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No Hard and Fast Rule: The Judicial Standards in Determining


Psychological Incapacity as a Ground for Nullity of Marriage
Alberto, Arboladura, Miranda, Reyes & Salvador

I. INTRODUCTION .......................................................................................................................... 1
A. Scope and Limitations
B. Significance
II. TRACING BACK ITS ROOTS: THE CONCEPT OF PSYCHOLOGICAL INCAPACITY ............................ 2
A. The Intent of the Framers
B. Psychological Incapacity in the Context of Canon Law
III. JURISPRUDENTIAL TREATMENT: WHEN IS PSYCHOLOGICAL INCAPACITY, PSYCHOLOGICAL
INCAPACITY? ............................................................................................................................. 6
A. The Santos Case: Understanding the concept
B. The Molina Case: Tightening the concept
IV. RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN JURISPRUDENCE: TOWARDS A RE-LIBERALIZATION OF THE
CONCEPT OF PSYCHOLOGICAL INCAPACITY? ............................................................................ 9
V. CONCLUSION ............................................................................................................................ 11


I. INTRODUCTION

Justice Vitug said that psychological incapacity is a highly, if not indeed the most likely,
controversial provision introduced by the Family Code.
1
Examining the cases decided by the
Supreme Court concerning Article 36 of the Family Code or the provision on psychological
incapacity, it is evident why the Justice arrived to such a conclusion. It appears that there is
certainly no hard and fast rule or standard in determining the existence of psychological
incapacity as a ground for nullity of marriage.

Our jurisprudence is replete with cases explaining various reasons that are sufficient to
constitute as a form or sign of psychological incapacity. However, there are also cases explaining
that a mere refusal, neglect or difficulty, much less, ill will, on the part of the errant spouse are
not sufficient to constitute as grounds. Irreconcilable differences, conflicting personalities,
emotional immaturity and irresponsibility, physical abuse, habitual alcoholism, sexual infidelity
or perversion, and abandonment, by themselves, were also held by the Supreme Court as
circumstances that do not warrant psychological incapacity.

As Sta. Maria said, the law does not define what psychological incapacity is and therefore,
the determination is left solely with the courts on a case-to-case basis.
2
This has led to a
growing misunderstanding as well as abuse of Article 36. What was the real intent of Article 36?
When is psychological incapacity, psychological incapacity? What are the clear and established
judicial standards in determining psychological incapacity? These are the questions that this
paper seeks to address.


1
Santos v. Court of Appeals, GR No. 112019, Jan. 4, 1995.
2
MELENCIO STA. MARIA, PERSONS AND FAMILY RELATIONS LAW 190 (4
th
ed. 2004).
2

A. Scope and Limitations

This paper gives a brief discussion and analysis of the concept of psychological incapacity
under Article 36 of the Family Code. It looks at the evolution of the concept of psychological
incapacity from the intention of the framers to the more recent developments in Philippine
jurisprudence on psychological incapacity. It specifically sets out to put forward the judicial
standards in determining psychological incapacity.

The article does not claim to be a comprehensive discussion of the issues surrounding the
interpretation and application of Article 36 of the Family Code. It does not likewise seek to
provide a resolution to such issues. It, however, attempts to provide a discussion and explanation
of the development of the concept and the judicial standards established by analyzing the intent
of the law, its foundations and the jurisprudence applying it.

B. Significance

Psychological incapacity has become a common and household word not just in the legal
profession but in the whole of Philippine society. However, it is also the most confused and
misunderstood. Many, in search for a valid ground to declare ones marriage null and void, have
abused this provision. Judging by the avalanche of petitions invoking Article 36 as a ground for
nullity of marriage which ultimately fail before the Supreme Court, it seems that even those in
the profession do not fully understand the concept of psychological incapacity.

This paper seeks to provide clarity amid the growing confusion with the interpretation and
application of psychological incapacity. The discussions and analyses of the intent behind Article
36 and the cases which applied it may also contribute to ascertain the judicial standards in
determining psychological incapacity as decided by the Supreme Court.

II. TRACING BACK ITS ROOTS: THE CONCEPT OF PSYCHOLOGICAL INCAPACITY

A. The Intent of the Framers

Psychological incapacity under Article 36 of the Family Code is a novel concept - a concept
nothing short of revolutionary. The incessant attempt to define psychological incapacity in our
jurisdiction goes back as far as even before it was legislated, that is during the deliberations of
the Family Code itself. A look into the exchange of arguments and discussions by the Revision
Committee would be most helpful.

The concept was lifted from Canon 1095 of the New Code of Canon Law, which became
effective in 1983. From this, the drafters of the Family Code provide an insight on the import of
the provision. The initial draft referred to those marriages by any party who, at the time of the
celebration, was wanting in the sufficient use of reason or judgment to understand the essential
nature of marriage or was psychologically or mentally incapacitated to discharge the essential
marital obligations (emphasis supplied).
3
Discussion ensued as to the distinction and relation

3
See generally MEETING OF THE CIVIL CODE AND FAMILY LAW COMMITTEES (August 9, 1986).
3

of psychological incapacity to mental insanity. Justice Sempio-Diy challenged psychological
incapacitys potency to render the marriage void from the beginning whereas insanity, which is
more serious, effects only as to its annulment. Justice Reyes likewise posits the same question.

It was Justice Caguioa who, by repetitive statements, put emphasis on the notion that in cases
of insanity, there is the appearance of consent. Psychological incapacity on the other hand refers
to the very essence of marital obligation. It is not at all a species of vices of consent, and is
therefore not a ground for annulment of marriage. He furthers, in response to Justice Reyes
query, that insanity is curable and involves the instances of lucid intervals while psychological
incapacity is incurable and not even cohabitation nor bearing of children should be taken as a
sign that it has been cured. Thus, he together with Prof. Braviera moved for the deletion of the
word mentally to distinguish it from vice of consent.

From the lucid interval argument, discussions in relation to the phrase at the time of the
celebration followed. This, as we shall see later on, draws the line of distinction between
psychological incapacity and divorce which the Family Code sanctions. Prof. Bautista stated
that, in the same manner that there is a lucid interval in insanity, there are also momentary
periods when there is an understanding of the consequences of marriage. Justice Reyes and Dean
Gupit then remarked that the ground of psychological incapacity will not apply if the marriage
was contracted at the time when there is understanding of the consequences of marriage.
4
Justice
Puno observed that under the present draft provision, it is enough to show that at the time of the
celebration of the marriage, one was psychologically incapacitated so that later on if already he
can comply with the essential marital obligations, the marriage is still void ab initio. Justice
Caguioa explained that since in divorce, the psychological incapacity may occur after the
marriage, in void marriages, it has to be at the time of the celebration of marriage. He, however,
stressed that the idea in the provision is that at the time of the celebration of the marriage, one is
psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential marital obligations, which incapacity
continues and later becomes manifest.

In spite of several explanations, Prof. Romero opined that psychological incapacity is still
insanity of a lesser degree. Justice Luciano suggested that they invite a psychiatrist, who is the
expert on this matter. Justice Caguioa, however, relentlessly reiterated that psychological
incapacity is not a defect in the mind but in the understanding of the consequences of marriage,
and therefore, a psychiatrist will not be a help. It is at this point that Justice Puno reminded the
members that they have decided not to go into the classification of psychological incapacity
because there was a lot of debate on it and that this is precisely the reason why they classified it
as a special case.
5


The final text of the provision, now deemed included as Art. 36 of The Family Code,
provides:

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.

4
See generally MEETING OF THE CIVIL CODE AND FAMILY LAW COMMITTEES (July 26, 1986).
5
Supra note 3.
4


In sum, the Family Code Revision Committee in ultimately deciding to adopt the provision
with less specificity than expected has in fact, so designed the law as to allow some resiliency in
its application. The Committee did not give any examples of psychological incapacity for fear
that the giving of examples would limit the applicability of the provision under the principle of
ejusdem generis. Rather, the Committee would like the judge to interpret the provision on a case-
to-case basis, guided by experience, the findings of experts and researchers in psychological
disciplines, and by decisions of church tribunals which, although not binding on the civil courts,
may be given persuasive effect since the provision was taken from Canon Law.
6
As put by
Justice Caguioa:

a code should not have so many definitions, because a definition straight-jackets the concept and,
therefore, many cases that should go under it are excluded by the definition. Thats why we leave
it up to the court to determine the meaning of psychological incapacity.
7


The absence of definition is to be expected considering that the expanse of psychological
infirmities is limitless. The only guidance provided by the Code is that the psychological
incapacity prevents the subject from complying with the essential marital obligations and the
same should exist at the time of celebration of the marriage which is which is still very general.
8


B. Psychological Incapacity in the Context of Canon Law

As said earlier, Article 36 of the Family Code was lifted by the Civil Code and Family Law
Committees from the Canon Law of the Catholic Church. In particular, it is similar to Canon
1095, paragraph 3, which read:

Canon 1095. The following are incapable of contracting marriage:

1. x x x
2. x x x
3. those who, because of causes of a psychological nature, are unable to assume the
essential obligations of marriage (emphasis supplied).

In the Committees deliberation, Justice Ricardo C. Puno stated that since there have been
church annulments of marriages arising from psychological incapacity, Civil Law should now
reconcile with Canon Law
9


In order to fully understand what the Family Code means by psychological incapacity, we
look into its primary sourceCanon 1095, paragraph 3 of the Catholic Churchfrom which the
Committees drew inspiration for what is now Article 36. The root in understanding the
psychological incapacity is to look into the meaning of the incapacity to assume. Adolfo N.
Dacanay, S.J., a Philippine authority in Canon Law, writes [t]he third paragraph does not deal
with the psychological process of giving consent because it has been established a priori that

6
Salita vs. Hon. Magtolis, G.R. No. 106429, 13 June 1994.
7
STA. MARIA, supra note 2 at 191.
8
ERNESTO L. PINEDA, THE FAMILY CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES ANNOTATED 63 (2008 ed.).
9
Supra note 3.
5

both [married individuals] have such a capacity to give consent, and they both know well the
object of their consent
10


What Canon Law speaks of as inability to assume the essential obligations of marriage
11

the causes of which are psychological in nature, it refers to the object of the consent which does
not exist. The contract [of marriage] is invalid because it lacks its formal object. The consent as a
psychological act is both valid and sufficient. The psychological act however is directed towards
an object which is not available.
12
A person may be capable of assuming a free act of consent,
but that person is incapable of fulfilling the responsibilities he/she acquires as a result of the
consent he/she gives.

The object referred to in the previous paragraph may generally be viewed in the plural
objects. A person is said to be capable of giving his/her consent, but he/she is incapable of
fulfilling the responsibilities as a result of the consent he/she gives. A persons responsibilities in
the marriage are the objects that are lacking; the person is not able to fulfill any of these. Canon
1055, paragraph 1 provides the essential obligations of marriage: (a) the consortium of the whole
life between the man and the woman; (b) a consortium which is directed towards the good of the
spouses; (c) and towards the procreation and upbringing of children.

As Dacanay, S.J. writes in his commentary, the Catholic Church means that psychological
incapacity is a ground to annul the marriage although a persons higher faculties remain intact
such that a person so afflicted continues to have an adequate understanding of what marriage is
and of the gravity of its responsibilities.
13
He/she knows his/her responsibilities but cannot or
does not fulfill them. It is therefore possible that a psychologically incapacitated person who
contracts marriage can make a free decision, an intelligent judgment, and a mature evaluation
and weighing of things
14
although he/she cannot assume the essential obligations of marriage,
that is, the formal object(s) of consent.

Under this rubric, ecclesiastical jurisprudence has cited sexual anomalies like nymphomania
as a case of the psychological incapacity of the spouse so afflicted.
15
Nymphomaniacs may have
knowledge of the obligations they have in a marriage but because of their debility, they are
incapable of assuming the conjugal obligation of fidelity. The Catholic Church holds the
conjugal obligation of fidelity between husband and wife as sacred, not only because it is the
primary teaching of the Church on marriage and greatly emphasized since Vatican II,
16
but more
importantly it is the consortium of the whole life between the man and the woman [and] a
consortium which is directed towards the good of the spouses.
17
This implies that the Church
has focused on the relationship of both individuals whose marriage it has sanctified at the
beginning.


10
ADOLFO N. DACANAY, S.J., CANON LAW ON MARRIAGE: INTRODUCTORY NOTES & COMMENTS 110.
11
Canon 1095, 3.
12
DACANAY, supra note 3, at 110.
13
Id. at 111.
14
Id. at 113.
15
Id. at 111.
16
Id. at 114.
17
Canon 1055, 1.
6

Other indications of the existence of psychological incapacity within a married individual,
according to the Church, are made manifest through narcissistic personalities, homosexuality or
the incapability of beginning or maintaining a heterosexual consortium, and the incapability of
realizing or contributing to the good of the other party. These are general patterns only and not
definite characterizations of defining psychological incapacity.
18
With all these said, it is worth
mentioning that decisions made under Canon Law are not binding upon civil courts, nor do they
create precedents. They are only persuasive.
19


III. JURISPRUDENTIAL TREATMENT: WHEN IS PSYCHOLOGICAL INCAPACITY,
PSYCHOLOGICAL INCAPACITY?

The determination of psychological incapacity has been left to the courts on a case to case
basis. The totality of evidence presented will establish whether or not there are grounds to nullify
a marriage based on Article 36. There seem to be careful treatment not to limit the meaning of
psychological incapacity so as to remain faithful to the intent of the lawmakers. The
development of jurisprudence tackling Article 36 shows a conscious effort to keep psychological
incapacity without definition. Cases have laid down characteristics or guidelines but not a clear-
cut meaning of psychological incapacity. However, there is also the challenge to maintain its
application uniform so as prevent a scenario wherein Article 36 is abused by parties who simply
want to get out of a disadvantageous marriage.

A. The Santos Case: Understanding the concept

The very first case decided by the Supreme Court which discussed the scope and meaning of
Article 36 was the case of Santos vs. Court of Appeals.
20
Relying on the discussions of the Code
Commission the Supreme Court then held that psychological incapacity does not comprehend all
types of psychological defect. Even if Article 36 is based on Canon Law of the Church, the law
only intends its application to the most serious cases of personality disorders clearly
demonstrative of an utter insensibility or inability to give meaning and significance to the
marriage. The case stated that psychological incapacity 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. It does not contemplate extremely low intelligence, immaturity and other similar
cases.

Also, relying on Justice Sempio-Diys citation of Dr. Gerardo Veloso of the Metropolitan
Marriage Tribunal of the Catholic Archdiocese of Manila, the Court adopted characteristics of
psychological incapacity namely: (a) gravity; (2) juridical antecedence; and (3) incurability. The
incapacity must be grave that it is impossible to carry out ordinary obligations expected in a
marriage and it must antedate the marriage and it must be incurable or even if it is, the cure is
beyond the means of the party involved.


18
DACANAY, supra note 3, at 116-117.
19
Syquia v. Faustman, CA-G.R. CV No. 28436, August 19, 1992.
20
STA. MARIA, supra note 2 at 192.
7

Chi Ming Tsoi v. Court of Appeals,
21
seemingly affirmed the Santos case and broadened the
scope of psychological incapacity. In the case of Chi Ming Tsoi, the husband did not have any
sexual intercourse with her wife since they have been married. The Supreme Court held that the
prolonged refusal of a spouse to have sexual intercourse with his or her spouse is considered a
sign of psychological incapacity. When the refusal is constant and senseless which in effect they
cannot procreate anymore, the Catholic marriage tribunals consider it as a sign of psychological
incapacity. One of the essential marital obligations under the Family Code is to procreate
children based on the universal principle that procreation of children through sexual cooperation
is the basic end of marriage. Constant non-fulfillment of this obligation will finally destroy the
integrity or wholeness of the marriage. Thus, displaying a senseless and protracted refusal to
procreate amounts to psychological incapacity.

B. The Molina Case: Tightening the concept

Subsequently, the Supreme Court promulgated the decision in Republic v. Court of
Appeals
22
or better known as the Molina case. This case is where the Court endeavored to lay
specific guidelines in applying Article 36 in an effort to sidestep the menace of psychological
incapacity becoming the most liberal divorce procedure in the world.

The case of Molina stemmed from a marriage where the husband showed signs of
unusual immaturity. It has been observed from his behavior of spending time with his friends and
squandering his money with them, from his dependency from his parents, and his dishonesty on
matters involving his finances. The husband was relieved of his job and the wife became the sole
breadwinner. Subsequently, when the wife resigned from her job and went to the province, the
husband left her and their child. The couple has become separated-in-fact for more than three
years until the petition for the nullity of marriage was filed. The wife invoked Article 36 of the
Civil Code which states that the existence of the psychological incapacity of one of the spouses
prior to the celebration of marriage is sufficient to declare the marriage void ab initio.

However, in Molina, the concept of psychological incapacity was still not definite but it
was ascertained that the Santos case simply cannot be the sole basis in applying Article 36.
Judges and courts encountered great difficulty in psychological incapacity cases before the
promulgation of the Molina decision. The guidelines were:

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.
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.
3. The incapacity must be proven to be existing at the time of the celebration of the marriage.
4. Such incapacity must also be shown to be medically or clinically permanent
or incurable. Such incurability may be absolute or even relative only in regard to the other
spouse, not necessarily absolutely against everyone of the same sex.
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,

21
Chi Ming Tsoi v. CA, GR No. 119190, Jan. 19, 1997.
22
Republic v. CA and Molina, GR No. 108763, Feb. 13, 1997.
8

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.
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.
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.
8. The trial court must order the prosecuting attorney or fiscal and the Solicitor General to
appear as counsel for the state.
23


These guidelines, in addition to the characteristics of psychological incapacity stated in
the case of Santos have thereafter become basis for the courts in applying Article 36. Indeed, in
Pesca v. Pesca
24
, it was held that Molina has strengthened and not overruled Santos. Molina
seemed to have deviated from the ruling of Chi Ming Tsoi in stating that what is needed is a
downright incapacity and not just a refusal to perform marital obligations. Thus, it was held that
habitual alcoholism, sexual infidelity or perversion, and abandonment, immaturity and
irresponsibility do not by themselves constitute psychological incapacity if there is no showing
that they comply with the guidelines.
25
Neither does physical abuse constitute a ground if the
behavior of the abusive spouse does not appear to be incurable
26
. Irreconcilable differences and
conflicting personalities do not constitute psychological incapacity.
27


In the case of Naveles vs. Navales, the husband and his witnesses sought to establish that
the wife was a flirt before the marriage, which flirtatiousness recurred when she started working
as an aerobics instructress. According to the husband, there are instances where the wife would
ride home with another man and that he saw his wife kissed and touched by another man. The
Supreme Court held that not even allegation of sexual deviance of a spouse such as flirting,
promiscuity and nymphomania cannot be grounds for declaration of nullity of marriage when not
supported by facts.
28


Also, in the case of Republic vs. Quintero-Hamano
29
, the wife argued that her Japanese
husband was not able to fulfill his duties in their family. The latter failed to give financial
support and eventually abandoned her and went back to Japan. Even after various attempts of the
wife to communicate with her husband, the latter did not reply to the letters sent to him. But the
Supreme Court found the arguments of the wife as untenable to constitute the husbands
behavior as a sign of psychological incapacity. The Court said that it is true enough that the
husbands acts were unquestionably irresponsible but it was never alleged nor proven to be due
to some kind of psychological illness.


23
Id.
24
Pesca v. Pesca, GR No. 136921, April. 17, 2001.
25
Hernandez v. CA, GR No. 126010, Dec. 8, 1999; Dedel v. CA, GR No. 151867Jan. 29, 2006.
26
Marcos v. Marcos, GR No. 136490, Oct. 19 2000.
27
Choa v. Choa, GR No. 14337, Nov 26, 2002.
28
Navales v. Navales, GR No. 167523, June 27, 2008.
29
Republic v. Quintero-Hamano, G.R. No. 149498, 20 May 2004.
9

In the case of Perez-Ferraris v. Ferraris, the Court also said that mixed personality
disorder, the leaving-the-house attitude whenever they quarreled, the violent tendencies during
epileptic attacks, the sexual infidelity, the abandonment and lack of support, and his preference
to spend more time with his band mates than his family, are not rooted on some debilitating
psychological condition but mere refusal or unwillingness to assume the essential obligations of
marriage.
30
Also, the Court ruled that habitual alcoholism, just like infidelity or perversion and
abandonment, did not by itself constitute ground for declaring a marriage void based on
psychological incapacity

In broadening the scope of psychological incapacity, the Supreme Court taking a
practical approach in the landmark case of Antonio v. Reyes
31
acknowledged that the Molina
doctrine should not be set in stone. Evolving standards as well as case details, psychology and
canonical thought and experience should be taken into consideration. In Antonio, the Supreme
Court ruled that the marriage was null and void based on the wifes repeated lying.
32


IV. RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN JURISPRUDENCE: TOWARDS A RE-LIBERALIZATION OF
THE CONCEPT OF PSYCHOLOGICAL INCAPACITY?

Looking at the development of jurisprudence on psychological incapacity, it is clear that
Santos v. Court of Appeals and subsequently Republic v. Court of Appeals (Molina) became the
basis on which cases involving the application of Article 36 of the Family Code were decided
upon by the Courts. To reiterate, Santos declared that psychological incapacity must be
confined to the most serious cases of personality disorders clearly demonstrative of an utter
insensitivity or inability to give meaning and significance to the marriage.
33
The Court later in
Molina introduced stricter parameters and definitive guidelines in the interpretation and
application of Article 36. For a time, those two cases together laid out rather clear judicial
standards in determining psychological incapacity.

However, in the case of Ngo-Te v. Yu-Te, the Court observed that the Molina doctrine may
have caused a divergence from the intention of the framers by straight-jacketing the application
of psychological incapacity through strict parameters far from the true intent of the law. The
Court said, Far from what was intended by the Court, Molina has become a strait-jacket, forcing
all sizes to fit and be bound by it. Wittingly or unwittingly, the Court, in conveniently
applying Molina, has allowed diagnosed sociopaths, schizophrenics, nymphomaniacs,
narcissists, and the like, to continuously debase and pervert the sanctity of marriage.
34


In Te, the Court discussed the origin and proper interpretation of Article 36. It was clear that
the framers did not give any examples of psychological incapacity because they sought not to
limit the applicability of the provision under the provision of ejusdem generis. The intent of the
law was for the courts to interpret said provision on a case-to-case basis; guided by experience,
the findings of experts and researchers in psychological disciplines and by decisions of the

30
Perez-Ferraris v. Ferraris, GR No. 162368, July 17, 2008.
31
Antonio v. Reyes, GR No. 155800, Mar. 10, 2006.
32
Id.
33
Santos v. Court of Appeals, GR No. 112019, Jan. 4, 1995.
34
Ngo-Te v. Yu-Te, GR No.161793, Feb. 13, 2009.
10

church tribunals which, although not binding on the civil courts, may be given persuasive
effect.
35
With this, the Court in Te, said, The resiliency with which the concept should be
applied and the cases-to-case basis by which the provision should be interpreted, as so intended
by its framers, had, somehow, been rendered ineffectual by the imposition of a set of strict
standards in Molina.
36


The Court, however, was unwilling to abandon Molina. In the case of Te, it expressly stated
that its decision should not be construed as an abandonment of Molina but rather, following the
case of Antonio v. Reyes, declaring the need to emphasize other perspectives as well which
should govern the disposition of petitions for declaration of nullity under Article 36. Subsequent
cases reiterated this point. In Ting v. Velez-Ting, the Court said that, far from abandoning
Molina, it simply suggested in Te the relaxation of the stringent requirements of Molina.
37
In
Azcueta v. Republic, the Court said that Te encourages a reexamination of jurisprudential trends
on the interpretation of Article 36 although there has been no major deviation or paradigm shift
from the Molina doctrine.
38
Te merely stands for a more flexible approach in considering
petitions for declaration of nullity of marriages based on psychological incapacity.
39


With these recent developments in jurisprudence on psychological incapacity, it now seems
that jurisprudence is moving towards a re-liberalization of the concept of psychological
incapacity. Te, while not totally departing from Molina, has relaxed the jurisprudential treatment
of psychological incapacity and is giving more emphasis on the doctrinal value of Santos, which
is devoid of the stricter parameters set in Molina. In the recent case of Suazo v. Suazo, following
Te, the Court said:

Under this evolutionary development, as shown by the current string of cases on Article 36 of the
Family Code, what should not be lost on us is the intention of the law to confine the application of
Article 36 to the most serious cases of personality disorders, clearly demonstrative of an utter
insensitivity or inability to give meaning and significance to the marriage; that the psychological
illness that must have afflicted a party at the inception of the marriage should be a malady so grave
and permanent as to deprive one of awareness of the duties and responsibilities of the matrimonial
bond he or she is about to assume.
40


Thus, Molina is now at the backseat and is merely what it should be a mere guideline and we
are now in a state of law and jurisprudence where Santos continuing doctrine takes precedence.
This can be seen in the recent cases decided by the Court. The Court, in the cases of Aspillaga v.
Aspillaga
41
and Lim v. Sta. Cruz-Lim
42
, reiterated Santos where psychological incapacity should
be characterized (a) gravity, (b) juridical antecedence, and (c) incurability. In Paz v. Paz, the
Court, also basing its decision on Santos, held that the alleged psychological incapacity was not

35
Id.
36
Id.
37
Ting v. Velez-Ting, G.R. No. 166562, March 31, 2009.
38
Azcueta v. Republic, GR No. 180668, May 26, 2009
39
Suazo v. Suazo, G.R. No. 164493, March 10, 2010
40
Id.
41
Aspillaga v. Aspillaga, G.R. No. 170925, October 26, 2009.
42
Lim v. Sta. Cruz-Lim, G.R. No. 176464, February 4, 2010.
11

shown to be so grave and so permanent as to deprive him of the awareness of the duties and
responsibilities of the matrimonial bond.
43


V. CONCLUSION

The lack of definition of the concept of psychological incapacity has led to problems with
regard to its application and interpretation, leading to many misapplications.
44
With the
relaxation of the jurisprudential guidelines set in Molina, we arrive at a state where there are no
fixed rules in determining the existence of psychological incapacity. It is on a process of
continuous accumulation of human experience and circumstances. It includes the experience of
the judges, the findings of the experts and researchers in psychological discipline, and the
decision of the Church tribunals.
45


To restrict and confine its definition would defeat the intent of the law and will make Article
36 unable to provide relief to circumstances which may not have been defined but may be
covered under psychological incapacity. As said in Te, imposing rigid set of rules have
unintended consequences taking their toll on people who have to live with deviant behavior,
moral insanity and sociopathic personality anomaly, which like termites consume little by little
and continuously debase and pervert the sanctity of marriage, the very foundation of their
families, our basic social institution
46
On the other hand, to liberalize the concept too much
would open the floodgates of petitions and litigations with adverse consequences on marriage
which our laws consider as an inviolable social institution. Thus, we must strike a balance.

Two judicial standards are clear from the examination and analysis of the evolution and
development of the concept of psychological incapacity. These serve as the guideposts, although
dynamic, in determining psychological incapacity. First, as what has been laid out by the framers
of the Family Code, recent jurisprudence reiterate that psychological incapacity cases should be
dealt on a case-to-case basis and each case must be judged, not on the basis of a priori
assumptions, predilections or generalizations but according to its own facts.
47
Second is the
Courts pronouncement in Santos which has continually been sustained throughout the string of
cases concerning psychological incapacity. To reiterate, psychological incapacity" should refer
to no less than a mental (not 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 by Article 68 of the Family Code, include their mutual
obligations to live together, observe love, respect and fidelity and render help and support.
48
It
must meet the requisites of juridical antecedence, gravity and incurability. Thus, in invoking
Article 36 of the Family Code, one must prove the existence of a psychological illness that
prevents one of spouses from fulfilling his or her essential marital obligations and that such is
grave, incurable and present at the time of the celebration of the marriage.

43
Paz v. Paz, G.R. No. 166579, February 18, 2010.
44
Ma. Sophia Editha Cruz-Abrenica, Re-Examining the Concept of Psychological Incapacity: Towards a More
Accurate Reflection of Legislative Intent, 51 ATENEO L.J. (2006).
45
Id.
46
Ngo-Te v. Yu-Te, GR No.161793, Feb. 13, 2009.
47
Id.; See also Republic vs. Dagdag, GR. 109975, February 9, 2001.
48
Santos v. Court of Appeals, GR No. 112019, Jan. 4, 1995.