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G.R. No.

L-51333 May 18, 1989


RAMONA R. LOCSIN, accompanied by her husband RENATO L.
LOCSIN; TERESITA R. GUANZON, accompanied by her husband
ROMEO G. GUANZON; CELINA R. SIBUG; accompanied by her
husband CARLOS V. SIBUG; MA. LUISA R. PEREZ, accompanied by
her husband JOSE V. PEREZ; EDITHA R. YLANAN, accompanied by
her husband CARLOS W. YLANAN; and ANA MARIE R.
BENEDICTO, accompanied by her husband JOSE LUIS U.
BENEDICTO, petitioners,
vs.
HONORABLE JUDGE VICENTE P. VALENZUELA, Judge of the
Court of First Instance of Negros Occidental, Branch III and
SPOUSES JOSEPH SCHON, and HELEN BENNETT
SCHON, respondents.

ROMEO G. GUANZON; CELINA R. SIBUG; accompanied by her


husband CARLOS V. SIBUG; MA. LUISA R. PEREZ, accompanied by
her husband JOSE V. PEREZ; EDITHA R. YLANAN, accompanied by
her husband CARLOS W. YLANAN; and ANA MARIE R.
BENEDICTO, accompanied by her husband JOSE LUIS U.
BENEDICTO, petitioners,
vs.
HONORABLE JUDGE VICENTE P. VALENZUELA, Judge of the
Court of First Instance of Negros Occidental, Branch III and
SPOUSES JOSEPH SCHON, and HELEN BENNETT
SCHON, respondents.
Mirano, Mirano & Associates for petitioners in both cases.
Jose V. Valmayor & Samuel SM. Lezama for private respondents in G.R.
No. 51333. Bonifacio R. Cruz for private respondents in G.R. No. 52289.

G.R. No. 52289 May 19, 1989


RESOLUTION
RAMONA R. LOCSIN, accompanied by her husband RENATO L.
LOCSIN; TERESITA R. GUANZON, accompanied by her husband
ROMEO G. GUANZON; CELINA R. SIBUG; accompanied by her
husband CARLOS V. SIBUG; MA. LUISA R. PEREZ, accompanied by
her husband JOSE V. PEREZ; EDITHA R. YLANAN, accompanied by
her husband CARLOS W. YLANAN; and ANA MARIE R.
BENEDICTO, accompanied by her husband JOSE LUIS U.
BENEDICTO, petitioners,
vs.
CARLOS PANALIGAN, AMADO MARQUEZ, HERBERT PEDROS,
ANTONIO FELICIANO, JR., HUGO AGUILOS, ALBERTO
GUBATON, JULIA VDA. DE ESQUELITO, SERAFIN
JANDOQUELE, SEFERIAS ESQUESIDA, CARLOS DELA CRUZ,
ELISEO GELONGOS, ESPINDION JOCSON, SALVADOR MUNUN,
ULFIANO ALEGRIA, and IRENEO BALERA, and Spouses JOSEPH
SCHON, and HELEN BENNETTE SCHON, respondents.
G.R. No. L-51333 May 18, 1989
RAMONA R. LOCSIN, accompanied by her husband RENATO L.
LOCSIN; TERESITA R. GUANZON, accompanied by her husband

FELICIANO, J.:
There are before us for review the following: (1) the decision of the Court
of First Instance of Negros Occidental, Branch 3, in Civil Case No. 13823;
and (2) the decision of the Court of Agrarian Relations, 11th Judicial
District, in CAR Case No. 76. Both of these decisions dismissed the
petitioners' complaints for lack of jurisdiction.
Petitioners Ramona R. Locsin, Teresita R. Guanzon, Celina R. Sibug, Ma.
Lusia R. Perez, Editha R. Ylanan and Ana Marie R. Benedicto were coowners of a large tract of agricultural land known as "Hacienda Villa
Regalado" located in Barrio Panubigan, Canlaon City, Negros Occidental.
The tract of land was covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-494 and
there more particularly described in the following terms:
TRANSFER CERTIFICATE OF TITLE

NO. T-494
A parcel of land (Lot 2-G) of the subdivision plan Psd28446, Sheet 2, being a portion of Lot 2 (remaining
portion) described in plan II-6992, G.L.R.O. Record No.
133), situated in the Barrio of Panubigan, Municipality of
Canlaon Province of Negros Occidental, Bounded on the
N., by Lot 2-A of the subdivision plan; on the E., and S.,
by Binalbagan River; on the W., by Lot 2-E of the
subdivision plan; on the NW., by Lots 2-F and 2-A of the
subdivision plan. ...containing an area of THREE
MILLION THIRTY-THREE THOUSAND AND FORTY
EIGHT (3,033,048) square meters, more or less. 1
A portion of this land, known as Lot No. 2-C-A-3 and consisting of an area
of 60.07464 hectares, was subject to the lifetime usufructuary rights of
respondent Helen Schon:. The bulk of this lot was cultivated by the
following lessees-tenants who customarily delivered the rental to Helen
Schon:
TENANTS
1. Carlos Panaligan

2.00 Ha.

2. Amado Marquez

1.50 Ha.

3. Herbert Pedros

1.50 Ha.

4. Antonio Feliciano, Jr.

2.00 Ha.

5. Hugo Aguilos

3.50 Ha.

6. Alberto Gubaton

8.90 Ha.

7. Hulo Aguilos

1.32 Ha.

8. Julia Vda. de Esquelito

2.25 Ha.

9. Carlos Panaligan

1.25 Ha.

10. Serafin Jandoquele

5.35 Ha.

11. Seferias Esquesida

2.00 Ha.

12. Carlos de la Cruz

4.70 Ha.

13 Eliseo Gelongos

3.00 Ha.

14. Espindion Jocson

5.55 Ha.

15. Salvador Munon

1.5884 Ha.

16. Ulfiano Alegria

1.85 Ha.

17. Ireneo Balera

8.30 Ha.

TOTAL

56.555 Ha. 2

On 22 October 1972, after the onset of the martial law administration of


former President Marcos, Presidential Decree No. 27 was promulgated,
decreeing the "Emancipation of Tenants." The tract of land owned in
common by the petitioners, including the portion thereof subject to Helen
Schon's usufructuary rights, fell within the scope of "Operation Land
Transfer." In consequence, staff members of the Department of Agrarian
Relations Identified the tenant-tillers of said land, and the necessary
parcellary map sketch was made and submitted to the Bureau of Lands
Office in Dumaguete City. 3 Petitioners through counsel sought the opinion
of the DAR as to who (petitioners or respondent Helen Schon) should be
entitled to receive the rental payments which continued to be made by the
respondent tenants to Helen Schon. The DAR District Officer rendered an
opinion on 30 May 1977 that the rental payments as of 22 October 1972
were properly considered as amortization payments for the land and as such
should pertain to the land- owners and not to the usufructuary. 4
1. Civil Case No. 13828, Court of First Instance of
Negros Occidental

On 22 May 1978, petitioners filed against the spouses Joseph and Helen
Schon Civil Case No. 13828 in the then Court of First Instance of Negros
Occidental, for collection of rentals plus damages with prayer for
preliminary injunction. There petitioners claimed that since the land subject
to Helen Schon's usufructuary rights was among the parcels of land which
colectively had been declared by the DAR as a land reform area pursuant to
Presidential Decree No. 27, the rental payments which the respondent
spouses had been colecting from the tenants really pertained and should be
delivered to petitioners, beginning from 21 October 1972, as constituting or
forming part of the amortization payments for the land to be made by the
tenants. Petitioners sought in that case to recover from the Schons all such
previous rentals or the money value thereof, and prayed for injunction to
prevent the respondents from collecting any further rental payments from
the tenants of the land involved.

respondents Schon related to the continued existence or termination of the


usufructuary rights of Helen Schon, which issue did not constitute an
agrarian dispute and therefore had to be litigated elsewhere, i.e., before the
regular courts of first instance.

Upon the other hand, in their Answer filed on 12 July 1978, the respondents
Schon contended that under the provisions of Section 12 of Presidential
Decree No. 946 dated 17 June 1976, and given the facts involved in Civil
Case No. 13823, the Court of First Instance was bereft of jurisdiction over
the subject matter of the case. That jurisdiction, the Schon spouses urged,
was vested in the CAR instead. Respondents further argued that, upon the
assumption arguendo that the Court of First Instance did have jurisdiction,
Article 609 of the Civil Code must in any case be applied by that court in
resolving the case . 5

On 15 February 1979, the Agrarian Court rendered a decision dismissing


petitioners' complaint in CAR Case No. 76. The Court of Agrarian Relations
held that it had no jurisdiction to decide the case:

2. CAR Case No. 76, Court of Agrarian Relations


Approximately five (5) months after filing their complaint before the
Negros Occidental Court of First Instance, petitioners filed a second
complaint on 13 October 1978, this time with the Court of Agrarian
Relations, 11th Judicial District, San Carlos City. In this complaint before
the Agrarian Court, petitioners impleaded as co-respondents of the spouses
Schon the tenants who were cultivating the land burdened with the usufruct
of Helen Schon. Petitioners prayed that the respondent tenants be required
to pay to petitioners (rather than to the spouses Schon) all future rentals
beginning with the crop year of 1978 and every year thereafter, until full
payment of the amortization payments computed by the DAR. In their
Answer, the respondents Schon once again asserted lack of jurisdiction over
the subject matter of the case, this time on the part of the Court of Agrarian
Relations. Respondents contended that the dispute between petitioners and

The respondent tenants, for their part, agreed with the Schons that there was
no tenancy relationship existing in respect of the land cultivated by them,
since such land had already been brought within the ambit of "Operation
Land Transfer", and prayed that the petitioners and the usufructuary be
required to litigate among themselves their respective rights before the
proper court.
3. Dismissal of Civil Case No. 13823 and CAR Case No.
76

... it is crystal clear that the contending parties are actually


Ramona R. Locsin, et al., and the naked owners of 101
hectares of subject agricultural land, on one hand, and
Helen Bennett-Schon, who is the usufructuary of the same
land, on the other.
For all legal intents and purposes, Helen Bennett-Schon
belongs to the category of a landowner, since she is the
recipient of any and all fruit derived from the land of
which the plaintiffs are the naked owners. The usufruct
lasts for as long as Helen Bennett-Schon lives.
Therefore, this case actually is a dispute between two
landowners one, the naked owners, the other, the
beneficial owner hose controversy revolves on who of
them should receive the rentals being paid by the tenants
or lessees on the land in question. Consequently, there is
as between the two contending parties, no agrarian
dispute which this Court may take cognizance of. Under
the circumstances, it is the considered stand of this Court
that it is not the proper forum both with respect to the

second amended complaint and with respect to the


petition for appointment of a receiver.

(a) Cases involving the rights and obligation of persons in


cultivation and use of agricultural land ...;

WHEREFORE, RESOLVING BOTH THE SECOND


AMENDED COMPLAINT AND THE PETITION FOR
APPOINTMENT OF A RECEIVER, THE LATTER
BEING ONLY A REPLAY OF THE FORMER, BOTH
ARE DISMISSED FOR LACK OF JURISDICTION (pp.
7-8 Decision) 6

(b) Questions involving rights granted and obligations im


posed by law, presidential decrees, orders, instructions,
rules and regulations issued and promulgations in relation
to the agrarian reform program ...;

Petitioners appealed the decision of the Agrarian Court to the Court of


Appeals, the appeal being there docketed as C.A.-G.R. SP No. 09-440. In a
Decision dated 27 November 1979, however, the Court of Appeals ruled
that since the only issue presented in the appeal was whether or not the
Court of Agrarian Relations had jurisdiction to try and decide CAR Case
No. 76, the appeal raised "a pure question of law" and certified the case to
the Supreme Court for the latter's disposition.
We turn to Civil Case No. 13823. On 16 March 1979, the then Court of First
Instance of Negros Occidental issued an order also dismissing the complaint
of petitioners on the same ground of lack of jurisdiction to hear and decide
that case. The Court of First Instance held that it was the Court of Agrarian
Relations that had jurisdiction over the case, and rationalized this position
in the following manner:
In determining whether this Court has jurisdiction,
necessarily, a determination should first be made as to the
nature of the lease rentals that were being paid to the
defendants by the tenants-lessees. There is no question
that on May 30, 1977, the Provincial Chairman of
Operation Land Transfer rendered an opinion that the
rentals as of October 21, 1972 was to be considered as
amortization payment to the land and as such should
pertain to the land owners and not to the usufructuary, the
defendants herein (Annex 'B' of the Complaint). Section
12 of Presidential Decree No. 946 enumerates the case
that falls under the original and exclusive jurisdiction of
the Court of Agrarian Relations, as follows:

(c) Cases involving the collection of amortization on


payment for lands acquired under Presidential Decree No.
27 as amended ...
It could be seen from the above that the jurisdiction given
to the Court of Agrarian Relations is so broad and
sweeping as to cover the issue involved in the present
case. ... the agricultural leasehold relation is not limited to
that of a purely landlord and tenant relationship. The
agricultural leasehold relationship is established also
with respect to the person who furnished the landholding
either as owner, civil lessee, usufructuary or legal
possessor and the person who cultivates the same. It
might as well be asked whether the opinion of the
Provincial Chairman of Operation Land Transfer
previously adverted to and which is now one of the issues
in this incident would involve the determination of the
rights granted and obligations imposed in relation to the
agrarian reform program. The search for an answer need
not be deferred as reference to Par. (b) of Presidential
Decree No. 49 provides such answerxxxxxxxxx
Questions involving rights granted and obligations
imposed by the law, presidential decrees, orders,
instructions, rules and regulations issued and
promulgations in relation to the agrarian reform program.
Clearly, the determination of the nature of the payment
made by the tenants to the defendants herein is a question

which involved the right of the tenants in relation to the


land reform program of the government. 7
The above order of the Negros Occidental Court of First Instance was
brought directly to us by petitioners on a Petition for Review in G.R. No.
51333.
G.R. No. 51333 and G.R. No. 52289 were consolidated by a Resolution of
this Court dated 16 June 1982.
The consolidated cases present the question of which court had jurisdiction
to decide one and the other case. Both the Court of First Instance and the
agrarian Court were persuaded by the adroit and disingenuous pleading of
respondent Schon's counsel. Beyond the question of jurisdiction over the
subject matter, is, of course, the substantive question of twhether the
peitioner as naked owners of the land subjected to the beneficial owner's
right of Helen Schon, became entitled to the payment's made by the tenants
or lessees of such land from and after the property was declared part of a
land reform area.
The issue of which court is vested with jurisdiction over Civil Case no.
13823 and CAR Case No. 76 is, happily, no longer a live one. Jurisdiction
over both cases is clearly vested in the appropiate Regional Trial Court in
view of the provisions of Section 19(7) of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129 which
was enacted by the Batasang Pambansa on 10 August 1981 and fully
implemented on 14 February 1983. 8
Section 19. Jurisdiction in Civil Cases. Regional Trial
Courts shall exercise exclusive original jurisdiction:
xxx xxx xxx
(7) In all civil actions and special proceedings falling
within the exclusive origin al jurisdiction of juvenile and
domestic relations courts and of the courts of agrarian
relations as now provided by law;
xxx xxx xxx

(Emphasis supplied)
The Regional Trial Courts have full authority and jurisdiction to interpret
and apply both the mass of statutes and rules and regulations relating to land
reform and the general civil law, including the law on usufruct. Unlike a
regional trial court sitting as a probate court, a region al trial court seized of
an agrarian dispute and interpreting and applying statutes and administrative
rules and regulations concerning land reform and the sliminations of
agricultural tenancy relationships, continues to act as a court of general and
plenary jurisdiction. Section 44 of b.P. Blg. 129 abolished the Courts of
Agrarian Relations and did not re-create them.
We note that resolution of the underlying substantive issues here raised
requires examination of both land reform statutes and related rules and
regulations (and as well the practice of the relevant administrative agency or
executive department) and the Civil Code provisions on usufruct.
Mindful of the length of timewhich has gone by since the first of the
consolidated cases reched this Court, and in the effort to render expeditious
justice, we have considered whether we should now confront and resolve
the issue relating to the legal character of the payments made by the
respondents tenants-lessees since 21 October 1972 to respondent Helen
Schon, as well as the issue relating to the possible application of Article 609
of the Civil Code. Because, however, of the nature and importance of the
first issue, and considering that the pleadings and the records of theses two
(2) cases are bare of any substantial discussion by the parties on both issues,
the Court feels it would not be prudent to resolve those issues without
further proceedings. We are convinced, however, that those issues are
primarily, if not wholly, issues of law rather than of fact and that hence there
appears no need to remand these cases to the Regional Trial Court for
further proceedings there. Instead, we shall require the parties to file
memoranda on the issues above indicated, and the direct the Solicitor
General to intervene in these cases and to file a memorandum addressing
the same issues.
ACCORDINGLY, the Court Resolved to: (1) REQUIRE the petition and
private respondents in G.R. Nos. 51333 and 52289 to file simultaneous
memoranda addressing the substantive issues identified above, within thirty
(30) days from notice hereof, and to FURNISH the Solicitor General a copy

of their respective memoranda; and (2) to DIRECT the Solicitor General to


file a motion for intervention on behalf of the government and a
memorandum on the same substantive questions within thirty (30) days
from receipt of petitioners' and private respondents' memoranda.
SO ORDERED.