CASE DIGEST: Concha vs. Rubio (G.R. No. 162446; March 29, 2010)

CASE DIGEST: ROMANITA CONCHA, et al., Petitioners, v. PAULINO RUBIO, et al., Respondents. G.R. No. 162446; March 29, 2010.

FACTS: The subject landholding was placed under the Compulsory Acquisition Scheme of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) of the government. The Municipal Agrarian Reform Officer (MARO) of Tiaong, Quezon, named petitioners as beneficiaries.

Respondents filed a complaint for declaration of their tenancy and their identification as beneficiaries and for disqualification of the petitioners to become beneficiaries over the subject landholding. They alleged that they are the tenants thereof and have not relinquished their rights over the same, as they returned the monetary awards given by the landowners.

Meanwhile, the registered owners of the subject land entered into a joint project with 1st A.M. Realty Development Corporation, represented by Atty. Alejandro Macasaet for its development on the condition that the farmer- beneficiary shall be paid disturbance compensation and that the remaining 18.5006 hectares of the land shall be covered by the CARP.

The MARO pursued the coverage of the remaining 18.5006 has. The petitioners herein were identified as qualified farmer-beneficiaries where three (3) Certificates of Land Ownership Awards (CLOA) were issued in their favor.

Respondents, on the other hand, were paid of their disturbance compensation. They now, however, question the validity and legality of the institution of the petitioners as beneficiaries over the subject landholding. They filed a case for annulment of CLOAs.

The PARAD dismissed the complaint for lack of merit. On appeal, the DARAB set aside the PARAD decision. The DARAB ruled that in order for a voluntary surrender by an agricultural tenant of his landholding to be valid, the same must be done due to circumstances more advantageous to him and his family − a consideration, which, the DARAB found, was bereft of any evidence as shown by the records of the case. Upon denial of their motion for reconsideration, petitioners appealed to the CA but the same failed. Hence, this petition.

ISSUE: Does DARAB have jurisdiction to resolve the issue of identifying and selecting the qualified farmer- beneficiaries of a land covered by CARL?

HELD: No. Identification and selection of CARP beneficiaries are matters involving strictly the administrative implementation of the CARP, a matter exclusively cognizable by the Secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform.
In Lercana v. Jalandoni, the Supreme Court was categorical in ruling that the identification and selection of CARP beneficiaries are matters involving strictly the administrative implementation of the CARP, a matter exclusively cognizable by the Secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform, and beyond the jurisdiction of the DARAB.

In addition, in Sta. Rosa Realty Development Corporation v. Amante, the Court had an occasion to discuss the jurisdiction of the DAR Secretary in the selection of farmer-beneficiaries, to wit:

Suffice it to say that under Section 15 of R.A. No. 6657, the identification of beneficiaries is a matter involving strictly the administrative implementation of the CARP, a matter which is exclusively vested in the Secretary of Agrarian Reform, through its authorized offices. Section 15 reads:

SECTION 15. Registration of Beneficiaries. The DAR in coordination with the Barangay Agrarian Reform Committee (BARC) as organized in this Act, shall register all agricultural lessees, tenants and farm workers who are qualified to be beneficiaries of the CARP.

The administrative function of the DAR is manifest in Administrative Order No. 06-00, which provides for the Rules of Procedure for Agrarian Law Implementation Cases. Under said Rules of Procedure, the DAR Secretary has exclusive jurisdiction over identification, qualification or disqualification of potential farmer-beneficiaries.

Based on the foregoing, the conclusion is certain that the DARAB had no jurisdiction to identify who between the parties should be recognized as the beneficiaries of the land in dispute, as it was a purely administrative function of the DAR. The PARAD was, thus, correct when it declared that it had no jurisdiction to resolve the dispute.

The finding of the MARO declaring petitioners as beneficiaries of the land in dispute must, therefore, be accorded respect. It should also be equally binding on the DARAB for the simple reason that the latter has no appellate jurisdiction over the former: The DARAB cannot review, much less reverse, the administrative findings of DAR. Instead, the DARAB would do well to defer to DARs expertise when it comes to the identification and selection of beneficiaries, as it did in Lercana where this Court noted with approval that, in the dispositive portion of its decision, left to the concerned DAR Offices the determination of who were or should be agrarian reform beneficiaries. In fact, this course of action available to the DARAB is now embodied in Rule II of its 2003 Rules of Procedure, thus:

Section 5. Referral to Office of the Secretary (OSEC). − In the event that a case filed before the Adjudicator shall necessitate the determination of a prejudicial issue involving an agrarian law implementation case, the Adjudicator shall suspend the case and, for purposes of expediency, refer the same to the Office of the Secretary or his authorized representative in the locality.

In the case at bar, the DARAB has overstepped its legal boundaries in taking cognizance of the controversy between petitioners and respondents in deciding who should be declared the farmer-beneficiaries over the land in dispute. GRANTED.
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