G.R. No. 190138, April 26, 2010


[ G.R. No. 190138, April 26, 2010 ]



Quoted hereunder, for your information, is a resolution of this Court dated 26 April 2010:

G.R. No. 190138 (Victoria Cabral v. Luisa Filoteo).

This case pertains to the power of the Secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to determine whether a particular piece of land is excluded from or included in the coverage of the Operation Land Transfer (OLT) program under Presidential Decree (P.D.) 27.[1]
The Facts and the Case

Petitioner Victoria Cabral (Cabral) is the registered owner of several hectares of agricultural lands in Meycauayan, Marilao, San Miguel, and Bocaue, all in the province of Bulacan. These were all subjected to the government's OLT program under P.D. 27.[2]

Among these lands was one consisting of 3.0881 hectare in Barangay Lias, Marilao, Bulacan, evidenced by Original Certificate of Title 0-611[3] of the Registry of Deeds of Bulacan, issued on January 14, 1954. Respondent Luisa Filoteo (Filoteo) was cultivating it.[4]

On July 10, 1992 petitioner Cabral applied for retention of her tenanted landholdings in accordance with the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) under Republic Act (R.A.) 6657.[5] A month later or on August 17, 1992, however, the government issued an emancipation patent (EP 446657) to respondent Filoteo covering the land she was cultivating. This title was registered with the Registry of Deeds of Meycauayan, Bulacan, on April 6, 1993.[6]

Meanwhile, the Municipal Agrarian Reform Office of Meycauayan and Marilao recommended the denial of petitioner Cabral's application for retention on the ground that her landholdings already exceeded 24 hectares and that Cabral failed to comply with the requirements of registration of landholdings under Letters of Instruction (LOI) 41, 45, and 52.[7] Acting on this recommendation, the Regional Director of DAR, Region III, denied Cabral's application for retention in an order dated January 14, 1993.[8]

Challenging this order, on August 25. 1994 petitioner Cabral filed a complaint for cancellation of respondent Filoteo's emancipation patent and ejectment with damages against Filoteo before the Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator (PARAD) of Bulacan in Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB) Case 740-Bul-'94.[9]

In her complaint, petitioner Cabral admitted leasing the land to respondent Filoteo but claimed that the latter had failed to pay rents for six years; that upon demand, Filoteo told her that she was willing to surrender the land if paid disturbance compensation. But the parties failed to come to an agreement because Filoteo wanted a third of the land or its money equivalent. While negotiating with Cabral, Filoteo worked to acquire the land from the government. Cabral learned of it only after she received a "Deed of Assignment Warranties and Undertaking" in favor of Filoteo. The issuance of an emancipation patent to Filoteo amounted to confiscation of property without due process. The subject property was, moreover, not suitable for agricultural since it had been reclassified as residential as early as 1983 and the DAR Region III technical group found it not irrigated.[10]

On her part, respondent Filoteo averred that as a grantee of an emancipation patent, she now owned the subject land, having fully paid its price to the Land Bank of the Philippines. She added that the land was still planted with palay and root crops.

In its September 25, 1998 decision,[11] PARAD partly granted Cabral's complaint and ordered the cancellation of Filoteo's emancipation patent upon finding through ocular inspection that the portion covered by the said patent is a residential land. The PARAD also ruled that an area consisting of 1,000 sq m [sic] shall remain with Filoteo as her home lot while Cabral shall retain the remaining 2,081 sq m [sic].

Respondent Filoteo filed a notice of appeal dated October 30, 1998 while petitioner Cabral filed an appeal and a motion for reconsideration both dated November 13, 1998. On November 24; 1998, however, Filoteo withdrew her appeal.[12] On January 7, 1999 the PARAD denied Cabral's motion for reconsideration for lack of merit, prompting her to appeal the PARAD decision to the DARAB, Quezon City. She failed, however, to submit her appeal memorandum despite an order to do so.[13]

On July 3, 2007 the D ARAB ruled that it had no jurisdiction to adjudicate the issue of exclusion or inclusion of lands the coverage of the OLT program under P.D. 27, the same being within the exclusive prerogative of the DAR Secretary.[14] Cabral sought reconsideration of the ruling but the DARAB denied the same. She then took recourse to the Court of Appeals (CA) by petition for review.

In its decision[15] dated July 14, 2009, the CA denied petitioner Cabral's petition. Although the CA held that the DARAB had jurisdiction over her case, the petition cannot be granted because she failed to secure a conversion clearance from the DAR. The CA explained that agricultural lands already reclassified before June 15, 1988, the effectivity of R.A. 6657, were exempt from conversion. As it was, Cabral's sole evidence that the land had been reclassified as a residential land was only a certification from the Office of the MPDC/Deputized Zoning Administrator dated June 10, 1992. This showed that the land was classified as residential after June 15, 1988. Cabral moved for reconsideration but the CA denied her motion.

The Issue Presented

The key issue in this case is whether or not DARAB has jurisdiction to resolve a petition for exclusion of land from the coverage of the OLT program under P.D. 27.

The Court's Rulings

Petitioner Cabral wanted the DARAB to rule that the land subject of this case is not covered by the OLT program under P.D. 27. But the Court must first resolve the threshold issue of whether or not DARAB has jurisdiction to resolve a petition for exclusion of land from the OLT program.

Undoubtedly, the power to determine whether a property is subject to CARP coverage lies with the DAR Secretary in accordance with Section 50 of R.A. 6657.[l6] This Court clearly explained in Lakeview Golf and Country Club, Inc. v. Luzvimin Samahang Nayon,[17] that the matter of CARP coverage is strictly an administrative implementation of the CARP whose competence belongs to the DAR Secretaiy. Thus:
At first glance, in the present case, it would appear that jurisdiction lies with the DARAB. The petition before the PARAD sought the cancellation of private respondents' collective CLOA which had already been registered by the Register of Deeds of Cavite. However, the material averments of the petition invoking exemption from CARP coverage constrain us to have second look.

Noteworthy, the afore-cited Section 2 of DAR Administrative Order No. 06-00 also provides that the DAR Secretary has exclusive jurisdiction to classify and identify landholdings for coverage under the CARP, including protests or oppositions thereto and petitions for lifting of coverage. The matter of CARP coverage is strictly an administrative implementation of the CARP whose competence belongs to the DAR Secretary.

x x x Thus, petitioner cannot now invoke the jurisdiction of the DARAB to pass upon this issue under the guise of having the issued collective CLOA cancelled.
Obviously, the question of whether the subject land had been reclassified as residential clearly involves the application of P.D. 27 and LOI 474, which question the DAR Secretary, owing to his agrarian expertise, is in a better position to determine.[19] If the land had become a residential subdivision, an application of the land reform law cannot be the lessee's vehicle for acquiring the property. Land reform is intended to empower farmers to produce food from lands they own, not to make subdivision owners of them.

Lastly, the Court made the distinction between nullification of OLT coverage and the cancellation of emancipation patents in Aninao v. Asturias Chemical Industries, Inc.[20] Thus:
Nullification of OLT coverage and cancellation of EPs are entirely different concepts, albeit the cancellation of an EP, if issued over a piece of land, -would be the logical consequence of the nullification of the OLT coverage of such land. It cannot be over-emphasized, however, that the assailed ruling of the DAR Secretary, as sustained by OP, merely gave due course to the protest lodged by respondent against the OLT coverage of the property in question. It stopped short of ordering the recall and cancellation of the EPs thus issued over the covered property. In fact, the DAR Secretary made it abundantly clear that "the cancellation of the [EPs] . . . shall be the subject of separate proceedings before the DAR Adjudication Board." There can be no quibbling about the DAR Secretary's competence to act on protests against agrarian reform coverage and to nullify such coverage, xxx[21]
In fine, the question as to whether the subject land is excluded from the CARP coverage because it had been reclassified as a residential area has not been resolved yet by the DAR Secretary, who. under Administrative Order 6, Series of 1994, is mandated to issue certificates of exemption under DOJ Opinion 44.

With this Court's ruling on the jurisdictional issue, it would be improper for it to decide the merits of petitioner Cabral's claim.

ACCORDINGLY, the Court DENIES the petition and AFFIRMS the Court of Appeals decision in CA-G.R. SP 102768 dated July 14, 2009, and resolution dated October 20, 2009 that upheld the judgment of the DARAB in its Case 8477.


WITNESS the Honorable Antonio T. Carpio, Chairperson, Honorable Arturo D. Brion, Mariano C. Del Castillo, Roberto A. Abad and Jose P. Perez, Members, Second Division, this 26th day of April, 2010.

Very truly yours,

Clerk of Court


Asst. Clerk of Court

[1] 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 therefore.

[2] Rollo, pp. 42-43.

[3] Id. at 191.

[4] Id. at 43.

[5] Id. at 44.

[6] Id. at 43.

[7] Id. at 44-45.

[8] Id. at 46-49.

[9] Id. at 49.

[10] Id. at 78-79.

[11] Id. at 78-80.

[12] Id. at 200.

[13] Id.

[14] Id. at 113-116.

[15] Id. at 41-60.

[16] SEC. 50. Quasi-Judicial Powers of the DAR. - The DAR is hereby vested with primary jurisdiction to determine and adjudicate agrarian reform maters and shall have exclusive original jurisdiction over all matters involving the implementation of agrarian reform, except those falling under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

[17] G.R. No. 171253, April 16, 2009, 585 SCRA 368.

[18] Id. at 378-379.

[19] Delos Reyes v. Honorable Flares, G.R. No. 168726. March 5, 2010.

[20] 502 Phil. 766 (2005).

[21] Id. at 781.