Sale within 5 years from free patent issuance

The law is clear under Section 118 of the Public Land Act, as amended, that unless made in favor of the government or any of its branches, units or institutions, lands acquired under free patent or homestead provisions shall not be subject to any form of encumbrance for a term of five years from and after the date of issuance of the patent or grant, viz.:

SEC. 118. Except in favor of the Government or any of its branches, units, or institutions, or legally constituted banking corporations, lands acquired under free patent or homestead provisions shall not be subject to encumbrance or alienation from the date of the approval of the application and for a term of five years from and after the date of issuance of the patent or grant, nor shall they become liable to the satisfaction of any debt contracted prior to the expiration of said period; but the improvements or crops on the land may be mortgaged or pledged to qualified persons, associations, or corporations.

No alienation, transfer, or conveyance of any homestead after five years and before twenty-five years after issuance of title shall be valid without the approval of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, which approval shall not be denied except on constitutional and legal grounds.

Following Section 118, such land cannot b evalidly alienated or encumbered within five years from the date of the issuance of the free patent. The legal consequences of such sale – clearly made within the prohibitory period – are stated under Section 124 of the Public Land Act, as amended, viz.:

SEC. 124. Any acquisition, conveyance, alienation, transfer, or other contract made or executed in violation of any of the provisions of sections one hundred and eighteen, one hundred and twenty, one hundred and twenty-one, one hundred and twenty-two, and one hundred and twenty-three of this Act shall be unlawful and null and void from its execution and shall produce the effect of annulling and cancelling the grant, title, patent, or permit originally issued, recognized or confirmed, actually or presumptively, and cause the reversion of the property and its improvements to the State.[1]

The foregoing provision of law unambiguously classifies such contract of sale as unlawful and null and void ab initio for being in violation of Section 118, i.e., entered into within the five-year prohibitory period. This provision of law is clear and explicit and a contract which purports to alienate, transfer, convey or encumber any homestead within the prohibitory period is void from its execution.[2] The Supreme Court has held in a number of cases that such provision of law is mandatory[3] with the purpose of promoting a specific public policy to preserve and keep in the family of the patentee that portion of the public land which the State has gratuitously given to them.[4]

[1] Emphasis supplied.

[2] Binayug v. Ugaddan, G.R. No. 181623, December 5, 2012, 687 SCRA 260, 272.

[3] Binayug v. Ugaddan, id., citing Arsenal v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 227 Phil. 36, 46 (1986).

[4] Republic v. Court of Appeals, 253 Phil. 698, 714 (1989).