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THIRD DIVISION

[ G.R. No. 226907, July 22, 2019 ]

GERARDO A. ELISCUPIDEZ, PETITIONER, V. GLENDA C. ELISCUPIDEZ, RESPONDENT.

D E C I S I O N

PERALTA, J.:

This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 seeking to reverse and set aside the Decision[1] dated May 31, 2016 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 103268, and the Resolution[2] dated September 2, 2016 which denied petitioner's motion for reconsideration. The Decision of the CA reversed and set aside the Decision[3] of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 163 of Taguig City, dated November 5, 2013, which declared the marriage between petitioner Gerardo A. Eliscupidez (petitioner) and respondent Glenda C. Eliscupidez (respondent) void ab initio on the ground of the latter's psychological incapacity.

Petitioner and respondent first met in 1986. They eventually became lovers, maintaining an "on-and-off" relationship as respondent would still entertain her other admirers, until they finally exchanged marital vows on November 20, 1990. They begot two children.[4]

On March 13, 2012, petitioner filed before the RTC of Taguig City a Petition for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage under Article 36 of the Family Code. Attempts to personally serve summons on the respondent failed as she could not be located in her last known address. On petitioner's motion, the trial court allowed service of summons by publication.

In compliance with an Order[5] of the RTC dated August 3, 2012, the public prosecutor conducted an investigation to determine if there was collusion between the parties and found that there was none.

During trial, petitioner presented the following testimony which was adopted by the trial court: petitioner and respondent, while living with petitioner's parents in Manila so as to save money, would have frequent fights, with respondent having a habit of throwing things at petitioner; respondent allegedly tried to avoid getting pregnant, with her repeatedly asking their househelp to buy abortifacient medicines and to accompany her to a manghihilot, with respondent eventually suffering a miscarriage with their supposed first child; respondent forbade petitioner from looking at other females, from meeting up with his friends and relatives, and from wearing nice clothes, so that he could not flirt with other women; respondent asked petitioner to resign from his work to avoid meeting other people; on one occasion, respondent allegedly hit petitioner with a knife, injuring his right arm, just because respondent did not want him to attend to his assigned work project; petitioner was once admonished by his superior after respondent, thinking that petitioner was having an affair, went to his office, made a scene in front of his colleagues; respondent would often insult and berate the petitioner because of the latter's meager income, but despite the petitioner giving the respondent all his salary, respondent still incurred debts from their co-workers, the employees' cooperative, and from her credit cards; while petitioner was working in Milan, Italy, respondent neglected her responsibilities to their children; respondent engaged in an illicit affair with another man, with whom she lived together and begot two children; to save their marriage, petitioner repeatedly asked respondent to live with him, but the latter refused; in 2002 or 2003, respondent worked overseas where she had another affair with a married man.[6]

Petitioner presented as his witness Irene V. Oro (Oro) who worked as kasambahay for him and respondent when the two of them were still living together. Oro confirmed petitioner's testimony that respondent was irritable, was a "war freak," and that whenever petitioner and respondent would quarrel, respondent would throw things at the petitioner. Oro further claimed that the couple had a heated argument when petitioner found out that respondent had taken abortion pills. Oro added that the petitioner would be hurt whenever the couple fought with each other. She was, thus, forced to leave her work out of fear for her life, as petitioner and respondent's quarrels were becoming more frequent.[7]

Petitioner, likewise, presented the Psychological Evaluation Report (Report) of clinical psychologist Dr. Nedy L. Tayag. Dr. Tayag conducted her psychological evaluation of petitioner through personal examination while her assessment of the psychological behavior of respondent was based on her interviews of petitioner, Oro, and Vilma Cascabel Viernes (Viernes), the respondent's sister.[8] A portion of the Report reads:

REMARKS:

After a careful assessment of the data presented, along with the results of the psychological tests administered, the undersigned psychologist arrives to a firm opinion that the collapse of the marriage between the herein couple was triggered by the psychological incapacity of the Respondent to assume and properly discharge her essential roles and obligations in marriage. Meanwhile, Petitioner, Gerardo, had shown a strong-willed and committed approach to his marital and family life with his spouse, child and in-laws so that he was able to fulfill his share of obligations and duties, which are essential to make his marriage a lasting one. He was likewise able to perform his gender role so that he was perceived as a good family man to his wife and child. Even upon exposure to the challenges and demands of being a career-oriented man and at the same time Head of his family, he had shown patience and understanding as well as extreme tolerance towards his irresponsible and abusive wife. For the sake of his child, he continuously strives to uphold his duties and responsibilities[,] thus, enabling him to meet the essential requirements of marriage and family life.

On the other hand, Glenda, respondent was seen to be harboring traits of a personality deficit classified as HISTRIONIC PERSONALITY DISORDER with Anti Social Personality Traits. She manifests a colorful, dramatic, extroverted behavior. She is usually adventurous so that she is too involved with her friends and the opposite sex to the extent of neglecting her family. She is also excitable and emotional because she allows her emotions to overrule her decisions such that she is impulsive when it comes to her decisions and actions. She may at times exaggerate while expressing her thoughts and feelings to the extent of being abusive and temperamental to her spouse, thus, humiliating him in front of other people with her nagging ways, fabricated stories and indiscretions. Similarly, she is known as hysterical for she easily reacts to people and situations even with trivial matters and setbacks since she is also prone to insecurities and aggressive outbursts of emotions. She has a high degree of attention-seeking behavior and prefers an extravagant way of life since she is pleased whenever she becomes the center of others' attention and support[,] and also tends to display tantrums and tears whenever she fails to get what she wants or when she experiences problems within [her) marriage. More so, she endlessly needs reassurance from other people. She always attempts to gain her husband's forgiveness and continued loyalty even though she continuously betrayed his trust. Meanwhile, she is basically irresponsible and consistently fails to honor her sexual roles and obligations within their marriage such as taking care of her spouse and remaining faithful to their relationship. She also lacks remorse such that she never was truly guilty of what she did and up to present continues with irresponsible disposition against her spouse since she engaged in extra-marital relations since she wants to maintain her lifestyle of being single. She also abandoned her family in order to cohabit with her paramour.

Evidently, Respondent's flawed personality is a result of the lack of sufficient guidance and discipline from her upbringing as well as poor role models such as her parents and siblings' faulty lifestyle and relationships so that within the family, there was insufficient bonding, closeness and support. Hence, she has a greater need for reassurance, security and affection from others so that she learned to use her charm/good looks and assets in order to obtain such. x x x.

x x x x

The psychological incapacity of the Respondent is characterized by juridical antecedence, as it already existed long before she entered into marriage with the Petitioner. Since it started early in life, it has been deeply embedded within her system and becomes an integral part of her personality structure, thereby rendering such to be permanent and irreversible.

As based on the context mentioned above, the undersigned recommends that their marriage be declared null and void.[9]

On November 5, 2013, the RTC rendered a Decision in favor of petitioner. It disposed, thus:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered:

1. Declaring the marriage of petitioner and respondent void ab initio under Article 36 of the Family Code of the Philippines on the ground of respondent's psychological incapacity to perform her essential marital obligations.

2. Ordering the Local Civil Registrar of Oriental Mindoro as well as the National Statistics Office to cancel from their Book of Marriages the entries on the marriage of petitioner and respondent.

The Decree of Absolute Nullity shall be issued by the Court only after the Entry of Judgment shall have been registered with the Local Civil Registrar (LCR) of Oriental Mindoro where the parties' marriage was celebrated and with the LCR of Taguig City, conformably with Section 22 of A.M. 02-11-10-SC.

Furnish the Office of the Solicitor General, the Public Prosecutor and the herein parties with a copy of this decision.

SO ORDERED.[10]

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) moved to reconsider, but the RTC denied its motion in an Order dated June 24, 2014.[11]

The OSG filed an appeal before the CA. It argued that the totality of the evidence presented by the petitioner failed to prove that the respondent was suffering from psychological incapacity. It added that the reliance of the RTC on the findings and conclusions of Dr. Tayag was without merit considering that her psychological evaluation of respondent was based only on the information given to her by petitioner, Oro, and Viernes.[12]

In its assailed Decision, the CA found merit in the appeal of the OSG.

The CA held that the sexual infidelity, irresponsibility, and other negative traits cited by the petitioner were not sufficient grounds to categorize respondent's condition as grave and serious so as to render her incapable of performing her essential marital obligations.[13]

The CA found that according to the records, Oro, the couple's former househelp who provided Dr. Tayag information on the latter's data gathering process with respect to behavioral, social, and emotional characteristics of the respondent, was only hired after the celebration of the marriage. The CA emphasized that while Viernes may be considered competent to provide information on the early life of the respondent, it had not been conclusively established that the alleged psychological incapacity of the respondent existed early in her life given the general information provided by Viernes. Thus, the CA held that Dr. Tayag's finding of "lack of sufficient guidance and discipline" and "poor role models" as root cause of respondent's psychological incapacity appear to be without factual basis.[14] It added that the psychological impression provided by Dr. Tayag failed to explain in detail how the condition of the respondent could be characterized as grave, deeply­ rooted, and incurable within the parameters of psychological incapacity.[15] The appellate court found that the methodology used by Dr. Tayag did not meet the required standard of depth and comprehensiveness of examination needed to evaluate a party who is allegedly suffering from a psychological disorder.[16] The dispositive portion of the CA Decision reads:

WHEREFORE, the Appeal is GRANTED. The Decision of the trial court dated 05 November 2013 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Accordingly, the petition for declaration of nullity of marriage filed by petitioner Gerardo Eliscupidez under Article 36 of the Family Code is DISMISSED; and the marriage of the parties remains valid and subsisting.

SO ORDERED.[17]

Petitoner's Motion for Reconsideration was denied by the CA in its assailed September 2, 2016 Resolution.[18]

Hence, this Petition raising the sole issue of whether the CA committed an error of law in reversing the Decision of the RTC which granted the Petition for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage under Article 36 of the Family Code filed by the petitioner.[19]

Petitioner argues that the findings of the RTC as regards the existence or non-existence of the psychological incapacity of a party should be final and binding. He also claims that his expert witness has concomitantly identified the juridical antecedence, gravity, and incurability of such psychological incapacity, and that he has presented independent evidence as to the existence of respondent's psychological incapacity and that the totality of evidence presented had duly proven the same.[20]

The OSG, in its Comment,[21] reiterated its arguments below, stressing that the conclusion stated in Dr. Tayag's Report could not be inferred from the statements of Viernes. The OSG maintained that the findings of "lack of sufficient guidance and discipline" and "poor role models" were, on respondent's part, contradictory to Viernes' description of her mother as strict, noting that it was stated in the Report that according to Viernes, it was because of their mother that she and respondent "were disciplined and molded to be dedicated to their studies."[22]

We deny the petition.

It is axiomatic that the validity of marriage and the unity of the family are enshrined in our Constitution and statutory laws; hence any doubts attending the same are to be resolved in favor of the continuance and validity of the marriage and that the burden of proving the nullity of the same rests at all times upon the petitioner.[23] No less than Section 2, Article XV, of the 1987 Constitution imposes upon the State the duty to protect the sanctity of marriage as a social institution and as the foundation of the family.[24] Because of this, the Constitution decrees marriage as legally inviolable and protects it from dissolution at the whim of the parties.[25]

Given this constitutional inviolability of the institution of marriage, psychological incapacity as a ground to nullify the same under Article 36[26] of the Family Code should refer to the most serious cases of personality disorders clearly demonstrative of an utter insensitivity or inability to give meaning and significance to the marriage.[27] It must be a malady that is 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]

This Court has reiterated in a number of cases[29] the landmark doctrine in Santos v. Court of Appeals,[30] "that psychological incapacity 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."

Thereafter, in Republic v. Court of Appeals, et al.,[31] this Court laid down more definitive guidelines in the disposition of psychological incapacity cases, including "(t)he 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."[32]

To entitle petitioner spouse to a declaration of the nullity of his or her marriage, the totality of the evidence must sufficiently prove that respondent spouse's psychological incapacity was grave, incurable and existing prior to the time of the marriage.[33] In this case, this Court agrees with the OSG that the totality of the evidence presented by the petitioner failed to prove psychological incapacity of the respondent to comply with the essential obligations of marriage. The root cause of respondent's alleged psychological incapacity was not sufficiently proven by experts or shown to be medically or clinically permanent or incurable.

We agree with the refusal of the CA to give credence and weight to the Report of Dr. Tayag. As found by the CA, Dr. Tayag declared in her Report that her professional services were engaged by petitioner in connection with the petition for nullity of his marriage with respondent, and that the persons who provided her with information as regards her data gathering with respect to the behavioral, social, and emotional characteristics of the respondent were the petitioner himself, their former househelp Oro, and respondent's sister Viernes.[34] This leads to the conclusion that findings in the same were solely based on the self-serving testimonial descriptions and characterizations of respondent rendered by petitioner and his witnesses.

Moreover, the conclusion of Dr. Tayag that respondent's psychological incapacity existed early in her life were merely based on the information provided by Viernes that she and respondent were their father's second family, and that respondent was very manipulative. Dr. Tayag merely generalized her explanations as to the reason behind and the extent of respondent's alleged personality disorder. The CA correctly pointed out that Dr. Tayag's Report failed to explain in detail how respondent's condition could be characterized as grave, deeply-rooted, and incurable within the doctrinal context of "psychological incapacity." Said the CA:

x x x It was arrived at only on the basis of the information gathered from the petitioner, whose bias in favor of his cause cannot be discounted, and the very limited information from the respondent's sister. While this circumstance alone does not disqualify the psychologist for reasons of bias, her report, testimony and conclusions deserve the application of a more rigid and stringent set of standards. The methodology employed simply cannot satisfy the required depth and comprehensiveness of examination required to evaluate a party alleged to be suffering from a psychological disorder. In short, this is not the psychological report that the Court can rely [on] as basis for the conclusion that psychological incapacity exists. Verily, although expert opinion furnished by psychologists regarding the psychological temperament of parties are usually given considerable weight by the court, the existence of psychological incapacity must still be proven by independent evidence.[35]

This Court has long been negatively critical in considering psychological evaluations, presented in evidence, derived solely from one-sided sources, particularly from the spouse seeking the nullity of the marriage.[36] Verily, the guidelines set forth in Santos v. Court of Appeals[37] do not require that a physician examine the person to be declared psychologically incapacitated. What is important is the presence of evidence that can adequately establish the party's psychological condition.[38] For indeed, if the totality of evidence presented is enough to sustain a finding of psychological incapacity, then actual medical examination of the person concerned need not be resorted to.[39]

In the present case, however, the totality of the evidence presented by the petitioner fails to convince this Court that respondent suffered from a psychological incapacity that is permanent or incurable, and that has existed at the time of the celebration of the marriage. Although respondent was said to have exhibited "dramatic, extroverted behavior" who was "prone to insecurities and aggressive outbursts of emotions," these characterizations fell short of proving that she was psychologically incapacitated to assume her marital responsibilities. Thus, while this Court commiserates with petitioner's predicament, the evidence on record does not square with the existence of psychological incapacity as contemplated by law and jurisprudence. Petitioner and respondent's marriage cannot therefore be declared null and void under Article 36 of the Family Code.

WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DENIED for lack of merit. The Decision dated May 31, 2016 and the Resolution dated September 2, 2016 in CA-G.R. CV No. 103268 are AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

A. Reyes, Jr., Hernando, and Inting, JJ., concur.
Leonen, J.
, see separate dissenting opinion.



September 20, 2019

NOTICE OF JUDGMENT

Sirs / Mesdames:

Please take notice that on July 22, 2019 a Decision, copy attached hereto, was rendered by the Supreme Court in the above-entitled case, the original of which was received by this Office on September 20, 2019 at 1:50 p.m.

 

Very truly yours,


(Sgd.) MISAEL DOMINGO C. BATTUNG

Deputy Division Clerk of Court


[1] Penned by Associate Justice Leoncia Real-Dimagiba, with Associate Justices Ramon R. Garcia and Jhosep Y. Lopez concurring; rollo, pp. 45-54.

[2] Id. at 56-57.

[3] Penned by Judge Leili Cruz Suarez; id. at 58-65.

[4] Id. at 46.

[5] Records, p. 60.

[6] Rollo, pp. 46-47.

[7] Id. at 47-48.

[8] Id. at 48.

[9] Id. at 20-23.

[10] Id. at 65.

[11] Id. at 49.

[12] Id.

[13] Id. at 52.

[14] Id.

[15] Id. at 52-53.

[16] Id. at 53.

[17] Id.

[18] Supra note 2.

[19] Rollo, p. 26.

[20] Id.

[21] Id. at 84-102.

[22] Id. at 95-96.

[23] Maria Concepcion N. Singson v. Benjamin L. Singson, G.R. No. 210766, January 8, 2018.

[24] "Marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State."

[25] Del Rosario v. Del Rosario, et al., 805 Phil. 978, 987 (2017).

[26] Art. 36. 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.

[27] Id.

[28] Republic of the Phils. v. Spouses Romero II, 781 Phil. 737, 746 (2016).

[29] Espina-Dan v. Dan, G.R. No. 209031, April 16, 2018; Yambao v. Republic of the Phils., et al., 655 Phil. 346 (2011); Alcazar v. Alcazar, 618 Phil. 616 (2009); Ting v. Velez-Ting, G.R. No. 166562, March 31, 2009.

[30] Santos v. Court of Appeals, et al., 310 Phil. 21, 39 (1995).

[31] 335 Phil. 664 (1997).

[32] Id. at 677. (Emphasis ours)

[33] Mendoza v. Republic of the Phils., et al., 698 Phil. 241, 243 (2012).

[34] Rollo, p. 5.

[35] Id. at 53. (Citations omitted)

[36] Toring v. Toring, et al., 640 Phil. 434, 450 (2010).

[37] Supra note 29.

[38] Marcos v. Marcos, 397 Phil. 840, 850 (2000).

[39] Id.




DISSENTING OPINION

LEONEN, J.:

By denying this Petition, this Court continues to apply the restrictive interpretation of psychological incapacity begun by Republic v. Court of Appeals and Molina.[1] I dissent from the continued application of the rigid Molina guidelines as an interpretation of Article 36 of the Family Code.

I

Article 36 of the Family Code provides psychological incapacity as a ground for the nullity of marriage:

ARTICLE 36. 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.

This Court first applied this provision in Santos v. Court of Appeals,[2] noting that the Family Code Revision Committee must have deliberately omitted a specific definition for psychological incapacity "to allow some resiliency in its application."[3] It also cited the Committee's deliberations in support of its conclusion that "'psychological incapacity' 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[.]"[4]

Likewise referencing the provision's religious origins in the New Canon Law, this Court cited a former presiding judge of the Metropolitan Marriage Tribunal of the Catholic Archdiocese of Manila, Dr. Gerardo Veloso, who stated "that psychological incapacity must be characterized by (a) gravity, (b) juridical antecedence, and (c) incurability."[5]

These findings in Santos formed the basis of Molina, where this Court developed the following guidelines in determining a spouse's psychological incapacity:

(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 may 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 (sic) 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."

Since the purpose of including such provision in our Family Code is to harmonize our civil laws with the religious faith of our people, it stands to reason that to achieve such harmonization, great persuasive weight should be given to decisions of such appellate tribunal. Ideally — subject to our law on evidence — what is decreed as canonically invalid should also be decreed civilly void.

This is one instance where, in view of the evident source and purpose of the Family Code provision, contemporaneous religious interpretation is to be given persuasive effect. Here, the State and the Church — while remaining independent, separate and apart from each other — shall walk together in synodal cadence towards the same goal of protecting and cherishing marriage and the family as the inviolable base of the nation.[6] (Emphasis in the original, citations omitted)

These guidelines have been cited in multiple cases since 1997, and petitions have often been denied when courts find one (1) or more of its requirements absent. Likewise, courts have often denied petitions that allege grounds for annulment or legal separation together with, or as proof of, a spouse's psychological incapacity.[7]

From Molina's promulgation in 1997 to 2008, only Antonio v. Reyes[8] was able to satisfy the guidelines' stringent requirements. Since the Family Code's passage into law, only the cases of Chi Ming Tsoi v. Court of Appeals,[9] Antonio v. Reyes,[10] Ngo Te v. Yu-Te,[11] Azcueta v. Republic,[12] Halili v. Santos­-Halili,[13] Camacho-Reyes v. Reyes-Reyes,[14] Kalaw v. Fernandez,[15] Tani-De La Fuente v. De La Fuente,[16] Republic v. Javier,[17] and Republic v. Mola Cruz[18] have sustained a marriage's nullity due to a spouse's psychological incapacity.[19] Evidently, the Molina guidelines have imposed a restrictive set of requirements for establishing a spouse's psychological incapacity. In Ngo Te, this Court stated that our "jurisprudential doctrine has unnecessarily imposed a perspective"[20] that is "totally inconsistent with the way the concept [of psychological incapacity] was formulated[.]"[21] Verily, the strictures of Molina have often been applied indiscriminately and without regard for the specific circumstances of suffering petitioners:

In hindsight, it may have been inappropriate for the Court to impose a rigid set of rules, as the one in Molina, in resolving all cases of psychological incapacity. Understandably, the Court was then alarmed by the deluge of petitions for the dissolution of marital bonds, and was sensitive to the OSG's exaggeration of Article 36 as the "most liberal divorce procedure in the world." The unintended consequences of Molina, however, has taken its toll on people who have to live with deviant behavior, moral insanity and sociopathic personality anomaly, which, like termites, consume little by little the very foundation of their families, our basic social institutions. Far from what was intended by the Court, Molina has become a strait-jacket, forcing all sizes to fit into and be bound by it. Wittingly or unwittingly, the Court, in conveniently applying Molina, has allowed diagnosed sociopaths, schizophrenics, nymphomaniacs, narcissists and the like, to continuously debase and pervert the sanctity of marriage.[22] (Citations omitted)

In Kalaw v. Fernandez,[23] this Court similarly discussed the consequences of our adherence to the Molina guidelines:

The [Molina] guidelines have turned out to be rigid, such that their application to every instance practically condemned the petitions for declaration of nullity to the fate of certain rejection. But Article 36 of the Family Code must not be so strictly and too literally read and applied given the clear intendment of the drafters to adopt its enacted version of "less specificity" obviously to enable "some resiliency in its application." Instead, every court should approach the issue of nullity "not on the basis of a priori assumptions, predilections or generalizations, but according to its own facts" in recognition of the verity that no case would be on "all fours" with the next one in the field of psychological incapacity as a ground for the nullity of marriage; hence, every "trial judge must take pains in examining the factual milieu and the appellate court must, as much as possible, avoid substituting its own judgment for that of the trial court."[24] (Citation omitted)

While our laws, and concurrently our jurisprudence, seek to uphold marriage as an inviolable social institution, the State should be wary of equating inviolability with permanence. In a previous opinion, I discussed that the contract of marriage was established for a specific purpose, which bounds the State's interest in its preservation:

The notion of "permanent" is not a characteristic that inheres without a purpose. The Family Code clearly provides for the purpose of entering into marriage, that is, "for the establishment of conjugal and family life." Consequently, the state's interest in protecting the marriage must anchor on ensuring a sound conjugal union capable of maintaining a healthy environment for a family, resulting in a more permanent union. The state's interest cannot extend to forcing two individuals to stay within a destructive marriage.[25] (Citation omitted)

The purpose of marriage cannot be met when the parties are incapable of fulfilling their marital obligations to each other. Forcing them to sustain such a relationship results in harm not only to the parties, but to the very foundation of the family—that which the State seeks to protect.

In Hernandez v. Court of Appeals,[26] this Court refused to nullify the petitioner's marriage despite her husband's evident incapability of fulfilling his marital obligations. He refused to support his family, opting to spend his money drinking with friends instead. His constant promiscuity resulted in him infecting his wife with gonorrhea. When she confronted him about his behavior, he beat her so badly that she had a concussion. But since the grounds alleged as proof of the husband's psychological incapacity were also grounds for legal separation, this Court refused to declare the marriage void. Rather, it held that, consistent with Molina, the wife needed expert evidence proving that her husband's acts were "manifestations of a disordered personality which make private respondent completely unable to discharge the essential obligations of the marital state[.]"[27]

In Matudan v. Republic,[28] this Court also maintained the marriage's validity despite the wife's evident refusal to live with the petitioner and their four (4) children. She went abroad for work in 1985 and never returned. She never informed her family of her whereabouts, and was, thus, unavailable for examination by the petitioner's clinical psychologist. Despite her inability to live together with or "render mutual help and support"[29] to her spouse, the lower courts found that abandonment was only a ground for legal separation.[30] This Court affirmed this finding, in line with the strict requirements of gravity, juridical antecedence, and incurability as discussed in Santos, and standardized in Molina.

Verily, neglect, abuse, and exploitation flourish under destructive and dysfunctional marriages.[31] Such relationships cannot be the foundation of society that the State is mandated to protect. Rather, it is the family, as a "basic autonomous social institution[,]" that should be protected, regardless of its structure.[32]

I opine that Tani-De La Fuente is more consistent with the resilient application of Article 36 of the Family Code, as envisioned in Santos. In Tani­-De La Fuente, the petitioner was deemed to have established her husband's psychological incapacity by detailing his pattern of physical and psychological abuse. The husband's paranoia and insecurity manifested in his treatment of the petitioner as a "sex slave."[33] The tipping point was when he poked a gun at her head during a heated argument. These accounts were interpreted by the testimony of a clinical psychologist who interviewed the petitioner and her husband's best friend. The husband's condition was diagnosed as "paranoid personality disorder[,]"[34] attributed to a "pathogenic parental model"[35] and hereditary traits from his father, who was also a psychiatric patient. The nature of the illness was also described as grave and incurable because the husband's paranoia compelled him to deny that something was wrong with him.[36]

Even then, the Court of Appeals reversed the Regional Trial Court's declaration of the marriage's nullity. It discarded the expert witness' testimony for being hearsay, noting that the clinical psychologist "had no chance to personally conduct a thorough study and analysis of respondent's mental and psychological condition."[37] Thus, the petitioner was deemed unable to prove the gravity, juridical antecedence, and incurability of her husband's psychological incapacity in accordance with Molina.

Before this Court, we held that the petitioner's evidence satisfied the Molina guidelines, and that "it would be of utmost cruelty"[38] to force the spouses together given the husband's abusive behavior and his inability to comply with his basic marital obligations of mutual help and support.

It is clear that Molina's stringency has rendered it an inconsistent tool in assessing a spouse's psychological fitness to comply with his or her marital obligations, and ineffective at maintaining the intended "resiliency" of Article 36 of the Family Code. Courts have indiscriminately bound couples together instead of recognizing that particular circumstances in specific marriages may deviate from the Molina guidelines, but nevertheless indicate an incapability to meet the essential obligations of a married life. A revised framework is, therefore, required.

II

In this light, I opine that petitioner Gerardo A. Eliscupidez sufficiently proved respondent Glenda C. Eliscupidez's psychological incapacity.

As proof of respondent's psychological incapacity, petitioner testified that their disagreements would often result in physical violence: respondent would often throw things at him, once even assaulting him with a knife. Respondent also asked her helper to purchase abortifacients so that she could avoid getting pregnant with petitioner's child. Despite this, she conceived two (2) children with another man while petitioner was abroad for work.[39] These accounts were corroborated by their household helper, Irene V. Oro (Oro), who confirmed respondent's aggressive tendencies toward her husband and testified on the spouses' quarrel over respondent's use of abortifacients.[40]

Likewise, the expert testimony of clinical psychologist Nedy L. Tayag (Dr. Tayag), which was drawn from interviews with petitioner, Oro, and respondent's sister Vilma Casacbel Viernes (Viernes), assessed respondent's psychological behavior in a Psychological Evaluation Report. Dr. Tayag diagnosed respondent's condition as "histrionic personality disorder with anti[-]social personality traits[,]"[41] characterizing the illness as prone to causing "colorful, dramatic, extroverted behavior"[42] and an "excitable and emotional"[43] state of mind. Thus, during their marriage, respondent would "at times exaggerate while expressing her thoughts and feelings to the extent of being abusive and temperamental to her spouse[.]"[44]

Respondent also prevented petitioner "from meeting up with his friends and relatives,"[45] and even attending certain work projects, out of fear that he would be attracted to other women.[46] These behaviors resulted in respondent often humiliating petitioner in front of other people "with her nagging ways, fabricated stories[,] and indiscretions."[47]

Showing no remorse, she also repeatedly betrayed his trust by cohabiting with other men.[48] Ultimately, respondent "abandoned her family in order to cohabit with her paramour."[49]

Dr. Tayag's interview with Viernes also gave insight into respondent's upbringing. Viernes' accounts of their having grown up as part of their father's second family, and of respondent's "manipulative"[50] tendencies, led Dr. Tayag to conclude that respondent lacked proper role models, and had "insufficient bonding, closeness[,] and support"[51] while growing up. Thus, Dr. Tayag's report indicated that respondent's disorder may have taken root in her childhood and was further embedded when she "learned to use her charm/good looks and assets in order to obtain"[52] her "need for reassurance, security[,] and affection from others[.]"[53]

Despite all of these, the majority affirmed the Court of Appeals' denial of the Petition for declaration of the nullity of marriage. It rejected petitioner's evidence, finding it to be "solely based on the self-serving testimonial descriptions and characterizations of respondent rendered by petitioner and his witnesses."[54] Likewise, the majority held that Dr. Tayag's report "failed to explain in detail how respondent's condition could be characterized as grave, deeply-rooted, and incurable[.]"[55] Ultimately, petitioner was found to have fallen short of satisfying the Molina guidelines.

My objections to Molina notwithstanding, I opine that petitioner's evidence did satisfy the Molina guidelines. Dr. Tayag is a clinical psychologist whose expertise would have allowed her to "medically or clinically" identify the root cause of respondent's histrionic personality disorder. Like any expert witness, she does not need to have personal knowledge of the matters subject of her testimony, as her credibility lies in her special knowledge, skill, experience, and training.[56] Thus, the majority should have considered her testimony, along with the contents of her Psychological Evaluation Report.

In any event, Dr. Tayag's evaluation was based on testimonies of persons who had observed respondent's behavior from childhood up to the point that she abandoned her family. The root cause of her psychological incapacity was traced back to her upbringing in a second family without proper role models. Viernes' accounts also indicate that respondent has exhibited manipulative behavior since childhood.[57] Not only was the illness duly shown to have existed prior to the marriage, but it was also shown to be grave, as this same behavior prevented respondent from establishing a conjugal and family life with petitioner. It led her to have violent outbursts, to take abortifacients to prevent pregnancy, and to run away and have children with another man.

Respondent's complete absence, not only from the proceedings in the lower courts, but also from the lives of her husband and two (2) children, is the most telling. Despite petitioner's attempts to have her return home, she refused and still abandoned her family, choosing to live with another man.[58] She neither returned to visit nor informed them of her whereabouts. Tani-De La Fuente discussed a similar pattern of behavior as indicative of psychological incapacity:

This Court also noticed respondent's repeated acts of harassment towards petitioner, which show his need to intimidate and dominate her, a classic case of coercive control. At first, respondent only inflicted non­physical forms of mistreatment on petitioner by alienating her from her family and friends due to his jealousy, and stalking her due to his paranoia. However, his jealousy soon escalated into physical violence when, on separate instances, he poked a gun at his teenage cousin, and at petitioner.

. . . .

Respondent's repeated behavior of psychological abuse by intimidating, stalking, and isolating his w le from her family and friends, as well as his increasing acts of physical violence, are proof of his depravity, and utter lack of comprehension of what marriage and partnership entail. It would be of utmost cruelty for this Court to decree that petitioner should remain married to respondent. After she had exerted efforts to save their marriage and their family, respondent simply refused to believe that there was anything wrong in their marriage. This shows that respondent truly could not comprehend and perform his marital obligations. This fact is persuasive enough for this Court to believe that respondent's mental illness is incurable.[59] (Emphasis supplied)

As with Tani-De La Fuente, the circumstances here indicate respondent's incapacity to fulfill her essential marital obligations listed in Articles 68 to 71 of the Family Code. This inability to comprehend and comply with essential marital obligations is the crux of psychological incapacity as a ground for the nullity of marriage. The strict and often undiscerning guidelines laid out in Molina have since become insensitive to the greater purpose of resiliently applying Article 36 of the Family Code to the unique circumstances of each case.

ACCORDINGLY, I dissent. I vote to GRANT the Petition.


[1] 335 Phil. 664 (1997) [Per J. Panganiban, En Banc].

[2] 310 Phil. 21 (1995) [Per J. Vitug, En Banc].

[3] Id. at 36.

[4] Id. at 40.

[5] Id. at 39.

[6] Republic v. Court of Appeals and Molina, 335 Phil. 664, 676-679 (1997) [Per J. Panganiban, En Banc]. The eighth guideline has been dispensed with pursuant to A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC (2003) (Re: Proposed Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages). See Padilla-Rumbaua v. Rumbaua, 612 Phil. 1061, 1078 (2009) [Per J. Brion, Second Division]; Navales v. Navales, 578 Phil. 826, 839 (2008) [Per J. Austria-Martinez, Third Division]; Tongol v. Tongol, 562 Phil. 725, 735 (2007) [Per J. Austria-Martinez, Third Division]; Antonio v. Reyes, 519 Phil. 337, 358 (2006) [Per J. Tinga, Third Division]; and Carating-Siayngco v. Siayngco, 484 Phil. 396, 410 (2004) [Per J. Chico-Nazario, Second Division].

[7] See Hernandez v. Court of Appeals, 377 Phil. 919 (1999) [Per J. Mendoza, Second Division]; Matudan v. Republic, 799 Phil. 449 (2016) [Per J. Del Castillo, Second Division]; and Tani-De La Fuente v. De La Fuente, 807 Phil. 31 (2017) [Per J. Leonen, Second Division].

[8] 519 Phil. 337 (2006) [Per J. Tinga, Third Division].

[9] 334 Phil. 294 ( 1997) [Per J. Torres, Jr., Second Division].

[10] 519 Phil. 337 (2006) [Per J. Tinga, Third Division].

[11] 598 Phil. 666 (2009) [Per J. Nachura, Third Division].

[12] 606 Phil. 177 (2009) [Per J. Leonardo-De Castro, First Division].

[13] 607 Phil. 1 (2009) [Per J. Corona, Special First Division].

[14] 642 Phil. 602 (2010) [Per J. Nachura, Second Division].

[15] 750 Phil. 482 (2015) [Per J. Bersamin, Special First Division].

[16] 807 Phil. 31 (2017) [Per J. Leonen, Second Division].

[17] G.R. No. 210518, April 18, 2018, < http://elibrary.judiciary.gov.ph/thebookshelf/showdocs/1/64164 > [Per J. Reyes, Jr. Second Division].

[18] G.R. No. 236629, July 23, 2018, < http://elibrary.judiciary.gov.ph/thebookshelf/showdocs/1/64585 > [Per J. Gesmundo, Third Division].

[19] To date, this Court has resolved the following cases via a decision or signed resolution: Republic v. Deang, G.R. No. 236279, March 25, 2019, < http://elibrary.judiciary.gov.ph/thebookshelf/showdocs/1/6507 > [Per J. Perlas-Bernabe, Second Division]; Republic v. Tecag, G.R. No. 229272, November 19, 2018, < http://elibrary.judiciary.gov.ph/thebookshelf/showdocs/1/64764 > [Per J. Perlas-Bernabe, Second Division]; Republic v. Mola Cruz, G.R. No. 236629, July 23, 2018, < http://elibrary.judiciary.gov.ph/thebookshelf/showdocs/1/64585 > [Per J. Gesmundo, Third Division]; Republic v. Javier, G.R. No. 210518, April 18, 2018, < http://elibrary.judiciary.gov.ph/thebookshelf/showdocs/1/64164 > [Per J. Reyes, Jr. Second Division]; Espina-Dan v. Dan, G.R. No. 209031, April 16, 2018, < http://elibrary.judiciary.gov.ph/thebookshelf/showdocs/1/64126 > [Per J. Del Castillo, First Division]; Republic v. Tobora-Tionglico, G.R. No. 218630, January 11, 2018,851 SCRA 107 [Per J. Tijam, First Division]; Lontoc-Cruz v. Cruz, 802 Phil. 401 [Per J. Del Castillo, First Division]; Bakunawa III v. Bakunawa, 816 Phil. 649 (2017) [Per J. Reyes, J., Third Division]; Garlet v. Garlet, 815 Phil. 268 (2017) [Per J. Leonardo-De Castro, First Division]; Tani-De La Fuente v. De La Fuente, 807 Phil. 31 (2017) [Per J. Leonen, Second Division]; Del Rosario v. Del Rosario, 805 Phil. 978 (2017) [Per J. Perlas-Bernabe, First Division]; Castillo v. Republic, 805 Phil. 209 (2017) [Per J. Peralta, Second Division]; Matudan v. Republic, 799 Phil. 449 (2016) [Per J. Del Castillo, Second Division]; Republic v. Pangasinan, 792 Phil. 808 (2016) [Per J. Velasco, Jr. Third Division]; Republic v. Spouses Romero, 781 Phil. 737 (2016) [Per J. Perlas-Bernabe, First Division]; Mallilin v. Jamesolamin, 754 Phil. 158 (2015) [Per J. Mendoza, Second Division]; Kalaw v. Fernandez, 750 Phil. 482 (2015) [Per J. Bersamin, Special First Division]; Republic v. De Gracia, 726 Phil. 502 (2014) [Per J. Perlas-Bernabe, Second Division]; Republic v. Encelan, 701 Phil. 192 (2013) [Per J. Brion, Second Division]; Mendoza v. Republic and Mendoza, 698 Phil. 241 (2012) [Per J. Bersamin, First Division]; Republic v. The Honorable Court of Appeals (Ninth Division) and De Quintos, Jr., 698 Phil. 257 (2012) [Per J. Bersamin, First Division]; Republic v. Galang, 665 Phil. 658 (2011) [Per J. Brion, Third Division]; Ochosa v. Alano and Republic, 655 Phil. 512 (2011) [Per J. Leonardo-De Castro, First Division]; Yambao v. Republic and Yambao, 655 Phil. 346 (201) [Per J. Nachura, Second Division]; Marable v. Marable, 654 Phil. 528 (2011) [Per J. Villarama, Jr., Third Division]; Agraviador v. Amparo-Agraviador, 652 Phil. 49 (2010) [Per J. Brion, Third Division]; Baccay v. Baccay and Republic, 651 Phil. 68 (2010) [Per J. Villarama, Jr., Third Division]; Camacho-Reyes v. Reyes-Reyes, 642 Phil. 602 (2010) [Per J. Nachura, Second Division]; Toring v. Toring and Republic, 640 Phil. 434 (2010) [Per J. Brion, Third Division]; Ligeralde v. Patalinghug, 632 Phil. 326 (2010) [Per J. Mendoza, Third Division]; Suazo v. Suazo, 629 Phil. 157 Second Division]; Paz v. Paz, 627 Phil. 1 (2010) [Per J. Carpio, Second Division]; Lim v. Sta. Cruz-Lim, 625 Phil. 407 (2010) [Per J. Nachura, Third Division]; Aspillaga v. Aspillaga, 619 Phil. 434 (2009) [Per J. Quisumbing, Second Division]; Padilla-Rumbaua v. Rumbaua, 612 Phil. 1061 (2009) [Per J. Brion, Second Division); Najera v. Najera, 609 Phil. 316 (2009) [Per J. Peralta, Third Division]; Halili v. Santos-Halili, 607 Phil. 1 (2009) [Per J. Corona, Special First Division]; So v. Valera, 606 Phil. 309 (2009) [Per J. Brion, Second Division); Azcueta v. Republic, 606 Phil. 177 (2009) [Per J. Leonardo-De Castro, First Division]; Ting v. Velez-Ting, 601 Phil. 676 (2009) [Per J. Nachura, Third Division); Ngo Te v. Yu-Te, 598 Phil. 666 (2009) [Per J. Nachura, Third Division]; Navales v. Navales, 578 Phil. 826 (2008) [Per J. Austria-Martinez, Third Division]; Navarro, Jr. v. Cecilio-Navarro, 549 Phil. 632 (2007) [Per J. Quisumbing, Second Division]; Tongol v. Tongol, 562 Phil. 725 (2007) [Per J. Austria-Martinez, Third Division]; Republic v. Tanyag-San Jose, 545 Phil. 725 (2007) [Per J. Carpio Morales, Second Division); Antonio v. Reyes, 519 Phil. 337 (2006) [Per J. Tinga, Third Division]; Republic v. Iyoy, 507 Phil. 485 (2005) [Per J. Chico-Nazario, Second Division]; Republic v. Quintero-Hamano, 472 Phil. 807 (2004) [Per J. Corona, Third Division); Pesca v. Pesca, 408 Phil. 713 (2001) [Per J. Vitug, Third Division]; Republic v. Dagdag, 404 Phil. 249 (2001) [Per J. Quisumbing, Second Division]; Marcos v. Marcos, 397 Phil. 840 (2000) [Per J. Panganiban, Third Division]; Hernandez v. Court of Appeals, 377 Phil. 919 (1999) [Per J. Mendoza, Second Division]; Republic v. Court of Appeals and Molina, 335 Phil. 664 (1997) (Per J. Panganiban, En Banc); Chi Ming Tsoi v. Court of Appeals, 334 Phil. 294 (1997) [Per J. Torres, Jr., Second Division); and Santos v. Court of Appeals, 310 Phil. 21 (1995) [Per J. Vitug, En Banc].

[20] Ngo Te v. Yu-Te, 598 Phil. 666, 669 (2009) [Per J. Nachura, Third Division].

[21] Id.

[22] Id. at 695-696.

[23] 750 Phil. 482 (2015) [Per J. Bersamin, Special First Division].

[24] Id. at 499-500.

[25] J. Leonen, Dissenting Opinion in Mallilin v. Jamesolamin, 754 Phil. 158, 203 (2015) [Per J. Mendoza, Second Division].

[26] 377 Phil. 919 (1999) [Per J. Mendoza, Second Division].

[27] Id. at 932.

[28] 799 Phil. 449 (2016) [Per J. Del Castillo, Second Division].

[29] FAMILY CODE, art. 68.

[30] Matudan v. Republic, 799 Phil. 449, 458 (2016) [Per J. Del Castillo, Second Division].

[31] See Republic v. Manalo, G.R. No. 221029, April 24, 2018, < http://elibrary.judiciary.gov.ph/thebookshelf/showdocs/1/64093 > [Per J. Peralta, En Banc].

[32] CONST., art. II, sec. 12.

[33] Tani De La Fuente v. De La Fuente, 807 Phil. 31, 34 (2017) [Per J. Leonen, Second Division].

[34] Id. at 37.

[35] Id.

[36] Id.

[37] Id. at 45-46.

[38] Id. at 50.

[39] Ponencia, p. 2.

[40] Id. at 2-3.

[41] Id. at 3.

[42] Id.

[43] Id.

[44] Id.

[45] Id. at 2.

[46] Id.

[47] Id. at 3.

[48] Id. at 4.

[49] Id.

[50] Id. at 8.

[51] Id. at 4.

[52] Id.

[53] Id.

[54] Id. at 8.

[55] Id.

[56] RULES OF COURT, Rule 130, sec. 49.

[57] Ponencia, p. 8.

[58] Id. at 2.

[59] Tani-De La Fuente v. De La Fuente, 807 Phil. 31, 49-50 (2017) [Per J. Leonen, Second Division].

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