CA-G.R. No. 05795-SP
[CA-G.R. No. 05795-SP. June 2, 1977.]
LUCIA CORALES, plaintiff-appellant, vs. APOLONIO PARAHAN, defendant-appellee.
D E C I S I O N
SERRANO, J p:
On May 27, 1976, the Court of Agrarian Relations, Seventh Regional District, Branch I, San Pablo City, rendered a decision in favor of defendant Apolonio Parahan and against plaintiff Lucia Corales, the dispositive portion of which reads:
"WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered:
"a. Declaring defendant Apolonio Parahan the agricultural lessee of the land owned by Dr. Elpidio Capino and his co-heirs and leased to plaintiff under a civil lease, with an area of one (1) hectare, located at Barrio Santissimo Rosario, San Pablo City, being a part of the parcel covered by Original Certificate of Title No. 3444 of the Register of Deeds of Laguna;
"b. Fixing the rental at twelve (12) cavans in the official weight in kilos, each cavan with obligation on the part of the defendant to pay irrigation fees from 1973;
"c. Ordering the Clerk of Court of this Court to cause the delivery to the defendant of the proceeds of sale of 20% of the harvest deposited by virtue of the Order dated August 22, 1974; and
"d. Dismissing all other claims and counterclaims,"
Aggrieved by the decision, plaintiff has appealed to this Court, claiming that the trial court erred —
(1) "In upholding the credibility of appellee and his witnesses and in not taking into consideration that in 1951, there is no leasehold system in riceland in the entire Philippines; HCITDc
(2) "In not taking into consideration the recommendation and findings of the Agrarian Team who actually investigated the case and who upheld the plaintiff-appellant as the tenant;
(3) "In declaring appellant a civil lessee and the appellee, her tenant;
(4) "In setting the rental at twelve (12) cavans per harvest."
Pursuant to section 18 of Presidential Decree No. 946 dated June 17, 1976, the parties were required to submit simultaneous memoranda within a non-extendible period of 15 days from notice, which they did.
On March 12, 1974, plaintiff Lucia Corales filed a verified petition (complaint) in the court below against defendant Apolonio Parahan praying, among other things, that she be declared the agricultural lessee of the land of Dr. Elpidio Capino. The complaint alleges that plaintiff is the agricultural tenant and present lessee of the riceland of Dr. Elpidio Capino of San Pablo City situated in the Barrio of Santissimo Rosario; that in previous years the defendant Apolonio Parahan used to be an agricultural tenant of Dr. Capino on a three-hectare portion of said land but he sold his right to one Ana Rubico; that in the last season defendant, taking advantage of his superior strength, forcibly entered the landholding cultivated by her and declared himself the tenant of Dr. Capino to the exclusion of others; and that by virtue of the planting of palay by the defendant usurper, she was deprived of the harvests for which she suffered P10,000 damages.
In his answer defendant Apolonio Parahan denies the material allegations of the petition and alleges, inter alia, that he has been tenanting the land in question since 1950 up to the present; that what was sold by him was his right to lease and not his right as a tenant; and that he is not aware of any criminal act or abuse committed by him, and neither was there any deprivation of the harvest suffered by the plaintiff.
As the beginning of the trial on the merits on September 13, 1974, "the parties, assisted by their counsel, and with the help of the Court, entered into stipulation of facts," to wit:
"(1) That the area of the landholding involved in this case is only one (1) hectare riceland. The said one (1) hectare being a portion of that landholding described in paragraph 2 of the complaint and is covered by Original Certificate of Title No. 3444;
"(2) That Dr. Elpidio Capino is one of the co-owners of the said landholding in question;
"(3) That there are five (5) cropping seasons in two (2) calendar years in the landholding in question; and
"(4) That the defendant Apolonio Parahan is now in physical possession of the-one (1) hectare riceland in question."
On December 14, 1974, counsel for defendant filed a motion to refer the case to the regional office of the Department of Agrarian Reform for proper evaluation and corresponding action, "in order to determine whether or not the trial of the . . . case should be suspended based on the provision of P.D. No. 316, implementing P.D. No. 27, and in view of the fact that the tenant-defendant . . . is in actual possession of the land in question and had been tenanting the same since the year 1972." CAIaDT
The motion was granted by the trial court on January 29, 1975. On April 29 the DAR through Regional Director Benjamin R. Estrellado certified that the "case is a proper case for trial . . . based on the ground that although the landholding involved in this case is primarily devoted to the planting of palay, no tenancy relationship exists between the . . . plaintiff and defendant inasmuch as both parties claim to be tenant on the same subject holding owned by the same landowners, hence, the instant case does not fall within the purview of Presidential Decree No. 316. (Venancio Veral vs. Hon. Juan A. Baes and Cirilo del Valle, CA-G.R. No. SP-02088, June 1, 1973)."
Trial on the merits was resumed and thereafter, on May 27, 1976, the court below rendered the decision now on appeal.
It is established by the evidence that since 1941 plaintiff-appellant Corales and her husband Florencio Agonia entered into an oral contract of lease over a five-hectare portion of the riceland, now held in co-ownership by Dr. Elpidio Capino, Consuelo Capino and Alfonso Capino, with the mother (Na Oding) of the Capinos with whom appellant dealt after the death of her husband. The land of the Capinos is a riceland situated in Barrio Santissimo Rosario, City of San Pablo, containing an area of 8.8371 hectares and covered by OCT No. 3444 of the land records of San Pablo City.
On May 7, 1958, appellant entered into a written contract of lease (Kasunduan sa Pagpapaupa ng Lupa) over the five-hectare portion with the co-owners. Among the salient provisions of the document (Exh. A), which was executed before Notary Public Primo Cortez, are:
"3. Na alang-alang at dahilan sa kasunduang ito sa pagpapaupa ng lupa, ay ang IKALAWANG BAHAGUI [appellant] ay magbabayad ng 140 cabang palay sa UNANG BAHAGUI [the Capinos] sa loob ng isang taon na isusulit kung tagaraw ay 84 cavanes, sa buwan ng Enero, at 56 cabanes, kung palagad sa buwan ng Junio ng bawat taon;
"4. Na ang nasabing buwis ng lupa na binabanggit sa sinusundang pangkat ay ihahatid sa poblacion ng Lunsod ng San Pablo, at ang gastos tungkol dito ay siya ang mananagutan, at itong huli ay walang kinalaman;
"5. Na bilang umuupa sa lupa ay ang ikalawang Bahagui ang may karapatan at kapangyarihan na humanap ng magtatrabaho sa lupang sinasaka, na may karapatan at kapangyarihan ding magpaalis alinsunod sa batas, at tungkol sa kanilang kasunduan ay walang kinalaman o sagutin ang Unang Bahagui; DSEaHT
Appellant remarried sometime after the death of her first husband (Florencio Agonia) in 1944, and her second husband, Felizardo Hernandez, died in 1952. So the above document, Exhibit A, was executed by appellant by herself alone, without either of her husbands joining her, and the Capinos.
Despite the above contract of lease, the Capinos, through Dr. Elpidio Capino, did not know the persons who actually had been tilling the riceland subject of the lease contract, but it was appellant alone who dealt with them as regards the harvest of the land. Appellant hired more than five persons in tilling the leased area. One of them was her witness Silvestre Gapyanco who worked a portion thereof with a seeding capacity of two cavans of palay on a permanent basis. Gapyanco performed the following phases of cultivation: "A. Plowing, harrowing, cleaning of the rice dikes, the leveling of the land and tending of the irrigation on the land . . . and he also harvested (TSN, Nov. 4, 1974, p. 20).
On how defendant-appellee Parahan entered the landholding in question, the evidence of both parties conflicts with each other.
Appellant by her evidence tried to establish that from 1962 to 1970 the remaining three hectares of the land of the Capinos (8 hectares in area, 5 of which is leased to appellant) was tilled by appellee who sold his right to cultivate the same area to Ana Rubico and her children; that during the lifetime of Felizardo Hernandez, they used to ask for appellee's help in plowing and harrowing until the landholding was planted. Appellee was paid P500 for his labor. Appellant then told appellee "A. . . . that I will work the land through my own workers but my workers are being chased with a bolo by Apolonio Parahan . . ." (TSN, Oct. 9, 1974, p. 8), thus appellee forcibly took possession of the land in question away from her on December 16, 1973.
The version of appellee is that since 1951 he was already tenanting two hectares of the land of the Capinos but at present he is cultivating only one hectare, the other hectare having been taken away from him by appellant. Being then indebted, appellant asked him to lend her the one hectare with the promise that after two harvests she would return the same to him which she never did, but instead would like to take again the other hectare left to him. This two-hectare land was given to him for cultivation in 1951 by one Zardo, appellant's husband, with the agreement that appellee would receive 1/4 of the harvest, appellant shouldering the expenses.
The CAR Judge 1 who penned the appealed decision believed more appellee's version than that of appellant.
The appealed decision states:
"While there are some flaws and ambiguities in the testimony of the defendant we are inclined to accept defendant's version of his tenancy over the one hectare portion in his possession at present. It will be noted that defendant's claim of cultivation and possession is effectively corroborated by the admission of the plaintiff that she used to engage the services of the defendant and his 'workers' in plowing and harrowing the subject land for which defendant was paid P500.00. We consider this admission as an attempt to explain away the continuous cultivation and possession by the defendant of the subject land. For if it were true, as plaintiff claims, that she was after the workers to plow and harrow the land, what need was there for her to rely 'always' on the help of the defendant for the supply of those laborers? She could have dealt directly with the 'workers' of the defendant or other set or sets of workers. There was no need for the services of a middlemen for that purpose. If plaintiff were only after the hired laborers, as she wants to impress this Court, we do not see any reason why those laborers should always be the 'workers' of the defendant. From the context of her testimony, plaintiff 'always' availed herself of the help of defendant in supplying his workers to plow and harrow the land for the plaintiff. . . .
"We should observe here that we are not impressed by plaintiff's oral evidence to the effect that defendant has not been working on the land personally but has been employing instead 'workers' to do the farming chores. Defendant has not been cross-examined much less, impeached, on his testimony that he plowed the land personally, using his own carabao, plow and harrow.
"We cannot avoid the conclusion that continuity in the employment of the services of the defendant on the subject land is more consistent with defendant's claim of having hired the defendant. In any event, if there is any doubt at all, we are called upon to resolve it in favor of the tenant.
"Neither are we impressed with plaintiff's oral evidence to the effect that the tenancy over the land actually tenanted by the defendant, the three-hectare portion, had been sold to one Ana Rubico. This contention of the plaintiff has been satisfactorily explained by defendant. According to him, that three-hectare portion was originally tenanted by his sister-in-law, Minang Gaviño and was sold by defendant to raise an amount to pay the indebtedness incurred by Gaviño. aCTcDS
"In her memorandum, plaintiff has pointed out the admission of the defendant that the latter has not paid any rental to the owner, Dr. Capino and the admission that the possession or cultivation by defendant had not been known by said landowner. This is of no moment because the plaintiff and/or her deceased husband, Felizardo Hernandez, being civil law lessee, may validly institute a tenant on the subject land even without the knowledge or consent of the real landowner. (Ponce v. Guevarra, L-19629 & L-19672-92)." (Decision, Record, pp. 170-172.)
I and III
In her first assignment of error appellee contends that the trial court erred in upholding the credibility of appellee and his witnesses and in not taking into consideration that in 1951 there was no leasehold system in riceland in the entire Philippines, while in her third assigned error she asserts that it was error to declare appellant a civil lessee and the appellee, her tenant. Appellant also submits as the issue in this case the following: "Who is the tenant of the Capinos in the one (1) hectare portion of the five (5) hectares being tenanted by the appellant?" To resolve this issue, it is necessary to determine the nature of the contract of lease (Kasunduan sa Pagpapaupa ng Lupa, Exhibit A) executed by appellant Lucia Corales and the Capinos on May 7, 1958. The close connection between the first and third assigned errors in relation to the issue submitted by appellant calls for resolution of both alleged errors at the same time.
The important differences between a leasehold tenancy and a civil law lease have been held to be thus:
"There are important differences between a leasehold tenancy and a civil law lease. The subject matter of leasehold tenancy is limited to agricultural land; that of civil law lease may be either rural or urban property. As to attention and cultivation the law requires the leasehold tenant to personally attend to, and cultivate the agricultural land, whereas the civil law lessee need not personally cultivate or work the thing leased. As to purpose, the landholding in leasehold tenancy is devoted to agriculture, whereas in civil law lease, the purpose may be for any other pursuits. As to the law that governs, the civil law lease is governed by the Civil Code, whereas leasehold tenancy is governed by special laws." (Gabriel vs. Pangilinan, L-27797, Aug. 26, 1974, 58 SCRA 590, 596.)
In the case at bar the landholding is an agricultural land devoted to the planting of palay. One of the provisions of Exhibit A gives the right to and empowers the lessee (appellant Corales) to look for or hire persons to work the farmland, and she has also the right and authority to discharge them in accordance with law, and landowner (Capinos) having nothing to do with her contract of labor with the hired workers and not being answerable to any of them.
"5. Na bilang umuupa sa lupa ay ang ikalawang Bahagui [appellant] ang may karapatan at kapangyarihan na humanap ng magtatrabaho sa lupang sinasaka, na may karapatan at kapangyarihan ding magpaalis alinsunod sa batas, at tungkol sa kanilang kasunduan ay walang kinalaman o sagutin ang Unang Bahagui [the Capinos];" (Exh. A.)
True to the above provisions of the lease contract, appellant hired or instituted other persons than she herself in the cultivation of the riceland subject of the lease with the Capinos. No less than her witness Silvestre Gapyanco testified to this fact (TSN, Nov. 15, 1974, pp. 23-26). Appellant herself admitted that she employed hired laborers to cultivate the landholding.
"Q. Now, from the year 1952 when your husband died up to the year 1972 who has been tilling this landholding?
"A. There are many who worked there as my hired workers, sir." (TSN, Oct. 9, 1974, p. 26.)
Considering that appellant has not personally cultivated the riceland subject of her lease contract with the Capinos but hired other persons to work the same for her, without the interference of the landowners in the contract of work she had with the laborers, as well as in their discharge or termination of their services, the nature of the contract of appellant and the Capinos is not one of agricultural lease but of civil law lease. Consequently, appellant holds the land subject of the lease as a civil law lessee, not as a tenant or agricultural lessee thereof. She has, therefore, no tenancy relationship with the Capinos.
"A tenant shall mean a person, who, himself and with the aid available from within his immediate farm household, cultivates the land belonging to, or possessed by, another, with the latter's consent for purposes of production, sharing the produce with the landholder under the share tenancy system, or paying to the landholder a price certain or ascertainable in produce or in money or both." (Sec. 5[a], Rep. Act 1199 as amended.)
Where one who leases land is not a farmer or farm laborer who undertakes to cultivate the land for another, nor is he one who furnishes the labor, because he himself does not till the farm and although he employs laborers, he is not a tenant within the scope of the tenancy laws (Rural Progress Administration vs. Dimson, L-6068, April 28, 1955). aDSAEI
It having been found that appellant is not a tenant of the five-hectare land subject of the lease but a civil law lessee thereof, the next questions are: Was appellee Parahan, in fact, instituted as tenant or lessee of the landholding in question? If so, by whom?
A review of the evidence gives an affirmative answer to the main question.
Appellee declared on the witness stand that he was instituted as a tenant to the landholding in question, which was then two hectares in area in 1951, long before the execution of Exhibit A, by the second husband of appellant named Zardo, obviously referring to Felizardo Hernandez, her deceased second husband.
The physical condition of the two-hectare area given to appellee in tenancy was: "A — When this land was given to me in 1951, it was forested and full of grasses" (TSN, Nov. 13, 1975, p. 12), And he developed and cleared the land, converting it into a ricefield, and since its conversion, he has been continuously planting it with palay. How the area was diminished to only one hectare is stated by appellee; thus:
"A: Mrs. Corales told me to lend her the one hectare because she is indebted and she promised me that after two harvests, she will return the land to me, but after two harvests, instead of returning the land, she would like also to take the other hectare." (TSN, Ibid., pp. 11-12.)
In personally cultivating the landholding in question, appellee used his own plow and harrow and carabao, although he hired laborers in planting the seedlings and harvesting the crops, paying the harvesters their compensation in terms of "hunos." The crop thus raised by him from said landholding was agreed by him and Felizardo Hernandez to be divided as follows:
"ATTY. DE LUNA:
"Q: Going back to the year 1951 when it was given to you, what was the condition agreed upon between you on working on the same?
"A: Our agreement during that time is that, I will receive 1/4 of the harvest.
"Q: And who shouldered the expenses then?
"A: Mrs. Corales, sir." (TSN, Nov. 13, 1975, p. 29.)
Witnesses Loreto Gutierrez and Manuel Argo, who were working the lands adjoining the landholding involved, corroborated appellee on material points.
The characteristics of a share tenancy contract, like the one entered into in 1951 by appellee and Felizardo Hernandez, deceased husband of appellant, are:
"(1) the parties are a landholder, who is a natural or juridical person and is the owner, lessee, usufructuary or legal possessor of agricultural land, and a tenant who, himself and with the aid available from his immediate farm household, cultivates the land which is the subject-matter of the tenancy; (2) the subject-matter is agricultural land; (3) the purpose of the contract is agricultural production; and (4) the cause or consideration is that the landholder and the share tenant would divide the agricultural produce between themselves in proportion to their respective contributions." (De los Reyes vs. Espineli, Nos. L-28280-81, 30 SCRA 574, 581.)
The two-hectare portion given in tenancy to appellee by Felizardo Hernandez, the then legal possessor thereof, is an agricultural land planted to palay, the purpose of their contract is undoubtedly for production and they agreed to divide the palay crop by giving the appellee a share of 1/4 thereof while the rest to the landholder who shouldered all the expenses of production. Appellee, therefore, is a tenant on the landholding in question instituted as such in 1951 by appellant's husband, then the legal possessor thereof.
That Felizardo Hernandez was then the legal possessor of the landholding was testified to by none other than Dr. Capino, one of the co-owners of the land leased to appellant. The doctor stated that they gave the landholding in question to the late Felizardo Hernandez and Mrs. Hernandez, now appellant Lucia Corales, under a verbal agreement, but he did not know who was actually tilling the land.
The tenancy relationship between Felizardo Hernandez and appellee having been established, appellee has the right to continue working on the landholding until the relationship is legally extinguished and he is entitled to security of tenure thereon and cannot be ejected unless authorized by the court for causes provided for in the tenancy laws. Even when Felizardo died, his tenancy relationship with the appellee was not extinguished; his heir, Lucia Corales, assumed his rights and obligations in that tenancy relationship pursuant to section 9, Republic Act No. 1199, as amended which provides: "In case of death of the landholder, his heir or heirs shall likewise assume his rights and obligations."
Neither was this relationship terminated by the execution in 1958 of a contract of civil lease between the Capinos and appellant (Exh. A) for the reason that appellee did not abandon nor surrender voluntarily to appellant the one-hectare landholding in question but continued to cultivate the same giving the rental of 12 cavans of palay every harvest to appellant. EaCSHI
True, there was no leasehold system yet in ricelands in 1951, as appellant's counsel argues in urging this Court to discredit the credibility of the appellee and his witnesses, but it is clear from the above evidence for appellee that his relationship with the late Felizardo Hernandez was not one of leasehold but of share tenancy.
Appellant impugns the credibility of the witnesses for appellee given weight by the trial court because the Judge who penned the decision did not hear or see them. In Crisostomo vs. Viri and Trillana (53 Phil. 446, 448) the Supreme Court held:
"It is not necessary that the judge in deciding a case should have seen and heard the witnesses testify at the trial thereof. This rule has already been the subject of a decision by this court in the case of Ortiz vs. Aramburo (8 Phil., 98).
"But the appellant invokes the rule that the judgment should be based not only on the number of witnesses but also on the weight of their testimony; but this can be appreciated not only by the judge who saw and heard the witnesses testify, but also by another judge who has read and studied the latter's testimony. Thus it is that the law does not declare a decision void merely because it was rendered by a judge who neither saw nor heard the witnesses testify (see case cited Ortiz vs. Aramburo), and that is also the reason why this court, under the provisions of law and in the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction, is not necessarily bound to adhere to the trial court's findings of facts, but may reverse or modify such findings where the evidence so justifies, notwithstanding the fact that it had not seen or heard the witnesses testify."
The judge of the lower court, by reading and studying the testimonies of the witnesses of both parties to this litigation, found the version of the appellee to be more credible than that of the appellant, just as this appellate Court can determine, by just studying the evidence of both parties to a litigation, which side is to be believed, without hearing and seeing their witnesses. In the evaluation of evidence the rule is settled that courts may believe one part of the testimony of a witness and disbelieve another part; they are not required to accept or reject the whole testimony of a particular witness (People vs. Hidalgo et al., L-6273, Dec. 27, 1957, 54 O.G. 4484, July 21, 1958). This rule was adhered to by the trial court.
Moreover, under section 18 of Presidential Decree No. 946 this Court "shall affirm the decision or order or the portions thereof appealed from if the findings of fact in said decision or order are supported by substantial evidence as basis thereof, and the conclusions stated therein are not clearly against the law and jurisprudence."
The evidence for the appellee recited above establishing the fact that the latter was instituted as tenant on the landholding in question by appellant's late husband, Felizardo Hernandez, who in turn was the legal possessor of the five-hectare riceland which embraced the disputed portion by virtue of a verbal agreement with the landowners (the Capinos), constitutes substantial evidence of credible character to support the findings of the CAR Judge,
There is no need to discuss the second assigned error lengthily for the reason that the findings and recommendation of the agrarian team contain no categorical ruling on whether or not appellee or appellant is a tenant on the landholding in question. The DAR through Regional Director Estrellado just certified that this was a proper case for trial because it did not fall within the purview of Presidential Decree No. 316, as both parties claim to be the tenant on the same subject holding owned by the same landowners. If the DAR found that there was no tenancy relationship between appellant and appellee, it was just a preliminary finding which is not conclusive on the courts (sec. 12, last par., PD 946).
Appellant finally disputes the 12 cavans of palay rental fixed by the trial court for the use of the landholding in question to be paid by the appellee to appellant every agricultural year.
In fixing such rental, the court stated:
"In view of the above findings and considering that the decision of this Court may embrace matters not raised in the pleadings if borne by the evidence, we may fix the rental for the one-hectare parcel of land at twelve (12) cavans for every harvest season. We consider this amount proper, although the reports of implementation of the Order of this Court dated August 22, 1974 show that 25% of the net harvests ranges only from eight cavans to 11.25 cavans inasmuch as according to the defendant he had been paying a rental of twelve cavans."
No evidence was introduced by either appellant or appellee on the gross harvest for three agricultural years immediately preceding the filing of the complaint. Neither was evidence introduced on the amount of seeds ordinarily used to plant the landholding in question, nor is there evidence to show how much was spent for reaping and threshing of the harvest in said three agricultural years. The seeds, and the reaping and threshing expenses are deductible items from the gross harvest before the average normal harvest for the three agricultural years is arrived at. The average normal harvest for these three years is the basis from which the just and legal rental for the landholding is derived equivalent to 25% thereof.
In the absence of such evidence, the trial court had to rely on the extant evidence on the matter showing that 12 cavans was the customary rental being paid by appellee to appellant, which is presumed to be legal (Evanado et al. vs. Hon. Blanco, L-17602, June 30, 1964, 11 SCRA 367).
If appellee is more favored by the 12 cavans of palay rental, the same is not prohibited by law because what is declared to be contrary to law and public policy is when the tenant receives less than the total participation of his contributions to production (sec. 11-A [a], Rep. Act 1199 as amended). The Tenancy Act, and for that matter the Code of Agrarian Reforms, was conceived mainly to redeem the tenant from his misery, want and oftentimes oppression, arising from onerous terms of his tenancy, and to uplift his social and financial status (Pineda vs. Pingul, L-3363, Sept. 30, 1952; PNB vs. Ramirez, L-15192, Oct. 24, 1960). It does not condemn agreements which will benefit or favor the tenant (Agulto vs. Concepcion, CA-G.R. No. 36891-R, Feb. 11, 1967). TaSEHC
Upon the foregoing considerations, and the appealed decision being supported not only by substantial evidence but by preponderant evidence and the conclusions therein being in accordance with law and jurisprudence, the appeal must fall.
WHEREFORE, the judgment appealed from is hereby affirmed.
Without special pronouncement as to costs.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Reyes and Santiago, Jr., JJ., concur.
1. This case was tried successively by "the Hon. Juan Baez who retired and by Judge Edon Brion who terminated the trial but was not able to decide the same as he was recalled to his station in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro." It was inherited by Judge Restituto O. Luz who penned the Decision (Memorandum for the Plaintiff-Appellant, p. 19).