Supreme Court tackles psychological incapacity as ground for annulment

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Supreme Court (SC) will tackle the provision in the Family Code that says psychological incapacity of a spouse is ground for the annulment of a marriage.

"The Supreme Court En Banc has decided to hear a case involving the interpretation of Article 36 of The Family Code, which relates to the conditions for the declaration of nullity of marriage due to psychological incapacity," the SC Public Information Office (PIO) said in an advisory. 

The oral arguments were originally scheduled for Tuesday, October 1, but the SC Public Information Office (PIO) said on Tuesday morning the en banc has decided not to hold oral arguments at all.

"In view of the sensitive personal information that may be publicly exposed during live oral arguments, the Court en banc has decided to conduct its deliberations through additional memoranda to be submitted by the parties and the amici curiae," said the PIO.

Amici curiae is latin for friends of the court, or those tapped by the SC as expert resource persons.

"Because of the sensitive nature of the facts surrounding the case, the Court will not announce the title of the case at this time," the SC PIO said.

Copies of the petition and other pleadings have also not been released at this time.

Article 36 of the Family Code says a marriage is null and void if a spouse "was psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential marital obligations of marriage...even if such incapacity becomes manifest only after its solemnization."

The other grounds for nullity of marriage under Chapter 3 of the Family Code are things such as one of the spouses being underage; the spouses being siblings or ascendants/descendants of any degree; the marriage being solemnized by a person not authorized to perform marriage; or a case of mistaken identity.

This limitation of the Family Code has forced Filipinos through time to ascribe psychological incapacity to their spouses to annul their marriage.

The Congress is once again tackling a bill to legalize divorce, with advocates arguing that it is a more humane option for Filipinos.

The case continues the High Court's streak of tackling what could be described as progressive issues such as same-sex marriage and inheritance rights of "illegitimate" children.

The Supreme Court has junked the same-sex marriage petition on technical grounds, while the case of "illegitimate" children's inheritance rights just wrapped up its oral arguments on September 17.

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.