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Whether or not land owner can still exercise their right of retention over subject 4.1685 hectares rice land despite the fact that a previous decision denying petition for exemption under Presidential Decree 27 had long been executory.
Daez was the owner of a 4.1685-hectare riceland in Barangay Lawa, Meycauayan, Bulacan which was being cultivated by respondents Soriente, Macatulad, Mediana and Umali under a system of share-tenancy. The said land was subjected to the Operation Land Transfer Program under Presidential Decree No. 27 as amended by Letter of Instruction Armed with an affidavit, allegedly signed under duress by the respondents, stating that they are not share tenants but hired laborers, Daez applied for the exemption of said riceland from coverage of P.D. No. 27 due to non-tenancy as well as for the cancellation of the CLTs issued to private respondents. The application of the petitioner was denied. Exemption of the 4.1685 riceland from coverage by P.D. No. 27 having been finally denied her, Daez next filed an application for retention of the same rice land, this time under R.A. No. 6657.
On March 22, 1994, DAR Region III OIC-Director Eugenio B. Bernardo allowed Daez to retain the subject riceland but he denied the application of her eight (8) children to retain three (3) hectares each for their failure to prove actual tillage of the land or direct management thereof as required by law. They appealed to DAR Secretary.
DAR Secretary affirmed the decision of the regional director. They appealed to the Office of the President (OP).
Office of the President ruled in favor of Daez or her heirs and rendered judgment authorizing the retention of the 4.1685 hectares of land. The application of the children was still denied. Hence the appeal in CA.
CA reversed and set aside the decision of the Office of the President.
YES. Petitioner heirs of Daez may exercise their right of retention over the subject 4.1685 riceland.
In the landmark case of Association of Small Landowners in the Phil., Inc. v. Secretary of Agrarian Reform 23 , we held that landowners who have not yet exercised their retention rights under P.D. No. 27 are entitled to the new retention rights under R.A. No. 6657 24 . We disregarded the August 27, 1985 deadline imposed by DAR Administrative Order No. 1, series of 1985 on landowners covered by OLT. However, if a landowner filed his application for retention after August 27, 1985 but he had previously filed the sworn statements required by LOI Nos. 41, 45 and 52, he is still entitled to the retention limit of seven (7) hectares under P.D. No. 27. 25 Otherwise, he is only entitled to retain five (5) hectares under R.A. No. 6657.
Sec. 6 of R.A. No. 6657, which provides,
SECTION 6. Retention Limits — Except as otherwise provided in this Act, no person may own or retain, directly or indirectly, any public or private agricultural land, the size of which shall Upon the effectivity of this Act, any sale, disposition, lease, management contract or transfer of possession of private lands executed by the original landowner in violation of this Act shall be null and void; Provided, however, That those executed prior to this Act shall be valid only when registered with the Register of Deeds within a period of three (3) months after the effectivity of this Act. Thereafter, all Register of Deeds shall inform the DAR within thirty (30) days of any transaction involving agricultural lands in excess of five (5) hectares" .
Without doubt, this right of retention may be exercised over tenanted land despite even the issuance of Certificate of Land Transfer (CLT) to farmer-beneficiaries. What must be protected, however, is the right of the tenants to opt to either stay on the land chosen to be retained by the landowner or be a beneficiary in another agricultural land with similar or comparable features.