Benjamin Ting and Carmen Velez met each other in medical school and they married each other after several years. Years after, Benjamin became a full-fledged doctor and he practiced at the Velez Hospital owned by Carmen’s family. Benjamin and Carmen had six children during their marriage. But after 18 years of marriage, Carmen went to court to have their marriage be declared void on the ground that Benjamin was psychologically incapacitated. She alleged that even before she married Benjamin, the latter was already a drunkard; that Benjamin was a gambler, he was violent, and would rather spend on his expensive hobby; that he rarely stayed home and even neglected his children and family obligations.
Carmen presented an expert witness, Dr. Oñate, to prove Benjamin’s psychological incapacity. However, Oñate merely based her findings on the statement submitted by Benjamin. Oñate was not able to personally examine Benjamin because at that time, Benjamin was already working as an anaesthesiologist in South Africa. On his part, Benjamin opposed the petition. He also presented his own expert witness to disprove Carmen’s allegations. Obra was not able to personally examine Benjamin but he also evaluated the same deposition evaluated by Oñate. Also, Benjamin submitted himself for evaluation to a South African doctor (Dr. Pentz) and the transcript of said evaluation was submitted to Obra and the latter also evaluated the same. Obra found Benjamin not to be psychologically incapacitated.
The trial court, and eventually the Court of Appeals, ruled in favor of Carmen.
Whether or not Benjamin Ting’s psychological incapacity was proven.
No, the totality of evidence presented by respondent was insufficient to prove that petitioner is psychologically unfit to discharge the duties expected of him as a husband, and more particularly, that he suffered from such psychological incapacity as of the date of the marriage 18 years ago.
The intendment of the law has been to confine the application of Article 36 to the most serious cases of personality disorders clearly demonstrative of an absolute insensitivity or inability to give meaning and significance to the marriage. The psychological illness that must have afflicted a party at the inception of the marriage should be a disorder so grave and permanent as to deprive one of awareness of the duties and responsibilities of the matrimonial bond he or she is about to assume.
In this case, respondent failed to prove that petitioner’s defects were present at the time of the celebration of their marriage. She merely cited that prior to their marriage, she already knew that petitioner would occasionally drink and gamble with his friends; but such statement, by itself, is insufficient to prove any pre-existing psychological defect on the part of her husband. Neither did the evidence presented prove such defects to be incurable. The evaluation of the two psychiatrists should have been the significant evidence in determining whether to declare the marriage between the parties null and void. Sadly, however, the Court was not convinced that the opinions proiced by these experts strengthened respondent’s allegation of psychological incapacity. The two provided absolutely contradicting psychological evaluations.
* Case digest by Kristine Camille B. Gahuman, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018