EN BANC G.R. No. 224469 - DIOSDADO SAMA y HINUPAS and BAND MASANGLAY y ACEVEDA, petitioners, versus PEOPLE OF T PHILIPPINES, respondent. Promulgated: January 5, 2021 j' x------------------------------------------------------------------------------- f ·-----x SEPARATE OPINION CAGUIOA, J.: The factual backdrop of the case is simple and quite straightforward: petitioners, who are members of the Iraya-Mangyan indigenous community and residing within their ancestral domain in the hinterlands of Baco, Oriental Mindoro, within the contemplation of the Republic Act No. (R.A.) 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act (IPRA), felled one dita 1 tree for the construction of a communal toilet, without having first secured a permit from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) pursuant to Section. 77 2 of the Forestry Reform Code of the Philippines (Presidential Decree No. [P.D.] 705), as amended. The factual context of the case covers a breadth of interwoven legal issues that bear upon the foremost question of whether or not herein petitioners may be rightly convicted. If peered from a constitutional law angle, the view is fraught with reluctance and equal but contrary propositions exist, in part due to the fact that our laws have evolved with inexactness, and have become open to a plurality of persuasions. The lens of constitutional determination may invite that the case be seen from a "State v. Indigenous Peoples" point of view, on the one hand, or a "healthful ecology" framing, on the other. To my mind, neither viewpoint invalidates the other, for the socio-historically complex relation between indigenous peoples' rights and environmental laws are so inextricably linked that any imprecise step in one direction or another may cost highly for both separate but joined causes. Scientific name: Alstonia scholaris. Also known as devil's tree (English), rite (Indonesian), pulai (Malay), among others. See: <http://apps.worldagroforestry.org/treedb/AFTPDFS/ Alstonia_scholaris .PDF> SECTION 77. Cutting, Gathering and/or Collecting Timber, or Other Forest Products Without License. - Any person who shall cut, gather, collect, remove timber or other forest products from any forest land, or timber from alienable or disposable public land, or from private land, without any authority, or possess timber or other forest products without the legal documents as required under existing forest laws and regulations, shall be punished with the penalties imposed under Articles 309 and 310 of the Revised Penal Code: Provided, That in the case of partnerships, associations, or corporations, the officers who ordered the cutting, gathering, collection or possession shall be liable, and if such officers are aliens, they shall, in addition to the penalty, be deported without further proceedings on the part of the Commission on Immigration and Deportation. The court shall further order the confiscation in favor of the government of the timber or any forest products cut, gathered, collected, removed, or possessed as well as the machinery, equipment, implements and tools illegally used in the area where the timber or forest products are found. ~ '