Wrong reason
A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - January 16, 2019 - 12:00am

This is a case about the nullity of marriage from the very start allegedly because of the psychological incapacity of one of the parties to perform the essential marital obligations (Article 36 of the Family Code). What constitutes psychological incapacity? Can a husband who begot children with his wife be considered as psychologically incapacitated to perform his marital obligations? Is homosexuality considered as psychological incapacity? Is it a ground to annul a marriage? These are questions answered in this case.

This is the case of Leo and Alma who first met while working as medical student clerks. Alma regarded Leo as a very thoughtful person and they got along well with other people. Hence they later on became sweethearts and three years after, got married. At that time, both were already medical practitioners: Leo, an anesthesiologist and Alma, a pediatrician. During the first six years of their marriage, they begot three children, Lina, Leonie and Larry.

In the public eye, Leo was the picture of a perfect husband and father but not in his private life. His kind and gentle behavior did not last long because at home, he was a harsh, disciplinarian, unreasonably meticulous, and easily angered. These were in stark contrast to the lavish affection and deep attachment Leo has for his mother to whom he was dependent in decision making. Further adding to the woes of Alma was Leo’s homosexuality which he concealed from her. Alma’s suspicion was first aroused when she noticed Leo’s closeness to his male companions. She caught him in an indiscreet telephone conversation manifesting his affection for a male caller and her suspicion was confirmed when she saw him kissed another man on the lips, a certain Dr. Morales. When she confronted Leo, the latter denied everything. So Alma took her children and left the conjugal abode. Since then Leo stopped giving support to their children.

And so, after 11 years of marriage, Alma filed a petition before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) to declare their marriage null and void on the ground that Leo was psychologically incapacitated to perform his marital obligations. In support of her petition, Alma testified narrating her experiences above set forth. Also presented to prove Alma’s claim was a clinical psychologist who conducted evaluative interviews and a battery of psychiatric tests on Alma. She also interviewed Leo and Lina the eldest child.

Leo countered that the true cause of Alma’s hostility against him was their professional rivalry which began when he refused to heed the memorandum of the hospital owned by the family of Alma ordering him to desist from converting his own lying-in clinic located in the same subdivision, into a primary or secondary hospital. Leo also belied Alma’s allegation that he was a cruel father and his show of affection for his mother especially during the latter’s twilight years. He claimed that Alma was very jealous and possessive that drove him to avoid the company of female friends. Instead, he said Alma conjured up stories about his sexual preference and fabricated tales about pornographic materials found in his possession, to cast doubt on his masculinity. To corroborate his defense, Leo also presented his brother Gary, as a witness.

The RTC however granted Alma’s petition and declared their marriage null and void from the beginning, dissolving their community property with forfeiture of Leo’s share in favor of their children and ordering Leo to give monthly support to all the children. The RTC nullified the marriage not on the ground of psychological incapacity under Article 36 but on the ground of vitiated consent through fraud under Article 45 (3) or Article 55 (6) of the FC. The RTC said that there is preponderant evidence enough to establish with certainty that Leo is really a homosexual. Was the RTC correct?

The Supreme Court said no. In this case it has not been proven by preponderance of evidence that Leo was a homosexual at the onset of his marriage and that he deliberately hid such fact from his wife Alma. Even granting for the sake of argument that Leo is homosexual, the lower court cannot appreciate it as a ground to annul his marriage to Alma. The law is clear that marriage may be annulled when the consent of either party was obtained by fraud such as concealment of homosexuality. It is the concealment of homosexuality, and not homosexuality per se that vitiates the consent of the innocent spouse. Such concealment presupposes bad faith and intent to defraud the other party in giving consent to the marriage.

Consent is an essential requisite of a valid marriage. It must be freely given by both parties. An allegation of vitiated consent must be proven by preponderance of evidence. The Family Code has enumerated an exclusive list of circumstances constituting fraud. Homosexuality per se is not among those cited, but its concealment. Verily the lower court committed grave abuse of discretion, not only by solely taking into account Leo’s homosexuality per se and not its concealment, but also by declaring the marriage void from its existence. So the RTC decision is reversed and set aside and the petition to annul the marriage filed by Alma should be dismissed (Almelor vs. RTC Las Piñas and Almelor, G.R. 179620, August 26, 2008).

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Email: attyjosesison@gmail.com

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