Can agricultural land that was granted a free patent be sold or transferred to another person?
Please note the limitations provided under Section 118 of Commonwealth Act (CA) 141, otherwise known as the “Public Land Act,” which reads:
“Section 111. Except 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 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 contacted 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 (25) years after issuance of title shall be valid without the approval of the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce, which approval shall not be denied except on constitutional and legal grounds.”
The abovementioned restrictions, however, have already been removed by Republic Act 11231 or the “Agricultural Free Patent Reform Act.”
Under Section 3 of the said law, “[a]gricultural public lands alienated or disposed in favor of qualified public land applicants under Section 44 of Commonwealth Act 141, as amended, shall not be subject to restrictions imposed under Sections 118, 119 and 121 thereof regarding acquisitions, encumbrances, conveyances, transfers or dispositions.
Agricultural free patent shall now be considered as title in fee simple and shall not be subject to any restriction on encumbrance or alienation.”
Clearly, the restrictions on the alienation and conveyance of agricultural lands covered by free patents have been removed by the Agricultural Free Patent Reform Act and are, likewise, now considered as title in fee simple. So, yes one can sell such a property.