Reyes v. Barrios (G.R. No. 172841; December 15, 2010)

CASE DIGEST: RENATO REYES, represented by RAMON REYES v. LEOPOLDO BARRIOS, substituted by LUCIA MANALUS-BARRIOS. (G.R. No. 172841; December 15, 2010).

FACTS: Petitioner Renato Reyes filed before the Department of Agrarian Reform, Region III, PARAD of San Fernando, Pampanga, a complaint for ejectment against respondent Leopoldo Barrios. The case involves a parcel of land which forms part of the property. The property was co-owned by petitioner and his four sisters.Petitioner claimed that the property became subject of the Operation Land Transfer under Presidential Decree No. 27 except the 3.6‒hectare landholding which was allegedly retained. Petitioner averred that he hired respondent as the overseer of the farm and piggery on the landholding. However, petitioner contended that respondent never remitted the proceeds from the piggery business and the fruits from the landholding. On the other hand, respondent alleged that he was a tenant of the landholding since 1972 and he even built his house on the subject landholding. Respondent also acted as the caretaker of the piggery business on the landholding. Contrary to petitioners allegations, respondent stated that petitioners wife took all the proceeds from the piggery business, which later ceased operation due to an epidemic. PARAD rendered a decision declaring Renato Reyes is entitled to recover the possession of the property. Respondent appealed to the DARAB. Meanwhile, respondent passed away and was substituted by his spouse Lucia Manalus-Barrios. The DARAB reversed the PARAD decision and held that respondent is a bona fide tenant of the landholding and that he cannot be ejected from the landholding absent any justifiable cause. It further directed the DAR Regional Director to issue Emancipation Patent in favor of respondent or his heirs. Petitioner then appealed to the Court of Appeals, which denied the petition for review.

ISSUE: Has petitioner the right to eject respondent?HELD: Respondent is a bona fide tenant, however, the records show that when the property was placed under the Operation Land Transfer, respondent was not included in the list of tenant beneficiaries who were issued Emancipation Patents, as noted on the title of the property, TCT No. 14488, which was partially canceled in view of the issuance of the new TCTs in favor of the tenant beneficiaries. There are several steps to be undertaken before an Emancipation Patent can be issued. As regards respondent, the records are bereft of evidence indicating that this procedure has been followed. Furthermore, there are several supporting documents which a tenant-farmer must submit before he can receive the Emancipation Patent which are lacking in this case. Hence, it was improper for the DARAB to order the issuance of the Emancipation Patent in favor of respondent without the required supporting documents and without following the requisite procedure before an Emancipation Patent may be validly issued. Moreover, there was no sufficient evidence to prove that respondent has fully paid the value of the subject landholding. Clearly, respondent is not entitled to be issued an Emancipation Patent considering that he has not fully complied with the requirements for a grant of title under PD 27.

On the issue of petitioners claim that the subject landholding forms part of the retained area awarded to him and his sisters, the Court notes that there was no sufficient evidence to substantiate petitioners claim. Furthermore, as held by the Court of Appeals, only the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has the exclusive jurisdiction to resolve the issue of whether petitioner is entitled to a retention area.Indeed, under Section 3 (3.5), Rule II of the DARAB 2003 Rules of Procedure, the exercise of the right of retention by the landowner is under the exclusive prerogative of and cognizable by the Office of the Secretary of the DAR. Besides, even if the subject landholding forms part of petitioners retained area, petitioner landowner may still not eject respondent tenant absent any of the causes provided under the law. The landowner cannot just terminate the leasehold relationship without valid cause. PARTIALLY GRANTED.