The Battle of Bastards
“The Starks have manned the Wall for thousands of years, and you are a Stark. You may not have my name, but you have my blood.”
– Ned Stark to Jon Snow
In the Philippines, unlike in the hit television series Game of Thrones (GoT), illegitimate children have legal rights. The term bastard refers to anyone born out of wedlock. Such status comes with a very negative social stigma. Gone are the days however when we refer to these children as bastards. Now, a child who is born of parents who are not married or those born out of wedlock are legally referred to as illegitimate children. The Family Code of the Philippines provide that children conceived and born outside a valid marriage are illegitimate, unless otherwise provided by the law.
An illegitimate child can either be unrecognized or recognized. An unrecognized illegitimate child is not acknowledged by the biological father, thus has to use the surname of the mother. A recognized illegitimate child is acknowledged by the father through the record of birth, an admission in a public instrument or an admission made in a private handwritten instrument. The child is allowed to use the surname of the father. In GoT, bastard children’s surnames are dependent on the region where a child was born, particularly from where the mother is from and not the father. An illegitimate child born from a mother from The North would use the surname “Snow”, while one born in Dorne would use the surname “Sand”. The surnames used by natural children born out of wedlock vary by region.
In the GoT series, bastards cannot are not allowed to inherit their father’s lands or titles, and have no claims to the privileges of their houses. Today, illegitimate children are entitled to support. If the child is recognized, the father is obliged to provide support. In the case of an unrecognized illegitimate child, the relationship between the father and child must be proved. If paternity is proven, then the child is entitled and may ask for support from the father. Support, under Philippine laws, comprises of everything indispensable for sustenance, dwelling, clothing, medical attendance, education and transportation in keeping with the financial capacity of the family. The amount of support depends on the resources or financial capacity of the family and the indispensable needs of the recipient.
Parental authority, on the other hand, belongs to the mother. Parental authority is the natural right and duty of parents over the person and property of minor children which include the caring and rearing for civic consciousness and efficiency and development of their moral, mental and physical character and well-being. Custody likewise belongs to the mother to the exclusion of even the biological father. In the Philippines, no child, legitimate or illegitimate below seven years of age shall be separated from the mother, unless the latter is deemed legally unfit.
The illegitimate status of children may also be changed by legitimation. Legitimation occurs when the parents of children born out of wedlock is validly married, provided that there are no legal impediments to marry each other.
As far as successional rights are concerned, illegitimate children are entitled inherit from both parents. Their status is not an impediment for them to receive a share in their parents’ bounty. In fact, they are entitled to one half the inheritance or legitime of a legitimate child. In case the claim is against a father brought by an unrecognized illegitimate child, paternity and filiation must first be proved.
While the status of being a bastard in the A Song of Fire and Ice novels and the television series carries with it social disgrace, modern day society has become more kind to children born out of wedlock. Giving some concessions or favorable treatment to illegitimate children do not in any way mean that our laws consent to or promote improper or immoral behavior. Our laws try to protect those who need it most. Children should not suffer from the indiscretions or sins of their parents.
You know nothing something, Jon Snow.