G. R. No. 147266, 30 September 2005

In 1938, Vicente C. Barreto, as tenant of landowner Antonio Bartolome, worked on and cultivated two hectares of land devoted to sugarcane plantation.

In 1956, Antonio sold the entire estate to LUDO with the latter absorbing all the farmworkers of the former. Barreto was designated as a co-overseer with Bartolome on the six-hectare coco land portion of the estate, pending the development of the entire estate into a residential-commercial complex. It was agreed that the new owner, herein petitioner LUDO, Antonio and complainant Vicente C. Barreto will share in the harvests.

In 1975, City Ordinance No. 1313, otherwise known as the Zoning Regulation of Iligan City, was passed. The subject landholding fell within the Commercial-Residential Zone of the city.

Sometime in 1978, the estate was decided to be converted from agricultural land to residential-commercial complex where LUDO instructed Antonio, who then, instructed Barreto, to submit a list of its legitimate farmworkers to be given some sort of disturbance compensation.

Some farmworkers accepted disturbance compensation, while the others who refused to accept the same instituted cases before the Court of Agrarian Reform where Barreto was impleaded as a party defendant in his capacity as a co-overseer of the entire estate. Ultimately, said cases were settled by compromise agreements.

On 30 March 1978, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) issued a conversion permit to LUDO authorizing the conversion of the entire estate into a residential/commercial lot.

Whether conversion of the property for use of agricultural to residential or commercial automatically allows landowners to change the use of a property

Reclassification is very much different from conversion. Conversion is the act of changing the current use of a piece of agricultural land into some other use as approved by the DAR. Reclassification, in contrast, is the act of specifying how agricultural lands shall be utilized for non-agricultural uses such as residential, industrial or commercial, as embodied in the land use plan, subject to the requirements and procedure for land use conversion.

Accordingly, a mere reclassification of agricultural land does not automatically allow a landowner to change its use and thus cause the ejectment of the tenants. Parties can still continue with their tenurial relationship even after such reclassification. He has to undergo the process of conversion before he is permitted to use the agricultural land for other purposes.

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