pertinent laws, regulations and policies on the matter.” (Underline ours) It is, thus, clear from the foregoing provision that the Secretary and his duly authorized representatives are given the authority to confiscate and forfeit any conveyances utilized in violating the Code or other forest laws, rules and regulations. The phrase “to dispose of the same” is broad enough to cover the act of forfeiting conveyances in favor of the government. The only limitation is that it should be made “in accordance with pertinent laws, regulations or policies on the matter.” “SECTION 68. xxx xxx 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, equipments, implements and tools illegaly [sic] used in the area where the timber or forest products are found.” (Underline ours) A reading, however, of the law persuades us not to go along with private respondents' thinking not only because the aforequoted provision apparently does not mention nor include “conveyances” that can be the subject of confiscation by the courts, but to a large extent, due to the fact that private respondents' interpretation of the subject provision unduly restricts the clear intention of the law and inevitably reduces the other provision of Section 68-A. It is interesting to note that Section 68-A is a new provision authorizing the DENR to confiscate, not only ‘conveyances,' but forest products as well. On the other hand, confiscation of forest products by the ‘court' in a criminal action has long been provided for in Section 68. If as private respondents insist, the power on confiscation cannot be exercised except only through the court under Section 68, then Section 68-A would have no purpose at all. it is clear that a suit for replevin can not be sustained against the petitioners for the subject truck taken and retained by them for administrative forfeiture proceedings in pursuant to Section 68-A of the P. D. 705, as amended. Section 68-A of P.D. 705, as amended, unquestionably warrants the confiscation as well as the disposition by the Secretary of DENR or his duly authorized representatives of the conveyances used in violating the provision of forestry laws. Evidently, the continued possession or detention of the truck by the petitioners for administrative forfeiture proceeding is legally permissible, hence , no wrongful detention exists in the case at bar. OBITER DICTA:
(1) the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies as tested by a battery of cases is not an ironclad rule. This doctrine is a relative one and its flexibility is called upon by the peculiarity and uniqueness of the factual and circumstantial settings of a case. Hence, it is disregarded (1) when there is a violation of due process, (2) when the issue involved is purely a legal question, (3) when the administrative action is patently illegal amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, (4) when there is estoppel on the part of the administrative agency concerned,
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- Fall '19
- Supreme Court of the United States, Trial court, DENR