Rules on change of names

In Republic v. Gallo,[1] the Supreme Court outlined the difference between Rule 103 and Rule 108 of the Rules and the effects brought about by the enactment of R.A. 9048 as amended by R.A. 10172,[2] on the aforementioned rules.

Names are labels for one's identity. They facilitate social interaction, including the allocation of rights and determination of liabilities. It is for this reason that the State has an interest in one's name.[3]The name through which one is known is generally, however, not chosen by the individual who bears it. Rather, it is chosen by one's parents. In this sense, the choice of one's name is not a product of the exercise of autonomy of the individual to whom it refers.[3]

In view of the State's interest in names as markers of one's identity, the law requires that these labels be registered. Understandably, in some cases, the names so registered or other aspects of one's identity that pertain to one's name are not reflected with accuracy in the Certificate of Live Birth filed with the civil registrar.[3]

Changes to one's name, therefore, can be the result of either one of two (2) motives. The first, as an exercise of one's autonomy, is to change the appellation that one was given for various reasons. The other is not an exercise to change the label that was given to a person; it is simply to correct the data as it was recorded in the Civil Registry.[3]

The governing law on changes of first name [and correction of clerical and typographical errors in the civil register] is currently Republic Act No. 10172, which amended Republic Act No. 9048. Prior to these laws, the controlling provisions on changes or corrections of name were Articles 376 and 412 of the Civil Code.[3]

Under Article 412 of the Civil Code, a person desiring to change his or her name altogether must file a petition under Rule 103 with the Regional Trial Court, which will then issue an order setting a hearing date and directing the order's publication in a newspaper of general circulation. After finding that there is proper and reasonable cause to change his or her name, the Regional Trial Court may grant the petition and order its entry in the civil register.[3]

On the other hand, Rule 108 applies when the person is seeking to correct clerical and innocuous mistakes in his or her documents with the civil register. It also governs the correction of substantial errors in the entry of the information enumerated in Section 2 of this Rule and those affecting the civil status, citizenship, and nationality of a person. The proceedings under this rule may either be summary, if the correction pertains to clerical mistakes, or adversary, if it pertains to substantial errors.[3]

The "change of name" contemplated under Article 376 and Rule 103 must not be confused with Article 412 and Rule 108. A change of one's name under Rule 103 can be granted, only on grounds provided by law. In order to justify a request for change of name, there must be a proper and compelling reason for the change and proof that the person requesting will be prejudiced by the use of his official name. To assess the sufficiency of the grounds invoked therefor, there must be adversarial proceedings.[3]

In petitions for correction, only clerical, spelling, typographical and other innocuous errors in the civil registry may be raised. Considering that the enumeration in Section 2, Rule 108 also includes "changes of name," the correction of a patently misspelled name is covered by Rule 108. Suffice it to say, not all alterations allowed in one's name are confined under Rule 103. Corrections for clerical errors may be set right under Rule 108.[3]

This rule in "names," however, does not operate to entirely limit Rule 108 to the correction of clerical errors in civil registry entries by way of a summary proceeding. Republic v. Valencia explains the authority for allowing substantial errors in other entries like citizenship, civil status, and paternity, to be corrected using Rule 108 provided there is an adversary proceeding. After all, the role of the courts under Rule 108 is to ascertain the truths about the facts recorded therein.[3]

[1] G.R. No. 207074, January 17, 2018, 851 SCRA 570. Third Division, penned by Associate Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen, with the concurrence of then Associate Justice, now Chief Justice Lucas P. Bersamin, Retired Associate Justice Samuel R. Martires, and Associate Justice Alexander J. Gesmundo.

[2] An Act Further Authorizing the City or Municipal Civil Registrar or the Consul General to Correct Clerical or Typographical Errors in the Day and Month in the Date of Birth or Sex of a Person Appearing in the Civil Register without need of a Judicial Order, Amending for this Purpose Republic Act Numbered Ninety Forty-Eight, approved August 15, 2012.