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2010 SC Decisions Art. 36 Family Code Psychological incapacity

Psychological Incapacity – Family Code of the Philippines – Articles 36 – Toring v. Toring – 2010 SC Decision – 8Lawyers.Com

THIRD DIVISION
G.R. No. 165321
August 03, 2010

RICARDO P. TORING, PETITIONER, VS. TERESITA M. TORING AND REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, RESPONDENTS.

D E C I S I O N

BRION, J.:

We resolve the appeal filed by petitioner Ricardo P. Toring from the May 31, 2004 decision[1] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 71882. The CA reversed the August 10, 2001 judgment of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 106 of Quezon City in Civil Case No. Q-99-36662,[2] nullifying Ricardo’s marriage with respondent Teresita M. Toring on the ground of psychological incapacity.

THE FACTS

Ricardo was introduced to Teresita in 1978 at his aunt’s house in Cebu. Teresita was then his cousin’s teacher in Hawaiian dance and was conducting lessons at his aunt’s house. Despite their slight difference in age (of five years), the younger Ricardo found the dance teacher attractive and fell in love with her. He pursued Teresita and they became sweethearts after three months of courtship. They eloped soon after, hastened by the bid of another girlfriend, already pregnant, to get Ricardo to marry her.

Ricardo and Teresita were married on September 4, 1978 before Hon. Remigio Zari of the City Court of Quezon City. They begot three children: Richardson, Rachel Anne, and Ric Jayson.

On February 1, 1999, more than twenty years after their wedding, Ricardo filed a petition for annulment before the RTC. He claimed that Teresita was psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential obligations of marriage prior to, at the time of, and subsequent to the celebration of their marriage. He asked the court to declare his marriage to Teresita null and void.

At the trial, Ricardo offered in evidence their marriage contract; the psychological evaluation and signature of his expert witness, psychiatrist Dr. Cecilia R. Albaran, and his and Dr. Albaran’s respective testimonies. Teresita did not file any answer or opposition to the petition, nor did she testify to refute the allegations against her.[3]

Ricardo alleged in his petition and in his testimony at the trial that Teresita was an adulteress and a squanderer. He was an overseas seaman, and he regularly sent money to his wife to cover the family’s living expenses and their children’s tuition. Teresita, however, was not adept in managing the funds he sent and their finances. Many times, Ricardo would come home and be welcomed by debts incurred by his wife; he had to settle these to avoid embarrassment.

Aside from neglect in paying debts she incurred from other people, Teresita likewise failed to remit amounts she collected as sales agent of a plasticware and cosmetics company. She left the family’s utility bills and their children’s tuition fees unpaid. She also missed paying the rent and the amortization for the house that Ricardo acquired for the family, so their children had to live in a small rented room and eventually had to be taken in by Ricardo’s parents. When confronted by Ricardo, Teresita would simply offer the excuse that she spent the funds Ricardo sent to buy things for the house and for their children.

Ricardo likewise accused Teresita of infidelity and suspected that she was pregnant with another man’s child. During one of his visits to the country, he noticed that Teresita’s stomach was slightly bigger. He tried to convince her to have a medical examination but she refused. Her miscarriage five months into her pregnancy confirmed his worst suspicions. Ricardo alleged that the child could not have been his, as his three instances of sexual contact with Teresita were characterized by “withdrawals”; other than these, no other sexual contacts with his wife transpired, as he transferred and lived with his relatives after a month of living with Teresita in Cebu. Ricardo reported, too, of rumors that his wife represented herself to others as single, and went out on dates with other men when he was not around.

Ricardo opined that his wife was a very extravagant, materialistic, controlling and demanding person, who mostly had her way in everything; had a taste for the nightlife and was very averse to the duties of a housewife; was stubborn and independent, also most unsupportive, critical and uncooperative; was unresponsive to his hard work and sacrifices for their family; and was most painfully unmindful of him.[4] He believed that their marriage had broken down beyond repair and that they both have lost their mutual trust and love for one another.[5]

Dr. Cecilia R. Albaran testified that a major factor that contributed to the demise of the marriage was Teresita’s Narcissistic Personality Disorder that rendered her psychologically incapacitated to fulfill her essential marital obligations. To quote Dr. Albaran:

Teresita, the respondent[,] has [sic] shown to manifest the following pervasive pattern of behaviors: a sense of entitlement as she expected favorable treatment and automatic compliance to her wishes, being interpersonally exploitative as on several occasions she took advantage of him to achieve her own ends, lack of empathy as she was unwilling to recognize her partners [sic] feelings and needs[,] taking into consideration her own feelings and needs only, her haughty and arrogant behavior and attitude and her proneness to blame others for her failures and shortcomings. These patterns of behavior speaks [sic] of a Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which started to manifest in early adulthood. The disorder is considered to be grave and incurable based on the fact that individuals do not recognize the symptoms as it is ego syntonic and they feel there is nothing wrong in them. Because of that[,] they remain unmotivated for treatment and impervious to recovery.[6]

She based her diagnosis on the information she gathered from her psychological evaluation on Ricardo and Richardson (Ricardo and Teresita’s eldest son). She admitted, though, that she did not personally observe and examine Teresita; she sent Teresita a personally-delivered notice for the conduct of a psychiatric evaluation, but the notice remained unanswered.

In opposing the petition for annulment, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) contended that there was no basis to declare Teresita psychologically incapacitated. It asserted that the psychological evaluation conducted on Ricardo (and his son Richardson) only revealed a vague and general conclusion on these parties’ personality traits but not on Teresita’s psychological makeup. The OSG also argued that the evidence adduced did not clinically identify and sufficiently prove the medical cause of the alleged psychological incapacity. Neither did the evidence indicate that the alleged psychological incapacity existed prior to or at the time of marriage, nor that the incapacity was grave and incurable.

The RTC agreed with Ricardo, and annulled his marriage to Teresita. In short, the RTC believed Dr. Albaran’s psychological evaluation and testimony and, on the totality of Ricardo’s evidence, found Teresita to be psychologically incapacitated to assume the essential obligations of marriage. The OSG appealed the decision to the CA.

The CA reversed the RTC decision and held that the trial court’s findings did not satisfy the rules and guidelines set by this Court in Republic v. Court of Appeals and Molina.[7] The RTC failed to specifically point out the root illness or defect that caused Teresita’s psychological incapacity, and likewise failed to show that the incapacity already existed at the time of celebration of marriage.

The CA found that the conclusions from Dr. Albaran’s psychological evaluation do not appear to have been drawn from well-rounded and fair sources, and dwelt mostly on hearsay statements and rumors. Likewise, the CA found that Ricardo’s allegations on Teresita’s overspending and infidelity do not constitute adequate grounds for declaring the marriage null and void under Article 36 of the Family Code. These allegations, even if true, could only effectively serve as grounds for legal separation or a criminal charge for adultery.

THE PETITION AND THE PARTIES’ ARGUMENTS

Ricardo faults the CA for disregarding the factual findings of the trial court, particularly the expert testimony of Dr. Albaran, and submits that the trial court – in declaring the nullity of the marriage – fully complied with Molina.

In its Comment,[8] the OSG argued that the CA correctly reversed the RTC’s decision, particularly in its conclusion that Ricardo failed to comply with this Court’s guidelines for the proper interpretation and application of Article 36 of the Family Code. Reiterating its earlier arguments below, the OSG asserts that the evidence adduced before the trial court failed to show the gravity, juridical antecedence, or incurability of the psychological incapacity of Teresita, and failed as well to identify and discuss its root cause. The psychiatrist, likewise, failed to show that Teresita was completely unable to discharge her marital obligations due to her alleged Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Ricardo’s Reply[9] reiterated that the RTC decision thoroughly discussed the root cause of Teresita’s psychological incapacity and identified it as Narcissistic Personality Disorder. He claimed that sufficient proof had been adduced by the psychiatrist whose expertise on the subject cannot be doubted. Interestingly, Ricardo further argued that alleging the root cause in a petition for annulment under Article 36 of the Family Code is no longer necessary, citing Barcelona v. Court of Appeals.[10]

These positions were collated and reiterated in the memoranda the parties filed.

THE COURT’S RULING

We find the petition unmeritorious, as the CA committed no reversible error when it set aside the RTC’s decision for lack of legal and factual basis.

In the leading case of Santos v. Court of Appeals, et al.,[11] we held that psychological incapacity under Article 36 of the Family Code must be characterized by (a) gravity, (b) juridical antecedence, and (c) incurability, to be sufficient basis to annul a marriage. The 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 concomitantly must be assumed and discharged by the parties to the marriage.”[12]

We further expounded on Article 36 of the Family Code in Molina and laid down definitive guidelines in the interpretation and application of this article. These guidelines incorporate the basic requirements of gravity, juridical antecedence and incurability established in the Santos case, as follows:

(1) 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. This is rooted in the fact that both our Constitution and our laws cherish the validity of marriage and unity of the family. Thus, our Constitution devotes an entire Article on the Family, recognizing it “as the foundation of the nation.” It decrees marriage as legally “inviolable,” thereby protecting it from dissolution at the whim of the parties. Both the family and marriage are to be “protected” by the state.

The Family Code echoes this constitutional edict on marriage and the family and emphasizes their permanence, inviolability and solidarity.

(2) 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 evidence must convince the court that the parties, or one of them, was mentally or psychically ill to such an extent that the person could not have known the obligations he was assuming, or knowing them, could not have given valid assumption thereof. Although no example of such incapacity need be given here so as not to limit the application of the provision under the principle of ejusdem generis (Salita v. Magtolis, 233 SCRA 100, 108), nevertheless such root cause must be identified as a psychological illness and its incapacitating nature fully explained. Expert evidence may be given by qualified psychiatrists and clinical psychologists.

(3)The incapacity must be proven to be existing at “the time of the celebration” of the marriage. The evidence must show that the illness was existing when the parties exchanged their “I do’s.” The manifestation of the illness need not be perceivable at such time, but the illness itself must have attached at such moment, or prior thereto.

(4) Such incapacity must also be shown to be medically or clinically permanent or incurable. Such incurability may be absolute or even relative only in regard to the other spouse, not necessarily absolutely against everyone of the same sex. Furthermore, such incapacity must be relevant to the assumption of marriage obligations, not necessarily to those not related to marriage, like the exercise of a profession or employment in a job. Hence, a pediatrician may be effective in diagnosing illnesses of children and prescribing medicine to cure them but may not be psychologically capacitated to procreate, bear and raise his/her own children as an essential obligation of marriage.

(5) 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 illness must be shown as downright incapacity or inability, not a refusal, neglect or difficulty, much less ill will. In other words, there is a natal or supervening disabling factor in the person, an adverse integral element in the personality structure that effectively incapacitates the person from really accepting and thereby complying with the obligations essential to marriage.

(6) 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 non-complied marital obligation(s) must also be stated in the petition, proven by evidence and included in the text of the decision.

(7) 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.[13]

Subsequent jurisprudence on psychological incapacity applied these basic guidelines to varying factual situations, thus confirming the continuing doctrinal validity of Santos. In so far as the present factual situation is concerned, what should not be lost in reading and applying our established rulings is the intent of the law to confine the application of Article 36 of the Family Code to the most serious cases of personality disorders; these are the disorders that result in the utter insensitivity or inability of the afflicted party to give meaning and significance to the marriage he or she contracted. Furthermore, the psychological illness and its root cause must have been there from the inception of the marriage. From these requirements arise the concept that Article 36 of the Family Code does not really dissolve a marriage; it simply recognizes that there never was any marriage in the first place because the affliction – already then existing – was so grave and permanent as to deprive the afflicted party of awareness of the duties and responsibilities of the matrimonial bond he or she was to assume or had assumed.[14]

In the present case and guided by these standards, we find the totality of the petitioner’s evidence to be insufficient to prove that Teresita was psychologically incapacitated to perform her duties as a wife. As already mentioned, the evidence presented consisted of the testimonies of Ricardo and Dr. Albaran, and the latter’s psychological evaluation of Ricardo and Richardson from where she derived a psychological evaluation of Teresita.

a. Dr. Albaran’s psychological evaluation and testimony

Dr. Albaran concluded in her psychological evaluation that Teresita suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder that rendered her psychologically incapacitated to assume essential marital obligations. To support her findings and conclusion, she banked on the statements told to her by Ricardo and Richardson, which she narrated in her evaluation. Apparently relying on the same basis, Dr. Albaran added that Teresita’s disorder manifested during her early adulthood and is grave and incurable.

To say the least, we are greatly disturbed by the kind of testimony and evaluation that, in this case, became the basis for the conclusion that no marriage really took place because of the psychological incapacity of one of the parties at the time of marriage.

We are in no way convinced that a mere narration of the statements of Ricardo and Richardson, coupled with the results of the psychological tests administered only on Ricardo, without more, already constitutes sufficient basis for the conclusion that Teresita suffered from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. This Court has long been negatively critical in considering psychological evaluations, presented in evidence, derived solely from one-sided sources, particularly from the spouse seeking the nullity of the marriage.

In So v. Valera,[15] the Court considered the psychologist’s testimony and conclusions to be insufficiently in-depth and comprehensive to warrant the finding of respondent’s psychological incapacity because the facts, on which the conclusions were based, were all derived from the petitioner’s statements whose bias in favor of his cause cannot be discounted. In another case, Padilla-Rumbaua v. Rumbaua,[16] the Court declared that while the various tests administered on the petitioner-wife could have been used as a fair gauge to assess her own psychological condition, this same statement could not be made with respect to the respondent-husband’s psychological condition. To our mind, conclusions and generalizations about Teresita’s psychological condition, based solely on information fed by Ricardo, are not any different in kind from admitting hearsay evidence as proof of the truthfulness of the content of such evidence.[17]

To be sure, we have recognized that the law does not require that the allegedly incapacitated spouse be personally examined by a physician or by a psychologist as a condition sine qua non for the declaration of nullity of marriage under Article 36 of the Family Code.[18] This recognition, however, does not signify that the evidence, we shall favorably appreciate, should be any less than the evidence that an Article 36 case, by its nature, requires.

Our recognition simply means that the requirements for nullity outlined in Santos and Molina need not necessarily come from the allegedly incapacitated spouse. In other words, it is still essential – although from sources other than the respondent spouse – to show his or her personality profile, or its approximation, at the time of marriage; the root cause of the inability to appreciate the essential obligations of marriage; and the gravity, permanence and incurability of the condition.

Other than from the spouses, such evidence can come from persons intimately related to them, such as relatives, close friends or even family doctors or lawyers who could testify on the allegedly incapacitated spouse’s condition at or about the time of marriage, or to subsequent occurring events that trace their roots to the incapacity already present at the time of marriage.

In the present case, the only other party outside of the spouses who was ever asked to give statements for purposes of Teresita’s psychological evaluation was Richardson, the spouses’ eldest son who would not have been very reliable as a witness in an Article 36 case because he could not have been there when the spouses were married and could not have been expected to know what was happening between his parents until long after his birth.

We confirm the validity of this observation from a reading of the summary of Richardson’s interview with the pyschologist: Richardson’s statement occupied a mere one paragraph (comprising eleven sentences) in the psychological evaluation and merely recited isolated instances of his parents fighting over the foreclosure of their house, his father’s alleged womanizing, and their differences in religion (Ricardo is a Catholic, while Teresita is a Mormon).[19]

We find nothing unusual in these recited marital incidents to indicate that Teresita suffered from some psychological disorder as far back as the time of her marriage to Ricardo, nor do we find these fights to be indicative of problems traceable to any basic psychological disorder existing at the time of marriage. For one, these points of dispute are not uncommon in a marriage and relate essentially to the usual roots of marital problems – finances, fidelity and religion. The psychologist, too, never delved into the relationship between mother and son except to observe their estranged relationship due to a previous argument – a money problem involving Ricardo’s financial remittances to the family. To state the obvious, the psychologist’s evaluation never explained how the recited incidents, made by one who was not even born at the time of the spouses’ marriage, showed a debilitating psychological incapacity already existing at that time.

Of more serious consequence, fatal to Ricardo’s cause, is the failure of Dr. Albaran’s psychological evaluation to fully explain the details – i.e., the what, how, when, where and since when – of Teresita’s alleged Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It seems to us that, with hardly any supporting evidence to fall back on, Dr. Albaran simply stated out of the blue that Teresita’s personality disorder manifested itself in early adulthood, presuming thereby that the incapacity should have been there when the marriage was celebrated. Dr. Albaran never explained, too, the incapacitating nature of Teresita’s alleged personality disorder, and how it related to the essential marital obligations that she failed to assume. Neither did the good doctor adequately explain in her psychological evaluation how grave and incurable was Teresita’s psychological disorder.

Dr. Albaran’s testimony at the trial did not improve the evidentiary situation for Ricardo, as it still failed to provide the required insights that would have remedied the evidentiary gaps in her written psychological evaluation. In fact, Dr. Albaran’s cross-examination only made the evidentiary situation worse when she admitted that she had difficulty pinpointing the root cause of Teresita’s personality disorder, due to the limited information she gathered from Ricardo and Richardson regarding Teresita’s personal and family history. To directly quote from the records, Dr. Albaran confessed this limitation when she said that “[t]he only data that I have is that, the respondent seem [sic] to have grown from a tumultuous family and this could be perhaps the [sic] contributory to the development of the personality disorder.”[20] Dr. Albaran’s obvious uncertainty in her assessment only proves our point that a complete personality profile of the spouse, alleged to be psychologically incapacitated, could not be determined from meager information coming only from a biased source.

b. Ricardo’s testimony

Ricardo testified in court that Teresita was a squanderer and an adulteress. We do not, however, find Ricardo’s characterizations of his wife sufficient to constitute psychological incapacity under Article 36 of the Family Code. Article 36 contemplates downright incapacity or inability to take cognizance of and to assume basic marital obligations. 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 on some debilitating psychological condition or illness.[21]

Ricardo’s testimony merely established that Teresita was irresponsible in managing the family’s finances by not paying their rent, utility bills and other financial obligations. Teresita’s spendthrift attitude, according to Ricardo, even resulted in the loss of the house and lot intended to be their family residence. This kind of irresponsibility, however, does not rise to the level of a psychological incapacity required under Article 36 of the Family Code. At most, Teresita’s mismanagement of the family’s finances merely constituted difficulty, refusal or neglect, during the marriage, in the handling of funds intended for the family’s financial support.

Teresita’s alleged infidelity, even if true, likewise does not constitute psychological incapacity under Article 36 of the Family Code. In order for sexual infidelity to constitute as psychological incapacity, the respondent’s unfaithfulness must be established as a manifestation of a disordered personality, completely preventing the respondent from discharging the essential obligations of the marital state;[22] there must be proof of a natal or supervening disabling factor that effectively incapacitated her from complying with the obligation to be faithful to her spouse.[23]

In our view, Ricardo utterly failed in his testimony to prove that Teresita suffered from a disordered personality of this kind. Even Ricardo’s added testimony, relating to rumors of Teresita’s dates with other men and her pregnancy by another man, would not fill in the deficiencies we have observed, given the absence of an adverse integral element and link to Teresita’s allegedly disordered personality.

Moreover, Ricardo failed to prove that Teresita’s alleged character traits already existed at the inception of their marriage. Article 36 of the Family Code requires that the psychological incapacity must exist at the time of the celebration of the marriage, even if such incapacity becomes manifest only after its solemnization.[24] In the absence of this element, a marriage cannot be annulled under Article 36.

Root cause of the psychological incapacity needs to be
alleged in a petition for annulment under Article 36 of
the Family Code

Citing Barcelona,[25] Ricardo defended the RTC decision, alleging that the root cause in a petition for annulment under Article 36 of the Family Code is no longer necessary. We find this argument completely at variance with Ricardo’s main argument against the assailed CA decision – i.e., that the RTC, in its decision, discussed thoroughly the root cause of Teresita’s psychological incapacity as Narcissistic Personality Disorder. These conflicting positions, notwithstanding, we see the need to address this issue to further clarify our statement in Barcelona, which Ricardo misquoted and misinterpreted to support his present petition that “since the new Rules do not require the petition to allege expert opinion on the psychological incapacity, it follows that there is also no need to allege in the petition the root cause of the psychological incapacity.”[26]

In Barcelona, the petitioner assailed the bid for annulment for its failure to state the “root cause” of the respondent’s alleged psychological incapacity. The Court resolved this issue, ruling that the petition sufficiently stated a cause of action because the petitioner – instead of stating a specific root cause – clearly described the physical manifestations indicative of the psychological incapacity. This, the Court found to be sufficiently compliant with the first requirement in the Molina case – that the “root cause” of the psychological incapacity be alleged in an Article 36 petition.

Thus, contrary to Ricardo’s position, Barcelona does not do away with the “root cause” requirement. The ruling simply means that the statement of the root cause does not need to be in medical terms or be technical in nature, as the root causes of many psychological disorders are still unknown to science. It is enough to merely allege the physical manifestations constituting the root cause of the psychological incapacity. Section 2, paragraph (d) of the Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages (Rules)[27] in fact provides:

SEC. 2. Petition for declaration of absolute nullity of void marriages.

x x x x

(d) What to allege.­ – A petition under Article 36 of the Family Code shall specially allege the complete facts showing that either or both parties were psychologically incapacitated from complying with the essential marital obligations of marriages 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.

As we explained in Barcelona, the requirement alleging the root cause in a petition for annulment under Article 36 of the Family Code was not dispensed with by the adoption of the Rules. What the Rules really eliminated was the need for an expert opinion to prove the root cause of the psychological incapacity. The Court further held that the Rules, being procedural in nature, apply only to actions pending and unresolved at the time of their adoption.

To sum up, Ricardo failed to discharge the burden of proof to show that Teresita suffered from psychological incapacity; thus, his petition for annulment of marriage must fail. Ricardo merely established that Teresita had been remiss in her duties as a wife for being irresponsible in taking care of their family’s finances – a fault or deficiency that does not amount to the psychological incapacity that Article 36 of the Family Code requires. We reiterate that irreconcilable differences, sexual infidelity or perversion, emotional immaturity and irresponsibility, and the like, do not by themselves warrant a finding of psychological incapacity, as the same may only be due to a person’s difficulty, refusal or neglect to undertake the obligations of marriage that is not rooted in some psychological illness that Article 36 of the Family Code addresses.[28]

WHEREFORE, premises considered, we DENY the petition and AFFIRM the decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 71882. Costs against the petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

Carpio Morales, (Chairperson), Bersamin, *Abad, and Villarama, Jr., JJ., concur.

* Designated additional Member of the Third Division, in view of the retirement of Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, per Special Order No. 843 dated May 17, 2010.

  • [1] Rollo, pp. 18-29.
  • [2] RTC rollo, pp. 1-6.
  • [3] Rollo, p. 19.
  • [4] RTC rollo, p. 4.
  • [5] Id. at 5.
  • [6] Id. at 51.
  • [7] 335 Phil. 664 (1997).
  • [8] Rollo, pp. 43-52.
  • [9] Id. at 58-62.
  • [10] G.R. No. 130087, September 24, 2003, 412 SCRA 41, 49-50.
  • [11] 310 Phil. 21 (1995).
  • [12] Id. at 40.
  • [13] Republic v. Court of Appeals and Molina, supra note 7, at 676-678.
  • [14] See So v. Valera, G.R. No. 150677, June 5, 2009, 588 SCRA 319; Padilla-Rumbaua v. Rumbaua, G.R. No. 166738, August 14, 2009, 596 SCRA 157.
  • [15] Supra note 14.
  • [16] Supra note 14.
  • [17] Ibid.
  • [18] Marcos v. Marcos, G.R. No. 136490, October 19, 2000, 343 SCRA 755.
  • [19] RTC rollo, p. 50.
  • [20] Id. at 157.
  • [21] Navales v. Navales, G.R. No. 167523, June 27, 2008, 556 SCRA 272.
  • [22] Santos v. Santos, supra note 11; Hernandez v. Court of Appeals, 377 Phil. 919, 931-932 (1999); Dedel v. Court of Appeals, 466 Phil. 226, 233-232 (2004).
  • [23] Bier v. Bier, G.R. No. 166562, March 31, 2009.
  • [24] Santos v. Court of Appeals, et al., supra note 11.
  • [25] Supra note 10.
  • [26] Id. at 50.
  • [27] Effective March 15, 2003.
  • [28] Supra note 21, at 288.
Categories
Art. 36 Family Code Psychological incapacity

What is Psychological Incapacity?

Habitual drunkenness, gambling and failure to find a job, while undoubtedly negative traits, are nowhere nearly the equivalent of psychological incapacity, in the absence of incontrovertible proof that these are manifestations of an incapacity rooted in some debilitating psychological condition or illness. Suazo v. Suazo; Singson vs. Singson, G.R. No. 210766, Jan. 08, 2018.

‘Psychological incapacity,’ as a ground to nullify a marriage under Article 36 of the Family Code, should refer to no less than a mental – not merely physical – incapacity that causes a party to be truly incognitive of the basic marital covenants that concomitantly must be assumed and discharged by the parties to the marriage which, as so expressed in Article 68 of the Family Code, among others, include their mutual obligations to live together, observe love respect and fidelity and render help and support. Singson vs. Singson, G.R. No. 210766, Jan. 08, 2018.

Psychological incapacity must be characterized by: (a) gravity (i.e., it must be grave and serious such that the party would be incapable of carrying out the ordinary duties required in a marriage); (b) juridical antecedence (i.e., it must be rooted in the history of the party antedating the marriage, although the overt manifestations may emerge only after the marriage); and (c) incurability (i.e., it must be incurable, or even if it were otherwise, the cure would be beyond the means of the party involved). Singson vs. Singson, G.R. No. 210766, Jan. 08, 2018.

“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.” Republic v. Court of Appeals, 698 Phil. 257, 265 (2012). Singson vs. Singson, G.R. No. 210766, Jan. 08, 2018.

The parties’ child is not a very reliable witness in an Article 36 case as “he could not have been there when the spouses were married and could not have been expected to know what was happening between his parents until long after his birth.” Toring v. Toring, 640 Phil. 434, 452 (2010). Singson vs. Singson, G.R. No. 210766, Jan. 08, 2018.

“There must be proof of a natal or supervening disabling factor that effectively incapacitated the respondent spouse from complying with the basic marital obligations x x x.” Republic v. Court of Appeals  

“A cause has to be shown and linked with the manifestations of the psychological incapacity.”[51] Republic v. Galang[51]

To support her Article 36 petition, petitioner ought to have adduced convincing, competent and trustworthy evidence to establish the cause of respondent’s alleged psychological incapacity and that the same antedated their marriage.[57] Republic v. Galang; Republic v. Pangasinan[57] 

See the complete decision in the case of Singson vs. Singson, G.R. No. 210766, Jan. 08, 2018.

Categories
2012 SC Decisions Art. 36 Family Code

Psychological Incapacity – Family Code of the Philippines – Articles 36 – 2012 SC Decisions – 8Lawyers.Com

Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

FIRST DIVISION
G.R. No. 159594
November 12, 2012

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner, vs. THE HON. COURT OF APPEALS (NINTH DIVISION), AND EDUARDO C. DE QUINTOS, .JR., Respondents.

D E C I S I O N

BERSAMIN, J.:

The State appeals the decision promulgated on July 30, 2003,[1] whereby the Court of Appeals (CA) affirmed the declaration by the Regional Trial Court, Branch 38, in Lingayen, Pangasinan of the nullity of the marriage between respondent Eduardo De Quintos, Jr. (Eduardo) and Catalina Delos Santos-De Quintos (Catalina) based on the latter’s psychological incapacity under Article 36 of the Family Code.

We find the State’s appeal to be meritorious. Hence, we uphold once again the validity of a marriage on the ground that the alleged psychological incapacity was not sufficiently established.

Antecedents

Eduardo and Catalina were married on March 16, 1977 in civil rites solemnized by the Municipal Mayor of Lingayen, Pangasinan.[2] The couple was not blessed with a child due to Catalina’s hysterectomy following her second miscarriage.[3]

On April 6, 1998, Eduardo filed a petition for the declaration of nullity of their marriage,[4] citing Catalina’s 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.[5] After conducting an investigation, the public prosecutor determined that there was no collusion between Eduardo and Catalina.[6]

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.[7]

Eduardo presented the results of the neuro-psychiatric evaluation conducted by Dr. Annabelle L. Reyes, a psychiatrist. Based on the tests she administered on Catalina,[8] Dr. Reyes opined that Catalina exhibited traits of Borderline Personality Disorder that was no longer treatable. Dr. Reyes found that Catalina’s disorder was mainly characterized by her immaturity that rendered her psychologically incapacitated to meet her marital obligations.[9]

Catalina did not appear during trial but submitted her Answer/Manifestation,[10] whereby she admitted her psychological incapacity, but denied leaving the conjugal home without Eduardo’s consent and flirting with different men. She insisted that she had only one live-in partner; and that she would not give up her share in the conjugal residence because she intended to live there or to receive her share should the residence be sold.[11]

Ruling of the RTC

The RTC granted the petition on August 9, 2000, decreeing:

WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing considerations, this Honorable Court finds for the plaintiff and judgment is hereby rendered:

  1. Declaring the marriage between Eduardo C. de Quintos and Catalina delos Santos de Quintos, a nullity under Article 36 of the Family Code, as amended.
  2. Ordering the Municipal Civil Registrar of Lingayen,Pangasinan to cancel the marriage of the parties from the Civil Register of Lingayen, Pangasinan in accordance with this decision.

SO ORDERED.[12]

The RTC ruled that Catalina’s infidelity, her spending more time with friends rather than with her family, and her incessant gambling constituted psychological incapacity that affected her duty to comply with the essential obligations of marriage. It held that considering that the matter of determining whether a party was psychologically incapacitated was best left to experts like Dr. Reyes, the results of the neuro-psychiatric evaluation by Dr. Reyes was the best evidence of Catalina’s psychological incapacity.[13]

Ruling of the CA

On appeal, the State raised the lone error that:

THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN DECLARING THE PARTIES’ MARRIAGE NULL AND VOID, DEFENDANT CATALINA DELOS SANTOS-DE QUINTOS’ PSYCHOLOGICAL INCAPACITY NOT HAVING BEEN PROVEN TO EXIST.

On July 30, 2003, the CA promulgated its decision affirming the judgment of the RTC. The CA concluded that Eduardo proved Catalina’s psychological incapacity, observing that the results of the neuro-psychiatric evaluation conducted by Dr. Reyes showed that Catalina had been “mentally or physically ill to the extent that she could not have known her marital obligations;” and that Catalina’s psychological incapacity had been medically identified, sufficiently proven, duly alleged in the complaint and clearly explained by the trial court.

Issue

In this appeal, the State, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), urges that the CA gravely erred because:

I

THERE IS NO SHOWING THAT CATALINA’S ALLEGED PERSONALITY TRAITS ARE CONSTITUTIVE OF PSYCHOLOGICAL INCAPACITY EXISTING AT THE TIME OF MARRIAGE CELEBRATION; NOR ARE THEY OF THE NATURE CONTEMPLATED BY ARTICLE 36 OF THE FAMILY CODE.

II

MARITAL UNFAITHFULNESS OF THE [sic] CATALINA WAS NOT SHOWN TO BE A SYMPTOM OF PSYCHOLOGICAL INCAPACITY.

III

ABANDONMENT OF ONE’S FAMILY IS ONLY A GROUND FOR LEGAL SEPARATION.

IV

GAMBLING HABIT OF CATALINA NOT LIKEWISE ESTABLISHED TO BE A SYMPTOM OF PSYCHOLOGICAL INCAPACITY.

V

THE NEUROPSYCHIATRIC EVALUATION AND TESTIMONY OF DR. ANNABELLE REYES FAILED TO ESTABLISH THE CAUSE OF CATALINA’S INCAPACITY AND PROVE THAT IT EXISTED AT THE INCEPTION OF MARRIAGE, IS GRAVE AND INCURABLE.14

The OSG argues that the findings and conclusions of the RTC and the CA did not conform to the guidelines laid down by the Court in Republic v. Court of Appeals, (Molina);15 and that Catalina’s refusal to do household chores, and her failure to take care of her husband and their adopted daughter were not “defects” of a psychological nature warranting the declaration of nullity of their marriage, but mere indications of her difficulty, refusal or neglect to perform her marital obligations.

The OSG further argues that Catalina’s infidelity, gambling habits and abandonment of the conjugal home were not grounds under Article 36 of the Family Code; that there was no proof that her infidelity and gambling had occurred prior to the marriage, while her abandonment would only be a ground for legal separation under Article 55(10) of the Family Code; that the neuro-psychiatric evaluation by Dr. Reyes did not sufficiently establish Catalina’s psychological incapacity; that Dr. Reyes was not shown to have exerted effort to look into Catalina’s past life, attitudes, habits and character as to be able to explain her alleged psychological incapacity; that there was not even a finding of the root cause of her alleged psychological incapacity; and that there appeared to be a collusion between the parties inasmuch as Eduardo admitted during the trial that he had given P50,000.00 to Catalina in exchange for her non-appearance in the trial.

The OSG postulated that Catalina’s unsupportive in-laws and Eduardo’s overseas deployment that had required him to be away most of the time created the strain in the couple’s relationship and forced her to seek her friends’ emotional support and company; and that her ambivalent attitude towards their adopted daughter was attributable to her inability to bear children of her own.

Issue

The issue is whether there was sufficient evidence warranting the declaration of the nullity of Catalina’s marriage to Eduardo based on her psychological incapacity under Article 36 of the Family Code.

Ruling

We grant the petition for review.

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.16

In Santos v. Court of Appeals,17 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,18 viz:

(1) 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. x x x.

x x x x

(2) 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. x x x.

x x x x

(3) The incapacity must be proven to be existing at “the time of the celebration” of the marriage. x x x.

x x x x

(4) Such incapacity must also be shown to be medically or clinically permanent or incurable. x x x.

x x x x

(5) 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. x x x.

x x x x

(6) 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 non-complied marital obligation(s) must also be stated in the petition, proven by evidence and included in the text of the decision.

(7) 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. x x x.

x x x x

(8) The trial court must order the prosecuting attorney or fiscal and the Solicitor General to appear as counsel for the state. x x x.19

The foregoing pronouncements in Santos and Molina have remained as the precedential guides in deciding cases grounded on the psychological incapacity of a spouse. But the Court has declared the existence or absence of the psychological incapacity based strictly on the facts of each case and not on a priori assumptions, predilections or generalizations.20 Indeed, the incapacity should be established by the totality of evidence presented during trial,21 making it incumbent upon the petitioner to sufficiently prove the existence of the psychological incapacity.22

Eduardo defends the rulings of the RTC and the CA, insisting that they thereby explained the gravity and severity of Catalina’s psychological incapacity that had existed even prior to the celebration of their marriage.23

We are not convinced. Both lower courts did not exact a compliance with the requirement of sufficiently explaining the gravity, root cause and incurability of Catalina’s purported psychological incapacity. Rather, they were liberal in their appreciation of the scanty evidence that Eduardo submitted to establish the incapacity.

To start with, Catalina’s supposed behavior (i.e., her frequent gossiping with neighbors, leaving the house without Eduardo’s consent, refusal to do the household chores and to take care of their adopted daughter, and gambling), were not even established. Eduardo presented no other witnesses to corroborate his allegations on such behavior. At best, his testimony was self-serving and would have no serious value as evidence upon such a serious matter that was submitted to a court of law.

Secondly, both lower courts noticeably relied heavily on the results of the neuro-psychological evaluation by Dr. Reyes despite the paucity of factual foundation to support the claim of Catalina’s psychological incapacity. In particular, they relied on the following portion of the report of Dr. Reyes, to wit:

REMARKS AND RECOMMENDATIONS:

Catalina is exhibiting traits of a borderline personality. This is characterized, mainly by immaturity in several aspects of the personality. One aspect is in the area of personal relationships, where a person cannot really come up with what is expected in a relationship that involves commitments. They are generally in and out of relationships, as they do not have the patience to sustain this [sic] ties. Their behavior is like that of a child who has to be attended to as they might end up doing things which are often regrettable. These people however usually do not feel remorse for their wrongdoings. They do not seem to learn from their mistakes, and they have the habit of repeating these mistakes to the detriment of their own lives and that of their families. Owing to these characteristics, people with these pattern of traits cannot be expected to have lasting and successful relationships as required in marriage. It is expected that even with future relationships, things will not work out.

Families of these people usually reveal that parents relationship are not also that ideal. If this be the background of the developing child, it is likely that his or her relationships would also end up as such.

x x x x

With all these collateral information being considered and a longitudinal history of defendant made, it is being concluded that she was not able to come up with the minimum expected of her as a wife. Her behavior and attitude before and after the marriage is highly indicative of a very immature and childish person, rendering her psychologically incapacitated to live up and meet the responsibilities required in a commitment like marriage. Catalina miserably failed to fulfill her role as wife and mother, rendering her incapacitated to comply with her duties inherent in marriage. In the same vein, it cannot be expected that this attitude and behavior of defendant will still change because her traits have developed through the years and already ingrained within her.24

Yet, the report was ostensibly vague about the root cause, gravity and incurability of Catalina’s supposed psychological incapacity. Nor was the testimony given in court by Dr. Reyes a source of vital information that the report missed out on. Aside from rendering a brief and general description of the symptoms of borderline personality disorder, both the report and court testimony of Dr. Reyes tendered no explanation on the root cause that could have brought about such behavior on the part of Catalina. They did not specify which of Catalina’s various acts or omissions typified the conduct of a person with borderline personality, and did not also discuss the gravity of her behavior that translated to her inability to perform her basic marital duties. Dr. Reyes only established that Catalina was childish and immature, and that her childishness and immaturity could no longer be treated due to her having already reached an age “beyond maturity.”25

Thirdly, we have said that the expert evidence presented in cases of declaration of nullity of marriage based on psychological incapacity presupposes a thorough and in-depth assessment of the parties by the psychologist or expert to make a conclusive diagnosis of a grave, severe and incurable presence of psychological incapacity.26 We have explained this need in Lim v. Sta. Cruz-Lim,27 stating:

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.28

But Dr. Reyes had only one interview with Catalina, and did not personally seek out and meet with other persons, aside from Eduardo, who could have shed light on and established the conduct of the spouses before and during the marriage. For that reason, Dr. Reyes’ report lacked depth and objectivity, a weakness that removed the necessary support for the conclusion that the RTC and the CA reached about Catalina’s psychological incapacity to perform her marital duties.

Under the circumstances, the report and court testimony by Dr. Reyes did not present the gravity and incurability of Catalina’s psychological incapacity. There was, to start with, no evidence showing the root cause of her alleged borderline personality disorder and that such disorder had existed prior to her marriage. We have repeatedly pronounced that the root cause of the psychological incapacity must be identified as a psychological illness, with its incapacitating nature fully explained and established by the totality of the evidence presented during trial.29

What we can gather from the scant evidence that Eduardo adduced was Catalina’s immaturity and apparent refusal to perform her marital obligations. However, her immaturity alone did not constitute psychological incapacity.30 To rule that such immaturity amounted to psychological incapacity, it must be shown that the immature acts were manifestations of a disordered personality that made the spouse completely unable to discharge the essential obligations of the marital state, which inability was merely due to her youth or immaturity.31

Fourthly, we held in Suazo v. Suazo32 that there must be proof of a natal or supervening disabling factor that effectively incapacitated the respondent spouse from complying with the basic marital obligations, viz:

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 respondent’s 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 person’s refusal or unwillingness to assume the essential obligations of marriage.

The only fact established here, which Catalina even admitted in her Answer, was her abandonment of the conjugal home to live with another man. Yet, abandonment was not one of the grounds for the nullity of marriage under the Family Code. It did not also constitute psychological incapacity, it being instead a ground for legal separation under Article 55(10) of the Family Code. On the other hand, her sexual infidelity was not a valid ground for the nullity of marriage under Article 36 of the Family Code, considering that there should be a showing that such marital infidelity was a manifestation of a disordered personality that made her completely unable to discharge the essential obligations of marriage.33 Needless to state, Eduardo did not adduce such evidence, rendering even his claim of her infidelity bereft of factual and legal basis.

Lastly, we do not concur with the assertion by the OSG that Eduardo colluded with Catalina. The assertion was based on his admission during trial that he had paid her the amount of P50,000.00 as her share in the conjugal home in order to convince her not to oppose his petition or to bring any action on her part,34 to wit:

CROSS-EXAMINATION BY FISCAL MUERONG

Q Mr. de Quintos, also during the first part of the hearing, your wife, the herein defendant, Catalina delos Santos-de Quintos, has been religiously attending the hearing, but lately, I noticed that she is no longer attending and represented by counsel, did you talk to your wife?
A No, sir.

Q And you find it more convenient that it would be better for both of you, if, she will not attend the hearing of this case you filed against her, is it not?
A No, sir. I did not.

Q But, am I correct, Mr. de Quintos, that you and your wife had an agreement regarding this case?
A None, sir.

Q And you were telling me something about an agreement that you will pay her an amount of P50,000.00, please tell us, what is that agreement that you have to pay her P50,000.00?
A Regarding our conjugal properties, sir.

Q Why, do you have conjugal properties that you both or acquired at the time of your marriage?
A Yes, sir.

Q And why did you agree that you have to give her P50,000.00?
A It is because we bought a lot and constructed a house thereat, that is why I agreed, sir.

Q Is it not a fact, Mr. witness, that your wife does not oppose this petition for declaration of marriage which you filed against her?
A She does not opposed [sic], sir.

Q As a matter of fact, the only thing that she is concern [sic] about this case is the division of your conjugal properties?
A Yes, sir.

Q That is why you also agreed to give her P50,000.00 as her share of your conjugal properties, so that she will not pursue whatever she wanted to pursue with regards to the case you filed against her, is that correct?
A Yes, sir.

Q And you already gave her that amount of P50,000.00, Mr. witness?
A Yes, sir.

Q And because she has already gotten her share of P50,000.00 that is the reason why she is no longer around here?
A Yes sir, it could be.35

Verily, the payment to Catalina could not be a manifest sign of a collusion between her and Eduardo.1âwphi1 To recall, she did not interpose her objection to the petition to the point of conceding her psychological incapacity, but she nonetheless made it clear enough that she was unwilling to forego her share in the conjugal house. The probability that Eduardo willingly gave her the amount of P50,000.00 as her share in the conjugal asset out of his recognition of her unquestionable legal entitlement to such share was very high, so that whether or not he did so also to encourage her to stick to her previously announced stance of not opposing the petition for nullity of the marriage should by no means be of any consequence in determining the issue of collusion between the spouses.

In fine, given the insufficiency of the evidence proving the psychological incapacity of Catalina, we cannot but resolve in favor of the existence and continuation of the marriage and against its dissolution and nullity.36

WHEREFORE, we GRANT the petition for review on certiorari; SET ASIDE the decision the Court of Appeals promulgated on July 30, 2003; and DISMISS the petition for the declaration of nullity of marriage filed under Article 36 of the Family Code for lack of merit.

Costs to be paid by the respondent.

SO ORDERED.

LUCAS P. BERSAMIN
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO
Chief Justice

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO
Associate Justice MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.
Associate Justice
BIENVENIDO L. REYES
Associate Justice

C E R T I F I C A T I O N

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court’s Division.

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO
Chief Justice

Footnotes

  • [1] Rollo, pp. 51-57; penned by Associate Justice B.A. Adefuin-Dela Cruz (retired), with Associate Justices Perlita J. Tria Tirona (retired) and Hakim S. Abdulwahid, concurring.
  • [2] Exhibit “A”, Exhibit Folder, p. 1.
  • [3] Exhibit Folder, p. 2.
  • [4] Records, pp. 2-4.
  • [5] Id. at 10-11.
  • [6] Id. at 14-15.
  • [7] TSN dated December 7, 1998, pp. 4-5.
  • [8] Dr. Reyes administered the following tests, namely:- Purdue Non Verbal Test, Draw-A-Person Test, House-Tree-Person Test, Sack’s Sentence Completion Test, and Bender Visual Motor Gestalt Test (see Exhibit “B”, Exhibit Folder, p. 5).
  • [9] TSN dated January 18, 1999, pp. 3-4.
  • [10] Records, pp. 10-11.
  • [11] Id. at 10-11.
  • [12] Id. at 68.
  • [13] Id. at 66-67.
  • [14] Rollo, pp. 22-23.
  • [15] G.R. No. 108763, February 13, 1997, 268 SCRA 198.
  • [16] Yambao v. Republic, G.R. No. 184063, January 24, 2011, 640 SCRA 355, 367.
  • [17] G.R. No. 112019, January 4, 1995, 240 SCRA 20.
  • [18] Supra note 15.
  • [19] Id. at 209-213.
  • [20] Republic v. Dagdag, G.R. No. 109975, February 9, 2001, 351 SCRA 425, 431.
  • [21] Bier v. Bier, G.R. No. 173294, February 27, 2008, 547 SCRA 123, 132.
  • [22] Antonio v. Reyes, G.R. No. 155800, March 10, 2006, 484 SCRA 353, 376.
  • [23] Rollo, p. 62.
  • [24] Exhibit Folder, pp. 4, 6.
  • [25] TSN dated January 18, 1999, p. 7.
  • [26] Marable v. Marable, G.R. No. 178741, January 17, 2011, 639 SCRA 557, 567; Suazo v.Suazo, G.R. No. 164493, March 12, 2010, 615 SCRA 154, 176.
  • [27] G.R. No. 176464, February 4, 2010, 611 SCRA 569.
  • [28] Id. at 585.
  • [29] Ligeralde v. Patalinghug, G.R. No. 168796, April 15, 2010, 618 SCRA 315, 321-322.
  • [30] Republic v. Galang, G.R. No. 168335, June 6, 2011, 650 SCRA 524, 540; Navarro, Jr. v. Cecilio-Navarro, G.R. No. 162049, April 13, 2007, 521 SCRA 121, 130.
  • [31] Dedel v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 151867, January 29, 2004, 421 SCRA 461, 466.
  • [32] Supra note 26, at 174-175.
  • [33] Villalon v. Villalon, G.R. No. 167206, November 18, 2005, 475 SCRA 572, 582.
  • [34] TSN dated December 14, 1998.
  • [35] Id. at 3-4.
  • [36] Alcazar v. Alcazar, G.R. No. 174451, October 13, 2009, 603 SCRA 604, 620.

Categories
Art. 36 Family Code

Who Can File Declaration of Nullity of Marriage?

It is axiomatic that the validity of marriage and the unity of the family are enshrined in our Constitution and statutory laws, hence any doubts attending the same are to be resolved in favor of the continuance and validity of the marriage and that the burden of proving the nullity of the same rests at all times upon the petitioner. (Singson vs. Singson, G.R. No. 210766, Jan. 08, 2018)

Who has the burden of proving the nullity? Is this a Void marriage? See the Complete Decision: Singson vs. Singson, G.R. No. 210766, Jan. 08, 2018. This is another case of Psychological Incapacity.

Categories
2018 SC Decisions Art. 41 Article 390 Presumptions of Death Article 391 Presumptions of Death Civil Code of the Philippines Family Code P.D. No. 1638 PVAO AFP Benefits

What is Presumptive death? – To Claim for the Benefit Under P.D. No. 1638 – 8Lawyers.Com

Presumptive death ––

  • The petition for the declaration of presumptive death filed by petitioner is not an action that would have warranted the application of Article 41 of the FC because petitioner was not seeking to remarry. A reading of Article 41 of the FC shows that the presumption of death established therein is only applicable for the purpose of contracting a valid subsequent marriage under the said law.
  • Given that her petition for the declaration of presumptive death was not filed for the purpose of remarriage, petitioner was clearly relying on the presumption of death under either Article 390 or Article 391 of the Civil Code[11] as the basis of her petition. Articles 390 and 391 of the Civil Code express the general rule regarding presumptions of death for any civil purpose.

2018 Apr 25
G.R. No. 230751
3rd Division

ESTRELLITA TADEO-MATIAS, PETITIONER, V. REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, RESPONDENT.

D E C I S I O N

VELASCO JR., J.:

This is an appeal[1] assailing the Decision[2] dated November 28, 2016 and Resolution[3] dated March 20, 2017 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 129467.

The facts are as follows:

On April 10, 2012, petitioner Estrellita Tadeo-Matias filed before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Tarlac City a petition for the declaration of presumptive death of her husband, Wilfredo N. Matias (Wilfredo).[4] The allegations of the petition read:

1. [Petitioner] is of legal age, married to [Wilfredo], Filipino and curr[e]ntly a resident of 106 Molave street, Zone B, San Miguel, Tarlac City;

2. [Wilfredo] is of legal age, a member of the Philippine Constabulary and was assigned in Arayat, Pampanga since August 24, 1967[;]

3. The [petitioner and [Wilfredo] entered into a lawful marriage on January 7, 1968 in Imbo, Anda, Pangasinan x x x;

4. After the solemnization of their marriage vows, the couple put up their conjugal home at 106 Molave street, Zone B, San Miguel, Tarlac City;

5. [Wilfredo] continued to serve the Philippines and on September 15, 1979, he set out from their conjugal home to again serve as a member of the Philippine Constabulary;

6. [Wilfredo] never came back from his tour of duty in Arayat, Pampanga since 1979 and he never made contact or communicated with the [p]etitioner nor to his relatives;

7. That according to the service record of [Wilfredo] issued by the National Police Commission, [Wilfredo] was already declared missing since 1979 x x x;

8. Petitioner constantly pestered the then Philippine Constabulary for any news regarding [her] beloved husband [Wilfredo], but the Philippine Constabulary had no answer to his whereabouts, [neither] did they have any news of him going AWOL, all they know was he was assigned to a place frequented by the New People’s Army;

9. [W]eeks became years and years became decades, but the [p]etitioner never gave up hope, and after more than three (3) decades of waiting, the [petitioner is still hopeful, but the times had been tough on her, specially with a meager source of income coupled with her age, it is now necessary for her to request for the benefits that rightfully belong to her in order to survive;

10. [T]hat one of the requirements to attain the claim of benefits is for a proof of death or at least a declaration of presumptive death by the Honorable Court;

11. That this petition is being filed not for any other purpose but solely to claim for the benefit under P.D. No. 1638 as amended.

The petition was docketed as Spec. Proc. No. 4850 and was raffled to Branch 65 of the Tarlac City RTC. A copy of the petition was then furnished to the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).

Subsequently, the OSG filed its notice of appearance on behalf of herein respondent Republic of the Philippines (Republic).[5]

On January 15, 2012, the RTC issued a Decision[6] in Spec. Proc. No. 4850 granting the petition. The dispositive portion of the Decision reads:[7]

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Court hereby declared (sic) WILFREDO N. MATIAS absent or presumptively dead under Article 41 of the Family Code of the Philippines for purposes of claiming financial benefits due to him as former military officer.

x x x x

SO ORDERED. (Emphasis supplied)

The Republic questioned the decision of the RTC via a petition for certiorari.[8]

On November 28, 2012, the CA rendered a decision granting the certiorari petition of the Republic and setting aside the decision of the RTC. It accordingly disposed:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition for certiorari is GRANTED. The Decision dated January 15, 2012 of the Regional Trial Court, branch 65, Tarlac City, in Special Proceeding no. 4850 is ANNULLED and SET ASIDE, and the petition is DISMISSED.

The CA premised its decision on the following ratiocinations:

1. The RTC erred when it declared Wilfredo presumptively dead on the basis of Article 41 of the Family Code (FC). Article 41 of the FC does not apply to the instant petition as it was clear that petitioner does not seek to remarry. If anything, the petition was invoking the presumption of death established under Articles 390 and 391 of the Civil Code, and not that provided for under Article 41 of the FC.

2. Be that as it may, the petition to declare Wilfredo presumptively dead should have been dismissed by the RTC. The RTC is without authority to take cognizance of a petition whose sole purpose is to have a person declared presumptively dead under either Article 390 or Article 391 of the Civil Code. As been held by jurisprudence, Articles 390 and 391 of the Civil Code merely express rules of evidence that allow a court or a tribunal to presume that a person is dead—which presumption may be invoked in any action or proceeding, but itself cannot be the subject of an independent action or proceeding.

Petitioner moved for reconsideration, but the CA remained steadfast. Hence, this appeal.

Our Ruling

We deny the appeal.

I

The CA was correct. The petition for the declaration of presumptive death filed by the petitioner is not an authorized suit and should have been dismissed by the RTC. The RTC’s decision must, therefore, be set aside.

RTC Erred in Declaring the Presumptive Death of Wilfredo under Article 41 of the FC; Petitioner’s Petition for the Declaration of Presumptive Death Is Not Based on Article 41 of the FC, but on the Civil Code

A conspicuous error in the decision of the RTC must first be addressed.

It can be recalled that the RTC, in the fallo of its January 15, 2012 Decision, granted the petitioner’s petition by declaring Wilfredo presumptively dead “under Article 41 of the FC.” By doing so, the RTC gave the impression that the petition for the declaration of presumptive death filed by petitioner was likewise filed pursuant to Article 41 of the FC.[9] This is wrong.

The petition for the declaration of presumptive death filed by petitioner is not an action that would have warranted the application of Article 41 of the FC because petitioner was not seeking to remarry. A reading of Article 41 of the FC shows that the presumption of death established therein is only applicable for the purpose of contracting a valid subsequent marriage under the said law. Thus:

Art. 41. A marriage contracted by any person during subsistence of a previous marriage shall be null and void, unless before the celebration of the subsequent marriage, the prior spouse had been absent for four consecutive years and the spouse present has a well-founded belief that the absent spouse was already dead. In case of disappearance where there is danger of death under the circumstances set forth in the provisions of Article 391 of the Civil Code, an absence of only two years shall be sufficient.

For the purpose of contracting the subsequent marriage under the preceding paragraph the spouse present must institute a summary proceeding as provided in this Code for the declaration of presumptive death of the absentee, without prejudice to the effect of reappearance of the absent spouse.

Here, petitioner was forthright that she was not seeking the declaration of the presumptive death of Wilfredo as a prerequisite for remarriage. In her petition for the declaration of presumptive death, petitioner categorically stated that the same was filed “not for any other purpose but solely to claim for the benefit under P.D. No. 1638 as amended.”[10]

Given that her petition for the declaration of presumptive death was not filed for the purpose of remarriage, petitioner was clearly relying on the presumption of death under either Article 390 or Article 391 of the Civil Code[11] as the basis of her petition. Articles 390 and 391 of the Civil Code express the general rule regarding presumptions of death for any civil purpose, to wit:

Art. 390. After an absence of seven years, it being unknown whether or not the absentee still lives, he shall be presumed dead for all purposes, except for those of succession.

The absentee shall not be presumed dead for the purpose of opening his succession till after an absence of ten years. If he disappeared after the age of seventy-five years, an absence of five years shall be sufficient in order that his succession may be opened.

Art. 391. The following shall be presumed dead for all purposes, including the division of the estate among the heirs:

(1) A person on board a vessel lost during a sea voyage, or an aeroplane which is missing, who has not been heard of for four years since the loss of the vessel or aeroplane;

(2) A person in the armed forces who has taken part in war, and has been missing for four years;

(3) A person who has been in danger of death under other circumstances and his existence has not been known for four years.

Verily, the RTC’s use of Article 41 of the FC as its basis in declaring the presumptive death of Wilfredo was misleading and grossly improper. The petition for the declaration of presumptive death filed by petitioner was based on the Civil Code, and not on Article 41 of the FC.

Petitioner’s Petition for Declaration of Presumptive Death Ought to Have Been Dismissed; A Petition Whose Sole Objective is to Declare a Person Presumptively Dead Under the Civil Code, Like that Filed by the Petitioner Before the RTC, Is Not a Viable Suit in Our Jurisdiction

The true fault in the RTC’s decision, however, goes beyond its misleading fallo. The decision itself is objectionable.

Since the petition filed by the petitioner merely seeks the declaration of presumptive death of Wilfredo under the Civil Code, the RTC should have dismissed such petition outright. This is because, in our jurisdiction, a petition whose sole objective is to have a person declared presumptively dead under the Civil Code is not regarded as a valid suit and no court has any authority to take cognizance of the same.

The above norm had its conceptual roots in the 1948 case of In re: Petition for the Presumption of Death of Nicolai Szatraw.[12] In the said case, we held that a rule creating a presumption of death[13] is merely one of evidence that—while may be invoked in any action or proceeding—cannot be the lone subject of an independent action or proceeding. Szatraw explained:

The rule invoked by the latter is merely one of evidence which permits the court to presume that a person is dead after the fact that such person had been unheard from in seven years had been established. This presumption may arise and be invoked and made in a case, either in an action or in a special proceeding, which is tried or heard by, and submitted for decision to, a competent court. Independently of such an action or special proceeding, the presumption of death cannot be invoked, nor can it be made the subject of an action or special proceeding. In this case, there is no right to be enforced nor is there a remedy prayed for by the petitioner against her absent husband. Neither is there a prayer for the final determination of his right or status or for the ascertainment of a particular fact, for the petition does not pray for a declaration that the petitioner’s husband is dead, but merely asks for a declaration that he be presumed dead because he had been unheard from in seven years. If there is any pretense at securing a declaration that the petitioner’s husband is dead, such a pretension cannot be granted because it is unauthorized. The petition is for a declaration that the petitioner’s husband is presumptively dead. But this declaration, even if judicially made, would not improve the petitioner’s situation, because such a presumption is already established by law. A judicial pronouncement to that effect, even if final and executory, would still be a prima facie presumption only. It is still disputable. It is for that reason that it cannot be the subject of a judicial pronouncement or declaration, if it is the only question or matter involved in a case, or upon which a competent court has to pass. The latter must decide finally the controversy between the parties, or determine finally the right or status of a party or establish finally a particular fact, out of which certain rights and obligations arise or may arise; and once such controversy is decided by a final judgement, or such right or status determined, or such particular fact established, by a final decree, then the judgement on the subject of the controversy, or the decree upon the right or status of a party or upon the existence of a particular fact, becomes res judicata, subject to no collateral attack, except in a few rare instances especially provided by law. It is, therefore, clear that a judicial declaration that a person is presumptively dead, because he had been unheard from in seven years, being a presumption juris tantum only, subject to contrary proof, cannot reach the stage of finality or become final. (Citations omitted and emphasis supplied)

The above ruling in Szatraw has since been used by the subsequent cases of Lukban v. Republic[14] and Gue v. Republic[15] in disallowing petitions for the declaration of presumptive death based on Article 390 of the Civil Code (and, implicitly, also those based on Article 391 of the Civil Code).

Dissecting the rulings of Szatraw, Gue and Lukban collectively, we are able to ascertain the considerations why a petition for declaration of presumptive death based on the Civil Code was disallowed in our jurisdiction, viz:[16]

1. Articles 390 and 391 of the Civil Code merely express rules of evidence that only allow a court or a. tribunal to presume that a person is dead upon the establishment of certain facts.

2. Since Articles 390 and 391 of the Civil Code merely express rules of evidence, an action brought exclusively to declare a person presumptively dead under either of the said articles actually presents no actual controversy that a court could decide. In such action, there would be no actual rights to be enforced, no wrong to be remedied nor any status to be established.

3. A judicial pronouncement declaring a person presumptively dead under Article 390 or Article 391 of the Civil Code, in an action exclusively based thereon, would never really become “final” as the same only confirms the existence of a prima facie or disputable presumption. The function of a court to render decisions that is supposed to be final and binding between litigants is thereby compromised.

4. Moreover, a court action to declare a person presumptively dead under Articles 390 and 391 of the Civil Code would be unnecessary. The presumption in the said articles is already established by law.

Verily, under prevailing case law, courts are without any authority to take cognizance of a petition that—like the one filed by the petitioner in the case at bench—only seeks to have a person declared presumptively dead under the Civil Code. Such a petition is not authorized by law.[17] Hence, by acting upon and eventually granting the petitioner’s petition for the declaration of presumptive death, the RTC violated prevailing jurisprudence and thereby committed grave abuse of discretion. The CA, therefore, was only correct in setting aside the RTC’s decision.

II

Before bringing this case to its logical conclusion, however, there are a few points the Court is minded to make.

It is not lost on this Court that much of the present controversy stemmed from the misconception that a court declaration is required in order to establish a person as presumptively dead for purposes of claiming his death benefits as a military serviceman under pertinent laws.[18] This misconception is what moved petitioner to file her misguided petition for the declaration of presumptive death of Wilfredo and what ultimately exposed her to unnecessary difficulties in prosecuting an otherwise simple claim for death benefits either before the Philippine Veterans’ Affairs Office (PVAO) or the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

What the Court finds deeply disconcerting, however, is the possibility that such misconception may have been peddled by no less than the PVAO and the AFP themselves; that such agencies, as a matter of practice, had been requiring claimants, such as the petitioner, to first secure a court declaration of presumptive death before processing the death benefits of a missing serviceman.

In view of the foregoing circumstance, the Court deems it necessary to issue the following guidelines—culled from relevant law and jurisprudential pronouncements—to aid the public, PVAO and the AFP in making or dealing with claims of death benefits which are similar to that of the petitioner:

1. The PVAO and the AFP can decide claims of death benefits of a missing soldier without requiring the claimant to first produce a court declaration of the presumptive death of such soldier. In such claims, the PVAO and the AFP can make their own determination, on the basis of evidence presented by the claimant, whether the presumption of death under Articles 390 and 391 of the Civil Code may be applied or not. It must be stressed that the presumption of death under Articles 390 and 391 of the Civil Code arises by operation of law, without need of a court declaration, once the factual conditions mentioned in the said articles are established.[19] Hence, requiring the claimant to further secure a court declaration in order to establish the presumptive death of a missing soldier is not proper and contravenes established jurisprudence on the matter.[20]

2. In order to avail of the presumption, therefore, the claimant need only present before the PVAO or the appropriate office of the AFP, as the case may be, any “evidence” which shows that the concerned soldier had been missing for such number of years and/or under the circumstances prescribed under Articles 390 and 391 of the Civil Code. Obviously, the “evidence” referred to here excludes a court declaration of presumptive death.

3. The PVAO or the AFP, as the case may be, may then weigh the evidence submitted by the claimant and determine their sufficiency to establish the requisite factual conditions specified under Article 390 or 391 of the Civil Code in order for the presumption of death to arise. If the PVAO or the AFP determines that the evidence submitted by the claimant is sufficient, they should not hesitate to apply the presumption of death and pay the latter’s claim. 4. If the PVAO or the AFP determines that the evidence submitted by the claimant is not sufficient to invoke the presumption of death under the Civil Code and denies the latter’s claim by reason thereof, the claimant may file an appeal with the Office of the President (OP) pursuant to the principle of exhaustion of administrative remedies.

If the OP denies the appeal, the claimant may next seek recourse via a petition for review with the CA under Rule 43 of the Rules of the Court. And finally, should such recourse still fail, the claimant may file an appeal by certiorari with the Supreme Court.

While we are constrained by case law to deny the instant petition, the Court is hopeful that, by the foregoing guidelines, the unfortunate experience of the petitioner would no longer be replicated in the future.

WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is DENIED. The Decision dated November 28, 2016 and Resolution dated March 20, 2017 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 129467 are AFFIRMED. The Court declares that a judicial decision of a court of law that a person is presumptively dead is not a requirement before the Philippine Veterans’ Affairs Office or the Armed Forces of the Philippines can grant and pay the benefits under Presidential Decree No. 1638.

Let a copy of this decision be served to the Philippine Veterans’ Affairs Office and the Armed Forces of the Philippines for their consideration.

SO ORDERED.

Bersamin, Martires, and Gesmundo, JJ., concur.
Leonen, J., dissent. See separate opinion.

May 17, 2018

NOTICE OF JUDGMENT

Sirs/Mesdames:

Please take notice that on April 25, 2018 a Decision, copy attached hereto, was rendered by the Supreme Court in the above-entitled case, the original of which was received by this Office on May 17, 2018 at 3:40 p.m.

Very truly yours,

(SGD.) WILFREDO V. LAPITAN
Division Clerk of Court

[1] Under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.

[2] Rollo, pp. 29-36. The decision was penned by Associate Justice Victoria Isabel A. Paredes with Associate Justices Magdangal M. De Leon and Elihu A. Ybañez concurring.

[3] Id. at 38-39.

[4] Id. at 46-48.

[5] Id. at 78.

[6] Id. at 78-80. The decision was penned by Judge Ma. Magdalena A. Balderama.

[7] This is actually the corrected version of the dispositive portion of the RTC decision. Originally, the dispositive portion of the said decision read:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, tlie Court hereby declared (sic) WILFREDO N. MATIAS absent or presumptively dead under Article 41 of the Family Code of the Philippines for purposes of remarriage. x x x x

SO ORDERED. (Emphasis supplied)

The RTC issued the corrected version of the dispositive portion on the same day it issued the decision.

[8] Under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court.

[9] Executive Order No. 209, s. 1987.

[10] Rollo, p. 47.

[11] Republic Act No. 386.

[12] No. L-1780, August 31, 1948.

[13] The rule expressing the presumption of death referred to in the case of Szatraw is found under Section 334 (24) of Act No. 190 or the Code of the Civil Procedure of the Philippines. The section reads:

Section 334. Disputable Presumptions. – The following presumptions arc satisfactory, if uncontradicted, but they are disputable, and may be contradicted by other evidence:

x x x x

24. That a person not heard from in seven years is dead.

[14] 98 Phil. 574 (1956)

[15] 107 Phil. 381 (1960).

[16] In re: Petition for the Presumption of Death of Nicolai Szatraw, supra note 12, in relation to Lukban v. Republic, supra note 14 and Gue v. Republic, supra note 15.

[17] Valdez v. Republic of the Philippines, G.R. No. 180863, September 8, 2009, citing Gue v. Republic, supra note 15.

[18] Rollo, p. 47.

[19] Manuel v People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 165842, November 29, 2005 citing TOLENTINO, THE NEW CIVIL CODE, VOL. I, 690. See also Valdez v. Republic, supra note 17.

[20] In re: Petition for the Presumption of Death of Nicolai Szatraw, supra note 12, in relation to Lukban v. Republic, supra note 14 and Gue v. Republic, supra note 15.

[21] The “evidence” referred to include, but are not limited to, the official service records of the missing soldier showing for how long he had been missing and his last assignments and affidavits of persons who knew the circumstances of the missing soldiers’ disappearance.

Categories
2018 SC Decisions Art. 1 Marriage Family Code

What is the True Meaning of Marriage as Defined in Art. 1 of the Family Code? – 8Lawyers.Com

Article 1 of the Family Code describes marriage as “a special contract of permanent union between a man and a woman entered into in accordance with law for the establishment of conjugal and family life” and as “the foundation of the family and an inviolable social institution.”

2018 Jan 8
G.R. No. 210766
1st Division

[2018V2] MARIA CONCEPCION N. SINGSON A.K.A. CONCEPCION N. SINGSON, PETITIONER, VS. BENJAMIN L. SINGSON, RESPONDENT.

D E C I S I O N

DEL CASTILLO, J.:

Assailed in this Petition for Review on Certiorari[1] are the August 29, 2013 Decision[2] of the Court of Appeals (CA) and its January 6, 2014 Resolution[3] in CA-G.R. CV No. 96662, which reversed and set aside the November 12, 2010 Decision[4] of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Parañaque City, Branch 260, in Civil Case No. 07-0070.

Factual Antecedents

On Februruy 27, 2007, Maria Concepcion N. Singson a.k.a. Concepcion N. Singson (petitioner) filed a Petition[5] for declaration of nullity of marriage based on Article 36 of the Family Code of the Philippines[6] (Family Code). This was docketed as Civil Case No. 07-0070.

It was alleged therein that on July 6, 1974, petitioner and Benjamin L. Singson (respondent) were married before the Rev. Fr. Alfonso L. Casteig at St. Francis Church, Mandaluyong, Rizal; that said marriage produced four children, all of whom are now of legal age; that when they started living together, petitioner noticed that respondent was “dishonest, unreasonably extravagant at the expense of the family’s welfare, extremely vain physically and spiritually,”[7] and a compulsive gambler; that respondent was immature, and was unable to perform his paternal duties; that respondent was also irresponsible, an easy-going man, and guilty of infidelity; that respondent’s abnormal behavior made him completely unable to render any help, support, or assistance to her; and that because she could expect no help or assistance at all from respondent she was compelled to work doubly hard to support her family as the sole breadwinner.

Petitioner also averred that at the time she filed this Petition, respondent was confined at Metro Psych Facility,[8] a rehabilitation institution in Pasig City; and that respondent’s attending psychiatrist, Dr. Benita Sta. Ana-Ponio (Dr. Sta. Ana-Ponio), made the following diagnosis on respondent:

Based on history, mental status examination and observation, he is diagnosed to be suffering from Pathological Gambling as manifested by:

a. preoccupation with gambling, thinking of ways to get money with which to gamble as seen in his stealing and pawning jewelries and appliances[;]

b. needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired effect[;]

c. lies to family members or others to conceal the extent of [his] involvement with gambling[;]

d. committed illegal acts such as forging the signature of his wife, issuing bouncing checks in order to finance his gambling[;]

e. has jeopardized his relationship with his wife, lost the respect of his children, lost a good career in banking because of gambling[;]

f. [relies] on his parents, his wife, and siblings to provide money to relieve a desperate financial situation caused by gambling[;]

While he apparently had Typhoid fever that resulted [in] behavioral changes as a young boy, it would be difficult to say that the psychotic episodes he manifested in 2003 and 2006 [are] ethologically related to the general medical condition that occurred in his childhood.

Furthermore, [respondent] manifests an enduring pattern of behavior that deviates markedly from the expectations of our culture as manifested in the following areas:

a. his ways of perceiving and interpreting [his own] self, other people, and events[;]

b. his emotional response[;]

c. his poor impulse control[;]

Such pattern is inflexible and pervasive and has led to significant impairment in social, occupational and interpersonal relationship. In [respondent’s] case, this has persisted for several years, and can be traced back [to] his adolescence since he started gambling while in high school. He is therefore diagnosed to be suffering from Personality Disorder.

All these[,] put together, [hinder respondent] from performing his marital obligations.[9]

Petitioner moreover asserted that respondent came from a “distraught” family and had a “dysfunctional” childhood;[10] that respondent had all the love, care, and protection of his parents as the youngest child for some time; but that these parental love, care and protection were, however, transferred to his youngest brother who was born when respondent was almost five years old; and that these factors caused respondent emotional devastation from which he never recovered.

Petitioner added that unknown to her, respondent even as a high school student, was already betting on jai alai. She also claimed that she tried to adjust to respondent’s personality disorders, but that she did not attain her goal.

Finally, petitioner claimed that she and respondent did not enter into any ante-nuptial agreement to govern their prope1ty relations as husband and wife and that they had no conjugal assets or debts.

On June 19, 2007, respondent filed his Answer.[11]

Traversing petitioner’s allegations, respondent claimed that “psychological incapacity” must be characterized by gravity, juridical antecedence, and incurability, which are not present in the instant case because petitioner’s allegations are not supported by facts.

Respondent further averred that it was not true that he failed to render any help, support or assistance to petitioner and their family; that the family home where petitioner and their children are living was in fact his own capital property; that his shortcomings as mentioned by petitioner do not pertain to the most grave or serious cases of personality disorders that would satisfy the standards required to obtain a decree of nullity of marriage; that petitioner’s complaint is nothing more than a complaint of a woman with an unsatisfactory marriage who wants to get out of it; that contrary to petitioner’s claim that he is a good-for-nothing fellow, he has a college degree in business administration, and is a bank employee, and, that it was money problem, and not his alleged personality disorder, that is the wall that divided him and petitioner.

Respondent also claimed that petitioner failed to lay the basis for the conclusions of the psychiatrist to the effect that he is suffering from pathological gambling and personality disorder; that petitioner’s allegation that he came from a distraught family and that he suffered emotional devastation is vague, and bereft of particular details, and even slanderous; and that assuming that he had not acted the way petitioner expected him to conduct himself, his actions and behavior are not psychological illnesses or personality disorders, but simply physical illnesses of the body, akin to hypertension and allied sicknesses, and that these physical illnesses are not at all incurable psychiatric disorders that were present at the time of his marriage with petitioner.

Respondent furthermore claimed that he and petitioner had conjugal assets and debts; that the land where their family home is built came from his earnings, hence the family home is their conjugal property; that he and petitioner also have a house and lot in Tagaytay City, as well as bank accounts that are in petitioner’s name only; and he and petitioner also have investments in shares of stocks, cars, household appliances, furniture, and jewelry; and that these are conjugal assets because they came from petitioner’s salaries and his (respondent’s) own inheritance money.

Respondent moreover alleged that before the filing of the present Petition, petitioner had caused him to be admitted into the Metro Psych Facility for treatment; that on account of his confinement and treatment in this psychiatric facility, he has incurred medical expenses and professional medical fees; and that since it is petitioner who manages all their finances and conjugal assets it stands to reason that he should be awarded “spousal support.”

On July 25, 2007, the RTC issued its Pre-Trial Order.[12]

Trial thereafter ensued. Petitioner’s witnesses included herself, her son, Jose Angelo Singson (Jose), and Dr. Sta. Ana-Ponio.

On February 23, 2010, petitioner filed her Formal Offer of Evidence which included a photocopy of the marriage contract; the birth certificates of their four children; her son Jose’s Judicial Affidavit dated April 2, 2008; a photocopy of Dr. Sta. Ana-Ponio’s Judicial Affidavit dated June 25, 2008; Clinical Summary of respondent issued by Dr. Sta. Ana-Ponio dated February 11, 2007 (Clinical Summary); her (petitioner’s) own Judicial Affidavit dated April 2, 2008; a photocopy of Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 179751 registered in the names of the parties’ four children:. and a notarized document entitled “Summary of Sources and Uses of Funds for the period November 1999 to March 31, 2008” executed by petitioner and described as a detailed summary of expenses paid for with the proceeds of respondent’s share in the sale of the latter’s house in Magallanes Village.[13]

Respondent filed his Comment thereon.[14]

On March 29, 2010, the RTC admitted petitioner’s exhibits.[15]

On May 13, 2010, respondent filed a Motion to Dismiss[16] “on the ground that the totality of evidence presented by petitioner did not establish [his] psychological incapacity x x x to comply with the essential marital obligations x x x”.[17] Petitioner filed her Opposition[18] thereto, and respondent tendered his Comment thereon.[19]

On May 17, 2010, the RTC denied respondent’s Motion to Dismiss and stood pat on its March 29, 2010 Order.[20]

During the September 30, 2010 hearing, respondent’s counsel manifested that his client was waiving the right to present countervailing evidence. Respondent’s counsel also moved that the Petition at bar be submitted for decision on the basis of the evidence already on the record. The RTC thus declared the case submitted for decision.[21]

Ruling of the Regional Trial Court

In its Decision of November 12, 2010, the RTC granted the Petition and declared the marriage between petitioner and respondent void ab initio on the ground of the latter’s psychological incapacity. The RTC disposed thus –

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing considerations, the petition is GRANTED. Judgment is hereby rendered[:]

DECLARING null and void ab initio the marriage between MARIA CONCEPCION N. SINGSON a.k.a. CONCEPCION N. SINGSON and BENJAMIN L. SINGSON solemnized on JULY 6, 1974 in Mandaluyong City or any other marriage between them on the ground of psychological incapacity of the respondent.

ORDERING the Local Civil Registrar of Mandaluyong City and the National Statistics Office to cancel the marriage between the petitioner and the respondent as appearing in the Registry of Marriage.

There are no other issues in this case.

Let copies of this Decision be furnished the Local Civil Registrars of Mandaluyong City and Para[ñ]aque City, the Office of the Solicitor General, the Office of the Civil Register General (National Statistics Office) and the Office of the City Prosecutor, Parañaque City.

SO ORDERED.[22]

The RTC ruled that the requisites warranting a finding of psychological incapacity under Article 36 of the Family Code are present in the instant case because the totality of evidence showed that respondent is suffering from a psychological condition that is grave, incurable, and has juridical antecedence.

The RTC also found that the �combined testimonies of petitioner and Dr. Sta. Ana-Ponio convincingly showed that respondent is psychologically incapacitated to perform the essential marital obligations; that respondent’s inability to perform his marital obligations as set out in Articles 68 to 71 of the Family Code, was essentially due to a psychological abnormality arising from a pathological and utterly irresistible urge to gamble.

The RTC cited “[Dr. Sta. Ana-Ponio’s] findings [which] reveal that respondent is suffering from Personality Disorder known as Pathological Gambling.”[23] It ruled that it has been shown that this personality disorder was present at the time of celebration of marriage but became manifest only later; that because of this personality disorder respondent had already jeopardized his relationship with his family; and that respondent’s psychological disorder hinders the performance of his obligations as a husband and as a father.

Lastly, the RTC found that the only property owned in common by the spouses was donated in favor of the parties’ children as evidenced by TCT No. 179751 – a fact not at all controverted, in view of respondent’s waiver of his right to present evidence.

Respondent moved for reconsideration of this verdict.

But in its Order dated January 6, 2011,[24] the RTC denied respondent’s motion for reconsideration. It reiterated that the expert witness had adequately established that respondent is suffering from “Pathological Gambling Personality Disorder” which is grave, permanent, and has juridical antecedence.

On February 4, 2011, respondent filed a Notice of Appeal[25] which was given due course by the RTC in its Order[26] dated February 28, 2011.

Ruling of the Court of Appeals

In its Decision of August 29, 2013, the CA overturned the RTC, and disposed as follows:

WHEREFORE, the appeal is GRANTED. The Decision dated 12 November 2010 issued by the Regional Trial Court, Branch 260, Parañaque City in Civil Case No. 07-0070, declaring the marriage between Maria Concepcion N. Singson and Benjamin L. Singson null and void ab initio, is REVERSED AND SET ASIDE. Instead, the Petition for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage is DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.[27]

The CA held that the totality of evidence presented by petitioner failed to establish respondent’s alleged psychological incapacity to perform the essential marital obligations, which in this case, was not at all proven to be grave or serious, much less incurable, and furthermore was not existing at the time of the marriage. What is more, the CA declared that any doubt should be resolved in favor of the existence and continuation of the marriage, and against its dissolution and nullity, in obedience to the mandate of the Constitution and statutory laws; and that in this case, petitioner failed to discharge the burden of proving that respondent is suffering from a serious or grave psychological disorder that completely disables or incapacitates him from understanding and discharging the essential obligations of the marital union.

According to the CA, psychological incapacity is the downright or utter incapacity or inability to take cognizance of and to assume the basic marital obligations. The CA did not go along with the RTC, which placed heavy reliance on Dr. Sta. Ana-Ponio’s finding that respondent was psychologically incapacitated to perform the essential marital obligations due to a personality disorder known as pathological gambling. The CA held that, contrary to petitioner’s claim that respondent’s pathological gambling was grave or serious, the evidence in fact showed that the latter was truly capable of carrying out the ordinary duties of a married man because he had a job, had provided money tor the family from the sale of his own property, and he likewise provided the land on which the family home was built, and he also lives in the family home with petitioner and their children.

On top of these, the CA ruled that it is settled that mere difficulty, refusal or neglect in the performance of marital obligations, or ill will on the part of a spouse, is different from incapacity rooted in some debilitating psychological condition or illness; that the evidence at bar showed that respondent’s alleged pathological gambling arose after the marriage; that in fact petitioner admitted that she was not aware of any gambling by respondent before they got married; that petitioner moreover acknowledged that respondent was a kind and a caring person when he was courting her; that petitioner likewise admitted that respondent also brought petitioner to the hospital during all four instances when she gave birth to their four children.

In other words, the CA found that respondent’s purported pathological gambling was not proven to be incurable or permanent since respondent has been undergoing treatment since 2003 and has been responding to the treatment.

Petitioner moved for reconsideration[28] of the CA’s Decision. But her motion was denied by the CA in its Resolution of January 6, 2014.[29]

Issue

Hence, the instant recourse with petitioner raising the following question –

[WHETHER] THE [CA] ERRED IN REVERSING THE DECISION OF THE [RTC].[30]

Petitioner’s Arguments

In praying for the reversal of the assailed CA Decision and Resolution, and in asking for the reinstatement of the RTC Decision, petitioner argues in her Petition,[31] Reply,[32] and Memorandmr[33] that respondent’s psychological incapacity had been duly proved in court, including its juridical antecedence, incurability, and gravity.

First, petitioner maintains that respondent failed to perform the marital duties of mutual love, respect and support; that Dr. Sta. Ana-Ponio’s expert findings are corroborated by the testimonies of petitioner end her son Jose both of whom demonstrated that respondents psychological incapacity is grave or serious rendering him incapable to perform the essential marital obligations; that for his part, respondent had adduced no proof that he (respondent) is capable of carrying out the ordinary duties required in a marriage for the reason that everything that the family had saved and built had been squandered by respondent; and that respondent’s confinement at the rehabilitation facility is itself proof of the gravity or seriousness of his psychological incapacity.

Second, petitioner contends that respondent’s psychological incapacity preceded the marriage, as shown in Dr. Sta. Ana-Ponio’s Clinical Summary, which pointed out that such psychological incapacity, which included pathological gambling, can be traced back when respondent was already betting on jai alai even in high school, and this was not known to his family; that the Clinical Summary was based on information provided not only by petitioner) but by respondent’s sister, and by respondent himself; that such juridical antecedence was neither questioned nor overthrown by countervailing evidence; and that the root cause could be traced back to respondent’s flawed relationship with his parent which developed into a psychological disorder that existed before the marriage.

Third, petitioner insists that this Court can take judicial notice of the fact that personality disorders are generally incurable and permanent, and must continuously be treated medically; that in this case the Clinical Summary had pointed out that respondent’s understanding of his gambling problem is only at the surface level; and that in point of tact Dr. St.a. Ana-Ponio had affirmed that personality disorders are incurable.

Respondent’s Arguments

In his Comment[34] and Memorandum,[35] respondent counters that the assailed CA Decision should be affirmed. He argues that. the grounds cited by petitioner are the self-same grounds raised by petitioner before the RTC and the CA; that petitioner’s evidence indeed failed to prove convincingly that he (respondent) is psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential marital obligations, hence there is no basis to declare the parties’ marriage void ab initio.

Our Ruling

The Petition will not succeed.

It is axiomatic that the validity of marriage and the unity of the family are enshrined in our Constitution and statutory laws, hence any doubts attending the same are to be resolved in favor of the continuance and validity of the marriage and that the burden of proving the nullity of the same rests at all times upon the petitioner.[36] “The policy of the Constitution is to protect and strengthen the family as the basic social institution, and marriage as the foundation of the family. Because of this, the Constitution decrees marriage as legally inviolable and protects it from dissolution at the whim of the parties.”[37]

Article 1 of the Family Code describes marriage as “a special contract of permanent union between a man and a woman entered into in accordance with law for the establishment of conjugal and family life” and as “the foundation of the family and an inviolable social institution.”

In the instant case, petitioner impugns the inviolability of this social institution by suing out pursuant to Article 36 of the Family Code, which provides that:

Art. 36. 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. (As amended by Executive Order 227)

Petitioner’s case will thus be examined in light of the well-entrenched case law rulings interpreting and construing the quoted Article, to wit:

‘Psychological incapacity,’ as a ground to nullify a marriage under Article 36 of the Family Code, should refer to no less than a mental – not merely physical – incapacity that causes a party to be truly incognitive of the basic marital covenants that concomitantly must be assumed and discharged by the parties to the marriage which, as so expressed in Article 68 of the Family Code, among others, include their mutual obligations to live together, observe love respect and fidelity and render help and support. 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. In Santos v. CA (Santos), the Court first declared that psychological incapacity must be characterized by: (a) gravity (i.e., it must be grave and serious such that the party would be incapable of carrying out the ordinary duties required in a marriage); (b) juridical antecedence (i.e., it must be rooted in the history of the party antedating the marriage, although the overt manifestations may emerge only after the marriage); and (c) incurability (i.e., it must be incurable, or even if it were otherwise, the cure would be beyond the means of the party involved). The Court laid down more definitive guidelines in the interpretation and application of Article 36 of the Family Code in Republic of the Phils. v. CA, x x x [also known as the Molina guidelines]. These guidelines incorporate the basic requirements that the Court established in Santos.[38]

In setting aside the RTC’s ruling, the CA in this case held that petitioner failed to prove that respondent was psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential marital obligations because she failed to establish that such incapacity was grave and serious, and that it existed at the time of the marriage, and that it is incurable. We agree.

At the outset, this Court is constrained to peruse the records because of the conflicting findings between the trial court and the appellate court.[39] We thus did peruse and review the records, and we are satisfied that the CA correctly found that respondent has the capability and ability to perform his duties as a husband and father as against the RTC’s rather general statement that respondent’s psychological or personality disorder hinders the performance of his basic obligations as a husband and a father.

We agree with the CA that the evidence on record does not establish that respondent’s psychological incapacity was grave and serious as defined by jurisprudential parameters since “[respondent] had a job; provided money for the family from the sale of his property; provided the land where the family home was built on; and lived in the family home with petitioner-appellee and their children.”[40]

Upon the other hand, petitioner herself testified that respondent had a job as the latter “was working at a certain point.”[41] This is consistent with the information in Dr. Sta. Ana-Ponio’s Clinical Summary and testimony, which were both included in petitioner’s formal offer of evidence, respecting the parties’ relationship history that petitioner and respondent met at the bank where petitioner was applying for a job and where respondent was employed as a credit investigator prior to their courtship and their marriage.[42]

It is significant to note moreover that petitioner also submitted as part of her evidence a notarized summary dated February 18, 2010 which enumerated expenses paid for by the proceeds of respondent’s share in the sale of his parents’ home in Magallanes, Makati City which amounted to around P2.9 million. Although petitioner was insinuating that this amount was insufficient to cover the family expenses from 1999 to 2008, we note that she admitted under oath that the items for their family budget, such as their children’s education, the payments for association dues, and for electric bills came from this money.

And no less significant is petitioner’s admission that respondent provided the land upon which the family home was built, thus –

[Respondent’s counsel to the witness, petitioner]

Q: Does [respondent] [own] any real property?
A: No.

Q: He does not [own] any real property?
A: No.

Q: Showing to you Transfer Certificate of Title No. 413513 of the Register of Deeds of Rizal which has been transferred with the Register of Deeds of Parañaque and is now re-numbered as S-25470, which is in the name of [respondent], Filipino, of legal age, single.

x x x x

[COURT to the witness, petitioner]

Q: Who owned this property?
A: Based on the document, it’s Benjamin Singson.

Q: Where is this property located?
A: It is located in United Parañaque.

Q: Where in United Parañaque?
A: No. 2822 Daang Hari.

Q: Are you staying in that property?
A: We are staying in that property.

x x x x

[Respondent’s counsel to the witness, petitioner]

Q: How about the house there, in the United Parañaque [property], who owns it?
A: It was donated to the children.

x x x x

[COURT to the witness, petitioner]

Q: Based on the document, who is the registered owner?
A: It says there, [respondent], Your Honor.

Q: Who owns it now?
A: The children because it was donated [to them].[43]

What’s more, petitioner and respondent likewise lived together as husband and wife since their marriage on July 6, 1974 (and in the company of their four children, too). In fact, shunting aside the time that resppndcnt was under treatment at the Metro Psych Facility, petitioner did not allege any instance when respondent failed to live with them.

To the foregoing, we ought to add the fact that petitioner herself admitted, that respondent likewise brought her to the hospital during all four instances that she gave birth to their children.[44]

By contrast, petitioner did not proffer any convincing proof that respondent’s mere confinement at the rehabilitation center confirmed the gravity of the latters psychological incapacity.

Neither does petitioner’s bare claim that respondent is a pathological gambler, is irresponsible, and is unable to keep a job, necessarily translate into unassailable proof that respondent is psychologically incapacitated to perform the essential marital obligations. It is settled that “[ps]ychological 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.”[45] [I]t is not enough to prove that a spouse failed to meet his responsibility and duty as a married person; it is essential that he or she must be shown to be incapable of doing so because of some psychological, not physical, illness.”[46]

Nor can Dr. Sta. Ana-Ponio’s testimony in open court and her Clinical Summary be taken for gospel truth in regard to the charge that respondent is afflicted with utter inability to appreciate his marital obligations. That much is clear from the following testimony –

[Petitioner’s counsel to the witness, Dr. Sta. Ana-Ponio]

Q: Madam witness, do you know the respondent in this case, Benjamin Singson?
A: Yes. [S]ir, [respondent] has been my patient since 2003, during his first admission and again [in] 2006, [S]ir.

Q: So, he was confined twice in your facility, [M]adam witness?
A: Yes, [S]ir.

Q: Why was he confined, Madam witness?
A: He was initially confined because of problems with gambling and subsequently because of [behavioral] problem, [S]ir.

x x x x

Q: What was the cause of his second confinement, Madam [W]itness?
A: Initially, he was able to cope after discharged. However, [in] September of 2006, he knocked on the doors of the maids in the middle of the night. And in one occasion, he got his car in the garage and drove out bumping the car parked right across the garage and he [also kept] taking things out from his cabinet. And if the maids would clean [these], he [would] immediately take them out again. So, he was brought to the facility in October because of his uncontrolled behavior, [S]ir.

x x x x

Q: So, what [were] your clinical findings on the state of the respondent, Benjamin Singson, Madam witness?
A: Based on history, mental status examination and observations during his stay, I found that [respondent] is suffering from pathological gambling. Also, with his history of typhoid fever when he was younger, it is difficult to attribute the behavioral changes that he manifested in 2003 and 2006. Aside from pathological gambling, [respondent] is suffering from a personality disorder, [S]ir.

Q: What are the results or symptoms of this personality disorder with [regard] to [respondent’s dealings] with other people, with his wife and his family, [M]adam witness?
A: Your Honor, may I read from my report to refresh my memory.

COURT: Go ahead.
A: Because of his maladaptive behavior, [respondent] sees [sic] his problems which [makes] his personal[,] family[,] and social life[,] and even his vocational pleasure [suffer]. He was pre-occupied with gambling, thinking of ways to get money with which to gamble as seen in his stealing and pawning jewelries and appliances. He needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve his desired effects into gambling, [S]ir.

COURT: Your findings, Dr. are incorporated in your report?

A: Yes, Your Honor.

x x x x

[Cross examination of Dr. Sta. Ana-Ponio by respondent’s counsel]

Q: Who were the ones who made the examination, Madam witness?
A: I made the examination, [S]ir, and also the psychologist did the psychological testing, [S]ir.

Q: Now, in your opinion as an expert witness, Madam witness, which we would like to request [from] this Honorable Court, later on, that you present your credentials as expert witness, you concluded that the respondent is suffering from personality disorder?
A: Yes, [S]ir.

Q: What does this mean in layman’s language, [M]adam witness?
A: Personality disorder is a maladaptive pattern of behavior that has distracted his ability to perform his functions as a married man to his wife, as a father to his children and as a person who is supposed to be employed productively, [S]ir.[47]

Furthermore, “[h]abitual drunkenness, gambling and failure to find a job, [while undoubtedly negative traits, are nowhere nearly the equivalent of ‘psychological incapacity’], in the absence of [incontrovertible] proof that these are manifestations of an incapacity rooted in some debilitating psychological condition or illness.”[48]

We now turn to the second point. Again in view of the contrasting findings of the trial court and appellate court,[49] we take recourse to the records to assist us in evaluating the respective postures taken by the parties.

Here again, well-entrenched is the rule that “there must be proof of a natal or supervening disabling factor that effectively incapacitated the respondent spouse from complying with the basic marital obligations x x x.”[50] “A cause has to be shown and linked with the manifestations of the psychological incapacity.”[51]

Again we agree with the CA that the RTC did not clearly or correctly lay down the bases or premises for this particular finding relative to respondent’s psychological incapacity, thus:

Second, there is also sufficient evidence to prove that the respondent’s inabilities to perform his marital obligations was a result of not mere intentional refusal on his part but are caused by psychological abnormality. Such psychological incapacity of the respondent has been shown as already present at the time of celebration of marriage but became manifest only after the solemnization. x x x.[52]

As heretofore mentioned, the medical basis or evidence adverted to by the RTC did not specifically identify the root cause of respondent’s alleged psychological incapacity. In fact, Dr. Sta. Ana-Ponio did not point to a definite or a definitive cause, viz. “with his history of typhoid fever when he was younger, it is difficult to attribute the behavioral changes that he manifested in 2003 and 2006.”[53] Besides, Dr. Sta. Ana-Ponio admitted that it was not she herself, but another psychologist who conducted the tests.[54] And this psychologist was not presented by petitioner. More than that, Dr. Sta. Ana-Ponio’s testimony regarding respondent’s alleged admission that he was allegedly betting on jai alai when he was still in high school is essentially hearsay as no witness having personal knowledge of that fact was called to the witness stand. And, although Dr. Sta. Ana-Ponio claimed to have interviewed respondent’s sister in connection therewith, the latter did testify in court. And we are taught that “[t]he stringency by which the Court assesses the sufficiency of psychological evaluation reports is necessitated by the pronouncement in our Constitution that marriage is an inviolable institution protected by the State.”[55]

Equally bereft of merit is petitioner’s claim that respondent’s alleged psychological incapacity could be attributed to the latter’s family or childhood, which are circumstances prior to the parties’ marriage; no evidence has been adduced to substantiate this fact. Nor is there basis for upholding petitioner’s contention that respondent’s family was “distraught” and that respondent’s conduct was “dysfunctional”; again, there is no evidence to attest to this. These are very serious charges which must be substantiated by clear evidence which, unfortunately, petitioner did not at all adduce. Indeed, Dr. Sta. Ana-Ponio did not make a specific finding that this was the origin of respondent’s alleged inability to appreciate marital obligations.

Needless to say, petitioner cannot lean upon her son Jose’s testimony that his father’s psychological incapacity existed before or at the time of marriage. It has been held that the parties’ child is not a very reliable witness in an Article 36 case as “he could not have been there when the spouses were married and could not have been expected to know what was happening between his parents until long after his birth.”[56]

To support her Article 36 petition, petitioner ought to have adduced convincing, competent and trustworthy evidence to establish the cause of respondent’s alleged psychological incapacity and that the same antedated their marriage.[57] If anything, petitioner failed to successfully dispute the CA’s finding that she was not aware of any gan1bling by respondent before they got married and that respondent was a kind and caring person when he was courting her.[58]

Against this backdrop, we must uphold the CA’s declaration that petitioner failed to prove that respondent’s alleged psychological incapacity is serious or grave and that it is incurable or permanent.

To be sure, this Court cannot take judicial notice of petitioner’s assertion that “personality disorders are generally incurable” as this is not a matter that courts are mandated to take judicial notice under Section 1, Rule 129 of the Rules of Court.[59]

“Unless the evidence presented clearly reveals a situation where the parties or one of them, by reason of a grave and incurable psychological illness existing at the time the marriage was celebrated, was incapacitated to fulfill the obligations of marital life (and thus could not then have validly entered into a marriage), then we are compelled to uphold the indissolubility of the marital tie.”[60] This is the situation here.

WHEREFORE, the Petition is DENIED. The August 29, 2013 Decision and January 6, 2014 Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 96662 are AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

Sereno, C. J., (Chairperson), Leonardo-De Castro, Jardeleza, and Tijam, JJ., concur.

[1] Rollo, pp. 3-31.
[2] Id. at 32-50; penned by Associate Justice Nina G. Antonio-Valenzuela and concurred in by Associate Justices Isaias P. Dicdican and Michael P. Elbinias.
[3] Id. at 51-52.
[4] Id. at 58-68; penned by Presiding Judge Jaime M. Guray.
[5] Records, pp. 3-7.
[6] Also known as Executive Order No. 209.
[7] Records, p. 4.
[8] Also referred to as Metro Psych Facility and Rehabilitation Institute in some parts of the records.
[9] Records, pp. 5-6.
[10] Id. at 4.
[11] Id. at 77-90.
[12] Id. at 115-116.
[13] Folder of Exhibits, pp. 616-655; Petitioner also titled a Manifestation dated October 7, 2010 wherein she stated that she and the “Concepcion G. Nepomuceno” appearing in the Marriage Contract marked as Exhibit “A” pertains to one and the same person (Records, p. 504).
[14] Folder of Exhibits, pp. 657-660.
[15] Records, p. 382.
[16] Id. at 391-408.
[17] Id. at 391; emphasis and underscoring in the original.
[18] Id. at 411-412.
[19] Id. at 447-450.
[20] Id. at 418.
[21] Id. at 501.
[22] Rollo, pp. 67-68.
[23] Id. at 63; emphasis and italics in the original.
[24] Records, pp. 591-593.
[25] Id. at 613-614.
[26] Id. at 615.
[27] Rollo, p. 49.
[28] CA rollo, pp. 235-244.
[29] Rollo, pp. 51-52.
[30] Id. at 18.
[31] Id. at 3-31.
[32] Id. at 347-358.
[33] Id. at 519-554.
[34] Id. at 336-342.
[35] Id. at 365-516.
[36] Suazo v. Suazo, 629 Phil. 157, 174 (2010).
[37] Del Rosario v. Del Rosario, G.R. No. 222541, February 15, 2017.
[38] Republic v. De Gracia, 726 Phil. 502, 509-511 (2014).
[39] Suazo v. Suazo, supra note 36 at 181.
[40] Rollo, p. 44.
[41] TSN, January 25, 2010, p. 22.
[42] TSN, April 20, 2009, pp. 15-16.
[43] TSN, January 25, 2010, pp. 33-40.
[44] Id. at 9.
[45] Republic v. Court of Appeals, 698 Phil. 257, 265 (2012).
[46] Republic v. Galang, 665 Phil. 658, 673-674 (2011).
[47] TSN, April 20, 2009, pp. 9-23.
[48] Suazo v. Suazo, supra note 36 at 184.
[49] Id. at 181.
[50] Republic v. Court of Appeals, supra note 45 at 271.
[51] Republic v. Galang, supra note 46 at 674.
[52] Rollo, p. 66 (RTC Decision, p. 9); Emphasis and italics in the original.
[53] TSN, April 20, 2009, p. 17.
[54] Id. at 22 and 62-63.
[55] Republic v. Pangasinan, G.R. No. 214077, August 10, 2016.
[56] Toring v. Toring, 640 Phil. 434, 452 (2010).
[57] Republic v. Galang, supra note 46 at 675; Republic v. Pangasinan, supra note 55.
[58] TSN, May 28,2009, pp. 9-10.
[59] SECTION 1. Judicial notice, when mandatory. – A court shall take judicial notice. without the introduction of evidence, of the existence and territorial extent of states, their political history, forms of government and symbols of nationality, the law of nations, the admiralty and maritime courts of the world and their seals, the political constitution and history of the Philippines, the official acts of the legislative, executive and judicial departments of the Philippines, the laws of nature, the measure of time, and the geographical divisions.(la)
[60] Agraviador v. Amparo-Agraviador, 652 Phil. 49, 70 (2010).

Categories
2018 SC Decisions Art. 26 Constitution of the Philippines Family Code Section 1, Article III Equal Protection of Laws

One of the Essential Requisites of the Equal Protection Clause is Violated by Par. 2 of Art. 26 of the Family Code of the Philippines – 8Lawyers.Com

Paragraph 2 of Article 26 violates one of the essential requisites of the equal protection clause. Particularly, the limitation of the provision only to a foreign divorce decree initiated by the alien spouse is unreasonable as it is based on superficial, arbitrary, and whimsical classification.

A Filipino who is married to another Filipino is not similarly situated with a Filipino who is married to a foreign citizen. There are real, material, and substantial differences between them.

2018 Apr 24
G.R. No. 221029
En Banc

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, PETITIONER, V. MARELYN TANEDO MANALO, RESPONDENT.

D E C I S I O N

PERALTA, J.:

This petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court (Rules) seeks to reverse and set aside the September 18, 2014 Decision[1] and October 12, 2015 Resolution[2] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 100076. The dispositive portion of the Decision states:

WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is GRANTED. The Decision dated 15 October 2012 of the Regional Trial Court of Dagupan City, First Judicial Region, Branch 43, in SPEC. PROC. NO. 2012-0005 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE.

Let a copy of this Decision be served on the Local Civil Registrar of San Juan, Metro Manila.

SO ORDERED.[3]

The facts are undisputed.

On January 10, 2012, respondent Marelyn Tanedo Manalo (Manalo) filed a petition for cancellation of entry of marriage in the Civil Registry of San Juan, Metro Manila, by virtue of a judgment of divorce rendered by a Japanese court.

Finding the petition to be sufficient in form and in substance, Branch 43 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Dagupan City set the case for initial hearing on April 25, 2012. The petition and the notice of initial hearing were published once a week for three consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation. During the initial hearing, counsel for Manalo marked the documentary evidence (consisting of the trial court’s Order dated January 25, 2012, affidavit of publication, and issues of the Northern Journal dated February 21-27, 2012, February 28 – March 5, 2012, and March 6-12, 2012) for purposes of compliance with the jurisdictional requirements.

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) entered its appearance for petitioner Republic of the Philippines authorizing the Office of the City Prosecutor of Dagupan to appear on its behalf. Likewise, a Manifestation and Motion was filed questioning the title and/or caption of the petition considering that, based on the allegations therein, the proper action should be a petition for recognition and enforcement of a foreign judgment.

As a result, Manalo moved to admit an Amended Petition, which the court granted. The Amended Petition, which captioned that it is also a petition for recognition and enforcement of foreign judgment, alleged:

2. That petitioner is previously married in the Philippines to a Japanese national named YOSHINO MINORO as shown by their Marriage Contract x x x;

3. That recently, a case for divorce was filed by herein [petitioner] in Japan and after due proceedings, a divorce decree dated December 6, 2011 was rendered by the Japanese Court x x x;

4. That at present, by virtue of the said divorce decree, petitioner and her divorced Japanese husband are no longer living together and in fact, petitioner and her daughter are living separately from said Japanese former husband;

5. That there is an imperative need to have the entry of marriage in the Civil Registry of San Juan, Metro Manila cancelled, where the petitioner and the former Japanese husband’s marriage was previously registered, in order that it would not appear anymore that petitioner is still married to the said Japanese national who is no longer her husband or is no longer married to her; furthermore, in the event that petitioner decides to be remarried, she shall not be bothered and disturbed by said entry of marriage;

6. That this petition is filed principally for the purpose of causing the cancellation of entry of the marriage between the petitioner and the said Japanese national, pursuant to Rule 108 of the Revised Rules of Court, which marriage was already dissolved by virtue of the aforesaid divorce decree; [and]

7. That petitioner prays, among others, that together with the cancellation of the said entry of her marriage, that she be allowed to return and use. her maiden surname, MANALO.[4]

Manalo was allowed to testify in advance as she was scheduled to leave for Japan for her employment. Among the documents that were offered and admitted were:

1. Court Order dated January 25, 2012, finding the petition and its attachments to be sufficient in form and in substance;

2. Affidavit of Publication;

3. Issues of the Northern Journal dated February 21-27, 2012, February 28 – March 5, 2012, and March 6-12, 2012;

4. Certificate of Marriage between Manalo and her former Japanese husband;

5. Divorce Decree of the Japanese court;

6. Authentication/Certificate issued by the Philippine Consulate General in Osaka, Japan of the Notification of Divorce; and

7. Acceptance of Certificate of Divorce.[5]

The OSG did not present any controverting evidence to rebut the allegations of Manalo.

On October 15, 2012, the trial court denied the petition for lack of merit. In ruling that the divorce obtained by Manalo in Japan should not be recognized, it opined that, based on Article 15 of the New Civil Code, the Philippine law “does not afford Filipinos the right to file for a divorce, whether they are in the country or living abroad, if they are married to Filipinos or to foreigners, or if they celebrated their marriage in the Philippines or in another country” and that unless Filipinos “are naturalized as citizens of another country, Philippine laws shall have control over issues related to Filipinos’ family rights and duties, together with the determination of their condition and legal capacity to enter into contracts and civil relations, including marriages.”[6]

On appeal, the CA overturned the RTC decision. It held that Article 26 of the Family Code of the Philippines (Family Code) is applicable even if it was Manalo who filed for divorce against her Japanese husband because the decree they obtained makes the latter no longer married to the former, capacitating him to remarry. Conformably with Navarro, et al. v. Exec. Secretary Ermita, et al.[7] ruling that the meaning of the law should be based on the intent of the lawmakers and in view of the legislative intent behind Article 26, it would be the height of injustice to consider Manalo as still married to the Japanese national, who, in turn, is no longer married to her. For the appellate court, the fact that it was Manalo who filed the divorce case is inconsequential. Cited as similar to this case was Van Dorn v. Judge Romillo, Jr.[8] where the marriage between a foreigner and a Filipino was dissolved through a divorce filed abroad by the latter.

The OSG filed a motion for reconsideration, but it was denied; hence, this petition.

We deny the petition and partially affirm the CA decision.

Divorce, the legal dissolution of a lawful union for a cause arising after marriage, are of two types: (1) absolute divorce or a vinculo matrimonii, which terminates the marriage, and (2) limited divorce or a mensa et thoro, which suspends it and leaves the bond in full force.[9] In this jurisdiction, the following rules exist:

1. Philippine law does not provide for absolute divorce; hence, our courts cannot grant it.[10]

2. Consistent with Articles 15[11] and 17[12] of the New Civil Code, the marital bond between two Filipinos cannot be dissolved even by an absolute divorce obtained abroad.[13]

3. An absolute divorce obtained abroad by a couple, who are both aliens, may be recognized in the Philippines, provided it is consistent with their respective national laws.[14]

4. In mixed marriages involving a Filipino and a foreigner, the former is allowed to contract a subsequent marriage in case the absolute divorce is validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry.[15]

On July 6, 1987, then President Corazon C. Aquino signed into law Executive Order (E.O.) No. 209, otherwise known as The Family Code of the Philippines, which took effect on August 3, 1988.[16] Shortly thereafter, E.O. No. 227 was issued on July 17, 1987.[17] Aside from amending Articles 36 and 39 of the Family Code, a second paragraph was added to Article 26.[18] This provision was originally deleted by the Civil Code Revision Committee (Committee), but it was presented and approved at a Cabinet meeting after Pres. Aquino signed E.O. No. 209.[19] As modified, Article 26 now states:

Art. 26. All marriages solemnized outside the Philippines, in accordance with the laws in force in the country where they were solemnized, and valid there as such, shall also be valid in this country, except those prohibited under Articles 35(1), (4), (5) and (6), 36, 37 and 38.

Where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall likewise have capacity to remarry under Philippine law.

Paragraph 2 of Article 26 confers jurisdiction on Philippine courts to extend the effect of a foreign divorce decree to a Filipino spouse without undergoing trial to determine the validity of the dissolution of the marriage.[20] It authorizes our courts to adopt the effects of a foreign divorce decree precisely because the Philippines does not allow divorce.[21] Philippine courts cannot try the case on the merits because it is tantamount to trying a divorce case.[22] Under the principles of comity, our jurisdiction recognizes a valid divorce obtained by a spouse of foreign nationality, but the legal effects thereof, e.g., on custody, care and support of the children or property relations of the spouses, must still be determined by our courts.[23]

According to Judge Alicia Sempio-Diy, a member of the Committee, the idea of the amendment is to avoid the absurd situation of a Filipino as still being married to his or her alien spouse, although the latter is no longer married to the former because he or she had obtained a divorce abroad that is recognized by his or her national law.[24] The aim was that it would solve the problem of many Filipino women who, under the New Civil Code, are still considered married to their alien husbands even after the latter have already validly divorced them under their (the husbands’) national laws and perhaps have already married again.[25]

In 2005, this Court concluded that Paragraph 2 of Article 26 applies to a case where, at the time of the celebration of the marriage, the parties were Filipino citizens, but later on, one of them acquired foreign citizenship by naturalization, initiated a divorce proceeding, and obtained a favorable decree. We held in Republic of the Phils. v. Orbecido III:[26]

The jurisprudential answer lies latent in the 1998 case of Quita v. Court of Appeals. In Quita, the parties were, as in this case, Filipino citizens when they got married. The wife became a naturalized American citizen in 1954 and obtained a divorce in the same year. The Court therein hinted, by way of obiter dictum, that a Filipino divorced by his naturalized foreign spouse is no longer married under Philippine law and can thus remarry.

Thus, taking into consideration the legislative intent and applying the rule of reason, we hold that Paragraph 2 of Article 26 should be interpreted to include cases involving parties who, at the time of the celebration of the marriage were Filipino citizens, but later on, one of them becomes naturalized as a foreign citizen and obtains a divorce decree. The Filipino spouse should likewise be allowed to remarry as if the other party were a foreigner at the time of the solemnization of the marriage. To rule otherwise would be to sanction absurdity and injustice. x x x

If we are to give meaning to the legislative intent to avoid the absurd situation where the Filipino spouse remains married to the alien spouse who, after obtaining a divorce is no longer married to the Filipino spouse, then the instant case must be deemed as coming within the contemplation of Paragraph 2 of Article 26.

In view of the foregoing, we state the twin elements for the application of Paragraph 2 of Article 26 as follows:

1. There is a valid marriage that has been celebrated between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner; and

2. A valid divorce is obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry.

The reckoning point is not the citizenship of the parties at the time of the celebration of the marriage, but their citizenship at the time a valid divorce is obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating the latter to remarry.[27]

Now, the Court is tasked to resolve whether, under the same provision, a Filipino citizen has the capacity to remarry under Philippine law after initiating a divorce proceeding abroad and obtaining a favorable judgment against his or her alien spouse who is capacitated to remarry. Specifically, Manalo pleads for the recognition and enforcement of the divorce decree rendered by the Japanese court and for the cancellation of the entry of marriage in the local civil registry “in order that it would not appear anymore that [she] is still married to the said Japanese national who is no longer her husband or is no longer married to her; [and], in the event that [she] decides to be remarried, she shall not be bothered and disturbed by said entry of marriage,” and to return and to use her maiden surname.

We rule in the affirmative.

Both Dacasin v. Dacasin[28] and Van Dorn[29] already recognized a foreign divorce decree that was initiated and obtained by the Filipino spouse and extended its legal effects on the issues of child custody and property relation, respectively.

In Dacasin, post-divorce, the former spouses executed an Agreement for the joint custody of their minor daughter. Later on, the husband, who is a US citizen, sued his Filipino wife to enforce the Agreement, alleging that it was only, the latter who exercised sole custody of their child. The trial court dismissed the action for lack of jurisdiction, on the ground, among others, that the divorce decree is binding following the “nationality rule” prevailing in this jurisdiction. The husband moved to reconsider, arguing that the divorce decree obtained by his former wife is void, but it was denied. In ruling that the trial court has jurisdiction to entertain the suit but not to enforce the Agreement, which is void, this Court said:

Nor can petitioner rely on the divorce decree’s alleged invalidity – not because the Illinois court lacked jurisdiction or that the divorce decree violated Illinois law, but because the divorce was obtained by his Filipino spouse – to support the Agreement’s enforceability. The argument that foreigners in this jurisdiction are not bound by foreign divorce decrees is hardly novel. Van Dorn v. Romillo settled the matter by holding that an alien spouse of a Filipino is bound by a divorce decree obtained abroad. There, we dismissed the alien divorcee’s Philippine suit for accounting of alleged post-divorce conjugal property and rejected his submission that the foreign divorce (obtained by the Filipino spouse) is not valid in this jurisdiction x x x.[30]

Van Dorn was decided before the Family Code took into effect. There, a complaint was filed by the ex-husband, who is a US citizen, against his Filipino wife to render an accounting of a business that was alleged to be a conjugal property and to be declared with right to manage the same. Van Dorn moved to dismiss the case on the ground that the cause of action was barred by previous judgment in the divorce proceedings that she initiated, but the trial court denied the motion. On his part, her ex-husband averred that the divorce decree issued by the Nevada court could not prevail over the prohibitive laws of the Philippines and its declared national policy; that the acts and declaration of a foreign court cannot, especially if the same is contrary to public policy, divest Philippine courts of jurisdiction to entertain matters within its jurisdiction. In dismissing the case filed by the alien spouse, the Court discussed the effect of the foreign divorce on the parties and their conjugal property in the Philippines. Thus:

There can be no question as to the validity of that Nevada divorce in any of the States of the United States. The decree is binding on private respondent as an American citizen. For instance, private respondent cannot sue petitioner, as her husband, in any State of the Union. What he is contending in this case is that the divorce is not valid and binding in this jurisdiction, the same being contrary to local law and public policy.

It is true that owing to the nationality principle embodied in Article 15 of the Civil Code, only Philippine nationals are covered by the policy against absolute divorces the same being considered contrary to our concept of public policy and morality. However, aliens may obtain divorces abroad, which may be recognized in the Philippines, provided they are valid according to their national law. In this case, the divorce in Nevada released private respondent from the marriage from the standards of American law, under which divorce dissolves the marriage. As stated by the Federal Supreme Court of the United States in Atherton vs. Atherton, 45 L. Ed. 794, 799:

“The purpose and effect of a decree of divorce from the bond of matrimony by a court of competent jurisdiction are to change the existing status or domestic relation of husband and wife, and to free them both from the bond. The marriage tie, when thus severed as to one party, ceases to bind either. A husband without a wife, or a wife without a husband, is unknown to the law. When the law provides, in the nature of a penalty, that the guilty party shall not marry again, that party, as well as the other, is still absolutely freed from the bond of the former marriage.”

Thus, pursuant to his national law, private respondent is no longer the husband of petitioner. He would have no standing to sue in the case below as petitioner’s husband entitled to exercise control over conjugal assets. As he is bound by the Decision of his own country’s Court, which validly exercised jurisdiction over him, and whose decision he does not repudiate, he is estopped by his own representation before said Court from asserting his right over the alleged conjugal property.

To maintain, as private respondent does, that, under our laws, petitioner has to be considered still married to private respondent and still subject to a wife’s obligations under Article 109, et. seq. of the Civil Code cannot be just. Petitioner should not be obliged to live together with, observe respect and fidelity, and render support to private respondent. The latter should not continue to be one of her heirs with possible rights to conjugal property. She should not be discriminated against in her own country if the ends of justice are to be served.[31]

In addition, the fact that a validly obtained foreign divorce initiated by the Filipino spouse can be recognized and given legal effects in the Philippines is implied from Our rulings in Fujiki v. Marinay, et al.[32] and Medina v. Koike.[33]

In Fujiki, the Filipino wife, with the help of her first husband, who is a Japanese national, was able to obtain a judgment from Japan’s family court, which declared the marriage between her and her second husband, who is a Japanese national, void on the ground of bigamy. In resolving the issue of whether a husband or wife of a prior marriage can file a petition to recognize a foreign judgment nullifying the subsequent marriage between his or her spouse and a foreign citizen on the ground of bigamy, We ruled:

Fujiki has the personality to file a petition to recognize the Japanese Family Court judgment nullifying the marriage between Marinay and Maekara on the ground of bigamy because the judgment concerns his civil status as married to Marinay. For the same reason he has the personality to file a petition under Rule 108 to cancel the entry of marriage between Marinay and Maekara in the civil registry on the basis of the decree of the Japanese Family Court.

There is no doubt that the prior spouse has a personal and material interest in maintaining the integrity of the marriage he contracted and the property relations arising from it. There is also no doubt that he is interested in the cancellation of an entry of a bigamous marriage in the civil registry, which compromises the public record of his marriage. The interest derives from the substantive right of the spouse not only to preserve (or dissolve, in limited instances) his most intimate human relation, but also to protect his property interests that arise by operation of law the moment he contracts marriage. These property interests in marriage include the right to be supported “in keeping with the financial capacity of the family” and preserving the property regime of the marriage.

Property rights are already substantive rights protected by the Constitution, but a spouse’s right in a marriage extends further to relational rights recognized under Title III (“Rights and Obligations between Husband and Wife”) of the Family Code. x x x[34]

On the other hand, in Medina, the Filipino wife and her Japanese husband jointly filed for divorce, which was granted. Subsequently, she filed a petition before the RTC for judicial recognition of foreign divorce and declaration of capacity to remarry pursuant to Paragraph 2 of Article 26. The RTC denied the petition on the ground that the foreign divorce decree and the national law of the alien spouse recognizing his capacity to obtain a divorce decree must be proven in accordance with Sections 24 and 25 of Rule 132 of the Revised Rules on Evidence. This Court agreed and ruled that, consistent with Corpuz v. Sto. Tomas, et al.[35] and Garcia v. Recio,[36] the divorce decree and the national law of the alien spouse must be proven. Instead of dismissing the case, We referred it to the CA for appropriate action including the reception of evidence to determine and resolve the pertinent factual issues.

There is no compelling reason to deviate from the above-mentioned rulings. When this Court recognized a foreign divorce decree that was initiated and obtained by the Filipino spouse and extended its legal effects on the issues of child custody and property relation, it should not stop short in likewise acknowledging that one of the usual and necessary consequences of absolute divorce is the right to remarry. Indeed, there is no longer a mutual obligation to live together and observe fidelity. When the marriage tie is severed and ceased to exist, the civil status and the domestic relation of the former spouses change as both of them are freed from the marital bond.

The dissent is of the view that, under the nationality principle, Manalo’s personal status is subject to Philippine law, which prohibits absolute divorce. Hence, the divorce decree which she obtained under Japanese law cannot be given effect, as she is, without dispute, a national not of Japan, but of the Philippines. It is said that a contrary ruling will subvert not only the intention of the framers of the law, but also that of the Filipino people, as expressed in the Constitution. The Court is, therefore, bound to respect the prohibition until the legislature deems it fit to lift the same.

We beg to differ.

Paragraph 2 of Article 26 speaks of “a divorce x x x validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry. ” Based on a clear and plain reading of the provision, it only requires that there be a divorce validly obtained abroad. The letter of the law does not demand that the alien spouse should be the one who initiated the proceeding wherein the divorce decree was granted. It does not distinguish whether the Filipino spouse is the petitioner or the respondent in the foreign divorce proceeding. The Court is bound by the words of the statute; neither can We put words in the mouths of the lawmakers.[37] “The legislature is presumed to know the meaning of the words, to have used words advisedly, and to have expressed its intent by the use of such words as are found in the statute. Verba legis non est recedendum, or from the words of a statute there should be no departure.”[38]

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the word “obtained” should be interpreted to mean that the divorce proceeding must be actually initiated by the alien spouse, still, the Court will not follow the letter of the statute when to do so would depart from the true intent of the legislature or would otherwise yield conclusions inconsistent with the general purpose of the act.[39] Laws have ends to achieve, and statutes should be so construed as not to defeat but to carry out such ends and purposes.[40] As held in League of Cities of the Phils., et al. v. COMELEC, et al.:[41]

The legislative intent is not at all times accurately reflected in the manner in which the resulting law is couched. Thus, applying a verba legis or strictly literal interpretation of a statute may render it meaningless and lead to inconvenience, an absurd situation or injustice. To obviate this aberration, and bearing in mind the principle that the intent or the spirit of the law is the law itself, resort should be to the rule that the spirit of the law controls its letter.

To reiterate, the purpose of Paragraph 2 of Article 26 is to avoid the absurd situation where the Filipino spouse remains married to the alien spouse who, after a foreign divorce decree that is effective in the country where it was rendered, is no longer married to the Filipino spouse. The provision is a corrective measure to address an anomaly where the Filipino spouse is tied to the marriage while the foreign spouse is free to marry under the laws of his or her country.[42] Whether the Filipino spouse initiated the foreign divorce proceeding or not, a favorable decree dissolving the marriage bond and capacitating his or her alien spouse to remarry will have the same result: the Filipino spouse will effectively be without a husband or wife. A Filipino who initiated a foreign divorce proceeding is in the same place and in “like circumstance as a Filipino who is at the receiving end of an alien initiated proceeding. Therefore, the subject provision should not make a distinction. In both instance, it is extended as a means to recognize the residual effect of the foreign divorce decree on Filipinos whose marital ties to their alien spouses are severed by operation of the latter’s national law.

Conveniently invoking the nationality principle is erroneous. Such principle, found under Article 15 of the Civil Code, is not an absolute and unbending rule. In fact, the mere existence of Paragraph 2 of Article 26 is a testament that the State may provide for an exception thereto. Moreover, blind adherence to the nationality principle must be disallowed if it would cause unjust discrimination and oppression to certain classes of individuals whose rights are equally protected by law. The courts have the duty to enforce the laws of divorce as written by the Legislature only if they are constitutional.[43]

While the Congress is allowed a wide leeway in providing for a valid classification and that its decision is accorded recognition and respect by the courts of justice, such classification may be subjected to judicial review.[44] The deference stops where the classification violates a fundamental right, or prejudices persons accorded special protection by the Constitution.[45] When these violations arise, this Court must discharge its primary role as the vanguard of constitutional guaranties, and require a stricter and more exacting adherence to constitutional limitations.[46] If a legislative classification impermissibly interferes with the exercise of a fundamental right or operates to the peculiar disadvantage of a suspect class strict judicial scrutiny is required since it is presumed unconstitutional, and the burden is upon the government to prove that the classification is necessary to achieve a compelling state interest and that it is the least restrictive means to protect such interest.[47]

“Fundamental rights” whose infringement leads to strict scrutiny under the equal protection clause are those basic liberties explicitly or implicitly guaranteed in the Constitution.[48] It includes the right of procreation, the right to marry, the right to exercise free speech, political expression, press, assembly, and so forth, the right to travel, and the right to vote.[49] On the other hand, what constitutes compelling state interest is measured by the scale of rights and powers arrayed in the Constitution and calibrated by history.[50] It is akin to the paramount interest of the state for which some individual liberties must give way, such as the promotion of public interest, public safety or the general welfare.[51] It essentially involves a public right or interest that, because of its primacy, overrides individual rights, and allows the former to take precedence over the latter.[52]

Although the Family Code was not enacted by the Congress, the same principle applies with respect to the acts of the President, which have the force and effect of law unless declared otherwise by the court. In this case, We find that Paragraph 2 of Article 26 violates one of the essential requisites[53] of the equal protection clause.[54] Particularly, the limitation of the provision only to a foreign divorce decree initiated by the alien spouse is unreasonable as it is based on superficial, arbitrary, and whimsical classification.

A Filipino who is married to another Filipino is not similarly situated with a Filipino who is married to a foreign citizen. There are real, material and substantial differences between them. Ergo, they should not be treated alike, both as to rights conferred and liabilities imposed. Without a doubt, there are political, economic, cultural, and religious dissimilarities as well as varying legal systems and procedures, all too unfamiliar, that a Filipino national who is married to an alien spouse has to contend with. More importantly, while a divorce decree obtained abroad by a Filipino against another Filipino is null and void, a divorce decree obtained by an alien against his or her Filipino spouse is recognized if made in accordance with the national law of the foreigner.[55]

On the contrary, there is no real and substantial difference between a Filipino who initiated a foreign divorce proceedings and a Filipino who obtained a divorce decree upon the instance of his or her alien spouse. In the eyes of the Philippine and foreign laws, both are considered as Filipinos who have the same rights and obligations in a alien land. The circumstances surrounding them are alike. Were it not for Paragraph 2 of Article 26, both are still married to their foreigner spouses who are no longer their wives/husbands. Hence, to make a distinction between them based merely on the superficial difference of whether they initiated the divorce proceedings or not is utterly unfair. Indeed, the treatment gives undue favor to one and unjustly discriminate against the other.

Further, the differentiation in Paragraph 2 of Article 26 is arbitrary. There is inequality in treatment because a foreign divorce decree that was initiated and obtained by a Filipino citizen against his or her alien spouse would not be recognized even if based on grounds similar to Articles 35, 36, 37 and 38 of the Family Code.[56] In filing for divorce based on these grounds, the Filipino spouse cannot be accused of invoking foreign law at whim, tantamount to insisting that he or she should be governed with whatever law he or she chooses. The dissent’s comment that Manalo should be “reminded that all is not lost, for she may still pray for the severance of her marital ties before the RTC in accordance with the mechanisms now existing under the Family Code” is anything but comforting. For the guidance of the bench and the bar, it would have been better if the dissent discussed in detail what these “mechanisms” are and how they specifically apply in Manalo’s case as well as those who are similarly situated. If the dissent refers to a petition for declaration of nullity or annulment of marriage, the reality is that there is no assurance that our courts will automatically grant the same. Besides, such proceeding is duplicitous, costly, and protracted. All to the prejudice of our kababayan.

It is argued that the Court’s liberal interpretation of Paragraph 2 of Article 26 encourages Filipinos to marry foreigners, opening the floodgate to the indiscriminate practice of Filipinos marrying foreign nationals or initiating divorce proceedings against their alien spouses.

The supposition is speculative and unfounded.

First, the dissent falls into a hasty generalization as no data whatsoever was shown to support what he intends to prove. Second, We adhere to the presumption of good faith in this jurisdiction. Under the rules on evidence, it is disputably presumed (i.e., satisfactory if uncontradicted and overcome by other evidence) that a person is innocent of crime or wrong,[57] that a person intends the ordinary consequences of his voluntary acts,[58] that a person takes ordinary care of his concerns,[59] that acquiescence resulted from a belief that the thing acquiesced in was conformable to the law and fact,[60] that a man and woman deporting themselves as husband and wife have entered into a lawful contract of marriage,[61] and that the law has been obeyed.[62] It is whimsical to easily attribute any illegal, irregular or immoral conduct on the part of a Filipino just because he or she opted to marry a foreigner instead of a fellow Filipino. It is presumed that interracial unions are entered into out of genuine love and affection, rather than prompted by pure lust or profit. Third, We take judicial notice of the fact that Filipinos are relatively more forbearing and conservative in nature and that they are more often the victims or at the losing end of mixed marriages. And Fourth, it is not for Us to prejudge the motive behind a Filipino’s decision to marry an alien national. In one case, it was said:

Motives for entering into a marriage are varied and complex. The State does not and cannot dictate on the kind of life that a couple chooses to lead. Any attempt to regulate their lifestyle would go into the realm of their right to privacy and would raise serious constitutional questions. The right to marital privacy allows married couples to structure their marriages in almost any way they see fit, to live together or live apart, to have children or no children, to love one another or not, and so on. Thus, marriages entered into for other purposes, limited or otherwise, such as convenience, companionship, money, status, and title, provided that they comply with all the legal requisites, are equally valid. Love, though the ideal consideration in a marriage contract, is not the only valid cause for marriage. Other considerations, not precluded by law, may validly support a marriage.[63]

The 1987 Constitution expresses that marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State.[64] Nevertheless, it was not meant to be a general prohibition on divorce because Commissioner Jose Luis Martin C. Gascon, in response to a question by Father Joaquin G. Bernas during the deliberations of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, was categorical about this point.[65] Their exchange reveal as follows:

MR. RAMA. Mr. Presiding Officer, may I ask that Commissioner Bernas be recognized.

THE PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Colayco). Commissioner Bernas is recognized.

FR. BERNAS. Just one question, and I am not sure if it has been categorically answered. I refer specifically to the proposal of Commissioner Gascon. Is this to be understood as a prohibition of a general law on divorce? His intention is to make this a prohibition so that the legislature cannot pass a divorce law.

MR. GASCON. Mr. Presiding Officer, that was not primarily my intention. My intention was primarily to encourage the social institution of marriage, but not necessarily discourage divorce. But now that he mentioned the issue of divorce, my personal opinion is to discourage it, Mr. Presiding Officer.

FR. BERNAS. No. my question is more categorical. Does this carry the meaning of prohibiting a divorce law?

MR. GASCON. No. Mr. Presiding Officer.

FR. BERNAS. Thank you.[66]

Notably, a law on absolute divorce is not new in our country. Effective March 11, 1917, Philippine courts could grant an absolute divorce on the grounds of adultery on the part of the wife or concubinage on the part of the husband by virtue of Act No. 2710 of the Philippine Legislature.[67] On March 25, 1943, pursuant to the authority conferred upon him by the Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Japanese Forces in the Philippines and with the approval of the latter, the Chairman of the Philippine Executive Commission promulgated an E.O. No. 141 (“New Divorce Law”), which repealed Act No. 2710 and provided eleven grounds for absolute divorce, such as intentional or unjustified desertion continuously for at least one year prior to the filing of the action, slander by deed or gross insult by one spouse against the other to such an extent as to make further living together impracticable, and a spouse’s incurable insanity.[68] When the Philippines was liberated and the Commonwealth Government was restored, it ceased to have force and effect and Act No. 2710 again prevailed.[69] From August 30, 1950, upon the effectivity of Republic Act No. 386 or the New Civil Code, an absolute divorce obtained by Filipino citizens, whether here or abroad, is no longer recognized.[70]

Through the years, there has been constant clamor from various sectors of the Philippine society to re-institute absolute divorce. As a matter of fact, in the current 17th Congress, House Bill (H.B.) Nos. 116,[71] 1062,[72] 2380[73] and 6027[74] were filed in the House of Representatives. In substitution of these bills, H.B. No. 7303 entitled “An Act Instituting Absolute Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage in the Philippines” or the Absolute Divorce Act of 2018 was submitted by the House Committee on Population and Family Relations on February 28, 2018. It was approved on March 19, 2018 on Third Reading – with 134 in favor, 57 against, and 2 abstentions. Under the bill, the grounds for a judicial decree of absolute divorce are as follows:

The grounds for legal separation under Article 55 of the Family Code, modified or amended, as follows:
a. Physical violence or grossly abusive conduct directed against the petitioner, a common child, or a child of the petitioner;
b. Physical violence or moral pressure to compel the petitioner to change religious or political affiliation;
c. Attempt of respondent to corrupt or induce the petitioner, a common child, or a child of the petitioner, to engage in prostitution, or connivance in such corruption or inducement;
d. Final judgment sentencing the respondent to imprisonment of more than six (6) years, even if pardoned;
e. Drug addiction or habitual alcoholism or chronic gambling of the respondent;
f. Homosexuality of the respondent;
g. Contracting by the respondent of a subsequent bigamous marriage, whether in the Philippines or abroad;
h. Marital infidelity or perversion or having a child with another person other than one’s spouse during the marriage, except when upon the mutual agreement of the spouses, a child is born to them by in vitro or a similar procedure or when the wife bears a child after being a victim of rape;
i. Attempt by the respondent against the life of the petitioner, a common child or a child of the petitioner; and
j. Abandonment of petitioner by respondent without justifiable cause for more than one (1) year.

When the spouses are legally separated by judicial decree for more than two (2) years, either or both spouses can petition the proper court for an absolute divorce based on said judicial decree of legal separation.

1. Grounds for annulment of marriage under Article 45 of the Family Code, restated as follows:

a. The party in whose behalf it is sought to have the marriage annulled was eighteen (18) years of age or over but below twenty-one (21), and the marriage was solemnized without the consent of the parents, guardian or person having substitute parental authority over the party, in that order, unless after attaining the age of twenty-one (21), such party freely cohabited with the other and both lived together as husband or wife;
b. either party was of unsound mind, unless such party after coming to reason, freely cohabited with the other as husband and wife;
c. The consent of either party was obtained by fraud, unless such party afterwards with full knowledge of the facts constituting the fraud, freely cohabited with the other as husband and wife;
d. The consent of either party was obtained by force, intimidation or undue influence, unless the same having disappeared or ceased, such party thereafter freely cohabited with the other as husband and wife;
e. Either party was physically incapable of consummating the marriage with the other and such incapacity continues or appears to be incurable; and
f. Either party was afflicted with a sexually transmissible infection found to be serious or appears to be incurable.

Provided, That the grounds mentioned in b, e and f existed either at the time of the marriage or supervening after the marriage.

a. When the spouses have been separated in fact for at least five (5) years at the time the petition for absolute divorce is filed, and reconciliation is highly improbable;
b. Psychological incapacity of either spouse as provided for in Article 36 of the Family Code, whether or not the incapacity was present at the time of the celebration of the marriage or later;
c. When one of the spouses undergoes a gender reassignment surgery or transitions from one sex to another, the other spouse is entitled to petition for absolute divorce with the transgender or transsexual as respondent, or vice-versa;
d. Irreconcilable marital differences and conflicts which have resulted in the total breakdown of the marriage beyond repair, despite earnest and repeated efforts at reconciliation.

To be sure, a good number of the Filipinos led by the Roman Catholic Church react adversely to any attempt to enact a law on absolute divorce, viewing it as contrary to our customs, morals, and traditions that has looked upon marriage and family as an institution and their nature of permanence, inviolability, and solidarity. However, none of our laws should be based on any religious law, doctrine, or teaching; otherwise, the separation of Church and State will be violated.[75]

In the same breath that the establishment clause restricts what the government can do with religion, it also limits what religious sects can or cannot do. They can neither cause the government to adopt their particular doctrines as policy for everyone, nor can they cause the government to restrict other groups. To do so, in simple terms, would cause the State to adhere to a particular religion and, thus, establish a state religion.[76]

The Roman Catholic Church can neither impose its beliefs and convictions on the State and the rest of the citizenry nor can it demand that the nation follow its beliefs, even if it sincerely believes that they are good for the country.[77] While marriage is considered a sacrament, it has civil and legal consequences which are governed by the Family Code.[78] It is in this aspect, bereft of any ecclesiastical overtone, that the State has a legitimate right and interest to regulate.

The declared State policy that marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State, should not be read in total isolation but must be harmonized with other constitutional provisions. Aside from strengthening the solidarity of the Filipino family, the State is equally mandated to actively promote its total development.[79] It is also obligated to defend, among others, the right of children to special protection from all forms of neglect, abuse, cruelty, exploitation, and other conditions prejudicial to their development.[80] To Our mind, the State cannot effectively enforce these obligations if We limit the application of Paragraph 2 of Article 26 only to those foreign divorce initiated by the alien spouse. It is not amiss to point that the women and children are almost always the helpless victims of all forms of domestic abuse and violence. In fact, among the notable legislation passed in order to minimize, if not eradicate, the menace are R.A. No. 6955 (prohibiting mail order bride and similar practices), R.A. No. 9262 (“Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004”), R.A. No. 9710 (“The Magna Carta of Women”), R.A. No. 10354 (“The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012”), and R.A. No. 9208 (“Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003”), as amended by R.A. No. 10364 (“Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012”). Moreover, in protecting and strengthening the Filipino family as a basic autonomous social institution, the Court must not lose sight of the constitutional mandate to value the dignity of every human person, guarantee full respect for human rights, and ensure the fundamental equality before the law of women and men.[81]

A prohibitive view of Paragraph 2 of Article 26 would do more harm than good. If We disallow a Filipino citizen who initiated and obtained a foreign divorce from the coverage of Paragraph 2 of Article 26 and still require him or her to first avail of the existing “mechanisms” under the Family Code, any subsequent relationship that he or she would enter in the meantime shall be considered as illicit in the eyes of the Philippine law. Worse, any child born out of such “extra-marital” affair has to suffer the stigma of being branded as illegitimate. Surely, these are just but a few of the adverse consequences, not only to the parent but also to the child, if We are to hold a restrictive interpretation of the subject provision. The irony is that the principle of inviolability of marriage under Section 2, Article XV of the Constitution is meant to be tilted in favor of marriage and against unions not formalized by marriage, but without denying State protection and assistance to live-in arrangements or to families formed according to indigenous customs.[82]

This Court should not turn a blind eye to the realities of the present time. With the advancement of communication and information technology, as well as the improvement of the transportation system that almost instantly connect people from all over the world, mixed marriages have become not too uncommon. Likewise, it is recognized that not all marriages are made in heaven and that imperfect humans more often than not create imperfect unions.[83] Living in a flawed world, the unfortunate reality for some is that the attainment of the individual’s full human potential and self-fulfillment is not found and achieved in the context of a marriage. Thus, it is hypocritical to safeguard the quantity of existing marriages and, at the same time, brush aside the truth that some of them are of rotten quality.

Going back, We hold that marriage, being a mutual and shared commitment between two parties, cannot possibly be productive of any good to the society where one is considered released from the marital bond while the other remains bound to it.[84] In reiterating that the Filipino spouse should not be discriminated against in his or her own country if the ends of justice are to be served, San Luis v. San Luis[85] quoted:

x x x In Alonzo v. Intermediate Appellate Court, the Court stated:

But as has also been aptly observed, we test a law by its results; and likewise, we may add, by its purposes. It is a cardinal rule that, in seeking the meaning of the law, the first concern of the judge should be to discover in its provisions the intent of the lawmaker. Unquestionably, the law should never be interpreted in such a way as to cause injustice as this is never within the legislative intent. An indispensable part of that intent, in fact, for we presume the good motives of the legislature, is to render justice.

Thus, we interpret and apply the law not independently of but in consonance with justice. Law and justice are inseparable, and we must keep them so. To be sure, there are some laws that, while generally valid, may seem arbitrary when applied in a particular case because of its peculiar circumstances. In such a situation, we are not bound, because only of our nature and functions, to apply them just the same, in slavish obedience to their language. What we do instead is find a balance between the word and the will, that justice may be done even as the law is obeyed.

As judges, we are not automatons. We do not and must not unfeelingly apply the law as it is worded, yielding like robots to the literal command without regard to its cause and consequence. “Courts are apt to err by sticking too closely to the words of a law,” so we are warned, by Justice Holmes again, “where these words import a policy that goes beyond them.”

x x x x

More than twenty centuries ago, Justinian defined justice “as the constant and perpetual wish to render every one his due.” That wish continues to motivate this Court when it assesses the facts and the law in every case brought to it for decision. Justice is always an essential ingredient of its decisions. Thus when the facts warrant, we interpret the law in a way that will render justice, presuming that it was the intention of the lawmaker, to begin with, that the law be dispensed with justice.[86]

Indeed, where the interpretation of a statute according to its exact and literal import would lead to mischievous results or contravene the clear purpose of the legislature, it should be construed according to its spirit and reason, disregarding as far as necessary the letter of the law.[87] A statute may, therefore, be extended to cases not within the literal meaning of its terms, so long as they come within its spirit or intent.[88]

The foregoing notwithstanding, We cannot yet write finis to this controversy by granting Manalo’s petition to recognize and enforce the divorce decree rendered by the Japanese court and to cancel the entry of marriage in the Civil Registry of San Juan, Metro Manila.

Jurisprudence has set guidelines before Philippine courts recognize a foreign judgment relating to the status of a marriage where one of the parties is a citizen of a foreign country. Presentation solely of the divorce decree will not suffice.[89] The fact of divorce must still first be proven.[90] Before a foreign divorce decree can be recognized by our courts, the party pleading it must prove the divorce as a fact and demonstrate its conformity to the foreign law allowing it.[91]

x x x Before a foreign judgment is given presumptive evidentiary value, the document must first be presented and admitted in evidence. A divorce obtained abroad is proven by the divorce decree itself. Indeed the best evidence of a judgment is the judgment itself. The decree purports to be a written act or record of an act of an official body or tribunal of a foreign country.

Under Sections 24 and 25 of Rule 132, on the other hand, a writing or document may be proven as a public or official record of a foreign country by either (1) an official publication or (2) a copy thereof attested by the officer having legal custody of the document. If the record is not kept in the Philippines, such copy must be (a) accompanied by a certificate issued by the proper diplomatic or consular officer in the Philippine foreign service stationed in the foreign country in which the record is kept and (b) authenticated by the seal of his office.[92]

In granting Manalo’s petition, the CA noted:

In this case, Petitioner was able to submit before the court a quo the 1) Decision of the Japanese Court allowing the divorce; 2) the Authentication/Certificate issued by the Philippine Consulate General in Osaka, Japan of the Decree of Divorce; and 3) Acceptance of Certificate of Divorce by Petitioner and the Japanese national. Under Rule 132, Sections 24 and 25, in relation to Rule 39, Section 48 (b) of the Rules of Court, these documents sufficiently prove the subject Divorce Decree as a fact. Thus, We are constrained to recognize the Japanese Court’s judgment decreeing the divorce.[93]

If the opposing party fails to properly object, as in this case, the divorce decree is rendered admissible as a written act of the foreign court.[94] As it appears, the existence of the divorce decree was not denied by the OSG; neither was the jurisdiction of the divorce court impeached nor the validity of its proceedings challenged on the ground of collusion, fraud, or clear mistake of fact or law, albeit an opportunity to do so.[95]

Nonetheless, the Japanese law on divorce must still be proved.

x x x The burden of proof lies with the “party who alleges the existence of a fact or thing necessary in the prosecution or defense of an action.” In civil cases, plaintiffs have the burden of proving the material allegations of the complaint when those are denied by the answer; and defendants have the burden of proving the material allegations in their answer when they introduce new matters. x x x

It is well-settled in our jurisdiction that our courts cannot take judicial notice of foreign laws. Like any other facts, they must be alleged and proved. x x x The power of judicial notice must be exercised with caution, and every reasonable doubt upon the subject should be resolved in the negative.[96]

Since the divorce was raised by Manalo, the burden of proving the pertinent Japanese law validating it, as well as her former husband’s capacity to remarry, fall squarely upon her. Japanese laws on persons and family relations are not among those matters that Filipino judges are supposed to know by reason of their judicial function.

WHEREFORE, the petition for review on certiorari is DENIED. The September 18, 2014 Decision and October 12, 2015 Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 100076, are AFFIRMED IN PART. The case is REMANDED to the court of origin for further proceedings and reception of evidence as to the relevant Japanese law on divorce.

SO ORDERED.

Carpio,[*] Velasco, Jr., Leonardo-De Castro, Bersamin, Martires, Tijam, Reyes, Jr., and Gesmundo, JJ., concur.
Leonen, J., concur. See separate opinion.
Del Castillo and Perlas-Bernabe, JJ., join the dissent of J. Caguioa.
Caguioa, J., see dissenting opinion.
Sereno, C.J., on leave.
Jardeleza, J., no part.

[*] Acting Chief Justice per Special Order No. 2539 dated February 28, 2018.

[1] Penned by Associate Justice Jane Aurora C. Lantion, with Associate Justices Vicente S.E. Veloso and Nina G. Antonio-Valenzuela concurring; rollo, pp. 23-31.

[2] Rollo, pp. 32-33.

[3] Id. at 30. (Emphasis in the original)

[4] Id. at 42-43.

[5] Id. at 25, 37-38.

[6] Id. at 40-41.

[7] 663 Phil. 546 (2011).

[8] 223 Phil. 357 (1985).

[9] Amor-Catalan v. Court of Appeals, 543 Phil. 568, 575 (2007), citing Garcia v. Recio, 418 Phil. 723, 735-736 (2001).

[10] Garcia v. Redo, supra, at 730 and Medina v. Koike, G.R. No. 215723, July 27, 2016, 798 SCRA 733, 739.

[11] Art. 15. Laws relating to family rights and duties, or to the status, condition and legal capacity of persons are binding upon citizens of the Philippines, even though living abroad. (9a)

[12] Art. 17. The forms and solemnities of contracts, wills, and other public instruments shall be governed by the laws of the country in which they are executed.

When the acts referred to are executed before the diplomatic or consular officials of the Republic of the Philippines in a foreign country, the solemnities established by Philippine laws shall be observed in their execution.

Prohibitive laws concerning persons, their acts or property, and those which have for their object public order, public policy and good customs shall not be rendered ineffective by laws or judgments promulgated, or by determinations or conventions agreed upon in a foreign country.(11a)

[13] Tenchavez v. Escano, et al., 22 Phil. 752, 759-760 (1965), as cited in Cang v. Court of Appeals, 357 Phil. 129, 162 (1998); Llorente v. Court of Appeals, 399 Phil. 342, 356 (2000); and Perez v. Court of Appeals, 516 Phil. 204, 211 (2006). See also Garcia v. Recio, supra note 9, at 730; Republic v. Iyoy, 507 Phil. 485, 504 (2005); and Lavadia v. Heirs of Juan Luces Luna, 739 Phil. 331, 341-342 (2014).

[14] Garcia v. Recio, supra note 9, at 730-731.

[15] FAMILY CODE, Article 26 Paragraph 2. See also Garcia v. Recio, supra note 9, at 730 and Medina v. Koike, supra note 10.

[16] Republic of the Phils. v. Orbecido III, 509 Phil. 108, 112 (2005), as cited in San Luis v. San Luis, 543 Phil. 275, 291 (2007).

[17] Id. at 112-113, as cited in San Luis v. San Luis, supra.

[18] Id. at 113, as cited in San Luis v. San Luis, supra.

[19] Sempio-Diy, Alicia V., HANDBOOK ON THE FAMILY CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES, 1988, pp. 26-27.

[20] Medina v. Koike, supra note 10 and Fujiki v. Marinay, 712 Phil. 524, 555 (2013).

[21] Fujiki v. Marinay, supra.

[22] Id.

[23] See Vda. de Catalan v. Catalan-Lee, 681 Phil. 493, 498 (2012); Roehr v. Rodriguez, 452 Phil. 608, 617-618 (2003); and Llorente v. Court of Appeals, supra note 13.

[24] Supra note 19, at 27. See also Republic of the Phils. v. Orbecido III, supra note 16, at 114, as cited in Fujiki v. Marinay, supra note 20, at 555 and San Luis v. San Luis, supra note 16, at 292.

[25] Supra note 19, at 27.

[26] Supra note 16.

[27] Id. at 114-115. (Citations omitted).

[28] 625 Phil. 494 (2010).

[29] Supra note 8.

[30] Dacasin v. Dacasin, supra, at 507. (Citations omitted; underscoring ours)

[31] Van Dorn v. Judge Romillo, Jr., supra note 8, at 361-363. (Citations omitted).

[32] Supra note 20.

[33] Supra note 10.

[34] Fujiki v. Marinay, et al., supra note 20, at 549-550. (Citations omitted).

[35] 642 Phil. 420 (2010).

[36] Supra note 9.

[37] Commissioner of Customs v. Manila Star Ferry, Inc., 298 Phil. 79, 86 (1993).

[38] Globe-Mackay Cable and Radio Corp. v. NLRC, 283 Phil. 649, 660 (1992), as cited in Victoria v. Commission on Elections, 299 Phil. 263, 268 (1994); Enjay Inc. v. NLRC, 315 Phil. 648, 656 (1995); and Pioneer Texturizing Corp. v. NLRC, 345 Phil. 1057, 1073 (1997). See also National Food Authority v. Masada Security Agency, Inc., 493 Phil. 241, 251 (2005); Rural Bank of San Miguel, Inc. v. Monetary Board, 545 Phil. 62, 72 (2007); Rep. of the Phils. v. Lacap, 546 Phil. 87, 100 (2007); and Phil. Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) v. Phil. Gaming Jurisdiction Inc. (PEJI), et al., 604 Phil. 547, 553 (2009).

[39] Mariano, Jr. v. COMELEC, 312 Phil. 259, 268 (1995).

[40] Id.

[41] 623 Phil. 531, 564-565 (2009).

[42] Fujiki v. Marinay, supra note 20, at 555.

[43] See Barretto Gonzalez v. Gonzalez, 58 Phil. 67, 72 (1933), as cited in Tenchavez v. Escaño, et al., supra note 13, at 762.

[44] See Assn. of Small Landowners in the Phils., Inc. v. Hon. Secretary of Agrarian Reform, 256 Phil. 777, 808 (1989) and Sameer Overseas Placement Agency, Inc. v. Cabiles, 740 Phil. 403, 436 (2014).

[45] Central Bank Employees Assn., Inc. v. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, 487 Phil. 531, 597 (2004) as cited in Serrano v. Gallant Maritime Services, Inc., 601 Phil. 245, 436 (2009). See also Puno, C.J., Separate Concurring Opinion, Ang Ladlad LGBT Party v. COMELEC, 632 Phil. 32, 100 (2010); Brion, J., Separate Opinion, Biraogo v. Phil. Truth Commission of 2010, 651 Phil. 374, 550 (2010); and Leonardo-De Castro, J., Concurring Opinion, Garcia v. Judge Drilon, et al., 712 Phil. 44, 125 (2013).

[46] Central Bank Employees Association, Inc. v. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, supra.

[47] Serrano v. Gallant Maritime Services, Inc., et al., 601 Phil. 245, 282 (2009) and Mosqueda v. Pilipino Banana Growers & Exporters Association, Inc., G.R. Nos. 189185 & 189305, August 16, 2016, 800 SCRA 313, 360. See also Brion, J., Separate Opinion, Biraogo v. Philippine Truth Commission of 2010, supra; Velasco, Jr., J., Concurring Opinion, International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications, Inc. v. Greenpeace Southeast Asia (Phils.), et al., 774 Phil. 508, 706 (2015); and Jardeleza, J., Concurring Opinion, Poe-Llamanzares v. Commission on Elections, G.R. Nos. 221697 & 221698-700, March 8, 2016, 786 SCRA 1, 904.

[48] Brion, J., Separate Opinion, Biraogo v. Philippine Truth Commission of 2010, supra note 45, at 553.

[49] See Morales, J., Dissenting Opinion, Central Bank Employees Assn., Inc. v. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, 487 Phil. 531, 697-698 (2004) as cited by Brion, J., Separate Opinion, Biraogo v. Philippine Truth Commission of 2010, supra note 45, at 553, and Leonen, J., Separate Opinion, Samahan ng mga Progresibong Kabataan v. Quezon City, G.R. No. 225442, August 8, 2017.

[50] Serrano v. Gallant Maritime Services, Inc., et al., 601 Phil. 245, 298 (2009).

[51] Id.

[52] Brion, J., Separate Concurring Opinion, Sps. Imbong v. Hon. Ochoa, Jr., et al., 732 Phil. 1, 326- 327 (2014).

[53] To be valid, the classification must conform to the following requirements:

1.) It must rest on substantial distinctions.
2.) It must be germane to the purpose of the law.
3) It must not be limited to existing conditions only.
4) It must apply equally to all members of the same class. (See PAGCOR v. Bureau of Internal Revenue, 660 Phil. 636, 648 [2011]; Maj. Gen. Garcia v. The Executive Secretary, et al., 692 Phil. 114, 141-142 [2012]; Corpuz v. People, 734 Phil. 353, 405 [2014]; Ferrer, Jr. v. Mayor Bautista, 762 Phil. 233, 277 (2015); Drugstores Association of the Philippines, Inc. v. National Council on Disability Affairs, G.R. No. 194561, September 14, 2016, 803 SCRA 25, 55; Ocampo v. Enriquez, G.R. Nos. 225973, 225984, 226097, 226116, 226117, 226120 & 226294, November 8, 2016; and Mindanao Shopping Destination Corp. v. Duterte, G.R. No. 211093, June 6, 2017).

[54] Section 1, Article III of the Constitution states:

Section 1. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.

[55] Tenchavez v. Escano, et al., supra note 13, as cited in Cang v. Court of Appeals, supra note 13;; Llorente v. Court of Appeals, supra note 13; and Perez v. Court of Appeals, supra note 13. See also Garcia v. Recio, supra note 9, at 730; Republic v. Iyoy supra note 13; and Lavadia v. Heirs of Juan Luces Luna, supra note 13. FAMILY CODE, Article 26 Paragraph 2. See also Garcia v. Recio, supra note 9, at 730 and Medina v. Koike, supra note 10.

[56] Art. 35. The following marriages shall be void from the beginning:

(1) Those contracted by any party below eighteen years of age even with the consent of parents or guardians;
(2) Those solemnized by any person not legally authorized to perform marriages unless such marriages were contracted with either or both parties believing in good faith that the solemnizing officer had the legal authority to do so;
(3) Those solemnized without a license, except those covered by the preceding Chapter;
(4) Those bigamous or polygamous marriages not falling under Article 41;
(5) Those contracted through mistake of one contracting party as to the identity of the other; and
(6) Those subsequent marriages that are void under Article 53.

Art. 36. 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. (As amended by E.O. 227)

Art. 37. Marriages between the following are incestuous and void from the beginning, whether the relationship between the parties be legitimate or illegitimate:

(1) Between ascendants and descendants of any degree; and
(2) Between brothers and sisters, whether of the full or half blood.

Art. 38. The following marriages shall be void from the beginning for reasons of public policy:

(1) Between collateral blood relatives, whether legitimate or illegitimate, up to the fourth civil degree;
(2) Between step-parents and step-children;
(3) Between parents-in-law and children-in-law;
(4) Between the adopting parent and the adopted child;
(5) Between the surviving spouse of the adopting parent and the adopted child;
(6) Between the surviving spouse of the adopted child and the adopter;
(7) Between an adopted child and a legitimate child of the adopter;
(8) Between the adopted children of the same adopter; and
(9) Between parties where one, with the intention to marry the other, killed that other person’s spouse or his or her own spouse. (82)

Art. 41. A marriage contracted by any person during the subsistence of a previous marriage shall be null and void, unless before the celebration of the subsequent marriage, the prior spouse had been absent for four consecutive years and the spouse present has a well-founded belief that the absent spouse was already dead. In case of disappearance where there is danger of death under the circumstances set forth in the provisions of Article 391 of the Civil Code, an absence of only two years shall be sufficient.

For the purpose of contracting the subsequent marriage under the preceding paragraph, the spouse present must institute a summary proceeding as provided in this Code for the declaration of presumptive death of the absentee, without prejudice to the effect of reappearance of the absent spouse. (83a)

Art. 52. The judgment of annulment or of absolute nullity of the marriage, the partition and distribution of the properties of the spouses, and the delivery of the children’s presumptive legitimes shall be recorded in the appropriate civil registry and registries of property; otherwise, the same shall not affect third persons, (n)

Art. 53. Either of the former spouses may marry again after complying with the requirements of the immediately preceding Article; otherwise, the subsequent marriage shall be null and void.

[57] RULE 131, Section 3(a).

[58] Id., Section 3(c).

[59] Id., Section 3(d).

[60] Id., Section 3(x).

[61] Id., Section 3(aa).

[62] Id., Section 3(ff).

[63] Rep. of the Phils. v. Albios, 719 Phil. 622, 636 (2013).

[64] 1987 CONSTITUTION, Article XV, Section 2. This echoed the Family Code provision, which provides:

Art. 1. Marriage is a special contract of permanent union between a man and a woman entered into in accordance with law for the establishment of conjugal and family life. It is the foundation of the family and an inviolable social institution whose nature, consequences, and incidents are governed by law and not subject to stipulation, except that marriage settlements may fix the property relations during the marriage within the limits provided by this Code.

[65] Bernas, Joaquin G, S.J., THE INTENT OF THE 1986 CONSTITUTION WRITERS, 1995 Edition, pp. 1132, citing V RECORD 41.

[66] Record of the Constitutional Commission: Proceedings and Debates, Volume V, September 24, 1986, p. 41.

[67] See Garcia Valdez v. Soteraña Tuason, 40 Phil. 943, 944 (1920); Francisco v. Tayao, 50 Phil. 42 (1927); People v. Bitdu, 58 Phil. 817 (1933); Sikat v. Canson, 61 Phil. 207 (1939); and Arca, et al. v. Javier, 95 Phil. 579 (1954).

[68] See Baptista v. Castañeda, 16 Phil. 461 (1946); Luz v. Court of First Instance of Tacloban, 77 Phil. 679 (1946); and Antonio v. Reyes, 519 Phil. 337 (2006).

[69] Baptista v. Castañeda, supra, at 463.

[70] Tenchavezv. Escano, et al.,supra note 13, at 759-760, as cited in Cang v. Court of Appeals, supra note 13; Llorente v. Court of Appeals, supra note 13; and Perez v. Court of Appeals, supra note 13. See also Garcia v. Recio, supra note 9, at 730; Republic v. Iyoy, supra note 13; and Lavadia v. Heirs of Juan Luces Luna, 739 Phil. 331, 341-342 (2014).

[71] Entitled “Instituting Absolute Divorce in the Philippines And For Other Purposes,” with Representative Edcel C. Lagman as Principal Author.

[72] Entitled “An Act Amending Title I, Chapter 3, of Executive Order No. 209, Otherwise Known as the Family Code of the Philippines, Prescribing Additional Ground for Annulment,” with Representative Robert Ace S. Barbers as Principal Author.

[73] Entitled “An Act Introducing Divorce in the Philippines, Amending for the Purpose Articles 26, 55 to 66 and Repealing Article 36 Under Title II of Executive Order No. 209, As Amended, Otherwise Known as the Family Code of the Philippines, and For Other Purposes,” with Gabriela Women’s Party Representatives Emmi A. De Jesus and Arlene D. Brosas as principal authors.

[74] Entitled “An Act Providing for Grounds for the Dissolution of a Marriage,” with Representatives Teddy B. Baguilat, Jr., Rodel M. Batocabe, Arlene D. Brosas, Ariel B. Casilao, France L. Castro, Nancy A. Catamco, Pia S. Cayetano, Emmi A. De Jesus, Sarah Jane I. Elago, Gwendolyn F. Garcia, Ana Cristina Siquian Go, Edcel C. Lagman, Pantaleon D. Alvarez, Antonio L. Tinio, and Carlos Isagani T. Zarate as Principal Authors.

[75] See Leonen, J., dissenting in Matudan v. Republic, G.R. No. 203284, November 14, 2016.

[76] Re: Letter of Tony Q. Valenciano, A.M. No. 10-4-19-SC (Resolution), March 7, 2017.

[77] See Sps. Imbong, et al. v. Hon. Ochoa, Jr., et al., 732 Phil. 1, 167 (2014).

[78] Tilar v. Tilar, G.R. No. 214529, July 12, 2017.

[79] Article XV, Section 1.

[80] Article XV, Section 3(2).

[81] Article II, Sections 11, 12 and 14. See also Republic Act Nos. 7192 (“Women in Development and Nation Building Act”) and 9710 (“The Magna Carta of Women”).

[82] Bernas, Joaquin G, S.J., THE INTENT OF THE 1986 CONSTITUTION WRITERS, 1995 Edition, pp. 1132, citing V RECORD 40, 44.

[83] See Paras v. Paras, 555 Phil. 786, 804 (2007)

[84] San Luis v. San Luis, supra note 16, at 292-293.

[85] Supra note 16.

[86] San Luis v. San Luis, supra note 16, at 293-294.

[87] Republic of the Phils. v. Orbecido III, supra note 16, at 115.

[88] Id.

[89] Garcia v. Recio, supra note 9, at 731, as cited in Vda. de Catalan v. Catalan-Lee, supra note 23, at 501.

[90] Fujiki v. Marinay, supra note 20, at 544 and Vda. de Catalan v. Catalan-Lee, supra note 23, at 499.

[91] Garcia v. Recio, supra note 9, at 731, as cited in Medina v. Koike, supra note 10 and Republic of the Phils. v. Orbecido III, supra note 16, at 116. See also Bayot v. The Hon. Court of Appeals, et al., 591 Phil. 452, 470 (2008).

[92] Garcia v. Recio, supra note 9, at 732-733. (Citations omitted). See also Vda. de Catalan v. Catalan-Lee, supra note 23, at 499 and 501-502 and San Luis v. San Luis, supra note 16, at 294.

[93] Rollo, pp. 29-30.

[94] Garcia v. Recio, supra note 9, at 733-734.

[95] See Bayot v. The Hon. Court of Appeals, et al., supra note 75, at 470-471; and Roehr v. Rodriguez, supra note, 23, at 617.

[96] Garcia v. Recio, supra note 9, at 735. (Citations omitted). See also Vda. de Catalan v. Catalan- Lee, supra note 23, at 500-501; San Luis v. San Luis, supra note 16, at 295; Republic of the Phils. v. Orbecido III, supra note 16, at 116; and Llorente v. Court of Appeals, supra note 13, at 354.

NOTICE OF JUDGMENT

Sirs/Mesdames:

Please take notice that on April 24, 2018 a Decision/Resolution, copy attached herewith, was rendered by the Supreme Court in the above-entitled case, the original of which was received by this Office on May 17, 2018 at 3:15 p.m.

Very truly yours,

(SGD.) EDGAR O. ARICHETA
Clerk of Court