THE Supreme Court 2nd Division has reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals dismissing a farmers’ group’s appeal against the cancellation of their agrarian titles.
The group is composed of 30 farmers in Barangay Indahag whose certificates of land ownership agreement (Cloas) or agrarian titles over a 30-hectare property were cancelled by the local adjudicator of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).
The Carrasco-Genoso Law Office, which handles the farmers’ case, have argued that the titles should not have been cancelled without giving the farmers due process and hearing.
The CA-Mindanao station here had sustained the cancellation by the DAR adjudicator, citing technical defects in the filing of the appeal, including the non-signing by some farmers and ambiguity in their IDs.
But the SC ruled: “In the petitioners’ case, the cancellation of their CLOAs was prompted by a mere manifestation filed by Gacula. A mere manifestation can hardly be equated with a petition that the DARAB Rules of Procedure require for the cancellation of CLOAs… These circumstances, to our minds, cast an overwhelming doubt on the validity and authority of Adjudicator Salcedo to issue the order that cancelled the petitioners’ CLOAs.”
The SC further stated: “Dismissal of appeals purely on technical grounds is frowned upon where the policy of the court is to encourage hearings of appeals on their merits and the rules of procedure ought not to be applied in a very rigid, technical sense; rules of procedure are used only to help secure, not override substantial justice.”
The 30-hectare property is adjacent to the the 130 hectares which the Fil-Estate/Capistrano/Alliance Global group has been claiming. But farmers have claimed that they have been in possession of the lands for the past 40 to 70 years.
The realty group’s golf-course cum subdivision project has been paralyzed in the past 21 years due to the farmers’ resistance and protest.
Despite being challenged by the farmers and their lawyers, the developers have not filed any ejectment case in court.
The Capistranos have claim that they have obtained a title to the farmlands back in 1975, a title which the farmers have described as “dubious and anomalous.”
Filler photo: AGRI SUMMIT