A Primer on The Indefeasibility of Emancipation Patent (EP) and Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) as an Important Component in Protecting the Gains of Agrarian Reform

February 14th, 2016 | by Balaod Mindanaw


Genuine agrarian reform remains a key element for the country’s development based on the framework of human rights and social justice. When President Corazon C. Aquino signed the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (R.A. 6657) on June 30, 1988, it was touted as the most “comprehensive” program ever undertaken by any administration.

Unlike past programs where the focus was simply redistributing land to farmers, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) aims to cover the entire scope of agrarian reform — breaking up large landholdings for distribution to farmers, social infrastructure building and support services to restructuring the agricultural sector to make the environment conducive to land productivity and rural development.

The legal instruments that secure the ownership and tenure of the farmers to the land are Emancipation Patents (EPs), issued under Presidential Decree 27 and the Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs), distributed under RA 6657, EP and CLOA certificates of title should be treated as evidence of ownership of property in favor of the person whose name appears on it. They should enjoy the same indefeasibility and security afforded to all titles under the Torrens system provided under Presidential Decree No. 1529.

Yet, in the implementation of the law, the program’s weak points and loopholes are being exploited by landlords in an effort to defeat the very essence of the law.

Cases filed in courts have the effect of nullifying the issuance of such titles despite the lapse of considerable periods of time. To date, more and more hectares of agricultural lands that have CLOAs and EPs are subjected to cancellation proceedings filed by former landowners.

Fortunately, the Supreme Court in its recent decision in the case Samuel Estribillo vs. Department of Agrarian Reform and Hacienda Maria, Inc. G. R. No. 159674 (2006), declared valid all the emancipation patents and the transfer certificates of title (TCTs) over portions of the 277.5 hectares of land in Sta. Josefa, Agusan del Sur originally owned by the hacienda Maria, Inc. (HMI). The ruling stated that the unreasonable delay of HMI in filing the petition for cancellation more than 20 years and more than 10 years after the issuance of the TCTs to the farmers is apparently motivated by its desire to receive a substantially higher valuation and just compensation. The ruling of the Supreme Court in the above-cited case vindicated the rights of the farmers, as represented here in the case, by Samuel Estribillo.

Although the decision is a cause for a celebration, much is still to be done. There remains a challenge to pressure the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB) to ignore and dismiss baseless actions for nullification and cancellation of EPs and CLOAs.

In fact 27 days after the Hacienda Maria decision, the Supreme Court enunciated the case of Carmona vs. Hon. Court of Appeals, wherein it affirmed the cancellation of the Emancipation Patent 18 years after its issuance to the beneficiaries. Although the facts of the case are totally different from the hacienda Maria case, it is worth noting that there is still a large threat for EPs and CLOAs to be cancelled and a tendency for the Supreme Court to rule in favor of the cancellation of the said titles making it more difficult for the farmer beneficiaries. To this end, a much larger challenge is on how to protect the gains of the agrarian reform program.

This primer shall primarily provide the readers an overview of the agrarian laws in the country, particularly Presidential Decree 27 (PD 27) and Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (RA 6657). This also contains a discussion on the proposed bill (affirming the indefeasibility of EPs/CLOAs) presently pending before Congress, as well as DAR Memorandum Circulars No. 05 and 10, series of 2004, both policy reforms that aim at curbing the indiscriminate cancellation of EPs and CLOAs. Further, this primer also discusses relevant concepts such as property, possession, and nature of the Torrens system of registration.

Lastly, this primer is being published by the Alternative Law Group’s Incorporated (ALG), a coalition of 18 non-government organizations with legal program components that adhere to the principles and values of alternative or developmental law. These organizations have distinct programs for developmental legal assistance that are primarily concerned with the pursuit of public interest, respect for human rights and promotion of social justice. At the heart of developmental law is the empowerment of the poor and the marginalized through advancing a critique of law and use of the law by the poor to enforce and protect their rights.