My cousin in the province died while on an expedition trip. His remains were found in an isolated trail near the peak of a mountain. It took a while before we were able to obtain his cadaver for proper burial. After he was buried, we initiated his family’s claim for their son’s insurance. We submitted the necessary documents as required by the insurance company. We thought everything was going well, and that my cousin’s family would be able to collect their insurance claim without any hassle.
A few weeks after, we followed up the family’s claim with the insurance representative who told us that there is a possible problem with the death certificate of my cousin. It appears that his death certificate was signed by a councilor instead of a physician, because there were allegedly no physicians in the mountain where my cousin died. Because of this, they are questioning the validity of my cousin’s death certificate. We want to know if my cousin’s death certificate could still be considered valid, even if it was issued by a councilor instead of a physician.
It appears that your concern is whether a death certificate is valid if it was issued by a councilor instead of a physician. The answer to your question is found in a provision of Presidential Decree 856, entitled as the Code of Sanitation of the Philippines.
This law seeks to codify the modern standards of sanitation including the process of burial and the issuance of death certificates related to it. With regard to the issuance of death certificates, this law states:
“Section 91. Burial Requirements The burial remains are subject to the following requirements:
No remains shall be buried without a death certificate. This certificate shall be issued by the attending physician. If there has been no physician in attendance, it shall be issued by the mayor, the secretary of the municipal board, or a councilor of the municipality where the death occurred. The death certificate shall be forwarded to the local civil register within 48 hours after death.
xxx” (Emphasis supplied)
Based on this provision, while the attending physician has the primary authority to issue death certificates, local government officials such as the mayor and councilors of the town where the death occurred are also authorized to issue death certificates. In other words, the absence of an attending physician authorizes a councilor to legally issue a death certificate, such as in the case of your cousin. Therefore, a death certificate is not nullified just because it was issued by a councilor instead of a physician. As long as the death certificate was issued by local government officials authorized under the aforementioned provision of P.D. 856, it is and will remain valid.
Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to email@example.com.