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Substantial and clerical errors

A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - April 23, 2021 - 12:00am

Under Rule 108 of the Rules of Court, correction of erroneous entries in a document filed with the local Civil Registrar or Consul General needs court approval. The proceedings may either be summary if the errors are merely clerical or typographical, or adversarial if the errors are substantial. The petition must be filed with the Regional Trial Court which sets a hearing and directs its publication in a newspaper of general circulation. In 2001, however, Republic Act 9048 was enacted, giving the local Civil Registrar the authority to correct clerical or typographical errors without the need of judicial order. This authority was further expanded by R.A. 10172 enacted in 2012 which provides that the local Civil Registrar and Consul General can make changes in the day and month of the date of birth and in the recorded sex of a person when it is patently clear that said entry is merely a typographical error. This is the rule involved in this case of Nina.

Nina is the daughter of Bella who gave birth to her with the assistance of a registered mid-wife, Carrie. After her birth, Carrie volunteered to register Nina’s birth with the local civil registrar. Thus, Bella provided Carrie with the necessary details.

After several days, Carrie delivered the birth certificate to Bella. But Bella was dismayed when she saw the erroneous entries in the certificate, particularly: Entry No. 6 where the name Mary was added to her first name and where her middle name was misspelled as Patenio instead of Patenia; and Entry No. 18 showing the date and place of her marriage to the father of the child despite the fact that she was not married; and Entry No. 20 indicating that Bella was the informant who signed and accomplished the form, instead of Carrie.

So Bella filed a Petition before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) pursuant to Rule 108 and prayed that the name “Mary” be removed and her middle name “Patenio” be changed to “Patenia” in entry No. 6; that the entry in No.18 as to the date and place of marriage be replaced with the words “Not Married” and that the name of the person who accomplished and signed the form be changed from “Bella” to “Carrie”. This petition was granted by the RTC.

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), however, moved for a reconsideration of the decision and contended that the RTC has no jurisdiction to correct Bella’s first name and middle name because the errors are merely clerical that can be corrected through administrative proceedings under R.A. 9048 which was already in effect. The OSG also claimed that the removal of the date and place of marriage of the child’s parents and replacing them with the words “Not Married” is substantial, hence notice should have been sent to all persons who have interests in the proceedings, particularly the OSG. Was the OSG correct?

The Supreme Court said that the OSG is partly correct. The issues here hinge on the RTC’s jurisdiction to order the correction of Bella’s first name from “Maria Bella” to “Bella” and her middle name from “Patenio” to “Patenia” as well as her status from “married” to “not married” under the provisions of Rule 108. For this purpose, it is necessary to determine the scope of the Rule as amended by R.A. 9048 and 10172. Applying these laws, it is necessary to determine whether the corrections of Bella’s first name and surname is substantial or clerical. “Substantial” refers to that which establishes or affects the substantive right of the person in whose behalf the change or correction is being sought. It may affect the civil status from legitimate to illegitimate as well as the sex or citizenship of a person.

On the other hand, clerical or typographical error is a mistake committed in writing, copying or typing an entry in the civil register that is harmless and innocuous, such as misspelled name or misspelled place of birth, mistake in the entry of day and month in the date of birth or the sex of the person, or the like, which is visible to the eyes, or obvious, and can be corrected only by reference to other existing records.

Guided by this principle, the correction of Bella’s middle name involves clerical or typographical error. It merely rectifies the erroneous spelling through substitution of “o” with “a”. To be sure Bella’s middle name in her Multi-purpose ID which she submitted evidence, is “Patenia”. Similarly, the error in her first name is clerical that will neither affect her substantial rights as her ID and passport show that her first name is “Bella” not “Mary Belle.” RA 9048 is not limited to cases in which the erroneous entries to be corrected pertain to owner of the birth certificate, but also to the owner’s spouse, children or parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, guardian or any other person authorized by law or by the owner of the document sought to be corrected.

On the other hand, the change of the parents’ date and place of marriage to that of “not married” is substantial as it will alter the child’s status from legitimate to illegitimate. It may be done only through appropriate adversarial proceedings. Hence Bella correctly filed the petition in the RTC but she failed to implead the civil registrar and all persons who have or claim any interest which would be affected thereby, as well as to publish it once a week for three consecutive weeks. So the failure to comply with the requirements of Rule 108 regarding substantial errors render the proceedings void.

The RTC decision with respect to the correction of Bella’s first name and middle name in the birth certificate of Nina is affirmed while the correction of entry about the date and place of marriage is set aside (Republic vs. Ontuca etc. G.R. 232053, July 15, 2020).

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Email: js0711192@gmail.com

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