Case Digest: Santiago vs. Ortiz-Luis

G.R. Nos. 186184 & 186988: September 20, 2010

CELESTINO SANTIAGO substituted by LAURO SANTIAGO and ISIDRO GUTIERREZ substituted by ROGELIO GUTIERREZ, Petitioners, v. AMADA R. ORTIZ-LUIS substituted by JUAN ORTIZ-LUIS, JR., Respondent.



Juan and Amada Ortiz Luis (Spouses Ortiz Luis) were the owners of hectares of tenanted riceland situated in Barangay San Fernando Sur, Cabiao, Nueva Ecija and covered by TCT No. NT-10798 (the property).

Pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 27 (P.D. No. 27), “Decreeing the Emancipation of Tenants from the Bondage of the Soil, Transferring to them the Ownership of the Land they Till and Providing the Instruments and Mechanism Therefor,” which took effect on October 21, 1972, the property was placed under Operation Land Transfer (OLT).

Despite the inclusion of the property under the OLT, the Spouses Ortiz-Luis, by Deed of Absolute Sale dated June 16, 1979, transferred it to their children Rosario, Teresita, Simplicio and Antonio, all surnamed Ortiz-Luis. The children were able to have the property transferred under their names on June 25, 1992.

The children later filed an Application for Retention under P.D. No. 27 before the Department of Agrarian Reform Regional Office (DARRO) which was denied by Order for violation of agrarian laws, rules and regulations.

Amada filed on July 14, 1999 an Application for Retention over the property under R.A. 6657 before the DARRO.

By Decision of the Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator (PARAD), to which the application was referred for determination of the validity of TCT No. NT-189843 issued to the children, ordered the cancellation of said title and reinstated the spouses’ Ortiz-Luis’ title. Amada’s application for retention was thus given due course by DARRO.

Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer (PARO) Rogelio M. Chavez recommended the denial of Amada’s application upon the ground that “an owner of tenanted rice and corn lands may not retain those lands if he, as of October 21, 1972, owned more than 24 hectares of tenanted rice or corn lands.” It appears that Spouses Ortiz Luis owned 178.8092 hectares, only 88.4513 of which were placed under OLT.

The PARO’s recommendation notwithstanding, DARRO, by Order of May 23, 2000, granted Amada’s application for retention, it holding that her failure to exercise her retention rights under P.D. No. 27 entitled her to the benefit of retention under R.A. 6657.

Farmer-beneficiaries Celestino (petitioner Lauro’s father) and Isidro (petitioner Rogelio’s father), having been granted on May 20, 1994 emancipation patents moved for reconsideration of the DARRO May 23, 2000 Order. DARRO denied the motion. On the assumption that no appeal was filed, DARRO issued a Memorandum dated October 24, 2000 to implement its Orders.

On appeal, the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB), by Decision, ruled in favor of petitioners on the ground that the Order of Retention has not attained finality.

Juan Ortiz-Luis, Jr. (respondent), who substituted for Amada after she passed away on December 8, 2001, filed a petition for review before the Court of Appeals following the denial by the DARAB of his motion for reconsideration.

In time, Celestino and Isidro’s appeal to the DAR Secretary respecting the DARRO Orders which granted retention rights to Amada was denied by DAR Secretary Roberto Pagdanganan by Order of October 24, 2003 (Pagdanganan Order). Celestino and Isidro filed a motion for reconsideration. Pending resolution of the motion, Celestino died and was thereupon substituted by petitioner Lauro.

Secretary Pagdanganan’s successor-in-interest, Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, granted Celestino and Isidro’s Motion for Reconsideration and accordingly reversed the Pagdanganan Order by Order of October 24, 2005 (Pangandaman Order).

His motion for reconsideration having been denied, respondent appealed to the Office of the President (OP) which, by Decision of May 9, 2007, reversed and set aside the Pangandaman Order and reinstated the Pagdanganan Order upholding the grant to Amada of her retention rights.

Petitioners thereupon elevated the matter to the Court of Appeals via petition for review assailing the DARAB Resolution setting aside the cancellation of petitioners’ Emancipation Patents. The CA upheld Amada’s Right of Retention.

ISSUE: Whether or not Amada’s Right of Retention should be upheld despite issuance of DAR Administrative Order No. 05-2000

POLITICAL LAW: The right of retention, as protected and enshrined in the Constitution, balances the effect of compulsory land acquisition by granting the landowner the right to choose the area to be retained subject to legislative standards.


The relevant provision of AO No. 05, Series of 2000 states that Landowners covered by PD 27 are entitled to retain 7 hectares except those whose entire tenanted rice and corn lands are subject of acquisition and distribution under OLT; however, if the landowner, as of 21 October 1972, owned more than 24 hectares of tenanted rice and corn lands, he may not retain those lands.

The right of retention, as protected and enshrined in the Constitution, balances the effect of compulsory land acquisition by granting the landowner the right to choose the area to be retained subject to legislative standards.

Furthermore, in Section 6 of R.A. 6657, it states that “in no case shall retention by the landowner exceed 5 hectares and the right to choose the area to be retained, which shall be compact or contiguous, shall pertain to the landowner. Provided, however, That in case the area selected for retention by the landowner is tenanted, the tenant shall have the option to choose whether to remain therein or be a beneficiary in the same or another agricultural land with similar or comparable features.”

Amada is thus not entitled to retention rights. As noted by the PARO in recommending denial of her application which was eventually heeded in the Pangandaman Order, while Spouses Ortiz Luis owned aggregate landholdings equivalent to 178.8092 hectares, only a portion thereof ─ 88.5413 hectares ─ were placed under OLT. A Certification dated May 7, 2001 issued by the Municipal Agrarian Reform Office (MARO) affirms that as of even date, Spouses Ortiz Luis still owned 162.1584 hectares of land in Cabiao, Nueva Ecija.

Letter of Instruction (LOI) No. 474 amended P.D. No. 27 by removing “any right of retention from persons who own other agricultural lands of more than 7 hectares, or lands used for residential, commercial, industrial or other purpose from which they derive adequate income to support themselves and their families.”

Section 9 (d) of DAR Administrative Order No. 05, on which the Court of Appeals in part anchored its ruling, is inconsistent with P.D. No. 27, as amended by LOI No. 474, insofar as it removed the limitations to a landowner’s retention rights.

It is well-settled that administrative officials are empowered to promulgate rules and regulations in order to implement a statute. The power, however, is restricted such that an administrative regulation cannot go beyond what is provided in the legislative enactment. It must always be in harmony with the provisions of the law, hence, any resulting discrepancy between the two will always be resolved in favor of the statute.