Senate Bill 781 defines "psychological incapacity"

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Citing ambiguous provisions in the Family Code, Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada filed Senate Bill 781 providing clear terms for the phrase "psychological incapacity" which has been loosely used in declaring nullity of marriage.

Senate Bill 781 amends Article 36 of the Family Code and defines certain indications of psychological incapacity as a ground for declaration of nullity of marriage. The proposed measure lists the following indicators:

1. Violent behavior or grossly abusive conduct against the other spouse or their common child or children;
2. Abandonment, protracted and constant refusal to cohabit or to have sexual intercourse with the other spouse;
3. Constitutional laziness or indolence or willful deprivation of financial, spiritual, moral and emotional support to the other spouse and children without justifiable cause;
4. Drug addiction, habitual alcoholism, compulsive gambling or criminality;
5. Inveterate sexual infidelity, homosexuality in men or lesbianism in women;
6. Extremely low intelligence or immaturity;
7. Other analogous circumstances showing an adverse integral element in the personality structure that effectively incapacitates one or both spouses from complying with the rights and obligations between husband and wife (as enumerated in Articles 68-71 of the Family Code).

In the bill's explanatory note, Sen. Estrada said that the Code Commission that drafted Executive Order 209 (Family Code of the Philippines) in 1987 deliberately did not define psychological incapacity so as not to limit its applicability and to give the trial courts the needed leeway in examining the factual milieu of each case independent of preconceived assumptions and generalizations.

Sen. Estrada, however, stated that the ambiguity in the law has resulted in tremendous confusion amongst legal practitioners and those who have relied in Article 36 to nullify a dysfunctional marriage.
Article 36 plainly reads: "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."

"Perhaps a bill with a well-defined ground on nullifying a marriage is a much welcome alternative to absolute divorce law which is proscribed by the Constitution," Estrada said.

"The Constitution is unequivocal in its expression of marriage as an 'inviolable social institution,' and that the State shall strengthen the solidarity and promote the total development of Filipino families," Sen. Estrada added.