In case you need reminding, ladies: While it’s perfectly fine to take your husband’s last name if you want to, you’re not actually required by law to do so, as explained in a viral TikTok video by human rights lawyer Chel Diokno.
Diokno, who won voters’ hearts when he ran as senator in this year’s May elections but failed to secure a Senate seat for the second time, has taken to TikTok to dispense legal advice in a series he’s dubbed Legal Lifehacks — answering some of the most relatable concerns of everyday folks, such as employment and financial legal policies.
In this particular video, Diokno dispels the notion that Filipino women who get married are required to take their husband’s surname — an issue that the Supreme Court actually cleared back in 2010.
“The Supreme Court explained in a case that a woman taking her husband’s surname is only an option, not an obligation. This means she can retain her maiden name,” Diokno says in Filipino.
Diokno was referring to a decision made by the Supreme Court in a 2010 case involving a woman’s petition to the Secretary of Foreign Affairs requesting she be able to revert back to the use of her maiden name in a replacement passport. In that decision the court wrote:
“Clearly, a married woman has an option, but not a duty, to use the surname of the husband in any of the ways provided by Article 370 of the Civil Code. She is therefore allowed to use not only any of the three names provided in Article 370, but also her maiden name upon marriage. She is not prohibited from continuously using her maiden name once she is married because when a woman marries, she does not change her name but only her civil status. Further, this interpretation is in consonance with the principle that surnames indicate descent.”
However, the court said that a married woman who has adopted her husband’s name in a passport can no longer revert to her maiden name except in instances of a husband’s death, annulment, or divorce.
Diokno further explains that once a woman decides to change her last name, she has three options on how to do it: retain her first and last names, and hyphenate with her husband’s surname; retain her first name and adopt her husband’s last name; or be addressed as “Mrs.” while adopting her husband’s first and last names.
Despite the law having guaranteed this for over a decade, Diokno’reminder was apparently news to several people who had heard otherwise.
“Attorney [Diokno], I was informed that in government documents, when you declare you’re married, your ID and name should take your husband’s last name,” one follower commented.
“That’s not right. The Philippine Commission on Women released a memo reminding all government offices to accept married women’s maiden names,” he wrote back.
“So many Filipinos are ignorant of the law. I tried to do the first option when I renewed my passport, but the agent at the Department of Foreign Affairs didn’t accept it,” another said.
In the Facebook group Best of the Best Manila, an anonymous member asked for advice on how to deal with a bank that would not accept her application as her valid IDs did not reflect her husband’s last name.
“Take your business elsewhere,” one said.