Once again, the SC in Rep. v. Laila Tanyag-San Jose, et al., G.R. No. 168328, February 28, 2007 had occasion to rule that the mere fact that a spouse is jobless and cannot support the family is not a ground to declare a marriage void on the ground of psychological incapacity. The term refers to a serious psychological illness afflicting a party even before the celebration of the marriage.
In this case, the woman filed a complaint to declare her marriage void alleging that the husband was jobless and hooked to gambling and drugs. She was a fish vendor. At the trial, she testified that aside from being jobless and hooked to drugs and gambling, there was no other ground. Dr. Nedy Tayag a clinical psychologist at the National Center for Mental Health declared that from the psychological test and clinical interview she conducted on the woman, she found the husband whom she did not personally examine to perform the duties of a spouse. In her report, she narrated that respondent refused to get a job. Instead, he spent most of his available time with his friends drinking intoxicating substances and gambling activities. Furthermore, the doctor reported that the petitioner later discovered that he was into drugs. He described him to be a happy-go-lucky individual spending most of his time hanging out with friends. The doctor then concluded thus:
“Through the evaluation of test data, correlated with clinical interviews and description of their marital plight, it is the opinion of the undersigned that the disintegration of the marriage between petitioner and respondent was caused primarily by the latter’s psychological incapacity to perform the essential roles and obligations of a married man and father.
His behavioral pattern characterized mainly by constant irresponsibility, lack of concern for the welfare of others, self-centered orientation, absence of remorse, violent tendencies and his involvement in activities defying social and moral ethics; suits under the classification of Anti-Social Personality Disorder.
Such disorder is considered to be grave and is deeply immersed within the system. It continues to influence the individual until the later stage of life.”
The RTC dismissed the complaint ruling that the portrayal of the defendant as jobless and irresponsible is not enough. It cited Molina and said that it is not enough to prove that the parties failed to meet their responsibilities and duties as married persons; it is essential that they must be shown to be incapable of doing so, due to some psychological (not physical) illness.
There was no showing that the doctor interviewed the defendant.
Motion for Reconsideration was filed but it was denied. The CA reversed the decision on appeal and ruled that the defendant was already psychologically incapacitated within the contemplation of the law at the time of the celebration of the marriage. It ruled:
“If being jobless (since the commencement of the marriage up to the filing of the present petition) and worse, a gambler, can hardly qualify as being mentally or physically ill – what then can we describe such acts? Are these normal manners of a married man? We are not at all swayed that a union affirmed in church rites and subsequently having children, are proofs that either of the spouses is mature and responsible enough to assume marital responsibilities.
It was further said by the CA, thus:
“Accordingly, We can safely conclude that said deficiency is so grave and so permanent as to deprive one of awareness of the duties and responsibilities of the matrimonial bond one is about to assume. This Court, finding the gravity of the failed relationship in which the parties found themselves trapped in its mire of unfulfilled vows and unconsummated marital obligations, can do no less but to declare the marriage between the herein petitioner and the respondent herein dissolved. While the law provides that the husband and wife are obliged to live together, observe mutual love, respect and fidelity (Article 68 of the Family Code), however, what is there to preserve when the other spouse is an unwilling party to the cohesion and creation of a family as an inviolable social institution. In fine, Laila Tanyag-San Jose must be allowed to rise from the ashes and begin a new life – freed from a marriage which, to Us, was hopeless from the beginning and where the bonding could not have been possible.”
The Republic filed a Motion for Reconsideration, but it was denied, hence, petition for review was filed with the SC interposing the following arguments:
1. That the plaintiff failed to prove that the defendant was suffering from psychological incapacity to perform his marital obligations as she merely relied upon the doctor’s report;
2. That even if psychological examination of the defendant is not necessary, the totality of the evidence does not show the defendant’s psychological incapacity;
3. That the defects of the defendant did not exist at the time of the celebration of the marriage, or are incurable.
In reversing the CA’s decision, the SC
Held: The plaintiff has the burden to show the nullity of the marriage.
Psychological incapacity, as a ground for nullity of marriage, has been succinctly expounded in the recent case of Ma. Armida Perez-Ferraris v. Brix Ferraris, G.R. No. 162368, July 17, 2006, thus:
“The term “psychological incapacity” to be a ground for the nullity of marriage under Article 36 of the Family Code, refers to a serious psychological illness afflicting a party even before the celebration of the marriage. It is a malady so grave and so permanent as to deprive one of the awareness of the duties and responsibilities of the matrimonial bond one is about to assume. As all people may have certain quirks and idiosyncrasies, or isolated characteristics associated with certain personality disorders, there is hardly any doubt 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. It is for this reason that the Court relies heavily on psychological experts for its understanding of the human personality. However, the root cause must be identified as a psychological illness and its incapacitating nature must be fully explained.”
As earlier-stated, the doctor’s report showed that her conclusion about the defendant’s psychological incapacity was based on the information supplied by the plaintiff which she found to be “factual”. That the plaintiff supplied the basis of her conclusion, makes the doctor’s conclusion hearsay. It is “unscientific and unreliable”, so the Court declared in Choa v. Choa, 441 Phil. 175 (2002), where the assessment of the therein party sought to be declared psychological incapacitated was based merely on the information communicated to the doctor by the plaintiff.
The doctor’s report did not even show that the alleged anti-social personality disorder of the defendant was already present at the inception of the marriage or that it is incurable. Neither did it explain the incapacitating nature of the alleged disorder nor identify its root cause. It merely stated that “such disorder was considered to be grave and is deeply immersed within the system and continued to influence the individual until the later stage of life.
No need of personal physical examination.
There is of course no requirement that the person sought to be declared psychologically incapacitated should be personally examined by a physician or psychologist as a condition sine qua non to arrive at such declaration. (Marcos v. Marcos, 397 Phil. 840; Antonio v. Reyes, 484 SCRA 353; Rep. v. Iyoy, 470 SCRA 508). If it can be proven by independent means that one is psychologically incapacitated, there is no reason why the same should not be credited.
The defendant’s alleged psychological incapacity was premised on his being jobless and a drug user, as well as his inability to support his family and his refusal or unwillingness to assume the essential obligations of marriage. His state or condition or attitude has not been shown, however, to be a malady or disorder rooted on some incapacitating or debilitating psychological condition.
In Molina, where the respondent preferred to spend more time with his friends than with his family, the Court found the same to be more of a “difficulty” if not outright “refusal” or “neglect” in the performance of some marital obligations.
In Ferraris, it was ruled:
“We find respondent’s alleged mixed personality disorder, the “leaving-the-house” attitude whenever they quarreled, the violent tendencies during epileptic attacks, the sexual infidelity, the abandonment and lack of support, and his preference to spend more time with his band mates than his family, are not rooted on some debilitating psychological condition but mere refusal or unwillingness to assume the essential obligations of marriage. (Underscoring supplied)
Also in Ferraris, the Court held that habitual alcoholism, just like infidelity or perversion and abandonment, did not by itself constitute ground for declaring a marriage void based on psychological incapacity. (Hernandez v. CA, 377 Phil. 919 (1999)). Neither is emotional immaturity and irresponsibility. (Dedel v. CA, 421 SCRA 461 (2004); Pesca v. Pesca, 356 SCRA 588). Or failure or refusal to meet duties and responsibilities of a married man if it is not shown to be due to some psychological (not physical) illness. (Rep. v. CA, 335 Phil. 664 (1997)).
In Antonio v. Reyes, it was held:
“The Court thus acknowledges that the definition of psychological incapacity, as intended by the revision committee, was not cast in intractable specifics. Judicial understanding of psychological incapacity may be informed by evolving standards, taking into account the particulars of each case, current trends in psychological and even canonical thought, and experience. It is under the auspices of the deliberate ambiguity of the framers that the Court has developed the Molina rules, which have been consistently applied since 1997. Molina has proven indubitably useful in providing a unitary framework that guides courts in adjudicating petitioners for declaration of nullity under Article 36. At the same time, the Molina guidelines are not set in stone, the clear legislative intent mandating a case-to-case perception of each situation, and Molina itself arising from this evolutionary understanding of Article 36. There is no cause to disavow Molina at present… There is need though to emphasize other perspective as well which should govern the disposition of petitions for declaration of nullity under Article 36.
No need to present expert opinion in psychological incapacity cases.
The basic question in Bernardino Zamora v. CA, et al., G.R. No. 141917, February 7, 2007 (Azcuna, J) is whether there is a need for the presentation of expert opinion of psychologist and psychiatrist in every petition filed under Article 36, Family Code. The RTC and CA dismissed an action for declaration of nullity of marriage on the ground of psychological incapacity. The arguments of the petitioner before the SC are as follows:
1. There is nothing in Santos v. CA, 310 Phil. 21 (1995), upon which private respondent relies, that requires as a condition sine qua non the presentation of expert opinion of psychologists and psychiatrists in every petition filed under Article 36 of the Family Code. This Court merely said in that case that “[t]he well-considered opinions of psychiatrists, psychologists, and persons with expertise in psychological disciplines might be helpful or even desirable”. However, no expert opinion is helpful or even desirable to determine whether private respondent has been living abroad and away from her husband for many years; whether she has a child; and whether she has made her residence abroad permanent by acquiring U.S. citizenship; and
2. Article 36 of the Family Code provides that a marriage contracted by any party who, at the time of the celebration, was psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential marital obligations of marriage, shall likewise be void even if such incapacity becomes manifest only after its solemnization. Among the essential marital obligations embraced by Articles 68 to 71 of the same Code is to procreate children through sexual cooperation which is the basic end of marriage. To live together under one roof for togetherness spells the unity in marriage. The marriage had been existing for twenty four years when private respondent filed a legal separation case against petitioner. Throughout this period, private respondent deliberately and obstinately refused to comply with the essential marital obligation to live and cohabit with her husband.
The Supreme Court
Held: It is true that the case of Santos v. CA, 310 Phil. 21 (1995), did not specifically mention that the presentation of expert opinion is a vital and mandatory requirement in filing a petition for the declaration of nullity of marriage grounded on psychological incapacity referred to under Article 36 of the Family Code. Even in the subsequent case of Republic v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 108763, February 13, 1997, 268 SCRA 198, (also known as the Molina case), wherein the Court laid down the guidelines in the interpretation and application of the aforementioned article, examination of the person by a physician in order for the former to be declared psychologically incapacitated was likewise not considered a requirement. (Marcos v. Marcos, G.R. No. 136490, October 19, 2000, 343 SCRA 755). What is important, however, as stated in Marcos v. Marcos, is the presence of evidence that can adequately establish the party’s psychological condition. 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.
Likewise, Section 2(d) of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC or the Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages, which took effect on March 15, 2003, states:
(d) What to allege. – A petition under Article 36 of the Family Code shall specifically allege the complete facts showing that either or both parties were psychologically incapacitated from complying with the essential marital obligations of marriage at the time of the celebration of marriage even if such incapacity becomes manifest only after its celebration.
The complete facts should allege the physical manifestations, if any, as are indicative of psychological incapacity at the time of the celebration of the marriage but expert opinion need not be alleged.
The rule is that the facts alleged in the petition and the evidence presented, considered in totality, should be sufficient to convince the court of the psychological incapacity of the party concerned. Petitioner, however, failed to substantiate his allegation that private respondent is psychologically incapacitated. His allegations relating to her refusal to cohabit with him and to bear a child was strongly disputed, as the records undeniably bear out. Furthermore, the acts and behavior of private respondent that petitioner cited occurred during the marriage, and there is no proof that the former exhibited a similar predilection even before or at the inception of the marriage. Hence, the SC upheld the ruling of the lower courts. (Zamora v. CA, et al., G.R. No. 141917, February 7, 2007, Azcuna, J).