Going through the hurdles of alternative family building

Options for Filipinos to build modern families are gradually increasing, but more policy attention is needed to make these options convenient.

“The State recognizes the Filipino family as the foundation of the nation. Accordingly, it shall strengthen its solidarity and actively promote its total development.” That is what Section 1, Article XV of the Philippine Constitution says about the family.

Often referred to as the building block of society, the family has two common types: the nuclear and the extended family. These kinds of families are more often than not blood-related.

But as societies and technologies continue to advance the world, more and more options for family building continue to be possible. One option that continues to trend is that of adoption.

Adoption bottlenecks, stigma

Adoption, as defined by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), is the “socio-legal process of providing a permanent family to a child whose parents have voluntarily or involuntarily relinquished parental authority over the child.”

It is a legal process that has existed in the Philippines since 1899. Since then, numerous evolutions of domestic adoption laws have taken place. According to DSWD Social Welfare Officer Arlyn Pascual, an average of 300 children are placed under domestic adoption each year. On the other hand, an average of 300 to 400 families have been determined locally in the last three years.

She further explains the preferences of most of their local adoptive parents, citing that most people adopt one child under the age of two, with no illnesses or disabilities.

With all this being said, there exist around two million orphans in the country according to the Philippines Orphanage Foundation. Apparently, the preference of prospective parents when adopting is a major reason why there are not enough adoptions for all these orphans, Pascual points out.

Another reason is that the general public is not really aware of the processes of adoption.

“Perhaps ‘yung lack of advocacy down to the barangay level is one thing. Kasi ngamarami pa rin talagang hindi nakakaalam what is legal adoption, how to undergo legal process,” Pascual postulates.

(Because many still do not know…)

Beyond the lack of advocacy, the process of adoption itself is very tedious. This includes all the lists of requirements and documents that prospective adoptive parents need to have such as an NBI clearance, letters of character references, and income tax returns among others. It can also get expensive, particularly in regard to legal fees when hiring the services of an adoption lawyer.

This is what the new Republic Act (RA) 11642 hoped to streamline when it was signed into law last January by former President Rodrigo Duterte. Among other things, it created a new agency called the National Authority for Child Care (NACC), which will handle all adoption cases. Pascual says that with the new legislation, the two- to five-year process could be cut down to around a year.

Even still, the issue of stigma surrounding adoption is something that still has to be dealt with. Pascual cites one such case where this stigma is displayed where in a TikTok video, a young girl makes fun of her sister for being ampon or adopted.

For Pascual, a solution to that would be advocacy. By informing people, especially at the barangay level, more will be convinced about the benefits of adoption and will, in turn, adopt children of their own, Pascual says.

What the law says

Before the enactment of RA 11642, adoption in the Philippines was judicial rather than administrative. As mentioned by Pascual, this means that one factor that hinders parents from adopting is the fees associated with the process which could amount to “less than a P100,000 [or] above.”

Given this complicated process, many prospective adopters risked imprisonment and fines when they opted to fake live births to legalize their parenthood over the adoptee.

Describing the “simulated” live births, family lawyer Atty. Alma Cagungao illustrates, “‘Yung mga early pregnancy, manganganak sa ospital [tapos] iiwanan na ‘yung bata. Tapos, itong mga nasa ospital, maghahanap sila ng walang anak, papalabasin nilang nanganak.

(Those who get pregnant early leave their child at the hospital. The hospital then finds parents who cannot conceive and make them appear as the biological parents.)

Although the new law still allows for the rectification of simulated live births before its enactment, Cangungao explains that any new case of simulation of live birth will result in criminal liability.

Contemporary ways to build a family

Although adoption remains an option, some still prefer to have biological children. In cases where prospective parents cannot conceive, some opt for artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization (IVF), or surrogacy.

Intrauterine insemination, or artificial insemination, is the process of fertilizing an egg inside the woman’s body. Meanwhile, in IVF, the egg is fertilized in a laboratory and is then injected into a woman’s uterus. Despite similarities in the procedures, family lawyer Atty. Voltaire Duano explains that IVF remains a gray area as it is not mentioned in any legislation unlike the former.

Meanwhile, in surrogacy, a surrogate mother is contracted by a person or couple to carry and birth a child. As surrogacy is not legally defined in the country, Pascual mentions that surrogate mothers should be the ones registered in a Philippine Certificate of Live Birth, as the Family Code recognizes them as the biological mother. Registering the contracting mother’s name instead will be considered a case of simulated live birth.

Given the clamor for alternatives to building families, Cagungao believes that “it is high time” for the government to look into surrogacy as an option. Meanwhile, Dunao believes that Congress can still expand the legal framework on artificial insemination.

With the gray area that is IVF, the inadequate laws on surrogacy, and the bare-bones legislation on artificial insemination, there are still improvements that can be made regarding alternative family building. But with laws like the newly reformed adoption law, the government has taken steps to improve in this area.

JJ Mercado

By JJ Mercado

Clyde Nicolas

By Clyde Nicolas

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