The legitimate children or children of the legal couple carry the last surname of the father. But in a decision of the Supreme Court (SC), the child will also be allowed if he wants to use the mother’s last name.
In the case of Alanis vs. Court of Appeals, petitioner asked the Regional Trial Court of Zamboanga City, Branch 12 to change his name.
According to the petitioner, his father was Mario Alanis y Cimafranca and his mother was Jamilla Imelda Ballaho y Al-Raschid, and the name given to her birth certificate was “Anacleto Ballaho Alanis III.”
The petitioner wanted his father’s last name removed, and instead used his mother’s last name “Ballaho,” which he used as a child in legal documents.
He also wanted to change his name to “Abdulhamid” from the current “Anacleto,” for the same reason.
According to the petitioner, he was only five years old when his parents separated. His mother testified to this, saying that she was supporting her children alone.
In a 15-page decision by Justice Marvic F. Leonen, the magistrate emphasized the constitutional “fundamental equality” of women and men when it comes to 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 decision states.
“The Regional Trial Court (RTC) gravely erred when it held that legitimate children cannot use their mothers’ surnames,” it continued.
It is alleged that the RTC was not fair in treating the name of the petitioner’s parents.
The decision added, “the provision states that legitimate children shall ‘principally’ use the surname of the father, but ‘principally’ does not mean ‘exclusively.'”
“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 magistrate added.
“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,” the decision further explains.
Consequently, the decision states that legitimate children may use the mother’s last name, without being considered “illegitimate.”