"This law provides for a simpler and less costly administrative adoption proceeding."
The Philippine Congress passed Republic Act 11222, otherwise known as the Simulated Birth Rectification Act, on February 21, 2019. This law intends to grant amnesty and allow the correction of the simulated birth of a child wherein the simulation was made in the best interest of the child and wherein the child has been consistently considered and treated by the person/s who simulated the birth as his, her or their own daughter or son (Section 2 (a), R.A. 11222). This much-awaited law provides for a simpler and less costly administrative adoption proceeding given that the child has been living with the person for at least three years before the effectivity of the law (Section 2 (d), R.A. 11222).
Simulation of birth refers to the tampering of the civil registry record to make it appear that a child was born to a person who is not the child’s biological parent, causing the loss of the true identity and status of the child (Section 4(p), Implementing Rules and Regulations of the of R.A.11222). The law also has two additional objectives: (a) fixing the status and filiation of the child to ensure that the child shall be entitled to the rights of legally adopted children; and (b) to exempt those who simulated the birth record of the child from criminal, civil and administrative liability. The rectification of the birth record together with the administrative petition for adoption must be filed within ten years from the effectivity of the law (Section 2 (b) and (c), R.A. 11222).
Sometime in the early 2000s, I recall meeting a couple who confessed to me that they simulated the birth record of a foundling to make it appear that the child is their biological child. According to them, they had no choice since it was costly to get legal representation for a court-initiated adoption, not to mention that simulating birth was very swift; all they had to do was to accomplish the birth certificate forms of the foundling and to submit it to the civil registry of the place where they claim the child was born.
However, the couple were not able to skirt the law. During a visit to a consular office of a foreign country in the Philippines to apply for a migrant visa, the interviewing consul discovered that, based on the supposed mother’s medical record, she cannot bear a child. Hence, even if the couple got their migrant visas and eventually left the country, the child needed to be left in the Philippines.
More than 20 years ago, rectifying a simulated birth and legally adopting a foundling will require the filing of three separate court cases. The first case is to cancel the simulated birth certificate. The second case is to judicially declare the child a foundling or an abandoned or neglected child, and the third case is to legally adopt the child. It would be costly to have three successive cases in addition to a possible criminal case for simulation of birth against the adopter/s under the Article 347 of the Revised Penal Code.
However in 2009, Republic Act No. 9523 allowing a certification that a child is legally available for adoption from the Department of Social Welfare and Development to be accepted in lieu of a judicial order (Section 8, RA 9523) shortened the legal process of rectification of simulated birth and judicial adoption. Our legislators went a step further by passing Republic Act 11222 allowing administrative adoption with rectification of simulated birth together with ten years amnesty for those who simulated the birth records. This is a first in Philippine legislation.
Under the administrative adoption procedure, the adopters must be: Filipinos, of legal age, in possession of full civil capacity and legal rights, of good moral character, have not been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude, emotionally and psychologically capable of caring for children, and in the position to support, educate and care for his or her children and the adopted child in keeping with the means of the family. In case the adopters are married and one spouse is a foreign national, the foreign national must have been residing in the Philippines for three continuous years prior to the filing of the Petition for adoption and application for rectification of simulated birth (Section 13, Implementing Rules and Regulations of the “Simulated Birth Rectification Act”).
The Petition for administrative adoption with application for rectification of simulated birth shall be in the form of an affidavit and shall be subscribed and sworn on by the adopter/s before any person authorized to administer oath or affirmation. It shall state the facts necessary to establish the merits of the petition, and the circumstances surrounding the simulation of the birth of the child. The Petition shall be filed with the local Social Welfare and Development Office of the city or municipality where the child resides (Sections 15 and 19, Implementing Rules and Regulations of the “Simulated Birth Rectification Act”).
The local DSWD office will determine the sufficiency of the Petition and the supporting documents in form and substance within seven days. Thereafter, it will forward the Petition within three days to the Regional Director of the Field Office. Upon receipt of the Petition by the Field Office, a Social Case Study Report for the adopter/s and the child shall be prepared by a licensed social worker who shall conduct home visits to the adopter/s and the child to determine the identity of the child, determine the capacity of the adopters to care for the child, determine the qualifications of the adopter/s and ascertain whether the child has been consistently treated as their own (Section 21, Implementing Rules and Regulations of the “Simulated Birth Rectification Act”).
The Regional Director shall personally review the report together with the Petition and the supporting documents, which may include interviews of the adopter/s and the child, and determine the identity of the child, and the motivation to adopt. The personal appearance of the adopter/s and the child before the Regional Director will be mandatory. He shall prepare the recommendation on the petition not later than thirty days after receipt. Thereafter, he shall submit to the Secretary the recommendation on the petition together with a copy of the petition and supporting documents (Section 21, Implementing Rules and Regulations of the “Simulated Birth Rectification Act”).
The Secretary shall act and decide on the petition within thirty days from receipt of the recommendation of the Regional Director. If the Secretary determines that the adoption will be for the best interest of the child, he will issue an Order of Adoption which will direct the concerned local civil registrar to cancel the simulated birth record of the child, file a late registration of the rectified birth record, and issue a new birth certificate. An administrative adoption Order obtained under this law shall have the same effect as the decree of adoption under the Domestic Adoption Law of 1998 (Section 23, Implementing Rules and Regulations of the “Simulated Birth Rectification Act”).
While the passage of the Simulated Birth Rectification Act is commendable, it is not without loopholes. The DSWD should guard against those who will take advantage of the gaps in the law by antedating documents and using bogus affiants as disinterested persons to satisfy the requirement that the child must have been living with the adopter/s for at least three years before the effectivity of the law. Hence, the DSWD, especially the licensed social worker and the Regional Director, is burdened with the legal duty to question and personally examine the adopter/s and the child, and scrutinize the petition and supporting documents to see to it that the administrative adoption is in the best interest of the child. This duty is not ministerial but discretionary.
In fact, the DSWD should have a separate registry of all children adopted under the Simulated Birth Rectification Act with an additional requirement that notice be given by the adopter/s to the DSWD everytime they plan to leave the Philippines with the child; if he or she is still a minor. In this age where everything seems to be swift and instant, we cannot sacrifice the well-being of the child, as the Constitution protects them “from all forms of neglect, abuse, cruelty, exploitation, and conditions prejudicial to their development.”