A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - September 11, 2020 - 12:00am

The validity of marriage and the unity of the family are enshrined in our Constitution and statutory laws. Hence any doubts about this issues are to be resolved in favor of the continuance and validity of the marriage and the burden of proving the nullity of the same rests at all times upon the spouse claiming that his/her marriage is null and void. To be sure, the Constitution also imposes upon the State the duty to protect the sanctity of marriage as as a social institution and as the foundation of the family. Because of this, the Constitution likewise decrees marriage as legally inviolable and protects it from dissolution at the whim of the parties. This is the principle applied in this case of Gardo and Gracie.

When Gardo first met Gracie, he already started courting her until they eventually became lovers with an “on-and-off” relationship because Gracie still entertains other admirers. Four years later however, they finally exchanged marital vows and begot two children. So as to save money, they stayed at Gardo’s parents. But after twenty two years, Gardo already filed before the Regional Trial Court a Petition for Declaration of Nullity of their marriage on the ground of psychological incapacity of Gracie under Article 36 of the Family Code (FC). Service of summons on Gracie was by means of publication since she could not be located at her last known address. After the public prosecutor found that there was no collusion between the parties, trial ensued where only Gardo presented his evidence.

To support his petition Gardo himself testified that they had frequent fights, with Gracie having the habit of throwing things at him. Gracie also tried to avoid getting pregnant and suffered a miscarriage of their supposed first child. She likewise forbade Gardo from flirting with other women or meeting friends to the extent of asking him to resign from his work. She even went to his office, made a scene in front of Gardo’s colleagues. Then one time she hit Gardo’s arm with a knife and would berate and insult him because of his meagre income. And despite giving Gracie all his salary, Gracie still borrowed money and incurred debts using his credit cards. And when he worked abroad, Gracie neglected her responsibilities to their children and had an illicit affair with another man with whom she lived and begot two children. Gardo still tried to save their marriage and asked Gracie to live with him again but she refused. She even worked overseas and had another affair with a married man.

Their kasambahay Narda, also testified corroborating Gardo’s testimony about Gracie. Also presented as evidence, was the Psychological Evaluation Report of clinical psychologist, Dra. Nimfa, based on her interviews with Gardo, their kasambahay, Narda and one of his daughter, Virgie. The report confirmed that Gracie indeed was psychologically incapacitated to assume and properly discharge her marital obligations because of her Histrionic Personality Disorder with Anti-Social Personality Traits, manifesting a colorful, dramatic and extroverted behavior. The report further declared that Gracie is usually adventurous, too involved with her friends and the opposite sex, excitable, emotional and temperamental. According to the Report, Gracie’s psychological incapacity already existed long before she married Gardo and deeply embedded within her system thereby rendering it permanent and irreversible.

After trial, the RTC rendered a decision in favor of Gardo declaring his marriage to Gracie, void ab initio pursuant to Article 36 of the FC. The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) filed a Motion for Reconsideration but it was denied, so it appealed to the Court of Appeals (CA), contending that the totality of the evidence presented by Gardo failed to prove that Gracie was suffering from psychological incapacity.

The CA found merit in the appeal of the OSG and reversed and set aside the decision of the RTC. The CA held that the sexual infidelity, irresponsibility and other negative traits cited by Gardo were not sufficient grounds to categorize Gracie’s condition as grave and serious as to render her psychologically incapable of performing her essential marital obligation.  Was the CA correct?

Yes, said the Supreme Court (SC). Based on the Constitutional inviolability of marriage, psychological incapacity as a ground to nullify the sane under Article 36 of the FC refers to the most serious cases of personality disorders clearly demonstrating utter insensitivity or inability to give meaning and significance to the marriage.

To entitle Gardo to a decision of nullity of his marriage to Gracie, the totality of the evidence must sufficiently prove that Gracie’s psychological incapacity was grave, incurable and existing prior to the marriage and sufficiently proven by experts. In this case the totality of the evidence presented by Gardo failed to prove such psychological incapacity of Gracie. Dra. Nimfa’s Report cannot be given credence and weight because it is merely based on information provided by Gardo himself, their kasambahay, Narda and his daughter Virgie as regards the behavioral, social and emotional characteristics of Gracie which are biased, self-serving and very limited. It failed to explain in detail how Gracie’s condition could be characterized as grave, deeply rooted and incurable within the doctrinal context of “psychological incapacity. Although Gracie exhibited dramatic, extroverted behavior, prone to insecurities and aggressive outburst of emotions, these characteristics fall short of proving that she was psychologically incapacitated to assume her marital responsibilities. Gardo and Gracie’s marriage cannot therefore be declared null and void under Article 36 of the FC (Eliscupidez vs. Eliscupidez, G.R. 226907, July 22, 2019)

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