Article 176 of the Family Code
Prior to the amendment of Article 176 of the Family Code of the Philippines (Family Code), illegitimate children were given no right to use the surname of their father.
The only surname they were allowed to use was that of their mother. And this holds true even if their father had expressly acknowledged, admitted, or recognized their filiation.
Back then, the only possible ways for them to legally use the surname of their father were either through adoption or legitimation.
But that had changed with the enactment of Republic Act No. 9255 (RA 9255).
Amending Article 176 of the Family Code, RA 9255 gave illegitimate children the right to use the surname of their father under certain conditions.
Thus, even without resorting to adoption or legitimation, they may now use the surname of their father if the latter had expressly recognized their filiation through the record of birth appearing in the civil register.
The same holds true if their father had admitted their filiation in a public document or in a private handwritten instrument.
Illegitimate children (unless otherwise provided in the Family Code) are those children conceived and born outside a valid marriage.
Illegitimate children cannot be compelled to use the surname of their father
But you will be surprised that there are illegitimate children who do not wish to use the surname of their father even if the latter had expressly acknowledged, admitted, or recognized their filiation.
If this happens, can the father compel his illegitimate children to use his surname?
Grande vs. Antonio
The Supreme Court in Grande vs. Antonio (G.R. No. 206248, February 18, 2014) gave the answer to this question.
Speaking through Justice Velasco, the Court said, No. And in saying so, it explained:
Article 176 of the Family Code gives illegitimate children the right to decide if they want to use the surname of their father or not. It is not the father or the mother who is granted by law the right to dictate the surname of their illegitimate children.
Nothing is more settled than that when the law is clear and free from ambiguity, it must be taken to mean what it says and it must be given its literal meaning free from any interpretation.
On its face, Article 176 of the Family Code (as amended by RA 9255) is free from ambiguity.
And where there is no ambiguity, one must abide by its words.
The use of the word may in the provision readily shows that an acknowledged illegitimate child is under no compulsion to use the surname of his illegitimate father.
The word may is permissive and operates to confer discretion upon the illegitimate children.
[References: Articles 165 and 176 of the Family Code of the Philippines, RA 9255, and Grace M. Grande vs. Patricio T. Antonio (G.R. No. 206248, February 18, 2014)]