Medically and legally incapacitated

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

This is another case of declaration of nullity of marriage under Article 36 of the Family Code (FC). But this is quite unique because it involves the psychological incapacity of both spouses. This is the case of Clara and Mario.

Clara met Mario while they were still in high school. She had a crush on Mario even though she was aware that he is reputed to be an alcoholic at such a young age. She was able to call him through the mobile number given by common friends soon after she became his girlfriend.

During their relationship, she discovered that Mario was the jealous type though he was also texting other girls and had been lying to her and not disclosing his whereabouts to her. When Mario tried to break up with her, she threatened to commit suicide and when she would try to break up with him, Mario would device a way for her to stay in the relationship by manipulating her dorm-mates to convince her not to break up and would wait outside the dorm or call her parents. They alternated between breaking up and reconciling for about three to six months.

When they went to different universities for college education, Mario’s jealousy, as well as their quarrels, escalated. Sometimes their quarrels would become physically violent. While still sweethearts, they broke up and reconciled for around twenty times in about five years.

Clara unexpected became pregnant when she was only twenty years old while Mario was 21 years old. When their parents found this out, they did not consider marriage as an option. Clara too was hesitant about it but Mario later on insisted that they get married. His parents even deceived Clara by promising that she and Mario would move to the US if she married their son. Thus, they finally got married and stayed in the house of Mario’s family, where Clara had difficulty because she was not accustomed to doing household chores.

Mario’s parents would also borrow from her, claiming they needed it to pay for Mario’s tuition fees. These lies, quarrels and deceptions went on even if they moved to Clara’s parents. Mario even incurred wounds in the head because of the quarrels. When their son Mandy was born, Mario nonetheless wanted to end their relationship. They separated several times lasting for days or weeks with Mario having the habit of leaving Clara and their son to meet up with friends whenever he got upset. And when Mario finished college, he made no attempt to find gainful employment because of laziness and alcohol and other vices. In their wedding anniversary, Mario came home late and drank so Clara told the house helper to pack his things as he left and separated from Clara.

Thus Clara already filed the petition for declaration of nullity of their marriage before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) on the ground of psychological incapacity of both of them. Mario did not file his answer despite notice.

At the trial, Clara testified and narrated all the above events during their marriage. This was corroborated by her uncle to whom Clara reported these events. The psychologist who examined her and Mario also testified and reported that Clara was diagnosed as having a borderline personality while Mario had a narcissistic personality disorder. After trial, the RTC found that the totality of the evidence presented shows that Clara and Mario were both psychologically incapacitated to perform their marital obligations and granted Clara’s petition, which was affirmed by the Court of Appeals (CA). Were the RTC and the CA correct?

Yes, said the Supreme Court. According to the SC, while it is true that verbal abuse, neglect and abandonment of spouse and children or acts of infidelity including adultery or concubinage may each constitute as ground for legal separation only, each one of these grounds or a combination thereof manifests psychological incapacity that has been existing prior to marriage. So the court may void the marriage under Article 36 of the FC.

Here, Mario’s acts of infidelity, neglect and abandonment on the one hand and Clara’s suicidal behavior, ill temper and verbal and physical abuse on the other, collectively manifest both of their psychological incapacity in the legal sense. They satisfy the criteria of judicial antecedence, gravity and incurability. Their behavioral patterns and personality structures clearly show that they are psychologically incapacitated from fulfilling their obligations as husband and wife and as parents of their son.

The testimony of a medical expert is no longer required for purposes of establishing psychological incapacity as a legal concept. Courts will no longer look at psychological incapacity as a medical condition or personality disorder, the root cause of which has to be identified. Instead, courts may rely on the testimony of ordinary witnesses for purposes of determining whether one or both spouses are psychologically incapacitated. But even if the testimony of a medical export is required, the testimony of the medical expert in this case is also quite sufficient. The methodologies and procedures applied by the doctor here show that aside from conducting personal interviews of Clara and Mario and of the father of Clara, the doctor also conducted tests to arrive at her findings of the psychological capacity of both.

Hence it is really clear and convincing evidence to support the conclusion that Clara and Mario are both psychologically incapacitated from complying with their marital obligations, in the legal sense. Consequently, the marital union of the two is declared void ab initio. (Republic vs. Claur and Claur, G.G. 246868, February 15, 2022)

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