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G.R. No. 150824 February 4, 2008

LAND BANK OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner,


vs.
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, represented by the Director of Lands, respondent.

THIRD DIVISION

PONENTE: REYES, R.T., J.:

FOREST lands are outside the commerce of man and unsusceptible of private appropriation in any form.

It is well settled that a certificate of title is void when it covers property of public domain classified as forest,
timber or mineral lands. Any title issued covering non-disposable lots even in the hands of an alleged innocent
purchaser for value shall be cancelled. The rule must stand no matter how harsh it may seem. Dura lex sed
lex. Ang batas ay maaaring mahigpit subalit ito ang mananaig.

FACTS:

A lot was issued in favor of Angelito C. Bugayong and was divided into four lots that were approved by the
Commissioner of Land Registration on April 23, 1971. Thereafter, the lost was cancelled and was replaced with
new Transfer Certificates of Title (TCTs) in favor of the same person.

The four lots were sold to different persons. The first one was sold to spouses Lourders and Candido Du.
Accordingly, the said TCT was cancelled and was replaced again in the name of the spouses.

The spouses caused the subdivision of the land to where it became two lots and were sold to spouses Felix and
Guadalupe Dayola. The other remaining lot was retained and registered under their names. Again, the TCT was
cancelled and was replaced by another registered in the name of Lourdes Farms, Inc. to where they mortraged the
property to petitioner on April 14, 1980.

Investigation and ocular inspection were conducted by the Bureau of Lands to check the legitimacy of the lot and
found out that it was still within the forest zone when it was issued to Bugayong and it was released as alienable
and disposable only on March 25, 1981, the land was marshy and covered by sea water during high tide and that
Bugayong was never in actual possession of the land.

In view of the foregoing findings, the Bureau of Lands resolved that the sales patent in favor of Bugayong was
improperly and illegally issued and that the Director of Lands had no jurisdiction to dispose of the subject land.

Upon recommendation of the Bureau of Lands, the Republic of the Philippines represented by the Director of
Lands, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), instituted a complaint before the RTC in Davao, Branch
15, for the cancellation of title/patent and reversion of the land into the mass of public domain. The complaint was
filed against Bugayong and other present owners and mortgagees of the land, such as Lourdes Farms, Inc. and
the latter's mortgagee, petitioner LBP.

RTC Judgment

The RTC rendered its judgment on July 9, 1996 determining that:

It is clear that the mother Title in the name of defendant Bugayong was issued at a time when the area was not
yet released by the Bureau of Forestry to the Bureau of Lands.

The RTC explained that titles issued to private parties by the Bureau of Lands are void ab initio if the land covered
by it is a forest land. It went further by stating that if the mother title is void, all titles arising from the mother title
are also void.

CA Judgment

In a Decision dated August 23, 2001, the CA ruled against the appellants, disposing thus:

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WHEREFORE, premises considered, the present appeals are hereby DISMISSED and the Decision of the trial court
in Civil Case No. 17516 is hereby AFFIRMED.

The CA confirmed that the "evidence for the plaintiff clearly established that the land pursuant to a sales patent
granted to defendant Angelito C. Bugayong was still within the forestal zone at the time of the grant of the said
patent."

ISSUE: Whether or not the Court of Appeals erred in not finding the petitioner’s mortgage right and interest as an
innocent purchaser for value and in good faith over the subject land is valid and subsisting in accordance with the
law and existing jurisprudence in our country. [NO.]

RULING:

LBP has no valid and subsisting mortgagee's interest over the land covered by the TCT.

The contention that LBP has an interest over the subject land as a mortgagee has no merit. The mortgagor,
Lourdes Farms, Inc. from which LBP supposedly obtained its alleged interest has never been the owner of the
mortgaged land. Acquisition of the subject land by Lourdes Farms, Inc. is legally impossible as the land was
released as alienable and disposable only on March 25, 1981. Even at present, no one could have possessed the
same under a claim of ownership for the period of thirty (30) years required under Section 48(b) of
Commonwealth Act No. 141, as amended. Hence, LBP acquired no rights over the land.

Since Lourdes Farms, Inc. is not the owner of the land, it does not have the capacity to mortgage it to LBP. Even
assuming that LBP was able to obtain its own TCT over the property by means of its mortgage contract with
Lourdes Farms, Inc., the title must also be cancelled as it was derived from the lot which was not validly issued to
Bugayong. Forest lands cannot be owned by private persons. It is not registerable whether the title is a Spanish
title or a Torrens title. It is well settled that a certificate of title is void when it covers property of public domain
classified as forest or timber or mineral land. Any title issued covering non-disposable lots even in the hands of an
alleged innocent purchaser for value shall be cancelled.

G.R. No. 120365 December 17, 1996

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
WILSON B. QUE, accused-appellant

SECOND DIVISION

PONENTE: PUNO, J.

FACTS:

The accused-appellant appeals from his conviction, violating Section 68 of P.D 705. Two weeks before the violation
took place, a member of the Provincial Task Force on Illegal Logging received an information that a ten-wheeler
truck that is loaded with illegally cut lumber will pass through Ilocos Norte. The members of the Provincial Task
force immediately acted upon knowing the said information and went on patrol near the said location and saw the
truck.

There were three persons on board the truck namely the driver Cacao, Wilson Que, the owner of said truck, and
an unknown person. The members of the Provincial Task Force who were on patrol checked the truck, finding
coconut slabs as well as sewn lumber. Accused-appellant Que was required to show a permit, but he failed to do
so. Thus, he was charged for the violation of Sec. 68 of P.D 705.

ISSUE:

Whether or not the accused-appellant violated Section 68 of PD 705 as amended by EO 277 for possessing timber
or other forest products without the legal documents as required under existing forest laws and regulations.
[YES.]

RULING:

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Accused-appellant's possession of the subject lumber without any documentation clearly constitutes an offense
under Section 68 of P.D. 705.

Appellant interprets the phrase "existing forest laws and regulations" to refer to those laws and regulations which
were already in effect at the time of the enactment of E.O. 277. The suggested interpretation is strained and
would render the law inutile. Statutory construction should not kill but give life to the law. The phrase should be
construed to refer to laws and regulations existing at the time of possession of timber or other forest products.

The Court also rejected appellant's argument that the law only penalizes possession of illegal forest products and
that the possessor cannot be held liable if he proves that the cutting, gathering, collecting or removal of such
forest products is legal.

In the first offense, one can raise as a defense the legality of the acts of cutting, gathering, collecting or removing
timber or other forest products by presenting the authorization issued by the DENR. In the second offense,
however, it is immaterial whether the cutting, gathering, collecting and removal of the forest products is legal or
not. Mere possession of forest products without the proper documents consummates the crime. Whether or not
the lumber comes from a legal source is immaterial because E.O 277 considers the mere possession of timber or
other forest products without the proper legal documents as malum prohibitum.

The instant appeal is DISMISSED. The Decision appealed from is AFFIRMED. Costs against appellant.

G.R. No. 159308 September 16, 2008

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, represented by the Department of Environment and Natural


Resources (DENR), petitioner,
vs.
PAGADIAN CITY TIMBER CO., INC.,
Respondent.

THIRD DIVISION

PONENTE: NACHURA, J.

FACTS:

On October 14, 1994, petitioner, through the DENR, and respondent Pagadian City Timber Co., Inc. executed
Industrial Forest Management Agreement (IFMA) whereby petitioner, authorized respondent o develop, utilize, and
manage a specified forest area covering 1,999.14 hectares located in Barangays Langapod, Cogonan, and
Datagan, Municipality of Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur, for the production of timber and other forest products
subject to a production-sharing scheme.

Respondent later submitted the required Comprehensive Development and Management Plan (CDMP) which the
DENR approved on August 17, 1995. However, due to numerous complaints filed by members of the Subanen
tribe regarding respondent’s alleged failure to implement the CDMP, disrespect of their rights as an indigenous
people, and the constant threats and harassment by armed men, a Regional Special Order No. 217 was issued,
creating a regional team to evaluate and assess IFMA No. R-9-040. Thus, the DENR sent a letter, giving notice of
the evaluation and assessment to be conducted on the area.

The assessment revealed that PCT failed to comply with the CDMP and it was recommended that the IFMA should
be cancelled. This was done by the DENR, and affirmed by the Office of the President, but the CA ruled that the
IFMA was a contract that could not be unilaterally cancelled without infringing on the rights of respondent to due
process and against impairment of contracts.

ISSUE:

Whether or not the Court of Appeals gravely erred in ruling that IFMA No. R9-040 is a contract and not a mere
privilege granted by the State to respondent. [YES]

RULING:

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In essence, petitioner argues that an IFMA is not an ordinary contract which is protected by the Constitution
against impairment but a mere privilege granted by the State to qualified persons by means of a permit, license,
franchise, agreement, or other similar concessions, which in this case is the exploration, development and
utilization of the forest lands belonging to the State under its full control and supervision. Thus, the cancellation of
the IFMA does not amount to a rescission of a contract but a mere withdrawal of this privilege.

IFMA No. R-9-040 is a license agreement under Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 705 (Revised Forestry Code), the
law which is the very basis for its existence. Under Section 3, paragraph (dd) thereof, a license agreement is
defined as "a privilege” granted by the State to a person to utilize forest resources within any forest land with the
right of possession and occupation thereof to the exclusion of others, except the government, but with the
corresponding obligation to develop, protect and rehabilitate the same in accordance with the terms and conditions
set forth in said agreement. An IFMA has for its precursor the Timber License Agreement (TLA), one of the tenurial
instruments issued by the State to its grantees for the efficient management of the country’s dwindling forest
resources. Jurisprudence has been consistent in holding that license agreements are not contracts.

G.R. No. 144640 June 26, 2006

RODOLFO TIGOY, Petitioner,


vs.
COURT OF APPEALS AND PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondents.

SECOND DIVISION

PONENTE: AZCUNA, J.

FACTS:

Nestor Ong, who had been engaged in the trucking business since 1986 was introduced by his friend to Lolong
Bertodazo who signified his intent to rent the trucks of Ong to transport construction materials to different parts of
the Philippines which led to a Contact to Transport. Ong ordered his employees Nestor Sumagang and petitioner
Rodolfo Tigoy to bring the trucks to Bertodazo. Ong instructed the two drivers for the loading of the construction
materials and to go back before dawn to which both employees complied.

The same morning, the Police of Ozamis city received a dispatch, informing them of the two trucks who did not
stop at the check point. Upon receiving the report, selected police officers boarded their patrol vehicle and went to
the terminal in Ozamis City. The trucks were flagged down but the same only sped away, making the police
officers chase and block the trucks to stop and interrogated the driver who did not answer, causing the police
officers to become suspicious of the truck’s contents.

Upon inspection, the police officers discovered piles of sawn lumber beneath the cement bags in both trucks. The
drivers were asked for permits but they could not produce any. Thus, they were brought and turned over for
investigation while the other truck men, Bertodazo, Arante and Lopez were not investigated. Ong was then
informed of the incident while his employees remained detained.

The information about the apprehended drivers reached DENR and sent people to investigate. Ong was discovered
to be the owner and the investigation showed that there were 229 pieces of lumber with a total volume of
6,232.46 board feet in the first Nissan truck; and, in the Isuzu eight-wheeler truck, 333 pieces of lumber with a
total volume of 5,095.5 board feet. Consequently, the lumber and the vehicles were seized upon the order of the
DENR Regional Executive Director.

Another information was filed against Nestor Ong, Sumagang, Lolong Bertodazo and petitioner Tigoy for
possession of forest products without legal permit. Ong and petitioner Tigoy entered pleas of not guilty during the
arraignment. Sumagang died after the case was filed while the other co-accused, Lolong Bertodazo, was not
arrested and has remained at large.

RTC: Ong and Tigoy were found guilty beyond reasonable dobut of possession of dipterocarp lumber without legal
documents and penalized as qualified theft.

CA: Ong was acquitted for insufficiency of evidence. The conviction of Tigoy is upheld and affirmed in all respects.

On March 24, 2000, petitioner filed with the Court of Appeals a Motion for Reconsideration praying for his acquittal
but the same was denied on August 23, 2000.
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ISSUE:

Whether or not petitioner Tigoy is guilty of conspiracy in possessing or transporting lumber without the necessary
permit in violation of the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines. [YES].

RULING:

There are two ways of violating Section 68 of the Revised Forestry Code:

1) by cutting, gathering and/or collecting timber or other forest products without a license; and,

2) by possessing timber or other forest products without the required legal documents.

In offenses considered as mala prohibita or when the doing of an act is prohibited by a special law such as in the
present case, the commission of the prohibited act is the crime itself. It is sufficient that the offender has the
intent to perpetrate the act prohibited by the special law, and that it is done knowingly and consciously.

Direct proof of previous agreement to commit an offense is not necessary to prove conspiracy. Conspiracy may be
proven by circumstantial evidence. It may be deduced from the mode, method and manner by which the offense is
perpetrated, or inferred from the acts of the accused when such acts point to a joint purpose and design,
concerted action and community of interest. It is not even required that the participants have an agreement for an
appreciable period to commence it.

Petitioner’s actions adequately show that he intentionally participated in the commission of the offense for which
he had been charged and found guilty by both the trial court and the Court of Appeals.

The petition is DENIED and the decision of the Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED.

G.R. No. 184098 November 25, 2008

AMADO TAOPA, petitioner,


vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondent.

FIRST DIVISION

PONENTE: CORONA, J.

FACTS:

On April 2, 1996, the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office of Virac, Catanduanes seized a truck
loaded with illegally-cut lumber and arrested its driver, Placido Cuison. The lumber was covered with bundles of
abaca fiber to prevent detection. On investigation, Cuison pointed to petitioner Amado Taopa and a certain Rufino
Ogalesco as the owners of the seized lumber.

Taopa, Ogalesco and Cuison were thereafter charged with violating Section 68 of Presidential Decree (PD) No.
705. Taopa, Ogalesco and Cuison pleaded not guilty on arraignment.

RTC: Taopa, Ogalesco and Cuison were thereafter charged with violating Section 68 of Presidential Decree (PD)
No. 705, as amended, in the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Virac, Catanduanes. The information against them read:

“ xxx The above-named accused, with intent to possess, conspiring, confederating and helping one another, did
then and there, willfully, unlawfully, criminally possess, transport in a truck bearing Plate No. EAS 839 and have in
their control forest products, particularly one hundred thirteen (113) pieces of lumber of Philippine Mahogany
Group and Apitong species with an aggregate net volume of One Thousand Six Hundred Eighty Four (1,684) board
feet with an approximate value of Ninety-Nine Thousand One Hundred Twenty (Php99,120.00) Pesos, Philippine
Currency, without any authority and/or legal documents as required under existing forest laws and regulations,
prejudicial to the public interest.”

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Taopa, Ogalesco and Cuison pleaded not guilty on arraignment. After trial on the merits, the RTC found them
guilty as charged beyond reasonable doubt.

CA: Only Taopa and Cuison appealed the RTC decision to the Court of Appeals (CA). Cuison was acquitted but
Taopa's conviction was affirmed. The dispositive portion of the CA decision read:

“WHEREFORE, the Decision appealed from is REVERSED with respect to accused-appellant Placido Cuison, who
is ACQUITTED of the crime charged on reasonable doubt, and MODIFIEDwith respect to accused-appellants
Amado Taopa and Rufino Ogalesco by reducing the penalty imposed on them to four (4) years, nine (9) months
and eleven (11) days of prision correccional, as minimum, to ten (10) years of prision mayor, as maximum.”

ISSUE:

Whether or not petitioner Taopa is guilty of violating Sec. 68 of PD No. 705. [YES].

RULING:

Both the RTC and the CA gave scant consideration to Taopa's alibi because Cuison's testimony proved Taopa's
active participation in the transport of the seized lumber. However, the Supreme Court does not agree with the
penalty imposed on Taopa.

Section 68 of PD 705, as amended, refers to Articles 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) for the
penalties to be imposed on violators. Violation of Section 68 of PD 705, as amended, is punished as qualified
theft. The law treats cutting, gathering, collecting and possessing timber or other forest products without license
as an offense as grave and equivalent to the felony of qualified theft.

The actual market value of the 113 pieces of seized lumber was P67,630.9 Following Article 310 in relation to
Article 309, the imposable penalty should be reclusion temporal in its medium and maximum periods or a period
ranging from 14 years, eight months and one day to 20 years plus an additional period of four years for the excess
of P47,630.

The minimum term of the indeterminate sentence 10 imposable on Taopa shall be the penalty next lower to that
prescribed in the RPC. In this case, the minimum term shall be anywhere between 10 years and one day to 14
years and eight months or prision mayor in its maximum period to reclusion temporal in its minimum period.

The maximum term shall be the sum of the additional four years and the medium period 11 of reclusion temporal in
its medium and maximum periods or 16 years, five months and 11 days to 18 years, two months and 21 days
of reclusion temporal. The maximum term therefore may be anywhere between 16 years, five months and 11 days
of reclusion temporal to 22 years, two months and 21 days of reclusion perpetua.

G.R. No. 111107 January 10, 1997

LOEONARDO A. PAAT, in his capacity as Officer-in-Charge (OIC), Regional Executive Director (RED),
Region 2 and JOVITO LAYUGAN, JR., in his capacity as Community Environment and Natural Resources
Officer (CENRO), both of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), petitioners,
vs.
COURT OF APPEALS, HON. RICARDO A. BACULI in his capacity as Presiding Judge of Branch 2, Regional
Trial Court at Tuguegarao, Cagayan, and SPOUSES BIENVENIDO and VICTORIA DE
GUZMAN, respondents.

SECOND DIVISION

PONENTE: TORRES, JR., J.

FACTS:

The controversy on hand had its incipiency on May 19, 1989 when the truck of private respondent Victoria de
Guzman was seized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR, for brevity) personnel in
Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya because the driver could not produce the required documents for the forest products found
concealed in the truck.
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Petitioner Jovito Layugan, the Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer (CENRO) in Aritao, Cagayan,
issued on May 23, 1989 an order of confiscation of the truck and gave the owner thereof fifteen (15) days within
which to submit an explanation why the truck should not be forfeited. Private respondents, however, failed to
submit the required explanation.

On June 22, 1989, Regional Executive Director Rogelio Baggayan of DENR sustained petitioner Layugan's action of
confiscation and ordered the forfeiture of the truck invoking Section 68-A of Presidential Decree No. 705 as
amended by Executive Order No. 277.

Private respondents filed a letter of reconsideration dated June 28, 1989 of the June 22, 1989 order of Executive
Director Baggayan, which was, however, denied in a subsequent order of July 12, 1989. Subsequently, the case
was brought by the petitioners to the Secretary of DENR pursuant to private respondents' statement in their letter
dated June 28, 1989 that in case their letter for reconsideration would be denied then "this letter should be
considered as an appeal to the Secretary."

Pending resolution however of the appeal, a suit for replevin, docketed as Civil Case 4031, was filed by the private
respondents against petitioner Layugan and Executive Director Baggayan with the Regional Trial Court, Branch 2
of Cagayan, which issued a writ ordering the return of the truck to private respondents.

Both the RTC and CA denied the motion.

ISSUES:

1. Whether or not an action for replevin prosper to recover a movable property which is the subject
matter of an administrative forfeiture proceeding in the Department of Environment and Natural
Resources pursuant to Section 68-A of P. D. 705, as amended, entitled The Revised Forestry Code of
the Philippines without violating the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies. [NO.]
2. Whether or not the Secretary of DENR and his representatives empowered to confiscate and forfeit
conveyances used in transporting illegal forest products in favor of the government. [YES.]

RULING:

1. Before a party is allowed to seek the intervention of the court, it is a pre-condition that he should have
availed of all the means of administrative processes afforded him. Hence, if a remedy within the
administrative machinery can still be resorted to by giving the administrative officer concerned every
opportunity to decide on a matter that comes within his jurisdiction then such remedy should be
exhausted first before court's judicial power can be sought. The premature invocation of court's
intervention is fatal to one's cause of action.

2. Section 68-A of P.D. 705, as amended, unquestionably warrants the confiscation as well as the disposition
by the Secretary of DENR or his duly authorized representatives of the conveyances used in violating the
provision of forestry laws. Evidently, the continued possession or detention of the truck by the petitioners
for administrative forfeiture proceeding is legally permissible, hence, no wrongful detention exists in the
case at bar. Moreover, it is important to point out that the enforcement of forestry laws, rules and
regulations and the protection, development and management of forest lands fall within the primary and
special responsibilities of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. By the very nature of its
function, the DENR should be given a free hand unperturbed by judicial intrusion to determine a
controversy which is well within its jurisdiction.

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