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EMANCIPATION OF TENANTS (ARTS 7-11, LABOR CODE)
ASSOCIATION OF SMALL LANDOWNERS IN THE PHILIPPINES, INC., petitioner
HONORABLE SECRETARY OF AGRARIAN REFORM, respondent.
G.R. No. 78742
July 14, 1989
"Land for the Landless" is a slogan that underscores the acute imbalance in the distribution of this precious resource among our people. But it is more than a slogan. Through the brooding centuries, it has become a battle-cry dramatizing the increasingly urgent demand of the dispossessed among us for a plot of earth as their place in the sun.
Recognizing this need, the Constitution in 1935 mandated the policy of social justice to "insure the well-being and economic security of all the people," especially the less privileged. In 1973, the new Constitution affirmed this goal adding specifically that "the State shall regulate the acquisition, ownership, use, enjoyment and disposition of private property and equitably diffuse property ownership and profits." Significantly, there was also the specific injunction to "formulate and implement an agrarian reform program aimed at emancipating the tenant from the bondage of the soil."
The petitioners in this case invoke the right of retention granted by P.D. No. 27 to owners of rice and corn lands not exceeding seven hectares as long as they are cultivating or intend to cultivate the same. Their respective lands do not exceed the statutory limit but are occupied by tenants who are actually cultivating such lands.
According to P.D. No. 316, which was promulgated in implementation of P.D. No. 27:
No tenant-farmer in agricultural lands primarily devoted to rice and corn shall be ejected or removed from his farmholding until such time as the respective rights of the tenant- farmers and the landowner shall have been determined in accordance with the rules and regulations implementing P.D. No. 27.
The petitioners claim they cannot eject their tenants and so are unable to enjoy their right of retention because the Department of Agrarian Reform has so far not issued the implementing rules required under the above-quoted decree. They therefore ask the Court for a writ of mandamus to compel the respondent to issue the said rules.
The public respondent argues that P.D. No. 27 has been amended by LOI 474 removing any right of retention from persons who own other agricultural lands of more than 7 hectares in aggregate area or lands used for residential, commercial, industrial or other purposes from which they derive adequate income for their family. And even assuming that the petitioners do not fall under its terms, the regulations implementing P.D. No. 27 have already been issued, to wit, the Memorandum dated July 10, 1975 (Interim Guidelines on Retention by Small Landowners, with an accompanying Retention Guide Table), Memorandum Circular No. 11 dated April 21, 1978, (Implementation Guidelines of LOI No. 474), Memorandum Circular No. 18-81 dated December 29,1981 (Clarificatory Guidelines on Coverage of P.D. No. 27 and Retention by Small Landowners), and DAR Administrative Order No. 1, series of 1985 (Providing for a Cut-off Date for Landowners to Apply for Retention and/or to Protest the Coverage of their Landholdings under Operation Land Transfer pursuant to P.D. No. 27). For failure to file the corresponding applications for retention under these measures, the petitioners are now barred from invoking this right.
The petitioners insist that the above-cited measures are not applicable to them because they do not own more than seven hectares of agricultural land.
The Constitution of 1987 was not to be outdone. Besides echoing these sentiments, it also adopted one whole and separate Article XIII on Social Justice and Human Rights, containing grandiose but undoubtedly sincere provisions for the uplift of the common people. These include a call in the following words for the adoption by the State of an agrarian reform program:
SEC. 4. The State shall, by law, undertake an agrarian reform program founded on the right of farmers and regular farmworkers, who are landless, to own directly or collectively the lands they till or, in the case of other farmworkers, to receive a just share of the fruits thereof. To this end, the State shall encourage and undertake the just distribution of all agricultural lands, subject to such priorities and reasonable retention limits as the Congress may prescribe, taking into account ecological, developmental, or equity considerations and subject to the payment of just compensation. In determining retention limits, the State shall respect the right of small landowners. The State shall further provide incentives for voluntary land-sharing.
Whether or not all rights acquired by the tenant-farmer under P.D. No. 27, as recognized under E.O. No. 228, are retained by him even under R.A. No. 6657.
P.D. No. 27 expressly ordered the emancipation of tenant-farmer as October 21, 1972 and declared that he shall "be deemed the owner" of a portion of land consisting of a family-sized farm except that "no title to the land owned by him was to be actually issued to him unless and until he had become a full-fledged member of a duly recognized farmers' cooperative." It was understood, however, that full payment of the just compensation also had to be made first, conformably to the constitutional requirement.
When E.O. No. 228, categorically stated in its Section 1 that:
All qualified farmer-beneficiaries are now deemed full owners as of October 21, 1972 of the land they acquired by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 27.
The CARP Law, for its part, conditions the transfer of possession and ownership of the land to the government on receipt by the landowner of the corresponding payment or the deposit by the DAR of the compensation in cash or LBP bonds with an accessible bank. Until then, title also remains with the landowner. No outright change of ownership is contemplated either.
This should counter-balance the express provision in Section 6 of the said law that "the landowners whose lands have been covered by Presidential Decree No. 27 shall be allowed to keep the area originally retained by them thereunder, further, that original homestead grantees or direct compulsory heirs who still own the original homestead at the time of the approval of this Act shall retain the same areas as long as they continue to cultivate said homestead."
R.A. No. 6657 does provide for such limits now in Section 6 of the law, which in fact is one of its most controversial provisions.
Retention Limits. — Except as otherwise provided in this Act, no person may own or retain, directly or indirectly, any public or private agricultural land, the size of which shall vary according to factors governing a viable family-sized farm, such as commodity produced, terrain, infrastructure, and soil fertility as determined by the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) created hereunder, but in no case shall retention by the landowner exceed five (5) hectares. Three (3) hectares may be awarded to each child of the landowner, subject to the following qualifications: (1) that he is at least fifteen (15) years of age; and (2) that he is actually tilling the land or directly managing the farm; Provided, That landowners whose lands have been covered by Presidential Decree No. 27 shall be allowed to keep the area originally retained by them thereunder, further, That original homestead grantees or direct compulsory heirs who still own the original homestead at the time of the approval of this Act shall retain the same areas as long as they continue to cultivate said homestead.
All rights previously acquired by the tenant- farmers under P.D. No. 27 are retained and recognized. Landowners who were unable to exercise their rights of retention under P.D. No. 27 shall enjoy the retention rights granted by R.A. No. 6657 under the conditions therein prescribed. Subject to the above-mentioned rulings all the petitions are DISMISSED, without pronouncement as to costs.
Acknowledgement: Jaja Oftana