DOJ OPINION NO. 092, s. 1978
July 5, 1978
Respectfully returned to the Minister, Ministry of Agrarian Reform, Diliman, Quezon City, his within request for opinion regarding landholdings covered by P.D. No. 27, which have been previously mortgaged to banking institutions, specifically on the following questions:
a) Whether or not lands covered by P.D. No. 27 may be the object of foreclosure proceedings after October 21, 1972;
b) Whether or not the right of a landowner to receive payment from the Land Bank may be the object of foreclosure proceedings.
I find merit in the position taken by that Ministry that lands covered by P.D. No. 27 may not be the object of foreclosure proceedings after the promulgation of said decree on October 21, 1972. With the peremptory declaration that the tenant farmer "shall be deemed owner" of the land he tills, and the declaration that lands acquired thereunder or under the land reform program of the government "shall not be transferable except by hereditary succession or to the government in accordance with the provisions of the Decree, the Code of Agrarian Reform, and other existing laws and regulations", I believe that whatever right the mortgager has to the property is superseded by the statutory declaration transferring ownership from the mortgagor to the tenant by operation of law. Foreclosure of mortgage is a remedy by which the property covered may be subjected to sale to pay the debt for which the mortgage stands as security, and since the land is by law no longer transferable except to the heirs of the tenant-farmer or to the government, I do not see how the right to foreclose can subsist when the mortgaged property has ceased to be alienable property of the mortgagor, and the property cannot be transferred to the purchaser in the foreclosure proceedings. The situation is analogous to one where the mortgaged property is expropriated before foreclosure takes place, regarding which it has been held that the mortgagee loses his lien upon the expropriated property as "the land taken no longer belongs to the mortgagor, because it has been by virtue of a sovereign power, free of the mortgage", (Chicago v. Salinger, et al. 52 NE 2d-184 ; see also In Re Diliman, 267 NW-623 ; In Re City of Rochester, 32 NE 702 )
This conclusion finds support in the provision of Section 80 of R.A. No. 3844 (Code of Agrarian Reform, as amended by P.D. No. 251), which provides insofar as pertinent:
"SEC. 80. Modes of Payment. — The Bank shall finance the acquisition of farm lots under any of the following modes of settlement:
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"In the event there is existing lien or encumbrance on the land in favor of any Government lending institution at the time of acquisition by the Bank, the landowner shall be paid the net value of the land (i.e., the value of the land determined under Presidential Decree No. 27 minus the outstanding balance/s of the obligation/s secured by the lien/s of encumbrance/s, and the outstanding balance/s of the obligations to the lending institution/s shall be paid by the Land Bank in Land Bank bonds or other securities; existing charters of those institutions to the contrary notwithstanding. A similar settlement may be negotiated by the Land Bank in the case of obligations secured by liens or encumbrances in favor of private parties or institutions.
"xxx xxx xxx
The Land Bank is thus charged with the obligation to settle, or negotiate the settlement of, the obligations secure by the mortgage, lien or encumbrance whether the lender is a government or a private lending institution. This assumes that the might of the mortgagor to enforce his lien through foreclosure proceedings against the property no longer subsists. I may add that with respect to cases where the mortgage might by now (but after October 21, 1972) have already been foreclosed, the titles of the purchaser at the auction sale having actually been perfected after the redemption period had expired, the foreclosure might have to be set aside through judicial proceedings.
I am aware that a ruling that lands covered by P.D. No. 27 may not be the object of the foreclosure proceedings after the promulgation of said decree on October 21, 1972, would concede that P.D. No. 27 had the effect of impairing the obligation of the duly executed mortgage contracts affecting said lands. There is no question, however, that the land reform program of the government as accelerated under P.D. No. 27 and mandated by the Constitution itself (Act XIV, Sec. 12), was undertaken in the exercise of the police power of the state. It is settled in a long line of decisions of the Supreme Court that the constitutional guaranty of non-impairment of obligations of contract is limited by the exercise of the police power of the state. [Pangasinan Transp. v. P.S.C. 70 Phil. 221 (1940); Phil. American Life Ins. Co. v. The Auditor General 22 SCRA, 135 (1968); De Ramos v. Court of Agrarian Relations, I-19555, May 29, 1964; Stone v. Mississippi, 101 U.S. 814] One limitation on the contract clause arises from the police power, the reason being that public welfare is superior to private rights. [Since, Phil. Pol. Law, 11th ed. at p. 642] The situation here, is like that in eminent domain proceedings, where the state expropriates private property for public use, and the only condition to be complied with is the payment of just compensation. Technically the condemnation proceedings do not impair the contract on destroy its obligations, but merely appropriate of take it for public use [Long Is. Water Sup. Co. v. Brooklyn, 166 U.S. 635]. As the Land Bank is obliged to setter the obligations secured by the mortgage, the mortgagee is not left without compensation.
The first query is therefore answered in the negative.
Regarding query No. 2, I do not see how foreclosure proceedings can be instituted against the "right of the landowner to receive payment from the Land Bank". As the mortgage had ceased to exist upon the transfer of title to the tenant by virtue of the promulgation of P.D. No. 27 on October 21, 1972, there can be no mortgage to foreclose and therefore no subject for the foreclosure proceedings. Whatever equitable interest the mortgagee has in the land owners' right to receive payment is protected under Section 80, above-quoted, directing the Land Bank to settle existing liens and encumbrances affecting the property.
Please be guided accordingly.
It might be useful to note that the above view is shared by the Land Bank of the Philippines, as expressed in the proceeding Indorsement of the President of said bank.
(SGD.) VICENTE ABAD SANTOS
Minister of Justice