[O.P. Case No. 97-B-8245. December 14, 2001.]
IN RE: PETITION FOR OLT COVERAGE OF ZOSIMO ROJAS & BROS. ESTATE SITUATED AT BRGY. SALAWAG, DASMARINAS CAVITE.
DOMINADOR P. CAMIA, petitioner-appellant,
SAMAHAN NG MAGSASAKA NAKATALA NA NAPAGKALOOBAN (SANA) NG CERTIFICATES OF LAND TRANSFER (CLT) NOONG 1973-1981 SA BRGY. SALAWAG, DASMARINAS, CAVITE, as represented by ALEXANDER ALCANTARA, intervenor-appellant.
R E S O L U T I O N
This resolves the "Notice of Appeal with Motion to Submit Supplemental Records of the Case" filed by Alexander Alcantara, intervenor-appellant, representing the SAMAHAN NG MGA MAGSASAKA NAKATALA NA NAPAGKALOOBAN NG CERTIFICATE OF LAND TRANSFER ("SANA CLT" for short), and petitioner DOMINADOR CAMIA assailing and seeking the reversal of the three (3) Orders of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) dated April 4, 1984, January 11, 1997 and June 17, 1997.
The records show the following antecedent facts:
At the core of the case are six (6) parcels of agricultural land with a total area of 108.57 hectares, covered by TCT Nos. T-5084, T-5987, T-5986, T-5985, T-5988 and T-5989 formerly owned by Zosimo Rojas & Bros.("Rojas Bros." hereinafter), situated in Brgy. Salawag, Dasmarinas, Cavite.
On September 26, 1972, Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 27 was issued proclaiming the entire country a land reform area. Accordingly, on August 30, 1973, subject landholdings were placed under Operation Land Transfer (OLT) and twenty-nine (29) tenant-farmers were listed as beneficiaries of the program.
On November 22, 1973, thirty-one (31) certificates of land title (CLTs), covering 42.44 hectares were allocated in the names of said twenty-nine (29) beneficiaries. Another CLT was later allotted to one Victor Paredes, increasing the area covered to 43.69 hectares. However, these 32 CLTs generated in favor of the farmer-beneficiaries were not actually distributed.
On July 17, 1974, in exchange for homelots of four hundred (400) square meters each and disturbance compensation of P4,000.00 to seven thousand (P7,000.00), the twenty-nine (29) listed farmer-beneficiaries and several other occupants of the property, including petitioner Dominador Camia, surrendered their tenancy rights/farmholdings in favor of the landowner and voluntarily agreed to vacate the subject properties. To memorialize this settlement, they executed on July 17, 1974 the following documents: a) a joint notarized "Salaysay sa Pagpawalang Karapatan"; b) a duly notarized Receipt dated July 17, 1974, showing that the 20 farmer-beneficiaries received the sum of P7,000.00 each from Pilar Development Corporation (PDC) as full payment of disturbance compensation; and c) a notarized Receipt dated July 17, 1974 showing that nine (9) persons (Urbano Paredes, et al.) each received from PDC the sum of P4,000.00 as full payment of their disturbance compensation.
Following the execution of the said documents, Rojas Bros. sold the entire property to PDC as evidenced by a deed of sale dated July 24, 1974.
On July 11, 1976, PDC sold to Pilar Farms, Inc. Lot Nos. 5770 and 5776 and portions thereof were then subdivided into homelots which were then titled and awarded for free in favor of the farmer-beneficiaries, inclusive of petitioner Camia, as part of their disturbance compensation.
On March 4, 1981, Rojas Bros., represented by Diomedes Rojas, filed with the then Ministry of Agrarian Reform, now DAR, a letter-petition requesting, for reasons therein stated, the cancellation of 32 CLTs covering the landholdings in question.
Acting on the said petition, an investigation was made on the subject properties. The report of the results of the investigation conducted by the Acting Team Leader of the Agrarian Reform Team at Imus, Cavite showed:
". . . that the total landholdings of Zosimo Rojas and Bros. is 108.57 hectares, 43.69 hectares of which have been recommended for coverage under Operation land Transfer; that the 43.69 hectares were previously worked by 29 tenants in whose favor 32 CLTs have been generated/issued; that the property is upland and primarily devoted to the production of sugar cane, with a little portion having open spaces of limited areas previously planted to vegetables; that the tenants, including those without CLTs, have voluntarily surrendered their tenancy rights in favor of the land-owners as evidenced by their "Salaysay sa Pagpawalang Karapatan" executed by them on July 17, 1974; and have actually already abandoned their landholdings; and that they confirmed that the surrender of their tenancy rights and abandonment of their respective farmholdings was voluntary on their part."
"A study of the "Salaysay sa Pagpawalang Karapatan" executed by 20 tenants (Damaso Bautista et al.) on July 17, 1974 shows that the landowners allegedly offered to sell to them their respective farmholdings pursuant to Secs. 10 and 11 of the Agricultural Land Reform Code (Rep. Act 3044) but that they were not able to purchase their farmholdings within the period provided for therein and that they have received the amount of P7,000.00 each as disturbance compensation. The remaining tenants (Urpiano Paredes et al.,) have jointly signed a receipt also on July 17, 1974 showing that they have received P4,000.00 each as disturbance compensation, the amount received by each of them being less than P7,000.00 each because they appear to be mere squatters. There also found in the records a joint-receipt signed by 58 persons (Dominador Camia, et al.,) dated November 24, 1975, showing that they have received even as squatters amounts ranging from P150 to P900 as sort of disturbance compensation."
Based on the above report and upon the recommendation of the Regional Director, Region IV, then Minister Conrado F. Estrella issued on April 4, 1984 the first assailed order, the dispositive portion of which reads:
"WHEREFORE, premises considered, Order is hereby issued granting the petition of Z. Rojas & Bros., for the cancellation of the 32 Certificates of Land Transfers covering 43.69 hectares of its landholdings situated in Brgy Baluctot, Salawag, Dasmarinas, Cavite, issued to Damaso Bautista and 28 others; the said landholdings being principally devoted to the production of sugar cane and therefore not within the ambit of P.D. 27.
In September 1995, or a little over ten (10) years thereafter, one Dominador Camia, reportedly one of the listed farmer-beneficiaries (Per Masterlist of OLT Beneficiaries) addressed to this Office a letter-petition requesting the OLT coverage of the Rojas Bros estate, claiming that they never received their respective CLTs. They also alleged having been forced to sign documents purportedly evidencing their consent to receive amounts ranging from P5,000.00 to P7,000.00 and 400 square meters of land each as disturbance compensation.
After another round of investigation, DAR Secretary Ernesto D. Garilao issued the second assailed Order dated January 11, 1997, the dispositive portion of which reads:
"WHEREFORE, IN VIEW OF THE ABOVE, Order is hereby issued DENYING the instant petition for lack of merit. However, the MARO and the PARO concerned is directed to see to it that any conversion of the subject land is properly and legally made and the rights and interests of the farm workers/tenants who were not parties to the execution of the affidavit of waiver of rights or those who were not paid disturbance compensation should be protected pursuant to law."
In so ruling, Secretary Garilao made the following observations:
". . . that 29 farmer beneficiaries have already built their houses in their respective homelots which were awarded to them as part of their disturbance compensation. The homelots are already titled in the name of the respective beneficiaries as new owners thereof."
"In 1991, Lot Nos. 5776, 6370, and 3052 were sold to Asia Development Corporation and subsequently an Order of Exemption was issued covering the said subject properties except the portions of Lot Nos. 5770 and 5726 awarded and titled in favor of the farmer-beneficiaries, including herein petitioner."
". . . that herein petitioner Dominador Camia and the rest of the beneficiaries had executed an Affidavit of Waiver of Right (Salaysay sa Pagpawalang Karapatan) dated July 17, 1974, written in vernacular and duly notarized. Also, the records contain a machine copy of the receipt executed by herein petitioner and the other beneficiaries showing the full payment of their disturbance compensation which was subscribed and sworn to before Notary Public Tomas Banson on November 24, 1975."
"In 1991, MARO Leticia Rosarda Crucido issued a Certification . . . that the properties are not covered by Operation Land Transfer; that Lot Nos. 6089, 3052 and 5769-C are not being worked by any agricultural worker nor planted to any agricultural crop at the time of investigation . . . that no particular beneficiary or person was mentioned as the one who worked therein."
On February 12, 1997, a "Motion to Intervene w/ Motion for Reconsideration" was filed by SANA CLT, an organization composed largely of former listed farmer-beneficiaries of the subject property and their relatives.
On 17 June 1997, DAR Secretary Ernesto D. Garilao issued the third assailed Order, the dispositive portion of which reads:
"WHEREFORE premises considered, the instant Motion for Intervention with Motion for Reconsideration is hereby denied for lack of merit."
"Accordingly, as far as this Office is concerned, this case is hereby considered closed."
Undeterred, intervenor-appellant SANA CLT filed this instant appeal.
Appellant-intervenor contends that the subject parcels of land are covered by the OLT program under P.D. 27, being agricultural and primarily devoted to rice and corn and not to sugar cane; that under the law, they are the qualified/listed farmer-beneficiaries and, therefore, are entitled to the subject property; that in July 17, 1974, they were forced to sign documents purportedly evidencing their consent to receive amounts ranging from P5,000.00 to P7,000.00 and 400 sq. meters of land each as disturbance compensation.
The main issue here is whether or not, in the light of the foregoing facts/events and the "Salaysay sa Pagpawalang Karapatan" supra, the rights of appellants as farmer-beneficiaries of the subject landholding could still be re-established.
We find the appeal devoid of merit.
The then governing Republic Act No. 1199, an Act To Govern The Relations Between Landholders and Tenants of Agricultural Lands (Leasehold and Share Tenancy), enumerates the grounds for terminating tenancy relationship. It states:
"Sec. 9. Severance of Relationship. — The tenancy relationship is extinguished by the voluntary surrender of the land by, or the death or incapacity of, the tenant . . ."
In this particular case, it is undisputed that the tenants concerned (farmer-beneficiaries) executed on July 17, 1974 a deed of waiver entitled "Salaysay sa Pagpawalang Karapatan," voluntarily surrendering their landholdings and returning the same to the owners. There, the farmer beneficiaries declared that in exchange for homelots and the payment of disturbance compensation, they have agreed to surrender/return their farmholdings and vacate the subject properties.
Together with the "Salaysay," the records further show that the farmer-beneficiaries have signed notarized receipts evidencing payment and receipt by each of disturbance compensation.
And as stated in the appealed Order dated January 11, 1997, twenty-nine (29) farmer-beneficiaries had already received their respective 400 square meter homelot; that these lots have already been subdivided and titled in the names of the farmer-beneficiaries; and that they have likewise built their houses on their respective lots.
Appellants, to stress, never questioned the authenticity of the above-cited documents. Neither did they claim misunderstanding their contents, being written in vernacular (tagalog), a dialect known and familiar to them.
The notarized "Salaysay" is a public document the validity of which must be presumed (Rule 131 Sec. 3 (p) (q) (r) (ff) Rules of Court) and which must be accorded full faith and credence (Surban vs. CA, 219 SCRA, 313), absent of proof to the contrary. Other than their bare allegation that they were forced to sign the documents, appellants failed to overcome the presumptive validity and legality of the documents in question.
Given the validity of the "Salaysay" and its accompanying documents, appellants are bound by their admissions and declarations therein made against their own interest. In the case of Dequito vs. Llamas (66 SCRA, 511), on the matter of voluntary surrender, the High Court has ruled:
"If petitioner miscalculated on the advantages and disadvantages of voluntary surrender of his landholding for an agreed consideration, he must assume the consequences of his error. After executing the affidavit voluntarily wherein he made admissions and declarations against his own interest under the solemnity of an oath, he cannot be allowed to spurn them and undo what he has done . . ."
Even assuming, gratia argumenti, that the farmer-beneficiaries were forced, as they claimed, to sign the "Salaysay", it is now late to assail its enforceability. Their unexplained failure/inaction to question the alleged controversial transaction after the lapse of more than twenty (20) years has foreclosed any possibility of reinstating their rights. Laches has definitely set in (Victoriano Comero vs. CA, 247 SCRA, 291) and the farmers' cause of action has definitely prescribed. Republic Act No. 3844, (Act to Ordain the Agricultural Land Reform Code and to Institute Land Reforms in the Philippines) . . . states:
"Sec. 38. Statute of Limitations. — An action to enforce any cause of action under this Code shall be barred if not commenced within three years after such cause of action accrued."
The action of the appellants in executing the "Salaysay sa Pagpawalang Karapatan" has, to borrow from Dequito, supra, this far reaching implication:
"To us there is no clearer manifestation of reneging on one's plighted word than that shown by petitioner. He ought to know that if he has rights to protect as a tenant, the landowner has also rights under the law. The protective mantle of social justice cannot be utilized as an instrument to hoodwink courts of justice and undermine the rights of landowners on the plea of helplessness and heartless exploitation of the tenant by the landowner. False pretenses cannot arouse the sentiment of charity in a compassionate society."
WHEREFORE, finding no reversible error in the appealed Orders, the same are hereby AFFIRMED, and the appeal is hereby DISMISSED.
By authority of the President:
(SGD.) ALBERTO G. ROMULO
cc: MR. ALEXANDER ALCANTARA
Block 06 Lot 15 DBB, Brgy. Sta. Fe
MR. DOMINADOR CAMIA
Brgy. Salitran II
Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR)
Diliman, Quezon City
DAR Municipal Office
DAR Region IV