By Mario Casayuran
The 24-member Senate on Monday approved on third and final reading a bill simplifying the adoption process of a child by allowing the rectification of simulated births through a simpler administrative proceeding.
The voting during the plenary session presided by Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III was 17 ‘’yes’’ votes, no negative vote and no abstention.
The measure, Senate Bill 2081, entitled “Simulated Birth Rectification Act of 2018,” is contained in Committee Report 498 prepared by the Senate committee on women, children, family relations and gender equality chaired by Sen. Risa Hontiveros.
Hontiveros said the bill aims “to grant amnesty and allow the rectification of the simulated birth of a child where simulation was made for the best interest of the child, and that such child has been consistently considered and treated by the person” who considered the child as his or her own.
The bill is a substitution of Senate Bill 1725, introduced by Sen. Grace Poe, and Senate Bill 1728, proposed by Hontiveros and Sen. Leila de Lima.
Its counterpart measure, House Bill No. 5675, was approved by the House of Representatives on August 29 last year and was transmitted to the Senate two days later.
In her sponsorship speech, Hontiveros said the bill seeks to correct the status of a child whose birth was simulated by opening the avenue for a legal adoption that the child may enjoy all the benefits offered by the law to legally adopted children.
“To remedy the problem of a lengthy and financially restrictive adoption proceedings, this bill likewise proposes a simpler and less costly administrative adoption process without compromising the safety and integrity of the child,” Hontiveros added.
According to the measure, “birth simulation” refers to the tampering of the civil registry to make it appear in the record of birth that a child was born to a person who is not the child’s biological mother.
Poe, the principal author, said Republic Act 8552, also known as the “Domestic Adoption Act,” recognizes informal adoptions or more commonly known as simulated births.
“While Section 21 (b) of the said Act penalizes any person who shall cause the fictitious registration of the birth of a child under the name(s) of a person(s) who is not his/her biological parent(s), it also provided for an amnesty for those who did so for the best interest of the child. However, this amnesty resulted in a lacuna in the law in that it only allowed the rectification of those who 1) did so before the effectivity of the law on 22 March 1998; and (2) filed a petition for adoption within five years from the effectivity of the Act or until 22 March 2003,” she explained.
This provision, she said, makes adoption process “tedious and excessively costly for ordinary Filipinos,” she said.
“This leaves a lot of adoptees under assumed filiation and unduly deprived of the benefits of legitimacy and succession,” she added.
To fast-track the adoption process, those who simulated the birth record of a child should be exempt from criminal, civil and administrative liability provided that the application to rectify a simulated birth record should be filed within 10 years from the effectivity of the measure.
Instead of going through the courts, those who will file a petition may do so through the Social Welfare and Development Officer of the city or municipality where the child resides.
The secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) shall decide on the petition within 30 days from receipt of the recommendation of the department’s regional director.
After all requirements for administrative adoption have been met, the child shall be considered the legitimate child of a person and as such is entitled to all rights and obligations provided by law to legitimate children born to them.
Poe said the measure, if passed into law, would give the adoptive parents the opportunity to have the status of their adopted child or children regularized in law.
“It is also in the best interest of the parents and the children to have the records rectified for possible future uses such as medical or DNA purposes or for other legal matters,” she added.