Christmas is about family   

By Atty. Eduardo T. Reyes III

As the Christmas season is upon us once again, we must weather a slew of parties at work, with friends, for reunions, and sometimes for no reason at all. But the highlight of this season is our homecoming to the family.

Article 149 of the Family Code defines “family” as: “The family, being the foundation of the nation, is a basic social institution which public policy cherishes and protects. Consequently, family relations are governed by law and no custom, practice or agreement destructive of the family shall be recognized or given effect”.

While Filipinos are a close-knit yet are having extended families, the Family Code limits “family relations” to the following:

“Art. 150. Family relations include those: 

(1) Between husband and wife;

(2) Between parents and children;

(3) Among brothers and sisters, whether of the full or half-blood”.

Such family relations are protected by law such that as much as possible, no court case must proceed when the dispute is between husband and wife, parents and children, or among siblings, whether of the full-blood or half-blood, unless “earnest efforts” were exhausted to settle the controversy within the family. This is a dictate that Article 151 of the Family Code lays down:

“Art. 151. No suit between members of the same family shall prosper unless it should appear from the verified complaint or petition that earnest efforts toward a compromise have been made, but that the same have failed. If it is shown that no such efforts were in fact made, the same case must be dismissed. These rules shall not apply to cases which may not be the subject of compromise under the Civil Code.”

Yet, for the rule on exhaustion of earnest efforts to settle the dispute within the family to apply, the issue must be between or among the family members as enumerated in Article 150. Jose Z. Moreno v. Rene M. Kahn, G.R. No. 217744, July 30, 2018, teaches that such is not necessary when not only the family members are impleaded but the case involves “strangers”.

And given that “in-laws” are not included in the enumeration, when a suit includes a sister-in-law or brother-in-law for instance, then the rule on expending earnest efforts does not apply as the law considers them as “strangers”.

By contrast, in the recent case of Gaw Chin Ty, Vicente Gaw Chua, Robert Gaw Chua, Manuel Gaw Chua, Alejandro Gaw Chua, Mario Gaw Chua, and Jacqueline Gaw Chua v. Antonio Gaw Chua, G.R. No. 212598. September 29, 2021, it was held that if the issue is about the “jurisdiction of the court”, the suit can move forward even if it is between or among family members as it is one which cannot be compromised.

The law’s thrust in preserving family relations is echoed in Article 26 of the Civil Code which states that:

            “Article 26. Every person shall respect the dignity, personality, privacy and peace of mind of his neighbors and other persons. The following and similar acts, though they may not constitute a criminal offense, shall produce a cause of action for damages, prevention and other relief: 

            (1) Prying into the privacy of another’s residence;           

            (2) Meddling with or disturbing the private life or family relations of another;          

            (3) Intriguing to cause another to be alienated from his friends;

(4) Vexing or humiliating another on account of his religious beliefs, lowly station in life, place of birth, physical defect, or other personal condition.

It must be underlined that in par. 2, any act of “meddling with or disturbing” the “family relations” of another entails liability for damages.

It is no trifling matter therefore when one goads, cajoles, or by some selfish or ill-motivated reasons, encourages a family member to sever or cut his/ her own family relations.

Christmas may be over-rated. It may have been suffused with commercialism. Yet it harkens to the birth of Jesus Christ set in the background of a humble barn but full of love and warmth of his family: Joseph and Mary.

Not everyone may appreciate the magic of Christmas, that is fine. But the true enchantment of Christmas is when the family is together.

Even the Family Code owes its title to “the family”.

(The author is the senior partner of ET Reyes III & Associates– a law firm based in Iloilo City. He is a litigation attorney, a law professor and a law book author. His website is