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First Division

G.R. No. 154094
March 9, 2010
DEPARTMENT OF AGRARIAN REFORM, represented by SECRETARY HERNANI A. BRAGANZA,
Petitioner, vs. PABLO BERENGUER, BELINDA BERENGUER, CARLO
BERENGUER,ROSARIO BERENGUER LANDERS, and REMEDIOS BERENGUER-LINTAG,
Respondents.
Theme: Coverage of CARP, Agricultural Land, Beneficiaries of CARP
Facts:
The respondents were the registered owners of several residential and industrial lands with a total area of
58.0649 hectares located in Barangay Bibincahan, Sorsogon, Sorsogon and covered by the following certificates of
title (TCTs).
In April 1998, the respondents received from the DAR notices of coverage of their said landholdings by the
Governments Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) pursuant to Republic Act No. 6657
(Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, or CARL). They protested the notices of coverage, filing on October 5,
1998, in the office of DAR Regional Director Percival Dalugdug (Regional Director Dalugdug) in Legaspi City,
their application for exclusion of their landholdings from CARP coverage, and praying for the lifting of the notices
of coverage.
In October and November 1998, the DAR Secretary, without acting on the respondents application for
exclusion, cancelled their titles and issued certificates of land ownership awards (CLOAs), covering their
landholdings, to the members of the Baribag Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Development Cooperative (Baribag),
not to the respondents’ workers on the landholdings, although Baribag was not impleaded in the respondents
application for exclusion.
In an order dated February 15, 1999, Regional Director Dalugdug denied the respondents application for
exclusion. Thus, they appealed the denial to the DAR Secretary. On March 15, 1999, RARAD Florin issued an
implementing writ placing Baribag in possession of the respondents’ landholdings. She denied the
respondents motion for reconsideration on March 22, 1999.
On March 24, 1999, the respondents appealed before the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication
Board by filing a notice of appeal with the office of RARAD Florin. On April 6, 1999, then Acting DAR Secretary
Conrado Navarro denied the respondents appeal of the order of Regional Director Dalugdug denying their
application for exclusion and petition to lift the notice of coverage.
The respondents filed a petition for certiorari before the Court of Appeals (CA), which treated the petition
as a petition for review.
Respondents’ Side:
They maintained that their landholdings were outside the coverage of the CARL due to their being
originally devoted to pasture and livestock raising, and later being already classified as residential and industrial
lands; in support thereof, the respondents submitted the following documents, namely:
a.

The certification dated May 18, 1999 issued by HLURB, stating, among others, that the
Town Plan/Zoning Ordinance of Sorsogon, Sorsogon (classifying Barangay Bibincalan,
where the respondents properties were located, as a residential and commercial
area), was approved by HLURB (then Human Settlements Commission/Human
Settlements Regulatory Commission);

b.

An excerpt from the Comprehensive Development Plan of the Municipality of Sorsogon,
Sorsogon, showing that Barangay Bibincalan was part of the Central Business District;

holding that the respondents’ landholdings were non-agricultural. the excerpt from the Comprehensive Development Plan of Sorsogon. Whether or not respondents’ landholdings were exempt from the coverage of the CARP for not being agricultural. Hence. showed that the limits of the poblacion area of the municipality included Barangay Bibincahan. Sorsogon. therefore. for. Whether or not Court of Appeals erred when it considered the respondents’ petition for certiorari as a petition for review? Held: 1. the present appeal. the respondents’ . declaring that the respondents’ landholdings were situated in Barangay Bibincalan within the Poblacion area of the Municipality of Sorsogon. consequently. DAR failed to establish that the landholdings were agricultural. In fact. Resolution No. signed by Deputized Zoning Administrator Raul Jalmanzar. Yes. the respondents’ landholdings in Bibincalan were classified as residential and industrial.hence. and.06489 hectares was not a sufficient ground to consider the landholdings as being used for raising livestock. and were presumed due to their being part of the poblacion area. and. the landholdings were devoted to cattle raising and. Sorsogon. The significance of this fact cannot be overstated. ordered the cancellation of Baribags CLOAs. and e. Ruling of the Court of Appeals: The CA granted the petition. was fully warranted. series of 1981. 1981 by the Sangguniang Bayan of Sorsogon. Office of the Mayor. therefore. the respondents’ landholdings have been part of the poblacion of Sorsogon. Whether or not Court of Appeals erred when it ruled that because of the presence of cattle in the area. beyond the coverage of the CARP Petitioner’s Side: DAR asserted that the presence of heads of large cattle in respondents’ landholdings of 58. The certification issued by the Office of the Zoning Administrator. Whether or not Court of Appeals erred when it ruled that there was error in the selection and designation of the farmer beneficiaries of the landholdings? 3. passed on March 12. and were presumed due to their being part of the poblacion to have been reclassified into residential/commercial or non-agricultural area? 2. Consistent with Hilario and Natalia. Department of Justice Opinion No. and reversed the DAR Secretary’s April 6. Sorsogon. and directed the DAR Secretary to restore the respondents in the possession of their landholdings. c. The CA set aside the writ of execution and writ of possession issued by RARAD Florin. respondents’ landholdings were exempt from the coverage of the CARP for not being agricultural. 5 of the Sangguniang Bayan of Sorsogon. There is no dispute that as early as 1981. thereby. Sorsogon. outside the coverage of the CARL. stating that a parcel of land was considered non-agricultural. Resolution No. Sorsogon showed that Barangay Bibincahan was within the Central Business District of the municipality. among others. series of 1990. d. expanding the area of the poblacion to include Barangay Bibincalan. 1999 order. 44. Issues: 1. 5. exempt from CARP coverage? 4. where the respondents landholdings were situated.

6657 provides that the CARL shall cover. Agricultural lands are only those lands which are arable and suitable agricultural lands and do not include commercial. or in the absence thereof.[14] thus: We now determine whether such lands are covered by the CARL.A. Section 4 of R. or nonagricultural unless there is a clearly preponderant evidence to show that it is agricultural. landless residents of the same municipality in the following order of priority: (a) agricultural lessees and share tenants. the Court said: The presumption assumed by the appellate court that a parcel of land which is located in a poblacion is not necessarily devoted to residential purposes is wrong. (f) collectives or cooperatives of the above beneficiaries. A lot inside the poblacion should be presumed residential. Farmers already in place and those not accommodated in the distribution of privatelyowned lands will be given preferential rights in the distribution of lands from the public domain. Beneficiaries under Presidential Decree No. 2. (b) regular farmworkers. residential. industrial and residential lands. and ability to cultivate and make the land as productive as possible. forest. aptitude. The deliberations of the Constitutional Commission confirm this limitation. A basic qualification of a beneficiary shall be his willingness. so that any beneficiary guilty of negligence or misuse of the land or any support extended to him shall forfeit his right to continue as such beneficiary. Qualified Beneficiaries. (c) seasonal farmworkers. The DAR shall submit periodic reports on the performance of the beneficiaries to the PARC. (d) other farmworkers. DAR. (e) actual tillers or occupants of public lands. commercial or industrial land. Jurisprudence has been clear about the presumption. There was also no evidence presented to justify that Baribag was a qualified beneficiary within the context of Section 22 of the CARL. disposed of.landholdings were presumed to be industrial and residential lands. In Hilario v. Intermediate Appellate Court. all public and private agricultural lands. The lands covered by the CARP shall be distributed as much as possible to landless residents of the same barangay. Section 22. . To the same effect was Natalia Realty Corporation v. The DAR shall adopt a system of monitoring the record or performance of each beneficiary. and (g) others directly working on the land. It should be the other way around. As to what constitutes agricultural land. or abandoned their land are disqualified to become beneficiaries under this Program. and be entitled to be awarded the landholdings. 27 who have culpably sold. it is referred to as land devoted to agricultural activity as defined in this Act and not classified as mineral. regardless of tenurial arrangement and commodity produced. The CA correctly concluded that the DAR erred in designating Baribag as the beneficiary of the landholdings. or commercial.

cattle rustling. poultry. xxx It is evident from the foregoing discussion that Section II of R. There are precedents in that regard. In Department of Education v. the DAR did not really determine who were the lawful beneficiaries. The CA also correctly ruled that the respondents’ landholdings were devoted to cattle raising. excluded from the coverage of the CARL. 6657 which includes private agricultural lands devoted to commercial livestock. There is simply no reason to include livestock and poultry lands in the coverage of agrarian reform. 9 was to prevent landowners from taking steps to convert their agricultural lands to lands devoted to the raising of livestock. Instead.7815 hectares of infrastructure. Verily. this Court ruled that the petition for certiorari filed by therein respondent Cuanan with the CA within the 15-day reglementary period for filing a petition for review could be treated as a petition for review. thus: xxx… (a) when public welfare and the advancement of public policy dictates. including pestilence. Secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform. Cuanan. 9.A. but the DAR did not strictly comply with the law. In Luz Farms v. We concur with the CA that there could be several reasons to explain why the number of cattle was below the ratio prescribed under DAO No. hence. or (d) when the questioned order . the insufficiency of the number of heads of cattle found during the semestral survey did not automatically mean that the landholdings were not devoted to the raising of livestock. or refused to subject themselves to the screening process. In ruling that the respondents landholdings were not devoted to cattle raising. and swine in order to accord with Luz Farms. to the extent that the aforecited agro-industrial activities are made to be covered by the agrarian reform program of the State. supra.The CARL has set forth in mandatory terms in its Section 22. poultry and swine raising in the definition of commercial farms is invalid. for that would be in accord with the liberal spirit pervading the Rules of Court and in the interest of substantial justice. however. The CA found. As such. 4. which required that properties should be considered excluded from the coverage of the CARL only if it was established that as of June 15. the policy objective of DAO No. we cannot now hold differently. that heads of cattle were really being raised in the landholdings of the respondents. This finding was not disputed by the DAR. In view of the finding of the CA. failing even to present any documentary proof that showed that the respondents workers genuinely lacked interest to be considered beneficiaries of the landholdings. 9 at the time of the survey. series of 1993. there existed the minimum ratio of one head of cattle to one hectare of land. The CA did not err in treating the petition for certiorari as a petition for review. or sale of the cattle. 1988. who should be the qualified beneficiaries. The Court had occasion to expound on the exceptions to the rule that a recourse to a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 rendered the petition dismissible for being the wrong remedy. Moreover. the date of effectivity of the law. 3. the DAR excluded such workers based on its speculation and conjecture on why the actual workers on the landholdings had not shown interest and had not responded to the call of the DAR field officers during the screening process. the DAR relied on DAR Administrative Order (DAO) No. for we are bound by the finding of fact of the CA. and one head of cattle to 1. (c) when the writs issued are null and void. (b) when the broader interest of justice so requires. the Court pointed this out: The transcripts of the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission of 1986 on the meaning of the word agricultural clearly show that it was never the intention of the framers of the Constitution to include livestock and poultry industry in the coverage of the constitutionallymandated agrarian reform program of the Government.

The decision dated December 26. DAR’s cancellation of all of the respondents TCTs effectively nullified the respondents right of retention. 2002 of the Court of Appeals are affirmed. RARAD Florin did not acquire jurisdiction over Baribag. 2000 and resolution dated June 26. RARAD Florins issuance of the writ of execution in favor of Baribag was highly irregular. Hence. as recognized in Department of Education v. As will be shown forthwith. first of all. the issuance of the writ of execution was premature and bereft of legal basis. WHEREFORE. is applicable in the present case. and the right to choose the areas to be retained. exception (c). which should be compact or contiguous. the legal authority of RARAD Florin to implement the award to Baribag by execution did not exist. which accorded to the respondents as the landowners the right to retain five hectares of their landholdings. It must be noted. that because Baribag was not even a party in relation to the respondents’ application for exclusion before Regional Director Dalugdug. thereby depriving them of their property without due process of law. Lastly. As such.amounts to an oppressive exercise of judicial authority. exception (c) applies to the present case. Irregular actuations of the DAR: Unwarranted awarding of the landholdings to Baribag in violation of Section 22 of the CARL The DAR also violated the respondents’ right of retention under Section 6 of the CARL. the petition for review on certiorari is denied. As will be demonstrated. the denial of the respondents’ application for exclusion was still pending review by the DAR Secretary when RARAD Florin issued the writ of execution to implement Regional Director Dalugdug’s order to place Baribag in possession of the respondents landholdings. Cuanan. Secondly. .