Posted by: Elmer Brabante | September 16, 2009

Santos vs. Santos

Leouel Santos vs. Court of Appeals and Santos

GR No. 112019 / 58 SCAD 17

Januray 4, 1995


Lt. Leouel Santos married private respondent Julia Bedia on Sept. 20, 1986 in Illoilo MTC and later by church wedding.  They lived with the latter’s parents and eventually gave birth to Leouel Santos, Jr. on July 18, 1987.  The relationship turned sour when they began quarelling over frequent interferrence of Julia’s parents and the issue of liveing independently from the in-laws.

On May 18, 1988, Julia left for the United States (US) to work as nurse despite Leouel’s protestations.  Seven months thereafter or on January 1, 1989, she called up from the US with the promise of returning home soon, but she never did.  Given the chance, Leouel went to the US for a training program sponsored by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) from April to August 1990.  He desperately tried to locate her there but failed.

He then filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) for the nullification of their marriage under Article 36 of the Family Code, on the ground of psychological incapacity.  Summons was served by publication in a newspaper of general circulation in Negros Oriental.  In her answer, Julia claimed that it was Leouel who was irresponsible and incompetent.  The RTC in November 1991 dismissed the case for lack of merit.  On appeal, the Court of Appeals (CA) affirmed the RTC decision.

ISSUE:  Whether or not the marriage may be declared a nullity prusuant to Artcile 36 of the Family Code.


Article 36 cannot be taken and construed independently, but must stand in conjunction with existing precepts of laws on marriage.  Thus correlated, “psychological incapacity” should refer 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, as so expressed by Article 68 of the Family Code, include their mutual obligations to live together, observe love, respect and fidelity and render help and support.  There is hardly any doubt that the intendment of the law has been to confine the meaning of psychological incapacity 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.


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