Article 36 of the Family Code provides that 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.  

A unique feature of this law is its intended open-ended application, as it merely introduced an abstract concept – psychological incapacity that disables compliance with the contractual obligations of marriage – without any concrete definition or, at the very least, an illustrative example.  We must therefore apply the law based on how the concept of psychological incapacity was shaped and developed in jurisprudence.        

SANTOS VS. SANTOS (310 PHIL 21 (1995)

Santos v. Court of Appeals[9] declared that psychological incapacity must be characterized by (a) gravity; (b) juridical antecedence; and          (c) incurability.  It 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.” It must be confined to “the most serious cases of personality disorders clearly demonstrative of an utter insensitivity or inability to give meaning and significance to the marriage.”[10]


The Court laid down more definitive guidelines in the interpretation and application of the law in Republic v. Court of Appeals[11] (Molina) as follows:

(1) The burden of proof to show the nullity of the marriage belongs to the plaintiff. Any doubt should be resolved in favor of the existence and continuation of the marriage and against its dissolution and nullity. This is rooted in the fact that both our Constitution and our laws cherish the validity of marriage and unity of the family. Thus, our Constitution devotes an entire Article on the Family, recognizing it “as the foundation of the nation.”  It decrees marriage as legally “inviolable,” thereby protecting it from dissolution at the whim of the parties. Both the family and marriage are to be “protected” by the state.

The Family Code echoes this constitutional edict on marriage and the family and emphasizes their permanence, inviolability and solidarity.

(2) The root cause of the psychological incapacity must be (a) medically or clinically identified, (b) alleged in the complaint, (c) sufficiently proven by experts and (d) clearly explained in the decision. Article 36 of the Family Code requires that the incapacity must be psychological – not physical, although its manifestations and/or symptoms may be physical. The evidence must convince the court that the parties or one of them was mentally or psychically ill to such an extent that the person could not have known the obligations he was assuming, or knowing them, could not have given valid assumption thereof.  Although no example of such incapacity need be given here so as not to limit the application of the provision under the principle of ejusdem generis, nevertheless such root cause must be identified as a psychological illness and its incapacitating nature fully explained. Expert evidence may be given by qualified psychiatrists and clinical psychologists.

(3) The incapacity must be proven to be existing at “the time of the celebration” of the marriage.  The evidence must show that the illness was existing when the parties exchanged their “I do’s.” The manifestation of the illness need not be perceivable at such time, but the illness itself must have attached at such moment, or prior thereto.

(4) Such incapacity must also be shown to be medically or clinically permanent or incurable. Such incurability may be absolute or even relative only in regard to the other spouse, not necessarily absolutely against everyone of the same sex. Furthermore, such incapacity must be relevant to the assumption of marriage obligations, not necessarily to those not related to marriage, like the exercise of a profession or employment in a job. x x x

(5) Such illness must be grave enough to bring about the disability of the party to assume the essential obligations of marriage. Thus, “mild characteriological peculiarities, mood changes, occasional emotional outbursts” cannot be accepted as root causes. The illness must be shown as downright incapacity or inability, not a refusal, neglect or difficulty, much less ill will. In other words, there is a natal or supervening disabling factor in the person, an adverse integral element in the personality structure that effectively incapacitates the person from really accepting and thereby complying with the obligations essential to marriage.

(6) The essential marital obligations must be those embraced by Articles 68 up to 71 of the Family Code as regards the husband and wife as well as Articles 220, 221 and 225 of the same Code in regard to parents and their children. Such non-complied marital obligation(s) must also be stated in the petition, proven by evidence and included in the text of the decision.

(7) Interpretations given by the National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, while not controlling or decisive, should be given great respect by our courts x x x

(8) The trial court must order the prosecuting attorney or fiscal and the Solicitor General to appear as counsel for the state. No decision shall be handed down unless the Solicitor General issues a certification, which will be quoted in the decision, briefly stating therein his reasons for his agreement or opposition, as the case may be, to the petition. The Solicitor General, along with the prosecuting attorney, shall submit to the court such certification within fifteen (15) days from the date the case is deemed submitted for resolution of the court.  The Solicitor General shall discharge the equivalent function of the defensor vinculi contemplated under Canon 1095.[12]

Molina, subsequent jurisprudence holds, merely expounded on the basic requirements of Santos.[13]


MARCOS VS. MARCOS (397 PHIL 840, 850 (2000).

A later case, Marcos v. Marcos,[14] further clarified that there is no requirement that the defendant/respondent spouse should be personally examined by a physician or psychologist as a condition sine qua non for the declaration of nullity of marriage based on psychological incapacity. Accordingly, it is no longer necessary to introduce expert opinion in a petition under Article 36 of the Family Code if the totality of evidence shows that psychological incapacity exists and its gravity, juridical antecedence, and incurability can be duly established.[15]

PESCA VS. PESCA (408 PHIL. 713, 720 (2001).

Pesca v. Pesca[16] clarifies that the Molina guidelines apply even to cases then already pending, under the reasoning that the court’s interpretation or construction establishes the contemporaneous legislative intent of the law; the latter as so interpreted and construed would thus constitute a part of that law as of the date the statute is enacted.  It is only  when a prior ruling of this Court finds itself later overruled, and a different view is adopted, that the new doctrine may have to be applied prospectively in favor of parties who have relied on the old doctrine and have acted in good faith in accordance therewith under the familiar rule of “lex prospicit, non respicit.”


On March 15, 2003, the Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages (A.M. No. 08-11-10 SC, Rules) promulgated by the Court took effect.  Section 2(d) of the Rules pertinently provides:

(d) What to allege. – A petition under Article 36 of the Family Code shall specifically allege the complete facts showing that either or both parties were psychologically incapacitated from complying with the essential marital obligations of marriage at the time of the celebration of marriage even if such incapacity becomes manifest only after its celebration.

The complete facts should allege the physical manifestations, if any, as are indicative of psychological incapacity at the time of the celebration of the marriage but expert opinion need not be alleged.

Section 12(d) of the Rules requires a pre-trial brief containing all the evidence presented, including expert opinion, if any, briefly stating or describing the nature and purpose of these pieces of evidence.  Section 14(b) requires the court to consider during the pre-trial conference the advisability of receiving expert testimony and such other matters as may aid in the prompt disposition of the petition.   Under Section 17 of the Rules, the grounds for the declaration of the absolute nullity or annulment of marriage must be proved.

All cases – involving the application of Article 36 of the Family Code – that came to us were invariably decided based on the principles in the cited cases.  This was the state of law and jurisprudence on Article 36 when the Court decided Te v. Yu-Te[17] (Te) which revisited the Molina guidelines.


TE VS. YU-TE (G.R. NO. 161793, FEBRUARY 13, 2009, 579 SCRA 193

Te begins with the observation that the Committee that drafted the Family Code did not give any examples of psychological incapacity for fear that by so doing, it would limit the applicability of the provision under the principle of ejusdem generis; that the Committee desired that the courts should interpret the provision on a case-to-case basis, guided by experience, by the findings of experts and researchers in psychological disciplines, and by decisions of church tribunals that, although not binding on the civil courts, may be given persuasive effect since the provision itself was taken from the Canon Law.[18]  Te thus assumes it a basic premise that the law is so designed to allow some resiliency in its application.[19]

Te then sustained Santos’ doctrinal value, saying that its interpretation is consistent with that of the Canon Law.

Going back to its basic premise, Te said:

Conscious of the law’s intention that it is the courts, on a case-to-case basis, that should determine whether a party to a marriage is psychologically incapacitated, the Court, in sustaining the lower court’s judgment of annulment in Tuason v. Court of Appeals, ruled that the findings of the trial court are final and binding on the appellate courts.

Again, upholding the trial court’s findings and declaring that its decision was not a judgment on the pleadings, the Court, in Tsoi v. Court of Appeals, explained that when private respondent testified under oath before the lower court and was cross-examined by the adverse party, she thereby presented evidence in the form of testimony.  Importantly, the Court, aware of parallel decisions of Catholic marriage tribunals, ruled that the senseless and protracted refusal of one of the parties to fulfill the marital obligation of procreating children is equivalent to psychological incapacity.  

With this as backdrop, Te launched an attack on Molina.  It said that the resiliency with which the concept should be applied and the case-to-case basis by which the provision should be interpreted, as so intended  by its framers, had, somehow, been rendered ineffectual by the imposition of a set of strict standards in Molina.  Molina, to Te,  has become a strait-jacket, forcing all sizes to fit into and be bound by it; wittingly or unwittingly, the Court, in conveniently applying Molina, has allowed diagnosed sociopaths, schizophrenics, nymphomaniacs, narcissists and the like, to continuously debase and pervert the sanctity of marriage.

Te then enunciated the principle that each case must be judged, not on the basis of a priori assumptions, predilections or generalizations, but according to its own facts.  Courts should 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. 

As a final note though, Te expressly stated that it is not suggesting the abandonment of Molina, but that, following Antonio v. Reyes, it merely looked at other perspectives that should also govern the disposition of petitions for declaration of nullity under Article 36. 

TING VS. VELEZ (G.R. NO. 166562, MARCH 31, 2009.)

The subsequent Ting v. Velez-Ting[20] follows Te’s lead when it reiterated that Te did not abandon Molina; far from abandoning Molina, it simply suggested the relaxation of its stringent requirements, cognizant of the explanation given by the Committee on the Revision of the Rules on the rationale of the Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages:[21]

To require the petitioner to allege in the petition the particular root cause of the psychological incapacity and to attach thereto the verified written report of an accredited psychologist or psychiatrist have proved to be too expensive for the parties. They adversely affect access to justice of poor litigants. It is also a fact that there are provinces where these experts are not available. Thus, the Committee deemed it necessary to relax this stringent requirement enunciated in the Molina Case. The need for the examination of a party or parties by a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist and the presentation of psychiatric experts shall now be determined by the court during the pre-trial conference.

Te, therefore, instead of substantially departing from Molina,[22] merely stands for a more flexible approach in considering petitions for declaration of nullity of marriages based on psychological incapacity. It is also noteworthy for its evidentiary approach in these cases, which it expounded on as follows:

By the very nature of Article 36, courts, despite having the primary task and burden of decision-making, must not discount but, instead, must consider as decisive evidence the expert opinion on the psychological and mental temperaments of the parties.

x x x x


Hernandez v. Court of Appeals emphasizes the importance of presenting expert testimony to establish the precise cause of a party’s psychological incapacity, and to show that it existed at the inception of the marriage.  And as Marcos v. Marcos asserts, there is no requirement that the person to be declared psychologically incapacitated be personally examined by a physician, if the totality of evidence presented is enough to sustain a finding of psychological incapacity.  Verily, the evidence must show a link, medical or the like, between the acts that manifest psychological incapacity and the psychological disorder itself.

This is not to mention, but we mention nevertheless for emphasis, that the presentation of expert proof presupposes a thorough and in-depth assessment of the parties by the psychologist or expert, for a conclusive diagnosis of a grave, severe and incurable presence of psychological incapacity.[23] [Underscoring supplied]

This evidentiary approach is repeated in Ting v. Velez-Ting.[24]

Under this evolutionary development, as shown by the current string of cases on Article 36 of the Family Code, what should not be lost on us is the intention of the law to confine the application of Article 36 to the most serious cases of personality disorders, clearly demonstrative of an utter insensitivity or inability to give meaning and significance to the marriage; that the psychological illness that must have afflicted a party at the inception of the marriage should be a malady so grave and permanent as to deprive one of awareness of the duties and responsibilities of the matrimonial bond he or she is about to assume.[25]  It is not enough that the respondent, alleged to be psychologically incapacitated, had difficulty in complying with his marital obligations, or was unwilling to perform these obligations.  Proof of a natal or supervening disabling factor – an adverse integral element in the respondent’s personality structure that effectively incapacitated him from complying with his essential marital obligations – must be shown.[26]  Mere difficulty, refusal or neglect in the performance of marital obligations or ill will on the part of the spouse is different from incapacity rooted in some debilitating psychological condition or illness; irreconcilable differences, sexual infidelity or perversion, emotional immaturity and irresponsibility and the like, do not by themselves warrant a finding of psychological incapacity under Article 36, as the same may only be due to a person’s refusal or unwillingness to assume the essential obligations of marriage.[27]

If all these sound familiar, they do, for they are but iterations of Santos’ juridical antecedence, gravity and incurability requisites.  This is proof of Santos’ continuing doctrinal validity.     


The Present Case

As the CA did, we find Jocelyn’s evidence insufficient to establish Angelito’s psychological incapacity to perform essential marital obligations.  We so conclude based on our own examination of the evidence on record, which we were compelled to undertake because of the differences in the trial court and the appellate court’s appreciation and evaluation of Jocelyn’s presented evidence.    

a. The Expert Opinion Evidence

Both the psychologist’s testimony and the psychological report did not conclusively show the root cause, gravity and incurability of Angelito’s alleged psychological condition.

We first note a critical factor in appreciating or evaluating the expert opinion evidence – the psychologist’s testimony and the psychological evaluation report – that Jocelyn presented.  Based on her declarations in open court, the psychologist evaluated Angelito’s psychological condition only in an indirect manner – she derived all her conclusions from information coming from Jocelyn whose bias for her cause cannot of course be doubted.  Given the source of the information upon which the psychologist heavily relied upon, the court must evaluate the evidentiary worth of the opinion with due care and with the application of the more rigid and stringent set of standards outlined above, i.e., that there must be a thorough and in-depth assessment of the parties by the psychologist or expert, for a conclusive diagnosis of a psychological incapacity that is grave, severe and incurable.            

In saying this, we do not suggest that a personal examination of the party alleged to be psychologically incapacitated is mandatory; jurisprudence holds that this type of examination is not a mandatory requirement.  While such examination is desirable, we recognize that it may not be practical in all instances given the oftentimes estranged relations between the parties. For a determination though of a party’s complete personality profile, information coming from persons intimately related to him (such as  the party’s close relatives and friends) may be helpful.  This is an approach in the application of Article 36 that allows flexibility, at the same time that it avoids, if not totally obliterate, the credibility gaps spawned by supposedly expert opinion based entirely on doubtful sources of information.      

From these perspectives, we conclude that the psych`ologist, using meager information coming from a directly interested party, could not have secured a complete personality profile and could not have conclusively formed an objective opinion or diagnosis of Angelito’s psychological condition. While the report or evaluation may be conclusive with respect to Jocelyn’s psychological condition, this is not true for Angelito’s. The methodology employed simply cannot satisfy the required depth and comprehensiveness of examination required to evaluate a party alleged to be suffering from a psychological disorder.  In short, this is not the psychological report that the Court can rely on as basis for the conclusion that psychological incapacity exists.        

Other than this credibility or reliability gap, both the psychologist’s report and testimony simply provided a general description of Angelito’s  purported anti-social personality disorder, supported by the characterization of this disorder as chronic, grave and incurable.  The psychologist was conspicuously silent, however, on the bases for her conclusion or the  particulars that gave rise to the characterization she gave.  These particulars are simply not in the Report, and neither can they be found in her testimony.

For instance, the psychologist testified that Angelito’s personality disorder is chronic or incurable; Angelito has long been afflicted with the disorder prior to his marriage with Jocelyn or even during his early developmental stage, as basic trust was not developed.  However, she did not support this declaration with any factual basis. In her Report, she based her conclusion on the presumption that Angelito apparently grew up in a dysfunctional family.  Quite noticeable, though, is the psychologist’s own equivocation on this point – she was not firm in her conclusion for she herself may have realized that it was simply conjectural.  The veracity, too, of this finding is highly suspect, for it was based entirely on Jocelyn’s assumed knowledge of Angelito’s family background and upbringing.               

Additionally, the psychologist merely generalized on the questions of why and to what extent was Angelito’s personality disorder grave and incurable, and on the effects of the disorder on Angelito’s awareness of and his capability to undertake the duties and responsibilities of marriage.

The psychologist therefore failed to provide the answers to the more important concerns or requisites of psychological incapacity, all of which are critical to the success of Jocelyn’s cause.

b. Jocelyn’s Testimony

The inadequacy and/or lack of probative value of the psychological report and the psychologist’s testimony impel us to proceed to the evaluation of Jocelyn’s testimony, to find out whether she provided the court with sufficient facts to support a finding of Angelito’s psychological incapacity.

Unfortunately, we find Jocelyn’s testimony to be insufficient.  Jocelyn merely testified on Angelito’s habitual drunkenness, gambling, refusal to seek employment and the physical beatings she received from him – all of which occurred after the marriage.  Significantly, she declared in her testimony that Angelito showed no signs of violent behavior,  assuming this to be indicative of a personality disorder, during the courtship stage or at the earliest stages of her relationship with him.  She testified on the alleged physical beatings after the marriage, not before or at the time of the celebration of the marriage.  She did not clarify when these beatings exactly took place – whether it was near or at the time of celebration of the marriage or months or years after.  This is a clear evidentiary gap that materially affects her cause, as the law and its related jurisprudence require that the psychological incapacity must exist at the time of the celebration of the marriage.          

Habitual drunkenness, gambling and refusal to find a job, while indicative of psychological incapacity, do not, by themselves, show psychological incapacity.  All these simply indicate difficulty, neglect or mere refusal to perform marital obligations that, as the cited jurisprudence holds, cannot be considered to be constitutive of psychological incapacity in the absence of proof that these are manifestations of an incapacity rooted in some debilitating psychological condition or illness.

The physical violence allegedly inflicted on Jocelyn deserves a different treatment.  While we may concede that physical violence on women indicates abnormal behavioral or personality patterns, such violence, standing alone, does not constitute psychological incapacity.  Jurisprudence holds that there must be evidence showing a link, medical or the like, between the acts that manifest psychological incapacity and the psychological disorder itself.  The evidence of this nexus is irretrievably lost in the present case under our finding that the opinion of the psychologist cannot be relied upon.  Even assuming, therefore, that Jocelyn’s account of the physical beatings she received from Angelito were true, this evidence does not satisfy the requirement of Article 36 and its related jurisprudence, specifically the Santos requisites.

On the whole, the CA correctly reversed the RTC judgment, whose factual bases we now find to be clearly and manifestly erroneous.  Our ruling in Tuason recognizing the finality of the factual findings of the trial court in Article 36 cases (which is Jocelyn’s main anchor in her present appeal with us) does not therefore apply in this case.  We find that, on the contrary, the CA correctly applied Article 36 and its related jurisprudence to the facts and the evidence of the present case.               

WHEREFORE, premises considered, we DENY the petition for lack of merit.  We AFFIRM the appealed Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 62443.  Costs against the petitioner.  

[1] Penned by Associate Justice Mario L. Guariña III, and concurred in by Associate Justice Marina L. Buzon and Associate Justice Santiago Javier Rañada (both retired).

[2] Penned by Judge Pedro de Leon Gutierrez.

[3] TSN, March 31, 1998, pp. 16-17.

[4] TSN, July 16, 1998, pp. 15-22.

[5] Record, pp. 36-39.

[6] Parenthetical notes supplied.

[7] The RTC enumerated the requisites as follows: (1) that psychological incapacity refers to no less than a mental not physical incapacity; (2) that the law intended psychological incapacity to be confined to the most serious cases of personality disorders clearly demonstrative of an utter insensitivity or inability to give meaning and significance to marriage; and (3) that the psychological condition must exist at the time of the marriage and must be characterized by gravity, juridical antecedence and incurability.  See citation at note 9.

[8] Parenthetical notes supplied.

[9] 310 Phil 21 (1995).

[10] Id. at 39-40.

[11] 335 Phil. 664 (1997).

[12] Id. at 676-680.

[13] See Marcos v. Marcos, 397 Phil. 840, 850 (2000).

[14] Id.

[15] Id. at 850.

[16] 408 Phil. 713, 720 (2001).

[17] G.R. No. 161793, February 13, 2009, 579 SCRA 193.

[18] Id. at  213.

[19] Id.

[20] G.R. No. 166562, March 31, 2009.

[21] A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC.

[22] A step that Te, a Third Division case, could  not have legally undertaken because the Molina ruling is an En Banc ruling, in light of Article VIII, Section 4(3) of the Constitution.

[23] Supra note 16, pp. 231-232.

[24] Supra note 19.

[25] See So v. Valera, G.R. No. 150677, June 5, 2009, and Padilla-Rumbaua v. Rumbaua, G.R. No. 166738, August 14, 2009.

[26] Id., Padilla-Rumbaua v. Rumbaua.

[27] Navales v. Navales, G.R. No. 167523, June 27, 2008, 556 SCRA 272, 288-289.