Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

 

 

EN BANC

 

 

G.R.  No. L-17597

 

 

February 7, 1922

 

E. W. McDANIEL, petitioner,

 


vs.

 


Honorable GALICANO APACIBLE, Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources of the Philippine Islands, and JUAN CUISIA, respondents.

 

 

JOHNSON, J.:

 

This is an original action commenced in the Supreme Court for the writ of prohibition.  Its purpose is to prohibit the respondent Honorable Galicano Apacible, as Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, from granting a lease of a parcel of petroleum land located in the municipality of San Narciso, of the Province of Tayabas, Philippine Islands, which parcel of land is particularly described in paragraph 6 of the petition.  To the petition the respondent Galicano Apacible demurred.  The respondent Juan Cuisia neither demurred nor answered.

 

The facts upon which the petition is based are admitted and may be stated as follows:

 

(1)      That on or about the 7th day of June, 1916, the petitioner entered upon and located, in accordance with the provisions of Act of Congress of July 1, 1902, as well as the provisions of Act No. 624 of the Philippine Commission, three petroleum placer mineral claims, each of an area of 64 hectares, on an unoccupied public land in the municipality of San Narciso, Province of Tayabas, Philippine Islands;

 

(2)      That on or about the 15th day of July, 1916, the plaintiff recorded in the office of the mining recorder in the municipality of Lucena, Province of Tayabas, Philippine Islands, notices of location of the aforesaid three placer claims under the names of “Maglihi No. 1,” “Maglihi No. 2,” and “Maglihi No. 3;”

 

(3)      That the plaintiff, at all times since the 7th day of June, 1916, has remained in open and continuous possession of said three mineral placer claims;

 

(4)      That plaintiff, in the year 1917 and in each year thereafter, performed not less than two hundred pesos (P 200) worth of labor on each of the said three mineral claims;

 

(5)      That in the year 1918 plaintiff drilled five wells on the said three mineral claims, and by means of such wells in the said year (1918) made discoveries of petroleum on each of the said three claims;

 

(6)      That on or about the 18th day of June, 1921, the respondent Juan Cuisia made application to the respondent Galicano Apacible, as Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, under the provisions of Act No. 2932 of the Philippine Legislature, for a lease of a parcel of petroleum land in the municipality of San Narciso, Province of Tayabas, Philippine Islands, which said parcel of land included within its boundaries the three said mineral claims “Maglihi No. 1,” “Maglihi No. 2,” and “Maglihi No. 3,” which said three mineral placer claims had therefore been located as above indicated and held by the plaintiff as above described;

 

(7)      That upon the filing of the said application for lease, as described in the paragraph immediately preceding, by the said Juan Cuisia, the petitioner herein protested in writing to the respondent Galicano Apacible against the inclusion in the said lease of the said three mineral claims “Maglihi No. 1,” “Maglihi No. 2,” and “Maglihi No. 3,” located and held by him as above recited;

 

(8)      That the respondent Galicano Apacible, as Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, did on or about the 9th day of March, 1921, deny petitioner’s said protest; and

 

(9)      That the plaintiff is informed and believed, and upon that information and belief averred, that the respondent Galicano Apacible, as Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, under and by virtue of the supposed authority of Act No. 2932, is about to grant the application for the said lease of the respondent Juan Cuisia, and to place him (Juan Cuisia) in possession of the said three mineral claims located and held by the petitioner.

 

Upon the foregoing facts the petitioner contends that said Act No. 2932, in so far as it purports to declare open to lease, lands containing petroleum oil on which mineral claims have been validly located and held, and upon which discoveries of petroleum oil have been made, is void and unconstitutional, in that it deprives the petitioner of his property without due process of law and without compensation, and that the defendant Galicano Apacible, as Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, is without jurisdiction to lease to the respondent Juan Cuisia the following mineral claims “Maglihi No. 1,” “Maglihi No. 2,” and “Maglihi No. 3,” and prays that the writ of prohibition be issued out of this court, directing and prohibiting the respondent Galicano Apacible to desist from issuing the lease of the mineral placer claims herein mentioned.

 

The respondent Galicano Apacible, as Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, in support of his demurrer, contends:  (a) That the acts complained of are in conformity with the authority given by Act No. 2932; (b) that the petitioner has no vested right in the three mineral claims; and (c) that the demurrer puts squarely in issue the constitutionality of Act No. 2932.

 

Act No. 2932 was approved on the 31st day of August, 1920.  Section 1 provides that “all public lands containing petroleum or other mineral oils and gas, on which no patent, at the date this Act takes effect, has been issued, are hereby withdrawn from sale and are declared to be free and open to exploration, location and lease,” etc.  Said section further provides, “that parties having heretofore filed claims for any lands containing said minerals, shall be given preference to lease their respective claims, provided they file a petition to that effect within six months from the date of the approval of this Act.”

 

Section 2 provides that “all such lands (public lands) may be leased by the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources in the manner and subject to the rules prescribed by the Council of State.”

 

It will be noted from the provisions of said Act No. 2932 that “all public lands containing petroleum, etc., on which no patent, at the date this Act takes effect (August 31, 1920), has been issued, are hereby withdrawn from sale and are declared to be free and open to exploration, location, and lease,” with a preference, however, in favor of those who had therefore filed claims for such lands.  It will be further noted, from the provisions of said Act, that “all public lands containing petroleum, etc., are hereby withdrawn from sale and are declared to be free and open to exploration, location and lease,” without any preference to any claim or right which citizens of the Philippine Islands or the United States had therefore acquired in any public lands, and that the only right left to them is one of “preference,” and that even the preference was limited for a period of six months from the 31st day of August, 1920.

 

The petitioner contends, that, having located and held, and having discovered petroleum oil upon the said claims prior to the 31st day of August, 1920, he had acquired a property right in his three claims; and that said Act No. 2932 had deprived him of that right without due process of law, in contravention of paragraph 1 of section 3 of Act of Congress of August 29, 1916, and that said Act was therefore unconstitutional and void.  In support of the contention the petitioner cites many authorities.

 

Mr. Lindlay, one of the highest authorities on Mining Law, has discussed extensively the question now before us.  (Lindlay on Mines, vol. I, sections 322, 539.)

 

The general rule is that a perfected, valid appropriation of public mineral lands operates as a withdrawal of the tract from the body of the public domain, and so long as such appropriation remains valid and subsisting, the land covered thereby is deemed private property.  A mining claim perfected under the law is property in the highest sense, which may be sold and conveyed and will pass by descent.  It has the effect of a grant (patent) by the United States of the right of present and exclusive possession of the lands located.  And even though the locator may obtain a patent to such lands, his patent adds but little to his security.  (18 Ruling Case Law, p. 1152 and cases cited.)

 

The owner of a perfected valid appropriation of public mineral lands is entitled to the exclusive possession and enjoyment against every one, including the Government itself.  Where there is a valid and perfected location of a mining claim, the area becomes segregated from the public domain and the property of the locator.

 

It was said by the Supreme Court of the State of Oregon, “The Government itself cannot abridge the rights of the miner to a perfected valid location of public mineral land.  The Government may not destroy the locator’s right by withdrawing the land from entry or placing it in a state of reservation.”  (Belk vs. Meagher, 104 U.S., 279; Sullivan vs. Iron Silver Mining Co., 143 U.S., 431.)

 

A valid and subsisting location of mineral land, made and kept up in accordance with the provisions of the statutes of the United States, has the effect of a grant by the United States of the present and exclusive possession of the lands located, and this exclusive right of possession and enjoyment continues during the entire life of the location.  There is no provision for, no suggestion of, a prior termination thereof.  (Gwillim vs. Donnellan, 115 U.S., 45; Clipper Mining Co. vs. Eli Mining and Land Co., 194 U.S., 220.)

 

There is no pretense in the present case that the petitioner has not complied with all the requirements of the law in making the location of the mineral placer claims in question, or that the claims in question were ever abandoned or forfeited by him.  The respondents may claim, however, that inasmuch as a patent has not been issued to the petitioner, he has acquired no property right in said mineral claims.  But the Supreme Court of the United States, in the cases of Union Oil Co. vs. Smith (249 U.S., 337), and St. Louis Mining and Milling Co. vs. Montana Mining Co. (171 U.S., 650), held that even without a patent, the possessory right of a locator after discovery of minerals upon the claim is a property right in the fullest sense, unaffected by the fact that the paramount title to the land is in the United States.  There is no conflict in the rulings of the Court upon that question.  With one voice they affirm that when the right to a patent exists, the full equitable title has passed to the purchaser or to the locator with all the benefits, immunities, and burdens of ownership, and that no third party can acquire from the Government any interest as against him.  (Manuel vs. Wulff, 152 U.S., 504, and cases cited.)

 

Even without a patent, the possessory right of a qualified locator after discovery of minerals upon the claim is a property right in the fullest sense, unaffected by the fact that the paramount title to the land is in the Government, and it is capable of transfer by conveyance, inheritance, or devise.  (Union Oil Co. vs. Smith, 249 U.S., 337; Forbes vs. Jarcey, 94 U.S., 762; Belk vs. Meagher, 104 U.S., 279; Del Monte Mining Co. vs. Last Chance Mining Co., 171 U.S., 55; Elver vs. Wood, 208 U.S., 226, 232.)

 

Actual and continuous occupation of a valid mining location, based upon discovery, is not essential to the preservation of the possessory right.  The right is lost only by abandonment as by nonperformance of the annual labor required.  (Union Oil Co. vs. Smith, 249 U.S., 337; Farrell vs. Lockhart, 210 U.S., 142; Bradford vs. Morrison, 212 U.S., 389.)

 

The discovery of minerals in the ground by one who has a valid mineral location perfects his claim and his location not only against third person, but also against the Government.  A mining claim perfected under the law is property in the highest sense of that term, which may be sold and conveyed, and will pass by descent, and is not therefore subject to the disposal of the Government.  (Belk vs. Meagher, 104 U.S., 279, 283; Sullivan vs. Iron Silver Mining Co., 143 U.S., 431; Consolidated Mutual Oil Co. vs. United States, 245 Fed. Rep., 521; Van Ness vs. Rooney, 160 Cal., 131, 136, 137.)

 

The moment the locator discovered a valuable mineral deposit on the lands located, and perfected his location in accordance with law, the power of the United States Government to deprive him of the exclusive right to the possession and enjoyment of the located claim was gone, the lands had become mineral lands and they were exempted from lands that could be granted to any other person.  The reservations of public lands cannot be made so as to include prior mineral perfected locations; and, of course, if a valid mining location is made upon public lands afterward included in a reservation, such inclusion or reservation does not affect the validity of the former location.  By such location and perfection, the land located is segregated from the public domain even as against the Government.  (Union Oil Co. vs. Smith, 249 U.S., 337; Van Ness vs. Rooney, 160 Cal., 131; 27 Cyc., 546.)

 

From all of the foregoing arguments and authorities we must conclude that, inasmuch as the petitioner had located, held and perfected his location of the mineral lands in question, and had actually discovered petroleum oil therein, he had acquired a property right in said claims; that said Act No. 2932, which deprives him of such right without due process of law, is in conflict with section 3 of the Jones Law, and is therefore unconstitutional and void.  Therefore the demurrer herein is hereby overruled, and it is hereby ordered and decreed that, unless the respondents answer the petition herein within a period of five days from notice hereof, that a final judgment be entered, granting the remedy prayed for in the petition.  So ordered.

 

Araullo, C.J., Street, Malcolm, Avanceña, Villamor, Ostrand, Johns and Romualdez, JJ., concur.

 

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