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[ GR No. 167952, Jul 05, 2017 ]




[ G.R. No. 167952, July 05, 2017 ]




For consideration of the Court is an Omnibus Motion[1] dated November 21, 2016 filed by petitioner Gonzalo Puyat & Sons, Inc. praying that the Resolution dated October 19, 2016 be set aside and reconsidered and that the Decision dated February 1, 2005 of the Court of Appeals in CA­ G.R. SP No. 86069 be reinstated or, in the alternative, its Motion for Reconsideration be referred to this Honorable Court En Banc.

An examination of the issues raised in the Motion for Reconsideration readily reveals that the same are a mere rehash of the basic issues raised in the petition and which were already exhaustively passed upon, duly considered and resolved in the assailed Resolution.

In its Omnibus Motion, petitioner once again moves for the reconsideration of this Court's Resolution on the following grounds:



Anent the first ground relied upon by petitioner in its Omnibus Motion, We reiterate that this Court, in its Resolution dated October 19, 2016, had already explained that the DAR Order dated June 8, 2001 had attained finality, to wit:
x x x x

As can be derived from the foregoing, the June 8, 2001 Order of the DAR has already attained finality for several reasons. First, as aptly observed by the CA, petitioner's motion for reconsideration of the June 8, 2001 Order of the DAR was filed only on September 14, 2001, after an order of finality has already been issued by the DAR.

In its Motion to Lift Order of Finality dated August 20, 2001, petitioner's counsel expressly admitted that he received said order only on August 17, 2001.Granting that petitioner's counsel was forthright in making such an admission, then petitioner had only until September 1, 2001 within which to file its motion for reconsideration. Having filed its motion for reconsideration only on September 14, 2001, way beyond the 15-day reglementary period, the order sought to be reconsidered by petitioner has already attained finality.

Second, even if this Court overlooks the admission of petitioner's counsel that he already received the June 8, 2001 Order on August 17, 2001, still, said order was already deemed to have been served upon petitioner when it failed to notify DAR of its counsel's change of address. On this point, the DAR issued an Order dated August 3, 2001, stating, inter alia:
Per certification of the Records Management Division, the counsel of petitioner has moved out without leaving any forwarding address and, the petitioner's address is insufficient that it could not be located despite diligent efforts.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Order of June 8, 2001 is deemed to have been served and let Order of Finality be issued.

SO ORDERED. (emphasis supplied)
Failure of petitioner's counsel to officially notify the DAR of its change of address is an inexcusable neglect which binds his client.

x x x x

Considering that petitioner's counsel moved out of its previous address without leaving any forwarding address, the DAR was correct in issuing the Order dated August 3, 2001 where it was ruled that "the Order of June 8, 2001 is deemed to have been served" upon petitioner and which correspondingly led to the issuance of the order of finality. To be sure, such omission or neglect on the part of petitioner's counsel is inexcusable and binding upon petitioner.

And third, this Court is not unaware of the time-honored principle that "actual knowledge" is equivalent to "notice." Thus, when petitioner, through its counsel, filed its Motion to Lift Order of Finality dated August 20, 2001 with the DAR, this indubitably indicates that petitioner and its counsel already had prior "actual knowledge" of the June 8, 2001 Order, which "actual knowledge" is equivalent to "notice" of said order. As a matter of fact, in the said motion, petitioner even quoted the dispositive portion of the June 8, 2001 Order of the DAR. Inevitably, this leads to no other conclusion than that petitioner already had actual knowledge of the denial of its petition at the time said motion had been drafted and/or filed. Since the motion to lift order of finality was drafted and/or filed on August 20, 2001, it can be said that at the latest, petitioner had until September 4, 2001 within which to file its motion for reconsideration. Consequently, the filing of the motion for reconsideration only on September 14, 2001 was certainly way beyond the reglementary period within which to file the same.

Significantly, when a decision becomes final and executory, the same can, and should, no longer be disturbed. x x x x

Considering the foregoing, it was clearly erroneous on the part of the OP to have taken cognizance of the appeal filed by petitioner given that the June 8, 2001 Order of the DAR has already attained finality and, thus, should no longer be disturbed.
With respect to the second ground relied upon by the petitioner, We find it worthy to reiterate the following parts of the above-mentioned Resolution:
x x x x

The conclusion arrived at by the majority is flawed for two reasons. First, the fact that the MARO issued CARP Form No. 3.a, entitled "Preliminary Ocular Inspection Report," belies the majority's conclusion that no preliminary ocular inspection was conducted by the DAR. Strikingly, almost all the other details under said report were filled up or marked. Said report was also signed by the persons who conducted the inspection and attested by Flordeliza DP Del Rosario, the MARO in­-charge. In this regard, it should be noted that with the issuance of the Preliminary Ocular Inspection Report, the MARO is presumed to have regularly performed his or her duty of conducting a preliminary ocular inspection, in the absence of any evidence to overcome such presumption.

To my mind, the failure to mark the checkboxes pertaining to "Land Condition/Suitability to Agriculture" and "Land Use" does not constitute as evidence that may overcome the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty. If at all, such failure merely constitutes inadvertence that should not prejudice the farmers in the instant case.

Interestingly, a perusal of the Preliminary Ocular Inspection Report would reveal that the checkboxes pertaining to the sub-categories under "Land Condition/Suitability to Agriculture" and "Land Use" do not negate the finding that the subject landholding is an agricultural land, which led to the issuance of the notice of coverage over said property. Particularly, the following are the sub-categories and the checkboxes which the MARO failed to mark:
  1. Land Condition/Suitability to Agriculture (Check Appropriate Parenthesis)
( ) Subject property is presently being cultivated/suitable to agriculture

( ) Subject property is presently idle/vacant

x x x x

4. Land Use (Check Appropriate Parenthesis)

( ) Sugar land         ( ) Unirrigated Riceland

( ) Cornland           ( ) Irrigated Riceland

( ) Others (Specify) _________________
Evidently, none of the abovementioned description of land would negate the determination of the DAR that the subject landholding is indeed an agricultural land. Whether the subject landholding is presently being cultivated or not or whether the same is sugarland, cornland, un-irrigated or irrigated riceland is of no moment. The primordial consideration is whether the subject landholding is an agricultural land which falls within the coverage of CARP.

Moreover, any doubt as to the conduct of an ocular inspection and as to the nature and character of the subject landholding should be obviated with the issuance of the Memorandum dated March 3, 2005 addressed to Luis B. Bueno, Jr., Assistant Regional Director for Operations of DAR Regional Office Region IV-A, and prepared by Catalina D. Causaren, Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer (PARO) of Laguna, where it was stated that an ocular inspection has been conducted and that the subject landholding is indeed an agricultural land. x x x

Clearly, MARO's failure to mark any of the checkboxes for "Land Condition/Suitability to Agriculture" and "Land Use" to indicate whether the subject properties were sugarland, cornland, un-irrigated riceland, irrigated riceland, or any other classification of agricultural land leading to the lifting of the notice of coverage over the subject landholding, without prejudice to the conduct of an ocular inspection to determine the classification of the land, is totally uncalled for.

And second, petitioner has miserably failed to present any evidence that would support its contention that the subject landholding has already been validly reclassified from "agricultural" to "industrial" land. According to petitioner, the subject landholding has already been reclassified as industrial land by the Sangguniang Bayan of the Municipality of Biñan, and that pursuant to such reclassification, petitioner has been assessed, and is paying, realty taxes based on this new classification.

Indeed, the subject landholding had been reclassified under Kapasiyahan Blg. 03-(89) dated January 7, 1989 of the Municipality of Biñan, Laguna. It is worth noting, however, that said reclassification has not been approved by the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board based on its Certification dated October 16, 1997. x x x x

Neither was there any showing that said reclassification has been authorized by the DAR as required under Section 65 of Republic Act No. 6657 of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law.

Aside from the reclassification by the Sangguniang Bayan of the Municipality of Biñan, petitioner also relies on the tax declaration purportedly reclassifying the subject landholding as industrial. However, as petitioner itself admitted, what was indicated in said tax declaration was merely "proposed industrial." Evidently a "proposal" is quite different from "reclassification." Thus, petitioner cannot also rely on said tax declaration to bolster its contention that the subject landholding has already been reclassified from "agricultural" to "industrial."
As aptly explained in the said Resolution, DAR sufficiently complied with the prescribed procedure under DAR Administrative Order No. 1 of 1998, which afforded petitioner its right to due process.

We, therefore, find no cogent reason to deviate from Our earlier Resolution and deem it unnecessary to grant petitioner's prayer to refer the case to this Court's En Banc. In Apo Fruits Corporation and Hijo Plantation, Inc. v. Court of Appeals,[2] this Court already ruled:
x x x x The Supreme Court sitting En Banc is not an appellate court vis-a-vis its Divisions, and it exercises no appellate jurisdiction over the latter. Each division of the Court is considered not a body inferior to the Court en banc, and sits veritably as the Court en banc itself. It bears to stress further that a resolution of the Division denying a party's motion for referral to the Court en banc of any Division case, shall be final and not appealable to the Court en banc. Since, at this point, the Third Division already twice denied the motion of LBP to refer the present Petition to the Supreme Court en banc, the same must already be deemed final for no more appeal of its denial thereof is available to LBP.[3] (Emphasis supplied)
WHEREFORE, the instant Omnibus Motion is DENIED. The Resolution of this Court dated October 19, 2016 is hereby AFFIRMED IN TOTO. No further pleadings will be entertained. Let Entry of Judgment be ISSUED.


Mendoza, Reyes, and Perlas-Bernabe, JJ., concur.
Peralta, J. See Dissenting Opinion.

July 25, 2017


Sirs / Mesdames:

Please take notice that on July 5, 2017 a Resolution, copy attached hereto, was rendered by the Supreme Court in the above-entitled case, the original of which was received by this Office on July 25, 2017 at 10:20 a.m.

Very truly yours,
Division Clerk of Court

[1] Rollo, pp. 651-675.

[2] G.R. No. 164195, April 30, 2008, 553 SCRA 237.

[3] tags