It’s now easier to ask for corrections in first names and typographical errors under Republic Act No. 9048, which took effect on 22 April 2001. Under this law, the city or municipal civil registrar (or the consul general) may correct a clerical or typographical error in an entry, or change the first name or nickname in the civil register without need of a court order. The law characterizes “clerical or typographical error” as:
xxx a mistake committed in the performance of clerical work in writing, copying, transcribing or typing an entry in the civil register that is harmless and innocuous, such as misspelled name or misspelled place of birth or the like, which is visible to the eyes or obvious to the understanding, and can be corrected or changed only by reference to other existing record or records: Provided, however, That no correction must involve the change of nationality, age, status or sex of the petitioner.
Based on this characterization, there’s a wide discretion in interpreting what constitutes a clerical or typographical error. There’s no definite list and an applicant may show through documents that a particular entry – except nationality, age, status or sex – is erroneous. In one case, the SC noted that the changes sought (surname of the son, the date of the parents’ wedding and the informant’s name) are substantial changes an not merely clerical errors.
Update: Thank you to some who took time to answer some of the questions. Considering that there are unanswered questions and because I don’t have the luxury of time, we shall try to address the issues through the Q&A here. This will be updated from time to time to address new issues. Please go through the questions before posting a query (and please remember that this is a discussion, so feel free to address the issues).
Does this law cover other errors?
Many have errors in the surname, gender (i.e., male or female), birth date, age, nationality (e.g., Filipino), status (single, married) reflected in the entries appearing at the civil registrar. These substantial matters are not covered by this law. Corrections covering these matters require a petition to be filed in court.