Petition for Change of Name

According to In Re: Petition for Change of Name of Julian Lin Wang vs. Cebu City Civil Registrar (G.R. No. 159966, March 30, 2005), the names of individuals usually have two parts: the given name or proper name, and the surname or family name. The given or proper name is that which is given to the individual at birth or baptism, to distinguish him from other individuals. The name or family name is that which identifies the family to which he belongs and is continued from parent to child. The given name may be freely selected by the parents for the child; but the surname to which the child is entitled is fixed by law.

The Supreme Court in Republic v. Court of Appeals (G.R. No. 97906, 21 May 1992) provides that a name is said to have the following characteristics: (1) it is absolute, intended to protect the individual from being confused with others; (2) it is obligatory in certain respects, for nobody can be without a name; (3) it is fixed, unchangeable, or immutable, at least at the start, and may be changed only for good cause and by judicial proceedings; (4) it is outside the commerce of man, and, therefore, inalienable and intransmissible by act inter vivos or mortis causa; and (5) it is imprescriptible.

Republic Act No. 9048 allows the city or municipal civil registrar or the consul general to correct a clerical or typographical error in an entry and/or change the first name or nickname in the civil register without need of a judicial order. R.A. No. 9048 amended Articles 376 and 412 of the New Civil Code, which prohibited the change of name or surname of a person, or any correction or change of entry in a civil register without a judicial order.

R.A. No. 9048 allows the correction of clerical or typographical errors in any entry in civil registry documents, except corrections involving the change in sex, age, nationality and status of a person. A clerical or typographical error refers to an obvious mistake committed in clerical work, either in writing, copying, transcribing, or typing an entry in the civil register that is harmless and innocuous, such as a misspelled name or misspelled place of birth and the like, and can be corrected or changed only by reference to other existing record or records.
R.A. No. 9048 also allows the change of a person's first name in his/her civil registry document under certain grounds specified under the law through administrative process.

To avail of the remedy under R.A. No. 9048, the petitioner must meet one of the three factual circumstances: (1) the petitioner finds the first name or nickname to be ridiculous, tainted with dishonor or extremely difficult to write or pronounce; (2) the new first name or nickname has been habitually and continuously used by the petitioner and he has been publicly known by that first name or nickname in the community; or (3) the change will avoid confusion.

Respicio & Co. can help persons wishing to change their names for the grounds stated above.

Anti-Dummy Law in the Philippines

There are various laws and regulations restricting the maximum amount of foreign equity in corporations engaged in nationalized or partially nationalized economic activities in the Philippines. The sources of these restrictions are the 1987 Constitution, the Foreign Investments Act of 1991, and the Foreign Investment Negative Lists.

The Anti-Dummy Law (Commonwealth Act No. 108) seeks to penalize persons and corporations which circumvent these foreign equity restrictions. The offender can be: (i) any citizen of the Philippines, or (ii) any citizen of any other specific country. The proscribed offense includes the act of using the “name” or “citizenship” of a Filipino citizen to be used for the purpose of evading the foreign ownership limitations.

One example of a violation of the Anti-Dummy Law is the designation of a foreigner as a beneficial owner and of a Filipino citizen as a legal owner in an enterprise engaged in nationalized or partially nationalized economic activities. Under this nominee shareholder structure, the Filipino acts as a nominee shareholder while the foreigner acts as the real or actual owner hiding behind the former’s name. Corporate votes in stockholder resolutions and board meetings are exercised by the Filipino nominee shareholder, but the votes are in fact dictated by the foreign beneficial owner. Dividends are issued in the name of the Filipino nominee shareholder, but are subsequently transferred to the foreign beneficial owner.

The same Law also provides that “the exercise, possession or control by a Filipino citizen having a common-law relationship with an alien of a right, privilege, property or business, the exercise or enjoyment of which is expressly reserved by the Constitution or the laws to citizens of the Philippines, shall constitute a prima facie evidence of violation[.]” Under a common-law relationship, a man and a woman live exclusively as husband and wife without the benefit of marriage.

Section 2-A of the Law prohibits the election or appointment of foreigners in management positions. The exception is a foreigner serving as “technical personnel whose employment may be specifically authorized by the Secretary of Justice[.]” SEC Opinion No. 12-01 dated 31 January 2012 states that this prohibition is applicable to corporations engaged in partially nationalized economic activities, such as public utility corporations. The Supreme Court in King v. Hernaez (G.R. No. L-14859, 31 March 1962) articulated the rationale for such prohibition, as follows:

When the law says that you cannot employ an alien in any position pertaining to management, operation, administration and control, "whether as an officer, employee, or laborer therein", it only means one thing: the employment of a person who is not a Filipino citizen even in a minor or clerical or non-control position is prohibited. The reason is obvious: to plug any loophole or close any avenue that an unscrupulous alien may resort to flout the law or defeat its purpose, for no one can deny that while one may be employed in a non-control position who apparently is harmless he may later turn out to be a mere tool to further the evil designs of the employer. It is imperative that the law be interpreted in a manner that would stave off any attempt at circumvention of this legislative purpose.

Violation of the Anti-Dummy Law is meted out the following penalty: (i)   imprisonment for not less than five (5) nor more than fifteen (15) years, and (ii) by a fine of not less than the value of the right, franchise or privilege, which is enjoyed or acquired in violation of the provisions of the Law, but in no case less than PHP 5,000. Public officers who are participants in the violation shall be dismissed. Corporations which are involved in the offense shall be dissolved.

Respicio & Co. Law Firm can help you establish your business in the Philippines.

Annulment for Filipinos Married to Foreign Spouse

Divorce decrees are easier to procure in foreign jurisdictions than an annulment decree in the Philippines.

Say, you are a Filipino. You are married to a foreign spouse. Your spouse decided to divorce you.

If your spouse's country of citizenship allows for divorce, he or she will file for divorce in his or her home country. As for you, according to the Family Code:

Where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall have capacity to remarry under Philippine law. (2nd Par. Art. 26)

Once your spouse gets the divorce decree, you may file for recognition of the decree before the Regional Trial Court. The trial court judgment will be used to request the National Statistics Office (NSO) to change your marital status. Once done, you can re-marry.

This is a less cumbersome route compared to the long and uncertain nullification procedure in the Philippines, a procedure that may take years; especially, the government's current policy is to elevate annulment and nullification cases all the way to the Supreme Court.

Respicio & Co. Law Firm can handle your case. We collaborate with foreign lawyers in securing the divorce decree. You yourself do not have to engage a foreign lawyer. We will take care of everything, from procuring the divorce decree from the foreign country to changing your marital status with the NSO.

Foreign Ownership of Condominiums

Foreign individuals and foreign corporations are disqualified from owning private lands in the Philippines. Section 7 of Article XII of the 1987 Constitution states that “[s]ave in cases of hereditary succession, no private lands shall be transferred or conveyed except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain.” This must be read in relation to Section 3 of the same Article, which states that “[p]rivate corporations or associations may not hold such alienable lands of the public domain except by lease[.]”

In other words, only Filipino citizens and Filipino corporations or partnerships may acquire land in the Philippines. One legal solution to this foreign ownership limitation is the acquisition of no more than 40% interest in condominium projects. Note that the constitutional proscription applies only to private lands, and not to all kinds of real property and real interest.

Section 2 of the Condominium Act (R.A. No. 4726) defines a condominium as an “interest in real property consisting of separate interest in a unit in a residential, industrial or commercial building and an undivided interest in common, directly or indirectly, in the land on which it is located and in other common areas of the building.” Under this definition, ownership of mere “interest in real property” is not equivalent to ownership of “land”.

SEC-OGC Opinion No. 08-27 dated 27 November 2008 states that foreigners can acquire condominium units and shareholdings or membership in condominium corporations up to not more than 40% of the total and outstanding capital stock of a Filipino-owned or -controlled corporation. This confirms what is merely implied in Section 5 of the Condominium Act, which provides the following:

[…] where the common areas in the condominium project are owned by the owners of separate units as co-owners thereof, no condominium unit therein shall be conveyed or transferred to persons other than Filipino citizens, or corporations at least sixty percent of the capital stock of which belong to Filipino citizens, except in cases of hereditary succession. Where the common areas in a condominium project are held by a corporation, no transfer or conveyance of a unit shall be valid if the concomitant transfer of the appurtenant membership or stockholding in the corporation will cause the alien interest in such corporation to exceed the limits imposed by existing laws.

Can the condominium corporation have more than 40% foreign equity? This is possible if the condominium corporation merely leases the private land. SEC-OGC Opinion No. 08-27 answers in the affirmative.  This is because “the condominium corporation will not acquire ownership of the land but will be a mere lessee of the land where the project will be erected.” And the 1987 Constitution does not proscribe the lease of private lands by foreign individuals and foreign stockholders.

Respicio & Co. Law Firm can help you buy or sell your property in the Philippines.

Muscle Your Way In

Say:

A Ghanaian national tried to enter the Philippines but was denied entry, because the immigration officer found him to be a potential public charge and of doubtful purpose, and he lacked an itinerary. In his prior visit, the foreigner overstayed. During the processing, the foreigner claimed the officer tried to extort from him.

That one is denied entry into the country does not mean one is blacklisted.  It is advisable to procure a clearance certificate from the Bureau of Immigration. The clearance will tell that a name is not on any of the derogatory databases, lists or records of the Bureau, including the blacklist. The clearance can be obtained in one day.

If a name is not on any of the list, there is no problem coming back, theoretically speaking. Holders of Ghanaian passports may enter the Philippines as tourists without a visa and stay for 30 days, provided they have their passports with them (of course) and return tickets. (The passports and the return tickets are important, as these are the ‘proper documentations’ required by law. Under Section 6 of the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940, “Immigrant Inspectors are authorized to exclude any alien not properly documented…”)

While the immigration officers have the prerogative to decline entry of foreigners, they must do so without arbitrariness, that is, the ground for refusal must be among those provided by law. These grounds are: 

(Philippine Immigration Act of 1940)

Sec. 29. (a) The following classes of aliens shall be excluded from entry into the Philippines:

(1) Idiots or insane persons and persons who have been insane;

(2) Persons afflicted with a loathsome or dangerous contagious disease, or epilepsy:

(3) Persons who have been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude;

(4) Prostitutes, or procurers, or persons coming for any immoral purposes;

(5) Persons likely to become public charge;

(6) Paupers, vagrants, and beggars;

(7) Persons who practice polygamy or who believe in or advocate the practice of polygamy;

(8) Persons who believe in or advocate the overthrow by force and violence of the Government of the Philippines, or of constituted lawful authority, or who disbelieve in or are opposed to organized government, or who advocate the assault or assassination of public officials because of their office, or who advocate or teach principles, theories, or ideas contrary to the Constitution of the Philippines or advocate or teach the unlawful destruction of property, or who are members of or affiliated with any organization entertaining or teaching such doctrines;

(9) Persons over fifteen years of age, physically capable of reading, who cannot read printed matter in ordinary use in any language selected by the alien, but this provision shall not apply to the grandfather, grandmother, father, mother, wife, husband or child of a Philippine citizen or of an alien lawfully resident in the Philippines;

(10) Persons who are members of a family accompanying an excluded alien, unless in the opinion of the Commissioner of Immigration no hardship would result from their admission

(11) Persons accompanying an excluded person who is helpless from mental or physical disability or infancy, when the protection or guardianship of such accompanying person or persons is required by the excluded person, as shall be determined by the Commissioner of Immigration;

(12) Children under fifteen years of age, unaccompanied by or not coming to a parent, except that any such children may be admitted in the discretion of the Commissioner of Immigration, if otherwise admissible;

(13) Stowaways, except that any stowaway may be admitted in the discretion of the Commissioner of Immigration, if otherwise admissible;

(14) Persons coming to perform unskilled manual labor in pursuance of a promise or offer of employment, express or implied, but this provision shall not apply to persons bearing passport visas authorized by Section Twenty of this Act;

(15) Persons who have been excluded or deported from the Philippines, but this provision may be waived in the discretion of the Commissioner of Immigration: Provided, however, That the Commissioner of Immigration shall not exercise his discretion in favor of aliens excluded or deported on the ground of conviction for any crime involving moral turpitude or for any crime penalized under Sections Forty-Five and Forty-Six of this Act or on the ground of having engaged in hoarding, black-marketing or profiteering unless such aliens have previously resided in the Philippines immediately before his exclusion or deportation for a period of ten years or more or are married to native Filipino women;

(16) Persons who have been removed from the Philippines at the expense of the Government of the Philippines, as indigent aliens, under the provisions of section forty-three of this Act, and who have not obtained the consent of the Board of Commissioners to apply for readmission; and 

(17) Persons not properly documented for admission as may be required under the provisions of this Act.

While a refusal of entry may be mistaken, there is no document that can guarantee entry on the next attempt. There is no such a thing as a guaranteed visa, as one's eligibility of entry must be determined at the port, regardless of whether one holds a visa or not.

If a name is on the blacklist, the name can be removed by writing a letter to/filing a petition before the Immigration Commissioner.

If a name is not on the list, no further legal move will reduce the possibility of being declined entry again. The battle boils down to fighting arbitrary immigration officers. It is advisable that if one suffers more scrutiny than ordinary, one must phone a lawyer. A lawyer can argue one's legitimate position before the immigration officers.

It is not uncommon to encounter corrupt officials at the airport. Just recently, in November last year, the media had a holiday exposing the practice of airport officials planting bullets in luggages to extort money from unsuspecting passengers. This scandalised the Bureau and led to prosecutions of some officials. It is hoped that this shamed and frightened the rest of the corrupt airport officials and prompted change.

The best way to handle arbitrary officials is to call in a lawyer. These officials will desist from their corrupt intentions if faced by a knowledgeable attorney who can ably defend his client and can lawfully threaten them with prosecution.

Respicio & Co. can represent you in arguing your case before immigration officers.

Fight Online Libel

Respicio & Co. represents clients who are victims of online defamation. (We also take the defence of the accused or respondent in online defamation cases.)

Internet postings are subject to Philippine jurisdiction. Under Section 21 of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (Republic Act No. 10175), jurisdiction shall lie if any of the elements of the libel was committed within the Philippines. One of the elements of libel is publication of the charge. If the posts are published and accessible in the country, Philippines has jurisdiction.

Philippine laws punish libel:

Art. 353. Definition of libel. — A libel is public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead.

x x x x

Art. 355. Libel means by writings or similar means. — A libel committed by means of writing, printing, lithography, engraving, radio, phonograph, painting, theatrical exhibition, cinematographic exhibition, or any similar means, shall be punished...

(Revised Penal Code of the Philippines [Act No. 3815 {1930}])

Sec. 4. Cybercrime Offenses. — The following acts constitute the offense of cybercrime punishable under this Act:

x x x x

(c) Content-related Offenses:

x x x x

(4) Libel. — The unlawful or prohibited acts of libel as defined in Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, committed through a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in the future.

(Cybercrime Prevention Act)

Jurisprudence simplified the elements of libel: 

  1. Allegation of a discreditable act or condition concerning another;

  2. Publication of the charge;

  3. Identity of the person defamed; and

  4. Existence of malice. (Vasquez v. Court of Appeals, 373 Phil. 238 [1999])

There is publication if the material is communicated to a third person (M.H. Newell, The Law on Slander and Libel in Civil And Criminal Cases 175 [1924]). What is material is that a third person has read or heard the libellous statement (Alonzo v. Court of Appeals, 241 SCRA 51 [1995]).

To satisfy the element of identifiability, it must be shown that at least a third person or a stranger was able to identify the subject as the object of the defamatory statement (Kunkle v. Cablenews-American, 42 Phil 757 [1922]).

The law provides for a presumption of malice from the defamatory character of a statement (L. Boado, Compact Reviewer in Criminal Law 403-404 [2d ed. 2007]), even if the statement is true. The law says:

Art. 354. Requirement for publicity. — Every defamatory imputation is presumed to be malicious, even if it be true...

(Revised Penal Code)

Philippine libel laws are stricter than those of the US. Under US laws, truth of the allegations is an absolute defence to defamation. Also, statements made to warn others about a harm or danger is a qualified privilege.

Save the Children

Mother abandons them. Father goes abroad. Children are left with no one to take care of them.

Respicio & Co. represents a couple who seeks to have custody over the wife’s grandchildren. The wife is a Filipina and the husband a Canadian. They eventually will want to bring the grandchildren to Canada.

The father of the children does not object over the custody and the mother has long abandoned them. Under the Family Code, if the parents default, parental authority vests on the grandparents. Parental authority entails custody. If the grandparents eventually wants to bring the children to Canada, nothing in the law stops them.

To be sure, the agreement over the custody should be written and consented to by the grandparents, the present parent and the children. The father, who is abroad, may give his consent online or through other electronic means; The E-commerce law allows this.