The crux of this case is whether or not grounds exist to warrant the cancellation of CLTs and EPs issued to appellees as the identified tenant-beneficiaries on the land. The determination of this issue in turn hinges on the question of whether or not the subject land is exempt under OLT coverage of PD 27.
In the recent case of Eudosia Daez vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 133507, February 17, 2000, the Supreme Court set forth the requirements for coverage under the OLT program in this wise:
"PD 27, which implemented the Operation Land Transfer (OLT) Program, covers tenanted rice or corn lands. The requisites for coverage under the OLT Program are the following: (1) the land must be devoted to rice or corn crops; and (2) there must be a system of share-crop or lease tenancy obtaining therein. If either requisite is absent, a landowner may apply for exemption. If either for [sic] those requisites is absent, the land is not covered under OLT.
x x x x
Thus, on one hand, exemption from coverage of OLT lies if: (1) the land is not devoted to rice or corn crops even if it is tenanted; or (2) the land is untenanted even though it is devoted to rice or corn crops."
Guided by the foregoing, it is essential to determine whether or not tenancy relationship exists between Mr. Arroyo and the appellees. In the absence of the all important element of tenancy, the subject land falls outside OLT coverage of PD 27 even if incidentally it is devoted to rice and/or corn. In the case of Prudential Bank vs. Gapultos, 181 SCRA 160 , the Supreme Court lists the requisites essential for the establishment of tenancy relationship, thus:
"The essential requisites of tenancy relationship are: (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 harvests. All these requisites must concur in order to create a tenancy relationship between the parties. The absence of one does not make an occupant of a parcel of land, or a cultivator thereof, or a planter thereon, a de jure tenant. Unless a person has established his status as a de jure tenant, he is not entitled to security of tenure nor is he covered by Land Reform Program of the government under existing tenancy laws."
x x x x
Applying the above-stated requirements in the case at bar, we find the absence of tenancy relationship between the parties. Firstly, subject land is not an agricultural land, as the term is understood. Uncontroverted evidence shows that the subject land had been classified as residential/commercial even prior to the effectivity of PD 27. Per Official Zoning Map of the City of Davao adopted under Resolution No. 711, Ordinance No. 281, s. of 1972 (p. 243, Records), the land was classified as "Commercial Zone and Residential Zone Class B". This classification confirmed the residential character of the subject land as appearing in Mr. Arroyo’s tax declarations filed way back in 1968 (pp. 187-190, Records). x x x
The residential character of the subject property is likewise confirmed by the following government agencies or offices:
1. The Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB), Davao City, which issued a Zoning Certification to the effect that the subject land is within the Residential/Commercial Zone under the Zoning Ordinance of Davao City adopted through a Sangguniang Bayan Resolution and ratified by the HLURB, through Board Resolution No. 39-4, s. of 1980 dated July 31, 1980 (p. 208, Records).
2. The Office of the Zoning Administrator, City of Davao, certifying to the effect that the subject land is within a Residential Zone Class "B" in the Zonification Ordinance of Davao City (p. 126, Records).
3. The Bureau of Soils of then Ministry of Agriculture, Davao City, which submitted a Certification to the effect that the subject land is suitable for urban use/housing projects (p. 127, Records).
4. The Office of the City Planning and Development Coordinator, Office of the Zoning Administrator, certifying to the effect that the subject land was classified as Major Commercial Zone (C-2) and High Density Residential Zone (R-2) in the City Ordinance No. 363, s. of 1982 or better known as Expanded Zoning Ordinance of Davao City (p. 160, Records).
To cap it all, even the DAR Provincial Task Force on Illegal Conversion, after conducting on April 10, 2000 an investigation on the reported illegal conversion of the subject land, admitted on its report of June 2, 2000 that it is no longer agricultural, it being classified as commercial and residential zones. Consequently, they ruled out any act of illegal conversion.
x x x
Secondly, the records show that the land in dispute was never intended for agricultural production. For one, no agricultural improvements were introduced upon the land since its acquisition by Mr. Arroyo in 1951. In fact, for more than a decade since 1972, the disputed land was subject of numerous business proposals (attached to Appeal/Memorandum) from various land developers for purposes of developing it into a residential and commercial area. For another, the subject property is situated in a commercial and residential area. As the records show, it is adjacent to the Government Service and Insurance System (GSIS) subdivision and other residential or commercial establishments, and surrounded by GSIS Heights, Villa Josefina Subdivision, Flores Village, Central Park Subdivision, Poly Subdivision, San Miguel Village, New Matina Golf Club, Davao Memorial Park, Shrine of the Infant Jesus, Matina Public Market and Venees hotel.
The fact that appellees may perhaps have planted rice or corn on the said land, situated in the middle of what appears to be a fast growing residential and business area in the heart of a metropolitan area, is of little moment. Such agricultural activity cannot, by any strained interpretation of law, amount to converting the land in question into agricultural land and subject it to the agrarian reform program of the government. The Supreme Court in Hilario vs. Intermediate Appellate Court (supra) held that:
"x x x. But even if the claim of the private respondent that some corn was planted on the lots is true, this does not convert residential land into agricultural land.
The presumption assumed by the appellate court, that a parcel of land which is located in a poblacion is not necessarily devoted to residential purposes, is wrong. It should be the other way around. A lot inside the poblacion should be presumed residential, or commercial or non-agricultural unless there is clearly preponderant evidence to show that it is agricultural." (underlining supplied)
Clearly, therefore, two (2) requisites – that the land is agricultural and that the purpose thereof is agricultural production – necessary to establish the existence of tenancy relationship between Mr. Arroyo and the appellees are absent. On the other requirements for the creation of tenancy relationship, suffice it to reiterate the well-established rule that "[A]ll these requisites must concur in order to create a tenancy relationship between the parties. The absence of one does not make an occupant of a parcel of land, or a cultivator thereof, or a planter thereon, a de jure tenant. Unless a person has established his status as a de jure tenant, he is not entitled to security of tenure nor is he covered by Land Reform Program of the government under existing tenancy laws" (Prudential Bank v. Gapultos, supra).