Remedial Law

Renalyn Masbate vs Ricky James Relucio

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G.R. No. 235498 – 837 Phil. 515 – Remedial Law – Special Proceedings – Rule 102; Petition for Habeas Corpus – Clarification on the tender-age rule; No temporary custody in habeas corpus cases involving minors – A.M. No. 03-04-04-SC; Custody of Minors

Ricky James Relucio and Renalyn Masbate were live-in partners. They have one child, Queenie Relucio who was born in 2012.

In April 2015, Renalyn ended her relationship with Ricky and she left for Manila. She left Queenie under the custody of Ricky James.

In November 2015, the parents of Renalyn (Renato and Marlyn Masbate), without the knowledge and consent of Ricky, fetched Queenie from school and took custody of her.

In December 2015, Ricky filed a petition for habeas corpus and child custody. A hearing was done on 03 December 2015 where the trial court propounded questions to the parties. The next day, the RTC issued an order that the custody of the 3-year old Queenie rightfully belongs to Renalyn, citing the second paragraph of Article 213 of the Family Code, which states that “no child under seven years of age shall be separated from the mother.” Further, the RTC ruled that Queenie was born out of wedlock, for which reason she shall be under the parental authority of her mother, Renalyn, pursuant to Article 176 of the Family Code.

Ricky questioned the hasty decision of the RTC as he argued that his right to due process was violated. Ricky’s motion for reconsideration was denied. He appealed the case to the CA. The CA remanded the case to the RTC to conduct further hearing on the issue of custody. Pending the case, the CA awarded “limited and temporary custody” to Ricky where he is allowed to visit Queenie twice a week and to have exclusive time with her once a month for a period not exceeding 24 hours.


1. Whether or not the remand to the RTC for further hearing is correct.

2. Whether or not the award of limited and temporary custody to Ricky is correct.


1. Yes. The RTC was wrong to not allow Ricky to present evidence to prove his right to have custody over Queenie. (Here the SC made a landmark ruling on the proper interpretation of the tender-age rule)

Article 213 of the FC states that no child under seven years of age shall be separated from the mother. If this is to be interpreted in its absolute sense, then no “illegitimate father” can ever have custody over their “illegitimate child” (Note that the politically correct term now is “non-marital” not “illegitimate”)

However, the SC cannot adopt such a rigid view, without running afoul to the overarching consideration in custody cases, which is the best interest of the minor.

Now, Art. 176 of the FC does provide that non-marital children shall be under the parental authority of their mother. But this is not absolute for custody may be withdrawn from a mother if it is shown that she is unfit. According to jurisprudence, the following instances may constitute “compelling reasons” to wrest away custody from a mother over her child although under seven years of age: neglect, abandonment, unemployment, immorality, habitual drunkenness, drug addiction, maltreatment of the child, insanity or affliction with a communicable disease. Hence, in order to judiciously settle the allegations of Ricky, the RTC must conduct trial to determine if Renalyn is unfit.

2. No. There is no legal basis to award temporary custody. What is allowed under Section 15 of A.M. No. 03-04-04-SC is temporary visitation rights.

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