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G.R. No. 198010, August 12, 2013 - REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner, v. DR. NORMA S. LUGSANAY UY, Respondent.

G.R. No. 198010, August 12, 2013 - REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner, v. DR. NORMA S. LUGSANAY UY, Respondent.

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 198010, August 12, 2013

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner, v. DR. NORMA S. LUGSANAY UY, Respondent.

DECISION

PERALTA, J.:

 

Assailed in this petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court are the Court of Appeals (CA)1 Decision2 dated February 18, 2011 and Resolution3 dated July 27, 2011 in CA-G.R. CV No. 00238-MIN. The assailed decision dismissed the appeal filed by petitioner Republic of the Philippines and, consequently, affirmed in toto the June 28, 2004 Order4 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 27, Gingoog City in Special Proceedings No. 230-2004 granting the Petition for Correction of Entry of Certificate of Live Birth filed by respondent Dr. Norma S. Lugsanay Uy; while the assailed resolution denied petitioner's motion for reconsideration.

The facts of the case are as follows:cralawlibrary

On March 8, 2004, respondent filed a Petition for Correction of Entry in her Certificate of Live Birth.5 Impleaded as respondent is the Local Civil Registrar of Gingoog City. She alleged that she was born on February 8, 1952 and is the illegitimate daughter of Sy Ton and Sotera Lugsanay6 Her Certificate of Live Birth7 shows that her full name is “Anita Sy” when in fact she is allegedly known to her family and friends as “Norma S. Lugsanay.” She further claimed that her school records, Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) Board of Medicine Certificate,8 and passport9 bear the name “Norma S. Lugsanay.” She also alleged that she is an illegitimate child considering that her parents were never married, so she had to follow the surname of her mother.10 She also contended that she is a Filipino citizen and not Chinese, and all her siblings bear the surname Lugsanay and are all Filipinos.11cralaw virtualaw library

Respondent allegedly filed earlier a petition for correction of entries with the Office of the Local Civil Registrar of Gingoog City to effect the corrections on her name and citizenship which was supposedly granted.12 However, the National Statistics Office (NSO) records did not bear such changes. Hence, the petition before the RTC.

On May 13, 2004, the RTC issued an Order13 finding the petition to be sufficient in form and substance and setting the case for hearing, with the directive that the said Order be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the City of Gingoog and the Province of Misamis Oriental at least once a week for three (3) consecutive weeks at the expense of respondent, and that the order and petition be furnished the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) and the City Prosecutor’s Office for their information and guidance.14 Pursuant to the RTC Order, respondent complied with the publication requirement.

On June 28, 2004, the RTC issued an Order in favor of respondent, the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant petition is hereby GRANTED. THE CITY CIVIL REGISTRAR OF GINGOOG CITY, or any person acting in his behalf is directed and ordered to effect the correction or change of the entries in the Certificate of Live Birth of petitioner’s name and citizenship so that the entries would be:cralawlibrary

a) As to petitioner’s name:
 
First Name
:
NORMA
Middle Name
:
SY
Last Name
:
LUGSANAY
 

b) As to petitioner’s nationality/citizenship

:

FILIPINO

SO ORDERED.15cralaw virtualaw library
The RTC concluded that respondent’s petition would neither prejudice the government nor any third party. It also held that the names “Norma Sy Lugsanay” and “Anita Sy” refer to one and the same person, especially since the Local Civil Registrar of Gingoog City has effected the correction. Considering that respondent has continuously used and has been known since childhood as “Norma Sy Lugsanay” and as a Filipino citizen, the RTC granted the petition to avoid confusion.16cralaw virtualaw library

On February 18, 2011, the CA affirmed in toto the RTC Order. The CA held that respondent’s failure to implead other indispensable parties was cured upon the publication of the Order setting the case for hearing in a newspaper of general circulation for three (3) consecutive weeks and by serving a copy of the notice to the Local Civil Registrar, the OSG and the City Prosecutor’s Office.17 As to whether the petition is a collateral attack on respondent’s filiation, the CA ruled in favor of respondent, considering that her parents were not legally married and that her siblings’ birth certificates uniformly state that their surname is Lugsanay and their citizenship is Filipino.18 Petitioner’s motion for reconsideration was denied in a Resolution dated July 27, 2011.

Hence, the present petition on the sole ground that the petition is dismissible for failure to implead indispensable parties.

Cancellation or correction of entries in the civil registry is governed by Rule 108 of the Rules of Court, to wit:
SEC. 1. Who may file petition. – Any person interested in any act, event, order or decree concerning the civil status of persons which has been recorded in the civil register, may file a verified petition for the cancellation or correction of any entry relating thereto, with the Regional Trial Court of the province where the corresponding civil registry is located.

SEC. 2. Entries subject to cancellation or correction. – Upon good and valid grounds, the following entries in the civil register may be cancelled or corrected: (a) births; (b) marriages; (c) deaths; (d) legal separations; (e) judgments of annulments of marriage; (f) judgments declaring marriages void from the beginning; (g) legitimations; (h) adoptions; (i) acknowledgments of natural children; (j) naturalization; (k) election, loss or recovery of citizenship; (l) civil interdiction; (m) judicial determination of filiation; (n) voluntary emancipation of a minor; and (o) changes of name.

SEC. 3. Parties. – When cancellation or correction of an entry in the civil register is sought, the civil registrar and all persons who have or claim any interest which would be affected thereby shall be made parties to the proceeding.

SEC. 4. Notice and Publication. – Upon the filing of the petition, the court shall, by an order, fix the time and place for the hearing of the same, and cause reasonable notice thereof to be given to the persons named in the petition. The court shall also cause the order to be published once a week for three (3) consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the province.

SEC. 5. Opposition. – The civil registrar and any person having or claiming any interest under the entry whose cancellation or correction is sought may, within fifteen (15) days from notice of the petition, or from the last date of publication of such notice, file his opposition thereto.

SEC. 6. Expediting proceedings. – The court in which the proceeding is brought may make orders expediting the proceedings, and may also grant preliminary injunction for the preservation of the rights of the parties pending such proceedings.

SEC. 7. Order. – After hearing, the court may either dismiss the petition or issue an order granting the cancellation or correction prayed for. In either case, a certified copy of the judgment shall be served upon the civil registrar concerned who shall annotate the same in his record.19cralaw virtualaw library
In this case, respondent sought the correction of entries in her birth certificate, particularly those pertaining to her first name, surname and citizenship. She sought the correction allegedly to reflect the name which she has been known for since childhood, including her legal documents such as passport and school and professional records. She likewise relied on the birth certificates of her full blood siblings who bear the surname “Lugsanay” instead of “Sy” and citizenship of “Filipino” instead of “Chinese.” The changes, however, are obviously not mere clerical as they touch on respondent’s filiation and citizenship. In changing her surname from “Sy” (which is the surname of her father) to “Lugsanay” (which is the surname of her mother), she, in effect, changes her status from legitimate to illegitimate; and in changing her citizenship from Chinese to Filipino, the same affects her rights and obligations in this country. Clearly, the changes are substantial.

It has been settled in a number of cases starting with Republic v. Valencia20 that even substantial errors in a civil registry may be corrected and the true facts established provided the parties aggrieved by the error avail themselves of the appropriate adversary proceeding.21 The pronouncement of the Court in that case is illuminating:
It is undoubtedly true that if the subject matter of a petition is not for the correction of clerical errors of a harmless and innocuous nature, but one involving nationality or citizenship, which is indisputably substantial as well as controverted, affirmative relief cannot be granted in a proceeding summary in nature. However, it is also true that a right in law may be enforced and a wrong may be remedied as long as the appropriate remedy is used. This Court adheres to the principle that even substantial errors in a civil registry may be corrected and the true facts established provided the parties aggrieved by the error avail themselves of the appropriate adversary proceeding. x x x

What is meant by “appropriate adversary proceeding?” Black’s Law Dictionary defines “adversary proceeding” as follows:
One having opposing parties; contested, as distinguished from an ex parte application, one of which the party seeking relief has given legal warning to the other party, and afforded the latter an opportunity to contest it. Excludes an adoption proceeding.22cralaw virtualaw library
In sustaining the RTC decision, the CA relied on the Court’s conclusion in Republic v. Kho,23Alba v. Court of Appeals,24 and Barco v. Court of Appeals,25 that the failure to implead indispensable parties was cured by the publication of the notice of hearing pursuant to the provisions of Rule 108 of the Rules of Court. In Republic v. Kho,26 petitioner therein appealed the RTC decision granting the petition for correction of entries despite respondents’ failure to implead the minor’s mother as an indispensable party. The Court, however, did not strictly apply the provisions of Rule 108, because it opined that it was highly improbable that the mother was unaware of the proceedings to correct the entries in her children’s birth certificates especially since the notices, orders and decision of the trial court were all sent to the residence she shared with them.27cralaw virtualaw library

In Alba v. Court of Appeals,28 the Court found nothing wrong with the trial court’s decision granting the petition for correction of entries filed by respondent although the proceedings was not actually known by petitioner. In that case, petitioner’s mother and guardian was impleaded in the petition for correction of entries, and notices were sent to her address appearing in the subject birth certificate. However, the notice was returned unserved, because apparently she no longer lived there. Thus, when she allegedly learned of the granting of the petition, she sought the annulment of judgment which the Court denied. Considering that the petition for correction of entries is a proceeding in rem, the Court held that acquisition of jurisdiction over the person of the petitioner is, therefore, not required and the absence of personal service was cured by the trial court’s compliance with Rule 108 which requires notice by publication.29cralaw virtualaw library

In Barco v. Court of Appeals,30 the Court addressed the question of whether the court acquired jurisdiction over petitioner and all other indispensable parties to the petition for correction of entries despite the failure to implead them in said case. While recognizing that petitioner was indeed an indispensable party, the failure to implead her was cured by compliance with Section 4 of Rule 108 which requires notice by publication. In so ruling, the Court pointed out that the petitioner in a petition for correction cannot be presumed to be aware of all the parties whose interests may be affected by the granting of a petition. It emphasized that the petitioner therein exerted earnest effort to comply with the provisions of Rule 108. Thus, the publication of the notice of hearing was considered to have cured the failure to implead indispensable parties.

In this case, it was only the Local Civil Registrar of Gingoog City who was impleaded as respondent in the petition below. This, notwithstanding, the RTC granted her petition and allowed the correction sought by respondent, which decision was affirmed in toto by the CA.

We do not agree with the RTC and the CA.

This is not the first time that the Court is confronted with the issue involved in this case. Aside from Kho, Alba and Barco, the Court has addressed the same in Republic v. Coseteng-Magpayo,31Ceruila v. Delantar,32 and Labayo-Rowe v. Republic.33cralaw virtualaw library

In Republic v. Coseteng-Magpayo,34 claiming that his parents were never legally married, respondent therein filed a petition to change his name from “Julian Edward Emerson Coseteng Magpayo,” the name appearing in his birth certificate to “Julian Edward Emerson Marquez Lim Coseteng.” The notice setting the petition for hearing was published and there being no opposition thereto, the trial court issued an order of general default and eventually granted respondent’s petition deleting the entry on the date and place of marriage of parties; correcting his surname from “Magpayo” to “Coseteng”; deleting the entry “Coseteng” for middle name; and deleting the entry “Fulvio Miranda Magpayo, Jr.” in the space for his father. The Republic of the Philippines, through the OSG, assailed the RTC decision on the grounds that the corrections made on respondent’s birth certificate had the effect of changing the civil status from legitimate to illegitimate and must only be effected through an appropriate adversary proceeding. The Court nullified the RTC decision for respondent’s failure to comply strictly with the procedure laid down in Rule 108 of the Rules of Court. Aside from the wrong remedy availed of by respondent as he filed a petition for Change of Name under Rule 103 of the Rules of Court, assuming that he filed a petition under Rule 108 which is the appropriate remedy, the petition still failed because of improper venue and failure to implead the Civil Registrar of Makati City and all affected parties as respondents in the case.

In Ceruila v. Delantar,35 the Ceruilas filed a petition for the cancellation and annulment of the birth certificate of respondent on the ground that the same was made as an instrument of the crime of simulation of birth and, therefore, invalid and spurious, and it falsified all material entries therein. The RTC issued an order setting the case for hearing with a directive that the same be published and that any person who is interested in the petition may interpose his comment or opposition on or before the scheduled hearing. Summons was likewise sent to the Civil Register of Manila. After which, the trial court granted the petition and nullified respondent’s birth certificate. Few months after, respondent filed a petition for the annulment of judgment claiming that she and her guardian were not notified of the petition and the trial court’s decision, hence, the latter was issued without jurisdiction and in violation of her right to due process. The Court annulled the trial court’s decision for failure to comply with the requirements of Rule 108, especially the non-impleading of respondent herself whose birth certificate was nullified.

In Labayo-Rowe v. Republic,36 petitioner filed a petition for the correction of entries in the birth certificates of her children, specifically to change her name from Beatriz V. Labayu/Beatriz Labayo to Emperatriz Labayo, her civil status from “married” to “single,” and the date and place of marriage from “1953-Bulan” to “No marriage.” The Court modified the trial court’s decision by nullifying the portion thereof which directs the change of petitioner’s civil status as well as the filiation of her child, because it was the OSG only that was made respondent and the proceedings taken was summary in nature which is short of what is required in cases where substantial alterations are sought.

Respondent’s birth certificate shows that her full name is Anita Sy, that she is a Chinese citizen and a legitimate child of Sy Ton and Sotera Lugsanay. In filing the petition, however, she seeks the correction of her first name and surname, her status from “legitimate” to “illegitimate” and her citizenship from “Chinese” to “Filipino.” Thus, respondent should have impleaded and notified not only the Local Civil Registrar but also her parents and siblings as the persons who have interest and are affected by the changes or corrections respondent wanted to make.

The fact that the notice of hearing was published in a newspaper of general circulation and notice thereof was served upon the State will not change the nature of the proceedings taken.37 A reading of Sections 4 and 5, Rule 108 of the Rules of Court shows that the Rules mandate two sets of notices to different potential oppositors: one given to the persons named in the petition and another given to other persons who are not named in the petition but nonetheless may be considered interested or affected parties.38 Summons must, therefore, be served not for the purpose of vesting the courts with jurisdiction but to comply with the requirements of fair play and due process to afford the person concerned the opportunity to protect his interest if he so chooses.39cralaw virtualaw library

While there may be cases where the Court held that the failure to implead and notify the affected or interested parties may be cured by the publication of the notice of hearing, earnest efforts were made by petitioners in bringing to court all possible interested parties.40 Such failure was likewise excused where the interested parties themselves initiated the corrections proceedings;41 when there is no actual or presumptive awareness of the existence of the interested parties;42 or when a party is inadvertently left out.43cralaw virtualaw library

It is clear from the foregoing discussion that when a petition for cancellation or correction of an entry in the civil register involves substantial and controversial alterations, including those on citizenship, legitimacy of paternity or filiation, or legitimacy of marriage, a strict compliance with the requirements of Rule 108 ofthe Rules of Court is mandated.44 If the entries in the civil register could be corrected or changed through mere summary proceedings and not through appropriate action wherein all parties who may be affected by the entries are notified or represented, the door to fraud or other mischief would be set open, the consequence of which might be detrimental and far reaching.45cralaw virtualaw library

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is hereby GRANTED. The Court of Appeals Decision dated February 18, 2011 and Resolution dated July 27, 20011 in CA-G.R. CV No. 00238-MIN, are SET ASIDE. Consequently, the June 28, 2004 Order of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 27, Gingoog City, in Spl. Proc. No. 230-2004 granting the Petition for Correction of Entry of Certificate of Live Birth filed by respondent Dr. Norma S. Lugsanay Uy, is NULLIFIED.

SO ORDERED.

Velasco, Jr., (Chairperson), Abad, Mendoza, and Leonen, JJ., concur.

Endnotes:


1 Mindanao Station, Cagayan de Oro City.

2 Penned by Associate Justice Rodrigo F. Lim, Jr., with Associate Justices Angelita A. Gacutan and Nina G. Antonio-Valenzuela, concurring; rollo, pp. 47-61.

3 Penned by Associate Justice Rodrigo F. Lim, Jr., with Associate Justices Pamela Ann Abella Maxino and Zenaida T. Galapate Laguilles, concurring; rollo, pp. 62-63.

4 Penned by Presiding Judge Rexel N. Pacuribot; records, pp. 27-29.

5 Records, pp. 2-5.

6Id. at 2.

7Id. at 6.

8Id. at 9.nadcralawlibrary

9Id. at 8.redcralaw

10  Rollo, pp. 48-49.

11Id. at 10.

12Id.

13 Records, p. 13.

14Id.

15Id. at 28-29.

16Id. at 27-28.

17Rollo, p. 15.

18Id. at 20.

19 Emphasis supplied.

20 225 Phil. 408 (1986).

21Republic v. Valencia, supra, at 416.

22Id. (Citation omitted; italics in the original)

23 G.R. No. 170340, June 29, 2007, 526 SCRA 177.

24 503 Phil. 451 (2005).red cralawlibrary

25 465 Phil. 39 (2004).

26Supra note 23.

27Republic v. Kho, supra note 23, at 191.

28Supra note 24.

29Alba v. Court of Appeals, supra note 24, at 460.

30Supra note 25.

31 G.R. No. 189476, February 2, 2011, 641 SCRA 533.

32 513 Phil. 237 (2005).

33 250 Phil. 300 (1988).

34Supra note 31.

35Supra note 32.

36Supra note 33.cralaw

37Labayo-Rowe v. Republic, supra note 33, at 301.

38Republic v. Coseteng-Magpayo, supra note 31, at 543.

39Ceruila v. Delantar, supra note 32, at 252.

40Id.

41Republic v. Kho, supra note 23, at 193.

42Barco v. Court of Appeals, supra note 25, at 172.

43Republic v. Coseteng-Magpayo, supra note 31, at 545.

44Id. at 546.

45Labayo-Rowe v. Republic, supra note 33, at 307.
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