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G.R. No.

176838

June 13, 2013

DEPARTMENT OF AGRARIAN REFORM, as represented by Fritzi C. Pantoja, in her capacity as the


Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer, DAR-Laguna, Petitioner,
vs.
PARAMOUNT HOLDINGS EQUITIES, INC., JIMMY CHUA, ROJAS CHUA, BENJAMIN SIM, SANTOS C.
TAN, WILLIAM C. LEE and STEWART C. LIM, Respondents.
DECISION
REYES, J.:
This resolves the Petition for Review1 filed by petitioner Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to assail the
Decision2 dated Oct8ber 12, 2006 and Resolution3 dated January 10, 2007 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in
CA-G.R. SP No. 89693, which granted Paramount Holdings Equities, Inc., Jimmy Chua, Rojas Chua,
Benjamin Sim, Santos C. Tan, William C. Lee and Stewart C. Lim's (respondents) appeal from the rulings of
the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB) in DARAB Case No. 12284.
The Antecedents
The case stems from the petition4 docketed as DARAB Case No. R 0403-0009-02, filed with the Office of
the Provincial Adjudicator (PARAD) by the DAR through Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer (PARO)
Felixberto Q. Kagahastian. The petition sought to nullify the sale to the respondents of several parcels of
land, with details of the sale as follows:
Vendee

Title No.

Area Covered

New Title

Vendor

Jimmy C. Chua and


Rojas Chua

T-37140

71,517 square
meters

T-196706

Golden Mountain
Agricultural Development
Corporation

Paramount
Holdings Equities, Inc.

T-37141

14,634 sq m

T-196705

Golden Mountain
Agricultural Development
Corporation

Paramount
Holdings Equities,
Inc.

T-37139

17,203 sq m

T-196704

Golden Mountain
Agricultural Development
Corporation

William C. Lee and


Steward C. Lim

T-37137

68,078 sq m

T-196707

Green Mountain
Agricultural Development
Corporation

Benjamin Sim and


Santos C. Tan

T-37138

66,114 sq m

T-196708

Green Mountain
Agricultural Development
Corporation

The PARO argued that the properties were agricultural land yet their sale was effected without DAR
Clearance as required under Republic Act No. 6657 (R.A. No. 6657), otherwise known as the
Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL). Allegedly, the PARO came to know of the transactions only
after he had received a directive from the Secretary of Agrarian Reform to investigate the matter, following
the latters receipt of a letter-request from persons5 who claimed to be the tenant-farmers of the properties
previous owners.6
The respondents opposed the petition, contending that since the matter involves an administrative
implementation of R.A. No. 6657, the case is cognizable by the Secretary of Agrarian Reform, not the
DARAB. They also sought the petitions dismissal on the grounds of prescription, litis pendentia, res
judicata and forum shopping.
The Ruling of the PARAD

On October 16, 2002, Provincial Adjudicator Virgilio M. Sorita (PA Sorita) issued a Resolution7 dismissing
the petition for lack of jurisdiction. He explained:
Petitioner further argued that the jurisdiction of the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board
includes and is not limited to those involving sale, alienation, mortgage, foreclosure, preemption and
redemption of agricultural lands under the coverage of CARP or other agrarian laws. These provisions were
originally lifted from Presidential Decree 946. The emphasis is on the phrase under the coverage of CARP
or other agrarian laws which definitely refers to land already placed under the Comprehensive Agrarian
Reform Program under R.A. 6657, lands already placed under Presidential Decree 27, landed estate
acquired by Land Bank of the Philippines and administered by the Department of Agrarian Reform pursuant
to the Provision of R.A. 3844 as amended and lands under the Settlement and Resettlement Project also
administered by the Department of Agrarian Reform for the simple reason that disputes and controversies
arising from these areas are agrarian reform matters. It does not include the sale, disposition or alienation
of private lands not administered by the DAR to private individuals such as in this instant case.
Petitioner also argued that jurisdiction of the Adjudication Board also covers violation of the Rules and
Guidelines in the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. This is true but such
violation is only confined to violations committed by beneficiaries of the program not like in the instant case,
otherwise, jurisdiction lies on the Regional Trial Court acting as Special Agrarian Court as clearly provided
by law.8 (Underscoring ours)
Furthermore, PA Sorita cited the absence of any showing that the petition was filed with the knowledge and
authority of the Solicitor General, as the official counsel of the government being the aggrieved party in the
dispute.
The DARs motion for reconsideration was denied, prompting the filing of an appeal with the DARAB.
The Ruling of the DARAB
The DARAB granted the appeal via a Decision9 dated August 18, 2004. The dispositive portion of the
Decision reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the assailed Decision is hereby REVERSED and/or SET ASIDE. A
new judgment is rendered nullifying the Deeds of Sale in question dated September 5, 1989 and ordering
the Register of Deeds of Laguna to cancel the aforesaid Deeds of Sale, as well as the Transfer Certificates
of Title issued to the respective private respondents concerned.
SO ORDERED.10
Contrary to the findings of PA Sorita, the DARAB ruled that: first, the failure of the parties to the sale to
obtain the required clearance indicates that their transactions were fraudulent;11 second, the PARO had the
personality to file the petition even in the absence of the Solicitor Generals assistance, citing Memorandum
Circular No. 2, series of 2001 (Circular No. 2), and the policy of DAR to "acquire and distribute all lands
covered by RA 6657, including those subject of illegal transfers x x x";12 and third, the DARAB has the
jurisdiction over the case, since its jurisdiction under Circular No. 2 covers the cancellation of deeds of
conveyance and corresponding transfer certificates of title over agricultural lands.13
The denial14 of the respondents motion for reconsideration led to the filing of a petition with the CA.
The Ruling of the CA
On October 12, 2006, the CA rendered the assailed Decision,15 the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is GRANTED. The appealed Decision (dated August 18, 2004) and
Resolution (dated March 16, 2005) of the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board-Central
Office, Elliptical Road, Diliman, Quezon City are ANNULLED and SET ASIDE. The Petition in DARAB Case
No. R-0403-0009-02 is hereby DISMISSED. No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.16

The CA emphasized that the DARABs jurisdiction over the dispute should be determined by the allegations
made in the petition. Since the action was essentially for the nullification of the subject properties sale, it
did not involve an agrarian suit that is within the DARABs jurisdiction.
DARs motion for reconsideration was denied in a Resolution17 dated January 10, 2007. Hence, this
petition.
The Present Petition
The Court has issued on June 6, 2007 a Resolution18 denying the petition on the following grounds: (a)
DARs failure to attach proof of service of the petition upon the CA as required by Section 3, Rule 45 in
relation to Section 5(d), Rule 56 of the Rules of Court; (b) the DARs failure to accompany the petition with
clearly legible duplicate original or certified true copies of the assailed CA decision and resolution, in
violation of Sections 4(d) and 5 of Rule 45, in relation to Section 5(d) of Rule 56; (c) the petition was
prepared by the DAR Region IV-Legal Assistance Division without the concurrence of the Office of the
Solicitor General (OSG); and (d) the petition failed to sufficiently show that the appellate court committed
any reversible error in the challenged decision and resolution as to warrant the exercise by the Court of its
discretionary appellate jurisdiction.
On October 15, 2007,19 the Court resolved to grant DARs motion to reconsider the dismissal, after it filed
its compliance and the OSG, its appearance and manifestation that it was adopting the petition and motion
for reconsideration filed by DAR.
On December 10, 2008, the Court again resolved to deny the petition on the ground of the OSGs failure to
obey a lawful order of the Court, following its failure to file the required reply despite the Courts grant of its
several motions for extension.20 On April 20, 2009, the Court resolved to grant DARs motion for
reconsideration and accordingly, reinstate the petition.21
The main issue for the Courts resolution is: Whether or not the DARAB has jurisdiction over the dispute
that seeks the nullification of the subject properties sale.
This Courts Ruling
The Court answers in the negative.
The jurisdiction of the DARAB is limited under the law, as it was created under Executive Order (E.O.) No.
129-A specifically to assume powers and functions with respect to the adjudication of agrarian reform cases
under E.O. No. 229 and E.O. No. 129-A.22 Significantly, it was organized under the Office of the Secretary
of Agrarian Reform. The limitation on the authority of it to mere agrarian reform matters is only consistent
with the extent of DARs quasi-judicial powers under R.A. No. 6657 and E.O. No. 229, which read:
SECTION 50 [of R.A. No. 6657]. Quasi-Judicial Powers of the DAR.The DAR is hereby vested with the
primary jurisdiction to determine and adjudicate agrarian reform matters and shall have exclusive original
jurisdiction over all matters involving the implementation of agrarian reform except those falling under the
exclusive jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Environment and Natural
Resources (DENR).
SECTION 17 [of E.O. No. 229]. Quasi-Judicial Powers of the DAR.The DAR is hereby vested with quasijudicial powers to determine and adjudicate agrarian reform matters, and shall have exclusive original
jurisdiction over all matters involving implementation of agrarian reform, except those falling under the
exclusive original jurisdiction of the DENR and the Department of Agriculture (DA).
Thus, Sections 1 and 2, Rule II of the DARAB New Rules of Procedure, which was adopted and
promulgated on May 30, 1994 and came into effect on June 21, 1994, identify the specific extent of the
DARABs and PARADs jurisdiction, as they read:
SECTION 1. Primary and Exclusive Original and Appellate Jurisdiction.The Board shall have primary and
exclusive jurisdiction, both original and appellate, to determine and adjudicate all agrarian disputes
involving the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) under Republic Act

No. 6657, Executive Order Nos. 228, 229 and 129-A, Republic Act No. 3844 as amended by Republic Act
No. 6389, Presidential Decree No. 27 and other agrarian laws and their implementing rules and regulations.
Specifically, such jurisdiction shall include but not be limited to cases involving the following:
a) The rights and obligations of persons, whether natural or juridical, engaged in the management,
cultivation and use of all agricultural lands covered by the CARP and other agrarian laws;
b) The valuation of land, and the preliminary determination and payment of just compensation, fixing
and collection of lease rentals, disturbance compensation, amortization payments, and similar
disputes concerning the functions of the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP);
c) The annulment or cancellation of lease contracts or deeds of sale or their amendments involving
lands under the administration and disposition of the DAR or LBP;
d) Those cases arising from, or connected with membership or representation in compact farms,
farmers cooperatives and other registered farmers associations or organizations, related to lands
covered by the CARP and other agrarian laws;
e) Those involving the sale, alienation, mortgage, foreclosure, pre-emption and redemption of
agricultural lands under the coverage of the CARP or other agrarian laws;
f) Those involving the issuance, correction and cancellation of Certificates of Land Ownership Award
(CLOAs) and Emancipation Patents (EPs) which are registered with the Land Registration Authority;
g) Those cases previously falling under the original and exclusive jurisdiction of the defunct Court of
Agrarian Relations under Section 12 of Presidential Decree No. 946, except sub-paragraph (q)
thereof and Presidential Decree No. 815.
It is understood that the aforementioned cases, complaints or petitions were filed with the DARAB after
August 29, 1987.
Matters involving strictly the administrative implementation of Republic Act No. 6657, otherwise known as
the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) of 1988 and other agrarian laws as enunciated by
pertinent rules shall be the exclusive prerogative of and cognizable by the Secretary of the DAR.
h) And such other agrarian cases, disputes, matters or concerns referred to it by the Secretary of the DAR.
SECTION 2. Jurisdiction of the Regional and Provincial Adjudicator.The RARAD and the PARAD shall
have concurrent original jurisdiction with the Board to hear, determine and adjudicate all agrarian cases and
disputes, and incidents in connection therewith, arising within their assigned territorial jurisdiction.
(Emphasis supplied)
Consistent with the aforequoted legal provisions, we emphasized in Heirs of Candido Del Rosario v. Del
Rosario23that the jurisdiction of the PARAD and the DARAB is only limited to cases involving agrarian
disputes, including incidents arising from the implementation of agrarian laws. Section 3(d) of R.A. No.
6657 defines an agrarian dispute in this manner:
(d) Agrarian dispute refers to any controversy relating to tenurial arrangements, whether leasehold,
tenancy, stewardship or otherwise, over lands devoted to agriculture, including disputes concerning
farmworkers associations or representation of persons in negotiating, fixing, maintaining, changing or
seeking to arrange terms or conditions of such tenurial arrangements. It includes any controversy relating
to compensation of lands acquired under R.A. 6657 and other terms and conditions of transfer of ownership
from landowners to farmworkers, tenants and other agrarian reform beneficiaries, whether the disputants
stand in the proximate relation of farm operator and beneficiary, landowner and tenant, or lessor and
lessee.
Basic is the rule that the "jurisdiction of a tribunal, including a quasi-judicial office or government agency,
over the nature and subject matter of a petition or complaint is determined by the material allegations
therein and the character of the relief prayed for irrespective of whether the petitioner or complainant is

entitled to any or all such reliefs."24 Upon the Courts perusal of the records, it has determined that the
PAROs petition with the PARAD failed to indicate an agrarian dispute.
Specifically, the PAROs petition failed to sufficiently allege any tenurial or agrarian relations that affect the
subject parcels of land. Although it mentioned a pending petition for coverage filed with DAR by supposed
farmers-tillers, there was neither such claim as a fact from DAR, nor a categorical statement or allegation
as to a determined tenancy relationship by the PARO or the Secretary of Agrarian Reform. The PAROs
petition merely states:
3.3 That the Provincial Office only came to know very recently about such transaction when the Office
received on two separate occasions a memorandum directive dated 22 October and 25 April 2002 from the
Office of the DAR Secretary to investigate and if warranted file a corresponding petition for nullification of
such transaction anent the petition for coverage of the actual occupants farmers-tillers led by spouses Josie
and Lourdes Samson who informed the Office of the DAR Secretary about such transaction. x x
x25 (Emphasis ours)
It is also undisputed, that even the petition filed with the PARAD failed to indicate otherwise, that the subject
parcels of land had not been the subject of any notice of coverage under the Comprehensive Agrarian
Reform Program (CARP). Clearly, the PAROs cause of action was merely founded on the absence of a
clearance to cover the sale and registration of the subject parcels of land, which were claimed in the
petition to be agricultural.
Given the foregoing, the CA correctly ruled that the DARAB had no jurisdiction over the PAROs petition.
While the Court recognizes the legal requirement for clearances in the sale and transfer of agricultural
lands, the DARABs jurisdiction over such disputes is limited by the qualification under Rule II, Section 1,
paragraphs (c) and (e) of the DARAB New Rules of Procedure, which read:
c) The annulment or cancellation of lease contracts or deeds of sale or their amendments involving lands
under the administration and disposition of the DAR or LBP;
xxxx
e) Those involving the sale, alienation, mortgage, foreclosure, pre emption and redemption of agricultural
lands under the coverage of the CARP or other agrarian laws. (Emphasis ours)
Even Circular No. 2 cited in the Decision26 dated August 18, 2004 on the authority of the PARO to file
petitions with the PARAD in case of illegal transfers presupposes the fulfillment of the conditions in the cited
Section 1, paragraphs (c) and (e), Rule II of the DARAB Rules and Section 50 of R.A. No. 6657. The
pertinent provisions of Circular No. 2 read:
SECTION 4. Operating Procedures.The procedures for annulment of deeds of conveyance executed in
violation of RA 6657 are as follows:
xxxx
b) The Chief, Legal Division, of the Provincial Agrarian Reform Office, shall have the following
responsibilities:
xxxx
2. If there was illegal transfer, file a petition for annulment of the deed of conveyance in behalf of the PARO
before the Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator (PARAD). The petition shall state the material facts
constituting the violation and pray for the issuance of an order from the PARAD directing the ROD to cancel
the deed of conveyance and the TCT generated as a result thereof. As legal basis therefor, the petition
shall cite Section 50 of RA 6657 and Rule II, Section 1(c) and (e) of the DARAB New Rules of Procedure;
xxxx

6. In the event of an adverse decision or a denial of the petition, file a Notice of Appeal within the 15-day
reglementary period with the DARAB, and, thereafter, transmit the records of the case to the Director,
Bureau of Agrarian Legal Assistance (BALA), for prosecution of the appeal.
Clearly, not every sale or transfer of agricultural land would warrant DARABs exercise of its jurisdiction.
The law is specific that the property must be shown to be under the coverage of agrarian reform laws. As
the CA correctly ruled:
It is easily discernable x x x that the cause of action of the DAR sufficiently established a suit for the
declaration of the sale of the subject landholdings null and void (in violation of Administrative Order No. 1,
Series of 1989). Obviously, it does not involve an agrarian suit, hence, does not fall under the jurisdiction of
the DARAB. It must be emphasized that, "(t)here must be a tenancy relationship between the party litigants
for the DARAB to validly take cognizance of a controversy." (Suarez vs. Saul, 473 SCRA 628). Also, it is
necessary that the controversy must relate to "tenurial arrangements, whether leasehold, tenancy,
stewardship or otherwise, over lands devoted to agriculture, including disputes concerning farmworkers
associations or representation of persons in negotiating, fixing, maintaining, changing or seeking to arrange
terms or conditions of such tenurial arrangements," (Section 3 (d), Chapter I in relation to Section 50,
Chapter XII, R.A. 6657 and Section 1, Rule II, DARAB Rules of [Procedure]). Here, an allegation to declare
null and void a certain sale of a landholding does not ipso facto make the case an agrarian
dispute.27 (Emphasis ours)
Our finding on the DARABs lack of jurisdiction over the PAROs petition renders it needless for the Court to
discuss the other issues that are raised in the petition. In any case, the Court finds it worthy to discuss that
the original petition remains dismissible on the merits.
Even during the proceedings before the PARAD, the respondents have raised the pendency with the
Regional Trial Court of Bian, Laguna of Civil Case No. B-5862, an appeal from the decision of the
Municipal Trial Court of Santa Rosa, Laguna in Civil Case No. 2478. The records indicate that when the
matter was elevated to the CA via the petition docketed as CA G.R. SP No. 68110, the appellate court
declared the subject properties to have long been reclassified from "agricultural" to "industrial". Thus, the
CA Decision dated September 23, 2002 in CA-G.R. SP No. 68110 reads in part:
As to the nature of the subject lands, the tax declarations of real property, the annual receipts for real estate
taxes paid, and zoning ordinance, providing for the Town Comprehensive Land Use Plan of Sta. Rosa,
Laguna, have always classified the lands as "industrial". Moreover, as certified by the Municipal Agrarian
Reform Office of Sta. Rosa, Laguna, there is no record of tenancy or written agricultural leasehold contract
with respect to the subject lands, nor are the same covered by Operation Land Transfer pursuant to P.D.
27. Thus, for being industrial in nature, the subject lands are outside the ambit of existing agricultural
tenancy laws.28 (Citations omitted)
An appeal from the CAs decision was denied by the Court in a Resolution dated June 18, 2003.29
The Housing Land Use Regulatory Board has affirmed through a Certification30 dated May 22, 1991 that the
zoning ordinance referred to was approved on December 2, 1981. Thus, the respondents correctly argued
that since the subject properties were already classified as "industrial" long before the effectivity of the
CARL, their sale could not have been covered by the CARP and the requirement for a clearance.
Significantly, DAR failed to refute said allegation, which the Court finds duly supported by documents that
form part of the case records.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is DISMISSED. The Decision dated October 12, 2006
and Resolution dated January 10, 2007 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 89693 are AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 180013

January 31, 2011

DEL MONTE PHILIPPINES INC. EMPLOYEES AGRARIAN REFORM BENEFICIARIES COOPERATIVE


(DEARBC), Petitioner,
vs.
JESUS SANGUNAY and SONNY LABUNOS, Respondents.
DECISION
MENDOZA, J.:
This is a petition for review on certiorari1 assailing the Resolutions2 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No.
01715, which dismissed the petition filed by Del Monte Philippines Inc. Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries
Cooperative (DEARBC), challenging the May 12, 2006 Decision3 of the Central Office of the Department of Agrarian
Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB). For lack of jurisdiction, the DARAB reversed and set aside the ruling of the
DARAB Regional Adjudicator (Adjudicator) who ordered the respondents to peacefully vacate certain portions of the
subject landholding.4
The Court is now urged to rule on the issue of jurisdiction of regular courts over petitions for recovery of
possession vis--vis the original, primary and exclusive jurisdiction of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR)and
the DARAB over agrarian disputes and/or agrarian reform implementation as provided for under Section 50 of
Republic Act No. 6657 (R.A. 6657).
The Facts
The property subject of this case is a portion of an entire landholding located in Sankanan, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon,
with an area of 1,861,922 square meters, more or less, covered by Original Certificate of Title No. AO-3 [Certificate of
Land Ownership Award (CLOA)].5 The said landholding was awarded to DEARBC, an agrarian cooperative and
beneficiary under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). Subsequently, DEARBC leased a
substantial portion of the land to Del Monte Philippines, Inc. (DMPI) under Section 8 of R.A. No. 6657 through a
Growers Contract dated February 21, 1989.
On July 7, 1998, DEARBC filed a complaint for Recovery of Possession and Specific Performance with Damages 6with
the DARAB Region 10 Office against several respondents, among whom were Jesus Sangunay (Sangunay)and
Sonny Labunos (Labunos).
Essentially, DEARBC claimed that both Sangunay and Labunos illegally entered portions of its property called "Field
34." Sangunay utilized approximately one and a half (1 ) hectare portion 7 where he planted corn, built a house and
resided from 1986 to the present. Labunos, on the other hand, tilled an area of approximately eight (8) hectares where
he planted fruit trees, gmelina, mahogany and other crops as a source of his livelihood. 8 Both respondents refused to
return the parcels of land notwithstanding a demand to vacate them. This illegal occupation resulted in the deprivation
of the proper and reasonable use of the land and damages.
On December 11, 1990, the Adjudicator ruled in favor of DEARBC on the ground that the respondents failed to present
proof of ownership over the subject portions of the landholding. According to the Adjudicator, their bare allegation of
possession, even prior to the award of the land to DEARBC, did not suffice as proof of ownership. Thus:
In the series of hearing conducted by this Adjudicator and in the position papers submitted by some of the defendants,
none of them was able to present proof, either documentary or otherwise, that they owned the areas they respectively
occupied and cultivate[d], or that their occupation and cultivation was with the consent and authority of the
complainant.
X x x against all reasons, the fact remains that their occupation and cultivation thereof, granting it is true, have not
been validated by the DAR and they were not among the identified FBs over the said subject landholding. 9
Aggrieved, respondents elevated the case to the DARAB Central Office before which Sangunay filed his position
paper. He claimed that the subject property was located along the Maninit River and was an accrual deposit. He

inherited the land from his father in 1948 and had since been in open, public, adverse, peaceful, actual, physical, and
continuous possession thereof in the concept of an owner. He cultivated and lived on the land with the knowledge of
DEARBC. Sangunay presented Tax Declaration No. 15-018 and Real Property Historical Ownership issued by the
Municipal Assessor of Manolo Fortrich, showing that he had declared the property for taxation purposes long before
DEARBC acquired it. In sum, Sangunay asserted that, as a qualified farmer-beneficiary, he was entitled to security of
tenure under the agrarian reform law and, at any rate, he had already acquired the land by prescription.
For his part, Labunos reiterated the above arguments and added that the subject portion of the landholding was
previously owned by one Genis Valdenueza who sold it to his father, Filoteo, as early as 1950. Like Sangunay, he
asserted rights of retention and ownership by prescription because he had been in open, public, adverse, peaceful,
actual, physical, and continuous possession of the landholding in the concept of an owner.10
In its May 12, 2006 Decision,11 the DARAB dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction. It ruled that the issue of
ownership of the subject land classifies the controversy as a regular case falling within the jurisdiction of regular courts
and not as an agrarian dispute.12 Thus:
X x x the plaintiff-appellees cause of action is for the recovery of possession and specific performance with damages
with respect to the subject landholding. Such cause of action flows from the plaintiff-appellees contention that it owns
the subject landholding. On the other hand, defendant-appellants refuted and assailed such ownership as to their
respective landholdings. Thus, the only question in this case is who owns the said landholdings. Without doubt, the
said question classified the instant controversy to a regular case. At this premise, We hold that the only issue to be
resolved by this Board is whether or not the instant case presents an agrarian dispute and is therefore well within Our
jurisdiction.
xxx
In the case at bar, petitioner-appellants wanted to recover x x the subject landholding on the premise of ownership
xxx. Defendants-appellants assail such allegations saying that the landholdings are accrual deposits and maintaining
their open, peaceful and adverse possession over the same. Indubitably, there assertions and issues classify the
present controversy as a regular case. As such, clearly, this Board has no jurisdiction to rule upon the instant case.
Obviously, the dispute between the parties does not relate to any tenurial arrangement. Thus, this Board has no
jurisdiction over the same.
DEARBC challenged the DARAB Decision in the CA through a petition for review filed under Rule 43 of the Rules of
Civil Procedure. In its Resolution dated June 27, 2007, 13 the CA dismissed the petition for procedural infirmities in its
verification, certification and attachments, viz:
1) The Verification and Certification is defective due to the following reasons:
a) There is no assurance that the allegations in the petition are based on personal knowledge and in
authentic records, in violation of Section 4 par. (2), Rule 7 of the Revised Rules of Civil Procedure;
b) The Community Tax Certificate Nos. of the affiant therein are not indicated;
c) The affiant is not authorized to sign the same for and in behalf of the petitioner cooperative;
2) The attached copies of the Motion for Reconsideration filed before the DARAB Quezon City and the
Complaint filed before the DAR, Region XD, and the Decision and Resolution rendered therein are mere plain
photocopies, in violation of Sec. 6 par. (c), Rule 43, supra.
In a motion for reconsideration, DEARBC invoked substantial compliance with the pertinent procedural rules, pointing
to the attached Secretarys Certificate as sufficient proof of authority given to the President and Chairman of the
Board, Dennis Hojas (Hojas), to represent DEARBC. On August 24, 2007,14 the CA denied the motion because
DEARBC failed to attach a copy of the board resolution showing Hojas authority to file the petition. This was a fatal
error that warranted dismissal of the petition, according to the appellate court.
Hence, this petition for review.

With regard to the dismissal of the case by the CA on technical grounds, the Court is of the view that it was correct.
DEARBC clearly failed to comply with the rules which mistake was a fatal error warranting the dismissal of the petition
for review. However, it has been the constant ruling of this Court that every party-litigant should be afforded the
amplest opportunity for the proper and just disposition of his cause, free from constraints of technicalities. 15 Rules of
procedure are mere tools designed to expedite the resolution of cases and other matters pending in court. A strict and
rigid application of the rules that would result in technicalities that tend to frustrate rather than promote justice must be
avoided.16 Thus, the Court opts to brush aside the procedural flaw and resolve the core issue of jurisdiction as it has
been discussed by the parties anyway.
Position of the Parties
DEARBC claims that the action it filed for recovery of possession falls within the jurisdiction of the DARAB because it
partakes of either a boundary dispute, a correction of a CLOA or an ouster of an interloper or intruder found under
Section 1 of Rule 11 of the 2003 DARAB Rules of Procedure 17 and Administrative Order 03 Series of 2003.18 Under
those rules, any conflict involving agricultural lands and the rights of beneficiaries is within the jurisdiction of the
DARAB.
In his Comment,19 Labunos argues that only questions of law may be resolved in appeals under Rule 45 and that it is
the decision of the CA which must be challenged and not the DARAB decision. On the merits, he cites cases where
this Court ruled that the jurisdiction of the DARAB is limited only to agrarian disputes and other matters relating to the
implementation of the CARP. The subject land has not been transferred, distributed and/or sold to tenants, and it is
obvious that the complaint is not for the correction of a title but for the recovery of possession and specific
performance. Issues of possession may be dealt with by the DARAB only when they relate to agrarian disputes.
Otherwise, jurisdiction lies with the regular courts.
Sangunay prays that he be declared as the owner of the land, particularly his area in Field 34, based on the following
grounds: 1] that the tax receipts and Tax Declaration No. 15-018 were issued in his name; 2] that R.A. No. 6657
provides that farmers already in place and those not accommodated in the distribution of privately-owned lands must
be given preferential rights in the distribution of lands from the public domain (to which the subject land as an
accretion belongs); and 3] that acquisitive prescription had set in his favor.
The Courts Ruling
The Court finds no merit in the petition.
Where a question of jurisdiction between the DARAB and the Regional Trial Court is at the core of a dispute, basic
jurisprudential tenets come into play. It is the rule that the jurisdiction of a tribunal, including a quasi-judicial office or
government agency, over the nature and subject matter of a petition or complaint is determined by the material
allegations therein and the character of the relief prayed for 20 irrespective of whether the petitioner or complainant is
entitled to any or all such reliefs.21 In the same vein, jurisdiction of the court over the subject matter of the action is not
affected by the pleas or the theories set up by the defendant in an answer or a motion to dismiss. Otherwise,
jurisdiction will become dependent almost entirely upon the whims of the defendant. 22
Under Section 50 of R.A. No. 665723 and as held in a string of cases, "the DAR is vested with the primary jurisdiction
to determine and adjudicate agrarian reform matters and shall have the exclusive jurisdiction over all matters involving
the implementation of the agrarian reform program." 24 The DARAB was created, thru Executive Order No. 109-A, to
assume the powers and functions with respect to the adjudication of agrarian reform cases. Hence, all matters
involving the implementation of agrarian reform are within the DARs primary, exclusive and original jurisdiction. At the
first instance, only the DARAB, as the DARs quasi-judicial body, can determine and adjudicate all agrarian disputes,
cases, controversies, and matters or incidents involving the implementation of the CARP.25 An agrarian dispute refers
to any controversy relating to tenurial arrangements, whether leasehold, tenancy, stewardship, or otherwise, over
lands devoted to agriculture, including disputes concerning farmworkers associations or representation of persons in
negotiating, fixing, maintaining, changing, or seeking to arrange terms or conditions of such tenurial arrangements. It
includes any controversy relating to compensation of lands acquired under this Act and other terms and conditions of
transfer of ownership from landowner to farmworkers, tenants, and other agrarian reform beneficiaries, whether the
disputants stand in the proximate relation of farm operator and beneficiary, landowner and tenant, or lessor and
lessee.26

The following allegations were essentially contained in the complaints filed separately against the respondents before
the DARAB with some variance in the amount of damages and fees prayed for:
1. The complainant is an agrarian cooperative duly registered and organized under the laws of the Republic of
the Philippines xxx.
2. Complainant is an awardee of Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), situated at Limbona,
Bukidnon under Original Certificate of Title A-3 as evidenced by Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA)
xxx.
xxxx
5. The defendant illegally entered and tilled the land owned by the complainant, inside the portion of Field 34,
with an area of one and a half (1 ) hectares, more or less, located at Sankanan, Manolo Fortrich, Bukidnon
xxx.
xxxx
8. Demands were made by the complainant for the defendant to vacate the premises but the latter adamantly
refused and did not vacate the area xxx.
9. The defendant has caused actual damages in the amount of xxx in the form of back rentals and an
estimated amount of xxx brought about by the defendant for all his unlawful acts towards the land and the
owner of the land.
10. To recover the possession of the land and to protect and vindicate its rights, the complainant was
compelled to engage the servces of a legal counsel x x x
P R AY E R
WHEREFORE, premises considered, it is most respectfully prayed of this Honorable Board, that a decision be
rendered:
Ejecting the defendant from the subject landholding and/or causing him to cede possession of the land to
complainant. [Emphasis ours]
xxxx
Verily, all that DEARBC prayed for was the ejectment of the respondents from the respective portions of the subject
lands they allegedly entered and occupied illegally. DEARBC avers that, as the owner of the subject landholding, it
was in prior physical possession of the property but was deprived of it by respondents intrusion.
Clearly, no "agrarian dispute" exists between the parties. The absence of tenurial arrangements, whether leasehold,
tenancy, stewardship or otherwise, cannot be overlooked. In this case, no juridical tie of landownership and tenancy
was alleged between DEARBC and Sangunay or Labunos, which would so categorize the controversy as an agrarian
dispute. In fact, the respondents were contending for the ownership of the same parcels of land. 27
This set of facts clearly comprises an action for recovery of possession. The claim of being farmer-beneficiaries with
right of retention will not divest the regular courts of jurisdiction, since the pleas of the defendant in a case are
immaterial.
The ruling in DAR v. Hon. Hakim S. Abdulwahid and Yupangco Cotton Mills, Inc. 28 is inapplicable to the present case.
The complaint in Abdulwahid "impugn(ed) the CARP coverage of the landholding involved and its redistribution to
farmer beneficiaries, and (sought) to effect a reversion thereof to the original owner, Yupangco" and essentially prayed
for the annulment of the coverage of the disputed property within the CARP. The dispute was on the "terms and
conditions of transfer of ownership from landlord to agrarian reform beneficiaries over which DARAB has primary and
exclusive original jurisdiction, pursuant to Section 1(f), Rule II, DARAB New Rules of Procedure." 29

Although the complaint filed by DEARBC was similarly denominated as one for recovery of possession, it utterly lacks
allegations to persuade the Court into ruling that the issue encompasses an agrarian dispute.1wphi1
DEARBCs argument that this case partakes of either a boundary dispute, correction of a CLOA, and ouster of an
interloper or intruder, as found under Section 1, Rule 11 of the 2003 DARAB Rules of Procedure, 30 is unavailing.
Nowhere in the complaint was the correction or cancellation of the CLOA prayed for, much less mentioned. DEARBC
merely asserted its sole ownership of the awarded land and no boundary dispute was even hinted at.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 154112

September 23, 2004

DEPARTMENT OF AGRARIAN REFORM, petitioner,


vs.
ROBERTO J. CUENCA and Hon. ALFONSO B. COMBONG JR., in His Capacity as the Presiding Judge of
the Regional Trial Court, Branch 63, La Carlota City, respondents.
DECISION
PANGANIBAN, J.:
All controversies on the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) fall under the
jurisdiction of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), even though they raise questions that are also legal or
constitutional in nature. All doubts should be resolved in favor of the DAR, since the law has granted it special
and original authority to hear and adjudicate agrarian matters.
The Case
Before us is a Petition for Review1 under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, assailing the March 15, 2002
Decision2and the June 18, 2002 Resolution3 of the Court of Appeals in CA-GR SP No. 58536. In the challenged
Decision, the CA disposed as follows:
"As previously stated, the principal issue raised in the court below involves a pure question of law. Thus,
it being clear that the court a quo has jurisdiction over the nature and subject matter of the case below, it
did not commit grave abuse of discretion when it issued the assailed order denying petitioners motion to
dismiss and granting private respondents application for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction.
"WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is denied due course and is accordingly
DISMISSED."4
The assailed Resolution, on the other hand, denied petitioners Motion for Reconsideration.
The Facts

The CA narrated the facts as follows:


"Private respondent Roberto J. Cuenca is the registered owner of a parcel of land designated as Lot No.
816-A and covered by TCT No. 1084, containing an area of 81.6117 hectares, situated in Brgy. Haguimit,
La Carlota City and devoted principally to the planting of sugar cane.
"On 21 September 1999, Noe Fortunado, Municipal Agrarian Reform Officer (MARO) of La Carlota City
issued and sent a NOTICE OF COVERAGE to private respondent Cuenca placing the above-described
landholding under the compulsory coverage of R.A. 6657, otherwise known as the Comprehensive
Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). The NOTICE OF COVERAGE also stated that the Land Bank of the
Philippines (LBP) will determine the value of the subject land pursuant to Executive Order No. 405 dated
14 June 1990.
"On 29 September 1999, private respondent Cuenca filed with the Regional Trial Court, Branch 63, La
Carlota City, a complaint against Noe Fortunado and Land Bank of the Philippines for Annulment of
Notice of Coverage and Declaration of Unconstitutionality of E.O. No. 405, Series of 1990, With
Preliminary Injunction and Restraining Order. The case was docketed as Civil Case No. 713.
"In his complaint, Cuenca alleged, inter alia, that the implementation of CARP in his landholding is no
longer with authority of law considering that, if at all, the implementation should have commenced and
should have been completed between June 1988 to June 1992, as provided in the Comprehensive
Agrarian Reform Law (CARL); that the placing of the subject landholding under CARP is without the
imprimatur of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) and the Provincial Agrarian Reform
Coordinating Committee (PARCOM) as required by R.A. 7905; that Executive Order No. 405 dated 14
June 1990 amends, modifies and/or repeals CARL and, therefore, it is unconstitutional considering that
on 14 June 1990, then President Corazon Aquino no longer had law-making powers; that the NOTICE
OF COVERAGE is a gross violation of PD 399 dated 28 February 1974.
"Private respondent Cuenca prayed that the Notice of Coverage be declared null and void ab initio and
Executive Order No. 405 dated 14 June 1990 be declared unconstitutional.
"On 05 October 1999, MARO Noe Fortunado filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on the ground that
the court a quo has no jurisdiction over the nature and subject matter of the action, pursuant to R.A.
6657.
"On 12 January 2000, the respondent Judge issued a Temporary Restraining Order directing MARO and
LBP to cease and desist from implementing the Notice of Coverage. In the same order, the respondent
Judge set the hearing on the application for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction on January 17
and 18, 2000.
"On 14 January 2000, MARO Fortunado filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the order granting the TRO
contending inter alia that the DAR, through the MARO, in the course of implementing the Notice of
Coverage under CARP cannot be enjoined through a Temporary Restraining Order in the light of
Sections 55 and 68 of R.A. 6657.
"In an order dated 16 February 2000, the respondent Judge denied MARO Noe Fortunados motion to
dismiss and issued a Writ of Preliminary Injunction directing Fortunado and all persons acting in his
behalf to cease and desist from implementing the Notice of Coverage, and the LBP from proceeding with
the determination of the value of the subject land.
"The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) [thereafter filed before the CA] a petition for certiorari under
Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, assailing the writ of preliminary injunction issued by
respondent Judge on the ground of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction.

"It is the submission of the petitioner that the assailed order is in direct defiance of Republic Act 6657,
particularly Section 55 and 68 thereof, which read:
SECTION 55. NO RESTRAINING ORDERS OR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTIONS No court in
the Philippines shall have jurisdiction to issue any restraining order or writ of preliminary
injunction against the PARC or any of its duly authorized or designated agencies in any case,
dispute or controversy arising from, necessary to, or in connection with the application,
implementation, or enforcement or interpretation of this Act and other pertinent laws on agrarian
reform.
SECTION 68 IMMUNITY OF GOVERNMENT AGENCIES FROM COURTS INTERFERENCE
No injunction, Restraining Order, prohibition or mandamus shall be issued by the lower court
against the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), the Department of Agriculture (DA), the
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and the Department of Justice
(DOJ) in the implementation of their program.
"Petitioner contends that by virtue of the above provisions, all lower courts, such as the court presided
over by respondent Judge, are barred if not prohibited by law to issue orders of injunctions against the
Department of Agrarian Reform in the full implementation of the Notice of Coverage which is the initial
step of acquiring lands under R.A. 6657.
"Petitioner also contends that the nature and subject matter of the case below is purely agrarian in
character over which the court a quo has no jurisdiction and that therefore, it had no authority to issue
the assailed injunction order."5
Ruling of the Court of Appeals
Stressing that the issue was not simply the improper issuance of the Notice of Coverage, but was mainly the
constitutionality of Executive Order No. 405, the CA ruled that the Regional Trial Court (RTC) had jurisdiction
over the case. Consonant with that authority, the court a quo also had the power to issue writs and processes to
enforce or protect the rights of the parties.
The appellate court likewise held that petitioners reliance on Sections 55 and 68 of RA 6657 had been
misplaced, because the case was not about a purely agrarian matter. It opined that the prohibition in certain
statutes against such writs pertained only to injunctions against administrative acts, to controversies involving
facts, or to the exercise of discretion in technical cases. But on issues involving pure questions of law, courts
were not prevented from exercising their power to restrain or prohibit administrative acts.
Hence, this Petition.6
Issues
In its Memorandum, petitioner raises the following issues:
"1. The Honorable Court of Appeals committed serious error by not taking into cognizance that the
issues raised in the complaint filed by the private respondent, which seeks to exclude his land from the
coverage of the CARP, is an agrarian reform matter and within the jurisdiction of the DAR, not with the
trial court.
"2. The Honorable Court of Appeals, with due respect, gravely abused its discretion by sustaining the writ
of injunction issued by the trial court, which is a violation of Sections 55 and 68 of Republic Act No.
6657."7
The Courts Ruling

The Petition has merit.


First Issue:
Jurisdiction
In its bare essentials, petitioners argument is that private respondent, in his Complaint for Annulment of the
Notice of Coverage, is asking for the exclusion of his landholding from the coverage of the Comprehensive
Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). According to the DAR, the issue involves the implementation of agrarian
reform, a matter over which the DAR has original and exclusive jurisdiction, pursuant to Section 50 of the
Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (RA 6657).
On the other hand, private respondent maintains that his Complaint assails mainly the constitutionality of EO
405. He contends that since the Complaint raises a purely legal issue, it thus falls within the jurisdiction of the
RTC. We do not agree.
Conflicts involving jurisdiction over agrarian disputes are as tortuous as the history of Philippine agrarian reform
laws. The changing jurisdictional landscape is matched only by the tumultuous struggle for, and resistance to,
the breaking up and distribution of large landholdings.
Two Basic Rules
Two basic rules have guided this Court in determining jurisdiction in these cases. First, jurisdiction is conferred
by law.8 And second, the nature of the action and the issue of jurisdiction are shaped by the material averments
of the complaint and the character of the relief sought. 9 The defenses resorted to in the answer or motion to
dismiss are disregarded; otherwise, the question of jurisdiction would depend entirely upon the whim of the
defendant.10
Grant of Jurisdiction
Ever since agrarian reform legislations began, litigants have invariably sought the aid of the courts. Courts of
Agrarian Relations (CARs) were organized under RA 1267 11 "[f]or the enforcement of all laws and regulations
governing the relation of capital and labor on all agricultural lands under any system of cultivation." The
jurisdiction of these courts was spelled out in Section 7 of the said law as follows:
"Sec. 7. Jurisdiction of the Court. - The Court shall have original and exclusive jurisdiction over the entire
Philippines, to consider, investigate, decide, and settle all questions, matters, controversies or disputes
involving all those relationships established by law which determine the varying rights of persons in the
cultivation and use of agricultural land where one of the parties works the land, and shall have
concurrent jurisdiction with the Court of First Instance over employer and farm employee or labor under
Republic Act Numbered six hundred two and over landlord and tenant involving violations of the Usury
Law (Act No. 2655, as amended) and of inflicting the penalties provided therefor."
All the powers and prerogatives inherent in or belonging to the then Courts of First Instance 12 (now the RTCs)
were granted to the CARs. The latter were further vested by the Agricultural Land Reform Code (RA 3844) with
original and exclusive jurisdiction over the following matters:
"(1) All cases or actions involving matters, controversies, disputes, or money claims arising from agrarian
relations: x x x
"(2) All cases or actions involving violations of Chapters I and II of this Code and Republic Act Number
eight hundred and nine; and
"(3) Expropriations to be instituted by the Land Authority: x x x." 13

Presidential Decree (PD) No. 946 thereafter reorganized the CARs, streamlined their operations, and expanded
their jurisdiction as follows:
"Sec. 12. Jurisdiction over Subject Matter. - The Courts of Agrarian Relations shall have original and
exclusive jurisdiction over:
a) Cases involving the rights and obligations of persons in the cultivation and use of agricultural
land except those cognizable by the National Labor Relations Commission; x x x ;
b) Questions involving rights granted and obligations imposed by laws, Presidential Decrees,
Orders, Instructions, Rules and Regulations issued and promulgated in relation to the agrarian
reform program; Provided, however, That matters involving the administrative implementation of
the transfer of the land to the tenant-farmer under Presidential Decree No. 27 and amendatory
and related decrees, orders, instructions, rules and regulations, shall be exclusively cognizable
by the Secretary of Agrarian Reform, namely:
(1) classification and identification of landholdings;
(2) x x x;
(3) parcellary mapping;
(4) x x x;
xxx

xxx

xxx

m) Cases involving expropriation of all kinds of land in furtherance of the agrarian reform program;
xxx

xxx

xxx

p) Ejectment proceedings instituted by the Department of Agrarian Reform and the Land Bank involving
lands under their administration and disposition, except urban properties belonging to the Land Bank;
q) Cases involving violations of the penal provisions of Republic Act Numbered eleven hundred and
ninety-nine, as amended, Republic Act Numbered thirty eight hundred and forty-four, as amended,
Presidential Decrees and laws relating to agrarian reform; Provided, however, That violations of the said
penal provisions committed by any Judge shall be tried by the courts of general jurisdiction; and
r) Violations of Presidential Decrees Nos. 815 and 816.
The CARs were abolished, however, pursuant to Section 4414 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 12915 (approved August
14, 1981), which had fully been implemented on February 14, 1983. Jurisdiction over cases theretofore given to
the CARs was vested in the RTCs.16
Then came Executive Order No. 229.17 Under Section 17 thereof, the DAR shall exercise "quasi-judicial powers
to determine and adjudicate agrarian reform matters, and shall have exclusive jurisdiction over all matters
involving implementation of agrarian reform, except those falling under the exclusive original jurisdiction of the
DENR and the Department of Agriculture [DA]." The DAR shall also have the "powers to punish for contempt and
to issue subpoena, subpoena duces tecum and writs to enforce its orders or decisions."
In Quismundo v. CA,18 this provision was deemed to have repealed Section 12 (a) and (b) of Presidential Decree
No. 946, which vested the then Courts of Agrarian Relations with "original exclusive jurisdiction over cases and
questions involving rights granted and obligations imposed by presidential issuances promulgated in relation to
the agrarian reform program."

Under Section 4 of Executive Order No. 129-A, the DAR was also made "responsible for implementing the
Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program." In accordance with Section 5 of the same EO, it possessed the
following powers and functions:
"(b) Implement all agrarian laws, and for this purpose, punish for contempt and issue subpoena,
subpoena duces tecum, writs of execution of its decisions, and other legal processes to ensure
successful and expeditious program implementation; the decisions of the Department may in proper
cases, be appealed to the Regional Trial Courts but shall be immediately executory notwithstanding such
appeal;
xxx

xxx

xxx

"(h) Provide free legal services to agrarian reform beneficiaries and resolve agrarian conflicts and landtenure related problems as may be provided for by law;
xxx

xxx

xxx

"(l) Have exclusive authority to approve or disapprove conversion of agricultural lands for residential,
commercial, industrial, and other land uses as may be provided x x x."
The above grant of jurisdiction to the DAR covers these areas:
(a) adjudication of all matters involving implementation of agrarian reform;
(b) resolution of agrarian conflicts and land tenure related problems; and
(c) approval or disapproval of the conversion, restructuring or readjustment of agricultural lands
into residential, commercial, industrial, and other non-agricultural uses.
The foregoing provision was as broad as those "theretofore vested in the Regional Trial Court by Presidential
Decree No. 946," as the Court ruled in Vda. de Tangub v. CA,19 which we quote:
"x x x. The intention evidently was to transfer original jurisdiction to the Department of Agrarian Reform, a
proposition stressed by the rules formulated and promulgated by the Department for the implementation
of the executive orders just quoted. The rules included the creation of the Agrarian Reform Adjudication
Board designed to exercise the adjudicatory functions of the Department, and the allocation to it of
x x x [O]riginal and exclusive jurisdiction over the subject matter vested upon it by law, and all
cases, disputes, controversies and matters or incidents involving the implementation of the
Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program under Executive Order No. 229, Executive Order No.
129-A, Republic Act No. 3844, as amended by Republic Act No. 6289, Presidential Decree No.
27 and other agrarian laws and their implementing rules and regulations.
"The implementing rules also declare that (s)pecifically, such jurisdiction shall extend over but not be
limited to x x x (that theretofore vested in the Regional Trial Courts, i.e.) (c)ases involving the rights and
obligations of persons engaged in the cultivation and use of agricultural land covered by the
Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and other agrarian laws x x x." 20
In the same case, the Court also held that the jurisdictional competence of the DAR had further been clarified by
RA 6657 thus:
"x x x. The Act [RA 6657] makes references to and explicitly recognizes the effectivity and applicability of
Presidential Decree No. 229. More particularly, the Act echoes the provisions of Section 17 of
Presidential Decree No. 229, supra, investing the Department of Agrarian Reform with original
jurisdiction, generally, over all cases involving agrarian laws, although, as shall shortly be pointed out, it

restores to the Regional Trial Court, limited jurisdiction over two groups of cases. Section 50 reads as
follows:
SEC. 50. Quasi-Judicial Powers of the DAR. The DAR is hereby vested with primary
jurisdiction to determine and adjudicate agrarian reform matters and shall have exclusive original
jurisdiction over all matters involving the implementation of agrarian reform, except those falling
under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture [DA] and the Department of
Environment and Natural Resources [DENR].
xxx

xxx

xxx

It shall have the power to summon witnesses, administer oaths, take testimony, require
submission of reports, compel the production of books and documents and answers to
interrogatories and issue subpoena and subpoena duces tecum and to enforce its writs through
sheriffs or other duly deputized officers. It shall likewise have the power to punish direct and
indirect contempt in the same manner and subject to the same penalties as provided in the Rules
of Court."21
Nonetheless, we have held that the RTCs have not been completely divested of jurisdiction over agrarian reform
matters. Section 56 of RA 6657 confers special jurisdiction on "Special Agrarian Courts," which are actually
RTCs designated as such by the Supreme Court.22 Under Section 57 of the same law, these Special Agrarian
Courts have original and exclusive jurisdiction over the following matters:
"1) all petitions for the determination of just compensation to land-owners, and
"2) the prosecution of all criminal offenses under x x x [the] Act."
The above delineation of jurisdiction remains in place to this date. Administrative Circular No. 29-2002 23 of this
Court stresses the distinction between the quasi-judicial powers of the DAR under Sections 50 and 55 of RA
6657 and the jurisdiction of the Special Agrarian Courts referred to by Sections 56 and 57 of the same law.
Allegations of the Complaint
A careful perusal of respondents Complaint24 shows that the principal averments and reliefs prayed for refer -not to the "pure question of law" spawned by the alleged unconstitutionality of EO 405 -- but to the annulment of
the DARs Notice of Coverage. Clearly, the main thrust of the allegations is the propriety of the Notice of
Coverage, as may be gleaned from the following averments, among others:
"6. This implementation of CARP in the landholding of the [respondent] is contrary to law and, therefore,
violates [respondents] constitutional right not to be deprived of his property without due process of law.
The coverage of [respondents] landholding under CARP is NO longer with authority of law. If at all, the
implementation of CARP in the landholding of [respondent] should have commenced and [been]
completed between June 1988 to June 1992 as provided for in CARL, to wit: x x x;
"7. Moreover, the placing of [respondents] landholding under CARP as of 21 September 1999 is without
the imprimatur of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) and the Provincial Agrarian Reform
Coordinating Committee (PARCOM) as mandated and required by law pursuant to R.A. 7905 x x x;
xxx

xxx

xxx

"9. Under the provisions of CARL, it is the PARC and/or the DAR, and not x x x Land Bank, which is
authorized to preliminarily determine the value of the lands as compensation therefor, thus x x x;
xxx

xxx

xxx

"12. That the aforementioned NOTICE OF COVERAGE with intendment and purpose of acquiring
[respondents] aforementioned land is a gross violation of law (PD 399 dated 28 February 1974 which is
still effective up to now) inasmuch as [respondents] land is traversed by and a road frontage as admitted
by the DARs technician and defendant FORTUNADO (MARO) x x x;"
"13. That as reflected in said Pre-Ocular Inspection Report, copy of which is hereto attached as annex
D forming part hereof, [respondents] land is above eighteen percent (18%) slope and therefore,
automatically exempted and excluded from the operation of Rep. Act 6657, x x x. 25 (Italics supplied)
In contrast, the 14-page Complaint touches on the alleged unconstitutionality of EO 405 by merely making these
two allegations:
"10. Executive Order No. 405 dated 14 June 1990 (issued by the then President Corazon Aquino) is
unconstitutional for it plainly amends, modifies and/or repeals CARL. On 14 June 1990, then President
Corazon Aquino had no longer law-making powers as the Philippine Congress was by then already
organized, existing and operational pursuant to the 1987 Constitution. A copy of the said Executive Order
is hereto attached as Annex B forming part hereof.
"11. Our constitutional system of separation of powers renders the said Executive Order No. 405
unconstitutional and all valuations made, and to be made, by the defendant Land Bank pursuant thereto
are null and void and without force and effect. Indispensably and ineludibly, all related rules, regulations,
orders and other issuances issued or promulgated pursuant to said Executive Order No. 405 are also
null and void ab initio and without force and effect."26
We stress that the main subject matter raised by private respondent before the trial court was not the issue of
compensation (the subject matter of EO 40527). Note that no amount had yet been determined nor proposed by
the DAR. Hence, there was no occasion to invoke the courts function of determining just compensation. 28
To be sure, the issuance of the Notice of Coverage29 constitutes the first necessary step towards the acquisition
of private land under the CARP. Plainly then, the propriety of the Notice relates to the implementation of the
CARP, which is under the quasi-judicial jurisdiction of the DAR. Thus, the DAR could not be ousted from its
authority by the simple expediency of appending an allegedly constitutional or legal dimension to an issue that is
clearly agrarian.
In view of the foregoing, there is no need to address the other points pleaded by respondent in relation to the
jurisdictional issue. We need only to point that in case of doubt, the jurisprudential trend is for courts to refrain
from resolving a controversy involving matters that demand the special competence of administrative agencies,
"even if the question[s] involved [are] also judicial in character," 30 as in this case.
Second Issue:
Preliminary Injunction
Having declared the RTCs to be without jurisdiction over the instant case, it follows that the RTC of La Carlota
City (Branch 63) was devoid of authority to issue the assailed Writ of Preliminary Injunction. That Writ must
perforce be stricken down as a nullity. Such nullity is particularly true in the light of the express prohibitory
provisions of the CARP and this Courts Administrative Circular Nos. 29-2002 and 38-2002. These Circulars
enjoin all trial judges to strictly observe Section 68 of RA 6657, which reads:
"Section 68. Immunity of Government Agencies from Undue Interference. No injunction, restraining
order, prohibition or mandamus shall be issued by the lower courts against the Department of Agrarian
Reform (DAR), the Department of Agriculture (DA), the Department of Environment and Natural
Resources (DENR) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) in their implementation of the program."

WHEREFORE, the Petition is hereby GRANTED, and the challenged Decision and Resolution REVERSED
AND SET ASIDE. Accordingly, the February 16, 2000 Order of the Regional Trial Court of La Carlota City
(Branch 63) is ANNULLED and a new one entered, DISMISSING the Complaint in Civil Case 713. The Writ of
Preliminary Injunction issued therein is also expressly VOIDED. No costs.
SO ORDERED.
DAR VS. CUENCA
FACTS
Private respondent Cuenca is the registered owner of a parcel of land situated in La Carlota City and devoted
principally to the planting of sugar cane. The MARO of La Carlota City issued and sent a NOTICE OF COVERAGE to
private respondent Cuenca placing the landholding under the compulsory coverage of R.A. 6657. The NOTICE OF
COVERAGE also stated that the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) will determine the value of the subject land
pursuant to Executive Order No. 405. Private respondent Cuenca filed with the RTC for Annulment of Notice of
Coverage and Declaration of Unconstitutionality of E.O. No. 405. Cuenca alleged that the implementation of CARP in
his landholding is no longer with authority of law considering that, if at all, the implementation should have
commenced and should have been completed between June 1988 to June 1992; that Executive Order No. 405
amends, modifies and/or repeals CARL and, therefore, it is unconstitutional considering that then President Corazon
Aquino no longer had law-making powers; that the NOTICE OF COVERAGE is a gross violation of PD 399.
Private respondent Cuenca prayed that the Notice of Coverage be declared null and void ab initio. The respondent
Judge denied MARO Noe Fortunados motion to dismiss and issued a Writ of Preliminary Injunction directing
Fortunado and all persons acting in his behalf to cease and desist from implementing the Notice of Coverage, and the
LBP from proceeding with the determination of the value of the subject land. The DAR thereafter filed before the CA a
petition for certiorari assailing the writ of preliminary injunction issued by respondent Judge on the ground of grave
abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction.
Stressing that the issue was not simply the improper issuance of the Notice of Coverage, but was mainly the
constitutionality of Executive Order No. 405, the CA ruled that the Regional Trial Court (RTC) had jurisdiction over the
case. Consonant with that authority, the court a quo also had the power to issue writs and processes to enforce or
protect the rights of the parties.
ISSUE
Whether the complaint filed by the private respondent is an agrarian reform and within the jurisdiction of the
DAR, not with the trial court
RULING
Yes. A careful perusal of respondents Complaint shows that the principal averments and reliefs prayed for
refer -- not to the pure question of law spawned by the alleged unconstitutionality of EO 405 -- but to the annulment of
the DARs Notice of Coverage. Clearly, the main thrust of the allegations is the propriety of the Notice of Coverage, as
may be gleaned from the following averments. The main subject matter raised by private respondent before the trial
court was not the issue of compensation. Note that no amount had yet been determined nor proposed by the
DAR. Hence, there was no occasion to invoke the courts function of determining just compensation. To be sure, the
issuance of the Notice of Coverage constitutes the first necessary step towards the acquisition of private land under
the CARP. Plainly then, the propriety of the Notice relates to the implementation of the CARP, which is under the
quasi-judicial jurisdiction of the DAR. Thus, the DAR could not be ousted from its authority by the simple expediency
of appending an allegedly constitutional or legal dimension to an issue that is clearly agrarian.