The tedious process of correcting clerical mistakes in your legal docs


Rikki Mathay

You’ll be surprised with the thousands of cases handled by documentation lawyers just to correct a wrong entry in a legal document. The most common of these  is corrections in “sex” found in birth certificates.  There are those born male but registered female.  According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) Helpline, wrongly ticked sex is just a clerical error that can be corrected by filing a petition for correction of gender at the Local Civil Registry (LCR) where the birth certificate is registered.  This is according to law RA10172 that aims to correct entries in birth or marriage certificates and other documents without the appellants having to spend a lot. However, this does not seem to be the case with the thousands of pending appeals in queue.

According to Atty. Ariel Inton, a seasoned lawyer who handles family law and the correction of documents, thousands of Filipinos are troubled by what is, after all, supposedly a simple correction of data on the birth certificate.

In fact, recently, an OFW working in Spain, sought help from the media because of the ordeal she was going through because of the correction of gender on her birth certificate. Crystil Maturan revealed that even though she had meticulously gone through the required processes to correct the error, it still took years and thousands of pesos, before she saw any action taken to move forward with her appeal.

This case showed the substantial requirements and extra expenses to simply correct the gender on birth certificates. What exactly are the requirements?

  1. PSA copy of birth certificate with wrong gender entry
  2. PSA marriage certificate if married
  3. PSA birth certificates of the petitioner's children
  4. School records
  5. Medical records issued by an accredited physician that the petitioner has not undergone sex change or sex transplant
  6. No pending case certificate from PNP, NBI or employer
  7. Two valid IDs
  8. Affidavit of publication
  9. ₱3,000 fee
Inton said that it should not be necessary to require such a long list of requirements for what is supposedly a simple clerical correction. “There are many other documents in the civil registry that confirm a person’s gender.  For example, the petitioner has given birth five times; does she still need a medical certificate that she has not changed sex?  They made it because it was a requirement, so what PSA did was to presume that all of us have already had a sex change.”

If it is obvious that it is a real woman or a real man, grant the correction.  Remember, correction of gender is not the same as changing of gender.

In the Philippines, gender reassignment is not yet even allowed.  If there is a law then they could require the doctor’s certificate.  But if it’s so obvious that you’re a real boy or girl, it’s a pain to require a “no sex change medical certificate.”

Another requirement is the certificate of no pending case.  “Does that mean that if someone has a case, he/she can no longer correct his gender on the birth certificate?  What is the connection of gender in this case?  If there is a case of trespassing or reckless imprudence resulting in damage to property, will he wait until the case is over to correct his gender?  What is the connection of the gender correction case?” said Inton.

He adds, “Publication fees are expensive.  And usually there is a problem with wrong entries on the birth certificate among the poor.  While ₱3,000 can be nothing for some, we have to remember that the majority of our populations are living in, or, below poverty line and this ₱3,000 is crucial for them to survive on a daily basis.”

The right move for the PSA according to Inton is to keep the requirements simple.  “When the petitioner personally appears at the local civil registrar, you will know the sex immediately in almost all cases.  Only if there is a doubt then they require additional documents.  For example, an LGBT member who underwent a sex change,” he said.

For those classified as indigents, the processing fee is free as long as a certificate of indigency is attached.  But Inton stressed, “Not all those who are poor are classified as indigent. For those who are more than minimum wage earners, they are not indigent but they will have a difficult time raising ₱3,000 to ₱5,000.”

That’s why in cases like Cristil’s and the thousands who come to Inton’s office, it is high time for the PSA and our lawmakers to investigate what he calls “pahirap policies” in what should be an uncomplicated correction process for birth certificates and other legal documents.