LEOUEL SANTOS v Court of Appeals and Julia Rosario Bedia-Santos

G.R. No. 112019 January 4, 1995

It was in Iloilo City where Leouel, who then held the rank of First Lieutenant in the Philippine Army, first met Julia. The meeting later proved to be an eventful day for Leouel and Julia. On 20 September 1986, the two exchanged vows before Municipal Trial Court Judge Cornelio G. Lazaro of Iloilo City, followed, shortly thereafter, by a church wedding. Leouel and Julia lived with the latter’s parents at the J. Bedia Compound, La Paz, Iloilo City. On 18 July 1987, Julia gave birth to a baby boy, and he was christened Leouel Santos, Jr. The ecstasy, however, did not last long. It was bound to happen, Leouel averred, because of the frequent interference by Julia’s parents into the young spouses family affairs. Occasionally, the couple would also start a “quarrel” over a number of other things, like when and where the couple should start living independently from Julia’s parents or whenever Julia would express resentment on Leouel’s spending a few days with his own parents.

On 18 May 1988, Julia finally left for the United Sates of America to work as a nurse despite Leouel’s pleas to so dissuade her. Seven months after her departure, or on 01 January 1989, Julia called up Leouel for the first time by long distance telephone. She promised to return home upon the expiration of her contract in July 1989. She never did. When Leouel got a chance to visit the United States, where he underwent a training program under the auspices of the Armed Forces of the Philippines from 01 April up to 25 August 1990, he desperately tried to locate, or to somehow get in touch with, Julia but all his efforts were of no avail.

Having failed to get Julia to somehow come home, Leouel filed with the regional trial Court of Negros Oriental, Branch 30, a complaint for “Voiding of marriage Under Article 36 of the Family Code” (docketed, Civil Case No. 9814).

On 31 May 1991, respondent Julia, in her answer (through counsel), opposed the complaint and denied its allegations, claiming, in main, that it was the petitioner who had, in fact, been irresponsible and incompetent.

A possible collusion between the parties to obtain a decree of nullity of their marriage was ruled out by the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor (in its report to the court).

On 06 November 1991, the court a quo finally dismissed the complaint for lack of merit. 

Leouel appealed to the Court of Appeal. The latter affirmed the decision of the trial court. 

The petition should be denied not only because of its non-compliance with Circular 28-91, which requires a certification of non-shopping, but also for its lack of merit.

Leouel argues that the failure of Julia to return home, or at the very least to communicate with him, for more than five years are circumstances that clearly show her being psychologically incapacitated to enter into married life.


ISSUE: Whether or not psychological incapacity is attendant to the case at bar.


HELD: Before deciding on the case, the SC noted that the Family Code did not define the term “psychological incapacity”, which is adopted from the Catholic Canon Law. But basing it on the deliberations of the Family Code Revision Committee, the provision in PI, adopted with less specificity than expected, has been designed to allow some resiliency in its application. The FCRC did not give any examples of PI for fear that the giving of examples would limit the applicability of the provision under the principle of ejusdem generis. Rather, the FCRC would like the judge to interpret the provision on a case-to-case basis, guided by experience, the findings of experts and researchers in psychological disciplines, and by decisions of church tribunals which, although not binding on the civil courts, may be given persuasive effect since the provision was taken from Canon Law. The term “psychological incapacity” defies any precise definition since psychological causes can be of an infinite variety.

Article 36 of the Family Code cannot be taken and construed independently of but must stand in conjunction with, existing precepts in our law on marriage. PI should refer to no less than a mental (not physical) incapacity that causes a party to be truly incognitive of the basic marital covenants that concomitantly must be assumed and discharged by the parties to the marriage which (Art. 68), include their mutual obligations to live together, observe love, respect and fidelity and render help and support. The intendment of the law has been to confine the meaning of PI to the most serious cases of personality disorders clearly demonstrative of an utter insensitivity or inability to give meaning and significance to the marriage. This psychological condition must exist at the time the marriage is celebrated.

The law does not evidently envision an inability of the spouse to have sexual relations with the other.  This conclusion is implicit under Article 54 of the Family Code which considers children conceived prior to the judicial declaration of nullity of the void marriage to be legitimate.

The well-considered opinions of psychiatrists, psychologists and persons with expertise in psychological disciplines might be helpful or even desirable in establishing the parameters of psychological incapacity.

Marriage is not just and adventure but a lifetime commitment. We should continue to be reminded that innate in our society, then enshrined in the Civil Code, and even now still indelible in Section 1 of the Family Code…the Constitution is no less emphatic.

In the case at bar, although Leouel stands aggrieved, his petition must be dismissed because the alleged PI of his wife is not clearly shown by the factual settings presented. The factual settings do not come close to to the standard required to decree a nullity of marriage.


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