Legally ill

A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison - The Philippine Star

This is another case of declaration of nullity of marriage because of psychological incapacity of a spouse. One of the issues involved here is the necessity of proof of the personality of the spouses, given by an expert. Resolved here is that psychological incapacity need not be medically or clinically identified by an expert because it is not a medical illness. This is the case of Liza and Bert.

Liza was working as cultural assistant of the Philippine embassy in Madrid when she met Bert, who was then studying for a master’s degree. After several dates, they left their respective partners and lived together in Madrid. At that time Bert had to return to the Philippines to look for work. Two years later, while Liza was on vacation here the two got married. Two days after their marriage Liza flew back to Madrid, while Bert stayed behind because of his job.

While Liza was working in Madrid, Bert had an affair with another woman named Cely, which Liza discovered when she saw in Bert’s cellular phone his romantic and erotic messages from Cely. Bert confirmed his relationship with Cely and promised to end it. But after that, Bert would seldom come home. Liza then learned that Bert and Cely had sexual intercourse even in front of another person.

After Bert confessed and promised to end the affair, Liza gave him another chance. They planned to go to Canada where Liza was assigned. But Bert was unhappy and his behavior made it difficult for Liza to recover from the hurts of the past.

After giving birth to their second child, Liza no longer slept in the same room with Bert and had no sexual contact with him since then, as they eventually parted ways. Since then, Bert stopped communicating with and giving support to Liza and their children.

According to Liza, during their cohabitation as husband and wife, Bert fell short of his financial obligations as he was often without a job. He would get depressed and sleep for long hours. He would rely on her to make decisions in the household. He did not take care of their children even when they were sick and he did not attend their school activities. He even physically hurt their oldest child to get him to obey his orders.

Eventually, Liza filed a petition for the declaration of nullity of their marriage before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) on the ground that Bert is psychologically incapacitated to perform his marital obligations pursuant to Article 36 of the Family Code.

During the trial Liza testified and narrated the events that happened to them as above set forth. The clinical psychologist Dr. Rosa de los Reyes also testified and presented her report based on the last conducted on Liza as well as the interviews with her and their children. Dr. de los Reyes concluded that Bert has a narcissistic personality disorder as shown by (1) his failure to stay long in any job that did not suit his standard; (2) his defiance to conventional/moral rules as he engaged in a sexual affair with another woman and disregarded his vow to his wife just to satisfy his desires; (3) his careless disregard of the rights of others, especially those of his wife and children for his constant support; (4) his shameless neglect of his wife and children; (5) his interpersonal exploitative tendencies in using other people, especially his wife, to enhance himself and satisfy his needs; (6) his grandiose sense of self importance and strong sense of entitlement, as he expects to be recognized and given special favors without assuming reciprocal responsibility and (7) his constant need for attention.

After trial the RTC declared the marriage of Liza and Bert null and void ab initio on account of the psychological incapacity of Bert to fulfill his marital obligations. The RTC held that the totality of the evidence presented showed that Bert’s personality disorder is characterized by (1) juridical antecedence as it existed long before he and Liza got married; (2) permanent as it is deeply imbedded in his personality and (3) grave as it renders him psychologically incapacitated to perform his marital obligations.

The Court of Appeals, however, reversed and set aside the RTC decision because the evidence presented in court was biased as it was based on the examination of Liza. It also failed to prove the gravity, juridical antecedence and incurability of the psychological incapacity of Bert.

The Supreme Court, however, said that the CA is wrong and upheld the decision of the RTC. According to the SC, proof of the aspects of personality of the spouses need not be given by an expert. Ordinary witnesses who have known the spouse before the latter contracted marriage may testify on the behavior that they have consistently observed from the supposedly incapacitated spouse. From there the judge will decide if the behavior is indicative of a true and serious incapacity to assume the essential marital obligations.

Based on the testimonies of Liza and Dr. delos Reyes, Bert’s psychological incapacity stems from the family environment and relationship he was exposed to during his childhood. He grew up pampered and showered with material possessions. He was praised but was denied affection and attention by his parents. This made him extremely insecure, self-centered and boastful.

So the court finds that Liza was able to show that Bert was psychologically incapacitated at the time he got married to her and remained to be so thereafter. So the RTC ruling is reinstated (Alberto vs. Alberto and Republic of the Philippines, G.R 236827, April 19, 2022).

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