• Legitimate children shall principally use the surname of their father

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    Dear PAO,
    I am the legitimate child of my parents, who celebrated their marriage in 1989. When I was growing up, my parents had a misunderstanding and my father left our house and never returned.

    Last year, however, my mother met a decent, caring and loving man, who is very much willing to treat me as his own child. We since lived under one roof, and treated each other as family. I wish to know if I can change my name and use the surname of my stepfather.

    Sincerely yours,
    Billy

    Dear Billy,
    In the case of Republic of the Philippines vs. Court of Appeals and Cynthia Vicencio (G.R. No. 88202, December 14, 1998), the Supreme Court, speaking through former Associate Justice Leonardo Quisumbing, clarified that legitimate children shall principally use the surname of their father. Hence:

    “Private respondent Cynthia Vicencio is the legitimate offspring of Fe Leabres and Pablo Vicencio. As previously stated, a legitimate child generally bears the surname of his or her father. It must be stressed that a change of name is a privilege, not a matter of right, addressed to the sound discretion of the court, which has the duty to consider carefully the consequences of a change of name and to deny the same unless weighty reasons are shown. (Emphasis supplied)

    Confusion indeed might arise with regard to private respondent’s parentage because of her surname. But even more confusion with grave legal consequences could arise if we allow private respondent to bear her stepfather’s surname, even if she is not legally adopted by him. While previous decisions have allowed children to bear the surname of their respective stepfathers even without the benefit of adoption, these instances should be distinguished from the case at present. In Calderon vs. Republic, and Llaneta vs. Agrava, this court allowed the concerned child to adopt the surname of the stepfather but, unlike the situation in the present case where private respondent is a legitimate child, in those cases the children were not of legitimate parentage.

    xxx xxx xxx
    Similarly in Padilla vs. Republic, the court ruled:

    “To allow said minors to adopt the surname of their mother’s second husband, who is not their father, could result in confusion in their paternity. It could also create the suspicion that said minors, who were born during the coverture of their mother with her first husband, were in fact sired by Edward Padilla, thus bringing their legitimate status into discredit.

    Private respondent, might sincerely wish to be in a position similar to that of her stepfather’s legitimate children, a plausible reason the petition for change of name was filed in the first place. Moreover, it is laudable that Ernesto Yu has treated Cynthia as his very own daughter, providing for all her needs as a father would his own flesh and blood. Legal constraints, however, lead us to reject private respondent’s desire to use her stepfather’s surname. Further, there is no assurance that the end result would not be even more detrimental to her person, for instead of bringing a stop to questions, the very change of name, if granted, could trigger much deeper inquiries regarding her parentage.” (Emphasis supplied)

    It is clear from the foregoing that as a legitimate child of your biological father, you should continue the use of his surname. You cannot carry your stepfather’s surname by mere choice in order to prevent confusion as to your real paternity, unless an adoption decree is issued under the circumstances.

    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 dearpao@manilatimes.net

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