DOJ OPINION NO. 001, s. 1992
January 7, 1992
General Lisandro C. Abadia
Chief of Staff, AFP
General Headquarters, Armed Forces
of the Philippines,
Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo,
S i r :
This refers to your request for opinion regarding the "request of the Department of Agrarian Reform, thru its provincial Agrarian Reform Officer in Baguio City, for the transfer to the said department of approximately eight (8) hectares of the Navy Base Reservation in that city to be awarded to forty-three (43) individuals averred to the farmer-tillers."
You state that the investigation conducted by the Superintendent of the Philippine Military Academy disclose, however, that the so-called "farmer-tillers" are actually squatters who are seeking protection under the mantle of agrarian reform to avoid ejectment from the premises, which is part of the area declared as military reservation under Presidential Proclamation No. 2313 issued on September 21, 1983.
You further state that the aforestated action contemplated by said Department would be violative of Sections 83 and 88 of the Public Land Act (Commonwealth Act No. 141). Hence, opinion is requested on the matter for the guidance of the Headquarters in resolving the instant case and other problems in connection with the implementation of the CARP.
This Department regrets that is has to decline the requested opinion for the following reasons:
Firstly, the specific issue raised involves essentially factual matters, such as the status of the forty-three (43) individuals as to whether they are farmer-tillers or squatters who are seeking protection under the mantle of agrarian reform to avoid ejectment from the premises. The Secretary of Justice is authorized to render opinion only on questions of law, not questions of fact (Sec. of Justice Ops. Nos. 75 and 108, s. 1986; Nos. 113, 117 and 159, s. 1988 and Nos. 19, 207 and 208, s. 1989).
Secondly, the query involves the substantive rights of private parties, and since the opinion of the Secretary of Justice is merely advisory in nature, such opinion would not be binding upon said private parties who, if adversely affected by such opinion, may take issue therewith and contest it before the courts. As a matter of policy, therefore, the Secretary of Justice has consistently refrained from rendering opinion on questions which are justiciable in nature of those which may be the subject of litigation before the courts (Secretary of Justice Op. No. 91, s. 1957; Ops. Nos. 19 and 92, s. 1971; Op. No. 108, s. 1978; and Op. No. 46, s. 1981).
Thirdly, we note from the attached documents/papers that Secretary of National Defense, in a letter dated June 20, 1991 addressed to the Secretary of Agrarian Reform, has already expressed his views on the subject matter of your query. Pursuant to well-settled practice and precedents, the Secretary of Justice has consistently refrained from expressing his views on matters within the primary jurisdiction of a co-equal and coordinate Department and over which this Office has no revisory authority, unless upon its request (Secretary of Justice Op. No. 1, s. 1983, s. 1980; No. 149, s. 1976).
Finally, and considering that the matter involves the actuations of Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer (PARO) in Baguio City, we suggest that you take the matter up with the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR). This is in consonance with settled policy and precedents which dictates that the Secretary of Justice refrains from passing upon the actions and/or actuations of other government officials/officers over whom the Secretary of Justice exercises no revisory authority (Secretary of Justice Ops. No. 91, s. 1982; No. 9, s. 1980; No. 99, s. 1978).
Very truly yours,
SILVESTRE H. BELLO III