Can the Father Compel An Illegitimate Child to Use His Surname?

Republic Act 9255 allowing illegitimate children to use their father’s surnames opened the door to illegitimate mothers and fathers eager to let their children bear the father’s surname just like legitimate children. While many saw this as a positive development for illegitimate children long stigmatized for bearing their mother’s surnames and not having middle names, some mothers soon realized the disadvantages of this law.

The problem started when the implementing rules of RA 9255 made it mandatory for illegitimate children to use their father’s surnames upon the execution and registration of the Affidavit Allowing Children to Use the Surname of their Fathers (AUSF)  and the paternity acknowledgment appearing on the back portion of the birth certificate. Mothers and children complained that it was a simple and inexpensive procedure for the fathers, many who disappeared later in the lives of their children, to execute the paternity acknowledgment and voila! the father’s surname becomes the child’s surname. The civil registrars nationwide maintained that it was their duty to register the father’s surname upon seeing the paternity acknowledgment because RA 9255’s implementing rules used the word ‘shall’ instead of ‘may’ in giving effect to the law allowing children to use their father’s surnames.

Today, that conflict has been resolved with the high court’s pronouncement that it was voiding that particular provision in RA 9255’s implementing rules insofar as it provides for the mandatory use of the illegitimate father’s surname. The Supreme Court reiterates that the illegitimate child has the choice of surname by which they wish to be known. (Grande vs. Antonio, GR No. 206248, February 18, 2014)