When is a man a man and when is a woman a woman? In particular, does the law recognize the changes made by a physician using scalpel, drugs and counseling with regard to a person’s sex? May a person successfully petition for a change of name and sex appearing in the birth certificate to reflect the result of a sex reassignment surgery?
This is the issue resolved by the Supreme Court in a recent case of Silverio vs. Republic, wherein the petitioner sought to have his name in his birth certificate changed from “Rommel Jacinto” to “Mely,” and his sex from “male” to “female”, after having undergone sex reassignment surgery.
A person’s first name cannot be changed on the ground of sex reassignment. According to the Supreme Court, before a person can legally change his given name, he must present proper or reasonable cause or any compelling reason justifying such change. He must also show that he will be prejudiced by the use of his true and official name. In this case, he failed to show, or even allege, any prejudice that he might suffer as a result of using his true and official name.
Petitioner’s basis in praying for the change of his first name was his sex reassignment. However, a change of name does not alter one’s legal capacity or civil status. RA 9048 does not sanction a change of first name on the ground of sex reassignment. Rather than avoiding confusion, changing petitioner’s first name for his declared purpose may only create grave complications in the civil registry and the public interest.
No law also allows the change of entry in the birth certificate as to sex on the ground of sex reassignment. While petitioner may have succeeded in altering his body and appearance through the intervention of modern surgery, no law authorizes the change of entry as to sex in the civil registry for that reason.
As an aside, I have encountered so many individuals suffering from the misfortune of having the wrong gender reflected in their respective birth certificates. This is most probably unintended by the person who prepared the birth certificate. And while the error is clear, the law provides that changes in the gender, as appearing in the birth certificate, cannot be done unless there’s a court order authorizing the correction. Another classic example of shelling out money for mistakes made by others.