Republic v. Cagandahan

G.R. No. 166676, 12 September 2008

FACTS:

On December 11, 2003, respondent filed a Petition for Correction of Entries in Birth Certificate before the RTC, Branch 33 of Siniloan, Laguna.

She alleged that she was born on January 13, 1981, registered as a female in the Certificate of Live Birth but while growing up developed secondary male characteristics and eventually diagnosed with Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH). Further alleges that she had clitoral hypertrophy in her early years, at age six, after an ultrasound, it was discovered that she had small ovaries but at 13 years old, tests revealed that her ovarian structures had diminished, stopped growing and had no breast or menses. For all intents and purposes, as well as in disposition, considered herself male. To prove her claim, respondent presented Dr. Michael Sionzon of the Department of Psychiatry, UP-PGH, who issued a medical certificate stating that respondent, is genetically female but her body secretes male hormones, has two organs of which the female part is undeveloped.

The petition was published in a newspaper of general circulation for three (3) consecutive weeks and was posted in conspicuous places by the sheriff of the court. The Solicitor General entered his appearance and authorized the Assistant Provincial Prosecutor to appear in his behalf.

RTC granted respondent’s petition.

ISSUE:

Whether the trial court erred in ordering the correction of entries in the birth certificate of respondent to change her sex or gender, from female to male, on the ground of her medical condition known as CAH, and her name from Jennifer to Jeff, under Rules 103 and 108 of the Rules of Court.

RULING:

No. The determination of a person’s sex appearing in his birth certificate is a legal issue and the court must look to the statutes. In this connection, Article 412 of the Civil Code provides:

No entry in a civil register shall be changed or corrected without a judicial order.

Together with Article 376 of the Civil Code, this provision was amended by Republic Act No. 9048 in so far as clerical or typographical errors are involved. The correction or change of such matters can now be made through administrative proceedings and without the need for a judicial order. In effect, Rep. Act No. 9048 removed from the ambit of Rule 108 of the Rules of Court the correction of such errors. Rule 108 now applies only to substantial changes and corrections in entries in the civil register.

Under Rep. Act No. 9048, a correction in the civil registry involving the change of sex is not a mere clerical or typographical error. It is a substantial change for which the applicable procedure is Rule 108 of the Rules of Court.

Respondent undisputedly has CAH. CAH is one of many conditions that involve intersex anatomy.Ultimately, we are of the view that where the person is biologically or naturally intersex the determining factor in his gender classification would be what the individual, like respondent, having reached the age of majority, with good reason thinks of his/her sex. Respondent here thinks of himself as a male and considering that his body produces high levels of male hormones (androgen) there is preponderant biological support for considering him as being male. Sexual development in cases of intersex persons makes the gender classification at birth inconclusive. It is at maturity that the gender of such persons, like respondent, is fixed.

In the absence of evidence that respondent is an incompetent and in the absence of evidence to show that classifying respondent as a male will harm other members of society who are equally entitled to protection under the law, the Court affirms as valid and justified the respondents position and his personal judgment of being a male.

As for respondents change of name under Rule 103, this Court has held that a change of name is not a matter of right but of judicial discretion, to be exercised in the light of the reasons adduced and the consequences that will follow. Such a change will conform with the change of the entry in his birth certificate from female to male.

* Case digest by Kristine Camille B. Gahuman, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018

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