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Oposa vs. Factoran Case Digest (G.R. No.

101083, J uly 30, 1993)



FACTS:
The plaintiffs in this case are all minors duly represented and joined by their
parents. The first complaint was filed as a taxpayer's class suit at the Branch
66 (Makati, Metro Manila), of the Regional Trial Court, National capital
J udicial Region against defendant (respondent) Secretary of the Department
of Environment and Natural Reasources (DENR). Plaintiffs alleged that
they are entitled to the full benefit, use and enjoyment of the natural
resource treasure that is the country's virgin tropical forests. They further
asseverate that they represent their generation as well as generations yet
unborn and asserted that continued deforestation have caused a distortion
and disturbance of the ecological balance and have resulted in a host of
environmental tragedies.

Plaintiffs prayed that judgement be rendered ordering the respondent, his
agents, representatives and other persons acting in his behalf to cancel all
existing Timber License Agreement (TLA) in the country and to cease and
desist from receiving, accepting, processing, renewing or approving new
TLAs.

Defendant, on the other hand, filed a motion to dismiss on the ground that
the complaint had no cause of action against him and that it raises a political
question.

The RTC Judge sustained the motion to dismiss, further ruling that granting
of the relief prayed for would result in the impairment of contracts which is
prohibited by the Constitution.

Plaintiffs (petitioners) thus filed the instant special civil action for certiorari
and asked the court to rescind and set aside the dismissal order on the
ground that the respondent RTC J udge gravely abused his discretion in
dismissing the action.

ISSUES:

(1) Whether or not the plaintiffs have a cause of action.
(2) Whether or not the complaint raises a political issue.
(3) Whether or not the original prayer of the plaintiffs result in the
impairment of contracts.

RULING:

First Issue: Cause of Action.

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. The Court did not agree with this. The complaint
focuses on one fundamental legal right -- the right to a balanced and
healthful ecology which is incorporated in Section 16 Article II of the
Constitution. The said right carries with it the duty to refrain from impairing
the environment and implies, among many other things, the judicious
management and conservation of the country's forests. Section 4 of E.O.
192 expressly mandates the DENR to be the primary government agency
responsible for the governing and supervising the exploration, utilization,
development and conservation of the country's natural resources. The policy
declaration of E.O. 192 is also substantially re-stated in Title XIV Book IV
of the Administrative Code of 1987. Both E.O. 192 and Administrative
Code of 1987 have set the objectives which will serve as the bases for
policy formation, and have defined the powers and functions of the DENR.
Thus, right of the petitioners (and all those they represent) to a balanced and
healthful ecology is as clear as DENR's duty to 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 or respect the same gives rise to a cause
of action. Petitioners maintain that the granting of the TLA, which they
claim was done with grave abuse of discretion, violated their right to a
balance and healthful ecology. Hence, the full protection thereof requires
that no further TLAs should be renewed or granted.

After careful examination of the petitioners' complaint, the Court finds it to
be adequate enough to show, prima facie, the claimed violation of their
rights.


Second Issue: Political Issue.

Second paragraph, Section 1 of Article VIII of the constitution provides for
the expanded jurisdiction vested upon the Supreme Court. It allows the
Court to rule upon even on the wisdom of the decision of the Executive and
Legislature and to declare their acts as invalid for lack or excess of
jurisdiction because it is tainted with grave abuse of discretion.


Third Issue: Violation of the non-impairment clause.

The Court held that the Timber License Agreement is an instrument by
which the state regulates the utilization and disposition of forest resources
to the end that public welfare is promoted. It is not a contract within the
purview of the due process clause thus, the non-impairment clause cannot
be invoked. It can be validly withdraw whenever dictated by public interest
or public welfare as in this case. The granting of license does not create
irrevocable rights, neither is it property or property rights.

Moreover, the constitutional guaranty of non-impairment of obligations of
contract is limit by the exercise by the police power of the State, in the
interest of public health, safety, moral and general welfare. In short, the
non-impairment clause must yield to the police power of the State.

The instant petition, being impressed with merit, is hereby GRANTED and
the RTC decision is SET ASIDE.