CASE DIGEST: DAR v. Berenguer

G.R. No. 154094 : March 9, 2010




In April 1998, the respondents received from the DAR notices ofcoverage of their said landholdings by the Governments Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) pursuant to Republic Act No. 6657 (CARL). They protested the notices of coverage, filing onOctober 5, 1998, in the office of DAR Regional Director Dalugdug inLegaspiCity, their application for exclusion of their landholdings from CARP coverage, and praying for the lifting of the notices of coverage.

In October and November 1998, the DAR Secretary, without acting on the respondents application for exclusion, cancelled their titles and issuedcertificates of land ownership awards(CLOAs), covering their landholdings, to the members of the Baribag Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Development Cooperative (Baribag), not to the respondents workers on the landholdings, although Baribag was not impleaded in the respondents application for exclusion. Regional Director Dalugdug denied the respondents application for exclusion.Thus, they appealed the denial to the DAR Secretary.

On March 9, 1999, pending resolution of the respondents appeal to the DAR Secretary, Baribag filed in the office of DAR Regional Agrarian Reform Adjudicator (RARAD) for Legaspi City RARAD Florin a petition seeking to implement the order of Regional Director Dalugdug denying the respondents application for exclusion.

OnMarch 15, 1999, RARAD Florin issued an implementing writ placing Baribag in possession of the respondents landholdings. She denied the respondentsmotion for reconsideration.

OnMarch 24, 1999, the respondents appealed before the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board by filing a notice of appeal with the office of RARAD Florin.

OnApril 6, 1999, then Acting DAR Secretary Conrado Navarro denied the respondents appeal of the order of Regional Director Dalugdug denying their application for exclusion and petition to lift the notice of coverage. RARAD Florin noted the respondents notice of appeal, and issued the writ of possession sought by Baribag.

The respondents filed a petition forcertioraribefore the CA, which treated the petition as a petition for review. The CA granted the petition, and reversed the DAR SecretarysApril 6, 1999order. The CA set aside the writ of execution and writ of possession issued by RARAD Florin; ordered the cancellation of Baribags CLOAs; and directed the DAR Secretary to restore the respondents in the possession of their landholdings.

Hence, this appeal.


Whether or not the lanholdings of the respondents are subject to the coverage of CARL?

Whether or not Baribag was justified to be a beneficiary?


The petition is denied.


Resolution No. 5, passed onMarch 12, 1981by theSangguniang Bayanof Sorsogon, Sorsogon, showed that the limits of thepoblacionarea of the municipalityincludedBarangay Bibincahan, where the respondents landholdings were situated. The significance of this fact cannot be overstated, for, thereby, the respondents landholdings were presumed to be industrial and residential lands. Jurisprudence has been clear about the presumption.

There is no dispute that as early as 1981, the respondents landholdings have been part of thepoblacionof Sorsogon, Sorsogon. Thus, respondents landholding were non-agricultural, and, consequently, outside the coverage of the CARL, was fully warranted. In fact, the excerpt from the Comprehensive Development Plan of Sorsogon, Sorsogon showed that Barangay Bibincahan was within the Central Business District of the municipality.

POLITICAL LAW: qualified beneficiaries of CARP

The CARL has set forth in mandatory terms in its Section 22 of the CARL whoshould bethe qualified beneficiaries, but the DAR did not strictly comply with the law. Instead, the DAR excluded such workers based on its speculation and conjecture on why the actual workers on the landholdings had not shown interest and had not responded to the call of the DAR field officers during the screening process.As such, the DAR did not really determine who the lawful beneficiaries were, failing even to present any documentary proof that showed that the respondents workers genuinely lacked interest to be considered beneficiaries of the landholdings, or refused to subject themselves to the screening process.

There was also no evidence presented to justify that Baribag was a qualified beneficiary within the context of Section 22 of the CARL, and be entitled to be awarded the landholdings.

The highly irregular actuations of the DAR did not end with the unwarranted awarding of the landholdings to Baribag in violation of Section 22 of the CARL. The DAR also violated the respondents right of retention under Section 6 of the CARL, which accorded to the respondents as the landowners the right to retain five hectares of their landholdings, and the right to choose the areas to be retained, which should be compact or contiguous. Thus, assuming that the respondents landholdings were covered by the CARL, and that the DAR was correct in awarding the landholdings to Baribag, the DARs cancellation of all of the respondents TCTs effectively nullified the respondents right of retention, thereby depriving them of their property without due process of law.

Lastly, RARAD Florins issuance of the writ of execution in favor of Baribag was highly irregular.It must be noted, first of all, that because Baribag was not even a party in relation to the respondents application for exclusion before Regional Director Dalugdug, RARAD Florindid notacquire jurisdiction over Baribag. As such, the legal authority of RARAD Florin to implement the award to Baribag by execution did not exist. Secondly, the denial of the respondents application for exclusion was still pending review by the DAR Secretary when RARAD Florin issued the writ of execution to implement Regional Director Dalugdugs order to place Baribag in possession of the respondents landholdings. Hence, the issuance of the writ of execution was premature and bereft of legal basis.

It is timely to stress that the noble purpose of the CARL to emancipate the tenants from the bondage of the soil and to transfer to them the ownership of the lands they till should not be the guise to trample upon the landowners rights by including lands that are unquestionably outside the coverage of the CARL.Neither should such noble intention be frustrated by designating beneficiaries who are neither the tenants or tillers of the land, nor otherwise qualified under the law to be the beneficiaries of land reform.

REMEDIAL LAW: certiorari treated as review; sustainable
The CA did not err in treating the petition forcertiorarias a petition for review.The Court had occasion to expound on the exceptions to the rule that a recourse to a petition forcertiorariunder Rule 65 rendered the petition dismissible for being the wrong remedy, to wit: (a) when public welfare and the advancement of public policy dictates; (b) when the broader interest of justice so requires;(c) when the writs issued are null and void; or (d) when the questioned order amounts to an oppressive exercise of judicial authority.
As shown in the discussion, exception (c) applies to the present case. 
The decision and resolution of the Court of Appeals are affirmed.