I got pregnant in the late 1990s. I was only 20 years old then. It was a difficult part of my life, not to mention that I had great difficulty asking for support from the father of my daughter. So I ended up raising her on my own.
Luckily, I had help from my parents who were kind enough to still support me and my illegitimate child. About a year ago, my now 19-year-old daughter found her father through social media. They have been in constant communication and her father eventually sent her legal documents acknowledging their relationship as father-daughter. My daughter submitted these documents to the school she is currently attending.
Now my daughter told me that her father is somewhat compelling her to carry his surname. Can he do this? I do not mind them communicating but I think what he is making my daughter do now is quite crossing the line. My daughter also does not like the idea. She said she wanted to keep using my surname. Please advise.
Under the Family Code of the Philippines, illegitimate children are given the right to use the surname and be under the parental authority of their mother. (Article 176, Ibid.) This provision was strengthened under Republic Act (RA) 9255. The pertinent portion of Section 1 thereof states:
“Article 176. Illegitimate children shall use the surname and shall be under the parental authority of their mother, and shall be entitled to support in conformity with this Code. However, illegitimate children may use the surname of their father if their filiation has been expressly recognized by the father through the record of birth appearing in the civil register, or when an admission in a public document or private handwritten instrument is made by the father. x x x”(Emphasis supplied)
In the situation that you have presented to us, it can be said that your daughter is lawfully using your surname considering that she is an illegitimate child. What is granted to her by our law is not a mere privilege, but a right to use your surname.
Although we do not disregard the fact that, under RA9255, illegitimate children are permitted to use the surname of their father, it should be emphasized that what the law allows is simply the option to use the father’s surname.
If an illegitimate child does not desire to use her father’s surname, she can clearly do so and retain her mother’s surname. Our Supreme Court, through a decision penned by Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr., distinctly explained:
“x x x The use of the word ‘may’ in the provision readily shows that an acknowledged illegitimate child is under no compulsion to use the surname of his illegitimate father. The word ‘may’ is permissive and operates to confer discretion upon the illegitimate children. x x x” (Grande vs. Antonio, G.R. No. 206248, February 18, 2014)
Accordingly, the father of your daughter cannot legally compel your daughter to carry his surname if your daughter, herself, is not amenable thereto. This is true even if her father has recognized their filiation through the legal documents that he allegedly executed in favor of your daughter.
We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to email@example.com