DAR vs Cuenca, GR 154112, Sep. 23 2004, 439 SCRA 15

Fact:  Private respondent a filed with the RTC, against MARO and LBP for ‘Annulment of Notice of Coverage and Declaration of Unconstitutionality of E.O. No. 405, Series of 1990, With Preliminary Injunction and Restraining Order.’ the respondent Judge issued a Temporary Restraining Order directing MARO and LBP to cease and desist from implementing the Notice of Coverage. In the same order, the respondent Judge set the hearing on the application for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction. MARO Fortunado filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the order granting the TRO contending inter alia that the DAR, through the MARO, in the course of implementing the Notice of Coverage under CARP cannot be enjoined through a Temporary Restraining Order in the light of Sections 55 and 68 of R.A. 6657. The respondent Judge denied MARO motion to dismiss and issued a Writ of Preliminary Injunction directing MARO and all persons acting in his behalf to cease and desist from implementing the Notice of Coverage, and the LBP from proceeding with the determination of the value of the subject land. The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) [thereafter filed before the CA] a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, assailing the writ of preliminary injunction issued by respondent Judge on the ground of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction. Stressing that the issue was not simply the improper issuance of the Notice of Coverage, but was mainly the constitutionality of Executive Order No. 405, the CA ruled that the Regional Trial Court (RTC) had jurisdiction over the case. Consonant with that authority, the court a quo also had the power to issue writs and processes to enforce or protect the rights of the parties.

Issue: Where the RTC erred on acting upon the Agrarian case by issuing writ of Injunction and Restraining Order which the court has no Jurisdiction

Held: Yes, the RTCs to be without jurisdiction over the instant case, the respondent judge was devoid of authority to issue the assailed Writ of Preliminary Injunction. That Writ must perforce be stricken down as a nullity. Such nullity is particularly true in the light of the express prohibitory provisions of the CARP and the Court’s Administrative Circular Nos. 29-2002 and 38-2002. These Circulars enjoin all trial judges to strictly observe Section 68 of RA 6657, which reads: “Section 68. Immunity of Government Agencies from Undue Interference. – No injunction, restraining order, prohibition or mandamus shall be issued by the lower courts against the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), the Department of Agriculture (DA), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) in their implementation of the program.”

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