Supreme Court allows legitimate Filipino children to use their mother’s family name

Image for illustrative purposes only. Photo: Omar Lopez/Unsplash
Image for illustrative purposes only. Photo: Omar Lopez/Unsplash

Dismantle the patriarchy, yo.

The Supreme Court declared that legitimate Filipinos can use their mother’s family name, several media reported early this week.

In a decision dated Nov. 11, 2020, but made public just this week, the Supreme Court allowed a certain Anacleto Ballaho Alanis III to change his name to Abdulhamid Ballaho, the name he has been using since he was a boy. “Ballaho” is his mother’s surname, and according to the petitioner, his mother solely raised him and his siblings since she separated from his father when Ballaho was 5 years old.

The 15-page decision was penned by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, which reversed the earlier decision of the Zamboanga Regional Trial Court and Court of Appeals, both of which denied Ballaho’s plea.

The Zamboanga court based its decision on Article 174 of the Family Code, which said, “Legitimate children shall have the right: (1) To bear the surnames of the father and the mother, in conformity with the provisions of the Civil Code on Surnames.”

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In addition, Article 364 of the Civil Code said that “Legitimate and legitimated children shall principally use the surname of the father.”

However, the Supreme Court said that “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,” the Supreme Court said.

“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,” the Supreme Court added.

“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,” it 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 added.





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