[G.R. NO. 178672 : March 19, 2009]
JULIO MERCADO, Petitioner, v. EDMUNDO MERCADO, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
CARPIO MORALES, J.:
Julio Mercado (petitioner) was a tenant of an agricultural land (the property) owned by the grandfather of Edmundo Mercado (respondent). In 1976, petitioner was issued a Certificate of Land Transfer1 (CLT) covering the property pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 27. In 1982, he was issued an Emancipation Patent (EP).2
On August 1, 1994, respondent, relying on a Certificate of Retention (CR) issued in his name on the strength of his grandfather's Huling Habilin,3 filed a complaint4 against petitioner, for rescission of contract, cancellation of the CLT and EP, payment of rentals in arrears, and ejectment, before the Provincial Adjudication Board (PARAB), Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB), docketed as DARAB Case No. 733-Bul-94.
Respondent alleged that petitioner's CLT and EP were irregularly issued as the property is covered by his CR, and that petitioner had not been paying rentals on the property since 1979 despite repeated demands.
Respondent later amended his complaint by impleading the son of petitioner whom he allowed to erect a house on the property.5
In his Answer,6 Petitioner, invoking his rights under the EP, contends that respondent's CR was anomalously issued and, in any event, respondent's claim is barred by the statute of limitations under Section 38 of Republic Act No. 3844, as amended by Republic Act No. 6389.
The PARAB, declaring that petitioner's EP was legally and validly issued, dismissed respondent's complaint.7
On respondent's appeal8 which was docketed as DARAB Case No. 4389, the DARAB, finding petitioner to have deliberately failed to comply with the law, reversed the PARAB decision in this wise:
It is categorically admitted by respondent[-herein petitioner] Julio Mercado in his memorandum/position paper dated 05 April 1995 that in 1981, he ceased paying lease rentals and instead paid his amortizations with the Land Bank of the Philippines, Baliuag, Bulacan Branch. x x x To be precise, the payment of lease rentals to the landowner terminates only on the date the value of the land is established. In a situation where the value of the land is yet to be determined, the farmer-beneficiary shall continue paying the lease rentals to the landowner x x x It is the assertion of [herein petitioner] that he paid his amortization with the Land Bank of the Philippines since 1981 but his evidence show[s] that he made payment with the LBP only in 1990 and 1992. It was not explained where he brought the landowner's share or the alleged amortizations from 1981 when he stopped paying the lease rentals to the landowner as well as those from 1993 up to the filing of the instant case. Considering the length of time that the respondent did not pay lease rentals nor paid amortizations, it can be safely concluded that his omission is not merely simple but a deliberate non-compliance with the mandate of Presidential Decree No. 816 x x x.
x x x x9 (Underscoring supplied)cralawlibrary
The DARAB accordingly ordered, among other things, the rescission of the leasehold contract between petitioner and respondent, disposing as follows:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appealed Decision is hereby SET ASIDE and a new judgment is rendered as follows:
1. Declaring the respondent Julio Mercado guilty of deliberate non-payment of lease rentals pursuant to Section 3 of Presidential Decree No. 816 and Section 26 and 36 of Republic Act No. 3844, as amended;
2. Ordering the rescission of the leasehold contract between the plaintiff and respondent;
3. Ordering the ejectment of respondent Julio Mercado and all person or persons acting in his behalf to vacate the area in dispute and deliver to the same to the peaceful possession and enjoyment of the plaintiff-appellant herein;
4. The concerned official of the DAR is hereby directed to cause the cancellation of CLT No. 033197 and CLT No. 033198 from its record considering that the land covered by said certificate had been certified as retention areas;
5. All claims and counterclaims for damages are dismissed.
SO ORDERED.10 (Emphasis in the original, underscoring supplied)
The DARAB decision having become final and executory, a Writ of Execution11 was issued.
The finality of the DARAB decision notwithstanding, petitioner filed a Petition for Certiorari with Prayer for Preliminary Injunction12 before the Court of Appeals which dismissed it, due to, in the main, the finality of the DARAB decision.13
Undaunted, petitioner filed a Petition for Relief from Judgment16 of the DARAB decision before the DARAB itself which denied the same. Petitioner went on to challenge the denial of the petition via Petition for Review17 before the Court of Appeals, in which same petition he again sought the review of the DARAB decision on his appeal in DARAB Case No. 4389,18 contending that:
1. The assailed decision in DARAB Case No. 4389 was rendered WITHOUT or IN EXCESS OF JURISDICTION and is, therefore, NULL and VOID ab initio; and,
2. The Board seriously ERRED and/or GRAVELY ABUSED its discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when it issued the assailed resolutions denying the petition and petitioner's Motion for Reconsideration despite the miserable failure of respondent to produce any single authentic document that would prima facie establish his ownership of the parcels of land in question to qualify him as a "landlord" or "land owner" thereof and despite the clear showing therein that the complaint filed by respondent, as well as the appeal he filed before the Board a quo, was barred under the Statute of Limitations.
3. The Board seriously ERRED and/or GRAVELY ABUSED its discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when it rendered the assailed decision in violation of petitioner's constitutional right to due process of law.19 (Emphasis and italics in the original)
By Decision20 of March 21, 2007, the Court of Appeals denied petitioner's petition as well as his Motion for Reconsideration.21 Hence, the present petition22 which faults the Court of Appeals in deciding his petition "in a way not in accord[ance with] law or with applicable decisions of [this] Court"23 and raises the same arguments he raised before the Court of Appeals.24
The petition is bereft of merit.
The DARAB decision in DARAB Case No. 4389 had long become final and executory, hence, immutable and unalterable. It may thus no longer be modified in any respect, even if the modification is meant to correct erroneous conclusions of fact or law.25 Excepted from this rule is when the modification involves correction of 1) clerical errors, 2) nunc pro tunc entries which cause no prejudice to any party, and 3) void judgments.26 None of these exceptions is present in the case at bar, however.
Petitioner insists that the decision in DARAB Case No. 4389 is void for having been rendered without jurisdiction, there having been no more tenancy relationship between him and respondent after the issuance to him of the EP.
Since jurisdiction over the subject matter is determined by the allegations in the complaint,27 a recital of the following allegations of respondent in his Complaint which were reproduced substantially in his Amended Complaint is in order:
x x x
3. That plaintiff is the owner of a parcel of agricultural land, with an area of more than two (2) hectares and located at Niugan, Angat, Bulacan; said land is being tenanted by the defendant, with whom plaintiff has executed an agricultural leasehold contract in 1976 as shown by a copy of a document herewith attached as Annex "A";
4. That as per said contract, defendant is obligated to pay plaintiff an annual rental of sixty (60) cavans of palay, payable on two occasions, namely 25 cavans during the "panag-ulan" season; and 35 cavans during the "panag-araw" season;
x x x x28 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)cralawlibrary
Those allegations show the existence of the following elements of a tenancy relationship between the parties, viz:
1) that the parties are the landowner and the tenant or agricultural lessee; 2) that the subject matter of the relationship is an agricultural land; 3) that there is consent between the parties to the relationship; 4) that the purpose of the relationship is to bring about agricultural production; 5) that there is personal cultivation on the part of the tenant or agricultural lessee; and 6) that the harvest is shared between the landowner and the tenant or agricultural lessee.29
Precisely, respondent filed the complaint against petitioner to question the regularity of the issuance to petitioner of the EP on which EP petitioner anchors his denial of the existence of a tenancy relationship. Ayo-Alburo v. Matobato30 instructs:
The mere issuance of an emancipation patent does not put the ownership of the agrarian reform beneficiary beyond attack and scrutiny. Emancipation patents may be cancelled for violations of agrarian laws, rules and regulations. Section 12(g) of P.D. 946 (issued on June 17, 1976) vested the then Court of Agrarian Relations with jurisdiction over cases involving the cancellation of emancipation patents issued under P.D. 266. Exclusive jurisdiction over such cases was later lodged with the DARAB under Section 1 of Rule 11 of the DARAB Rules of Procedure.31 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)cralawlibrary
Jurisdiction over a case does not thus disappear the moment a certificate of title is issued, for the issuance of such certificate is not a mode of transfer of property but merely an evidence of such transfer.32
IN ANY EVENT, petitioner may not question the jurisdiction of the DARAB and its adjudicative arm at this late juncture of the proceedings, he having actively participated in the proceedings below.33
Respecting the affirmance by the appellate court of the denial by the DARAB of petitioner's Petition for Relief from Judgment, Rule XVI of the 2003 DARAB Rules of Procedure provides the following conditions for availing of such relief:
Section 1. Petition for Relief from Decision/Resolution/Final Order. When a decision/resolution/final order is rendered by the adjudicator against any party, through fraud, accident, mistake, and excusable negligence and such party has no other adequate remedy available to him in the ordinary course of law, he may file a petition for relief with said adjudicator, praying that the decision/resolution/final order be set aside. (Underscoring supplied)Ï‚Î·Î±Ã±rÎ¿blÎµÅ¡ Î½Î¹râ€ Ï…Î±l lÎ±Ï‰ lÎ¹brÎ±rÃ¿
Section 2. Form and Time of Filing of Petition. A petition for relief must be verified and a copy thereof together with its annexes and supporting affidavits, if any, must be furnished to the adverse party or parties and filed within sixty (60) days from the time the fraud, mistake or excusable negligence was discovered and within six (6) months after the decision/resolution/final order was rendered. (Underscoring supplied)cralawlibrary
Relief from judgment is thus available only against the decision of an adjudicator, to be filed before the adjudicator, when the party seeking it has no other adequate remedy available to him in the ordinary course of law. In the case at bar, petitioner sought relief from the decision of the DARAB, not that of the adjudicator, before the DARAB.34 This leaves it unnecessary to pass upon the other glaring flaws attendant to petitioner's Petition for Relief from Judgment.
As for petitioner's plaint of having been deprived of due process, thus:
x x x Indeed it was unfortunate that, instead of granting petitioner a new period within which to file the answer in view of the sudden withdrawal of his counsel during the very limited period of ten (10) days, the DARAB resolved the appeal without such answer or comment even as it sat on the case for a period of six (6) years without resolving the same. To be sure, petitioner's failure to submit his answer or comment could only be attributed to his lack of education, old age and inability to immediately hire a new lawyer within the said 10-day period.
Petitioner's lack of education and understanding of the legal requirements and formalities of a lawsuit is buttressed by the fact that he even allowed himself to be later represented by a non-lawyer, Ms. Edna R. Boja, before the Court a quo[,]35
the same fails. For the records show otherwise. Parenthetically, even petitioner's new counsel conceded in his Manifestation36 filed before the DARAB that:
x x x
. . . upon the engagement of the undersigned counsel by herein defendant/appelle[e] beyond the period given within which to submit his appellee's memorandum, and after the records and documents were finally handed over to the undersigned for evaluation, no new matters were presented in the appeal memorandum as to justify a reconsideration or a reversal of the decision dated June 6, 1995;
4. That, the appealed decision is fully supported by the evidences adduced by both parties; hence, the findings thereof, need not be disturbed but fully confirmed by the appellate board;37 (Underscoring supplied)cralawlibrary
The Court of Appeals' finding in its challenged decision that petitioner had been negligent in not protecting his right is thus well-taken.
x x x
With respect to the decision of the PARAD, respondent Edmundo filed his appeal memorandum. Petitioner Julio's former counsel, Atty. Antonio Castro, was supposed to file answer or comment to the said appeal memorandum within ten days from October 26, 1995. Instead of filing the same, Atty. Castro filed a Manifestation and Motion to Withdraw as counsel with petitioner Julio's consent.38
After the lapse of eleven months, or on September 19, 1996, he secured the services of Atty. Glicerio Sampana. The case was eventually decided after the lapse of 6 [sic] years without him having filed his answer or comment thereto. He should have at least followed up the status of his case within that span of time with the help of his lawyer but sadly, he did not.
He even elevated the case to this Court but the same was dismissed due to the fact that the assailed decision had already become final and executory. While this Court subscribes to the principles of liberality in the availment of due process, in the interest of justice, the same should be extended to those who are vigilant in the protection of one's rights.39 (Underscoring supplied)cralawlibrary
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated March 21, 2007 is AFFIRMED.
Double costs against petitioner.
* Additional member per Special Order No. 571 dated February 12, 2009 in lieu of Justice Dante O. Tinga who is on leave.
1 DARAB records, pp. 24-25.
2 Id. at 23; rollo, pp. 112-113.
3 Vide CA rollo, p. 363; rollo, pp. 114-115.
4 DARAB records, pp. 1-6.
5 The records do not show what happened to the complaint against the son.
6 DARAB records, pp. 28-45, 63-71.
7 Id. at 112-116.
8 Id. at 117.
9 Id. at 165-166.
10 Id. at 162-163.
11 Id. at 196-198.
12 CA rollo, pp. 130-140
13 Id. at 141-142.
14 Id. at 145-158.
15 Id. at 159-160.
16 Id. at 202-229.
17 Id. at 2-45.
18 Id. at 3-4.
19 Id. at 15-16.
20 Penned by Court of Appeals Associate Justice Remedios A. Salazar-Fernando, with the concurrence of Associate Justices Jose C. Mendoza and Ramon M. Bato, Jr.; id. at 442-457.
21 Id. at 482-485.
22 Rollo, pp. 28-72.
23 Id. at 42.
24 Vide rollo, pp. 42-67.
25 Vide Biglang-awa v. Philippine Trust Company, G.R. No. 158998, March 28, 2008, 550 SCRA 160, 177.
27 Villacastin v. Pelaez, G.R. No. 170478, May 22, 2008, 554 SCRA 189, 194.
28 DARAB records, p. 6.
29 Morta, Sr. v. Occidental, 367 Phil. 438, 446 (1999).
30 G.R. No. 155181, April 15, 2005, 456 SCRA 399.
31 Id. at 409.
32 Vide Hermoso v. C.L. Realty Corporation, G.R. No. 140319, May 5, 2006, 489 SCRA 556, 563.
33 Vide ibid.
34 Vide CA rollo, pp. 202-204.
35 Rollo, p. 63. Vide DARAB records, p. 144.
36 Id. at 149.
38 CA rollo, p. 456.
39 Id. at 456-457.