Suazo v. Suazo

G.R. No. 164493, 10 March 2010

FACTS:

Angelito Suazo and Jocelyn Suazo were married when they were 16 years old only. Without any means to support them, they lived with Angelito’s parents while Jocelyn took odd jobs and Angelito refused to work and were most of the time drunk. Petitioner urged him to find work but this often resulted to violent quarrels. A year after their marriage, Jocelyn left Angelito. Angelito thereafter found another woman with whom he has since lived. 10 years later, she filed a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage under Art. 36 Psychological incapacity. Jocelyn testified on the alleged physical beating she received. The expert witness corroborated parts of Jocelyn’s testimony. Both her psychological report and testimony concluded that Angelito was psychologically incapacitated. However, B was not personally examined by the expert witness.

The RTC annulled the marriage on the ground that Angelito is unfit to comply with his marital obligation, such as “immaturity, i.e., lack of an effective sense of rational judgment and responsibility, otherwise peculiar to infants (like refusal of the husband to support the family or excessive dependence on parents or peer group approval) and habitual alcoholism, or the condition by which a person lives for the next drink and the next drinks” but the CA reversed it and held that the respondent may have failed to provide material support to the family and has resorted to physical abuse, but it is still necessary to show that they were manifestations of a deeper psychological malaise that was clinically or medically identified.

The theory of the psychologist that the respondent was suffering from an anti-social personality syndrome at the time of the marriage was not the product of any adequate medical or clinical investigation. The evidence that she got from the petitioner, anecdotal at best, could equally show that the behavior of the respondent was due simply to causes like immaturity or irresponsibility which are not equivalent to psychological incapacity, or the failure or refusal to work could have been the result of rebelliousness on the part of one who felt that he had been forced into a loveless marriage.

ISSUE:

Whether or not there is basis to nullify Jocelyn’s marriage with Angelito under Article 36 of the Family Code.

RULING:

The Court fined the petition devoid of merit. The CA committed no reversible error of law in setting aside the RTC decision, as no basis exists to declare Jocelyn’s marriage with Angelito a nullity under Article 36 of the Family Code and its related jurisprudence.

Jocelyn’s evidence is insufficient to establish Angelito’s psychological incapacity. The psychologist evaluated Angelito’s psychological condition only in an indirect manner – she derived all her conclusions from information coming from Jocelyn whose bias for her cause cannot of course be doubted. The psychlologist, using meager information coming from a directly interested party, could not have secured a complete personality profile and could not have conclusively formed an objective opinion or diagnosis of Angelito’s psychological condition. While the report or evaluation may be conclusive with respect to Jocelyn’s psychological condition, this is not true for Angelito’s. The methodology employed simply cannot satisfy the required depth and comprehensiveness of examination required to evaluate a party alleged to be suffering from a psychological disorder. Both the psychologist’s report and testimony simply provided a general description of Angelito’s purported anti-social personality disorder, supported by the characterization of this disorder as chronic, grave and incurable. The psychologist was conspicuously silent, however, on the bases for her conclusion or the particulars that gave rise to the characterization she gave. Jurisprudence holds that there must be evidence showing a link, medical or the like, between the acts that manifest psychological incapacity and the psychological disorder itself. A’s testimony regarding the habitual drunkenness, gambling and refusal to find a job, while indicative of psychological incapacity, do not, by themselves, show psychological incapacity. All these simply indicate difficulty, neglect or mere refusal to perform marital obligations.

It is not enough that the respondent, alleged to be psychologically incapacitated, had difficulty in complying with his marital obligations, or was unwilling to perform these obligations. Proof of a natal or supervening disabling factor – an adverse integral element in the respondent’s personality structure that effectively incapacitated him from complying with his essential marital obligations – must be shown. Mere difficulty, refusal or neglect in the performance of marital obligations or ill will on the part of the spouse is different from incapacity rooted in some debilitating psychological condition or illness; irreconcilable differences, sexual infidelity or perversion, emotional immaturity and irresponsibility and the like, do not by themselves warrant a finding of psychological incapacity under Article 36, as the same may only be due to a person’s refusal or unwillingness to assume the essential obligations of marriage.

* Case digest by Liezel O. Lagare, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018

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