Psychological Incapacity in Philippine Judicial System: A Guide For Unmarried Filipinos

A lifetime bond
A lifetime bond | Source

Man has not invented a reliable compass by which steer a marriage in it's journey over troubled water. Laws are seemingly inadequate. Over time, much reliance has been placed in the unseen hand of HIM who created all things. Who is to blame when a marriage fails?

These poetic passage of the preceding paragraph were words of one the Supreme Court justices in the Philippines to whom a certain case of psychological incapacity was adjudicated and favored to the aggrieved party in a country where divorce is vehemently not allowed. For sometime divorce is an issue that became a subject for discussion in the media and among legislators. But until now there is no law that authorizes Filipino citizens to have a divorce. However more Filipino couple who wanted to break their marital bond legally, are filing cases in the court invoking psychological incapacity.

Source

What is psychological incapacity?

Article 36 of the 1987 Family Code of the Philippines provides that:

A marriage contracted by any party who at the time of the celebration was psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential requisites of marriage shall likewise be void even such incapacity becomes manifest only after solemnization.

This is just one of the bases where marriage solemnized under Philippine Law is held to be void from the very beginning (void ab initio) . However this article is unique apart from the others since it is a very subjective and can be validly construed only by the wisdom of the supreme court justices. Marriage in the Philippines is considered to be a special contract between a husband and a wife, special contract in a sense that it has no expiration for as long as one of them are still alive.

Basically in the Philippines before a person can marry they are required to present documents that they have the capacity to contract marriage such as proof of legal age, that they don't have existing marriage, that they have their consent freely given and any other essential requisites enumerated under the Family Code of the Philippines. Likewise they must also comply what the code required as regards to the witnesses, the solemnizing officer and other requirement enumerated in the code to make the celebration of the marriage valid. If all of the these were sufficiently complied with then the couple are now legally married and at the same time denied to nullify it wantonly for it needs the strict intervention of the state before the annulment can take place. Unlike other countries who have divorce, separation in the Philippines is like a camel that enters the eye of the needle.

Once a valid marriage takes place the contracting parties were estopped by their previous compliance of the said requisites. In case of litigation the state presumes the validity of the marriage and who among them (couple) who wanted to legally break their marital bond shoulders the burden of proof.

Psychological incapacity under Philippine law

Psychological incapacity if favored will result into breaking of marital bond legally since according to the law the marriage is held to be void from the beginning, good as if no marriage happened at all no matter how much money spent during the celebration. This is different from legal separation because in legal separation only properties are legally separated however each of them still cannot contract subsequent marriages for as long as one of them are still alive. Contrary to the latter, void marriages, couple are free to contract subsequent marriages once it is proven and granted by the court. In the Philippines there are a lot of cases filed petitioning their spouses as psychologically incapacitated to perform marital responsibilities. Here are some of the landmark cases in the repository related to psychological incapacity, to wit:

Failure to communicate


This is a case between Louie and Julia who have tied knot on September 20, 1986. On May 18, 1988 Julia left for the United States to work as nurse and did not return nor communicate with her husband for more than five years. Eventually her husband sought her in the US when he got a chance to visit in that place but no to avail. Now the deserted husband filed a case invoking psychological incapacity.

The supreme court ruled that this is not a psychological incapacity because psychological incapacity must be characterized by gravity, juridical, antecedence and incurability. This incapacity must be grave or serious and deep rooted in the history of the the other party way back to the very beginning of the celebration of marriage although the overt act of this incapacity manifests only thereafter. In addition it must not be less than mental and not just physical to the extent that the complained party is vehemently incognitive from the very beginning to give meaning and significance to the marriage.

This was not proven in this case therefore the petition of the deserted husband was denied.

Irreconcilable differences
Irreconcilable differences | Source

This real life soap opera starred Reynaldo and Roridel who solemnized their marriage on April 14, 1985 and later bore a son out of utmost love and passion. However a year later the husband shows a sign of immaturity and irresponsibility as a father by preferring to be with his peers and friends instead of his family. In addition to his wife's calvary, Reynaldo depends only in his parents for the support of his family and was never honest to their finances that resulted into frequent quarrel. This problem results into litigation invoking psychological incapacity citing irreconcilable differences.

The supreme court decided that the mere showing of irreconcilable differences is in no case psychological incapacity. It is not enough to prove that the parties failed to meet their duties and responsibilities constitutes psychological incapacity. There is no showing of the gravity of the problem, neither it's juridical antecedence or incurability.

In this case the supreme court held that their marriage will remain to be valid.

This case involves Lolita and her Japanese husband Toshio. Her husband went back to Japan to spent some holidays with his family and promised to go back to the Philippines. After sending money for two months the latter stopped giving financial support and abandoned his family. Now Lolita petitioned the court praying for the nullity of her marriage on the ground of psychological incapacity because of abandonment.

The supreme court ruled that the act of abandonment on the part of the husband was doubtlessly irresponsible but it was never proven to be due to some kind of psychological illness. There was no proof of a natal or supervening disabling factor in the person, an adverse integral element in the personality structure that effectively incapacitates a person from accepting and complying with the obligations essential to marriage.

Wherefore the petitioned filed by Lolita was denied and set aside.

Abandonment is not a ground for annulment
Abandonment is not a ground for annulment | Source

Psychological incapacity granted

As we can see the supreme court ruled that the failure to communicate (even intentional), irreconcilable differences and abandonment is in no case psychological incapacity. There are lot of cases that have been filed citing this article with the same issue and similarly the court ruled negating the petitions. Eventually while it is true that it is hard to established psychological incapacity there are also landmark cases wherein it is granted. 

This is a petition filed by husband Leonilo to nullify his marriage with his wife Marie. The former found out that the latter frequently telling lies resulting to his dismay. His wife is likely to fabricate things and events about her educational attainment, career, income and any other matter. Moreover she is telling to have known somebody who are in reality not a real person. She is likely to be a congenital liar. In support to the husbands petition he presented a psychological tests that Marie's constant lying are pathological disorder.

According to the trial court, respondent’s fantastic ability to invent and fabricate stories and personalities enabled her to live in a world of make-believe. That her inability to distinguish from fantasy and reality, truth from fiction antedates from the very beginning of the marriage and affects the way she entered into marriage. This made her psychologically incapacitated as it rendered her incapable of giving meaning and significance to her marriage.

The trial court thus declared the marriage between Leonilo and Marie null and void.

Refusal to engage in sexual cooperation without any valid reason is a ground for annulment
Refusal to engage in sexual cooperation without any valid reason is a ground for annulment | Source

This is a real life drama of a distraught wife against her uncaring husband. Ten months have already passed however the husband did not initiate sexual contact to his wife although they have shared the same bedroom and sleeping together in the same bed. This is supported by a medical evidence that Gina is still virgin after 10 months of marriage while her husband is capable of having sexual intercourse because he was not an impotent.

In this petition the court stated that love is useless unless it is shared with another. Indeed, no man is an island, the cruelest act of a partner in marriage is to say “I could not have cared less.” This is so because an ungiven self is an unfulfilled self. The egoist has nothing but himself. In the natural order, it is sexual intimacy that brings spouses wholeness and oneness. Sexual intimacy is a gift and a participation in the mystery of creation. It is a function which enlivens the hope of procreation and ensures the continuation of family relations.

Furthermore one of the basis for marriage is to procreate children based on sexual cooperation. Wherefore the petition of Gina is granted and declared the marriage void.

Happy ever after
Happy ever after | Source

The marital bond

Marriage in the Philippines is regarded as an institution, a holy union between a man and a woman. It anchored in a biblical passages that what has been united by GOD let no man separate. As for the authors opinion, although not a religious authority, personally adhere to what it says. Religion being one of the builders of faith among individuals should constantly uphold the sanctity of marriage for marriage creates family which is the basic unit of the society.

However for individual who wanted to enter into marriage (specially Filipino citizens) they must think a thousand times before making a decision. For chance is very slim to legally break a marital bond and claiming psychological incapacity being your ground is like seeing a camel that enters into the eye of the needle notwithstanding the fact that the cost for litigation is maybe greater than the cost of the celebration.

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Comments 1 comment

dens 5 years ago

great info..keep it up

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