A crack in the Revilla law

lorna patajo-kapunan1OFTENTIMES, children are born out of wedlock.  For families with traditional values, this has, oftentimes, been regarded as a disgrace.  There are even educational institutions that refuse admission of children whose parents are not married.   In the end, it is the children who suffer the consequences of their unplanned birth.  While I believe that there are no illegitimate children—only illegitimate parents—as it is unfair to tarnish the children who had no fault in their conception, this is the harsh reality.  Thus, women are forced to fill up false information in the Certificates of Live Birth or provide false information where needed.  The colossal effects of such acts prove burdensome looking forward.

I recently advised a distant relative who has a peculiar situation.  Maria (not her real name) was born out of wedlock and is not, has never been and never will be, recognized by her father.  In her Certificate of Live Birth, she bears the surname of her mother.  After all, Article 176 of the Family Code provides that illegitimate children shall use the surname of their mother.  However, without her father’s knowledge, Maria has used her father’s surname since childhood, the same appearing all the way from her school records to various government documents.  Considering this discrepancy, Maria is now unable to avail herself of her government benefits. 

In the advent of Republic Act 9255, otherwise known as the Revilla law, which amended the above-mentioned provision of the Family Code, thereby allowing illegitimate children to use the surname of their father, Maria asked whether she could avail herself of the benefits thereunder by the simple expedient of having the register of her Certificate of Live Birth corrected to reflect her father’s surname. The obvious answer is no, not without a judicial order.

The bigger stumbling block in Maria’s case, however, is that the application of the Revilla law is quite specific in circumstances.  By the very wording of the law, there must be acknowledgment or recognition of filiation by the father.  This is where the Revilla law becomes inadequate.

Article 172 of the Family Code provides that filiation may be established by the record of birth appearing in the Civil Register or a final judgment; or an admission of illegitimate filiation in a public document or a private handwritten instrument and signed by the father.  In the absence of these, filiation may be proven by open and continuous possession of the status of an illegitimate child or; by any other means allowed by the Rules of Court and special laws. 

Meanwhile, the Revilla law requires that the child must present an Affidavit to Use the Surname of Father (AUSF) executed by the putative father, among others.  From the wording of the implementing rules and regulations of the revilla law, the AUSF appears to be required even if the child is not acknowledged by the father.  This becomes an unreasonable requirement for very obvious reasons. 

The Revilla law seems to have left out the means by which filiation must be proven under Article 172 of the Family Code.  The law limited itself to the acknowledgment of a father contained in a public document or a private handwritten document, even requiring a AUSF which an illegitimate child
will have no way of obtaining if the father refuses to acknowledge filiation.  This puts an unreasonable burden on the part of the child.
 

The Revilla law may have forgotten to consider that filiation may be proved by a final judgment —say, a favorable order in a Petition for Compulsory Recognition —or other means allowed by the Rules of Court and special laws, such as the Rule on DNA Evidence.  For all intents and purposes, these are more compelling than a mere AUSF and must be deemed sufficient to allow the use of a father’s surname.  Incidentally, considering that the privilege of the use of a father’s surname is given to the child or the child’s mother, as the case may be, it appears that the AUSF adds no actual value and serves no legitimate purpose.

As it is, the Revilla law puts an unacknowledged illegitimate child, such as Maria, to a disadvantage.  To such extent, it is my humble opinion that the Revilla law must be amended accordingly.

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