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Mateo vs moreno gr. No.

L-21024

FACTS:

In 1959, some residents of Guiguinto, Bulacan, sent a letter of complaint to the Highway District Engineer
of that province asking that the Sapang Cabay, a public navigable stream, which had been blocked by
means of dikes and dams and converted into fishponds, be ordered reopened and restored to its original
condition.

Pursuant to Republic Act No. 2056, Secretary of Public Works and Communications ordered an
investigation. Based on the report submitted to him, the Secretary rendered his decision finding that the
Sapang Cabay was a public navigable stream and ordering Cenon Mateo, owner of the property where the
creek is situated, to remove the dikes and dams therein constructed within thirty days from notice;
otherwise they would be removed at his expense.

ISSUE: whether the Secretary of Public Works and Communication has juricdiction to to conduct the
investigation (of the original complaint) and order the removal of the dikes and dams constructed in the
fishponds of Moreno.

DECISION:

Conceding to the authority of the Secretary to decide on the case, appellant Moreno now alleges that
respondent Secretarys conclusion that Sapang Cabay is a public navigable creek constitutes a grave
abuse of discretion.

The court could not see any justification for a departure in the present case pursuant on the substantial-
evidence rule, which limits the scope of judicail review in administrative cases. Substantial evidence, it
has been held, "is more than a scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion." 1

Under this rule the courts are not supposed to reassess the evidence, determine its preponderance on
either side, and substitute its own findings for those of the administrative agency. All that the court does is
to inquire from the record if the findings are based on substantial evidence. If so, the findings are deemed
conclusive.

In the present case, the evidence submitted is more than merely substantial. Ocular inspection of the
entire length of the creek up to Guiguinto, shows that portions of the creek are closed by dikes, that traces
of the path of the Cabay Creek within petitioner-appellant's fishpond are still visible by the nature of the
mud; that a man-made canal detours the creek from its original path; that the widest portion of the creek
is from 70 to 75 meters wide. Many residents testified that as a result of the closing of the creek, it
deprived the public use of the same for fishing, gathering fruits, fuel and nipa palms and catching shrimps.
During rainy season, the surrounding ricefields are flooded because of the man-made canal which is not
sufficient to contain the volume of the water coming from the creek.

In addition, documentary evidence shows that as long ago as 1941, there were already complaints against
the closure of the Sapang Cabay by the petitioner-appellant's predecessor-in-interest. In fact, a resolution
was passed requesting the Secretary of Public Works and Communications to order the removal of the
obstruction.

In 1954 the Secretary of Public Works and Communications rendered a decision ordering Encarnacion
Jacobo, who was then the owner from whom the petitioner-appellant subsequently bought the property, to
remove the dikes she had constructed. It is true that Encarnacion Jacobo was able to get her free patent
application approved in 1953 and to secure the corresponding certificate of title, but said title did not
change the public character of the Sapang Cabay, the same being covered by one of the exceptions
mentioned in Section 39 of Act No. 496.
WHEREFORE, the decision appealed from is affirmed.