CREBA v. Agrarian Reform Secretary (G.R. No. 183409; June 18, 2010)


FACTS: Oct 1997 Sec of DAR issued DAR A.O. entitled Omnibus Rules and Procedures Governing Conversion of Agricultural Lands to Non Agricultural Uses. The said AO embraced all private agricultural lands regardless of tenurial arrangement and commodity produced and all untitled agricultural lands and agricultural lands reclassified by LGU into non-agricultural uses after 15 June 1988. March 1999, Sec DAR issued Revised Rules and Regulations on Conversion of Agricultural Lands to Non AgriculturalUses, it covers the following: (1) those to be converted to residential, commercial, industrial, institutional and other non-agricultural purposes; (2) those to be devoted to another type of agricultural activity such as livestock, poultry, and fishpond ─ the effect of which is to exempt the land from the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) coverage; (3) those to be converted to non-agricultural use other than that previously authorized; and (4) those reclassified to residential, commercial, industrial, or other non-agricultural uses on or after the effectivity of Republic Act No. 6657 on 15 June 1988 pursuant to Section 20 of Republic Act No. 7160 and other pertinent laws and regulations, and are to be converted to such uses.The 2 earlier AOs was further amended by an AO issued Feb 2002 - 2002 Comprehensive Rules on Land Use Conversion; covers all applications for conversion from agricultural to non-agricultural uses or to another agricultural use.

The AO was amended again in 2007 to include provisions particularly addressing land conversion in time of exigencies and calamities. To address the conversion to lands to non agricultural, Sec of DAR suspended processing and approval of land conversion through DAR Memo 88. CREBA claims that there is a slowdown of housing projects because of such stoppage

ISSUES: Is DAR's AO unconstitutional?

HELD: RA 6657 and 8435 defines agricultural land as lands devoted to or suitable for 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 a person whether natural or juridical, and not classified by the law as mineral, forest, residential, commercial or industrial land. However, he issued an AO included in this definition - lands not reclassified as residential, commercial, industrial or other non-agricultural uses before 15 June 1988. In effect, lands reclassified from agricultural to residential, commercial, industrial, or other non-agricultural uses after 15 June 1988 are considered to be agricultural lands for purposes of conversion, redistribution, or otherwise. This is violation of RA 6657 because there is nothing in Section 65 of Republic Act No. 6657 or in any other provision of law that confers to the DAR the jurisdiction or authority to require that non-awarded lands or reclassified lands be submitted to its conversion authority.

Also, it violates Section 20 of Republic Act No. 7160, because it was not provided therein that reclassification by LGUs shall be subject to conversion procedures or requirements, or that the DARs approval or clearance must be secured to effect reclassification. The said Section 2.19 of DAR AO No. 01-02, as amended, also contravenes the constitutional mandate on local autonomy under Section 25, Article II and Section 2, Article X of the 1987 Philippine Constitution. There is deprivation of liberty and property without due process of law because under DAR AO No. 01-02, as amended, lands that are not within DARs jurisdiction are unjustly, arbitrarily and oppressively prohibited or restricted from legitimate use on pain of administrative and criminal penalties. More so, there is discrimination and violation of the equal protection clause of the Constitution because the aforesaid administrative order is patently biased in favor of the peasantry at the expense of all other sectors of society. DISMISSED.