Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence


Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence > Year 1973 > September 1973 Decisions > G.R. No. L-33818 September 26, 1973 - LECAR & SONS, INC. v. ARTURO R. TANCO, JR., ETC., ET AL.:




PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

EN BANC

[G.R. No. L-33818. September 26, 1973.]

LECAR & SONS, INC., v. HON. ARTURO R. TANCO, JR., ETC. ET AL.


R E S O L U T I O N


Gentlemen:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Quoted hereunder, for your information, is a resolution of this Court dated September 25, 1973.

"L-33818 (Lecar & Sons, Inc. v. Hon. Arturo R. Tanco, Jr., etc. Et. Al.). — Considering the grounds of the motion of the petitioner for reconsideration of the resolution of November 22, 1972, which denied the petition for review on certiorari of the decision of the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources as well as the joint comment of the Solicitor General and the private respondent thereon, the Court Resolved to DENY said motion for lack of merit in view of the reasons stated in the two memoranda (the first consisting of thirty-five pages and the second consisting of thirty-two pages) prepared for the Court by Justice Fred Ruiz Castro which are hereby ordered attached to the record of this case. This denial is hereby declared FINAL. Teehankee, J., voted to grant the motion for reconsideration and to give due course to the petition, as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

TEEHANKEE, J.:


I reiterate my vote to grant reconsideration of the resolution of November 22, 1972 denying the petition, and to give due course to the petition.

The petition involves important questions of first impression on void declaration of location and related provisions of the Mining Act as well as vital due process questions concerning ex-parte investigations taken into account by respondent Secretary of Agriculture in his consideration of petitioner’s appeal from the mines director’s order dismissing its protest against respondent Infanta’s lode claims and an unprecedented anomalous situation with regard to petitioner’s motion for reconsideration of respondent secretary’s adverse decision on petitioner’s appeal (affirming the mines director’s dismissal order), whereby the very same mines director whose dismissal order was under review acted on July 7, 1971 as officer-in-charge of the office of the undersecretary for natural resources and in such capacity denied petitioner’s motion for reconsideration and in effect thereby upheld his own dismissal order which petitioner precisely sought to be reviewed and set aside by higher authority in accordance with law. 1

The whole premise of respondent secretary’s decision is thus stated in the decision itself:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"The records show that appellant filed its protest with the Director of Mines on May 5, 1969 which it subsequently amended on August 20, 1969. In its protest, appellant raised the following issues and/or causes of action:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"a) That the lode mining claims of all the respondents are substantially defective and incomplete in compliance with the requirements of the law on the matter and are, therefore, null and void and, therefore, cannot prevail over the placer mining claims of the protestant which took into consideration and complied with all the requirements of the law on the matter of the discovery, location and registration of such mining claims; and

"b) That the placer mining claims of the protestant should also prevail over the lode mining claims of all the respondents because geological findings have confirmed the absence of any mineral veins in the mining area under consideration which would indicate that it could properly be subject of lode claims and that on the contrary, only lateritic deposits could be found in the area and therefore, only placer mining claims may be properly filed thereon.

"In the presentation of its case, however, appellant only proved the validity of its placer claims which are admittedly registered subsequent to the lode claims of appellee herein, and did not show by convincing evidence any substantial defect in appellee’s mining claims. In view thereof, appellee filed a motion to dismiss which was granted by the Directors of Mines, and hence, this appeal.

"From the foregoing, it is apparent that the only issue that need be resolved in this appeal is whether or not the Director of Mines is justified in dismissing the protest of appellant without even requiring appellee to present his side of the case." 2

The flaw and deficiency in this approach in respondent secretary’s decision of May 13, 1971 is that it made no finding whatever on the principal bases of petitioner’s protest against respondent Infanta’s lode claims, viz,

(1) that the original declarations of location were null and void and beyond validation by amendment; since Corner Posts No. 1 of each of the 50 claims has an identical bearing (N. 8 W) and an identical distance (4,340 meters) to the same tie-point (BBM 26 Linao-Ipilan) — such that a plotting thereof would readily show that all said 50 claims are not contiguous or adjoining each other but fall one on top of the other, like a deck of cards;

(2) that the tie-point (BBM 26 Linao-Ipilan) is a "non-existent and useless monument" — a movable or floating tie-point, whose rectangular coordinates were not given as required in the declaration of location, and for which no technical data are available in the Bureau of Lands, such as to qualify under section 37 of the Mining Act as a "location monument . . . established by the Bureau of Lands" ; and

(3) that there were no mineral veins in the area that could make it the proper subject of lode claims whereas petitioner has paid occupation fees of P13,184.00 for the placer claims continuously occupied by it since their location and for which its financier has expanded for exploration expenses the sum of P2,209,922.00. 3

The mines director in his order of September 16, 1970 summarily dismissing protestant’s protest against the validity of respondent Infanta’s claims had brushed aside these grounds of protest, as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

On the lack of tie-point:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Lastly, protestant, through counsel, assailed the validity of the lode claims of the respondents for lack of tie-point, although it recognized the reference point stated in the declarations of location of respondent known as BBM No. 26, Brooke’s Point, Palawan. The lack of tie point is premised on the alleged certification issued by the Director of Lands, dated July 29, 1970, to the effect that according to their records the rectangular coordinates of BBM No. 26, Brooke’s Point Palawan (are) not available. The fact that the lode claims of the respondent were plotted by the Survey Division of this Office shows that the position of BBM No. 26 with the stated bearing and distance is known.

"Under Section 28(d) of the Mining Act, lands located for mining leases by other prospectors are not open to prospecting. In other words, prior claims located under the Mining Act are valid unless proven otherwise.

"By and large, the protestant has failed to substantiate its material allegation that the lode claims of the respondent are substantially defective and incomplete in terms of the requirements of the law. This being the case, this Office believes that the motion to dismiss presented by counsel for respondent Chua is in order." 4

On the lack of any mineral veins in the area, which the alleged locator, Tablante, had declared for "nickel, silver, copper, etc." ;

". . . the records of this Office show that the claims of respondents have been the subject of a geological investigation and verification conducted by geologists of this Office from May 26 to June 4, 1970, as well as an evaluation of the quantity and quality of the mineral contents thereof by a Senior Mining Engineer of this Office, who investigated the area from July 7 to 12, 1970. The geological investigation report submitted reveals that the area in question contains shipping grade garnierite ores, which could probably be worked out at a profit. The reserve of garnierite ores is also confirmed by the evaluation report. It can, therefore, be said that the claims in question are locatable as lode claims based on lode deposit in the form of garnierte." 5

The mines director’s conclusion in his dismissal order of September 16, 1970 that" (T)he fact that the lode claims of the respondent were plotted by the Survey Division of this office shows that the position of BBM No. 26 with the stated bearing and distance is known" really sidesteps the factual issue, since the fact that a point could be plotted on paper does not necessarily prove that such a point had been previously fixed or established on the ground, there being no established coordinates. Respondent Secretary’s decision neither mentions, much less affirms, anything on this nor on the mines director’s conjecture that respondents’ claims may be considered "locatable as lode claims based on lode deposits in the form of garnierite." Nothing appears to have been heard since as to such alleged garnierite deposits.

As a matter of fact, although no mention whatsoever is made thereof in respondent secretary’s decision of May 13, 1971, instructions were obviously given after the mines director’s dismissal order of September 16, 1970 "to check from the Bureau of Mines whether the mining claims of Joseph Chua (respondent Infanta’s assignor) . . . actually fall one on top of the other over the area of the mother claim as contended by Lecar & Sons, Inc. . . ." 6

Hence, memoranda were submitted ex parte to respondent secretary by a Mr. Madlangbayan of the survey division of the Bureau of Mines, dated May 4, 1971, and by Romulo S. Redula, trial attorney III of the agriculture and natural resources department, dated May 5, 1971, which was based only on the former’s memorandum — but these memoranda tending to sustain merely by conclusions the mines director’s own questioned conclusion above-quoted are not at all touched or mentioned in respondent secretary’s decision.

As stated in the Court’s memorandum on the petition," (N)oticeably, the decision of the director of mines dated September 16, 1970 neither makes mention of nor express any finding on the relative positions of the disputed mining claims." (at page 274).

On petitioner’s basic complaint that respondent secretary disregarded the additional evidence and other facts of record in the Bureau of Mines as presented or brought to his attention on appeal by petitioner, the Court’s memorandum, citing respondent secretary’s own ruling in his decision, to wit,

"In passing, it may be stated that on April 13, 1971, both parties appeared before the Action Committee of this Office to clarify the issues raised in the appeal. Both parties were asked to submit a summary of their arguments but appellant LECAR, in addition to its evidence submitted in the formal hearing conducted in the Bureau of Mines, included certain evidence and arguments presented by counsel for another claimant, not a party to the instant case, but who begged leave of the Action Committee to be heard although admittedly his presence and appearance were irregular. Since LECAR had already, closed its case in the Bureau of Mines and had submitted its own evidence, this Office must have to decide the instant case on the basis of LECAR’s evidence regularly, presented in the formal hearing and not on the basis of evidence which are to be presented by a third party in another cases still pending in the Bureau of Mines." 7

concedes that" (O)n the matter of whether the Secretary considered the evidence LECAR presented in the proceedings before the Action Committee and made available to the Secretary, the absence of clear indicia in the record that the said Secretary inquired into and evaluated LECAR’s additional evidence would seem to afford confirmation to the supposition that the Secretary disregarded the said evidence in his resolution of the appeal before him" 8 and that "the foregoing remarks made by the Secretary apparently admit of only one interpretation — that he disregarded the additional evidence presented by LECAR in the resolution of the appeal before him." 9

But the Court’s memorandum, mentioning several circumstances in support, arrives — contrary to respondent Secretary’s own ruling in his decision that he would take into consideration in the appeal and decide it only "on the basis of LECAR’s evidence regularly presented in the formal hearing" — at the conclusion that" (1) the Secretary duly considered the evidence LECAR submitted to the Action Committee and later on attached to its motion for reconsideration. . . ." 10

It further concludes that" (2) the evidence available to this Court sustains the findings of fact made by the Director of Mines in his questioned decision and affirmed by the Secretary." 11

It is respectfully submitted that as stated above:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

— The mines director made no findings of fact on the relative positions of the disputed mining claims; and

— Respondent Secretary in his decision on appeal likewise eschewed making any findings of fact and made no such findings, specifically, on the relative positions of the disputed mining claims, even though obviously he asked for memoranda from the mines bureau — since as observed in the Court’s memorandum on the petition," (N)evertheless, presumably considering this (the Bureau of Mines records as elevated on appeal) insufficient to negate the side of the picture presented by LECAR’s evidence, the Secretary caused an inquiry of the matter to be made." 12

We have here then a case where no specific findings of fact on the grave factual questions raised by petitioner that go against the validity of respondent Infanta’s lode mining claims, e.g. fatal defects as to their being table claims with an identical bearing so that as plotted they are stacked up one on top of the other like a deck of cards, floating tie-point, etc., which made the claims null and void and incapable of validation by subsequent correction or amendment, were made by either the original order of the mines director or by respondent secretary in his decision on appeal.

No findings of fact were made by the mines director since here merely granted protestee Chua’s (respondent Infanta’s assignor) motion to dismiss and did not require nor receive any evidence from Chua on the validity of the original declarations of location made by the locator who sold Chua the claims — notwithstanding petitioner’s contention as per the records themselves that the same are null and void because of the fatal defects above mentioned.

Can the respondent Secretary’s affirmance of the dismissal order, without any findings of fact in the decision on appeal, be deemed to vest the mere conclusions — not findings of facts — of the mines director "with finality and conclusiveness" under section 61 of the Mining Act?

How is the cited section to be applied, when it provides that" (F)indings of facts in the decision or order of the Director of Mines when affirmed by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources shall be final and conclusive, and the aggrieved party or parties deserving to appeal from such decision or order shall file in the Supreme Court a petition for review wherein only questions of law may be raised" — when as stated there are no findings of facts in the mines director’s order that could be said to have been affirmed by the Secretary’s decision on appeal?

An authoritative ruling on the application of section 61 of the Mining Act is called for by the petition at bar.

The petition may be referred to the Court of Appeals for said court to make the necessary findings of facts or this Court may consider only the questions of law raised in the petition, among them, that the validity of respondent’s mining claims is not supported by the declarations of location which petitioner asserts to be absolutely null and void.

Among the important questions of law raised in the petition for the Court’s resolution are the following:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"1. In a mines administrative case, involving a conflict of mining claims, brought to him on the appeal under Sec. 61 of the Mining Law, may the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources consider facts borne out by duplicates of original and amended declarations of location on file with the Bureau of Mines, copies of which were made available to him in the course of a case appealed to him though admittedly not presented at the formal hearing of the case before the Bureau of Mines?

"2. Where the said Secretary in an appealed case has rendered a decision sustaining the order of the Director of Mines, may the latter act as Officer-in-Charge of the Office of the Undersecretary for Natural Resources to resolve a motion for reconsideration of the said decision?

"3. What is the effect of undated erasures, interpolations and corrections in original declarations of location filed with the mining recorder if they were made not by the declarant-affiant but by the notary public before whom he subscribed and swore to the truth of the affidavit accompanying said declarations of location? Do they render said declaration of location invalid for corrections therein having been made not in the form and manner specifically provided for under Sec. 57 of the Mining Law?

"4. Where it is shown that prior mineral claims were tied to a movable tie point and it is further shown that Corner Post No. 1 of each of said claims has the same bearing and distance to said movable tie point and they are, therefore, one on top of each other like a deck of cards, is there valid location and record of such claims within the meaning of Sec. 47 of the Mining Law?

"5. Is an adverse party deprived of due process of law when ex parte reports of geologists to the Bureau of Mines, made during the pendency of the case involving a conflict of mining claims, are taken into account in a decision of said case and would it be fair to such a party if non-verbal memorandum-statement of the surveyor of said Bureau concerning a question not within his expertise, is submitted without cross examination, in the course of an appeal to the respondent Secretary?

"6. May a void declaration of location be made valid by the filing of an amended declaration of location, under the principle of relation back?

"7. Does priority in initiating rights to a mining claim give one a better right, if his location is not a valid one, as against one who subsequently made a valid location? 13

Even were the petition to be kept in this Court (and not remanded to the Court of Appeals), it is respectfully submitted that these important questions raised merit giving due course to the petition and the handing down of an authoritative decision thereon rather than an outright denial of review.

A D D E N D U M

After I filed on June 8, 1973 my above reasoned vote to grant reconsideration of the Court’s resolution of November 22, 1972 denying the petition filed on July 30, 1971 and to give either due course to the petition or remand the same under section 61 of the Mining Act to the Court of Appeals for said court to make the necessary and determinative findings of facts. Justice Castro filed his second memorandum extensively discussing (in thirty-two (32) double-space pages) reiterating the conclusion in his first Court’s memorandum (of thirty-five (35) double-space pages) that "absolutely no useful purpose will be served by giving due course to the petition at bar." He added that "LECAR’s motion for reconsideration should therefore be denied, and the denial should forthwith be declared final, considering that the mere matter of whether or not to give due course to the petition at bar has, for the unprecedentedly, unusually, and remarkably long period of two years (come July 30, 1973) has been pending final resolution by this Court." 14

I respectfully submit that indeed it has been unprecedented and unusual and remarkable (to my recollection, this is the only instance) that over eighty (80) pages 15 of memoranda and written discussion of the facts and legal issues presented by the petition under consideration have been submitted for the Court’s deliberations on the mere matter of whether or not to give due course to the petition. The volume and extent of said memoranda far exceed those of the average six-page (single space) decision of this Court. To my mind, they serve to show per se the importance and significance of the questions raised by the petition and of handing down an authoritative decision thereon in the interest of justice and for the guidance of the parties, as well as of the bench and bar.

The record will show that the unusually long period (of a year and 4 months) that it took to deny due course on November 22, 1972 to the petition that had been filed on July 30, 1971 was of nobody’s making, but because of the many important questions of first impression involved. Normally, this would have been sufficient for the granting of due course to the petition, so that the issues may be thoroughly and extensively discussed in the parties’ briefs and the Court thus given sufficient time and opportunity to study them, while at the same time giving due precedence to the disposition of the earlier cases in its docket. At any rate, petitioner’s motion for reconsideration of the Court’s adverse resolution of November 22, 1972 was overtaken by the momentous cases filed with the Court in the wake of the declaration of martial law and the January, 1973 referendum — and these cases perforce took precedence over all others and practically fully occupied the time and attention of the Court until April, 1973.

I reiterate my previous suggestion that the issues at bar are of general importance and significance that warrant the handing down in due course of an authoritative decision thereon rather than an outright and seemingly summary denial of review (contrary to the unprecedentedly extensive memoranda and discussions thereon in camera but which however do not afford the sufficient time and unhurried deliberation of cases where the parties have filed extensive briefs and arguments.) Nevertheless, if the Court considers that the issues have been more than sufficiently argued by the parties in their pleadings, then the petition may simply be given due course and simultaneously decided by means of a memorandum decision stating that majority of the Court has dismissed the petition for the reasons and considerations adduced in the two memoranda of Justice Castro which shall be appended thereto as an integral part thereof, while my above written vote with this addendum shall likewise be appended thereto as a dissenting opinion.

I maintain on the principal important questions of law presented for authoritative determination and pronouncement by this Court, that

1. The respondent secretary should have considered the very facts borne out by duplicates of original and amended declarations of location on file with the Bureau of Mines, copies of which were made available to him the course of petitioner’s appeal (although admittedly not formally presented at the formal hearing before the Bureau of Mines) since these were Bureau of Mines records showing that respondents’ alleged garnierite claims were null and void as mere table claims — in the same manner that the mines director in his order granting respondents’ motion to dismiss petitioner’s protest motu proprio without requiring any counter-evidence from respondent, took cognizance of ex parte and unilateral mines bureau geologists’ and an engineer’s investigation reports to justify his finding that "the area in question contains shipping grade garnierite ores, which could probably be worked out at a profit" and that respondent’s questioned claims "are locatable as lode claims based on lode deposits in the form of garnierite."cralaw virtua1aw library

Respondent secretary himself ex-parte and unilaterally gave instructions after the mines director’s dismissal order of September 16, 1970 "to check from the Bureau of Mines whether the mining claims of Joseph Chua (respondent Infanta’s assignor) . . . actually fall one on top of the other over the area of the mother claim as contended by Lecar & Sons, Inc. . . ." This is made of record in respondent’s trial attorney Redulla’s ex-parte memorandum dated May 5, 1971 cited in Justice Castro’s first memorandum (at p. 274) although no mention thereof at all is made in respondent secretary’s decision of May 13, 1971.

Indeed, it is arbitrary that respondents would ex-parte and unilaterally avail of mines bureau records and other unilateral reports of department personnel to uphold dismissal of petitioner’s protest and the validity of respondent Infanta’s claims — and yet ignore and disregard the very same records consisting of original and amended declarations of location of Infanta’s claims which show them to be void table claims which would fall one on top of another like a deck of cards.

It cannot be asserted with validity that "the respondent secretary in fact did consider and did evaluate the evidence brought to his attention by LECAR in the course of the latter’s appeal despite the fact that, in his view, he was not required to do so under any provision of the Mining Law or any accepted rule governing appellate practice and procedure" 16 which is based on a conjecture that" (I)t is safe to assume that the secretary, dictated by common sense in his search for answers to these questions, looked into the materials available to him . . . and the additional evidence adduced by LECAR." 17

Such assertion is contrary to and negated by respondent secretary’s own ruling his decision of May 13, 1971 that he would disregard all other evidence sought to be presented by petitioner on appeal, and categorically declaring that "Since LECAR had already closed its case in the Bureau of Mines and had submitted its own evidence, this office must have to decide the instant case on the basis of LECAR’s evidence regularly presented in the formal hearing. . . ." 18

2. Fundamental precepts of due process are violated to the grave prejudice of petitioners when —

— It is conceded in the secretary’s decision order of dismissal that "petitioner (appellant) only proved the validity of its placer claims" and yet the mines director’s dismissal order is sustained on the alleged ground that petitioner "did not show by convincing evidence any substantial defect in respondent’s (appellee’s) mining claims," when respondent should have been given the burden likewise of showing the validity of its claims which conflicted with petitioner’s valid placer claims; and worse, when respondent secretary’s attention was called on appeal to mines bureau file records (copies of which were formally offered by petitioner on appeal) showing that respondent’s claims were void table claims which are not subject to validation by paper amendment;

— When ex-parte reports and investigations are considered by both the mines director and respondent secretary in sustaining the director’s order dismissing petitioner’s protest against respondent’s conflicting claims (without requiring any counter-evidence from respondent) and without petitioner having been given notice thereof nor an opportunity to question or cross-examine the authors of the unilateral reports; and

— When with regard to petitioner’s motion for reconsideration of respondent secretary’s adverse decision on its appeal from the mines director’s dismissal order with which motion submitted vital documents consisting of copies of mines bureau records of respondent’s original and amended declarations of location showing that the original locations were null and void and beyond validation by amendment, since corner posts of No. 1 of each of the 50 claims has an identical bearing and an identical distance to the same tie-point [BBM 26 Linao-Ipilan, which was in itself a non-identifiable movable or floating tie point] such that the asserted claims are one on top of the other like a deck of cards) 19 the very same mines director whose dismissal order was under review on appeal acted on July 7, 1971 in a dual capacity as officer-in-charge of the office of undersecretary for natural resources — and in such capacity denied (naturally!) petitioner’s motion for reconsideration and in effect thereby upheld his own dismissal order, thereby setting at naught and oppressively nullifying petitioner’s recourse under the law of having his order reviewed and set aside by higher authority.

The majority would uphold the questioned act on the strength of respondent secretary’s justification that pursuant to section 71 (b) of the Revised Administrative Code and Executive Orders Nos. 218 and 284 he has delegated "the authority to deny motions for reconsideration . . . to the undersecretary for natural resources" as "not only clothed with the presumption of regularity but (is) also authorized by law." 20

The cited law and executive orders never contemplated delegation of authority to deny motions for reconsideration to the very subordinate whose decision is under review and appeal by the secretary. And the delegation of the authority merely to deny motions for reconsideration — and not to grant the same in meritorious cases — would certainly offend due process as being one-sided and foreclosing a party’s right to seek reconsideration.

3. The purported admission made by LECAR in its "opposition to motion to dismiss" dated August 14, 1971 of facts found by the mines director and "impliedly affirmed" by respondent secretary being contained in Annex "I" of private respondent’s motion to dismiss (referring to the ex-parte geological report of garnierite ore deposits and that the lode claims were plotted by the mines bureau’s survey division with the forced conclusion that "hence the position of BBM 26 with the stated bearing and distance is known") by virtue of petitioner’s manifestation therein that" (it) does not now seek (the same) to be reversed" — cannot bind petitioner, as it was made for purposes of meeting and opposing the motion to dismiss and therefore had to assume the facts. Furthermore, such purported admission could not be valid as against the best evidence consisting of the very documents on file with the mines bureau, e g., the original and amended declarations of location of respondent showing the fifty claims per se to be void table claims with each having an identical bearing and distance.

4. One last point. Presidential Decree No. 99-A effective January 15, 1973 decreeing that in mining conflicts, "the locator of the claim who first registered his claim with the proper mining registrar, notwithstanding any defect in form or technicality, shall have the exclusive right" to the claim, far from foreclosing petitioner’s claim, has precisely been invoked by petitioner in its urgent supplemental manifestation dated April 11, 1973 and not by Respondent.

Petitioner has precisely called the Court’s attention thereto and to the implementing regulations of the respondent secretary (Mines Administrative Order No. V-48 dated April 2, 1973) as "supporting the argument advanced by petitioner regarding the invalidity of the mining claims of respondent Infanta since they required" (T)hat the mining claim has a bearing and a distance to a tie-point which shall be a permanent and prominent object whose geographic position can be determined accurately . . ." which requirement respondent Infanta has not met.

Accordingly, I reiterate my vote to grant reconsideration of the resolution of November 22, 1972 denying the petition and to give due course to the petition for proper disposition and resolution of the important issues therein raised."cralaw virtua1aw library

Attached herewith are copies of the two memoranda prepared for the Court by the Hon. Fred Ruiz Castro alluded to in the above resolution for the information and guidance of the parties.

Very truly yours,

(Sgd.) ROMEO D. MENDOZA

Clerk of Court

Tls 9/27/73

Messrs. C. C. Hernandez,

Claro P. Ison & Gregorio A. Ejercito (x)

Counsel for Petitioner

c/o A.C. Ranson Phil. Corp.

555 Mexico Avenue, Parañaque, Rizal

The Solicitor General (x)

Manila

Messrs Andres R. Narvasa and

Cruz, Mendoza, Novales

& Bautista (x)

Counsel for Respondent Infanta Mineral & Ind. Corp.

Suite 350, Padilla de los Reyes Building

232 Juan Luna Street, Binondo, Manila

The Honorable Secretary (x)

Department of Agriculture &

Natural Resources

DANR Building, Diliman

Quezon City

G.R. No. L-33818 September 26, 1973 - LECAR & SONS, INC., Petitioner, v. HON. ARTURO R. TANCO, JR. (Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources) and INFANTA MINERAL AND INDUSTRIAL CORPORATION, Respondents.

CASTRO, J.:


STATEMENT OF CASE

In 1968 Lecar & Sons, Inc. (LECAR) filed with the Office of the Mining Recorder of Palawan forty-eight (48) placer claims for nickel and other allied materials to be found in Ipilan, barrio Mambalut, Brooke’s Point, Palawan. LECAR subsequently applied for a lease survey of its 48 placer claims with the Bureau of Mines. The Bureau of Mines refused to give due course to the lease survey of 13 of LECAR’s placer claims after it found the said claims in conflict with the lode claims of Silvestre Gochuico, Sakop Mining Association and Benedicto Tablante. LECAR then filed a protest with the Bureau, alleging that the lode claims of Gochuico, Sakop Mining Association and Tablante were substantially defective and incomplete, and praying that the said lode claims be declared null and void.

A pre-trial conference followed but the parties failed to arrive at an amicable settlement.

In the interim, Gochuico assigned and transferred his lode claims to Frank Chou; Tablante likewise assigned and transferred his lode claims to Joseph Chua.

LECAR then proceeded to submit its evidence. After LECAR finished presentation of its evidence, Chua moved to dismiss the protest on the following grounds: (1) the area subject of LECAR’s claim is already closed to mining entry and location; (2) lack of valid discovery and location by LECAR; and (3) LECAR failed to disprove the validity of Chua’s claims.

Acting on Chua’s motion to dismiss, the Director of Mines issued an order dated September 16, 1970, holding that (1) the claims in question are "locatable as lode claims based on lode deposit in the form of garnierite;" (2) the location made by LECAR was time-barred because LECAR made its location of the placer claims "more than thirty days from the date of discovery contrary to the mandatory requirements of Section 33 of the Mining Act (Commonwealth Act 137, as amended);" and (3) the position of BBM No. 26, Brooke’s Point (the tie point referred to in the declaration of location of Chua), with the stated bearing and distance, is known. The Director of Mines dismissed LECAR’s protest on the ground that it had failed to prove the lode claims of Chua as "substantially defective and incomplete in terms of the requirements of the law." LECAR’s motion for reconsideration of the order was denied by the Director of Mines.

LECAR then appealed the order dated September 16, 1970 to the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Secretary), alleging that it had proved the validity of its placer claims. LECAR argued that procedural due process required that Chua, in turn, present evidence on the validity of his lode claims.

The Secretary then rendered decision on May 13, 1971, dismissing the appeal and affirming the order appealed from. In this decision, the Secretary stated that the basic issue is "whether or not the Director of Mines is justified in dismissing the protest of appellant without even requiring appellee to present his side of the case." The Secretary ruled that (1) a mining claim given due course by the Director of Mines does not become defective because a subsequent claimant questions the validity of the said claim; (2) a claimant who questions the claim of another should not only allege defects or irregularities of the claim but also present convincing evidence indicating the invalidity of the claim; and (3) where a subsequent claimant fails to establish the invalidity of the prior claim questioned, the prior claimant is not called upon to prove the validity of his claim.

LECAR subsequently sought a reconsideration of the Secretary’s decision. However, the Officer-in-Charge of the Office of the Undersecretary for Natural Resources (the same person who, as the Director of Mines, issued the order dated September 16, 1970) issued an order dated July 7, 1971 (1) denying LECAR’s motion for reconsideration; and (2) allowing the substitution of Chua by the Infanta Mineral and Industrial Corporation (INFANTA).

Hence, the present petition for review filed by LECAR with this Court on July 30, 1971.

In this petition, LECAR raises several questions relating (1) to the validity of INFANTA’s claims, (2) to the evidence considered and not considered by the Director of Mines and the Secretary in resolving the dispute arising out of the said claims, and (3) to the procedure followed by the said Director and the said Secretary in deciding the dispute.

INFANTA subsequently moved to dismiss LECAR’s petition on three grounds, to wit: (1) the appeal poses questions of fact (INFANTA calls attention to section 61 of the Mining Act vesting with finality and conclusiveness findings of fact made by the Director of Mines in disputes arising out of mining locations when such findings are affirmed by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources); (2) the appeal raises collateral issues either insubstantial or already determined by settled rulings; and (3) the appeal raises a question — the issuance of a mines temporary permit in favor of INFANTA’s predecessor — not raised by LECAR in its appeal to the Secretary. LECAR duly filed its opposition to the aforementioned motion to dismiss interposed by INFANTA.

This Court, in several successive resolutions, (1) required the Secretary to comment on LECAR’s petition; (2) required LECAR to reply to the Secretary’s comment; and (3) required INFANTA and the Secretary to comment on LECAR’s reply.

Then LECAR, in a manifestation submitted to this Court, called attention to an incident in the case which tends to .support its stand on the non-ascertainability of the exact position of the tie point BBM No. 26 Linao-Ipilan, LECAR emphasized that during the pendency of this case, the Director of Mines acted on the lease application of INFANTA by ordering the survey of 50 of its lode mining claims. Regarding the survey of INFANTA’s lode mining claims, LECAR stated that notwithstanding that

". . . the tie point of said claims were stated in said declarations of location as ‘BBM 26 Linao-Ipilan,’ the said survey was actually made by tying the same to ‘TRIANGULATION STATION FIL, USC & GS,’ a location point established not by the Bureau of Lands but by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey."cralaw virtua1aw library

Then this Court required INFANTA and the Secretary to comment on LECAR’s manifestation. Thereafter, INFANTA and the Secretary were required to comment "in detail and squarely to the point" on every allegation and assertion made by LECAR in the latter’s motion for reconsideration dated May 27, 1971 and on every annex attached thereto, and to submit certain named documentary exhibits and the complete transcript of the proceedings had before the Bureau of Mines.

INFANTA and the Secretary submitted their joint comment. Subsequently, LECAR submitted another manifestation commenting on certain allegations made in the joint comment regarding the alleged existence of the tie point BBM 26 Linao-Ipilan. In reply, INFANTA commented on LECAR’s manifestation. LECAR thereafter filed a supplemental manifestation which INFANTA countered with a comment and rejoinder.

In sum and substance, the questions raised by the case at bar relate basically to (1) the validity of the lode claims of INFANTA and’(2) the procedure followed by the Director of Mines and the Secretary in resolving the dispute before them. Regarding the validity of the mining claims of INFANTA, the questions relate to (a) whether INFANTA’s predecessors regularly and effectively corrected the declarations of location filed for record, and (b) whether the tie point stated in the declarations of location corresponds to an actual and established or known tie point within the Chua’s motion meaning of section 47 of the Mining Act. On the procedure followed by the Director of Mines and the Secretary in deciding the dispute between LECAR and INFANTA, the questions refer to (a) whether the technical rules of court practice, procedure and evidence are strictly binding in a mines administrative protest, and (b) whether the Secretary, in the resolution of an appeal to him, is under obligation to consider additional evidence presented for the first time by the aggrieved party.

In its motion for reconsideration dated May 27, 1971, LECAR brought to the attention of the Secretary certain evidence it had presented to the Action Committee of the Office of the Secretary convoked to clarify the issues raised in the appeal of the protestant. LECAR adduced in the proceedings before the Action Committee the following documents (attached to its subsequent motion for reconsideration):chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

1. A copy of the declaration of location for the mother claim Apitong filed for record by Tablante (Rollo, Vol. I, pages 66-70);

2. Copies of the declarations of location for some of the other mining claims supposedly contiguous or adjacent to the mother claim Apitong also filed for record by Tablante (Rollo, Vol. I, pages 71-133);

3. A copy of the certification of the Survey Division, Bureau of Lands, dated July 23, 1970, attesting to the unavailability of "the rectangular coordinates of BBM No. 26, Pls-96, Brooke’s Point" (Rollo, Vol. I, page 134);

4. A copy of the certification of the Municipal Government of Brooke’s Point, Palawan dated January 11, 1971, attesting to Linao as a mere sitio within the regularly constituted barrio of Ipilan, Brooke’s Point, Palawan (Rollo, Vol. I, page 135); and

5. A copy of the sketch plan of the supposed mining claims of Tablante showing the said claims "one on top of each other" (Rollo, Vol. I, page 136).

Through the documents consisting of the declarations of location for the mother claim Apitong and the other mining claims filed for record by Tablante, LECAR attempts to show the amendments made in paragraph 7 of each of the declarations of location — the erasure of the typed letters BBM and the interpolation in the erased space of the written letters BBM. LECAR claims that these amendments made in the declarations of location are illegal because (1) they were made not by the locator himself (Tablante) but by the notary public before whom the affidavits accompanying the said declarations were subscribed and sworn to; and (2) they have no indication of the date(s) when they were made. LECAR also alleges that the amendments show Tablante’s uncertainty "as to whether it was a Bureau of Lands Location Monument (BLLM) or a barrio boundary monument (BBM) which he should state as [the] tie point of his claim because he did not make a physical location of the area of his claim and did not see either kind of monument on the ground." LECAR further makes use of the declarations of location to indicate that Corner Post No. 1 of each of the claims has the same bearing (N 8x W) and the same distance (4,340 meters) to the same tie point (BBM 26 Linao-Ipilan). According to LECAR, a plotting of the claims — as shown by the sketch plan — reveals that the said claims are "one on top of each other, like a deck of cards."cralaw virtua1aw library

INFANTA, by way of refutation, argues that the amendments were regularly made, having been accomplished not after the registration of the declarations of location but before their filing for registration with the mining recorder of Palawan. Then, too, the notary public who participated therein properly authenticated and initialed the said amendments at the instance and with the acquiescence of Tablante — the locator of the claims — as confirmed by a copy of the certification of the Mining Recorder of Palawan dated March 10, 1971 (Rollo, Vol. II, page 323), manifesting that "all registered copies of the original Declaration of Location for lode mineral claims of BENEDICTO F. TABLANTE on file bear the FE initials on all BBM indicated therein."cralaw virtua1aw library

LECAR makes use of the certification of the Survey Division, Bureau of Lands, dated July 23, 1970, attesting to the unavailability of the rectangular coordinates of BBM 26 Linao-Ipilan to show that this tie point — a barrio boundary monument without a fixed or established position determinable by its latitude from the equator and its longitude from Greenwich — is movable or floating and thus not an established or known tie point within the meaning of section 47 of the Mining Act. To bolster its stand, LECAR points out that the certification of the Municipal Government of Brooke’s Point, Palawan, attests to Linao not as a barrio but only as a sitio within the regularly constituted barrio of Ipilan in the same municipality of Brooke’s Point. This, coupled with the fact that a BBM purports to establish the starting point of a line dividing two barrios, leads to the conclusion that BBM 26 Linao-Ipilan "could not have been fixed by the Bureau of Lands as there could not have been any purpose for its establishment."cralaw virtua1aw library

To further support its position on the non-ascertainability of the exact position of BBM 26 Linao-Ipilan, LECAR alleges, in a manifestation submitted to this Court, that during the pendency of this case, the Director of Mines acted on the lease application of INFANTA by ordering the survey of fifty of its lode mining claims. LECAR avers that notwithstanding that

". . . The tie point of said claims were stated in said declarations of location as ‘BBM 26 Linao-Ipilan,’ the said survey was actually made by tying the same to ‘TRIANGULATION STATION FIL, USC & GS’, a location point established not by the Bureau of Lands but by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey sometime in the year 1917."cralaw virtua1aw library

LECAR also submitted a certification (Rollo, Vol. III, page 759) of the Officer-in-Charge of the Survey Division of the Bureau of Lands which states that "according to the existing records of Pls-96, Brooke’s Point Public Land Subdivision, Brooke’s Point, Palawan, which are on file in this Office, there are no technical data of B.B.M. No. 26."cralaw virtua1aw library

In reply, INFANTA avers that the certification dated July 23, 1970 merely states the unavailability of the rectangular coordinates of BBM 26 Linao-Ipilan but makes no categorical assertion on the non-existence of the said barrio boundary monument. To prove its allegation that BBM 26 Linao-Ipilan actually exists on the ground, INFANTA submits several documents, to wit:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

1. Blueprints of the boundary and index maps of Brooke’s Point Public Lands Subdivision, Pls-96, Case-2, showing BBM 26 (Rollo, Vol. II, pages 324 and 325).

2. A certification of the Officer-in-Charge of the Survey Division of the Bureau of Lands dated May 9, 1972 stating that." . . as per certification of the District Land Officer, Puerto Princesa City, dated April 26, 1972, BBM 26, Pls-96, Case-2, Brooke’s Point, Palawan, is actually existing on the ground." This certification also includes a statement on the unavailability of the "geographic and rectangular coordinates" of BBM 26, and this clarificatory statement:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"However, the position of the said barrio boundary monument may be determined by actual survey." (Rollo, Vol. II, page 326).

3. A certification of the District Land Officer of Palawan dated April 24, 1972 stating that in the cadastral map sheets on file with the Bureau of Lands, Land District No. III-7 of Puerto Princesa City appear BBM 23, BBM 26 and BBM 27 as established by Survey Party No. I9-A in connection with the public land subdivision survey of Brooke’s Point designated as Pls-96, Case-2, (Rollo, Vol. II, page 327).

4. A certification of the District Land Officer of Palawan dated April 26, 1972 which certification states that "as far as it had been ascertained, this barrio boundary monument number 26 has apparently remained fixed, unchanged and unmoved from its original position since its establishment." To this certification, the District Land Officer attached four colored photographs of BBM 26 Linao-Ipilan (Rollo, Vol. II, pages 328 and 329).

5. A certification of the Municipal Mayor of Brooke’s Point, Palawan, regarding the establishment of BBM 23, BBM 26 and BBM 27 by Survey Party No. 19-A of the Bureau of Lands (Rollo, Vol. II, page 330).

In addition, INFANTA also submits a memorandum report (Rollo, Vol. 1, pages 265-269) of a geodetic engineer of the Bureau of Mines who made a survey verification of an adjoining claimant’s mining claims also tied to BBM 26 Linao-Ipilan. The relevant findings in the memorandum report read:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"(c) According to the survey plans, these claims are tied from BBM No. 26, Pls-96. This monument measuring about 40 cm. x 40 cm. x 60 cm. was found securely placed in the ground is about 150 m. from the bank of Linao River in sitio Linao."cralaw virtua1aw library

Through all these documents INFANTA seeks to prove beyond doubt the actual existence, permanence, and prominence of the tie point BBM 26 Linao-Ipilan.

Anent the use of Triangulation "FIL," USC & GS, Brooke’s Point, as reference point in the survey, INFANTA alleges that the surveyors and the geodetic engineers deputized by the Bureau of Mines tied the survey of its claims to the said point in compliance with section 69 of the Manual of Regulations for Mineral Land Surveys in the Philippines. Section 69 allows the surveyor, in a tie line survey, to start the survey from a point of known geographic position and close traverse the tie point used by the locator and the corner "I" of the mother claim. And to sustain its aforementioned position, INFANTA submits the report of the geodetic engineer of the Bureau of Mines who made a field survey of its mining claims. The report (Rollo, Vol. 1, page 264) pertinently states:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Plane rectangular coordinates were derived by means of a closed traverse run from triangulation ‘FIL’ USC & GS, Brooke’s Point, which have a known geographical position to BBM No. 26 Linao-Ipilan and to the group of mining claims."cralaw virtua1aw library

On the position of INFANTA’s mining claims, LECAR utilizes the declarations of location filed for record by Tablante to show that the said mining claims fall one on top of each other. LECAR argues that as stated in the declarations of location, Corner Post No. 1 of each of INFANTA’s mining claims has an identical bearing (N 8x W) and an identical distance (4,340 meters) to the same tie point (BBM 26 Linao-Ipilan) LECAR states that a plotting of INFANTA’s mining claims on the basis of the description in the declarations of location readily shows that the said claims fall on top of each other.

In answer INFANTA maintains that its mining claims adjoin one another. This, INFANTA states, finds support in the Romulo A. Redula Memorandum dated May 5, 1971 (Rollo, Vol. 1 page 146) and the Eugenio Madlangbayan Memorandum dated May 4, 1971 (Rollo. Vol. 1 page 147) which memoranda specifically dwell on whether the mining claims of INFANTA’s predecessors "actually fall one on top of the other over the area of the mother claim."cralaw virtua1aw library

The pertinent portion of the Redula Memorandum reads

"In his declarations of location, Tablante tied the mother claim and all succeeding claims to one tie point which is described as (N 8x W. 4,340 meters from BBM No. 26). Hence if all the claims are plotted based on such technical descriptions, the areas covered would appear like a deck of cards . . . However, the boundaries indicated in the sketches of the areas applied for in Tablante’s original declarations of location showed that the claims are contiguous and adjoin one another."cralaw virtua1aw library

The relevant portion of the Madlangbayan Memorandum states:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

". . . the original declarations of location show that they use the same tie point as that of the mother claim and of this account it may be said that the claims would fall on each other. But the sketch on the same declarations of location show that they are adjoining one another and form a group of contiguous claims."cralaw virtua1aw library

Parenthetically, Redula belongs to the staff of the Legal Division of the Office of the Secretary; Madlangbayan is the Chief of the Mineral Lands and Topographic Survey Division of the Bureau of Mines.

To further sustain its stand that its mining claims adjoin one another, INFANTA also submits the sketch plan of its mining claims as surveyed by a geodetic engineer (Rollo, Vol. II, page 334) and certified as true and correct by the Bureau of Mines, and the survey plans of its claims (Rollo, Vol. II, pages 331-374) duly approved by the Director of Mines. Through these documents, INFANTA attempts to show that its mining claims are contiguous and adjoin one another and are not "one on top of each other."cralaw virtua1aw library

In this connection, INFANTA states that on November 4, 1968, it made amendments to its declarations of location already registered with the Mining Recorder of Palawan on June 4, 1968 to further clarify paragraph 7 of each of the said declarations "so that corner post No. 1 of a claim was tied to the corner post of the adjoining claim." The amendments made consist merely of tying the next adjoining claim to the mother claim Apitong and each adjoining claim thereafter to the one preceding, in succession, but without altering the boundaries of any of the claims. INFANTA also avers that it made no amendments to the declaration of location for the mother claim Apitong since no need existed to do so, because the same remains tied to the same monument. INFANTA adds that it amended its declaration of location ahead of LECAR’s own presentation for registration of its mining claims on December 13, 1968.

Anent the question of whether or not the Secretary in answering the appeal of LECAR, considered the evidence the said LECAR presented to the Action Committee and made available to the said Secretary, LECAR insists that the said Secretary completely ignored the same. According to LECAR, the Secretary has the discretion and the power, motu proprio, to inquire into the facts and to evaluate and consider evidence available in the course of an appeal to him, Nonetheless, LECAR argues, the Secretary omitted to inquire into and evaluate the evidence before him. The absence of a finding of fact in the Secretary’s decision dated May 13, 1971, based on his appraisal of the evidence presented, attests to this. To show that the Secretary considered questions only of procedure in his decision, LECAR submits a Resume (Rollo, Vol. III, Reply to the Joint Comment, Annex "A") prepared by the Acting Department Legal Counsel, which Resum states in capsule form the primary reasons for the dismissal of LECAR’s appeal.

INFANTA, for its part, maintains that the Secretary’s power to review the findings of the Director of Mines is limited in its exercise to the consideration of the evidence formally received by the latter official, without any duty to receive or consider additional or other evidence. This notwithstanding, INFANTA claims that the Secretary inquired into the facts, and evaluated and considered the evidence before him, particularly so with respect to whether or not the mining claims, of INFANTA’s predecessors fall on top of each other. This finds support in the Redula and Madlangbayan Memoranda. INFANTA also submits a "Precis" summary of the proceedings before the Action Committee to sustain its aforementioned position. The "Precis" (Rollo, Vol. II, pages 319-320) touches on the very points to which the evidence of LECAR made available to the Secretary relate. These points include

1. "2. Appellee’s tie point, BBM No. 26 Brooke’s Point, Palawan is existing as shown by the certified photostatic copy of the Cadastral Map of Palawan (Pls-96, Case-2). Mines surveyors were able to plot appellee’s claims on the basis of this tie point."cralaw virtua1aw library

2. "5 Lecar’s allegation that Chua’s claims if plotted would fall on top of the other like a deck of cards is not true as findings show that although the original 17 claims carried only one tie point (BBM No. 26.), the boundaries on the sketches showed that these claims were contiguous to each other. This mistake of using one tie-point was corrected in amended declarations of location filed on November 4, 1968 or even ahead of Lecar’s own registration of its mining claims. As amended, the claims were tied to one another but still following the same boundaries so that claim No. 5 was tied to Claim No. 1, and Claim No. 3 to Claim No. 2, etc."cralaw virtua1aw library

DISCUSSION

1. On the matter of whether the Secretary considered the evidence LECAR presented in the proceedings before the Action Committee and made available to the Secretary, the absence of clear indicia in the record that the said Secretary inquired into and evaluated LECAR’s additional evidence would seem to afford confirmation to the supposition that the Secretary disregarded the said evidence in his resolution of the appeal before him. This preliminary supposition results from a reading of the Secretary’s decision dated May 13, 1971. The Secretary, in this decision, remarked:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"In passing, it may be stated that on April 13, 1971, both parties appeared before the Action Committee of this Office to clarify the issues raised in the appeal. Both parties were asked to submit a summary of their arguments but appellant LECAR, in addition to its evidence submitted in the formal hearing conducted in the Bureau of Mines, included certain evidence and arguments presented by counsel for another claimant, not a party to the instance case, but who begged leave of the Action Committee to be heard although admittedly his presence and appearance were irregular. Since LECAR had already closed its case in the Bureau of Mines and had submitted its own evidence, this Office must have to decide the instant case on the basis of LECAR’s evidence regularly presented in the formal hearing and not on the basis of evidence which are to be presented by a third party in another case still pending in the Bureau of Mines."cralaw virtua1aw library

The foregoing remarks made by the Secretary apparently admit of only one interpretation — that he disregarded the additional evidence presented by LECAR in the resolution of the appeal before him.

The foregoing notwithstanding, several circumstances bring out the contrary, that is, that the Secretary duly considered the evidence adduced by LECAR in the course of the appeal.

First, the "Precis" fully informed the Secretary of the disputed points in the conflict between LECAR and INFANTA’s predecessors. These points specifically refer to the existence of the tie point (BBM 26 Linao-Ipilan) and the position of the questioned mining claims (whether or not they adjoin one another or fall on top of each other). In addition, the decision of the Director of Mines dated September 16, 1970 also apprised him of the question regarding the tie point.

It is safe to assume that the Secretary, dictated by common sense in his search for answers to these questions, looked into the materials available to him, to wit, the records of the case elevated to the Secretary’s office upon appeal by LECAR, which records the Director of Mines considered in resolving the conflicting claims, and the additional evidence adduced by LECAR. The records of the Bureau of Mines included:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

1. Original and amended declarations of location of the mining claims of INFANTA.

2. Geological Investigation and Verification Report conducted by geologists of the Bureau of Mines from May 26 to June 4, 1970 stating that the area in question contains garnierite ores.

3. Evaluation Report conducted by a Senior Mining Engineer of the Bureau of Mines regarding the quantity and quality of the mineral contents found in the disputed area.

4. Plotting of the claims of INFANTA by the Survey Division of the Bureau of Mines, and

5. Cadastral Map of Palawan (Brooke’s Point Public Land Subdivision, Pls-96, Case-2). (Rollo. Vol. II. page 318).

Second, both the Redula and Madlangbayan Memoranda clarify the matter of whether the mining claims of INFANTA’s predecessors adjoin one another or fall on top of each other. Noticeably, the decision of the Director of Mines dated September 16, 1970 neither makes mention of nor expresses any finding on the relative positions of the disputed mining claims. It is quite likely that the Secretary upon consideration of LECAR’s additional evidence came across this point. The records of the Bureau of Mines elevated to his office offer two documents the geologic map of Tablante’s nickel claims (Rollo. Vol. II, page 693) and the mineral claim map of INFANTA (Rollo. Vol. II, page 719) both of which show the mining claims of INFANTA as contiguous to and adjoining one another. Nevertheless, presumably considering this insufficient to negate the side of the picture presented by LECAR’s evidence, the Secretary caused an inquiry into the matter to be made. This explains why the introductory paragraph of the Redula Memorandum reads as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"With reference to the instruction to check from the Bureau of Mines whether the mining claims of Joseph Chua involved in DANR Case No. 3610 actually fall one on top of the other over the area of the mother claim as contended by Lecar & Sons, Inc., the following findings are hereby submitted. . . ."cralaw virtua1aw library

Finally, the Resum (Rollo, Vol. III, Reply to the Joint Comment, Annex "A") in no wise supports LECAR’s argument that the "Secretary dismissed LECAR’s appeal merely upon a consideration of the procedural matter involved in DANR Case No. 3610, without considering the truth of the facts regarding INFANTA’s mining claims." Strictly construing the Resume as a mere recapitulation of the reasons why the Secretary dismissed LECAR’s appeal, it would appear that the Acting Department Legal Counsel prepared the said Resum only after a reading of the said decision itself, unaware of what the said Secretary did or did not take into consideration in resolving LECAR’s appeal. On its face, the decision of the Secretary, with the exception of the passing reference to the "certain" evidence presented by LECAR in the proceedings before the Action Committee, makes no express mention of the particular points touched upon by the said additional evidence of LECAR. For this reason, the Resum likewise excludes any summed-up information on the specific points raised in LECAR’s additional evidence.

II. On the other questions — factual or otherwise — raised by the case at bar, there is need to discuss them in relation to the pertinent provisions of the Mining Act (Commonwealth Act 137, as amended).

Anent the corrections made by INFANTA’s predecessors in the declarations of location which LECAR considers as fatal, no doubt exists that they constitute interpolations in the original declarations of location. No provision in the Mining Act directly governs interpolations in the original declarations of location, Section 57 of the Mining Act requires that:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"If at any time the locator of any mining claim located under the provisions of this Act, or his successors or assigns, shall apprehend that his original location notice or declaration of location was defective, erroneous, or that the requirements of the law had not been complied with before recording, or shall be desirous of changing his boundaries so as to include ground not embraced by the location as originally made and recorded, and the locator, or his assigns, shall desire to conform the location and declaration of location thereto, such locator, his successors or assigns, may file an amended declaration of location in accordance with the provisions of this Act, with the mining recorder of the province or district in which such claim is situated: Provided, That such amended declaration of location does not interfere at the date of its filing for record with the existing rights of any other person or persons and that no lease on the mining claim affected has as yet been granted to him by the Government prior to the filing of the amended declaration of location. Such amended declaration of location, with the accompanying affidavit, shall be substantially in the following form . . ."cralaw virtua1aw library

A reading of the aforequoted provision reveals that the law requires the filing of an amended declaration of location in case of an erroneous or defective original declaration of location or if there is non-compliance with the requirements of the law before recording or the locator desires to change the boundaries so as to include ground not embraced in the original declaration of location. This provision, however, patently applies to the amendatory act of the locator after the filing of the original declaration of location with the Mining Recorder. Otherwise, there exists no purpose for the filing of an amended declaration of location. The law requires observance of and compliance with the formalities of section 57 only for amendments-made after the registration of the original declaration of location. INFANTA alleges that its predecessors made the questioned interpolations in the original declarations of location before their registration. LECAR fails to controvert the fact that the said interpolations already appeared in the original declarations of location when INFANTA’s predecessors filed them for registration.

In addition, the subsequent formal amendment by INFANTA of its predecessors’ original declarations of location when the said INFANTA filed amended declarations of location for its mining claims, with the exception of that for the mother claim Apitong, to further clarify paragraph 7 of the said declarations, renders the matter academic. Concededly, the amended declarations of location filed subsequently by INFANTA remedied the alleged error in paragraph 7 of the original declaration of location. Admittedly, too, the amended declarations of location recorded on November 4, 1968, neither affected nor interfered with the still non-existent rights of LECAR which presented its declarations of location for registration only on December 13, 1968, a date subsequent to the registration of both the original and amended declarations of location of INFANTA and its predecessors.

The filing by INFANTA of amended declarations of location also renders useless LECAR’s arguments on the alleged overlapping of the former’s mining claims. In the main, LECAR insists that INFANTA’s mining claims fall on top of each other because, as stated in the corresponding original declarations of location, Corner Post No. 1 of each of INFANTA’s mining claims has the same bearing (N 8x W) and the same distance (4,340 meters) to the same tie point (BBM 26 Linao-Ipilan). However, INFANTA, in its amended declarations of location, clarified paragraph 7 by tying the next adjoining claim to the mother claim Apitong (still tied to BBM 26 Linao-Ipilan because INFANTA found no need to file an amended declaration of location therefor) and each adjoining claim thereafter to the one preceding. A plotting of INFANTA’s mining claims by following the technical description provided for by paragraph 7 of the amended declarations of location shows that the said claims adjoin one another. The sketch plan of INFANTA’s mining claims (Rollo, Vol. II, page 333) and the survey plans of the same (Rollo, Vol. II, pages 334-374) fully and clearly demonstrate the mining claims of INFANTA as contiguous and adjoining one another.

In this connection, the other problem relates to whether or not INFANTA effected a valid amendment of the original declarations of location. LECAR argues that the amended declarations of location state that the locator (Tablante) made the location of the claims from October 10, 1968 to October 20, 1968. This amends the location period stated in the original declarations of location, which is from May 19, 1968 to May 30, 1968. LECAR thus claims that the amended declarations of location show the completion of the location only October 20, 1968, or after the lapse of 153 days from May 6, 1968 — the date of discovery of the mining claims stated in the original declarations of location. This, LECAR avers, contravenes the provisions of section 33 of the Mining Act, which provide:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"SEC. 33. Within thirty days from the date of discovery of mineral the discoverer or locator shall complete the acts of location of a mining claim in accordance with the provisions of this Act, covering the land where the mineral has been discovered. A location made after such period, shall be null and void."cralaw virtua1aw library

Thus, LECAR concludes, there arises the need to consider the amended declarations of location as original declarations of location because INFANTA effected no valid amendment of the said original declarations of location.

In answer, INFANTA maintains that LECAR misreads section 57 of the Mining Act. Said section, according to INFANTA, expressly authorizes the locator to file an amended declaration of location at any time. INFANTA asserts that the amended declarations of location in no manner affected the validity of the location which the locator completed from May 8, 1968 to May 30, 1968 or within 24 days from the date of his discovery of the mineral on May 6, 1968.

To clarify matters, the need to quote paragraph 3 of one of the original declarations of location and of the amended declarations of location, both of which refer to the same mining claim, arises. Paragraph 3 of the original declaration of location for the claim LILY reads:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"3. That the above claim is named the LILY Mineral Claim, which was discovered on May 6, 1968 by Benedicto F. Tablante and that the same was located by Benedicto F. Tablante from May 8, 1968, to May 30, 1968, inclusive, a total period of 22 days. As located, the claim has 4 corners. The locator(s) desire(s) this mineral land for the purpose of extracting therefrom the following minerals: Nickel, Silver, Copper, etc."cralaw virtua1aw library

Paragraph 3 of the amended declaration of location for the claim LILY states:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"3. That the above location of LILY Mineral Claim was amended by Benedicto F. Tablante from October 10, 1968 to October 20, 1968, inclusive, a total period of 10 days. As amended, the claim has 4 corners. The locator(s) or holder(s) desire(s) this mineral land for the purpose of extracting therefrom the following minerals: Nickel, Silver, Copper, etc."cralaw virtua1aw library

Furthermore, paragraph 11 of the same amended declaration of location reads:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"11. That the amendment is made for the following reasons:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

To clarify item No. 7."cralaw virtua1aw library

LECAR obviously misapplies section 33 of the Mining Act for this section relates to the original location. Section 33 requires the completion of the acts of location within thirty days from the date of the discovery of the mineral and declares a location made after such period as null and void. LECAR overlooks section 34 which states:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"SEC. 34. Within thirty days after the completion of the acts of location of a mining claim, as hereinafter provided, the locator thereof shall record the same with the mining recorder of the province or district within which the claim is situated. A claim recorded after the prescribed period shall be null and void."cralaw virtua1aw library

Section 34 thus requires the locator, within thirty days after the completion of the acts of the original location, to record the same with the mining recorder in accordance with the other provisions of the Mining Act. And the record of the mining claim referred to in the above-quoted section definitely consists of the original declaration of location. Section 34 indubitably points out that section 33 refers exclusively to an original location, not to an amended location.

Anent the amended location —resulting in a location period different from that stated in the original declarations of location — "To clarify item No. 7" dictated this. Undoubtedly, Tablante saw the need for an amended location in order to make positive the position of his mining claims in relation to the position of the other adjoining claims (also belonging to him). The amended location thus enabled him to give a clearer description of reference required by paragraph 7 of the amended declarations of location.

With regard to the question on the point — alleged by LECAR as movable or floating and thus not an established or known tie point within the meaning of section 47 of the Mining Act — LECAR predicates its stand on the unavailability of the rectangular coordinates of BBM 26, Pls-96, Brooke’s Point, and on the use of Triangulation "FIL" USC & GS as the tie point in the subsequent survey of INFANTA’s mining claims.

Both certifications (Rollo, Vol. I, page 134, and Vol. III, page 759) submitted by LECAR merely attest to the want of technical data (geographic and plane rectangular coordinates) of BBM 26, Pls-96, Brooke’s Point, according to the existing records on file in the Bureau of Lands. LECAR offers no direct proof on the non-establishment and non-existence of BBM 26 Linao-Ipilan. 21 In truth, its certifications give rise to an implied admission of the existence of BBM 26 Linao-Ipilan.

INFANTA, on the other hand, offers a certification (Rollo, Vol. II, page 326) from the Bureau of Lands on the actual existence of BBM 26 Linao-Ipilan and a certification (Rollo, Vol. III, page 327) from the district land officer, Bureau of Lands, Land District No. III-7, Puerto Princesa City, on the establishment of BBM 26 Linao-Ipilan by Survey Party No. 19-A in connection with the public and subdivision survey of Brooke’s Point. The convincing proof of the existence of BBM 26 Linao-Ipilan offered by INFANTA consists of the sketch plan 22 of its mining claims indicating the rectangular coordinates of BBM 26 Linao-Ipilan as follows:

As to the tying of the mining claims to Triangulation "FIL" USC & GS by means of a closed tertiary traverse in the survey of INFANTA’s mining claims, the Manual of Regulations for Mineral Land Surveys in the Philippines 23 apparently allows this. Section 28 thereof, with particular reference to lode patent and lease surveys, states:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"SEC. 28. The reference point of the claim as indicated on the declaration of location or the tie point of the group of claims to which the claim under survey is a part, should be connected with the survey and indicated on the field notes, computation and on the original plan, if possible. Any discrepancy found on the ground relative to the reference point shall be stated in the descriptive report that accompanies the survey returns." (Emphasis supplied.)

III. LECAR, as already noted, likewise questions the procedure followed by the Director of Mines and the Secretary in resolving the dispute presented before them, arguing that the Director, without even requiring INFANTA’s predecessors to show proof of the validity of their mining claims, declared the said claims valid and subsisting. LECAR questions "the manner in which evidence were elicited," specifically referring to the "reports of geologists of the Bureau of Mines and its table survey" (made ex-parte during the pendency of the controversy) which were used by the Director as bases, together with priority in registration, to uphold the validity of the mining claims of INFANTA’s predecessors. As to the Secretary, LECAR alleges that the said official, in affirming the decision of the Director of Mines, relied on the findings of the said Director, "without himself inquiring into and evaluating the whole facts disclosed by the record." More particularly, LECAR claims that the Secretary "completely ignored or failed to take into consideration" documentary evidence showing the "nullity and invalidity" of the mining claims of INFANTA’s predecessors made available to him in the course of the appeal.

INFANTA brushes off LECAR’s arguments on the alleged procedural errors committed by the Director of Mines and the Secretary by stating that the repeated pronouncements of this Court declare that the "technical rules of court practice, procedure and evidence are not to be applied with rigidity in administrative proceedings." According to INFANTA, the refusal to consider evidence or the admission of evidence — whether or not admissible or competent under the Rules of Court — does not constitute a denial of due process.

Anent LECAR’s statement regarding the use by the Director of Mines of "reports of geologists of the Bureau of Mines" as among the bases for his decision, LECAR obviously refers to (1) the report on the geological investigation and verification of the mining claims of Tablante filed by the same geologists who conducted the said investigation and verification (Rollo, Vol. II, pages 688-693), and (2) the report on the evaluation of the nickel deposit of INFANTA found in the disputed area prepared by a senior mining engineer of the Bureau of Mines (Rollo, Vol. II, pages 696-719).

The present state of the case at bar before this Court renders LECAR’s position no longer tenable, if tenable it ever was. Assuming that in the proceedings before the Director of Mines circumstances offered LECAR no occasion to comment on the reports or to controvert the findings in the said reports, this Court has given LECAR all the opportunity to do so. Indeed, the record shows that LECAR, in one of its pleadings submitted to this Court (Petitioner’s Reply to the Comment of Respondent-Secretary, Rollo, Vol. I, pages 209-210), discussed these reports. As to whether the Secretary disregarded or failed to take into account the additional evidence LECAR presented, suffice it to state that, on the contrary, attendant circumstances 24 convincingly point out that the said Secretary — in the regular performance of his official duty — duly considered all the evidence that LECAR presented in the course of the appeal to him.

IV. One final point. The case at bar presents issues wholly or basically factual, for the questions herein raised involved findings of fact made by the Director of Mines and subsequently affirmed by the Secretary. Notably section 61 of the Mining Act vests the findings of fact of the Director of Mines with finality and conclusiveness when affirmed by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and limits to questions of law the scope of an aggrieved claimant’s appeal to the courts. Thus, where the questions posed necessarily involve the calibration of the evidence accrues to this Court to assume the role of an inquirer into the findings of fact, except such findings as are plainly induced by a gross misapprehension of the evidence, or are grounded entirely on speculation, surmise or conjecture, or are not supported by substantial proof.

CONCLUSIONS

On the basis of the foregoing discussion, the following conclusions are evident: (1) the Secretary duly considered the evidence LECAR submitted to the Action Committee and later on attached to its motion for reconsideration; and (2) the evidence available to this Court sustains the findings of fact made by the Director of Mines in his questioned decision and affirmed by the Secretary.

Absolutely no useful purpose will therefore be served by giving due course to the petition at bar.

Second CASTRO Memorandum

The Court is asked to reconsider its resolution of November 22, 1972 dismissing — and declining to give due course to — the petition. It is contended that" (t)he petition involves important questions of first impression on void declaration of location and related provisions of the Mining Act as well as vital due process questions . . ."cralaw virtua1aw library

More specifically, it is argued that —

1. The respondent Secretary made no finding whatever —

A. "On the principal bases of petitioner’s protest against respondent Infanta’s lode claims." viz.:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

(1) "that the original declarations of location were null and void and beyond validation by amendment . . . [because] said 50 claims are not contiguous or adjoining each other but fall one on top of the other like a deck of cards" and are mere "table claims;"

(2) that INFANTA’s tie-point (BBM 26 Linao-Ipilan) is a "non-existent and useless monument" — a "movable or floating tie-point;

"(3) "that there were no mineral veins in the area that could make it the proper subject of lode claims;"

B. "On the relative positions of the disputed mining claims."cralaw virtua1aw library

II. [Hence] there being ‘no findings of facts in the mines director’s order that could be said to have been affirmed by the Secretary’s decision on appeal," the respondent Secretary’s affirmance of the dismissal order . . . cannot be deemed to have vested "the mere conclusion — not findings of facts — of the mines director ‘with finality and conclusiveness’ under section 61 of the Mining Act;" and

III. The following "important questions of law raised in the petition" require resolution by the Court, to wit:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"1. In a mines administrative case, involving a conflict of mining claims, brought to him on appeal under Sec. 61 of the Mining Law, may the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources consider facts borne out by duplicates of original and amended declarations of location on file with the Bureau of Mines, copies of which were made available to him in the course of a case appealed to him though admittedly not presented at the formal hearing of the case before the Bureau of Mines?

"2. Where the said Secretary in an appealed case has rendered a decision sustaining the order of the Director of Mines, may the latter act as Officer-in-Charge of the Office of the Undersecretary for Natural Resources to resolve a motion for reconsideration of the said decision?

"3. What is the effect of undated erasures, interpolations and corrections in original declarations of location filed with the mining recorder if they were made not by the declarant-affiant but by the notary public before whom he subscribed and swore to the truth of the affidavit accompanying said declarations of location? Do they render said declarations of location invalid for corrections therein having been made not in the form and manner specifically provided for under Sec. 57 of the Mining Law?

"4. Where it is shown that prior mineral claims were tied to a movable tie point and it is further shown that Corner Post No. 1 of each of said claims has the same bearing and distance to said movable tie point and they are, therefore, one on top of each other like a deck of cards, is there valid location and record of such claims within the meaning of Sec. 47 of the Mining Law?

"5. Is an adverse party deprived of due process of law when ex-parte reports of geologists to the Bureau of Mines, made during the pendency of the case involving a conflict of mining claims, are taken into account in a decision of said case and would it be fair to such a party if non-verbal memorandum-statement of the surveyor of said Bureau, concerning a question not within his expertise, is submitted without cross examination, in the course of an appeal to the respondent Secretary?

"6. May a void declaration of location be made valid by the filing of an amended declaration of location, under the principle of relation back?

"7. Does priority in initiating rights to a mining claim give one a better right, if his location is not a valid one, as against one who subsequently made a valid location?"

DISCUSSION

I


Respecting the first argument that the respondent Secretary made no finding whatever on the principal bases of petitioner’s protest, it is necessary (even if repetitious) to undertake a brief review of the proceedings a quo, with a view to (a) pinpointing the specific issues raised by LECAR, as protestant in Mines Administrative Case V-479, and (b) determining the specific rulings and findings of the Director of Mines on those issues, as well as those of the respondent Secretary on the same issues.

As summarized by the Director of Mines in his dismissal order of September 16, 1970 (Annex D, Petition, page 1), the material allegations of LECAR’s protest were the following —

". . . on December 13, 1968, it filed with the Office of the Mining Recorder of Palawan a total of forty-eight (48) placer claims for nickel and other allied minerals to be found in the Sitio of Ipilan, Barrio of Mambalot, Municipality of Brooke’s Point, Province of Palawan, that the discovery, location and registration thereof took into consideration all the requirements of the law; that it applied for placer claims could not be given due course for it was found by the Survey Division of this Office to be in conflict with some of the lode claims of respondents Silvestre Gochuico, Sakop Mining Association and Benedicto Tablante, that for the purpose of verification and examination of the claims in question protestant undertook the sending to the site of the claims a duly licensed and competent geologist, who reported that the placer claims contain placer deposits, devoid of any veins that could be the subject of lode locations; that the lode claims of the respondent are substantially defective and incomplete . . ."cralaw virtua1aw library

In an effort to substantiate its assertions, LECAR submitted the following evidence in the said Mines Administrative Case V-479:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"1. Testimony of Eugenio Madlangbayan, Chief of Survey Division of the Bureau of Mines regarding the alleged conflicts or overlapping of the mining claims of the petitioner, respondent INFANTA and other respondents (see Annex ‘13’ [Joint Comment of May 10, 1972]). (Rollo, Vol. II, pages 427 et seq.)

"2. Testimony of Canuto Quiogue, agent of Petitioner, regarding his alleged discovery, location and registration of the mining claims of the Petitioner (id.).

"3. Testimony of Engr. Luis B. Montero, geologist, regarding the alleged presence of nickel in placer formation in the mining claims of Petitioner (id.).

"4. a) Corporate papers of the Petitioner (Articles of Incorporation).

b) Declarations of location of the mining claims of Petitioner.

c) Maps and sketches showing the alleged extent of conflict between the mining claims of Petitioner and respondent INFANTA.

d) Affidavit of Celestino G. Hernandez, President of Lecar & Sons, Inc.

e) Power of Attorney issued by Lecar & Sons, Inc. authorizing Canuto G. Quiogue to prospect, locale and register mining claims." (Rollo, Vol. II, page 318).

Upon LECAR’s resting its case, the protestee Joseph Chua (INFANTA’s assignor) moved to dismiss the protest on the following grounds: (1) the area subject of LECAR’s claim is already closed to mining entry and location; (2) lack of valid discovery and location by LECAR; and (3) LECAR failed to disprove the validity of Chua’s claims. Opposing the motion to dismiss, LECAR argued (1) that the evidence clearly and unmistakably proves that it had validly staked its mining claims; and (2) that the validity of the protestee’s claims was open to question (See Order, Annex D, Petition).

Acting on Chua’s motion to dismiss, the Director of Mines issued an order dated September 16, 1970, holding that (1) the claims in question are "locatable as lode claim based on lode deposit in the form of garnierite;" (2) the location made by LECAR was time-barred because LECAR made its location of the placer claims "more than thirty days from the date of discovery contrary to the mandatory requirements of Section 33 of the Mining Act (Commonwealth Act 137, as amended);" and (3) the position of BBM No. 26, Brooke’s Point (the tie point referred to in the declaration of location of Chua), with the stated bearing and distance, is known. The Director of Mines dismissed LECAR’s protest on the ground that it had failed to prove the lode claims of Chua as "substantially defective and incomplete in terms of the requirements of the law." (See first CASTRO Memorandum, page 2; Annex D, Petition). LECAR’s motion for reconsideration of the Order was denied by the Director of Mines. (Petition, page 6).

At this juncture, three indubitable facts are worthy of note.

First: In its "Opposition to Motion to Dismiss" dated August 14, 1971, LECAR expressly admitted that —

"The facts as found by the Director of Mines, which the respondent Secretary impliedly affirmed, are those contained in Annex ‘1’ of the private respondent’s Motion to Dismiss, — which findings of fact the herein petitioner does not now seek to be reversed." (Emphasis supplied).

Such admission, being indisputably judicial in character, is of course binding and conclusive upon LECAR (Sec. 2, Rule 129, Rules of Court; see Evidence by Francisco, 1964 Ed., page 66, citing Cunanan v. Amparo, 45 O. G. 3796). And the findings of fact thus judicially admitted by LECAR, referred to by it as "those contained in Annex ‘1’ of the private respondent’s ‘Motion to Dismiss,’" are the following:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"1. The claims of the respondent were located and registered ahead of those of the protestant;

"2. The lode claims of the respondent conflict with the placer claims of the protestant;

"3. The claims of the respondent have been the subject of a geological investigation and verification conducted by the geologist of the Bureau of Mines from May 26 to June 4, 1970, as well as an evaluation of the quantity and quality of the mineral contents thereof by a Senior Mining Engineer of the Bureau of Mines, who investigated the area from July 7 to 12, 1970.

"4. The geological investigation report submitted reveals that the area contains shipping grade garnierite ores, which could probably be worked out at a profit, and the reserve of garnierite ores is also confirmed by the evaluation report of said mining engineer of the Bureau of Mines, hence the claims in question are locatable as lode claims based on lode deposit in the form of garnierite;

"5. The lode claims of the respondent were plotted by the Survey Division of the Bureau of Mines, hence the position of BBM 26 with the stated bearing and distance is known."cralaw virtua1aw library

Second: In its protest in the said Mines Administrative Case No. V-479, LECAR made no assertion —

"(1) that the original declarations of location were null and void and beyond validation by amendment, since Corner Posts No. 1 of each of the 50 claims has an identical bearing (N. 8x W) and an identical distance (4,340 meters) to the same tie point (BBM 26 Linao-Ipilan) — such that a plotting thereof would readily show that all said 50 claims are not contiguous or adjoining each other but fall one on top of the other, like a deck of cards;

"(2) that the tie-point (BBM 26 Linao-Ipilan) is a ‘non-existent and useless monument’ — a movable or floating tie-point, whose rectangular coordinates were not given as required in the declaration of location, and for which no technical data are available in the Bureau of Lands, such as to qualify under Section 37 of the Mining Act as a ‘location monument . . . established by the Bureau of Lands’;"

"(3) that certain undated erasures, interpolations and corrections in the original declarations of location rendered the same invalid;"

and, understandably, made no effort to introduce evidence on these issues (see transcript, Mines Administrative Case No. V-479, Rollo, Vol. II, pages 427 et seq.; page 292 of this Second Memorandum).

It would however appear that a question was raised by LECAR regarding BBM 26, presumably in its opposition to Chua’s motion to dismiss or other pleading filed after it had closed its evidence; for, in the Order of the Mines Director dated September 16, 1970 (Annex D, Petition), the following holding is set out:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Lastly, protestant, through counsel, assailed the validity of the lode claims of the respondents for lack of tie point, although it recognized the reference point stated in the declarations of location of respondent known as BBM No. 26, Brooke’s Point, Palawan. The lack of tie point is premised on the alleged certification issued by the Director of Lands, dated July 29, 1970, to the effect that according to their records the rectangular coordinates at BBM No. 26, Brooke’s Point, Palawan, is not available. Said certification, however, was not submitted in evidence. The fact that the lode claims of the respondent were plotted by the Survey Division of this Office shows that the position of BBM No. 26 with the stated bearing and distance is known."cralaw virtua1aw library

But again it must be emphasized that this finding of the Mines Director — that "the lode claims of the respondent (Chua) were plotted by the Survey Division of this Office" and hence, "the position of BBM No. 26 is known" — is one of those expressly admitted by LECAR (see pages 294, 295 of this Second Memorandum).

Third: Respecting the matter of whether or not there were mineral veins in the area that could make it the proper subject of lode claims, the finding of the Director of Mines is that —

". . . the records of this Office show that the claims of respondents have been the subject of a geological investigation and verification conducted by geologists of this Office from May 26 to June 4, 1970, as well as an evaluation of the quantity and quality of the mineral contents thereof by a Senior Mining Engineer of this Office, who investigated the area from July 7 to 12, 1970. The geological investigation report submitted reveals that the area in question contains shipping grade garnierite ores, which could be probably worked out at a profit. The reserve garnierite ores is also confirmed by the evaluation report. It can, therefore, be said that the claims in question are locatable as lode claims based on lode deposit in the form of garnierite." (Annex D, Petition.)

This is still another finding that LECAR expressly admits and "does not now seek to be reversed" (see pages 294, 295 of this Second Memorandum).

Be this as it may, the central question before the Director of Mines at that time, as expressed by him in his order and as arising from the pleadings and the state of the evidence, was whether LECAR’s evidence sufficiently established facts demonstrating the alleged invalidity of the questioned mining claims. Upon this issue, the Director held that —

"By and large, the protestant has failed to substantiate its material allegation that the lode claims of the respondent are substantially defective and incomplete in terms of the requirements of the law. This being the case, this Office believes that the motion to dismiss presented by counsel for respondent Chua is in order." (Annex D, Petition).

LECAR appealed from the order of the Director of Mines dated September 16, 1970, to the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, alleging that it had proved the validity of its placer claims, and that procedural due process required that Chua, in turn, should present evidence on the validity of his lode claim. (see first CASTRO Memorandum, page 258; Secretary’s Comments on the Petition for Review of Lecar & Sons, Inc. of September 2, 1971, page 1).

The Secretary then rendered decision on May 13, 1971, dismissing the appeal and affirming the order appealed from. In his decision, the Secretary posed the issue "whether or not the Director of Mines is justified in dismissing the protest of appellant without even requiring appellee to present his side of the case." The Secretary ruled that (1) a mining claim given due course by the Director of Mines does not become defective because a subsequent claimant questions the validity of the said claim; (2) a claimant who questions the claim of another should not only allege defects or irregularities of the claim but also present convincing evidence indicating the invalidity of the claim; and (3) where a subsequent claimant fails to establish the invalidity of the prior claim questioned, the prior claimant is not called upon to prove the validity of his claim. (see first CASTRO Memorandum, pages 258, 259; Annex A, Petition, page 2).

It bears stressing that in dismissing LECAR’s appeal, the Secretary in no uncertain terms upheld and affirmed the order of the Mines Director under review, thus:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"The Director of Mines is, therefore, justified in holding in his order appealed from that there is no need for the respondent, the appellee herein, to prove the validity of his claim because it was not established in the evidence by appellant (LECAR) that the prior lode claims of appellee (INFANTA) are not valid claims" (Annex A, Petition, page 2).

It is thus clear that the finding upon which the decision of the respondent Secretary was based, is the same basic finding made by the Director of Mines, that is, that LECAR’s evidence had failed to establish the alleged invalidity of the questioned lode claims of INFANTA. Otherwise stated, the respondent Secretary affirmed the principal finding of fact made by the Mines Director, that LECAR’s evidence was not sufficient to prove the invalidity of INFANTA’s claims.

Prior to the rendition by the respondent Secretary of the decision of May 13, 1971 — but after the parties had filed their appeal memoranda — the Secretary requested the said parties to appear before his Action Committee on April 13, 1971 to clarify the issues raised in LECAR’s appeal. Instead, however, of merely presenting clarifying or amplifying arguments, LECAR for the first time ventilated the theory that (1) the INFANTA claims were so defectively plotted that they fall one on top of the other like a deck of cards (Annex F, Petition, page 7), and that (2) the interpolations made on the original declarations of location filed by INFANTA’s predecessor rendered the declaration’s void (id., pages 4-5), and sought to introduce, also for the first time, certain evidence relevant to a distinct protest filed by a different party not involved in the proceedings appealed from. It was and is the contention of the respondents that the appeal of LECAR had to be decided solely on the basis of the issues and the evidence presented and/or taken into account by the Director of Mines in the proceedings appealed from, i.e., Mines Administrative Case No. V-479. (See Annex 1, Joint Comment of May 10, 1972, Rollo, Vol. II, page 318).

Upon the matter of this extraneous evidence, the Secretary had this to say:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"In passing, it may be stated that on April 13, 1971, both parties appeared before the Action Committee of this Office to clarify the issues raised in the appeal. Both parties were asked to submit a summary of their arguments but appellant LECAR, in addition to its evidence and arguments presented by counsel for another claimant, not a party to the instant case, but who begged leave of the Action Committee to be heard although admittedly his presence and appearance were irregular. Since LECAR had already closed its case in the Bureau of Mines and had submitted its own evidence, this Office must have to decide the instant case on the basis of LECAR’s evidence regularly presented in the formal hearing and not on the basis of evidence which are to be presented by a third party in another case still pending in the Bureau of Mines." (Emphasis supplied).

A digression may perhaps be relevant at this point, simply to observe that the refusal of the respondent Secretary to consider, in an appeal from a case decided by the Director of Mines, evidence not regularly presented before the latter official, can hardly be described as a denial of due process.

This notwithstanding, LECAR, while admitting some irregularity in the submission of the new evidence to the respondent Secretary’s Action Committee, insisted on resubmitting, and did in fact re-submit the same, by appending the said evidence to the Motion for Reconsideration it filed on May 27, 1971 (Annex F, Petition) — apparently on the thesis that once the evidence was before the Secretary, no matter how it got to him, the latter, like it or not, would be duty bound to take it into consideration. In this connection LECAR asserted that:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"While it is true that counsel for another claimant was heard in argument regarding the non-existence and invalidity of the claims of Joseph L. G. Chua (formerly Benedicto F. Tablante) in the hearing conducted by the Action Committee, it is true also that the argument was based on facts borne out by the ‘certain evidence’ which are documentary and which have been made available to the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources. It is, therefore, not entirely correct to say, as the decision in question erroneously states, that said ‘certain evidence’ are yet to be presented in another case before the Bureau of Mines. However, to obviate quibbling on the matter, the said ‘certain evidence’ are hereby formally presented, attached hereto and made integral parts as Annexes ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘B-1’ to ‘B-12’, ‘C’, ‘D’, and ‘E’, to wit:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Annex ‘A’ — Certified Xerox copy of the Declaration of Location for the Apitong Mining Claim, which is the ‘mother’ claim of Benedicto F. Tablante, predecessor-in-interest of appellee Joseph L. G. Chua;

Annexes ‘B’ ‘B-1’, to ‘B-12’ — Certified Xerox copies of some of the alleged other mining claims of the same Benedicto F. Tablante (now Chua), supposedly contiguous or adjacent to the aforementioned Apitong ‘mother’ claim;

Annex ‘C’ — Xerox copy of a Certification of the Survey Division, Bureau of Lands, dated July 23, 1970, attesting to the fact that ‘the rectangular coordinates of BBM 26 Linao-Ipilan are not available;’

Annex ‘D’ — Xerox copy of a certification of the Municipal Government of Brooke’s Point, Palawan, dated January 11, 1971, attesting to the fact that Linao is a sitio in the regularly constituted barrio of Ipilan, Brooke’s Point, Palawan; and

Annex ‘E’ — Blue-print sketch of the supposed mining claims of Benedicto F. Tablante, predecessor-in-interest of Joseph L. G. Chua, showing that the asserted mining claims are one on top of each other." (Lecar’s Motion for Reconsideration, dated May 27, 1971, Annex F, Petition, pages 3-4).

LECAR was here laboring under two wrong assumptions.

First: LECAR assumed that there was a duty on the part of the respondent Secretary to admit, on appeal, evidence not regularly and formally presented in the proceeding under review. This is error, as it flies in the teeth of basic appellate practice and procedure.

Second: LECAR assumed that the respondent Secretary did not in fact consider the new evidence submitted to the latter’s Action Committee. All circumstances on record considered, it is indubitable that the respondent Secretary did so though under no obligation to do so. As already pointed out in my first Memorandum (at pages 272, 276), while it would seem from a reading of his decision that the respondent Secretary ignored the evidence that LECAR presented to the Action Committee, several circumstances bear out the contrary, which is that the Secretary duly considered the evidence adduced by LECAR in the course of the appeal. These are —

First, the ‘Precis’ fully informed the Secretary of the disputed points in the conflict between LECAR and INFANTA’s predecessors. These points specifically refer to the existence of the tie point (BBM 26 Linao-Ipilan) and the position of the questioned mining claims (whether or not they adjoin one another or fall on top of each other). In addition, the decision of the Director of Mines dated September 16, 1970 also apprised him of the question regarding the tie point.

"It is safe to assume that the Secretary, dictated by common sense in his search for answers to these questions, looked into the materials available to him, to wit, the records of the case elevated to the Secretary’s office upon appeal by LECAR, which records the Director of Mines considered in resolving the conflicting claims, and the additional evidence adduced by LECAR. The records of the Bureau of Mines included:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

1. Original and amended declarations of location of the mining claims of INFANTA;

2. Geological Investigation and Verification Report conducted by geologists of the Bureau of Mines from May 26 to June 4, 1970 stating that the area in question contains garnierite ores;

3. Evaluation Report conducted by a Senior Mining Engineer of the Bureau of Mines regarding the quantity and quality of the mineral contents found in the disputed area;

4. Plotting of the claims of INFANTA by the Survey Division of the Bureau of Mines; and

5. Cadastral Map of Palawan (Brooke’s Point Public Land Subdivision, Pls-96, Case-2). (Rollo, Vol. II, page 318).

"Second, both the Redula and Madlangbayan Memoranda clarify the matter of whether the mining claims of INFANTA’s predecessors adjoin one another or fall on top of each other. Noticeably, the decision of the Director of Mines dated September 16, 1970 neither makes mention of nor expresses any finding on the relative positions of the disputed mining claims. It is quite likely that the Secretary, upon consideration of LECAR’s additional evidence, came across this point. The records of the Bureau of Mines elevated to his office offer two documents — the geologic map of Tablante’s nickel claims (Rollo, Vol. II, page 693) and the mineral claim map of INFANTA (Rollo, Vol. II, page 719) — both of which show the mining claims of INFANTA as contiguous to and adjoining one another. Nevertheless, presumably considering this insufficient to negate the side of the picture presented by LECAR’s evidence, the Secretary caused an inquiry into the matter to be made. This explains why the introductory paragraph of the Redula Memorandum reads as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

‘With reference to the instruction to check from the Bureau of Mines whether the mining claims of Joseph Chua involved in DANR Case No. 3610 actually fall one on top of the other over the area of the mother claim as contended by Lecar & Sons, Inc., the following findings are hereby submitted . . .’

"Finally, the Resum (Rollo, Vol. III, Reply to the Joint Comment, Annex ‘A’) in no wise supports LECAR’s argument that the ‘Secretary dismissed LECAR’s appeal merely upon a consideration of the procedural matter involved in DANR Case No. 3610, without considering the truth of the facts regarding INFANTA’s mining claims.’ Strictly construing the Resum as a mere recapitulation of the reasons why the Secretary dismissed LECAR’s appeal, it would appear that the Acting Department Legal Counsel prepared the said Resum only after a reading of the said decision itself, unaware of what the said Secretary did or, did not take into consideration in resolving LECAR’s appeal. On its face, the decision of the Secretary, with the exception of the passing reference to the ‘certain’ evidence presented by LECAR in the proceedings before the Action Committee, makes no express mention of the particular points touched upon by the said additional evidence of LECAR. For this reason, the Resum likewise excludes any summed-up information on the specific points raised in LECAR’s additional evidence."cralaw virtua1aw library

From the foregoing premises, the following conclusions necessarily result:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

First: The principal bases of LECAR’s protest in Mines Administrative Case No. V-479 did not include the following issues:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

(1) Whether INFANTA’s claims are contiguous or adjoining each other, or fall one on top of the other like a deck of cards, being mere "table claims" (See discussion at pages 290, 291 of this Second Memorandum);

(2) Whether INFANTA’s tie-point (BBM 26, Linao-Ipilan) is a "non-existent and useless monument" — a movable or floating tie point;

(3) Whether certain standard erasures, interdeclarations of location of INFANTA rendered the same invalid (see page 291 of this Second Memorandum).

Second: LECAR presented no evidence on these three (3) issues before the Bureau of Mines precisely because the said issues were not raised by it (see discussion at pages 290, 295 of this Second Memorandum), although it would seem that after it had closed its evidence, LECAR had, in its opposition to the protestee’s demurrer to evidence, touched on the non-existence of BBM 26 — a circumstance which led to a finding by the Director of Mines in his Order of September 16, 1970, that "the position of BBM 26 with the stated bearing and distance is known" (see page 296 of this Second Memorandum).

Third: The Director of Mines did make findings of fact in his Order of September 16, 1970; said findings are summarized in Annex "1" of INFANTA’s Motion to Dismiss dated August 4, 1971, and include the findings that "the claims in question are locatable as lode claims based on lode deposit in the form of garnierite" (see discussion at pages 293, 295 of this Second Memorandum); and "the position of BBM No. 26 with the stated bearing and distance is known" (id.).

Fourth: The said findings of fact of the Mines Director are nor expressly admitted by LEGAR as having been impliedly affirmed by the respondent Secretary, and "are those contained in Annex ‘1’ of the private respondent’s Motion to Dismiss — which findings of fact the . . . petitioner does not now seek to be reversed" (Opposition to the Motion Dismiss dated August 14, 1971, page 2; see discussion at page 294 of this Second Memorandum).

Fifth: The two new earlier adverted to viz., (1) the "deck-of-cards" theory and (2) the alleged legally lethal interpolations erasures in the original declarations of location, arose only from the efforts of LEGAR to present evidence on the said issues for the first time during the appellate proceedings before the Secretary of Agriculture (see discussion at pages 12-13 of this Second Memorandum).

Sixth: Although the Secretary did not feel it his duty to take account of evidence presented for the first time on appeal by LECAR, and so ruled in his Decision of May 13, 1971, the record shows that the Secretary did consider such ex parte evidence of LECAR (see discussion at pages 303, 306 of this Second Memorandum).

Aside from the foregoing, and anent the contention that neither the Director of Mines nor the respondent Secretary made any finding on the relative positions of the disputed mining claims, a careful re-reading of the decision of the Mines Director would reveal that he did make such a finding, which is that "the lode claims of the respondent (INFANTA) conflict with the placer claims of protestant (LECAR) as shown in the plotting of the relative positions thereof (Exh.’H’ [of Lecar]) subject of the testimony of the Chief Surveyor of this Office." (Annex D, Petition, page 2; Annex 1, Motion to Dismiss).

It is thus grossly inaccurate to say that the respondent Secretary made no finding on one of the principal bases of petitioner’s protest against INFANTA’s lode claims; i. e., that the latter’s claims "are not contiguous or adjoining each other but fall one on top of the other like a deck of cards," because, as above pointed out, LECAR did not raise this issue before the Mines Director and the latter consequently could make no finding with respect thereto as would be reviewable by respondent Secretary on appeal. This is, of course, not to say that the theory is tenable; indeed, as shall hereafter be mentioned (infra, pp. 313, 315, 319 of this Second Memorandum), it is quite unacceptable. Neither is it accurate to state that no finding whatever was made on (1) the existence of BBM 26 and its utility as a tie point under the Mining Law, (2) the character of INFANTA’s claims as lode claims, and (3) the matter of the relative position of the disputed mining claims (see pages 287, 288 of this Second Memorandum), because findings of fact on these points were in fact made by the Director of Mines and affirmed by the respondent Secretary (see pages 292, 296, and 291, 299 of this Second Memorandum).

Hence, it follows that reconsideration of the Court’s resolution of November 22, 1972 cannot be had upon the first grounds asserted: alleged lack of findings on the supposed principal bases of petitioner’s protest (see pages 1-2 of this Second Memorandum).

II


On the basis of the foregoing considerations, and it appearing that there were findings of fact made by the Director of Mines which were affirmed by the respondent Secretary — which findings are expressly admitted by LECAR which states in no uncertain terms that it does not seek to have the same reversed — said findings of fact are vested with finality and conclusiveness under section 61 of the Mining Act, and are no longer open to review by this Court. This being so, the suggestion that the case be "referred to the Court of Appeals for said court to make the necessary findings of fact" is not warranted.

III


It is also argued that the questions of law raised in the petition are of such importance as to merit giving due course to the petition and the handing down of an authoritative decision thereon rather than an outright denial thereof.

Before discussing the questions of law cited, it may be remarked that because the parties have submitted numerous and extensive comments and memoranda to this Court, attaching thereto relevant portions of the records of the proceedings had before the Director of Mines and the respondent Secretary and, therefore, it can safely be said that practically the entire record of the case is now before this Court, the act of giving due course to the appeal at this time and requiring the parties to file briefs and memoranda on the issues involved in the appeal, would be a meaningless ritual; for it is quite inconceivable that the parties could yet adduce any new substantial argument not heretofore presented, or advert to any new evidence not already before this Court.

It is nevertheless urged that the petition be given due course and an authoritative decision handed down on the questions of law enumerated. Anent this, it is logical and pertinent to ask: Are the legal questions — as now formulated — really of sufficient importance? This, on the assumption that they do not depend for resolution upon questions of fact.

A. The first question raised is:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"In a mines administrative case, involving a conflict of mining claims, brought to him on appeal under Sec. 61 of the Mining Law, may the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources consider facts borne out by duplicates of original and amended declarations of location on file with the Bureau of Mines, copies of which were made available to him in the course of a case appealed to him though admittedly not presented at the formal hearing of the case before the Bureau of Mines?"

There is no need to make a ruling on this matter. As stated earlier in this second Memorandum, the circumstances on record give rise to the conclusion that the respondent Secretary in fact did consider and did evaluate the evidence brought to his attention by LECAR in the course of the latter’s appeal, despite the fact that, in his view, he was not required to do so under any provision of the Mining Law or any accepted rule governing appellate practice and procedure (see pages 303, 306 of this Second Memorandum).

B. The second question is:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Where the said Secretary in an appealed case has rendered a decision sustaining the order of the Director of Mines may the latter act as Officer-in-Charge of the Office of the Undersecretary for Natural Resources to resolve a motion for reconsideration of the said decision?"

This is sufficiently answered by the respondent Secretary himself in his "Comments on the Petition for Review of Lecar & Sons, Inc." dated September 2, 1971, in which he makes the pertinent statements hereunder quoted:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

". . . We would like to point out that the decision in the appeal of petitioner from the order of the Director of Mines to the Office of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, dated May 13, 1971, was signed by the Secretary himself, and not by Director Busuego in the latter’s capacity as Officer-in-Charge of the Office of the Undersecretary for Natural Resources. It is the resolution of the petitioner’s motion for reconsideration of the said decision that was signed by Director Busuego, as such Officer-in-Charge.

"Under General Memorandum Order of this Office, dated April 26, 1971, copy of which is attached hereto as Annex ‘A’, made ‘pursuant to Section 71 (b) of the Revised Administrative Code and Executive Orders Nos. 218 and 284, and other pertinent laws, and in order to promote the decentralization policy to achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness in the conduct of official business in the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources,’ the authority to deny motions for reconsiderations is delegated to the Undersecretary for Agriculture or the Undersecretary for Natural Resources, as the case may be.

"Furthermore, we would like to stress that the examination of the records of the case, the evidence and the law, have been gone over not by the staff of the Director of Mines, but of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources; in which case, the possibility that the findings of the Director of Mines would necessarily be identical to the findings of the Office of the Undersecretary is improbable. The identity could result only by the identity of the evidence and the law, but not on the identity of personalities." (Emphasis supplied)

Quite apart from the presumption that official duty has been regularly performed, and that a person acting in a public office has been regularly appointed to it (Rule 131, Section 5), it appears that the delegation by the respondent Secretary to the Undersecretary for Agriculture or the Undersecretary for Natural Resources, as the case may be, of the authority among others to deny motions for reconsideration (under the former’s general memorandum order dated April 26, 1971) was made pursuant to the Revised Administrative Code and pertinent related executive orders, and that the Mines Director had been duly designated as Officer-in-Charge of the office of the Undersecretary for Natural Resources. The questioned act is therefore not only clothed with the presumption of regularity but is also authorized by law.

C. The third question of law, namely,

"What is the effect of undated erasures, interpolations and corrections in original declarations of location filed with the mining recorder if they were made not by the declarant-affiant but by the notary public before whom he subscribed and swore to the truth of the affidavit accompanying said declarations of location? Do they render said declarations of location invalid for corrections therein having been made not in the form and manner specifically provided for under Sec. 57 of the Mining Law?,"

the fourth,

"Where it is shown that prior mineral claims were tied to a movable tie point and it is further shown that Corner Post No. 1 of each of said claims has the same bearing and distance to said movable tie point and they are, therefore, one on top of each other like a deck of cards, is there valid location and record of such claims within the meaning of Section 47 of the Mining Law?,"

as well as the fifth,

"Is an adverse party deprived of due process of law when ex-parte reports of geologists to the Bureau of Mines, made during the pendency of the case involving a conflict of mining claims, are taken into account in a decision of said case and would it be fair to such a party if non-verbal memorandum-statement of the surveyor of said Bureau, concerning a question not within his expertise, is submitted without cross-examination, in the course of an appeal to the respondent Secretary?,"

have been already discussed, quite extensively, in my first Memorandum; the third question, at pages 275, 279 of the said Memorandum; the fourth question at pages 279, 283; and the fifth, at pages 284, 286, and this Court came to the reasoned conclusion that the said issues should be resolved adversely to LECAR. Since this Court has been cited to no specific error respecting my discussion (in my first Memorandum) on these questions, no purpose would be served by dealing with the matters anew and at length.

It must however be mentioned that the fourth question is predicated upon an erroneous proposition of fact: that the questioned mineral claims "are tied to a movable tie point and . . . Corner Post No. 1 of each of said claims has the same bearing and distance to said movable tie point." Since this proposition of fact has not been established, but, on the contrary, the facts on record show that the claims in question were and are properly and legally tied to an existing and permanent, monument or landmark (see my first Memorandum, pages 282, 283), the legal issue is irrelevant.

As to the fifth question — described as a "vital due process question" — relating inter alia to reports of geologists of the Bureau of Mines (Rollo, Vol. II, page 688) which, it is claimed, were considered ex-parte, and therefore unfairly, by the Mines Director in arriving at his decision to dismiss LECAR’s protest, it is noteworthy that: (1) the geological investigation was conducted "pursuant to Mines Administrative Order No. V-28, series of 1968;" (2) common sense dictates that such investigation be made as part of routine procedure not only to verify the correctness of statements in an application for mining lease, but also to determine, in the first place, whether or not the area is locatable as a mining claim at all; (3) the report of such investigation forms part of the record of the claim on file with the Bureau of Mines, open and available to all interested parties, and may properly be said to be a matter of judicial notice (Jones, Commentaries on Evidence, Vol. I, see 124; de Jesus v. Daza, 43 O.G. 2055 [1947]); (4) obviously, such report is directly relevant to any controversy involving the nature of the claim as lode or placer (an issue expressly raised by LECAR in its protest); and (5) it would probably, not to say necessarily, be resorted to and taken into account as a factor in the resolution of such a controversy. Considering these self-evident propositions; considering that there is adherence to and compliance with administrative due process where "a finding or decision . . . (is) supported by substantial evidence presented at the hearing, or at least contained in the records or disclosed to the parties affected" (Air Manila v. Balatbat, L-29064, April 29, 1971, 38 SCRA 489; Asprec v. Itchon, 16 SCRA 921; Garcia v. Executive Secretary, 6 SCRA 1; Ang Tibay v. CIR, 69 Phil. 635); and considering that the Order of the Mines Director dismissing LECAR’s protest was precisely rendered on the basis of evidence presented at the hearing or "at least contained in the records," the fifth question must be resolved adversely to LECAR. In fact, it would appear that LECAR itself sought to introduce evidence ex-parte, when it appended certain documents to its Motion for Reconsideration of the Decision of the respondent Secretary, and insisted that the same be considered by the latter (thus giving occasion for resort by the Secretary to the Redula and Madlangbayan memoranda: see pp. 17-18 of this Second Memorandum). It might further be observed that whatever might have been the basis of the findings of fact of the Mines Director, aid those of the respondent Secretary — as these are set forth in their respective decisions and more specifically enumerated in Annex 1 of INFANTA’s motion to dismiss dated August 4, 1971 — it is quite fruitless to inquire into them now, in the face of LECAR’s explicit admission of those findings of fact which it states it "does not now seek to be reversed" (see pages 294, 295 of this Second Memorandum).

Finally" as already stated in my first Memorandum,

"The present state of the case at bar before this Court renders LECAR’s position no longer tenable, if tenable it ever was. Assuming that in the proceedings before the Director of Mines circumstances offered LECAR no occasion to comment on the reports or to controvert the findings in the said reports, this Court has given LECAR all the opportunity to do so. Indeed, the record shows that LECAR, in one of its pleadings submitted to this Court (Petitioner’s Reply to the Comment of Respondent Secretary, Rollo, Vol. 1, pages 209-210), discussed these reports. As to whether the Secretary disregarded or failed to take into account the additional evidence LECAR presented, suffice it to state that, on the contrary, attendant circumstances convincingly point out that the said Secretary — in the regular performance of his official duty — duly considered all the evidence that LECAR presented in the course of the appeal to him." (see my first Memorandum, pp. 285, 286).

D. The sixth cited question of law, i.e.:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"May a void declaration of location be made valid by the filing of an amended declaration of location, under the principle of relation back?,"

and seventh, i.e.,

"Does priority in initiating rights to a mining claim give one a better right, if his location is not a valid one, as against one who subsequently made a valid occasion?"

are questions to which — as they are framed — only a negative answer may logically be given. The fallacy that inheres in these questions, however, is that they are founded upon the theory that in the case at bar the admittedly prior claims of the respondent INFANTA are void, a theory that has not only not found acceptance but has actually been disproved and rejected by the Director of Mines, the respondent Secretary, and as well by this Court. Again, this Court has been cited to no new fact, to no new argument as would warrant a change in its position.

IV


It also bears emphasizing that although this Court was of the view that

". . . (t)he case at bar presents issues wholly or basically factual, for the questions herein raised involve findings of fact made by the Director of Mines and subsequently affirmed by the Secretary. Notably, Section 61 of the Mining Act vests the findings of fact of the Director of Mines with finality and conclusiveness when affirmed by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and limits to questions of law the scope of an aggrieved claimant’s appeal to the courts. Thus, where the questions posed necessarily involve the calibration of the evidence, no obligation accrues to this Court to assume the role of an inquirer into the findings of fact, except such findings as are plainly induced by a gross misapprehension of the evidence, or are grounded entirely on speculation, surmise or conjecture, or are not supported by substantial proof." (see my first Memorandum, pages 312, 315),

nevertheless, despite LECAR’s judicial admission of the findings of fact of the Mines Director and the respondent Secretary, in fairness to the petitioner and the parties concerned, and to satisfy itself, this Court went to some lengths to inquire into the evidence and the relevant records of the proceedings involved — particularly as regards the interpolations in the original declarations of location, LECAR’s "deck of cards" theory, and its contention that the INFANTA claims were tied to a movable, floating or non-existent object (see my first Memorandum, pages 23-24) — after which this Court came to the conclusion that the "deck of cards theory" is untenable and "the evidence available . . . sustains the findings of fact made by the Director of Mines in the questioned decision and affirmed by the Secretary." No new fact, no new argument has been presented since to justify any change in this Court’s original resolution.

V


One final point: Presidential Decree 99-A, effective January 15, 1973, would appear to foreclose further debate.

Section 1 of the said decree provides that

"Whenever there is any conflict between claim owners over any mining claim, whether mineral or non-mineral, the locator of the claim who first registered his claim with the proper mining registrar, notwithstanding any defect in form or technicality, shall have the exclusive right to possess, exploit, explore, develop and operate such mining claim." (Emphasis supplied)

Considering the incontrovertible fact that INFANTA’s predecessor-in-interest first registered the claims in question with the proper mining registrar; considering the absence of any evidence adduced by the petitioner to establish that the declarations of location and the registration of the claims were null and void; and even assuming that the registration of the claims was attended by a defect in form or technicality, no other conclusion is possible in the light of Presidential Decree 99-A save that INFANTA should "have the exclusive right to possess, exploit, explore, develop and operate such mining claim(s)."cralaw virtua1aw library

C O N C L U S I O N

On the basis of the foregoing discussion, absolutely no useful purpose will be served by giving due course to the petition at bar.

LECAR’s motion for reconsideration should therefore be denied, and the denial should forthwith be declared final, considering that the mere matter of whether or not to give due course to the petition at bar has, for the unprecedentedly, unusually, and remarkably from two period of two years (come July 30, 1973), been pending final resolution by this Court.

Endnotes:



1. Annexes A and B, petition.

2. Annex A, petition, at pp. 1-2; Emphasis supplied.

3. Petitioner’s supplemental manifestation of July 7, 1972 with annexes.

4. Mines director’s order, Annex D, petition, p. 3; Emphasis supplied.

5. Idem, Emphasis supplied.

6. Redulla memorandum, submitted with respondent’s opposition dated June 8, 1971, cited in Court’s memo on petition, at page 22.

7. At pp. 272, 273; citing from Annex A, petition, p. 3; emphasis added.

8. At page 272; Emphasis supplied.

9. At page 273, Emphasis supplied.

10. At page 287.

11. Idem.

12. At page 243, notes and emphasis added.

13. Petition, at pages 14-15; emphasis added.

14. Emphasis copied. Memorandum was submitted on July 30, 1973.

15. Sixty-seven pages comprising the two memoranda of Justice Castro plus my own above reasoned vote (of nine (9) single-space pages excluding this addendum.

16. Justice Castro’s second memorandum, p. 311, Emphasis supplied.

17. Idem. p. 16, Emphasis supplied.

18. See writer’s foregoing vote, at page 5.

19. Annexes A to E of Lecar’s motion dated May 27, 1971 for reconsideration of respondent secretary’s decision, Annex F of petition, pp. 3-4.

20. Justice Castro’s second memorandum, p. 313.

21. The parties describe the tie point by the use of different designations like BBM 26, Pls-96, Brooke’s Point or BBM 26, Pls-96, Case-8, Brooke’s Point, Palawan. However, they all refer to the same tie point - BBM 26 Linao-Ipilan.

22. The Bureau of Mines certified as true and correct the data appearing on the sketch plan.

23. This Manual is reproduced in its entirety in the 61 Off. Gaz. 5949-5958 (Sept. 20, 1965).

24. See previous discussion, pages 272, 276.




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September-1973 Jurisprudence                 

  • G.R. No. L-28901 September 4, 1973 - IN RE: EMITERIO MINLAY v. ALFONSO SANDOVAL, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. L-35913 September 4, 1973 - CRESENCIO MONTICINES, ET AL. v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. L-35027 September 10, 1973 - CESAR VIRATA, ET AL. v. BENJAMIN H. AQUINO, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. L-24278 September 14, 1973 - ELMER ELADJOE v. DAVIS LEAÑO

  • G.R. No. L-28327 September 14, 1973 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. AYAMAN ABBOC, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. L-31762 September 19, 1973 - JULIA ASIS AMARGO v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. L-32362 September 19, 1973 - INECETA ALFANTA v. NOLASCO NOE, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. L-35701 September 19, 1973 - ARTURO H. TROCIO v. JORGE LABAYO, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. L-36854 September 19, 1973 - MANUEL B. MINTU v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. L-33818 September 26, 1973 - LECAR & SONS, INC. v. ARTURO R. TANCO, JR., ETC., ET AL.

  • A.M. No. P-108 September 26, 1973 - ANTONIO S. GONZALES, ET AL. v. IGNACIO D. ALMODOVAR, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. L-33267-A September 27, 1973 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. ERNESTO DUQUE, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. L-29226 September 28, 1973 - GIMENO V. VALLANGCA, ET AL. v. CRISPIN G. ARIOLA, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. L-30115 September 28, 1973 - FE PEREZ v. JOSEFINA GUTIERREZ

  • G.R. No. L-30244 September 28, 1973 - BASILIO T. ROQUE, ET AL. v. VICENTE G. ERICTA, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. L-31569 September 28, 1973 - INES LORBES PADILLA, ET AL. v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. L-33672 September 28, 1973 - VICENTE MUÑOZ v. PEOPLE OF THE PHIL.

  • G.R. No. L-34760 September 28, 1973 - SERAFIN MEDINA, ET AL. v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. L-36629 September 28, 1973 - B. E. BERKENKOTTER v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. L-36893 September 28, 1973 - BENJAMIN FARIN v. OSCAR R. GONZALES, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. L-28901 September 4, 1973 - IN RE: EMITERIO MINLAY v. ALFONSO SANDOVAL, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. L-35913 September 4, 1973 - CRESENCIO MONTICINES, ET AL. v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. L-35027 September 10, 1973 - CESAR VIRATA, ET AL. v. BENJAMIN H. AQUINO, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. L-24278 September 14, 1973 - ELMER ELADJOE v. DAVIS LEAÑO

  • G.R. No. L-28327 September 14, 1973 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. AYAMAN ABBOC, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. L-31762 September 19, 1973 - JULIA ASIS AMARGO v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. L-32362 September 19, 1973 - INECETA ALFANTA v. NOLASCO NOE, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. L-35701 September 19, 1973 - ARTURO H. TROCIO v. JORGE LABAYO, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. L-36854 September 19, 1973 - MANUEL B. MINTU v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. L-33818 September 26, 1973 - LECAR & SONS, INC. v. ARTURO R. TANCO, JR., ETC., ET AL.

  • A.M. No. P-108 September 26, 1973 - ANTONIO S. GONZALES, ET AL. v. IGNACIO D. ALMODOVAR, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. L-33267-A September 27, 1973 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. ERNESTO DUQUE, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. L-29226 September 28, 1973 - GIMENO V. VALLANGCA, ET AL. v. CRISPIN G. ARIOLA, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. L-30115 September 28, 1973 - FE PEREZ v. JOSEFINA GUTIERREZ

  • G.R. No. L-30244 September 28, 1973 - BASILIO T. ROQUE, ET AL. v. VICENTE G. ERICTA, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. L-31569 September 28, 1973 - INES LORBES PADILLA, ET AL. v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. L-33672 September 28, 1973 - VICENTE MUÑOZ v. PEOPLE OF THE PHIL.

  • G.R. No. L-34760 September 28, 1973 - SERAFIN MEDINA, ET AL. v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. L-36629 September 28, 1973 - B. E. BERKENKOTTER v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. L-36893 September 28, 1973 - BENJAMIN FARIN v. OSCAR R. GONZALES, ET AL.