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Case Digest: Buklod ng Magbubukid vs E.M. Ramos & Sons G.R. No. 131481, Mar 16, 2011, 645 SCRA 401 (2001)
Buklod ng Magbubukid vs E.M. Ramos & Sons
G.R. No. 131481, Mar 16, 2011,
645 SCRA 401 (2001)
At the core of the controversy are several parcels of unirrigated land (303.38545 hectares) which from part of a larger expanse with an area of 372 hectares situated at Barangay Langkaan, Dasmarinas,Cavite. Originally owned by the Manila Golf and Country Club, the property was acquired by the repondent EMRASON in 1965 for the purpose of developing the same into a residential subdivision known as Traveller's Life Homes.
Sometime in 1971, the Municipal Council of Dasmarinas, Cavite, acting pursuant to Republic Act (R.A.) No. 2264, otherwise known as the "Loval Autonomy Act", enacted Municipal Ordinance No. 1, hereinafter referred to as Ordinance No. 1, enitled "An Ordinance Providing Subdivision Regulation and Providing Penalties for Violation Thereof."
In May, 1972, [respondent] E.M. Ramos and Sons, Inc., applied for an authority to convert and development its aforementioned 372-hectare property into a residential subdivision, attaching to the aplication detailed development plans and development proposals from Bancom Development Corporation and San Miguel Corporation. Acting thereon the Municipal Council of Dasmarinas, Cavite passed on July 9, 1972 Municipal Ordinance No. 29-A (Ordinance "No. 29-A, for brevity), approving EMRASON's application. Subsequently, EMRASON paid the fees, dues and licenses needed to proceed with property development.
It appears, however, that the actual implementation of the subdivision project suffered delay owing to the confluence of events. Among these was the fact that the property in question was then mortgaged to, and the titles thereto were in the possession of, the Overseas Bank of Manila, which during the period material was under liquidation.
On June 15. 1988, Republic Act No. 6657, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law or CARL, took effect, ushering in a new process of land classification, acquisition and distribution.
On September 23, 1988, the Municipal Mayor of Dasmarinas, Cavite addressed a letter to EMRASON.
On August 29, 1990, then OAR Secretary Benjamin Leong sent out the first of four batches of notices of acquisition, each of which drew protest from EMRASON. All told, these notices covered 303.38545 hectares of land situated at BarangayLangkaan, Dasmarinas, Cavite owned by EMRASON.
In the meantime, EMRASON filed with the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB), Region IV, Pasig, Metro Manila, separate petitions to nullify the first three sets of the above notices. Collectively docketed as DARAB Case No. IV-Ca-0084-92, these petitions were subsequently referred to the Office of the Regional Director, Region IV, which had jurisdiction thereon. In his referral action, the Provincial Agrarian Adjudicator directed the DAR Region IV, through its Operations Division, to conduct a hearing and/or investigation lo determine whether or not the subject property is covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and, if not, to cancel the notices of acquisition.
Forthwith, the DAR Regional office conducted an on-site inspection of the subject property.
On August 28, 1992, the Legal Division of DAR, Region IV, through Hearing Officer Victor Baguilat, rendered a decision declaring as null and void all the notices of acquisitions, observing that the property covered thereby is, pursuant to Department of Justice (DOJ) Opinion No. 44, series of 1990, exempt from CARP.
The DOJ Opinion adverted to, rendered by then Justice Secretary Franklin Drilon, clarified that lands already converted to non-agricultural uses before June 15, 1988 were no longer covered by CARP.
On September 3, 1992, the Region IV DAR Regional Director motu propio elevated the case to the Office of the Agrarian Reform Secretary, it being his view that Hearing Officer Baguilat's decision ran contrary to the department's official position "to pursue the coverage of the same properties and its eventual distribution to qualified beneficiaries particularly the Langkaan farmers in fulfillment of the commitment of the government to deliver to them the balance of thirty-nine hectares x x x".
On January 6, 1993, the herein respondent DAR Secretary o Garilao issued an order affirming the Notices of Acquisition and Directing the OAR field officials concerned to pursue (he coverage under RA 6657 of the properties of E.M. Ramos & Sons, Inc. for which subject Notices of Acquisition had been issued.
Its motion for reconsideration of the aforesaid order having been denied by the DAR Secretary Garilao in his subsequent order of January 6, 1993, EMRASON appealed to the Office of the President.On February 7, 1996, the Office of the President, through herein respondent Deputy Executive Secretary Renato C. Corona [(Deputy Executive Secretary Corona)], rendered the herein assailed decision x x x, dismissing EMRASON's appeal.
On May 14, 1996, the [Deputy Executive Secretary Corona] came out with his second challenged issuance denying EMRASON's aforementioned motion for reconsideration x x x.
From the denial of its Motion for Reconsideration by the OP, EMRASON filed a Petition for Review with the Court of Appeals.
On July 3, 1996, the Court of Appeals issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO), which enjoined then DAR Secretary Ernesto Garilao and Deputy Executive Secretary Renato C. Corona from implementing the OP Decision of February 7, 1996 and Resolution of May 14, 1996 until further orders from the court. On September 17, 1996, the appellate court issued a Resolution granting the prayer of EMRASON for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction.The DAR Secretary filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the Resolution dated September 17, 1996 of the Court of Appeals, with the prayer that the writ of preliminary injunction already issued be lifted, recalled and/or dissolved.
At this juncture, the DAR had already prepared Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOAs) to distribute the subject property to farmer-beneficiaries. However, the writ of preliminary injunction issued by the Court of Appeals enjoined the release of the CLOAs. Buklod, on behalf of the alleged 300 farmer-beneficiaries of the subject property, filed a Manifestation and Omnibus Motion, wherein it moved that it be allowed to intervene as an indispensable party in CA-G.R. SP No. 40950; that the writ of preliminary injunction be immediately dissolved, having been issued in violation of Section 55 of the CARL; and that the Petition for Review of EMRASON be dismissed since the appropriate remedy should have been a petition for certiorari before the Supreme Court.
The Court of Appeals allowed the intervention of Buklod because -the latter's participation was "not being in any way prejudicial to the interest of the original parties, nor will such intervention change the factual legal complexion of the case." The appellate court, however, affirmed the propriety of the remedy availed by EMRASON given that under Section 5 ofSupreme Court Revised Administrative Circular No. 1-95 dated May 16, 1995, appeals from judgments or final orders of the OP or the DAR under the CARL shall be taken to the Court of Appeals, through a verified petition for review; and that under Section 3 of the same Administrative Circular, such a petition for review may raise questions of facts, law, or mixed questions of facts and law.
Ultimately, the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of EMRASON because the subject property was already converted/classified as residential by the Municipality of Dasmarinas prior to the effectivity of the CARL.. The Court of Appeals further observed that the subject property has never been devoted to any agricultural activity and is, in fact, more suitable for non-agricultural purposes.
Whether or not subject property could be placed under the CARP.
No. Section 4, Chapter II of the CARL, as amended,24 particularly defines the coverage of the CARP, to wit:
SEC. 4. Scope. - The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988 shall cover, regardless of tenurial arrangement and commodity produced, all public and private agricultural lands as provided in Proclamation No. 131 and Executive Order No. 229, including other lands of the public domain suitable for agriculture: Provided, That landholdings of landowners with a total area of five (5) hectares and below shall not be covered for acquisition and distribution to qualified beneficiaries.
More specifically, the following lands are covered by the CARP:
(a) All alienable and disposable lands of the public domain devoted to or suitable for agriculture. No reclassification of forest or mineral lands to agricultural lands shall be undertaken after the approval of this Act until Congress, taking into account ecological, developmental and equity considerations, shall have determined by law, the specific limits of the public domain;
(b) All lands of the public domain in excess of the specific limits as determined by Congress in the preceding paragraph;
(c) All other lands owned by the Government devoted to or suitable for agriculture; and
(d) All private lands devoted to or suitable for agriculture regardless of the agricultural products raised or that can be raised thereon.
A comprehensive inventory system in consonance with the national land use plan shall be instituted by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), in accordance with the Local Government Code, for the purpose of properly identifying and classifying farmlands within one (1) year from effectivity of this /Vet. without prejudice to the implementation of the land acquisition and distribution." (Emphases supplied.)Section 3(c), Chapter I of the CARL further narrows down the definition of agricultural land that is subject to CARP to "land devoted to agricultural activity as defined in this Act and not classified as mineral, forest, residential, commercial or industrial land."
The CARL took effect on June 15, 1988. To be exempt from the CARP, the subject property should have already been reclassified as residential prior to said date.
The Court reiterates that since July 9, 1972, upon approval of Resolution No. 29-A by the Municipality of Dasmarinas, the subject property had been reclassified from agricultural to residential. The tax declarations covering the subject property, classifying the same as agricultural, cannot prevail over Resolution No. 29-A.Since the subject property had been reclassified as residential land by virtue of Resolution No. 29-A dated July 9, 1972, it is no longer agricultural land by the time the CARL took effect on June 15, 1988 and is, therefore, exempt from the CARP.
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