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Cruz & Europa v Secretary of DENR, Secretary of DBM, Chairman & Commissioners of the NCIP

G.R. No. 135385 December 6, 2000


Isagani Cruz & Cesar Europa in their capacity citizens and taxpayers brought a suit for prohibition and
mandamus, assailing the constitutionality of certain provisions of Republic Act No. 8371 (R.A. 8371), otherwise
known as the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA), and its Implementing Rules and Regulations
(Implementing Rules). They assail the constitutionality of Sections 3(a), 3(b), 5, 6, 7, 8, 57 and 58 of the IPRA
Law and its Implementing Rules on the ground that they amount to an unlawful deprivation of the State’s
ownership over lands of the public domain as well as minerals and other natural resources therein, in violation of
the regalian doctrine embodied in Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution. Moreover, they contended that, by
providing for an all-encompassing definition of "ancestral domains" and "ancestral lands" which might even
include private lands found within said areas, Sections 3(a) and 3(b) violate the rights of private landowners.
Further, question the provisions of the IPRA defining the powers and jurisdiction of the NCIP and making
customary law applicable to the settlement of disputes involving ancestral domains and ancestral lands on the
ground that these provisions violate the due process clause of the Constitution.

In addition, they assailed the validity of Rule VII, Part II, Section 1 of the NCIP Administrative Order No. 1,
series of 1998, which provides that "the administrative relationship of the NCIP to the Office of the President is
characterized as a lateral but autonomous relationship for purposes of policy and program coordination." In
addition, they contended that the said Rule infringes upon the President’s power of control over executive
departments under Section 17, Article VII of the Constitution.

After due deliberation on the petition, seven (7) justices voted to dismiss the petition, while seven (7) others voted
to grant the same. As the votes were equally divided (7 to 7) and the necessary majority was not obtained, 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 petition is DISMISSED.

Issue: Do the provisions of the IPRA Law contravene the Constitution?


No, the provisions of the IPRA Law do not contravene with the Constitution. In a separate opinion by Justice
Puno he said that ancestral lands and ancestral domains are not part of the lands of the public domain. They are
private and belong to the ICCs/IPs. Accordingly, the 1987 Constitution mandates the State to "protect the rights
of indigenous cultural communities to their ancestral lands" and that "Congress provide for the applicability of
customary laws x x x in determining the ownership and extent of ancestral domain." It is the recognition of the
ICCs/IPs distinct rights of ownership over their ancestral domains and lands that breathes life into this
constitutional mandate.

In addition, examination of the IPRA law revealed that there was nothing in the law that grants to the ICCs/IPs
ownership over the natural resources within their ancestral domains. The right of ICCs/IPs in their ancestral
domains includes ownership, but this "ownership" is expressly defined and limited in Section 7 (a) of the IPRA
Law. This non-inclusion of ownership by the ICCs/IPs over the natural resources in Section 7(a) complies with
the Regalian doctrine.

Ownership over the natural resources in the ancestral domains remains with the State and the ICCs/IPs are merely
granted the right to "manage and conserve" them for future generations, "benefit and share" the profits from their
allocation and utilization, and "negotiate the terms and conditions for their exploration" for the purpose of
"ensuring ecological and environmental protection and conservation measures.". The ICCs/IPs' rights over the
natural resources take the form of management or stewardship. Thus, the ICCs/IPs' rights over the natural
resources take the form of management or stewardship.