DOJ OPINION NO. 012, s. 2008
March 13, 2008
Regional Secretary Allen Hofer Usman
Department of Agrarian Reform
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao
ARMM Compound, Cotabato City
This refers to your request for clarification of the opinion (No. 24, s. 2007) rendered by Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Nasser C. Pangandaman concerning the applicability of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) under Republic Act No. 6657 (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law) on agricultural lands covered by free patents issued after the effective date of R.A. No. 6657 on June 15, 1988.
Under the subject opinion, the CARP does not apply to agricultural lands covered by free patents issued after June 15, 1988, if the patent was issued under the "Handog Titulo" Program of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the area involved does not exceed five (5) hectares. This means that if the land ownership of the patentee, aggregately exceeds five (5) hectares, the excess is to be placed under the CARP coverage.
The request, it appears, is raised in the light of the contrary view advanced by the Land Bank of the Philippines, the bank tasked by the government to effect payment of lands covered by the CARP. The bank is of the view that landholdings that were issued patents after the effectivity of CARL are no longer eligible for CARP coverage; otherwise, it would result in double coverage under R.A. No. 6657.
It bears stress, at the outset, that pursuant to law and established precedents, the Secretary of Justice, as Attorney General, renders opinion and gives legal advice only for and upon request of national government functionaries, such as heads of departments and chiefs of bureaus and offices of equivalent rank, and then only on specific legal questions/issues arising in the performance of their respective powers and functions. Accordingly, he has, in practice, consistently declined to render opinion or give legal advice to other government officials and to private individuals and entities (Sec. of Justice Op. No. 53, 37 and 35, s. 2007; No. 76 and 75, s. 2006).
Likewise, the Secretary of Justice has always adhered to the policy that subordinate officials, instead of seeking the aid of this Department, may, on matters confronting them in the exercise of their official duties, as a matter of official courtesy and sound administrative practice, consult their chief or head of office who may competently resolve the issue without seeking assistance from another office (ibid., No. 56, 23 and 4, s. 2007; No. 14 and 3, s. 2006).
Moreover, under R.A. No. 6657 otherwise known as the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, the DAR is vested with the power to issue rules and regulations whether substantive or procedural, to carry out the objects and purposes of the law. 1
Furthermore, the Secretary of Justice, time and again, has desisted from passing upon issues that have already been the subject of official action by other officials/offices over whose actuations he possesses no revisory authority. This rule arises not only from practical considerations but also out of due respect and deference for the competence and expertise of the office having primary jurisdiction to resolve the matter for its familiarity with the policy repercussions of the question as well as from logical recognition of the lawful exercise of an authority conferred by law (id., No. 65, 62 and 59, s. 2007; No. 80 and 78, s. 2006).
It is an elementary rule in administrative law that administrative rules and regulations or policies enacted by the administrative bodies to interpret the law which they are entrusted to enforce, have the force and effect of law, and are entitled to great weight and respect. 2 Corollary to this is the fact that the best authority to interpret a rule is the source itself of the rule. 3
Finally, being essentially advisory in nature, the opinion of the Secretary of Justice need not bind the DAR, if that be its pleasure. As the government agency primarily responsible for the implementation, administration and enforcement of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, the DAR may, if it so decides, formally adopt the position it takes on the issue raised and assume responsibility therefor (Op. cit., No. 87, s. 1982) (id., 59, s. 2007).
Please be guided accordingly.
Very truly yours,
(SGD.) RAUL M. GONZALEZ
1. Sec. 49, R.A. No. 6657.
2. Rizal Empire Insurance Co. v. NLRC, 150 SCRA 565 .
3. De Leon and De Leon, Jr., Administrative Law: Text and Cases, 2001 ed., p. 128, citing Recabo, Jr. v. COMELEC, 308 SCRA 793 .