PAZ vs PAZ
Republic of the Philippines
G.R. No. 166579 February 18, 2010
JORDAN CHAN PAZ, Petitioner,
JEANICE PAVON PAZ, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
This is a petition for review1 of the 9 August 20042 and 26 November 20043 Resolutions of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 80473. In its 9 August 2004 Resolution, the Court of Appeals dismissed petitioner Jordan Chan Paz’s (Jordan) appeal of the 13 May 2003 Decision4 of the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City, Branch 69 (trial court), which granted respondent Jeanice Pavon Paz’s (Jeanice) petition for declaration of nullity of marriage. In its 26 November 2004 Resolution, the Court of Appeals denied Jordan’s motion for reconsideration.
Jordan and Jeanice met sometime in November 1996. Jeanice was only 19 years old while Jordan was 27 years old. In January 1997, they became a couple and, on 10 May 1997, they were formally engaged. They had their civil wedding on 3 July 1997, and their church wedding on 21 September 1997. They have one son, Evan Gaubert, who was born on 12 February 1998. After a big fight, Jeanice left their conjugal home on 23 February 1999.
On 15 September 1999, Jeanice filed a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage against Jordan. Jeanice alleged that Jordan was psychologically incapable of assuming the essential obligations of marriage. According to Jeanice, Jordan’s psychological incapacity was manifested by his uncontrollable tendency to be self-preoccupied and self-indulgent, as well as his predisposition to become violent and abusive whenever his whims and caprices were not satisfied.
Jeanice alleged that Jordan had a tendency to lie about his whereabouts and had the habit of hanging out and spending a great deal of time with his friends. Since Jordan worked in their family business, Jordan would allegedly just stay home, tinker with the Play Station, and ask Jeanice to lie to his brothers about his whereabouts. Jeanice further alleged that Jordan was heavily dependent on and attached to his mother. After giving birth to their son, Jeanice noticed that Jordan resented their son and spent more time with his friends rather than help her take care of their son. Jordan also demanded from his mother a steady supply of milk and diapers for their son.
At the early stage of their marriage, Jeanice said they had petty fights but that the quarrels turned for the worse and Jordan became increasingly violent toward her. At one point, Jordan threatened to hurt her with a pair of scissors. Jeanice also alleged that on 22 February 1999, Jordan subjected her to verbal lashing and insults and threatened to hit her with a golf club. Jeanice added that Jordan has not provided any financial support or visited their son since she left their conjugal home.
Psychologist Cristina R. Gates (Gates) testified that Jordan was afflicted with “Borderline Personality Disorder as manifested in his impulsive behavior, delinquency and instability.”5 Gates concluded that Jordan’s psychological maladies antedate their marriage and are rooted in his family background. Gates added that with no indication of reformation, Jordan’s personality disorder appears to be grave and incorrigible.
Jordan denied Jeanice’s allegations. Jordan asserted that Jeanice exaggerated her statements against him. Jordan said that Jeanice has her own personal insecurities and that her actions showed her lack of maturity, childishness and emotional inability to cope with the struggles and challenges of maintaining a married life.
Jordan also objected to the psychological report offered by Jeanice. Jordan pointed out that he was not subjected to any interview or psychological tests by Gates. Jordan argued that Gates’ conclusions were mere speculations, conjectures and suppositions from the information supplied by Jeanice. Jordan alleged that it was patently one-sided and is not admissible in evidence as it was based on hearsay statements of Jeanice which were obviously self-serving. Jordan said he wants Jeanice back and prayed for the dismissal of the petition.
The Ruling of the Trial Court
On 13 May 2003, the trial court granted Jeanice’s petition. The trial court declared that Jordan’s psychological incapacity, which was specifically identified as “Borderline Personality Disorder,” deprived him of the capacity to fully understand his responsibilities under the marital bond. The trial court found that Jordan was psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential obligations of marriage, particularly Articles 686 and 707 of the Family Code. The trial court also declared that Jordan’s psychological incapacity, being rooted in his family background, antedates the marriage and that without any sign of reformation, found the same to be grave and incurable.
The dispositive portion of the trial court’s 13 May 2003 Decision reads:
IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, judgment is hereby rendered declaring the marriage between petitioner Jeanice Pavon Paz and respondent Jordan Chan Paz celebrated on July 3, 1997 and September 21, 1997 as null and void ab initio on the ground of psychological incapacity on the part of respondent pursuant to Article 36 of the Family Code with all the effects provided by law. The couple’s absolute community of properties [sic] shall be dissolved in the manner herein provided. And the custody over Evan shall remain with the petitioner, without regard to visitation rights of the respondent as the father of the child. Furthermore, the parties are jointly responsible for the support of their minor child Evan Guabert Pavon Paz.
Let copies of this decision be furnished the Local Civil Registrars of Quezon City and Pasig City respectively as well as the National Statistics Office (NSO, CRP, Legal Department) EDSA, Quezon City.
On 6 June 2003, Jordan filed a Notice of Appeal.9 The trial court promptly approved Jordan’s appeal.
On 10 February 2004, Jeanice filed a Motion to Dismiss Appeal with the Court of Appeals.10 In her motion, Jeanice sought the immediate dismissal of Jordan’s appeal on the ground that Jordan failed to comply with Section 20 of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC11 which provides:
Sec. 20. Appeal.
(1) Pre-condition. No appeal from the decision shall be allowed unless the appellant has filed a motion for reconsideration or new trial within fifteen days from notice of judgment.
On 9 August 2004, the Court of Appeals dismissed Jordan’s appeal. According to the Court of Appeals, the rules state in mandatory and categorical terms that the filing of a motion for reconsideration or new trial is a pre-condition before an appeal from the decision is allowed. The Court of Appeals added that when the law is clear and unambiguous, it admits no room for interpretation but merely for application.
Jordan filed a motion for reconsideration. In its 26 November 2004 Resolution, the Court of Appeals dismissed the motion.
Hence, this petition.
In a minute Resolution dated 22 June 2005, we denied Jordan’s petition for failure to sufficiently show that the Court of Appeals committed any reversible error in the challenged resolutions as to warrant the exercise by this Court of its discretionary appellate jurisdiction.12
On 18 August 2005, Jordan filed a motion for reconsideration. While Jordan admits that he failed to file a motion for reconsideration of the trial court’s 13 May 2003 Decision, Jordan submits that Section 20 of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC should not have been strictly applied against him because it took effect only on 15 March 2003, or less than two months prior to the rendition of the trial court’s 13 May 2003 Decision. Moreover, Jordan enjoins the Court to decide the case on the merits so as to preserve the sanctity of marriage as enshrined in the Constitution.
Jeanice also filed an Opposition to the Motion for Reconsideration on 1 September 2005.13
In a minute Resolution dated 19 September 2005, we granted Jordan’s motion for reconsideration and reinstated the petition.14
Jeanice filed a motion for reconsideration. In a minute Resolution dated 5 June 2006, we denied Jeanice’s motion for reconsideration for lack of merit.15
On 7 August 2006, Jeanice filed a second motion for reconsideration.
In a minute Resolution dated 20 September 2006, we denied Jeanice’s second motion for reconsideration for lack of merit and reminded Jeanice that a second motion for reconsideration is a prohibited pleading.16
The only issue left to be resolved is whether Jordan is psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential marital obligations.
The Ruling of this Court
The petition has merit.
Jeanice Failed to Prove Jordan’s Psychological Incapacity
Jeanice’s petition for declaration of nullity of marriage is anchored on Article 36 of the Family Code which provides:
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.
In Santos v. Court of Appeals,17 the Court first declared that psychological incapacity must be characterized by (a) gravity; (b) judicial antecedence; and (c) incurability. It must be confined “to the most serious cases of personality disorders clearly demonstrative of an utter insensitivity or inability to give meaning and significance to the marriage.”18
In Dimayuga-Laurena v. Court of Appeals,19 the Court explained:
(a) Gravity – It must be grave and serious such that the party would be incapable of carrying out the ordinary duties required in a marriage;
(b) Judicial Antecedence – It must be rooted in the history of the party antedating the marriage, although the overt manifestations may emerge only after the marriage; and
(c) Incurability – It must be incurable, or even if it were otherwise, the cure would be beyond the means of the party involved.20
In granting Jeanice’s petition, the trial court gave credence to the testimony of Gates to support its conclusion that Jordan was psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential marital obligations. Gates declared that Jordan was suffering from “Borderline Personality Disorder” as manifested by his being a “mama’s boy” and that such was “grave and incurable,” “rooted in his family background, [and] antedates the marriage.”
Although there is no requirement that a party to be declared psychologically incapacitated should be personally examined by a physician or a psychologist, there is nevertheless a need to prove the psychological incapacity through independent evidence adduced by the person alleging said disorder.21
Correspondingly, the presentation of expert proof presupposes a thorough and in-depth assessment of the parties by the psychologist or expert, for a conclusive diagnosis of a grave, severe and incurable presence of psychological incapacity.22
In this case, the Court notes that the report and testimony of Gates on Jordan’s psychological incapacity were based exclusively on her interviews with Jeanice and the transcript of stenographic notes of Jeanice’s testimony before the trial court.23 Gates only diagnosed Jordan from the statements of Jeanice, whose bias in favor of her cause cannot be doubted. Gates did not actually hear, see and evaluate Jordan. Gates testified:
Q- As a last question Madam witness. So all in all your conclusions here on page 1 to page 5 of your Report are all based on the statement and perception of the petitioner (Jeanice) on the respondent (Jordan)?
A- Yes Mam.24
Consequently, Gates’ report and testimony were hearsay evidence since she had no personal knowledge of the alleged facts she was testifying on.25 Gates’ testimony should have thus been dismissed for being unscientific and unreliable.26
Moreover, contrary to the ruling of the trial court, Jordan’s alleged psychological incapacity was not shown to be so grave and so permanent as to deprive him of the awareness of the duties and responsibilities of the matrimonial bond. At best, Jeanice’s allegations showed that Jordan was irresponsible, insensitive, or emotionally immature. The incidents cited by Jeanice do not show that Jordan suffered from grave psychological maladies that paralyzed Jordan from complying with the essential obligations of marriage.
What the law requires to render a marriage void on the ground of psychological incapacity is downright incapacity, not refusal or neglect or difficulty, much less ill will.27 The mere showing of “irreconcilable differences” and “conflicting personalities” does not constitute psychological incapacity.28
In Perez-Ferraris v. Ferraris,29 we said:
As all people may have certain quirks and idiosyncrasies, or isolated characteristics associated with certain personality disorders, there is hardly a doubt that the intendment of the law has been to confine the meaning of “psychological incapacity” to the most serious cases of personality disorders clearly demonstrative of an utter insensitivity or inability to give meaning and significance to marriage.30
Furthermore, Gates did not particularly describe the “pattern of behavior” which showed that Jordan indeed suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder. Gates also failed to explain how such a personality disorder made Jordan psychologically incapacitated to perform his obligations as a husband.
Likewise, Jeanice was not able to establish with certainty that Jordan’s alleged psychological incapacity was medically or clinically permanent or incurable. Gates’ testimony on the matter was vague and inconclusive. Gates testified:
Q – Now is this disorder curable?
A – If it’s continuing to the present therefore its persevererative behavior. Then the possibility of countering the same might be nil.31
Gates did not adequately explain how she came to the conclusion that Jordan’s condition was incurable.
In sum, the totality of the evidence presented by Jeanice failed to show that Jordan was psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential marital obligations and that such incapacity was grave, incurable, and existing at the time of the solemnization of their marriage.
In Republic v. Cabantug-Baguio,32 we said:
The Constitution sets out a policy of protecting and strengthening the family as the basic social institution and marriage as the foundation of the family. Marriage, as an inviolable institution protected by the State, cannot be dissolved at the whim of the parties. In petitions for the declaration of nullity of marriage, the burden of proof to show the nullity of marriage lies on the plaintiff. Any doubt should be resolved in favor of the existence and continuation of the marriage and against its dissolution and nullity.33
WHEREFORE, we GRANT the petition. We SET ASIDE the 9 August 2004 and 26 November 2004 Resolutions of the Court of Appeals. We REVERSE the 13 May 2003 Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Pasig, Branch 69. The marriage of Jeanice Pavon Paz to Jordan Chan Paz subsists and remains valid.
Brion, Del Castillo, Abad, Perez, JJ., concur.
1 Under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.
2 Rollo, pp. 35-38. Penned by Associate Justice Danilo B. Pine, with Associate Justices Jose L. Sabio, Jr. and Noel G. Tijam, concurring.
3 Id. at 40-41.
4 Id. at 103-114. Penned by Judge Lorifel Lacap Pahimna.
5 Records, p. 123.
6 Article 68 of the Family Code provides:
ART. 68. The husband and wife are obligated to live together, observe mutual love, respect and fidelity, and render mutual help and support.
7 Article 70 of the Family Code provides:
ART. 70. The spouses are jointly responsible for the support of the family. The expenses for such support and other conjugal obligations shall be paid from the community property and, in the absence thereof, from the income or fruits of their separate properties. In case of insufficiency or absence of said income or fruits, such obligation shall be satisfied from their separate properties.
8 Rollo, pp. 103-114.
9 Id. at 115.
10 Id. at 117-121.
11 Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages which took effect on 15 March 2003.
12 Rollo, p. 171.
13 In a minute Resolution dated 9 November 2005, the Court resolved to “note without action” Jeanice’s Opposition to the Motion for Reconsideration.
14 Rollo, p. 182.
15 Id. at 317.
16 Id. at 330. See Section 2, Rule 52 in relation to Section 4, Rule 56 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended.
17 310 Phil. 21 (1995).
18 Id. at 40.
19 G.R. No. 159220, 22 September 2008, 566 SCRA 154.
20 Id. at 162.
21 Bier v. Bier, G.R. No. 173294, 27 February 2008, 547 SCRA 123; Republic v. Tanyag-San Jose, G.R. No. 168328, 28 February 2007, 517 SCRA 123.
22 Ngo Te v. Yu-Te, G.R. No. 161793, 13 February 2009, 579 SCRA 193.
23 TSN, 15 November 2000, pp. 9-11, 21-24.
24 Id. at 52.
25 Padilla-Rumbaua v. Rumbaua, G.R. No. 166738, 14 August 2009; Bier v. Bier, supra note 21.
26 Najera v. Najera, G.R. No. 164817, 3 July 2009, 591 SCRA 541; Bier v. Bier, supra note 21.
27 Republic v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 108763, 13 February 1997, 268 SCRA 198.
29 G.R. No. 162368, 17 July 2006, 495 SCRA 396.
30 Id. at 401.
31 TSN, 15 November 2000, p. 18.
32 G.R. No. 171042, 30 June 2008, 556 SCRA 711.
33 Id. at 727.