G. R. No. 149498 - May 20, 2004
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, petitioner, vs. LOLITA QUINTERO-HAMANO, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
Before us is a petition for review of the decision1 dated August 20, 2001 of the Court of Appeals2 affirming the decision3 dated August 28, 1997 of the Regional Trial Court of Rizal, Branch 72, declaring as null and void the marriage contracted between herein respondent Lolita M. Quintero-Hamano and her husband Toshio Hamano.
On June 17, 1996, respondent Lolita Quintero-Hamano filed a complaint for declaration of nullity of her marriage to her husband Toshio Hamano, a Japanese national, on the ground of psychological incapacity.
Respondent alleged that in October 1986, she and Toshio started a common-law relationship in Japan. They later lived in the Philippines for a month. Thereafter, Toshio went back to Japan and stayed there for half of 1987. On November 16, 1987, she gave birth to their child.
On January 14, 1988, she and Toshio were married by Judge Isauro M. Balderia of the Municipal Trial Court of Bacoor, Cavite. Unknown to respondent, Toshio was psychologically incapacitated to assume his marital responsibilities, which incapacity became manifest only after the marriage. One month after their marriage, Toshio returned to Japan and promised to return by Christmas to celebrate the holidays with his family. After sending money to respondent for two months, Toshio stopped giving financial support. She wrote him several times but he never responded. Sometime in 1991, respondent learned from her friends that Toshio visited the Philippines but he did not bother to see her and their child.
The summons issued to Toshio remained unserved because he was no longer residing at his given address. Consequently, on July 8, 1996, respondent filed an ex parte motion for leave to effect service of summons by publication. The trial court granted the motion on July 12, 1996. In August 1996, the summons, accompanied by a copy of the petition, was published in a newspaper of general circulation giving Toshio 15 days to file his answer. Because Toshio failed to file a responsive pleading after the lapse of 60 days from publication, respondent filed a motion dated November 5, 1996 to refer the case to the prosecutor for investigation. The trial court granted the motion on November 7, 1996.
On November 20, 1996, prosecutor Rolando I. Gonzales filed a report finding that no collusion existed between the parties. He prayed that the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor be allowed to intervene to ensure that the evidence submitted was not fabricated. On February 13, 1997, the trial court granted respondents motion to present her evidence ex parte. She then testified on how Toshio abandoned his family. She thereafter offered documentary evidence to support her testimony.
On August 28, 1997, the trial court rendered a decision, the dispositive portion of which read:
In declaring the nullity of the marriage on the ground of Toshios psychological incapacity, the trial court held that:
The Office of the Solicitor General, representing herein petitioner Republic of the Philippines, appealed to the Court of Appeals but the same was denied in a decision dated August 28, 1997, the dispositive portion of which read:
The appellate court found that Toshio left respondent and their daughter a month after the celebration of the marriage, and returned to Japan with the promise to support his family and take steps to make them Japanese citizens. But except for two months, he never sent any support to nor communicated with them despite the letters respondent sent. He even visited the Philippines but he did not bother to see them. Respondent, on the other hand, exerted all efforts to contact Toshio, to no avail.
The appellate court thus concluded that respondent was psychologically incapacitated to perform his marital obligations to his family, and to "observe mutual love, respect and fidelity, and render mutual help and support" pursuant to Article 68 of the Family Code of the Philippines. The appellate court rhetorically asked:
The appellate court emphasized that this case could not be equated with Republic vs. Court of Appeals and Molina8 and Santos vs. Court of Appeals.9 In those cases, the spouses were Filipinos while this case involved a "mixed marriage," the husband being a Japanese national.
Hence, this appeal by petitioner Republic based on this lone assignment of error:
According to petitioner, mere abandonment by Toshio of his family and his insensitivity to them did not automatically constitute psychological incapacity. His behavior merely indicated simple inadequacy in the personality of a spouse falling short of reasonable expectations. Respondent failed to prove any severe and incurable personality disorder on the part of Toshio, in accordance with the guidelines set in Molina.
The Office of the Public Attorney, representing respondent, reiterated the ruling of the courts a quo and sought the denial of the instant petition.
We rule in favor of petitioner.
The Court is mindful of the policy of the 1987 Constitution to protect and strengthen the family as the basic autonomous social institution and marriage as the foundation of the family.11 Thus, any doubt should be resolved in favor of the validity of the marriage.12
Respondent seeks to annul her marriage with Toshio on the ground of psychological incapacity. Article 36 of the Family Code of the Philippines provides that:
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.
In Molina, we came up with the following guidelines in the interpretation and application of Article 36 for the guidance of the bench and the bar:
The guidelines incorporate the three basic requirements earlier mandated by the Court in Santos: "psychological incapacity must be characterized by (a) gravity (b) juridical antecedence and (c) incurability."14 The foregoing guidelines do not require that a physician examine the person to be declared psychologically incapacitated. In fact, the root cause may be "medically or clinically identified." What is important is the presence of evidence that can adequately establish the partys psychological condition. For indeed, if the totality of evidence presented is enough to sustain a finding of psychological incapacity, then actual medical examination of the person concerned need not be resorted to.15
We now proceed to determine whether respondent successfully proved Toshios psychological incapacity to fulfill his marital responsibilities.
Petitioner showed that Toshio failed to meet his duty to live with, care for and support his family. He abandoned them a month after his marriage to respondent. Respondent sent him several letters but he never replied. He made a trip to the Philippines but did not care at all to see his family.
We find that the totality of evidence presented fell short of proving that Toshio was psychologically incapacitated to assume his marital responsibilities. Toshios act of abandonment was doubtlessly irresponsible but it was never alleged nor proven to be due to some kind of psychological illness. After respondent testified on how Toshio abandoned his family, no other evidence was presented showing that his behavior was caused by a psychological disorder. Although, as a rule, there was no need for an actual medical examination, it would have greatly helped respondents case had she presented evidence that medically or clinically identified his illness. This could have been done through an expert witness. This respondent did not do.
We must remember that abandonment is also a ground for legal separation.16 There was no showing that the case at bar was not just an instance of abandonment in the context of legal separation. We cannot presume psychological defect from the mere fact that Toshio abandoned his family immediately after the celebration of the marriage. As we ruled in Molina, 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 must be shown to be incapable of doing so due to some psychological, not physical, illness.17 There was no proof of a natal or supervening disabling factor in the person, an adverse integral element in the personality structure that effectively incapacitates a person from accepting and complying with the obligations essential to marriage.18
According to the appellate court, the requirements in Molina and Santos do not apply here because the present case involves a "mixed marriage," the husband being a Japanese national. We disagree. In proving psychological incapacity, we find no distinction between an alien spouse and a Filipino spouse. We cannot be lenient in the application of the rules merely because the spouse alleged to be psychologically incapacitated happens to be a foreign national. The medical and clinical rules to determine psychological incapacity were formulated on the basis of studies of human behavior in general. Hence, the norms used for determining psychological incapacity should apply to any person regardless of nationality.
In Pesca vs. Pesca,19 this Court declared that marriage is an inviolable social institution that the State cherishes and protects. While we commiserate with respondent, terminating her marriage to her husband may not necessarily be the fitting denouement.
WHEREFORE, the petition for review is hereby GRANTED. The decision dated August 28, 1997 of the Court of Appeals is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE.
Vitug, Sandoval-Gutierrez, and Carpio-Morales, JJ., concur.
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