ISSUE: Whether respondent is psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential marital obligations
RULING OF THE COURT:
Petitioner Failed to Prove Respondent’s Psychological Incapacity
The petition for declaration of nullity of marriage is anchored on Article 36 of the Family Code which provides that “[a] marriage contracted by any party who, at the time of celebration, was psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential marital obligations of marriage, shall likewise be void even if such incapacity becomes manifest only after its solemnization.” In Santos v. Court of Appeals, the Court first declared that psychological incapacity must be characterized by (a) gravity; (b) judicial antecedence; and (c) incurability. It should refer to “no less than a mental (not physical) incapacity that causes a party to be truly incognitive of the basic marital covenants that concomitantly must be assumed and discharged by the parties to the marriage.” It must be confined to “the most serious cases of personality disorders clearly demonstrative of an utter insensitivity or inability to give meaning and significance to the marriage.” Finally, the “psychologic condition must exist at the time the marriage is celebrated.” The Court explained:
(a) Gravity — It must be grave and serious such that the party would be incapable of carrying out the ordinary duties required in a marriage;
(b) Judicial Antecedence — It must be rooted in the history of the party antedating the marriage, although the overt manifestations may emerge only after the marriage; and
(c) Incurability — It must be incurable, or even if it were otherwise, the cure would be beyond the means of the party involved.
In Republic v. Court of Appeals (Molina case), the Court laid down the guidelines in the interpretation and application of Article 36 of the Family Code as follows:
1) The burden of proof to show the nullity of the marriage belongs to the plaintiff. Any doubt should be resolved in favor of the existence and continuation of the marriage and against its dissolution and nullity. This is rooted in the fact that both our Constitution and our laws cherish the validity of marriage and unity of the family. Thus, our Constitution devotes an entire Article on the Family, recognizing it “as the foundation of the nation. It decrees marriage as legally inviolable,” thereby protecting it from dissolution at the whim of the parties. Both the family and marriage are to be “protected” by the state.
The Family Code echoes this constitutional edict on marriage and the family and emphasizes their permanence, inviolability and solidarity.
2) The root cause of the psychological incapacity must be: (a) medically or clinically identified, (b) alleged in the complaint, (c) sufficiently proven by experts and (d) clearly explained in the decision. Article 36 of the Family Code requires that the incapacity must be psychological not physical, although its manifestations and/or symptoms may be physical. The evidence must convince the court that the parties, or one of them, was mentally or psychically ill to such an extent that the person could not have known the obligations he was assuming, or knowing them, could not have given valid assumption thereof. Although no example of such incapacity need be given here so as not to limit the application of the provision under the principle of ejusdem generis, nevertheless such root cause must be identified as a psychological illness and its incapacitating nature fully explained. Expert evidence may be given by qualified psychiatrists and clinical psychologists.
3) The incapacity must be proven to be existing at “the time of the celebration” of the marriage. The evidence must show that the illness was existing when the parties exchanged their “I do’s.” The manifestation of the illness need not be perceivable at such time, but the illness itself must have attached at such moment, or prior thereto.
4) Such incapacity must also be shown to be medically or clinically permanent or incurable. Such incurability may be absolute or even relative only in regard to the other spouse, not necessarily absolutely against everyone of the same sex. Furthermore, such incapacity must be relevant to the assumption of marriage obligations, not necessarily to those not related to marriage, like the exercise of a profession or employment in a job. Hence, a pediatrician may be effective in diagnosing illnesses of children and prescribing medicine to cure them but not be psychologically capacitated to procreate, bear and raise his/her own children as an essential obligation of marriage.
5) Such illness must be grave enough to bring about the disability of the party to assume the essential obligations of marriage. Thus, “mild characteriological peculiarities, mood changes, occasional emotional outbursts” cannot be accepted as root causes. The illness must be shown as downright incapacity or inability, not a refusal, neglect or difficulty, much less ill will. In other words, there is a natal or supervening disabling factor in the person, an adverse integral element in the personality structure that effectively incapacitates the person from really accepting and thereby complying with the obligations essential to marriage.
6) The essential marital obligations must be those embraced by Articles 68 up to 71 of the Family Code as regards the husband and wife as well as Articles 220, 221 and 225 of the same Code in regard to parents and their children. Such non-complied marital obligation(s) must also be stated in the petition, proven by evidence and included in the text of the decision.
7) Interpretations given by the National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, while not controlling or decisive, should be given great respect by our courts. It is clear that Article 36 was taken by the Family Code Revision Committee from Canon 1095 of the New Code of Canon Law, which became effective in 1983 and which provides:
“The following are incapable of contracting marriage: Those who are unable to assume the essential obligations of marriage due to causes of psychological nature.”
Since the purpose of including such provision in our Family Code is to harmonize our civil laws with the religious faith of our people, it stands to reason that to achieve such harmonization, great persuasive weight should be given to decisions of such appellate tribunal. Ideally — subject to our law on evidence — what is decreed as canonically invalid should also be decreed civilly void.
Both the trial court and the Court of Appeals found that petitioner failed to satisfy the guidelines in the Molina case.
As found by the Court of Appeals, petitioner anchored her petition on respondent’s irresponsibility, infidelity, and homosexual tendencies. Petitioner likewise alleged that respondent tried to compel her to change her religious belief, and in one of their arguments, respondent also hit her. However, sexual infidelity, repeated physical violence, homosexuality, physical violence or moral pressure to compel petitioner to change religious affiliation, and abandonment are grounds for legal separation but not for declaring a marriage void.
In Marcos v. Marcos, the Court ruled that if the totalities of the evidence presented are enough to sustain a finding of psychological incapacity, there is no need to resort to the actual medical examination of the person concerned. However, while an actual medical, psychiatric, or psychological examination is not a condition sine qua non to a finding of psychological incapacity, an expert witness would have strengthened petitioner’s claim of respondent’s psychological incapacity. 18 While the examination by a physician of a person to declare him or her psychologically incapacitated is not required, the root cause of psychological incapacity must be medically or clinically identified. 19 In this case, the testimony of Dr. Lapuz on respondent’s psychological incapacity was based only on her two-hour session with petitioner. Her testimony was characterized by the Court of Appeals as vague and ambiguous. She failed to prove psychological incapacity or identify its root cause. She failed to establish that respondent’s psychological incapacity is incurable. Dr. Lapuz testified:
Q- What, in your opinion are the causes of this incapacity?
A- I feel, your Honor, that there is some personality agenda on his part that I do not know because he has not come to see me but there are such men who can be very ardent lovers but suddenly will completely turn over. . .
Q- Is this a sort of personality disorder?
A- Yes, your Honor.
Q- Is that inherited or could have been acquired even before marriage?
A- It was there on the time of the inception of his personality, it was there. And my feeling is that these things do not happen overnight, one does not change spot overnight but that thing, like marriage, can completely turn-table his behavior.
Q- Doctora, do you think this kind of incapacity, this personality disorder, is there any possibility of curing it?
A- Very little at this time and sometimes, when they become older, like when they reach the age of 50’s or 60’s, they may settle down and finally give out and reveal interest in their families.
Q- In short, there is possibility that this incapacity of the respondent could be cured?
A- Only respondent’s physical decline of sexual urge, if the sexual urge would not decline, the incapacity will continue.
Q- Is there no medicine or is there any kind of medicine that can cure this kind of disorder?
A- None to my knowledge, your Honor. There is no magic feather in the psychiatric treatment. Perhaps, if the person would be willing and open enough and interested enough. . .
Even the recommendation in the Social Case Study Report submitted by Social Welfare Officer Marissa P. Obrero-Ballon, who was assigned by the trial court to conduct a social case study on the parties, failed to show the existence of respondent’s psychological incapacity. The Social Welfare Officer instead found that petitioner was immature while respondent was responsible. She also found that the couple separated because of respondent’s infidelity.
Petitioner also failed to prove that respondent’s psychological incapacity was existing at the time of the celebration of their marriage. Petitioner only cited that during their honeymoon, she found it strange that respondent allowed their 15-year-old companion, the son of one of respondent’s house helpers, to sleep in their room. However, respondent explained that he and petitioner already stayed in a hotel for one night before they went to Baguio City and that they had sexual relations even before their marriage. Respondent explained that the boy was with them to take pictures and videos of their stay in Baguio City and had to stay with them in the room due to monetary constraints.
In sum, the totality of the evidence presented by petitioner failed to show that respondent was psychologically incapacitated and that such incapacity was grave, incurable, and existing at the time of the solemnization of their marriage
[G.R. No. 159220. September 22, 2008.]
MA. DARLENE DIMAYUGA-LAURENA, petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS and JESSE LAURO LAURENA, respondents.