Case Digest: Department of Agrarian Reform vs Cuenca G.R. NO. 154112, 439 SCRA 15 , September 23, 2004
Department of Agrarian Reform vs. Cuenca
G.R. NO. 154112
439 SCRA 15 , September 23, 2004
Private respondent, Roberto J. Cuenca is the registered owner of a parcel of land designated as Lot No. 816-A and covered by TCT No. 1084, containing an area of 81.6117 hectares, situated in Brgy. Haguimit, La Carlota City and devoted principally to the planting of sugar cane.
On 21 September 1999, Noe Fortunado, Municipal Agrarian Reform Officer (MARO) of La Carlota City issued and sent a NOTICE OF COVERAGE to private respondent Cuenca placing the above-described landholding under the compulsory coverage of R.A. 6657
On 29 September 1999, private respondent Cuenca filed with the Regional Trial Court, Branch 63, La Carlota City, a complaint against Noe Fortunado and Land Bank of the Philippines for ‘Annulment of Notice of Coverage and Declaration of Unconstitutionality of E.O. No. 405, Series of 1990, With Preliminary Injunction and Restraining Order.’
On 05 October 1999, MARO Noe Fortunado filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on the ground that the court a quo has no jurisdiction over the nature and subject matter of the action, pursuant to R.A. 6657.On 12 January 2000, the respondent Judge issued a Temporary Restraining Order directing MARO and LBP to cease and desist from implementing the Notice of Coverage.
On 14 January 2000, MARO Fortunado filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the order granting the TRO contending inter alia that the DAR, through the MARO, in the course of implementing the Notice of Coverage under CARP cannot be enjoined through a Temporary Restraining Order in the light of Sections 55 and 68 of R.A. 6657. The motion was denied.
The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) [thereafter filed before the CA] a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, assailing the writ of preliminary injunction issued by respondent Judge on the ground of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction.
"It is the submission of the petitioner that the assailed order is ‘in direct defiance… of Republic Act 6657, particularly Section 55 and 68’ thereof, which read:
‘SECTION 55. NO RESTRAINING ORDERS OR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTIONS – No court in the Philippines shall have jurisdiction to issue any restraining order or writ of preliminary injunction against the PARC or any of its duly authorized or designated agencies in any case, dispute or controversy arising from, necessary to, or in connection with the application, implementation, or enforcement or interpretation of this Act and other pertinent laws on agrarian reform.’
‘SECTION 68 – IMMUNITY OF GOVERNMENT AGENCIES FROM COURT’S INTERFERENCE – No injunction, Restraining Order, prohibition or mandamus shall be issued by the lower court against the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), the Department of Agriculture (DA), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the implementation of their program.’
Petitioner contends that by virtue of the above provisions, all lower courts, such as the court presided over by respondent Judge, ‘are barred if not prohibited by law to issue orders of injunctions against the Department of Agrarian Reform in the full implementation of the Notice of Coverage which is the initial step of acquiring lands under R.A. 6657.’
Petitioner also contends that the nature and subject matter of the case below is purely agrarian in character over which the court a quo has no jurisdiction and that therefore, it had no authority to issue the assailed injunction order.Stressing that the issue was not simply the improper issuance of the Notice of Coverage, but was mainly the constitutionality of Executive Order No. 405, the CA ruled that the Regional Trial Court (RTC) had jurisdiction over the case.
Whether or not the issues raised in the complaint filed by the private respondent, which seeks to exclude his land from the coverage of the CARP, is an agrarian reform matter and within the jurisdiction of the DAR, not with the trial court.
Yes. All controversies on the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), even though they raise questions that are also legal or constitutional in nature. All doubts should be resolved in favor of the DAR, since the law has granted it special and original authority to hear and adjudicate agrarian matters.
Two basic rules have guided this Court in determining jurisdiction in these cases. First, jurisdiction is conferred by law. And second, the nature of the action and the issue of jurisdiction are shaped by the material averments of the complaint and the character of the relief sought. The defenses resorted to in the answer or motion to dismiss are disregarded; otherwise, the question of jurisdiction would depend entirely upon the whim of the defendant.
Reiterates ruling in Vda. de Tangub vs. CA
Here, the propriety of the Notice relates to the implementation of the CARP, which is under the quasi-judicial jurisdiction of the DAR. Thus, the DAR could not be ousted from its authority by the simple expediency of appending an allegedly constitutional or legal dimension to an issue that is clearly agrarian.
…in case of doubt, the juris prudential trend is for courts to refrain from resolving a controversy involving matters that demand the special competence of administrative agencies, "even if the questions involved are also judicial in character," as in this case.