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Leouel Santos vs Court of Appeals

Note: This was the first case where the term psychological
incapacity was discussed by the Supreme Court.
Leouel Santos, a member of the Army, met Julia Rosario Bedia in
Iloilo City. In September 1986, they got married. The couple latter
lived with Julias parents. Julia gave birth to their son in 1987. Their
marriage, however, was marred by the frequent interference of
Julias parents, as averred by Leouel. The couple also occasionally
quarreled about as to, among other things, when should they start
living independently from Julias parents. In 1988, Julia went to the
US to work as a nurse despite Leouels opposition. 7 months later,
she and Leouel got to talk and she promised to return home in
1989. She never went home that year. In 1990, Leouel got the
chance to be in the US due to a military training. During his stay,
he desperately tried to locate his wife but to no avail. Leouel, in an
effort to at least have his wife come home, filed a petition to nullify
their marriage due to Julias alleged psychological incapacity.
Leouel asserted that due to Julias failure to return home or at least
communicate with him even with all his effort constitutes
psychological incapacity. Julia filed an opposition; she said that it is
Leouel who is incompetent. The prosecutor ascertained that there
is no collusion between the two. Leouels petition is however
denied by the lower and appellate court.
ISSUE: Whether or not psychological incapacity is attendant to the
case at bar.

HELD: No. Before deciding on the case, the SC noted that the
Family Code did not define the term psychological incapacity,
which is adopted from the Catholic Canon Law. But basing it on the
deliberations of the Family Code Revision Committee, the
provision in PI, adopted with less specificity than expected, has
been designed to allow some resiliency in its application. The
FCRC did not give any examples of PI for fear that the giving of
examples would limit the applicability of the provision under the
principle of ejusdem generis. Rather, the FCRC 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.
The term psychological incapacity defies any precise definition
since psychological causes can be of an infinite variety.
Article 36 of the Family Code cannot be taken and construed
independently of but must stand in conjunction with, existing
precepts in our law on marriage. PI 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
(Art. 68), 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 the meaning of PI to the
most serious cases of personality disorders clearly demonstrative
of an utter insensitivity or inability to give meaning and significance
to the marriage. This psychological condition must exist at the time
the marriage is celebrated. The SC also notes that PI 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; and it must be incurable or, even if
it were otherwise, the cure would be beyond the means of the party
involved.

In the case at bar, although Leouel stands aggrieved, his petition


must be dismissed because the alleged PI of his wife is not clearly
shown by the factual settings presented. The factual settings do
not come close to to the standard required to decree a nullity of
marriage.