Benjamin Ting vs Carmen Velez-Ting

June 7, 2015
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582 SCRA 694 – Civil Law – Family Code – Article 36; Psychological Incapacity

Personal Examination by Psychologist Not a Condition Sine Qua Non

Note: This reinforced the case of Te vs Te which relaxed the application of the Molina Guidelines.

In 1972, Benjamin Ting and Carmen Velez met each other in medical school. In 1975, they married each other.

In 1980, Benjamin became a full-fledged doctor and he practiced at the Velez Hospital (owned by Carmen’s family).

Benjamin and Carmen had six children during their marriage. But after 18 years of marriage, Carmen went to court to have their marriage be declared void on the ground that Benjamin was psychologically incapacitated.

She alleged that even before she married Benjamin, the latter was already a drunkard; that Benjamin was a gambler, he was violent, and would rather spend on his expensive hobby; that he rarely stayed home and even neglected his children and family obligations.

Carmen presented an expert witness (Dr. Pureza Trinidad-Oñate) to prove Benjamin’s psychological incapacity. However, Oñate merely based her findings on the deposition submitted by Benjamin. Oñate was not able to personally examine Benjamin because at that time, Benjamin was already working as an anesthesiologist in South Africa.

On his part, Benjamin opposed the petition. He also presented his own expert witness (Dr. Renato Obra) to disprove Carmen’s allegations. Obra was not able to personally examine Benjamin but he also evaluated the same deposition evaluated by Oñate. Also, Benjamin submitted himself for evaluation to a South African doctor (Dr. A.J.L. Pentz) and the transcript of said evaluation was submitted to Obra and the latter also evaluated the same. Obra found Benjamin not to be psychologically incapacitated.

The trial court, and eventually the Court of Appeals, ruled in favor of Carmen.

ISSUE: Whether or not Benjamin Ting’s psychological incapacity was proven.

HELD: No. The Supreme Court found the evidence presented to be lacking in order to support a finding of psychological incapacity on the part of Benjamin. Said the Supreme Court:

we are not condoning Benjamin’s drinking and gambling problems, or his violent outbursts against his wife. There is no valid excuse to justify such a behavior. Benjamin must remember that he owes love, respect, and fidelity to his spouse as much as the latter owes the same to him. Unfortunately, this court finds Carmen’s testimony, as well as the totality of evidence presented by Carmen, to be too inadequate to declare Benjamin psychologically unfit pursuant to Article 36.

Carmen failed to prove that such attitude by Benjamin is psychologically rooted so as to make Benjamin unaware of his marital obligations. It should be remembered that the presumption is always in favor of the validity of marriage.

Anent the issue that Benjamin was not personally evaluated by the psychologists which deviates from the Molina Guidelines, the Supreme Court ruled that as early as the case of Te vs Te, the Molina Guidelines were already relaxed. Cases involving Article 36 must be tried on a case-to-case basis. 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. The Supreme Court however emphasized that the Molina case was not abandoned, its application was merely relaxed.

 

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