SC: Non-marital children can inherit

March 31, 2022 Hector Lawas 178 views

IN a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court (SC) has ruled that non-marital children or those born outside of a valid “wedlock”, can now inherit from their grandparents and other ascendants.

This as the high court revisited Article 992 of the Civil Code of the Philippines prohibiting non-marital children from inheriting from their siblings who are marital children, and from their paternal and maternal relatives.

In an en banc decision penned by Senior Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, the SC also replaced the terms “legitimate and illegitimate” with “marital and non-marital.”

The SC stressed that the terms “legitimate and illegitimate” are pejorative terms when used to describe children.

With the latest ruling, children, regardless of their parents’ marital status, can now inherit from their grandparents and other direct ascendants by right of representation.

The high court came up with the ruling after a woman claiming to be the non-marital child of a man who died before she was born, filed a petition.

After her paternal grandfather died, she asserted her right to represent her deceased father – a marital child – in inheriting from her grandfather’s estate.

Previously, the high court citing Article 992 had barred non-marital children from inheriting from their grandparents and other direct ascendants.

The SC christened this as the “Iron Curtain” rule by noting the perceived hostility between the marital and non-marital sides of a family.

In the present ruling, the SC revisited this rule and found that Article 992 “should be construed to account for other circumstances of birth and family dynamics.”

“Peace within families cannot be encouraged by callously depriving some of its members of their inheritance. Such deprivation may even be the cause of antagonism and alienation that could have been otherwise avoided,” the SC said in a statement.

Furthermore, the SC took into account the stigma non-marital children had been facing despite the status being beyond their power to change.

The SC said that some children might be non-marital because their parents choose not to marry, citing a 2016 Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) report that, from 2007 to 2016, there was 14.4% decline in registered marriages in the country.

Also, the SC admitted that some children may be non-marital because one or both of their parents are below marriageable age.

In 2017, the SC said 196,478 children were born to mothers 19 years old and under, and 52,342 children were sired by fathers 19 years old and under.

“There are also children who are non-marital when their mother was a survivor of sexual assault who did not marry the perpetrator; or when one parent dies before they can marry the other parent,” the SC admitted.

The SC appointed 2 amici curiae, Dean Cynthia Del Castillo and Professor Elizabeth Aguiling-Pangalangan, to guide the court in its decision.

But because of factual issues with the non-marital child’s claim of filiation, the Court remanded the case of woman-petitioner to the Regional Trial Court and ordered it to receive further evidence, including DNA evidence.