February 3, 2023

Anacleto Alanis III filed a petition before the Zamboanga City Regional Trial Court to change his surname to Ballaho as well as his given name, Anacleto, to Abduhalmid. He said from birth, he has been using Ballaho as he was solely raised by his mother. He used Ballaho in all of his transactions – school records, employment records, licenses, etc.
In 2018 and 2014, the Court of Appeals and RTC turned down his request, citing Article 364 of the Civil Code, which states that legitimate and legitimated children shall principally use the surname of the father.
He appealed to the SC and in a ruling last week penned by Baguio boy, Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, it declared that legitimate children must now be allowed to use the surname of their mother should they desire to do so.
The Family Code (A174) also says: “Legitimate children shall have the right to bear the surnames of the father and the mother, in conformity with the provisions of the Civil Code.”
My good friend, San Beda Graduate School of Law Dean, Fr. Ranhilio C. Aquino, the only non-lawyer allowed by the SC to lecture in our EMA Law MCLE series cites the Italian Civil Code,“Figlio coniugale” (legitimate child) should carry the surname of the father and forbids the “figli nati del matrimonio” (children born from the marriage) from using the surname of the mother.
But Leonen said the word “principally” does not mean “exclusively”, giving ample room to ensure the fundamental equality of women and men with no discernible reason to ignore it. He must have been inspired by the French Code, “Lorsque la filiation d’un enfant est établie à l’égard de ses deux parents au plus tard le jour de la déclaration de sa naissance ou par la suite mais simultanément, ces derniers choisissent le nom de famille qui lui est dévolu: Soit le nom du père, soit le nom de la mère, soit leurs deux noms accolés dans l’ordre choisi par eux dans la limite d’un nom de famille pour chacun d’eux. – The child is free to choose between the surname of the father and that of the mother or a combination of the two, provided that he gets no more than one from each parent.
German law is equally interesting because it dictates that upon marriage, husband and wife choose a “matrimonial name.” Children born “within” wedlock will receive the matrimonial name of his parents, and if none, choose which of his parents’ names he will use as family name.
The decision totally erased the notion that marriage unites two persons, with their identities coalesce in the matrimonial bond, because two heads were always taken to be some monstrosity, the father was, as a matter of social mores, always the head of the family and children toe the line and use his family name.
The latest judicial legislation assumes that the relationship between husband and wife is an unending competition and a lifelong saga of bickering over who calls the shots. While indeed it gives solo parents the “balls,” it hampers the old traditions of honoring thy father.
The Constitution and Republic Act 7192 ensures the fundamental equality of women and men before the law.”
The SC says the old rule encourages “patriarchy” in our culture and the more it pervades, the more its chances to infect this and future generations. 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, 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.
Women’s lib has started.
Sigh.

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