Monday, July 30, 2001


by Marvin B. Aceron and Ces L. Aceron

Some accomplish it haphazardly, while others fill out the blanks with careful attention to detail. Either way, filling out a birth certificate form for a newborn is an experience most parents don't really recall much about or even bother to mention over coffee breaks. Let's face it, it's routine, and downright uneventful. But here's a question for you, if it isn't something somebody would bother getting a souvenir photograph about, why do some people spend thousands of pesos rectifying some infinitesimal discrepancies in their own birth records today? (And they're not even the thugs we'd think them to be, but quite ordinary folks.) It's because the birth certificate remains to be one of the most important legal documents of a person. In this regard, we here are some tips in accomplishing your child's birth certificate. We sincerely hope this information will prove handy in avoiding future legal problems.

1. Avoid long and complicated names. If you decide to give your child more than two names --say, Jose Amado Francisco -- chances are he will drop one or two of them in the future. Once this happens, the discrepancies in his records will arise. It may then be difficult and expensive to straighten the discrepancies by that time. Thus, long names are not advisable. As for complicated names, your child might be able to spell them correctly, but others will not be as careful. Take Marvin for example. When he applied to take the bar exams, his first name "Eldrige" was mis-spelled as "Eldridge" by the bar confidante. It was just a few weeks before the bar, and he had to take the trouble of explaining the discrepancy to the authority or face the prospects of not being able to take the bar at all. (Take note that while Eldrige is not even that complicated, people have already been having trouble spelling it ever since he was a kid.)

2. Accomplish the birth certificate form as soon as possible. Have it in your mental list of things to do after delivery (somewhere between announcing the news to friends and settling hospital bills). You see, the danger in not securing the birth certificate as early as possible is that it might be forgotten altogether. Take the case of former presidential candidate Mayor Fred Lim. He was already a law graduate when his birth certificate was secured, not to mention he also had to do it himself. Worse, he was accused of falsifying his birth certificate to hide his ancestry. This could have been avoided if the birth certificate forms were accomplished earlier on by his guardians.In some hospitals, accomplishing the birth certificate form is part of the routine services they provide. However, if the mother gives birth out of the hospital or in a hospital that does not provide this service, the responsibility of accomplishing the birth certificate forms rests solely on the parents. It should be done immediately.

3. Make sure all the details in the birth certificate are accurate. Keep in mind that the birth certificate should state true facts. Any false statement in the document is likely to lead to trouble for the kid, not to mention criminal responsibility for the parent who filled out the form --you can be charged with perjury. Asi Taulava, the basketball player, was deported because his Filipina mother's birthplace (which is Samar) was indicated as Tonga in his birth certificate. Thanks to his lawyers (which happens to be the law firm where Marvin works for) he is back playing in the Philippine Basketball Association, but not after so much trouble and expense. The same kind of problem will be faced by all the illegitimate children who were registered as legitimate by their unwed mothers. The birth certificate is only a record of the details about your child. It is not meant to correct deficiencies in life, so be true.

4. Proofread the birth certificate at least five times before it is signed. This is the key to most of the problems in the birth certificate. Unfortunately, when it is realized, it is too late. The birth certificate should be read over and over until the document is perfect. Check if the inputs are correctly spelled. Look for the missing letters, the wayward commas, the excess periods, etc. A missing letter or an extra one can cause you thousands of pesos in legal expenses in the future. If your find errors before the form is signed, demand that the form be re-typed. Never mind if the typist is nasty. There is no compromise to perfection in these kinds of documents.

5. Stick to what is written on the birth certificate. The only way to change the details in the birth certificate is through a legal proceeding: administrative or judicail -- either way it is cumbersome) . If there are mistakes to be corrected, if should be done as early as possible before more complications arise. Otherwise, the details in the birth certificate should be used consistently in all of your child's legal papers. The same details should appear in his school records, passport, visa applications, medical records, applications to take board exams, insurance and the like. Any discrepancy can be the source of legal trouble.

6. Keep extra certified true copies of the birth certificate. The original copy of the birth certificate will be kept by the Register of Deeds. You should however keep your own copy. But not just any photocopy. You should ask for copies which the Civil Register will certify as true copies. As long as they are certified, they will be treated like the original by all institutions which will require them from your child. Keep at least ten copies in your files to avoid going back to the Civil Registry more often than you like. An immediate need for you would be in claiming the SSS/GSIS maternity benefit. As for your kid, for starters, he will be needing them when you begin applying him in schools, or in signing him up for sports competitions where there are age requirements.

So the moment that seemingly inconsequential piece of paper is shoved into your hand, don't fill it out in haste. Sit down. Think carefully. Remember, it shouldn't have to take the pressure of some board exam or election requirement to shake you into realizing that the birth certificate is indeed a serious document.

Originally published in Ginsgersnaps Magazine

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