Civil Code of the Philippines: Surnames

 Surnames are important for identification. Surnames identify the family to which a
person belongs (transmitted from parent to child).

A name is a word or a combination by which a person is known or identified (Republic
vs. Fernandez)

Characteristics of Surnames
1. Absolute – intended to protect from confusion
2. Obligatory
3. Fixed – can’t change at one’s leisure
4. Outside the commerce of man – can’t sell or donate
5. Imprescriptible – even if one does not use, still your name

1. As far as the state is concerned, your real name is the one in the Civil Registry
(not the baptismal certificate since parish records are no longer official)
2. Change of name can only be done through court proceedings
Art. 376. No person can change his name or surname without
judicial authority.
3. However, a person can use other names which are authorized by C.A. No. 142 as
amended by R.A. No. 6085 (use of pseudonym)

Guidelines regarding Change of Name
1. In a petition for change of name, courts are generally strict. You have to show
sufficient cause.

The cases of Naldoza vs. Republic and Republic vs. Marcos illustrate what are
sufficient causes. Republic vs. Hernandez added an additional ground. The
enumeration is not an exclusive list of causes. They are merely the ones
frequently cited.

In Republic vs. CA, the child wanted to change to the surname of the
stepfather’s. The Supreme Court said this is not allowed since it will cause
confusion as to the child’s paternity.
2. In a petition for injunction or in a criminal case for violation of C.A. No. 142,
courts are generally liberal for as long as there is no fraud or bad faith.

In Legamia vs. IAC, the Supreme Court allowed the mistress to use her live-in
partner’s name since everyone knew that she was the mistress – no confusion.

In Tolentino vs. CA, the Supreme Court allowed the former Mrs. Tolentino to
keep on using the surname of Tolentino since the same was not being used for
fraudulent purposes.

3. In case of adoption where the woman adopts alone, it is the maiden name that
should be given the child (Johnston vs. Republic)
Art. 370. A married woman may use:
(1) Her maiden first name and surname and add her husband’s surname, or
(2) Her maiden first name and her husband’s surname or
(3) Her husband’s full name, but prefixing a word indicating that she is his
wife, such as “Mrs.”

A married woman may use only her maiden name and surname. She has an option
and not a duty to use the surname of her husband as provided for in Art. 370. This is
the obiter dictum in Yasin vs. Shari’a which cites Tolentino.

According to Yasin vs. Shari’a, when the husband dies, the woman can revert to her
old name without need for judicial authorization.

Art. 176, Family Code. Illegitimate children shall use the surname and
shall be under the parental authority of their mother, and shall be entitled to
support in conformity with this Code. The legitime of each illegitimate child
shall consist of one-half of the legitime of a legitimate child. Except for this
modification, all other provisions in the Civil Code governing successional rights
shall remain in force.

Illegitimate children shall use the surname of the mother.
Art. 377. Usurpation of a name and surname may be the subject of an
action for damages and other relief.
Art. 378. The unauthorized or unlawful use of another person’s surname
gives a right of action to the latter.

Articles 377 and 378 don’t talk of the same thing.

Article 377 deals with the usurpation of names. There is usurpation when there is
confusion of identity (i.e. you claim to be Jaime Zobel)

Elements of Article 377 (Usurpation):
1. There is an actual use of another’s name by the defendant
2. The use is unauthorized
3. The use of another’s name is to designate personality or identify a person.

Article 378 is using of the name for purposes other than usurpation (i.e., slander; for
example, I will use Daliva’s surname in my product, calling it Daliva see-thru lingerie)


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