Illegitimate children do not have a middle name

Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
I have a problem with my middle name. I was born out of wedlock. Since childhood, I have been using my mother’s middle name and surname. Now, I heard that illegitimate children do not have a middle name. Is this true? If so, what should I do to correct the problem? I just followed what my mother placed in my birth certificate.

Dear Jeanne,
Our laws are silent with respect to the middle name of illegitimate children. Under Article 174 of the Family Code, legitimate children are granted the right to bear the surnames of the father and the mother. But with respect to illegitimate children, Article 176 of the same code only provides for use of surname. It states in substance that an illegitimate child shall use the surname of his mother, but if his father expressly recognizes him, the child may use the surname of his father.

This silence has been interpreted to mean that illegitimate children do not have a middle name. However, in a case, the Supreme Court distinguishes between an illegitimate child who is recognized by his father and one who is not. The High Court opined that an illegitimate child whose filiation is not recognized by the father bears only a given name and his mother’ surname, and does not have a middle name. On the other hand, an illegitimate child acknowledged by the father in a public document or private handwritten instrument bears both his mother’s surname as his middle name and his father’s surname as his surname (Philippines vs. Capote, G.R. No. 157043, February 2, 2007).

What is certain, however, is that the Filipino custom or tradition is to add the surname of the child’s mother as the child’s middle name (In the Matter of the Adoption of Stephanie Nathy Astorga Garcia, G.R. No. 148311, March 31, 2005). Middle names serve to identify the maternal lineage or filiation of a person as well as further distinguish him from others who may have the same given name and surname as he has (In re: Petition for Change of name of Julian Lin Carulasan Wang, G.R. No. 159966. March 30, 2005). There is nothing in our laws or custom that allows a child to adopt the middle name of his mother as his own middle name.

To remedy the problem, you may file a petition in court to correct your birth certificate. Considering that you are using your mother’s middle name and surname, it may be assumed that you are not recognized by your father. In such a case, your prayer should be to delete the entry written on the line for the child’s middle name. This would also mean that all your records must be corrected to reflect your legal name.

Alternatively, you may file a Petition for Change of Name under Rule 103 of the Rules of Court which allows a person to alter/modify his official name if the petitioner can show proper or compelling reason for the change and prove that he will be prejudiced if he uses his true and official name. Among the grounds for change of name which have been held valid are: (a) when the name is ridiculous, dishonorable or extremely difficult to write or pronounce; (b) when the change results as a legal consequence, as in legitimation; (c) when the change will avoid confusion; (d) when one has continuously used and been known since childhood by a Filipino name, and was unaware of alien parentage; (e) a sincere desire to adopt a Filipino name to erase signs of former alienage, all in good faith and without prejudicing anybody; and (f) when the surname causes embarrassment and there is no showing that the desired change of name was for a fraudulent purpose or that the change of name would prejudice public interest (Rule 103 of the Rules of Court).

The third exception may apply in your case: when the change will avoid confusion. In a case, the Supreme Court allowed the change of first name considering that scholastic records, as well as records in government offices, including that of driver’s license, professional license issued by the Professional Regulation Commission, and the “Quick Count” document of the COMELEC of the petitioner all attest to having used practically the name requested (Republic vs. Bolante, G.R. No. 160597, July 20, 2006). Thus, if you can show that you have been using the middle name of your mother in all your dealings, the court may allow you to retain it.

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


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