Case Digest: Alangilan Realty & Development Corporation vs Office of the President, 616 SCRA 633 ,G.R. No. 180471, March 26, 2010
Alangilan Realty & Development Corporation vs. Office of the President
616 SCRA 633 ,
G.R. No. 180471
March 26, 2010
Petitioner is the owner/developer of a 17.4892-hectare land in Barangays Alangilan and Patay in Batangas City (Alangilan landholding). On August 7, 1996, petitioner filed an Application and/or Petition for Exclusion/Exemption from Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) Coverage of the Alangilan landholding with the Municipal Agrarian Reform Office (MARO) of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR). It averred that, in 1982, the Sangguniang Bayan of Batangas City classified the subject landholding as reserved for residential under a zoning ordinance (1982 Ordinance), which was approved by the Human Settlement Regulatory Commission. It further alleged that, on May 17, 1994, the Sangguniang Panglungsod of Batangas City approved the City Zoning Map and Batangas Comprehensive Zoning and Land Use Ordinance (1994 Ordinance), reclassifying the landholding as residential-1. Petitioner thus claimed exemption of its landholding from the coverage of the CARP.On May 6, 1997, then DAR Secretary Ernesto Garilao issued an Order denying petitioner's application for exemption. The DAR Secretary noted that, as of February 15, 1993, the Alangilan landholding remained agricultural, reserved for residential. It was classified as residential-1 only on December 12, 1994 under Sangguniang Panlalawigan Resolution No. 709, series of 1994. Clearly, the subject landholding was still agricultural at the time of the effectivity of Republic Act No. 6657, or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL), on June 15, 1988. The qualifying phrase reserved for residential means that the property is still classified as agricultural, and is covered by the CARP.
Petitioner filed motion for reconsideration which the DAR Secretary denied.
On appeal, the Office of the President (OP) affirmed the decision of the DAR Secretary. A motion for reconsideration was filed, but OP denied it.
Petitioner went up to the CA via a petition for review on certiorari, assailing the OP decision. CA dismissed the petition. Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration, but the CA denied it.
Whether or not the power to classify lands is essentially a legislative function that exclusively lies with the legislative authorities, and thus, when the Sangguniang Bayan of Batangas City declared the Alangilan landholding as residential in its 1994 Ordinance, its determination was conclusive and cannot be overruled by the DAR Secretary.
No. The exclusive jurisdiction to classify and identify landholdings for coverage under the CARP is reposed in the DAR Secretary. The matter of CARP coverage, like the instant case for application for exemption, is strictly part of the administrative implementation of the CARP, a matter well within the competence of the DAR Secretary.
As we explained in Leonardo Tarona, et al. v. Court of Appeals (Ninth Division), et al.: The power to determine whether a property is subject to CARP coverage lies with the DAR Secretary pursuant to Section 50 of R.A. No. 6657. Verily, it is explicitly provided under Section 1, Rule II of the DARAB Revised Rules that matters involving strictly the administrative implementation of the CARP and other agrarian laws and regulations, shall be the exclusive prerogative of and cognizable by the Secretary of the DAR.
Finally, it is well settled that factual findings of administrative agencies are generally accorded respect and even finality by this Court, if such findings are supported by substantial evidence. The factual findings of the DAR Secretary, who, by reason of his official position, has acquired expertise in specific matters within his jurisdiction, deserve full respect and, without justifiable reason, ought not to be altered, modified, or reversed.