of the Revised Rules of Court are present both in the said civil case and in the instant petition, the latter being but an incident to the former. This case, however, has a special and novel element. Petitioners minors assert that they represent their generation as well as generations yet unborn. We find no difficulty in ruling that they can, for themselves, for others of their generation and for the succeeding generations, file a class suit. Their personality to sue in behalf of the succeeding generations can only be based on the concept of intergenerational responsibility insofar as the right to a balanced and healthful ecology is concerned. Such a right, as hereinafter expounded, considers the rhythm and harmony of nature. Nature means the created world in its entirety.9 Such rhythm and harmony indispensably includ e, inter alia, the judicious disposition, utilization, management, renewal and conservation of the countrys forest, mineral, land, waters, fisheries, wildlife, off-shore areas and other natural resources to the end that their exploration, development and utilization be equitably accessible to the present as well as future generations.10 Needless to say, every generation has a responsibility to the next to preserve that rhythm and harmony for the full enjoyment of a balanced and healthful ecology. Put a little differently, the minors assertion of their right to a sound environment constitutes, at the same time, the performance of their obligation to ensure the protection of that right for the generations to come. The locus standi of the petitioners having thus been addressed, We shall now proceed to the merits of the petition. After a careful perusal of the complaint in question and a meticulous consideration and evaluation of the issues raised and arguments adduced by the parties, We do not hesitate to find for the petitioners and rule against the respondent Judges challenged order for having been issued with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction. The pertinent portions of the said order read as follows: xxx After a careful and circumspect evaluation of the Complaint, the Court cannot help but agree with the defendant. For although we believe that plaintiffs have but the noblest of all intentions, it (sic) feel short of alleging, with sufficient definiteness, a specific legal right they are seeking to enforce and protect, or a specific legal wrong they

are seeking to prevent and redress (Sec. 1, Rule 2, RRC). Furthermore, the Court notes that the Complaint is replete with vague assumptions and vague conclusions based on unverified data. In fine, plaintiffs fail to state a cause of action in its Complaint against the herein defendant. Furthermore, the Court firmly believes that the matter before it, being impressed with political color and involving a matter of public policy, may not be taken cognizance of by this Court without doing violence to the sacred principle of Separation of Powers of the three (3) co -equal branches of the Government. The Court is likewise of the impression that it cannot, no matter how we stretch our jurisdiction, grant the reliefs prayed for by the plaintiffs, i.e., to cancel all existing timber license agreements in the country and to cease and desist from receiving, accepting, processing renewing or approving new timber license agreements. For to do otherwise would amount to impairment of contracts abhored (sic) by the fundamental law.11 We do not agree with the trial courts conclusion that the plaintiffs failed to allege with sufficient definiteness a specific legal right involved or a specific legal wrong committed, and that the complaint is replete with vague assumptions and conclusions based on unverified data. A reading of the complaint itself belies these conclusions. The complaint focuses on one specific fundamental legal rightthe right to a balanced and healthful ecology which, for the first time in our nations constitutional history, is solemnly incorporated in the fundamental law. Section 16, Article II of the 1987 Constitution explicitly provides: SEC. 16. The State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature. This right unites with the right to health which is provided for in the preceding section of the same article: SEC. 15. The State shall protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness among them. While the right to a balanced and healthful ecology is to be found under the Declaration of Principles and State Policies and not under the Bill of Rights, it does not follow that it is less important than any of the civil and political rights enumerated in the latter. Such a right belongs to a different category of rights altogether for it concerns nothing less than self-preservation and self-perpetuationaptly and fittingly stressed by the petitionersthe advancement of which may even be said to predate all governments and constitutions. As a matter of fact, these basic rights need not even be written in the Constitution for they are assumed to exist from the inception of humankind. If they are now explicitly mentioned in the fundamental charter, it is because of the wellfounded fear of its framers that unless the rights to a balanced and healthful ecology and to health are mandated as state policies by the Constitution itself, thereby highlighting their continuing importance and imposing upon the state a solemn obligation to preserve the first and protect and advance the second, the day would not be too far when all else would be lost not only for the present generation, but also for those to comegenerations which stand to inherit nothing but parched earth incapable of sustaining life.

103 | P a g e

The right to a balanced and healthful ecology carries with it the correlative duty to refrain from impairing the environment. During the debates on this right in one of the plenary sessions of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, the following exchange transpired between Commissioner Wilfrido Villacorta and Commissioner Adolfo Azcuna who sponsored the section in question: MR. VILLACORTA: Does this section mandate the State to provide sanctions against all forms of pollution air, water and noise pollution? MR. AZCUNA: Yes, Madam President. The right to healthful (sic) environment necessarily carries with it the correlative duty of not impairing the same and, therefore, sanctions may be prov ided for impairment of environmental balance.12 The said right implies, among many other things, the judicious management and conservation of the countrys forests. Without such forests, the ecological or environmental balance would be irreversibly disrupted. Conformably with the enunciated right to a balanced and healthful ecology and the right to health, as well as the other related provisions of the Constitution concerning the conservation, development and utilization of the countrys natural resources,13 then President Corazon C. Aquino promulgated on 10 June 1987 E.O. No. 192,14 Section 4 of which expressly mandates that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources shall be the primary government agency responsible for the conservation, management, development and proper use of the countrys environment and natural resources, specifically forest and grazing lands, mineral resources, including those in reservation and watershed areas, and lands of the public domain, as well as the licensing and regulation of all natural resources as may be provided for by law in order to ensure equitable sharing of the benefits derived therefrom for the welfare of the present and future generations of Filipinos. Section 3 thereof makes the following statement of policy: SEC. 3. Declaration of Policy.It is hereby declared the policy of the State to ensure the sustainable use, development, management, renewal, and conservation of the countrys forest, mineral, land, offshore areas and other natural resources, including the protection and enhancement of the quality of the environment, and equitable access of the different segments of the population to the development and use of the countrys natural resources, not only for the present generation but for future generations as well. It is also the policy of the state to recognize and apply a true value system including social and environmental cost implications relative to their utilization, development and conservation of our natural resources. This policy declaration is substantially re-stated in Title XIV, Book IV of the Administrative Code of 1987,15 specifically in Section 1 thereof which reads: SEC. 1. Declaration of Policy.(1) The State shall ensure, for the benefit of the Filipino people, the full exploration and development as well as the judicious disposition, utilization, management, renewal and

conservation of the countrys forest, mineral, land, waters, fisheries, wildlife, off-shore areas and other natural resources, consistent with the necessity of maintaining a sound ecological balance and protecting and enhancing the quality of the environment and the objective of making the exploration, development and utilization of such natural resources equitably accessible to the different segments of the present as well as future generations. (2) The State shall likewise recognize and apply a true value system that takes into account social and environmental cost implications relative to the utilization, development and conservation of our natural resources. The above provision stresses the necessity of maintaining a sound ecological balance and protecting and enhancing the quality of the environment. Section 2 of the same Title, on the other hand, specifically speaks of the mandate of the DENR; however, it makes particular reference to the fact of the agencys being subject to law and higher authority. Said section provides: SEC. 2. Mandate.(1) The Department of Environment and Natural Resources shall be primarily responsible for the implementation of the foregoing policy. (2) It shall, subject to law and higher authority, be in charge of carrying out the States constitutional mandate to control and supervise the exploration, development, utilization, and conservation of the countrys natural resources. Both E.O. No. 192 and the Administrative Code of 1987 have set the objectives which will serve as the bases for policy formulation, and have defined the powers and functions of the DENR. It may, however, be recalled that even before the ratification of the 1987 Constitution, specific statutes already paid special attention to the environmental right of the present and future generations. On 6 June 1977, P.D. No. 1151 (Philippine Environmental Policy) and P.D. No. 1152 (Philippine Environment Code) were issued. The former declared a continuing policy of the State (a) to create, develop, maintain and improve conditions under which man and nature can thrive in productive and enjoyable harmony with each other, (b) to fulfill the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations of Filipinos, and (c) to insure the attainment of an environmental quality that is conducive to a life of dignity and well-being.16 As its goal, it speaks of the responsibilities of each generation as trustee and guardian of the environment for succeeding generations.17 The latter statute, on the other hand, gave flesh to the said policy. Thus, the right of the petitioners (and all those they represent) to a balanced and healthful ecology is as clear as the DENRs dutyunder its mandate and by virtue of its powers and functions under E.O. No. 192 and the Administrative Code of 1987to protect and advance the said right. A denial or violation of that right by the other who has the correlative duty or obligation to respect or protect the same gives rise to a cause of action. Petitioners maintain that the granting of the TLAs, which they claim was done

104 | P a g e

with grave abuse of discretion, violated their right to a balanced and healthful ecology; hence, the full protection thereof requires that no further TLAs should be renewed or granted. A cause of action is defined as: x x x an act or omission of one party in violation of the legal right or rights of the other; and its essential elements are legal right of the plaintiff, correlative obligation of the defendant, and act or omission of the defendant in violation of said legal right.18 It is settled in this jurisdiction that in a motion to dismiss based on the ground that the complaint fails to state a cause of action,19 the question submitted to the court for resolution involves the sufficiency of the facts alleged in the complaint itself. No other matter should be considered; furthermore, the truth of falsity of the said allegations is beside the point for the truth thereof is deemed hypothetically admitted. The only issue to be resolved in such a case is: admitting such alleged facts to be true, may the court render a valid judgment in accordance with the prayer in the complaint?20 In Militante vs. Edrosolano,21 this Court laid down the rule that the judiciary should exercise the utmost care and circumspection in passing upon a motion to dismiss on the ground of the absence thereof [cause of action] lest, by its failure to manifest a correct appreciation of the facts alleged and deemed hypothetically admitted, what the law grants or recognizes is effectively nullified. If that happens, there is a blot on the legal order. The law itself stands in disrepute. After a careful examination of the petitioners complaint, We find the statements und er the introductory affirmative allegations, as well as the specific averments under the sub-heading CAUSE OF ACTION, to be adequate enough to show, prima facie, the claimed violation of their rights. On the basis thereof, they may thus be granted, wholly or partly, the reliefs prayed for. It bears stressing, however, that insofar as the cancellation of the TLAs is concerned, there is the need to implead, as party defendants, the grantees thereof for they are indispensable parties. The foregoing considered, Civil Case No. 90-777 cannot be said to raise a political question. Policy formulation or determination by the executive or legislative branches of Government is not squarely put in issue. What is principally involved is the enforcement of a right vis-a-vis policies already formulated and expressed in legislation. It must, nonetheless, be emphasized that the political question doctrine is no longer the insurmountable obstacle to the exercise of judicial power or the impenetrable shield that protects executive and legislative actions from judicial inquiry or review. The second paragraph of section 1, Article VIII of the Constitution states that: Judicial power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which a re legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government. Commenting on this provision in his book, Philippine Political Law,22 Mr. Justice Isagani A. Cruz, a distinguished member of this Court, says:

The first part of the authority represents the traditional concept of judicial power, involving the settlement of conflicting rights as conferred as law. The second part of the authority represents a broadening of judicial power to enable the courts of justice to review what was before forbidden territory, to wit, the discretion of the political departments of the government. As worded, the new provision vests in the judiciary, and particularly the Supreme Court, the power to rule upon even the wisdom of the decisions of the executive and the legislature and to declare their acts invalid for lack or excess of jurisdiction because tainted with grave abuse of discretion. The catch, of course, is the meaning of grave abuse of discretion, which is a very elastic phrase that can expand or contract according to the disposition of the judiciary. In Daza vs. Singson,23 Mr. Justice Cruz, now speaking for this Court, noted: In the case now before us, the jurisdictional objection becomes even less tenable and decisive. The reason is that, even if we were to assume that the issue presented before us was political in nature, we would still not be precluded from resolving it under the expanded jurisdiction conferred upon us that now covers, in proper cases, even the political question. Article VII, Section 1, of the Constitution clearly provides: x x x. The last ground invoked by the trial court in dismissing the complaint is the non-impairment of contracts clause found in the Constitution. The court a quo declared that: The Court is likewise of the impression that it cannot, no matter how we stretch our jurisdiction, grant the reliefs prayed for by the plaintiffs, i.e., to cancel all existing timber license agreements in the country and to cease and desist from receiving, accepting, processing, renewing or approving new timber license agreements. For to do otherwise would amount to impairment of contracts abhored (sic) by the fundamental law.24 We are not persuaded at all; on the contrary, We are amazed, if not shocked, by such a sweeping pronouncement. In the first place, the respondent Secretary did not, for obvious reasons, even invoke in his motion to dismiss the non-impairment clause. If he had done so, he would have acted with utmost infidelity to the Government by providing undue and unwarranted benefits and advantages to the timber license holders because he would have forever bound the Government to strictly respect the said licenses according to their terms and conditions regardless of changes in policy and the demands of public interest and welfare. He was aware that as correctly pointed out by the petitioners, into every timber license must be read Section 20 of the Forestry Reform Code (P.D. No. 705) which provides: x x x Provided, That when the national interest so requires, the President may amend, modify, replace or rescind any contract, concession, permit, licenses or any other form of privilege granted herein x x x. Needless to say, all licenses may thus be revoked or rescinded by executive action. It is not a contract, property or a property right protected by the due process clause of the Constitution. In Tan vs. Director of Forestry,25 this Court held:

105 | P a g e

x x x A timber license is an instrument by which the State regulates the utilization and disposition of forest resources to the end that public welfare is promoted. A timber license is not a contract within the purview of the due process clause; it is only a license or privilege, which can be validly withdrawn whenever dictated by public interest or public welfare as in this case. A license is merely a permit or privilege to do what otherwise would be unlawful, and is not a contract between the authority, federal, state, or municipal, granting it and the person to whom it is granted; neither is it property or a property right, nor does it create a vested right; nor is it taxation (37 C.J. 168). Thus, this Court held that the granting of license does not create irrevocable rights, neither is it property or property rights (People vs. Ong Tin, 54 O.G. 7576). x x x We reiterated this pronouncement in Felipe Ysmael, Jr. & Co., Inc. vs. Deputy Executive Secretary:26 x x x Timber licenses, permits and license agreements are the principal instruments by which the State regulates the utilization and disposition of forest resources to the end that public welfare is promoted. And it can hardly be gainsaid that they merely evidence a privilege granted by the State to qualified entities, and do not vest in the latter a permanent or irrevocable right to the particular concession area and the forest products therein. They may be validly amended, modified, replaced or rescinded by the Chief Executive when national interests so require. Thus, they are not deemed contracts within the purview of the due process of law clause [See Sections 3(ee) and 20 of Pres. Decree No. 705, as amended. Also, Tan v. Director of Forestry, G.R. No. L-24548, October 27, 1983, 125 SCRA 302]. Since timber licenses are not contracts, the non-impairment clause, which reads: SEC. 10. No law impairing, the obligation of contracts shall be passed.27

The reason for this is emphatically set forth in Nebia vs. New York,29 quoted in Philippine American Life Insurance Co. vs. Auditor General,30 to wit: Under our form of government the use of property and the making of contracts are normally matters of private and not of public concern. The general rule is that both shall be free of governmental interference. But neither property rights nor contract rights are absolute; for government cannot exist if the citizen may at will use his property to the detriment of his fellows, or exercise his freedom of contract to work them harm. Equally fundamental with the private right is that of the public to regulate it in the common interest.

In short, the non-impairment clause must yield to the police power of the state.31 Finally, it is difficult to imagine, as the trial court did, how the non-impairment clause could apply with respect to the prayer to .enjoin the respondent Secretary from receiving, accepting, processing, renewing or approving new timber licenses for, save in cases of renewal, no contract would have as of yet existed in the other instances. Moreover, with respect to renewal, the holder is not entitled to it as a matter of right. WHEREFORE, being impressed with merit, the instant Petition is hereby GRANTED, and the challenged Order of respondent Judge of 18 July 1991 dismissing Civil Case No. 90-777 is hereby set aside. The petitioners may therefore amend their complaint to implead as defendants the holders or grantees of the questioned timber license agreements. No pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED.

cannot be invoked. In the second place, even if it is to be assumed that the same are contracts, the instant case does not involve a law or even an executive issuance declaring the cancellation or modification of existing timber licenses. Hence, the non-impairment clause cannot as yet be invoked. Nevertheless, granting further that a law has actually been passed mandating cancellations or modifications, the same cannot still be stigmatized as a violation of the nonimpairment clause. This is because by its very nature and purpose, such a law could have only been passed in the exercise of the police power of the state for the purpose of advancing the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology, promoting their health and enhancing the general welfare. In Abe vs. Foster Wheeler Corp.,28 this Court stated: The freedom of contract, under our system of government, is not meant to be absolute. The same is understood to be subject to reasonable legislative regulation aimed at the promotion of public health, moral, safety and welfare. In other words, the constitutional guaranty of non-impairment of obligations of contract is limited by the exercise of the police power of the State, in the interest of public health, safety, moral and general welfare.

Cruz, Padilla, Bidin, Grio-Aquino, Regalado, Romero, Nocon, Bellosillo, Melo and Quiason, JJ., concur. Narvasa (C.J.), No part; related to one of the parties. Feliciano, J., Please see separate opinion concurring in the result. Puno, J., No part in the deliberations. Vitug, J., No part; I was not yet with the Court when the case was deliberated upon. FELICIANO, J.: Concurring in the result I join in the result reached by my distinguished brother in the Court, Davide, Jr., J., in this case which, to my mind, is one of the most important cases decided by this Court in the last few years. The seminal principles laid down in this decision are likely to influence profoundly the direction and course of the protection and management of the

106 | P a g e

environment, which of course embraces the utilization of all the natural resources in the territorial base of our polity. I have therefore sought to clarify, basically to myself, what the Court appears to be saying. The Court explicitly states that petitioners have the locus standi necessary to sustain the bringing and maintenance of this suit (Decision, pp. 11-12). Locus standi is not a function of petitioners claim that their suit is properly regarded as a class suit. I understand locus standi to refer to the legal interest which a plaintiff must have in the subject matter of the suit. Because of the very broadness of the concept of class here involvedmembership in this class appears to embrace everyone living in the country whether now or in the futureit appears to me that everyone who may be expected to benefit from the course of action petitioners seek to require public respondents to take, is vested with the necessary locus standi. The Court may be seen therefore to be recognizing a beneficiaries right of action in the field of environmental protection, as against both the public administrative agency directly concerned and the private persons or entities operating in the field or sector of activity involved. Whether such a beneficiaries right of action may be found under any and all circumstances, or whether some failure to act, in the first instance, on the part of the governmental agency concerned must be shown (prior exhaustion of administrative remedies), is not discussed in the decision and presumably is left for future determination in an appropriate ca se. The Court has also declared that the complaint has alleged and focused upon one specific fundamental legal rightthe right to a balanced and healthful ecology (Decision, p. 14). There is no question that the right to a balanced and healthful ecology is fundamental and that, accordingly, it has been constitutionalized. But although it is fundamental in character, I suggest, with very great respect, that it cannot be characterized as specific, without doing excessive violence to language. It is in fact very difficult to fashion language more comprehensive in scope and generalized in character than a right to a balanced and healthful ecology. The list of particular claims which can be subsumed under this rubric appears to be entirely open-ended: prevention and control of emission of toxic fumes and smoke from factories and motor vehicles; of discharge of oil, chemical effluents, garbage and raw sewage into rivers, inland and coastal waters by vessels, oil rigs, factories, mines and whole communities; of dumping of organic and inorganic wastes on open land, streets and thoroughfares; failure to rehabilitate land after stripmining or open-pit mining; kaingin or slash-and-burn farming; destruction of fisheries, coral reefs and other living sea resources through the use of dynamite or cyanide and other chemicals; contamination of ground water resources; loss of certain species of fauna and flora; and so on. The other statements pointed out by the Court: Section 3, Executive Order No. 192 dated 10 June 1987; Section 1, Title XIV, Book IV of the 1987 Administrative Code; and P.D. No. 1151, dated 6 June 1977 all appear to be formulations of policy, as general and abstract as the constitutional statements of basic policy in Article II, Sections 16 (the rightto a balanced and healthful ecology) and 15 (the right to health). P.D. No. 1152, also dated 6 June 1977, entitled The Philippine Environment Code, is, upon the other hand, a compendious collection of more specific environment management policies and environment quality standards (fourth Whereas clause, Preamble) relating to an extremely wide range of topics: (a) air quality management;

(b) water quality management: (c) land use management; (d) natural resources management and conservation embracing: (i) fisheries and aquatic resources; (ii) wild life; (iii) forestry and soil conservation; (iv) flood control and natural calamities; (v) energy development; (vi) conservation and utilization of surface and ground water (vii) mineral resources Two (2) points are worth making in this connection. Firstly, neither petitioners nor the Court has identified the particular provision or provisions (if any) of the Philippine Environment Code which give rise to a specific legal right which petitioners are seeking to enforce. Secondly, the Philippine Environment Code identifies with notable care the particular government agency charged with the formulation and implementation of guidelines and programs dealing with each of the headings and sub-headings mentioned above. The Philippine Environment Code does not, in other words, appear to contemplate action on the part of private persons who are beneficiaries of implementation of that Code. As a matter of logic, by finding petitioners cause of action as anchored on a legal right comprised in the constitutional statements above noted, the Court is in effect saying that Section 15 (and Section 16) of Article II of the Constitution are self-executing and judicially enforceable even in their present form. The implications of this doctrine will have to be explored in future cases; those implications are too large and far-reaching in nature even to be hinted at here. My suggestion is simply that petitioners must, before the trial court, show a more specific legal right a right cast in language of a significantly lower order of generality than Article II (15) of the Constitution that is or may be violated by the actions, or failures to act, imputed to the public respondent by petitioners so that the trial court can validly render judgment granting all or part of the relief prayed for. To my mind, the Court should be understood as simply saying that such a more specific legal right or rights may well exist in our corpus of law, considering the general policy principles found in the Constitution and the existence of the Philippine Environment Code, and that

107 | P a g e

the trial court should have given petitioners an effective opportunity so to demonstrate, instead of aborting the proceedings on a motion to dismiss. It seems to me important that the legal right which is an essential component of a cause of action be a specific, operable legal right, rather than a constitutional or statutory policy, for at least two (2) reasons. One is that unless the legal right claimed to have been violated or disregarded is given specification in operational terms, defendants may well be unable to defend themselves intelligently and effectively; in other words, there are due process dimensions to this matter. The second is a broader-gauge considerationwhere a specific violation of law or applicable regulation is not alleged or proved, petitioners can be expected to fall back on the expanded conception of judicial power in the second paragraph of Section 1 of Article VIII of the Constitution which reads: Section 1. x x x Judicial power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government. (Emphases supplied) When substantive standards as general as the right to a balanced and healthy ecology and the right to health are combined with remedial standards as broad ranging as a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, the result will be, it is respectfully submitted, to propel courts into the uncharted ocean of social and economic policy making. At least in respect of the vast area of environmental protection and management, our courts have no claim to special technical competence and experience and professional qualification. Where no specific, operable norms and standards are shown to exist, then the policy making departmentsthe legislative and executive departmentsmust be given a real and effective opportunity to fashion and promulgate those norms and standards, and to implement them before the courts should intervene. My learned brother Davide, Jr., J., rightly insists that the timber companies, whose concession agreements or TLAs petitioners demand public respondents should cancel, must be impleaded in the proceedings below. It might be asked that, if petitioners entitlement to the relief demanded is not dependent upon proof of breach by the timber companies of one or more of the specific terms and conditions of their concession agreements (and this, petitioners implicitly assume), what will those companies litigate about? The answer I suggest is that they may seek to dispute the existence of the specific legal right petitioners should allege, as well as the reality of the claimed factual nexus between petitioners specific legal rights and the claimed wrongful acts or failures to act of public respondent administrative agency. They may also controvert the appropriateness of the remedy or remedies demanded by petitioners, under all the circumstances which exist.

I vote to grant the Petition for Certiorari because the protection of the environment, including the forest cover of our territory, is of extreme importance for the country. The doctrines set out in the Courts decision issued today should, however, be subjected to closer examination. Petition granted. Challenged order set aside.

108 | P a g e