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HON. RENE C. VILLA, in his official capacity as Secretary of Agrarian Reform; the BUREAU OF AGRARIAN LEGAL ASSISTANCE, the CENTER FOR LAND USE AND POLICY PLANNING INSTITUTE, the DEPARTMENT OF AGRARIAN REFORM ADJUDICATION BOARD, all of the Department of Agrarian Reform; CONCHITA DELFINO; ANTHONY DELFINO; ARTEMIO ALON; and SM PRIME HOLDINGS, INC.,
G.R. No. 173428
CARPIO, J., Chairperson,
November 22, 2010
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This is a petition for
review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court assailing the
The facts follow.
On November 29, 1996, Eutiquio Dejuras, predecessor-in-interest of herein petitioner, filed with the Laguna Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator (PARAD) a Complaint, docketed as DARAB Case No. 0449-95, against Luis and Anthony Delfino and Artemio Alon, Jr. (Artemio) for the redemption of a 19,570 square meter piece of land located in Sta. Rosa, Laguna. The land, identified as Lot No. 1383-B, forms part of a 39,570 square-meter property now registered in the name of SM Prime Holdings, Inc. (SMPHI) under Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 502647. The complaint alleged that Eutiquio had been a legitimate tenant/leaseholder on the land for 50 years with authority from the former owners thereof, namely, the spouses Luis and Conchita Delfino, but that in 1987, Luis donated the property to his son, Anthony, who, without notice to Eutiquio, later sold it to his cousin, Artemio. Eutiquio thus prayed that the sale to Artemio be revoked and that he be given the first option to buy the property in accordance with Section 12 of Republic Act No. 3844 (the Agricultural Land Reform Code).
The PARAD dismissed the complaint on
This time around, Eutiquio filed on
In the interim between
the entry of judgment in the redemption case and the issuance of the writ of
execution therein, former DAR Secretary Horacio Morales, at the instance of
an Exemption Order on
From the denial of the Petition for Coverage, Florencio and petitioner immediately lodged an appeal with the Office of Secretary Villa. Before the same office, they also filed an Urgent Ex Parte Motion for Issuance of Cease-and-Desist Order or Writ of Preliminary Injunction in connection not only with the Petition for Coverage under appeal, but also in connection with the Complaint for Redemption as well as with the Petition for Revocation, whereby they prayed that SMPHI be enjoined from entering into and carrying out development and construction operations on the subject property.
Petitioner and Florencio had sought the early resolution of this motion, yet despite their efforts in filing six successive motions to that end, it appears that the Office of the DAR Secretary had not promptly come up with a resolution on the application for injunctive relief.
Florencio meantime died and was survived by petitioner, who then instituted a Petition for Mandamus before the Court of Appeals, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 88588, specifically praying that a temporary restraining order be issued ex parte to prevent SMPHI from proceeding with its construction operations; that the DARAB be directed to resolve Eutiquios earlier motion for reconsideration of the September 30, 1999 Resolution in DARAB Case No. 5485; and that Secretary Villa be ordered to grant the urgent ex parte motion for injunctive relief .
WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED DUE COURSE and DISMISSED.
The Court of Appeals reluctance to issue the writ of mandamus was informed by the supervening fact that first, on February 23, 2005, the DAR did indeed come up with an Order denying petitioners Urgent Ex Parte Motion for the Issuance of a Cease-and-Desist Order/Writ of Preliminary Injunction and, second, the DARAB likewise did issue a Resolution on April 20, 2005 denying Eutiquios pending motion for reconsideration in the Petition for Redemption. Also, the Court of Appeals pointed out that mandamus does not avail to address the errors which the public respondents below may have committed, as the said remedy avails only in relation to official duties which are ministerial in character.
Yet despite the issuance of the February 23, 2005 DAR Order and the April 20, 2005 DARAB Resolution denying respectively the Urgent Ex Parte Motion for the Issuance of Writ of Preliminary Injunction/Cease-and-Desist Order and Eutiquios motion for reconsideration in the Petition for Redemption, petitioner still moved for a reconsideration of the assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals. With the denial thereof, he now seeks recourse to this Court in the present petition for review.
Petitioner faults the Court of Appeals in not giving weight to the issuance by the DAR in the Petition for Coverage of a cease-and-desist order against SMPHI which only signifies that there is prima facie basis to grant the urgent ex parte motion for injunctive relief, as well as to the fact that the subsequent lifting of the cease-and-desist order and the dismissal of the Petition for Coverage have both undermined the Petition for Redemption. He alleges that the Court of Appeals has overlooked that the December 26, 2000 Exemption Order was the basis used in the urgent ex parte motion in the Petition for Coverage and that despite the exemption order, the ownership of the land is still being litigated in CA-G.R. SP No. 90111 an appeal pending in the Court of Appeals which is an offshoot of the Petition for Redemption.
Interestingly, while petitioner admits that it was only after the filing of the petition for mandamus with the Court of Appeals did the DAR act on the Urgent Ex Parte Motion, he nevertheless characterizes the action of the DAR to be quite predictable, leaning as it does in favor of SMPHI and allegedly based solely on the December 26, 2000 Exemption Order previously issued by former DAR Secretary Morales. Petitioner notes that the SM City Sta. Rosa shopping mall is already complete, but nonetheless seeks the reversal of the herein assailed decision so that the DAR may be compelled to issue an injunction in the Petition for Coverage and Petition for Revocation and that SMPHI may be directed to restore actual possession of, and be enjoined from, performing further acts of ownership over the disputed property.
Commenting on the petition, SMPHI emphasizes the DARABs finding that Eutiquio had always been only a civil law tenant and, hence, the Court of Appeals was correct in dismissing the mandamus petition mainly because Eutiquio had no tenurial rights to speak of which might have otherwise been violated. It likewise calls attention to a 1981 zoning ordinance issued by the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board declaring the subject property to be within the light industrial zone and which previously gave the DAR the justification in granting Artemios petition for exemption. For their part, the Dejurases and Artemio posit that there is no room in the instant case for factual assertions and evidentiary evaluation inasmuch as only questions of law may be raised in a Rule 45 petition.
The Court denies the petition.
Petitioner has made an extensive, effortful and elaborate essay on the factual aspects not only of the Petition for Redemption, but also of the Petition for Coverage and the Petition for Revocation of Exemption Order particularly on the controverted nature of Eutiquios possession of the subject land. That issue, however, is not for this Court to address, and certainly not in the instant petition which brings only the issue of whether the Court of Appeals was correct in declining to issue the writ of mandamus and in not compelling the DARAB to resolve Eutiquios motion for reconsideration in the Petition for Redemption and the DAR to issue the cease-and-desist order, or writ of preliminary injunction prayed for, in the Petition for Redemption, Petition for Coverage and Petition for Revocation.
But perhaps as a last-ditch attempt to turn the table in his favor following the unfavorable issuance of the February 23, 2005 DAR Order denying the Urgent Ex Parte Motion for the Issuance of Writ of Preliminary Injunction/Cease-and-Desist Order and of the April 20, 2005 DARAB Resolution denying Eutiquios motion for reconsideration in the Petition for Redemption, petitioner now pursues a different theory by claiming that the DAR and the DARAB have exceeded their authority and committed grave abuse of discretion and manifest injustice in issuing the said order and resolution. Verily, petitioner is grasping at straws.
Established is the procedural law precept that a writ of mandamus generally lies to compel the performance of a ministerial duty, but not the performance of an official act or duty which necessarily involves the exercise of judgment. Thus, when the act sought to be performed involves the exercise of discretion, the respondent may only be directed by mandamus to act but not to act in one way or the other. It is, nonetheless, also available to compel action, when refused, in matters involving judgment and discretion, but not to direct the exercise of judgment in a particular manner. However, this rule admits of exceptions. Mandamus is the proper remedy in cases where there is gross abuse of discretion, manifest injustice, or palpable excess of authority.
In Valley Trading Co., Inc. v. Court of First Instance of Isabela, it was held that the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction is addressed to the sound discretion of the issuing authority, conditioned on the existence of a clear and positive right of the applicant which should be protected. It is an extraordinary peremptory remedy that may be availed of only upon the grounds expressly provided by law. In Government Service Insurance System v. Florendo and Searth Commodities Corp. v. Court of Appeals, it was also held that the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction as an ancillary or preventive remedy to secure the rights of a party in a pending case is entirely within the discretion of the tribunal taking cognizance of the case, limited only by the requirement that the use of such discretion be based on ground and in the manner provided by law. Bataclan v. Court of Appeals also points out that although sufficient discretion is allowed in the grant of the relief, extreme caution must be taken in determining the necessity for the grant of the relief prayed for, because it would necessarily affect the protective rights of the parties in a case.
Clearly, the grant of an injunctive relief in this case is not properly compellable by mandamus inasmuch as it requires discretion and judgment on the part of both the DAR and the DARAB to find whether petitioner has a clear legal right that needs to be protected and that the acts of SMPHI are violative of such right. On this score alone, the Court of Appeals cannot be faulted for its refusal to issue the writ of mandamus prayed for.
Be that as it may, whether the DAR or
the DARAB could be properly compelled to respectively grant the Urgent Ex Parte Motion
for Issuance of Cease-and-Desist Order or Writ of Preliminary Injunction and
resolve Eutiquios pending motion for reconsideration in the Petition for
Redemption, is by all means already moot and academic at this point. We take note that indeed, the measure of
compulsion petitioner had sought before the Court of Appeals against both the
DAR and the DARAB is already unwarranted, because first, the DAR, on
In this regard, we quote with approval the relevant portion of the assailed decision, to wit:
It follows then that the relief sought in this petition for mandamus is now fait accompli since the public respondents have resolved the Dejuras urgent motion for injunctive relief, as well as their Motion for Reconsideration in DARAB Case No. 5485. It is an issue which has become moot and academic, or one which has ceased to present a justifiable (sic) controversy, so that a declaration thereon would be of no practical use or value. There is no actual substantial relief to which petitioners would be entitled and which would be negated by the dismissal of the petition.
WHEREFORE, the Petition
is DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals in
CA-G.R. SP No. 88588, dated
DIOSDADO M. PERALTA
ANTONIO T. CARPIO
ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA ROBERTO A. ABAD Associate Justice Associate Justice
I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.
ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Second Division, Chairperson
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the Division Chairpersons Attestation, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.
RENATO C. CORONA
 Penned by Associate Justice Roberto A. Barrios, with Associate Justices Mario L. Guaria III and Santiago Javier Ranada, concurring; CA rollo, pp. 482-490.
 The case was filed on
 See Annex A, CA rollo, pp. 59-60.
WHEREFORE, premised on the foregoing considerations, JUDGMENT is hereby rendered:
1. Finding Plaintiff Eutiquio [Dejuras] to be a civil law lessee not an agricultural leaseholder or tenant-tiller;
2. Declaring Plaintiff Eutiquio [Dejuras] not entitled to exercise the right of redemption as provided for under Sec. 12, R.A. No. 3844, as amended;
3. Finding the instant case wanting in merit and ordering the same dismissed.
 The appeal was docketed as DARAB Case No. 5485.
 CA rollo, pp. 100-107. The dispositive portion of the decision reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the assailed Decision is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE with the following pronouncements, to wit:
1.) That herein plaintiff-appellant is an agricultural lessee or a tenent-tiller and not a civil law lessee.
2.) That herein plaintiff-appellant is entitled to exercise the right of redemption pursuant to Section 12 of Republic Act No. 3844, as amended.
 CA rollo, pp. 108-111.
 Signed by Secretary Rene C. Villa.
 CA rollo, pp. 488-489.
 Rollo, p. 38.
 Quizon v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 177927, February 15, 2008 545 SCRA 635; Sison v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 124086, 492 SCRA 497, 509; Roble Arrastre, Inc. v. Villaflor, G.R. No. 128509 August 22, 2006, 499 SCRA 434.
 Quizon v. COMELEC, supra.
 Sison v. Court of Appeals, supra note 41, at 509.
 G.R. No. 49529,
 G.R. No. 48603,
 G.R. No. 64220,
 Government Service Insurance System v. Florendo, supra note 46, at 88-89; Searth Commodities Corp. v. Court of Appeals, supra note 47.
 G.R. No. 78148,
 See DARAB Order in DARCO Case No. REX/RCV-0702-050, signed by Officer-in-Charge Nasser C. Pangandaman; rollo, pp. 591-598.
 See Resolution dated
 CA rollo, p. 489.