I was born out of wedlock. I have never met my father although my mother tried several times to contact him. I just saw his name on my birth certificate, but he did not sign it or anything. I am turning 20 years old this year and I am planning to change my name in my birth record. You see, I have been using my father’s surname, because that is what is indicated in my birth record. I no longer want it to be this way. He has been absent all my life, so I really think it is unfair for me to be carrying his surname. I just want to use my mother’s middle name and surname. How can I legally pursue this? I hope to get some advice from you. Thank you and more power.
Under Executive Order 209, or the Family Code of the Philippines, which took effect on August 3, 1988, illegitimate children are given the right to use the surname and be under the parental authority of their mother. They are also entitled to support in conformity with this code (Article 176, Ibid.)
This legal provision has been amended by Republic Act (RA) 9255, which was approved on February 24, 2004. Section 1 thereof provides, “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”
It is clear from the foregoing that you are entitled to use the surname of your mother given that you are an illegitimate child and there appears to be no clear indication that your putative father recognizes your filiation with him. Congruently, you must file a petition for change of name under Rule 103 of the Revised Rules of Court before the Regional Trial Court of the place or province where you reside. It is essential for you to indicate in your petition: (a) that you have been a bona fide resident of such place or province for at least three years prior to the date of such filing;(b) the cause for which the change of name is sought; and (c) the name asked for (Section 2, Ibid.)
Once the court finds your petition sufficient in form and substance, it will issue an order fixing the date and place for the hearing and direct that a copy of the order be published before the hearing at least once a week for three successive weeks in some newspaper of general circulation published in the province, as the court shall deem best. The date set for the hearing shall not be within thirty days prior to an election nor within four months after the last publication of the notice (Section 3, Id.) All interested persons may appear, while the Office of the Solicitor General shall appear on behalf of the government (Section 4, Id.)
If the court grants your petition, the Local Civil Registry where your birth was recorded will be mandated to change the entry as to your surname from that of your father’s surname to that of your mother’s surname.
We wish to emphasize, however, that you will not be able to use the middle name of your mother because illegitimate children who are using the surname of their mother bear no middle name. This has long been settled by the Supreme Court:
“x x x Applying these laws, an illegitimate child whose filiation is not recognized by the father bears only a given name and his mother’s surname, and does not have a middle name. The name of the unrecognized illegitimate child therefore identifies him as such. It is only when the illegitimate child is legitimated by the subsequent marriage of his parents or acknowledged by the father in a public document or private handwritten instrument that he bears both his mother’s surname as his middle name and his father’s surname as his surname, reflecting his status as a legitimated child or an acknowledged illegitimate child. x x x”(In Re: Petition for Change of Name and/or Correction/Cancellation of Entry in Civil Registry of Julian Lin Carulasan Wang, G.R. No. 159966, March 30, 2005).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org