G.R. No. 224469 - DIOSDADO SAMA y HINUPAS and BANDY MASANGLAY y ACEVEDA, Petitioners, v. PEOPLE OF PHILIPPINES, Respondent. ~· ,rt Promulgated: f ~ x------------------------- ____ . ------------------. ---.January 5, _2021 1-----------x SEPARATE CONCURRING OPINION PERLAS-BERNABE, J.: I concur in the result. Petitioners Diosdado Samay Hinupas and Bandy Masanglay y Aceveda (petitioners) should be acquitted for the prosecution's failure to prove beyond reasonable doubt their criminal liability under Section 77 of the Forestry Code, as amended (Section 77). 1 The essential facts are as follows: petitioners, who are part of the IrayaMangyan tribe, are among the indigenous peoples (IPs) in Mindoro. On March 15, 2005, they were caught cutting a dita tree using an unregistered power chainsaw, and were co~seqµently charged under Section 77. While petitioners admit that they had no license to cut the tree, they argue that their act was justified pursuant to their right to utilize the natural resources within their ancestral domain for a communal purpose - that is, to build a community toilet. They also aver that as IPs, they are allowed to cut trees within their ancestral domain as part of their right to cultural integrity pursuant to the Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act of 19972 (IPRA). The lower courts, however, convicted them based on a strict application of the penal provision, holding that a violation of Section 77 is considered malum prohibitum. At the onset, emphasis must be made on the fact that this case only centers on the criminal liability of herein petitioners for cutting one tree within their ancestral domain for the undisputed purpose of building a community toilet. They claim that such acts were done for the benefit of their IP community, and therefore, amounts to an apparent legitimate exercise of their right to use natural resources within their ancestral domain. In the court a quo' s proceedings, the prosecution neither questioned the purpose for which the dita tree was to be used nor presented any evidence as regards the use of such tree for the benefit of non-IPs. This case, therefore, must be resolved on 2 See Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines, Presidential Decree No. 705, May 19, 1975, as amended by Executive Order No. 277, July 25, 1987, and renumbered pursuant to Section 7 of Republic Act No. (RA) 7161, October 10, 1991. Entitled, "AN ACT To RECOGNIZE, PROTECT AND PROMOTE THE RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS CULTURAL COMMUNITIES/INDIGENOUS PEOPLES, CREATING A NATIONAL COMMISSION ON INDIGENOUS PEOPLES, ESTABLISHING IMPLEMENTING MECHANISMS, APPROPRIATING FUNDS THEREFOR, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES," approved on October 29, 1997.