“Ampon”: The Dilemma of Simulated Births
25 Saturday Aug 2007
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You’re at a children’s party, watching the kids play Musical Chairs as you chat idly with the other grown-ups, some of whom are friends, others new acquaintances. “So which one is yours?” you ask the usual icebreaker to the guy on your right. He leans closer, points to a tyke in a Spiderman costume, and says “Ampon namin ‘yan.” The “parent” makes the hushed declaration with mixed pride and fear. “Pinalagay namin sa birth certificate na kami ang magulang niya.” You nod and take a bite from the hotdog-and-assorted-marshmallows-on-a-stick you were saving for your son.
In several internet forums, there are “parents” wondering how to make their relationship with their “son” or “daughter” completely legal. Most agonize about having to keep the simulated birth a family secret; others are afraid not so much of being prosecuted for a crime, but of losing the familial ties if they are outed.
The Domestic Adoption Act of 1998, R.A. No. 8552, in Section 3, paragraph (j), defines simulation of birth as:
… the tampering of the civil registry making it appear in the birth records that a certain child was born to a person who is not his/her biological mother, causing such child to lose his/her true identity and status.
Simulation of birth is punishable under Article 347 of the Revised Penal Code and Section 21 (b) of the Domestic Adoption Act. The latter provision says:
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) shall be guilty of simulation of birth, and shall be punished by prision mayor in its medium period and a fine not exceeding fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00).
Previously, however, under Section 22 of the Domestic Adoption Act, the “parents” could legitimize the relationship by formally adopting the ampon and asking for Rectification of Simulated Birth at the same time, and by doing so, avoid criminal liability as well. Section 22 states:
Rectification of Simulated Births. – A person who has, prior to the effectivity of this Act, simulated the birth of a child shall not be punished for such act: Provided, That the simulation of birth was made for the best interest of the child and that he/she has been consistently considered and treated by that person as his/her own son/daughter: Provided, further, That the application for correction of birth registration and petition for adoption shall be filed within five (5) years from the effectivity of this Act and completed thereafter: Provided, finally, That such person complies with the procedure specified in Article IV of this Act and other requirements as determined by the Department (of Social Welfare and Development).
The trouble lies in the periods of time fixed by the law. Since R.A. No. 8552 took effect on 22 March 1998, this means that:
- Simulated births made after 22 March 1998 may not be “rectified”; and
- The five-year period for filing a Petition for Adoption with Rectification of Simulated Birth ended in March 2003.
In his proposed Senate Bill No. 1409 (filed during the 13th Congress), Sen. Francis Pangilinan sought to extend the period to allow “parents” to file for adoption and rectification of simulation of birth for another five (5) years after March 2003, or up to March 2008. The Explanatory Note of Senate Bill No. 1409 says:
It is a fact that most “adoptions” in the Philippines have been and continue to be handled through “simulation of birth”. It is estimated that there are several hundred thousand Filipinos who have been “informally” adopted in this manner. I[n] these cases, because the assumed filiation under simulated births has no legal basis, the child is deprived of the benefits and legal adopted children.
The Domestic Adoption Act of 1998 which was signed into law on February 25, 1998 and which took effect on March 22, 1998, provides for an amnesty from pecuniary and penal sanctions for those who have been falsified the birth certificate/s of minor/s in their custody through the registration of a simulated birth certificate.
Since CY 1998 to CY 2001, only a total of 364 applicants have availed of the amnesty against the estimated number of those who simulated the birth registration of minors.
The low number of applicants can be attributed to the unreadiness of the “parents” to legalize the adoption and their ambivalence to tell the child of his/her legal status. Also, it was known that parents complained about the tedious process in the rectification of the simulated birth. Further, the public has misconception towards the amnesty provided by law.
In view of the above, educating and informing the public on the facts of rectification of the simulated birth requires time, effort and money. For those who falsified birth certificates, the amnesty period given to them will expire in March 2003. Considering the time left between now and the expiry date, the information dissemination efforts of the concerned agencies to encourage the people to avail the amnesty may [be] ineffective. Hence, an amendment seeking the extension of the deadline is hereby proposed.
It is important that this proposed bill extending the deadline for the rectification of simulated births to March 2008 or ten years from March 1998, the effectivity date [of] RA 8552, be passed by Congress to allow [those] who wish to avail of the amnesty to comply with the provisions provided by law and to have the opportunity to fully enjoy the benefits of a legally adopted child.
It appears that nothing happened to Senate Bill No. 1409. Assuming that Sen. Pangilinan will re-file it during the current Congress, he will have to seek an even longer extension. The re-filed bill should also be made applicable for simulated births done after March 1998.
Meanwhile, “parents” may have no choice but to continue with the charade and privately grapple with the dilemma over the real status of their ampons.