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PAGE 17 of the Filipino Reporter’s issue of Jan. 21-27, 2011 carried a news item from Manila captioned “Make annulment accessible to poor” regarding House Bill No. 3952 titled “An Act recognizing spousal violence, infidelity and abandonment as presumptive psychological incapacity constituting a ground for the annulment of marriage.”

According to the author of the bill, Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares the bill is intended to amend Article 36 of the Family Code of the Philippines allowing the annulment of marriage on the ground of psychological incapacity accessible also to the poor by eliminating the hiring of psychiatrists and psychologists.

Meaning of psychological incapacity

Article 36 of the Family Code, without defining psychological incapacity, provides as follows:

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.

(As amended by Executive Order No. 227.)

Article 36 was taken from Canon 1095 of the New Code of Canon Law by the Family Code Revision Committee which drafted the Family Code.

Canon 1095 provides as follows:

“The following are incapable of contracting marriage: Those who are unable to assume the essential obligations of marriage due to causes of psychological nature.”

(From SUMMA, Syllabi of decisions and opinions of Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban.)

The essential marital obligations of marriage are set forth in Article 68 of the Family Code as follows:

The husband and wife are obliged to live together, observe mutual love, respect and fidelity, and render mutual help and support.

In my column of July 30-Aug. 5, 2010 captioned “Spotlight on nullity of Aquino-Yap marriage, I wrote about the eight guidelines in the interpretation and application of Article 36 of the Family Code on actual cases.

On the other hand, House Bill No. 3952 proposed the elimination of these strict requirements of those guidelines.

Defects of House Bill No. 3952

Under Article 55, Title II - Legal Separation of the Family Code, the following are grounds for legal separation:

1. Repeated physical violence or grossly abusive conduct directed against the petitioner, a common child, or a child of the petitioner.

2. Sexual infidelity or perversion.

3. Abandonment of petitioner by respondent without justifiable cause for more than one year.

The above are grounds for legal separation, not proper grounds to amend Article 36.

Psychological incapacity is a mental sickness which are manifested before or during the marriage.

Spousal violence, infidelity and abandonment do not constitute psychological incapacity.

These are grounds for legal separation.

Those who commit spousal violence or infidelity may turn out to be good providers, but they are not psychologically incapacitated to fulfill the marital obligations of marriage.

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