Marieta Azcueta vs Republic of the Philippines
588 SCRA 196 – Civil Law – Family Code – Article 36; Psychological Incapacity – Dependent Personality Disorder
Expert Opinion by Psychologist Must Be Considered as Decisive Evidence
In 1993, after knowing each other for only two months, Marieta Azcueta and Rodolfo Azcueta married each other. Their marriage was okay at first but since Rodolfo cannot find any gainful employment, Marieta began nagging him. In fact, it was Rodolfo’s mother who had to find an apartment room (near the mother’s home) for the new couple to stay.
Marieta would bring Rodolfo newspapers hoping that the latter may find employment. She would give him new clothes and money for him to use for job interviews. One day Rodolfo informed Marieta that he already found a jod. Marieta was so happy but later she found out that Rodolfo was not actually employed and that every time Rodolfo would “go to work” he was actually going home to his mother and the “salary” he was receiving was actually coming from his mother. When confronted, Rodolfo cried like a baby and explained to Marieta that he only did that so that she will not be nagging him anymore.
At times also, when Rodolfo is drunk, he would become violent against Marieta.
And in 1997, after four years of living together as husband and wife (and childless at that, since Rodolfo also did not want to have sex), Marieta decided to leave Rodolfo – but she was hoping that Rodolfo would follow her which did not happen.
In 2002, Marieta filed a petition to have their marriage be declared void on the ground that Rodolfo is psychologically incapacitated. Marieta presented as expert witness Dr. Cecilia Villegas. Villegas did not personally evaluate Rodolfo but based on her interview with Marieta, she concluded that Rodolfo is inflicted with Dependent Personality Disorder (mama’s boy) as he was too dependent on his mother so much so that he cannot decide for himself, she explained
Rodolfo Azcueta is psychologically incapacitated to perform the duties and responsibilities of marriage suffering from a psychiatric classification as Dependent Personality Disorder associated with severe inadequacy related to masculine strivings.
Dependent Personality Disorder are (sic) those persons in which their response to ordinary way of life are ineffectual and inept characterized by loss of self confidence, always in doubt with himself and inability to make his own decision, quite dependent on other people, and in this case, on his mother.
The root cause of this psychological problem is a cross identification with the mother who is the dominant figure in the family, the mother has the last say and the authority in the family while the father was a seaman and always out of the house, and if present is very shy, quiet and he himself has been very submissive and passive to the authority of the wife.
The RTC ruled in favor of Marieta but on appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed the decision on the grounds that:
1. Villegas did not personally examine Rodolfo,
2. His dependence to his mother for financial support may be brought about by his feeling of embarrassment that he cannot contribute at all to the family coffers, considering that it was his wife who is working for the family – but the same is not psychological incapacity.
3. The behavior displayed by Rodolfo was caused only by his youth and emotional immaturity which by themselves, do not constitute psychological incapacity.
In short, for the CA, the totality of evidence does not support a finding of psychological incapacity.
ISSUE: Whether or not Rodolfo is psychologically incapacitated.
HELD: Yes. The ruling of the CA is reversed:
1. As previously ruled in the case of Te vs Te, personal examination by the psychologists is not a condition sine qua non before a finding of psychological incapacity may be had;
2. The CA has no basis to make such a finding. Appellate courts should not substitute their discretion with that of the trial court or the expert witnesses, save only in instance where the findings of the trial court or the experts are contradicted by evidence.
3. Again, no basis. Rodolfo was already 28 years old at the time of the marriage.
The finding of Dr. Villegas that Rodolfo is inflicted with Dependent Personality Disorder is considered a decisive evidence. A person with this condition cannot assume the essential marital obligations of living together, observing love, respect and fidelity and rendering help and support, for he is unable to make everyday decisions without advice from others, allows others to make most of his important decisions (such as where to live), tends to agree with people even when he believes they are wrong, has difficulty doing things on his own, volunteers to do things that are demeaning in order to get approval from other people, feels uncomfortable or helpless when alone and is often preoccupied with fears of being abandoned.
The court however emphasized that this is not to say that anyone diagnosed with dependent personality disorder is automatically deemed psychologically incapacitated to comply with the obligations of marriage. Psychology is not an exact science. Every case must be dealt with independently. It is the duty of the court in its evaluation of the facts, as guided by expert opinion, to carefully scrutinize the type of disorder and the gravity of the same before declaring the nullity of a marriage under Article 36.
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