Is there is a law allowing the change of entries in the birth certificate by reason of sex alteration or sex reassignment through surgery? When can one change the entries in his or her birth certificate as regards name and sex?
Philippine Supreme Court Case Involving Sex Reassignment Surgery
The Supreme Court had the chance to decide on this issue in the case of Rommel Jacinto Dantes Silverio vs. Republic of the Philippines, G.R. No. 174689, 22 October 2007.
In his birth certificate, Silverio’s name was registered as “Rommel Jacinto Dantes Silverio” and his sex was registered as “male”. He is a male transsexual, that is, “anatomically male but feels, thinks and acts as a female” and that he had always identified himself with girls since childhood.
Feeling Trapped in a Man’s Body
Feeling trapped in a man’s body, he consulted several doctors in the United States. He underwent psychological examination, hormone treatment and breast augmentation. He went to Bangkok, Thailand and he underwent sex reassignment surgery. From then on, he lived as a female and was in fact engaged to be married. He then sought to have his name in his birth certificate changed from “Rommel Jacinto” to “Mely,” and his sex from “male” to “female”. He then filed a petition for the change of his first name and sex in his birth certificate in the Regional Trial Court of Manila.
Supreme Court: No Law Governing Sex Reassignment and Effects
The case reached the Highest Court in the Philippines and rejected Silverio’s attempt to change his first name and sex. The Court had this to say, to wit:
“A person’s sex is an essential factor in marriage and family relations. It is a part of a person’s legal capacity and civil status. In this connection, Article 413 of the Civil Code provides:
ART. 413. All other matters pertaining to the registration of civil status shall be governed by special laws.
But there is no such special law in the Philippines governing sex reassignment and its effects. This is fatal to petitioner’s cause.
x x x Under the Civil Register Law, a birth certificate is a historical record of the facts as they existed at the time of birth. Thus, the sex of a person is determined at birth, visually done by the birth attendant (the physician or midwife) by examining the genitals of the infant. Considering that there is no law legally recognizing sex reassignment, the determination of a person’s sex made at the time of his or her birth, if not attended by error,30 is immutable.
x x x For these reasons, while petitioner may have succeeded in altering his body and appearance through the intervention of modern surgery, no law authorizes the change of entry as to sex in the civil registry for that reason. Thus, there is no legal basis for his petition for the correction or change of the entries in his birth certificate. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied.)
Name and Sex Cannot be Changed without Law Allowing for Change
Moreover, the Court clarified that Silverio’s name cannot also be changed because changing name on the ground of reassignment is not sanctioned by law, to wit:
“Petitioner’s basis in praying for the change of his first name was his sex reassignment. He intended to make his first name compatible with the sex he thought he transformed himself into through surgery. However, a change of name does not alter one’s legal capacity or civil status. RA 9048 does not sanction a change of first name on the ground of sex reassignment. Rather than avoiding confusion, changing petitioner’s first name for his declared purpose may only create grave complications in the civil registry and the public interest.
Before a person can legally change his given name, he must present proper or reasonable cause or any compelling reason justifying such change. In addition, he must show that he will be prejudiced by the use of his true and official name. In this case, he failed to show, or even allege, any prejudice that he might suffer as a result of using his true and official name.” (Emphasis and underscoring supplied.)
In conclusion, the Supreme Court ruled that a person’s first name and sex cannot be changed on the ground of sex reassignment or sex alteration or sex change because there is no law allowing such. The legislature is lodged with the duty to enact a law which will give right to a person like Silverio to change his name and sex.
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