Mendoza vs Republic (G.R. No. 157649 November 12, 2012)

Mendoza vs Republic of the Philippines
G.R. No. 157649 November 12, 2012

Facts: Petitioner and Dominic met in 1989 upon his return to the country from his employment in Papua New Guinea. They had been next-door neighbors in the appartelle they were renting while they were still in college she, at Assumption College while he, at San Beda College taking a business management course. After a month of courtship, they became intimate and their intimacy ultimately led to her pregnancy with their daughter whom they named Allysa Bianca. They got married on her eighth month of pregnancy in civil rites solemnized in Pasay City on June 24, 1991, after which they moved to her place, although remaining dependent on their parents for support. It was petitioner who supported for the family’s financial needs because Dominic’s job has unstable salary. It was alleged in the evidence by the petitioner that Dominic had an affair with his co-worker, incurred debts and criminal charges which forced petitioner to end their relationship and move away from Dominic. A petition for declaration of nullity was filed by herein petitoner before the RTC on the ground of article 36, psychological incapacity presenting as evidence Dr.  Samson, a psychiatrist. OSG opposed the petition.

Issue: Whether or not the testimony of the psychiatrist is sufficient to establish psychological incapacity.

Held: No. The guidelines incorporate the three basic requirements earlier mandated by the Court in Santos v. Court of Appeals: “psychological incapacity must be characterized by (a) gravity (b) juridical antecedence, and (c) incurability.” The foregoing guidelines do not require that a physician examine the person to be declared psychologically incapacitated. In fact, the root cause may be “medically or clinically identified.” What is important is the presence of evidence that can adequately establish the party’s psychological condition. For indeed, if the totality of evidence presented is enough to sustain a finding of psychological incapacity, then actual medical examination of the person concerned need not be resorted to.

In light of the foregoing, even if the expert opinions of psychologists are not conditions sine qua non in the granting of petitions for declaration of nullity of marriage, the actual medical examination of Dominic was to be dispensed with only if the totality of evidence presented was enough to support a finding of his psychological incapacity. This did not mean that the presentation of any form of medical or psychological evidence to show the psychological incapacity would have automatically ensured the granting of the petition for declaration of nullity of marriage. What was essential, we should emphasize herein, was the “presence of evidence that can adequately establish the partys psychological condition.”

By the very nature of cases involving the application of Article 36, it is logical and understandable to give weight to the expert opinions furnished by psychologists regarding the psychological temperament of parties in order to determine the root cause, juridical antecedence, gravity and incurability of the psychological incapacity. However, such opinions, while highly advisable, are not conditions sine qua non in granting petitions for declaration of nullity of marriage. At best, courts must treat such opinions as decisive but not indispensable evidence in determining the merits of a given case. In fact, if the totality of evidence presented is enough to sustain a finding of psychological incapacity, then actual medical or psychological examination of the person concerned need not be resorted to. The trial court, as in any other given case presented before it, must always base its decision not solely on the expert opinions furnished by the parties but also on the totality of evidence adduced in the course of the proceedings.

We have time and again held that psychological incapacity should refer to no less than a mental, not physical, incapacity that causes a party to be truly incognitive of the basic marital covenants that must concomitantly be assumed and discharged by the parties to the marriage that, as so expressed by Article 68 of the Family Code, include their mutual obligations to live together, to observe love, respect and fidelity, and to render help and support. We have also held that the intendment of the law has been to confine the meaning of psychological incapacity to the most serious cases of personality disorders clearly demonstrative of an utter insensitivity or inability to give meaning and significance to the marriage. To qualify as psychological incapacity as a ground for nullification of marriage, a persons psychological affliction must be grave and serious as to indicate an utter incapacity to comprehend and comply with the essential objects of marriage, including the rights and obligations between husband and wife. The affliction must be shown to exist at the time of marriage, and must be incurable.

Accordingly, the RTCs findings that Dominic’s psychological incapacity was characterized by gravity, antecedence and incurability could not stand scrutiny. The medical report failed to show that his actions indicated a psychological affliction of such a grave or serious nature that it was medically or clinically rooted. His alleged immaturity, deceitfulness and lack of remorse for his dishonesty and lack of affection did not necessarily constitute psychological incapacity. His inability to share or to take responsibility or to feel remorse over his misbehavior or to share his earnings with family members, albeit indicative of immaturity, was not necessarily a medically rooted psychological affliction that was incurable. Emotional immaturity and irresponsibility did not equate with psychological incapacity. Nor were his supposed sexual infidelity and criminal offenses manifestations of psychological incapacity. If at all, they would constitute a ground only for an action for legal separation under Article 55 of the Family Code.

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