Illegitimate children don't have to use father's name in Philippines

The Supreme Court building in Manila.

MANILA, Philippines - A father may not compel his illegitimate minor children to use his surname, the Supreme Court has ruled.

In a 12-page decision released Friday, the high court voted 11-0 to partially grant the petition of a congressman's former mistress questioning a ruling by the Court of Appeals that compelled her two sons to take the surname of their father.

The justices found merit in the petitioner's contention that requiring her children to take the surname of their father was not mandatory but merely optional under Republic Act No. 9255.

"The exception provided is in case his or her filiation is expressly recognised by the father through the record of birth appearing in the civil register or when an admission in a public document or private handwritten instrument is made by the father. In such a situation, the illegitimate child may use the surname of the father," the court said in the decision written by Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr.

The case stemmed from a custody petition filed by the congressman in the Aparri regional trial court (RTC) seeking to change the children's surname and appending a notarized deed of voluntary recognition of paternity of the children.

The RTC granted the congressman's plea and ordered the registrar's office in Makati City where the children were born to change their surname to that of their father.