Sunday, January 25, 2009


Several months ago we printed an article concerning the failed attempt of a male petitioner to change the entry of his name and sex from male to female in order to reflect the result of a sex reassignment surgery. The Supreme Court in the case Rommel Jacinto Dantes Silverio vs. Republic, G.R. No. 174689, October 22, 2007, held that there is no such special law in the Philippines governing sex reassignment and its effects. It was emphasized that under the Civil Register Law, a birth certificate is a historical record of the facts as they existed at the time of birth. Thus, the sex of a person is determined at birth, visually done by the birth attendant (the physician or midwife) by examining the genitals of the infant. Considering that there is no law legally recognizing sex reassignment, the determination of a person's sex made at the time of his or her birth, if not attended by error, is immutable. The words “male” and “female” in everyday understanding do not include persons who have undergone sex reassignment. Furthermore, “words that are employed in a statute which had at the time a well-known meaning are presumed to have been used in that sense unless the context compels to the contrary.” Since the statutory language of the Civil Register Law was enacted in the early 1900s and remains unchanged, it cannot be argued that the term “sex” as used then is something alterable through surgery or something that allows a post-operative male-to-female transsexual to be included in the category “female.”

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