Case Digest: DAR v. Paramount Holdings

G.R. No. 176838 : June 13, 2013

DEPARTMENT OF AGRARIAN REFORM, as represented by FRITZI C. PANTOJA, in her capacity as the PROVINCIAL AGRARIAN REFORM OFFICE, DAR-LAGUNA, Petitioner v. PARAMOUNT HOLDINGS EQUITIES, INC., JIMMY CHUA, ROJAS CHUA, BENJAMIN SIM, SANTOS C. TAN, WILLIAM C. LEE and STEWART C. LIM, Respondents

REYES, J.:


FACTS:

The case stems from the petitiondocketed as DARAB Case No. R-0403-0009-02, filed with the Office of the Provincial Adjudicator (PARAD) by the DAR through Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer (PARO) Felixberto Q. Kagahastian. The petition sought to nullify the sale to the respondents of several parcels of land.

The PARO argued that the properties were agricultural land yet their sale was effected without DAR Clearance as required under Republic Act No. 6657(R.A. No. 6657), otherwise known as the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL). Allegedly, the PARO came to know of the transactions only after he had received a directive from the Secretary of Agrarian Reform to investigate the matter, following the latter's receipt of a letter-request from personswho claimed to be the tenant-farmers of the properties' previous owners.

The respondents opposed the petition, contending that since the matter involves an administrative implementation ofR.A. No. 6657, the case is cognizable by the Secretary of Agrarian Reform, not the DARAB. They also sought the petition's dismissal on the grounds of prescription,litis pendentia,res judicataand forum shopping.

On October 16, 2002, Provincial Adjudicator Virgilio M. Sorita (PA Sorita) issued a Resolutiondismissing the petition for lack of jurisdiction.

The DAR's motion for reconsideration was denied, prompting the filing of an appeal with the DARAB. The DARAB granted the appeal.

Contrary to the findings of PA Sorita, the DARAB ruled that:first,the failure of the parties to the sale to obtain the required clearance indicates that their transactions were fraudulent;second,the PARO had the personality to file the petition even in the absence of the Solicitor General's assistance, citing Memorandum Circular No. 2, series of 2001 (Circular No. 2), and the policy of DAR to "acquire and distribute all lands covered byRA 6657[,] including those subject of illegal transfers . . .";andthird,the DARAB has the jurisdiction over the case, since its jurisdiction under Circular No. 2 covers the cancellation of deeds of conveyance and corresponding transfer certificates of title over agricultural lands.

The denialof the respondents' motion for reconsideration led to the filing of a petition with the CA. The CA rendered the assailed Decision. The CA emphasized that the DARAB's jurisdiction over the dispute should be determined by the allegations made in the petition. Since the action was essentially for the nullification of the subject properties' sale, it did not involve an agrarian suit that is within the DARAB's jurisdiction.

ISSUE: Whether or not DARAB has jurisdiction

HELD: The Court of Appeals decision is Affirmed.

POLITICAL LAW: DARABs jurisdiction


The jurisdiction of the DARAB is limited under the law, as it was created under Executive Order (E.O.) No. 129-A specifically to assume powers and functions with respect to the adjudication ofagrarian reform casesunderE.O. No. 229and E.O. No. 129-A. Significantly, it was organized under the Office of the Secretary of Agrarian Reform. The limitation on the authority of it to mere agrarian reform matters is only consistent with the extent of DAR's quasi-judicial powers underR.A. No. 6657andE.O. No. 229.

Not every sale or transfer of agricultural land would warrant DARAB's exercise of its jurisdiction. The law is specific that the property must be shown to be under the coverage of agrarian reform laws. As the CA correctly ruled:

It is easily discernable . . . that the cause of action of the [DAR] sufficiently established a suit for the declaration of the sale of the subject landholdings null and void (in violation of Administrative Order No. 1, Series of 1989). Obviously,it does not involve an agrarian suit, hence, does not fall under the jurisdiction of the DARAB. It must be emphasized that, "(t)here must be a tenancy relationship between the party litigants for the DARAB to validly take cognizance of a controversy.

Our finding on the DARAB's lack of jurisdiction over the PARO's petition renders it needless for the Court to discuss the other issues that are raised in the petition. In any case, the Court finds it worthy to discuss that the original petition remains dismissible on the merits.

Even during the proceedings before the PARAD, the respondents have raised the pendency with the Regional Trial Court of Bin, Laguna of Civil Case No. B-5862, an appeal from the decision of the Municipal Trial Court of Santa Rosa, Laguna in Civil Case No. 2478.

The records indicate that when the matter was elevated to the CAviathe petition docketed as CA G.R. SP No. 68110, the appellate court declared the subject properties to have long been reclassified from "agricultural" to "industrial".

The court ruled that there is no record of tenancy or written agricultural leasehold contract with respect to the subject lands, nor are the same covered by Operation Land Transfer pursuant toP.D. 27. Thus, for being industrial in nature, the subject lands are outside the ambit of existing agricultural tenancy laws.

The Housing Land Use Regulatory Board has affirmed through a Certificationdated May 22, 1991 that the zoning ordinance referred to was approved on December 2, 1981. Thus, the respondents correctly argued that since the subject properties were already classified as "industrial" long before the effectivity of the CARL, their sale could not have been covered by the CARP and the requirement for a clearance. The petition is DISMISSED.

Petition for review on certiorari is DENIED.

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