Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tenancy relationship explained - G.R. No. 185669

G.R. No. 185669

"x x x.

The main issue to be resolved is whether there exists a tenancy relationship between the parties.

Petitioner submits that substantial evidence proves the tenancy relationship between him and respondent. Specifically, he points out that (1) his possession of the land is undisputed; (2) the DAR certified that he is the registered farmer of the land; and (3) receipts prove his payment of irrigation fees. On the absence of receipts as proof of rental payments, he urges us to take judicial notice of an alleged practice in the provinces that payments between relatives are not supported by receipts. He also calls our attention to the affidavits of Jose Allingag, Rolando Alejo and Angelito dela Cruz attesting that he pays 15 cavans of palay to respondent.[11]

In her comment, respondent says that no new issues and substantial matters are raised in the petition. She thus prays that we deny the petition for lack of merit.[12]

We find the petition impressed with merit and we hold that the CA and DARAB erred in ruling that there is no tenancy relationship between the parties.

The essential elements of an agricultural tenancy relationship are: (1) the parties are the landowner and the tenant or agricultural lessee; (2) the subject matter of the relationship is 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 the landowner and the tenant or agricultural lessee.[13]

The CA and DARAB ruling that there is no sharing of harvest is based on the absence of receipts to show petitioner’s payment of rentals. We are constrained to reverse them on this point. The matter of rental receipts is not an issue given respondent’s admission that she receives rentals from petitioner. To recall, respondent’s complaint inBarangay Case No. 99-6 was that the rental or the amount she receives from petitioner is not much.[14] This fact is evident on the record[15] of said case which is signed by respondent and was even attached as Annex “D” of her DARAB petition. Consequently, we are thus unable to agree with DARAB’s ruling that the affidavits[16] of witnesses that petitioner pays 15 cavans of palay or the equivalent thereof in pesos as rent are not concrete proof to rebut the allegation of nonpayment of rentals. Indeed, respondent’s admission confirms their statement that rentals are in fact being paid. Such admission belies the claim of respondent’s representative, Celso Rabang, that petitioner paid nothing for the use of the land.

Contrary also to the CA and DARAB pronouncement, respondent’s act of allowing the petitioner to cultivate her land and receiving rentals therefor indubitably show her consent to an unwritten tenancy agreement. An agricultural leasehold relation is not determined by the explicit provisions of a written contract alone.[17] Section 5[18] of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 3844, otherwise known as the Agricultural Land Reform Code, recognizes that an agricultural leasehold relation may exist upon an oral agreement.

Thus, all the elements of an agricultural tenancy relationship are present. Respondent is the landowner; petitioner is her tenant. The subject matter of their relationship is agricultural land, a farm land.[19] They mutually agreed to the cultivation of the land by petitioner and share in the harvest. The purpose of their relationship is clearly to bring about agricultural production. After the harvest, petitioner pays rental consisting of palay or its equivalent in cash. Respondent’s motion[20] to superviseharvesting and threshing, processes in palay farming, further confirms the purpose of their agreement. Lastly, petitioner’s personal cultivation of the land[21] is conceded by respondent who likewise never denied the fact that they share in the harvest.

Petitioner’s status as a de jure tenant having been established, we now address the issue of whether there is a valid ground to eject petitioner from the land.

Respondent, as landowner/agricultural lessor, has the burden to prove the existence of a lawful cause for the ejectment of petitioner, the tenant/agricultural lessee.[22] This rule proceeds from the principle that a tenancy relationship, once established, entitles the tenant to a security of tenure.[23] The tenant can only be ejected from the agricultural landholding on grounds provided by law.[24]

Section 36 of R.A. No. 3844 enumerates these grounds, to wit:

SEC. 36. Possession of Landholding; Exceptions.– Notwithstanding any agreement as to the period or future surrender of the land, an agricultural lessee shall continue in the enjoyment and possession of his landholding except when his dispossession has been authorized by the Court in a judgment that is final and executory if after due hearing it is shown that:

(1) The agricultural lessor-owner or a member of his immediate family will personally cultivate the landholding or will convert the landholding, if suitably located, into residential, factory, hospital or school site or other useful non-agricultural purposes:Provided; That the agricultural lessee shall be entitled to disturbance compensation equivalent to five years rental on his landholding in addition to his rights under Sections [25] and [34], except when the land owned and leased by the agricultural lessor is not more than five hectares, in which case instead of disturbance compensation the lessee may be entitled to an advance notice of at least one agricultural year before ejectment proceedings are filed against him: Provided, further, That should the landholder not cultivate the land himself for three years or fail to substantially carry out such conversion within one year after the dispossession of the tenant, it shall be presumed that he acted in bad faith and the tenant shall have the right to demand possession of the land and recover damages for any loss incurred by him because of said dispossession;

(2) The agricultural lessee failed to substantially comply with any of the terms and conditions of the contract or any of the provisions of this Code unless his failure is caused by fortuitous event or force majeure;

(3) The agricultural lessee planted crops or used the landholding for a purpose other than what had been previously agreed upon;

(4) The agricultural lessee failed to adopt proven farm practices as determined under paragraph 3 of Section [29];

(5) The land or other substantial permanent improvement thereon is substantially damaged or destroyed or has unreasonably deteriorated through the fault or negligence of the agricultural lessee;

(6) The agricultural lessee does not pay the lease rental when it falls due: Provided, That if the non-payment of the rental shall be due to crop failure to the extent of seventy-five per centum as a result of a fortuitous event, the non-payment shall not be a ground for dispossession, although the obligation to pay the rental due that particular crop is not thereby extinguished; or

(7) The lessee employed a sub-lessee on his landholding in violation of the terms of paragraph 2 of Section [27].

Through Rabang, respondent alleged (1) nonpayment of any consideration, (2) lack of tenancy relationship, (3) petitioner mortgaged the land to Allingag who allegedly possesses the land, and (4) she will manage/cultivate the land.[25] None of these grounds were proven by the respondent.

As aforesaid, respondent herself admitted petitioner’s payment of rentals. We also found that a tenancy relationship exists between the parties.

On the supposed mortgage, Allingag himself denied it in his affidavit.[26] No such a deed of mortgage was submitted in evidence. Rabang’s claim is based on a hearsay statement of Cesar Andres that he came to know the mortgage from residents of the place where the land is located.[27]

That Allingag possesses the land is also based on Andres’s hearsay statement. On the contrary, Allingag stated in his affidavit that he is merely petitioner’s farm helper.[28] We have held that the employment of farm laborers to perform some aspects of work does not preclude the existence of an agricultural leasehold relationship, provided that an agricultural lessee does not leave the entire process of cultivation in the hands of hired helpers. Indeed, while the law explicitly requires the agricultural lessee and his immediate family to work on the land, we have nevertheless declared that the hiring of farm laborers by the tenant on a temporary, occasional, or emergency basis does not negate the existence of the element of “personal cultivation” essential in a tenancy or agricultural leasehold relationship.[29] There is no showing that petitioner has left the entire process of cultivating the land to Allingag. In fact, respondent has admitted that petitioner still farms the land.[30]

On respondent’s claim that she will cultivate the land, it is no longer a valid ground to eject petitioner. The original provision of Section 36 (1) of R.A. No. 3844 has been removed from the statute books[31] after its amendment by Section 7 of R.A. No. 6389[32] on September 10, 1971, to wit:

SEC. 7. Section 36 (1) of the same Code is hereby amended to read as follows:

(1) The landholding is declared by the department head upon recommendation of the National Planning Commission to be suited for residential, commercial, industrial or some other urban purposes: Provided, That the agricultural lessee shall be entitled to disturbance compensation equivalent to five times the average of the gross harvests on his landholding during the last five preceding calendar years.

Since respondent failed to prove nonpayment of rentals, petitioner may not be ejected from the landholding. We emphasize, however, that as long as the tenancy relationship subsists, petitioner must continue paying rentals. For the law provides that nonpayment of lease rental, if proven, is a valid ground to dispossess him of respondent’s land. Henceforth, petitioner should see to it that his rental payments are properly covered by receipts.

Finally, the records show that Allingag, petitioner’s co-respondent in DARAB Case No. 9378, did not join petitioner’s appeal to the CA. If Allingag did not file a separate appeal, the DARAB decision had become final as to him. We cannot grant him any relief.

x x x."