SC: Law Cannot Alter Blood Relationships

While the law may declare who are legitimate children, it cannot alter blood relationships.

Thus held the Supreme Court, in a Decision penned by Senior Associate Justice Marvic M.V.F Leonen, denying the petition for review on certiorari filed by James Cua Ko. The petition challenged the ruling of the Court of Appeals (CA) which had upheld the Regional Trial Court’s (RTC) denial of Ko’s Petition for Judicial Approval of Voluntary Recognition of a Minor Natural Child.

In 2004, Shalimar Abellera, whose petition for declaration of nullity of marriage with one Kerwin Cruz Par was pending in court, gave birth to Jamie Shaye. Abellera claimed during trial that she had been separated from Par since 1999. In Jamie Shaye’s birth certificate, Abellera indicated petitioner “James Cua Ko” as the name of Jamie Shaye’s father.

In 2006, Abellera’s marriage to Par was voided. Two years after, the Office of the Civil Registrar of Muntinlupa City changed Jamie Shaye’s surname in her birth certificate to “Ko.”

Cua Ko then filed with the RTC a Petition for Judicial Approval of Voluntary Recognition of a Minor Natural Child to “secure the best interest of Jamie Shaye.”

The RTC denied Cua Ko’s petition. This was affirmed by the Court of Appeals, which held that Jamie Shaye, having been born during a valid marriage between Abellera and Par, is a legitimate child whose status as such is more favorable to her.

In affirming the CA and the RTC, the Supreme Court applied Article 164 of the Family Code, which provides that children conceived or born during the marriage are legitimate. Such presumption of legitimacy is for the best interest of the child, said the Court.

In the case of Jamie Shaye, she is considered a legitimate child since she was born during the marriage of Abellera and Par.

Further, Article 170 of the Family Code requires direct action to challenge a child’s legitimacy. In the instant case, to grant Cua Ko’s petition would have the effect of attacking Jamie Shaye’s legitimate status collaterally, in violation of the law.

The same provision of the Family Code also states that only the husband and, in some instances, his heirs, can bring such direct action and only on specified grounds. “Even the mother is prohibited by law from declaring against her child’s legitimacy,” said the Court.

In Cua Ko’s case, he has no standing to challenge Jamie Shaye’s legitimacy since he is not the husband allowed by the law to do so.

Applying all of the foregoing, Cua Ko’s petition must be denied, ruled the Court.

The Court, however, also clarified that while the petition must necessarily be dismissed, such dismissal is not without prejudice to Jamie Shaye’s right to establish her filiation to Cua Ko, should she wish to do so.

The Court noted that while Article 164 of the Family Code assumes: (1) that the child was born during the subsistence of a marriage; and (2) that this subsisting marriage is the marriage of their parents, the reality, however, “is that a child can be born during the subsistence of a marriage, but not necessarily that of their biological parents.”

Confusion hence arises because legitimacy assumes filiation, when the two are different concepts. Legitimacy refers to civil status established if the person is born during the subsistence of a marriage, while filiation is the state of being someone’s offspring and is determined mainly by biology. “It may be the law the solely declares who are legitimate children, but in no way can it alter blood relationships,” stressed the Court.

Thus, while children born during the subsistence of a marriage, but not necessarily that of their biological parents, may be legitimate, doubts as to their filiation and identity will persist. The Court hence ruled that children should be allowed, as the law allows them under Article 164 of the Family Code, to establish their filiation notwithstanding the presumption of legitimacy.

The Court concluded by stressing that Jamie Shaye should be allowed to establish her filiation to Cua Ko and that such “choice to do so would be hers and hers alone…[as] it is her interests that would be affected by such action.” (Courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office)

Full text of G.R. No. 210984 (James Cua Ko v. Republic of the Philippines.) at: