DOJ OPINION NO. 052, s. 1994
April 18, 1994
Land Bank of the Philippines
319 Sen. Gil J. Puyat Ave. Ext.
Makati, Metro Manila
S i r :
This refers to your request for "clarification: on the applicability of the Department's Opinion No. 41, series 1992, the case of the "Garchitorena Estate" in Camarines Sur.
You state that on April 27, 1988, United Coconut Planters Bank ("UCPB") and Sharp International Marketing Phil. ("Sharp") executed a Contract to Sell involving the Garchitorena Estate (the "Estate"); that on May 14, 1988, Sharp offered the Estate under the voluntary offer to sell scheme pursuant to Executive Order No. 229 to the Department of Agrarian Reform ("DAR"); that on December 1, 1988 UCPB executed a Deed of Absolute Sale of the Estate in favor of Sharp; that on December 6, 1988, the aforesaid document was registered and titles were issued by the Register of Deed of Camarines Sur in the name of Sharp; and that in September 14, 1991, however, the Supreme Court ruled that "the sale was null and void ab initio because it violated Section 6 of the Republic Act No. 6657 which was in force at the time the transaction was entered into."
You further state that sometime later, Sharp filed a petition with the DAR for the exemption/exclusion of the Estate from CARP coverage; that in its order dated April 20, 1993, DAR denied the said petition stating that out of the total area of 1,887.8190 hectares of the Estate, 1,502.7949 hectares are "found to be cultivated and/or capable of cultivation and therefore for agricultural production and subject to acquisition and distribution to qualified farmer beneficiaries"; that when DAR forwarded the compulsory acquisition claim folders to your Office for processing and valuation, you found questions regarding the ownership of the Estate.
It is your view that Sharp may not be considered the owner of the Estate because the sale between UCPB and Sharp violated Section 6 of R.A. No. 6657 and Supreme Court nullified the sale conferring title to Sharp; and that the abovestated opinion does not apply to the case at bar because the subject opinion concerns only properties which were voluntarily offered and because the deed of sale between the UCPB and Sharp was executed and registered with the Register of Deeds long after the effectivity of the RA 6657 on June 15, 1988, thereby taking the matter out of the coverage of Section 6 RA No. 6657.
You now pose the following queries:
"1) Is it proper to consider Sharp as the landowner of the Garchitorena Estate such that it should be compensated for the same, or should it be UCPB, the original landowner?
"2) Is Opinion No. 41, series of 1992 applicable only in cases of voluntary offers to sell (VOS) or is it also applicable in case of the compulsory acquisition of agricultural lands as in the case of the estate?
It should at once be apparent that the question raised herein involve questions of fact, dealing with the matter of determining the ownership of a land ares. Thus, with much regret, we are unable to give you the desired opinion. Under established precedents and practice of this Department, the Secretary of Justice refrains from passing upon factual matter, inasmuch as, by law, he is mandated to resolve purely legal issues (Secretary of Justice Opns. No. 232, s. 1956; No. 128, s. 1977; no. 92, s. 1982; and No. 75, s. 1988).
Moreover, the instant case involves the substantial interests of private parties, namely Sharp and UCPB, to which the opinion of this Office have no binding effect, such opinions being merely advisory in nature. Hence, the said parties may refuse to be bound by any opinion of the Department in this case, especially if adverse to their interests and decide instead to litigate the matter in court. Pursuant to settled precedents, the Secretary of Justice declines opinions on matter which are justiciable in nature or might be the subject of a judicial controversy (Id., Nos. 291 and 299, s. 1985; Nos. 92 and 112, s. 1971; No. 100, s. 1975; and No. 71, s. 1985).
Very truly yours,
FRANKLIN M. DRILON