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Nullity of Marriage and Psychological Incapacity

Psychological incapacity is a ground for nullity of marriage as provided under


Article 36 of the Family Code. Such ground seeks to liberalize the application of civil law
on personal and family rights, (Republic vs CA and Molina [1997]) allowing couples to
end their vows for they clearly and convincingly showed the court, that they have
demonstrated and continue to demonstrate an utter insensitivity or inability to give
meaning and significance to the marriage (citing Santos vs. CA, [1995] Knows, 2013).
Psychological incapacity is the most common and misunderstood ground for
declaration of nullity of marriage. However, the ground is apt to a void marriage. The
erroneous notion borders on insanity if not insanity itself, which often creates
despondent optimisms and anticipations (Perez, 2009).
Article 36 of the Family Code offered hope, yet, so desolate as a great number of
couples are oblivious on how to end an abhorrent marriage, leaving jurisprudence to
work its way on every case and discovering how psychological incapacity fits, given
those circumstances.
In a tortuous discussion of the Civil Code Revision Committee or the CCRC in
drafting the New Family Code of the Philippines which took effect on August 3, 1988,
apropos the difficulty associated with any precise definition of the term, Justice SempioDiy and Justice Reyes raised and pointed out the problem and question on: Since
insanity is also psychological or mental incapacity, why is insanity only a ground for
annulment and not for declaration of nullity? In reply, Justice Caguioa explained that in
insanity, there is the appearance of consent, which is the reason why it is a ground for
voidable marriages, while psychological incapacity does not refer to consent, but to the
very essence of marital obligation, further, insanity is curable and there are lucid
intervals, while psychological incapacity is not (Hilbay, 2009).
Still many judges and lawyers find difficulty in applying Article 36 in specific
cases. The standard set was but a command to deny all nullification petitions (Hilbay,
2009).

The number of annulment and nullity of marriage cases filed in the country
soured for the past years. In 2012, records from the Office of the Solicitor General

Nullity of Marriage and Psychological Incapacity


(OSG) revealed an average of 28 couples per day sought to have their marriages
declared null and void, thus a total of 10,528 cases were verified before the OSG.
Records established an over 1,000 cases per year increase in the number of cases were
filed: in 2011, 9,133 cases, and in 2010, 8,282 cases (Calonzo & Cayabyab, 2013)
(Tubeza, 2011).The same report noted that those who filed were 61% women, 90% of
which in their 20s, 4% were in their 30s, on the other hand 39% were men of which
70% were in their 20s. These couples filed annulment cases within the first five years of
their marriage, an indication that the longer the period of marriage is, trivial is the chance
of valediction.
Further, as gleaned from the record, the common ground cited was psychological
incapacity. Other grounds included lack of authority of the solemnizing officer, bigamous
or polygamous marriages, and where one or both parties were below the legal marrying
age (Tubeza, 2011).
What is psychological incapacity? How is it popular among those who would
want to end their marriage?
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.
Divergent views and misconception on what psychological incapacity emerged
as others construe the fact that while couples stay as husbands and wives, the happyever-afters seem to have been buried in a hatchet. Couples struggle, couples mound as
deadly murderers squandering beneath the sheets of lies and deceit. How could a
family stay as an inviolable institution under such circumstance? We wonder.
Ordinary people seem to stay and keep under the guise of being married despite
irreconcilable differences with daggers on the side. Nevertheless, how would they
know? While, extra ordinary people would literally bleed just to end a marriage, they now

Nullity of Marriage and Psychological Incapacity


admit being psychologically incapacitated to perform their marital obligation. How easy
could that be?
Consequently, Article 36 of the Family code did not actually define psychological
incapacity, leaving the courts to develop a legal framework for it. It has been said that
this provision of the law was a compromise between the Philippine Catholic church,
(which for some reason opposes an absolute divorce law in the Philippines, however, is
allowed all over the world particularly in Italy where the hallowed walls of Vatican rests;
only in the Philippines it is not) and the group of legal luminaries which drafted the
Family Code.

Conversely, jurisprudence evolved a definition based on Canon Law,

progressing towards a clinical form of incapacity to at present a non-clinical form of


incapacity.

Conditions such as homosexuality, drug addiction, physical verbal,

psychological, and economic abuse, among others, have been used to define
psychological incapacity. Perhaps, the term really escapes definition as it should evolve
legally, the only guidance being, is the failure to fulfill the essential obligations of
marriage. Then, from the theoretical legal point of view, it should be very difficult to
obtain a nullity of marriage. But why deluge from realities of couples not being able to
live harmoniously, when they would rather be with someone not psychologically
incapacitated to perform the essential marital obligations (Perez, 2009).
The evolution of jurisprudence and their concept of what psychological incapacity
seem to astound the manifestation of the term on marriages facing the brink of
invalidation. In Republic vs. Molina, Justice Padilla in his concurring opinion said that in
psychological incapacity cases, each case must be judged, not on the basis of a priori
assumptions, predilections or generalizations but according to its own facts. In the field
of psychological incapacity as a ground nullity of marriage, it is trite to say that no case is
on all fours with another case. Reiterated in the case of Salita vs. Magtolis, Justice
Bellosillo quoted Justice Sempio-Diy, in her, Handbook on the Family Code, judges are
to interpret the provision on a case-to-case basis, guided by experience, the findings of
experts and researchers in psychological disciplines, and by decisions of church
tribunals.

Nullity of Marriage and Psychological Incapacity


Suffice to say, that the only case where the Supreme Court was confident in its
application of psychological incapacity was the case of Chi Ming Tsoi vs. Court of
Appeals. Where the wife remained a virgin after the celebration of the marriage equates
a function somewhat strange in enlivening the hope of procreation and ensures the
continuation of family relations. In the natural order, it is sexual intimacy which brings
spouses together.
Since the Molina case was decided in 1997 where the Supreme Court did not let
stand a lower court order declaring as void a marriage on the basis of Article 36 of the
Family Code, jurisprudence has yet to affirm the liberty of its norm by couples desirous
of terminating their marriages.
Arguably, nullity cases decided by the Supreme Court where there is evidence of
substantial cohabitation between the spouses that resulted to siring of children have
resulted to denial of a decree of nullity based on psychological incapacity, the cases of
Republic vs. Encalan; Republic vs CA & Quintos; Mendoza vs. Mendoza; Republic vs.
Galang; Yambao vs. Republic; Toring vs. Toring& Republic; Jordan Paz vs. Jeanice
Pavon Paz; Lim vs. Lim; Aspillaga vs. Aspillaga; So vs. Valera; Ting vs. Velez-Ting;
Pesca vs. Pesca; Marcos vs. Marcos; Republic vs. CA & Molina; Leouel Santos vs. CA
(Icao, 2013). These cases proved that substantial cohabitation and the siring of the
children is sufficient to hold that the spouse already performed marital obligations and
may only have refused to perform them later.

However, an exceptional case as

designated as it was by the Supreme Court, the case of Socorro Reyes vs. Ramon
Reyes, the marriage was nullified due to psychological incapacity, despite evidence of
substantial cohabitation from 1976 to 1997 and the siring of three children. How could
that happen?
The impression that psychological incapacity pertains to the inability to
understand the obligations of marriage, as opposed to a mere inability to comply with
them has been restated in some of these cases. But then again, triteness of the court in
saying, each case is distinct and should be treated differently anchored its decisions by
typifying psychological incapacity by (a) gravity; (b) juridical antecedence, and (c)
incurability. The incapacity must be grave or serious such that the party would be
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Nullity of Marriage and Psychological Incapacity


incapable of carrying out the basic marital obligations provided for under Articles 68 to
71, 220, 221 and 225 of the Family Code; it must be rooted in the history of the party
before the marriage, although the overt manifestations may emerge only after the
marriage; and it must be incurable or, even if it were otherwise, the cure would be
beyond the means of the party involved.
But we come to qualify matters as how grave is grave; how history or pattern of
life is measured; and how incapacity be incurable if after the court says so, one
remarries. Ironically, these physiognomies of psychological incapacity set by the courts
advanced more the fallacious notions on the term.
While the Supreme Court stated in several nullity of marriage cases that
psychological incapacity constitute serious psychological illness afflicting a party even
before the celebration of the marriage, a malady so grave and so permanent as to
deprive one of his or her duties and responsibilities of the matrimonial bond he or she is
about to assume, such creates setback on certain circumstances that would warrant the
marriage as a failure, nonetheless the court says it does not.
In Dedel vs. Court of Appeals, a promiscuous wife left her family to live with one
of her paramours, the Supreme Court ruled that the acts of sexual infidelity and
abandonment do not constitute psychological incapacity absent a showing of the
presence of promiscuity at the inception of the marriage, such sexual infidelity or
perversion and abandonment does not warrant her being mentally or physically ill;
neither could her emotional immaturity and irresponsibility be equated with psychological
incapacity. These acts must be manifestations of a disordered personality to an extent
that she could not discharge her essential obligations to the marriage, not merely
because her youth, immaturity, or sexual promiscuity. The husband will just have to wait
until she will come to her senses.
In Carating-Siayngco vs. Siayngco, the wifes inability to conceive, led her
husband to other women, so he could have a child of his own. The Supreme Court ruled
that this is not an index of psychological incapacity. In Republic vs. Iyoy, the wife left her
husband, married an American and vaunted her new family to her former husband.
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Nullity of Marriage and Psychological Incapacity


Again in this case, the Supreme Court said that no matter how agonizing and distressing
it was for the former husband, it did not establish a grave psychological or mental defect
incurable in nature even before the celebration of marriage (Bendita, 2011).
If only these aggrieved spouses are allowed to convey again their cases after,
say, 30 years will the ruling be the same? And still the party defendants remain as they
were. Dura lex sed lex?
At present, it remains an irrevocable choice.
Paradoxically, in Almelor vs. Almelor, the wife alleged homosexuality of the
husband, but failed to prove the same, prompting the Supreme Court to deny nullity of
marriage on the ground of psychological incapacity. To that effect, there was no
concealment of homosexuality sufficient to warrant psychological incapacity. Since it
was not proved, homosexuality cannot be entreated as a ground for nullity of marriage.
Should it not be proved biologically? Again, if it were proven, will the Court rule
otherwise?
As jurisprudence emerged in defining each case, in Antonio vs. Reyes, the
Supreme Court said repeated lying is abnormal and pathological, an indicia of
psychological incapacity. However, the requirement that psychological incapacity must
be shown to be medically or clinically permanent or incurable is one that necessarily
need expert opinion when the judge cannot determine the presence of psychological
incapacity (Ngo Te vs. Yu-Te), in contrast to the case of Marcos vs. Marcos, where the
Court ruled that the opinion of a medical expert is not significant in determining
psychological incapacity.

Pinning our ears back, it is different under certain

circumstances. Incurability is then measured, so as to say that it is in its serious state,


yet one may ask or may not ask the expert to say so, as the judge may be the expert
himself.
What these cases clearly indicate is that, the term psychological incapacity is a
signifier without signified a term without a concept that this serious psychological
illness so grave and so permanent as to deprive one of awareness of the duties and
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Nullity of Marriage and Psychological Incapacity


responsibility of the matrimonial bond is an empty description of a nebulous idea In
this sense, the compound test of gravity, incurability, and juridical antecedence is to
psychological incapacity as prurient interest is to pornography in free speech cases
(Hilbay, 2009).
Admittedly, Article 36 of the Family Code necessitates simplification, where
different opinion as well basis for its application need be complete that what is left is just
to implement it. Our legislators should reserve hypocrisy and reflect on matters
concerning armistice within the family as an inviolable institution.

A clear and

unambiguous law holds family relations.


To simplify what constitute psychological incapacity is not a proposition that
validity of marriage shall depend upon the will of the spouses, rather, it is to address the
complexities of connubial life where the courts statements should be taken within the
context of the entire case, mainly, the facts behind every circumstance guided by
generalization of the grounds, hence limiting the scope of its application.
The overtone of psychological incapacity to plain insanity is so illustrious,
however so insane that the sane remain confuse in associating insanity to intellectual
dishonesty.
While couples may no longer be husbands and wives under circumstances of a
decree of nullity of marriage, the imperative perception that they parted graciously
without inflicting more pain is respite for each family member.
After all Love is a decision.

Nullity of Marriage and Psychological Incapacity


References
Arabelle J. Mendoza vs. Republic of the Philippines & Dominic C. Mendoza G.R. No.
157649, November 12, 2012.
Bendita, E. (2 February 2011) Guidelines for the interpretation and application of
psychological incapacity. Batas Pinoy. Retrieved on January 7, 2016 at
http://bataspinoy.wordpress.com/;
http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence/2007/august2007/147824.htm
Benjamin C. Ting vs. Carmen M. Velez-Ting, G.R. No. 166562, March 31, 2009.
Brenda B. Marcos vs. Wilson G. Marcos, G.R. No. 136490, October 19, 2000
Calonzo, A., & Cayabyab M.J. (4 April 2013) More pinoy couples seeking annulment
despite high cost. GMA News Nation.
Chi Ming Tsoi vs. Court of Appeals and Gina Lao-Tsoi, G.R. No. 119190, January 16,
1997.
Cynthia E. Yambao vs. Republic of the Philippines and Patricio E.Yambao, G.R. No.
184063, January 24, 2011.
David B. Dedel vs. Court of Appeals& Sharon L. Corpuz-Dedel a.k.a Jane Ibrahim, G.R.
No. 151867, January 29, 2004.
Edward N. Lim vs. Ma. Cheryl Sta. Cruz-Lim, G.R. No. 176464, February 4, 2010.
Hilbay, F.T.(2009) Unplugging the constitution. pp114-118. Diliman Quezon City,
Philippines; University of the Philippine Press.

Nullity of Marriage and Psychological Incapacity


Icao, A.A. (7 July 2013) A straight jacketing of Article 36 psychological incapacity cases?
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Jordan Chan Paz vs. Jeanice Pavon Paz, G.R. No. 166579, February 18, 2010.
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Nullity of Marriage and Psychological Incapacity


Republic of the Philippines vs. Cesar Encalan. G.R. No. 170022, January 9, 2013.
Republic of the Philippines vs. Court of Appeals and Eduardo C. De Quintos, Jr. G.R.
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