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Aug 11, 2008

G.R. No. 149498, May 20, 2004

  • Presumption of validity of marriage
  • Mere abandonment does not amount to psychological incapacity
  • Guidelines to prove psychological incapacity


This is a complaint for declaration of nullity of marriage between Lolita Quintero-Hamano and Toshio Hamano, a Japanese national, on the ground of psychological incapacity.

In October 1986, Lolita and Toshio started a common-law relationship in Japan. They later lived in the Philippines where Lolita gave birth to their child. Later, she and Toshio were married before a judge. However, one month after their marriage, Toshio returned to Japan. Despite his promise to return, he did not come back. Moreover, he also stopped giving financial support and stopped all communication with his family. Consequently, Lolita filed for declaration of nullity of her marriage.

The trial court declared the marriage null and void, holding that respondent spouse failed to fulfill his obligations as husband of the petitioner and father to his daughter. This failure was considered to be a sign of immaturity and that his behavior could be traced to his mental incapacity and disability of entering into marital life.

Upon appeal, CA affirmed, concluding that respondent was psychologically incapacitated to perform his marital obligations to his family. Moreover, it ruled that this case could not be equated with Republic vs. CA and Molina and Santos vs. CA, because in those cases, the spouses were Filipinos while this case involved a “mixed marriage.”

Republic, as represented by the Solicitor-General, appealed.


  • Whether or not respondent was able to prove the psychological incapacity of Toshio Hamano to perform his marital obligations


SC ruled in favor of petitioner.

The Court is mindful of the policy of the 1987 Constitution to protect and strengthen the family as the basic autonomous social institution and marriage as the foundation of the family. Thus, any doubt should be resolved in favor of the validity of the marriage.

The guidelines in the Molina case incorporate the three basic requirements of psychological incapacity outlined in Santos:

“It must be characterized by (a) gravity, (b) juridical antecedence, and (c) incurability. The foregoing guidelines do not require that a physician examine the person to be declared psychologically incapacitated. In fact, the root cause may be “medically or clinically identified.” What is important is the presence of evidence that can adequately establish the party’s psychological condition. For indeed, if the totality of evidence presented is enough to sustain a finding of psychological incapacity, then actual medical examination of the person concerned need not be resorted to.”

Was respondent able to successfully prove Toshio’s psychological incapacity to fulfill his marital responsibilities?

The Court found that the totality of evidence presented fell short of proving that Toshio was psychologically incapacitated to assume his marital responsibilities. Toshio’s act of abandonment was doubtlessly irresponsible but it was never alleged nor proven to be due to some kind of psychological illness. There was no evidence to show that his behavior was caused by a psychological order. Although, as a rule, there was no need for an actual medical examination, it would have greatly helped respondent’s case had she presented evidence that medically or clinically identified his illness. This could have been done through an expert witness. This respondent did not do.

We must remember that abandonment is also a ground for legal separation. There was no showing that the case at bar was not just an instance of abandonment in the context of legal separation. We cannot presume psychological defect from the mere fact that Toshio abandoned his family immediately after the celebration of the marriage. AS we ruled in Molina, it is not enough to prove that a spouse failed to meet his responsibility and duty as a married person; it is essential that he must be shown to be incapable of doing so due to some psychological, not physical, illness. There was no proof of a natal or supervening disabling factor in the person, an adverse integral element in the personality structure that effectively incapacitates a person from accepting and complying with the obligations essential to marriage.

On issue of “Mixed Marriage”

In proving psychological incapacity, we find no distinction between an alien spouse and a Filipino spouse. We cannot be lenient in the application of the rules merely because the spouse alleged to be psychologically incapacitated happens to be a foreign national. The medical and clinical rules to determine psychological incapacity were formulated on the basis of studies of human behavior in general. Hence, the norms used for determining psychological incapacity should apply to any person regardless of nationality.

In Pesca vs. Pesca, this Court declared that marriage is an inviolable social institution that the State cherishes and protects. While we commiserate with respondent, terminating her marriage to her husband may not necessarily be the fitting denouement.

Petition granted. Decision of CA reversed and set aside.


The case of Molina outlines the following guidelines in the interpretation and application of Article 36:

• The burden of proof to show the nullity of the marriage belongs to the plaintiff. Any doubt should be resolved in favor of the existence and continuation of the marriage and against its dissolution and nullity.

• The root cause of the psychological incapacity must be: (a) medically or clinically identified, (b) alleged in the complaint, (c) sufficiently proven by experts and (d) clearly explained in the decision. Article 36 requires that the incapacity must be psychological – not physical, although its manifestations and/or symptoms may be physical. The evidence must convince the court that the parties, or one of them, was mentally or psychically ill to such an extent that the person could not have known the obligations he was assuming, or knowing them, could not have given valid assumption thereof. Such root cause must be identified as a psychological illness and its incapacitating nature fully explained. Expert evidence may be given by qualified psychiatrists and clinical psychologists.

• The incapacity must be proven to be existing at “the time of the celebration” of the marriage. The evidence must show that the illness was existing when the parties exchanged their “I do’s.” The manifestation of the illness need not be perceivable at such time, but the illness itself must have attached at such moment, or prior thereto.

• Such incapacity must also be shown to be medically or clinically permanent or incurable. Such incurability may be absolute or even relative only in regard to the other spouse, not necessarily absolutely against everyone of the same sex. Furthermore, such incapacity must be relevant to the assumption of marriage obligations, not necessarily to those not related to marriage, like the exercise of a profession or employment in a job. Hence, a pediatrician may be effective in diagnosing illnesses of children and prescribing medicine to cure them but may not be psychologically capacitated to procreate, bear and raise his/her own children as an essential obligation of marriage.

• Such illness must be grave enough to bring about the disability of the party to assume the essential obligations of marriage. Thus, “mild characteriological peculiarities, mood changes, occasional emotional outbursts” cannot be accepted as root causes. The illness must be shown as downright incapacity or inability, not refusal, neglect or difficulty, much less ill will. In other words, there is a natal or supervening disabling factor in the person, an adverse integral element in the personality structure that effectively incapacitates the person from really accepting and thereby complying with the obligations essential to marriage.

• The essential marital obligations must be those embraced by Articles 68 up to 71 of the Family Code as regards the husband and wife as well as Articles 220, 221 and 225 of the same Code in regard to parents and children. Such non-complied marital obligations must also be stated in the petition, proven by evidence and included in the text of the decision.

• Interpretations given by the National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, while not controlling or decisive, should be given great respect by our courts.

• The trial court must order the prosecuting attorney or fiscal and the Solicitor General to appear as counsel for the state. No decision shall be handed down unless the Solicitor General issues a certification, which will be quoted in the decision, briefly stating therein his reasons for his agreement or opposition, as the case may be, to the petition. The Solicitor-General, along with the prosecuting attorney, shall submit to the court such certification within 15 days from the date the case is deemed submitted for resolution of the court. The Solicitor-General shall discharge the equivalent function of the defensor vinculi contemplated under Canon 1095.


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