LEONILO ANTONIO vs. MARIE IVONNE F. REYES, G.R. No. 155800, March 10, 2006.
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Article 36 of the Family Code states that “[a] marriage contracted by any party who, at the time of the celebration, was psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential marital obligations of marriage, shall likewise be void even if such incapacity becomes manifest only after its solemnization.”10 The concept of psychological incapacity as a ground for nullity of marriage is novel in our body of laws, although mental incapacity has long been recognized as a ground for the dissolution of a marriage.
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The notion that psychological incapacity pertains to the inability to understand the obligations of marriage, as opposed to a mere inability to comply with them, was further affirmed in the Molina26 case. Therein, the Court, through then Justice (now Chief Justice) Panganiban observed that “[t]he evidence [to establish psychological incapacity] must convince the court that the parties, or one of them, was mentally or psychically ill to such extent that the person could not have known the obligations he was assuming, or knowing them, could not have given valid assumption thereto.”27 Jurisprudence since then has recognized that psychological incapacity “is a malady so grave and permanent as to deprive one of awareness of the duties and responsibilities of the matrimonial bond one is about to assume.”28
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Now is also opportune time to comment on another common legal guide utilized in the adjudication of petitions for declaration of nullity under Article 36. All too frequently, this Court and lower courts, in denying petitions of the kind, have favorably cited Sections 1 and 2, Article XV of the Constitution, which respectively state that “[t]he State recognizes the Filipino family as the foundation of the nation. Accordingly, it shall strengthen its solidarity and actively promote its total developmen[t],” and that “[m]arriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State.” These provisions highlight the importance of the family and the constitutional protection accorded to the institution of marriage.
But the Constitution itself does not establish the parameters of state protection to marriage as a social institution and the foundation of the family. It remains the province of the legislature to define all legal aspects of marriage and prescribe the strategy and the modalities to protect it, based on whatever socio-political influences it deems proper, and subject of course to the qualification that such legislative enactment itself adheres to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. This being the case, it also falls on the legislature to put into operation the constitutional provisions that protect marriage and the family. This has been accomplished at present through the enactment of the Family Code, which defines marriage and the family, spells out the corresponding legal effects, imposes the limitations that affect married and family life, as well as prescribes the grounds for declaration of nullity and those for legal separation. While it may appear that the judicial denial of a petition for declaration of nullity is reflective of the constitutional mandate to protect marriage, such action in fact merely enforces a statutory definition of marriage, not a constitutionally ordained decree of what marriage is. Indeed, if circumstances warrant, Sections 1 and 2 of Article XV need not be the only constitutional considerations to be taken into account in resolving a petition for declaration of nullity.
Indeed, Article 36 of the Family Code, in classifying marriages contracted by a psychologically incapacitated person as a nullity, should be deemed as an implement of this constitutional protection of marriage. Given the avowed State interest in promoting marriage as the foundation of the family, which in turn serves as the foundation of the nation, there is a corresponding interest for the State to defend against marriages ill-equipped to promote family life. Void ab initio marriages under Article 36 do not further the initiatives of the State concerning marriage and family, as they promote wedlock among persons who, for reasons independent of their will, are not capacitated to understand or comply with the essential obligations of marriage.
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Molina Guidelines As Applied in This Case
As stated earlier, Molina established the guidelines presently recognized in the judicial disposition of petitions for nullity under Article 36. The Court has consistently applied Molina since its promulgation in 1997, and the guidelines therein operate as the general rules. They warrant citation in full:
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, 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 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. It is clear that Article 36 was taken by the Family Code Revision Committee from Canon 1095 of the New Code of Canon Law, which became effective in 1983 and which provides:
“The following are incapable of contracting marriage: Those who are unable to assume the essential obligations of marriage due to causes of psychological nature.”
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Molina had provided for an additional requirement that the Solicitor General issue a certification stating his reasons for his agreement or opposition to the petitionn.38 This requirement however was dispensed with following the implementation of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC, or the Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages.39 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. Obviously, collusion is not an issue in this case, considering the consistent vigorous opposition of respondent to the petition for declaration of nullity. In any event, the fiscal’s participation in the hearings before the trial court is extant from the records of this case.
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