Republic of the Philippines
G.R. No. 78517 February 27, 1989
GABINO ALITA, JESUS JULIAN, JR., JESUS JULIAN, SR., PEDRO RICALDE, VICENTE RICALDE and ROLANDO SALAMAR, petitioners,
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, ENRIQUE M. REYES, PAZ M. REYES and FE M. REYES, respondents.
Bureau of Agrarian Legal Assistance for petitioners.
Leonardo N. Zulueta for Enrique Reyes, et al. Adolfo S. Azcuna for private respondents.
Before us is a petition seeking the reversal of the decision rendered by the respondent Court of Appeals**on March 3, 1987 affirming the judgment of the court a quo dated April 29, 1986, the dispositive portion of the trial court's decision reading as follows;
WHEREFORE, the decision rendered by this Court on November 5, 1982 is hereby reconsidered and a new judgment is hereby rendered:
1. Declaring that Presidential Decree No. 27 is inapplicable to lands obtained thru the homestead law,
2. Declaring that the four registered co-owners will cultivate and operate the farmholding themselves as owners thereof; and
3. Ejecting from the land the so-called tenants, namely; Gabino Alita, Jesus Julian, Sr., Jesus Julian, Jr., Pedro Ricalde, Vicente Ricalde and Rolando Salamar, as the owners would want to cultivate the farmholding themselves.
No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED. (p. 31, Rollo)
The facts are undisputed. The subject matter of the case consists of two (2) parcels of land, acquired by private respondents' predecessors-in-interest through homestead patent under the provisions of Commonwealth Act No. 141. Said lands are situated at Guilinan, Tungawan, Zamboanga del Sur.
Private respondents herein are desirous of personally cultivating these lands, but petitioners refuse to vacate, relying on the provisions of P.D. 27 and P.D. 316 and appurtenant regulations issued by the then Ministry of Agrarian Reform (DAR for short), now Department of Agrarian Reform (MAR for short).
On June 18, 1981, private respondents (then plaintiffs), instituted a complaint against Hon. Conrado Estrella as then Minister of Agrarian Reform, P.D. Macarambon as Regional Director of MAR Region IX, and herein petitioners (then defendants) for the declaration of P.D. 27 and all other Decrees, Letters of Instructions and General Orders issued in connection therewith as inapplicable to homestead lands.
Defendants filed their answer with special and affirmative defenses of July 8, 1981.
Subsequently, on July 19, 1982, plaintiffs filed an urgent motion to enjoin the defendants from declaring the lands in litigation under Operation Land Transfer and from being issued land transfer certificates to which the defendants filed their opposition dated August 4, 1982.
On November 5, 1982, the then Court of Agrarian Relations 16th Regional District, Branch IV, Pagadian City (now Regional Trial Court, 9th Judicial Region, Branch XVIII) rendered its decision dismissing the said complaint and the motion to enjoin the defendants was denied.
On January 4, 1983, plaintiffs moved to reconsider the Order of dismissal, to which defendants filed their opposition on January 10, 1983.
Thus, on April 29, 1986, the Regional Trial Court issued the aforequoted decision prompting defendants to move for a reconsideration but the same was denied in its Order dated June 6, 1986.
On appeal to the respondent Court of Appeals, the same was sustained in its judgment rendered on March 3, 1987, thus:
WHEREFORE, finding no reversible error thereof, the decision appealed from is hereby AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED. (p. 34, Rollo)
Hence, the present petition for review on certiorari.
The pivotal issue is whether or not lands obtained through homestead patent are covered by the Agrarian Reform under P.D. 27.
The question certainly calls for a negative answer.
We agree with the petitioners in saying that P.D. 27 decreeing the emancipation of tenants from the bondage of the soil and transferring to them ownership of the land they till is a sweeping social legislation, a remedial measure promulgated pursuant to the social justice precepts of the Constitution. However, such contention cannot be invoked to defeat the very purpose of the enactment of the Public Land Act or Commonwealth Act No. 141. Thus,
The Homestead Act has been enacted for the welfare and protection of the poor. The law gives a needy citizen a piece of land where he may build a modest house for himself and family and plant what is necessary for subsistence and for the satisfaction of life's other needs. The right of the citizens to their homes and to the things necessary for their subsistence is as vital as the right to life itself. They have a right to live with a certain degree of comfort as become human beings, and the State which looks after the welfare of the people's happiness is under a duty to safeguard the satisfaction of this vital right. (Patricio v. Bayog, 112 SCRA 45)
In this regard, the Philippine Constitution likewise respects the superiority of the homesteaders' rights over the rights of the tenants guaranteed by the Agrarian Reform statute. In point is Section 6 of Article XIII of the 1987 Philippine Constitution which provides:
Section 6. The State shall apply the principles of agrarian reform or stewardship, whenever applicable in accordance with law, in the disposition or utilization of other natural resources, including lands of public domain under lease or concession suitable to agriculture, subject to prior rights, homestead rights of small settlers, and the rights of indigenous communities to their ancestral lands.
Additionally, it is worthy of note that the newly promulgated Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988 or Republic Act No. 6657 likewise contains a proviso supporting the inapplicability of P.D. 27 to lands covered by homestead patents like those of the property in question, reading,
Section 6. Retention Limits. ...
... 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.'
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the decision of the respondent Court of Appeals sustaining the decision of the Regional Trial Court is hereby AFFIRMED.
Melencio-Herrera, (Chairperson), Padilla, Sarmiento and Regalado, JJ., concur.
** Penned by Justice Jorge R. Coquia and concurred in by Justices Josue N. Bellosillo and Venancio D. Aldecoa, Jr. of the Fourth Division.
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