I changed my surname in my passport to that of my husband when I got married in 1998. However, my husband and I have been separated in fact for ten years now. I have read that a woman is not obliged to use the surname of her husband. Is it possible for me to use my maiden surname in my passport again?
You are correct in saying that a married woman is not obliged by the law to use the surname of her husband. Article 370 of the Civil Code of the Philippines provides:
Article 370. A married woman may use:
1. Her maiden first name and surname and add her husband’s surname, or
2. Her maiden first name and her husband’s surname, or
3. Her husband’s full name, but prefixing a word indicating that she is his wife, such as “Mrs.”
By the use of the word “may, it is clear that the use of the husband’s surname is permissive only and not mandatory. A married woman has only an option, but not a duty to use the surname of her husband in any of the aforementioned ways (Tolentino, Civil Code of the Philippines, Volume I (2004), page 675).
However, a different rule should be observed when the woman, after being married, has opted to use the surname of her husband in her documents and identifications such as her passport. In such a case, the married woman may only be allowed to revert to her maiden name in her passport upon the termination of her marriage either through annulment, declaration of absolute nullity of marriage, divorce obtained by the foreigner spouse, or death of her husband (Section 5(d), Republic Act No. 8239).
In fact, in the case of Maria Virginia V. Remo vs. Hon. Secretary of Foreign Affairs (GR No. 169202, March 5, 2010), the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Secretary of Foreign Affairs in denying the request of the petitioner to revert to her maiden surname during the subsistence of her marriage, to wit:
“The Court notes that petitioner would not have encountered any problems in the replacement passport had she opted to continuously and consistently use her maiden name from the moment she was married and from the time she first applied for a Philippine passport. However, petitioner consciously chose to use her husband’s surname before, in her previous passport application, and now desires to resume her maiden name. If we allow petitioner’s present request, definitely nothing prevents her in the future from requesting to revert to the use of her husband’s surname. Such unjustified changes in one’s name and identity in a passport, which is considered superior to all other official documents cannot be countenanced. Otherwise, undue confusion and inconsistency in the records of passport holders will arise. Thus, for passport issuance purposes, a married woman, such as petitioner, whose marriage subsists, may not change her family name at will.”
We hope that we were able to answer your query. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts that 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