G.R. No. 197486, September 10, 2014
RENATO L. DELFINO, SR. (DECEASED), REPRESENTED BY HIS HEIRS, NAMELY: GRACIA DELFINO, GREGORIO A. DELFINO, MA. ISABEL A. DELFINO, RENATO A. DELFINO, JR., MA. REGINA DELFINO ROSELLA, MA. GRACIA A. DELFINO, MARIANO A. DELFINO, MA. LUISA DELFINO GREGORIO AND REV. FR. GABRIEL A. DELFINO, Petitioners, v. AVELINO K. ANASAO AND ANGEL K. ANASAO (DECEASED AND REPRESENTED BY HIS SOLE HEIR, SIXTO C. ANASAO), Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
VILLARAMA, JR., J.:
Title (TCT) No.
Area (in hectares) Classification Location T-21710 (T-49743) 2.8148 Riceland Pook Sta. Rosa T-21711 (T-49744) .0872 Riceland Pook Sta. Rosa T-21712 (T-49745) 4.1787 Riceland Tagapo, Sta. Rosa T-26378 (T-69592) 2.8662 Riceland Tagapo, Sta. Rosa T-26381 (T-69595) 20.8108 Coconut land Masaya, Bay T-216233 4.7248 Riceland Sta. Cruz, Sta. Rosa Total 35.4825 has.6
Name of Farmer-Beneficiary
Avelino Anasao EP-791 Tagapo, Sta. Rosa, Laguna T-21712 3.0016 Angel Anasao EP-790 Tagapo, Sta. Rosa T-21712 .7029 Angel Anasao EP-792 Tagapo, Sta. Rosa T-21712 .1815 Rodriguez Dacumos EP-782 Pook, Sta. Rosa Laguna T-21710 2.6811 Total 6.56719
WHEREFORE, premises considered, this Order is hereby issued setting aside the Order of the DAR Regional Director of Region IV dated June 22, 1993, thus petitioner is hereby given the maximum of five (5) hectares from the tenanted portion as his retained area.
WHEREFORE, in the light of the foregoing considerations, ORDER is hereby jointly issued in the instant consolidated petitions, to wit:
1. Declaring an aggregate area of five (5) hectares consisting of the lots covered by the following certificates of title or Emancipation Patents as Petitioner’s retention area, to wit:1) Transfer Certificate of Title No. EP-782, EP No. A-326714 in the name of Rodriguez Dacumos corresponding to a portion thereof with an area of 1.1140 hectares;
2) Transfer Certificate of Title No. EP-791, EP No. A-326741 in the name of Avelino K. Anasao with an area of 3.0016 hectares;
3) Transfer Certificate of Title No. EP-790, EP No. A-326742 and Transfer Certificate of Title No. EP-792, EP No. A-326743 in the name of Angel K. Anasao with a total area of .8844 hectare;
2. Directing the Register of Deeds of Laguna to cause the cancellation of the above-mentioned certificates of title registered in the names of Respondents Avelino K. Anasao and Angel K. Anasao and the reinstatement of Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-21712 in the name of Renato L. Delfino, Sr.;
3. Directing said Register of Deeds of Laguna to cause the inscription of the instant Order on the original and Owner’s duplicate copies of Transfer Certificate of Title No. EP-782, EP No. A-326714 in the name of Respondent Rodriguez Dacumos in respect of the area of 1.1140 hectares;
4. Declaring the subject parcels of land constituting Petitioner’s retention area reverted to agricultural leasehold status and private Respondents as the agricultural lessees over their respective landholdings thus reverted;
5. Directing private Respondents Avelino K. Anasao, Angel K. Anasao and Rodriguez Dacumos to surrender their respective owner’s duplicate of the subject certificates of title or Ema[n]cipation Patents to this Office and/or to its authorized Officer upon proper writ of execution for purposes of implementing the instant Order, Provided, in the event of failure or refusal on their part to comply herewith the subject owner’s duplicate of the said certificates of title or emancipation patents shall be deemed cancelled sans any need of prior surrender.
A perusal of the records would show that as far as this Office is concerned, the questioned Order has already become final and executory as attested to by Director Ruben Joel A. Puertollano of the Bureau of Agrarian Legal Assistance, in his Memorandum dated 16 May 1997. Even granting, for the sake of argument, that the herein motion could still be entertained, the undeniable fact remains that the issues sought to be clarified herein have already been ruled upon by this Office in its Orders dated 28 February 1995 and 13 December 1995. The same issues were raised in petitioners’ Petition for Review with the Court of Appeals which had likewise been dismissed for being insufficient in form and substance.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, an Order is hereby issued DENYING herein Motion for Clarificatory Judgment. This case is considered closed.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, Order is hereby issued DENYING the Petition to Annul/Cancel the Orders of the Secretary of Agrarian Reform dated 28 February 1995, 13 December 1995 and 08 August 1997, respectively. Therefore, the Order dated 28 February 1995 is hereby AFFIRMED.
FURTHER, the Order dated 28 February 1995 is hereby CLARIFIED to read:
- The Deed of Sale dated 24 August 1995 executed by the respondent and SM Prime Holdings, Inc. with an area of two (2) hectares shall be considered as the respondent’s retention area;
- The remaining three (3) hectares shall either be taken from the 4.8120 hectares covered by TCT Nos. T-21711 (T-49744) and T-216233; and
- The concerned Regional Director, PARO and the MARO are hereby DIRECTED to proceed with the coverage of the remains of parcels of agricultural land owned by respondent, after having been given the five (5) hectare retained area pursuant to the above, for distribution to qualified farmer-beneficiaries pursuant to existing rules and regulations.
It is beyond dispute that the right to choose the retention area pertains to the landowner. However, this Office will not allow anyone to circumvent the very purpose of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program – the five (5) hectare retention limit. It bears stressing that the inclusion of the two (2) hectares which is the subject of the Deed of Sale dated 24 August 1995 executed by the respondent in favor of SM Prime Holdings, Inc., as retained area is only to prevent the former to exercise his right of retention beyond the maximum limits allowed by law. The herein respondent cannot simultaneously enjoy from [sic] the proceeds of the Deed of Sale and at the same time exercise the right of retention under CARP.
x x x x
As regards petitioners’ contention that there is a need to clarify the Order dated 02 February 2006 in order to effect the reinstatement of the cancelled TCTs/EPs, this Office finds the contention unmeritorious. While it is true that the respondent’s five (5) hectares retained area were already delineated and clarified in the assailed Order dated 02 February 2006, nevertheless, this Office cannot issue a directive reinstating TCT No. EP-791 in favor of petitioner Avelino K. Anasao covering the 3.0016 hectares landholding and TCT Nos. EP-790 and 792 in favor of petitioner Angel Anasao covering the landholdings, with an area of 0.7029 and 0.1815 hectare, respectively.
It must be noted that petitioners’ titles were cancelled by the DARAB in a separate action for cancellation filed by herein respondent Renato L. Delfino, which was docketed as DARAB Case No. IV-La 437-95. This Office, therefore, cannot interfere with the decision of said forum. To do so would tantamount to encroachment of powers.
Inasmuch as petitioner Rodriguez D. Dacumos filed a Motion to Withdraw Petition and/or Desistance to Further Pursue Petition, wherein he manifested that he is no longer interested in pursuing the instant case, this Office is constrained to dismiss the case in so far as petitioner Rodriguez D. Dacumos is concerned. As pointed out by petitioner Rodriguez D. Dacumos, he and herein respondent Renato L. Delfino have threshed out already their differences and reached an agreement to settle the case amicably. Hence, the petitioner’s prayers, to wit: that his name would be dropped as party petitioner in the instant case and the property covered by TCT No. EP-782 would be declared as no longer included in the instant case, is hereby granted.
WHEREFORE, in the light of the foregoing premises, Order is hereby issued DENYING the herein Motion for Reconsideration. Thus, the assailed Order dated 2 February 2006 is hereby AFFIRMED.
SEC. 6. 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 land have been covered by Presidential Decree No. 27 shall be allowed to keep the area originally retained by them thereunder; Provided, further, That original homestead grantees or their 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.
The right to choose the area to be retained, which shall be compact or contiguous, shall pertain to the landowner; Provided, however, That in case the area selected for retention by the landowner is tenanted, the tenant shall have the option to choose whether to remain therein or be a beneficiary in the same or another agricultural land with similar or comparable features. In case the tenant chooses to remain in the retained area, he shall be considered a leaseholder and shall lose his right to be a beneficiary under this Act. In case the tenant chooses to be a beneficiary in another agricultural land, he loses his right as a leaseholder to the land retained by the landowner. The tenant must exercise this option within a period of one (1) year from the time the landowner manifests his choice of the area for retention.
In all cases, the security of tenure of the farmers or farmworkers on the land prior to the approval of this Act shall be respected.
Upon the effectivity of this Act, any sale, disposition, lease, management contract or transfer of possession of private lands executed by the original landowner in violation of this Act shall be null and void; Provided, however, That those executed prior to this Act shall be valid only when registered with the Register of Deeds within a period of three (3) months after the effectivity of this Act. Thereafter, all Registers of Deeds shall inform the DAR within thirty (30) days of any transaction involving agricultural lands in excess of five (5) hectares. (Emphasis supplied.)
…For as long as the area to be retained is compact or contiguous and it does not exceed the retention ceiling of five (5) hectares, a landowner’s choice of the area to be retained, must prevail. Moreover, Administrative Order No. 4, series of 1991, which supplies the details for the exercise of a landowner’s retention rights, likewise recognizes no limit to the prerogative of the landowner, although he is persuaded to retain other lands instead to avoid dislocation of farmers.
Without doubt, this right of retention may be exercised over tenanted land despite even the issuance of Certificate of Land Transfer (CLT) to farmer-beneficiaries. What must be protected, however, is the right of the tenants to opt to either stay on the land chosen to be retained by the landowner or be a beneficiary in another agricultural land with similar or comparable features.
x x x x
The issuance of EPs or CLOAs to beneficiaries does not absolutely bar the landowner from retaining the area covered thereby. Under Administrative Order No. 2, series of 1994, an EP or CLOA may be cancelled if the land covered is later found to be part of the landowner’s retained area.
A certificate of title accumulates in one document a comprehensive statement of the status of the fee held by the owner of a parcel of land. As such, it is a mere evidence of ownership and it does not constitute the title to the land itself. It cannot confer title where no title has been acquired by any of the means provided by law.
Thus, we had, in the past, sustained the nullification of a certificate of title issued pursuant to a homestead patent because the land covered was not part of the public domain and as a result, the government had no authority to issue such patent in the first place. Fraud in the issuance of the patent, is also a ground for impugning the validity of a certificate of title. In other words, the invalidity of the patent or title is sufficient basis for nullifying the certificate of title since the latter is merely an evidence of the former.
In the instant case, the CLTs of private respondents over the subject 4.1685-hectare riceland were issued without Eudosia Daez having been accorded her right of choice as to what to retain among her landholdings. The transfer certificates of title thus issued on the basis of those CLTs cannot operate to defeat the right of the heirs of deceased Eudosia Daez to retain the said 4.1685 hectares of riceland.42 (Underscoring in the original; emphasis supplied.)
The issue in the present case is not the lack of verification but the sufficiency of one executed by only one of plaintiffs. This Court held in Ateneo de Naga University v. Manalo, that the verification requirement is deemed substantially complied with when, as in the present case, only one of the heirs-plaintiffs, who has sufficient knowledge and belief to swear to the truth of the allegations in the petition (complaint), signed the verification attached to it. Such verification is deemed sufficient assurance that the matters alleged in the petition have been made in good faith or are true and correct, not merely speculative.
The same liberality should likewise be applied to the certification against forum shopping. The general rule is that the certification must be signed by all plaintiffs in a case and the signature of only one of them is insufficient. However, the Court has also stressed in a number of cases that the rules on forum shopping were designed to promote and facilitate the orderly administration of justice and thus should not be interpreted with such absolute literalness as to subvert its own ultimate and legitimate objective. The rule of substantial compliance may be availed of with respect to the contents of the certification. This is because the requirement of strict compliance with the provisions merely underscores its mandatory nature in that the certification cannot be altogether dispensed with or its requirements completely disregarded.
The substantial compliance rule has been applied by this Court in a number of cases: Cavile v. Heirs of Cavile, where the Court sustained the validity of the certification signed by only one of petitioners because he is a relative of the other petitioners and co-owner of the properties in dispute; Heirs of Agapito T. Olarte v. Office of the President of the Philippines, where the Court allowed a certification signed by only two petitioners because the case involved a family home in which all the petitioners shared a common interest; Gudoy v. Guadalquiver, where the Court considered as valid the certification signed by only four of the nine petitioners because all petitioners filed as co-owners pro indiviso a complaint against respondents for quieting of title and damages, as such, they all have joint interest in the undivided whole; and Dar v. Alonzo-Legasto, where the Court sustained the certification signed by only one of the spouses as they were sued jointly involving a property in which they had a common interest.
It is noteworthy that in all of the above cases, the Court applied the rule on substantial compliance because of the commonality of interest of all the parties with respect to the subject of the controversy.45 (Emphasis supplied.)
1Rollo, pp. 60-77. Penned by Associate Justice Jane Aurora C. Lantion with Presiding Justice Andres B. Reyes, Jr. and Associate Justice Japar B. Dimaampao concurring.
2 Id. at 79-80.
3 Id. at 112-119.
4 Id. at 120-124.
5 DAR records, pp. 161-167.
6 OP records, p. 38.
8 DAR records, pp. 272-277.
9 OP records, p. 37.
11 DAR records, p. 246.
12 OP records, p. 37.
13 DAR records, pp. 165-167.
14 Id. at 166-167.
15 Id. at 117-119,161-164, 168-176.
16 Id. at 177-187, 387, 437-442.
17 OP records, p. 37.
18 Rollo, pp. 241-242.
19 DAR records, pp. 1-2.
20 Id. at 471-474.
21 Id. at 480-484.
22 Id. at 482-484.
23 Id. at 370-374, 476-479.
24 Id. at 259-267.
25 Id. at 310.
26 Id. at 288-297.
27 OP records, pp. 33-39.
28 Id. at 34.
29 Id. at 27-31.
30 Id. at 28-30.
31Daez v. Court of Appeals, 382 Phil. 742, 752 (2000), citing Sec. 4, Art. XIII, 1987 Constitution, Cabatan v. Court of Appeals, 184 Phil. 281, 314-315 (1980) and Dequito v. Llamas, 160-A Phil. 7, 16 (1975).
32 256 Phil. 777, 825 (1989).
33Heirs of Maura So v. Obliosca, 566 Phil. 397, 407 (2008).
34Bañares II v. Balising, 384 Phil. 567, 582 (2000).
35FGU Insurance Corporation v. Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Branch 66, G.R. No. 161282, February 23, 2011, 644 SCRA 50, 56, citing Villa v. Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), G.R. No. 174642, October 30, 2009, 604 SCRA 742, 750.
36 Id. Citations omitted.
37 OP records, pp. 29-30.
38Supra note 31.
39Rollo, pp. 284-287.
40 OP records, p. 34.
41 Supra note 31, at 754.
42 Id. at 754-756.
43Ramos v. Philippine National Bank, G.R. No. 178218, December 14, 2011, 662 SCRA 479, 495, citing Imani v. Metropolitan Bank & Trust Company, G.R. No. 187023, November 17, 2010, 635 SCRA 357, 371.
44 536 Phil. 705 (2006).
45 Id. at 719-720.