GR NO. 216425 | November 11, 2020
ANACLETO BALLAHO ALANIS HI v CA, et al.
Petitioner, a legitimate child, filed a petition to change his name before the Regional Trial Court of Zamboanga City, Branch 12. He alleged that the name on his birth certificate was “Anacleto Ballaho Alanis III”. However, he wished to change his first name to “Abdulhamid.” Furthermore, he also wished to remove his father’s surname “Alanais III”, and use his mother’s maiden name “Ballaho” instead. The changes which petitioner sought was for the reason that it was what he has been using since childhood and indicated in his school records.
As summarized by the RTC, the petitioner presented, among others, the following in evidence to support his claim that the requested change would avoid confusion: (1) petitioner’s high school diploma; (2) CAP College Foundation Inc diploma issued in the name of the petitioner; (3) non-professional driver’s license issued in petitioner’s name.
However, the lower court denied the petition holding that the petitioner failed to prove any of the grounds to warrant a change of name. The court explained that the mere fact that the petitioner has been using a different name and has become known by it is not a valid ground for change of name. To do so would also contravene the express provision of the Family Code which provides that legitimate children shall principally use their fathers’ surnames.
ISSUE: Whether petitioner has the right to use his mother’s surname despite his legitimate status.
Yes. Petitioner has the right to use his mother’s name, his legitimate status notwithstanding.
Reading Article 364 of the Civil Code together with the State’s declared policy to ensure the fundamental equality of women and men before the law, a legitimate child is entitled to use the surname of either parent as a last name.
Article 364 of the Civil Code, in relation to Article 174 of the Family Code provides that legitimate and legitimate children shall principally use the surname of the father.
In interpreting the aforecited provision, the Supreme Court, as earlier enunciated in Alfon v. Republic (186 Phil. 600), ruled that the use of the word “principally” does not mean “exclusively” so that there is no legal obstacle if a legitimate or legitimated child should choose to use the surname of its mother to which it is equally entitled. Furthermore, the fundamental equality of women and men before the law shall be ensured by the State. This is guaranteed by no less than the Constitution, a statute, and an international convention to which the Philippines is a party.
Moreover, in Haw Liong v Republic (GR No. L-21194, April 29, 1996), the following, among others, may be considered as reasonable causes that may warrant the grant of a petition for change of name: (1) the name is ridiculous, tainted with dishonor, or it is extremely difficult to write or pronounce (2) the change is necessary to avoid confusion. Given the irrefutable premises, the RTC patently erred in denying petitioner’s prayer to use his mother’s surname.
The Regional Trial Court itself also recognized the confusion that may arise here. Despite this, it did not delve into the issue of changing “Anacleto” to “Abdulhamid,” but instead concluded that granting the petition would create even more confusion, because it “could trigger much deeper inquiries regarding [his] parentage and/or paternity.”
This Court fails to see how the change of name would create more confusion. Whether people inquire deeper into petitioner’s parentage or paternity because of a name is inconsequential here, and seems to be more a matter of intrigue and gossip than an issue for courts to consider. Regardless of which name petitioner uses, his father’s identity still appears in his birth certificate, where it will always be written, and which can be referred to in cases where paternity is relevant.
WHEREFORE, the Petition is GRANTED.