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Substantial changes in birth certificate require adversary proceedings, says SC

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The Supreme Court has ruled that substantial changes made in a birth certificate such as legitimacy or citizenship status must be resolved through the appropriate adversary proceedings.

The SC made the ruling as it dismissed the petition for correction of entries and cancellation of annotation in the certificate of live birth of petitioner Eduardo Santos, without prejudice for the petitioner to refile a petition to change his surname to that of his mother.

In his petition, Santos sought to correct his records in the civil registry to reflect his surname as “Santos” instead of “Cu,” his nationality as “Filipino” instead of “Chinese,” and his mother’s civil status as “single” instead of “married.”

In ruling against Santos, the high court held that a petition for correction of entry under Rule 108 of the Rules covers clerical errors and substantial changes.

Because of this, the SC stressed that the changes sought by Santos must 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,” the court noted.

“Rather, Eduardo’s filiation, status, and citizenship will be gravely affected. This will affect not only his identity but his successional rights as well,” it said.

The high court also said that Santos failed to demonstrate that he exerted all efforts to bring to court the interested parties such as his siblings and their descendants. Both his parents have passed away.

In 2011, Santos filed a petition before the Manila City Regional Trial Court for correction of entries and cancellation of annotations in his birth certificate, where he said he was born in Manila to a Chinese father and a Filipino mother.

In 2013, the RTC ruled in his favor and ordered the changes to his birth certificate.

But on appeal, the Court of Appeals partially reversed and set aside the RTC decision. It declared Santos as a Filipino citizen but maintained that he retains his surname “Cu” and remains to be a legitimate child.

It ordered the Civil Registrar of Manila to correct the entries accordingly. The CA agreed with the RTC that Eduardo’s citizenship is Filipino, pursuant to the 1935 Constitution. On further appeal, the SC set aside the CA ruling.

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