CASE 2013-0009: LEAGUE OF PROVINCES OF THE PHILIPPINES, -VERSUS- DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES AND HON. ANGELO T. REYES, IN HIS CAPACITY AS SECRETARY OF DENR (G.R. NO. 175368, 11 APRIL 2013, PERALTA J. SUBJECT/S: CONSTITUTIONALITY OF CERTAIN PROVISIONS OF THE SMALL SCALE MINING ACT (BRIEF TITLE: LEAGUE OF PROVINCES VS. DENR).
WHEREFORE, THE PETITION IS DISMISSED FOR LACK OF MERIT. NO COSTS.
WHAT IS THE ISSUE IN THIS CASE?
AT ISSUE IS: THE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF SECTION 17 (B )(3)(III) OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE OF 1991 AND SECTION 24 ‘OF R.A. NO.7076.
IF THE VALIDITY OF THE STATUTE IS BEING QUESTIONED, WHAT IS THE PRESUMPTION?
THAT IT IS VALID.
WHAT IS THE BASIS OF THIS PRESUMPTION?
THE DOCTRINE OF SEPARATION OF POWERS WHICH ENJOINS THE COURT TO OBSERVE COURTESY TO THE LEGISLATIVE BRANCH.
WHEN THEREFORE WILL A COURT DECLARE A STATUTE INVALID?
WHEN PETITIONER HAS SHOWN A CLEAR AND UNEQUIVOCAL BREACH OF THE CONSTITUTION, LEAVING NO DOUBT OR HESITATION IN THE MIND OF THE COURT.
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. 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.23
HAS DENR CONTROL OVER SMALL-SCALE MINING IN THE PROVINCES?
IT IS GRANTED UNDER THREE STATUTES: THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE, THE PEOPLE’S SMALL SCALE MINING ACT AND THE PHILIPPINE MINING ACT.
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.
THE DENR SECRETARY DECLARED THE APPLICATION FOR EXPLORATION PERMIT OF AMTC VALID AND CANCELLED THE SMALL-SCALE MINING PERMITS GRANTED BY THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNOR. WAS THE DECISION OF THE DENR SECRETARY VALID?
YES. HIS DECISION EMANATED FROM THE POWER OF REVIEW GRANTED TO THE DENR SECRETARY UNDER R.A. NO. 7076 (PEOPLE’S SMALL SCALE MINING ACT).
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.
WHAT IS THE NATURE OF THE POWER OF THE DENR TO DECIDE ON THE ISSUE CONCERNING THE VALIDITY OF THE ISSUANCE OF THE SMALL-SCALE MINING PERMITS?
IT 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.
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
THEN, IS THE ACT OF THE DENR SECRETARY A SUBSTITUTION OF JUDGMENT OF THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNOR OR CONTROL OVER HIM?
NO. IT IS JUST THE DETERMINATION OF THE RIGHTS OF AMTC.
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.
WHAT IS THE FUNDAMENTAL CRITERION IN DETERMINING THE LEGALITY OF A STATUTE?
THAT ALL REASONABLE DOUBTS SHOULD BE RESOLVED IN FAVOR OF THE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF A STATUTE.
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 )Jeltran v. The Secretary of Health, which held:
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. 55
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.
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