• Dissenting Opinion 2 G.R. No. 224469 requires prior authority for any of the acts of cuttjng, gathering, collecting, removing timber or other forest products even from those lands possessed by IPs falling within the ambit of the statute's definition of private lands." This is precisely what Section 77 of PD No. 705 seeks to penalize - the cutting of tree sans authority. Nevertheless, the ponencia acquitted the petitioners based on reasonable doubt that the dita tree was cut and collected without authority from the State. It anchored the reasonable doubt on "the confusion arising from the new legal developments, particularly, the recognition of the indigenous peoples' (IPs) human rights normative system, in our country." Regretfully, I respectfully dissent. Mere confusion brought about by the legal developments should not be used as a basis to acquit the petitioners, especially when it was not proven and shown, both from the literal text and the intent of the law, that IPs are indeed exempted from PD No. 705. Furthermore, I respectfully opine that the basis for the acquittal in Saguin v. People, 3 does not merely rest on the confusion of the laws. The Court considered the devolution of the functions of the hospital to the provincial government as the legal basis for exonerating accused Saguin, et al. Since they had no more duty to make the remittances, they could not be held liable under PD No. 1752, as amended: "By April 1, 1993, however, the RMDH had been devolved to the Provincial or Local Government of Zamboanga del Norte. Thus, all financial transactions of the hospital were carried out through the Office of the Provincial Governor. The petitioners, therefore, had legal basis to believe that the duty to set aside funds and to effect the HDMF remittances was transferred from the hospital to the provincial government. Hence, the petitioners should not be penalized for their failure to perform a duty which were no longer theirs and over which they were no longer in control. xxxx The devolution of the hospital to the pn;winc}al government, therefore, was a valid justification which constituted a lawful cause for the inability of the petitioners to make the HDMF remittances for March 1993."4 (Emphases supplied.) As opposed to Saguin, here, it is not clear whether indigenous people have legal basis to cut trees without permits, free from government regulation. Ultimately, the case before us begs the resolution of the indispensable questionDoes the IPRA categorically and specifically grant in favor of indigenous people the authority to cut, gather, collect, remove timber or other forest products free from criminal liability under PD No. 705? I answer in the negative. To construe IPRA as a subset of the term "authority" under Section 77 of the Revised Forestry Code will, in effect, make IPRA an exception to the penal provisions of PD No. 705. While the IPRA 4 773 Phil. 614 (2015). Id. at 627-628 (2015).

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