Change of Name in Philippine Law

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What’s in a name, goes the Shakespearean play, and it goes on to say that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

In the Philippine jurisdiction, a name could mean open doors of opportunity, like if your surname is Zobel or Ayala. It could also pave the way for a career in politics, especially if the family name has held favorable elective posts, like Pimentel. On the other hand, it could spell trouble – Barretto, anyone? 

A Filipino can change his or her name in the Philippine setting if the basis falls under any of the following circumstances, as cited by the Supreme Court in the case of the Republic of the Philippines vs Coseteng-Magpayo:

“A person can effect a change of name under Rule 103 (CHANGE OF NAME) using valid and meritorious grounds including (a) when the name is ridiculous, dishonorable or extremely difficult to write or pronounce; (b) when the change results as a legal consequence such as legitimation; (c) when the change will avoid confusion; (d) when one has continuously used and been known since childhood by a Filipino name, and was unaware of alien parentage; (e) a sincere desire to adopt a Filipino name to erase signs of former alienage, all in good faith and without prejudicing anybody; and (f) when the surname causes embarrassment and there is no showing that the desired  change  of name was for a fraudulent purpose or that the change of name would prejudice public interest.”

But what if there’s only a clerical error, in your name, or if it’s your first name/s you have a problem with? In the rush of things, or in the case of a groggy mother who just gave birth, who meant to write MARIA as the first name but instead wrote MARIO, do you still have to go through court? 

Republic Act No. 9048 or the Act Authorizing the C/MCR or Consul General to Correct a Clerical or Typographical Error in an Entry and/or Change of First Name or Nickname in the Civil Register Without Need of a Judicial Order (mouthy law title, but it is spot-on) addresses those concerns without the painful process of going to court.

This administrative process covers the correction of clerical or typographical errors in any entry in civil registry documents (Marriage, birth or death certificate), except corrections involving the change in sex, age, nationality and status of a person.

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, and can be corrected or changed only by reference to other existing record or records.

It also covers the change of a person’s first name in his/her civil registry document under certain grounds specified under the law through an administrative process. The grounds for a change of the first name under this process are:

  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.

Since this administrative procedure is done out-of-court, all that one needs to do is to proceed to the Local Civil Registry where you’re a resident of (called a migrant petition) or where you were born (the ideal venue), request for a checklist of requirements for the change you want to request, comply with the documentary requirements as written and voila. 

The Local Civil Registry will then forward the approved change to the Philippine Statistics Authority to annotate the change of entry in the record/civil registry document. The next time you request a PSA Registry Record, say a birth certificate, there would be an annotation on the right side of the document. 

Changes done administratively (RA 9048) is definitely less costly than filing a petition through the court. If you’re unsure about which process applies to you, you may refer to the following government websites and/or seek legal counsel.