Bane of late birth registration | Inquirer Opinion

Bane of late birth registration

/ 05:12 AM June 06, 2024

What started as a Senate investigation on a Philippine overseas gaming operators company in Bamban, Tarlac, has expanded to include questions about the citizenship of Bamban Mayor Alice Guo. Is she a Filipino citizen or a Chinese national?

If her birth certificate on file with the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) were to be given full faith and credence, she is a Filipino. The certificate indicated Jian Zhong Guo (who later used Angelito Guo in her birth certificate) as her father and Amelia Leal (reportedly a Filipino) as her mother. Under existing laws, the nationality of her mother was automatically vested on Guo upon her birth. But one thing stands out in that certificate: It was a delayed or late registration because it was accomplished when Guo was already 19 years old.

Registration process

Under ordinary circumstances in the Philippines, the birth registration is usually done within weeks of the infant’s birth or, if the parents are devout Catholics, prior to the child’s baptism.

But the registration process is not rocket science. There is a standard form for registration that can be easily accomplished by the midwife who assisted in the home birth, or by the staff in charge of it should the birth happen in a hospital or lying-in clinic. Thus, it is a big puzzler why it took 19 years before Guo’s birth was registered by her parents. Assuming she was born on a remote farm, it is reasonable to believe that someone knowledgeable about the birthing process helped in her birth.


Unless Guo’s father had some form of medical training (which is unlikely), it strains the imagination to think that he, alone and unassisted, drew Guo out of her mother’s womb, cut her umbilical cord, and performed all essential post-delivery procedures.

And if, as Guo had claimed during the Senate hearing, her father is a wealthy businessman, why did he not bring his wife to a hospital to give birth? It is incredulous that with all his money, he would allow a home birth for his wife, thus depriving her and daughter Guo the medical care they needed in that critical period of their lives.

Private documents

Whoever advised Guo’s parents to go through the late registration process knew the ease by which that can be done under existing regulations. All it takes is the submission of at least two of the following documents that would show the name, date, and place of birth, and filiation of the child: immunization/nursery card, baptismal or dedication certificate, school record, voter’s registration record, employment or service record, or insurance membership record. Note that except for the voter’s registration record which is on file with the Commission on Elections, the rest are private documents that are under the control of the applicant or private parties.

With the advances in print technology, the preparation of such documents would hardly cause one to break a sweat. Unless the local civil registrar concerned has serious doubts about the authenticity of the documents submitted, they would most likely be taken at face value, and the late registration certificate quickly released.


Filipino citizenship rights

Once the late registration certificate is issued, the person on whose behalf it is given would have the right to avail of and enjoy all the rights and privileges that accrue to Filipino citizens, such as the right to apply for a Philippine passport, buy real estate, be employed in nationalized industries, and run for public office.

Thus, through late registration, a foreigner who wants to continue to reside in the Philippines without going through the long-winded and expensive process of naturalization, can legitimize his or her stay here and live as a full-fledged Filipino citizen. While it’s bad enough that late registration rules may be bastardized in the process, what is more alarming is the possibility that foreigners could use their acquired citizenship to serve the interests of their original country to the detriment of the Philippines.


Stricter rules on late registration

Guo’s case should be an eye-opener to the PSA on the need to tighten the rules on late birth registration. Although the PSA’s objective to have all births in the Philippines registered regardless of when they happened is commendable, it cannot ignore the fact that its existing procedures are vulnerable to abuse or misuse.

An application for late registration made four or five years after birth may not raise grave concern because it is done after a relatively short period, but any longer, such as in Guo’s case, should raise a red flag and set the wheels for a deeper review of the application for registration. There’s more than meets the eye when a birth certificate is applied for after an extraordinarily extensive time-lapse from the supposed birth.

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