Leouel Santos vs Court of Appeals

November 19, 2010
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204 SCRA 20 (310 Phil. 21) – Civil Law – Family Code – Article 36: Psychological Incapacity

Note: This was the first case where the term “psychological incapacity” was discussed by the Supreme Court.

Leouel Santos, a member of the Army, met Julia Rosario Bedia in Iloilo City. In September 1986, they got married. The couple latter lived with Julia’s parents. Julia gave birth to their son in 1987. Their marriage, however, was marred by the frequent interference of Julia’s parents, as averred by Leouel. The couple also occasionally quarreled about as to, among other things, when should they start living independently from Julia’s parents. In 1988, Julia went to the US to work as a nurse despite Leouel’s opposition. 7 months later, she and Leouel got to talk and she promised to return home in 1989. She never went home that year. In 1990, Leouel got the chance to be in the US due to a military training. During his stay, he desperately tried to locate his wife but to no avail. Leouel, in an effort to at least have his wife come home, filed a petition to nullify their marriage due to Julia’s alleged psychological incapacity. Leouel asserted that due to Julia’s failure to return home or at least communicate with him even with all his effort constitutes psychological incapacity. Julia filed an opposition; she said that it is Leouel who is incompetent. The prosecutor ascertained that there is no collusion between the two. Leouel’s petition is however denied by the lower and appellate court.

ISSUE: Whether or not psychological incapacity is attendant to the case at bar.

HELD: No. Before deciding on the case, the SC noted that the Family Code did not define the term “psychological incapacity”, which is adopted from the Catholic Canon Law. But basing it on the deliberations of the Family Code Revision Committee, the provision in PI, adopted with less specificity than expected, has been designed to allow some resiliency in its application. The FCRC did not give any examples of PI for fear that the giving of examples would limit the applicability of the provision under the principle of ejusdem generis. Rather, the FCRC would like the judge to interpret the provision on a case-to-case basis, guided by experience, the findings of experts and researchers in psychological disciplines, and by decisions of church tribunals which, although not binding on the civil courts, may be given persuasive effect since the provision was taken from Canon Law. The term “psychological incapacity” defies any precise definition since psychological causes can be of an infinite variety.

Article 36 of the Family Code cannot be taken and construed independently of but must stand in conjunction with, existing precepts in our law on marriage. PI 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 which (Art. 68), include their mutual obligations to live together, observe love, respect and fidelity and render help and support. The intendment of the law has been to confine the meaning of PI to the most serious cases of personality disorders clearly demonstrative of an utter insensitivity or inability to give meaning and significance to the marriage. This psychological condition must exist at the time the marriage is celebrated. The SC also notes that PI must be characterized by (a) gravity, (b) juridical antecedence, and (c) incurability. The incapacity must be grave or serious such that the party would be incapable of carrying out the ordinary duties required in marriage; it must be rooted in the history of the party antedating the marriage, although the overt manifestations may emerge only after the marriage; and it must be incurable or, even if it were otherwise, the cure would be beyond the means of the party involved.

In the case at bar, although Leouel stands aggrieved, his petition must be dismissed because the alleged PI of his wife is not clearly shown by the factual settings presented. The factual settings do not come close to to the standard required to decree a nullity of marriage.

 

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