Photo by Visual Karsa on Unsplash

Legitimate Filipino children can now use their mother’s surname as their own, the Supreme Court (SC) has ruled.

In the case of Alanis vs. Court of Appeals, the petitioner filed before the Regional Trial Court of Zamboanga City, Branch 12 to change his name, noting he was born to Mario Alanis y Cimafranca and Jamilla Imelda Ballaho y Al-Raschid, and that his name in his birth certificate was “Anacleto Ballaho Alanis III.”

He filed the petition to remove his father’s surname and to instead use her mother’s maiden last name “Ballaho” since he has been using it since childhood.

He also wished to change his first name from “Anacleto” to “Abdulhamid” for the
same reasons, according to the petition.

The petitioner testified that his parents separated when he was five years old. His mother testified that she single-handedly raised the petitioner and his siblings.

The 15-page decision, written by Justice Marvic F. Leonen, is to keep with the Constitution in ensuring the fundamental equality of men and women before the law.

“Courts, like all other government departments and agencies, must ensure the
fundamental equality of women and men before the law. Accordingly, where the text of a law allows for an interpretation that treats women and men more equally, that is the correct interpretation,” the SC decision read.

It said the Regional Trial Court (RTC) “gravely erred when it held that legitimate children cannot use their mothers’ surnames.

According to the decision, the RTC treated the names of the petitioner’s parents unequally, which is “contrary to the State policy.” 

The SC ruled that “courts, like all other government departments and agencies must ensure the fundamental equality of women and men before the law.”

It also noted “the provision states that legitimate children shall ‘principally’ use the surname of the father, but ‘principally’ does not mean ‘exclusively.'”

The decision noted that “this gives ample room to incorporate into Article 364 the State policy of ensuring the fundamental equality of women and men before the law, and no discernible reason to ignore it.”

“Patriarchy becomes encoded in our culture when it is normalized. The more it pervades our culture, the more its chances to infect this and future generations,” the SC stated.

“The trial court’s reasoning further encoded patriarchy into our system. If a surname is significant for identifying a person’s ancestry, interpreting the laws to mean that a marital child’s surname must identify only the paternal line renders the mother and her family invisible. This, in tum, entrenches the patriarchy and with it, antiquated gender roles: the father, as dominant, in public; and the mother, as a supporter, in private.”

All this to say, legitimate children can now use their mother’s surname without being considered “illegitimate.” 

A hat tip to the SC! — LA, GMA News