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August 18, 2010 Nachura, J. Raeses, Roberto Miguel O. *Apologies for the length. This was a rather lengthy case.

SUMMARY: Ma. Socorro Camacho-Reyes filed a petition for declaration of nullity of her marriage to Ramon Reyes, on account of the latters psychological incapacity under Art. 36 of the Family Code. To bolster her position, she presented three expert witnesses. The RTC ruled in her favor, relying heavily upon the testimonies of the expert witnesses. The CA, on the other hand, reversed the ruling of the RTC. It claimed that the the assessment and conclusion made by Dr. Magno and Dr. Villegas, two of the expert witnesses, were hearsay for they were unscientific and unreliable as they have no personal knowledge of the psychological condition of Ramon as they never personally examined him. The SC disagreed with the CAs findings and reinstated the decision of the RTC. DOCTRINE: The lack of personal examination and interview of the respondent, or any other person diagnosed with personality disorder, does not per se invalidate the testimonies of the doctors. Neither do their findings automatically constitute hearsay that would result in their exclusion as evidence. Within their acknowledged field of expertise, doctors can diagnose the psychological make up of a person based on a number of factors culled from various sources. A person afflicted with a personality disorder will not necessarily have personal knowledge thereof. FACTS:

1. Ma. Socorro Camacho-Reyes [Petitioner] and Ramon Reyes [Respondent] met in UP Diliman in 1972. In Dec. 5, 1976, they got married. 2. The newlyweds lived with Ramon Reyess family in Mandaluyong City. When their first child was born, financial difficulties started. a. Initially, Ramon gave Socorro P1,500 as monthly allowance. A year into their marriage, the allowances stopped. b. Ramon no longer gave his salary to Socorro. c. When Socorro asked Ramon why he no longer gave his salary, the latter replied that he had resigned from the family business [The Aristocrat]. d. Ramons game plan was to venture into the seafood business. However, this new business took him away from his family from days on end without any communication. Socorro simply endured the set up. 3. Socorro suggested that they live separately from her in-laws, to prod Ramon into assuming more responsibility. However, this engendered more financial difficulty. a. As Ramons business floundered, Socorro became the single-income earner. b. Another attempt at a business, a fishpond, was similarly unsuccessful. c. Ramon gave Socorro money sporadically. d. Their financial woes were compounded by Ramons indifference towards his family Ramon did not seem to be bothered by being away from his family, nor did he exert any effort to remain in touch with them. 4. After two (2) years of struggling, they moved in with Socorros family. The move did not help one bit. a. In fact, they became more estranged. b. Socorro continued to carry the burden of supporting a family not just financially but in most aspects as well.


5. Socorro gave birth to their third son after having previously suffered a miscarriage. a. Ramon did not even inquire on the health of Socorro and their baby. b. After Ramon arrived in Manila, he did not even attempt to find out how the hospital bills were settled. 6. Ramon stopped his fishponds operations due to losses. a. Despite having no means to support his family, he refused to go back to the family business. b. He came up with another business [scrap paper and carton trading]. However, like his other business, it did not go well. i. It only succeeded in making them more indebted. ii. Not surprisingly, the relationship of the parties deteriorated. 7. Sometime in 1996, Socorro confirmed that Ramon was having an extra-marital affair. a. She overheard Ramon talking to his girlfriend [a former secretary] over the phone, asking if the latter liked his gift. b. Socorro realized that not only was he unable to provide for their family financially, he was also remiss in his obligation to be faithful to her and their family. 8. After some time, Socorro underwent an operation to have a cyst removed. a. Ramon remained unconcerned and inattentive and simply read the newspaper despite such fact. b. He played dumb when Socorro asked him to accompany her as she was wheeled into the operating room. c. After the operation, Socorro felt that she had enough of Ramons lack of concern and asked her mother to order Ramon out of the room. 9. Still, Socorro tried to salvage their marriage.

a. She approached Ramons siblings and asked them to intervene. However, even they waved the white flag. 10. Adolfo Reyes, Ramons elder brother, and his spouse, members of a marriage encounter group, invited Ramon and Socorro. a. However, such failed to improve the relationship of the parties. 11. Adolfo brought Ramon to Dr. Natividad A. Dayan for a psychological assessment to determine benchmarks of current psychological functioning. a. Ramon resisted and did not continue with Dr. Dayans recommendation to undergo psychotherapy. 12. At about the same time, Socorro, with the knowledge of Ramons siblings, told Ramon to move out of the house. The latter acquiesced. 13. Even with the de facto separation, the relationship did not improve. 14. Socorro filed before the RTC a petition for the declaration of nullity of her marriage with the respondent, alleging the latters psychological incapacity to fulfill the essential marital obligations under Article 36 of the Family Code. a. Ramon denied that he was psychologically incapacitated. b. He also maintained that he was not remiss in performing his obligations to his family. Ruling of the RTC: 1. Granted the petition, and declared that the marriage was null and void on the ground of their psychological incapacity. a. It took into account the testimonies of two clinical psychologists, Dr. Dayan and Dr. Estrella Magno, and a psychiatrist, Dr. Cecilia Villegas.


b. On MR of Ramon, the RTC affirmed its decision. Ruling of the CA: Reversed the decision of the RTC. [Note: 2 members dissented, 3 members voted to reverse the decision of the RTC]. ISSUE: WON the marriage between the parties is void ab initio on the ground of both parties psychological incapacity, as provided in Article 36 of the Family Code RULING: Yes, the marriage is void ab initio on the basis of psychological incapacity, but not because both parties have such. Only Ramon was adjudged to be psychologically incapacitated, on the basis of the evidence presented. RATIO: Findings of the RTC: 1. Relied heavily on the oral and documentary evidence obtained from the three (3) experts i.e., Doctors Magno, Dayan and Villegas. a. They were unanimous in their findings that respondent is suffering from personality disorder which psychologically incapacitated him to fulfill his basic duties to the marriage. b. Being professionals and hav[ing] solemn duties to their profession, their assessment/diagnos[is] as credible. 2. The psychological incapacity of the respondent, in the uniform words of said three (3) expert witnesses, is serious, incurable and exists before his marriage and renders him a helpless victim of his structural constellation. a. This is clearly manifested from his assertion that nothing was wrong in his marriage with the petitioner and considered their relationship as a normal one.

i. He refused counseling and efforts extended to them by his original family members to save his marriage. ii. He was blind and too insensitive to the reality of his marital atmosphere. 3. However, Ramon is not the only one to blame. Socorro may also be blamed for their predicament. a. Dra. Villegas was firm that she, too, is afflicted with psychological incapacity as her personality cannot be harmonized with the personality of the respondent. b. They are poles apart. i. Socorro is a well-organized person or a perfectionist while Ramon is a free spirited or carefree person. Findings of the CA: 1. Socorro failed to sufficiently establish the alleged psychological incapacity of Ramon under Art. 36. 2. Generally, expert opinions are regarded, not as conclusive, but as purely advisory in character. a. A court may place whatever weight it chooses upon such testimonies. b. It may even reject them, if it finds that they are inconsistent with the facts of the case or are otherwise unreasonable. i. In the instant case, neither clinical psychologist Magno nor psychiatrist Dr. Villegas conducted a psychological examination on Ramon. ii. Undoubtedly, the assessment and conclusion made by Magno and Dr. Villegas are hearsay. 1. They are unscientific and unreliable as they have no personal knowledge of the psychological condition of Ramon as they never personally examined him.


3. [I]t can be gleaned from the recommendation of Dayan that the purported psychological incapacity of Ramon is not incurable a. Ramon was referred to Dayan for psychological evaluation to determine benchmarks of current psychological functioning. b. Based on Dayans personal examination, the assessment procedures used, behavioral observations made, background information gathered and interpretation of psychological data, the conclusion arrived at is that there is a way to help the Ramon through individual therapy and counseling sessions. c. Even granting that the charges against Ramon, such as his failure to give regular support, substance abuse, infidelity and come and go attitude are true, the totality of the evidence presented still falls short of establishing psychological incapacity. 4. Ramons defects were not present at the inception of marriage. a. They were even able to live in harmony in the first few years of their marriage, which bore them two children. 5. As regards the purported psychological incapacity of Socorro, Dr. Villegas Psychiatric Report states that she manifested inadequacies along her affective sphere that made her less responsive to the emotional needs of her husband, who needed a great amount of it, rendering her relatively psychologically incapacitated to perform the duties and responsibilities of marriage. a. However, the amended petition failed to specifically allege the complete facts showing that Socorro was psychologically incapacitated from complying with the essential marital obligations of marriage at the time of celebration [thereof] even if such

incapacity became manifest only after its celebration. 6. What is evident is that Socorro really encountered a lot of difficulties in their marriage. a. However, it is jurisprudentially settled that psychological incapacity must be more than just a difficulty, a refusal or a neglect in the performance of some marital obligations, it is essential that they must be shown to be incapable of doing so, due to some psychological illness existing at the time of the celebration of the marriage. Findings of the SC: Generally disagrees with the CAs ruling that psychological incapacity was not sufficiently established. 1. Factors characterizing psychological incapacity [Santos v. CA] a. Gravity - grave or serious such that the party would be incapable of carrying out the ordinary duties required in marriage. b. Juridical antecedence - rooted in the history of the party antedating the marriage. c. Incurability 2. The three experts were one in diagnosing respondent with a personality disorder [Given how lengthy the findings of the experts are, I will try to summarize them to the best of my ability]. a. Dr. Cecilia C. Villegas i. Socorros qualities are perfect for a leader, but less effective in a heterosexual relationship, especially to her husband, who has deep seated sense of inadequacy, insecurity, low self-esteem and self-worth despite his intellectual asset. ii. Ramon, on the other hand, may sincerely want to be able to assume his duties and responsibilities as a husband and father, but because of a


severe psychological deficit, he was unable to do so. 1. he is suffering from a Personality Disorder, of the antisocial type, associated with strong sense of Inadequacy along masculine strivings and narcissistic features that renders him psychologically incapacitated to perform the duties and responsibilities of marriage. a. This is characterized by his inability to conform to the social norms that ordinarily govern many aspects of adolescent and adult behavior. b. His being a free spirit associated with no remorse, no guilt feelings and no anxiety, is distinctive of this clinical condition. His prolonged drug intake [marijuana] and maybe stronger drugs lately, are external factors to boost his ego. 2. The root cause of the above clinical conditions is due to his underlying defense mechanisms, or the unconscious mental processes, that the ego uses to resolve conflicts. 3. It existed before marriage, but became manifest only after the celebration, due to marital demands and stresses.

b. Dr. Natividad A. Dayan i. Adolfo and Mandy, Ramons brothers, referred Ramon to the clinic. 1. According to them, respondent has not really taken care of his wife and children. 2. He does not seem to have any direction in life. 3. He seems to be full of bright ideas and good at starting things but he never gets to accomplish anything. 4. It is so hard for Ramon to stop taking drugs when he had been hooked to it for the past 22 years. ii. Diagnostic Impression: 1. Axis I Drug Dependence 2. Axis II - Mixed Personality Disorder [Schizoid, Narcissistic and Antisocial Personality Disorder] 3. Axis III None 4. Axis IV - Psychosocial and Environmental Problems: Severe; He seems to be very good at planning and starting things but is unable to accomplish anything; unable to give priority to the needs of his family; in social relationships. c. Dr. Estrella T. Tiongson-Magno i. From the evidence available from Socorros case history and from her psychological assessment, and despite the non-cooperation of the respondent, it is possible to infer with certainty the nullity of this marriage.


ii. Based on the information available about the respondent, Ramon suffers from [an] antisocial personality disorder with narcissistic and dependent features that renders him too immature and irresponsible to assume the normal obligations of a marriage. 1. Ramon diagnosed with an antisocial personality disorder with marked narcissistic features and aggressive sadistic and dependent features, is psychologically incapacitated to fulfill the essential obligations of marriage: to love, respect and render support for his spouse and children. a. A personality disorder is not curable as it is permanent and stable over time. 2. From a psychological viewpoint, therefore, there is evidence that the marriage of Socorro and Ramon is null and void from the very beginning. 3. The lack of personal examination and interview of the respondent, or any other person diagnosed with personality disorder, does not per se invalidate the testimonies of the doctors. Neither do their findings automatically constitute hearsay that would result in their exclusion as evidence. a. Marriage, by its very definition, necessarily involves only two persons. The totality of the behavior of one spouse during the

cohabitation and marriage is generally and genuinely witnessed mainly by the other. i. In this case, the experts testified on their individual assessment of the present state of the parties marriage from the perception of one of the parties [Socorro]. b. The clinical psychologists and psychiatrists assessment were not based solely on the narration or personal interview of the petitioner. i. Other informants such as Ramons own son, siblings and in-laws, and sister-in-law (sister of Socorro), testified on their own observations of respondents behavior and interactions with them, spanning the period of time they knew him. 4. The case of Lim v. Sta. Cruz-Lim, citing the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM IV), is instructive on the general diagnostic criteria for personality


disorders1, specifically Antisocial Personality Disorder2 5. Within their acknowledged field of expertise, doctors can diagnose the psychological makeup of a person based on a number of factors culled from various sources. A person afflicted with a personality disorder will not necessarily have personal knowledge thereof.

A. An enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectations of the individual's culture. This pattern is manifested in two (2) or more of the following areas: (1) cognition (i.e., ways of perceiving and interpreting self, other people, and events) (2) affectivity (i.e., the range, intensity, liability, and appropriateness of emotional response) (3) interpersonal functioning (4) impulse control B. The enduring pattern is inflexible and pervasive across a broad range of personal and social situations. C. The enduring pattern leads to clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning. D. The pattern is stable and of long duration, and its onset can be traced back at least to adolescence or early adulthood. E. The enduring pattern is not better accounted for as a manifestation or a consequence of another mental disorder. F. The enduring pattern is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (i.e., a drug of abuse, a medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., head trauma).

A. There is a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others occurring since age 15 years, as indicated by three (or more) of the following: (1) failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest (2) deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure (3) impulsivity or failure to plan ahead (4) irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults (5) reckless disregard for safety of self or others (6) consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations (7) lack of remorse as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another B. The individual is at least 18 years. C. There is evidence of conduct disorder with onset before age 15 years.

a. In this case, considering that a personality disorder is manifested in a pattern of behavior, self-diagnosis by Ramon consisting only in his bare denial of the doctors separate diagnoses does not necessarily evoke credence and cannot trump the clinical findings of experts. 6. The CA was wrong in declaring that, according to Dr. Dayans findings, the psychological incapacity of Ramon was not incurable. a. A recommendation for therapy does not automatically imply curability. In general, recommendations for therapy are given by clinical psychologists, or even psychiatrists, to manage behavior. b. Dr. Dayan, during her testimony, categorically declared that respondent is psychologically incapacitated to perform the essential marital obligations. 7. In sum, we find points of convergence & consistency in all three reports and the respective testimonies of Doctors Magno, Dayan and Villegas, i.e.: (1) respondent does have problems; and (2) these problems include chronic irresponsibility; inability to recognize and work towards providing the needs of his family; several failed business attempts; substance abuse; and a trail of unpaid money obligations. 8. It is true that a clinical psychologists or psychiatrists diagnoses that a person has personality disorder is not automatically believed by the courts in cases of declaration of nullity of marriages. a. Indeed, a clinical psychologists or psychiatrists finding of a personality disorder does not exclude a finding that a marriage is valid and subsisting, and not beset by one of
D. The occurrence of antisocial behavior is not exclusively during the course of schizophrenia or a manic episode


the parties or both parties psychological incapacity. b. In the case at bar, even without the experts conclusions, the factual antecedents (narrative of events) alleged in the petition and established during trial, all point to the inevitable conclusion that Ramon is psychologically incapacitated to perform the essential marital obligations. i. Ramons pattern of behavior manifests a psychological incapacity to perform the essential marital obligations as shown by his: (1) sporadic financial support; (2) extra-marital affairs; (3) substance abuse; (4) failed business attempts; (5) unpaid money obligations; (6) inability to keep a job that is not connected with the family businesses; and (7) criminal charges of estafa. 9. The SC agreed with the CAs ruling that Socorros psychological incapacity was not proven. a. A perusal of the Amended Petition shows that it failed to specifically allege the complete facts showing that Socorro was psychologically incapacitated from complying with the essential marital obligations of marriage at the time of the celebration of marriage even if such incapacity became manifest only after its celebration i. What was merely prayed for in the said Amended Petition is that judgment be rendered declaring the marriage between the Socorro and Ramon solemnized on 04 December 1976 to be void ab initio on the ground of psychological incapacity on the part of Ramon at the time of the celebration of the marriage.

DISPOSITIVE: WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The decision of the Court of Appeals in CA -G.R. CV No. 89761 is REVERSED. The decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 89, Quezon City in Civil Case No. Q-01-44854 declaring the marriage between petitioner and respondent NULL and VOID under Article 36 of the Family Code is REINSTATED. No costs.