Thursday, February 09, 2012

Gelos vs. CA, G.R. No. 86168

Facts: The subject land is a 25,000 square meter farmland situated in Cabuyao, Laguna, and belonging originally to private respondent Ernesto Alzona and his parents in equal shares. On July 5, 1970, they entered into a written contract with petitioner Rafael Gelos employing him as their laborer on the land at the stipulated daily wage of P5.00. On September 4, 1973, after Alzona had bought his parents' share and acquired full ownership of the land, he wrote Gelos to inform him of the termination of his services and to demand that he vacate the property. Gelos refused and continued working on the land. On October 1, 1973, Gelos went to the Court of Agrarian Relations and asked for the fixing of the agricultural lease rental on the property. He later withdrew the case and went to the Ministry of Agrarian Reform, which granted his petition. For his part, Alzona filed a complaint for illegal detainer against Gelos in the Municipal Court of Cabuyao, but this action was declared "not proper for trial" by the Ministry of Agrarian Reform because of the existence of a tenancy relationship between the parties. Alzona was rebuffed for the same reason when he sought the assistance of the Ministry of Labor and later when he filed a complaint with the Court of Agrarian Relations for a declaration of non-tenancy and damages against Gelos. On appeal to the Office of the President, however, the complaint was declared proper for trial and so de-archived and reinstated. After the hearing, the Regional Trial Court of San Pablo City (which had taken over the Court of Agrarian Relations under PB 129) rendered a decision dated April 21, 1987, dismissing the complaint. It found Gelos to be a tenant of the subject property and entitled to remain thereon as such.

Issue: Whether or not the parties entered into a tenancy agreement.

Held: No. A tenant is defined under Section 5(a) of Republic Act No. 1199 as a person who himself and with the aid available from within his immediate farm household cultivates the land belonging to or possessed by another, with the latter's consent, for purposes of production, sharing the produce with the landholder under the share tenancy system, or paying to the landholder a price-certain or ascertainable in produce or in money or both, under the leasehold tenancy system.

For this relationship to exist, it is necessary that: 1) the parties are the landowner and the tenant; 2) the subject is agricultural land; 3) there is consent; 4) the purpose is agricultural production; 5) there is personal cultivation; and 6) there is sharing of harvest or payment of rental. In the absence of any of these requisites, an occupant of a parcel of land, or a cultivator thereof, or planter thereon, cannot qualify as a de jure tenant.

On the other hand, the indications of an employer-employee relationship are: 1) the selection and engagement of the employee; 2) the payment of wages; 3) the power of dismissal; and 4) the power to control the employee's conduct –– although the latter is the most important element.

According to a well-known authority on the subject, tenancy relationship is distinguished from farm employer-farm worker relationship in that: "In farm employer-farm worker relationship, the lease is one of labor with the agricultural laborer as the lessor of his services and the farm employer as the lessee thereof. In tenancy relationship, it is the landowner who is the lessor, and the tenant the lessee of agricultural land. The agricultural worker works for the farm employer and for his labor he receives a salary or wage regardless of whether the employer makes a profit. On the other hand, the tenant derives his income from the agricultural produce or harvest."

The private respondent, instead of receiving payment of rentals or sharing in the produce of the land, paid the petitioner lump sums for specific kinds of work on the subject lot or gave him vales, or advance payment of his wages as laborer thereon.

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