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Aug 12, 2008

G.R. No. 137590, March 26, 2001


The Family Code emphasizes the permanent nature of marriage, hailing it as the foundation of the family. It is this inviolability which is central to our traditional and religious concepts of morality and provides the very bedrock on which our society finds stability. Marriage is immutable and when both spouses give their consent to enter it, their consent becomes irrevocable, unchanged even by their independent wills.

However, this inviolability depends on whether the marriage exists and is valid. If it is void ab initio, the “permanence” of the union becomes irrelevant and the Court can step in to declare it so. Article 36 of the Family Code is the justification. Where it applies and is duly proven, a judicial declaration can free the parties from the rights, obligations, burdens and consequences stemming from their marriage.

A declaration of nullity of marriage under Article 36 of the Family Code requires the application of procedural and substantive guidelines. While compliance with these requirements mostly devolves upon the petitioner, the State is likewise mandated to actively intervene in the procedure. Should there be non-compliance by the State with its statutory duty, there is a need to remand the case to the lower court for proper trial.


This is a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage due to psychological incapacity.

Florence is married to Philipp, a Portuguese citizen. Several years after they were married (Jan. 4, 1987 - Sept. 20, 1994), Florence filed a complaint for declaration of nullity of marriage. The trial court dismissed the petition so Florence elevated the case to the CA, which affirmed the decision.

Hence this appeal.

  • Whether or not psychological capacity was adequately proven


We note that throughout the trial in the lower court, the State did not participate in the proceedings. After filing a manifestation in the trial court that he found on collusion between the parties, the Fiscal did not actively participate therein and neither did the presiding judge take any step to encourage him to contribute to the proceedings.

Citing Article 48 of the Civil Code, the Supreme Court held that the lack of participation of the State was not cured by the fact that the evil sought to be prevented did not come about when the lower court dismissed the petition. The task of protecting marriage as an inviolable social institution requires vigilant and zealous participation and not mere pro-forma compliance. The protection of marriage as a sacred institution requires not just the defense of a true and genuine union but the exposure of an invalid one as well.

In Republic of the Philippines vs. Erlinda Matias Dagdag, while we upheld the validity of the marriage, we nevertheless characterized the decision of the trial court as “prematurely rendered” since the investigating prosecutor was not given an opportunity to present controverting evidence before the judgment was rendered. This stresses the importance of the participation of the State.

Having so ruled, we decline to rule on the factual disputes of the case, this being within the province of the trial court upon proper re-trial.


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