Payment of just compensation
HLI contends that since the SDP is a modality which the agrarian reform law gives the landowner as alternative to compulsory coverage, then the FWBs cannot be considered as owners and possessors of the agricultural lands of Hacienda Luisita at the time the SDP was approved by PARC.4 It further claims that the approval of the SDP is not akin to a Notice of Coverage in compulsory coverage situations because stock distribution option and compulsory acquisition are two (2) different modalities with independent and separate rules and mechanisms. Concomitantly, HLI maintains that the Notice of Coverage issued on January 2, 2006 may, at the very least, be considered as the date of "taking" as this was the only time that the agricultural lands of Hacienda Luisita were placed under compulsory acquisition in view of its failure to perform certain obligations under the SDP.5
Mallari, et al. are of a similar view. They contend that Tarlac Development Corporation (Tadeco), having as it were majority control over HLI, was never deprived of the use and benefit of the agricultural lands of Hacienda Luisita. Upon this premise, Mallari, et al. claim the "date of taking" could not be at the time of the approval of the SDP.6
A view has also been advanced that the date of the "taking" should be left to the determination of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in conjunction with its authority to preliminarily determine the just compensation for the land made subject of CARP.
Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Hacienda Luisita (AMBALA), in its Comment/Opposition (to the Motion to Clarify and Reconsider Resolution of November 22, 2011) dated January 30, 2012, on the other hand, alleges that HLI should not be paid just compensation altogether.7 It argues that when the Court of Appeals (CA) dismissed the case8 the government of then President Ferdinand E. Marcos initially instituted and won against Tadeco, the CA allegedly imposed as a condition for its dismissal of the action that should the stock distribution program fail, the lands should be distributed to the FWBs, with Tadeco receiving by way of compensation only the amount of PhP 3,988,000.9
AMBALA further contends that if HLI or Tadeco is, at all, entitled to just compensation, the "taking" should be reckoned as of November 21, 1989, the date when the SDP was approved, and the amount of compensation should be PhP 40,000 per hectare as this was the same value declared in 1989 by Tadeco to ensure that the FWBs will not control the majority stockholdings in HLI.10
At the outset, it should be noted that Section 2, Rule 52 of the Rules of Court states, "No second motion for reconsideration of a judgment or final resolution by the same party shall be entertained." A second motion for reconsideration, as a rule, is prohibited for being a mere reiteration of the issues assigned and the arguments raised by the parties.11
In the instant case, the issue on just compensation and the grounds HLI and Mallari, et al. rely upon in support of their respective stance on the matter had been previously raised by them in their first motion for reconsideration and fully passed upon by the Court in its November 22, 2011 Resolution. The similarities in the issues then and now presented and the grounds invoked are at once easily discernible from a perusal of the November 22, 2011 Resolution, the pertinent portions of which read:
In Our July 5, 2011 Decision, We stated that "HLI shall be paid just compensation for the remaining agricultural land that will be transferred to DAR for land distribution to the FWBs." We also ruled that the date of the "taking" is November 21, 1989, when PARC approved HLI’s SDP per PARC Resolution No. 89-12-2.
In its Motion for Clarification and Partial Reconsideration, HLI disagrees with the foregoing ruling and contends that the "taking" should be reckoned from finality of the Decision of this Court, or at the very least, the reckoning period may be tacked to January 2, 2006, the date when the Notice of Coverage was issued by the DAR pursuant to PARC Resolution No. 2006-34-01 recalling/revoking the approval of the SDP.
For their part, Mallari, et al. argue that the valuation of the land cannot be based on November 21, 1989, the date of approval of the SDP. Instead, they aver that the date of "taking" for valuation purposes is a factual issue best left to the determination of the trial courts.
At the other end of the spectrum, AMBALA alleges that HLI should no longer be paid just compensation for the agricultural land that will be distributed to the FWBs, since the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) already rendered a decision ordering the Cojuangcos to transfer the control of Hacienda Luisita to the Ministry of Agrarian Reform, which will distribute the land to small farmers after compensating the landowners P3.988 million. In the event, however, that this Court will rule that HLI is indeed entitled to compensation, AMBALA contends that it should be pegged at forty thousand pesos (PhP 40,000) per hectare, since this was the same value that Tadeco declared in 1989 to make sure that the farmers will not own the majority of its stocks.
Despite the above propositions, We maintain that the date of "taking" is November 21, 1989, the date when PARC approved HLI’s SDP per PARC Resolution No. 89-12-2, in view of the fact that this is the time that the FWBs were considered to own and possess the agricultural lands in Hacienda Luisita. To be precise, these lands became subject of the agrarian reform coverage through the stock distribution scheme only upon the approval of the SDP, that is, November 21, 1989. Thus, such approval is akin to a notice of coverage ordinarily issued under compulsory acquisition. Further, any doubt should be resolved in favor of the FWBs. As this Court held in Perez-Rosario v. CA:
It is an established social and economic fact that the escalation of poverty is the driving force behind the political disturbances that have in the past compromised the peace and security of the people as well as the continuity of the national order. To subdue these acute disturbances, the legislature over the course of the history of the nation passed a series of laws calculated to accelerate agrarian reform, ultimately to raise the material standards of living and eliminate discontent. Agrarian reform is a perceived solution to social instability. The edicts of social justice found in the Constitution and the public policies that underwrite them, the extraordinary national experience, and the prevailing national consciousness, all command the great departments of government to tilt the balance in favor of the poor and underprivileged whenever reasonable doubt arises in the interpretation of the law. But annexed to the great and sacred charge of protecting the weak is the diametric function to put every effort to arrive at an equitable solution for all parties concerned: the jural postulates of social justice cannot shield illegal acts, nor do they sanction false sympathy towards a certain class, nor yet should they deny justice to the landowner whenever truth and justice happen to be on her side. In the occupation of the legal questions in all agrarian disputes whose outcomes can significantly affect societal harmony, the considerations of social advantage must be weighed, an inquiry into the prevailing social interests is necessary in the adjustment of conflicting demands and expectations of the people, and the social interdependence of these interests, recognized. (Emphasis and citations omitted.)
Considering that the issue on just compensation has already been passed upon and denied by the Court in its November 22, 2011 Resolution, a subsequent motion touching on the same issue undeniably partakes of a second motion for reconsideration, hence, a prohibited pleading, and as such, the motion or plea must be denied. Sec. 3 of Rule 15 of the Internal Rules of the Supreme Court is clear:
SEC. 3. Second motion for reconsideration. – The Court shall not entertain a second motion for reconsideration, and any exception to this rule can only be granted in the higher interest of justice by the Court en banc upon a vote of at least two-thirds of its actual membership. There is reconsideration "in the higher interest of justice" when the assailed decision is not only legally erroneous, but is likewise patently unjust and potentially capable of causing unwarranted and irremediable injury or damage to the parties. A second motion for reconsideration can only be entertained before the ruling sought to be reconsidered becomes final by operation of law or by the Court’s declaration.
In the Division, a vote of three Members shall be required to elevate a second motion for reconsideration to the Court En Banc.
Nonetheless, even if we entertain said motion and examine the arguments raised by HLI and Mallari, et al. one last time, the result will be the same.
Sec. 4, Article XIII of the 1987 Constitution expressly provides that the taking of land for use in the agrarian reform program of the government is conditioned on the payment of just compensation. As stated:
Section 4. The State shall, by law, undertake an agrarian reform program founded on the right of farmers and regular farm workers, who are landless, to own directly or collectively the lands they till or, in the case of other farm workers, to receive a just share of the fruits thereof. To this end, the State shall encourage and undertake the just distribution of all agricultural lands, subject to such priorities and reasonable retention limits as the Congress may prescribe, taking into account ecological, developmental, or equity considerations, and subject to the payment of just compensation. (Emphasis supplied.)
Just compensation has been defined as "the full and fair equivalent of the property taken from its owner by the expropriator."12 The measure is not the taker’s gain, but the owner’s loss.13 In determining just compensation, the price or value of the property at the time it was taken from the owner and appropriated by the government shall be the basis. If the government takes possession of the land before the institution of expropriation proceedings, the value should be fixed as of the time of the taking of said possession, not of the filing of the complaint.14
In Land Bank of the Philippines v. Livioco, the Court held that "the ‘time of taking’ is the time when the landowner was deprived of the use and benefit of his property, such as when title is transferred to the Republic."15 It should be noted, however, that "taking" does not only take place upon the issuance of title either in the name of the Republic or the beneficiaries of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). "Taking" also occurs when agricultural lands are voluntarily offered by a landowner and approved by PARC for CARP coverage through the stock distribution scheme, as in the instant case. Thus, HLI’s submitting its SDP for approval is an acknowledgment on its part that the agricultural lands of Hacienda Luisita are covered by CARP. However, it was the PARC approval which should be considered as the effective date of "taking" as it was only during this time that the government officially confirmed the CARP coverage of these lands.
Indeed, stock distribution option and compulsory land acquisition are two (2) different modalities under the agrarian reform program. Nonetheless, both share the same end goal, that is, to have "a more equitable distribution and ownership of land, with due regard to the rights of landowners to just compensation."16
The fact that Sec. 31 of Republic Act No. 6657 (RA 6657) gives corporate landowners the option to give qualified beneficiaries the right to avail of a stock distribution or, in the phraseology of the law, "the right to purchase such proportion of the capital stock of the corporation that the agricultural land, actually devoted to agricultural activities, bears in relation to the company’s total assets," does not detract from the avowed policy of the agrarian reform law of equitably distributing ownership of land. The difference lies in the fact that instead of actually distributing the agricultural lands to the farmer-beneficiaries, these lands are held by the corporation as part of the capital contribution of the farmer-beneficiaries, not of the landowners, under the stock distribution scheme. The end goal of equitably distributing ownership of land is, therefore, undeniable. And since it is only upon the approval of the SDP that the agricultural lands actually came under CARP coverage, such approval operates and takes the place of a notice of coverage ordinarily issued under compulsory acquisition.
Moreover, precisely because due regard is given to the rights of landowners to just compensation, the law on stock distribution option acknowledges that landowners can require payment for the shares of stock corresponding to the value of the agricultural lands in relation to the outstanding capital stock of the corporation.
Although Tadeco did not require compensation for the shares of stock corresponding to the value of the agricultural lands in relation to the outstanding capital stock of HLI, its inability to receive compensation cannot be attributed to the government. The second paragraph of Sec. 31 of RA 6657 explicitly states that "[u]pon certification by DAR, corporations owning agricultural lands may give their qualified beneficiaries the right to purchase such proportion of the capital stock of the corporation that the agricultural land, actually devoted to agricultural activities, bears in relation to the company’s total assets, under such terms and conditions as may be agreed upon by them. x x x"17 On the basis of this statutory provision, Tadeco could have exacted payment for such shares of stock corresponding to the value of the agricultural lands of Hacienda Luisita in relation to the outstanding capital stock of HLI, but it did not do so.
What is notable, however, is that the divestment by Tadeco of the agricultural lands of Hacienda Luisita and the giving of the shares of stock for free is nothing but an enticement or incentive for the FWBs to agree with the stock distribution option scheme and not further push for land distribution. And the stubborn fact is that the "man days" scheme of HLI impelled the FWBs to work in the hacienda in exchange for such shares of stock.
Notwithstanding the foregoing considerations, the suggestion that there is "taking" only when the landowner is deprived of the use and benefit of his property is not incompatible with Our conclusion that "taking" took place on November 21, 1989. As mentioned in Our July 5, 2011 Decision, even from the start, the stock distribution scheme appeared to be Tadeco’s preferred option in complying with the CARP when it organized HLI as its spin-off corporation in order to facilitate stock acquisition by the FWBs. For this purpose, Tadeco assigned and conveyed to HLI the agricultural lands of Hacienda Luisita, set at 4,915.75 hectares, among others. These agricultural lands constituted as the capital contribution of the FWBs in HLI. In effect, Tadeco deprived itself of the ownership over these lands when it transferred the same to HLI.
While it is true that Tadeco has majority control over HLI, the Court cannot subscribe to the view Mallari, et al. espouse that, on the basis of such majority stockholding, Tadeco was never deprived of the use and benefit of the agricultural lands of Hacienda Luisita it divested itself in favor of HLI.
It bears stressing that "[o]wnership is defined as a relation in law by virtue of which a thing pertaining to one person is completely subjected to his will in everything not prohibited by law or the concurrence with the rights of another."18 The attributes of ownership are: jus utendi or the right to possess and enjoy, jus fruendi or the right to the fruits, jus abutendi or the right to abuse or consume, jus disponendi or the right to dispose or alienate, and jus vindicandi or the right to recover or vindicate.19
When the agricultural lands of Hacienda Luisita were transferred by Tadeco to HLI in order to comply with CARP through the stock distribution option scheme, sealed with the imprimatur of PARC under PARC Resolution No. 89-12-2 dated November 21, 1989, Tadeco was consequently dispossessed of the afore-mentioned attributes of ownership. Notably, Tadeco and HLI are two different entities with separate and distinct legal personalities. Ownership by one cannot be considered as ownership by the other.
Corollarily, it is the official act by the government, that is, the PARC’s approval of the SDP, which should be considered as the reckoning point for the "taking" of the agricultural lands of Hacienda Luisita. Although the transfer of ownership over the agricultural lands was made prior to the SDP’s approval, it is this Court’s consistent view that these lands officially became subject of the agrarian reform coverage through the stock distribution scheme only upon the approval of the SDP. And as We have mentioned in Our November 22, 2011 Resolution, such approval is akin to a notice of coverage ordinarily issued under compulsory acquisition.
Further, if We adhere to HLI’s view that the Notice of Coverage issued on January 2, 2006 should, at the very least, be considered as the date of "taking" as this was the only time that the agricultural portion of the hacienda was placed under compulsory acquisition in view of HLI’s failure to perform certain obligations under the SDP, this Court would, in effect, be penalizing the qualified FWBs twice for acceding to the adoption of the stock distribution scheme: first, by depriving the qualified FWBs of the agricultural lands that they should have gotten early on were it not for the adoption of the stock distribution scheme of which they only became minority stockholders; and second, by making them pay higher amortizations for the agricultural lands that should have been given to them decades ago at a much lower cost were it not for the landowner’s initiative of adopting the stock distribution scheme "for free."
Reiterating what We already mentioned in Our November 22, 2011 Resolution, "[e]ven if it is the government which will pay the just compensation to HLI, this will also affect the FWBs as they will be paying higher amortizations to the government if the ‘taking’ will be considered to have taken place only on January 2, 2006." As aptly observed by Justice Leonardo-De Castro in her Concurring Opinion, "this will put the land beyond the capacity of the [FWBs] to pay," which this Court should not countenance.
Considering the above findings, it cannot be gainsaid that effective "taking" took place in the case at bar upon the approval of the SDP, that is, on November 21, 1989.
HLI postulates that just compensation is a question of fact that should be left to the determination by the DAR, Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) or even the special agrarian court (SAC).20 As a matter of fact, the Court, in its November 22, 2011 Resolution, dispositively ordered the DAR and the LBP to determine the compensation due to HLI. And as indicated in the body of said Resolution:
The foregoing notwithstanding, it bears stressing that the DAR’s land valuation is only preliminary and is not, by any means, final and conclusive upon the landowner. The landowner can file an original action with the RTC acting as a special agrarian court to determine just compensation. The court has the right to review with finality the determination in the exercise of what is admittedly a judicial function.
As regards the issue on when "taking" occurred with respect to the agricultural lands in question, We, however, maintain that this Court can rule, as it has in fact already ruled on its reckoning date, that is, November 21, 1989, the date of issuance of PARC Resolution No. 89-12-2, based on the above-mentioned disquisitions. The investment on SACs of original and exclusive jurisdiction over all petitions for the determination of just compensation to landowners21 will not preclude the Court from ruling upon a matter that may already be resolved based on the records before Us. By analogy, Our ruling in Heirs of Dr. Jose Deleste v. LBP is applicable:
Indeed, it is the Office of the DAR Secretary which is vested with the primary and exclusive jurisdiction over all matters involving the implementation of the agrarian reform program. However, this will not prevent the Court from assuming jurisdiction over the petition considering that the issues raised in it may already be resolved on the basis of the records before Us. Besides, to allow the matter to remain with the Office of the DAR Secretary would only cause unnecessary delay and undue hardship on the parties. Applicable, by analogy, is Our ruling in the recent Bagong Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa ng Triumph International v. Department of Labor and Employment Secretary, where We held:
But as the CA did, we similarly recognize that undue hardship, to the point of injustice, would result if a remand would be ordered under a situation where we are in the position to resolve the case based on the records before us. As we said in Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila v. Court of Appeals:
[w]e have laid down the rule that the remand of the case to the lower court for further reception of evidence is not necessary where the Court is in a position to resolve the dispute based on the records before it. On many occasions, the Court, in the public interest and for the expeditious administration of justice, has resolved actions on the merits instead of remanding them to the trial court for further proceedings, such as where the ends of justice, would not be subserved by the remand of the case.22 (Emphasis supplied; citations omitted.)
Even though the compensation due to HLI will still be preliminarily determined by DAR and LBP, subject to review by the RTC acting as a SAC, the fact that the reckoning point of "taking" is already fixed at a certain date should already hasten the proceedings and not further cause undue hardship on the parties, especially the qualified FWBs.
By a vote of 8-6, the Court affirmed its ruling that the date of "taking" in determining just compensation is November 21, 1989 when PARC approved HLI’s stock option plan.
As regards the issue of interest on just compensation, We also leave this matter to the DAR and the LBP, subject to review by the RTC acting as a SAC.
HACIENDA LUISITA, INCORPORATED, Petitioner,
LUISITA INDUSTRIAL PARK CORPORATION and RIZAL COMMERCIAL BANKING CORPORATION, Petitioners-in-Intervention,
PRESIDENTIAL AGRARIAN REFORM COUNCIL; SECRETARY NASSER PANGANDAMAN OF THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRARIAN REFORM; ALYANSA NG MGA MANGGAGAWANG BUKID NG HACIENDA LUISITA, RENE GALANG, NOEL MALLARI, and JULIO SUNIGA1 and his SUPERVISORY GROUP OF THE HACIENDA LUISITA, INC. and WINDSOR ANDAYA, Respondents.