Republic vs CA (G.R. No. 159594 November 12, 2012)

Republic of the Philippines vs Court of Appeals and De Quintos
G.R. No. 159594 November 12, 2012

Facts: Eduardo and Catalina were married on March 16, 1977 in civil rites solemnized by the Municipal Mayor of Lingayen, Pangasinan. The couple was not blessed with a child due to Catalinas hysterectomy following her second miscarriage. On April 6, 1998, Eduardo filed a petition for the declaration of nullity of their marriage, citing Catalinas psychological incapacity to comply with her essential marital obligations. Catalina did not interpose any objection to the petition, but prayed to be given her share in the conjugal house and lot located in Bacabac, Bugallon, Pangasinan. After conducting an investigation, the public prosecutor determined that there was no collusion between Eduardo and Catalina. Eduardo testified that Catalina always left their house without his consent; that she engaged in petty arguments with him; that she constantly refused to give in to his sexual needs; that she spent most of her time gossiping with neighbors instead of doing the household chores and caring for their adopted daughter; that she squandered by gambling all his remittances as an overseas worker in Qatar since 1993; and that she abandoned the conjugal home in 1997 to live with Bobbie Castro, her paramour.

Issue: Whether or not the acts of Catalina constitute psychological incapacity.

Held: No. Psychological incapacity under Article 36 of the Family Code contemplates an incapacity or inability to take cognizance of and to assume basic marital obligations, and is not merely the difficulty, refusal, or neglect in the performance of marital obligations or ill will. It consists of: (a) a true inability to commit oneself to the essentials of marriage; (b) the inability must refer to the essential obligations of marriage, that is, the conjugal act, the community of life and love, the rendering of mutual help, and the procreation and education of offspring; and (c) the inability must be tantamount to a psychological abnormality. Proving that a spouse failed to meet his or her responsibility and duty as a married person is not enough; it is essential that he or she must be shown to be incapable of doing so due to some psychological illness.

In Santos v. Court of Appeals, we decreed that psychological incapacity should refer to a mental incapacity that causes a party to be truly incognitive of the basic marital covenants such as those enumerated in Article 68 of the Family Code and must be characterized by gravity, juridical antecedence and incurability. In an effort to settle the confusion that may arise in deciding cases involving nullity of marriage on the ground of psychological incapacity, we then laid down the following guidelines in the later ruling in Molina, viz:

  • The burden of proof to show the nullity of the marriage belongs to the plaintiff. Any doubt should be resolved in favor of the existence and continuation of the marriage and against its dissolution and nullity.
  • The root cause of the psychological incapacity must be (a) medically or clinically identified, (b) alleged in the complaint, (c) sufficiently proven by experts and (d) clearly explained in the decision. Article 36 of the Family Code requires that the incapacity must be psychological not physical, although its manifestations and/or symptoms may be physical.
  • The incapacity must be proven to be existing at “the time of the celebration” of the marriage.
  • Such incapacity must also be shown to be medically or clinically permanent or incurable.
  • Such illness must be grave enough to bring about the disability of the party to assume the essential obligations of marriage. Thus, “mild characteriological peculiarities, mood changes, occasional emotional outbursts” cannot be accepted as root causes.
  • The essential marital obligations must be those embraced by Articles 68 up to 71 of the Family Code as regards the husband and wife as well as Articles 220, 221 and 225 of the same Code in regard to parents and their children. Such noncomplied marital obligation(s) must also be stated in the petition, proven by evidence and included in the text of the decision.
  • Interpretations given by the National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, while not controlling or decisive, should be given great respect by our courts.
  • The trial court must order the prosecuting attorney or fiscal and the Solicitor General to appear as counsel for the state.

The expert opinion of a psychiatrist arrived at after a maximum of seven (7) hours of interview, and unsupported by separate psychological tests, cannot tie the hands of the trial court and prevent it from making its own factual finding on what happened in this case. The probative force of the testimony of an expert does not lie in a mere statement of his theory or opinion, but rather in the assistance that he can render to the courts in showing the facts that serve as a basis for his criterion and the reasons upon which the logic of his conclusion is founded.

It is not enough that the respondent, alleged to be psychologically incapacitated, had difficulty in complying with his marital obligations, or was unwilling to perform these obligations. Proof of a natal or supervening disabling factor an adverse integral element in the respondents personality structure that effectively incapacitated him from complying with his essential marital obligations must be shown. Mere difficulty, refusal or neglect in the performance of marital obligations or ill will on the part of the spouse is different from incapacity rooted in some debilitating psychological condition or illness; irreconcilable differences, sexual infidelity or perversion, emotional immaturity and irresponsibility and the like, do not by themselves warrant a finding of psychological incapacity under Article 36, as the same may only be due to a persons refusal or unwillingness to assume the essential obligations of marriage.

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