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Abdulhamid Ballaho was born and registered as Anacleto Ballaho Alanis III. He is a legitimate child of Mario Alanis and Jarmila Ballaho. However, he never used his registered name. In fact, in all his records growing up, he had been using the name Abdulhamid Ballaho. He filed a petition in court seeking to change his name and surname so that he may be officially known as Abdulhamid Ballaho.
The Regional Trial Court denied his petition. The Court of Appeals affirmed the RTC. It was ruled that he cannot change his first name because doing so will only create more confusion. He cannot change his last name because according to Article 174 of the Family Code, the use of surnames must be in accordance with the Civil Code. Article 364 of the Civil Code provides that legitimate and legitimated children shall principally use the surname of the father. According to the trial court, Abdulhamid’s remedy was to correct his other records to conform with his birth certificate.
ISSUE: Whether or not a legitimate child may use as surname the surname of his or her mother.
HELD: Yes. 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.
Section 14, Art. II of the 1987 Constitution provides: The State recognizes the role of women in nation-building, and shall ensure the fundamental equality before the law of women and men.
Article II, Section 14 implies the State’s positive duty to actively dismantle the existing patriarchy by addressing the culture that supports it. Courts, like all other government departments and agencies, must ensure the fundamental equality of women and men before the law. Accordingly, where the text of a law allows for an interpretation that treats women and men more equally, that is the correct interpretation.
Anent Abdulhamid’s prayer to change his registered first name – it is granted. One of the grounds to allow a change in registered name is if it avoids confusion. Certainly, to force Abdulhamid to use his registered name despite the fact that he never used it before will only create confusion.