A Free Patent may be issued where the applicant is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines; is not the owner of more than twelve (12) hectares of land; has continuously occupied and cultivated, either by himself or through his predecessors-in-interest, a tract or tracts of agricultural public land subject to disposition, for at least 30 years prior to the effectivity of Republic Act No. 6940; and has paid the real taxes thereon while the same has not been occupied by any person.
Once a patent is registered and the corresponding certificate of title is issued, the land covered thereby ceases to be part of public domain and becomes private property, and the Torrens Title issued pursuant to the patent becomes indefeasible upon the expiration of one year from the date of such issuance. However, a title emanating from a free patent which was secured through fraud does not become indefeasible, precisely because the patent from whence the title sprung is itself void and of no effect whatsoever.
On this point, our ruling in Republic v. Heirs of Felipe Alejaga, Sr. is instructive:
True, once a patent is registered and the corresponding certificate of title [is] issued, the land covered by them ceases to be part of the public domain and becomes private property. Further, the Torrens Title issued pursuant to the patent becomes indefeasible a year after the issuance of the latter. However, this indefeasibility of a title does not attach to titles secured by fraud and misrepresentation. Well-settled is the doctrine that the registration of a patent under the Torrens System does not by itself vest title; it merely confirms the registrant’s already existing one. Verily, registration under the Torrens System is not a mode of acquiring ownership. (citations omitted)
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