G.R. No. 123450 August 31, 2005
GERARDO B. CONCEPCION, Petitioners,
COURT OF APPEALS and MA. THERESA ALMONTE, Respondent.
Petitioner Gerardo B. Concepcion and Ma. Theresa Almonte were married on December 29, 1989. They lived in Fairview, Quezon City and a year later on December 8, 1990, Ma. Theresa gave birth to Jose Gerardo.
On December 19, 1991, Gerardo filed a petition to have his marriage to Ma. Theresa annulled on the ground of bigamy, alleging that her marriage with Mario Gopiao on December 10, 198- was never annulled. Although Ma. Theresa did not deny marrying Mario, she averred that the marriage was a sham and that she have never lived with Mario at all.
The trial court said otherwise, and ruled that Ma. Theresa’s marriage to Mario was valid and subsisting, thus declaring her marriage to Gerardo as void ab initio. It deemed Jose Gerardo to be an illegitimate child and the custody was awarded to Ma. Theresa while Gerardo was granted visitation rights. Also, it allowed the child to use the surname of his father.
Ma. Theresa appealed and pleaded for the reverse of the court’s decisions. The Court of Appeals ruled that Jose Gerardo was not the son of Ma. Theresa by Gerardo but by Mario during her first marriage considering the fact that the second marriage was void from the beginning. Therefore, the child Jose Gerardo – under the law – is the child of the legal and subsisting marriage between Ma. Theresa and Mario Gopiao.
Gerardo Concepcion moved for the reconsideration of the decision.
Whether the child is the legitimate child of Ma. Theresa and Gopiao or the illegimate child of Ma. Theresa and Gerardo.
The child, Jose Gerardo, is the legitimate child of Ma. Theresa and Mario Gopiao.
The status and filiation of a child cannot be compromised as per Art. 164 of the Family Code which states, “A child who is conceived or born during the marriage of his parents is legitimate.” It is fully supported by Art. 167 of the Family Code which states, “The child shall be considered legitimate although the mother may have declared against its legitimacy or may have been sentenced as an adulteress.”. The law requires that every reasonable presumption be made in favor of the legitimacy. It is grounded on the policy to protect the innocent offspring from the odium of illegitimacy.
Since the marriage of Gerardo and Ma. Theresa was void from the very beginning, he never became her husband and thus never acquired any right to impugn the legitimacy of her child. The minor cannot be deprived of his/her legitimate status on the bare declaration of the mother and/or even much less, the supposed father. In fine, the law and only the law determines who are the legitimate or illegitimate children for one’s legitimacy or illegitimacy cannot ever be compromised. It should be what the law says and not what a parent says it is. Additionally, public policy demands that there be no compromise on the status and filiation of a child. Otherwise, the child will be at the mercy of those who may be so minded to exploit his defenselessness.
As a legitimate child, Jose Gerardo shall have the right to bear the surnames of his father Mario and mother Ma. Theresa, in conformity with the provisions of the Civil Code on surnames. Also, there being no such parent-child relationship between the child and Gerardo, Gerardo has no legally demandable right to visit the child.
The State as parens patriae affords special protection to children from abuse, exploitation and other conditions prejudicial to their development. It is mandated to provide protection to those of tender years. Through its laws, the State safeguards them from every one, even their own parents, to the end that their eventual development as responsible citizens and members of society shall not be impeded, distracted or impaired by family acrimony. This is especially significant where, as in this case, the issue concerns their filiation as it strikes at their very identity and lineage. The child, by reason of his mental and physical immaturity, needs special safeguard and care, including appropriate legal protection before as well as after birth. In case of assault on his rights by those who take advantage of his innocence and vulnerability, the law will rise in his defense with the single-minded purpose of upholding only his best interests.
WHEREFORE, the petition of Gerardo is hereby DENIED. The resolution of the Court of Appeals in favor of respondents is AFFIRMED.