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Property rules

Understanding land patents

Since his assumption to office, President Duterte has initiated land reform programs throughout the country.

For instance, Mr. Duterte ordered the Department of Agrarian Reform to proceed with the reinstallation of farmer-beneficiaries to the 145-ha banana plantation controlled by agribusiness firm Lapanday Foods Corp. in Tagum City, Davao del Norte. He also gave titles for a total land area of 2,694 ha to 2,314 agrarian reform beneficiaries in Cabatuan, Iloilo.

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He further directed that Boracay cease its operations on April 26, 2018 for its reform and eventual distribution to farmers.

“I will go ahead and forge a good land reform until the end of my term,” Duterte earlier said in his speech at the National Information and Communications Technology Summit 2018. “I’ll distribute it all.”

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In order to effectively transfer title to public land under Duterte’s land reform program, the corresponding instrument of alienation, grant, patent or conveyance must have been filed in the Register of Deeds of the province or city where the land lies. Section 103 of the Property Registration Decree states that it shall be the duty of the official issuing said instrument to cause such registration, after which a certificate of title shall be entered as in other cases of registered land and an owner’s duplicate issued to grantee.

The deed, grant, patent or instrument shall not take effect as a conveyance or bind the land, but shall operate only as a contract between the government and the grantee and as evidence of authority of the Register of Deeds to make registration. The registration of said instrument shall be the operative act to affect and convey the land, which fees shall be paid by the grantee.

After due registration and issuance of the certificate of title, such land shall be deemed to be registered land to all intents and purposes under the Property Registration Decree.

Under the Public Land Act, the government may issue homestead, free, sales, and special patents.

A homestead patent may be issued to a Filipino citizen over 18 years of age or the head of a family, who: (a) does not own more than 24 ha of land in the Philippines; or (b) has not had the benefit of any gratuitous allotment of more than 24 ha of land since the occupation of the Philippines by the United States; and (c) (i) must have resided continuously in the municipality where the land is situated for at least one year; and (ii) must have cultivated at least 1/5 of the land applied for.

Meanwhile, a free patent may be issued to any natural-born Filipino citizen who: (a) (i) is not the owner of more than 12 ha of land; and (ii) has continuously occupied and cultivated, either by himself or through his predecessors-in-interest a tract or tracts of agricultural public lands subject to disposition; and (b) shall have paid the real taxes thereon while the same has not been occupied by any person.

Under Section 118 of the Public Land Act, lands acquired under a free or homestead patent may not be conveyed within five years from its grant. The conveyance of such land within the five-year period shall be void.

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Meanwhile, a sales patent may be issued to: (a) a Filipino citizen of lawful age or such citizen not of lawful age who is a head of a family; and (b) who purchased public agricultural land of not more than 12 ha.

Said land is sold by public auction and thereafter awarded to the highest bidder. If there were two or more equal bids which are higher than the others, and one of such equal bids is the person applying for the sales patent, such applicant’s bid shall be accepted.

If the applicant’s bid is not one of such equal or higher bids, the land shall be submitted for public bidding, and shall thereafter be awarded to the highest bidder.

The purchaser of the land must have broken and cultivated not less than 1/5 thereof within five years from the date of such award. Before a sales patent thereon is issued, the purchaser must show occupancy, cultivation, and improvement of at least 1/5 of the land applied for until the date on which final payment is made.

Meanwhile, special patents may be issued either: (a) to majority of non-Christian inhabitants of any given reservation who have advanced sufficiently in civilization, as may be determined by the Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary; or (b) as payment of landed estates acquired by the government under Republic Act No. 926.

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