SC says DAR-issued titles, evidence of landownership

The Supreme Court (SC) recently ruled that a Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) is a sufficient proof of landownership.

A CLOA “is a document evidencing ownership of the land granted or awarded to the beneficiary by the [Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR)], and contains the restrictions and conditions provided for in the [Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL)] and other applicable laws,” the decision read.

The ruling, DAR and Pablo Mendoza vs. Romeo C. Carriedo (G.R. No. 176549, October 10, 2018), is a reversal of a 2016 SC decision that adjudged CLOAs as not equivalent to a Torrens certificate of title which rendered them voidable.

DAR argued, in its motion for reconsideration, that this relegated CLOAs and Emancipation Patents (EP) to the status of a Certificate of Land Transfer, which is merely part of the preparatory steps for the eventual issuance of a certificate of title.

Agrarian Reform Secretary John R. Castriciones said that the latest decision of the SC upholds the authority and jurisdiction of DAR to decide on cases involving the issuance, recall, or cancellation of CLOAs.

“We salute the Justices, who made the decision in favor of the department. It gives us motivation and justification to continue with our work. We cannot be hampered by any action that would delay the delivery of our main advocacies: land for the landless, agrarian justice and support services to our farmers,” Castriciones said.

The decision also referenced Section 24 of the (CARL), as amended, which states that CLOAs, EPs and other titles issued under any agrarian reform program shall be indefeasible and imprescriptible after one year from its registration with the Office of the Registry of Deeds.

The EPs and CLOAs “being titles brought under the operations of the Torrens system, are conferred with the same indefeasibility and security afford to all titles under the said system,” the CARL reads.

The same decision, also validated DAR’s policy on landowner’s right of retention.

Item No. 4 of DAR Administrative Order 05, Series of 2006 (AO 05-06) states that “where the transfer/sale involves more than the five (5) hectare retention area, the transfer is considered violative of Sec. 6 of RA 6657.”

DAR argued that the previous ruling which adjudged the abovementioned item as beyond the agency’s legal authority impedes the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program because it disrupts long-standing procedures.

“Although constitutionally guaranteed, the exercise of a landowner’s right of retention should not be done without due regard to other considerations which may affect the implementation of the agrarian reform program,” the decision read.

“This is especially true when such exercise pays no heed to the intent of the law, or worse, when such exercise amounts to its circumvention,” it continued.

For his part, Castriciones said, “We are hoping to pursue our work because the law is behind us and the law is supporting our advocacies.”