Substantial changes in a person’s certificate of live birth (COLB) such as status, legitimacy and citizenship cannot be done through a mere petition for correction of entries.
The Supreme Court (SC) reiterated that substantial changes in COLB must be petitioned in court through adversarial proceedings under Rule 108 of the Rules of Court.
Rule 108 requires that proper parties must be impleaded in the petition and the court order fixing the time and place for hearing must be published for three consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation.
The rule also states that “the civil registrar and any person having or claiming any interest under the entry whose cancellation or correction is sought may, within 15 days from notice of the petition, or from the last date of publication of such notice, file his opposition thereto.”
With the decision written by Associate Justice Rosmari D. Carandang, the SC dismissed the petition of Eduardo Santos without prejudice to the filing of the proper petition in court.
Eduardo would have wanted to correct his records in the civil registry of Manila to reflect his surname as “Santos” instead of “Cu,” his nationality as “Filipino” instead of “Chinese,” his filiation as illegitimate” instead of “legitimate,” and his mother’s civil status as “single” instead of “married.”
He impleaded as respondents the Local Civil Registrar of Manila, the National Statistics Office, and all persons who would be affected by the proceedings.
On Feb. 22, 2013, the Manila regional trial court (RTC) granted all of Eduardo’s pleas.
On government’s appeal, the Court of Appeals (CA) on April 20, 2015 partially reversed and set aside the RTC decision.
The CA ruled that Eduardo is a Filipino citizen but his surname should remain as “Cu” and a legitimate child of his father, Nga Cu Lay.
It agreed with the RTC ruling that Eduardo’s citizenship is Filipino because the 1935 Constitution — which was in force at the time of his birth — stated that a child born of a Filipino mother who elects Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority is a Filipino citizen.
But on filiation, the CA ruled that Eduardo failed to overcome the legal presumption that he is a legitimate child of his parents. It gave credence to the COLB of Eduardo which was considered a formidable evidence pursuant to the Civil Code and Article 172 of the Family Code for purposes of recognition and filiation.
Eduardo elevated the case to the SC.
Resolving the petition and citing a previous decision, the SC said that a petition for correction of entry under Rule 108 of the Rules covers not only clerical errors, but also substantial changes. The difference lies only on the procedure which would govern the correction sought, it said.
Also citing another decided case, the SC said: “If the correction is clerical, then the procedure to be adopted is summary. If the rectification affects the civil status, citizenship or nationality of a party, it is deemed substantial, and the procedure to be adopted is adversary.”
In Eduardo’s case, the SC said that the changes he sought to be reflected are substantial and may only be resolved through the appropriate adversary proceedings under Rule 108.
“What Eduardo seeks to correct are not mere clerical errors as the changes sought to be carried out are substantial. It is not a simple or negligible matter of correcting a single letter in his surname dues to a misspelling.
“Rather, Eduardo’s filiation, status, and citizenship will be gravely affected. This will affect not only his identity, but his successional rights as well.”
“Though publication of the notice of hearing may cure the failure to implead all affected or interested parties in certain cases, Eduardo failed to demonstrate to the Court that he exerted earnest efforts in bringing to court all possible interested parties, including his siblings, their descendants, and the purported Chinese wife of his father.
“Simply alleging in his petition that he is impleading ‘all persons who shall be affected’ by the proceedings does not satisfy the requirement under Section 3 of Rule 108. Even assuming that there are no other existing interested parties who may be affected by the outcome of the petition and that there is substantial compliance with Section 3 of Rule 8, the Court still cannot grant the reliefs prayed for in Eduardo’s petition.
“Nevertheless, the dismissal of Eduardo’s petition for correction of entries and cancellation of annotation in his COLB is without prejudice to the filing of another petition under Rule 108 to modify his surname from ‘Cu’ to ‘Santos,’ the last name of his mother.
“The change in Eduardo’s surname may be permitted after impleading the civil registrar and ‘all persons who have or claim any interest which would be affected thereby’ and upon presentation of all his evidence, including the purported CENOMAR (certificate of no marriage) of his parents which he improperly introduced for the first time at this stage of the proceedings.
“The trial court shall direct the Philippine Statistics Authority to submit an authenticated certificate confirming the fact of marriage or no marriage between the parents of Eduardo, Juana Santos and Nga Cu Lay.
“WHEREFORE, the Decision dated April 20, 2015 and the Resolution dated Oct. 13, 2015 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 100868 are SET ASIDE. The petition for correction of entries and cancellation of annotation in the certificate of live birth of petitioner Eduardo Santos docketed as Sp. Proc. No. 11-126185 is DISMISSED, without prejudice. SO ORDERED.”