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Isidro vs.

Court of Appeals
G.R. No. L-105586, December 15,
1993, 216 SCRA 503
Private respondent Natividad Gutierrez is the owner of the subject
parcel of land located in Gapan, Nueva Ecija.
In 1985, Aniceta Garcia, sister of private respondent and also the
overseer of the latter, allowed petitioner Remigio Isidro to occupy
the swampy portion of the land. The occupancy of a portion of
said land was subject to the condition that petitioner would vacate
the land upon demand. Petitioner occupied the land without
paying any rental and converted the same into a fishpond.
In 1990, private respondent through the overseer demanded from
petitioner the return of the land, but the latter refused to vacate
and return possession of said land, claiming that he had spent
effort and invested capital in converting the same into a fishpond.
A complaint for unlawful detainer was filed by private respondent against petitioner
before the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Gapan, Nueva Ecija.

Petitioner set up the following defenses:

(a) that the complaint was triggered by his refusal to increase his lease

(b) the subject land is a fishpond and therefore is agricultural land; and

(c) that lack of formal demand to vacate exposes the complaint to

dismissal for insufficiency of cause of action.

Based on an ocular inspection of the subject land, the trial court found that the land in
question is a fishpond. The trial court dismissed the case because it ruled that it is an
agrarian dispute, hence not cognizable by civil courts. It held that the land is agricultural
and therefore the dispute over it is agrarian which is under the original and exclusive
jurisdiction of the courts of agrarian relations as provided in Sec. 12(a) of Republic Act No.
946 (now embodied in the Revised Rules of Procedure of the Department of Agrarian
Reform Adjudication Board).

Private respondent appealed to the RTC which affirmed in toto the decision of MTC and
ruled that the DARAB is the proper forum for such issue.

On appeal to the CA, the decision of the trial court was reversed.
Whether or not the case is an agrarian dispute and hence not
cognizable by civil courts

No. A case involving an agricultural land does not
automatically make such case an agrarian dispute upon which
the DARAB has jurisdiction. The mere fact that the land is
agricultural does not ipso facto make the possessor an
agricultural lessee of tenant. The law provides for conditions or
requisites before he can qualify as one and the land being
agricultural is only one of them.
The essential requisites of a tenancy relationship are:
(1) the parties are the landowner and the tenant;
(2) the subject matter is agricultural land;
(3) there is consent;
(4) the purpose is agricultural production;
(5) there is personal cultivation by the tenant; and
(6) there is a sharing of harvests between the parties.
All these requisites must concur in order to create a tenancy
relationship between the parties. In the case at bar, there is an
absence of the last requisite, hence tenancy relationship between
Isidro and the private respondent was not established.
Statutory definition of an agricultural tenant or a lessee
Agricultural lessee as defined in Sec. 116(2) of RA No. 3844, is a
person who, by 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, for a price certain in
money or in produce or both. An agricultural lessor, on the other hand, is a
natural or judicial person who, either as owner, civil law lessee, usufructuary,
or legal possessor lets or grants to another the cultivation and use of his
land for a price certain.
It is clear that there is no tenancy or agricultural/leasehold
relationship existing between the petitioner and the private respondent
since petitioner has failed to substantiate his claim that he was paying rent
for the use of the land. There was no contract or agreement entered into by
the petitioner with the private respondent nor with the overseer of the
private respondent, for petitioner to cultivate the land for a price certain or
to share his harvests.
It is irrefutable in the case at bar that the subject land which
used to be an idle, swampy land was converted by the petitioner into a
fishpond. And it is settled that a fishpond is an agricultural land. An
agricultural land refers to the land devoted to agricultural activity as defined
in Republic Act No. 6657 15 and not classified as mineral, forest, residential,
commercial or industrial land. But such defense as well as raising the issue
as to whether or not private respondent knew of the conversion by
petitioner of the idle, swampy land into a fishpond is immaterial in this case.
The fact remains that the existence of all the requisites of a tenancy
relationship was not proven by the petitioner. And in the absence of a
tenancy relationship, the complaint for unlawful detainer is properly within
the jurisdiction of the Municipal Trial Court.
The law states that an agrarian dispute must be a controversy
relating to a tenurial arrangement over lands devoted to agriculture. Such
arrangement may be leasehold, tenancy or stewardship. Tenancy is not a
purely factual relationship dependent on what the alleged tenant does upon
the land. It is also a legal relationship. The intent of the parties, the
understanding when the farmer is installed, and their written agreements,
provided these are complied with and are not contrary to law, are even more
*The present case should be distinguished from
the recent case of Bernas vs. The Honorable Court of
Appeals. In the Bernas case, the land occupant (Bernas) had
a production-sharing agreement with the legal possessor
(Benigno Bito-on) while the records in this case fail to show
that herein petitioner (Isidro) was sharing the harvest or
paying rent for his use of the land.
In the Bernas case, the petitioner (Bernas) was
able to establish the existence of an agricultural tenancy or
leasehold relationship between him and the legal
possessor. The evidence in this case, on the other hand,
fails to prove that petitioner Isidro, was an agricultural
tenant or lessee.