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[ GR No. L-13258, Nov 28, 1959 ]



106 Phil. 645

[ G.R. No. L-13258, November 28, 1959 ]




Florentino Joya is  the  owner  of a parcel  of land with an area of 11 hectares (lot No. 1171), situated in Sanja Mayor, Tanza, Cavite, which had been under lease to one Maximina Bondad for 16 years.  For the  duration  of said  period, the  land was  tenanted  and worked  on for the lessee by Pedro Pareja.

In April, 1954, upon termination  of the lease agreement, the  property  was returned to  the landowner,  with the lessee recommending  that the  same  be leased to  Pareja. The said  tenant and the landowner, however, failed  to agree on the terms under  which the former could  work on the land, specifically on the matter of rental, as Joya demanded 120 cavanes  as  annual rental therefor.  Notwithstanding such lack of understanding  between them, Pareja continued on his cultivation of the  property.

On May 24, 1954, the tenant filed with the Court of Industrial Relations (before the creation of the Court of Agrarian  Relations) Tenancy Case "No. 5281-R against Florentino Joya  for the  purpose of  securing a reduction of the rental allegedly  being imposed upon him by the respondent.  The landowner  resisted the  complaint disclaiming that Pareja had ever been his tenant.

Two days thereafter  or  on May  26,  Florentino  Joya leased the land to Domingo  Joya at an annual rent of 120 cavanes.  As the aforesaid lessee  found Pareja already working on the land, the former agreed to allow him (Pareja) to continue with his cultivation on condition that they would equally share its produce after deducting the rental for the land.  In view of this development, Pareja moved for the dismissal of his  complaint against the landowner, then  pending in the Court of Industrial Relations, on the ground that the  parties therein  had  already reached an agreement on the matter in controversy.

One year later, or on April 10,  1955, Florentino  Joya renewed the lease in favor of Domingo Joya but included as co-lessee one Juan Tahimic.  The  rent was. reduced to 105  cavanes a year.  Pareja, with whom  Domingo had worked during the previous  year, refused to surrender the land  to  Tahimic.  Thereupon, Florentino filed with the Justice of the Peace Court  of Tanza, Cavite, a complaint for  usurpation against  Pareja  who, consequently,  was arrested and stayed in jail  for a  week.  When finally released on bail,  Pareja filed a  counter-charge with the Office of the Provincial  Fiscal, against Florentino  Joya, Juan Tahimic, and Domingo Joya, for alleged violation of Republic Act 1199.

However, threatened to be imprisoned again or fined in the usurpation case if he did not desist and surrender the land, he withdrew his complaint manifesting that he was surrendering the property to its owner but  "leaving to the Court of Industrial Relations or Agrarian Court the determination of whatever right he may have in the said land."  Thereafter, at the instance of Florentino Joya, the criminal case  for usurpation was also dismissed.

On January 31, 1956,  Pareja  filed  in  the Court of Agrarian Relations a complaint against Florentino Joya and Juan Tahimic for alleged violation of Republic Act  1199 (Tenancy Case  No. CAR-6, Cavite),  consisting of his allegedly unlawful ejectment from the land he was working on for 16 years and the appointment by Florentino Joya of his co-defendant Juan Tahimic as tenant  in  his  (Pareja's) stead; of the landowner's filing  a criminal action when he refused to vacate the property and making it a condition for its dismissal his (Pareja's) surrender of the same.  And contending  that  he unwillingly  vacated the land for fear of  being  again  indicted  in court, Pareja prayed for his reinstatement to  the landholding; payment to him of his  share of the crops for the agricultural year 1955-56  which  he failed to receive; for damages  and attorney's fees. In their answer with counterclaim, defendants Florentino and  Juan  denied the existence of  tenancy  relationship between plaintiff arid defendant Florentino; and claimed that the complaint stated no cause of action and that the case had already been passed upon by competent authorities (apparently referring to the dismissal  by the  Court of Industrial Relations and the Provincial  Fiscal's  Office of the previous complaints of Pareja against the same defendants) .  Domingo Joya also filed an answer in intervention praying for the recognition of his and Tahimic's superior right to work on and  cultivate  the  land.

After due hearing, the Court rendered judgment holding that upon termination of the civil lease in favor of Maximina Bondad, Pedro Pareja, the lessee's tenant, automatically became  the  tenant of the landowner,  pursuant to Section 26 4 of Act 4054; that said tenant, on the other hand, in agreeing to share equally with Domingo Joya the produce of the land for the agricultural  year 1954-55 in effect waived his  right  over an undetermined ½  of the landholding; that the subsequent contract of lease entered into between the landowner and Domingo Joya and Juan Tahimic as lessees could not prejudice the right of, Pareja to work on the  same land and, accordingly, was declared valid only insofar as that portion given  up by the latter in favor of Domingo Joya was concerned.  Consequently, Pedro Pareja was ordered reinstated to ½ of the 11 hectare landholding, while Domingo Joya and Juan Tahimic were recognized as joint tenants over the other half.  As the rental for the  lease of the land was fixed at 53.75 cavanes per agricultural year after taking into consideration its nature and productivity, the court also directed Florentino Joya  to  return to plaintiff Pareja  and intervenor Domingo Joya 21.25 cavanes of palay or their value, which were overpaid to him (the landowner) for the agricultural year 1954-55; and to Domingo Joya  and  Juan Tahimc 55 cavanes or their corresponding value  which were overpaid to him for the  years  1955-56  and  1956-57.  The  court, however, finding that plaintiff's failure to continue on the cultivation of the land and its return to the owner could not be imputed to the  latter, exonerated  Florentino Joya from the charge of violation of Republic Act 1199.  Not satisfied with this decision, therein defendants and intervenor filed this petition for review.

Admittedly, the respondent-tenant cultivated the land for the lessee for 16 years or for  the entire duration of the lease agreement. There is no  controversy either that tenancy relationship existed  between Maximina Bondad, the lessee, and Pareja, the tenant.   

The question now interposed in this petition is  whether  the tenant of  a lessee retains the right to work  on the land despite the termination of the lease, or said in other words, whether his being a tenant of the lessee makes  him,  upon the expiration of the contract, a tenant of the lessor. The question  thus presented  must  be answered in the affirmative, not so  much  because of Act 4054 relied  upon by the Agrarian Court, but pursuant to Section 9 of Republic Act 1199, as amended by Section 3 of Republic Act 2263, which reads  in part:
"SEC.  9. Severance  of Relations. The  tenancy relationship  is extinguished by the voluntary surrender or abandonment of the land by, or the death or incapacity of, the  tenant:

 *       *        *       *       *        *        *
 The expiration of the  period of the contract as fixed by the parties, or the sale, alienation or transfer of legal possession of the land does not of itself extinguish  the relationship.  In the latter  ease, the purchaser or transferee  shall  assume the rights and obligations of the former landholder in relation to the tenant  In case of  death of the landholder, his  heir or heirs shall likewise assume his rights and  obligations."  (Italics supplied.)
 It is clear from the foregoing that tenancy relationship is not extinguished by (1) the expiration of the contract (of tenancy); (2) sale; (3) alienation; or (4) transfer of legal possession of the land.
 In a contract of lease, the lessee, for the duration of the contract, acquires legal possession and control of the property subject of the agreement.[1]  The return by  the lessee of the property to the lessor, upon  expiration of the lease contract, naturally involves again a transfer of possession from one lawful holder to another.   But it may be asked, is this transfer of possession included in or comprehended by the aforequoted Section 9  of  Republic  Act 1199, as amended?
 Prior to the enactment of Republic Act  2263,  amending Republic Act 1199, our tenancy legislations, while providing for the tenant's right in cases of sale or alienation of the property, is silent where there is only a transfer of legal possession of the land.  With the amendment of the Agricultural Tenancy  Act (Rep. Act 1199)  on June 19, 1959, the tenure  of the  tenant in the land he is cultivating was secured even in cases of transfer of legal possession.  Petitioner-landowner,  however, claims that to  hold that the lessee's tenant, with whom  he had no dealing whatsoever, automatically becomes his tenant  upon the return  of the property to him would  constitute a restraint on his right to enter into contract and deprive him of his liberty (to contract) and property without due process of law.

This same contention was raised during the deliberations of the then Senate Bill No. 119, but Congress,  decided to implement its policy and objective in adopting the Agricultural Tenancy Law and passed the bill in its present form. The following is  quoted from the  Congressional  Record:
"SENATOR PRIMICIAS.  On the severance of relationship of tenant and landowner, it seems that there is an intention  on  the  part of Your  Honor  to amend Section 9 of the  Act sq as to include the transfer of legal possession of land in one or two cases which do not extinguish the relationship ***.

"SENATOR PELAEZ.  I would say that this  afternoon, in the  Committee on Revision  of  Laws, we were1  considering  amendments to the effect that the present tenants must have the priority right, and I think we should give priority to those  tenants who are there and that any transfer of lands should not  affect them  the least.

"SENATOR  PRIMICIAS. * * *.  Does  Your  Honor  think that the landowner is  not entitled to transfer the lease to another person even if the price offered is better?

"SENATOR PELAEZ.  Under the present law, he cannot do it.

"SENATOR PRIMICIAS.  Would that not  constitute a deprivation of property without due process of law.

"SENATOR PELAEZ.  It  is deprivation of property without due process of law.   It is in the present law.   But we have to remember here social values and human values against material values.  Precisely, the agricultural tenancy act remedied  an existing evil because before the agricultural tenancy act provided for security  of  these poor tenants, they were pushed out of the land  by the landlords. *** ." (Senate  Congressional Record,  Vol. I,  No. 54, April  21, 1958,  p. 905-906.)
It is our considered judgment, since the return by the lessee  of the leased property to the lessor upon the expiration of the contract  involves also a transfer of legal possession, and taking into account the manifest intent of the lawmaking body in amending the law, i.e.,  to provide the tenant with security of tenure in all  cases  of transfer of legal possession,  that the  instant case  falls within  and is governed by the  provisions of Section  9  of Republic Act 1199,  as amended by Republic Act 2263.[2]  The termination of the lease, therefore, did not divest the tenant of the right to remain and  continue on his cultivation of the land.  Furthermore, should  any  doubt exist as  to  the applicability of the aforementioned provision of law to the case at bar such doubt  must be resolved in favor of the tenant.[3]

Petitioner landowner likewise  assails the legality of the judgment  of  the  court  a quo prescribing the  rental that must  be paid  by the tenants, it being claimed that such question was  never  raised  in the pleadings filed  in said court.  This  is not  exactly the  case,. because  it must be remembered that the main  reason for the  refusal of the landowner to  let  petitioner  continue  in the cultivation of the landholding in 1954  was precisely the question of the rental to be paid, the tenant claiming that the 120  cavanes being asked by the landowner was excessive.  This, therefore, is a matter of  dispute between the parties and the action taken by the  Agrarian Court is sanctioned  by Section 11 of Republic  Act No. 1267 which provides:
SEC.  11. Character of Order or Decision. In issuing an  order or decision, the Court shall not be restricted to the specific relief claimed or demands made by the parties to the dispute, but may include in the order or decision any matter or determination which may be deemed necessary and expedient for the purpose of settling the dispute or  of preventing further disputes, provided that said matter for determination has been established by competent evidence during the hearing.
Contrary to petitioners' contention that no proof was adduced during the trial to support the lower court's finding that  the  entire  landholding has an average annual yield of 215  cavanes,  we have the testimony of Florentino Joya himself that  "the land normally produces more  than 300 cavanes per  year" (pp.  207 & 225, Records).  There  is also the statement of Pareja that in 1954-55, he harvested 133 cavanes, in spite of poor crop.  (p. 45, Record.)  Hence, we find no reason to disturb  the finding of fact of the lower court.   

Petitioners also allege that the  tenant voluntarily  surrendered  the property to the  landowner,  as  evidenced by an affidavit executed  by Pareja on July i6, 1955 and subscribed before the Justice of the  Peace of Tanza, Cavite, the translation of which reads:
"I, PEDRO PAREJA, of legal age, and residing in the municipality of Tanza, Cavite,  under oath, state the following:

"That in accordance with what I have declared before the Provincial Fiscal of Cavite during the investigation (July 6, 1955), I will not interfere with or continue  the  cultivation in the land of Mr. Florentino  Joya in Balite, Tanza, Cavite, Lot No. 1171,  and which I am voluntarily returning  to him, nevertheless I am  leaving  to the C.I.R.  or Agrarian Court the  determination of  whatever right I may have in  said land.

"IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I  hereby sign  this  document, in the  Municipal building of Tanza, Cavite, this 16th day of July, 1955.

This  statement notwithstanding, the  lower court found that "petitioner's fear after his incarceration was ordered by the  Justice of the Peace was such that his freedom of choice was impaired, or at least restricted.  Under such circumstances, he was not  acting voluntarily."   

This conclusion is  fully supported by the record of the case.  The explanation  of the  tenant is sufficiently borne out by the circumstances attending the execution  of the document.  At the time he made the statement both in the office of the Provincial Fiscal and the Justice of the Peace of Tanza  (who ordered his previous arrest), petitioner Florentino Joya was in attendance.  The criminal action filed by Florentino  against him was then pending in the justice of the peace court.  The fact that immediately after the execution of the affidavit the landowner moved for the dismissal of the aforementioned criminal case corroborates Pareja's testimony that he had  to do as he did out of fear of further harassment.

Significantly too, it  may be  observed from  a reading of  the  document  that  the  affiant  did not turn over the property to the owner unconditionally.  On the contrary, he  made a reservation of  his right to secure from the proper  court a judicial declaration of whatever interest he  may have  in  the  land.  This  indeed  contradicts the supposed "voluntariness" of the tenant's  act in giving up the land.

With respect to the  charge that a portion of the land was utilized by the tenant as a  "tilapia" fish pondt  we agree with the lower court that there is  no evidence that it resulted in Material injury to the land (Sec. 51, Rep. Act 1199).  The uncontradicted testimony is that the fishpond was made on requirement  of the Bureau of Agricultural Extension that every  farmer in the vicinity should have a small fishpond, and that this  particular fishpond was on the  portion  ("balot")  not used  for planting rice (pp. 81-82,  Record.)

Wherefore,  finding no  reason  to review the  decision appealed from, the same  is  hereby affirmed, with costs against petitioner Florentino Joya.  So ordered.

Paras C. J., Bengzon,  Padilla, Montemayor, Bautista  Angelo, Labrador, Endencia, and Gutierrez  David JJ.,   concur.

[1] Tolentino vs. Gonzales Sy  Chian, 50 Phil.,

[2] See Section 22,  Republic  Act 2263, which provides: "Sec.  22. The provisions of this  Act  shall  be  applicable to  all cases pending in any court at the time of the approval of this Act."

[3] Section 56, Republic Act 1199, as amended.