I am the one processing the registration of my granddaughter’s birth certificate because my daughter, mother of my granddaughter, still needs to recuperate from a series of operations she underwent after giving birth. Since my daughter is not married to the father of my granddaughter, the employee from our local civil registry said my granddaughter will have to use my daughter’s surname. Is this correct? I just want to be sure before I continue processing her birth certificate. Truth be told, I do not have any issue about it because the child’s father does not seem to be interested in taking part in the life of the child. We have tried to call and message him but he never answered any of our calls, neither did he make any effort to communicate with us. I also asked the employee if my granddaughter will also use the middle name of my daughter as well, but she said my granddaughter will not use any middle name. She will just have a first name and surname. Is this also correct? I have not heard of anyone not having a middle name. Thank you in advance for your advice.
Illegitimate children are entitled to use the surname of their mother. They may only use the surname of their father if their filiation has been expressly recognized by the latter in the manner set under the law. This is in consonance with Republic Act (RA) 9255 or An Act Allowing Illegitimate Children to Use the Surname of Their Father, Amending for the Purpose Article 176 of Executive Order 209 or the Family Code of the Philippines.
Section 1 of RA 9255 provides that “illegitimate children shall use the surname and shall be under the parental authority of their mother, and shall be entitled to support in conformity with this code. Illegitimate children, however, may use the surname of their father if their filiation has been expressly recognized by the father through the record of birth appearing in the civil register, or when an admission in a public document or private handwritten instrument is made by the father. x x x”
Accordingly, the employee from your local civil registry is correct in saying that your granddaughter will have to use your daughter’s surname considering that she is an illegitimate child who, based on the facts which you have shared with us, is not recognized by her father in accordance with the provisions of the aforementioned law. Your granddaughter may opt to use the surname of her father once she has been recognized by the latter. We are using the term “opt” because the use of her father’s surname is not mandated to an illegitimate child, even if recognition has been made. As explained by our Supreme Court in the case of Grande vs. Antonio (G.R. No. 206248, February 18, 2014; ponente, Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr.):
“x x x Art. 176 gives illegitimate children the right to decide if they want to use the surname of their father or not. It is not the father [herein respondent]or the mother [herein petitioner]who is granted by law the right to dictate the surname of their illegitimate children.
x x x
On its face, Article 176, as amended, is free from ambiguity. And where there is no ambiguity, one must abide by its words. The use of the word “may” in the provision readily shows that an acknowledged illegitimate child is under no compulsion to use the surname of his illegitimate father. The word “may” is permissive and operates to confer discretion upon the illegitimate children.
As to your granddaughter’s middle name, we submit that the employee from your local civil registry is correct in saying that your granddaughter will not have a middle name at this point. As elucidated by our Supreme Court:
“X x x an illegitimate child whose filiation is not recognized by the father bears only a given name and his mother’s surname, and does not have a middle name. The name of the unrecognized illegitimate child therefore identifies him as such. It is only when the illegitimate child is legitimated by the subsequent marriage of his parents or acknowledged by the father in a public document or private handwritten instrument that he bears both his mother’s surname as his middle name and his father’s surname as his surname, reflecting his status as a legitimated child or an acknowledged illegitimate child. x x x” (In Re: Petition for Change of Name and/or Correction/Cancellation of Entry in Civil Registry of Julian Lin Carulasan Wang, G.R. No. 159966, March 30, 2005; ponente, former Associate Justice Dante Tinga; underscoring supplied).
We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts 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 email@example.com.