G. R. NO. 158896 - October 27, 2004
JUANITA CARATING-SIAYNGCO, Petitioner, vs. MANUEL SIAYNGCO, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
This is a petition for review on certiorari of the decision1 of the Court of Appeals promulgated on 01 July 2003, reversing the decision2 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 102, Quezon City, dated 31 January 2001, which dismissed the petition for declaration of nullity of marriage filed by respondent herein Judge Manuel Siayngco ("respondent Manuel").
Petitioner Juanita Carating-Siayngco ("Petitioner Juanita") and respondent Manuel were married at civil rites on 27 June 1973 and before the Catholic Church on 11 August 1973. After discovering that they could not have a child of their own, the couple decided to adopt a baby boy in 1977, who they named Jeremy.
On 25 September 1997, or after twenty-four (24) years of married life together, respondent Manuel filed for the declaration of its nullity on the ground of psychological incapacity of petitioner Juanita. He alleged that all throughout their marriage, his wife exhibited an over domineering and selfish attitude towards him which was exacerbated by her extremely volatile and bellicose nature; that she incessantly complained about almost everything and anyone connected with him like his elderly parents, the staff in his office and anything not of her liking like the physical arrangement, tables, chairs, wastebaskets in his office and with other trivial matters; that she showed no respect or regard at all for the prestige and high position of his office as judge of the Municipal Trial Court; that she would yell and scream at him and throw objects around the house within the hearing of their neighbors; that she cared even less about his professional advancement as she did not even give him moral support and encouragement; that her psychological incapacity arose before marriage, rooted in her deep-seated resentment and vindictiveness for what she perceived as lack of love and appreciation from her own parents since childhood and that such incapacity is permanent and incurable and, even if treatment could be attempted, it will involve time and expense beyond the emotional and physical capacity of the parties; and that he endured and suffered through his turbulent and loveless marriage to her for twenty-two (22) years.
In her Answer, petitioner Juanita alleged that respondent Manuel is still living with her at their conjugal home in Malolos, Bulacan; that he invented malicious stories against her so that he could be free to marry his paramour; that she is a loving wife and mother; that it was respondent Manuel who was remiss in his marital and family obligations; that she supported respondent Manuel in all his endeavors despite his philandering; that she was raised in a real happy family and had a happy childhood contrary to what was stated in the complaint.
In the pre-trial order,3 the parties only stipulated on the following:
Trial on the merits ensued thereafter. Respondent Manuel first took the witness stand and elaborated on the allegations in his petition. He testified that his parents never approved of his marriage as they still harbored hope that he would return to the seminary.4 The early years of their marriage were difficult years as they had a hard time being accepted as husband and wife by his parents and it was at this period that his wife started exhibiting signs of being irritable and temperamental5 to him and his parents.6 She was also obsessive about cleanliness which became the common source of their quarrels.7 He, however, characterized their union as happy during that period of time in 1979 when they moved to Malolos as they were engrossed in furnishing their new house.8 In 1981, when he became busy with law school and with various community organizations, it was then that he felt that he and his wife started to drift apart.9 He then narrated incidents during their marriage that were greatly embarrassing and/or distressing to him, e.g., when his wife quarreled with an elderly neighbor;10 when she would visit him in his office and remark that the curtains were already dirty or when she kicked a trash can across the room or when she threw a ballpen from his table;11 when she caused his office drawer to be forcibly opened while he was away;12 when she confronted a female tenant of theirs and accused the tenant of having an affair with him;13 and other incidents reported to him which would show her jealous nature. Money matters continued to be a source of bitter quarrels.14 Respondent Manuel could not forget that he was not able to celebrate his appointment as judge in 1995 as his wife did not approve it, ostensibly for lack of money, but she was very generous when it came to celebrations of their parish priest.15 Respondent Manuel then denied that he was a womanizer16 or that he had a mistress.17 Lastly, respondent Manuel testified as to their conjugal properties and obligations.18
Next, LUCENA TAN, respondent Manuels Clerk of Court, testified that petitioner Juanita seldom went to respondent Manuels office.19 But when she was there, she would call witness to complain about the curtains and the cleanliness of the office.20 One time, witness remembered petitioner Juanita rummaging through respondent Manuels drawer looking for his address book while the latter was in Subic attending a conference.21 When petitioner Juanita could not open a locked drawer she called witness, telling the latter that she was looking for the telephone number of respondents hotel room in Subic. A process server was requested by petitioner Juanita to call for a locksmith in the town proper. When the locksmith arrived, petitioner Juanita ordered him to open the locked drawer. On another occasion, particularly in August of 1998, witness testified that she heard petitioner Juanita remark to respondent Manuel "sino bang batang bibinyagan na yan? Baka anak mo yan sa labas?"22
As his third witness, respondent Manuel presented DR. VALENTINA GARCIA whose professional qualifications as a psychiatrist were admitted by petitioner Juanita.23 From her psychiatric evaluation,24 Dr. Garcia concluded:
In her defense, petitioner Juanita denied respondent Manuels allegations. She insisted that they were a normal couple who had their own share of fights; that they were happily married until respondent Manuel started having extra-marital affairs26 which he had admitted to her.27 Petitioner Juanita professed that she would wish to preserve her marriage and that she truly loved her husband.28 She stated further that she has continuously supported respondent Manuel, waiting up for him while he was in law school to serve him food and drinks. Even when he already filed the present case, she would still attend to his needs.29 She remembered that after the pre-trial, while they were in the hallway, respondent Manuel implored her to give him a chance to have a new family.30
DR. EDUARDO MAABA, whose expertise as a psychiatrist was admitted by respondent Manuel,31 testified that he conducted a psychiatric evaluation on petitioner Juanita, the results of which were embodied in his report. Said report stated in part:
CRISPINA SEVILLA, a friend of the spouses Siayngco since 1992 described the Siayngcos as the ideal couple, sweet to each other.33 The couple would religiously attend prayer meetings in the community.34 Both were likewise leaders in their community.35 Witness then stated that she would often go to the house of the couple and, as late as March 2000, she still saw respondent Manuel there.36
On 31 January 2001, the trial court denied respondent Manuels petition for declaration of nullity of his marriage to petitioner Juanita holding in part that:
A motion for reconsideration was filed but was denied in an order dated 04 May 2001.38
On 01 July 2003, the Court of Appeals reversed the RTC decision, relying mainly on the psychiatric evaluation of Dr. Garcia finding both Manuel and Juanita psychologically incapacitated and on the case of Chi Ming Tsoi v. Court of Appeals.39 Thus:
Petitioner contends that the Court of Appeals erred
The Courts Ruling
Our pronouncement in Republic v. Dagdag41 is apropos. There, we held that whether or not psychological incapacity exists in a given case calling for the declaration of the nullity of the marriage depends crucially on the facts of the case. Each case must be closely scrutinized and judged according to its own facts as there can be no case that is on "all fours" with another. This, the Court of Appeals did not heed.
The Court of Appeals perfunctorily applied our ruling in Chi Ming Tsoi despite a clear divergence in its factual milieu with the case at bar. In Chi Ming Tsoi, the couple involved therein, despite sharing the same bed from the time of their wedding night on 22 May 1988 until their separation on 15 March 1989, never had coitus. The perplexed wife filed the petition for the declaration of the nullity of her marriage on the ground of psychological incapacity of her husband. We sustained the wife for the reason that an essential marital obligation under the Family Code is procreation such that "the senseless and protracted refusal of one of the parties to fulfill the above marital obligation is equivalent to psychological incapacity."
On the other hand, sexual intimacy for procreation is a non-issue herein. Rather, we have here a case of a husband who is constantly embarrassed by his wifes outbursts and overbearing ways, who finds his wifes obsession with cleanliness and the tight reign on his wallet "irritants" and who is wounded by her lack of support and respect for his person and his position as a Judge. In our book, however, these inadequacies of petitioner Juanita which led respondent Manuel to file a case against her do not amount to psychological incapacity to comply with the essential marital obligations.
It was in Santos v. Court of Appeals42 where we declared that "psychological incapacity" under Article 36 of the Family Code is not meant to comprehend all possible cases of psychoses. It should refer, rather, 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. Psychological incapacity must be characterized by (a) gravity, (b) juridical antecedence, and (c) incurability.43 In Republic v. Court of Appeals44 we expounded:
With the foregoing pronouncements as compass, we now resolve the issue of whether or not the totality of evidence presented is enough to sustain a finding of psychological incapacity against petitioner Juanita and/or respondent Manuel.
A. RE: PSYCHOLOGICAL INCAPACITY OF RESPONDENT MANUEL
We reiterate that the state has a high stake in the preservation of marriage rooted in its recognition of the sanctity of married life and its mission to protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution.46 With this cardinal state policy in mind, we held in Republic v. Court of Appeals47 that the burden of proof to show the nullity of marriage belongs to the plaintiff (respondent Manuel herein). Any doubt should be resolved in favor of the existence and continuation of the marriage and against its dissolution and nullity.
In herein case, the Court of Appeals committed reversible error in holding that respondent Manuel is psychologically incapacitated. The psychological report of Dr. Garcia, which is respondent Manuels own evidence, contains candid admissions of petitioner Juanita, the person in the best position to gauge whether or not her husband fulfilled the essential marital obligations of marriage:
What emerges from the psychological report of Dr. Garcia as well as from the testimonies of the parties and their witnesses is that the only essential marital obligation which respondent Manuel was not able to fulfill, if any, is the obligation of fidelity.49 Sexual infidelity, per se, however, does not constitute psychological incapacity within the contemplation of the Family Code.50 It must be shown that respondent Manuels unfaithfulness is a manifestation of a disordered personality which makes him completely unable to discharge the essential obligations of the marital state51 and not merely due to his ardent wish to have a child of his own flesh and blood. In herein case, respondent Manuel has admitted that: "I had [extra-marital] affairs because I wanted to have a child at that particular point."52
B. RE: PSYCHOLOGICAL INCAPACITY OF PETITIONER JUANITA
As aforementioned, the presumption is always in favor of the validity of marriage. Semper praesumitur pro matrimonio. In the case at bar, respondent Manuel failed to prove that his wifes lack of respect for him, her jealousies and obsession with cleanliness, her outbursts and her controlling nature (especially with respect to his salary), and her inability to endear herself to his parents are grave psychological maladies that paralyze her from complying with the essential obligations of marriage. Neither is there any showing that these "defects" were already present at the inception of the marriage or that they are incurable.53 In fact, Dr. Maaba, whose expertise as a psychiatrist was admitted by respondent Manuel, reported that petitioner was psychologically capacitated to comply with the basic and essential obligations of marriage.54
The psychological report of respondent Manuels witness, Dr. Garcia, on the other hand, does not help his case any. Nothing in there supports the doctors conclusion that petitioner Juanita is psychologically incapacitated. On the contrary, the report clearly shows that the root cause of petitioner Juanitas behavior is traceable not from the inception of their marriage as required by law but from her experiences during the marriage, e.g., her in-laws disapproval of her as they wanted their son to enter the priesthood,55 her husbands philandering, admitted no less by him,56 and her inability to conceive.57 Dr. Garcias report paints a story of a husband and wife who grew professionally during the marriage, who pursued their individual dreams to the hilt, becoming busier and busier, ultimately sacrificing intimacy and togetherness as a couple. This was confirmed by respondent Manuel himself during his direct examination.58
Thus, from the totality of the evidence adduced by both parties, we have been allowed a window into the Siayngcoss life and have perceived therefrom a simple case of a married couple drifting apart, becoming strangers to each other, with the husband consequently falling out of love and wanting a way out.
An unsatisfactory marriage, however, is not a null and void marriage. Mere showing of "irreconcilable differences" and "conflicting personalities" in no wise constitutes psychological incapacity.59 As we stated in Marcos v. Marcos:60
WHEREFORE, the petition for review is hereby GRANTED. The Decision dated 01 July 2003 of the Court of Appeals is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Decision dated 31 January 2001 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 102 is reinstated and given full force and effect. No costs.
Puno, Austria-Martinez, Callejo, Sr., and Tinga, JJ., concur.
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