SC Reiterates Consent of Adopter’s Children Required in Petitions for Adoption
The consent of the adopter’s legitimate children, who are at least 10 years old, is required for a petition for adoption to prosper.
Thus reiterated the Supreme Court’s Third Division, in a Decision penned by Associate Justice Maria Filomena D. Singh, as it denied the petition for review on certiorari filed by Nena Bagcat-Gullas (Bagcat-Gullas). The petition challenged the rulings of the Court of Appeals (CA) affirming the decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) setting aside the adoption decree previously granted in favor of Bagcat-Gullas.
Minor Jo Anne Maria Ariraya (Jo Anne) and her biological mother, Settie Asiah Ariraya (Settie) used to live at the house of Bagcat-Gullas and her husband, Jose R. Gullas (Jose), who supported Jo Anne and Settie as the latter had no source of income. Jo Anne has no known father.
When Settie eventually abandoned Jo Anne, Bagcat-Gullas and Jose provided Jo Anne’s needs and treated her as if she was their own child.
On May 5, 2016, Bagcat-Gullas and Jose filed with the RTC a petition for adoption and correction of entries in the birth of record of Jo Anne.
The RTC initially granted the petition for adoption but set such ruling aside upon motion by the legitimate children of Jose (collectively, respondents) who claimed they were indispensable parties to the petition as children of the adopter.
The RTC then reinstated the case and issued summons to be served on the respondents, which was opposed by Bagcat-Gullas and Jose before the RTC and the CA. With the RTC and CA denying their motions, Bagcat-Gullas was prompted to file the present petition before the Court.
In dismissing the present petition, the Court emphasized that Section 9(c) of Republic Act No. (RA) 8552, or the Domestic Adoption Act of 1998, is clear that the written consent of the adopter’s legitimate children aged at least 10 years old is required for the adoption to be valid.
Reiterating its 2014 ruling in Castro v. Gregorio, the Court held that the “consent of the adopter’s other children is necessary as it ensures harmony among the prospective siblings. It also sufficiently puts the other children on notice that they will have to share their parent’s love and care, as well as their future legitimes, with another person.”
Further, the Court stressed that personal service of summons on the legitimate children is needed to ensure that their substantive rights are protected. Constructive notice does not suffice.
In the present case, the Court found that as the respondents were all over 10 years old at the time of the adoption proceedings, their written consent was necessary.
As legitimate children of one of the adopters, Jose, respondents are thus indispensable parties to the petition.
Since the respondents were not impleaded, and absent the service of summons upon them, the judgment previously rendered by the RTC granting the adoption is void, ruled the Court.
“The absence of an indispensable party renders all subsequent actions of the court null and void, as such, the court has no authority to act not only as to the absent party but also as to those present,” said the Court.
The Court added that since such RTC judgment is void, the doctrine of finality of judgment or immutability of judgment does not apply.
Under this doctrine, a decision that has acquired finality becomes immutable and unalterable, and may no longer be modified in any respect, even if the modification is meant to correct erroneous conclusions of fact and law.
The following, however, are exceptions to this rule: (a) matters of life, liberty, honor, or property; (b) the existence of a special or compelling circumstances; (c) the merits of the case; (d) a cause not entirely attributable to the fault or negligence of the party favored by the suspension of the rules; (e) the lack of any showing that the review sought is merely frivolous and dilatory; and (f) that the other party will not be unjustly prejudiced. (Courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office)
Full text of G.R. No. 264146 (Bagcat-Gullas v. Gullas, et al., August 7, 2023) at: https://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/264146-nena-bagcat-gullas-vs-joselito-f-gullas-joie-marie-f-gullas-yu-and-john-vincent-f-gullas/