Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo wants to make it easier for married women to drop their husband’s surname.

Arroyo, now a Pampanga representative, filed House Bill No. 6028 In a bid to empower women to revert to their maiden surname after legal separation, presumptive death, abandonment, separation of property or dissolution of marriage.

In her bill, Arroyo said current laws do not give the women the power to use her maiden surname despite legal separation or dissolution of her marriage without a court order.

Arroyo argued  that the use of her husband’s surname is not mandatory but only a matter of choice. “In the case of Remo VB. Secretary of Foreign Affairs the Supreme Court held that the language of Article 370 is permissive and not mandatory. A married woman has the option to use her husband’s surname but is not required to do so. The woman may choose to continue using her maiden name,” Arroyo said.

But in cases when a woman chooses to use her husband’s surname, laws do not allow her to revert back to her maiden surname without a judicial order.

In cases of legal separation and separation of property regime, a woman is still compelled to use her husband’s surname.

“Despite the laws and jurisprudence on the matter, there is still an incomplete realization of the woman’s right to continue using her maiden name. Domestic situations such as legal separation, separation de facto and such other similar instances are areas where women may still be required to recourse to a court process for change of name in order to revert to the use of their maiden name. In order to truly realize the woman’s right to use her maiden name, the present measure deletes the tedious and expensive court process that might be associated therewith,” she said.

Under her proposed law, called the “Reversion to Maiden Name Act”, a woman may revert to her maiden surname after a decree of legal separation, annulment of marriage, nullity of marriage or divorce in another country without going through a judicial process but only administratively through the Office of the Civil Registrar.

Under her bill, a woman may revert to her maiden surname under the following circumstances – (1) after her marriage has been judicially declared null and void or after its annulment; (2) After a judicial declaration of legal separation, provided that there has been no manifestation of reconciliation filed with the court; (3) After a judicial declaration of separation of property, provided there has been no subsequent decree reviving the old property regime between the spouses; (4) If the spouses stipulated in their marriage settlement that a regime of’ separation of properties shall govern their property relations; (5) If the petitioner has been de facto separated from or abandoned by her husband for a period of not less than ten (10) years; or (6) If the petitioner’s husband may be presumed dead pursuant to the circumstances, periods and conditions set forth in the Civil Code of the Philippines and the Rules of Court.

The reversion may be carried out through a petition filed with Civil Registrar General. However, Arroyo’s bill gives the power to the CRG, the Department of Justice, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Office of the Supreme Court Administrator in coordination with other concerned government agencies,  to issue the necessary rules and regulations for the effective implementation of the proposed law.

“This measure proposes to (among others) facilitate women’s right to revert to her surname in instances of legal separation, annulment or declaration of nullity of their marriage; (as well as) expand the scope of the civil registrar’s power to change or correct entries in the civil register without a judicial order,” Arroyo said.