Mere difficulty or refusal

A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison - The Philippine Star

For a marriage to be declared null and void on the ground of psychological incapacity, the incapacity must be rooted on some debilitating psychological or mental condition or illness and not on mere difficulty, refusal, or neglect in the performance of marital obligations. This is once more illustrated in this case of Greg and Glenda.

Greg and Glenda were already both of legal age when they met each other through Greg’s cousin Lito who was Glenda’s schoolmate in college. Glenda was the eldest among four siblings and came from a middle class, broken family, her father being an overseas contract worker and her very tolerant mother, a house wife. She was a college graduate, outgoing carefree and irresponsible. Greg on the other hand was conservative, jolly, kind, family oriented and preoccupied with his work.

During the six months before they got married, when they saw each other almost every day, Greg only noticed a loving, caring and well-educated person in Glenda. Greg was 25 years old and Glenda 23 years when they decided to get married because Glenda was then pregnant already.

But after they got married and during her pregnancy, Glenda’s undesirable traits started coming out. She was drinking and smoking heavily such that when she gave birth, the infant died due to weakness and malnourishment. Thereafter Glenda lived as if she was still single, and resorted to any pretext just to leave the house. She thoroughly enjoyed the night life, carefree, refused to perform even the most essential household chores and was unmindful of her husband’s needs. When they fight, Glenda verbally abused and physically harmed Greg.  She had a domineering character and saw to it that she is the one always obeyed with regards to making decisions and always mandates people to submit to her wishes. So Greg, being too considerate to her, was often subjected to her control.

After almost seven years of living together during which Greg worked as a bartender and Glenda as a production engineer, Glenda left their home. Later on Greg learned that she went to work in Dubai and was having an affair with another man. Three years later when Glenda had not yet returned, Greg sought professional guidance and submitted himself to a psychological evaluation by a Clinical Psychologist who found him as “amply aware of his marital roles” and “capable of maintaining a mature and healthy heterosexual relationship.”

The psychologist also assessed Glenda’s personality through the data she had gathered from Greg and his cousin Lito who knew Glenda way back in college. The doctor found Glenda to be suffering from a “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” with anti-social traits and concluded that Greg and Glenda’s relationship is not founded on mutual love, trust, respect, commitment and fidelity to each other. Thus she recommended that the couple’s marriage be declared a nullity on the ground of psychological incapacity of Glenda which was already in her system even prior to the solemnization of their marriage.

So three years after Glenda left and while she had not yet returned from Dubai, Greg filed the necessary petition in the Regional Trial Court (RTC). Glenda filed no answer and did not attend any of the proceedings despite substituted service of summons through her auntie. After trial, the RTC granted Greg’s petition relying on the testimonies of Greg, Lito and the Psychologist. The RTC ruled that Glenda really had narcissistic personality disorder ingrained in her personality make up, so grave and so permanent, incurable and difficult to treat, so it is best that the legal bond between them be severed.

But the Court of Appeals (CA) on appeal by the Solicitor General in behalf of the Republic reversed and set aside the RTC decision and declared Greg and Glenda’s marriage valid and subsisting. The CA declared that what psychological contemplates is downright mental and not physical incapacity to assume essential marital obligations. But in this case, only irreconcilable difference, sexual infidelity, emotional immaturity and irresponsibility were shown. These do not warrant the grant of Greg’s petition. Was the CA correct?

Yes. The Supreme Court ruled that “psychological incapacity” refers to the most serious cases of personality disorders clearly demonstrative of an utter insensitivity or inability to give meaning and significance to the marriage. It must be characterized by gravity, juridical antecedence and incurability. Glenda’s, carefree, outgoing, immature and irresponsible ways which made her unable to perform the essential obligations of marriage “to live together, observe love, respect and fidelity and render mutual help and support, do not make out a case of psychological incapacity on her part. The same may only be due to a person’s refusal or unwillingness to assume the essential obligations of marriage and not due to some psychological illness contemplate by law (Article 36, Family Code) While Greg and Glenda possess incompatible personalities, the latter’s acts and traits do not necessarily indicate psychological incapacity.

The report and conclusions of the psychologist about Glenda’s psychological incapacity cannot be relied upon as they are based on the information fed to her by only one side — Greg — whose bias in favor of his cause cannot be doubted. Such conclusions fed by only one side, is not different from admitting hearsay evidence as proof of the truthfulness of its content (Vinas vs. Vinas, G.R. 208790, January 21, 2015).

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E-mail: [email protected].

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