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Opinion

Identity crisis

Dean Nilo Divina

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Errors in birth certificate may be corrected.

In this jurisdiction, it is not uncommon for birth certificates to contain inaccurate and erroneous entries – misspelled names, incorrect dates of birth, wrong gender and the like.

Given the importance of a birth certificate in determining the identity of a person, it is of utmost importance that said inaccuracies and errors be rectified. But how may these errors be corrected?

Under the law, depending on the nature of the error, entries in a birth certificate, or any document recorded in the civil register for that matter, may be corrected either by filing a petition before the appropriate courts (judicial correction) or before the local civil registrar concerned (administrative correction).

If the error is merely clerical or typographical, one may have the entry corrected through administrative means. Administrative correction of entries is governed by Republic Act 9048, as amended by Republic Act 10172. This may be done by any person interested in the correction by filing a petition before the Local Civil Registrar or the Clerk of the Shari’a Court in his capacity as District or Circuit Registrar of Muslim Marriages, Divorces, Revocations of Divorces and Conversions where the birth certificate is registered. If the person interested in the correction has already migrated to another place within the Philippines and it would be impracticable to file the petition before the local civil registrar where the erroneous entry is recorded, said person may file the petition before the local civil registrar where he/she resides. If the interested party has migrated to another country, the petition may be filed before the nearest Philippine Consulate. (Rule 4, Rules and Regulations Governing the Implementation of RA 9048).

On the other hand, if the correction sought is a substantial one, filing a petition in court and obtaining a court order authorizing the correction is necessary. Judicial correction of entries is governed by Articles 376 and 412 of the Civil Code as well as Rule 108 of the Rules of Court. The petition should be filed before the court where the civil registry where the entry is recorded is located and the propriety of the correction must be determined in a trial.

The question is: How may one determine if the error is merely clerical/typographical or substantial?

A clerical/typographical error is defined under the law as “a mistake committed in the performance of clerical work in writing, copying, transcribing or typing an entry in the civil register that is harmless and innocuous, such as misspelled name or misspelled place of birth or the like which is visible to the eyes or obvious to the understanding, and can be corrected or changed only by reference to other existing record or records.” (Section 2(3), RA 9048) Local Civil Registrars are also authorized to correct clerical/typographical errors pertaining to the day and month of birth of a person. (Section 1, RA 9048, as amended by RA 10172).

Substantial corrections, on the other hand, include change of age, sex, status, and nationality, middle names and surnames of a person. (Re: Final Report on the Judicial Audit Conducted at the RTC, Branch 67, Paniqui, Tarlac, Adm. Matter No. 06-7-414-RTC, 19 October 2007) Changing the name of the father, as well as the date of marriage of the parents, are considered as substantial corrections which may only be done by obtaining a judicial order. (Republic of the Philippines v. Petronio L. Benemerito, G.R. 146963, 15 March 2004).

Previously, changes of entry pertaining to the sex of a person may only be done through judicial correction. However, under the current rules, the aforementioned correction may now be done administratively when it is “patently clear that there was a clerical or typographical error or mistake in the entry.” (Section 1, RA 9048, as amended by RA 10172) Thus, changing the sex of a person in his/her birth certificate through administrative means may only be done if it is obvious that the actual gender of the person is different from the one recorded in his birth certificate. However, changing a person’s gender in his/her birth certificate on the ground of gender reassignment is not allowed.

(Silverio v. Republic of the Philippines, G.R. 174689, 22 October 2007). That having been said, may you not have an identity crisis.

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