June 2016 - Philippine Supreme Court Decisions/Resolutions
G.R. No. 214901, June 15, 2016 - LAND BANK OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner, v. APOLONIO KHO, REPRESENTED BY HIS HEIRS, NAMELY: PERLA LUZ, KRYPTON, KOSELL, KYRIN, AND KELVIN, ALL SURNAMED KHO, Respondents.
G.R. No. 214901, June 15, 2016
LAND BANK OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner, v. APOLONIO KHO, REPRESENTED BY HIS HEIRS, NAMELY: PERLA LUZ, KRYPTON, KOSELL, KYRIN, AND KELVIN, ALL SURNAMED KHO, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
Before the Court is a petition for review on certiorari1 assailing the Decision2 dated August 29, 2014 of the Court of Appeals of Cebu City (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 06365, which affirmed the Decision3 dated August 11, 2011 of the Regional Trial Court of Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, Branch 32 (RTC), acting as a Special Agrarian Court (SAC), in Civil Case No. 2007-14511, directing petitioner the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) to: (a) pay respondents the remaining balance of the just compensation in the amount of P1,353,008.26, with legal interest at the rate of 12% per annum (p.a.) from May 27, 2002 until fully paid; (b) pay its share in the Commissioners' fees in the amount of P30,000.00; and (c) release the initial deposit of P49,601.20 to respondents Apolonio Kho, represented by his heirs, namely: Perla Luz, Krypton, Kosell, Kyrin, and Kelvin, all surnamed Kho (respondents).
Apolonio was the registered owner of a parcel of land located at Lamogong, Manjuyod, Negros Oriental, containing an area of 23.2885 hectares (has.), and covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. HT-556. He was survived by his spouse Perla Luz Kho and his four (4) children, namely: Krypton, Kosell, Kelvin, and Kyrin.4chanrobleslaw
A 22.9747-ha. portion of the said land (subject land) was placed under the Operation Land Transfer Program5 pursuant to Presidential Decree No. (PD) 27.6 On December 6, 1993, Claims Processing Form No. 07 (NO) E093-0157 covering 10.9410 has. was approved by the LBP, which, together with the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), offered as just compensation the amount of P25,269.327 in accordance with8 Executive Order No. (EO) 228,9 series of 1987. On the other hand, Claims Processing Form No. 07 (NO) EO91-0588 covering the remaining area of 12.0337 has. was received by the LBP on September 19, 1997, which valued the land at P24,331.88.10chanrobleslaw
However, Apolonio rejected the valuations,11 prompting the LBP to deposit the said amounts in cash and Agrarian Reform Bonds on December 8, 1993 and December 8, 1997 in his name.12chanrobleslaw
After a summary administrative proceeding for the determination of just compensation, docketed as DARAB Case No. VII-03-NO-03,13 the Office of the Provincial Adjudicator of the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (PARAD) issued an Order14 dated July 31, 2003, fixing the value of the subject land at P109,748.3515 in accordance with EO 228 but set the Government Support Price (GSP) for corn at P4.50/kilogram (kg) in 1993 and P6.00/kg in 1997, as certified by the National Food Authority Provincial Manager of Negros Oriental, while the Average Gross Production (AGP) was fixed at 23 cavans/ha. as established by the Barangay Committee on Land Production of Brgy. Lamogong, Bindoy, Negros Oriental.16chanrobleslaw
Meanwhile, on May 27, 2002, TCT No. HT-556 was partially cancelled covering the subject land, and the corresponding Emancipation Patents were issued transferring ownership to the beneficiaries.17chanrobleslaw
Disagreeing with the PARAD's computation, the LBP appealed to the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB),18 which dismissed the same in a Decision19 dated December 11, 2006, thereby affirming in toto the PARAD's order.20 The LBP moved for reconsideration but the same was denied in a Resolution dated August 18, 2007.21chanrobleslaw
Thus, on October 3, 2007,22 the LBP filed a petition23 for the determination of just compensation before the RTC of Bais City, Negros Oriental, Branch 45, docketed as Civil Case No. 07-34-13.
Subsequently, in view of the passage of Republic Act No. (RA) 970024 and the issuance of the implementing guidelines under DAR Administrative Order No. (AO) 1, series of 2010,25cralawred respondents filed a Motion for Re-evaluation asking the court to direct the LBP to conduct a revaluation of the subject land pursuant thereto,26 which the RTC granted in an Order27 dated February 22, 2010 (February 22, 2010 Order).
Thereafter, the case was transferred to the RTC of Dumaguete City, Branch 32, which was the designated SAC, and was re-docketed as Civil Case No. 2007-14511.28chanrobleslaw
In compliance with the February 22, 2010 Order, the LBP submitted its Report29 dated October 12, 2010 fixing30 the just compensation for the subject land at P842,483.40.31 The LBP pegged the AGP at the rate of 35 cavans/ha.,32 and the GSP at P13.00/kg33 based on certifications of the Municipal Agriculturist for the cropping periods from July 2008 to June 2009.34chanrobleslaw
During trial, the LBP presented, among others, the testimony of Municipal Agriculture Officer (MAO) of Manjuyod, Cheryl S. Baldado,35 regarding the rates of production and farmgate prices of various crops for the years 2008 and 2009 in the Municipality of Manjuyod, and the certifications36 she had issued in relation thereto. Respondents, on the other hand, did not present any witness37 but offered several documentary evidence in support of their claim.38chanrobleslaw
In the course thereof, the RTC appointed three (3) Commissioners to assist in the determination of the just compensation for the subject land.39 In their Appraisal Report40 as of December 10, 2010, the Commissioners fixed the just compensation for the land at P1,402,609.46, taking into consideration the valuation factors provided under Section 17 of RA 6657, as amended, and the formula provided under DAR AO 1, series of 2010.41 In arriving at such value, the Commissioners used the following variables: (a) the AGP for the period July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2009 was pegged at 65.71 cavans/ha. based on the AGP data for corn in Lamogong that was secured from the MAO of Manjuyod;42 (b) the average selling price (SP) for the same period was set at P11.54/kg43 or P577/cavan44 as determined by the National Food Authority,45 and (c) the Market Value46 (MV) per tax declaration, which was grossed-up up to June 30, 2009,47 was computed at P959,900.60.48 A Narrative Report49 was submitted in amplification of the foregoing variables which showed in detail their corresponding computations.
Meanwhile, on October 19, 2010, the LBP had deposited to the account of Apolonio its adjusted/revalued computation for CF Nos. 07 (NO) EO91-0588 and 07 (NO) EO93-0157 in the amounts of P375/708.9850 and P416,944.50, respectively.51chanrobleslaw
In a Decision52 dated August 11, 2011, the RTC adopted in toto the valuation submitted by the Commissioners,53 and fixed the just compensation for the subject land at P1,402,609.4654 based on the formula provided under DAR AO 1, series of 2010.55 It found the Commissioners' report to be comprehensive and detailed,56 and the computation presented therein was reasonable and fair with all the factors mentioned in Section 17 of RA 6657 duly considered.57 In contrast, it observed the LBP's revaluation to be a mere mathematical computation without detailing the factors that were considered in arriving at the final amount.58chanrobleslaw
However, the RTC, noting that the initial valuation of P49,601.20 deposited by the LBP in Apolonio's favor has not yet been withdrawn, ordered that said amount be deducted from the just compensation award, and released in favor of the respondents. In this regard, the RTC imposed a 12% annual legal interest on the unpaid just compensation amounting to P1,353,008.26, reckoned from the time of taking on May 27, 2002, when Apolonio's title (TCT No. HT-556) was partially cancelled, and the corresponding emancipation patents issued to the beneficiaries, until full payment.59chanrobleslaw
Finally, considering that the appointment of the Commissioners was indispensable in the determination of just compensation, and the respondents had already paid their share in the Commissioners' fees, the LBP was ordered to pay its corresponding share in the amount of P30,000.00.60chanrobleslaw
The LBP's motion for reconsideration61 was denied in an Order62 dated August 31, 2011, prompting it to elevate its case to the CA.63chanrobleslaw
In a Decision64 dated August 29, 2014, the CA dismissed the petition and affirmed the ruling of the RTC directing the LBP to pay the balance of the just compensation in the amount of P1,353,008.26 with legal interest of 12% p.a. from the date of taking on May 27, 2002, until fully paid, and to pay its share in the Commissioners' fees.65 The CA agreed with the findings of the RTC that the Commissioners' computation was in accordance with law,66 citing,67 however, the formula provided under DAR AO 5, series of 199868 instead of DAR AO 1, series of 2010 that was adopted by the RTC in arriving at the valuation. It likewise sustained the award of 12% annual legal interest on the unpaid just compensation69 considering the delay in the release of the re-evaluated amount of P842,483.40.70 It also found the charge of Commissioners' fees against the LBP to be in accordance with Section 16, Rule 141 of the Rules of Court, and that the amount of P30,000.00 was fair and commensurate to the work performed by the Commissioners.71chanrobleslaw
The LBP no longer filed a motion for reconsideration prior to the filing of the instant appeal.
The essential issues for the Court's resolution are whether or not the CA committed reversible error in upholding the RTC Decision: (a) fixing the just compensation for the subject land; (i) citing the formula provided under DAR AO 5, series of 1998, instead of AO 1, series of 2010 that was applied by the RTC; and (ii) using the values from the MAO Certification adopted by the Commissioners; and (b) holding the LBP liable for 12% annual legal interest on the unpaid just compensation, and for the Commissioners' fees.
Case law dictates that when the acquisition process under PD 27 is still incomplete, such as in this case where the just compensation due to the landowner has yet to be settled, just compensation should be determined and the process concluded under RA 6657, as amended.72chanrobleslaw
For purposes of determining just compensation, the fair market value of an expropriated property is determined by its character and its price at the time of taking, or the time when the landowner was deprived of the use and benefit of his property, such as when the title is transferred in the name of the beneficiaries. In addition, the factors enumerated under Section 17 of RA 6657, as amended, i.e., (a) the acquisition cost of the land, (b) the current value of like properties, (c) the nature and actual use of the property, and the income therefrom, (d) the owner's sworn valuation, (e) the tax declarations, (f) the assessment made by government assessors, (g) the social and economic benefits contributed by the farmers and the farmworkers, and by the government to the property, and (h) the nonpayment of taxes or loans secured from any government financing institution on the said land, if any, must be equally considered.73chanrobleslaw
However, it bears pointing out that while Congress passed RA 9700 on August 7, 2009, further amending certain provisions of RA 6657, as amended, among them, Section 17, and declaring "[t]hat all previously acquired lands wherein valuation is subject to challenge by landowners shall be completed and finally resolved pursuant to Section 17 of [RA 6657], as amended,"74 DAR AO 2, series of 2009, which is the implementing rules of RA 9700, had clarified that the said law shall not apply to claims/cases where the claim folders were received by the LBP prior to July 1, 2009.75 In such a situation, just compensation shall be determined in accordance with Section 17 of RA 6657, as amended, prior to its further amendment by RA 9700.76chanrobleslaw
Preliminarily, the Court notes that notwithstanding the CA's reference to the formula77 provided under DAR AO 5, series of 1998, it still applied the formula under DAR AO 1, series of 2010 considering that it merely affirmed the RTC's computation which utilized values78 corresponding to those prescribed therein, i.e., the latest available gross production and selling prices for 12 months immediately preceding July 1, 2009,79 in arriving at the capitalized net income (CNI).
It is significant to stress, however, that DAR AO 1, series of 2010 which was issued in line with Section 31 of RA 970080 empowering the DAR to provide the necessary rules and regulations for its implementation, became effective only subsequent to July 1, 2009.81 Consequently, it cannot be applied in the determination of just compensation for the subject land where the claim folders were undisputedly received by the LBP prior to July 1, 2009,82 and, as such, should be valued in accordance with Section 17 of RA 6657 prior to its further amendment by RA 9700 pursuant to the cut-off date set under DAR AO 2, series of 200983 (cut-off rule). Notably, DAR AO 1, series of 2010 did not expressly or impliedly repeal the cut-off rule set under DAR AO 2, series of 2009, having made no reference to any cut-off date with respect to land valuation for previously acquired lands under PD 27 and EO 228 wherein valuation is subject to challenge by landowners. Consequently, the application of DAR AO 1, series of 2010 should be, thus, limited to those where the claim folders were received on or subsequent to July 1, 2009.
In this case, the Court has gone over the records and found that the RTC and the CA neither considered the cut-off rule nor explained its reasons for deviating therefrom. Since the claim folders were received by the LBP prior to July 1, 2009, the RTC should have computed just compensation using pertinent DAR regulations applying Section 17 of RA 6657 prior to its amendment by RA 9700 instead of adopting the new DAR issuance, absent any cogent justifications otherwise. Therefore, as it stands, the RTC and the CA were duty-bound to utilize the basic formula prescribed and laid down in pertinent DAR regulations existing prior to the passage of RA 9700, to determine just compensation.
Nonetheless, the RTC, acting as a SAC, is reminded that it is not strictly bound by the different formula created by the DAR if the situations before it do not warrant their application.84 To insist on a rigid application of the formula goes beyond the intent and spirit of the law, bearing in mind that the valuation of property or the determination of just compensation is essentially a judicial function which is vested with the courts, and not with administrative agencies. Therefore, the RTC must still be able to reasonably exercise its judicial discretion in the evaluation of the factors for just compensation, which cannot be restricted by a formula dictated by the DAR85 when faced with situations that do not warrant its strict application. However, the RTC must explain and justify in clear terms the reason for any deviation from the prescribed factors and formula.86chanrobleslaw
Accordingly, while the parties did not raise as issue the improper application of DAR AO 1, series of 2010, the Court finds a need to remand the case to the RTC for the determination of just compensation to ensure compliance with the law, and to give everyone - the landowner, the farmers, and the State - their due.87 To this end, the RTC is hereby directed to observe the following guidelines in the remand of the case:
chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary1. Just compensation must be valued at the time of taking, or the time when the owner was deprived of the use and benefit of his property,88 in this case, when emancipation patents were issued in the names of the farmer-beneficiaries on May 27, 2002.89 Hence, the evidence to be presented by the parties before the trial court for the valuation of the subject land must be based on the values prevalent on such time of taking for like agricultural lands.90chanrobleslaw
2. Just compensation must be arrived at pursuant to the guidelines set forth in Section 17 of RA 6657, as amended, prior to its amendment by RA 9700. However, the RTC is reminded that while it should take into account the different formula created by the DAR in arriving at the just compensation for the subject land, it is not strictly bound thereto if the situations before it do not warrant their application.91 In any event, should the RTC find the said guidelines to be inapplicable, it must clearly explain the reasons for deviating therefrom, and for using other factors or formula in arriving at the reasonable just compensation for the acquired property.92chanrobleslaw
3. Interest may be awarded as may be warranted by the circumstances of the case and based on prevailing jurisprudence. In previous cases, the Court has allowed the grant of legal interest in expropriation cases where there is delay in the payment since the just compensation due to the landowners was deemed to be an effective forbearance on the part of the State.93 Legal interest on the unpaid balance shall be pegged at the rate of 12% p.a. from the time of taking on May 27, 2002 until June 30, 2013 only. Thereafter, or beginning July 1, 2013, until fully paid, the just compensation due the landowners shall earn interest at the new legal rate of 6% p.a.94 in line with the amendment introduced by BSP-MB Circular No. 799,95 series of 2013.
WHEREFORE, the petition is PARTLY GRANTED. The Decision dated August 29, 2014 of the Court of Appeals of Cebu City in CA-G.R. SP No. 06365 is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Civil Case No. 2007-14511 is REMANDED to the Regional Trial Court of Negros Oriental, Dumaguete City, Branch 32 for reception of evidence on the issue of just compensation in accordance with the guidelines set in this Decision. The trial court is directed to conduct the proceedings in said case with reasonable dispatch, and to submit to the Court a report on its findings and recommended conclusions within sixty (60) days from notice of this Decision.
Sereno, C.J., (Chairperson), Leonardo-De Castro, Bersamin, and Caguioa, JJ., concur.
1Rollo, pp. 24-61.
2 Id. at 67-88. Penned by Associate Justice Jhosep Y. Lopez with Justices Marilyn B. Lagura-Yap and Marie Christine A. Jacob concurring.
3 Id. at 122-134. Penned by Judge Roderick A. Maxino.
4 Id. at 68.
6 Entitled "DECREEING THE EMANCIPATION OF TENANTS FROM THE BONDAGE OF THE SOIL, TRANSFERRING TO THEM THE OWNERSHIP OF THE LAND THEY TILL AND PROVIDING THE INSTRUMENTS AND MECHANISM THEREFOR," (October 21,1972).
7 See Rollo, pp. 69 and 118.
8 Id. at 294-295.
9 Entitled "DECLARING FULL LAND OWNERSHIP TO QUALIFIED FARMER BENEFICIARIES COVERED BY PRESIDENTIAL DECREE NO. 27; DETERMINING THE VALUE OF REMAINING UNVALUED RICE AND CORN LANDS SUBJECT TO P.D. NO. 27; AND PROVIDING FOR THE MANNER OF PAYMENT BY THE FARMER BENEFICIARY AND MODE OF COMPENSATION TO THE LANDOWNER," (approved on July 17, 1987).
10 See Rollo, pp. 68 and 114.
11 See Section 16 (d) and (e) of RA 6557, as amended.
12Rollo, pp. 122 and 294-295.
13 Id. at 99.
14 Id. at 99-102. Signed by Provincial Adjudicator Vivian Olis-Maquiling.
15 See id at 102. Using the formula LV = AGP x 2.5 x GSP
Where: LV = Land Value
AGP = Average Gross Production of corn in cavan of 50 kilos
GSP = Government Support Price
16 Id. at 101-102.
17 Id. at 69 and 123.
18 Id. at 103 and 105.
19 Id. at 103-109. Penned by Member Edgar A. Igano with Vice-Chairman Augusto P. Quijano, Ma. Patricia Rualo-Bello and Delfin B. Samson, concurring. Chairman Nasser C. Pangandaman and Members Narciso B. Nieto and Nestor R. Acosta did not take part.
20 Id. at 108.
21 See the Petition in Civil Case No. 07-34-13, id. at 218.
22 Id. at 70.
23 Id. at 217-219.
24 Entitled "AN ACT STRENGTHENING THE COMPREHENSIVE AGRARIAN REFORM PROGRAM (CARP), EXTENDING THE ACQUISITION AND DISTRIBUTION OF ALL AGRICULTURAL LANDS, INSTITUTING NECESSARY REFORMS, AMENDING FOR THE PURPOSE CERTAIN PROVISIONS OF REPUBLIC ACT NO. 6657, OTHERWISE KNOWN AS THE COMPREHENSIVE AGRARIAN REFORM LAW OF 1988, AS AMENDED, AND APPROPRIATING FUNDS THEREFOR," (approved on August 7, 2009).
25cralawred Entitled "RULES AND REGULATIONS ON VALUATION AND LANDOWNERS COMPENSATION INVOLVING TENANTED RICE AND CORN LANDS UNDER PRESIDENTIAL DECREE (P.D.) NO. 27 AND EXECUTIVE ORDER (E.O.) NO. 228," (July 1, 2009).
26Rollo, pp. 70 and 123.
27 Id. at 226.
28 Id. at 71.
29 Id. at 112-113.
30 Using the formula: LV = (CNI x 0.90) + (MV x 0.10) (See id. at 114.)
Where: CNI = Capitalized Net Income is expressed as (AGP x SP) x 0.20
MV = Market Value per Tax Declaration which is the latest Tax Declaration and Schedule of Unit of Market Value (SUMV) issued prior to June 30, 2009 and grossed-up up to June 30, 2009.
* Reckoning date of AGP and SP shall be June 30, 2009. (See Item IV  of DAR AO 1, series of 2010)
31Rollo, pp. 114 and 118. CF No. 07 (NO) EO91-0588 was revalued to P441,276.38 while CF No. 07 (NO) EO93-0157 was recomputed at P401,207.02.
32 See id. at 114.
33 See id.
34 See id. at 114,118, 136, and 284-285.
35 See Order dated June 15, 2011; id. at 267.
36 Id. at 284-285.
37 See id. at 267.
38 See Offer of Exhibits; id. at 244-245.
39 Id. at 71.
40 Id. at 246-252.
41 Id. at 248.
42 See id. at 251.
44 Id. at 252.
45 Id. at 251.
46 See Tax Declaration No. 99-12-014-00049; id. at 257, including dorsal portion. The Municipal Assessor's Office of Manjuyod placed the property's adjusted market value (AMV) as of 1999 at P539,270.00.
47 Id. at 251.
48 Id. at 252.
49 Id. at 249-252.
50 From the total readjusted computation of P375,937.70, the amount of P228.72 was deducted representing interest earned in trust, see id. at 296.
51 See id. at 287 and 296-297.
52 Id. at 122-134.
53 Id. at 130.
54 Id. at 134.
55 Id. at 128.
56 Id. at 126.
57 Id. at 130.
58 Id. at 126.
59 Id. at 133-134.
60 Id. at 134.
61 Dated August 25, 2011. Id. at 135-143.
62 Id. at 195.
63 Petition for Review; id. at 145-180.
64 Id. at 67-88.
65 Id. at 87.
66 Id. at 77.
67 Id. at 75-76.
68 Entitled "REVISED RULES AND REGULATIONS GOVERNING THE VALUATION OF LANDS VOLUNTARILY OFFERED OR COMPULSORILY ACQUIRED PURSUANT TO REPUBLIC ACT NO. 6657," (approved on April 15, 1998).
69Rollo, p. 80.
70 Id. at 84-85.
71 Id. at 85-86.
72DAR v. Sta. Romana, G.R. No. 183290, July, 9, 2014, 729 SCRA 387, 396; DAR v. Beriña, G.R. Nos. 183901 & 183931, July, 9, 2014, 729 SCRA 403, 412.
73DAR v. Sta. Romana, id. at 396-397.
74 See Section 5 of RA 9700 which further amended Section 7 of RA 6657, as amended on the "Priorities" in the acquisition and distribution of agricultural lands.
75 Item VI of DAR AO 2, series of 2009, entitled "RULES AND PROCEDURES GOVERNING THE ACQUISITION AND DISTRIBUTION OF AGRICULTURAL LANDS UNDER REPUBLIC ACT (R.A.) NO. 6657, AS AMENDED BY R.A. NO. 9700," (approved on October 15, 2009).
76 Id. See also DAR v. Sta. Romana, supra note 72 at 398; DAR v. Beriña, supra note 72 at 417.
77 The two (2) AOs would essentially employ the same formula, i.e., LV = (CNI x 0.9) + (MV x 0.1); see Item II (A) (A.I) of DAR AO 5, series of 1998, and Item IV (1) of DAR AO 1, series of 2010.
78I.e., production values and farm gate prices for the period July 2008 to June 2009; see Rollo, pp. 114, 118, 136 and 284-285.
79 See Item IV (1) of DAR AO 1, series of 2010 on "Land Valuation."
80 See Item VIII of DAR AO 1, series of 2010 on "Effectivity."
81 While DAR AO 1, series of 2010 provided that it shall take effect on July 1, 2009, it was only published on February 18, 2010 at the Philippine Star and Manila Times newspapers. See <http://www.lis.dar.gov.ph/documents/140> (last accessed on April 25, 2016).
82I.e., on December 6, 1993 and September 19, 1997; see Rollo, pp. 68-69, 114 and 118.
83 See DAR v. Sta. Romana, supra note 72 at 398; DAR v. Beriña, supra note 72 at 417.
84 Id. See also Mercado v. LBP, G.R. No 196707, June 17, 2015.
85 See DAR v. Sta. Romana, supra note 72 at 400-401; DAR v. Beriña, supra note 72 at 419.
86LBP v. Eusebio, Jr., G.R. No. 160143, July 2, 2014, 728 SCRA 447, 464.
87 See Mercado v. LBP, supra note 84.
89 See Rollo, pp. 69 and 123.
90 See DAR v. Sta. Romana, supra note 72 at 398; DAR v. Beriña, supra note 72 at 417.
92 See Mercado v. LBP, supra note 84.
94 See Nacar v. Gallery Frames, G.R. No. 189871, August 13, 2013, 703 SCRA 439, 454-456.
95 Entitled "Subject: Rate of interest in the absence of stipulation" issued on dated June 21, 2013.