Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Psychological incapacity; proof of - G.R. No. 175367

G.R. No. 175367

"x x x.

Before anything else, it bears to point out that had respondent’s complaint been filed after March 15, 2003, this present petition would have been denied since Supreme Court Administrative Matter No. 02-11-10[13] prohibits the filing of a motion to dismiss in actions for annulment of marriage. Be that as it may, after a circumspect review of the arguments raised by petitioner herein, this Court finds that the petition is not meritorious.

In Republic v. Court of Appeals,[14] this Court created the Molina guidelines to aid the courts in the disposition of cases involving psychological incapacity, to wit:

(1) Burden of proof to show the nullity of the marriage belongs to the plaintiff.

(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.

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

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

(5) Such illness must be grave enough to bring about the disability of the party to assume the essential obligations of 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.

(8) The trial court must order the prosecuting attorney or fiscal and the Solicitor General to appear as counsel for the state. No decision shall be handed down unless the Solicitor General issues a certification, which will be quoted in the decision, briefly stating therein his reasons for his agreement or opposition, as the case may be, to the petition.[15]

This Court, pursuant to Supreme Court Administrative Matter No. 02-11-10, has modified the above pronouncements, particularly Section 2(d) thereof, stating that the certification of the Solicitor General required in the Molina case is dispensed with to avoid delay. Still, Article 48 of the Family Code mandates that the appearance of the prosecuting attorney or fiscal assigned be on behalf of the State to take steps to prevent collusion between the parties and to take care that evidence is not fabricated or suppressed.[16]

Petitioner anchors his petition on the premise that the allegations contained in respondent’s petition are insufficient to support a declaration of nullity of marriage based on psychological incapacity. Specifically, petitioner contends that the petition failed to comply with three of the Molina guidelines, namely: that the root cause of the psychological incapacity must be alleged in the complaint; that such illness must be grave enough to bring about the disability of the party to assume the essential obligations of marriage; and that the non-complied marital obligation must be stated in the petition.[17]

First, contrary to petitioner’s assertion, this Court finds that the root cause of psychological incapacity was stated and alleged in the complaint. We agree with the manifestation of respondent that the family backgrounds of both petitioner and respondent were discussed in the complaint as the root causes of their psychological incapacity. Moreover, a competent and expert psychologist clinically identified the same as the root causes.

Second, the petition likewise alleged that the illness of both parties was of such grave a nature as to bring about a disability for them to assume the essential obligations of marriage. The psychologist reported that respondent suffers from Histrionic Personality Disorder with Narcissistic Features. Petitioner, on the other hand, allegedly suffers from Passive Aggressive (Negativistic) Personality Disorder. The incapacity of both parties to perform their marital obligations was alleged to be grave, incorrigible and incurable.

Lastly, this Court also finds that the essential marital obligations that were not complied with were alleged in the petition. As can be easily gleaned from the totality of the petition, respondent’s allegations fall under Article 68 of the Family Code which states that “the husband and the wife are obliged to live together, observe mutual love, respect and fidelity, and render mutual help and support.”

It bears to stress that whether or not petitioner and respondent are psychologically incapacitated to fulfill their marital obligations is a matter for the RTC to decide at the first instance. A perusal of the Molina guidelines would show that the same contemplate a situation wherein the parties have presented their evidence, witnesses have testified, and that a decision has been reached by the court after due hearing. Such process can be gleaned from guidelines 2, 6 and 8, which refer to a decision rendered by the RTC after trial on the merits. It would certainly be too burdensome to ask this Court to resolve at first instance whether the allegations contained in the petition are sufficient to substantiate a case for psychological incapacity. Let it be remembered that each case involving the application of Article 36 must be treated distinctly and judged not on the basis of a priori assumptions, predilections or generalizations but according to its own attendant facts. Courts should interpret the provision on a case-to-case basis, guided by experience, the findings of experts and researchers in psychological disciplines, and by decisions of church tribunals.[18] It would thus be more prudent for this Court to remand the case to the RTC, as it would be in the best position to scrutinize the evidence as well as hear and weigh the evidentiary value of the testimonies of the ordinary witnesses and expert witnesses presented by the parties.

Given the allegations in respondent’s petition for nullity of marriage, this Court rules that the RTC did not commit grave abuse of discretion in denying petitioner’s motion to dismiss. By grave abuse of discretion is meant capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction. Mere abuse of discretion is not enough. It must be grave abuse of discretion as when the power is exercised in an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility, and must be so patent and so gross as to amount to an evasion of a positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined or to act at all in contemplation of law.[19] Even assuming arguendo that this Court were to agree with petitioner that the allegations contained in respondent’s petition are insufficient and that the RTC erred in denying petitioner’s motion to dismiss, the same is merely an error of judgment correctible by appeal and not an abuse of discretion correctible by certiorari.[20]

Finally, the CA properly dismissed petitioner’s petition. As a general rule, the denial of a motion to dismiss, which is an interlocutory order, is not reviewable by certiorari. Petitioner’s remedy is to reiterate the grounds in his motion to dismiss, as defenses in his answer to the petition for nullity of marriage, proceed trial and, in case of an adverse decision, appeal the decision in due time.[21] The existence of that adequate remedy removed the underpinnings of his petition for certiorari in the CA.[22]

x x x."