SC asked to nullify Civil Code’s bastardy provision


There is a petition in the Supreme Court, pending during the drafting of this post, seeking the declaration of nullity and unconstitutionality of Article 992 of the New Civil Code for allegedly violating the equal protection clause. The petitioner who remains to be unnamed in the news argues that there is no substantial distinction between a legitimate and an illegitimate child.

It must be noted that the New Civil Code is a 69-year-old law.

What is Article 992 of the Civil Code? Under this law, an illegitimate child has no right to inherit ab intestato from the legitimate children and relatives of his father or mother; nor shall such children or relative inherit in the same manner from the illegitimate child.

Article 992 enunciates what is so commonly referred to in the rules on succession as the "principle of absolute separation between the legitimate family and the illegitimate family." The doctrine rejects succession ab intestato (when a deceased dies without a valid will) in the collateral line between legitimate relatives, on the one hand, and illegitimate relatives, on the other hand, although it does not totally disavow such succession in the direct line. Since the rule is predicated on the presumed will of the decedent, it has no application, however, on testamentary dispositions.

SOURCE: Deriquito-Mawis (2019). The rich illegitimate brother. Ma. Soledad Deriquito-Mawis. Philippine Daily Inquirer. March 23, 2019. https://business.inquirer.net/267249/the-rich-illegitimate-brother, citing Manuel vs. Hon. Ferrer, G.R. No. 117246 August 21, 1995.

"What is meant by the law when it speaks of brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, as legal or intestate heirs of an illegitimate child? It must be noted that under Article 992 of the Code, there is a barrier dividing members of the illegitimate family from members of the legitimate family. It is clear that by virtue of this barrier, the legitimate brothers and sisters as well as the children, whether legitimate or illegitimate, of such brothers and sisters, cannot inherit from the illegitimate child. Consequently, when the law speaks of “brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces” as legal heirs of an illegitimate child, it refers to illegitimate brothers and sisters as well as to the children, whether legitimate or illegitimate, of such brothers and sisters." (Jurado)

Legal experts called on the Supreme Court (SC) Tuesday, September 3, to declare unconstitutional Article 992 of the Civil Code, which deprives illegitimate children of inheritance rights from legitimate relatives of their parents.

Former Ateneo Law School dean Cynthia del Castillo and University of the Philippines (UP) persons and family relations professor Elizabeth Pangalangan were invited by the SC to the oral arguments on Tuesday as amici curiae or experts on the matter.

Del Castillo and Pangalangan both said there should not be a legal distinction between illegitimate and legitimate children.

The oral arguments were spurred by a petition from a so-called illegitimate child whose inheritance from her grandparent was denied by the Court of Appeals (CA) because of Article 992.

Law presumed constitutional; petitioner's burden of proof

One big problem about this proposed declaration of unconstitutionality is that the petitioner must hurdle the presumption that the law is valid and constitutional, being an act of a co-equal branch: Congress. Another is that the law appears to be fair on the surface. Article 992 bans the illegitimate child from inheriting without a will from the legitimate family of his or her parents and such legitimate family is also barred from inheriting from such illegitimate child.

However, the issue here is not "fairness" or "equality" between the legitimate family of the parents and the illegitimate child. The lis mota of the petition is the constitutionality of the legal distinction between illegitimate and legitimate children espoused by the 69-year-old New Civil Code.

It must be noted that there is possibility of attacking the law's validity by invoking the substantive due process. There are no reasonable means and no reasonable purpose.

Associate Justice Ramon Paul Hernando said Article 992 is very backward.

"The first laws on bastardy were promulgated in 1070, ten centuries ago, so I say this is really an obnoxious vestige of empire days that we need to strike it as unconstitutional in this very moment," Hernando said.
"The legal and societal disadvantages suffered by illegitimate children have not sufficiently deterred unmarried couples from creating them, therefore Article 992 of the Civil Code and other provisions such as Article 175 of the Family Code that deny illegitimate children rights merely because of their status does not achieve any state interest and is inconsistent with our treaty obligation," Pangalangan said.

SOURCE: Lian Buan (2019). Experts to SC: Strike down law that discriminates vs illegitimate children. Lian Buan. @lianbuan. September 03, 2019. Updated September 03, 2019. https://www.rappler.com/nation/239260-experts-call-on-supreme-court-strike-down-law-discriminating-vs-illegitimate-children.

Del Castillo said that Article 992 was worded in such a way that it can even result in "absurd" situations.

Article 992 brings down an iron curtain between a legitimate and an illegitimate child such that an illegitimate child cannot inherit from the legitimate relatives of her parent in the same way as the legitimate relative of her parent cannot inherit from the illegitimate child.

In a complicated situation such as two siblings – one illegitimate and the other legitimate – and both have illegitimate children, Del Castillo said it would be possible that the illegitimate child of the illegitimate sibling would inherit from the grandparent.

"So you have a situation here where you actually favor the illegitimates over the legitimate, is this a fair situation? So this is the heart and soul of Article 992. If you strike it down as unconstitutional on the basis of the fact that there is no substantial distinction, it really is going to be something that favors not only the illegitimate children, but the legitimate children as well," Del Castillo said.

Congress or SC?

Hernando asked Pangalangan whether the Supreme Court should take this matter into its own hands or just refer it to Congress to come up with the proper laws.

"That depends your honor and I leave it to the wisdom of the Court to decide which way, but what is clear to me, your honor, is that this law has to be changed," said Pangalangan.

Pangalangan added: "If the reason of Article 992 is to show disapproval of illicit liaisons between adults, then the children that they may produce should not have to bear the burden of that unlawful act."

SOURCE: Lian Buan (2019). Experts to SC: Strike down law that discriminates vs illegitimate children. Lian Buan. @lianbuan. September 03, 2019. Updated September 03, 2019. https://www.rappler.com/nation/239260-experts-call-on-supreme-court-strike-down-law-discriminating-vs-illegitimate-children.

What is the reason behind this principle the principle of absolute separation between the legitimate family and the illegitimate family also known as the iron curtain rule?

Article 992 of the New Civil Code prohibits absolutely a succession ab intestato between the illegitimate child and the legitimate children and relatives of the father or mother of said legitimate child. They may have a natural tie of blood, but this is not recognized by law for the purposes of Article 992.

Between the legitimate family and illegitimate family there is presumed to be an intervening antagonism and incompatibility.

The illegitimate child is disgracefully looked down upon by the legitimate family; the legitimate family is, in turn, hated by the illegitimate child; the latter considers the privileged condition of the former, and the resources of which it is thereby deprived; the former, in turn, sees in the illegitimate child nothing but product of sin, palpable evidence of a blemish broken in life; the law does no more than recognize this truth, by avoiding further grounds of resentment.

SOURCE: Deriquito-Mawis (2019). The rich illegitimate brother. Ma. Soledad Deriquito-Mawis. Philippine Daily Inquirer. March 23, 2019. https://business.inquirer.net/267249/the-rich-illegitimate-brother, citing Manuel vs. Hon. Ferrer, G.R. No. 117246 August 21, 1995.

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