Friday, October 04, 2013

After getting married, a woman should consistently use either her maiden surname or her married surname

Plain Language summary

Case title:Maria Virginia V. Remo vs. The Honorable Secretary of Foreign Affairs,” G.R. No. 169202, March 5, 2010

Ruling: 

A married woman is not prohibited from continuously using her maiden name once she is married. When a woman marries, she does not change her name but only her civil status.

RA 8239 does not prohibit a married woman from using her maiden name in her passport. The DFA allows a married woman who applies for a passport for the first time to use her maiden name. She is not required to adopt her husband's surname.

But once a married woman uses her married name in her passport, she cannot be allowed to change her family name at will. This prohibition prevents confusion and inconsistency in the records of passport holders.

Relevant laws:

[1] Republic Act No. 8239 or the Philippine Passport Act of 1996

[2] Article 370 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines (law on surnames for married women)

Background facts:


[1] Maria Virginia V. Remo is a Filipino citizen married to Francisco R. Rallonza. The following entries appear in her passport: “Rallonza” as her surname, “Maria Virginia” as her given name, and “Remo” as her middle name.

Virginia’s passport was due to expire on October 27, 2000. She applied for her passport’s renewal with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) office in Chicago, Illinois, USA. She also requested that her maiden name and surname be used in the replacement passport.

[2] The DFA office in Chicago and later on DFA Sec. Domingo Siason denied Virginia’s request.

DFA Sec. Siason, through an undersecretary, stated:

This Office is cognizant of the provision in the law that it is not obligatory for a married woman to use her husband’s name. Use of maiden name is allowed in passport application only if the married name has not been used in previous application. The Implementing Rules and Regulations for Philippine Passport Act of 1996 clearly defines the conditions when a woman applicant may revert to her maiden name, that is, only in cases of annulment of marriage, divorce and death of the husband. Ms. Remo’s case does not meet any of these conditions.

[3] Virginia appealed to the Office of the President but her appeal was denied. The OP stated:

Section 5(d) of Republic Act No. 8239 (RA 8239) or the Philippine Passport Act of 1996 “offers no leeway for any other interpretation than that only in case of divorce, annulment, or declaration [of nullity] of marriage may a married woman revert to her maiden name for passport purposes.”

[4] Virginia then filed a petition for review of the OP’s decision with Court of Appeals. The CA denied the petition, stating:

  • Virginia’s marriage to Francisco Rallonza has not been annulled or declared void. A divorce decree has also not been granted to them.
  • Virgina cannot therefore simply revert to her maiden name in the replacement passport after she had adopted her husband’s surname in her old passport.

Virginia subsequently filed a petition for review of the CA’s ruling with the Supreme Court. She claimed that no law prohibits her from using her maiden name and that Section 5(d) of RA 8239 conflicts with Article 370 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines (NCC).

Issue


Should Virginia be allowed to use her maiden surname in the replacement passport?

Supreme Court ruling


[1] “A married woman has an option, but not a duty, to use the surname of the husband in any of the ways provided by Article 370 NCC. She is therefore allowed to use not only any of the three names provided in Article 370, but also her maiden name upon marriage.”

“A married woman is not prohibited from continuously using her maiden name once she is married. When a woman marries, she does not change her name but only her civil status.”

[2] The law governing passport issuance is RA 8239. Section 5(d) “limits the instances when a married woman may be allowed to revert to the use of her maiden name in her passport.” These instances are death of husband, divorce decree, annulment or nullity of marriage.

Article 370 of the Civil Code and Section 5(d) of RA 8239 do not conflict with one another. RA 8239, including its implementing rules and regulations, does not prohibit a married woman from using her maiden name in her passport. In fact, in recognition of this right, the DFA allows a married woman who applies for a passport for the first time to use her maiden name. Such an applicant is not required to adopt her husband's surname.

[3] Virginia “would not have encountered any problems in the replacement passport had she opted to continuously and consistently use her maiden name from the moment she was married and from the time she first applied for a Philippine passport.”

[4] If Virginia’s request to use her maiden surname in the replacement passport is granted, “nothing prevents her in the future from requesting to revert to the use of her husband’s surname.”

“Unjustified changes in one’s name and identity in a passport cannot be allowed. Undue confusion and inconsistency in the records of passport holders will arise.”

For passport issuance purposes, a married woman whose marriage is subsisting, may not change her family name at will.

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