Unequalled love
A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Atty. Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - June 26, 2020 - 12:00am

This is another case of custody and care of a child. The general rule is that the parents, especially the mother, have the parental authority and the right to the custody and care of their children. But as previously ruled in several other cases, such authority may be waived. In deciding this issue of the right to the custody and care of the child, the best interest of the child should prevail. Supposing however that the mother herself entrusted the care and custody of the child to another person mainly because she cannot afford to take care of the child, can she get back the custody later on? What may the reasons for giving back to her, the custody of her child? These are the issues raised and answered in this case of Alice.

Alice, who was then still single in her late teens, gave birth to a baby boy subsequently named Zandro. The boy’s father was an American soldier, Nicolas, who formed part of the American Liberation Forces. Nine days after delivery, Alice was constrained to give custody of Zandro to her friend Stella because her father, Wilfredo, objected to having Zandro in the paternal home where Alice was still living. Wilfredo did not want the child to stay in their home because he was so angry and displeased at Alice for maintaining illicit relations with Nicolas that he considered as a disgrace to their family.

Thus Alice entrusted custody of Zandro to her friend, Stella married to JP but without any child. Alice even executed a document entrusting Zandro to Stella because she has “no means to bring up the child.” So Stella took Zandro direct from the hospital to her house and ministered to his needs even hiring a nurse to take care of him. Alice also spent several days in Stella’s house while recuperating and later on returned to her own home leaving Zandro to the care of Stella although she visited the child every Saturday bringing milk, food and some money.  Three months later Alice signed another document designating Stella as “the real guardian of my son, Zandro.”

Eventually Alice was able to get a job where she met Gary whom she married two years later. Thereafter, Alice and Gary decided to get back Zandro from Stella. But Stella and her husband refused, so the couple filed a Petition for Habeas Corpus.

In their response, Stella cited and marked as exhibits 1 and 4 the documents signed by Alice entrusting custody of Zandro to her and designating her as “the real guardian” of the child and that “no one has the right to claim him for adoption except Stella.”

Despite said documents however, the lower court nevertheless granted the Petition for Habeas Corpus of Alice and Gary and ordered the Sheriff to “deliver the custody of Zandro to his mother” Alice. The lower court said that the two exhibits cannot sustain a finding that Alice had renounced parental authority, care and custody of her child Zandro in favor of Stella.

The Supreme Court sustained the ruling of the lower court except that it should be Stella and not the Sheriff who should deliver custody of Zandro to Alice considering the she is the one in custody of the boy. The SC ruled that the said documents (Exhibit 1 and 4) cannot be reasonably interpreted as contemplating that Alice had definitely renounced custody of Zandro. In the first document she merely entrusted her son to Stella as the “real guardian of the child.” Such designation cannot and does not mean that said guardian will always assume and discharge the duties of a guardian. Guardianship is always and invariably understood to be temporary in the sense that Stella will be the guardian while Alice was still unable to care for and support Zandro because she could not bring him to live with her in the home of her father. This is why she entrusted his custody and care to Stella. Now that she has become of legal age, emancipated from the parental authority of her father and has already gotten married, she is in a position to care for and support her own child with the consent and desire of her husband Gary who joins her in the petition. So there is no more reason for depriving her custody of the boy. Furthermore the last paragraph of this document stating that “no one has the right to claim for adoption except Stella,” envisages a future act. It does not mean that she has already adopted the child. She may or may not adopt him. And she has not yet done it.

The SC said that the tragedy of depriving mother and son the beautiful associations and tender, imperishable memories engendered by the relationship of parent and child should always be averted. The mother’s opportunity of bringing up her own child even at the cost of extreme sacrifice due to poverty and lack of means, should not be taken away from her so that afterwards, she may be able to look back with pride and sense of satisfaction at her sacrifices and efforts to make her dreams for her little boy, come true (Celis et.al vs Cafuir et.al.; G.R. L-3352, June 12, 1950).

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Email: js0711192@gmail.com

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