G.R. No. 170022 : January 9, 2013
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner, v.CESAR ENCELAN, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
We resolve the petition for review on certiorari1 filed by petitioner Republic of the Philippines challenging the October 7, 2005 amended decision2 of the Court of Appeals (CA) that reconsidered its March 22, 2004 decision3 (original decision) in CA-G.R. CV No. 75583. In its original decision, the CA set aside the June 5, 2002 decision4 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch 47, in Civil Case No. 95-74257, which The Factual Antecedents
On August 25, 1979, Cesar married Lolita5 and the union bore two children, Maricar and Manny.6 To support his family, Cesar went to work in Saudi Arabia on May 15, 1984. On June 12, 1986, Cesar, while still in Saudi Arabia, learned that Lolita had been having an illicit affair with Alvin Perez. Sometime in 1991,7 Lolita allegedly left the conjugal home with her children and lived with Alvin. Since then, Cesar and Lolita had been separated. On June 16, 1995, Cesar filed with the RTC a petition against Lolita for the declaration of the nullity of his marriage based on Lolitas psychological incapacity.8ςrνl1
Lolita denied that she had an affair with Alvin; she contended that Alvin used to be an associate in her promotions business. She insisted that she is not psychologically incapacitated and that she left their home because of irreconcilable differences with her mother-in-law.9ςrνl1
At the trial, Cesar affirmed his allegations of Lolitas infidelity and subsequent abandonment of the family home.10 He testified that he continued to provide financial support for Lolita and their children even after he learned of her illicit affair with Alvin.11ςrνl1
Cesar presented the psychological evaluation report12 on Lolita prepared by Dr. Fareda Fatima Flores of the National Center for Mental Health. Dr. Flores found that Lolita was "not suffering from any form of major psychiatric illness,"13 but had been "unable to provide the expectations expected of her for a good and lasting marital relationship";14 her "transferring from one job to the other depicts some interpersonal problems with co-workers as well as her impatience in attaining her ambitions";15 and "her refusal to go with her husband abroad signifies her reluctance to work out a good marital and family relationship."16ςrνl1
The RTC Ruling
In its June 5, 2002 decision,17 the RTC declared Cesars marriage to Lolita void, finding sufficient basis to declare Lolita psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential marital obligations.
The petitioner, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), appealed to the CA.
The CA Ruling
The CA originally18 set aside the RTCs verdict, finding that Lolitas abandonment of the conjugal dwelling and infidelity were not serious cases of personality disorder/psychological illness. Lolita merely refused to comply with her marital obligations which she was capable of doing. The CA significantly observed that infidelity is only a ground for legal separation, not for the declaration of the nullity of a marriage.
Cesar sought reconsideration19 of the CAs decision and, in due course, attained his objective. The CA set aside its original decision and entered another, which affirmed the RTCs decision. In its amended decision,20 the CA found two circumstances indicative of Lolitas serious psychological incapacity that resulted in her gross infidelity: (1) Lolitas unwarranted refusal to perform her marital obligations to Cesar; and (2) Lolitas willful and deliberate act of abandoning the conjugal dwelling.
The OSG then filed the present petition.
The OSG argues that Dr. Flores psychological evaluation report did not disclose that Lolita had been suffering from a psychological illness nor did it establish its juridical antecedence, gravity and incurability; infidelity and abandonment do not constitute psychological incapacity, but are merely grounds for legal separation.
The Case for the Respondent
Cesar submits that Lolitas infidelity and refusal to perform her marital obligations established her grave and incurable psychological incapacity.
The case presents to us the legal issue of whether there exists sufficient basis to nullify Cesars marriage to Lolita on the ground of psychological incapacity.
The Courts Ruling
We grant the petition. No sufficient basis exists to annul Cesars marriage to Lolita on the ground of psychological incapacity.
Applicable Law and Jurisprudence
on Psychological Incapacity
Article 36 of the Family Code governs psychological incapacity as a ground for declaration of nullity of marriage. It provides that "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 interpreting this provision, we have repeatedly stressed that psychological incapacity contemplates "downright incapacity or inability to take cognizance of and to assume the basic marital obligations";21 not merely the refusal, neglect or difficulty, much less ill will, on the part of the errant spouse.22 The plaintiff bears the burden of proving the juridical antecedence (i.e., the existence at the time of the celebration of marriage), gravity and incurability of the condition of the errant spouse.23ςrνl1
Cesar failed to prove Lolitas
In this case, Cesars testimony failed to prove Lolitas alleged psychological incapacity. Cesar testified on the dates when he learned of Lolitas alleged affair and her subsequent abandonment of their home,24 as well as his continued financial support to her and their children even after he learned of the affair,25 but he merely mentioned in passing Lolitas alleged affair with Alvin and her abandonment of the conjugal dwelling.
In any event, sexual infidelity and abandonment of the conjugal dwelling, even if true, do not necessarily constitute psychological incapacity; these are simply grounds for legal separation.26 To constitute psychological incapacity, it must be shown that the unfaithfulness and abandonment are manifestations of a disordered personality that completely prevented the erring spouse from discharging the essential marital obligations.27 No evidence on record exists to support Cesars allegation that Lolitas infidelity and abandonment were manifestations of any psychological illness.
Cesar mistakenly relied on Dr. Flores psychological evaluation report on Lolita to prove her alleged psychological incapacity. The psychological evaluation, in fact, established that Lolita did not suffer from any major psychiatric illness.28 Dr. Flores observation on Lolitas interpersonal problems with co-workers,29 to our mind, does not suffice as a consideration for the conclusion that she was at the time of her marriage psychologically incapacitated to enter into a marital union with Cesar. Aside from the time element involved, a wifes psychological fitness as a spouse cannot simply be equated with her professional/work relationship; workplace obligations and responsibilities are poles apart from their marital counterparts. While both spring from human relationship, their relatedness and relevance to one another should be fully established for them to be compared or to serve as measures of comparison with one another. To be sure, the evaluation report Dr. Flores prepared and submitted cannot serve this purpose. Dr. Flores further belief that Lolitas refusal to go with Cesar abroad signified a reluctance to work out a good marital relationship30 is a mere generalization unsupported by facts and is, in fact, a rash conclusion that this Court cannot support.
In sum, we find that Cesar failed to prove the existence of Lolitas psychological incapacity; thus, the CA committed a reversible error when it reconsidered its original decision.
Once again, we stress that marriage is an inviolable social institution31 protected by the State. Any doubt should be resolved in favor of its existence its existence and continuation and against its dissolution and nullity.32 It cannot be dissolved at the whim of the parties nor by transgressions made by one party to the other during the marriage.
WHEREFORE, we GRANT the petition and SET ASIDE the October 7, 2005 amended decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 75583. Accordingly, we DISMISS respondent Cesar Encelan's petition for declaration of nullity of his marriage to Lolita Castillo-Encelan.
Costs against the respondent.
1 Under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure; rollo, pp. 9-37.
2 Penned by Associate Justice Elvi John S. Asuncion, and concurred in by Associate Justices Godardo A. Jacinto and Lucas P. Bersamin (now a member of this Court); id. at 39-42.
3 Id. at 43-50.
4 Records, pp. 436-438; penned by Judge Nimfa Cuesta-Vilches.
5 Id. at 6.
6 Id. at 7-8.
7 Id. at 2 and 73. Also stated as "1989" and "1990" in other parts of the record and the TSN; rollo, pp. 44 and 92; TSN, August 22, 1996, p. 36; records, p. 119.
8 Records, pp. 1-4.
9 Id. at 165-167 and 313-318.
10 Id. at 115-119.
11 Id. at 104-114.
12 Id. at 243-245.
13 Id. at 245.
17 Supra note 4.
18 Supra note 2.
19 CA rollo, pp. 87-93.
20 Supra note 2.
21 Kalaw v. Fernandez, G.R. No. 166357, September 19, 2011, 657 SCRA 822, 836-837.
22 Agraviador v. Amparo-Agraviador, G.R. No. 170729, December 8, 2010, 637 SCRA 519, 538; Toring v. Toring, G.R. No. 165321, August 3, 2010, 626 SCRA 389, 405; Paz v. Paz, G.R. No. 166579, February 18, 2010, 613 SCRA 195, 205; Navales v. Navales, G.R. No. 167523, June 27, 2008, 556 SCRA 272, 288; Paras v. Paras, G.R. No. 147824, August 2, 2007, 529 SCRA 81, 106; Republic of the Phils. v. Iyoy, 507 Phil. 485, 502 (2005); and Rep. of the Phils. v. Court of Appeals, 335 Phil. 664, 678 (1997).
23 Kalaw v. Fernandez, supra note 21, at 823; Republic v. Galang, G.R. No. 168335, June 6, 2011, 650 SCRA 524, 544; Dimayuga-Laurena v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 159220, September 22, 2008, 566 SCRA 154, 161-162; Republic v. Cabantug-Baguio, G.R. No. 171042, June 30, 2008, 556 SCRA 711, 725; Hernandez v. Court of Appeals, 377 Phil. 919, 932 (1999); and Rep. of the Phils. v. Court of Appeals, supra, at 676.
24 Supra note 10.
25 Supra note 11.
26 The Family Code, Art. 55. A petition for legal separation may be filed on any of the following grounds:cralawlibrary
x x x
(8) Sexual infidelity or perversion;
x x x
(10) Abandonment of petitioner by respondent without justifiable cause for more than one year.ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ
27 Toring v. Toring, supra note 22, at 406.
28 Supra note 13.
29 Supra note 15.
30 Supra note 16.
31 Bolos v. Bolos, G.R. No. 186400, October 20, 2010, 634 SCRA 429, 439; and Camacho-Reyes v. Reyes, G.R. No. 185286, August 18, 2010, 628 SCRA 461, 464.
32 Ochosa v. Alana, G.R. No. 167459, January 26, 2011, 640 SCRA 517, 524; Republic v. Cabantug-Baguio, supra note 23, at 727; and Rep. of the Phils. v. Court of Appeals, supra note 23, at 676.