Diosdado Yap Sr. died and left as heirs his wife, Almeda, their marital children Josie, Hearty and Diosdado Jr. and an acknowledged nonmarital child, Lowella.
After the death of their father, Lowella and Josie discovered that a portion of the decedent’s estate has been extrajudicially partitioned among Almeda, Hearty and Diosdado Jr. This prompted Lowella and Josie to file a complaint for partition before the RTC.
Almeda, Hearty and Diosdado Jr. denied that Lowella and Josie are heirs of the decedent. According to them, Josie’s real name is Josie Joy Villanueva Saavedra, whose parents are Manuel Saavedra and Lagrimas Villanueva. They likewise claimed that Lowella’s father is not Diosdado Sr. but certain Bernardo Lumahang to whom her mother Matilde Lusterio was married on January 5, 1953.
Only Lowella remained as party litigant because Josie can no longer be located. Trial proceeded.
Lowella testified that she was born to Diosdado Sr. and Matilde Lusterio. She also narrated that she lived with Diosdado Sr. and his family and was treated well by the decedent’s family.
Almeda on the other hand presented a Certification from the Civil Registrar regarding the marriage of Lusterio and Lumahang on January 15, 1953. Lowella Yap was born on April 2, 1961.
The RTC decided in favor of Lowella. The RTC considered irrelevant the marriage between Lusterio and Lumahang since Lowella proved that her father is Diosdado Sr.
Almeda, Hearty and Diosdado Jr. appealed to the CA.
The CA set aside the portion of RTC’s ruling decreeing Lowella to be Diosdado Sr.’s acknowledged non marital child. It ruled that since Lowella was born during the subsistence of the marriage of Lusterio and Lumahang, she enjoys the presumption of legitimacy under Article 164 of the Family Code. It decreed that a child’s legitimate status can only be impugned in an action instituted for that purpose, and not through a mere action for partition.
Lowella filed a PR to the SC.
ISSUES AND RULING:
1. Is Lowella considered to be a marital child of Lusterio and Lumahang?
Yes. Lowella does not deny that she was born during the subsistence of her mother’s marriage to Lumahang. Under the Family Code, a child conceived or born during a valid marriage shall be presumed legitimate. Accordingly, Lowella is presumed to be the marital daughter of Lusterio and Lumahang.
2. How can the presumption of legitimacy be impugned?
The presumption of legitimacy may be refuted and overthrown by substantial and credible evidence to the contrary. Article 166 of the Family Code provided for the grounds.
It must be stressed though that the Family Code provided for other grounds in impugning the presumption of legitimacy. The presumption may be overturned when it was proven “that for biological or other scientific reasons, the child could not have been that of the husband”. The Supreme Court discussed about paternity may be established through DNA testing. It further cited previous cases which required lower courts to order the conduct of DNA testing to establish filiation.
3. Who has the personality to impugn the presumption of legitimacy of a child?
Article 170 and 171 of the Family Code state that only the husband, and in exceptional circumstances, his heirs, may impugn the presumption of legitimacy of a child to his wife. The Supreme Court however noted that in this day and age, the theory that only the father is affected by the infidelity of the wife no longer holds true. The circumstances under which these children are conceived and born have an impact on their rights and privileges. Filiation proceedings are instituted not only for the purpose of determining paternity. These proceedings are also filed “to secure a legal right associated with paternity, such as citizenship, support or inheritance”. It would be antithetical to the best interests of the child should the Petition be denied based merely on the archaic view that only the husband is “directly confronted with the scandal and ridicule which the infidelity of his wife produces.” The best interest of the child is to allow petitioner to prove and establish her true filiation.
The resolution of the CA was reversed and set aside. The case was remanded to the RTC for the resolution of the issue of Lowella’s filiation including the reception of DNA evidence.
The Backpacking Lawyer is a practicing lawyer and a nurse by profession in the Philippines. While she enjoys her day job, she loves traveling and sharing her adventures and misadventures with you.