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Briones vs. Miguel
G.R. No. 156343.
 
October 18, 2004

An illegitimate child is under the sole parental authority of the mother.  In the exercise of that authority, she is entitled to keep the child in her company.  The Court will not deprive her of custody, absent any imperative cause showing her unfitness to exercise such authority and care.

Petitioner concedes that Respondent Loreta has preferential right over their minor child.  He insists, however, that custody should be awarded to him whenever she leaves for Japan and during the period that she stays there.  In other words, he wants joint custody over the minor, such that the mother would have custody when she is in the country.  But when she is abroad, he -- as the biological father -- should have custody.

Having been born outside a valid marriage, the minor is deemed an illegitimate child of petitioner and Respondent Loreta.  Article 176 of the Family Code of the Philippines explicitly provides that illegitimate children shall use the surname and shall be under the parental authority of their mother, and shall be entitled to support in conformity with this Code.  This is the rule regardless of whether the father admits paternity.

Previously, under the provisions of the Civil Code, illegitimate children were generally classified into two groups: (1) natural, whether actual or by legal fiction; and (2) spurious, whether incestuous, adulterous or illicit. A natural child is one born outside a lawful wedlock of parents who, at the time of conception of the child, were not disqualified by any impediment to marry each other. On the other hand, a spurious child is one born of parents who, at the time of conception, were disqualified to marry each other on account of certain legal impediments.

Parental authority over recognized natural children who were under the age of majority was vested in the father or the mother recognizing them. If both acknowledge the child, authority was to be exercised by the one to whom it was awarded by the courts; if it was awarded to both, the rule as to legitimate children applied. In other words, in the latter case, parental authority resided jointly in the father and the mother.

The fine distinctions among the various types of illegitimate children have been eliminated in the Family Code. Now, there are only two classes of children -- legitimate (and those who, like the legally adopted, have the rights of legitimate children) and illegitimate.  All children conceived and born outside a valid marriage are illegitimate, unless the law itself gives them legitimate status.

Article 54 of the Code provides these exceptions: “Children conceived or born before the judgment of annulment or absolute nullity of the marriage under Article 36 has become final and executory shall be considered legitimate.  Children conceived or born of the subsequent marriage under Article 53 shall likewise be legitimate.”  

Under Article 176 of the Family Code, all illegitimate children are generally placed under one category, without any distinction between natural and spurious. The concept of “natural child” is important only for purposes of legitimation. Without the subsequent marriage, a natural child remains an illegitimate child.

Obviously, Michael is a natural “”(illegitimate,” under the Family Code) child, as there is nothing in the records showing that his parents were suffering from a legal impediment to marry at the time of his birth.  Both acknowledge that Michael is their son.  As earlier explained and pursuant to Article 176, parental authority over him resides in his mother, Respondent Loreta, notwithstanding his father’s recognition of him.

David v. Court of Appeals held that the recognition of an illegitimate child by the father could be a ground for ordering the latter to give support to, but not custody of, the child. The law explicitly confers to the mother sole parental authority over an illegitimate child; it follows that only if she defaults can the father assume custody and authority over the minor.  Of course, the putative father may adopt his own illegitimate child; in such a case, the child shall be considered a legitimate child of the adoptive parent.

There is thus no question that Respondent Loreta, being the mother of and having sole parental authority over the minor, is entitled to have custody of him. She has the right to keep him in her company.  She cannot be deprived of that right, and she may not even renounce or transfer it except in the cases authorized by law.

Only the most compelling of reasons, such as the mother’s unfitness to exercise sole parental authority, shall justify her deprivation of parental authority and the award of custody to someone else. In the past, the following grounds have been considered ample justification to deprive a mother of custody and parental authority: neglect or abandonment, unemployment, immorality, habitual drunkenness, drug addiction, maltreatment of the child, insanity, and affliction with a communicable disease. 

We likewise affirm the visitorial right granted by the CA to petitioner.  In Silva v. Court of Appeals, the Court sustained the visitorial right of an illegitimate father over his children in view of the constitutionally protected inherent and natural right of parents over their children. Even when the parents are estranged and their affection for each other is lost, their attachment to and feeling for their offspring remain unchanged.  Neither the law nor the courts allow this affinity to suffer, absent any real, grave or imminent threat to the well-being of the child.

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Republic Act No. 8972                   
Solo Parents' Welfare Act of 2000

( Promulgated November 7, 2000)

Notes: (1) You can download the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 8972 in PDF format; (2) Surf to the Frequently Asked Questions section of this website for a discussion on what to do if your company refuses to grant the solo parent leave; and (3) For a discussion of relevant issues, please surf to the blogs Legal Updates, Salt and Light, and Campus Connection. You can also download free PDF newsletters on legal issues.

Section 1. Title. - This Act shall be known as the "Solo Parents' Welfare Act of 2000."

Sec. 2. Declaration of Policy. - It is the policy of the State to promote the family as the foundation of the nation, strengthen its solidarity and ensure its total development. Towards this end, it shall develop a comprehensive program of services for solo parents and their children to be carried out by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Department of Health (DOH), the Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS), the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), the National Housing Authority (NHA), the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and other related government and nongovernment agencies.

Sec. 3. Definition of Terms. - Whenever used in this Act, the following terms shall mean as follows:

(a) "Solo parent" - any individual who falls under any of the following categories:

(1) A woman who gives birth as a result of rape and other crimes against chastity even without a final conviction of the offender: Provided, That the mother keeps and raises the child;

(2) Parent left solo or alone with the responsibility of parenthood due to death of spouse;

(3) Parent left solo or alone with the responsibility of parenthood while the spouse is detained or is serving sentence for a criminal conviction for at least one (1) year;

(4) Parent left solo or alone with the responsibility of parenthood due to physical and/or mental incapacity of spouse as certified by a public medical practitioner;

(5) Parent left solo or alone with the responsibility of parenthood due to legal separation or de facto separation from spouse for at least one (1) year, as long as he/she is entrusted with the custody of the children;

(6) Parent left solo or alone with the responsibility of parenthood due to declaration of nullity or annulment of marriage as decreed by a court or by a church as long as he/she is entrusted with the custody of the children;

(7) Parent left solo or alone with the responsibility of parenthood due to abandonment of spouse for at least one (1) year;

(8) Unmarried mother/father who has preferred to keep and rear her/his child/children instead of having others care for them or give them up to a welfare institution;

(9) Any other person who solely provides parental care and support to a child or children;

(10) Any family member who assumes the responsibility of head of family as a result of the death, abandonment, disappearance or prolonged absence of the parents or solo parent.

A change in the status or circumstance of the parent claiming benefits under this Act, such that he/she is no longer left alone with the responsibility of parenthood, shall terminate his/her eligibility for these benefits.

(b) "Children" - refer to those living with and dependent upon the solo parent for support who are unmarried, unemployed and not more than eighteen (18) years of age, or even over eighteen (18) years but are incapable of self-support because of mental and/or physical defect/disability.

(c) "Parental responsibility" - with respect to their minor children shall refer to the rights and duties of the parents as defined in Article 220 of Executive Order No. 209, as amended, otherwise known as the "Family Code of the Philippines."

(d) "Parental leave" - shall mean leave benefits granted to a solo parent to enable him/her to perform parental duties and responsibilities where physical presence is required.

(e) "Flexible work schedule" - is the right granted to a solo parent employee to vary his/her arrival and departure time without affecting the core work hours as defined by the employer.

Sec. 4. Criteria for Support. - Any solo parent whose income in the place of domicile falls below the poverty threshold as set by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and subject to the assessment of the DSWD worker in the area shall be eligible for assistance: Provided, however, That any solo parent whose income is above the poverty threshold shall enjoy the benefits mentioned in Sections 6, 7 and 8 of this Act.

Sec. 5. Comprehensive Package of Social Development and Welfare Services. - A comprehensive package of social development and welfare services for solo parents and their families will be developed by the DSWD, DOH, DECS, CHED, TESDA, DOLE, NHA and DILG, in coordination with local government units and a nongovernmental organization with proven track record in providing services for solo parents.

The DSWD shall coordinate with concerned agencies the implementation of the comprehensive package of social development and welfare services for solo parents and their families. The package will initially include:

(a) Livelihood development services which include trainings on livelihood skills, basic business management, value orientation and the provision of seed capital or job placement.

(b) Counseling services which include individual, peer group or family counseling. This will focus on the resolution of personal relationship and role conflicts.

(c) Parent effectiveness services which include the provision and expansion of knowledge and skills of the solo parent on early childhood development, behavior management, health care, rights and duties of parents and children.

(d) Critical incidence stress debriefing which includes preventive stress management strategy designed to assist solo parents in coping with crisis situations and cases of abuse.

(e) Special projects for individuals in need of protection which include temporary shelter, counseling, legal assistance, medical care, self-concept or ego-building, crisis management and spiritual enrichment.

Sec. 6. Flexible Work Schedule. - The employer shall provide for a flexible working schedule for solo parents: Provided, That the same shall not affect individual and company productivity: Provided, further, That any employer may request exemption from the above requirements from the DOLE on certain meritorious grounds.

Sec. 7. Work Discrimination. - No employer shall discriminate against any solo parent employee with respect to terms and conditions of employment on account of his/her status.

Sec. 8. Parental Leave. - In addition to leave privileges under existing laws, parental leave of not more than seven (7) working days every year shall be granted to any solo parent employee who has rendered service of at least one (1) year.

Sec. 9. Educational Benefits. - The DECS, CHED and TESDA shall provide the following benefits and privileges:

(1) Scholarship programs for qualified solo parents and their children in institutions of basic, tertiary and technical/skills education; and

(2) Nonformal education programs appropriate for solo parents and their children.

The DECS, CHED and TESDA shall promulgate rules and regulations for the proper implementation of this program.

Sec. 10. Housing Benefits. - Solo parents shall be given allocation in housing projects and shall be provided with liberal terms of payment on said government low-cost housing projects in accordance with housing law provisions prioritizing applicants below the poverty line as declared by the NEDA.

Sec. 11. Medical Assistance. - The DOH shall develop a comprehensive health care program for solo parents and their children. The program shall be implemented by the DOH through their retained hospitals and medical centers and the local government units (LGUs) through their provincial/district/city/municipal hospitals and rural health units (RHUs).

Sec. 12. Additional Powers and Functions of the DSWD. � The DSWD shall perform the following additional powers and functions relative to the welfare of solo parents and their families:

(a) Conduct research necessary to: (1) develop a new body of knowledge on solo parents; (2) define executive and legislative measures needed to promote and protect the interest of solo parents and their children; and (3) assess the effectiveness of programs designed for disadvantaged solo parents and their children;

(b) Coordinate the activities of various governmental and nongovernmental organizations engaged in promoting and protecting the interests of solo parents and their children; and

(c) Monitor the implementation of the provisions of this Act and suggest mechanisms by which such provisions are effectively implemented.

Sec. 13. Implementing Rules and Regulations. - An interagency committee headed by the DSWD, in coordination with the DOH, DECS, CHED, TESDA, DOLE, NHA, and DILG is hereby established which shall formulate, within ninety (90) days upon the effectivity of this Act, the implementing rules and regulations in consultation with the local government units, nongovernment organizations and people's organizations.

Sec. 14. Appropriations. - The amount necessary to carry out the provisions of this Act shall be included in the budget of concerned government agencies in the General Appropriations Act of the year following its enactment into law and thereafter.

Sec. 15. Repealing Clause. - All laws, decrees, executive orders, administrative orders or parts thereof inconsistent with the provisions of this Act are hereby repealed, amended or modified accordingly.

Sec. 16. Separability Clause. - If any provision of this Act is held invalid or unconstitutional, other provisions not affected thereby shall continue to be in full force and effect.

Sec. 17. Effectivity Clause. - This Act shall take effect fifteen (15) days following its complete publication in the Official Gazette or in at least two (2) newspaper of general circulation.

 

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