The Family Code emphasizes the permanent nature of marriage, hailing it as the foundation of the family. 1 It is this inviolability which is central to our traditional and religious concepts of morality and provides the very bedrock on which our society finds stability. 2 Marriage is immutable and when both spouses give their consent to enter it, their consent becomes irrevocable, unchanged even by their independent wills.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
However, this inviolability depends on whether the marriage exists and is valid. If it is void ab initio, the "permanence" of the union becomes irrelevant, and the Court can step in to declare it so. Article 36 of the Family Code is the justification. 3 Where it applies and is duly proven, a judicial declaration can free the parties from the rights, obligations, burdens and consequences stemming from their marriage.
A declaration of nullity of marriage under Article 36 of the Family Code requires the application of procedural and substantive guidelines. While compliance with these requirements mostly devolves upon petitioner, the State is likewise mandated to actively intervene in the procedure. Should there be non-compliance by the State with its statutory duty, there is a need to remand the case to the lower court for proper trial.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
What is before the Court 4 is an appeal from a decision of the Court of Appeals 5 which affirmed the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 158, Pasig City 6 dismissing petitioner Florence Malcampo-Sin’s (hereafter "Florence") petition for declaration of nullity of marriage due to psychological incapacity for insufficiency of evidence.
On January 4, 1987, after a two-year courtship and engagement, Florence and respondent Philipp T. Sin (hereafter "Philipp"), a Portugese citizen, were married at St. Jude Catholic Parish in San Miguel, Manila. 7
On September 20, 1994, Florence filed with the Regional Trial Court, Branch 158, Pasig City, a complaint for "declaration of nullity of marriage" against Philipp. 8 Trial ensued and the parties presented their respective documentary and testimonial evidence.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
On June 16, 1995, the trial court dismissed Florence’s petition. 9
On December 19, 1995, Florence filed with the trial court a notice of appeal to the Court of Appeals. 10
After due proceedings, on April 30, 1998, the Court of Appeals promulgated its decision, the dispositive portion of which reads:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"IN THE LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the Appeal is DISMISSED. The Decision appealed from is AFFIRMED. Cost against the Appellant." 11
On June 23, 1998, petitioner filed with the Court of Appeals a motion for reconsideration of the aforequoted decision. 12
On January 19, 1999, the Court of Appeals denied petitioner’s motion for reconsideration. 13
Hence, this appeal. 14
The Court’s Ruling
We note that throughout the trial in the lower court, the State did not participate in the proceedings. While Fiscal Jose Danilo C. Jabson 15 filed with the trial court a manifestation dated November 16, 1994, stating that he found no collusion between the parties, 16 he did not actively participate therein. Other than entering his appearance at certain hearings of the case, nothing more was heard from him. Neither did the presiding Judge take any step to encourage the fiscal to contribute to the proceedings.
The Family Code mandates:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"ARTICLE 48. In all cases of annulment or declaration of absolute nullity of marriage, the Court shall order the prosecuting attorney or fiscal assigned to it to appear on behalf of the State to take steps to prevent collusion between the parties and to take care that evidence is not fabricated or suppressed (Emphasis ours
"In the cases referred to in the preceding paragraph, no judgment shall be based upon a stipulation of facts or confession of judgment."cralaw virtua1aw library
It can be argued that since the lower court dismissed the petition, the evil sought to be prevented (i.e., dissolution of the marriage) did not come about, hence, the lack of participation of the State was cured. Not so. The task of protecting marriage as an inviolable social institution requires vigilant and zealous participation and not mere pro-forma compliance. The protection of marriage as a sacred institution requires not just the defense of a true and genuine union but the exposure of an invalid one as well. This is made clear by the following pronouncement:chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
"(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, 17 briefly stating therein his reasons for his agreement or opposition as the case may be, to the petition. The Solicitor-General shall discharge the equivalent function of the defensor vinculi contemplated under Canon 1095 (Emphasis ours
The records are bereft of any evidence that the State participated in the prosecution of the case not just at the trial level but on appeal with the Court of Appeals as well. Other than the "manifestation" filed with the trial court on November 16, 1994, the State did not file any pleading, motion or position paper, at any stage of the proceedings.
In Republic of the Philippines v. Erlinda Matias Dagdag, 19 while we upheld the validity of the marriage, we nevertheless characterized the decision of the trial court as "prematurely rendered" since the investigating prosecutor was not given an opportunity to present controverting evidence before the judgment was rendered. This stresses the importance of the participation of the State.
Having so ruled, we decline to rule on the factual disputes of the case, this being within the province of the trial court upon proper re-trial.
For purposes of re-trial, we guide the parties thus: In Republic v. Court of Appeals, 20 the guidelines in the interpretation and application of Article 36 of the Family Code are as follows (omitting guideline (8) in the enumeration as it was already earlier quoted):jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"(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 — 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 (sic) 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.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
"(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 do’s." 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. 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.
"(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 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."cralaw virtua1aw library
WHEREFORE, the Court REVERSES and SETS ASIDE the appealed decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 51304, promulgated on April 30, 1998 and the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 158, Pasig City in Civil Case No. 3190, dated June 16, 1995.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
Let the case be REMANDED to the trial court for proper trial.
SO ORDERED.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
Davide, Jr., C.J.
, Puno, Kapunan and Ynares-Santiago, JJ.
1. Article 1, Family Code of the Philippines.
2. Article XV, Section 1, "The State recognizes the Filipino family as the foundation of the nation. Accordingly, it shall strengthen its solidarity and actively promote its total development." Section 2, "Marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State."cralaw virtua1aw library
3. Article 36, Family Code of the Philippines, "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. Via an appeal under Rule 45, 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended.
5. In CA-G.R. CV No. 51304, promulgated on April 30, 1998, Callejo, Sr., ponente, Umali and Guttierez, JJ., (now an Associate Justice of this Court), concurring.
6. In Civil Case No. 3190, dated June 16, 1995, Judge Jose S. Hernandez, presiding.
7. Regional Trial Court Record, p. 37.
8. Petition, Rollo, p. 16.
9. Regional Trial Court Record, pp. 81-83.
10. Docketed as CA-G.R. CV No. 51304, CA Rollo, p. 3.
11. Petition, Annex "A", Rollo, p. 45.
12. Petition, Rollo, p. 15.
13. Petition, Rollo, p. 16; CA Rollo, p. 142.
14. On August 30, 1999, we resolved to give due course to the petition, Rollo, p. 144.
15. 4th Asst. Provincial Prosecutor.
16. Regional Trial Court Record, p. 17.
17. No such certification appears in the decisions of the trial court and the Court of Appeals.
18. Republic v. Court of Appeals, 335 Phil. 664, 679-680 (1997).
19. G.R. No. 109975, February 9, 2001.
20. Supra, Note 18, pp. 676-678.