CASE DIGEST: Ochosa vs. Alano

G.R. No. 167459, January 26, 2011




Petitioner Jose and respondent Bona met when Jose was a young lieutenant in the AFP while Bona was a seventeen-year-old college drop-out. They got intimate and eventually married. While Jose was out on missions, it appears that Bona would have illicit relations with other men. Her sexual infidelity circulated in the military community. Thereafter, Jose filed a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage seeking to nullify his marriage to Bona on the ground of the latter's psychological incapacity. The trial court granted the petition.

The Office of the Solicitor General appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals which ruled that the trial court erred in granting the petition despite Jose's failure to discharge the burden of proving the alleged psychological incapacity of Bona.

ISSUE: Whether Bona should be deemed psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential marital obligations.

HELD: The petition is unmeritorious.

CIVIL CODE Family Code; Declaration of nullity of marriage; psychological incapacity

The petition for declaration of nullity of marriage which Jose filed in the trial court hinges on Article 36 of the Family Code, to wit:

A marriage contracted by any party who, at the time of the celebration, was psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential marital obligations of marriage, shall likewise be void even if such incapacity becomes manifest only after its solemnization.

In the landmark case of Santos v. Court of Appeals, it was said that psychological incapacity must be characterized by (a) gravity, (b) juridical antecedence, and (c) incurability. The incapacity must be grave or serious such that the party would be incapable of carrying out the ordinary duties required in marriage; it must be rooted in the history of the party antedating the marriage, although the overt manifestations may emerge only after marriage; and it must be incurable or, even if it were otherwise, the cure would be beyond the means of the party involved.

A careful perusal of the evidence presented in this case would show that Bona had been, on several occasions with several other men, sexually disloyal to her spouse, Jose. Likewise, the court was persuaded that Bona had indeed abandoned Jose. However, the court cannot apply the same conviction to Joses thesis that the totality of Bonas acts constituted psychological incapacity as determined by Article 36 of the Family Code. There is inadequate credible evidence that her "defects" were already present at the inception of, or prior to, the marriage. In other words, her alleged psychological incapacity did not satisfy the jurisprudential requisite of "juridical antecedence."

It is apparent from the allegations that Bona, contrary to Joses assertion, had no manifest desire to abandon Jose at the beginning of their marriage and was, in fact, living with him for the most part of their relationship from 1973 up to the time when Jose drove her away from their conjugal home in 1988. On the contrary, the record shows that it was Jose who was constantly away from Bona by reason of his military duties and his later incarceration. A reasonable explanation for Bonas refusal to accompany Jose in his military assignments in other parts of Mindanao may be simply that those locations were known conflict areas in the seventies. Any doubt as to Bonas desire to live with Jose would later be erased by the fact that Bona lived with Jose in their conjugal home in FortBonifacio during the following decade.

In view of the foregoing, the badges of Bonas alleged psychological incapacity, i.e., her sexual infidelity and abandonment, can only be convincingly traced to the period of time after her marriage to Jose and not to the inception of the said marriage.

Article 36 of the Family Code is not to be confused with a divorce law that cuts the marital bond at the time the causes therefore manifest themselves. It refers to a serious psychological illness afflicting a party even before the celebration of the marriage. It is a malady so grave and so permanent as to deprive one of awareness of the duties and responsibilities of the matrimonial bond one is about to assume. These marital obligations are those provided under Articles 68 to 71, 220, 221 and 225 of the Family Code.