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ROLDAN, JR. vs. HON.

MADRONA
G.R. No. 152989
September 4, 2002
FACTS:
Petitioner is the owner of a parcel of land consisting of about
60,000 sq. meters covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. TP331 which he bought from a certain Ildefonso O. Maglasang.
On August 9, 2001, petitioner applied for a Private Land Timber
Permit (PLTP) from the Department of Environment and Natural
Resources (DENR) for him to cut some trees for a proposed road
and poultry farm in his property.
While waiting for the permit to be issued, petitioner was allegedly
informed by some employees from the Department of
Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) that he could proceed
with the cutting of trees even though his application was still
awaiting approval.
Consequently, petitioner proceeded with the cutting of trees and
bulldozing of the roadway. He used the cut logs as materials to
build his chicken cages.
About three weeks later, representatives of the Community
Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) of the
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and
personnel from the Intelligence Service, Armed Forces of the
Philippines (ISAFP) of Tacloban City raided petitioner's place,
allegedly without a search warrant. An inventory of the cut trees
was conducted. The logs were not confiscated but were entrusted
to a barangay kagawad since there was allegedly no search
warrant at that time.
Several days thereafter, the CENRO group and ISAFP returned,
this time armed with a search warrant and proceeded to
confiscate 872 pieces of sawn lumber/flitches (8,506 board feet)
and three felled timber logs with a total market value of
P235,454.68 at P27.00 per board foot.
Consequently, on September 21, 2001, a complaint for violation
of Section 68 of PD 705 as amended was filed against herein
petitioner by CENRO before the City Prosecutor of Ormoc City.
A warrant for the arrest of petitioner was then issued by the court
a quo. In view thereof, herein petitioner filed with the trial court a

motion for judicial determination of probable cause and the recall


of his warrant of arrest.
DECISION OF LOWER COURTS: * Trial court: denied the motion but
reduced the recommended bail of petitioner
TRIAL STILL IN PROGRESS... ISSUES & RULINGS:
(1) Whether the owner of a private land, the petitioner in this
case, is criminally liable under Section 68 of PD 705 for cutting
trees within his own property;
YES, he is still liable. Under Section 68, PD 705 as amended by
E.O. 277, it is clear that the violators of the said law are not
declared as being guilty of qualified theft. Articles 309 and 310 of
the Revised Penal Code were referred to only for the purpose of
determining the imposable penalties and not to define acts which
constitute qualified theft.
Section 68 of PD 705, as amended by E.O. 277, otherwise known
as the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines 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 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)
The said law does not even distinguish whether or not the person
who commits the punishable acts under the aforementioned law
is the owner of the property, for what is material in determining
the culpability of a person is whether or not the person or entity
involved or charged with its violation POSSESSES THE REQUIRED

PERMIT, LICENSE OR AUTHORIZATION FROM DENR at the time he


or it cuts, gathers or collects timber or other forest products.
(2) Whether the owner of the private property is administratively
liable under Sec. 14 of DENR Administrative Order No. 2000-21
despite the fact that he did not transport the logs out of his
property and just used them for his own agricultural purposes
therein and
The aforementioned administrative order considers the mere act
of transporting any wood product or timber without the prescribed
documents as an offense which is subject to the penalties
provided for by law. As to the defense of petitioner that he never
transported the logs out of his property, suffice it to say that such
is a factual issue which this Court under Rule 45 cannot
determine. We are limited to resolving questions of law.
Section 14 of Administrative Order No. 2000-21, the "Revised
Guidelines in the Issuance of Private Land Timber Permit/Special
Private Land Timber Permit," provides:
SEC. 14. Penal Provisions. - Any log/timber or finished-wood
products covered by these regulations which are transported
without the prescribed documents shall be considered illegal and,
therefore, subject to confiscation in favor of the government and
shall be disposed in accordance with laws, rules and regulations
governing the matter.
DENR Officials found issuing defective certificate of origin and
other transport documents required in this Order shall be subject
to suspension without prejudice to the imposition of other
penalties as may be warranted by extant Civil Service Laws, rules
and regulations.
(3) Whether the logs confiscated by the DENR should be returned
to the petitioner considering that the same were not transported
out and merely used for his own agricultural purposes.
Any pronouncement thereon at this point would be premature as
the guilt of the petitioner has not been legally established. The
records of the case indicate that trial on the merits is still in
progress. Hence, this Court is not in a position to speculate on or
prescribe the courses of action or remedies the petitioner may
avail of under the aforementioned law. Well-entrenched is the rule
that this Court is not duty bound to render advisory opinions.