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LOEONARDO A. PAAT Vs.

COURT OF APPEALS

Facts: On May 19, 1989 when the truck of private respondent Victoria de Guzman while on its way to Bulacan from San Jose, Baggao, Cagayan, 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. 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, 1 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. 2 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." 3 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 4 with the Regional Trial Court, Branch 2 of Cagayan, 5 which issued a writ ordering the return of the truck to private respondents. 6 Petitioner Layugan and Executive Director Baggayan filed a motion to dismiss with the trial court contending, inter alia, that private respondents had no cause of action for their failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss in an order dated December 28, 1989. 7 Their motion for reconsideration having been likewise denied, a petition for certiorari was filed by the petitioners with the respondent Court of Appeals which sustained the trial court's order ruling that the question involved is purely a legal question. 8 Hence, this present petition, 9 with prayer for temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction, seeking to reverse the decision of the respondent Court of Appeals was filed by the petitioners on September 9, 1993. By virtue of the Resolution dated September 27, 1993, 10 the prayer for the issuance of temporary restraining order of petitioners was granted by this Court.

Issue: Whether or not the sevretary of DENR and his representatives are empowered to confiscate and forfeit conveyances used in transporting illegal forest product in favor of the government. Held: A reading, however, of the law persuades us not to go along with private respondents' thinking not only because the aforequoted provision apparently does not mention nor include "conveyances" that can be the subject of confiscation by the courts, but to a large extent, due to the fact that private respondents' interpretation of the subject provision unduly restricts the clear intention of the law and inevitably reduces the other provision of Section 68-A, which is quoted herein below:
Sec. 68-A. Administrative Authority of the Department or His Duly Authorized Representative To Order Confiscation. In all cases of violation of this Code or other forest laws, rules and regulations, the Department Head or his duly authorized representative, may order the confiscation of any forest products illegally cut, gathered, removed, or possessed or abandoned, and all conveyances used either by land, water or air in the commission of the offense and to dispose of the same in accordance with pertinent laws, regulations and policies on the matter. (Emphasis ours)

It is, thus, clear from the foregoing provision that the Secretary and his duly authorized representatives are given the authority to confiscate and forfeit any conveyances utilized in violating the Code or other forest laws, rules and regulations. The phrase "to dispose of the same" is broad enough to cover the act of forfeiting conveyances in favor of the government. The only limitation is that it should be made "in accordance with pertinent laws, regulations or policies on the matter." In the construction of statutes, it must be read in such a way as to give effect to the purpose projected in the statute. 33 Statutes should be construed in the light of the object to be achieved and the evil or mischief to be suppressed, and they should be given such construction as will advance the object, suppress the mischief, and secure the benefits intended. 34 In this wise, the observation of the Solicitor General is significant, thus:
But precisely because of the need to make forestry laws "more responsive to present situations and realities" and in view of the "urgency to conserve the remaining resources of the country," that the government opted to add Section 68-A. This amendatory provision is an administrative remedy totally separate and distinct from criminal proceedings. More than anything else, it is intended to supplant the inadequacies that characterize enforcement of forestry laws through criminal actions. The preamble of EO 277-the law that added Section 68-A to PD 705-is most revealing:

"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 this difficulties, there is a need to penalize certain acts more responsive to present situations and realities;"

FELIPE YSMAEL, JR. & CO., INC. Vs. THE DEPUTY EXECUTIVE SECRETARY

Facts: after the change of government in February 1986, petitioner sent a letter dated March 17, 1986 to the Office of the President, and another letter dated April 2, 1986 to Minister Ernesto Maceda of the Ministry of Natural Resources [MNR], seeking: (1) the reinstatement of its timber license agreement which was cancelled in August 1983 during the Marcos administration; (2) the revocation of TLA No. 356 which was issued to Twin Peaks Development and Realty Corporation without public bidding and in violation of forestry laws, rules and regulations; and, (3) the issuance of an order allowing petitioner to take possession of all logs found in the concession area [Annexes "6" and "7" of the Petition; Rollo, pp. 54-63]. Petitioner made the following allegations: (a) That on October 12, 1965, it entered into a timber license agreement designated as TLA No. 87 with the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, represented by then Secretary Jose Feliciano, wherein it was issued an exclusive license to cut, collect and remove timber except prohibited species within a specified portion of public forest land with an area of 54,920 hectares located in the municipality of Maddela, province of Nueva Vizcaya * from October 12, 1965 until June 30, 1990; (b) That on August 18, 1983, the Director of the Bureau of Forest Development [hereinafter referred to as "Bureau"], Director Edmundo Cortes, issued a memorandum order stopping all logging operations in Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino provinces, and cancelling the logging concession of petitioner and nine other forest concessionaires, pursuant to presidential instructions and a memorandum order of the Minister of Natural Resources Teodoro Pena [Annex "5" of the Petition; Rollo, p. 49]; (c) that on August 25, 1983, petitioner received a telegram from the Bureau, the contents of which were as follows:
PURSUANT TO THE INSTRUCTIONS OF THE PRESIDENT YOU ARE REQUESTED TO STOP ALL LOGGING OPERATIONS TO CONSERVE REMAINING FORESTS PLEASE CONDUCT THE ORDERLY PULL-OUT OF LOGGING MACHINERIES AND EQUIPMENT AND COORDINATE WITH THE RESPECTIVE DISTRICT FORESTERS FOR THE INVENTORY OF LOGS CUT PRIOR TO THIS ORDER THE SUBMISSION OF A COMPLIANCE REPORT WITHIN THIRTY DAYS SHALL BE APPRECIATED [Annex "4" of the Petition; Rollo, p. 48];

(d) That after the cancellation of its timber license agreement, it immediately sent a letter addressed to then President Ferdinand Marcos which sought reconsideration of the Bureau's directive, citing in support thereof its contributions to alleging that it was not given the forest conservation and opportunity to be heard prior to the cancellation of its logging 531, but no operations (Annex "6" of the Petition; Rollo, pp. 50 favorable action was taken on this letter; (e) That barely one year thereafter, approximately one-half or 26,000 hectares of the area formerly covered by TLA No. 87 was re-awarded to Twin Peaks Development and Reality Corporation under TLA No. 356 which was set to expire on July 31, 2009, while the other half was allowed to be logged by Filipinas Loggers, Inc. without the benefit of a formal award or license; and, (f) That the latter entities were controlled or owned by relatives or cronies of deposed President Ferdinand Marcos. Acting on petitioner's letter, the MNR through then Minister Ernesto Maceda issued an order dated July 22, 1986 denying petitioner's request. The Ministry ruled that a timber license was not a contract within the due process clause of the Constitution, but only a privilege which could be withdrawn whenever public interest or welfare so demands, and that petitioner was not discriminated against in view of the fact that it was among ten concessionaires whose licenses were revoked in 1983. Moreover, emphasis was made of the total ban of logging operations in the provinces of Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino and Ifugao imposed on April 2, 1986 Issue: Whether or not the petitioners cancellation of timber license was a violation of his right as forest productbusinessman Held: The ongoing administrative reassessment is apparently in response to the renewed and growing global concern over the despoliation of forest lands and the utter disregard of their crucial role in sustaining a balanced ecological system. The legitimacy of such concern can hardly be disputed, most especially in this country. The Court takes judicial notice of the profligate waste of the country's forest resources which has not only resulted in the irreversible loss of flora and fauna peculiar to the region, but has produced even more disastrous and lasting economic and social effects. The delicate balance of nature having been upset, a vicious cycle of floods and droughts has been triggered and the supply of food and energy resources required by the people seriously depleted.

While there is a desire to harness natural resources to amass profit and to meet the country's immediate financial requirements, the more essential need to ensure future generations of Filipinos of their survival in a viable environment demands effective and circumspect action from the government to check further denudation of whatever remains of the forest lands. Nothing less is expected of the government, in view of the clear constitutional command to maintain a balanced and healthful ecology. Section 16 of Article II of the 1987 Constitution provides:
SEC. 16. The State shall protect and promote the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.

Thus, while the administration grapples with the complex and multifarious problems caused by unbridled exploitation of these resources, the judiciary will stand clear. A long line of cases establish the basic rule that the courts will not interfere in matters which are addressed to the sound discretion of government agencies entrusted with the regulation of activities coming under the special technical knowledge and training of such agencies [See Espinosa v. Makalintal, 79 Phil. 134 (1947); Coloso v. Board of Accountancy, 92 Phil. 938 (1953); Pajo v. Ago, 108 Phil. 905 (1960); Suarez v. Reyes, G.R. No. L-19828, February 28, 1963, 7 SCRA 461; Ganitano v. Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, G. R. No. L-21167, March 31, 1966, 16 SCRA 543; Villegas v. Auditor General, G.R. No. L-21352, November 29, 1966, 18 SCRA 877; Manuel v. Villena, G.R. No. L-28218, February 27, 1971, 37 SCRA 745; Lacuesta v. Herrera, G.R. No. L33646, January 28, 1975, 62 SCRA 115; Lianga Bay Logging Co., Inc. v. Enage, G.R. No. L-30637, July 16, 1987, 152 SCRA 80]. More so where, as in the present case, the interests of a private logging company are pitted against that of the public at large on the pressing public policy issue of forest conservation. For this Court recognizes the wide latitude of discretion possessed by the government in determining the appropriate actions to be taken to preserve and manage natural resources, and the proper parties who should enjoy the privilege of utilizing these resources [Director of Forestry v. Munoz, G.R. No. L-24796, June 28, 1968, 23 SCRA 1183; Lim, Sr. v. The Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, G.R. No. L-26990, August 31, 1970, 34 SCRA 751]. Timber licenses, permits and license agreements are the principal instruments by which the State regulates the utilization and disposition of forest resources to the end that public welfare is promoted. And it can hardly be gainsaid that they merely evidence a privilege granted by the State to qualified entities, and do not vest in the latter a permanent or irrevocable right to the particular concession area and the forest products therein. They may be validly amended, modified, replaced or rescinded by the Chief Executive when national interests so require. Thus, they are not deemed contracts within the purview of the due process of law clause

MUSTANG LUMBER, INC. Vs. COURT OF APPEALS Facts: Petitioner, a domestic corporation with principal office at Nos. 1350-1352 Juan Luna Street, Tondo, Manila, and with a Lumberyard at Fortune Street, Fortune Village, Paseo de Blas, Valenzuela, Metro Manila, was duly registered as a lumber dealer with the Bureau of Forest Development (BFD) under Certificate of Registration No. NRD-4-092590-0469. Its permit as such was to expire on 25 September 1990. Respondent Secretary Fulgencio S. Factoran, Jr., and respondent Atty. Vincent A. Robles were, during all the time material to these cases, the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Chief of the Special Actions and Investigation Division (SAID) of the DENR, respectively. The material operative facts are as follows: On 1 April 1990, acting on an information that a huge stockpile of narra flitches, shorts, and slabs were seen inside the lumberyard of the petitioner in Valenzuela, Metro Manila, the SAID organized a team of foresters and policemen and sent it to conduct surveillance at the said lumberyard. In the course thereof, the team members saw coming out from the lumberyard the petitioner's truck, with Plate No. CCK-322, loaded with lauan and almaciga lumber of assorted sizes and dimensions. Since the driver could not produce the required invoices and transport documents, the team seized the truck together with its cargo and impounded them at the DENR compound at Visayas Avenue, Quezon City. The team was not able to gain entry into the premises because of the refusal of the owner. On 3 April 1990, the team was able to secure a search warrant from Executive Judge Adriano R. Osorio of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Valenzuela, Metro Manila. By virtue thereof, the team seized on that date from the petitioner's lumberyard four truckloads of narra shorts, trimmings, and slabs; a negligible number of narra lumber; and approximately 200,000 board feet of lumber and shorts of various species including almaciga and supa. On 4 April 1990, the team returned to the premises of the petitioner's lumberyard in Valenzuela and placed under administrative seizure the remaining stockpile of almaciga, supa, and lauan lumber with a total volume of 311,000 board feet because the petitioner failed to produce upon demand the corresponding certificate of lumber origin, auxiliary invoices, tally sheets, and delivery receipts from the source of the invoices covering the lumber to prove the legitimacy of their source and origin.

Parenthetically, it may be stated that under an administrative seizure the owner retains the physical possession of the seized articles. Only an inventory of the articles is taken and signed by the owner or his representative. The owner is prohibited from disposing them until further orders. On 10 April 1990, counsel for the petitioner sent a letter to Robles requesting an extension of fifteen days from 14 April 1990 to produce the required documents covering the seized articles because some of them, particularly the certificate of lumber origin, were allegedly in the Province of Quirino Robles denied the motion on the ground that the documents being required from the petitioner must accompany the lumber or forest products placed under seizure. On 11 April 1990, Robles submitted his memorandum-report recommending to Secretary Factoran the following:
1. Suspension and subsequent cancellation of the lumber Dealer's Permit of Mustang Lumber, Inc. for operating an unregistered lumberyard and resaw mill and possession of Almaciga Lumber (a banned specie) without the required documents; 2. Confiscation of the lumber seized at the Mustang Lumberyard including the truck with Plate No. CCK-322 and the lumber loaded herein [sic] now at the DENR compound in the event its owner fails to submit documents showing legitimacy of the source of said lumber within ten days from date of seizure; 3. Filing of criminal charges against Mr. Ri Chuy Po, owner of Mustang Lumber Inc. and Mr. Ruiz, or if the circumstances warrant for illegal possession of narra and almaciga lumber and shorts if and when recommendation no. 2 pushes through; 4. Confiscation of Trucks with Plate No. CCS-639 and CDV. 458 as well as the lumber loaded therein for transport lumber using "recycled" documents.

Issue: Whether or not that a lumber cannot be considered a timber and that petitioner should not be held for illegal logging Held: The foregoing disquisitions should not, in any manner, be construed as an affirmance of the respondent Judge's conclusion that lumber is excluded from the coverage of Section 68 of P.D. No. 705, as amended, and thus possession thereof without the required legal documents is not a crime. On the contrary, this Court rules that such possession is penalized in the said section because lumber is included in the term timber.

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, wallbond, blockboard, paper board, pulp, paper or other finished wood products.

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." 32 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. 33 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 distinguere debemus. Indisputably, respondent Judge Teresita Dizon-Capulong of Branch 172 of the RTC of Valenzuela, Metro Manila, committed grave abuse of discretion in granting the motion to quash the information in the CRIMINAL CASE and in dismissing the said case.