Summary of Oposa v. Factoran

Oposa v. Factoran (296 Phil. 694, G.R. No. 101083, July 30, 1993) is a case filed by minors against the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Secretary Factoran, to mandate the latter to cancel all existing timber license agreements and to stop their further issuance.

The first question is whether or not these minors have legal standing to sue by representing their generation and the generation yet unborn. The Supreme Court (SC) said yes because this is based on the concept of intergenerational responsibility in environmental law.

A subset of the first question is whether or not there is a valid class suit. Again, the SC said yes because the petitioners are so numerous that it is impracticable to join all parties in the case. Also, the petitioners have a common and general interest not just to several, but to all citizens of the Philippines. Finally, the number of parties present is representative enough to ensure the full protection of all concerned interests.

The second question is whether there is cause of action. Was there a right violated? Secretary Factoran argued that there is none because the right to a balanced and healthful ecology under the 1987 Constitution is under Article II and, therefore, it is not a self-executing provision. It was argued that there is a need to wait for an enabling law. According to the SC, there is a right violated; provisions on the right to health and the right to a balanced and healthful ecology are self-executing and they can be the basis of an action in court.

The third question is whether judicial review can be invoked. It was argued by Secretary Factoran that this is a matter of policy and, thus, it should be left to Congress to enact a law that stops timber license agreements. He said that the question is not ripe for the SC's intervention. The SC said no; it is ripe for judicial review. The Court invoked the expanded power of judicial review under Article VIII of the Constitution in which the Judicial Branch can correct grave abuses of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.

The last question that was whether stopping timber license agreements would impair the obligation of contracts and, hence, violate the Constitution. Said the SC, no, because such are not contracts but licenses which give mere privileges that are subject to the State's power of regulation. Assuming without conceding that they are contracts, they must still yield to the State's police power.