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GMA set to sign amendment to Family Code

President Arroyo is set to sign into law soon a bill authored by Sen. Ramon Revilla allowing "illegitimate" children to use their father’s surname provided that the father gives his consent, thus amending Article 176 of the Family Code.


Senate Bill 2510 aims to spare illegitimate children the shame and stigma which accompanies their unique status.


At present, the Family Code requires illegitimate children to use the surname of their mother and regardless of any circumstances, are prohibited from using their father’s surname.


"This prohibition exposes these innocent children to undue embarrassment and ridicule contrary to Section 12, Article 1 of the 1987 Constitution declaring the policy of the State to protect the life of the unborn from conception," Revilla said in a statement.


"These children must be spared from the stigma attached to being ‘illegitimate’ and their parents’ faults must not be passed on to them. It is the State’s responsibility to shield them from unwarranted shame and discrimination," he added.


In his amendment, the senator urged the State to allow illegitimate children to use their father’s surname provided two conditions are met: first, the father gives his consent, and second, the natural or biological mother of the child authorizes the use of the father’s surname in lieu of hers.


According to a study conducted by the National Statistics Office (NSO), parents of children born out of wedlock tend not to register their children’s birth due to their illegitimate status.


"Most parents, upon learning that the child cannot use the father’s surname, opt not to register their newborn baby immediately. These results in either the non-registration of the child or eventually, false information of birth records," NSO administrator Carmelita Ericta said.


The NSO Census 2000 revealed that there are more than five million unregistered Filipinos, while the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey of 1999 showed that three out of 10 children below five years old do not have birth certificates. They include children who are not registered due to their illegitimate status.


Ericta said birth registration is important since the registration of all children signifies the State’s first official acknowledgment of the child’s existence.


Without proper registration and accounting of all births in a country, national planning for children is compromised and weakened, affecting their optimal growth and development.


Ericta said unregistered children would be deprived of the means to secure their rights of identification following war, abandonment or abduction and the right to know their parentage, as well as limits their access to government benefits and services.


"Hopefully, this law will protect illegitimate children from being treated as social outcasts and traumatized early in life. The State must provide a venue for them to lead normal lives and help them understand that they are not different from those ‘legitimately’ born and they too can be productive citizens of the community," Revilla said.

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