Absolute, exclusive owner as grantees of free patents

Lopez v. Court of Appeals (446 Phil. 722, 2003) supports the recognition of a person as the absolute and exclusive owner of the disputed lots, being grantees of free patents over them.

In Lopez, the homestead application of one Fermin Lopez had unfortunately remained unacted upon up to the time of his death, being neither approved nor denied by the Director of the (then) Bureau of Lands as the Bureau failed to process it; the Court ruled that he could not have acquired any vested rights as a homestead applicant over the property, and his heirs did not inherit any property right from him. The other heirs of Fermin had no right to be declared co-owners with Hermogenes Lopez, the eldest child of Fermin, who filed a new application after Fermin's death and was granted a homestead patent over the land which was subject of Fermin's application because the land exclusively pertained to Hermogenes. The Supreme Court reasoned out:
The failure of the Bureau of Lands to act on the application of Fermin up to the time of his death, however, prevented his heirs to be subrogated in all his rights and obligations with respect to the land applied for.

Perforce, at the time Hermogenes applied for a homestead grant over the disputed property, it was still part of alienable public land. As he applied for it in his own name, his application inures to his sole benefit. After complying with the cultivation and residency requirements, he became a grantee of a homestead patent over it, thereby making him its absolute and exclusive owner. (G.R. No. 208197, January 10, 2018)

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