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G.R. No. L-28218 February 27, 1971 - MAGNO MANUEL v. MARIANO VILLENA, ET AL. : FEBRUARY 1971 - PHILIPPINE SUPREME COUR

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EN BANC
[G.R. No. L-28218. February 27, 1971.]
MAGNO MANUEL, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. MARIANO VILLENA, THE DIRECTOR OF FORESTRY,
THE SECRETARY OF DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE AND NATURAL RESOURCES, DefendantsAppellees.
Tirso U. Aganon, for Plaintiff-Appellant.
Solicitor General Antonio P. Barredo, Assistant Solicitor General Antonio A. Torres and
Solicitor Alicia V. Sempio-Diy for Defendants-Appellees.
DECISION
MAKALINTAL, J.:
This is an appeal from the order of the Court of First Instance of Tarlac dismissing the complaint in Civil
Case No. 4226 entitled "Magno Manuel v. Mariano Villena, the Director of Forestry and the Secretary of
Agriculture and Natural Resources," wherein the plaintiff sought annulment of the decision of said public
officials rejecting his application for a Tree Farm Permit over a 20-hectare parcel of public land, which
was included in a 66-hectare area covered by a similar application of private defendant Mariano Villena.

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The main thrust of the complaint is that the administrative decision sought to be set aside violated the
plaintiffs right to due process. The averments in support thereof are substantially as follows: that the
plaintiff had been in continuous possession of the land in question since 1939; that being an ignorant
farmer he did not file his Tree Farm application (No. 13312) until June 1954; that the Director of
Forestry rejected the same because a prior application (No. 3852) had been filed by Mariano Villena in
November 1955; that two motions for reconsideration of the rejection order were turned down; that the
plaintiff thereafter appealed to the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, but the appeal was
dismissed by him; that on motion for reconsideration the Secretary found that the previous investigation
conducted by the District Forester was not in accordance with the rules and regulations of the Bureau,
and so ordered another investigation to be made; but that before said investigation was terminated the
Secretary rendered a decision dismissing the appeal.
The complaint was filed on July 14, 1966. The defendants filed their respective answers alleging inter
alia that the complaint averred no sufficient facts to show the courts jurisdiction. On December 6, 1966
the court issued an order finding the defendants objection meritorious, but allowing the plaintiff to file
an amended complaint within a period of ten days. The pertinent portion of the said order reads as
follows:
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"Section 1816 of the Administrative Code vests in the Director of Forestry the . . . jurisdiction and
authority over the demarcation, protection, management, reproduction, reforestation, occupancy, and
use of all public forests and forest reserves and over the granting of licenses for game and fish, and for
the taking of forest products, including stone and earth, therefrom. The decision of the Director of
Forestry on the subject is not subject to judicial review unless in the exercise of such jurisdiction he
committed a grave abuse of his discretion which amounts to a denial of due process of law to the party

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G.R. No. L-28218 February 27, 1971 - MAGNO MANUEL v. MARIANO VILLENA, ET AL. : FEBRUARY 1971 - PHILIPPINE SUPREME COUR
adversely affected. While the complaint alleges that the Director of Forestry acted with grave abuse of
his discretion and in violation of due process of law provision of the Constitution of the Philippines this
allegation alone is insufficient for the court to intervene and review the actuation of the Director of
Forestry. Specific acts and instances from which the grave abuse of discretion amounting to a denial of
due process of law may be deduced, must be alleged. The complaint does not allege any such fact. On
the contrary, the complaint states that two motions for reconsideration were denied by the Director of
Forestry; that an appeal was made to the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, who likewise
sustained the decision of the Director of Forestry. The fact that the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural
Resources decided the appeal without waiting for the completion of the reinvestigation that he ordered
does not constitute a violation of the due process of law provision of the Constitution as in the appeal
the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources was only called upon to pass on the sufficiency of the
evidence before the Director of Forestry. The Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources was not
required to conduct a new investigation of the case. He and the Director of Forestry may have
committed an error in the appreciation of the evidence before them. But such an error is not sufficient
ground for the intervention of the court who likewise may fall into a similar mistake. There is no
allegation that the plaintiff was not heard nor that the Director of Forestry decided the case without
taking evidence. On the contrary, reinvestigations were even made after which the Director of Forestry
arrived at the conclusion subject of the present action. Clearly the plaintiff was given due process."
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On March 3, 1967 the plaintiff filed an amended complaint, incorporating the amendments in paragraphs
7 and 8 of the original complaint, as shown in the following underlined recitals:
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"7. That on February 2, 1957, with grave abuse of discretion and in violation of the due process of law
provision of the Constitution of the Philippines, in that from the very inception of this case in the Bureau
of Forestry up to the filing of his appeal in the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources
appellant (Magno Manuel) has not really been assisted or formally represented by counsel in any of the
proceedings therein; and that in the investigation conducted by the District Forester concerned there
was no showing that a notice has been sent to him so as to have afforded him an opportunity to solicit
for the services of a lawyer . . ."
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"8. That the legal staff of the said Department began and conducted a formal investigation of the case,
but the investigation was not completed, thus, said investigation, not being completed, was not in
accordance with the due process of law provision of the Constitution to which constitutional right herein
plaintiff is entitled and of which he was deprived; that despite the incomplete investigation, which was
against the due process provision of the Constitution and the Administrative circulars and orders
pertinent thereto, the defendant Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, with grave abuse of
discretion and in violation of the due process provision of the Constitution rendered a decision on
August 12, 1965, arbitrarily, capriciously, and illegally dismissing the appeal of plaintiff Magno Manuel,
saying that there is no merit in his appeal."
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On March 21, 1967 defendant Villena moved to dismiss the amended complaint on the ground that it did
not cure the defects of the original one, and still contained sufficient allegations to make out a cause of
action or to confer jurisdiction upon the court to set aside or annul the administrative decision
complained of. The court found the motion meritorious and hence dismissed the complaint in its order of
June 24, 1967. The said order of dismissal is the subject of the present appeal.
The proceedings challenged in the complaint refer to the approval or rejection of an application for a
Tree Farm Permit. Under Section 1838 of the Revised Administrative Code, quoted below, this function
falls within the jurisdiction of the Director of Forestry with the approval of the Secretary of Agriculture
and Natural Resources.
"SECTION 1838. Leasing of forest land for special purposes. The Director of Forestry with the
approval of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, may, upon such terms as he may deem
reasonable, lease or grant go any Filipino citizen or association of persons duly incorporated and
authorized by the Constitution to acquire lands of the public domain, permits for the use of forest lands
or vacant public lands not declared agricultural land for a period not exceeding twenty-five years, for the
establishment of sawmills, lumber yards, timber depots, logging camps, rights-of-way and plantations
for the raising of nipa and/or other palms, bacauan, medicinal plants or trees of economic value . . ."
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The power thus conferred on the Director of Forestry with the approval of the Secretary of Agriculture
and Natural Resources is basically executive or administrative in nature. 1 And courts, as a rule, refuse
to interfere with proceedings undertaken by administrative bodies or officials in the exercise of
administrative functions. This is so because such bodies are generally better equipped technically to
decide administrative questions and that non-legal factors, such as government policy on the matter,
are usually involved in the decisions.
There are, of course, limits to the exercise of administrative discretion. Administrative proceedings may
be reviewed by the courts upon a showing that "the board or official has gone beyond his statutory
authority, exercised unconstitutional powers or clearly acted arbitrarily and without regard to his duty or
with grave abuse of discretion" 2 or that the decision is vitiated by fraud, imposition or mistake. 3
The complaint here alleges denial of due process and grave abuse of discretion, in that appellant was
not formally represented by counsel at any stage of the proceedings before the Director of Forestry and
the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources; that there was no showing that notice was sent to
him so as to afford him an opportunity to obtain the services of a lawyer; and that the Secretary
dismissed the appeal before the completion of the reinvestigation he had ordered.
The above circumstances however do not necessarily constitute a violation of due process or grave
abuse of discretion. Section 1838 of the Revised Administrative Code does not require that the
investigation be in the nature of a court trial. In deciding administrative questions, administrative bodies
or officials generally enjoy wide discretion. Technical rules of procedure are not strictly enforced, and
due process of law in the strict judicial sense is not indispensable. 4 It is sufficient that the substantive
due process requirement of fairness and reasonableness be observed.
Appellant does not allege that he was denied opportunity to be heard-only that "there was no showing
that a notice was sent to him so as to afford him opportunity to solicit the services of a lawyer" to
represent him in all stages of the investigation. Absence of previous notice is not of itself a substantial
defect; what the law abhors is the lack of opportunity to be heard. 5 In this case the plaintiff was not
denied such opportunity, as it appears that he filed two separate motions for reconsideration before the
Director of Forestry and then upon their denial appealed to the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural
Resources.
It was not essential, either, that appellant be represented by a lawyer. The investigation conducted by
the Bureau of Forestry under Section 1838 of the Revised Administrative Code was purely fact-finding. It
was not required to be in the form of a trial where both parties, each represented by counsel, confront
each other and their witnesses. In any case, appellant does not allege that the presence of a lawyer
could have altered the result of the investigation. He does not even cite any substantial error in the
findings of the Director of Forestry which could have been avoided, if a lawyer had represented him.
It should be noted that in the order of the Acting Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources dated
March 15, 1960, a formal investigation of the case was ordered. That the investigation was actually
conducted is not denied, and is borne out by the decision of the Secretary dismissing the plaintiffs
appeal, in which it is stated:
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G.R. No. L-28218 February 27, 1971 - MAGNO MANUEL v. MARIANO VILLENA, ET AL. : FEBRUARY 1971 - PHILIPPINE SUPREME COUR
"An investigation pursuant to the standing rules and regulations was duly conducted by an attorney of
the Legal Staff of this Department and the pertinent portions of his report are hereunder quoted as
follows:"
Appellant says that the investigation was incomplete. He does not, however, point out how incomplete it
was, or in what aspect it had not been completed, or in what manner the incompleteness constituted
grave abuse of discretion or violated the requirement of due process. We have examined the documents
and pleadings reproduced in the appellants record on appeal, particularly the decision of the Secretary
of Agriculture and Natural Resources which is sought to be set aside, and we find that said decision is
based on a thorough analysis of the facts as revealed by the evidence. Thus the Secretary concluded:
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"We have thoroughly and carefully checked the findings of facts enumerated above against the
reverberating backdrop of the voluminous proofs, oral, documentary, presented and adduced by the
contending parties herein, and we found that the said findings of facts are sufficiently and fully sustained
by the evidence of the record. We are also in complete accord with the evaluation and appreciation of
the evidence and the discussion and elucidation on the merits of the case contained in the investigators
Remarks and Comments."
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In order to justify a review of the aforesaid decision on the ground that it was based on an investigation
which was incomplete, it is not enough to make a bare allegation of incompleteness. Was the appellant
for instance, denied the right to present his evidence? If so, what evidence was it, and how would it
affect the result? What vital phase of the hearing if any, was omitted? No facts of this or similar nature
are alleged in the complaint. The trial court consequently did not err in ruling as it did and issuing an
order of dismissal.
WHEREFORE the order appealed from is affirmed, with costs against Appellant.
Concepcion, C.J., Reyes, J.B.L., Dizon, Zaldivar, Castro, Teehankee, Barredo, Villamor and Makasiar, JJ.,
concur.

February-1971 Jurisprudence
G.R. No. L-28232 February 6, 1971 - PEOPLE OF THE
PHIL. v. JAIME G. JOSE, ET AL.

Fernando, J., did not take part.

G.R. No. L-32218 February 11, 1971


TAGORANAO v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

Endnotes:

NAGA

G.R. No. L-25637 February 20, 1971 - IN RE: JESUS


SY DY v. REPUBLIC OF THE PHIL.
G.R. No. L-21933 February 23, 1971 - TAN CHING JI
v. JUANITO MAPALO, ET AL.
G.R. No. L-24357 February 22, 1971 - ANASTACIA
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G.R. No. L-27887 February 22, 1971 - FRANCISCO M.
CUCHARO v. ABELARDO SUBIDO, ET AL.

1. Pajo v. Ago, 108 Phil. 906, 915.


2. Pajo v. Ago, supra, at p. 916.
3. Castaeda v. Court of Appeals, L-25874, Feb. 28, 1969, 27 SCRA 186, 188-189.
4. Hernando v. Francisco, L-18138, May 19, 1966, 17 SCRA 82, 90.
5. Aguilar v. Tan, L-23600, Jan. 30, 1970, 31 SCRA 205, 210.

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