Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Agricultural tenancy not present - G.R. No. 171972

G.R. No. 171972

"x x x.

Agricultural tenancy relationship does not exist in the instant case.

Agricultural tenancy exists when all the following requisites are present: 1) the parties are the landowner and the tenant or agricultural lessee; 2) the subject matter of the relationship is an agricultural land; 3) there is consent between the parties to the relationship; 4) the purpose of the relationship is to bring about agricultural production; 5) there is personal cultivation on the part of the tenant or agricultural lessee; and 6) the harvest is shared between landowner and tenant or agricultural lessee.[39]

In this case, to prove that an agricultural tenancy relationship exists between the parties, petitioners submitted as evidence the affidavits of petitioner Lucia and their neighbors. In her affidavit,[40] petitioner Lucia declared that she and her late husband occupied the subject land with the consent and permission of the original owners and that their agreement was that she and her late husband would cultivate the subject land, devote it to agricultural production, share the harvest with the landowners on a 50-50 basis, and at the same time watch over the land. Witness Alejandro Arias attested in his affidavit[41] that petitioner Lucia and her husband, Serapio, have been cultivating the subject land since 1960; that after the demise of Serapio, petitioner Lucia and her children continued to cultivate the subject land; and that when respondent’s predecessors-in-interest were still alive, he would often see them and respondent get some of the harvest. The affidavit[42] of witness Conseso Muñoz stated, in essence, that petitioner Lucia has been in peaceful possession and cultivation of the subject property since 1960 and that the harvest was divided into two parts, ½ for the landowner and ½ for petitioner Lucia.

The statements in the affidavits presented by the petitioners are not sufficient to prove the existence of an agricultural tenancy.

As correctly found by the CA, the element of consent is lacking.[43] Except for the self-serving affidavit of Lucia, no other evidence was submitted to show that respondent’s predecessors-in-interest consented to a tenancy relationship with petitioners. Self-serving statements, however, will not suffice to prove consent of the landowner; independent evidence is necessary.[44]

Aside from consent, petitioners also failed to prove sharing of harvest. The affidavits of petitioners’ neighbors declaring that respondent and her predecessors-in-interest received their share in the harvest are not sufficient. Petitioners should have presented receipts or any other evidence to show that there was sharing of harvest[45] and that there was an agreed system of sharing between them and the landowners.[46]

As we have often said, mere occupation or cultivation of an agricultural land will not ipso facto make the tiller an agricultural tenant.[47] It is incumbent upon a person who claims to be an agricultural tenant to prove by substantial evidence all the requisites of agricultural tenancy.[48]

In the instant case, petitioners failed to prove consent and sharing of harvest between the parties. Consequently, their defense of agricultural tenancy must fail. The MTC has jurisdiction over the instant case. No error can therefore be attributed to the CA in reversing and setting aside the dismissal of respondent’s complaint for lack of jurisdiction. Accordingly, the remand of the case to the MTC for the determination of the amount of damages due respondent is proper.

x x x."