My cousin who is of legal age and is working already is the oldest among his two siblings who are still minors. Their mother has long been gone after being involved in a fatal accident. They previously lived with their father who was recently convicted and is now imprisoned for abusing one of his children. Because of these unfortunate events, my cousin is wondering if he is now entitled to exercise parental authority over his younger siblings. We appreciate your advice regarding this matter. Thank you very much!
According to the Family Code of the Philippines, parental authority over a child is primarily vested in the father and mother of a child (Article 211). There are several instances; however, where the parental authority of a parent is removed or suspended such as in the case of your cousin whose father was convicted and imprisoned for abusing one of his children. In such situations, the law identifies who can exercise parental authority over the children.
Article 216 of the law enumerates the preference of the person who can exercise substitute authority over children, to wit:
Art. 216. In default of parents or a judicially appointed guardian, the following persons shall exercise substitute parental authority over the child in the order indicated:
(1) The surviving grandparent, as provided in Art. 214;
(2) The oldest brother or sister, over twenty-one years of age, unless unfit or disqualified; and
(3) The child’s actual custodian, over twenty-one years of age, unless unfit or disqualified.
Whenever the appointment or a judicial guardian over the property of the child becomes necessary, the same order of preference shall be observed.” (Ibid.)
Based on this provision, the right of your cousin to exercise substitute parental authority over his siblings will depend on whether they still have surviving grandparents. This is because the law gives preference to surviving grandparents in terms of exercising parental authority. In fact, this preference for grandparents as the assigned relative for exercising parental authority is again mentioned and further emphasized in another provision of the Family Code which states:
“Art. 214. In case of death, absence or unsuitability of the parents, substitute parental authority shall be exercised by the surviving grandparent. In case several survive, the one designated by the court, taking into account the same consideration mentioned in the preceding article, shall exercise the authority” (Emphasis supplied).
Because of this, despite your cousin’s interest to exercise parental authority over his younger siblings, the fact remains that the law gives express preference to a child’s grandparents over other relatives in exercising substitute parental authority.
Therefore, following the law, it appears that your cousin will be able to legally exercise parental authority over his siblings if none of their grandparents is still alive.
Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
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