Social institution

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

The validity of marriage and the unity of the family are enshrined in our Constitution and statutory laws. Hence any doubts about these 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. It also imposes upon the State the duty to protect the sanctity of marriage 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 Jim and Mely.

When Jim first met Mely, he already started courting her until they eventually became lovers with an “on-and-off” relationship because Mely still entertained other admirers. Four years later, however, they finally got married and begot two children. So as to save money, they stayed with Jim’s parents.

But after 22 years, Jim filed before the Regional Trial Court a Petition for Declaration of Nullity of their marriage on the ground of psychological incapacity of Mely under Article 36 of the Family Code. Service of summons on Mely 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 Jim presented his evidence.

To support his petition, Jim himself testified that they had frequent fights, with Mely having the habit of throwing things at him. He also said Mely tried to avoid getting pregnant and suffered a miscarriage of their supposed first child. She likewise forbade Jim from flirting with other women or meeting friends, to the extent of asking him to resign from his work. Mely even went to his office and made a scene in front of Jim’s colleagues.

Then one time she hit Jim’s arm with a knife and would berate and insult him because of his meagre income. And despite giving Mely all his salary, Mely still borrowed money and incurred debts using his credit cards. And when he worked abroad, Mely neglected her responsibilities to their children and had an illicit affair with another man with whom she lived and begot two children. Jim still tried to save their marriage and asked Mely to live with him again but she refused. She even worked overseas and had another affair with a married man.

Their kasambahay Carla also testified, corroborating Jim’s testimony about Mely. Also presented as evidence was the psychological evaluation report of clinical psychologist Dra. Rosie, based on her interviews with Jim, their kasambahay Carla and one of his daughters, Hazel. The report confirmed that Mely 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 Mely is usually adventurous and too involved with her friends and the opposite sex, excitable, emotional and temperamental. According to the report, Mely’s psychological incapacity already existed long before she married Jim and was deeply embedded within her system, thereby rendering it permanent and irreversible.

After trial, the RTC rendered a decision in favor of Jim, declaring his marriage to Mely 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 Jim failed to prove that Mely 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 Jim were not sufficient grounds to categorize Mely’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 marriage under Article 36 of the Family Code 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 Jim to a decision of nullity of his marriage to Mely, the SC ruled that the totality of the evidence must sufficiently prove that Mely’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 Jim failed to prove such psychological incapacity of Mely. Dra. Rosie’s report cannot be given credence and weight because it is merely based on information provided by Jim himself, their kasambahay Carla and his daughter Hazel regarding the behavioral, social and emotional characteristics of Mely which are biased, self-serving and very limited. It failed to explain in detail how Mely’s condition could be characterized as grave, deeply rooted and incurable within the doctrinal context of “psychological incapacity.”

Although Mely 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. Jim and Mely’s marriage cannot therefore be declared null and void under Article 36 of the Family Code (Eliscupidez vs. Eliscupidez, G.R. 226907, July 22, 2019).

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