CASE BrieF NO. 2000-0004

CASE: Philippine Veterans Bank vs. Court of Appeals, DAR Secretary, DARAB and Land Bank of the Philippines [G.R. No. 132767 January 18, 2000]

PONENTE: Mendoza, J.:

SUBJECT:

  1. Remedial Law:
    i. Jurisdiction – DARAB; R.A. No. 6657;
    ii. Eminent Domain – Just Compensation;
    iii. Primary Jurisdiction

“The judicial proceedings are not a continuation of the administrative
determination.”


FACTS:   Parcels of land owned by the Philippine Veterans Bank (PVB ) were taken by the Department of Agrarian Reform for distribution to landless farmers pursuant to the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (R.A. No. 6657). Dissatisfied with the valuation of the land made by the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB), PVB filed a petition for a determination of the just compensation for its property with the Regional Trial Court. The RTC dismissed the petition on the ground that it was filed beyond the 15-day reglementary period for filing appeals from the orders of the DARAB.  Section 51 of Republic Act 6657 provides:

Sec. 51 of Republic Act No. 6657 provides:

Sec. 51. Finality of Determination. — xxxx Any order, ruling or decision shall be final after the lapse of fifteen (15) days from receipt of a copy thereof.

On appeal to the Court of Appeals, the decision was affirmed.

PVB filed a motion for reconsideration, but its motion was likewise denied. Hence, he filed a petition for review with the Supreme Court raising the argument that DAR adjudicators have no jurisdiction to determine the just compensation for the taking of lands under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, because such jurisdiction is vested in Regional Trial Courts designated as Special Agrarian Courts and, therefore, a petition for the fixing of just compensation can be filed beyond the 15-day period of appeal provided from the decision of the DAR adjudicator.

ISSUE:

Whether the DAR has that the power to decide just compensation cases for the taking of lands under R.A. No. 6657.

RULING:

DAR has jurisdiction.

The pertinent provisions of R.A. No. 6657 provides:

Sec. 50 Quasi-Judicial Power of the DAR. — The DAR is hereby vested with primary jurisdiction to determine and adjudicate agrarian reform 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) xxxx

Sec. 57 Special Jurisdiction. — The Special Agrarian Courts shall have original and exclusive jurisdiction over all petitions for the determination of just compensation to landowners, and the prosecution of all criminal offenses under this Act. The Rules of Court shall apply to all proceedings before the Special Agrarian Courts, unless modified by this Act.

The Special Agrarian Courts shall decide all appropriate cases under their special jurisdiction within thirty (30) days from submission of the case for decision.

There is nothing contradictory between the provision of §50 granting the DAR primary jurisdiction to determine and adjudicate “agrarian reform matters” and exclusive original jurisdiction over “all matters involving the implementation of agrarian reform,” which includes the determination of questions of just compensation, and the provision of §57 granting Regional Trial Courts “original and exclusive jurisdiction” over (1) all petitions for the determination of just compensation to landowner, and (2) prosecutions of criminal offenses under R.A. No. 6657. The first refers to administrative proceedings, while the second refers to judicial proceedings. Under R.A. No. 6657, the Land Bank of the Philippines is charged with the preliminary determination of the value of lands placed under land reform program and the compensation to be paid for their taking. It initiates the acquisition of agricultural lands by notifying the landowner of the government’s intention to acquire his land and the valuation of the same as determined by the Land Bank. Within 30 days from receipt of notice, the landowner shall inform the DAR of his acceptance or rejection of the offer. In the event the landowner rejects the offer, a summary administrative proceeding is held by the provincial (PARAD), the regional (RARAD) or the central (DARAB) adjudicator, as the case may be, depending on the value of the land, for the purpose of determining the compensation for the land. The landowner, the Land Bank, and other interested parties are then required to submit evidence as to the just compensation for the land. The DAR adjudicator decides the case within 30 days after it is submitted for decision. If the landowner finds the price unsatisfactory, he may bring the matter directly to the appropriate Regional Trial Court.

To implement the provisions of R.A. No. 6657, particularly §50 thereof, Rule XIII, §11 of the DARAB Rules of Procedure provides:

Land Valuation Determination and Payment of Just Compensation. — The decision of the Adjudicator on land valuation and preliminary determination and payment of just compensation shall not be appealable to the Board but shall be brought directly to the Regional Trial Courts designated as Special Agrarian Courts within fifteen (15) days from receipt of the notice thereof. Any party shall be entitled to only one motion for reconsideration.

As we held in Republic v. Court of Appeals, this rule is an acknowledgment by the DARAB that the power to decide just compensation cases for the taking of lands under R.A. No. 6657 is vested in the courts. It is error to think that, because of Rule XIII, §11, the original and exclusive jurisdiction given to the courts to decide petitions for determination of just compensation has thereby been transformed into an appellate jurisdiction. It only means that, in accordance with settled principles of administrative law, primary jurisdiction is vested in the DAR as an administrative agency to determine in a preliminary manner the reasonable compensation to be paid for the lands taken under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, but such determination is subject to challenge in the courts.

The jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Courts is not any less “original and exclusive” because the question is first passed upon by the DAR, as the judicial proceedings are not a continuation of the administrative determination. For that matter, the law may provide that the decision of the DAR is final and unappealable. Nevertheless, resort to the courts cannot be foreclosed on the theory that courts are the guarantors of the legality of administrative action.

Accordingly, as the petition in the Regional Trial Court was filed beyond the 15-day period provided in Rule XIII, §11 of the Rules of Procedure of the DARAB, the trial court correctly dismissed the case and the Court of Appeals correctly affirmed the order of dismissal.
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IMPORTANT NOTE: This Ruling has been abandoned by the Supreme Court in a 2017 en banc case ([CASE BrieF No. 2017-0611] Land Bank of the Philippines vs. Eugenio Dalauta, G.R. No. 190004 August 8, 2017). The Court ruled that “Since the determination of just compensation is a judicial function, the Court must ABANDON its ruling in Veterans Bank, Martinez and Soriano that a petition for determination of just compensation before the SAC shall be proscribed and adjudged dismissible if not filed within the 15-day period prescribed under the DARAB Rules.”

THINGS DECIDED:

A) Judicial proceedings are not a continuation of the administrative determination.

B) To implement the provisions of R.A. No. 6657, particularly §50 thereof, Rule XIII, §11 of the DARAB Rules of Procedure provides:

Land Valuation Determination and Payment of Just Compensation. — The decision of the Adjudicator on land valuation and preliminary determination and payment of just compensation shall not be appealable to the Board but shall be brought directly to the Regional Trial Courts designated as Special Agrarian Courts within fifteen (15) days from receipt of the notice thereof. Any party shall be entitled to only one motion for reconsideration.

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