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July 2, 2017

Legal Name in the Philippines

Name is defined as a word or set of words by which a person or thing is known, addressed, or referred to. In our jurisdiction, a person’s legal name is composed of two parts namely the given name or proper name (also known as the first name) and the surname or the family name. The legal name of a person is one that is registered with the Civil Registry. Under the Philippines, a person acquires his or her legal name upon the filing of the birth certificate with the Office of the Civil Registrar. The name that appears on the said certificate shall be the legal name that will be used by the said person in exercising his capacity to act under the law and in his fitness of being subject to legal relations.


There is a legal significance of one’s own name. In the case of Republic of the Philippines vs. Court of Appeals and Maximo Wong, the Supreme Court enunciated the importance of a person’s legal name. It was ruled that:

“For all practical and legal purposes, a man's name is the designation by which he is known and called in the community in which he lives and is best known. It is defined as the word or combination of words by which a person is distinguished from other individuals and, also, as the label or appellation which he bears for the convenience of the world at large addressing him, or in speaking of or dealing with him. Names are used merely as one method of indicating the identity of persons; they are descriptive of persons for identification, since, the identity is the essential thing and it has frequently been held that, when identity is certain, a variance in, or misspelling of, the name is immaterial. 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 Court also made an enumeration of the characteristics of a name, to wit:

  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
  4. changed only for good cause and by judicial proceedings;
  5. It is outside the commerce of man, and, therefore, inalienable and
  6. intransmissible by act inter vivos or mortis causa;
  7. It is imprescriptible.


Every person must have a name for it is mandatory. Upon birth of a child, he or she must be immediately registered in the Office of the Local Civil Registrar by the filing of the proper birth certificate. In the Philippines, the name that appears on the Civil Registry and not one on the Baptismal Certificate, is considered as the legal name of a person. Once it is acquired, it cannot be changed without a justifiable reason or good cause. The change or modification of a legal name is governed by substantive and procedural laws.

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