Feb 24, 2021 @ 21:12

Stop patriarchy: SC says legitimate child can use mother’s surname as last name

A legitimate child is entitled to use the surname of either the father or the mother as a last name, the Supreme Court has declared.

In a Nov. 11 decision on G.R. No. 216425, the SC 3rd Division directed the Civil Registrar of Cebu City to change the name of Anacleto Ballaho Alanis III to Abdulhamid Ballaho.

The petitioner had been using the name Abdulhamid Ballaho since childhood, having been single-handedly raised by his mother after the parents’ separation when he was five years old.

The decision, penned by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, reversed the April 9, 2008 and May 26, 2014 decisions of the Zamboanga City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 12 and the Court of Appeals (CA) denying the petition for change of name.

It may be noted that Article 364 of the Civil Code provides that “legitimate and legitimated children shall principally use the surname of the father.”

The SC said this must be read together with the State’s “declared policy to ensure the fundamental equality of women and men before the law,” as expressed in Article II, Section 14 of the 1987 Constitution, in the Women in Development and National Building Act, and in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

It said the Constitution’s policy of gender equality “implies the State’s positive duty to actively dismantle the existing patriarchy by addressing the culture that supports it.”

“Courts, like all other government departments and agencies, must ensure the fundamental equality of women and men before the law. Accordingly, where the text of a law allows for an interpretation that treats women and men more equally, that is the correct interpretation,” read the decision.

The SC stressed that the word “principally” does not mean “exclusively.”

“This gives ample room to incorporate into Article 364 the State policy of ensuring the fundamental equality of women and men before the law, and no discernible reason to ignore it,” read the decision.

In the petitioner’s case, the SC said the lower courts erred in relying on Article 364 to deny his plea to use his mother’s surname.

As for the change of the given name, the SC found it well-taken, because he had been using it in all his records and transactions, including those in school. “That confusion could arise is evident,” it said.

The SC found “unduly restrictive and highly speculative” the trial court’s conclusion that the name change “could trigger much deeper inquiries regarding [his] parentage and/or paternity.”

It stressed: “Patriarchy becomes encoded in our culture when it is normalized. The more it pervades our culture, the more its chances to infect this and future generations,” read the decision.

“The trial court’s reasoning further encoded patriarchy into our system. If a surname is significant for identifying a person’s ancestry, interpreting the laws to mean that a marital child’s surname must identify only the paternal line renders the mother and her family invisible,” the SC said.

“This, in turn, entrenches the patriarchy and with it, antiquated gender roles: the father, as dominant, in public; and the mother, as a supporter, in private,” it concluded. #

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