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OPOSA VS. FACTORAN G.R. NO. 101083 (Digest)

G.R. NO. 101083. 224 SCRA 792.July 30, 1993


The principal petitioners, all minors duly represented and joined by their respective parents. Impleaded as an additional plaintiff is the Philippine Ecological Network, Inc. (PENI), a domestic, non-stock and non-profit corporation organized for the purpose of, inter alia, engaging in concerted action geared for the protection of our environment and natural resources. The petitioners alleged the respondent, Honorable Fulgencio S. Factoran, Jr., then Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), continued approval of the Timber License Agreements (TLAs) to numerous commercial logging companies to cut and deforest the remaining forests of the country. Petitioners request the defendant, his agents, representatives and other persons acting in his behalf to:

Cancel all existing timber license agreements in the country;

Cease and desist from receiving, accepting, processing, renewing or approving new timber license agreements.

Plaintiffs further assert that the adverse and detrimental consequences of continued and deforestation are so capable of unquestionable demonstration that the same may be submitted as a matter of judicial notice. This act of defendant constitutes a misappropriation and/or impairment of the natural resource property he holds in trust for the benefit of plaintiff minors and succeeding generations. Plaintiff have exhausted all administrative remedies with the defendant’s office.

On March 2, 1990, plaintiffs served upon defendant a final demand to cancel all logging permits in the country. Defendant, however, fails and refuses to cancel the existing TLA’s to the continuing serious damage and extreme prejudice of plaintiffs.


Whether or not the petitioners have the right to bring action to the judicial power of the Court;
Whether or not the petitioners failed to allege in their complaint a specific legal right violated by the respondent Secretary for which any relief is provided by law; Whether or not petitioners’ proposition to have all the TLAs indiscriminately cancelled without the requisite hearing violates the requirements of due process.


 The Court held that:

The petitioners have the right to bring action to the judicial power of the Court.

The case at bar is subject to judicial review by the Court. Justice Davide, Jr. precisely identified in his opinion the requisites for a case to be subjected for the judicial review by the Court. According to him, the subject matter of the complaint is of common interest, making this civil case a class suit and proving the existence of an actual controversy. He strengthens this conclusion by citing in the decision Section 1, Article 7 of the 1987 Constitution.

The petitioners can file a class suit because they represent their generation as well as generations yet unborn. Their personality to sue in behalf of the succeeding generations can only be based on the concept of intergenerational responsibility insofar as the right to a balanced and healthful ecology is concerned. Such a right, as hereinafter expounded, considers the “rhythm and harmony of nature.” Nature means the created world in its entirety. Such rhythm and harmony indispensably include, inter alia, 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 to the end that their exploration, development and utilization be equitably accessible to the present as well as future generations.

Every generation has a responsibility to the next to preserve that rhythm and harmony for the full enjoyment of a balanced and healthful ecology. Put a little differently, the minors’ assertion of their right to a sound environment constitutes, at the same time, the performance of their obligation to ensure the protection of that right for the generations to come.

The Court does not agree with the trial court’s conclusions that the plaintiffs failed to allege with sufficient definiteness a specific legal right involved or a specific legal wrong committed, and that the complaint is replete with vague assumptions and conclusions based on unverified data.

The complaint focuses on one specific fundamental legal right — the right to a balanced and healthful ecology which, for the first time in our nation’s constitutional history, is solemnly incorporated in the fundamental law.

Section 16, Article II of the 1987 Constitution explicitly provides:

Sec. 16. The State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.

This right unites with the right to health which is provided for in the preceding section of the same article:

Sec. 15. The State shall protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness among them.

While the right to a balanced and healthful ecology is to be found under the Declaration of Principles and State Policies and not under the Bill of Rights, it does not follow that it is less important than any of the civil and political rights enumerated in the latter. Such a right belongs to a different category of rights altogether for it concerns nothing less than self-preservation and self-perpetuation — aptly and fittingly stressed by the petitioners — the advancement of which may even be said to predate all governments and constitutions. As a matter of fact, these basic rights need not even be written in the Constitution for they are assumed to exist from the inception of humankind.

The Court are not persuaded by the trial court’s pronouncement.

The respondent Secretary did not invoke in his motion to dismiss the non-impairment clause. If he had done so, Justice Feliciano would have acted with utmost infidelity to the Government by providing undue and unwarranted benefits and advantages to the timber license holders because he would have forever bound the Government to strictly respect the said licenses according to their terms and conditions regardless of changes in policy and the demands of public interest and welfare. He was aware that as correctly pointed out by the petitioners, into every timber license must be read Section 20 of the Forestry Reform Code (P.D. No. 705) which provides that when the national interest so requires, the President may amend, modify, replace or rescind any contract, concession, permit, licenses or any other form of privilege granted herein .

All licenses may thus be revoked or rescinded by executive action. It is not a contract, property or a property right protested by the due process clause of the Constitution.

Hence, the instant Petition is hereby GRANTED, and the challenged Order of respondent Judge of 18 July 1991 dismissing Civil Case No. 90-777 was set aside. The petitioners amend their complaint to implead as defendants the holders or grantees of the questioned timber license agreements.

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