574 Phil. 710

FIRST DIVISION

[ G.R. No. 165424, April 16, 2008 ]

LESTER BENJAMIN S. HALILI, Petitioner, VS. CHONA M. SANTOS-HALILI AND THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES,

R E S O L U T I O N

CORONA, J.:

This petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court seeks to set aside the January 26, 2004 decision[1] and September 24, 2004 resolution[2] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 60010.

Petitioner Lester Benjamin S. Halili and respondent Chona M. Santos-Halili[3] were only 21 and 19 years of age, respectively, when they got married on July 4, 1995 at the City Hall of Manila. After the wedding, they continued to live with their respective parents and never lived together but maintained the relationship nonetheless.

A year after, the couple started bickering constantly. Petitioner stopped seeing respondent and went on dates with other women. It was at this time that he started receiving prank calls telling him to stop dating other women as he was already a married man.

Thereafter, petitioner filed in the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Pasig City, Branch 158 a petition for the declaration of nullity of the marriage on the ground that he was psychologically incapacitated to fulfill his essential marital obligations to respondent.[4] He claimed that he thought that the wedding performed at the City Hall of Manila was a "joke" and that the marriage certificate he signed was "fake." He also pointed out that he and respondent never lived together as husband and wife and never consummated the marriage.

The RTC granted the petition and declared petitioner psychologically incapacitated to fulfill the essential marital obligations.

On appeal, the CA reversed and set aside the RTC decision and held that, taken in totality, the evidence for petitioner failed to establish his psychological incapacity. Petitioner moved for reconsideration. The same was denied. Hence, this petition.

The question before us is whether or not the totality of evidence presented is sufficient to prove that petitioner suffered from psychological incapacity which effectively prevented him from complying with his essential marital obligations.

We deny the petition.

Petitioner had the burden of proving the nullity of his marriage with respondent.[5] He failed to discharge the burden.

The evidence for petitioner consisted of his own testimony and a psychological report written by Dr. Natividad A. Dayan, Ph. D., a clinical psychologist, who also testified on the matters contained therein.

According to Dr. Dayan, petitioner was suffering from a personality disorder characterized as "a mixed personality disorder from self-defeating personality to dependent personality disorder brought about by a dysfunctional family background." Petitioner's father was very abusive and domineering. Although petitioner and his siblings were adequately supported by their father, a very wealthy man, they lacked affirmation. Because of this, petitioner grew up without self-confidence and very immature. He never really understood what it meant to have a family, much less to be a husband. According to Dr. Dayan, this was very much evident in petitioner's impulsive decision to get married despite having gone steady with respondent for only six months.

Moreover, she added that both petitioner and respondent were psychologically incapacitated to perform their essential marital obligations as they never lived together as husband and wife. They also never consummated their marriage. Furthermore, they constantly fought. Their separation was inevitable as they were both immature. Dr. Dayan then abruptly concluded that petitioner's psychological incapacity was grave and incurable.

In this case, although petitioner was able to establish his immaturity, as evidenced by the psychological report and as testified to by him and Dr. Dayan, the same hardly constituted sufficient cause for declaring the marriage null and void on the ground of psychological incapacity. It had to be characterized by gravity, juridical antecedence and incurability.[6]

In Republic v. CA and Molina,[7] we ruled that the psychological incapacity must be more than just a "difficulty," a "refusal" or a "neglect" in the performance of some marital obligations. A mere showing of irreconcilable differences and conflicting personalities does not equate to psychological incapacity.[8] Proof of a natal or supervening disabling factor, an adverse integral element in petitioner's personality structure that effectively incapacitated him from complying with his essential marital obligations,[9] had to be shown. In this, petitioner failed.

The evidence adduced by petitioner merely showed that he and respondent had difficulty getting along with each other as they constantly fought over petty things.[10] However, there was no showing of the gravity and incurability of the psychological disorder supposedly inherent in petitioner, except for the mere statement or conclusion to that effect in the psychological report. The report, and even the testimonies given by petitioner and his expert witness at the trial, dismally failed to prove that petitioner's alleged disorder was grave enough and incurable to bring about his disability to assume the essential obligations of marriage.

Petitioner also made much of the fact that he and respondent never lived together as husband and wife. This, however, fails to move us considering that there may be instances when, for economic and practical reasons, a married couple might have to live separately though the marital bond between them remains.[11] In fact, both parties were college students when they got married and were obviously without the financial means to live on their own. Thus, their not having lived together under one roof did not necessarily give rise to the conclusion that one of them was psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential marital obligations. It is worth noting that petitioner himself admitted that he and respondent continued the relationship after the marriage ceremony. It was only when they started fighting constantly a year later that he decided to file a petition to have the marriage annulled. It appears that petitioner just chose to give up on the marriage too soon and too easily.

WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DENIED. The January 26, 2004 decision and September 24, 2004 resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 60010 are AFFIRMED.

Costs against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

Puno, C.J., (Chairperson), Azcuna, and Leonardo De Castro, JJ., concur.
Carpio, J., on leave.



[1] Penned by Associate Justice Godardo A. Jacinto (retired) and concurred in by Associate Justices Elvi John S. Asuncion (dismissed from the service) and Lucas P. Bersamin of the Fourth Division of the Court of Appeals. Rollo, pp. 10-21.

[2] Id., pp. 22-24.

[3] Hereafter referred to as "respondent."

[4] It was docketed as JDRC Case No. 4138.

[5] Antonio v. Reyes, G.R. No. 155800, 10 March 2006, 484 SCRA 353, 376, citing Republic v. CA and Molina, 335 Phil. 664 (1997).

[6] Choa v. Choa, G.R. No. 143376, 26 November 2002, 392 SCRA 641, 650.

[7] Supra note 5.

[8] Choa v. Choa, supra at 651.

[9] Navarro, Jr. v. Cecilio-Navarro, G.R. No. 162049, 13 April 2007, 521 SCRA 121, 129-130.

[10] For instance, they would frequently quarrel over respondent's insistence that petitioner pick her upon time whenever they go out on dates.

[11] Santos v. CA, 310 Phil. 22 (1995). See Justice Padilla's dissent, p. 48.



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