Indispensable parties

Indispensable parties

This case is about the correction of entries in a person’s record of birth. The main issue in this case is about the jurisdiction of the court. When is jurisdiction acquired by the court? What must be done in order that a court may acquire jurisdiction in correcting or cancelling entries in the civil registry?

This case is about the birth certificate of Alona registered with the local civil registrar of the city where she was born. Said record shows that Alona was born on Nov. 12, 1949 as the eldest daughter of the spouses Rosa Acosta and Armando Cortes. When she was securing official documents for obtaining her benefits from the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), she was surprised to discover that she had another birth certificate registered with the same local civil registrar under another registry number, wherein it was erroneously indicated that she was born on Nov. 12, 1948 and her father’s name was “Pablo Reyes.”

So Alona filed a petition to correct the entries in the second Registry No. 72641 regarding her date of birth and her father’s name. After due publication of the date of hearing, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) entered its appearance and deputized the local private prosecutor to appear and litigate the case only after the date of the hearing. So the trial court allowed Alona to present her evidence ex parte wherein she presented her voter certificate, baptismal certificate and marriage contract showing her true name and date of birth.

After the proceedings the trial court rendered its decision directing the Local Civil Registrar General to effect the correction of the birth certificate of Alona by changing the name of her father from Pablo Reyes to Armando Cortes and her date of birth from Nov. 12, 1948 to Nov. 12, 1949.

While the OSG still filed its Comment and Opposition to the petition, they were deemed mooted by the decision of the trial court granting the petition. So the OSG appealed to the Court of Appeals (CA), reiterating its opposition, more specifically the fact that the trial court did not acquire jurisdiction over the petition for failure of Alona to implead the indispensable parties, particularly Armando Cortes, Rosa Acosta, Pablo Reyes and her siblings.

The CA, however, still upheld and affirmed the trial court’s ruling. It ruled that Alona’s supposed failure to implead indispensable parties was deemed cured when the trial court’s order setting the case for initial hearing was posted and published for three consecutive weeks in a local newspaper of general circulation. Was the CA correct?

The Supreme Court (SC) said no. According to the SC, the procedure for cancellation or correction of entries in the civil registry may either be summary or adversary, depending on whether the correction sought is clerical or substantial. If it is clerical the procedure may be summary. Otherwise, it is adversarial. Correction of name or names of individual’s parents in his or her birth certificate involve substantial matter which require adversarial proceeding. The civil registrar and all persons who have or claim interest which would be affected thereby should be made parties to the proceeding (Section 3 Rule 108, Rules of Court).

Here Alona failed to implead her two purported fathers, her supposed mother and her siblings in violation of said rule. Alona had known from the start that she had two registered fathers. Bringing them as indispensable parties will afford them a chance to be heard, as the corrections sought will also affect their own personal circumstances, the names they bear their filiations and even their successional rights. Alona knew her mother and her siblings. Yet she failed to implead them and offered no explanations therefor.

Special circumstances must be present to justify the non-inclusion of indispensable parties, such as when earnest efforts were made by the Petitioner in bringing to the court or the parties themselves initiated the correction proceedings or where there was no actual or presumptive awareness of the interested parties or when a party is inadvertently left out. None of these exceptions are present here. So the decision of the CA is reversed and set aside (Republic vs Timario, GR 234251, June 30, 2020).

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