CASE BrieF NO. 2018-0002

CASE: Maria Concepcion N. Singson vs.Benjamin L. Singson [G.R. No. 210766 January 8, 2018]

PONENTE: Mariano C. Del Castillo, Associate Justice

SUBJECT:

  1. Family Code:
    i. Psychological Incapacity – Pathological Gambling; Reliability of a son to testify on psychological incapacity of his father
  2. Evidence:
    i.Judicial Notice

The parties’ child is not a very reliable witness in an Article 36 case as he could not have been there when the spouses were married and could not have been expected to know what was happening between his parents until long after his birth.”


FACTS:        Maria Concepcion N. Singson filed a Petition for declaration of nullity of marriage based on Article 36 of the Family Code.

She alleged that she and Benjamin L. Singson were married; that said marriage produced four children; that when they started living together, Maria Concepcion noticed that Benjamin was “dishonest, unreasonably extravagant at the expense of the family’s welfare, extremely vain physically and spiritually,” and a compulsive gambler; that Benjamin was immature, and was unable to perform his paternal duties; that Benjamin was also irresponsible, an easy-going man, and guilty of infidelity; that Benjamin’s abnormal behavior made him completely unable to render any help, support, or assistance to her; and that because she could expect no help or assistance at all from Benjamin she was compelled to work doubly hard to support her family as the sole breadwinner.

Maria Concepcion also averred that at the time she filed this Petition, Benjamin was confined at Metro Psych Facility, a rehabilitation institution in Pasig City; and that based on Benjamin’s attending psychiatrist, Dr. Benita Sta. Ana-Ponio (Dr. Sta. Ana-Ponio), he is diagnosed to be suffering from Pathological Gambling.

Maria Concepcion moreover asserted that Benjamin came from a “distraught” family and had a “dysfunctional” childhood; that Benjamin had all the love, care, and protection of his parents as the youngest child for some time; but that these parental love, care and protection were, however, transferred to his youngest brother who was born when Benjamin was almost five years old; and that these factors caused Benjamin emotional devastation from which he never recovered.

Maria Concepcion added that unknown to her, Benjamin even as a high school student, was already betting on jai alai. She also claimed that she tried to adjust to Benjamin’s personality disorders, but that she did not attain her goal.

The RTC granted the Petition and declared the marriage between Maria Concepcion and Benjamin void ab initio on the ground of the latter’s psychological incapacity.

The CA overturned the RTC.

The CA held that the totality of evidence presented by Maria Concepcion failed to establish Benjamin’s alleged psychological incapacity to perform the essential marital obligations.

Maria Concepcion filed a Petition for Review on Certiorari.

ISSUE:
A. Whether or not Maria Concepcion sufficiently established the psychological incapacity of Benjamin.
B. Whether being a pathological gambler amounts to psychological incapacity.
C. Maria Concepcion presented her son to testify that his father’s psychological incapacity existed at the time of their marriage. Is he a reliable witness?
D. Maria Concepcion insists that courts can take judicial notice of the fact that “personality disorders are generally incurable and permanent, and must continuously be treated medically”. Is she correct?

RULING:

A.       The evidence on record does not establish Benjamin’s psychological incapacity.

‘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 any doubt that the intendment 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.

In Santos v. CA (Santos), the Court first declared that psychological incapacity must be characterized by: (a) gravity (i.e., it must be grave and serious such that the party would be incapable of carrying out the ordinary duties required in a marriage); (b) juridical antecedence (i.e., it must be rooted in the history of the party antedating the marriage, although the overt manifestations may emerge only after the marriage); and (c) incurability (i.e., it must be incurable, or even if it were otherwise, the cure would be beyond the means of the party involved).

The evidence on record does not establish that Benjamin’s psychological incapacity was grave and serious as defined by jurisprudential parameters since “Benjamin had a job; provided money for the family from the sale of his property; provided the land where the family home was built on; and lived in the family home with Maria Concepcion-appellee and their children.”

It is significant to note moreover that Maria Concepcion also submitted as part of her evidence a notarized summary dated February 18, 2010 which enumerated expenses paid for by the proceeds of Benjamin’s share in the sale of his parents’ home in Magallanes, Makati City which amounted to around ₱2.9 million. Although Maria Concepcion was insinuating that this amount was insufficient to cover the family expenses from 1999 to 2008, we note that she admitted under oath that the items for their family budget, such as their children’s education, the payments for association dues, and for electric bills came from this money.

And no less significant is Maria Concepcion’s admission that Benjamin provided the land upon which the family home was built.

What’s more, Maria Concepcion and Benjamin likewise lived together as husband and wife since their marriage on July 6,1974 (and in the company of their four children, too). In fact, shunting aside the time that Benjamin was under treatment at the Metro Psych Facility, Maria Concepcion did not allege any instance when Benjamin failed to live with them.

To the foregoing, we ought to add the fact that Maria Concepcion herself admitted, that Benjamin likewise brought her to the hospital during all four instances that she gave birth to their children.

By contrast, Maria Concepcion did not proffer any convincing proof that Benjamin’s mere confinement at the rehabilitation center confirmed the gravity of the latter’s psychological incapacity.

B.       Neither does Maria Concepcion’s bare claim that Benjamin is a pathological gambler, is irresponsible, and is unable to keep a job, necessarily translate into unassailable proof that Benjamin is psychologically incapacitated to perform the essential marital obligations. It is settled that “psychological incapacity under Article 36 of the Family Code contemplates an incapacity or inability to take cognizance of and to assume basic marital obligations, and is not merely the difficulty, refusal, or neglect in the performance of marital obligations or ill will.”  It is not enough to prove that a spouse failed to meet his responsibility and duty as a married person; it is essential that he or she must be shown to be incapable of doing so because of some psychological, not physical, illness.

C. Needless to say, Maria Concepcion cannot lean upon her son Jose’s testimony that his father’s psychological incapacity existed before or at the time of marriage. It has been held that the parties’ child is not a very reliable witness in an Article 36 case as “he could not have been there when the spouses were married and could not have been expected to know what was happening between his parents until long after his birth.”

To support her Article 36 petition, Maria Concepcion ought to have adduced convincing, competent and trustworthy evidence to establish the cause of Benjamin’s alleged psychological incapacity and that the same antedated their marriage. If anything, Maria Concepcion failed to successfully dispute the CA’s finding that she was not aware of any gambling by Benjamin before they got married and that Benjamin was a kind and caring person when he was courting her.

D. The Court cannot take judicial notice of Maria Concepcion’s assertion that “personality disorders are generally incurable” as this is not a matter that courts are mandated to take judicial notice under Section 1, Rule 129 of the Rules of Court.
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THINGS DECIDED:

A)      ‘Psychological incapacity,’ as a ground to nullify a marriage 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.

B)       Psychological incapacity must be characterized by: (a) gravity (i.e., it must be grave and serious such that the party would be incapable of carrying out the ordinary duties required in a marriage); (b) juridical antecedence (i.e., it must be rooted in the history of the party antedating the marriage, although the overt manifestations may emerge only after the marriage); and (c) incurability (i.e., it must be incurable, or even if it were otherwise, the cure would be beyond the means of the party involved).

C)      The parties’ child is not a very reliable witness in an Article 36 case as “he could not have been there when the spouses were married and could not have been expected to know what was happening between his parents until long after his birth.”

D)      Court cannot take judicial notice of the fact that “personality disorders are generally incurable” as this is not a matter that courts are mandated to take judicial notice under Section 1, Rule 129 of the Rules of Court.

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