Inadequate proof

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

This is another case under Article 36 of the Family Code (FC) about the psychological incapacity of a spouse that renders the marriage void from the beginning. One of the guiding principles applied by the court here is that “any doubt should be resolved in favor of the existence and continuation of the marriage against its dissolution or nullity.” This is explained in this case of Cynthia and Pete.

After being married to Pete for 15 years and having one son, Cynthia filed a petition for declaration of absolute nullity of their marriage pursuant to Article 36 of the FC. She alleged and testified that during their cohabitation, Pete exhibited excessive sexual desire and forced her to perform oral and anal sex with him, that there were occasions when Pete attempted to sexually molest her sister, her nieces and their household help who were staying with them, that Pete admitted such attempts of molestations but begged her to keep said incidents a secret, that Pete misrepresented himself as a Roman Catholic when he was actually a born-again Christian, that when Cynthia refused to convert to his religion, he began insulting her religious beliefs and that at one point, in the heat of their quarrel, Pete attempted to kill her by threatening to stab her with a letter opener.

Cynthia also alleged and declared that Pete failed to provide financial support to her and their child and that right after their marriage, Pete insisted that they stay at his parents’ house so that he can give half of his salary to his parents, thus forcing them to rely on Cynthia’s parents for support while they were living at her parents’ house because Pete never bothered to share in the household expenses.

Cynthia further claimed that when Pete lost his job, he remained unemployed for six months because he did not try for find another job until she asked him to look for one.

He also failed to provide emotional and psychological support to their only son by staying inside their room most of the time instead of spending time with him. Occasionally he would even physically harm the child when the latter would attempt to play with him.

Cynthia also averred that Pete even left them to work abroad without consulting her and while working abroad and settling the huge debt he incurred here, he stopped sending financial support to her and their son.

Consequently, Cynthia raised and supported their son by herself. Two years later, Pete sent a letter admitting his shortcomings on their marital relationship and informing Cynthia of his decision to sever ties with her and their son. However, when he returned to the Philippines, he sought custody of their son under Cynthia’s care.

Cynthia also presented a psychologist who diagnosed Pete with a personality disorder of a sexual deviant or perversion based on Cynthia’s narrations, which is traceable to his wretched childhood with a cruel father and very protective mother causing some emotional confusion on Pete. The psychologist also testified that the psychological disorder of Pete is grave, serious and not clinically curable, thus rendering him psychologically incapacitated to perform his marital obligations.

Pete did not file an answer, and so after ascertaining that there was no collusion, the case was submitted for decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC).

The RTC, however, denied Cynthia’s petition, holding that she failed to overcome the legal presumption in favor of the validity of marriage. The Court said that the evidence presented by her only proves infidelity and sexual perversion of Pete.

This ruling of the RTC was sustained by the Court of Appeals (CA). The CA held that the sexual perversion, abandonment, Pete’s attempt against Cynthia’s life and sexual infidelity, which are the grounds relied upon by Cynthia to support her petition to declare the nullity of her marriage with Pete, are not grounds for declaring the nullity of their marriage but at best valid grounds for legal separation under Article 55 of the FC. Were the RTC and the CA correct?

Yes, said the Supreme Court (SC). According to the SC, the totality of the evidence presented by Cynthia is not sufficient to prove that Pete is psychologically incapacitated to perform his essential marital obligation, meriting the dissolution of their marriage. Any doubt should be resolved in favor of the existence of marriage as against its dissolution and nullity. Both our Constitution and our laws cherish the validity of marriage and unity of the family.

There must be proof of the durable or enduring aspects of a person’s personality called “personality structure” which manifests itself through clear acts of dysfunctionality that undermines the family. An undeniable pattern of such persisting failure to be a present, loving, faithful, respectful and supportive spouse must be established so as to demonstrate that there is indeed a psychological anomaly or incongruity in the spouse’s relation to the other spouse.

In this case, the totality of the evidence presented by Cynthia cannot sustain the conclusion that Pete was psychologically incapacitated to perform the basic obligations of marriage. The personality evaluation report prepared by the psychologist carried a finding that Pete suffers from sexual deviant personality disorder or perversion was based solely on Cynthia’s narration. It merely established that Pete’s personality disorder is likely due to the contrasting behavior of Pete’s father and mother. It does not give the Court a deeper intuitive understanding of Pete’s psychological state. There is no witness or vital information regarding his personality structure, upbringing and childhood such as members of his family, relatives, friends and co-workers. The evaluation of the psychologist was based merely on information, accounts and description relayed solely by Cynthia.

Irreconcilable differences, conflicting personalities, emotional immaturity and irresponsibility, physical abuse, habitual alcoholism, sexual infidelity or perversion and abandonment by themselves do not warrant a finding of psychological incapacity under Article 36 of the FC (Padua vs. Padua, G.R. 208258, April 27, 2022).

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