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THIRD DIVISION

[G.R. No. 105308. September 25, 1998]
HERBERT CANG, petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS and Spouses RONALD V.
CLAVANO and MARIA CLARA CLAVANO, respondents.
D E C I S I O N
ROMERO, J.:
Can minor children be legally adopted without the written consent of a natural parent on the ground that
the latter has abandoned them? The answer to this interesting query, certainly not one of first impression,
would have to be reached, not solely on the basis of law and jurisprudence, but also the hard reality presented
by the facts of the case.
This is the question posed before this Court in this petition for review on certiorari of the Decision
[1]
of
the Court of Appeals affirming the decree of adoption issued by the Regional Trial Court of Cebu City, Branch
14,
[2]
in Special Proceedings No. 1744-CEB, “In the Matter of the Petition for Adoption of the minors Keith,
Charmaine and J oseph Anthony, all surnamed Cang, Spouses Ronald V. Clavano and Maria Clara Diago
Clavano, petitioners.”
Petitioner Herbert Cang and Anna Marie Clavano who were married on J anuary 27, 1973, begot three
children, namely: Keith, born on J uly 3, 1973; Charmaine, born on J anuary 23, 1977, and J oseph Anthony,
born on J anuary 3, 1981.
During the early years of their marriage, the Cang couple’s relationship was undisturbed. Not long
thereafter, however, Anna Marie learned of her husband’s alleged extramarital affair with Wilma Soco, a
family friend of the Clavanos.
Upon learning of her husband’s alleged illicit liaison, Anna Marie filed a petition for legal separation with
alimony pendente lite
[3]
with the then J uvenile and Domestic Relations Court of Cebu
[4]
which rendered a
decision
[5]
approving the joint manifestation of the Cang spouses providing that they agreed to “live separately
and apart or from bed and board.” They further agreed:
“(c) That the children of the parties shall be entitled to a monthly support of ONE THOUSAND PESOS
(P1,000.00) effective from the date of the filing of the complaint. This shall constitute a first lien on
the net proceeds of the house and lot jointly owned by the parties situated at Cinco Village, Mandaue
City;
(d) That the plaintiff shall be entitled to enter into any contract or agreement with any person or persons,
natural or juridical without the written consent of the husband; or any undertaking or acts that
ordinarily requires husband’s consent as the parties are by this agreement legally separated;”
[6]
Petitioner then left for the United States where he sought a divorce from Anna Marie before the Second
J udicial District Court of the State of Nevada. Said court issued the divorce decree that also granted sole
custody of the three minor children to Anna Marie, reserving “rights of visitation at all reasonable times and
places” to petitioner.
[7]
Thereafter, petitioner took an American wife and thus became a naturalized American citizen. In 1986,
he divorced his American wife and never remarried.
While in the United States, petitioner worked in Tablante Medical Clinic earning P18,000.00 to
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P20,000.00 a month
[8]
a portion of which was remitted to the Philippines for his children’s expenses and
another, deposited in the bank in the name of his children.
Meanwhile, on September 25, 1987, private respondents Ronald V. Clavano and Maria Clara Diago
Clavano, respectively the brother and sister-in-law of Anna Marie, filed Special Proceedings No. 1744-CEB
for the adoption of the three minor Cang children before the Regional Trial Court of Cebu. The petition bears
the signature of then 14-year-old Keith signifying consent to his adoption. Anna Marie likewise filed an
affidavit of consent alleging that her husband had “evaded his legal obligation to support” his children; that her
brothers and sisters including Ronald V. Clavano, had been helping her in taking care of the children; that
because she would be going to the United States to attend to a family business, “leaving the children would be
a problem and would naturally hamper (her) job-seeking venture abroad;” and that her husband had “long
forfeited his parental rights” over the children for the following reasons:
1. The decision in Civil Case No. J D-707 allowed her to enter into any contract without the written consent of
her husband;
2. Her husband had left the Philippines to be an illegal alien in the United States and had been transferring
from one place to another to avoid detection by Immigration authorities, and
3. Her husband had divorced her.
Upon learning of the petition for adoption, petitioner immediately returned to the Philippines and filed an
opposition thereto, alleging that, although private respondents Ronald and Maria Clara Clavano were
financially capable of supporting the children while his finances were “too meager” compared to theirs, he
could not “in conscience, allow anybody to strip him of his parental authority over his beloved children.”
Pending resolution of the petition for adoption, petitioner moved to reacquire custody over his children
alleging that Anna Marie had transferred to the United States thereby leaving custody of their children to
private respondents. On J anuary 11, 1988, the Regional Trial Court of Cebu City, Branch 19, issued an order
finding that Anna Marie had, in effect, relinquished custody over the children and, therefore, such custody
should be transferred to the father. The court then directed the Clavanos to deliver custody over the minors to
petitioner.
On March 27, 1990, the Regional Trial Court of Cebu City, Branch 14, issued a decree of adoption with a
dispositive portion reading as follows:
“WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition for adoption of the minors Keith, Charmaine and J oseph
Anthony all surnamed Cang, by the petitioners-spouses Ronald V. Clavano and Maria Clara Diago Clavano is
hereby granted and approved. These children shall henceforth be known and called as Keith D. Clavano,
Charmaine D. Clavano and J oseph Anthony D. Clavano respectively. Moreover, this Decree of Adoption
shall:
(1) Confer upon the adopted children the same rights and duties as though they were in fact the
legitimate children of the petitioners;
(2) Dissolve the authority vested in the parents by nature, of the children; and,
(3) Vest the same authority in the petitioners.
Furnish the Local Civil Registrar of Cebu City, Philippines with a copy of this Decree of Adoption for
registration purposes.
SO ORDERED.”
In so ruling, the lower court was “impelled” by these reasons:
(1) The Cang children had, since birth, developed “close filial ties with the Clavano family, especially
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their maternal uncle,” petitioner Ronald Clavano.
(2) Ronald and Maria Clara Clavano were childless and, with their printing press, real estate business,
export business and gasoline station and mini-mart in Rosemead, California, U.S.A., had substantial
assets and income.
(3) The natural mother of the children, Anna Marie, nicknamed “Menchu,” approved of the adoption
because of her heart ailment, near-fatal accident in 1981, and the fact that she could not provide them
a secure and happy future as she “travels a lot.”
(4) The Clavanos could provide the children moral and spiritual direction as they would go to church
together and had sent the children to Catholic schools.
(5) The children themselves manifested their desire to be adopted by the Clavanos – Keith had testified
and expressed the wish to be adopted by the Clavanos while the two younger ones were observed by
the court to have “snuggled” close to Ronald even though their natural mother was around.
On the other hand, the lower court considered the opposition of petitioner to rest on “a very shaky
foundation” because of its findings that:
(1) Petitioner was “morally unfit to be the father of his children” on account of his being “an improvident
father of his family” and an “undisguised Lothario.” This conclusion is based on the testimony of his
alleged paramour, mother of his two sons and close friend of Anna Marie, Wilma Soco, who said that
she and petitioner lived as husband and wife in the very house of the Cangs in Opao, Mandaue City.
(2) The alleged deposits of around $10,000 that were of “comparatively recent dates” were “attempts at
verisimilitude” as these were joint deposits the authenticity of which could not be verified.
(3) Contrary to petitioner’s claim, the possibility of his reconciliation with Anna Marie was “dim if not
nil” because it was petitioner who “devised, engineered and executed the divorce proceedings at the
Nevada Washoe County court.”
(4) By his naturalization as a U.S. citizen, petitioner “is now an alien from the standpoint of Philippine
laws” and therefore, how his “new attachments and loyalties would sit with his (Filipino) children is
an open question.”
Quoting with approval the evaluation and recommendation of the RTC Social Worker in her Child Study
Report, the lower court concluded as follows:
“Simply put, the oppositor Herbert Cang has abandoned his children. And abandonment of a child by its (sic)
parent is commonly specified by statute as a ground for dispensing with his consent to its (sic) adoption (Re
Cozza, 163 Cal. 514 P. 161, Ann. [As. 1914A, 214]). Indeed, in such case, adoption will be allowed not only
without the consent of the parent, but even against his opposition (Re McKeag, 141 Cal. 403, 74 P. 1039, 99
Am. St. Rep. 80; Re Camp. 131 Cal. 469, 63 P. 736, 82 Am. St. Rep. 371; Graham v. Francis, 83 Colo. 346,
265 P. 690, citing R.C.L.; Seibert, 170 Iowa, 561, 153 N.W. 160, citing R.C.L.; Stearns v. Allen, 183 Mass.
404, 67 N.E. 349; 97 Am. St. Rep. 441; Wilson v. Otis, 71 N.H. 483, 53 A. 439, 93 Am. St. Rep. 564; Nugent
v. Powell, 4 Wyo. 173, 33 P. 23, 20 L.R.A. 199, 62 Am. St. Rep. 17.)”
[9]
Before the Court of Appeals, petitioner contended that the lower court erred in holding that it would be in
the best interest of the three children if they were adopted by private respondents Ronald and Maria Clara
Clavano. He asserted that the petition for adoption was fatally defective and tailored to divest him of parental
authority because: (a) he did not have a written consent to the adoption; (b) he never abandoned his children;
(c) Keith and Charmaine did not properly give their written consent; and (d) the petitioners for adoption did
not present as witness the representative of the Department of Social Welfare and Development who made the
case study report required by law.
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The Court of Appeals affirmed the decree of adoption stating:
“Article 188 of the Family Code requires the written consent of the natural parents of the child to be adopted.
It has been held however that the consent of the parent who has abandoned the child is not necessary (Dayrit
vs. Piccio, 92 Phil. 729; Santos vs. Ananzanso, 16 SCRA 344). The question therefore is whether or not
oppositor may be considered as having abandoned the children. In adoption cases, abandonment connotes any
conduct on the part of the parent to forego parental duties and relinquish parental claims to the child, or the
neglect or refusal to perform the natural and legal obligations which parents owe their children (Santos vs.
Ananzanso, supra), or the withholding of the parent’s presence, his care and the opportunity to display
voluntary affection. The issue of abandonment is amply covered by the discussion of the first error.
Oppositor argues that he has been sending dollar remittances to the children and has in fact even maintained
bank accounts in their names. His duty to provide support comes from two judicial pronouncements. The first,
the decision in J D-707 CEB, supra, obliges him to pay the children P1,000.00 a month. The second is
mandated by the divorce decree of the Nevada, U.S.A. Federal Court which orders him to pay monthly support
of US$50.00 for each child. Oppositor has not submitted any evidence to show compliance with the decision in
J D-101 CEB, but he has submitted 22 cancelled dollar checks (Exhs. 24 to 45) drawn in the children’s names
totalling $2,126.98. The last remittance was on October 6, 1987 (Exh. 45). His obligation to provide support
commenced under the divorce decree on May 5, 1982 so that as of October 6, 1987, oppositor should have
made 53 remittances of $150.00, or a total of $7,950.00. No other remittances were shown to have been made
after October 6, 1987, so that as of this date, oppositor was woefully in arrears under the terms of the divorce
decree. And since he was totally in default of the judgment in J D-707 CEB, the inevitable conclusion is
oppositor had not really been performing his duties as a father, contrary to his protestations.
True, it has been shown that oppositor had opened three accounts in different banks, as follows –
Acct. No.
1) 118-606437-4


2) 73-166-8


3) 564-146883
Date Opened
J uly 23, 1985
Oct. 29, 1987

March 5, 1986
Oct. 26, 1987

December 31, 1986
Oct. 29, 1987
Balance
$5,018.50


3,129.00


2,622.19
Name of Bank
Great Western Savings, Daly City,
Cal., U.S.A.

Matewan National Bank of
Williamson, West Virginia, U.S.A.

Security Pacific National Bank, Daly
City, Cal., U.S.A.
The first and third accounts were opened however in oppositor’s name as trustee for Charmaine Cang and
J oseph Anthony Cang, respectively. In other words, the accounts are operated and the amounts withdrawable
by oppositor himself and it cannot be said that they belong to the minors. The second is an `or’ account, in the
names of Herbert Cang or Keith Cang. Since Keith is a minor and in the Philippines, said account is operable
only by oppositor and the funds withdrawable by him alone.
The bank accounts do not really serve what oppositor claimed in his offer of evidence `the aim and purpose of
providing for a better future and security of his family.’”
[10]
Petitioner moved to reconsider the decision of the Court of Appeals. He emphasized that the decree of
legal separation was not based on the merits of the case as it was based on a manifestation amounting to a
compromise agreement between him and Anna Marie. That he and his wife agreed upon the plan for him to
leave for the United States was borne out by the fact that prior to his departure to the United States, the family
lived with petitioner’s parents. Moreover, he alone did not instigate the divorce proceedings as he and his wife
initiated the “joint complaint” for divorce.
Petitioner argued that the finding that he was not fit to rear and care for his children was belied by the
award to him of custody over the children in Civil Case No. J D-707. He took exception to the appellate court’s
findings that as an American citizen he could no longer lay claim to custody over his children because his
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citizenship would not take away the fact that he “is still a father to his children.” As regards his alleged illicit
relationship with another woman, he had always denied the same both in Civil Case No. J D-707 and the instant
adoption case. Neither was it true that Wilma Soco was a neighbor and family friend of the Clavanos as she
was residing in Mandaue City seven (7) kilometers away from the Clavanos who were residents of Cebu City.
Petitioner insisted that the testimony of Wilma Soco should not have been given weight for it was only during
the hearing of the petition for adoption that J ose Clavano, a brother of Ronald, came to know her and went to
her residence in Iligan City to convince her to be a witness for monetary considerations. Lastly, petitioner
averred that it would be hypocritical of the Clavanos to claim that they could love the children much more than
he could.
[11]
His motion for reconsideration having been denied, petitioner is now before this Court, alleging that the
petition for adoption was fatally defective as it did not have his written consent as a natural father as required
by Article 31 (2) of Presidential Decree No. 603, the Child and Youth Welfare Code, and Article 188 (2) of the
Family Code.
Article 31 of P.D. No. 603 provides -
“ART. 31. Whose Consent is Necessary. – The written consent of the following to the adoption shall be
necessary:
(1) The person to be adopted, if fourteen years of age or over;
(2) The natural parents of the child or his legal guardian of the Department of Social Welfare or any
duly licensed child placement agency under whose care the child may be;
(3) The natural children, fourteen years and above, of the adopting parents.” (Underscoring supplied)
On December 17, 1986, then President Corazon C. Aquino issued Executive Order No. 91 amending
Articles 27, 28, 29, 31, 33 and 35 of the Child and Youth Welfare Code. As thus amended, Article 31 read:
“ART. 31. Whose Consent is Necessary. – The written consent of the following to the adoption shall be
necessary:
(1) The person to be adopted, if fourteen years of age or over;
(2) The natural parents of the child or his legal guardian after receiving counselling and appropriate
social services from the Ministry of Social Services and Development or from a duly licensed
child-placement agency;
(3) The Ministry of Social Services and Development or any duly licensed child-placement agency
under whose care and legal custody the child may be;
(4) The natural children, fourteen years and above, of the adopting parents.” (Underscoring supplied)
J urisdiction being a matter of substantive law, the established rule is that the statute in force at the time of
the commencement of the action determines the jurisdiction of the court.
[12]
As such, when private
respondents filed the petition for adoption on September 25, 1987, the applicable law was the Child and Youth
Welfare Code, as amended by Executive Order No. 91.
During the pendency of the petition for adoption or on August 3, 1988, the Family Code which amended
the Child and Youth Welfare Code took effect. Article 256 of the Family Code provides for its retroactivity
“insofar as it does not prejudice or impair vested or acquired rights in accordance with the Civil Code or other
laws.” As amended by the Family Code, the statutory provision on consent for adoption now reads:
“Art. 188. The written consent of the following to the adoption shall be necessary:
(1) The person to be adopted, if ten years of age or over;
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(2) The parents by nature of the child, the legal guardian, or the proper government instrumentality;
(3) The legitimate and adopted children, ten years of age or over, of the adopting parent or parents;
(4) The illegitimate children, ten years of age or over, of the adopting parents, if living with said
parent and the latter’s spouse, if any; and
(5) The spouse, if any, of the person adopting or to be adopted.” (Underscoring supplied)
Based on the foregoing, it is thus evident that notwithstanding the amendments to the law, the written
consent of the natural parent to the adoption has remained a requisite for its validity. Notably, such
requirement is also embodied in Rule 99 of the Rules of Court as follows:
“SEC. 3. Consent to adoption. – There shall be filed with the petition a written consent to the adoption signed
by the child, if fourteen years of age or over and not incompetent, and by the child’s spouse, if any, and by
each of its known living parents who is not insane or hopelessly intemperate or has not abandoned the child, or
if there are no such parents by the general guardian or guardian ad litem of the child, or if the child is in the
custody of an orphan asylum, children’s home, or benevolent society or person, by the proper officer or
officers of such asylum, home, or society, or by such persons; but if the child is illegitimate and has not been
recognized, the consent of its father to the adoption shall not be required.” (Underscoring supplied)
As clearly inferred from the foregoing provisions of law, the written consent of the natural parent is
indispensable for the validity of the decree of adoption. Nevertheless, the requirement of written consent can
be dispensed with if the parent has abandoned the child
[13]
or that such parent is “insane or hopelessly
intemperate.” The court may acquire jurisdiction over the case even without the written consent of the parents
or one of the parents provided that the petition for adoption alleges facts sufficient to warrant exemption from
compliance therewith. This is in consonance with the liberality with which this Court treats the procedural
aspect of adoption. Thus, the Court declared:
“x x x. The technical rules of pleading should not be stringently applied to adoption proceedings, and it is
deemed more important that the petition should contain facts relating to the child and its parents, which may
give information to those interested, than that it should be formally correct as a pleading. Accordingly, it is
generally held that a petition will confer jurisdiction if it substantially complies with the adoption statute,
alleging all facts necessary to give the court jurisdiction.”
[14]
In the instant case, only the affidavit of consent of the natural mother was attached to the petition for
adoption. Petitioner’s consent, as the natural father is lacking. Nonetheless, the petition sufficiently alleged
the fact of abandonment of the minors for adoption by the natural father as follows:
“3. That the children’s mother, sister of petitioner RONALD V. CLAVANO, has given her express consent to
this adoption, as shown by Affidavit of Consent, Annex `A’. Likewise, the written consent of Keith Cang, now
14 years of age appears on page 2 of this petition; However, the father of the children, Herbert Cang, had
already left his wife and children and had already divorced the former, as evidenced by the xerox copy of the
DECREE OF DIVORCE issued by the County of Washoe, State of Nevada, U.S.A. (Annex `B’) which was
filed at the instance of Mr. Cang, not long after he abandoned his family to live in the United States as an
illegal immigrant.”
[15]
The allegations of abandonment in the petition for adoption, even absent the written consent of petitioner,
sufficiently vested the lower court with jurisdiction since abandonment of the child by his natural parents is
one of the circumstances under which our statutes and jurisprudence
[16]
dispense with the requirement of
written consent to the adoption of their minor children.
However, in cases where the father opposes the adoption primarily because his consent thereto was not
sought, the matter of whether he had abandoned his child becomes a proper issue for determination. The issue
of abandonment by the oppositor natural parent is a preliminary issue that an adoption court must first
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confront. Only upon failure of the oppositor natural father to prove to the satisfaction of the court that he did
not abandon his child may the petition for adoption be considered on its merits.
As a rule, factual findings of the lower courts are final and binding upon this Court.
[17]
This Court is not
expected nor required to examine or contrast the oral and documentary evidence submitted by the parties.
[18]
However, although this Court is not a trier of facts, it has the authority to review and reverse the factual
findings of the lower courts if it finds that these do not conform to the evidence on record.
[19]
In Reyes v. Court of Appeals,
[20]
this Court has held that the exceptions to the rule that factual findings of
the trial court are final and conclusive and may not be reviewed on appeal are the following: (1) when the
inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible; (2) when there is a grave abuse of discretion;
(3) when the finding is grounded entirely on speculations, surmises or conjectures; (4) when the judgment of
the Court of Appeals is based on misapprehension of facts; (5) when the findings of fact are conflicting; (6)
when the Court of Appeals, in making its findings, went beyond the issues of the case and the same is contrary
to the admissions of both appellant and appellee; (7) when the findings of the Court of Appeals are contrary to
those of the trial court; (8) when the findings of fact are conclusions without citation of specific evidence on
which they are based; (9) when the Court of Appeals manifestly overlooked certain relevant facts not disputed
by the parties and which, if properly considered, would justify a different conclusion and (10) when the
findings of fact of the Court of Appeals are premised on the absence of evidence and are contradicted by the
evidence on record.
This Court finds that both the lower court and the Court of Appeals failed to appreciate facts and
circumstances that should have elicited a different conclusion
[21]
on the issue of whether petitioner has so
abandoned his children, thereby making his consent to the adoption unnecessary.
In its ordinary sense, the word “abandon” means to forsake entirely, to forsake or renounce utterly. The
dictionaries trace this word to the root idea of “putting under a ban.” The emphasis is on the finality and
publicity with which a thing or body is thus put in the control of another, hence, the meaning of giving up
absolutely, with intent never to resume or claim one’s rights or interests.
[22]
In reference to abandonment of a
child by his parent, the act of abandonment imports “any conduct of the parent which evinces a settled purpose
to forego all parental duties and relinquish all parental claims to the child.” It means “neglect or refusal to
perform the natural and legal obligations of care and support which parents owe their children.”
[23]
In the instant case, records disclose that petitioner’s conduct did not manifest a settled purpose to forego
all parental duties and relinquish all parental claims over his children as to constitute abandonment. Physical
estrangement alone, without financial and moral desertion, is not tantamount to abandonment.
[24]
While
admittedly, petitioner was physically absent as he was then in the United States, he was not remiss in his
natural and legal obligations of love, care and support for his children. He maintained regular communication
with his wife and children through letters and telephone. He used to send packages by mail and catered to
their whims.
Petitioner’s testimony on the matter is supported by documentary evidence consisting of the following
handwritten letters to him of both his wife and children:
1. Exh. 1 – a 4-page undated letter of Menchu (Anna Marie) addressed to “Dear Bert” on a C.Westates
Carbon Phil. Corp. stationery. Menchu stated therein that it had been “a long time since the last time
you’ve heard from me excluding that of the phone conversation we’ve had.” She discussed petitioner’s
intention to buy a motorbike for Keith, expressing apprehension over risks that could be engendered by
Keith’s use of it. She said that in the “last phone conversation” she had with petitioner on the birthday of
“Ma,” she forgot to tell petitioner that Keith’s voice had changed; he had become a “bagito” or a teen-ager
with many “fans” who sent him Valentine’s cards. She told him how Charmaine had become quite a
talkative “almost dalaga” who could carry on a conversation with her angkong and how pretty she was in
white dress when she won among the candidates in the Flores de Mayo after she had prayed so hard for it.
She informed him, however, that she was worried because Charmaine was vain and wont to extravagance
as she loved clothes. About J oeton (J oseph Anthony), she told petitioner that the boy was smart for his age
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and “quite spoiled” being the youngest of the children in Lahug. J oeton was mischievous but Keith was
his idol with whom he would sleep anytime. She admitted having said so much about the children because
they might not have informed petitioner of “some happenings and spices of life” about themselves. She
said that it was “just very exciting to know how they’ve grown up and very pleasant, too, that each of
them have (sic) different characters.” She ended the letter with the hope that petitioner was “at the best of
health.” After extending her regards “to all,” she signed her name after the word “Love.” This letter was
mailed on J uly 9, 1986 from Cebu to petitioner whose address was P.O. Box 2445, Williamson, West
Virginia 25661 (Exh. 1-D).
2. Exh. 2 – letter dated 11/13/84 on a green stationery with golden print of “a note from Menchu” on the
left upper corner. Anna Marie stated that “we” wrote to petitioner on Oct. 2, 1984 and that Keith and
J oeton were very excited when petitioner “called up last time.” She told him how J oeton would grab the
phone from Keith just so petitioner would know what he wanted to order. Charmaine, who was asleep,
was so disappointed that she missed petitioner’s call because she also wanted something that petitioner
should buy. Menchu told petitioner that Charmaine wanted a pencil sharpener, light-colored T-shirts for
her walking shorts and a (k)nap sack. Anna Marie informed petitioner that the kids were growing up and
so were their needs. She told petitioner to be “very fatherly” about the children’s needs because those
were expensive here. For herself, Anna Marie asked for a subscription of Glamour and Vogue magazines
and that whatever expenses he would incur, she would “replace” these. As a postscript, she told petitioner
that Keith wanted a size 6 khaki-colored “Sperry topsider shoes.”
3. Exh. 3 – an undated note on a yellow small piece of paper that reads:
“Dear Herbert,
Hi, how was Christmas and New Year? Hope you had a wonderful one.
By the way thanks for the shoes, it was a nice one. It’s nice to be thought of at X’mas. Thanks again.
Sincerely,
Menchu”
4. Exh. 4 – a two-page undated letter of Keith on stationery of J ose Clavano, Inc. addressed to “Dear
Dad.” Keith told his father that they tried to tell their mother “to stay for a little while, just a few weeks
after classes start(s)” on J une 16. He informed petitioner that J oeton would be in Kinder I and that, about
the motorbike, he had told his mother to write petitioner about it and “we’ll see what you’re (sic) decision
will be.” He asked for chocolates, nuts, basketball shirt and shorts, rubber shoes, socks, headband, some
clothes for outing and perfume. He told petitioner that they had been going to Lahug with their mother
picking them up after Angkong or Ama had prepared lunch or dinner. From her aerobics, his mother would
go for them in Lahug at about 9:30 or 10:00 o’clock in the evening. He wished his father “luck and the
best of health” and that they prayed for him and their other relatives. The letter was ended with “Love
Keith.”
5. Exh. 5 – another undated long letter of Keith. He thanked his father for the Christmas card “with
$40.00, $30.00 and $30.00” and the “card of J oeton with $5.00 inside.” He told petitioner the amounts
following his father’s instructions and promise to send money through the mail. He asked his father to
address his letter directly to him because he wanted to open his own letters. He informed petitioner of
activities during the Christmas season – that they enjoyed eating, playing and giving surprises to their
mother. He apprised him of his daily schedule and that their mother had been closely supervising them,
instructing them to fold their blankets and pile up their pillows. He informed petitioner that J oeton had
become very smart while Charmaine, who was also smart, was very demanding of their mother. Because
their mother was leaving for the United States on February 5, they would be missing her like they were
missing petitioner. He asked for his “things” and $200.00. He told petitioner more anecdotes about J oeton
like he would make the sign of the cross even when they would pass by the Iglesia ni Cristo church and
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his insistence that Aquino was not dead because he had seen him on the betamax machine. For Keith,
Charmaine had become “very maldita” who was not always satisfied with her dolls and things but J oeton
was full of surprises. He ended the letter with “Love your son, Keith.” The letter was mailed on February
6, 1985 (Exh. 5-D).
6. Exh. 6 – an undated letter Charmaine. She thanked petitioner for the bathing suit, key chain, pencil
box, socks, half shirt, pencil sharpener and $50.00. She reminded him of of her birthday on J anuary 23
when she would turn 9 years old. She informed him that she wore size 10 and the size of her feet was IM.
They had fun at Christmas in Lahug but classes would start on J anuary 9 although Keith’s classes had
started on J anuary 6. They would feel sad again because Mommy would be leaving soon. She hoped
petitioner would keep writing them. She signed, “Love, Charmaine.”
7. Exh . 7 – an undated letter of Keith. He explained to petitioner that they had not been remiss in writing
letters to him. He informed him of their trip to Manila – they went to Malacañang, Tito Doy Laurel’s
house, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the executive house, Tagaytay for three days and Baguio for one
week. He informed him that he got “honors,” Charmaine was 7th in her class and J oeton had excellent
grades. J oeton would be enrolled in Sacred Heart soon and he was glad they would be together in that
school. He asked for his “reward” from petitioner and so with Charmaine and J oeton. He asked for a
motorbike and dollars that he could save. He told petitioner that he was saving the money he had been
sending them. He said he missed petitioner and wished him the best. He added that petitioner should call
them on Sundays.
8. Exh. 8 – a letter from J oeton and Charmaine but apparently written by the latter. She asked for money
from petitioner to buy something for the school and “something else.” She promised not to spend so much
and to save some. She said she loved petitioner and missed him. J oeton said “hi!” to petitioner. After
ending the letter with “Love, J oeton and Charmaine,” she asked for her prize for her grades as she got
seventh place.
9. Exh. 9 – undated letter of Keith. He assured petitioner that he had been writing him; that he would like
to have some money but he would save them; that he learned that petitioner had called them up but he was
not around; that he would be going to Manila but would be back home May 3; that his Mommy had just
arrived Thursday afternoon, and that he would be the “official altar boy.” He asked petitioner to write
them soon.
10. Exh. 10 – Keith thanked petitioner for the money he sent. He told petitioner that he was saving
some in the bank and he was proud because he was the only one in his group who saved in the bank. He
told him that J oeton had become naughty and would claim as his own the shirts sent to Keith by petitioner.
He advised petitioner to send pants and shirts to J oeton, too, and asked for a pair of topsider shoes and
candies. He informed petitioner that he was a member of the basketball team and that his mom would
drive for his group. He asked him to call them often like the father of Ana Christie and to write them when
he would call so that they could wait for it. He informed petitioner that they had all grown bigger and
heavier. He hoped petitioner would be happy with the letter that had taken him so long to write because he
did not want to commit any mistakes. He asked petitioner to buy him perfume (Drakkar) and, after
thanking petitioner, added that the latter should buy something for Mommy.
11. Exh. 11 – a Christmas card “For My Wonderful Father” dated October 8, 1984 from Keith,
Charmaine and J oeton.
12. Exh. 12 – another Christmas card, “Our Wish For You” with the year ’83 written on the upper
right hand corner of the inside page, from Keith, Charmaine and J oeton.
13. Exh. 13 – a letter of Keith telling petitioner that he had written him even when their Mom “was
there” where she bought them clothes and shoes. Keith asked petitioner for $300.00. Because his mother
would not agree to buy him a motorbike, he wanted a Karaoke unit that would cost P12,000.00. He
informed petitioner that he would go to an afternoon disco with friends but their grades were all good with
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J oeton receiving “stars” for excellence. Keith wanted a bow and arrow Rambo toys and G.I. J oe. He
expressed his desire that petitioner would come and visit them someday.
14. Exh. 14 – a letter of Keith with one of the four pages bearing the date J anuary 1986. Keith told
his father that they had received the package that the latter sent them. The clothes he sent, however, fitted
only Keith but not Charmaine and J oeton who had both grown bigger. Keith asked for grocery items, toys
and more clothes. He asked, in behalf of his mother, for low-heeled shoes and a dress to match, jogging
pants, tights and leotards that would make her look sexy. He intimated to petitioner that he had grown
taller and that he was already ashamed to be asking for things to buy in the grocery even though his
mother had told him not to be shy about it.
Aside from these letters, petitioner also presented certifications of banks in the U.S.A. showing that even
prior to the filing of the petition for adoption, he had deposited amounts for the benefit of his children.
[25]
Exhibits 24 to 45 are copies of checks sent by petitioner to the children from 1985 to 1989.
These pieces of evidence are all on record. It is, therefore, quite surprising why the courts below simply
glossed over these, ignoring not only evidence on financial support but also the emotional exchange of
sentiments between petitioner and his family. Instead, the courts below emphasized the meagerness of the
amounts he sent to his children and the fact that, as regards the bank deposits, these were “withdrawable by
him alone.” Simply put, the courts below attached a high premium to the prospective adopters’ financial status
but totally brushed aside the possible repercussion of the adoption on the emotional and psychological
well-being of the children.
True, Keith had expressed his desire to be adopted by his uncle and aunt. However, his seeming
steadfastness on the matter as shown by his testimony is contradicted by his feelings towards his father as
revealed in his letters to him. It is not at all farfetched to conclude that Keith’s testimony was actually the
effect of the filing of the petition for adoption that would certainly have engendered confusion in his young
mind as to the capability of his father to sustain the lifestyle he had been used to.
The courts below emphasized respondents’ emotional attachment to the children. This is hardly surprising
for, from the very start of their young lives, the children were used to their presence. Such attachment had
persisted and certainly, the young ones’ act of snuggling close to private respondent Ronald Clavano was not
indicative of their emotional detachment from their father. Private respondents, being the uncle and aunt of the
children, could not but come to their succor when they needed help as when Keith got sick and private
respondent Ronald spent for his hospital bills.
In a number of cases, this Court has held that parental authority cannot be entrusted to a person simply
because he could give the child a larger measure of material comfort than his natural parent. Thus, in David v.
Court of Appeals,
[26]
the Court awarded custody of a minor illegitimate child to his mother who was a mere
secretary and market vendor instead of to his affluent father who was a married man, not solely because the
child opted to go with his mother. The Court said:
“Daisie and her children may not be enjoying a life of affluence that private respondent promises if the child
lives with him. It is enough, however, that petitioner is earning a decent living and is able to support her
children according to her means.”
In Celis v. Cafuir
[27]
where the Court was confronted with the issue of whether to award custody of a child
to the natural mother or to a foster mother, this Court said:
“This court should avert the tragedy in the years to come of having deprived mother and son of the beautiful
associations and tender, imperishable memories engendered by the relationship of parent and child. We should
not take away from a mother the opportunity of bringing up her own child even at the cost of extreme sacrifice
due to poverty and lack of means; so that afterwards, she may be able to look back with pride and a sense of
satisfaction at her sacrifices and her efforts, however humble, to make her dreams of her little boy come true.
We should not forget that the relationship between a foster mother and a child is not natural but artificial. If the
child turns out to be a failure or forgetful of what its foster parents had done for him, said parents might yet
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count and appraise (sic) all that they have done and spent for him and with regret consider all of it as a dead
loss, and even rue the day they committed the blunder of taking the child into their hearts and their home. Not
so with a real natural mother who never counts the cost and her sacrifices, ever treasuring memories of her
associations with her child, however unpleasant and disappointing. Flesh and blood count. x x x.”
In Espiritu v. Court of Appeals,
[28]
the Court stated that “(I)n ascertaining the welfare and best interests of
the child, courts are mandated by the Family Code to take into account all relevant considerations.” Thus, in
awarding custody of the child to the father, the Court said:
“A scrutiny of the pleadings in this case indicates that Teresita, or at least, her counsel are more intent on
emphasizing the `torture and agony’ of a mother separated from her children and the humiliation she suffered
as a result of her character being made a key issue in court rather than the feelings and future, the best interests
and welfare of her children. While the bonds between a mother and her small child are special in nature, either
parent, whether father or mother, is bound to suffer agony and pain if deprived of custody. One cannot say that
his or her suffering is greater than that of the other parent. It is not so much the suffering, pride, and other
feelings of either parent but the welfare of the child which is the paramount consideration.” (Italics
supplied)
[29]
Indeed, it would be against the spirit of the law if financial consideration were to be the paramount
consideration in deciding whether to deprive a person of parental authority over his children. There should be
a holistic approach to the matter, taking into account the physical, emotional, psychological, mental, social and
spiritual needs of the child.
[30]
The conclusion of the courts below that petitioner abandoned his family needs
more evidentiary support other than his inability to provide them the material comfort that his admittedly
affluent in-laws could provide. There should be proof that he had so emotionally abandoned them that his
children would not miss his guidance and counsel if they were given to adopting parents. The letters he
received from his children prove that petitioner maintained the more important emotional tie between him and
his children. The children needed him not only because he could cater to their whims but also because he was
a person they could share with their daily activities, problems and triumphs.
The Court is thus dismayed that the courts below did not look beyond petitioner’s “meager” financial
support to ferret out other indications on whether petitioner had in fact abandoned his family. The omission of
said courts has led us to examine why the children were subjected to the process of adoption, notwithstanding
the proven ties that bound them to their father. To our consternation, the record of the case bears out the fact
that the welfare of the children was not exactly the “paramount consideration” that impelled Anna Marie to
consent to their adoption.
In her affidavit of consent, Anna Marie expressly said that leaving the children in the country, as she was
wont to travel abroad often, was a problem that would naturally hamper her job-seeking abroad. In other
words, the adoption appears to be a matter of convenience for her because Anna Marie herself is financially
capable of supporting her children.
[31]
In his testimony, private respondent Ronald swore that Anna Marie had
been out of the country for two years and came home twice or three times,
[32]
thereby manifesting the fact that
it was she who actually left her children to the care of her relatives. It was bad enough that their father left
their children when he went abroad, but when their mother followed suit for her own reasons, the situation
worsened. The Clavano family must have realized this. Hence, when the family first discussed the adoption
of the children, they decided that the prospective adopter should be Anna Marie’s brother J ose. However,
because he had children of his own, the family decided to devolve the task upon private respondents.
[33]
This couple, however, could not always be in Cebu to care for the children. A businessman, private
respondent Ronald Clavano commutes between Cebu and Manila while his wife, private respondent Maria
Clara, is an international flight stewardess.
[34]
Moreover, private respondent Ronald claimed that he could
“take care of the children while their parents are away,”
[35]
thereby indicating the evanescence of his
intention. He wanted to have the children’s surname changed to Clavano for the reason that he wanted to take
them to the United States as it would be difficult for them to get a visa if their surname were different from
his.
[36]
To be sure, he also testified that he wanted to spare the children the stigma of being products of a
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broken home.
Nevertheless, a close analysis of the testimonies of private respondent Ronald, his sister Anna Marie and
their brother J ose points to the inescapable conclusion that they just wanted to keep the children away from
their father. One of the overriding considerations for the adoption was allegedly the state of Anna Marie’s
health – she was a victim of an almost fatal accident and suffers from a heart ailment. However, she herself
admitted that her health condition was not that serious as she could still take care of the children.
[37]
An
eloquent evidence of her ability to physically care for them was her employment at the Philippine Consulate in
Los Angeles
[38]
- she could not have been employed if her health were endangered. It is thus clear that the
Clavanos’ attempt at depriving petitioner of parental authority apparently stemmed from their notion that he
was an inveterate womanizer. Anna Marie in fact expressed fear that her children would “never be at ease with
the wife of their father.”
[39]
Petitioner, who described himself as single in status, denied being a womanizer and father to the sons of
Wilma Soco.
[40]
As to whether he was telling the truth is beside the point. Philippine society, being
comparatively conservative and traditional, aside from being Catholic in orientation, it does not countenance
womanizing on the part of a family man, considering the baneful effects such irresponsible act visits on his
family. Neither may the Court place a premium on the inability of a man to distinguish between siring children
and parenting them. Nonetheless, the actuality that petitioner carried on an affair with a paramour cannot be
taken as sufficient basis for the conclusion that petitioner was necessarily an unfit father.
[41]
Conventional
wisdom and common human experience show that a “bad” husband does not necessarily make a “bad” father.
That a husband is not exactly an upright man is not, strictly speaking, a sufficient ground to deprive him as a
father of his inherent right to parental authority over the children.
[42]
Petitioner has demonstrated his love and
concern for his children when he took the trouble of sending a telegram
[43]
to the lower court expressing his
intention to oppose the adoption immediately after learning about it. He traveled back to this country to attend
to the case and to testify about his love for his children and his desire to unite his family once more in the
United States.
[44]
Private respondents themselves explained why petitioner failed to abide by the agreement with his wife on
the support of the children. Petitioner was an illegal alien in the United States. As such, he could not have
procured gainful employment. Private respondents failed to refute petitioner’s testimony that he did not
receive his share from the sale of the conjugal home,
[45]
pursuant to their manifestation/compromise
agreement in the legal separation case. Hence, it can be reasonably presumed that the proceeds of the sale
redounded to the benefit of his family, particularly his children. The proceeds may not have lasted long but
there is ample evidence to show that thereafter, petitioner tried to abide by his agreement with his wife and sent
his family money, no matter how “meager.”
The liberality with which this Court treats matters leading to adoption insofar as it carries out the
beneficent purposes of the law to ensure the rights and privileges of the adopted child arising therefrom, ever
mindful that the paramount consideration is the overall benefit and interest of the adopted child, should be
understood in its proper context and perspective. The Court’s position should not be misconstrued or
misinterpreted as to extend to inferences beyond the contemplation of law and jurisprudence.
[46]
The
discretion to approve adoption proceedings is not to be anchored solely on best interests of the child but
likewise, with due regard to the natural rights of the parents over the child.
[47]
In this regard, this Court notes private respondents’ reliance on the manifestation/compromise agreement
between petitioner and Anna Marie which became the basis of the decree of legal separation. According to
private respondents’ counsel,
[48]
the authority given to Anna Marie by that decree to enter into contracts as a
result of the legal separation was “all embracing”
[49]
and, therefore, included giving her sole consent to the
adoption. This conclusion is however, anchored on the wrong premise that the authority given to the innocent
spouse to enter into contracts that obviously refer to their conjugal properties, shall include entering into
agreements leading to the adoption of the children. Such conclusion is as devoid of a legal basis as private
respondents’ apparent reliance on the decree of legal separation for doing away with petitioner’s consent to the
adoption.
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The transfer of custody over the children to Anna Marie by virtue of the decree of legal separation did not,
of necessity, deprive petitioner of parental authority for the purpose of placing the children up for adoption.
Article 213 of the Family Code states: “. . . in case of legal separation of parents, parental authority shall be
exercised by the parent designated by the court.” In awarding custody, the court shall take into account “all
relevant considerations, especially the choice of the child over seven years of age, unless the parent chosen is
unfit.”
It should be noted, however, that the law only confers on the innocent spouse the “exercise” of parental
authority. Having custody of the child, the innocent spouse shall implement the sum of parental rights with
respect to his rearing and care. The innocent spouse shall have the right to the child’s services and earnings,
and the right to direct his activities and make decisions regarding his care and control, education, health and
religion.
[50]
In a number of cases, this Court has considered parental authority, the joint exercise of which is vested by
the law upon the parents,
[51]
as
“x x x a mass of rights and obligations which the law grants to parents for the purpose of the children’s
physical preservation and development, as well as the cultivation of their intellect and the education of their
hearts and senses. As regards parental authority, `there is no power, but a task; no complex of rights, but a sum
of duties; no sovereignty but a sacred trust for the welfare of the minor.’
Parental authority and responsibility are inalienable and may not be transferred or renounced except in cases
authorized by law. The right attached to parental authority, being purely personal, the law allows a waiver of
parental authority only in cases of adoption, guardianship and surrender to a children’s home or an orphan
institution. When a parent entrusts the custody of a minor to another, such as a friend or godfather, even in a
document, what is given is merely temporary custody and it does not constitute a renunciation of parental
authority. Even if a definite renunciation is manifest, the law still disallows the same.
The father and mother, being the natural guardians of unemancipated children, are duty-bound and entitled to
keep them in their custody and company.”
[52]
(Italics supplied)
As such, in instant case, petitioner may not be deemed as having been completely deprived of parental
authority, notwithstanding the award of custody to Anna Marie in the legal separation case. To reiterate, that
award was arrived at by the lower court on the basis of the agreement of the spouses.
While parental authority may be waived, as in law it may be subject to a compromise,
[53]
there was no
factual finding in the legal separation case that petitioner was such an irresponsible person that he should be
deprived of custody of his children or that there are grounds under the law that could deprive him of parental
authority. In fact, in the legal separation case, the court thereafter ordered the transfer of custody over the
children from Anna Marie back to petitioner. The order was not implemented because of Anna Marie’s motion
for reconsideration thereon. The Clavano family also vehemently objected to the transfer of custody to the
petitioner, such that the latter was forced to file a contempt charge against them.
[54]
The law is clear that either parent may lose parental authority over the child only for a valid reason. No
such reason was established in the legal separation case. In the instant case for adoption, the issue is whether or
not petitioner had abandoned his children as to warrant dispensation of his consent to their adoption.
Deprivation of parental authority is one of the effects of a decree of adoption.
[55]
But there cannot be a valid
decree of adoption in this case precisely because, as this Court has demonstrated earlier, the finding of the
courts below on the issue of petitioner’s abandonment of his family was based on a misappreciation that was
tantamount to non-appreciation, of facts on record.
As regards the divorce obtained in the United States, this Court has ruled in Tenchavez v. Escaño
[56]
that a
divorce obtained by Filipino citizens after the effectivity of the Civil Code is not recognized in this jurisdiction
as it is contrary to State policy. While petitioner is now an American citizen, as regards Anna Marie who has
apparently remained a Filipino citizen, the divorce has no legal effect.
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Parental authority is a constitutionally protected State policy borne out of established customs and
tradition of our people. Thus, in Silva v. Court of Appeals,
[57]
a case involving the visitorial rights of an
illegitimate parent over his child, the Court expressed the opinion that:
“Parents have the natural right, as well as the moral and legal duty, to care for their children, see to their
upbringing and safeguard their best interest and welfare. This authority and responsibility may not be unduly
denied the parents; neither may it be renounced by them. Even when the parents are estranged and their
affection for each other is lost, the attachment and feeling for their offsprings invariably remain unchanged.
Neither the law nor the courts allow this affinity to suffer absent, of course, any real, grave and imminent threat
to the well-being of the child.”
Since the incorporation of the law concerning adoption in the Civil Code, there has been a pronounced
trend to place emphasis in adoption proceedings, not so much on the need of childless couples for a child, as
on the paramount interest of a child who needs the love and care of parents. After the passage of the Child and
Youth Welfare Code and the Family Code, the discernible trend has impelled the enactment of Republic Act
No. 8043 on Intercountry Adoption
[58]
and Republic Act No. 8552 establishing the rules on the domestic
adoption of Filipino children.
[59]
The case at bar applies the relevant provisions of these recent laws, such as the following policies in the
“Domestic Adoption Act of 1998”:
(a) To ensure that every child remains under the care and custody of his/her parent(s) and be provided
with love, care, understanding and security towards the full and harmonious development of his/her
personality.
[60]
(b) In all matters relating to the care, custody and adoption of a child, his/her interest shall be the
paramount consideration in accordance with the tenets set forth in the United Nations (UN)
Convention on the Rights of the Child.
[61]
(c) To prevent the child from unnecessary separation from his/her biological parent(s).
[62]
Inasmuch as the Philippines is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child,
the government and its officials are duty bound to comply with its mandates. Of particular relevance to
instant case are the following provisions:
“States Parties shall respect the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents . . . to provide, in a manner
consistent with the evolving capacities of the child, appropriate direction and guidance in the exercise by the
child of the rights recognized in the present Convention.”
[63]
“States Parties shall respect the right of the child who is separated from one or both parents to maintain
personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis, except if it is contrary to the child’s
best interests.”
[64]
“A child whose parents reside in different States shall have the right to maintain on a regular basis, save in
exceptional circumstances personal relations and direct contacts with both parents . . .”
[65]
“States Parties shall respect the rights and duties of the parents . . . to provide direction to the child in the
exercise of his or her right in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child.”
[66]
Underlying the policies and precepts in international conventions and the domestic statutes with respect to
children is the overriding principle that all actuations should be in the best interests of the child. This is not,
however, to be implemented in derogation of the primary right of the parent or parents to exercise parental
authority over him. The rights of parents vis-à-vis that of their children are not antithetical to each other, as in
fact, they must be respected and harmonized to the fullest extent possible.
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Keith, Charmaine and J oseph Anthony have all grown up. Keith and Charmaine are now of legal age
while J oseph Anthony is approaching eighteen, the age of majority. For sure, they shall be endowed with the
discretion to lead lives independent of their parents. This is not to state that this case has been rendered moot
and academic, for their welfare and best interests regarding their adoption, must be determined as of the time
that the petition for adoption was filed.
[67]
Said petition must be denied as it was filed without the required
consent of their father who, by law and under the facts of the case at bar, has not abandoned them.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition for review on certiorari is hereby GRANTED. The questioned
Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals, as well as the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Cebu,
are SET ASIDE thereby denying the petition for adoption of Keith, Charmaine and J oseph Anthony, all
surnamed Cang, by the spouse respondents Ronald and Maria Clara Clavano. This Decision is immediately
executory.
SO ORDERED.
Narvasa, C.J., (Chairman), Kapunan, and Purisima, JJ., concur.
[1]
Penned by Associate J ustice Serafin E. Camilon and concurred in by Associate J ustices Celso L. Magsino and Artemon D. Luna.
[2]
Presided by J udge Renato C. Dacudao.
[3]
Docketed as Civil Case No. J D-707.
[4]
Presided by J udge Maura C. Navarro.
[5]
Original Records, pp. 39-40.
[6]
Exh. H-2.
[7]
Original Records, pp.5-7.
[8]
RTC Decision, p. 3.
[9]
RTC Decision, pp. 7-8.
[10]
CA Decision, pp.16-17. Penned by J ustice Serafin E. Camilon, Celso L. Magsino and Artemon D. Luna, JJ., concurring.
[11]
Record of CA-G.R. CV No. 27108, pp.46-53.
[12]
Republic v. Court of Appeals and Bobiles, G.R. No. 92326, J anuary 24, 1992, 205 SCRA 356, 362.
[13]
AQUINO, CIVIL CODE, Vol. I, 1990 ed., p. 299 citing Santos v. Aranzanso, 123 Phil. 160, 167 (1966).
[14]
Republic v. Court of Appeals and Bobiles, supra, at p. 365.
[15]
Exh. A.
[16]
Duncan v. CFI of Rizal, L-30576, February 10, 1976, 69 SCRA 298; Santos v. Aranzanso, supra.
[17]
Del Mundo v. Court of Appeals, 322 Phil. 463, 471 (1996).
[18]
Imperial v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 102037, J uly 17, 1996, 259 SCRA 65, 71.
[19]
Philippine National Bank v. Court of Appeals, L-43972, J uly 24, 1990, 187 SCRA 735, 739 citing Ongsiako v. Intermediate
Appellate Court, G.R. No. 69901, J uly 31, 1987, 152 SCRA 627.
[20]
258 SCRA 651 [1996].
[21]
P.M. Pastera Brokerage v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 113657, J anuary 20, 1997, 266 SCRA 365, 371.
[22]
De la Cruz v. De la Cruz, 130 Phil. 324 (1968).
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[23]
Duncan v. CFI of Rizal, supra at p.304; Santos v. Aranzanso, supra at p. 168.
[24]
De la Cruz v. De la Cruz, supra.
[25]
Exhs. 15 to 17.
[26]
250 SCRA 82 [1995].
[27]
86 Phil. 554, 559-560 (1950).
[28]
312 Phil. 431 (1995).
[29]
Ibid., at p. 439.
[30]
See; Perez v. Court of Appeals, 325 Phil. 1014, 1020 (1996).
[31]
TSN, November 17, 1987, p. 38.
[32]
Ibid., p. 22.
[33]
RTC Decision, pp.1-2.
[34]
TSN, February 3, 1988, p.13.
[35]
TSN. November 17, 1987, p. 24.
[36]
Ibid., pp. 28-29.
[37]
TSN, J anuary 12, 1988, p. 10.
[38]
Ibid.
[39]
Ibid., p. 6.
[40]
TSN, December 8, 1987, p.12.
[41]
Silva v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 114742, J uly 17, 1997.
[42]
Chua v. Cabangbang, 137 Phil. 204 (1969).
[43]
Exh. 18.
[44]
TSN, December 8, 1987, pp.47-48; February 11, 1988, p. 6.
[45]
TSN, December 8, 1987, p. 20.
[46]
Republic v. Hernandez, 323 Phil. 606 (1996).
[47]
Republic v. Court of Appeals and Bobiles, supra.
[48]
Atty. Ricardo Padilla.
[49]
TSN, November 17, 1987, p. 37.
[50]
Dissenting Opinion of J ustice Felix V. Makasiar in Luna v. Intermediate Appellate Court (G.R. No. 68374, J une 18, 1985, 137
SCRA 7) citing 59 Am. J ur. 2d 107.
[51]
Art. 211, Family Code.
[52]
Sagala-Eslao v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 116773, J anuary 16, 1997, 266 SCRA 317, 322-323 citing Santos, Sr. v. Court of
Appeals, G.R. No. 113054, March 16, 1995, 242 SCRA 407.
[53]
TOLENTINO, CIVIL CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Vol. V, 1992 ed., p. 491 citing 4 Salvat 383.
[54]
TSN, February 11, 1988, pp. 9-12.
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[55]
Cervantes v. Fajardo, G.R. No. 79955, J anuary 27, 1989, 169 SCRA 575, 579.
[56]
122 Phil. 752 (1965).
[57]
Supra.
[58]
The law was approved on J une 7, 1995.
[59]
The law was approved on February 25, 1998.
[60]
Art. 1, Sec. 2(a), R.A. No. 8552.
[61]
Art. 1, Sec. 2(b), Ibid; adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on November 20, 1989 and ratified by the
Philippines in J uly 1990 by virtue of Senate Resolution No. 109.
[62]
Art. 1, Sec. 2(c), ii, Ibid.
[63]
Art. 5, Convention on the Rights of the Child.
[64]
Art. 9, parag. 3, Ibid.
[65]
Art. 10, parag. 2, Ibid.
[66]
Art. 14, parag. 2. Ibid.
[67]
See: Espiritu v. Court of Appeals, supra at p.441.
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[Syllabus]
SECOND DIVISION
[G.R. No. 117209. February 9, 1996]
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs. HON. JOSE R. HERNANDEZ,
in his capacity as Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 158,
Pasig City and SPOUSES VAN MUNSON y NAVARRO and REGINA
MUNSON y ANDRADE, respondents.
D E C I S I O N
REGALADO, J.:
Indeed, what’s in a name, as the Bard of Avon has written, since a rose by any other name would smell as
sweet?
This could well be the theme of the present appeal by certiorari which challenges, on pure
questions of law, the order of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 158, Pasig City, dated September
13, 1994
[1]
in J DRC Case No. 2964. Said court is faulted for having approved the petition for
adoption of Kevin Earl Bartolome Moran and simultaneously granted the prayer therein for the
change of the first name of said adoptee to Aaron Joseph, to complement the surname Munson
y Andrade which he acquired consequent to his adoption.
The facts are undisputed. On March 10, 1994, herein private respondent spouses, Van
Munson y Navarro and Regina Munson y Andrade, filed a petition
[2]
to adopt the minor Kevin
Earl Bartolome Moran, duly alleging therein the jurisdictional facts required by Rule 99 of the
Rules of Court for adoption, their qualifications as and fitness to be adoptive parents, as well as
the circumstances under and by reason of which the adoption of the aforenamed minor was
sought. In the very same petition, private respondents prayed for the change of the first name
of said minor adoptee to Aaron J oseph, the same being the name with which he was baptized in
keeping with religious tradition, and by which he has been called by his adoptive family, relatives
and friends since May 6, 1993 when he arrived at private respondents’ residence.
[3]
At the hearing on April 18, 1994, petitioner opposed the inclusion of the relief for change of
name in the same petition for adoption. In its formal opposition dated May 3, 1995,
[4]
petitioner
reiterated its objection to the joinder of the petition for adoption and the petitions for change of
name in a single proceeding, arguing that these petitions should be conducted and pursued as
two separate proceedings.
After considering the evidence and arguments of the contending parties, the trial court ruled
in favor of herein private respondents in this wise:
“WHEREFORE, minor child Kevin Earl Bartolome Moran is freed from all legal obligations of
obedience and maintenance with respect to his natural parents, and for all legal intents and purposes shall
be known as Aaron J oseph Munson y Andrade, the legally adopted child of Van Munson and Regina
Munson effective upon the filing of the petition on March 10, 1994. As soon as the decree of adoption
becomes final and executory, it shall be recorded in the Office of the Local Civil Registrar of Pasig, Metro
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Manila pursuant to Section 8, Rule 99 and Section 6, Rule 103, respectively, of the Rules of Court, and
shall be annotated in the record of birth of the adopted child, which in this case is in Valenzuela, Metro
Manila, where the child was born. Likewise, send a copy of this Order to the National Census and
Statistics Office, Manila, for its appropriate action consisten(t) herewith.”
[5]
At this juncture, it should be noted that no challenge has been raised by petitioner regarding
the fitness of herein private respondents to be adopting parents nor the validity of the decree of
adoption rendered in their favor. The records show that the latter have commendably
established their qualifications under the law to be adopters,
[6]
and have amply complied with
the procedural requirements for the petition for adoption,
[7]
with the findings of the trial court
being recited thus:
“To comply with the jurisdictional requirements, the Order of this Court dated March 16, 1994 setting this
petition for hearing (Exh. ‘A’) was published in the March 31, April 6 and 13, 1994 issues of the Manila
Chronicle, a newspaper of general circulation (Exhs. ‘B’ to ‘E’ and submarkings). x x x
xxx xxx xxx
“Petitioners apart from being financially able, have no criminal nor derogatory record (Exhs. ‘K’ to ‘V’);
and are physically fit to be the adoptive parents of the minor child Kevin (Exh. ‘W’). Their qualification
to become the adoptive parents of Kevin Earl finds support also in the Social Case Study Report prepared
by the DSWD through Social Worker Luz Angela Sonido, the pertinent portion of which reads:
‘Mr. and Mrs. Munson are very religious, responsible, mature and friendly individuals. They are found
physically healthy, mentally fit, spiritually and financially capable to adopt Kevin Earl Moran a.k.a Aaron
J oseph.
‘Mr. and Mrs. Munson have provided AJ with all his needs. They unselfishly share their time, love and
attention to him. They are ready and willing to continuously provide him a happy and secure home life.
‘Aaron J oseph, on the other hand, is growing normally under the care of the Munsons. He had
comfortably settled in his new environment. His stay with the Munsons during the six months trial
custody period has resulted to a close bond with Mr. and Mrs. Munson and vice-versa.
‘We highly recommend to the Honorable Court that the adoption of Kevin Earl Moran aka Aaron J oseph
by Mr. and Mrs. Van Munson be legalized.’”
[8]
It has been said all too often enough that the factual findings of the lower court, when
sufficiently buttressed by legal and evidential support, are accorded high respect and are
binding and conclusive upon this Court.
[9]
Accordingly, we fully uphold the propriety of that
portion of the order of the court below granting the petition for adoption.
The only legal issues that need to be resolved may then be synthesized mainly as follows:
(1) whether or not the court a quo erred in granting the prayer for the change of the registered
proper or given name of the minor adoptee embodied in the petition for adoption; and (2)
whether or not there was lawful ground for the change of name.
I. It is the position of petitioner that respondent judge exceeded his jurisdiction when he
additionally granted the prayer for the change of the given or proper name of the adoptee in a
petition for adoption.
Petitioner argues that a petition for adoption and a petition for change of name are two
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special proceedings which, in substance and purpose, are different from and are not related to
each other, being respectively governed by distinct sets of law and rules. In order to be entitled
to both reliefs, namely, a decree of adoption and an authority to change the given or proper
name of the adoptee, the respective proceedings for each must be instituted separately, and the
substantive and procedural requirements therefor under Articles 183 to 193 of the Family Code
in relation to Rule 99 of the Rules of Court for adoption, and Articles 364 to 380 of the Civil
Code in relation to Rule 103 of the Rules of Court for change of name, must correspondingly be
complied with.
[10]
A perusal of the records, according to petitioner, shows that only the laws and rules on
adoption have been observed, but not those for a petition for change of name.
[11]
Petitioner
further contends that what the law allows is the change of the surname of the adoptee, as a
matter of right, to conform with that of the adopter and as a natural consequence of the adoption
thus granted. If what is sought is the change of the registered given or proper name, and since
this would involve a substantial change of one’s legal name, a petition for change of name under
Rule 103 should accordingly be instituted, with the substantive and adjective requisites therefor
being conformably satisfied.
[12]
Private respondents, on the contrary, admittedly filed the petition for adoption with a prayer
for change of name predicated upon Section 5, Rule 2 which allows permissive joinder of
causes of action in order to avoid multiplicity of suits and in line with the policy of discouraging
protracted and vexatious litigations. It is argued that there is no prohibition in the Rules against
the joinder of adoption and change of name being pleaded as two separate but related causes
of action in a single petition. Further, the conditions for permissive joinder of causes of action,
i.e., jurisdiction of the court, proper venue and joinder of parties, have been met.
[13]
Corollarily, petitioner insists on strict adherence to the rule regarding change of name in
view of the natural interest of the State in maintaining a system of identification of its citizens
and in the orderly administration of justice.
[14]
Private respondents argue otherwise and invoke a
liberal construction and application of the Rules, the welfare and interest of the adoptee being
the primordial concern that should be addressed in the instant proceeding.
[15]
On this score, the trial court adopted a liberal stance in holding that –
”Furthermore, the change of name of the child from Kevin Earl Bartolome to Aaron J oseph should not be
treated strictly, it appearing that no rights have been prejudiced by said change of name. The strict and
meticulous observation of the requisites set forth by Rule 103 of the Rules of Court is indubitably for the
purpose of preventing fraud, ensuring that neither State nor any third person should be prejudiced by the
grant of the petition for change of name under said rule, to a petitioner of discernment.
“The first name sought to be changed belongs to an infant barely over a year old. Kevin Earl has not
exercised full civil rights nor engaged in any contractual obligations. Neither can he nor petitioners on his
behalf, be deemed to have any immoral, criminal or illicit purpose for seeking said cha(n)ge of name. It
stands to reason that there is no way that the state or any person may be so prejudiced by the action for
change of Kevin Earl’s first name. In fact, to obviate any possible doubts on the intent of petitioners, the
prayer for change of name was caused to be published together with the petition for adoption.
[16]
Art. 189 of the Family Code enumerates in no uncertain terms the legal effects of adoption:
“(1) For civil purposes, the adopted shall be deemed to be a legitimate child of the adopters and both shall
acquire the reciprocal rights and obligations arising from the relationship of parent and child, including
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the right of the adopted to use the surname of the adopters;
(2) The parental authority of the parents by nature over the adopted shall terminate and be vested in the
adopters, except that if the adopter is the spouse of the parent by nature of the adopted, parental authority
over the adopted shall be exercised jointly by both spouses; and
(3) The adopted shall remain an intestate heir of his parents and other blood relatives.”
Clearly, the law allows the adoptee, as a matter of right and obligation, to bear the surname
of the adopter, upon issuance of the decree of adoption. It is the change of the adoptee’s
surname to follow that of the adopter which is the natural and necessary consequence of a
grant of adoption and must specifically be contained in the order of the court, in fact, even if not
prayed for by petitioner.
However, the given or proper name, also known as the first or Christian name, of the
adoptee must remain as it was originally registered in the civil register. The creation of an
adoptive relationship does not confer upon the adopter a license to change the adoptee’s
registered Christian or first name. The automatic change thereof, premised solely upon the
adoption thus granted, is beyond the purview of a decree of adoption. Neither is it a mere
incident in nor an adjunct of an adoption proceeding, such that a prayer therefor furtively
inserted in a petition for adoption, as in this case, cannot properly be granted.
The name of the adoptee as recorded in the civil register should be used in the adoption
proceedings in order to vest the court with jurisdiction to hear and determine the same,
[17]
and
shall continue to be so used until the court orders otherwise. Changing the given or proper
name of a person as recorded in the civil register is a substantial change in one’s official or legal
name and cannot be authorized without a judicial order. The purpose of the statutory procedure
authorizing a change of name is simply to have, wherever possible, a record of the change, and
in keeping with the object of the statute, a court to which the application is made should
normally make its decree recording such change)
[18]
The official name of a person whose birth is registered in the civil register is the name
appearing therein, If a change in one’s name is desired, this can only be done by filing and
strictly complying with the substantive and procedural requirements for a special proceeding for
change of name under Rule 103 of the Rules of Court, wherein the sufficiency of the reasons or
grounds therefor can be threshed out and accordingly determined.
Under Rule 103, a petition for change of name shall be filed in the regional trial court of the
province where the person desiring to change his name resides. It shall be signed and verified
by the person desiring his name to be changed or by some other person in his behalf and shall
state that the petitioner has been a bona fide resident of the province where the petition is filed
for at least three years prior to such filing, the cause for which the change of name is sought,
and the name asked for. An order for the date and place of hearing shall be made and
published, with the Solicitor General or the proper provincial or city prosecutor appearing for the
Government at such hearing. It is only upon satisfactory proof of the veracity of the allegations
in the petition and the reasonableness of the causes for the change of name that the court may
adjudge that the name be changed as prayed for in the petition, and shall furnish a copy of said
judgment to the civil registrar of the municipality concerned who shall forthwith enter the same in
the civil register.
A petition for change of name being a proceeding in rem, strict compliance with all the
requirements therefor is indispensable in order to vest the court with jurisdiction for its
adjudication.
[19]
It is an independent and discrete special proceeding, in and by itself, governed
by its own set of rules. A fortiori, it cannot be granted by means of any other proceeding. To
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consider it as a mere incident or an offshoot of another special proceeding would be to
denigrate its role and significance as the appropriate remedy available under our remedial law
system.
The Solicitor General correctly points out the glaring defects of the subject petition insofar
as it seeks the change of name of the adoptee,
[20]
all of which taken together cannot but lead to
the conclusion that there was no petition sufficient in form and substance for change of name as
would rightfully deserve an order therefor. It would be procedurally erroneous to employ a
petition for adoption to effect a change of name in the absence of the corresponding petition for
the latter relief at law.
Neither can the allowance of the subject petition, by any stretch of imagination and liberality,
be justified under the rule allowing permissive joinder of causes of action. Moreover, the
reliance by private respondents on the pronouncements in Briz vs. Briz, et al.
[21]
and Peyer vs.
Martinez, et al.
[22]
is misplaced.
A restatement of the rule and jurisprudence on joinder of causes of action would, therefore,
appear to be called for.
By a joinder of actions, or more properly, a joinder of causes of action, is meant the uniting
of two or more demands or rights of action in one action, the statement of more than one cause
of action in a declaration.
[23]
It is the union of two or more civil causes of action, each of which
could be made the basis of a separate suit, in the same complaint, declaration or petition. A
plaintiff may under certain circumstances join several distinct demands, controversies or rights
of action in one declaration, complaint or petition.
[24]
As can easily be inferred from the above definitions, a party is generally not required to join
in one suit several distinct causes of action. The joinder of separate causes of action, where
allowable, is permissive and not mandatory in the absence of a contrary statutory provision,
even though the causes of action arose from the same factual setting and might under
applicable joinder rules be joined.
[25]
Modern statutes and rules governing joinders are intended
to avoid a multiplicity of suits and to promote the efficient administration of justice wherever this
may be done without prejudice to the rights of the litigants. To achieve these ends, they are
liberally construed.
[26]
While joinder of causes of action is largely left to the option of a party litigant, Section 5,
Rule 2 of our present Rules allows causes of action to be joined in one complaint conditioned
upon the following requisites: (a) it will not violate the rules on jurisdiction, venue and joinder of
parties; and (b) the causes of action arise out of the same contract, transaction or relation
between the parties, or are for demands for money or are of the same nature and character.
The objectives of the rule or provision are to avoid a multiplicity of suits where the same
parties and subject matter are to be dealt with by effecting in one action a complete
determination of all matters in controversy and litigation between the parties involving one
subject matter, and to expedite the disposition of litigation at minimum cost. The provision
should be construed so as to avoid such multiplicity, where possible, without prejudice to the
rights of the litigants. Being of a remedial nature, the provision should be liberally construed, to
the end that related controversies between the same parties may be adjudicated at one time;
and it should be made effectual as far as practicable,
[27]
with the end in view of promoting the
efficient administration of justice.
[28]
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The statutory intent behind the provisions on joinder of causes of action is to encourage
joinder of actions which could reasonably be said to involve kindred rights and wrongs, although
the courts have not succeeded in giving a standard definition of the terms used or in developing
a rule of universal application. The dominant idea is to permit joinder of causes of action, legal
or equitable, where there is some substantial unity between them.
[29]
While the rule allows a
plaintiff to join as many separate claims as he may have, there should nevertheless be some
unity in the problem presented and a common question of law and fact involved, subject always
to the restriction thereon regarding jurisdiction, venue and joinder of parties. Unlimited joinder is
not authorized.
[30]
Our rule on permissive joinder of causes of action, with the proviso subjecting it to the
correlative rules on jurisdiction, venue and joinder of parties
[31]
and requiring a conceptual unity
in the problems presented. effectively disallows unlimited joinder.
[32]
Turning now to the present petition, while it is true that there is no express prohibition
against the joinder of a petition for adoption and for change of name, we do not believe that
there is any relation between these two petitions, nor are they of the same nature or character,
much less do they present any common question of fact or law, which conjointly would warrant
their joinder. In short, these petitions do not rightly meet the underlying test of conceptual unity
demanded to sanction their joinder under our Rules.
As keenly observed and correctly pointed out by the Solicitor General –
”A petition for adoption and a petition for change of name are two special proceedings which, in
substance and purpose, are different from each other. Each action is individually governed by particular
sets of laws and rules. These two proceedings involve disparate issues. In a petition for adoption, the
court is called upon to evaluate the proposed adopter’s fitness and qualifications to bring up and educate
the adoptee properly (Prasnick vs. Republic, 99 Phil. 665). On the other hand, in a petition for change of
name, no family relations are created or affected for what is looked into is the propriety and
reasonableness of the grounds supporting the proposed change of name (Yu vs. Republic, 17 SCRA 253).
xxx xxx xxx
“x x x Hence, the individual merits of each issue must be separately assessed and determined for neither
action is dependent on the other.
[33]
“The rule on permissive joinder of causes of action is clear. J oinder may be allowed only if the actions
show a commonality of relationship and conform to the rules on jurisdiction, venue and joinder of parties
(Section 5, Rule 2, Rules of Court).
“These conditions are wanting in the instant case. As already pointed out in our Petition (pp. 9-10), an
action for adoption and an action for change of name are, in nature and purpose, not related to each other
and do not arise out of the same relation between the parties. While what is cogent in an adoption
proceeding is the proposed adopter’s fitness and qualifications to adopt, a petition for change of first name
may only prosper upon proof of reasonable and compelling grounds supporting the change requested.
Fitness to adopt is not determinative of the sufficiency of reasons justifying a change of name. And
similarly, a change of first name cannot be justified in view of a finding that the proposed adopter was
found fit to adopt. There is just no way that the two actions can connect and find a common ground, thus
the joinder would be improper.
“In contending that adoption and change of name may be similarly sought in one petition, private
respondents rely upon Peyer vs. Martinez and Briz vs. Briz (p. 4, Comment).
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“We however submit that these citations are non sequitur. In both cases, the fact of intimacy and
relatedness of the issues is so pronounced. In Peyer, an application to pronounce the husband an absentee
is obviously intertwined with the action to transfer the management of conjugal assets to the wife. In
Briz, an action for declaration of heirship was deemed a clear condition precedent to an action to recover
the land subject of partition and distribution proceeding. However, the commonality of relationship
which stands out in both cases does not characterize the present action for adoption and change of name.
Thus the rulings in Peyer and Briz find no place in the case at bar.
“Besides, it is interesting to note that although a joinder of the two actions was, in Briz, declared feasible,
the Supreme Court did not indorse an automatic joinder and instead remanded the matter for further
proceedings, granting leave to amend the pleadings and implead additional parties-defendants for a
complete determination of the controversy (Briz vs. Briz, 43 Phil. 763, 770). Such cautionary stance all
the more emphasizes that although joinders are generally accepted, they are not allowed where the
conditions are not satisfactorily met.”
[34]
It furthermore cannot be said that the proposed joinder in this instance will make for a
complete determination of all matters pertaining to the coetaneous grant of adoption and
change of name of the adoptee in one petition. As already stated, the subject petition was
grossly insufficient in form and substance with respect to the prayer for change of name of the
adoptee. The policy of avoiding multiplicity of suits which underscores the rule on permissive
joinder of causes of action is addressed to suits that are intimately related and also present
interwoven and dependent issues which can be most expeditiously and comprehensively settled
by having just one judicial proceeding, but not to suits or actions whose subject matters or
corresponding reliefs are unrelated or diverse such that they are best taken up individually.
In Nabus vs. Court of Appeals, et al. ,
[35]
the Court clarified the rule on permissive joinder of
causes of action:
“The rule is clearly permissive. It does not constitute an obligatory rule, as there is no positive provision
of law or any rule of jurisprudence which compels a party to join all his causes of action and bring them at
one and the same time. Under the present rules, the provision is still that the plaintiff may, and not that he
must, unite several causes of action although they may be included in one of the classes specified. This,
therefore, leaves it to the plaintiff’s option whether the causes of action shall be joined in the same action,
and no unfavorable inference may be drawn from his failure or refusal to do so. He may always file
another action based on the remaining cause or causes of action within the prescriptive period therefor.”
(Italics supplied.)
The situation presented in this case does not warrant exception from the Rules under the
policy of liberal construction thereof in general, and for change of name in particular, as
proposed by private respondents and adopted by respondent judge. Liberal construction of the
Rules may be invoked in situations wherein there may be some excusable formal deficiency or
error in a pleading, provided that the same does not subvert the essence of the proceeding and
connotes at least a reasonable attempt at compliance with the Rules. Utter disregard of the
Rules cannot justly be rationalized by harking on the policy of liberal construction.
The Court is not impervious to the frustration that litigants and lawyers alike would at times
encounter in procedural bureaucracy but imperative justice requires correct observance of
indispensable technicalities precisely designed to ensure its proper dispensation.
[36]
It has long
been recognized that strict compliance with the Rules of Court is indispensable for the
prevention of needless delays and for the orderly and expeditious dispatch of judicial
business.
[37]
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Procedural rules are not to be disdained as mere technicalities that may be ignored at will to
suit the convenience of a party. Adjective law is important in ensuring the effective enforcement
of substantive rights through the orderly and speedy administration of justice. These rules are
not intended to hamper litigants or complicate litigation but, indeed to provide for a system
under which a suitor may be heard in the correct form and manner and at the prescribed time in
a peaceful confrontation before a judge whose authority they acknowledge.
[38]
It cannot be overemphasized that procedural rules have their own wholesome rationale in
the orderly administration of justice. J ustice has to be administered according to the Rules in
order to obviate arbitrariness, caprice, or whimsicality.
[39]
We have been cautioned and
reminded in Limpot vs. CA, et al. that:
[40]
“Rules of procedure are intended to ensure the orderly administration of justice and the protection of
substantive rights in judicial and extrajudicial proceedings. It is a mistake to propose that substantive law
and adjective law are contradictory to each other or, as has often been suggested, that enforcement of
procedural rules should never be permitted if it will result in prejudice to the substantive rights of the
litigants. This is not exactly true; the concept is much misunderstood. As a matter of fact, the policy of
the courts is to give both kinds of law, as complementing each other, in the just and speedy resolution of
the dispute between the parties. Observance of both substantive rights is equally guaranteed by due
process, whatever the source of such rights, be it the Constitution itself or only a statute or a rule of court.
xxx xxx xxx
x x (T)hey are required to be followed except only when for the most persuasive of reasons they may be
relaxed to relieve a litigant of an injustice not commensurate with the degree of his thoughtlessness in not
complying with the procedure prescribed. x x x. While it is true that a litigation is not a game of
technicalities, this does not mean that the Rules of Court may be ignored at will and at random to the
prejudice of the orderly presentation and assessment of the issues and their just resolution. J ustice
eschews anarchy.”
Only exceptionally in very extreme circumstances, when a rule deserts its proper office as
an aid to justice and becomes its great hindrance and chief enemy such that rigid application
thereof frustrates rather than promotes substantial justice, will technicalities deserve scant
consideration from the court. In such situations, the courts are empowered, even obligated, to
suspend the operation of the rules.
[41]
We do not perceive any injustice that can possibly be visited upon private respondents by
following the reglementary procedure for the change in the proper or given name that they seek
for their adopted child. We are hard put to descry the indispensability of a change of the first
name of the adoptee to his welfare and benefit. Nor is the said change of such urgency that
would justify an exemption from or a relaxation of the Rules. It is the State that stands to be
prejudiced by a wanton disregard of Rule 103 in this case, considering its natural interest in the
methodical administration of justice and in the efficacious maintenance of a system of
identification of its citizens.
The danger wrought by non-observance, of the Rules is that the violation of or failure to
comply with the procedure prescribed by law prevents the proper determination of the questions
raised by the parties with respect to the merits of the case and makes it necessary to decide, in
the first place, such questions as relate to the form of the action. The rules and procedure laid
down for the trial court and the adjudication of cases are matters of public policy.
[42]
They are
matters of public order and interest which can in no wise be changed or regulated by
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agreements between or stipulations by parties to an action for their singular convenience.
[43]
In Garcia vs. Republic,
[44]
we are reminded of the definiteness in the application of the
Rules and the importance of seeking relief under the appropriate proceeding:
“x x x The procedure set by law should be delimited. One should not confuse or misapply one procedure
for another lest we create confusion in the application of the proper remedy.”
Respondent judge’s unmindful disregard of procedural tenets aimed at achieving stability of
procedure is to be deplored. He exceeded his prerogatives by granting the prayer for change of
name, his order being unsupported by both statutory and case law. The novel but unwarranted
manner in which he adjudicated this case may be characterized as a regrettable abdication of
the duty to uphold the teachings of remedial law and jurisprudence.
II. Petitioner avers that it was error for the lower court to grant the petition for change of
name without citing or proving any lawful ground. Indeed, the only justification advanced for the
change of name was the fact of the adoptee’s baptism under the name Aaron J oseph and by
which he has been known since he came to live with private respondents.
[45]
Private respondents, through a rather stilted ratiocination, assert that upon the grant of
adoption, the subject minor adoptee ipso facto assumed a new identification and designation,
that is, Aaron J oseph which was the name given to him during the baptismal rites. Allowing the
change of his first name as prayed for in the petition, so they claim, merely confirms the
designation by which he is known and called in the community in which he lives. This largely
echoes the opinion of the lower court that naming the child Aaron J oseph was symbolic of
naming him at birth, and that they, as adoptive parents, have as much right as the natural
parents to freely select the first name of their adopted child.
[46]
The lower court was sympathetic to herein private respondents and ruled on this point in
this manner:
“As adoptive parents, petitioner like other parents may freely select the first name given to his/her child as
it is only the surname to which the child is entitled that is fixed by law. x x x.
xxx xxx xxx
“The given name of the minor was Kevin Earl, a name given for no other purpose than for identification
purposes in a birth certificate by a woman who had all intentions of giving him away. The naming of the
minor as Aaron J oseph by petitioners upon the grant of their petition for adoption is symbolic of naming
the minor at birth.”
[47]
We cannot fathom any legal or jurisprudential basis for this attenuated ruling of respondent
judge and must thus set it aside.
It is necessary to reiterate in this discussion that a person’s name is a word or combination
of words by which he is known and identified, and distinguished from others, for the
convenience of the world at large in addressing him, or in speaking of or dealing with him. It is
both of personal as well as public interest that every person must have a name. The name of
an individual has two parts:
“The given or proper name and the surname or family name. The given or proper name is that which is
given to the individual at birth or at baptism, to distinguish him from other individuals. The surname or
family name is that which identifies the family to which he belongs and is continued from parent to child.
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The given name may be freely selected by the parents for the child, but the surname to which the child is
entitled is fixed by law.
[48]
By Article 408 of the Civil Code, a person’s birth must be entered in the civil register. The
official name of a person is that given him in the civil register. That is his name in the eyes of
the law.
[49]
And once the name of a person is officially entered in the civil register, Article 376 of
the same Code seals that identity with its precise mandate: no person can change his name or
surname without judicial authority. This statutory restriction is premised on the interest of the
State in names borne by individuals and entities for purposes of identification.
[50]
By reason thereof, the only way that the name of person can be changed legally is through
a petition for change of name under Rule 103 of the Rules of Court.
[51]
For purposes of an
application for change of name under Article 376 of the Civil Code and correlatively
implemented by Rule 103, the only name that may be changed is the true or official name
recorded in the civil register. As earlier mentioned, a petition for change of name being a
proceeding in rem, impressed as it is with public interest, strict compliance with all the requisites
therefor in order to vest the court with jurisdiction is essential, and failure therein renders the
proceedings a nullity.
[52]
It must likewise be stressed once again that a change of name is a privilege, not a matter of
right, addressed to the sound discretion of the court which has the duty to consider carefully the
consequences of a change of name and to deny the same unless weighty reasons are shown.
Before a person can be authorized to change his name, that is, his true or official name or that
which appears in his birth certificate or is entered in the civil register, he must show proper and
reasonable cause or any convincing reason which may justify such change.
[53]
J urisprudence has recognized, inter alia, the following grounds as being sufficient to warrant
a change of name: (a) when the name is ridiculous, dishonorable or extremely difficult to write or
pronounce; (b) when the change results as a legal consequence of legitimation or adoption; (c)
when the change will avoid confusion; (d) when one has continuously used and been known
since childhood by a Filipino name and was unaware of alien parentage; (e) when the change is
based on a sincere desire to adopt a Filipino name to erase signs of former alienage, all in good
faith and without prejudice to anybody; and (f) when the surname causes embarrassment and
there is no showing that the desired change of name was for a fraudulent purpose or that the
change of name would prejudice public interest.
[54]
Contrarily, a petition for change of name grounded on the fact that one was baptized by
another name, under which he has been known and which he used, has been denied inasmuch
as the use of baptismal names is not sanctioned.
[55]
For, in truth, baptism is not a condition sine
qua non to a change of name.
[56]
Neither does the fact that the petitioner has been using a
different name and has become known by it constitute proper and reasonable cause to legally
authorize a change of name.
[57]
A name given to a person in the church records or elsewhere or
by which he is known in the community - when at variance with that entered in the civil register -
is unofficial and cannot be recognized as his real name.
[58]
The instant petition does not sufficiently persuade us to depart from such rulings of long
accepted wisdom and applicability. The only grounds offered to justify the change of name
prayed for was that the adopted child had been baptized as Aaron J oseph in keeping with the
religious faith of private respondents and that it was the name by which he had been called and
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known by his family, relatives and friends from the time he came to live with private
respondents.
[59]
Apart from suffusing their pleadings with sanctimonious entreaties for
compassion, none of the justified grounds for a change of name has been alleged or
established by private respondents. The legal bases chosen by them to bolster their cause
have long been struck down as unavailing for their present purposes. For, to allow the adoptee
herein to use his baptismal name, instead of his name registered in the civil register, would be to
countenance or permit that which has always been frowned upon.
[60]
The earlier quoted posturing of respondent judge, as expressed in his assailed order that –
”(a)s adoptive parents, petitioners like other parents may freely select the first name given to his/her child
as it is only the surname to which the child is entitled that is fixed by law x x x.
“The given name of the minor was Kevin Earl, a name given for no other purpose than for identification
purposes in a birth certificate by a woman who had all the intentions of giving him away. The naming of
the minor as Aaron J oseph by petitioners upon grant of their petition for adoption is symbolic of naming
the minor at birth.”
and supposedly based on the authority of Republic vs. Court of Appeals and Maximo Wong,
supra, painfully misapplies the ruling therein enunciated.
The factual backdrop of said case is not at all analogous to that of the case at bar. In the
Wong case, therein petitioner Maximo Wong sought the change of his surname which he
acquired by virtue of the decree of adoption granted in favor of spouses Hoong Wong and
Concepcion Ty Wong. Upon reaching the age of majority, he filed a petition in court to change
his surname from Wong to Alcala, which was his surname prior to the adoption. He adduced
proof that the use of the surname Wong caused him embarrassment and isolation from friends
and relatives in view of a suggested Chinese ancestry when in reality he is a Muslim Filipino
residing in a Muslim community, thereby hampering his business and social life, and that his
surviving adoptive mother consented to the change of name sought. This Court granted the
petition and regarded the change of the surname as a mere incident in, rather than the object of,
the adoption.
It should be noted that in said case the change of surname, not the given name, and the
legal consequences thereof in view of the adoption were at issue. That it was sought in a
petition duly and precisely filed for that purpose with ample proof of the lawful grounds therefor
only serves to reinforce the imperative necessity of seeking relief under and through the legally
prescribed procedures.
Here, the Solicitor General meritoriously explained that:
“Respondent J udge failed to distinguish between a situation wherein a child is being named for the first
time by his natural parent, as against one wherein, a child is previously conferred a first name by his
natural parent, and such name is subsequently sought to be disregarded and changed by the adoptive
parents. In the first case, there is no dispute that natural parents have the right to freely select and give the
child’s first name for every person, including juridical persons, must have a name (Tolentino, A.,
Commentaries and J urisprudence on the Civil Code, Vol. 1, 1987 edition, page 721). In the second case,
however, as in the case at bar, private respondents, in their capacities as adopters, cannot claim a right to
name the minor adoptee after such right to name the child had already been exercised by the natural
parent. Adopting parents have not been conferred such right by law, hence, the right asserted by private
respondents herein remains but illusory. Renaming the adoptee cannot be claimed as a right. It is merely a
privilege necessitating judicial consent upon compelling grounds. “
[61]
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The liberality with which this Court treats matters leading up to adoption insofar as it carries
out the beneficent purposes of adoption and ensures to the adopted child the rights and
privileges arising therefrom, ever mindful that the paramount consideration is the overall benefit
and interest of the adopted child,
[62]
should be understood in its proper context. It should not be
misconstrued or misinterpreted to extend to inferences beyond the contemplation of law and
jurisprudence.
The practically unrestricted freedom of the natural parent to select the proper or given name
of the child presupposes that no other name for it has theretofore been entered in the civil
register. Once such name is registered, regardless of the reasons for such choice and even if it
be solely for the purpose of identification, the same constitutes the official name. This
effectively authenticates the identity of the person and must remain unaltered save when, for the
most compelling reasons shown in an appropriate proceeding, its change may merit judicial
approval.
While the right of a natural parent to name the child is recognized, guaranteed and
protected under the law, the so-called right of an adoptive parent to re-name an adopted child
by virtue or as a consequence of adoption, even for the most noble intentions and moving
supplications, is unheard of in law and consequently cannot be favorably considered. To repeat,
the change of the surname of the adoptee as a result of the adoption and to follow that of the
adopter does not lawfully extend to or include the proper or given name. Furthermore, factual
realities and legal consequences, rather than sentimentality and symbolisms, are what are of
concern to the Court.
Finally, it is understood that this decision does not entirely foreclose and is without prejudice
to, private respondents’ privilege to legally change the proper or given name of their adopted
child, provided that the same is exercised, this time, via a proper petition for change of name. Of
course, the grant thereof is conditioned on strict compliance with all jurisdictional requirements
and satisfactory proof of the compelling reasons advanced therefor.
WHEREFORE, on the foregoing premises, the assailed order of respondent judge is hereby
MODIFIED. The legally adopted child of private respondents shall henceforth be officially
known as Kevin Earl Munson y Andrade unless a change thereof is hereafter effected in
accordance with law. In all other respects, the order is AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.
Romero, Puno, and Mendoza, JJ., concur.
[1]
Annex A. Petition; Rollo, 37-40; per Presiding J udge J ose R. Hernandez.
[2]
Annex B, Id.; Ibid.; 41-44.
[3]
Id., Id; Ibid., 44-45.
[4]
Annex C, Id, Ibid., 47-50.
[5]
Annex A, Id.: ibid., 40.
[6]
See Art. 183 in relation to Art. 185, Family Code.
[7]
See Art. 188, Family Code; Arts. 32-3 8, Child and Youth Welfare Code; Secs. 1-5, Rule 99, Rules of Court.
[8]
Annex A, Petition; Rollo, 37, 38.
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[9]
FNCB Finance vs. Estavillo, G.R. No. 93394, December 20, 1990, 192 SCRA 514; Donato, et al. vs. Court of
Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 102603, J anuary 18, 1993, 217 SCRA 196; Isabelo, J r. vs. Perpetual Help College of
Rizal, Inc., et al., G.R. No. 103142, November 8, 1993, 227 SCRA 591.
[10]
Rollo, 18-19.
[11]
Ibid., 20-23.
[12]
Ibid., 16.
[13]
Ibid., 63, 65-66.
[14]
Ibid., 24-27.
[15]
Ibid., 70-71.
[16]
Annex A, Petition; Rollo, 39.
[17]
Cruz vs. Republic, L-20927, J uly 26, 1966, 17 SCRA 693.
[18]
See Art. 412, Civil Code; Re Ross, 8 Cal 2d 608,67 P2d 94, 110 ALR 217.
[19]
Yu Chi Han vs. Republic, L-22O40, November 29, 1965, 15 SCRA 454; Cruz vs. Republic, supra, fn. 17;
Republic vs. Tañada, etc., et al., L-3 1563, November 29, 1971,42 SCRA 419; Secan Kok vs. Republic. L-27621,
August 30, 1973, 52 SCRA 322.
[20]
Rollo, 21-22.
[21]
43 Phil. 763 (1922).
[22]
88 Phil. 72 (1951).
[23]
1 C.J .S., Actions, Sec. 61, 1181.
[24]
1 Am J ur 2d, Actions, Sec. 81, 776.
[25]
Ibid., Id., Sec. 85, 778.
[26]
Ibid., Id., Sec. 86, 779.
[27]
Francisco V.J ., The Revised Rules of Court in the Philippines, Vol. I 1973 ed., 186.
[28]
1 Am J ur 2d, Actions. Sec. 86, 779.
[29]
Ibid., Id., Sec. 89, 781.
[30]
Francisco, V.J ., op. cit., 185-189.
[31]
Union Glass & Container Corp., et al. vs. Securities and Exchange Commission, et al., G.R. No. 64013,
November 28, 1983, 126 SCRA 31.
[32]
See Flores vs. Mallare-Phillipps, et al., G.R. No. 66620, September 24,1986, 144 SCRA 377.
[33]
Rollo, 18-19.
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[34]
Ibid., 86-88.
[35]
G.R. No. 91670, February 7, 1991, 193 SCRA 732; Baldovi vs. Sarte, 36 Phil. 550 (1917). Cf. Hicks vs. Hilario,
et al., 40 Phil. 576 (1919) and Insurance Company of North America vs. United States Lines Co., et al., L-2 1839,
April 30, 1968,23 SCRA 438.
[36]
Young vs. Ombudsman, G.R. No. 110736, December 27, 1993, 228 SCRA 718.
[37]
Villanueva vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 99357, J anuary 27 1992,205 SCRA 537.
[38]
Santos vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 92862, J uly 4, 1991, 198 SCRA 806; Philippine National
Construction Corporation vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 104437, December 17 1993,228 SCRA 565.
[39]
Vasco vs. Court of Appeals, et al., L-46763, February 28, 1978, 81 SCRA 762.
[40]
L-44642, February 20 1989, 170 SCRA 367. See also Edra vs. Intermediate Appellate Court, et al., G.R. No.
75041, November 13, 1989 179 SCRA 344.
[41]
Alonso vs. Villamor, 16 Phil. 315 (1910); Republic Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. NO. 56077, February
28,1985,135 SCRA 165; Yong Chan Kim vs. People, et al., .G.R. No. 84719, J anuary 25, 1991, 193 SCRA 344;
Bank of America, NT & SA vs. Gerochi, J r., etc., et al., G.R. 73210, February 10, 1994,230 SCRA 9; Buan, et al. vs.
Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 101614, August 17, 1994,235 SCRA 424.
[42]
Sanidad vs. Cabotaje, 5 Phil. 204 (1905).
[43]
Arzadon vs. Arzadon, 15 Phil. 77(1910).
[44]
L-16085, November 29, 1961,3 SCRA 519.
[45]
Rollo, 28.
[46]
Ibid., 67-68.
[47]
Ibid., 39.
[48]
Tolentino, A.M., Civil Code of the Philippines, Commentaries and J urisprudence, Vol. I, 1993 ed., 672.
[49]
Chomi vs. Local Civil Registrar of Manila, 99 Phil. 1004 (1956); Ng Yao Siong vs. Republic, L-20306, March 31,
1966, 16 SCRA 483.
[50]
Chiu Hap Chiu vs. Republic, L-20018, April 30, 1966, 16 SCRA 864.
[51]
Chomi vs. Local Civil Registrar of Manila, supra fn. 49.
[52]
Ng Yao Siong vs. Republic, supra, fn. 49; Republic vs. Tañada, etc., et al., supra, fn. 19; Secan Kok vs.
Republic. supra, fn. 19. See Tan vs. Republic, L-16384, April 26, 1962,4 SCRA 1128.
[53]
Ong Pen Oan vs. Republic, 102 Phil. 460(1957); Nacionale vs. Republic, L18067, April 29, 1966, 16 SCRA
636; Yu vs. Republic, L-20874, May 25, 1966, 17 SCRA 253; Calderon vs. Republic, L- 18127, April 5, 1967, 19
SCRA 721.
[54]
Republic vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 97906, May 21, 1992, 209 SCRA 189, 199 and cases therein
cited. See also Republic vs. Avila, etc., et al., L-33131, May 30, 1983, 122 SCRA 483.
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[55]
Chomi vs. Local Civil Registrar of Manila, supra, fn. 49.
[56]
Ong Te vs. Republic, L-15549, J une 30, 1962, 5 SCRA 484.
[57]
Ong Pen Oan vs. Republic, supra, fn. 53; Grant vs. Republic, L-23609, March 31, 1966, 16 SCRA 517.
[58]
Ng Yao Siong vs. Republic, supra, fn. 49.
[59]
Annex B, Petition; Rollo, 44, 67.
[60]
Cruz vs. Republic, supra, fn. 17.
[61]
Rollo, 31-32.
[62]
Republic vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 92326, J anuary 24, 1992,205 SCRA 356.
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REPUBLIC vs. CA; 255 scra












































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































THIRD DIVISION
[G.R. No. 148311. March 31, 2005]
IN THE MATTER OF THE ADOPTION OF STEPHANIE NATHY ASTORGA
GARCIA
HONORATO B. CATINDIG, petitioner.
D E C I S I O N
SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.:
May an illegitimate child, upon adoption by her natural father, use the surname of her
natural mother as her middle name? This is the issue raised in the instant case.
The facts are undisputed.
On August 31, 2000, Honorato B. Catindig, herein petitioner, filed a petition
[1]
to adopt his
minor illegitimate child Stephanie Nathy Astorga Garcia. He alleged therein, among others,
that Stephanie was born on J une 26, 1994;
[2]
that her mother is Gemma Astorga Garcia; that
Stephanie has been using her mother’s middle name and surname; and that he is now a
widower and qualified to be her adopting parent. He prayed that Stephanie’s middle name
Astorga be changed to “Garcia,” her mother’s surname, and that her surname “Garcia” be
changed to “Catindig,” his surname.
On March 23, 2001,
[3]
the trial court rendered the assailed Decision granting the adoption,
thus:
“After a careful consideration of the evidence presented by the petitioner, and in the absence of any
opposition to the petition, this Court finds that the petitioner possesses all the qualifications and none of
the disqualification provided for by law as an adoptive parent, and that as such he is qualified to maintain,
care for and educate the child to be adopted; that the grant of this petition would redound to the best
interest and welfare of the minor Stephanie Nathy Astorga Garcia. The Court further holds that the
petitioner’s care and custody of the child since her birth up to the present constitute more than enough
compliance with the requirement of Article 35 of Presidential Decree No. 603.
WHEREFORE, finding the petition to be meritorious, the same is GRANTED. Henceforth, Stephanie
Nathy Astorga Garcia is hereby freed from all obligations of obedience and maintenance with respect to
her natural mother, and for civil purposes, shall henceforth be the petitioner’s legitimate child and legal
heir. Pursuant to Article 189 of the Family Code of the Philippines, the minor shall be known as
STEPHANIE NATHY CATINDIG.
Upon finality of this Decision, let the same be entered in the Local Civil Registrar concerned pursuant to
Rule 99 of the Rules of Court.
Let copy of this Decision be furnished the National Statistics Office for record purposes.
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SO ORDERED.”
[4]
On April 20, 2001, petitioner filed a motion for clarification and/or reconsideration
[5]
praying
that Stephanie should be allowed to use the surname of her natural mother (GARCIA) as her
middle name.
On May 28, 2001,
[6]
the trial court denied petitioner’s motion for reconsideration holding
that there is no law or jurisprudence allowing an adopted child to use the surname of his
biological mother as his middle name.
Hence, the present petition raising the issue of whether an illegitimate child may use the
surname of her mother as her middle name when she is subsequently adopted by her natural
father.
Petitioner submits that the trial court erred in depriving Stephanie of a middle name as a
consequence of adoption because: (1) there is no law prohibiting an adopted child from having
a middle name in case there is only one adopting parent; (2) it is customary for every Filipino to
have as middle name the surname of the mother; (3) the middle name or initial is a part of the
name of a person; (4) adoption is for the benefit and best interest of the adopted child, hence,
her right to bear a proper name should not be violated; (5) permitting Stephanie to use the
middle name “Garcia” (her mother’s surname) avoids the stigma of her illegitimacy; and; (6) her
continued use of “Garcia” as her middle name is not opposed by either the Catindig or Garcia
families.
The Republic, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), agrees with petitioner that
Stephanie should be permitted to use, as her middle name, the surname of her natural mother
for the following reasons:
First, it is necessary to preserve and maintain Stephanie’s filiation with her natural mother
because under Article 189 of the Family Code, she remains to be an intestate heir of the latter.
Thus, to prevent any confusion and needless hardship in the future, her relationship or proof of
that relationship with her natural mother should be maintained.
Second, there is no law expressly prohibiting Stephanie to use the surname of her natural
mother as her middle name. What the law does not prohibit, it allows.
Last, it is customary for every Filipino to have a middle name, which is ordinarily the
surname of the mother. This custom has been recognized by the Civil Code and Family Code.
In fact, the Family Law Committees agreed that “the initial or surname of the mother should
immediately precede the surname of the father so that the second name, if any, will be before
the surname of the mother.”
[7]
We find merit in the petition.
Use Of Surname Is Fixed By Law –
For all practical and legal purposes, a man's name is the designation by which he is known
and called in the community in which he lives and is best known. It is defined as the word or
combination of words by which a person is distinguished from other individuals and, also, as the
label or appellation which he bears for the convenience of the world at large addressing him, or
in speaking of or dealing with him.
[8]
It is both of personal as well as public interest that every
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person must have a name.
The name of an individual has two parts: (1) the given or proper name and (2) the
surname or family name. The given or proper name is that which is given to the individual at
birth or at baptism, to distinguish him from other individuals. The surname or family name is that
which identifies the family to which he belongs and is continued from parent to child. The given
name may be freely selected by the parents for the child, but the surname to which the child is
entitled is fixed by law.
[9]
Thus, Articles 364 to 380 of the Civil Code provides the substantive rules which regulate the
use of surname
[10]
of an individual whatever may be his status in life, i.e., whether he may be
legitimate or illegitimate, an adopted child, a married woman or a previously married woman, or
a widow, thus:
“Art. 364. Legitimate and legitimated children shall principally use the surname of the father.
Art. 365. An adopted child shall bear the surname of the adopter.
x x x
Art. 369. Children conceived before the decree annulling a voidable marriage shall principally use the
surname of the father.
Art. 370. A married woman may use:
(1) Her maiden first name and surname and add her husband's surname, or
(2) Her maiden first name and her husband's surname or
(3) Her husband's full name, but prefixing a word indicating that she is his wife, such as ‘Mrs.’
Art. 371. In case of annulment of marriage, and the wife is the guilty party, she shall resume her maiden
name and surname. If she is the innocent spouse, she may resume her maiden name and surname.
However, she may choose to continue employing her former husband's surname, unless:
(1) The court decrees otherwise, or
(2) She or the former husband is married again to another person.
Art. 372. When legal separation has been granted, the wife shall continue using her name and surname
employed before the legal separation.
Art. 373. A widow may use the deceased husband's surname as though he were still living, in accordance
with Article 370.
Art. 374. In case of identity of names and surnames, the younger person shall be obliged to use such
additional name or surname as will avoid confusion.
Art. 375. In case of identity of names and surnames between ascendants and descendants, the word
‘J unior’ can be used only by a son. Grandsons and other direct male descendants shall either:
(1) Add a middle name or the mother's surname,
(2) Add the Roman numerals II, III, and so on.
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x x x”
Law Is Silent As To The Use Of
Middle Name –
As correctly submitted by both parties, there is no law regulating the use of a middle name.
Even Article 176
[11]
of the Family Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 9255, otherwise
known as “An Act Allowing Illegitimate Children To Use The Surname Of Their Father,” is silent
as to what middle name a child may use.
The middle name or the mother’s surname is only considered in Article 375(1), quoted
above, in case there is identity of names and surnames between ascendants and descendants,
in which case, the middle name or the mother’s surname shall be added.
Notably, the law is likewise silent as to what middle name an adoptee may use. Article
365 of the Civil Code merely provides that “an adopted child shall bear the surname of the
adopter.” Also, Article 189 of the Family Code, enumerating the legal effects of adoption, is
likewise silent on the matter, thus:
"(1) For civil purposes, the adopted shall be deemed to be a legitimate child of the adopters and both
shall acquire the reciprocal rights and obligations arising from the relationship of parent and child,
including the right of the adopted to use the surname of the adopters;
x x x”
However, as correctly pointed out by the OSG, the members of the Civil Code and Family
Law Committees that drafted the Family Code recognized the Filipino custom of adding the
surname of the child’s mother as his middle name. In the Minutes of the J oint Meeting of
the Civil Code and Family Law Committees, the members approved the suggestion that the
initial or surname of the mother should immediately precede the surname of the father,
thus
“J ustice Caguioa commented that there is a difference between the use by the wife of the surname and that
of the child because the father’s surname indicates the family to which he belongs, for which reason
he would insist on the use of the father’s surname by the child but that, if he wants to, the child may
also use the surname of the mother.
J ustice Puno posed the question: If the child chooses to use the surname of the mother, how will his name
be written? J ustice Caguioa replied that it is up to him but that his point is that it should be mandatory
that the child uses the surname of the father and permissive in the case of the surname of the
mother.
Prof. Baviera remarked that J ustice Caguioa’s point is covered by the present Article 364, which reads:
Legitimate and legitimated children shall principally use the surname of the father.
J ustice Puno pointed out that many names change through no choice of the person himself precisely
because of this misunderstanding. He then cited the following example: Alfonso Ponce Enrile’s correct
surname is Ponce since the mother’s surname is Enrile but everybody calls him Atty. Enrile. J ustice J ose
Gutierrez David’s family name is Gutierrez and his mother’s surname is David but they all call him
J ustice David.
Justice Caguioa suggested that the proposed Article (12) be modified to the effect that it shall be
mandatory on the child to use the surname of the father but he may use the surname of the mother
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by way of an initial or a middle name. Prof. Balane stated that they take note of this for inclusion in the
Chapter on Use of Surnames since in the proposed Article (10) they are just enumerating the rights of
legitimate children so that the details can be covered in the appropriate chapter.
x x x
J ustice Puno remarked that there is logic in the simplification suggested by J ustice Caguioa that the
surname of the father should always be last because there are so many traditions like the American
tradition where they like to use their second given name and the Latin tradition, which is also followed by
the Chinese wherein they even include the Clan name.
x x x
Justice Puno suggested that they agree in principle that in the Chapter on the Use of Surnames,
they should say that initial or surname of the mother should immediately precede the surname of
the father so that the second name, if any, will be before the surname of the mother. Prof. Balane
added that this is really the Filipino way. The Committee approved the suggestion.”
[12]
(Emphasis
supplied)
In the case of an adopted child, the law provides that “the adopted shall bear the surname
of the adopters.”
[13]
Again, it is silent whether he can use a middle name. What it only
expressly allows, as a matter of right and obligation, is for the adoptee to bear the surname of
the adopter, upon issuance of the decree of adoption.
[14]
The Underlying Intent of
Adoption Is In Favor of the
Adopted Child –
Adoption is defined as the process of making a child, whether related or not to the adopter,
possess in general, the rights accorded to a legitimate child.
[15]
It is a juridical act, a proceeding
in rem which creates between two persons a relationship similar to that which results from
legitimate paternity and filiation.
[16]
The modern trend is to consider adoption not merely as an
act to establish a relationship of paternity and filiation, but also as an act which endows the child
with a legitimate status.
[17]
This was, indeed, confirmed in 1989, when the Philippines, as a
State Party to the Convention of the Rights of the Child initiated by the United Nations,
accepted the principle that adoption is impressed with social and moral responsibility,
and that its underlying intent is geared to favor the adopted child.
[18]
Republic Act No.
8552, otherwise known as the “Domestic Adoption Act of 1998,”
[19]
secures these rights and
privileges for the adopted.
[20]
One of the effects of adoption is that the adopted is deemed to be a legitimate child of the
adopter for all intents and purposes pursuant to Article 189
[21]
of the Family Code and Section
17
[22]
Article V of RA 8552.
[23]
Being a legitimate child by virtue of her adoption, it follows that Stephanie is entitled
to all the rights provided by law to a legitimate child without discrimination of any kind,
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including the right to bear the surname of her father and her mother, as discussed
above. This is consistent with the intention of the members of the Civil Code and Family Law
Committees as earlier discussed. In fact, it is a Filipino custom that the initial or surname of the
mother should immediately precede the surname of the father.
Additionally, as aptly stated by both parties, Stephanie’s continued use of her mother’s
surname (Garcia) as her middle name will maintain her maternal lineage. It is to be noted that
Article 189(3) of the Family Code and Section 18
[24]
, Article V of RA 8552 (law on adoption)
provide that the adoptee remains an intestate heir of his/her biological parent. Hence,
Stephanie can well assert or claim her hereditary rights from her natural mother in the future.
Moreover, records show that Stephanie and her mother are living together in the house built
by petitioner for them at 390 Tumana, San J ose, Baliuag, Bulacan. Petitioner provides for all
their needs. Stephanie is closely attached to both her mother and father. She calls them
“Mama” and “Papa”. Indeed, they are one normal happy family. Hence, to allow Stephanie to
use her mother’s surname as her middle name will not only sustain her continued loving
relationship with her mother but will also eliminate the stigma of her illegitimacy.
Liberal Construction of
Adoption Statutes In Favor Of
Adoption –
It is a settled rule that adoption statutes, being humane and salutary, should be liberally
construed to carry out the beneficent purposes of adoption.
[25]
The interests and welfare of the
adopted child are of primary and paramount consideration,
[26]
hence, every reasonable
intendment should be sustained to promote and fulfill these noble and compassionate objectives
of the law.
[27]
Lastly, Art. 10 of the New Civil Code provides that:
“In case of doubt in the interpretation or application of laws, it is presumed that the lawmaking body
intended right and justice to prevail.”
This provision, according to the Code Commission, “is necessary so that it may tip the
scales in favor of right and justice when the law is doubtful or obscure. It will strengthen the
determination of the courts to avoid an injustice which may apparently be authorized by some
way of interpreting the law.”
[28]
Hence, since there is no law prohibiting an illegitimate child adopted by her natural father,
like Stephanie, to use, as middle name her mother’s surname, we find no reason why she
should not be allowed to do so.
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The assailed Decision is partly MODIFIED in the
sense that Stephanie should be allowed to use her mother’s surname “GARCIA” as her middle
name.
Let the corresponding entry of her correct and complete name be entered in the decree of
adoption.
SO ORDERED.
Panganiban, (Chairman), Corona, Carpio-Morales, and Garcia, JJ., concur.
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[1]
Rollo at 34-36.
[2]
Annex “C”, id. at 33.
[3]
Annex “F”, id. at 41-43.
[4]
Rollo at 42-43.
[5]
Annex “G”, id. at 44-48.
[6]
Annex “H”, id. at 49.
[7]
Minutes of the J oint Meeting of the Civil Code and Family Law Committees, August 10, 1985, p. 8.
[8]
Republic vs. Court of Appeals and Maximo Wong, G.R. No. 97906, May 21, 1992, 209 SCRA 189, citing 38 Am
J ur, Name 594-595.
[9]
Republic vs. Hon. Hernandez, et al., G.R. No. 117209, February 9, 1996, 253 SCRA 509, citing Tolentino, A.M.,
Civil Code of the Philippines, Commentaries and J urisprudence, Vol. I, 1993 ed., 672.
[10]
Republic vs. Court of Appeals and Maximo Wong, supra.
[11]
“Art. 176. 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. However, illegitimate children 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. Provided, the father has the right to institute an action before the regular
courts to prove non-filiation during his lifetime. The legitime of each illegitimate child shall consist of
one-half of the legitime of a legitimate child.”
[12]
Minutes of the J oint Meeting of the Civil Code and Family law Committees, August 10, 1985, pp. 16-18.
[13]
Article 365 of the New Civil Code.
[14]
Republic vs. Hon. Hernandez, et al., supra; Republic vs. Court of Appeals and Maximo Wong, supra.
[15]
Paras, Civil Code of the Philippines Annotated, Vol. I, Fifteenth Edition, 2002, p. 685.
[16]
Pineda, The Family Code of the Philippines Annotated, 1989 Edition, p. 272-273, citing 4 Valverde, 473.
[17]
Paras, supra, citing Prasnick vs. Republic, 98 Phil. 665.
[18]
Lahom vs. Sibulo, G.R. No. 143989, J uly 14, 2003, 406 SCRA 135, citing United Nation General
Assembly/44/49 (1989).
[19]
“Sec. 17. Legitimacy. – The adoptee shall be considered the legitimate son/daughter of the adopter(s) for all
intents and purposes and as such is entitled to all the rights and obligations provided by law to legitimate
sons/daughters born to them without discrimination of any kind. To this end, the adoptee is entitled to love,
guidance and support in keeping with the means of the family.”
[20]
Id.
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[21]
“Art. 189. (1) For civil purposes, the adopted shall be deemed to be a legitimate child of the adopters and
both shall acquire the reciprocal rights and obligations arising from the relationship of parent and child,
including the right of the adopted to use the surname of the adopters;”
[22]
Supra.
[23]
Domestic Adoption Act of 1998.
[24]
“Sec. 18. Succession. – In legal and intestate succession, the adopter(s) and the adoptee shall have reciprocal
rights of succession without distinction from legitimate filiation. However, if the adoptee and his/her
biological parent(s) had left a will, the law on testamentary succession shall govern.”
[25]
Republic of the Philippines vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 92326, J anuary 24, 1992, 205 SCRA 356,
citing 2 Am J ur 2d, Adoption, 865.
[26]
Republic of the Philippines vs. Court of Appeals, et al., id., citing 2 Am J ur 2d, Adoption, 910.
[27]
Republic of the Philippines vs. Court of Appeals, et al., id., citing Bobanovic, et al. vs. Montes, etc., et al., 142
SCRA 485 (1986).
[28]
Paras, supra, p. 91.
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