January 29, 2023

A little bit of good news for couples who have given up on each other and desire to formally end their civil union before the courts in a more affordable mode.
In a landmark ruling announced May 12, the Supreme Court through a decision penned by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen has modified the interpretation of “psychological incapacity” as a ground to annul a marriage, with discussions on how it will ease the requirements to end one of the most protected unions in predominantly Catholic country.
In the case of Tan-Andal v. Andal, G.R. No. 196359, the High Tribunal unanimously modified the interpretation of the requirements of psychological incapacity as a ground for the declaration of nullity of marriage found in Article 36 of the Family Code.
Earlier, the Baguio boy Leonen in another decision said that married women are not bound to use the surname of their husbands and with this case, he continues to challenge the conservative views on Family Law.
The old rule in Article 36 was based on a 1997 Molina doctrine (G.R. No. 108763, Feb. 13, 1997, Republic vs. Court of Appeals and Roridel Olaviano Molina). The precedent setting case was heard in the Regional Trial Court Benguet as Roridel lived with her parents in Baguio City. The RTC relied heavily on the extensive testimony and psychiatric findings of Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center’s Dr. Teresita Hidalgo-Sison.
The RTC has granted but the Solicitor-General appealed. Thus the SC laid out stringent requirements for psychological incapacity. In sum, it must be medically identified, proven to exist “at the time of celebration” of the marriage, and it must be so grave that essential marital obligations will not be fulfilled. It must refer to no less than a mental (not physical) incapacity, a personality disorder that is clearly demonstrative of an utter insensitivity or inability to give meaning and significance to the marriage. This psychological condition must exist at the time the marriage is celebrated and characterized by gravity, juridical antecedence, and incurability.”
Not an incapacity if it appears to be more of a “difficulty,” if not outright “refusal” or “neglect” in the performance of some marital obligations, mere showing of “irreconcilable differences”, not getting along with each other, or “conflicting personalities”.
It must be psychological – not physical, although its manifestations or symptoms may be physical. It must be existing at “the time of the celebration” of the marriage 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 and must also be shown to be medically or clinically permanent or incurable.
The Leonen ruling said “psychological incapacity is not a medical but a legal concept.”
Thus, grounds like addiction, sexual perversion, physical and emotional violence, attempt upon the life, abandonment, etc. may now be the basis for nullity. Thus RCDS’ Mike, Karl and Orlie’s best friend Dudong can now be sued by his wife because of this sad incident when he celebrated his birthday at Airforce One:
Bartender : Kumusta na Dudong?
Misis: Bakit ka kilala ng bartender?
Dudong: Ah, dati kong kasama sa basketball sa barangay.
After they sat down, the waiter approached them.
Waiter: ‘Yung regular order mo ba, Dudong?
Dudong: (Tingin kay misis) O, bago magtanong, kasama ko yan dati sa gym.
Then may lumapit na sexy, bold, lap dancer.
Dancer: Hi Dudong, ‘yung special show ba ulit?
Galit na galit si misis at hinila si Dudong palabas at sumakay sa taxi.
Taxi driver: Dudong, ang panget ng nakuha mo ngayon a!
Hopefully, he will not be impeached, but Leonen said, “It need not be a mental or personality disorder. It need not be a permanent and incurable condition. Therefore, the testimony of psychologist or psychiatrist is not mandatory in all cases.
The totality of the evidence must show clear and convincing evidence to cause the declaration of nullity of marriage. The new ruling defines psychological incapacity as “a personal condition that prevents a spouse to comply with fundamental marital obligations only in relation to a specific partner that may exist at the time of the marriage but may have revealed through behavior subsequent to the ceremonies.”
This very liberal interpretation has created jurisprudence akin to divorce, and there might be no need for a divorce law, which is gathering dust in Congress.