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Cruz vs Secretary of DENR

Natural Resources and Environmental Law; Constitutional Law; IPRA; Regalian


Doctrine

GR. No. 135385, Dec. 6, 2000

FACTS:
Petitioners Isagani Cruz and Cesar Europa filed a suit for prohibition and
mandamus as citizens and taxpayers, assailing the constitutionality of certain
provisions of Republic Act No. 8371, otherwise known as the Indigenous People’s
Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA) and its implementing rules and regulations (IRR). The
petitioners assail certain provisions of the IPRA and its IRR on the ground that
these 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.

ISSUE:
Do the provisions of IPRA contravene the Constitution?

HELD:
No, the provisions of IPRA do not contravene the Constitution. Examining the
IPRA, there is nothing in the law that grants to the ICCs/IPs ownership over the
natural resources within their ancestral domain. Ownership over the natural
resources in the ancestral domains remains with the State and the rights granted
by the IPRA to the ICCs/IPs over the natural resources in their ancestral domains
merely gives them, as owners and occupants of the land on which the resources
are found, the right to the small scale utilization of these resources, and at the
same time, a priority in their large scale development and exploitation.

Additionally, ancestral lands and ancestral domains are not part of the lands of
the public domain. They are private lands and belong to the ICCs/IPs by native
title, which is a concept of private land title that existed irrespective of any royal
grant from the State. However, the right of ownership and possession by the
ICCs/IPs of their ancestral domains is a limited form of ownership and does not
include the right to alienate the same.
Former Justice Isagani Cruz, a noted constitutionalist, assailed the validity of the
Republic Act No. 8371 or the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA Law) on the
ground that the law 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. The IPRA law basically enumerates the rights of the indigenous
peoples over ancestral domains which may include natural resources.

In addition, Cruz et al contend 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) of said law
also violate the rights of private landowners.

ISSUE: Whether or not the IPRA law is unconstitutional.

HELD: The Supreme Court deliberated upon the matter. After deliberation they
voted and reached a 7-7 vote. They deliberated again and the same result
transpired. Since there was no majority vote, Cruz’s petition was dismissed and
the constitutionality of the IPRA law was sustained. Hence, ancestral domains
may include public domain – somehow against the regalian doctrine.
Cruz vs Secretary of DENR
Natural Resources and Environmental Law; Constitutional Law; IPRA;
Regalian Doctrine
GR. No. 135385, Dec. 6, 2000
FACTS
: Petitioners Isagani Cruz and Cesar Europa filed a suit for prohibition and
mandamus as citizens and taxpayers, assailing the constitutionality of certain
provisions of Republic Act
No. 8371, otherwise known as the Indigenous People’s Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA)
and its
implementing rules and regulations (IRR). The petitioners assail certain provisions
of the
IPRA and its IRR on the ground that these 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.
ISSUE
: Do the provisions of IPRA contravene the Constitution?
HELD
: No, the provisions of IPRA do not contravene the Constitution. Examining the
IPRA, there is nothing in the law that grants to the ICCs/IPs ownership over the
natural resources within their ancestral domain. Ownership over the natural
resources in the ancestral domains remains with the State and the rights granted
by the IPRA to the ICCs/IPs over the natural resources in their ancestral domains
merely gives them, as owners and occupants of the land on which the resources
are found, the right to the small scale utilization of these resources, and at the
same time, a priority in their large scale development and
exploitation. Additionally, ancestral lands and ancestral domains are not part of
the lands of the public domain. They are private lands and belong to the
ICCs/IPs by native title, which is a concept of private land title that existed
irrespective of any royal grant from the State. However, the right of ownership
and possession by the ICCs/IPs of their ancestral domains is a limited form of
ownership and does not include the right to alienate the same.