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G.R. No. 204964

TodayisTuesday,October25,2016

RepublicofthePhilippines
SUPREMECOURT
Manila
SECONDDIVISION
G.R.No.204964October15,2014
REMIGIOD.ESPIRITUANDNOELAGUSTIN,Petitioners,
vs.
LUTGARDATORRESDELROSARIOrepresentedbySYLVIAR.ASPERILLA,Respondents.
DECISION
LEONEN,J.:
LandsclassifiedasnonagriculturalinzoningordinancesapprovedbytheHousingandLandUseRegulatoryBoard
oritspredecessorspriortoJune15,1998areoutsidethecoverageofthecompulsoryacquisitionprogramofthe
ComprehensiveAgrarianReformLaw.However,therehastobesubstantialevidencetoprovethatlandssoughtto
beexemptedfallwithinthenonagriculturalclassification.
This is a petition for review on certiorari1 seeking to set aside the decision2 dated September 28, 2012 and
resolution3datedNovember29,2012oftheCourtofAppeals.Theseordersreinstatedtheorder4 dated February
19, 2004 of then Secretary of Agrarian Reform Roberto M. Pagdanganan approving petitioners application for
exemption.
Thepertinentfactsareasfollows:
In1978,theCityCouncilofAngelesCity,Pampanga,enactedZoningOrdinanceNo.13,Seriesof1978,classifying
areasinBarangayMargotandBarangaySapangBato,AngelesCity,asagriculturalland.5
Pursuant to this ordinance, Lutgarda Torres del Rosario (del Rosario) allegedly requested the City Zoning
Administrator to exempt from the zoning classification Lot Nos. 854 and 855 located in Barangay Margot and
BarangaySapangBato,AngelesCity.6ThelandiscoveredbyTransferCertificateofTitleNo.T11809withanarea
of 164.7605 hectares.7 The request was allegedly approved on March 7, 1980 by Engineer Roque L. Dungca,
Angeles City Development Coordinator/Zoning Administrator, and the lots were allegedly reclassified as non
agriculturalorindustriallots.8
OnJune10,1988,theComprehensiveAgrarianReformLaw(RepublicActNo.6657)wasenacted.
OnOctober10,2000,delRosario,throughherrepresentativeSylviaR.Asperilla(Asperilla),filedanapplicationfor
exemption with the Department of Agrarian Reform, seeking to exempt Lot Nos. 854 and 855 from the
ComprehensiveAgrarianReformProgram(CARP)coverage.9
On February 19, 2004, then Secretary of Agrarian Reform Roberto M. Pagdanganan (Secretary Pagdanganan)
issuedanordergrantingtheapplicationforexemption.CitingDepartmentofJusticeOpinionNo.44,Seriesof1990,
SecretaryPagdangananstatedthatlandsclassifiedasnonagriculturalbeforetheenactmentofCARParebeyond
itscoverage.10
On March 26, 2004, farmers in del Rosarios landholdings, led by Remigio Espiritu (Espiritu), filed a motion for
reconsideration11oftheorder.TheyarguedthatunderZoningOrdinanceNo.13,Seriesof1978,HousingandLand
UseRegulatoryBoardResolutionNo.705,Seriesof2001,andAngelesCityCouncilResolutionNo.3300,Seriesof
2001,thelandholdingswereclassifiedasagricultural,notindustrial.12Theyarguedthataspercertificationsbythe
Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board dated June 1, 2001, May 28, 2001, and November 24, 2003, the
landholdingswerewithintheagriculturalzone,andtherewasnozoningordinancepassedthatreclassifiedthearea
intootherlanduses.13
ThemotionwasgivenduecoursebytheDepartmentofAgrarianReform,thistimeheadedbySecretaryNasserC.
Pangandaman (Secretary Pangandaman). Hence, on June 15, 2006, then Secretary Pangandaman issued an
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order grantingthemotionforreconsiderationandrevokingtheearlierorderofthenSecretaryofAgrarianReform
Pagdanganan.
Del Rosario contended that this order was sent to her through Clarita Montgomery in Barangay Margot, Sapang
Bato, Angeles City, and not at Asperillas address in Cubao, Quezon City, which was her address on record. Del
RosarioallegedthatsheonlycametoknowoftheorderonJanuary26,2007,whentheProvincialAgrarianReform
Officer of Pampanga handed her a copy of the order.15 She then filedher motionforreconsiderationoftheorder
datedJune15,2006.ThemotionwasdatedFebruary9,2007.16
ActingondelRosariosmotionforreconsideration,SecretaryPangandamanfoundthatthecertificationsissuedby
the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board classified the landholdings as agricultural before June 15, 1988.17
Based on the ocular inspections conducted by the Center for Land Use Policy, Planning and Implementation
(CLUPPI), the land remained agricultural and was planted with sugar cane and corn.18 Accordingly, Secretary
PangandamandenieddelRosariosmotionintheorder19datedMarch3,2008.
DelRosariofiledanoticeofappeal20beforetheOfficeofthePresidentonMarch27,2008.
OnMay7,2009,theOfficeofthePresident,throughthenDeputyExecutiveSecretaryforLegalAffairsManuelB.
Gaite(DeputyExecutiveSecretaryGaite),renderedthedecision21dismissingtheappealforlackofmerit.
Del Rosario filed a motion for extension of 10 days to file her motion for reconsideration.22 Citing Administrative
OrderNo.18,Seriesof1987,andHabaluyasEnterprises,Inc.v.Japzon,23theOfficeofthePresident,throughthen
DeputyExecutiveSecretaryNatividadG.Dizon,deniedthemotionintheorder24datedJuly14,2009.
Aggrieved,delRosariofiledapetitionforreviewbeforetheCourtofAppealsarguing(1)thatshewasdenieddue
process when the order of Secretary Pangandaman was "erroneously sent to another address"25 and (2) that the
decision of then Deputy Executive Secretary Gaite was void since he had been appointed to the Securities and
ExchangeCommissiontwomonthspriortotherenderingofthedecision.26
On September 28, 2012, the Court of Appeals rendered a decision granting the petition. The Court of Appeals
stated that del Rosario was indeed prevented from participating inthe proceedings that led to the issuance of
SecretaryPangandamansorderwhenthenoticesweresenttoherotheraddressonrecord.27Italsofoundthatthe
decisionissuedbythenDeputyExecutiveSecretaryGaitewasvoidsinceitviolatedArticleVII,Section13ofthe
Constitution.28Thedispositiveportionofthedecisionstates:
WHEREFORE,premisesconsidered,thePETITIONisGRANTED.TheassailedDecisiondated07May2009,and
theOrderdated15June2006areherebySETASIDE.Perforce,withthenullityofthesaidDecisionandOrder,the
PagdangananOrdergrantingexemptiontopetitionerslandisREINSTATED.
SOORDERED.29
Theirmotionforreconsiderationhavingbeendenied,30petitioners,namelyRemigioEspirituandNoelAgustin,now
comebeforethiscourtviaapetitionforreviewoncertiorari,seekingtosetasidetherulingoftheCourtofAppeals.
Inparticular,petitionersarguethatrespondentwasnotdenieddueprocessasshewasabletoactivelyparticipatein
theproceedingsbeforetheDepartmentofAgrarianReformandtheOfficeofthePresident.31Theyalsoarguethat
respondent was not able to present proof that Deputy Executive Secretary Gaite was not authorized tosign the
decisionand,hence,hisactionispresumedtohavebeendoneintheregularperformanceofduty.32
Respondent,ontheotherhand,arguesthattheCourtofAppealsdidnotcommitanyreversibleerrorinitsdecision.
She argues that she was deprived of due process when Secretary Pangandamans order was sent to the wrong
address.ShealsoarguesthattheDeputyExecutiveSecretaryGaitesdecisionwasvoidsincehehadalreadybeen
appointedtotheSecuritiesandExchangeCommissiontwomonthsprior.33
The issue, therefore, before this court is whether the Court of Appeals correctly set aside the order of Secretary
PangandamanandthedecisionofDeputySecretaryGaiteandreinstatedtheorderofSecretaryPagdanganan.
Thispetitionshouldbegranted.
Respondentwasnotdeprivedofdueprocess
TheCourtofAppeals,infindingforrespondent,statedthat:
Sinceshewasnotnotified,[delRosario]wasnotabletoparticipateintheproceedingsleadingtotheissuanceofthe
Pangandaman Order. The absence of notice that resulted in the inability of [del Rosario] to be heard indubitably
confirmsherclaimoflackofdueprocess.[DelRosario]indeedwasdeniedherdayintheadministrativeproceedings
below.Andconsideringthat[delRosario]wasnotaccordeddueprocess,thePangandamanOrderisvoidforlack
ofjurisdiction.Hence,contrarytorespondentssubmission,itcouldnotattainfinality.34
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The Court of Appeals, however, did not take into consideration that respondent was still able to file a motion for
reconsideration of Secretary Pangandamans order, albeit beyond the allowable period to file. In Department of
AgrarianReformAdministrativeOrderNo.06,35Seriesof2000:
RULEIII
Commencement,InvestigationandResolutionofCases
....
SECTION21.MotionforReconsideration.Incaseanyofthepartiesdisagreeswiththedecisionorresolution,the
affected party may file a written motion for reconsideration within fifteen (15) days from receipt of the order,
furnishingacopythereoftotheadverseparty.Thefilingofthemotionforreconsiderationshallsuspendtherunning
oftheperiodtoappeal.
Anypartyshallbeallowedonlyone(1)motionforreconsideration.Thereafter,theRDorapprovingauthorityshall
rule on the said motion within fifteen (15) days from receipt thereof. In the event that the motion is denied, the
adversepartyhastherighttoperfecthisappealwithintheremainderoftheperiodtoappeal,reckonedfromreceipt
oftheresolutionofdenial.Ifthedecisionisreversedonreconsideration,theaggrievedpartyshallhavefifteen(15)
daysfromreceiptoftheresolutionofreversalwithinwhichtoperfecthisappeal.(Emphasissupplied)Despitebeing
filedlate,SecretaryPangandamanstillgaveduecoursetothemotionandresolveditonitsmerits.Thisisclearfrom
hisorderdatedMarch3,2008,whichreads:
Duringthe50thSpecialCLUPPICommitteeBMeeting,heldon18December2007,theMotionforReconsideration
filedbySylviaEspirilla[sic]wasdeliberateduponandtheCommitteerecommendedtheDENIALoftheMotionfor
Reconsiderationbasedonthefollowinggrounds:
The certifications issued by the HLURB shows that the subject properties were classified as agricultural
before15June1986[sic]and
BasedontheocularinspectionconductedbytheCLUPPIInspectionTeam,itwasfoundoutthatthearea
remainedagricultural.Infact,it[is]stilldominantlyplantedwithsugarcaneandcorn.36(Emphasissupplied)
While it may be true that respondent was prevented from filing a timelymotion for reconsideration of Secretary
Pangandamansorder,itwouldbeerroneoustoconcludethatshehadbeencompletelydeniedheropportunitytobe
heard.InDepartmentofAgrarianReformv.Samson:37
. . . . In administrative proceedings, a fair and reasonable opportunity to explain ones side suffices to meet the
requirementsofdueprocess.InCasimirov.Tandog,theCourtheld:
Theessenceofproceduraldueprocessisembodiedinthebasicrequirementofnoticeandarealopportunitytobe
heard. In administrative proceedings, such as in the case at bar, procedural due process simply means the
opportunitytoexplainonessideortheopportunitytoseekareconsiderationoftheactionorrulingcomplainedof.
"To be heard" does not mean only verbal arguments in court one may be heard also thru pleadings. Where
opportunity to be heard, either through oral arguments or pleadings, is accorded, there is no denial of procedural
dueprocess.
Inadministrativeproceedings,proceduraldueprocesshasbeenrecognizedtoincludethefollowing:(1)therightto
actualorconstructivenoticeoftheinstitutionofproceedingswhichmayaffectarespondentslegalrights(2)areal
opportunity to be heard personally or with the assistance of counsel, to present witnesses and evidence in ones
favor,andtodefendonesrights(3)atribunalvestedwithcompetentjurisdictionandsoconstitutedastoafforda
personchargedadministrativelyareasonableguaranteeofhonestyaswellasimpartialityand(4)afindingbysaid
tribunalwhichissupportedbysubstantialevidencesubmittedforconsiderationduringthehearingorcontainedin
therecordsormadeknowntothepartiesaffected.38(Emphasissupplied)
When respondent filed her motion for reconsideration assailing Secretary Pangandamans order, she was able to
completelyandexhaustivelypresentherarguments.Thedenialofhermotionwasonthebasisofthemeritsofher
arguments and any other evidence she was able to present. She was given a fair and reasonable opportunity to
presenthersidehence,therewasnodeprivationofdueprocess.
Itwasalsoerroneoustoconcludethatrespondentwas"deniedherdayintheadministrativeproceedingsbelow."39
RespondentwasabletoactivelyparticipatenotonlyintheproceedingsbeforetheDepartmentofAgrarianReform,
butalsoonappealtotheOfficeofthePresidentandtheCourtofAppeals.
DeputyExecutiveSecretaryGaitesdecisionispresumedvalid,effective,andbinding
ArticleVII,Section13oftheConstitutionstates:
Section13. The President,VicePresident,the Membersof theCabinet, andtheir deputies orassistants shall not,
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unlessotherwiseprovidedinthisConstitution,holdanyotherofficeoremploymentduringtheirtenure.Theyshall
not, during said tenure, directly or indirectly, practice any other profession, participate in any business, or be
financiallyinterestedinanycontractwith,orinanyfranchise,orspecialprivilegegrantedbytheGovernmentorany
subdivision, agency, or instrumentality thereof, including governmentowned or controlled corporations or their
subsidiaries.Theyshallstrictlyavoidconflictofinterestintheconductoftheiroffice.
....(Emphasissupplied)
It is alleged that Gaite was appointed Commissioner to the Securities and Exchange Commission on March 16,
2009.40ItisalsoallegedthathehasalreadylosthisauthorityasDeputyExecutiveSecretaryforLegalAffairswhen
herenderedthedecisiondatedMay7,2009sinceheisconstitutionallyprohibitedfromholdingtwoofficesduring
his tenure. This, however, is not conclusive since no evidence was presented as to when he accepted the
appointment,tookhisoathofoffice,orassumedtheposition.
AssumingthatGaitesappointmentbecameeffectiveonMarch16,2009,hecanbeconsideredadefactoofficerat
thetimeherenderedthedecisiondatedMay7,2009.
InFunav.Agra,41apetitionwasfiledagainstAlbertoAgraforholdingconcurrentpositionsastheactingSecretary
ofJusticeandasSolicitorGeneral.Thiscourt,whilerulingthattheappointmentofAlbertoAgraasactingSecretary
ofJusticeviolatedArticleVII,Section13oftheConstitution,heldthathewasadefactoofficerduringhistenurein
theDepartmentofJustice:
Adefactoofficerisonewhoderiveshisappointmentfromonehavingcolorableauthoritytoappoint,iftheofficeis
anappointiveoffice,andwhoseappointmentisvalidonitsface.Hemayalsobeonewhoisinpossessionofan
office, and is discharging its duties under color of authority, by which is meant authority derived from an
appointment,howeverirregularorinformal,sothattheincumbentisnotamerevolunteer.Consequently,theactsof
the de facto officer are just as valid for all purposes as those of a de jure officer, in so far as the public or third
personswhoareinterestedthereinareconcerned.
In order to be clear, therefore, the Court holds that all official actions of Agra as a de facto Acting Secretary of
Justice,assumingthatwashislaterdesignation,werepresumedvalid,bindingandeffectiveasifhewastheofficer
legally appointed and qualified for the office. This clarification is necessary in order to protect the sanctity of the
dealings by the public with persons whose ostensible authority emanates from the State. Agras official actions
coveredbythisclarificationextendtobutarenotlimitedtothepromulgationofresolutionsonpetitionsforreview
filedintheDepartmentofJustice,andtheissuanceofdepartmentorders,memorandaandcircularsrelativetothe
prosecutionofcriminalcases.42(Emphasissupplied)
AssumingthatGaitewasadefactoofficeroftheOfficeofthePresidentafterhisappointmenttotheSecuritiesand
ExchangeCommission,anydecisionherendersduringthistimeispresumedtobevalid,binding,andeffective.
WithGaitebeingapublicofficer,hisactsalsoenjoythepresumptionofregularity,thus:
The presumption of regularity of official acts may be rebutted by affirmative evidence of irregularity or failure to
perform a duty. The presumption, however, prevails until it is overcome by no less than clear and convincing
evidencetothecontrary.Thus,unlessthepresumptionin[sic]rebutted,itbecomesconclusive.Everyreasonable
intendment will be madein support of the presumption and in case of doubt as to an officers act being lawful or
unlawful,constructionshouldbeinfavorofitslawfulness.43(Emphasissupplied)
Respondent has not presented evidence showing that the decision was rendered ultra vires, other than her
allegationthatGaitehadalreadybeenappointedtoanotheroffice.Unlessthereisclearandconvincingevidenceto
thecontrary,thedecisiondatedMay7,2009isconclusivelypresumedtohavebeenrenderedintheregularcourse
ofbusiness.
Respondentslandholdingswereagricultural,notindustrial
PriortotheenactmentofRepublicActNo.6657,landswereclassifiedintoagricultural,residential,orindustrialby
laworbyzoningordinancesenactedbylocalgovernmentunits.InHeirsofLunav.Afable:44
Itisundeniablethatlocalgovernmentshavethepowertoreclassifyagriculturalintononagriculturallands.Section3
of RA No. 2264 (The Local Autonomy Act of 1959) specifically empowers municipal and/or city councils to adopt
zoningandsubdivisionordinancesorregulationsinconsultationwiththeNationalPlanningCommission.Byvirtue
ofazoningordinance,thelocallegislaturemayarrange,prescribe,define,andapportionthelandwithinitspolitical
jurisdiction into specific uses based not only on the present, butalso on the future projection of needs. It may,
therefore, be reasonably presumed that when city and municipal boards and councils approved an ordinance
delineatinganareaordistrictintheircitiesormunicipalitiesasresidential,commercial,orindustrialzonepursuantto
the power granted tothem under Section 3 of the Local Autonomy Act of 1959, they were, at the same time,
reclassifyinganyagriculturallandswithinthezonefornonagriculturalusehence,ensuringtheimplementationof
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and compliance with their zoning ordinances. (Emphasis supplied) Republic Act No. 6657 became effective on
June 15, 1988, and it covered all public and private lands, including lands of the public domain suited for
agriculture.46 Upon its enactment, questions arose as to the authority of the Department of Agrarian Reform to
approve or disapprove applications for conversion of agricultural land to nonagricultural. Then Agrarian Reform
SecretaryFlorencioB.Abad(SecretaryAbad)wasoftheopinionthatlawspriortoRepublicActNo.6657authorized
the Department of Agrarian Reform, together with the Department of Local Government and Community
DevelopmentandtheHumanSettlementsCommission,toallowordisallowconversions.InresponsetoSecretary
Abads query, the Department of Justice issued Opinion No. 44 on March 16, 1990, written by then Secretary of
JusticeFranklinM.Drilon.Theopinion,reproducedinfull,states:
Sir:
Thisreferstoyourletterofthe13thinstantstatingyour"positionthatpriortothepassageofR.A.6657,
the Department of Agrarian Reform had the authority to classify and declare which agricultural lands
are suitable for nonagricultural purposes, and to approve or disapprove applications for conversion
fromagriculturaltononagriculturaluses."
Insupportoftheforegoingview,youcontendthatunderR.A.No.3844,asamended,theDepartmentofAgrarian
Reform(DAR)isempoweredto"determineanddeclareanagriculturallandtobesuitedforresidential,commercial,
industrial orsome other urban purpose" and to "convert agricultural land from agricultural to nonagricultural
purposes"thatP.D.No.583,asamendedbyP.D.No.815"affirmsthattheconversionofagriculturallandsshallbe
allowed only upon previous authorization of the [DAR] with respectto tenanted rice and corn lands" that a
Memorandum of Agreement dated May 13, 1977 between the DAR, the Department of Local Government and
CommunityDevelopmentandthethenHumanSettlementsCommission"furtheraffirmstheauthorityofthe[DAR]to
allow or disallow conversion of agricultural lands" that E.O. No. 129A expressly invests the DAR with exclusive
authoritytoapproveordisapproveconversionofagriculturallandsforresidential,commercial,industrialandother
land uses' and that while inthe final version of House Bill 400, Section 9 thereof provided that lands devoted to
"residential, housing, commercial and industrial sites classified as such by the municipal and city development
councils as already approved by the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board, in their respective zoning
developmentplans"beexemptedfromthecoverageoftheAgrarianReformprogram,thisclausewasdeletedfrom
Section 10 of the final version of the consolidated bill stating the exemptions from the coverage of the
ComprehensiveAgrarianReformProgram.Wetakeitthatyourqueryhasbeenpromptedbythestudypreviously
made by this Department for Executive Secretary Catalino Macaraig Jr. and Secretary Vicente Jayme
(Memorandum dated February 14, 1990) which upheld the authority of the DAR to authorize conversions of
agriculturallandstononagriculturalusesasofJune15,1988,thedateofeffectivityoftheComprehensiveAgrarian
ReformLaw(R.A.No.6657).[I]tisyourpositionthattheauthorityofDARtoauthorizesuchconversionexistedeven
priortoJune15,1988orasearlyas1963undertheAgriculturalLandReformCode(R.A.No.3844asamended).
It should be made clear at the outset that the aforementioned study of this Department was based on facts and
issuesarisingfromtheimplementationoftheComprehensiveAgrarianReformProgram(CARP).Whilethereisno
specific and express authority given to DAR in the CARP law to approve or disapprove conversion of agricultural
landstononagriculturaluses,becauseSection65onlyreferstoconversionseffectedafterfiveyearsfromdateof
the award, we opined that the authority of the DAR to approve or disapprove conversions of agricultural lands to
nonagriculturalusesappliesonlytoconversionsmadeonorafterJune15,1988,thedateofeffectivityofR.A.No.
6657, solely on the basis of our interpretation of DAR's mandate and the comprehensive coverage of the land
reformprogram.Thus,wesaid:
"Beingvestedwithexclusiveoriginaljurisdictionoverallmattersinvolvingtheimplementationofagrarianreform,itis
believedtobetheagrarianreformlaw'sintentionthatanyconversionofaprivateagriculturallandtononagricultural
usesshouldbeclearedbeforehandbytheDAR.True,theDAR'sexpresspoweroverlanduseconversionislimited
tocasesinwhichagriculturallandsalreadyawardedhave,afterfiveyears,ceasedtobeeconomicallyfeasibleand
sound for agricultural purposes, or the locality has become urbanized and the land will have a greater economic
valueforresidential,commercialorindustrialpurposes.Buttosuggestthatthesearetheonlyinstanceswhenthe
DARcanrequireconversionclearanceswouldopenaloopholeintheR.A.No.6657,whicheverylandownermay
use to evade compliance with the agrarian reform program. Hence, it should logically follow from the said
department'sexpressdutyandfunctiontoexecuteandenforcethesaidstatutethatanyreclassificationofaprivate
landasaresidential,commercialorindustrialpropertyshouldfirstbeclearedbytheDAR."
ItisconcededthatunderthelawsinforcepriortotheenactmentandeffectivedateofR.A.No.6657,theDARhad
likewisetheauthority,toauthorizeconversionsofagriculturallandstootheruses,butalwaysincoordinationwith
other concerned agencies. Under R.A. No. 3344, as amended by R.A. No. 6389, an agricultural lessee may, by
order of the court, be dispossessed of his landholding if after due hearing, it is shown that the "landholding is
declaredbythe[DAR]upontherecommendationoftheNationalPlanningCommissiontobesuitedforresidential,
commercial,industrialorsomeotherurbanpurposes."
Likewise,undervariousPresidentialDecrees(P.D.Nos.583,815and946)whichwereissuedtogiveteethtothe
implementation of the agrarian reform program decreed inP.D. No. 27, the DAR was empowered to authorize
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conversions of tenanted agricultural lands, specifically those planted to rice and/or corn, to other agricultural or
tononagricultural uses, "subject to studies on zoning of the Human Settlements Commissions" (HSC). This non
exclusive authority of the DAR under the aforesaid laws was, as you have correctly pointed out, recognized and
reaffirmed by other concerned agencies, such as the Department of Local Government and Community
Development (DLGCD) and the then Human Settlements Commission (HSC) in a Memorandum of Agreement
executedbytheDARandthesetwoagenciesonMay13,1977,whichisanadmissionthatwithrespecttolanduse
planning and conversions, the authority is not exclusive to any particular agency but is a coordinated effort of all
concernedagencies.
Itissignificanttomentionthatin1978,thethenMinistryofHumanSettlementswasgrantedauthoritytoreviewand
ratify land use plans and zoning ordinance of local governments and to approve development proposals which
includelanduseconversions(seeLOINo.729[1978]).ThiswasfollowedbyP.D.No.648(1981)whichconferred
upontheHumanSettlementsRegulatoryCommission(thepredecessorsoftheHousingandLandUseRegulatory
Board [HLURB][)] the authority to promulgate zoning and other land use control standards and guidelines which
shallgovernlanduseplansandzoningordinancesoflocalgovernments,subdivisionorestatedevelopmentprojects
ofboththepublicandprivatesectorandurbanrenewalplans,programsandprojectsaswellastoreview,evaluate
andapproveordisapprovecomprehensivelandusedevelopmentplansandzoningcomponentsofcivilworksand
infrastructure projects, of national, regional and local governments, subdivisions, condominiums or estate
developmentprojectsincludingindustrialestates.
P.D. No. 583, as amended by P.D. No. 815, and the 1977 Memorandum of Agreement, abovementioned, cannot
therefore,beconstruedassourcesofauthorityoftheDARtheseissuancesmerelyaffirmedwhateverpowerDAR
hadatthetimeoftheiradoption.
With respect to your observation that E.O. No. 129A also empowered the DAR to approve or disapprove
conversions of agricultural lands into nonagricultural uses as of July 22, 1987, it is our view that E.O. No. 129A
likewise did not provide a new source of power of DAR with respect to conversion but it merely recognized and
reaffirmedtheexistenceofsuchpowerasgrantedunderexistinglaws.Thisisclearlyinferrablefromthefollowing
provisionofE.O.No.129Atowit:
"Sec.5.PowersandFunctions.PursuanttothemandateoftheDepartment,andinordertoensurethesuccessful
implementationoftheComprehensiveAgrarianReformProgram,theDepartmentisherebyauthorizedto:
1) Have exclusive authority to approve or disapprove conversion of agricultural lands for residential, commercial,
industrialandotherlandusesasmaybeprovidedbylaw"
Anent the observation regarding the alleged deletion of residential, housing, commercial and industrial sites
classifiedby the HLURB in the final version of the CARP bill, we fail to see how this [sic] circumstances could
substantiate your position that DAR's authority to reclassify or approve conversions of agricultural lands to non
agriculturalusesalreadyexistedpriortoJune15,1988.Surely,itisclearthattheallegeddeletionwasnecessaryto
avoidaredundancyintheCARPlawwhosecoverageisexpresslylimitedto"allpublicandprivateagriculturallands"
and"otherlandsofthepublicdomainsuitableforagriculture"(Sec.4,R.A.No.6657).Section3(c)ofR.A.No.6657
defines"agriculturalland"asthat"devotedtoagriculturalactivityasdefinedintheActandnotclassifiedasmineral
forest,residential,commercialorindustrialland."
Basedontheforegoingpremises,wereiteratetheviewthatwithrespecttoconversionsofagriculturallandscovered
byR.A.No.6657tononagriculturaluses,theauthorityofDARtoapprovesuchconversionsmaybeexercisedfrom
the date of the law's effectivity on June 15, 1988. This conclusion is based on a liberal interpretation of R.A. No.
6657 in the light of DAR's mandate and the extensive coverage of the agrarian reform program.47 (Emphasis
supplied)DepartmentofJusticeOpinionNo.44becamethebasisofsubsequentissuancesbytheDepartmentof
AgrarianReform,statingincleartermsthatpartiesneednotseekpriorconversionclearancefromtheDepartment
ofAgrarianReformforlandsthatwereclassifiedasnonagriculturalpriortoRepublicActNo.6657.Thesubsequent
rulingsareoutlinedinJuniov.SecretaryGarilao:48
FollowingtheopinionoftheDepartmentofJustice(DOJ),theDARissuedAdministrativeOrder(AO)No.6,Seriesof
1994, stating that conversion clearances were no longer needed for lands already classified as nonagricultural
beforetheenactmentofRepublicAct6657.Designedto"streamlinetheissuanceofexemptionclearances,based
onDOJOpinionNo.44,"theAOprovidedguidelinesandproceduresfortheissuanceofexemptionclearances.
Thereafter, DAR issued AO 12, Series of 1994, entitled "Consolidated and Revised Rules and Procedures
Governing Conversion of Agricultural Lands to NonAgricultural Uses." It provided that the guidelines on how to
secureanexemptionclearanceunderDARAONo.6,Seriesof1994,shallapplytoagriculturallandsclassifiedor
zoned for nonagricultural uses by local government units (LGUs) and approved by the Housing and Land Use
RegulatoryBoard(HLURB)beforeJune15,1988.UnderthisAO,theDARsecretaryhadtheultimateauthorityto
issueordersgrantingordenyingapplicationsforexemptionfiledbylandownerswhoselandswerecoveredbyDOJ
OpinionNo.44.49(Citationsomitted)
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Accordingly,landsareconsideredexemptfromthecoverageofRepublicActNo.6657ifthefollowingrequisitesare
present:
1.Landswerezonedfornonagriculturalusebythelocalgovernmentunitand
2. The zoning ordinance was approved by the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board before June 15,
1998.
Inrevokingthepriororderofexemption,SecretaryPangandamantooknoteofthefollowingconsiderations:
The Certification dated 18 November 2003, of Mr. David D. David, Planning Officer IV and Zoning
Administrator of the City of Angeles states that the City Planning and Development Office, Zoning
Administration Unit (CPDOZAU) certifies that subject property covered by TCT No. 11804 is classified as
agriculturalbasedonthecertifiedphotocopyofZoningOrdinance,OrdinanceNo.13,Seriesof1978,issued
bytheHousingandLandUseRegulatoryBoard,RegionalOfficeNo.3(HLURBRegionIII)on03September
2001
Also,uponverificationwithHLURBRegionIII,wewereinformedthataspercopyoftheapprovedZoning
Plan of 1978, the subject properties were classified as agricultural. The said Zoning Plan of 1978 was
approvedunderNCCPlandated24September1980and
Based on the ocular inspection conducted by the CLUPPI Inspection Team, it was found that the area
remainedagricultural.Infact,itisstilldominantlyplantedwithsugarcaneandcorn.50
(Emphasissupplied)
Upon respondents motion for reconsideration, Secretary Pangandaman also took into consideration the
recommendationsoftheCenterforLandUsePolicy,Planning,andImplementationCommittee,thus:
Duringthe50thSpecialCLUPPICommitteeBMeeting,heldon18December2007,theMotionforReconsideration
filedbySylviaEspirilla[sic]wasdeliberateduponandtheCommitteerecommendedtheDENIALoftheMotionfor
Reconsiderationbasedonthefollowinggrounds:
The certifications issued by the HLURB shows that the subject properties were classified as agricultural
before15June1986[sic]and
BasedontheocularinspectionconductedbytheCLUPPIInspectionTeam,itwasfoundoutthatthearea
remainedagricultural. Infact,it[is]stilldominantlyplantedwithsugarcaneandcorn.51(Emphasissupplied)
1wphi1

SecretaryPangandamanalsofoundthat:
Thecertificationssubmittedbythe[respondents]whichistheCertificationdated18November2003,ofMr.DavidD.
David, Planning Officer IV and Zoning Administrator of the City of Angeles states that the City Planning
Development Office, Zoning Administration Unit (CPDOZAU) certifies that the subject properties covered by TCT
No.T11804isclassifiedasagriculturalbasedonthecertifiedphotocopyofZoningOrdinance,OrdinanceNo.13[,]
Seriesof1978issuedbytheHousingandLandUseRegulatoryBoard,RegionalOfficeNo.3(HLURBRegionIII)
on03September2001.
SuchcertificationwascorroboratedbyacertificationissuedbytheHLURBRegionalDirector,RegionIII,Ms.Edithat
[sic]Barramedainitscertificationdated28May2001and24November2003.Itwasstatedinthesaidcertification
that the subject landholding is within the agricultural zone based on Comprehensive LandUse Plan and Zoning
OrdinanceoftheCityCouncilofAngelesCityapprovedthroughHLURBResolutionNo.705dated17October2001.
AlsoacertificationwasissuedbyDirectorBarramedaon01June2001,statingthereinthat,"Duplicatecopiesofthe
CertificationissuedbythisBoardtoMs.LutgardaTorreson18December1991and8July1998,respectivelyarenot
amongthefilesforsafekeepingwhensheassumedasRegionalOfficeron03July2000.["]52(Emphasissupplied)
ThesefindingsweresustainedonappealbytheOfficeofthePresident,statingthat:
[Respondents'] argument that the land has ceased to be agricultural by virtue of reclassification under Ordinance
No. 13, series of 1978 cannot be sustained since the records of the case or the evidence presented thereto are
bereft of any indication showing the same. In fact, nowhere was it shown that a certified true copy of the said
OrdinancewaspresentedbeforethisOfficeortheofficeaquo.53
The factual findings of administrative agencies are generally given great respect and finality by the courts as it is
presumed that these agencies have the knowledge and expertise over matters under their jurisdiction.54 Both the
DepartmentofAgrarianReformandtheOfficeofthePresidentfoundrespondent'slandstobeagricultural.Wesee
noreasontodisturbthesefindings.
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WHEREFORE,thepetitionisGRANTED.ThedecisiondatedSeptember28,2012andresolutiondatedNovember
29, 2012of theCourt of AppealsareSETASIDE. Theorder datedJune15,2006 of theDepartment of Agrarian
ReformandthedecisiondatedMay7,2009oftheOfficeofthePresidentareREINSTATED.
SOORDERED.
MARVICM.V.F.LEONEN
AssociateJustice
WECONCUR:
ANTONIOT.CARPIO
AssociateJustice
Chairperson
MARIANOC.DELCASTILLO
AssociateJustice

JOSECATRALMENDOZA
AssociateJustice

BIENVENIDOL.REYES*
AssociateJustice
ATTESTATION
IattestthattheconclusionsintheaboveDecisionhadbeenreachedinconsultationbeforethecasewasassigned
tothewriteroftheopinionoftheCourt'sDivision.
ANTONIOT.CARPIO
AssociateJustice
Chairperson,SecondDivision
CERTIFICATION
PursuanttoSection13,ArticleVIIIoftheConstitutionandtheDivisionChairperson'sAttestation,Icertifythatthe
conclusionsintheaboveDecisionhadbeenreachedinconsultationbeforethecasewasassignedtothewriterof
theopinionoftheCourt'sDivision.
MARIALOURDESP.A.SERENO
ChiefJustice

Footnotes
*

DesignatedactingmemberperSpecialOrderNo.1844datedOctober14,2014.

Rollo,pp.821.

Id. at 2642. The decision was penned by Associate Justice Ricardo R. Rosario and concurred in by
Division.
3

Id.at44.TheresolutionwaspennedbyAssociateJusticeRicardoR.RosarioandconcurredinbyAssociate
JusticesRosmariD.Carandang(Chairperson)andLeonciaRealDimagibaoftheFifthDivision.
4

Id.at4752.

Id.at27and77.

Id.at27.

Id.at47.

Id.at27.

Id.at45.

10

Id.at4950.

11

Id.at5357.

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12

Id.at54.

13

Id.at5455.

14

Id.at5863.

15

Id.at3031.

16

Id.at65.

17

Id.at7071.

18

Id.at70.

19

Id.at6573.

20

Id.at7475.

21

Id.at7680.

22

Id.at81.

23

222Phil.365(1985)[PerJ.Aquino,SecondDivision].

24

Rollo,pp.8182.

25

Id.at31.

26

Id.at33.

27

Id.at31and37.

28

Id.at3839.CONST.,art.VII,sec.13provides:
Section13.ThePresident,VicePresident,theMembersoftheCabinet,andtheirdeputiesorassistants
shall not, unless otherwise provided in this Constitution, hold any other office or employment during
their tenure. They shall not, during said tenure, directly or indirectly, practice any other profession,
participate in any business, or be financially interested in any contract with, or in any franchise, or
special privilege granted by the Government or any subdivision, agency, or instrumentality thereof,
including governmentowned or controlled corporations or their subsidiaries. They shall strictly avoid
conflictofinterestintheconductoftheiroffice.
....

29

Id.at4142.

30

Id.at44.

31

Id.at19.

32

Id.at20.

33

Id.at106108.

34

Id.at37.

35

RulesofProcedureforAgrarianLawImplementation(ALI)cases.

36

Rollo,p.70.

37

577Phil.370(2008)[PerJ.YnaresSantiago,ThirdDivision].

38

Id.at380,citingAutenciov.CityAdministratorMaaraandtheCityofCotabato,489Phil.752,760(2005)
[Per J. Panganiban, Third Division] and Casimiro v. Tandog, 498 Phil. 660, 666667 (2005) [Per J. Chico
Nazario,SecondDivision].
39

Rollo,p.37.

40

See Meet the Management, <http://www.sec.gov.ph/aboutsec/management.html> (visited September 15,

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2014).
41

G.R.No.191644,February19,2013,691SCRA196[PerJ.Bersamin,EnBanc].

42

Id.at224,citingDimaandalv.CommissiononAudit,353Phil.525,533534(1998)[PerJ.Martinez,En
Banc]CivilServiceCommissionv.Joson,Jr.,G.R.No.154674,May27,2004,429SCRA773,786[PerJ.
Callejo,Sr.,EnBanc]Topaciov.Ong,595Phil.491,506(2008)[PerJ.CarpioMorales,EnBanc]Seeres
v.CommissiononElections,603Phil.552,569(2009)[PerJ.Velasco,Jr.,EnBanc].
43

Bustillo v. People, G.R. No. 160718, May 12, 2010, 620 SCRA483, 492 [Per J. Del Castillo, Second
Division],citingPeoplev.DeGuzman,G.R.No.106025,February9,1994,229SCRA795,799[PerJ.Puno,
SecondDivision].
44

G.R.No.188299,January23,2013,689SCRA207[PerJ.Perez,SecondDivision].

45

Id.at226227,citingHeirsofDr.JoseDelestev.LandBankofthePhilippines,G.R.No.169913,June8,
2011,651SCRA352,376[PerJ.Velasco,Jr.,FirstDivision]PasongBayabasFarmersAssociation,Inc.v.
CourtofAppeals,473Phil.64,94(2004)[PerJ.Callejo,Sr.,SecondDivision]BuklodnangMagbubukidsa
LupaingRamos,Inc.v.E.M.RamosandSons,Inc.,G.R.No.131481,March16,2011,645SCRA401,432
[PerJ.LeonardoDeCastro,FirstDivision].
46

Rep.ActNo.6657(1988),sec.4.

47

DepartmentofJusticeOpinionNo.44(1990).

48

503Phil.154(2005)[PerJ.Panganiban,ThirdDivision].

49

Id.at165.

50

Rollo,p.67.

51

Id.at70.

52

Id.at7071.

53

Id.at79.

54

SeeJuniav.SecretaryGarilao,503Phil.154,167(2005)[PerJ.Panganiban,ThirdDivision].

TheLawphilProjectArellanoLawFoundation

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