FORTICH vs CORONA G.R. No. L-40411, August 7, 1935

Fact: This case involves a 144-hectare land located at San Vicente, Sumilao, Bukidnon, owned by the Norberto Quisumbing, Sr. Management and Development Corporation (NQSRMDC). In October, 1991, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) placed the entire 144-hectare property under compulsory acquisition and assessed the land value at P2.38 million.  NQSRMDC resisted the DAR’s action. In February, 1992, it sought and was granted by the DAR Adjudication Board (DARAB), through its Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator (PARAD). In the meantime, the Provincial Development Council (PDC) of Bukidnon, headed by Governor Carlos O. Fortich, passed Resolution No. 6, dated January 7, 1993, designating certain areas along Bukidnon-Sayre Highway as part of the Bukidnon Agro-Industrial Zones where the subject property is situated. Notwithstanding the foregoing favorable recommendation, however, on November 14, 1994, the DAR, thru Secretary Garilao, invoking its powers to approve conversion of lands under Section 65 of R.A. No. 6657, issued an Order denying the instant application for the conversion of the subject land from agricultural to agro-industrial and, instead, placed the same under the compulsory coverage of CARP and directed the distribution thereof to all qualified beneficiaries. Governor Carlos O. Fortich of Bukidnon appealed” the order of denial to the Office of the President and prayed for the conversion/reclassification of the subject land as the same would be more beneficial to the people of Bukidnon. After a careful evaluation of the petition vis-a-vis the grounds upon which the denial thereof by Secretary Garilao was based, we find that the instant application for conversion by the Municipality of Sumilao, Bukidnon is impressed with merit. DAR filed a motion for reconsideration of the OP decision. On June 23, 1997, an Order was issued by then Executive Secretary Ruben D. Torres denying DAR’s motion for reconsideration for having been filed beyond the reglementary period of fifteen (15) days.  On October 9, 1997, some alleged farmer-beneficiaries began their hunger strike in front of the DAR Compound in Quezon City to protest the OP Decision of March 29, 1996. On November 7, 1997, the Office of the President resolved the strikers’ protest by issuing the so-called “Win/Win” Resolution penned by then Deputy Executive Secretary Renato C. Corona. In seeking the nullification of the “Win-Win” Resolution, the petitioners claim that the Office of the President was prompted to issue the said resolution was purely political decision to appease the ‘farmers,’ by reviving and modifying the Decision of 29 March 1996 which has been declared final and executory in an Order of 23 June 1997. Thus, petitioners further allege, respondent then Deputy Executive Secretary Renato C. Corona committed grave abuse of discretion and acted beyond his jurisdiction when he issued the questioned Resolution of 7 November 1997. They availed of this extraordinary writ of certiorari “because there is no other plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.” They never filed a motion for reconsideration of the subject Resolution “because (it) is patently illegal or contrary to law and it would be a futile exercise to seek a reconsideration.

Issue: Whether the final and executory Decision dated March 29, 1996 can still be substantially modified by the “Win-Win” Resolution.

Held: No, The rules and regulations governing appeals to the Office of the President of the Philippines are embodied in Administrative Order No. 18. Section 7 thereof provides the Decisions/resolutions/orders of the Office of the President shall, except as otherwise provided for by special laws, become final after the lapse of fifteen (15) days from receipt of a copy thereof by the parties, unless a motion for reconsideration thereof is filed within such period. Only one motion for reconsideration by any one party shall be allowed and entertained, save in exceptionally meritorious cases. It is further provided for in Section 9 that “The Rules of Court shall apply in a suppletory character whenever practicable. When the Office of the President issued the Order dated June 23, 1997 declaring the Decision of March 29, 1996 final and executory, as no one has seasonably filed a motion for reconsideration thereto, the said Office had lost its jurisdiction to re-open the case, more so modify its Decision. Having lost its jurisdiction, the Office of the President has no more authority to entertain the second motion for reconsideration filed by respondent DAR Secretary, which second motion became the basis of the assailed “Win-Win” Resolution. Section 7 of Administrative Order No. 18 and Section 4, Rule 43 of the Revised Rules of Court mandate that only one (1) motion for reconsideration is allowed to be taken from the Decision of March 29, 1996. And even if a second motion for reconsideration was permitted to be filed in “exceptionally meritorious cases,” as provided in the second paragraph of Section 7 of AO 18, still the said motion should not have been entertained considering that the first motion for reconsideration was not seasonably filed, thereby allowing the Decision of March 29, 1996 to lapse into finality. Thus, the act of the Office of the President in re-opening the case and substantially modifying its March 29, 1996 Decision which had already become final and executory, was in gross disregard of the rules and basic legal precept that accord finality to administrative determinations.

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