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G.R. No. 101083 July 30, 1993 "inter-generational responsibility" and "inter-generational justice.

" Specifically, it touches


on the issue of whether the said petitioners have a cause of action to "prevent the
JUAN ANTONIO, ANNA ROSARIO and JOSE ALFONSO, all surnamed OPOSA, minors, misappropriation or impairment" of Philippine rainforests and "arrest the unabated
and represented by their parents ANTONIO and RIZALINA OPOSA, ROBERTA NICOLE hemorrhage of the country's vital life support systems and continued rape of Mother
SADIUA, minor, represented by her parents CALVIN and ROBERTA SADIUA, CARLO, Earth."
AMANDA SALUD and PATRISHA, all surnamed FLORES, minors and represented by
their parents ENRICO and NIDA FLORES, GIANINA DITA R. FORTUN, minor, The controversy has its genesis in Civil Case No. 90-77 which was filed before Branch 66
represented by her parents SIGRID and DOLORES FORTUN, GEORGE II and MA. (Makati, Metro Manila) of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), National Capital Judicial Region.
CONCEPCION, all surnamed MISA, minors and represented by their parents GEORGE The principal plaintiffs therein, now the principal petitioners, are all minors duly
and MYRA MISA, BENJAMIN ALAN V. PESIGAN, minor, represented by his parents represented and joined by their respective parents. Impleaded as an additional plaintiff is
ANTONIO and ALICE PESIGAN, JOVIE MARIE ALFARO, minor, represented by her the Philippine Ecological Network, Inc. (PENI), a domestic, non-stock and non-profit
parents JOSE and MARIA VIOLETA ALFARO, MARIA CONCEPCION T. CASTRO, minor, corporation organized for the purpose of, inter alia, engaging in concerted action geared
represented by her parents FREDENIL and JANE CASTRO, JOHANNA DESAMPARADO, for the protection of our environment and natural resources. The original defendant was
minor, represented by her parents JOSE and ANGELA DESAMPRADO, CARLO the Honorable Fulgencio S. Factoran, Jr., then Secretary of the Department of Environment
JOAQUIN T. NARVASA, minor, represented by his parents GREGORIO II and CRISTINE and Natural Resources (DENR). His substitution in this petition by the new Secretary, the
CHARITY NARVASA, MA. MARGARITA, JESUS IGNACIO, MA. ANGELA and MARIE Honorable Angel C. Alcala, was subsequently ordered upon proper motion by the
GABRIELLE, all surnamed SAENZ, minors, represented by their parents ROBERTO petitioners.1 The complaint2 was instituted as a taxpayers' class suit3 and alleges that the
and AURORA SAENZ, KRISTINE, MARY ELLEN, MAY, GOLDA MARTHE and DAVID IAN, plaintiffs "are all citizens of the Republic of the Philippines, taxpayers, and entitled to the
all surnamed KING, minors, represented by their parents MARIO and HAYDEE KING, full benefit, use and enjoyment of the natural resource treasure that is the country's virgin
DAVID, FRANCISCO and THERESE VICTORIA, all surnamed ENDRIGA, minors, tropical forests." The same was filed for themselves and others who are equally concerned
represented by their parents BALTAZAR and TERESITA ENDRIGA, JOSE MA. and about the preservation of said resource but are "so numerous that it is impracticable to
REGINA MA., all surnamed ABAYA, minors, represented by their parents ANTONIO bring them all before the Court." The minors further asseverate that they "represent their
and MARICA ABAYA, MARILIN, MARIO, JR. and MARIETTE, all surnamed CARDAMA, generation as well as generations yet unborn."4 Consequently, it is prayed for that
minors, represented by their parents MARIO and LINA CARDAMA, CLARISSA, ANN judgment be rendered:
MARIE, NAGEL, and IMEE LYN, all surnamed OPOSA, minors and represented by
their parents RICARDO and MARISSA OPOSA, PHILIP JOSEPH, STEPHEN JOHN and . . . ordering defendant, his agents, representatives and other persons acting in his behalf to
ISAIAH JAMES, all surnamed QUIPIT, minors, represented by their parents JOSE MAX
and VILMI QUIPIT, BUGHAW CIELO, CRISANTO, ANNA, DANIEL and FRANCISCO, all
surnamed BIBAL, minors, represented by their parents FRANCISCO, JR. and
(1) Cancel all existing timber license agreements in the country;
MILAGROS BIBAL, and THE PHILIPPINE ECOLOGICAL NETWORK, INC., petitioners,
vs.
THE HONORABLE FULGENCIO S. FACTORAN, JR., in his capacity as the Secretary of (2) Cease and desist from receiving, accepting, processing, renewing or approving new
the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and THE HONORABLE timber license agreements.
ERIBERTO U. ROSARIO, Presiding Judge of the RTC, Makati, Branch 66, respondents.
and granting the plaintiffs ". . . such other reliefs just and equitable under the premises." 5
Oposa Law Office for petitioners.
The complaint starts off with the general averments that the Philippine archipelago of
The Solicitor General for respondents. 7,100 islands has a land area of thirty million (30,000,000) hectares and is endowed with
rich, lush and verdant rainforests in which varied, rare and unique species of flora and
fauna may be found; these rainforests contain a genetic, biological and chemical pool
which is irreplaceable; they are also the habitat of indigenous Philippine cultures which
have existed, endured and flourished since time immemorial; scientific evidence reveals
DAVIDE, JR., J.: that in order to maintain a balanced and healthful ecology, the country's land area should
be utilized on the basis of a ratio of fifty-four per cent (54%) for forest cover and forty-six
In a broader sense, this petition bears upon the right of Filipinos to a balanced and per cent (46%) for agricultural, residential, industrial, commercial and other uses; the
healthful ecology which the petitioners dramatically associate with the twin concepts of distortion and disturbance of this balance as a consequence of deforestation have resulted
in a host of environmental tragedies, such as (a) water shortages resulting from drying up 11. Public records reveal that the defendant's, predecessors have granted timber license
of the water table, otherwise known as the "aquifer," as well as of rivers, brooks and agreements ('TLA's') to various corporations to cut the aggregate area of 3.89 million
streams, (b) salinization of the water table as a result of the intrusion therein of salt water, hectares for commercial logging purposes.
incontrovertible examples of which may be found in the island of Cebu and the
Municipality of Bacoor, Cavite, (c) massive erosion and the consequential loss of soil A copy of the TLA holders and the corresponding areas covered is hereto attached as
fertility and agricultural productivity, with the volume of soil eroded estimated at one Annex "A".
billion (1,000,000,000) cubic meters per annum approximately the size of the entire
island of Catanduanes, (d) the endangering and extinction of the country's unique, rare and
12. At the present rate of deforestation, i.e. about 200,000 hectares per annum or 25
varied flora and fauna, (e) the disturbance and dislocation of cultural communities,
hectares per hour nighttime, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays included the
including the disappearance of the Filipino's indigenous cultures, (f) the siltation of rivers
Philippines will be bereft of forest resources after the end of this ensuing decade, if not
and seabeds and consequential destruction of corals and other aquatic life leading to a
earlier.
critical reduction in marine resource productivity, (g) recurrent spells of drought as is
presently experienced by the entire country, (h) increasing velocity of typhoon winds
which result from the absence of windbreakers, (i) the floodings of lowlands and 13. The adverse effects, disastrous consequences, serious injury and irreparable damage of
agricultural plains arising from the absence of the absorbent mechanism of forests, (j) the this continued trend of deforestation to the plaintiff minor's generation and to generations
siltation and shortening of the lifespan of multi-billion peso dams constructed and yet unborn are evident and incontrovertible. As a matter of fact, the environmental
operated for the purpose of supplying water for domestic uses, irrigation and the damages enumerated in paragraph 6 hereof are already being felt, experienced and
generation of electric power, and (k) the reduction of the earth's capacity to process suffered by the generation of plaintiff adults.
carbon dioxide gases which has led to perplexing and catastrophic climatic changes such
as the phenomenon of global warming, otherwise known as the "greenhouse effect." 14. The continued allowance by defendant of TLA holders to cut and deforest the
remaining forest stands will work great damage and irreparable injury to plaintiffs
Plaintiffs further assert that the adverse and detrimental consequences of continued and especially plaintiff minors and their successors who may never see, use, benefit from
deforestation are so capable of unquestionable demonstration that the same may be and enjoy this rare and unique natural resource treasure.
submitted as a matter of judicial notice. This notwithstanding, they expressed their
intention to present expert witnesses as well as documentary, photographic and film This act of defendant constitutes a misappropriation and/or impairment of the natural
evidence in the course of the trial. resource property he holds in trust for the benefit of plaintiff minors and succeeding
generations.
As their cause of action, they specifically allege that:
15. Plaintiffs have a clear and constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology and
CAUSE OF ACTION are entitled to protection by the State in its capacity as the parens patriae.

7. Plaintiffs replead by reference the foregoing allegations. 16. Plaintiff have exhausted all administrative remedies with the defendant's office. On
March 2, 1990, plaintiffs served upon defendant a final demand to cancel all logging
permits in the country.
8. Twenty-five (25) years ago, the Philippines had some sixteen (16) million hectares of
rainforests constituting roughly 53% of the country's land mass.
A copy of the plaintiffs' letter dated March 1, 1990 is hereto attached as Annex "B".
9. Satellite images taken in 1987 reveal that there remained no more than 1.2 million
hectares of said rainforests or four per cent (4.0%) of the country's land area. 17. Defendant, however, fails and refuses to cancel the existing TLA's to the continuing
serious damage and extreme prejudice of plaintiffs.
10. More recent surveys reveal that a mere 850,000 hectares of virgin old-growth
rainforests are left, barely 2.8% of the entire land mass of the Philippine archipelago and 18. The continued failure and refusal by defendant to cancel the TLA's is an act violative of
about 3.0 million hectares of immature and uneconomical secondary growth forests. the rights of plaintiffs, especially plaintiff minors who may be left with a country that is
desertified (sic), bare, barren and devoid of the wonderful flora, fauna and indigenous
cultures which the Philippines had been abundantly blessed with.
19. Defendant's refusal to cancel the aforementioned TLA's is manifestly contrary to the no cause of action against him and that it raises a political question sustained, the
public policy enunciated in the Philippine Environmental Policy which, in pertinent part, respondent Judge further ruled that the granting of the relief prayed for would result in
states that it is the policy of the State the impairment of contracts which is prohibited by the fundamental law of the land.

(a) to create, develop, maintain and improve conditions under which man and nature can Plaintiffs thus filed the instant special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65 of the
thrive in productive and enjoyable harmony with each other; Revised Rules of Court and ask this Court to rescind and set aside the dismissal order on
the ground that the respondent Judge gravely abused his discretion in dismissing the
(b) to fulfill the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations action. Again, the parents of the plaintiffs-minors not only represent their children, but
of Filipinos and; have also joined the latter in this case.8

(c) to ensure the attainment of an environmental quality that is conductive to a life of On 14 May 1992, We resolved to give due course to the petition and required the parties to
dignity and well-being. (P.D. 1151, 6 June 1977) submit their respective Memoranda after the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) filed a
Comment in behalf of the respondents and the petitioners filed a reply thereto.
20. Furthermore, defendant's continued refusal to cancel the aforementioned TLA's is
contradictory to the Constitutional policy of the State to Petitioners contend that the complaint clearly and unmistakably states a cause of action as
it contains sufficient allegations concerning their right to a sound environment based on
Articles 19, 20 and 21 of the Civil Code (Human Relations), Section 4 of Executive Order
a. effect "a more equitable distribution of opportunities, income and wealth" and "make
(E.O.) No. 192 creating the DENR, Section 3 of Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 1151
full and efficient use of natural resources (sic)." (Section 1, Article XII of the Constitution);
(Philippine Environmental Policy), Section 16, Article II of the 1987 Constitution
recognizing the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology, the concept of
b. "protect the nation's marine wealth." (Section 2, ibid); generational genocide in Criminal Law and the concept of man's inalienable right to
self-preservation and self-perpetuation embodied in natural law. Petitioners likewise rely
c. "conserve and promote the nation's cultural heritage and resources (sic)" (Section 14, on the respondent's correlative obligation per Section 4 of E.O. No. 192, to safeguard the
Article XIV, id.); people's right to a healthful environment.

d. "protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in It is further claimed that the issue of the respondent Secretary's alleged grave abuse of
accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature." (Section 16, Article II, id.) discretion in granting Timber License Agreements (TLAs) to cover more areas for logging
than what is available involves a judicial question.
21. Finally, defendant's act is contrary to the highest law of humankind the natural law
and violative of plaintiffs' right to self-preservation and perpetuation. Anent the invocation by the respondent Judge of the Constitution's non-impairment clause,
petitioners maintain that the same does not apply in this case because TLAs are not
22. There is no other plain, speedy and adequate remedy in law other than the instant contracts. They likewise submit that even if TLAs may be considered protected by the said
action to arrest the unabated hemorrhage of the country's vital life support systems and clause, it is well settled that they may still be revoked by the State when the public interest
continued rape of Mother Earth. 6 so requires.

On 22 June 1990, the original defendant, Secretary Factoran, Jr., filed a Motion to Dismiss On the other hand, the respondents aver that the petitioners failed to allege in their
the complaint based on two (2) grounds, namely: (1) the plaintiffs have no cause of action complaint a specific legal right violated by the respondent Secretary for which any relief is
against him and (2) the issue raised by the plaintiffs is a political question which properly provided by law. They see nothing in the complaint but vague and nebulous allegations
pertains to the legislative or executive branches of Government. In their 12 July 1990 concerning an "environmental right" which supposedly entitles the petitioners to the
Opposition to the Motion, the petitioners maintain that (1) the complaint shows a clear "protection by the state in its capacity as parens patriae." Such allegations, according to
and unmistakable cause of action, (2) the motion is dilatory and (3) the action presents a them, do not reveal a valid cause of action. They then reiterate the theory that the question
justiciable question as it involves the defendant's abuse of discretion. of whether logging should be permitted in the country is a political question which should
be properly addressed to the executive or legislative branches of Government. They
On 18 July 1991, respondent Judge issued an order granting the aforementioned motion to therefore assert that the petitioners' resources is not to file an action to court, but to lobby
dismiss.7 In the said order, not only was the defendant's claim that the complaint states before Congress for the passage of a bill that would ban logging totally.
As to the matter of the cancellation of the TLAs, respondents submit that the same cannot xxx xxx xxx
be done by the State without due process of law. Once issued, a TLA remains effective for a
certain period of time usually for twenty-five (25) years. During its effectivity, the same After a careful and circumspect evaluation of the Complaint, the Court cannot help but
can neither be revised nor cancelled unless the holder has been found, after due notice and agree with the defendant. For although we believe that plaintiffs have but the noblest of all
hearing, to have violated the terms of the agreement or other forestry laws and regulations. intentions, it (sic) fell short of alleging, with sufficient definiteness, a specific legal right
Petitioners' proposition to have all the TLAs indiscriminately cancelled without the they are seeking to enforce and protect, or a specific legal wrong they are seeking to
requisite hearing would be violative of the requirements of due process. prevent and redress (Sec. 1, Rule 2, RRC). Furthermore, the Court notes that the Complaint
is replete with vague assumptions and vague conclusions based on unverified data. In fine,
Before going any further, We must first focus on some procedural matters. Petitioners plaintiffs fail to state a cause of action in its Complaint against the herein defendant.
instituted Civil Case No. 90-777 as a class suit. The original defendant and the present
respondents did not take issue with this matter. Nevertheless, We hereby rule that the said Furthermore, the Court firmly believes that the matter before it, being impressed with
civil case is indeed a class suit. The subject matter of the complaint is of common and political color and involving a matter of public policy, may not be taken cognizance of by
general interest not just to several, but to all citizens of the Philippines. Consequently, this Court without doing violence to the sacred principle of "Separation of Powers" of the
since the parties are so numerous, it, becomes impracticable, if not totally impossible, to three (3) co-equal branches of the Government.
bring all of them before the court. We likewise declare that the plaintiffs therein are
numerous and representative enough to ensure the full protection of all concerned
The Court is likewise of the impression that it cannot, no matter how we stretch our
interests. Hence, all the requisites for the filing of a valid class suit under Section 12, Rule 3
jurisdiction, grant the reliefs prayed for by the plaintiffs, i.e., to cancel all existing timber
of the Revised Rules of Court are present both in the said civil case and in the instant
license agreements in the country and to cease and desist from receiving, accepting,
petition, the latter being but an incident to the former.
processing, renewing or approving new timber license agreements. For to do otherwise
would amount to "impairment of contracts" abhored (sic) by the fundamental law. 11
This case, however, has a special and novel element. Petitioners minors assert that they
represent their generation as well as generations yet unborn. We find no difficulty in
We do not agree with the trial court's conclusions that the plaintiffs failed to allege with
ruling that they can, for themselves, for others of their generation and for the succeeding
sufficient definiteness a specific legal right involved or a specific legal wrong committed,
generations, file a class suit. Their personality to sue in behalf of the succeeding
and that the complaint is replete with vague assumptions and conclusions based on
generations can only be based on the concept of intergenerational responsibility insofar as
unverified data. A reading of the complaint itself belies these conclusions.
the right to a balanced and healthful ecology is concerned. Such a right, as hereinafter
expounded, considers
the "rhythm and harmony of nature." Nature means the created world in its entirety. 9 Such The complaint focuses on one specific fundamental legal right the right to a balanced
rhythm and harmony indispensably include, inter alia, the judicious disposition, utilization, and healthful ecology which, for the first time in our nation's constitutional history, is
management, renewal and conservation of the country's forest, mineral, land, waters, solemnly incorporated in the fundamental law. Section 16, Article II of the 1987
fisheries, wildlife, off-shore areas and other natural resources to the end that their Constitution explicitly provides:
exploration, development and utilization be equitably accessible to the present as well as
future generations. 10Needless to say, every generation has a responsibility to the next to Sec. 16. The State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and
preserve that rhythm and harmony for the full enjoyment of a balanced and healthful healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.
ecology. Put a little differently, the minors' assertion of their right to a sound environment
constitutes, at the same time, the performance of their obligation to ensure the protection This right unites with the right to health which is provided for in the preceding section of
of that right for the generations to come. the same article:

The locus standi of the petitioners having thus been addressed, We shall now proceed to Sec. 15. The State shall protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill
the merits of the petition. health consciousness among them.

After a careful perusal of the complaint in question and a meticulous consideration and While the right to a balanced and healthful ecology is to be found under the Declaration of
evaluation of the issues raised and arguments adduced by the parties, We do not hesitate Principles and State Policies and not under the Bill of Rights, it does not follow that it is
to find for the petitioners and rule against the respondent Judge's challenged order for less important than any of the civil and political rights enumerated in the latter. Such a
having been issued with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction. The right belongs to a different category of rights altogether for it concerns nothing less than
pertinent portions of the said order reads as follows: self-preservation and self-perpetuation aptly and fittingly stressed by the petitioners
the advancement of which may even be said to predate all governments and constitutions. the benefits derived therefrom for the welfare of the present and future generations of
As a matter of fact, these basic rights need not even be written in the Constitution for they Filipinos." Section 3 thereof makes the following statement of policy:
are assumed to exist from the inception of humankind. If they are now explicitly
mentioned in the fundamental charter, it is because of the well-founded fear of its framers Sec. 3. Declaration of Policy. It is hereby declared the policy of the State to ensure the
that unless the rights to a balanced and healthful ecology and to health are mandated as sustainable use, development, management, renewal, and conservation of the country's
state policies by the Constitution itself, thereby highlighting their continuing importance forest, mineral, land, off-shore areas and other natural resources, including the protection
and imposing upon the state a solemn obligation to preserve the first and protect and and enhancement of the quality of the environment, and equitable access of the different
advance the second, the day would not be too far when all else would be lost not only for segments of the population to the development and the use of the country's natural
the present generation, but also for those to come generations which stand to inherit resources, not only for the present generation but for future generations as well. It is also
nothing but parched earth incapable of sustaining life. the policy of the state to recognize and apply a true value system including social and
environmental cost implications relative to their utilization, development and
The right to a balanced and healthful ecology carries with it the correlative duty to refrain conservation of our natural resources.
from impairing the environment. During the debates on this right in one of the plenary
sessions of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, the following exchange transpired This policy declaration is substantially re-stated it Title XIV, Book IV of the Administrative
between Commissioner Wilfrido Villacorta and Commissioner Adolfo Azcuna who Code of 1987,15 specifically in Section 1 thereof which reads:
sponsored the section in question:
Sec. 1. Declaration of Policy. (1) The State shall ensure, for the benefit of the Filipino
MR. VILLACORTA: people, the full exploration and development as well as the judicious disposition,
utilization, management, renewal and conservation of the country's forest, mineral, land,
Does this section mandate the State to provide sanctions against all forms of pollution waters, fisheries, wildlife, off-shore areas and other natural resources, consistent with the
air, water and noise pollution? necessity of maintaining a sound ecological balance and protecting and enhancing the
quality of the environment and the objective of making the exploration, development and
MR. AZCUNA: utilization of such natural resources equitably accessible to the different segments of the
present as well as future generations.
Yes, Madam President. The right to healthful (sic) environment necessarily carries with it
the correlative duty of not impairing the same and, therefore, sanctions may be provided (2) The State shall likewise recognize and apply a true value system that takes into account
for impairment of environmental balance. 12 social and environmental cost implications relative to the utilization, development and
conservation of our natural resources.
The said right implies, among many other things, the judicious management and
conservation of the country's forests. The above provision stresses "the necessity of maintaining a sound ecological balance and
protecting and enhancing the quality of the environment." Section 2 of the same Title, on
the other hand, specifically speaks of the mandate of the DENR; however, it makes
Without such forests, the ecological or environmental balance would be irreversiby
particular reference to the fact of the agency's being subject to law and higher authority.
disrupted.
Said section provides:

Conformably with the enunciated right to a balanced and healthful ecology and the right to
Sec. 2. Mandate. (1) The Department of Environment and Natural Resources shall be
health, as well as the other related provisions of the Constitution concerning the
primarily responsible for the implementation of the foregoing policy.
conservation, development and utilization of the country's natural resources, 13 then
President Corazon C. Aquino promulgated on 10 June 1987 E.O. No. 192, 14 Section 4 of
which expressly mandates that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (2) It shall, subject to law and higher authority, be in charge of carrying out the State's
"shall be the primary government agency responsible for the conservation, management, constitutional mandate to control and supervise the exploration, development, utilization,
development and proper use of the country's environment and natural resources, and conservation of the country's natural resources.
specifically forest and grazing lands, mineral, resources, including those in reservation and
watershed areas, and lands of the public domain, as well as the licensing and regulation of Both E.O. NO. 192 and the Administrative Code of 1987 have set the objectives which will
all natural resources as may be provided for by law in order to ensure equitable sharing of serve as the bases for policy formulation, and have defined the powers and functions of the
DENR.
It may, however, be recalled that even before the ratification of the 1987 Constitution, After careful examination of the petitioners' complaint, We find the statements under the
specific statutes already paid special attention to the "environmental right" of the present introductory affirmative allegations, as well as the specific averments under the
and future generations. On 6 June 1977, P.D. No. 1151 (Philippine Environmental Policy) sub-heading CAUSE OF ACTION, to be adequate enough to show, prima facie, the claimed
and P.D. No. 1152 (Philippine Environment Code) were issued. The former "declared a violation of their rights. On the basis thereof, they may thus be granted, wholly or partly,
continuing policy of the State (a) to create, develop, maintain and improve conditions the reliefs prayed for. It bears stressing, however, that insofar as the cancellation of the
under which man and nature can thrive in productive and enjoyable harmony with each TLAs is concerned, there is the need to implead, as party defendants, the grantees thereof
other, (b) to fulfill the social, economic and other requirements of present and future for they are indispensable parties.
generations of Filipinos, and (c) to insure the attainment of an environmental quality that
is conducive to a life of dignity and well-being." 16 As its goal, it speaks of the The foregoing considered, Civil Case No. 90-777 be said to raise a political question. Policy
"responsibilities of each generation as trustee and guardian of the environment for formulation or determination by the executive or legislative branches of Government is
succeeding generations." 17 The latter statute, on the other hand, gave flesh to the said not squarely put in issue. What is principally involved is the enforcement of a
policy. right vis-a-vis policies already formulated and expressed in legislation. It must, nonetheless,
be emphasized that the political question doctrine is no longer, the insurmountable
Thus, the right of the petitioners (and all those they represent) to a balanced and healthful obstacle to the exercise of judicial power or the impenetrable shield that protects
ecology is as clear as the DENR's duty under its mandate and by virtue of its powers and executive and legislative actions from judicial inquiry or review. The second paragraph of
functions under E.O. No. 192 and the Administrative Code of 1987 to protect and section 1, Article VIII of the Constitution states that:
advance the said right.
Judicial power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies
A denial or violation of that right by the other who has the corelative duty or obligation to involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether
respect or protect the same gives rise to a cause of action. Petitioners maintain that the or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of
granting of the TLAs, which they claim was done with grave abuse of discretion, violated jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government.
their right to a balanced and healthful ecology; hence, the full protection thereof requires
that no further TLAs should be renewed or granted. Commenting on this provision in his book, Philippine Political Law, 22 Mr. Justice Isagani A.
Cruz, a distinguished member of this Court, says:
A cause of action is defined as:
The first part of the authority represents the traditional concept of judicial power,
. . . an act or omission of one party in violation of the legal right or rights of the other; and involving the settlement of conflicting rights as conferred as law. The second part of the
its essential elements are legal right of the plaintiff, correlative obligation of the defendant, authority represents a broadening of judicial power to enable the courts of justice to
and act or omission of the defendant in violation of said legal right. 18 review what was before forbidden territory, to wit, the discretion of the political
departments of the government.
It is settled in this jurisdiction that in a motion to dismiss based on the ground that the
complaint fails to state a cause of action, 19 the question submitted to the court for As worded, the new provision vests in the judiciary, and particularly the Supreme Court,
resolution involves the sufficiency of the facts alleged in the complaint itself. No other the power to rule upon even the wisdom of the decisions of the executive and the
matter should be considered; furthermore, the truth of falsity of the said allegations is legislature and to declare their acts invalid for lack or excess of jurisdiction because
beside the point for the truth thereof is deemed hypothetically admitted. The only issue to tainted with grave abuse of discretion. The catch, of course, is the meaning of "grave abuse
be resolved in such a case is: admitting such alleged facts to be true, may the court render of discretion," which is a very elastic phrase that can expand or contract according to the
a valid judgment in accordance with the prayer in the complaint? 20 In Militante vs. disposition of the judiciary.
Edrosolano, 21 this Court laid down the rule that the judiciary should "exercise the utmost
care and circumspection in passing upon a motion to dismiss on the ground of the absence In Daza vs. Singson, 23 Mr. Justice Cruz, now speaking for this Court, noted:
thereof [cause of action] lest, by its failure to manifest a correct appreciation of the facts
alleged and deemed hypothetically admitted, what the law grants or recognizes is
In the case now before us, the jurisdictional objection becomes even less tenable and
effectively nullified. If that happens, there is a blot on the legal order. The law itself stands
decisive. The reason is that, even if we were to assume that the issue presented before us
in disrepute."
was political in nature, we would still not be precluded from revolving it under the
expanded jurisdiction conferred upon us that now covers, in proper cases, even the
political question. Article VII, Section 1, of the Constitution clearly provides: . . .
The last ground invoked by the trial court in dismissing the complaint is the . . . Timber licenses, permits and license agreements are the principal instruments by
non-impairment of contracts clause found in the Constitution. The court a quo declared which the State regulates the utilization and disposition of forest resources to the end that
that: public welfare is promoted. And it can hardly be gainsaid that they merely evidence a
privilege granted by the State to qualified entities, and do not vest in the latter a
The Court is likewise of the impression that it cannot, no matter how we stretch our permanent or irrevocable right to the particular concession area and the forest products
jurisdiction, grant the reliefs prayed for by the plaintiffs, i.e., to cancel all existing timber therein. They may be validly amended, modified, replaced or rescinded by the Chief
license agreements in the country and to cease and desist from receiving, accepting, Executive when national interests so require. Thus, they are not deemed contracts within
processing, renewing or approving new timber license agreements. For to do otherwise the purview of the due process of law clause [See Sections 3(ee) and 20 of Pres. Decree No.
would amount to "impairment of contracts" abhored (sic) by the fundamental law. 24 705, as amended. Also, Tan v. Director of Forestry, G.R. No. L-24548, October 27, 1983, 125
SCRA 302].
We are not persuaded at all; on the contrary, We are amazed, if not shocked, by such a
sweeping pronouncement. In the first place, the respondent Secretary did not, for obvious Since timber licenses are not contracts, the non-impairment clause, which reads:
reasons, even invoke in his motion to dismiss the non-impairment clause. If he had done so,
he would have acted with utmost infidelity to the Government by providing undue and Sec. 10. No law impairing, the obligation of contracts shall be passed. 27
unwarranted benefits and advantages to the timber license holders because he would have
forever bound the Government to strictly respect the said licenses according to their terms cannot be invoked.
and conditions regardless of changes in policy and the demands of public interest and
welfare. He was aware that as correctly pointed out by the petitioners, into every timber
In the second place, even if it is to be assumed that the same are contracts, the instant case
license must be read Section 20 of the Forestry Reform Code (P.D. No. 705) which
does not involve a law or even an executive issuance declaring the cancellation or
provides:
modification of existing timber licenses. Hence, the non-impairment clause cannot as yet
be invoked. Nevertheless, granting further that a law has actually been passed mandating
. . . Provided, That when the national interest so requires, the President may amend, modify, cancellations or modifications, the same cannot still be stigmatized as a violation of the
replace or rescind any contract, concession, permit, licenses or any other form of privilege non-impairment clause. This is because by its very nature and purpose, such as law could
granted herein . . . have only been passed in the exercise of the police power of the state for the purpose of
advancing the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology, promoting their
Needless to say, all licenses may thus be revoked or rescinded by executive action. It is not health and enhancing the general welfare. In Abe vs. Foster Wheeler
a contract, property or a property right protested by the due process clause of the Corp. 28 this Court stated:
Constitution. In Tan vs. Director of Forestry, 25 this Court held:
The freedom of contract, under our system of government, is not meant to be absolute. The
. . . A timber license is an instrument by which the State regulates the utilization and same is understood to be subject to reasonable legislative regulation aimed at the
disposition of forest resources to the end that public welfare is promoted. A timber license promotion of public health, moral, safety and welfare. In other words, the constitutional
is not a contract within the purview of the due process clause; it is only a license or guaranty of non-impairment of obligations of contract is limited by the exercise of the
privilege, which can be validly withdrawn whenever dictated by public interest or public police power of the State, in the interest of public health, safety, moral and general welfare.
welfare as in this case.
The reason for this is emphatically set forth in Nebia vs. New York, 29 quoted in Philippine
A license is merely a permit or privilege to do what otherwise would be unlawful, and is American Life Insurance Co. vs. Auditor General,30 to wit:
not a contract between the authority, federal, state, or municipal, granting it and the
person to whom it is granted; neither is it property or a property right, nor does it create a Under our form of government the use of property and the making of contracts are
vested right; nor is it taxation (37 C.J. 168). Thus, this Court held that the granting of normally matters of private and not of public concern. The general rule is that both shall
license does not create irrevocable rights, neither is it property or property rights (People be free of governmental interference. But neither property rights nor contract rights are
vs. Ong Tin, 54 O.G. 7576). absolute; for government cannot exist if the citizen may at will use his property to the
detriment of his fellows, or exercise his freedom of contract to work them harm. Equally
We reiterated this pronouncement in Felipe Ysmael, Jr. & Co., Inc. vs. Deputy Executive fundamental with the private right is that of the public to regulate it in the common
Secretary: 26 interest.
In short, the non-impairment clause must yield to the police power of the state. 31 of petitioners' claim that their suit is properly regarded as a class suit. I understand locus
standi to refer to the legal interest which a plaintiff must have in the subject matter of the
Finally, it is difficult to imagine, as the trial court did, how the non-impairment clause suit. Because of the very broadness of the concept of "class" here involved membership
could apply with respect to the prayer to enjoin the respondent Secretary from receiving, in this "class" appears to embrace everyone living in the country whether now or in the
accepting, processing, renewing or approving new timber licenses for, save in cases future it appears to me that everyone who may be expected to benefit from the course
of renewal, no contract would have as of yet existed in the other instances. Moreover, with of action petitioners seek to require public respondents to take, is vested with the
respect to renewal, the holder is not entitled to it as a matter of right. necessary locus standi. The Court may be seen therefore to be recognizing a beneficiaries'
right of action in the field of environmental protection, as against both the public
administrative agency directly concerned and the private persons or entities operating in
WHEREFORE, being impressed with merit, the instant Petition is hereby GRANTED, and
the field or sector of activity involved. Whether such beneficiaries' right of action may be
the challenged Order of respondent Judge of 18 July 1991 dismissing Civil Case No. 90-777
found under any and all circumstances, or whether some failure to act, in the first instance,
is hereby set aside. The petitioners may therefore amend their complaint to implead as
on the part of the governmental agency concerned must be shown ("prior exhaustion of
defendants the holders or grantees of the questioned timber license agreements.
administrative remedies"), is not discussed in the decision and presumably is left for
future determination in an appropriate case.
No pronouncement as to costs.
The Court has also declared that the complaint has alleged and focused upon "one specific
SO ORDERED. fundamental legal right the right to a balanced and healthful ecology" (Decision, p. 14).
There is no question that "the right to a balanced and healthful ecology" is "fundamental"
Cruz, Padilla, Bidin, Grio-Aquino, Regalado, Romero, Nocon, Bellosillo, Melo and Quiason, JJ., and that, accordingly, it has been "constitutionalized." But although it is fundamental in
concur. character, I suggest, with very great respect, that it cannot be characterized as "specific,"
without doing excessive violence to language. It is in fact very difficult to fashion language
Narvasa, C.J., Puno and Vitug, JJ., took no part. more comprehensive in scope and generalized in character than a right to "a balanced and
healthful ecology." The list of particular claims which can be subsumed under this rubic
appears to be entirely open-ended: prevention and control of emission of toxic fumes and
smoke from factories and motor vehicles; of discharge of oil, chemical effluents, garbage
and raw sewage into rivers, inland and coastal waters by vessels, oil rigs, factories, mines
and whole communities; of dumping of organic and inorganic wastes on open land, streets
and thoroughfares; failure to rehabilitate land after strip-mining or open-pit
mining; kaingin or slash-and-burn farming; destruction of fisheries, coral reefs and other
living sea resources through the use of dynamite or cyanide and other chemicals;
Separate Opinions contamination of ground water resources; loss of certain species of fauna and flora; and so
on. The other statements pointed out by the Court: Section 3, Executive Order No. 192
dated 10 June 1987; Section 1, Title XIV, Book IV of the 1987 Administrative Code; and P.D.
No. 1151, dated 6 June 1977 all appear to be formulations of policy, as general and
abstract as the constitutional statements of basic policy in Article II, Section 16 ("the right
FELICIANO, J., concurring
to a balanced and healthful ecology") and 15 ("the right to health").

I join in the result reached by my distinguished brother in the Court, Davide, Jr., J., in this
P.D. No. 1152, also dated 6 June 1977, entitled "The Philippine Environment Code," is,
case which, to my mind, is one of the most important cases decided by this Court in the last
upon the other hand, a compendious collection of more "specific environment
few years. The seminal principles laid down in this decision are likely to influence
management policies" and "environment quality standards" (fourth "Whereas" clause,
profoundly the direction and course of the protection and management of the environment,
Preamble) relating to an extremely wide range of topics:
which of course embraces the utilization of all the natural resources in the territorial base
of our polity. I have therefore sought to clarify, basically to myself, what the Court appears
to be saying. (a) air quality management;

The Court explicitly states that petitioners have the locus standi necessary to sustain the (b) water quality management;
bringing and, maintenance of this suit (Decision, pp. 11-12). Locus standi is not a function
(c) land use management; It seems to me important that the legal right which is an essential component of a cause of
action be a specific, operable legal right, rather than a constitutional or statutory policy, for
(d) natural resources management and conservation embracing: at least two (2) reasons. One is that unless the legal right claimed to have been violated or
disregarded is given specification in operational terms, defendants may well be unable to
defend themselves intelligently and effectively; in other words, there are due process
(i) fisheries and aquatic resources;
dimensions to this matter.

(ii) wild life;


The second is a broader-gauge consideration where a specific violation of law or
applicable regulation is not alleged or proved, petitioners can be expected to fall back on
(iii) forestry and soil conservation; the expanded conception of judicial power in the second paragraph of Section 1 of Article
VIII of the Constitution which reads:
(iv) flood control and natural calamities;
Section 1. . . .
(v) energy development;
Judicial power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies
(vi) conservation and utilization of surface and ground water involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether
or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of
(vii) mineral resources jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government. (Emphasis
supplied)
Two (2) points are worth making in this connection. Firstly, neither petitioners nor the
Court has identified the particular provision or provisions (if any) of the Philippine When substantive standards as general as "the right to a balanced and healthy ecology"
Environment Code which give rise to a specific legal right which petitioners are seeking to and "the right to health" are combined with remedial standards as broad ranging as "a
enforce. Secondly, the Philippine Environment Code identifies with notable care the grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction," the result will be, it
particular government agency charged with the formulation and implementation of is respectfully submitted, to propel courts into the uncharted ocean of social and economic
guidelines and programs dealing with each of the headings and sub-headings mentioned policy making. At least in respect of the vast area of environmental protection and
above. The Philippine Environment Code does not, in other words, appear to contemplate management, our courts have no claim to special technical competence and experience
action on the part of private persons who are beneficiaries of implementation of that Code. and professional qualification. Where no specific, operable norms and standards are
shown to exist, then the policy making departments the legislative and executive
As a matter of logic, by finding petitioners' cause of action as anchored on a legal right departments must be given a real and effective opportunity to fashion and promulgate
comprised in the constitutional statements above noted, the Court is in effect saying that those norms and standards, and to implement them before the courts should intervene.
Section 15 (and Section 16) of Article II of the Constitution are self-executing and judicially
enforceable even in their present form. The implications of this doctrine will have to be My learned brother Davide, Jr., J., rightly insists that the timber companies, whose
explored in future cases; those implications are too large and far-reaching in nature even concession agreements or TLA's petitioners demand public respondents should cancel,
to be hinted at here. must be impleaded in the proceedings below. It might be asked that, if petitioners'
entitlement to the relief demanded is not dependent upon proof of breach by the timber
My suggestion is simply that petitioners must, before the trial court, show a more specific companies of one or more of the specific terms and conditions of their concession
legal right a right cast in language of a significantly lower order of generality than agreements (and this, petitioners implicitly assume), what will those companies litigate
Article II (15) of the Constitution that is or may be violated by the actions, or failures to about? The answer I suggest is that they may seek to dispute the existence of the specific
act, imputed to the public respondent by petitioners so that the trial court can validly legal right petitioners should allege, as well as the reality of the claimed factual nexus
render judgment granting all or part of the relief prayed for. To my mind, the Court should between petitioners' specific legal rights and the claimed wrongful acts or failures to act of
be understood as simply saying that such a more specific legal right or rights may well public respondent administrative agency. They may also controvert the appropriateness of
exist in our corpus of law, considering the general policy principles found in the the remedy or remedies demanded by petitioners, under all the circumstances which exist.
Constitution and the existence of the Philippine Environment Code, and that the trial court
should have given petitioners an effective opportunity so to demonstrate, instead of I vote to grant the Petition for Certiorari because the protection of the environment,
aborting the proceedings on a motion to dismiss. including the forest cover of our territory, is of extreme importance for the country. The
doctrines set out in the Court's decision issued today should, however, be subjected to smoke from factories and motor vehicles; of discharge of oil, chemical effluents, garbage
closer examination. and raw sewage into rivers, inland and coastal waters by vessels, oil rigs, factories, mines
and whole communities; of dumping of organic and inorganic wastes on open land, streets
and thoroughfares; failure to rehabilitate land after strip-mining or open-pit
mining; kaingin or slash-and-burn farming; destruction of fisheries, coral reefs and other
living sea resources through the use of dynamite or cyanide and other chemicals;
contamination of ground water resources; loss of certain species of fauna and flora; and so
on. The other statements pointed out by the Court: Section 3, Executive Order No. 192
# Separate Opinions dated 10 June 1987; Section 1, Title XIV, Book IV of the 1987 Administrative Code; and P.D.
No. 1151, dated 6 June 1977 all appear to be formulations of policy, as general and
FELICIANO, J., concurring abstract as the constitutional statements of basic policy in Article II, Section 16 ("the right
to a balanced and healthful ecology") and 15 ("the right to health").
I join in the result reached by my distinguished brother in the Court, Davide, Jr., J., in this
case which, to my mind, is one of the most important cases decided by this Court in the last P.D. No. 1152, also dated 6 June 1977, entitled "The Philippine Environment Code," is,
few years. The seminal principles laid down in this decision are likely to influence upon the other hand, a compendious collection of more "specific environment
profoundly the direction and course of the protection and management of the environment, management policies" and "environment quality standards" (fourth "Whereas" clause,
which of course embraces the utilization of all the natural resources in the territorial base Preamble) relating to an extremely wide range of topics:
of our polity. I have therefore sought to clarify, basically to myself, what the Court appears
to be saying. (a) air quality management;

The Court explicitly states that petitioners have the locus standi necessary to sustain the (b) water quality management;
bringing and, maintenance of this suit (Decision, pp. 11-12). Locus standi is not a function
of petitioners' claim that their suit is properly regarded as a class suit. I understand locus
(c) land use management;
standi to refer to the legal interest which a plaintiff must have in the subject matter of the
suit. Because of the very broadness of the concept of "class" here involved membership
in this "class" appears to embrace everyone living in the country whether now or in the (d) natural resources management and conservation embracing:
future it appears to me that everyone who may be expected to benefit from the course
of action petitioners seek to require public respondents to take, is vested with the (i) fisheries and aquatic resources;
necessary locus standi. The Court may be seen therefore to be recognizing a beneficiaries'
right of action in the field of environmental protection, as against both the public (ii) wild life;
administrative agency directly concerned and the private persons or entities operating in
the field or sector of activity involved. Whether such beneficiaries' right of action may be
(iii) forestry and soil conservation;
found under any and all circumstances, or whether some failure to act, in the first instance,
on the part of the governmental agency concerned must be shown ("prior exhaustion of
administrative remedies"), is not discussed in the decision and presumably is left for (iv) flood control and natural calamities;
future determination in an appropriate case.
(v) energy development;
The Court has also declared that the complaint has alleged and focused upon "one specific
fundamental legal right the right to a balanced and healthful ecology" (Decision, p. 14). (vi) conservation and utilization of surface and ground water
There is no question that "the right to a balanced and healthful ecology" is "fundamental"
and that, accordingly, it has been "constitutionalized." But although it is fundamental in (vii) mineral resources
character, I suggest, with very great respect, that it cannot be characterized as "specific,"
without doing excessive violence to language. It is in fact very difficult to fashion language Two (2) points are worth making in this connection. Firstly, neither petitioners nor the
more comprehensive in scope and generalized in character than a right to "a balanced and Court has identified the particular provision or provisions (if any) of the Philippine
healthful ecology." The list of particular claims which can be subsumed under this rubic Environment Code which give rise to a specific legal right which petitioners are seeking to
appears to be entirely open-ended: prevention and control of emission of toxic fumes and enforce. Secondly, the Philippine Environment Code identifies with notable care the
particular government agency charged with the formulation and implementation of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction," the result will be, it
guidelines and programs dealing with each of the headings and sub-headings mentioned is respectfully submitted, to propel courts into the uncharted ocean of social and economic
above. The Philippine Environment Code does not, in other words, appear to contemplate policy making. At least in respect of the vast area of environmental protection and
action on the part of private persons who are beneficiaries of implementation of that Code. management, our courts have no claim to special technical competence and experience
and professional qualification. Where no specific, operable norms and standards are
As a matter of logic, by finding petitioners' cause of action as anchored on a legal right shown to exist, then the policy making departments the legislative and executive
comprised in the constitutional statements above noted, the Court is in effect saying that departments must be given a real and effective opportunity to fashion and promulgate
Section 15 (and Section 16) of Article II of the Constitution are self-executing and judicially those norms and standards, and to implement them before the courts should intervene.
enforceable even in their present form. The implications of this doctrine will have to be
explored in future cases; those implications are too large and far-reaching in nature even My learned brother Davide, Jr., J., rightly insists that the timber companies, whose
to be hinted at here. concession agreements or TLA's petitioners demand public respondents should cancel,
must be impleaded in the proceedings below. It might be asked that, if petitioners'
My suggestion is simply that petitioners must, before the trial court, show a more specific entitlement to the relief demanded is not dependent upon proof of breach by the timber
legal right a right cast in language of a significantly lower order of generality than companies of one or more of the specific terms and conditions of their concession
Article II (15) of the Constitution that is or may be violated by the actions, or failures to agreements (and this, petitioners implicitly assume), what will those companies litigate
act, imputed to the public respondent by petitioners so that the trial court can validly about? The answer I suggest is that they may seek to dispute the existence of the specific
render judgment granting all or part of the relief prayed for. To my mind, the Court should legal right petitioners should allege, as well as the reality of the claimed factual nexus
be understood as simply saying that such a more specific legal right or rights may well between petitioners' specific legal rights and the claimed wrongful acts or failures to act of
exist in our corpus of law, considering the general policy principles found in the public respondent administrative agency. They may also controvert the appropriateness of
Constitution and the existence of the Philippine Environment Code, and that the trial court the remedy or remedies demanded by petitioners, under all the circumstances which exist.
should have given petitioners an effective opportunity so to demonstrate, instead of
aborting the proceedings on a motion to dismiss. I vote to grant the Petition for Certiorari because the protection of the environment,
including the forest cover of our territory, is of extreme importance for the country. The
It seems to me important that the legal right which is an essential component of a cause of doctrines set out in the Court's decision issued today should, however, be subjected to
action be a specific, operable legal right, rather than a constitutional or statutory policy, for closer examination.
at least two (2) reasons. One is that unless the legal right claimed to have been violated or
disregarded is given specification in operational terms, defendants may well be unable to
defend themselves intelligently and effectively; in other words, there are due process
dimensions to this matter.

The second is a broader-gauge consideration where a specific violation of law or


applicable regulation is not alleged or proved, petitioners can be expected to fall back on
the expanded conception of judicial power in the second paragraph of Section 1 of Article
VIII of the Constitution which reads:

Section 1. . . .

Judicial power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies
involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether
or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of
jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government. (Emphasis
supplied)

When substantive standards as general as "the right to a balanced and healthy ecology"
and "the right to health" are combined with remedial standards as broad ranging as "a
G.R. No. 180771 April 21, 2015 LEONEN, J.:

RESIDENT MARINE MAMMALS OF THE PROTECTED SEASCAPE TAON STRAIT, e.g., I concur in the result, with the following additional reasons.
TOOTHED WHALES, DOLPHINS, PORPOISES, AND OTHER CETACEAN SPECIES, Joined
in and Represented herein by Human Beings Gloria Estenzo Ramos and Rose-Liza I
Eisma-Osorio, In Their Capacity as Legal Guardians of the Lesser Life-Forms and as
Responsible Stewards of God's Creations, Petitioners,
In G.R. No. 180771, petitioners Resident Marine Mammals allegedly bring their case in
vs.
their personal capacity, alleging that they stand to benefit or be injured from the judgment
SECRETARY ANGELO REYES, in his capacity as Secretary of the Department of Energy
on the issues. The human petitioners implead themselves in a representative capacity "as
(DOE), SECRETARY JOSE L. ATIENZA, in his capacity as Secretary of the Department
legal guardians of the lesser life-forms and as responsible stewards of God's
of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), LEONARDO R. SIBBALUCA, DENR
Creations."1 They use Oposa v. Factoran, Jr.2 as basis for their claim, asserting their right to
Regional Director-Region VII and in his capacity as Chairperson of the Taon Strait
enforce international and domestic environmental laws enacted for their benefit under the
Protected Seascape Management Board, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources
concept of stipulation pour autrui.3As the representatives of Resident Marine Mammals,
(BFAR), DIRECTOR MALCOLM J. SARMIENTO, JR., BFAR Regional Director for Region
the human petitioners assert that they have the obligation to build awareness among the
VII ANDRES M. BOJOS, JAPAN PETROLEUM EXPLORATION CO., LTD. (JAPEX), as
affected residents of Taon Strait as well as to protect the environment, especially in light
represented by its Philippine Agent, SUPPLY OILFIELD SERVICES, INC. Respondents.
of the government's failure, as primary steward, to do its duty under the doctrine of public
trust.4
x-----------------------x
Resident Marine Mammals and the human petitioners also assert that through this case,
G.R. No. 181527 this court will have the opportunity to lower the threshold for locus standi as an exercise
of "epistolary jurisdiction."5
CENTRAL VISAYAS FISHERFOLK DEVELOPMENT CENTER (FIDEC), CERILO D.
ENGARCIAL, RAMON YANONG, FRANCISCO LABID, in their personal capacity and as The zeal of the human petitioners to pursue their desire to protect the environment and to
representatives of the SUBSISTENCE FISHERFOLKS OF THE MUNICIPALITIES OF continue to define environmental rights in the context of actual cases is commendable.
ALOGUINSAN AND PINAMUNGAJAN, CEBU, AND THEIR FAMILIES, AND THE PRESENT However, the space for legal creativity usually required for advocacy of issues of the public
AND FUTURE GENERATIONS OF FILIPINOS WHOSE RIGHTS ARE SIMILARLY interest is not so unlimited that it should be allowed to undermine the other values
AFFECTED, Petitioners, protected by current substantive and procedural laws. Even rules of procedure as
vs. currently formulated set the balance between competing interests. We cannot abandon
SECRETARY ANGELO REYES, in his capacity as Secretary of the Department of Energy these rules when the necessity is not clearly and convincingly presented.
(DOE), JOSE L. ATIENZA, in his capacity as Secretary of the Department of
Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), LEONARDO R. SIBBALUCA, in his
The human petitioners, in G.R. No. 180771, want us to create substantive and procedural
capacity as DENR Regional Director-Region VII and as Chairperson of the Taon
rights for animals through their allegation that they can speak for them. Obviously, we are
Strait Protected Seascape Management Board, ALAN ARRANGUEZ, in his capacity as
asked to accept the premises that (a) they were chosen by the Resident Marine Mammals
Director - Environmental Management Bureau-Region VII, DOE Regional Director
of Taon Strait; (b) they were chosen by a representative group of all the species of the
for Region VIII1 ANTONIO LABIOS, JAPAN PETROLEUM EXPLORATION CO., LTD.
Resident Marine Mammals; (c) they were able to communicate with them; and (d) they
(JAPEX), as represented by its Philippine Agent, SUPPLY OILFIELD SERVICES,
received clear consent from their animal principals that they would wish to use human
INC., Respondents.
legal institutions to pursue their interests. Alternatively, they ask us to acknowledge
through judicial notice that the interests that they, the human petitioners, assert are
CONCURRING OPINION identical to what the Resident Marine Mammals would assert had they been humans and
the legal strategies that they invoked are the strategies that they agree with.
"Until one has loved an animal,
a part of one 's soul remains unawakened." In the alternative, they want us to accept through judicial notice that there is a relationship
of guardianship between them and all the resident mammals in the affected ecology.
Anatole France
Fundamental judicial doctrines that may significantly change substantive and procedural Petitioners in G.R. No. 180771 implicitly suggest that we amend, rather than simply
law cannot be founded on feigned representation. construe, the provisions of the Rules of Court as well as substantive law to accommodate
Resident Marine Mammals or animals. This we cannot do.
Instead, I agree that the human petitioners should only speak for themselves and already
have legal standing to sue with respect to the issue raised in their pleading. The rules on Rule 3, Section 2 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure further defines real party in interest:
standing have already been liberalized to take into consideration the difficulties in the
assertion of environmental rights. When standing becomes too liberal, this can be the SEC. 2. Parties in interest.-A real party in interest is the party who stands to be benefited or
occasion for abuse. injured by the judgment in the suit, or the party entitled to the avails of the suit. Unless
otherwise authorized by law or these Rules, every action must be prosecuted or defended
II in the name of the real party in interest. (2a)6

Rule 3, Section 1 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, in part, provides: A litigant who stands to benefit or sustain an injury from the judgment of a case is a real
party in interest.7 When a case is brought to the courts, the real party in interest must
SECTION 1. Who may be parties; plaintiff and defendant. - Only natural or juridical persons, show that another party's act or omission has caused a direct injury, making his or her
or entities authorized by law may be parties in a civil action. interest both material and based on an enforceable legal right.8

The Rules provide that parties may only be natural or juridical persons or entities that may Representatives as parties, on the other hand, are parties acting in representation of the
be authorized by statute to be parties in a civil action. real party in interest, as defined in Rule 3, Section 3 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure:

Basic is the concept of natural and juridical persons in our Civil Code: SEC. 3. Representatives as parties. - Where the action is allowed to be prosecuted or
defended by a representative or someone acting in a fiduciary capacity, the beneficiary
shall be included in the title of the case and shall be deemed to be the real party in interest.
ARTICLE 37. Juridical capacity, which is the fitness to be the subject of legal relations, is
A representative may be a trustee of an express rust, a guardian, an executor or
inherent in every natural person and is lost only through death. Capacity to act, which is
administrator, or a party authorized by law or these Rules. An agent acting in his own
the power to do acts with legal effect, is acquired and may be lost.
name and for the benefit of an undisclosed principal may sue or be sued without joining
the principal except when the contract involves things belonging to the principal.(3a)9
Article 40 further defines natural persons in the following manner:
The rule is two-pronged. First, it defines .a representative as a party who is not bound to
ARTICLE 40. Birth determines personality; but the conceived child shall be considered directly or actually benefit or suffer from the judgment, but instead brings a case in favor
born for all purposes that are favorable to it, provided it be born later with the conditions of an identified real party in interest.10 The representative is an outsider to the cause of
specified 'in the following article. action. Second, the rule provides a list of who may be considered as "representatives." It is
not an exhaustive list, but the rule limits the coverage only to those authorized by law or
Article 44, on the other hand, enumerates the concept of a juridical person: the Rules of Court.11

ARTICLE 44. The following are juridical persons: These requirements should apply even in cases involving the environment, which means
that for the Petition of the human petitioners to prosper, they must show that (a) the
(1) The State and its political subdivisions; Resident Marine Mammals are real parties in interest; and (b) that the human petitioners
are authorized by law or the Rules to act in a representative capacity.
(2) Other corporations, institutions and entities for public interest or purpose, created by
law; their personality begins as soon as they have been constituted according to law; The Resident Marine Mammals are comprised of "toothed whales, dolphins, porpoises, and
other cetacean species inhabiting Taon Strait."12 While relatively new in Philippine
(3) Corporations, partnerships and associations for private interest or purpose to which jurisdiction, the issue of whether animals have legal standing before courts has been the
the law grants a juridical personality, separate and distinct from that of each shareholder, subject of academic discourse in light of the emergence of animal and environmental
partner or member. rights.
In the United States, anim4l rights advocates have managed to establish a system which and has been urged on behalf of the natural environment. 'Such a model is even more
Hogan explains as the "guardianship model for nonhuman animals":13 compelling as applied to nonhuman animals, because they are sentient beings with the
ability to feel pain and exercise rational thought. Thus, animals are qualitatively different
Despite Animal Lovers, there exists a well-established system by which nonhuman animals from other legally protected nonhumans and therefore have interests deserving direct
may obtain judicial review to enforce their statutory rights and protections: guardianships. legal protection.
With court approval, animal advocacy organizations may bring suit on behalf of nonhuman
animals in the same way court-appointed guardians bring suit on behalf of Furthermore, the difficulty of enforcing the statutory rights of nonhuman animals
mentally-challenged humans who possess an enforceable right but lack the ability to threatens the integrity of the federal statutes designed to protect them, essentially
enforce it themselves. rendering them meaningless. Sensing that laws protecting nonhuman animals would be
difficult to enforce, Congress provided for citizen suit provisions: the most well-known
In the controversial but pivotal Should Trees Have Standing?-Toward Legal Rights for example is found in the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Such provisions are evidence of
Natural Objects, Christopher D. Stone asserts that the environment should possess the legislative intent to encourage civic participation on behalf of nonhuman animals. Our law
right to seek judicial redress even though it is incapable of representing itself. While of standing should reflect this intent and its implication that humans are suitable
asserting the rights of representatives of the natural environment, which includes nonhuman
animals.14 (Emphasis supplied, citation omitted)
speechless entities such as the environment or nonhuman animals certainly poses
legitimate challenges - such as identifying the proper spokesman -the American legal When a court allows guardianship as a basis of representation, animals are considered as
system is already well-equipped with a reliable mechanism by which nonhumans may similarly situated as individuals who have enforceable rights but, for a legitimate reason
obtain standing via a judicially established guardianship. Stone notes that other speechless (e.g., cognitive disability), are unable to bring suit for themselves. They are also similar to
- and nonhuman - entities such as corporations, states, estates, and municipalities have entities that by their very nature are incapable of speaking for themselves (e.g.,
standing to bring suit on their own behalf. There is little reason to fear abuses under this corporations, states, and others).
regime as procedures for removal and substitution, avoiding conflicts of interest, and
termination of a guardianship are well established. In our jurisdiction, persons and entities are recognized both in law and the Rules of Court
as having standing to sue and, therefore, may be properly represented as real parties in
In fact, the opinion in Animal Lovers suggests that such an arrangement is indeed possible. interest. The same cannot be said about animals.
The court indicated that AL VA might have obtained standing in its own right if it had an
established history of dedication to the cause of the humane treatment of animals. It noted Animals play an important role in households, communities, and the environment. While
that the Fund for Animals had standing and indicated that another more well-known we, as humans, may feel the need to nurture and protect them, we cannot go as far as
advocacy organization might have had standing as well. The court further concluded that saying we represent their best interests and can, therefore, speak for them before the
an organization's standing is more than a derivative of its history, but history is a relevant courts. As humans, we cannot be so arrogant as to argue that we know the suffering of
consideration where organizations are not well-established prior to commencing legal animals and that we know what remedy they need in the face of an injury.
action. ALVA was not the proper plaintiff because it could not identify previous activities
demonstrating its recognized activism for and commitment to the dispute independent of Even in Hogan's discussion, she points out that in a case before the United States District
its desire to pursue legal action. The court's analysis suggests that a qualified organization Court for the Central District of California, Animal Lovers Volunteer Ass'n v.
with a demonstrated commitment to a cause could indeed bring suit on behalf of the Weinberger,15 the court held that an emotional response to what humans perceive to be an
speechless in the form of a court-sanctioned guardianship. injury inflicted on an animal is not within the "zone-of-interest" protected by law.16Such
sympathy cannot stand independent of or as a substitute for an actual injury suffered by
This Comment advocates a shift in contemporary standing doctrine to empower non-profit the claimant.17 The ability to represent animals was further limited in that case by the need
organizations with an established history of dedication to the cause and relevant expertise to prove "genuine dedication" to asserting and protecting animal rights:
to serve as official guardians ad !item on behalf of nonhuman animals interests. The
American legal system has numerous mechanisms for representing the rights and interests What ultimately proved fatal to ALVA 's claim, however, was the court's assertion that
of nonhumans; any challenges inherent in extending these pre-existing mechanisms to standing doctrine further required ALVA to differentiate its genuine dedication to the
nonhuman animals are minimal compared to an interest in the proper administration of humane treatment of animals from the general disdain for animal cruelty shared by the
justice. To adequately protect the statutory rights of nonhuman animals, the legal system public at large. In doing so, the court found ALVA 's asserted organizational injury to be
must recognize those statutory rights independent of humans and provide a viable means abstract and thus relegated ALVA to the ranks of the "concerned bystander. "
of enforcement. Moreover, the idea of a guardianship for speechless plaintiffs is not new
.... based upon concrete legal rights. It is not sufficient to draw out a perceived interest from a
general, nebulous idea of a potential "injury."20
In fact, the opinion in Animal Lovers suggests that such an arrangement is indeed possible.
The court indicated that ALVA might have obtained standing in its own right if it had an I reiterate my position in Arigo v. Swift and in Paje v. Casio21 regarding this rule alongside
established history of dedication to the cause of the humane treatment of animals. It noted the appreciation of legal standing in Oposa v. Factoran 22 for environmental cases. In Arigo,
that the Fund for Animals had standing and indicated that another more well-known I opined that procedural liberality, especially in cases brought by representatives, should
advocacy organization might have had standing as well. The court further concluded that be used with great caution:
an organization's standing is more than a derivative of its history, but history is a relevant
consideration where organizations are not well-established prior to commencing legal Perhaps it is time to revisit the ruling in Oposa v. Factoran.
action. ALVA was not the proper plaintiff because it could not identify previous activities
demonstrating its recognized activism for and commitment to the dispute independent of
That case was significant in that, at that time, there was need to call attention to
its desire to pursue legal action. The court's analysis suggests that a qualified organization
environmental concerns in light of emerging international legal principles. While
with a demonstrated commitment to a cause could indeed bring suit on behalf of the
"intergenerational responsibility" is a noble principle, it should not be used to obtain
speechless in the form of a court-sanctioned guardianship.18(Emphasis supplied, citation
judgments that would preclude future generations from making their own assessment
omitted)
based on their actual concerns. The present generation must restrain itself from assuming
that it can speak best for those who will exist at a different time, under a different set of
What may be argued as being parallel to this concept of guardianship is the principle of circumstances. In essence, the unbridled resort to representative suit will inevitably result
human stewardship over the environment in a citizen suit under the Rules of Procedure in preventing future generations from protecting their own rights and pursuing their own
for Environmental Cases. A citizen suit allows any Filipino to act as a representative of a interests and decisions. It reduces the autonomy of our children and our children 's
party who has enforceable rights under environmental laws before Philippine courts, and children. Even before they are born, we again restricted their ability to make their own
is defined in Section 5: . arguments.

SEC. 5. Citizen suit. - Any Filipino citizen in representation of others, including minors or It is my opinion that, at best, the use of the Oposa doctrine in environmental cases should
generations yet unborn, may file an action to enforce rights or obligations under be allowed only when a) there is a clear legal basis for the representative suit; b) there are
environmental laws. Upon the filing of a citizen suit, the court shall issue an order which actual concerns based squarely upon an existing legal right; c) there is no possibility of any
shall contain a brief description of the cause of action and the reliefs prayed for, requiring countervailing interests existing within the population represented or those that are yet to
all interested parties to manifest their interest to intervene in the case within fifteen (15) be born; and d) there is an absolute necessity for such standing because there is a threat of
days from notice thereof. The plaintiff may publish the order once in a newspaper of a catastrophe so imminent that an immediate protective measure is necessary. Better still, in
general circulation in the Philippines or furnish all affected barangays copies of said order. the light of its costs and risks, we abandon the precedent all together.23 (Emphasis in the
original)
There is no valid reason in law or the practical requirements of this case to implead and
feign representation on behalf of animals. To have done so betrays a very anthropocentric Similarly, in Paje:
view of environmental advocacy. There is no way that we, humans, can claim to speak for
animals let alone present that they would wish to use our court system, which is designed
A person cannot invoke the court's jurisdiction if he or she has no right or interest to
to ensure that humans seriously carry their responsibility including ensuring a viable
protect. He or she who invokes the court's jurisdiction must be the "owner of the right
ecology for themselves, which of course includes compassion for all living things.
sought to be enforced." In other words, he or she must have a cause of action. An action
may be dismissed on the ground of lack of cause of action if the person who instituted it is
Our rules on standing are sufficient and need not be further relaxed. not the real party in interest.24 The term "interest" under the Rules of Court must refer to a
material interest that is not merely a curiosity about or an "interest in the question
In Arigo v. Swift,19 I posed the possibility of further reviewing the broad interpretation we involved." The interest must be present and substantial. It is not a mere expectancy or a
have given to the rule on standing. While representatives are not required to establish future, contingent interest.
direct injury on their part, they should only be allowed to represent after complying with
the following: [I]t is imperative for them to indicate with certainty the injured parties on A person who is not a real party in interest may institute an action if he or she is suing as
whose behalf they bring the suit. Furthermore, the interest of those they represent must be representative of a .real party in interest. When an action is prosecuted or defended by a
representative, that representative is not and does not become the real party in interest.
The person represented is deemed the real party in interest. The representative remains extent of injury inflicted, if there be any. Petitions invoking a right and seeking legal
to be a third party to the action instituted on behalf of another. redress before this court cannot be a product of guesswork, and representatives have the
responsibility to ensure that they bring "reasonably cogent, rational, scientific,
.... well-founded arguments"26 on behalf of those they represent.

To sue under this rule, two elements must be present: "(a) the suit is brought on behalf of Creative approaches to fundamental problems should be welcome. However, they should
an identified party whose right has been violated, resulting in some form of damage, and (b) be considered carefully so that no unintended or unwarranted consequences should follow.
the representative authorized by law or the Rules of Court to represent the victim." I concur with the approach of Madame Justice Teresita J. Leonardo-De Castro in her
brilliant ponencia as it carefully narrows down the doctrine in terms of standing. Resident
Marine Mammals and the human petitioners have no legal standing to file any kind of
The Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases allows filing of a citizen's suit. A citizen's
petition.
suit under this rule allows any Filipino citizen to file an action for the enforcement of
environmental law on behalf of minors or generations yet unborn. It is essentially a
representative suit that allows persons who are not real parties in interest to institute However, I agree that petitioners in G.R. No. 181527, namely, Central Visayas Fisherfolk
actions on behalf of the real party in interest. Development Center,. Engarcial, Yanong, and Labid, have standing both as real parties in
interest and as representatives of subsistence fisherfolks of the Municipalities of
Aloguinsan and Pinamungahan, Cebu, and their families, and the present and future
The expansion of what constitutes "real party in interest" to include minors and
generations of Filipinos whose rights are similarly affected. The activities undertaken
generations yet unborn is a recognition of this court's ruling in Oposa v. Factoran. This
under Service Contract 46 (SC-46) directly affected their source of livelihood, primarily felt
court recognized the capacity of minors (represented by their parents) to file a class suit
through the significant reduction of their fish harvest.27 The actual, direct, and material
on behalf of succeeding generations based on the concept of intergenerational
damage they suffered, which has potential long-term effects transcending generations, is a
responsibility to ensure the future generation's access to and enjoyment of [the] country's
proper subject of a legal suit.
natural resources.

III
To allow citizen's suits to enforce environmental rights of others, including future
generations, is dangerous for three reasons:
In our jurisdiction, there is neither reason nor any legal basis for the concept of implied
petitioners, most especially when the implied petitioner was a sitting President of the
First, they run the risk of foreclosing arguments of others who are unable to take part in
Republic of the Philippines. In G.R. No. 180771, apart from adjudicating unto themselves
the suit, putting into. question its representativeness. Second, varying interests may
the status of "legal guardians" of whales, dolphins, porpoises, and other cetacean species,
potentially result in arguments that are bordering on political issues, the resolutions of
human petitioners also impleaded Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as
which do not fall upon this court. Third, automatically allowing a class or citizen's suit on
"unwilling co-petitioner" for "her express declaration and undertaking in the ASEAN
behalf of minors and generations yet unborn may result in the oversimplification of what
Charter to protect Taon Strait."28
may be a complex issue, especially in light of the impossibility of determining future
generation's true interests on the matter.
No person may implead any other person as a co-plaintiff or co-petitioner without his or
her consent. In our jurisdiction, only when there is a party that should have been a
In citizen's suits, persons who may have no interest in the case may file suits for others.
necessary party but was unwilling to join would there be an allegation as to why that party
Uninterested persons will argue for the persons they represent, and the court will decide
has been omitted. In Rule 3, Section 9 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure:
based on their evidence and arguments. Any decision by the court will be binding upon the
beneficiaries, which in this case are the minors and the future generations. The court's
decision will be res judicata upon them and conclusive upon the issues presented.25 SEC. 9. Non-joinder of necessary parties to be pleaded. -Whenever in any pleading in which
a claim is asserted a necessary party is not joined, the pleader shall set forth his name, if
known, and shall state why he is omitted. Should the court find the reason for the omission
The danger in invoking Oposa v. Factoran to justify all kinds of environmental claims lies in
unmeritorious, it may order the inclusion of the omitted necessary party if jurisdiction
its potential to diminish the value of legitimate environmental rights. Extending the
over his person may be obtained.
application of "real party in interest" to the Resident Marine Mammals, or animals in
general, through a judicial pronouncement will potentially result in allowing petitions
based on mere concern rather than an actual enforcement of a right. It is impossible for The failure to comply with the order for his inclusion, without justifiable cause, shall be
animals to tell humans what their concerns are. At best, humans can only surmise the deemed a waiver of the claim against such party.
The non-inclusion of a necessary party does not prevent the court from proceeding in the VI
action, and the judgment rendered therein shall be without prejudice to the rights of such
necessary party.29 Article XII, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution states:

A party who should have been a plaintiff or petitioner but whose consent cannot be Section 2. All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other
obtained should be impleaded as a defendant in the nature of an unwilling co-plaintiff mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and
under Rule 3, Section 10 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure: fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State. With the exception. of
agricultural lands, all other natural resources shall not be alienated. The exploration,
SEC. 10. Unwilling co-plaintiff. - If the consent of any party who should be joined as development, and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and
plaintiff can not be obtained, he may be made a defendant and the reason therefor shall be supervision of the State. The State may directly undertake such activities, or it may enter
stated in the complaint.30 into co-production, joint venture, or production-sharing agreements with Filipino citizens,
or corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of whose capital is owned by such
The reason for this rule is plain: Indispensable party plaintiffs who should be part of the citizens. Such agreements may be for a period not exceeding twenty-five years, renewable
action but who do not consent should be put within the jurisdiction of the court through for not more than twenty-five years, and under such terms and conditions as may be
summons or other court processes. Petitioners. should not take it upon themselves to provided by law. In cases of water rights for irrigation, water supply fisheries, or industrial
simply imp lead any party who does not consent as a petitioner. This places the unwilling uses other than the development of water power, beneficial use may be the measure and
co-petitioner at the risk of being denied due process. limit of the grant.

Besides, Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo cannot be a party to this suit. As a The State shall protect the nation's marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea,
co-equal constitutional department, we cannot assume that the President needs to enforce and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino
policy directions by suing his or her alter-egos. The procedural situation caused by citizens.
petitioners may have gained public attention, but its legal absurdity borders on the
contemptuous. The Former President's name should be stricken out of the title of this case. The Congress may, by law, allow small-scale utilization of natural resources by Filipino
citizens, as well as cooperative fish farming, with priority to subsistence fishermen and
IV fish-workers in rivers, lakes, bays, and lagoons.

I also concur with the conclusion that SC-46 is both. illegal and unconstitutional. The President may enter into agreements with foreign-owned corporations involving
either technical or financial assistance for large-scale exploration, development, and
utilization of minerals, petroleum, and other mineral oils according to the general terms
SC-46 is illegal because it violates Republic Act No. 7586 or the National Integrated
and conditions provided by law, based on real contributions to the economic growth and
Protected Areas System Act of 1992, and Presidential Decree No. 1234, 31 which declared
general welfare of the country. In such agreements, the State shall promote the
Taon Strait as a protected seascape. It is unconstitutional because it violates the fourth
development and use of local scientific and technical resources.
paragraph of Article XII, Section 2 of the Constitution.

The President shall notify the Congress of every contract entered into in accordance with
V
this provision, within thirty days from its execution. (Emphasis supplied)

Petitioner Central Visayas Fisherfolk Development Center asserts that SC-46 violated
I agree that fully foreign-owned corporations may participate in the exploration,
Article XII, Section 2, paragraph 1 of the .1987 Constitution because Japan Petroleum
development, and use of natural resources, but only through either financial agreements
Exploration Co., Ltd. (JAPEX) is 100% Japanese-owned.32 It further asserts that SC-46
or technical ones. This is the clear import of the words "either financial or technical
cannot be validly classified as a technical and financial assistance agreement executed
assistance agreements." This is also
under Article XII, Section 2, paragraph 4 of the 1987 Constitution.33 Public respondents
counter that SC-46 does not fall under the coverage of paragraph 1, but is a validly
executed contract under paragraph 4.34 Public respondents further aver that SC-46 the clear result if we compare the 1987 constitutional provision with the versions in the
neither granted exclusive fishing rights to JAPEX nor violated Central Visayas Fisherfolk 1973 and 1935 Constitution:
Development Center's right to preferential use of communal marine and fishing
resources.35 1973 CONSTITUTION
ARTICLE XIV were read by those who ratified it. The Constitution is what society relies upon even at
THE NATIONAL ECONOMY AND THE PATRIMONY OF THE NATION present.

SEC. 9. The disposition, exploration, development, of exploitation, or SC-46 is neither a financial assistance nor a technical assistance agreement.
utilization of any of the natural resources of the Philippines shall be
limited to citizens of the Philippines, or to corporations or association at Even supposing for the sake of argument that it is, it could not be declared valid in light of
least sixty per centum of the capital of which is owned by such citizens. the standards set forth in La Bugal-B'laan Tribal Association, Inc. v. Ramos:36
The Batasang Pambansa, in the national interest, may allow such
citizens, corporations, or associations to enter into service contracts for
Such service contracts may be entered into only with respect to minerals, petroleum and
financial, technical, management, or other forms of assistance with any
other mineral oils. The grant thereof is subject to several safeguards, among which are
foreign person or entity for the exploitation, development, exploitation,
these requirements:
or utilization of any of the natural resources. Existing valid and binding
service contracts for financial, the technical, management, or other
forms of assistance are hereby recognized as such. (Emphasis supplied) (1) The service contract shall be crafted m accordance with a general law that will set
standard or uniform terms, conditions and requirements, presumably to attain a certain
uniformity in provisions and avoid the possible insertion of terms disadvantageous to the
1935 CONSTITUTION
country.

ARTICLE XIII
(2) The President shall be the signatory for the government because, supposedly before an
CONSERVATION AND UTILIZATION OF NATURAL RESOURCES
agreement is presented to the President for signature, it will have been vetted several
times over at different levels to ensure that it conforms to law and can withstand public
SECTION 1. All agricultural timber, and mineral. lands of the public scrutiny.
domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all
forces of potential energy, and other natural resources of the
(3) Within thirty days of the executed agreement, the President shall report it to Congress
Philippines belong to the State, and their disposition, exploitation,
to give that branch of government an opportunity to look over the agreement and
development, or utilization shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines,
interpose timely objections, if any.37 (Emphasis in the original, citation omitted)
or to corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of the capital
of which is owned by such citizens, subject to any existing right, grant,
lease, or concession at the time of the inauguration of the Government Based on the standards pronounced in La Bugal, SC-46' S validity must be tested against
established under this Constitution. Natural resources, with the three important points: (a) whether SC-46 was crafted in accordance with a general law
exception of public agricultural land, shall not be alienated, and no that provides standards, terms, and conditions; (b) whether SC-46 was signed by the
license, concession, or lease for the exploitation, development, or President for and on behalf of the government; and (c) whether it was reported by the
utilization of any of the natural resources shall be granted for a period President to Congress within 30 days of execution.
exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for another twenty-five years,
except as to water rights for irrigation, water supply, fisheries, or VII
industrial uses other than the development of water power, in which
cases beneficial use may be the measure and the limit of the grant. The general law referred to as a possible basis for SC-46's validity is Presidential Decree
No. 87 or the Oil Exploration and Development Act of 1972.1wphi1 It is my opinion that
The clear text of the Constitution in light of its history prevails over any attempt to infer this law is unconstitutional in that it allows service contracts, contrary to Article XII,
interpretation from the Constitutional Commission deliberations. The constitutional texts Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution:
are the product of a full sovereign act: deliberations in a constituent assembly and
ratification. Reliance on recorded discussion of Constitutional Commissions, on the other The President may enter into agreements with foreign-owned corporations involving
hand, may result in dependence on incomplete authorship; Besides, it opens judicial either technical or financial assistance for large-scale exploration, development, and
review to further subjectivity from those who spoke during the Constitutional Commission utilization of minerals, petroleum, and other mineral oils according to the general terms
deliberations who may not have predicted how their words will be used. It is safer that we and conditions provided by law, based on real contributions to the economic growth and
use the words already in the Constitution. The Constitution was their product. Its words
general welfare of the country. In such agreements, the State shall promote the At this point, we sum up the matters established, based on a careful reading of the ConCom
development and use of local scientific and technical resources. (Emphasis supplied) deliberations, as follows:

The deletion of service contracts from the enumeration of the kind of agreements the In their deliberations on what was to become paragraph 4, the framers used the term
President may enter into with foreign-owned corporations for exploration and utilization service contracts in referring to agreements x x x involving either technical or financial
of resources means that service contracts are no longer allowed by the Constitution. assistance. They spoke of service contracts as the concept was understood in the 1973
Pursuant to Article XVIII, Section 3 of the 1987 Constitution,38 this inconsistency renders Constitution.
the law invalid and ineffective.
It was obvious from their discussions that they were not about to ban or eradicate
SC-46 suffers from the lack of a special law allowing its activities. The Main Opinion service contracts.
emphasizes an important point, which is that SC-46 did not merely involve exploratory
activities, but also provided the rights and obligations of the parties should it be Instead, they were plainly crafting provisions to. put in place safeguards that would
discovered that there is oil in commercial quantities in the area. The Taon Strait being a eliminate or m minimize the abuses prevalent during the marital law regime.42 (Emphasis
protected seascape under Presidential Decree No. 123439 requires that the exploitation in the original)
and utilization of energy resources from that area are explicitly covered by a law passed by
Congress specifically for that purpose, pursuant to Section 14 of Republic Act No. 7586 or
Public respondents failed to show that. Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was
the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992:
involved in the signing or execution of SC-46. The failure to comply with this constitutional
requirement renders SC-46 null and void.
SEC. 14. Survey for Energy R6'sources. - Consistent with the policies declared in Section 2,
hereof, protected areas, except strict nature reserves and natural parks, may be subjected
IX
to exploration only for the purpose of gathering information on energy resources and only
if such activity is carried out with the least damage to surrounding areas. Surveys shall be
conducted only in accordance with a program approved by the DENR, and the result of Public respondents also failed to show that Congress was subsequently informed of the
such surveys shall be made available to the public and submitted to the President for execution and existence of SC-46. The reporting requirement is an equally important
recommendation to Congress. Any exploitation and utilization of energy resources found requisite to the validity of any service contract involving the exploration, development,
within NIP AS areas shall be allowed only through a law passed by Congress.40 (Emphasis and utilization of Philippine petroleum. Public respondents' failure to report to Congress
supplied) about SC-46 effectively took away any opportunity for the legislative branch to scrutinize
its terms and conditions.
No law was passed by Congress specifically providing the standards, terms, and conditions
of an oil exploration, extraction, and/or utilization for Taon Strait and, therefore, no such In sum, SC-46 was executed and implemented absent all the requirements provided under
activities could have been validly undertaken under SC-46. The National Integrated paragraph 4 of Article XII, Section 2. It is, therefore, null and void.
Protected Areas System Act of 1992 is clear that exploitation and utilization of energy
resources in a protected seascape such as Taon Strait shall only be allowed through a X
specific law.
I am of the view that SC-46, aside from not having complied with the 1987 Constitution, is
VIII also null and void for being violative of environmental laws protecting Taon Strait. In
particular, SC-46 was implemented despite falling short of the requirements of the
Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was not the signatory to SC-46, contrary to the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992.
requirement set by paragraph 4 of Article XII, Section 2 for service contracts involving the
exploration of petroleum. SC-46 was entered into by then Department of Energy Secretary As a protected seascape under Presidential Decree No. 1234, 43 Taon Strait is covered by
Vicente S. Perez, Jr., on behalf of the government. I agree with the Main Opinion that in the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992. This law declares as a matter
cases where the Constitution or law requires the President to act personally on the matter, of policy:
the duty cannot be delegated to another public official.41 La Bugal highlights the
importance of the President's involvement, being one of the constitutional safeguards SEC. 2. Declaration of Policy. Cognizant of the profound impact of man's activities on all
against abuse and corruption, as not mere formality: components of the natural environment particularly the effect of increasing population,
resource exploitation and industrial advancement and recognizing the critical importance recommend the program to Congress. Furthermore, Congress must enact a law specifically
of protecting and maintaining the natural biological and physical diversities of the allowing the exploitation of energy resources found within a protected area such as Taon
environment notably on areas with biologically unique features to sustain human life and Strait:
development, as well as plant and animal life, it is hereby declared the policy of the State to
secure for the Filipino people of present and future generations the perpetual existence of SEC. 14. Survey for Energy Resources. - Consistent with the policies declared in Section 2,
all native plants and animals through the establishment of a comprehensive system of hereof, protected areas, except strict nature reserves and natural parks, may be subjected
integrated protected areas within the classification of national park as provided for in the to exploration only for the purpose of gathering information on energy resources and only
Constitution. if such activity is carried out with the least damage to surrounding areas. Surveys shall be
conducted only in accordance with a program approved by the DENR, and the result of
It is hereby recognized that these areas, although distinct in features, possess common such surveys shall be made available to the public and submitted to the President for
ecological values that may be incorporated into a holistic plan representative of our recommendation to Congress. Any exploitation and utilization of energy resources found
natural heritage; that effective administration of these areas is possible only through within NIPAS areas shall be allowed only through a taw passed by Congress.47 (Emphasis
cooperation among national government, local and concerned private organizations; that supplied)
the use and enjoyment of these protected areas must be consistent with the principles of
biological diversity and sustainable development. Public respondents argue that SC-46 complied with the procedural requirements of
obtaining an Environmental Compliance Certificate.48 At any rate, they assert that the
To this end, there is hereby established a National Integrated Protected Areas System activities covered by SC-46 fell under Section 14 of the National Integrated Protected
(NIPAS), which shall encompass outstanding remarkable areas and biologically important Areas System Act of 1992, which they interpret to be an exception to Section 12. They
public lands that are habitats of rare and endangered species of plants and animals, argue that the Environmental Compliance Certificate is not a strict requirement for the
biogeographic zones and related ecosystems, whether terrestrial, wetland or marine, all of validity of SC-46 since (a) the Taon Strait is not a nature' reserve or natural park; (b) the
which shall be designated as "protected areas."44 (Emphasis supplied) exploration was merely for gathering information; and ( c) measures were in place to
ensure that the exploration caused the least possible damage to the area.49
Pursuant to this law, any proposed activity in Taon Strait must undergo an
Environmental Impact Assessment: Section 14 is not an exception to Section 12, but instead provides additional requirements
for cases involving Philippine energy resources. The National Integrated Protected Areas
SEC. 12. Environmental Impact Assessment. - Proposals for activities which are outside the System Act of 1992 was enacted to recognize the importance of protecting the
scope of the management plan for protected areas shall be subject to an environmental environment in light of resource exploitation, among others.50 Systems are put in place to
impact assessment as required by law before they are adopted, and the results thereof secure for Filipinos local resources under the most favorable conditions. With the status of
shall be taken into consideration in the decision-making process.45(Emphasis supplied) Taon Strait as a protected seascape, the institution of additional legal safeguards is even
more significant.
The same provision further requires that an Environmental Compliance Certificate be
secured under the Philippine Environmental Impact Assessment System before arty Public respondents did not validly obtain an Environmental Compliance Certificate for
project is implemented: SC-46. Based on the records, JAPEX commissioned an environmental impact evaluation
only in the second subphase of its project, with the Environmental Management .Bureau of
Region
No actual implementation of such activities shall be allowed without the required
Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) under the Philippine Environment Impact
Assessment (EIA) system. In instances where such activities are allowed to be undertaken, VII granting the project an Environmental Compliance Certificate on March 6, 2007.51
the proponent shall plan and carry them out in such manner as will minimize any adverse
effects and take preventive and remedial action when appropriate. The proponent shall be Despite its scale, the seismic surveys from May 9 to 18, 2005 were conducted without any
liable for any damage due to lack of caution or indiscretion.46 (Emphasis supplied) environmental assessment contrary to Section 12 of the National Integrated Protected
Areas System Act of 1992.
In projects involving the exploration or utilization of energy resources, the National
Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992 additionally requires that a program be XI
approved by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which shall be
publicly accessible. The program shall also be submitted to the President, who in turn will
Finally, we honor every living creature when we take care of our environment. As sentient
species, we do not lack in the wisdom or sensitivity to realize that we only borrow the
resources that we use to survive and to thrive. We are not incapable of mitigating the
greed that is slowly causing the demise of our planet. Thus, there is no need for us to feign
representation of any other species or some imagined unborn generation in filing any
action in our courts of law to claim any of our fundamental rights to a healthful ecology. In
this way and with candor and courage, we fully shoulder the responsibility deserving of
the grace and power endowed on our species.

ACCORDINGLY, I vote:

(a) to DISMISS G.R. No. 180771 for lack of standing and STRIKE OUT the name of Former
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from the title of this case;

(b) to GRANT G.R. No. 181527; and

(c) to DECLARE SERVICE CONTRACT 46 NULL AND VOID for violating the 1987
Constitution, Republic Act No. 7586, and Presidential Decree No. 1234.

MARVIC M.V.F. LEONEN


Associate Justice
METROPOLITAN MANILA G.R. Nos. 171947-48
DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY, spills, and the unabated improper disposal of garbage. And rightly so, for the magnitude of
DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT environmental destruction is now on a scale few ever foresaw and the wound no longer
AND NATURAL RESOURCES, Present:
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, simply heals by itself.[2] But amidst hard evidence and clear signs of a climate crisis that
CULTURE AND SPORTS,[1] PUNO, C.J.,
need bold action, the voice of cynicism, naysayers, and procrastinators can still be heard.
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, QUISUMBING,
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, YNARES-SANTIAGO,
DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC CARPIO,
This case turns on government agencies and their officers who, by the nature of
WORKS AND HIGHWAYS, AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
DEPARTMENT OF BUDGET AND CORONA, their respective offices or by direct statutory command, are tasked to protect and preserve,
MANAGEMENT, PHILIPPINE CARPIO MORALES,
COAST GUARD, PHILIPPINE AZCUNA, at the first instance, our internal waters, rivers, shores, and seas polluted by human
NATIONAL POLICE MARITIME TINGA, activities. To most of these agencies and their official complement, the pollution menace
GROUP, and DEPARTMENT OF CHICO-NAZARIO,
THE INTERIOR AND LOCAL VELASCO, JR., does not seem to carry the high national priority it deserves, if their track records are to be
GOVERNMENT, NACHURA,
the norm. Their cavalier attitude towards solving, if not mitigating, the environmental
Petitioners, REYES,
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, and pollution problem, is a sad commentary on bureaucratic efficiency and commitment.
- versus - BRION, JJ.
CONCERNED RESIDENTS OF
MANILA BAY, represented and At the core of the case is the Manila Bay, a place with a proud historic past, once
joined by DIVINA V. ILAS,
SABINIANO ALBARRACIN, brimming with marine life and, for so many decades in the past, a spot for different contact
MANUEL SANTOS, JR., DINAH recreation activities, but now a dirty and slowly dying expanse mainly because of the
DELA PEA, PAUL DENNIS
QUINTERO, MA. VICTORIA abject official indifference of people and institutions that could have otherwise made a
LLENOS, DONNA CALOZA,
difference.
FATIMA QUITAIN, VENICE
SEGARRA, FRITZIE TANGKIA,
SARAH JOELLE LINTAG,
HANNIBAL AUGUSTUS BOBIS,
FELIMON SANTIAGUEL, and Promulgated: This case started when, on January 29, 1999, respondents Concerned Residents
JAIME AGUSTIN R. OPOSA,
Respondents. December 18, 2008 of Manila Bay filed a complaint before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Imus, Cavite
x-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x
against several government agencies, among them the petitioners, for the cleanup,
DECISION rehabilitation, and protection of the Manila Bay. Raffled to Branch 20 and docketed as Civil
Case No. 1851-99 of the RTC, the complaint alleged that the water quality of
VELASCO, JR., J.:
the Manila Bay had fallen way below the allowable standards set by law, specifically
Presidential Decree No. (PD) 1152 or the Philippine Environment Code. This
The need to address environmental pollution, as a cause of climate change, has of
environmental aberration, the complaint stated, stemmed from:
late gained the attention of the international community. Media have finally trained their

sights on the ill effects of pollution, the destruction of forests and other critical habitats, oil x x x [The] reckless, wholesale, accumulated and ongoing acts of
omission or commission [of the defendants] resulting in the clear and
present danger to public health and in the depletion and contamination
of the marine life of Manila Bay, [for which reason] ALL defendants other forms of contact recreational activities, or the SB level, is one not exceeding 200
must be held jointly and/or solidarily liable and be collectively ordered MPN/100 ml.[4]
to clean up Manila Bay and to restore its water quality to class B waters
fit for swimming, skin-diving, and other forms of contact recreation.[3]
Rebecca de Vera, for Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS)

and in behalf of other petitioners, testified about the MWSS efforts to reduce pollution
In their individual causes of action, respondents alleged that the continued
along the Manila Bay through the Manila Second Sewerage Project. For its part, the
neglect of petitioners in abating the pollution of the Manila Bay constitutes a violation of,
Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) presented, as part of its evidence, its memorandum
among others:
circulars on the study being conducted on ship-generated waste treatment and disposal,
(1) Respondents constitutional right to life, health, and a balanced
and its Linis Dagat (Clean the Ocean) project for the cleaning of wastes accumulated or
ecology;
(2) The Environment Code (PD 1152); washed to shore.
(3) The Pollution Control Law (PD 984);
(4) The Water Code (PD 1067);
(5) The Sanitation Code (PD 856); The RTC Ordered Petitioners to Clean Up and Rehabilitate Manila Bay
(6) The Illegal Disposal of Wastes Decree (PD 825);
(7) The Marine Pollution Law (PD 979);
(8) Executive Order No. 192; On September 13, 2002, the RTC rendered a Decision [5] in favor of respondents.
(9) The Toxic and Hazardous Wastes Law (Republic Act No. 6969);
The dispositive portion reads:
(10) Civil Code provisions on nuisance and human relations;
(11) The Trust Doctrine and the Principle of Guardianship; and WHEREFORE, finding merit in the complaint, judgment is hereby
(12) International Law rendered ordering the abovenamed defendant-government agencies,
jointly and solidarily, to clean up and rehabilitate Manila Bay and
restore its waters to SB classification to make it fit for swimming,
Inter alia, respondents, as plaintiffs a quo, prayed that petitioners be ordered to skin-diving and other forms of contact recreation. To attain this,
defendant-agencies, with defendant DENR as the lead agency, are
clean the Manila Bay and submit to the RTC a concerted concrete plan of action for the
directed, within six (6) months from receipt hereof, to act and perform
purpose. their respective duties by devising a consolidated, coordinated and
concerted scheme of action for the rehabilitation and restoration of the
bay.
The trial of the case started off with a hearing at the Manila Yacht Club followed In particular:

by an ocular inspection of the Manila Bay. Renato T. Cruz, the Chief of the Water Quality Defendant MWSS is directed to install, operate and maintain adequate
Management Section, Environmental Management Bureau, Department of Environment [sewerage] treatment facilities in strategic places under its jurisdiction
and increase their capacities.
and Natural Resources (DENR), testifying for petitioners, stated that water samples
Defendant LWUA, to see to it that the water districts under its wings,
collected from different beaches around the Manila Bay showed that the amount of fecal
provide, construct and operate sewage facilities for the proper disposal
coliform content ranged from 50,000 to 80,000 most probable number (MPN)/ml when of waste.

what DENR Administrative Order No. 34-90 prescribed as a safe level for bathing and Defendant DENR, which is the lead agency in cleaning up Manila Bay, to
install, operate and maintain waste facilities to rid the bay of toxic and
hazardous substances.
Defendant PPA, to prevent and also to treat the discharge not only of On the other hand, the DENR, Department of Public Works and Highways
ship-generated wastes but also of other solid and liquid wastes from (DPWH), Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Philippine Coast Guard
docking vessels that contribute to the pollution of the bay.
(PCG), Philippine National Police (PNP) Maritime Group, and five other executive
Defendant MMDA, to establish, operate and maintain an adequate and
departments and agencies filed directly with this Court a petition for review under Rule 45.
appropriate sanitary landfill and/or adequate solid waste and liquid
disposal as well as other alternative garbage disposal system such as The Court, in a Resolution of December 9, 2002, sent the said petition to the CA for
re-use or recycling of wastes.
consolidation with the consolidated appeals of MWSS, LWUA, and PPA, docketed as CA-G.R.
Defendant DA, through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, SP No. 74944.
to revitalize the marine life in Manila Bay and restock its waters with
indigenous fish and other aquatic animals.
Petitioners, before the CA, were one in arguing in the main that the pertinent
Defendant DBM, to provide and set aside an adequate budget solely for
the purpose of cleaning up and rehabilitation of Manila Bay. provisions of the Environment Code (PD 1152) relate only to the cleaning of specific

pollution incidents and do not cover cleaning in general. And apart from raising concerns
Defendant DPWH, to remove and demolish structures and other
nuisances that obstruct the free flow of waters to the bay. These about the lack of funds appropriated for cleaning purposes, petitioners also asserted that
nuisances discharge solid and liquid wastes which eventually end up
in Manila Bay. As the construction and engineering arm of the the cleaning of the Manila Bay is not a ministerial act which can be compelled by
government, DPWH is ordered to actively participate in removing mandamus.
debris, such as carcass of sunken vessels, and other non-biodegradable
garbage in the bay.

Defendant DOH, to closely supervise and monitor the operations of The CA Sustained the RTC
septic and sludge companies and require them to have proper facilities By a Decision[6] of September 28, 2005, the CA denied petitioners appeal and
for the treatment and disposal of fecal sludge and sewage coming from
septic tanks. affirmed the Decision of the RTC in toto, stressing that the trial courts decision did not

require petitioners to do tasks outside of their usual basic functions under existing laws.[7]
Defendant DECS, to inculcate in the minds and hearts of the people
through education the importance of preserving and protecting the
environment.
Petitioners are now before this Court praying for the allowance of their Rule 45
Defendant Philippine Coast Guard and the PNP Maritime Group, to petition on the following ground and supporting arguments:
protect at all costs the Manila Bay from all forms of illegal fishing. THE [CA] DECIDED A QUESTION OF SUBSTANCE NOT
HERETOFORE PASSED UPON BY THE HONORABLE COURT, I.E., IT
No pronouncement as to damages and costs. AFFIRMED THE TRIAL COURTS DECISION DECLARING THAT SECTION
20 OF [PD] 1152 REQUIRES CONCERNED GOVERNMENT AGENCIES TO
SO ORDERED. REMOVE ALL POLLUTANTS SPILLED AND DISCHARGED IN THE
WATER SUCH AS FECAL COLIFORMS.
The MWSS, Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), and PPA filed before the Court of
Appeals (CA) individual Notices of Appeal which were eventually consolidated and ARGUMENTS

docketed as CA-G.R. CV No. 76528. I


[SECTIONS] 17 AND 20 OF [PD] 1152 RELATE ONLY TO THE
CLEANING OF SPECIFIC POLLUTION INCIDENTS AND [DO] NOT COVER Petitioners maintain that the MMDAs duty to take measures and maintain
CLEANING IN GENERAL adequate solid waste and liquid disposal systems necessarily involves policy evaluation

II and the exercise of judgment on the part of the agency concerned. They argue that the
THE CLEANING OR REHABILITATION OF THE MANILA BAY IS
MMDA, in carrying out its mandate, has to make decisions, including choosing where a
NOT A MINISTERIAL ACT OF PETITIONERS THAT CAN BE COMPELLED
BY MANDAMUS. landfill should be located by undertaking feasibility studies and cost estimates, all of which

entail the exercise of discretion.

The issues before us are two-fold. First, do Sections 17 and 20 of PD 1152 under
Respondents, on the other hand, counter that the statutory command is clear and
the headings, Upgrading of Water Quality and Clean-up Operations, envisage a cleanup in
that petitioners duty to comply with and act according to the clear mandate of the law does
general or are they limited only to the cleanup of specific pollution incidents? And second,
not require the exercise of discretion. According to respondents, petitioners, the MMDA in
can petitioners be compelled by mandamus to clean up and rehabilitate the ManilaBay?
particular, are without discretion, for example, to choose which bodies of water they are to

clean up, or which discharge or spill they are to contain. By the same token, respondents
On August 12, 2008, the Court conducted and heard the parties on oral
maintain that petitioners are bereft of discretion on whether or not to alleviate the
arguments.
problem of solid and liquid waste disposal; in other words, it is the MMDAs ministerial

duty to attend to such services.


Our Ruling

We agree with respondents.


We shall first dwell on the propriety of the issuance of mandamus under the

premises.
First off, we wish to state that petitioners obligation to perform their duties as

The Cleaning or Rehabilitation of Manila Bay defined by law, on one hand, and how they are to carry out such duties, on the other, are
Can be Compelled by Mandamus two different concepts. While the implementation of the MMDAs mandated tasks may

entail a decision-making process, the enforcement of the law or the very act of doing what
Generally, the writ of mandamus lies to require the execution of a ministerial duty.[8] A the law exacts to be done is ministerial in nature and may be compelled by mandamus. We
ministerial duty is one that requires neither the exercise of official discretion nor said so in Social Justice Society v. Atienza[11] in which the Court directed the City
judgment.[9] It connotes an act in which nothing is left to the discretion of the person of Manila to enforce, as a matter of ministerial duty, its Ordinance No. 8027 directing the
executing it. It is a simple, definite duty arising under conditions admitted or proved to three big local oil players to cease and desist from operating their business in the so-called
exist and imposed by law.[10] Mandamus is available to compel action, when refused, on Pandacan Terminals within six months from the effectivity of the ordinance. But to
matters involving discretion, but not to direct the exercise of judgment or discretion one illustrate with respect to the instant case, the MMDAs duty to put up an adequate and
way or the other. appropriate sanitary landfill and solid waste and liquid disposal as well as other
alternative garbage disposal systems is ministerial, its duty being a statutory imposition. A perusal of other petitioners respective charters or like enabling statutes and pertinent

The MMDAs duty in this regard is spelled out in Sec. 3(c) of Republic Act No. (RA) 7924 laws would yield this conclusion: these government agencies are enjoined, as a matter of

creating the MMDA. This section defines and delineates the scope of the MMDAs waste statutory obligation, to perform certain functions relating directly or indirectly to the

disposal services to include: cleanup, rehabilitation, protection, and preservation of the Manila Bay. They are precluded

Solid waste disposal and management which include from choosing not to perform these duties. Consider:
formulation and implementation of policies, standards, programs and
projects for proper and sanitary waste disposal. It shall likewise
include the establishment and operation of sanitary land fill and (1) The DENR, under Executive Order No. (EO) 192,[15] is the primary agency responsible
related facilities and the implementation of other alternative
for the conservation, management, development, and proper use of the countrys
programs intended to reduce, reuse and recycle solid waste. (Emphasis
added.) environment and natural resources. Sec. 19 of the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004 (RA

9275), on the other hand, designates the DENR as the primary government agency

responsible for its enforcement and implementation, more particularly over all aspects of
The MMDA is duty-bound to comply with Sec. 41 of the Ecological Solid Waste
water quality management. On water pollution, the DENR, under the Acts Sec. 19(k),
Management Act (RA 9003) which prescribes the minimum criteria for the establishment
exercises jurisdiction over all aspects of water pollution, determine[s] its location,
of sanitary landfills and Sec. 42 which provides the minimum operating requirements that
magnitude, extent, severity, causes and effects and other pertinent information on
each site operator shall maintain in the operation of a sanitary landfill. Complementing Sec.
pollution, and [takes] measures, using available methods and technologies, to prevent and
41 are Secs. 36 and 37 of RA 9003,[12] enjoining the MMDA and local government units,
abate such pollution.
among others, after the effectivity of the law on February 15, 2001, from using and
The DENR, under RA 9275, is also tasked to prepare a National Water Quality Status
operating open dumps for solid waste and disallowing, five years after such effectivity, the
Report, an Integrated Water Quality Management Framework, and a 10-year Water Quality
use of controlled dumps.
Management Area Action Plan which is nationwide in scope covering the Manila Bay and

adjoining areas. Sec. 19 of RA 9275 provides:


The MMDAs duty in the area of solid waste disposal, as may be noted, is set forth

not only in the Environment Code (PD 1152) and RA 9003, but in its charter as well. This
Sec. 19 Lead Agency.The [DENR] shall be the primary government
duty of putting up a proper waste disposal system cannot be characterized as agency responsible for the implementation and enforcement of this Act
x x x unless otherwise provided herein. As such, it shall have the
discretionary, for, as earlier stated, discretion presupposes the power or right given by law following functions, powers and responsibilities:
to public functionaries to act officially according to their judgment or conscience.[13] A a) Prepare a National Water Quality Status report within twenty-four
(24) months from the effectivity of this Act: Provided, That the
discretionary duty is one that allows a person to exercise judgment and choose to perform Department shall thereafter review or revise and publish annually,
or as the need arises, said report;
or not to perform.[14] Any suggestion that the MMDA has the option whether or not to
perform its solid waste disposal-related duties ought to be dismissed for want of legal b) Prepare an Integrated Water Quality Management Framework
within twelve (12) months following the completion of the status
basis. report;
c) Prepare a ten (10) year Water Quality Management Area Action
Plan within 12 months following the completion of the framework of these districts and shall monitor and evaluate local water standards. The LWUA can
for each designated water management area. Such action plan shall direct these districts to construct, operate, and furnish facilities and services for the
be reviewed by the water quality management area governing
board every five (5) years or as need arises. collection, treatment, and disposal of sewerage, waste, and storm water. Additionally,

under RA 9275, the LWUA, as attached agency of the DPWH, is tasked with providing

sewerage and sanitation facilities, inclusive of the setting up of efficient and safe collection,
The DENR has prepared the status report for the period 2001 to 2005 and is in the process
treatment, and sewage disposal system in the different parts of the country.[19] In relation
of completing the preparation of the Integrated Water Quality Management
to the instant petition, the LWUA is mandated to provide sewerage and sanitation facilities
Framework.[16] Within twelve (12) months thereafter, it has to submit a final Water Quality
in Laguna, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga, and Bataan to prevent pollution in the Manila Bay.
Management Area Action Plan.[17] Again, like the MMDA, the DENR should be made to
(4) The Department of Agriculture (DA), pursuant to the Administrative Code of 1987 (EO
accomplish the tasks assigned to it under RA 9275.
292),[20] is designated as the agency tasked to promulgate and enforce all laws and
Parenthetically, during the oral arguments, the DENR Secretary manifested that the DENR,
issuances respecting the conservation and proper utilization of agricultural and fishery
with the assistance of and in partnership with various government agencies and
resources. Furthermore, the DA, under the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 (RA 8550), is,
non-government organizations, has completed, as of December 2005, the final draft of a
in coordination with local government units (LGUs) and other concerned sectors, in charge
comprehensive action plan with estimated budget and time frame, denominated
of establishing a monitoring, control, and surveillance system to ensure that fisheries and
as Operation Plan for the Manila Bay Coastal Strategy, for the rehabilitation, restoration,
aquatic resources in Philippine waters are judiciously utilized and managed on a
and rehabilitation of the Manila Bay.
sustainable basis.[21] Likewise under RA 9275, the DA is charged with coordinating with

the PCG and DENR for the enforcement of water quality standards in marine
The completion of the said action plan and even the implementation of some of its phases
waters.[22] More specifically, its Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources(BFAR) under
should more than ever prod the concerned agencies to fast track what are assigned them
Sec. 22(c) of RA 9275 shall primarily be responsible for the prevention and control of
under existing laws.
water pollution for the development, management, and conservation of the fisheries and

aquatic resources.
(2) The MWSS, under Sec. 3 of RA 6234,[18] is vested with jurisdiction,

supervision, and control over all waterworks and sewerage systems in the territory
(5) The DPWH, as the engineering and construction arm of the national government, is
comprising what is now the cities of Metro Manila and several towns of the provinces of
tasked under EO 292[23] to provide integrated planning, design, and construction services
Rizal and Cavite, and charged with the duty:
(g) To construct, maintain, and operate such sanitary sewerages as may for, among others, flood control and water resource development systems in accordance
be necessary for the proper sanitation and other uses of the cities and
with national development objectives and approved government plans and specifications.
towns comprising the System; x x x

In Metro Manila, however, the MMDA is authorized by Sec. 3(d), RA 7924 to perform
(3) The LWUA under PD 198 has the power of supervision and control over local
metro-wide services relating to flood control and sewerage management which include the
water districts. It can prescribe the minimum standards and regulations for the operations
where the same shall be liable to be washed into such navigable water,
formulation and implementation of policies, standards, programs and projects for an either by ordinary or high tides, or by storms or floods, or otherwise,
integrated flood control, drainage and sewerage system. whereby navigation shall or may be impeded or obstructed or increase
the level of pollution of such water.

On July 9, 2002, a Memorandum of Agreement was entered into between the DPWH and

MMDA, whereby MMDA was made the agency primarily responsible for flood control in (7) When RA 6975 or the Department of the Interior and Local Government

Metro Manila. For the rest of the country, DPWH shall remain as the implementing agency (DILG) Act of 1990 was signed into law on December 13, 1990, the PNP Maritime Group

for flood control services. The mandate of the MMDA and DPWH on flood control and was tasked to perform all police functions over the Philippine territorial waters and

drainage services shall include the removal of structures, constructions, and rivers. Under Sec. 86, RA 6975, the police functions of the PCG shall be taken over by the

encroachments built along rivers, waterways, and esteros (drainages) in violation of RA PNP when the latter acquires the capability to perform such functions. Since the PNP

7279, PD 1067, and other pertinent laws. Maritime Group has not yet attained the capability to assume and perform the police

functions of PCG over marine pollution, the PCG and PNP Maritime Group shall coordinate

(6) The PCG, in accordance with Sec. 5(p) of PD 601, or the Revised Coast Guard with regard to the enforcement of laws, rules, and regulations governing marine pollution

Law of 1974, and Sec. 6 of PD 979,[24] or the Marine Pollution Decree of 1976, shall have within the territorial waters of the Philippines. This was made clear in Sec. 124, RA 8550

the primary responsibility of enforcing laws, rules, and regulations governing marine or the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, in which both the PCG and PNP Maritime Group

pollution within the territorial waters of the Philippines. It shall promulgate its own rules were authorized to enforce said law and other fishery laws, rules, and regulations.[25]

and regulations in accordance with the national rules and policies set by the National

Pollution Control Commission upon consultation with the latter for the effective (8) In accordance with Sec. 2 of EO 513, the PPA is mandated to establish,

implementation and enforcement of PD 979. It shall, under Sec. 4 of the law, apprehend develop, regulate, manage and operate a rationalized national port system in support of

violators who: trade and national development.[26] Moreover, Sec. 6-c of EO 513 states that the PPA has

police authority within the


a. discharge, dump x x x harmful substances from or out of any ship,
vessel, barge, or any other floating craft, or other man-made structures ports administered by it as may be necessary to carry out its powers
at sea, by any method, means or manner, into or upon the territorial and functions and attain its purposes and objectives, without prejudice
and inland navigable waters of the Philippines; to the exercise of the functions of the Bureau of Customs and other law
enforcement bodies within the area. Such police authority shall include
b. throw, discharge or deposit, dump, or cause, suffer or procure to be the following:
thrown, discharged, or deposited either from or out of any ship, barge, xxxx
or other floating craft or vessel of any kind, or from the shore, wharf,
manufacturing establishment, or mill of any kind, any refuse matter of b) To regulate the entry to, exit from, and movement within the port, of
any kind or description whatever other than that flowing from streets persons and vehicles, as well as movement within the port of
and sewers and passing therefrom in a liquid state into tributary of any watercraft.[27]
navigable water from which the same shall float or be washed into such
navigable water; and

c. deposit x x x material of any kind in any place on the bank of any


navigable water or on the bank of any tributary of any navigable water,
Lastly, as a member of the International Marine Organization and a signatory to structures, constructions, and other encroachments built in breach of RA 7279 and other

the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, as amended by pertinent laws along the rivers, waterways, and esteros in Metro Manila. With respect to

MARPOL 73/78,[28] the Philippines, through the PPA, must ensure the provision of rivers, waterways, and esteros in Bulacan, Bataan, Pampanga, Cavite, and Laguna that

adequate reception facilities at ports and terminals for the reception of sewage from the discharge wastewater directly or eventually into the Manila Bay, the DILG shall direct the

ships docking in Philippine ports. Thus, the PPA is tasked to adopt such measures as are concerned LGUs to implement the demolition and removal of such structures,

necessary to prevent the discharge and dumping of solid and liquid wastes and other constructions, and other encroachments built in violation of RA 7279 and other applicable

ship-generated wastes into the Manila Bay waters from vessels docked at ports and laws in coordination with the DPWH and concerned agencies.

apprehend the violators. When the vessels are not docked at ports but within Philippine

territorial waters, it is the PCG and PNP Maritime Group that have jurisdiction over said (10) The Department of Health (DOH), under Article 76 of PD 1067 (the Water

vessels. Code), is tasked to promulgate rules and regulations for the establishment of waste

disposal areas that affect the source of a water supply or a reservoir for domestic or

(9) The MMDA, as earlier indicated, is duty-bound to put up and maintain adequate municipal use. And under Sec. 8 of RA 9275, the DOH, in coordination with the DENR,

sanitary landfill and solid waste and liquid disposal system as well as other alternative DPWH, and other concerned agencies, shall formulate guidelines and standards for the

garbage disposal systems. It is primarily responsible for the implementation and collection, treatment, and disposal of sewage and the establishment and operation of a

enforcement of the provisions of RA 9003, which would necessary include its penal centralized sewage treatment system. In areas not considered as highly urbanized cities,

provisions, within its area of jurisdiction.[29] septage or a mix sewerage-septage management system shall be employed.

Among the prohibited acts under Sec. 48, Chapter VI of RA 9003 that are frequently In accordance with Sec. 72[30] of PD 856, the Code of Sanitation of the Philippines,

violated are dumping of waste matters in public places, such as roads, canals or esteros, and Sec. 5.1.1[31] of Chapter XVII of its implementing rules, the DOH is also ordered to

open burning of solid waste, squatting in open dumps and landfills, open dumping, burying ensure the regulation and monitoring of the proper disposal of wastes by private sludge

of biodegradable or non- biodegradable materials in flood-prone areas, establishment or companies through the strict enforcement of the requirement to obtain an environmental

operation of open dumps as enjoined in RA 9003, and operation of waste management sanitation clearance of sludge collection treatment and disposal before these companies

facilities without an environmental compliance certificate. are issued their environmental sanitation permit.

Under Sec. 28 of the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992 (RA 7279), eviction or (11) The Department of Education (DepEd), under the Philippine Environment

demolition may be allowed when persons or entities occupy danger areas such asesteros, Code (PD 1152), is mandated to integrate subjects on environmental education in its
railroad tracks, garbage dumps, riverbanks, shorelines, waterways, and other public places school curricula at all levels.[32] Under Sec. 118 of RA 8550, the DepEd, in collaboration

such as sidewalks, roads, parks and playgrounds. The MMDA, as lead agency, in with the DA, Commission on Higher Education, and Philippine Information Agency, shall

coordination with the DPWH, LGUs, and concerned agencies, can dismantle and remove all launch and pursue a nationwide educational campaign to promote the development,
management, conservation, and proper use of the environment. Under the Ecological Solid

Waste Management Act (RA 9003), on the other hand, it is directed to strengthen the Now, as to the crux of the petition. Do Secs. 17 and 20 of the Environment Code

integration of environmental concerns in school curricula at all levels, with an emphasis on encompass the cleanup of water pollution in general, not just specific pollution incidents?

waste management principles.[33]


Secs. 17 and 20 of the Environment Code
(12) The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is tasked under Sec. 2, Title XVII
Include Cleaning in General
of the Administrative Code of 1987 to ensure the efficient and sound utilization of

government funds and revenues so as to effectively achieve the countrys development


The disputed sections are quoted as follows:
objectives.[34]
Section 17. Upgrading of Water Quality.Where the quality of water has
deteriorated to a degree where its state will adversely affect its best
One of the countrys development objectives is enshrined in RA 9275 or the Philippine usage, the government agencies concerned shall take such measures as
may be necessary to upgrade the quality of such water to meet the
Clean Water Act of 2004. This law stresses that the State shall pursue a policy of economic
prescribed water quality standards.
growth in a manner consistent with the protection, preservation, and revival of the quality
Section 20. Clean-up Operations.It shall be the responsibility of the
of our fresh, brackish, and marine waters. It also provides that it is the policy of the
polluter to contain, remove and clean-up water pollution incidents at
government, among others, to streamline processes and procedures in the prevention, his own expense. In case of his failure to do so, the government agencies
concerned shall undertake containment, removal and clean-up
control, and abatement of pollution mechanisms for the protection of water resources; to operations and expenses incurred in said operations shall be charged
promote environmental strategies and use of appropriate economic instruments and of against the persons and/or entities responsible for such pollution.

control mechanisms for the protection of water resources; to formulate a holistic national

program of water quality management that recognizes that issues related to this When the Clean Water Act (RA 9275) took effect, its Sec. 16 on the
management cannot be separated from concerns about water sources and ecological subject, Cleanup Operations, amended the counterpart provision (Sec. 20) of the
protection, water supply, public health, and quality of life; and to provide a comprehensive Environment Code (PD 1152). Sec. 17 of PD 1152 continues, however, to be operational.
management program for water pollution focusing on pollution prevention.

Thus, the DBM shall then endeavor to provide an adequate budget to attain the noble The amendatory Sec. 16 of RA 9275 reads:
objectives of RA 9275 in line with the countrys development objectives.
SEC. 16. Cleanup Operations.Notwithstanding the provisions of
Sections 15 and 26 hereof, any person who causes pollution in or
pollutes water bodies in excess of the applicable and prevailing
All told, the aforementioned enabling laws and issuances are in themselves clear, standards shall be responsible to contain, remove and clean up any
categorical, and complete as to what are the obligations and mandate of each pollution incident at his own expense to the extent that the same water
bodies have been rendered unfit for utilization and beneficial use:
agency/petitioner under the law. We need not belabor the issue that their tasks include Provided, That in the event emergency cleanup operations are
the cleanup of the Manila Bay. necessary and the polluter fails to immediately undertake the same, the
[DENR] in coordination with other government agencies concerned,
shall undertake containment, removal and cleanup operations.
Expenses incurred in said operations shall be reimbursed by the specific incident of either intentional or accidental spillage of oil or other hazardous
persons found to have caused such pollution under proper substances, as mentioned in Sec. 62(h).
administrative determination x x x. Reimbursements of the cost
incurred shall be made to the Water Quality Management Fund or to
such other funds where said disbursements were sourced.
As a counterpoint, respondents argue that petitioners erroneously read Sec. 62(g) as

delimiting the application of Sec. 20 to the containment, removal, and cleanup operations

As may be noted, the amendment to Sec. 20 of the Environment Code is more apparent for accidental spills only. Contrary to petitioners posture, respondents assert that Sec.

than real since the amendment, insofar as it is relevant to this case, merely consists in the 62(g), in fact, even expanded the coverage of Sec. 20. Respondents explain that without its

designation of the DENR as lead agency in the cleanup operations. Sec. 62(g), PD 1152 may have indeed covered only pollution accumulating from the

day-to-day operations of businesses around the Manila Bay and other sources of pollution

Petitioners contend at every turn that Secs. 17 and 20 of the Environment Code that slowly accumulated in the bay. Respondents, however, emphasize that Sec. 62(g), far

concern themselves only with the matter of cleaning up in specific pollution incidents, as from being a delimiting provision, in fact even enlarged the operational scope of Sec. 20, by

opposed to cleanup in general. They aver that the twin provisions would have to be read including accidental spills as among the water pollution incidents contemplated in Sec. 17

alongside the succeeding Sec. 62(g) and (h), which defines the terms cleanup operations in relation to Sec. 20 of PD 1152.

and accidental spills, as follows:


To respondents, petitioners parochial view on environmental issues, coupled
g. Clean-up Operations [refer] to activities conducted in removing
the pollutants discharged or spilled in water to restore it to with their narrow reading of their respective mandated roles, has contributed to the
pre-spill condition.
worsening water quality of the Manila Bay. Assuming, respondents assert, that petitioners
h. Accidental Spills [refer] to spills of oil or other hazardous are correct in saying that the cleanup coverage of Sec. 20 of PD 1152 is constricted by the
substances in water that result from accidents such as
collisions and groundings. definition of the phrase cleanup operations embodied in Sec. 62(g), Sec. 17 is not hobbled

by such limiting definition. As pointed out, the phrases cleanup operations and accidental

spills do not appear in said Sec. 17, not even in the chapter where said section is found.
Petitioners proffer the argument that Secs. 17 and 20 of PD 1152 merely direct

the government agencies concerned to undertake containment, removal, and cleaning


Respondents are correct. For one thing, said Sec. 17 does not in any way state
operations of a specific polluted portion or portions of the body of water concerned. They
that the government agencies concerned ought to confine themselves to the containment,
maintain that the application of said Sec. 20 is limited only to water pollution incidents,
removal, and cleaning operations when a specific pollution incident occurs. On the
which are situations that presuppose the occurrence of specific, isolated pollution events
contrary, Sec. 17 requires them to act even in the absence of a specific pollution incident,
requiring the corresponding containment, removal, and cleaning operations. Pushing the
as long as water quality has deteriorated to a degree where its state will adversely affect
point further, they argue that the aforequoted Sec. 62(g) requires cleanup operations to
its best usage. This section, to stress, commands concerned government agencies, when
restore the body of water to pre-spill condition, which means that there must have been a
appropriate, to take such measures as may be necessary to meet the prescribed water
quality standards. In fine, the underlying duty to upgrade the quality of water is not an individual or an establishment that pollutes the land mass near the Manila Bay or the

conditional on the occurrence of any pollution incident. waterways, such that the contaminants eventually end up in the bay. In this situation, the

water pollution incidents are so numerous and involve nameless and faceless polluters

For another, a perusal of Sec. 20 of the Environment Code, as couched, indicates that they can validly be categorized as beyond the specific pollution incident level.

that it is properly applicable to a specific situation in which the pollution is caused by Not to be ignored of course is the reality that the government agencies concerned

polluters who fail to clean up the mess they left behind. In such instance, the concerned are so undermanned that it would be almost impossible to apprehend the numerous

government agencies shall undertake the cleanup work for the polluters account. polluters of the Manila Bay. It may perhaps not be amiss to say that the apprehension, if

Petitioners assertion, that they have to perform cleanup operations in any, of the Manila Bay polluters has been few and far between. Hence, practically nobody

the Manila Bay only when there is a water pollution incident and the erring polluters do has been required to contain, remove, or clean up a given water pollution incident. In this

not undertake the containment, removal, and cleanup operations, is quite off mark. As kind of setting, it behooves the Government to step in and undertake cleanup operations.

earlier discussed, the complementary Sec. 17 of the Environment Code comes into play and Thus, Sec. 16 of RA 9275, previously Sec. 20 of PD 1152, covers for all intents and purposes

the specific duties of the agencies to clean up come in even if there are no pollution a general cleanup situation.

incidents staring at them. Petitioners, thus, cannot plausibly invoke and hide behind Sec.

20 of PD 1152 or Sec. 16 of RA 9275 on the pretext that their cleanup mandate depends on The cleanup and/or restoration of the Manila Bay is only an aspect and the initial stage of

the happening of a specific pollution incident. In this regard, what the CA said with respect the long-term solution. The preservation of the water quality of the bay after the

to the impasse over Secs. 17 and 20 of PD 1152 is at once valid as it is practical. The rehabilitation process is as important as the cleaning phase. It is imperative then that the

appellate court wrote: PD 1152 aims to introduce a comprehensive program of wastes and contaminants found in the rivers, inland bays, and other bodies of water be

environmental protection and management. This is better served by making Secs. 17 & 20 stopped from reaching the Manila Bay. Otherwise, any cleanup effort would just be a futile,

of general application rather than limiting them to specific pollution incidents.[35] cosmetic exercise, for, in no time at all, the Manila Bay water quality would again

deteriorate below the ideal minimum standards set by PD 1152, RA 9275, and other

Granting arguendo that petitioners position thus described vis--vis the relevant laws. It thus behooves the Court to put the heads of the

implementation of Sec. 20 is correct, they seem to have overlooked the fact that the petitioner-department-agencies and the bureaus and offices under them on continuing

pollution of the Manila Bay is of such magnitude and scope that it is well-nigh impossible notice about, and to enjoin them to perform, their mandates and duties towards cleaning

to draw the line between a specific and a general pollution incident. And such impossibility up the Manila Bay and preserving the quality of its water to the ideal level. Under what
extends to pinpointing with reasonable certainty who the polluters are. We note that Sec. other judicial discipline describes as continuing mandamus,[36] the Court may, under

20 of PD 1152 mentions water pollution incidents which may be caused by polluters in the extraordinary circumstances, issue directives with the end in view of ensuring that its
waters of the Manila Bay itself or by polluters in adjoining lands and in water bodies or decision would not be set to naught by administrative inaction or indifference. In India, the

waterways that empty into the bay. Sec. 16 of RA 9275, on the other hand, specifically doctrine of continuing mandamus was used to enforce directives of the court to clean up

adverts to any person who causes pollution in or pollutes water bodies, which may refer to the length of the Ganges River from industrial and municipal pollution.[37]
The Court can take judicial notice of the presence of shanties and other unauthorized waste water treatment facilities and infrastructure to prevent their industrial discharge,

structures which do not have septic tanks along the Pasig-Marikina-San Juan Rivers, the including their sewage waters, from flowing into the Pasig River, other major rivers, and

National Capital Region (NCR) (Paraaque-Zapote, Las Pias) Rivers, the connecting waterways. After such period, non-complying establishments shall be shut

Navotas-Malabon-Tullahan-Tenejeros Rivers, the Meycuayan-Marilao-Obando (Bulacan) down or asked to transfer their operations.

Rivers, the Talisay (Bataan) River, the Imus (Cavite) River, the Laguna De Bay, and other

minor rivers and connecting waterways, river banks, and esteros which discharge their At this juncture, and if only to dramatize the urgency of the need for petitioners-agencies

waters, with all the accompanying filth, dirt, and garbage, into the major rivers and to comply with their statutory tasks, we cite the Asian Development Bank-commissioned

eventually the Manila Bay. If there is one factor responsible for the pollution of the major study on the garbage problem in Metro Manila, the results of which are embodied in

river systems and the Manila Bay, these unauthorized structures would be on top of the the The Garbage Book. As there reported, the garbage crisis in the metropolitan area is as

list. And if the issue of illegal or unauthorized structures is not seriously addressed with alarming as it is shocking. Some highlights of the report:

sustained resolve, then practically all efforts to cleanse these important bodies of water 1. As early as 2003, three land-filled dumpsites in Metro
would be for naught. The DENR Secretary said as much.[38] Manila - the Payatas, Catmon and Rodriquez dumpsites - generate an
alarming quantity of lead and leachate or liquid run-off. Leachate are
toxic liquids that flow along the surface and seep into the earth and
poison the surface and groundwater that are used for drinking, aquatic
Giving urgent dimension to the necessity of removing these illegal structures is Art. 51 of
life, and the environment.
PD 1067 or the Water Code,[39] which prohibits the building of structures within a given
2. The high level of fecal coliform confirms the presence of a
length along banks of rivers and other waterways. Art. 51 reads:
large amount of human waste in the dump sites and surrounding areas,
which is presumably generated by households that lack alternatives to
The banks of rivers and streams and the shores of the
sanitation. To say that Manila Bay needs rehabilitation is an
seas and lakes throughout their entire length and within a zone of
understatement.
three (3) meters in urban areas, twenty (20) meters in agricultural
areas and forty (40) meters in forest areas, along their margins,
3. Most of the deadly leachate, lead and other dangerous
are subject to the easement of public use in the interest of
contaminants and possibly strains of pathogens seeps untreated into
recreation, navigation, floatage, fishing and salvage.No person
ground water and runs into the Marikina and Pasig Riversystems
shall be allowed to stay in this zone longer than what is necessary for
and Manila Bay.[40]
recreation, navigation, floatage, fishing or salvage or to build
structures of any kind. (Emphasis added.)

Given the above perspective, sufficient sanitary landfills should now more than

Judicial notice may likewise be taken of factories and other industrial establishments ever be established as prescribed by the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (RA

standing along or near the banks of the Pasig River, other major rivers, and connecting 9003). Particular note should be taken of the blatant violations by some LGUs and possibly

waterways. But while they may not be treated as unauthorized constructions, some of the MMDA of Sec. 37, reproduced below:
Sec. 37. Prohibition against the Use of Open Dumps for Solid
these establishments undoubtedly contribute to the pollution of the Pasig River and Waste.No open dumps shall be established and operated, nor any
practice or disposal of solid waste by any person, including LGUs which
waterways. The DILG and the concerned LGUs, have, accordingly, the duty to see to it that
[constitute] the use of open dumps for solid waste, be allowed after the
non-complying industrial establishments set up, within a reasonable period, the necessary effectivity of this Act: Provided, further that no controlled dumps shall
be allowed (5) years following the effectivity of this Act. (Emphasis
added.) The importance of the Manila Bay as a sea resource, playground, and as a

historical landmark cannot be over-emphasized. It is not yet too late in the day to restore

the Manila Bay to its former splendor and bring back the plants and sea life that once
RA 9003 took effect on February 15, 2001 and the adverted grace period of five
thrived in its blue waters. But the tasks ahead, daunting as they may be, could only be
(5) years which ended on February 21, 2006 has come and gone, but no single sanitary
accomplished if those mandated, with the help and cooperation of all civic-minded
landfill which strictly complies with the prescribed standards under RA 9003 has yet been
individuals, would put their minds to these tasks and take responsibility. This means that
set up.
the State, through petitioners, has to take the lead in the preservation and protection of

the Manila Bay.


In addition, there are rampant and repeated violations of Sec. 48 of RA 9003, like

littering, dumping of waste matters in roads, canals, esteros, and other public places,
The era of delays, procrastination, and ad hoc measures is over. Petitioners must
operation of open dumps, open burning of solid waste, and the like. Some sludge
transcend their limitations, real or imaginary, and buckle down to work before the
companies which do not have proper disposal facilities simply discharge sludge into the
problem at hand becomes unmanageable. Thus, we must reiterate that different
Metro Manila sewerage system that ends up in the Manila Bay. Equally unabated are
government agencies and instrumentalities cannot shirk from their mandates; they must
violations of Sec. 27 of RA 9275, which enjoins the pollution of water bodies, groundwater
perform their basic functions in cleaning up and rehabilitating the Manila Bay. We are
pollution, disposal of infectious wastes from vessels, and unauthorized transport or
disturbed by petitioners hiding behind two untenable claims: (1) that there ought to be a
dumping into sea waters of sewage or solid waste and of Secs. 4 and 102 of RA 8550 which
specific pollution incident before they are required to act; and (2) that the cleanup of the
proscribes the introduction by human or machine of substances to the aquatic
bay is a discretionary duty.
environment including dumping/disposal of waste and other marine litters, discharge of
petroleum or residual products of petroleum of carbonaceous materials/substances [and
RA 9003 is a sweeping piece of legislation enacted to radically transform and
other] radioactive, noxious or harmful liquid, gaseous or solid substances, from any water,
improve waste management. It implements Sec. 16, Art. II of the 1987 Constitution, which
land or air transport or other human-made structure.
explicitly provides that the State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a

balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.
In the light of the ongoing environmental degradation, the Court wishes to

emphasize the extreme necessity for all concerned executive departments and agencies to
So it was that in Oposa v. Factoran, Jr. the Court stated that the right to a balanced
immediately act and discharge their respective official duties and obligations. Indeed, time
and healthful ecology need not even be written in the Constitution for it is assumed, like
is of the essence; hence, there is a need to set timetables for the performance and
other civil and political rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, to exist from the inception of
completion of the tasks, some of them as defined for them by law and the nature of their
mankind and it is an issue of transcendental importance with intergenerational
respective offices and mandates.
implications.[41] Even assuming the absence of a categorical legal provision specifically

prodding petitioners to clean up the bay, they and the men and women representing them
cannot escape their obligation to future generations of Filipinos to keep the waters of direct all LGUs in Metro Manila, Rizal, Laguna, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga, and Bataan to

the Manila Bay clean and clear as humanly as possible. Anything less would be a betrayal inspect all factories, commercial establishments, and private homes along the banks of the

of the trust reposed in them. major river systems in their respective areas of jurisdiction, such as but not limited to the

Pasig-Marikina-San Juan Rivers, the NCR (Paraaque-Zapote, Las Pias) Rivers, the

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The September 28, 2005 Decision of the CA in Navotas-Malabon-Tullahan-Tenejeros Rivers, the Meycauayan-Marilao-Obando (Bulacan)

CA-G.R. CV No. 76528 and SP No. 74944 and the September 13, 2002 Decision of the RTC in Rivers, the Talisay (Bataan) River, the Imus (Cavite) River, the Laguna De Bay, and other

Civil Case No. 1851-99 are AFFIRMED but with MODIFICATIONS in view of subsequent minor rivers and waterways that eventually discharge water into the Manila Bay; and the

developments or supervening events in the case. The fallo of the RTC Decision shall now lands abutting the bay, to determine whether they have wastewater treatment facilities or

read: hygienic septic tanks as prescribed by existing laws, ordinances, and rules and regulations.
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered ordering the abovenamed
defendant-government agencies to clean up, rehabilitate, and If none be found, these LGUs shall be ordered to require non-complying establishments
preserve Manila Bay, and restore and maintain its waters to SB level and homes to set up said facilities or septic tanks within a reasonable time to prevent
(Class B sea waters per Water Classification Tables under DENR
Administrative Order No. 34 [1990]) to make them fit for swimming, industrial wastes, sewage water, and human wastes from flowing into these rivers,
skin-diving, and other forms of contact recreation.
waterways, esteros, and the Manila Bay, under pain of closure or imposition of fines and

other sanctions.
In particular:

(3) As mandated by Sec. 8 of RA 9275,[43] the MWSS is directed to provide, install, operate,
(1) Pursuant to Sec. 4 of EO 192, assigning the DENR as the primary agency responsible for
and maintain the necessary adequate waste water treatment facilities in Metro Manila,
the conservation, management, development, and proper use of the countrys environment
Rizal, and Cavite where needed at the earliest possible time.
and natural resources, and Sec. 19 of RA 9275, designating the DENR as the primary

government agency responsible for its enforcement and implementation, the DENR is
(4) Pursuant to RA 9275,[44] the LWUA, through the local water districts and in
directed to fully implement its Operational Plan for the Manila Bay Coastal Strategy for the
coordination with the DENR, is ordered to provide, install, operate, and maintain sewerage
rehabilitation, restoration, and conservation of the Manila Bay at the earliest possible
and sanitation facilities and the efficient and safe collection, treatment, and disposal of
time. It is ordered to call regular coordination meetings with concerned government
sewage in the provinces of Laguna, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga, and Bataan where needed
departments and agencies to ensure the successful implementation of the aforesaid plan of
at the earliest possible time.
action in accordance with its indicated completion schedules.
(5) Pursuant to Sec. 65 of RA 8550,[45] the DA, through the BFAR, is ordered to improve

and restore the marine life of the Manila Bay. It is also directed to assist the LGUs in Metro
(2) Pursuant to Title XII (Local Government) of the Administrative Code of 1987 and Sec.
Manila, Rizal, Cavite, Laguna, Bulacan, Pampanga, and Bataan in developing, using
25 of the Local Government Code of 1991,[42] the DILG, in exercising the Presidents power
recognized methods, the fisheries and aquatic resources in the Manila Bay.
of general supervision and its duty to promulgate guidelines in establishing waste

management programs under Sec. 43 of the Philippine Environment Code (PD 1152), shall
(6) The PCG, pursuant to Secs. 4 and 6 of PD 979, and the PNP Maritime Group, in In addition, the MMDA is ordered to establish, operate, and maintain a sanitary landfill, as

accordance with Sec. 124 of RA 8550, in coordination with each other, shall apprehend prescribed by RA 9003, within a period of one (1) year from finality of this Decision.On

violators of PD 979, RA 8550, and other existing laws and regulations designed to prevent matters within its territorial jurisdiction and in connection with the discharge of its duties

marine pollution in the Manila Bay. on the maintenance of sanitary landfills and like undertakings, it is also ordered to cause

the apprehension and filing of the appropriate criminal cases against violators of the

(7) Pursuant to Secs. 2 and 6-c of EO 513[46] and the International Convention for respective penal provisions of RA 9003,[47] Sec. 27 of RA 9275 (the Clean Water Act), and

the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, the PPA is ordered to immediately adopt such other existing laws on pollution.

measures to prevent the discharge and dumping of solid and liquid wastes and other (9) The DOH shall, as directed by Art. 76 of PD 1067 and Sec. 8 of RA 9275, within one (1)

ship-generated wastes into the Manila Bay waters from vessels docked at ports and year from finality of this Decision, determine if all licensed septic and sludge companies

apprehend the violators. have the proper facilities for the treatment and disposal of fecal sludge and sewage coming

from septic tanks. The DOH shall give the companies, if found to be non-complying, a

(8) The MMDA, as the lead agency and implementor of programs and projects for reasonable time within which to set up the necessary facilities under pain of cancellation

flood control projects and drainage services in Metro Manila, in coordination with the of its environmental sanitation clearance.

DPWH, DILG, affected LGUs, PNP Maritime Group, Housing and Urban Development

Coordinating Council (HUDCC), and other agencies, shall dismantle and remove (10) Pursuant to Sec. 53 of PD 1152,[48] Sec. 118 of RA 8550, and Sec. 56 of RA 9003,[49] the

allstructures, constructions, and other encroachments established or built in violation of DepEd shall integrate lessons on pollution prevention, waste management, environmental

RA 7279, and other applicable laws along the Pasig-Marikina-San Juan Rivers, the NCR protection, and like subjects in the school curricula of all levels to inculcate in the minds

(Paraaque-Zapote, Las Pias) Rivers, the Navotas-Malabon-Tullahan-Tenejeros Rivers, and and hearts of students and, through them, their parents and friends, the importance of

connecting waterways and esteros in Metro Manila. The DPWH, as the principal their duty toward achieving and maintaining a balanced and healthful ecosystem in the

implementor of programs and projects for flood control services in the rest of the country Manila Bay and the entire Philippine archipelago.

more particularly in Bulacan, Bataan, Pampanga, Cavite, and Laguna, in coordination with

the DILG, affected LGUs, PNP Maritime Group, HUDCC, and other concerned government (11) The DBM shall consider incorporating an adequate budget in the General

agencies, shall remove and demolish all structures, constructions, and other Appropriations Act of 2010 and succeeding years to cover the expenses relating to the

encroachments built in breach of RA 7279 and other applicable laws along the cleanup, restoration, and preservation of the water quality of the Manila Bay, in line with
Meycauayan-Marilao-Obando (Bulacan) Rivers, the Talisay (Bataan) River, the Imus the countrys development objective to attain economic growth in a manner consistent

(Cavite) River, the Laguna De Bay, and other rivers, connecting waterways, and esteros that with the protection, preservation, and revival of our marine waters.
discharge wastewater into the Manila Bay. (12) The heads of petitioners-agencies MMDA, DENR, DepEd, DOH, DA, DPWH, DBM, PCG,

PNP Maritime Group, DILG, and also of MWSS, LWUA, and PPA, in line with the principle of
continuing mandamus, shall, from finality of this Decision, each submit to the Court a

quarterly progressive report of the activities undertaken in accordance with this Decision.

No costs.

SO ORDERED.
U.S. Supreme Court The Organic Act of the Philippines made a bill of rights embodying safeguards of the
Constitution, and, like the Constitution, extends those safeguards to all.
Carino v. Insular Government, 212 U.S. 449 (1909)
Every presumption of ownership is in favor of one actually occupying land for many years,
Carino v. Insular Government of the Philippine Islands and against the government which seeks to deprive him of it, for failure to comply with
provisions of a subsequently enacted registration act.
No. 72
Title by prescription against the crown existed under Spanish law in force in the Philippine
Islands prior to their acquisition by the United States, and one occupying land in the
Argued January 13, 1909
Province of Benguet for more than fifty years before the Treaty of Paris is entitled to the
continued possession thereof.
Decided February 23, 1909
7 Phil. 132 reversed.
212 U.S. 449
The facts are stated in the opinion.
ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT
Page 212 U. S. 455
OF THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS
MR. JUSTICE HOLMES delivered the opinion of the Court.
Syllabus
This was an application to the Philippine Court of Land Registration for the registration of
Writ of error is the general, and appeal the exceptional, method of bringing Cases to this certain land. The application was granted by the court on March 4, 1904. An appeal was
Court. The latter method is in the main confined to equity cases, and the former is proper taken to the Court of First Instance of the Province of Benguet on behalf of the government
to bring up a judgment of the Supreme Court of the Philippine Islands affirming a judgment of the Philippines, and also on behalf of the United States, those governments having taken
of the Court of Land Registration dismissing an application for registration of land. possession of the property for public and military purposes. The Court of First Instance
found the facts and dismissed the application upon grounds of law. This judgment was
Although a province may be excepted from the operation of Act No. 926 of 1903 of the affirmed by the supreme court, 7 Phil. 132, and the case then was brought here by writ of
Philippine Commission which provides for the registration and perfecting of new titles, error.
one who actually owns property in such province is entitled to registration under Act No.
496 of 1902, which applies to the whole archipelago. The material facts found are very few. The applicant and plaintiff in error is an Igorot of
the Province of Benguet, where the land lies. For more than fifty years before the Treaty of
While, in legal theory and as against foreign nations, sovereignty is absolute, practically it
is a question of strength and of varying degree, and it is for a new sovereign to decide how Page 212 U. S. 456
far it will insist upon theoretical relations of the subject to the former sovereign and how
far it will recognize actual facts.
Paris, April 11, 1899, as far back as the findings go, the plaintiff and his ancestors had held
the land as owners. His grandfather had lived upon it, and had maintained fences sufficient
Page 212 U. S. 450 for the holding of cattle, according to the custom of the country, some of the fences, it
seems, having been of much earlier date. His father had cultivated parts and had used parts
The acquisition of the Philippines was not for the purpose of acquiring the lands occupied for pasturing cattle, and he had used it for pasture in his turn. They all had been
by the inhabitants, and under the Organic Act of July 1, 1902, c. 1369, 32 Stat. 691, recognized as owners by the Igorots, and he had inherited or received the land from his
providing that property rights are to be administered for the benefit of the inhabitants, one father in accordance with Igorot custom. No document of title, however, had issued from
who actually owned land for many years cannot be deprived of it for failure to comply with the Spanish Crown, and although, in 1893-1894 and again in 1896-1897, he made
certain ceremonies prescribed either by the acts of the Philippine Commission or by application for one under the royal decrees then in force, nothing seems to have come of it,
Spanish law. unless, perhaps, information that lands in Benguet could not be conceded until those to be
occupied for a sanatorium, etc., had been designated -- a purpose that has been carried out Page 212 U. S. 458
by the Philippine government and the United States. In 1901, the plaintiff filed a petition,
alleging ownership, under the mortgage law, and the lands were registered to him, that in the same zone of civilization with themselves. It is true also that, in legal theory,
process, however, establishing only a possessory title, it is said. sovereignty is absolute, and that, as against foreign nations, the United States may assert,
as Spain asserted, absolute power. But it does not follow that, as against the inhabitants of
Before we deal with the merits, we must dispose of a technical point. The government has the Philippines, the United States asserts that Spain had such power. When theory is left on
spent some energy in maintaining that this case should have been brought up by appeal, one side, sovereignty is a question of strength, and may vary in degree. How far a new
and not by writ of error. We are of opinion, however, that the mode adopted was right. The sovereign shall insist upon the theoretical relation of the subjects to the head in the past,
proceeding for registration is likened to bills in equity to quiet title, but it is different in and how far it shall recognize actual facts, are matters for it to decide.
principle. It is a proceeding in rem under a statute of the type of the Torrens Act, such as
was discussed in Tyler v. Court of Registration, 175 Mass. 71. It is nearer to law than to The Province of Benguet was inhabited by a tribe that the Solicitor General, in his
equity, and is an assertion of legal title; but we think it unnecessary to put it into either argument, characterized as a savage tribe that never was brought under the civil or
pigeon hole. A writ of error is the general method of bringing cases to this Court, an appeal military government of the Spanish Crown. It seems probable, if not certain, that the
the exception, confined to equity in the main. There is no reason for not applying the Spanish officials would not have granted to anyone in that province the registration to
general rule to this case. Ormsby v. Webb, 134 U. S. 47, 134 U. S. 65; Campbell v. which formerly the plaintiff was entitled by the Spanish laws, and which would have made
Porter, 162 U. S. 478; Metropolitan R. Co. v. District of Columbia, 195 U. S. 322. his title beyond question good. Whatever may have been the technical position of Spain, it
does not follow that, in the view of the United States, he had lost all rights and was a mere
Page 212 U. S. 457 trespasser when the present government seized his land. The argument to that effect
seems to amount to a denial of native titles throughout an important part of the island of
Another preliminary matter may as well be disposed of here. It is suggested that, even if Luzon, at least, for the want of ceremonies which the Spaniards would not have permitted
the applicant have title, he cannot have it registered, because the Philippine Commission's and had not the power to enforce.
Act No. 926, of 1903, excepts the Province of Benguet among others from its operation. But
that act deals with the acquisition of new titles by homestead entries, purchase, etc., and The acquisition of the Philippines was not like the settlement of the white race in the
the perfecting of titles begun under the Spanish law. The applicant's claim is that he now United States. Whatever consideration may have been shown to the North American
owns the land, and is entitled to registration under the Philippine Commission's Act No. Indians, the dominant purpose of the whites in America was to occupy the land. It is
496, of 1902, which established a court for that purpose with jurisdiction "throughout the obvious that, however stated, the reason for our taking over the Philippines was different.
Philippine Archipelago," 2, and authorized in general terms applications to be made by No one, we suppose, would deny that, so far as consistent with paramount necessities, our
persons claiming to own the legal estate in fee simple, as the applicant does. He is entitled first object in the internal administration of the islands is to do justice to the natives, not to
to registration if his claim of ownership can be maintained. exploit their country for private gain. By the Organic Act of July 1, 1902, c. 1369, 12, 32
Stat. 691, all the property and rights acquired there by the
We come, then, to the question on which the case was decided below -- namely, whether
the plaintiff owns the land. The position of the government, shortly stated, is that Spain Page 212 U. S. 459
assumed, asserted, and had title to all the land in the Philippines except so far as it saw fit
to permit private titles to be acquired; that there was no prescription against the Crown, United States are to be administered "for the benefit of the inhabitants thereof." It is
and that, if there was, a decree of June 25, 1880, required registration within a limited time reasonable to suppose that the attitude thus assumed by the United States with regard to
to make the title good; that the plaintiff's land was not registered, and therefore became, if what was unquestionably its own is also its attitude in deciding what it will claim for its
it was not always, public land; that the United States succeeded to the title of Spain, and so own. The same statute made a bill of rights, embodying the safeguards of the Constitution,
that the plaintiff has no rights that the Philippine government is bound to respect. and, like the Constitution, extends those safeguards to all. It provides that

If we suppose for the moment that the government's contention is so far correct that the "no law shall be enacted in said islands which shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or
Crown of Spain in form asserted a title to this land at the date of the Treaty of Paris, to property without due process of law, or deny to any person therein the equal protection of
which the United States succeeded, it is not to be assumed without argument that the the laws."
plaintiff's case is at an end. It is true that Spain, in its earlier decrees, embodied the
universal feudal theory that all lands were held from the Crown, and perhaps the general
5. In the light of the declaration that we have quoted from 12, it is hard to believe that
attitude of conquering nations toward people not recognized as entitled to the treatment
the United States was ready to declare in the next breath that "any person" did not
accorded to those
embrace the inhabitants of Benguet, or that it meant by "property" only that which had call for the exhibition of grants, directs them to confirm those who hold by good grants
become such by ceremonies of which presumably a large part of the inhabitants never had or justa prescripcion. It is true that it
heard, and that it proposed to treat as public land what they, by native custom and by long
association -- one of the profoundest factors in human thought -- regarded as their own. Page 212 U. S. 461

It is true that, by 14, the government of the Philippines is empowered to enact rules and begins by the characteristic assertion of feudal overlordship and the origin of all titles in
prescribe terms for perfecting titles to public lands where some, but not all, Spanish the King or his predecessors. That was theory and discourse. The fact was that titles were
conditions had been fulfilled, and to issue patents to natives for not more than sixteen admitted to exist that owed nothing to the powers of Spain beyond this recognition in their
hectares of public lands actually occupied by the native or his ancestors before August 13, books.
1898. But this section perhaps might be satisfied if confined to cases where the occupation
was of land admitted to be public land, and had not continued for such a length of time and
Prescription is mentioned again in the royal cedula of October 15, 1754, cited in 3 Phil.
under such circumstances as to give rise to the understanding that the occupants were
546:
owners at that date. We hesitate to suppose that it was intended to declare every native
who had not a paper title a trespasser, and to set the claims of all the wilder tribes afloat. It
is true again that there is excepted from the provision that we have quoted as to the "Where such possessors shall not be able to produce title deeds, it shall be sufficient if they
administration of the property and rights acquired by the United States such land and shall show that ancient possession, as a valid title by prescription."
property as shall be designated by the President for military or other reservations,
It may be that this means possession from before 1700; but, at all events, the principle is
Page 212 U. S. 460 admitted. As prescription, even against Crown lands, was recognized by the laws of Spain,
we see no sufficient reason for hesitating to admit that it was recognized in the Philippines
in regard to lands over which Spain had only a paper sovereignty.
as this land since has been. But there still remains the question what property and rights
the United States asserted itself to have acquired.
The question comes, however, on the decree of June 25, 1880, for the adjustment of royal
lands wrongfully occupied by private individuals in the Philippine Islands. This begins
Whatever the law upon these points may be, and we mean to go no further than the
with the usual theoretic assertion that, for private ownership, there must have been a
necessities of decision demand, every presumption is and ought to be against the
grant by competent authority; but instantly descends to fact by providing that, for all legal
government in a case like the present. It might, perhaps, be proper and sufficient to say
effects, those who have been in possession for certain times shall be deemed owners. For
that when, as far back as testimony or memory goes, the land has been held by individuals
cultivated land, twenty years, uninterrupted, is enough. For uncultivated, thirty. Art. 5. So
under a claim of private ownership, it will be presumed to have been held in the same way
that, when this decree went into effect, the applicant's father was owner of the land by the
from before the Spanish conquest, and never to have been public land. Certainly, in a case
very terms of the decree. But, it is said, the object of this law was to require the adjustment
like this, if there is doubt or ambiguity in the Spanish law, we ought to give the applicant
or registration proceedings that it described, and in that way to require everyone to get a
the benefit of the doubt. Whether justice to the natives and the import of the organic act
document of title or lose his land. That purpose may have been entertained, but it does not
ought not to carry us beyond a subtle examination of ancient texts, or perhaps even
appear clearly to have been applicable to all. The regulations purport to have been made
beyond the attitude of Spanish law, humane though it was, it is unnecessary to decide. If, in
"for the adjustment of royal lands wrongfully occupied by private individuals." (We follow
a tacit way, it was assumed that the wild tribes of the Philippines were to be dealt with as
the translation in the government's brief.) It does not appear that this land ever was royal
the power and inclination of the conqueror might dictate, Congress has not yet sanctioned
land or wrongfully occupied. In Article 6, it is provided that
the same course as the proper one "for the benefit of the inhabitants thereof."

"interested parties not included within the two preceding


If the applicant's case is to be tried by the law of Spain, we do not discover such clear proof
that it was bad by that law as to satisfy us that he does not own the land. To begin with, the
older decrees and laws cited by the counsel for the plaintiff in error seem to indicate pretty Page 212 U. S. 462
clearly that the natives were recognized as owning some lands, irrespective of any royal
grant. In other words, Spain did not assume to convert all the native inhabitants of the articles [the articles recognizing prescription of twenty and thirty years] may legalize their
Philippines into trespassers, or even into tenants at will. For instance, Book 4, Title 12, Law possession, and thereby acquire the full ownership of the said lands, by means of
14 of the Recopilacion de Leyes de las Indias, cited for a contrary conclusion in Valenton v. adjustment proceedings, to be conducted in the following manner."
Murciano, 3 Phil. 537, while it commands viceroys and others, when it seems proper, to
This seems, by its very terms, not to apply to those declared already to be owners by lapse
of time. Article 8 provides for the case of parties not asking an adjustment of the lands of
which they are unlawfully enjoying the possession, within one year, and threatens that the
treasury "will reassert the ownership of the state over the lands," and will sell at auction
such part as it does not reserve. The applicant's possession was not unlawful, and no
attempt at any such proceedings against him or his father ever was made. Finally, it should
be noted that the natural construction of the decree is confirmed by the report of the
council of state. That report puts forward as a reason for the regulations that, in view of
the condition of almost all property in the Philippines, it is important to fix its status by
general rules on the principle that the lapse of a fixed period legalizes completely all
possession, recommends in two articles twenty and thirty years, as adopted in the decree,
and then suggests that interested parties not included in those articles may legalize their
possession and acquire ownership by adjustment at a certain price.

It is true that the language of Articles 4 and 5 attributes title to those "who may prove"
possession for the necessary time, and we do not overlook the argument that this means
may prove in registration proceedings. It may be that an English conveyancer would have
recommended an application under the foregoing decree, but certainly it was not
calculated to convey to the mind of an Igorot chief the notion that ancient family
possessions were in danger, if he had read every word of it. The words "may prove"
(acrediten), as well, or better, in view of the other provisions, might be taken to mean
when called upon to do so in any litigation. There are indications that registration was
expected from all, but none sufficient to show that, for want of it, ownership actually
gained would be lost.

Page 212 U. S. 463

The effect of the proof, wherever made, was not to confer title, but simply to establish it, as
already conferred by the decree, if not by earlier law. The royal decree of February 13,
1894, declaring forfeited titles that were capable of adjustment under the decree of 1880,
for which adjustment had not been sought, should not be construed as a confiscation, but
as the withdrawal of a privilege. As a matter of fact, the applicant never was disturbed.
This same decree is quoted by the Court of Land Registration for another recognition of
the common law prescription of thirty years as still running against alienable Crown land.

It will be perceived that the rights of the applicant under the Spanish law present a
problem not without difficulties for courts of a different legal tradition. We have deemed it
proper on that account to notice the possible effect of the change of sovereignty and the act
of Congress establishing the fundamental principles now to be observed. Upon a
consideration of the whole case, we are of opinion that law and justice require that the
applicant should be granted what he seeks, and should not be deprived of what, by the
practice and belief of those among whom he lived, was his property, through a refined
interpretation of an almost forgotten law of Spain.

Judgment reversed.
G.R. No. 2869 March 25, 1907 From the testimony given by Cario as well as from that of several of the witnesses for the
Government it is deduced, that in or about the year 1884 Cario erected and utilized as a
MATEO CARIO, petitioner-appellant, domicile a house on the property situated to the north of that property now in question,
vs. property which, according to the plan attached to expediente No. 561, appears to be
THE INSULAR GOVERNMENT, respondent-appellee. property belonging to Donaldson Sim; that during the year 1893 Cario sold said house to
one Cristobal Ramos, who in turn sold the same to Donaldson Sim, moving to and living on
the adjoining property, which appears on the plan aforesaid to be the property of H. Phelps
Coudert Brothers for appellant.
Whitmarsh, a place where the father and the grandfather of his wife, that is to say, Ortega
Office of the Solicitor-General Araneta for appellee.
and Minse, had lived . . ..

ARELLANO, C.J.:
In or about the years 1898 Cario abandoned the property of Whitmarsh and located on
the property described in the plan attached to expediente No. 561, having constructed a
Mateo Cario, the appellant herein, on the 23d of February, 1904, filed his petition in the house thereon in which he now lives, and which house is situated in the center of the
Court of Land Registration praying that there be granted to him title to a parcel of land property, as is indicated on the plan; and since which time he has undoubtedly occupied
consisting of 40 hectares, 1 are, and 13 centares, and situated in the town of Baguio, some portion of the property now claimed by him. (Bill of exceptions, pp. 11 and 12.)
Province of Benguet, together with a house erected thereon and constructed of wood and
roofed with rimo, and bounded as follows: On the north, in lines running 1,048 metes and
1. Therefore it is evident that this court can not decree the registration of all of the
20 decimeters with the lands of Sepa Cario, H. Phelps Whitmarsh, and Calsi; on the east,
superficial extension of the land described in the petition and as appears on the plan filed
in lines running 991 meters and 50 decimeters with the land of Kuidno, Esteban Gonzales,
herein, such extension containing 40 hectares, 1 are, and 13 centares, inasmuch as the
and of the Civil Government; on the south, in lines of 115 meters and 60 decimeters, with
documentary evidence accompanying the petition is conclusive proof against the
the lands of Talaca; and on the west, in lines running 982 meters and 20 decimeters, with
petitioners; this documentary proof consists of a possessory information under date of
the lands of Sisco Cario and Mayengmeng.
March 7, 1901, and registered on the 11th day of the same month and year; and, according
to such possessory information, the land therein described contains an extension of only
By order of the court the hearing of this petition, No. 561, and that of Antonio Rebollo and 28 hectares limited by "the country road to the barrio of Pias," a road appearing on the
Vicente Valpiedad filed under No. 834, were heard together for the reason that the latter plan now presented and cutting the land, as might be said, in half, or running through its
petition claimed a small portion of land included in the parcel set out in the former center from north to south, a considerable extension of land remaining on the other side of
petition. the said road, the west side, and which could not have been included in the possessory
information mentioned.
The Insular Government opposed the granting of these petitions, alleging that the whole
parcel of land is public property of the Government and that the same was never acquired 2. As has been shown during the trial of this case, this land, of which mention is made in
in any manner or through any title of egresionfrom the State. said possessory information, and upon which is situated the house now actually occupied
by the petitioner, all of which is set forth as argument as to the possession in the judgment,
After trial, and the hearing of documentary and oral proof, the court of Land Registration is "used for pasture and sowing," and belongs to the class called public lands.
rendered its judgment in these terms:
3. Under the express provisions of law, a parcel of land, being of common origin,
Therefore the court finds that Cario and his predecessors have not possessed exclusively presumptively belonged to the State during its sovereignty, and, in order to perfect the
and adversely any part of the said property prior to the date on which Cario constructed legitimate acquisition of such land by private persons, it was necessary that the possession
the house now there that is to say, for the years 1897 and 1898, and Cario held of the same pass from the State. And there is no evidence or proof of title of egresionof this
possession for some years afterwards of but a part of the property to which he claims title. land from the domain of the Spanish Government, nor is there any possessory information
Both petitions are dismissed and the property in question is adjudged to be public land. equivalent to title by composicion or under agreement. 4, The possessory information filed
(Bill of exceptions, p. 15.) herein is not the title to property authorized in substitution for that of adjustment by the
royal decree of February 13, 1894, this being the last law or legal disposition of the former
The conclusions arrived at the set forth in definite terms in the decision of the court below sovereignty applicable to the present subject-matter of common lands: First, for the reason
are the following: that the land referred to herein is not covered nor does it come within any one of the three
conditions required by article 19 of the said royal decree, to wit, that the land has been in
an uninterrupted state of cultivation during a period of six years last past; or that the same
has been possessed without interruption during a period of twelve years and has been in a execution thereof, one of which is Act No. 648,2herein mentioned by the petitioner, in
state of cultivation up to the date of the information and during the three years connection with Act No. 627,3 which appears to be the law upon which the petition herein
immediately preceding such information; or that such land had been possessed openly is founded.
without interruption during a period of thirty or more years, notwithstanding the land had
not been cultivated; nor is it necessary to refer to the testimony given by the two witnesses 8. Section 6 of Act No. 627 admits prescription, in accordance with the provisions
to the possessory information for the following reason: Second, because the possessory contained in Act No. 190, as a basis for obtaining the right of ownership. "The petitioners
information authorized by said royal decree or last legal disposition of the Spanish claims title under the period of prescription of ten years established by that act, as well as
Government, as title or for the purpose of acquiring actual proprietary right, equivalent to by reason of his occupancy and use thereof from time immemorial." (Allegation 1.) But
that of adjustment with the Spanish Government and required and necessary at all times said act admits such prescription for the purpose of obtaining title and ownership to lands
until the publication of said royal decree was limited in time to one year, in accordance "not exceeding more that sixteen hectares in extent." (Sec. 6 of said act.) The land claimed
with article 21, which is as follows: " A period of one year, not to be extended, is allowed to by Cario is 40 hectares in extent, if we take into consideration his petition, or an
verify the possessory informations which are referred to in articles 19 and 20. After the extension of 28 hectares, according to the possessory information, the only thing that can
expiration of this period of the right of the cultivators and persons in possession to obtain be considered. Therefore, it follows that the judgment denying the petition herein and now
gratuitous title thereto lapses and the land together with full possession reverts to the appealed from was strictly in accordance with the law invoked herein.
state, or, as the case may be, to the community, and the said possessors and cultivators or
their assigns would simply have rights under universal or general title of average in the
9. And of the 28 hectares of land as set out in the possessory information, one part of same,
event that the land is sold within a period of five years immediately following the
according to the testimony of Cario, belongs to Vicente Valpiedad, the extent of which is
cancellation. The possessors not included under this chapter can only acquire by time the
not determined. From all of which it follows that the precise extent has not been
ownership and title to unappropriated or royal lands in accordance with common law."
determined in the trial of this case on which judgment might be based in the event that the
judgment and title be declared in favor of the petitioner, Mateo Cario. And we should not
5. In accordance with the preceding provisions, the right that remained to Cario, if it be lose sight of the fact that, considering the intention of Congress in granting ownership and
certain that he was the true possessor of the land in question, was the right of average in title to 16 hectares, that Mateo Cario and his children have already exceeded such amount
case the Government or State could have sold the same within the period of five years in various acquirements of lands, all of which is shown in different cases decided by the
immediately following for example, if the denouncement of purchase had been carried out said Court of Land Registration, donations or gifts of land that could only have been made
by Felipe Zafra or any other person, as appears from the record of the trial of the case. efficacious as to the conveyance thereof with the assistance of these new laws.
Aside from this right, in such event, his possession as attested in the possessory
information herein could not, in accordance with common law, go to show any right of
By reason of the findings set forth it is clearly seen that the court below did not err:
ownership until after the expiration of twenty years from the expiration of twenty years
from the verification and registry of the same in conformity with the provisions of article
393 of the Mortgage Law and other conditions prescribe by this law. 1. In finding that Mateo Cario and those from whom he claims his right had not possessed
and claimed as owners the lands in question since time immemorial;
6. The right of possession in accordance with common law that is to say, civil law
remains at all times subordinate to the Spanish administrative law, inasmuch as it could 2. In finding that the land in question did not belong to the petitioner, but that, on the
only be of force when pertaining to royal transferable or alienable lands, which condition contrary, it was the property of the Government. (Allegation 21.)
and the determination thereof is reversed to the government, which classified and
designated the royal alienable lands for the purpose of distinguishing them from those Wherefore, the judgment appealed from is affirmed with the costs of this instance against
lands strictly public, and from forestry lands which could at no time pass to private the appellant. After the expiration of twenty days from the notification of this decision let
ownership nor be acquired through time even after the said royal decree of February 13, judgment be entered in accordance herewith, and ten days thereafter let the case be
1894. remanded to the court from whence it came for proper action. So ordered.

7. The advent of the new sovereignty necessarily brought a new method of dealing with Torres, Mapa, Willard, and Tracey, JJ., concur.
lands and particularly as to the classification and manner of transfer and acquisition of Johnson, J., reserves his vote.
royal or common lands then appropriated, which were thenceforth merely called public
lands, the alienation of which was reserved to the Government, in accordance with section
12 and 13 of the act of Congress of July 1, 1902,1 and in conformity with other laws
enacted under this act of Congress by the Philippine Commission prescribing rules for the
G.R. No. 135385 December 6, 2000 PER CURIAM:

ISAGANI CRUZ and CESAR EUROPA, petitioners, Petitioners Isagani Cruz and Cesar Europa brought this suit for prohibition and mandamus
vs. as citizens and taxpayers, assailing the constitutionality of certain provisions of Republic
SECRETARY OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES, SECRETARY OF BUDGET Act No. 8371 (R.A. 8371), otherwise known as the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997
AND MANAGEMENT and CHAIRMAN and COMMISSIONERS OF THE NATIONAL (IPRA), and its Implementing Rules and Regulations (Implementing Rules).
COMMISSION ON INDIGENOUS PEOPLES, respondents.
HON. JUAN M .FLAVIER, HON. PONCIANO BENNAGEN, BAYANI ASCARRAGA, EDTAMI In its resolution of September 29, 1998, the Court required respondents to comment.1 In
MANSAYANGAN, BASILIO WANDAG, EVELYN DUNUAN, YAOM TUGAS, ALFREMO compliance, respondents Chairperson and Commissioners of the National Commission on
CARPIANO, LIBERATO A. GABIN, MATERNIDAD M. COLAS, NARCISA M. DALUPINES, Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the government agency created under the IPRA to implement
BAI KIRAM-CONNIE SATURNO, BAE MLOMO-BEATRIZ T. ABASALA, DATU its provisions, filed on October 13, 1998 their Comment to the Petition, in which they
BALITUNGTUNG-ANTONIO D. LUMANDONG, DATU MANTUMUKAW TEOFISTO defend the constitutionality of the IPRA and pray that the petition be dismissed for lack of
SABASALES, DATU EDUAARDO BANDA, DATU JOEL UNAD, DATU RAMON BAYAAN, merit.
TIMUAY JOSE ANOY, TIMUAY MACARIO D. SALACAO, TIMUAY EDWIN B. ENDING,
DATU SAHAMPONG MALANAW VI, DATU BEN PENDAO CABIGON, BAI
On October 19, 1998, respondents Secretary of the Department of Environment and
NANAPNAY-LIZA SAWAY, BAY INAY DAYA-MELINDA S. REYMUNDO, BAI
Natural Resources (DENR) and Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management
TINANGHAGA HELINITA T. PANGAN, DATU MAKAPUKAW ADOLINO L. SAWAY, DATU
(DBM) filed through the Solicitor General a consolidated Comment. The Solicitor General is
MAUDAYAW-CRISPEN SAWAY, VICKY MAKAY, LOURDES D. AMOS, GILBERT P.
of the view that the IPRA is partly unconstitutional on the ground that it grants ownership
HOGGANG, TERESA GASPAR, MANUEL S. ONALAN, MIA GRACE L. GIRON, ROSEMARIE
over natural resources to indigenous peoples and prays that the petition be granted in
G. PE, BENITO CARINO, JOSEPH JUDE CARANTES, LYNETTE CARANTES-VIVAL,
part.
LANGLEY SEGUNDO, SATUR S. BUGNAY, CARLING DOMULOT, ANDRES MENDIOGRIN,
LEOPOLDO ABUGAN, VIRGILIO CAYETANO, CONCHITA G. DESCAGA, LEVY ESTEVES,
ODETTE G. ESTEVEZ, RODOLFO C. AGUILAR, MAURO VALONES, PEPE H. ATONG, On November 10, 1998, a group of intervenors, composed of Sen. Juan Flavier, one of the
OFELIA T. DAVI, PERFECTO B. GUINOSAO, WALTER N. TIMOL, MANUEL T. SELEN, authors of the IPRA, Mr. Ponciano Bennagen, a member of the 1986 Constitutional
OSCAR DALUNHAY, RICO O. SULATAN, RAFFY MALINDA, ALFREDO ABILLANOS, Commission, and the leaders and members of 112 groups of indigenous peoples (Flavier,
JESSIE ANDILAB, MIRLANDO H. MANGKULINTAS, SAMIE SATURNO, ROMEO A. et. al), filed their Motion for Leave to Intervene. They join the NCIP in defending the
LINDAHAY, ROEL S. MANSANG-CAGAN, PAQUITO S. LIESES, FILIPE G. SAWAY, constitutionality of IPRA and praying for the dismissal of the petition.
HERMINIA S. SAWAY, JULIUS S. SAWAY, LEONARDA SAWAY, JIMMY UGYUB,
SALVADOR TIONGSON, VENANCIO APANG, MADION MALID, SUKIM MALID, NENENG On March 22, 1999, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) likewise filed a Motion to
MALID, MANGKATADONG AUGUSTO DIANO, JOSEPHINE M. ALBESO, MORENO MALID, Intervene and/or to Appear as Amicus Curiae. The CHR asserts that IPRA is an expression
MARIO MANGCAL, FELAY DIAMILING, SALOME P. SARZA, FELIPE P. BAGON, SAMMY of the principle of parens patriae and that the State has the responsibility to protect and
SALNUNGAN, ANTONIO D. EMBA, NORMA MAPANSAGONOS, ROMEO SALIGA, SR., guarantee the rights of those who are at a serious disadvantage like indigenous peoples.
JERSON P. GERADA, RENATO T. BAGON, JR., SARING MASALONG, SOLEDAD M. For this reason it prays that the petition be dismissed.
GERARDA, ELIZABETH L. MENDI, MORANTE S. TIWAN, DANILO M. MALUDAO,
MINORS MARICEL MALID, represented by her father CORNELIO MALID, MARCELINO On March 23, 1999, another group, composed of the Ikalahan Indigenous People and the
M. LADRA, represented by her father MONICO D. LADRA, JENNYLYN MALID, Haribon Foundation for the Conservation of Natural Resources, Inc. (Haribon, et al.), filed a
represented by her father TONY MALID, ARIEL M. EVANGELISTA, represented by her motion to Intervene with attached Comment-in-Intervention. They agree with the NCIP
mother LINAY BALBUENA, EDWARD M. EMUY, SR., SUSAN BOLANIO, OND, PULA and Flavier, et al. that IPRA is consistent with the Constitution and pray that the petition
BATO B'LAAN TRIBAL FARMER'S ASSOCIATION, INTER-PEOPLE'S EXCHANGE, INC. for prohibition and mandamus be dismissed.
and GREEN FORUM-WESTERN VISAYAS, intervenors.
COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS, intervenor. The motions for intervention of the aforesaid groups and organizations were granted.
IKALAHAN INDIGENOUS PEOPLE and HARIBON FOUNDATION FOR THE
CONSERVATION OF NATURAL RESOURCES, INC., intervenor.
Oral arguments were heard on April 13, 1999. Thereafter, the parties and intervenors filed
their respective memoranda in which they reiterate the arguments adduced in their earlier
RESOLUTION pleadings and during the hearing.
Petitioners assail the constitutionality of the following provisions of the IPRA and its "(1) sections 51 to 53 and 59 which detail the process of delineation and recognition of
Implementing Rules on the ground that they amount to an unlawful deprivation of the ancestral domains and which vest on the NCIP the sole authority to delineate ancestral
States ownership over lands of the public domain as well as minerals and other natural domains and ancestral lands;
resources therein, in violation of the regalian doctrine embodied in Section 2, Article XII of
the Constitution: "(2) Section 52[i] which provides that upon certification by the NCIP that a particular area
is an ancestral domain and upon notification to the following officials, namely, the
"(1) Section 3(a) which defines the extent and coverage of ancestral domains, and Section Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, Secretary of Interior and Local
3(b) which, in turn, defines ancestral lands; Governments, Secretary of Justice and Commissioner of the National Development
Corporation, the jurisdiction of said officials over said area terminates;
"(2) Section 5, in relation to section 3(a), which provides that ancestral domains including
inalienable public lands, bodies of water, mineral and other resources found within "(3) Section 63 which provides the customary law, traditions and practices of indigenous
ancestral domains are private but community property of the indigenous peoples; peoples shall be applied first with respect to property rights, claims of ownership,
hereditary succession and settlement of land disputes, and that any doubt or ambiguity in
"(3) Section 6 in relation to section 3(a) and 3(b) which defines the composition of the interpretation thereof shall be resolved in favor of the indigenous peoples;
ancestral domains and ancestral lands;
"(4) Section 65 which states that customary laws and practices shall be used to resolve
"(4) Section 7 which recognizes and enumerates the rights of the indigenous peoples over disputes involving indigenous peoples; and
the ancestral domains;
"(5) Section 66 which vests on the NCIP the jurisdiction over all claims and disputes
(5) Section 8 which recognizes and enumerates the rights of the indigenous peoples over involving rights of the indigenous peoples."5
the ancestral lands;
Finally, petitioners assail the validity of Rule VII, Part II, Section 1 of the NCIP
"(6) Section 57 which provides for priority rights of the indigenous peoples in the Administrative Order No. 1, series of 1998, which provides that "the administrative
harvesting, extraction, development or exploration of minerals and other natural relationship of the NCIP to the Office of the President is characterized as a lateral but
resources within the areas claimed to be their ancestral domains, and the right to enter autonomous relationship for purposes of policy and program coordination." They contend
into agreements with nonindigenous peoples for the development and utilization of that said Rule infringes upon the Presidents power of control over executive departments
natural resources therein for a period not exceeding 25 years, renewable for not more under Section 17, Article VII of the Constitution.6
than 25 years; and
Petitioners pray for the following:
"(7) Section 58 which gives the indigenous peoples the responsibility to maintain, develop,
protect and conserve the ancestral domains and portions thereof which are found to be "(1) A declaration that Sections 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 52[I], 57, 58, 59, 63, 65 and 66 and other
necessary for critical watersheds, mangroves, wildlife sanctuaries, wilderness, protected related provisions of R.A. 8371 are unconstitutional and invalid;
areas, forest cover or reforestation."2
"(2) The issuance of a writ of prohibition directing the Chairperson and Commissioners of
Petitioners also content that, by providing for an all-encompassing definition of "ancestral the NCIP to cease and desist from implementing the assailed provisions of R.A. 8371 and
domains" and "ancestral lands" which might even include private lands found within said its Implementing Rules;
areas, Sections 3(a) and 3(b) violate the rights of private landowners.3
"(3) The issuance of a writ of prohibition directing the Secretary of the Department of
In addition, petitioners question the provisions of the IPRA defining the powers and Environment and Natural Resources to cease and desist from implementing Department of
jurisdiction of the NCIP and making customary law applicable to the settlement of disputes Environment and Natural Resources Circular No. 2, series of 1998;
involving ancestral domains and ancestral lands on the ground that these provisions
violate the due process clause of the Constitution.4 "(4) The issuance of a writ of prohibition directing the Secretary of Budget and
Management to cease and desist from disbursing public funds for the implementation of
These provisions are: the assailed provisions of R.A. 8371; and
"(5) The issuance of a writ of mandamus commanding the Secretary of Environment and 1 Rollo, p. 114.
Natural Resources to comply with his duty of carrying out the States constitutional
mandate to control and supervise the exploration, development, utilization and 2 Petition, Rollo, pp. 16-23.
conservation of Philippine natural resources."7
3 Id. at 23-25.
After due deliberation on the petition, the members of the Court voted as follows:
4Section 1, Article III of the Constitution states: "No person shall be deprived of life, liberty
Seven (7) voted to dismiss the petition. Justice Kapunan filed an opinion, which the Chief or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal
Justice and Justices Bellosillo, Quisumbing, and Santiago join, sustaining the validity of the protection of the laws."
challenged provisions of R.A. 8371. Justice Puno also filed a separate opinion sustaining all
challenged provisions of the law with the exception of Section 1, Part II, Rule III of NCIP 5 Rollo, pp. 25-27.
Administrative Order No. 1, series of 1998, the Rules and Regulations Implementing the
IPRA, and Section 57 of the IPRA which he contends should be interpreted as dealing with
the large-scale exploitation of natural resources and should be read in conjunction with
6 Id. at 27-28.
Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution. On the other hand, Justice Mendoza voted to
dismiss the petition solely on the ground that it does not raise a justiciable controversy 7 Transcript of Stenographic Notes of the hearing held on April 13, 1999, pp. 5-6.
and petitioners do not have standing to question the constitutionality of R.A. 8371.

Seven (7) other members of the Court voted to grant the petition. Justice Panganiban filed The Lawphil Project - Arellano Law Foundation
a separate opinion expressing the view that Sections 3 (a)(b), 5, 6, 7 (a)(b), 8, and related
provisions of R.A. 8371 are unconstitutional. He reserves judgment on the constitutionality
of Sections 58, 59, 65, and 66 of the law, which he believes must await the filing of specific
cases by those whose rights may have been violated by the IPRA. Justice Vitug also filed a
separate opinion expressing the view that Sections 3(a), 7, and 57 of R.A. 8371 are
unconstitutional. Justices Melo, Pardo, Buena, Gonzaga-Reyes, and De Leon join in the
separate opinions of Justices Panganiban and Vitug.

As the votes were equally divided (7 to 7) and the necessary majority was not obtained, SEPARATE OPINION
the case was redeliberated upon. However, after redeliberation, the voting remained the
same. Accordingly, pursuant to Rule 56, Section 7 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, the
PUNO, J.:
petition is DISMISSED.

PRECIS
Attached hereto and made integral parts thereof are the separate opinions of Justices Puno,
Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, and Panganiban.
A classic essay on the utility of history was written in 1874 by Friedrich Nietzsche
entitled "On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life." Expounding on Nietzsche's
SO ORDERED.
essay, Judge Richard Posner1 wrote:2

Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Melo, Quisumbing, Pardo, Buena, Gonzaga-Reyes,


"Law is the most historically oriented, or if you like the most backward-looking, the most
Ynares-Santiago, and De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur.
'past-dependent,' of the professions. It venerates tradition, precedent, pedigree, ritual,
Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza and Panganiban JJ., see separate opinion
custom, ancient practices, ancient texts, archaic terminology, maturity, wisdom, seniority,
gerontocracy, and interpretation conceived of as a method of recovering history. It is
suspicious of innovation, discontinuities, 'paradigm shifts,' and the energy and brashness
of youth. These ingrained attitudes are obstacles to anyone who wants to re-orient law in a
Footnotes more pragmatic direction. But, by the same token, pragmatic jurisprudence must come
to terms with history."
When Congress enacted the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), it (a) Cario v. Insular Government
introduced radical concepts into the Philippine legal system which appear to collide with
settled constitutional and jural precepts on state ownership of land and other natural (b) Indian Title to land
resources. The sense and subtleties of this law cannot be appreciated without considering
its distinct sociology and the labyrinths of its history. This Opinion attempts to interpret
(c) Why the Cario doctrine is unique
IPRA by discovering its soul shrouded by the mist of our history. After all, the IPRA was
enacted by Congress not only to fulfill the constitutional mandate of protecting the
indigenous cultural communities' right to their ancestral land but more importantly, to 3. The option of securing a torrens title to the ancestral land
correct a grave historical injustice to our indigenous people.
B. The right of ownership and possession by the ICCs/IPs to their ancestral domains is a
This Opinion discusses the following: limited form of ownership and does not include the right to alienate the same.

I. The Development of the Regalian Doctrine in the Philippine Legal System. 1. The indigenous concept of ownership and customary law

A. The Laws of the Indies C. Sections 7 (a), 7 (b) and 57 of the IPRA do not violate the Regalian Doctrine enshrined in
Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution.
B. Valenton v. Murciano
1. The rights of ICCs/IPs over their ancestral domains and lands
C. The Public Land Acts and the Torrens System
2. The right of ICCs/IPs to develop lands and natural resources within the ancestral
domains does not deprive the State of ownership over the natural resources, control and
D. The Philippine Constitutions
supervision in their development and exploitation.

II. The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA).


(a) Section 1, Part II, Rule III of the Implementing Rules goes beyond the parameters of
Section 7(a) of the law on ownership of ancestral domains and is ultra vires.
A. Indigenous Peoples
(b) The small-scale utilization of natural resources in Section 7 (b) of the IPRA is allowed
1. Indigenous Peoples: Their History under Paragraph 3, Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Consitution.

2. Their Concept of Land (c) The large-scale utilization of natural resources in Section 57 of the IPRA may be
harmonized with Paragraphs 1 and 4, Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution.
III. The IPRA is a Novel Piece of Legislation.
V. The IPRA is a Recognition of Our Active Participation in the International Indigenous
A. Legislative History Movement.

IV. The Provisions of the IPRA Do Not Contravene the Constitution. DISCUSSION

A. Ancestral domains and ancestral lands are the private property of indigenous peoples I. THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE REGALIAN DOCTRINE IN THE PHILIPPINE LEGAL SYSTEM.
and do not constitute part of the land of the public domain.
A. The Laws of the Indies
1. The right to ancestral domains and ancestral lands: how acquired
The capacity of the State to own or acquire property is the state's power
2. The concept of native title of dominium.3 This was the foundation for the early Spanish decrees embracing the feudal
theory of jura regalia. The "Regalian Doctrine" or jura regalia is a Western legal concept
that was first introduced by the Spaniards into the country through the Laws of the B. Valenton v. Murciano
Indies and the Royal Cedulas. The Laws of the Indies, i.e., more specifically, Law 14, Title
12, Book 4 of the Novisima Recopilacion de Leyes de las Indias, set the policy of the Spanish In 1904, under the American regime, this Court decided the case of Valenton v. Murciano.9
Crown with respect to the Philippine Islands in the following manner:
Valenton resolved the question of which is the better basis for ownership of land:
"We, having acquired full sovereignty over the Indies, and all lands, territories, and long-time occupation or paper title. Plaintiffs had entered into peaceful occupation of the
possessions not heretofore ceded away by our royal predecessors, or by us, or in our name, subject land in 1860. Defendant's predecessor-in-interest, on the other hand, purchased
still pertaining to the royal crown and patrimony, it is our will that all lands which are held the land from the provincial treasurer of Tarlac in 1892. The lower court ruled against the
without proper and true deeds of grant be restored to us as they belong to us, in order that plaintiffs on the ground that they had lost all rights to the land by not objecting to the
after reserving before all what to us or to our viceroys, audiencias, and governors may administrative sale. Plaintiffs appealed the judgment, asserting that their 30-year adverse
seem necessary for public squares, ways, pastures, and commons in those places which are possession, as an extraordinary period of prescription in the Partidas and the Civil Code,
peopled, taking into consideration not only their present condition, but also their future had given them title to the land as against everyone, including the State; and that the State,
and their probable increase, and after distributing to the natives what may be necessary not owning the land, could not validly transmit it.
for tillage and pasturage, confirming them in what they now have and giving them more if
necessary, all the rest of said lands may remain free and unencumbered for us to dispose
The Court, speaking through Justice Willard, decided the case on the basis of "those special
of as we may wish.
laws which from earliest time have regulated the disposition of the public lands in the
colonies."10 The question posed by the Court was: "Did these special laws recognize any
We therefore order and command that all viceroys and presidents of pretorial courts right of prescription as against the State as to these lands; and if so, to what extent was it
designate at such time as shall to them seem most expedient, a suitable period within recognized?"
which all possessors of tracts, farms, plantations, and estates shall exhibit to them and to
the court officers appointed by them for this purpose, their title deeds thereto. And those
Prior to 1880, the Court said, there were no laws specifically providing for the disposition
who are in possession by virtue of proper deeds and receipts, or by virtue of just
of land in the Philippines. However, it was understood that in the absence of any special
prescriptive right shall be protected, and all the rest shall be restored to us to be disposed
law to govern a specific colony, the Laws of the Indies would be followed. Indeed, in the
of at our will."4
Royal Order of July 5, 1862, it was decreed that until regulations on the subject could be
prepared, the authorities of the Philippine Islands should follow strictly the Laws of the
The Philippines passed to Spain by virtue of "discovery" and conquest. Consequently, all Indies, the Ordenanza of the Intendentes of 1786, and the Royal Cedula of 1754.11
lands became the exclusive patrimony and dominion of the Spanish Crown. The Spanish
Government took charge of distributing the lands by issuing royal grants and concessions
Quoting the preamble of Law 14, Title 12, Book 4 of the Recopilacion de Leyes de las
to Spaniards, both military and civilian.5 Private land titles could only be acquired from the
Indias, the court interpreted it as follows:
government either by purchase or by the various modes of land grant from the Crown.6

"In the preamble of this law there is, as is seen, a distinct statement that all those lands
The Laws of the Indies were followed by the Ley Hipotecaria, or the Mortgage Law of
belong to the Crown which have not been granted by Philip, or in his name, or by the kings
1893.7 The Spanish Mortgage Law provided for the systematic registration of titles and
who preceded him. This statement excludes the idea that there might be lands not so
deeds as well as possessory claims. The law sought to register and tax lands pursuant to
granted, that did not belong to the king. It excludes the idea that the king was not
the Royal Decree of 1880. The Royal Decree of 1894, or the "Maura Law," was partly an
still the owner of all ungranted lands, because some private person had been in the
amendment of the Mortgage Law as well as the Laws of the Indies, as already amended by
adverse occupation of them. By the mandatory part of the law all the occupants of the
previous orders and decrees.8 This was the last Spanish land law promulgated in the
public lands are required to produce before the authorities named, and within a time to be
Philippines. It required the "adjustment" or registration of all agricultural lands, otherwise
fixed by them, their title papers. And those who had good title or showed prescription
the lands shall revert to the state.
were to be protected in their holdings. It is apparent that it was not the intention of the law
that mere possession for a length of time should make the possessors the owners of the
Four years later, by the Treaty of Paris of December 10, 1898, Spain ceded to the land possessed by them without any action on the part of the authorities."12
government of the United States all rights, interests and claims over the national territory
of the Philippine Islands. In 1903, the United States colonial government, through the
The preamble stated that all those lands which had not been granted by Philip, or in his
Philippine Commission, passed Act No. 926, the first Public Land Act.
name, or by the kings who preceded him, belonged to the Crown.13 For those lands granted
by the king, the decree provided for a system of assignment of such lands. It also ordered
that all possessors of agricultural land should exhibit their title deed, otherwise, the land enable persons to perfect their titles to public lands in the Islands. It also provided for the
would be restored to the Crown.14 "issuance of patents to certain native settlers upon public lands," for the establishment of
town sites and sale of lots therein, for the completion of imperfect titles, and for the
The Royal Cedula of October 15, 1754 reinforced the Recopilacion when it ordered the cancellation or confirmation of Spanish concessions and grants in the Islands." In short, the
Crown's principal subdelegate to issue a general order directing the publication of the Public Land Act operated on the assumption that title to public lands in the Philippine
Crown's instructions: Islands remained in the government;19 and that the government's title to public land
sprung from the Treaty of Paris and other subsequent treaties between Spain and the
United States.20 The term "public land" referred to all lands of the public domain whose
"x x x to the end that any and all persons who, since the year 1700, and up to the date of
title still remained in the government and are thrown open to private appropriation and
the promulgation and publication of said order, shall have occupied royal lands, whether
settlement,21 and excluded the patrimonial property of the government and the friar
or not x x x cultivated or tenanted, may x x x appear and exhibit to said subdelegates the
lands.22
titles and patents by virtue of which said lands are occupied. x x x. Said subdelegates will at
the same time warn the parties interested that in case of their failure to present their title
deeds within the term designated, without a just and valid reason therefor, they will be Act No. 926 was superseded in 1919 by Act 2874, the second Public Land Act. This
deprived of and evicted from their lands, and they will be granted to others."15 new law was passed under the Jones Law. It was more comprehensive in scope but limited
the exploitation of agricultural lands to Filipinos and Americans and citizens of other
countries which gave Filipinos the same privileges.23 After the passage of the 1935
On June 25, 1880, the Crown adopted regulations for the adjustment of lands "wrongfully
Constitution, Act 2874 was amended in 1936 by Commonwealth Act No. 141.
occupied" by private individuals in the Philippine Islands. Valenton construed these
Commonwealth Act No. 141 remains the present Public Land Law and it is essentially the
regulations together with contemporaneous legislative and executive interpretations of
same as Act 2874. The main difference between the two relates to the transitory
the law, and concluded that plaintiffs' case fared no better under the 1880 decree and
provisions on the rights of American citizens and corporations during the Commonwealth
other laws which followed it, than it did under the earlier ones. Thus as a general doctrine,
period at par with Filipino citizens and corporations.24
the Court stated:

Grants of public land were brought under the operation of the Torrens system under
"While the State has always recognized the right of the occupant to a deed if he proves a
Act 496, or the Land Registration Law of 1903. Enacted by the Philippine Commission,
possession for a sufficient length of time, yet it has always insisted that he must make
Act 496 placed all public and private lands in the Philippines under the Torrens system.
that proof before the proper administrative officers, and obtain from them his deed,
The law is said to be almost a verbatim copy of the Massachussetts Land Registration Act
and until he did that the State remained the absolute owner."16
of 1898,25 which, in turn, followed the principles and procedure of the Torrens system of
registration formulated by Sir Robert Torrens who patterned it after the Merchant
In conclusion, the Court ruled: "We hold that from 1860 to 1892 there was no law in force Shipping Acts in South Australia. The Torrens system requires that the government issue
in these Islands by which the plaintiffs could obtain the ownership of these lands by an official certificate of title attesting to the fact that the person named is the owner of the
prescription, without any action by the State."17 Valenton had no rights other than those property described therein, subject to such liens and encumbrances as thereon noted or
which accrued to mere possession. Murciano, on the other hand, was deemed to be the the law warrants or reserves.26 The certificate of title is indefeasible and imprescriptible
owner of the land by virtue of the grant by the provincial secretary. In effect, Valenton and all claims to the parcel of land are quieted upon issuance of said certificate. This
upheld the Spanish concept of state ownership of public land. system highly facilitates land conveyance and negotiation.27

As a fitting observation, the Court added that "[t]he policy pursued by the Spanish D. The Philippine Constitutions
Government from earliest times, requiring settlers on the public lands to obtain title
deeds therefor from the State, has been continued by the American Government in
The Regalian doctrine was enshrined in the 1935 Constitution. One of the fixed and
Act No. 926."18
dominating objectives of the 1935 Constitutional Convention was the nationalization and
conservation of the natural resources of the country.28There was an overwhelming
C. The Public Land Acts and the Torrens System sentiment in the Convention in favor of the principle of state ownership of natural
resources and the adoption of the Regalian doctrine.29 State ownership of natural
Act No. 926, the first Public Land Act, was passed in pursuance of the provisions of the the resources was seen as a necessary starting point to secure recognition of the state's power
Philippine Bill of 1902. The law governed the disposition of lands of the public domain. It to control their disposition, exploitation, development, or utilization.30 The delegates to the
prescribed rules and regulations for the homesteading, selling, and leasing of portions of Constitutional Convention very well knew that the concept of State ownership of land and
the public domain of the Philippine Islands, and prescribed the terms and conditions to natural resources was introduced by the Spaniards, however, they were not certain
whether it was continued and applied by the Americans. To remove all doubts, the centum of whose capital is owned by such citizens. Such agreements may be for a
Convention approved the provision in the Constitution affirming the Regalian doctrine. 31 period not exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for not more than twenty-five years,
and under such terms and conditions as may be provided by law. In cases of water rights
Thus, the 1935 Constitution, in Section 1 of Article XIII on "Conservation and Utilization for irrigation, water supply, fisheries, or industrial uses other than the development of
of Natural Resources," reads as follows: water power, beneficial use may be the measure and limit of the grant.

"Sec. 1. All agricultural, timber, and mineral lands of the public domain, waters, x x x."
minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, and
other natural resources of the Philippines belong to the State, and their disposition, Simply stated, all lands of the public domain as well as all natural
exploitation, development, or utilization shall be limited to citizens of the resources enumerated therein, whether on public or private land, belong to the State. It is
Philippines, or to corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of the this concept of State ownership that petitioners claim is being violated by the IPRA.
capital of which is owned by such citizens, subject to any existing right, grant, lease,
or concession at the time of the inauguration of the Government established under II. THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES RIGHTS ACT.
this Constitution. Natural resources, with the exception of public agricultural land,
shall not be alienated, and no license, concession, or lease for the exploitation,
Republic Act No. 8371 is entitled "An Act to Recognize, Protect and Promote the Rights of
development, or utilization of any of the natural resources shall be granted for a period
Indigenous Cultural Communities/ Indigenous Peoples, Creating a National Commission
exceeding twenty-five years, except as to water rights for irrigation, water supply, fisheries,
on Indigenous Peoples, Establishing Implementing Mechanisms, Appropriating Funds
or industrial uses other than the development of water power, in which cases beneficial
Therefor, and for Other Purposes." It is simply known as "The Indigenous Peoples
use may be the measure and the limit of the grant."
Rights Act of 1997" or the IPRA.

The 1973 Constitution reiterated the Regalian doctrine in Section 8, Article XIV on the
The IPRA recognizes the existence of the indigenous cultural communities or indigenous
"National Economy and the Patrimony of the Nation," to wit:
peoples (ICCs/IPs) as a distinct sector in Philippine society. It grants these people the
ownership and possession of their ancestral domains and ancestral lands, and
"Sec. 8. All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum and other defines the extent of these lands and domains. The ownership given is the
mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, wildlife, and other natural indigenous concept of ownership under customary law which traces its origin to
resources of the Philippines belong to the State. With the exception of agricultural, native title.
industrial or commercial, residential, and resettlement lands of the public domain,
natural resources shall not be alienated, and no license, concession, or lease for the
Other rights are also granted the ICCs/IPs, and these are:
exploration, development, exploitation, or utilization of any of the natural resources
shall be granted for a period exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for not more
than twenty-five years, except as to water rights for irrigation, water supply, fisheries, or - the right to develop lands and natural resources;
industrial uses other than the development of water power, in which cases beneficial use
may be the measure and the limit of the grant." - the right to stay in the territories;

The 1987 Constitution reaffirmed the Regalian doctrine in Section 2 of Article XII on - the right in case of displacement;
"National Economy and Patrimony," to wit:
- the right to safe and clean air and water;
"Sec. 2. All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other
mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora - the right to claim parts of reservations;
and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State. With the exception
of agricultural lands, all other natural resources shall not be alienated. The - the right to resolve conflict;32
exploration, development and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full
control and supervision of the State. The State may directly undertake such
activities or it may enter into co-production, joint venture, or production-sharing - the right to ancestral lands which include
agreements with Filipino citizens, or corporations or associations at least sixty per
a. the right to transfer land/property to/among members of the same ICCs/IPs, subject to and who have, under claims of ownership since time immemorial, occupied, possessed and
customary laws and traditions of the community concerned; utilized such territories, sharing common bonds of language, customs, traditions and other
distinctive cultural traits, or who have, through resistance to political, social and cultural
b. the right to redemption for a period not exceeding 15 years from date of transfer, if the inroads of colonization, non-indigenous religions and cultures, became historically
transfer is to a non-member of the ICC/IP and is tainted by vitiated consent of the ICC/IP, differentiated from the majority of Filipinos. ICCs/IPs shall likewise include peoples who
or if the transfer is for an unconscionable consideration.33 are regarded as indigenous on account of their descent from the populations which
inhabited the country, at the time of conquest or colonization, or at the time of inroads of
non-indigenous religions and cultures, or the establishment of present state boundaries,
Within their ancestral domains and ancestral lands, the ICCs/IPs are given the right to
who retain some or all of their own social, economic, cultural and political institutions, but
self-governance and empowerment,34 social justice and human rights,35 the right to
who may have been displaced from their traditional domains or who may have resettled
preserve and protect their culture, traditions, institutions and community intellectual
outside their ancestral domains."
rights, and the right to develop their own sciences and technologies.36

Indigenous Cultural Communities or Indigenous Peoples refer to a group of people


To carry out the policies of the Act, the law created the National Commission on
or homogeneous societies who have continuously lived as an organized community
Indigenous Peoples (NCIP). The NCIP is an independent agency under the Office of the
on communally bounded and defined territory. These groups of people have actually
President and is composed of seven (7) Commissioners belonging to ICCs/IPs from each of
occupied, possessed and utilized their territories under claim of ownership since time
the ethnographic areas- Region I and the Cordilleras; Region II; the rest of Luzon; Island
immemorial. They share common bonds of language, customs, traditions and other
groups including Mindoro, Palawan, Romblon, Panay and the rest of the Visayas; Northern
distinctive cultural traits, or, they, by their resistance to political, social and cultural
and Western Mindanao; Southern and Eastern Mindanao; and Central Mindanao. 37 The
inroads of colonization, non-indigenous religions and cultures, became historically
NCIP took over the functions of the Office for Northern Cultural Communities and the
differentiated from the Filipino majority. ICCs/IPs also include descendants of ICCs/IPs
Office for Southern Cultural Communities created by former President Corazon Aquino
who inhabited the country at the time of conquest or colonization, who retain some or all
which were merged under a revitalized structure.38
of their own social, economic, cultural and political institutions but who may have been
displaced from their traditional territories or who may have resettled outside their
Disputes involving ICCs/IPs are to be resolved under customary laws and ancestral domains.
practices. When still unresolved, the matter may be brought to the NCIP, which is granted
quasi-judicial powers.39 The NCIP's decisions may be appealed to the Court of Appeals by a
1. Indigenous Peoples: Their History
petition for review.

Presently, Philippine indigenous peoples inhabit the interiors and mountains of Luzon,
Any person who violates any of the provisions of the Act such as, but not limited to,
Mindanao, Mindoro, Negros, Samar, Leyte, and the Palawan and Sulu group of islands.
unauthorized and/or unlawful intrusion upon ancestral lands and domains shall be
They are composed of 110 tribes and are as follows:
punished in accordance with customary laws or imprisoned from 9 months to 12 years
and/or fined from 100,000.00 to 500,000.00 and obliged to pay damages.40
1. In the Cordillera Autonomous Region- Kankaney, Ibaloi, Bontoc, Tinggian or Itneg,
Ifugao, Kalinga, Yapayao, Aeta or Agta or Pugot, and Bago of Ilocos Norte and Pangasinan;
A. Indigenous Peoples
Ibanag of Isabela, Cagayan; Ilongot of Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya; Gaddang of Quirino,
Nueva Vizcaya, Itawis of Cagayan; Ivatan of Batanes, Aeta of Cagayan, Quirino and Isabela.
The IPRA is a law dealing with a specific group of people, i.e., the Indigenous Cultural
Communities (ICCs) or the Indigenous Peoples (IPs). The term "ICCs" is used in the 1987
2. In Region III- Aetas.
Constitution while that of "IPs" is the contemporary international language in the
International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 169 41 and the United Nations (UN)
Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.42 3. In Region IV- Dumagats of Aurora, Rizal; Remontado of Aurora, Rizal, Quezon; Alangan
or Mangyan, Batangan, Buid or Buhid, Hanunuo and Iraya of Oriental and Occidental
Mindoro; Tadyawan of Occidental Mindoro; Cuyonon, Palawanon, Tagbanua and Tao't bato
ICCs/IPs are defined by the IPRA as:
of Palawan.

"Sec. 3 [h]. Indigenous Cultural Communities/ Indigenous Peoples- refer to a group of people
or homogeneous societies identified by self-ascription and ascription by others, who have
continuously lived as organized community on communally bounded and defined territory,
4. In Region V- Aeta of Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur; Aeta-Abiyan, Isarog, and uniform flora and fauna favored similarities, not differences.47 Life was essentially
Kabihug of Camarines Norte; Agta, and Mayon of Camarines Sur; Itom of Albay, Cimaron of subsistence but not harsh.48
Sorsogon; and the Pullon of Masbate and Camarines Sur.
The early Filipinos had a culture that was basically Malayan in structure and form. They
5. In Region VI- Ati of Negros Occidental, Iloilo and Antique, Capiz; the Magahat of Negros had languages that traced their origin to the Austronesian parent-stock and used them not
Occidental; the Corolano and Sulod. only as media of daily communication but also as vehicles for the expression of their
literary moods.49 They fashioned concepts and beliefs about the world that they could not
6. In Region VII- Magahat of Negros Oriental and Eskaya of Bohol. see, but which they sensed to be part of their lives.50 They had their own religion and
religious beliefs. They believed in the immortality of the soul and life after death. Their
rituals were based on beliefs in a ranking deity whom they called Bathalang Maykapal, and
7. In Region IX- the Badjao numbering about 192,000 in Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga del Sur;
a host of other deities, in the environmental spirits and in soul spirits. The early Filipinos
the Kalibugan of Basilan, the Samal, Subanon and Yakat.
adored the sun, the moon, the animals and birds, for they seemed to consider the objects of
Nature as something to be respected. They venerated almost any object that was close to
8. Region X- Numbering 1.6 million in Region X alone, the IPs are: the Banwaon, Bukidnon, their daily life, indicating the importance of the relationship between man and the object of
Matigsalog, Talaanding of Bukidnon; the Camiguin of Camiguin Island; the Higa-unon of nature.51
Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Bukidnon and Misamis Occidental; the Tigwahanon of
Agusan del Sur, Misamis Oriental and and Misamis Occidental, the Manobo of the Agusan
The unit of government was the "barangay," a term that derived its meaning from the
provinces, and the Umayamnon of Agusan and Bukidnon.
Malay word "balangay," meaning, a boat, which transported them to these shores.52 The
barangay was basically a family-based community and consisted of thirty to one hundred
9. In Region XI- There are about 1,774,065 IPs in Region XI. They are tribes of the families. Each barangay was different and ruled by a chieftain called a "dato." It was the
Dibabaon, Mansaka of Davao del Norte; B'laan, Kalagan, Langilad, T'boli and Talaingod of chieftain's duty to rule and govern his subjects and promote their welfare and interests. A
Davao del Sur; Mamamanua of Surigao del Sur; Mandaya of the Surigao provinces and chieftain had wide powers for he exercised all the functions of government. He was the
Davao Oriental; Manobo Blit of South Cotabato; the Mangguangon of Davao and South executive, legislator and judge and was the supreme commander in time of war.53
Cotabato; Matigsalog of Davao del Norte and Del Sur; Tagakaolo, Tasaday and Ubo of South
Cotabato; and Bagobo of Davao del sur and South Cotabato.
Laws were either customary or written. Customary laws were handed down orally
from generation to generation and constituted the bulk of the laws of the
10. In Region XII- Ilianen, Tiruray, Maguindanao, Maranao, Tausug, Yakan/Samal, and barangay. They were preserved in songs and chants and in the memory of the elder
Iranon.43 persons in the community.54 The written laws were those that the chieftain and his elders
promulgated from time to time as the necessity arose.55 The oldest known written body of
How these indigenous peoples came to live in the Philippines goes back to as early laws was the Maragtas Code by Datu Sumakwel at about 1250 A.D. Other old codes are the
as 25,000 to 30,000 B.C. Muslim Code of Luwaran and the Principal Code of Sulu.56 Whether customary or written,
the laws dealt with various subjects, such as inheritance, divorce, usury, loans, partnership,
Before the time of Western contact, the Philippine archipelago was peopled largely by crime and punishment, property rights, family relations and adoption. Whenever disputes
the Negritos, Indonesians and Malays.44 The strains from these groups eventually gave rise arose, these were decided peacefully through a court composed by the chieftain as "judge"
to common cultural features which became the dominant influence in ethnic reformulation and the barangay elders as "jury." Conflicts arising between subjects of different barangays
in the archipelago. Influences from the Chinese and Indian civilizations in the third or were resolved by arbitration in which a board composed of elders from neutral barangays
fourth millenium B.C. augmented these ethnic strains. Chinese economic and socio-cultural acted as arbiters.57
influences came by way of Chinese porcelain, silk and traders. Indian influence found their
way into the religious-cultural aspect of pre-colonial society.45 Baranganic society had a distinguishing feature: the absence of private property in
land. The chiefs merely administered the lands in the name of the barangay. The social
The ancient Filipinos settled beside bodies of water. Hunting and food gathering became order was an extension of the family with chiefs embodying the higher unity of the
supplementary activities as reliance on them was reduced by fishing and the cultivation of community. Each individual, therefore, participated in the community ownership of the
the soil.46 From the hinterland, coastal, and riverine communities, our ancestors evolved soil and the instruments of production as a member of the barangay.58 This ancient
an essentially homogeneous culture, a basically common way of life where nature was a communalism was practiced in accordance with the concept of mutual sharing of
primary factor. Community life throughout the archipelago was influenced by, and resources so that no individual, regardless of status, was without sustenance. Ownership
responded to, common ecology. The generally benign tropical climate and the largely of land was non-existent or unimportant and the right of usufruct was what
regulated the development of lands.59 Marine resources and fishing grounds were All lands lost by the old barangays in the process of pueblo organization as well as
likewise free to all. Coastal communities depended for their economic welfare on the kind all lands not assigned to them and the pueblos, were now declared to be crown lands
of fishing sharing concept similar to those in land communities.60 Recognized leaders, such or realengas, belonging to the Spanish king. It was from the realengas that land
as the chieftains and elders, by virtue of their positions of importance, enjoyed some grants were made to non-Filipinos.72
economic privileges and benefits. But their rights, related to either land and sea, were
subject to their responsibility to protect the communities from danger and to provide them The abrogation of the Filipinos' ancestral rights in land and the introduction of the
with the leadership and means of survival.61 concept of public domain were the most immediate fundamental results of Spanish
colonial theory and law.73 The concept that the Spanish king was the owner of
Sometime in the 13th century, Islam was introduced to the archipelago in everything of value in the Indies or colonies was imposed on the natives, and the
Maguindanao. The Sultanate of Sulu was established and claimed jurisdiction over natives were stripped of their ancestral rights to land.74
territorial areas represented today by Tawi-tawi, Sulu, Palawan, Basilan and Zamboanga.
Four ethnic groups were within this jurisdiction: Sama, Tausug, Yakan and Subanon.62The Increasing their foothold in the Philippines, the Spanish colonialists, civil and religious,
Sultanate of Maguindanao spread out from Cotabato toward Maranao territory, now Lanao classified the Filipinos according to their religious practices and beliefs, and divided them
del Norte and Lanao del Sur.63 into three types . First were the Indios, the Christianized Filipinos, who generally came
from the lowland populations. Second, were the Moros or the Muslim communities, and
The Muslim societies evolved an Asiatic form of feudalism where land was still held third, were the infieles or the indigenous communities.75
in common but was private in use. This is clearly indicated in the Muslim Code of
Luwaran. The Code contains a provision on the lease of cultivated lands. It, however, has The Indio was a product of the advent of Spanish culture. This class was favored by the
no provision for the acquisition, transfer, cession or sale of land.64 Spaniards and was allowed certain status although below the Spaniards.
The Moros and infieles were regarded as the lowest classes.76
The societies encountered by Magellan and Legaspi therefore were primitive economies
where most production was geared to the use of the producers and to the fulfillment of The Moros and infieles resisted Spanish rule and Christianity. The Moros were driven
kinship obligations. They were not economies geared to exchange and profit.65 Moreover, from Manila and the Visayas to Mindanao; while the infieles, to the hinterlands. The
the family basis of barangay membership as well as of leadership and governance worked Spaniards did not pursue them into the deep interior. The upland societies were naturally
to splinter the population of the islands into numerous small and separate communities.66 outside the immediate concern of Spanish interest, and the cliffs and forests of the
hinterlands were difficult and inaccessible, allowing the infieles, in effect, relative
When the Spaniards settled permanently in the Philippines in 1565, they found the security.77 Thus, the infieles, which were peripheral to colonial administration, were not
Filipinos living in barangay settlements scattered along water routes and river only able to preserve their own culture but also thwarted the Christianization process,
banks. One of the first tasks imposed on the missionaries and the encomenderos was to separating themselves from the newly evolved Christian community.78 Their own political,
collect all scattered Filipinos together in a reduccion.67 As early as 1551, the Spanish economic and social systems were kept constantly alive and vibrant.
government assumed an unvarying solicitous attitude towards the natives.68 The
Spaniards regarded it a sacred "duty to conscience and humanity to civilize these less The pro-Christian or pro-Indio attitude of colonialism brought about a generally mutual
fortunate people living in the obscurity of ignorance" and to accord them the "moral and feeling of suspicion, fear, and hostility between the Christians on the one hand and the
material advantages" of community life and the "protection and vigilance afforded them by non-Christians on the other. Colonialism tended to divide and rule an otherwise culturally
the same laws."69 and historically related populace through a colonial system that exploited both the virtues
and vices of the Filipinos.79
The Spanish missionaries were ordered to establish pueblos where the church and convent
would be constructed. All the new Christian converts were required to construct their President McKinley, in his instructions to the Philippine Commission of April 7,
houses around the church and the unbaptized were invited to do the same.70 With 1900, addressed the existence of the infieles:
the reduccion, the Spaniards attempted to "tame" the reluctant Filipinos through Christian
indoctrination using the convento/casa real/plaza complex as focal point. The reduccion, to
"In dealing with the uncivilized tribes of the Islands, the Commission should adopt
the Spaniards, was a "civilizing" device to make the Filipinos law-abiding citizens of the
the same course followed by Congress in permitting the tribes of our North
Spanish Crown, and in the long run, to make them ultimately adopt Hispanic culture and
American Indians to maintain their tribal organization and government, and under
civilization.71
which many of those tribes are now living in peace and contentment, surrounded by
civilization to which they are unable or unwilling to conform. Such tribal government
should, however, be subjected to wise and firm regulation; and, without undue or petty It was in the 1973 Constitution that the State adopted the following provision:
interference, constant and active effort should be exercised to prevent barbarous practices
and introduce civilized customs."80 "The State shall consider the customs, traditions, beliefs, and interests of national cultural
communities in the formulation and implementation of State policies."88
Placed in an alternative of either letting the natives alone or guiding them in the path of
civilization, the American government chose "to adopt the latter measure as one more in For the first time in Philippine history, the "non-Christian tribes" or the "cultural
accord with humanity and with the national conscience."81 minorities" were addressed by the highest law of the Republic, and they were
referred to as "cultural communities." More importantly this time, their "uncivilized"
The Americans classified the Filipinos into two: the Christian Filipinos and culture was given some recognition and their "customs, traditions, beliefs and interests"
the non-Christian Filipinos. The term "non-Christian" referred not to religious belief, but were to be considered by the State in the formulation and implementation of State
to a geographical area, and more directly, "to natives of the Philippine Islands of a low policies. President Marcos abolished the CNI and transferred its functions to
grade of civilization, usually living in tribal relationship apart from settled communities."82 the Presidential Adviser on National Minorities (PANAMIN). The PANAMIN was tasked
to integrate the ethnic groups that sought full integration into the larger community, and
Like the Spaniards, the Americans pursued a policy of assimilation. In 1903, they at the same time "protect the rights of those who wish to preserve their original lifeways
passed Act No. 253 creating the Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes (BNCT). Under the beside the larger community."89 In short, while still adopting the integration policy,
Department of the Interior, the BNCT's primary task was to conduct ethnographic research the decree recognized the right of tribal Filipinos to preserve their way of life.90
among unhispanized Filipinos, including those in Muslim Mindanao, with a "special view to
determining the most practicable means for bringing about their advancement in In 1974, President Marcos promulgated P.D. No. 410, otherwise known as the Ancestral
civilization and prosperity." The BNCT was modeled after the bureau dealing with Lands Decree. The decree provided for the issuance of land occupancy certificates to
American Indians. The agency took a keen anthropological interest in Philippine cultural members of the national cultural communities who were given up to 1984 to register their
minorities and produced a wealth of valuable materials about them.83 claims.91 In 1979, the Commission on the Settlement of Land Problems was created
under E.O. No. 561 which provided a mechanism for the expeditious resolution of land
The 1935 Constitution did not carry any policy on the non-Christian Filipinos. The problems involving small settlers, landowners, and tribal Filipinos.92
raging issue then was the conservation of the national patrimony for the Filipinos.
Despite the promulgation of these laws, from 1974 to the early 1980's, some 100,000
In 1957, the Philippine Congress passed R.A. No. 1888, an "Act to effectuate in a more Kalingas and Bontoks of the Cordillera region were displaced by the Chico River dam
rapid and complete manner the economic, social, moral and political advancement of the project of the National Power Corporation (NPC). The Manobos of Bukidnon saw their land
non-Christian Filipinos or national cultural minorities and to render real, complete, and bulldozed by the Bukidnon Sugar Industries Company (BUSCO). In Agusan del Sur, the
permanent the integration of all said national cultural minorities into the body politic, National Development Company was authorized by law in 1979 to take approximately
creating the Commission on National Integration charged with said functions." The law 40,550 hectares of land that later became the NDC-Guthrie plantation in Agusan del Sur.
called for a policy of integration of indigenous peoples into the Philippine mainstream Most of the land was possessed by the Agusan natives.93 Timber concessions, water
and for this purpose created the Commission on National Integration (CNI).84 The CNI projects, plantations, mining, and cattle ranching and other projects of the national
was given, more or less, the same task as the BNCT during the American regime. The government led not only to the eviction of the indigenous peoples from their land but also
post-independence policy of integration was like the colonial policy of assimilation to the reduction and destruction of their natural environment.94
understood in the context of a guardian-ward relationship.85
The Aquino government signified a total shift from the policy of integration to one of
The policy of assimilation and integration did not yield the desired result. Like the preservation. Invoking her powers under the Freedom Constitution, President Aquino
Spaniards and Americans, government attempts at integration met with fierce created the Office of Muslim Affairs, Office for Northern Cultural Communities and
resistance. Since World War II, a tidal wave of Christian settlers from the lowlands of the Office for Southern Cultural Communities all under the Office of the President.95
Luzon and the Visayas swamped the highlands and wide open spaces in
Mindanao.86Knowledge by the settlers of the Public Land Acts and the Torrens The 1987 Constitution carries at least six (6) provisions which insure the right of
system resulted in the titling of several ancestral lands in the settlers' names. With tribal Filipinos to preserve their way of life.96 This Constitution goes further than the
government initiative and participation, this titling displaced several indigenous 1973 Constitution by expressly guaranteeing the rights of tribal Filipinos to their
peoples from their lands. Worse, these peoples were also displaced by projects ancestral domains and ancestral lands. By recognizing their right to their ancestral
undertaken by the national government in the name of national development.87
lands and domains, the State has effectively upheld their right to live in a culture owner has the right to use and dispose of the property, he does not possess all the rights of
distinctly their own. an exclusive and full owner as defined under our Civil Code.103 Under Kalinga customary
law, the alienation of individually-owned land is strongly discouraged except in marriage
2. Their Concept of Land and succession and except to meet sudden financial needs due to sickness, death in the
family, or loss of crops.104 Moreover, and to be alienated should first be offered to a
clan-member before any village-member can purchase it, and in no case may land be sold
Indigenous peoples share distinctive traits that set them apart from the Filipino
to a non-member of the ili.105
mainstream. They are non-Christians. They live in less accessible, marginal, mostly upland
areas. They have a system of self-government not dependent upon the laws of the central
administration of the Republic of the Philippines. They follow ways of life and customs that Land titles do not exist in the indigenous peoples' economic and social system. The
are perceived as different from those of the rest of the population. 97 The kind of response concept of individual land ownership under the civil law is alien to them. Inherently
the indigenous peoples chose to deal with colonial threat worked well to their advantage colonial in origin, our national land laws and governmental policies frown upon
by making it difficult for Western concepts and religion to erode their customs and indigenous claims to ancestral lands. Communal ownership is looked upon as
traditions. The "infieles societies" which had become peripheral to colonial administration, inferior, if not inexistent.106
represented, from a cultural perspective, a much older base of archipelagic culture. The
political systems were still structured on the patriarchal and kinship oriented III. THE IPRA IS A NOVEL PIECE OF LEGISLATION.
arrangement of power and authority. The economic activities were governed by the
concepts of an ancient communalism and mutual help. The social structure which A. The Legislative History of the IPRA
emphasized division of labor and distinction of functions, not status, was maintained. The
cultural styles and forms of life portraying the varieties of social courtesies and ecological
It was to address the centuries-old neglect of the Philippine indigenous peoples that
adjustments were kept constantly vibrant.98
the Tenth Congress of the Philippines, by their joint efforts, passed and approved R.A. No.
8371, the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997. The law was a consolidation
Land is the central element of the indigenous peoples' existence. There is no of two Bills- Senate Bill No. 1728 and House Bill No. 9125.
traditional concept of permanent, individual, land ownership. Among the Igorots,
ownership of land more accurately applies to the tribal right to use the land or to
Principally sponsored by Senator Juan M. Flavier,107 Senate Bill No. 1728 was a
territorial control. The people are the secondary owners or stewards of the land and that if
consolidation of four proposed measures referred to the Committees on Cultural
a member of the tribe ceases to work, he loses his claim of ownership, and the land reverts
Communities, Environment and Natural Resources, Ways and Means, as well as Finance. It
to the beings of the spirit world who are its true and primary owners. Under the concept of
adopted almost en toto the comprehensive version of Senate Bill Nos. 1476 and 1486
"trusteeship," the right to possess the land does not only belong to the present generation
which was a result of six regional consultations and one national consultation with
but the future ones as well.99
indigenous peoples nationwide.108 At the Second Regular Session of the Tenth Congress,
Senator Flavier, in his sponsorship speech, gave a background on the situation of
Customary law on land rests on the traditional belief that no one owns the land except indigenous peoples in the Philippines, to wit:
the gods and spirits, and that those who work the land are its mere
stewards.100 Customary law has a strong preference for communal ownership, which
"The Indigenous Cultural Communities, including the Bangsa Moro, have long suffered
could either be ownership by a group of individuals or families who are related by blood or
from the dominance and neglect of government controlled by the majority. Massive
by marriage,101 or ownership by residents of the same locality who may not be related by
migration of their Christian brothers to their homeland shrunk their territory and many of
blood or marriage. The system of communal ownership under customary laws draws its
the tribal Filipinos were pushed to the hinterlands. Resisting the intrusion, dispossessed of
meaning from the subsistence and highly collectivized mode of economic production. The
their ancestral land and with the massive exploitation of their natural resources by the
Kalingas, for instance, who are engaged in team occupation like hunting, foraging for forest
elite among the migrant population, they became marginalized. And the government has
products, and swidden farming found it natural that forest areas, swidden farms, orchards,
been an indispensable party to this insidious conspiracy against the Indigenous Cultural
pasture and burial grounds should be communally-owned.102 For the Kalingas, everybody
Communities (ICCs). It organized and supported the resettlement of people to their
has a common right to a common economic base. Thus, as a rule, rights and obligations to
ancestral land, which was massive during the Commonwealth and early years of the
the land are shared in common.
Philippine Republic. Pursuant to the Regalian Doctrine first introduced to our system by
Spain through the Royal Decree of 13 February 1894 or the Maura Law, the government
Although highly bent on communal ownership, customary law on land also passed laws to legitimize the wholesale landgrabbing and provide for easy titling or grant
sanctions individual ownership.The residential lots and terrace rice farms are governed of lands to migrant homesteaders within the traditional areas of the ICCs."109
by a limited system of individual ownership. It is limited because while the individual
Senator Flavier further declared: places them in a position of actual inequality in their relation or transaction with others,
are entitled to the protection of the State.
"The IPs are the offsprings and heirs of the peoples who have first inhabited and cared for
the land long before any central government was established. Their ancestors had Senate Bill No. 1728 was passed on Third Reading by twenty-one (21) Senators
territories over which they ruled themselves and related with other tribes. These voting in favor and none against, with no abstention.112
territories- the land- include people, their dwelling, the mountains, the water, the air,
plants, forest and the animals. This is their environment in its totality. Their existence as House Bill No. 9125 was sponsored by Rep. Zapata, Chairman of the Committee on
indigenous peoples is manifested in their own lives through political, economic, Cultural Communities. It was originally authored and subsequently presented and
socio-cultural and spiritual practices. The IPs culture is the living and irrefutable proof to defended on the floor by Rep. Gregorio Andolana of North Cotabato.113
this.
Rep. Andolana's sponsorhip speech reads as follows:
Their survival depends on securing or acquiring land rights; asserting their rights to it; and
depending on it. Otherwise, IPs shall cease to exist as distinct peoples."110
"This Representation, as early as in the 8th Congress, filed a bill of similar implications that
would promote, recognize the rights of indigenous cultural communities within the
To recognize the rights of the indigenous peoples effectively, Senator Flavier proposed a framework of national unity and development.
bill based on two postulates: (1) the concept of native title; and (2) the principle
of parens patriae.
Apart from this, Mr. Speaker, is our obligation, the government's obligation to assure and
ascertain that these rights shall be well-preserved and the cultural traditions as well as the
According to Senator Flavier, "[w]hile our legal tradition subscribes to the Regalian indigenous laws that remained long before this Republic was established shall be
Doctrine reinstated in Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution," our "decisional laws" preserved and promoted. There is a need, Mr. Speaker, to look into these matters seriously
and jurisprudence passed by the State have "made exception to the doctrine." This and early approval of the substitute bill shall bring into reality the aspirations, the hope
exception was first laid down in the case of Cario v. Insular Government where: and the dreams of more than 12 million Filipinos that they be considered in the
mainstream of the Philippine society as we fashion for the year 2000." 114
"x x x the court has recognized long occupancy of land by an indigenous member of the
cultural communities as one of private ownership, which, in legal concept, is termed Rep. Andolana stressed that H.B. No. 9125 is based on the policy of preservation as
"native title." This ruling has not been overturned. In fact, it was affirmed in subsequent mandated in the Constitution. He also emphasized that the rights of IPs to their land was
cases."111 enunciated in Cario v. Insular Government which recognized the fact that they had
vested rights prior to the establishment of the Spanish and American regimes.115
Following Cario, the State passed Act No. 926, Act No. 2874, C.A. No. 141, P.D. 705, P.D.
410, P.D. 1529, R.A. 6734 (the Organic Act for the Autonomous Region of Muslim After exhaustive interpellation, House Bill No. 9125, and its corresponding
Mindanao). These laws, explicitly or implicitly, and liberally or restrictively, recognized amendments, was approved on Second Reading with no objections.
"native title" or "private right" and the existence of ancestral lands and domains. Despite
the passage of these laws, however, Senator Flavier continued:
IV. THE PROVISIONS OF THE IPRA DO NOT CONTRAVENE THE CONSTITUTION.

"x x x the executive department of government since the American occupation has not
A. Ancestral Domains and Ancestral Lands are the Private Property of Indigenous
implemented the policy. In fact, it was more honored in its breach than in its observance,
Peoples and Do Not Constitute Part of the Land of the Public Domain.
its wanton disregard shown during the period unto the Commonwealth and the early years
of the Philippine Republic when government organized and supported massive
resettlement of the people to the land of the ICCs." The IPRA grants to ICCs/IPs a distinct kind of ownership over ancestral domains and
ancestral lands.Ancestral lands are not the same as ancestral domains. These are defined
in Section 3 [a] and [b] of the Indigenous Peoples Right Act, viz:
Senate Bill No. 1728 seeks to genuinely recognize the IPs right to own and possess their
ancestral land. The bill was prepared also under the principle of parens patriae inherent
in the supreme power of the State and deeply embedded in Philippine legal tradition. This "Sec. 3 a) Ancestral Domains. - Subject to Section 56 hereof, refer to all areas generally
principle mandates that persons suffering from serious disadvantage or handicap, which belonging to ICCs/IPs comprising lands, inland waters, coastal areas, and natural
resources therein, held under a claim of ownership, occupied or possessed by ICCs/IPs by
themselves or through their ancestors, communally or individually since time immemorial, and ensured the issuance of Certificates of Ancestral Land Claims (CALC's) and Certificates
continuously to the present except when interrupted by war, force majeure or of Ancestral Domain Claims (CADC's) to IPs.
displacement by force, deceit, stealth or as a consequence of government projects or any
other voluntary dealings entered into by government and private individuals/corporations, The identification and delineation of these ancestral domains and lands is a power
and which are necessary to ensure their economic, social and cultural welfare. It shall conferred by the IPRA on the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).119 The
include ancestral lands, forests, pasture, residential, agricultural, and other lands guiding principle in identification and delineation is self-delineation.120 This means that
individually owned whether alienable and disposable or otherwise, hunting grounds, the ICCs/IPs have a decisive role in determining the boundaries of their domains and in all
burial grounds, worship areas, bodies of water, mineral and other natural resources, and the activities pertinent thereto.121
lands which may no longer be exclusively occupied by ICCs/IPs but from which they
traditionally had access to for their subsistence and traditional activities, particularly the
The procedure for the delineation and recognition of ancestral domains is set forth in
home ranges of ICCs/IPs who are still nomadic and/or shifting cultivators;
Sections 51 and 52 of the IPRA. The identification, delineation and certification
of ancestral lands is in Section 53 of said law.
b) Ancestral Lands.- Subject to Section 56 hereof, refers to land occupied, possessed and
utilized by individuals, families and clans who are members of the ICCs/IPs since time
Upon due application and compliance with the procedure provided under the law and
immemorial, by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest, under claims of
upon finding by the NCIP that the application is meritorious, the NCIP shall issue a
individual or traditional group ownership, continuously, to the present except when
Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) in the name of the community
interrupted by war, force majeure or displacement by force, deceit, stealth, or as a
concerned.122 The allocation of lands within the ancestral domain to any individual or
consequence of government projects and other voluntary dealings entered into by
indigenous corporate (family or clan) claimants is left to the ICCs/IPs concerned to decide
government and private individuals/corporations, including, but not limited to, residential
in accordance with customs and traditions.123 With respect to ancestral lands outside the
lots, rice terraces or paddies, private forests, swidden farms and tree lots."
ancestral domain, the NCIP issues a Certificate of Ancestral Land Title (CALT).124

Ancestral domains are all areas belonging to ICCs/IPs held under a claim of ownership,
CADT's and CALT's issued under the IPRA shall be registered by the NCIP before the
occupied or possessed by ICCs/IPs by themselves or through their ancestors, communally
Register of Deeds in the place where the property is situated.125
or individually since time immemorial, continuously until the present, except when
interrupted by war, force majeure or displacement by force, deceit, stealth or as a
consequence of government projects or any other voluntary dealings with government (1) Right to Ancestral Domains and Ancestral Lands: How Acquired
and/or private individuals or corporations. Ancestral domains comprise lands, inland
waters, coastal areas, and natural resources therein and includes ancestral lands, The rights of the ICCs/IPs to their ancestral domains and ancestral lands may be acquired
forests, pasture, residential, agricultural, and other lands individually owned in two modes: (1) by native title over both ancestral lands and domains; or (2)
whether alienable or not, hunting grounds, burial grounds, worship areas, bodies of by torrens title under the Public Land Act and the Land Registration Act with respect
water, mineral and other natural resources. They also include lands which may no to ancestral lands only.
longer be exclusively occupied by ICCs/IPs but from which they traditionally had access to
for their subsistence and traditional activities, particularly the home ranges of ICCs/IPs (2) The Concept of Native Title
who are still nomadic and/or shifting cultivators.116
Native title is defined as:
Ancestral lands are lands held by the ICCs/IPs under the same conditions as ancestral
domains except that these are limited to lands and that these lands are not merely "Sec. 3 [l]. Native Title- refers to pre-conquest rights to lands and domains which, as far
occupied and possessed but are also utilized by the ICCs/IPs under claims of individual or back as memory reaches, have been held under a claim of private ownership by ICCs/IPs,
traditional group ownership. These lands include but are not limited to residential lots, have never been public lands and are thus indisputably presumed to have been held that
rice terraces or paddies, private forests, swidden farms and tree lots.117 way since before the Spanish Conquest."126

The procedures for claiming ancestral domains and lands are similar to the procedures Native title refers to ICCs/IPs' preconquest rights to lands and domains held under a
embodied in Department Administrative Order (DAO) No. 2, series of 1993, signed by then claim of private ownership as far back as memory reaches. These lands are deemed never
Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Angel to have been public lands and are indisputably presumed to have been held that way since
Alcala.118 DAO No. 2 allowed the delineation of ancestral domains by special task forces before the Spanish Conquest. The rights of ICCs/IPs to their ancestral domains (which
also include ancestral lands) by virtue of native title shall be recognized and "It is true that Spain, in its earlier decrees, embodied the universal feudal theory that all
respected.127 Formal recognition, when solicited by ICCs/IPs concerned, shall be embodied lands were held from the Crown, and perhaps the general attitude of conquering nations
in a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT), which shall recognize the title of the toward people not recognized as entitled to the treatment accorded to those in the same
concerned ICCs/IPs over the territories identified and delineated.128 zone of civilization with themselves. It is true, also, that in legal theory, sovereignty is
absolute, and that, as against foreign nations, the United States may assert, as Spain
Like a torrens title, a CADT is evidence of private ownership of land by native title. Native asserted, absolute power. But it does not follow that, as against the inhabitants of the
title, however, is a right of private ownership peculiarly granted to ICCs/IPs over their Philippines, the United States asserts that Spain had such power. When theory is left on
ancestral lands and domains. The IPRA categorically declares ancestral lands and domains one side, sovereignty is a question of strength, and may vary in degree. How far a new
held by native title as never to have been public land. Domains and lands held under sovereign shall insist upon the theoretical relation of the subjects to the head in the past,
native title are, therefore, indisputably presumed to have never been public lands and are and how far it shall recognize actual facts, are matters for it to decide."137
private.
The U.S. Supreme Court noted that it need not accept Spanish doctrines. The choice was
(a) Cario v. Insular Government129 with the new colonizer. Ultimately, the matter had to be decided under U.S. law.

The concept of native title in the IPRA was taken from the 1909 case of Cario v. Insular The Cario decision largely rested on the North American constitutionalist's concept of
Government.130 Cariofirmly established a concept of private land title that existed "due process" as well as the pronounced policy "to do justice to the natives."138 It was
irrespective of any royal grant from the State. based on the strong mandate extended to the Islands via the Philippine Bill of 1902 that
"No law shall be enacted in said islands which shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or
property without due process of law, or deny to any person therein the equal protection of
In 1903, Don Mateo Cario, an Ibaloi, sought to register with the land registration court
the laws." The court declared:
146 hectares of land in Baguio Municipality, Benguet Province. He claimed that this land
had been possessed and occupied by his ancestors since time immemorial; that his
grandfather built fences around the property for the holding of cattle and that his father "The acquisition of the Philippines was not like the settlement of the white race in the
cultivated some parts of the land. Cario inherited the land in accordance with Igorot United States. Whatever consideration may have been shown to the North American
custom. He tried to have the land adjusted under the Spanish land laws, but no document Indians, the dominant purpose of the whites in America was to occupy land. It is obvious
issued from the Spanish Crown.131 In 1901, Cario obtained a possessory title to the land that, however stated, the reason for our taking over the Philippines was different. No one,
under the Spanish Mortgage Law.132 The North American colonial government, however, we suppose, would deny that, so far as consistent with paramount necessities, our first
ignored his possessory title and built a public road on the land prompting him to seek a object in the internal administration of the islands is to do justice to the natives, not to
Torrens title to his property in the land registration court. While his petition was pending, exploit their country for private gain. By the Organic Act of July 1, 1902, chapter 1369,
a U.S. military reservation133 was proclaimed over his land and, shortly thereafter, a section 12 (32 Statutes at Large, 691), all the property and rights acquired there by the
military detachment was detailed on the property with orders to keep cattle and United States are to be administered 'for the benefit of the inhabitants thereof.' It is
trespassers, including Cario, off the land.134 reasonable to suppose that the attitude thus assumed by the United States with regard to
what was unquestionably its own is also its attitude in deciding what it will claim for its
own. The same statute made a bill of rights, embodying the safeguards of the Constitution,
In 1904, the land registration court granted Cario's application for absolute ownership to
and, like the Constitution, extends those safeguards to all. It provides that 'no law shall be
the land. Both the Government of the Philippine Islands and the U.S. Government appealed
enacted in said islands which shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without
to the C.F.I. of Benguet which reversed the land registration court and dismissed Cario's
due process of law, or deny to any person therein the equal protection of the laws.' In the
application. The Philippine Supreme Court135 affirmed the C.F.I. by applying
light of the declaration that we have quoted from section 12, it is hard to believe that the
the Valenton ruling. Cario took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.136 On one hand, the
United States was ready to declare in the next breath that "any person" did not embrace
Philippine government invoked the Regalian doctrine and contended that Cario failed to
the inhabitants of Benguet, or that it meant by "property" only that which had become
comply with the provisions of the Royal Decree of June 25, 1880, which required
such by ceremonies of which presumably a large part of the inhabitants never had heard,
registration of land claims within a limited period of time. Cario, on the other, asserted
and that it proposed to treat as public land what they, by native custom and by long
that he was the absolute owner of the land jure gentium, and that the land never formed
association,- of the profoundest factors in human thought,- regarded as their own."139
part of the public domain.

The Court went further:


In a unanimous decision written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, the U.S. Supreme Court
held:
"Every presumption is and ought to be against the government in a case like the present. It because of the ambiguity and of the strong "due process mandate" of the
might, perhaps, be proper and sufficient to say that when, as far back as testimony Constitution, the court validated this kind of title.142 This title was sufficient, even
or memory goes, the land has been held by individuals under a claim of private without government administrative action, and entitled the holder to a Torrens certificate.
ownership, it will be presumed to have been held in the same way from before the Justice Holmes explained:
Spanish conquest, and never to have been public land. Certainly in a case like this, if
there is doubt or ambiguity in the Spanish law, we ought to give the applicant the benefit of "It will be perceived that the rights of the applicant under the Spanish law present a
the doubt."140 problem not without difficulties for courts of a legal tradition. We have deemed it proper
on that account to notice the possible effect of the change of sovereignty and the act of
The court thus laid down the presumption of a certain title held (1) as far back as Congress establishing the fundamental principles now to be observed. Upon a
testimony or memory went, and (2) under a claim of private ownership. Land held by this consideration of the whole case we are of the opinion that law and justice require that the
title is presumed to "never have been public land." applicant should be granted what he seeks, and should not be deprived of what, by the
practice and belief of those among whom he lived, was his property, through a refined
Against this presumption, the U.S. Supreme Court analyzed the Spanish decrees upheld in interpretation of an almost forgotten law of Spain."143
the 1904 decision ofValenton v. Murciano. The U.S. Supreme Court found no proof that
the Spanish decrees did not honor native title. On the contrary, the decrees discussed Thus, the court ruled in favor of Cario and ordered the registration of the 148
in Valenton appeared to recognize that the natives owned some land, irrespective of any hectares in Baguio Municipality in his name.144
royal grant. The Regalian doctrine declared in the preamble of the Recopilacion was all
"theory and discourse" and it was observed that titles were admitted to exist beyond the Examining Cario closer, the U.S. Supreme Court did not categorically refer to the title it
powers of the Crown, viz: upheld as "native title." It simply said:

"If the applicant's case is to be tried by the law of Spain, we do not discover such "The Province of Benguet was inhabited by a tribe that the Solicitor-General, in his
clear proof that it was bad by that law as to satisfy us that he does not own the land. argument, characterized as a savage tribe that never was brought under the civil or
To begin with, the older decrees and laws cited by the counsel for the plaintiff in military government of the Spanish Crown. It seems probable, if not certain, that the
error seem to indicate pretty clearly that the natives were recognized as owning Spanish officials would not have granted to anyone in that province the registration
some lands, irrespective of any royal grant. In other words, Spain did not assume to to which formerly the plaintiff was entitled by the Spanish Laws, and which would
convert all the native inhabitants of the Philippines into trespassers or even into tenants at have made his title beyond question good. Whatever may have been the technical
will. For instance, Book 4, title 12, Law 14 of the the Recopilacion de Leyes de las Indias, position of Spain it does not follow that, in the view of the United States, he had lost all
cited for a contrary conclusion in Valenton v. Murciano, 3 Philippine 537, while it rights and was a mere trespasser when the present government seized his land. The
commands viceroys and others, when it seems proper, to call for the exhibition of grants, argument to that effect seems to amount to a denial of native titles through an important
directs them to confirm those who hold by good grants or justa prescripcion. It is true that part of the Island of Luzon, at least, for the want of ceremonies which the Spaniards would
it begins by the characteristic assertion of feudal overlordship and the origin of all not have permitted and had not the power to enforce."145
titles in the King or his predecessors. That was theory and discourse. The fact was
that titles were admitted to exist that owed nothing to the powers of Spain beyond
This is the only instance when Justice Holmes used the term "native title" in the entire
this recognition in their books." (Emphasis supplied).141
length of the Cario decision. It is observed that the widespread use of the term "native
title" may be traced to Professor Owen James Lynch, Jr., a Visiting Professor at the
The court further stated that the Spanish "adjustment" proceedings never held sway over University of the Philippines College of Law from the Yale University Law School. In 1982,
unconquered territories. The wording of the Spanish laws were not framed in a manner as Prof. Lynch published an article in the Philippine Law Journal entitled Native Title,
to convey to the natives that failure to register what to them has always been their own Private Right and Tribal Land Law.146 This article was made after Professor Lynch
would mean loss of such land. The registration requirement was "not to confer title, but visited over thirty tribal communities throughout the country and studied the origin and
simply to establish it;" it was "not calculated to convey to the mind of an Igorot chief the development of Philippine land laws.147 He discussed Cario extensively and used the
notion that ancient family possessions were in danger, if he had read every word of it." term "native title" to refer to Cario's title as discussed and upheld by the U.S. Supreme
Court in said case.
By recognizing this kind of title, the court clearly repudiated the doctrine of Valenton. It
was frank enough, however, to admit the possibility that the applicant might have been (b) Indian Title
deprived of his land under Spanish law because of the inherent ambiguity of the decrees
and concomitantly, the various interpretations which may be given them. But precisely
In a footnote in the same article, Professor Lynch stated that the concept of "native title" as Rubi applied the concept of Indian land grants or reservations in the Philippines. An Indian
defined by Justice Holmes in Cario "is conceptually similar to "aboriginal title" of the reservation is a part of the public domain set apart by proper authority for the use and
American Indians.148 This is not surprising, according to Prof. Lynch, considering that occupation of a tribe or tribes of Indians.154 It may be set apart by an act of Congress, by
during the American regime, government policy towards ICCs/IPs was consistently made treaty, or by executive order, but it cannot be established by custom and prescription. 155
in reference to native Americans.149 This was clearly demonstrated in the case of Rubi v.
Provincial Board of Mindoro.150 Indian title to land, however, is not limited to land grants or reservations. It also
covers the "aboriginal right of possession or occupancy." 156 The aboriginal right of
In Rubi, the Provincial Board of Mindoro adopted a Resolution authorizing the provincial possession depends on the actual occupancy of the lands in question by the tribe or nation
governor to remove the Mangyans from their domains and place them in a permanent as their ancestral home, in the sense that such lands constitute definable territory
reservation in Sitio Tigbao, Lake Naujan. Any Mangyan who refused to comply was to be occupied exclusively by the particular tribe or nation.157 It is a right which exists apart
imprisoned. Rubi and some Mangyans, including one who was imprisoned for trying to from any treaty, statute, or other governmental action, although in numerous instances
escape from the reservation, filed for habeas corpus claiming deprivation of liberty under treaties have been negotiated with Indian tribes, recognizing their aboriginal possession
the Board Resolution. This Court denied the petition on the ground of police power. It and delimiting their occupancy rights or settling and adjusting their boundaries.158
upheld government policy promoting the idea that a permanent settlement was the only
successful method for educating the Mangyans, introducing civilized customs, improving American jurisprudence recognizes the Indians' or native Americans' rights to land
their health and morals, and protecting the public forests in which they they have held and occupied before the "discovery" of the Americas by the
roamed.151 Speaking through Justice Malcolm, the court said: Europeans. The earliest definitive statement by the U.S. Supreme Court on the
nature of aboriginal title was made in 1823 in Johnson & Graham's Lessee v.
"Reference was made in the President's instructions to the Commission to the policy M'Intosh.159
adopted by the United States for the Indian Tribes. The methods followed by the
Government of the Philippine Islands in its dealings with the so-called non-Christian In Johnson, the plaintiffs claimed the land in question under two (2) grants made by the
people is said, on argument, to be practically identical with that followed by the United chiefs of two (2) Indian tribes. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to recognize this
States Government in its dealings with the Indian tribes. Valuable lessons, it is insisted, can conveyance, the plaintiffs being private persons. The only conveyance that was recognized
be derived by an investigation of the American-Indian policy. was that made by the Indians to the government of the European discoverer. Speaking for
the court, Chief Justice Marshall pointed out that the potentates of the old world believed
From the beginning of the United States, and even before, the Indians have been treated as that they had made ample compensation to the inhabitants of the new world by bestowing
"in a state of pupilage." The recognized relation between the Government of the United civilization and Christianity upon them; but in addition, said the court, they found it
States and the Indians may be described as that of guardian and ward. It is for the necessary, in order to avoid conflicting settlements and consequent war, to establish the
Congress to determine when and how the guardianship shall be terminated. The Indians principle that discovery gives title to the government by whose subjects, or by whose
are always subject to the plenary authority of the United States.152 authority, the discovery was made, against all other European governments, which
title might be consummated by possession.160 The exclusion of all other Europeans gave
x x x. to the nation making the discovery the sole right of acquiring the soil from the natives and
establishing settlements upon it. As regards the natives, the court further stated that:
As to the second point, the facts in the Standing Bear case and the Rubi case are not exactly
identical. But even admitting similarity of facts, yet it is known to all that Indian "Those relations which were to exist between the discoverer and the natives were to be
reservations do exist in the United States, that Indians have been taken from different regulated by themselves. The rights thus acquired being exclusive, no other power could
parts of the country and placed on these reservations, without any previous consultation interpose between them.
as to their own wishes, and that, when once so located, they have been made to remain on
the reservation for their own good and for the general good of the country. If any lesson In the establishment of these relations, the rights of the original inhabitants were, in no
can be drawn from the Indian policy of the United States, it is that the determination of this instance, entirely disregarded; but were necessarily, to a considerable extent,
policy is for the legislative and executive branches of the government and that when once impaired. They were admitted to be the rightful occupants of the soil, with a legal as
so decided upon, the courts should not interfere to upset a carefully planned governmental well as just claim to retain possession of it, and to use it according to their own
system. Perhaps, just as many forceful reasons exist for the segregation of the Manguianes discretion; but their rights to complete sovereignty, as independent nations, were
in Mindoro as existed for the segregation of the different Indian tribes in the United necessarily diminished, and their power to dispose of the soil at their own will, to
States."153 whomsoever they pleased, was denied by the fundamental principle that discovery gave
exclusive title to those who made it.
While the different nations of Europe respected the right of the natives as occupants, "The Indian nations were, from their situation, necessarily dependent on some foreign
they asserted the ultimate dominion to be in themselves; and claimed and exercised, potentate for the supply of their essential wants, and for their protection from lawless and
as a consequence of this ultimate dominion, a power to grant the soil, while yet in injurious intrusions into their country. That power was naturally termed their protector.
possession of the natives. These grants have been understood by all to convey a title They had been arranged under the protection of Great Britain; but the extinguishment of
to the grantees, subject only to the Indian right of occupancy." 161 the British power in their neighborhood, and the establishment of that of the United States
in its place, led naturally to the declaration, on the part of the Cherokees, that they were
Thus, the discoverer of new territory was deemed to have obtained the exclusive right to under the protection of the United States, and of no other power. They assumed the
acquire Indian land and extinguish Indian titles. Only to the discoverer- whether to relation with the United States which had before subsisted with Great Britain.
England, France, Spain or Holland- did this right belong and not to any other nation or
private person. The mere acquisition of the right nonetheless did not extinguish Indian This relation was that of a nation claiming and receiving the protection of one more
claims to land. Rather, until the discoverer, by purchase or conquest, exercised its right, powerful, not that of individuals abandoning their national character, and submitting as
the concerned Indians were recognized as the "rightful occupants of the soil, with a legal as subjects to the laws of a master."166
well as just claim to retain possession of it." Grants made by the discoverer to her subjects
of lands occupied by the Indians were held to convey a title to the grantees, subject only to It was the policy of the U.S. government to treat the Indians as nations with distinct
the Indian right of occupancy. Once the discoverer purchased the land from the Indians or territorial boundaries and recognize their right of occupancy over all the lands within their
conquered them, it was only then that the discoverer gained an absolute title unrestricted domains. Thus:
by Indian rights.
"From the commencement of our government Congress has passed acts to regulate trade
The court concluded, in essence, that a grant of Indian lands by Indians could not convey a and intercourse with the Indians; which treat them as nations, respect their rights, and
title paramount to the title of the United States itself to other parties, saying: manifest a firm purpose to afford that protection which treaties stipulate. All these acts,
and especially that of 1802, which is still in force, manifestly consider the several Indian
"It has never been contended that the Indian title amounted to nothing. Their right of nations as distinct political communities, having territorial boundaries, within
possession has never been questioned. The claim of government extends to the which their authority is exclusive, and having a right to all the lands within those
complete ultimate title, charged with this right of possession, and to the exclusive boundaries, which is not only acknowledged, but guaranteed by the United States.
power of acquiring that right."162
x x x.
It has been said that the history of America, from its discovery to the present day, proves
the universal recognition of this principle.163 "The Indian nations had always been considered as distinct, independent political
communities, retaining their original natural rights, as the undisputed possessors of
The Johnson doctrine was a compromise. It protected Indian rights and their native lands the soil from time immemorial, with the single exception of that imposed by irresistible
without having to invalidate conveyances made by the government to many U.S. power, which excluded them from intercourse with any other European potentate than the
citizens.164 first discoverer of the coast of the particular region claimed: and this was a restriction
which those European potentates imposed on themselves, as well as on the Indians. The
Johnson was reiterated in the case of Worcester v. Georgia.165 In this case, the State of very term "nation," so generally applied to them, means "a people distinct from others." x x
Georgia enacted a law requiring all white persons residing within the Cherokee nation to x.167
obtain a license or permit from the Governor of Georgia; and any violation of the law was
deemed a high misdemeanor. The plaintiffs, who were white missionaries, did not obtain The Cherokee nation, then, is a distinct community, occupying its own territory, with
said license and were thus charged with a violation of the Act. boundaries accurately described, in which the laws of Georgia can have no force, and
which the citizens of Georgia have no right to enter but with the assent of the Cherokees
The U.S. Supreme Court declared the Act as unconstitutional for interfering with the themselves or in conformity with treaties and with the acts of Congress. The whole
treaties established between the United States and the Cherokee nation as well as the Acts intercourse between the United States and this nation is, by our Constitution and laws,
of Congress regulating intercourse with them. It characterized the relationship between vested in the government of the United States."168
the United States government and the Indians as:
The discovery of the American continent gave title to the government of the discoverer as
against all other European governments. Designated as the naked fee, 169 this title was to be
consummated by possession and was subject to the Indian title of occupancy. The successor of the discoverer. The aboriginal title of ownership is not specifically recognized
discoverer acknowledged the Indians' legal and just claim to retain possession of the land, as ownership by action authorized by Congress.184 The protection of aboriginal title merely
the Indians being the original inhabitants of the land. The discoverer nonetheless asserted guards against encroachment by persons other than the Federal Government.185 Although
the exclusive right to acquire the Indians' land- either by purchase, "defensive" conquest, there are criticisms against the refusal to recognize the native Americans' ownership of
or cession- and in so doing, extinguish the Indian title. Only the discoverer could extinguish these lands,186 the power of the State to extinguish these titles has remained firmly
Indian title because it alone asserted ultimate dominion in itself. Thus, while the different entrenched.187
nations of Europe respected the rights of the natives as occupants, they all asserted the
ultimate dominion and title to be in themselves.170 Under the IPRA, the Philippine State is not barred form asserting sovereignty over the
ancestral domains and ancestral lands.188 The IPRA, however, is still in its infancy and any
As early as the 19th century, it became accepted doctrine that although fee title to similarities between its application in the Philippines vis--vis American Jurisprudence on
the lands occupied by the Indians when the colonists arrived became vested in the aboriginal title will depend on the peculiar facts of each case.
sovereign- first the discovering European nation and later the original 13 States and
the United States- a right of occupancy in the Indian tribes was nevertheless (c) Why the Cario doctrine is unique
recognized. The Federal Government continued the policy of respecting the Indian right
of occupancy, sometimes called Indian title, which it accorded the protection of complete
In the Philippines, the concept of native title first upheld in Cario and enshrined in the
ownership.171 But this aboriginal Indian interest simply constitutes "permission" from the
IPRA grants ownership, albeit in limited form, of the land to the ICCs/IPs. Native title
whites to occupy the land, and means mere possession not specifically recognized as
presumes that the land is private and was never public. Cario is the only case that
ownership by Congress.172 It is clear that this right of occupancy based upon aboriginal
specifically and categorically recognizes native title. The long line of cases
possession is not a property right.173 It is vulnerable to affirmative action by the federal
citing Cario did not touch on native title and the private character of ancestral
government who, as sovereign, possessed exclusive power to extinguish the right of
domains and lands. Cariowas cited by the succeeding cases to support the concept
occupancy at will.174 Thus, aboriginal title is not the same as legal title. Aboriginal title
of acquisitive prescription under the Public Land Act which is a different matter
rests on actual, exclusive and continuous use and occupancy for a long time. 175 It entails
altogether. Under the Public Land Act, land sought to be registered must be public
that land owned by Indian title must be used within the tribe, subject to its laws and
agricultural land. When the conditions specified in Section 48 [b] of the Public Land Act
customs, and cannot be sold to another sovereign government nor to any citizen.176 Such
are complied with, the possessor of the land is deemed to have acquired, by operation of
title as Indians have to possess and occupy land is in the tribe, and not in the individual
law, a right to a grant of the land.189 The land ceases to be part of the public domain,190 ipso
Indian; the right of individual Indians to share in the tribal property usually depends upon
jure,191 and is converted to private property by the mere lapse or completion of the
tribal membership, the property of the tribe generally being held in communal
prescribed statutory period.
ownership.177

It was only in the case of Oh Cho v. Director of Lands192 that the court declared that the
As a rule, Indian lands are not included in the term "public lands," which is ordinarily used
rule that all lands that were not acquired from the government, either by purchase or
to designate such lands as are subject to sale or other disposal under general
grant, belong to the public domain has an exception. This exception would be any land that
laws.178 Indian land which has been abandoned is deemed to fall into the public
should have been in the possession of an occupant and of his predecessors-in-interest
domain.179 On the other hand, an Indian reservation is a part of the public domain set apart
since time immemorial. It is this kind of possession that would justify the presumption that
for the use and occupation of a tribe of Indians.180 Once set apart by proper authority, the
the land had never been part of the public domain or that it had been private property
reservation ceases to be public land, and until the Indian title is extinguished, no one but
even before the Spanish conquest.193 Oh Cho, however, was decided under the provisions
Congress can initiate any preferential right on, or restrict the nation's power to dispose of,
of the Public Land Act and Cario was cited to support the applicant's claim of acquisitive
them.181
prescription under the said Act.

The American judiciary struggled for more than 200 years with the ancestral land
All these years, Cario had been quoted out of context simply to justify long, continuous,
claims of indigenous Americans.182 And two things are clear. First, aboriginal title is
open and adverse possession in the concept of owner of public agricultural land. It is this
recognized. Second, indigenous property systems are also recognized. From a legal point
long, continuous, open and adverse possession in the concept of owner of thirty years both
of view, certain benefits can be drawn from a comparison of Philippine IPs to native
for ordinary citizens194 and members of the national cultural minorities195 that converts
Americans.183 Despite the similarities between native title and aboriginal title, however,
the land from public into private and entitles the registrant to a torrens certificate of title.
there are at present some misgivings on whether jurisprudence on American Indians may
be cited authoritatively in the Philippines. The U.S. recognizes the possessory rights of the
Indians over their land; title to the land, however, is deemed to have passed to the U.S. as
(3) The Option of Securing a Torrens Title to the Ancestral Land Indicates that the Land Act, deals specifically with lands of the public domain.198 Its provisions apply to those
Land is Private. lands "declared open to disposition or concession" x x x "which have not been reserved for
public or quasi-public purposes, nor appropriated by the Government, nor in any manner
The private character of ancestral lands and domains as laid down in the IPRA is become private property, nor those on which a private right authorized and recognized by
further strengthened by the option given to individual ICCs/IPs over their this Act or any other valid law x x x or which having been reserved or appropriated, have
individually-owned ancestral lands. For purposes of registration under the Public ceased to be so."199 Act 496, the Land Registration Act, allows registration only of private
Land Act and the Land Registration Act, the IPRA expressly converts ancestral land lands and public agricultural lands. Since ancestral domains and lands are private, if
into public agricultural land which may be disposed of by the State. The necessary the ICC/IP wants to avail of the benefits of C.A. 141 and Act 496, the IPRA itself
implication is that ancestral land is private. It, however, has to be first converted to converts his ancestral land, regardless of whether the land has a slope of eighteen
public agricultural land simply for registration purposes. To wit: per cent (18%) or over,200 from private to public agricultural land for proper
disposition.
"Sec. 12. Option to Secure Certificate of Title Under Commonwealth Act 141, as amended, or
the Land Registration Act 496- Individual members of cultural communities, with respect The option to register land under the Public Land Act and the Land Registration Act has
to their individually-owned ancestral lands who, by themselves or through their nonetheless a limited period. This option must be exercised within twenty (20) years from
predecessors-in-interest, have been in continuous possession and occupation of the same October 29, 1997, the date of approval of the IPRA.
in the concept of owner since time immemorial or for a period of not less than thirty (30)
years immediately preceding the approval of this Act and uncontested by the members of Thus, ancestral lands and ancestral domains are not part of the lands of the public
the same ICCs/IPs shall have the option to secure title to their ancestral lands under the domain. They are private and belong to the ICCs/IPs. Section 3 of Article XII on
provisions of Commonwealth Act 141, as amended, or the Land Registration Act 496. National Economy and Patrimony of the 1987 Constitution classifies lands of the public
domain into four categories: (a) agricultural, (b) forest or timber, (c) mineral lands, and (d)
For this purpose, said individually-owned ancestral lands, which are agricultural in national parks. Section 5 of the same Article XII mentions ancestral lands and ancestral
character and actually used for agricultural, residential, pasture, and tree farming domains but it does not classify them under any of the said four categories. To classify
purposes, including those with a slope of eighteen percent (18%) or more, are hereby them as public lands under any one of the four classes will render the entire IPRA
classified as alienable and disposable agricultural lands. law a nullity. The spirit of the IPRA lies in the distinct concept of ancestral domains and
ancestral lands. The IPRA addresses the major problem of the ICCs/IPs which is loss of
land. Land and space are of vital concern in terms of sheer survival of the ICCs/IPs.201
The option granted under this section shall be exercised within twenty (20) years from the
approval of this Act."196
The 1987 Constitution mandates the State to "protect the rights of indigenous
cultural communities to their ancestral lands" and that "Congress provide for the
ICCs/IPs are given the option to secure a torrens certificate of title over their
applicability of customary laws x x x in determining the ownership and extent of
individually-owned ancestral lands. This option is limited to ancestral lands only, not
ancestral domain."202 It is the recognition of the ICCs/IPs distinct rights of
domains, and such lands must be individually, not communally, owned.
ownership over their ancestral domains and lands that breathes life into this
constitutional mandate.
Ancestral lands that are owned by individual members of ICCs/IPs who, by themselves or
through their predecessors-in-interest, have been in continuous possession and
B. The right of ownership and possession by the ICCs/IPs of their ancestral domains
occupation of the same in the concept of owner since time immemorial 197 or for a period of
is a limited form of ownership and does not include the right to alienate the same.
not less than 30 years, which claims are uncontested by the members of the same ICCs/IPs,
may be registered under C.A. 141, otherwise known as the Public Land Act, or Act 496, the
Land Registration Act. For purposes of registration, the individually-owned ancestral lands Registration under the Public Land Act and Land Registration Act recognizes the concept
are classified as alienable and disposable agricultural lands of the public domain, provided, of ownership under the civil law. This ownership is based on adverse possession for a
they are agricultural in character and are actually used for agricultural, residential, pasture specified period, and harkens to Section 44 of the Public Land Act on administrative
and tree farming purposes. These lands shall be classified as public agricultural lands legalization (free patent) of imperfect or incomplete titles and Section 48 (b) and (c) of the
regardless of whether they have a slope of 18% or more. same Act on the judicial confirmation of imperfect or incomplete titles. Thus:

The classification of ancestral land as public agricultural land is in compliance with the "Sec. 44. Any natural-born citizen of the Philippines who is not the owner of more than
requirements of the Public Land Act and the Land Registration Act. C.A. 141, the Public twenty-four hectares and who since July fourth, 1926 or prior thereto, has continuously
occupied and cultivated, either by himself or through his predecessors-in-interest, a tract A torrens title recognizes the owner whose name appears in the certificate as entitled to all
or tracts of agricultural public lands subject to disposition, or who shall have paid the real the rights of ownership under the civil law. The Civil Code of the Philippines defines
estate tax thereon while the same has not been occupied by any person shall be entitled, ownership in Articles 427, 428 and 429. This concept is based on Roman Law which the
under the provisions of this chapter, to have a free patent issued to him for such tract or Spaniards introduced to the Philippines through the Civil Code of 1889. Ownership, under
tracts of such land not to exceed twenty-four hectares. Roman Law, may be exercised over things or rights. It primarily includes the right of the
owner to enjoy and dispose of the thing owned. And the right to enjoy and dispose of the
A member of the national cultural minorities who has continuously occupied and thing includes the right to receive from the thing what it produces,205 the right to consume
cultivated, either by himself or through his predecessors-in-interest, a tract or tracts the thing by its use,206 the right to alienate, encumber, transform or even destroy the thing
of land, whether disposable or not since July 4, 1955, shall be entitled to the right owned,207 and the right to exclude from the possession of the thing owned by any other
granted in the preceding paragraph of this section: Provided, That at the time he files person to whom the owner has not transmitted such thing.208
his free patent application he is not the owner of any real property secured or
disposable under the provision of the Public Land Law.203 1. The Indigenous Concept of Ownership and Customary Law.

x x x. Ownership of ancestral domains by native title does not entitle the ICC/IP to a torrens title
but to a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT). The CADT formally recognizes
"Sec. 48. The following described citizens of the Philippines, occupying lands of the public the indigenous concept of ownership of the ICCs/IPs over their ancestral domain. Thus:
domain or claiming to own any such lands or an interest therein, but whose titles have not
been perfected or completed, may apply to the Court of First Instance of the province "Sec. 5. Indigenous concept of ownership.- Indigenous concept of ownership sustains the
where the land is located for confirmation of their claims and the issuance of a certificate view that ancestral domains and all resources found therein shall serve as the material
of title therefor, under the Land Registration Act, to wit: bases of their cultural integrity. The indigenous concept of ownership generally holds that
ancestral domains are the ICCs/IPs private but community property which belongs to all
(a) [perfection of Spanish titles] xxx. generations and therefore cannot be sold, disposed or destroyed. It likewise covers
sustainable traditional resource rights."
(b) Those who by themselves or through their predecessors-in-interest have been in open,
continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural lands of the The right of ownership and possession of the ICCs/IPs to their ancestral domains is
public domain, under a bona fide claim of acquisition or ownership, for at least thirty years held under the indigenous concept of ownership. This concept maintains the view
immediately preceding the filing of the application for confirmation of title except when that ancestral domains are the ICCs/IPs private but community property. It is
prevented by war or force majeure. These shall be conclusively presumed to have private simply because it is not part of the public domain. But its private character
performed all the conditions essential to a Government grant and shall be entitled to a ends there. The ancestral domain is owned in common by the ICCs/IPs and not by
certificate of title under the provisions of this Chapter. one particular person. The IPRA itself provides that areas within the ancestral domains,
whether delineated or not, are presumed to be communally held.209 These communal
rights, however, are not exactly the same as co-ownership rights under the Civil
(c) Members of the national cultural minorities who by themselves or through their
Code.210 Co-ownership gives any co-owner the right to demand partition of the property
predecessors-in-interest have been in open, continuous, exclusive and notorious
held in common. The Civil Code expressly provides that "no co-owner shall be obliged to
possession and occupation of lands of the public domain suitable to agriculture,
remain in the co-ownership." Each co-owner may demand at any time the partition of the
whether disposable or not, under a bona fide claim of ownership for at least 30
thing in common, insofar as his share is concerned.211 To allow such a right over ancestral
years shall be entitled to the rights granted in sub-section (b) hereof."204
domains may be destructive not only of customary law of the community but of the very
community itself.212
Registration under the foregoing provisions presumes that the land was originally public
agricultural land but because of adverse possession since July 4, 1955 (free patent) or at
Communal rights over land are not the same as corporate rights over real property,
least thirty years (judicial confirmation), the land has become private. Open, adverse,
much less corporate condominium rights. A corporation can exist only for a maximum
public and continuous possession is sufficient, provided, the possessor makes proper
of fifty (50) years subject to an extension of another fifty years in any single
application therefor. The possession has to be confirmed judicially or administratively
instance.213 Every stockholder has the right to disassociate himself from the
after which a torrens title is issued.
corporation.214 Moreover, the corporation itself may be dissolved voluntarily or
involuntarily.215
Communal rights to the land are held not only by the present possessors of the land C. Sections 7 (a), 7 (b) and 57 of the IPRA Do Not Violate the Regalian Doctrine
but extends to all generations of the ICCs/IPs, past, present and future, to the Enshrined in Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution.
domain. This is the reason why the ancestral domain must be kept within the ICCs/IPs
themselves. The domain cannot be transferred, sold or conveyed to other persons. It 1. The Rights of ICCs/IPs Over Their Ancestral Domains and Lands
belongs to the ICCs/IPs as a community.
The IPRA grants the ICCs/IPs several rights over their ancestral domains and ancestral
Ancestral lands are also held under the indigenous concept of ownership. The lands lands. Section 7 provides for the rights over ancestral domains:
are communal. These lands, however, may be transferred subject to the following
limitations: (a) only to the members of the same ICCs/IPs; (b) in accord with customary
"Sec. 7. Rights to Ancestral Domains.- The rights of ownership and possession of ICCs/IPs to
laws and traditions; and (c) subject to the right of redemption of the ICCs/IPs for a period
their ancestral domains shall be recognized and protected. Such rights include:
of 15 years if the land was transferred to a non-member of the ICCs/IPs.

a) Right of Ownership.- The right to claim ownership over lands, bodies of water
Following the constitutional mandate that "customary law govern property rights or
traditionally and actually occupied by ICCs/IPs, sacred places, traditional hunting
relations in determining the ownership and extent of ancestral domains,"216 the IPRA, by
and fishing grounds, and all improvements made by them at any time within the
legislative fiat, introduces a new concept of ownership. This is a concept that has
domains;
long existed under customary law.217

b) Right to Develop Lands and Natural Resources.- Subject to Section 56 hereof, the right
Custom, from which customary law is derived, is also recognized under the Civil
to develop, control and use lands and territories traditionally occupied, owned, or
Code as a source of law.218 Some articles of the Civil Code expressly provide that custom
used; to manage and conserve natural resources within the territories and uphold
should be applied in cases where no codal provision is applicable.219 In other words, in the
the responsibilities for future generations; to benefit and share the profits from
absence of any applicable provision in the Civil Code, custom, when duly proven, can
allocation and utilization of the natural resources found therein; the right to
define rights and liabilities.220
negotiate the terms and conditions for the exploration of natural resources in the
areas for the purpose of ensuring ecological, environmental protection and the
Customary law is a primary, not secondary, source of rights under the IPRA and uniquely conservation measures, pursuant to national and customary laws; the right to an
applies to ICCs/IPs. Its recognition does not depend on the absence of a specific informed and intelligent participation in the formulation and implementation of any
provision in the civil law. The indigenous concept of ownership under customary law is project, government or private, that will affect or impact upon the ancestral domains and
specifically acknowledged and recognized, and coexists with the civil law concept and the to receive just and fair compensation for any damages which they may sustain as a result
laws on land titling and land registration.221 of the project; and the right to effective measures by the government to prevent any
interference with, alienation and encroachment upon these rights;"
To be sure, the indigenous concept of ownership exists even without a paper
title. The CADT is merely a "formal recognition" of native title. This is clear from Section c) Right to Stay in the Territories.- The right to stay in the territory and not to be removed
11 of the IPRA, to wit: therefrom. No ICCs/IPs will be relocated without their free and prior informed consent,
nor through any means other than eminent domain. x x x;
"Sec. 11. Recognition of Ancestral Domain Rights.- The rights of ICCs/IPs to their ancestral
domains by virtue of Native Title shall be recognized and respected. Formal recognition, d) Right in Case of Displacement.- In case displacement occurs as a result of natural
when solicited by ICCs/IPs concerned shall be embodied in a Certificate of Ancestral catastrophes, the State shall endeavor to resettle the displaced ICCs/IPs in suitable areas
Domain Title, which shall recognize the title of the concerned ICCs/IPs over the territories where they can have temporary life support systems: x x x;
identified and delineated."
e) Right to Regulate the Entry of Migrants.- Right to regulate the entry of migrant settlers
The moral import of ancestral domain, native land or being native is "belongingness" to the and organizations into their domains;
land, being people of the land- by sheer force of having sprung from the land since time
beyond recall, and the faithful nurture of the land by the sweat of one's brow. This is
f) Right to Safe and Clean Air and Water.-For this purpose, the ICCs/IPs shall have access to
fidelity of usufructuary relation to the land- the possession of stewardship through
integrated systems for the management of their inland waters and air space;
perduring, intimate tillage, and the mutuality of blessings between man and land; from
man, care for land; from the land, sustenance for man.222
g) Right to Claim Parts of Reservations.- The right to claim parts of the ancestral domains "Sec. 2. All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other
which have been reserved for various purposes, except those reserved and intended for mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora
common and public welfare and service; and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State. With the exception of
agricultural lands, all other natural resources shall not be alienated. The exploration,
h) Right to Resolve Conflict.- Right to resolve land conflicts in accordance with customary development, and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and
laws of the area where the land is located, and only in default thereof shall the complaints supervision of the State. The State may directly undertake such activities, or, it may
be submitted to amicable settlement and to the Courts of Justice whenever necessary." enter into co-production, joint venture, or production-sharing agreements with
Filipino citizens, or corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of whose
capital is owned by such citizens. Such agreements may be for a period not exceeding
Section 8 provides for the rights over ancestral lands:
twenty-five years, renewable for not more than twenty-five years, and under such terms
and conditions as may be provided by law. In cases of water rights for irrigation, water
"Sec. 8. Rights to Ancestral Lands.- The right of ownership and possession of the ICCs/IPs to supply, fisheries, water supply, fisheries, or industrial uses other than the development of
their ancestral lands shall be recognized and protected. water power, beneficial use may be the measure and limit of the grant.

a) Right to transfer land/property.- Such right shall include the right to transfer land or The State shall protect the nation's marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea,
property rights to/among members of the same ICCs/IPs, subject to customary laws and and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino
traditions of the community concerned. citizens.

b) Right to Redemption.- In cases where it is shown that the transfer of land/property The Congress may, by law, allow small-scale utilization of natural resources by
rights by virtue of any agreement or devise, to a non-member of the concerned ICCs/IPs is Filipino citizens, as well as cooperative fish farming, with priority to subsistence
tainted by the vitiated consent of the ICCs/IPs, or is transferred for an unconscionable fishermen and fishworkers in rivers, lakes, bays, and lagoons.
consideration or price, the transferor ICC/IP shall have the right to redeem the same
within a period not exceeding fifteen (15) years from the date of transfer."
The President may enter into agreements with foreign-owned corporations involving
either technical or financial assistance for large-scale exploration, development, and
Section 7 (a) defines the ICCs/IPs the right of ownership over their utilization of minerals, petroleum, and other mineral oils according to the general
ancestral domains which covers (a) lands, (b) bodies of water traditionally and actually terms and conditions provided by law, based on real contributions to the economic growth
occupied by the ICCs/IPs, (c) sacred places, (d) traditional hunting and fishing grounds, and general welfare of the country. In such agreements, the state shall promote the
and (e) all improvements made by them at any time within the domains. The right of development and use of local scientific and technical resources.
ownership includes the following rights: (1) the right to develop lands and natural
resources; (b) the right to stay in the territories; (c) the right to resettlement in case of
The President shall notify the Congress of every contract entered into in accordance with
displacement; (d) the right to regulate the entry of migrants; (e) the right to safe and clean
this provision, within thirty days from its execution."223
air and water; (f) the right to claim parts of the ancestral domains as reservations; and (g)
the right to resolve conflict in accordance with customary laws.
All lands of the public domain and all natural resources- waters, minerals, coal,
petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or timber,
Section 8 governs their rights to ancestral lands. Unlike ownership over the ancestral
wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources- are owned by the State. The
domains, Section 8 gives the ICCs/IPs also the right to transfer the land or property rights
Constitution provides that in the exploration, development and utilization of these natural
to members of the same ICCs/IPs or non-members thereof. This is in keeping with the
resources, the State exercises full control and supervision, and may undertake the same in
option given to ICCs/IPs to secure a torrens title over the ancestral lands, but not to
four (4) modes:
domains.

1. The State may directly undertake such activities; or


2. The Right of ICCs/IPs to Develop Lands and Natural Resources Within the Ancestral
Domains Does Not Deprive the State of Ownership Over the Natural Resources and Control
and Supervision in their Development and Exploitation. 2. The State may enter into co-production, joint venture or production-sharing agreements
with Filipino citizens or qualified corporations;
The Regalian doctrine on the ownership, management and utilization of natural resources
is declared in Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, viz:
3. Congress may, by law, allow small-scale utilization of natural resources by Filipino resources" enumerated in Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution as
citizens; belonging to the State.

4. For the large-scale exploration, development and utilization of minerals, petroleum and The non-inclusion of ownership by the ICCs/IPs over the natural resources in Section 7(a)
other mineral oils, the President may enter into agreements with foreign-owned complies with the Regalian doctrine.
corporations involving technical or financial assistance.
(a) Section 1, Part II, Rule III of the Implementing Rules Goes Beyond the Parameters
As owner of the natural resources, the State is accorded primary power and of Sec. 7 (a) of the IPRA And is Unconstitutional.
responsibility in the exploration, development and utilization of these natural
resources. The State may directly undertake the exploitation and development by itself, or, The Rules Implementing the IPRA230 in Section 1, Part II, Rule III reads:
it may allow participation by the private sector through co-production,224joint
venture,225 or production-sharing agreements.226 These agreements may be for a period of
"Section 1. Rights of Ownership. ICCs/IPs have rights of ownership over lands, waters,
25 years, renewable for another 25 years. The State, through Congress, may allow the
and natural resources and all improvements made by them at any time within the
small-scale utilization of natural resources by Filipino citizens. For the large-scale
ancestral domains/ lands. These rights shall include, but not limited to, the right over the
exploration of these resources, specifically minerals, petroleum and other mineral oils, the
fruits, the right to possess, the right to use, right to consume, right to exclude and right to
State, through the President, may enter into technical and financial assistance agreements
recover ownership, and the rights or interests over land and natural resources. The right
with foreign-owned corporations.
to recover shall be particularly applied to lands lost through fraud or any form or vitiated
consent or transferred for an unconscionable price."
Under the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, (R.A. 7942) and the People's Small-Scale Mining
Act of 1991 (R.A. 7076) the three types of agreements, i.e., co-production, joint venture or
Section 1 of the Implementing Rules gives the ICCs/IPs rights of ownership over "lands,
production-sharing, may apply to both large-scale227 and small-scale
waters and natural resources." The term "natural resources" is not one of those expressly
mining.228 "Small-scale mining" refers to "mining activities which rely heavily on manual
mentioned in Section 7 (a) of the law. Our Constitution and jurisprudence clearly declare
labor using simple implements and methods and do not use explosives or heavy mining
that the right to claim ownership over land does not necessarily include the right to claim
equipment."229
ownership over the natural resources found on or under the land.231 The IPRA itself
makes a distinction between land and natural resources. Section 7 (a) speaks of the
Examining the IPRA, there is nothing in the law that grants to the ICCs/IPs right of ownership only over the land within the ancestral domain. It is Sections 7 (b)
ownership over the natural resources within their ancestral domains. The right of and 57 of the law that speak of natural resources, and these provisions, as shall be
ICCs/IPs in their ancestral domains includes ownership, but this "ownership" is discussed later, do not give the ICCs/IPs the right of ownership over these resources.
expressly defined and limited in Section 7 (a) as:
The constitutionality of Section 1, Part II, Rule III of the Implementing Rules was not
"Sec. 7. a) Right of ownership- The right to claim ownership over lands, bodies of water specifically and categorically challenged by petitioners. Petitioners actually assail the
traditionally and actually occupied by ICCs/IPs, sacred places, traditional hunting and constitutionality of the Implementing Rules in general.232Nevertheless, to avoid any
fishing grounds, and all improvements made by them at any time within the domains;" confusion in the implementation of the law, it is necessary to declare that the inclusion of
"natural resources" in Section 1, Part II, Rule III of the Implementing Rules goes beyond
The ICCs/IPs are given the right to claim ownership over "lands, bodies of water the parameters of Section 7 (b) of the law and is contrary to Section 2, Article XII of the
traditionally and actually occupied by ICCs/IPs, sacred places, traditional hunting and 1987 Constitution.
fishing grounds, and all improvements made by them at any time within the domains." It
will be noted that this enumeration does not mention bodies of water not occupied by the (b) The Small-Scale Utilization of Natural Resources In Sec. 7 (b) of the IPRA Is
ICCs/IPs, minerals, coal, wildlife, flora and fauna in the traditional hunting grounds, fish in Allowed Under Paragraph 3, Section 2 of Article XII of the Constitution.
the traditional fishing grounds, forests or timber in the sacred places, etc. and all other
natural resources found within the ancestral domains. Indeed, the right of ownership
Ownership over natural resources remain with the State and the IPRA in Section 7 (b)
under Section 7 (a) does not cover "waters, minerals, coal, petroleum and other
merely grants the ICCs/IPs the right to manage them, viz:
mineral oils, all forces of potential
energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, floraand fauna and all other natural
"Sec. 7 (b) Right to Develop Lands and Natural Resources.- Subject to Section 56
hereof, right to develop, control and use lands and territories traditionally occupied,
owned, or used; to manage and conserve natural resourceswithin the territories and Simply stated, the ICCs/IPs' rights over the natural resources take the form of
uphold the responsibilities for future generations; to benefit and share the profits from management or stewardship. For the ICCs/IPs may use these resources and share in the
allocation and utilization of the natural resources found therein; the right to negotiate the profits of their utilization or negotiate the terms for their exploration. At the same time,
terms and conditions for the exploration of natural resources in the areas for the purpose however, the ICCs/IPs must ensure that the natural resources within their ancestral
of ensuring ecological, environmental protection and the conservation measures, pursuant domains are conserved for future generations and that the "utilization" of these resources
to national and customary laws; the right to an informed and intelligent participation in must not harm the ecology and environment pursuant to national and customary laws.234
the formulation and implementation of any project, government or private, that will affect
or impact upon the ancestral domains and to receive just and fair compensation for any The limited rights of "management and use" in Section 7 (b) must be taken to
damages which they may sustain as a result of the project; and the right to effective contemplate small-scale utilization of natural resources as distinguished from
measures by the government to prevent any interference with, alienation and large-scale. Small-scale utilization of natural resources is expressly allowed in the
encroachment upon these rights;" third paragraph of Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution "in recognition of the plight
of forest dwellers, gold panners, marginal fishermen and others similarly situated who
The right to develop lands and natural resources under Section 7 (b) of the IPRA exploit our natural resources for their daily sustenance and survival."235 Section 7 (b) also
enumerates the following rights: expressly mandates the ICCs/IPs to manage and conserve these resources and ensure
environmental and ecological protection within the domains, which duties, by their very
a) the right to develop, control and use lands and territories traditionally occupied; nature, necessarily reject utilization in a large-scale.

b) the right to manage and conserve natural resources within the territories and uphold (c) The Large-Scale Utilization of Natural Resources In Section 57 of the IPRA Is
the responsibilities for future generations; Allowed Under Paragraphs 1 and 4, Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution.

c) the right to benefit and share the profits from the allocation and utilization of Section 57 of the IPRA provides:
the natural resources found therein;
"Sec. 57. Natural Resources within Ancestral Domains.- The ICCs/IPs shall have priority
d) the right to negotiate the terms and conditions for the exploration of natural rights in the harvesting, extraction, development or exploitation of any natural
resources for the purpose of ensuring ecological, environmental protection and the resources within the ancestral domains. A non-member of the ICCs/IPs concerned may be
conservation measures, pursuant to national and customary laws; allowed to take part in the development and utilization of the natural resources for a
period of not exceeding twenty-five (25) years renewable for not more than twenty-five
(25) years: Provided, That a formal and written agreement is entered into with the
e) the right to an informed and intelligent participation in the formulation and
ICCs/IPs concerned or that the community, pursuant to its own decision-making process,
implementation of any project, government or private, that will affect or impact upon the
has agreed to allow such operation: Provided finally, That the NCIP may exercise visitorial
ancestral domains and to receive just and fair compensation for any damages which they
powers and take appropriate action to safeguard the rights of the ICCs/IPs under the same
may sustain as a result of the project;
contract."

f) the right to effective measures by the government to prevent any interference with,
Section 57 speaks of the "harvesting, extraction, development or exploitation of
alienation and encroachment upon these rights.233
natural resources within ancestral domains" and "gives the ICCs/IPs 'priority rights'
therein." The terms "harvesting, extraction, development or exploitation" of any
Ownership over the natural resources in the ancestral domains remains with the natural resources within the ancestral domains obviously refer to large-scale
State and the ICCs/IPs are merely granted the right to "manage and conserve" them utilization. It is utilization not merely for subsistence but for commercial or other
for future generations, "benefit and share" the profits from their allocation and extensive use that require technology other than manual labor.236 The law recognizes the
utilization, and "negotiate the terms and conditions for their exploration" for the probability of requiring a non-member of the ICCs/IPs to participate in the development
purpose of "ensuring ecological and environmental protection and conservation and utilization of the natural resources and thereby allows such participation for a period
measures." It must be noted that the right to negotiate the terms and conditions over the of not more than 25 years, renewable for another 25 years. This may be done on condition
natural resources covers only their exploration which must be for the purpose of ensuring that a formal written agreement be entered into by the non-member and members of the
ecological and environmental protection of, and conservation measures in the ancestral ICCs/IPs.
domain. It does not extend to the exploitation and development of natural resources.
Section 57 of the IPRA does not give the ICCs/IPs the right to "manage and conserve" the resources even in their exploitation. Sections 7 (b) and 57 of the law simply give due
natural resources. Instead, the law only grants the ICCs/IPs "priority rights" in the respect to the ICCs/IPs who, as actual occupants of the land where the natural resources
development or exploitation thereof. Priority means giving preference. Having priority lie, have traditionally utilized these resources for their subsistence and survival.
rights over the natural resources does not necessarily mean ownership rights. The grant of
priority rights implies that there is a superior entity that owns these resources and this Neither is the State stripped of ownership and control of the natural resources by the
entity has the power to grant preferential rights over the resources to whosoever itself following provision:
chooses.
"Section 59. Certification Precondition.- All departments and other governmental agencies
Section 57 is not a repudiation of the Regalian doctrine. Rather, it is an affirmation of the shall henceforth be strictly enjoined from issuing, renewing or granting any concession,
said doctrine that all natural resources found within the ancestral domains belong to the license or lease, or entering into any production-sharing agreement. without prior
State. It incorporates by implication the Regalian doctrine, hence, requires that the certification from the NCIP that the area affected does not overlap with any ancestral
provision be read in the light of Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 domain. Such certification shall only be issued after a field-based investigation is
Constitution. Interpreting Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution237 in relation conducted by the Ancestral Domains Office of the area concerned: Provided, That no
to Section 57 of IPRA, the State, as owner of these natural resources, may directly certification shall be issued by the NCIP without the free and prior informed and written
undertake the development and exploitation of the natural resources by itself, or in consent of the ICCs/IPs concerned: Provided, further, That no department, government
the alternative, it may recognize the priority rights of the ICCs/IPs as owners of agency or government-owned or -controlled corporation may issue new concession,
the land on which the natural resources are found by entering into a co-production, license, lease, or production sharing agreement while there is a pending application for a
joint venture, or production-sharing agreement with them. The State may likewise CADT: Provided, finally, That the ICCs/IPs shall have the right to stop or suspend, in
enter into any of said agreements with a non-member of the ICCs/IPs, whether accordance with this Act, any project that has not satisfied the requirement of this
natural or juridical, or enter into agreements with foreign-owned corporations consultation process."
involving either technical or financial assistance for the large-scale exploration,
development and utilization of minerals, petroleum, and other mineral oils, or allow
Concessions, licenses, lease or production-sharing agreements for the exploitation of
such non-member to participate in its agreement with the ICCs/IPs. If the State
natural resources shall not be issued, renewed or granted by all departments and
decides to enter into an agreement with a non-ICC/IP member, the National Commission
government agencies without prior certification from the NCIP that the area subject of the
on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) shall ensure that the rights of the ICCs/IPs under the
agreement does not overlap with any ancestral domain. The NCIP certification shall be
agreement shall be protected. The agreement shall be for a period of 25 years, renewable
issued only after a field-based investigation shall have been conducted and the free and
for another 25 years.
prior informed written consent of the ICCs/IPs obtained. Non-compliance with the
consultation requirement gives the ICCs/IPs the right to stop or suspend any project
To reiterate, in the large-scale utilization of natural resources within the ancestral granted by any department or government agency.
domains, the State, as owner of these resources, has four (4) options: (1) it may, of and by
itself, directly undertake the development and exploitation of the natural resources; or (2)
As its subtitle suggests, this provision requires as a precondition for the issuance of any
it may recognize the priority rights of the ICCs/IPs by entering into an agreement with
concession, license or agreement over natural resources, that a certification be issued by
them for such development and exploitation; or (3) it may enter into an agreement with a
the NCIP that the area subject of the agreement does not lie within any ancestral domain.
non-member of the ICCs/IPs, whether natural or juridical, local or foreign; or (4) it may
The provision does not vest the NCIP with power over the other agencies of the State as to
allow such non-member to participate in the agreement with the ICCs/IPs.
determine whether to grant or deny any concession or license or agreement. It merely
gives the NCIP the authority to ensure that the ICCs/IPs have been informed of the
The rights granted by the IPRA to the ICCs/IPs over the natural resources in their agreement and that their consent thereto has been obtained. Note that the certification
ancestral domains merely gives the ICCs/IPs, as owners and occupants of the land on applies to agreements over natural resources that do not necessarily lie within the
which the resources are found, the right to the small-scale utilization of these ancestral domains. For those that are found within the said domains, Sections 7(b) and 57
resources, and at the same time, a priority in their large-scale development and of the IPRA apply.
exploitation. Section 57 does not mandate the State to automatically give priority to
the ICCs/IPs. The State has several options and it is within its discretion to choose
V. THE IPRA IS A RECOGNITION OF OUR ACTIVE PARTICIPATION IN THE
which option to pursue. Moreover, there is nothing in the law that gives the ICCs/IPs the
INDIGENOUS INTERNATIONAL MOVEMENT.
right to solely undertake the large-scale development of the natural resources within their
domains. The ICCs/IPs must undertake such endeavour always under State supervision or
control. This indicates that the State does not lose control and ownership over the
The indigenous movement can be seen as the heir to a history of anti-imperialism assimilationist orientation of the earlier standards," and recognizing the aspirations of
stretching back to prehistoric times. The movement received a massive impetus during the these peoples to exercise control over their own institutions, ways of life and economic
1960's from two sources. First, the decolonization of Asia and Africa brought into the development."250
limelight the possibility of peoples controlling their own destinies. Second, the right of
self-determination was enshrined in the UN Declaration on Human Rights.238 The rise of CONCLUSION
the civil rights movement and anti-racism brought to the attention of North American
Indians, Aborigines in Australia, and Maori in New Zealand the possibility of fighting for
The struggle of the Filipinos throughout colonial history had been plagued by ethnic and
fundamental rights and freedoms.
religious differences. These differences were carried over and magnified by the Philippine
government through the imposition of a national legal order that is mostly foreign in origin
In 1974 and 1975, international indigenous organizations were founded, 239 and during the or derivation.251 Largely unpopulist, the present legal system has resulted in the alienation
1980's, indigenous affairs were on the international agenda. The people of the Philippine of a large sector of society, specifically, the indigenous peoples. The histories and cultures
Cordillera were the first Asians to take part in the international indigenous movement. It of the indigenes are relevant to the evolution of Philippine culture and are vital to the
was the Cordillera People's Alliance that carried out successful campaigns against the understanding of contemporary problems.252 It is through the IPRA that an attempt was
building of the Chico River Dam in 1981-82 and they have since become one of the made by our legislators to understand Filipino society not in terms of myths and biases but
best-organized indigenous bodies in the world.240 through common experiences in the course of history. The Philippines became a
democracy a centennial ago and the decolonization process still continues. If the evolution
Presently, there is a growing concern for indigenous rights in the international scene. This of the Filipino people into a democratic society is to truly proceed democratically, i.e., if the
came as a result of the increased publicity focused on the continuing disrespect for Filipinos as a whole are to participate fully in the task of continuing democratization, 253 it
indigenous human rights and the destruction of the indigenous peoples' environment, is this Court's duty to acknowledge the presence of indigenous and customary laws in the
together with the national governments' inability to deal with the situation.241Indigenous country and affirm their co-existence with the land laws in our national legal system.
rights came as a result of both human rights and environmental protection, and have
become a part of today's priorities for the international agenda.242 With the foregoing disquisitions, I vote to uphold the constitutionality of the Indigenous
Peoples Rights Act of 1997.
International institutions and bodies have realized the necessity of applying policies,
programs and specific rules concerning IPs in some nations. The World Bank, for example,
first adopted a policy on IPs as a result of the dismal experience of projects in Latin
America.243 The World Bank now seeks to apply its current policy on IPs to some of its
projects in Asia. This policy has provided an influential model for the projects of the Asian
Development Bank.244

The 1987 Philippine Constitution formally recognizes the existence of ICCs/IPs and
declares as a State policy the promotion of their rights within the framework of national
unity and development.245 The IPRA amalgamates the Philippine category of ICCs with the
international category of IPs,246 and is heavily influenced by both the International Labor
Organization (ILO) Convention 169 and the United Nations (UN) Draft Declaration on the
Rights of Indigenous Peoples.247

ILO Convention No. 169 is entitled the "Convention Concerning Indigenous and Tribal
Peoples in Independent Countries"248 and was adopted on June 27, 1989. It is based on the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social
and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and many
other international instruments on the prevention of discrimination.249 ILO Convention No.
169 revised the "Convention Concerning the Protection and Integration of Indigenous and
Other Tribal and Semi-Tribal Populations in Independent Countries" (ILO No. 107) passed
on June 26, 1957. Developments in international law made it appropriate to adopt new
international standards on indigenous peoples "with a view to removing the
THE SECRETARY OF THE G.R. No. 167707 MANAGEMENT BUREAU,
DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT REGION VI, PROVINCIAL
AND NATURAL RESOURCES, THE ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL
REGIONAL EXECUTIVE Present: RESOURCES OFFICER, KALIBO,
DIRECTOR, DENR-REGION VI, AKLAN,
REGIONAL TECHNICAL PUNO, C.J., Respondents.
DIRECTOR FOR LANDS, QUISUMBING,
LANDS MANAGEMENT BUREAU, YNARES-SANTIAGO, x--------------------------------------------------x
REGION VI PROVINCIAL CARPIO,
ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, DECISION
RESOURCES OFFICER OF KALIBO, CORONA,*
AKLAN, REGISTER OF DEEDS, CARPIO MORALES,
DIRECTOR OF LAND AZCUNA, REYES, R.T., J.:
REGISTRATION AUTHORITY, TINGA,
DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM CHICO-NAZARIO,
SECRETARY, DIRECTOR OF VELASCO, JR.,
PHILIPPINE TOURISM NACHURA,** AT stake in these consolidated cases is the right of the present occupants
AUTHORITY, REYES, of Boracay Island to secure titles over their occupied lands.
Petitioners, LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, and
BRION, JJ.
- versus -
There are two consolidated petitions. The first is G.R. No. 167707, a petition for

review on certiorari of the Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals (CA) affirming that[2] of the
MAYOR JOSE S. YAP, LIBERTAD
Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Kalibo, Aklan, which granted the petition for declaratory
TALAPIAN, MILA Y. SUMNDAD, and
ANICETO YAP, in their behalf and Promulgated: relief filed by respondents-claimants Mayor Jose Yap, et al. and ordered the survey of
in behalf of all those similarly situated,
Respondents. October 8, 2008 Boracay for titling purposes. The second is G.R. No. 173775, a petition for prohibition,

mandamus, and nullification of Proclamation No. 1064[3] issued by President Gloria


x--------------------------------------------------x
Macapagal-Arroyo classifying Boracay into reserved forest and agricultural land.
DR. ORLANDO SACAY and G.R. No. 173775
WILFREDO GELITO, joined by
THE LANDOWNERS OF The Antecedents
BORACAY SIMILARLY
SITUATED NAMED IN A LIST,
ANNEX A OF THIS PETITION, G.R. No. 167707
Petitioners,

Boracay Island in the Municipality of Malay, Aklan, with its powdery white sand
- versus -
beaches and warm crystalline waters, is reputedly a premier Philippine tourist
THE SECRETARY OF THE
destination.The island is also home to 12,003 inhabitants[4] who live in the bone-shaped
DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT
AND NATURAL RESOURCES, THE islands three barangays.[5]
REGIONAL TECHNICAL
DIRECTOR FOR LANDS, LANDS
On April 14, 1976, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)

approved the National Reservation Survey of Boracay The Republic, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), opposed the

Island,[6] which identified several lots as being occupied or claimed by named persons.[7] petition for declaratory relief. The OSG countered that Boracay Island was an unclassified

land of the public domain. It formed part of the mass of lands classified as public forest,

On November 10, 1978, then President Ferdinand Marcos issued Proclamation which was not available for disposition pursuant to Section 3(a) of Presidential Decree (PD)

No. 1801[8] declaring Boracay Island, among other islands, caves and peninsulas in No. 705 or the Revised Forestry Code,[11] as amended.

the Philippines, as tourist zones and marine reserves under the administration of the

Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA). President Marcos later approved the issuance The OSG maintained that respondents-claimants reliance on PD No. 1801

of PTACircular 3-82[9] dated September 3, 1982, to implement Proclamation No. 1801. and PTA Circular No. 3-82 was misplaced. Their right to judicial confirmation of title was

governed by CA No. 141 and PD No. 705. Since Boracay Island had not been classified as

Claiming that Proclamation No. 1801 and PTA Circular No 3-82 precluded them alienable and disposable, whatever possession they had cannot ripen into ownership.

from filing an application for judicial confirmation of imperfect title or survey of land for

titling purposes, respondents-claimants During pre-trial, respondents-claimants and the OSG stipulated on the following

Mayor Jose S. Yap, Jr., Libertad Talapian, Mila Y. Sumndad, and Aniceto Yap filed a petition facts: (1) respondents-claimants were presently in possession of parcels of land in Boracay

for declaratory relief with the RTC in Kalibo, Aklan. Island; (2) these parcels of land were planted with coconut trees and other natural

growing trees; (3) the coconut trees had heights of more or less twenty (20) meters and

In their petition, respondents-claimants alleged that Proclamation No. 1801 were planted more or less fifty (50) years ago; and (4) respondents-claimants declared the

and PTA Circular No. 3-82 raised doubts on their right to secure titles over their occupied land they were occupying for tax purposes.[12]

lands. They declared that they themselves, or through their predecessors-in-interest, had

been in open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation in Boracay The parties also agreed that the principal issue for resolution was purely legal:

since June 12, 1945, or earlier since time immemorial. They declared their lands for tax whether Proclamation No. 1801 posed any legal hindrance or impediment to the titling of

purposes and paid realty taxes on them.[10] the lands in Boracay. They decided to forego with the trial and to submit the case for

resolution upon submission of their respective memoranda.[13]

Respondents-claimants posited that Proclamation No. 1801 and its implementing


Circular did not place Boracay beyond the commerce of man. Since the Island was The RTC took judicial notice[14] that certain parcels of land in Boracay Island,

classified as a tourist zone, it was susceptible of private ownership. Under Section 48(b) of more particularly Lots 1 and 30, Plan PSU-5344, were covered by Original Certificate of
Commonwealth Act (CA) No. 141, otherwise known as the Public Land Act, they had the Title No. 19502 (RO 2222) in the name of the Heirs of Ciriaco S. Tirol. These lots were

right to have the lots registered in their names through judicial confirmation of imperfect involved in Civil Case Nos. 5222 and 5262 filed before

titles. the RTC of Kalibo, Aklan.[15]The titles were issued on


August 7, 1933.[16]

RTC and CA Dispositions The CA held that respondents-claimants could not be prejudiced by a declaration

that the lands they occupied since time immemorial were part of a forest reserve.

On July 14, 1999, the RTC rendered a decision in favor of respondents-claimants,

with a fallo reading: Again, the OSG sought reconsideration but it was similarly denied.[25] Hence, the

present petition under Rule 45.


WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Court declares that
Proclamation No. 1801 and PTA Circular No. 3-82 pose no legal obstacle
to the petitioners and those similarly situated to acquire title to their G.R. No. 173775
lands in Boracay, in accordance with the applicable laws and in the
manner prescribed therein; and to have their lands surveyed and
approved by respondent Regional Technical Director of Lands as the
On May 22, 2006, during the pendency of G.R. No. 167707, President Gloria
approved survey does not in itself constitute a title to the land.
Macapagal-Arroyo issued Proclamation No. 1064[26] classifying Boracay Island into four
SO ORDERED.[17]
hundred (400) hectares of reserved forest land (protection purposes) and six hundred

twenty-eight and 96/100 (628.96) hectares of agricultural land (alienable and


The RTC upheld respondents-claimants right to have their occupied lands titled
disposable). The Proclamation likewise provided for a fifteen-meter buffer zone on each
in their name. It ruled that neither Proclamation No. 1801 nor PTA Circular No. 3-82
side of the centerline of roads and trails, reserved for right-of-way and which shall form
mentioned that lands in Boracay were inalienable or could not be the subject of
part of the area reserved for forest land protection purposes.
disposition.[18] The Circular itself recognized private ownership of lands.[19] The trial court
cited Sections 87[20] and 53[21] of the Public Land Act as basis for acknowledging private
On August 10, 2006, petitioners-claimants Dr. Orlando Sacay,[27] Wilfredo
ownership of lands in Boracay and that only those forested areas in public lands were
Gelito,[28] and other landowners[29] in Boracay filed with this Court an original petition for
declared as part of the forest reserve.[22]
prohibition, mandamus, and nullification of Proclamation No. 1064.[30] They allege that the

Proclamation infringed on their prior vested rights over portions of Boracay. They have
The OSG moved for reconsideration but its motion was denied.[23] The Republic
been in continued possession of their respective lots in Boracay since time
then appealed to the CA.
immemorial. They have also invested billions of pesos in developing their lands and
building internationally renowned first class resorts on their lots.[31]
On December 9, 2004, the appellate court affirmed in toto the RTC decision,
disposing as follows:

Petitioners-claimants contended that there is no need for a proclamation


WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing premises, judgment is
hereby rendered by us DENYING the appeal filed in this case and reclassifying Boracay into agricultural land. Being classified as neither mineral nor timber
AFFIRMING the decision of the lower court.[24]
land, the island is deemed agricultural pursuant to the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act No.
I.
926, known as the first Public Land Act.[32] Thus, their possession in the concept of owner AT THE TIME OF THE ESTABLISHED POSSESSION OF PETITIONERS IN
for the required period entitled them to judicial confirmation of imperfect title. CONCEPT OF OWNER OVER THEIR RESPECTIVE AREAS IN BORACAY,
SINCE TIME IMMEMORIAL OR AT THE LATEST SINCE 30 YRS. PRIOR
TO THE FILING OF THE PETITION FOR DECLARATORY RELIEF ON NOV.
19, 1997, WERE THE AREAS OCCUPIED BY THEM PUBLIC
Opposing the petition, the OSG argued that petitioners-claimants do not have a
AGRICULTURAL LANDS AS DEFINED BY LAWS THEN ON JUDICIAL
vested right over their occupied portions in the island. Boracay is an unclassified public CONFIRMATION OF IMPERFECT TITLES OR PUBLIC FOREST AS
DEFINED BY SEC. 3a, PD 705?
forest land pursuant to Section 3(a) of PD No. 705. Being public forest, the claimed

portions of the island are inalienable and cannot be the subject of judicial confirmation of II.
HAVE PETITIONERS OCCUPANTS ACQUIRED PRIOR VESTED RIGHT OF
imperfect title. It is only the executive department, not the courts, which has authority to PRIVATE OWNERSHIP OVER THEIR OCCUPIED PORTIONS
reclassify lands of the public domain into alienable and disposable lands. There is a need OF BORACAY LAND, DESPITE THE FACT THAT THEY HAVE NOT
APPLIED YET FOR JUDICIAL CONFIRMATION OF IMPERFECT TITLE?
for a positive government act in order to release the lots for disposition.
III.
IS THE EXECUTIVE DECLARATION OF THEIR AREAS AS
On November 21, 2006, this Court ordered the consolidation of the two ALIENABLE AND DISPOSABLE UNDER SEC 6, CA 141 [AN]
INDISPENSABLE PRE-REQUISITE FOR PETITIONERS TO OBTAIN
petitions as they principally involve the same issues on the land classification TITLE UNDER THE TORRENS SYSTEM?
of Boracay Island.[33]
IV.
IS THE ISSUANCE OF PROCLAMATION 1064 ON MAY 22, 2006,
Issues VIOLATIVE OF THE PRIOR VESTED RIGHTS TO PRIVATE OWNERSHIP
OF PETITIONERS OVER THEIR LANDS IN BORACAY, PROTECTED BY
THE DUE PROCESS CLAUSE OF THE CONSTITUTION OR IS
PROCLAMATION 1064 CONTRARY TO SEC. 8, CA 141, OR SEC. 4(a) OF
G.R. No. 167707
RA 6657.

V.
The OSG raises the lone issue of whether Proclamation No. 1801 CAN RESPONDENTS BE COMPELLED BY MANDAMUS TO ALLOW THE
and PTA Circular No. 3-82 pose any legal obstacle for respondents, and all those similarly SURVEY AND TO APPROVE THE SURVEY PLANS FOR PURPOSES OF
THE APPLICATION FOR TITLING OF THE LANDS OF PETITIONERS IN
situated, to acquire title to their occupied lands in Boracay Island.[34] BORACAY?[35] (Underscoring supplied)

In capsule, the main issue is whether private claimants (respondents-claimants in

G.R. No. 167707 and petitioners-claimants in G.R. No. 173775) have a right to secure titles
G.R. No. 173775 over their occupied portions in Boracay. The twin petitions pertain to their right, if any, to

judicial confirmation of imperfect title under CA No. 141, as amended. They do not involve
Petitioners-claimants hoist five (5) issues, namely: their right to secure title under other pertinent laws.
with the conservation of such patrimony.[45] The doctrine has been consistently adopted

Our Ruling under the 1935, 1973, and 1987 Constitutions.[46]

Regalian Doctrine and power of the executive


to reclassify lands of the public domain All lands not otherwise appearing to be clearly within private ownership are

presumed to belong to the State.[47] Thus, all lands that have not been acquired from the

government, either by purchase or by grant, belong to the State as part of the inalienable
Private claimants rely on three (3) laws and executive acts in their bid for judicial
public domain.[48] Necessarily, it is up to the State to determine if lands of the public
confirmation of imperfect title, namely: (a) Philippine Bill of 1902[36] in relation to Act No.
domain will be disposed of for private ownership. The government, as the agent of the
926, later amended and/or superseded by Act No. 2874 and CA No. 141;[37] (b)
state, is possessed of the plenary power as the persona in law to determine who shall be
Proclamation No. 1801[38] issued by then President Marcos; and (c) Proclamation No.
the favored recipients of public lands, as well as under what terms they may be granted
1064[39] issued by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. We shall proceed to determine their
such privilege, not excluding the placing of obstacles in the way of their exercise of what
rights to apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect title under these laws and executive
otherwise would be ordinary acts of ownership.[49]
acts.

Our present land law traces its roots to the Regalian Doctrine. Upon the Spanish
But first, a peek at the Regalian principle and the power of the executive to
conquest of the Philippines, ownership of all lands, territories and possessions in
reclassify lands of the public domain.
the Philippines passed to the Spanish Crown.[50] The Regalian doctrine was first introduced

in the Philippines through the Laws of the Indies and the Royal Cedulas, which laid the
The 1935 Constitution classified lands of the public domain into agricultural,
foundation that all lands that were not acquired from the Government, either by purchase
forest or timber.[40] Meanwhile, the 1973 Constitution provided the following divisions:
or by grant, belong to the public domain.[51]
agricultural, industrial or commercial, residential, resettlement, mineral, timber or forest

and grazing lands, and such other classes as may be provided by law,[41] giving the
The Laws of the Indies was followed by the Ley Hipotecaria or the Mortgage Law
government great leeway for classification.[42] Then the 1987 Constitution reverted to the
of 1893. The Spanish Mortgage Law provided for the systematic registration of titles and
1935 Constitution classification with one addition: national parks.[43] Of
deeds as well as possessory claims.[52]
these, onlyagricultural lands may be alienated.[44] Prior to Proclamation No. 1064 of May

22, 2006, Boracay Island had never been expressly and administratively classified under
The Royal Decree of 1894 or the Maura Law[53] partly amended the Spanish
any of these grand divisions. Boracay was an unclassified land of the public domain.
Mortgage Law and the Laws of the Indies. It established possessory information as the
method of legalizing possession of vacant Crown land, under certain conditions which
The Regalian Doctrine dictates that all lands of the public domain belong to the
were set forth in said decree.[54] Under Section 393 of the Maura Law, an informacion
State, that the State is the source of any asserted right to ownership of land and charged
posesoria or possessory information title,[55] when duly inscribed in the Registry of
Property, is converted into a title of ownership only after the lapse of twenty (20) years of

uninterrupted possession which must be actual, public, and adverse,[56] from the date of its Concurrently, on October 7, 1903, the Philippine Commission passed Act No. 926,

inscription.[57] However, possessory information title had to be perfected one year after which was the first Public Land Act. The Act introduced the homestead system and made

the promulgation of the Maura Law, or until April 17, 1895. Otherwise, the lands would provisions for judicial and administrative confirmation of imperfect titles and for the sale

revert to the State.[58] or lease of public lands. It permitted corporations regardless of the nationality of persons

owning the controlling stock to lease or purchase lands of the public domain. [67] Under the

In sum, private ownership of land under the Spanish regime could only be Act, open, continuous, exclusive, and notorious possession and occupation of agricultural

founded on royal concessions which took various forms, namely: (1) titulo real or royal lands for the next ten (10) years preceding July 26, 1904 was sufficient for judicial

grant; (2) concesion especial or special grant; (3) composicion con el estado or adjustment confirmation of imperfect title.[68]

title; (4) titulo de compra or title by purchase; and (5) informacion posesoria or possessory

information title.[59] On November 29, 1919, Act No. 926 was superseded by Act No. 2874, otherwise

known as the second Public Land Act. This new, more comprehensive law limited the

The first law governing the disposition of public lands in the Philippines under exploitation of agricultural lands to Filipinos and Americans and citizens of other countries

American rule was embodied in the Philippine Bill of 1902.[60] By this law, lands of the which gave Filipinos the same privileges. For judicial confirmation of title, possession and

public domain in the Philippine Islands were classified into three (3) grand divisions, to occupation en concepto dueo since time immemorial, or since July 26, 1894, was

wit: agricultural, mineral, and timber or forest lands.[61] The act provided for, among required.[69]

others, the disposal of mineral lands by means of absolute grant (freehold system) and by

lease (leasehold system).[62] It also provided the definition by exclusion of agricultural After the passage of the 1935 Constitution, CA No. 141 amended Act No. 2874

public lands.[63] Interpreting the meaning of agricultural lands under the Philippine Bill of on December 1, 1936. To this day, CA No. 141, as amended, remains as the existing

1902, the Court declared in Mapa v. Insular Government:[64] general law governing the classification and disposition of lands of the public domain

other than timber and mineral lands,[70] and privately owned lands which reverted to the

State.[71]
x x x In other words, that the phrase agricultural land as used
in Act No. 926 means those public lands acquired from Spain which
are not timber or mineral lands. x x x[65](Emphasis Ours) Section 48(b) of CA No. 141 retained the requirement under Act No. 2874 of
possession and occupation of lands of the public domain since time immemorial or
On February 1, 1903, the Philippine Legislature passed Act No. 496, otherwise since July 26, 1894. However, this provision was superseded by Republic Act (RA) No.
known as the Land Registration Act. The act established a system of registration by which 1942,[72] which provided for a simple thirty-year prescriptive period for judicial
recorded title becomes absolute, indefeasible, and imprescriptible. This is known as confirmation of imperfect title. The provision was last amended by PD No. 1073,[73] which
the Torrens system.[66]
now provides for possession and occupation of the land applied for since June 12, 1945, alienable, the applicant must establish the existence of a positive act of the government

or earlier.[74] such as a presidential proclamation or an executive order; an administrative action;

investigation reports of Bureau of Lands investigators; and a legislative act or a

The issuance of PD No. 892[75] on February 16, 1976 discontinued the use of statute.[85] The applicant may also secure a certification from the government that the land

Spanish titles as evidence in land registration proceedings.[76] Under the decree, all holders claimed to have been possessed for the required number of years is alienable and

of Spanish titles or grants should apply for registration of their lands under Act No. 496 disposable.[86]

within six (6) months from the effectivity of the decree on February 16, 1976. Thereafter,

the recording of all unregistered lands[77] shall be governed by Section 194 of the Revised In the case at bar, no such proclamation, executive order, administrative action,

Administrative Code, as amended by Act No. 3344. report, statute, or certification was presented to the Court. The records are bereft of

evidence showing that, prior to 2006, the portions of Boracay occupied by private

On June 11, 1978, Act No. 496 was amended and updated by PD No. 1529, claimants were subject of a government proclamation that the land is alienable and

known as the Property Registration Decree. It was enacted to codify the various laws disposable.Absent such well-nigh incontrovertible evidence, the Court cannot accept the

relative to registration of property.[78] It governs registration of lands under submission that lands occupied by private claimants were already open to disposition

the Torrens system as well as unregistered lands, including chattel mortgages.[79] before 2006. Matters of land classification or reclassification cannot be assumed. They call

for proof.[87]

A positive act declaring land as alienable and disposable is required. In

keeping with the presumption of State ownership, the Court has time and again Ankron and De Aldecoa did not make the whole of Boracay Island, or portions

emphasized that there must be a positive act of the government, such as an official of it, agricultural lands. Private claimants posit that Boracay was already an agricultural

proclamation,[80] declassifying inalienable public land into disposable land for agricultural land pursuant to the old cases Ankron v. Government of the

or other purposes.[81] In fact, Section 8 of CA No. 141 limits alienable or disposable lands Philippine Islands (1919)[88] and De Aldecoa v. The Insular Government (1909).[89] These

only to those lands which have been officially delimited and classified.[82] cases were decided under the provisions of the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act No.

926. There is a statement in these old cases that in the absence of evidence to the contrary,

The burden of proof in overcoming the presumption of State ownership of the that in each case the lands are agricultural lands until the contrary is shown.[90]

lands of the public domain is on the person applying for registration (or claiming
ownership), who must prove that the land subject of the application is alienable or Private claimants reliance on Ankron and De Aldecoa is misplaced. These cases

disposable.[83] To overcome this presumption, incontrovertible evidence must be did not have the effect of converting the whole of Boracay Island or portions of it into
established that the land subject of the application (or claim) is alienable or agricultural lands. It should be stressed that the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act No. 926

disposable.[84] There must still be a positive act declaring land of the public domain as merely provided the manner through which land registration courts would classify lands

alienable and disposable. To prove that the land subject of an application for registration is
of the public domain. Whether the land would be classified as timber, mineral, or But We cannot unduly expand the presumption in Ankron and De Aldecoa to an

agricultural depended on proof presented in each case. argument that all lands of the public domain had been automatically reclassified as

disposable and alienable agricultural lands. By no stretch of imagination did the

Ankron and De Aldecoa were decided at a time when the President of the presumption convert all lands of the public domain into agricultural lands.

Philippines had no power to classify lands of the public domain into mineral, timber, and

agricultural. At that time, the courts were free to make corresponding classifications in If We accept the position of private claimants, the Philippine Bill of 1902 and Act

justiciable cases, or were vested with implicit power to do so, depending upon the No. 926 would have automatically made all lands in the Philippines, except those already

preponderance of the evidence.[91] This was the Courts ruling in Heirs of the Late Spouses classified as timber or mineral land, alienable and disposable lands. That would take these

Pedro S. Palanca and Soterranea Rafols Vda. De Palanca v. Republic,[92] in which it stated, lands out of State ownership and worse, would be utterly inconsistent with and totally

through Justice Adolfo Azcuna, viz.: repugnant to the long-entrenched Regalian doctrine.

x x x Petitioners furthermore insist that a particular land need


not be formally released by an act of the Executive before it can be The presumption in Ankron and De Aldecoa attaches only to land registration
deemed open to private ownership, citing the cases of Ramos v. Director cases brought under the provisions of Act No. 926, or more specifically those cases dealing
of Lands and Ankron v. Government of the Philippine Islands.
with judicial and administrative confirmation of imperfect titles. The presumption applies
xxxx
to an applicant for judicial or administrative conformation of imperfect title under Act No.

Petitioners reliance upon Ramos v. Director of 926. It certainly cannot apply to landowners, such as private claimants or their
Lands and Ankron v. Government is misplaced. These cases were decided
predecessors-in-interest, who failed to avail themselves of the benefits of Act No. 926. As
under the Philippine Bill of 1902 and the first Public Land Act No. 926
enacted by the Philippine Commission on October 7, 1926, under which to them, their land remained unclassified and, by virtue of the Regalian doctrine, continued
there was no legal provision vesting in the Chief Executive or President
of the Philippines the power to classify lands of the public domain into to be owned by the State.
mineral, timber and agricultural so that the courts then were free to
make corresponding classifications in justiciable cases, or were vested
with implicit power to do so, depending upon the preponderance of the In any case, the assumption in Ankron and De Aldecoa was not absolute. Land
evidence.[93]
classification was, in the end, dependent on proof. If there was proof that the land was

better suited for non-agricultural uses, the courts could adjudge it as a mineral or timber
To aid the courts in resolving land registration cases under Act No. 926, it was land despite the presumption. In Ankron, this Court stated:
then necessary to devise a presumption on land classification. Thus evolved the dictum

in Ankron that the courts have a right to presume, in the absence of evidence to the In the case of Jocson vs. Director of Forestry (supra), the
Attorney-General admitted in effect that whether the particular land in
contrary, that in each case the lands are agricultural lands until the contrary is shown.[94] question belongs to one class or another is a question of fact. The mere
fact that a tract of land has trees upon it or has mineral within it is not
of itself sufficient to declare that one is forestry land and the other,
mineral land. There must be some proof of the extent and present or
future value of the forestry and of the minerals. While, as we have just
said, many definitions have been given for agriculture, forestry, and
mineral lands, and that in each case it is a question of fact, we think it is
safe to say that in order to be forestry or mineral land the proof must Here, private claimants, unlike the Heirs of Ciriaco Tirol who were issued their
show that it is more valuable for the forestry or the mineral which it
contains than it is for agricultural purposes. (Sec. 7, Act No. 1148.) It is title in 1933,[98] did not present a justiciable case for determination by the land
not sufficient to show that there exists some trees upon the land or that
registration court of the propertys land classification. Simply put, there was no
it bears some mineral. Land may be classified as forestry or mineral
today, and, by reason of the exhaustion of the timber or mineral, be opportunity for the courts then to resolve if the land the Boracay occupants are now
classified as agricultural land tomorrow. And vice-versa, by reason of
claiming were agricultural lands. When Act No. 926 was supplanted by Act No. 2874 in
the rapid growth of timber or the discovery of valuable minerals, lands
classified as agricultural today may be differently classified 1919, without an application for judicial confirmation having been filed by private
tomorrow. Each case must be decided upon the proof in that
particular case, having regard for its present or future value for claimants or their predecessors-in-interest, the courts were no longer authorized to
one or the other purposes. We believe, however, considering the fact determine the propertys land classification. Hence, private claimants cannot bank on Act
that it is a matter of public knowledge that a majority of the lands in the
Philippine Islands are agricultural lands that the courts have a right to No. 926.
presume, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, that in each case
the lands are agricultural lands until the contrary is shown. Whatever
the land involved in a particular land registration case is forestry We note that the RTC decision[99] in G.R. No. 167707 mentioned Krivenko v.
or mineral land must, therefore, be a matter of proof. Its superior
value for one purpose or the other is a question of fact to be settled Register of Deeds of Manila,[100] which was decided in 1947 when CA No. 141, vesting the
by the proof in each particular case. The fact that the land is a Executive with the sole power to classify lands of the public domain was already in
manglar [mangrove swamp] is not sufficient for the courts to decide
whether it is agricultural, forestry, or mineral land. It may perchance effect. Krivenko cited the old cases Mapa v. Insular Government,[101] De Aldecoa v. The
belong to one or the other of said classes of land. The Government, in Insular Government,[102] and Ankron v. Government of the Philippine Islands.[103]
the first instance, under the provisions of Act No. 1148, may, by
reservation, decide for itself what portions of public land shall be
considered forestry land, unless private interests have intervened
Krivenko, however, is not controlling here because it involved a totally different
before such reservation is made. In the latter case, whether the land is
agricultural, forestry, or mineral, is a question of proof. Until private issue. The pertinent issue in Krivenko was whether residential lots were included in the
interests have intervened, the Government, by virtue of the terms of
said Act (No. 1148), may decide for itself what portions of the public general classification of agricultural lands; and if so, whether an alien could acquire a
domain shall be set aside and reserved as forestry or mineral land. residential lot. This Court ruled that as an alien, Krivenko was prohibited by the 1935
(Ramos vs. Director of Lands, 39 Phil. 175; Jocson vs. Director of
Forestry, supra)[95] (Emphasis ours) Constitution[104] from acquiring agricultural land, which included residential lots. Here, the

issue is whether unclassified lands of the public domain are automatically deemed
Since 1919, courts were no longer free to determine the classification of lands agricultural.
from the facts of each case, except those that have already became private lands.[96] Act

No. 2874, promulgated in 1919 and reproduced in Section 6 of CA No. 141, gave the
Executive Department, through the President, the exclusive prerogative to classify or Notably, the definition of agricultural public lands mentioned in Krivenko relied
reclassify public lands into alienable or disposable, mineral or forest.96-a Since then, courts on the old cases decided prior to the enactment of Act No. 2874, including Ankron and De
no longer had the authority, whether express or implied, to determine the classification of Aldecoa.[105] As We have already stated, those cases cannot apply here, since they were
lands of the public domain.[97]
Thus, it is plain error for petitioners to argue that under the
decided when the Executive did not have the authority to classify lands as agricultural, Philippine Bill of 1902 and Public Land Act No. 926, mere
timber, or mineral. possession by private individuals of lands creates the legal
presumption that the lands are alienable and
disposable.[108] (Emphasis Ours)
Private claimants continued possession under Act No. 926 does not create a

presumption that the land is alienable. Private claimants also contend that their
Except for lands already covered by existing titles, Boracay was an
continued possession of portions of Boracay Island for the requisite period of ten (10)
unclassified land of the public domain prior to Proclamation No. 1064. Such
years under Act No. 926[106] ipso facto converted the island into private ownership. Hence,
unclassified lands are considered public forest under PD No. 705. The DENR[109] and the
they may apply for a title in their name.
National Mapping and Resource Information Authority[110] certify that Boracay Island is an

A similar argument was squarely rejected by the Court in Collado v. Court of unclassified land of the public domain.

Appeals.[107] Collado, citing the separate opinion of now Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno

in Cruz v. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources,107-a ruled: PD No. 705 issued by President Marcos categorized all unclassified lands of the

public domain as public forest. Section 3(a) of PD No. 705 defines a public forest as a mass
Act No. 926, the first Public Land Act, was
of lands of the public domain which has not been the subject of the present system of
passed in pursuance of the provisions of the
Philippine Bill of 1902. The law governed the classification for the determination of which lands are needed for forest purpose and
disposition of lands of the public domain. It
prescribed rules and regulations for the which are not. Applying PD No. 705, all unclassified lands, including those
homesteading, selling and leasing of portions of the in Boracay Island, are ipso facto considered public forests. PD No. 705, however, respects
public domain of the Philippine Islands, and
prescribed the terms and conditions to enable titles already existing prior to its effectivity.
persons to perfect their titles to public lands in
the Islands. It also provided for the issuance of
patents to certain native settlers upon public lands, The Court notes that the classification of Boracay as a forest land under PD No.
for the establishment of town sites and sale of lots
705 may seem to be out of touch with the present realities in the island. Boracay, no doubt,
therein, for the completion of imperfect titles, and for
the cancellation or confirmation of Spanish has been partly stripped of its forest cover to pave the way for commercial
concessions and grants in the Islands. In short, the
Public Land Act operated on the assumption that title developments. As a premier tourist destination for local and foreign tourists, Boracay
to public lands in the Philippine Islands remained in appears more of a commercial island resort, rather than a forest land.
the government; and that the governments title to
public land sprung from the Treaty of Paris and other
subsequent treaties between Spain and the United
Nevertheless, that the occupants of Boracay have built multi-million peso beach
States. The term public land referred to all lands of
the public domain whose title still remained in the resorts on the island;[111] that the island has already been stripped of its forest cover; or
government and are thrown open to private
appropriation and settlement, and excluded the that the implementation of Proclamation No. 1064 will destroy the islands tourism
patrimonial property of the government and the friar industry, do not negate its character as public forest.
lands.
Forests, in the context of both the Public Land Act and the

Constitution[112] classifying lands of the public domain into agricultural, forest or timber, Proclamation No. 1801 or PTA Circular No. 3-82 did not convert the whole of

mineral lands, and national parks, do not necessarily refer to large tracts of wooded land or Boracay into an agricultural land. There is nothing in the law or the Circular which

expanses covered by dense growths of trees and underbrushes.[113] The discussion in Heirs made Boracay Island an agricultural land. The reference in Circular No. 3-82 to private

of Amunategui v. Director of Forestry[114] is particularly instructive: lands[117] and areas declared as alienable and disposable [118] does not by itself classify the

entire island as agricultural. Notably, Circular No. 3-82 makes reference not only to private
A forested area classified as forest land of the public domain
does not lose such classification simply because loggers or settlers may lands and areas but also to public forested lands. Rule VIII, Section 3 provides:
have stripped it of its forest cover. Parcels of land classified as forest
land may actually be covered with grass or planted to crops No trees in forested private lands may be cut without prior
by kaingin cultivators or other farmers. Forest lands do not have to be authority from the PTA. All forested areas in public lands are declared
on mountains or in out of the way places. Swampy areas covered by forest reserves. (Emphasis supplied)
mangrove trees, nipa palms, and other trees growing in brackish or sea
water may also be classified as forest land. The classification is
descriptive of its legal nature or status and does not have to be
Clearly, the reference in the Circular to both private and public lands merely
descriptive of what the land actually looks like. Unless and until the
land classified as forest is released in an official proclamation to that recognizes that the island can be classified by the Executive department pursuant to its
effect so that it may form part of the disposable agricultural lands of the
powers under CA No. 141. In fact, Section 5 of the Circular recognizes the then Bureau of
public domain, the rules on confirmation of imperfect title do not
apply.[115] (Emphasis supplied) Forest Developments authority to declare areas in the island as alienable and disposable

when it provides:
There is a big difference between forest as defined in a dictionary and forest or timber land
Subsistence farming, in areas declared as alienable and
as a classification of lands of the public domain as appearing in our statutes. One is
disposable by the Bureau of Forest Development.
descriptive of what appears on the land while the other is a legal status, a classification for

legal purposes.[116] At any rate, the Court is tasked to determine the legal status
Therefore, Proclamation No. 1801 cannot be deemed the positive act needed to
of Boracay Island, and not look into its physical layout. Hence, even if its forest cover has
classify Boracay Island as alienable and disposable land. If President Marcos intended to
been replaced by beach resorts, restaurants and other commercial establishments, it has
classify the island as alienable and disposable or forest, or both, he would have identified
not been automatically converted from public forest to alienable agricultural land.
the specific limits of each, as President Arroyo did in Proclamation No. 1064. This was not

done in Proclamation No. 1801.


Private claimants cannot rely on Proclamation No. 1801 as basis for judicial

confirmation of imperfect title. The proclamation did not convert Boracay into an
The Whereas clauses of Proclamation No. 1801 also explain the rationale behind
agricultural land. However, private claimants argue that Proclamation No. 1801 issued by
the declaration of Boracay Island, together with other islands, caves and peninsulas in the
then President Marcos in 1978 entitles them to judicial confirmation of imperfect title. The
Philippines, as a tourist zone and marine reserve to be administered by the PTA to ensure
Proclamation classified Boracay, among other islands, as a tourist zone. Private claimants
the concentrated efforts of the public and private sectors in the development of the areas
assert that, as a tourist spot, the island is susceptible of private ownership.
tourism potential with due regard for ecological balance in the marine for right of way and which shall form part of the area reserved for forest land protection

environment. Simply put, the proclamation is aimed at administering the islands purposes.

for tourism and ecological purposes. It does not address the areas alienability.[119] Contrary to private claimants argument, there was nothing invalid or irregular,

much less unconstitutional, about the classification of Boracay Island made by the

More importantly, Proclamation No. 1801 covers not only Boracay Island, but President through Proclamation No. 1064. It was within her authority to make such

sixty-four (64) other islands, coves, and peninsulas in the Philippines, such as Fortune and classification, subject to existing vested rights.

Verde Islands in Batangas, Port Galera in Oriental Mindoro, Panglao and Balicasag Islands

in Bohol, Coron Island, Puerto Princesa and surrounding areas in Palawan, Camiguin Island Proclamation No. 1064 does not violate the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform

in Cagayan de Oro, and Misamis Oriental, to name a few. If the designation Law. Private claimants further assert that Proclamation No. 1064 violates the provision of

of Boracay Island as tourist zone makes it alienable and disposable by virtue of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) or RA No. 6657 barring conversion of

Proclamation No. 1801, all the other areas mentioned would likewise be declared wide public forests into agricultural lands. They claim that since Boracay is a public forest under

open for private disposition. That could not have been, and is clearly beyond, the intent of PD No. 705, President Arroyo can no longer convert it into an agricultural land without

the proclamation. running afoul of Section 4(a) of RA No. 6657, thus:

SEC. 4. Scope. The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of


It was Proclamation No. 1064 of 2006 which positively declared part of 1988 shall cover, regardless of tenurial arrangement and commodity
Boracay as alienable and opened the same to private ownership. Sections 6 and 7 of CA produced, all public and private agricultural lands as provided in
Proclamation No. 131 and Executive Order No. 229, including other
No. 141[120] provide that it is only the President, upon the recommendation of the proper lands of the public domain suitable for agriculture.
department head, who has the authority to classify the lands of the public domain into
More specifically, the following lands are covered by the
alienable or disposable, timber and mineral lands.[121] Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program:

(a) All alienable and disposable lands of the public


In issuing Proclamation No. 1064, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo merely
domain devoted to or suitable for
exercised the authority granted to her to classify lands of the public domain, presumably agriculture. No reclassification of forest or
mineral lands to agricultural lands shall be
subject to existing vested rights. Classification of public lands is the exclusive prerogative undertaken after the approval of this Act until
of the Executive Department, through the Office of the President. Courts have no authority Congress, taking into account ecological,
developmental and equity considerations, shall
to do so.[122] Absent such classification, the land remains unclassified until released and have determined by law, the specific limits of
the public domain.
rendered open to disposition.[123]

Proclamation No. 1064 classifies Boracay into 400 hectares of reserved forest That Boracay Island was classified as a public forest under PD No. 705 did not bar

land and 628.96 hectares of agricultural land. The Proclamation likewise provides for a the Executive from later converting it into agricultural land. Boracay Island still remained

15-meter buffer zone on each side of the center line of roads and trails, which are reserved an unclassified land of the public domain despite PD No. 705.
or incomplete title under CA No. 141, namely: (1) open, continuous, exclusive, and

In Heirs of the Late Spouses Pedro S. Palanca and Soterranea Rafols v. notorious possession and occupation of the subject land by himself or through his

Republic,[124] the Court stated that unclassified lands are public forests. predecessors-in-interest under a bona fide claim of ownership since time immemorial or

from June 12, 1945; and (2) the classification of the land as alienable and disposable land

of the public domain.[128]


While it is true that the land classification map does not
categorically state that the islands are public forests, the fact that
they were unclassified lands leads to the same result.In the absence As discussed, the Philippine Bill of 1902, Act No. 926, and Proclamation No. 1801
of the classification as mineral or timber land, the land remains
unclassified land until released and rendered open to did not convert portions of Boracay Island into an agricultural land. The island remained
disposition.[125] (Emphasis supplied)
an unclassified land of the public domain and, applying the Regalian doctrine, is

considered State property.


Moreover, the prohibition under the CARL applies only to a reclassification of

land. If the land had never been previously classified, as in the case of Boracay, there can Private claimants bid for judicial confirmation of imperfect title, relying on the
be no prohibited reclassification under the agrarian law. We agree with the opinion of the Philippine Bill of 1902, Act No. 926, and Proclamation No. 1801, must fail because of the
Department of Justice[126] on this point: absence of the second element of alienable and disposable land. Their entitlement to a

government grant under our present Public Land Act presupposes that the land possessed
Indeed, the key word to the correct application of the
prohibition in Section 4(a) is the word reclassification. Where there has and applied for is already alienable and disposable. This is clear from the wording of the
been no previous classification of public forest [referring, we repeat, to the
law itself.[129] Where the land is not alienable and disposable, possession of the land, no
mass of the public domain which has not been the subject of the present
system of classification for purposes of determining which are needed for matter how long, cannot confer ownership or possessory rights. [130]
forest purposes and which are not] into permanent forest or forest
reserves or some other forest uses under the Revised Forestry Code, there
can be no reclassification of forest lands to speak of within the meaning of Neither may private claimants apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect title
Section 4(a).
under Proclamation No. 1064, with respect to those lands which were classified as
Thus, obviously, the prohibition in Section 4(a) of the CARL
agricultural lands. Private claimants failed to prove the first element of open, continuous,
against the reclassification of forest lands to agricultural lands without
a prior law delimiting the limits of the public domain, does not, and exclusive, and notorious possession of their lands in Boracay since June 12, 1945.
cannot, apply to those lands of the public domain, denominated as
public forest under the Revised Forestry Code, which have not been
previously determined, or classified, as needed for forest purposes in We cannot sustain the CA and RTC conclusion in the petition for declaratory
accordance with the provisions of the Revised Forestry Code.[127]
relief that private claimants complied with the requisite period of possession.

Private claimants are not entitled to apply for judicial confirmation of


The tax declarations in the name of private claimants are insufficient to prove the
imperfect title under CA No. 141. Neither do they have vested rights over the occupied
first element of possession. We note that the earliest of the tax declarations in the name of
lands under the said law. There are two requisites for judicial confirmation of imperfect
private claimants were issued in 1993. Being of recent dates, the tax declarations are not and other areas they possess now classified as agricultural. Neither will this mean the loss

sufficient to convince this Court that the period of possession and occupation commenced of their substantial investments on their occupied alienable lands. Lack of title does not

on June 12, 1945. necessarily mean lack of right to possess.

Private claimants insist that they have a vested right in Boracay, having been in For one thing, those with lawful possession may claim good faith as builders of

possession of the island for a long time. They have invested millions of pesos in developing improvements. They can take steps to preserve or protect their possession. For another,

the island into a tourist spot. They say their continued possession and investments give they may look into other modes of applying for original registration of title, such as by

them a vested right which cannot be unilaterally rescinded by Proclamation No. 1064. homestead[131] or sales patent,[132] subject to the conditions imposed by law.

The continued possession and considerable investment of private claimants do More realistically, Congress may enact a law to entitle private claimants to

not automatically give them a vested right in Boracay. Nor do these give them a right to acquire title to their occupied lots or to exempt them from certain requirements under the

apply for a title to the land they are presently occupying. This Court is constitutionally present land laws. There is one such bill[133] now pending in the House of

bound to decide cases based on the evidence presented and the laws applicable. As the law Representatives. Whether that bill or a similar bill will become a law is for Congress to

and jurisprudence stand, private claimants are ineligible to apply for a judicial decide.

confirmation of title over their occupied portions in Boracay even with their continued

possession and considerable investment in the island. In issuing Proclamation No. 1064, the government has taken the step necessary

to open up the island to private ownership. This gesture may not be sufficient to appease

One Last Note some sectors which view the classification of the island partially into a forest reserve as

absurd. That the island is no longer overrun by trees, however, does not becloud the vision

The Court is aware that millions of pesos have been invested for the development to protect its remaining forest cover and to strike a healthy balance between progress and

of Boracay Island, making it a by-word in the local and international tourism industry. The ecology. Ecological conservation is as important as economic progress.

Court also notes that for a number of years, thousands of people have called the island

their home. While the Court commiserates with private claimants plight, We are bound to To be sure, forest lands are fundamental to our nations survival. Their promotion

apply the law strictly and judiciously. This is the law and it should prevail. Ito ang batas at and protection are not just fancy rhetoric for politicians and activists. These are needs that
ito ang dapat umiral. become more urgent as destruction of our environment gets prevalent and difficult to

control. As aptly observed by Justice Conrado Sanchez in 1968 in Director of Forestry v.


All is not lost, however, for private claimants. While they may not be eligible Munoz:[134]

to apply for judicial confirmation of imperfect title under Section 48(b) of CA No. 141, as
The view this Court takes of the cases at bar is but in
amended, this does not denote their automatic ouster from the residential, commercial, adherence to public policy that should be followed with respect to
forest lands. Many have written much, and many more have spoken,
and quite often, about the pressing need for forest preservation,
conservation, protection, development and reforestation. Not without
justification. For, forests constitute a vital segment of any country's
natural resources. It is of common knowledge by now that absence of
the necessary green cover on our lands produces a number of adverse
or ill effects of serious proportions. Without the trees, watersheds dry
up; rivers and lakes which they supply are emptied of their contents.
The fish disappear. Denuded areas become dust bowls. As waterfalls
cease to function, so will hydroelectric plants. With the rains, the fertile
topsoil is washed away; geological erosion results. With erosion come
the dreaded floods that wreak havoc and destruction to property crops,
livestock, houses, and highways not to mention precious human
lives. Indeed, the foregoing observations should be written down in a
lumbermans decalogue.[135]

WHEREFORE, judgment is rendered as follows:

1. The petition for certiorari in G.R. No. 167707 is GRANTED and the Court of

Appeals Decision in CA-G.R. CV No. 71118 REVERSED AND SET ASIDE.

2. The petition for certiorari in G.R. No. 173775 is DISMISSED for lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.