- Spouses Joson v. Mendoza
- G.R. No. 144071
- CHICO-NAZARIO, J :
- Decision Date
G.R. No. 144071. August 25, 2005.
SPOUSES ALEJANDRO A. JOSON AND LOURDES SAMSON, petitioners, vs. REYNALDO MENDOZA AND AGAPITO LAQUINDANUM, respondents.
Hermilando S. Joson for petitioners.
Diosdado V. Macapagal for respondents.
1. REMEDIAL LAW; EVIDENCE; FINDINGS OF FACT OF DARAB (DEPARTMENT OF AGRARIAN REFORM ADJUDICATION BOARD); WHEN SUPPORTED BY SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE MAY NOT BE REVERSED BY THE APPELLATE COURT; RATIONALE. In appeals in agrarian cases, the only function required of the Court of Appeals is to determine whether the findings of fact of the Court of Agrarian Relations are supported by substantial evidence. And substantial evidence has been defined to be such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion and its absence is not shown by stressing that there is contrary evidence on record, direct or circumstantial, and where the findings of fact of the agrarian court are supported by substantial evidence, such findings are conclusive and binding on the appellate court. In
2. LABOR AND SOCIAL LEGISLATION; COMPREHENSIVE AGRARIAN REFORM PROGRAM (CARP); IDENTIFICATION AND SELECTION OF BENEFICIARIES ARE STRICTLY ADMINISTRATIVE MATTER; APPLICATION IN CASE AT BAR. This power to pinpoint beneficiaries is reserved to the
D E C I S I O N
CHICO-NAZARIO, J p:
This is a petition for review questioning the Decision dated 27 January 2000 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 47437 affirming the Decision dated 21 July 1997 of the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB) in DARAB Case No. 3414, which modified the Decision dated 24 January 1995 of the Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator (PARAD) and ordered the parties to maintain the status quo on the landholding in question. Petitioners, likewise, find objectionable the Resolution dated 05 July 2000 denying therein motion for reconsideration.
The material facts, substantiated by the evidence on hand, leading to the instant petition, based on the summary of the DARAB, are as follows:
Petitioners are the registered owners of a parcel of riceland with an area of approximately 1.25 hectares, located at Barrio Bagongbayan, Malolos, Bulacan, and covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-89652 of the Registry of Deeds of Bulacan. Respondents Reynaldo Mendoza and Agapito Laquindanum, on the other hand, claim to be the actual and lawful tillers of the land.
On 22 September 1987, petitioners and Pastor Mendoza, father of respondent Reynaldo Mendoza, entered into an Agricultural Leasehold Contract covering the said parcel of land where the lessee bound himself to pay 20 cavans of palay at 46 kilos per cavan to the lessor per cropping.
On 17 August 1994, petitioners filed with the PARAD a Complaint for Confirmation of Right To Recover Possession with Damages. Petitioners sought the recovery of possession and actual cultivation of the landholding in question from Pastor Mendoza, alleging therein in substance that lessee Pastor Mendoza has migrated to the United States of America and has lived there as lawful permanent resident since 22 February 1988 as evidenced by the letter of the Department of Justice of the United States of America; hence, it is not possible for him to work as a tenant in the Philippines, thereby virtually abandoning the land. They alleged further that they have not given their consent to either respondent Agapito Laquindanum or respondent Reynaldo Mendoza to till the land, the latter in lieu of his father.
Pastor Mendoza and respondents, in their Answer, denied the material allegations of the complaint averring that Pastor Mendoza still possessed all the qualifications required of an agricultural tenant according to law, and that he did not abandon nor has he the intention of abandoning his right over the land in question.
On 24 January 1995, Judge Gregorio D. Sapera, Provincial Adjudicator of Bulacan with station at Malolos, Bulacan, Region III, issued a Decision favoring the respondents. The dispositive portion of the PARAD's Decision reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered judgment is hereby rendered:
1. Ordering the petitioner to recognize Reynaldo Mendoza as his new tenant;
2. Ordering the MARO of Malolos, Bulacan to execute a new Agricultural Leasehold Contract in favor of Reynaldo Mendoza;
3. Ordering petitioner to cease and desist in interfering/molesting herein respondents' peaceful occupation over the subject landholding;
4. No pronouncement of costs.
In due time, petitioners appealed the PARAD Decision to the DARAB.
On 21 July 1997, the DARAB modified the decision dated 24 January 1995 of the PARAD. The DARAB held that although the agricultural lessee Pastor Mendoza has, indeed, abandoned the landholding in question and although the other appellees (i.e., now respondents) are not tenant-farmers on the subject land but are mere farm workers or actual tillers thereon, petitioners are, nonetheless, barred from recovering possession of the landholding in question, although they are the owners thereof, in view of the passage of reads:
WHEREFORE, in conformity with the above-stated ruling of the Hon. Supreme Court in the afore-quoted case, the assailed Decision dated January 24, 1995 is hereby MODIFIED. The parties plaintiffs-appellants as landowners and defendant-appellees Reynaldo Mendoza and Agapito Laquindanum are enjoined to observe the status quo on the landholding in question, that is, said appellees to work on the said land and pay the lease rentals while the appellants to maintain them in peaceful possession and tilling on the said landholding, subject to whatever disposition the Department of Agrarian Reform may take on the land in question. HSCAIT
Without pronouncement as to costs.
Ruling of the Court of Appeals
On appeal, the Court of Appeals rendered a Decision affirming the decision of the DARAB. Without expressly debunking the finding of the DARAB that petitioners gave no consent, whether express or implied, to the respondents' tillage of petitioners' land, the Court of Appeals found that petitioners were, nevertheless, estopped from now asserting ignorance of Reynaldo Mendoza and Agapito Laquindanum's occupancy and tillage of the land in controversy inasmuch as they have been receiving lease rentals from Reynaldo Mendoza for years. The fallo of the Decision of the Court of Appeals provided:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant petition is hereby DENIED. The assailed decision dated July 21, 1997 and the Resolution dated March 30, 1998 issued by the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board in DARAB Case No. 3414 are hereby AFFIRMED.
No pronouncement as to costs.
Petitioners' motion for reconsideration was denied by the Court of Appeals in a Resolution dated 05 July 2000. Hence, in this quest for a review before this Court, petitioners assign the following errors to the Court of Appeals, viz:
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION:
1. WHEN IT MAKES ITS OWN FINDINGS AND SUBSTITUTE (SIC) THE SAME IN LIEU OF THE FINDINGS OF THE AGRARIAN COURT.
2. WHEN IT MANIFESTLY OVERLOOKED A CERTAIN RELEVANT FACT THAT RESPONDENTS WERE NOT CLAIMING ANY RIGHT OF THEIR OWN AS LANDLESS PEASANTS BUT AS MERE FARMWORKERS FOR FEE OF TENANT PASTOR MENDOZA AND NOT OF PETITIONERS WHO HAVE NOT CONSENTED THERETO AND IF PROPERLY CONSIDERED WOULD JUSTIFY A DIFFERENT CONCLUSION THAT RESPONDENTS ARE NOT DE JURE FARMWORKERS ENTITLED TO THE BENEFIT OF THE COMPREHENSIVE AGRARIAN REFORM PROGRAM (CARP FOR BREVITY).
3. WHEN IT REQUIRES PETITIONERS RATHER THAN RESPONDENTS WHO ARE CLAIMANTS OF BEING LANDLESS TILLERS TO PRESENT PROOF THAT THEY ARE SUCH LANDLESS TILLERS/PEASANTS. THUS, SAID DECISION IS CONTRARY TO THE DOCTRINE HELD IN THE CASE OF CENTRAL MINDANAO UNIVERSITY, THAT ALLEGATION OF BEING LANDLESS PEASANTS REQUIRES PROOF AND SHOULD NOT BE ACCEPTED AS FACTUAL TRUE AND THAT OF THE CASE OF P.T. CERNA CORPORATION VS. COURT OF APPEALS, 221 SCRA 19, WHICH HELD THAT: "HE WHO ALLEGES A FACT HAS THE BURDEN OF PROVING IT AND MERE ALLEGATIONS IS NOT EVIDENCE." (Emphasis in the original)
The assigned errors involve three (3) principal issues: whether or not the Court of Appeals erred (1) when it made its own findings in lieu of the Agrarian Court; (2) when it ruled in favor of the respondents despite the fact that they were not claiming any right of their own as landless peasants but as mere farm workers for fee of tenant Pastor Mendoza and not of petitioners who have not consented thereto or despite the fact that they were not de jure farm workers entitled to the benefits of
The Court's Ruling
The appeal is partly meritorious.
On the first issue, petitioners plead that in agrarian cases, the power of appellate review is limited to questions of law as the findings of fact of the DARAB, when supported by substantial evidence, shall be binding upon the Court of Appeals. Hence, the appellate court cannot make its own findings of fact and substitute the same in lieu of the findings of the DARAB, unless there was grave abuse of discretion on the part of the DARAB. Consequently, petitioners ascribe error on the appellate court in making its own finding that they were estopped from questioning the authority of respondents to till their land. The Court of Appeals held that petitioners have been receiving the rentals from respondent Reynaldo Mendoza and that it was only four (4) years after that they questioned Mendoza's authority. For clarity, we quote the pertinent portion of the assailed Court of Appeals Decision:
. . . Furthermore, no evidence was presented by the petitioners that they objected to the succession of Reynaldo as tiller of the land, as the replacement of his father, Pastor. If there was any objection, such objection was made only after four (4) years that is, from the time the respondents Reynaldo and Agapito took the place of Pastor sometime in February 1988 when the latter migrated to the United States up to the time herein petitioner Lourdes Joson allegedly learned in June, 1992 that Pastor was already staying in the United States. It was quite strange for the petitioners to have inquired about the whereabouts of Pastor only after four (4) years, when during all those times it was already Reynaldo who was delivering the lease rentals to the petitioners. Otherwise stated, it was only in 1992, that the petitioners questioned the status of Reynaldo before the Municipal Agrarian Reform Office of Malolos, Bulacan . . . .
This finding of implied consent on the part of petitioners to the tillage of their land by respondents is, according to petitioners, repugnant to the DARAB's finding that there was no such consent to the tillage, either express or implied. The distinct findings of the DARAB on this respect were as follows:
It is likewise very clear from the records that no consent, either express or implied, was given to appellee Reynaldo Mendoza or to his co-helper Agapito Laquindanum by the appellants in order to create a tenancy relationship between them on the landholding in question. The appellants-agricultural lessor received the lease rentals from Reynaldo Mendoza or his spouse Lina Mendoza after February 22, 1988 on the firm belief that he (Reynaldo Mendoza) was acting in behalf of his father Pastor Mendoza whose permanent transfer of residence to the United States was to be known officially to them only in January 1994 and learning the same, the appellants noted in protest the delivery by Reynaldo Mendoza of the lease rentals to them, indicating that they do not conform to the present or prevailing set-up in the land in question. The forum of origin's finding or conclusion in this regard and as to the present status of Pastor Mendoza on the land has no basis at all. (Emphasis supplied.)
Recall that guides us that:
In appeals in agrarian cases, the only function required of the Court of Appeals is to determine whether the findings of fact of the Court of Agrarian Relations are supported by substantial evidence. And substantial evidence has been defined to be such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion and its absence is not shown by stressing that there is contrary evidence on record, direct or circumstantial, and where the findings of fact of the agrarian court are supported by substantial evidence, such findings are conclusive and binding on the appellate court. cDCaHA
In , this Court ruled that the appellate court cannot make its own findings of fact and substitute the same for the findings of fact of the DARAB, thus:
A perusal of the assailed decision clearly shows that nowhere did the Court of Appeals rule that the findings of fact of the DARAB Region III Provincial Adjudicator or the DARAB-Central Office were unsupported by substantial evidence. Nor did the appellate court hold that said findings were made with grave abuse of discretion on the part of the agrarian quasi-judicial agencies. An examination of the record categorically shows that the findings of fact of the DARAB were supported by substantial evidence. Perforce, the Malate ruling must apply to the instant case. The finding of the DARAB that petitioner, by virtue of the contract of agricultural leasehold entered into between her and the Castros, is the substitute tenant of the latter in lieu of her deceased father, is binding upon the appellate court and this Court. Equally conclusive upon the court a quo and this Court is the finding by the DARAB that respondents were mere usurpers who failed to present any proof as to the existence of a tenancy relationship between them and the Castro family. (Emphases ours)
Applying the foregoing precepts, absent any categorical statement or showing on the part of the Court of Appeals that the DARAB's finding of lack of consent is unsubstantiated by evidence, the appellate court had no basis to reverse such finding. Too, we find that the DARAB's conclusion of fact is amply buttressed by proof on record, testimonial and documentary.
We first proceed to the third assigned error to lay down certain basic premises necessary for our discussion of the second assigned error.
The third assigned error decries the following portion of the Court of Appeals' disquisition, viz:
. . . It could be said that the petitioners failed to show convincing evidence to contradict the claim of respondents Reynaldo Mendoza and Agapito Laquindanum that they are landless beneficiaries. All that the petitioners could present were mere allegations which were not supported by any concrete evidence to prove their claim. Thus, We are inclined to uphold the ruling of the DARAB that respondents Reynaldo and Agapito are entitled to the benefit of the doubt that they are indeed landless tillers, they being qualified beneficiaries in accordance with Sections 22 and 25 of the CARP . . .
True, it is a basic rule of evidence that he who alleges something must prove the same. In this case, we agree with petitioners that inasmuch as respondents, not petitioners, are the ones claiming to be landless peasants, they must prove such claim. This, however, is a question of fact which the DARAB had already ruled upon. The DARAB found that the evidence on record points to respondents being the actual occupants and tillers of the land in question and we find no reversible error in such finding.
The above disquisition, notwithstanding, the Court of Appeals committed serious error when it arrogated upon itself the power of declaring respondents as apt beneficiaries under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) when it held: "Thus, We are inclined to uphold the ruling of the DARAB that respondents Reynaldo and Agapito are entitled to the benefit of the doubt that they are indeed landless tillers, they being qualified beneficiaries in accordance with Sections 22 and 25 of the CARP."
Observe that nowhere in the DARAB Decision was it held that respondents were proper beneficiaries of the CARP. In fact this matter of whether or not respondents were proper beneficiaries of the CARP was a total non-issue before any of the proceedings in the DARAB or in the PARAD. This power to pinpoint beneficiaries is reserved to the Secretary of Agrarian Reform per , where the Court ruled that the identification and selection of CARP beneficiaries are matters involving strictly the administrative implementation of the CARP, a matter exclusively cognizable by the Secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), and beyond the jurisdiction of the DARAB, to wit:
On the second issue tendered by the petition, it appears to us that the proper administrative official must resolve first the question of beneficiaries under CARP. The Court of Appeals, in adopting the findings of the DARAB, did not declare respondents as beneficiaries under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) in relation to the disputed landholding. The DARAB, in the dispositive portion of its decision, left to the concerned DAR Offices the determination of who are or should be the CARP beneficiaries. At this juncture, petitioner ought to be reminded only that the identification and selection of CARP beneficiaries are matters involving strictly the administrative implementation of the CARP, a matter exclusively cognizable by the Secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform, and beyond the jurisdiction of the DARAB. Properly speaking, the matter of CARP beneficiaries is not an issue before us.
Trained in the nuances of agrarian law, therefore, despite its finding that the original tenant abandoned his leasehold tenancy position and that respondents are the actual occupants and tillers, the DARAB, recognizing respondents as actual occupants and workers of the land may be entitled to the benefits of the CARP, ruled to preserve the status quo to give respondents nothing more than "the benefit of the doubt" of whether or not they are indeed appropriate beneficiaries of the landholding, which matter is to be properly threshed out before the Secretary of Agrarian Reform.
Going back to the second assigned error, petitioners fault the appellate court for branding respondents as "landless tillers." We empathize with petitioners. Indeed, this is a phrase that automatically makes them beneficiaries under the CARP, a determination still to be made by the Secretary of Agrarian Reform. Moreover, we noted that the DARAB avoided tagging respondents as "landless tillers," because of its specific implication. Thus, it limited itself to terms such as "actual tillers" and "actual occupants or workers." We must, therefore, leave it at that, so as not to influence the outcome of the administrative determination by the DAR.
On the merits, we are in full trust and agreement in the findings and conclusions of facts by the DARAB. The main issues raised before the DARAB may be summed as: (1) whether or not there was abandonment on the part of the original tenant which can serve as basis to declare him as out of status as leasehold tenant by petitioners; (2) whether or not respondents were lawful tenants of petitioners; and (3) whether or not respondents have rights, under the law.
The DARAB, per evidence on record, made the distinct finding that there was abandonment on the basis of the copy of a letter from the Office of the Secretary of Justice of the United States of America. For his part, Pastor Mendoza, the original tenant, did not deny frequenting the United States of America.
On the other issue of whether or not respondents, who substituted Pastor Mendoza, were lawful tenants, the DARAB properly found that they were not. Their tillage of the subject landholding was without the consent of petitioners, as the DARAB found from the records. Nonetheless, armed with the knowledge that under the present state of laws, even the actual occupants or tillers may actually have rights as "beneficiary" of the CARP, the DARAB took the precautionary measure of preserving the status quo and defer to the DAR's turf the determination of the issue as to who should be the beneficiary of the landholding in question. We could not but agree.
To add, whether respondents were actual tillers is a question of fact. Petitioners have not shown that their case falls under any of the recognized exceptions to the ironclad rule that only questions of law may be raised before this Court in a petition for review under Rule 45 of the
In fine, we quote with approval the following significant and dispositive portion of the decision of the DARAB, to wit:
Under the fact and circumstances of the case, therefore, the plaintiffs-appellants cannot recover possession of the landholding in question, although they are the owners thereof and although the appellee-agricultural lessee Pastor Mendoza has indeed abandoned the landholding in question and although the other appellees are not tenant-farmers on the subject land but are mere farmworkers or actual tillers thereon, in view of the passage of status quo on the subject riceland holding, including the appellee Pastor Mendoza therefrom. DEcTCa
WHEREFORE, in conformity with the above-stated ruling of the Hon. Supreme Court in the afore-quoted case, the assailed decision dated January 24, 1995 is hereby MODIFIED. The parties plaintiffs-appellants as landowners and defendant-appellees Reynaldo Mendoza and Agapito Laquindanum are enjoined to observe the status quo on the landholding in question, that is, said appellees to work on the said land and pay the lease rentals while the appellants to maintain them in peaceful possession and tilling on the said landholding, subject to whatever disposition the Department of Agrarian Reform may take on the land in question. (Emphasis supplied.)
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is PARTLY GRANTED and the Decision dated 27 January 2000 and the Resolution dated 05 July 2000 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 47437 are hereby MODIFIED to conform to the findings and conclusions of the DARAB. The Decision dated 21 July 1997 of the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board in DARAB Case No. 3414 is hereby REINSTATED. In the interest of justice, we certify this case and its records to the Secretary of Agrarian Reform for the immediate determination of whether or not respondents are appropriate beneficiaries of the land in question and to make a report thereon within thirty (30) days from receipt hereof. No pronouncement as to costs.
Puno, Austria-Martinez, Callejo, Sr. and Tinga, JJ., concur.
1. Penned by Associate Justice B.A. Adefuin-Dela Cruz with Associate Justices Quirino D. Abad Santos, Jr. and Martin S. Villarama, Jr. concurring. Rollo, pp. 17-26.
2. Rollo, p. 39.
3. Rollo, p. 42.
4. Rollo, p. 42.
5. Records, p. 158.
6. CA Rollo, pp. 13-31.
7. CA Rollo, p. 13. DARAB Records, pp. 145, 152.
8. Penned by Lorenzo R. Reyes with Artemio A. Adasa, Jr., Augusto P. Quijano and Sergio B. Serrano, concurring. CA Rollo, pp. 13-31.
9. Rollo, p. 31.
10. Rollo, p. 26.
11. Rollo, p. 39.
12. Rollo, pp. 7-8.
13. Rollo, p. 25.
14. Rollo, p. 56.
15. G.R. No. 55318, 09 February 1993, 218 SCRA 572, 576, citing , G.R. No. L-39807, 14 November 1988, 167 SCRA 334, , G.R. No. L-62255, 30 January 1986, 141 SCRA 226.
16. G.R. No. 140164, 06 September 2002, 388 SCRA 471, citing .
17. Rollo, pp. 23-24.
18. Rollo, p. 24.
19. G.R. No. 132286, 01 February 2002, 375 SCRA 604.
20. Section 22 of
Sec. 22. Qualified Beneficiaries. The lands covered by the CARP shall be distributed as much as possible to landless residents of the same barangay, or in the absence thereof, landless residents of the same municipality in the following order of priority:
(a) agricultural lessees and share tenants;
(b) regular farmworkers;
(c) seasonal farmworkers;
(d) other farmworkers;
(e) actual tillers or occupants of public lands;
(f) collectives or cooperatives of the above beneficiaries; and
(g) others directly working on the land. (Italic supplied; Rollo, p. 70.)
21. Rollo, pp. 58-59.
1) Section 8 of
Sec. 8. Extinguishment of Agricultural Leasehold Relation. The agricultural leasehold relation established under this
(1) Abandonment of the landholding without the knowledge and consent of the agricultural lessor;
. . . and
(2) Ministry Memorandum Circular No. 4, Series of 1983, issued on April 18, 1983 to serve as "Supplemental Guidelines to Govern Transfer Action of Areas Covered by
Farmlots shall be considered abandoned under any of the following grounds:
xxx xxx xxx
b. Permanent transfer of residence by the beneficiary and his family which has rendered him incapable of cultivating the land. (Rollo, p. 55.)
23. , G.R. Nos. 104774-75, 08 October 1997, 280 SCRA 235. Particularly Paragraph 2, Section 2, Rule 45,
24. Rollo, pp. 58-59.