Jurisdiction, Forests, Res Judicata, Administrative
This case dealt with the cancellation of a timber license and the question whether a court could interfere in matters which were addressed to the discretion of government agencies. The petitioner sought the reinstatement of its timber license agreement which was cancelled in August 1983 during the Marcos administration. He stated that after the Government had made an order canceling his logging concession pursuant to presidential instructions, a part of the area was allowed to be logged by Filipino companies without a license; and, that the latter entities were controlled or owned by relatives or cronies of deposed President Ferdinand Marcos. The Ministry refused to reverse the order, ruling that a timber license was only a privilege which could be withdrawn whenever public interest or welfare so demanded. The court held that the refusal of the respondents to reverse the final administrative orders did not constitute grave abuse of discretion. It was an established doctrine in its jurisdiction that the orders of administrative agencies had upon their finality, the force of a final judgment within the purview of the doctrine of res judicata. These decisions and orders were as conclusive upon the rights of the affected parties as though the same had been rendered by a court of general jurisdiction. Besides that, the administrative actions were apparently in response to the growing global concern over the despoliation of forest lands and the utter disregard of their crucial role in sustaining a balanced ecological system. The legitimacy of such concern could hardly be disputed. While there was a desire to harness natural resources to amass profit and to meet the country’s immediate financial requirements, the more essential need to ensure future generations of Filipinos of their survival in a viable environment demanded effective Government action to check further denudation of whatever remained of the forest lands. There was a basic rule that the courts would not interfere in matters which were addressed to the sound discretion of government agencies entrusted with the regulation of activities coming under the special technical knowledge of such agencies. Timber licenses could be validly amended, modified, replaced or rescinded by the Chief Executive when national interests so required. The petition was dismissed. Nevertheless, the Court expressed its concern regarding alleged irregularities in the issuance of timber license agreements to a number of logging concessionaires.