House OKs bill upholding right of married women to retain maiden surname

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 22) — The House of Representatives has approved on final reading a bill seeking to amend the Civil Code to include a married woman’s right to use just her maiden name.

House Bill No. 4605, filed by Manila Fourth District Rep. Edward Vera Perez Maceda, received a unanimous 277 votes on Tuesday.

It seeks to include in Article 370 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines a clause stating that married women have the option not to adopt their husband’s surname — a right upheld by the Supreme Court.

Article 370 currently provides only for the following names that a married woman may use during her marriage:

- Her maiden first name and surname and add her husband's surname;

- Her maiden first name and her husband's surname;

- Her husband's full name, but prefixing a word indicating that she is his wife, such as "Mrs."

“Unknown to many, however, is the fact that a married woman may retain her maiden first name and surname even during or after the marriage without adopting the options provided for under the Civil Code,” the bill stated.

“It has been pronounced by the Supreme Court that such enumeration is permissive rather than obligatory, and a married woman's freedom to use, or in this case, retain her maiden name, is valid for all intents and purposes,” it added.

The House approved a similar measure on final reading during the previous Congress.

According to the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), while there is no blanket prohibition on reverting to one’s maiden name after a marriage, there are certain special laws limiting these instances.

The PCW cited an example the Philippine Passport Act, which provides that a married woman who has adopted her husband’s surname in her passport may not revert to her maiden name, except in any of the following cases: the death of her husband; annulment; nullity of marriage; or divorce, which is not yet legal in the Philippines.