FELIPE YSMAEL, JR. & CO., INC.

VS THE DEPUTY EXECUTIVE SECRETARY, ET AL
190 SCRA 673;GR NO. 79538
18 OCTOBER 1990
FACTS:
Soon after the change of government, in 1986, petitioner sent letters to the Office of the President and to the
Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) seeking (1) the reinstatement of its timber license agreement (TLA No.
87), which was cancelled along with nine other concessions, during the Marcos administration; (2) the
revocation of TLA NO. 356 which was issued to Twin Peaks Development and Realty Corporation without
public bidding and in violation of forestry laws, rules and regulations; and (3) the issuance of an order allowing
petitioner to take possession of all logs found in the concession area. It alleged that after the its TLA was
cancelled without being given the opportunity to be heard, its logging area was re-awarded to other logging
concessionaires without a formal award or license, as these entities were controlled or owned by relatives or
cronies of deposed President Marcos.
The Ministry denied the request and ruled that a timber license was not a contract within the due process
clause of the Constitution, but only a privilege which could be withdrawn whenever public interest or welfare so
demands, and that petitioner was not discriminated against in view of the fact that it was among ten
concessionaires whose licenses were revoked in 1983. It also emphasized the fact that there was currently a
total log ban being imposed on the subject areas.
After the logging ban was lifted, petitioner appealed to the Office of the President, but the petition was denied
on the ground that the appeal was prematurely filed, the matter not having been terminated in the MNR.
Hence, petitioner filed with the Supreme Court a petition for certiorari.
ISSUE:
Whether public respondents acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in
refusing to overturn administrative orders issued by their predecessors in the past regime
HELD:
The refusal of public respondents to reverse final and executory administrative orders does not constitute
grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. It is an established doctrine in this
jurisdiction that the decisions and orders of administrative agencies have, upon their finality, the force and
binding effect of a final judgment within the purview of the doctrine of res judicata. These decisions and orders
are as conclusive upon the rights of the affected parties as though the same had been rendered by a court of
general jurisdiction. The rule of res judicata thus forbids the reopening of a matter once determined by
competent authority acting within their exclusive jurisdiction
Petitioner did not avail of its remedies under the law for attacking the validity of these administrative actions
until after 1986. By the time petitioner sent its letter to the newly appointed Minister of the MNR requesting for
reconsideration, these were already settled matters as far as petitioner was concerned.
The fact that petitioner failed to seasonably take judicial recourse to have the earlier administrative actions
reviewed by the courts through a petition for certiorari is prejudicial to its cause. Although there is no specific
time frame fixed for the institution of a special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65 of the ROC, the same
must nevertheless be done within a “reasonable time”. Failure to file the petition for certiorari within a
reasonable period of time renders the petitioner susceptible to the adverse legal consequences of the laches.
Laches is defined as the failure or neglect for an unreasonable and unexplained length of time to do that which
by exercising due diligence, could or should have been done earlier, or to assert a right within a reasonable
time, warranting a presumption that the party entitle thereto has either abandoned it or declined to assert it.
The laws aid those who are vigilant, not those who sleep upon their rights.
In the case at bar, petitioner waited at least 3 years before it finally filed a petition for certiorari with the Court
attacking the validity of the assailed Bureau actions. Its delay constitutes unreasonable and inexcusable
neglect tantamount to laches. The writ of certiorari requiring the reversal of these orders will not lie.

More importantly, the assailed orders of the MNR disclose public policy consideration, which effectively
forestall judicial interference. Public respondents, upon whose shoulders rests the task of implementing the
policy to develop and conserve the country's natural resources, have indicated an ongoing department
evaluation of all timber license agreements entered into, and permits or licenses issued, under the previous
dispensation. A long line of cases establish the basic rule that the courts will not interfere in matters which are
addressed to the sound discretion of government agencies entrusted with the regulation of activities coming
under their special technical knowledge and training.
Timber licenses, permits and license agreements are the principal instruments by which the State regulates the
utilization and disposition of forest resources to the end 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 permanent or irrevocable right to the particular concession area and the forest products therein. They
may be validly amended, modified, replaced or rescinded by the Chief Executive when national interests so
require. Thus, they are not deemed contracts within the purview of the due process of law clause.
The Court expresses its concern regarding alleged irregularities in the issuance of timber license agreements
to a number of logging concessionaires. Should the appropriate case be brought showing a clear grave abuse
of discretion on the part of concerned officials with respect to the implementation of this public policy, the Court
will not hesitate to step in. However, in this case, the Court finds no basis to issue a writ of certiorari and to
grant any of the affirmative reliefs sought.
Petition is dismissed.