• Married women can’t change surnames in passports at will

    Persida Acosta

    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    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?

    Dear Julita,
    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 dearpao@manilatimes.net


    Please follow our commenting guidelines.


    1. Dear pao,
      Good morning po ask ko lang po if madali na lang po ba i annul yung kasal ko sa ex husband ko..my kinakasama na po siya at may anak na sila..
      Thank you po and more power..

    2. Titing Fernandez Lim on

      Salam that’s exactly we Muslims are practising thanks for the imput because so many of my friends here in Jeddah had the hard times with their papers for processing as to their maiden names are the one in their certificatese. I used to work with consulate n so far thats the draw back of our system take care maasalama.

    3. Good day po. Hindi ko po alam kong panu mag ask direct sa inyo kaya d2 ko na idinaan. Magtttanong po sana ako about sa case ko.married po ako sa isang pinoy with dual citizenship (filipino&american)almost two yrs na po kmi kasal & ikinasal kmi sa pinas.pwde kaya magfile sya ng divorce sa akin since nsa us sya nkatira pero sa pinas kmi ikinasal.or my other way ba na pwede maging legal ang separation nmin. Anu po pinakamadaling paraan ng pagkakaroon ng legal separation? Salamat po at antay ko po ang sagot nyo.

    4. Jaime Sandoval on

      Any person has the inherent right & freedom to change his/her name at will. The Philippines whimsically abrogates this right and freedom of the individual because of its own defective recording system. WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF EXISTENCE OF LOCAL REGISTRAR’s Office?

      It goes without saying a current uncancelled unexpired passport supersedes all previous passports of the same person. All what the Philippines must do is whenever a new passport is issued for the same person, previous passport must be presented in person for cancellation and a new passport is issued on the new name which must be certified by the relevant local registrar of births & deaths and change of name.
      The Department of Foreign Affairs can prescribe a higher fee to cancel a current passport and the local registrar can charge a much higher fee for change of name. These higher fees shall reflect the effort to achieve these.

      But, for humans rights’ sake do not use the incompetence of system of government recording as a reason to deny a person’s freedom.

    5. Cilita Catanaoan on

      Dear PAO,
      Nais ko po magtanung tungkol po sa annulment,dahil ako po ay 5 taon n po hiwalay sa aking asawa ,nais nya na po ipaanual ang aming kasal,dahil sa kmi ay parehong nasa ibang bansa maari parin po ba mag file ng annulment?ayun po sa mga kaibigan namin magkakaroon din po ng hirings sa parehong partido ngunit maari pk ba mapawalang bisa ang aming kasal kung sakali isa lang ang nkakapnt sa hirings?at anu anu po ba ang mga proseso ng annulment?


      • dear PAO,
        20 yrs na po aqng hiwalay @ eversince wala na po kming communication ng ex husband q… wala po kming naging anak.. then may nalaman po aq nuon na nagpakasal na xa sa dati nyang ka live-in na naanakan nya, altho di q na po pinag-aksayahan ng panahon hanapan ng proof un kc ang sa akin qng tutuo man un much better kc gusto q na rin ung tahimik na buhay q. ang tanong q lng po, in 20 yrs na un masasabi pa po bng valid pa rin ung kasal namin @ f ever pwede q po bng gamitin un as ground for annulment ? gusto q na po kcng ibalik sa maoden name q lahat ng documents q… pano po ba…