DOJ OPINION NO. 184, s. 1988
September 13, 1988
Sec. Philip Ella Juico
Department of Agrarian Reform
Diliman, Quezon City
S i r :
This refers to your request for opinion regarding the interpretation of certain provisions of Republic Act No. 6657, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform law of 1988, which provide:
"SEC. 6. Retention Limits. —
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Upon the effectivity of this Act, any sale, disposition, lease, management contract or transfer of possession of private lands executed by the original landowner in violation of this Act shall be null and void : Provided, however, That those executed prior to this Act shall be valid only when registered with the Register of Deeds within a period of three (3) months after the effectivity of this Act. Thereafter, all Registers of Deeds shall inform the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) within thirty (30) days of any transaction involving agricultural lands in excess of five (5) hectares."
SEC. 70. Disposition of Private Agricultural Lands. — The sale of disposition of agricultural lands retained by a landowner as a consequence of Section 6 thereof shall be valid as long as the total land holdings that shall be owned by the transferee thereof inclusive of the land to be acquired shall not exceed the landholding ceilings provided for in this Act.
Any sale of disposition of agricultural lands after the effectivity of this Act found to be contrary to the provisions hereof shall be null and void.
Transferees of agricultural lands shall furnish the appropriate Register of Deeds and the BARC an affidavit attending that his total landholdings as a result of the said acquisition do not exceed the landholding ceiling. The Register of Deeds shall not register the transfer of any agricultural land without the submission of his sworn statement together with proof of service of a copy thereof to the BARC."
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"SEC. 73. — Prohibited Acts and Omissions. The Following are prohibited:
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(e) The sale, transfer, conveyance or charge of the nature of lands outside of urban centers and city limits either in whole or in part after the effectivity of this Act. The date of the registration of the deed of conveyance in the Register of Deeds with respect to titled lands and the date of the issuance of the tax declaration to the transferee of the property with respect to unregistered lands, as the case may be, shall be conclusive for the purpose of this Act."
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The instant request it appears, was prompted by certain propositions submitted by some sectors interpreting the foregoing statutory provisions, stating —
(1) "That any sale, disposition, lease, management contract or transfer of possession of private lands with an area in excess of 5 hectares, if executed by the original owner after the effectivity of this Act, is null and void;"
(2) "That the transactions of areas in excess of 5 hectares but nor more that 50 hectares is valid, provided that the buyer will agree that the property be placed under CARP coverage on the 4th year or 6th year, as the case may be;" and
(3) "That [the] sale, or disposition of lands with an area of less than 50 hectares executed by the original landowner after the effectivity of this Act, is valid because the property is not yet within the 1st priority of acquisitions and distribution and its coverage by CARP will only be at the start of 4th year or 6th year, as the case may be."
We agree, with some qualification, with the first proposition.
The abovequoted provision of Section 6 of the subject law declares "any sale, disposition, lease, management contract or transfer of possession of private lands executed by the original landowner in violation of this Act" to be "null and void", while Section 70 thereof, supra, permits "the sale or disposition of agricultural lands retained by a landowner" "as long as the total landholdings that shall be owned by the transferee thereof inclusive of the land to be acquired shall not exceed the landholding ceilings" prescribed in the law. Conformably with the rule in statutory construction that a provision of law should be construed in relation to, and jointly with, all other provisions thereof (Chartered Bank v. Imperial, 48 Phil. 931), the proper interpretation of both sections is that under R.A. No. 6657, the sale or transfer of a private agricultural land is allowed only when said lands constitutes, or is a part of, the landowner-seller's retained area and only when the total landholdings of the purchaser-transferee, including the property sold, does not exceed five hectares. Conversely, any sale or disposition of land in excess of the five-hectare retention limit is invalid. The second paragraph of Section 70 of R.A. 6657 stresses this restriction upon land ownership by providing that "[a]ny sale or disposition of agricultural land after the effectivity of this Act found to be contrary to the provision [t]hereof shall be null and void."
It is possible, however, that a landowner may wish to sell or otherwise dispose of his landholding prior to the determination of what constitutes his retained area, i.e., before he has exercised his right of retention, in such a case, it is believed that a landowner may sell or transfer landholdings even in excess of the five-hectare retention limit, provided that the purchaser-transferee of the land area being sold or transferred is a qualified beneficiary under the law and that the total landholdings of said purchaser-transferee, including the property to be acquired by him, shall not exceed the landholding ceiling set therein. The reason is that such disposition would fall within the purview of the "voluntary land transfer" option granted to landowners under Section 20 of the law.
We find the second and third dispositions questionable.
While it may be true that under Section 7 of the subject law, landholdings above 24 hectares up to 50 hectares and those above the retention limit up to 24 hectares shall be acquired and distributed only on the 4th and 6th years, respectively, of the Act's effectivity, we are unprepared to conclude that the aforedescribed realties are not in the meantime covered by the prohibitions contained in Sections 6 and 70 of the same law. For one thing, the third paragraph of Section 7 provides that —
"In any case, the PARC, upon recommendation by the Provincial Agrarian Reform Coordinating Committee (PARCCOM), may declare certain provinces or regions as priority land reform areas, in which case the acquisition and distribution of private agricultural lands therein may be implemented ahead of the above schedules."
The foregoing provision implies that the legal mandate to acquire and distribute private landholdings came into force when the law took effect and that only its implementation is divided into several phases. Pertinent, in this connection, is Section 5 of the law which declares that the "distribution of all lands covered by this Act shall be implemented immediately and completed within ten (10) years from the effectivity thereof." It thus stand to reason that landholdings covered by the law cannot be the subject of a sale or transfer unless specifically sanctioned thereunder.
Moreover, the plain and peremptory manner in which the language of the prohibitions in question are couched persuades us that any sale or disposition of private lands not falling within the scope of the transactions allowed in Section 70 is prescribed. This particular legislative intent is further evidenced by Section 73(e) of the law which enjoins "the sale, transfer, conveyance or change of the nature of lands outside of urban centers and city limits either in whole or in part after the effectivity of this Act." Had the legislature intended to exclude from the said injunction transactions involving landholdings prior to their actual distribution, it could have easily made this exception from the prohibition.
Please be advised accordingly.
Very truly yours,
(SGD.) SEDFREY A. ORDOÑEZ
Secretary of Justice