My question relates to recognition of a child. You see, my father did not sign my birth certificate, but I have other proofs to show that he is my father. I want to file a case for recognition. The problem is he is now an immigrant staying abroad, and I don’t know when he’ll come back. Can I file the case even if he’s not here in the Philippines?
For our courts to exercise their powers validly and with binding effect, it is necessary to acquire jurisdiction over: (a) the cause of action; (b) the thing or the res; (c) the parties; and (d) the remedy (De Pedro vs. Romasan Dev’t Corp., G.R. No. 194751, November 26, 2014). Jurisdiction over the parties refers to the power of the court to make decisions that are binding on persons. With respect to complainants or petitioners, jurisdiction is acquired as soon as they file their complaints or petitions. On the other hand, jurisdiction over the persons of defendants or respondents is acquired through a valid service of summons or through their voluntary submission. (Id.) These requirements form part of the right to due process guaranteed by our Constitution, which declares that “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.”
In civil cases, a summons is generally served either through personal or substituted service. Personal service is accomplished by handing the summons to the defendant in person, or by simply tendering it to him if he refuses to receive it, whereas substituted service is made by leaving a copy of the summons at the defendant’s residence or at his office or regular place of business (Sections 6 & 7, Rule 14, Rules of Court). In both modes, the defendant is required to be in our country. Hence, as a rule, when the defendant is a non-resident and is not found in our country, the case may not be heard in court as it would be impossible to acquire jurisdiction over his person.
There are certain cases, however, where jurisdiction over the person is not required. For such cases, it is enough for the court to acquire jurisdiction over the cause of action, the res and the remedy. These are the in rem and quasi in rem cases. In rem refers to actions directed against the thing itself instead of the person, while quasi in rem simply names a person as defendant, but its object is to subject that person’s interest in a property to a corresponding lien or obligation (Lucas vs. Lucas, 650 SCRA 667).
The case you wish to file is recognition of paternity/filiation. It is an action that intends to establish your status as an illegitimate child of your father. As declared by our Supreme Court, actions that concern the status of persons, such as adoption, annulment of marriage, correction of entries in birth certificate and recognition of paternity/filiation, are actions in rem for they are directed against the “thing” itself or the res. (Id.) Being an in rem action, the petition for recognition of paternity can still be filed even if the defendant is a non-resident who is not in the country.
In lieu of personal and substituted service, the court will carry out an extraterritorial service of summons to be effected out of the Philippines personally or by publication in a newspaper of general circulation sending a copy of the summons and order of the court by registered mail to the last known address of the defendant, or in any other manner (Sec. 15, Rule 14, Rules of Court). This procedure is undertaken not for the purpose of vesting the court with jurisdiction, but merely to satisfy the due process requirements, which affords the person concerned with the opportunity to protect his interest. (Lucas vs. Lucas).
We hope we were able to address your concern. Please bear in mind that this opinion is based on the facts you narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary if 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 email@example.com