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G.R. No.

110249 August 21, 1997


ALFREDO TANO, BALDOMERO TANO, DANILO TANO, ROMUALDO TANO, TEOCENES MIDELLO, ANGEL DE
MESA, EULOGIO TREMOCHA, FELIE ONGONION, !R., ANDRES LINI!AN, ROBERT LIM, "IRGINIA LIM,
FELIMON DE MESA, GENEROSO ARAGON, TEODORICO ANDRE, ROMULO DEL ROSARIO, CHOLITO
ANDRE, ERIC# MONTANO, ANDRES OLI"A, "ITTORIO SAL"ADOR, LEOOLDO ARAGON, RAFAEL RIBA,
ALE!ANDRO LEONILA, !OSE DAMACINTO, RAMIRO MANAEG, RUBEN MARGATE, ROBERTO RE$ES,
DANILO ANGARUTAN, NOE GOLAN, ESTANISLAO ROMERO, NICANOR DOMINGO, ROLDAN TABANG,
ADRIANO TABANG, FREDDIE SACAMA$, MIGUEL TRIMOCHA, ACENCIO LABABIT, ABLO H. OMAD,
CELESTINO A. ABANO, ALLAN ALMODAI, BILL$ D. BARTOLA$, ALBINO D. LI%UE, MECHOR !. LA$SON,
MELANIE AMANTE, CLARO E. $ATOC, MERGELDO B. BALDEO, EDGAR M. ALMASETA, !OSELITO
MANAEG, LIBERATO ANDRADA, !R., ROBERTO BERR$, RONALD "ILLANUE"A, EDUARDO "ALMORIA,
&ILFREDO MENDO'A, NAOLEON BABANGGA, ROBERTO TADEA, RUBEN ASINGUA, SIL"ERIO GABO,
!ERR$ ROMERO, DA"ID ANGGARUTAN, DANIEL ANGGARUTAN, ROMEO AGA&IN, FERNANDO E%UI',
DITO LE%UI', RONILO MODERABLE, BENEDICTO TORRES, ROSITO A. "ALDE', CRESENCIO A. SA$ANG,
NICOMEDES S. ACOSTA, ERENEO A. SEGARINO, !R., &ILFREDO A. RAUTO, DIOSDADO A. ACOSTA,
BONIFACIO G. SISMO, TACIO ALUBA, DANIEL B. BATER'AL, ELISEO $BA(E', DIOSDADO E. HANCHIC,
EDDIE ESCALICAS, ELEA'AR B. BATER'AL, DOMINADOR HALICHIC, ROOSE"ELT RISMO)AN, ROBERT C.
MERCADER, TIRSO ARESGADO, DANIEL CHA"E', DANILO CHA"E', "ICTOR "ILLAROEL, ERNESTO C.
$BA(E', ARMANDO T. SANTILLAN, RUD$ S. SANTILLAN, !OD!EN ILUSTRISIMO, NESTOR SALANGRON,
ALBERTO SALANGRON, ROGER L. RO*AS, FRANCISCO T. ANTICANO, ASTOR SALANGRON,
BIEN"ENIDO SANTILLAN, GILBUENA LADD$, FIDEL BEN!AMIN, !O"ELITO BELGANO, HONE$ ARIOL,
ANTONIO SALANGRON, NICASIO SALANGRON, + AIRLINE SHIERS ASSOCIATION OF
ALA&AN, petitioners,
vs.
HON. GO". SAL"ADOR . SOCRATES, MEMBERS OF SANGGUNIANG ANLALA&IGAN OF ALA&AN,
,-./01, "ICE)GO"ERNOR !OEL T. RE$ES, !OSE D. 'ABALA, ROSALINO R. ACOSTA, !OSELITO A.
CADLAON, ANDRES R. BAACO, NELSON . ENE$RA, CIRIANO C. BARROMA, CLARO E. ORDINARIO,
ERNESTO A. LLACUNA, RODOLFO C. FLORDELI'A, GILBERT S. BAACO, &INSTON G. AR'AGA,
NAOLEON F. ORDONE' -,2 GIL . ACOSTA, CIT$ MA$OR ED&ARD HAGEDORN, MEMBERS OF
SANGGUNIANG ANLUNGSOD NG UERTO RINCESA, ALL MEMBERS OF BANTA$ DAGAT, MEMBERS OF
HILIINE NATIONAL OLICE OF ALA&AN, RO"INCIAL AND CIT$ ROSECUTORS OF ALA&AN -,2
UERTO RINCESA CIT$, -,2 ALL !UDGES OF ALA&AN, REGIONAL, MUNICIAL AND
METROOLITAN, respondents.
DA"IDE, !R., J.:
Petitioners caption their petition as one for "Certiorari, Injunction With Preliminary and Mandatory Injunction, with
Prayer for Temporary Restraining rder" and pray that this !ourt" #$% declare as unconstitutional" #a% rdinance &o.
$'()*, dated $' +ecem,er $))*, of the -angguniang Panglungsod of Puerto Princesa. #,% ffice rder &o. */,
-eries of $))/, dated ** 0anuary $))/, issued ,y 1cting !ity Mayor 1mado 2. 2ucero of Puerto Princesa !ity. and
#c% Resolution &o. //, rdinance &o. *, -eries of $))/, dated $) 3e,ruary $))/, of the -angguniang Panlalawigan
of Palawan. #*% enjoin the enforcement thereof. and #/% restrain respondents Provincial and !ity Prosecutors of
Palawan and Puerto Princesa !ity and 0udges of the Regional Trial !ourts, Metropolitan Trial !ourts 1 and
Municipal !ircuit Trial !ourts in Palawan from assuming jurisdiction over and hearing cases concerning the violation
of the rdinances and of the ffice rder.
More appropriately, the petition is, and shall ,e treated as, a special civil action for certiorari and prohi,ition.
The following is petitioners4 summary of the factual antecedents giving rise to the petition"
$. n +ecem,er $', $))*, the -angguniang Panlungsod ng Puerto Princesa !ity enacted rdinance &o.
$'()* which too5 effect on 0anuary $, $))/ entitled" "1& R+I&1&!6 71&&I&8 T96 -9IPM6&T 3
122 2I:6 3I-9 1&+ 27-T6R ;T-I+6 P;6RT PRI&!6-1 !IT< 3RM 01&;1R< $, $))/ T
01&;1R< $, $))= 1&+ PR:I+I&8 6>6MPTI&-, P6&12TI6- 1&+ 3R T96R P;RP-6-
T96R63", the full te?t of which reads as follows"
-ec. $. Title of the Ordinance. @ This rdinance is entitled" 1& R+I&1&!6
71&&I&8 T96 -9IPM6&T 3 122 2I:6 3I-9 1&+ 27-T6R ;T-I+6 P;6RT
PRI&!6-1 !IT< 3RM 01&;1R< $, $))/ T 01&;1R< $, $))= 1&+ PR:I+I&8
6>6MPTI&-, P6&12TI6- 1&+ 3R T96R P;RP-6- T96R63.
-ec. *. Purpose, Scope and Coverage. @ To effectively free our !ity -ea Waters from
!yanide and other ,no?ious su,stanceAsB, and shall cover all persons andCor entities
operating within and outside the !ity of Puerto Princesa who is are #sic% directly or
indirectly in the ,usiness or shipment of live fish and lo,ster outside the !ity.
-ec. /. Definition of terms. @ 3or purpose of this rdinance the following are here,y
defined"
1. SEA BASS @ 1 5ind of fish under the family of !entropomidae, ,etter
5nown as 1P191P.
7. CATFIS @ 1 5ind of fish under the family of Plotosidae, ,etter 5nown
as 9IT(9IT.
!. !"DFIS @ 1 5ind of fish under the family of rphicaphalisae ,etter
5nown as +1218.
+. A## #I$E FIS @ 1ll alive, ,reathing not necessarily moving of all
specieAsB useAdB for food and for aDuarium purposes.
6. #I$E #OBSTE% @ -everal relatively, large marine crusteceans AsicB of
the genus 9omarus that are alive and ,reathing not necessarily moving.
-ec. E. It shall ,e unlawful AforB any person or any ,usiness enterprise or company to
ship out from Puerto Princesa !ity to any point of destination either via aircraft or
seacraft of any live fish and lo,ster e?cept -61 71--, !1T3I-9, M;+3I-9, 1&+
MI2F3I-9 3RI6-.
-ec. '. Penalt& Clause. @ 1ny personCs and or ,usiness entity violating this
rdinance shall ,e penaliGed with a fine of not more than P',HHH.HH or imprisonment
of not more than twelve #$*% months, cancellation of their permit to do ,usiness in the
!ity of Puerto Princesa or all of the herein stated penalties, upon the discretion of the
court.
-ec. I. If the owner andCor operator of the esta,lishment found violating the provisions
of this ordinance is a corporation or a partnership, the penalty prescri,ed in -ection '
hereof shall ,e imposed upon its president andCor 8eneral Manager or Managing
Partner andCor Manager, as the case may,e AsicB.
-ec. J. 1ny e?isting ordinance or any provision of any ordinance inconsistent to AsicB
this ordinance is deemed repealed.
-ec. =. This rdinance shall ta5e effect on 0anuary $, $))/.
- R+1I&6+.
??? ??? ???
*. To implement said city ordinance, then 1cting !ity Mayor 1mado 2. 2ucero issued ffice rder &o. */,
-eries of $))/ dated 0anuary **, $))/ which reads as follows"
In the interest of pu,lic service and for purposes of !ity rdinance &o. P+ E*I($E(JE, otherwise 5nown as
"1& R+I&1&!6 R6K;IRI&8 1&< P6R-& 6&8186+ R I&T6&+I&8 T 6&8186 I& 1&<
7;-I&6--, TR1+6, !!;P1TI&, !122I&8 R PR36--I& R 91:I&8 I& 9I- P--6--I&
1&< 3 T96 1RTI!26- 3R W9I!9 1 P6RMIT I- R6K;IR6+ T 76 91+, T 7T1I& 3IR-T 1
M1<R4- P6RMIT" and "!ity rdinance &o. $'()*, 1& R+I&1&!6 71&&I&8 T96 -9IPM6&T 3 122
2I:6 3I-9 1&+ 27-T6R ;T-I+6 P;6RT PRI&!6-1 !IT< 3RM 01&;1R< $, $))/ T
01&;1R< $, $))=, you are here,y authoriGed and directed to chec5 or conduct necessary inspections on
cargoes containing live fish and lo,ster ,eing shipped out from the Puerto Princesa 1irport, Puerto
Princesa Wharf or at any port within the jurisdiction of the !ity to any point of destinations AsicB either via
aircraft or seacraft.
The purpose of the inspection is to ascertain whether the shipper possessed the reDuired Mayor4s Permit
issued ,y this ffice and the shipment is covered ,y invoice or clearance issued ,y the local office of the
7ureau of 3isheries and 1Duatic Resources and as to compliance with all other e?isting rules and
regulations on the matter.
1ny cargo containing live fish and lo,ster without the reDuired documents as stated herein must ,e held
for proper disposition.
In the pursuit of this rder, you are here,y authoriGed to coordinate with the P12 Manager, the PP1
Manager, the local P&P -tation and other offices concerned for the needed support and cooperation.
3urther, that the usual courtesy and diplomacy must ,e o,served at all times in the conduct of the
inspection.
Please ,e guided accordingly.
??? ??? ???
/. n 3e,ruary $), $))/, the -angguniang Panlalawigan, Provincial 8overnment of Palawan enacted
Resolution &o. // entitled" "1 R6-2;TI& PR9I7ITI&8 T96 !1T!9I&8, 81T96RI&8,
P--6--I&8, 7;<I&8, -622I&8 1&+ -9IPM6&T 3 2I:6 M1RI&6 !R12 +W622I&8 1K;1TI!
R81&I-M-, T WIT" 31MI2<" SCA%IDAE #M1M6&8%, EPI'E PE#"S
FASCIAT"S #-;&%.C%O!I#EPTES A#TI$E#IS #P1&T96R R -6&RIT1%, 27-T6R 762W *HH
8R1M- 1&+ -P1W&I&8, T%IDAC'A (I(AS #T1F27%, PI'CTADA !A%(A%ITEFE%A #MT96R
P61R2, <-T6R-, 8I1&T !21M- 1&+ T96R -P6!I6-%, PE'AE"S !O'ODO' #TI86R PR1W&(
7R66+6R -IL6 R MT96R%, EPI'EPE#"S S"I##"S #271 R 8R66& 8R;P6R% 1&+
31MI2<"BA#ISTIDAE #TRPI!12 1K;1RI;M 3I-96-% 3R 1 P6RI+ 3I:6 #'% <61R- I& 1&+
!MI&8 3RM P121W1& W1T6R-", the full te?t of which reads as follows"
W96R61-, scientific and factual researches AsicB and studies disclose that only five
#'% percent of the corals of our province remain to ,e in e?cellent condition as AaB
ha,itat of marine coral dwelling aDuatic organisms.
W96R61-, it cannot ,e gainsaid that the destruction and devastation of the corals of
our province were principally due to illegal fishing activities li5e dynamite fishing,
sodium cyanide fishing, use of other o,no?ious su,stances and other related
activities.
W96R61-, there is an imperative and urgent need to protect and preserve the
e?istence of the remaining e?cellent corals and allow the devastated ones to
reinvigorate and regenerate themselves into vitality within the span of five #'% years.
W96R61-, -ec. EI=, Par. $, -u,(Par. :I of the AsicB R.1. J$IH otherwise 5nown as
the 2ocal 8overnment !ode of $))$ empowers the -angguniang Panlalawigan to
protect the environment and impose appropriate penalties AuponB acts which endanger
the environment such as dynamite fishing and other forms of destructive fishing,
among others.
&W, T96R63R6, on motion ,y Fagawad &elson P. Peneyra and upon unanimous
decision of all the mem,ers present.
7e it resolved as it is here,y resolved, to approve Resolution &o. //, -eries of $))/ of
the -angguniang Panlalawigan and to enact rdinance &o. * for the purpose, to wit"
R+I&1&!6 &. *
-eries of $))/
76 IT R+1I&6+ 7< T96 -1&88;&I1&8 P1&2121WI81& I& -6--I& 1--6M726+"
-ec. $. TIT26 @ This rdinance shall ,e 5nown as an "rdinance Prohi,iting the
catching, gathering, possessing, ,uying, selling and shipment of live marine coral
dwelling aDuatic organisms, to wit" $. 3amily" -caridae #Mameng%, *. 6pinephelus
3asciatus #-uno% /. !romileptes altivelis #Panther or -enorita%, lo,ster ,elow *HH
grams and spawning%, E. Tridacna 8igas #Ta5lo,o%, '. Pinctada Margaretefera #Mother
Pearl, ysters, 8iant !lams and other species%, I. Penaeus Monodon #Tiger Prawn(
,reeder siGe or mother%, J. 6pinephelus -uillus #2o,a or 8reen 8rouper% and =.
3amily" 7alistidae #TArBopical 1Duarium 3ishes% for a period of five #'% years in and
coming from Palawan Waters.
-ec. II. PR62IMI&1R< !&-I+6R1TI&-
$. -ec. *(1 #Rep. 1ct J$IH%. It is here,y declared, the policy of the state that the
territorial and political su,divisions of the -tate shall enjoy genuine and meaningful
local autonomy to ena,le them to attain their fullest development as self(reliant
communities and ma5e them more effective partners in the attainment of national
goals. Toward this end, the -tate shall provide for AaB more responsive and
accounta,le local government structure instituted through a system of decentraliGation
where,y local government units shall ,e given more powers, authority, responsi,ilities
and resources.
*. -ec. '(1 #R.1. J$IH%. 1ny provision on a power of AaB local 8overnment ;nit shall
,e li,erally interpreted in its favor, and in case of dou,t, any Duestion thereon shall ,e
resolved in favor of devolution of powers and of the lower government units. "1ny fair
and reasona,le dou,ts as to the e?istence of the power shall ,e interpreted in favor of
the 2ocal 8overnment ;nit concerned."
/. -ec. '(! #R.1. J$IH%. The general welfare provisions in this !ode shall ,e li,erally
interpreted to give more powers to local government units in accelerating economic
development and upgrading the Duality of life for the people in the community.
E. -ec. $I #R.1. J$IH%. 8eneral Welfare. @ 6very local government unit shall e?ercise
the powers e?pressly 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.
-ec. III. +6!21R1TI& 3 P2I!<. @ It is here,y declared to ,e 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 ,ut with AtheB
proper perspective and consideration of AsicB their prosperity, and to attain this end, the
-angguniang Panlalawigan henceforth declares that is #sic% shall ,e unlawful for any
person or any ,usiness entity to engage in catching, gathering, possessing, ,uying,
selling and shipment of live marine coral dwelling aDuatic organisms as enumerated in
-ection $ hereof in and coming out of Palawan Waters for a period of five #'% years.
-ec. I:. P6&12T< !21;-6. @ 1ny person andCor ,usiness entity violating this
rdinance shall ,e penaliGed with a fine of not more than 3ive Thousand Pesos
#P',HHH.HH%, Philippine !urrency, andCor imprisonment of si? #I% months to twelve #$*%
months and confiscation and forfeiture of paraphernalias AsicB and eDuipment in favor
of the government at the discretion of the !ourt.
-ec. :. -6P1R17I2IT< !21;-6. @ If for any reason, a -ection or provision of this
rdinance shall ,e held as unconditional AsicB or invalid, it shall not affect the other
provisions hereof.
-ec. :I. R6P612I&8 !21;-6. @ 1ny e?isting rdinance or a provision of any
ordinance inconsistent herewith is deemed modified, amended or repealed.
-ec. :II. 6336!TI:IT< @ This rdinance shall ta5e effect ten #$H% days after its
pu,lication.
- R+1I&6+.
??? ??? ???
E. The respondents implemented the said ordinances, 1nne?es "1" and "!" hereof there,y depriving all
the fishermen of the whole province of Palawan and the !ity of Puerto Princesa of their only means of
livelihood and the petitioners 1irline -hippers 1ssociation of Palawan and other marine merchants from
performing their lawful occupation and trade.
'. Petitioners 1lfredo Tano, 7aldomero Tano, Teocenes Midello, 1ngel de Mesa, 6ulogio Tremocha, and
3elipe ngonion, 0r. were even charged criminally under criminal case no. )/(H'(! in the $st Municipal
!ircuit Trial !ourt of !uyo(1gutaya(Magsaysay, an original car,on copy of the criminal complaint dated
1pril $*, $))/ is hereto attached as 1nne? "+". while ?ero? copies are attached as 1nne? "+" to the copies
of the petition.
I. Petitioners Ro,ert 2im and :irginia 2im, on the other hand, were charged ,y the respondent P&P with
the respondent !ity Prosecutor of Puerto Princess !ity, a ?ero? copy of the complaint is hereto attached
as 1nne? "6".
Without see5ing redress from the concerned local government units, prosecutor4s office and courts, petitioners
directly invo5ed our original jurisdiction ,y filing this petition on E 0une $))/. In sum, petitioners contend that"
3irst, the rdinances deprived them of due process of law, their livelihood, and unduly restricted them from the
practice of their trade, in violation of -ection *, 1rticle >II and -ections * and J of 1rticle >III of the $)=J !onstitution.
-econd, ffice rder &o. */ contained no regulation nor condition under which the Mayor4s permit could ,e granted
or denied. in other words, the Mayor had the a,solute authority to determine whether or not to issue the permit.
Third, as rdinance &o. * of the Province of Palawan "altogether prohi,ited the catching, gathering, possession,
,uying, selling and shipping of live marine coral dwelling organisms, without any distinction whether it was caught or
gathered through lawful fishing method," the rdinance too5 away the right of petitioners(fishermen to earn their
livelihood in lawful ways. and insofar as petitioners(mem,ers of 1irline -hippers 1ssociation are concerned, they
were unduly prevented from pursuing their vocation and entering "into contracts which are proper, necessary, and
essential to carry out their ,usiness endeavors to a successful conclusion."
3inally, as rdinance &o. * of the -angguniang Panlalawigan is null and void, the criminal cases ,ased thereon
against petitioners Tano and the others have to ,e dismissed.
In the Resolution of $' 0une $))/ we reDuired respondents to comment on the petition, and furnished the ffice of
the -olicitor 8eneral with a copy thereof.
In their comment filed on $/ 1ugust $))/, pu,lic respondents 8overnor -ocrates and Mem,ers of the -angguniang
Panlalawigan of Palawan defended the validity of rdinance &o. *, -eries of $))/, as a valid e?ercise of the
Provincial 8overnment4s power under the general welfare clause #-ection $I of the 2ocal 8overnment !ode of $))$
Ahereafter, 28!B%, 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 -ection EEJ #a% #$%
#vi%, -ection E'= #a% #$% #vi%, and -ection EI= #a% #$% #vi%, of the 28!. They claimed that in the e?ercise of such
powers, the Province of Palawan had "the right and responsi,ility . . . to insure that the remaining coral reefs, where
fish dwells AsicB, within its territory remain healthy for the future generation." The rdinance, they further asserted,
covered only live marine coral d)elling a*uatic organismswhich were enumerated in the ordinance and e?cluded
other 5inds of live marine aDuatic organisms not dwelling in coral reefs. ,esides the prohi,ition was for only five #'%
years to protect and preserve the pristine coral and allow those damaged to regenerate.
1forementioned respondents li5ewise maintained that there was no violation of the due process and eDual protection
clauses of the !onstitution. 1s to the former, pu,lic hearings were conducted ,efore the enactment of the rdinance
which, undou,tedly, had a lawful purpose and employed reasona,le means. while as to the latter, a su,stantial
distinction e?isted ",etween a fisherman who catches live fish with the intention of selling it live, and a fisherman who
catches live fish with no intention at all of selling it live," i.e., "the former uses sodium cyanide while the latter does
not." 3urther, the rdinance applied eDually to all those ,elonging to one class.
n *' cto,er $))/ petitioners filed an ;rgent Plea for the Immediate Issuance of a Temporary Restraining rder,
claiming that despite the pendency of this case, 7ranch 'H of the Regional Trial !ourt of Palawan was ,ent on
proceeding with !riminal !ase &o. $$**/ against petitioners +anilo Tano, 1lfredo Tano, 6ulogio Tremocha,
Romualdo Tano, 7aldomero Tano, 1ndres 2inijan and 1ngel de Mesa for violation of rdinance &o. * of the
-angguniang Panlalawigan of Palawan. 1cting on said plea, we issued on $$ &ovem,er $))/ a temporary
restraining order directing 0udge 1ngel Miclat of said court to cease and desist from proceeding with the arraignment
and pre(trial of !riminal !ase &o. $$**/.
n $* 0uly $))E, we e?cused the ffice of the -olicitor 8eneral from filing a comment, considering that as claimed
,y said office in its Manifestation of *= 0une $))E, respondents were already represented ,y counsel.
The rest of the respondents did not file any comment on the petition.
In the resolution of $' -eptem,er $))E, we resolved to consider the comment on the petition as the 1nswer, gave
due course to the petition and reDuired the parties to su,mit their respective memoranda. 2
n ** 1pril $))J we ordered impleaded as party respondents the +epartment of 1griculture and the 7ureau of
3isheries and 1Duatic Resources and reDuired the ffice of the -olicitor 8eneral to comment on their ,ehalf. 7ut in
light of the latter4s motion of ) 0uly $))J for an e?tension of time to file the comment which would only result in
further delay, we dispensed with said comment.
1fter due deli,eration on the pleadings filed, we resolved to dismiss this petition for want of merit, and on ** 0uly
$))J, assigned it to the ponente to write the opinion of the !ourt.
I
There are actually two sets of petitioners in this case. The first is composed of 1lfredo Tano, 7aldomero Tano, +anilo
Tano, Romualdo Tano, Teocenes Midello, 1ngel de Mesa, 6ulogio Tremocha, 3elipe ngonion, 0r., 1ndres 2inijan,
and 3elimon de Mesa, who were criminally charged with violating -angguniang Panlalawigan Resolution &o. // and
rdinance &o. *, -eries of $))/, of the Province of Palawan, in !riminal !ase &o. )/(H'(! of the $st Municipal
!ircuit Trial !ourt #M!T!% of Palawan. 3 and Ro,ert 2im and :irginia 2im who were charged with violating !ity
rdinance &o. $'()* of Puerto Princesa !ity and rdinance &o. *, -eries of $))/, of the Province of Palawan
,efore the ffice of the !ity Prosecutor of Puerto Princesa. 4 1ll of them, with the e?ception of Teocenes Midello,
3elipe ngonion, 0r., 3elimon de Mesa, Ro,ert 2im and :irginia 2im, are li5ewise the accused in !riminal !ase &o.
$$**/ for the violation of rdinance &o. * of the -angguniang Panlalawigan of Palawan, pending ,efore 7ranch 'H
of the Regional Trial !ourt of Palawan. 4
The second set of petitioners is composed of the rest of the petitioners num,ering seventy(seven #JJ%, all of whom,
e?cept the 1irline -hippers 1ssociation of Palawan @ an alleged private association of several marine merchants @
are natural persons who claim to ,e fishermen.
The primary interest of the first set of petitioners is, of course, to prevent the prosecution, trial and determination of
the criminal cases until the constitutionality or legality of the rdinances they allegedly violated shall have ,een
resolved. The second set of petitioners merely claim that ,eing fishermen or marine merchants, they would ,e
adversely affected ,y the ordinance4s.
1s to the first set of petitioners, this special civil for certiorari must fail on the ground of prematurity amounting to a
lac5 of cause of action. There is no showing that said petitioners, as the accused in the criminal cases, have filed
motions to Duash the informations therein and that the same were denied. The ground availa,le for such motions is
that the facts charged therein do not constitute an offense ,ecause the ordinances in Duestion are
unconstitutional. 5 It cannot then ,e said that the lower courts acted without or in e?cess of jurisdiction or with grave
a,use of discretion to justify recourse to the e?traordinary remedy of certiorari or prohi,ition. It must further ,e
stressed that even if petitioners did file motions to Duash, the denial thereof would not forthwith give rise to a cause
of action under Rule I' of the Rules of !ourt. The general rule is that where a motion to Duash is denied, the remedy
therefrom is not certiorari, ,ut for the party aggrieved there,y 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 authoriGed ,y law. 7 1nd, even where in an e?ceptional circumstance such denial may ,e the su,ject
of a special civil action for certiorari, a motion for reconsideration must have to ,e filed to allow the court concerned
an opportunity to correct its errors, unless such motion may ,e dispensed with ,ecause of e?isting e?ceptional
circumstances. 6 3inally, even if a motion for reconsideration has ,een filed and denied, the remedy under Rule I' is
still unavaila,le a,sent any showing of the grounds provided for in -ection $ thereof. 9 3or o,vious reasons, the
petition at ,ar does not, and could not have, alleged any of such grounds.
1s to the second set of petitioners, the instant petition is o,viously one for +6!21R1TR< R62I63, i.e., for a
declaration that the rdinances in Duestion are a "nullity . . . for ,eing unconstitutional."
10
1s such, their petition must
li5ewise fail, as this !ourt is not possessed of original jurisdiction over petitions for declaratory relief even if only
Duestions of law are involved,
11
it ,eing settled that the !ourt merely e?ercises appellate jurisdiction over such
petitions.
12
II
6ven granting arguendo that the first set of petitioners have a cause of action ripe for the e?traordinary writ
ofcertiorari, there is here a clear disregard of the hierarchy of courts, and no special and important reason or
e?ceptional and compelling circumstance has ,een adduced why direct recourse to us should ,e allowed. While we
have concurrent jurisdiction with Regional Trial courts and with the !ourt of 1ppeals to issue writs ofcertiorari,
prohi,ition, mandamus, *uo )arranto, ha+eas corpus and injunction, such concurrence gives petitioners no
unrestricted freedom of choice of court forum, so we held in People v. Cuaresma.
13
This concurrence of jurisdiction is not . . . to ,e ta5en as according to parties see5ing any of the writs an
a,solute unrestrained freedom of choice of the court to which application therefor will ,e 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 e?traordinary writs. 1 ,ecoming
regard for that judicial hierarchy most certainly indicates that petitions for the issuance of e?traordinary
writs against first level #"inferior"% courts should ,e filed with the Regional Trial !ourt, and those against the
latter, with the !ourt of 1ppeals. 1 direct invocation of the -upreme !ourt4s original jurisdiction to issue
these writs should ,e allowed only when there are special and important reasons therefor, clearly and
specifically set out in the petition. This is esta,lished policy. It is a policy necessary to prevent inordinate
demands upon the !ourt4s time and attention which are ,etter devoted to those matters within its e?clusive
jurisdiction, and to prevent further over(crowding of the !ourt4s doc5et. . . .
The !ourt feels the need to reaffirm that policy at this time, and to enjoin strict adherence thereto in the
light of what it perceives to ,e a growing tendency on the part of litigants and lawyers to have their
applications for the so(called e?traordinary writs, and sometimes even their appeals, passed upon and
adjudicated directly and immediately ,y the highest tri,unal of the land. . . .
In Santiago v. $as*ue,,
14
this !ourt forcefully e?pressed that the propensity of litigants and lawyers to disregard the
hierarchy of courts must ,e put to a halt, not only ,ecause of the imposition upon the precious time of this !ourt, ,ut
also ,ecause of the inevita,le and resultant delay, intended or otherwise, in the adjudication of the case which often
has to ,e remanded or referred to the lower court, the proper forum under the rules of procedure, or as ,etter
eDuipped to resolve the issues since this !ourt is not a trier of facts. We reiterated "the judicial policy that this !ourt
will not entertain direct resort to it unless the redress desired cannot ,e o,tained in the appropriate courts or where
e?ceptional and compelling circumstances justify availment of a remedy within and calling for the e?ercise of AitsB
primary jurisdiction."
III
&otwithstanding the foregoing procedural o,stacles against the first set of petitioners, we opt to resolve this case on
its merits considering that the lifetime of the challenged rdinances is a,out to end. rdinance &o. $'()* of the !ity
of Puerto Princesa is effective only up to $ 0anuary $))=, while rdinance &o. * of the Province of Palawan, enacted
on $) 3e,ruary $))/, is effective for only five #'% years. 7esides, these rdinances were undou,tedly enacted in the
e?ercise of powers under the new 28! relative to the protection and preservation of the environment and are thus
novel and of paramount importance. &o further delay then may ,e allowed in the resolution of the issues raised.
It is of course settled that laws #including ordinances enacted ,y local government units% enjoy the presumption of
constitutionality.
14
To overthrow this presumption, there must ,e a clear and uneDuivocal ,reach of the !onstitution,
not merely a dou,tful or argumentative contradiction. In short, the conflict with the !onstitution must ,e shown
,eyond reasona,le dou,t.
15
Where dou,t e?ists, even if well(founded, there can ,e no finding of unconstitutionality.
To dou,t is to sustain.
17
1fter a scrutiny of the challenged rdinances and the provisions of the !onstitution petitioners claim to have ,een
violated, we find petitioners4 contentions ,aseless and so hold that the former do not suffer from any infirmity, ,oth
under the !onstitution and applica,le laws.
Petitioners specifically point to -ection *, 1rticle >II and -ections * and J, 1rticle >III of the !onstitution as having
,een transgressed ,y the rdinances.
The pertinent portion of -ection * of 1rticle >II reads"
-ec. *. . . .
The -tate shall protect the nation4s marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and e?clusive
economic Gone, and reserve its use and enjoyment e?clusively to 3ilipino citiGens.
The !ongress may, ,y law, allow small(scale utiliGation of natural resources ,y 3ilipino citiGens, as well as
cooperative fish farming, with priority to su,sistence fishermen and fishwor5ers in rivers, la5es, ,ays, and
lagoons.
-ections * and J of 1rticle >III provide"
-ec. *. The promotion of social justice shall include the commitment to create economic
opportunities ,ased on freedom of initiative and self(reliance.
??? ??? ???
-ec. J. The -tate shall protect the rights of su,sistence fishermen, especially of local
communities, to the preferential use of the communal marine and fishing resources, ,oth inland
and offshore. It shall provide support to such fishermen through appropriate technology and
research, adeDuate financial, production, and mar5eting assistance, and other services. The
-tate shall also protect, develop, and conserve such resources. The protection shall e?tend to
offshore fishing grounds of su,sistence fishermen against foreign intrusion. 3ishwor5ers shall
receive a just share from their la,or in the utiliGation of marine and fishing resources.
There is a,solutely no showing that any of the petitioners Dualifies as a su,sistence or marginal fisherman.
In their petition, petitioner 1irline -hippers 1ssociation of Palawan is self(descri,ed as "a private
association composed of Marine Merchants." petitioners Ro,ert 2im and :irginia 2im, as "merchants."
while the rest of the petitioners claim to ,e "fishermen," without any Dualification, however, as to their
status.
-ince the !onstitution does not specifically provide a definition of the terms "su,sistence" or "marginal"
fishermen,
16
they should ,e construed in their general and ordinary sense. 1 marginal fisherman is an
individual engaged in fishing whose margin of return or reward in his harvest of fish as measured ,y
e?isting price levels is ,arely sufficient to yield a profit or cover the cost of gathering the fish,
19
while a
su,sistence fisherman is one whose catch yields ,ut the irreduci,le minimum for his livelihood.
20
-ection
$/$#p% of the 28! #R.1. &o. J$IH% defines a marginal farmer or fisherman as "an individual engaged in
su,sistence farming or fishing which shall ,e limited to the sale, ,arter or e?change of agricultural or
marine products produced ,y himself and his immediate family." It ,ears repeating that nothing in the
record supports a finding that any petitioner falls within these definitions.
7esides, -ection * of 1rticle >II aims primarily not to ,estow any right to su,sistence fishermen, ,ut to lay
stress on the duty of the -tate to protect the nation4s marine wealth. What the provision merely recogniGes
is that the -tate may allow, ,y law, cooperative fish farming, with priority to su,sistence fishermen and
fishwor5ers in rivers, la5es, ,ays and lagoons. ur survey of the statute ,oo5s reveals that the only
provision of law which spea5s of a preferential right of marginal fishermen is -ection $E) of the 28!,
which pertinently provides"
-ec. $E). Fisher& %entals, Fees and Charges. @ . . .
#,% The sangguniang ,ayan may"
#$% 8rant fishery privileges to erect fish corrals, oyster,
mussels or other aDuatic ,eds or ,angus fry areas,
within a definite Gone of the municipal waters, as
determined ,y it" Provided, ho)ever, That duly
registered organiGations and cooperatives of marginal
fishermen shall have the preferential right to such
fishery privileges . . . .
In a 0oint 1dministrative rder &o. / dated *' 1pril $))I, the -ecretary of the +epartment of 1griculture
and the -ecretary of the +epartment of Interior and 2ocal 8overnment prescri,ed guidelines concerning
the preferential treatment of small fisherfol5 relative to the fishery right mentioned in -ection $E). This
case, however, does not involve such fishery right.
1nent -ection J of 1rticle >III, it spea5s not only of the use of communal marine and fishing resources, ,ut
of their protection, development and conservation. 1s hereafter shown, the ordinances in Duestion are
meant precisely to protect and conserve our marine resources to the end that their enjoyment may ,e
guaranteed not only for the present generation, ,ut also for the generations to come.
The so(called "preferential right" of su,sistence or marginal fishermen to the use of marine resources is
not at all a,solute. In accordance with the Regalian +octrine, marine resources ,elong to the -tate, and,
pursuant to the first paragraph of -ection *, 1rticle >II of the !onstitution, their "e?ploration, development
and utiliGation . . . shall ,e under the full control and supervision of the -tate." Moreover, their mandated
protection, development and conservation as necessarily recogniGed ,y the framers of the !onstitution,
imply certain restrictions on whatever right of enjoyment there may ,e in favor of anyone. Thus, as to the
curtailment of the preferential treatment of marginal fishermen, the following e?change ,etween
!ommissioner 3rancisco Rodrigo and !ommissioner 0ose 3.-. 7engGon, 0r., too5 place at the plenary
session of the !onstitutional !ommission"
MR. R+RI8"
2et us discuss the implementation of this ,ecause I would not raise the
hopes of our people, and afterwards fail in the implementation. 9ow will this
,e implementedM Will there ,e a licensing or giving of permits so that
government officials will 5now that one is really a marginal fishermanM r if
policeman say that a person is not a marginal fisherman, he can show his
permit, to prove that indeed he is one.
MR. 76&8L&"
!ertainly, there will ,e some mode of licensing insofar as this is concerned
and this particular Duestion could ,e tac5led when we discuss the 1rticle on
2ocal 8overnments @ whether we will leave to the local governments or to
!ongress on how these things will ,e implemented. 7ut certainly, I thin5 our
congressmen and our local officials will not ,e ,ereft of ideas on how to
implement this mandate.
??? ??? ???
MR. R+RI8"
-o, once one is licensed as a marginal fisherman, he can go anywhere in
the Philippines and fish in any fishing grounds.
MR. 76&8L&"
Su+-ect to )hatever rules and regulations and local la)s that ma& +e
passed, ma& +e e.isting or )ill +e passed.
21
#emphasis supplied%
What must li5ewise ,e ,orne in mind is the state policy enshrined in the !onstitution regarding the duty of
the -tate to protect and advance the right of the people to a ,alanced and healthful ecology in accord with
the rhythm and harmony of nature.
22
n this score, in Oposa v. Factoran,
23
this !ourt declared"
While the right to a ,alanced and healthful ecology is to ,e found under the +eclaration of
Principles the -tate Policies and not under the 7ill of Rights, it does not follow that it is less
important than any of the civil and political rights enumerated in the latter. -uch a right ,elongs
to a different category of rights altogether for it concerns nothing less than self(preservation and
self(perpetuation @ aptly and fittingly stressed ,y the petitioners @ the advancement of which
may even ,e said to predate all governments and constitutions. 1s a matter of fact, these ,asic
rights need not even ,e written in the !onstitution for they are assumed to e?ist from the
inception of human5ind. If they are now e?plicitly mentioned in the fundamental charter, it is
,ecause of the well(founded fear of its framers that unless the rights to a ,alanced and healthful
ecology and to health are mandated as state policies ,y the !onstitution itself, there,y
highlighting their continuing importance and imposing upon the state a solemn o,ligation to
preserve the first and protect and advance the second, the day would not ,e too far when all
else would ,e lost not only for the present generation, ,ut also for those to come @ generations
which stand to inherit nothing ,ut parched earth incapa,le of sustaining life.
The right to a ,alanced and healthful ecology carries with it a correlative duty to refrain from
impairing the environment. . . .
The 28! provisions invo5ed ,y private respondents merely see5 to give flesh and ,lood to the right of the
people to a ,alanced and healthful ecology. In fact, the 8eneral Welfare !lause, e?pressly mentions this
right"
-ec. $I. (eneral /elfare. @ 6very local government unit shall e?ercise the powers e?pressly
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 +alanced ecolog&, encourage
and support the development of appropriate and self(reliant scientific and technological
capa,ilities, improve pu,lic 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 inha,itants. #emphasis supplied%.
Moreover, -ection '#c% of the 28! e?plicitly mandates that the general welfare provisions of the 28! "shall
,e li,erally interpreted to give more powers to the local government units in accelerating economic
development and upgrading the Duality of life for the people of the community."
The 28! vests municipalities with the power to grant fishery privileges in municipal waters and impose
rentals, fees or charges therefor. to penaliGe, ,y appropriate ordinances, the use of e?plosives, no?ious or
poisonous su,stances, electricity, muro0ami, and other deleterious methods of fishing. and to prosecute
any violation of the provisions of applica,le fishery laws.
24
3urther, the sangguniang ,ayan, the
sangguniang panlungsod and the sangguniang panlalawigan are directed to enact ordinances for the
general welfare of the municipality and its inha,itants, which shall include, inter alia, ordinances that
"ApBrotect 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 la5es, or of ecological
im,alance."
24
3inally, the centerpiece of 28! is the system of decentraliGation
25
as e?pressly mandated ,y the
!onstitution.
27
Indispensa,le to decentraliGation is devolution and the 28! e?pressly provides that "AaBny
provision on a power of a local government unit shall ,e li,erally interpreted in its favor, and in case of
dou,t, any Duestion thereon shall ,e resolved in favor of devolution of powers and of the lower local
government unit. 1ny fair and reasona,le dou,t as to the e?istence of the power shall ,e interpreted in
favor of the local government unit concerned."
26
+evolution refers to the act ,y which the &ational
8overnment confers power and authority upon the various local government units to perform specific
functions and responsi,ilities.
29
ne of the devolved powers enumerated in the section of the 28! on devolution is the enforcement of
fishery laws in municipal waters including the conservation of mangroves.
30
This necessarily includes the
enactment of ordinances to effectively carry out such fishery laws within the municipal waters.
The term "municipal waters," in turn, includes not only streams, la5es, and tidal waters within the
municipality, not ,eing the su,ject of private ownership and not comprised within the national par5s, pu,lic
forest, tim,er lands, forest reserves, or fishery reserves, ,ut also marine waters included ,etween two
lines drawn perpendicularly to the general coastline from points where the ,oundary lines of the
municipality or city touch the sea at low tide and a third line parallel with the general coastline and fifteen
5ilometers from
it.
31
;nder P.+. &o. JHE, the marine waters included in municipal waters is limited to three nautical miles
from the general coastline using the a,ove perpendicular lines and a third parallel line.
These "fishery laws" which local government units may enforce under -ection $J#,%#*%#i% in municipal
waters include" #$% P.+. &o. JHE. #*% P.+. &o. $H$' which, inter alia, authoriGes the esta,lishment of a
"closed season" in any Philippine water if necessary for conservation or ecological purposes. #/% P.+. &o.
$*$) which provides for the e?ploration, e?ploitation, utiliGation and conservation of coral resources. #E%
R.1. &o. 'EJE, as amended ,y 7.P. 7lg. '=, which ma5es it unlawful for any person, association or
corporation to catch or cause to ,e caught, sell, offer to sell, purchase, or have in possession any of the
fish specie called go+iidae or "ipon" during closed season. and #'% R.1. &o. IE'$ which prohi,its and
punishes electrofishing, as well as various issuances of the 731R.
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 ,e added the following"
$. Issuance of permits to construct fish cages within municipal waters.
*. Issuance of permits to gather aDuarium fishes within municipal waters.
/. Issuance of permits to gather 5apis shells within municipal waters.
E. Issuance of permits to gatherCculture shelled mollus5s within municipal
waters.
'. Issuance of licenses to esta,lish seaweed farms within municipal waters.
I. Issuance of licenses to esta,lish culture pearls within municipal waters.
J. Issuance of au?iliary invoice to transport fish and fishery products. and
=. 6sta,lishment of "closed season" in municipal waters.
These functions are covered in the Memorandum of 1greement of ' 1pril $))E ,etween the +epartment of
1griculture and the +epartment of Interior and 2ocal 8overnment.
In light then of the principles of decentraliGation and devolution enshrined in the 28! and the powers
granted therein to local government units under -ection $I #the 8eneral Welfare !lause%, and under
-ections $E), EEJ#a% #$% #vi%, E'= #a% #$% #vi% and EI= #a% #$% #vi%, which unDuestiona,ly involve the e?ercise
of police power, the validity of the Duestioned rdinances cannot ,e dou,ted.
Parenthetically, we wish to add that these rdinances find full support under R.1. &o. JI$$, otherwise
5nown as the -trategic 6nvironmental Plan #-6P% for Palawan 1ct, approved on $) 0une $))*. This
statute adopts a "comprehensive framewor5 for the sustaina,le development of Palawan compati,le with
protecting and enhancing the natural resources and endangered environment of the province," which
"shall serve to guide the local government of Palawan and the government agencies concerned in the
formulation and implementation of plans, programs and projects affecting said province."
32
1t this time then, it would ,e appropriate to determine the relation ,etween the assailed rdinances and
the aforesaid powers of the -angguniang Panlungsod of the !ity of Puerto Princesa and the -angguniang
Panlalawigan of the Province of Palawan to protect the environment. To ,egin, we ascertain the purpose of
the rdinances as set forth in the statement of purposes or declaration of policies Duoted earlier.
It is clear to the !ourt that ,oth rdinances have two principal o,jectives or purposes" #$% to esta,lish a
"closed season" for the species of fish or aDuatic animals covered therein for a period of five years. and #*%
to protect the coral in the marine waters of the !ity of Puerto Princesa and the Province of Palawan from
further destruction due to illegal fishing activities.
The accomplishment of the first o,jective is well within the devolved power to enforce fishery laws in
municipal waters, such as P.+. &o. $H$', which allows the esta,lishment of "closed seasons." The
devolution of such power has ,een e?pressly confirmed in the Memorandum of 1greement of ' 1pril $))E
,etween the +epartment of 1griculture and the +epartment of Interior and 2ocal 8overnment.
The realiGation of the second o,jective clearly falls within ,oth the general welfare clause of the 28! and
the e?press mandate thereunder to cities and provinces to protect the environment and impose
appropriate penalties for acts which endanger the environment.
33
The destruction of coral reefs results in serious, if not irrepara,le, ecological im,alance, for coral reefs are
among nature4s life(support systems.
34
They collect, retain and recycle nutrients for adjacent nearshore
areas such as mangroves, seagrass ,eds, and reef flats. provide food for marine plants and animals. and
serve as a protective shelter for aDuatic organisms.
34
It is said that "AeBcologically, the reefs are to the
oceans what forests are to continents" they are shelter and ,reeding grounds for fish and plant species
that will disappear without them."
35
The prohi,ition against catching live fish stems, in part, from the modern phenomenon of live(fish trade
which entails the catching of so(called e?otic species of tropical fish, not only for aDuarium use in the West,
,ut also for "the mar5et for live ,anDuet fish AwhichB is virtually insatia,le in ever more affluent
1sia.
37
These e?otic species are coral(dwellers, and fishermen catch them ,y "diving in shallow water with
corraline ha,itats and sDuirting sodium cyanide poison at passing fish directly or onto coral crevices. once
affected the fish are immo,iliGed Amerely stunnedB and then scooped ,y hand."
36
The diver then surfaces
and dumps his catch into a su,merged net attached to the s5iff. Twenty minutes later, the fish can swim
normally. 7ac5 on shore, they are placed in holding pens, and within a few wee5s, they e?pel the cyanide
from their system and are ready to ,e hauled. They are then placed in saltwater tan5s or pac5aged in
plastic ,ags filled with seawater for shipment ,y air freight to major mar5ets for live food fish.
39
While the
fish are meant to survive, the opposite holds true for their former home as "AaBfter the fisherman sDuirts the
cyanide, the first thing to perish is the reef algae, on which fish feed. +ays later, the living coral starts to
e?pire. -oon the reef loses its function as ha,itat for the fish, which eat ,oth the algae and inverte,rates
that cling to the coral. The reef ,ecomes an underwater graveyard, its s5eletal remains ,rittle, ,leached of
all color and vulnera,le to erosion from the pounding of the waves."
40
It has ,een found that cyanide
fishing 5ills most hard and soft corals within three months of repeated application.
41
The ne?us then ,etween the activities ,arred ,y rdinance &o. $'()* of the !ity of Puerto Princesa and
the prohi,ited acts provided in rdinance &o. *, -eries of $))/ of the Province of Palawan, on one hand,
and the use of sodium cyanide, on the other, is painfully o,vious. In sum, the pu,lic purpose and
reasona,leness of the rdinances may not then ,e controverted.
1s to ffice rder &o. */, -eries of $))/, issued ,y 1cting !ity Mayor 1mado 2. 2ucero of the !ity of
Puerto Princesa, we find nothing therein violative of any constitutional or statutory provision. The rder
refers to the implementation of the challenged ordinance and is not the Mayor4s Permit.
The dissenting opinion of Mr. 0ustice 0osue &. 7ellosillo relies upon the lac5 of authority on the part of the
-angguniang Panglungsod of Puerto Princesa to enact rdinance &o. $', -eries of $))*, on the theory
that the su,ject thereof is within the jurisdiction and responsi,ility of the 7ureau of 3isheries and 1Duatic
Resources #731R% under P.+. &o. JHE, otherwise 5nown as the 3isheries +ecree of $)J'. and that, in any
event, the rdinance is unenforcea,le for lac5 of approval ,y the -ecretary of the +epartment of &atural
Resources #+&R%, li5ewise in accordance with P.+. &o. JHE.
The majority is una,le to accommodate this view. The jurisdiction and responsi,ility of the 731R under
P.+. &o. JHE, over the management, conservation, development, protection, utiliGation and disposition of
all fishery and aDuatic resources of the country is not all(encompassing. 3irst, -ection E thereof e?cludes
from such jurisdiction and responsi,ility municipal waters, which shall ,e under the municipal or city
government concerned, e?cept 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 ,e su,mitted to the -ecretary of the +epartment
of &atural Resources for appropriate action and shall have full force and effect only upon his approval.
42
-econd, it must at once ,e pointed out that the 731R is no longer under the +epartment of &atural
Resources #now +epartment of 6nvironment and &atural Resources%. 6?ecutive rder &o. )IJ of /H 0une
$)=E transferred the 731R from the control and supervision of the Minister #formerly -ecretary% f &atural
Resources to the Ministry of 1griculture and 3ood #M13% and converted it into a mere staff agency thereof,
integrating its functions with the regional offices of the M13.
In 6?ecutive rder &o. $$I of /H 0anuary $)=J, which reorganiGed the M13, the 731R was retained as an
attached agency of the M13. 1nd under the 1dministrative !ode of $)=J,
43
the 731R is placed under the
Title concerning the +epartment of 1griculture.
44
Therefore, it is incorrect to say that the challenged rdinance of the !ity of Puerto Princesa is invalid or
unenforcea,le ,ecause it was not approved ,y the -ecretary of the +6&R. If at all, the approval that
should ,e sought would ,e that of the -ecretary of the +epartment of 1griculture. 9owever, the
reDuirement of approval ,y the -ecretary of the +epartment of 1griculture #not +6&R% of municipal
ordinances affecting fishing and fisheries in municipal waters has ,een dispensed with in view of the
following reasons"
#$% -ection '/E #Repealing !lause% of the 28! e?pressly repeals or amends -ections $I and *) of P.+.
&o. JHE
44
insofar as they are inconsistent with the provisions of the 28!.
#*% 1s discussed earlier, under the general welfare clause of the 28!, local government units have the
power, inter alia, to enact ordinances to enhance the right of the people to a ,alanced ecology. It li5ewise
specifically vests municipalities with the power to grant fishery privileges in municipal waters, and impose
rentals, fees or charges therefor. to penaliGe, ,y appropriate ordinances, the use of e?plosives, no?ious or
poisonous su,stances, electricity, muro0ami, and other deleterious methods of fishing. and to prosecute
any violation of the provisions of applica,le fishery laws.
45
3inally, it imposes upon the sangguniang ,ayan,
the sangguniang panlungsod, and the sangguniang panlalawigan the duty to enact ordinances to "ApBrotect
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 la5es or of ecological im,alance."
47
In closing, we commend the -angguniang Panlungsod of the !ity of Puerto Princesa and -angguniang
Panlalawigan of the Province of Palawan for e?ercising the reDuisite political will to enact urgently needed
legislation to protect and enhance the marine environment, there,y sharing in the herculean tas5 of
arresting the tide of ecological destruction. We hope that other local government units shall now ,e roused
from their lethargy and adopt a more vigilant stand in the ,attle against the decimation of our legacy to
future generations. 1t this time, the repercussions of any further delay in their response may prove
disastrous, if not, irreversi,le.
W96R63R6, the instant petition is +I-MI--6+ for lac5 of merit and the temporary restraining order
issued on $$ &ovem,er $))/ is 2I3T6+.
&o pronouncement as to costs.
- R+6R6+.
'arvasa, C121, Padilla, %omero, !elo, $itug, Francisco Pangani+an and Torres, 2r1, 221, concur1
%egalado, 21, is on leave1
S/7-8-t/ O79,9o,s
MENDO'A, J., concurring"
I fully concur in the opinion of the !ourt written ,y 0ustice +avide. I write separately to emphasiGe two
points which I ,elieve are important. The first is the need to uphold the presumption of validity of the
ordinances in this case in view of the total a,sence of evidence to undermine their factual ,asis. The
second is the need not to allow a shortcircuiting of the normal process of adjudication on the mere plea
that unless we ta5e cogniGance of petitions li5e this, ,y(passing the trial courts, alleged violations of
constitutional rights will ,e left unprotected, when the matter can very well ,e loo5ed into ,y trial courts
and in fact should ,e ,rought there.
The ordinances in Duestion in this case are conservation measures which the local governments of
Palawan have adopted in view of the widespread destruction caused ,y cyanide fishing of corals within
their territorial waters. 1t the very least, these ordinances must ,e presumed valid in the a,sence of
evidence to show that the necessary factual foundation for their enactment does not e?ist. Their
invalidation at this point can result in the untimely e?oneration of otherwise guilty parties on the ,asis of
dou,tful constitutional claims.
rdinance &o. *()/, which the -angguniang Panlalawigan of Palawan adopted in $))/, prohi,its, for a
period of five years, the "catching, gathering, possessing, ,uying, selling and shipment" of five fish and
lo,sters. 1s originally enacted, the prohi,ition applied to eight species of fish and lo,sters caught in the
waters of Palawan, namely, "$. 3amily" -caridae #Mameng%, *. 6pinephelus 3asciatus #-uno%, /.
!romileptes altivelis #Panther or -eNorita%, lo,ster #,elow *HH grams and spawning%, E. Tridacna 8igas
#8iant !lams or Ta5lo,o and other species%, '. Pinctada Margaritifera #Mother Pearl ysters%, I. Penaeus
Monodon #Tiger Prawn @ ,reeder siGe or mother%, J. 6pinephelus -uillus #2o,a or 8reen 8rouper% and =.
3amily" 7alistidae #Tropical 1Duarium 3ishes%." 1 2ater, however, the ordinance was amended to limit the
,an to three species only, namely" mameng #scaridae%, panther or seNorita #cromileptes altivelis% and
ornamental or aDuarium fishes #+alistidae%. :iolation of the ordinance is punisha,le ,y a fine of P',HHH.HH
andCor imprisonment of not less than I nor more than $* months and confiscation of the paraphernalia and
eDuipment used in the commission of the offense. 2
rdinance &o. *()/ was adopted ,y the -angguniang Panlalawigan on the ,asis of a $))* study
su,mitted ,y the +epartment of 1griculture, 3 showing that, as a result of the use of cyanide and other
no?ious su,stances for fishing, only 'O of the coral reefs in the Province of Palawan remained in e?cellent
condition as fish sanctuaries and ha,itats, while J'O was heavily damaged.
The rampant use of cyanide has ,een encouraged ,y the lucrative trade in live fishes which are shipped
not only to Manila ,ut also a,road, principally to 9ong5ong, Taiwan and Malaysia. The fishes are sold to
gourmet restaurants ,ecause of the great demand for e?otic food, to aDuariums and to pet shops. In its
issue of 0uly $), $))/. Time MagaGine 4 reported that the illicit trade in live animals is the third ,iggest
contra,and ,usiness in the world, after drugs and arms, and identified the Philippines as a major source of
tropical fishes for the glo,al traffic in live fishes.
The use of cyanide ena,les fishermen to catch fish alive and in commercial Duantity in a way not possi,le
with the use of such traditional methods as hoo5 and line, fish traps, ,a5lad and the li5e, which allows only
limited catch and often results in injuries to fishes and the loss of their scales, there,y reducing their
survival for transportation a,road. 4 !yanide does not 5ill fish ,ut only stuns them. The stunned creatures
are then scooped up and placed in containers ready for shipment across ,orders, national and
transnational. What cyanide does, however, is poison the fragile reefs and cause them to die and cease as
fish ha,itats. 5
!oncern over the use of cyanide in fishing and its ill effect on the marine environment also prompted the
-angguniang Panlungsod of Puerto Princesa to pass rdinance &o. $'()*, which ma5es it unlawful for
any person or ,usiness enterprise or company "to ship out from Puerto Princesa !ity to any point of
destinations either via aircraft or seacraft of any live fish and lo,ster e?cept -61 71--, !1T3I-9,
M;+3I-9 and MI2F3I-9 3RI6-." 7 The ,an is for five years, from 0anuary $, $))/ to 0anuary $, $))=.
The penalty for violation of the ordinance is a fine of not more than P',HHH.HH or imprisonment of not more
than $* months. 6
To enforce the ordinance, the mayor of Puerto Princesa ordered the inspection of cargoes of live fish and
lo,sters leaving the city ,y air or sea. Inspectors are to ascertain if the shipper has a permit issued ,y the
office of the city mayor. 1ny cargo of live fish and lo,ster without a permit from the mayor4s office will ,e
"held for proper disposition." 9
The ordinances in Duestion are police power measures, enacted ,y the Province of Palawan and the !ity
of Puerto Princesa, pursuant to the 2ocal 8overnment !ode of $))$ which ma5es it in fact their duty to
enact measures to "protect the environment and impose appropriate penalties for acts which endanger the
environment, such as dynamite fishing and other forms of destructive fishing. . . ."
10
There is no ,asis for
the claim in the dissenting opinion that the su,ject of these ordinances lies within the competence of the
national government. 3or the matter concerns a local pro,lem, namely, the destruction of aDuatic
resources in the Province of Palawan. 3or this reason the -olicitor 8eneral as5ed for leave to withdraw
from this case. n the other hand, the +epartment of 1griculture su,mitted its report on the e?tent of the
devastation of coral reefs caused ,y illegal fishing to the -angguniang Panlalawigan of Palawan and
there,y left the solution of the pro,lem to ,e wor5ed out ,y the local authorities. It would therefore set ,ac5
the policy of decentraliGation were this !ourt to sustain such a claim.
Indeed, petitioners4 challenge to the validity of the ordinances does not rest on the claim that the
ordinances are ,eyond the power of local governments to enact ,ut on the ground that they deprive
petitioners of their means of livelihood and occupation and for that reason violate the !onstitution of the
Philippines. 3or support, petitioners invo5e the following constitutional provisions"
1rt. >II, P* . . . . .
The -tate shall protect the nation4s marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea and
e?clusive economic Gone, and reserve its use and enjoyment e?clusively to 3ilipino citiGens.
The !ongress may, ,y law, allow small(scale utiliGation of natural resources ,y 3ilipino citiGens,
as well as cooperative fish farming, with priority to su,sistence fishermen and fishwor5ers in
rivers, la5es, ,ays and lagoons.
1rt. >III, P$" The !ongress shall give highest priority to the enactment of measures that protect
and enhance the right of all the people to human dignity, reduce social, economic, and political
ineDualities, and remove cultural ineDuities ,y eDuita,ly diffusing wealth and political power for
the common good.
Id., PJ" The -tate shall protect the rights of su,sistence fishermen, especially of local
communities, to the preferential use of the communal marine and fishing resources, ,oth inland
and offshore. It shall provide support to such fishermen through appropriate technology and
research, adeDuate financial, production, and mar5eting assistance, and other services. The
-tate shall also protect, develop, and conserve such resources. The protection shall e?tend to
offshore fishing grounds of su,sistence fishermen against foreign intrusion. 3ishwor5ers shall
receive a just share from their la,or in the utiliGation of marine and fishing resources.
I cannot see how these provisions can, in any way, lend support to petitioners4 contention that the
ordinances violate the !onstitution. These provisions refer to the duty of the -tate to protect the nation4s
marine resources for the e?clusive use and enjoyment of 3ilipino citiGens, to the preferential right of
su,sistence fishermen in the use of such communal marine resources, and to their right to ,e protected,
even in offshore fishing grounds, against foreign intrusion. There is no Duestion here of 3ilipino preference
over aliens in the use of marine resources. What is in issue is the protection of marine resources in the
Province of Palawan. It was precisely to implement 1rt. >II, P* that the ordinances in Duestion were
enacted. 3or, without these marine resources, it would ,e idle to tal5 of the rights of su,sistence fishermen
to ,e preferred in the use of these resources.
It has ,een held that "as underlying Duestions of fact may condition the constitutionality of legislation of this
character, the presumption of constitutionality must prevail in the a,sence of some factual foundation of
record for overthrowing the statute."
11
&o evidence has ,een presented ,y petitioners to overthrow the
factual ,asis of the ordinances @ that, as a result of the use of cyanide and other no?ious su,stances for
fishing, only 'O of the coral reefs in Palawan was in e?cellent condition, that J'O had ,een heavily
destroyed, and that ,ecause of the thriving mar5et for live fish and lo,ster here and a,road there was
rampant illicit trade in live fish.
&or has it ,een shown ,y petitioners that the local legislation here involved is ar,itrary or unreasona,le. It
has ,een held" "If the laws passed are seen to have a reasona,le relation to a proper legislative purpose,
and are neither ar,itrary nor discriminatory, the reDuirements of due process are satisfied, and judicial
determination to that effect renders a court functus officio. . . . With the wisdom of the policy adopted, with
the adeDuacy or practica,ility of the law enacted to forward it, the courts are ,oth incompetent and
unauthoriGed to deal. . . ."
12
It is contended that neither Provincial rdinance &o. *()/ nor !ity rdinance &o. $'()* prohi,its cyanide
fishing and therefore the prohi,ition against catching certain species of fish and their transportation is
"e?cessive and irrational." It is further argued that the ,an is unreasona,le ,ecause it is not limited to
cyanide fishing ,ut includes even legitimate fishing.
The ,an on the use of cyanide and other no?ious su,stances is already provided for in other legislation.
P.+. &o. '/E, P* punishes fishing ,y means of "e?plosives, o,no?ious or poisonous su,stances or ,y the
use of electricity." !onseDuently, the ordinances in Duestion can ,e seen as a necessary corollary of the
prohi,ition against illegal fishing contained in this +ecree. 7y prohi,iting the catching of certain fishes and
lo,sters, rdinance &o. *()/ in effect discourages cyanide fishing ,ecause, as already stated, cyanide is
preferred in catching fishes ,ecause it does not 5ill ,ut only stuns them and thus preserves them for e?port
to the world mar5et.
n the other hand, the claim that the ordinance sweeps over,roadly ,y "a,solutely prohi,itAingB the
catching, gathering, ,uying and shipment of live fishes and marine coral resources ,y any and all means
including those lawfully e?ecuted or done in the pursuit of legitimate occupation" misconceives the
principal purpose of the ordinance, which is not so much to prohi,it the use of cyanide for fishing as to
re,uild corals ,ecause of their destruction ,y cyanide fishing. This is clear from the "whereas" clauses of
Resolution &o. //, accompanying rdinance &o. *()/"
W96R61-, scientific and factual researches and studies disclose that only five #'% percent of
the corals of our province remain to ,e in e?cellent condition as ha,itat of marine coral dwelling
aDuatic organisms.
W96R61-, it cannot ,e gainsaid that the destruction and devastation of the corals of our
province were principally due to illegal fishing activities li5e dynamite fishing, sodium cyanide
fishing, use of other o,no?ious su,stances and other related activities.
W96R61-, there is an imperative and urgent need to protect and preserve the e?istence of the
remaining e?cellent corals and allow the devastated ones to reinvigorate and regenerate
themselves into vitality within the span of five #'% years.
W96R61-, -ec. EI=, Par. $, -u,(Par. :I of R.1. J$IH otherwise 5nown as the 2ocal
8overnment !ode of $))$ empowers the -angguniang Panlalawigan to protect the environment
and impose appropriate penalties AforB acts which endanger the environment such as dynamite
fishing and other forms of destructive fishing, among others.
The principal aim of the ordinance is thus the preservation and reha,ilitation of the corals. nly indirectly is
it also concerned with prohi,iting the use of cyanide. That this is the aim of the ordinance can also ,e
inferred from the fact that the ,an imposed ,y it on the catching and gathering of fishes is for a limited
period #' years% calculated to ,e the time needed for the growth and regeneration of the corals. Were the
purpose of the ordinance the prohi,ition of the use of cyanide for fishing, the ,an would not ,e for a limited
period only ,ut for all time.
I am not much moved ,y the plea that the ordinances deprive small fishermen of their means of livelihood
and occupation. The ,an imposed ,y rdinance &o. *()/, as amended, covers only three species, i.e.,
mameng #scaridae%, panther or seNorita #cromilepres altivelis% and ornamental aDuarium fishes
#+alistiedae%, which are priGed in the ,lac5 mar5et. With respect to other species, it is open season for
legitimate fishermen. n the other hand, the ,an imposed ,y rdinance &o. $'()* allows the
transportation and shipment of sea ,ass, catfish, mudfish and mil5fish fries. The ,an imposed ,y the two
ordinances is limited to five years. It is thus limited ,oth as to scope and as to period of effectivity. There is,
on the other hand, the imperative necessity for measures to prevent the e?tinction of certain species of
fish.
Indeed, the ,urden of showing that there is no reasona,le relation ,etween the end and the means
adopted in this case is not on the local governments ,ut on petitioners ,ecause of the presumption that a
regulatory statute is valid in the a,sence of factual evidence to the contrary. 1s held in "nited States
v.Salaveria.
13
"The presumption is all in favor of validity. . . The councilors must, in the very nature of
things, ,e familiar with the necessities of their particular municipality and with all the facts and
circumstances which surround the su,ject, and necessitate action. The local legislative ,ody, ,y enacting
the ordinance, has in effect given notice that the regulations are essential to the well ,eing of the
people. . . . The 0udiciary should not lightly set aside legislative action when there is not a clear invasion of
personal or property rights under the guise of police regulation."
3inally, petitioners Duestion ffice rder &o. */, s. of $))/, of the city mayor of Puerto Princesa, for ,eing
allegedly vague. This order prohi,its the transportation of fish outside the city without permit from the
mayor4s office. Petitioners contend that the order does not state under what condition a permit may ,e
granted and, conseDuently, leaves it to the a,solute discretion of the mayor when to grant and when to
deny a permit. The Duestioned paragraph of the order states"
The purpose of the inspection is to ascertain whether the shipper possessed the reDuired
Mayor4s Permit issued ,y this ffice and the shipment is covered ,y invoice or clearance issued
,y the local office of the 7ureau of 3isheries and 1Duatic Resources and as to compliance with
all other e?isting rules and regulations on the matter.
This contention is untena,le. 1s the office order is intended to implement !ity rdinance &o. $'()*, resort
must ,e made to the ordinance in order to determine the scope of such office order. 1s already noted, the
ordinance prohi,its the shipment out of Puerto Princesa of live fish and lo,sters, with the e?ception of
catfish, mudfish and mil5fish fries. !onseDuently, a permit may ,e denied if it is for the transportation of
fishes which are covered ,y the ,an, ,ut not for those not covered ,y it. This is the common sense
meaning of the office order in Duestion. !riminal laws must ,e precisely drawn, ,ut, as 0ustice 9olmes
once said, "We agree to all the generalities a,out not supplying criminal laws with what they omit, ,ut there
is no canon against using common sense in construing laws as saying what they o,viously mean."
14
ne final point. This case was ,rought to this !ourt on the ,are ,ones of the ordinances, on the mere
claim of petitioner 1lfredo Tano and his =/ copetitioners that they are su,sistence fishermen. The
constitutional protection refers to small fishermen who depend on the sea for their e?istence. Ten of the
petitioners, led ,y 1lfredo Tano, are accused in the Municipal !ircuit Trial !ourt of possession of the
species covered ,y Provincial rdinance &o. *()/, while two, Ro,erto 2im and :irginia 2im, are charged
with violation of the two ordinances in the !ity Prosecutor4s ffice. There is no telling from the records of
this case whether petitioners are su,sistence fishermen or simply impecunious individuals selling their
catch to the ,ig ,usinessmen. The other petitioners are admittedly fish traders, mem,ers of an association
of airline shippers, to whom the constitutional provisions o,viously do not apply.
The judicial invalidation of the ordinances in this case could undermine the on(going trial of some of
petitioners. Instead of leaving the determination of the validity of the ordinances to the trial court, where
some of petitioners are facing charges, this !ourt will ,e shortcircuiting the criminal process ,y
prematurely passing upon the constitutional Duestions and indirectly on the criminal lia,ility of some of the
petitioners. This is a tas5 which should await the development of evidence of record.
Indeed ,ecause of the unsatisfactory a,stractness of the record, this case should not have ,een ,rought
here. The mere fact that some of petitioners are facing prosecution for violation of the ordinances is no
reason for entertaining their suit. ur jurisdiction is limited to cases and controversies. Who are
petitionersM What is the impact of the ordinance on their economic situationM 1re the factual ,ases of the
two ordinances supported ,y evidenceM These Duestions must ,e raised in the criminal trial or in a suit
,rought in the trial court so that facts necessary to adjudicate the constitutional Duestions can ,e
presented. &othing can ta5e the place of the flesh and ,lood of litigation to assess the actual operation of
a statute and thus ground the judicial power more firmly.
Petitioners justify the filing of the present action in this !ourt on the ground that constitutional Duestions
must ,e raised at the earliest time. That is true, ,ut it does not mean that the Duestions should ,e
presented to the -upreme !ourt first hand. Moreover, the rule is not a,solute. !onstitutional Duestions li5e
those invo5ed ,y petitioners can ,e raised anytime, even in a motion for reconsideration, if their resolution
is necessary to the decision of an actual case or controversy, as our recent resolution
14
of the
constitutionality of R.1. &o. JI'), reimposing the death penalty, amply demonstrates.
%omero, !elo, Puno and Francisco, 221, concur1
BELLOSILLO, J., dissenting"
It is settled rule that where the provisions of the law are clear and unam,iguous there is no room for
interpretation. The duty of the court is only to apply the law. The e?ception to such rule cannot ,e justified
on the sole ,asis of good motives or no,le o,jectives. 3or it is also ,asic that the end does not justify the
means.
The petition raises significant constitutional Duestions. While petitioners apparently instituted the action to
enjoin their criminal prosecution, the issue ,oils down to whether the su,ject ordinances of Palawan and
Puerto Princesa are valid and enforcea,le as to authoriGe the criminal prosecution of those charged with
violation thereof.
&otwithstanding the procedural limitations strictly applied in the majority opinion to render the petition
dismissi,le on grounds of prematurity and lac5 of real interest in the controversy, the case clearly falls
under the e?ceptions allowed ,y law. The petition, I su,mit, can ,e properly treated as a special civil action
for certiorari and prohi,ition under Rule I' of the Rules of !ourt to correct errors of jurisdiction committed
,y the lower court arising from the implementation of a void ordinance. 6ven if the purpose of the petition
is for declaratory relief, if the petition has far(reaching implications and raises Duestions that should ,e
resolved as they involve national interest, it may ,e treated as a special civil action under Rule I'. 1 The
mere a,sence of a prior motion to Duash the Information in the trial court should not prevent the accused,
petitioners herein, from see5ing to render null and void the criminal proceedings ,elow.
In criminal cases, when the constitutionality or validity of a law or ordinance is essentially involved, the
same may ,e raised at any stage of the proceedings. It can also ,e considered ,y the appellate court at
any time if it involves the jurisdiction of the lower !ourt. 2 3urther, under -ec. =, Rule $$J, of the Rules on
!riminal Procedure, the failure of the accused to assert any ground of a motion to Duash ,efore he pleads
to the !omplaint or Information either ,ecause he did not file a motion to Duash or failed to allege the
same in the motion shall ,e deemed a waiver of the grounds of a motion to Duash, e?cept the grounds of
no offense charged, lac5 of jurisdiction over the offense charged, e?tinction of the offense or penalty, and
jeopardy.
Petitioners are proper parties to set aside the proceedings in the trial court. 1 proper party is one who has
sustained or is in immediate danger of sustaining an injury as a result of the act complained of. Petitioners
have ,een criminally charged and arrested for alleged violation of the ordinances in Duestion.
!onseDuently, unless the trial court is enjoined from continuing with the proceedings, petitioners are in
danger of ,eing convicted and punished under ordinances which they allege to ,e invalid and ineffective.
In fact this !ourt initially recogniGed the real interest of petitioners in instituting the action when it issued a
restraining order directing 0udge 1ngel R. Miclat to cease and desist until further orders from proceeding
with the arraignment and pre(trial of People v. Alfredo Tano, et al., !rim. !ase &o. $$**/, for violation of
Resolution &o. *()/ of the -angguniang Panlalawigan of Palawan, and rdinance &o. $'()* of the
-angguniang Panlungsod of Puerto Princesa !ity.
The Duestion to ,e resolved is whether Resolution &o. *()/, ffice rder &o. */ and rdinance &o. $'()*
are constitutional, valid and enforcea,le. 7y considering the purpose and o,jective of the ordinances as
lauda,le, the majority adopts the affirmative view in consonance with the general welfare clause and
principle of devolution well(rooted in the 2ocal 8overnment !ode of $))$.
While I agree with the majority that the local leaders of Palawan and Puerto Princesa !ity ,e commended
for their efforts to uplift and protect the environment and natural resources within their areas, the general
welfare clause is not the sole criterion to determine the validity or constitutionality of the ordinances.
In!agta-as v. Pr&ce Properties Corporation, 3 we reiterated that the well(esta,lished tests of a valid
ordinance are" #a% It must not contravene the !onstitution or an& statute. #,% It must not ,e unfair or
oppressive. #c% It must not ,e partial or discriminatory. #d% It must not prohi+it +ut ma& regulate trade. #e% It
must ,e general and consistent with pu,lic policy. and, #f% It must not ,e unreasona,le.
1s admitted ,y the majority, among our e?isting statutes on fishing and fishery or aDuatic resources are
P.+. &os. JHE, $H$' and $*$). P.+. &o. JHE is titled "%evising and Consolidating All #a)s and Decrees
Affecting Fishing and Fisheries." With the enactment of the 2ocal 8overnment !ode of $))$, only -ecs.
$I and *) of P.+. &o. JHE were e?pressly repealed. 1ll the rest of the provisions of P.+. &o. JHE remain
valid and effective, -ec. E of which is enlightening @
-ec. E. 2urisdiction of the Bureau 3of Fisheries and A*uatic %esources4. @ The 7ureau shall
have jurisdiction and responsi,ility in the management, conservation, development, protection,
utiliGation and disposition of all fishery and aDuatic resources of the country e?cept municipal
waters which shall ,e under the municipal or city government concerned" Provided, That
fishpens and seaweed culture in municipal centers shall ,e under the jurisdiction of the
7ureau" Provided, further, That all municipal or cit& ordinances and resolutions affecting fishing
and fisheries and an& disposition thereunder shall +e su+mitted to the Secretar& for appropriate
action and shall have full force and effect onl& upon his approval. The 7ureau shall also have
authority to regulate and supervise the production, capture and gathering of fish and
fisheryCaDuatic products.
There is no dou,t that under P.+. &o. JHE fishing, fishery and aDuatic resources in municipal waters are
under the jurisdiction of the municipal or city government concerned. 9owever, the same decree imposes
a mandatory reDuirement directing municipal or city governments to su,mit ordinances enacted pertinent
to fishing and fishery resources to the -ecretary of 1griculture who now has control and supervision over
the 7ureau of 3isheries and 1Duatic Resources #731R%. The ordinances will attain full force and effect only
upon the approval of the -ecretary of 1griculture.
rdinance $'()* of Puerto Princesa !ity, admittedly, was not su,mitted to the -ecretary of 1griculture
through the 731R for approval. -uch failure of compliance with the law prevented it from ,ecoming valid
and effective. !onseDuently, ffice rder &o. */ of the Mayor of Puerto Princesa !ity which see5s to
implement and enforce rdinance &o. $'()* is also ineffective as there is nothing to implement.
To say that -ec. E of P.+. &o. JHE was impliedly repealed ,y the 2ocal 8overnment !ode is gratuitous.
3or, if it was the intention of the legislature to dispense with the reDuirement of prior approval ,y the
-ecretary of 1griculture of ordinances pertinent to fishery resources, it would. have e?pressly repealed
-ec. E when, in fact, it did so with -ecs. $I and *) of P.+. &o. JHE. !ases a,ound holding that a repeal ,y
implication is not presumed or favored considering that the legislature is presumed to ,e aware of e?isting
laws. ordinarily, if it intends to revo5e a statute it would manifest such intention in e?press terms.4 7efore
such a repeal is deemed to e?ist it should ,e shown that the statutes or statutory provisions deal with the
same su,ject matter and that the latter ,e inconsistent with the former. There must ,e a showing of
repugnancy clear and convincing in character. The language used in the latter statute must ,e such as to
render it irreconcila,le with what has ,een formerly enacted. 1n inconsistency that falls short of that
standard does not suffice. In fact, there is no inconsistency ,etween the 2ocal 8overnment !ode and P.+.
&o. JHE as amended. While the 2ocal 8overnment !ode vests power upon the local government to enact
ordinances for the general welfare of its inha,itants, such power is su,ject to certain limitations imposed
,y the !ode itself and ,y other statutes. When the legislature failed to repeal -ec. E of P.+. &o. JHE it
accepted and recogniGed a limitation on the power of the local government to enact ordinances relative to
matters affecting fishery and aDuatic resources. 1 reading of particular provisions of the 2ocal 8overnment
!ode itself will reveal that devolution on the powers of the local government pertaining to the protection of
environment is limited and not all(encompassing, as will ,e discussed in the succeeding paragraphs.
3urther, while the 2ocal 8overnment !ode is a general law on the powers, responsi,ilities and
composition of different local government units, P.+. &o. JHE is a special law dealing with the protection
and conservation of fishing and aDuatic resources including those in the municipal waters. 9ence, the
special law should prevail over the general law.
There is also P.+. &o. $H$' which vests upon the -ecretary of 1griculture the authority to esta,lish closed
seasons. 1nother e?isting law on fisheries which has not ,een repealed ,y the 2ocal 8overnment !ode is
P.+. &o. $*$), which provides for the e?ploration, e?ploitation, utiliGation and conservation of coral
resources. -ection E thereof provides that the decree shall ,e implemented ,y the -ecretary of
6nvironment and &atural Resources who shall have jurisdiction and responsi,ility in the e?ploration,
e?ploitation, utiliGation and conservation of coral resources. -ection I authoriGes the -ecretary to issue
special permit to any person or institution to gather in limited Duantities any coral for scientific or
educational purposes. -ection $H empowers the -ecretary to promulgate rules and regulations for the
implementation of this law.
It is true that police power can ,e e?ercised through the general welfare clause. 7ut, while police power is
inherent in a state, it is not so in municipal corporations or local governments. In order that a local
government may e?ercise police power, there must ,e a legislative grant which necessarily sets the limits
for the e?ercise of the power. 4 In this case, !ongress has enacted the 2ocal 8overnment !ode which
provides the standards as well as the limitations in the e?ercise of the police power ,y the local
government unit.
-ection * of the 2ocal 8overnment !ode provides for a system of decentraliGation where,y local
government units are given more powers, authority, responsi,ilities and resources, and the process shall
proceed from the national government to the local government units. 9owever, under -ec /, par. #i%, of the
2ocal 8overnment !ode, the operative principles of decentraliGation upon the environment and natural
resources are not a,solute when it is provided therein that "local government units shall share with the
national government the responsi,ility in the management and maintenance of ecological ,alance within
their territorial jurisdiction, su,ject to the provisions of this !ode and national policies." The national
policies mentioned here refer to e?isting policies which the +6&R and other government agencies
concerned with the environment may implement at any given moment. The national policies are em,odied
in e?isting laws, rules and regulations pertaining to environment and natural resources, such as P.+. &os.
JHE and $*$) relating to fishery resources. The a,ove provision was crafted to ma5e sure that local
government enactments do not supplant or negate national government policies on environment. 5 This is
precisely the reason why the 2ocal 8overnment !ode did not repeal -ec. E of P.+. &. JHE reDuiring prior
su,mission to and approval ,y the -ecretary of 1griculture of ordinances relative to fishery and aDuatic
resources. &eedless to stress, the approval of the -ecretary is necessary in order to ensure that these
ordinances are in accordance with the laws on fisheries and national policies. 2i5ewise, the jurisdiction of
the -ecretary of 6nvironment and &atural Resources over coral resources under P.+. &o. $*$) remains.
The core of the devolution adopted ,y the 2ocal 8overnment !ode is found in -ec. $J thereof which
reiterates the ,asic services and facilities to ,e rendered ,y the local governments. With respect to the
protection and conservation of fisheries, -ec. $J, par. * #i%, specifically provides that the municipality shall
conduct "e?tension and on(site research services and facilities related to agriculture and fishery activities
which include dispersal of livestoc5 and poultry, fingerlings and other seeding materials for aDuaculture
. . . . and enforcement of fishery laws in municipal waters including the conservation of mangroves . . . ."
The power devolved upon the municipality under the 2ocal 8overnment !ode is the enforcement of
e?isting fishery laws of the -tate and not the enactment thereof. While a local government unit may adopt
ordinances upon su,jects covered ,y law or statute, such ordinances should ,e in accordance with and
not repugnant to the law. 7 In view thereof, ordinances which may ,e enacted ,y the municipality or city
should ,e pursuant to the provisions of P.+. &os. JHE, $H$' and $*$). Thus, under the provisions of -ecs.
EEJ, par. $ #vi%, E'=, par. $ #vi% and EI=, par. $ #vi%, the municipality, city and province respectively may
approve ordinances protecting the environment ,y specifically penaliGing only those acts which endanger
the environment such as dynamite fishing and other forms of destructive fishing which are already
prohi,ited under P.+. &os. JHE and $*$), and other laws on illegal fishing. 6
The Duestioned ordinances may also ,e struc5 down for ,eing not only a prohi,itory legislation ,ut also an
unauthoriGed e?ercise of delegation of powers. 1n o,jective, however worthy or desira,le it may ,e, such
as the protection and conservation of our fisheries in this case, can ,e attained ,y a measure that does not
encompass too wide a field. The purpose can ,e achieved ,y reasona,le restrictions rather than ,y
a,solute prohi,ition. 2ocal governments are not possessed with prohi,itory powers ,ut only regulatory
powers under the general welfare clause. 9 They cannot therefore e?ceed the powers granted to them ,y
the !ode ,y altogether prohi,iting fishing and selling for five #'% years all live fishes through rdinance &o.
$'()* and coral organisms through rdinance &o. *()/ involving even lawful methods of fishing.
These prohi,itions are tantamount to the esta,lishment of a closed season for fish and aDuatic resources
which authority is not among those powers vested ,y the 2ocal 8overnment !ode to the local government
units. 3or the authority to esta,lish a closed season for fisheries is vested upon the -ecretary of
1griculture ,y virtue of P.+. &os. JHE and $H$' and in the -ecretary of 6nvironment and &atural resources
pursuant to P.+. &o. $*$) in relation to coral resources. The power of the local governments is confined
and limited to ensuring that these national fishery laws are implemented and enforced within their territorial
jurisdictions. 9ence, any memorandum of agreement which might have ,een e?ecuted ,y the +epartment
of 1griculture or +epartment of 6nvironment and &atural Resources granting additional powers and
functions to the local governments which are not vested upon the latter ,y the 2ocal 8overnment !ode
,ecause such powers are covered ,y e?isting statutes, is an undue delegation of power and,
conseDuently, null and void.
The majority also cites R.1. &o. JI$$, otherwise 5nown as the -trategic 6nvironmental Plan #-6P% for
Palawan 1ct, as proof of the power of the local governments of Palawan and Puerto Princesa !ity to issue
the assailed ordinances. 1lthough the o,jectives of R.1. &o. JI$$ and of the ordinances are one and the
same, i.e., the protection, conservation and development of natural resources, the former does not grant
additional powers to the local governments pertaining to the environment. In fact, the law adopts a
comprehensive framewor5 which shall serve to direct and guide local governments and national
government agencies in the implementation of programs and projects affecting Palawan. With the
enactment of this 1ct, the local governments are mandated to coordinate and align their developmental
plans, projects and ,udgets in accord with the framewor5 of the -6P. It can ,e said that this is another
limitation on the e?ercise of police power ,y the local governments of Palawan and Puerto Princesa !ity
,ecause the governance, implementation and policy direction of the -6P shall ,e e?ercised ,y the
Palawan !ouncil for -ustaina,le +evelopment #P!-+% which is under the ffice of the President.
3inally, I find unreasona,le Resolution &o. *()/ of Palawan and rdinance &o. $'()* of Puerto Princesa
!ity. The prohi,itions set forth are not germane to the accomplishment of their goals. rdinance &o. $'()*
is aimed to free effectively the marine resources of Puerto Princesa from cyanide and other o,no?ious
su,stances. 7ut the means to achieve this o,jective ,orders on the e?cessive and irrational, for the edict
would a,solutely ,an the shipment of live fishes and lo,sters out of the city for a period of five #'% years
without prohi,iting cyanide fishing itself which is the professed goal of the ordinance. The purpose of
Resolution &o. *()/, on the other hand, is to protect and preserve all marine coral(dwelling organisms
from devastation and destruction ,y illegal fishing activities, e.g., dynamite fishing, sodium cyanide fishing,
and the use of other o,no?ious su,stances. 7ut in a,solutely prohi,iting the catching, gathering, ,uying
and shipment of live fishes and marine coral resources ,y any means including those lawfully e?ecuted or
done in the pursuit of legitimate occupation, the ordinance overstepped the reasona,le limits and
,oundaries of its raison d5etre. This I cannot help viewing as plain ar,itrariness masDuerading as police
power. 3or the conseDuent deprivation of the main source of livelihood of the people of Palawan can only
,e regarded as utter depravation of this awesome power of the -tate.
3or all the foregoing, I vote to grant the petition.
6apunan and ermosisima, 2r1, 221, concur1
Foot,ot/s
$ &one, however, e?ists in Puerto Princesa !ity.
* Petitioners filed their Memorandum on *E cto,er $))E, respondents !ity Mayor 9agedorn
and Mem,ers of the -angguniang Panlungsod of the !ity of Puerto Princess filed their
Memorandum on *' 0anuary $))', while respondents 8overnor -ocrates and Mem,ers of the
-angguniang Panlalawigan of Palawan filed their Memorandum on /$ 0anuary $))'.
/ 1nne? "+" of Petition, %ollo, /'.
E 1nne? "6" of Petition. id, /I.
' 1nne? "1" to "1('" of ;rgent Plea for the Immediate Issuance of Temporary Restraining
rder,%ollo, =I et seD.
I :I!6&T6 0. 3R1&!I-!, T96 R6:I-6+ R;26- 3 !;RT I& T96 P9I2IPPI&6-,
!RIMI&12 PR!6+;R6, '=* #*nd ed. $)I)%, citing ;.-. v. Pompeya, /$ Phil. *E' A$)$'B.
J 1charon v. Purisima, $/ -!R1 /H), /$$ A$)I'B. !ruG v. !ourt of 1ppeals, $)E -!R1 $E', $'*(
$'/ A$))$B. <ap v. Intermediate 1ppellate !ourt, **H -!R1 *E', *'/ A$))/B. People v. 7ans,
*/) -!R1 E=, 'E('' A$))EB.
= 2i,erty Insurance !orporation v. !ourt of 1ppeals, *** -!R1 /J, EJ A$))/B. 2asco v. ;nited
&ations Revolving 3und for &atural Resources 6?ploration, *E$ -!R1 I=$, I=E A$))'B.
) See MendoGa v. !ourt of 1ppeals, *H$ -!R1 /E/ A$))$B. People v. 7ans, supra note J.
$H %ollo, *'.
$$ Macasiano v. &ational 9ousing 1uthority, **E -!R1 */I, *E/ A$))/B, citing Remotigue v.
smeNa, *$ -!R1 =/J A$)IJB. Rural 7an5 of longapo v. !ommissioner of 2and Registration,
$H* -!R1 J)E A$)=$B. and 1llied 7roadcasting !enter v. Repu,lic of the Philippines, $)H -!R1
J=* A$))HB.
$* Philna,an5 6mployees 1ssociation v. 9on. 6stanislao, **J -!R1 =HE, =$$ A$))/B.
$/ $J* -!R1 E$', E*/(E*E A$)=)B, reiterated in Manalo v. 8loria, */I -!R1 $/H, $/=($/)
A$))EB.
$E *$J -!R1 I//, I'* A$))/B.
$' 2a ;nion 6lectric !ooperative Inc. v. <aranon, $J) -!R1 =*=, =/I A$)=)B. 3rancisco v.
Perms5ul, $J/ -!R1 /*E, /// A$)=)B.
$I See Peralta v. !ommission on 6lections, =* -!R1 /H, '' A$)J=B.
$J Paredes v. 6?ecutive -ecretary, $*= -!R1 I, $$ A$)=EB, citing <u 8ong 6ng v. Trinidad, EJ
Phil. /=' A$)*'B. See also 1ris #Phil.% Inc. v. &2R!, *HH -!R1 *EI, *''(*'I A$))$B.
$= 1lthough the intent of the framers was to have the terms refer to those "who lived a hand(to(
mouth e?istence.," 01K;I& 8. 76R&1-, T96 I&T6&T 3 T96 $)=I !&-TIT;TI&
WRIT6R- )IE #$))'%.
$) We,ster4s Third &ew International +ictionary $/=$ A$))/B.
*H We,ster4s, supra, **J).
*$ III Record of the !onstitutional !ommission, 'H.
** -ection $I, 1rticle II.
*/ **E -!R1 J)*, =HE(=H' A$))/B.
*E -ection $E).
*' -ection EEJAaBA$BAviB. -ection E'=AaBA$BAviB. -ection EI=AaBA$BAviB.
*I -ection *#a%.
*J -ection /, 1rticle >.
*= -ection '#a%.
*) -ection $J#e%.
/H -ection $JA,BA*BAiB.
/$ -ection $/ArB, 28!.
/* -ec. E. R.1. &o. JI$$.
// -ection E'=AaBA$BAviB. -ection EI=AaBA$BAviB.
/E -ection /A/B, R.1. &o. JI$$.
/' 0ay 7atong,acal, &ote, The !oastal 6nvironment and the -mall(-cale 3isherfol5" 1dvocacy
for !ommunity(7ased !oastal Lone Management, II P9I2. 2. 0. $E), $I* #+ecem,er $))$%.
/I 1nthony -paeth, Reef 5illers, TIM6 MagaGine, / 0une $))I, E), 'H.
/J 1nthony -paeth, Reef Fillers, TIM6 MagaGine, / 0une $))I, E), 'H.
/= 7atong,acal, $I=.
/) -paeth. '$.
EH Id.
E$ 7atong,acal, $I=.
E* -aid section reads"
-ec. E. 2urisdiction of the Bureau. @ The 7ureau shall have jurisdiction and responsi,ility in the
management, conservation, development, protection, utiliGation and disposition of all fishery and
aDuatic resources of the country e?cept municipal waters which shall ,e under the municipal or
city government concerned" Provided, That fishpens and seaweed culture in municipal centers
shall ,e under the jurisdiction of the 7ureau" Provided, further, That all municipal or city
ordinances and resolutions affecting fishing and fisheries and any disposition thereunder shall
,e su,mitted to the -ecretary for appropriate action and shall have full force and effect only
upon his approval. The 7ureau shall also have authority to regulate and supervise the
production, capture and gathering of fish and fisheryCaDuatic products.
The 7ureau shall prepare and implement, upon approval of the 3ishery Industry +evelopment
!ouncil, a 3ishery Industry +evelopment Program.
E/ 6?ecutive rder &o. *)*.
EE -ection *H, !hapter E, Title I:, 7oo5 I:.
E' These sections read as follows"
-ec. $I. #icense, lease, and permit. @ &o person shall e?ploit, occupy, produce, culture,
capture or gather fish, or fry or fingerling of any species of fish or fisheryCaDuatic products, or
engage in any fishery activity in Philippine or municipal waters without a license, lease or
permit" Provided, That when due to destruction wrought upon fishponds, fishpens or fish
nurseries, ,y typhoons, floods and other fortuitous events, or due to speculation, monopolistic
and other pernicious practices which tend to create an artificial shortage of fry andCor fingerling,
the supply of fish and fisheryCaDuatic products can reasona,ly ,e e?pected to fall ,elow the
usual demand therefor and the price thereof, to increase, the -ecretary, upon recommendation
of the +irector, is here,y authoriGed to fi? a fair and reasona,le price for fry and fingerling of any
species of fish, and in so doing and when necessary, fi? different price levels for various areas or
regions ta5ing into account such varia,le factors as availa,ility, accessi,ility to transportation
facilities, pac5ing and crating, and to regulate the movement, shipment and transporting of such
fry and fingerling" Provided, Further, That the price so fi?ed shall guarantee the gatherers of fry a
just and eDuita,le return for their la,or" Provided, Finall&, That any administrative order issued
,y the -ecretary to implement the foregoing shall ta5e effect immediately, the provisions of
-ection J hereof to the contrary notwithstanding.
??? ??? ???
!. !"'ICIPA# FISE%IES
-ec. *). (rant of fisher& privileges. @ 1 municipal or city council, conforma,ly with an ordinance
duly approved ,y the -ecretary pursuant to -ection E hereof may"
a. grant to the highest Dualified ,idder the e?clusive privilege of constructing
and operating fish corrals, oyster culture ,eds, or of gathering ",angus" fry,
or the fry of other species, in municipal waters for a period not e?ceeding
five #'% years" Provided, That in the Goning and classification of municipal
waters for purposes of awarding, through pu,lic ,idding, areas for the
construction or operation of fish corrals, oyster culture ,eds, or the
gathering of fry, the municipal or city council shall set aside not more than
one(fifth #$C'% of the area, earmar5ed for the gathering of fry, as may ,e
designated ,y the 7ureau, as government ",angus" fry
reservation" Provided, Further, That no fish corral shall ,e constructed
within two hundred #*HH% meters of another fish corral in marine fisheries, or
one hundred #$HH% meters in freshwater fisheries, unless they ,elong to the
same licensee, ,ut in no case shall the distance ,e less than si?ty #IH%
meters, e?cept in waters less than two #*% meters deep at low tide, or unless
previously approved ,y the -ecretary.
,. authoriGe the issuance to Dualified persons of license for the operation of
fishing ,oats three #/% gross tons or less, or for the privilege of fishing in
municipal waters with nets, traps or other fishing gear" Provided, That it
shall ,e ,eyond the power of the municipal or city council to impose a
license for the privilege of gathering marine mollusca or the shells thereof,
for pearling ,oats and pearl divers, or for prospecting, collecting, or
gathering sponges or other aDuatic products, or for the culture of
fisheryCaDuatic products" Provided, Further, That a licensee under this
paragraph shall not operate within two hundred #*HH% meters of any fish
corral licensed ,y the municipality e?cept when the licensee is the owner or
operator of the fish corral ,ut in no case within si?ty #IH% meters of said
corral. The municipality or city council shall furnish the 7ureau, for statistical
purposes, on forms which shall ,e furnished ,y the 7ureau, such
information and data on fishery matters as are reflected in such forms.
EI -ection $E).
EJ -ection EEJAaBA$BAviB. -ection E'=AaBA$BAviB. -ection EI=AaBA$BAviB.
M6&+L1, 0., concurring"
$ PPI and III.
* PI:.
/ Kuoted in Respondents !omment on the Petition. p. J.
E Toufe?is. 1ll 8od4s !reatures Priced to -ell. Time, 0uly $), $))/, p. /*.
' Supra note / at p. =.
I Supra note E at p. /E.
J PE.
= P'.
) ffice rder &o. //, s. $))/.
$H R.1. &o. J$IH, PE'=#a%#$ %#vi% and PEI=#a%#$%#vi%.
$$ 6rmita(Malate 9otel and Motel perators 1ss4n v. !ity Mayor, *H -!R1 =E), ='J
#$)IJ%, citing48oGman Q <oung v. 9artford 3ire Ins. !o., *=* ;.-. *'', *'J, J' 2.6d. /*E, /*=
#$)/$%.
$* &e,,ia v. &ew <or5, *)$ ;.-. 'H* #$)/E%. See also 2ansang v. 8arcia, E* -!R1 EE=, E=$
#$)J$%" People v. 3errer, E= -!R1 /=* #$)J*%.
$/ /) Phil. $H*, $$$ #$)$=%.
$E Roschen v. Ward, *J) ;.-. //J, //), J/ 2.6d. J**, J*= #$)*)%, Duoted ,y this !ourt in
6rmita(Malate 9otel and Motel perators 1ss4n v. !ity Mayor, *H -!R1 at =IJ.
$' People v. 6chegaray, 8.R. &o. $$JEJ*, 3e,. J, $))J #death penalty statute valid%.
7622-I22, 0." dissenting"
$ 1lliance of 8overnment Wor5ers v. Minister of 2a,or, 8.R. &o. IHEH/, / 1ugust $)=/, $*E
-!R1 $.
* -an Miguel 7rewery, Inc. v. Magno, &o. 2(*$=J, *) -eptem,er $)IJ, *$ -!R1 *)*.
/ 8.R. &o. $$$H)J, *H 0uly $))E, */E -!R1 *''.
E 1lmeda v. 3lorentino, &o. 2(*/=HH, *$ +ecem,er $)I', $' -!R1 '$E.
' Martin, Ruperto 8., Pu,lic !orporations, Rev. 6d., p. EI, citing 6lliot, Municipal !orporations,
p. //.
I Pimentel, 1Duilino, The 2ocal 8overnment !ode of $))$, Fey to &ational +evelopment, $))/,
p. $).
J See &ote ', p. I), citing ;.-. v. !han Tienco, *' Phil. =) #$)$/%.
= See &ote I, p. J/.
) !ruG v. Paras, &os. 2(E*'J$(J*, *' 0uly $)=/, $*/ -!R1 'I).
G.R. No. L)32255 F/:8u-81 27, 1969
THE DIRECTOR OF FORESTR$, petitioner vs.
RUERTO A. "ILLAREAL, respondent.
CRU', J.:
The ,asic Duestion ,efore the !ourt is the legal classification of mangrove swamps, or manglares, as they are
commonly 5nown. If they are part of our pu,lic forest lands, they are not aliena,le under the !onstitution. If they are
considered pu,lic agricultural lands, they may ,e acDuired under private ownership. The private respondent4s claim
to the land in Duestion must ,e judged ,y these criteria.
The said land consists of $J=,$$/ sDuare meters of mangrove swamps located in the municipality of -apian, !apiG.
Ruperto :illareal applied for its registration on 0anuary *', $)E), alleging that he and his predecessors(in(interest
had ,een in possession of the land for more than forty years. 9e was opposed ,y several persons, including the
petitioner on ,ehalf of the Repu,lic of the Philippines. 1fter trial, the application was approved ,y the !ourt of 3irst
Instance. of !apiG.
1
The decision was affirmed ,y the !ourt of 1ppeals.
2
The +irector of 3orestry then came to this
!ourt in a petition for review on certiorari claiming that the land in dispute was forestal in nature and not su,ject to
private appropriation. 9e as5s that the registration ,e reversed.
It should ,e stressed at the outset that ,oth the petitioner and the private respondent agree that the land is
mangrove land. There is no dispute as to this. The ,one of contention ,etween the parties is the legal nature of
mangrove swamps or manglares1 The petitioner claims, it is forestal and therefore not disposa,le and the private
respondent insists it is aliena,le as agricultural land. The issue ,efore us is legal, not factual.
3or a proper ,ac5ground of this case, we have to go ,ac5 to the Philippine 7ill of $)H*, one of the earlier 1merican
organic acts in the country. 7y this law, lands of the pu,lic domain in the Philippine Islands were classified into three
grand divisions, to wit, agricultural, mineral and tim,er or forest lands. This classification was maintained in the
!onstitution of the !ommonwealth, promulgated in $)/', until it was superseded ,y the !onstitution of $)J/. That
new charter e?panded the classification of pu,lic lands to include industrial or commercial, residential, resettlement,
and graGing lands and even permitted the legislature to provide for other categories.
3
This provision has ,een
reproduced, ,ut with su,stantial modifications, in the present !onstitution.
4
;nder the !ommonwealth !onstitution, which was the charter in force when this case arose, only agricultural lands
were allowed to ,e alienated.
4
Their disposition was provided for under !.1. &o. $E$. Mineral and tim,er or forest
lands were not su,ject to private ownership unless they were first reclassified as agricultural lands and so released
for alienation.
In the leading case of Montano v. Insular 8overnment,
5
promulgated in $)H), mangrove swamps or manglareswere
defined ,y the !ourt as"
... mud flats, alternately washed and e?posed ,y the tide, in which grows various 5indred plants
which will not live e?cept when watered ,y the sea, e?tending their roots deep into the mud and
casting their seeds, which also germinate there. These constitute the mangrove flats of the
tropics, which e?ist naturally, ,ut which are also, to some e?tent cultivated ,y man for the sa5e
of the com,usti,le wood of the mangrove and li5e trees as well as for the useful nipa palm
propagated thereon. 1lthough these flats are literally tidal lands, yet we are of the opinion that
they cannot ,e so regarded in the sense in which that term is used in the cases cited or in
general 1merican jurisprudence. The waters flowing over them are not availa,le for purpose of
navigation, and they may ,e disposed of without impairment of the pu,lic interest in what
remains.
? ? ?
;nder this uncertain and somewhat unsatisfactory condition of the law, the custom had grown of
converting manglares and nipa lands into fisheries which ,ecame 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 a,rogation of which would destroy vested
interests and prove a pu,lic disaster.
Mangrove swamps were thus considered agricultural lands and so suscepti,le of private ownership.
-u,seDuently, the Philippine 2egislature categorically declared, despite the a,ove(cited case, that mangrove
swamps form part of the pu,lic forests of this country. This it did in the 1dministrative !ode of $)$J, which ,ecame
effective on cto,er $ of that year, thus"
-ection $=*H. /ords and phrase defined. ( 3or the purpose of this chapter 4pu,lic forest4
includes, e?cept as otherwise specially indicated, all unreserved pu,lic land, including nipa and
mangrove swamps, and all forest reserves of whatever character.
It is noteworthy, though, that notwithstanding this definition, the !ourt maintained the doctrine in the Montano case
when two years later it held in the case of 0ocson v. +irector of 3orestry"
7
...the words tim,er land are always translated in the -panish translation of that 1ct #1ct of
!ongress% as terrenos forestales. We thin5 there is an error in this translation and that a ,etter
translation would ,e 4terrenos madereros.4 2um,er land in 6nglish means land with trees
growing on it. The mangler plant would never ,e called a tree in 6nglish ,ut a ,ush, and land
which has only ,ushes, shru,s or aDuatic plants growing on it cannot ,e called 4tim,er land.
??? ??? ???
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 tim,er land.
More to the point, addressing itself directly to a,ove(Duoted -ection $=*H, the !ourt declared"
4In the case of Mapa vs. Insular 8overnment #$H Phil. Rep., $J'%, this !ourt said that the phrase
agricultural lands as used in 1ct &o. )*I means those pu,lic lands acDuired from -pain which
are not tim,er or mineral lands.
Whatever may have ,een the meaning of the term 4forestry4 under the -panish law, the 1ct of
!ongress of 0uly $st $)H*, classifies the pu,lic lands in the Philippine Islands as tim,er, mineral
or agricultural lands, and all pu,lic lands that are not tim,er or mineral lands are necessarily
agricultural pu,lic lands, whether they are used as nipa swamps, manglares, fisheries or
ordinary farm lands.
The definition of forestry as including manglares found in the 1dministrative !ode of $)$J
cannot affect rights which vested prior to its enactment.
These lands ,eing neither tim,er nor mineral lands, the trial court should have considered them
agricultural lands. If they are agricultural lands, then the rights of appellants are fully esta,lished
,y 1ct &o. )*I.
The doctrine was reiterated still later in 8architorena :da. de !entenera v. ,ias,
6
promulgated on March E, $)//,
more than fifteen years after the effectivity of the 1dministrative !ode of $)$J. 0ustice strand declared for a
unanimous !ourt"
The opposition rests mainly upon the proposition that the land covered ,y the application there
are mangrove lands as shown in his opponent4s 6?h. $, ,ut we thin5 this opposition of the
+irector of 3orestry is untena,le, inasmuch as it has ,een definitely decided that mangrove
lands are not forest lands in the sense in which this phrase is used in the 1ct of !ongress.
&o ela,oration was made on this conclusion which was merely ,ased on the cases of Montano and 0ocson. 1nd in
$)JJ, the a,ove ruling was reaffirmed in Tongson v. +irector of 3orestry,
9
with 0ustice 3ernando declaring that the
mangrove lands in litis were agricultural in nature. The decision even Duoted with approval the statement of the trial
court that"
... Mangrove swamps where only trees of mangrove species grow, where the trees are small
and sparse, fit only for firewood purposes and the trees growing are not of commercial value as
lum,er do not convert the land into pu,lic land. -uch lands are not forest in character. They do
not form part of the pu,lic domain.
nly last year, in Repu,lic v. +e Por5an,
10
the !ourt, citing Friven5o v. Register of +eeds,
11
reiterated the ruling in
the Mapa case that "all pu,lic lands that are not tim,er or mineral lands are necessarily agricultural pu,lic lands,
whether they are used as nipa swamps, manglares, fisheries or ordinary farm lands.
7ut the pro,lem is not all that simple. 1s it happens, there is also a line of decisions holding the contrary view.
In <ngson v. -ecretary of 1griculture and &atural Resources,
12
promulgated in $)=/, the !ourt ruled "that the
7ureau of 3isheries has no jurisdiction to dispose of swamp lands or mangrove lands forming part of the pu,lic
domain while such lands are still classified as forest lands.
3our months later, in 9eirs of 1munategui v. +irector of 3orestry,
13
the !ourt was more positive when it held, again
through 0ustice 8utierreG"
The 9eirs of 0ose 1munategui maintain that 2ot &o. ==' cannot ,e classified as forest land
,ecause it is not thic5ly forested ,ut is a 4mangrove swamps.4 1lthough conceding that
4mangrove swamp4 is included in the classification of forest land in accordance with -ection $=*H
of the Revised 1dministrative !ode, the petitioners argue that no ,ig trees classified in -ection
$=*$ of the said !ode as first, second and third groups are found on the land in Duestion.
3urthermore, they contend that 2ot ==', even if it is a mangrove swamp, is still su,ject to land
registration proceedings ,ecause the property had ,een in actual possession of private persons
for many years, and therefore, said land was already 4private land4 ,etter adapted and more
valua,le for agricultural than for forest purposes and not reDuired ,y the pu,lic interests to ,e
5ept under forest classification.
The petition is without merit.
1 forested area classified as forest land of the pu,lic domain does not lose such classification
simply ,ecause loggers or settlers may have stripped it of its forest cover. Parcels of land
classified as forest land may actually ,e covered with grass or planted to crops ,y 5aingin
cultivators or other farmers. 43orested lands4 do not have to ,e on mountains or in out(of(the(way
places. -wampy areas covered ,y mangrove trees, nipa palms, and other trees growing in
,rac5ish or sea water may also ,e classified as forest land. The classification is descriptive of its
legal nature or status and does not have to ,e descriptive of what the land actually loo5s li5e.
;nless and until the land classsified as 4forest4 is released in an official proclamation to that
effect so that it may form part of the disposa,le agricultural lands of the pu,lic domain, the rules
on confirmation of imperfect titles do not apply.4
The view was maintained in :allarta v. Intermediate 1ppellate !ourt,
14
where this !ourt agreed with the -olicitor
8eneral4s su,mission that the land in dispute, which he descri,ed as "swamp mangrove or forestal land," were not
private properties and so not registera,le. This case was decided only twelve days after the +e Por5an case.
3aced with these apparent contradictions, the !ourt feels there is a need for a categorical pronouncement that
should resolve once and for all the Duestion of whether mangrove swamps are agricultural lands or forest lands.
The determination of this Duestion is a function initially ,elonging to the legislature, which has the authority to
implement the constitutional provision classifying the lands of the pu,lic domain #and is now even permitted to
provide for more categories of pu,lic lands%. The legislature having made such implementation, the e?ecutive
officials may then, in the discharge of their own role, administer our pu,lic lands pursuant to their constitutional duty "
to ensure that the laws ,e faithfully e?ecuted4 and in accordance with the policy prescri,ed. 3or their part, the courts
will step into the picture if the rules laid down ,y the legislature are challenged or, assuming they are valid, it is
claimed that they are not ,eing correctly o,served ,y the e?ecutive. Thus do the three departments, coordinating
with each other, pursue and achieve the o,jectives of the !onstitution in the conservation and utiliGation of our
natural resources.
In !.1. &o. $E$, the &ational 1ssem,ly delegated to the President of the Philippines the function of ma5ing periodic
classifications of pu,lic lands, thus"
-ec. I. The President, upon the recommendation of the -ecretary of 1griculture and &atural
Resources, shall from time to time classify the lands of the pu,lic domain into"
#a% 1liena,le or disposa,le,
#,% 2um,er, and
#c% Mineral lands,
and may at any time and in a li5e manner transfer such lands from one class to another, for the
purposes of their administration and disposition.
-ec. J. 3or the purposes of the administration and disposition of aliena,le or disposa,le lands,
the President, upon recommendation ,y the -ecretary of 1griculture and &atural Resources,
shall from time to time declare what lands are open to disposition or concession under this 1ct.
With particular regard to aliena,le pu,lic lands, -ection ) of the same law provides"
3or the purpose of their administration and disposition, the lands of the pu,lic domain aliena,le
or open to disposition shall ,e classified, according to the use or purposes to which such lands
are destined, as follows"
#a% 1gricultural.
#,% Residential, commercial, industrial, or for similar productive purposes.
#c% 6ducational, charita,le, or other similar purposes. and
#d% Reservations for townsites and for pu,lic and Duasi(pu,lic uses.
The President, upon recommendation ,y the -ecretary of 1griculture and &atural Resources,
shall from time to time ma5e the classifications provided for in this section, and may, at any time
and in a similar manner, transfer lands from one class to another.
1s for tim,er or forest lands, the Revised 1dministrative !ode states as follows"
-ec. $=*I. %egulation setting apart forest reserves0 %evocation of same1 ( ;pon there
commendation of the +irector of 3orestry, with the approval of the +epartment 9ead, the
President of the Philippines may set apart forest reserves from the pu,lic lands and he shall ,y
proclamation declare the esta,lishment of such reserves and the ,oundaries thereof, and
thereafter such forest reserves shall not ,e entered, sold, or otherwise disposed of, ,ut shall
remain as such for forest uses, and shall ,e administered in the same manner as pu,lic forest.
The President of the Philippines may in li5e manner ,y proclamation alter or modify the
,oundaries of any forest reserve from time to time, or revo5e any such proclamation, and upon
such revocation such forest reserve shall ,e and ,ecome part of the pu,lic lands as though such
proclamation had never ,een made.
-ec. $=*J. Assignment of forest land for agricultural purposes1 ( 2ands in pu,lic forest, not
including forest reserves, upon the certification of the +irector of 3orestry that said lands are
,etter adapted and more valua,le for agricultural than for forest purposes and not reDuired ,y
the pu,lic interests to ,e 5ept under forest, shall ,e declared ,y the +epartment 9ead to ,e
agricultural lands.
With these principles in mind, we reach the following conclusion"
Mangrove swamps or manglares should ,e understood as comprised within the pu,lic forests of the Philippines as
defined in the aforecited -ection $=*H of the 1dministrative !ode of $)$J. The legislature having so determined, we
have no authority to ignore or modify its decision, and in effect veto it, in the e?ercise of our own discretion. The
statutory definition remains unchanged to date and, no less noteworthy, is accepted and invo5ed ,y the e?ecutive
department. More importantly, the said provision has not ,een challenged as ar,itrary or unrealistic or
unconstitutional assuming the reDuisite conditions, to justify our judicial intervention and scrutiny. The law is thus
presumed valid and so must ,e respected. We repeat our statement in the 1munategui case that the classification of
mangrove swamps as forest lands is descriptive of its legal nature or status and does not have to ,e descriptive of
what the land actually loo5s li5e. That determination having ,een made and no cogent argument having ,een raised
to annul it, we have no duty as judges ,ut to apply it. 1nd so we shall.
ur previous description of the term in Duestion as pertaining to our agricultural lands should ,e understood as
covering only those lands over which ownership had already vested ,efore the 1dministrative !ode of $)$J ,ecame
effective. -uch lands could not ,e retroactively legislated as forest lands ,ecause this would ,e violative of a duly
acDuired property right protected ,y the due process clause. -o we ruled again only two months ago in Repu,lic of
the Philippines vs. !ourt of 1ppeals,
14
where the possession of the land in dispute commenced as early as $)H),
,efore it was much later classified as tim,erland.
It follows from all this that the land under contention ,eing admittedly a part of the mangrove swamps of -apian, and
for which a minor forest license had in fact ,een issued ,y the 7ureau of 3orestry from $)*H to $)'H, it must ,e
considered forest land. It could therefore not ,e the su,ject of the adverse possession and conseDuent ownership
claimed ,y the private respondent in support of his application for registration. To ,e so, it had first to ,e released as
forest land and reclassified as agricultural land pursuant to the certification the +irector of 3orestry may issue under
-ection $=*J of the Revised 1dministrative !ode.
The private respondent invo5es the survey plan of the mangrove swamps approved ,y the +irector of 2ands,
15
to
prove that the land is registera,le. It should ,e plain, however, that the mere e?istence of such a plan would not have
the effect of converting the mangrove swamps, as forest land, into agricultural land. -uch approval is ineffectual
,ecause it is clearly in officious. The +irector of 2ands was not authoriGed to act in the premises. ;nder the
aforecited law, it is the +irector of 3orestry who has the authority to determine whether forest land is more valua,le
for agricultural rather than forestry uses, as a ,asis for its declaration as agricultural land and release for private
ownership.
Thus we held in the <ngson case"
It is elementary in the law governing the disposition of lands of the pu,lic domain that until
tim,er or forest lands are released as disposa,le and aliena,le neither the 7ureau of 2ands nor
the 7ureau of 3isheries has authority to lease, grant, sell or otherwise dispose of these lands for
homesteads, sales patents, leases for graGing or other purposes, fishpond leases and other
modes of utiliGation.
The 7ureau of 3isheries has no jurisdiction to administer and dispose of swamp lands or
mangrove lands forming part of the pu,lic domain while such lands are still classified as forest
land or tim,er land and not released for fishery or other purposes.
The same rule was echoed in the :allarta case, thus"
It is elementary in the law governing natural resources that forest land cannot ,e owned ,y
private persons. It is not registera,le. The adverse possession which can ,e the ,asis of a grant
of title in confirmation of imperfect title cases cannot commence until after the forest land has
,een declared aliena,le and disposa,le. Possession of forest land, no matter ,ow long cannot
convert it into private property.4
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 remar5a,ly meager and of du,ious persuasiveness. The record contains no
convincing evidence of the e?istence of the informacion posesoria allegedly o,tained ,y the original transferor of the
property, let alone the fact that the conditions for acDuiring title thereunder have ,een satisfied. &owhere has it ,een
shown that the informacion posesoria has ,een inscri,ed or registered in the registry of property and that the land
has ,een under the actual and adverse possession of the private respondent for twenty years as reDuired ,y the
-panish Mortgage 2aw.
17
These matters are not presumed ,ut must ,e esta,lished with definite proof, which is
lac5ing in this case.
-ignificantly, the ta? declarations made ,y the private respondent were practically the only ,asis used ,y the
appellate court in sustaining his claim of possession over the land in Duestion. Ta? 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.
16
We hold, in sum, that the private respondent has not esta,lished his right to the registration of the su,ject land in his
name. 1ccordingly, the petition must ,e granted.
It is reiterated for emphasis that, conforma,ly to the legislative definition em,odied in -ection $=*H of the Revised
1dministrative !ode of $)$J, which remains unamended up to now, mangrove swamps or manglaresform part of the
pu,lic forests of the Philippines. 1s such, they are not aliena,le under the !onstitution and may not ,e the su,ject of
private ownership until and unless they are first released as forest land and classified as aliena,le agricultural land.
W96R63R6, the decision of the !ourt of 1ppeals is -6T 1-I+6 and the application for registration of title of
private respondent is +I-MI--6+, with cost against him. This decision is immediately e?ecutory.
- R+6R6+.
'arvasa, !elencio0errera, (utierre,, 2r1, Paras, Feliciano, (anca&co, Padilla, Bidin, Sarmiento, Cortes, (ri7o0
A*uino, !edialdea and %egalado, 221, concur1
Fernan, C121, too8 no part1


Foot,ot/s
$ Record on 1ppeal, pp. E$(I/, Rollo p. $=. +ecision penned ,y 0udge Ignacio +e,uDue.
* Rollo pp. $'($J. +ecision penned ,y !oncepcion, 0r., 2., -errano and -an +iego, 221,
concurring.
/ -ec. $H, 1rt. >I:, $)J/ !onstitution.
E -ec. /, 1rt. >II, $)=J !onstitution.
' -ec. $, 1rt. >III, $)/' !onstitution.
I $* Phil. 'J*.
J /) Phil. 'IH.
= '= Phil. *$.
) J) -!R1 $/H.
$H $'$ -!R1 ==.
$$ J) -!R1 EI$.
$* / -!R1 EE$. $/ $*I -!R1 I).
$E $'$ -!R1 IJ).
$' 8.R. &o. 2(EIHE=, &ovem,er *), $)==.
$I 7rief for the 1pplicant(1ppellee, pp. '(I, Rollo, p. *H.
$J Repu,lic of the Philippines v. !1 and Miguel, 8.R. &o. I, IH=EJ, May *$, $)==, citing +irector
of 2ands v. Reyes, I= -!R1 $JJ, 3ernandeG 9ermanos v. +irector of 2ands, 'J Phil. )*),
Kuerol v. Kuerol, E= Phil. )H. 1rch,ishop of Manila v. 1rnedo, /H Phil. ')/ and !arino v. Insular
8overnment, = Phil. $'H.
$= 0.M. Tuason and !o., Inc. v. :illanueva, $HE Phil. IE/. Masaganda v. 1rgamosa, $H) -!R1
'/. +irector of 2ands v. !1., $// -!R1 JH$. +e 8uGman, v. !.1., $E= -!R1 J'.
G.R. No. L)35647 !u01 20, 1963
SERAFIN B. $NGSON, plaintiff(appellant, vs.
THE HON. SECRETAR$ OF AGRICULTURE -,2 NATURAL RESOURCES, ANITA ". DE GON'ALES -,2 !OSE
M. LOE', defendants(appellees.
GUTIERRE', !R., J.:
This is an appeal from the decision of the !ourt of 3irst Instance of &egros ccidental which upheld the orders of the
-ecretary of 1griculture and &atural Resources and the ffice of the President regarding the disposition of
swamplands for conversion into fishponds. riginally ta5en to the !ourt of 1ppeals, the case was elevated to this
!ourt on a finding that only a pure Duestion of law was involved in the appeal.
There is no dispute over the facts. The !ourt of 1ppeals adopted the statement of facts in the -olicitor(8eneral4s
,rief. We do the same"
The su,ject matter of the case at ,ar are the same mangrove swamps with an area of a,out II
hectares, more or less, situated in sitio ;r,aso, ,arrio Ma,ini, municipality of 6scalante,
province of the &egros ccidental. In view of the potentialities and possi,ilities of said area for
fishpond purposes, several persons filed their applications with the 7ureau of 3isheries, to utiliGe
the same for said purposes. The first applicant was Teofila 2ongno de 2igasan who filed her
application on 0anuary $E, $)EI, followed ,y !ustodio +oromal who filed his on cto,er *=,
$)EJ. 7oth applications were rejected, however, ,ecause said area were then still considered as
communal forest and therefore not yet availa,le for fishpond purposes.
n March $), $)'*, petitioner(appellant -erafin 7. <ngson filed a similar application for fishpond
permit with the 7ureau of 3isheries followed ,y those of the respondents(appellees, 1nita de
8onGales and 0ose M. 2opeG, who filed their respective applications with the same ,ureau on
March $) and 1pril *E, $)'/. When the applications were filed ,y the aforesaid parties in the
instant case, said area was not yet availa,le for fishpond purposes and the same was only
released for said purpose on 0anuary $E, $)'E. The conflicting claims of the aforesaid parties
were ,rought to the attention of the +irector of the 7ureau of 3isheries who issued an order on
1pril $H, $)'E awarding the whole area in favor of the petitioner(appellant and rejecting the
claims of the respondents(appellees #pp. $(/, Rec. on 1ppeal%. 1ppellants 1nita :. de 8onGales
and 0ose M. 2opeG appealed the order of the +irector of 3isheries to the +epartment of
1griculture and &atural Resources where their appeals were doc5eted as +.1.&.R. !ases &os.
)H$ and )H$(1 #p. /, Rec. on 1ppeal%.
In an order dated 1pril ', $)'', the 9onora,le -ecretary of the +epartment of 1griculture and
&atural Resources set aside the order of the +irector of the 7ureau of 3isheries and caused the
division of the area in Duestion into three portions giving each party an area of one(third #$C/% of
the whole area covered ,y their respective applications #pp. E(', Rec. on 1ppeal%. 1ppellant filed
a petition for review dated 0uly I, $)'' from the aforesaid order of the +epartment of 1griculture
and &atural Resources ,ut the same was dismissed ,y the ffice of the President of the
Philippines on +ecem,er *H, $)'' #pp. '(=, Rec. on 1ppeal%. 1 motion for reconsideration filed
,y the appellant on 3e,ruary $', $)'I was li5ewise denied on 1ugust /, $)'I. 1 second and
third motion for reconsiderations filed ,y the appellant was also denied on 1ugust ', $)'= and
cto,er *I, $)IH, respectively #p. $=, Rec. on 1ppeal%.
&ot satisfied with one(third of the II hectares, Mr. <ngson filed a petition for certiorari with the !ourt of 3irst Instance
against the 6?ecutive -ecretary, ffice of the President, the -ecretary of 1griculture and &atural Resources, 1nita :.
8onGales, and 0ose M. 2opeG.
The petitioner(appellant as5ed that the orders of the pu,lic respondents ,e declared null and void and that the order
of the +irector of 3isheries awarding the entire area to him ,e reinstated.
The !ourt of 3irst Instance of &egros ccidental dismissed the petition on the ground that plaintiff had not
esta,lished such "capricious and whimsical e?ercise of judgment" on the part of the +epartment of 1griculture and
&atural Resources and the ffice of the President of the Philippines as to constitute grave a,use of discretion
justifying review ,y the courts in a special civil action.
The plaintiff(appellant made the following assignments of errors"
I
T96 2W6R !;RT 6RR6+ I& 92+I&8 T91T T96 P21I&TI33 91- &T 6-T172I-96+ -;!9 4!1PRI!I;-
1&+ W9IM-I!12 6>6R!I-6 3 0;+8M6&T & T96 P1RT 3 T96 +636&+1&T-( 1PP62266-
+6P1RTM6&T 3 18RI!;2T;R6 1&+ &1T;R12 R6-;R!6- 1&+ T96 33I!6 3 T96 PR6-I+6&T 3
T96 P9I2IPPI&6- 1- T !&-TIT;T6 8R1:6 17;-6 3 +I-!R6TI&, 0;-TI3<I&8 R6:I6W T96R63 I& 1
-P6!I12 !I:I2 1!TI& 7< T96 !;RT.
II
T96 2W6R !;RT 6RR6+ I& -;-T1I&I&8 T96 R;26 3 T96 +636&+1&T-(1PP62266-
1+MI&I-TR1TI:6 33I!6- I& 6336!T IT-623 92+I&8 T91T T96 4PRIRIT< R;264 6-T172I-96+ I&
P1R18R1P9- #a% 1&+ #d%, -6!TI& $E, 3I-96R< 1+MI&I-TR1TI:6 R+6R &. $E I- &T 1PP2I!1726 T
3I-9P&+ 1PP2I!1TI&- 3I26+ PRIR T T96 !6RTI3I!1TI& 3 T96 7;R61; 3 3R6-TR< T91T T96
1R61 1PP2I6+ 3R I- 1:1I21726 3R 3I-9P&+ P;RP-6-. I& TR61TI&8 T96 1PP2I!1TI&- 3 T96
1PP6221&T 1&+ T91T 3 T96 1PP62266- 2P6L 1&+ 8&L126- & 6K;12 3TI&8 &2< 1&+ I&
R+6RI&8 T96 +I:I-I& 3 T96 1R61 I&:2:6+ I& T96-6 1PP2I!1TI&- I&T T9R66 6K;12 P1RT-
1W1R+I&8 &6(T9IR+ -91R6 61!9 T T96-6 1PP2I!1&T-.
III
T96 2W6R !;RT 6RR6+ I& +I-MI--I&8 T96 !MP21I&T.
+id the administrative agencies having jurisdiction over leases of pu,lic lands for development into fishponds gravely
a,use their discretion in interpreting and applying their own rulesM This is the only issue in this case.
The pertinent provisions of 3isheries 1dministrative rder &o. $E read"
-6!. $E. Priorit& %ight of Application(In determining the priority of application or right to a permit
or lease the following rules shall ,e o,served"
#a% When two or more applications are filed for the same area, which is unoccupied and
unimproved, the first applicant shall have the right of preference thereto.
#d% 1 holder of fishpond application which has ,een rejected or cancelled ,y the +irector of
3isheries ,y reason of the fact that the area covered there,y has ,een certified ,y the +irector
of 3orestry as not availa,le for fishpond purposes, -9122 &T 2-6 his right as a PRIR
1PP2I!1&T therefore, if 21T6R &, the area applied for is certified ,y the +irector of 3orestry
as availa,le for fishpond purposes, provided that not more than one #$% year has e?pired since
the rejection or cancellation of his application, in which case, his fishpond application which was
rejected or cancelled ,efore, shall ,e reinstated and given due course, and all other fishpond
applications filed for the same area shall ,e rejected.
The five applicants for the II hectares of swampland filed their applications on the following dates"
$. Teofila 2. de 2igasan @ 0anuary $E, $)EI.
*. !ustodio +oromal @ cto,er *=, $)EJ
/. -erafin 7. <ngson @ March $), $)'*
E. 1nita :. 8onGales @ March $), $)'/
'. 0ose M. 2opeG @ 1pril *E, $)'/
The mangrove swampland was released and made availa,le for fishpond purposes only on 0anuary $E, $)'E. It is
clear, therefore, that all five applications were filed prematurely. There was no land availa,le for lease permits and
c nversion into fishponds at the time all five applicants filed their applications. 
1fter the area was opened for development, the +irector of 3isheries ine?plica,ly gave due course to <ngGon4s
application and rejected those of 1nita :. 8onGales and 0ose M. 2opeG. The reason given was <ngGon4s priority of
application.
We see no error in the decision of the lower court. The administrative authorities committed no grave a,use of
discretion.
It is elementary in the law governing the disposition of lands of the pu,lic domain that until tim,er or forest lands are
released as disposa,le and aliena,le neither the 7ureau of 2ands nor the 7ureau of 3isheries has authority to lease,
grant, sell, or otherwise dispose of these lands for homesteads, sales patents, leases for graGing or other purposes,
fishpond leases, and other modes of utiliGation. #Mapa v. Insular 8overnment, $H Phil. $J'. 1n5ron v. 8overnment of
the Philippine Islands, EH Phil. $H. :da. de 1lfafara v. Mapa, )' Phil. $*'. +irector of 3orestry v. MuNoG, */ -!R1
$$=E%.
The 7ureau of 3isheries has no jurisdiction to administer and dispose of swamplands or mangrove lands forming
part of the pu,lic domain while such lands are still classified as forest land or tim,erland and not released for fishery
or other purposes.
1ll the applications ,eing premature, not one of the applicants can claim to have a preferential right over another.
The priority given in paragraph "d" of -ection $E is only for those applications filed so close in time to the actual
opening of the swampland for disposition and utiliGation, within a period of one year, as to ,e given some 5ind of
administrative preferential treatment. Whether or not the administrative agencies could validly issue such an
administrative order is not challenged in this case. The validity of paragraph "d" is not in issue ,ecause petitioner(
appellant <ngson is clearly not covered ,y the provision. 9is application was filed almost two years ,efore the
release of the area for fishpond purposes. The private respondents, who filed their applications within the one(year
period, do not o,ject to sharing the area with the petitioner(appellant, in spite of the fact that the latter has apparently
the least right to the fishpond leases. 1s a matter of fact, the respondent -ecretary4s order states that all three
applications must ,e considered as having ,een filed at the same time on the day the area was released to the
7ureau of 3isheries and to share the lease of the II hectares among the three of them eDually. The private
respondents accept this order. They pray that the decision of the lower court ,e affirmed in toto.
The ffice of the President holds the view that the only purpose of the provision in Duestion is to redeem a rejected
premature application and to consider it filed as of the date the area was released and not to grant a premature
application a ,etter right over another of the same category. We find such an interpretation as an e?ercise of sound
discretion which should not ,e distur,ed. In the case of Salaria v1 Buenvia-e #=$ -!R1 J**% we reiterated the rule
that the construction of the officer charged with implementing and enforcing the provision of a statute should ,e given
controlling weight. -imilarly, in Pastor v1 Echave, #J) -!R1 **H% we held that in the a,sence of a clear showing of
a,use, the discretion of the appropriate department head must ,e respected. The records show that the a,ove
rulings should also apply to the present case.
+uring the pendency of this petition, petitioner <ngson filed a motion to have Patricio 7ayo,orda, Rene 1mamio, and
nine other respondents, declared in contempt of court. Petitioner charged that 7ayo,orda and 1mamio entered the
property in controversy and without petitioner4s consent, laid sta5es on the ground alleging that the same were
,oundaries of the areas they were claiming. that the other respondents li5ewise entered the property on different
dates and destroyed petitioner4s hut and the uppermost part of his fishpond and started to ,uild houses and to
occupy the same. In their comment, the respondents in the contempt motion denied petitioner4s charges. 7ayo,orda
and 1mamio stated that they were ,ona(fide applicants for fishpond purposes of areas outside the ** hectares
alloted for the petitioner and that they were authoriGed to place placards in the areas they applied for. 1s evidence
the respondents attached a copy of the resolution of the Presidential 1ction !ommittee on 2and Pro,lems #P1!21P%
showing that their applications have ,een duly received and ac5nowledged ,y the latter and in compliance with
government regulations, they placed mar5ers and signs in their respective ,oundaries. The resolution li5ewise stated
that these mar5ers and signs were su,seDuently destroyed and later on Mr. <ngson started development ,y ,uilding
di5es in the area applied for, which he has no authority to do so due to the present conflict. The resolution further
prohi,ited <ngson from constructing any improvements in any area outside his ** hectares and also prohi,ited
7ayo,orda and 1mamio from entering and ma5ing constructions in the applied for areas pending the issuance of
their permits.
The petitioner has failed to show that the acts committed ,y the respondents were a direct distur,ance in the proper
administration of justice and processes of the law which constitutes contempt of court. If there were any violations of
petitioner4s rights, he should resort to P1!21P which issued the resolution ,etween him and respondents or file, as
he alleged he did, a criminal complaint or other action ,efore the courts. The motion also raises factual
considerations including ,oundaries and geographical locations more proper for a trial court.
We have held that contempt of court presupposes contumacious and arrogant defiance of the court. #+e Midgely v.
3erandos, IE -!R1 */. Matutina v. 0udge 7uslon, $H) Phil. $EH,$E*%
The petitioner has failed to show a contempt of court which we can ta5e cogniGance of and punish. If any of his
property or other rights over his one(third4s share of the disputed property are violated, he can pursue the correct
action ,efore the proper lower court.
W96R63R6, the judgment appealed from is here,y 133IRM6+. The motion for contempt is also +6&I6+ for lac5
of merit. !osts against petitioner(appellant.

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