What’s in a name? Change of name without going to court

A name, according to the Supreme Court in a 2005 case, has two parts: (1) the given or proper name and (2) the surname or family name. The given or proper name is that which is given to the individual at birth or at baptism, to distinguish him from other individuals. The surname or family name is that which identifies the family to which he belongs and is continued from parent to child. Parents are free to select the given name of their child, but the law fixes the surname to which the child is entitled to use.

Middle names, on the other hand, are not regulated by law, although the Filipino custom is to use the mother’s surname as the child’s middle name. Still, you cannot drop or delete your middle name. Middle names serve to identify the maternal lineage or filiation of a person as well as further distinguish him from others who may have the same given name and surname as he has.

How about an illegitimate child whose filiation is not recognized by the father? Can that child use the middle name of the mother? The answer is, no. That child “bears only a given name and his mother’ surname, and does not have a middle name.  The name of the unrecognized illegitimate child therefore identifies him as such.”

An illegitimate child may now use the surname of the father. This is a recognition of the fact that illegitimacy is not the child’s fault, and, therefore, the child should be shielded against the social stigma and other negative consequences arising from illegitimacy. To illustrate, what’s your first thought should you notice that a kid uses the name of the mother, and not of the father? Even the illegitimate child’s friends and contemporaries in school, should they learn that, unlike them, their friend follows the surname of the mother, would start asking why.

Another welcome amendment is with respect to the procedure in changing names. Going to court, with all the expenses that goes with it, to change first names and correct clerical errors is no longer necessary. Under Republic Act No. 9048 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations, the city or municipal civil registrar or the consul general is authorized to correct a clerical or typographical error in an entry and/or change the first name or nickname in the civil register without need of a judicial order. It must be made clear, however, a court order is still required for substantial changes such as surname, gender, nationality, and status.

R.A. 9048, which took effect on 22 April 2001, amends the Civil Code (Articles 376 and 412), which prohibits the change of name or surname of a person, or any correction or change of entry in a civil register without a judicial order. The matters that you need to know (Primer) about R.A. 9048 is found at the National Statistics Office (NSO) website.

57 thoughts on “What’s in a name? Change of name without going to court

  1. parvus1202

    What is the law about changing my child’s last name to my current husband. I got my son when I was still single and he is under my surname. His biological father was also at the birth certificate. Is there a away where we could change his last name?

  2. Pingback: Change of name without court intervention (R.A. 9048) at Atty-at-Work

  3. Atty. Fred Post author


    In case an illegitimate child wishes to use the surname of his mother’s husband (but not the child’s biological father), he could be adopted by the husband. Another way is to simply file a petition for a change of surname, although this is not always granted by the courts.


    Maybe it’s a coincidence that we are about to file a petition that’s somehow related to your query. Still, for the sake of discussion and for the information of everyone, maybe you could give us a brief discussion on which remedy you’d pursue (and why). Thanks.

  4. ramonsd

    A female friend got a copy of her birth certificate from NSO Main. It turns out that she is denoted as a “male”.

    She has a 1956 copy of a birth certificate issued by the Civil Registrar of Batangas where she is properly described as “female”.

    She is choosing between 2 remedies:
    1. petition for the correction of entry in the civil registry to be filed in the RTC, Bats. City
    2. a petition for mandamus to compel the NSO to correct the mistake, given the fact that her evidence is a document from the civil registrar himself, albeit issued in 1956.

  5. Atty. Fred Post author

    Ramon, thank you for the discussion. I believe your discussion amply shows that Rule 108 is the proper remedy in correcting an erroneous designation of gender as it appears in the civil registry.

    For the sake of discussion: It could be argued that the Civil Registrar General’s act of recording a Birth Certificate, received from the local office of civil registry, is a ministerial act. It could also be argued that the determination of whether ANOTHER Birth Certificate, containing information different from that officially in its records, is NOT a ministerial act, but an act which calls for the exercise of discretion. In other words, it is beyond the ambit of mandamus. I may be wrong, of course (as noted so many times before, please don’t consider this as a legal advice or legal opinion on any actual matter).

  6. ramonsd

    I would choose remedy #1 as RA 9048 seems to be straightforward enough when it says that clerical or typographical errors may be corrected EXCEPT corrections involving the change in SEX, age, nationality and status of a person. As such, I would think that Rule 108 should apply.

    However, some are of the opinion that since her main supporting document is a birth certificate issued by the civil registrar, albeit in 1956, it turns the whole matter into a mere ministerial correction which may be subject to mandamus.

    It is further argued that since the source document is clear, then it is logical to conclude that the error was in the encoding by the NSO. Therefore, having to go to court to have the entry corrected would be tantamount to allowing the NSO to neglect the performance of a duty resulting from an office, trust, or station.

    I, on the other hand think that, since she would have to go to court anyway, either by virtue of R65 or R108, it would be more prudent to follow procedures duly established by law instead of stretching an argument as to what specific acts are covered by mandamus.

    I guess if I were wrong, the worst that could happen is that my friend gets inconvenienced by having to travel to Batangas rather than just staying in Manila to file a mandamus case. Either way, given her evidence and the fact that she really IS female, the end result would be the same.

    What do you think are other practical implications of choosing one remedy over the other?

  7. nikkabebez

    Hi there! I was kinda wondering on how I can have my son’s surname changed to mine since he has his father’s surname. I am not with his father for more than one year now (no communication whatsoever) and we were never married. My son is turning 2 this december and I kinda need help on how to do this before he starts schooling. Hope you can help me on this. We kinda signed an affidavit when we registered him, and I kinda regreted it big time. I really need super help. Thanks

  8. may10ali

    Hi there, i am planning to change my whole name, including my surname, is it possible? Basically i want to change my first name and also use my mother’s surname as my last name. Please assist, thanks.

  9. tarit

    I was just wondering if I could have my son’s surname changed to mine since he’s currently using his father’s. I didn’t get any support from his father starting when my son was 6 months old through present. We were not married. I have plans of going abroad and luckily I will be able to take my son with me however us having different surnames might pose a problem (with the embassy, schooling etc).Do you have any suggestions as to how I can go about changing it without having to go through court?Your prompt response will be greatly appreciated…Thanks!

  10. azil15

    Good day!
    I have 2 kids fron the same father but they have different last name, my eldest is under my name (born 1999) and the youngest is under his fathers name (born 2002). we were never been married but unfortunately on my youngest BC we were, coz that time we have plans.
    By 2003 we separate ways and 2005 he died. I want to change my youngest child’s last name to mine, so there will be no problem in the future. can you advice me what to do, coz now im married and my husband wants to adopt them. Looking forward to your help. Thanks.

  11. karen_lee

    hello atty, What is the law about changing my child’s last name to her biological father or even just my last name? I’m planning to have my baby next year here in kuwait and apparently i have to use my “ex-husbands name” since i have been married to him 10 years ago just to make it legal for me to have my baby here. (we’ve been separated for more than 7 yrs now) is it posible for me to register her name under her biological father or even under my name here in kuwait? or IF not, is it posible to change it in the philippines later? let’s say in a year or two. I’m planning to keep her here for 2 yrs. then we’ll go back in the philippines after.

    Thank you so much.

  12. jame

    Hello!.. I just want to ask a few things. My mom gave my dad’s surname to me but they are not married, and my dad is already deceased. My mom is in Japan with Japanese husband. I want to change my surname, I’m now a single mother and a student. My son has a same problem like mine. Me and my ex is separated almost 1 year, and I want to change my son’s surname that he got from his dad. But how can I change it if my surname is still from my dad? Like mother like son. I’m really confused and I don’t what to do. Please help. Where can I go? What can I do?.. Thank You.. I really hope that someone can help me. Just mail me at Ladyinpink_1820@yahoo.com.. Godbless.

  13. imeelim

    hi atty/everyone! my mother could not apply for a passport because of NSO problem – different names with birth certificate.(same information since they’re computerized already). does she have to apply for CHANGE OF NAME? instead of LATE REGISTRATION? Can someone email me back imeemitch@yahoo.com
    would really appreciate it… Thanks and God bless! :)

  14. cathyk

    actually sir, mejo complicated ang problem ko, kasi for 28 years ive been using my last name Kho and middle name Barro

    only to found last February 2010 na fake pala ung birth certificate na ginagamit ko na only proof ko na ako si Catherine Barro Kho

    hinidi rin married ang parents ko at wala akong papel na pinanghahawakan na acknowledged ako ng tatay ko

    both of them passed away for almost 3 yrs na, so kahit ung tatay ko hindi ko na mahahatak na pirmahan nya ung o sumulat sya sa korte na in acknowledge nga nya ako sa anak kahit illegitimate.

    pano po un sir, does it mean na hindi ko na magagamit ang last name na Kho?
    wala rin po akong birth certificate ng mama ko na nagpapatunay na Barro tlaga ang last name nya only her death certificate ang meron lang akong dokumento na ngpapangalan sa knya.


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