Annulment of marriage based on psychological incapacity

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Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
My husband often plays computer games, such as League of Legends, Defense of the Ancients, which is popularly known as DOTA. If he’s not playing, he’s either sleeping or drinking alcohol with friends at home. Since our marriage in 2014, I’ve been complaining that he should find a decent job and that we should not be dependent on his parents. He always ignores me whenever I bring up my issue with him. I even bought him newspaper almost everyday but he told me that the competition in big companies is tight and he has no chance of getting the job. Moreover, he argued that he has no clothes to wear during interviews. To inspire him, I bought him new clothes needed for his interviews. Sometime later, he told me he already found a job. Of course, I was overjoyed with the news he gave me. Weeks after, however, I was informed that my husband had been going to his mother when he was supposed to be at work. Thereafter, I confronted him about the issue. He answered me honestly that the rumors are true. He told me that he pretended to have work, so that I would stop nagging him about applying for a job. Further, he argued that his parents could support our needs for the family, especially the education of our children.

I consulted a law student if there’s a way to annul our marriage. He simply answered that I may file for the annulment of our marriage based on psychological incapacity. Can you please enlighten me what psychological incapacity is all about? Thank you.
Evelyn

Dear Evelyn,
Psychological incapacity as a ground for the annulment of marriage may be found in Article 36 of Executive Order 209 or the Family Code of the Philippines, to wit:

“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.”


It may be emphasized, however, that this law did not define the term “psychological incapacity.” The Supreme Court, on the other hand, enunciates in a long line of cases that psychological incapacity, as a ground to nullify a marriage under Article 36 of the Family Code, should refer to no less than a mental–not merely physical–incapacity that causes a party to be truly incognitive of the basic marital covenants that concomitantly must be assumed and discharged by the parties to the marriage which, as so expressed in Article 68 of the Family Code, among others, include their mutual obligations to live together; observe love, respect and fidelity; and render help and support. There is hardly a doubt that the intent of the law has been to confine the meaning of “psychological incapacity” to the most serious cases of personality disorders clearly demonstrative of an utter insensitivity or inability to give meaning and significance to the marriage. Article 68 of the law provides:

“Art. 68. The husband and wife are obliged to live together; observe mutual love, respect and fidelity; and render mutual help and support.”

Moreover, the Supreme Court in the case of Silvino A. Ligarde vs. May Ascension A. Patalinghug, et al. (G.R. No. 168796, April 15, 2010; ponente, Associate Justice Jose Mendoza) stressed that “[p]sychological incapacity required by Art. 36 [of the Family Code]must be characterized by [a]gravity, [b]juridical antecedence and [c]incurability. The incapacity must be grave or serious such that the party would be incapable of carrying out the ordinary duties required in marriage. It must be rooted in the history of the party antedating the marriage, although the overt manifestations may emerge only after the marriage. It must be incurable or, even if it were otherwise, the cure would be beyond the means of the party involved.”

Thus, the intendment of the law is to confine the meaning of psychological incapacity to the most serious cases of personality disorders clearly demonstrative of an utter insensitivity or inability to give meaning and significance to the marriage. The Supreme Court further explained in the case of Edward Kenneth Ngo Te vs. Rowena Ong Gutierrez Yu-Te (G.R No. 161793, February 13, 2009; ponente, former Associate Justice Antonio Eduardo Nachura) that “in dissolving marital bonds on account of either party’s psychological incapacity, the court is not demolishing the foundation of families but it is actually protecting the sanctity of marriage, because it refuses to allow a person afflicted with a psychological disorder, who cannot comply with or assume the essential marital obligations, from remaining in that sacred bond. It may be stressed that the infliction of physical violence, constitutional indolence or laziness, drug dependence or addiction and psychosexual anomaly are manifestations of a sociopathic personality anomaly.”

We find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated. We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.

Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net.

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