Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 173138               December 1, 2010

NOEL B. BACCAY, Petitioner,
vs.
MARIBEL C. BACCAY and REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondents.

D E C I S I O N

VILLARAMA, JR., J.:

This petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, assails the Decision1 dated August 26, 2005 and Resolution2 dated June 13, 2006 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 74581. The CA reversed the February 5, 2002 Decision3 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch 38, which declared the marriage of petitioner Noel B. Baccay (Noel) and Maribel Calderon-Baccay (Maribel) void on the ground of psychological incapacity under Article 364 of the Family Code of the Philippines.

The undisputed factual antecedents of the case are as follows:

Noel and Maribel were schoolmates at the Mapua Institute of Technology where both took up Electronics and Communications Engineering. Sometime in 1990, they were introduced by a mutual friend and became close to one another. Noel courted Maribel, but it was only after years of continuous pursuit that Maribel accepted Noelís proposal and the two became sweethearts. Noel considered Maribel as the snobbish and hard-to-get type, which traits he found attractive.5

Noelís family was aware of their relationship for he used to bring Maribel to their house. Noel observed that Maribel was inordinately shy when around his family so to bring her closer to them, he always invited Maribel to attend family gatherings and other festive occasions like birthdays, Christmas, and fiesta celebrations. Maribel, however, would try to avoid Noelís invitations and whenever she attended those occasions with Noelís family, he observed that Maribel was invariably aloof or snobbish. Not once did she try to get close to any of his family members. Noel would talk to Maribel about her attitude towards his family and she would promise to change, but she never did.

Around 1997, Noel decided to break up with Maribel because he was already involved with another woman. He tried to break up with Maribel, but Maribel refused and offered to accept Noelís relationship with the other woman so long as they would not sever their ties. To give Maribel some time to get over their relationship, they still continued to see each other albeit on a friendly basis.

Despite their efforts to keep their meetings strictly friendly, however, Noel and Maribel had several romantic moments together. Noel took these episodes of sexual contact casually since Maribel never demanded anything from him except his company. Then, sometime in November 1998, Maribel informed Noel that she was pregnant with his child. Upon advice of his mother, Noel grudgingly agreed to marry Maribel. Noel and Maribel were immediately wed on November 23, 1998 before Judge Gregorio Dayrit, the Presiding Judge of the Metropolitan Trial Court of Quezon City.

After the marriage ceremony, Noel and Maribel agreed to live with Noelís family in their house at Rosal, Pag-asa, Quezon City. During all the time she lived with Noelís family, Maribel remained aloof and did not go out of her way to endear herself to them. She would just come and go from the house as she pleased. Maribel never contributed to the familyís coffer leaving Noel to shoulder all expenses for their support. Also, she refused to have any sexual contact with Noel.

Surprisingly, despite Maribelís claim of being pregnant, Noel never observed any symptoms of pregnancy in her. He asked Maribelís office mates whether she manifested any signs of pregnancy and they confirmed that she showed no such signs. Then, sometime in January 1999, Maribel did not go home for a day, and when she came home she announced to Noel and his family that she had a miscarriage and was confined at the Chinese General Hospital where her sister worked as a nurse.

Noel confronted her about her alleged miscarriage sometime in February 1999. The discussion escalated into an intense quarrel which woke up the whole household. Noelís mother tried to intervene but Maribel shouted "Putang ina nyo, wag kayo makialam" at her. Because of this, Noelís mother asked them to leave her house. Around 2:30 a.m., Maribel called her parents and asked them to pick her up. Maribel left Noelís house and did not come back anymore. Noel tried to communicate with Maribel but when he went to see her at her house nobody wanted to talk to him and she rejected his phone calls.6

On September 11, 2000 or after less than two years of marriage, Noel filed a petition7 for declaration of nullity of marriage with the RTC of Manila. Despite summons, Maribel did not participate in the proceedings. The trial proceeded after the public prosecutor manifested that no collusion existed between the parties. Despite a directive from the RTC, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) also did not submit a certification manifesting its agreement or opposition to the case.8

On February 5, 2002, the RTC rendered a decision in favor of Noel. The dispositive portion of the decision reads:

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered declaring the marriage of the parties hereto celebrated on November 23, 1998 at the sala of Judge Gregorio Dayrit of the Metropolitan Trial Court in Quezon City as NULL and VOID.

The Local Civil Registrar of Quezon City and the Chief of the National Statistics Office are hereby directed to record and enter this decree into the marriage records of the parties in their respective marriage registers.

The absolute community property of the parties is hereby dissolved and, henceforth, they shall be governed by the property regime of complete separation of property.

With costs against respondent.

SO ORDERED.9

The RTC found that Maribel failed to perform the essential marital obligations of marriage, and such failure was due to a personality disorder called Narcissistic Personality Disorder characterized by juridical antecedence, gravity and incurability as determined by a clinical psychologist. The RTC cited the findings of Nedy L. Tayag, a clinical psychologist presented as witness by Noel, that Maribel was a very insecure person. She entered into the marriage not because of emotional desire for marriage but to prove something, and her attitude was exploitative particularly in terms of financial rewards. She was emotionally immature, and viewed marriage as a piece of paper and that she can easily get rid of her husband without any provocation.10

On appeal by the OSG, the CA reversed the decision of the RTC, thus:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Manila Branch 38 declaring as null and void the marriage between petitioner-appellee and respondent is hereby REVERSED. Accordingly, the instant Petition for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage is hereby DENIED.

SO ORDERED.11

The appellate court held that Noel failed to establish that Maribelís supposed Narcissistic Personality Disorder was the psychological incapacity contemplated by law and that it was permanent and incurable. Maribelís attitudes were merely mild peculiarities in character or signs of ill-will and refusal or neglect to perform marital obligations which did not amount to psychological incapacity, said the appellate court. The CA noted that Maribel may have failed or refused to perform her marital obligations but such did not indicate incapacity. The CA stressed that the law requires nothing short of mental illness sufficient to render a person incapable of knowing the essential marital obligations.12

The CA further held that Maribelís refusal to have sexual intercourse with Noel did not constitute a ground to find her psychologically incapacitated under Article 36 of the Family Code. As Noel admitted, he had numerous sexual relations with Maribel before their marriage. Maribel therefore cannot be said to be incapacitated to perform this particular obligation and that such incapacity existed at the time of marriage.13

Incidentally, the CA held that the OSG erred in saying that what Noel should have filed was an action to annul the marriage under Article 45 (3)14 of the Family Code. According to the CA, Article 45 (3) involving consent to marriage vitiated by fraud is limited to the instances enumerated under Article 4615 of the Family Code. Maribelís misrepresentation that she was pregnant to induce Noel to marry her was not the fraud contemplated under Article 45 (3) as it was not among the instances enumerated under Article 46.16

On June 13, 2006, the CA denied Noelís motion for reconsideration. It held that Maribelís personality disorder is not the psychological incapacity contemplated by law. Her refusal to perform the essential marital obligations may be attributed merely to her stubborn refusal to do so. Also, the manifestations of the Narcissistic Personality Disorder had no connection with Maribelís failure to perform her marital obligations. Noel having failed to prove Maribelís alleged psychological incapacity, any doubts should be resolved in favor of the existence and continuation of the marriage and against its dissolution and nullity.17

Hence, the present petition raising the following assignment of errors:

I. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION IN HOLDING THAT THE CASE OF CHI MING TSOI vs. COURT OF APPEALS DOES NOT FIND APPLICATION IN THE INSTANT CASE.

II. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION IN HOLDING THAT THE RESPONDENT IS NOT SUFFERING FROM NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER; AND THAT HER FAILURE TO PERFORM HER ESSENTIAL MARITAL OBLIGATIONS DOES NOT CONSTITUTE PSYCHOLOGICAL INCAPACITY.18

The issue to be resolved is whether the marriage between the parties is null and void under Article 36 of the Family Code.

Petitioner Noel contends that the CA failed to consider Maribelís refusal to procreate as psychological incapacity. Insofar as he was concerned, the last time he had sexual intercourse with Maribel was before the marriage when she was drunk. They never had any sexual intimacy during their marriage. Noel claims that if a spouse senselessly and constantly refuses to perform his or her marital obligations, Catholic marriage tribunals attribute the causes to psychological incapacity rather than to stubborn refusal. He insists that the CA should not have considered the pre-marital sexual encounters between him and Maribel in finding that the latter was not psychologically incapacitated to procreate through marital sexual cooperation. He argues that making love for procreation and consummation of the marriage for the start of family life is different from "plain, simple and casual sex." He further stresses that Maribel railroaded him into marrying her by seducing him and later claiming that she was pregnant with his child. But after their marriage, Maribel refused to consummate their marriage as she would not be sexually intimate with him.19

Noel further claims that there were other indicia of Maribelís psychological incapacity and that she consistently exhibited several traits typical of a person suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder before and during their marriage. He points out that Maribel would only mingle with a few individuals and never with Noelís family even if they lived under one (1) roof. Maribel was also arrogant and haughty. She was rude and disrespectful to his mother and was also "interpersonally exploitative" as shown by her misrepresentation of pregnancy to force Noel to marry her. After marriage, Maribel never showed respect and love to Noel and his family. She displayed indifference to his emotional and sexual needs, but before the marriage she would display unfounded jealousy when Noel was visited by his friends. This same jealousy motivated her to deceive him into marrying her.

Lastly, he points out that Maribelís psychological incapacity was proven to be permanent and incurable with the root cause existing before the marriage. The psychologist testified that persons suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder were unmotivated to participate in therapy session and would reject any form of psychological help rendering their condition long lasting if not incurable. Such persons would not admit that their behavioral manifestations connote pathology or abnormality. The psychologist added that Maribelís psychological incapacity was deeply rooted within her adaptive system since early childhood and manifested during adult life. Maribel was closely attached to her parents and mingled with only a few close individuals. Her close attachment to her parents and their over-protection of her turned her into a self-centered, self-absorbed individual who was insensitive to the needs of others. She developed the tendency not to accept rejection or failure.20

On the other hand, the OSG maintains that Maribelís refusal to have sexual intercourse with Noel did not constitute psychological incapacity under Article 36 of the Family Code as her traits were merely mild peculiarities in her character or signs of ill-will and refusal or neglect to perform her marital obligations. The psychologist even admitted that Maribel was capable of entering into marriage except that it would be difficult for her to sustain one. Also, it was established that Noel and Maribel had sexual relations prior to their marriage. The OSG further pointed out that the psychologist was vague as to how Maribelís refusal to have sexual intercourse with Noel constituted Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

The petition lacks merit.

Article 36 of the Family Code provides:

ART. 36. 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.

The Court held in Santos v. Court of Appeals21 that the phrase "psychological incapacity" is not meant to comprehend all possible cases of psychoses. It refers to no less than a mental (not physical) incapacity that causes a party to be truly noncognitive of the basic marital covenants that concomitantly must be assumed and discharged by the parties to the marriage which, as expressed by Article 6822 of the Family Code, include their mutual obligations to live together, observe love, respect and fidelity and render help and support. The intendment of the law has been to confine it to the most serious of cases of personality disorders clearly demonstrative of an utter insensitivity or inability to give meaning and significance to the marriage.

In Republic of the Phils. v. Court of Appeals,23 the Court laid down the guidelines in resolving petitions for declaration of nullity of marriage, based on Article 36 of the Family Code, to wit:

(1) The burden of proof to show the nullity of the marriage belongs to the plaintiff. Any doubt should be resolved in favor of the existence and continuation of the marriage and against its dissolution and nullity. This is rooted in the fact that both our Constitution and our laws cherish the validity of marriage and unity of the family. Thus, our Constitution devotes an entire Article on the Family, recognizing it "as the foundation of the nation." It decrees marriage as legally "inviolable," thereby protecting it from dissolution at the whim of the parties. Both the family and marriage are to be "protected" by the state.

The Family Code echoes this constitutional edict on marriage and the family and emphasizes their permanence, inviolability and solidarity.

(2) The root cause of the psychological incapacity must be (a) medically or clinically identified, (b) alleged in the complaint, (c) sufficiently proven by experts and (d) clearly explained in the decision. Article 36 of the Family Code requires that the incapacity must be psychological Ė not physical, although its manifestations and/or symptoms may be physical. The evidence must convince the court that the parties, or one of them, was mentally or psychically ill to such an extent that the person could not have known the obligations he was assuming, or knowing them, could not have given valid assumption thereof. Although no example of such incapacity need be given here so as not to limit the application of the provision under the principle of ejusdem generis, nevertheless such root cause must be identified as a psychological illness and its incapacitating nature fully explained. Expert evidence may be given by qualified psychiatrists and clinical psychologists.

(3) The incapacity must be proven to be existing at "the time of the celebration" of the marriage. The evidence must show that the illness was existing when the parties exchanged their "I doís." The manifestation of the illness need not be perceivable at such time, but the illness itself must have attached at such moment, or prior thereto.

(4) Such incapacity must also be shown to be medically or clinically permanent or incurable.1avvphi1 Such incurability may be absolute or even relative only in regard to the other spouse, not necessarily absolutely against everyone of the same sex. Furthermore, such incapacity must be relevant to the assumption of marriage obligations, not necessarily to those not related to marriage, like the exercise of a profession or employment in a job. Hence, a pediatrician may be effective in diagnosing illnesses of children and prescribing medicine to cure them but may not be psychologically capacitated to procreate, bear and raise his/her own children as an essential obligation of marriage.1avvphi1

(5) Such illness must be grave enough to bring about the disability of the party to assume the essential obligations of marriage. Thus, "mild characteriological peculiarities, mood changes, occasional emotional outbursts" cannot be accepted as root causes. The illness must be shown as downright incapacity or inability, not a refusal, neglect or difficulty, much less ill will. In other words, there is a natal or supervening disabling factor in the person, an adverse integral element in the personality structure that effectively incapacitates the person from really accepting and thereby complying with the obligations essential to marriage.

(6) The essential marital obligations must be those embraced by Articles 68 up to 71 of the Family Code as regards the husband and wife as well as Articles 220, 221 and 225 of the same Code in regard to parents and their children. Such non-complied marital obligation(s) must also be stated in the petition, proven by evidence and included in the text of the decision.

(7) Interpretations given by the National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, while not controlling or decisive, should be given great respect by our courts. x x x.

x x x x

(8) The trial court must order the prosecuting attorney or fiscal and the Solicitor General to appear as counsel for the state. No decision shall be handed down unless the Solicitor General issues a certification, which will be quoted in the decision, briefly stating therein his reasons for his agreement or opposition, as the case may be, to the petition. The Solicitor General, along with the prosecuting attorney, shall submit to the court such certification within fifteen (15) days from the date the case is deemed submitted for resolution of the court. The Solicitor General shall discharge the equivalent function of the defensor vinculi contemplated under Canon 1095. (Emphasis ours.)

In this case, the totality of evidence presented by Noel was not sufficient to sustain a finding that Maribel was psychologically incapacitated. Noelís evidence merely established that Maribel refused to have sexual intercourse with him after their marriage, and that she left him after their quarrel when he confronted her about her alleged miscarriage. He failed to prove the root cause of the alleged psychological incapacity and establish the requirements of gravity, juridical antecedence, and incurability. As correctly observed by the CA, the report of the psychologist, who concluded that Maribel was suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder traceable to her experiences during childhood, did not establish how the personality disorder incapacitated Maribel from validly assuming the essential obligations of the marriage. Indeed, the same psychologist even testified that Maribel was capable of entering into a marriage except that it would be difficult for her to sustain one.24 Mere difficulty, it must be stressed, is not the incapacity contemplated by law.

The Court emphasizes that the burden falls upon petitioner, not just to prove that private respondent suffers from a psychological disorder, but also that such psychological disorder renders her "truly incognitive of the basic marital covenants that concomitantly must be assumed and discharged by the parties to the marriage."25 Psychological incapacity must be more than just a "difficulty," a "refusal," or a "neglect" in the performance of some marital obligations. An unsatisfactory marriage is not a null and void marriage. As we stated in Marcos v. Marcos:26

Article 36 of the Family Code, we stress, is not to be confused with a divorce law that cuts the marital bond at the time the causes therefor manifest themselves. It refers to a serious psychological illness afflicting a party even before the celebration of the marriage. It is a malady so grave and so permanent as to deprive one of awareness of the duties and responsibilities of the matrimonial bond one is about to assume. x x x.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 74581 is AFFIRMED and UPHELD.

Costs against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES
Associate Justice
Chairperson

ARTURO D. BRION
Associate Justice
LUCAS P. BERSAMIN
Associate Justice

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO
Associate Justice

A T T E S T A T I O N

I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courtís Division.

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES
Associate Justice
Chairperson, Third Division

C E R T I F I C A T I O N

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution and the Division Chairpersonís Attestation, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courtís Division.

RENATO C. CORONA
Chief Justice


Footnotes

1 Rollo, pp. 6-21. Penned by Associate Justice Mariflor P. Punzalan Castillo and concurred in by Associate Justices Jose L. Sabio, Jr. and Noel G. Tijam.

2 Id. at 22-25.

3 Id. at 100-104. Penned by Judge Priscilla J. Baltazar-Padilla.

4 ART. 36. 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. (As amended by E.O. 227.)

5 Rollo, pp. 83, 92, 100.

6 Id. at 83-87, 93-95.

7 Id. at 83-88.

8 Id. at 101-102.

9 Id. at 103-104.

10 Id. at 102.

11 Id. at 20.

12 Id. at 10-14.

13 Id. at 17.

14 ART. 45. A marriage may be annulled for any of the following causes, existing at the time of the marriage:

x x x x

(3) That the consent of either party was obtained by fraud, unless such party afterwards, with full knowledge of the facts constituting the fraud, freely cohabited with the other as husband and wife;

x x x x

15 ART. 46. Any of the following circumstances shall constitute fraud referred to in Number 3 of the preceding Article:

(1) Nondisclosure of a previous conviction by final judgment of the other party of a crime involving moral turpitude;

(2) Concealment by the wife of the fact that at the time of the marriage, she was pregnant by a man other than her husband;

(3) Concealment of a sexually transmissible disease, regardless of its nature, existing at the time of the marriage; or

(4) Concealment of drug addiction, habitual alcoholism or homosexuality or lesbianism existing at the time of the marriage.

No other misrepresentation or deceit as to character, health, rank, fortune or chastity shall constitute such fraud as will give grounds for action for the annulment of marriage. (86a)

16 Rollo, pp. 18-20.

17 Id. at 22-25.

18 Id. at 41-42.

19 Id. at 42-47.

20 Id. at 48-52.

21 G.R. No. 112019, January 4, 1995, 240 SCRA 20, 34.

22 ART. 68. The husband and wife are obliged to live together, observe mutual love, respect and fidelity, and render mutual help and support.

23 335 Phil. 664, 676-678 (1997).

24 TSN, April 24, 2001, p. 19.

25 Santos v. Court of Appeals, supra note 21.

26 397 Phil. 840, 851 (2000).


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