SC denies actor Luigi Revilla’s petition to change surname

Luigi Revilla

The outside-of-marriage son of Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., movie actor Luigi Revilla, wanted to change his real name from Francis Luigi G. Santos to Francis Luigi G. Revilla. He filed a petition for change of name before the court.

In 2018, the regional trial court (RTC) denied his petition. Later in 2019, the Court of Appeals (CA) affirmed the trial court’s ruling. He elevated the issue before the Supreme Court (SC).

The SC, in a decision made public last Oct. 21, denied Luigi’s petition as it affirmed the rulings of the RTC and the CA.

Supreme Court (SC)

“A sincere desire to associate oneself to a certain person or family, without more, does not justify a change of surname,” the SC said in a decision written by Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa.

The SC ruled: “WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Petition is DENIED. The petition for change of name in Spec. Proc. No. R-QZN-17-04454 is DISMISSED. SO ORDERED.”

In his petition, Luigi told the SC that sometime in 1991, his parents – Lovely Maria T. Guzman and Jose Marie Bautista Jr., also known as Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. -- had an intimate relationship.

He said he was born on Jan. 9, 1992 as “Francis Luigi Guzman.” He said his mother and Bong Revilla Jr. were never married as the latter was already married to Lani Mercado. Thus, he said, his Certificate of Live Birth did not bear the Revilla surname as his father was marked as “unknown.”

However, he said, on April 24, 1996, Bong Revilla Jr. executed an Affidavit of Acknowledgment and recognized him as his (Bong’s) son.

In 1999, Luigi said his mother married Patrick Joseph P. Santos who legally adopted him. Thus, he said, his name was changed to Francis Luigi G. Santos.

He told the SC that while he lived with his mother, he grew up close to Bong Revilla Jr. and the latter’s wife and children and was treated by the family as a “legitimate son.”

He added that he used the name “Luigi Revilla” when he entered show business.

He explained that he filed the petition for change of name before the trial court to ensure that his records show his true identity as Bong Revilla’s son.

Luigi’s petition before the RTC was opposed by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), the government’s law firm. The OSG said there was no compelling reason to justify the change sought.

In its decision, the RTC ruled on April 30, 2018 that allowing Luigi to use the surname "Revilla" rather than "Santos" would create further confusion, since he had already been legally adopted by Patrick Santos in 2001.

As an adopted child, the RTC held that Luigi was bound to use the surname "Santos" as adoption legally severs the legal tie between the adoptee and his or her biological parents.

The trial court also said that Luigi has never legally used the surname "Revilla" despite having been acknowledged in 1996, and that he has used the surname "Santos" for all documentary purposes since his adoption, and he only began using the surname "Revilla" when he entered show business.

There could be no confusion as to his real identity as the name "Luigi Revilla" was a mere screen name, which may be different from his legal name, the RTC added.

Affirming and amplifying the RTC’s ruling, the CA said it was of no moment that Luigi is the biological son of Bong Revilla as the Family Code and Republic Act No. (R.A.) 855228 or the Domestic Adoption Act of 1998 provide that “an adopted child shall bear the surname of the adopting parents.”

Denying Luigi’s petition, the SC said:

“The Court agrees with the RTC that the use of the surname ‘Revilla’ would create further confusion rather than avoid it....

“While petitioner (Luigi) may factually identify and associate with his biological father and his family, he remains to be the legitimate son of Patrick Santos by virtue of the adoption. The latter and not the former is thus his true legal identity.

“Finally, it bears emphasis that a change of name is a privilege and not a matter of right. It is addressed to the sound discretion of the court.

“In the instant case, the Court finds that the reasons proffered do not fall under any of the jurisprudential grounds for change of name. They cannot even be considered as ‘akin to’ any of the aforementioned grounds. The mere fact that petitioner began using a different name, i.e., ‘Luigi Revilla,’ when he joined show business does not constitute a proper and reasonable cause to legally authorize a change of name.”