Philippine laws that shape the 'padre de familia' role

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — “When I became a dad, I only had one real job and that was to provide for these little girls,” said former President George W. Bush when he was honored at the 74th Annual Father of the Year Awards in New York.

In Philippine society, the old-fashioned view seems to be similar to that of Bush. 

The father is expected to be the provider or breadwinner of the family who must go out to work, while the mother stays at home to take care of the kids. 

Philippine laws can soon change this view (if they haven't already) by giving fathers more opportunities to be involved in child-rearing, and the freedom to share financial obligations with their wives.

Paternity leave benefits

Republic Act No. 8187 or the Paternity Leave Act of 1996 allows married males to take a paternity leave of seven days with full pay (i.e., to take a leave from work or not to report for work for seven days while being entitled to full pay).

According to the law, the purpose of paternity leave is to enable fathers to effectively lend support to his wife during the latter’s period of recovery, and/or in the nursing of their newly-born child.  If an existing company policy or contract gives an employee greater benefits (such as a longer paternity leave period with pay), such greater benefits will apply over the minimum benefits under the Paternity Leave Act.

To qualify for paternity leave, the employee must be male, married and cohabiting with his legal wife at the time she gives birth or suffers a miscarriage. 

The father applying for paternity leave must also be employed at the time of the delivery of his child. 

The application for paternity leave must be filed ahead with the employer within a reasonable period of time from the expected date of delivery, or within such period as may be provided by company rules and regulations, or by collective bargaining agreement.  However, prior application for leave shall not be required in case of miscarriage.

There are also some limitations.  Paternity leaves may only be availed of by a father for the first four deliveries of his legal wife.  The term “delivery” includes childbirth or miscarriage. 

Paternity leave benefits are not convertible to cash in case a male employee does not avail himself of such benefits.

Since the law specifically refers to a “male” employee in relation to his “legal wife”, the benefits of paternity leave do not apply to relationships or situations that do not fall within these definitions — such as a male employee having a child with his girlfriend, live-in partner, or extra-marital partner; or a male employee adopting a new-born baby; or a gay, lesbian or transgender having or adopting a baby with a partner. 

While the Paternity Leave Act does not expressly mention the pregnancy of the legal wife from a prior relationship or from another man, this seems to be excluded as the implementing rules mention granting paternity leaves to a male employee during the delivery of “his” child.

Employers who refuse to provide paternity leave benefits to their qualified male employees may be punished by a fine up to P25,000, or imprisonment of 30 days to six months.

Filipino fathers no longer expected to be sole

Breadwinners

When it comes to being “breadwinners” or the sole providers of the family, the Family Code of the Philippines makes it clear that the obligation of financially supporting the family is shared by the spouses.

Under the Family Code, spouses are jointly responsible for the support of the family.  The expenses for such support and other conjugal obligations must be paid from the community property (or property owned in common by the husband and wife).  In the absence of community property, expenses to support the family are taken from the income of the separate properties, or the separate properties themselves, of the spouses.

The Family Code also states that the management of the household is the right and duty of both spouses.  The expenses for the management of the household are required to be paid from the community property, or (if community property is absent or insufficient) from the separate properties of the spouses.

Child-rearing

When it comes to child-rearing, the father has a slight advantage over the mother.  The Family Code gives the father and the mother the right to jointly exercise parental authority over their common children.  In case of disagreement, the father's decision prevails unless there is a judicial order to the contrary. 

While current Philippine laws applicable to fatherhood may be conservative in some aspects (such as not giving paternity leave for unmarried fathers), other laws are progressive by encouraging fathers to rethink what their primary role is. 

Filipino fathers are not expected to give financial support only. Financial obligations for family support are now shared by husband and wife. This could signal Filipino fathers to make more time for their children and the home, and/or to allow their wives to pursue their own careers. This could also strengthen a modern (and in my opinion, better) view that Filipino fathers are to be seen not as mainly sources of financial support, but as givers of emotional and moral support as well.

Karen Jimeno is a practicing attorney and a law professor. She hosts Legal Help Desk on CNN Philippines every Tuesday at 9:30PM. She graduated from University of the Philippines Law School and Harvard Law School, and is licensed to practice law in the Philippines and in New York. You may send your legal questions to legalhd@cnnphilippines.com.