Wednesday, January 7, 2015

How to prove filiation; evidence needed.

BEN-HUR NEPOMUCENO Vs. ARHBENCEL ANN LOPEZ, represented by her mother ARACELI LOPEZ, G.R. No.  181258,  March 18, 2010

“x x x.

Herrera v. Alba[1] summarizes the laws, rules, and jurisprudence on establishing filiation, discoursing in relevant part as follows:

Laws, Rules, and Jurisprudence
Establishing Filiation

The relevant provisions of the Family Code provide as follows:

      ART. 175. Illegitimate children may establish their illegitimate filiation in the same way and on the same evidence as legitimate children.

x x x x 

ART. 172. The filiation of legitimate children is established by any of the following:

      (1)  The record of birth appearing in the civil register or a final judgment; or
      (2)  An admission of legitimate filiation in a public document or a private handwritten instrument and signed by the parent concerned.

      In the absence of the foregoing evidence, the legitimate filiation shall be proved by:
      (1)  The open and continuous possession of the status of a legitimate child; or
      (2)  Any other means allowed by the Rules of Court and special laws.

            The Rules on Evidence include provisions on pedigree. The relevant sections of Rule 130 provide: 

SEC. 39.    Act or declaration about pedigree. — The act or declaration of a person deceased, or unable to testify, in respect to the pedigree of another person related to him by birth or marriage, may be received in evidence where it occurred before the controversy, and the relationship between the two persons is shown by evidence other than such act or declaration. The word "pedigree" includes relationship, family genealogy, birth, marriage, death, the dates when and the places where these facts occurred, and the names of the relatives. It embraces also facts of family history intimately connected with pedigree.

            SEC. 40.          Family reputation or tradition regarding pedigree. — The reputation or tradition existing in a family previous to the controversy, in respect to the pedigree of any one of its members, may be received in evidence if the witness testifying thereon be also a member of the family, either by consanguinity or affinity. Entries in family bibles or other family books or charts, engraving on rings, family portraits and the like, may be received as evidence of pedigree.

            This Court's rulings further specify what incriminating acts are acceptable as evidence to establish filiation.  In Pe Lim v. CA, a case petitioner often cites, we stated that the issue of paternity still has to be resolved by such conventional evidence as the relevant incriminating verbal and written acts by the putative father.  Under Article 278 of the New Civil Code, voluntary recognition by a parent shall be made in the record of birth, a will, a statement before a court of record, or in any authentic writing.  To be effective, the claim of filiation must be made by the putative father himself and the writing must be the writing of the putative father.  A notarial agreement to support a child whose filiation is admitted by the putative father was considered acceptable evidence.  Letters to the mother vowing to be a good father to the child and pictures of the putative father cuddling the child on various occasions, together with the certificate of live birth, proved filiation.  However, a student permanent record, a written consent to a father's operation, or a marriage contract where the putative father gave consent, cannot be taken as authentic writing.  Standing alone, neither a certificate of baptism nor family pictures are sufficient to establish filiation. (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

          In the present case, Arhbencel relies, in the main, on the handwritten note executed by petitioner which reads:

                                                                      Manila, Aug. 7, 1999

            I, Ben-Hur C. Nepomuceno, hereby undertake to give and provide financial support in the amount of P1,500.00 every fifteen and thirtieth day of each month for a total of P3,000.00 a month starting Aug. 15, 1999, to Ahrbencel Ann  Lopez, presently in the custody of her mother Araceli Lopez without the necessity of demand, subject to adjustment later depending on the needs of the child and my income.


The abovequoted note does not contain any statement whatsoever about Arhbencel’s filiation to petitioner.  It is, therefore, not within the ambit of Article 172(2) vis-à-vis Article 175 of the Family Code which admits as competent evidence of illegitimate filiation an admission of filiation in a private handwritten instrument signed by the parent concerned.

The note cannot also be accorded the same weight as the notarial agreement to support the child referred to in Herrera.  For it is not even notarized.  And Herrera instructs that the notarial agreement must be accompanied by the putative father’s admission of filiation to be an acceptable evidence of filiation.  Here, however, not only has petitioner not admitted filiation through contemporaneous actions.  He has consistently denied it.  

 The only other documentary evidence submitted by Arhbencel, a copy of her Certificate of Birth,[2] has no probative value to establish filiation to petitioner, the latter not having signed the same

At bottom, all that Arhbencel really has is petitioner’s handwritten undertaking to provide financial support to her which, without more, fails to establish her claim of filiation.  The Court is mindful that the best interests of the child in cases involving paternity and filiation should be advanced.  It is, however, just as mindful of the disturbance that unfounded paternity suits cause to the privacy and peace of the putative father’s legitimate family.  

x x x."

[1]           G.R. No. 148220, June 15, 2005, 460 SCRA 197, 206-208.

[2]       Rollo, p. 121.