DOJ OPINION NO. 176, s. 1992
December 17, 1992
Secretary Ernesto D. Garilao
Department of Agrarian Reform
Elliptical Road, Diliman
S i r :
This has reference to your request for opinion on the following issues:
1. Whether or not untitled private agricultural lands are covered under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP); and
2. Whether or not the proper title, through administrative or judicial proceedings, is an indispensable requisite before the owner of these untitled agricultural lands could be paid from the Agrarian Reform Fund.
The above issues arose apparently due to the differently position taken by Director Abelardo G. Palad of the Lands Management Bureau, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, that "untitled private agricultural land subject of voluntary offer to sell by the claimant should not be paid by the Land Bank until they are (sic) first titled". It is your view, however, that untitled private agricultural lands are also covered by the CARP and that the owners thereof "could already be paid so long as there is conclusive proof of ownership". It appears that the Land Bank of the Philippines has suspended payments to the landowners and stopped the processing of pending claims until a clear legal opinion is rendered on the matter.
Section 4 of R.A. No. 6657, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL), states:
"Sec. 4. Scope. — 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 Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program:
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(d) All private lands devoted to or suitable for agriculture regardless of the agricultural products raised or that can be raised thereof". (Emphasis supplied.)
Well-accepted in statutory construction is the rule, ube lex non distinquit, nec nos distinquers debemus. Thus, it has been held that there should be no distinction in the application of the law where none is indicated therein (SSS vs. City of Bacolod, 115 SCRA 412), and that general words and phrases in a statute should be accorded their natural and general significance (Lo Cham vs. Ocampo, 77 Phil. 636). By said rule, the term "private agricultural lands" in the aforequoted section should be interpreted as including all private lands, whether titled or untitled. This answers your first query.
The second query relates to a different matter, which is, the matter of payment of compensation to the landowner.
The provisions of the CARL which are in point are the following:
"SECTION 16. Procedure for Acquisition of Private Lands. — For purposes of acquisition of private lands, the following procedures shall be followed:
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(c) If the landowner accepts the offer of the DAR, the LBP shall pay the landowner the purchase price of the land within thirty (30) days after he executes and delivers a deed of transfer in favor of the Government and surrenders the Certificate of Title and other muniments of title.
xxx xxx xxx
(e) Upon receipt by the landowner of the corresponding payment or, in case or rejection or no response from the landowner, upon the deposit with an accessible bank designated by the DAR of the compensation in cash or in LBP bonds in accordance with this Act, the DAR shall take immediate possession of the land and shall request the proper Register of Deeds to issue a Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) in the name of the Republic of the Philippines. The DAR shall thereafter proceed with the redistribution of the land to the qualified beneficiaries."
"Section 24. Award to Beneficiaries. — The rights and responsibilities of the beneficiary shall commence from the time the DAR makes an award to the land to him, which award shall be completed within one hundred eighty (180) days from the time the DAR takes actual possession of the land, Ownership of the beneficiary shall be evidenced by the Certificate of Land Ownership Award, which shall contain the restrictions and conditions provided for in this Act, and shall be recorded in the Register of Deeds concerned and annotated on the Certificate of title". (Emphasis supplied.)
The abovequoted provisions consistently refer to Certificate of Title, which is the evidence of ownership issued after bringing the land under the Torrens System of land registration.
Thus, under paragraph (c), Section 16, payment to the landowner who accepts the offer of DAR, of the purchase price of the land shall be made by the LBP within 30 days "after he executes and delivers a deed of transfer in favor of the government and surrenders the Certificate of Title and other muniments of title".
Under paragraph (d), same Section 16, the DAR, upon receipt by the landowner of the corresponding payment, or in case of rejection or no response from the landowner, upon deposit in a designated bank of the compensation in cash or LBP bonds, shall take immediate possession of the land and shall request the Register of Deeds to issue a Transfer Certificate of Title in the name of the Republic of the Philippines, and shall forthwith proceed to redistribute the land to qualified beneficiaries.
Under Section 24, the award of the land to the beneficiaries shall be evidenced by a Certificate of Land Ownership Award (which is not the same as a Certificate of Title), "which shall be recorded in the Registration of Deeds concerned and annotated on the Certificate of Title".
Based on the language of the foregoing provisions of the CARL, it would seem that the LBP is only authorized to pay the purchase price of the land to the landowner after he shall have surrendered his "Certificate of Title and other muniments of title" and would seem to imply also that no such payment could be made by the LBP if the land involved is unregistered or untitled land because there would then be no Certificate of Title which could be presented or surrendered by the landowner.
We do not believe, however, that such could have been the intention of the lawmakers, for it were so, the implementation of the CARL would be imperiled. We would like to believe that when Congress instituted a Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) to cover all public and private agricultural lands, it did not intend to make its operation any more difficult or burdensome to the private landowners affected by withholding, or delaying, the payment to them of just compensation for the land taken by the government in the implementation of the Program. Likewise, it could not have been its intention to derail or delay the implementation of the said Program, and thereby deprive the intended beneficiaries of the benefits under the Program, by imposing requirements, such as the presentation in all cases of the Certificate of Title to authorize payment of compensation, which are not easy or expeditious to meet or fulfill by the affected landowners.
Significantly, Section 75 of the CARL provides:
"SECTION 75. Suppletory Application of Existing Legislation. — The provisions of Republic Act. No. 3844 as amended, Presidential Decree No. 27 and 266 as amended, Executive Order Nos. 228 and 229, both Series of 1987, and other laws not inconsistent within act shall have suppletory effect."
In light of this provision, it could be assumed that in all matters not treated or covered by the present CARL, such as the manner of payment of compensation to owners of untitled lands, the intention of the lawmakers is to apply the pertinent laws, as well as the rules and regulations promulgated by the DAR, governing the implementation of the agrarian reform program. Accordingly, while the payment of compensation to landowners of untitled or unregistered land may not have been expressly provided for in the CARL, the authority to make such payment may be found in the applicable agrarian reform laws and duly issued rules and regulations of the DAR.
Please be guided accordingly.
Very truly yours,
FRANKLIN M. DRILON