Published 28 February 2020, The Daily Tribune

The correction of clerical errors in one’s name and a change of name for the most compelling reasons used to be a long, tedious and expensive process, leaving record holders with little option and plenty of confusion.

To rectify this, in 2001, Republic Act (RA) 9048 amended Articles 376 and 412 which mandate that no person can change his name or surname or any other entry in a civil registry without a judicial order. Since then, RA 9048 has governed the change of first name and vested the power to entertain petitions for change of first name to the city or municipal civil registrar or consul general concerned.

RA 9048 allows the following:
1. Correction of clerical or typographical errors in any entry in civil registry documents, except corrections involving the change in sex, age, nationality and status of a person (this would later on be amended by RA 10172 which allows the correction of clerical errors in the recordal of the sex of a person)

2. Change of a person’s first name in his/her civil registry document under certain grounds specified under the law through administrative process
A clerical or typographical error refers to an obvious mistake committed in clerical work, either in writing, copying, transcribing, or typing an entry in the civil register that is harmless and innocuous, such as a misspelled name or misspelled place of birth and the like. It can be corrected or changed only by reference to other existing record or records.

This is a distinct ground from change of name, which can only be grounded on the following:

1. The petitioner finds the first name or nickname to be ridiculous, tainted with dishonor or extremely difficult to write or pronounce;

2. The new first name or nickname has been habitually and continuously used by the petitioner and he has been publicly known by that first name or nickname in the community; or,
3. The change will avoid confusion.

Under the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of RA 9048, the owner of the record (who is of legal age), his/her spouse, children, parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, guardian, or any other person duly authorized by law or by the owner of the record may file the petition with the Local Civil Registry Office (LCRO) of the city or municipality or with the Office of the Clerk of the Shari’a Court, as the case may be, where the record containing the clerical or typographical error is located.

In Republic vs Lorena Sali (G.R. 206023, 3 April 2017), respondent filed a Petition for Correction of Entry under Rule 108 of the Rules of Court, before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) alleging that the LRCO erroneously entered her name as “Dorothy” instead of Lorena, and her birthday as 24 June 1968 instead of 24 April 1968. The RTC granted her petition. The Republic appealed the grant of respondent’s Petition on the ground that it does not involve the correction of a simple clerical, typographical or innocuous error, and she failed to exhaust the administrative remedies pursuant to RA 9048.

The Supreme Court Ruled the evidence presented by respondent show that, since birth, she has been using the name “Lorena.” What she seeks is simply the removal of the clerical fault or error in her first name, and to set aright the same to conform to the name she grew up with.

When the petition was filed in 2008, RA 9048 was already in effect. Under this law, jurisdiction over applications for change of first name was primarily lodged with the aforementioned administrative officers. The intent and effect of the law is to exclude the change of first name from the coverage of Rules 103 (Change of Name) and 108 (Cancellation or Correction of Entries in the Civil Registry) of the Rules of Court, until and unless an administrative petition for change of name is first filed and subsequently denied. Hence, respondent should have filed an administrative petition under RA 9048 before the proper LRCO, and her failure to exhaust administrative remedies should result in the dismissal of her petition with the RTC.

On the other hand, the petition to correct her birth date from “24 June 1968” to “24 April 1968,” was properly lodged with the RTC. On 15 August 2012, RA 10172 was signed into law amending RA 9048, which now includes the day and month in the date of birth and sex of a person where it is patently clear that there was a clerical or typographical error or mistake in the entry. Hence, the petition may be affirmed only insofar as the same prays for the correction of respondent’s birth date.

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