Ensuring harmony
A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - August 16, 2019 - 12:00am

This is a case of adoption. The general rule here is that if the adopter is married and has children, the adoption must be filed by the couple jointly and must be with the consent of the adopter’s other children, 10 years old or older, so as to ensure harmony among the prospective siblings. So if the adoption is not jointly filed or there is no consent of the spouse as well as the adopter’s children, can the adoption made by adopter still be considered legal? These are the questions answered in this case of Harley.

Harley is married to Layla. Even if their marriage appeared to be in trouble because Harley allegedly had homosexual tendencies and because of their incompatibilities, they still had a child after more than one year of marriage. The child however had a congenital disease and lived only for nine days. So, two months after the child’s death Layla already left Harley.

Seven years after their marriage however, Layla and Harley reconciled although they still lived separately. Then one year after their reconciliation during which Harley would visit Layla, Layla gave birth to Miya. But eventually, they separated permanently although they still remained friends.

When Harley was already 70 years old, he filed a Petition for adoption of Guinevere and Aldous in the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of another town in the province where he lived. The adoptees were allegedly the children of Esmeralda whom he met and fell in love with in the town where he lived while already living separately from Layla. He alleged that since he had no child with Layla, he was not able to fulfill his dreams to parent a child. However with the presence of his two illegitimate children, Guinevere and Aldous, his dreams are fulfilled and it is his intention to legalize their relationship and surname. He further said that the children have been under his custody for about five years already because their mother Esmeralda had died.

In two months time, after hearing Harley’s petition, the RTC approved the adoption of Guinevere and Aldous because no opposition has been filed by any person, including the government.

For being remiss in supporting their child Miya while showering gifts to his driver, Franco up to the extent of adopting Guinevere and Aldous without her and Miya’s knowledge and consent, as well as for blatantly lying to the RTC, Layla filed a complaint for disbarment against Harley. But while said complaint was still pending, Harley died at 70 years old.

So Layla and Miya also filed a Petition for Annulment of the Judgment of Adoption of Guinevere and Aldous in the Court of Appeals. They alleged that they learned of said judgment only five years after it was issued; that Layla’s affidavit of consent filed in Court was fraudulent; and that  the birth certificates of Guinevere and Aldous have different sets of information regarding the age of Esmeralda when she gave birth, and the father of the children wherein it appears that he was the father whereas the birth certificate on file with the National Statistics Office (NSO) shows that the father is Franco. Layla and Miya likewise alleged that Guinevere and Aldous were not the illegitimate children of Harley, but the legitimate children of Franco and Esmeralda.

The CA however denied their petition for failure to show that the RTC lacked jurisdiction due to lack of personal notice to them and that there is extrinsic fraud. The CA ruled that the fraudulent affidavit and the fraudulent information in the different sets of birth certificates were perpetrated during the trial and thus could not be considered as extrinsic fraud as required in an action for annulment of judgment. Was the CA correct?

No, said the Supreme Court. It is correct that lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter or over the parties, and extrinsic fraud are the only grounds for which a Petition for Annulment of Judgment may be availed of. In this case there is really lack of jurisdiction and extrinsic fraud.

Jurisdiction of the court is determined by the statute in force at the time of the commencement of the action, which is R.A. 8552. Said R.A. requires that the adoption by the father of a child born out of wedlock must be not only with the consent of his wife but also the consent of his legitimate children ten years or older.  So, Harley must file a joint petition for adoption together with Layla or get her consent to the adoption since the children to be adopted are elevated to the level of legitimate children. This is to insure harmony between the spouses. The written consent of Miyah who is Harley’s legitimate child over ten years old is also necessary to insure harmony among the prospective siblings. So Layla and Miyah should have been personally notified of the Petition for Adoption. The constructive notice by publication of the petition as claimed by Harley is not enough. Hence since there is no personal notice to Layla and Miyah, it never validly acquired jurisdiction.

There is also extrinsic fraud in this case. When the fraud is employed by a party precisely to prevent the participation of any other interested party, the fraud is extrinsic regardless of whether the fraud was committed through the use of forged documents or perjured testimony during the trial. In this case Harley’s actions prevented Layla and Miyah from having a reasonable opportunity to contest the adoption. So the judgment of adoption of Guinevere and Aldous is really null and void ( Castro and Castro vs. Gregorio and Gregorio, G.R. 188801, October 15, 2014)

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Email: attyjosesison@gmail.com

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