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CIVREV-PERSONS

NOEL BUENAVENTURA vs. CA and ISABEL LUCIA


SINGH BUENAVENTURA
AZCUNA, J.:
1. Petitioner, Noel Buenaventura worked as Branch
Manager and as VP of Far East Bank & Trust Co. He
married Isable Lucia Singh on July 4, 1979.
2. He filed a petition for the declaration of nullity of
marriage on July 12, 1992, on the ground of the alleged
psychological incapacity of his wife, Isabel Singh
Buenaventura, herein respondent.
3. After respondent filed her answer, petitioner, with leave
of court, amended his petition by stating that both he and
his wife were psychologically incapacitated to comply with
the essential obligations of marriage. In response,
respondent filed an amended answer denying the
allegation that she was psychologically incapacitated.
4. July 31, 1995, the RTC:
1) marriage is null and void ab initio;
2) plaintiff to pay defendant moral damages of
2.5 million pesos and exemplary damages of 1
million pesos,
3) liquidation of the assets of the conjugal
partnership property particularly the plaintiffs
separation/retirement benefits received from the
Far East Bank by ceding, giving and paying to
her fifty percent (50%) of the net amount
of P3.6M;
4) Ordering him to give a regular support in favor
of his son Javy Singh Buenaventura in the
amount of P15,000.00 monthly;
5) Awarding the care and custody of the minor
Javy Singh Buenaventura to his mother, the
herein defendant; and
6) Hereby authorizing the defendant to revert
back to the use of her maiden family name Singh.
5. Petitioner appealed to CA. While the case was
pending in the appellate court, respondent filed a
motion to increase the P15,000 monthly support
pendente lite of their son Javy Singh Buenaventura.
CA
issued a Resolution increasing the
support pendente lite to P20,000.
ISSUE: WON the marriage between Noel and
Lucia is null and void based on Art. 36 of NCC.
YES
HELD: On the other hand, the trial court declared the
marriage of the parties null and void based on Article
36 of the Family Code, due to psychological
incapacity of the petitioner, Noel Buenaventura.
Article 36 of the Family Code.

CA & TC considered the acts of the petitioner after the


marriage as proof of his psychological incapacity, and
therefore a product of his incapacity or inability to comply
with the essential obligations of marriage. Nevertheless,
said courts considered these acts as willful and hence as
grounds for granting moral damages. It is contradictory to
characterize acts as a product of psychological incapacity,
and hence beyond the control of the party because of an
innate inability, while at the same time considering the
same set of acts as willful. By declaring the petitioner as
psychologically incapacitated, the possibility of awarding
moral damages on the same set of facts was negated.
The award of moral damages should be predicated, not on
the mere act of entering into the marriage, but on specific
evidence that it was done deliberately and with malice by
a party who had knowledge of his or her disability and yet
willfully concealed the same. No such evidence appears to
have been adduced in this case.
For the same reason, since psychological incapacity
means that one is truly incognitive of the basic marital
covenants that one must assume and discharge as a
consequence of marriage, it removes the basis for the
contention that the petitioner purposely deceived the
private respondent. If the private respondent was
deceived, it was not due to a willful act on the part of the
petitioner. Therefore, the award of moral damages was
without basis in law and in fact.
The acts or omissions of petitioner which led the lower
court to deduce his psychological incapacity, and his act in
filing the complaint for the annulment of his marriage
cannot be considered as unduly compelling the private
respondent to litigate, since both are grounded on
petitioners psychological incapacity, which as explained
above is a mental incapacity causing an utter inability to
comply with the obligations of marriage. Hence, neither
can be a ground for attorneys fees and litigation
expenses. Furthermore, since the award of moral and
exemplary damages is no longer justified, the award of
attorneys fees and expenses of litigation is left without
basis.
SC has held that the declaration of nullity of marriage
carries ipso facto a judgment for the liquidation of
property. When a marriage is declared void ab initio, the
law states that the final judgment therein shall provide for
the liquidation, partition and distribution of the properties
of the spouses, the custody and support of the common
children and the delivery of their presumptive legitimes,
unless such matters had been adjudicated in the previous
proceedings.
The parties here were legally married on July 4, 1979, and
therefore, all property acquired during the marriage,
whether the acquisition appears to have been made,
contracted or registered in the name of one or both
spouses, is presumed to be conjugal unless the contrary
is proved (Art. 116, New Family Code; Art. 160, Civil
Code).

CIVREV-PERSONS

Since the present case does not involve the annulment of


a bigamous marriage, the provisions of Article 50 in
relation to Articles 41, 42 and 43 of the Family Code,
providing for the dissolution of the absolute community or
conjugal partnership of gains, as the case may be, do not
apply. Rather, the general rule applies, which is that in
case a marriage is declared voidab initio, the property
regime applicable and to be liquidated, partitioned and
distributed is that of equal co-ownership.
In a void marriage, regardless of the cause thereof, the
property relations of the parties during the period of
cohabitation is governed by the provisions of Article 147 or
Article 148, such as the case may be, of the Family Code.
Article 147 is a remake of Article 144 of the Civil Code as
interpreted and so applied in previous cases; it provides:
ART. 147. When a man and a woman who are
capacitated to marry each other, live exclusively with each
other as husband and wife without the benefit of marriage
or under a void marriage, their wages and salaries shall
be owned by them in equal shares and the property
acquired by both of them through their work or industry
shall be governed by the rules on co-ownership.
In the absence of proof to the contrary, properties
acquired while they lived together shall be presumed to
have been obtained by their joint efforts, work or industry,
and shall be owned by them in equal shares. For
purposes of this Article, a party who did not participate in
the acquisition by the other party of any property shall be
deemed to have contributed jointly in the acquisition
thereof if the former's efforts consisted in the care and
maintenance of the family and of the household.
Neither party can encumber or dispose by acts inter
vivos of his or her share in the property acquired during
cohabitation and owned in common, without the consent
of the other, until after the termination of their cohabitation.
When only one of the parties to a void marriage is in good
faith, the share of the party in bad faith in the coownership shall be forfeited in favor of their common
children. In case of default of or waiver by any or all of the
common children or their descendants, each vacant share
shall belong to the respective surviving descendants. In
the absence of descendants, such share shall belong to
the innocent party. In all cases, the forfeiture shall take
place upon termination of the cohabitation.
This peculiar kind of co-ownership applies when a man
and a woman, suffering no legal impediment to marry
each other, so exclusively live together as husband and
wife under a void marriage or without the benefit of
marriage. The term "capacitated" in the provision (in the
first paragraph of the law) refers to the legal capacity of a
party to contract marriage, i.e., any "male or female of the
age of eighteen years or upwards not under any of the
impediments mentioned in Articles 37 and 38" of the
Code.

Under this property regime, property acquired by both


spouses through their work and industry shall be governed
by the rules on equal co-ownership. Any property acquired
during the union is prima facie presumed to have been
obtained through their joint efforts. A party who did not
participate in the acquisition of the property shall still be
considered as having contributed thereto jointly if said
party's "efforts consisted in the care and maintenance of
the family household." Unlike the conjugal partnership of
gains, the fruits of the couple's separate property are not
included in the co-ownership.
Article 147 of the Family Code, in substance and to the
above extent, has clarified Article 144 of the Civil Code; in
addition, the law now expressly provides that
(a) Neither party can dispose or encumber by act[s] inter
vivos [of] his or her share in co-ownership property,
without the consent of the other, during the period of
cohabitation; and
(b) In the case of a void marriage, any party in bad faith
shall forfeit his or her share in the co-ownership in favor of
their common children; in default thereof or waiver by any
or all of the common children, each vacant share shall
belong to the respective surviving descendants, or still in
default thereof, to the innocent party. The forfeiture shall
take place upon the termination of the cohabitation or
declaration of nullity of the marriage.