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G.R. No. 156343. October 18, 2004


An illegitimate child is under the sole parental authority of the mother. In the exercise of that authority, she is
entitled to keep the child in her company. The Court will not deprive her of custody, absent any imperative
cause showing her unfitness to exercise such authority and care.


Petitioner Joey D. Briones filed a Petition for Habeas Corpus against respondents to obtain custody of his
minor child Michael Kevin Pineda.

The petitioner alleges that the minor Michael Kevin Pineda is his illegitimate son with respondent Loreta P.
Miguel. He was born in Japan on September 17, 1996 as evidenced by his Birth Certificate. The respondent
Loreta P. Miguel is now married to a Japanese national and is presently residing in Japan.

Respondents Maricel P. Miguel and Francisca P. Miguel came to the house of the petitioner in Caloocan City on
the pretext that they were visiting the minor child and requested that they be allowed to bring the said child
for recreation at the SM Department store. They promised him that they will bring him back in the afternoon,
to which the petitioner agreed. However, the respondents did not bring him back as promised by them.

Respondent Loreta P. Miguel alleges that the petitioner was deported from Japan under the assumed name of
Renato Juanzon when he was found to have violated or committed an infraction of the laws of Japan. She
further stated that since the time the petitioner arrived in the Philippines, he has not been gainfully employed.
The custody of the child, according to respondent Loreta P. Miguel was entrusted to petitioners parents while
they were both working in Japan. She added that even before the custody of the child was given to the
petitioners parents, she has already been living separately from the petitioner in Japan because the latter was
allegedly maintaining an illicit affair with another woman until his deportation.

She likewise stated in her Comment that her marriage to a Japanese national is for the purpose of availing of
the privileges of staying temporarily in Japan to pursue her work so she could be able to send money regularly
to her son in the Philippines. She further stated that she has no intention of staying permanently in Japan as
she has been returning to the Philippines every six (6) months or as often as she could.


Whether or not the petitioner should be granted the custody of the child


Now, there are only two classes of children -- legitimate (and those who, like the legally adopted, have the
rights of legitimate children) and illegitimate. All children conceived and born outside a valid marriage are
illegitimate, unless the law itself gives them legitimate status.

Obviously, Michael is a natural (illegitimate, under the Family Code) child, as there is nothing in the records
showing that his parents were suffering from a legal impediment to marry at the time of his birth. Both
acknowledge that Michael is their son. As earlier explained and pursuant to Article 176, parental authority
over him resides in his mother, Respondent Loreta, notwithstanding his father’s recognition of him.

There is thus no question that Respondent Loreta, being the mother of and having sole parental authority
over the minor, is entitled to have custody of him. She has the right to keep him in her company. She cannot be
deprived of that right, and she may not even renounce or transfer it except in the cases authorized by law.

Not to be ignored in Article 213 of the Family Code is the caveat that, generally, no child under seven years of
age shall be separated from the mother, except when the court finds cause to order otherwise.

Only the most compelling of reasons, such as the mother’s unfitness to exercise sole parental authority, shall
justify her deprivation of parental authority and the award of custody to someone else. In the past, the
following grounds have been considered ample justification to deprive a mother of custody and parental
authority: neglect or abandonment, unemployment, immorality, habitual drunkenness, drug addiction,
maltreatment of the child, insanity, and affliction with a communicable disease.