SC allows nonmarital children to inherit from direct ascendants
In another landmark ruling, the Supreme Court has allowed “nonmarital” children to inherit from direct ascendants, setting aside what used to be called the “iron curtain rule” between illegitimate and legitimate children.
The Supreme Court Public Information Office (PIO) said in a statement Thursday, March 31, that the en banc “reinterpreted Article 992 of the Civil Code, which prohibits nonmarital children from inheriting from their siblings who are marital children, as well as relatives of [their] father or mother.”
The case, Aquino vs Aquino, was heard in oral arguments in 2019 – one session turned emotional for the petitioner Amadea Angela “Maggie” Ho Aquino who is claiming her right to inherit from her grandfather Miguel. The problem was that in the eyes of the law, she is an “illegitimate” child of Miguel’s son Arturo who died before Maggie was born, and before Arturo could marry her mother.
Article 992 of the Civil Code says an “illegitimate child has no right to inherit ab intestato from the legitimate children and relatives of his father or mother; nor shall such children or relatives inherit in the same manner from the illegitimate child.”
But in the latest en banc ruling, penned by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, “the Court ruled that grandparents and other direct ascendants are outside the scope of ‘relatives’ under Article 992.”
“Both marital and nonmarital children, whether born from a marital or nonmarital child, are blood relatives of their parents and other ascendants. Thus, a nonmarital child’s right of representation should be governed by Article 982 of the Civil Code, which does not differentiate based on the birth status of grandchildren and other direct descendants,” said the SC PIO.
Article 982 says “the grandchildren and other descendants shall inherit by right of representation, and if any one of them should have died, leaving several heirs, the portion pertaining to him shall be divided among the latter in equal portions.”
SC Revisits 'Iron Curtain Rule' in Succession Law, Upholds Best Interest of the Child https://t.co/jNLn9COz47 pic.twitter.com/kr0KoXFSit — Philippine Supreme Court Public Information Office (@SCPh_PIO) March 31, 2022
Leonen’s ponencia also did away with the terms “illegitimate” and “legitimate” saying they are “pejorative terms when used to describe children based on their parents’ marital status.” The decision instead used the terms nonmarital and marital.
“Departing from regressive conjectures about family life in favor of the best interests of the child, the Court abandoned the presumption that nonmarital children are products of illicit relationships or that they are automatically placed in a hostile environment perpetrated by the marital family,” said the SC PIO.
Leonen was ponente of the 2021 ruling that redefined the basis to declare nullity of marriage, ruling that psychological incapacity as a ground need not be a clinical diagnosis, but based on totality of evidence. It was deemed as making the nullity of marriage more accessible, especially to victims of domestic abuse.
It is a progressive ruling in the predominantly Catholic Philippines, the only country aside from the Vatican City that does not have a divorce law.
In the inheritance case, the petitioner found backing from amici curiae or court-approved law experts. Even when a justice was encouraging parties to just settle property disputes, Associate Justice Ramon Paul Hernando advocated for nonmarital children and urged the petitioner to see the case through to amend what he called a “backward” clause.