|Article 177 amended by RA 9858|
Republic Act No. 9858 “Legitimation of Children Born to Minor Parents” amended Article 177 of the Family Code as of December 20, 2009. The article now reads:
“Children conceived and born outside of wedlock of parents who, at the time of conception of the former, were not disqualified by any impediment to marry each other, or were so disqualified only because either or both of them were below eighteen (18) years of age, may be legitimated.”In simple terms, a child conceived or born when either or both parents were below 18 can now be legitimated; minority is no longer an impediment or legal obstacle. (Previously, biological parents who were below 18 could not avail of legitimation for their child; their legal remedy was to go through an expensive adoption process.)
Yesterday, I was channel surfing with my nephew who had a day off from classes despite the rain-free weather, and I caught snatches of Spongebob Squarepants desperately searching for his pet snail Gary who left home after Spongebob's neglect and indifference (I love this kind of soap opera in cartoons!), the news ranging from the floods in various parts of the country, the fighting in Basilan and Sulu, and the brewing romance between a guy named Dingdong and a woman named Marianne. Awww! Wake up, Karylle! What caught my attention in the news, however, was the interview with Rep. Eduardo Gullas of Cebu on the proposed amendment to Article 177 of the Family Code on the legitimation of children.
The proposed amendment isn't really nothing new. Middle of 2005, it has already been proposed by several legislators including party list representative Liza Masa. Contrary to the news report, as early as two years ago, the House Committee on Revision of Laws had already approved a consolidated bill amending Article 177 and providing for the legitimation of children born to underaged and unmarried parents. Proponents of the amendment to Article 177 say that the law as it stands discriminates against innocent children, and the process of adoption is costly and time-consuming. It also gives rise to the absurd situation of biological parents adopting their own child.
What is new (assuming that the news report was accurate and that I heard the report right considering I was so engrossed in the Spongebob and Gary soap opera) is the proposal that once a single parent gets married to a person other than the biological parent, then the child automatically becomes legitimate, without having to go through adoption proceedings. There are various complicated issues regarding this matter like the rights of the other biological parent ... (You might be interested to know that in the US, there is a so-called “putative fathers“ law. What is the law all about? Go Google it, okay? okay?)
For your better appreciation of what legitimation is and the problems that illegitimate children face if the amendment is not approved, I am reprinting below a primer on legitimation which I first posted several months ago in my Legal Updates blog.
Articles 177 up to 182 of the Family Code provide for the rules in the legitimation of children born outside of wedlock but whose biological parents eventually enter into a valid marriage. At the latter portion of this primer is a short discussion of the proposed amendment to Article 177.
Who can be legitimated?
Only children conceived and born outside of wedlock of parents who, at the time of the conception of the former, were not disqualified by any impediment to marry each other may be legitimated.
How does legitimation take place?
Legitimation shall take place by a subsequent valid marriage between parents. The annulment of a voidable marriage shall not affect the legitimation.
What are the effects of legitimation?
 Legitimated children enjoy the same rights as legitimate children.
 The effects of legitimation retroact to the time of the child's birth.
 The legitimation of children who died before the celebration of the marriage benefits their descendants.
Who can question a child’s legitimation?
Legitimation may be questioned only by those who are prejudiced in their rights, within five years from the time their cause of action accrues.
Proposed amendment to Article 177 of the Family Code
As it now stands, Article 177 states, “Only children conceived and born outside of wedlock of parents who, at the time of the conception of the former, were not disqualified by any impediment to marry each other may be legitimated.” This means that if at the time of the child’s conception, there is a legal impediment to the marriage of the biological parents, the child cannot be legitimated under Article 177.
For example, if any of the biological parents was validly married to another person at the time of the conception of the child in question, that child cannot be legitimated.
The Court of Appeals in a 1999 case overturned the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Nabunturan, Comval, Davao which declared that minority was only an incapacity and not a disqualifying factor for marriage. The said RTC had ordered the legitimation of the child of Junice Bongay and Alberto Bioco Jr. over the objections of the Civil Registrar General of the National Statistics Office and the local civil registry officials of that place. The Court of Appeals, in overturning the RTC decision, stated that minority was an “absolute legal impediment” and that “the judiciary cannot change a congressional law by its extensive interpretation.”
Thus, the only way for such a child (born outside of wedlock to parents who were suffering from any legal impediment at the time of the conception of the child) to acquire legitimate status, is for it to be adopted by the biological parents.