Infidelity not incapacity

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

To declare a marriage void on the ground of psychological incapacity of one of the spouses, the totality of the evidence must prove that the incapacity is mental, not physical, which causes a party to be truly incapable of recognizing and fulfilling the basic marital covenants. It must be characterized by gravity, juridical antecedence and incurability. This is explained and illustrated in this case of Armand and Cely.

Armand met Cely when Cely was still the girlfriend of Armand’s friend. After some time Cely and her boyfriend broke up so that she could become Armand’s girlfriend. After developing a strong sense of sexual desire and physical attraction towards each other, they became sweethearts and got married civilly. The couple initially lived in the city but later on transferred to several places because of the aggressive behavior of Cely.

As they lived together, Cely kept herself occupied by gossiping and reading comic books. Armand asked her to limit gossiping with their neighbors, but Cely got mad and told him that there was nothing much to do in their house.

Despite their marital problems, the couple eventually had their church wedding when Cely was already five months pregnant. But Cely’s behavior was no different thereafter. She continued to gossip and pick fights with their neighbors. Cely showed not only aggressive behavior but infidelity, especially when Nardo, a neighbor, became close to them and Armand found out about his affair with Cely. Armand forgave Cely but the latter showed no remorse. Nardo later on revealed to Armand that their twin children were not really Armand’s children but his own. Armand then recalled one incident between him and Cely wherein the latter told him “hindi mo anak yan” as she got mad because Armand spanked one of their children.

Thereafter, Cely had another affair with another neighbor, Wally. One time Armand even discovered Wally hiding under their marital bed and wearing his pants only. Then Armand left their conjugal home when Cely got mad and threw a knife at him which hit the wall, after he asked Cely to check the pressure cooker and it exploded.

So, Armand secured his own psychological assessment and that of Cely by Dr. Romy Lapuz. The results showed that Armand possesses an emotionally disturbed personality but not severe enough to constitute psychological incapacity. On the other hand, the examination of Cely showed that she is suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder with Histrionic Disorder Features. These findings were based on the interview of Armand and their friends Elsa and Kiko. Based on these findings Armand filed a Petition for declaration of nullity of their marriage because of Cely’s psychological incapacity pursuant to Article 36 of the Family Code.

After trial where Armand testified and narrated the above incidents in their married life, and Dr. Lapuz submitted his psychological evaluation of Armand and Cely, the Regional Trial Court (RTC) denied the petition because the totality of the evidence presented did not exhibit Cely’s psychological incapacity as there was no showing that her traits were already present at the inception of marriage or that they were incurable.

On appeal to the Court of Appeals (CA) by Armand, after his Motion for Reconsideration was denied by the RTC, the CA reversed and set aside the RTC decision. The CA ruled that Cely’s attitude of being “mabunganga” and having relationships with other men coupled with the diagnosis of Dr. Lapuz, Cely is psychologically incapacitated to fulfill her marital obligations to Armand. Was the CA correct?

The Supreme Court said no. The assessment of Dr. Lapuz cannot be accepted as credible as there was no other evidence which established the juridical antecedence, gravity and incurability of Cely’s alleged incapacity. The report itself cited the testimonies of Armand and their friends Elsa and Kiko as bases of the findings. While Kiko and Elsa are friends of the couple for more or less 30 years, the same does not show that they have known Cely longer than such period of time so as to have personal knowledge of her circumstances. Neither was it known that Armand himself likewise had personal knowledge of Cely’s family background. Thus they could not have known Cely’s childhood nor how she was raised.

Likewise, Cely’s sexual infidelity is not a satisfactory proof of her psychological incapacity. It must be shown that the acts of unfaithfulness are manifestations of a disordered personality which make her completely unable to discharge the essential obligations of marriage. Psycholigical incapacity must be more than just a “difficulty,” “refusal” or “neglect” in the performance of the marital obligations. It is not enough that a party failed to meet the responsibility and duty of a married person. Being “mabunganga” and having extra marital affairs are not sufficient indicators of a psychological disorder. Hence the CA decision is reversed and set aside and the petition of Armand for declaration of nullity of their marriage is dismissed for lack of merit (Republic vs. Calingo et; al, G.R. 212717, March 11, 2020).

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