Luigi Santos v. Republic
G.R. No. 250520. May 05, 2021
Petitioner Francis Luigi G. Santos (petitioner) filed a petition for change of name under Rule 103 of the Rules of Court seeking to change his surname from “Santos” to “Revilla” in his Certificate of Live Birth. Lovely Guzman and Bong Revilla (Francis’ parents) were never married, therefore, Francis’ Certificate of Live Birth did not bear the Revilla surname and his father was marked as unknown. However, Bong Revilla executed an Affidavit of Acknowledgment recognizing the petitioner as his son. In 1999, Lovely Guzman married Patrick Joseph P. Santos (Patrick Santos), who, in turn, legally adopted petitioner. Thus, petitioner’s name was changed from “Francis Luigi Guzman” to “Francis Luigi G. Santos.”
The petitioner filed the instant petition in order to “avoid confusion,” “to show [his] sincere and genuine desire to associate himself to [Bong Revilla] and to the Revillas,” and to ensure that his records show his true identity as Bong Revilla’s son.
The RTC denied the petition and held that a change of name was not a matter of right and could be granted only for compelling reasons.
The CA affirmed the decision of the RTC and held that allowing a change of name would create more confusion as to petitioner’s status and filiation given that he had already been legally adopted by Patrick Santos. That the corrections sought involved substantial amendments to petitioner’s birth certificate, as allowing a change in surname from “Santos” to “Revilla” would constitute a change in his status from “legitimate” to “illegitimate.” The CA held that petitioner should have availed himself of the adversarial proceeding under Rule 108 for cancellation and/or correction of entries rather than the summary proceeding under Rule 103 for change of name.
1. Whether Rule 108 rather than Rule 103 applies
2. Whether the CA correctly denied the petition to change name
1. NO. Petitioner correctly availed of a Rule 103 proceeding to effect the desired change.
It is a threshold principle that the nature of a proceeding is determined by the allegations in the petition and the ultimate reliefs sought. In the instant case, it is apparent that petitioner does not seek to correct any clerical or substantial error in his birth certificate or to effect any changes in his status as an adopted child of Patrick Santos. As such, neither Rule 108 nor R.A. 9048 as amended applies. Rather, the petition is unequivocal that petitioner merely desires to change and replace his surname “Santos” with the surname “Revilla” in accordance with Hernandez in order to “avoid confusion,”51 “to show [his] sincere and genuine desire to associate himself to [Bong] Revilla[,] Jr. and to the Revillas, and to show that he accepts and embraces his true identity. These allegations show that petitioner ultimately seeks to “alter the ‘designation by which he is known and called in the community in which he lives and is best known'”55 and not to effect any clerical or substantial corrections. Thus, he properly availed himself of the procedure prescribed under Rule 103.
2. YES. No similar compelling reason was alleged nor proved in this case. A sincere desire to associate oneself to a certain person or family, without more, does not justify a change of surname. The following have been considered valid grounds for change of name: “(a) when the name is ridiculous, dishonorable or extremely difficult to write or pronounce; (b) when the change results as a legal consequence, as in legitimation; (c) when the change will avoid confusion; (d) when one has continuously used and been known since childhood by a Filipino name, and was unaware of alien parentage; (e) a sincere desire to adopt a Filipino name to erase signs of former alienage, all in good faith and without prejudicing anybody; and (f) when the surname causes embarrassment and there is no showing that the desired change of name was for a fraudulent purpose or that the change of name would prejudice public interest.”
The use of the surname “Revilla” would create further confusion rather than avoid it, given that: (1) petitioner has never legally used the name “Revilla” despite having been acknowledged in 1996; (2) he was legally adopted by Patrick Santos in 2001; (3) he has used the name “Santos” for all documentary purposes since his adoption; (4) although he is publicly known to be the son of Bong Revilla, he is known by his peers as “Luigi Santos”; (5) even after a change of surname, Patrick Santos shall continue to be the father named in his birth certificate; and (5) he only began using the surname “Revilla” when he entered show business.
Second. While petitioner may factually identify and associate with his biological father and his family, he remains to be the legitimate son of Patrick Santos by virtue of the adoption. The latter and not the former is thus his true legal identity.
Finally, it bears emphasis that a change of name is a privilege and not a matter of right. It is addressed to the sound discretion of the court.