DAR v DECS Digest | Agriculture | Crime & Justice

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Case Digest on DAR v. DECS
  DAR v. DECS Petition for review on certiorari to set aside decision of CA which denied petitioner’s motionfor reconsideration-Lot No.2509 and Lot No. 817-D consists of an aggregate area of 189.2462 hectares locatedat Hacienda Fe, Escalante, Negros Occidental and Brgy. Gen. Luna, Sagay, NegrosOccidental, respectively. On October 21, 1921, these lands were donated by Esteban Jalandoni to respondent DECS. Titles were transferred in the name of respondent DECS.-DECS leased the lands to Anglo Agricultural Corporation for 10 agricultural crop years,commencing from crop year 1984-1985 to crop year 1993-1994. The contract of lease wassubsequently renewed for another 10 agricultural crop years, commencing from crop year1995-1996 to crop year 2004-2005.-June 10, 1993: Eugenio Alpar et.al, claim to be permanent and regular farm workers of thesubject lands, filed a petition for Compulsory Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) coverage withthe Municipal Agrarian Reform Office (MARO) of Escalante.-After investigation, MARO Jacinto R. Piñosa, sent a “Notice of Coverage” to respondentDECS, stating that the lands are covered by CARP and inviting its representatives for aconference with the farmer beneficiaries. Then, MARO Piñosa submitted his report to OIC-PARO Stephen M. Leonidas, who recommended to the DAR Regional Director the approval of the coverage of the landholdings.-August 7, 1998: DAR Regional Director Andres approved the recommendation and directedProvincial Agrarian Reform Office to facilitate acquisition and distribution of landholdings toqualified beneficiaries.-DECS appealed the case to the Secretary of Agrarian Reform which affirmed the Order of the Regional Director.-Aggrieved DECS filed a petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals, which set aside thedecision of the Secretary of Agrarian Reform. Hence, the instant petition for review. ISSUES :1. Whether or not the subject properties are exempt from the coverage of Republic Act No.6657/ Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1998 (CARL)—NO2. Whether or not the farmers are qualified beneficiaries of CARP--YES The general policy under CARL is to cover as much lands suitable for agriculture aspossible. Section 4 of R.A. No. 6657 sets out the coverage of CARP. The program shall:“… cover, regardless of tenurial arrangement and commodity produced, all  public andprivate agricultural lands as provided in Proclamation No. 131 and Executive Order No. 229,including other lands of the public domain suitable for agriculture.” Following lands are covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program :(a) All alienable and disposable lands of the public domain devoted to orsuitable for agriculture. No reclassification of forest or mineral lands toagricultural lands shall be undertaken after the approval of this Act untilCongress, taking into account, ecological, developmental and equityconsiderations, shall have determined by law, the specific limits of the publicdomain;(b) All lands of the public domain in excess of the specific limits asdetermined by Congress in the preceding paragraph;(c) All other lands owned by the Government devoted to or suitable foragriculture; and(d) All private lands devoted to or suitable for agriculture regardless of theagricultural products raised or that can be raised thereon.Section 3(c): “ agricultural land - “land devoted to agricultural activity as defined in thisAct and not classified as mineral, forest, residential, commercial or industrial land.” “agriculture” or “agricultural activity” - means the cultivation of the soil, planting of crops, growing of fruit trees, raising of livestock, poultry or fish, including the harvesting of   such farm products, and other farm activities, and practices performed by a farmer inconjunction with such farming operations done by persons whether natural or juridical. The records of the case show that the subject properties were formerly privateagricultural lands owned by the late Esteban Jalandoni, and were donated to respondentDECS. From that time until they were leased to Anglo Agricultural Corporation, the landscontinued to be agricultural primarily planted to sugarcane, albeit part of the public domainbeing owned by an agency of the government. There is no legislative or presidential act,before and after the enactment of R.A. No. 6657, classifying the said lands as mineral,forest, residential, commercial or industrial land. Indubitably, the subject lands fall underthe classification of lands of the public domain devoted to or suitable for agriculture. -DECS: sought exemption from CARP coverage on the ground that all the income derivedfrom its contract of lease with Anglo Agricultural Corporation were actually, directly andexclusively used for educational purposes. -DAR: the lands subject are not exempt from the CARP coverage because the same are notactually, directly and exclusively used as school sites or campuses, as they are in fact leasedto Anglo Agricultural Corporation. Further, to be exempt from the coverage, it is theland    per se ,   not the income derived that must be actually, directly and exclusively used foreducational purposes. HELD: I. We agree with the petitioner DAR that they are not exempted.Section 10 of R.A. No. 6657 enumerates the types of  lands which are exemptedfrom the coverage of CARP as well as the purposes of their exemption: c) Lands actually, directly and exclusively used and found to be necessary for nationaldefense, school sites and campuses, including experimental farm stations operated by public or  private schools for educational purposes, … , shall be exempt from the coverage of this Act.x x x x x x x x x In order to be exempt from the coverage : 1) the land must be “ actually, directly, andexclusively used and   found to be necessary; ”   and   2) the purpose is “ for school sites andcampuses, including experimental farm stations operated by public or private schools for educational purposes .” The importance of the phrase “ actually, directly, and exclusively used and   found to benecessary  ” cannot be understated. The words of the law are clear and unambiguous. The“plain meaning rule” or verba legis is applicable. Where the words of a statute are clear,plain and free from ambiguity, it must be given its literal meaning and applied withoutattempted interpretation.We are not unaware of our ruling in the case of  Central Mindanao University v.Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board , wherein we declared the land subjectexempt from CARP coverage. However, DECS’ reliance is misplaced because the factualcircumstances are different in the case at bar. 1st  , in the CMU case, the land involved was not alienable and disposable land of thepublic domain because it was reserved by the late President Carlos P. Garcia under Proc. No.476 for the use of Mindanao Agricultural College (now CMU). In this case, however, thelands fall under the category of alienable and disposable lands of the public domain suitablefor agriculture. 2 nd , in the CMU case, the land was actually, directly and exclusively used and found tobe necessary for school sites and campuses. Although a portion of it was being used by thePhilippine Packing Corporation (now Del Monte Phils., Inc.) under a “Management andDevelopment Agreement”, the undertaking was that the land shall be used by the PhilippinePacking Corporation as part of the CMU research program, with direct participation of facultyand students. The retention of the land was found to be necessary for the present andfuture educational needs. On the other hand, the lands in this case werenot actually  and exclusively  utilized as school sites and campuses. They were leased toAnglo Agricultural Corporation, not for educational but business purposes. Also, it was theincome and not the lands that was directly used for the repairs and renovations of theschools.  II. We disagree with the Court of Appeals’ finding that they were not qualifiedbeneficiaries.  The identification of actual and potential beneficiaries under CARP is vested in the Secretaryof Agrarian Reform pursuant to Section 15, R.A. No. 6657 : SECTION 15. Registration of Beneficiaries . — The DAR in coordination with the BarangayAgrarian Reform Committee (BARC) as organized in this Act, shall register all agricultural lessees,tenants and farmworkers who are qualified to be beneficiaries of the CARP. These potentialbeneficiaries with the assistance of the BARC and the DAR shall provide the following data:(a) names and members of their immediate farm household;(b) owners or administrators of the lands they work on and the length of tenurialrelationship;(c) location and area of the land they work;(d) crops planted; and(e) their share in the harvest or amount of rental paid or wages received.A copy of the registry or list of all potential CARP beneficiaries in the barangay shall be posted in thebarangay hall, school or other public buildings in the barangay where it shall be open to inspection bythe public at all reasonable hours. In the case at bar, the BARC certified that the farmers were potential CARP beneficiariesof the subject properties. Further, on November 23, 1994, the Secretary of Agrarian Reformthrough the Municipal Agrarian Reform Office (MARO) issued a Notice of Coverage placingthe subject properties under CARP. Since the identification and selection of CARPbeneficiaries are matters involving strictly the administrative implementation of the CARP, itbehooves the courts to exercise great caution in substituting its own determination of theissue, unless there is grave abuse of discretion committed by the administrative agency. Inthis case, there was none. The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) is the bastion of social justice of poor landless farmers, the mechanism designed to redistribute to the underprivileged thenatural right to toil the earth, and to liberate them from oppressive tenancy. The objectiveof the State is that: “landless farmers and farmworkers will receive the highest considerationto promote social justice and to move the nation toward sound rural development andindustrialization.” WHEREFORE , in view of the foregoing, the petition is GRANTED . The decision of the Court of Appeals dated October 29, 2002, in CA-G.R. SP No. 64378 is REVERSED andSET ASIDE . The decision dated August 30, 2000 of the Secretary of Agrarian Reform placingthe subject lands under CARP coverage , is REINSTATED .
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