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G.R. NO. 175368 - League of Provinces of the Philippines v. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, et al.

G.R. NO. 175368 - League of Provinces of the Philippines v. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, et al.

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

EN BANC

G.R. NO. 175368 : April 11, 2013

LEAGUE OF PROVINCES OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner, v.DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT and NATURAL RESOURCES and HON. ANGELO T. REYES, in his capacity as Secretary of DENR, Respondents.

D E C I S I O N

PERALTA, J.:

This is a petition for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus,1 praying that this Court order the following: ( 1) declare as unconstitutional Section 17(b)(3)(iii) of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 7160, otherwise known as The Local Government Code of 1991 and Section 24 of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 7076, otherwise known as the People's Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991; (2) prohibit and bar respondents from exercising control over provinces; and (3) declare as illegal the respondent Secretary of the Department of Energy and Natural Resources' (DENR) nullification, voiding and cancellation of the Small-Scale Mining permits issued by the Provincial Governor of Bulacan.

The Facts are as follows:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

On March 28, 1996, Golden Falcon Mineral Exploration Corporation (Golden Falcon) filed with the DENR Mines and Geosciences Bureau Regional Office No. III (MGB R-III) an Application for Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) covering an area of 61,136 hectares situated in the Municipalities of San Miguel, San Ildefonso, Norzagaray and San Jose del Monte, Bulacan.2chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

On April 29, 1998, the MGB R-III issued an Order denying Golden Falcon's Application for Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement for failure to secure area clearances from the Forest Management Sector and Lands Management Sector of the DENR Regional Office No. III.3chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

On November 11, 1998, Golden Falcon filed an appeal with the DENR Mines and Geosciences Bureau Central Office (MGB-Central Office), and sought reconsideration of the Order dated April 29, 1998.4chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

On February 10, 2004, while Golden Falcon's appeal was pending, Eduardo D. Mercado, Benedicto S. Cruz, Gerardo R. Cruz and Liberato Sembrano filed with the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) of Bulacan their respective Applications for Quarry Permit (AQP), which covered the same area subject of Golden Falcon's Application for Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement.5chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

On July 16, 2004, the MGB-Central Office issued an Order denying Golden Falcon's appeal and affirming the MGB R-III's Order dated April 29, 1998.

On September 13, 2004, Atlantic Mines and Trading Corporation (AMTC) filed with the PENRO of Bulacan an Application for Exploration Permit (AEP) covering 5,281 hectares of the area covered by Golden Falcon's Application for Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement.6chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

On October 19, 2004, DENR-MGB Director Horacio C. Ramos, in response to MGB R-III Director Arnulfo V. Cabantog's memorandum query dated September 8, 2004, categorically stated that the MGB-Central Office's Order dated July 16, 2004 became final on August 11, 2004, fifteen (15) days after Golden Falcon received the said Order, per the Certification dated October 8, 2004 issued by the Postmaster II of the Philippine Postal Corporation of Cainta, Rizal.7chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Through letters dated May 5 and May 10, 2005, AMTC notified the PENRO of Bulacan and the MGB R-III Director, respectively, that the subject Applications for Quarry Permit fell within its (AMTC's) existing valid and prior Application for Exploration Permit, and the the former area of Golden Falcon was open to mining location only on August 11, 2004 per the Memorandum dated October 19, 2004 of the MGB Director, Central Office.8chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

On June 24, 2005, Ricardo Medina, Jr., PENRO of Bulacan, indorsed AMTC's letter to the Provincial Legal Officer, Atty. Eugenio F. Resurreccion, for his legal opinion on which date of denial of Golden Falcon's application/appeal April 29, 1998 or July 16, 2004 − is to be considered in the deliberation of the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) for the purpose of determining when the land subject of the Applications for Quarry Permit could be considered open for application.

On June 28, 2005, Provincial Legal Officer Eugenio Resurreccion issued a legal opinion stating that the Order dated July 16, 2004 of the MGB-Central Office was a mere reaffirmation of the Order dated April 29, 1998 of the MGB R-III; hence, the Order dated April 29, 1998 should be the reckoning period of the denial of the application of Golden Falcon.

On July 22, 2005, AMTC filed with the PMRB of Bulacan a formal protest against the aforesaid Applications for Quarry Permit on the ground that the subject area was already covered by its Application for Exploration Permit.9chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

On August 8, 2005, MGB R-III Director Cabantog, who was the concurrent Chairman of the PMRB, endorsed to the Provincial Governor of Bulacan, Governor Josefina M. dela Cruz, the aforesaid Applications for Quarry Permit that had apparently been converted to Applications for Small-Scale Mining Permit of Eduardo D. Mercado, Benedicto S. Cruz, Gerardo R. Cruz and Lucila S. Valdez (formerly Liberato Sembrano).10chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

On August 9, 2005, the PENRO of Bulacan issued four memoranda recommending to Governor Dela Cruz the approval of the aforesaid Applications for Small-Scale Mining Permit.11chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

On August 10, 2005, Governor Dela Cruz issued the corresponding Small-Scale Mining Permits in favor of Eduardo D. Mercado, Benedicto S. Cruz, Gerardo R. Cruz and Lucila S. Valdez.12chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Subsequently, AMTC appealed to respondent DENR Secretary the grant of the aforesaid Small-Scale Mining Permits, arguing that: (1) The PMRB of Bulacan erred in giving due course to the Applications for Small-Scale Mining Permit without first resolving its formal protest; (2) The areas covered by the Small-Scale Mining Permits fall within the area covered by AMTC's valid prior Application for Exploration Permit; (3) The Applications for Quarry Permit were illegally converted to Applications for Small-Scale Mining Permit; (4) DENR-MGB Director Horacio C. Ramos' ruling that the subject areas became open for mining location only on August 11, 2004 was controlling; (5) The Small-Scale Mining Permits were null and void because they covered areas that were never declared People's Small-Scale Mining Program sites as mandated by Section 4 of the People's Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991; and (6) Iron ore is not considered as one of the quarry resources, as defined by Section 43 of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, which could be subjects of an Application for Quarry Permit.13chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

On August 8, 2006, respondent DENR Secretary rendered a Decision14 in favor of AMTC. The DENR Secretary agreed with MGB Director Horacio C. Ramos that the area was open to mining location only on August 11, 2004, fifteen (15) days after the receipt by Golden Falcon on July 27, 2004 of a copy of the MGB-Central Office's Order dated July 16, 2004, which Order denied Golden Falcon's appeal. According to the DENR Secretary, the filing by Golden Falcon of the letter-appeal suspended the finality of the Order of denial issued on April 29, 1998 by the Regional Director until the resolution of the appeal on July 16, 2004 by the MGB-Central Office. He stated that the Applications for Quarry Permit were filed on February 10, 2004 when the area was still closed to mining location; hence, the Small-Scale Mining Permits granted by the PMRB and the Governor were null and void. On the other hand, the DENR Secretary declared that AMTC filed its Application for Exploration Permit when the area was already open to other mining applicants; thus, AMTC's Application for Exploration Permit was valid. Moreover, the DENR Secretary held that the questioned Small-Scale Mining Permits were issued in violation of Section 4 of R.A. No. 7076 and beyond the authority of the Provincial Governor pursuant to Section 43 of R.A. No. 7942, because the area was never proclaimed to be under the People's Small-Scale Mining Program. Further, the DENR Secretary stated that iron ore mineral is not considered among the quarry resources.

The dispositive portion of the DENR Secretary's Decision reads:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

WHEREFORE, the Application for Exploration Permit, AEP-III-02-04 of Atlantic Mines and Trading Corp. is declared valid and may now be given due course. The Small-Scale Mining Permits, SSMP-B-002-05 of Gerardo Cruz, SSMP-B-003-05 of Eduardo D. Mercado, SSMP-B-004-05 of Benedicto S. Cruz and SSMP-B-005-05 of Lucila S. Valdez are declared NULL AND VOID. Consequently, the said permits are hereby CANCELLED.15chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Hence, petitioner League of Provinces filed this petition.

Petitioner is a duly organized league of local governments incorporated under R.A. No. 7160. Petitioner declares that it is composed of 81 provincial governments, including the Province of Bulacan. It states that this is not an action of one province alone, but the collective action of all provinces through the League, as a favorable ruling will not only benefit one province, but all provinces and all local governments.

Petitioner raises these issues:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

I

WHETHER OR NOT SECTION 17(B)(3)(III) OF THE, 1991 LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE AND SECTION 24 OF THE PEOPLE'S SMALL-SCALE MINING ACT OF 1991 ARE UNCONSTITUTIONAL FOR PROVIDING FOR EXECUTIVE CONTROL AND INFRINGING UPON THE LOCAL AUTONOMY OF PROVINCES.

II

WHETHER OR NOT THE ACT OF RESPONDENT [DENR] IN NULLIFYING, VOIDING AND CANCELLING THE SMALL-SCALE MINING PERMITS AMOUNTS TO EXECUTIVE CONTROL, NOT MERELY SUPERVISION AND USURPS THE DEVOLVED POWERS OF ALL PROVINCES.16chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

To start, the Court finds that petitioner has legal standing to file this petition because it is tasked under Section 504 of the Local Government Code of 1991 to promote local autonomy at the provincial level;17 adopt measures for the promotion of the welfare of all provinces and its officials and employees;18 and exercise such other powers and perform such other duties and functions as the league may prescribe for the welfare of the provinces.19chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Before this Court determines the validity of an act of a co-equal and coordinate branch of the Government, it bears emphasis that ingrained in our jurisprudence is the time-honored principle that a statute is presumed to be valid.20 This presumption is rooted in the doctrine of separation of powers which enjoins upon the three coordinate departments of the Government a becoming courtesy for each other's acts.21 This Court, however, may declare a law, or portions thereof, unconstitutional where a petitioner has shown a clear and unequivocal breach of the Constitution,22 leaving no doubt or hesitation in the mind of the Court.23chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

In this case, petitioner admits that respondent DENR Secretary had the authority to nullify the Small-Scale Mining Permits issued by the Provincial Governor of Bulacan, as the DENR Secretary has control over the PMRB, and the implementation of the Small-Scale Mining Program is subject to control by respondent DENR.

Control of the DENR/DENR Secretary over small-scale mining in the provinces is granted by three statutes: (1) R.A. No. 7061 or The Local Government Code of 1991; (2) R.A. No. 7076 or the People's Small Scale Mining Act of 1991; and (3) R.A. No. 7942, otherwise known as the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.24 The pertinent provisions of law sought to be declared as unconstitutional by petitioner are as follows:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

R.A. No. 7061 (The Local Government Code of 1991)

SEC. 17. Basic Services and Facilities. - (a) Local government units shall endeavor to be self-reliant and shall continue exercising the powers and discharging the duties and functions currently vested upon them. They shall also discharge the functions and responsibilities of national agencies and offices devolved to them pursuant to this Code. Local government units shall likewise exercise such other powers and discharge such other functions and responsibilities as are necessary, appropriate, or incidental to efficient and effective provision of the basic services and facilities enumerated herein.

(b) Such basic services and facilities include, but are not limited to, the following:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

x x x

(3) For a Province:c

x x x

(iii) Pursuant to national policies and subject to supervision, control and review of the DENR, enforcement of forestry laws limited to community-based forestry projects, pollution control law, small-scale mining law, and other laws on the protection of the environment; and mini-hydro electric projects for local purposes; x x x25chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

R.A. No. 7076 (People's Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991)

Sec. 24. Provincial/City Mining Regulatory Board. - There is hereby created under the direct supervision and control of the Secretary a provincial/city mining regulatory board, herein called the Board, which shall be the implementing agency of the Department, and shall exercise the following powers and functions, subject to review by the Secretary:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

(a) Declare and segregate existing gold-rush areas for small-scale mining;cralawlibrary

(b) Reserve future gold and other mining areas for small-scale mining;cralawlibrary

(c) Award contracts to small-scale miners;cralawlibrary

(d) Formulate and implement rules and regulations related to small-scale mining;cralawlibrary

(e) Settle disputes, conflicts or litigations over conflicting claims within a people's small-scale mining area, an area that is declared a small-mining; and

(f) Perform such other functions as may be necessary to achieve the goals and objectives of this Act.26chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Petitioner contends that the aforecited laws and DENR Administrative Order No. 9640 (the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995) did not explicitly confer upon respondents DENR and the DENR Secretary the power to reverse, abrogate, nullify, void, or cancel the permits issued by the Provincial Governor or small-scale mining contracts entered into by the PMRB. The statutes are also silent as to the power of respondent DENR Secretary to substitute his own judgment over that of the Provincial Governor and the PMRB.

Moreover, petitioner contends that Section 17 (b)(3)(iii) of the Local Government Code of 1991 and Section 24 of R.A. No. 7076, which confer upon respondents DENR and the DENR Secretary the power of control are unconstitutional, as the Constitution states that the President (and Executive Departments and her alter-egos) has the power of supervision only, not control, over acts of the local government units, and grants the local government units autonomy, thus:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

The 1987 Constitution:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Article X, Section 4. The President of the Philippines shall exercise general supervision over local governments. Provinces with respect to component cities and municipalities, and cities and municipalities with respect to component barangays, shall ensure that the acts of their component units are within the scope of their prescribed powers and functions.27chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Petitioner contends that the policy in the above-cited constitutional provision is mirrored in the Local Government Code, which states:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

SEC. 25. National Supervision over Local Government Units. - (a) Consistent with the basic policy on local autonomy, the President shall exercise general supervision over local government units to ensure that their acts are within the scope of their prescribed powers and functions.

The President shall exercise supervisory authority directly over provinces, highly urbanized cities, and independent component cities; through the province with respect to component cities and municipalities; and through the city and municipality with respect to barangays.28chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Petitioner contends that the foregoing provisions of the Constitution and the Local Government Code of 1991 show that the relationship between the President and the Provinces or respondent DENR, as the alter ego of the President, and the Province of Bulacan is one of executive supervision, not one of executive control. The term "control" has been defined as the power of an officer to alter or modify or set aside what a subordinate officer had done in the performance of his/her duties and to substitute the judgment of the former for the latter, while the term "supervision" is the power of a superior officer to see to it that lower officers perform their function in accordance with law.29chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Petitioner argues that respondent DENR Secretary went beyond mere executive supervision and exercised control when he nullified the small-scale mining permits granted by the Provincial Governor of Bulacan, as the former substituted the judgment of the latter.

Petitioner asserts that what is involved here is a devolved power.

Under the Local Government Code of 1991, the power to regulate small-scale mining has been devolved to all provinces. In the exercise of devolved powers, departmental approval is not necessary.30chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Petitioner contends that if the provisions in Section 24 of R.A. No. 7076 and Section 17 (b)(3)(iii) of the Local Government Code of 1991 granting the power of control to the DENR/DENR Secretary are not nullified, nothing would stop the DENR Secretary from nullifying, voiding and canceling the small-scale mining permits that have been issued by a Provincial Governor.

Petitioner submits that the statutory grant of power of control to respondents is unconstitutional, as the Constitution only allows supervision over local governments and proscribes control by the executive departments.

In its Comment, respondents, represented by the Office of the Solicitor General, stated that contrary to the assertion of petitioner, the power to implement the small-scale mining law is expressly limited in Section 17 (b)(3)(iii) of the Local Government Code, which provides that it must be carried out "pursuant to national policies and subject to supervision, control and review of the DENR." Moreover, the fact that the power to implement the small-scale mining law has not been fully devolved to provinces is further amplified by Section 4 of the People's Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991, which provides, among others, that the People's Small-Scale Mining Program shall be implemented by the DENR Secretary.

The petition lacks merit.

Paragraph 1 of Section 2, Article XII (National Economy and Patrimony) of the Constitution31 provides that "the exploration, development and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the State."

Moreover, paragraph 3 of Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution provides that "the Congress may, by law, allow small-scale utilization of natural resources by Filipino citizens x x x."

Pursuant to Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution, R.A. No. 7076 or the People's Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991, was enacted, establishing under Section 4 thereof a People's Small-Scale Mining Program to be implemented by the DENR Secretary in coordination with other concerned government agencies.

The People's Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991 defines "small-scale mining" as "refer[ring] to mining activities, which rely heavily on manual labor using simple implement and methods and do not use explosives or heavy mining equipment."32chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

It should be pointed out that the Administrative Code of 198733 provides that the DENR is, subject to law and higher authority, in charge of carrying out the State's constitutional mandate, under Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution, to control and supervise the exploration, development, utilization and conservation of the country's natural resources. Hence, the enforcement of small-scale mining law in the provinces is made subject to the supervision, control and review of the DENR under the Local Government Code of 1991, while the People's Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991 provides that the People's Small-Scale Mining Program is to be implemented by the DENR Secretary in coordination with other concerned local government agencies.

Indeed, Section 4, Article X (Local Government) of the Constitution states that "[t]he President of the Philippines shall exercise general supervision over local governments," and Section 25 of the Local Government Code reiterates the same. General supervision by the President means no more than seeing to it that laws are faithfully executed or that subordinate officers act within the law.34chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

The Court has clarified that the constitutional guarantee of local autonomy in the Constitution Art. X, Sec. 2 refers to the administrative autonomy of local government units or, cast in more technical language, the decentralization of government authority.35 It does not make local governments sovereign within the State.36 Administrative autonomy may involve devolution of powers, but subject to limitations like following national policies or standards,37 and those provided by the Local Government Code, as the structuring of local governments and the allocation of powers, responsibilities, and resources among the different local government units and local officials have been placed by the Constitution in the hands of Congress38 under Section 3, Article X of the Constitution.

Section 3, Article X of the Constitution mandated Congress to "enact a local government code which shall provide for a more responsive and accountable local government structure instituted through a system of decentralization with effective mechanisms of recall, initiative, and referendum, allocate among the different local government units their powers, responsibilities, and resources, and provide for the qualifications, election, appointment and removal, term, salaries, powers and functions and duties of local officials, and all other matters relating to the organization and operation of the local units."

In connection with the enforcement of the small-scale mining law in the province, Section 17 of the Local Government Code provides:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

SEC. 17. Basic Services and Facilities. - (a) Local government units shall endeavor to be self-reliant and shall continue exercising the powers and discharging the duties and functions currently vested upon them. They shall also discharge the functions and responsibilities of national agencies and offices devolved to them pursuant to this Code. Local government units shall likewise exercise such other powers and discharge such other functions and responsibilities as are necessary, appropriate, or incidental to efficient and effective provision of the basic services and facilities enumerated herein.

(b) Such basic services and facilities include, but are not limited to, the following:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

x x x

(3) For a Province:c

x x x

(iii) Pursuant to national policies and subject to supervision, control and review of the DENR, enforcement of forestry laws limited to community-based forestry projects, pollution control law, small-scale mining law, and other laws on the protection of the environment; and mini-hydro electric projects for local purposes;39chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Clearly, the Local Government Code did not fully devolve the enforcement of the small-scale mining law to the provincial government, as its enforcement is subject to the supervision, control and review of the DENR, which is in charge, subject to law and higher authority, of carrying out the State's constitutional mandate to control and supervise the exploration, development, utilization of the country's natural resources.40chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Section 17 (b)(3)(iii) of the Local Government Code of 1991 is in harmony with R.A. No. 7076 or the People's Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991,41 which established a People's Small-Scale Mining Program to be implemented by the Secretary of the DENR, thus:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Sec. 2. Declaration of Policy. It is hereby declared of the State to promote, develop, protect and rationalize viable small-scale mining activities in order to generate more employment opportunities and provide an equitable sharing of the nation's wealth and natural resources, giving due regard to existing rights as herein provided.

x x x

Sec. 4. People's Small-Scale Mining Program. - For the purpose of carrying out the declared policy provided in Section 2 hereof, there is hereby established a People's Small-Scale Mining Program to be implemented by the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, hereinafter called the Department, in coordination with other concerned government agencies, designed to achieve an orderly, systematic and rational scheme for the small-scale development and utilization of mineral resources in certain mineral areas in order to address the social, economic, technical, and environmental problems connected with small-scale mining activities.

x x x

Sec. 24. Provincial/City Mining Regulatory Board. There is hereby created under the direct supervision and control of the Secretary a provincial/city mining regulatory board, herein called the Board, which shall be the implementing agency of the Department, and shall exercise the following powers and functions, subject to review by the Secretary:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

(a) Declare and segregate existing gold-rush areas for small-scale mining;cralawlibrary

(b) Reserve future gold and other mining areas for small-scale mining;cralawlibrary

(c) Award contracts to small-scale miners;cralawlibrary

(d) Formulate and implement rules and regulations related to small-scale mining;cralawlibrary

(e) Settle disputes, conflicts or litigations over conflicting claims within a people's small-scale mining area, an area that is declared a small-mining; and

(f) Perform such other functions as may be necessary to achieve the goals and objectives of this Act.42chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

DENR Administrative Order No. 34, series of 1992, containing the Rules and Regulations to implement R.A. No. 7076, provides:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

SEC. 21. Administrative Supervision over the People's Small-Scale Mining Program. − The following DENR officials shall exercise the following supervisory functions in the implementation of the Program:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

21.1 DENR Secretrary direct supervision and control over the program and activities of the small-scale miners within the people's small-scale mining area;cralawlibrary

21.2 Director − the Director shall:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

a. Recommend the depth or length of the tunnel or adit taking into account the: (1) size of membership and capitalization of the cooperative; (2) size of mineralized areas; (3) quantity of mineral deposits; (4) safety of miners; and (5) environmental impact and other considerations;cralawlibrary

b. Determine the right of small-scale miners to existing facilities in consultation with the operator, claimowner, landowner or lessor of an affected area upon declaration of a small-scale mining area;cralawlibrary

c. Recommend to the Secretary the withdrawal of the status of the people's small-scale mining area when it can no longer be feasibly operated on a small-scale basis; and

d. See to it that the small-scale mining contractors abide by small-scale mines safety rules and regulations.

x x x

SEC. 22. Provincial/City Mining Regulatory Board. − The Provincial/City Mining Regulatory Board created under R.A. 7076 shall exercise the following powers and functions, subject to review by the Secretary:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

22.1 Declares and segregates existing gold rush area for small-scale mining;cralawlibrary

22.2 Reserves for the future, mineralized areas/mineral lands for people's small-scale mining;cralawlibrary

22.3 Awards contracts to small-scale miners' cooperative;cralawlibrary

22.4 Formulates and implements rules and regulations related to R.A. 7076;cralawlibrary

22.5 Settles disputes, conflicts or litigations over conflicting claims within ninety (90) days upon filing of protests or complaints; Provided, That any aggrieved party may appeal within five (5) days from the Board's decision to the Secretary for final resolution otherwise the same is considered final and executory; and

22.6 Performs such other functions as may be necessary to achieve the goals and objectives of R.A. 7076.

SEC. 6. Declaration of People's Small-Scale Mining Areas. The Board created under R.A. 7076 shall have the authority to declare and set aside People's Small-Scale Mining Areas in sites onshore suitable for small-scale mining operations subject to review by the DENR Secretary thru the Director.43chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

DENR Administrative Order No. 23, otherwise known as the Implementing Rules and Regulations of R.A. No. 7942, otherwise known as the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, adopted on August 15, 1995, provides under Section 12344 thereof that small-scale mining applications should be filed with the PMRB45 and the corresponding permits shall be issued by the Provincial Governor, except small-scale mining applications within the mineral reservations.

Thereafter, DENR Administrative Order No. 96-40, otherwise known as the Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations of R.A. No. 7942, otherwise known as the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, adopted on December 19, 1996, provides that applications for Small-Scale Mining Permits shall be filed with the Provincial Governor/City Mayor through the concerned Provincial/City Mining Regulatory Board for areas outside the Mineral Reservations and with the Director though the Bureau for areas within the Mineral Reservations.46 Moreover, it provides that Local Government Units shall, in coordination with the Bureau/ Regional Offices and subject to valid and existing mining rights, "approve applications for small-scale mining, sand and gravel, quarry x x x and gravel permits not exceeding five (5) hectares."47chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Petitioner contends that the Local Government Code of 1991, R.A. No. 7076, DENR Administrative Orders Nos. 95-23 and 96-40 granted the DENR Secretary the broad statutory power of control, but did not confer upon the respondents DENR and DENR Secretary the power to reverse, abrogate, nullify, void, cancel the permits issued by the Provincial Governor or small-scale mining contracts entered into by the Board.

The contention does not persuade.

The settlement of disputes over conflicting claims in small-scale mining is provided for in Section 24 of R.A. No. 7076, thus:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Sec. 24. Provincial/City Mining Regulatory Board. − There is hereby created under the direct supervision and control of the Secretary a provincial/city mining regulatory board, herein called the Board, which shall be the implementing agency of the Department, and shall exercise the following powers and functions, subject to review by the Secretary:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

x x x

(e) Settle disputes, conflicts or litigations over conflicting claims within a people's small-scale mining area, an area that is declared a small mining area; x x x

Section 24, paragraph (e) of R.A. No. 7076 cited above is reflected in Section 22, paragraph 22.5 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of R.A. No. 7076, to wit:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

SEC. 22. Provincial/City Mining Regulatory Board. The Provincial/City Mining Regulatory Board created under R.A. No. 7076 shall exercise the following powers and functions, subject to review by the Secretary:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

x x x

22.5 Settles disputes, conflicts or litigations over conflicting claims within ninety (90) days upon filing of protests or complaints; Provided, That any aggrieved party may appeal within five (5) days from the Board's decision to the Secretary for final resolution otherwise the same is considered final and executory; x x x

In this case, in accordance with Section 22, paragraph 22.5 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of R.A. No. 7076, the AMTC filed on July 22, 2005 with the PMRB of Bulacan a formal protest against the Applications for Quarry Permits of Eduardo Mercado, Benedicto Cruz, Liberato Sembrano (replaced by Lucila Valdez) and Gerardo Cruz on the ground that the subject area was already covered by its Application for Exploration Permit.48 However, on August 8, 2005, the PMRB issued Resolution Nos. 05-8, 05-9, 05-10 and 05-11, resolving to submit to the Provincial Governor of Bulacan the Applications for Small-Scale Mining Permits of Eduardo Mercado, Benedicto Cruz, Lucila Valdez and Gerardo Cruz for the granting/issuance of the said permits.49 On August 10, 2005, the Provincial Governor of Bulacan issued the Small-Scale Mining Permits to Eduardo Mercado, Benedicto Cruz, Lucila Valdez and Gerardo Cruz based on the legal opinion of the Provincial Legal Officer and the Resolutions of the PMRB of Bulacan.

Hence, AMTC filed an appeal with respondent DENR Secretary, appealing from Letter-Resolution No. 05-1317 and Resolution Nos. 05-08, 05-09, 05-10 and 05-11, all dated August 8, 2005, of the PMRB of Bulacan, which resolutions gave due course and granted, on August 10, 2005, Small-Scale Mining Permits to Eduardo D. Mercado, Benedicto S. Cruz, Lucila Valdez and Gerardo Cruz involving parcels of mineral land situated at Camachin, Doña Remedios Trinidad, Bulacan.

The PMRB of Bulacan filed its Answer, stating that it is an administrative body, created under R.A. No. 7076, which cannot be equated with the court wherein a full-blown hearing could be conducted, but it is enough that the parties were given the opportunity to present evidence. It asserted that the questioned resolutions it issued were in accordance with the mining laws and that the Small-Scale Mining Permits granted were registered ahead of AMTC's Application for Exploration Permit. Further, the Board stated that the Governor of Bulacan had the power to approve the Small-Scale Mining Permits under R.A. No. 7160.

The DENR Secretary found the appeal meritorious, and resolved these pivotal issues: (1) when is the subject mining area open for mining location by other applicants; and (2) who among the applicants have valid applications. The pertinent portion of the decision of the DENR Secretary reads:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

We agree with the ruling of the MGB Director that the area is open only to mining location on August 11, 2004, fifteen (15) days after the receipt by Golden Falcon on July 27, 2004 of a copy of the subject Order of July 16, 2004. The filing by Golden Falcon of the letter-appeal suspended the finality of the Order of Denial issued on April 29, 1998 by the Regional Director until the Resolution thereof on July 16, 2004.

Although the subject AQPs/SSMPs were processed in accordance with the procedures of the PMRB, however, the AQPs were filed on February 10, 2004 when the area is still closed to mining location. Consequently, the SSMPs granted by the PMRB and the Governor are null and void making thereby AEP No. III-02-04 of the AMTC valid, it having been filed when the area is already open to other mining applicants.

Records also show that the AQPs were converted into SSMPs. These are two (2) different applications. The questioned SSMPs were issued in violation of Section 4 of RA 7076 and beyond the authority of the Provincial Governor pursuant to Section 43 of RA 7942 because the area was never proclaimed as "People's Small-Scale Mining Program." Moreover, iron ore mineral is not considered among the quarry resources.

x x x

WHEREFORE, the Application for Exploration Permit, AEP-III-02-04 of Atlantic Mines and Trading Corp. is declared valid and may now be given due course. The Small-Scale Mining Permits, SSMP-B-002-05 of Gerardo Cruz, SSMP-B-003-05 of Eduardo D. Mercado, SSMP-B-004-05 of Benedicto S. Cruz and SSMP-B-005-05 of Lucila S. Valdez are declared NULL AND VOID. Consequently, the said permits are hereby CANCELLED.50chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

The Court finds that the decision of the DENR Secretary was rendered in accordance with the power of review granted to the DENR Secretary in the resolution of disputes, which is provided for in Section 24 of R.A. No. 707651 and Section 22 of its Implementing Rules and Regulations.52 It is noted that although AMTC filed a protest with the PMRB regarding its superior and prior Application for Exploration Permit over the Applications for Quarry Permit, which were converted to Small-Scale Mining Permits, the PMRB did not resolve the same, but issued Resolution Nos. 05-08 to 05-11 on August 8, 2005, resolving to submit to the Provincial Governor of Bulacan the Applications for Small-Scale Mining Permits of Eduardo Mercado, Benedicto Cruz, Lucila Valdez and Gerardo Cruz for the granting of the said permits. After the Provincial Governor of Bulacan issued the Small-Scale Mining Permits on August 10, 2005, AMTC appealed the Resolutions of the PMRB giving due course to the granting of the Small-Scale Mining Permits by the Provincial Governor.

Hence, the decision of the DENR Secretary, declaring that the Application for Exploration Permit of AMTC was valid and may be given due course, and canceling the Small-Scale Mining Permits issued by the Provincial Governor, emanated from the power of review granted to the DENR Secretary under R.A. No. 7076 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations. The DENR Secretary's power to review and, therefore, decide, in this case, the issue on the validity of the issuance of the Small-Scale Mining Permits by the Provincial Governor as recommended by the PMRB, is a quasi-judicial function, which involves the determination of what the law is, and what the legal rights of the contending parties are, with respect to the matter in controversy and, on the basis thereof and the facts obtaining, the adjudication of their respective rights.53 The DENR Secretary exercises quasi-judicial function under R.A. No. 7076 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations to the extent necessary in settling disputes, conflicts or litigations over conflicting claims. This quasi-judicial function of the DENR Secretary can neither be equated with "substitution of judgment" of the Provincial Governor in issuing Small-Scale Mining Permits nor "control" over the said act of the Provincial Governor as it is a determination of the rights of AMTC over conflicting claims based on the law.

In determining whether Section 17 (b)(3)(iii) of the Local Government Code of 1991 and Section 24 of R.A. No. 7076 are unconstitutional, the Court has been guided by Beltran v. The Secretary of Health, 54 which held:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

The fundamental criterion is that all reasonable doubts should be resolved in favor of the constitutionality of a statute. Every law has in its favor the presumption of constitutionality. For a law to be nullified, it must be shown that there is a clear and unequivocal breach of the Constitution. The ground for nullity must be clear and beyond reasonable doubt. Those who petition this Court to declare a law, or parts thereof, unconstitutional must clearly establish the basis therefor. Otherwise, the petition must fail. 55chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

In this case, the Court finds that the grounds raised by petitioner to challenge the constitutionality of Section 17 (b )(3)(iii) of the Local Government Code of 1991 and Section 24 'of R.A. No.7076 failed to overcome the constitutionality of the said provisions of law.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED for lack of merit.

No costs.

SO ORDERED.


Endnotes:


1 Under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

2 DENR Decision, rollo, pp. 53,54.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

3 Rollo, p. 54.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

4 Id.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

5 Id.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

6 Id.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

7 Id. at 55.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

8 Id.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

9 Comment of Respondents, id. at 74.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

10 Annex "B," id. at 25.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

11 Annexes "D" to "D-3," id. at 30-33.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

12 Annexes "E" to "E-3," id. at 34-49.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

13 Decision of the DENR Secretary, id. at 56.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

14 Rollo, p. 53.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

15 Id. at 58-59. (Emphasis in the original.)ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

16 Id. at 8-9.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

17 R.A. No. 7160, Section 504 (b).ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

18 R.A. No. 7160, Section 504 (c).ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

19 R.A. No. 7160, Section 504 (h).ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

20 Coconut Oil Refiners Association, Inc. v. Torres, G.R. NO. 132527, July 29, 2005, 465 SCRA 47, 62; 503 Phil. 43, 53 (2005).ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

21 Id. at 62-63; id.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

22 Id. at 63; id. at 54.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

23 Id.; id.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

24 Sec. 42. Small-Scale Mining. Small-scale mining shall continue to be governed by Republic Act No. 7076 and other pertinent laws.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

25 Emphasis supplied.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

26 Emphasis supplied.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

27 Emphasis supplied.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

28 Emphasis supplied.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

29 Citing National Liga Ng Mga Barangay v. Paredes, G.R. Nos. 130775 and 131939, September 27, 2004, 439 SCRA 130; 482 Phil. 331 (2004).ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

30 Citing Tano v. Socrates, G.R. NO. 110249, August 21, 1997, 278 SCRA 154; 343 Phil. 670 (1997).ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

31 The Constitution, Article XII, Section 2. − All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State. With the exception of agricultural lands, all other natural resources shall not be alienated. The exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the State. The State may directly undertake such activities, or it may enter into co-production, joint venture, or production-sharing agreements with Filipino citizens, or corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of whose capital is owned by such citizens. Such agreements may be for a period not exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for not more than twenty-five years, and under such terms and conditions as may be provided by law. In cases of water rights for irrigation, water supply fisheries, or industrial uses other than the development of water power, beneficial use may be the measure and limit of the grant.

x x x

The Congress may, by law, allow small-scale utilization of natural resources by Filipino citizens, as well as cooperative fish farming, with priority to subsistence fishermen and fish- workers in rivers, lakes, bays, and lagoons. (Emphases supplied.)

32 R.A. No. 7076, Sec. 2.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

33 The Administrative Code of 1987, Title XIV, Chapter 1:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

SEC. 1. Declaration of Policy. (1) The State shall ensure, for the benefit of the Filipino people, the full exploration and development as well as the judicious disposition, utilization, management, renewal and conservation of the country's forest, mineral, land, waters, fisheries, wildlife, off-shore areas and other natural resources, consistent with the necessity of maintaining a sound ecological balance and protecting and enhancing the quality of the environment and the objective of making the exploration, development and utilization of such natural resources equitably accessible to the different segments of the present as well as future generations.

x x x

SEC. 2. Mandate. − (1) The Department of Environment and Natural Resources shall be primarily responsible for the implementation of the foregoing policy.

(2) It shall, subject to law and higher authority, be in charge of carrying out the State's constitutional mandate to control and supervise the exploration, development, utilization and conservation of the country's natural resources. (Emphasis supplied)

34 Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J., The Constitution of the Philippines A Commentary, Vol. II, © 1988, p. 379, citing III RECORD 451-452.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

35 Cordillera Board Coalition v. Commission on Audit, G.R. NO. 79956, January 29, 1990, 181 SCRA 495.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

36 Basco v. Philippine Amusements and Gaming Corporation, G.R. NO. 91649, May 14, 1991, 197 SCRA 52.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

37 Jose N. Nolledo, The Local Government Code of 1991 Annotated, 2004 edition, p. 10.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

38 Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J.., The Constitution of the Philippines A Commentary, Vol. II, © 1988, supra note 34, at 377.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

39 Emphases supplied.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

40 The Administrative Code of 1987, Title XIV (Environment and Natural Resources), Chapter 1, Section 2 (2).ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

41 R.A. No. 7076 was approved on June 27, 1991 and took effect on July 19, 1991.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

42 Emphases supplied.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

43 Emphases supplied.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

44 DENR Administrative Order No. 95-936, SEC. 123. General Provisions. − Small-scale mining applications shall be filed with, processed and evaluated by the Provincial/City Mining Regulatory Board concerned and the corresponding permits to be issued by the Provincial/City Mayor concerned except small-scale mining applications within the mineral reservations which shall be filed, processed and evaluated by the Bureau and the corresponding permit to be issued by the Director.

x x x The implementing rules and regulations of R.A. No. 7076, insofar as they are not inconsistent with the provisions of these implementing rules and regulations, shall continue to govern small-scale mining operations. (Emphasis supplied.)

45 SEC. 23. Composition of the Provincial/City Mining Regulatory Board. The Board shall be composed of the following:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

23.1 Representative from the DENR Regional Office concerned Chairman;cralawlibrary

23.2 Governor or City Mayor or their duly authorized representative Member

23.3 One (1) Small-Scale mining representative Member or as per Section 24.3 hereof;cralawlibrary

23.4 One (1) Large-Scale mining representative Member;cralawlibrary

23.5 One (1) representative from a nongovernment organization Member; and

23.6 Staff support to the Board to be provided by the Department.

46 DENR Administrative Order No. 96-40, Chapter IX, Section 103.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

47 DENR Administrative Order No. 96-40, Chapter 1, Section 8.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

48 Decision of the DENR Secretary, rollo, pp. 2-3.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

49 Annexes "C" to "C-3," id. at. 26-29.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

50 Rollo, pp. 57-58. (Emphasis supplied)ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

51 Sec. 24. Provincial/City Mining Regulatory Board. − There is hereby created under the direct supervision and control of the Secretary a provincial/city mining regulatory board, herein called the Board, which shall be the implementing agency of the Department, and shall exercise the following powers and functions, subject to review by the Secretary:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

x x x

(e) Settle disputes, conflicts or litigations over conflicting claims within a people's small-scale mining area, an area that is declared a small-mining area; and x x x (Emphasis supplied.)

52 SEC. 22. Provincial/City Mining Regulatory Board. The Provincial/City Mining Regulatory Board created under R.A. No. 7076 shall exercise the following powers and functions, subject to review by the Secretary:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

x x x

22.5 Settles disputes, conflicts or litigations over conflicting claims within ninety (90) days upon filing of protests or complaints; Provided, That any aggrieved party may appeal within five (5) days from the Board's decision to the Secretary for final resolution otherwise the same is considered final and executory; x x x

53 Doran v. Luczon, Jr., G.R. NO. 151344, September 26, 2006, 503 SCRA 106.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

54 GR. Nos. 133640, 133661, and 139147, November 25,2005,476 SCRA 168.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

55 Beltran v. Secretary of Health, supra, at 199-200.



CONCURRING OPINION

SERENO, J.:

I concur in the result. However, there appears to be a need to address the issue of whether petitioner League of Provinces of the Philippines has legal standing to assail the constitutionality of the subject laws.

Petitioner is a duly organized league of local governments incorporated under Republic Act No. 7610, otherwise known as the Local Government Code. It claims that it is composed of 81 local governments, including the province of Bulacan. It further claims that the instant case is a collective action of all provinces - in that, a favorable ruling will not only benefit the province of Bulacan, but also all the other provinces and local governments.

The ponencia upheld petitioner's legal standing to file this petition because the latter is tasked, under Section 504 of the Local Government Code, to promote local autonomy at the provincial level, adopt measures for the promotion of the welfare of all provinces and its officials and employees, and exercise such other powers and perform such duties and functions as the league may prescribe for the welfare of the provinces.

I concur that the League has legal standing to assail the constitutionality of the subject laws.

A divergent position had been advanced by Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen. He says that, "in case of a citizen's suit, the 'interest of the person assailing the constitutionality of a statute must be direct and personal. He must be able to show, not only that the law is invalid, but also that he has sustained or is in immediate danger of sustaining some direct injury as a result of its enforcement, and not merely that he suffers thereby in some indefinite way."1 He further claims that, "As an organization that represents all provinces, it did not suffer an actual injury or an injury n fact, resulting from the implementation of the subject provisions."2 He, therefore, concludes that the League has no standing to assail the constitutionality of the subject laws.

A public action is a suit brought to vindicate a right belonging to the public qua public. Based on present jurisprudence, except in cases involving issues of transcendental importance,3 it can only be brought by the proper representative of the public one who has standing. Generally, the one who has standing is the one who suffered or immediately stands to suffer actual injury or injury in fact.4 Injury in fact means damage that is distinct from those suffered by the public.5 This is different from legal injury or injury in law, which results from a violation of a right belonging to a person.6chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

The divergent position appears to confuse the general requirement for standing with standing in citizens' suits. The latter normally presupposes that there is no one who suffered injury in fact. Therefore, any citizen is allowed to bring the suit to vindicate the public's right. Instructive are the pronouncements of this Court in the seminal case of Severino v. Governor-General:7chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

It is true, as we have stated, that the right which he seeks, to enforce is not greater or different from that of any other qualified elector in the municipality of Silay. It is also true that the injury which he would suffer in case he fails to obtain the relief sought would not be greater or different from that of the other electors; but he is seeking to enforce a public right as distinguished from a private right. The real party in interest is the public, or the qualified electors of the town of Silay. Each elector has the same right and would suffer the same injury. Each elector stands on the same basis with reference to maintaining a petition to determine whether or not the relief sought by the relator should be granted.

x x x

We are therefore of the opinion that the weight of authority supports the proposition that the relator is a proper party to proceedings of this character when a public right is sought to be enforced. If the general rule in America were otherwise, we think that it would not be applicable to the case at bar for the reason "that it is always dangerous to apply a general rule to a particular case without keeping in mind the reason for the rule, because, if under the particular circumstances the reason for the rule does not exist, the rule itself is not applicable and reliance upon the rule may well lead to error."

No reason exists in the case at bar for applying the general rule insisted upon by counsel for the respondent. The circumstances which surround this case are different from those in the United States, inasmuch as if the relator is not a proper party to these proceedings no other person could be, as we have seen that it is not the duty of the law officer of the Government to appear and represent the people in cases of this character. (Emphasis supplied)

Also, the divergent position appears to confuse public actions with class suits (a species of private action) when it stated that "[p]rovinces do not have a common or general interest on matters related to mining that the League of Provinces can represent." Under Section 12 of Rule 3 of the Rules of Court, "common or general interest" is a requirement in class suits. It is not a requirement for standing in public actions.

Finally, the divergent position also appears to confuse the general requirement for standing and standing in citizens' suits, with organizational or associational standing. The latter does not require an association to suffer injury in fact. The question is whether such organization can bring a suit on behalf of its members who have suffered the injury in fact. In short, can the representatives of the public be themselves represented in a suit.

In this jurisdiction, we have acknowledged the standing of associations to sue on behalf of their members. In Executive Secretary v. Court of Appeals,8 we held that:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

The modern view is that an association has standing to complain of injuries to its members. This view fuses the legal identity of an association with that of its members. An association has standing to file suit for its workers despite its lack of direct interest if its members are affected by the action. An organization has standing to assert the concerns of its constituents.

Thus, based on jurisprudence, the League has legal standing to question the constitutionality of the subject laws, not only in behalf of the province of Bulacan, but also its other members.

Apart from jurisprudence, the League is also vested with statutory standing. The League of Provinces' primary purpose is clear from the provisions of the Local Government Code, viz:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

SEC. 502. Purpose of Organization. - There shall be an organization of all provinces to be known as the League of Provinces for the primary purpose of ventilating, articulating and crystallizing issues affecting provincial and metropolitan political subdivision government administration, and securing, through proper and legal means, solutions thereto. For this purpose, the Metropolitan Manila Area and any metropolitan political subdivision shall be considered as separate provincial units of the league. (Emphasis supplied)

This purpose is further amplified by the grant to it of certain powers, functions and duties, which are, viz:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

SEC. 504. Powers, Functions and Duties of the League of Provinces. - The league of provinces shall:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

(a) Assist the national government in the formulation and implementation of the policies, programs and projects affecting provinces as a whole;cralawlibrary

(b) Promote local autonomy at the provincial level;cralawlibrary

(c) Adopt measures for the promotion of the welfare of all provinces and its officials and employees;cralawlibrary

(d) Encourage peoples participation in local government administration in order to promote united and concerted action for the attainment of countrywide development goals;cralawlibrary

(e) Supplement the efforts of the national government in creating opportunities for gainful employment within the province;cralawlibrary

(f) Give priority to programs designed for the total development of the provinces in consonance with the policies, programs and projects of the national government;cralawlibrary

(g) Serve as a forum for crystallizing and expressing ideas, seeking the necessary assistance of the national government and providing the private sector avenues for cooperation in the promotion of the welfare of the provinces; and

(h) Exercise such other powers and perform such other duties and functions as the league may prescribe for the welfare of the provinces and metropolitan political subdivisions.9 (Emphasis supplied)

In League of Cities of the Philippines v. COMELEC,10 this Court upheld the League of Cities' standing of the basis of Section 499 of the Local Government Code which tasks it with the "primary purpose of ventilating, articulating and crystallizing issues affecting city government administration and securing, through proper and legal means, solutions thereto."

Other instances of statutory standing can be found in: ( 1) the Constitution, which allows any citizen to challenge "the sufficiency of the factual basis of the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ or the extension thereof;"11 (2) the Administrative Code wherein "any party aggrieved or adversely affected by an agency decision may seek judicial review;"12 (3) the Civil Code which provides that "if a civil action is brought by reason of the maintenance of a public nuisance, such action shall be commenced by the city or municipal mayor,"13 and (4) the Rules of Procedure in Environmental Cases by which "any Filipino citizen in representation of others, including minors or generations yet unborn, may file an action to enforce rights or obligations under environmental laws."14chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

All told, to adopt the divergent position will destabilize jurisprudence and is tantamount to ignoring the clear mandate of law.


Endnotes:


1 Emphases supplied.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

2 Emphases supplied.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

3 David v. Arroyo, G.R. Nos. 171396, 171409, 171485, 171483, 171400, 171489, 171424, 03 May 2006 citing Araneta v. Dinglasan, 84 Phil. 368 (1949); Aquino v. Comelec, G.R. NO. L-No. 40004, 31 January 1975, 62 SCRA 275; Chavez v. Public Estates Authority, G.R. NO. 133250, 09 July 2002, 384 SCRA 152; Bagong Alyansang Makabayan v. Zamora, G.R. Nos. 138570, 138572, 138587, 138680, 138698, 10 October 2000, 342 SCRA 449; Lim v. Executive Secretary, G.R. NO. 151445, 11 April 2002, 380 SCRA 739.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

4 Association of Data Processing Service Organizations, Inc. v. Camp, 397 U.S. 150 (1970).ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

5 Dissenting Opinion, J. Puno, Kilosbayan, Inc. v. Guingona, Jr., G.R. NO. 113375, 05 May 1994.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

6 BPI Express Card Corp. v. Court of Appeals, G.R. NO. 120639, 25 September 1998.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

7 16 Phil. 366 (1910).ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

8 G.R. NO. 131719, 25 May 2004. See also Kilusang Mayo Uno Labor Center v. Garcia, G.R. NO. 115381, 23 December 1994; Holy Spirit Homeowners Association v. Defensor, G.R. NO. 163980, 03 August 2006.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

9 Local Government Code.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

10 G.R. NO. 176951, 18 November 2008.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

11 Sec. 18, Article VII, 1987 Constitution.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

12 Sec. 25(2), Chapter 4, Book VII.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

13 Article 701.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

14 Section 5, A.M. No. 09-6-8-SC.



CONCURRING OPINION

LEONEN, J.:

I concur in the result.

This is a case of overlapping claims, which involve the application of the Mining Act, and the Small-Scale Mining Act. It is specific to the facts of this case, which are:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau, Regional Office No. III (MGB R-Ill) denied Golden Falcon Mineral Exploration Corporation's (Golden Falcon) application for Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) on April29, 1998 for failure to secure the required clearances.1chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Golden Falcon appealed the denial-with the Mines and Geosciences Bureau-Central Office (Central Office).2 The appeal was denied only on July 16, 2004 or six years after Golden Falcon appealed.3chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

On February 10, 2004, pending Golden Falcon's appeal to the Central Office, certain persons filed with the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office "(PENRO) of Bulacan their applications for quarry permit covering the same area subject of Golden Falcon's FTAA application.4chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

On September 13, 2004, after the Central Office denied Golden Falcon's appeal, Atlantic Mines and Trading Corporation (AMTC) filed an application for exploration permit covering the same subject area with the PENRO of Bulacan.5chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Confusion of rights resulted from the overlapping applications of AMTC and the persons applying for quarry permits. The main question was when did the subject area become open for small scale mining applications. At that time, the provincial government did not question whether it had concurrent or more superior jurisdiction vis-a-vis the national government.

It was upon query by MGB R-III Director Arnulfo Cabantog that DENR-MGB Director Horacio Ramos stated that the denial of Golden Falcon's application became final fifteen days after the denial of its appeal to the Central Office or on August 11, 2004.6 Hence, the area of Golden Falcon's application became open to permit applications only on that date.

After the MGB Director issued the statement, however, the Provincial Legal Officer of Bulacan, Atty. Eugenio F. Ressureccion issued a legal opinion on the issue, stating that the subject area became open for new applications on the date of the first denial on April 29, 1998.7chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

On the basis of the Provincial Legal Officer's opinion, Director Cabantog of MGB R-III endorsed the applications for quarry permit, now converted to applications for small-scale mining permit, to the Governor of Bulacan.8 Later on, the Governor issued the small-scale mining permits.9chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Upon appeal by the AMTC, the DENR Secretary declared as null the small-scale mining permits issued by the Governor on the ground that they have been issued in violation of Section 4 of R.A. No. 7076 and beyond the authority of the Governor.10 According to the DENR Secretary, the area was never proclaimed to be under the small-scale mining program.11 Iron ores also cannot be considered as a quarry resource.12chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

The question in this case is whether or not the provincial governor had the power to issue the subject permits.

The fact that the application for small-scale mining permit was initially filed as applications for quarry permits is not contested.

Quarry permits, however, may only be issued "on privately-owned lands and/or public lands for building and construction materials such as marble, basalt, andesite, conglomerate, tuff, adobe, granite, gabbro, serpentine, inset filling materials, clay for ceramic tiles and building bricks, pumice, perlite and other similar materials..."13 It may not be issued on "...resources that contain metals or metallic constituents and/or other valuable materials in economic quantities."14chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Not only do iron ores fall outside the classification of any of the enumerated materials in Section 43 of the Mining Act, but iron is also a metal. It may not be classified as a quarry resource, hence, the provincial governor had no authority to issue the quarry permits in the first place. Probably realizing this error, the applications for quarry permit were converted to applications for small-scale mining permit.

Even so, the issuance of the small-scale mining permit was still beyond the authority of the provincial governor. Small-scale mining areas must first be declared and set aside as such before they can be made subject of small-scale mining rights.15 The applications for small-scale mining permit, in this case, involved covered areas, which were never declared as people's small-scale mining areas. This is enough reason to deny an application for small-scale mining permit. Permits issued in disregard of this fact are void for having been issued beyond the authority of the issuing officer.

Therefore, there was no issue of local autonomy. The provincial governor did not have the competence to issue the questioned permits.

Neither does the League of Provinces have any standing to raise the present constitutional issue.

Locus standi is defined as "a right of appearance in a court of justice on a given question."16 The fundamental question is "whether a party alleges such personal stake in the outcome of the controversy as to assure that concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation of issues upon which the court depends for illumination of difficult constitutional questions."17chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

In case of a citizens' suit, the "interest of the person assailing the constitutionality of a statute must be direct and personal. He must be able to show, not only that the law is invalid, but also that he has sustained or is in immediate danger of sustaining some direct injury as a result of its enforcement, and not merely that he suffers thereby in some indefinite way."18 In the case of Telecommunications and Broadcast Attorneys of the Philippines, Inc. and GMA Network, Inc. v. COMELEC, we said that a citizen who raises a constitutional question may only do so if s/he could show: (1) that s/he had personally suffered some actual or threatened injury; (2) that the actual or threatened injury was a result of an allegedly illegal conduct of the government; (3) that the injury is traceable to the challenged action; and (4) that the injury is likely to be redressed by a favorable action.19chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

The Petitioner League of Provinces' status as an organization of all provinces duty-bound to promote local autonomy20 and adopt measures for the promotion of the welfare of provinces21 does not clothe it with standing to question the constitutionality of the Section 17(b)(iii) of the Local Government Code and Section 24 of Rep. Act No. 7076 or the Small-Scale Mining Act.

As an organization that represents all provinces, it did not suffer an actual injury or an injury in fact, resulting from the implementation of the subject provisions. It cannot be said either that the provinces that Petitioner represents suffered the same injury when the Central Office nullified the permits issued by the Governor of Bulacan.

Provinces do not have a common or general interest on matters related to mining that the League of Provinces can represent. Each province has a particular interest to protect and claims to pursue that are separate and distinct from the others. Therefore, each is unique as to its reasons for raising issues to the Court. The League of Provinces cannot represent all provinces on mining-related issues. The perceived wrong suffered by the Province of Bulacan when the Central Office allegedly exercised control does not necessarily constitute a wrong suffered by the other provinces.

Furthermore, the Constitution provides for two types of local governance other than the national government: 1) The territorial and political subdivisions composed of provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays; and 2) autonomous regions.22 The division of Article X of the Constitution distinguishes between their creation and relationship with the national government.

The creation of autonomous regions takes into consideration the "historical and cultural heritage, economic and social structures, and other relevant characteristics"23 which its constituent geographical areas share in common. These factors are not considered in the creation of territorial and political subdivisions.

Autonomous regions are not only created by an act of the Congress. The Constitution also provides for a plebiscite requirement before the organic act that creates an autonomous region becomes effective.24 This constitutes the creation of autonomous regions a direct act of the people. It means that the basic structure of an autonomous region, consisting of the executive department and legislative assembly, its special courts, and the provisions on its powers may not be easily amended or superseded by a simple act of the Congress.

Moreover, autonomous regions have powers, e.g. over their administrative organization, sources of revenues, ancestral domain, natural resources, personal, family and property relations, regional planning development, economic, social and tourism development, educational policies, cultural heritage and other matters.25chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

On the other hand, the creation of territorial and political subdivisions is subject to the local government code enacted by the Congress without a plebiscite requirement.26 While this does not disallow the inclusion of provisions requiring plebiscites in the creation of provinces, cities, and municipalities, the local government code may be amended or superseded by another legislative act that removes such requirement. Their government structure, powers, and responsibilities, therefore, are always subject to amendment by legislative acts.

The territorial and political subdivisions and autonomous regions are granted autonomy under the Constitution.27 The constitutional distinctions between them imply a clear distinction between the kinds of autonomy that they exercise.

The oft-cited case of Limbona v. Mangelin28 penned by Justice Sarmiento distinguishes between two types of autonomy:chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

autonomy is either decentralization of administration or decentralization of power. There is decentralization of administration when the central government delegates administrative powers to political subdivisions in order to broaden the base of government power and in the process to make local governments more responsive and accountable, and ensure their fullest development as self-reliant communities and make them more effective partners in the pursuit of national development and social progress

Decentralization of power, on the other hand, involves an abdication of political power in the favor of local governments units declared to be autonomous. In that case, the autonomous government is free to chart its own destiny and shape its future with minimum intervention from central authorities. According to a constitutional author, decentralization of power amounts to "self-immolation," since in that event, the autonomous government becomes accountable not to the central authorities but to its constituency.

x x x

An autonomous government that enjoys autonomy of the latter category [CONST. (1987), art. X sec. 15.] is subject alone to the decree of the organic act creating it and accepted principles on the effects and limits of "autonomy." On the other hand, an autonomous government of the former class is, as we noted, under the supervision of the national government acting through the President (and the Department of Local Government)

I agree that autonomy, as phrased in Section 2 of Article X of the Constitution, which pertains to provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays, refers only to administrative autonomy.

In granting autonomy, the national government does not totally relinquish its powers.29 The grant of autonomy does not make territorial and political subdivisions sovereign within the state or an "imperium in imperio".30 The aggrupation of local government units and the creation of regional development councils in Sections 13 and 14 of Article X of the Constitution do not contemplate grant of discretion to create larger units with a recognized distinct political power that is parallel to the state. It merely facilitates coordination and exchange among them, still, for the purpose of administration.

Territorial and political subdivisions are only allowed to take care of their local affairs so that governance will be more responsive and effective to their unique needs.31 The Congress still retains control over the extent of powers or autonomy granted to them.

Therefore, when the national government invalidates an act of a territorial or political subdivision in the exercise of a power that is constitutionally and statutorily lodged to it, the territorial or political subdivision cannot complain that its autonomy is being violated. This is especially so when the extent of its autonomy under the Constitution or law does not include power or control over the matter, to the exclusion of the national government.

However, I do not agree that Limbona v. Mangelin correctly categorized the kind of autonomy that autonomous regions enjoy.

In that case, the court tried to determine the extent of self-government of autonomous governments organized under Presidential Decree No. 1618 on July 25, 1979. This is prior to the autonomous regions contemplated in the 1987 Constitution.

Autonomous regions are granted more powers and less intervention from the national government than territorial and political subdivisions. They are, thus, in a more asymmetrical relationship with the national government as compared to other local governments or any regional formation.32 The Constitution grants them legislative powers over some matters, e.g. natural resources, personal, family and property relations, economic and tourism development, educational policies, that are usually under the control of the national government. However, they are still s"ubject to the supervision of the President. Their establishment is still subject to the framework of the Constitution, particularly, sections 15 to 21 of Article X, national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines.

The exact contours of the relationship of the autonomous government and the national government are defined by legislation such as Republic Act No. 9054 or the Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. This is not at issue here and our pronouncements should not cover the provinces that may be within that autonomous region.

Considering the foregoing, I vote to DISMISS the petition.


Endnotes:


1 Rollo, p. 54.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

2 Id.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

3 Id.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

4 Id.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

5 Id.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

6 Id. at 55.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

7 Id.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

8 Id. at 55-56.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

9 Id. at 56.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

10 Id. at 58.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

11 Id.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

12 Id.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

13 Republic Act. No. 7492, Sec. 43; See also Sec. 3(at). Mining Act.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

14 Republic Act. No. 7492, Sec. 3(at).ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

15 Republic Act. No. 7076, Sec. 5. Small-Scale Mining Act.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

16 David v. Macapagal-Arroyo, 489 SCRA 160, 216 (2006) citing Black's Law Dictionary, 6th Ed. p. 941 (1991).ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

17 Galicto v. Aquino III, G..R. No. 193978, February 28, 2012, 667 SCRA 150, 170.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

18 Kilosbayan v. Morato, G.R. NO. 118910, November 16, 1995, 250 SCRA 130, 142, citing Valmonte v. PCSO, G.R. NO. 78716, September 22, 1987.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

19 G.R. NO. 132922, April 21, 1998, 289 SCRA 337 (This case was cited by Justice Mendoza in his separate opinion in Integrated Bar of the Philippines v. Hon. Ronaldo B. Zamora, et al. [G.R. NO. 141284, August 15, 2000, 336 SCRA 81] wherein he referred to actual or threatened injury as "injury in fact" of an actual or imminent nature. Expounding, he said that "the 'injury in fact' test requires more than injury to a cognizable interest. It requires that the party seeking review be himself among those injured.").ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

20 Republic Act. No. 7160, Sec. 504(b).ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

21 Republic Act. No. 7160, Sec. 504(c).ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

22 CONSTITUTION, Article X, Sec. 1.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

23 CONSTITUTION, Art. X, Sec. 15.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

24 CONSTITUTION, Art. X, Sec. 18.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

25 CONSTITUTION, Art. X, Sec. 20.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

26 CONSTITUTION, Art. X, Sec. 3.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

27 CONSTITUTION, Art. X, Sec. 2 and Sec. 15.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

28 Limbona v. Mangelin, G.R. NO. 80391, February 28, 1989, 170 SCRA 786.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

29 See Pimentel, Jr. v. Aguirre, G.R. NO. 132988, July 19, 2000, 336 SCRA 201 for discussion on the extent of local autonomy.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

30 Basco, et al., v. PAGCOR, G.R. NO. 91649, May 14, 1991, 197 SCRA 52.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

31 Supra note 29.ςrαlαωlιbrαrÿ

32   CONSTITUTION., Art. X, Sec. 14 provides: "The President shall provide for regional development councils or other similar bodies composed of local government officials, regional heads of departments and other government offices, and representatives from non-governmental organizations within the regions for purposes of administrative decentralization to strengthen the autonomy of the units therein and to accelerate the economic and social growth and development of the units in the region."

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