SC: Legitimacy, filiation of children can’t be attacked through correction of birth certificate

The Supreme Court (SC) has held that the legitimacy and filiation of children could not be determined and collaterally attacked in proceedings for the correction of certificates of live birth.

In a recent 12-page decision, the SC 3rd Division nullified the declarations of the Masbate City Regional Trial Court (RTC) and the Court of Appeals (CA) that Joan Miller was truly an illegitimate child of her alleged father John Miller.

The declarations in the RTC’s November 26, 2004 judgment and the CA’s June 30, 2011 decision arose from the petition for correction of entries filed by John’s legitimate child Glenn Miller.

Glenn wanted Joan’s birth certificate to use the mother’s surname Espenida. He claimed she was not acknowledged by his father.

The SC, however, said it was erroneous for the RTC and the CA to uphold Joan’s filiation in the said proceedings. It explained that only clerical changes could be made through the correction of certificates of live birth.

“It is not a simple matter of correcting a single letter in private respondent’s surname due to a misspelling. Rather, private respondent’s filiation will be gravely affected, as changing her surname from Miller to Espenida will also change her status,” read the decision penned by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.

“This will affect not only her identity, but her successional rights as well. Certainly, this change is substantial,” it added.

To resolve the issue of whether Joan was an acknowledged illegitimate child, the SC said a direct action should have been filed.

“Legitimacy and filiation can be questioned only in a direct action seasonably filed by the proper party, and not through collateral attack,” the decision read.

The decision would come “without prejudice” to the refiling of the appropriate action before the proper court.

Meanwhile, the SC also resolved to treat the memorandum of Glenn’s legal heirs as an administrative complaint against Masbate City RTC Branch 48 Judge Jacinta Tambago.

Tambago was accused of failing to inhibit from the case even as her brother-in-law Osias Tambago acted as Joan’s lawyer. #

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