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Adoption

A.M. No. RTJ-92-802 July 5, 1993

OFFICE OF THE COURT ADMINISTRATOR, complainant,


vs.
HON. GENARO C. GINES, as Presiding Judge, Branch 26; MA. GORGONIA L. FLORES, Court
Interpreter and Officer-in-Charge, Branch 26; ROSIE M. MUNAR, Stenographic Reporter,
Branch 26, PACITA B. DIAZ, Staff Assistant IV, Office of the Clerk of Court; MA. CONCEPCION
B. DIAZ, Staff Assistant I, Branch 26, and ALFREDO V. LACSAMANA, JR., Staff Assistant II,
Branch 26, all of the RTC, San Fernando, La Union, respondents.

Ceferino Padua Law Office for respondent Diazes.

Benigno M. Puno for respondents Munar, Flores & Lacsamana.

PER CURIAM:

This case was initiated by the Office of the Court Administrator with the filing of an administrative
complaint which reads:

Pursuant to the Resolution of the Court En Banc, dated July 30, 1991, the
undersigned hereby institutes this administrative complaint against Judge Genaro C.
Gines, Presiding Judge, Branch 26; Ma. Gorgonia L. Flores, Court Interpreter and
Officer-in- Charge, Branch 26; Rosie M. Munar, Stenographic Reporter, Branch 26;
Pacita B. Diaz, Staff Assistant IV, Office of the Clerk of Court; Ma. Concepcion B.
Diaz, Staff Assistant I, Branch 26; and Mr. Alfredo V. Lacsamana, Jr., Staff II, Branch
26, all of the RTC, San Fernando, La Union, for Dishonesty; Violation of par. (e), Sec.
3 of R.A. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) as amended; and Violation of
Administrative Order No. 6, dated June 30, 1975, Circular No. 7, dated September
23, 1974, and Administrative Order No. 1, dated January 28, 1988, by virtue of their
collective illegal acts involving deliberate and surreptitious assignment of cases at
the Docketing and Receiving Section, Office of the Clerk of Court, RTC, San
Fernando, La Union.

1. This complaint is substantially anchored on the Report submitted by Atty. Aurora P.


Sanglay, Clerk of Court, RTC, San Fernando, La Union, relative to her investigation
of the alleged anomaly in the non-raffling of cases in the said Court, and the Affidavit-
complaint of Ma. Concepcion B. Diaz dated September 19, 1991, implicating other
court personnel involved in the aforestated irregularity;

2. Atty. Sanglay, in her Report, averred that:


2.1. From April 3, 1989 to April, 1991, there were forty-four (44)
Special Proceedings cases, twenty-seven (27) Land Registration
cases, six (6) Civil Cases, and three (3) Criminal Cases which were
directly assigned to the RTC, Branch 26, San Fernando, La Union,
without passing through the mandatory, raffling procedure, of cases
except for three (3) special proceedings cases which were assigned
to Branch 27, which anomaly had been going on since 1986;

2.2. Pacita Diaz, Ma. Concepcion Diaz and Alfredo Lacsamana, Jr.
were the court employees in-charge in (sic) the receiving and
docketing of the Land Registration Cases, Special Proceedings cases
and Civil Cases, respectively; and

2.3. There is a probability that the aforesaid clerks, who were in-
charge of receiving the cases, did not submit deliberately to the
Officer-in-Charge, some of the cases received from mandatory
raffling in compliance with the Administrative Orders/Circulars of the
Supreme Court.

3. In the Affidavit-Complaint dated September 19, 1991, of Ma. Concepcion B. Diaz,


which was received by the Office of the Court Administrator on September 20,1991,
she asserted, inter alia, that:

3.1. She blamed Judge Genaro C. Gines, Presiding Judge, RTC,


Branch 26, San Fernando, La Union, Ma. Gorgonia Flores, Court
Interpreter and Officer-In-Charge, same Court, and Rosie Munar,
Stenographic Reporter, same Court, for applying pressures and
intimidations to her in order that the cases of their choice may no
longer be forwarded to the proper Officer-in-Charge;

3.2. Several petitions have been prepared by the (sic) Judge Gines
himself in coordination with his Stenographer Rosie Munar and Court
Interpreter Ma. Gorgonia Flores, some of which are as follows:

3.2.1. Special Proceeding No. 1965 where the


petitioner, who alleged himself to be a resident of San
Fernando, La Union, is actually a resident of Sta.
Cruz, Ilocos Sur and the Aunt of Judge Gines. The
required bond of P500.00 therein has not yet been
posted: and

3.2.2. Special Proceeding No. 1967 where the Office


of the Solicitor General and other parties were not
furnished with copies of the petition upon the
instruction of Judge Gines.
The respondents were then required to answer the complaint.

Separate motions for an extension of time to file their answers were made by the respondents, but
only respondents Pacita Diaz and Ma. Concepcion Diaz filed their Answer within the extended
period. The Resolution which granted the others the extension warned them that no further
postponements would be granted. Notwithstanding such caveat, however, they again asked for
another extension. In the Resolution of 28 May 1992, this Court ruled, inter alia, that:

It appearing that said respondents have not taken this case seriously, and
considering the prior warning in the Resolution of 7 May 1992, the above motions for
another extension of time to file the Answers are hereby DENIED. The respondent
Judge and respondents Flores, Munar and Lacsamana are deemed to have waived
the filing of their Answer.

As it turned out, respondents Flores, Munar and Lacsamana were able to post their joint Answers on
15 May 1992 the last day of the additional period they had prayed for in their second motion which
was eventually denied in the aforementioned Resolution.

Respondents then filed a motion to reconsider the Resolution of 28 May 1992; the same was denied
in the Resolution of 14 July 1992. This latter resolution likewise denied the respondent Judge's
motion to reconsider the 7 May 1992 Resolution wherein he prayed that his answer (actually a
Comment), dated 14 May 1992, be admitted. However, this Court resolved that the said comment be
attached to the record of the instant case.

In the same 14 July 1992 Resolution, the instant case was referred to Mr. Justice Nathanael P. De
Pano, Jr. of the Court of Appeals for investigation, report, and recommendation.

On 31 March 1993, Justice De Pano, Jr. submitted his 26-page REPORT. It appears therefrom that
on 2 September 1992, he issued an order (a) requiring the parties to file respective affidavits which
shall serve as their direct testimonies in this case subject, however, to cross-examination by the
adverse parties and (b) setting the initial hearing of the case for 28 September 1992. Respondents
Pacita Diaz and Ma. Concepcion Diaz submitted their joint affidavit, dated 9 September 1992, as
well as the affidavits of Fortunata Gualberto, retired branch clerk of court of Branch 27 of the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) in San Fernando, La Union, and Consolacion M. Dulay, Clerk III of the
same Branch 27. Respondents Gorgonia Flores, Rosie Munar and Alfredo Lacsamana likewise
submitted their individual affidavits which are all dated 14 September 1992. Respondent Judge
Gines, for his part, filed a manifestation dated 17 September 1992, adopting his 14 May 1992
Comment as his direct testimony as well as the aforesaid affidavits of respondents Flores, Munar
and Lacsamana.

At the hearing on 28 September 1992, the parties entered into a stipulation of facts. They agreed on
the status and personal circumstances of the parties as stated in the affidavits, as well as the
descriptions of their respective positions in the RTC in San Fernando, La Union; the assumption into
office of the respondent Judge in January of 1987; the non-membership of the respondent Judge
and the other respondents in the raffle committee; and the procedure prescribed for the raffling of
cases filed with the RTC in San Fernando, La Union. The respondents then marked as exhibits their
affidavits and other documents.

It further appears from the REPORT that no testimonial evidence was offered by the parties. While
the complainant wanted to present Atty. Sanglay, the respondents admitted her report and agreed to
dispense with her testimony. The complainant then marked in evidence the following documents: (1)
the undated Report of Atty. Aurora Sanglay to the Executive Judge, as Exhibit "A"; (2) the 17 June
1991 Letter of Atty. Aurora Sanglay addressed to the Executive Judge, with annexes, as Exhibit "B";
(3) the Joint Affidavit of Pacita and Ma. Concepcion Diaz dated 11 September 1992, as Exhibit "C";
(4) the Compliance of respondents Flores, Munar and Lacsamana, Jr., as Exhibit "D"; (5) the
Affidavit of respondent Flores dated 14 September 1992, as Exhibit "E"; (6) the Affidavit of Romeo
Hermosura dated 14 September 1992, as Exhibit "F"; (7) the Affidavit of Teodorico Basilio dated 14
September 1992, as Exhibit "G"; (8) the Affidavit of respondent Munar, dated 14 September 1992, as
Exhibit "H"; (9) the Affidavit of respondent Lacsamana, Jr. dated 14 September 1992, as Exhibit "I";
and (10) the Manifestation of respondent Judge Gines dated 17 September 1992, as Exhibit "J". It
appears that counsel for the complainant expressed a desire to cross-examine respondents Flores,
Munar and Lacsamana but that the latter's counsel objected on the ground of possible self-
incrimination. These three respondents further manifested that they were not presenting any
evidence against the other respondents. Respondents Pacita Diaz and Concepcion Diaz likewise
manifested, through counsel, that they will not present evidence on account of the possibility of self-
incrimination. Respondent Judge Gines did not present his evidence.

Justice De Pano, Jr. then made the following observations, findings and conclusions in his REPORT:

Executive Judge Braulio Yaranon of the San Fernando, La Union Regional Trial
Court, in a letter dated June 20, 1991, transmitted to the Court, the report dated June
17, 1991, of Attorney Aurora Sanglay, the said Court's Clerk of Court, on the subject
of cases that had not been raffled by the appropriate committee on raffle but which
nevertheless, found their way mostly, to Branch 26 of the said Court (presided over
by respondent Genaro Gines from January 1987) and Branch 27 (the letter and its
annexes were later marked Exhibit B). In 1986, the report states, 6 criminal cases, 9
civil cases, 51 special proceeding cases and 9 land registration cases, (a total of 75
cases) did not pass through the raffle committee but went directly to the branch
which apparently acted on the cases without question. In 1987, 8 criminal cases, 9
civil cases, 13 special proceedings cases, 2 land registration cases (a total of 32
cases) did not pass through the raffle committee. In 1988, 9 civil cases, 18 special
proceedings cases and 2 land registration cases (a total of 29 cases) went directly to
the branches mentioned. A total of 136 cases from 1986 to 1988, Attorney Sanglay
reports, went from filing/docketing direct to two branches without undergoing the
mandated raffle by the raffle committee.

The more germane report, one which demonstrates the continuing perpetuation of
the above obviously illegal and nefarious system of directing cases filed with the
Regional Trial Court of San Fernando, La Union to Branches 26 and 27 of that court,
is the undated report of Clerk of Court Aurora P. Sanglay to Executive Judge Braulio
Yaranon, and received by his office on June 6, 1991. The letter, uncontroverted, is
marked Exhibit A, Court Administrator, and it reads thus:

In compliance to (sic) your memorandum dated May 23, 1991,


directing the undersigned to make an investigation re the matter of
cases filed before my office (Office of the Clerk of Court), which did
not undergo the mandatory raffle procedure, herewith are my
findings:

The period covered by my investigation is from April 3, 1989 to April


1991. In summary, during this period, there were FORTY-FOUR (44)
Special Cases, TWENTY-SEVEN (27) Land Registration Cases, SIX
(6) Civil Cases, and THREE (3) Criminal Cases which did not pass
through raffle, but which were instead directed to specific RTC
Branches, particularly Branch 26 and Branch 27. A great majority of
these cases however were assigned to Branch 26.

Attached is the list of these cases mentioned for your reference. This
data obtained (sic) by counterchecking the Minutes of previous raffles
covering the period of my investigation vis-a-vis the corresponding
docket books.

Until your memorandum dated May 24, 1991, the following persons
were in-charge of receiving and docketing the following kinds of
cases:

Mrs. Pacita Diaz Land Registration Cases

Miss Ma. Concepcion Diaz Special Proceedings Cases

Mr. Alfredo Lacsamana Civil Cases

Criminal Cases were docketed by Mr. Vicente Tatunay of the


Prosecutor's Office and received by either Mr. Alfredo Lacsamana,
Jr., the person handling all cases filed for raffle, or Mr. Oscarlito
Fantastico or any of the clerks in the OCC, in his absence.

Supposed to be, all these filed cases are to be turned over to Mr.
Alfredo Lacsamana, Jr. for raffle, but as per my findings, some of
these cases were not at all included in the mandatory raffle, but were
instead directed to specific RTC Branches. The possibility is not
remote that these clerks in-charge of receiving their respective cases
deliberately did not submit some of their received cases for raffle.

A lapse in the system and poor monitoring also provided for this thing
to happen. Instances are common where a client/lawyer is allowed
possession of the papers to be filed at certain critical stages of the
receiving process, specifically after the docketing and payment of
filing fees, and after said stages, the possibility is not likewise remote
that these papers are not submitted to the person in-charge of the
raffle.

The undersigned had already instituted procedures, i.e. centralized


receiving, payment of filing fees, docketing, and has strengthen (sic)
monitoring of the cases and the number of cases filed to prevent
occurrence (sic) of similar nature. (Exhibit A, Court Administrator, pp.
76-77, rec., 3rd Folder.)

Clerk of Court Sanglay's report includes 44 special proceedings cases, 27 land


registration cases, 6 civil cases and 3 criminal cases or a total of 80 cases that did
not pass through raffle from April, 1989 to April, 1991 but found their way directly to
Branches 26 and 27 of the Regional Trial Court of San Fernando, La union. Of these
80 cases, all, except 3, found their way to Branch 26, occupied by respondent Judge
Genaro Gines who, as he admits, was assigned in (sic) that branch since January,
1987.

The respondents here are Judge Genaro Gines, the incumbent presiding judge of
Branch 26 of the RTC in Judicial Region No. 1 based in San Fernando, La Union;
Pacita Diaz, a staff member in that court now retired in the period covered by the
Sanglay report, in charge of filing and docketing of land registration cases; Pacita
Diaz's daughter, Ma. Concepcion Diaz, another staff member in Branch 26, during
the period covered by the Sanglay report, the clerk in charge of the filing and
docketing of special proceedings cases; Alfredo Lacsamana, Jr., in the period
covered by the Sanglay report the clerk in-charge of the filing and docketing of civil
cases; Rosie Munar, court stenographic reporter; and Ma. Gorgonia Flores, court
interpreter and the Officer-in-Charge of Branch 26. Francisco Lacsamana, Jr.,
additionally, was assigned to gather all cases filed and docketed in the week civil,
criminal, special proceedings, land one day before the weekly raffle, and to
transmit these newly filed cases to the Committee on Raffle. Ma. Gorgonia Flores,
Officer-in-Charge of Branch 26, oversees the administrative machinery of Branch 26
(pp. 8-9, t.s.n., September 28, 1992).

The respondents felt that since the Court Administrator limited himself to the sworn
statement and report of Clerk of Court Attorney Aurora Sanglay, they were not called
upon to present evidence in their behalf as it would amount to self-incrimination.
They refused to testify; they refused to be cross-examined. Your investigator informs
the Court that the Sanglay affidavit and report are uncontroverted. Admissions in the
sworn statements forming part of the record are utilized in this report in addition to
the stipulated facts.

The respondents are charged in the administrative complaint:


(1) for dishonesty, in violation of paragraph (e), section 3 of Republic
Act No. 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, as amended;

(2) for violation of Administrative Order No. 6, dated June 30, 1975;

(3) for violation of Circular No. 7, dated September 23, 1974; and

(4) for violation of Administrative Order No. 1, dated January 28,


1988.

The last three, Supreme Court issues, have to do with the creation of a raffle
committee in multi-branch Regional Trial Courts, with supervision of the raffle of
newly-filled cases; with the manner of raffling cases, and establish the policy that no
case, in multi-branch trial courts, may be assigned to any branch or sala unless it
had undergone the raffle process.

Supreme Court Circular No. 7, September 23, 1974 mandates that in courts with
several branches, cases shall be assigned to the different branches only by raffle.
"No case may be assigned to any branch without being raffled." (Part I) And
immediately after raffle, the Executive Judge is mandated by the said Circular to
indicate the particular branch to which the case is raffled, "the same to be written in
words and in figures on the cover of the Rollo and on the first page of the original
complaint or information and initialled by the Executive Judge and the two other
officers who attended said raffle." (Part III). The same circular created a raffle
committee of three, composed of the Executive Judge and two other judges of the
court. The Executive Judge, supervises the Raffle. Administrative Circular No. 1,
(January 28, 1988) reiterates strict compliance with Administrative Order No. 6 (June
30, 1975) and Circular No. 7 (September 23, 1974 Raffle of cases, this later Circular
required, must be "in open session in the presence of lawyers and spectators . . . . ."
(Section 8.1). The Court in this later Circular restated the res ipso loquitor (sic) rule
regarding the conduct and removal of judges (Section 5.2).

It is therefore, beyond cavil, that under the rules governing the administration of
courts, all cases filed in court must go through the raffle committee for assignment.
No case must be assigned, in multi-branch courts, unless it is raffled by the Raffle
Committee. The 80 cases involved in this case, filed from April 1989 to April 1991,
were not raffled, but were directly assigned to, or taken by, Branch 26 (except 3)
under respondent Judge Gines. Respondent Judge Gines must know, under the
above Supreme Court acts, at a simple glance on the cover of the rollo and the first
page of every such record, whether a case was assigned to him after going through
raffle or not. Cases assigned to his branch, after going through the required raffle,
show on the face of the rollo, in words and in figures, the branch to which the case is
assigned, authenticated by the initials of the Executive Judge and the two other
members of the Committee. From January 1987, when respondent Judge Gines was
appointed to Branch 26, the respondent judge had received unraffled cases,
considered them and decided them. He had done so, apparently, not because he
was a maniac of a worker, nor because he loved his work but for reasons unspoken
in this case. Why should a sane judge accept additional cases for study and
decision, in addition to his regular load, without any benefit or consideration? Here
obviously, the res ipso loquitor (sic) doctrine applies.

Among the administrative officers charged here, Alfredo Lacsamana, Jr., as


stipulated, gathers all the cases filed and docketed in any particular week, for
transmittal to the Committee on Raffle. He prepared the cases for raffle, including the
preparation of the pieces of paper properly written on, to be picked in the raffle. It
was his job to do so. He was assigned to do so; he admitted so. That he did not do
so is obvious from the Sanglay Report from 1989 to 1991, he failed to transmit 80
cases and these cases found their way (except for 3) to respondent Judge Gines.
The Sanglay report is not controverted. It was Lacsamana's job to collect all cases
docketed, and to transmit them to the Raffle Committee. 80 such cases he did collect
and failed to report to the Raffle Committee from April, 1989 to April, 1991.

The Diazes, in the period covered by the Sanglay report had apparently fallen out
with respondent Judge Gines and respondents Flores, Munar and Lacsamana. In an
affidavit dated September 18, 1991 executed by respondent Ma. Concepcion Diaz,
the following passages appear, to wit:

xxx xxx xxx

The conflict between the Diazes and the other respondents deem (sic) to have arisen
from the suspicion the respondent Judge entertained that the Diazes had 'squealed'
on him to the Executive Judge, the Honorable Braulio Yaranon. This is contained in
the Diazes Joint Affidavit dated September 9, 1992 (Marked C-Diaz), in the following
passage:

xxx xxx xxx

As to the two other respondents, respondents Ma. Gorgonia Flores, who is officer-in-
charge of Branch 26 and Rosie Munar, court interpreter, there appears to be no
evidence. The record shows that when the Court Administrator's lawyers rested their
case with the presentation of the Sanglay report, the respondents refused to be
cross-examined on their sworn statements. Consequently, each sworn statement lost
value as evidence against the other respondents. However, it may be easily inferred
that as court officer-in-charge, respondent Flores was in (sic)-duty bound to
supervise the work of her subalterns. The non-raffling of 80 cases during the period
covered from April, 1989 to April 1991 reflects her failure to do her job.

xxx xxx xxx

The Supreme Court orders and circulars complained of as having been violated, are
directed to district judges, while Section 3, paragraph (e) of RA 3019 is inclusive in
scope, penalizing public officers for causing undue injury to any party . . . . or giving
any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge
of his official, administrative a (sic) judicial functions through manifest partiality,
evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence. . . .

The prosecution had limited itself to presenting the Sanglay report. It is apparent that
we must take the Diazes' statement that they were pressured to do that which they
had to do, and whatever it was, was done without consent, and against their will.
However, under the facts here, all the cases filed docketed in Branch 26 were
collected by respondent Lacsamana, Jr., who was in (sic) duty bound to forward the
cases to the Raffle Committee. That 80 such cases did not find their way to the
Committee, but ended up as 80 extra cases (except 3) in the docket load of the
respondent judge, means at the very least that Lacsamana, Jr., failed to perform his
job. The respondent judge in accepting or securing, such 80 cases, (minus 3) that did
not pass through raffle, for his action and resolution, and which he eventually
resolved violated all the Supreme Court circulars on the matter with the help and
cooperation of respondent Lacsamana, Jr. Evidently, respondent judge must have
received undue benefits and advantages (which have not been demonstrated in this
case) in securing this extra load of cases, benefits and advantages coming from the
party benefited (sic) by his action, and at the same time, granted the parties involved
in the some (sic) 80 cases that did not undergo raffle, undue and unwarranted
benefits resulting from the bias and partiality in their favor coming from the
respondent judge. As earlier observed, a single glance at the cover and first page of
each of the 80 or so rollos would show that they were unraffled, and yet, the
respondent judge knowing that such cases were unraffled, secured the said cases,
considered them and decided or resolved them, in violation of law.

It would appear, therefore, that the respondent judge is guilty of the charges in the
administrative complaint. Along with him as guilty, is respondent Alfredo Lacsamana,
Jr. This conclusion is bolstered by, among other things, the Diazes' statement that
cases were indeed directly secured by the respondent judge without their undergoing
raffle.

With respect to the other respondents, it could be deduced that the respondent Ma.
Gorgonia Flores, as officer-in-charge of Branch 26, would have known that Alfredo
Lacsamana, Jr. was not doing his job of forwarding all docketed cases to the Raffle
Committee faithfully.

He then recommends:

WHEREFORE, it is respectfully recommended:

1. That respondent Judge Genaro C. Gines be appropriately


penalized for violation of all the Supreme Court orders and circulars
mentioned in the Administrative Complaint for the period covered
from April 1989 to April 1991, plus apparent violation of Section 3,
paragraph (e) of R.A. 3019;
2. That respondent Alfredo Lacsamana, Jr. for his apparent failure to
do his job, be, likewise appropriately penalized, at least with a 6-
month suspension without pay; and

3. That respondent Ma. Gorgonia Flores be likewise penalized with a


3-month suspension without pay; and

4. That the other respondents be warned against committing any


such violations.

The continuing deliberate violations of Administrative Order No. 6 (dated 30 June 1975), Circular No.
7 (dated 23 September 1974) and Administrative Order No. 1 (dated 28 January 1988) for the years
reported in Atty. Sanglay's report, and their belated discovery boggle our minds. The irregularities
should have been easily discovered by the respondent Judge either because the fact that a case
has not been properly raffled off is at once discernible on the cover of the records and on the first
page of the original of the initial pleading (complaint, information, etc.), or because plain common
sense would have told him that something was wrong somewhere as an unusual number of cases of
the same class had been "assigned" to his sala. That he had failed to appreciate the physical
evidence or, at the very least, exhibit surprise at the unusual number of cases is quite amazing.
Thus, we are loathe to grant him the benefit of the doubt and conclude that he had no interest
whatsoever in having those cases raffled off to him and that he only loved to work more than the
others. Given the circumstances of this case, we cannot merely cut him some slack and assume
good faith on his part; he deserves no such treatment. As the investigating Justice himself assessed
the situation:

. . . . The 80 cases involved in this case, filed from April 1989 to April 1991, were not
raffled, but were directly assigned to, or taken by, Branch 26 (except 3) under
respondent Judge Gines. Respondent Judge Gines, must know, under the above
Supreme Court acts, at a simple glance on the cover of the rollo and the first page of
every such record, whether a case was assigned to him after going through raffle or
not. . . . From January 1987, when respondent Judge Gines was appointed to Branch
26, the respondent judge had received unraffled cases, considered them and
decided them. He had done so, apparently, not because he was a maniac of a
worker, nor because he loved his work but for reasons unspoken in this case. Why
should a sane judge accept additional cases for study and decision, in addition to his
regular load, without any benefit or consideration? Here, obviously, the res ipso
loquitor (sic) doctrine applies.

The irregularity and violations of the aforementioned administrative orders and circular could not
have been committed so blatantly, brazenly and openly for an unusually long period of time if the
respondent Judge did not have the cooperation of some of the court employees. We therefore agree
with the investigating Justice that such support and cooperation were extended by subordinates who
likewise had something to do with the raffle of cases. Hence, the findings on the degree of
participation, either by commission or omission, of respondents Flores and Lacsamana are
sustained.
In his report, the investigating Justice absolves the Diazes and Munar from responsibility in the
aforesaid irregularities.

With respect to respondent Pacita Diaz, the case has become moot as she died on 10 February
1993. 1 Thus, the case is dismissed insofar as she is concerned.

On the other hand, while we find no evidence to link respondent Munar to the aforementioned
irregularities, we hold that respondent Ma. Concepcion Diaz is not entirely blameless. In her affidavit
of 18 September 1991, the relevant portions of which are quoted in the REPORT of Justice de Pano,
she explicitly admitted:

11. In my explanation dated May 27, 1991 to the Memorandum of Judge Yaranon,
while I might have made an admission that I was the clerk receiving cases that later
turned out to be unraffled, I placed the direct blame on Judge Gines and my two
officemates, namely, Mrs. Ma. Gorgonia L. Flores and Mrs. Rosie Munar who had
applied all sorts of pressures upon me, including series (sic) of intimidation and,
insinuations in order that cases of their choice receive (sic) by me may no longer be
forwarded to the proper officer-in-charge of the raffle, but to them directly in Branch
26. 2

It is to be noted that Ma. Concepcion did not elaborate on the nature of such intimidation and
insinuations. In view of the fact, however, that she was in charge of receiving and docketing special
proceedings cases, and that out of the controversial 80 unraffled cases, 44 were special
proceedings cases, her participation could, by no means, be considered as insignificant. And even if
the alleged "intimidation" and "insinuations" were true, they still would not exculpate her in view of
the length of time involved, the number of cases questioned and the absence of proof that such
intimidation and insinuations were persistent, continuous and irresistible. It is thus clear that she had,
by neglecting her duty, allowed herself to be used by the other respondents.

A far more serious matter which has escaped the attention of the investigating Justice involves the
charges set forth under paragraph 3 of the Administrative Complaint, particularly on the preparation
by the respondent Judge, allegedly in coordination with respondents Munar and Flores, of petitions
in certain cases, some of which are (a) Special Proceeding No. 1965 wherein it is made to appear
that the petitioner therein an aunt of the respondent Judge and a resident of Sta. Cruz, Ilocos Sur
resides in San Fernando, La Union, and (b) Special Proceeding No. 1967 wherein the Office of the
Solicitor General and the other parties were not furnished with copies of the petition upon order of
the respondent Judge. Not having undergone the prescribed raffle procedure, these two cases were
directly assigned to the respondent Judge who then acted thereon. The said petitions, the pertinent
orders issued in the course of the proceedings therein and the minutes thereof were attached by the
respondent Judge to his 14 May 1993 Comment, which he had adopted as his direct testimony
pursuant to his 17 September 1992 Manifestation (Exhibit "J"). These documents provide conclusive
proof of more serious irregularities amounting to either gross ignorance or malicious disregard of
applicable procedural laws, grave misconduct, grave abuse of authority and conduct prejudicial to
the best interest of the service. The respondent Judge made a mockery of the judicial process as it
is obvious that he had displayed a special interest in these cases; in fact, he even caused the cases
to be excluded from the raffle. A careful review of the abovementioned petitions will reveal that the
designation "Branch 26," indicating the branch presided over by the respondent Judge, has been
originally typewritten as part of the caption, and not merely entered in the blank space reserved for
the branch to which the case may subsequently be raffled off. It is to be further observed that the
petition in Special Proceeding No. 1965 was subscribed and sworn to before respondent Flores in
her capacity as the Officer-in-Charge of the Office of the Clerk of Court, Branch 26.

Special Proceeding No. 1965 involves a petition for guardianship over the person and property of a
certain Juan R. Lagmay. The said petition was filed by Regina Lagmay Valdez who claims to be a
resident of Poblacion, San Fernando, La Union 3 on 24 September 1990, and alleges that Juan R.
Lagmay is "presently residing at No. 2579 Pamintuan Village, Mabalacat, Pampanga." Upon its filing, the
respondent Judge immediately issued an order (a) giving due course to the petition, (b) directing that
notices be served to Juan Lagmay's nearest of kin, namely Bonifacia Lagmay, Lilia Gumangan and
Mariano Lagmay, all residents of Las-ud, Sta. Cruz, Ilocos Sur and (c) directing the latter to submit their
opposition to the petition, if any, on or before 8 October 1990 at 8:30 a.m. 4 No order setting the case for
hearing at that particular date, time and place was issued. It would appear, however, that this 24
September 1990 order was considered by the respondent Judge as the order setting the case for hearing
on 8 October 1990 because respondent Flores prepared the Minutes of the alleged proceedings conducted on 8 October
1990. 5 The said Minutes show that the following exhibits were offered for jurisdictional purposes,: (1)
Notice of hearing, as Exhibit "A" and (b) the dorsal side of Exhibit "A," purportedly to show that Juan
Lagmay's nearest of kin were furnished with the notice of hearing, as Exhibit "A-1. " Said Minutes further
disclose that the petitioner therein was not assisted by counsel; that respondent Flores acted as
Interpreter while respondent Munar acted as Stenographer; and that since no opposition was filed therein,
the testimony of the petitioner was received. The latter then allegedly declared that she is a resident of
Poblacion, San Fernando, La Union; she is Juan Lagmay's niece as he is her father's brother; and Juan
Lagmay is an American citizen, single, childless, a resident of 2579 Pamintuan Village, Mabalacat,
Pampanga and a retired seaman receiving pension from the Social Security Administration of the United
States of America in the amount of $550.00 a month. Thereafter, the respondent Judge issued an order
appointing petitioner Regina Valdez as the guardian of the person and property of Juan R. Lagmay, and
directing her to take her oath as such upon the filing of a bond of P500.00, after which she would be
issued letters of guardianship. Without the bond having first been filed, however, respondent Flores
administered the oath to Regina Valdez. 6 Thereafter, or on 18 October 1990, respondent Flores issued to
the latter her letters of guardianship. 7

A closer examination of the so-called proofs of notice of hearing to the nearest of kin, consisting
supposedly of "registry return receipts," reveals that there are no entries in the blanks reserved for
information on the name of sender, name of post office, municipality or province where the same
post office is located, registry number and case number. It is not likewise indicated therein when the
addressees received the "registered" letter. In view thereof, the conclusion that the so-called notices
were not sent at all is inevitable.

Respondent Judge knew or ought to have known that his court was not the proper venue for the
case because the person sought to be placed under guardianship was alleged to be a resident of
Mabalacat, Pampanga. Section 1, Rule 92 of the Revised Rules of Court provides that:

Guardianship of the person or estate of a minor or incompetent may be instituted in


the Court of First Instance of the province, or in the justice of the peace court of the
municipality, or in the municipal court of the chartered city where the minor or
incompetent resides,. . . . (emphasis supplied).

Worse, the aforesaid Order of 24 September 1990 did not even direct that notice be served on Juan
Lagmay, the very party sought to be placed under guardianship. Such an omission, therefore, clearly
violated Section 3, Rule 93 of the Revised Rules of Court which directs the court to fix the time and
place for hearing and cause reasonable notice to be given to the person named in the petition,
including the minor if above 14 years of age or the incompetent himself. We have ruled that service
of notice to the minor above 14 years of age or the incompetent is jurisdictional. 8 Failing to have
notice sent to Juan Lagmay, respondent Judge had no jurisdiction to proceed with the hearing on 8
October 1990, receive the petitioner's testimony, if he did at all, and thereafter appoint her as Juan
Lagmay's guardian. Nor was the respondent Judge justified in issuing on 22 January 1990 pursuant to
the petitioner's 17 January 1990 motion 9 an order appointing deputy sheriffs Oscar Fantastico and
Romualdo Baladad as special sheriffs to take custody over the person of Juan Lagmay from one
Florencio "Boy" Cortes of Bolinao, Pangasinan. In the said order, respondent Judge further directed Boy
Cortes "to release from his custody and deliver the person of said Juan R. Lagmay, a.k.a. John R.
Lagmay to the aforementioned special sheriffs immediately upon receipt of this Order, under pain of
contempt." 10 Based on the special sheriffs' report, 11 however, Boy Cortes did not release Juan Lagmay
because the latter was too weak and sickly to travel. This refusal prompted the respondent Judge to order
Boy Cortes' arrest (for contempt) and confinement until he shall have complied with the said order. 12 It
was respondent Flores who forwarded the warrant of arrest to the PNP Regional Command at San
Fernando, La Union for its service. 13

Having acquired no jurisdiction to hear the case and appoint Regina Valdez as Juan Lagmay's
guardian, respondent Judge acted clearly beyond his authority when he designated special sheriffs
to take custody of Juan Lagmay, directed the person who had custody over the latter to deliver him
to the said special sheriffs and ordered the arrest of the said person who refused to surrender
custody. And even if we are to assume, for the sake of argument, that the respondent Judge had
validly acquired jurisdiction over the case and appointed Regina Lagmay as guardian, and that Boy
Cortes did in fact refuse to deliver Juan Lagmay to the special sheriffs, he (respondent Judge) would
still be guilty of gross ignorance of the law for ordering Cortes' arrest and confinement. In such a
situation, the petitioner's remedy would be to file a petition for habeas corpus, and not to have Boy
Cortes cited for contempt, much less arrested.

We shall now focus our attention to Special Proceeding No. 1967. It is very strange proceeding. The
case involves a petition for the "judicial confirmation of the de facto adoption" of Cecilia Averion filed
on 11 October 1990. The petitioner therein alleges that she and her late husband, Fernando Averion
who died in 1987 "adopted" Cecilia Averion in 1967; only 1 year and 3 months old at the time,
Cecilia was supposedly given up by her natural parents, the whereabouts of whom remain unknown.
Petitioner further avers that she and her husband, during his lifetime, reared the child and gave her
all their love, attention, care and understanding. They also provided her with an education and
considered her as their own child. Hence, the petition was filed "for the purpose of judicially
confirming the de facto adoption of Cecilia Averion by herein petitioner and her late husband." 14 The
said petition was not accompanied by the written consent of Cecilia Averion who, at the time of filing, was
already of legal age. On the very day the petition was filed, respondent Judge forthwith issued a Notice of
Hearing which provided that the petition would be heard on 31 October 1990; it was likewise ordered
therein that "a copy of this notice be published once a week for three consecutive weeks at the expense
of the petitioner in a newspaper of general circulation in La Union and in the Philippines." 15

From the so-called Minutes of the proceedings of 31 October 1990, 16 as prepared by respondent,
Flores, it appears that the following exhibits were offered to establish the jurisdiction of the court: (1) the
affidavit of the Editor of the North Tribune, "a newspaper of general circulation in La Union and Northern
Luzon provinces," published in San Fernando, La Union, as Exhibit "A"; (2) clippings of the published
order in the 10, 17 and 24 October 1990 issues of the North Tribune, as Exhibits "A-l," "A-2" and "A-3,"
respectively; and (3) the entire issues of the North Tribune for 10, 17 and 24 October 1990, as Exhibits
"B," "B-1" and "B-2," respectively. It may further be gleaned from the said Minutes that since no opposition
was registered by any other party, the petitioner's testimony was received by the court. On 6 November
1990, the respondent Judge handed down a decision 17 granting the petition and decreeing as follows:

WHEREFORE, this Court hereby approves the petition and hereby confirms the de
facto adoption of Cecilia Averion by herein petitioner and her late spouse Fernando
Averion retroactive to the year 1967.

The remedy pursued in Special Proceeding No. 1967 is certainly unusual as we are not aware of
any prescribed action that may be instituted for the judicial confirmation of a de facto adoption. Nor
do our adjective and substantive laws on adoption provide for such a proceeding. In fact, the only
proper and authorized procedure relative to adoption is outlined in the rule on adoption itself. 18 That
Cecilia Averion had been treated by the petitioner and her husband as their own child during the former's
minority may only provide compelling reasons to grant the decree of adoption notwithstanding her
(Cecilia's) having attained the age of majority. This is one of the exceptions provided by the Family Code
to the rule that a person of legal age cannot be adopted. 19

In "confirming" the so-called de facto adoption and decreeing the same to be "retroactive to the year
1967," respondent Judge has carved a name for himself in history for, as already pointed out, no
action or proceeding for judicial confirmation of a de facto adoption is authorized in this jurisdiction.
Furthermore, by its very nature and purpose, a decree of adoption can never be made to retroact.
Lastly, considering that the petitioner's husband had died in 1987, or three years before the petition
was filed, he could not now be resurrected for purposes of the adoption, be in fact declared an
adopter and be subsequently bound by the decree to the prejudice of his heirs.

Then too, respondent Judge completely disregarded the fact that Cecilia Averion had submitted no
written consent to the adoption at the time of the filing of the petition or at any subsequent date a
manifest infirmity. Nor was Cecilia called to testify in the case. Moreover there seems to be an
irregularity in the publication of the notice of hearing. It is to be observed that as indicated in the
upper right hand corner of the first page of the petition, the proceeding was instituted on 11 October
1990. If this were so, the notice of hearing which was issued by the respondent Judge on that same
date 20 could not have been published in the North Tribune in its 10 October 1990 issue. In his affidavit,
the Editor of the said newspaper disclosed that the notice was indeed published on 10 October 1990.

All told, respondent Judge completely ignored the procedural rules on adoption and promulgated
guidelines for himself to suit his own purpose and design.
Hence, it is evident that Special Proceeding No. 1965 and Special Proceeding No. 1967 were not
only directly filed with the court of the respondent Judge without passing through the raffle
procedure, the two cases were also resolved by the latter in a manner that may be characterized by
gross ignorance or the brazen and blatant disregard of the applicable procedural laws, grave
misconduct, palpable abuse of authority and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
He is therefore unfit to continue in the service a day longer. He has evidently forgotten that the
administration of justice is a sacred task. Upon assumption to office, a judge ceases to be an
ordinary mortal. He becomes "the visible representation of the law and, more importantly, of
justice." 21 A judge must be the embodiment of competence, integrity and independence, 22 and should be
studiously careful to avoid even the slightest infraction of the law, lest it be a demoralizing example to
others. 23

As shown in the above disquisitions, respondent Flores was a willing participant in the commission
of the irregularities in both proceedings. On the other hand, however, respondent Munar's
participation has not been substantiated.

Before closing, we would like to point out that per our Resolution of 2 March 1993, we referred to
Justice De Pano for inclusion in his investigation the 29 January 1993 letter of Executive Judge
Braulio Yaranon which was addressed to Deputy Court Administrator Juanito Bernard. 24 In his letter,
Judge Yaranon informs the latter about matters discovered in the course of the audit which are more
serious than the "illegal raffling" of cases. He then exposes alleged case fixing and illegal office practices
committed on a large scale by a syndicate composed principally of court officers and personnel, and
describes the modus operandi of those involved as follows:

The operation in a particular case, starts with "AMBULANCE CHASING"; after


arrangements are made with a prospective applicant/petitioner, a petition is prepared
by the syndicate; the same is then signed personally by the petitioner/applicant; and
the oath for purposes of verification, is administered also by the syndicate.

The petition/application is then filed with the Office of the Clerk of Court, where
syndicate members receive and docket the case in the docket book of Branch 26; the
case is deliberately separated from the cases that are turned over to the Raffle
Committee, and is directly turned over to Branch 26. Care is taken that the date of
filing is made to coincide with the scheduled day for raffling of cases (Tuesdays).

On the same date of filing, the ORDER setting the case for initial hearing, is issued
by Branch 26. On the date of initial hearing, a lawyer-contact of the syndicate enters
an appearance for the petitioner/applicant, and he then presents jurisdictional facts.

On the very same day of initial hearing (in special proceedings) and without any
ACTUAL HEARING (in special proceedings and land registration cases), for the
reception of evidence on the material allegations of facts in the application/petition, a
DECISION is forthwith issued.

Judge Yaranon then partly concludes:


Just one aspect of the matter is herein submitted for consideration. The issuance of a
DECISION without any previous hearing being held for the reception of evidence by
the applicant/petitioner, constitutes FALSIFICATION OF A PUBLIC DOCUMENT by a
public officer, under Article 171, Revised Penal Code committed by:

2. Causing it to appear that persons have participated in an act or proceeding when


they did not in fact so participate; . . . (par. 2, Art. 171, Revised Penal Code).

According to Justice De Pano, he received the 2 March 1993 Resolution just as he was about to
write his report in this case. He then suggests that the matter subject thereof be treated separately
and that "appropriate, charges be leveled against the respondent Judge principally, and his cohorts
with the Tanod Bayan, for criminal prosecution." 25 Indeed, the referral of Judge Yaranon's letter to
Justice De Pano may have been too late. In any event, the charges proffered therein may be separately
dealt with.

IN THE LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, judgment is hereby rendered:

(1) DISMISSING from the service respondent Judge GENARO C. GINES with
prejudice to re-employment, in the government, including government-owned or
controlled corporations, and with forfeiture of all benefits except earned leave credits.
This dismissal shall be immediately executory and said respondent Judge is hereby
ordered to forthwith vacate his position and desist from performing any further official
function;

(2) SUSPENDING from office respondents MA. GORGONIA L. FLORES and


ALFREDO V. LACSAMANA, JR. for a period of six (6) months each, without pay;

(3) SUSPENDING from office respondent MA. CONCEPCION B. DIAZ, for a period
of three (3) months, without, pay.

The foregoing suspensions shall take effect immediately upon the service of a copy
of this Decision on the aforenamed respondents MA. GORGONIA L. FLORES,
ALFREDO V. LACSAMANA, JR. and MA. CONCEPCION B. DIAZ. The periods of
their respective suspensions shall not be charged against their leave credits, if any;

(4) DISMISSING this case as against respondent PACITA B. DIAZ in view of her
demise; and

(5) DISMISSING this case as against respondent ROSIE M. MUNAR for lack of
substantial evidence.

The Office of the Court Administrator is hereby directed to evaluate the 29 January 1993 letter of
Executive Judge Braulio Yaranon subject of the 2 March 1993 Resolution of this Court in this case
and to submit to this Court appropriate recommendations thereon within fifteen (15) days from
receipt of a copy of this Decision.
SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C.J., Cruz, Feliciano, Padilla, Bidin, Grio-Aquino, Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Nocon,
Melo and Quiason, JJ., concur.

Bellosillo, J., took no part.

2. G.R. No. 97906 May 21, 1992

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner,


vs.
COURT OF APPEALS and MAXIMO WONG, respondents.

Public Attorney's Office for private respondent.

REGALADO, J.:

Petitioner seeks to set aside the judgment of respondent Court of


Appeals 1 in affirmance of the decision of the court a quo 2 granting the petition filed by herein private
respondent Maximo Wong for the change of his name to Maximo Alcala, Jr. which was his name prior to
his adoption by Hoong Wong and Concepcion Ty Wong.

The facts are undisputed. Private respondent Maximo Wong is the legitimate son of Maximo Alcala,
Sr. and Segundina Y. Alcala. When he was but two and a half years old and then known as Maximo
Alcala, Jr., and his sister Margaret Alcala, was then nine years old, they were, with the consent of
their natural parents 3 and by order of the court in Special Case No. 593 4 issued on September 9, 1967,
adopted by spouses Hoong Wong and Concepcion Ty Wong, both naturalized Filipinos. Hoong Wong,
now deceased, was an insurance agent while Concepcion Ty Wong was a high school teacher. They
decided to adopt the children as they remained childless after fifteen years of marriage. The couples
showered their adopted children with parental love and reared them as their own children.

Upon reaching the age of twenty-two, herein private respondent, by then married and a junior
Engineering student at Notre Dame University, Cotabato City, filed a petition to change his name to
Maximo Alcala, Jr. It was averred that his use of the surname Wong embarrassed and isolated him
from his relatives and friends, as the same suggests a Chinese ancestry when in truth and in fact he
is a Muslim Filipino residing in a Muslim community, and he wants to erase any implication
whatsoever of alien nationality; that he is being ridiculed for carrying a Chinese surname, thus
hampering his business and social life; and that his adoptive mother does not oppose his desire to
revert to his former surname.

As earlier stated, on July 2, 1986, the matter was resolved in favor of private respondent, the trial
court decreeing that, the jurisdictional requirements having been fully complied with, petitioner's
prayer to change his name from Maximo Wong to Maximo Alcala, Jr. was granted. 5 On appeal to
respondent court, and over the opposition of petitioner Republic through the Solicitor General, the
decision of the court below was affirmed in full, hence, this petition for review on certiorari.

The lone issue to be settled is whether or not the reasons given by private respondent in his petition
for change of name are valid, sufficient and proper to warrant the granting of said petition.

The Solicitor General contends that private respondent's allegations of ridicule and/or isolation from
family and friends were unsubstantiated and cannot justify the petition for change of name. He
claims that for private respondent to cast aside the name of his adoptive father is crass ingratitude to
the memory of the latter and to his adoptive mother who is still alive, despite her consent to the
petition for change of name. Further, the Solicitor General posits that the reversion of Maximo Wong
to his old name violates Articles 341 and 365 of the Civil Code, which requires an adopted child to
use the surname of the adopter, and would identify him with his parents by nature, thus giving the
impression that he has severed his relationship with his adoptive parents. 6

In refutation, private respondent argues that he did as the law required, that is, upon adoption he
used the surname of the adopter. However, being already emancipated, he can now decide what is
best for and by himself. It is at this time that he realized that the Chinese name he carries causes
him undue ridicule and embarrassment and affects his business and social life. In fact, his adoptive
mother, being aware of his predicament, gave her consent to the petition for change of name, albeit
making it clear that the same shall in no way affect the legal adoption, and even underwent the
rigors of trial to substantiate her sworn statement. If his adoptive mother does not take offense nor
feel any resentment, abhorrence or insecurity about his desire to change his name, private
respondent avers that there can be no possible prejudice on her, much less the State. 7

We feel that we should preface our review of this case with a clear comprehension of the legal
significance of a person's name. 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 be 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, of in speaking of or dealing with him. 8 Names are used merely as one method of indicating
the identity of persons; they are descriptive of persons for identification, since, the identity is the essential thing and it has frequently been
9
held that, when identity is certain, a variance in, or misspelling of, the name is immaterial.

The names of individuals usually have two parts: the given name 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 baptism,
to distinguish him from other individuals. The name 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. 10

A name is said to have the following characteristics: (1) It is absolute, intended to protect the
individual from being confused with others. (2) It is obligatory in certain respects, for nobody can be
without a name. (3) It is fixed, unchangeable, or immutable, at least at the start, and may be
changed only for good cause and by judicial proceedings. (4) It is outside the commerce of man,
and, therefore, inalienable and intransmissible by act inter vivos or mortis causa. (5) It is
imprescriptible. 11
Title XIII, Book I of the Civil Code, in Articles 364 to 380, provides the substantive rules which
regulate the use of surnames. Considering the subject and personalities involved in this present
review, particular attention must be called to Article 365 which mandates that "(a)n adopted child
shall bear the surname of the adopter," in correlation with Article 341 on the effects of adoption,
among which is to"(e)ntitle the adopted person to use the adopter's surname." This same entitlement
of an adopted child is maintained in Article 39(3), Title II of Presidential Decree No. 603, otherwise
known as the Child and Youth Welfare Code. More recently, Executive Order No. 209, as amended
by Executive Order No. 227, or the Family Code, echoes the same statutory right of an adopted child
to use the surname of the adopter. 12 Clearly, from the very wordings of the law, it may be inferred that
this use of the surname of the adopter by the adopted child is both an obligation and a right.

Under Article 376 by the Civil Code, "(n)o person can change his name or surname without judicial
authority." The application for change of name thereunder involves a special proceeding governed
by and conducted under the strictures of Rule 103 of the Rules of Court and one which involves
substantial changes, with the declared objective of such judicial proceedings being the prevention of
fraud. The purpose of the statutory procedure authorizing a change of personal name is simply to
have, wherever possible, a record of the change, and in keeping with the object of the statute, court
to which application is made should normally make its decree recording such change of name. 13

A change of name is a special proceeding to establish the status of a person involving his relation
with others, that is, his legal position in, or with regard to, the rest of the community. It is a
proceeding in rem 14 and, as such, strict compliance with all jurisdictional requirements, particularly on
publication, is essential in order to vest the court with jurisdiction thereover. 15 For this purpose, the only
name that may be changed is the true or official name recorded in the civil register. 16

To digress a little for purposes of clarification, the change of name contemplated under Article 376
and reglementarily implemented by Rule 103 must not be confused with and cannot be effected
through the summary proceeding proposed in Article 412 of the some Code, as procedurally
regulated by Rule 108 of the Rules, which refers only to correction of clerical errors, such as those
which are visible to the eye or obvious to the understanding, or an error made by a clerk or
transcriber, or a mistake in copying or writing, or some harmless or innocuous change, 17 and not
those which will involve substantial changes. 18

Turning now to the case at bar, we are guided by the jurisprudential dictum that the State has an
interest in the names borne by individuals and entities for the purpose of identification, and a change
of name is not a matter of right but of sound judicial discretion, to be exercised in the light of reasons
adduced and the consequences that will likely follow; 19 it is a privilege which may be granted only upon
a showing of a proper or reasonable cause or compelling reason therefor. 20

We find unacceptable the assertion of the Solicitor General that private respondent's allegation of
ridicule and embarrassment due to the use of his present surname is unsubstantiated.

The testimony of private respondent in the lower court bears out the existence of valid cause in his
bid for change of name:

ATTY. DUMAMBA:
Q Now, after adoption, when you went to school, what did you use as
your surname?

A "Wong," sir.

Q Now, after you adopted the surname "Wong?" in your studies, what
did you observe?

A I observed that "Wong" as a surname embarrassed me to my


friends and when I go with Chinese friends I cannot talk Chinese. I
am living in Campo Muslim, a Muslim community but no one can
believe that I am Muslim. I have a little business of Furniture but I
have little (sic) customer because no one believes me that I am
Muslim.

Q You want to inform this Honorable Court that this family name you
are using which is "Wong" embarrassed you from (sic) your friends
and relatives and also cause(d) damage to your business?

A Yes sir.

xxx xxx xxx

ATTY. DUMAMBA:

Q Now, considering that according to you, you are embarrassed


because of the family name you are using, your friends shy away
from you and it is a handicap in your business, what is your desire for
the Court to do in order to help you?

A Change my family name.

Q From "Wong" to what do you want your surname changed?

A "Alcala, Jr.", sir.

xxx xxx xxx

COURT:

Q What is your purpose in changing your family name from Maximo


Wong to Maximo Alcala, Jr.?

A I feel embarrassed to my friends and also to my relatives and as I


said I have a little business of furniture and only a few customers
buying for the fact that they don't believe I am Muslim.
Cross.
ATTY. SERO:

With the permission of the Honorable Court.

Q Your father's name is Maximo Alcala, Sr., is he still alive?

A Yes, sir.

Q And what does your father say to this proposed changed (sic) of
your name, your family name to your real family name given to you?

A Yes, sir.

Q They have no objection to it?

A No, sir.

Q Stated before this Honorable Court, the purpose why you wanted
to change your name from "Wong" to "Alcala" is so that to avoid
embarrassment because you are a Muslim and your Muslim relatives
think that you are Chinese.

A Yes, sir.

Q Not for the purpose to hide anything or what not?

A No, sir. 21

The foregoing testimony of private respondent is materially corroborated by the testimony of private
respondent's adoptive mother:

Q Now, what did you observe to (sic) your son Maximo Wong after
you and your husband adopted him?

A When I adopted him and he used the surname "Wong" I observed


that some of his relatives, cousins and friends seem to shy away from
him and despise him in school that is why I agreed to change his
name. 22

We uphold these observations in the decision of respondent appellate court:

The purpose of the law an allowing of change of name as contemplated by the


provisions of Rule 103 of the Rules of Court is to give a person an opportunity to
improve his personality and to provide his best interest. (Calderon vs. Republic, 19
SCRA 721). In granting or denying the petition for change of name, the question of
proper and reasonable cause is left to the discretion of the court. The evidence
presented need only be satisfactory to the court and not all the best evidence
available is required. (Uy vs. Republic, L-22712, Nov. 25, 1965; Nacionales vs.
Republic,
L-18067, April 29, 1966; both cases cited in 1 SCRA 843). In the present case, We
believe that the court a quo had exercised its discretion judiciously when it granted
the petition.

From the testimony of petitioner-appellee and of his adopter mother Concepcion Ty-
Wong, We discern that said appellee was prompted to file the petition for change of
name because of the embarrassment and ridicule his family name "Wong" brings in
his dealings with his relatives and friends, he being a Muslim Filipino and living in a
Muslim community. Another cause is his desire to improve his social and business
life. It has been held that in the absence of prejudice to the state or any individual, a
sincere desire to adopt a Filipino name to erase signs of a former alien nationality
which only hamper(s) social and business life, is a proper and reasonable cause for
change of name (Uy vs. Republic, L-22712, Nov. 25, 1965, Que Liong Sian vs.
Republic, L-23167, Aug. 17, 1967, 20 SCRA 1074). Justice dictates that a person
should be allowed to improve his social standing as long as in doing so, he does not
cause prejudice or injury to the interest of the State or other persons (Calderon vs.
Republic, supra). Nothing whatsoever is shown in the record of this case that such
prejudice or injury to the interest of the state or of other persons would result in the
change of petitioner's name. 23

It bears stressing at this point that to justify a request for change of name, petitioner must show not
only some proper or compelling reason therefor but also that he will be prejudiced by the use of his
true and official name. 24Among the grounds for change of name which have been held valid are: (a)
When the name is ridiculous, dishonorable or extremely difficult to write or pronounce; (b) When the
change results as a legal consequence, as in legitimation; (c) When the change will avoid confusion; 25 (d)
Having continuously used and been known since childhood by a Filipino name, unaware of her alien
parentage; 26 (e) A sincere desire to adopt a Filipino name to erase signs of former alienage, all in good
faith and without prejudicing anybody; 27 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. 28

In granting or denying petitions for change of name, the question of proper and reasonable cause is
left to the sound discretion of the court. The evidence presented need only be satisfactory to the
court and not all the best evidence available. 29 Summarizing, in special proceedings for change of
name, what is involved is not a mere matter of allowance or disallowance of the request, but a judicious
evaluation of the sufficiency and propriety of the justifications advanced in support thereof, mindful of the
consequent results in the event of its grant and with the sole prerogative for making such determination
being lodged in the courts.

While it is true that the statutory fiat under Article 365 of the Civil Code is to the effect that an
adopted child shall bear the surname of the adopter, it must nevertheless be borne in mind that the
change of the surname of the adopted child is more an incident rather than the object of adoption
proceedings. 30 The act of adoption fixes a status, viz., that of parent and child. More technically, it is an
act by which relations of paternity and affiliation are recognized as legally existing between persons not
so related by nature. It has been defined as the taking into one's family of the child of another as son or
daughter and heir and conferring on it a title to the rights and privileges of such. The purpose of an
adoption proceeding is to effect this new status of relationship between the child and its adoptive parents,
the change of name which frequently accompanies adoption being more an incident than the object of the
proceeding. 31 The welfare of the child is the primary consideration in the determination of an application
for adoption. On this point, there is unanimous agreement. 32

It is the usual effect of a decree of adoption to transfer from the natural parents to the adoptive
parents the custody of the child's person, the duty of obedience owing by the child, and all other
legal consequences and incidents of the natural relation, in the same manner as if the child had
been born of such adoptive parents in lawful wedlock, subject, however, to such limitations and
restrictions as may be by statute imposed. 33 More specifically under the present state of our law, the
Family Code, superseding the pertinent provisions of the Civil Code and of the Child and Youth Welfare
Code on the matter, 34 relevantly provides in this wise with regard to the issue involved in this case:

Art. 189. Adoption shall have the following effects:

(1) For civil purposes, the adopted shall be deemed to be the 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; (Emphasis supplied.)

xxx xxx xxx

The Solicitor General maintains the position that to sustain the change of name would run counter to
the behest of Article 365 of the Civil Code and the ruling in Manuel vs. Republic 35 that "one should not
be allowed to use a surname which otherwise he is not permitted to employ under the law," and would set
a bad example to other persons who might also seek a change of their surnames on lame excuses. 36

While we appreciate the Solicitor General's apprehensions and concern, we find the same to be
unfounded. We do not believe that by reverting to his old name, private respondent would then be
using a name which he is prohibited by law from using. True, the law prescribes the surname that a
person may employ; but the law does not go so far as to unqualifiedly prohibit the use of any other
surname, and only subjects such recourse to the obtention of the requisite judicial sanction. What
the law does not prohibit, it permits.

If we were to follow the argument of the Solicitor General to its conclusion, then there will never be
any possibility or occasion for any person, regardless of status, to change his name, in view of the
supposed subsequent violation of the legal imperative on the use of surnames in the event that the
petition is granted. Rule 103 of the Rules of Court would then be rendered inutile. This could hardly
have been the intendment of the law.

A petition for change of name is a remedy allowed under our law only by way of exception to the
mandatory provisions of the Civil Code on the use of surnames. The law fixes the surname that may
be used by a person, at least inceptively, and it may be changed only upon judicial permission
granted in the exercise of sound discretion. Section 1 of Rule 103, in specifying the parties who may
avail of said remedy, uses the generic term "persons" to signify all natural persons regardless of
status. If a legitimate person may, under certain judicially accepted exceptional circumstances,
petition the court for a change of name, we do not see any legal basis or logic in discriminating
against the availment of such a remedy by an adopted child. In other words, Article 365 is not an
exception, much less can it bar resort, to Rule 103.

We are of the view that the circumstances herein obtaining are within the ambit of the established
exceptions and find merit in private respondent's submission:

Rule 103 of the Rules of Court has its primordial purpose which (State) is to give a
person in opportunity to improve his personality and provide his best interest
(Calderon vs. Republic, 19 SCRA 721). In the instant case, the court a quo found the
petition of Maximo Wong for change of name justifiable after due hearing, thus its
factual findings and appreciation of testimonies count heavily and need not be
disturbed unless for strong and cogent reasons because the trial court is in a better
position to examine real evidence as well as to observe the demeanor of the
witnesses while testifying in the case (Baliwag Transit, Inc. vs. CA, 147 SCRA 82).
Moreover, the trial court could take judicial notice of other existing factors in the
community where herein respondent lives which it considers material in its judicious
determination of the case. . . .

Additionally, herein respondent is already of age and as such he can decide what is
best for him. His experience with regards (sic) his social and business dealings is
personal and it is only him (sic) who can attest to the same. Finding his
predicament's proper remedy is solely through legal process, herein respondent
accordingly filed a petition pursuant to Rule 103 of the Rules of Court which was
granted by the Court a quo. 37

Besides, we have faith in the circumspection of our lower courts and that, in the exercise of their
discretion, said courts shall consider petitions for change of name only on cogent and meritorious
grounds as would justify the granting of such applications. We do not expect our trial courts to cater
or give in to the whim or caprice of an applicant, aside from the fact that there is always the
safeguard and corrective interdiction of appellate review.

It is not fair to construe the desired reversion of private respondent to the use of the name of his
parents by nature as cross ingratitude. To go by the Solicitor General's suggestion that private
respondent should have his adoption revoked if he wants to use the surname of his natural father
would be to exact too clear a toll for making use of an appropriate and valid remedy available under
the law.

Herein private respondent, before he filed the petition for change of name, asked for his adoptive
mother's permission to do so:

Q Now, in filing this petition for change of surname, you had talked
with your adopted mother?
A Yes, sir.

Q Did you ask permission from her whether she wants you to change
the surname?

A Yes, sir. 38

True enough, the above testimony of private respondent was confirmed by his adoptive mother in
this manner:

Q How are you related to Maximo Wong?

A My adopted son.

Q He is your adopted son, did your son talk to you when he filed this
petition for change of his surname?

A Yes, he even tried to ask me and I said, alright if you want to


change.

xxx xxx xxx

Q Now, when you agreed to the filing of this petition for change of
name, did you reduce your consent in writing?

A Yes, sir, I agreed also so that his business will prosper because
he is already Alcila and not Wong because Wong they said is
Chinese. 39

As proof of her assent to the filing of said petition (her husband having already passed away),
Concepcion Ty Vda. de Wong executed an affidavit in Cotabato City on May 27, 1985, with these
textual declarations:

That I am the same and identical person, who is the surviving adapted (sic) parent of
Maximo Wong.

That I personally discovered it myself from the time my adapted (sic) son Maximo
used the surname of my late husband Wong, his relatives and childhood friends shy
away from him because he is branded as a son of a chinese which is different from
them whose parents are muslim Filipinos;

That I pity my son who is often rediculed (sic) by his friends and relatives because of
his family name Wong, hence, in order not to humper (sic) his social and business
life in the future, I am voluntarily and of my own free will without being forced,
coerced, or intimidated give (sic) my consent to his desire to change his desire to
change his surname without affecting however the legal adoption granted by the
Court on September 9, 1967, making him as one of my legal and compulsory heir
(sic).

That I am executing this affidavit to attest to the truth of all the above mentioned facts
and for all legal intent (sic) and purposes. 40

There could be no other plausible reason for private respondent to first secure has adoptive mother's
consent before resorting to the questioned legal recourse other than the parental respect and
reverence which is owed by and to be expected of a dutiful child. If private respondent was such an
ingrate, as the Solicitor General would have us believe, he would not have bothered to seek his
adoptive mother's counsel. In the same breath, had his adoptive mother regarded him as an
ungrateful adoptee, she would not have executed the affidavit above quoted, much less testify in his
behalf at the hearing of his petition.

Moreover, worthy of note is the fact that private respondent's adoptive mother emphasized that she
executed the above affidavit "without affecting the legal adoption granted by the Court on September
9, 1967, making him as one of my legal and compulsory heir(s)." This is incontrovertible proof that
she never entertained any misgivings or reservations with respect to her consent to his petition. This
likewise dispels any possible confusion as to private respondent's legal status or adoptive paternity
and his successional rights. Concordantly, we have heretofore held that a change of name does not
define or effect a change in one's existing family relations or in the rights and duties flowing
therefrom. It does not alter one's legal capacity, civil status or citizenship; what is altered is only the
name. 41

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED and the decision of respondent Court of Appeals is hereby
AFFIRMED in toto.

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C.J., Paras, Padilla and Nocon, JJ., concur.

3. G.R. No. 148311. March 31, 2005

IN THE MATTER OF THE ADOPTION OF STEPHANIE NATHY ASTORGA GARCIA

HONORATO B. CATINDIG, petitioner.

DECISION

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 petition1 to adopt his minor
illegitimate child Stephanie Nathy Astorga Garcia. He alleged therein, among others, that
Stephanie was born on June 26, 1994;2 that her mother is Gemma Astorga Garcia; that Stephanie
has been using her mothers middle name and surname; and that he is now a widower and qualified
to be her adopting parent. He prayed that Stephanies middle name Astorga be changed to "Garcia,"
her mothers 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 petitioners 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 petitioners 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.

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 petitioners 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
mothers 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 Stephanies 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 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
surname10 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.

xxx

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 Junior 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.

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 17611 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 mothers 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 mothers 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 childs mother as his middle name. In the Minutes of the Joint 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

"Justice Caguioa commented that there is a difference between the use by the wife of the surname
and that of the child because the fathers surname indicates the family to which he belongs, for
which reason he would insist on the use of the fathers surname by the child but that, if he
wants to, the child may also use the surname of the mother.

Justice Puno posed the question: If the child chooses to use the surname of the mother, how will his
name be written? Justice 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 Justice Caguioas point is covered by the present Article 364, which
reads:

Legitimate and legitimated children shall principally use the surname of the father.

Justice 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 Enriles
correct surname is Ponce since the mothers surname is Enrile but everybody calls him Atty. Enrile.
Justice Jose Gutierrez Davids family name is Gutierrez and his mothers surname is David but they
all call him Justice 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 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.

xxx

Justice Puno remarked that there is logic in the simplification suggested by Justice 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.

xxx

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."13Again, 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 18921 of the Family Code and Section 1722 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, 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, Stephanies continued use of her mothers 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 1824, 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 Jose, 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 mothers
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 mothers 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 mothers 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.

4. G.R. No. 143989 July 14, 2003

ISABELITA S. LAHOM, petitioner,


vs.
JOSE MELVIN SIBULO (previously referred to as "DR. MELVIN S. LAHOM"), respondent.

VITUG, J.:

The bliss of marriage and family would be to most less than complete without children. The
realization could have likely prodded the spouses Dr. Diosdado Lahom and Isabelita Lahom to take
into their care Isabelita's nephew Jose Melvin Sibulo and to bring him up as their own. At the tender
age of two, Jose Melvin enjoyed the warmth, love and support of the couple who treated the child
like their own. Indeed, for years, Dr. and Mrs. Lahom fancied on legally adopting Jose Melvin. Finally,
in 1971, the couple decided to file a petition for adoption. On 05 May 1972, an order granting the
petition was issued that made all the more intense than before the feeling of affection of the spouses
for Melvin. In keeping with the court order, the Civil Registrar of Naga City changed the name "Jose
Melvin Sibulo" to "Jose Melvin Lahom."

A sad turn of events came many years later. Eventually, in December of 1999, Mrs. Lahom
commenced a petition to rescind the decree of adoption before the Regional Trial Court (RTC),
Branch 22, of Naga City. In her petition, she averred

"7. That x x x despite the proddings and pleadings of said spouses, respondent refused to
change his surname from Sibulo to Lahom, to the frustrations of petitioner particularly her
husband until the latter died, and even before his death he had made known his desire to
revoke respondent's adoption, but was prevented by petitioner's supplication, however with
his further request upon petitioner to give to charity whatever properties or interest may
pertain to respondent in the future.

xxx xxx xxx

"10. That respondent continued using his surname Sibulo to the utter disregard of the
feelings of herein petitioner, and his records with the Professional Regulation Commission
showed his name as Jose Melvin M. Sibulo originally issued in 1978 until the present, and in
all his dealings and activities in connection with his practice of his profession, he is Jose
Melvin M. Sibulo.

xxx xxx xxx

"13. That herein petitioner being a widow, and living alone in this city with only her household
helps to attend to her, has yearned for the care and show of concern from a son, but
respondent remained indifferent and would only come to Naga to see her once a year.

"14. That for the last three or four years, the medical check-up of petitioner in Manila became
more frequent in view of a leg ailment, and those were the times when petitioner would need
most the care and support from a love one, but respondent all the more remained callous
and utterly indifferent towards petitioner which is not expected of a son.

"15. That herein respondent has recently been jealous of petitioner's nephews and nieces
whenever they would find time to visit her, respondent alleging that they were only motivated
by their desire for some material benefits from petitioner.

"16. That in view of respondent's insensible attitude resulting in a strained and uncomfortable
relationship between him and petitioner, the latter has suffered wounded feelings, knowing
that after all respondent's only motive to his adoption is his expectancy of his alleged rights
over the properties of herein petitioner and her late husband, clearly shown by his recent
filing of Civil Case No. 99-4463 for partition against petitioner, thereby totally eroding her love
and affection towards respondent, rendering the decree of adoption, considering respondent
to be the child of petitioner, for all legal purposes, has been negated for which reason there
is no more basis for its existence, hence this petition for revocation," 1

Prior to the institution of the case, specifically on 22 March 1998, Republic Act (R.A.) No. 8552, also
known as the Domestic Adoption Act, went into effect. The new statute deleted from the law the right
of adopters to rescind a decree of adoption.

Section 19 of Article VI of R.A. No. 8552 now reads:

"SEC. 19. Grounds for Rescission of Adoption. Upon petition of the adoptee, with the
assistance of the Department if a minor or if over eighteen (18) years of age but is
incapacitated, as guardian/counsel, the adoption may be rescinded on any of the following
grounds committed by the adopter(s): (a) repeated physical and verbal maltreatment by the
adopter(s) despite having undergone counseling; (b) attempt on the life of the adoptee; (c)
sexual assault or violence; or (d) abandonment and failure to comply with parental
obligations.

"Adoption, being in the best interest of the child, shall not be subject to rescission by the
adopter(s). However, the adopter(s) may disinherit the adoptee for causes provided in Article
919 of the Civil Code." (emphasis supplied)
Jose Melvin moved for the dismissal of the petition, contending principally (a) that the trial court had
no jurisdiction over the case and (b) that the petitioner had no cause of action in view of the
aforequoted provisions of R.A. No. 8552. Petitioner asseverated, by way of opposition, that the
proscription in R.A. No. 8552 should not retroactively apply, i.e., to cases where the ground for
rescission of the adoption vested under the regime of then Article 3482of the Civil Code and Article
1923 of the Family Code.

In an order, dated 28 April 2000, the trial court held thusly:

"On the issue of jurisdiction over the subject matter of the suit, Section 5(c) of R.A. No. 8369
confers jurisdiction to this Court, having been designated Family Court in A.M. No. 99-11-07
SC.

"On the matter of no cause of action, the test on the sufficiency of the facts alleged in the
complaint, is whether or not, admitting the facts alleged, the Court could render a valid
judgment in accordance with the prayer of said complaint (De Jesus, et al. vs. Belarmino, et
al., 95 Phil. 365).

"Admittedly, Section 19, Article VI of R.A. No. 8552 deleted the right of an adopter to rescind
an adoption earlier granted under the Family Code. Conformably, on the face of the petition,
indeed there is lack of cause of action.

"Petitioner however, insists that her right to rescind long acquired under the provisions of the
Family Code should be respected. Assuming for the sake of argument, that petitioner is
entitled to rescind the adoption of respondent granted on May 5, 1972, said right should
have been exercised within the period allowed by the Rules. From the averments in the
petition, it appears clear that the legal grounds for the petition have been discovered and
known to petitioner for more than five (5) years, prior to the filing of the instant petition on
December 1, 1999, hence, the action if any, had already prescribed. (Sec. 5, Rule 100
Revised Rules of Court)

"WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing consideration, the petition is ordered dismissed." 4

Via a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Court, petitioner raises the
following questions; viz:

1. May the subject adoption, decreed on 05 May 1972, still be revoked or rescinded by an
adopter after the effectivity of R.A. No. 8552?

2. In the affirmative, has the adopter's action prescribed?

A brief background on the law and its origins could provide some insights on the subject. In ancient
times, the Romans undertook adoption to assure male heirs in the family.5 The continuity of the
adopter's family was the primary purpose of adoption and all matters relating to it basically focused
on the rights of the adopter. There was hardly any mention about the rights of the
adopted.6 Countries, like Greece, France, Spain and England, in an effort to preserve inheritance
within the family, neither allowed nor recognized adoption. 7 It was only much later when adoption
was given an impetus in law and still later when the welfare of the child became a paramount
concern.8 Spain itself which previously disfavored adoption ultimately relented and accepted the
Roman law concept of adoption which, subsequently, was to find its way to the archipelago. The
Americans came and introduced their own ideas on adoption which, unlike most countries in Europe,
made the interests of the child an overriding consideration.9 In the early part of the century just
passed, the rights of children invited universal attention; the Geneva Declaration of Rights of the
Child of 1924 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, 10 followed by the United
Nations Declarations of the Rights of the Child,11 were written instruments that would also protect
and safeguard the rights of adopted children. The Civil Code of the Philippines 12 of 1950 on adoption,
later modified by the Child and Youth Welfare Code13 and then by the Family Code of the
Philippines,14gave immediate statutory acknowledgment to the rights of the adopted. In 1989, the
United Nations initiated the Convention of the Rights of the Child. The Philippines, a State Party to
the Convention, accepted the principle that adoption was impressed with social and moral
responsibility, and that its underlying intent was geared to favor the adopted child. R.A. No. 8552
secured these rights and privileges for the adopted. Most importantly, it affirmed the legitimate status
of the adopted child, not only in his new family but also in the society as well. The new law withdrew
the right of an adopter to rescind the adoption decree and gave to the adopted child the sole right to
sever the legal ties created by adoption.

Petitioner, however, would insist that R.A. No. 8552 should not adversely affect her right to annul the
adoption decree, nor deprive the trial court of its jurisdiction to hear the case, both being vested
under the Civil Code and the Family Code, the laws then in force.

The concept of "vested right" is a consequence of the constitutional guaranty of due process 15 that
expresses a present fixed interest which in right reason and natural justice is protected against
arbitrary state action;16 it includes not only legal or equitable title to the enforcement of a demand but
also exemptions from new obligations created after the right has become vested. 17 Rights are
considered vested when the right to enjoyment is a present interest, 18 absolute, unconditional, and
perfect19 or fixed and irrefutable.

In Republic vs. Court of Appeals,20 a petition to adopt Jason Condat was filed by Zenaida C. Bobiles
on 02 February 1988 when the Child and Youth Welfare Code (Presidential Decree No. 603) allowed
an adoption to be sought by either spouse or both of them. After the trial court had rendered its
decision and while the case was still pending on appeal, the Family Code of the Philippines
(Executive Order No. 209), mandating joint adoption by the husband and wife, took effect. Petitioner
Republic argued that the case should be dismissed for having been filed by Mrs. Bobiles alone and
without being joined by the husband. The Court concluded that the jurisdiction of the court is
determined by the statute in force at the time of the commencement of the action. The petition to
adopt Jason, having been filed with the court at the time when P.D. No. 603 was still in effect, the
right of Mrs. Bobiles to file the petition, without being joined by her husband, according to the Court
had become vested. In Republic vs. Miller,21 spouses Claude and Jumrus Miller, both aliens, sought
to adopt Michael Madayag. On 29 July 1988, the couple filed a petition to formalize Michael's
adoption having theretofore been taken into their care. At the time the action was commenced, P.D.
No. 603 allowed aliens to adopt. After the decree of adoption and while on appeal before the Court
of Appeals, the Family Code was enacted into law on 08 August 1988 disqualifying aliens from
adopting Filipino children. The Republic then prayed for the withdrawal of the adoption decree. In
discarding the argument posed by the Republic, the Supreme Court ruled that the controversy
should be resolved in the light of the law governing at the time the petition was filed.

It was months after the effectivity of R.A. No. 8552 that herein petitioner filed an action to revoke the
decree of adoption granted in 1975. By then, the new law,22 had already abrogated and repealed the
right of an adopter under the Civil Code and the Family Code to rescind a decree of adoption.
Consistently with its earlier pronouncements, the Court should now hold that the action for rescission
of the adoption decree, having been initiated by petitioner after R.A. No. 8552 had come into force,
no longer could be pursued.

Interestingly, even before the passage of the statute, an action to set aside the adoption is subject to
the five-year bar rule under Rule 10023 of the Rules of Court and that the adopter would lose the right
to revoke the adoption decree after the lapse of that period. The exercise of the right within a
prescriptive period is a condition that could not fulfill the requirements of a vested right entitled to
protection. It must also be acknowledged that a person has no vested right in statutory
privileges.24 While adoption has often been referred to in the context of a "right," the privilege to
adopt is itself not naturally innate or fundamental but rather a right merely created by statute. 25 It is a
privilege that is governed by the state's determination on what it may deem to be for the best interest
and welfare of the child.26 Matters relating to adoption, including the withdrawal of the right of an
adopter to nullify the adoption decree, are subject to regulation by the State. 27 Concomitantly, a right
of action given by statute may be taken away at anytime before it has been exercised. 28

While R.A. No. 8552 has unqualifiedly withdrawn from an adopter a consequential right to rescind
the adoption decree even in cases where the adoption might clearly turn out to be undesirable, it
remains, nevertheless, the bounden duty of the Court to apply the law. Dura lex sed lex would be the
hackneyed truism that those caught in the law have to live with. It is still noteworthy, however, that an
adopter, while barred from severing the legal ties of adoption, can always for valid reasons cause the
forfeiture of certain benefits otherwise accruing to an undeserving child. For instance, upon the
grounds recognized by law, an adopter may deny to an adopted child his legitime and, by a will and
testament, may freely exclude him from having a share in the disposable portion of his estate.

WHEREFORE, the assailed judgment of the court a quo is AFFIRMED. No costs.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C .J ., Ynares-Santiago, Carpio and Azcuna, JJ ., concur

5. G.R. No. 164948 June 27, 2006

DIWATA RAMOS LANDINGIN Petitioner,


vs.
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

DECISION
CALLEJO, SR., J.:

Assailed in this petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court is the Decision 1 of
the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 77826 which reversed the Decision2 of the Regional Trial
Court (RTC) of Tarlac City, Branch 63 in Civil Case No. 2733 granting the Petition for Adoption of the
petitioner herein.

The Antecedents

On February 4, 2002, Diwata Ramos Landingin, a citizen of the United States of America (USA), of
Filipino parentage and a resident of Guam, USA, filed a petition 3 for the adoption of minors Elaine
Dizon Ramos who was born on August 31, 1986;4 Elma Dizon Ramos, who was born on September
7, 1987;5 and Eugene Dizon Ramos who was born on August 5, 1989.6 The minors are the natural
children of Manuel Ramos, petitioners brother, and Amelia Ramos.

Landingin, as petitioner, alleged in her petition that when Manuel died on May 19, 1990, 7 the children
were left to their paternal grandmother, Maria Taruc Ramos; their biological mother, Amelia, went to
Italy, re-married there and now has two children by her second marriage and no longer
communicated with her children by Manuel Ramos nor with her in-laws from the time she left up to
the institution of the adoption; the minors are being financially supported by the petitioner and her
children, and relatives abroad; as Maria passed away on November 23, 2000, petitioner desires to
adopt the children; the minors have given their written consent8 to the adoption; she is qualified to
adopt as shown by the fact that she is a 57-year-old widow, has children of her own who are already
married, gainfully employed and have their respective families; she lives alone in her own home in
Guam, USA, where she acquired citizenship, and works as a restaurant server. She came back to
the Philippines to spend time with the minors; her children gave their written consent 9 to the adoption
of the minors. Petitioners brother, Mariano Ramos, who earns substantial income, signified his
willingness and commitment to support the minors while in petitioners custody.

Petitioner prayed that, after due hearing, judgment be rendered in her favor, as follows:

WHEREFORE, it is most respectfully prayed to this Honorable Court that after publication and
hearing, judgment be rendered allowing the adoption of the minor children Elaine Dizon Ramos,
Elma Dizon Ramos, and Eugene Dizon Ramos by the petitioner, and ordering that the minor
childrens name follow the family name of petitioner.

Petitioner prays for such other reliefs, just and equitable under the premises. 10

On March 5, 2002, the court ordered the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to
conduct a case study as mandated by Article 34 of Presidential Decree No. 603, as amended, and to
submit a report thereon not later than April 4, 2002, the date set for the initial hearing of the
petition.11 The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) entered its appearance12 but deputized the City
Prosecutor of Tarlac to appear in its behalf.13Since her petition was unopposed, petitioner was
allowed to present her evidence ex parte.14
The petitioner testified in her behalf. She also presented Elaine Ramos, the eldest of the adoptees,
to testify on the written consent executed by her and her siblings.15 The petitioner marked in
evidence the Affidavit of Consent purportedly executed by her children Ann, Errol, Dennis and Ricfel
Branitley, all surnamed Landingin, and notarized by a notary public in Guam, USA, as proof of said
consent.16

On May 24, 2002, Elizabeth Pagbilao, Social Welfare Officer II of the DSWD, Field Office III, Tarlac,
submitted a Child Study Report, with the following recommendation:

In view of the foregoing, undersigned finds minors Elaine, Elma & Eugene all surnamed Ramos,
eligible for adoption because of the following reasons:

1. Minors surviving parent, the mother has voluntarily consented to their adoption by the
paternal aunt, Diwata Landingin this is in view of her inability to provide the parental care,
guidance and support they need. An Affidavit of Consent was executed by the mother which
is hereto attached.

2. The three minors subject for adoption have also expressed their willingness to be adopted
and joins the petitioners in Guam, USA in the future. A joint Affidavit of consent is hereto
attached. The minors developed close attachment to the petitioners and they regarded her
as second parent.

3. The minors are present under the care of a temporary guardian who has also family to
look after. As young adolescents they really need parental love, care, guidance and support
to ensure their protection and well being.

In view of the foregoing, it is hereby respectfully recommended that minors Elaine D. Ramos, Elma
D. Ramos and Eugene D. Ramos be adopted by their maternal aunt Diwata Landingin. Trial custody
is hereby further recommended to be dispensed with considering that they are close relatives and
that close attachments was already developed between the petitioner and the 3 minors. 17

Pagbilao narrated what transpired during her interview, as follows:

The mother of minors came home together with her son John Mario, this May 2002 for 3 weeks
vacation. This is to enable her appear for the personal interview concerning the adoption of her
children.

The plan for the adoption of minors by their paternal aunt Diwata Landingin was conceived after the
death of their paternal grandmother and guardian. The paternal relatives including the petitioner who
attended the wake of their mother were very much concerned about the well-being of the three
minors. While preparing for their adoption, they have asked a cousin who has a family to stay with
minors and act as their temporary guardian.

The mother of minors was consulted about the adoption plan and after weighing the benefits of
adoption to her children, she voluntarily consented. She realized that her children need parental
love, guidance and support which she could not provide as she already has a second family &
residing in Italy. Knowing also that the petitioners & her children have been supporting her children
up to the present and truly care for them, she believes her children will be in good hands. She also
finds petitioners in a better position to provide a secured and bright future to her children. 18

However, petitioner failed to present Pagbilao as witness and offer in evidence the voluntary consent
of Amelia Ramos to the adoption; petitioner, likewise, failed to present any documentary evidence to
prove that Amelia assents to the adoption.

On November 23, 2002, the court, finding merit in the petition for adoption, rendered a decision
granting said petition. The dispositive portion reads:

WHEREFORE, it is hereby ordered that henceforth, minors Elaine Dizon Ramos, Elma Dizon
Ramos, Eugene Dizon Ramos be freed from all legal obligations obedience and maintenance from
their natural parents and that they be declared for all legal intents and purposes the children of
Diwata Ramos Landingin. Trial custody is dispensed with considering that parent-children
relationship has long been established between the children and the adoptive parents. Let the
surnames of the children be changed from "Dizon-Ramos" to "Ramos-Landingin."

Let a copy of this decision be furnished the Local Civil Registrar of Tarlac, Tarlac for him to effect the
corresponding changes/amendment in the birth certificates of the above-mentioned minors.

SO ORDERED.19

The OSG appealed20 the decision to the Court of Appeals on December 2, 2002. In its brief21 for the
oppositor-appellant, the OSG raised the following arguments:

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GRANTING THE PETITION FOR ADOPTION DESPITE THE LACK
OF CONSENT OF THE PROPOSED ADOPTEES BIOLOGICAL MOTHER.

II

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GRANTING THE PETITION FOR ADOPTION DESPITE THE LACK
OF THE WRITTEN CONSENT OF THE PETITIONERS CHILDREN AS REQUIRED BY LAW.

III

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GRANTING THE PETITION FOR ADOPTION DESPITE
PETITIONERS FAILURE TO ESTABLISH THAT SHE IS IN A POSITION TO SUPPORT THE
PROPOSED ADOPTEES.

On April 29, 2004, the CA rendered a decision22 reversing the ruling of the RTC. It held that petitioner
failed to adduce in evidence the voluntary consent of Amelia Ramos, the childrens natural mother.
Moreover, the affidavit of consent of the petitioners children could not also be admitted in evidence
as the same was executed in Guam, USA and was not authenticated or acknowledged before a
Philippine consular office, and although petitioner has a job, she was not stable enough to support
the children. The dispositive portion of the CA decision reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appealed decision dated November 25, 2002 of the
Regional Trial Court, Branch 63, Tarlac City in Spec. Proc. No. 2733 is hereby REVERSED and SET
ASIDE.

SO ORDERED.23

Petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration24 on May 21, 2004, which the CA denied in its
Resolution dated August 12, 2004.25

Petitioner, thus, filed the instant petition for review on certiorari 26 on September 7, 2004, assigning
the following errors:

1. THAT THE HONORABLE LOWER COURT HAS OVERLOOKED AND MISAPPLIED


SOME FACTS AND CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH ARE OF WEIGHT AND IMPORTANCE AND
WHICH IF CONSIDERED WOULD HAVE AFFECTED THE RESULT OF THE CASE.

2. THAT THE HONORABLE LOWER COURT ERRED IN CONCLUDING THAT THE


PETITIONER-APPELLEE IS NOT FINANCIALLY CAPABLE TO SUPPORT THE THREE
CHILDREN.27

The issues raised by the parties in their pleadings are the following: (a) whether the petitioner is
entitled to adopt the minors without the written consent of their biological mother, Amelia Ramos; (b)
whether or not the affidavit of consent purportedly executed by the petitioner-adopters children
sufficiently complies with the law; and (c) whether or not petitioner is financially capable of
supporting the adoptees.

The Courts Ruling

The petition is denied for lack of merit.

It has been the policy of the Court to adhere to the liberal concept, as stated in Malkinson v.
Agrava,28 that adoption statutes, being humane and salutary, hold the interest and welfare of the
child to be of paramount consideration and are designed to provide homes, parental care and
education for unfortunate, needy or orphaned children and give them the protection of society and
family in the person of the adopter as well as to allow childless couples or persons to experience the
joys of parenthood and give them legally a child in the person of the adopted for the manifestation of
their natural parental instincts. Every reasonable intendment should thus be sustained to promote
and fulfill these noble and compassionate objectives of the law.29

However, in Cang v. Court of Appeals,30 the Court also ruled that 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 Courts position should not be misconstrued or
misinterpreted as to extend to inferences beyond the contemplation of law and jurisprudence. Thus,
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. 31

Section 9 of Republic Act No. 8552, otherwise known as the Domestic Adoption Act of 1998,
provides:

Sec. 9. Whose Consent is Necessary to the Adoption. - After being properly counseled and informed
of his/her right to give or withhold his/her approval of the adoption, the written consent of the
following to the adoption is hereby required:

(a) The adoptee, if ten (10) years of age or over;

(b) The biological parent(s) of the child, if known, or the legal guardian, or the proper
government instrumentality which has legal custody of the child;

(c) The legitimate and adopted sons/daughters, ten (10) years of age or over, of the
adopter(s) and adoptee, if any;

(d) The illegitimate sons/daughters, ten (10) years of age or over, of the adopter, if living with
said adopter and the latters souse, if any;

(e) The spouse, if any, of the person adopting or to be adopted.

The general requirement of consent and notice to the natural parents is intended to protect the
natural parental relationship from unwarranted interference by interlopers, and to insure the
opportunity to safeguard the best interests of the child in the manner of the proposed adoption. 32

Clearly, the written consent of the biological parents is indispensable for the validity of a decree of
adoption. Indeed, the natural right of a parent to his child requires that his consent must be obtained
before his parental rights and duties may be terminated and re-established in adoptive parents. In
this case, petitioner failed to submit the written consent of Amelia Ramos to the adoption.

We note that in her Report, Pagbilao declared that she was able to interview Amelia Ramos who
arrived in the Philippines with her son, John Mario in May 2002. If said Amelia Ramos was in the
Philippines and Pagbilao was able to interview her, it is incredible that the latter would not require
Amelia Ramos to execute a Written Consent to the adoption of her minor children. Neither did the
petitioner bother to present Amelia Ramos as witness in support of the petition.

Petitioner, nonetheless, argues that the written consent of the biological mother is no longer
necessary because when Amelias husband died in 1990, she left for Italy and never came back. The
children were then left to the guidance and care of their paternal grandmother. It is the paternal
relatives, including petitioner, who provided for the childrens financial needs. Hence, Amelia, the
biological mother, had effectively abandoned the children. Petitioner further contends that it was by
twist of fate that after 12 years, when the petition for adoption was pending with the RTC that Amelia
and her child by her second marriage were on vacation in the Philippines. Pagbilao, the DSWD
social worker, was able to meet her, and during the meeting, Amelia intimated to the social worker
that she conformed to the adoption of her three children by the petitioner.

Petitioners contention must be rejected. When she filed her petition with the trial court, Rep. Act No.
8552 was already in effect. Section 9 thereof provides that if the written consent of the biological
parents cannot be obtained, the written consent of the legal guardian of the minors will suffice. If, as
claimed by petitioner, that the biological mother of the minors had indeed abandoned them, she
should, thus have adduced the written consent of their legal guardian.

Ordinarily, abandonment by a parent to justify the adoption of his child without his consent, is a
conduct which evinces a settled purpose to forego all parental duties. 33 The term means neglect and
refusal to perform the filial and legal obligations of love and support. If a parent withholds presence,
love, care, the opportunity to display filial affection, and neglects to lend support and maintenance,
the parent, in effect, abandons the child.34

Merely permitting the child to remain for a time undisturbed in the care of others is not such an
abandonment.35To dispense with the requirement of consent, the abandonment must be shown to
have existed at the time of adoption.36

In this case, petitioner relied solely on her testimony and that of Elaine Ramos to prove her claim
that Amelia Ramos had abandoned her children. Petitioners testimony on that matter follows:

Q Where is the mother of these three children now?

A She left for Italy on November 20, 1990, sir.

Q At the time when Amelia Ramos left for Italy, was there an instance where she communicated with
the family?

A None, sir.

Q How about with her children?

A None, sir.

Q Do you know what place in Italy did she reside?

A I do not know, sir.

Q Did you receive any news about Amelia Ramos?

A What I know, sir, was that she was already married with another man.

Q From whom did you learn that?


A From others who came from Italy, sir.

Q Did you come to know whether she has children by her second marriage?

A Yes, sir, she got two kids.37

Elaine, the eldest of the minors, testified, thus:

Q Where is your mother now?

A In Italy, sir.

Q When did your mother left for Italy?

A After my father died, sir.

Q How old were you when your mother left for Italy in 1990?

A Two years old, sir.

Q At the time when your mother left for Italy, did your mother communicate with you?

A No, sir.38

However, the Home Study Report of the DSWD Social Worker also stated the following:

IV. Background of the Case:

xxxx

Since the mother left for Italy, minors siblings had been under the care and custody of their maternal
grandmother. However, she died in Nov. 2001 and an uncle, cousin of their deceased father now
serves as their guardian. The petitioner, together with her children and other relatives abroad have
been supporting the minor children financially, even during the time that they were still living with
their natural parents. Their mother also sends financial support but very minimal. 39

xxxx

V. Background Information about the Minors Being Sought for Adoption:

xxxx

As the eldest she tries her best to be a role model to her younger siblings. She helps them in their
lessons, works and has fun with them. She also encourages openness on their problems and
concerns and provides petty counseling. In serious problems she already consult (sic) her mother
and petitioner-aunt.40
xxxx

In their 5 years of married life, they begot 3 children, herein minors, Amelia recalled that they had a
happy and comfortable life. After the death of her husband, her in-laws which include the petitioner
had continued providing support for them. However being ashamed of just depending on the support
of her husbands relatives, she decided to work abroad. Her parents are also in need of financial
help as they are undergoing maintenance medication. Her parents mortgaged their farm land which
she used in going to Italy and worked as domestic helper.

When she left for Italy in November 1990, she entrusted her 3 children to the care & custody of her
mother-in-law who returned home for good, however she died on November 2000.

While working in Italy, she met Jun Tayag, a married man from Tarlac. They became live-in partners
since 1995 and have a son John Mario who is now 2 years old. The three of them are considered
Italian residents. Amelia claimed that Mr. Tayag is planning to file an annulment of his marriage and
his wife is amenable to it. He is providing his legitimate family regular support.

Amelia also sends financial support ranging from P10,000-P15,000 a month through her parents
who share minimal amount of P3,000-P5,000 a month to his (sic) children. The petitioner and other
paternal relatives are continuously providing support for most of the needs & education of minors up
to present.41

Thus, when Amelia left for Italy, she had not intended to abandon her children, or to permanently
sever their mother-child relationship. She was merely impelled to leave the country by financial
constraints. Yet, even while abroad, she did not surrender or relinquish entirely her motherly
obligations of rearing the children to her now deceased mother-in-law, for, as claimed by Elaine
herself, she consulted her mother, Amelia, for serious personal problems. Likewise, Amelia
continues to send financial support to the children, though in minimal amounts as compared to what
her affluent in-laws provide.

Let it be emphasized, nevertheless, that the adoption of the minors herein will have the effect of
severing all legal ties between the biological mother, Amelia, and the adoptees, and that the same
shall then be vested on the adopter.42 It would thus 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/her children. More proof has to be adduced that Amelia has emotionally
abandoned the children, and that the latter will not miss her guidance and counsel if they are given
to an adopting parent.43 Again, it is the best interest of the child that takes precedence in adoption.

Section 34, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court provides that the Court shall consider no evidence which
has not been formally offered. The purpose for which the evidence is offered must be specified. The
offer of evidence is necessary because it is the duty of the Court to rest its findings of fact and its
judgment only and strictly upon the evidence offered by the parties. Unless and until admitted by the
court in evidence for the purpose or purposes for which such document is offered, the same is
merely a scrap of paper barren of probative weight. Mere identification of documents and the
markings thereof as exhibits do not confer any evidentiary weight on documents unless formally
offered.44
Petitioner failed to offer in evidence Pagbilaos Report and of the Joint Affidavit of Consent
purportedly executed by her children; the authenticity of which she, likewise, failed to prove. The
joint written consent of petitioners children45 was notarized on January 16, 2002 in Guam, USA; for it
to be treated by the Rules of Court in the same way as a document notarized in this country it needs
to comply with Section 2 of Act No. 2103,46 which states:

Section 2. An instrument or document acknowledged and authenticated in a foreign country shall be


considered authentic if the acknowledgment and authentication are made in accordance with the
following requirements:

(a) The acknowledgment shall be made before (1) an ambassador, minister, secretary of
legation, charg d affaires, consul, vice-consul, or consular agent of the Republic of the
Philippines, acting within the country or place to which he is accredited, or (2) a notary public
or officer duly authorized by law of the country to take acknowledgments of instruments or
documents in the place where the act is done.

(b) The person taking the acknowledgment shall certify that the person acknowledging the
instrument or document is known to him, and that he is the same person who executed it,
and acknowledged that the same is his free act and deed. The certificate shall be under his
official seal, if he is by law required to keep a seal, and if not, his certificate shall so state. In
case the acknowledgment is made before a notary public or an officer mentioned in
subdivision (2) of the preceding paragraph, the certificate of the notary public or the officer
taking the acknowledgment shall be authenticated by an ambassador, minister, secretary of
legation, charg de affaires, consul, vice-consul, or consular agent of the Republic of the
Philippines, acting within the country or place to which he is accredited. The officer making
the authentication shall certify under his official seal that the person who took the
acknowledgment was at the time duly authorized to act as notary public or that he was duly
exercising the functions of the office by virtue of which he assumed to act, and that as such
he had authority under the law to take acknowledgment of instruments or documents in the
place where the acknowledgment was taken, and that his signature and seal, if any, are
genuine.

As the alleged written consent of petitioners legitimate children did not comply with the afore-cited
law, the same can at best be treated by the Rules as a private document whose authenticity must be
proved either by anyone who saw the document executed or written; or by evidence of the
genuineness of the signature or handwriting of the makers.47

Since, in the instant case, no further proof was introduced by petitioner to authenticate the written
consent of her legitimate children, the same is inadmissible in evidence.

In reversing the ruling of the RTC, the CA ruled that petitioner was not stable enough to support the
children and is only relying on the financial backing, support and commitment of her children and her
siblings.48 Petitioner contradicts this by claiming that she is financially capable as she has worked in
Guam for 14 years, has savings, a house, and currently earns $5.15 an hour with tips of not less
than $1,000.00 a month. Her children and siblings have likewise committed themselves to provide
financial backing should the need arise. The OSG, again in its comment, banks on the statement in
the Home Study Report that "petitioner has limited income." Accordingly, it appears that she will rely
on the financial backing of her children and siblings in order to support the minor adoptees. The law,
however, states that it is the adopter who should be in a position to provide support in keeping with
the means of the family.

Since the primary consideration in adoption is the best interest of the child, it follows that the
financial capacity of prospective parents should also
be carefully evaluated and considered. Certainly, the adopter should be in a position to support the
would-be adopted child or children, in keeping with the means of the family.

According to the Adoption Home Study Report49 forwarded by the Department of Public Health &
Social Services of the Government of Guam to the DSWD, petitioner is no longer supporting her
legitimate children, as the latter are already adults, have individual lives and families. At the time of
the filing of the petition, petitioner was 57 years old, employed on a part-time basis as a waitress,
earning $5.15 an hour and tips of around $1,000 a month. Petitioners main intention in adopting the
children is to bring the latter to Guam, USA. She has a house at Quitugua Subdivision in Yigo,
Guam, but the same is still being amortized. Petitioner likewise knows that the limited income might
be a hindrance to the adoption proceedings.

Given these limited facts, it is indeed doubtful whether petitioner will be able to sufficiently handle the
financial aspect of rearing the three children in the US. She only has a part-time job, and she is
rather of age. While petitioner claims that she has the financial support and backing of her children
and siblings, the OSG is correct in stating that the ability to support the adoptees is personal to the
adopter, as adoption only creates a legal relation between the former and the latter. Moreover, the
records do not prove nor support petitioners allegation that her siblings and her children are
financially able and that they are willing to support the minors herein. The Court, therefore, again
sustains the ruling of the CA on this issue.

While the Court recognizes that petitioner has only the best of intentions for her nieces and nephew,
there are legal infirmities that militate against reversing the ruling of the CA. In any case, petitioner is
not prevented from filing a new petition for adoption of the herein minors.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is hereby DENIED.

SO ORDERED.

6. same as 2

7. G.R. No. 79955 January 27, 1989

IN THE MATTER OF THE PETITION FOR A WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS OF MINOR ANGELIE
ANNE C. CERVANTES, NELSON L. CERVANTES and ZENAIDA CARREON
CERVANTES, petitioners,
vs.
GINA CARREON FAJARDO and CONRADO FAJARDO, respondents.

Yolanda F. Lim for petitioners.


Voltaire C. Campomanes for respondents.

RESOLUTION

PADILLA, J.:

This is a petition for a writ of Habeas Corpus filed with this Court over the person of the minor
Angelie Anne Cervantes. In a resolution, dated 5 October 1987, the Court resolved to issue the writ
returnable to the Executive Judge, Regional Trial Court of Pasig at the hearing of 12 October 1987 at
8:30 a.m. Said Judge was directed to hear the case and submit his report and recommendation to
the Court.

On 3 December 1987, said Executive Judge, Regional Trial Court of Pasig submitted to the Court his
report and recommendation, also dated 3 December 1987.

It appears that the minor was born on 14 February 1987 to respondents Conrado Fajardo and Gina
Carreon, who are common-law husband and wife. Respondents offered the child for adoption to
Gina Carreon's sister and brother-in-law, the herein petitioners Zenaida Carreon-Cervantes and
Nelson Cervantes, spouses, who took care and custody of the child when she was barely two (2)
weeks old. An Affidavit of Consent to the adoption of the child by herein petitioners, was also
executed by respondent Gina Carreon on 29 April 1987. 1

The appropriate petition for adoption (Sp. Proc. No. 057-B) was filed by herein petitioners over the
child before the Regional Trial Court of Rizal, Fourth Judicial District, Branch 67 which, on 20 August
1987, rendered a decision 2 granting the petition. The child was then known as Angelie Anne Fajardo.
The court ordered that the child be "freed from parental authority of her natural parents as well as from
legal obligation and maintenance to them and that from now on shall be, for all legal intents and
purposes, known as Angelie Anne Cervantes, a child of herein petitioners and capable of inheriting their
estate ." 3

Sometime in March or April 1987, the adoptive parents, herein petitioners Nelson and Zenaida
Cervantes, received a letter from the respondents demanding to be paid the amount of P150,000.00,
otherwise, they would get back their child. Petitioners refused to accede to the demand.

As a result, on 11 September 1987, while petitioners were out at work, the respondent Gina Carreon
took the child from her "yaya" at the petitioners' residence in Angono, Rizal, on the pretext that she
was instructed to do so by her mother. Respondent Gina Carreon brought the child to her house in
Paraaque. Petitioners thereupon demanded the return of the child, but Gina Carreon refused,
saying that she had no desire to give up her child for adoption and that the affidavit of consent to the
adoption she had executed was not fully explained to her. She sent word to the petitioners that she
will, however, return the child to the petitioners if she were paid the amount of P150,000.00.

Felisa Tansingco, the social worker who had conducted the case study on the adoption and
submitted a report thereon to the Regional Trial Court of Rizal in the adoption case, testified on 27
October 1987 before the Executive Judge, Regional Trial Court of Pasig in connection with the
present petition. She declared that she had interviewed respondent Gina Carreon on 24 June 1987
in connection with the contemplated adoption of the child. During the interview, said respondent
manifested to the social worker her desire to have the child adopted by the petitioners. 4
In all cases involving the custody, care, education and property of children, the latter's welfare is
paramount. The provision that no mother shall be separated from a child under five (5) years of age,
will not apply where the Court finds compelling reasons to rule otherwise. 5 In all controversies
regarding the custody of minors, the foremost consideration is the moral, physical and social welfare of
the child concerned, taking into account the resources and moral as well as social standing of the
contending parents. Never has this Court deviated from this criterion. 6

It is undisputed that respondent Conrado Fajardo is legally married to a woman other than
respondent Gina Carreon, and his relationship with the latter is a common-law husband and wife
relationship. His open cohabitation with co-respondent Gina Carreon will not accord the minor that
desirable atmosphere where she can grow and develop into an upright and moral-minded person.
Besides, respondent Gina Carreon had previously given birth to another child by another married
man with whom she lived for almost three (3) years but who eventually left her and vanished. For a
minor (like Angelie Anne C. Cervantes) to grow up with a sister whose "father" is not her true father,
could also affect the moral outlook and values of said minor. Upon the other hand, petitioners who
are legally married appear to be morally, physically, financially, and socially capable of supporting the
minor and giving her a future better than what the natural mother (herein respondent Gina Carreon),
who is not only jobless but also maintains an illicit relation with a married man, can most likely give
her.

Besides, the minor has been legally adopted by petitioners with the full knowledge and consent of
respondents. A decree of adoption has the effect, among others, of dissolving the authority vested in
natural parents over the adopted child, except where the adopting parent is the spouse of the natural
parent of the adopted, in which case, parental authority over the adopted shall be exercised jointly
by both spouses. 7 The adopting parents have the right to the care and custody of the adopted child 8 and
exercise parental authority and responsibility over him. 9

ACCORDINGLY, and as recommended by the Executive Judge, Regional Trial Court of Pasig, Hon.
Eutropio Migrino, the Petition is GRANTED. The custody and care of the minor Angelie Anne
Cervantes are hereby granted to petitioners to whom they properly belong, and respondents are
ordered (if they still have not) to deliver said minor to the petitioners immediately upon notice hereof
This resolution is immediately executory.

SO ORDERED.

8. G.R. No. 197099

EUGENIO SAN JUAN GERONIMO, Petitioner,


vs.
KAREN SANTOS, Respondent.

DECISION

VILLARAMA, JR., J.:

At bar is a petition for review on certiorari of the Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals
1 2

(CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 88650 promulgated on January 17, 2011 and May 24, 2011, respectively,
which affirmed the Decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Malolos City, Bulacan, Branch 8.
3

Both courts a quo ruled that the subject document titled Pagmamana sa Labas ng Hukuman is null
and void, and ordered herein petitioner Eugenio San Juan Geronimo (Eugenio), who was previously
joined by his brother Emiliano San Juan Geronimo (Emiliano) as codefendant, to vacate the one-half
portion of the subject 6,542-square meter property and surrender its possession to respondent
Karen Santos. In a Resolution dated November 28, 2011, this Court ordered the deletion of the
4

name of Emiliano from the title of the instant petition_ as co-petitioner, viz.:

x x x The Court resolves:

xxxx

(2) to AMEND the title of this petition to read "Eugenio San Juan Geronimo, petitioner vs. Karen
Santos, respondent," considering the sworn statement of Eugenio San Juan Geronimo that he does
not know whether his brother is still alive and that his brother did not verify the instant petition; x x x
5

The following facts were found by the trial court and adopted by the appellate court in its assailed
Decision, viz.:

On April 17, 2001, plaintiff Karen Santos, claiming to be the only child of deceased Rufino and
Caridad Geronimo filed a complaint for annulment of document and recovery of possession against
the defendants Eugenio and Emiliano Geronimo who are the brothers of her father. She alleged that
with the death of her parents, the property consisting of one half of the parcel of land located at San
Jose, Paombong, Bulacan with Tax Declaration No. 99-02017-00219 and belonging to her parents
was passed on to her by the law on intestacy; that lately, she discovered that defendants executed a
document entitled Pagmamana sa Labas ng Hukuman declaring themselves as the only heirs of
spouses Rufino and Caridad and adjudicating to themselves the property in question; and that
consequently[,] they took possession and were able to transfer the tax declaration of the subject
property to their names. She prayed that the document Exhibit C be annulled and the tax declaration
of the land transferred to her, and that the defendants vacate the property and pay her damages.

In an amended answer, the defendants denied the allegation that plaintiff was the only child and sole
heir of their brother. They disclosed that the deceased Rufino and Caridad Geronimo were childless
and took in as their ward the plaintiff who was in truth, the child of Caridads sister. They claimed that
the birth certificate of the plaintiff was a simulated document. It was allegedly impossible for Rufino
and Caridad to have registered the plaintiff in Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur because they had never lived or
sojourned in the place and Caridad, who was an elementary teacher in Bulacan never filed any
maternity leave during the period of her service from August 1963 until October 1984.

The plaintiff took the stand and testified that her parents were Rufino and Caridad Geronimo. The
defendants Eugenio and Emiliano were the half-brothers of her father Rufino, being the children of
Rufinos father Marciano Geronimo with another woman Carmen San Juan. Rufino co-owned Lot
1716 with the defendants mother Carmen, and upon his death in 1980, when the plaintiff was only 8
years old, his share in the property devolved on his heirs. In 1998, some 18 years later, Caridad and
she executed an extra-judicial settlement of Rufinos estate entitled Pagmamanahan Sa Labas ng
Hukuman Na May Pagtalikod Sa Karapatan, whereby the plaintiffs mother Caridad waived all her
rights to Rufinos share and in the land in question to her daughter the plaintiff. Be that as it may, in
1985, guardianship proceedings appeared to have been instituted with the Regional Trial Court of
Malolos by Caridad in which it was established that the plaintiff was the minor child of Caridad with
her late husband Rufino. Caridad was thus appointed guardian of the person and estate of the
plaintiff.

The plaintiff further declared that she and her mother had been paying the real estate taxes on the
property, but in 2000, the defendants took possession of the land and had the tax declaration
transferred to them. This compelled her to file the present case.

Eugenio Geronimo, the defendant, disputes the allegation that the plaintiff is the only child and legal
heir of his brother Rufino. He disclosed that when Rufinos wife could not bear a child, the couple
decided to adopt the plaintiff who was Caridads niece from Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur. It was in 1972, 13
years after the marriage, when Karen joined her adoptive parents household. Believing that in the
absence of a direct heir, his brother Emiliano and he should succeed to the estate of their brother,
they executed in 2000 an extra-judicial settlement called

Pagmamana sa Labas ng Hukuman.

Eugenio was able to obtain a copy of the plaintiffs alleged birth certificate. It had irregular features,
such as that it was written in pentel pen, the entry in the box date of birth was erased and the word
and figure April 6, 1972 written and the name Emma Dao was superimposed on the entry in the
box intended for the informants signature.

Two more witnesses were adduced. Atty. Elmer Lopez, a legal consultant of the DECS in Bulacan
brought the plaintiff's service record as an elementary school teacher at Paombong[,] Bulacan to
show that she did not have any maternity leave during the period of her service from March 11, 1963
to October 24, 1984, and a certification from the Schools Division Superintendent that the plaintiff did
not file any maternity leave during her service. He declared that as far as the service record is
concerned, it reflects the entry and exit from the service as well as the leaves that she availed of.
Upon inquiry by the court, he clarified that the leaves were reflected but the absences were not.
Testifying on the plaintiffs birth certificate, Exhibit 14, Arturo Reyes, a representative of the NSO,
confirmed that there was an alteration in the date of birth and signature of the informant. In view of
the alterations, he considered the document questionable. 6

On October 27, 2006, the trial court ruled in favor of respondent, viz.:

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered as follows:

1. Declaring the document Pagmamana sa Labas ng Hukuman dated March 9, 2000


executed in favor of Eugenio San Juan-Geronimo and Emilio San Juan-Geronimo as null
and void;

2. Annulling Tax Declaration No. 99-02017-01453 of the subject property in the names of
Eugenio San Juan-Geronimo and Emiliano San Juan-Geronimo;

3. Ordering defendants Eugenio San Juan-Geronimo and Emiliano San Juan-Geronimo to


vacate the portion of the subject property and to surrender the possession to the plaintiff;
4. Ordering the defendants to pay the plaintiff the amount of [P]30,000.00 as attorneys fees;

5. To pay the costs of the suit.

SO ORDERED. 7

The trial court ruled that respondent is the legal heir being the legitimate child of the deceased
spouses Rufino and Caridad Geronimo (spouses Rufino and Caridad). It found that respondents
filiation was duly established by the certificate of live birth which was presented in evidence. The
RTC dismissed the claim of petitioner that the birth certificate appeared to have been tampered,
specifically on the entries pertaining to the date of birth of respondent and the name of the informant.
The trial court held that petitioner failed to adduce evidence to explain how the erasures were done.
Petitioner also failed to prove that the alterations were due to the fault of respondent or another
person who was responsible for the act. In the absence of such contrary evidence, the RTC relied on
the prima facie presumption of the veracity and regularity of the birth certificate as a public
document.

The trial court further stated that even granting arguendo that the birth certificate is questionable, the
filiation of respondent has already been sufficiently proven by evidence of her open and continuous
possession of the status of a legitimate child under Article 172 of the Family Code of the Philippines.
The RTC considered the following overt acts of the deceased spouses as acts of recognition that
respondent is their legitimate child: they sent her to school and paid for her tuition fees; Caridad
made respondent a beneficiary of her burial benefits from the Government Service Insurance
System; and, Caridad filed a petition for guardianship of respondent after the death of her husband
Rufino. Lastly, the trial court held that to be allowed to impugn the filiation and status of respondent,
petitioner should have brought an action for the purpose under Articles 170 and 171 of the Family
Code. Since petitioner failed to file such action, the trial court ruled that respondent alone is entitled
to the ownership and possession of the subject land owned by Rufino. The extrajudicial settlement
executed by petitioner and his brother was therefore declared not valid and binding as respondent is
Rufinos only compulsory heir.

On appeal, petitioner raised the issue on the alterations in the birth certificate of respondent and the
offered evidence of a mere certification from the Office of the Civil Registry instead of the birth
certificate itself.

According to petitioner, respondents open and continuous possession of the status of a legitimate
child is only secondary evidence to the birth certificate itself. Respondent questioned if it was legally
permissible for petitioner to question her filiation as a legitimate child of the spouses Rufino and
Caridad in the same action for annulment of document and recovery of possession that she herself
filed against petitioner and his then co-defendant.

Respondent argued that the conditions enumerated under Articles 170 and 171 of the Family Code,
giving the putative father and his heirs the right to bring an action to impugn the legitimacy of the
child, are not present in the instant case. She further asserted that the Family Code contemplates a
direct action, thus her civil status may not be assailed indirectly or collaterally in this suit.
In the assailed Decision dated January 17, 2011, the appellate court held that under Article 170, the
action to impugn the legitimacy of the child must be reckoned from either of these two dates: the
date the child was born to the mother during the marriage, or the date when the birth of such child
was recorded in the civil registry. The CA found no evidence or admission that Caridad indeed gave
birth to respondent on a specific date. It further resolved that the birth certificate presented in this
case, Exhibit 14, does not qualify as the valid registration of birth in the civil register as envisioned by
the law, viz.:

x x x The reason is that under the statute establishing the civil register, Act No. 3753, the declaration
of the physician or midwife in attendance at the birth or in default thereof, that declaration of
either parent of the newborn child, shall be sufficient for the registration of birth in the civil register.
The document in question was signed by one Emma Dao who was not identified as either the
parent of the plaintiff or the physician or midwife who attended to her birth. Exhibit 14, legally, cannot
be the birth certificate envisioned by the law; otherwise, with an informant as shadowy as Emma
Dao, the floodgates to spurious filiations will be opened. Neither may the order of the court Exhibit
E be treated as the final judgment mentioned in Article 172 as another proof of filiation.

The final judgment mentioned refers to a decision of a competent court finding the child legitimate.
Exhibit G is merely an order granting letters of guardianship to the parent Caridad based on her
representations that she is the mother of the plaintiff.8

Noting the absence of such record of birth, final judgment or admission in a public or private
document that respondent is the legitimate child of the spouses Rufino and Caridad, the appellate
court similar to the trial court relied on Article 172 of the Family Code which allows the
introduction and admission of secondary evidence to prove ones legitimate filiation via open and
continuous possession of the status of a legitimate child. The CA agreed with the trial court that
respondent has proven her legitimate filiation, viz.:

We agree with the lower court that the plaintiff has proven her filiation by open and continuous
possession of the status of a legitimate child. The evidence consists of the following: (1) the plaintiff
was allowed by her putative parents to bear their family name Geronimo; (2) they supported her and
sent her to school paying for her tuition fees and other school expenses; (3) she was the beneficiary
of the burial benefits of Caridad before the GSIS; (4) after the death of Rufino, Caridad applied for
and was appointed legal guardian of the person and property of the plaintiff from the estate left by
Rufino; and (5) both Caridad and the plaintiff executed an extrajudicial settlement of the estate of
Rufino on the basis of the fact that they are both the legal heirs of the deceased.

It is clear that the status enjoyed by the plaintiff as the legitimate child of Rufino and Caridad has
been open and continuous. x x x The conclusion follows that the plaintiff is entitled to the property
left by Rufino to the exclusion of his brothers, the defendants, which consists of a one-half share in
Lot 1716. 9

Petitioners moved for reconsideration but the motion was denied in the assailed Resolution dated
10

May 24, 2011. Hence, this petition raising the following assignment of errors:
I. THAT THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED AND ABUSED ITS DISCRETION,
AMOUNTING TO LACK OF JURISDICTION, WHEN IT ALLOWED THE INTRODUCTION
OF SECONDARY EVIDENCE AND RENDERED JUDGMENT BASED THEREON
NOTWITHSTANDING THE EXISTENCE OF PRIMARY EVIDENCE OF BIRTH
CERTIFICATE [EXHIBIT 14].

II. THAT THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED AND ABUSED ITS DISCRETION,
AMOUNTING TO LACK OF JURISDICTION WHEN IT RULED THAT PETITIONERS HAVE
NO PERSONALITY TO IMPUGN RESPONDENTS LEGITIMATE FILIATION. 11

On the first issue, petitioner argues that secondary evidence to prove ones filiation is admissible
only if there is no primary evidence, i.e, a record of birth or an authentic admission in
writing. Petitioner asserts that herein respondents birth certificate, Exhibit 14, constitutes the
12

primary evidence enumerated under Article 172 of the Family Code and the ruling of both courts a
quo that the document is not the one "envisioned by law" should have barred the introduction of
secondary evidence. Petitioner expounds this proposition, viz.:

The findings of the courts a quo that the birth certificate [Exhibit 14] is not [the] one envisioned by
law finds support in numerous cases decided by the Honorable Supreme Court. Thus, a certificate of
live birth purportedly identifying the putative father is not competent evidence as to the issue of
paternity, when there is no showing that the putative father had a hand in the preparation of said
certificates, and the Local Civil Registrar is devoid of authority to record the paternity of an
illegitimate child upon the information of a third person. Where the birth certificate and the baptismal
certificate are per se inadmissible in evidence as proof of filiation, they cannot be admitted indirectly
as circumstantial evidence to prove the same. x x x

x x x The birth certificate Exhibit 14 contains erasures. The date of birth originally written in ball pen
was erased and the date April 6, 1972 was superimposed using a pentel pen; the entry on the
informant also originally written in ball pen was erased and the name E. Dano was superimposed
using also a pentel pen; there is no signature as to who received it from the office of the registry.
Worst, respondent Karen confirms the existence of her birth certificate when she introduced in
evidence [Exhibit A] a mere Certification from the Office of the Local Civil Registrar of Sta. Maria,
Ilocos Sur, which highlighted more suspicions of its existence, thus leading to conclusion and
presumption that if such evidence is presented, it would be adverse to her claim. True to the
suspicion, when Exhibit 14 was introduced by the petitioner and testified on by no less than the NSO
representative, Mr. Arturo Reyes, and confirmed that there were alterations which renders the birth
certificate questionable.

Argued differently, with the declaration that the birth certificate is a nullity or falsity, the courts a
quo should have stopped there, ruled that respondent Karen is not the child of Rufino, and therefore
not entitled to inherit from the estate.
13

On the second issue, petitioner alleges that the CA gravely erred and abused its discretion
amounting to lack of jurisdiction when it ruled that he does not have personality to impugn
respondents legitimate filiation.
14
While petitioner admits that the CA "did not directly rule on this particular issue," he nonetheless
15

raises the said issue as an error since the appellate court affirmed the decision of the trial court.
Petitioner argues that in so affirming, the CA also adopted the ruling of the trial court that the filiation
of respondent is strictly personal to respondents alleged father and his heirs under Articles 170 and
171 of the Family Code, thereby denying petitioner the "right to impugn or question the filiation and
16

status of the plaintiff." Petitioner argues, viz.:


17

x x x [T]he lower courts reliance on Articles 170 and 171 of the Family Code is totally misplaced,
with due respect. It should be read in conjunction with the other articles in the same chapter on
paternity and filiation of the Family Code. A careful reading of said chapter would reveal that it
contemplates situations where a doubt exists that a child is indeed a mans child, and the father [or,
in proper cases, his heirs] denies the childs filiation. It does not refer to situations where a child is
alleged not to be the child at all of a particular couple. Petitioners are asserting not merely that
respondent Karen is not a legitimate child of, but that she is not a child of Rufino Geronimo at all. x x
x18

We grant the petition.

Despite its finding that the birth certificate which respondent offered in evidence is questionable, the
trial court ruled that respondent is a legitimate child and the sole heir of deceased spouses Rufino
and Caridad. The RTC based this conclusion on secondary evidence that is similar to proof
admissible under the second paragraph of Article 172 of the Family Code to prove the filiation of
legitimate children, viz.:

ART. 172. The filiation of legitimate children is established by any of the following:

(1) The record of birth appearing in the civil register or a final judgment; or

(2) An admission of legitimate filiation in a public document or a private handwritten


instrument and signed by the parent concerned.

In the absence of the following evidence, the legitimate filiation shall be proved by:

(1) The open and continuous possession of the status of a legitimate child; or

(2) Any other means allowed by the Rules of Court and special laws.

Petitioner argues that such secondary evidence may be admitted only in a direct action under Article
172 because the said provision of law is meant to be instituted as a separate action, and proof of
filiation cannot be raised as a collateral issue as in the instant case which is an action for annulment
of document and recovery of possession.

Petitioner is correct that proof of legitimacy under Article 172, or illegitimacy under Article 175,
should only be raised in a direct and separate action instituted to prove the filiation of a child. The
rationale behind this procedural prescription is stated in the case of Tison v. Court of Appeals, viz.:
19
x x x [W]ell settled is the rule that the issue of legitimacy cannot be attacked collaterally.

The rationale for these rules has been explained in this wise:

"The presumption of legitimacy in the Family Code x x x actually fixes a civil status for the child born
in wedlock, and that civil status cannot be attacked collaterally. The legitimacy of the child can be
impugned only in a direct action brought for that purpose, by the proper parties, and within the period
limited by law.

The legitimacy of the child cannot be contested by way of defense or as a collateral issue in
another action for a different purpose. The necessity of an independent action directly impugning
the legitimacy is more clearly expressed in the Mexican Code (Article 335) which provides: The
contest of the legitimacy of a child by the husband or his heirs must be made by proper complaint
before the competent court; any contest made in any other way is void. This principle applies under
our Family Code. Articles 170 and 171 of the code confirm this view, because they refer to "the
action to impugn the legitimacy."

This action can be brought only by the husband or his heirs and within the periods fixed in the
present articles.

Upon the expiration of the periods provided in Article 170, the action to impugn the legitimacy of a
child can no longer be brought. The status conferred by the presumption, therefore, becomes fixed,
and can no longer be questioned. The obvious intention of the law is to prevent the status of a child
1wphi1

born in wedlock from being in a state of uncertainty for a long time. It also aims to force early action
to settle any doubt as to the paternity of such child, so that the evidence material to the matter, which
must necessarily be facts occurring during the period of the conception of the child, may still be
easily available.

xxxx

Only the husband can contest the legitimacy of a child born to his wife. He is the one directly
confronted with the scandal and ridicule which the infidelity of his wife produces; and he should
decide whether to conceal that infidelity or expose it, in view of the moral and economic interest
involved. It is only in exceptional cases that his heirs are allowed to contest such legitimacy. Outside
of these cases, none even his heirs can impugn legitimacy; that would amount to an insult to his
memory." 20

What petitioner failed to recognize, however, is that this procedural rule is applicable only to actions
where the legitimacy or illegitimacy of a child is at issue. This situation does not obtain in the
case at bar.

In the instant case, the filiation of a child herein respondent is not at issue. Petitioner does not
claim that respondent is not the legitimate child of his deceased brother Rufino and his wife Caridad.
What petitioner alleges is that respondent is not the child of the deceased spouses Rufino and
Caridad at all. He proffers this allegation in his Amended Answer before the trial court by way of
defense that respondent is not an heir to his brother Rufino. When petitioner alleged that respondent
is not a child of the deceased spouses Rufino and Caridad in the proceedings below, jurisprudence
shows that the trial court was correct in admitting and ruling on the secondary evidence of
respondent even if such proof is similar to the evidence admissible under the second paragraph of
Article 172 and despite the instant case not being a direct action to prove ones filiation. In the
following cases, the courts a quo and this Court did not bar the introduction of secondary evidence in
actions which involve allegations that the opposing party is not the child of a particular couple even
if such evidence is similar to the kind of proof admissible under the second paragraph of Article 172.

In the 1994 case of Benitez-Badua v. Court of Appeals, therein deceased spouses Vicente Benitez
21

(Vicente) and Isabel Chipongian (Isabel) owned various properties while they were still living. Isabel
departed in 1982, while Vicente died intestate in 1989. In 1990, Vicentes sister (Victoria Benitez-
Lirio) and nephew (Feodor Benitez Aguilar) instituted an action before the trial court for the issuance
of letters of administration of his estate in favor of Feodor. In the said proceedings, they alleged that
Vicente was "survived by no other heirs or relatives be they ascendants or descendants, whether
legitimate, illegitimate or legally adopted x x x." They further argued that one "Marissa
22

Benitez[-]Badua who was raised and cared for by them since childhood is, in fact, not related to
them by blood, nor legally adopted, and is therefore not a legal heir [of Vicente]." Marissa opposed
23

the petition and proffered evidence to prove that she is an heir of Vicente. Marissa submitted the
following evidence, viz.:

1. her Certificate of Live Birth (Exh. 3);

2. Baptismal Certificate (Exh. 4);

3. Income Tax Returns and Information Sheet for Membership with the GSIS of the late
Vicente naming her as his daughter (Exhs. 10 to 21); and

4. School Records (Exhs. 5 & 6).

She also testified that the said spouses reared and continuously treated her as their legitimate
daughter.24

Feodor and his mother Victoria offered mostly testimonial evidence to show that the spouses Vicente
and Isabel failed to beget a child during their marriage. They testified that the late Isabel, when she
was 36 years old, was even referred to an obstetrician-gynecologist for treatment. Victoria, who was
77 years old at the time of her testimony, also categorically stated that Marissa was not the biological
child of the said spouses who were unable to physically procreate. 25

The trial court, relying on Articles 166 and 170 of the Family Code, declared Marissa as the
legitimate daughter and sole heir of the spouses Vicente and Isabel. The appellate court reversed
the RTCs ruling holding that the trial court erred in applying Articles 166 and 170 of the Family
Code. On appeal to this Court, we affirmed the reversal made by the appellate court, viz.:

A careful reading of the above articles will show that they do not contemplate a situation, like in
the instant case, where a child is alleged not to be the child of nature or biological child of a
certain couple.
Rather, these articles govern a situation where a husband (or his heirs) denies as his own a child of
his wife. Thus, under Article 166, it is the husband who can impugn the legitimacy of said child by
proving: (1) it was physically impossible for him to have sexual intercourse, with his wife within the
first 120 days of the 300 days which immediately preceded the birth of the child; (2) that for
biological or other scientific reasons, the child could not have been his child; (3) that in case of
children conceived through artificial insemination, the written authorization or ratification by either
parent was obtained through mistake, fraud, violence, intimidation or undue influence. Articles 170
and 171 reinforce this reading as they speak of the prescriptive period within which the husband or
any of his heirs should file the action impugning the legitimacy of said child. Doubtless then, the
appellate court did not err when it refused to apply these articles to the case at bench. For
the case at bench is not one where the heirs of the late Vicente are contending that
petitioner is not his child by Isabel. Rather, their clear submission is that petitioner was not
born to Vicente and Isabel. Our ruling in Cabatbat- Lim vs. Intermediate Appellate Court, 166
SCRA 451, 457 cited in the impugned decision is apropos, viz:

"Petitioners recourse to Article 263 of the New Civil Code [now Art. 170 of the Family Code] is not
welltaken.

This legal provision refers to an action to impugn legitimacy. It is inapplicable to this case because
this is not an action to impugn the legitimacy of a child, but an action of the private respondents to
claim their inheritance as legal heirs of their childless deceased aunt. They do not claim that
petitioner Violeta Cabatbat Lim is an illegitimate child of the deceased, but that she is not the
decedent's child at all. Being neither legally adopted child, nor an acknowledged natural child, nor
a child by legal fiction of Esperanza Cabatbat, Violeta is not a legal heir of the deceased." 26

Similarly, the 2001 case of Labagala v. Santiago originated from a complaint for recovery of title,
27

ownership and possession before the trial court. Respondents therein contended that petitioner is
not the daughter of the decedent Jose and sought to recover from her the 1/3 portion of the subject
property pertaining to Jose but which came into petitioners sole possession upon Joses death.
Respondents sought to prove that petitioner is not the daughter of the decedent as evidenced by her
birth certificate which did not itself indicate the name of Jose as her father. Citing the case of Sayson
v. Court of Appeals and Article 263 of the Civil Code (now Article 170 of the Family Code), petitioner
28

argued that respondents cannot impugn her filiation collaterally since the case was not an action
impugning a childs legitimacy but one for recovery of title, ownership and possession of property.
We ruled in this case that petitioners reliance on Article 263 of the Civil Code is misplaced and
respondents may impugn the petitioners filiation in an action for recovery of title and possession.
Thus, we affirmed the ruling of the appellate court that the birth certificate of petitioner Labagala
proved that she "was born of different parents, not Jose and his wife." Citing the aforecited cases
29

of Benitez-Badua and Lim v. Intermediate Appellate Court, we stated, viz.:


30

This article should be read in conjunction with the other articles in the same chapter on paternity and
filiation in the Civil Code. A careful reading of said chapter would reveal that it contemplates
situations where a doubt exists that a child is indeed a mans child by his wife, and the husband (or,
in proper cases, his heirs) denies the childs filiation. It does not refer to situations where a child is
alleged not to be the child at all of a particular couple.
31
Article 263 refers to an action to impugn the legitimacy of a child, to assert and prove that a person
is not a mans child by his wife. However, the present case is not one impugning
petitioners legitimacy. Respondents are asserting not merely that petitioner is not a
legitimate child of Jose, but that she is not a child of Jose at all.

xxx 32

Be that as it may, even if both courts a quo were correct in admitting secondary evidence similar to
the proof admissible under Article 172 of the Family Code in this action for annulment of document
and recovery of possession, we are constrained to rule after a meticulous examination of the
evidence on record that all proof points to the conclusion that herein respondent is not a child of the
deceased spouses Rufino and Caridad.

While we ascribe to the general principle that this Court is not a trier of facts, this rule admits of the
33

following exceptions where findings of fact may be passed upon and reviewed by this Court, viz.:

(1) When the conclusion is a finding grounded entirely on speculation, surmises or conjectures
(Joaquin v. Navarro, 93 Phil. 257 [1953]); (2) When the inference made is manifestly mistaken,
absurd or impossible (Luna v. Linatok, 74 Phil. 15 [1942]); (3) Where there is a grave abuse of
discretion (Buyco v. People, 95 Phil. 453 [1955]); (4)

When the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts (Cruz v. Sosing, L-4875, Nov. 27, 1953);
(5) When the findings of fact areconflicting (Casica v. Villaseca, L-9590 Ap. 30, 1957; unrep.); (6)
Whenthe Court of Appeals, in making its findings, went beyond the issues of thecase and the same
is contrary to the admissions of both appellant andappellee (Evangelista v. Alto Surety and
Insurance Co., 103 Phil. 401[1958]); (7) The findings of the Court of Appeals are contrary to those
ofthe trial court (Garcia v. Court of Appeals, 33 SCRA 622 [1970]; Sacay v. Sandiganbayan, 142
SCRA 593 [1986]); (8) When the findings of fact are conclusions without citation of specific evidence
on which they are based (Ibid.,); (9) When the facts set forth in the petition as well as in the
petitioners main and reply briefs are not disputed by the respondents (Ibid.,); and (10) The finding of
fact of the Court of Appeals is premised on the supposed absence of evidence and is contradicted
by the evidence on record (Salazar v. Gutierrez, 33 SCRA 242 [1970]). 34

It is clear in the case at bar that the ruling of both courts a quo declaring respondent as a legitimate
child and sole heir of the deceasedspouses Rufino and Caridad is one based on a misapprehension
of facts.

A mere cursory reading of the birth certificate of respondent would show that it was tampered
specifically on the entries pertaining to the date of birth of respondent and the name of the informant.
Using pentel ink, the date of birth of respondent April 6, 1972 and the name of the informant
Emma Dao were both superimposed on the document. Despite these glaring erasures, the trial
court still relied on the prima facie presumption of the veracity and regularity of the birth certificate for
failure of petitioner to explain how the erasures were done and if the alterations were due to the fault
of respondent. It thus ruled that respondents filiation was duly established by the birth certificate.
The appellate court did not agree with this finding and instead ruled that the birth certificate
presented does not qualify as the valid registration of birth in the civil register as envisioned by the
law. We reiterate the relevant pronouncement of the CA, viz.:

x x x The document in question was signed by one Emma Dao who was not identified as either the
parent of the plaintiff or the physician or midwife who attended to her birth. Exhibit 14, legally, cannot
be the birth certificate envisioned by the law; otherwise, with an informant as shadowy as Emma
Dao, the floodgates to spurious filiations will be opened. Neither may the order of the court Exhibit
E be treated as the final judgment mentioned in Article 172 as another proof of filiation. The final
judgment mentioned refers to a decision of a competent court finding the child legitimate. Exhibit G
is merely an order granting letters of guardianship to the parent Caridad based on her
representations that she is the mother of the plaintiff.
35

Nonetheless, the appellate court agreed with the trial court that respondent has proven her filiation
by showing that she has enjoyed that open and continuous possession of the status of a legitimate
child of the deceased spouses Rufino and Caridad, viz.:

x x x The evidence consists of the following: (1) the plaintiff was allowed by her putative parents to
bear their family name Geronimo; (2) they supported her and sent her to school paying for her tuition
fees and other school expenses; (3) she was the beneficiary of the burial benefits of Caridad before
the GSIS; (4) after the death of Rufino, Caridad applied for and was appointed legal guardian of the
person and property of the plaintiff from the estate left by Rufino; and (5) both Caridad and the
plaintiff executed an extrajudicial settlement of the estate of Rufino on the basis of the fact that they
are both the legal heirs of the deceased. 36

We do not agree with the conclusion of both courts a quo. The appellate court itself ruled that the
irregularities consisting of the superimposed entries on the date of birth and the name of the
informant made the document questionable. The corroborating testimony of Arturo Reyes, a
representative of the NSO, further confirmed that the entries on the date of birth and the signature of
the informant are alterations on the birth certificate which rendered the document questionable. To
be sure, even the respondent herself did not offer any evidence to explain such irregularities on her
own birth certificate. These irregularities and the totality of the following circumstances surrounding
the alleged birth of respondent are sufficient to overthrow the presumption of regularity attached to
respondents birth certificate, viz.:

1. The identity of one Emma Dao, whose name was superimposed as the informant
regarding the birth of respondent, remains unknown.

2. The testimony of Atty. Elmer De Dios Lopez, a legal consultant of the Department of
Education in Bulacan, proved that the deceased Caridad did not have any maternity leave
during the period of her service from March 11, 1963 to October 24, 1984 as shown by her
Service Record as an elementary school teacher at Paombong, Bulacan. This was
corroborated by a certification from Dr. Teofila R. Villanueva, Schools Division
Superintendent, that she did not file any maternity leave during her service. No testimonial or
documentary evidence was also offered to prove that the deceased Caridad ever had a
pregnancy.
3. Based on the birth certificate, respondent was born in 1972 or 13 years into the marriage
of the deceased spouses Rufino and Caridad. When respondent was born, Caridad was
already 40 years old. There are no hospital records of Caridads delivery, and while it may
have been possible for her to have given birth at her own home, this could have been proven
by medical or non-medical records or testimony if they do, in fact, exist.

4. It is worthy to note that respondent was the sole witness for herself in the instant case.

Finally, we also find that the concurrence of the secondary evidence relied upon by both courts a
quo does not sufficiently establish the one crucial fact in this case: that respondent is indeed a child
of the deceased spouses. Both the RTC and the CA ruled that respondent is a legitimate child of her
putative parents because she was allowed to bear their family name "Geronimo", they supported her
and her education, she was the beneficiary of the burial benefits of Caridad in her GSIS policy,
Caridad applied for and was appointed as her legal guardian in relation to the estate left by Rufino,
and she and Caridad executed an extrajudicial settlement of the estate of Rufino as his legal heirs.

In the case of Rivera v. Heirs of Romualdo Villanueva which incisively discussed its parallelisms
37

and contrasts with the case of Benitez- Badua v. Court of Appeals, we ruled that the presence of a
38

similar set of circumstances which were relied upon as secondary proof by both courts a quo in the
case at bar does not establish that one is a child of the putativeparents. Our discussion in
the Rivera case is instructive, viz.:

In Benitez-Badua v. Court of Appeals, Marissa Benitez-Badua, in attempting to prove that she was
the sole heir of the late Vicente Benitez, submitted a certificate of live birth, a baptismal certificate,
income tax returns and an information sheet for membership in the Government Service Insurance
System of the decedent naming her as his daughter, and her school records. She also testified that
she had been reared and continuously treated as Vicentes daughter.

By testimonial evidence alone, to the effect that Benitez-Baduas alleged parents had been unable to
beget children, the siblings of Benitez- Baduas supposed father were able to rebut all of the
documentary evidence indicating her filiation. One fact that was counted against Benitez-Badua was
that her supposed mother Isabel Chipongian, unable to bear any children even after ten years of
marriage, all of a sudden conceived and gave birth to her at the age of 36.

Of great significance to this controversy was the following pronouncement:

But definitely, the mere registration of a child in his or her birth certificate as the child of the
supposed parents is not a valid adoption, does not confer upon the child the status of an
adopted child and the legal rights of such child, and even amounts to simulation of the child's
birth or falsification of his or her birth certificate, which is a public document.(emphasis ours)

Furthermore, it is well-settled that a record of birth is merely a prima facie evidence of the facts
contained therein. It is not conclusive evidence of the truthfulness of the statements made there by
the interestedparties. Following the logic of Benitez, respondent Angelina and her codefendants in
SD-857 should have adduced evidence of her adoption, in view of the contents of her birth
certificate. The records, however, are bereft of any such evidence.
There are several parallels between this case and Benitez- Badua that are simply too compelling to
ignore. First, both Benitez-Baduaand respondent Angelina submitted birth certificates as evidence
offiliation. Second, both claimed to be children of parents relativelyadvanced in age. Third, both
claimed to have been born after their allegedparents had lived together childless for several years.

There are, however, also crucial differences between BenitezBadua and this case which ineluctably
support the conclusion thatrespondent Angelina was not Gonzales' daughter, whether illegitimate
oradopted. Gonzales, unlike Benitez-Badua's alleged mother Chipongian,was not only 36 years old
but 44 years old, and on the verge of menopauseat the time of the alleged birth. Unlike Chipongian
who had been marriedto Vicente Benitez for only 10 years, Gonzales had been living childlesswith
Villanueva for 20 years. Under the circumstances, we hold that it was not sufficiently established that
respondent Angelina was Gonzales' biological daughter, nor even her adopted daughter. Thus, she
cannot inherit from Gonzales. Since she could not have validly participated in Gonzales' estate, the
extrajudicial partition which she executed with Villanueva on August 8, 1980 was invalid. 39

In view of these premises, we are constrained to disagree with both courts a quo and rule that the
confluence of the circumstances and the proof presented in this case do not lead to the conclusion
that respondent is a child of the deceased spouses.

WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby GRANTED. The assailed Decision and Resolution of the Court
of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 88650 dated January 17, 2011 and May 24, 2011, respectively,
are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Complaint in Civil Case No. 268-M-2001 for Annulment of
Document and Recovery of Possession is hereby ordered DISMISSED.

With costs against the respondent.

SO ORDERED.