DOJ OPINION NO. 180, s. 1990
October 15, 1990
Asst. Secretary Rodolfo Dizon
Legal Office Affairs
Department of Agrarian Reform
Elliptical Road, Diliman
S i r :
This refers to your request for opinion as to whether or not agricultural lands owned by Kalakalan 20 beneficiaries, i.e., countryside and barangay business enterprises ("CBEEs"), under R.A. No. 6810 are exempt from the coverage of R.A. No. 6657, instituting the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program ("CARP").
The instant query, we take it, was raised in view of the third paragraph of Section 3 of R.A. 6810, reading:
"[CBEEs] shall be exempted from any and all government rules and regulations in respect of assets, income, and other activities, indispensably and directly utilized in, proceeding from our connected with the business of the enterprise". (Emphasis supplied)
and which provision seems to exclude agricultural lands used by CBEEs in their business activities from the scope of R.A. No. 6657, defined in Section 4 thereof as follows:
"The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988 shall cover, regardless of tenurial arrangement and commodity produced, all public and private agricultural lands as provided in Proclamation No. 131 and Executive Order No. 229, including other lands of the public domain suitable for agriculture."
"More specifically, the following lands are covered by the [CARP]:
xxx xxx xxx
(d) All private lands devoted to or suitable for agriculture regardless of the agricultural products raised or that can be raised thereon."
The question, we believe should be resolved in the negative.
To begin with, the abovequoted provision of R.A. No. 6810 speaks of exemption from "government rules and regulations", which ordinarily refer to those issued by executive or administrative officers in the exercise of their delegated power to implement a statute (Agpalo, Statutory Construction, 1986 Ed. p. 2). It has been said that although the phrase "rules and regulations" might include statutes, depending upon the context in which it is used, such phrase does not include statutes in its usual connotation; ordinarily, such phrase is taken to mean rules and regulations adopted by administrative boards and agencies (Jones v. Reed, 590 S.W. 2d 6). We observe no indication in the language of Section 3 of R.A. No. 6810 that CBEEs are likewise exempt from the provisions of existing law in respect of their "assets, income, and other activities, indispensably and directly utilized in proceeding from or connected with the business of the enterprise".
Moreover, the agricultural lands which are exempted from the reach of the CARP are enumerated in Section 10 of R.A. No. 6657. If the Congress had intended those agricultural lands belonging to CBEEs excluded from CARP coverage, it could have expressly stated so in R.A. No. 6810; but such intention is not even clearly manifest from a close reading of the said law. Congress is presumed to know existing laws (Smith Bell & Co. vs. Maronilla, 41 Phil. 557); hence, it has been said that a statute, in order to be held an exemption to the general provisions of another, must be covered in a language so clear and unmistakable as to be free from doubt as to the legislative intent in declaring it an exception (Francisco, Statutory Construction, 2nd Ed., p. 311 citing C.J.) Likewise pertinent is the ruling that -
"The legal presumption is that the Legislature did not intend to keep really contradictory enactments in the statute book, or to effect so important a measure as the repeal of a law without expressing an intention to do so. An interpretation leading to such a result should not be adopted unless it be inevitable. The canon of construction in such cases is that, if the courts can by any fair, strict, or liberal construction find for the two provisions a reasonable field or operation, without destroying their evident intent and meaning, preserving the force of both, and construing them together in harmony with the whole course of legislation upon the subject it is their duty to do so." (State v. Givens, 37 So. 308).
The query is answered accordingly.
Very truly yours,
FRANKLIN M. DRILON