City gov’t clarifies stand on Talisayan land issue

Citing Supreme Court decisions, the city government of Zamboanga has once and for all clarified that it had issued a building permit to Rowell Can Corp. for the construction of its tin factory in Barangay Talisayan, west of this city “because there is no valid ground to deny it, and not because the city government is ‘bent’ on supporting the factory construction.”

City Legal Officer Jesus C. Carbon Jr. made the clarification after District 1 Councilor Joselito Macrohon (in an article published by this paper) quoted Atty. Ramon E. Madronal Jr., assistant regional director of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Regional Office 9, “as saying he finds it difficult to enforce the (cease and desist) order because the city government is supporting the construction of Roel (sic) Can by providing them with a building permit.”

In a letter dated Oct. 23 to DAR Regional Director Faisar A. Mambuay, Atty. Carbon stressed that the legal stand of the city government of Zamboanga thru its City Legal Office is consistent that Lot No. 3-A-5– with an area of 26,346 sq. meters registered under TCT No. 129-2011000214 of the Registry of Deeds for Zamboanga in the name of Rowell Can Corporation– is an INDUSTRIAL LAND and is not under the jurisdiction of DAR.

Carbon said the same stand was spelled out in detail in his letter dated Sept. 17, 2018 to then DAR-9 Regional Director Julita A. Ragandang.

He said Lot No. 3-A-5 was classified as an industrial land under City Zoning Ordinance No. 29 enacted on Nov. 28, 1978, long before the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) took effect on June 15, 1988. The Ordinance was approved by the National Coordinating Council for Town Planning, Housing and Zoning, now the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB), on Sept. 24, 1980.

In the letter, the city legal officer cited an en banc decision of the Supreme Court in “Natalia Realty Inc. et. al., vs. DAR Sec. Benjamin T. Leong, et. al., G.R. No. 103302, August 12, 1993, upholding the legal stand that “Lands already classified and identified as commercial, industrial or residential before June 15, 1988— the date of affectivity of the CARL—are outside the coverage of this law. Therefore, they no longer need any conversion clearance from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).” (Junio vs. Ernesto D. Garilao in his capacity as Secretary of Agrarian Reform, G.R. No. 147146, promulgated on July 24, 2005).

Carbon pointed out another SC ruling which states that the “Power of Local Government Units to convert or reclassify lands from agricultural to non-agricultural prior to the passage of RA 6657, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, is not subject to the approval of the DAR. In this case, the authority of local government units to re-classify land before 15 June 1988, the affectivity of the CARL, may be said to be absolute.” (Heirs of Luis A. Luna, et. al. vs Ruben Afable, et. al., G.R. No. 188299, January 23, 2013).

Carbon quoted several other SC decisions on the matter, sustaining the city government’s stand on the Talisayan land conversion issue arising from the ongoing construction of a tin factory by Rowell Can Corp.

“The city government of Zamboanga and its officials must abide with the ruling of the Supreme Court, the highest tribunal of the land and one of the three co-equal branches of government,” Atty. Carbon declared. “Under the rule of law, all persons, natural or juridical, must obey Supreme Court decisions, especially those in government,” he added.-(Vic Larato)