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Revaldo v.

People
OLYMPIO REVALDO v. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, (A w/ Mod)
G.R. No. 170589, April 16, 2009

FACTS:
Petitioner was charged with the offense of illegal possession of premium hardwood lumber in violation of Section 68 of the
Forestry Code. That on or about the 17th day of June 1992, Revaldo, with intent of gain, did then and there willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously possess 96.14 board ft. of flat lumber with a total value of P1,730.52, Philippine Currency,
without any legal document as required under existing forest laws and regulations from proper government authorities, to
the damage and prejudice of the government. Upon arraignment, petitioner, assisted by counsel, pleaded not guilty. Trial
ensued. The RTC rendered judgment on 1997 convicting petitioner of the offense charged, he appealed and the Court of
Appeals ruled that motive or intention is immaterial for the reason that mere possession of the lumber without the legal
documents gives rise to criminal liability. Hence, this petition for certiorari. Petitioner contends that the warrantless search
and seizure conducted by the police officers was illegal and thus the items seized should not have been admitted in
evidence against him. Petitioner argues that the police officers were not armed with a search warrant when they went to
his house to verify the report that petitioner had in his possession lumber without the corresponding license
ISSUE:
 Whether or not the warrantless search and seizure conducted by the police officers was legal.

HELD:
 Yes, even without a search warrant, the personnel of the PNP can seize the forest products cut, gathered or taken
by an offender pursuant to Section 80 of the Forestry Code.
 Petitioner was in possession of the lumber without the necessary documents when the police officers accosted him.
In open court, petitioner categorically admitted the possession and ownership of the confiscated lumber as well as the fact
that he did not have any legal documents therefor and that he merely intended to use the lumber for the repair of his
dilapidated house. Mere possession of forest products without the proper documentation consummates the crime. Dura lex
sed lex. The law may be harsh but that is the law.
 On the penalty imposed by the lower courts, we deem it necessary to discuss the matter. Violation of Section 68 of
the Forestry Code is punished as Qualified Theft with the penalties imposed under Articles 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal
Code
Almuete vs. People G.R. No. 179611 March 12, 2013

FACTS: Efren D. Almuete (petitioner), Johnny Ila (Ila) and Joel Lloren (Lloren) were charged before the Regional Trial Court
(RTC) of Nueva Vizcaya, with violation of Section 68 of Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 705, otherwise known as the "Revised
Forestry Code of the Philippines," as amended by Executive Order (E.O.) No. 277.

Section 68 of P.D. No. 705, provides that: Cutting, Gathering and/or collecting Timber, or Other Forest Products without
License shall be punished with the penalties imposed under Articles 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code. The RTC held
the accused, Almuete, Ila and Lloren guilty, each are sentenced to suffer the penalty of 18 years, 2 months and 21 days of
reclusion temporal, as minimum period to 40 years of reclusion perpetua as maximum period (as prescribed in Article 310,
RPC).

Petitioner and his co-accused moved for reconsideration, questioning among others the correctness of the penalty
imposed.

ISSUE: Whether or not the penalty as prescribed in Article 310, RPC which is two degrees higher than those specified in
Article 309, RPC should be imposed.

HELD: No, Article 310, RPC would apply only if the theft was committed under any the following circumstances: a) by a
domestic servant, or with grave abuse of confidence, or b) if the stolen property is motor vehicle, mail matter or large
cattle, or consists of coconuts taken from the premises of the plantation or fish taken from a fishpond or fishery, or c) if the
property is taken on the occasion of fire, earthquake, typhoon, volcanic eruption, or any other calamity, vehicular accident
or civil disturbance. None of these circumstances is present in the instant case. Thus, the proper imposable penalty should
be that which is prescribed under Article 309.

In this case, the amount of the timber involved is P57,012.00. Since the amount exceeds P22,000.00, the penalty of prision
mayor in its minimum and medium periods should be imposed in its maximum period plus an additional one (1) year for
each additional P10,000 pesos in excess of P22,000.00 or three more years. Thus, the correct imposable maximum penalty
is anywhere between eleven (11) years, eight (8) months and one (1) day of prision mayor to thirteen (13) years of reclusion
temporal.

Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the minimum penalty is one degree lower than that prescribed by the law. In this
case, the minimum penalty should be prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods, which is anywhere between
two (2) years, four (4) months and one (1) day to six (6) years.

Accordingly, the Court’s "primordial and most important duty is to render justice”. It cannot be gainsaid that what is
involved is the life and liberty of petitioner hence, the Decision of the RTC was modified insofar as the

penalty of imprisonment is concerned. The accused Almuete, Ila and Lloren are each sentenced to suffer the indeterminate
penalty of six ( 6) years of prision correccional, as minimum, to thirteen (13) years of reclusion temporal, as maximum.
Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 108619 July 31, 1997

EPIFANIO LALICAN, petitioner, vs. HON. FILOMENO A. VERGARA, Presiding Judge, RTC Branch 52, Puerto Princesa City and
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents.

ROMERO, J.:

The issue posed for resolution in this petition for certiorari and prohibition with prayer for the issuance of a temporary
restraining order is whether or not a charge of illegal possession of "lumber" is excluded from the crime of illegal possession
of "timber" as defined in Sec. 68 of Presidential Decree No. 705 (The Forestry Reform Code of the Philippines), as amended,
to warrant the quashal of an information charging the former offense or a "nonexistent crime."

On July 23, 1991, an information for violation of Section 68 of P.D. No. 705, as amended by Executive Order No. 277, was
filed by the City Prosecutor of Puerto Princesa City against petitioner Epifanio Lalican, 1 Ruben Benitez, Allan Pulgar and
Jose Roblo before the Regional Trial Court of that city. Docketed as Criminal Case No. 9543, the information reads:

That on or about the 9th day of February, 1991, at Sitio Cadiz, Barangay Bacungan, City of Puerto Princesa, Philippines, and
within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the abovenamed accused, without lawful authority or permit, conspiring and
confederating together and mutually helping one another, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have in
their possession, custody and control 1,800 board feet of assorted species and dimensions of lumber

on board two (2) passenger jeeps, with a value of Fourteen Thousand Pesos (P14,000.00), Philippine Currency, to the
damage and prejudice of the Government in the amount aforestated.

CONTRARY TO LAW.

At their arraignment on August 9, 1991, all the accused pleaded not guilty to the crime charged.

On August 23, 1991, petitioner Lalican filed a motion to quash the information on the ground that the facts charged did not
constitute an offense. Contending that Sec. 68 of P.D. No. 705 refers to "timber and other forest products" and not to
"lumber," and asserting that "timber" becomes "lumber" only after it is sawed into beams, planks or boards, petitioner
alleged that said decree "does not apply to 'lumber.'" He added that the law is "vague and standardless" as it does not
specify the authority or the legal documents required by existing forest laws and regulations. Hence, petitioner asserted
that the information should be quashed as it violated his constitutional rights to due process and equal protection of the
law. 2

The prosecution opposed the motion to quash on the ground that it is not for the courts to determine the wisdom of the
law nor to set out the policy of the legislature which deemed it proper that the word "timber" should include "lumber"
which is a "product or derivative after the timber is cut." The position of the prosecution was that to hold otherwise would
result in the easy circumvention of the law, for one could stealthily cut timber from any forest, have it sawn into lumber and
escape criminal prosecution. The prosecution asserted that the issue raised by petitioner was more semantical than a
question of law. 3

On September 24, 1991, the lower court, 4 guided by the principles that penal laws should be construed strictly against the
state and that all doubts should be resolved in favor of the accused, issued an order quashing the information. It held that
the distinction between "timber" and "lumber" is not artificial nor a matter of semantics as the law itself distinguishes the
two terms. Sec. 3(q) of P.D. No. 705 classifies "timber" as a forest product while Sec. 3(aa) thereof considers "lumber" as a
finished wood product. Adding that unlicensed cutting, gathering and/or collecting of "timber" is penalized under Sec. 68
while sale of "lumber" without compliance with grading rules established by the government is prohibited by Sec. 79, the
lower court categorically stated that:

Logically, lumber, being a manufactured wood product, poses no more danger to forest lands by being cut, gathered,
collected or removed. It is in fact, only bought and sold. Thus, Sec. 68 cannot be made to apply to lumber.

The court, however, refrained from exploring the constitutional issues raised by petitioner upon a holding that the case
could be resolved on some other grounds or issues. 5

The prosecution filed a motion for the reconsideration of this Order, pointing out that under the Primer on Illegal Logging of
the Department of Energy and Natural Resources (DENR), timber is not just any piece of wood for it may consist of squared
and manufactured timber or one which has been sawn to pieces to facilitate transportation or hauling. It stressed that to
consider a person who had made lumber out of timber as not criminally liable is an absurd interpretation of the law.

Moreover, the prosecution underscored the facts that when apprehended, the accused presented Private Land Timber
Permit No. 030140 dated February 10, 1991 which had expired; that while the certificate of origin indicated Brgy. Sta. Cruz,
the product actually came from Sitio Cadiz, and that the two jeeps bearing the product were not equipped with certificates
of transport agreement. Added to this was the fact that, if the product were indeed lumber, then the accused could have
presented a certificate of lumber origin, lumber sale invoices in case of sale, tally sheets and delivery receipts for
transportation from one point to another. 6

Petitioner opposed the motion for reconsideration contending that the DENR primer's definition of "timber" is erroneous
because the law itself distinguishes "timber" from "sawn lumber." The non-inclusion of "lumber" in Sec. 68 could only mean
a clear legislative intent to exclude possession of "lumber" from the acts penalized under that section. 7

Pending resolution of the motion for reconsideration, the Presiding Judge of Branch 49 inhibited himself from taking
cognizance of Criminal Case No. 9543. The case was subsequently assigned to Branch 52.

On June 10, 1992, the lower court 8 issued the herein questioned order setting aside the quashal Order of the previous
judge. It declared that from the law itself, it is evident that what is sought to be penalized is not the possession, without the
required legal documents, of timber only but also of "other forest products." It stated that even if lumber is not timber, still,
lumber is a forest product and possession thereof without legal documents is equally prohibited by the law which includes
"wood" in the definition of forest products.

Petitioner sought the reconsideration of this Order but the lower court denied it. Hence, the instant petition arguing that
the lower court gravely abused its discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction in setting aside the quashal order and in
denying his motion for reconsideration on the ground that Sec. 68 of P.D. No. 705 neither specifies nor includes "lumber" in
the phrase "timber or other forest products."

The petition is devoid of merit.

Sec. 68 of P.D. No. 705, as amended by Executive Order No. 277 which was issued on July 25, 1987 by then President
Corazon C. Aquino, provides:

Sec. 68. Cutting, Gathering and/or collecting Timber, or Other Forest Products Without License. — Any person who shall cut,
gather, collect, remove timber or other forest products from any forest land, or timber from alienable or disposable public
land, or from private land, without any authority, or possess timber or other forest products without the legal documents as
required under existing forest laws and regulations, shall be punished with the penalties imposed under Articles 309 and
310 of the Revised Penal Code: Provided, That in the case of partnerships, associations, or corporations, the officers who
ordered the cutting, gathering, collection or possession shall be liable, and if such officers are aliens, they shall, in addition
to the penalty, be deported without further proceedings on the part of the Commission on Immigration and Deportation.

The Court shall further order the confiscation in favor of the government of the timber or any forest products cut, gathered,
collected, removed, or possessed, as well as the machinery, equipment, implements and tools illegally used in the area
where the timber or forest products are found. (Emphasis supplied.)
Punished then in this section are: (a) the cutting, gathering, collection, or removal of timber or other forest products from
the places therein mentioned without any authority; or (b) possession of timber or other forest products without the legal
documents as required under existing forest laws and regulations.

In the recent case of Mustang, Lumber, Inc. v. Court of Appeals 9 this Court, thru Justice Hilario Davide, held:

The Revised Forestry Code contains no definition of either timber or lumber. While the former is included in forest products
as defined in paragraph (q) of Section 3, the latter is found in paragraph (aa) of the same section in the definition of
"Processing plant," which reads:

(aa) Processing plant is any mechanical set-up, machine or combination of machine used for the processing of logs and
other forest raw materials into lumber, veneer, plywood, wallboard, blockboard, paper board, pulp, paper or other finished
wood product.

This simply means that lumber is a processed log or processed forest raw material. Clearly, the Code uses the term lumber
in its ordinary or common usage. In the 1993 copyright edition of Webster's Third New International Dictionary, lumber is
defined, inter alia, as "timber or logs after being prepared for the market ." Simply put , lumber is a processed log or timber.

It is settled that in the absence of legislative intent to the contrary, words and phrases used in a statute should be given
their plain, ordinary, and common usage meaning. And insofar as possession of timber without the required legal
documents is concerned, Section 68 of P.D. No. 705, as amended, makes no distinction between raw or processed timber.
Neither should we. Ubi lex non distinguit nec nos distinguere debemus.

Be that as it may, the legislative intent to include possession of lumber in Sec. 68 is clearly gleaned from the expressed
reasons for enacting the law which, under Executive Order No. 277, are the following:

WHEREAS, there is an urgency to conserve the remaining forest resources of the country for the benefit and welfare of the
present and future generations of Filipinos;

WHEREAS, our forest resources may be effectively conserved and protected through the vigilant enforcement and
implementation of our forestry laws, rules and regulations;

WHEREAS, the implementation of our forestry laws suffers from technical difficulties, due to certain inadequacies in the
penal provisions of the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines; and

WHEREAS, to overcome these difficulties, there is a need to penalize certain acts to make our forestry laws more responsive
to present situations and realities; . . .

To exclude possession of "lumber" from the acts penalized in Sec. 68 would certainly emasculate the law itself. A law should
not be so construed as to allow the doing of an act which is prohibited by law, nor so interpreted as to afford an
opportunity to defeat compliance with its terms, create an inconsistency, or contravene the plain words of the law. 10 After
all, the phrase "forest products" is broad enough to encompass lumber which, to reiterate, is manufactured timber. Hence,
to mention lumber in Sec. 68 would merely result in tautology. As the lower court said:

Even should it be conceded that lumber is not timber and is thus not covered by the prohibition, still it cannot be denied
that lumber is a forest product and possession thereof without legal documents is equally and, to the same extent,
prohibited. Sec. 3(q) of PD 705 as amended or otherwise known as the Revised Forestry Code defines forest products, viz., .
..

Stress must be given to the term WOOD embodied in the definition of forest product (supra). If we are to follow the rather
tangential argument by the accused that lumber is not timber, then, it will be very easy for a person to circumvent the law.
He could stealthily cut timber from any forest, have it sawn into lumber and escape criminal prosecution. It is rather too
narrow an interpretation. But the law also provided a plug for the loophole. If lumber is not timber, then surely, lumber is
wood. . . . .

If in seeking to abate the proceedings the accused also seek to imply that lumber seized in their possession were procured
from lawful source, all they have to do is produce the legal documents contemplated by the law. It is not the mere cutting
or possession of timber, forest products or whatever that is prohibited and penalized by the law. What is prohibited and
penalized is the act of cutting or possessing of timber, wood, or other forest products without lawful authority.

The Court, therefore, finds that the lower court did not gravely abuse its discretion in denying the quashal of the
information. The petition simply has no legal basis. Certiorari may be issued only where it is clearly shown that there is
patent and gross abuse of discretion as to amount to an evasion of positive duty or to virtual refusal to perform a duty
enjoined by law, or to act at all in contemplation of law, as where the power is exercised in an arbitrary and despotic
manner by reason of passion or personal hostility. 11 Grave abuse of discretion implies a capricious and whimsical exercise
of power. 12

On the other hand, certiorari may not be availed of where it is not shown that the respondent court lacked or exceeded its
jurisdiction or committed grave abuse of discretion. 13 Where the court has jurisdiction over the case, even if its findings
are not correct, its questioned acts would at most constitute errors of law and not abuse of discretion correctible by
certiorari. 14 As this Court said:

. . . When a court exercises its jurisdiction, an error committed while so engaged does not deprive it of the jurisdiction being
exercised when the error is committed. If it did, every error committed by a court would deprive it of its jurisdiction and
every erroneous judgment would be a void judgment. This cannot be allowed. The administration of justice would not
survive such a rule. Consequently, an error of judgment that the court may commit in the exercise of its jurisdiction is not
correctible through the original civil action of certiorari. 15

In other words, certiorari will issue only to correct errors of jurisdiction and not to correct errors of procedure or mistakes in
the judge's findings and conclusions. 16

The unavailability of the writ of certiorari, and even that of prohibition, in this case is borne out of the fact that what
petitioner considers as grave abuse of discretion in this case is the denial of his motion to quash the information filed
against him and three others. This Court has consistently defined the proper procedure in case of denial of a motion to
quash. The accused has to enter a plea, go to trial without prejudice on his part to present the special defenses he had
invoked in his motion and, if after trial on the merits, an adverse decision is rendered, to appeal therefrom in the manner
authorized by law. 17

Certiorari is not the proper remedy where a motion to quash an information is denied. That the appropriate recourse is to
proceed to trial and in case of conviction, to appeal such conviction, as well as the denial of the motion to quash, is impelled
by the fact that a denial of a motion to quash is an interlocutory procedural aspect which cannot be appealed nor can it be
the subject of a petition for certiorari. 18 The remedies of appeal and certiorari are mutually exclusive and not alternative
or successive. 19 An interlocutory order may be assailed by certiorari or prohibition only when it is shown that the court
acted without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion. 20 However, this Court generally frowns upon
this remedial measure as regards

interlocutory orders. To tolerate the practice of allowing interlocutory orders to be the subject of review by certiorari would
not only delay the administration of justice but also would unduly burden the courts. 21

Petitioner may not seek refuge under Flordelis v. Himalaloan 22 for his contention that a denial of a motion to quash may
be the subject of a petition for certiorari. That case has an entirely different factual milieu from the one at bar. The
information herein not being "patently defective" nor that the offense charged has prescribed, 23 this case may not be
considered an exception to the rule on the proper remedy for the denial of a motion to quash.

With respect to the constitutionality of Sec. 68 of P.D. No. 705 which petitioner would have this Court consider, 24 this
Court has always desisted from delving on constitutional issues. Thus, even if all the requisites for judicial review of a
constitutional matter are present in a case, 25 this Court will not pass upon a constitutional question unless it is the lis mota
of the case or if the case can be disposed of on some other grounds, such as the application of the statute or general law. 26

The Court can well take judicial notice of the deplorable problem of deforestation in this country, considering that the
deleterious effects of this problem are now imperiling our lives and properties, more specifically, by causing rampaging
floods in the lowlands. While it is true that the rights of an accused must be favored in the interpretation of penal provisions
of law, it is equally true that when the general welfare and interest of the people are interwoven in the prosecution of a
crime, the Court must arrive at a solution only after a fair and just balancing of interests. This the Court did in arriving at the
foregoing interpretation of Sec. 68 of the Revised Forestry Reform Code. This task, however, has not at all been a difficult
one considering that, contrary to petitioner's assertion, his rights to due process and equal protection of the law have not
been clearly shown to have been jeopardized.

WHEREFORE, the instant petition for certiorari and prohibition is hereby DISMISSED. The lower court is enjoined to proceed
with dispatch in the prosecution of Criminal Case No. 9543. This Decision is immediately executory. Costs against,
petitioner.

SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 165711 June 30, 2006

HERMOSO ARRIOLA and MELCHOR RADAN, Petitioners,


vs.
SANDIGANBAYAN, Respondent.

DECISION

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

For allegedly having lost the confiscated lumber entrusted to their custody, petitioners Barangay Captain Hermoso
Arriola and Barangay Chief Tanod Melchor Radan of Dulangan, Magdiwang, Romblon were convicted as principal
and accessory respectively by the Regional Trial Court of Romblon, Romblon, Branch 81 of the crime of
Malversation of Public Property thru Negligence or Abandonment defined and penalized under Article 217 of the
Revised Penal Code, in an Information1 docketed as Criminal Case No. 2064, which alleges –

That on, about and during the first week of May, 1996, in barangay Dulangan, municipality of Magdiwang,
province of Romblon, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, being then
a duly appointed/elected Barangay Captain and Chief Tanod of Dulangan, Magdiwang, Romblon and as such,
they have under their custody and control approximately forty four (44) pieces of illegally sawn lumbers of
assorted sizes and species, with an estimated value of P17,611.20, Philippine currency, which were confiscated
or recovered by the elements of the Philippine National Police and DENR personnel and thereafter turned over
the same to accused Brgy. Capt. Hermoso Arriola which he acknowledged to have received the same and
stockpiled at the backyard of accused Chief Tanod Melchor Radan’s house, and through abandonment or
negligence, they permitted any other person to take the public property wholly or partially, to the damage and
prejudice of the government in the sum of P17,611.20.

Contrary to law.

Upon arraignment, both pleaded not guilty. Trial on the merits ensued thereafter. On May 3, 1998, the trial court
rendered its Decision,2 the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, this Court finds co-accused barangay captain HERMOSO ARRIOLA GUILTY beyond reasonable
doubt as principal of the crime of Malversation of Public Property Thru Negligence or Abandonment and he is
hereby sentenced to not less than 14 years and 8 months, as minimum, to 18 years, 2 months and 20 days, as
maximum, with the accessories of the law, with the additional penalty of perpetual special disqualification and of a
fine of P17,611.20, Philippine Currency, and to pay the sum of P13,209.20 as indemnification of consequential
damages to the government.

Likewise, co-accused barangay chief tanod MELCHOR RADAN is found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt as
accessory of the crime of Malversation of Public Property Thru Negligence or Abandonment and he is sentenced
to not less than 6 years, as minimum, to 8 years and 8 months, as maximum, with the accessories of the law, with
the additional penalty of perpetual special disqualification and of a fine of P4,402.80, Philippine Currency, and to
pay the sum of P4,402.80 as indemnification of consequential damages to the government.

No subsidiary imprisonment in case of failure to pay the fine is imposed to both accused under Article 39,
paragraph 3, RPC but either accused is subsidiarily liable for the quota of either in the indemnity for consequential
damages to the government (Art. 110, RPC). Both accused shall pay the costs equally.

The accused are entitled to credit for preventive imprisonment under Article 29, RPC.

The accused are allowed to continue on provisional liberty under the same bail bonds during the period to appeal
subject to the consent of the bondsmen (Section 5, Rule 114 of the 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure as
amended.)

SO ORDERED.3
Petitioners filed an appeal before the Court of Appeals which referred the same to the public respondent
Sandiganbayan on a finding that the latter has jurisdiction over the case.4 On June 29, 2004, the First Division of
the Sandiganbayan resolved5 thus –

Notwithstanding the referral of this case to this Court by the Court of Appeals, it appearing that no correction was
made of the correct appellate court by the appellant, this Court is constrained to DISMISS the instant case
pursuant to Section 2, Rule 50 of the 1997 Revised Rules of Civil Procedure, stating insofar as pertinent, that
"(a)n appeal erroneously taken to the Court of Appeals shall not be transferred to the appropriate court but shall
be dismissed outright," and the ruling in the case of Moll vs. Buban, et al., G.R. No. 136974 promulgated on
August 27, 2002, that the designation of the correct appellate court should be made within the 15-day period to
appeal.

Petitioners’ motion for reconsideration was denied6 by the Sandiganbayan; hence, this petition for certiorari
alleging grave abuse of discretion of the Sandiganbayan in dismissing their appeal. They maintain that the trial
court committed the following errors:

I. IN RULING THAT ACCUSED-APPELLANT HERMOSO ARRIOLA IS AN ACCOUNTABLE PUBLIC OFFICER


WITH RESPECT TO CONFISCATED ILLEGALLY LOGGED LUMBER, BY REASON OF THE DUTIES OF HIS
OFFICE.

II. IN RULING THAT ACCUSED-APPELLANT HERMOSO ARRIOLA MISAPPROPRIATED OR CONSENTED


OR, THROUGH NEGLIGENCE OR ABANDONMENT, PERMITTED ANOTHER PERSON TO TAKE THE
CONFISCATED LUMBER.

III. IN RULING THAT ACCUSED-APPELLANT HERMOSO ARRIOLA MALICIOUSLY OR FRAUDULENTLY


ATTEMPTED TO MAKE IT APPEAR THAT THE MISSING LUMBER WERE FOUND AND RECOVED (sic).

IV. IN RULING THAT ACCUSED-APPELLANT MELCHOR RADAN IS AN ACCESSORY AFTER THE CRIME
WHO SHOULD BE HELD LIABLE, TOGETHER WITH HIS CO-PETITIONER.

V. IN RULING THAT THE GUILT OF BOTH ACCUSED-APPELLANTS WERE ESTABLISHED BY EVIDENCE OF


GUILT BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT.7

The factual antecedents of the case are as follows:

At noon on April 22, 1996 Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Forest Rangers Efren
Mandia (Mandia) and Joepre Ferriol, Senior Inspector Noel Alonzo, the team leader of Task Force Kalikasan
together with the Chief of Police of Magdiwang, Romblon SPO3 Agustin Ramal and some other police officers,
confiscated 44 pieces of illegally sawn lumber totaling 1,174 board feet with an estimated value of P17,611.20.8

Mandia scaled the lumber and made notches on most of the pieces before issuing the seizure receipt9 and turning
over its custody to petitioner Arriola in the presence of petitioner Radan. Arriola acknowledged receipt thereof and
signed10 accordingly. Mandia subsequently discovered the lumber missing on May 5, 1996.11

He went back to Barangay Dulangan on May 14, 1996 accompanied by several police officers and Foresters
Gerardo Sabigan and Glenn Tansiongco. They requested petitioners to turn over custody of the confiscated
lumber but the latter claimed that the same were taken away without their knowledge. Subsequently, petitioners
produced lumber and claimed that these were the ones they recovered. Upon closer inspection however, Mandia
noted that the lumber produced by petitioners were different from those previously confiscated.

The subsequent investigation conducted by Mandia together with Forester and Officer-in-Charge Gerardo
Sabigan, SPO1 Jose Fabrique, Jr., and some members of the Multi-Sectoral Forest Protection Committee showed
that the missing lumber was actually hauled to and used in the Magdiwang Cockpit where petitioner Arriola is a
stockholder.12

On June 10, 1996, a complaint was filed against petitioners before the Romblon Provincial Prosecution Office.
In his defense, Arriola asserts that contrary to the finding of the trial court, he is not an accountable officer insofar
as the confiscated lumber is concerned. He maintains that none of the powers, duties and functions of a Barangay
Captain as enumerated in the Local Government Code13 (R.A. 7160) directly or by inference suggests that as
such Barangay Captain, he is an accountable officer with respect to the custody of illegally sawn lumber
confiscated within his territorial jurisdiction.

He insists that the confiscated lumber was placed in his custody "not by reason of the duties of his office" as
Barangay Captain, thus he is not legally accountable to answer for its loss so as to make him liable for
Malversation under Art. 217 of the Revised Penal Code. Petitioners claim that they did not misappropriate,
abandon or neglect the confiscated lumber and insist that the same were stolen. Arriola claims he visited the
stockpiled lumber regularly so the theft probably occurred at night.

With respect to the replacement lumber they subsequently produced, petitioners believed in good faith that the
various lumber found scattered in a nearby creek were the missing confiscated lumber left by the thieves who
failed to transport them across.

Before going into the merits of the case, we must first resolve the procedural issue of whether the Sandiganbayan
correctly dismissed the appeal. The Sandiganbayan anchored its dismissal on this Court’s pronouncement in Moll
v. Buban14 that the designation of the wrong court does not necessarily affect the validity of the notice of appeal.
However, the designation of the proper court should be made within the 15-day period to appeal. Once made
within the said period, the designation of the correct appellate court may be allowed even if the records of the
case are forwarded to the Court of Appeals. Otherwise, Section 2, Rule 50 of the Rules of Court would apply, the
relevant portion of which states:

Sec. 2. Dismissal of improper appeal to the Court of Appeals. –

xxxx

An appeal erroneously taken to the Court of Appeals shall not be transferred to the appropriate court but shall be
dismissed outright.

In this case, the records had been forwarded to the Court of Appeals which endorsed petitioners’ appeal to the
Sandiganbayan. However, petitioners failed to designate the proper appellate court within the allowable time.

We cannot fault the Sandiganbayan for dismissing the appeal outright for it was merely applying the law and
existing jurisprudence on the matter. Appeal is not a vested right but a mere statutory privilege; thus, appeal must
be made strictly in accordance with provisions set by law.15 Section 2, Rule 50 clearly requires that the correction
in designating the proper appellate court should be made within the 15-day period to appeal.

However, the rules of procedure ought not to be applied in a very rigid, technical sense for they have been
adopted to help secure – not override – substantial justice.16 This Court has repeatedly stressed that the ends of
justice would be served better when cases are determined, not on mere technicality or some procedural nicety,
but on the merits – after all the parties are given full opportunity to ventilate their causes and defenses. Lest it be
forgotten, dismissal of appeals purely on technical grounds is frowned upon.17

Having resolved the procedural issue, we shall now proceed to the merits of the case. The issue boils down to
whether or not petitioners Arriola and Radan are accountable officers within the purview of Article 217 of the
Revised Penal Code in relation to the confiscated items.

To find an accused guilty of malversation, the prosecution must prove the following essential elements:

a.] The offender is a public officer;

b.] He has the custody or control of funds or property by reason of the duties of his office;

c.] The funds or property involved are public funds or property for which he is accountable; and
d.] He has appropriated, taken or misappropriated, or has consented to, or through abandonment or
negligence, permitted the taking by another person of, such funds or property.

An accountable officer under Article 217 is a public officer who, by reason of his office is accountable for public
funds or property. Sec. 101 (1) of the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines (PD No. 1455) defines
accountable officer to be every officer of any government agency whose duties permit or require the possession
or custody of government funds or property and who shall be accountable therefor and for the safekeeping thereof
in conformity with law.18

In the determination of who is an accountable officer, it is the nature of the duties which he performs – and not the
nomenclature or the relative importance the position held – which is the controlling factor.19

Is petitioner Arriola, who signed as custodian in the seizure receipt for the confiscated lumber an accountable
officer with respect to its loss?

Chapter IV, I-E, (4) of the DENR Primer on Illegal Logging states that:

In cases where the apprehension is made by the field DENR officer, the forest products and the conveyance used
shall be deposited to the nearest CENRO/PENRO/RED office, as the case may be, for safekeeping, wherever it is
most convenient. If the transfer of the seized forest products to the above places is not immediately feasible, the
same shall be placed under the custody of any licensed sawmill operator or the nearest local public official such
as the Barangay Captain, Municipal/City Mayor, Provincial Governor or the PC/INP; at the discretion of the
confiscating officer taking into account the safety of the confiscated forest products x x x. In any case, the custody
of the forest products shall be duly acknowledged and receipted by the official taking custody thereof.

In the case of United States v. Lafuente,20 the accused was a Municipal Secretary and a member of the auction
committee. A public auction for the sale of fishery privileges was held pursuant to the provisions of the Municipal
Law and a municipal ordinance. When the auction was concluded, the bidders deposited the amount of their
respective bids with the accused. The latter embezzled the money for his personal use. It was held that the
accused is guilty of misappropriation of public funds. Although a Municipal Secretary’s duties do not normally
include the receipt of public funds, the accused in this case was nonetheless held accountable for the same
because the money was deposited with him under authority of law. The obligation of the secretary was to
safeguard the money for the Government.21

In the instant case, Arriola knowingly and willingly signed the seizure receipt for the confiscated articles. By
affixing his signature in said document, he undertook to safeguard the lumber on behalf of the Government. The
receipt contains a provision which states that as custodian, Arriola "obliges himself to faithfully keep and protect to
the best of his ability the said seized articles from defacement in any manner, destruction or loss and that he will
never alter or remove said seized articles until ordered by the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources or
his duly authorized representative or any court of Justice in the Philippines."

Although his usual duties as Barangay Captain do not ordinarily include the receipt of confiscated articles on
behalf of the Government, by virtue of the DENR Primer on Illegal Logging, which had for its basis Section 68 of
Presidential Decree No. 705,22 he may be called on to take custody thereof as the need arises. Furthermore, by
affixing his signature in the seizure receipt which clearly enumerates his obligations as a custodian therein, he
effectively becomes an accountable officer therefor.

The records show that prior to its confiscation by the DENR officers on April 22, 1996, the lumber was previously
apprehended by Arriola on April 19, 1996.23 Thus, even without the seizure receipt where he signed as custodian
for the said lumber, Arriola was accountable therefor because he was the one who originally took possession of it
on behalf of the government.

His claim that the trial court erred in holding him liable for malversation through negligence or abandonment lacks
merit. The lumber curiously turned up at the Magdiwang cockpit structure where he happens to be a stockholder.
Also, Arriola admitted that he already knew about the missing lumber long before the DENR officers came back to
get it but he did not inform them about its loss because "somebody advised me not to report because the one who
got the lumber might panic and tuluyan na ang lumber."24
He even produced 44 pieces of lumber and passed it off as those missing. The evidence showed however that the
species was of a cheaper quality and did not bear the markings made by the apprehending officers of the DENR.
All told, his alibi and denials cannot prevail over the credible testimonies of government witnesses which
corroborated each other. His defenses did not withstand the onslaught of clear and obvious physical,
documentary and testimonial evidence adduced by the prosecution.

With respect to petitioner Radan, the trial court erred in judging him liable as an accessory.

Article 19, par. 2 of the Revised Penal Code defines accessories as those who, having knowledge of the
commission of the crime, and without having participated therein, either as principals or accomplices, take part
subsequent to its commission by concealing or destroying the body of the crime or the effects or instruments
thereof, in order to prevent its discovery.

In the case at bar, the evidence adduced by the prosecution to prove Radan’s liability as an accessory were
neither clear nor convincing. His presence during the time when the DENR officers turned over the custody of the
seized items to Arriola is not enough proof of complicity, nor the fact that the confiscated lumber was placed
behind his father’s house. The assertion that he was responsible for the alleged transport of the confiscated
articles to the cockpit in Dulangan was a mere conjecture.

In all criminal cases, mere speculations cannot substitute for proof in establishing the guilt of the accused.25 When
guilt is not proven with moral certainty, it has been our policy of long standing that the presumption of innocence
must be favored, and exoneration granted as a matter of right.26

We now come to the penalty which should be imposed on petitioner Arriola. According to Article 217, paragraph 4
of the Revised Penal Code, the penalty for malversation is reclusion temporal in its medium and maximum
periods, if the amount involved is more than P12,000 but less than P22,000. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence
Law, and there being no mitigating or aggravating circumstances, the maximum imposable penalty shall be within
the range of 16 years, 5 months and 11 days to 18 years, 5 months and 20 days, while the minimum shall be
within the range of 10 years and 1 day to 14 years and 8 months. The trial court therefore properly imposed the
penalty of imprisonment to petitioner Arriola ranging from 14 years and 8 months, as minimum, to 18 years, 2
months and 20 days, as maximum.

Under the second paragraph of Art. 217, persons guilty of malversation shall also suffer the penalty of perpetual
special disqualification and a fine equal to the amount of funds malversed or equal to the total value of the
property embezzled, which in this case is P17,611.20. There will be no subsidiary imprisonment because the
principal penalty imposed is higher than prision correccional.27

WHEREFORE, the May 3, 1998 Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Romblon, Romblon, Branch 81 in Criminal
Case No. 2064 finding petitioner Hermoso Arriola guilty of Malversation of Public Property thru Negligence or
Abandonment and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of imprisonment to not less than 14 years and 8 months,
as minimum, to 18 years, 2 months and 20 days, as maximum, with the accessories of the law, with the additional
penalty of perpetual special disqualification and a fine of P17,611.20 is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATIONS in that
the imposition of consequential damages on petitioner Hermoso Arriola is ordered DELETED for lack of legal
basis. Petitioner Melchor Radan is ACQUITTED for insufficiency of evidence.

SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 205015 November 19, 2014

MA. MIMIE CRESCENCIO, Petitioner,


vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

DECISION

REYES, J.:

This case stemmed from Ma. Mimie Crescencio's (petitioner) conviction for violation of Section 681 of Presidential
Decree (P.D.) No. 705,2 otherwise known as the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines (Forestry Code), as
amended by Executive Order (E.O.) No. 277,3 rendered by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) ofTalibon, Bohol,
Branch 52, in Criminal Case No. 96-27, on August 12, 2008.4 The Court of Appeals (CA), in CA-G.R. CR No.
01162, dismissed the appeal in its Resolution5 dated April 15, 2011 for failure to serve a copy of the Appellant’s
Brief to the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG). The CA, in its Resolution6 dated November 19, 2012, also
denied the petitioner’s motion for reconsideration of the said resolution.

The Facts

Acting on an information that there was a stockpile of lumber or forest products in the vicinity of the house of the
petitioner, Eufemio Abaniel (Abaniel), the Chief of the ForestProtection Unit of Department of Environment and
Natural Resources (DENR) - Community Environment and Natural Resources Office, Talibon, Bohol, together
with Forest Rangers Urcino Butal (Butal), Alfredo Bastasa and Celso Ramos (Ramos) went to the petitioner’s
house at Balico, Talibon, Bohol on March 15, 1994 at 3:00 p.m. Upon arriving thereat, they saw forest products
lying under the house of the petitioner and at the shoreline about two meters away from the petitioner’s house. As
the DENR personnel tried to investigate from the neighborhood as to who was the owner of the lumber, the
petitioner admitted its ownership. Thereafter, the DENR personnel entered the premises of the petitioner’s house
without a search warrant.7

Upon inspection, 24 pieces of magsihagonlumber, which is equivalent to 452 board feet, were discovered. When
the DENR personnel asked for documents to support the petitioner’s claim of ownership, the latter showed to
them Official Receipt No. 35053 issued by Pengavitor Enterprises where she allegedly bought the said lumber.
However, when the DENR personnel scaled the lumber, they found out that the dimensions and the species of the
lumber did not tally with the items mentioned in the receipt. The said receipt showed that the petitioner bought 10
pieces of red lawaan lumber with sizes 2x6x18 and 5 pieces with sizes 2x8x16 on March 13, 1994. On the other
hand, the lumber in the petitioner’s house, on March 15, 1994, was 24 pieces of magsihagonlumber of three
different sizes, to wit: 20 pieces 2x6x18; 3 pieces 2x8x18; and 1 piece 2x10x12.8

Since the petitioner could not present any other receipt, Abaniel ordered the confiscation of the lumber, asked for
police assistance, and told the petitioner that they were going to transport the confiscated lumber to the DENR
office for safekeeping. Seizure Receipt No. 004157 and a Statement Showing the Number/Pieces and Volume of
Lumber Being Confiscated,9 which showed the value of the lumber to be 9,040.00, were issued to the petitioner.
Forest Rangers Butal and Ramos corroborated Abaniel’s testimony.10

SPO1 Desiderio Garcia testified that upon the request of Abaniel for police assistance, he and PO3 Antonio
Crescencio went to the house of the petitioner where they saw some lumberwhich was later loaded on a cargo
truck. Thereafter, they escorted the transport of the lumber to the DENR office in San Roque, Talibon, Bohol.11

On the other hand, the lone witness of the defense, Lolita Crescencio, admitted that the seized lumber were
owned by the petitioner but claimed that the latter bought it from Pengavitor Enterprises of Trinidad, Bohol and
from Java Marketing in Ubay, Bohol.12 However, the defense had only the Official Receipt No. 35053 issued by
Pengavitor Enterprises which, however, did not tally with the forest products confiscated.

On May 17, 1994, the petitioner was charged by the Provincial Prosecutor of Tagbilaran City, Bohol, with violation
of Section 68 of P.D. No. 705, as amended by E.O. No. 277. The Information13 alleged:
That on or about the 15th day of March, 1994, in the municipality of Talibon, Bohol, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused with intent to possess and to gain for her own
benefit, without any legal document as required under existing jurisprudence, laws and regulations, and without
any lawful authority under existing rules and regulation of DENR Forest Management Sector, willfully, unlawfully
and illegally possess and have under her custody and control forest products consisting of twenty-four (24) pieces
of magsihagon lumber with a volume of 452 board feet and a total value of Nine Thousand Forty (₱9,040.00)
Pesos, Philippine Currency; to the damage and prejudice of the Republic of the Philippines.14

During the arraignment on July 15,1997, the petitioner pleaded not guilty to the offense charged.Thereafter, trial
ensued.15

On August 12, 2008, the RTC rendered judgment16 convicting the petitioner of the offense charged and sentenced
her to imprisonment of six (6) years and one (1) day of prision mayoras minimum to eleven (11) years and six (6)
months and twenty-one (21) days of prision mayoras maximum. The RTC also ordered the confiscation of the
seized lumber owned by the petitioner.17

As expected, the petitioner appealed the decision to the CA. However, in its Resolution18 dated April 15, 2011, the
CA dismissed the appeal outright because the petitioner failed to furnish the OSG a copy of the Appellant’s Brief
in violation of the Rules of Court. The petitioner moved for reconsideration but it was denied by the CA,in its
Resolution19 dated November 19, 2012. Hence, this petition for review on certiorari.

The Issue

The core issue to be resolved is whether or not the CA’s dismissal of the appeal due to the petitioner’s failureto
serve a copy of the Appellant’s Brief to the OSG is proper, in view of the attendant factual circumstances and in
the interest of substantial justice.

Ruling of the Court

In this case, the petitioner asks for a relaxation of the rigid rules of technical procedure and submits that the CA
erred in dismissing her appeal purely on the basis of mere technicalities.

Confronted with issues of this nature, this Court is mindful of the policy of affording litigants the amplest
opportunity for the determination of their cases on the merits and of dispensing with technicalities whenever
compelling reasons so warrant or when the purpose of justice requires it.20

The Court has constantly pronouncedthat "[t]he rules of procedure ought not to be applied in a very rigid,technical
sense, for they have been adopted to help secure – not override – substantial justice. For this reason, courts must
proceed with caution so asnot to deprive a party of statutory appeal; rather, they must ensure thatall litigants are
granted the amplest opportunity for the proper and just ventilation of their causes, free from the constraint of
technicalities."21

It is clear that without at all touching on the substantive aspects of the petitioner’s cause, the appellate court opted
not to decide the case on the merits. The subject of the appeal was the decision of the RTC convicting the
petitioner of violation of the Forestry Code and sentencing her to suffer an imprisonment of no less than six (6)
years to eleven (11) years.

In this case, there is nothing in the record that shows any deliberate intent on the part of the petitioner to subvert
and delay the final disposition of the case. In fact, when the petitioner learned that her appeal was dismissed by
the CA for failure to serve a copy of her Appellant’s Brief to the OSG, she immediately confronted her previous
counsel who denied having filed such brief. Asthe petitioner was very much worried of being incarcerated, she
asked her previous counsel to withdraw from the case. Thus, the petitioner submits that the outright denial of her
appeal is due to the incompetence and ignorance of her former counsel who even lied about the fact thathe has
indeed filed an Appellant’s Brief.
As a general rule, the inadvertence of counsel cannot be considered as an adequate excuse as to call for the
appellate court’s indulgence except: (a) where the reckless or gross negligence of counsel deprives the client of
due process of law; (b) when application of the rule will result in outright deprivation of the client’s liberty or
property; or (c) where the interests of justice so require.22

Here, the petitioner submits that the inadvertence of her counsel to serve a copy of the Appellant’s Brief tothe
OSG is a persuasive reason or a compelling justification to forego the Rules of Procedure as the wanton
recklessness or gross negligence of her counsel has deprived her of due process of law which will result in the
outright deprivation of her liberty.

In this regard, the Court agrees that the CA should have taken a liberal view of the rules and ruled on the meritsof
the appeal, especially when what is involved is no less than the petitioner’s liberty.

Nonetheless, even if the Court brushes aside the technicality issue, it will still find that the prosecution was able to
prove beyond reasonable doubt the petitioner’s culpability.

In attempting to escape liability, the petitioner contends that: (a) she had the supporting documents to show that
she bought the questioned lumber from legitimate sources; and (b) the warrantless search and seizure conducted
by the DENR personnel was illegal and, thus, the items seized should not have been admitted in evidence against
her.

The Constitution recognizes the right of the people to be secured in their persons, houses, papers, and effects
against unreasonable searches and seizures.23 Nonetheless, the constitutional prohibition against warrantless
searches and seizures admits of certainexceptions, one of which is seizure of evidence in plain
view.1âwphi1 Under the plain view doctrine, objects falling in the "plain view" of an officer, who has a right to be in
the position to have that view, are subject to seizure and may be presented as evidence.24

There is no question that the DENR personnel were not armed with a search warrant when they went to the house
of the petitioner. When the DENR personnel arrived at the petitioner’s house, the lumbers were lying under the
latter’s house and at the shoreline about two meters away from the house of the petitioner. It isclear, therefore,
that the said lumber is plainly exposed to sight. Hence, the seizure of the lumber outside the petitioner’s house
falls within the purview of the plain view doctrine.

Besides, the DENR personnel had the authority to arrest the petitioner, even without a warrant. Section 8025 of the
Forestry Code authorizes the forestry officer or employee of the DENR or any personnel of the Philippine National
Police to arrest, even without a warrant, any person who has committed or is committing in his presence any of
the offenses defined by the Forestry Code and to seize and confiscate the tools and equipment used in
committing the offense orthe forest products gathered or taken by the offender. Clearly, in the course ofsuch
lawful intrusion, the DENR personnel had inadvertently come across the lumber which evidently incriminated the
petitioner.

The fact of possession by the petitioner of the 24 pieces of magsihagonlumber, as well as her subsequent failure
to produce the legal documents as required under existing forest laws and regulations constitute criminal liability
for violation of the Forestry Code. Under Section 68 of the Forestry Code, there are two distinctand separate
offenses punished, namely: (1) cutting, gathering, collecting and removing timber or other forest products from
any forest land, or timber from alienable or disposable public land, or from private land withoutany authority; and
(2) possession of timber or other forest products without the legal documents required under existing forest laws
and regulations.26

In the second offense, it is immaterial whether the cutting, gathering, collecting and removal of the forest products
are legal or not. Mere possession of forest products withoutthe proper documents consummates the crime.
Whether or not the lumber comes from a legal source is immaterial because the Forestry Code is a special law
which considers mere possession of timber or other forest products without the proper documentation as malum
prohibitum.27

In the present case, the magsihagonlumber were admittedly owned by the petitioner but unfortunately no permit
evidencing authority to possess said lumber was duly presented. Thus, the Information correctly charged the
petitioner with the second offense which is consummated by the mere possession of forest products without the
proper documents. The prosecution adduced several documents to prove that the lumber was confiscated from
the petitioner, namely: a Statement Showing the Number/Pieces and Volume of Lumber Being Confiscated on
March 15, 1994, seizure receipt, a photograph of the house of the petitioner, and a photograph of the confiscated
lumber. Moreso, the direct and affirmative testimony of the DENR personnel as state witnesses on the
circumstances surrounding the apprehension well establishes the petitioner’s liability.

As to the imposable penalty on the petitioner, the RTC imposed an indeterminate sentence of six (6) years and
one (1) day of prision mayoras minimum to eleven (11) years, six (6) months and twenty-one (21) days of prision
mayoras maximum.

The Court does not agree. This Court notes that the estimated value of the confiscated pieces of lumber, as
appearing in the Statement Showing the Number/Pieces and Volume of Lumber Being Confiscated is ₱9,040.00
which is alleged in the Information. However, except for the testimonies of Abaniel and Butal that this amount is
the estimate based on prevailing local price as stated in the apprehension receipt they issued, the prosecution did
not present any proof as tothe value of the lumber.

Clearly, this evidence does not suffice. The Court had ruled that in order to prove the amount of the property taken
for fixing the penalty imposable against the accused under Article 309 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), the
prosecution must present more than a mereuncorroborated "estimate" of such fact. In the absence of independent
and reliable corroboration of such estimate, courts may either apply the minimum penalty under Article 309 or fix
the value of the property taken based on the attendant circumstances of the case.28 Hence, the lower court erred
in finding that the value of the confiscated lumber is ₱9,040.00 for no evidence of such value was established
during the trial.

Accordingly, the Court imposes on the petitioner the minimum penalty under Article 309(6) 29 of the RPC, whichis
arresto mayorin its minimum and medium periods. However, considering that violation of Section 68 of the
Forestry Code is punished as Qualified Theft under Article 31030 in relation to Article 309 of the RPC, the statutory
penalty shall be increased by two degrees, that is, to prision correccionalin its medium and maximum periods or
within the range ofthree (3) years, six (6) months and twenty-one (21) days to four (4) years, nine (9) months and
ten (10) days, considering that there are no attending mitigating or aggravating circumstance in the commission of
the offense.

In accordance with current jurisprudence31 and taking into account the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the Court
finds it proper to impose on the petitioner, in view of the circumstances obtaining here, the penalty of frmr (4)
months and one (1) day of arresto mayor, as minimum, to three (3) years, six (6) months and twenty-one (21)
days of prision correccional, as maximum. WHEREFORE, the Decision on August 12, 2008 of the Regional Trial
Court of Talibon, Bohol, Branch 52, in Criminal Case No. 96-27, is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that
petitioner Ma. Mimie Crescencio is sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of four ( 4) months and one (1)
day of arresto mayor, as minimum, to three (3) years, six (6) months and twenty-one (21) days of prision
correccional, as maximum.

SO ORDERED.
01. DENR v. Daraman, G.R. No. 125797, February 15, 2002
Facts:

Gregorio Daraman is the driver of St. Jude with Plate No. HAJ-848 owned byNarciso Lucenecio of the Holy Cross Funeral
Services, transporting lumber of assortedsizes and wood shavings owned by a certain Asan. When Pablo Opinion, a
ForestRanger of DENR asked Daraman for some papers of the assorted lumber, he repliednone because they were not
his. Opinion then took hold the vehicle and the assortedlumber, took a photograph of it and issued a seizure receipt.

Issue:Whether or not the vehicle transporting lumber without papers can be confiscated
by DENR even if the vehicle’s owner is not the owner of the lumber and not crim
inally liable for violating Section 68 of Presidential Decree No. 705 as amended.

Ruling:

Yes, it can be confiscated.Section 68-A


, Presidential Decree No. 705 as amended provides in part that “
theDepartment Head or his duly authorized representative,
may order the confiscation ofany forest products illegally cut, gathered, removed, or possessed
or abandoned, andall conveyances used either by land, water or air in the commission of the
offense
…”
Here, the implementing guidelines of Section 68-A define
conveyance
in a manner that includes any type or class of vehicle or any mode of transport used in the movementof any forest
product. The guilt or the innocence of the accused in the criminal case isimmaterial, because what is punished under Section
68 is the transportation, movementor conveyance of forest products without legal documents. The DENR secretary or the
authorized representatives do not possess criminal jurisdiction. Hence, we cannotexpect the DENR to rule on the
criminal liability of the accused before it impounds such vehicles
PEREZ, J.:
Before us is a Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals dated 29 March 2010 in CA-G.R. CR No.
30729 affirming the Decision[2] dated 22 February 2007 of the Regional Trial Court
(RTC), Branch 42 of Virac, Catanduanes finding petitioners Ernie Idanan (Idanan), Nanly
Del Barrio (Del Barrio) and Marlon Plopenio (Plopenio), together with Roberto Vargas
(Vargas) and Elmer Tulod (Tulod) guilty beyond reasonable doubt of illegal possession of
lumber under Section 68 of Presidential Decree (PD) No. 705, as amended.

The petitioners were charged in the following Information:

That on or about the 16th day of October 2005 in the afternoon at [B]arangay San Miguel,
[M]unicipality of Panganiban, [P]rovince of Catanduanes, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused[,] with intent to gain,
conspiring, confederating and helping one another did there and then (sic) willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously possess, and in control of twenty nine (29) pieces of narra
lumber with gross volume of 716.48 board feet or 1.69 cubic meter valued at
Php275,844.80, Philippine currency loaded in a truck bearing Plate No. UMU-424
without necessary permit, license or documents required under the existing laws, rules
and regulations of the DENR to the damage and prejudice of the Republic of the
Philippines in the amount of Php275,844.80.[3]

During trial, the prosecution presented the police officers who apprehended petitioners.
Their version goes:

In the morning of 16 October 2005, the PNP headquarters of the Municipality of


Panganiban, Province of Catanduanes received an information that a group of illegal
loggers will be transporting narra flitches[4] along Kilometer 11, 12 or 13 in Panganiban. At
around 3:30 p.m., the OIC Chief of Police P/Inspector Chito Oyardo and five (5) other
policemen were patrolling Kilometer 12 in a motorbike and a compactor when they
spotted an idling Isuzu Elf truck loaded with lumber. The policemen approached the
truck. They found out that Idanan was the driver while Del Barrio and Plopenio were the
passengers. Vargas and Tulod were seen hauling lumber to be loaded into the truck.
Petitioners were not able to produce any document authorizing them to transport lumber
so they were placed under arrest. PO1 Ferdinand Bobiles took photographs of the truck,
the seized lumber and the accused. Thereafter, petitioners were first brought to the police
station before they were brought to Camp Camacho in Virac, Catanduanes.[5]

The defense, on the other hand, denied the charge. Idanan, Del Barrio and Plopemo
testified that while they were traversing Kilometer 12, they were flagged down by
policemen. One of them borrowed the truck. Idanan, the driver of the truck, obliged. One
of the policemen drove the truck for about 100 meters while petitioners trailed the truck
by foot. They then saw the policemen load narra flitches into the truck. Not one of them
questioned the police out of fear. To petitioners' surprise, they were then arrested and
ordered to follow the policemen to the police station.[6] Vargas and Tulod claimed that
they were going to Caramoran and they hitched a ride with Idanan.

The defense presented a Certification signed by Punong Barangay Elias D. Obierna


(Elias) and Barangay Tanod Benito P. Obierna (Benito) certifying that the police
intercepted the truck driven by Idanan; that it was found empty; and that the police
officers asked the driver of the truck to deliver the logs to the Municipal Office/Police
Office Station of Panganiban, Catanduanes.[7]

The Obiernas initially denied that they executed the Certification. Elias later on clarified
that while he signed the Certification, he was not present at the time of the apprehension
and had no personal knowledge that the truck was empty. Elias claimed that Santiago
Idanan forced him to sign the Certification.[8] Benito was present during the incident. He
allegedly saw firewood on two trucks and heard the policemen instructing a certain son of
Agoy to load the lumbers into the truck.[9]

On 22 February 2007, the RTC found petitioners guilty beyond reasonable doubt of illegal
possession of lumber. The dispositive portion reads:

WHEREFORE, the prosecution having proved the guilt of all the accused beyond
reasonable doubt, the Court hereby sentences accused Ernie Idanan, Nanly del Barrio,
Marlon Plopenio, Roberto Vargas and Elmer Tulod to suffer the imprisonment ranging
from ten (10) years and one (1) day of prision mayor, as minimum, to sixteen (16) years,
five (5) months and eleven (11) days of reclusion temporal, as maximum. The 29 pieces of
narra lumber subject of this case are forfeited in favor of the government.[10]

The trial court relied on the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty
in giving credence to the testimonies of the police officers. Moreover, there was no
evidence manifesting ill motive on the part of the police officers to falsely testify against
the accused. The trial court held that possession of 29 pieces of narra lumber with gross
volume of 1.69 cubic meters and estimated value of P275,844.80 without any
documentation clearly constitutes an offense punishable under PD 705, as amended.

Tulod and Vargas are at large.[11]

On 29 March 2010, the Court of Appeals rendered its decision affirming petitioner's
conviction.

Petitioners maintain that the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt all the
elements of the offense charged. Relying on an illegal possession of firearm case where
the Court held that to support a conviction, there must be possession coupled with intent
to possess, petitioners assert that their intent to possess the subject narra lumber must be
proven beyond reasonable doubt. In the case of Tulod and Vargas, they claim that they
were merely hired to load the lumber on the truck. On the part of Idanan, he admitted
that the truck was owned by his father. Thus, their possession over the lumber is
considered temporary, incidental, casual and harmless. Del Barrio and Plopenio
meanwhile were merely present at the crime scene. Petitioners note the testimony of the
Chief of Police is far from being candid and straightforward when he had to be coached by
the prosecutor on matters relative to the arrest of the accused. Petitioners accuse the
police officers of planting evidence against them because since the assumption of the
Chief of Police to his post, he had never apprehended anybody for illegal possession of
lumber. Petitioners assert that their testimonies are candid and spontaneous. They even
cite the testimonies of the barangay officials as corroborative of their defense that the
truck confiscated by the police officers had no narra lumber on it.

In their Comment,[12] the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) noted that petitioners were
apprehended by the police offices in flagrante delicto as they were transporting 29 pieces
of narra lumber along Kilometer 12 in Barangay San Miguel, Panganiban, Catanduanes
without the required documentation. The OSG added that mere possession of timber or
other forest products without the accompanying legal documents consummates the
crime. Finally, the OSG defended the credibility of the prosecution witnesses and assailed
the defense of frame-up as weak.

At the outset, we find the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses credible. Evidence to
be believed must not only proceed from the mouth of a credible witness but it must be
credible in itself, such as the common experience and observation of mankind can
approve as probable under the circumstances.[13] Petitioners' statements that they did not
complain or put up any resistance when they were arrested despite their innocence is
contrary to human nature and experience. Petitioners should have at least protested if
they believed that they were not committing any crime. Moreover, the allegation of
"planted evidence" is unsubstantiated. There is no proof that that the police had the ill-
motive to falsely accuse and testify against petitioners, aside from the unsubstantiated
and far-fetched allegation that the police wanted to impress their superiors. The
presumption of regularity accorded to police officers is unrebutted.

Section 68[14] of PD 705, otherwise known as the Revised Forestry Code of the
Philippines, provides:

Sect. 68. Cutting, gathering and/or collecting timber or other products without license.
Any person who shall cut, gather, collect, or remove timber or other forest products from
any forest land, or timber from alienable and disposable public lands, or from private
lands, without any authority under a license agreement, lease, license or permit, shall be
guilty of qualified theft as defined and punished under Articles 309 and 310 of the
Revised Penal Code; Provided, That in the case of partnership, association or corporation,
the officers who ordered the cutting, gathering or collecting shall be liable, and if such
officers are aliens, they shall, in addition to the penalty, be deported without further
proceedings on the part of the Commission on Immigration and Deportation.
The Court shall further order the confiscation in favor of the government of the timber or
forest products to cut, gathered, collected or removed, and the machinery, equipment,
implements and tools used therein, and the forfeiture of his improvements in the area.

The same penalty plus cancellation of his license agreement, lease, license or permit and
perpetual disqualification from acquiring any such privilege shall be imposed upon any
licensee, lessee, or permittee who cuts timber from the licensed or leased area of another,
without prejudice to whatever civil action the latter may bring against the offender.

Section 68 penalizes three categories of acts: (1) the cutting, gathering, collecting, or
removing of timber or other forest products from any forest land without any authority;
(2) the cutting, gathering, collecting, or removing of timber from alienable or disposable
public land, or from private land without any authority; and (3) the possession of timber
or other forest products without the legal documents as required under existing forest
laws and regulations.[15]

Petitioners were charged under the third category, i.e., of possessing and in control of 29
pieces of narra lumber without the legal requirements as required under existing forest
laws and regulations.

Illegal possession of timber is an offense covered by special law and is malum


prohibitum. Thus, criminal intent is not an essential element of the offense. However, the
prosecution must prove intent to possess or animus possidendi.[16]

Possession, under the law, includes not only actual possession, but also constructive
possession. Actual possession exists when the object of the crime is in the immediate
physical control of the accused. On the other hand, constructive possession exists when
the object of the crime is under the dominion and control of the accused or when he has
the right to exercise dominion and control over the place where it is found.[17]

Thus, conviction need not be predicated upon exclusive possession, and a showing of
non-exclusive possession would not exonerate the accused. Such fact of possession may
be proved by direct or circumstantial evidence and any reasonable inference drawn
therefrom.[18]

We find that Idanan, Del Barrio, and Plopenio were, at the very least, in constructive
possession of the timber without the requisite legal documents. Petitioners were found in
the truck loaded with 29 pieces of narra lumber. Idanan admitted to driving the truck
while Del Barrio and Plopenio accompanied Idanan. They claimed to have traveled for
almost three hours just to retrieve the cellular phone of Idanan's father from a certain
Jojo Cabrera (Cabrera) in Barangay Poblacion, Panganiban, Catanduanes. When pressed
by the prosecutor if they managed to get the cellphone, they replied that they failed to
locate Cabrera. The three accused did not protest despite seeing that the policemen
allegedly load lumber into the truck. Neither did they complain when they were
subsequently arrested. Idanan was the driver. It is presumed that he exercised full control
of the vehicle that he is driving and that he knew what its load was. Having offered no
plausible excuse, petitioners failed to prove to our satisfaction that they did not have
the animus possidendi of the narra lumber.

Mere possession of timber or other forest products without the proper legal documents,
even absent malice or criminal intent, is illegal. It would make no difference at all whether
the ownership of the lumber pertains to only one accused.[19]

The possession of lumber was made without any license or permit issued by any
competent authority.

Violation of Section 68 of PD 705, as amended, is punishable as Qualified Theft under


Article 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code[20]thus:

Art. 309. Penalties. - Any person guilty of theft shall be punished by:

1. The penalty of prision mayor in its minimum and medium periods, if the value of the
thing stolen is more than 12,000 pesos but does not exceed 22,000 pesos; but if the value
of the thing stolen exceeds the latter amount, the penalty shall be the maximum period of
the one prescribed in this paragraph, and one year for each additional ten thousand
pesos, but the total of the penalty which may be imposed shall not exceed twenty years. In
such cases, and in connection with the accessory penalties which may be imposed and for
the purpose of the other provisions of this Code, the penalty shall be termed prision
mayor or reclusion temporal, as the case may be.

2. The penalty of prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods, if the value
of the thing stolen is more than 6,000 pesos but does not exceed 12,000 pesos.

3. The penalty of prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods, if the value of
the property stolen is more than 200 pesos but does not exceed 6,000 pesos.

4. Arresto mayor in its medium period to prision correccional in its minimum period, if
the value of the property stolen is over 50 pesos but does not exceed 200 pesos.

5. Arresto mayor to its full extent, if such value is over 5 pesos but does not exceed 50
pesos.

6. Arresto mayor in its minimum and medium periods, if such value does not exceed 5
pesos.

7. Arresto menor or a fine not exceeding 200 pesos, if the theft is committed under the
circumstances enumerated in paragraph 3 of the next preceding article and the value of
the thing stolen does not exceed 5 pesos. If such value exceeds said amount, the
provisions of any of the five preceding subdivisions shall be made applicable.
8. Arresto menor in its minimum period or a fine not exceeding 50 pesos, when the value
of the thing stolen is not over 5 pesos, and the offender shall have acted under the impulse
of hunger, poverty, or the difficulty of earning a livelihood for the support of himself or
his family.

Art. 310. Qualified theft. - The crime of qualified theft shall be punished by the penalties
next higher by two degrees than those respectively specified in the next preceding article x
x x.

The Information alleged that the 29 pieces of lumber measuring 716.48 board feet were
valued at P275,884.80. Said amount was evidenced by the Statement of Narra lumber
materials[21] which was presented in evidence and testified to by Basil Cesar Camba, the
person who signed the Statement. Since the amount exceeds P22,000.00, the penalty
of prision mayor in its minimum and medium periods should be imposed in its
maximum period. To determine the additional years of imprisonment prescribed in
Article 309 (1), the amount of P22,000.00 should be deducted from P275,884.80, thus,
leaving the amount of P253,884.80. The net amount should then be divided by PI
0,000.00, disregarding any amount below P10,000.00. The result is the incremental
penalty of twenty-five (25) years which must then be added to the basic penalty of the
maximum period of prision mayor minimum and medium periods. The penalty
of prision mayor in its minimum and medium periods has a range of six years (6) and
one (1) day to ten (10) years. Its maximum period is eight (8) years, eight (8) months and
one (1) day to ten (10) years, and the incremental penalty is 25 years. Had appellant
committed simple theft, the penalty should have been twenty years of reclusion
temporal. In qualified theft, the penalty is two degrees higher. Thus the penalty
of reclusion perpetua should be imposed.[22]

Pursuant to Article 5 of the Revised Penal Code, we recommend executive clemency.


In People v. Tomotorgo[24] the Court recommended executive clemency to appellant
taking into consideration the evidence that he only intended to maltreat his spouse
resulting in her death, his manifest repentant attitude and remorse for his act. In People
v. Abano,[25] appellant was convicted of parricide and murder but the court recommended
executive clemency because the Court considered her emotional suffering in the hands of
her philandering husband. In Mendoza v. People,[26] petitioner was convicted for failure
to remit the contributions of his employer. Petitioner had managed to settle his obligation
but he was not eligible for condonation under Republic Act No. 9003. While it was
observed that the penalty imposed on petitioner is harsh, the Court had to apply the law
to its full extent. Thus, the Court recommended executive clemency.

In this case, the resulting penalty is reclusion perpetua. This penalty will be suffered by
the driver and the helpers. The operator of the illegal logging business has not been
apprehended. While we sympathize with the plight of petitioners who were merely
following orders and were consequently caught in possession of the lumber, we must still
apply the law in full force. Dura lex sed lex. But considering the facts about petitioners'
participation in the crime, and guided by jurisprudence on instances when the facts of the
crime elicited the Court's compassion for the accused, we recommend executive clemency.

WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DENIED. The 29 March 2010 Decision of the
Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 30729 is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION.
Petitioners ERNIE IDANAN, NANLY DEL BARRIO and MARLON PLOPENIO are hereby
found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt for violation of Section 68 of Presidential Decree
No. 705, as amended, and sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua. Pursuant
to Article 5 of the Revised Penal Code, the Court shall TRANSMIT the case to the Chief
Executive, through the Department of Justice, and RECOMMENDS the grant of
executive clemency to petitioners.

SO ORDERED.
Merida v People (Natural Resources)

MERIDA V PEOPLE (DEFINITION OF TIMBER, AUTHORITY OF FOREST OFFICERS)


G.R. No. 158182
June 12, 2008

FACTS:

on 23 December 1998, Tansiongco learned that petitioner cut a narra tree in the Mayod Property. Tansiongco
reported the matter to Florencio Royo (Royo), the punong barangay of Ipil. On 24 December 1998, 7 Royo
summoned petitioner to a meeting with Tansiongco. When confronted during the meeting about the felled narra
tree, petitioner admitted cutting the tree but claimed that he did so with the permission of one Vicar Calix (Calix)
who, according to petitioner, bought the Mayod Property from Tansiongco in October 1987 under a pacto de retro
sale. Petitioner showed to Royo Calix's written authorization signed by Calix's wife.

On 11 January 1999, Tansiongco reported the tree-cutting to the Department of Environment and Natural
Resources (DENR) forester Thelmo S. Hernandez (Hernandez) in Sibuyan, Romblon.

DECISION OF LOWER COURTS:

* DENR forester: ordered petitioner not to convert the felled tree trunk into lumber.

On 26 January 1999, Tansiongco informed Hernandez that petitioner had converted the narra trunk into lumber.
Hernandez, with other DENR employees and enforcement officers, went to the Mayod Property and saw that the
narra tree had been cut into six smaller pieces of lumber. Hernandez took custody of the lumber, 9 deposited them
for safekeeping with Royo, and issued an apprehension receipt to petitioner. A larger portion of the felled tree
remained at the Mayod Property. The DENR subsequently conducted an investigation on the matter.

* RTC (upon complaint of Tansiongco): Petitioner was charged in the Regional Trial Court of Romblon, Romblon,
Branch 81 (trial court) with violation of Section 68 of PD 705, as amended, for "cut[ting], gather[ing], collect[ing]
and remov[ing]" a lone narra tree inside a private land in Mayod, Ipil, Magdiwang, Romblon (Mayod Property)
over which private complainant Oscar M. Tansiongco (Tansiongco) claims ownership.

* CA: affirmed trial court.

ISSUES & RULINGS:

1) Whether the trial court acquired jurisdiction over Criminal Case No. 2207 even though it was based on a
complaint filed by Tansiongco and not by a DENR forest officer; and

YES, DENR has jurisdiction.

[NOTE: This dispositive no longer applicable since the Rules of Procedure for Environmental cases requires
complaint to be filed first with the DENR, but the preliminary investigation is done by the prosecutor]

Section 80 of PD 705 provides in relevant parts:

SECTION 80. Arrest; Institution of criminal actions. - x x x x

Reports and complaints regarding the commission of any of the offenses defined in this Chapter, not committed in
the presence of any forest officer or employee, or any of the deputized officers or officials, shall immediately be
investigated by the forest officer assigned in the area where the offense was allegedly committed, who shall
thereupon receive the evidence supporting the report or complaint.
If there is prima facie evidence to support the complaint or report, the investigating forest officer shall file the
necessary complaint with the appropriate official authorized by law to conduct a preliminary investigation of
criminal cases and file an information in Court. (Emphasis supplied)

Here, it was not "forest officers or employees of the Bureau of Forest Development or any of the deputized officers
or officials" who reported to Hernandez the tree-cutting in the Mayod Property but Tansiongco, a private citizen
who claims ownership over the Mayod Property. Thus, Hernandez cannot be faulted for not conducting an
investigation to determine "if there is prima facie evidence to support the complaint or report."

At any rate, Tansiongco was not precluded, either under Section 80 of PD 705 or the Revised Rules, from filing a
complaint before the Provincial Prosecutor for petitioner's alleged violation of Section 68 of PD 705, as amended.
For its part, the trial court correctly took cognizance of Criminal Case No. 2207 as the case falls within its
exclusive original jurisdiction.
2) Whether petitioner is liable for violation of Section 68 of PD 705, as amended.

YES.

Before his trial, petitioner consistently represented to the authorities that he cut a narra tree in the Mayod Property
and that he did so only with Calix's permission. However, when he testified, petitioner denied cutting the tree in
question. We sustain the lower courts' rulings that petitioner's extrajudicial admissions bind him.

3) Is the narra tree timber?

YES.

The closest this Court came to defining the term "timber" in Section 68 was to provide that "timber," includes
"lumber" or "processed log."

In other jurisdictions, timber is determined by compliance with specified dimensions or certain "stand age" or
"rotation age." In Mustang Lumber, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, this Court was faced with a similar task of having to
define a term in Section 68 of PD 705 - "lumber" - to determine whether possession of lumber is punishable under
that provision. In ruling in the affirmative, we held that "lumber" should be taken in its ordinary or common usage
meaning to refer to "processed log or timber,"

We see no reason why, as in Mustang, the term "timber" under Section 68 cannot be taken in its common
acceptation as referring to "wood used for or suitable for building or for carpentry or joinery." Indeed, tree saplings
or tiny tree stems that are too small for use as posts, panelling, beams, tables, or chairs cannot be considered
timber.

Undoubtedly, the narra tree petitioner felled and converted to lumber was "timber" fit "for building or for carpentry
or joinery" and thus falls under the ambit of Section 68 of PD 705, as amended.
e