“Entrenching patriarchy”: SC decides children can now use their mother’s surname

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(Image: Unsplash/Gabe Pierce)

With one ruling at a time, our legal system proves that the patriarchy should not be the status quo.

In a landmark ruling disseminated this month, the Supreme Court of the Philippines has granted a petition filed by a legitimate child to bear his legal mother’s surname. This effectively reverses all rulings of lower courts that are in compliance with Article 364 of the Civil Code, which says “”legitimate and legitimated children shall principally use the surname of the father.”


The petition was filed by Anacleto Alanis III, who sought to legally bear the surname “Ballaho” of his mother who “single-handedly raised him.” Ever since he can, he had always referred to himself with his mother’s surname on all documents and school records. His petition was denied by Zamboanga’s regional trial court on grounds of Article 364. 

The Supreme Court’s 15-page resolution, penned by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen and acceded to by Associate Justices Ramon Paul Hernando, Edgardo Delos Santos, and Ricardo Rosario, reads: 

“The Regional Trial Court’s application of Article 364 of the Civil Code is incorrect. Indeed, the provision states that legitimate children shall ‘principally’ use the surname of the father, but ‘principally’ does not mean ‘exclusively.’ This gives ample room to incorporate into Article 364 the State policy of ensuring the fundamental equality of women and men before the law, and no discernible reason to ignore it.”

The Supreme Court also cited the Philippines as a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. As such, it is bound to uphold the statutes stated therein, which include “[taking] all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women,” and “to modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices […] which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women.”

They based this decision on a 1980 ruling that granted a child’s petition to bear the surname of the uncle who raised her. 

“This, in turn, entrenches the patriarchy and with it, antiquated gender roles: the father, as dominant, in public; and the mother, as a supporter, in private,” the ruling also stated.

The ruling was penned and promulgated last November 2020 and was only publicized in February 2021. 

Image banner by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

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