DOJ OPINION NO. 023, s. 1999
March 5, 1999
Hon. Horacio R. Morales
Department of Agrarian Reform
Elliptical Road, Diliman
S i r :
Subject herein is the request for opinion concerning the judicial reconstitution of titles involving lands which are subject to acquisition and distribution under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
It is stated that Regional Trial Court (RTC) judges and Provincial Prosecutors are questioning the personality of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to file petitions for judicial reconstitution of titles on behalf of the landowners who refuse to produce their Owners' Duplicate Copy (ODC) of the certificates of title of the subject lands. It is also stated that DAR field offices are first asked to produce authorization from the affected landowners which apparently could not be expected to be issued by them, particularly if they are against the CARP coverage of their lands. It is further averred that, on the other hand, mortgagees of properties whose redemption periods have lapsed also refuse to consolidate the titles because they do not want to assume payment of taxes especially if the compensation for the land is low and the net value thereof, after deducting the tax due, is small. It is finally claimed that for these reasons, the Register(s) of Deeds refuse to register the Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) covering said properties.
Believing that the procedural requirement to first ask for authorization from the affected landowners before said petitions can be filed will unduly delay the implementation of the CARP which, it is added, is not consistent with the legal mandate of R.A. No. 6657 on the need to distribute the lands to the tillers at the earliest possible time, the issue is now raised to this Department for opinion.
The query herein raised, it is assumed, is whether the procedural requirement of asking from the affected landowners authorization before a petition for reconstitution of title could be filed in court can be dispensed with. llcd
With regret, we have to decline to render the opinion requested for the reason that to rule on the issue would be tantamount to passing upon the position taken by the RTC judges on the authority of the DAR to file the petitions for reconstitution of titles. The Secretary of Justice, however, has, time and again, desisted from passing upon issues which have already been the subject of official action by other offices/officials, including the courts, over whose actuations he possesses no revisory authority (Sec. of Justice Opinion No. 16, current series, citing Opn. No. 150, s. 1998), and is not inclined to adopt such course of action as may amount to undue interference in the performance of the functions of said RTC judges (id., No. 19, s. 1998).
Moreover, the resolution of the issue raised would involve the substantive rights of the affected land owners and/or possessors who, undeniably, are indispensable parties in any land case, including reconstitution of title (see, Serra Serra vs. Court of Appeals, 195 SCRA 482, 492, citing Alabang Development vs. Valenzuela, 116 SCRA 277). Considering that 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 courts. As a matter of policy, therefore, the Secretary of Justice has invariably refrained from rendering opinion on questions which are justiciable in nature or those which may be the subject of litigation before the courts (id., Opn. No. 12, current series, citing opinions).
If the DAR is not satisfied with the ruling/action of the RTC judges, it is suggested that said court ruling/action be elevated and questioned before the higher courts on certiorari.
Very truly yours,
(SGD.) JUSTICE SERAFIN R. CUEVAS