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Divorce, Filipino style

Under Philippine laws, marriage is an inviolable social institution, so absolute divorce is not allowed. Absolute divorce concerns marriages which have no vice or defect at the time of their celebration but are nevertheless dissolved for causes arising after their celebration. What is allowed in our country is the declaration of nullity of marriages which, by law, do not exist or do not have any binding effect at all and are therefore void from the beginning like a marriage contracted by any party who, at the time of the celebration, was psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential marital obligations. This is illustrated in this case of Gerald and Cristine.

Gerald and Cristine met and became sweethearts when they were still students in a well known university. While Cristine finished her course and found work at the school itself, Gerald was unable to finish his college degree and just continued employment in their family business. During courtship, Cristine already noticed that Gerald was an introvert, insecure, prone to jealousy and without any ambition in life. Nevertheless, after five years of being sweethearts, Cristine married Gerald in the hope that he will change after marriage.

However, despite bearing two daughters, Gerald’s attitude worsened. He was jealous of everyone who talked to Cristine and would even skip work to stalk her. His jealousy was so severe that he once poked a gun at his own 15-year-old cousin because he suspected him to be Cristine’s lover. Gerald also treated Cristine like a sex slave. They would have sex four or five times a day even during Cristine’s lunch break. Sometimes Gerald would suggest that they invite a third person to watch them while having sex or for Cristine to have sex with another man. These suggestions molested Cristine who felt maltreated. And whenever she would refuse Gerald’s advances or suggestions Gerald would get angry and would quarrel with her. Upon advice of a doctor, a lawyer and a priest, Cristine suggested to Gerald that they undergo marriage counseling. But Gerald refused and deemed it as mere kalokohan.

After two years of marriage the couple again quarreled because Gerald suspected that Cristine was having an affair with another man. In the heat of the quarrel, Gerald poked a gun at Cristine’s head prompting her to finally leave Gerald together with her two daughters. Then after 15 years of marriage Cristine filed a petition for declaration of nullity of their marriage on the ground of Gerald’s psychological incapacity pursuant to Article 36 of the Family Code (FC).

When Gerald failed to appear and answer the petition, the lower court proceeded to try the case after the Assistant City Prosecutor found no collusion between the parties. At the trial of the case Cristine testified and reiterated all her sad experiences during their marriages which prove Gerald’s psychological incapacity. Aside from Cristine, Dr. Roman, a clinical psychologist also testified that he tried to invite Gerald for examination but the latter refused and said “wala kayong pakialam sa akin.”

And based on his interview of Cristine and review of Gerald’s family background, Dr. Roman diagnosed Gerald with paranoid personality disorder manifested by damaging behavior like reckless driving, extreme jealousy, distrustful and suspicious of friends and relatives of Cristine, irresponsible and without remorse, resistance to treatment, emotional coldness and severe immaturity. Dr. Roman also found that Gerald’s personality disorder was caused by a pathogenic parental model as his family background showed that his father was a psychiatric patient and Gerald had been contaminated and developed double insanity, a symptom similar to his father.

The trial court thus granted Cristine’s petition for declaration of nullity of their marriage, giving credence to Dr. Roman’s findings based on information gathered from credible informants. It found Gerald’s psychological incapacity to be serious, grave and incurable.

On appeal by the Solicitor General to the Court of Appeals (CA), the decision of the lower court was reversed. The CA ruled that Dr. Roman’s testimony was unreliable for being hearsay and should not have been given weight by the lower court. The CA emphasized Cristine’s admission that she married Gerald in the belief that he would change and that they were in relationship for five years before getting married showed that they were in good terms during the early part of their marriage.

Upon appeal by Cristine, the Supreme Court reversed the CA ruling. The SC said that the psychiatrist need not examine a person to declare him psychologically incapacitated. It is enough that the totality of evidence presented establishes the party’s psychological condition. In this case, Dr. Roman arrived at his conclusion of Gerald’s personality disorder by taking into consideration the psychological impression and conclusion he gathered from the analysis of the different behaviors Gerald manifested when he and Cristine were living together. Dr. Roman likewise found that the root cause of Gerald’s psychological incapacity is the pathogenic parental model because Gerald’s father was a psychiatric patient such that Gerald developed a similar symptom or psychic contamination called double insanity developed among close family members, best friends, sweethearts and other people who are close to each other. Here the symptom manifested by the father is the same as those of Gerald.

Gerald’s repeated behavior of psychological abuse by intimidating stalking and isolating Cristine from her family and friends, as well as acts of physical violence are proofs of his depravity and utter lack of comprehension of what marriage and partnership entail. It would be utmost cruelty to decree that Cristine should remain married to Gerald. So the marriage of Cristine and Gerald should really be declared null and void, the SC ruled (De la Fuente vs. De la Fuente, G.R. 188400, March 8, 2017)

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