Case Digest: Bagongahasa v. Romualdez

G.R. No. 179844: March 23, 2011

EMERSON B. BAGONGAHASA, GIRLIE B. BAGONGAHASA, DEPARTMENT OF AGRARIAN REFORM - PROVINCIAL AGRARIAN REFORM OFFICER OF LAGUNA, and REGISTER OF DEEDS OF SINOLOAN, LAGUNA,Petitioners,v. JOHANNA L. ROMUALDEZ,Respondent.

FACTS:

Complainants are absolute and lawful owners of separate parcels of lands, each parcel with an area of 36,670 square meters, 47,187.50 square meters and 55,453 square meters, respectively, located at Sitio Papatahan, Paete, Laguna.

However, sometime in 1994 and 1995, the then Secretary of Agrarian Reform declared the property to be part of the public domain, awarded the same to the Defendants and forthwith issued Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOAs) to the respective defendants.

Thus, pray for the reconveyance of their respective landholdings; cancellation of the CLOAs and payment of litigation fee. On the part of public Respondent PARO, he invoked the doctrine of regularity in the performance of their official functions and their adherence in pursuing the implementation of CARP. Defendants specifically denied the allegations of the Plaintiff, maintaining in their Affirmative Defenses that they are farmer beneficiaries of the subject properties, covered by Proclamation No. 2280.

Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator (PARAD) of Laguna rendered his decision, finding that the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary committed a mistake in placing the subject properties under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). Aggrieved, petitioners appealed to the DARAB. In its decision, DARAB reversed and set aside the appealed decision.

On appeal, the CA, reversed the DARAB decision. Hence, this petition.

ISSUE: Whether or not DARAB has jurisdiction over the case

HELD: No.

Political Law- for the DARAB to have jurisdiction in such cases, they must relate to an agrarian dispute between landowner and tenants to whom CLOAs have been issued by the DAR Secretary.

The cases involving the issuance, correction and cancellation of the CLOAs by the DAR in the administrative implementation of agrarian reform laws, rules and regulations to parties who are not agricultural tenants or lessees are within the jurisdiction of the DAR and not of the DARAB. Respondents complaint was bereft of any allegation of tenancy and/or any matter that would place it within the ambit of DARABs jurisdiction.

While it is true that the PARAD and the DARAB lack jurisdiction in this case due to the absence of any tenancy relations between the parties, lingering essential issues are yet to be resolved as to the alleged lack of notice of coverage to respondents as landowners and their deprivation of just compensation.

Let it be stressed that while these issues were discussed by the PARAD in his decision, the latter was precisely bereft of any jurisdiction to rule particularly in the absence of any notice of coverage for being an ALI case. Let it also be stressed that these issues were not met head-on by petitioners. At this juncture, the issues should not be left hanging at the expense and to the prejudice of respondents.

Political Law- doctrine of primary jurisdiction

However, this Court refuses to rule on the validity of the CARP coverage of the subject properties and the issuance of the assailed CLOAs. The doctrine of primary jurisdiction precludes the courts from resolving a controversy over which jurisdiction was initially lodged with an administrative body of special competence.

The doctrine of primary jurisdiction does not allow a court to arrogate unto itself authority to resolve a controversy, the jurisdiction over which is initially lodged with an administrative body of special competence. The Office of the DAR Secretary is in a better position to resolve the particular issue of non-issuance of a notice of coverage an ALI case being primarily the agency possessing the necessary expertise on the matter. The power to determine such issue lies with the DAR, not with this Court.

Petition Granted

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