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FIRST DIVISION

[G.R. No. 123417. June 10, 1999]

JAIME MORTA, SR. and PURIFICACION


PADILLA, petitioners, vs. JAIME OCCIDENTAL, ATTY. MARIANO
BARANDA, JR., and DANIEL CORRAL,respondents.

DECISION
PARDO, J.:

What is before us is a petition for review on certiorari of the decision[1] of the


Court of Appeals and the resolution,[2] denying petitioners' motion for reconsideration
and supplemental motion for reconsideration. In its decision, the Court of Appeals
dismissed the petition for review filed before it, ruling that the cases below fall within
the jurisdiction of the DARAB.
The antecedent facts are as follows:
On January 10 and 21, 1994,[3] petitioners Jaime Morta, Sr. and Purificacion
Padilla filed two (2) cases[4] for damages with preliminary injunction, with the
Municipal Trial Court, Guinobatan, Albay, against respondents Jaime Occidental,
Atty. Mariano Baranda, Jr. and Daniel Corral, which were consolidated pursuant to
Rule 31 of the Revised Rules of Court. In the complaints, petitioners alleged that
respondents through the instigation of Atty. Baranda, gathered pilinuts, anahaw
leaves, and coconuts from their respective land, delivered the produce to Atty.
Mariano Baranda, Jr., and destroyed their banana and pineapple plants. In Civil Case
No. 481, petitioners claimed damages amounting to P8,930.00, plus costs of suit; in
Civil Case No. 482, petitioners claimed P9,950.00, as damages. The court considered
the cases covered by the Rule on Summary Procedure and ordered respondents to file
their answer.
In their answer, respondents claimed that petitioners were not the owners of the
land in question. They alleged that the torrens titles of the land indicated a certain Gil
Opiana as the registered owner. Gil Opiana was the father of Josefina Opiana-
Baraclan who inherited the lots upon the former's death. Respondent Jaime Occidental
contended that he was a bona fide tenant of Josefina Opiana-Baraclan.Respondents
stated that there was no annotation on the titles establishing petitioners' right over the
land. They denied harvesting the anahaw leaves and coconuts, as well as delivering
the produce to Atty. Baranda, Jr.
Thereafter, the Municipal Trial Court ordered the parties to submit affidavits of
their witnesses and other evidence on the factual issues, together with their respective
position papers. After respondents' failure to file their position papers within the
prescribed period, the trial court considered the case submitted for decision.
On March 29, 1994, the Municipal Trial Court rendered decision [5] in favor of
petitioners. It held that petitioners had been in actual, continuous, open and adverse
possession of the land in question for forty-five (45) years. The decretal portion of the
decision reads:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing considerations, judgment is rendered in favor
of the plaintiffs and against the defendants in both cases as follows:

1) Ordering the defendants not to molest and disturb the peaceful possession of the
plaintiffs in the lands in question situated at San Rafael, Guinobatan;

2) Condemning the defendants in Civil Cases No. 481 to jointly and severally pay the
plaintiffs the total amount of P8,130.00 representing the value of the coconuts,
pilinuts and anahaw leaves and for the destroyed plants;

3) Ordering the defendants in Civil Cases No. 481 jointly and severally to reimburse
the plaintiffs the amount of P202.00 as legal expenses incurred in filing this suit;

4) Condemning the defendants in Civil Case No. 482 jointly and severally to pay the
plaintiffs the total amount of P9,950.00 representing the value of the coconuts and
anahaw leaves;

5) Ordering the said defendants in Civil Case No. 482 to jointly and severally
reimburse the plaintiffs the sum of P202.00 as legal expenses in filing this suit.

Guinobatan, Albay, March 29, 1994.

(signed)
JAIME R. REMONTE
Judge[6]
Respondents appealed to the Regional Trial Court, Ligao, Albay. They questioned
the trial court's jurisdiction contending that the case was cognizable by the
Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudicatory Board (DARAB). They alleged that
petitioners engaged in forum shopping and that the trial court erred in granting the
reliefs prayed for.
On August 10, 1994, the Regional Trial Court rendered decision reversing that of
the Municipal Trial Court and dismissing the above cases,[7] ruling that these cases for
damages are tenancy-related problems which fall under the original and exclusive
jurisdiction of the DARAB. The court also declared that the filing of Civil Cases Nos.
481 and 482, while a case involving the same issue was pending before the DARAB,
amounted to forum shopping.
On September 9, 1994, petitioners filed a petition for review[8] with the Court of
Appeals, contesting the decision of the Regional Trial Court. On May 31, 1995, the
Court of Appeals[9] rendered decision affirming the lower's court ruling that the cases
fall within the original and exclusive jurisdiction of DARAB. However, it ruled that
petitioners did not engage in forum shopping.
On June 6, 1995, petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration.[10] On June 13,
1995, they filed a supplemental motion for reconsideration,[11] stressing that there was
no tenancy relationship between the parties, as certified by the Municipal Agrarian
Reform Office (MARO).[12]
On December 8, 1995, the Court of Appeals denied the motions.[13]
Hence, this petition for review on certiorari.
Petitioners claim that Morta is not a tenant of either Jaime Occidental or Josefina
Opiana-Baraclan, as shown by the MARO certification. They argue that the civil
actions for damages are not tenancy-related, and, hence, are properly cognizable by
the trial court, not the DARAB.
We resolve to grant the petition.
It is axiomatic that what determines the nature of an action as well as which court
has jurisdiction over it, are the allegations in the complaint and the character of the
relief sought.[14] "Jurisdiction over the subject matter is determined upon the
allegations made in the complaint, irrespective of whether the plaintiff is entitled to
recover upon a claim asserted therein - a matter resolved only after and as a result of
the trial. Neither can the jurisdiction of the court be made to depend upon the defenses
made by the defendant in his answer or motion to dismiss. If such were the rule, the
question of jurisdiction would depend almost entirely upon the defendant. [15] The
complaint filed by petitioners before the Municipal Trial Court is an action for
damages for illegal gathering of anahaw leaves, pilinuts and coconuts, and the
destruction of their banana and pineapple plantations. The respondents did not
question the municipal trial court's jurisdiction in their answer. The issue of
jurisdiction was raised for the first time on appeal.
For DARAB to have jurisdiction over a case, there must exist a tenancy
relationship between the parties. In order for a tenancy agreement to take hold over a
dispute, it would be essential to establish all its indispensable elements, to wit: 1) that
the parties are the landowner and the tenant or agricultural lessee; 2) that the subject
matter of the relationship is an agricultural land; 3) that there is consent between the
parties to the relationship; 4) that the purpose of the relationship is to bring about
agricultural production; 5) that there is personal cultivation on the part of the tenant or
agricultural lessee; and 6) that the harvest is shared between the landowner and the
tenant or agricultural lessee.[16] In Vda. de Tangub v. Court of Appeals,[17] we held that
the jurisdiction of the Department of Agrarian Reforms is limited to the following:
a) adjudication of all matters involving implementation of agrarian reform;
b) resolution of agrarian conflicts and land-tenure related problems; and
c) approval and disapproval of the conversion, restructuring or readjustment of agricultural
lands into residential, commercial, industrial, and other non-agricultural uses.

The regional trial court ruled that the issue involved is tenancy-related that falls
within the exclusive jurisdiction of the DARAB. It relied on the findings in DARAB
Case No. 2413 that Josefina Opiana-Baraclan appears to be the lawful owner of the
land and Jaime Occidental was her recognized tenant. However, petitioner Morta
claimed that he is the owner of the land. Thus, there is even a dispute as to who is the
rightful owner of the land, Josefina Opiana-Baraclan or petitioner Morta. The issue of
ownership cannot be settled by the DARAB since it is definitely outside its
jurisdiction. Whatever findings made by the DARAB regarding the ownership of the
land are not conclusive to settle the matter. The issue of ownership shall be resolved
in a separate proceeding before the appropriate trial court between the claimants
thereof.
At any rate, whoever is declared to be the rightful owner of the land, the case can
not be considered as tenancy-related for it still fails to comply with the other
requirements. Assuming arguendo that Josefina Opiana-Baraclan is the owner, then
the case is not between the landowner and tenant. If, however, Morta is the
landowner, Occidental can not claim that there is consent to a landowner-tenant
relationship between him and Morta. Thus, for failure to comply with the above
requisites, we conclude that the issue involved is not tenancy-related cognizable by
the DARAB.
WHEREFORE, the Court SETS ASIDE the decision of the Court of Appeals in
CA-G.R. SP No. 35300 and that of the Regional Trial Court in Civil Cases Nos. 1751
and 1752.
The Court AFFIRMS the decision of the Municipal Trial Court, Guinobatan,
Albay, in Civil Cases Nos. 481 and 482, for damages.
SO ORDERED.
THIRD DIVISION

[G.R. No. 142501. December 7, 2001]

LEONARDA L. MONSANTO, petitioner, vs. JESUS AND TERESITA


ZERNA AND COURT OF APPEALS, respondents.

DECISION
PANGANIBAN, J.:

The filing of a criminal action carries with it the civil liability arising from the
offense. However, the trial court cannot adjudge civil matters that are beyond its competence and
powers. Thus, while a court may have authority to pass upon the criminal liability of the accused,
it cannot make any civil awards that relate to the agrarian relationship of the parties because this
matter is beyond its jurisdiction.

Statement of the Case

Before us is a Petition for Review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, assailing the January
12, 2000 Decision[1] and the March 16, 2000 Resolution[2] of the Court of Appeals[3] (CA) in CA-
GR CV No. 55440. The decretal portion of the challenged Decision reads as follows:

IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING, for lack of jurisdiction, the assailed order of
September 4, 1996 is hereby RECALLED, SET ASIDE and DECLARED NULL and
VOID. The parties, if they so desire, should refer their dispute before the agrarian
authorities. No pronouncement as to costs. [4]

The assailed Resolution denied petitioners Motion for Reconsideration.

The Facts

Spouses Jesus and Teresita Zerna (herein private respondents) were charged with qualified
theft in Criminal Case No. 5896, filed before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Lanao del Norte,
Branch 6.This case was later re-raffled and transferred to Branch 4 of the same judicial region.
The Information against private respondents was amended on June 8, 1995. It is reproduced
hereunder:

That on or about February 25, 1995, up to the following month of March, 1995, in the
City of Iligan, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the
said accused, conspiring and confederating together and mutually helping each other,
being then the overseers of some banana plants on the land owned by one Leonarda
Monsanto and principally devoted to coconut trees, and having access to said land as
such, with grave abuse of confidence reposed [i]n them by the said owner, with intent
to gain, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously take, steal, harvest
and carry away coconuts from the premises of the said plantation, which the said
accused then processed into copra with a total value of P6,162.50, belonging to said
Leonarda Monsanto, without her consent and against her will, to the damage and
prejudice of said Leonarda Monsanto in the aforesaid sum of P6,162.50, Philippine
Currency. [5]

After trial on the merits, the RTC acquitted them of the charge on July 24, 1996. It held as
follows:

x x x [T]he harvest in the land by the [accused] was done, not for the purpose of
stealing the coconuts or the copra, but more to confirm their claim that they are
tenants of the land. In fact the lack of intent to gain is shown by the fact that they
immediately deposited the proceeds with the barangay captain and did not even claim
a share [in] the proceeds of the copra.

xxxxxxxxx

In view of the foregoing, the Court finds that the [accused] are not tenants of the land
and the cash deposit [from] the proceeds of the copra with the barangay captain
belongs to the private complainant, Leonarda Monsanto. However, considering the
lack of intent of the [accused] to gain, no criminal liability for theft has been
committed by them. [6]

It then disposed of the case in the following manner:

WHEREFORE, the criminal case for qualified theft against the [accused] Jesus Zerna
and Teresita Zerna is hereby ordered dismissed and their bail bond cancelled. The
barangay captain of Buru-un, Iligan City is hereby ordered to deliver the amount
of P5,162.50, representing the proceeds [from the] copra sold by the [accused] to the
private complainant, Leonarda Monsanto. [7]

The total proceeds of the copra sale alleged in the Information was P6,262.50. However, the
awarded amount was only P5,162.50 which was deposited by private respondents with the
barangay secretary of Buru-un[8] on March 2, 1995, after deducting P340 (harvesting cost)
and P760 (labor cost). Thus, petitioner filed a timely Motion for Reconsideration praying that the
remaining sum of P1,100 be returned to her.[9]
In its September 4, 1996 Order, the trial court granted the Motion and ordered private
respondents to return the amount of P1,100.[10] It ruled thus:

In his motion for reconsideration, the private prosecutor prays that with respect to the
civil aspect of the case, the accused be made to return the amount of P1,100.00 which
they appropriated for themselves from the gross proceeds of the stolen property.

Opposing the said motion, counsel for the accused avers that the amount P1,100.00
was due to the accused as compensation for their labor and equity demands that they
[be] entitled to it.

The Court has already adjudged that the accused are not guilty of theft and therefore,
they cannot be considered to have stolen the coconuts. But the motion has raised
another issue.

Are the accused entitled to the amount of P1,100.00 as compensation for labor in
harvesting the coconuts and processing these into copra?
The accused plead equity in their favor since [there] appears to be no law applicable
to the incident in question. However, for equity to apply, good faith must exist.

From the findings of this Court, the harvesting of the coconuts and processing of the
same into copra were not with the consent of the private complainant. In fact, if the
proper criminal charge were made, which could be unjust vexation, the accused could
have been convicted as their acts certainly vexed the private complainant by their
harvesting the coconuts and selling the copra. Therefore, without good faith, since the
Court found that they did the acts complained of in an attempt to confirm their
tenancy claim, equity was wanting.

The accused could not be entitled to compensation for their labor done without the
consent of the private complainant since, obviously, there was no contract of labor
between them for the harvesting of the coconuts and processing of these into copra.

Even our laws on quasi-contracts do not allow compensation [for] the accused.

Without equity or any law in their favor, the accused are therefore not entitled to
compensation for their vexatious acts. [11]

After a review of the records and the pleadings of the parties, the CA, on appeal, ruled that
the trial court had no jurisdiction to order private respondents to pay petitioner the amount
of P1,100. Because the dispute involved an agricultural tenancy relationship, the matter fell
within the primary and exclusive original jurisdiction of the Department of Agrarian Reform
Adjudication Board (DARAB). It added that inasmuch as the RTC had no jurisdiction to rule on
the civil aspect of the case ergo, it had no appellate authority over the matter under a writ of
error.
The appellate court thus recalled, set aside and declared null and void the September 6, 1996
RTC Order requiring the return of the P1,100 to petitioner.
Hence, this Petition.[12]

Issues

In her Memorandum, petitioner raises the following issues for the Courts consideration:
I

Is the Regional Trial Court automatically divested of jurisdiction over a criminal case
where an agrarian issue is argued as a defense, no matter how flimsy?
II

Does the Court of Appeals have any competence to review an RTC Decision which
ha[s] become FINAL as not appealed from, on the basis of a Notice of Appeal which
was SPECIFICALLY and simply directed against an adscititious ORDER issued
subsequent to that Decision? [13]

This Courts Ruling

The Petition is devoid of merit.


First Issue: DARAB Jurisdiction

Petitioner claims that the RTC was divested of its criminal jurisdiction when the CA
annulled and set aside the September 4, 1996 Order. We disagree.
A careful review of the CA Decision shows that it merely set aside the September 4, 1996
RTC Order directing private respondents to pay P1,100 to petitioner. It did not annul the July 24,
1996 RTC Decision acquitting private respondents of qualified theft. Being an acquittal, the
judgment became final immediately after promulgation and cannot be recalled for correction or
amendment.[14]
The trial court considered the return of the P1,100 as part of the civil aspect of the criminal
case. As petitioner did not consent to the harvesting of the coconuts and the processing of the
same into copra, then there was no basis to award the amount to private respondents. In the
words of the trial court, [w]ithout equity or any law in their favor, the accused are therefore not
entitled to compensation for their vexatious acts.[15]
But what is the RTCs basis for ordering the return of P1,100 after it had already acquitted
private respondents of qualified theft? Does the amount constitute civil liability? Let us
clarify. Civil liability is the liability that may arise from (1) crime, (2) breach of contract or (3)
tortious act. The first is governed by the Revised Penal Code; the second and the third, by the
Civil Code.[16]
In the case at bar, there is no question that the RTC had criminal jurisdiction to try private
respondents for the crime of qualified theft. In the normal course, it had authority to determine
whether they had committed the crime charged and to adjudge the corresponding penalty and
civil liability arising therefrom.
On September 4, 1996, the RTC issued an Order requiring private respondents to return
the P1,100 to petitioner on the ground that petitioner had not consented to the harvesting of the
coconuts or to their conversion into copra. Such order appears inconsistent with the trial courts
finding that private respondents had not committed the crime of qualified theft. In People v.
Pantig,[17] the Court held that where there is no crime committed, there can be no civil liability
that can arise from the criminal action or as a consequence thereof, as follows:
Where the civil liability which is included in the criminal action is that arising
from and as [a] consequence of the criminal act, and the defendant was
acquitted in the criminal case, no civil liability arising from the criminal charge
could be imposed upon him. The liability of the defendant for the return of the
amount so received by him may not be enforced in the criminal case but in a
civil action for the recovery of the said amount.
The foregoing ruling has been modified by the current Rules. Thus, paragraph 2 of Section
2, Rule 120 of the present Rules of Court provides that [i]n case the judgment is of acquittal, it
shall state whether the evidence of the prosecution absolutely failed to prove the guilt of the
accused or merely failed to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. In either case, the judgment
shall determine if the act or omission from which the civil liability might arise did not exist.
In the present set of facts, however, the RTC did not have jurisdiction to make a finding on
the civil liability of the accused who were acquitted.
Specifically, we believe that the resolution of the issue of who is entitled to the P1,100 falls
squarely within the jurisdiction of the DARAB. EO 229[18] vested the Department of Agrarian
Reform (DAR) with quasi-judicial powers to determine and adjudicate agrarian reform matters,
as well as to exercise exclusive original jurisdiction over all matters involving the
implementation of agrarian reform, except those falling under the exclusive original jurisdiction
of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of
Agriculture (DA).
Section 13 of EO 129-A,[19] on the other hand, created the Department of Agrarian Reform
Adjudication Board (DARAB), which was specifically tasked with the power and the function to
decide agrarian reform cases. The DARAB, under Section 1, paragraph (a), Rule II of the
Revised Rules of Procedure, exercises primary jurisdiction -- both original and appellate -- to
determine and adjudicate all agrarian disputes, cases, controversies, and matters or incidents
involving the implementation of agrarian laws and their implementing rules and regulations. The
provision reads as follows:

SECTION 1. Primary, Original and Appellate Jurisdiction. The Agrarian Reform


Adjudication Board shall have primary jurisdiction, both original and appellate, to
determine and adjudicate all agrarian disputes, cases, controversies, and matters or
incidents involving the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform
Program under Republic Act No. 6657, Executive Order Nos. 229, 228 and 129-A,
Republic Act No 3844 as amended by Republic Act No. 6389, Presidential Decree
No. 27 and other agrarian laws and their implementing rules and
regulations. Specifically, such jurisdiction shall extend over but not [be] limited to the
following:

a) Cases involving the rights and obligations of persons engaged in the cultivation and use of
agricultural land covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and
other agrarian laws.
An agrarian dispute refers to any controversy relating to tenurial arrangements -- whether
leasehold, tenancy, stewardship or otherwise -- over lands devoted to agriculture, including (1)
disputes concerning farm workers associations; or (2) representation of persons in negotiating,
fixing, maintaining, changing or seeking to arrange terms or conditions of such tenurial
arrangement.[20]
In Estates Development Corporation v. CA,[21] the essential elements of a tenancy
relationship were listed in this wise:

For DARAB to have jurisdiction over a case, there must exist a tenancy relationship
between the parties. In order for a tenancy agreement to take hold over a dispute, it
would be essential to establish all its indispensable elements to wit: 1) the parties are
the landowner and the tenant or agricultural lessee 2) subject matter of the relationship
is an agricultural land 3) there is consent between the parties to the relationship 4) that
the purpose of the relationship is to bring about agricultural production 5) there is
personal cultivation on the part of the tenant or agricultural lessee and 6) the harvest is
shared between the landowner and the tenant or agricultural lessee.

Petitioner claims that private respondents were not her tenants, and that they raised the
defense of tenancy in the criminal case merely to escape prosecution for qualified theft. On the
other hand, private respondents assert that they were petitioners tenants, as shown by the
evidence adduced by the parties before the RTC.
After a careful review of the records of this case, we hold that an agrarian dispute existed
between the parties. First, the subject of the dispute between them was the taking of coconuts
from the property owned by petitioner. Second, private respondents were the overseers of the
property at the time of the taking of the coconuts, as can be gleaned from the Kasabutan (or
Agreement) executed between them on November 25, 1991, which reads thus:

I, MRS. LEONARDA L. MONSANTO, am the owner of that land located at Tonggo,


Mimbalot, Buru-un, Iligan City. This JESUS [Z]ERNA, whose wife is TERESITA
ZERNA, had requested that he be allowed to oversee Mrs. Monsantos Banana plants
under the agreement that he (Jesus Zerna) would be paid for his labor for each banana
plant cut in Tonggo.
When I (Jesus Zerna) no longer want to oversee or wish to stop overseeing, Mrs.
Leonarda Monsanto cannot force me to continue in the same way that I cannot force
Mrs. Monsanto to hire me if my services are no longer needed. [22]

Third, petitioner allowed private respondents to plant coconut, coffee, jackfruit and cacao as
shown by the said Agreement, pertinent portions of which are reproduced hereunder:

And if I (Jesus Zerna) can plant coconut trees [o]n that land, I will be paid for them
according to their ages. I (Jesus Zerna) am also allowed to plant coffee, jackfruit and
cacao, under the same agreement. [23]

Finally, a tenurial arrangement exists among herein parties as regards the harvesting of the
agricultural products, as shown by the several remittances made by private respondents to
petitioner. These are substantiated by receipts.[24]
A tenancy relationship may be established either verbally or in writing, expressly or
impliedly.[25] In the present case, undisputed by petitioner is the existence of the Kasabutan,
which contradicts her contention that private respondents were mere overseers. In any event,
their being overseers does not foreclose their being also tenants, as held in Rupa v. Court of
Appeals.[26] Evidently, the resolution of the agrarian dispute between the parties is a matter
beyond the legal competence of regular courts.
To repeat, petitioner is claiming the questioned amount of P1,100 as the balance of the
proceeds from the copra sale, which the RTC awarded her. Private respondents contend that
this P1,100 is their compensation, pursuant to their tenurial arrangement with her. Since this
amount is inextricably intertwined with the resolution of the agrarian dispute between them, we
believe that the Court of Appeals did not commit any reversible error in holding that it was
DARAB that had jurisdiction to pass upon this civil matter.

Second Issue: Lack of Jurisdiction Not Waived

Petitioner argues that jurisdiction was not raised as an issue in the appeal ergo, the CA
should not have ruled on it.
We disagree. As a general rule, an appeal is limited to a review of the specific legal issues
raised in the petition by the parties. However, even if not raised, an error in jurisdiction may be
taken up.[27]Lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter may be raised at any stage of the
proceedings -- even on appeal.[28] In Del Rosario v. Mendoza,[29] we have ruled as follows:

Indeed there are exceptions to the aforecited rule that no question may be raised for
the first time on appeal. Though not raised below, the issue of lack of jurisdiction over
the subject matter may be considered by the reviewing court, as it may be raised at
any stage.

The reason is that jurisdiction over a subject matter is conferred by law, not by the courts or
the parties themselves. Where the court itself clearly has no jurisdiction over the subject matter
or the nature of the action, the invocation of this defense may be done at any time. It is neither
for the courts nor the parties to violate or disregard that rule, let alone to confer that jurisdiction,
this matter being legislative in character. x x x.[30]
In the present case, the RTC had jurisdiction to decide the criminal case against private
respondents; however, it acted beyond its jurisdiction when it effectively ruled on the agricultural
tenancy relationship between the parties. Private respondents had raised before it the issue of
tenancy by way of defense, and apparently interwoven with the agrarian dispute, were the acts
complained of by petitioner: the harvesting of the coconuts, their conversion into copra and,
later, the sale thereof. Thus, the RTC should have confined itself to the determination of whether
private respondents were guilty of qualified theft, instead of automatically awarding the proceeds
of the copra sale to petitioner. Such matter, being an offshoot of the agrarian dispute between the
parties, is cognizable exclusively by the DARAB.
WHEREFORE, the Petition is hereby DENIED and the assailed Decision and Resolution
are AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioner.
SO ORDERED.
THIRD DIVISION

JAIME SANCHEZ, JR., G.R. No. 171346


Petitioner, Present:

YNARES-
- versus - SANTIAGO, J.,Chairper
son,
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
ZENAIDA F. MARIN, JESUS CHICO-NAZARIO,
NICASIO F. MARIN, JOSE DAVID NACHURA, and
F. MARIN, MARIA REYES, JJ.
BERNADETTE F. MARIN, PAUL
PETER F. MARIN and PHILIP Promulgated:
LUIS F. MARIN,
Respondents. October 19, 2007
x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

DECISION

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the 1997


Revised Rules of Civil Procedure seeking to reverse and set aside (1) the
Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 61955, dated 23 May 2005,
which granted in part the petition filed before it by herein respondents and thereby
annulled and set aside the Decision[2] rendered by the Department of Agrarian
Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB) dated 25 September 2000 in DARAB
Cases No. 3799 (Reg. Case No. IV-QI-0175-91) and No. 3800 (Reg. Case No. IV-
QI-0167-91); and (2) the Resolution[3] of the appellate court, dated 25 January
2006, which denied herein petitioners Motion for Reconsideration.

Herein petitioner Jaime Sanchez, Jr. is an agricultural tenant of a 10-hectare


fishpond sited at Barangay Talao-Talao, Lucena City, which was previously owned
by David Felix, the ascendant of herein respondents. Herein respondent Zenaida F.
Marin is the civil law lessee of the subject fishpond and the mother of respondents
Jesus Nicasio, Jose David, Maria Bernadette, Paul Peter and Philip Luis, all
surnamed Marin, who are now the registered owners[4] of the said fishpond.

The controversy in this case arose from the following facts:


In 1977, the petitioner was instituted as a tenant of the subject fishpond by
its previous registered owner David Felix. The sharing agreement was on a 50/50
basis after deducting the expenses from the gross harvest. A few years thereafter,
David Felix sold and transferred ownership of the subject fishpond to respondents
Jesus Nicasio, Jose David, Maria Bernadette, Paul Peter and Philip Luis, all
surnamed Marin, to whom a Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. T-
43289,[5] covering the subject fishpond, was issued. The aforesaid respondents, as
the new owners of the fishpond, entered into a civil law lease agreement dated 24
June 1985 with their mother and co-respondent Zenaida F. Marin, which was
renewable yearly.

Subsequently, Zenaida F. Marin, as a lessee of the subject fishpond, made an


arrangement with the petitioner wherein the latter would receive a regular salary
and a 20% share in the net profit of the fishpond from January 1985 to June
1986. The reason why the agreement was with a period was to be consistent with
the lease agreement entered into between respondent Zenaida F. Marin and her
children, herein respondents Jesus Nicasio, Jose David, Maria Bernadette, Paul
Peter and Philip Luis, all surnamed Marin.[6]However, after the expiration of the
first lease agreement between respondent Zenaida F. Marin and her children, and
before a new lease agreement could be made, the petitioner was ordered by
Zenaida F. Marin to vacate the premises but he refused to do so. He asserted that
he was a tenant of the fishpond and not a mere contractual worker; hence, he had
the right to its peaceful possession and security of tenure.

On 21 July 1986, the petitioner filed a Complaint before the Regional Trial
Court (RTC) of Lucena City, Branch 53, which was docketed as Agrarian Case No.
86-8, in which he asked the court to declare him as a tenant of the subject
fishpond. On 20 July 1987, the RTC of Lucena City rendered a Decision[7] in favor
of the petitioner, the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered declaring the


[herein petitioner] as the agricultural tenant, not a hired contractual
worker on the [subject fishpond], and therefore, entitled to the security
of tenure under Section 7[8] of Republic Act No. 1199[9] and to continue
possession of the premises and shall enjoy the rights and privileges
accorded by law.[10](Emphasis supplied.)

Dissatisfied, the aforesaid Decision was appealed by respondent Zenaida F.


Marin to the appellate court, in which it was docketed as CA-G.R. SP (CAR) No.
14421. In a Decision[11] dated 11 September 1989, the appellate court affirmed in
toto the Decision of the RTC of Lucena City. No other recourse being taken
therefrom, the said Decision of the Court of Appeals later became final and
executory.
Having been declared as an agricultural tenant on the subject fishpond, the
petitioner, on 15 March 1991, filed before the Provincial Agrarian Reform
Adjudicator (PARAD) Region IV a Petition for the fixing of the leasehold rentals
for his use of the subject fishpond at P30,000.00 per annum, docketed as DARAB
Case No. IV-QI-0175-91.It was alleged therein by the petitioner that under Section
12 of Republic Act No. 6657[12] and Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR)
Administrative Order No. 4, Series of 1989, he had the option to convert his status
as share-crop tenant into an agricultural lessee by paying a fixed lease rental on the
fishpond. He further claimed that the respondents posited no objection to the
amount of P30,000.00 as a yearly lease rental. Yet, in an Answer filed by the
respondents, they insisted that fishponds, like the subject matter of this case, were
not yet within the purview of the law on leasehold. They likewise refuted the fact
that they agreed to fix the lease rental at P30,000.00 per annum.Although they
admitted that the petitioner was indeed declared as an agricultural tenant of the
fishpond, they, however, argued that the petitioner should already be ejected
therefrom for his failure to pay the rent.

Thus, on 17 April 1991, respondent Zenaida F. Marin filed a Complaint


before the PARAD Region IV, docketed as DARAB Case No. IV-QI-0167-91,
primarily to eject the petitioner from the fishpond because of the latters failure to
pay the rent and to make an accounting, in violation of Sections 17 and 50 of
Republic Act No. 1199. She also sought to compel the petitioner to pay the total
amount of P650,000.00 representing the lease rentals from 1 July 1985 to 30 June
1991 and to make an accounting of the total production or income of the subject
fishpond from 1 August 1987 to 25 October 1991.

The petitioner denied having any liability to respondent Zenaida F. Marin in


the amount of P650,000.00 as rental arrears. He stressed that he failed to pay the
lease rentals from July 1987 to July 1989 because he failed to harvest anything
from the fishpond during the said period due to respondent Zenaida F. Marins
refusal to defray the expenses of production. Accordingly, he cannot be evicted on
the basis of non-payment of rent because his obligation to pay the same merely
depends on the actual harvest made. Similarly, the petitioner emphasized that from
March 1989 to September 1990, he deposited the rent due respondent Zenaida F.
Marin in Philippine National Bank (PNB) Account No. 66375[13] under the name of
the Deputy Sheriff of the RTC of Lucena City, Branch 53, and respondent Zenaida
F. Marin withdrew the said amount.

Considering that the two cases involved the same parties and the same
subject matter, the Provincial Adjudicator consolidated the same. On 2 March
1993, he rendered a Decision[14] in favor of the petitioner. Its dispositive portion
reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby
rendered:
xxxx

3. Ordering that [petitioner] be maintained in the peaceful


possession of subject farm-holding.[15]

Respondents moved for the reconsideration of the aforementioned Decision but the
same was denied in a Joint Order,[16] dated 15 May 1995, rendered by the Regional
Agrarian Reform Adjudicator (RARAD).

Aggrieved, respondents appealed the PARAD Decision dated 2 March 1993 to the
DARAB, reiterating their position that the fishpond was excluded from the
coverage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) of the
government. The cases before the DARAB were docketed as DARAB Cases No.
3799 (Reg. Case No. IV-QI-0175-91) and No. 3800 (Reg. Case No. IV-QI-0167-
91).

On 25 September 2000, the DARAB rendered a Decision affirming in


toto the Decision of the Provincial Adjudicator dated 2 March 1993.

Still refusing to admit defeat, respondents filed with the Court of Appeals a
Petition for Review of the aforesaid DARAB Decision maintaining that the
DARAB grossly erred in not finding that substantial evidence exists to warrant the
dispossession of the petitioner from the subject fishpond.

On 23 May 2005, the appellate court rendered its assailed Decision wherein
it granted in part the Petition of the respondents by annulling and setting aside the
DARAB Decision dated 25 September 2000 on the ground of lack of
jurisdiction. The appellate court ruled that Section 2 of Republic Act No.
7881,[17] amending Section 10 of Republic Act No. 6657, excluded private lands
actually, directly and exclusively used for prawn farms and fishponds from the
coverage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL); clearly then, the
operation of a fishpond is no longer considered an agricultural activity, and a
parcel of land devoted to fishpond operation is not anymore an agricultural
land. Additionally, the appellate court declared that under Section 1, Rule II of the
2003 DARAB Rules of Procedure, governing proceedings before the DARAB and
its different regional and provincial adjudicators, the DARAB et al.s jurisdictions
were limited only to agrarian disputes or controversies and matters or incidents
involving the implementation of Republic Act No. 6657, Republic Act No. 3844
and other agrarian laws. Consequently, the disputes involved in DARAB Cases
No. 3799 and No. 3800 were not agrarian disputes, and since the DARAB, et al.
then acted without jurisdiction when they heard and adjudicated the aforesaid
cases, their decisions and orders therein were null and void. There is, however, no
obstacle for the opposing parties to institute the proper action before the regular
courts. Lastly, the appellate court held that the petitioner cannot avail himself of
the protection under Section 2(b) of Republic Act No. 7881, which protects vested
rights of those who have already been issued a CLOA, for the reason that the
petitioner had not shown that he had been issued a CLOA to the subject fishpond
as an agrarian reform beneficiary.

Petitioner moved for the reconsideration of the aforesaid Decision, but it was
denied in a Resolution dated 25 January 2006.

Hence, this Petition.

Petitioner presents the following issues for this Courts resolution:

I. Whether the burden of proof to show that a fishpond is not


an agricultural land rests on the agricultural lessor.

II. Whether this burden was sufficiently discharged by the


respondents.

III. Whether the Office of the Secretary of the Department of


Agrarian Reform should first determine the exclusion of a
fishpond from the coverage of CARP before it could be finally
said that it is indeed excluded therefrom.

IV. Whether the subject fishpond is covered by the [CARL].

V. Assuming that the fishpond is not covered by the CARL,


whether the [DARAB] has jurisdiction over the case.

Petitioner maintains his contention that Section 10 of Republic Act No.


6657, as amended by Republic Act No. 7881, which was the basis of the appellate
court in declaring that the subject fishpond was not an agricultural land, does not
mention any presumption as regards the exemption of prawn farms and fishponds
from the coverage of the CARL. According to him, before a fishpond can be
considered exempted from the coverage of Republic Act No. 6657, two things
must concur, to wit: (1) the fishpond has not been distributed; and (2) a CLOA has
been issued to the agrarian reform beneficiaries under the CARP. And the burden
of proof to establish the existence of the aforesaid elements falls upon the
agricultural lessor. Absent any of these two elements, the fishpond will remain
within the coverage of Republic Act No. 6657. He also argues that Section 10 of
Republic Act No. 6657, as amended by Republic Act No. 7881, cannot be given
retroactive effect. Neither can it prevail over a right which has already been vested
in him by virtue of the final and executory Decision dated 11 September 1989 of
the Court of Appeals, affirming the Decision dated 20 July 1987 of the Lucena
City RTC, which declared him as an agricultural tenant of the subject fishpond and
therefore entitled to security of tenure. Similarly, petitioner contends that
respondents unsubstantiated claim that no CLOA had been issued to him was not
enough to discharge their burden of proving that the subject fishpond was already
exempted from the coverage of the CARL.

Petitioner further avers that although Section 10 of Republic Act No. 6657
already provides that prawn farms and fishponds are exempted from the coverage
of the CARL, the said provision of law still has to be construed in relation to
Section 3, Rule II of the 2003 DARAB Rules of Procedure, which requires an
application for exemption to be filed before the Office of the Secretary of the DAR
to determine if prawn farms and fishponds are indeed excluded from the coverage
of the CARL. And considering that the respondents failed to file the said
application for exemption, petitioner then alleges that the subject fishpond cannot
be considered excluded from the coverage of the CARL.

Finally, petitioner argues that granting arguendo that the subject fishpond
was excluded from the coverage of the CARL, still, the DARAB had jurisdiction
over his case.Petitioner asserts that his status as an agricultural tenant of the subject
fishpond has long been settled. And being a tenant, he has various rights which are
recognized and protected under the law, among which is his right to security of
tenure. Thus, when the respondents filed a Complaint before DARAB Region IV
to eject him from the fishpond, in violation of his rights, it cannot be denied that an
agrarian dispute arose between him and the respondents and the same properly fell
within the jurisdiction of the DARAB.And so, even though the fishpond was
excluded from the coverage of the CARL, the petitioner asserts that it does not
necessarily follow that no tenancy relation existed between him and the
respondents and it cannot be used as basis to deprive the DARAB of its jurisdiction
over the present case.

In sum, the issues in this case may be summarized as follows:

I. Whether the subject fishpond is exempted/excluded from the


coverage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program of the
government by virtue of the amendments introduced by R.A. No.
7881 to R.A. No. 6657.

II. Granting that the subject fishpond is exempted/excluded from


the coverage of the CARL, whether the DARAB has jurisdiction
over the case.

The Petition is meritorious.

The Court of Appeals grounded its Decision on this Courts pronouncements


in Romero v. Tan.[18] In the said case, this Court traced the classification of
fishponds for agrarian reform purposes. Section 166(1) of Republic Act No.
3844[19] defined an agricultural land as land devoted to any growth, including but
not limited to crop lands, salt beds, fish ponds, idle land and abandoned
land. Thus, it is beyond cavil that under this law, fishponds were considered
agricultural lands. Even when Republic Act No. 6657 entitled, Comprehensive
Agrarian Reform Law of 1988, took effect on 15 June 1988, fishponds were still
considered as agricultural land. However, when Republic Act No. 7881 was passed
by Congress on 20 February 1995, it amended several provisions of Republic Act
No. 6657. Section 2 of Republic Act No. 7881 amended Section 10 of Republic
Act No. 6657 by expressly exempting/excluding private lands actually, directly
and exclusively used for prawn farms and fishponds from the coverage of the
CARL.Section 3(c) of Republic Act No. 6657, as amended, now defines
agricultural land as land devoted to agricultural activity and not otherwise
classified as mineral, forest, residential, commercial or industrial land. As to what
constitutes an agricultural activity is defined by Section 3(b) of Republic Act No.
6657, as amended, as the cultivation of the soil, planting of crops, growing of
fruit trees, including the harvesting of such farm products, and other farm
activities and practices performed by a farmer in conjunction with such farming
operations done by persons whether natural or juridical. By virtue of the
foregoing amendments, the operation of fishponds is no longer considered an
agricultural activity, and a parcel of land devoted to fishpond operation is no
longer an agricultural land.[20]

Section 10 of Republic Act No. 6657, as amended by Republic Act No. 7881,
explicitly provides:

SEC. 10. Exemptions and Exclusions.

x x x x.

b) Private lands actually, directly and exclusively used for


prawn farms and fishponds shall be exempt from the coverage of
this Act: Provided, That said prawn farms and fishponds have not
been distributed and Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA)
issued to agrarian reform beneficiaries under the Comprehensive
Agrarian Reform Program.
In cases where the fishponds or prawn farms have been subjected
to the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, by voluntary offer to sell,
or commercial farms deferment or notices of compulsory acquisition, a
simple and absolute majority of the actual regular workers or tenants
must consent to the exemption within one (1) year from the effectivity of
this Act. When the workers or tenants do not agree to this exemption, the
fishponds or prawn farms shall be distributed collectively to the workers-
beneficiaries or tenants who shall form a cooperative or association to
manage the same
In cases where the fishponds or prawn farms have not been
subjected to the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, the consent of
the farm workers shall no longer be necessary; however, the provision of
Section 32-A hereof on incentives shall apply. (Emphasis supplied.)

From the afore-quoted provision, it is crystal clear that fishponds are


excluded/exempted from the coverage of the CARL. This Court affirmed such
exemption/exclusion in Atlas Fertilizer Corp. v. Secretary, Department of
Agrarian Reform.[21] In view of the foregoing, it is beyond doubt that the subject
fishpond is indeed now exempted/excluded from the coverage of the CARL. Thus,
the contention of the petitioner that the subject fishpond cannot be
exempted/excluded from CARL coverage because respondents failed to prove that
the fishpond has not yet been distributed and a CLOA has been issued to the
beneficiary of the agrarian reform, as required by Section 10 of Republic Act No.
6657, as amended by Republic Act No. 7881, is now unavailing. Moreover, this
Court notes that the DARAB already made a finding in its Decision that no CLOA
had been issued to the petitioner as a beneficiary of the fishpond. Neither was the
fishpond voluntarily offered for sale to the petitioner. Section 54 of Republic Act
No. 6657, as amended, expressly states that the findings of fact of the DARAB
shall be final and conclusive if based on substantial evidence. Since the issue as to
whether a CLOA has been issued to the petitioner is a question of fact, and being
convinced that the findings of the DARAB on such issue was not based on mere
surmises or conjectures, this Court upholds the same. Similarly, in this case, the
character of the land was never put in issue as it has long been settled that the 10-
hectare lot was indeed used actually, directly and exclusively as fishponds. Hence,
it is not necessary for the respondents to file an application for the exemption of
the subject fishpond from the coverage of the CARL, contrary to the claim of the
petitioner.

Even as we recognize that the fishpond is not covered by the CARL,


pursuant to Section 10 of Republic Act No. 6657, as amended by Republic Act No.
7881, this Court, nonetheless, does not agree in the conclusion arrived at by the
Court of Appeals that since the subject fishpond is no longer an agricultural land, it
follows then that there can be no tenurial arrangement affecting the parties in this
case. And in view of the fact that there is no agrarian dispute cognizable by the
DARAB, then the DARAB had no jurisdiction to resolve petitioners case.

It bears emphasis that the status of the petitioner as a tenant in the subject
fishpond and his right to security of tenure were already previously settled in the
Decision dated20 July 1987 of the RTC of Lucena City in Agrarian Case No. 86-8,
which was affirmed by the Court of Appeals in its Decision dated 11 September
1989. Having been declared as a tenant with the right to security of tenure as
provided in Section 35[22] of Republic Act No. 3844 in relation to Section 7 of
Republic Act No. 1199, the law enforced at the time of the filing of the Complaint
before the RTC of Lucena City, the petitioner has acquired a vested right over the
subject fishpond, which right or interest has become fixed and established and is
no longer open to doubt or controversy.[23] Therefore, even if fishponds, like the
subject matter of this case, were later excluded/exempted from the coverage of the
CARL as expressly provided in Section 10 of Republic Act No. 6657, as amended
by Republic Act No. 7881, and despite the fact that no CLOA has been issued to
the petitioner, the same cannot defeat the aforesaid vested right already granted and
acquired by the petitioner long before the passage of Republic Act No. 7881. And
being in the nature of a substantive law, the amendments introduced by Republic
Act No. 7881 to Republic Act No. 6657 in the year 1995 cannot be given a
retroactive application as to deprive the petitioner of his rights under the previous
agrarian legislation.[24]

Verily, DAR Administrative Order No. 3, Series of 1995, expressly respects


and acknowledges the tenancy relationship that existed between the parties prior to
the amendments made to Republic Act No. 6657 by Republic Act No. 7881, that
is, before fishponds and prawn farms were exempted/excluded from the coverage
of the CARL.The aforesaid DAR Administrative Order provides:

II. POLICY STATEMENT

D. Acts of harassment by landowners intended to eject or remove


the workers or tenants or the loss of their rights, benefits and
privileges to which they are entitled shall be sanctioned and dealt
with under existing laws, rules and regulations.
E. Fishpond or prawn farmworkers affected by
exemption/exclusion have the option to remain as workers or
become beneficiaries in other agricultural lands.

A worker who chooses to remain in the exempted area shall remain


therin and shall be entitled to such rights, benefits and
privileges granted to farmworkers under existing laws,
decrees, and executive orders. (Emphasis supplied.)

Indubitably, despite the amendments to Section 10 of Republic Act No. 6657, the
petitioners right to tenancy and security of tenure over the subject fishpond must
still be honored.

This Court likewise affirms that the DARAB correctly assumed jurisdiction over
the case, contrary to the declaration made by the appellate court in its
Decision. Notably, the present case was instituted as early as 1991 when the
petitioner filed a Petition before the PARAD for the fixing of his lease rental on the
subject fishpond. Respondents subsequently filed a countercharge against the
petitioner for the accounting, collection of sums of money, and dispossession. At
such point, the law applicable was Republic Act No. 6657, wherein fishponds and
prawn farms were not yet exempted/excluded from the CARL coverage. Evidently,
there was an agrarian dispute existing between the petitioner and the respondents,
cognizable by the PARAD at the time it rendered its Decision on 2 March 1993 in
favor of the petitioner. On 20 February 1995, however, Republic Act No. 7881
came into being which expressly exempted/excluded fishponds and prawn farms
from the coverage of the CARL. In effect, cases involving fishponds and prawn
farms are no longer considered agrarian disputes as to make the case fall within the
jurisdiction of the DARAB or its Adjudicators. Nevertheless, considering that
prior to the enactment of Republic Act No. 7881, this case was already
pending appeal before the DARAB, the aforesaid amendments then cannot be
made to apply as to divest the DARAB of its jurisdiction over the case. It is well-
settled that once jurisdiction is acquired by the court, it remains with it until the
full termination of the case.[25]

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant Petition is


hereby GRANTED. The Decision and the Resolution of the Court of Appeals in
CA-G.R. SP No. 61955, dated 23 May 2005 and 25 January 2006, respectively,
which annulled and set aside the Decision of the DARAB, dated 25 September
2000, for lack of jurisdiction, are herebyREVERSED AND SET ASIDE. Thus,
the said Decision of the DARAB dated 25 September 2000 is
hereby REINSTATED and AFFIRMED. No costs.

SO ORDERED.
SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 132048. March 6, 2002]

HON. ANTONIO M. NUESA in his capacity as the Regional Director of DAR


Region III and RESTITUTO RIVERA, petitioners, vs. HON. COURT
OF APPEALS (14th Div.), HON. DEPARTMENT OF AGRARIAN
REFORM ADJUDICATION BOARD (DARAB) and JOSE
VERDILLO, respondents.

DECISION
QUISUMBING, J.:

This petition for review seeks to reverse the decision [1] dated December 19, 1997,
of the Court of Appeals which upheld the ruling of the Department of Agrarian
Reform Adjudication Board or DARAB in favor of private respondent Jose Verdillo.
The facts of this case, as borne by the records, are as follows:
On May 25, 1972, then Secretary of Agrarian Reform issued an Order of Award
in favor of Jose Verdillo over two (2) parcels of agricultural land, Lots 1932 and 1904
of the Buenavista Estate, San Ildefonso, Bulacan, covering 14,496 and 19,808 square
meters, respectively, under the following conditions:

That within a period of six (6) months from receipt of a copy, the awardee(s) shall
personally cultivate xxx or otherwise develop at least one-fourth of the area xxx or
occupy and construct his/her house in case of residential lot and pay at least the first
installment xxx; failure on his/her part to comply with this requirement shall be
sufficient cause for cancellation of this order and for allocation xxx in favor of any
qualified xxx applicant; and that in no case shall an agreement to sell or deed of sale,
as the case may be, issued in favor of the awardee(s) covering the lots without a
certification issued by the Land Reform Project Team Leader of Land Settlement
Superintendent that the awardee(s) has/have developed or devoted to some productive
enterprise at least one-half of the area thereof, or constructed his/her/their house
therein in case of residential land.[2]

On August 26, 1993, or after twenty-one years, private respondent filed an


application with the Regional Office of the Department of Agrarian Reform for the
purchase of said lots claiming that he had complied with the conditions set forth in the
Order. Restituto Rivera, herein petitioner, filed a letter of protest against private
respondent claiming that contrary to the manifestation of private respondent, it is
petitioner who had been in possession of the land and had been cultivating the
same.[3] Petitioner had filed his own application for said parcels in opposition to that of
private respondent.
On December 27, 1993, a representative of the Department of Agrarian Reform
Regional Office undertook an investigation to look into the conflicting claims of the
petitioner and the private respondent. Based on said investigation, it was found that:
xxx the subject lots were previously tenanted by other persons namely, Agapito
Garcia and Pablo Garcia for almost sixteen years prior to the entry of Restituto Rivera
in 1972 for Lot 1904 and in 1986 for Lot 1932 (pt.) Restituto Rivera at the time of
investigation is still in possession/cultivation of the lots in question. These facts have
never been refuted by Jose Verdillo who further testified that Restituto Rivera used to
pay annual rental of 25 cavans for Lot 1932 (pt.) and 15 cavans of palay for Lot 1904.

xxx

In the investigation...it was undoubtedly established that Lots 1932 (pt.) and 1904,
Psd-52045, were in possession/cultivation of tenants or other persons exclusive of
Jose Verdillo...It is crystal clear that Jose Verdillo has culpably violated the terms and
conditions of the Order of Award issued in his favor for lots covered thereby. [4]

On January 24, 1994, petitioner, the Regional Director of DAR, Antonio M.


Nuesa, promulgated an Order whose decretal portion reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, Order is hereby issued cancelling Order of


Award dated May 25, 1972 issued in favor of Jose Verdillo for Lot 1932 (pt.) and Lot
1904, Psd-52045, Buenavista Estate, for violation of the rules and regulations
pertaining to the disposition of lots in landed estates and forfeiting whatever payments
made by him on account thereof in favor of the government. Accordingly, the subject
lots are hereby declared vacant and open for disposition in favor of qualified
applicant.

Let the application of Restituto Rivera to purchase these lots be processed in


accordance with existing rules and regulations.[5]

Aggrieved by the cancellation of his award, private respondent then filed on


March 20, 1994, a Petition with the Provincial Adjudication Board, Region III, for
Annulment of said Order. Instead of filing an Answer to the Petition, herein
petitioners (as respondents below) filed a Motion to Dismiss the Petition on the
ground that the proper remedy was an appeal to the Secretary of the Department of
Agrarian Reform from the Order of the Regional Director, under DAR Memorandum
Circular No. 5-87, and not by a Petition with the DARAB Provincial Adjudicator,
hence, the aforesaid Order had become final and executory. The petitioners
manifested that they were no longer submitting their position paper and were opting to
rely solely on their Motion to Dismiss.[6]
The DARAB Provincial Adjudicator, however, chose to resolve the case on the
merits and on October 14, 1994, promulgated a Decision denying the petitioners
Motion to Dismiss and reversing the Order of the Regional Director, thus:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, decision is hereby rendered as follows:

1. Declaring the Order dated January 24, 1994 issued by the then public respondent
null and void being contrary to public policy;

2. Directing the Landed Estate Division, Department of Agrarian Reform, Regional


Office, San Fernando, Pampanga to immediately execute the necessary deed of
conveyance and/or title of the subject landholdings in favor of petitioner, JOSE
VERDILLO; and
3. Declaring the subject landholdings fully paid and all rights appurtenant thereto is
vested to the herein petitioner.[7]

Petitioner Rivera filed a Motion for Reconsideration from said Decision, but it
was denied by the DARAB Provincial Adjudicator.[8] He then interposed an appeal
before the DAR Appellate Adjudication Board (DARAB), Diliman, Quezon City. On
May 2, 1996, the Board issued its decision affirming that of the Provincial
Adjudicator, thus:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the appeal is hereby DENIED by affirming


the decision, dated October 14, 1994 of the Hon. Adjudicator for the Province of
Bulacan.

Likewise, there being no cogent reason to disturb the Order of February 22, 1995, the
same is hereby AFFIRMED.[9]

The Petition for Review filed by herein petitioners with the Court of Appeals was
denied due course and ordered dismissed, with costs against petitioner Rivera.[10]
Hence, this Petition for Review raising the following errors:
I

THAT THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN DENYING


AND DISMISSING THE CLAIM OF THE PETITIONERS THAT THE
DECISION OF THE BOARD (DARAB) WAS ISSUED IN EXCESS OF
JURISDICTION.
II

THAT THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN


INTERPRETING THE APPLICABLE AGRARIAN LAWS ON THE
MATTER.[11]

Briefly stated, the issue for resolution is whether or not the Court of Appeals erred
in denying petitioners claim that in this case, the Board (DARAB) acted in grave
abuse of discretion tantamount to lack or excess of its jurisdiction.
According to petitioners, the Court of Appeals and the DARAB in affirming the
decision of the Provincial Adjudicator of Bulacan committed grave abuse of
discretion, tantamount to or in excess or lack of jurisdiction, because public
respondents in their questioned Orders/Decisions merely focused on the procedural
aspect, avoiding the substantial merits of the case. Petitioners add that public
respondents brushed aside the fact that this case involves the conflicting applications
to purchase lots within the Buenavista Estate, San Ildefonso, Bulacan, which is under
the administration and disposition of the DAR pursuant to the mandate of C.A. No.
539,[12] as amended by R.A. No. 1400.[13] According to petitioners, this case is not,
strictly speaking, a tenurial dispute there being no landlord and tenant relationship, but
involves the disposition of the lots subject of the controversy between private
petitioner and private respondent. Hence, they contend that this case involves the strict
administrative implementation and award of lots within the Buenavista Estate. They
conclude that this being the case, the matter falls under the exclusive jurisdiction and
administrative competence of the DAR (Regional Director and Department Secretary)
and not of the DARAB (including the Provincial Adjudicator and the Provincial
Adjudication Board itself).
Moreover, petitioners argue, the Order of Director Nuesa dated January 24, 1994,
is in keeping with the mandate of the governing agrarian reform law, i.e., C.A. No.
539, as amended by R.A. No. 1400, which requires that lots within the Buenavista
Estate shall be strictly awarded and/or disposed of to qualified tenant-beneficiaries.
They also assert that private petitioner Rivera is the one in peaceful, adverse,
open, continuous and exclusive possession, occupation and cultivation of said lots for
the last twenty-one (21) years, while private respondent Verdillo had culpably
violated the terms and conditions set forth in the Order of Award in 1972. Citing
jurisprudence,[14] they claim private respondent Verdillo should be barred by estoppel,
whereas petitioner Rivera should be deemed to have acquired, by operation of law, a
right to a government grant without the necessity of a certificate of title issued therein
since the conditions set by law have been complied with by him.[15]
Finally, petitioners submit that public respondents grossly erred in affirming the
decision of the Provincial Adjudicator at Malolos, Bulacan, because when private
respondent filed his petition to the DAR Provincial Adjudication Board on March 20,
1994, against the DAR Regional Director of Region III and private petitioner
Restituto Rivera for the annulment of Order, said Order dated January 24, 1994, of
public petitioner had already become final and executory. According to petitioners, no
Motion for Reconsideration and/or appeal was interposed by private
respondent. Therefore, they conclude that the decision of Director Nuesa had already
acquired finality.[16]
In turn, private respondent Jose Verdillo argues that no grave abuse was
committed by the provincial adjudication officer and provincial board of adjudicators
when they decided the case on the merits in resolving petitioners Motion to Dismiss,
and by the Central DARAB and the Court of Appeals when they affirmed said
decision. According to him, the DARAB is not bound by the technical rules of
procedure as provided under Sec. 3 of the DARAB Rules of Procedure, [17] and Sec. 2
of Rule 1 of the DARAB Rules.[18] The Provincial Adjudication Boards action,
according to private respondent, sought to avoid unnecessary delays in the
adjudication of agrarian disputes.[19] Moreover, he contends, there is no basis for the
allegation that the Court of Appeals erred in appreciating applicable agrarian laws.[20]
In his Supplemental Memorandum, private respondent further refuted the results
of the DAR investigation dated December 27, 1993, and the subsequent Order of
Director Nuesa which found private respondent to have violated the terms of the
Order of Award in 1972. He claimed that he had complied with said Order of Award
and had paid in full the purchase price of the subject lots as evidenced by Official
Receipt No. 1890249.[21] Private respondent also argued that the January 24, 1994
Order of Director Nuesa was irregular because he had no authority to reverse, alter,
modify or amend the order of the Secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform.[22]
Finally, private respondent contends that the findings of the tribunals a quo are
based on substantial evidence, citing the sworn statement of Herminia G. Garcia, the
wife of the deceased Agapito Garcia, who declared that it was really private
respondent Verdillo whom she considers to be the owner of the lots subject matter of
the controversy, because it was he who financed the cultivation and improvement of
the land. Private respondent also cites the joint affidavit of Benedicta Villadarez and
Normita Valenzuela corroborating Mrs. Garcias affidavit.[23]
After carefully perusing the records of this case and considering the contentions of
the parties thereto, we find the petition impressed with merit. We agree with
petitioners that respondent Court of Appeals erred in holding that the DARAB and its
officials have not committed grave abuse of discretion tantamount to excess or lack of
jurisdiction in this case.
P.D. 946[24] provides that matters involving the administrative implementation of
the transfer of the land to the tenant-farmer under P.D. No. 27[25] and amendatory and
related decrees, orders, instructions, rules and regulations, shall be exclusively
cognizable by the Secretary of Agrarian Reform, including: xxx (5) issuance, recall or
cancellation of certificates of land transfer in cases outside the purview of P.D. No.
816.[26]
The revocation by the Regional Director of DAR of the earlier Order of Award by
the Secretary of Agriculture falls under the administrative functions of the DAR. The
DARAB and its provincial adjudicator or board of adjudicators acted erroneously and
with grave abuse of discretion in taking cognizance of the case, then overturning the
decision of the DAR Regional Director and deciding the case on the merits without
affording the petitioner opportunity to present his case.
As held by this Court in Centeno vs. Centeno,[27] the DAR is vested with the
primary jurisdiction to determine and adjudicate agrarian reform matters and shall
have the exclusive jurisdiction over all matters involving the implementation of the
agrarian reform program. The DARAB has primary, original and appellate jurisdiction
to determine and adjudicate all agrarian disputes, cases, controversies, and matters or
incidents involving the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform
Program under R.A. 6657, E.O. Nos. 229, 228 and 129-A, R.A. 3844 as amended by
R.A. 6389, P.D. No. 27 and other agrarian laws and their implementing rules and
regulations.[28]
Under Section 3(d) of R.A. 6657 (CARP Law), agrarian dispute is defined to
include (d) ...any controversy relating to tenurial arrangements, whether leasehold,
tenancy, stewardship or otherwise over lands devoted to agriculture, including
disputes concerning farmworkers associations or representation of persons in
negotiating, fixing, maintaining, changing or seeking to arrange terms or conditions of
such tenurial arrangements. It includes any controversy relating to compensation of
lands acquired under this Act and other terms and conditions of transfer of ownership
from landowners to farmworkers, tenants and other agrarian reform beneficiaries,
whether the disputants stand in the proximate relation of farm operator and
beneficiary, landowner and tenant, or lessor and lessee.
In the case at bar, petitioner and private respondent had no tenurial, leasehold, or
any agrarian relations whatsoever that could have brought this controversy between
them within the ambit of the abovecited provision. Consequently, the DARAB had no
jurisdiction over the controversy and should not have taken cognizance of private
respondents petition in the first place.[29]
Note that Administrative Order No. 3, Series of 1990, governs the distribution and
titling of lots in landed estates administered by the DAR. This Order explicitly
provides that since land has a social function, there is a concomitant social
responsibility in its ownership and should, therefore, be distributed to the actual
occupant/tillers thereof. In the investigation on December 27, 1993, conducted by the
Regional Officer of DAR, it was established that the subject lots were in the
possession and cultivation of persons other than the awardee Verdillo. Clearly, this
constituted a violation of the terms of the Order of Award issued in favor of private
respondent as an awardee, aside from contravening the underlying principles of
agrarian reform as a social justice measure. Given these circumstances, we find
petitioner Restituto Riveras plea to overturn the ruling of the Court of Appeals
meritorious.
While it bears emphasizing that findings of administrative agencies, which have
acquired expertise because their jurisdiction is confined to specific matters are
accorded not only respect but even finality by the courts, [30] care should be taken that
administrative actions are not done without due regard to the jurisdictional boundaries
set by the enabling law for each agency. In this case, respondent DARAB officials and
boards, provincial and central, had overstepped their legal boundaries in taking
cognizance of the controversy between petitioner Rivera and private respondent
Verdillo as to who should be awarded Lots 1932 and 1904 of the Buenavista
Estate. Respondent appellate court erred in sustaining DARABs unjustified action
taken with grave abuse of discretion resulting in lack or excess of its jurisdiction.
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The decision of the Court of Appeals
dated December 19, 1997, is REVERSED, and the order of DAR Appellate
Adjudication Board on May 2, 1996, and of the DARAB Provincial Adjudication
Officer and Board dated October 14, 1994, and February 22, 1995, are declared
NULL and VOID and SET ASIDE. The order of DAR Regional Director for Region
III dated January 24, 1994, in favor of petitioner Restituto Rivera is REINSTATED.
No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.
FIRST DIVISION

[G.R. No. 122276. November 20, 2001]

RODRIGO ALMUETE and ANA ALMUETE, petitioners, vs. MARCELO


ANDRES and THE COURT OF APPEALS, respondents.

DECISION
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

The subject of this controversy is a parcel of agricultural land identified as Lot 8449 Pls-
967, located at San Vicente, Angadanan, Isabela, measuring approximately 72,587 square
meters. Way back on March 25, 1957, this parcel was awarded by the then National Resettlement
and Rehabilitation Administration (NARRA) to petitioner Rodrigo Almuete. Since then, Rodrigo
Almuete exercised exclusive possession of the property, cultivating it and planting thereon narra,
fruit trees, rice, corn and legumes. For some twenty-two (22) years, Rodrigo Almuete and his
family farmed the subject property peacefully and exclusively.
However, unknown to Rodrigo Almuete, on August 17, 1979, an Agrarian Reform
Technologist by the name of Leticia Gragasin filed a field investigation and inspection report
stating, among others, that the whereabouts of the original awardee of the subject property,
Rodrigo Almuete, was unknown and that he had waived all his rights as a NARRA settler due to
his poor health beyond his control and financial hardship. Gragasin also stated therein that the
actual occupant of the land is Marcelo Andres since April 1967 to date. She recommended to the
Director of the Ministry of Agrarian Reform (MAR) in Tuguegarao, Cagayan that the award in
favor of Rodrigo Almuete be cancelled and that the land be awarded to respondent Marcelo
Andres. Consequently, Marcelo Andres was allowed to file his homestead application. To further
support his application, Marcelo Andres represented to the MAR (now DAR) officials that
sometime in 1965, Rodrigo Almuete sold the subject property to one Victor Masiglat, who gave
the former a radiophono set as consideration therefor. Since Victor Masiglat was disqualified
from acquiring the subject property owing to his also being a NARRA awardee, he transferred
the said property to Marcelo Andres in exchange for one (1) carabao and the sum of Six Hundred
Pesos (P600.00). These successive transfers were not covered by written contracts between the
parties.
On the strength of the MAR Regional Directors recommendation and Marcelo Andres
representations, the latter was granted and issued a homestead patent.
In the meantime, unaware that the NARRA award in his favor had been cancelled and that a
homestead patent had been issued to Marcelo Andres, Rodrigo Almuete and his family,
particularly his daughter Ana Almuete, continued to cultivate and farm the subject property. In
1982, Rodrigo Almuete built a house in Barangay Fortune, Alicia, Isabela, where he resided
while working as a driver for a rice mill. From time to time, he would visit the farm to deliver
supplies and pay wages to the laborers who worked therein.
In 1988, the DAR Regional Director recommended the transfer of ownership over the
subject property to Marcelo Andres. On July 7, 1988, the DAR issued Original Certificate of
Title (OCT) No. P-52521 in the name of Marcelo Andres, which certificate was registered in the
Registry of Deeds of Isabela on January 26, 1989.
Shortly thereafter, Marcelo Andres, accompanied by ten (10) other persons armed with
bolos and other bladed implements, entered the subject property, claiming exclusive right of
ownership and possession. They felled the narra trees, converting the same to lumber, and
destroyed the mongos planted by the Almuetes. Marcelo Andres gained control, and took
possession, of approximately half of the subject property.
Rodrigo Almuete wasted no time in complaining to the DAR authorities of Marcelo Andres
encroachment into and occupation of the subject property. It was only then that he learned that
the subject property had been titled in the name of Marcelo Andres and that the award in his
favor had been cancelled because he had allegedly abandoned the subject property. Upon
Rodrigo Almuetes inquiry, the records of the local office of the Department of Environment and
Natural Resources (DENR) showed that he was still the listed owner of the subject property.
Consequently, Rodrigo Almuete and his daughter, Ana Almuete, filed an action for
reconveyance and recovery of possession against Marcelo Andres with the Regional Trial Court
of Cauayan, Isabela, Branch 20, docketed as Civil Case No. Br-20-530.
On November 26, 1993, the trial court rendered judgment as follows:

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the plaintiffs and against the
defendant Marcelo Andres:

(1) declaring plaintiff Rodrigo Almuete owner of the land in question, now covered by
Original Certificate of Title No. P-52521 in the name of the defendant Marcelo
Andres;

(2) ordering the defendant Marcelo Andres and/or his representatives to vacate the
land in question and deliver the peaceful possession thereof to the plaintiffs;

(3) ordering the defendant Marcelo Andres to reconvey at his expense, the title, OCT
No. P-52521, to the plaintiff Rodrigo Almuete; and

(4) ordering the defendant Marcelo Andres to pay to the plaintiffs P13,000.00 by way
of attorneys fees.

Costs against the defendant.

SO ORDERED. [1]

The trial court found that Marcelo Andres did not acquire any right over the subject property
when he supposedly bought it from Victor Masiglat because the latter never acquired ownership
from the original owner, Rodrigo Almuete. Besides, defendant Marcelo Andres could not present
any valid document to prove his acquisition of the said property. It also found that Rodrigo
Almuete did not abandon the subject property. Rather, Leticia Gragasin of the MAR made
obviously false assertions in her report, knowingly misleading the Regional Director into
cancelling the name of Rodrigo Almuete as an awardee and issuing the homestead patent in the
name of Marcelo Andres. Hence, the cancellation of Rodrigo Almuetes award and the issuance
of the homestead patent in favor of Marcelo Andres were perpetrated through fraud.
Marcelo Andres failed to appeal; thus, the trial courts decision became final and
executory. On February 15, 1994, a writ of execution was issued. Marcelo Andres filed a motion
to quash the writ of execution, but the trial court did not act on it on the ground that it had no
more jurisdiction over the case.[2]
Marcelo Andres filed a petition for certiorari before the Court of Appeals, stating at the
outset that his counsel had failed to file a timely motion for reconsideration of the decision or an
appeal due to sheer ignorance of the law.[3] In his petition, Andres assailed the trial courts
jurisdiction over the nature as well as the subject matter of the case. He argued that since the
subject property was agricultural land covered by a homestead patent, exclusive jurisdiction was
with the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (or DARAB), not with the regular
courts. Respondent Andres also stressed that the original action was for ejectment, which was
cognizable by the municipal trial courts, not by the Regional Trial Courts. Consequently, for
want of jurisdiction, the trial courts decision was null and void; and cannot be enforced by writ
of execution or any other legal means.
On August 9, 1995, the Court of Appeals rendered the impugned Decision, disposing as
follows:

WHEREFORE, finding the petition meritorious, the writ of certiorari prayed for is
GRANTED. Judgment is rendered DISMISSING Civil Case No. Br. 20-530 of the
Regional Trial Court, Branch 20, Cauayan, Isabela and declaring the decision
rendered therein, the order granting the motion for execution and the writ of execution
issued NULL and VOID. In the event the writ of execution has been carried out,
respondent Court is ordered to restore petitioner in possession of the land, to cancel
whatever new title may have been issued to private respondents, to reinstate
petitioners OCT P-52521, and the restitution of whatever sums collected from
petitioner as expenses of reconveyance or attorneys fees. Respondent Court is ordered
to restore the status quo before the complaint, the decision and the writ of execution.

SO ORDERED. [4]

Petitioners moved for the reconsideration of the decision. On October 6, 1995, the Court of
Appeals issued the assailed Resolution,[5] denying the motion for reconsideration.
Hence, the instant petition for review, ascribing to the Court of Appeals grave abuse of
discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when:
I. it gave due course to the Petition for Certiorari of the respondent Marcelo Andres, dated June
10, 1994, questioning the Decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 20, Cauayan,
Isabela, dated November 26, 1993, clearly seven (7) months after the decision of the
Regional Trial Court;
II. it did not consider and give weight to the contention of petitioners that this case is not as
Agrarian Dispute, hence, it does not fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Department
of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board, but to the Regional Trial Court;
III. it did not consider and give weight to the fact that private respondent Marcelo Andres
entered into the land allocated to the petitioners by the National Resettlement and
Rehabilitation Administration (NARRA), by the use of guns and boloes;
IV. in not awarding, recognizing and honoring the vested interest of the petitioners on that
parcel of land identified as Lot 8449, Pls-967-D (identical with Lot 196, Pls-81 of the
NARRA) with an area of 72,587 square meters, awarded to them by the government thru the
NARRA.[6]
The petition is impressed with merit.
The action filed by petitioners before the trial court was for recovery of possession and
reconveyance of title. The issue to be resolved was who between petitioner Rodrigo Almuete and
respondent Marcelo Andres has a better right to the subject property considering that both of
them are awardees of the same property. It was thus a controversy relating to ownership of the
farmland, which is beyond the ambit of the phrase agrarian dispute. No juridical tie of landowner
and tenant was alleged between petitioners and respondent, let alone that which would so
characterize the relationship as an agrarian dispute.[7] In fact, petitioner and respondent were
contending parties for the ownership of the same parcel of land.[8]
Rule II, Section 1 of the Revised Rules of Procedure of the DARAB, provides:

Section 1. Primary, Original and Appellate Jurisdiction. --- The Agrarian Reform
Adjudication Board shall have primary jurisdiction, both original and appellate, to
determine and adjudicate all agrarian disputes, cases, controversies, and matters or
incidents involving the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform
Program under Republic Act No. 6657, Executive Order Nos. 229, 228 and 129-A,
Republic Act No. 3844 as amended by Republic Act No. 6389, P.D. No. 27 and other
agrarian laws and their implementing rules and regulations.

Agrarian dispute is defined under Section 3(d) of Republic Act No. 6657, as:

(d) Agrarian Dispute refers to any controversy relating to tenurial arrangements,


whether leasehold, tenancy, stewardship or otherwise, over lands devoted to
agriculture, including disputes concerning farmworkers associations or representation
of persons in negotiating, fixing, maintaining, changing or seeking to arrange terms or
conditions of such tenurial arrangements.

It includes any controversy relating to compensation of lands acquired under this Act
and other terms and conditions of transfer of ownership from landowners to
farmworkers, tenants and other agrarian reform beneficiaries, whether the disputants
stand in the proximate relation of farm operator and beneficiary, landowner and
tenant, or lessor and lessee.

From the foregoing, it is clear that the jurisdiction of the DARAB is limited to cases
involving a tenancy relationship between the parties. The following elements are indispensable
to establish a tenancy relationship:

(1) The parties are the landowner and the tenant or agricultural lessee;

(2) The subject matter of the relationship is an agricultural land;

(3) There is consent between the parties to the relationship;

(4) The purpose of the relationship is to bring about agricultural production;

(5) There is personal cultivation on the part of the tenant or agricultural lessee; and

(6) The harvest is shared between the landowner and the tenant or agricultural lessee. [9]

The Court of Appeals, therefore, gravely erred when it granted the petition for certiorari and
held that the trial court had no jurisdiction over the subject matter of the action between
petitioners and respondent. The action filed by petitioners was cognizable by the regular
courts. Consequently, the Regional Trial Court of Cauayan, Isabela was competent to try and
decide Civil Case No. 20-530. Its decision was, thus, valid and can no longer be disturbed, after
having attained finality. Nothing more can be done with the decision except to enforce it.
Respondents contention that the action below was an ejectment suit is untenable. Basic is the
rule that in actions for ejectment, the only issue is possession. This is not true as regards the case
below, which principally involved the question of ownership, or more accurately, the validity of
the homestead patent awarded to petitioner vis--vis that awarded to respondent.
It is true that the caption of the Amended Complaint includes ejectment in the description of
the nature of the suit. However, it is not the caption of the pleading but the allegations therein
that determine the nature of the action.[10] A close perusal of the Amended Complaint filed before
the court a quo indubitably shows that petitioners, as plaintiffs therein, prayed for the
cancellation of the certificate of title in the name of Marcelo Andres, and that they be declared
the absolute owners of the land in dispute.[11]
On a final procedural note, the Court of Appeals erred in giving due course to the special
civil action for certiorari. A basic requisite for such action to lie is that there is no appeal, nor
any plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. Certiorari is a remedy of
last recourse and is a limited form of review. Its principal function is to keep inferior tribunals
within their jurisdiction. Certioraricannot be used as a substitute for the lost remedy of
appeal. Respondent lost that remedy by his failure to appeal.[12]
WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, the instant petition for review is
GRANTED. The assailed Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No.
34314 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE.
SO ORDERED.
FIRST DIVISION

[G.R. No. 122704. January 5, 1998]

PEDRO CHICO, represented by WILFREDO CHICO, as Attorney-in


Fact, petitioner, vs. THE HON. COURT OF APPEALS, and
MARTIN MANANGHAYA and LEONILA
MANANGHAYA, respondents.

DECISION
VITUG, J.:

Claiming to be the lawful owner of a lot located in Sta. Barbara, Baliuag, Bulacan,
pursuant to a final court verdict,[1] herein petitioner filed, on 31 July 1992, an action for
the recovery of possession of the property with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of
Malolos, Bulacan, against private respondents. Petitioner averred that private
respondents were occupying a portion of the adjudicated lot which he would need for
his own personal use and that of his family but that because private respondents,
despite repeated demands, had refused to vacate the premises, he was constrained to
initiate the case.
In their answer, private respondents disputed petitioners cause of
action. Respondent spouses assert that the true owners of the property in question,
namely, Don Rafael and Doa Salud Chico, were succeeded upon their death by their
son Delfin Chico; that private respondents had long been in lawful possession of the
subject parcel of land as tenants of the deceased spouses and their son to whom
rentals had been paid; and that, in any case, petitioners action had already prescribed.
On 12 January 1994, the Malolos RTC, Branch 14, rendered its decision sustaining
the complaint and ordering private respondents to vacate the subject lot and to
surrender its possession to petitioner.
Private respondents did not take an appeal from the decision; instead, they initiated
with the Court of Appeals a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court to
annul and set aside the RTC decision for allegedly being void. Private respondents
claimed that their tenancy relationship with the original owner was an agrarian dispute
cognizable exclusively by the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board
(DARAB), pursuant to E.O. No. 229 and No. 129-A and R.A. No. 6657, and that,
consequently, the decision of the trial court was a complete nullity for want of
jurisdiction.
On 16 June 1995, the Court of Appeals, acquiescing to the claim of tenancy
relationship between the parties, promulgated its judgment granting the petition and
setting aside the assailed decision of the Regional Trial Court. The appellate court
viewed the dispute between petitioner and private respondents to be an agrarian reform
matter; it thus held that the Department of Agrarian Reform, not the trial court a quo,
had lawful jurisdiction over the case. A motion for a reconsideration of the decision
proved to be futile.

In the instant petition for review, petitioner Pedro Chico asseverates that -

1. The Honorable Court of Appeals [has] erred in not giving petitioner an


opportunity to file his comment or answer to the petition before rendering its
decision thereon, thus denying him procedural due process.
2. The Honorable court of Appeals [has] erred in not dismissing the petition as
the proper remedy is ordinary appeal and not a petition for certiorari.

3. The Honorable Court of Appeals [has] erred in finding that the dispute
between the parties is agrarian in nature.

The Court finds merit in the petition.


The rule has always been to the effect that the jurisdiction of a Court, as well as the
concomitant nature of an action, is determined by the averments in the complaint and
not by the defenses contained in the answer.[2] If it were otherwise, it would not be too
difficult to have a case either thrown out of court or its proceedings unduly delayed by
simple stratagem.
The complaint filed by petitioner before the trial court is one for recovery of
possession, also known as accion publiciana, and it is this averment of the complaint
that has conferred jurisdiction on that court. In order for a tenancy relation to take
serious hold over the dispute, it would be essential to first establish all its indispensable
elements, to wit: (1) That the parties are the landowner and the tenant or agricultural
lessee; (2) that the subject matter of the relationship is an agricultural land; (3) that
there is consent between the parties to the relationship; (4) that the purpose of the
relationship is to bring about agricultural production; (5) that there is personal cultivation
on the part of the tenant or agricultural lessee; and (6) that the harvest is shared
between the landowner and the tenant or agricultural lessee. [3] It is not enough that
these requisites are alleged; these requisites must be shown in order to divest the
regular court of its jurisdiction in proceedings lawfully began before it. These conditions
have not been met in the case at bar.
The records of the case would fail to show any juridical tie binding between private
respondents and petitioner or their predecessors-in-interest, let alone that which would
so characterize the relationship as an agrarian dispute. It would appear that the owner
of the land, Don Rafael Chico, gave the property to petitioner Pedro Chico in 1954 [4] and,
since then, the latter or his representative had taken over the land and had exercised
acts of ownership thereover.[5] There was no evidence adduced that any tenancy
agreement had been concluded between Pedro Chico and private respondent Martin
Mananghaya. Indeed, the latter admitted that he only dealt with Delfin Chico, the son of
the late Don Rafael Chico.[6] Worse, the land subject matter of the controversy was not
shown to be an agricultural land; to the contrary, the land would appear to be located
within a residential area, in Barangay Sta. Barbara, Baliuag, Bulacan, adjacent to the
National Highway. On the disputed parcel, a mere 3,865 square meters, was the old
residential house of petitioner, as well as the portion occupied by private respondents
consisting of an area of 500 square meters, and a few mango trees, numbering about
seven or eight.[7] Compounding the matter, no receipt, or any other evidence, was
presented by private respondents to prove their claim that the harvest was shared
between petitioners and private respondents.[8]
Self-serving statements in pleadings are inadequate; proof must be adduced. This
burden private respondents have failed to discharge before the trial court; if private
respondents have felt otherwise, the remedy should have been a timely
appeal. Certainly, Rule 65 of the Rules of Court cannot be a substitute for lost appeal.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED; the assailed decision of the Court
of Appeals of 16 June 1995 and Resolution of 06 November 1995 are hereby SET
ASIDE and the questioned decision of the Regional Trial Court of Malolos, Bulacan, in
Civil Case No. 487-M-92, is REINSTATED. Costs against private respondents.
SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. L-105586 December 15, 1993

REMIGIO ISIDRO, petitioner,


vs.
THE HON. COURT OF APPEALS (SEVENTH DIVISION) AND NATIVIDAD
GUTIERREZ, respondents.

Joventino A. Cornista for petitioner.

Yolanda Quisumbing-Javellana & Associates for private respondent.

PADILLA, J.:

This is a petition for review on certiorari of the decision * of the respondent Court of Appeals dated 27 February 1992
in CA-G.R. SP No. 26671 ordering petitioner to vacate the land in question and surrender possession thereof to the private respondent; and
its 21 May 1992 resolution denying petitioner's motion for reconsideration for lack of merit.

The facts which gave rise to this petition are as follows:

Private respondent Natividad Gutierrez is the owner of a parcel of land with an area of 4.5 hectares
located in Barrio Sta. Cruz, Gapan, Nueva Ecija. In 1985, Aniceta Garcia, sister of private
respondent and also the overseer of the latter, allowed petitioner Remigio Isidro to occupy the
swampy portion of the abovementioned land, consisting of one (1) hectare, in order to augment his
(petitioner's) income to meet his family's needs. The occupancy of a portion of said land was subject
top the condition that petitioner would vacate the land upon demand. Petitioner occupied the
land without paying any rental and converted the same into a fishpond.

In 1990, private respondent through the overseer demanded from petitioner the return of the land,
but the latter refused to vacate and return possession of said land, claiming that he had spent effort
and invested capital in converting the same into a fishpond.

A complaint for unlawful detainer was filed by private respondent against petitioner before the
Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Gapan, Nueva Ecija which was docketed as Civil Case No. 4120.
Petitioner set up the following defenses: (a) that the complaint was triggered by his refusal to
increase his lease rental; (b) the subject land is a fishpond and therefore is agricultural land; and (c)
that lack of formal demand to vacate exposes the complaint to dismissal for insufficiency of cause of
action. 1

Based on an ocular inspection of the subject land, the trial court found that the land in question is a
fishpond 2and, thus, in a decision dated 30 May 1991, the said trial court dismissed the complaint, ruling
that the land is agricultural and therefore the dispute over it is agrarian which is under the original and
exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of agrarian relations as provided in Sec. 12(a) of Republic Act No. 946
(now embodied in the Revised Rules of Procedure of the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication
Board). 3

An appeal was filed by private respondent before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Gapan, Nueva
Ecija, docketed as Civil Case No. 889. In due course, the RTC rendered a decision on 5 November
1991 concurring with the findings of the MTC and affirming in toto the trial court's decision.

The RTC decision held that:

Even conceding for the sake of argument that the defendant-appellee was allowed
by the plaintiff-appellant, through her sister Aniceta Garcia (her administratrix over
the land in question) to occupy and use the landholding in question on condition that
the defendant would vacate the same upon demand of the owner or plaintiff herein,
without paying any rental either in cash or produce, under these facts there was a
tenurial arrangement, within the meaning of Sec. 3(d) of RA 6657, thereby placing
the dispute involved in this case within the jurisdiction of the DARAB. Perhaps, it
would be different if the defendant was merely a trespasser, without any right
whatsoever, when he entered and occupied the subject landholding. The defendant,
as a matter of fact, was a legal possessor of the land in question and therefore to
determine his rights and obligations over the said property, the DARAB is the proper
forum for such issue. 4

Not satisfied with the decision of the RTC, private respondent appealed to the respondent Court of
Appeals and the appeal was docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 26671. On 27 February 1992, as earlier
stated, the respondent Court of Appeals reversed and set aside the decision of the RTC, ordering
petitioner to vacate the parcel of land in question and surrender possession thereof to private
respondent, and to pay private respondent the sum of P5,000.00 as and for attorney's fees and
expenses of litigation. 5

The respondent Court of Appeals ruled that:

The agrarian dispute over which the DAR may have jurisdiction by virtue of its quasi-
judicial power is that which involves tenurial arrangements, whether leasehold,
tenancy, stewardship or otherwise, over lands devoted to agriculture. Tenurial
arrangement is concerned with the act or manner of putting into proper order the
rights of holding a piece of agricultural land between the landowner and the farmer or
farmworker.

In the case at bar, there can be no dispute that between the parties herein there is no
tenurial arrangement, whether leasehold, tenancy, stewardship or otherwise, over
the land in dispute. Other than his bare allegation in the Answer with Counterclaim,
and his affidavit, private respondent has not shown prima facie that he is a tenant of
the petitioner. The affidavits of his witnesses Antonio Samin and Daniel Villareal
attest to the fact that they acted as mediators in the dispute between the parties
herein sometime in October 1990, but no settlement was arrived at, and that the
subject land is a fishpond. To the same effect is the affidavit of Feliciano Garcia.
Absent any prima facie proof that private respondent has a tenancy relationship with
petitioner, the established fact is that private respondent is possessing the property
in dispute by mere tolerance, and when such possession ceased as such upon
demand to vacate by the petitioner, private respondent became a squatter in said
land. We hold that the Municipal Trial Court of Gapan, Nueva Ecija has jurisdiction
over the unlawful detainer case. 6

Petitioner moved for reconsideration of the foregoing decision, but, also as earlier stated, it was
denied in a resolution dated 21 May 1992 7 for lack of merit.

Hence, this petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.

Petitioner raises the following issue:

WHETHER OR NOT THE MUNICIPAL COURT HAS THE JURISDICTION IN THIS


CASE AND WHETHER THE PUBLIC RESPONDENT COULD LEGALLY EJECT
THE PETITIONER CONSIDERING THE FOLLOWING:

1. THAT THE SUBJECT IS A FISHPOND AND UNDER THE LAW AND


JURISPRUDENCE FISHPONDS ARE CLASSIFIED AS AGRICULTURAL LANDS;

2. THAT BEING AN AGRICULTURAL LAND THE SAME IS GOVERNED BY OUR


TENANCY LAWS WHERE RULE 70 OF THE RULES OF COURT CANNOT BE
SIMPLY APPLIED; AND

3. THAT UNDER THE RULES OF THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRARIAN REFORM


ADJUDICATION BOARD, THE DETERMINATION OF WHETHER A PERSON
WORKING ON A FISHPOND IS A TENANT OR NOT IS CLEARLY WITHIN THE
EXCLUSIVE JURISDICTION OF THE DARAB. 8

The petition is devoid of merit. We hold for the private respondent.

It is basic whether or not a court has jurisdiction over the subject matter of an action is determined
from the allegations of the complaint. As held in Multinational Village Homeowners' Association,
Inc., vs. Court of Appeals, et al.: 9

Jurisdiction over the subject-matter is determined upon the allegations made in the
complaint, irrespective of whether the plaintiff is entitled to recover upon the claim
asserted therein — a matter resolved only after and as a result of the trial. Neither
can the jurisdiction of the court be made to depend upon the defenses made by the
defendant in his answer or motion to dismiss. If such were the rule, the question of
jurisdiction would depend almost entirely upon the defendant.

In her complaint before the court a quo, private respondent stated that she is the owner of a parcel
of land situated in Barrio Sta. Cruz, Gapan, Nueva Ecija, which petitioner is illegally occupying; that
petitioner has taken advantage of the tolerance of her (private respondent's) sister in allowing him to
occupy the land on the condition that he (petitioner) would vacate the land upon demand. Because
of petitioner's refusal to vacate the land, private respondent's remedy, as owner of said land, was to
file an action for unlawful detainer with the Municipal Trial Court.

In his answer to the complainant, petitioner alleged that the land involved in the dispute is an
agricultural land and hence, the case must be filed with the Court of Agrarian Relations (not the
MTC). Moreover, petitioner contended that it was his refusal to increase his lease rental (implying
tenancy) that prompted the private respondent to sue him in court. 10

It is well settled jurisprudence that a court does not lose its jurisdiction over an unlawful detainer
case by the simple expedient of a party raising as a defense therein the alleged existence of a
tenancy relationship between the parties. 11 The court continues to have the authority to hear the
evidence for the purpose precisely of determining whether or not it has jurisdiction. And upon such
hearing, if tenancy is shown to be the real issue, the court should dismiss the case for lack of
jurisdiction. 12

The MTC dismissed the unlawful detainer complaint primarily on the ground that the subject land is
agricultural and therefore the question at issue is agrarian. In this connection, it is well to recall that
Section 1, Rule II of the Revised Rules of Procedure, 13 provides that the Agrarian Reform Adjudication
Board shall have primary jurisdiction, both original and appellate, to determine and adjudicate all agrarian
disputes, cases, controversies, and matters or incidents involving the implementation of the
Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program under Republic Act No. 6657, Executive Order Nos. 229, 228
and 129-A, Republic Act No. 3844 as amended by Republic Act No. 6389, Presidential Decree No. 27
and other agrarian laws and their implementing rules and regulations.

An agrarian dispute refers to any controversy relating to tenurial arrangements, whether leasehold,
tenancy, stewardship or otherwise, over lands devoted to agriculture, including disputes concerning
farmworkers associations or representation of persons in negotiating, fixing, maintaining, changing
or seeking to arrange terms and conditions of such tenurial arrangements. It includes any
controversy relating to compensation of lands acquired under Republic Act No. 6657 and other terms
and conditions of transfer of ownership from landowners to farmworkers, tenants and other agrarian
reform beneficiaries, whether the disputants stand in the proximate relation of farm operator and
beneficiary, landowner and tenant, or lessor or lessee. 14

It is irrefutable in the case at bar that the subject land which used to be an idle, swampy land was
converted by the petitioner into a fishpond. And it is settled that a fishpond is an agricultural land. An
agricultural land refers to the land devoted to agricultural activity as defined in Republic Act No.
6657 15 and not classified as mineral, forest, residential, commercial or industrial land. 16 Republic Act No.
6657 defines agricultural activity as the cultivation of the soil, planting of crops, growing of fruit trees,
raising of livestock, poultry or fish, including the harvesting of such farm products, and other farm
activities, and practices performed by a farmer in conjunction with such farming operations done by
persons whether natural or judicial. 17

But a case involving an agricultural land does not automatically make such case an agrarian dispute
upon which the DARAB has jurisdiction. The mere fact that the land is agricultural does not ipso
facto make the possessor an agricultural lessee of tenant. The law provides for conditions or
requisites before he can qualify as one and the land being agricultural is only one of
them. 18 The law states that an agrarian dispute must be a controversy relating to a tenurial arrangement
over lands devoted to agriculture. And as previously mentioned, such arrangement may be leasehold,
tenancy or stewardship.

Tenancy is not a purely factual relationship dependent on what the alleged tenant does upon the
land. It is also a legal relationship. The intent of the parties, the understanding when the farmer is
installed, and their written agreements, provided these are complied with and are not contrary to law,
are even more important. 19

The essential requisites of a tenancy relationship are: (1) the parties are the landowner and the
tenant; (2) the subject matter is agricultural land; (3) there is consent; (4) the purpose is agricultural
production; (5) there is personal cultivation by the tenant; and (6) there is a sharing of harvests
between the parties. All these requisites must concur in order to create a tenancy relationship
between the parties. The absence of one does not make an occupant of a parcel of land, or a
cultivator thereof, or a planter thereon, a de jure tenant. Unless a person establishes his status as
a de jure tenant, he is not entitled to security of tenure nor is he covered by the Land Reform
Program of the government under existing tenancy laws (Caballes v. DAR, et al., G.R. No. 78214,
December 5, 1988). 20

Furthermore, an agricultural lessee as defined in Sec. 116(2) of Republic Act No. 3844, is a person
who, by himself and with the aid available from within his immediate farm household, cultivates the
land belonging to, or possessed by, another with the latter's consent for purposes of production, for a
price certain in money or in produce or both. An agricultural lessor, on the other hand, is a natural or
judicial person who, either as owner, civil law lessee, usufructuary, or legal possessor lets or grants
to another the cultivation and use of his land for a price certain. 21

Based on the statutory definitions of a tenant or a lessee, it is clear that there is no tenancy or
agricultural/leasehold relationship existing between the petitioner and the private respondent. There
was no contract or agreement entered into by the petitioner with the private respondent nor with the
overseer of the private respondent, for petitioner to cultivate the land for a price certain or to share
his harvests. Petitioner has failed to substantiate his claim that he was paying rent for the use of the
land.

Whether or not private respondent knew of the conversion by petitioner of the idle, swampy land into
a fishpond is immaterial in this case. The fact remains that the existence of all the requisites of a
tenancy relationship was not proven by the petitioner. And in the absence of a tenancy relationship,
the complaint for unlawful detainer is properly within the jurisdiction of the Municipal Trial Court, as
provided in Sec. 33 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129.

Having established that the occupancy and possession by petitioner of the land in question is by
mere tolerance, private respondent had the legal right to demand upon petitioner to vacate the land.
And as correctly ruled by the respondent appellate court:

. . . . His (petitioner's) lawful possession became illegal when the petitioner (now
private respondent) through her sister made a demand on him to vacate and he
refused to comply with such demand. Such is the ruling in Pangilinan vs. Aguilar, 43
SCRA 136, 144, wherein it was held:

While in possession by tolerance is lawful, such possession becomes


illegal upon demand to vacate is made by the owner and the
possessor by tolerance refuses to comply with such demand (Prieto
vs. Reyes, 14 SCRA 432; Yu vs. De Lara, 6 SCRA 786, 788; Amis
vs. Aragon, L-4684, April 28, 1957). A person who occupies the land
of another at the latter's tolerance or permission, without any contract
between them, is necessarily bound by an implied promise that he
will vacate upon demand, failing which a summary action for
ejectment is the proper remedy against him (Yu vs. De
Lara,supra)." 22

The present case should be distinguished from the recent case of Bernas vs. The Honorable Court
of Appeals. 23In the Bernas case, the land occupant (Bernas) had a production-sharing agreement with
the legal possessor (Benigno Bito-on) while the records in this case fail to show that herein petitioner
(Isidro) was sharing the harvest or paying rent for his use of the land. Moreover, the agreement between
the overseer (Garcia) and herein petitioner was for petitioner to occupy and use the land by mere
tolerance of the owner. Petitioner Isidro failed to refute that Garcia allowed him to use the land subject to
the condition that petitioner would vacate it upon demand. In the Bernas case, the petitioner (Bernas) was
able to establish the existence of an agricultural tenancy or leasehold relationship between him and the
legal possessor. The evidence in this case, on the other hand, fails to prove that petitioner Isidro, was an
agricultural tenant or lessee.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The questioned decision and resolution of the Court of
Appeals are hereby AFFIRMED. Costs against the petitioner.

SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 96489 July 14, 1995

NICOLAS G. SINTOS, petitioner,


vs.
HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, TEOFILO MAGARIN, AGUIDO EBASCO, GUILLERMO
CASINILLO, MANUEL CASINILLO, SERGIO CORPUS, SEVERINO MAGARIN, RUFINA
MENDOZA, VICTORIA ORILAN and FAUSTA SALIDAGA, respondents.

QUIASON, J.:

This petition for review on certiorari assails the Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No.
20569, affirming the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 5, Butuan City in Civil Case No.
2716, which awarded disturbance compensation to private respondents.

Since the early part of 1963 up to middle part of 1983, private respondents had been cultivating, as
tenants of petitioner, portions of a parcel of land covered by Tax Declaration No. 26370, with an area
of 15.4459 hectares and situated at Villa Kananga, Butuan City. They agreed to pay him one-fourth
of their harvest as his share. On March 10, 1971, petitioner amended the sharing arrangement by
requiring them to give him ten sacks of 50 kilos per sack, per hectare, per harvest. Thereafter, they
had been paying him on the basis of the new sharing scheme.

On May 25, 1976, private respondents and Carmen Sintos, wife of petitioner, entered into a lease
contract over the same parcel of land. Said agreement was however not recognized by petitioner,
who insisted that the Agreement of March 10, 1971 should be the one enforced.

Subsequently, petitioner's land was identified by the Ministry of Agrarian Reform (MAR) as covered
under the Operation Land Transfer. Consequently, private respondents were issued Certificates of
Land Transfer pursuant to P.D. No. 27 covering the portions respectively occupied by them.

Petitioner asked for the exclusion of his landholding from the land reform, contending that the
portions occupied by private respondents were part of his land development project, the Sintos
Subdivision. After investigation, the MAR District Office at Butuan City recommended the
cancellation of the Certificates of Land Transfer issued to private respondents and instead
recommended the award to them of disturbance compensation.

On November 5, 1982, the MAR affirmed the recommendation of the MAR District Office.

On December 10, 1982, a conference was held at the MAR office between private respondents and
petitioner to discuss the amount of disturbance compensation due the former. However, no
agreement was reached by the parties.

In the middle part of 1983, private respondents were ejected from their landholdings when petitioner
started dumping sand and gravel on the portions cultivated by them. Subsequently, on August 4,
1983, private respondents filed Civil Case No. 2745 with the Regional Trial Court, Branch 5, Butuan
City for payment of disturbance compensation under Section 36 of R.A. No. 3844 (the Agricultural
Land Reform Code), as amended.

In his answer to private respondents' complaint, petitioner raised, among other defenses: (1) that the
contract between the parties was a civil law lease contract; (2) that the land ceased to be an
agricultural land; and (3) that the cause of action had prescribed.
On April 22, 1986, the trial court rendered its decision in favor of private respondents and against
petitioner, the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the plaintiffs and against the
defendant, ordering and directing the latter to pay unto the plaintiffs the following:

1. To pay each plaintiff the number of sacks of palay at forty six (46) kilos per sack
and/or its money equivalence, to wit:

Aquido Ebasco 580;


Teofilo Magarin 485;
Sergio Corpus 355;
Fausto Salidaga 347.5;
Guillermo 325;
Casinillo
Rufina Mendoza 322.5;
Severino 247.5;
Magarin
Manuel Casinillo 210; and
Victoria Orilan 207.5;

plus interest thereon at TWELVE PER CENT (12%) per annum beginning the day
when the complaint was filed until the whole amount is fully paid; and

To pay the costs of the suit (Rollo, pp. 105-106).

Petitioner appealed to the Court of Appeals, which on November 19, 1990, affirmed the decision of
the trial court, disposing as follows:

WHEREFORE, premises considered and it appearing that the findings of fact in the
decision are duly supported by substantial evidence and the conclusions stated
therein are not clearly against the law and jurisprudence, the appealed decision is
hereby AFFIRMED.

With costs against appellant (Rollo, p. 41).

Hence, this petition.

II

Petitioner contends that private respondents have no right to disturbance compensation because
they were not his tenants.

Section 166(2) of R.A. No. 3844, as amended, provides:

xxx xxx xxx

(2) "Agricultural lessee" means a person who, by himself and with the aid available
from within his immediate farm household, cultivates the land belonging to, or
possessed by, another with the latter's consent for purposes of production, for a price
certain in money or in produce or both. It is distinguished from civil law lessee as
understood in the Civil Code of the Philippines.

xxx xxx xxx

The essential requisites of tenancy relationship are: (1) the parties are the landowner and the tenant;
(2) the subject is agricultural land; (3) there is consent; (4) the purpose is agricultural production; (5)
there is personal cultivation; and (6) there is sharing of harvests. All these requisites must concur in
order to create a tenancy relationship between the parties (Baranda v. Baguio, 189 SCRA 194
[1990]).
In the instant case, we find that there existed a landlord and tenant relationship between petitioner
and private respondents. Petitioner does not dispute the fact that before the conversion of his rice
land into a subdivision in 1971, the said land was occupied and cultivated by private respondents. In
addition, petitioner also admitted in his answer with counter-claim that he allowed private
respondents to cultivate the land and, in return, received a share of the harvests.

Where persons cultivated the land and did not receive salaries but a share in the produce or the
cash equivalent thereof, the relationship created between them and the landowner is one of tenancy
and not employment.

The determination that a person is a tenant is a factual finding made by the trial court on the basis of
evidence directly available to it and such finding will not be reversed on appeal except for the most
compelling reasons (Macaraeg v. Court of Appeals, 169 SCRA 259 [1989]).

In agrarian cases, all that is required is mere substantial evidence. Hence, the trial court's findings of
fact which attained the minimum of evidentiary support demanded by law, i.e., by substantial
evidence, are final and conclusive and cannot be disturbed by the appellate tribunals (Hernandez v.
Intermediate Appellate Court, 189 SCRA 758 [1990]).

Considering that private respondents are tenants of petitioner, the former are therefore entitled to
disturbance compensation.

Section 36 of R.A. No. 3844, as amended, provides:

Possession of Landholding; Exceptions. — Notwithstanding any agreement as to the


period or future surrender of the land, an agricultural lessee shall continue in the
enjoyment and possession of his landholding except when his dispossession has
been authorized by the Court in a judgment that is final and executory if after due
hearing it is shown that:

(1) The agricultural lessor-owner or a member of his immediate family


will personally cultivate the landholding or will convert the
landholding, if suitably located, into residential, factory, hospital or
school site or other useful non-agricultural purposes:Provided, That
the agricultural lessee shall be entitled to disturbance compensation
equivalent to five years rental on his landholding in addition to his
rights under Sections twenty-five and thirty-four, . . . .

Lastly, private respondents' cause of action has not yet prescribed. It will be noted that private
respondents were ejected from their landholdings only in the middle part of 1983, when gravel and
sand was dumped on the land cultivated by them. It was only then that their cause of action arose.
The filing of the complaint on August 4, 1983 for the collection of their disturbance compensation is
within the three-year prescriptive period prescribed by Section 38 of R.A. No. 3844, as amended.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED.

SO ORDERED.
FIRST DIVISION

[G.R. No. 129572. June 26, 2000]

PHILBANCOR FINANCE, INC. AND VICENTE HIZON, JR., petitioners, vs.


COURT OF APPEALS, THE HONORABLE DEPARTMENT OF AGRARIAN
REFORM ADJUDICATION BOARD (DARAB), ALFREDO PARE, PABLO
GALANG and AMADO VIE, respondents.

DECISION

PARDO, J.:

The case before the Court is an appeal via certiorari from the decision of the
[1]

Court of Appeals dismissing the petition for review of the decision of the
Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board sustaining the ruling of the
Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board of San Fernando, Pampanga
allowing the legal redemption by private respondents of two parcels of land
mortgaged to and acquired by petitioner Philbancor at public auction.

The facts, as found by the Court of Appeals, are as follows:

"Private respondents Alfredo Pare, Pablo Galang and Amado Vie,


as plaintiffs, filed with the Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudication
Board (PARAB) a complaint for maintenance of possession with
redemption and tenancy right of pre-emption against petitioners
Philbancor Finance, Inc. and Vicente Hizon, Jr. Private
respondents alleged, inter alia, that petitioner Vicente Hizon, Jr. is
the owner of the disputed agricultural lands covered by TCT Nos.
48320 and 48323 located in Balite, San Fernando, Pampanga
and that they (private respondents) are the legitimate and bonfide
tenants thereof; that on October 13, 1983, petitioner Hizon,
without their knowledge, mortgaged the disputed lots to petitioner
Philbancor Finance, Inc.; that petitioner Hizon failed to pay his
obligations to petitioner Philbancor, which eventually led to the
sale of the mortgaged lots to the latter; that they came to know of
the transaction only when they were notified by petitioner
Philbancor to vacate the lots; that they have been tenants on the
lots for more than fifty (50) years; that petitioner Philbancor
threatened to take from them the actual or physical possession of
the agricultural lots; that unless the threatened acts of petitioner
are restrained, they will suffer substantial and irreparable injury
(Complaint, Rollo, pp. 51-55).

"In his answer, petitioner Hizon admitted that private respondents


are his bonafide and legitimate tenants but he averred, by way of
affirmative defenses, that he is not threatening to take possession
of the disputed lots as he is no longer the owner thereof after said
lots were foreclosed by petitioner Philbancor; that private
respondents were aware when he mortgaged the lots as they
were with him when he tried to negotiate for payment of his loan
to petitioner Philbancor (CA Rollo, p. 29).

"In its answer, petitioner Philbancor alleged, among others, that it


has no tenancy or agricultural relationship with private
respondents considering that it acquired ownership over the
disputed lots by virtue of an extra-judicial foreclosure sale
pursuant to Act 3135, as amended; that it is not an agricultural
lessor as contemplated in Section 10 of Republic Act (RA) No.
3844, as amended; that assuming private respondents have the
right to redeem the lots in question, such right has already expired
in accordance with Section 12 of R. A. 3844, which states that the
right of redemption may be exercised within two (2) years from the
registration of the sale (CA Rollo, pp. 30-31).

"In a Decision dated September 17, 1993, Provincial Adjudicator


Toribio E. Ilao, Jr. rendered a decision in favor of private
respondents, the dispositive portion of which reads:

"WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered:

"1. Ordering the redemption by the plaintiffs of the land in question


at the price of P201,182.92;

"2. Ordering the defendant, Philbamcor Finance, Inc., to execute


the necessary Deed of Redemption in favor of the plaintiffs; and

"3. Ordering the Register of Deeds of the Province of Pampanga


to cause the registration of the land in question to be conveyed to
and redeemed by the plaintiffs;

"The counterclaim of the defendant Philbancor Finance, Inc. is


hereby dismissed." (Ibid., pp. 81-90)

"Petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration but the same was


denied by the Provincial Adjudicator (CA Rollo, pp. 108-109). On
appeal, public respondent Department of Agrarian Reform
Adjudication Board (DARAB) affirmed in toto the findings of the
Provincial Adjudicator in a Decision dated March 8, 1996 (Ibid.,
pp. 26-35).

"Petitioners' motion for reconsideration was denied by respondent


DARAB in a Resolution (Ibid., pp. 36-38) dated July 22, 1996, x x
x."[2]

On August 14, 1996, petitioners filed with the Court of Appeals a petition for
review of the decision of the DARAB. [3]

After due proceedings, on March 17, 1997, the Court of Appeals rendered a
decision dismissing the petition.
[4]
On April 18, 1997, petitioners filed with the Court of Appeals a motion for
reconsideration of the decision; however, on May 19, 1997, the Court of
Appeals denied the motion. [5]

Hence, this appeal. [6]

The petition raises three issues; however, the last issue raised is decisive,
hence, only this issue is herein resolved, that is, whether or not the private
respondents could still exercise their right of redemption of the parcels of land
sold at public auction due to foreclosure of the mortgages thereon considering
that they invoked their right to redeem only on July 14, 1992, seven years
after the date of registration of the certificate of sale with the Register of
Deeds.

We grant the petition.

Republic Act No. 3844, Section 12, provides as follows:

"In case the landholding is sold to a third person without the


knowledge of the agricultural lessee, the latter shall have the right
to redeem the same at a reasonable price and consideration.
Provided, that the entire landholding sold must be redeemed.
Provided further, that where there are two or more agricultural
lessees, each shall be entitled to said right of redemption only to
the extent of the area actually cultivated by him. The right of
redemption under this section may be exercised within two
(2) years from the registration of the sale and shall have
priority over any other right of legal redemption."
[7]

In this case, the certificate of sale of the subject property, which was sold at
public auction, was registered with the Register of Deeds of Pampanga on
July 31, 1985. The two-year redemption period thus expired on July 31,
[8]

1987. The complaint for redemption was filed by respondents only on July 14,
1992, five (5) years after expiration of the redemption period prescribed by
[9]

law.

Nonetheless, private respondents may continue in possession and enjoyment


of the land in question as legitimate tenants because the right of tenancy
[10]

attaches to the landholding by operation of law. The leasehold relation is not


[11]

extinguished by the alienation or transfer of the legal possession of the


landholding.[12]

WHEREFORE, the Court hereby GRANTS the petition for review


on certiorari and REVERSES the decision of the Court of Appeals. The Court
orders the dismissal of the complaint for redemption filed with the Department
of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board, Region III, San Fernando, Pampanga.
This is without prejudice to the right of the private respondents to continue as
agricultural tenants in peaceful possession and enjoyment of the land
tenanted by them. No costs.

SO ORDERED.
FIRST DIVISION

[G.R. No. 128177. August 15, 2001]

HEIRS OF ROMAN SORIANO, petitioners, vs. THE HONORABLE COURT


OF APPEALS, SPOUSES BRAULIO ABALOS and AQUILINA
ABALOS, respondents.

DECISION
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

May a winning party in a land registration case effectively eject the possessor thereof, whose
security of tenure rights are still pending determination before the DARAB?
The instant petition for certiorari seeks to set aside the Decision[1] dated September 20, 1996
of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 34930 as well as its Resolution[2] dated January 15,
1997, denying petitioners Motion for Reconsideration.
We quote the undisputed facts as narrated by the Court of Appeals, to wit

The property subject of this case is a parcel of land containing an area of 24,550
square meters, more or less, located in Lingayen, Pangasinan, and particularly
described as follows:

A parcel of land (Nipa with an area of 8,410 square meters; fishpond with an area of
14,000 square meters; and residential land with an area of 1,740 square meters, more
or less. Bounded on the N, by river and Filemon Anselmo; on the South by Alejandro
Soriano and Filemon Anselmo; and on the West by Fortunata Soriano.

Originally owned by Adriano Soriano until his death in 1947, the above-described
property passed on to his heirs who leased the same to spouses David de Vera and
Consuelo Villasista for a period of fifteen (15) years beginning July 1, 1967 with
Roman Soriano, one of the children of Adriano Soriano, acting as caretaker of the
property during the period of the lease. After executing an extra judicial settlement
among themselves, the heirs of Adriano Soriano subsequently subdivided the property
into two (2) lots, Lot No. 60052 and Lot No. 8459. Lot No. 60052 was assigned to
Lourdes, Candido and the heirs of Dionisia while Lot No. 8459 was assigned to
Francisca, Librada, Elocadio and Roman. In 1971, Lot No. 60052 was sold by
Lourdes, Candido and the heirs of Dionisia to petitioner spouses Braulio and Aquilina
Abalos (hereinafter referred to as petitioners), while, Elocadio, Francisca and Librada
sold their three-fourths shares in Lot No. 8459 also to petitioners.

On March 14, 1968, the de Vera spouses ousted Roman Soriano as caretaker and
appointed Isidro Verzosa and Vidal Verzosa as his substitutes. Thereafter, Roman
Soriano filed CAR Case No. 1724-P-68 for reinstatement and reliquidation against the
de Vera spouses. The agrarian court authorized the ejectment of Roman Soriano but
on appeal, the decision was reversed by the Court of Appeals, which decision became
final and executory. However, prior to the execution of the said decision, the parties
entered into a post-decisional agreement wherein the de Vera spouses allowed Roman
Soriano to sub-lease the property until the termination of the lease in 1982. In an
Order dated December 22, 1972, the post-decisional agreement was approved by the
agrarian court.

On August 16, 1976, petitioners filed with the Regional Trial Court of Lingayen,
Pangasinan, Branch 38, an application for registration of title over Lot No. 60052 and
three-fourths (3/4) pro-indiviso of Lot No. 8459, docketed as LRC Case No. N-
3405. Said application for registration was granted by the trial court, acting as a land
registration court, per Decision dated June 27, 1983. On appeal, the Court of Appeals
affirmed the decision of the land registration court. The petition for review filed with
the Supreme Court by Roman Soriano docketed as G.R. 70842, was denied for lack of
merit and entry of judgment was entered on December 16, 1985.

Meanwhile, it appears that on July 15, 1983, a day after the promulgation of the land
registration courts decision, Roman Soriano, together with Elocadio and Librada
Soriano, filed before the Regional Trial Court of Lingayen, Branch 37, and against
petitioners, an action for annulment of document and/or redemption, ownership and
damages, docketed as Civil Case No. 159568 (sic; should be 15958).Petitioners filed a
motion to dismiss on the ground of res judicata, pendency of another action, laches,
misjoinder of parties and lack of jurisdiction, which was denied by the trial court.

Thereafter, on August 22, 1984, or eleven (11) years after the approval of the post-
decisional agreement between Roman Soriano and the spouses de Vera in CAR Case
No. 1724-P-68 for reinstatement and reliquidation, petitioners filed with the agrarian
court a motion for execution of said post-decisional agreement which allowed Roman
Soriano to sub-lease the property. The motion prayed that petitioners be placed in
possession of the subject property, jointly with Roman Soriano, and to levy so much
of Romans property to answer for the use and occupation by Soriano of 6/7 share of
the property. On October 25, 1984, Roman Soriano filed a motion to suspend hearing
on the rental demanded by petitioners, which, however, was denied by the agrarian
court. The agrarian court likewise authorized the substitution of the de Vera spouses
by petitioners. Sorianos motion for reconsideration was also denied, prompting
Soriano to file a petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals.

In the meantime, Roman Soriano died on December 11, 1985. Thus, the complaint
in Civil Case No. 159568 (sic) for annulment of document and/or redemption,
ownership and damages, was amended to substitute Sorianos heirs, herein private
respondents, as party-plaintiffs. The complaint was again amended to include Juanito
Ulanday as party-defendant for having allegedly purchased part of the disputed
property from petitioners. On motion of petitioners, the re-amended complaint was
dismissed by the trial court on the ground that the re-amended complaint altered the
cause of action. Upon reconsideration, the dismissal was set aside and petitioners were
ordered to file their Answer, in view of which petitioners filed a petition for certiorari
and prohibition with the Court of Appeals, docketed as C.A. GR SP No. 22149.

On April 25, 1990, the Court of Appeals denied the petition filed by Roman Soriano
(substituted by private respondents) impugning the denial of their motion to suspend
hearing on the rental demanded by petitioners, and authorizing the substitution of the
de Vera spouses by petitioners, on the ground that no grave abuse of discretion was
committed by the agrarian court. Thus, private respondents filed a petition for review
on certiorari with the Supreme Court, docketed as G.R. 93401.
Meanwhile, on December 7, 1990, the Court of Appeals in C.A. GR SP No. 22149,
also denied the petition for certiorari and prohibition filed by petitioners, ruling that
the land registration court committed no error when it refused to adhere to the rule
of res judicata. Petitioners then filed with the Supreme Court a petition for review on
certiorari, docketed as G.R. 99843.

On June 26, 1991, the Supreme Court promulgated its decision in G.R. 93401, and
granted the petition filed by private respondents. Thus, the decision of the Court of
Appeals denying the petition of private respondents was set aside, and the motion for
execution filed by petitioners in CAR Case No. 1724-P-48 was denied.

On June 22, 1993, the Supreme Court, in G.R. 99843, reversed and set aside the denial
of the Court of Appeals in C.A. GR SP No. 22149, and consequently, Civil Case No.
15958 for annulment of document and/or redemption, ownership and damages, was
ordered dismissed.

On October 18, 1993, private respondents filed with the Department of Agrarian
Adjudication Board (sic), a complaint against petitioners for Security of Tenure with
prayer for Status Quo Order and Preliminary Injunction docketed as DARAB Case No.
528-P-93.

Meanwhile, it appears that the decision of the land registration court in LRC Case No.
N-3405 was partially executed with the creation of a Committee on Partition per
Order dated March 25, 1987. On July 27, 1988, the land registration court approved
the partition of Lot No. 8459, with Lot No. 8459-A assigned to private respondent,
and Lot No. 8459-B assigned to petitioners. For Lot No. 60052, O.C.T. No. 22670
was issued in the name of petitioners; for Lot No. 8459-B, O.C.T. No. 22687 was
issued, also in the name of petitioner; and for Lot No. 8459-A, O.C.T. No. 22686 was
issued in the name of Roman Soriano. Dissatisfied with said partition, private
respondents appealed to the Court of Appeals, docketed as CA G.R. SP No.
119497. The appellate court affirmed the partition but reversed the order of the land
registration court directing the issuance of a writ of possession on the ground of
pendency of Civil Case No. 15958.

On November 15, 1993, the trial court in compliance with the decision of the Supreme
Court in G.R. No. 99843, dismissed Civil Case No. 15958, in view of which,
petitioner, on November 25, 1993, in LRC Case No. N-3405, moved for the issuance
of an alias writ of execution and/or writ of possession to place them in possession of
Lot No. 60052 and Lot No. 8459-B. Per Resolution dated January 21, 1994, said
motion was held in abeyance by the land registration court until and after DARAB
Case No. 528-P-93 for security of tenure with prayer for status quo, has been
resolved.

Their motion for reconsideration having been denied on April 5, 1984, petitioners
interposed an appeal to the Supreme Court, docketed as G.R. 115073. In a Resolution
dated July 27, 1994 issued by the Supreme Court, petitioners appeal, which was
treated as a petition for certiorari, was referred to this Court [of Appeals] for
determination and disposition. [3]

The Court of Appeals annulled and set aside the Resolution of the land registration court and
ordered instead the issuance of the corresponding writ of possession in favor of private
respondents. With the denial of their Motion for Reconsideration, petitioners are now before us
raising the following grounds:
1. THE DECISION AND RESOLUTION OF THE RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS
ARE CONTRARY TO THE PROVISIONS OF THE AGRARIAN REFORM LAWS AND
JURISPRUDENCE ON THE SECURITY OF TENURE OF TENANT-CARETAKER.
2. THE DECISION AND RESOLUTION OF THE RESPONDENT COURT OF APPEALS
ARE VIOLATIVE OF THE PROVISION ON RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS.
3. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ABUSED ITS DISCRETION IN
GIVING DUE COURSE TO THE PETITION CONSIDERING THAT PRIVATE
RESPONDENTS HAD EARLIER PERFECTED AN APPEAL OF THE RESOLUTION
SUBJECT OF THEIR PETITION.[4]
Possession and ownership are distinct legal concepts. There is ownership when a thing
pertaining to one person is completely subjected to his will in a manner not prohibited by law
and consistent with the rights of others. Ownership confers certain rights to the owner, among
which are the right to enjoy the thing owned and the right to exclude other persons from
possession thereof. On the other hand, possession is defined as the holding of a thing or the
enjoyment of a right. Literally, to possess means to actually and physically occupy a thing with
or without right. Possession may be had in one of two ways: possession in the concept of an
owner and possession of a holder.[5] A person may be declared owner but he may not be entitled
to possession. The possession may be in the hands of another either as a lessee or a tenant. A
person may have improvements thereon of which he may not be deprived without due
hearing. He may have other valid defenses to resist surrender of possession. A judgment for
ownership, therefore, does not necessarily include possession as a necessary incident.[6]
There is no dispute that private respondents (petitioners below) title over the land under
litigation has been confirmed with finality. As explained above, however, such declaration
pertains only to ownership and does not automatically include possession, especially so in the
instant case where there is a third party occupying the said parcel of land, allegedly in the
concept of an agricultural tenant.
While the issue of ownership of the subject land has been laid to rest in the final judgment of
the land registration court, the right of possession thereof is, as yet, controverted. This is
precisely what is put in issue in the security of tenure case filed by petitioners (private
respondents below) before the DARAB.
It is important to note that although private respondents have been declared titled owners of
the subject land, the exercise of their rights of ownership are subject to limitations that may be
imposed by law.[7] The Tenancy Act provides one such limitation. Agricultural lessees are entitled
to security of tenure and they have the right to work on their respective landholdings once the
leasehold relationship is established. Security of tenure is a legal concession to agricultural
lessees which they value as life itself and deprivation of their landholdings is tantamount to
deprivation of their only means of livelihood.[8]The exercise of the right of ownership, then,
yields to the exercise of the rights of an agricultural tenant.
However, petitioners status as tenant has not yet been declared by the DARAB. In keeping
with judicial order, we refrain from ruling on whether petitioners may be dispossessed of the
subject property.As ratiocinated in Nona v. Plan[9]

It is to the credit of respondent Judge that he has shown awareness of the recent
Presidential Decrees which are impressed with an even more solicitous concern for
the rights of the tenants. If, therefore, as he pointed out in his order granting the
writ of possession, there is a pending case between the parties before the Court of
Agrarian Relations, ordinary prudence, let alone the letter of the law, ought to
have cautioned him against granting the plea of private respondents that they be
placed in possession of the land in controversy. x x x. At the time the challenged
orders were issued, without any showing of how the tenancy controversy in the Court
of Agrarian Relations was disposed of, respondent Judge could not by himself and
with due observance of the restraints that cabin and confine his jurisdiction pass upon
the question of tenancy. (Emphasis ours)

In its challenged Decision, the Court of Appeals relied heavily on the principle of finality of
judgments. It applied the legal doctrine that once a judgment has become final, the issuance of a
writ of execution becomes ministerial. The appellate court held that petitioners situation does not
fall under any of the exceptions to this rule since his occupation of the subject land did not
transpire after the land registration courts adjudication became final.
In so ruling, however, the Court of Appeals loses sight of the fact that petitioners claim of
possession as a tenant of the litigated property, if proven, entitles him to protection against
dispossession.
Private respondents argue that petitioners tenancy claim is barred by res judicata, having
been ruled upon in G.R. Nos. 99843 and 93401. However, not being an issue in the case before
us, this question should properly be resolved in DARAB Case No. 528-P-93. To restate, the only
issue before us is whether or not a winning party in a land registration case can effectively eject
the possessor thereof, whose security of tenure rights are still pending determination before the
DARAB.
A judgment in a land registration case cannot be effectively used to oust the possessor of the
land, whose security of tenure rights are still pending determination before the DARAB. Stated
differently, the prevailing party in a land registration case cannot be placed in possession of the
area while it is being occupied by one claiming to be an agricultural tenant, pending a declaration
that the latters occupancy was unlawful.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition for certiorari is hereby GRANTED. The Decision of
respondent Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 34930 dated September 20, 1996, as well as its
Resolution dated January 15, 1997 are SET ASIDE. The Resolution of the Regional Trial Court
of Lingayen, Pangasinan in LRC Case No. N-3405 dated January 21, 1994 is ordered
REINSTATED.
SO ORDERED.
SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 122363. April 29, 2003]

VICTOR G. VALENCIA, petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS, HON.


TEOFISTO T. GUINGONA, JR., as Executive Secretary, HON.
ERNESTO GARILAO, Secretary of Agrarian Reform,
CRISOSTOMO M. CORPIN, Regional Director, DAR Region VII,
SANTOS GARGAYA, JULIANO MAGDAYAO, CRESCENCIANO
FRIAS, FEDERICO JARE, ROSENDO LOBRESCO, ERNESTO
LOBRESCO, FELICIANO LOBRESCO, CATALINO MANTAC,
VICTORIANO MONTE-FALCON, FRANCISCO OBANG,
AMBROSIO SEMILLANO, ROGELIO TAMAYO and EDILBERTO
LOBRESCO, respondents.

DECISION
BELLOSILLO, J.:

THE TENANCY CRISIS IN THE PHILIPPINES is not just of recent


vintage. History is replete with instances where tenant-farmers, relegated to a
life of perpetual bondage, have rushed onto the battlefield with hopes of
freedom from imminent thralldom, aptly described by Professor Harold J.
Laski as the normal life of the poor - their perpetual fear of the morrow, their
haunting sense of impending disaster, their fitful search for beauty that
perpetually eludes them.
Every administration that took over the reins of government saw the
gravity of this problem. Thus, each offered to the tenant-tillers its own version
of the appropriate legislation for their emancipation.
The Agricultural Tenancy Act of 1954 (R. A. No. 1199), the initial attempt
of President Magsaysay at agrarian reform, was conceived as a remedial
legislation to uplift the social and economic status of tenants. It was insinuated
in the legislative deliberations that several provisions therein operated to
deprive the landowner of his right to contract and his right to property without
due process of law. But, it was also argued, this involved societal values and
the agricultural tenancy act was meant to remedy an existing social
evil. Hence, all tenancy laws that followed thereafter were crafted along this
line. This case is now being scrutinized and tested against the bedrock of
legal and equitable safeguards to achieve a truly successful and balanced
agrarian reform initiative.
For more than a quarter of a century petitioner Victor G. Valencia, a
government retiree, sought justice through administrative and judicial
channels to regain possession of his two (2) parcels of land which he claims
to have been unjustly withheld from him by persons claiming to be tenants
with the ostensible complicity of government officials implementing the
agrarian reform program. In the meantime his appeal for fairness and justice
was denied him through procedural infirmities. We are now asked to probe
into his lonely plight with a reminder that it is our solemn duty to dispense
equal justice to the rich and the poor.
We have repeatedly stressed that social justice - or any justice for that
matter - is for the deserving, whether he be a millionaire in his mansion or a
pauper in his hovel. It is true that, in case of reasonable doubt, we are to tilt
the balance in favor of the poor to whom the Constitution fittingly extends its
sympathy and compassion. But never is it justified to give preference to the
poor simply because they are poor, or reject the rich simply because they are
rich, for justice must always be served for the poor and the rich alike
according to the mandate of the law. [1]

The property in dispute involves two (2) parcels of land situated at


Barangay Linothangan, Canlaon City, Negros Oriental, covered by TCT No.
H-T-137 with an area of 23.7279 hectares, and by Homestead Application No.
HA-231601 with Final Proof and Tax Declaration No. 0515 with an area of
6.4397 hectares.
On 7 May 1957 Victor G. Valencia acquired the first parcel covered by
TCT No. H-T-137 from a certain Bonifacio Supnet. The only tenant of the
property at that time was a certain Digoy Besario who was succeeded by his
son Jesus Besario. On 2 July 1961 Valencia and Jesus Besario terminated
their landlord-tenant relationship through a public instrument voluntarily
executed by them, thus reverting the actual physical possession of the
property to petitioner Valencia.
On 22 October 1962 Valencia entered into a ten (10)-year civil law lease
agreement over his two (2) parcels of land with a certain Glicerio
Henson. Before the ten (10)-year lease expired, apparently without objection
from Henson, Valencia leased the property for five (5) years to Fr. Andres
Flores under a civil law lease concept beginning 21 August 1970 or until 30
June 1975 after which the lease was cancelled and inscribed as Entry No.
1578 in TCT No. H-T-137. The lease agreement between Valencia and Fr.
Flores was subject to a prohibition against subleasing or encumbering the
land without Valencias written consent. This was admitted by the parties as
reflected in the DAR Investigation Report and Recommendations. The [2]

prohibition against subleasing or encumbering of the land apparently included


the prohibition against installing a leasehold tenant thereon. Incidentally, it
may be mentioned that in the prior lease agreement with Henson no such
prohibition was stipulated.
During the period of his lease, Henson instituted Crescenciano Frias and
Marciano Frias to work on the property, although only Crescenciano Frias
apparently remained in the land while Marciano Frias must have abandoned
his cause if any, as he was not impleaded in this case; neither did he appear
on record to have been issued a CLT in his name.
During the lease of Fr. Andres Flores, he designated Francisco Obang (as
overseer), Rogelio Tamayo, Federico Jare, Feliciano Lobresco, Melchor
Moncada, Rosendo Lobresco, Victoriano Montefalcon, Santos Gargaya,
Catalino Mantac, Herodita Semillano, Ernesto Lobresco, Natividad Lobresco
and Alfredo Demerin, along with Crescenciano and Marciano Frias, to
cultivate the land. These farmhands shared their produce with Fr.
Flores. Subsequently, Francisco Obang, Santos Gargaya, Crescenciano
Frias, Federico Jare, Rosendo Lobresco, Juliano Magdayao, Ernesto
Lobresco, Feliciano Lobresco, Catalino Mantac, Victoriano Montefalcon,
Ambrosio Semillano, Rogelio Tamayo and Edilberto Lobresco, became
recipients of CLTs and are collectively referred to herein as private
respondents.
When the lease agreement between Valencia and Fr. Flores expired on 30
June 1975, Valencia demanded that private respondents vacate the
premises. Instead of complying with the demand, they refused and continued
cultivating the land despite the demand for them to vacate. Valencia wanted to
regain possession of his property so he could work it by administration, having
in fact appointed Bernie Bautista as overseer until petitioner could retire from
the government service.
In his initial step in his long and agonizing journey, Valencia filed a letter of
protest with the Minister of Agrarian Reform to take back the actual
possession of his property that was subject of the civil law lease
agreement. On 20 March 1976 his letter was referred to the DAR Regional
Office in Cebu City.
Meanwhile, without the knowledge much less consent of Valencia, private
respondents applied for Certificates of Land Transfer (CLTs) under the
Operation Land Transfer (OLT) Program pursuant to Presidential Decree No.
27 claiming they were bona fide tenants of the property.
On 10 December 1985, while the investigation was being conducted by
the DAR pursuant to petitioners letter of protest of 20 March 1976, but before
it could be terminated, the DAR issued the questioned CLTs to private
respondents. The DAR Team Office in Canlaon City pursuant to the Operation
Land Transfer Program under Pres. Decree No. 27 and Letter of Instruction
No. 474 identified the following persons as farmer-beneficiaries: [3]

NAME CLT NO. LOT NO. AREA (hectares)

A. TAX DEC. No. 0515

1. Santos Gargaya 0-071160 0111 0.3300 ha.

2. Juliano Magdayao a) 0-071161 0122 0.3350 ha.

b) 0-071163 0114 0.2550 ha.

c) 0-071166 0117 0.4825 ha.

d) 0-071175 0124 0.3140 ha.

B. TCT No. HT-137

3. Crescenciano Frias 0-071164 0115 0.8890 ha.

4. Federico Jare a) 0-71171 0120 0.4600 ha.

b) 0-71172 0121 0.2500 ha.


5. Rosendo Lobresco a) 0-071189 0135 0.2335 ha.

b) 0-071182 0129 1.0325 ha.

6. Ernesto Lobresco a) 0-071185 0132 0.8900 ha.

b) 0-71187 0133 0.8400 ha.

7. Feliciano Lobresco 0-071188 0134 0.3400 ha.

8. Catalino Mantac 0-071162 0113 0.0425 ha.

9. Victoriano Montefalcon 0-071190 0136 0.1800 ha.

10. Francisco Obang 0-071168 0118 1.200 has.

11. Ambrosio Semillano a) 0-071165 0116 0.0340 ha.

b) 0-071176 0125 0.1135 ha.

c) 0-071177 0126 0.0340 ha.

12. Rogelio Tamayo 0-071194 0139 0.3400 ha

13. Edilberto Lobresco 0-071173 0122 1.2040 has.

Total Area 10.1055 has

In view of the issuance of CLTs to private respondents, petitioner Valencia


filed a second letter of protest and requested an investigation and subsequent
cancellation of the CLTs.
In February 1988 petitioner Valencia and Catalino Mantac, one of private
respondents, entered into a leasehold contract undertaking to have a profit-
sharing agreement. No other respondent entered into any agreement or
tenancy contract, whether written or verbal, with Valencia, Henson or Fr.
Flores.
On 6 and 8 July 1988 an administrative investigation was conducted by
the DAR Hearing Officer, Atty. Vilmo Ampong. This was done more than
twelve (12) years after the initial letter of protest was filed on 20 March
1976. After an on-site investigation and inspection of the Valencia property,
Atty. Ampong, in his Investigation Report and Recommendations dated 7
December 1988 found that: (a) Bernie Bautista, without any authority from
protestant Valencia, obtained and/or received shares of the palay produced
every harvest from private respondents starting 1975 to 1983 with his wife
Hazel issuing the corresponding receipts; (b) Since the time Bautista and
spouse obtained and/or received the owner's shares of the produce from
private respondents not a single cavan nor its equivalent in cash was turned
over or remitted to Valencia; (c) Private respondents stopped giving the
landowner's shares to Bautista and his wife when they already refused to
issue receipts, and so from then on private respondents appropriated to
themselves all the landowner's shares; (d) While enjoying the possession,
cultivation and utilization of the two (2) parcels of land, some of the private
respondents sublet their farmholdings for financial considerations and turned
them over to the sublessees for specified periods; (e) The DAR Team Office
[4]

in Canlaon City had the landholding included in the Final Survey of 1983
notwithstanding Valencias pending protest contesting the issuance of the
CLTs; and, (f) Sometime in February 1988 Valencia and Catalino Mantac
[5]

entered into a leasehold contract over a 0.0425 hectare of the 23.7279


hectares covered by TCT No. H-T-137. [6]

Atty. Vilmo Ampong also found that the right of private respondents to the
land ceased upon the termination of the lease contracts, except as regards
respondent Catalino Mantac with whom petitioner Valencia entered into a
tenancy agreement. Atty. Ampong further confirmed that Valencia did not
receive anything from private respondents as consideration for tilling his
land. Consequently, Atty. Ampong recommended that the CLTs issued to
private respondents be cancelled and the final survey conducted on the
landholding of Valencia set aside.
On 24 August 1989 the DAR Regional Office in Cebu City, in DARRO
Adm. Case No. VII-117-89, notwithstanding the Investigation Report and
Recommendations of its DAR Team Office, dismissed Valencia's protest and
held that private respondents had the right to continue on the land until
otherwise ordered by the court. Valencia moved for reconsideration but on 12
[7]

July 1991 the motion was denied.


This setback of Valencia prompted him to appeal to the Office of the
President under authority of DAR Memo. Circ. No. 3, series of 1994, arguing
that the Secretary of Agrarian Reform erred in considering private
[8]

respondents as tenants and in not recognizing petitioners right of retention


under R. A. No. 6657 otherwise known as The Comprehensive Agrarian
Reform Law.
On 8 October 1993 Executive Secretary Teofisto Guingona, Jr., by
authority of the President, affirmed the order of the DAR of 12 July 1991
subject to the modification that the area acquired by petitioner Valencia as
homestead be excluded from the coverage of P. D. No. 27.
Valencia then brought his case to the Court of Appeals contending that the
Executive Secretary erred in recognizing private respondents as tenants and
disallowing him and his seven (7) compulsory heirs from exercising their right
of retention under R. A. No. 6657. However, in a decision promulgated on 27
July 1995 the Court of Appeals dismissed the case on a technical ground, i.e.,
that his appeal was filed out of time.[9] The appellate court ruled that petitioner
should have filed with it a petition for review within fifteen (15) days from
receipt of the order of the DAR Secretary pursuant to Sec. 54 of R. A. No.
6657 and Supreme Court Adm. Circ. No. 1-95, instead of elevating the case to
the Office of the President pursuant to DAR Memo. Circ. No. 3, series of
1994. Hence, according to the Court of Appeals, the petition of Valencia was
filed out of time.
On 22 September 1995 petitioners motion for reconsideration was
denied. In its Resolution the Court of Appeals, citing Shell Philippines, Inc.
v. Central Bank, held that in case of discrepancy between the basic law and
[10]

a rule or regulation issued to implement the law, the basic law prevails
because the rule or regulation cannot go beyond the terms and provisions of
the basic law. Thus, DAR Memo. Circ. No. 3, series of 1994, according to
[11]

the Court of Appeals, cannot be considered valid and effective since it runs
counter to Sec. 54 of R. A. No. 6657 which provides for an appeal from any
decision, order, award or ruling by the DAR to the Court of
Appeals. Likewise, the appellate court held that the doctrine of exhaustion of
[12]

administrative remedies does not apply in the present case where the
respondent is a Department Secretary whose acts, as alter ego of the
President, bear the implied approval of the latter.
[13]

Valencia filed this Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the
Rules of Court seeking to reverse and set aside the Decision of the Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 32669 dated 27 July 1995 as well as its
Resolution denying his Motion for Reconsideration of 22 September 1995.
Petitioner contends that DAR Memo. Circ. No. 3, series of 1994, is valid
not being contrary to law and jurisprudence, and should be accorded respect
being the Agrarian Reform Secretarys construction of the law that his
Department administers and implements.
Public respondents, on the other hand, aver that Secs. 15 and 20 of Book
VII of E. O. No. 292 which are cited as the legal bases of DAR Memo. Circ.
No. 3 refer to the procedure for administrative appeals from an agency to the
Department Head which in this case is the DAR through its Secretary. They
argue that there is no provision for appeal to the Office of the President since
in the administrative structure the Secretary of Agrarian Reform is the alter
ego of the President. They contend that Sec. 23 of Book VII cites the finality of
the decision of the appellate agency without providing for a further appeal,
and that Sec. 25 provides for judicial review from an agency decision, as they
point to Sec. 54 of R. A. No. 6657 and SC Adm. Circ. No. 1-95.
[14] [15]

We agree with petitioner. Interpreting and harmonizing laws with laws is


the best method of interpretation. Interpretare et concordare leges legibus est
optimus interpretandi modus. This manner of construction would provide a
[16]

complete, consistent and intelligible system to secure the rights of all persons
affected by different legislative and quasi-legislative acts. Where two (2) rules
on the same subject, or on related subjects, are apparently in conflict with
each other, they are to be reconciled by construction, so far as may be, on
any fair and reasonable hypothesis. Validity and legal effect should therefore
be given to both, if this can be done without destroying the evident intent and
meaning of the later act. Every statute should receive such a construction as
will harmonize it with the pre-existing body of laws.
Harmonizing DAR Memo. Circ. No. 3, series of 1994, with SC Adm. Circ.
No. 1-95 and Sec. 54 of R. A. No. 6657 would be consistent with promoting
the ends of substantial justice for all parties seeking the protective mantle of
the law. To reconcile and harmonize them, due consideration must be given to
the purpose for which each was promulgated. The purpose of DAR Memo.
Circ. No. 3, series of 1994, is to provide a mode of appeal for matters not
falling within the jurisdictional ambit of the Department of Agrarian Reform
Adjudication Board (DARAB) under R. A. No. 6657 and correct technical
errors of the administrative agency. In such exceptional cases, the
Department Secretary has established a mode of appeal from the Department
of Agrarian Reform to the Office of the President as a plain, speedy, adequate
and inexpensive remedy in the ordinary course of law. This would enable the
Office of the President, through the Executive Secretary, to review technical
matters within the expertise of the administrative machinery before judicial
review can be resorted to by way of an appeal to the Court of Appeals under
Rule 43 of the 1997 Rules on Civil Procedure.
On the other hand, the purpose of SC Adm. Circ. No. 1-95, now embodied
in Rule 43 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, is to invoke the constitutional
power of judicial review over quasi-judicial agencies, such as the Department
of Agrarian Reform under R. A. No. 6657 and the Office of the President in
other cases by providing for an appeal to the Court of Appeals.Section 54 of
R. A. No. 6657 is consistent with SC Adm. Circ. No. 1-95 and Rule 43 in that it
establishes a mode of appeal from the DARAB to the Court of Appeals.
In Angara v. Electoral Commission this Court upheld the promulgation of
the rules of procedure of the Commission since they were necessary to the
proper exercise of its express power to hear and decide election contests
involving members of the legislature, although not specifically granted by the
Constitution or statute. We ruled -
[17] [18]

x x x the creation of the Electoral Commission carried with it ex necesitate rei the
power regulative in character to limit the time within which protests intrusted to its
cognizance should be filed. It is a settled rule of construction that where a general
power is conferred or duty enjoined, every particular power necessary for the
exercise of the one or the performance of the other is also conferred (Cooley,
Constitutional Limitations, 8th ed., Vol. I, pp. 138, 139). In the absence of any further
constitutional provision relating to the procedure to be followed in filing protests
before the Electoral Commission, therefore, the incidental power to promulgate such
rules necessary for the proper exercise of its exclusive power x x x must be deemed by
necessary implication to have been lodged also in the Electoral
Commission (emphasis supplied).

Thus, the power of the Department Secretary to promulgate internal rules


of administrative procedure is lodged in him by necessary implication as part
of his express power to promulgate rules and regulations necessary to carry
out department objectives, policies, functions, plans, programs and projects. [19]

Is an appeal to the Office of the President from the Department Secretary


pursuant to DAR Memo. Circ. No. 3, series of 1994, proper under the doctrine
of exhaustion of administrative remedies?
Petitioner contends that an appeal to the Office of the President from the
Secretary of Agrarian Reform is proper under the doctrine of exhaustion of
administrative remedies. On the other hand, it is the contention of public
respondent, the Office of the Solicitor General, that an exception to this well-
settled principle is the doctrine of qualified political agency. Where the
respondent is a Department Secretary, whose acts as an alter ego of the
President bear the implied or assumed approval of the latter, unless the
President actually disapproves them, administrative remedies have already
been exhausted. Recourse to the court may be made at that point, according
to private respondents, a view that was sustained by the Court of Appeals. In
this case, the appellate court ruled that the appeal before it was filed beyond
the reglementary period as petitioner appealed to the Office of the President,
and not to the Court of Appeals, where it should have been brought. In Tan v.
Director of Forestry this Court ruled that even if the respondent was a
Department Secretary, an appeal to the President was proper where the law
expressly provided for exhaustion. [20]

As a valid exercise of the Secretarys rule-making power to issue internal


rules of procedure, DAR Memo. Circ. No. 3, series of 1994, expressly
provides for an appeal to the Office of the President. Thus, petitioner Valencia
filed on 24 November 1993 a timely appeal by way of a petition for review
under Rule 43 to the Court of Appeals from the decision of the Office of the
President, which was received on 11 November 1993, well within the fifteen
(15)-day reglementary period.
An administrative decision must first be appealed to administrative
superiors up to the highest level before it may be elevated to a court of justice
for review. The power of judicial review may therefore be exercised only if an
appeal is first made by the highest administrative body in the hierarchy of the
executive branch of government.
In Calo v. Fuertes this Court held that an administrative appeal to the
President was the final step in the administrative process and thus a condition
precedent to a judicial appeal. Hence, an appeal to the Office of the
[21]

President from the decision of the Department Secretary in an administrative


case is the last step that an aggrieved party should take in the administrative
hierarchy, as it is a plain, speedy and adequate remedy available to the
petitioner.
Indeed, certain procedural technicalities have beclouded this case from
the outset such that the substantive issue regarding the true nature of the
relationship between petitioner and private respondents was not addressed by
the Court of Appeals, hence, the raison dtre of the case. It must necessarily
be discussed if this Court were to resolve with finality the protracted conflict
that has lasted over twenty-five (25) years. We are resolving the question at
this point to bring this case once and for all to a just, fair and equitable
conclusion. Where there are clear errors of law this Court must exercise its
constitutional power of judicial review to correct such errors.
The substantive issue to be resolved may be expressed in this
manner: Can a contract of civil law lease prohibit a civil law lessee from
employing a tenant on the land subject matter of the lease
agreement? Otherwise stated, can petitioners civil law lessee, Fr. Flores,
install tenants on the subject premises without express authority to do so
under Art. 1649 of the Civil Code, more so when the lessee is expressly
prohibited from doing so, as in the instant case?
Contrary to the impression of private respondents, Sec. 6 of R. A. No.
3844, as amended, does not automatically authorize a civil law lessee to
employ a tenant without the consent of the landowner. The lessee must be so
specifically authorized. For the right to hire a tenant is basically a personal
right of a landowner, except as may be provided by law. But certainly nowhere
in Sec. 6 does it say that a civil law lessee of a landholding is automatically
authorized to install a tenant thereon. A different interpretation would create a
perverse and absurd situation where a person who wants to be a tenant, and
taking advantage of this perceived ambiguity in the law, asks a third person to
become a civil law lessee of the landowner.Incredibly, this tenant would
technically have a better right over the property than the landowner
himself. This tenant would then gain security of tenure, and eventually
become owner of the land by operation of law. This is most unfair to the
hapless and unsuspecting landowner who entered into a civil law lease
agreement in good faith only to realize later on that he can no longer regain
possession of his property due to the installation of a tenant by the civil law
lessee.
On the other hand, under the express provision of Art. 1649 of the Civil
Code, the lessee cannot assign the lease without the consent of the
lessor, unless there is a stipulation to the contrary. In the case before us, not
only is there no stipulation to the contrary; the lessee is expressly prohibited
from subleasing or encumbering the land, which includes installing a
leasehold tenant thereon since the right to do so is an attribute of
ownership. Plainly stated therefore, a contract of civil law lease can prohibit a
civil law lessee from employing a tenant on the land subject matter of the
lease agreement. An extensive and correct discussion of the statutory
interpretation of Sec. 6 of R. A. No. 3844, as amended, is provided by the
minority view in Bernas v. Court of Appeals. [22]

When Sec. 6 provides that the agricultural leasehold relations shall be


limited to the person who furnishes the landholding, either as owner, civil law
lessee, usufructuary, or legal possessor, and the person who personally
cultivates the same, it assumes that there is already an existing agricultural
leasehold relation, i.e., a tenant or agricultural lessee already works the
land. The epigraph of Sec. 6 merely states who are Parties to Agricultural
Leasehold Relations, which assumes that there is already a leasehold tenant
on the land; not until then. This is precisely what we are still asked to
determine in the instant proceedings.
To better understand Sec. 6, let us refer to its precursor, Sec. 8 of R. A.
No. 1199, as amended. Again, Sec. 8 of R. A. No. 1199 assumes the
[23]

existence of a tenancy relation. As its epigraph suggests, it is a Limitation of


Relation, and the purpose is merely to limit the tenancy to the person who
furnishes the land, either as owner, lessee, usufructuary, or legal possessor,
and to the person who actually works the land himself with the aid of labor
available from within his immediate farm household. Once the tenancy relation
is established, the parties to that relation are limited to the persons therein
stated. Obviously, inherent in the right of landholders to install a tenant is
their authority to do so; otherwise, without such authority, civil law lessees as
landholders cannot install a tenant on the landholding. Neither Sec. 6 of R. A.
No. 3844 nor Sec. 8 of R. A. No. 1199 automatically authorizes the persons
named therein to employ a tenant on the landholding.
According to Mr. Justice Guillermo S. Santos and CAR Executive Judge
Artemio C. Macalino, respected authorities on agrarian reform, the reason for
Sec. 6 of R. A. No. 3844 and Sec. 8 of R. A. No. 1199 in limiting the
relationship to the lessee and the lessor is to discourage absenteeism on the
part of the lessor and the custom of co-tenancy under which the tenant
(lessee) employs another to do the farm work for him, although it is he with
whom the landholder (lessor) deals directly. Thus, under this practice, the one
who actually works the land gets the short end of the bargain, for the nominal
or capitalist lessee hugs for himself a major portion of the harvest. This [24]

breeds exploitation, discontent and confusion x x x x Thekasugpong, kasapi,


or katulong also works at the pleasure of the nominal tenant. When the new
[25]

law, therefore, limited tenancy relation to the landholder and the person who
actually works the land himself with the aid of labor available from within his
immediate farm household, it eliminated the nominal tenant or middleman
from the picture. [26]

Another noted authority on land reform, Dean Jeremias U.


Montemayor, explains the rationale for Sec. 8 of R. A. No. 1199, the
[27]

precursor of Sec. 6 of R. A. No. 3844:

Since the law establishes a special relationship in tenancy with important


consequences, it properly pinpoints the persons to whom said relationship shall
apply. The spirit of the law is to prevent both landholder absenteeism and tenant
absenteeism. Thus, it would seem that the discretionary powers and important duties
of the landholder, like the choice of crop or seed, cannot be left to the will or capacity
of an agent or overseer, just as the cultivation of the land cannot be entrusted by the
tenant to some other people. Tenancy relationship has been held to be of a personal
character.[28]

Section 6 as already stated simply enumerates who are the parties to an


existing contract of agricultural tenancy, which presupposes that a tenancy
already exists. It does not state that those who furnish the landholding, i.e.,
either as owner, civil law lessee, usufructuary, or legal possessor, are
automatically authorized to employ a tenant on the landholding. The reason is
obvious. The civil lease agreement may be restrictive. Even the owner himself
may not be free to install a tenant, as when his ownership or possession is
encumbered or is subject to a lien or condition that he should not employ a
tenant thereon. This contemplates a situation where the property may be
intended for some other specific purpose allowed by law, such as, its
conversion into an industrial estate or a residential subdivision.
Under Lastimoza v. Blanco, private respondents in that case could not be
[29]

lawful tenants of the landowner for the reason that the civil law lessees, after
failing to return the landholding to the landowner, already became
deforciants. A deforciant cannot install a lawful tenant who is entitled to
security of tenure.
Attention may be invited to settled jurisprudence that the existence of an
agricultural leasehold relationship is not terminated by changes of ownership
in case of sale, or transfer of legal possession as in lease. This, again, [30]

assumes that tenancy already exists. In the case at bar, no such relationship
was ever created between the civil law lessees and private respondents, and
subsequently, between Valencia and private respondents except Catalino
Mantac. With respect to the lease agreement between Valencia and Fr.
Flores, the lessee did not have any authority to sublease Valencias property
due to the prohibition in their lease agreement. It is likewise in clear and
unambiguous terms that the lease agreement was only for a limited duration
with no extension. [31]
In Ponce v. Guevarra and Joya v. Pareja the agricultural leasehold
[32] [33]

relations were preserved because the legal possessors therein were clearly
clothed with legal authority or capacity to install tenants. But even assuming
that they were not so authorized as in the Ponce case where the civil law
lessee was expressly barred from installing a tenant under their contract of
lease, the subsequent actions of the landowners in extending the lifetime of
the lease, or in negotiating for better terms with the tenants, placed the
landowners in estoppel to contest the agricultural leasehold
relations. Consequently, the tenants in those cases may be categorized as
tenants de jure enjoying tenurial security guaranteed by the Agricultural
Tenancy Law, now by the Agricultural Land Reform Code, as amended. This
is not the case before us.
It must be noted that Valencia never extended the term of the civil law
lease, nor did he negotiate with respondents for better terms upon the
expiration of the lease. He wanted precisely to recover possession of the
property upon the expiration of the contract on 30 June 1975, except from
Mantac with whom he already entered into a tenancy contract as herein
before stated. Valencia appointed an overseer to prepare for his eventual
takeover and to cultivate the property through labor administration after his
long years in the government service.Verily, the intention of Valencia after the
expiration of the lease contract was for him to cultivate the land by
administration, or by himself, and not to surrender possession, much less
ownership, to the private respondents.
There may be apprehensions that should Sec. 6 of R. A. No. 3844 be
construed as not to vest the civil law lessee or legal possessor with automatic
authority to install tenants, it would in effect open the floodgates to their
ejectment on the mere pretext that the civil law lessee or legal possessor was
not so authorized by the landowner.
This is more imagined than real. In the very recent case of Ganzon v.
Court of Appeals, decided 30 July 2002, this Court resolved the issue of
whether the private respondents should be considered agricultural tenants of
the petitioner. The Court ruled that the respondents were not instituted as
[34]

agricultural lessees but as civil law lessees of the land. This was evident from
the contract of lease executed by the parties. The respondents were
neither impliedly instituted as tenants nor designated as agricultural lessees
by reason alone of the acquiescence by petitioner to the continued
possession of the property.
The Department of Agrarian Reform in Ganzon made the factual
determination that the agreement entered into between Florisco Banhaw (one
of the respondents) and Carolina L. Ganzon (petitioner) was a civil law
lease. However, there was no evidence to prove that the other defendants in
that case allegedly instituted as tenants were sharing or paying rentals to
Florisco Banhaw or to the landowner. The DAR held that mere allegation
without the corresponding receipts would not sufficiently establish a tenancy
relationship especially since there was an express prohibition in the civil law
lease contract from subleasing the subject land to any other person. [35]

From the foregoing discussion, it is reasonable to conclude that a civil law


lessee cannot automatically institute tenants on the property under to Sec. 6
of R. A. No. 3844. The correct view that must necessarily be adopted is that
the civil law lessee, although a legal possessor, may not install tenants on the
property unless expressly authorized by the lessor. And if a prohibition exists
or is stipulated in the contract of lease the occupants of the property are
merely civil law sublessees whose rights terminate upon the expiration of the
civil law lease agreement.
In the present case, the Decision of the Secretary of Agrarian Reform, as
modified by the Office of the President through the Executive Secretary, held
that private respondents were deemed leasehold tenants. They anchored their
proposition on Sec. 6 of R. A. No. 3844, as amended, otherwise known
as The Agricultural Land Reform Code, which states that since the civil law
lessees had a valid contract with Valencia, the sublessees
were automatically deemed his tenants by operation of law.
This conclusion espoused by the Secretary of Agrarian Reform is arbitrary
and unfounded. The following essential requisites must concur in order to
establish a tenancy relationship: (a) the parties being landowner and tenant;
[36]

(b) the subject matter is agricultural land; (c) there is consent by the
landowner; (d) the purpose is agricultural production; (e) there is personal
cultivation by the tenant; and, (f) there is sharing of harvests between the
parties. An allegation that an agricultural tenant tilled the land in question does
not make the case an agrarian dispute. Claims that one is a tenant do not
[37]

automatically give rise to security of tenure. The elements of tenancy must


first be proved in order to entitle the claimant to security of tenure.
[38]

A tenancy relationship cannot be presumed. There must be evidence to


prove this allegation. Hence, a perusal of the records and documents is in
order to determine whether there is substantial evidence to prove the
allegation that a tenancy relationship does exist between petitioner and
private respondents.
The principal factor in determining whether a tenancy relationship exists
is intent. Tenancy is not a purely factual relationship dependent on what the
alleged tenant does upon the land.It is also a legal relationship. The intent of
the parties, the understanding when the farmer is installed, and their written
agreements, provided these are complied with and are not contrary to law, are
even more important. [39]

In Caballes v. DAR the Court held that all these requisites must concur in
[40]

order to create a tenancy relationship. The absence of one does not make an
occupant or a cultivator thereof or a planter thereon a de jure tenant. This is
so because unless a person has established his status as a de jure tenant he
is not entitled to security of tenure nor is he covered by the Land Reform
Program of the Government under existing tenancy laws. [41]

The security of tenure guaranteed by our tenancy laws may be invoked


only by tenants de jure, not by those who are not true and lawful tenants. [42]

In Berenguer, Jr. v. Court of Appeals this Court ruled that the respondents
self-serving statements regarding their tenancy relations could not establish
the claimed relationship. The fact alone of working on anothers landholding
[43]

does not raise a presumption of the existence of agricultural


tenancy. Substantial evidence does not only entail the presence of a mere
[44]
scintilla of evidence in order that the fact of sharing can be established; there
must be concrete evidence on record adequate enough to prove the element
of sharing. Bejasa v. Court of Appeals similarly ruled that to prove sharing of
[45]

harvests, a receipt or any other evidence must be presented as self-serving


statements are deemed inadequate. [46]

In the present case, it is not disputed that the relationship between


Valencia and Henson, and subsequently, Valencia and Fr. Flores, partook of a
civil law lease. Henson and later Fr. Flores were not instituted as agricultural
lessees but as civil law lessees. As a finding of fact, the Secretary of Agrarian
Reform held that a written civil law lease contract between Valencia and Fr.
Flores was on file which contained in clear and precise terms the stipulation
prohibiting the subleasing or encumbering of his parcels of land without the
written consent of Valencia. The Secretary even went as far as stating for
[47]

the record that such stipulation barring the subletting of the property was
violated by Fr. Flores when he subleased the subject parcels of land to private
respondents. [48]

The findings of fact by the DAR Hearing Officer, Atty. Ampong, in


his Investigation Report and Recommendations dated 7 December 1988
concerning the admission by private respondents that they never turned over
the rentals or harvests to Valencia and, instead, to his overseer who was not
authorized to receive any payments, must be deemed conclusive. [49]

As to the civil law lease between Valencia and Fr. Flores, the prohibition
against subletting the property without the written consent of Valencia must be
upheld. Thus, there is no tenurial security for private respondents designated
by the civil law lessee, except for the oft-mentioned Catalino Mantac.
Furthermore, it must be noted that private respondents Ernesto Lobresco
and Francisco Obang sublet the land to third persons. Even
assuming arguendo then that they were tenants, although installed without
authority, the act of subletting to third persons extinguished the agricultural
leasehold relations of Ernesto Lobresco and Francisco Obang as it constituted
an abandonment of the landholding due to absence of personal cultivation.
Since private respondents with the exception of Catalino Mantac cannot
be deemed tenants in contemplation of law, they are therefore not entitled to
Certificates of Land Transfer (CLTs) under the Operation Land Transfer (OLT)
Program pursuant to Pres. Decree No. 27 and L.O.I. No. 474. All other
persons found in the land in question are considered unlawful occupants of
the property unless otherwise authorized by the landowner to possess the
same in a lawful capacity.
Even as we uphold time and again the existence and validity of implied
agricultural tenancy agreements, we encourage the forging of written
documents to prevent ambiguity as to the terms set by both parties and for
them to express their intent in clear language. This would minimize and even
prevent the shotgun approach to tenancy relations imposed by some officials
of the Government without complying with the essential requisites of tenancy
as provided by law. Agreements must be entered freely and voluntarily by the
parties concerned without the influence of third parties, much less the
Government, making representations for either side. An express tenancy
agreement would facilitate the aims of the agricultural tenancy laws and
promote social justice for both landowner and tenant.
With respect to the retention limits of land ownership by Valencia and his
direct descendants, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law allows
landowners whose lands have been covered by Pres. Decree No. 27 to keep
the area originally retained by them provided the original homestead grantees
who still own the original homestead at the time of the approval of Rep. Act
No. 6657 shall retain the same areas as long as they continue to cultivate the
homestead. The right to choose the area to be retained, which shall be
[50]

compact or contiguous, shall pertain to the landowner, as a general


rule. However, the factual determination of whether Valencia and his direct
[51]

descendants have complied with Sec. 6 of Rep. Act No. 6657 should be
addressed by the Department of Agrarian Reform. Ascertaining if petitioner
and his direct descendants are within the seven (7)-hectare retention limit
provided by Pres. Decree No. 27 requires the technical expertise of the
administrative agency concerned.
It is appalling to note that it took over twelve (12) years for the Agrarian
Reform Team 202 of the Canlaon City Office of the DAR to act on a simple
matter calling for a preliminary determination of tenancy status, in spite of a
telegram sent on 30 March 1976 by the Secretary of Agrarian Reform
directing the Team Leader of A.R.T. 202 to investigate and submit a report on
the landholding of petitioner Valencia. This is truly a travesty of great
[52]

magnitude and a clear-cut case of undue delay and administrative injustice,


for the rights of the landowner must equally be protected just as passionately
as the rights of the tenant-tiller, especially so that in the meantime he has
been deprived of the actual possession of his property which he envisioned to
cultivate himself after retiring from the government service; worse, he was not
paid his landholders shares in the harvests, and there is no telling when, if
ever, he will ever be paid by private respondents who claim to be his tenants.
Executive or administrative justice must always be dispensed with an even
hand, regardless of a persons economic station in life.
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The assailed Decision of the
Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 32669 dated 27 July 1995 and its
Resolution dated 22 September 1995 denying the Motion for Reconsideration
are REVERSED and SET ASIDE, and a new one is entered as follows:
1. The area acquired by petitioner Victor G. Valencia under his Homestead
Application No. HA-231601 with Final Proof and Tax Declaration No. 0515 is
EXCLUDED from the coverage of Pres. Decree No. 27, hence, must be
retained by him;
2. The Certificates of Land Transfer (CLTs) issued to private respondents
Santos Gargaya (CLT No. 0-071160), Juliano Magdayao (CLTs Nos. 0-
071161, 0-071163, 0-071166 & 0-071175), Crescenciano Frias (CLT No. 0-
071164), Federico Jare (CLTs Nos. 0-071171 & 0-071172), Rosendo
Lobresco (CLTs Nos. 0-071189 & 0-071182), Ernesto Lobresco (CLTs Nos. 0-
071185 & 0-071187), Feliciano Lobresco (CLT No. 0-071188), Victoriano
Montefalcon (CLT No. 0-071190), Francisco Obang (CLT No. 0-071168),
Ambrosio Semillano (CLTs Nos. 0-071165, 0-071176 & 0-071177), Rogelio
Tamayo (CLT No. 0-071194) and Edilberto Lobresco (CLT No. 0-071173) are
CANCELLED and NULLIFIED for having been issued without factual and
legal basis;
3. The agricultural leasehold of respondent Catalino Mantac (CLT No. 0-
071162) covering an area of 0.0425 hectare subject of tenancy agreement
with petitioner Victor G. Valencia isMAINTAINED and RESPECTED;
4. All unlawful occupants of the property under TCT No. H-T-137 and
Homestead Application No. HA-231601 with Final Proof, and Tax Declaration
No. 0515 including but not limited to the private respondents mentioned in par.
2 hereof are ORDERED to IMMEDIATELY VACATE and RETURN peacefully
to the lawful owner, petitioner Victor G. Valencia, the parcels of land
respectively possessed or occupied by them.
No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.
SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 78214. December 5, 1988.]

YOLANDA CABALLES, petitioner, vs. DEPARTMENT OF AGRARIAN


REFORM, HON. HEHERSON T. ALVAREZ and BIENVENIDO
ABAJON, respondents.

DECISION

SARMIENTO, J : p

Before us is a petition for certiorari seeking the annulment of an Order


issued by the public respondent Ministry of Agrarian Reform (MAR), now the
Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), through its then Minister, the Hon.
Heherson Alvarez, finding the existence of a tenancy relationship between the
herein petitioner and the private respondent and certifying the criminal case for
malicious mischief filed by the petitioner against the private respondent as not
proper for trial.
LLphil

The facts as gathered by the MAR are as follows:


The landholding subject of the controversy, which consists of only sixty (60)
square meters (20 meters x 3 meters) was acquired by the spouses Arturo and
Yolanda Caballes, the latter being the petitioner herein, by virtue of a Deed of
Absolute Sale dated July 24, 1978 executed by Andrea Alicaba Millenes. This
landholding is part of Lot No. 3109-C, which has a total area of about 500 square
meters, situated at Lawa-an, Talisay, Cebu. The remainder of Lot No. 3109-C
was subsequently sold to the said spouses by Macario Alicaba and the other
members of the Millenes family, thus consolidating ownership over the entire
(500-square meter) property in favor of the petitioner.
In 1975, before the sale in favor of the Caballes spouses, private respondent
Bienvenido Abajon constructed his house on a portion of the said landholding,
paying a monthly rental of P2.00 to the owner, Andrea Millenes. The landowner
likewise allowed Abajon to plant on a portion of the land, agreeing that the
produce thereof would be shared by both on a fifty-fifty basis. From 1975-1977,
Abajon planted corn and bananas on the landholding. In 1978, he stopped
planting corn but continued to plant bananas and camote. During those four
years, he paid the P2.00 rental for the lot occupied by his house, and delivered
50% of the produce to Andrea Millenes.
Sometime in March 1979, after the property was sold, the new owners,
Arturo and Yolanda Caballes, told Abajon that the poultry they intended to build
would be close to his house and pursuaded him to transfer his dwelling to the
opposite or southern portion of the landholding. Abajon offered to pay the new
owners rental on the land occupied by his house, but his offer was not accepted.
Later, the new owners asked Abajon to vacate the premises, saying that they
needed the property. But Abajon refused to leave. The parties had a
confrontation before the Barangay Captain of Lawa-an in Talisay, Cebu but failed
to reach an agreement. All the efforts exerted by the landowners to oust Abajon
from the landholding were in vain as the latter simply refused to budge. LLphil

On April 1, 1982, the landowner, Yolanda Caballes, executed an Affidavit


stating that immediately after she reprimanded Abajon for harvesting bananas
and jackfruit from the property without her knowledge, the latter, with malicious
and ill intent, cut down the banana plants on the property worth about P50.00. A
criminal case for malicious mischief was filed against Abajon and which was
docketed as Criminal Case No. 4003. Obviously, all the planting on the property,
including that of the banana plants, had been done by Abajon. On September 30,
1982, upon motion of the defense in open court pursuant to PD 1038, the trial
court ordered the referral of the case to the Regional Office No. VII of the then
MAR for a preliminary determination of the relationship between the parties. As a
result, the Regional Director of MAR Regional VII, issued a certification 1 dated
January 24, 1983, stating that said Criminal Case No. 4003 was not proper for
hearing on the bases of the following findings:

That herein accused is a bona-fide tenant of the land owned by the


complaining witness, which is devoted to bananas;
That this case is filed patently to harass and/or eject the tenant from his
farmholding, which act is prohibited b law; and
That this arose out of or is connected with agrarian relations.
From the said certification, the petitioner appealed to the then MAR, now the
respondent DAR. Acting on said appeal, the respondent DAR, through its then
Minister Conrado Estrella, reversed the previous certification in its Order 2 of
February 3, 1986, declaring Criminal Case No. 4003 as proper for trial as "the
land involved is a residential lot consisting of only 60 square meters whereon the
house of the accused is constructed and within the industrial zone of the town as
evinced from the Certification issued by the Zoning Administrator of Talisay,
Cebu."
Upon motion for reconsideration filed by Abajon, the respondent DAR,
through its new Minister, herein respondent Heherson Alvarez, issued an
Order 3 dated November 15, 1986, setting aside the previous Order dated
February 3, 1986, and certifying said criminal case as not proper for trial, finding
the existence of a tenancy relationship between the parties, and that the case
was designed to harass the accused into vacating his tillage.
In the summary investigation conducted by the DAR, the former landowner,
Andrea Millenes, testified that Bienvenido Abajon dutifully gave her 50% share of
the produce of the land under his cultivation. The grandson of Andrea Millenes,
Roger Millenes, corroborated the testimony of the former, stating that he received
said share from Abajon. Roger Millenes further testified that the present owners
received in his presence a bunch of bananas from the accused representing 1/2
or 50% of the two bunches of bananas gathered after Caballes had acquired the
property. 4
From these factual findings, the DAR concluded that Abajon was a tenant of
Andrea Millenes, the former owner, who had testified that she shared the
produce of the land with Abajon as tiller thereof. 5 Thus, invoking Sec. 10 of RA
3844, as amended, which provides that "[T]he agricultural leasehold relation
under this Code shall not be extinguished by mere expiration of the term or
period in a leasehold contract nor by the sale, alienation or transfer of the legal
possession of the landholding"; and that "(I)n case the agricultural lessor sells,
alienates or transfers the legal possession of the landholding, the purchaser or
transferee thereof shall be subrogated to the rights and substituted to the
obligations of the agricultural lessor," the MAR ruled that "the new owners are
legally bound to respect the tenancy, notwithstanding their claim that the portion
tilled by Abajon was small, consisting merely of three (3) meters wide and twenty
(20) meters long, or a total of sixty (60) square meters." 6
Hence, its petition for certiorari alleging that:
I. Respondents DAR and Hon. Heherson T. Alvarez committed "grave
abuse of power and discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction" in holding
that private respondent Abajon is an agricultural tenant even if he is
cultivating only a 60-square meter (3 x 20 meters) portion of a commercial
lot of the petitioner.
II. Public respondents gravely erred in holding that Criminal Case No.
4003 is not proper for trial and hearing by the court. 7
We hold that the private respondent cannot avail of the benefits afforded by
RA 3844, as amended. To invest him with the status of a tenant is preposterous.
Section 2 of said law provides:

It is the policy of the State:


(1) To establish cooperative-cultivatorship among those who live and work
on the land as tillers, owner-cultivatorship and the economic family-size farm
as the basis of Philippine agriculture and, as a consequence, divert landlord
capital in agriculture to industrial development;
xxx xxx xxx
RA 3844, as amended, defines an economic family-size farm as "an area of
farm land that permits efficient use of labor and capital resources of the farm
family and will produce an income sufficient to provide a modest standard of
living to meet a farm family's needs for food, clothing, shelter, and education with
possible allowance for payment of yearly installments on the land, and
reasonable reserves to absorb yearly fluctuations in income." 8
The private respondent only occupied a miniscule portion (60 square
meters) of the 500-square meter lot. Sixty square meters of land planted to
bananas, camote, and corn cannot by any stretch of the imagination be
considered as an economic family-size farm. Surely, planting camote, bananas,
and corn on a sixty-square meter piece of land can not produce an income
sufficient to provide a modest standard of living to meet the farm family's basic
needs. The private respondent himself admitted that he did not depend on the
products of the land because it was too small, and that he took on carpentry jobs
on the side. 9 Thus, the order sought to be reviewed is patently contrary to the
declared policy of the law stated above.
The DAR found that the private respondent shared the produce of the land
with the former owner, Andrea Millenes. This led, or misled, the public
respondents to conclude that a tenancy relationship existed between the
petitioner and the private respondent because, the public respondents continue,
by operation of Sec. 10 of R. A. 3844, as amended, the petitioner new owner is
subrogated to the rights and substituted to the obligations of the supposed
agricultural lessor (the former owner).
We disagree.
The essential requisites of a tenancy relationship are:
1. The parties are the landowner and the tenant;
2. The subject is agricultural land;
3. There is consent;
4. The purpose is agricultural production;
5. There is personal cultivation; and
6. There is sharing of harvests.
All these requisites must concur in order to create a tenancy relationship
between the parties. The absence of one does not make an occupant of a parcel
of land, or a cultivator thereof, or a planter thereon, a de jure tenant. This is so
because unless a person has established his status as a de jure tenant, he is not
entitled to security of tenure nor is he covered by the Land Reform Program of
the Government under existing tenancy laws.10
Therefore, the fact of sharing alone is not sufficient to establish a tenancy
relationship. Certainly, it is not unusual for a landowner to accept some of the
produce of his land from someone who plants certain crops thereon. This is a
typical and laudableprovinciano trait of sharing or patikim, a native way of
expressing gratitude for favor received. This, however, does not automatically
make the tiller-sharer a tenant thereof specially when the area tilled is only 60, or
even 500, square meters and located in an urban area and in the heart of an
industrial or commercial zone at that. Tenancy status arises only if an occupant
of a parcel of land has been given its possession for the primary purpose of
agricultural production. The circumstances of this case indicate that the private
respondent's status is more of a caretaker who was allowed by the owner out of
benevolence or compassion to live in the premises and to have a garden of some
sort at its southwestern side rather than a tenant of the said portion.
Agricultural production as the primary purpose being absent in the
arrangement, it is clear that the private respondent was never a tenant of the
former owner, Andrea Millenes. Consequently, Sec. 10 of RA of 3844, as
amended, does not apply. Simply stated, the private respondent is not a tenant of
the herein petitioner.
Anent the second assignment of error, the petitioner argues that since
Abajon, is not an agricultural tenant, the criminal case for malicious mischief filed
against him should be declared as proper for trial so that proceedings in the
lower court can resume.
Notwithstanding our ruling that the private respondent is not a tenant of the
petitioner, we hold that the remand of the case to the lower court for the
resumption of the criminal proceedings is not in the interest of justice. Remand to
the Municipal Court of Talisay, Cebu, would not serve the ends of justice at all,
nor is it necessary, because this High Tribunal is in a position to resolve with
finality the dispute before it. This Court, in the public interest, and towards the
expeditious administration of justice, has decided to act on the merits and
dispose of the case with finality. 11
The criminal case for malicious mischief filed by the petitioner against the
private respondent for allegedly cutting down banana trees worth a measly
P50.00 will take up much of the time and attention of the municipal court to the
prejudice of other more pressing cases pending therein. Furthermore, the private
respondent will have to incur unnecessary expenses to finance his legal battle
against the petitioner if proceedings in the court below were to resume. Court
litigants have decried the long and unnecessary delay in the resolution of their
cases and the consequent costs of such litigations. The poor, particularly, are
victims of this unjust judicial dawdle. Impoverished that they are they must deal
with unjust legal procrastination which they can only interpret as harassment or
intimidation brought about by their poverty, deprivation, and despair. It must be
the mission of the Court to remove the misperceptions aggrieved people have of
the nature of the dispensation of justice. If justice can be meted out now, why
wait for it to drop gently from heaven? Thus, considering that this case involves a
mere bagatelle, the Court finds it proper and compelling to decide it here and
now, instead of further deferring its final termination.
As found by the DAR, the case for malicious mischief stemmed from the
petitioner's affidavit stating that after she reprimanded private respondent Abajon
for harvesting bananas and jackfruit from the property without her knowledge, the
latter, with ill intent, cut the banana trees on the property worth about P50.00.
This was corroborated by a certain Anita Duaban, a friend of the petitioner,
who likewise executed an affidavit to the effect that she saw the private
respondent indiscriminately cutting the banana trees. 12
The Revised Penal Code, as amended, provides that "any person who shall
deliberately cause to the property of another any damage not falling within the
terms of the next preceding chapter shall be guilty of malicious mischief." 13
The elements of the crime of malicious mischief are:
1. The offender deliberately caused damage to the property of
another;
2. The damage caused did not constitute arson or crimes involving
destructions.
3. The damage was caused maliciously by the offender.
After a review of the facts and circumstances of this case, we rule that the
aforesaid criminal case against the private respondent be dismissed.
The private respondent can not be held criminally liable for malicious
mischief in cutting the banana trees because, as an authorized occupant or
possessor of the land, and as planter of the banana trees, he owns said crops
including the fruits thereof. The private respondent's possession of the land is not
illegal or in bad faith because he was allowed by the previous owners to enter
and occupy the premises. In other words, the private respondent worked the land
in dispute with the consent of the previous and present owners. Consequently,
whatever the private respondent planted and cultivated on that piece of property
belonged to him and not to the landowner. Thus, an essential element of the
crime of malicious mischief, which is "damage deliberately caused to the property
of another," is absent because the private respondent merely cut down his own
plantings.prcd
WHEREFORE, the Order of public respondents dated November 15, 1986 is
SET ASIDE and Criminal Case No. 4003, is hereby DISMISSED. Let a copy of
this decision be sent to the Municipal Trial Court of Talisay, Cebu for appropriate
action. This Decision is IMMEDIATELY EXECUTORY.
No costs.
SO ORDERED.