Tomorrow will be Valentine’s Day. With Filipinos having a reputation for being naturally romantic, expect restaurants, hotels and motels to be fully booked. Without wanting to be a square, I believe it timely to talk about the worrisome trend, not only in the Philippines but worldwide too of the rising birth of children out of wedlock.
In the Philippines, illegitimacy has almost become the norm, especially in the poor sectors of society who cannot afford the high cost of weddings, which entail prenuptial and at-nuptial video and photo shoots, lavish and expensive wedding ceremonies, hundreds of thousands worth of wedding gowns, among others. Statistics taken in 2011 by the National Statistics Office (now Philippine Statistics Authority) showed that four of every 10 babies born were illegitimate and one of them came from a teenage mother. The Statistics Office said back then that if the trend continues, by 2016 (last year), the majority of children born will be illegitimate. Whether the trend was influenced by popular showbiz personalities who openly admitted having illegitimate children is something that has yet be studied. Popular actor-turned-senator, Ramon Revilla Sr. was reported to have sired more than 80 children by different women while comedian actor Dolphy, who never married, had 17 children. In the US and in England, more than half of all births now are born out of wedlock, thus illegitimate.
What is disturbing about illegitimacy in the Philippines, apart from the social stigma, is that illegitimate children do not enjoy the same rights under the law enjoyed by legitimate ones. Very often, when a father marries another woman, the child born out of wedlock by his relationship with another woman becomes neglected in terms of support, love and caring. Although some women may argue that they do not need a husband, the fact is, all children need a father too; not just for financial support but for the child’s balanced personality development.
What are illegitimate children entitled to under the law? Illegitimate children are entitled to carry the surname of their fathers provided they were expressly recognized as shown in their record of birth or if there is an admission of their filiation by the father contained in a public (notarized) document or a private handwritten instrument. They are entitled to support and to inheritance when the father dies. However, an illegitimate child’s legitime or entitlement to the estate of his father is only half of that of a legitimate child. While the parental authority of an illegitimate child shall be with the mother, the father of an illegitimate who recognized him may be entitled to visitorial rights to enable him to enjoy the company of the child, give him love and share in the child’s rearing and development.
What if an illegitimate child is not recognized by his father in his birth certificate? Can he legally seek recognition to be entitled to his rights? Yes. The Family Code provides that such illegitimate child may file a petition to establish his filiation with his father during the lifetime of the father. He can use pieces of evidence to prove that the father has recognized him as his biological child such as photos, letters and testimonies of people. With the advance in science, the child may also resort to DNA testing to prove his filiation.
While love, infatuation and attraction govern most relationships, women must be ever mindful about bringing into the world children whose futures may be uncertain if they were born out of wedlock.