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[G.R. No. 149530.October 22, 2001]

ARTHUR L. TE vs. LILIANA CHOA, et al.

THIRD DIVISION

Gentlemen:

Quoted hereunder, for your information, is a resolution of this Court dated OCT 22 2001

G.R. No. 149530(Arthur L. Te vs. Liliana Choa, et al.)

Petitioner assails the decision of the Court of Appeals reversing the decision of the regional trial court which declared petitioner's marriage to private respondent null and void ab initio for the latter's failure to obtain a certificate of legal capacity to contract marriage from the Chinese Embassy of which private respondent is a citizen.

On June 8, 1990, a case of bigamy was filed borne of the grief and humiliation which befell private respondent when she learned that her husband petitioner was already living with another woman with whom he had contracted marriage.

Thereafter, in retaliation, petitioner filed a complaint for annulment of marriage invoking the following grounds: (1) absence of a certificate of legal capacity from the Chinese diplomatic officials under Article 21; (2) psychological incapacity under Article 36; (3) consent obtained by fraud and intimidation under Article 45, paragraphs 3 and 4; and (4) concealment by appellant of her pregnancy by another man under Article 46, paragraph 2, all of the Family Code.

The record reveals that the parties in the case at bar were sweethearts and engaged in pre-marital sexual relations which resulted in private respondent's pregnancy. Hence, on September 14,' 1988, the parties contracted marriage before Judge Santiago Ranada, Jr. in Makati City.

However, prior to the marriage, the parties agreed that they would not live together until after private respondent gives birth as both agreed that they were not ready for married life, aside from the fact that their respective parents had no knowledge of private respondent's pregnancy.

In the meantime, after the solemnization of their marriage, petitioner and private respondent regularly saw each other. Often, petitioner would pick private respondent from her office to eat lunch, watch a movie and share intimate relation.

On April 21, 1989, private respondent gave birth to a daughter which bore the name Ava Nicole Marie C. Te. However, after the birth of the daughter, petitioner refused to perform his obligations to his family. Shortly thereafter, private respondent received rumors about petitioner's affair with another woman which turn out to be true.

On May 25, 1998, the trial court declared the marriage of herein parties null and void ab initio.

However, upon appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed.

Thus, the instant petition which we find to be unavailing.

As to the alleged psychological incapacity of private respondent, petitioner contends that the appellate court erred when it retroactively applied the guidelines for the determination of psychological incapacity enunciated in the case of Republic vs. Court of Appeals and Molina (G.R. 108783) which was decided on February 13, 1997 to the case which was decided by trial court on February 28, 1996 long before Molina took effect.

The Court is not convinced. It is a legal truism that to overcome a presumption created by law, such as the validity of a marriage and the sanity of the contracting parties, the evidence must be clear, unequivocal, and convincing (Katipunan vs. Tenorio, 38 O.G. 173, Sept. 29, 1937)

Even before the Molina case, the Court had, on several occasions, ruled that psychological incapacity should refer to no less than a mental 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.

The intendment of the law has been to confine the meaning of psychological incapacity 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 (Santos vs. CA, 240 SCRA 20 [1995]).

In the case at bar, it was petitioner who prevailed upon private respondent not to cohabit with him when he told the latter to stay with her family because he could not afford to take care of a family.

Petitioner's bare allegations that private respondent only sought the marriage as a scheme to clear the cloud on her citizenship issue and that petitioner never intended to live with petitioner is not sufficient to cause a finding of psychological incapacity on the part of private respondent.

Anent the issue of the non-submission of a certificate of legal capacity to marry, Articles 2 and 3 in relation to Article 4 of the Civil Code provide:

Art. 2. No marriage shall be valid, unless these essential requisites are present:

(1) Legal capacity of the contracting parties who must be a male and a female; and

(2) Consent freely given in the presence of the solemnizing officer.

Art. 3. The formal requisites of marriage are:

(1) Authority of the solemnizing officer;

(2) A valid marriage license except in the cases provided for in Chapter 2 of this Title; and

(3) A marriage ceremony which takes place with the appearance of the contracting parties before the solemnizing officer and their personal declaration that they take each other as husband and wife in the presence of not less than two witnesses of legal age.

Art. 4. The absence of any of the essential or formal requisites shall render the marriage void ab initio except as stated in Article 35(2).

A defect in any of the essential requisites shall render the marriage voidable as provided in Article 45.

An irregularity in the formal requisites shall not affect the validity of the marriage but the party or parties responsible for the irregularity shall be civilly, criminally and administratively liable.

In the case at bar, all the essential requisites for a valid marriage are present. The non-submission of the certificate of legal capacity which constitutes a mere irregularity in a formal requisite cannot in anyway affect the validity of the marriage.

WHEREFORE, petition is denied due course.

SO ORDERED.

Very truly yours,

(Sgd.) JULIETA Y. CARREON

Clerk of Court


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