Sunday, February 05, 2012

Sindico vs. Diaz, 440 SCRA 50; October 1, 2004

Facts: Virgilio Sindico, is the registered owner of a parcel of land, which he let the spouses Eulalio and Concordia Sombrea cultivate, without him sharing in the produce, as his "assistance in the education of his cousins" including defendant Felipe Sombrea.

After the death of the Eulalio Sombrea, Felipe continued to cultivate the lot.

On June 20, 1993, Sindico requested Felipe’s wife for the return of the possession of the lot but the latter requested time to advise her husband.

Repeated demands for the return of the possession of the lot remained unheeded, forcing Sindico to file a civil case before the RTC against the spouses Sombrea for Accion Reivindicatoria with Preliminary Mandatory Injunction.

The defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss, alleging that the RTC has no jurisdiction over their person and that as the subject matter of the case is an agricultural land which is covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) of the government, the case is within the exclusive original jurisdiction of the DARAB in accordance with Section 50 of Republic Act 6657 (THE COMPREHENSIVE AGRARIAN REFORM LAW OF 1988)

The plaintiff filed an Opposition alleging that the case does not involve an agrarian dispute, there being no tenancy relationship or leasehold agreement with the defendants.

The RTC of Iloilo granted the Motion to Dismiss

As their Motion for Reconsideration was denied by the trial court, the plaintiffs, herein petitioners, lodged the present Petition for Review on Certiorari.

Issue: 
Whether or not the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB) has original and exclusive jurisdiction over the case at bar.

Held: No. Jurisdiction over the subject matter is determined by the allegations of the complaint. It is not affected by the pleas set up by the defendant in his answer or in a motion to dismiss, otherwise, jurisdiction would be dependent on his whims.

The allegations in petitioner’s complaint show that the action is one for recovery of possession, not one which involves an agrarian dispute.

Section 3(d) of RA 6657 or the CARP Law defines "agrarian dispute" over which the DARAB has exclusive original jurisdiction as:

(d) any controversy relating to tenurial arrangements, whether leasehold, tenancy, stewardship or otherwise, over lands devoted to agriculture, including disputes concerning farmworkers associations or representation of persons in negotiating, fixing, maintaining, changing or seeking to arrange terms or conditions of such tenurial arrangements including any controversy relating to compensation of lands acquired under this Act and other terms and conditions of transfer of ownership from landowners to farmworkers, tenants and other agrarian reform beneficiaries, whether the disputants stand in the proximate relation of farm operator and beneficiary, landowner and tenant, or lessor and lessee.

Since petitioners’ action is one for recovery of possession and does not involve an agrarian dispute, the RTC has jurisdiction over it.

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