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[ GR No. L-12764, Dec 23, 1959 ]



106 Phil. 718

[ G. R. No. L-12764, December 23, 1959 ]




Appeal from a decision of the respondent judge of the Court of  Agrarian  Relations, Third Regional District.

In March 1956, Emilio  Cano and twenty-five  other persons,  tenants of Salvador  de Jesus on the  sharing basis of 45-55, petitioned  the Court  of Agrarian  Relations for change beginning that year, of their crop sharing arrangement, from 45-55  to 30-70.  They cultivated  rice lands located in Concepcion, Tarlac.  The landholder opposed the petition alleging they had a written contract fixing their shares up to and including the year 1959-1960.

After the hearing, and after considering  the  report of the Commissioner, the Judge of  the  District  authorized the change desired by the tenants and ordered the landholder to agree thereto.   However, for reasons unnecessary  to mention, he said  the  alteration shall  commence only from the year  1958-1959.   De Jesus  did not appeal; but the tenants appealed,  insisting that the  new arrangement should start  from the year  1956-1957 as they  had requested.  Their demand rests upon section 14 of Republic Act 1199, which for  convenience  is hereby quoted (as amended  recently by Republic Act 2263).
"SEC.  14. Change of  System. The tenant  shall have the right to change the tenancy  contract from one of share  tenancy  to lease-hold  tenancy and  vice versa  and from one  crop  sharing arrangement to another of the share tenancy.  If the share tenancy contract is in writing and is duly  registered, the right to change from one crop sharing arrangement to another or from one tenancy system to  another may  be exercised at least one month before the beginning of the next agricultural year after the expiration of the period of  the contract.   In  the absence  of any registered written contract, the  right may  be exercised at least one  month before the  agricultural year when the change shall be effected."  (Italics ours)
There is no  question that each and every one  of the herein tenants had executed a  written  contract  with the landholder in the language and form prescribed by sec. 12 of  Republic Act  1199; and that all the documents  had been registered as provided therein.  All the contracts fix a 45-55  division, contain the same  provisions on other tenancy matters and state (part. IV) "this agreement shall remain in force as long as the  tenancy relationship exists, unless otherwise  amended or altered through or  by the agreement between the  landholder and  the  tenant."  At the end of each contract, there are four additional agreements; the first reads  "We the landholder and tenants, by virtue of this contract, mutually agreed that the foregoing palay tenancy contract will remain in force for agricultural year 1956-1957"; and the other three, in the same words refer respectively to 1957-1958,  1958-1959, and 1959-1960.

On the strength of the above stipulations,  De Jesus the landholder objected to any change prior to  the 1960- 1961  agricultural year.  He contended:  inasmuch  as the parties had a sharing contract up to 1959-1960, the tenants' right to alter may be exercised only "at the expiration of the period of the contract" as  declared by section 14, as amended.

Overruling this contention, the court held, more or less: First proposition. The body  of the contract contained no stipulation as to the date it will expire; therefore, the landlord may not invoke that part of section 14, referring to  change "at the  expiration of the contract."

Second proposition. Although par. IV says "this agreement shall remain in force as long as the tenancy relationship exists" such paragraph may not  be  enforced as to continuance of the sharing basis, because it deprives the tenants of the freedom to change, which section 14 explicitly confers upon them.

Third proposition. The additional stipulations for the years  1956-1957,  1957-1958, 1958-1959,  and 1959-1960 merely confirm the tenants'  allegation  that the contract "as regards  sharing  arrangement lasts from year to year starting from 1956-1957."  Such stipulations may not be regarded as fixing the sharing ratio for the five-year period from 1955 to 1960, for this  specific reason; Salvador de Jesus being merely a lessee of the owners of the hacienda for the same period  of five years, his contract with these tenants can only be for five years.  Wherefore, the sharing arrangement would in effect govern during  the entire term of  their tenancy relationship, and this court  (Agrarian), for the reason explained in the second proposition, believes it to  be contrary to sec.  14.

To repeat, the above  three propositions  substantially restate the main grounds of the appealed decision.

Now, it is probably true that, if the landholder  and the tenant agree in  a written contract that the  sharing or leasehold  agreement therein provided shall be observed "so long as the relationship exists" such stipulations  will be contrary to the spirit of section 14.  However, a stipulation that such arrangement shall be observed "during the period of the written contract" or during the period fixed in such contract, is entirely a different matter.  It must be remembered that the tenancy relationship is not extinguished by the expiration of the written contract  (Sec. 9, Republic  Act  1199 as  amended).  Hence, the  right to change given  to the tenant by sec. 14, may still be exercised during  the  existence  of the  tenancy relationship, after the period of, or fixed  in, the written contract.

In this particular case, it is reasonably clear that the above-quoted provisions of the contract between the parties, specially the  additional  stipulations  established  a sharing  basis  for the five  agricultural  years indicated. We perceive no reason to invalidate a written stipulation adopting a fixed sharing arrangement for  five years.  Section 14 impliedly permits it.  To the argument that, as the written contract is to be enforced for five  years only, such stipulation fixing an unchangeable arrangement for five years barters away the  right to the tenant under sec. 14, the answer is: after the five years the tenancy relationship still exists, (sec. 9) as already explained, and then the tenant may make use  of  the privilege to demand a new arrangement.

This answer holds good even if Salvador de Jesus were only a lessee for five years expiring in 1960, as the lower court found.  This is so, because nothing prevents his obtaining an extension of the lease; and  the continuation of the tenancy relationship between him and these tenants beyond 1960 is possible, with a  modified system if the latter so desires.[1]

This  leads to an equitable consideration:  Very probably, not to say certainly, in making  these contracts, Salvador  de Jesus fixed the share basis in relation to the sums he himself  has  to pay the owner of the hacienda for five years.  Would it  then be fair to alter such  basis during the five-year period without a corresponding alteration  in the amounts he has to deliver in turn to the owner.

All the above considerations impel us to hold there was error in ordering the change to start in the year 1958- 1959; such change could take place only after 1959-1960.  Nevertheless, the error may not presently be corrected, because De Jesus has not appealed.

On the other hand, the appellants have no cause to complain against the decision; after  all,  it favored  their interests.

Judgment  affirmed, with costs against  appellants, except Antonio Punsalang, Bienvenido Santos, Segundo Victoria, Calixto Bondoc, Pedro Guiso, Juan Dungca, Ireneo Santos and  Norberto Pineda who have heretofore  withdrawn their respective appeals.

Paras, C. J., Padilla, Montemayor, Bautista Angelo, Labrador, Endencia and Gutierrez David, JJ., concur.
Concepcion and Barrera, JJ., concur in the  result.

[1] If the lease is not  extended, they might even  claim tenancy relationship (perhaps) under sec. 9 with the hacienda owner, under a different way of dividing the crop.